Archive for the ‘Personal Care’ Category

Although I have posted this recipe at both my other blogs, and I know i have a few overlapping followers with Not Dabbling – i think this recipe is worth sharing as much as possible!  If you don’t mind, I’d also like to introduce to you all my new blog: Bathtime. I’ve been blogging for my soap company, Nude Soap for a while, but mostly just promotional stuff. I’ve decided that it would be fun to write more posts about wellness, herbs, DIY bath and body care and other bath and natural living related topics – similar to those posts sometimes found here and back at my other blog, An Austin Homestead. I would love it if you’d check out Bathtime, which will be a “weekly” with just one post per week.

In other personal blogging news, i’ve been hard at work trying to transition An Austin Homestead to its new location and title… and things are NOT going well. Sometimes the internet can be extremely aggravating. So for now, enjoy this post here at Not Dabbling in Normal, and maybe check it out over at Bathtime as well. You can also find some cool resources over there and i think you’ll enjoy the future posts. Happy Friday!

I like to save money and packaging by making all natural alternatives to common and oft-used around the house products. I make all our soap, of course and i also i try to can or freeze most of our preserved foods. I buy in bulk and use reusable handmade bags, and i especially like to keep my family healthy by keeping almost all commercially made body products out of our house. Products like toothpaste.

Did you know that sodium laureth sulfate, the same stuff used to make commercial shampoos rather, is in most toothpaste? Have you read the ingredients on most toothpastes in the store… if you have you’ll see lots of chemicals, flavors, colors and other artificial nastiness. And flouride. I have mixed feelings on flouride, but despite my dentist’s opinion on the stuff, he checked out my teeth as ‘problem free’ in my last visit…. after i’d switched to making my own tooth powder. I’ve been using my tooth powder for about 1.5 years. My last dentist appointment was also about 1.5 years ago, before the tooth powder. I had 2 supposed cavities and gingivitis. Commercial toothpaste: cavities and gingivitis. Homemade tooth powder: no cavities or gingivitis and a clean bill of mouth health. Want to make some for yourself? I thought so:

Homemade Tooth Powder

  • Baking Soda
  • Course grind salt, preferably sea salt, preferably sea salt with lots of minerals like Real Salt
  • Optional (but really great for polishing teeth and clearing up stains) montmorillonite (french) clay
  • Essential oils: i highly recommend Clove for its gum healing properties, and tea tree for a great all around antiseptic. Add peppermint if you love the taste.

I store my tooth powder in a small jar and serve it up with a spoon into a spoon rest for daily use. To mix tooth powder, fill your jar about 3/4 of the way full with baking soda. Add salt to almost fill and add a half teaspoon of clay. Pour these ingredients into a larger jar (to facilitate easier shaking) and add about 8 drops cloves and 3-5 drops tea tree. You may end up adding more or less depending on your taste later on. Shake!

Pour back into your storage jar and enjoy clean, healthy teeth and gums for pennies! You may find your teeth feeling cleaner then you’ve noticed in a long time, i sure did the first time i used this. The clay will help get those tea stained teeth back to pearly whites in no time!

Do you make your own bath and body products? How about tooth powder?

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I have had a whirlwind of a month and admittedly have not had the chance to try all of the fun recipes and concoctions that I had planned on. I suppose that’s what happens when you do so much on impulse and forget that there are only 24 hours in a day. That, and I’m a complete ditz when it comes to remembering all the things I want to do in a day.


So here’s a list of webby things that I looked into this past month that I wanted to try:

Strawberry leaf mouthwash via The Green Girls

Our very own Chiot’s Run’s (Susy) recipe for toothpaste

Go through and create a Spring Cleaning Kit c/o Mountain Rose Herbs blog

Make the All-Purpose Cleaner and Tough Dirt and Grease Formula at Rodale.com

(Honestly since I cut out a lot of commercial cleaners so long ago, I don’t miss having all of the bottles of goop around. The thought of having to stock up on spray bottles for one specific use irritates me a bit, but that’s a rant for another post!)

