An Uncomplicated Life Blog: June 2020

Monday, June 22, 2020

How To Scent Vinegar For Less Stinky Cleaners

Cleaning with vinegar is an effective way to naturally clean, but many people object to it's strong smell. Here's how to scent it for a more pleasant cleaning experience while still enjoying it's natural cleaning benefits!

My mom has been cleaning with vinegar for ages. Whenever she comes over to my house, I know I'll need to be well stocked in a bulk container of plain white vinegar, and she'll go to town cleaning my dishwasher, my water dispenser that's built into my fridge, my washing machine, my shower heads... I mean you name it and she's on it! I used to roll my eyes at her with her love for vinegar, but after she got my dishwasher - which had been rather "gunky" and not doing a great job cleaning my dishes despite being a "high end" dishwasher - clean AND cleaning well by running vinegar through it, I silenced my dissent and got on board. My one hang up with it... The smell. There's no denying that the smell isn't great. But I have a solve for that problem, and it's scenting your white vinegar so that it stinks less as you clean more. Here's how to do it.

First, let's take a quick minute to talk about why vinegar is such a great cleaner and grime buster. Vinegar is naturally very acidic. So acidic in fact, that it can dissolve away soap scum, built up food residue, and even sticker glue if you let it sit long enough. The part I like the best about it is that even with all that cleaning power, it's not a risk for children or pets. If they touch it, you don't have to worry. They might not smell great and they might not like the taste if they get it in their mouths, but it's not an inherent health hazard when exposed to it in low levels.

How to scent vinegar for less stinky cleaners - what you'll need:
- Citrus fruit rinds or hearty herbs (like rosemary/sage/lavender or any other wood-stalk based herb that's hearty enough to hold up to soaking in vinegar for several days to weeks)
- glass jar(s) like this one
- white vinegar
- funnel
- fine strainer

How to do it:
- Peel the fruit away from your fruit rinds so that it's just the oil-rich rind left. The fruit heavy part wont hold up in the vinegar and not only start to "pickle", it will make your cleaner foggy.
- For wood-stalk herbs, cut them down into pieces that will fit into your glass jar.
- Fill your glass jar about 3/4 full with white vinegar; add your desired scenting agent. You'll want to add enough of your scenting agent to make the jar completely full. It should look like the photos included in this post.
- Set aside in a cool, dark spot and let sit for one to two weeks.
- Strain out the scenting agent with a fine strainer into a large bowl. Discard the scenting agent and use a funnel to place the scented vinegar back into your glass jar for storage. Use labels on the glass jar to ensure you keep straight what's in it and what it's scented with.

How to use scented vinegar to clean:

Use straight up to clean super greasy or gooey spaces. Pour directly on surfaces like ovens, dishwashers, and/or sticker residue (or any adhesive residue you want removed) and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Use a brush or the rough side of a sponge to scrub the non-scratching surfaces; use the sponge side to clean surfaces prone to scratching. For a dishwasher that isn't getting your dishes clean, pour a cup or two into the bottom of the dishwasher and run a cycle. You may need to repeat this two or three times to really get it clean. You can also use the scented vinegar on the periphery of your dishwasher, like the rubber seal, to get built up grime off.

Scented vinegar is great for regular cleaning too. Want to make your own cleaner that's nontoxic and cost effective? Here's a great one:

Need an easy DIY cleaner with vinegar? Check out this powerhouse glass, window and outdoor patio furniture cleaner.

