Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not all GNC’s are Created Equal

Until i started this green little experiment, I had never set foot in a GNC.  It seemed like a place for the muscle-bound and gullible.  I probably would have never set foot in one, except that I read around the interwebz that GNC sell essential oils.  The only GNC I was *consciously* aware of in Washington, was the on in the mall.  I went to the GNC in the mall, and it was exactly as i expected.  A body-builder store with a grand total of 4 varieties of essential oil.  I didn't think any more about it until Nick & I went to Giant Eagle at midnight this weekend and, as we were driving by, I spotted the big red lights of an (obviously closed) GNC.  I knew it was there.  I drive by it a couple times a week, and I never thought about it.  This GNC was a whole 'nother planet! It's walls were lined with the usual vitamins, but front & center was basically an organic pantry!  All sorts of stuff, some of which i was having a hard time finding, right in front of me, not to mention probably 30+ varieties of essential oil. It wasn't all food either, there was also a very nice selection of personal care items.  Guess who has a new customer?!?!

Extra Bonus: Pictures of my newly moved laundry room. 



Basically, an empty mud room with cupboards at the end. 


Once Sadie is old enough, her crate will be replaced by a bench & coat hooks and an elevated shoe shelf (since I'm not sure she'll ever outgrow her love of shoes!  That's why they're on the counter)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Products I Like: Feminine Hygiene

Needless to say, I won't be plastering this post all over facebook.  If you're a guy and the title didn't scare you silly, I recommend you quit while you're ahead.  Nonetheless, as a woman, menstruation is something we have to deal with.  Regularly.  There are about 85 million menstruating women in the US, each of whom will use approx. 17,000 disposable products in her lifetime.  Each of those products is chemical-ridden, wrapped in plastic, and, in the case of tampons, comes with an applicator as well.  Holy garbage!  Not to mention that, when disposed of "properly", they fill our landfills with bio-waste, and, when flushed, clog drains and septic systems.  75% of all blocked drains are caused by flushing sanitary products. 
I've always been a tampon girl and *sheepish admittance* have always been a flusher (sorry about the pipes, mom!) .  I was just so grossed out by the alternative, it was bad enough to have the applicator & wrapper in the trash, having to cover it up like my mother taught me to ( I stopped doing that at home pretty quickly, it seemed silly).  Like so many things in my life lately though, they had to go.   The create a TON of trash, usually contain dioxin and who knows what else (they don't have to tell you) , dry you out, cause TSS, and they're expensive.  
First I looked into sea sponges.  Not my thing.  They're very natural (and historic), but they require a LOT of care and washing, if you choose to install a string it can rip them, and they need to be replaced every 6 months. 
Then I looked into menstrual cups.  They hold the flow in a cup, instead of absorbing it, so there is no risk of TSS and no drying out.  For the same reason, they only need to be changed every 12 hours, except during the heaviest of flows.  You only need one, care is very manageable, and they last up to 10 years.  At $40, it probably will save you around $800 in its lifetime.  This is also an ideal solution if you're going to be backpacking (no garbage to pack out) or traveling in a country where feminine hygiene products are unavailable.   There are a TON of brands out there and they aren't all the same sizes.  There are even websites dedicated to describing the sizes and fits of the different brands.  The one thing they all have in common is that, in the US, they are really only available online.  I went with the Lunette (model 2) because it seemed the most straight-forward, size-wise.  There is definitely a learning curve, so it requires some patience, but on the whole I think it was worth learning to get the hang of.  The #1 lesson I learned from my trial ? MAKE SURE the suction seal has broken before you try to remove it, you'll be glad you did.  (ouch!)
If pads are more your pace, there are a number of quality cloth pad makers, including Glad Rags and PIMPS (Party In My PantS).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Free Organic Shampoo & Conditioner

(Don't you just love the chibby bottles?)


Renpure organic shampoo is offering a free trial to those who buy it.  All you do is save your receipt and send it in with the tag on the bottle.  The form doesn't say anything about a limit, but I got separate receipts just to be on the safe side.  I found these guys at the Giant Eagle in Dry Tavern, PA of all places.  The renpure website has a list of retailers, but it doesn't seem difficult to locate it.  