All of these which I could’ve done in the time it took me to write this column today.

Now the one thing I really, really wanted to do that didn’t get the opportunity to do was to create my own Burt’s Bees hand salve recipe. Mmmm I adore Burt’s Bees, but I can’t necessarily afford it as quickly as I can go through it. Fortunately I can get my own beeswax for free (and you can purchase it cheaply through Mountain Rose Herbs) and other items  can be found in my home, at health food stores, or at MRH. If you’re vegan, you can use shea butter or cocoa butter as an alternative to beeswax. Here are some ideas at TipNut.

What projects will you try?

Jennifer can also be found at Unearthing this Life where she blargs about her life in rural Tennessee – at least when she’s not out working the fields to death!

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This time of year tends to sweep us gardeners and outdoors-y types away with projects and plans. Even if you’re not a gardener, there are plenty of activities that spring adds to our Honey-Do lists; family gatherings, spring cleaning, graduations, vacations, weddings, cookouts…. In the midst of all this madness I find that keeping just a few things around the house and garden can help make cleaning, cooking, or personal care an absolute breeze.

lavender and chrysanthemum

Baking Soda. A must have (sodium bi-carbonate). A step up for cleaning, Washing Soda (sodium carbonate).

Castile Soap. Castile soap is our mainstay for cleaning bathrooms and floors although I wish there was an alternative to the plastic bottles.

Borax. For general cleaning. This is what we use to scrub our toilet bowl with instead of toxic chemicals. We also use it in our laundry mix.

Vinegar. For cleaning, rinses, or cooking, this is one of my faves.

Plain old Salt. Sometimes it seems nothing is better than salt for scrubbing, and a pinch of salt in cooking goes a long way for flavoring.

Rosemary. This herb is wonderfully aromatic, but it also has mild antiseptic properties and can help balance oily skin. I adore it on roasted or rotisserie chicken, but it’s even better when used as a skewer. You can add it to a rinse for your hair to help keep it shiny.

Lavender. Another fabulous aromatic. Used as a odiferous relaxant, an edible floral addition, or a natural moth repellant. I keep a few wands in each of my closets, if anything to keep our clothes smelling fresh. I also give extras away as gifts because it seems everyone loves the smell of lavender.

Peppermint. We use a lot of mint in cooking (tzatziki sauce, anyone?) and when friends come over for mojitos. But it’s also great for cooling compresses, teas for upset tummies, and a great clean odor.

Lemon Grass. I adore lemon grass tea. Lemon grass, along with some ginger and honey makes some of the finest tea, in my opinion, and is great for those with chronic tummy issues. It’s also great for cooking with and it has … you guessed it, a wonderful odor.

Oatmeal. This one seems out of place, I know, but not only does it make a quick and filling breakfast – it also makes a great, soothing scrub.


I feel like with a shoelace and a can of tuna that I can MacGyver just about anything so long as I have the above items. What about you? What do you keep around your home and on hand to keep life simple?

Jennifer also blargs at Unearthing this Life where she ponders deep and meaningful issues like how to best break up clumps of soil, where to place her imaginary llama and future goats, and how to keep a family entertained while getting spring gardening accomplished.

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I’ve spent most of this week just observing myself–seeing what I use, what my family uses, and remembering the several years, when the kids were small, that I only used “natural” products. I felt like the house was never clean.

Which made me (Xan) think– how clean does the house need to be?

I grew up in the 50s and 60s, reared by parents who bought the post war suburban lifestyle lock, stock and spic’n’span. Pearls at dinner, mom at home, perfectly ironed shirts. The whole nine yards. Mothers didn’t work, even college-educated, brilliant mothers didn’t work. Mothers who worked were suspect. Someone else, or no one else, cleaned their houses, which were consequently never quite as clean as ours was. Shelves were always dusted, sinks were always empty, floorboards always swept.

