Building a Raised Bed Garden

Building a Raised Bed Garden

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Spring has officially sprung and so therefore, has the motivation to discover my green thumb. With a wide open, south facing backyard that requires constant mowing, the solution seemed obvious >> why spend the time and effort to maintain a lawn when we could instead be growing food? For me, I like to know exactly where my food comes from – so where better than from my own backyard?

Just through talking to different people within my community on the subject, the consensus seems to be that although the learning process to successful gardening is never-ending, there is no better way to learn other than to dig right in and figure out what works best from year to year.

Constructing Raised Beds

In my conversations with a Master Gardener at the Main Street Co-op, the one piece of advice she wished someone had given her when she first started gardening was to build raised beds with various layers in the soil, a method known as “lasagna gardening”. Raised beds are easy to tend, and are a key to success because they are filled with loose, well-amended layers of nutrient-rich soils, composts and mulches that allow for sufficient drainage.

Another advantage to building raised beds is that this method does not require laborious tilling and picking of rock, which is terribly abundant in the soil of our region. Instead, we were simply able to construct the box frames, place them directly onto the lawn and fill them with soil. For our first year, we decided to start with two beds: each 16′ long, 4′ wide and 10″ deep. In total, the lumber we used to construct the bed boxes costed around $65.

To prevent grasses and other weeds from poking though, we simply lined the bottom of each box with a layer of cardboard. This layer kills the grass beneath, and eventually decomposes into the ground over time. I just knew I had been hoarding all those cardboard boxes in the basement for a reason ! 

Raised Beds Lined with Cardboard - www.brittric.com

 

For top quality soil, we chose to bring in some garden soil mixed with organic compost from Peterson lawn care service. Because we had other needs for soil around the perimeter of our house and throughout the yard, we ordered 10 cubic yards for roughly $265 and free delivery. The cost may sound spendy – but that is only because we ordered quite a bit more soil than we needed for our raised bed garden project. 

 

Soil with Compost - www.brittric.com

 

To determine how much soil we would need to fill our raised beds, I found this nifty Soil Calculator online. To use it, simply enter the proper dimensions of your bed (in inches) and the calculator will generate the soil volume required, in both cubic yards or cubic feet. Combined, our two beds called for roughly 4 cubic yards of soil, at a worth of approximately $100 total.

 

Soil Calculator for raised beds - www.brittric.com

 

For the base of our “lasagna’, we added a layer of mulched dead leaves from last fall. After adding a layer of soil with compost over the mulched leaves, we added a layer of grass clippings, and then another layer of soil.

Raised bed lasagna gardening mulched leaves - www.brittric.com

And then finally, before topping everything off with a generous layer of soil, we added a layer of fluffy material known as sphagnum peat moss. Peat moss is important because it allows for proper root growth and drainage by loosening and aerating your soil. I found a large, 3.8 cubic-foot bag at my local garden center for about $12.

Sphagnum Peat Moss - www.brittric.com

Fencing

Since we live in the country with a wooded backyard, fencing was a must. Definitely an added cost that we didn’t consider initially, but at the end of the day, we knew it was deal breaker. With a little additional research, I was able to find some affordable material. Brandon liked the look of square wooden fence posts, so we went with those and stained them for an added aesthetic, however basic metal stakes would have worked just as well.

With deer being the ultimate concern, we wanted high enough fencing that they wouldn’t be tempted to jump. After reading some online gardening forums, it sounded like anywhere between 6 – 8 feet would be high enough to keep the deer out. I found a 7′ x 100′ roll of mesh deer fencing for $58 at Farm & Fleet which turned out to fit perfectly to our dimensions. It was also very easy to work with, and much more affordable than galvanized welded wire fencing. Because the mesh wasn’t really meant for keeping out rabbits and other nibblers, we also reinforced the base perimeter of the mesh fence with chicken wire (about $25 for two 50′ rolls at Farm & Fleet).

Planting

The fun part !  When it came down to deciding what to plant in this garden, I went with the produce items we tend to go through the most in our household — tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, various leafy greens, a few select herbs, as well as some sunflowers and watermelons, just to see what happens =) I only wish we had more room to plant! We did deliberately allow some extra space within the fencing to install additional raised beds, hopefully next summer.

For starter plants and seeds, almost everything was available at my Main Street Market Co-op so I was almost able to completely avoid the big box garden centers. Their “Seed Savers Exchange” brand seeds are certified organic / non-GMO, while the transplants are heirloom (seeds can be harvested from the plant, saved and replanted year after year) and locally grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides. For me, these specifications are an important factor in part of knowing where our food comes from.

