The Best Lip Balms: Honey-Based Goodness

 

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I love using kitchen ingredients as personal care and beauty products—corn starch as dry shampoo, diluted apple cider vinegar as a facial toner or hair conditioner, coconut oil as a moisturizer or makeup remover, coffee combined with honey for a face scrub. In the kitchen, I use honey as a healthier alternative to sugar; in the bathroom, I use the coffee and honey scrub every week or two and regularly wash my face with it—just honey and warm water for a gentle cleansing.  As it’s antimicrobial, I also apply it to minor burns and cuts.

I stock up on honey from the local farmers’ market and favor it raw and unprocessed. Recently I tried a couple of lip balms offered by two honey vendors and—bingo!—they’re the best. Each is beeswax-based with healthy oils and honey and they’re super-moisturizing. Because I like a bit of color on my lips, I took some of the balm from the one in the pot and blended it with two of my favorite lip colors—Illusive lip2cheek by RMS Beauty and Strawberry Lipstick by Logona—for my own DIY tinted lip balms.

DIY Natural Bug Repellent Spray

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My love for the great outdoors is deep and eternal, but the threat of bug bites is a constant and nagging concern. I’ve tried a lot of the DEET-free insect repellents on the market and found many to be effective, including non-toxic and better-for-you bug sprays made by Badger and All Terrain. Most natural insect repellents use essential oils I already have, so I started experimenting with making my own by consulting different DIY homemade recipes found online—often bending over bottles in my kitchen laboratory while repeating “I’ll get those mosquitoes!” My preferred bug repellent spray is made with apple cider vinegar diluted with distilled water, a combination of essential oils, and vanilla extract. For each cup of the diluted apple cider vinegar, add approximately 50 drops of essential oils and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

DIY Bug Repellent Spray with Apple Cider Vinegar, Vanilla and Essential Oils

Fill a bottle with:

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup distilled water

15 drops citronella essential oil

15 drops peppermint essential oil

5 drops lavender essential oil

5 drops rosemary essential oil

5 drops rose geranium essential oil

5 drop grapefruit essential oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Tip: In addition to putting this natural bug repellent in a spray bottle, fill a travel-size perfume spray bottle to pack in your bag when you expect to be outdoors (especially during the evening, when mosquitoes like to feast).

This & That: Spring Flowers, Birds, Butterflies

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This & That (& Green): New finds and old favorites I’m loving right now. A combination of vintage or second-hand items; beauty products and other goods made responsibly with better-for-you, non-toxic ingredients; and DIY creations. 

Spring’s arrival in Southern California is never as dramatic as in other regions, but we still welcome its arrival with the sights and sounds—birds chirping, springtime flowers blooming, and the extra light. It’s only natural to favor lighter, brighter colors and embrace floral patterns this time of year.

Pictured above:

Camellia flower in bloom.

New spring wardrobe staples—all from thrift shops—include a bright and multi-patterned Antik Batik scarf I scooped up during a lunch shopping spree with friends last week. The vintage bucket bag is from the Original Earthbags by Fred Salerno line (and it was only 10 bucks!). Because I suddenly have no interest in wearing any of my black or dark denim jackets, this fitted Esprit jacket in faded blue is going into heavy rotation.

Jewelry for spring: Bangle bracelets with floral patterns, both vintage and second-hand. The earrings and necklace are DIY creations: I made the earrings with peach glass beads from a rosary and the bird charm on the necklace is actually an old button.

Bring on the  butterflies! We have milkweed plants in the yard to attract monarch butterflies and it’s always a thrill to watch the caterpillars grow—and to see butterflies in the yard. I also picked up this seed packet to attract even more.

Irish Eyes are Smiling: Clovers and a Claddagh Ring

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Photos of clover: around the pink flamingo in the yard, in the Santa Monica Mountains, and in the house.

The Irish Claddagh ring is a recent thrift store find. I love the design to represent love, loyalty, and friendship. Tradition holds that it should be given as a gift, but I didn’t want to pass up the bargain—only $6 and sterling silver—so I brought it home and told Mr. MVP he could give it to me (and he happily obliged). It is shown here on a vintage handkerchief embroidered with shamrocks, given to me by my mom.

The rosary beads—another thrift store find—are wood with shamrocks all around the beads. I’m a collector of rosaries and often find them rusty and broken; repairs are easily made with a pair of small pliers, and I like to use some of the beads to make upcycled earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.

Good-for-You Granola Recipe

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This is a sugar-free version of granola that’s easy to make and delicious. I use a combo of walnuts and almonds and mix it up with the dried fruit (blueberries and apricots are favorites).

2 cups oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
3 tbsp. coconut oil
2 tbsp. fresh orange or tangerine juice
1 tbsp. flax seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. zest from orange or tangerine
1/4 cup dried fruit

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Melt coconut oil on low heat and add vanilla before tossing with the dry ingredients. Spread on baking pan and cook, stirring every 10 minutes until it’s golden brown (about 40-50 minutes). Cool and toss with dried fruit of choice. Yum.