It’s important to remember that the degree of clean demanded by the makers of cleaning products and their tools at Madison Avenue is several degrees beyond where clean needs to be for healthy living. Yes, their level of clean has eradicated water and soil-born diseases, and mitigated the ones transmitted through human interaction. But REAL clean delivers the same benefits, and without the whole new set of insidiously life threatening illnesses from cancer to liver disease to hyperactivity.

Get REAL clean. Spotless is not the goal.


Like Xan, I, Jennifer, have spent a lot of the week considering how much of the products I still use are necessary. I’ve stood in my bathroom staring at what seems like a multitude of products, both body care and cleaning, that rarely get used any more. Cringing only seems natural when you think of all the nasty chemicals that end up literally getting poured down the drain. We’re feeding our fish this stuff, we’re drinking the stuff, we’re keeping it within reach of our children, believing nothing bad will ever happen.

My mom actually tried to convince me to give up window cleaner about 6 years ago. She swore by vinegar, water, and newspapers. But I was hooked on the chemicals at the time. I believed I needed to keep the house sparkling because of the baby – and yet I wouldn’t allow pest control to spray inside the house. What was I thinking? While I didn’t cover my dishes, table, and floor with pesticides, I still used plenty of sprays, anti-bacterial soaps, harsh cleansers, carpet cleaners, bleaches, and detergents on the items my baby was crawling on and eating off of every day.

Ironically it took me running our well dry here at our house to realize the circle of chemicals in the environment. Having a drought and needing gray water for plants to survive makes one understand what harm those cleaners are doing in the waterways – to the water we’re drinking.

Our household has made mega-steps in the last year, thanks to several personal challenges and a few online. We’ve stopped using bottled bath soaps and use local, handmade bars from several different people we know; cut our paper towel consumption waaaay back, using old rags and torn up tee shirts instead; we’ve been making our laundry detergent since November, reducing our plastic consumption; and we’ve been making some of our own bathroom cleaners as well.

It’s taken a while, but we’re getting there one step at a time.


What are you doing to be REAL Clean?

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I feel I need to preface this post with a statement: I have strange hair.

This is my hair on shampoo...

It’s the kind of hair that is course like a horse’s, and it can’t always decide if it’s going to be curly or wavy. It’s thick, but not because I have lots of hairs – because each individual hair is thick and kinky and twisted. Sometimes it’s fuzzy, sometimes it’s not.

It’s heavy hair, and I have quite a bit of it streaming down to my lower-mid back. It’s not even an easy color to describe. Not blond, not brown, not red… I have individual hairs in each color, including some so dark they could be called black, and some so light well… they’re outright grey. I understand that my hair is unique and I have never met anyone else with similar hair except for one of my teenage riding students, who now dyes her hair purple. Hehe. Because my hair tends to be dry rather than oily, I have always gotten away with shampooing once a week (sometimes less).

My adventure into shampooless hair care came about during Plastic Free February Challenge that Rodale publicized. I had to find a way to minimize plastic in the bathroom and I decided to do so by going shampoo free. Completely. Cold Turkey. Obviously going without traditional shampoo may not be for everybody, it certainly works for my hair and I encourage everybody to try it, as long as you’re willing to go through… dun dun dunnn… the transitional period.

Have you ever tried to grow dreadlocks? I did in high school (it was kind of a disaster!) and this is the closest I can come to as an example of what the first few times washing my hair without shampoo was like. Your scalp is used to producing quite a bit of oil (even on dry scalps/hair) to compensate for the awful degreasing power of your shampoo. Even the all natural shampoos strip your hair of protective oils, causing the itty bitty oil glands in your hair follicles to produce lots of oil. When you go without shampoo and switch to home recipes it takes a few washes for your oil glands to chill-the-heck-out. In the mean time you are left with oily hair that picks up dirt very quickly, especially if you work in a dusty horseback riding arena! Ew.