The layout of our garden was based along two main guidelines: heights and companions. Since the sunflowers could reach anywhere from 5-7 feet high, those were planted farthest back. Then the larger tomato plants, smaller pepper plants, followed by the leafy greens, potatoes and watermelon seedlings. This way, everything will receive optimal sunlight throughout the day.

Raised Bed Garden Layout - www.brittric.com

Companion Planting

Another important factor to consider when determining your layout is “companion planting”, or the planting of different crops in proximity for pest controlpollination, providing habitat for beneficial creatures, maximizing use of space, and to otherwise increase crop productivity. Through my research browsing online forums and talking to experienced gardeners, I was able to determine some companionships to try with my crops this year:

Basil ♡ Tomatoes

Chives ♡ Tomatoes

Tomatoes ♡ Peppers

Potatoes ♡ Lettuces

 

Here is a companion planting chart I found helpful along the way. If this doesn’t happen to reference a certain plant you may be looking for, I came across all kinds of these with a simple Google search.

Companion Planting Chart - www.brittric.com

Organic Gardening Tips

✦ Be mindful not to step in your raised beds. Only reach in from the sides to keep your soils light, aerated and fluffy for adequate drainage. This also eliminates the risk of accidentally stepping on your plants.

✦ Set your transplant tomatoes deeper into the ground than they grew originally, with the lowest leaves just above the soil. The little hairs on the stem will develop into roots in the soil to help strengthen and stabilize the plant once it begins to bear heavy fruit.

✦ As an experiment this year, I surrounded the base of each tomato plant with scraps of newspaper to prevent blight. You could use straw or mulch as well. However, if the moist environment beneath the newspaper ends up attracting slugs, I am scratching this plan…stay tuned.

✦ Trim away any weak or yellowing foliage at the base of the tomato plant. These take energy away from the fruit bearing foliage, reducing yields.

✦ Keep lower lying foliage off the ground, or remove those stems completely to prevent disease, blight, additional gateways for pests, etc.

✦ Save and crush your left over egg shells and occasionally sprinkle them into the soil as an added source of calcium.

✦ Don’t forget to label your rows! I made my own using left over empty seed packets and plastic tags from previous years.

Garden Labels - www.brittric.com

Now that everything is finally in place, we wait. . . keep an eye out for the next part of the ‘Grow Your Own’ Series where I will explore ways to maintain your garden, keep soils nutrient-rich and ward off pests naturally. Stay tuned !

The Truth About Eggs

The Truth About Eggs

“When chickens get to live like chickens, they will taste like chickens too.”  ~Michael Pollan

BY BRITTRIC

Eggs are truly an ideal food.

Not only are they one of the best sources of protein, but also one of the least expensive. And nearly everyone can tolerate eating them regularly. Many mistakenly believe eggs are bad for your heart due to their cholesterol content, but this is a serious misconception. Aside from being an ideal source of protein, eggs can also provide vital nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin E, omega-3 fats and beta carotene. However, not all eggs are made equal…

Conventional egg production agriculture (also known as a “Confined Animal Feeding Operation” or CAFO) raises hens indoors and in cages. Large commercial egg facilities typically house tens to hundreds of thousands of hens. This has raised concerns about animal welfare, environmental damage and nutritional impacts. Egg-laying hens confined to cages do not have space to move or stretch, becoming prone to skeletal problems and disease. Large numbers of animals confined in small spaces also pollute the air, water and soil with the vast amounts of manure they produce.

True free-range eggs are from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet including seeds, green plants, insects and worms. According to USDA regulations, free-range, egg-producing hens must be given access to the outdoors. However, many large commercial egg producers get away with allowing their hens access to a tiny, covered outdoor area while still giving the hens conventional feed. The feed is a crucial component, as the main ingredients of commercially raised hens’ diets are genetically modified (GMO) soy and corn. Commercial eggs, even if they state “free-range” on their label, will typically fall into this category.

>> EGGS EXPLAINED

Your best source to buy fresh eggs is a local market or farmer that allows hens to forage freely outdoors. In addition to being more environmentally friendly and humane, free-range eggs are also nutritionally superior. You can tell if the eggs are truly “free-range” by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens that are fed a healthy, natural diet produce eggs with bright orange yolks. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign the eggs came from caged hens that were confined from foraging for their natural diet.

Cage Free Eggs, grain-fed, grass-fed, true forager yolk colors

Ultimately, there is no better way of knowing where your food comes from than to grow it yourself. Raising chickens ensures a steady supply of fresh, nutritious organic eggs free of antibiotics, hormones and other unnatural additives. Next summer, along with a vegetable garden, I am also going to be starting my own backyard chicken coop. For those of you who are interested in becoming more self-sustainable, I will be sharing my research and experience all along the way….stay tuned !