Vinegar is a powerhouse cleaner because of it's acidity. Bonus, it's also nontoxic (in small quantities, I wouldn't go drinking a bottle of it!) to your family and pets. But, it is stinky. Odd that an amazing cleaning agent has such a strong and undesirable odor when it's doing such a great job cleaning your home, right?! Make it smell more pleasant with your own natural scents. Your home and your nose will thank you.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Healthier Broccoli Salad With Apples and Walnuts

This take on an old favorite is healthier and fresher, and was a crowd favorite at our house

Easter this year was a weird one, wasn't it? We were all stuck in quarantine. Normally, I've ordered a special ham and have the boys' outfits picked out and bought months in advance! This year really crept up on me. In fact, I didn't even realize it was about to be Easter, until my nanny asked me what I was putting in the boys' Easter baskets. That was a Friday morning and Easter was just a few days away! I raced off to Target to get some supplies; and yet someone still forgot about making a meal. On Saturday morning I realized we'd need to put some sort of special meal together. Luckily, I had enough eggs for a simple fratatatta and I had been to Costco and had a ton (and I mean a ton, because Costco) of broccoli and apples. . In order to prevent making another trip to the store, I decided to make a meal "out of the fridge" and was pleasantly surprised how this side salad turned out! It was a great brunch side salad, but would also work for a cookout or even for some "green" on your plate, year round. Here's my (healthier) take on traditional broccoli salad, made with apples and walnuts.

Broccoli salad is delicious but I have two problems with it: the broccoli is never "soft" enough for my liking, and taking a big bite of raw broccoli is... Meh, not my favorite. The other part is that the amount of mayo used in traditional recipes is actually pretty gross/amazingly delicious/not part of my summer body diet plan. It really is a love-hate relationship I have with mayo. By far my favorite condiment; but lord, why does it have to have all those calories. Don't even talk to me about reduced fat mayo. That doesn't taste right. Nobody actually likes it. Just. No. 

So while I was combing through my fridge in order to scrape together this Easter meal, I thought hey! We have plain Greek yogurt. We have mayo. We have white wine vinegar. There's got to be a way to make a tad healthier version so that I can use up all this broccoli I just got at Costco! I didn't have cranberries. And did you know, dried fruit has more sugar and calories in it than regular fruit? Switching out fresh apples for cranberries already makes it a healthier dish. I also didn't have sunflower seeds, but I did have walnuts. And indeed, there was. Here's my broccoli salad with apple and walnuts:

Healthier Broccoli Salad with Apple and Walnuts
- 3 cups broccoli florets
- 1 large apple, diced into bite sized pieces
- 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 a small red onion, finely diced
- 3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt
- 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- salt and pepper to taste

Let the broccoli sit in the dressing to soften the florets, for at least several hours to overnight for a better tasting salad

Making the salad a day ahead (preferred method):
In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, Greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, onion and sugar. I like to add a few "grinds" of sea salt and fresh black pepper, too. Cook off your bacon and set aside to cool before storing it to crumble and add to the salad right before serving. Add the broccoli and cheese to the dressing mixture. Cover and put in the fridge. Right before serving, cut up the apple and add it to the salad; then add the walnuts and bacon. You want the walnuts and bacon to remain crispy while the acidity in the dressing softens the broccoli.

Making the salad to serve immediately (not as good, but still good!):
In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, Greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, onion and sugar. Add a round or two of fresh ground sea salt and black pepper. Blanch the broccoli (this means that you boil a pot of water, add the broccoli and let it cook for about 60 seconds, then strain the broccoli and place it on ice to cool it down. You want it fully cooled before adding it to your dressing mixture) Cook off your bacon and crumble it after it's cooled, adding it to your dressing mixture. Dice your apple and add it, along with the walnuts and grated cheese, to the dressing mixture. Refrigerate long enough to cool the whole salad down, then serve.

Like it? Pin it!

This salad is great for summers, since it's chilled (and you want to keep it chilled because of the mayo, so if you're bringing it somewhere, plan accordingly!) It's perfect for a backyard cookout when you want something more flavorful than mixed greens but not as filling as a potato salad. I happen to think it goes extremely well with grilled burgers or brats, but also pairs well with a marinated chicken breast. I think it's a tad too heavy for grilled fish or shrimp, though, but that's just my opinion. Any way you decide to make it or serve it, it's an excellent side dish for summer that beats the standard salad! It also will work well moving into fall, since the broccoli is a heartier green that can hold up to the dressing and be more a more substantial side dish. Enjoy! 

