Little…Tiny…Bugs: Turning Milk Into Yogurt

Little…Tiny…Bugs: Turning Milk Into Yogurt

How To Make Your Own Yogurt

Happy Monday folks! Being mothers of small children that keep us very busy and with Joc moving into her new house, we’ve had a little trouble getting out a post to you this week. Luckily, Joc imported her posts from her old blog which was along the same theme as this one. Phew! 

Here are her awesome and enlightening instructions on how to make your own yogurt. I promise you will not be disappointed!

-Tracy

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I am going to tell you a sad story. I never heard of anyone making their own yogurt until I was 20 years old and in my 3rd year of University.

Save your hankies. That’s not the sad part. Making your own yogurt is not that common, even though it is ridiculously easy, way tastier than store-bought and much, much cheaper. No, the sad part is that when I tasted that first batch of homemade yogurt, I was disappointed because I expected it to be sweet (Go ahead, break out the tissue). I had no idea yogurt was naturally just… sour. No idea. I grew up eating the sweetened variety; we never had plain yogurt in our house. Being raised in what was affectionately called “God’s Country” in the age of no internet and TFC (Two Frikken Channels, for those of you who are unaware), I had no exposure to “exotic menus”. Never heard of tzatziki or raita, or yogurt ranch dressings.

Boy, am I making up for lost time.

I recently rediscovered the world of homemade yogurt thanks to one of my favorite blogs, Crunchy Betty. The post that I initially took my instruction from was written for her site by a guest blogger and is informative and hilarious… you should go look. I have tweaked her method a little bit to suit me and so I will give you my instructions to homemade yogurt shortly.

But first, why should you make your own yogurt?

First and foremost, it’s SO much cheaper. At my grocery store, 650 g of plain organic yogurt costs $4.97. 1L of organic milk costs $3.39 (because I am a mathematical dunce, I shall not attempt to tell you what the difference is by gram or ounce. If you are smarter than me and want to figure out the per unit cost difference, I’m kinda interested to know your answer). And that’s all you need to make yogurt: just milk. Well, ok, initially you do need to buy a little bit of yogurt to use as a starter, but after that you can just keep using a bit of your new, homemade batch to start the next one. It’s never-ending cost savings! Bonus reason for making yogurt: you no longer have to recycle tons of plastic containers since you can just store your yogurt in the same jar over and over! (But uh… wash it between uses, ok?)

Secondly, it tastes miles better. It’s creamier and just… yum. Also, you know what goes into it. You can pick what kind of milk you want to use (or you can kick it up a notch and use half and half for a seriously decadent yogurt and other things which I will reveal at a later date) and can control how thick or how tart you want it to be. You can flavor it with anything edible under the sun. You might not want to use just anything, of course. For example, hamburger yogurt doesn’t sound terribly appetizing to me. But you can play around with your flavoring and have combinations of things that you just can’t buy in the stores. I made pear apple mango yogurt sweetened with a bit of honey and flavored with cinnamon the other day. Holy cats, was it good.

Yogurt
I remembered this comic when I was thinking about writing this post. While I was searching for it, I found an archive of all For Better Or For Worse strips and …well, let’s just say I started writing much later than I wanted to.

The last really good reason (though I’m sure there are more that I’m missing) is that yogurt is really, really good for you. Those little tiny bugs are lactobacteria and they promote a healthy belly which means that you get better at digesting. Yogurt packs a walloping punch of protein (10 to 14g per 8oz of yogurt, according to Dr. Sears) making it an excellent choice for anyone – but especially for people who might need to be creative about where they get their protein. It’s got tons of calcium, increases the bio-availability of other nutrients for better absorption, can boost immunity, can decrease yeast infections… need I say more? Frankly, I don’t think so. I think you’ve probably already bounded into your kitchen and are standing there with a carton of milk in your hand, ready and waiting to get your culture on.

So you’re ready to start? OK.

Here’s what you need to make 1 L of your very own fresh, organic yogurt:

  • A pot capable of holding 1 L of milk which means, of course, that you need
  • 1 L of homogenized milk (I like to get the organic stuff. You don’t have to use organic, but I’ve tried both kinds and I think the organic is creamier. You can also use lower fat, but full fat works best, consistency-wise.)
  • A small amount of PLAIN yogurt (for your starter)
  • 1 or 2 clean jars with lids (again, enough to hold 1 L.)
  • An oven with a working light inside, a few tea towels, a baking pan, and a thermometer (the thermometer is optional. I’ll tell you how to gauge without it.)