Briar Extended Chicken Coop & Run - Williams SonomaRaising chickens ensures a steady supply of fresh, nutritious organic eggs free of antibiotics, hormones and other unnatural additives.

[Featured photo credit:  Nicole Ricci, Write for You Marketing]

___________________________________________________________________

BrittRic - Lifestyle & Awareness BlogBrittRic is a lifestyle blogger, landscape photographer and environmental conservationist. ::Feel free:: to follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter. Contact: bsricci@gmail.com

A Healthy Choice for Deodorant

A Healthy Choice for Deodorant

My new deodorant! 100% pure Thai mineral salt stone –hypoallergenic, residue free and most importantly, aluminum chlorhydrate free (known to cause cancer, Alzheimer’s) only $3 at the Main Street Co-op

DIY | Natural Creamy Peanut Butter

DIY | Natural Creamy Peanut Butter

Ever since I learned how to make natural peanut butter at home it has been one of the main staples in my diet. not only is peanut butter a great source of unsaturated fats and vegetarian protein, it is also an important source of B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant known to have cancer fighting properties.all in one beautiful creamy, dreamy, buttery spread.  friends – i think i’m in love.

this recipe is so easy to throw together. it requires less than 30 minutes and consists of only four basic ingredients.

here’s what you need:
small food processor
1 ½ c. peanuts
virgin coconut oil
raw, unfiltered honey
cracked sea salt
16 oz jar (i just reused an old salsa jar)

here’s what to do:
process peanuts on high for about 1 minute. once they are broken down into smaller bits, add raw honey for sweetness, coconut oil for creaminess, and a pinch of sea salt until desired flavor and consistency. process peanuts for 2-3 minutes or until smooth. you may have to stop a few times to scrape the sides–c’est tout. its that simple !

natural creamy peanut butter | brittric.com

natural creamy peanut butter | brittric.com

beyond being easy to make, this natural peanut butter is incredibly versatile. i lather it on pita bread, serve it alongside carrots, apples or bananas, and sometimes even treat our little pup, “reagan” to a lick of the spoon when i’m done.

a jar of this stuff usually lasts a little over a week in our family =) enjoy.

 

DIY | Almond Milk

DIY | Almond Milk

BY BRITTRIC

I think most of us have been found guilty of buying cheap milk from sad cows on industrial farms. As part of my efforts to achieve a “clean eating” lifestyle, I seek out the best quality milk I can find, from local and organic sources whenever possible. This means milk that is considerably more expensive than the stuff I can buy from the convenience store around the corner, but as with meat and eggs, I think what that extra money buys — better animal welfare, fewer antibiotics, pesticides and growth hormones, support for a more sustainable food system — is well worth it.

Recently, whilst sampling a sip of store-bought Silk almond milk from my parents’ refrigerator, I thought I had discovered the perfect alternative — that is until I read the ingredient label on the back of the carton. There I found industrially-processed thickeners, gums, emulsifiers and stabilizers such as carrageenan, an additive that has been linked to gastrointestinal issues, inflammation, ulcers and colon cancer. So much for being a healthy alternative, huh??

When in doubt, I usually find that DIY is the best alternative. You are in complete control of every ingredient, where those ingredients come from, how much you need and when you need it. It cuts down on packaging waste too. Homemade almond milk is a healthy alternative for those who avoid dairy for personal reasons or lactose intolerance, and is also a clean, smart way to sneak additional nutrients into your diet.

Almonds are a rich source of biotin and vitamin E. Biotin is essential for your body’s energy production, while vitamin E works as an antioxidant to protect your body from free radical damage.

Not only have I found homemade almond milk to be a healthier option, but it is also incredibly easy to make at home — you just need a few basic ingredients, a nut milk bag and a blender.

Here is everything you need >> 1 heaping cup of raw organic almonds, 3-4 cups of water, a high-speed blender, a nut milk bag and a resealable mason jar

1 – First, soak your almonds in a bowl of cold water overnight. Soaking helps soften your almonds, causing the almond to shed its skin and release its nutritional enzymes. Soaking also allows for easier blending and a more velvety milk. ✴ If you don’t have time to soak them overnight, no worries! Just add almonds to a pot of boiling water for 4-5 minutes to achieve a similar effect.

Soaking Almonds

2 – Once your almonds have soaked for approximately 12 hours, drain, remove skins (optional) and rinse.

Rinsed Almonds

3 – Put almonds into your blender with 3-4 cups of water. ✴ For a creamier milk, use 3 cups of water. To get more mileage out of your almonds, use 4 cups. Then, blend at a high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Almond milk blend

4 – Next, set up your mesh nut milk bag over a wide container, pour milk blend into the bag and squeeze, straining out the remaining bits of almond pulp.

nut milk bag

5 – Finally, pour almond milk into a mason jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 or 6 days. Et voilà !

