Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Don't Skip Toner

Toning your skin after cleansing is an important step that many tend to skip. It is one of those steps that we are told we should do, but never given a reason for doing it. I have posted recipes for toners (here and here), but I haven't explained why they are important. Many misunderstand the purpose and do not do it correctly or do not use the correct product. So, they do not get the desired effect. However, cleansing, toning, and moisturizing are all important steps to keep your skin glowing and beautiful. 

The purpose of a toner or astringent is to remove all residue from your skin, refine your pores, and prepare your skin for moisturizing. What kind of residue needs to be removed? All kinds! Oily residue, dead skin cells, and even leftover cleanser. All of that should be removed before you moisturize your skin. A good toner should leave your skin feeling soft and fresh, not dry and tight. Remember, skin should be slightly damp when you moisturize. If your toner doesn't leave your skin feeling refreshed before you moisturize, you should look for a different toner.
Photo by: wlcutler Witch hazel is lovely and effective!

Choosing a toner or astringent depends on your skin type. Dry skin does not need the same care that oily skin needs. Try to choose a toner or astringent without alcohol or use in moderation. Overuse can actually cause skin to produce excess sebum to makeup for the drying effect of alcohol. Floral waters, aloe, witch hazel (without added alcohol), and herbal infusions all make great toners or splashes.
Photo by : tjmwasson Aloe is a great ingredient for a toner!
There are different ways to tone your skin after cleansing:
  1. Moisten a cotton ball with your toner and gently sweep over face. This is usually best for normal to oily skin types because it helps wipe away all though residues we talked about. 
  2. Dilute an alcohol based astringent with water and splash on your face several times. After each splash, catch the liquid in a bowl or sink and repeat. You should use a bowl of cold water and just a splash of astringent.
  3.  Dilute your toner in a spray bottle (half toner/half water) and spritz on face. This might work best for normal to dry skin types because it stays on your skin. So, your skin is a little more moist when you apply your moisturizer.
Have you found the perfect toner or are you still searching?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Declutter Challenge: Week 20 & 21

I'm not really posting much for now on my declutter mission because we are having a garage sale this weekend. That's right! We are selling the garage :) I know that was lame. But, we are having a garage sale, which would probably cover more than a few weeks worth of decluttering. However, I'm only counting it for last week and this week. I'm counting it for both because I've been gathering stuff around the house for two weeks, so it all counts.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pineapple Mask

I went to the store today and pineapples were on sale! They were super cheap, so I bought several. I've been using pineapples in my green smoothies, so I needed to get some more anyway. When I got home, I realized that I really have quite a bit of pineapple, so I started thinking about other uses. Of course, my first thought was...put it on your face :)

Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain. Enzymes are proteins that speed up certain reactions; in this case, bromelain speeds up the digestion of proteins. Bromelain is useful in skin care because it will help digest pore-clogging surface cells and leave behind fresh, glowing skin. Pineapple is good for all skin types except sensitive skin or skin that is already damaged or irritated.

Ingredients for your mask:
  • Fresh pineapple (you won't need much!)
  • Yogurt (any type of milk can be used, but I like the thickness of yogurt)
  • Kaolin clay (may substitute fine ground oatmeal)
  • Mash up your pineapple. Mix with yogurt.
  • Separate pineapple and yogurt mixture into two containers. Add 1/2 tsp of clay to one.
  • Apply mixture with clay to face in a gentle, upward motion. Avoid eye area!
  • Let sit for 10 minutes. Some tingling is normal, but wash immediately if case of irritation. Eat the other half of the mixture while you wait :)
  • Rinse face with warm water and follow with normal toner and moisturizer.
  • Add fresh kiwi for a vitamin rich mixture that offers gentle exfoliation.
  • Cocoa powder is rich in antioxidants and offers a gentle scrub.
 Please keep in mind that not all ideas are safe for all skin types.

What is your favorite summer time fruit? Have you tried it as a mask?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint is one of my favorite scents, flavors, whatever. If it is minty, I will love it. So, it isn't a surprise that I really like to work with peppermint essential oil. I use it in several of my products, which can be bad if you forget to do your ordering ahead of time (you can read about it here).

But, I don't just use peppermint because it smells good. I choose it for several of my products because of the benefits that peppermint offers. Peppermint has actually been used for centuries as perfumes, in religious rituals, and for medicinal purposes. Today, it is commonly used to reduce digestive complaints, which is why restaurants often offer mints after large dinners.

