Pretty Toxic by Emily

I wish I could say I am the type of girl that doesn’t care for makeup very much. I would like to be the kind of girl who wears makeup from time to time, but doesn’t use it daily. Even as a young girl, I was pulling on dress up gowns and smearing pink lipstick across my face (… not to mention the princess crown to top it off). I grew up enjoying makeup. I associated makeup with femininity and beauty. As an adult, I found that makeup makes me feel more comfortable. I tell myself my eyebrows are uneven, my skin has blemishes, my eyes look dull, and my fair complexion looks ghastly. Don’t worry, I’m not beating myself up. I’m just sharing my excuses as to why I bought into the routine of makeup. The security blanket.

It is not inherently “bad” to use makeup regularly. However, it is helpful to realize that when we are using something consistently, we are almost delivering a treatment to our bodies. When I realized this a few years ago, I asked my (brilliant) friend Amanda Goetz about her makeup. She showed me an amazing resource, Skin Deep Cosmetics Database (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/). This website is wonderfully helpful. It shows you the most and least toxic cosmetic products and lists what potential risks they are associated with. Why put something on your lips (or your face) if you wouldn’t want those toxins absorbed into your body?

After an initial hesitation, I began to throw out makeup that was old and/or toxic. I began to replenish my essentials with more natural products. It is a quest to find effective and non-toxic beauty products, but it is a worthy quest. My favorite natural product lines are Youngblood (http://www.ybskin.com/index.php)Ā and Honeybee Gardens (http://www.honeybeegardens.com/). I discovered Youngblood at a makeup show in Hollywood a couple of years ago. They have gorgeous, vegan products that have amazing quality for the price! Honeybee Gardens is also a gem. Not only are they affordable, but it feels good to wear their products. Their mascara is my personal favorite. But when I don’t have the time or patience to shop online, I use Skin Deep to find the least toxic products I can find at the nearest drugstore.

I feel so much better knowing that I am not willingly applying horrible things to my face. There is nothing to gain from toxic makeup. What do you think you could do to improve the makeup you love to wear? Wear less? (I am wearing much less makeup these days!) Find a similar shade from a more integrous brand? Make your own? (Gasp.) Find out what’s in your makeup! Let me know what you think.

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Still Here! (And A Note on Our Largest Organ…) by Emily

Sorry for the eons away from all of you! As you know, life is busy and motherhood (for Michelle) has been an incredibly eventful journey. Until recently, I have also been too busy to stay consistent on here. (Human anatomy = life takeover… Just a warning.) I still want to keep the blog up, and fill you guys in on what changes I am making to be more healthy, save money, and be a more mindful consumer. Who knows, maybe even Michelle will chime in from time to time. šŸ˜‰

I decided to write about something really practical: skin/facial routines. I have struggled with problematic skin since my teenage years. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I began to question the products I was using on my face. Sure, I tried several things; but I had not questioned the ingredients in the products. Products. The term itself tells us that this particular item is something that is produced by people. It is also made for someone to make a profit. If we think about it logically, products do notĀ necessarilyĀ solve our problems. If they did- we would not be dependent on the product itself. Lately I began to wonder if there was a way to cleanse naturally, remove makeup, and improve my complexion (while avoiding mindless purchasing).

At first, I looked into the oil cleansing method. It sounds wild, but the more I read, the more I felt like people could be onto something. For more information about the oil cleansing method… check this out.Ā http://www.theoilcleansingmethod.com/Ā A few reviews had me concerned though. I have sensitive and blemish-prone skin- and I heard that it might not be the best option. The search continued.

And then I found an interesting challenge on Crunchy Betty. There is an increasing amount of people who are swearing by natural honey to cleanse their face. Even better, when paired with a little baking soda, the honey face wash can remove makeup. For more information and a breakdown of the steps and essentials, check out Crunchy Betty’s article here:Ā http://www.crunchybetty.com/removing-your-makeup-the-honey-face-wash-way

I know I’m getting pretty “crunchy” on you, but I had to try it. I couldn’t resist the idea ofĀ cleansing without toxins, and having lovely, brighter skin! (Not to mention avoiding the endless search for the “perfect” product, which does not exist.) I’ve been using the honey cleansing method for about a month now, and my complexion is brighter, softer, and has less blemishes. The other day the husband and I were talking and he said, “Your skin has been a lot better lately, hasn’t it? What do you think changed?” The only thing that changed? The raw honey that has a new home in my bathroom! šŸ˜‰ That was a big deal, considering my husband is my toughest “home remedy” critic.