So you’ve gathered all your supplies and made sure they are scrubbed nice and clean? (If you’re feeling zealous, it’s a good idea to sterilize all your equipment by boiling… but I am rarely zealous.) Good.

1. Put about a heaped tablespoon of plain yogurt in a safe spot where it can come to room temperature. (When I say safe spot, I mean don’t forget what it’s there for and rinse out the dish because you are a clean-as-you-goer. I am here to tell you, that will set you back in the process.)

2. Pour milk into pot and bring to 180F to 190F. Do this slowly. If you don’t have a thermometer — and I should tell you that I use a meat thermometer — you will know that it’s about the right temperature when it starts to get a light skin on top and you can see a few bubbles, just before it boils.

3. HOLD the milk at this temperature for 15 or 20 minutes. This step is where the magic happens; it’s the difference between soupy yogurt and yogurt that has a consistency closer to store-bought. (THEY add pectin or gelatin to achieve that consistency.) Holding the milk at this temperature allows the milk to denature – or have it’s proteins broken down for easier bacterial consumption. This part can be tricky if you don’t have a thermometer, but the key is to not let it boil. That being said, if you LIKE soupy yogurt, skip this step altogether.

4. Let the milk cool to 110F. If you want this to happen quickly, you can pour your milk into a Pyrex measuring cup or even into the jars that you’re planning on using, submerge into an ice bath and pop it in the fridge. If you do that, you’ll only need to wait 30 minutes or so. For you no-mometer people, 110F is when you can stick your (clean) finger into the milk and hold it there comfortably for 10 seconds. If you have a crazy high pain threshold, this may not be the best test for you.

5.  Add your starter yogurt to the cooled milk. Mix it all up to let the cultures invade. According to a cheese-making site I found yogurt instructions on, you should only stir side to side and up and down… apparently you should do that whenever making cheese. I am not privy to the reasoning behind that one, but I listen anyway.

6. Pour the inoculated milk into jars, stand them in the baking tray, and snuggle them down under a couple of tea towels, uncapped. Turn the oven light on and tuck them in for the night. I say “for the night” because this step takes about 8.. 10… 15 hours. The longest I’ve left mine was 15 hours and the least was 10. The longer you let it incubate, the more tart it will be.

At this stage, all you need to do is cap your jars and refrigerate for about 4 hours, then you can fill your boots! Figuratively, I mean. But… if you literally want to use your yogurt to fill your boots, I suppose that’s your prerogative.

I flavored my first batch with strawberries.

Homemade yogurt
My very first bowl of yogurt awesomeness. Some are not convinced of its esthetic appeal, but I am.

Because I could wax long and poetical about this subject, I will save the topic of flavoring your yogurt for another post. In anticipation of that piece, however, I’d love to know: what is your favorite way to use plain yogurt?

-Joc

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Grouping Photo Frames: A Weekend Project

Grouping Photo Frames: A Weekend Project

How to group framed photos without spending a lot of money

How to group photo frames
I need to fix the blue one.

If you’re like me you probably have lots of old frames kicking around the house.

You don’t? Well that’s OK too. You can pick up inexpensive frames at the dollar store or even by poking around in thrift shops.

There’s a few little tricks you can use to make your frames all work together. If you want to go for a more formal look, you can go for all black frames with either no matting, all the same matting or a mix of both. To group them in a formal setting you can evenly space them in straight lines.

For a more casual look (like I did) take your old frames of any size, shape, or color. You can use leftover wall paint from previous renos and paint your frames. When painting the frames it’s easiest if you take the glass out, but if it doesn’t come out you can use painters tape to keep paint off the glass. If you don’t actually have any leftover paint you can buy really inexpensive mis-tints at the hardware store, sometimes even in nice little containers for $1! Or you can just use any paint you have, like toll paints. I didn’t paint all my frames in this project; just the ones that really didn’t match. I left the black ones as they were.