Taco Night

It's taco night at the Starosta Household. Taco night is, on its whole, a chemically inoffensive dinner.  Veggies, organic salsa, most generic tortilla chips only contain corn, salt and oil, whole grain taco shells.  Taco mix, on the other hand, contains an awful lot of preservatives for just being a bunch of spices, so I decided to make some.  And there's no sense in carting out all of those spices every time i want taco mix, I made a whole jar!

(Don't ya just love my workspace? nothing like a laptop on the counter)



  • 8 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder  
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (less if you have a spice tolerance like mine)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 teaspoons paprika
  • 12 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 8 teaspoons sea salt
  • 8 teaspoons black pepper
  • 8 teaspoons cornstarch

Shake it all up and put it in a container. 

2.5 or 3 tbsp is approximately equal to one packet

for tacos mix with ground meat and onions

Game Meat: The Ultimate Organic

We've been eating a lot of game meat in my house lately.  I'm fortunate to know a handful of skillful hunters whose wives aren't fond of it (my husband hunts as well, but he isn't quite as good as it).  It is also less expensive than most meats even if you have to pay for the butchering.  Think about it: When my family buys a cow, they pay for both the cow and a substantial butchering fee.  The "cow" in this case is free, and you get a TON of meat for that butchering fee. 

Also, these animals are cage-free and hormone free and fed only on their natural food source.  They also get plenty of exercise and are, with the exception of autumn bear, leaner than most store bought meats, who spent most of their lives in pastures, stalls or cages.  I don't know why more people don't eat it!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Had a Hankerin’ Fer Corndogs

Talk about processed and unhealthy! Maybe it's the fair this week, but I WANTED one (so much so I didn't think about pics, I've been lazy that way lately). 

I started with this recipe from Martha Stewart as my base. 


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour I substituted Whole Wheat
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal  
2 teaspoons baking powder I used Aluminum-Free Baking Powder
2 teaspoons sugar I substituted honey but the dough wasn't sweet enough.  I'd recommend 3 or 4 tsp. 
Coarse salt and ground pepper  
2/3 cup milk  
2 large eggs, lightly beaten  
2 teaspoons vegetable oil  
4 precooked smoked chicken sausages This one was a bit of a problem

Hot dogs are a the problem child though, aren't they.  I got knackwurst (hot dog's big, German brother) from the Fredericktown meat market.  While, of course, I still have no idea what the cows were fed, at least from there I know who processed it and that they didn't put any preservatives or colorants in them. 

When I mixed it up, it was really thick.  Martha said to dust the dogs in flour before adding the batter, but that just made it fall off.  I un-dusted them and made the batter the consistency of thick pancake batter.  I rolled them in the batter and placed them on a lined baking sheet.  After 5 minutes in a 375 oven, I re-coated with any slipped batter and baked for 20 more minutes. 

They weren't pretty, but they were a relatively natural way to hit the spot.  I paired them with baked, home-sliced fries. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Products I Like: Dryer Balls

5025 dryer balls 

These little guys are great on the body, environment & your wallet.  The concept is simple: toss them into the dryer and they bounce around and lift and separate the clothes.  This decreases drying time (saving on electric or gas bill) and eliminates the need for both dryer sheets and fabric softener.  Talk about a money saver! and they only need to be replaced every few years.  Also, I'm not usually one for fear-mongering, but there are some truly frightening carcinogens and even narcotics in dryer sheets, amongst other nasty chemicals.  Since the dryer is the end of the cleaning process, they don't get washed away.    If you miss having scent added to your clothes in the drying process, you can toss in a sachet of herbs or put a drop or two of essential oil on a wash cloth. 

Shampoo FAIL

I'm almost out of shampoo and since, admittedly, my hair has always been my greatest vanity, I was eager to find a chemical-free solution that didn't compromise it.  I did a ton of Internet research.  It was obvious pretty quickly that loosing shampoo altogether in favor of baking soda & vinegar just wasn't my cup of tea.  Many of the shampoo recipes I found involved liquid castile, so I made some in preparation and started concocting. 