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ā€œThere is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good oneā€ – Jill Churchill… A Note From Emily

I am not a parent. Writing about parenting will show you that I am the egg in the aviary. However, I do have a couple of feathers developing. I am a lactation educator-counselor student through U.C.S.D. I have a psychology/child development background, but I am going into nursing because I want to have more opportunities as a future lactation consultant. I broach the subject of parenting with caution, and a deep love for women, children, and community. I believe that parenting is a personal endeavor that can sculpt character and transform hearts.

My dreams of being a mom began when I was a little girl cradling baby dolls in my arms. I imagined I would have two or three children by age 30. Now that I have an incredible husband and a career path I believe in, I realize I don’t want to have kids for a while. But I still dream with Luke about who we will become as parents. So if you wish, take this with a grain of salt. Here are some things I hope to work on now in light of having children someday (in no particular order):

1. Promote awareness that people and our surroundings are gifts, not possessions. Nothing is guaranteed to us. I realize I used to treat the world and people as if they were “mine”. Now that I have grown up a bit- I look at my husband, life, opportunities, and the world with wonder. I am stunned to think I get to cherish these things each day, by the grace of God.

2. Breastfeed! Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made. By design, our bodies are giving our children personalized and living fluid. The process of breastfeeding promotes numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits for mothers and their children. I will breastfeed our children until they wean on their own. (Children worldwide will nurse past age four; we are uncomfortable with things like this because of our culture…Ā sex-obsessedĀ culture perhaps?!) Breastfeeding eliminates the waste that can come with infant feeding. It promotes the health of our environment- not to mention the health of our children and the women who breastfeed! (Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need help breastfeeding. Your body and desire to provide for your children is beautiful and powerful!) And remember, any breastfeeding is fantastic. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

3. Hybrid diaper? Cloth diapers require heaps of water and energy to wash, and disposable diapers are obviously not the answer! Diapering has the potential to improve and become more efficient by the time I have kids! I think G diapers are pretty incredible, but I bet there are greater things to come!Ā http://www.gdiapers.com/gdiapers101

4. Limit television. I don’t want media to be a big part of our children’s lifestyle. Television should be watched with parents to encourage communication about messages that are being conveyed. I also don’t want advertisements telling my children how they should look or what kind of (artificial) juice to ask for. There are thorough studies that reveal high levels of violence in children’s programs. Also, there are rapid images flashing and sounds that are proven to alter the way our brains function. We do not yet know the full impact of television. My personal opinions are reinforced by what I have learned in studying child development.

5. The great outdoors. Being outside makes people feel happier and more connected to their world. My dear friend Laura Ayers says she feels alive when she has her hands in the earth. I couldn’t agree more. Children should garden and dig in their own backyard. Hike. Exert energy. Ask questions about nature. Use their imagination and explore the world on their level. It’s good for them, and it’s good for you. Truly!

6. Food matters. I am redundant; but it is important. Luke and I work to pursue whole foods and home cooked meals on a regularly. Even though we are busy, we aim for eating more fruits and vegetables, and trading processed foods for nutrient-dense foods. This altered the way I feel and the foods I prefer. I want to show our children that fast food should not be consumed on a regular basis. Meeting the farmer who grows your food, pulling vegetables from the ground, and confidence that you are consuming what is nourishing and good is more lasting than any chemically-fortified sugar high.

7. “Stuff”. Why do we need to buy things to be “good” parents? Why do we value objects more than relationships and experiences? Children learn to value objects when they see others value objects. Possessions are not life; love is life. Relationships and experiences are true gifts.

8. People. Many parents hope their children will grow up to play baseball or excel in creative writing. Don’t get me wrong- I want our children to develop skills and discover their passions. But I hope our children will learn to serve and find beauty in people first and foremost. (And not just our culture’s ideal of beautiful people!) I hope our children see worth in the homeless man on the street, and appreciate the charm of the elderly woman in the grocery store. People are precious because they are God’s creation, and all of us have something to learn from others. I will spend my whole life trying to be less selfish. I want to share these values with our children early, so they can teach us and others how to serve well.

