Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Waste Not, Want Not

Being environmentally conscious is really important to me. I find it senseless to waste resources, and at the same time money as well. Luckily, over the years I have found ways to solve both of these problems.

Even if you do not care about what resources you are helping to save, you might be thrifty and interested to know how much money you could save by cutting out the following from your life.

#1 Paper Towels

Paper towels obviously waste a lot of trees, not to mention all of the pollution that goes into creating them--from logging equipment, chemicals to treat the water, smokestacks from the factories, etc. All for something that you are going to use once and throw away.

Instead of using paper towels, you can simply use cloth dish towels for cleaning and wiping up spills. Cotton is a more easily renewable resource than trees, and production is less extensive. Plus, it is reusable--often one towel can last several years as opposed to a one time use to a paper towel. If you are afraid of germs, then you can always designate certain cloth towels for each specific task(one set for spills, another set for cleaning the sink, etc.) and also wash them separately from your bath towels if you wish. For those really dirty jobs(like pet messes) reuse old tattered t-shirts for rags. Even by using those once and throwing them away, you are saving a lot of resources.

How does it all add up??

If you would only use one paper towel per week, at the end of the year you would have made 4,425 TONS of landfill waste!

On average, a to create ONE TON of paper towels uses:

* 4100 kwh energy
* 7,000 gallons of water
* 60 pounds of air emissions
* 3 cubic yards of landfill space.

Add it up...paper towels really are not worth it. I'll let you do the math on how much money you are wasting! ;-)

#2 Ziploc Bags

Ziploc or plastic sandwich baggies are very popular with a lot of households. They can be used to put snacks in, lunch items, leftovers, and more. How convenient!

Or are they really?

Every year, Americans throw away some 100 billion plastic bags(including grocery bags, ziploc bags, newspaper bags, etc.). It's equivalent to dumping nearly 12
million barrels of oil. Only about 2 percent of those are recycled, and the rest when discarded can persist for centuries. They can spend an eternity in landfills, or floating around the country causing litter. Plastic does not easily biodegrade.

Instead of using a ziploc bag once for your food items, try these tips instead:

>>Store leftovers in a reusable containers--try enamelware, which is made from metal and not plastic like those tupperware or rubbermaid ones that eventually get thrown away too. Enamelware can last generation after generation. Just remember to reheat your leftovers on a plate instead of in the container(a minor inconvenience for how much money you will be saving).

>>Use cloth bags for snacks. Some of them are lined with PUL, or Polyurethane laminate(which is chemically inert and proven to be safe), so if you were to put something like sliced strawberries in them it would not leak. You can reuse them for many years, which elminates tons of waste with each use.

You can find these at handmade sites like Hyena Cart or Etsy. Just type in "resuable snack bag" in the search engine for hundreds of styles and options. Or, if you are particularly crafty, you can easily make snack bags yourself. All you need is some material, thread, velcro, a sewing machine, and imagination.

>>Pack your sandwich in a wrap n mat. A wrap n mat is a cloth mat with velcro adhesives to store your sandwich in. It's easy to use, and reusable too.

You can buy them here:

The possibilities are endless! Use your imagination when it comes to food storage. A lot of companies are creating biodegradable "plastic" bags entirely from corn and other plants. This is something that I use now for my small business, after realizing how much waste I was creating with the plastic bags I used for samples and packaging. Even though for that instance I am paying a little more than standard plastic, I am willing to spend the extra cents to help the Earth.

#3 Saran Wrap

Saran wrap, or plastic food wrap, is a staple of most households. It is usually used to store leftovers, and sometimes still left on while reheating those leftovers.

What most do not realize is that plastic wrap usually contains BPA or Bisphenol A, which mimics estrogen and causes reproductive harm in rats at levels below what most humans are exposed to every day.

In fact, BPA was first developed in the 1930s as a synthetic estrogen. For
whatever reason, someone decided that it would make a great liner for
canned food products and an additive for plastics manufacturing. As a result, 95% of adult Americans have a measurable amount of BPA in our blood and urine.

As if that weren't bad enough news, all of the plastic wrap manufactured in the U.S. each year is enough to shrink wrap Texas! Like plastic bags, plastic wrap is not easily biodegradable and can remain in landfills for a minimum of 80 years, but usually it lasts and eternity.