DIY Face Scrub: Another Kind of Coffee Pick-Me-Up

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I like to reuse and repurpose as much as possible, which makes this DIY coffee and honey facial even better. I simply take used coffee grounds and add honey, then gently pat the sticky mixture on my face and let it sit for about five minutes. Over the kitchen sink, I then gently massage with two fingers using a circular motion on my cheeks, chin, and forehead, avoiding the delicate eye area. When washed off, skin is soft and glowy.

Green Teacup

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On a quest to find vintage china to use when we’re feeling fancy, we found two almost complete sets at a thrift store with complementary gold and silver accents. That meant an abundance of tea cups we won’t need. This one is filled with small rocks on bottom (so roots won’t rot), soil, and cuttings from succulents growing in the yard.

Raid Your Kitchen for DIY Hair Care

Originally published (slightly edited version) on the Green Beauty Team website

Many of the same all-natural and good-for-you ingredients in your fridge and pantry are also healthy and effective applications for your hair. When tending to your tresses, here are some DIY hair care products you can make with common ingredients from your kitchen. Good enough to eat? You bet: Ingredients listed in the concoctions below are edible.

Heavy-Duty Conditioner: When you know you’ll be hanging around the house for an hour or two, try a homemade conditioning treatment using coconut oil or olive oil as a conditioner. Simply fill your palms with oil and apply to dry hair, section by section. Pull back into a ponytail or braid and let soak. If you feel the need to cover your hair, try a hot towel or a reusable shower cap, but try to avoid wasteful plastic wrap. If coconut oil is your elixir of choice, you can leave it in when you’re going out. I simply slick my hair back into a low, sleek and slick ponytail. Regardless of which oil you use, you’ll want to shampoo well to rinse out the oil. Be sure to use a gentle shampoo free of astringent ingredients, so you don’t unwittingly dry out your hair all over again.
Quick Conditioner: If you’re short on time, but desperately need a moisture boost, apply a small amount of olive oil on a comb to wet or dry hair and leave it in. Another quick conditioning pick-up: “Tip one back” in the shower and try the age-old trick of rinsing beer through just-shampooed hair.
Conditioning Hair Mask: Avocados, mayonnaise, and eggs are well-known conditioners. Mash up a mixture of any combination of these emollient ingredients and massage into dry hair for 30 minutes, then wash out. It’s messy, but you can contain it all with a towel or shower cap.
Beach Hair Spray: For DIY beach hair spray, blend distilled water, coconut oil, and sea salt in a spray bottle. Feel free to eyeball the proportions.  I use a ½ cup of water, 1 teaspoon coconut oil, and 1-2 tablespoons of sea salt. Shake well before spraying to dry or wet hair. Then, scrunch and twirl away for more body. (I boil Brita-filtered water to make my own distilled water.)
Sexy Bed-Head Hair: The trouble with the bed-head look is that no one really wants to show off greasy roots. The best way around this is to apply coconut oil to the middle and ends of your hair, staying away from the scalp. To get this look with squeaky clean hair, apply a small amount of coconut oil, twist and scrunch hair until messed up to your liking.
Greasy Roots Controller: We’ve all had those days between shampooing when our hair maintains good form but our roots look a little too oily. So many of the dry shampoos on supermarket shelves contain artificial and toxic ingredients worth avoiding, even if the idea is a good one. Try making your own dry shampoo to use on greasy roots with corn starch, which soaks up the oil. That’s right — just corn starch. Apply with fingertips to your scalp and rub or comb through until the powder disappears.
Flyaway Controller: Rub palms with the barest amount of coconut or olive oil, and gently smooth those out-of-control hairs into submission.
Dry Ends Controller: Apply a small amount of coconut oil or olive oil to the ends of dried-out hair, wet or dry.
Lifeless Hair and Dandruff: To remove product build-up or treat a flaky scalp, rinse hair with apple cider vinegar. To breathe life into your tresses, apply to hair only. To control flaking, start at the scalp working your way through to the ends. (Don’t worry — the vinegar smell doesn’t linger.)

Charlie Brown Magazine Christmas Tree

I’ve always loved the Charlie Brown Christmas special and the scrawny tree in need of some love. After making a recycled paper Christmas tree last year using pages from Vogue magazine, I decided that this year’s DIY creation would be a nod to the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Rolled pages from the magazine were taped together to make up the base and the branches are fringed strips covering a wire with double-sided tape. For a stand, I used a crystal wine decanter.

Key Charms: New Etsy Necklaces

New to my Etsy shop [editor’s note: the shop has closed]: Keys covered in words from a recycled old book (a paperback copy of “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin with yellowed pages and a missing cover). Here are two out of a dozen recently added to Miss Stefanie’s House of Crafts & Collectibles.

DIY: Wine Cork Necklace Holder

I’ve collected quite a lot of wine corks, with vague notions of getting crafty with them one day. My need for a better necklace holder was just the incentive I needed to upcycle a bunch. This was very simple: all you need are wine corks, a piece of cardboard, a glue gun, small nails, and a sawtooth hanger.