9. God. I have not always been a Christian. Even after I became a Christian, I hardly lived a life that glorified God. I want our lives to be honest expressions of sinners who love Jesus and try their best to instruct their children. We will never be perfect, but we can communicate about the love we have for the God who is so much bigger than our failures and circumstances.

10. Judgement. I want my children to have values, but I don’t want them to look down on others. We are not capable of seeing the whole picture. We do not have the ultimate authority or say in what is “fair” and who is “right”. We are all just doing the best we can, with the knowledge and experience we have.Ā 

I want to finish with a list of just a few notable moms who inspire and encourage me by the way they live. You are all fantastic examples of God’s love, and serve as unique expressions of His beauty and grace.

Cheers to:

Vicki Forman (my beautiful and inspiring mother), Susan Hawkins, Linda Reed, Michelle Reed-Elling, Teresa Elling, Jo Forman, Delores Hagopian, Amanda Goetz, Valerie Stoltey, Shannon Moore, Shelby Torres, Shelly Fletcher, Leanna Moore-Watson, Cathy Brookshire, Alyse Doran, Caytie Kehret, Laura Ayers, Melanie Lund, Amanda Reed-McBride, Leanne Barker, Michele Forman, Linda Kucera, Robin Neal, Amie Wahl, Brandi Lee, Diane Foss, Erin Grocott, Hoen Dastic, Fatima Felton, Eva Nappier, Kathy Sechler, Hannah Berry, Cindy Grocott, Danielle Murillo, Karen Romo, Danielle Hathaway, Dawn Rogers, Debbi Dunavan, Alysha Jones, Denise Schauer, Karen Gebauer, Diane Christenson, Gay Bristlin, Heather Brown, Ana Garcia, Heather Smith, Camille Nordwall, Jayme Shope, Jennifer Claborn, Nena Forman, Lisa Forman, Lynn Hansen, Katie Cornell, Kimmy Johnson, Kristen Palera, Melissa Traylor, Lisa Nentwig, Monica Wahl, Nadine Baggs, Rita Canclini, Susie Kraft, and Tracy Mossman… just to name a few.

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M is for Motherhood by Michelle

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was so excited to be a mommy. After the excitement wore off, I became overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising my child. I realized I needed to do more than love my baby; I needed to teach my child to grow, love, learn, and live in the world today.Ā It was easy enough to love my son. But I felt I would fail in teaching him. How would I transfer my values to my child and keep him open-minded at the same time? I figured good habits would be a good place to begin.Ā I wanted to cloth diaper and use second-hand (or homemade) clothing and baby items. I wanted to make my own baby food, but IĀ didn’tĀ know how hard all of that would be.Ā I have changed our eating habits as a family. We eat more organic produce and I try to eat less meat. The quality of meat I would like to buy is too pricey to purchase routinely. There are many vegetarian options for meals. We have tried to explore some of them. I hope that Eli will feel more like an omnivore, as opposed to a carnivore that gets stuck eating veggies and fruit once the meat is gone.Ā I also use organic or chemical-free products, especially for Eli. His baby lotion, diaper rash spray, laundry detergent, sunscreen, and other products are made from things he can find in nature. Those are my triumphs. Let me share some of my downfalls…

Cloth diapering! There was a period of time where he was only using one disposable diaper at night. It was beautiful. Then it seemed like we started traveling more and he started pooping more. It became messy and difficult. I now cloth diaper about a quarter of the time. I still feel good about it, but I would like to cloth diaper at least half the time. It took a lot of my energy to rinse and wash cloth diapers. I should also mention, Eli is what Emily calls a “high needs baby”, which means he needs my attention more than babies with easy-going personalities. He came out demanding attention and he is still demanding. I wonder where he got that from?!

I received a lot of used baby clothes and have found awesome things at the thrift store. I love all his gently used things too; there is a great store in Santa Maria that sells gently used baby items. My mom, Nana Linda, purchased a baby swing and a baby stroller from there. I highly recommend visiting the second-hand store before you go anywhere else- especially Target. Target is just this pit (of awesomeness) that I get sucked into if I come within ten miles of it. This is where I stumble. I have purchased things from Target because theyā€™re just too cute and inexpensive not to. Eli definitely needed the footie PJs that say ā€Grandma Baitā€ on them. He also needed the blue hoodie with the white zipper, right? The worst part is, I feel guilty when he wears them, so I just donā€™t put them on him. What a waste of money and energy. Stupid Target!Ā Making baby food seems intimidating to me. I just need to suck it up and do it. In a few months Eli will eat what we eat. At that time I will be happy to grind or mash his food. Until then, he will eat Earthā€™s Best organic veggies and Gerber brown rice cereal. I donā€™t feel bad about it.

