Friday, August 31, 2012

Natural Hair Care

Have you read the ingredients label on your shampoo lately? No? Well, go ahead, grab your shampoo bottle, and have a look. I’ll wait here.

Done? Shocking, no? Even many so-called “natural” brands have all sorts of unrecognizable ingredients (well, unrecognizable to those of us who aren’t chemists!) As I have been on a mission the past couple of years to rid my family’s products ofunnecessary chemicals, a while ago I took the plunge into Shampoo Alternatives.

Now let me start by saying that, unlike my switch from my old facial cleanser and bodywash, this was not such an easy transition. I tried a variety different homemade shampoo recipes over the last year, and there were some really rough hair days during that time! Turns out that castile soap and my hair are not friends, no matter what else I added to the mix! BUT… I have finally settled into a hair care routine that really works for me, is cheap and so natural that the ingredients are completely edible! For many months now, I have been using a baking soda solution to wash my hair, and an apple cider vinegar solution for conditioner. This is commonly called the “no poo” method of hair care, and when I first read about it online, I thought “NO WAY!” But after reading how many other people swear by this method, I decided to give it a go! I’m SO glad that I did! I have found that it works better than anything else I’ve ever done for my hair.

My hair has a lot of texture… it’s fairly thick, long and wavy, bordering on curly. I have always needed lots and lots of Anti-frizz styling product to keep myself from looking like Rosanne Rosannadanna, especially on humid days. But that was before, when I used shampoo… turns out that wasn’t “just my hair” as I always thought it was… it was the shampoo, making my hair all frizzy! Now that I’ve been using the baking soda and vinegar, my hair is so healthy that I have been able to stop using styling products! Occasionally, depending on the weather, I might smooth just a smidge of coconut oil into my hair, but I don’t usually need it. 

I will say that this method took some trial and error. I found that too much baking soda made my hair feel rough and dry, but if I used too little, my hair didn’t feel clean. The exact ratio you use will depend on your hair. I use a ratio of about 2 Tbsp of baking soda to a cup of water, but your hair might need more or less. For the vinegar rinse, I use a 50/50 blend of apple cider vinegar and water in a recycled squeeze bottle. To make it smell less vinegary, I toss a cinnamon stick in the bottle, along with a few drops of essential oil.

Here’s how I wash my hair with this method: I start by brushing my hair out while it’s still dry. Then, in the shower, I wet my hair and then dump the baking soda solution onto my head. I massage my scalp a bit to loosen up any dirt, then rinse. Next, I squirt on the vinegar mixture, and comb it through my hair with my fingers, then rinse. That’s it! I was totally paranoid at first that my hair would smell like vinegar, but after it’s rinsed and dried there is no vinegar smell, thank goodness.

Also on the topic of hair… soon I plan to do a post about how to cover up your grays without yucky chemicals. Until then, we’ll be doing a few more garden and recipe posts, and some Not-Back-to-School posts. So much going on, this time of year!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Seasonal Recipe for Late August: Purple Salad

One of the best way to feed your family naturally and frugally is to eat seasonally. This means eating foods which are in season in your area, while they are in season. Local seasonal produce is fresher and it’s cheaper… both good things, right? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we have a big garden, and we participate in our local CSA, so we get a huge batch of fresh local produce each week during the growing season. We plan all of our meals for the week around this produce.  Sometimes it’s a challenge to find recipes to work it all in, but so far, we’ve done a pretty good job of using everything with little to no waste. 

This time of year, some of the things we have in abundance are cabbage, carrots and beets. The following recipe uses these three ingredients, along with raisins and sunflower seeds, to make a sweet, crunchy late-summer side dish. In our family, we call this recipe “Purple Salad” even though it is definitely more of a slaw than a proper salad. My family enjoys this alongside veggie burgers, sandwiches or wraps. It keeps in the fridge for a couple of days. 

“Purple Salad”

½  head of red cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, shredded
2 large beets, shredded
½ cup sunflower seed kernels
¾ cup raisins

The Dressing:
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the first 5 ingredients into a large bowl. Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well until thoroughly mixed. Pour dressing over veggies and toss to combine. You can eat this straight away, but I prefer to chill it in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. 


