Friday, November 29, 2013

10 Things to Do Besides Shop

I used to buy things I didn't need.

Sometimes I shopped because I felt great and wanted to celebrate. I found $100 tucked away somewhere. I lost weight. I aced an exam. I was dating a hot new guy. I found something brilliant or beautiful for supercheap.

Mostly I shopped because I didn't feel good. I was lonely, bored, or aimless. I wanted to skip a meal. I was anxious because I had spare time between appointments. I wanted to have some reason for working long hours at a job I hated.

Call me un-American but I'm just going to go ahead and say these are all terrible reasons to buy stuff. Shopping for any reason other than the need to use the item or service you're purchasing is like scratching your head because your foot itches. It's just plain silly and doesn't do any good. I'm grateful that I learned this before I acquired mountains of crippling credit card debt and crap I don't need.

If you use shopping as a way to manage your moods, like I used to, here are ten healing and empowering things you can do besides shop. They all work really well for me.

  1. Get tea with a friend. Allow yourself to be healed by the lovefest that is hanging out with your best girlfriend or even someone amazing and new that you'd like to know better.
  2. Write and snail mail a thank you or just because note to someone you really appreciate. Who has time for handwritten notes these days? You do! That is when you don't waste time shopping!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to Brighten a Coffee & Tea Stained Mug

I love this mug. If you visit my house and I serve you a beverage in this mug, it means I love you too.

Ever since we started cleaning my mug in the dishwasher, I noticed it doesn't look as bright. The insides are have a dull brown tint. It is certainly not guest worthy.

Fortunately, I know of two easy ways to brighten up a coffee or tea stained mug without chlorine bleach or harsh chemicals.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

DIY Upcycled Christmas Tree Potpourri

At the start of the year, I made this easy natural potpourri using upcycled bits of my Christmas tree (collected before composting the rest of it) along with other seasonal kitchen scraps and spices. You can get a head start making Christmas tree potpourri by collecting scraps from a tree salesman or using the bits that will inevitably fall off your tree as you transport it into your home.

This recipe makes a small batch of potpourri (about a quart). Triple or quadruple the recipe and put into vintage-feeling mason jars to make fantastic holiday hostess gifts.

You'll need:
  • two branches from a small Christmas tree
  • dried clementine, orange, and/or tangerine peel (Hang peels to dry or just leave on the counter for a few days. I know from experience that both work equally well!)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • a small palm full of whole cloves
  • 2 cotton balls or pads
  • lemon essential oil
  • pine or cedar essential oil (I actually used Wondercide, a cedar oil natural insect repellant. It was great to get some off-season use for it!)
  • medium brown paper bag 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Meatless Monday: Healthy Holiday Eating Tips & A Vegan Eggnog Recipe

Last week, I attended Shira Hirshberg's Surviving the Holidays workshop at Momentum Fitness in Providence, RI. Shira is a registered dietitian with lots of practical tips for mostly healthy holiday eating. Here's what I learned:

Don't let the liquids fool you.
Drinks contain calories but not many nutrients. When you arrive at a party, drink plenty of water to first satisfy your thirst. Later move on to non-alcoholic beverages (sparkling grape juice contains 160 calories for 8 oz) and booze (vodka cranberry is 183 calories per serving) more selectively.

Work the room.
This is a two part strategy. First, survey everything in the buffet. This will help you make an informed decision about which things you'd like to eat and in what amounts before you start loading it up. The second part of the strategy is to stand at least an arm's distance from the snack table to prevent mindless snacking.

Get your plate right.
At least half of your plate should be high-nutrient, low-calorie veggies like leafy greens (kale, collards, salad greens) and green beans. The veggies part of the plate is unlimited refills section so go wild. The other two quarters are protein (beans or tofu) and starch (winter squash, sweet potatoes, peas, rice, millet, bread, pasta).

A healthy holiday plate

Thursday, November 21, 2013

5 Ways to Reheat Food Without a Microwave

Whether you have broken up with your microwave to protect the nutritional value of your foods or just to save counter space, you shouldn't be condemned to a life of cold leftovers. Here are some simple ways to warm food without nuking it.