DIY Almond Milk

BRITT’S DIY ALMOND MILK TIPS

✧ Try adding a pinch of vanilla extract, cinnamon, sea salt, raw honey or maple syrup for a little extra flavor. Mmmm =)

✧ Since homemade almond milk doesn’t contain any emulsifiers, it has a tendency to separate. Always give it a good shake before using.

✧ What is a nut milk bag, you ask? My first time attempting this, I didn’t know either. However, when I ran my blender on high for nearly 5 minutes but couldn’t break the specks down any further, I quickly realized why a nut milk bag is so important. They are designed to strain out the almond pulp with ease, leaving behind perfectly smooth, creamy almond milk. And they are very affordable. I purchased my reusable nut milk bag from Diana Stobo online, but have also read of people using other creative alternatives such as  pantyhose, cheese cloths, kitchen towels or even teeshirt fabric.

✧ Instead of discarding the left over almond pulp, save it in the freezer for a later use. Add some to your next smoothie or mix into your baked goods to add an extra punch of fiber. You can use it to make granola bars, cookies, I even saw a recipe for pizza crust! As always, there are tons of ideas on Pinterest. Cheers !

_____________________________________________________________

BrittRic - Lifestyle & Awareness BlogBrittRic is a lifestyle blogger, landscape photographer and environmental conservationist. ::Feel free:: to follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter. Contact: bsricci@gmail.com

Lake Superior Ice Caves

Lake Superior Ice Caves

Note: Access to the ice caves at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore closed on March 17th due to changing ice conditions.

When I learned that Lake Superior had frozen over enough this winter for people to walk to the ice caves along Wisconsin’s northern coast, Brandon and I recruited a crew of friends to make the journey. On Sunday, after attending the American Birkebeiner festivities in Hayward, we packed up and headed north to Bayfield on state highway 13 and through Red Cliff until we reached the lake access point known as “Meyers Beach” just up the shore from  Cornucopia.

Map to Lake Superior Ice Caves

Most winters the park remains open, but the caves are not navigable without a thick layer of ice. But this year, frigid temperatures gripping the Midwest have turned Lake Superior into flat, ice-covered frozen tundra only to be seen a couple of times in the past two decades. Since earlier this winter, when waves crashed and froze along the sandstone cliffs, tens of thousands of visitors have flocked to see the fantastic icicle formations.

People Flocking to Caves

Most people travel by car, but with modest parking accommodations, many visitors are walking for miles along the state highway just to reach the trailhead. Some even travel to the caves by cross-country skis or snowshoes, and parents tote bundled children in toboggan sleds.

The hike from the trailhead is about one mile to the caves, and the walking trail can consist anywhere from packed down snow to soft, deep snow mixed in with an uneven terrain of ice boulders, cracks, rolling mounds and slippery ice slides. A very fun hike if you are dressed for the occasion !

Chandeliers

As you begin to approach the ice formations, it almost feels as though you are making your way through an art gallery, each exhibit as unique as the next. Intricate and spectacular, dangling like chandeliers, some almost alien-like, others embodying shrines for royalty, I caught myself wondering — what concept was the artist going for in this piece?

Ice Caves

Shrine

It’s a humbling experience to stand before these massive ice formations, taking in what this lake is truly capable of.

You could spend hours exploring the frozen landscape, shimmying around on your stomach from one crystal cove to the next, each filled with delicate, feathered icicles dangling inside.

Ice Cave

Glowing Cave

Lake Superior Ice Caves

The last time the caves were safely accessible was in 2009—and this year’s ice layer, though thick, could quickly disappear. I encourage everyone to go explore them while you still can — this dazzling shoreline may only be navigable for another few weeks !

Ice Cave Hole

>> Ice Cave Adventure Tips <<

Pictures don’t do these spectacular wonders justice. Make the trek — GO see them !

Shuttle buses are being offered, more info here.

There is a $3 fee to park in the parking lot (approximately 50 spaces).

Restrooms are available in the parking area.

Keep furry friends on a leash.

Go during the week (less busy) and on a sunny day, if possible ☼

Dress appropriately! Warm comfortable boots, snow pants, down winter jacket, extra layers, hats, scarves, gloves and something to keep your face protected from wind.

