Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Budget Squeeze: Making Your Own Face Products

Since living on a "sustainable community" in Oregon I have had a very strict rule on body products and their usual "fillers" and preservatives; I use organic and natural products, from toothpaste to shampoo, and I don't budge on it. Thankfully now those products easier to find and even makeup can be found au-naturale, but it wasn't always so. Even still, those products are usually more expensive than non-natural products depending on brand name, and now is the time to consider shrinking your budget while you can. A great way to do this is to make your own face scrub and toner.

I had this idea last February and hosted a "Girls Night" where we actually made it together, making it even more fun, and I still have "leftovers!" I'm going to break this Idea into two posts, so first, while that Valentines bouquet is just starting to wither, let's make the toner.

I got this recipe from The Woman's Book of Healing Herbs (Harrar and O'Donnell) and adore it. Herbalist Shatoiya de la Tour from Dry Creek Herb Farm is quoted as saying "Whenever I meet an older woman with beautiful skin, I ask her what she uses... [and most] often the answer is simply apple-cider vinegar."

I've now been using this toner for a year and my skin feels tighter and my small monthly acne breakout has completely disappeared!

8oz Dried or 16 oz Fresh Herbs and Flowers
16oz Apple Cider Vinegar
16 oz jar with tight lid

Distilled Filtered Water
Witch Hazel
12 oz Plastic Cosmetics Bottles

This is a two-part recipe where the toner "steeps" for 3 to 6 weeks, so combine all of the "NOW" list into one jar, close tightly, date it, and set in a dark cabinet that you come to often so you can shake it occasionally.

Tips for Part 1:
  • Fresh roses are only good if they smell - some factory (more inexpensive) flowers simply don't smell. Roses are the best.
  • Flowers and Herbs great for the face: Comfrey (tightening and cleansing), Calendula (soothing and antibacterial), Chamomile (repairing), Lavender (the original shampoo, from Latin lavre meaning to wash), Rosemary (tightening), but there are plenty more.
  • Label the ingredients on the bottle
  • Make the toner on a new moon and let steep until next new moon for best intentions
  • Take dried or fresh herbs from your own garden, or as mentioned, use some of the flower petals from your bouquets.
  • You can open up tea bags such as Green Tea and Chamomile for herbs.
After the Toner has steeped for a moon cycle (-ish), pour the bottle through a strainer to remove the herbs and flowers. Set this aside as your "mother batch," it will last up to 2-2 years. The mother batch might develop what's called a "mother layer" on the vinegar that is a coating that can be removed but doesn't affect the quality of the toner.

Then dilute:
1 tsp Witch Hazel
1/4 cup of Mother Batch Vinegar
2 cups Distilled Filtered Water

Apply after washing with a cotton ball or pad or store in misting bottle for spritzing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The MacGyver Long Term Vegetable Storage

IDEA: This summer I made a temporary vegetable storage "device" in my master bathroom window.

The premise is that we joined a vegetable co-op last spring that brought fresh organic veg up from Palisade, CO every week from June until December, and while we got just enough of some items, potatoes, squash, peppers, and others were so plentiful we had to start thinking about storage.

We have a small ranch style house with a carport and minimal storage. No basement, attic, garage, etc. We have plenty of closet space, but after further research with thermometer and humidity gauge, the closets weren't optimal for storage.

Temperature and humidity are the key to storing home grown vegetables. The three combinations for long-term storage are cool and dry (50-60˚F / 10-15˚C, 60% relative humidity), cold and dry (32-40˚F / 0-4˚C, 65% relative humidity), and cold and moist (32-40˚F / 0-4˚C, 95% relative humidity). In ideal circumstances, vegetables can store up to 4 to 6 months depending on the item.

Some homegrown vegetables, such as cucumbers and peppers, require cool and moist conditions. These are hard to maintain and usually yield a shorter shelf-life. For those, I decided the best thing to do was jar them, so we made four big batches of salsa and two batches of gazpacho this summer~ a first!

But for storing the potatoes and squash, which require cool and dry conditions, I decided to make a storage unit adjacent to a small window so I could regulate the temperature with the outside temp, since the inside alone is too warm, and the outside would get too cold in our winters.