Use steam to reheat foods that were originally cooked in water or steamed. It's ideal for rice, quinoa, pasta, dumplings, and plain veggies. Don't steam foods you want to be crispy or saucy foods.
Place food in a bamboo steamer or stainless steel steam basket. Put that into a saucepan or pot that has about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water. Using medium-low heat, allow the steam rising from the boiling water to heat your food. Most foods will heat in just a few minutes using this method.

Reheat beans, soups, gravies, and saucy foods that don't need to be crispy in a saucepan on the stove top over low or medium heat. Warm cereals like oatmeal can be reheated the same way, but you should stir often and add a splash of water or your favorite milk to keep it from burning.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Clean Stinky Uggs Boots

I was reading Leslie Reichert's book The Joy of Green Cleaning and discovered this treat for winter feet: Ugg Boot Deodorizer.

All you need is baking soda, corn starch, and your favorite essential oil to make this all natural boot freshener.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Meatless Monday: Gluten-Free, Vegan & Kosher Thanksgivukkah Recipes

Thankgivukkah, the first and only Thanksgiving and Hanukkah of our lifetime, is coming soon! Use this guide to prepare yourself to host guests with various health, ethical, and religious dietary restrictions. Learn the restrictions of gluten-free, vegan, and kosher diets. Enjoy a cornucopia of delicious seasonal holiday recipes that celebrate the abundance available to an intersection of all three groups. 

What is Gluten-Free?
A gluten-free diet (GF diet) is a diet that excludes foods containing gluten. Gluten is a protein complex found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, and rye. Oats may also sometimes contain gluten because of cross-contamination in processing.

Foods made from grains and grain-like plants that do not contain harmful gluten include: corn (corn flour, corn meal, grits); rice (white, brown, basmati); amaranth; buckwheat (kasha); Montina; millet; quinoa; teff; and sorghum. All meats, eggs, dairy, vegetables, fruits, legumes (including soy), nuts, and seeds are also gluten-free in their natural, unprocessed forms.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hot Pink, Hot Dog & Hot Phone Bill Savings!

It's not Wednesday anymore but I still wanna share what I wore yesterday with you. It's been pretty cold here so no more outdoor photos. Welcome to my living room!

I'm wearing a sweater with a run in it that I "fixed" last year by stitching a patch of felt behind the hole. (Still strong and even hipper now!) And the hat and boots I will not remove until March.

We have a special guest at my house this month: Meet my mom's dog, Cocoa! She's staying here until my mom feels better. We're happy to have her. (Ok, maybe not our cat Lucy.)

Hat: Handmade by Nirvana Designs in Nepal via Exit 9 // Hair: chunky two strand twists, which used to be more of a pre-style for me, a prelude to a twist out or smaller twists. Lately, I'm starting to love wearing my hair like this all week. // Earrings: "Mali" by Laurel Burch // Sweater: Express // Tee: H & M // Skirt: Silence + Noise // Leggings: F21 // Boots: DSW

In other news, my Verizon smart phone contract ends tomorrow so I signed up for Skype. For $7 a month I have a phone number people can reach me at when I'm online or connected to WiFi or leave a voicemail for me when I'm offline. I can also make unlimited calls to US & Canada.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Unlazy Natural Acne-Prone Skin Care Routine

I haven't been very proactive when it comes to skin care, but I'm now determined to overcome my struggle with acne. Here's a brief history of the things I've tried.

The Oil Cleansing Method
Yes, I rubbed oil on my skin to correct acne. Seems silly but it works for so many people. My skin didn't look much different after a month. (I blogged my before and after.)

Birth Control Pills
I've been taking Ortho-tricyclen off and on since I was 19. The hormones always successfully clear my skin within weeks. I look amazing! Sadly, as soon as I stop taking them, the acne returns in about a month.

I'd prefer not to take birth control pills because I have a family history of cancer and cancer and extra hormones are besties. Still, sometimes people do stupid things for immediate solace and I am no exception.