Before making the trip, call for the latest ice condition report. We visited right after a massive snow storm that forced officials to closed the park temporarily until the trailhead was accessible again. And depending on winds, currents and temperatures, safe ice conditions can deteriorate at any given time. Call the Apostle Island ice line before you go, the report will tell you everything you need to know >> 715-779-3398 (ext. 3)

If you simply cannot make the journey to see the ice caves in person, please enjoy this lovely video slideshow created by my talented mother =)

Video created by >>  “A Ricci Studio” Web Design & Management

_____________________________________________________________

BrittRic - Lifestyle & Awareness BlogBrittRic is a lifestyle blogger, landscape photographer and environmental conservationist. ::Feel free:: to follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter. Contact: bsricci@gmail.com

,

DIY | Natural Beach Hair Spray

DIY | Natural Beach Hair Spray

This past year I have been in the process of weeding out the dirty chemicals in my life. The kind of unnecessary chemicals that are found in cleaning products, skin and hair care, non-organic foods, the list goes on and on. I have chosen to do this partially to lessen my carbon footprint, and mostly for my own personal health  – not to mention its cheaper !

Along the way, I have phased out many conventional personal care products. In efforts to break my dirty Paul Mitchell hairspray addiction, I have been searching for an alternative to give my hair some body, as well as a similar textured feel. I first discovered the idea for this DIY beach hair spray on Pinterest, and finally decided to give it a try. The recipe is super simple, and requires very few ingredients – many of which can be found either at home or your local health foods store. All it requires is sea salt for texture, coconut oil for moisture and shine, and a bit of hair gel for hold !

Here’s everything you need >> Sea salt, Coconut oil, Hair gel, Coconut scented oil (optional), warm water and an empty spray bottle

To make your own beach spray, simply add 1 tbsp sea salt, 1 tbsp coconut oil and 1 tbsp hair gel to 1 cup of warm water. Through experimenting, I have found that if your hair tends to be more oily like mine, you can add extra sea salt to your formula to balance things out. If you have drier hair, try adding more coconut oil until you find the right consistency that works best for you =) Then finally, add 3-4 drops of coconut scented oil for a little extra beachy goodness (optional), and shake it all up!

To apply for a beach wavy look, wash your hair as usual, ring it out, spray the solution generously to ends and let air or blow dry (since I have dreads, I do a combination of both air and blow drying, otherwise my hair would be wet for days). So far I have been very pleased with the added texture and overall feel of my hair. It smells absolutely amazing too !

Natural Beach Hair Style

Embrace Messy Hair - DIY Natural Beach Hair Spray Recipe

For more ways to incorporate coconut oil and sea salt into your personal care regimen, check out my blog post >> Sea Salt & Coconuts <<

Join the Conversation.  Please feel free to leave any questions or comments you may have in the discussion section below !

_____________________________________________________________

BrittRic - Lifestyle & Awareness BlogBrittRic is a lifestyle blogger, landscape photographer and environmental conservationist.

::Feel free:: to follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter. Contact: bsricci@gmail.com 

DIY | Coconut Sea Salt Scrub

DIY | Coconut Sea Salt Scrub

Due to the oily nature of my Italian skin, I have never been an avid moisturizer or lotion user. However in the dead of winter, with the brutally cold temperatures we have been plagued with here in Wisconsin this season, my skin has become exceptionally brittle and dry. So, rather than turning to my stash of drug store “aloe vera” lotion, which I found to contain a dirty laundry list of unnecessary additives and chemicals, I decided to take measures into my own hands (literally).

I discovered the idea for this DIY body scrub when I first started Pinterest, and have been dying to try it ever since. I only wish I had gotten around to it sooner! It has quickly become my favorite go-to moisturizer, leaving my skin feeling soft, smooth and hydrated all day long. The recipe is super simple, and requires very few ingredients – many of which can be found either at home or your local health foods store. Then, its just a matter of deciding whether you want a salt or sugar scrub and what type of essential oil and scent you prefer.

I went with a sea salt & coconut oil scrub — perhaps reminiscent of the oceanside tropical beach I have been longing for this dreadfully cold winter season . . .

DIY Coconut Sea Salt Scrub Recipe Ingredients

Here’s everything you need >> Course sea salt, organic unrefined virgin coconut oil, organic jojoba essential oil, coconut scented oil (optional) and a glass jar with lid   *I recycled an old hummus jar

If you can get your hands on some organic jojoba essential oil, I would highly recommended adding some to your scrub. Albeit a tad pricey (mine costed $10), jojoba oil is said to be an incredible moisturizing treatment for your skin, offering natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

DIY Coconut Sea Salt Scrub - Jojoba Essential Oil

*I was able to have my local main street co-op order me a bottle at wholesale price.

To make the scrub, simply mix your course sea salt with your oils at a 2:1 ratio. For example, I combined one heaping cup of salt with 1/2 cup of melted coconut oil and 1 tbsp of jojoba oil. Then I added 3-4 drops of coconut scented oil for a little extra beachy goodness, and stirred it all up!

