Monday, April 29, 2013

Clean With Me Monday Challenge - Bathroom Cabinets

It's time to get back to cleaning and organizing our homes!  Here's this week's project...if you're up for the challenge :-)

*Clean out and reorganize bathroom cabinets

*Approximate time ~ 15 - 45 minutes per cabinet

*Tips:  Remove everything from the cabinet and drawers (if applicable).  Wipe down the cabinet, inside and out, including doors and knobs.  Go through and toss anything that is old or not needed.  Clean off each item before returning them neatly to the cabinet and drawers.

Personal Notes:  I'm always amazed at what I find in the back of my cabinets or shoved in my drawers!  And the layer of dust on everything is just mind-boggling!  Clorox wipes were my cleaner of choice to complete this project.  If this is your preferred cleaning item, be sure to test them in a small, inconspicuous spot first on your cabinets to be sure they do not harm the finish of your cabinets.  Also, when I use Clorox wipes for a prolonged period of time, they can cause some irritation on my hands.  To remedy this, I just put on a disposable glove while I was wiping everything down.

Happy Cleaning Everyone!  :-)

Want to know what this Clean With Me Challenge is all about?  Click here to learn more...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

All Natural Skin Care - Part 5: Facial Mask and Scrubs

For the final chapter of my all natural skin care routine, I wanted to share my favorite mask and 3 of my favorite scrubs.  And, stay tuned at the end to find out how much money I'm saving with my new skin care regime :-)

There are tons of recipes out there for masks, using everything from avocados to garbanzo bean flour.  But I keep going back to this long-standing favorite....

...a frothy egg white mask!

How to:  Crack open an egg and separate the yolk from the white.  Stir up the egg white with a fork until frothy; apply the egg white to your face, avoiding the eye area; allow it to dry (Note:  When it hardens completely, you won't be able to crack a smile and your kids might want to run and hide because you will look like a wax mannequin :-).  Rinse it off with warm water.  Your skin will feel firmer and your pores instantly tighter.

Another very important aspect of my skin care routine has been exfoliation.  I try to use one of the following scrubs at least 2-3 times per week.  Whatever method you use for exfoliation, remember to always follow with a good toner and moisturizer!

1) Microdermabrasion crystals + Your Favorite Cleanser
Microdermabrasion crystals are aluminum oxide crystals that feel like super fine grains of sand....
While these are generally used in a microdermabrasion machine, an esthetician once told me that I could just buy the crystals and use them with a little soap and water to exfoliate my skin.  I purchased a 5 lb. bottle about 5 years ago and still have 1/4 of the bottle left! 

How To:  Lather some soap in your hands; add about 1/8 - 1/4 tsp of crystals and a little water; scrub gently in circular motions, avoiding eye area.  Rinse thoroughly.  Keep in mind that these crystals do not dissolve in water so as you rinse off the crystals, you will still be doing a little exfoliating...don't overdo it!  *Bonus Tip:  You can also use these crystals mixed with a little body wash to help exfoliate your arms and legs in preparation for applying a sunless tanner.

Where to Buy:  Several suppliers on's a link to one that includes free shipping ~  Microdermabrasion Crystals

2) Lemon Juice + Sugar 
Not only does the sugar provide great exfoliation but the acids in the lemon juice help break up dirt and oils in the pores and dissolve dead skin cells.  You can vary the size of sugar granules, depending on how deep of a scrub you want.....from super fine Baker's Sugar to coarse Organic Cane Sugar.

How To:  Saturate a cotton pad with lemon juice; add about 1/2 tsp of sugar to the cotton pad and work into skin in circular motions, avoiding the eye area. Add more sugar as necessary.  Rinse thoroughly.

3) Baking Soda + Water/Lemon Juice
If you find that sugar is just a little too rough for your skin, baking soda is a great alternative. You can mix it with water or add a little lemon juice for additional foaming and cleansing action.

How To:  Wet your face and hands with a little water; add about 1 tsp of baking soda to your hands and gently scrub your face, avoiding eye area.  Add more water if needed.  Then, for a little extra cleaning power, add about a tsp of lemon juice in your hand and work into your skin.  The lemon juice and baking soda foam and bubble, cleaning out the pores and helping to dissolve dead skin cells.  Rinse and pat dry.