Cut a piece of cardboard from a cereal box, about 1-inch wide. Use glue gun to evenly apply glue to the back of a wine cork and place it on the cardboard to stick. Then glue a small amount to the side of the wine cork before applying the next, so the wine corks are glued to the cardboard and to each other. Continue until the cardboard strip is filled. When glue has solidified, gently push in a small nail into each wine cork. On the back of the cardboard strip, attach the wall hanger in the center. I applied my corks a bit unevenly so each side curves down a bit, but you could also make it straight. Voila.

DIY: Key to NY

I found an old key to a NY apartment and was inspired to make it a necklace. Simple DIY decoupage job: I tore words from the yellowed pages of a thrift store paperback copy of a favorite book (“The Awakening” by Kate Chopin) and glued them on one side of the key. The key is hanging from a chord made of a strip of black jersey from an old T-shirt.

DIY Before & After: Denim Chair Cushions

Another upcycling project for old pairs of jeans: covering seat cushions on antique chairs. I was given two of these from a friend with a love of chairs who was cleaning house (after finding another couple of antique chairs…). I simply sanded and oiled the wood and recovered the cushions with strips of denim from a recycled pairs of jeans.

Baseball Shirt DIY

Upcycled baseball shirts sell well on my Etsy shop—to girls like me who don’t like to wear boring and boxy tees to show support for the home team. So when I was given last-minute Dodgers tickets yesterday, I remembered I had set aside a thrift store Dodgers shirt for myself. I sewed on the denim braided neckline detail (denim from a discarded, recycled pair of jeans) in the passenger seat of the car, on the way to the game.

Kitchen Sources for Beauty: Baking Soda

I have already phased out cosmetics and personal care products that contain harmful chemical toxins in favor of safer alternatives. Recently, my green beauty experiments have led me to the kitchen, to use pantry ingredients that are actually good enough to eat (see previous post on olive oil). For a facial exfoliator, I’ve begun to use baking soda weekly or as needed, simply blending about a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda with water and gently rubbing the paste on my face using a circular motion. It’s safe, easy, effective—and a lot less expensive than other facial washes and scrubs. I’ve also filled an empty shampoo bottle with distilled water (DIY distilled water: boil filtered water, let cool, use) and a tablespoon of baking soda and use it instead of traditional shampoo a few times a week.

(Public service footnote: Learn more about this from the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics and find out what’s in your products from the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website).

Recipe: Vegetable Stock

I recently started making my own vegetable stock and cannot believe I went all these years without using the vegetable castoffs that usually get tossed in the garbage. This couldn’t be easier and more satisfying to make. Simply take all the ends, peels, skins, and other vegetable parts you would ordinarily throw out and save them in a securely covered bowl in the fridge. When you have at least a few cups of vegetable remains, put them in a large pot, cover with filtered water, and add a handful of peppercorns, a teaspoon of sea salt, and a bay leaf or two. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool and drain, storing the vegetable stock in glass jars.

Better Than Before: Upcycled Bracelets

My favorite DIY projects are ones that involve taking something you have and making it better—more functional or simply more fun and stylish—using materials I already have. Before I added some embellishments to these two bracelets, they didn’t come out of my jewelry box very often. The one with the subway tokens now has the addition of glass beads from a broken chandelier I found years ago at a yard sale, along with some freshwater pearls from a broken bracelet. The silver Tiffany ID bracelet now has tulle ties from a leftover roll of tulle I got when I made a hair accessory for a family wedding.

Kitchen Sources for Beauty: Olive Oil

I saw a post on a style blog yesterday about a new product available: an anti-frizz comb infused with olive oil. Infused with olive oil! To that, I say this: Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby. There’s no need to buy a new comb or product—simply use olive oil. I keep olive oil in a vintage glass bottle in the bathroom. Usually I take a few drops and rub it between my palms and then gently run my hands through my hair, away from the scalp. When hair is very dry, I use olive oil as a deep conditioner, soaking the strands with the oil and twisting it into a ponytail knot for an hour before shampooing it out in the shower. Hair is softened and frizz-free—and I take great comfort in using a product that’s safe enough to eat (and already in the house). Photo note: I keep the olive oil away from the light to keep it fresh, but it’s photographed in the window here to catch the pretty morning light.

Irish Pride: Upcycled Accessories

Showing my pride on St. Patrick’s Day today with these accessories, modeled on Buttons, my childhood teddy bear. The headband is a stip of fabric from a men’s necktie with shamrocks; the Claddagh charm is hanging on a strip of fabric from a recycled T-shirt. 

Crafty: Book and T-Shirt Holiday Wreath

After crafting a recycled Christmas tree using pages from “Vogue” magazine, I decided to make a paper wreath for the front door. I used pages from an old paperback that was falling apart (“Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh), and simply taped the cut leaves to a cardboard base. The idea for this was borrowed (and I cannot locate the blog I landed on that showed a wreath like this); my own personal detail was to add a bow made from an old T-shirt. Voila.