House of Christmas

If you search nordic Christmas decor on Pinterest, you will unlock the key to the beauty of a Scandinavian holiday. This rustic, minimal and cozy style is the signature look throughout Scandinavia. As people who survive winter in the Arctic Circle, who better to incorporate these simple elements of the season.

Oh, this idea excited me so!

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DIY + Holiday Spa Bath Gifts

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It’s Christmas time!!!!

It’s official, Starbucks has put out their holiday cup, Target is a mad house on the weekends, and the radio stations are playing nonstop Christmas music. Yep, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Have you watched Love Actually, brought back the elf, or put up the tree yet? You have? Welcome to the elite team of holiday overachievers. I’m just picking on you. Maybe you have it all together or, maybe you are the one waking up in the middle of the night because, CRAP! you forgot to move the elf again!!! No matter what side you land on, most if not all of us, will be on the hunt for gifts. And while Amazon gets a good workout around this time of year at my house too, I wanted to give some sustainable gifts as well.

After Halloween, I roasted and pureed our ol’ Jack-O-lantern since I didn’t want to waste that beautiful pumpkin. That left me with an abundance of pumpkin puree. Not a bad thing since I froze a good portion to use for Thanksgiving, but I was still left wondering how I could use it all. That is when I remembered that pumpkin is full of wonderful enzymes that are great for the skin. And who doesn’t love pumpkin everything, right?

Below are two recipes that I whipped up.

I think they would make great sustainable gifts.

Spice Milk Bath

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Supplies:

1/2 cup oatmeal or oat flour

1 cup powdered milk

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (I make my own with this recipe)

What to do:

The first thing I needed to do was to make oat flour. This is as easy as can be. I added 1/2 cup of oatmeal to a food processor and pulsed until it was a fine powder.

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Next, add all ingredients into a jar and shake it all up. You can always leave the milk bath in the jar that you used to make it. I found milk bottles at the Target dollar spot for $3 for a pack of two and thought that was a nice touch. This recipe filled up one and a half of the bottles.

Pumpkin Pie Body Scrub

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Supplies:

2 tablespoons pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sugar

Oil (I used coconut oil, almond, and vitamin E oil but you could use any natural oil)

What to do:

The exact measurements of sugar and oil are not necessary. I mixed the sugar scrub to consistency. Add the sugar first, then pumpkin, spices, vanilla and lastly, add the oil a little at a time. You want the mixture to hold its form when you grab a spoonful and put it into  your hand. Add more sugar if it is too oily and more oil if it is too dry.

I had to double the recipe to almost fill this giant jar that I found at the Target dollar spot.

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I am going to tell you to be prepared to make an extra batch of both of these for yourself. It is hard to resist a hot bath on a chilly winter night. And when you come out smelling like pumpkin pie, you will be hard to resist too.

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Me being a little ridiculous with the pumpkin from head to toe, literary. Pumpkin hair mask, pumpkin face mask, and later a pumpkin foot mask.

Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe? Are you ready for the holidays? Have you decked the halls? Tell me how your holiday season is going for you.

Also, let me know in the comments if you are interested in the other pumpkin recipes that I tried out.

DIY + Zero-Waste Thanksgiving Centerpiece

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I’m learning that the holidays are going to take a little extra creativity if I want to keep my commitment to a  zero-waste home.

That’s ok, I like a good challenge.

With Thanksgiving only days away, I wracked my brain for something sustainable to decorate the dinner table. With  a eucalyptus tree growing in the back yard and the leftover mini pumpkins from Halloween, I whipped up something simple and easy.

Because this time of year does not need anything else to add to the complication. As I’m sure that we can all agree.

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Recipe + Spiced Apple Cider With A Frisky Twist

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Autumn has absolutely taken over my heart. I love when the season turns cooler, crisp, and calmer. Newly chilly fall mornings are my favorite. I love how the sun seems to wait just a little longer to begin the day. The still and quiet of the early morning hangs in the balance just a little longer. In the evening, sleepy heads turn in a little earlier, seeking the warm glow of those that we love.

As we all try to get cozy, I’m reminded that spiced apple cider is one of my favorite fall recipes. I love to share it with my loved ones when the days grow shorter and the air gets cooler. What I love most about making homemade apple cider is that it is surprisingly easy. Especially this recipe since it is made in a slow cooker.