As I close out this mini-series, I thought it'd be fun to calculate how much I am going to save per year, using this new skin care routine.  Previously, I was using bareMinerals Exfoliating Cleanser, bareMinerals Purely Nourishing Moisturizer and Origins Plantscription Anti-aging Eye Cream.  By just switching out these three products with my Nubian soaps, moisturizer serums and Baobab oil, I will be saving over $300 per year!!!!  Now that's what I'm talking about!  Not only do I get better looking skin, I get to save TONS of money!  

Hopefully this series was helpful and inspiring to you :-)

Monday, April 22, 2013

All Natural Skin Care - Part 4: Makeup Remover and Eye Serum

In lieu of my usual "Clean With Me Monday Challenge" blog, I decided to finish my Natural Skin Care series.  But don't worry, next Monday I will get back to addressing those areas of our homes that need cleaning and organizing :-)

Makeup Removal:
*Almond Oil - I use a little of this on a cotton swab just before putting on my undereye concealer in the morning.  It removes any eyeshadow that has fallen down when I applied my eye makeup and also adds a bit of moisture to help my concealer glide on with ease.

*Coconut oil - I use this at night to remove my eye makeup.  Just place several drops on a cotton ball or cotton pad and gently press onto eyelids and lashes to loosen and remove makeup. You can use this to remove all of your face makeup as well but I personally prefer using soap to remove my face makeup and coconut oil just on my eyes.

Typically, coconut oil will solidify when the room temperature drops below 75-80 degrees.  But, if you scoop some out in your hand, the heat of your body will immediately start to melt it, making it easier to spread on your skin.  If you are like me and don't want to mess with that for makeup removal, Nature's Way Liquid Coconut Oil has been Expeller Pressed so it stays liquid, even at cooler temperatures.  I'm sure most nutritionists would say that some of the benefits of the coconut oil are lost in this process but it's still natural and since I just use this version for makeup removal, I don't mind.  The dispenser on the bottle is a little hard to control so to prevent waste, I fill up a 1 oz. amber glass bottle with the oil and use a dropper to dispense the proper amount.

Eye Serum/Moisturizer:
 *Coconut Oil - not only is this good for removing makeup but it's also a great allover moisturizer, including under the eye.  To get the full benefits of the coconut, I use an unrefined, fresh pressed oil for this application.  My favorite is Dr. Bronner's.  While this is great for a nighttime moisturizer, I wouldn't recommend this oil under the eye in the daytime if you wear mascara or undereye concealer.  It leaves a tad too much moisture on the skin and can breakdown your makeup.

*Rosehip Seed Oil - this is good especially for mature and/or super dry skin.  It takes a bit longer to soak in to the skin so allow extra time for that before applying undereye concealer and mascara.  Remember, Rosehip Seed Oil needs to be refrigerated to maintain freshness.

*Baobab Oil - this is my favorite for eye serum.  It soaks in quickly and yet moisturizes really well.  When I first priced this oil and saw that it was $13 for 2 oz, I thought it was a little expensive.  However, that was 5+ months ago and I have only used about a quarter of the bottle....I'd say that's a bargain!! :-)

To apply eye serum:  Put a drop of one of these oils on your ring finger and gently dab it underneath and on the outer corner of the eyes, morning and night.  It does not take very much...a pea size drop for both eyes at night and a tiny pin-size drop in the morning. 

Where to Buy:
*Vitacost - they carry a full range of oils at super low prices
(Get $10 off your first order here:  Vitacost Referral Discount)

Disclaimer:  I am not a skin care professional....just a girl sharing her thoughts :-)  These are oils that have worked for me but may not work for everyone.  As always, with anything you use on your skin or eyes, if you notice any skin or eye irritation, discontinue use.

Come Back for the Final Blog in the Series ~  Part 5:  Facial Scrubs and Masks

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

All Natural Skin Care - Part 3: DIY Moisturizer/Serum

This step in my natural skin care journey was probably the scariest for me because it involved "oils".  As one with blemish-prone, combo/oily skin, I always made sure that products were "oil-free".  Yet here I was contemplating putting oil on my face! 

