Wednesday, July 10, 2013

5 Honestly Free & Clear Cleaning Products

Recently, I realized that not all of the "free & clear" or "all-natural" or "uncomplicated" cleaners were really free & clear of the harsh sulfates that irritate my skin. I was using one of these cleaners when I was having a typical reaction - skin rash, itchy, sneezy, yuck-foo reaction! I looked on the back of the all purpose cleaner to see that it included some of the harsh sulfates that my body just won't tolerate. I've known for a long time to look out for these in my shampoos & body washes. But household cleaners? It didn't occur to me to look at the ingredients, and most of them don't even list the ingredients! So I did a little digging online and found ingredients for a lot of the "all-natural" free of SLS and other bad ingredients. It seems that a lot of them still contain similar ingredients to SLS, or actually contain SLS (sodium Laurel or Laureth Sulphate or Sulfate). I believe they are offering a better alternative than the harsh cleaners. But I could only find a few actual product lines that were across the board, completely free of that wretched sulfate that I seem to have an allergic reaction to.

Here are the 5 cleaning lines that I feel safe to purchase without having to read the labels, right now at least, because we all know things change.

Citrus Magic by Beaumont products - Each "brand" has only a few products, but this company seems to offer several different brands such as TreWax & Natural Veggie Wash as well as some body products that all have really clean & simple ingredients on their labels.

Bon Ami - This cleanser impressed me the most. They've been around for 125 years and still only contain 5 simple ingredients in their powder cleanser. They claim "When chemicals changed cleaning, people found us. We've kept it clean for over 125 years!" Seriously, thank you guys!!! This is an inexpensive product that really does the job. If I am looking for a cleaner and see this on the shelf, I will pick it up hands down!

What-EVER Cleaner by Better Life - These guys have offered a sense of humor with their clean packaging. And it was one of the products I picked up in Whole Foods and thought it would surely contain some harsh ingredients. Nope, these guys are clean across the board. Good for you guys! Thanks for creating a new line of products that might just catch on with some generation.

Nellie's All-Natural - This is a package that I was curious about. It looks like a DIY product that just happened to start selling and developed an audience. I'm not sure where you can buy it in the stores, but it's available on their website & other online retailers. If you want to make your own laundry detergent, but just don't have the time, buy this. This is a simple product, with ingredients you can understand with a lighthearted whimsical package. I wanna get my hands on this stuff. She's doing a great thing!

ECOS Earth Friendly Products - You'll find these guys in a lot of the big box stores like Costco - ECOS detergent and don't hesitate when you see it, just pick it up! This is one mass packaged good that is making it big and staying true to their roots. This family owned and operated company has a whole line of cleaners. They even claim to run the manufacturing of the products themselves. You won't find them everywhere, but seek them out. It's another great economical choice and will let you feel good about what you're doing for the environment. I sure hope they don't get bought out by one of the big guys!

If I hadn't developed this sensitivity to sulfates, I never would have looked into this stuff. Sure there are some other "green" products out there that are probably safe for the environment... but they just don't seem to have my skin in mind when they were picking out the ingredients. So for now, I'm trying to stay true to my own roots and working on my own homemade cleaners. I haven't perfected them yet... but when I do, I'll make sure to spread the word!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Kindergarten circa 1980

In honor of my son’s first day of elementary school, I have been reminiscing about my own first day of school.  Although it was 32 years ago and my memory is a bit foggy, I do have a photo that reminds me of a few things that happened that day.

I lived on a cul-de-sac just 2 blocks from my school, North City Elementary. In those days, anyone could play on the playground. My mother would take us to the playground or running on the track ever since I could remember. So I was very familiar with the school grounds. Two of the other families on the cul-de-sac had children who were already attending the school.

My parents dressed me up in a cute little dress. I had a letter attached to my jacket with a safety pin that was for the teacher. I’m not sure what it said, but I can guess it was my name and address or some sort of identification. We took pictures at the top of my driveway and then I was off to school. It was only natural that all the kids in my neighborhood would walk to school. My parents had arranged for the neighbor kids to walk with me on that first day, and I did walk to school with them on most days. The oldest two were in fifth grade and the younger two in third or second grade if memory serves.

My school had one kindergarten classroom and there were 35 – 40 students in it. We had one main teacher and about 3 teacher assistants. The class was divided up into different learning areas, each teacher was in charge of a different learning area. Our class was half day, but somehow we also managed to get a nap in while we were there. We played on the same playground the older kids used, although I think we went at a different time than they did.

When the school day was over, my mom walked down with my 2 year old sister to greet me. I don’t remember how often she met me. She was also pregnant the year I was in kindergarten and my baby sister was born on June 29th. I cannot imagine my mom with a toddler and in her third trimester of pregnancy coming to meet me after school every day that year. My mom also recollects that she was terribly sick during all of her pregnancies… again, not so sure she was able to come and meet me every day after school. I am positive that there were days I left kindergarten and walked home alone.