Peppermint is a well-known stimulant. It can increase alertness and help clear your mind to allow better concentration. Many use the essential oil to help reduce headaches and tension from a day at work. Peppermint has an overall cooling affect on a person's emotions. It can help increase confidence in yourself and your decision making abilities. I know several people that use peppermint in diffusers in their offices to help them be more productive and positive about their work.
Photo from Wonderferret on Flickr

Besides being stimulating, peppermint is cooling and has anti-bacterial properties. This benefits make it a popular ingredient in foot care products, such as Honu Naturals Pedi-Cure set! It is great for relaxing tense muscles, reducing inflammation, and stimulating circulation. Can you think of anything your feet need more? The fact that it is cooling and a good muscles relaxer makes it popular for treatment of hot flashes, cramps, and even sunburn! Peppermint can also be used to help reduce the occurrence of blemishes and acne because it can reduce oiliness and fight bacteria.

Peppermint essential oil is one of my staple essential oils. I use it to make sniffy rags when someone in the house is stuffy and I put a drop or two in a certain toddler's humidifier when he is sick. I put a few drops in a warm bath when I need to relax. The last time I got a massage, I requested peppermint and lavender for my aromatherapy! I keep a little bit diluted in olive oil, just in case I need to rub it on a sunburn, mosquito bite, or my temples to relieve stress. I drink mint tea to help relax and focus (or after I eat too much during the holidays). This is one oil that I don't think I could live without!

Warning: Peppermint is a great essential oil, but it MUST be diluted before use. Direct contact with skin will cause extreme irritation (trust me, I know this). Do not use peppermint essential oil if you have high blood pressure, are pregnant, or breastfeeding. Essential oils should not be taken internally. None of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA, but the have evaluated by herbalist and aromatherapists.

What do you use that contains peppermint?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Declutter Challenge: Week 18 & 19

I actually did do some cleaning last weekend, but this week was crazy! School is almost over, so I had to get everything graded last week. All projects, finals, and anything else that was going in the gradebook. So, I didn't get anything else done!

Last Sunday, we opened up the garage and started going through boxes. We also moved some stuff around so that it was a little easier to get to. We decided to go through the book boxes. There are books that I cannot get rid of. I may never read it again, but I still can't part with them. For example, the books "The Dinosaur Heresies" that my Punk gave me when I was in 3rd grade. I never did get far, it is quite a book for a 3rd graders, but I have to keep it. However, I am managing to let go of other books.

I have a lot of Stephen King books that my mom bought for me years ago. I have read all of them. I have kept them because mom gave them to me, but she bought all of them at a second-hand store and I think she just grabbed any book by King she could find. So, I decided most of those could go. Any book that I know I will not read again is gone. It was really hard for me to do. I LOVE books! I feel that people should have as many books as their garage will hold :) But, book are better shared, so I am sharing them. We turned 5 boxes of books into 2. Not bad!

I didn't think I was going to get anything done for this week, but I did. We went camping this weekend, so as I was pulling out camping stuff, I found things to get rid of! First, two camping pillows from when I was in junior high school. They are actually fine, but they just don't fluff back up after being stuff in the bags for a few *cough* years. Next, I found a lantern that the batteries weren't removed from, so they leaked. Third, some canteens that smelled a little funny, so I tossed them.

Have you started decluttering yet? What have you gotten rid of?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What To Do If You Want To Do Better

The other day I had a conversation with a parent of one of my students. She felt that I was being unfair in my grading and that I should take into consideration that some students struggle more than others. During the conversation she said that her student really wanted a higher grade in my class, which is always nice to hear when students care enough to want to do better. Later, she said that I could go a little easier so that the this student could feel accomplished. We ended agreeing to disagreeing. I didn't feel that I was too hard and she felt that I was.

The entire conversation lingered with me most of the night. I am usually good about leaving problems at work, but there was something that was just bothering me. As I was falling asleep it hit me! The parent said that the student wanted a better grade and I make it easier to get that grade (to be fair, she did not say it exactly like that, but those were her two main points). That was what was bothering me...if someone really wants to do better, then someone else should make it easier to do so.