If you stick with it though, your scalp adjusts and you are left with hair that is softer, healthier and easier on the planet than it was before. Your hair won’t have harmful chemical residues and it won’t smell like … whatever it used to smell like. It’ll just be hair. Since switching off of shampoo, my hair is consistently less frizzy and “burnt out” feeling. It’s much more manageable and I find that if I style it it stays instead of flying all over the place.

The way I wash my hair now is I take two tablespoons of baking soda and mix it in two cups of hot water (often from the shower head). If you don’t have crazy Neanderthal hair like I do, you can use one tablespoon soda and one cup water. I let the baking soda sit on my hair, worked into my scalp, for about a minute (maybe two) and then I rinse it in the water. The next part is important.

This is my hair sans shampoo. Excuse the weird expression 🙂

When you use baking soda, you have to use a rinse or else your hair will be atrociously sticky afterward. I use a glug of apple cider vinegar mixed with a tablespoon of honey in 1-2 cups of hot water. This works as a fantastic detangler though I have to wonder how it’ll effect my rapport with the honey bees in the garden this summer. Eek.

There are so many recipes out there that one is sure to work for your hair. I have used this web site as a starting point and it’s got plenty of information. I urge you to try going shampoo free for at least a month to really get the balance correct. When I first started I wasn’t using enough rinse and my hair was quick to dirty. Now my hair is shinier and softer than ever before. I have less split ends and I love the way it smells, or doesn’t smell, after it dries. I will warn anybody who detests the smell of vinegar that your hair will smell as it dries. After it dries, it’ll be all scent-free, but I have gotten some strange looks when going to the store with went apple-cider-vinegary hair.

Another thing to try is rinsing with beer. A close friend of mine has suggested this and I have yet to try it because I’ve gotten balanced out with the recipe I use now, but if you want to avoid smelling like vinegar it would be a good place to start. One thing my friend pointed out though is make sure you either open the beer before getting in the shower, or take a bottle opener with you. Running across the house sopping wet in a towel (or not!) while trying to find a bottle opener sounds like a nightmare!

Do you use any alternatives (or natural supplements) to shampoo?

Want to read more from Tanglewood Farm? Check out Emily’s blog over at A Pinch of Something Nice where she writes about her experiences with her gardens, her livestock and her leased historical home in SE Michigan.

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As the cold and flu season is upon us I have done some research into ‘cures’ for the common cold.

I have many herbal teas that we use when we’re sick…but I wanted something I could take at the very first symptoms of sickness to knock it out  before it became a full blown, week long, snot fest!

Twice in the last month my darling children have passed their colds onto me.

Twice I have at the first sign of sickness made and drank garlic tea.

Twice my cold failed to be anything more than a 24 hour slight dribble and headache.

Garlic has been used throughout history for its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. Recent scientific studies have indicated that a diet high in garlic (more than 2 large cloves a day per person) can reduce the incidence of certain cancers especially those of the intestinal tract and breast cancer.

Here is a good page to look at from the National Cancer Institute on more specifics of garlic and cancer.

When using raw garlic it is important to crush or mince and then let your garlic sit for 15 minutes…this allows the chemical compounds in the cloves to be released.

My garlic tea is simply one clove of peeled, crushed garlic allowed to sit for 15 minutes after crushing.  Then I place it in the bottom of a coffee cup and pour boiling water over it.  I let it steep for another 15 minutes.  Then I remove the garlic and add honey and lemon.  I slowly drink the tea while chewing on the clove of garlic.

I will admit that I smell like garlic for at least an hour after this…so I would not do it when headed out to an important appointment!

Now I am not going to say that this is indeed the cure for the common cold but so for the evidence has been compelling.  As the colds have lasted from 5 days to a week for my husband kids it has lasted less than 24 hours for me and has had considerably milder symptoms.