When I started school, a flyer was sent home for parents to order metal identification bracelets. I got one a few weeks later and It had my name, address and phone number on it. Just in case I got lost. I lived in the suburbs of Seattle in a little area called Shoreline. It was not the safest place in the city, but the schools had good marks and my parents purchased a nice large home, perfect for a budding family. I was the oldest, so I remember not being allowed to do things that, later my younger sisters did way before my age. My mom didn’t let me pierce my ears until I was 10 years old. We went to church religiously – several times a week even! I started Kindergarten in 1980, two years after Ted Bundy was caught killing girls in the Seattle area and during the same time that the Green River Killer was killing girls, mostly prostitutes in the Seattle area and leaving them for dead in the Green River. The times were not necessarily safe and the newspaper definitely had a lot of doom and gloom. Yet, it was normal for a child of 5 years old to walk to school and if needed, walk home alone.

Cut to 2012… My son is now 5 years old and entering school on Monday. Since day one, my parenting goal has been to help him become a happy, independent and responsible adult. Somewhere along the last few years, I was introduced to the "Free Range Kids" movement. I loved the freedom I had in my childhood, and I want the same for my children. I spoke to my parents about my first day of school and how I walked to school without an adult. They immediately defended the situation with, but you were with the neighbors, and we didn't live in a big city like... Encinitas. Let me just say, the current population of Encinitas is only about 15% larger than the population of Shoreline, WA in 1980. My parents could never imagine me letting their precious grandchildren walk to or from school with each other. At least not until they are much, much older.

Recently, I visited my son’s new school. I was informed that in kindergarten, if an approved adult is not present to pick up the child, the child will not leave the premises.  I wondered, when can the children walk with a friend or sibling, to and from school?  The principal’s response was: “it is not a good idea until at least 3rd grade.” He cited some stuff about them being legally responsible for the child until they return to their parents or guardian. Really? Wow, I never would have guessed that! I’m not one to buck the norm, but I really had hoped my son would learn some independence this year. I guess I will be turning to 4-H for some of that and later Cub Scouts. I really do love his school so far, so I will wait to see how things go. Things have definitely changed!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fluffy Pancakes

I was browsing my Better Homes & Garden's New Cook Book circa 1971 this morning, looking for some inspiration. Pancakes sounded yummy, but I am out of my premix and worried that it would be a pain to make them from scratch... Much to my surprise, it was a piece of cake and tasted like one too! After making these, I am never going back to premixed again. Seriously, they were that good!!!


1-1/4 cup flour
3 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp ground flax meal (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla

While you are heating up your griddle, sift together dry ingredients (I combined 1/4 cup whole wheat flour along with 1 cup white flour to make them a little healthier). Combine egg, milk, oil and vanilla; add to dry ingredients whisk together just until moistened. Bake on a hot, well oiled or buttered griddle or pan. Serve warm with butter melted on top and your favorite topping.

- the less you stir the fluffier they will turn out to be
- heat your pan or griddle on medium, to make sure it's the right temp - splash with water, when the water dances on the pan it is ready
- pancakes are usually ready to turn when the upside turns bubbly and some have burst, this recipe seemed to be so fluffy that I turned just before any of the bubbles burst

Monday, April 2, 2012

Crazy Chocolate Cake

Baking with my kids can mean a lot of patience on my part, but I really like to get them in the kitchen to experience cooking from scratch as I did oh so many years ago. One rainy day I really wanted to make something with them more as a project than for a meal... I got out one of my friend's family recipe books and found an interesting recipe that only called for a few ingredients and a lot of hands on time. PERFECT! That sounded just like what I was looking for, simple but lots of things for little hands to do. It certainly was a success and my kids loved it!

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
3 heaping Tbsp cocoa
pinch salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 cups water

Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and cocoa three times. Then sift right into a 9x13 inch pan. Make three holes in the mixture (1 large, 1 medium and 1 small). In the large hole, add the oil, in the medium size hole, add the cider vinegar, and in the small hole, add the vanilla. Pour water over entire mixture. Mix thoroughly with a spoon or spatula. Bake at 350' for about 30 minutes.

This was delicious slightly warm straight from the oven. And as we continued to nibble at it over the week, it was great mixed with ice cream or just eaten plain. You can also frost with whatever frosting you wish.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ambrosia Salad

Ambrosia salad reminds me of 1982. I was about 7 and I remember, that was a salad that I would be happy to eat from the buffet! It had marshmallows and some fruit in it. Well, the holidays always make me reminiscint for times of yesteryear. So this holiday season, I decided to round out my egg casserole and nutella french toast brunch with a festive Holiday Ambrosia Salad!

