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.

No ‘Poo Rules: On Breaking Up With My Shampoo

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Originally published on The Green Beauty Team

I have long been a user of toxin-free, better-for-you cosmetics and personal care products—and routinely check Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database before making new purchases. I learned to read labels and avoid chemicals that are known to cause harm and are linked to a range of health issues, from allergies to cancer. But I had never considered actually giving up shampoo until I read Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. The rule that stuck with me most: Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Have you seen the ingredients label on a bottle of shampoo? Even the purported good-for-you ones aren’t that great.

Yes, I know there are shampoos available that are non-toxic, but I was also interested in scaling back on the product front. You know, minimizing all the stuff. I am nowhere near giving up my lip gloss or mascara, but shampoo? Why not?

How natural could I go?

I had already heard about the “no ‘poo” movement—yes, it’s a bit of a movement. Go ahead and Google it and you’ll find lots of greenies out there doing it, not all of them granola-hippie types (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). I read about how it takes weeks for your scalp to adjust to the process and that it gets worse (oily, listless, dirty) before it gets better (no need for shampoo).

I decided to go for it and prepared myself for non-glam days with greasy hair. Because I suffer the fate of fine-haired girls everywhere, my hair can look oily after just one day without washing. Conditioner? Never an option. I reasoned that it would be similar to dealing with the awkward in-between phase you face when growing out bangs or that short haircut you regret the second you cut it.

Well, I have grown out bangs countless times and even pretty gracefully grew out a pixie haircut with the creative use of hair bands and scarves. Each time I tried going “no ‘poo,” I found that no hair band or scarf could hide my oily locks. My hair was heavy and slick. There were unplanned pleats. My pillowcase was disgusting.

The first time I gave up

It was for a vacation—because did I really want to look dirty in my vacation photos?

Still, I was determined. Or maybe not.

The second time I feel off the no ‘poo wageon

I was two weeks in and simply forgot, reaching for the bottle of shampoo that remained in the shower. (Lesson learned: Drink coffee before taking showers.)

I resolved to give it another try. Again, I felt a little dirty after two weeks but carried on.

Third time’s a charm, right?

This last attempt was thwarted when I began a new job search and was called for a job interview. Could I show up for an interview with oily hair? I asked a friend about it. “Do you want them to think you’re a dirtbag?” she asked. “Go wash your hair.” She spoke with authority. (Dirtbag?)

I decided to wait until the morning of the interview, but looked back at myself in the mirror and knew I didn’t want a first impression to look like this. So I washed it. (And I got the job.)

It seemed like it was time to rethink this no ‘poo thing. I realized I wasn’t opposed to washing my hair—I was simply opposed to using shampoo to do it. I didn’t want to use anything on my head that was chemical-based and I wanted to cut back on products. Why not try a shampoo alternative? And why not look right in the kitchen?

It made perfect sense. I had already started using my own homemade beach hair spray using ingredients from my pantry (see my post on DIY beauty products and treatments using kitchen items).

The solution seemed so simple: I already used baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and honey on my face—to exfoliate, tone, and wash—so I tried using them on my head in the shower.

Like a mad greasy-haired scientist, I took to experimenting each separately to see what worked best.

A baking soda paste made with water worked well when rubbed gently into the scalp, but felt a little drying on my hair. But a bottle filled with equal parts baking soda and water felt better to rinse through hair. I found the apple cider vinegar to clean hair, but it left my roots looking too slick. Honey gently rubbed on my scalp and through hair also felt cleansing and gentle.

My easy, all-natural formula

Now, I use the baking soda or honey to gently massage into my scalp and hair.

I also started using a homemade dry shampoo composed of equal parts corn starch, baking soda, and cocoa powder, applied to my roots with a makeup brush. (Mmmm, chocolate.)

I still find I need to wash my hair most days—and to count on the dry shampoo—but I don’t think anyone would know I broke up with my shampoo. In a happy twist, my fine hair actually looks like it has more body and bounce.

Sunshine on Tap: Treating Vitamin D Deficiency

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Originally published on The Green Beauty Team website

The most surprising prescription I’ve been given by a doctor wasn’t something I could pick up at my local pharmacy. Instead, she told me to get out in the sun more—and to go easy on the sunscreen. The advice from my doctor came when a blood test revealed I had a vitamin D deficiency. As someone who has been a devoted sunscreen user for years, this sounded as nonsensical as being told to take up smoking or eat more deep-fried foods.

It has long been established that exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) increases your risk of skin cancer and causes signs of premature aging. I wear a moisturizer with an SPF of 15-30 every day to prevent skin cancer, sun spots and wrinkles. (Health is a top priority, but vanity is another great motivator.)