My hair tends to run normal to oily.  Chamomile and honey nourish and condition and rosemary is good for oily hair. I mixed up a 1/4 c. of very strong chamomile & rosemary tea and mixed it & some honey into the liquid castile and hopped in the shower.  It was so liquid that I couldn't get a lather out of it.  Of course lather doesn't actually clean, but most people would agree that some amount of lather is needed to get the soap around to all of your hair.  I reached for the liquid castile.  It lathered, but left my hair feeling "squeaky" after rinsing.  Afterwards, my hair was dry & felt like I had soap build-up, so I put it in a bun. 

I decided to try a mayonnaise conditioner before I washed, since it felt so dry.  I used an egg yolk, coconut oil, and lime juice.  Unfortunately, making mayonnaise is exactly as hard as I've heard it is, so it was more of a oil & egg mix than mayo.  It took days just to get it out.  I tried mixing baking soda into liquid castile and it lost it's sud.  I wound up using regular bar soap because it cleaned the best.  We have hard water (as does everyone in swpa), which makes the scales of your hair stand on end, so I tried a vinegar rinse to make them lay flat. 

At the end of almost a week, I couldn't wait to get out my bottle of chemical-ridden shampoo.  I have by no means given up (I have a batch of shampoo bars curing as we speak), but it is tabled for more experimentation. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Churning Butter

This one started the other day when I was visiting my good friend Bethany.  We were talking about some of my current and upcoming projects and said she was really curious about making butter.  Honestly, it was kind of far down my list, as the ingredient list on most butters is cream and salt.  Of course, in most cases, one never knows what those cows were fed or injected with or whatever.  I remembered that in kindergarten we just put cream in a mason jar and shook.  Bethany said she'd used a churn in girl scouts.  Then I looked it up on the Internet (raise your hand if you're surprised).  Did you know it only takes heavy cream, a food processor and 3 minutes to make butter? And you feel a sense of accomplishment, having made it yourself.  I may never buy it again. 

I started with chilled heavy cream from the springhouse (guaranteed hormone free!)

It was just the little container, but it made a slightly larger than store bought stick and exactly filled my food processor exactly to the liquid line.

I filled my food processor and turned it on.  If you don't have a food processor, shaking a mason jar will work, but it'll take longer.  A lot longer. 

The whole process took less than 3 minutes in my food processor, so don't go anywhere.  When it starts to get little butter chunks in it, add any herbs, salt, cinnamon & honey, you please. 

You'll know its done when all of it forms one or two big balls.  Mine just all camped out in one big hunk. 


Pour off any excess water, and dump it out onto a double or triple thickness stack of paper towels. 

Squeeze every last drop of liquid off.  The more liquid, the more likely it is to spoil. 

Put it in a tub or on some plastic wrap or wax paper and package it up.  Chill & enjoy!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Frozen Tomatoes

Tomatoes can very well but I don't own canning supplies (maybe I'll get some for next year).  That's not to say that you can't can without specialized equipment, but I'd be afraid of botulism if I didn't feel I had done my best to can them.  Also freezing actually saves energy by packing already operating units. 

Find a bunch of ripe (but not over-ripe) tomatoes.  Roma are best for freezing because they have so much more meat than water, but any tomato will do. 

Boil for 45ish seconds, and plunge immediately into waiting ice water.  This makes the skins come off well. 

Trim off anything tough or spoiled, peel skins and quickly remove seeds (it doesn't have to be perfect).  Cut into manageable pieces (halves for roma, quarters for most regular tomatoes. 

Pack in a bag, remove air (either by the old fashioned squeeze & suck method or with a vaccuum sealer) and freeze!

Corn also freezes well, but there's no real method... just cut off the cob (or put the whole cob in if you like) and freeze.

Liquid Castile Soap & other cleaning substances

Liquid Castile soap is considered by many the liquid gold of cleaning products because it is the base for so many other low-chemical products, from shampoo to laundry and dish detergent.  It is totally purchasable online or at an organics store if you have one near you.  I didn't want to pay for shipping and I don't mind making it, so here it is.  