An island of garbage is floating in the North Pacific that is estimated
to be larger than the size of Texas. The death of over a billion
seabirds and mammals are attributed to the ingestion of plastics.
Despite government treaties to ban ships from dumping plastics, it is
estimated that nearly 14 billion pounds of plastics are dumped in the

So what can you do? As an alternative to plastic wrap for leftovers, try using "foilers" instead. You might remember your mother or grandmother using these in her kitchen. They resemble a shower cap, but are made specifically for food storage. All you do is stretch the foiler over the top of whatever bowel or dish you want to store food in. They come in many different sizes and prints. These are great for traveling to pot lucks and picnics, if you have a fruit or pasta salad in a bowl, top it with a pretty foiler and you are ready to go. I have not seen any at the grocery store recently(sign of the times!) but you can still find these at handmade sites I mentioned earlier like Hyena Cart and Etsy. Simply type in "foilers" in the search engine.

In conclusion...

I do not even buy those 3 things anymore. To me, I am not going to spend money on something to throw away. Those items are NOT essential to living and you can do just fine without them. The EPA says Americans generate 245.7 million tons of waste each year. After recycling, more than 166 million are left for disposal -- and 12 percent of that amount is plastic. Do the math on how much of that waste is from things you simplpy use once or maybe a few times. Think of how much money you could save every week, month, and year. Enough to go on a vacation or pay off your car perhaps? Now that is GREEN living I can do. :-)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lotion Safety

I just added my new lotions to my site. I added a blurb about the preservative I used in them, does it look ok?

A lot of people are concerned about using chemical preservatives in lotions, most would like products that do not contain them. The truth is though, as natural as I would like to be, I think sometimes chemicals are important. I have tried creating lotions without preservatives, and the results were less than fantastic. One batch I created using simply larger amounts of vitamin E and C. Within days there was visible bacteria growth. Then I created a batch using an exclusive natural preservative blend--essential oils of clove, lemon, orange, tea tree oil and more, plus vitamins E, C, grapefruit seed extract, and honey. All of which are known for their antibacterial qualities. It worked! Days, weeks, even months later and no bacterial growth. However, the downside is that the essential oil blend I used has a very distinct smell. The quantity that I have to use is so strong, that you can not cover it up with another fragrance.

So that is why I started to use Germall II. It is non-paraben and has no known chemical reactions to human health, but is excellent at inhibiting a broad range of bacterial, fungal, and yeast growth. I only use less than 1% in each batch...the proper quantity used for preservation.

All in all, I would rather be safe than sorry. Bacteria and such is not something you want to play around with. There have been quite a few natural product companies that try to create products without any chemical preservatives(Physician's Formula, Burt's Bees, to name a few) but only to fail and cause problems for people. Which, I actually like those brands, I use both brands myself. So nothing against's just that when you are adding water or a water based ingredient to other ingredients, you are inviting bacteria to join the party!

Now, when I make anything that is water free(like salt scrubs with oils) then I just use vitamin E and grapefruit seed extract. Salt itself is a natural preservative(like for fish and jerky, etc.) and no water is introduced, so the only way for bacteria/etc. to be present is from unsanitary handling and packaging.

I also sanitize absolutely EVERYTHING when I create products, especially lotions and scrubs. I bleach my counters and use a hot water/bleach solution for all of my bowls, spoons, containers, etc. I then rinse everything in hot water that is heated to at least 160*.

So there you go...I do my research. That is why you want to be careful about what products you use. You can trust me that Natural Madison products are thoroughly researched, using only the highest quality ingredients and preservatives. :-)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

October & Halloween Facts--for TOL

These are the October & Halloween Facts for the Tree of Life congo on HC.

October Facts

Birth Month Flower

The birth month flower for October is the Calendula (pot marigold), which represents sorrow or sympathy.

Birth Stone

October is another month with two acceptable birthstones! Opal & Tourmaline are both represenative of this month. Opals are usually opaque white stones with rainbow color specks or flashes that play over the surface. They can be found in breathtaking form! Tourmaline is a transparent stone, usually occuring in shades of pinks & greens.

Opals are thought to possess the virtues of all the stones whose colors appear there. The Roman senator Nonius chose exile rather than surrendering an Opal to Mark Antony. Tourmaline comes from the Sanskrit "turamali".

Opal can be readily found, look for a stone with a lot of play-of-color to ensure showoffability. Tourmalines are also plentiful, and medium priced.


October begins in western tropical astrology with the sun in the sign of Libra and ends in the sign of Scorpio. Astronomically speaking, the sun actually begins in the constellation of Virgo and ends in the constellation of Libra.