What you’ll need for a casual grouping of photo frames:

  • Photos
  • Frames
  • Paint (and brushes)
  • Picture hangers (or nails and a hammer)
  • A level
  • Various photo mats (optional)

In a casual grouping, it doesn’t matter if the mats are matching or even similar. I’m a big fan of shabby-chic so I liked that my frames and mats were all different.  To group photos in a casual formation… well, there are no rules. Pretty much anything goes. You don’t want them to be too perfect. I like to lay them out on the floor first to see what looks good. Chose the photo you want for the center and work your way out from there. You don’t need to space them equally; just move them around until you find a configuration that you like, then set to hanging. The most important thing when hanging is to make sure they are level.

Use a level

When attaching the pictures to the wall, I find it easiest to use Command Picture Hanging Strips. No hammers or nails needed and they won’t damage your walls if used properly. Great for rentals!

Keep the strips attached to each other, remove the backing from one side and stick them to your frame. Then remove the backing off the other side of the strips, hold the frame up to the wall where you want it to go with the level set on top, then stick! Another great thing about these strips is that you can easily adjust them if they aren’t quite level.

And it’s as easy as that. Keep sticking your frames to the walls in your pre-determined pattern, making sure each individual frame is level. When they’re all up, stand back and look at them all as a whole. You’ll most likely be able to see if there are any that aren’t quite right, and then you can readjust until you are content.

The nice thing about this method is that you can start off with a few frames and keep adding to the configuration over time. You can eventually cover the whole wall if you like! (I’m working towards that because I’m very camera happy.)

Good luck!

-Tracy

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts or questions about this project. We also would love to see photos of your completed version!  

Homemade Natural Deodorant – That Works!

Homemade Natural Deodorant – That Works!

How to make your own natural deodorant

Homemade All-Natural Deodorant

I’ve always found that deodorant and/or antiperspirant didn’t work for me. No matter what kind, what brand, or how often I put it on, after about an hour of sweating, I smell. (T.M.I?) The only solution I could think of was, “A stronger scent!” so when all the fancy smelling deodorants came out on the market I thought I was saved. Nope. I just smelled like raspberry and green apple scented B.O.
Gross.

I lived with the bouquets dipped in stink that were my underarms for years until one day my sister (Joc!) told me about the homemade natural variety she was using and how wonderful it was. I was skeptical. If a barrage of chemicals couldn’t do the trick, how in the name of cheeses could something homemade even make a dent?? But what did I have to lose, right? So I tried it. Well I tried a few recipes. After a bit of tinkering I finally found one that worked really well for me. Without further ado, here it is!

Homemade All-Natural Moisturizing Deodorant (That Works!)

*Makes 125 ml (1/2 cup)

Note: In colder temperatures you may want to add a tiny bit of liquid oil, like avocado or olive, to keep the deodorant softer as coconut oil can be pretty firm when cold. This recipe should be fine as is in warmer temperatures, though.

Method: Warm coconut oil and shea butter in a glass submerged in hot water, mashing with a fork as you do, until just melted. Whisk in the remaining ingredients until incorporated. Pour into a shallow jar and let cool at room temperature, shaking every so often to keep the baking soda suspended. Store at room temperature. (Coconut oil melts at about 76 Fahrenheit or 25 Celsius so store in a place cooler than that.)

To use: Mix the Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and water in a small spray bottle. Spray diluted ACV on clean underarms then apply deodorant with fingertips on top of it, daily or as needed.

Warning: if you’ve just shaved your underarms, the ACV may sting! You may want to wait a little while but I find as soon as I rub on the deodorant the stinging stops.

You can also use this deodorant without the ACV, but I find it gives you extra odor protection. This is probably because baking soda is a very alkaline substance and throws the pH level of your pits off balance if you use it on its own, and odor-causing bacteria has no trouble with that kind of environment. The vinegar, being acidic, neutralizes your pH level, which then helps kill off the smelly guys. This balancing effect also helps with the irritation issues some folks find are caused by the baking soda in homemade deodorants. ACV apparently can be used as a deodorant all on its own as well, which I can’t personally attest to, but I would assume the effectiveness here is due to the vinegar’s acidity acting as an antibacterial agent. And you can’t go wrong that!

I think it’s also worth noting that based on the other recipes I tried (some didn’t work) the magic ingredient seems to be the Shea butter. The recipes I tried that just used coconut oil as a base were nice but they didn’t stop the stink — not for me anyway. This stuff works so well I usually only need to apply it once a day. I’ve even gone longer than a day and was fine.