Monday, August 27, 2012

DIY Nature Shelf

In the past, we have enjoyed having a special spot in our home to place seasonal treasures we find out in nature. But as we’ve reorganized our spaces, it fell by the wayside, and we haven’t had such a space for a couple of years.  Since we have recently been working on sprucing up our Homeschool Area for September, we decided it was time to bring back the Nature Shelf! 

We made this shelf out of an old piece of baseboard leftover from a previous home project, and some inexpensive brackets from the hardware store.  Ladybug painted the baseboard white with some leftover paint we had in the basement, and then I attached the brackets. Noodle measured how high we should hang the shelf (he wanted to make sure he could reach it easily!)  

In the frame is a quote from Aristotle: "In all things of Nature there is something of the Marvelous."
On the shelf we have all sorts of Summer Treasures: a bowl of small seashells, some beach rocks, a robin's eggshell, some larger seashells and a jelly jar of Summer flowers from our gardens.

We decided to hang the shelf underneath our Season Wall, which is where we display seasonal artwork, poems and projects.

As the seasons change, so will the items on our shelf! This will be a constantly-evolving display of Nature's Beauty; a place for us to share all the little treasures we collect when we are out and about... pretty rocks, leaves, flowers, fallen pine cones, etc. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Peach Season!

We are in the midst of Peach Season here in my part of New England. When I went to pick up our Farm Share the other day, I came home with tons of them! So what to do with all these peaches? Well, many of them will just be eaten fresh… sweet, juicy peaches are such an amazing summertime treat!  We also plan to make up a batch of Peach Preserves, and last night my beautiful daughter made the most delicious Peach Cobbler using this recipe. It came out great! We served it with fresh whipped cream, and I was going to get a picture, but it was gone too fast!

But my favorite peach recipe of all is Spiced Peach Compote. This compote is perfect over pancakes, French toast, or ice cream. Here's the recipe!

6 cups of peeled, sliced peaches (it’s best to use slightly firm peaches for this)
¾ cup raw cane sugar
1 tsp ground ginger, (or use some grated fresh ginger, if you have it)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp corn starch

Put the peaches into a pot over med heat. Add the sugar, ginger and cinnamon and stir to coat the peaches. When the juice starts to bubble, whisk the corn starch into a little bit of cold water, and add to the peaches. Simmer until the peaches are soft (but not too mushy) Serve hot over pancakes or French toast.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kids’ Art Wall

We just made this cool art display wall in the Homeschool area of our kitchen! We purchased 3 packages of stick-on cork board tiles (usually around $10 for a 4-pack… but watch for sales… I’ve seen them as low at $7) It was an inexpensive and quick spruce-up for that corner… less than $30, and only 20 minutes to complete. Here it is!

Our Art Wall

We added some quotes about Art.

We are considering making a wood frame for it at some point, to make it look more “finished,” but for now, we are happy with this little project! I'm pleased to have this space for a rotating gallery of the children's artwork. 

Monday, August 20, 2012


One of our cats, Willow, sitting in our pot of catnip, which grows next to our back porch.

Greener Food Storage

So in my quest to live a little Greener, I’ve been trying to eliminate some of the plastic from our lives. I’m particularly concerned about plastic and food, so I’ve been slowly working toward non-plastic food storage solutions. While we do have some of these great Pyrex food storage containers, my hands-down favorite storage containers are glass jars. Boxes of canning jars are readily available at discount stores, hardware stores, some grocery stores or online. They are cheap, and they last forever! They also do not stain or retain odors the way plastic does, and most importantly, they don’t leach harmful chemicals into your food! Of course, you can also reuse glass jars from products you buy, which is even cheaper (FREE!) Here are some of the ways we use glass jars for food storage in our home:
This is our Grains and Dry Beans cabinet. We tend to buy this kind of stuff in bulk, so we need containers to store it in. Glass jars works perfectly, as we can see the contents. (and yes... that is some Annie's Mac-n-Cheese on the top right... my one concession to packaged food! Sometimes a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do)

Glass jars are perfect for storing things in the freezer! Just make sure to leave at least an inch of space at the top of the jar when you fill in, to allow for expansion when it freezes. If you don't the jar will break.