Coconut Sea Salt Scrub

Pretty simple, right? It also makes a quick and affordable gift. Store bought scrubs can cost ten to twenty dollars or more. This DIY alternative comes out to about two or three bucks (depending on the ingredients you choose).

Mix it up in a recycled jar, tie a string around it, attach a label and you have a fancy, luxurious gift !

Sea Salt Scrub Gift

For more ways to incorporate coconut oil and sea salt into your personal care regimen, check out my blog post >> Sea Salt & Coconuts <<

Join the Conversation.  Please feel free to leave any questions or comments you may have in the discussion section below !

_____________________________________________________________

BrittRic - Lifestyle & Awareness BlogBrittRic is a lifestyle blogger, landscape photographer and environmental conservationist. ::Feel free:: to follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter. Contact: bsricci@gmail.com

 

Sea Salt & Coconuts

Sea Salt & Coconuts

The cure for anything is salt water, sweat, tears, or the sea.

~Isak Dinesen

This past year I have been in the process of weeding out the dirty chemicals in my life. The kind of unnecessary chemicals that are found in cleaning products, skin and hair care, non-organic foods, the list goes on and on. I have chosen to do this partially to lessen my carbon footprint, and mostly for my own personal health  – not to mention its cheaper !

Along the way, I have phased out many conventional personal care products including deodorant, moisturizer, hairspray and face cleanser. This may sound weird or even “gross” to some, but I swear to you that it isn’t. I’m excited enough about it that I want to write a post to explain why you might want to give it a try too! There are so many cleaner, safer, natural alternatives available to us, most of which being common household ingredients. My particular favorites? Sea salt and coconuts =)

Deodorant / Antiperspirant   I’ll be frank with you, the fact that I had been using deodorant since I was a pre-teen scares me. Most types of deodorant require the use of parabens to retain their effectiveness over time. These parabens are then absorbed through the skin and mimic estrogen in our bodies, which can disrupt proper hormone function, potentially leading to cancer. And the connection between parabens and breast cancer is hard to deny.

Antiperspirants (found in most deodorants) rely on aluminum chlorohydrate, a hazardous chemical used to block pores from producing sweat which the odor-causing bacteria feed on. Studies show that aluminum exposure is not only related to increased chances of developing breast cancer, but also other diseases such as Alzheimer’s. And while research has only proven these to be “potential connections,” the risk — combined with the danger of parabens — is one that many people aren’t willing to take. I certainly am not! If you aren’t either, here is an effective, much safer alternative to try:

Thai Crystal Deodorant Salt Stone

This mineral salt stone is hypoallergenic, non-scented, chemical-free, residue-free and most importantly, aluminum chlorohydrate free. I paid $3 dollars for it at my local main street co-op, and they are said to last up to one year! This product is effective because it prevents body odor at the source by killing the odor-causing bacteria. Simply moisten the stone and apply generously to clean skin. Rather than a band-aid to cover up odor, I love that the mineral salt stone offers a proactive solution that targets the actual root of the problem. It took a week or two to adjust to my new regimen, but I swear by it now and will never look back!

*If you miss having a pleasantly scented underarm, try adding a drop or two of essential oil after applying the salt stone.

Moisturizer   Due to the oily nature of my Italian skin, I have never been an avid moisturizer or lotion user. However in the dead of winter, with the brutally cold temperatures we have been plagued with here in Wisconsin this season, my skin has become exceptionally brittle and dry. So the other day I dug out my minimal stock of drug store aloe vera lotion, and flipped to the back to check out the label.

In gaining more awareness of the increasing amount of hazardous chemicals contained in our everyday products, reading labels has now become an absolute ritual for me before I use or purchase anything.

Here is the ingredient label on the back of my drug store lotion–a lengthy list of all the crap I had been opting to rub deep into the pores of my skin:

Drug Store "Aloe Vera" Lotion Ingredients

The truth is, I cannot pronounce half of these items, nor do I have any idea what they really are or how my body might react to them over time.This is where we make a choice. Do we passively accept that chemical additives like sodium acrylate/acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer are “probably nothing, otherwise why would they put it in there?” Or do we decide for ourselves that the very bodies in which we rely on to exist simply are not worth the risk?

I choose the latter.

Thankfully, I have discovered an alternative that I am head-over-heels love with! Truly. If I could, I would shout it from the mountain tops. For our purposes here today, may this blog page be my mountain top . . .

C O C O N U T  O I L,  W I L L  Y O U  M A R R Y  M E ?

I think this stuff may have been extracted from heavenly clouds. Although many of us are just learning about it, coconut oil has been a beauty and dietary staple for millennia. I now use it for everything. Literally, from eye makeup remover to the butter on my toast. It has become an absolute necessity in my life — particularly in my daily hair and skin care.

