Friday, August 15, 2014

Inside My Fridge - August 15, 2014

Inside My Fridge

Why do I share pictures of what's inside my fridge? Well, as I said on my first post on the subject (four years ago), I initially planned for this to be a weekly series. In America, where children routinely go hungry each day, we throw away almost half of our food. It boggles the mind. 

Frugality is not just about "not buying stuff" or "not spending money," but about using what we have, using it all. To that end, a weekly cleaning and assessment of the fridge ensures that we find items before they go bad, so that we can use them up. The weekly "Inside My Fridge" picture was meant to be a vehicle for me for refrigerator cleaning, and some meal planning. If you click on the "Inside My Fridge" tab at the top of this blog, however, you'll see that I quickly abandoned the weekly commitment.

I didn't clean my fridge pre-picture, but I have a pretty good idea of what's in most of the fridge right now. The majority of those tomatoes will go into a sauce for pizza tonight. Pizza is also the plan for the chunks of fresh mozzarella in the jar by the peanut butter, and for the roasted zucchini slices in the jar to the left of the basket of oranges. I ran out of containers, so my cantaloupe is covered with plastic wrap; I'm happy to report that plastic wrap is used rarely in our home these days.

I've been experimenting with sourdough lately, so you can see my jar up yeast up there on the top shelf, next to a "mixed berry" homemade yogurt. The white crock is full of yogurt to strain/flavor tomorrow. Today, I'm making pickles with cucumbers, and with onions/peppers!

If you haven't seen a fridge picture in a while, send me a challenge! Post on my Facebook page Becky's Favorite Things: and ask me to post a picture....right now!, or post your own there if you're feelin' froggy.

And if you find refrigerators as fascinating as I do, you'll enjoy visiting my initial inspiration for the "Inside My Fridge" project, Mark Menjivar's "You Are What You Eat" project (warning: his pictures are much more professional than mine!).

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Neighbor's Garden: tomato in the flowerbed

Edible Landscaping
My very first post on this blog was about planting edible landscaping, and my first foray into that endeavor was putting squash into my flowerbeds. In the four years since, I've gradually been digging up and planting my only prime, full-sun space...which is the front yard. 

Now, I live in a rural/suburban area, and several of my neighbors have always had gardens. But this year, I've seen all sorts of wonderful edibles springing up in front of people's houses, and I decided I want to start sharing some of them. The house above is one I pass by daily, when I take my dog for a walk. Sometimes I chat with an older gentleman who has a morning cigarette on his porch. There are always lovely flowers/bulbs blooming here, and it's always a treat to pass by. This year, I was really pleased to see a few tomato plants keeping the flowers company (you can spot a few ripe ones if you look closely!).

Keep it growing folks!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Soothing Body Balm, with Lemon & Lavender

 Natural, soothing body balm
I have fairly dry skin, especially in the winter. I used to slather my face with Vaseline before bed, but wanted to find a non-petroleum alternative (FYI, aquaphor is 41% petrolatum). I began experimenting, trying many formulas and ingredients, and this is my official "Becky's Body Balm" recipe. It is soothing, moisturizing, and chock-full of great stuff for your skin!

I started out making it as just a blend of oils, but it was too....oily. The beeswax helps a lot. If you make your own, experiment with varying proportions of ingredients to suit your taste and/or budget. 

The basic recipe is 1 part beeswax, 1 part coconut oil, 1 part shea butter, and 1 part a mix of olive/sweet almond/jojoba oils. I also add some raw cocoa butter, pure Vitamin E oil, and essential oils.

Step One: set up a double boiler. Mine is just a stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan filled with water. I turn it on to medium, but then keep it low once the water has heated up.

Step Two: Add beeswax; I like these little pellets. Keep an eye on it and, when the beeswax melts, you'll probably want to lower your heat.

coconut oil
Step Three: Add coconut oil. I try to put in the things that can take a higher heat first, so the heat will only go down from here!

raw cocoa butter
Step Four: Add raw cocoa butter. This is what it looks like, if you've never seen it before, and yes, it does smell like chocolate. 

cocoa butter
I was so excited when I first got my cocoa butter that I decided to make something with only cocoa and shea butters, but what began as a "deliciously chocolate" aroma was so overwhelming after heating/cooling in my kitchen for a few hours that I actually became nauseated. Now I only add a small amount (as you can see above).

Shea butter
Step Five: once all of that has melted well while I mix gently, I turn off the heat completely and add in the shea butter. You can purchase white shea butter, but it has been more highly refined. Raw shea butter can vary in color, but it has a definite yellow tint (much like most beeswax).

Step Six: add in olive oil, sweet almond oil, and jojoba oil.

body balm
Step Seven: Remove bowl completely from the saucepan and stir regularly. If you have a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, I think it would be ideal to use here on a really low speed, but I don't have one. I set my bowl on a towel and try to stir it every 5-10 minutes until it cools down and begins to firm up. Once I can see it getting firmer/thicker, I add the Pure Vitamin E oil and any essential oils. Currently, I use tea tree oil, and lemon/lavender essential oils until I like the smell. 

It's important to keep it moving at this stage, or the beeswax will seem to "re-form" slightly. It's not a big deal, since the beeswax will easily re-melt if you rub it between your hands before applying (and some of my friends prefer it that way).

Lemon & Lavender essential oils in Body Balm
Once it has cooled down and smoothed out, pour into your container of choice and use/share! This is a great way to reuse old body butter containers. Jelly jars also are an affordable/convenient option. I recently found a great source for these little tins, which are wonderful for the Body Balm.

I use this on my face and body every day. It is terrific for dry, cracked hands in winter, and for soothing skin in summer. Not everyone can handle the emollients on their face, but I don't know anyone who doesn't like it for knees, elbows, or ankles. I am experimenting with adding some zinc oxide to the mix for a mild barrier sunblock, and thus far I like the results! I'll keep you posted.

Go forth, and make your own!!