Archive of ‘Natural Living & Beauty’ category

4 Simple Ways to Decorate with Squash and Gourds

Eco holiday decorating

Every year I seem to have a few more squash from the garden than I know what to do with! They end up inside as decorations, which is okay with me. After all, nothing says fall like a bowl of heirloom squash and petite gourds on the counter. It’s an eco-friendly and incredibly easy way to bring a little autumn to any house.

An easy to make fall centerpiece

One thing I love doing with squash is making a centerpiece, as seen above! You can add votive candles and pinecones if you wish, or just use the pretty fruit itself. Decorating, done.

A variation of that, below, is to set the fruit on some pine branches, eucalyptus or other greenery.

Painted pumpkins

This was a fun, easy DIY. Just add metallic paint and glitter to a small gourd for a little shine around the holidays. This will render it inedible though, so save your best pie pumpkins for glitter-free decorating.

Put a bow on it

I had this beautiful black watch plaid ribbon, which totally seemed like fall! So I tied it on the stem of a squash and a little decoration was born.

Outdoor fall decorating

Spruce up the front step with a little display of your squash crop. It’s seasonal, decorative, and totally eco-friendly.

Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite way to display fall’s garden harvest.

I originally published these photos on Midwest Living.

Check that site out for more fall decorating ideas and see what my fellow bloggers have planned for holiday decor, including:

Here’s how to have a minimalist Christmas

How to cure your own olives

Mason jar recipes

Holiday garden gifts

Make a holiday sign with scrap wood

 

 

How to swap plastic beauty products for bamboo

I switched to bamboo beauty products. Here’s what happened.

Why use bamboo beauty products?

So why bamboo? It’s a sustainable resource that grows easily in poor soil–no need for fertilizers or pesticides. At the end of its life I can compost it, keeping it out of the landfill completely. Plus bamboo just feels luxurious. It’s fun to use these high-quality products knowing that I’m doing something good for the Earth.

Four Eco-friendly products to switch to right now

This year I discovered that many everyday products we all use that can be found in bamboo instead of plastic! So I switched to a bamboo comb, bamboo hair brush, even bamboo toothbrushes (and more!). Here’s what I used and what changes they resulted in for me.

I’ve linked to the products I use below, using affiliate links. There are tons of other brands that are probably just as good, these just happen to be the ones I used and liked.

1. Bamboo Comb

This comb is super affordable online (I paid twice as much for it at my local food store). Unlike plastic, bamboo combs have less pulling and no static. That makes it better for your hair, especially if you comb while it’s wet. I honestly can’t go back to using plastic combs anymore! They just don’t feel as sturdy when I comb through my thick, knotty hair.

2. Bamboo Toothbrush

From a friend who runs a Facebook group about zero waste living, I learned there is such a thing as bamboo toothbrushes! I’d never thought much about it before, but if you use 3-4 toothbrushes in a year, that amount of plastic adds up. So I decided to try a bamboo handled brush.

I ordered this 12 pack linked below for $10.50, which is easily the cheapest toothbrush option out there. I was a little concerned that the description said they were for “orcal care,” since I don’t have whales. But despite the sketchy copy editing, it seems like a decent product and you can’t beat the price. I will definitely order these again. The bristles are gentle and my teeth feel as clean as using any other toothbrush. No better or worse, just a good solid alternative to a plastic handled brush.

3. Bamboo Hairbrush

Also cost-effective, a bamboo bristle hairbrush should last you a long time! Like the bamboo comb, it’s anti-static and feels great on your scalp. If your hair is hard to brush through, thick or tangly, a brush like this is a must have. It’s supposedly gentler on hair and leads to less hair loss. It helps keep hair shiny and manageable, two things for which I will take all the help I can get! The only downside is that it’s a little more difficult to remove hair from the bristles of the brush.

4. Bamboo Straws

Refusing plastic straws is the way to go these days, since growing concerns about them littering oceans have made major media outlets. Once you’ve seen the video of what plastic straws can do to sea turtles, there’s no going back. Luckily, there are these reusable, sustainable alternatives to plastic straws. You may have heard that drinking tea and coffee through a straw helps prevent tooth staining. Bamboo straws are ideal for this because you don’t have to worry about the straw melting!

After each switch to a bamboo product, I can honestly say I can’t imagine going back! I personally think the products are well made as well as sustainable, and work just as well if not better than their plastic counterparts. What do you think? Is using bamboo beauty products weird or inspirational?

Floral Arranging with Wildflowers

Using wildflowers as wedding florals

When my dear little cousin got married last year, she did a DIY farm wedding. Her florals were almost all made of wildflowers picked from the property. It was genius, and it looked so good! She saved $$$, and it fit the style of the wedding exactly. Here’s a photo recap of the wildflower wedding floral arrangements, taken by me and first published in Midwest Living.