October is commonly associated with the season of autumn in the Northern hemisphere.

International World Teachers' day - October 5 - since 1994, commemorates teachers’ organisations worldwide. Its aim is to mobilise support for teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers.

Columbus Day (Most of United States) - Second Monday of October - is a holiday in the United States celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas, which happened on the October 12, 1492.

Apple Day - October 21 - an annual celebration of apples and orchards.

Halloween - October 31 - Halloween, Hallowe'en, or Holloween is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31.[1] Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, ghost tours, bonfires, costume parties, visiting "haunted houses", and carving jack-o-lanterns. Irish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late twentieth century. Halloween is celebrated in several countries of the Western world, most commonly in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and occasionally in parts of Australia.

Fun Facts about Halloween
Halloween, Hallowe'en, or Holloween is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31. Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, ghost tours, bonfires, costume parties, visiting "haunted houses", and carving jack-o-lanterns. Irish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late twentieth century. Halloween is celebrated in several countries of the Western world, most commonly in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and occasionally in parts of Australia.

The modern holiday of Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain; from the Old Irish samain. The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, and is sometimes regarded as the "Celtic New Year". Traditionally, the festival was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundary between the alive and the deceased dissolved, and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops. The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, where the bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or placate them

History of name
The term Halloween (and its alternative rendering Hallowe'en) is shortened from All-hallow-even, as it is the eve of "All Hallows' Day", which is now also known as All Saints' Day. It was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints' Day from May 13 (which had itself been the date of a pagan holiday, the Feast of the Lemures) to November 1. In the ninth century, the Church measured the day as starting at sunset, in accordance with the Florentine calendar. Although All Saints' Day is now considered to occur one day after Halloween, the two holidays were, at that time, celebrated on the same day. Liturgically, the Church traditionally celebrated that day as the Vigil of All Saints, and, until 1970, a day of fasting as well. Like other vigils, it was celebrated on the previous day if it fell on a Sunday, although secular celebrations of the holiday remained on the 31st. The Vigil was suppressed in 1955, but was later restored in the post-Vatican II calendar.

The carved pumpkin, lit by a candle inside, is one of Halloween's most prominent symbols, and is commonly called a jack-o'-lantern. These lanterns were originally carved from a turnip or swede (or more uncommonly a mangelwurzel). The jack-o'-lantern can be traced back to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a greedy, gambling, hard-drinking old farmer. He tricked the devil into climbing a tree and trapped him by carving a cross into the tree trunk. In revenge, the devil placed a curse on Jack, condemning him to forever wander the earth at night. This story has been passed down through generations of Irish families. The carving of pumpkins is associated with Halloween in North America, where pumpkins were readily available and much larger, making them easier to carve than turnips. Many families that celebrate Halloween carve a pumpkin into a frightening or comical face and place it on their home's doorstep after dark. In America the tradition of carving pumpkins is known to have preceded the Great Famine period of Irish immigration. The tradition of carving vegetable lanterns may have been brought over by the Scottish or English--documentation is unavailable to establish when or by whom. The carved pumpkin was originally associated with harvest time in general in America and did not become specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century.

The imagery surrounding Halloween is largely an amalgamation of the Halloween season itself, nearly a century of work from American filmmakers and graphic artists,[10] and a rather commercialized take on the dark and mysterious. Halloween imagery tends to involve death, magic, or mythical monsters. Traditional characters include ghosts, ghouls, witches, vampires, bats, owls, crows, vultures, pumpkinmen, black cats, spiders, goblins, zombies, mummies, skeletons, and demons.

Particularly in America, symbolism is inspired by classic horror films, which contain fictional figures like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and The Mummy. Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins and scarecrows, are also prevalent. Homes are often decorated with these types of symbols around Halloween.

Black and orange are the traditional colours of Halloween.

Color associations
Color Symbolism
Black=death, night, witches, black cats, bats, vampires, fear, ghostliness, silence
Orange=pumpkins, Jack O' lanterns, Autumn, the turning leaves, fire, sunset

Trick-or-treating and guising
The main event for children of modern Halloween in the United States and Canada is trick-or-treating, in which children disguise themselves in costumes and go door-to-door in their neighborhoods, ringing each doorbell and yelling "trick or treat!" to solicit a gift of candy or similar items. Although the practice resembles the older tradition of "souling" in Ireland and Scotland, ritual "begging" on Halloween does not appear in English-speaking North America until the 20th century, and may have developed independently. Upon receiving trick-or-treaters, the house occupants (who might also be in costume) often hand out small candies, miniature chocolate bars, nuts, loose change, soda pop, stickers, or even crayons and pencils. Some homes will use sound effects and fog machines to help establish an eerie atmosphere. Other less scary house decoration themes might be used to entertain younger visitors. Children can often accumulate many treats on Halloween night, filling up entire pillow cases, pumpkin-shaped buckets, shopping bags, or large plastic containers. Another way some teens may amuse themselves is by finding a house with candy they like and going back to it over and over with different masks on. Large parties are commonly held on Halloween in which games like bobbing for apples and spooky story telling are common.