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Spiced Apple Cider

You will need:

  • 10 apples- I like to use a verity like Fuji, Pink Lady, Gala, and Granny Smith for a complex flavor
  • An orange
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cinnamon sticks or 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • Nutmeg- I used fresh nutmeg but if you use pre-ground it is equal to about 1 ½ teaspoons
  • 5 whole allspice
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 cup of honey- you can also use 1 cup of sugar or Sugavita.
  • Cheesecloth

First, you will want to gather your spices in a cheesecloth and tie the bundle up nice and tight. Or, if you would rather, you can skip the cheesecloth and toss the spices in the slow cooker as they are.

Next, quarter the apples. No need to seed or peel them. Then, zest the orange and cut in half. Add the apples, orange halves, and zest, honey or sugar, and vanilla extract into the slow cooker. Then, fill with enough water to cover everything. Toss in your spices. Set on high.

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After about two hours, take a large spoon or potato masher and mash the apples. They will be really soft by now. Discard the orange. Allow the mash to simmer for another hour or so.

Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Then strain through cheese cloth. You can do this a few times depending on how much pulp you want in your drink.

The cider can be added back into the slow cooker to keep and serve warm. Or, you can chill and serve it cold.

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If you’re feeling a little frisky…. Try mixing champagne with the chilled apple cider for an apple cider mimosa. I love to serve this on Holiday mornings when it’s just the girls in the kitchen.

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Cheater Spiced Apple Cider

Maybe you find Autumn tugging at your heart strings but you don’t have the time to make homemade apple cider. Here is a fast and easy cheater recipe for you.

 

You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Apple juice

Start making a simple syrup by combining the sugar, water, and cinnamon. Bring to a very slight boil and reduce heat. Let simmer until it has reduced by about half. Allow to cool and pour into an airtight container like a glass jar.

Mix 8-10 ounces of apple juice with 1 tablespoon of the spiced simple syrup. Again you can drink this warmed or chilled.

Enjoy!

 

 

Zero-Waste Tips and Starter Kit

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If you follow me on social media, then you noticed that my family and I started getting serious about our zero-waste lifestyle. I spent months planning, strategizing, and thinking of ways that we could live while creating less waste. At first it seemed pretty daunting, especially with a 9-month old. Like most things in life, the anticipation was much worse than reality.

To  ease your transition, I thought that I would share some tips along with what I call “my starter kit”.

So here are the first strategies that we implemented:

  1. We dedicated to the 5 R’s by Bea Johnson who pioneered the zero-waste movement. the-5-rs-of-waste-management
  2. I canceled my prime membership. GASP! I did this because the membership enabled my need for instant gratification. I found myself ordering one thing from Amazon every few days. That resulted in a lot of packaging from shipping those items. I also saved $99 a year. If you spend $49 then your shipping is free–as long as you can live with standard shipping, that is. Once a month, at most, I place an Amazon order. I spend all month adding things to my shopping cart. This way I have time to really think about those items before I buy them. I also have time to look for those items second-hand. Amazon offers the option to purchase things used, so I try to use that whenever possible. By purchasing used items, I can contact the seller and ask for all paper packaging. I can also ask for items to be grouped together in as few packages as possible.
  3. If it is a natural non-protein material, then compost it. I was used to recycling paper, but one rule of zero-waste is to recycle as a last resort. Be careful of wax paper or coated paper. It does not compost and not all facilities can recycle them. Check here to see what your area can recycle. I have two composts. One outside that is for rot only. That one is the larger compost. The second is my kitchen composter (DIY post coming soon) that is for kitchen scraps that I don’t plan to save for making broth. The kitchen composter is full of worms!compostComposter.png
  4. We started fighting junk mail. It’s not easy, but start a file of junk mail offers that come to your home. After the first month, start calling these companies and ask to be removed from the list. Here is a great resource to help with this. While you are at it, if you have not signed up for paperless statements yet then go ahead and do that. Eliminate as much paper from the mailbox as possible. You can cut out the plastic window from the sender and compost the original envelope. Reuse the return envelopes that come with any bills.
  5. I found local sources for food and items besides the store. Now I love Whole Food’s, but it isn’t the most sustainable place to get what you need. I found local farms, farmer’s markets, and even facebook groups that make, sell and trade things. From elderberry syrup and soap to mama cloth and jewelry. I found someone who could make these locally while supporting small businesses. elderberry
  6. Buying in bulk. Find out if there are stores in your area that allow you to buy your dry goods- rice, beans, coffee etc. in bulk. I use either canvas bags  or glass jars. The store can pre-weigh the jars so that you are not charged extra. We buy our toilet paper in bulk from a restaurant supply store so that it is wrapped in paper. Liquid Castille soap is another bulk purchase. We use it to make dish soap, shampoo, and hand soap. Also, stop paying for your Costco membership. If you do need to shop at Costco then buy a gift card, they will let you in the store without paying for a monthly membership. Keep in mind though that most areas cannot recycle plastic cards so reload the same one. farmers-market
  7. You only need four things to clean your entire home. Vinegar, baking soda, water, peroxide, and sometimes essential oils. Buy these in bulk too so that you get more product and less packaging. Look here for DIY recipes.
  8. We make our own as much as possible. You can DIY make-up, shampoo, broth, sauces, seasoning mixes, nut butter and milk, etc. Pinterest is full of tutorials and recipes. I’ll share my favorites soon.easy-slow-cooker-bone-broth
  9. Reusable and compostable instead of disposable. I simply thought to myself, “What did people do before this was invented?” Try using cloth diapers and wipes, old rags and cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, glass jars for to-go cups, glass or stainless steel food storage containers or again, jars.cloth
  10. Ask the manager first. When I do need to buy something from the store like meat from the meat counter, I ask to speak with the manager first. That way the employees won’t fuss if you ask them to fill your half gallon mason jar with ground beef or chicken breast. Just tell them, “I spoke with (manager’s name) and s/he said it was ok.”