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in some, but not many, foods. The National Institutes of Health recommends 600 IUs (international units) of vitamin D for adults 19-70. The trouble with getting D from your diet is that it’s found in limited quantities. For some perspective on amounts of vitamin D in foods, one cup of fortified milk has 115-124 IUs and 3 oz. of salmon has 447 IUs. The best food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. Egg yolks, cheese and mushrooms also contain small amounts, and some milk, cereals, cheeses and yogurts are also fortified with vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from supplements.

Alternately—and this is where my doctor’s advice comes in—your body can naturally synthesize vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, without sunscreen or windows to block the rays. According to the Natural Institute of Health, most people get enough D from regular sun exposure.

WHY YOU NEED PLENTY OF D
Those of us who wear sunscreen regularly are at risk for a vitamin D deficiency, but it’s important to take steps to maintain the recommended levels, as the role of vitamin D is not to be dismissed.

Let’s begin with bones. The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium, which is essential to maintaining bone health. If your body doesn’t have enough vitamin D, it cannot absorb calcium and you can develop osteomalacia, a condition which causes bone pain and muscle weakness. A calcium deficiency also puts you at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease that weakens the bones. Each of us naturally loses bone mass as we age, which is why it’s critical that we get enough vitamin D and calcium.

Vitamin D has other vital roles in maintaining overall health: it helps our immune system fight off bacteria and viruses, and works to make sure muscles and nerves function properly. Though not yet conclusive, recent studies have also been conducted on vitamin D’s role in preventing cancer and other diseases and conditions.

GETTING BACK THE D
Just as my doctor prescribed, I am now trying to spend 10-20 minutes of unfiltered sunlight several days a week—not long enough to get burned, but long enough for the body to produce vitamin D. (Lucky for me, living in Southern California makes this possible year-round.) Of course, those especially at risk for skin cancer need to take greater care in protecting themselves and no doctor will carelessly recommend that people get too much sun exposure. I’m also taking a daily vitamin D supplement and taking care to add more fatty fish to my diet.

You never have to twist my arm to go out for sushi. These days I’m also making my tried-and-true favorite of tuna and capers with pasta weekly (penne with fresh or canned tuna, a handful of capers, tossed with fresh lemon juice and olive oil). Plus I’ve added these vitamin D-packed recipes below to my repertoire.

Sicilian Style Pasta with Sardines
Salmon with Herbed Mustard Sauce
Baked Salmon in Foil
Roasted Mackerel with Avocado Salad

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.)

Safe Fake Bake

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I came back from a week’s vacation that included a lot of quality beach time. Like I always do, I lathered up with sunscreen and wore hats to keep my face protected. But when a coworker commented on my tan, I delighted in telling her it was “faux.” My sunny complexion comes from using Alima Pure’s bronzer in Maracaibo, with a touch of Vapour Beauty’s Aura Multi-Use Blush in Spark on the apples of my cheeks. Easy, non-toxic, and “naturally” glowy.

Recipe: Peach Cucumber Summer Salsa

Peaches are in season and I wanted to make a summery salsa for taco night with friends. This is loosely based on a Bon Appetit recipe I found on Epicirious, but I skipped a few ingredients and added a few more to my own liking. We served this with tortilla chips and also used it to top Mr. MVP’s grilled shrimp tacos. Note on peaches: they’re on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of produce with pesticides, so it’s always best to choose organic.

Peach and Cucumber Summer Salsa

1 white peach

1 yellow peach

1 hothouse cucumber

2 limes

1/2 red onion

Sea salt

Fresh black pepper

Dice peaches and cucumber (skins on both) and place in bowl. Finely chop 1/2 red onion and add to bowl. Add zest of 1 lime and juice from both limes. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Chill before serving. Enjoy.

Wine note: Mr. MVP poured us Moscadello from Capanna, a rare white Italian wine with the perfect amount of sweetness.

 

Flapper Look: Sparkly, Red, Smokey

For a family friend’s 85th birthday party, she threw a ’20s-themed party and asked guests to dress in period attire. She picked good timing, with another movie version of “The Great Gatsby” coming out soon and ’20s looks showing up on red carpets and in fashion spreads. I love ’20s style any day.

You can see Lila and I had the same thing in mind when putting together our looks.

My flapper look came together easily with accessories and makeup choices. Subtlety? That’s no fun. In addition to a ring on every finger (two on a few!), I wore multiple strands of pearl, crystal, and glass beads, a pearl brooch, and a rhinestone headband. Most accessories were vintage finds.

I pulled my hair back in a clip to approximate the bob look and decided on matte red lips and smokey grey eyes. I shudder to think about the chemicals found in makeup available in the ’20s — there was certainly lead in the lipstick — but my 21st century makeup bag contains only non-toxic choices. Lips: Jane Iredale’s Lip Definer in Crimson topped with RMS Lip2Cheek in Rapture. Eyes: Jane Iredale Eye Liner in Black Grey and Alima Pure Pearl Luster Eye Shadow in Grace. Face: Un-Cover-Up by RMS, topped with Alima Pure’s Shimmer Powder in Sorbet, plus some Living Luminizer by RMS in the corners of eyes and on brow bone. Voila.