We also buy baking staples in bulk, so we use glass jars to store those things, too!

We do still use some plastic containers, particularly for packing food-to-go for the kiddos. And, I admit that I do like using ziplock bags in the freezer for some things, because they don’t take up much space. But I figure every little bit of plastic I replace with glass is a step toward a greener life, so I don’t fret too much about the occasional plastic bag or Gladware container. Baby steps!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Garden Bounty

This time of year, mid-August, is when the garden REALLY kicks into high-gear! Just this week we've harvested tons of cukes, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, green and wax beans, kale, zucchini, summer squash, 3 kinds of peppers and beets. Here is what came in this morning:
Roma tomatoes, various Heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, beans cucumbers and basil, all fresh from the garden!
Lovely, no? Between the garden and our haul from our farm share, we are up to our ears in produce right now, which is a wonderful problem to have! Looks like today will be spent doing some canning and freezing for winter. I'm planning on freezing some green beans, canning some pickles, and turning those Romas into a batch of tomato-basil sauce, some of which will go on tonight's homemade pizza, and the rest of which will be frozen for later. If I have time, I will also be making a big pot of veggie soup to freeze for quick weeknight dinners.

On the topic on fresh veggies... we also got some kohlrabi from the farm share. For some reason, I've never tried it before! I love it when the farm share introduces me to something I might not have bothered to try on my own. So another one of my tasks today is to find a recipe or two for kohlrabi.

I'd better get cooking! :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Finding Time

We’re all so busy. Everyone around us is also so busy. Ask a friend how they’re doing, and they’ll tell you, “Oh, busy busy busy!” It is true that we all have a lot on our plates! We have to work, we have families to tend to, housework to do, and more! But we often get stuck in a rut of having so much to do that we forget to enjoy ourselves!  We don’t give ourselves downtime, and we don’t spend quality time with those we love.  So how do we strike that balance, finding the time to do the things we NEED to do (whether we want to or not!) as well as the things we WANT to do? This is something I am VERY MUCH still working on in my own life, but here is some of what I’ve learned so far:

Figure out which demands for your time are unchangeable. There are 24 hours in a day. Unfortunately, most of those hours are taken up by things we have no choice about. For most of us, that includes things like work, sleep, taking care our families and taking care of our homes. How much time you spend on those things depends upon your circumstances.

Figure out which things in your life are changeable, and prioritize them. How many times have you heard people tell you that they don’t have time to exercise, but then in the same breath that person tells you about the TV shows they watched? The fact is, that person DOES have time to exercise, they just choose to make other things (like relaxing in front of the TV) a priority. This is the situation with all of us, whether we realize it or not. In order to find time to do the things you really want to do, you need to take a good, hard look at how you spend all the hours of your day. Chances are, you CAN find an hour or two in there somewhere, as long as you’re willing to give something else up. It’s all about those priorities!

Be careful about volunteering. Volunteering is a wonderful thing. It’s good for our communities, and it’s good for us. It sets a good example for our children about helping others. However, many of us get into the habit of volunteering for too many things, which makes us crazy and resentful and less-available to our families.  Seriously consider your volunteer opportunities, and consider whether they will enrich your life, or whether they will just add one more thing to your already full plate. For me, volunteering with my children’s homeschool group enriches my life, and keeps me involved and active in a community that is very important to me. Right now, that is enough for me, and I choose to say “no” to anything else.

Find ways to be creative about the “unchangeable” things, to better accommodate the things that you really want out of life. For example, I know someone who really hates to clean, but obviously, just not cleaning your home is not an option. So she arranges her family’s budget to allow for a cleaning person to come in once a week. For many of us whose budgets are already stretched to the limit, that wouldn’t an option financially, but those whose budgets include things like dinners out or pricey vacations may choose to forgo those things in order to pay for someone to clean, if that is something that is important to them.  In our family, we divide the housework so that the burden isn’t on one person, and that works for us.