Weird thing is this year each of the three different types of birth control pills I tried (ortho tricyclen, ortho tricyclen lo and ortho-cept) caused me to have a million side effects including 21 EFFING DAYS of menstruation every month for 8 months!!!

About two months ago, I finally had enough and stopped taking the pills. Of course, my zits came back. I decided to get unlazy (to borrow my friend Savi's term) and put some effort into keeping a simple skin care routine and see what happened.

Here's what I do now:

Friday, November 8, 2013

12 Germ Fighting Essential Oils & DIY Purifying Spray

Here's a list of a dozen germ fighting essential oils. They can be used in an aromatherapy diffuser or in a DIY air and surface purifying spray.

Non-toxic homekeeping heroine, Annie B. Bond explains how to make a germ-killing disinfecting mist by adding 4-8 drops of essential oils to 1 cup of water. You can spray hard or non-staining soft surfaces with it or mist the air. This makes a wonderful alternative to potentially harmful Lysol products, most of which have significant skin damage, development, and respiratory hazards.

A diffuser dispenses the essential oils into the air. Aromatherapist Joan Apter recommends beginning by diffusing oils for 15-30 minutes a day. As you become accustomed to the oils and recognize their effects, you can increase the diffusing time to 1-2 hours.

Before using this list, I recommend reading Germs: Understand and protect against bacteria, viruses and infection, just to get clear on the differences between those things. 

Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum verum) is anti-infectious, anti-bacterial, antiparasitic, antiviral and antifungal.

Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus) is antiseptic and antibacterial.

Clove (Syzgium aromaticum) is one of the most antimicrobial and antiseptic.

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus lemon and eucalyptus radiata) is anti-infectious, antibacterial, antiviral, expectorant and anti-inflammatory.

Lavender is anti-bacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, and antifungal.

Lemon Oil (citrus limon) is anti-bacterial.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flixuosus) is highly antifungal.

Myrtle (Myrtus communis) is antibacterial, antiseptic, and antifungal.

Pine is antibiotic and antiseptic.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is antiseptic and antimicrobial.

Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternafolia, ericfolia or quinquenervia) is anti-bacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, and antifungal.

Thyme oil (Thymus vulgaris) is anti-bacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, and antifungal.

Purchase essential oils and diffuser at Mountain Rose Herbs via my affiliate link to earn e-Hugs!

Reference: The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

Thanks so much for reading this blog entry! I hope it was helpful. Wanna keep nerding out about creative green living? Let's stay connected: Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest // Bloglovin' // YouTube
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hard Water 101: What it is, How to Tell if You Have it & How to Live with it

Hard water literally means water that is "hard" or difficult to create lather or suds in when using soap or even detergent. This is cause by higher mineral content in the water. Folks who live in mountainous regions or use well water usually have hard water, but according to Borax website, over 85% of homes have at least slightly hard water.

Jolie Kerr, The Hairpin's Ask a Clean Person columnist offers this wonderful description of hard water:
Hard water contains a high mineral count. It's not harmful to humans, though it is harmful to machinery in that those minerals build up, leaving what's called "scale" or "fouling" — colloquially, we often refer to it as scum. Hard water also doesn't play as nicely with soap as does soft water, resulting in a distinct lack of lather without the aid of a water softener designed to reduce the calcium, magnesium and etc etc etc minerals that are found in hard water.

A sure way to know if you have hard water is to contact your local municipal water supplier. (Find them via Google.) They should have a water quality report on their website or available by request. They could probably answer your hard water question over the phone too.

Hard water can't affect your health but it can make life a little difficult, especially when you're trying to wash clothes. Borax website explains: "When you add detergent to hard water, some of the detergent combines with the calcium and magnesium granules that settle to the bottom of the washing machine, where it washes harmlessly down the drain without cleaning your clothes."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Guide to Naturally Fabulous Fall Hair

Guest post by Joanna Puciata, founder of

From pool, to sun, to chemical treatment (and here I mean shampooing and conditioning, not just coloring), straighteners and curlers, your hair is probably screaming bloody murder. Add to it humidity or cold temperatures, and your once beautiful hair seems in need of a major makeover every day, no matter what you do to it.