Better Together: Pink Lips

It’s Spring! My girlie-girl way to embrace the season is with a pick-me-up pink from combining two Jane Iredale lip products: LipColour in Sabrina and PureGloss in Sugar Plum (just a dab of gloss for an extra punch and hint of shine). Bonus: the brand is trusted for creating non-toxic beauty products and the lipstick is made with SPF 18.

PB&J Day Treat: Peanut Butter and Apple Jelly Sandwich

It’s National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day and I was compelled to celebrate by making a twist on one of my favorite sandwiches. I love spreading peanut butter on apple slices, so I tried to duplicate that flavor with a sandwich made with organic whole wheat toast, plain chunky peanut butter (just peanuts and salt), and homemade apple “jelly.”

The jelly I made is more of a compote, concocted by blending a peeled and chopped apple, the juice of half a tangerine, zest from the same tangerine, a pinch of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of honey. On low heat, I cooked the apple and juice for several minutes until the apple pieces became slightly softened, then I added the honey and let it cool. I used a hand blender to give the apple mixture a slightly smooth, slightly chunky consistency (a few pulses away from apple sauce). Peanut butter on one side, apple compote on the other, sliced in half, devoured. Yum.

Zen Place on a Chain

My favorite vintage items are the ones that I’ve had before they were vintage. I’ve had this beach scene charm since I was a kid. Closing my eyes and picturing the beach is the trick I use to calm myself. This is like wearing my zen place around my neck.

Better Red Lips for the Red Carpet (or Right Now)

Watching the red carpet arrivals for the Oscars tonight, a friend commented on the red lips of an actress, wondering aloud about the chemicals in her lipstick. I was quick to point out that there are plenty of red lip products available that are safer to wear — those made without ingredients that are harmful to you (because, come on, you know you end up eating a lot of that lip color….). My favorite green beauty choice for red lips is RMS Beauty’s Lip2Cheek in Rapture — good as a barely-there light stain or for a full-on deep and dramatic red. Either way, it can be perked up when topped with a tiny bit of Jane Iredale’s PureGloss in tourmaline (it looks pink in the tube but goes on clear with a bit of shimmer). If I want a full red lip that’s softer and on the tomato side of the spectrum, I go with Jane Iredale’s LipColour (lipstick) in Nicole, which is super-moist and made with SPF 18. Best of all, these products are from companies committed to making makeup more responsibly — better for you and the environment. (For more on these products and others, check EWG’s Skin Deep for ingredients and safety ratings.)

Game Day Look: True Blue

My Super Bowl look: Something old, something new, something upcycled, something blue. I took a NY Giants shirt and recreated it by cutting off the sleeves and adding details to the neckline with a strip of denim from a thrift store pair of jeans and fabric from the cut-off sleeves. The necklace is was made with a string of glass beads from a broken chandelier purchased from a yard sale.

Q&A: Perfumer Mandy Aftel

Excerpt of my interview with Mandy Aftel, originally published on Greenopia.com

Perfumer Mandy Aftel’s love of natural essences drives her business. While most commercial perfumes are made using synthetic scents, her Berkeley-based Aftelier Perfumes is focused on making artisan natural perfumes. She’s also written books on the subject, including Essence & Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume and Aroma: Cooking with Essential Oils (co-authored with Coi chef Daniel Patterson).

Best part of your job?
I love smelling new natural materials and creating with them. I love all the different ways they smell—it’s amazing. For instance, I love the difference between Moroccan, Indian, and Egyptian roses. So, I would say the best part is creating and using those materials.

Is there a particular environmental non-profit you support?
Alice Water’s Edible School Yard.

What’s your favorite vacation destination?
I love to go to cities with great art and where great literature has been written, like London and Paris.

What’s your favorite weekend outdoor activity?
Gardening. I have a wonderful garden. I grow the stuff I don’t have the essences for. I love lilies and I grow a lot of roses.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
I’d be a fir tree because I like the way it smells. It’s kinda jammy, like strawberry jam in the forest.

Describe your path to green. How and when you became eco-conscious.
I would have to say my passion for natural essences is behind it. You cannot help but be in awe of nature when it makes such incredible smells. Barks of trees and flowers—this rainbow of smells is so extraordinary. It’s hard to not be in awe of nature and to want to preserve it.

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.

Thanksgiving: Farmers’ Market Pics

Photos taken at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite day to go: always crowded and full of people picking out fresh produce for their Thanksgiving feasts. I love to overhear conversations with shoppers and vendors talking about what they’re making and sharing tips and wishes for a good holiday. The “go organic or go home” apple vendor from Paso Robles gave me the tip a few years ago to use some Pink Lady apples with Granny Smith ones when making apple pie.