The truth is, our expectations seldom match reality. I spend so much time holding Eli or laying near him, just so he knows he has my full attention. I have found that I donā€™t have time to do the things I originally planned. I know he is happy- and that is what is most important. The rest of my eco-friendly goals will come with time!

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Children and Family Matters by Emily

When we first decided to do this blog, we knew we wanted to cover family and child-rearing. Does this mean we are excluding single people or those who do not choose to have children? Quite the contrary, actually. We believe that living is not a individual experience. Rather, our biological and intentional relationships form and change us. These relationships are reciprocal and bidirectional, meaning both parties are changing each other, and this continues throughout life. We are wired to be in community.

Most of us run into children and families on a daily basis. They need our love and support more than ever. If this subject does not immediately apply to you, perhaps you can share what you learn. Or maybe you will build a relationship with a young one sooner than you think.

Here are some simple ideas that can apply to multiple developmental levels. (They can even be used on adults; what a thought!)

  • Teach children where their food comes from (Packaged and processed = factory origin vs. carrot pulled from the garden)
  • Involve them in meal preparation. Share how their decisions directly impact their health. What children are fed at a young age forms their preferences and develops their palates. Also, modeling healthy eating could not be more important. Parents who model a diet full of fruits and vegetables will have children who will choose more fruits and vegetables.
  • Prioritize and have fun with thrift store shopping for clothing. Children grow out of their clothes so quickly. Why not use hardly loved clothing? I have friends with super stylish kids- they will exchange clothing when their children grow out of their current size. It works beautifully and creates fashion-forward, sustainable children!
  • Outdoor and active play should be prioritized. Studies have shown the hours of television watched per week directly correlates to being overweight/obese in adults and children. This is so saddening to me. Children need exercise and opportunities to exert their energy daily. In one of my current child development courses, we learned that children’s television shows display significantly higher amounts of violence as opposed to adult shows. When children are very young, they do not have the ability to distinguish between television programs (acting/dramatization) and real life. Exposure to violence/inappropriate responses to anger can have tremendous effects on brain development. (Teaching children how to manage emotions and process violence is critically important.) Lastly, I will mention that big companies make the big bucks for a reason. They are crafty and they know how to advertise to even the youngest generations. The goal of advertising through television is to create miniature consumers. They are being sent more messages and advertised to far more than we can visibly comprehend. Children do not have the ability to distinguish between commercials and programs. Children do have the ability to recognize their favorite characters after the show is over. Do cartoon characters and child icons appear on carrot sticks and apples… or sugary soft drinks and packaged, processed Ā foods? (I think you know the answer.) Time spent watching television amounts to a multitude of health concerns. Decide for yourself and think about your loved ones.
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I just SOILed myself! by Michelle

Every breath we take is better because of soil. Soil = life. Okay, Iā€™m done!

But really, soil quality determines the nature of plant ecosystems and the capacity of land to support animal life and all of society in general.

Soil has 5 main functions in an ecosystem:

  1. Growth of plants: Soil provides a medium for roots and supplies nutrients for plants.
  2. System for water supply and purification: Soil characteristics control water loss, utilization, contamination and purification of water as it cycles through the soil.
  3. Recycling system for nutrients and organic waste: Within soil, waste and decaying bodies of plants and animals get assimilated and their basic elements are made available for future generations to use.
  4. Habitat for soil organisms: Anything from small mammals and reptiles to tiny insects to millions of diverse microscopic cells call soil their home.
  5. Engineering medium: The foundation of many buildings comes from soil materials like brick and earth fill, not to mention asphalt roads and cement sidewalks.

I would almost add a sixth function; carbon sink. Soil acts as a major carbon reservoir. Soil contains almost three times the amount of carbon than all plants. Holy organic matter, Batman! Thatā€™s why fertilizers (like manure) are good; they add nutrients, like carbon, back into the soil!