Commercial moisturizers contain lots of water (take note of the very first ingredient listed on the label of my drug store lotion), which makes you feel like your skin is being moisturized. But as soon as that water begins to dry up, so then, does your skin. And while these commercial moisturizers use petroleum-based ingredients that can suffocate skin, coconut oil provides true, deep moisture, nourishing from the inside. It helps strengthen underlying tissues and remove the excess dead cells that make your skin feel rough and flaky. Coconut oil also acts as an antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial agent.

To apply, simply rub a dime-sized amount of coconut oil to dry areas – just keep in mind, a little goes a long way. While it tends to have a greasier consistency at first, coconut oil is fantastic at absorbing quickly into skin. Swap it in for your current lotion to maintain healthy, youthful skin. One spoonful is enough to hydrate your entire body !

*When purchasing your first jar, look for organic extra virgin coconut oil that has not been hydrogenated, bleached, refined or deodorized.

My personal favorite go-to moisturizer is my new coconut oil and sea salt body scrub. It leaves skin feeling soft, smooth and hydrated all day long. Check out my simple do-it-yourself recipe here:

DIY Coconut Sea Salt Scrub Recipe

Hairspray  In efforts to break my dirty Paul Mitchell hairspray addiction, I have been searching for an alternative to give my hair some body, as well as a similar textured feel. Lately, I have been experimenting with a coconut oil / sea salt spray — sea salt for texture, coconut oil for moisture and shine, and a bit of hair gel for hold. To apply, I simply wash my hair as usual, ring it out, spray the solution generously to ends, and let air or blow dry. So far I have been very pleased with the added texture and feel. It smells amazing too!

Try out my new favorite coconut oil & sea salt hair spray formula for natural, beach wavy goodness~

DIY Natural Beach Hair Spray Recipe

Face Cleanser   Daily face cleansers aim to “clean” your skin by stripping away its natural oils. And while none of us want a yucky, greasy face, stripping the oils away completely is actually counter-productive. When your skin recognizes that all the oils are gone (you know that dry, tight feeling?) its starts pumping out extra to compensate. This is why those of you who shower and wash your face every day actually need to — because your skin legitimately gets greasy faster than the skin of those who don’t wash every day. You have trained it to do this.

Recently, I have been experimenting with some natural alternatives that I am pretty excited about. Once a day I have been applying raw, apple cider vinegar (ACV) to my face, followed by a very light application of coconut oil, and I have already begun to see improvements in my skin. The apple cider vinegar does wonders for removing dirt and oil and clearing up acne without drying out your skin. ACV also helps to balance pH levels while tightening and toning your skin’s overall complexion. Coconut oil also works as a gentle makeup remover, fights acne with its antibacterial agents and leaves skin feeling smooth, supple and moisturized–just remember, a little of this stuff goes a long way !

In addition to preventing breakouts, I am finding this treatment evens out my skin tone, tightens and softens my overall complexion… happy skin =)

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Coconut Oil Facial Treatment

To learn more on the ACV / Coconut Oil facial treatment as well as other great natural health and beauty tips, check out my sister Ella’s health and wellness Facebook page ✼ Personalize your Health and Wellness !

Share your thoughts with us!  Do you have questions, comments or concerns about transitioning to a new personal care regimen? Have you been experimenting with natural alternatives? Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section below.

“BrittRic – Lifestyle & Awareness Blog” width=”86″ height=”86″>BrittRic is a lifestyle blogger, landscape photographer and environmental conservationist. ::Feel free:: to follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter. Contact: bsricci@gmail.com

Help!  My Dog Eats Everything

Help! My Dog Eats Everything

And then there was the part where we’d be woken out of a dead sleep in the middle of the night to the sound of said items being purged back up onto our vintage oriental rug. Not pretty. I soon began to realize we needed to find a healthier, safer solution for Reagan.

So, I turned to the Google on the internet machine. (Will Ferrell, anyone?)

Honest Pet Products, a family-run, local business out of Green Bay, Wisconsin immediately grabbed my eye. Composed of natural wools and organic hemp fibers from plants grown in a chemical and pesticide-free environment, these dog and cat toys are naturally anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, mildew-free, and lead-free so they are healthier and safer for your pet. Since they contain zero synthetics, rubbers or plastics, the toys are also machine washable and 100% biodegradable. And they are incredibly durable. In fact, the hemp plant produces the strongest of all plant fibers, resulting in toys that are three times as strong as cotton toys.

 

honestpetproducts

 

The company also contributes to the lives of the men and women who create the toys.  According to Mary Wolff, Honest Pet Products president and founder:

We economically support and emotionally encourage hardworking people with cognitive and developmental disabilities who make our truly NATURAL hemp and wool toys in Green Bay, WI.