A Few Recipe Notes:

  • Tea tree and lavender oil have antibacterial properties so they’re a good choice. You can choose any kind of essential oils you like for their scent, though.
  • You can use cornstarch in place of arrowroot but it’s not as smooth. Arrowroot is preferable.
  • Shea butter is a wonderful moisturizer. It is great on razor bumps and minor cuts as well and therefore the perfect ingredient to add to your deodorant. I find it also adds a bit of a moisture barrier.
  • Try to use organic, unprocessed ingredients where possible to avoid unknown additives and to ensure you’re getting all their natural benefits.
  • This is a deodorant, NOT an antiperspirant. You will still sweat (which is a normal and healthy bodily function) but you won’t smell yucky. Hooray!

Do  everyone a favor and unsmellify yourselves!

Did this recipe work for you? Do you have your own that you swear by? We’d love to hear from you!

-Tracy

Pillow Cover: A Weekend Project

Pillow Cover: A Weekend Project

How to sew a toss-cushion cover

Skill Level: minimal sewing knowledge

Toss cushions are a great way to add color and style to any space without a whole lot of commitment. You can change them up any time and they really can help to bring an otherwise boring space to life.

This tutorial will show you how to sew a pillow cover with a Velcro closure that you can put over an old pillow or use with a new insert. You can complete this project in just a few hours. You can even make this out of an old pillow case, shirt or blanket if you don’t want to buy new fabric!

What you need (for a 22″ pillow):

  • 1 – 23″ x 23″ piece of material
  • 1 – 23″ x 10″ piece of material (A)
  • 1- 23″ x 17″ piece of material (B)
  • Hook and Loop Tape (Velcro) – 21″ strip
  • Thread in coordinating colors

Making an accent cushion
1. First thing’s first: pick your fabrics. You can use all the same kind of fabric or you can do multiple patterns if you don’t have enough of one type.

2. Using the fabric that you want to be on the “front” of your pillow, cut a piece measuring 23″ x 23″. Depending on how particular you are, you may want to center your pattern (I didn’t). For the “back”, cut one 23″ x 10″ piece and another measuring 23″ x 17″.

3. Measure out a 21″ strip of Velcro (you want it to be slightly shorter than the width of your pillow).

4. Fold down one side of each of the back pieces twice and press to make a double hem.  A 1/2″ hem works well here and will leave you enough fabric to make a 23″ x 23″ square to match up with your front piece.
 photo Pillow-Hems_zps82e25b21.jpg

5. Attach the Velcro to the hem, one piece facing up, the other facing down (so they will be able to attach, obviously!).

6. Attach your now-fastened Velcro strips to each other and make sure they are straight. You should have a nice, even square, no smaller than 23″ x 23″.

7. Draw a centered 22″ x 22″ square around the edges of the wrong side — the side that will be inside of the pillow — of the back square. This will be your sew line.

(Tip: If you make your case a bit smaller than your filler (For example 21.5″ x 21.5″ in this case) you’ll achieve a fuller, firmer result.)
 photo Pillow-SewLine_zps8e73e794.jpg

8. Pin the front piece to the back piece, right sides facing in. Sew along the line you drew in the last step, back-stitching at the beginning and end to secure. There’s no need to leave a gap for turning since you can open the Velcro for that.
 photo Pillow-Pin_zps063b4d72.jpg

9. Take your sewn-together pieces and cut the corners off, being careful not to cut your seams, to reduce bulking.

10. Turn the whole shebang right-side out and poke the corners out using a turning tool.  (I just use a chop stick or a pen with the cap on.) Make sure you don’t push all the way through!

11. Finally, press the finished cover,  insert your filler (or old pillow) and you’re done!

Sew an accent pillow

As always, feel free to ask questions if anything is unclear. We’d love to see photos of your finished project too!

Have fun!

– Tracy

Ps. If you would like me to just make one for you, contact me on Etsy!

Quinoa Recipes: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Quinoa Recipes: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

 photo 4bcafbf1-3704-4275-a4aa-d35c38fb6ae0_zps020b4900.jpgYou know what’s really, really good for you? Quinoa. You know what I keep buying and then forgetting in the cupboard because I’m totally uninspired to use it? …Quinoa.