My Starter Kit

I thought about options of how to acquire what I needed to start our waste-free life. At the same time, I wanted to minimize my carbon footprint while maximizing our budget. I already had some items on this list, but what I did need I decided to order from Amazon all at once. See #2 above.

Simple Ecology Organic Cotton Deluxe Reusable Grocery Bag with Bottle Sleeves - Natural (3 Pack) Reusable Grocery Bags. Don’t get stuck bringing home hundreds of plastic bags a year. Simply bring your own.

Ball Wide Mouth Half Gallon 64 Oz Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 6 Glass Jars. These are half gallon jars so that I could put a good amount of food in them. I already had quart size all the way down to half pint size. Buy what you need.

Augbunny 100% Cotton 10- by 12-Inch Muslin Bags with Drawstring, 12-Pack Canvas Bags. These are great for buying bulk dry goods such as rice or beans. You can also make your own from old sheets or pillow cases.

Reusable Produce Bags (Set Of 3) - Organic Cotton Mesh - Large Size for Grocery Shopping and Fruit and Veggie Storage - With Convenient Muslin Carry Bag Mesh Produce Bags. You may or may not need these, but they do come in handy.

LinenTablecloth 17-Inch Polyester Napkins (1-Dozen) White Cloth Napkins. These are polyester–I’d much rather have cotton, but I was able to find these used so that was a plus.

The Organic Handkerchiefs Company Set of Organic Cotton Handkerchiefs, Medium Handkerchiefs. I bought 2 dozen so that I would have enough to put around the house in the same places you would have a tissue box.

Drinking Straws, X-Chef Stainless Steel Beverage Straws 7.9 inch for Juice Milk Yeti Tumbler Soda Water,Reusable,PreBend,With Cleaning BrushesReusable Straws. You can either buy stainless steel or glass, or go strawless.

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps - Castille Soap Baby Mild Unscented, 1 Gallon  Bulk Liquid Castille Soap. Buying more means less packaging per product. We use this to make so many things.

Full Circle Neat Nut Walnut Shell Scouring Pads, Non-Scratch, Set of 3 Natural Scouring pads. This does come with a small amount of coated paper packaging but the pads themselves are made from walnut shells and can be composted.

Caldrea Dishwashing Brush Natural Dish Brush. All but the small amount of metal on this brush can be composted when you are done with it.

Mega Pack - 120 Count Dishwasher Detergent Pacs, Fresh Scent by General Quality Brands  Sustainable dishwasher detergent. This isn’t necessary for everyone. If you can, hand wash everything but if you can’t, these are shipped and stored in the same box. No plastic.

Love My® /Mama/Girl/Maiden/Antibacterial Bamboo fiber/ Menstrual Pads/ Reusable/ Panty Liners - 6pcs pack-(Large size)  Mama Cloth. If you don’t want to make your own or can’t find them locally, then these are a good option. Also, a menstrual cup could work for you.

Lola Eco Clean Bamboo and Tampico Bottle Brush Bottle Brush. If you have a baby, I recommend using glass bottles and a natural bottle brush that can be composted when you are done using it.

Lipper International 887 Bamboo Plate Rack/Pot Lid Holder Drying Rack. This can be used for all dishes but we use it most for drying baby bottles.

Do you do anything to reduce your waste? Do you have any tips to share? Leave me a comment, and let me know.

Recipe + Ready to Try Bone Broth?

“It’s the new coffee.”

Have you heard of this bone broth thing? Well if you haven’t then I’m going to enlighten you on how awesome this new (old) trend can be.