1 c. Shaved Soap
4 c. Water
2 tbsp. Glycerin (you can get it at most pharmacies, though it may be kept behind the counter)
Essential Oil, if you like

If you recall from "My weekend, the FAIL Blog", I haven't had so much luck making liquid soap straight from lye, oil  & water, so I did it the long way just to see what all the hype was about.  I used Crock Pot Hot Process Castile Soap (Castile, in this instance, meaning 100% Olive Oil).  This was the first time I had made an all olive oil soap and after all the hype I heard about it, I was disappointed.  The bars were dry and crumbly and the soap had little to no lather.  Some of this probably could have been avoided if I had been patient enough to make cold process soap instead, but it actually came in handy.  The first step in turning it into liquid Castile is to shred it.  If the soap had been hard, I would have grated it with the small side of a cheese grater.  If you do this, be careful! the soap easily becomes aerosol.  Since my soap was crumbly, already, I chopped it up and put it in my food processor.  It worked beautifully.  Don't worry if you have extra soap shavings, they're also really useful!

CIMG0006 CIMG0007
P.S. I don't recommend using a nice muffin tin like the one above, it got ruined!

Bring your water to a boil and slowly add glycerin, essential oil, and soap shavings.  The soap shavings will probably clump no matter how slowly you add them.  Stir (with a spoon you don't mind loosing or that's plastic) and cook until everything is completely dissolved. 


Transfer to a heat-proof container to cool.  Don't worry if its watery, it'll gel up as it cools.  Wash your pot immediately.  While the soap is very mild, cooking it can be hard on pots (especially if there is a lot of aluminum in them).  It makes a great hand soap as is, but I'll post a bunch more recipes including this stuff!



1 c. Borax
1 c. Washing soda (it took a while, but i found it at Shop'n'Save in Washington & country fresh market in Richeyville)
1  c. (or 1 bar) shaved soap

Mix together and store in an air-tight container so it doesn't clump.  Use 1-2 tbsp. per load, depending how soiled. 


1 c. Borax
1 c. Washing soda
1/2 c. Salt
1/2 c. Citric Acid (lemon kool-aid mix, fruit fresh, or powdered citric acid if you can find it)

Mix and store.  1-2 tbsp per load.  This one clumps easily so keep the humidity away!  Put vinegar in the rinse-aid slot if you find the dishes to have a white film on them. 


1 tsp Borax
1/2 tsp Washing Soda
2 tbsp Lemon Juice
1 c Hot Water
Citrus Essential Oil, if you like

Pour into spray bottle, shake and go at it!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Whole Wheat "Bisquick"

  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons baking powder (non-aluminum)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup powdered milk (organic)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
Add all of the dry ingredients and mix.  Add canola oil and mix thoroughly, using your fingers to "de-lump" if necessary.  Store in the refrigerator. 

I used it in my zucchini appetizer recipe and, while it def changed the appearance, taste-wise you could hardly tell! I wonder how pancakes will turn out. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Products I Like: Oils

Part of making this transition easy on my wallet is limiting the amount of driving I have to do to get to my food.  The nearest grocery stores and bastions of civilization aren't exactly close, so I try not to stray too far from them in my shopping excursions, our gas bill is high enough as is. 

This series is on products I can buy that are natural and/or organic, convenient and reasonably priced. 


47efd0bf86493 45ca66649880a 47efe3a46b226

These guys make a ton of organic oils and oil products (mayonnaise, salad dressing, vinegars).  Their coconut oils are what I use in my soaps as well as lots of beauty applications.  Their High Hear Canola Spray is the only organic high heat I have ever seen.  High heat oils are great both for grilling and any sort of quick pan frying.  Their resistance to higher heats allows them to not burn and create a very difficult to remove residue on your pans.  Sold at Giant Eagle. 



These guys offer organic spray oils available at  Giant Eagle. 


Giant Eagle's natural generic brand.  They make a mean organic olive oil. 

Finding Direction

I realized the other day that, while it was floating around in my head, I hadn't actually stated my goal for this little blog, so here goes:

My goal is to slowly find ways to reduce the amount of chemicals in my life in ways that are sustainable within my budget and lifestyle.  This means finding low chemical or chemical-free solutions whose cost, taste, quality and level of convenience I can live with. 

I'm going to try to replace things as I run out of them, so as to reduce waste.  If I can't find a good solution, I'll table it until I do.  This probably won't lead to the perfect green lifestyle, but it will still be healthier than what I had before and I'm OK with that.  All things in moderation.