I have a few stock recipes for quinoa that I make frequently and that Scott and Toby will even eat (e.g.: quinoa lasagna, quinoa chili, quinoa pilaf), but lately I’ve become rather blasé about them. Since quinoa is still on the list of popular superfoods, being chock full of protein, iron, calcium and fibre, and since I have a huge unopened Costco bag of it that pleads with me every time I open my cupboard, I decided to go on a little recipe adventure. The internet is a neverending resource for recipes, right? There should be a multitude of quinoa recipes out there, right? And if someone takes the time to post a recipe on the internet, it must be a good one, right??

Oh, how very wrong that last sentence is.

Most of my quinoa dishes are savory, but currently I am experiencing what Scott calls my “pregnant sweet tooth”, so I decided to try dessert recipes. I gathered four of them which looked pretty good (and which didn’t have anything weirder than quinoa in the ingredients list. I found one recipe for cookies that had so many odd ingredients that quinoa was the only thing I recognized). One of the four was good, but the others… were not so much.

Behold the fruit of my trials:

 photo 262823b9-60ac-4a9b-85be-82a23cfb7d0e_zps87e63a47.jpg

The first recipe I tried was one for quinoa raisin muffins. I procured this one from a website that I had complete faith in, being that of a lauded domestic diva who’s name I dare not mention because, frankly, she scares me. Once begun, I decided to nix the raisins as I thought the combo of quinoa and raisins would just be too much for my boys to handle, and I substituted chocolate chips instead. However, I forgot to cool the quinoa after I cooked it, like the directions told me to, and so when I mixed the chocolate chips into the batter, they melted throughout. Ok, I thought, chocolate muffins. That didn’t seem amiss to me so I forged ahead and served them after lunch. Scott and I took an expectant bite and chewed. And we chewed… and chewed… and chewed. Dear god. Scott said they were so dense they could have been mistaken for Kardashians. Toby ate a bite or two, which is negligible for him and something made out of chocolate and so, sadly, these muffins met their destiny in the compost bin.

A few days later, I tried a recipe for peanut butter quinoa cookies that I found on the website for a newspaper. This recipe was very similar to the simple, three-ingredient cookie recipe you’ll often find on a jar of peanut butter, except that half the sugar was replaced with quinoa flour and there was a dash of vanilla added in. I didn’t have quinoa flour, but I do have a coffee grinder, so I just ground up some quinoa which I’ve done before with oats and rice. It worked a treat, and the cookies looked adorable, each one bearing a pert crosshatch design. I popped them in the oven. A delicious aroma permeated my kitchen as I started the clean up and then… they burned. To be fair, I can’t really blame this failure on the quinoa (but I will blame it on my crappy oven). I think I might actually try this recipe again one day after I’ve collected the scraps of my shredded dignity and a new jar of peanut butter, but I will certainly be watching them obsessively in the oven when I do.

The final straw was Sunday morning’s attempt at quinoa pancakes, the recipe for which I found on the website of a trusted “doctor”. I mixed and blended as per the the instructions (despite my dubiousness of actually blending pancake batter) and poured them on the griddle. They began perfectly, bubbles rising nicely to the top, and I prematurely began to write a blog post in my head, detailing how at least half of my quinoa recipes were successful. Humming happily, I tried to turn the first cake… with calamitous results. You know how pancakes are supposed to be… I dunno… cohesive? Well, these guys were not. Even though the bottoms were browned and crispy, just as they should be, the insides were the disgusting consistency of a quinoa mousse. This meant all my endeavors to flip resulted in splattered lumps of squishy paste. I tried in complete futility to at least get a few decent pancakes out of this recipe, but even my silver dollar cakes were a total disaster. I tasted one just to see what I was missing and I can tell you it wasn’t much. There is no way anyone in my house would’ve tolerated even a mouthful of those bland, bitter pancakes. Scott came into the kitchen as I was pouting over the griddle and asked what happened. I opened my mouth to answer and before the words came out of my mouth, he said, “You put quinoa in them, didn’t you??” When I nodded sheepishly, he threw up his hands and cried, “Enough is enough, Joc!”

And he was right. I was cured.

However. I did mention that I had one good recipe, and that is the recipe I found for brownies. This recipe was the first I tried which is why I had any faith to continue on this misadventure in the first place. These brownies are rich and dark chocolate-y without being over-sweet, and although I am normally in the camp of chewy brownie lovers, I can attest that the soft and fudgy centers of these brownies are delectable. I ate three of them before they were even done cooling. On top of all this, they are easy and fast to mix up, which is always balm for my lazy soul.