How to make your own rustic chic wildflower wedding bouquets

Think about storage and how to keep the flowers fresh! The day before the wedding, a group of friends and family scoured the farm for the best wild blooms. After putting the cuttings in big 5-gallon buckets of water, we made bouquets and then stored them in a walk in refrigerator in the barn. Here’s what it looked like behind the scenes.

Rules of floral design

If you’re doing a DIY floral arrangement, don’t forget this rule of flower design. No matter which type of flowers you’re choosing, use a big, unique bloom as a thriller, one to create mass as a filler, and a drapey one to hang down as a spiller. Getting the style right for wildflower weddings is pretty easy if you keep this in mind.

wildflower wedding

Mix it up

In addition to farm wildflowers, the bride bought roses, lavender, eucalyptus and baby’s breath to mix into the decor. Putting them into re-used glass containers of various sizes added depth and variety to each table. This approach was thrifty and Eco-friendly but so rustic and beautiful!
wildflower weddings

Here you can see the simplicity of the idea behind the floral arrangements. The wildflowers are a seamless complement to the lavender and baby’s breath, don’t you think?

wildflower wedding

Wildflowers in floral arrangements are perfect for outdoor events. How flawless does this look on the outdoor bar?

rustic elegant floral design

Do it yourself floral design

This event totally changed any preconceived ideas I had about do-it-yourself flowers and wildflowers for weddings. It just looked good, and that’s all there is to it! Here’s the bride’s professional bouquet along with the bridesmaids’ wildflower bouquets.

wildflower weddings

Get a peek at the organic farm where the wedding was held, Trillium Wood Farm.

Natural Sun Protection

Protect your skin from the sun

It’s part of Beauty Secrets 101 to wear SPF all the time. It’s common sense, because sun exposure promotes aging, damage from free radicals and skin cancer. But maybe you’re concerned about the chemicals in most sunscreens. What then?

Coconut oil is popular for pretty much everything right now including sun protection, but it only shields from 20 percent of harmful rays, says Mayo Clinic. Better than nothing, you may say. But keep in mind that coconut oil is comodogenic and can make you break out, which no one wants. Then I found out about two other oils that are promising. They’re raspberry seed oil and carrot seed oil.

Natural oils for sun protection

Canadian study done in 2000 found that among the characteristics of raspberry seed oil is an SPF protection factor of 28-50 against UVB rays, and an SPF around 8 for UVA rays. Notice that it protects against UVB and UVA. Not all sunscreens do! When I lived in Switzerland for a summer, I learned that European sunscreens are higher quality than American ones, because they filter against broad spectrum rays. The FDA hasn’t yet approved widespread use of these filtering agents, according to the Environmental Working Group.

I had this problem where my ultra-fancy, natural face moisturizer didn’t have SPF. Have you ever encountered this? Solution: combine it with a little raspberry seed oil or carrot seed oil. I use a high quality oil by Leven Rose. If you’re not sold on raspberry seed oil as a sunscreen option, it also makes a great face moisturizer. Carrot seed oil is also touted as a remedy for thinning hair.

Now, to my knowledge there has only been that one study done and it was 17 years ago. So more research needs to be done on the topic.

The Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreen advises that it’s wisest to not rely on sunscreen alone for sun protection. Hats, sunglasses, clothing, and umbrellas are all part of a good sun protection plan.

How do you stay sun safe in the summer?

4 Ways to Try Edible Violets this Spring

edible violets on cupcakesAre Violets Edible?

Violets can be used for more than violet crowns and bouquets. Although sometimes considered a lawn weed, violets are edible as well as beautiful. Just make sure they haven’t been sprayed with chemicals and wash them first. To make gathering wild edible violets easy, I use a $3 mini colander from World Market. It’s only available in store, so here are some other ideas if you don’t have one near you. It’s also great for herbs, berry picking and other small garden harvests.

The shade loving flowers are blooming right now in the Midwest. If you have them, don’t let your chance to eat flowers pass you by this spring. They’re here for a limited time! Try these four recipe ideas for preparing edible violets in a beautiful way.

Violet Flower Recipe Ideas

Wondering how to eat violets? The pretty purple flowers add a luxurious touch to meal time. And according to the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, the flowers contain soluble fiber. Win.

Violet Flower Tea

Fresh or dried violet flowers and leaves make a light, refreshing tea.

Violet Flower Cake Garnish

Frost a cake and add the flowers (cut off the stems) as an all-natural, organic, vegan and gluten free cake decoration. Pair it with a homemade cake banner for extra flair.

Violet Flower Salad

Add a handful of violet flowers to a salad for a pop of color. The flowers don’t have a strong taste so they blend right in. Violet leaves are also edible so try adding those to a salad too.

Violet Flower Ice Cubes

Add a floral touch to drinks when entertaining. Just freeze violet flowers into the water when you’re making ice in a tray. So easy!

Violet flowers add a touch of natural whimsy to your meals that will delight your guests. Some children (and adults!) might need a little encouragement to eat a flower, but it’s a great opportunity for understanding and appreciating the culinary gifts the wild world has to offer.

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