However, after tons of research and seeing amazing results on one of my favorite YouTube "gurus", I decided to take the plunge.  And now, 8 months later, I would say that I'm an "oil junkie" :-)  Instead of the oils making my combo skin more oily, they have conversely helped balance my skin and now I find my skin rarely needs blotting in the middle of the day!  I've also noticed a reduction in fine lines and more even skin tone.

In order to make your own moisturizer/serum, you will need one or two "carrier oils" and then 1-3 "essential oils". The great thing about concocting your own moisturizer is you get to choose the ingredients and tailor them to suit your skin's specific needs.   I will share with you my favorite oils and various combinations that I love but feel free to experiment on your own.  There are a plethora of oils out there so at the end of this post, I have included links with helpful information on natural oils, where to buy, etc. 

So without further adieu....

Moisturizer/Serum #1 - Blemish and Redness Fighting Serum
1/2 ounce Rose Hip Seed Oil
1/2 ounce Grapeseed Oil (NOT grapefruit seed oil!)
4 drops Tea Tree Oil
4 drops Lavender Oil
**This moisturizer must be kept in the refrigerator as Rose Hip Seed oil requires refrigeration once opened.
**To use:  After cleansing and toning your skin, apply 4-5 drops of serum on your fingers; massage and press into skin

Moisturizer/Serum #2 - Anti-aging and Blemish Control Serum
1/2 ounce Tamanu Oil
1/2 ounce  Grapeseed Oil
4 drops German Chamomile in Jojoba Oil
4 drops Tea Tree Oil
**To use:  After cleansing and toning your skin, apply 4-5 drops of serum on your fingers; massage and press into skin

I like to mix my serums in 1 ounce amber glass bottles with a dropper.....these are readily available from most health food stores or on Amazon for around $2.  When shopping for oils, you want to be sure you are getting quality oils that are certified organic and have no other additives.  A few brands that I've found to have a good reputation are:
~Aura Cacia
Remember, you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a great oil!  After all, that is part of the quest....all natural skin care that doesn't break the bank :-)

Helpful Links:
Guide to Carrier Oils
Essential Oil Profiles

Where to Buy:
*Vitacost - they carry a full range of oils at super low prices
(Get $10 off your first order here:  Vitacost Referral Discount)
*Sprouts or your local health food store

Disclaimer:  I am not a skin care professional....just a girl sharing her thoughts :-)  Remember it is VERY important to follow the safety precautions and directions regarding use of essential oils.....never use them "neat" on the skin (which means full strength). Pregnant women should ask their doctor before using. And, as is always the case for anything you use on your skin, if you notice any skin irritation, discontinue use.

Coming Up Next ~ Part 4:  Makeup Remover and Eye Serum

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

All Natural Skin Care - Part 2: DIY Toner

Using a toner on the skin is one of those steps that people always question whether it's really necessary.  For me, I feel it's an essential step in my skin care regime.  Not only does it help remove any last traces of makeup or oil left on my skin, but I feel it also helps tighten pores and preps the skin for my moisturizer.

When it comes to toner, I've run the gamut, trying all kinds from department store brands to drugstore brands.  What I found was that I didn't need to spend a lot of money to get a great, all-natural toner.  In fact, with just a few ingredients, I started mixing up my own little concoction and couldn't be happier!

DIY Toner

Witch Hazel
Vegetable Glycerin
Grapefruit Seed Extract

Add 4-6 drops of grapefruit seed extract and 6-8 drops of vegetable glycerin per 2 ounces of Witch Hazel.  Shake well.

You can just mix these ingredients right into your big bottle of Witch Hazel (just adjust the number of drops of extract and glycerin according to the number of ounces in the bottle).  However, my recommendation is to mix your toner in small batches.  This will allow you to adjust the amount of moisture content according to your skin's needs at a particular time.  For example, when I was traveling to Colorado last January, I knew my skin would need more moisture due to the dry climate so I added a few more drops of glycerin when I mixed up the batch.  Conversely, when the heat of summer kicks in and the humidity increases, I find that I will need less glycerin and a few more drops of grapefruit seed extract to help combat my excess oil.  I recycled this small, 2 ounce bottle that once held another type of toner....