I created a cardboard box the size of my window, cut a small door in it for easy access, and cut the backside off the box so the window became the backside of the "unit," regulating its heat. The box was large enough that it sticks out a little from the window shelf, but not too large so that it doesn't fall off. Then I created darkness (also a must) in the box with a thick piece of fabric, cracked the window, and began testing the humidity and temperature. (sorry, no photos)

Overall, the unit's first season did great. Thanks to Colorado's low humidity, the unit averaged about 55-60%, which is on the low side, (we don't want to dry out our veg completely!) but when the storms rolled in, (or I take a shower!-it is in the bathroom), I've noticed it can creep up to 70%. Our vegetables lasted 3 months, which is great for a first start.

The temperature of the unit stayed constant at about 60˚F which is on the high side, and indeed I would notice mold occasionally as it started and remove the potato or squash immediately.

Although this did require weekly watching, the MacGyver Long Term Vegetable Storage was a success and we're still eating last summer's home grown organic vegetables! Beats Safeway in Colorado in February by a long shot!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Travel Solution #1 - Custom Lint Roller

We travel a LOT. And I come up with a lot of quick and easy ideas for traveling when we do! So I'm starting a Travel Solution series that I'll dip in and out of on this blog for you, let's get rolling with number 1!

The Baggage Claim Tags as Lint Roller!

This idea came to me when we were in New York last year. I had a lot of fuzz on one of my suits and forgot bring our travel lint roller. I began looking around the room for something with tape on it, because I remembered as a makeshift roller in college, we would roll masking tape on our hands and use that to get cat hairs, lint, and fuzz off our clothes before going out.

Then I saw the baggage tags on the suitcase.

I was sold on this idea immediately. I peeled the two sides apart and started sticking it to my suit and voila! It worked- not only did it work, the glue on these is so strong, it actually pulls those sweater-pull balls off your knitted items as well!

My husband said I should submit this to Real Simple Magazine, so I did... but if you see it there, remember you saw it here first at the Idea Factory!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Frugal Crafty Card Making, Squeezing Money Out of Your Budget

The best way to start pinching pennies out of your budget is to start small, and what better way than to find what doesn't seem to cost that much money and what won't be missed, and to remove it?
Today I finally took all the cards I've saved over the past few years and recycled them. No, I didn't put them in the paper bin under my desk... these were cards I'd saved because they were either so beautiful, so cute, so catchy, and so memorable that I couldn't possibly throw them away. I'm not a pack rat, I'm crafty. This is one of the few things I'd saved, and I've always been a big believer in making your own cards.

First of all, cards are expensive. You can spend from $2 to $6 on just one card these days, and although that doesn't seem so bad on one day, $4 for a friend who you rarely talk to, or grandma who doesn't have email, or to go along with that package you're sending. But those days add up, and if you count all the cards you bought in a year, is it $50? $100? $200?

Second, could all the cards you receive - take Christmas for example - take a chunk out of this part of your budget if you recycled them? No question, the answer is yes. And the solution is simple.

1. Take a big box or filing system that you're not using and begin to label sections; Birthday, Anniversary/Wedding, Baby shower/welcome, Friendship, and so on.

2. Start saving the cards you receive, and go buy a pack of colored card stock and some crafting glue. You can buy packs of design stock as well, green borders, flakes of color ingrained, etc.

3. Then cut the cards in half and glue the cover to a new piece of matching colored or white cardstock.

Some tips during the design phase:
  • Cut down the cardstock so you have a small border around the original card. Make sure the fold is on the left or top side of the cardstock depending on the layout of the card.
  • Use the original card as a guide for cutting a straight line.
  • Don't use too much glue on thinner cards, Elmer's "No wrinkle" double ended glue stick is my favorite.
  • Write who the card came from on a sticky note so you don't recycle to the wrong person!
  • Remember to write down what was inside the card if you liked it, and get a fatter marker to write the card text with, then you sign and personalize the card with a thinner pen.
  • You can do this with postcards from your travels, and photographs of your own. If you do use your own photos, print them on photo paper and glue them as you do with recycled cards, even sign the photo!
  • Look for "scrapbooking" kits in the craft section of your favorite all-in-one store to add a little extra flare to your cards!

Then file your cards in the box and start reusing! For fun, have a check sheet for all the money you've saved!