Chocolate Quinoa Brownies

 photo QuinoaBrownies2_zpsf245d3cd.jpg

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Rinse the quinoa in cold water. (As a side note, save that rinse water and you can then use it to wash your hair. I kid you not. Just scrub it in, let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse it out. Shiny, bouncy hair ensues. You are rinsing the quinoa to remove the saponin, the bitter coating which repels birds and insects and which also happens to be a natural surfactant. Interesting, no?) Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil and add quinoa. Cover and cook on low for 20 minutes, then let it sit, covered and off the heat, for 5 minutes. Cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease an 8×8 baking dish. I used butter to grease mine because butter is just better.
  3. Place all ingredients into food processor or blender (if you have a blender big enough) and combine until smooth. Pour into prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes clean.
  5. Cool on a cooling rack in the pan. Cut into squares and serve.

Serve with powdered sugar, if you want. Or with chocolate icing. Or with vanilla ice cream (which would be heartbreakingly good). Or just eat three of them right out of the pan.

And so, despite my misadventures, my faith in quinoa was not shaken. And don’t let them put you off! Quinoa is definitely worth the effort since the health benefits are strong with this little seed. But if quinoa pilaf or lasagna just isn’t your thing, then I urge you to try a batch of these brownies and think of them as vitamins. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Have you ever tried any of these recipes successfully? And what is your favorite way to cook with quinoa?

Happy cooking!

– Joc

Weekend Project: DIY Spice Rack

Weekend Project: DIY Spice Rack

DIY Spice Rack

How to make a quick and easy custom spice rack

This do-it-yourself spice rack is so easy you can complete it in less than a weekend! It requires very few supplies and almost no skill whatsoever. Want to know how to make it? Here we go!

What you need:

  • Piece of wood ( I used a 3/4″ x 3″ x 72″)
  • Saw
  • L-Brackets – long enough to support the width of your shelf. In this case I used 2″ brackets (2 per shelf)
  • Paint (and brushes)
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Little Jars (The cuter the better!)
  • Sticker Labels

How to do it:

    1. Decide where you want to put your shelf and figure out how long the shelves should be. Cut your wood with a any kind of saw you have access to. My piece of wood was 72″ so I just cut it into 4 equal 18″ lengths but you can cut them to whatever you need them to be.
    2. Paint your pieces any color. You can do them in a contrasting color to stand out or use leftover wall paint and have them blend in. I went with an off-white to add pop against our dark walls. I did a few coats. You can do a protective top coat if you like as well but it’s not necessary. A high gloss would make them more durable.
    3. Decide on the placement of your shelves, make sure they are equally spaced and level. I find it helps to draw lines on the wall with a pencil and a level first.
    4. Attach the shelves to the wall using L-brackets, at least two per shelf depending on how long the shelves are. You can get these at any hardware store or even Walmart  inexpensively. You may also want to use drywall anchors when you screw the brackets to the wall for added strength.
    5. For the jars I found these super cute little guys at the dollar store for less than $1 each. I printed out my labels on the computer using multi-purpose blank labels and an Avery template but they would still look cute hand written.

Spice Rack   And that’s it! Fill your jars with your spices and put them on the shelves (alphabetical order makes things easier when you’re cooking) and voila! Done and done.

Feel free to ask me any questions you may have about this little project and I’d love to see photos of your versions!

-Tracy

Honey: The Miracle Face Wash

Honey: The Miracle Face Wash

When I was in grade eight, my skin care knowledge amounted to a vague idea that clean skin was clear skin. Not having access to the internet back then, nor to magazines that might have otherwise pointed me in the right direction, I boldly went ahead and scrubbed my face vigorously with soap followed by a “toner” of rubbing alcohol. Every night.

This is me in grade eight.

 photo 960d611a-f96c-4faa-95ca-c64bf05b6db5_zps6f941a87.jpg

It’s ok. You can laugh.

You can’t even see the worst of it, but that rosy ring about my lips is just a sample of what my skin was like for many long years since then: red and chapped, dry and scaly, stinging and itching. Oh, I changed my products myriad times over the years once I figured out that my soap and alcohol regimen is good for nobody, but even the most costly moisturizers and face washes faithfully applied did nothing at all. I just sighed and resigned myself to the fact that I had “bad skin”.