Now if I could just convince the rest of my family that the stinking rose really does make a beneficial…if not stinky tea!

So do you have a ‘cure’ for the common cold that you would like to share?


Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel!






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Due to technical problems here at the Roost I missed my Friday post about Grazing and my chance to post my Frugality pictures on Sunday.  The grazing post will happen in the next few weeks, but the Frugality Pictures are on a still smoking hard drive and somewhat inaccessible.  So, first a thought about frugality.  Buying a cheep outlet strip instead of a good quality surge protector is not a savings.  Neither is the few seconds saved by not backing things up.  Hopefully that lesson is now learned.

Yesterday was haircut day at our house.  A family togetherness exercise that happens about every six weeks.  After 15 years of haircuts we are finally to the point that there are few tears, little fear, and a bit of efficiency.

  It wasn’t always that way, but it is a pretty good time now.  So we chatted about life as CC clipped my hair.  We laughed about how long she had been cutting my hair and how steep the learning curve had been.  She got good fast.  Having to go out in public with someone is motivation to do a good job on their hair.  She cuts all our hair.  (I cut hers too, until she can’t stand it any more and goes out to have someone who can do more than cut a straight line do it.)  She even cut hair for the cowboys on the ranch we worked at.  They would trade beer for haircuts.  By the end of the evening the cuts got a bit interesting, but no one seemed to care.

I’d been fretting about today’s post and the lack of frugality pictures.  As she clipped away I started counting up haircuts.  She has been cutting my hair for the last 15 years.  That’s about 120 haircuts.  I’ve probably gotten my hair cut by someone else 3 times in those 15 years (and never been happy with it!)  When I have gone out to get my hair cut the price has been around $15.00.  Thats quite a bit of money.  I asked CC how many times she had gone out for a haircut.  She goes about once a year.  I cut it the rest of the time.  Then we added in the kids.  Combined they have had about 160 haircuts in the last 15 years, and gone out maybe 5 times.  So, here’s the breakdown,

Me     120 – 3= 117

CC      120 – 15 = 105

Kids  160 – 5 = 155

Total = 377  haircuts at an average of $15.00 each (CC’s would cost more and the kids a bit less.)

Thats a savings of $5655.00 over the past 15 years. 

We have had 3 sets of clippers in that time. (Probably could have done it with one, but we moved to NZ where they are on a different power system.  Replaced clippers then and when we came back.)  The clippers cost about $40.00.  One of them came even came with a training DVD which improved the quality of our haircuts a lot.

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Perhaps one of the most atypical things our family does that clearly lands us in the “not dabbling in normal” category is the way we educate. Or rather self-educate. You see, our family follows a type of learning sometimes referred to as “unschooling” or “life learning”.

For us, “life learning” means supporting our individual personalties, learning styles and abilities in a limitless, diverse, hands-on and creative way. It means creating in ourselves a desire to learn from everything we find interesting that crosses our paths and continuing to grow throughout the entirety of our lives. It means enjoying life to the fullest and exploring all it has to offer.

Life learning isn’t for everyone but lifelong learning should be! As our ever-changing world challenges our capacity to evolve, the need for self-motivated and interested learners grows stronger. We need to know how to roll with the punches, how to expand our lives in ways meaningful and useful to us and how to use our self-motivation to stay ahead of the game. I’m here to share ideas on how to apply the principles of life learning to your life and your family – no matter where you are or what you do, no matter if you’re kids are in public school or homeschooled, no matter what your budget.

I’m sure most of you are here because you’re already lifelong learners but we could all use a bit of inspiration along the way. Here are my ideas for cultivating lifelong learning in yourself, as well as those around you:

1. Natural Learning Takes Time

John Holt said it best: “Birds fly, fish swim, people learn.” It’s what we do! And in an ideal world, this wouldn’t change. But in our fast-faced, often stressful life we lose touch with our natural desire to learn. The “shoulds” take over and our passion for knowledge dwindles as a long list of things we need to do overwhelms or exhausts us. This leaves us with little energy, time or desire to explore new and exciting things.

