A Re-Examined Life

Canberra girl’s mission to live a more natural, sustainable life.


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Natural skincare – why I’m into it…..

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I could spend many hours talking on this subject, but for today I’m giving you 3 very simple reasons why I am totally into natural skincare.
Toxic-ness: (Or more accurately, the lack thereof): To state the obvious, non-natural skincare products are full of non-natural ingredients (a.k.a toxic chemicals). These toxic chemicals are absorbed through the skin and then head on into your bloodstream and organs. Once these chemicals start to build up, they get in the way of how our bodies naturally work and cause us problems. I’d rather stick to putting wholefoods on my skin 😊
Sustainability-ness: There are a bunch of reasons natural skincare is a more sustainable option, but today I’ll just give you one…..Our skincare products have a way of ending up in nature, whether that’s by way of being washed down the shower drain, or bathroom sink, or when we dispose of the packaging. Now, the idea behind environmental sustainability is that we consume products that support the earth so that it is able to cope (sustain) the billions of people that live here for, well, forever. Nature works in perfect harmony (you know that whole circle of life thing – I KNOW you’ve seen the Lion King), but when we introduce things into nature that don’t belong there (i.e. man-made toxic chemicals), you get in the way of that natural harmony and, instead of supporting the earth you are putting it under strain ☹
Affordability-ness: Now this may not necessarily be the case if you are looking at the high-end natural/organic ranges, but it is definitely the case if you are making them yourself (or, you know, ahem, purchasing them from someone local who hand-makes them and sells them at very reasonable prices :)). Many products on the market today have like a thousand ingredients in them, a lot of which I have never heard of, and I am never quite sure why. In my experience, amazing skincare/beauty products can be made very simply, with minimal ingredients, and often from items you probably already have at home.

And to prove my last point, here are a couple of skin/hair care things I do at home, each using only one ingredient from the pantry 🙂
For your body: Oatmeal bath – An oatmeal bath will leave your skin silky smooth, and is also particularly good if you have any type of skin condition like eczema, psoriasis, sunburn, or even insect bites. For this one you will need about 1 cup of rolled oats, and an old pair of stockings (if you don’t have an old pair of stockings, you could use any kind of thin cloth like a muslin, or a thin tea towel or old pillow case).
Here’s what to do:
Step 1: Cut a piece of stocking (or other material) so that it will be big enough to hold the cup of oats, remembering to leave enough material to tie up the end.
Step 2: Pop in the oats, and tie up the end of your oat-ball.
Step 3: run your bath and pop in the ball of oats. Once you are in the bath, keep giving the ball a squish, you will see the cloudy oat-milk coming out into the bath. You can also use the oat-ball as sponge, and especially use if you have a skin condition, give those areas a good old sponge.
For your hair: Warm oil treatment – You can use any oil you have in your pantry for this one, olive oil, coconut oil, hempseed oil, sweet almond oil, or avocado oil will work a treat. Or if you have any oils I your bathroom, you can use them too, like jojoba, castor, or apricot kernel oils.
Here’s what to do:
Step 1: Slowly heat some oil over a very low heat, you don’t want the oil to get hot, you just want to warm it up. The amount of oil you need will depend on how much hair you have, but you don’t need a whole truckload – I have quite a lot of hair and I use about ¼ of a cup.
Step 2: Once the oil is warm, smoosh it all the way through your dry hair. Now this can be pretty messy, so cover your clothes with something, and do it in a place where it doesn’t matter if you get oil on the floor. Once I have all the oil in my hair I use a comb to make sure I have got it on every bit of hair.
Step 3: Bundle your hair up in whatever way you want (I pop it all under a shower cap), then go about your business (or even better, sit down and relax) for half an hour.
Step 4: Wash your hair with shampoo, do this twice. When you add the shampoo the oil it will go ultra-sudsy and delicious. You know you have washed the oil out completely when the sudsy-ness stops. Condition, or don’t condition – I would suggest giving both ways a try and see which option gives you the best hair result. Don’t overdo oil treatments, at a maximum you could do it once a week, but I tend to do it as a monthly treat.
If you would like to learn more about natural skincare products, you can get along a natural workshop (presented by me!) at the Food Coop in Canberra on Saturday, the 26th of August. At the workshop, you will have an opportunity to utilise more ingredients from your pantry to make some of your own skincare products and, partake in the ultimate natural skin care routine. Tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite.


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Purity Products

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Well it has been quite some time between posts and that is because I have been a very busy person.  There is my going full-time job, there is taking care of my lovely family (also a full-time job), taking care of my lovely home and garden (also a full-time job), and then there is that minor other thing I have been doing over the past 6 months….. starting my own business!!