Work is usually the biggest obstacle in the quest for finding time, and often that is truly unchangeable. But sometimes it’s possible to make changes that will allow you more time… maybe finding a shorter commute, or a job with a more flexible schedule (although I realize that in this economy, most have to take whatever jobs they can get!) In my case, I have to work, but also wanted to continue homeschooling my kids, so I choose to run my own home-based business, rather than working outside the home.  This allows me to be here with my kids, even while working. The Man works here with me, and together we are able to juggle the demands of the job and the kids. Is it easy? No. The hours are long, and the work is hard. But I wouldn’t change a thing, because for us, homeschooling and being together as a family is more of a priority that having a shorter/easier work week. It works for us!

Schedule Downtime. This is the absolute most important thing! Seriously. Write it down on your calendar. Fit it into your daily schedule. This is something I have learned the hard way, and I confess that I’m not always very consistent about it. But I try VERY hard to wrap up all work tasks by 7pm. Whatever  is  not done by 7pm just gets moved to the next day’s “to do” list. This gives me three hours in the evening to get the kids settled for bed, work on the Blog, tend my garden, go for a short run, read and spend some quality time with The Man. I find that if I don’t get that time in the evening to do those things, it makes me really grumpy and resentful, so I make it a priority! Since I get up at 5:30am, I do my best to get to sleep around 10. Sleep is VERY important, as well!

Finding time for Life's Pleasures is the main reason why we choose to live a Simple Life. It is something we constantly strive for, aware that it is something we must consciously work toward on a daily basis.

Waking up this morning, I smile,       
Twenty four brand new hours are before me.      

I vow to live fully in each moment      
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.  
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Getting Ready for Not-Back-to-School

Oh. My. Goodness. We are at mid-August, already! Summer is just flying by and will be gone soon (Booo!) But the end of summer doesn’t just mean that beach days and s’mores will be but a memory soon… it also means it’s time to get ready for the new Homeschool Year! As much as I love the slower pace and fun times of Summer, there is a little tiny part of me that looks forward to getting the kids back into their regular routines and activities.

One other positive thing about this time of year is that the start of the not-school year forces me to clean out and organize our Homeschool cabinet, to get ready for a new year of learning! As I mentioned in this post about containing kids’ clutter, I try my best to keep the kids’ storage areas well-organized so the kids can always find what they need. That can be a challenge, with three kids who are homeschooled and limited storage space! Here are the results of this year’s homeschool cabinet clean-up:

The top two shelves contain some science and social studies stuff. We don’t generally use any kind of formal curriculum for these subjects, but instead prefer to just provide plenty of materials and opportunities to explore and learn. In our cabinet, we have a bunch of science kits, a microscope, a box of “Earth Treasures” which we’ve collected (things like shells, dragonfly wings, a robin’s eggshell, unusual rocks, etc) various books, maps, etc. We also have two shelves of reference books in our living room, which the kids regularly pull out and peruse.

Tote bags, for each child's daily work
The next shelf is where we keep each child’s daily work. We do use a formal curriculum for Math and grammar/writing, so each child has a tote bag containing their own daily work: their Math texts, workbooks, notebooks, etc.  Ladybug is also studying Spanish, and Monkey is studying Latin, so their bags contain the materials they use for that, as well. We used to use baskets to keep their daily work in, but several years ago we borrowed the idea to use totes from a fellow homeschoolin’ mama, and it’s worked out really well for us. With the tote bags, the kids can take their work to wherever they feel like sitting, whether it’s the big comfy chair in the living room or out to the back porch.

The bottom shelf contains all of our math stuff. Over the years, we’ve collected quite a few math books, which are stored here. We cull these now and then, and get rid of anything we don’t plan on using anymore. We also have various math manipulatives (counting bears, place value blocks, scale and weights, dominoes, etc) and tools (protractors, rulers, compasses, etc) stored in labeled boxes on this shelf.