Bone broth is considered to be both a food and a medicine. What?! Yes. It’s known to heal the skin, gut, GI tract, aid in digestion or help you beat that cold your whole family has caught and passed along for the past few weeks. Because broth is an extract of connective tissue, it is great for joints, bones, lungs, muscles and blood. Why? Because it’s made up of the same stuff we are, and it’s like hitting the refresh button. Because it is an extract of connective tissue, it is great for joints, bones, lungs, muscles and blood. Why? Because it’s made up of the same stuff we are, and it’s like hitting the refresh button.

Who can benefit from drinking broth? Everyone. Here is what this magic medicine can do:

  • Heals the gut lining
  • Supports healthy digestion and nutrient absorption
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Strengthens bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and aids arthritis

Are you ready for the recipe? Let’s get started.

What you need:
• 2-3 rotisserie chicken carcasses; include any leftover skin or meat. I also use any bones I can find, about 2 lbs of bones will be a good amount.
• 1 or 2 medium onions, roughly chopped. Leave the skin on.
• 1 head of garlic
• 2 celery ribs roughly chopped
• 2 carrots roughly chopped
• A few bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary
• 2 teaspoons peppercorns
• 2 teaspoons natural salt
• 2-3 tablespoons cider vinegar; one tablespoon for each carcass
• Enough water to immerse ingredients

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What to do:

• Add everything to an 8-quart crockpot. Cook on low for 12 or more hours.

• While still warm, remove larger solids then strain in a mesh strainer to remove any small bones and solids.

• Refrigerate until solidified, then scrape the hardened fat from the top. I save the fat which is also called tallow. I use it as tallow butter or cooking fat.

• Keep broth in the refrigerator for up to one week. Otherwise, store in the freezer for up to 6 months.

If your slow cooker is smaller, you can cut the recipe in half.

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DIY + Teach Your Baby To Read

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The kids have gone back to school. The lunches are packed, first day photos have been posted and moms everywhere let out a sigh of relief as they no longer need to plan activities to occupy their children’s days.

I have a few years before I will need to start back to school planning, but I thought this would be a wonderful time to start a learning routine of our own. Now at 7 months old I know that my little guy is learning and growing every day. In fact, studies show that 60% of all the energy that an infant will expend is concentrated in brain development. This means that if a baby’s body grew at the same rate as their brain, then by one month of age they would weigh 170 pounds. Yikes!

With this information, I thought it was a good time to start using flash cards to help my baby’s brain development. These flash cards are similar to the flash cards that I remember using when I was learning to read. However, starting when your baby is between 6-9 months old greatly improves the chances of having an early reader. This makes sense since children’s brains have formed 1000 trillion connections between neurons by the age of 3.

So pull out your ruler, glue stick, and scissors (assuming you could find any along the barren school supply aisles) because it’s time to get a little crafty.

 

You will need:

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  • Cardstock – I used 140 lb. weight
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Self-adhesive laminate sheets (optional) I found them at target for under $7 a pack and needed two packs.
  • Printable ABC’s – click here and here.

Now the easiest way to create these cards would be to print the images directly onto the cardstock. I found that my printer would not take the thicker cardstock that I used. I simply printed the ABC’s on printer paper and cut them out. Then I glued them onto the cards.

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1. Cut out your cards.

Measure your cardstock (or eyeball if you like to live dangerously) and draw lines where you will cut out your cards. Cut the cards out.

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2. Paste

Glue the ABC’s to the card stock. Letters on the front of the card and pictures on the back.

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3. Round the corners

Optional: round the corners and laminate the cards, then cut the cards out of the laminate sheets. I used a bottle cap to trace half circles to round the corners. I didn’t do this at first but after realizing that my 7-month old wants to eat everything I went back to the craft table.

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4. Admire your work

This is a pretty simple DIY as long as you don’t get frustrated with the laminating sheets. Follow the directs for your sheets carefully and work with half of the sheet at a time, pulling the backing apart slowly.

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When it’s time to learn, Bronson and I sit on the floor with the cards, a few books and toys. We aim for a 30-minute lesson depending on his attention span that day. As I flip through the cards I start with the letter side first and pronounce the letter and word slowly a few times. Then, I flip the card over to show him the picture side and pronounce the word again.

We have been practicing baby sign language so as I show the picture side, I also do the sign for that word. I keep my phone close by in case I need to look up a sign that I haven’t memorized yet. After we are done with each card I hand the card to him so that he can explore it. Once we have finished with all of the cards I scatter the deck so that he can play with them. I also say and sign any card he picks up.

 

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Do you have any fun games for teaching your little one? Have you ever tried baby sign language? Comment below and tell me about your experience or ideas.