Halloween costumes are traditionally those of monsters such as vampires, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. Costumes are also based on themes other than traditional horror, such as those of characters from television shows, movies and other pop culture icons.

Games and other activities

There are several games traditionally associated with Halloween parties. The most common is dooking or bobbing for apples, in which apples float in a tub or a large basin of water; the participants must use their teeth to remove an apple from the basin. A variant of dooking involves kneeling on a chair, holding a fork between the teeth and trying to drop the fork into an apple. Another common game involves hanging up treacle or syrup-coated scones by strings; these must be eaten without using hands while they remain attached to the string, an activity which inevitably leads to a very sticky face.

Some games traditionally played at Halloween are forms of divination. In Puicíní (pronounced "poocheeny"), a game played in Ireland, a blindfolded person is seated in front of a table on which several saucers are placed. The saucers are shuffled and the seated person then chooses one by touch. The contents of the saucer determine the person's life during the following year. A saucer containing earth means someone known to the player will die during the next year, a saucer containing water foretells emigration, a ring foretells marriage, a set of Rosary beads indicates that the person will take Holy Orders (becoming a nun or a priest). A coin means new wealth, a bean means poverty, and so on. In 19th century Ireland, young women placed slugs in saucers sprinkled with flour. A traditional Irish and Scottish form of divining one's future spouse is to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the peel over one's shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse's name. This custom has survived among Irish and Scottish immigrants in the rural United States.

In North America, unmarried women were frequently told that if they sat in a darkened room and gazed into a mirror on Halloween night, the face of their future husband would appear in the mirror. However, if they were destined to die before marriage, a skull would appear. The custom was widespread enough to be commemorated on greeting cards from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The telling of ghost stories and viewing of horror films are common fixtures of Halloween parties. Episodes of TV series and specials with Halloween themes (with the specials usually aimed at children) are commonly aired on or before the holiday while new horror films, like the popular Saw films, are often released theatrically before the holiday to take advantage of the atmosphere.

Visiting a haunted attraction like a haunted house or hayride (especially in the northeastern or midwest of the USA) are other Halloween practices. Notwithstanding the name, such events are not necessarily held in houses, nor are the edifices themselves necessarily regarded to have actual ghosts. A variant of the haunted house is the "haunted trail", where the public encounters supernatural-themed characters or presentations of scenes from horror films while following a trail through a field or forest. One of the largest Halloween attractions in the United States is Knott's Scary Farm in California, which features re-themed amusement park rides and a dozen different walk through mazes, plus hundreds of costumed roving performers. Among other theme parks, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom stages a special separate admission event after regular park hours called Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party featuring a parade, stage show featuring Disney villains and a Happy HalloWishes fireworks show with a Halloween theme, while their sibling park in California, Disneyland Resort, holds Mickey's Halloween Treat at their California Adventure park. The Universal Studios theme parks in Hollywood and Orlando also feature annual Halloween events, dubbed Halloween Horror Nights. The Six Flags amusement parks also have Halloween events called Fright Fest in which visitors enjoy redecorated rides, costumed goals, special shows and more. Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Tampa Bay and Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Williamsburg also host a few weeks of Halloween-themed fun. There are many haunted houses each with a different theme, "scare zones" where costumed performers scare random passerby, live shows, special themed food and much more.

Because the holiday comes in the wake of the annual apple harvest, candy apples (also known as toffee, taffy or caramel apples) are a common Halloween treat made by rolling whole apples in a sticky sugar syrup, and sometimes rolling them in nuts. At one time, candy apples were commonly given to children, but the practice rapidly waned in the wake of widespread rumors that some individuals were embedding items like pins and razor blades in the apples. While there is evidence of such incidents, they are quite rare and have never resulted in serious injury. Nonetheless, many parents assumed that such heinous practices were rampant; at the peak of the hysteria, some hospitals offered free x-rays of children's Halloween hauls in order to find evidence of tampering. Virtually all of the few known candy poisoning incidents involved parents who poisoned their own children's candy, while there have been occasional reports of children putting needles in their own (and other children's) candy in a mere bid for attention.