Unfortunately, some farming methods rob soils of their nutrients. The best methods actually build soil as they use it. These methods include: growing high-yielding (faster growth and greater quantities) plant varieties, using more than one type of non-synthetic fertilizer, proper irrigation, management of crop residue (whatā€™s left over after harvest), erosion control practice, and reduce tillage (so they donā€™t lose their top soil).

I told you every breath we take is better because of soil; it saves us from an increase in CO2 in our atmosphere by hiding the carbon in its organic matter!

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Garden Like A Local by Michelle

Bioā€¢diā€¢verā€¢siā€¢ty is variability of living organisms within a community; this includes diversity within a species and between species.

An ecoā€¢sysā€¢tem is a community of plants, animals, and smaller organisms that live, feed, reproduce, and interact in the same area.

There are a few things to keep in mind while planning a garden. It takes time and effort to maintain living things! Maintenance is simple if we plant the right things. Have you ever considered growing a California native garden? California native plants are adjusted to our climate so they donā€™t use more water or nutrients than the ecosystem can provide. Native plants promote biodiversity, which is critical to maintain our ecosystems. The presence of diverse organisms allows inputs to equal outputs, whether it’s water, nutrients, or food supply.Ā The smallest changes amount to large impacts. Think about what happens when we introduce non-native, invasive plants into an ecosystem. A great website for learningĀ about native plants vs. invasive plants is the California Native Plant Society. Visit http://www.cnps.org. While you’re at it, check out this local non-profit nursery in SLO that sells CA natives:Ā www.growinggroundsfarm.org. Plant a native garden, sit back, and watch it grow!

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Your Impact

Here’s how to get the scoop on your ecological impact… Take this quiz and share it with your friends.Ā http://myfootprint.org/en/

 

Let us know your results!

 

The Secret Garden… of Sustainability by Emily

We are starting to wrap up the subject of gardening so I thought I would post some simple tips that require little time and virtually no money.

  • Put your kitchen and yard waste to use by starting your own compost pile.Ā The term “cold composting” is used to describe a low-maintenanceĀ compost pile. (This is the type of pile Luke and I started; it’s perfect for busy lifestyles.) You can purchase or construct a bin. You can also create an old-fashioned pile without any surrounding container. (We received ours from a friend. Thanks Crystal!) Your garden and kitchen waste transform into ideal, chemical-freeĀ fertilizer for your garden. Compost stimulates healthy root development, improves soil quality, and optimizes water retention. Composting is a simple and fantastic way to bypass the landfill and promote your own garden. For composting basics, go here: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/07/green-basics-compost.phpĀ Make sure to obtain your list of what to compost and what not to compost! Once you understand the basic guidelines, it’s foolproof. (And not smelly at all!)

  • Reuse.Ā Think about what you are throwing away and if you could actually repurpose those items in your garden. It takes energy to recycle. Why not just repurpose and save yourself money? Think of eclectic items to plant herbs or flowers in. I planted my herbs in empty cans and an old watering can. They look rustic and will be easy to transport. Make sure to poke holes in containers that are repurposed to allow for drainage.

Get inspired!

  • Grow your own! We have brought this up before, but it is worthy of repeating. Do a little research on fruits and vegetables that grow well in your area. Start a window box or create your own garden. There is nothing better than the taste of home grown produce! Once you discover what grows successfully, your harvest will greatly exceed the price you paid for your seeds or starters. (P.S. Rutiz Farms sells inexpensive and gorgeous herb and vegetable starters. For their website or contact information go here: http://www.rutizfarms.com/)Ā Another idea is to organize a plant swap party. Friends can exchange or give away plants they no longer want to revamp their garden. Adopt-a-plant, anyone?

  • Water is precious. If you have the funds go for a drip-irrigation system. You will eliminate water waste by 50%. Another cost-effective idea is to reuse clean water from your stove Ā top (like water used to steam veggies) or shower once it has cooled completely. I recently placed a mixing bowl in our shower. (Can you tell how tolerant my sweet husband is of my experiments?!)Ā It was initially shocking how much water it collected after one brief shower. The bowl stores the water and I use that to keep my compost moist, water our succulent garden, or give it to my herbs! Think of some creative ways you can reuse water that might be wasted.

A "grey water" garden

Cheers to being more creative and becoming better stewards!

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