Here is how it happened……Over the last couple of years of writing the blog I have found there are generally 3 types of people who read my blog:  there are those who jump straight onboard the “make-it-myself” train, there are those who are super keen to make their own products but would like a bit of assistance to get them going,  and then there and those who don’t have time, or maybe just aren’t into making their own stuff at all.

So here is what I decided…..

For those of you already on the train, yay!  I will keep posting on the blog 🙂

For those of you who would like some assistance, I have designed some workshops to provide said assistance 🙂

And for those of you in the last group, I have decided to make the products for you🙂

And hence the birth of Purity Products!

Purity products (as I am sure you would expect!) are about trying to live a more pure, natural, and sustainable life.

Purity Products are handmade from 100% natural ingredients that are, where possible, organic, and sourced from local business who are environmentally and socially responsible.

At the moment I am selling 3 products, all 3 of which I have posted the recipes on here before, they are my favourite.  I also have some other products in the pipeline which are going through the “testing” stages, so keep an eye out for those 🙂

So please go and check out my new web and  Facebook page and, of course, feel free to put in an order 🙂


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Any-kind-of-seasonal-fruit-you-like Cake with Vanilla Cream

Peaches

I’ve made a cake that is far too delicious not be shared, and is perfect for anyone who has an abundance of homegrown fruit and is a bit over making jam 🙂  The first version I made was with nectarine, and the second was with peaches and raspberries.

The vanilla cream part of the recipe only came about when making the peach and raspberry version, this was because (a) I was looking to make an Australian themed something for Australia day and decided on a peach melba version, and (b) I actually cooked it for too long and was worried it would be a bit dry.  Turned out the cake wasn’t dry at all, but the vanilla cream (which is basically unfrozen, soft-as-you-like-it ice cream) is amazing, so this is one time when I am very glad I overcooked the cake.

Just as a side note, for those who don’t know, peach melba is an Aussie desert named after the famous Aussie opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba. A peach melba consists of peaches with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream.  I have no idea why the guy who invented this dessert went with this particular dessert, but I have to say, if this is what someone made in my honour, I might be a bit disappointed, it is not the prettiest dessert I have seen, a couple of examples below….  I’m sure it tastes really nice :).

 

But anyway, back to my delicious cake.  This recipe is for the peach and raspberry version, but you could use nectarines, plums, or apricots, and then in the winter I think it would be delicious with apples and/or pears, but with those fruits I would lose the vanilla and add cinnamon instead.

I am a huge fan of vanilla, I use it all the time, but vanilla essence from the shops has sugar, and often other unpleasant stuff in it.  In the past I’ve made my own vanilla essence, (it’s super easy – you just soak vanilla beans in vodka) but it takes forward planning as you need about a month’s worth of soaking time.  So I’m also a huge fan of the a vanilla bean grinder, which is 100% vanilla bean in a salt grinder, you can purchase them in the shops, or you could make one yourself 🙂  My recipe here uses the vanilla bean grinder, if you are using vanilla essence you will probably use about 1 tspn every time I use a few grinds.

Cake ingredients

4 large ripe peaches 

Vanilla bean grinder

2 tablespoons coconut sugar

80 grams softened butter

½ cup honey

1 large egg

½ cup sour cream (or you can use plain yoghurt)

3/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour

3/4 cup almond meal

1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

¼ teaspoon bicarb

¼ teaspoon good quality salt

What to do 

You want to “marinate” your fruit (actually, I believe the ‘technical’ term is macerate, but to me the word sounds nasty, so I would rather marinate.  You are very welcome to macerate yours).  Chop the fruit and put it in a bowl with the sugar and a few good grinds of the vanilla bean, and set it aside for at least 2 hours, but you can leave it longer.

Turn that butter into cream using an electric beater and then add the honey, egg and a few more good grinds of the vanilla bean and mix it all up.   Add the sour cream and any liquid that is at the bottom of the marinated fruit bowl.

Combine all your dry ingredients and mix them, quite gently,  into the wet stuff.  Pop the batter into a prepared cake-tin (you will probably have to use some anti-sticking stuff, I have found that just “having a chat” does not seem to prepare the cake tin enough).

Now you want to add the marinated fruit all over the top of the batter, and then kind of press it in a bit with your fingers.  Chuck this loveliness into the oven, keep it low to avoid overcooking (ahem), around 150c fan forced is good, and cook it for about 40 minutes, but check it after 30, the old clean knife trick will work. Once cooked let it cool in the tin as you need the fruit to ‘set’ a bit before taking it out or it will fall apart.  Now get making your vanilla cream.

Vanilla cream ingredients

Thickened cream – be sure to read the labels and buy the one thickened with gelatine.

vanilla bean grinder

maple syrup – to taste

Whip up your cream and then slowly add your vanilla and maple syrup until it tastes delicious.  Start with a couple of grinds of the vanilla, and about a tablespoon of maple syrup and just keep going until you are happy.