Personally, I prefer the kind of witch hazel that contains a little bit of alcohol, like T.N. Dickinson's.  You can, however, find alcohol-free witch hazel if you prefer.  It's typically a little more expensive but usually is available in various formulas, such as this one by Thayer's....
I purchased this from Vitacost for around $8 and it contains almost the exact ingredients I mix in my own toner but also contains Aloe Vera and Vitamin E.  If you are one that doesn't want to mess with mixing your own toner, this is a great alternative.  I do like this formula but it tends to be a little too moisturizing for me to use on a regular basis. 

Where to buy:
TN Dickinson's Witch Hazel
**Super affordable and available at Target, Walmart and most drug stores for around $4-6

Vegetable Glycerin
**Most health food stores carry this or you can get it from Vitacost

Grapefruit Seed Extract
**Also available at most health food stores or you can get it from Vitacost

A few final tips...
*Grapefruit seed extract is a bit pricey....the cheapest I've found is $14.99 from Vitacost.  However, you will only need to purchase this about once every 2-3 years so that's not a bad investment :-)
*Purchase the smallest bottle possible of the vegetable glycerin as you will most likely not even finish the bottle before it expires, which is usually about every 2 years.
*Witch Hazel doesn't have a real pleasant smell at first so if it bothers you, you can always add a drop or two of an essential oil like lavender, peppermint, lemon or sweet orange.

Come back tomorrow for Part 3 ~ DIY Moisturizer Serum

Monday, April 15, 2013

All Natural Skin Care that Won't Break the Bank!

About 8 months ago, I embarked on a journey to find some new, all natural face products that would not only improve my skin but also save me money.  For years, I'd been using the Exfoliating Cleanser (powder form) and the Purely Nourishing Moisturizer for Combination Skin by bareMinerals.  Occasionally, I would try other products but my sensitive skin would react and back to bareMinerals I would go.  While it was expensive, I didn't feel like I had much of a choice....either dish out the cash for these products or go around with rashy, itchy, broken-out skin.  And who wants to do that?   But then I was introduced to the world of natural oils and wonderful line of natural soaps and I am in love!  :-)

Several of you have inquired about my new skin care routine so I thought I'd do a little mini-series on the products I've tried and perhaps you'll find something helpful that you can incorporate into your skin care routine.

Part 1 ~ Cleanser

Normally, I'm not one that gravitates towards a "bar soap".  However, I heard some great things about the Nubian Heritage brand of soaps so I decided to check them out.   What I found was that Nubian Heritage has a plethora of soaps with varying ingredients that address a wide range of skin concerns.   Their soaps are made with simple, natural ingredients and they are available at an unbelievably low price....around $3 each!  Over the course of the last eight months, I've tried four varieties and here's my quick take on each one:

*African Black Soap with Oats, Aloe and Vitamin E*
Product label says: "Combines shea butter's healing and hydrating properties with the ancient medicinal properties of palm ash, plantain peel, tar and tamarind to balance and resolve problem skin.  Our deep cleansing formula aids exfoliation and promotes new cell growth to reveal radiant, fresh, even and healthy-looking skin."

My Quick Take:  It seemed to help draw out the impurities in my skin but I did find it to be a little drying.  If you have oily, blemish-proned skin, this might be a good one to try. Be aware that the soap is black in color so you'll have to rinse out your soap dish and sink often as it leaves behind a gray residue.

 *Honey and Black Seed Soap with Apricot Oil and Wild Honey*
 Product label says: "The traditional use of Black Seed oil on the skin to strengthen the immune system, prevent external infections and increase blood circulation has been updated in a gentle exfoliating cleanser made with black seeds, conditioning honey, healing shea butter and softening apricot oil."

My Quick Take:  This was my go-to soap for most of the winter.  I found it was the perfect balance of moisture for my combo skin. I actually used up an entire bar of this and have repurchased....definitely a favorite!

*Coconut and Papaya Soap with Vanilla Bean*
Product label says: "This nourishing coconut oil soap made with rich tropical ingredients high in vitamins, minerals and fatty acids aids in collagen production while helping to improve skin tone, vanilla beans gently buff skin as papaya's gentle enzymatic action exfoliates and helps renew.  Shea butter and coconut oil rehydrate skin helping improve suppleness and protect against moisture loss."

My Quick Take:  With the change of seasons from winter to spring, I started using this soap and am enjoying it.  It smells AMAZING and again seems to have the perfect balance of moisture for my skin.  I definitely feel a slightly more "firming" affect than with the Honey and Black face doesn't feel dry but just a little "tighter".