One custom which persists in modern-day day Ireland is the baking (or more often nowadays the purchase) of a barmbrack (Irish "báirín breac"), which is a light fruit cake into which a plain ring is placed before baking. It is said that those who get a ring will find their true love in the ensuing year. See also king cake.

Other foods associated with the holiday:

* Candy corn
* Báirín Breac (Ireland)
* Colcannon (Ireland)
* Bonfire toffee (in the UK)
* Toffee Apple (Australia when celebrated, England, Wales and Scotland, instead of "Candy Apples")
* Apple cider
* Cider
* Roasted sweetcorn
* Popcorn
* Roasted pumpkin seeds
* Pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread
* "Fun-sized" or individually wrapped pieces of small candy, typically in Halloween colors of orange, and brown/black.
* Novelty candy shaped like skulls, pumpkins, bats, worms, etc.
* Small bags of chips, pretzels and cheese corn
* Chocolates, caramels, and gum
* Nuts

Have a safe & happy Halloween!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Recipe: Egg Free Chocolate Cake

I just made this delicious chocolate cake last night. Normally we use eggs in cake mixes, but realized that ours had expired. Instead of wasting gas to get a carton of eggs, I remembered a recipe I found online for egg free cake using canned pumpkin. I had one can of pumpkin in the pantry, so I decided to finally give the recipe a try.



One Box Chocolate Cake Mix(any variety)
One 15 ounce Can Pure Pumpkin Puree(NOT Pumpkin Pie Mix!!)

Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease two 9" cake pans using vegetable oil or cooking spray. You can also use a 13x9" cake pan in this recipe(same cooking time).

Blend the cake mix and pumpkin in a large bowl until smooth. The batter should be pretty thick--don't add anything though. It is supposed to be this way.

Spread batter into prepared pan(s). Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.

That's it! A super yummy, easy, and guilt-free dessert! Since there are no eggs or oil, this cake is low fat, low calorie, AND cholesterol free. Plus, pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, is rich in vitamin A and is an excellent source of fiber. You may frost the cake if you wish(as pictured) but remember frosting adds more calories and a lot of sugar. Still this cake is better than your average cake.

>>>Try making with a spice cake mix or any other flavored cake mix for variety! :-)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Honey & Coffee Facial

This is one of my favorite recipes for a quick and simple facial. It requires only two ingredients, both of which are commonly found in kitchens.


Pour 2 Tbs. of honey into the palm of your hand. Rub gently all over the face(be sure to clean off any make-up first), avoiding the delicate eye area. Let sit for up to 10 minutes.

Take a handful of used coffee grounds(no older than 15 minutes), and use them to scrub the honey off of your face, along with warm water. Pat face dry with a towel.


That's it! Your face should feel smoother and slightly taut. This facial is beneficial due to the antibacterial and nourishing qualities of the honey, which is excellent for those who suffer acne or other similar skin problems. The coffee contains a high amount of antioxidants, which reduce stress and the signs of aging, as well as caffeine that naturally smooths, tightens, and closes pores. Plus, the rough texture of the grounds are a great exfoliant. You may use this facial up to three times a week to reveal a radiant complexion. Try doing it right after breakfast, when the coffee grounds are fresh~a morning pick-me up for your skin!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Recipe: Antipasto Salad

With summer in full swing, I have been getting a lot of practice making new salads. Salads are one of my favorite dishes because they are so simple yet filling and very tasty.

I came up with this recipe after going to the commissary and raiding the olive bar.


1 lb. fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
2-3 fresh mozzerella balls(about 4 ounces), crumbled into small pieces
1/2 cup marinated mushrooms, quartered(save marinade)
handful of black olives(I used about four), pitted & finely chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 bottle of Kraft Sundried Tomato Vinegrette dressing(or you can substitute your favorite Italian type dressing)
Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil seasoning blend

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Pour into a large mixing bowl, and add the remaining ingredients. Mix until pasta is fully coated with dressing & mushroom marinade, adding more dressing if needed. Sprinkle with the Mrs. Dash blend(just a few shakes will do), and stir. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours so that all the flavors can marinate.

Add in ideas:

--chopped salami
--grilled chicken breast pieces
--drained canned tuna

YUM! Enjoy. :-)