The combination of this cream and cake is magic 🙂

p.s. you may note the absence of photos of said magical cake, well that is because every time I have made it, I have been too busy eating it to remember to take a photo, and by the time I remember, there is no cake to be photographed.  So, I would be very happy if you could please take photos of yours and post them in the comments for me 🙂

 

 


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Yeah… baby

I am pretty excited that I have found some time to write a blog.

Last week, one of my gorgeous friends held a this-is-not-a-baby-shower-baby-shower, (she called it a pre-baby lunch), she also requested that no one bring her presents.  But, as if that was every going to happen!

So I decided to get busy making some baby products,  I had so much fun making these, and I am pretty chuffed with the end result.  I just wish I had been into making this stuff when my little ones were younger.  My Google search returned plenty of easy, Steph-proof baby products you can make.

Speaking of being Steph-proof, I thought that, given how fabulous these baby products I made are, that you might start to think that I that this whole “I am not naturally good at all this “making natural stuff from scratch” business is made up.  So I want to take a moment to show you what didn’t make it into the this-is-not-a-baby-shower, baby-shower-gift-bag.  I decided to put some sweet treats into the bag, but the “it doesn’t get more simple than these 3 ingredient” cookies, (that I have actually made before mind you), didn’t make it into the bag.

“They” didn’t make it into the bag, mainly because I didn’t end up with cookies.  I ended up with a cookie.  A half burnt, half raw cookie.

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Yep, she’s a beauty.

But let’s now leave that behind me, and get on with the good stuff that did make it into the bag.

I did manage to get some delicious chocolate fudge into the bag.  I made my favourite, simple-as chocolate fudge recipe, that I use from the gourmande in the kitchen website.

 

 

 

 

What also did make it into the bag were these little beauties

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For the little baby I made nappy cream, and baby oil, and for the mummy-to-be, some bath salts (hopefully she will manage to find some time to use them!).

They are all in recycled jars, the baby oil and the bath salts are in maple syrup jars, and the nappy cream is in a pesto jar.

The nappy cream uses coconut oil as the base, (and actually, if you haven’t got time to make this cream, you can just use plain coconut oil as your nappy cream).  Coconut oil has (look out, I’m about to get clinical) antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, or for those who are not as clinically minded as I am, it basically means, that when it comes to healing skin, coconut oil is the business.

The baby oil uses olive oil as the base, olive oil is the king of skin moisturizing, and it also contains antioxidants which, which help keep skin young.  (now most people only start to consider how to keep their skin looking young once they already have old-looking skin, this kid is going to be way ahead of the game).

The bath salts use magnesium (epsom salts) as the base.  Magnesium deficiency is a serious issue in our society today, (statistics say 68%, or 2 out of 3 people suffer from magnesium deficiency).  One of the best ways to replenish magnesium in your body is through your skin, either using magnesium oil, or soaking yourself in it in a bath.   Magnesium baths can provide a bunch of health benefits including reducing inflammation to relieve pain and muscle cramps, managing headaches, and improved circulation.

All the products contain:

Calendula – anti-inflammatory and antiseptic super powers, assisting tissue regeneration.

Chamomile – antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic super powers.  It is also considered to be hypoallergenic, which basically means it can help neutralise skin irritants.

Lavender – is pretty much good for everything, but to narrow it down to a few things, it has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal, pain relieving, calming, and relaxing super powers.

If i was selling this stuff, it would be my “Mum’s and Bub’s Super Hero” range…..

Here’s how to make them:

Nappy Cream

3/4 cup of organic coconut oil

1 tablespoon of calendula tea

1 tablespoon of chamomile tea

1 tablespoon (or more) of organic corn flour

20 drops of  Lavender essential oil

I put the coconut oil into a glass jar and sat it in a saucepan of water over a low heat, once the coconut oil had melted I added in all the tea leaves and left it on a very low heat for about 3 hours.  Don’t let the water in the saucepan boil, and keep an eye on it, you will need to top it up.   When the time is up, remove from the heat and strain the oil through a colander to remove all the tea.  Set aside the coconut oil to harden (you can put it in the fridge speed up the process).  Once the coconut oil has solidified, add in the essential oil and corn flour combine.  Then get out your stick blender and whip it up so its nice and creamy.  Stick in the jar –  you’re done.

Baby Oil

1 cup of organic olive oil

1 tablespoon of calendula tea

1 tablespoon of chamomile tea

1 tablespoon of dried lavender

Pretty much the same as above, chuck all the ingredients into a glass jar and pop it into a saucepan of water, over a low heat, for about 3 hours.  When the time is up, strain it, stick it in the jar and yep, you are done.  (A note on this one, as olive oil has such a strong scent, dont waste your lavender essential oil trying to get this one to smell like lavender, it wont work).