Monday, June 8, 2020

How Bulk Shopping Is Environmentally Friendly

When looking to make environmentally friendly choices, don't discount wholesale stores! Bulk shopping is (usually) friendlier to the earth

One of the coolest things I've seen start to "trend" is that most people are actively looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly. Whether that be via reducing waste, reducing the use of plastic, or searching out companies that go out of their way to help environmental causes, most people I know would prefer to shop in an environmentally friendly way at a "good" company (and there are many ways to define good). If you're looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and also be more cost effective, look into local area wholesale clubs! I'm going to outline exactly how bulk shopping is environmentally friendly. And also, the most cost effective.

Now, here's the thing we need to get out of the way really quick: if you take all your provisions home and break them into smaller amounts using plastic bags or plastic wrap, you've essentially un-done all the good you just did. Not from a cost perspective, but from an environmental perspective. I wrote this post on super simple (and also cost effective!) product swaps to get the bulk of wasteful plastic out of your home, so if you're looking for ideas, please go check it out! Most items in that list are under $10 and reusable to boot.

One thing that IS super environmentally friendly? This new laundry detergent from Revive. It's packaged in cardboard and is in strips, so you break a strip off and throw it in your load, right in with your laundry. It works wonderfully, is 100% PLASTIC FREE, and contains no fragrances, no toxic dyes, no parabens, no phosphates, no chlorine. If you want to scent your laundry, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the strip, then place it in the washer. Hello, no more plastic jugs of laundry detergent that take anywhere from 450-1,000 years to decompose!

Ok, back to bulk shopping: I prefer to shop at Costco, mostly because I'm really partial to their store brand, Kirkland. That brand is every bit as good as name brands, and sometimes better. We like to buy just about everything food-wise there, since we have so many people to eat it all. Crackers, a favorite snack food of my kids, comes in a large cardboard box with three large foil bags inside it. If I bought the same product at a regular grocery story, I'd have to buy two boxes to equal one of the bulk bags. That equals to two cardboard boxes, and the store brands use plastic to house the crackers, not foil like the bulk packaging, so essentially I'd double my environmental input for the same amount of product.

At wholesale stores, you get 1.34 lbs whereas at conventional grocery stores you get .85-.95lbs -that's a half pound more meat for the same amount of plastic!

Let's chat meat products. Yes, the meat I do buy there is wrapped in plastic. But here's the thing: at Whole Foods, the other location I buy meat from, I can get a pound of ground local beef (actually, it's just shy of a pound now... Yay for less product for the same cost) that's wrapped in plastic. When I go to Costco, organic ground beef is packaged in a pound and a half. I currently can use one of those packages to make a meal for my family, but I'd have to use two pounds (and therefore double the plastic waste) of the beef from Whole Foods.

Buying larger sizes means more product for less plastic. And more product for less money!

Fruit is another one I get in bulk, as all of my kids LOVE it. When I buy it wholesale, I get one large container that will be several meals for my kids. When I buy it at Whole Foods, I have to get multiple (plastic) containers for just one meal. We go through over two pints of berries a meal, so you can do the math on that destruction. The majority of our recycling is plastic berry containers! I love when I go to Costco and can get one big one for several meals worth of  fruit, it's such a breath of fresh air for me and my guilt about my family's plastic consumption!

The last component that I really like about shopping in bulk is that no plastic bags are used at checkout. Down here in the South, plastic bags still reign supreme at conventional grocery stores (as well as Target and Walmart) to pack up your goods upon buying them. Study after study has shown that those bags wind up in rivers, lakes, oceans. They wind up in landfills and take years upon years (decades, actually) to decompose. If you're not bringing your own bags to conventional stores, please consider doing so. Those plastic bags are amongst the worst. And bulk stores don't offer them (they will offer you a cardboard flat to put smaller items in - and cardboard is not only recyclable, it's also decomposeable!)