I just don't believe that that is how it should work. If one of my students wants to do better, then they should work harder. If I lower the standard and make it easier to get a high grade, then the higher grade means less. How can a student be proud of earning a high grade if they didn't really earn it? I understand when kids are little we make sure everyone feels like a winner and you are just as amazing as everyone else. As they get older, we start recognizing them for the things that they do better than others, but make them realize that you can't be good at everything if you don't work really hard.

I can apply this same lesson to anything in life, even my business. I really want to have a successful (by my definition of success) business, but it doesn't happen if I don't make it happen. I also can't be upset that my competition is doing more business than I am if I am putting less work into my business. There are a lot of things I want in life, but I have to work hard to make them happen and I have to have a plan on how to make them happen. Nobody is going to come along and say "You know, I see that you really want these things, so I'm just going to grant all your wishes." I will accomplish some of my goals and some I will not. It all comes down to working hard; I have to focus on what I'm good at and continuously improve on the things I'm not good at.

You don't have to be brilliant to be a straight-A student, you don't have to be a natural athlete to go to the Olympics, you don't have to be naturally good at anything if you are willing to work hard to get better. Although, you may have to work hard than those around you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Staying Committed

One of the things I have always struggled with and always tried to excuse is my weight. I know I'm not alone in that, a lot of people do the same thing. Over the years we slowly put on weight and we make plans to lose it again. We set deadlines that pass us by. We rethink everything in our lives and that lasts for about a week.

My excuses were probably similar to those we always hear. I'm too busy to exercise. I will eat better tomorrow. I just had a baby, you can't expect me to bounce back right away. If I had more money, I would get a gym membership and everything would be better. I've got a million of them.

However, it all comes down to the same thing. I just haven't been committed to really losing weight a being healthy. I was temporarily committed back in September because I had to fit into a bridesmaid dress and I wanted to look nice for my dear friend. So, I did Slim Fast shakes twice a day for a couple of weeks and went down 10 lbs to get in the that dress.

Then, I stopped. I was too busy, too tired, and blah, blah, blah. Here is the truth...I wasn't committed to being healthy. Eating out is faster. Eating packaged meals is easier. Staying inside is much easier than getting outside. After the holidays, I got motivated again. I even thought about joining in on the Soap Queen "Crazy Sexy Diet" group. But, I didn't. I had great reasons. I was too busy, it was too expensive (because buying fresh fruits and vegetables is just a ridiculous idea?), and it was too radical. There was no way I could give up sugar, coffee, meat, and flour.
Hayden is 4 months here.
Hayden is 1 year. Notice a difference, yeah, me neither.

Okay, really it was too radical of a change for me. A 21 day cleanse sounds great and truly is, but I honestly need to reevaluate my lifestyle, not just focus on the short term. Because on day 22, you would have found me in a restaurant eating a steak, mashed taters, a LARGE glass of coke, and ice cream to dip the steak in. Instead, I decided to make small changes that I could adjust to before making more changes.

Step one, I gave up candy and ice cream for Lent (no, I'm not Catholic, but I do understand the reasons behind the sacrifice). I made the decision on a whim, while listening to a morning show. I knew it would be a good idea because those were my biggest weaknesses. I actually managed to do it! I still have not have ice cream and my candy intake has been almost nonexistent.

Step two, give up coffee. Really, it isn't to coffee, it is the cream and sugar in the coffee. I have officially switched to decaf and will be out of that soon! I also made the decision to avoid soda most of the time. No need to trade one caffeine for another or to add back in the sugar I took out!

Step three, increase the number of fresh foods in my diet. I found another idea on Soap Queen (I like that she posts about health :) about making green smoothies. I have had to experiment with the recipe on her blog and I did lots of searches to other ideas. I am happy to say that some of my experiments were great, others weren't, but I managed to drink it anyway. I have had a smoothie everyday for two weeks and I feel great. I don't have crazy cravings for sugar and my energy level is higher than before.

I still have a long way to go to be considered healthy. But, I only have 10 more pounds to get to my pre-pregnancy weight; which means I've lost 20 lbs so far. The other good news is that, my clothes fit better. I can actually wear some of my shirts that aren't maternity tops. Plus, I've even managed to get into some of my clothes that haven't fit in a while.

I won't lie, it was really hard for me to type and share this, but I feel that I need to. Too many people struggle with their health and their weight and they look at each day as a challenge to be really good. But, it isn't about changing everything and avoiding all temptation in a day. It is about evaluating your lifestyle and making small changes that can make a big difference.