Bath salts

Epsom Salts

1 tablespoon of calendula tea

1 tablespoon of chamomile tea

1 tablespoon of dried lavender

Lavender essential oil

Stick all the dry ingredients into the bottle, filling it up to about 3/4 full, and give it a good shake.  Put in about 20 drops of essential oil, and give it another good shake.  Then fill the bottle to the top with dry ingredients, and shake it some more.  That is it.

Here is a picture of the back of the bottles with my cute labels listing out all the ingredients.

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What baby products are you making?


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It’s time to meet your meat packaging

 

My new job could be the death of my blog! Longer working hours = much less time to write 😦

But I finally found some time and so here we are 🙂

So my last blog was all about some of the conditions our mass-produced meat live in, and if you are anything like me, those conditions will have left you feeling pretty upset, and you will have made a commitment to only buy meat that comes from animals that have led happy lives.

So I’m here today to talk about the labelling of meat, as when I first decided to make this change I ensured that any meat I bought was labelled “free-range” or “organic”, but since doing a bit more research on the labelling standards of meat, it turns out it’s not that simple, especially when it comes to the “free-range” label.

If you have been reading your meat labels you will have noticed that there are plenty of different labels around, depending on which meat produce you are buying you can find:

Grass-fed

Pasture-fed

Free-range

Bred free-range

Sow stall-free

Cage-free

Certified Organic

Biodynamic

And then, adding to the confusion, these different categories might be certified and there are a number of different certification groups, each of which has different standards.

The certifying organisations in Australia that I have come across are:

Australian pork free range

Free Range Egg & Poultry Association (FREPA)

RESPCA Approved Farming Scheme

Humane Choice

AUS-QUAL limited Organic

Australian Certified Organic

Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI)

National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA)

Organic Food Chain (OFC)

Tasmanian Organic – dynamic Producers.

It’s worth noting that here in Australia most sheep and cattle are “free-range”, in that they aren’t confined and so there isn’t so much focus on free-range labelling for these guys. The focus is more on the grass-fed labelling (and you definitely want to be eating grass-fed animals as grain fed animals often get very sick and don’t have much fun).

So….. in terms of the labelling, here is what I have been able to find out.

First up are the ones you might want to stay away from because, well, it’s unlikely the animals have led happy lives.

Bred free-range, bred free, or outdoor bred, are labels for pork, and a bit misleading really, because although the terms free-range, free, and outdoors are in the label, what they actually mean is the animal is born free-range but after weaning it raised indoors with no outside access.

Sow stall-free means that the pigs don’t’ live in stalls, but they are still raised inside, in what is known as “indoor group housing”.   Better than the stalls, but still pretty sad as far as I am concerned.

The next labels mean the animal has probably led a happier life than their poor friends above, but as with all food labelling, there is no legislation (or it seems, desire born out of wanting to do the right thing) to govern how people label their products. So you should totally buy direct from a farmer you know and trust, and if you can’t do that, that is where label certification comes in .

Grass-fed or pasture-fed means the animals have been raised on open grazing land with access to water and they can have supplemental feed which is a mix of grasses.   All certified organic meat is grass-fed.

Certified organic – animals must be happily roaming around on pastures and cannot be given growth-promoters or antibiotics. The general principles of organic farming mean the animals must be treated nicely.

Biodynamic Bellamy’s organic blog has a great article that spells out the difference between organic and biodynamic farming, but from what I can understand, biodynamic farming has similar principles to organic but takes it a step further by considering things such as lunar and astrological cycles, and places a lot of emphasis on the health of the soil (yay!).

Free-range – depending on which of the certification standards, and the type of animal produce you are buying, this label can mean a lot of different things. I took some time out to read through the various certification standards, but so you don’t have to, I’ve put together a couple of tables to summarise, so you don’t have to 🙂

Free range accreditation - poultry

Free Range Accreditation - Pork

My advice, in case you are interested, is get to know a local farmer and buy meat direct from them (this is also good on so many levels, like helping to sustain your local farmers and support your local food economy, but more on that some other time).  There are plenty of options out there, just do a google search “buy meat direct from farmer “insert your location” and you will be sure to find something.

Here is the Berra we have Lost River Produce  who sell meat from their farm at Crookwell, their animals are happily free roaming on grass and are not fed antibiotics or hormones.  I buy from these guys regularly, their lamb is particularly amazing.   Another fantastic place is Greenhill farm whose meat is all biodynamically grown, and you can order from them online and pick up at the EPIC farmers market every Saturday.  I’ll stop with those 2, but I can feel a list coming on…..

If you can’t get access to a local farmer then only buy certified products, and get acquainted with  what the different accreditations mean.

That’s it from me till next time 🙂