Creating balance in our lives by eliminating sources of stress or simplifying our lifestyles may be necessary to defining our time or priorities. In order for learning to flourish, we need to create a lifestyle that is peaceful, joyful and conducive to nurturing our growth. This will look different to everyone but prioritizing, downsizing, saying no to too many commitments, and proper self-care all come to mind. But as this principle is really an article in its own, I’ll let you chew on your own solutions to creating a balanced, nourished and joyful life. 😉

2. Find Your Style

All of us have a learning style. Many of us probably didn’t realize our own until we were teens or adults. One of the best things you can do for yourself or those in your family is to know your learning styles and apply them. I’ve never known learning styles to be changed so knowing and working with your brain is a huge advantage to lifelong learning. The main styles of learning are:

  • Visual: You need to see to get it. You think in pictures and things such as diagrams or photos help you the most.
  • Auditory: You like to listen intently. You may close your eyes or stare at the ceiling to block out distractions around you as you take in the words. You like to read things aloud to really understand them.
  • Kinesthetic/Tactile: You’re a do-er. You have to touch it, move it around or get your hands in it to really absorb the information.

Most of us are some combination of those three and can use any one of them to learn. But we tend to lean heavily on one style of learning. There are numerous books on the matter and online sites and tests to help you determine your or your children’s style of learning. Perhaps you’ll find you’re better off watching a how-to video on YouTube instead of reading the manual. Or maybe your child needs less verbal instruction but instead benefits from hands-on activities. Once you know your own best way to learn, start applying those principles and see how much easier the learning happens.

3. Create The Right Environment

The “right” environment is going to be different for everyone. Some people may require a creative mess around them, while others need things free of clutter and as simplified as possible. For some, bright colors may stimulate and inspire, while others need darker tones. Depending on the members of your household, perhaps you’ll will need a bit of everything! Something that helps is to create personalized “zones”. A desk with a lamp, a bean bag next to a low shelf, and a table with loads of creative objects are just a few zones that may be conducive to different people.

Other than zones, colors and decorating tips, one thing that applies to every household is to create a “rich environment” by filling your space with interesting and diverse things. Books of all types, a telescope and microscope, dictionaries, a thesaurus, computer games, a direct link to Google, craft and art supplies, building materials, quality tools, maps, board games, hiking guides, Fact or Word-of-the-Day calendars are just a few ideas. Place almanacs, or funny fact books in the bathroom (try Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader). Decorate your fridge with magnetic poetry. Get creative in creating your own version of a “rich environment”.

4. Ask and Answer Questions

Anyone who’s been around a four year old knows how many questions can be asked in a single day. 😉 But as we get older, we slowly begin to ask fewer and fewer questions. Sometimes it may be because we work out the answer internally or privately. Or perhaps we assume we know the answer. But sometimes it’s simply because we just stop asking! The great thing about ourselves is the more we self-feed, the fatter and hungrier our brains become. Likewise, the more we share our knowledge with interested folks, the more inspired and inspiring our lives become!

Engagement is a crucial key to lifelong learning and engaging through questions and answers with those around you or online will help feed that mind. So, don’t hold back. Engage in conversation with new people and allow yourself to be open to pondering or further researching new ideas and answers that come your way. Leave Google open to define new words you stumble across online. Or keep a list of things you want to learn.

Those of us with children, neices, nephews or neighbor’s kids can easily turn this principle around. Instead of telling the child to “look it up” understand the great honor they are giving you in turning to you as a source of knowledge. They are, essentially, “looking it up” in your brain! Answer that question! If you don’t know the answer, engage the mind of the child by finding the answer with them – head to the map and search out Argentina together, pull up Google to find out which animals are green, flip through the dictionary to find the definition of chary, or enjoy an interesting documentary on Ancient Egypt with them.