I would love for someone to share their challenge with me. What are the small changes you've made? How do you stay committed?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Declutter Challenge: Week 17

This week's challenge wasn't really a challenge. It was just something I needed to do. We have a lot of board games. I think we even have two sets of Monopoly. Not two versions. Two sets of the same version. To be fair, we actually do play games quite a bit. When we have friends over or we just want to be a little silly.

Two of our favorite games are Scattergories and Cranium. They actually become more fun the more you drink; although, we are quite silly without alcohol. However, there were quite a few games sitting in the closet that we never play.

Jenga was one of the first to go. It is fun, but way too noisy with a toddler sleeping down the hall. We also sent off one of the Monopoly games and a few others. I wanted to get rid of Trivial Pursuit, but it didn't happen.

Have you started decluttering yet? Let me know what you have gotten rid of so far!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Child-Friendly Downstairs

Our house has a very odd set-up. I really like it, but it is different. It is a split level house. When you walk in, you can go up to the main floor or down to large room and the laundry room. From the kitchen on the main floor, you can go up to a long room that sits above the garage.

When we first moved in, we put the living room and dining room above the garage. It isn't closed off; there is just railing to block it off. We realized that when Hayden became mobile, the upstairs was not longer a good idea because he could fit through the railing and fall a considerable distance.
We already moved the tv, but the railing is over the stairs to the bottom level.

We tried moving the office to the large (and unused area) downstairs and using the downstairs bedroom for the tv/playroom. That didn't work because Hayden hated the door shut. So, we moved my soap room down and the tv/playroom up. That worked ok, but Hayden still didn't like the door shut and we had to be really quite after he went to bed because he was next door. Plus, the downstairs was not at all kid-friendly. It really wasn't ideal.
My incredibly messy work area!

VERY un-kid-friendly!

The solution...move the office all the way up above the garage, the tv/playroom down to the large area, and turn the spare bedroom into a guest room. We decided to paint the downstairs because it was a little gloomy. We went with a bright bluish-white with a darker trim because it is partially underground. We couldn't get our extra large couch downstairs, so we are having to make due with a brown pit couch that we had when I was growing up (bonus: it makes a great fort). I really like the downstairs now, it is a nice place to play or relax.
I love the color!, notice we cleared the bottom two shelves for Hayden!

The rest of his play area and the dog's bed.

Another bonus to moving, I got my office organized!
We haven't finished the upstairs office area yet, but it is functional for the time being!

I think the best part is that we are using that big area downstairs! It isn't just for storage anymore. Really, we don't need near as much storage since I've started decluttering anyway :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Zucchini Spinach Cornbread

The other night I realized that we didn't really have anything for dinner, so I had to get a little creative. The plan had been to make spaghetti (with shredded chicken instead of beef) with garlic bread. However, we were out of chicken and bread. We had spaghetti stuff, so I did stick with that. But, we needed more than noodles for dinner.

When I was digging through the fridge I found some zucchini that I had forgotten about and some spinach from that salads we'd been eating. I thought about it and decided to try baking it into cornbread. I looked online and I didn't find anything that included spinach, but several that used shredded zucchini. I also found one that lined the bottom of the pan with zucchini slices.

So, I shredded up some zucchini, which is not really all that easy, and chopped up some spinach. I made the cornbread according to the directions on the container. Since I live in CO, I use self-rising flour and I've noticed that it is fluffier than regular flour. I added about 1/3 cup of shredded zucchini and 1/2 cup chopped spinach to the batter. I lined my pan with zucchini slices and poured the batter over it and then baked as usual.

To be honest, I'm not a squash person. I've really never cared for most of them. I like the spaghetti squash and butternut squash the best. I really don't like yellow squash and zucchini is about a step above that. But, I'm trying to be more open because I want Hayden to eat well and be exposed to lots of foods. I was truly nervous about the cornbread.

It was actually delicious! I didn't like the slices on the bottom, but I choked them down like a trooper. Otherwise, it was good. The zucchini and spinach flavor were not overpowering, but it was noticeable. It even reheated well, which is good because I can't waste food! I was pretty impressed with myself, dinner was a hit with everyone and I felt good about adding a little green to the meal.

Do you have a favorite recipe that incorporates a food you try to avoid otherwise?