The drawers underneath contain extra papers and supplies, kits, etc.  Opposite this built-in cabinet, we have another book case (pictured in this post) which stores all of our art and craft supplies, and the kids’ computer. Although I often wish we had more space available for our homeschool stuff, being limited to this small area of our kitchen does help us to Keep it Simple, which is what we’re all about, these days! We are forced to re-evaluate frequently, to make sure the items we have are useful and relevant. This helps keep clutter at bay, and keeps the kids from being overwhelmed by “ too much stuff.”

Soon, I plan to post about managing the busy schedules that Autumn brings for a large family, without feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. But for now… I’m going to savor these last couple of weeks of Summer.

UPDATE, jANUARY 2014: After a big kitchen renovation, we have a BRAND NEW homeschool area! Check it out, here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Green Smoothie Recipe

So, this past week, we’ve been on VACATION, which was so very wonderful, but also means we ate lots of “special treats” we don’t normally eat on a regular basis. Pizza, nachos, ice cream, cake, wine, and lots of s’mores… waaay more carbs, dairy, sugar and fat than we are accustomed to! And boy, am I feeling it! Today I am back “on the wagon” of healthy eating, and trying to cleanse my body of all the bad stuff I fed myself all week!  One of my favorite cleansing (or anytime!) treats is a Green Smoothie! I have them often as a snack or a light breakfast. They are also a great way to sneak greens into your children’s diet! Here is my favorite recipe:

Mama’s Green Smoothie

4 cups of kale, washed, tough stems removed
2 frozen bananas
2 apples, cored and cut into eighths
Handful of green grapes
1 tsp of grated ginger
2 cups of water
A few ice cubes
5-10 drops of liquid stevia or honey, to taste.

Toss everything into your blender and puree until smooth. Deeeelicious! 

This recipe makes 3-4 servings. I store leftovers in jars in the fridge for the next day… just shake it up and drink! 

To those who balk at the idea of dark leafies in their smoothies... just try it! With all the fruit in there, and the little kick of ginger, I swear you can't even taste the greens. Promise! 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Homemade Pancake Mix

Most of the time, we make our pancakes from scratch… my daughter, Ladybug, knows our recipe by heart, and makes them for the family most Saturday mornings. She LOVES to do this… cooking is one of her favorite hobbies, and making breakfast for the family makes her feel very “grown up.” But there are times when you want to have the convenience of a pancake mix, whether it’s because you’re pressed for time, or when you’re camping. While I love the convenience of mixes,  I don’t love how expensive the all-natural brands are, and I don’t love the artificial/processed ingredients in the inexpensive brands. So, we have come up with our own recipe for Pancake Mix, which is easy, all-natural, and inexpensive.

Homemade Pancake Mix

4 ½ cups of white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat flour)
3 Tbsp raw sugar
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp nutmeg
1 ½ cup dry milk
¾ cup powdered egg whites

Sift together, and store in an airtight container.

To use: Combine 2 ½ cups of mix with 2 ½ cups of water and 3 Tbsp of oil or melted butter.  If it seems to thick, add more water. Cook on a hot, greased griddle or skillet, using ¼ cup per pancake.

You can experiment with this, adding things like flax meal, different types of flour, or adding a little cinnamon. We love to serve our pancakes with hot fruit compote and whipped cream. Yum!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tips for Camping with Kids!

When I tell people about our camping adventures with our large family, I often hear, “But how do you do it, with so many kids?!” The answer is, well… we just do! For cheap family vacations, camping can’t be beat. The key to making it fun for the parents as well as the kids is PREPARATION. Here are some tips for successful camping trips with a crowd!