1 lb fresh cranberries, halved (or approx 2 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
2 oranges
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
2 diced, unpeeled apples
1 cup seedless grapes, halved

1/2 cup candied pecans chopped
2 cups miniature marshmallows
8 oz. Cool Whip
shredded coconut

Chop cranberries, pour into large bowl and mix with sugar & zest of one orange. Let sit overnight. The next day cut the oranges in half like a grapefruit. Cut the orange halves as if you were sectioning a grapefruit and remove the orange sections. Mix the cranberries, orange sections, pineapple, apples, grapes, pecans and marshmallows. Fold in Cool Whip lightly. Cover and chill. Lightly sprinkle with coconut before serving. Serve with a side of candied pecan pieces and extra coconut for those coconut lovers.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Specialties

Peanuts characters are © Charles M. Schulz


I am whipping up a few of my favorites for Thanksgiving Dinner today. Thought I would share the recipes with you. These are super easy ways to make the ordinary a little more extraordinary. On today, I am happy to say, I am so thankful for my friends - who are my family - because without you, I would not be as courageous as a I am. If you decide to make one of these recipes, please know that you don't have to follow it specifically. For example, no sausage - that's fine just add the veggies or no spiced cider, just use regular. Enjoy your special day!

1 bag Fresh Cranberries (12oz)
1 cup Spiced Cider
1 cup Sugar

Add all ingredients to a pot, heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Once they are bubbling, simmer until most have popped open, approx 5-10 minutes. Pour into a dish and cool.

1 large box Stuffing w/ seasonings
1 Onion
3 sprigs Celery
2 Apples
1 package sausage
4 Tbsp Butter
2 Cups Chicken or Turkey Stock
4 Eggs
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cook sausage in pan breaking up into small pieces. Once cooked thoroughly, remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl and set aside. Chop Onions, Celery and start to sautee in pan that you cooked sausage in. Add salt & Pepper to taste. Chop Apple and add to pan. Continue to sautee until soft, approx 2 more minutes. Add all of this mixture to the bowl with sausage. Add bread from stuffing mix to same bowl and begin to mix. In a separate bowl mix 2 cups stock with 4 eggs. Slowly start pouring liquid and seasonings mixture into bread mixture a little at a time. Continue to mix so that all of the stuffing is lightly wet and not soggy. Now pour all ingredients into a well buttered casserole dish. Cover casserole dish and bake at 350' for approx 30 minutes. Remove cover, dot top with butter and cook until golden brown, approx 15 minutes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crock Pot Chili-Lite

It has been getting chilly for Southern Cal... down into the 40's at night. Burr! This winter weather has me hankering for a slow cooked warm meal in my crock pot. I am not a bean connoisseur, but I am a healthy meal and leftovers connoisseur... My kids will eat up anything that has beans in it, so making a meal full of beans not only uses what I already have in my cupboards, but gives me a meal that seriously will last all week if I want it to. Here's how I made it and there are a few different ways to serve it up!

2lb. can Pinto Beans
14oz. can Black Beans
14oz. can chopped tomatoes
4oz. can tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots peeled & diced
1 brown onion diced
1/2 Green Bell Pepper seeded & diced
1/2 Red Bell Pepper seeded & diced
1/2 Anaheim Chili seeded & diced (more to preferred spice)
1/2lb lean ground turkey
4oz. Gimme Lean Ground Sausage (vegetarian)
1 Chili seasoning packet
Salt & pepper to taste

Seed, peel & chop all veggies. Start cooking in a pan over medium heat by sauteeing onion, diced peppers, ground turkey and sausage in 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add a dash of salt & pepper as well as some of the chili spices. Cook until meat is not pink.

Rinse beans and drain. Add beans, meat mixture and the rest of the ingredients to the crock pot. Add more or less water as needed. Note, I use a half of the small can of tomato paste. This chili is mild - so my kids would eat it, if you like it spicy add the seeds from the peppers (the seeds are what hold the majority of the spice) and include the whole Anaheim chili and additional 1-2 jalapeno peppers can be diced and added if you like to really turn up the heat.

Turn the crock pot on Medium. Thoroughly mix all ingredients. Cover the crock pot and leave it set for 4-6 hours. Since the meat is pre-cooked, you can technically eat at anytime, it just tastes better if all the ingredients are given some time to melt into eachother.

Chili over Baked Potatoes
Chili Hot Dogs
Chili 'n Mac 'n Cheese
Chili & Grilled Cheese

Not only did this recipe warm my home, but it also warmed all of our bellies many times over. Bonus, I felt like a good mama since there was not really any added fat and we all got an extra serving of veggies in the form of the peppers & carrots. My kids had no idea. And it reminded me, I need to make some split pea soup again because it's a similar idea and they devour their veggies like there is no tomorrow!