 *Carrot and Pomegranate Soap with Calendula Extract and Cranberries*
Product label says:  "Nutrient-rich carrot seed oil, ground pomegranate and cranberry seeds are blended into our moisturizing carrot and pomegranate shea butter-based soap.  Vitamins A, E and F and minerals help feed the skin, clear pores, improve skin tone and rejuvenate mature and dull skin.  Calendula extract's powerful anti-inflammatory properties help subdue and alleviate skin irritation."

My Quick Take:  I've tried this a few times but it seems to be more drying on my skin than the others.  I plan to give this another try during the hot summer months when the weather isn't quite so dry.  There's a bit of a floral scent to this soap that isn't my favorite but it's tolerable :-)

While these soaps can also be used on the body, I used them exclusively on my face and found that one bar lasted approximately 6 months... that's what I call a good value for the money!   

One thing also to note is that all of these soaps are naturally, highly fragrant and the scent varies according to the essential oils and other ingredients incorporated into each individual soap.

Where to Buy:  VitaCost, Vitamin Shoppe
*You may also be able to find these at your local health food store but they may be more expensive.  VitaCost has the best prices and you can get $10 off your first purchase here:  Vitacost
Sign up and pass on the savings to friends and family!

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 ~ DIY Toner

Monday, April 8, 2013

Clean With Me Monday Challenge

*Task:  Clean out medicine cabinets and/or any other wall cabinets you may have in your bathrooms (but not the cabinets under the sink as we'll be tackling those in another challenge coming up soon).

*Approximate time ~ 45 minutes

*Tips:  Remove everything from the cabinet(s).  Use a Chlorox wipe or some other multi-purpose cleaner on a rag or paper towel to thoroughly wipe down the entire cabinet, inside and out.  Purge any old items before wiping them off and neatly putting them back in the cabinet.

Personal Notes:  As you can tell, several of these recent cleaning challenges have been focused on cleaning out the spaces that are hidden behind doors.  I don't know about you but I find it easier to "forget" about messes when I can close the's that whole "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" thing I guess :-) But one by one, I'm tackling each are your spaces coming along?

Happy Cleaning!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Clean With Me Monday Challenge - Closet Makeover #2

*Clean out and reorganize 1 closet

*Approximate time ~ 30 minutes to 4 hours

*Tips:  If your closet has shelves, remove everything from the shelves, sorting into piles as you go....throw away, donate, keep. Remove everything from the floor of the closet as well and then sort through the remaining clothes hanging on hangers. Work quickly as you sort.  Don't spend too much time trying to decide what to keep.  If you aren't sure you want to get rid of something, put it back in the closet and perhaps you'll be ready the next time you clean out.  Once the sorting is done, vacuum the floor and wipe off the shelves with a damp cloth or a clorox wipe.  Return items you are keeping back to their proper place.  Bag and donate the items you want to get rid of.  

**Don't have time for a complete closet overhaul?  Devote 30 minutes to quickly sorting through clothes and straightening shoes, etc.  You'll be amazed at how much can be accomplished!   

*Personal Notes:  After completing my closet makeover a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to tackle my husband's closet.  His shelves were disorganized and overflowing....his curtain rod was laden with too many clothes....and I needed to find space to put his socks and shorts that were being stored in another dresser....
**Oops....forgot to take the picture before I started clearing off the shelves.....envision the area marked with a blue arrow filled with clothes.**
Now, my husband didn't want anything fancy but he needed functionality and order brought to this space.  So I pulled everything out of drawers and off the shelves, amazed at what I found hiding there!  From pink and gray argyle socks that hadn't been worn since college, to a 5-year-old granola bar in an old gym was definitely a "treasure hunt"...of sorts :-)

Finally, after all the sorting was done and my husband agreed to my "donation" pile, I put everything back in the closet, using several fabric bins and covered plastic storage on the top shelf to help keep things organized and dust free.

The finished result?  See for yourself....
While his closet didn't turn out as "pretty" as mine did (by the way, I did offer to repaint the dresser but he likes it just the way it is :-), it is now a super functional space where everything has it's proper place and there's even some room to spare.  Here's to hoping it stays this way!