One last great way to engage our minds or our children’s minds is to ask (them or yourself) “What do you think” or “Why do you think that”. Talking aloud through ideas and thoughts, and brainstorming new ones never fails to lead to some amazing conversations and realizations.

5. Honor Your Passions

Too often we justify putting off interests because we believe they aren’t practical or are a waste of time. But lifelong learners know that every interest is valid and every passion should be supported. Most of the best learning happens when you’re insanely passionate about something and give yourself time and space to explore it to your hearts content.

Give yourself permission to delve into studying Mongolian battle fields, organizing your magazine clippings or collecting teacups. Support a child’s interest in horses by introducing them to a local breeder, adding to their stamp collection, or helping them design their own video game. Remember that all knowledge is valuable and allow your life to expand beyond the common. You just might be surprised where the road could lead you!

6. Allow Time To Process

Every one needs time to process information. Mindfully working regular mental down-time into your life gives your mind a chance to absorb the things it’s been given. Many people feel guilty over any form of “idleness”, thinking they should be doing something productive. But balance is needed in all areas of life and our minds needs rest, just as much as our bodies.

For some this downtime may be quiet walks in the evening or early morning, meditation, playing a simple game like Solitaire, keeping a journal, or even vegging with a movie or TV show.

7. Find and Set an Example

We all need a little inspiration. Surrounding yourself with people who interest or challenge you in a positive way could be seen as another way to create a rich environment. No one wants a friend who discourages our desire to grow. And finding a friend who is just as interested in starting a book club or participating in a Civil War reenactment as you are is just plain fun!

Whether you have children or just know children, you are an example to each one. Let them see you learn new things, even (or especially) if you struggle. Let them hear you asking questions, honoring your learning style as well as your passions, retreating to your “zone” with your favorite book or relaxing in the garden. Invite them along as you plant beans or bake bread. Accept their invitation to learn about fairies or Star Wars side-by-side with them. Listen and engage in their conversations.

Showing them with your words, tone, interest and actions that their thoughts, passions and ideas are important to you is perhaps the most important thing we can do to support a passion for knowledge in our children.

What things do you do to support lifelong learning in yourself or your family?

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This time of year (at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere) is so busy for many of us “not dabbling in normal;” there’s gardening, preserving, getting ready for winter, etc.  I don’t know about everyone else but all that work leaves me sore, bruised, bitten, sometimes swollen, and even occasionally burned.  Admittedly, I’m a bit of a klutz but I know most of us get a little beaten up in the height of our “busy” season.

To help care for myself I keep a small stash of items for those days when just a little TLC and minor first-aid might be needed:

  • Epsom Salts – Always good for a warm foot or hand soak when they’re sore and/or swollen.  It never ceases to amaze me how a little soak can do wonders for my aches and my spirit.
  • Dandelion Massage Oil – Made by soaking dandelion flowers in some oil for a month – works great on those sore muscles with just a bit of rubbing.  If you can talk your spouse into rubbing it in for you so much the better.
  • Arnica Cream – Helps reduce swelling and bruising.  Great for those times when you walk into the wheelbarrow while watching the egret fly over ahead instead of watching where you’re walking.
  • Aloe – Inevitably, I get in a hurry while I’m canning and burn myself just slightly.  I have an aloe plant in the kitchen for just this occasion.  Aloe is good for sunburns too.
  • Ice Packs – I keep a few bags of ice in the freezer to help bring down swelling, which comes in handy at least once a summer.
  • Toothpaste – Okay, toothpaste serves many purposes, but it can help relieve the sting from some bug bites when rubbed onto the area and left to dry. (If you have allergies to bee / wasp stings, please keep your epi pen close by.)

For the most part the above items with a little extra rest when I need it, help me stay relatively injury free.  Paying closer attention would do wonders, too…

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Most of us know the benefits and are religious users of reusable shopping bags, cloth napkins, dishtowels (instead of paper towels) and on and on. But only a handful of us eco-eccentrics have taken the next logical step into cloth toilet paper.