Bulk shopping isn't environmentally perfect. Yes, plastic is still used. And yes, not everyone has access to bulk shopping, whether they don't have a facility nearby or they don't have the funds to purchase all their food in bulk. But, it IS a *more* environmentally favorable choice. Perhaps the best choice of all is shopping at your local farmers market with your own bags. We've done that, and taking the family to the Dallas farmers market is actually really fun! But we can't always shop there. So when we need a regular trip to get food and other household items, I try to shop in bulk, because it's the more environmentally friendly choice.

Monday, June 1, 2020

My Favorite Natural Beauty Products

For over a year, I've been on a crusade to toss out all the toxic beauty products I've used and replace them with more natural or completely natural products. Here are my favorites I've found so far!

I've written a couple posts on the ways I'm switching out my beauty products to focus on more natural products - and also products that are more sustainable and use less plastic in their packaging. It's been a series of trial and error! Just like with conventional products, you've got to find what works for you. Just because it's natural doesn't mean your skin won't react to it. I've gotten breakouts from products that contain too much heavy Vitamin E while I've had zero issues using plain coconut oil on my face. It's a bit of work to figure out what works best for your skin type! These are the products that have worked well for me: I have combination skin that olive toned and doesn't burn easily. Wrinkles are far less of a concern than breakouts. I also have extremely sensitive skin that tends to react to everything. If that sounds like you, give these natural beauty products a try! They might work well for you too.

Makeup - Babo Botanicals:
I'm down to nearly no makeup... The least I've ever worn, and I'm SO good with it! Especially as we head into summer and it just melts off immediately anyway. If I need some coverage, or
- tinted sunscreen
- tinted lip balm
- lip gloss

Natural deodorants:
The issue with natural deodorants is that they either work and cause irritation or they don't work... These three, when used in a rotation, work and don't cause irritation lines or ingrown hairs. I've found that coconut oil based deodorants that also use a starch (like arrowroot powder) are terrible for causing ingrown hairs. The first two brands are liquid and the last one is coconut oil based without a starch, so if you have the same problem I do, give these brands a try!
Pit Liquor
Each & Every

From your face to your body, your skin is your largest organ and deserves the best products! All of these companies have amazing products that haven't caused any reactions with my skin. I couldn't recommend them more.

I'm a big fan of putting oils on my skin... And my absolute favorite is using the rose roller around my eye area. I use this rose quartz roller with the rose essential oil roller (I'm partial to the roller, not the oil. The oil is a high maintenance oil to work with, and gets tricky. Sure, cost per ounce it's more but the roller makes it so easy to use, I highly recommend it for your facial skin).

MIG Living
I have the lavender and clary sage lotion bar (now called Ritual Serum Stick, but this is the same thing I have in the new packaging), and use it on my body and on my face. It's rich and luxurious without being greasy. It's seriously one of my favorite products I own! In fact, I've just ordered this charcoal bar (I'm currently in love with all things activated charcoal) and can't wait to order more of the skincare line. I love that their soaps don't use plastic and the products feature organic beeswax and essential oils. And I also love that they have subscribe and save, so that if you love it as much as me, you can get it for cheaper, and auto shipped to your home so that you never run out.

Like it? Pin it!

Now that we dove in, if you're looking for some of those posts I mentioned in my intro, here they are - a quick makeup routine, the best anti aging oils to add to your skincare and what easy steps you can take in the morning to set you up for a great day. Beauty is, after all, achieved from the inside out!

Related posts:
Two Minute Makeup Routine
5 Best Anti-Aging Essential Oils
Achievable Healthy Morning Routine

Switching to a more natural beauty routine is surprisingly easy. There are now so many products on the market, they're affordable and easy to find! The question becomes which ones to try. These are all my favorite natural beauty products. If you're acne prone with highly sensitive skin, I recommend giving them a try! I've tried many, and these actually make the cut.