1.       Plan ahead for bad weather, even if you think it won’t rain. Nothing ruins a camping trip faster than all of your gear getting soaked by an unexpected rain storm.  On our first camping trip as a new blended family, several years ago, we had an unexpected downpour which soaked everyone and everything… we had puddles in the tent, no dry towels, and most of our clothes got wet. It was quite an adventure! To minimize the chance of this happening, make sure your tent is well-protected with a good rain fly or a tarp, just in case. Cover your picnic table with a tarp or canopy, to keep your stuff from getting soaked if shower passes through. Store clothes and towels in the car. Also, keep all your firewood under cover, as it’s hard to start a fire with wet wood. After all, camping wouldn’t be camping without a campfire!

2.       Pack lots of diversions. We have each child fill their backpacks with books, small toys, cards, etc. Plus, we bring a few travel games. These keep the little ones occupied while the adults and bigger kids are busy setting up, as well as providing us with fun things for all of us to do together while hanging around the campsite.

3.       Plan your meals ahead of time. This is good advice, in general! But when you are packing food for a whole weekend for a large family with no refrigeration, it’s essential. We usually have a cooler for the food that must stay cold, and a very large bag for non-perishable food. I make food prep at the campsite easier by chopping things up ahead of time at home, and storing them in containers in the cooler. Keep it simple! And don't forget a couple of loaves of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly, for quick, easy lunches.

4.       Bring lots of snacks. We usually pack trail mix, granola bars, pretzels, nuts, etc, along with a small cooler full of fruit. 

5.       Don’t forget to pack the first aid kit. It’s a good idea to be prepared in case one of the little ones gets a scraped knee, or someone gets a blister while hiking. Also be prepared with antihistamine (such as Benadryl) in case of an allergic reaction to poison ivy or bug bites. You might not need it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so you aren’t driving around looking for a pharmacy in the middle of your trip. (Yes, this happened to us once. We were nearly an hour from the nearest pharmacy. It was not fun!)

6.       Plan fun things to do, but leave room for change. Many family campgrounds have lots of fun things to do in the area… hiking, swimming, and even some tourist attractions. Plan out what you’d like to do ahead of time, but be flexible in case the weather changes.

7.       HAVE FUN! Relax and enjoy being in Nature with the ones you love.

Next post, I will share my recipe for homemade pancake mix… perfect for camping trips, or quick breakfasts at home!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


So, as I mentioned in my post on cheap family fun, we LOVE camping! In fact, we just returned from a few days in the woods of New Hampshire! The first day was a little rough, with torrential rain, and a failed tarp incident which left us with puddles in our tent. But… the next morning the sun was shining, and the weather stayed beautiful for the remainder of our trip! We enjoyed hiking, swimming and canoeing and just hanging out at the campsite. It was so nice to have a few days together to enjoy the great outdoors!

Shutterbug, Monkey, Noodlebug and Ladybug, splashing in a waterfall during one of our hikes!

Happy, hiking children!

The view from our canoe!

Next post, I'll be sharing some tips on camping with the family (and there will even be a recipe or two!)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Homemade Foot Scrub

Since I’m on Vacation this week, I decided it was time for a little bit of pampering! What better way for a girl to pamper herself in Bare-feet-and-Flip-Flop Season than with a pedicure? But before I could begin, I had to make up a batch of my Homemade Foot Scrub, to make my feet all soft and pretty for the beach! This recipe is quick and easy and only contains 3 ingredients.

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
5-10 drops of peppermint oil

Just mix everything together in a wide-mouth jar. To use, scoop out a generous dollop and massage all over your feet, concentrating on the roughest spots. Then, rinse with warm water and pat dry. Your feet will feel soft, refreshed and they’ll look great!

This scrub also makes a nice homemade pampering gift! Just put it in a pretty jar, and tie a ribbon around it, along with a tag with instructions for use. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Skin Nurturing, Chemical-Free Facial Cleanser

For the past year, I’ve been cleansing my face with the most wonderful, gentle, soap-free, chemical-free cleanser. It’s something I mix together in my own kitchen in about 30 seconds. And it’s very inexpensive! Would you like to know what it is?

It’s oil.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking… washing one’s face in oil is quite possibly the craziest thing ever. But really, it’s not! It’s called the Oil Cleansing Method, and since I’ve been using it, my skin is the best it’s ever been.  I’ve tried all kind of cleansers to deal with my sensitive skin, which is prone to all sorts of irritation, blotchiness and other unsightly things, and nothing has worked as well as this.