Recycled toilet paper is great and we keep some on hand for guests. But it still uses an awful lot of resources to produce the roll of toilet paper each person will go through every two weeks. The benefits of cloth toilet paper are numerous, including:

  • Economical. They can be made from old materials to cost you nothing or if a special pattern of fabric texture is desired can be purchased for under $5. And as they last for years, it’s the last purchase you’ll need to make!
  • Easy to make. Whether you’re using old material or new, they are easy to use and can require little to no sewing depending on the fabric.
  • Sustainable. No factory production, shipping, stocking, driving to the store when you’ve run low. No special soaps are required and no separate washes are needed.
  • Enjoyable. Once you’ve tried cloth wipes you’ll never go back.

Cloth wipes fall into the same category as cloth diapers and my hope is that one day will be just as accepted. I promise it’s not as gross or as difficult a system as it would seem to be. If you’re thinking this is something you may try, keep reading. (If you’re totally grossed out, bookmark this page and come back to it once the idea has sunk in!)

First Step

If you are unsure how this will go, don’t bother buying fabric just yet. Instead find an old shirt that has seen too many days and cut it into squares about 4×4 inches. Jersey tshirts actually make fantastic cloth wipes (they are absorbent and generally soft), so many people stick with this option. They also do not fray and therefore require no sewing, which is perfect for those of us who can’t tell a bobbin from a backstitch. You can also opt for old rags.

Start with only using cloth wipes for urine. Urine is sterile and easiest to wash. This will give you a general idea of how you like using cloth and what system works best for you. After you’re sure, you can try the system with poo. Some people only use cloth for #1 and that’s great! Do what makes you comfortable!

Making Cloth Wipes

If you’re like me and what to add a little pizazz to your bathroom, you can choose to purchase a patterned fabric. I highly suggest choosing flannel. Not only is flannel absorbent, it’s also softest. Fleece, while very soft, is not as absorbent and we don’t like it as much as the flannel. Flannel will need some stitches around the edges to prevent fraying. (Or you can allow it to fray naturally but this may cause your TP to fall apart sooner.) A Serger is nice if you’re so inclined, but a simple stitch is all that’s necessary. Another option, although more expensive, would be to buy a stockpile of inexpensive cotton washcloths or cloth handkerchiefs.


We keep our stack of wipes near the toilet (duh). We also keep a wet bag nearby for storage of used wipes until washing. Some people that use their wipes for #2 find the use of a bucket with a vinegar/water solution handy. We haven’t found it necessary. In one bathroom, our wipes are kept in an old container, which I don’t suggest, as cleaning that thing is a real pain. The wet bag, however, can be thrown into the wash. Easy peasy!

Using the Wipes

Um. I’m sure you guys can figure this one out, but just in case: Each wipe is only used once before they are washed!


This is what everyone wants to know, right? 🙂 Washing cloth wipes is very simple. It’s really no different than washing underwear. They can be washed in cold, warm or hot water although most people choose the latter two options, especially if anyone has been sick. They do not need to be washed in their own load. However, we don’t mix them with things like dishcloths, napkins, dishtowels, etc. They tend to go in with socks or Justin’s work clothes. Some people soak them first or use extra detergent or a heavier load. We haven’t found any of that to be necessary. They can be line dried (which gives the added benefit of sun sterilization) or thrown in the dryer. If you already use cloth diapers in your home, they are easily worked into that system.

If you’re still worried about germs stick with wipes for urine only (or remember that not all germs are bad and more e.coli germs can usally be found on our toothbrushes than our toilets!).

I’ve gone into more (embarassing, funny, gross) details on my blog but I’ll save you the trauma. 😉 You are, of course, welcome to ask me any questions by posting a comment below.

So, have I convinced anyone to try cloth toilet paper? 😉

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