All the blondes suffer from the "sun-dried syndrome." The luster is gone, the color becomes grayish and every strand seems to be going in different direction unless you torture your hair with anti-frizz conditioner, styling product, heat resistant product, serum and finally a hair spray. Oh, don't forget the flat iron...

Brunettes? Not really sure, but I take it you probably suffer too. Extreme humidity coupled with heat and cold from constant air conditioning or cold temperatures with dry, heated air puts you far away from the Hollywood gorgeousness.

So what can you do to revive your hair?

1. Nourish yourself everyday. When you eat consciously and purposely every cell in your body becomes healthier and more beautiful. That goes for skin, hair and nails as well. Your outside body parts are a reflection of your lifestyle habits. Mineral depleted body produces weak, easily breakable, dull hair. Eat well and the hair becomes bouncier, thicker, and stronger.

2. Take care of your liver. Liver toxicity is responsible for weakened immune system, skin break-outs, slowly growing hair. Each year your liver accumulates about 5 pounds of toxins just from the cosmetics you use. All the parabens, sulfates, fragrances, colors doesn't just get rinsed off with the shower water. They get absorbed through the skin and into the liver where they sit patiently waiting for a detox and fiber.

3. Establish a Weekly Beauty Routine. Remember what I always say; having a spa experience once in a lifetime is great and quickly forgotten, but doing small things consistently every day or every week is what brings you the desired results. And the only way to be able to afford that is to do it yourself using simple pantry ingredients.

  • Make a small investment and buy an inexpensive heating cap. The heat will open-up the hair shaft allowing for deeper and speedier conditioning.
  • Use organic shampoos and conditioners, skipping all those chemicals. Make sure to read the labels. If you are sensitive or allergic to something you eat, you will also be affected by it in a cosmetic form. (Learn about the ingredients in products you use via EWG's Skin Deep cosmetics database.)
  • Look around for an organic hair stylist in your area to color your hair with gentler colors.
  • Treat your hair. For each treatment put plastic wrap around your head and go about your business for 30 minutes or better yet use the heating cap and relax. Wash as usual.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Rich Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake with Fresh Pears from Cooking With CSA

Guest post from Sarah & Peter of Cooking with CSA, a kid-friendly plant-based, gluten-free seasonal recipe subscription service.

Today we’re sharing a recipe that is gluten-free and vegan… but don’t get scared off!

Gluten-free does NOT mean: weird, gross, boring, dry, plain or hard to make! It DOES mean: no wheat (all species), barley and rye.

Some people are allergic and some people- like us- just feel better when we avoid it.

This cake is so delicious we know when you make it you’ll come find us and tell us how good you think it is. The best part about this cake is there is no frosting. The reason that is a good thing is because:
  1. Frosting is a pain in the butt to make!
  2. Frosting is super unhealthy
Rich Chocolate Cake with Fresh Pears

Continue reading for full recipe.

Friday, November 1, 2013

How to Keep Headphones Neat & Untangled - VIDEO

I've decided November is all about making my life less complicated and more organized. To this end, I have two things to share:

Firstly, I am now posting my blog related videos on my personal YouTube channel along with my nerdy home movies. Starting now all my videos will be shared there. It just makes sense for me to use one account instead of wasting time logging in and out of different profiles. (Don't worry, I won't remove any videos from the Olivia Cleans Green channel. I just won't be adding any content there going forward.)

Secondly, I posted a new video: How to Keep Headphones Neat & Untangled. No more pulling your headphones from your purse in a jumbled mess! You can also use this wrap for the USB cord.

What choices have you made lately to simplify your life?

Thanks so much for reading this blog entry! I hope it was helpful. Wanna keep nerding out about creative green living? Let's stay connected: Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest // Bloglovin' // YouTube
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Consider supporting this blog by shopping via my Amazon shop. Thanks.


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