There is A LOT of information online about this method and why it works.  Here is a good place to start, if you really want the how and why of it all.

Here is how I mix my oil, and how I cleanse my face:

I use 1 part castor oil and 3 parts olive oil, mixed into a small squeeze bottle.  If your skin is very dry, you may want to use less castor oil. If it’s very oily, you might need a bit more.

To use, I squirt a little bit of the oil into my hands (make sure your hands are clean) and rub my hands together. Next, I massage the oil into my face and neck. If you happen to wear makeup, you will not need a separate make up remover. I only massage for between 10 and 30 seconds or so, because I’m lazy, but some sites recommend that you massage for a full minute or more. I never have, and it’s worked just fine. Next, wet a clean washcloth with really hot water (not so hot it burns, but nice and steamy) place it over your face for a few seconds, then wipe off all the oil, rinsing the cloth as needed. I do this part in the shower, usually.  That’s it! Your skin will feel clean and fresh, but never dry or tight. I use this method in the evenings, and then in the mornings I just wash my face with plain water.  I no longer use a nighttime moisturizer on my face, because I don’t need to since switching to the OCM. I do still use a moisturizer with sunscreen every morning, for sun protection.

I have tried SO many different facial cleansers over the years. Aside from the fact that most of them are full of nasty chemicals, none of them have ever really made my skin happy. Give this method one week. You will never go back to regular cleansers!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Family Fun on a Budget

We are getting pretty excited around here, because next week is our Family Vacation!  We’ve been planning this, well, pretty much since last Summer’s vacation. Everyone has been pitching in ideas of things they’d like to do during our week off. Since we’re living the Frugal Life and can’t afford to go away for a traditional vacation, we generally stick pretty close to home, and go about finding fun, free (or low cost) things to do together. For the last several months, anytime I see something online or in our daily adventures which looks like it would make a fun vacation activity, I’ve added it to my Vacation Fun folder.
Now that vacation week is nearly here, I have a folder filled with pamphlets and printouts for various places to hike, museums, zoos, etc. I also have lists of ideas the kids have written up, of things they would like to do. We definitely won’t get to everything in the folder, but it’s good to have lots of options. Here are some of the things we are planning…

We will be spending a couple of days camping at a state park. Camping is a great low-cost way for big families to vacation together.  Many state parks only cost $20-$25 per night… WAY cheaper than any hotel!  I will say that the type of camping we do is hardly “roughing it.” We only camp at well-equipped family campgrounds with showers, bathrooms and a camp store, for any forgotten essentials. But the we love it!

We love to hike! State parks have plenty of family-friendly hiking trails, and maps are usually available online. We happen to have several great places to hike within a few minutes of home, and lots more if we’re willing to drive a little bit. We like to head out early with lunches in our packs, and picnic along the way.

We plan to make mosaic stepping stones for the Garden, and my youngest has requested that we make tie-dye t-shirts (again… we’ve made them nearly every summer since he was a toddler!) Plus, I’m sure the children will come up with a few other things to make and do during the week… they are a crafty bunch.

Nothing says Summer Fun like a day at the beach! We are fortunate to have a couple of beaches with free parking not too far away, but even if you end up paying to park, a day at the beach is still usually a pretty inexpensive family outing. We generally go either very early in the day or later in the day, to avoid crowds and the hottest mid-day sun.

We are lucky enough to have a gift membership to one great museum in our area, so we can visit it whenever we want for free! However, even if you don’t have a membership, there are still ways to go to museums for less or for free… Check to see if your local library has museum passes, or ask if there are any Free Admission days.  There are some museums, such as the National Heritage Museum, which are always free.

Family Time at Home 
For all the fun adventures we are planning, we are also looking forward to just spending time at home together! We can’t wait to have a whole week of free time for playing games, spending evenings out by the fire pit and having some special family dinners. This is the stuff the memories are made of!