Some of the toys are also handcrafted in Mongolia by women of impoverished, nomadic herding communities living without many basic needs. As part of a collaboration with the Snow Leopard Trust, these families earn a living with their traditional wool-working skills. In exchange, herders are protecting the endangered snow leopards that share their habitat.

Throughout my entire experience, Honest Pet Products has provided nothing short of fantastic customer service, and will sometimes even throw in extra goodies for the pet parent, including complimentary reusable “green” bags – a necessity I can never seem to have enough of !

 

Introducing hemp toys into Reagan’s play routine virtually eliminated her inclination to get into trouble. Gnawing away at those tough fibers keeps her occupied for hours, so she no longer feels the need to consume everything else in sight. This pup LOVES her hemp toys, all the way down to the very last thread. Here is all that remains of her first Eco-Tugger:

double-dogRemnants

I’m willing to bet your pet would love them too. Hemp toys also make great gifts! Check out their website and Facebook page:

>> HonestPetProducts.com

>> Facebook.com/HonestPetProducts

Share your thoughts!
What is the strangest thing that your pet has ever eaten?   Join the conversation in the comments section below!

 

 

 

The Choice to Be Child-Free

The Choice to Be Child-Free

BY BRITTRIC

 

Yes, we do know what we’re missing.

I have made the decision not to have kids. No, I am not a child-hater. I have just always known, deep in my soul, that raising children was never destined to be my path. Now well into my mid-twenties, I am growing rather tired of having to justify my decision. Gritting my teeth through the usual “but you don’t know what you’re missing” or “just wait, you’ll change your mind” conversation over and over again…I find it terribly uncomfortable. As if my chosen lifestyle couldn’t otherwise possibly be as fulfilling as yours.

Why is it that people just assume all women aspire to be mothers? The fact of the matter is, having (or not having) children is an extremely personal decision that we should never have to justify to anyone. Ever. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that the choices we make for ourselves are simply that – choices.

Recently, a dear friend of mine sent me this enlightening bit written byAbby Rosmarin. Immediately I felt inspired to pass along her sentiment, validating the counterculture choice not to have kids. It is so refreshing and rare to hear someone not only accept, but appreciate this decision for what it truly is.

To the Women Who Choose Not to Have Kids

To the women who choose not to have kids, I have one thing to say:   thank you.

You probably don’t hear it enough. In fact, you probably don’t hear it at all. What you do hear is an array of pro-childbearing responses, such as, “You’ll change your mind someday,” or, “Doesn’t your mother want grandkids?” or, “You’ll never find a husband if you never want to have kids.”

All things considered, “thank you” is probably on the opposite end of what you hear.

But seriously: thank you. Thank you for recognizing that childrearing isn’t for you and being true to who you are. It doesn’t mean you hate kids. It just means that raising one is not part of your path in life.

Thank you for not succumbing to the societal pressures. I’ve known far too many parents who had kids because that’s what was expected of them. Working in childcare, you see more of this type than you wish to see. The resentment is almost palpable. They love their children — at least, they have no choice but to love their children — but every single movement seems to scream, “I wasn’t meant for this.” I’ve known too many people who grew up with at least one parent who harbored that resentment, who let that resentment dictate how they parented. I’ve seen how that influenced the way these former children are now as adults, or even as parents themselves.

Thank you for not trying to compromise who you are in an effort to keep a partner around. Thank you for being honest and open and refusing to apologize for who you are. Everyone has different values. Everyone wants something different in life. It takes a lot of guts and confidence to say,

This is what I want in life. It’s not the orthodox way, but it’s my way.

Thank you for not trying to silence that feeling in your gut as a means to validate your life. There are too many people in this world who cannot figure out their path — or have stumbled while walking down said path — and decided that maybe having a child could provide that meaning and definition instead. You understand that down this path lies vicarious living and hurt emotions and you recognize that there are so many other ways to find love and meaning and joy in your life.

Raising children is a difficult, onerous, frustrating, and disappointing gig. It’s tough enough for those who want it. It is a rewarding and loving gig as well, but it’s not something one should go into while focusing only on reward and love and societal acceptance. In this day and age, with a booming population in almost every country, it makes no sense to pressure every person to have a baby. But we’re sticklers to tradition, ritualistic to a fault.

So thank you. It’s not easy to stand firm with your belief. Honestly, truly, and genuinely: thank you. ✦

To see more from Abby, you can check her out here >> Thought Catalog

You have a voice.  Please feel free to share your thoughts with us and join the conversation in the comments section below.

_____________________________________________________________

BrittRic is a lifestyle blogger, landscape photographer and environmental conservationist. ::Feel free:: to follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter. Contact: bsricci@gmail.com

Pin It on Pinterest