Then, a few years ago, I discovered Crunchy Betty and fell in love with her kitchen witchery and witty writing, and I set about trying as many of her natural skin and hair care recipes as I could. (Her homemade face masks are heaven and I urge you to pop on over there and give some of her stuff a try.) The best thing that I came across on her site was something so simple that I admit I had my doubts about its effectiveness, but in a moment of boredom combined with desperation, I decided to give it a try. This seemingly small tip was to wash your face with… honey.

The result was mind-blowing.

I know, it sounds weird if you’ve never considered such a thing before. But it doesn’t matter if you have dry skin, oily skin, aging skin, acne-prone skin, or just regular old nice skin; honey is perfect for everyone. Even for folks with rosacea or eczema. And it’s really easy to use: you just take about a teaspoon of honey and rub it all over your face (and you can leave it on for a few minutes for some extra benefit if you can stand to be sticky) then wash it all off with a warm, wet face cloth.  Follow it up with a toner and moisturizer if you want (I use witch hazel and almond oil) but often you won’t even need to.

As an aside, you should probably make sure that you first tie your hair back or slap on a headband because while honey is also good for your hair, your hair will get crunchy and you will need to wash it out. This is unfortunate if you’re a morning face washer and are maybe running late for work.

And that’s it.

When I started washing with honey, I was sporting a pair of my trademark red, itchy spectacles as well as a crack in the corner of my mouth that had plagued me for about a month. After about three days of the honey wash, both were cleared up and neither have ever come back. Ever.

My face miraculously cleared up: no more dry, itchy skin. No more chapping. No more peeling. Also, I can’t prove this, but I feel like my crow’s feet lessened. I wish I had taken pictures, but I didn’t have a whole lot of faith in the honey wash when I started this journey. I’m still kicking myself for that.

So why use honey?

Honey Face WashHoney is a gentle cleanser in that it doesn’t strip your face of natural oils (like most face washes will, causing your skin to produce even more oil to compensate) and it is actually a healing agent. I’m going to get all science-y on you for just a minute because if you know why it works, you’ll be more likely to give this experiment a fair shot (unless you’re my husband who just refuses to believe that honey washes right off as soon as water hits it, despite my attempts of a demonstration).

Honey is a humectant, and it’s antibacterial.

The humectant part: A humectant is a substance that helps a product retain water/moisture. Honey is a humectant because it is hygroscopic, meaning it has the ability to attract and hold water molecules from the surrounding area. I don’t suppose I need to give you any further words as to why this would be good for your skin.

The antibacterial part: Because honey is a supersaturated substance — meaning there is more sugar present than water would normally be able to hold in its natural form — it has a low water activity and is therefore not a very hospitable spot for microorganisms to grow. So it’s pretty clean.

Additionally, honey contains an enzyme called glucose oxidase and a compound called methylgloxalGlucose oxidase reacts when it comes in contact with body fluids to slowly release hydrogen peroxide. This is why honey is great for acne prone skin and even works as a dressing on wounds — if left unbandaged. However, this enzyme, being damaged by heat, is destroyed by pasteurization and so you will find this benefit mainly in raw honey. Methylglyoxal, on the other hand, is a stable compound and is unaffected by processing or coming into contact with body fluids and so is generally present in all honey, but especially in Manuka Honey, which makes that particular type the best for acne-prone or any rashy sort of skin.

All this and honey is also non-toxic and delicious to boot. What a superhero.

You can really use any type of honey you want, though it looks like your best bet is to lean towards raw/unpasteurized honey. However, the first kind of honey I used was just the President’s Choice brand, and I’m not even sure if it was organic (gasp!), so I think you’re safe with any kind.

One small caution: be careful not to get water in your honey. It will increase that level of water activity so won’t be as safe and it will also neutralize any helpful enzymes. I know someone who keeps a honey bear in her shower, which is a good idea since it’s a squeeze bottle that will keep the water out and is a fun way to get your guests to look askance at you when they come out of your bathroom. Oh, and I guess also that if you are allergic to honey, please don’t try this at home.

But otherwise, go! Go forth and feel clean and glowy!

And if you already have, what is your favorite kind of honey and method to use? Share your success stories!

– Joc