Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Organic Cosmetics Review

Usually, I buy Clinique's foundation because it doesn't break me out, and the color "Petal" is a perfect shade for me. Because of some health problems, I've decided it is best to give my largest organ(my skin) a break from chemicals. I did a bit of internet research and purchased Physicians Formula Organic tinted SPF 15 moisturizer in "Fair to Light" at Target. Amazingly, it moisturized my skin without breaking me out, and the shade is not bad. It's just the tiniest bit chalky, but I can warm it up with a little bronzer or blush. I tend to have a difficult facial shade to match with foundation - I am fair with freckles and a bit peachy/rosy.The foundation is called a "tint", but in my opinion it was much darker than a tint. I liked the way it spread easily and dried quickly with no oily residue. It's also quite a bit less expensive than Clinique.

From the Physician Formula's website:

Organic wear® is the first ECOCERT® Certified Organic Line of Makeup in the U.S.
Most Organic wear® products are certified by ECOCERT®, an internationally recognized guarantee that environmentally-friendly practices are upheld in all aspects of the product.
All Organic wear® products are
100% Free of
  • Harsh Chemicals
  • Synthetic Preservatives
  • Parabens
  • Synthetic Fragrances
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s)
  • Animal Cruelty
I had some trouble finding the full line of Physician's Formula Organics at Target, so if I want to try some of their other products, I'll probably have to order them online. I'd like to try their lipstick, called lip veil.

My other change has been my lipstick. I usually use Rimmel of London because they have fantastic shades for my skin tone, but I've switched to all natural Burt's Bees tinted lip balms, Lip Shimmers. I purchased raisin(more like dark pink) which goes one well, but like most lip balms, comes off easily. I still like it though, especially the way it moisturizes and tingles from the peppermint. It's a very fresh lipstick, and it was less than $5.00 at Walmart. I actually wanted something with more brown in it, but the raisin color is okay on me for summer. They do have some brown colors I like online: papaya and nutmeg, but I didn't see these at Wallyworld.

That's all I wear out of the house: a little foundation, lipstick, and some blush. I still need to purchase some organic blush.

As I was searching the Burt's Bees website for this post, I noticed that they sell a herbal deodorant with sage as the main ingredient. I've got tons of sage, more than I know what to do with, so now I've got another project - sage deodorant.

Burt's Bees Herbal Deodorant - ingredients:
alcohol denat., water, salvia officinalis (sage) leaf extract, lavandula hybrida (lavandin) oil, citrus medica limonum (lemon) peel oil

Easy make at home ingredients. I've got the sage, lavender, and a lemon essential oil.

I already use Lafe's Deodorant Spray, but I love trying new things.

BTW, sage tea is nice...I'm drinking some with a little lemon balm and spearmint leaves fresh from my garden.

Also see: Budget Green (and Safe): Personal Care

Museum Field Trip

We did a museum field trip today to the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia. It was free admission today. They have a nice ancient history and 16th-17th century European painting collection, enough to review many highlights of the Old and New Testaments in painting and sculpture. The Greek collection was a perfect complement to my son's readings on Greek myths this week.

We viewed several 16th-17th century paintings of saints : Saint Sebastian with the arrows, Saint Elizabeth, Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Catherine, Saint Margaret, and a good many of Saint John the Baptist. There were some nice Albrecht Durer wood block etchings of the Jesus's life, paintings of Our Lady, and a small illuminated Book of Hours in the tiny medieval gallery.

We browsed a gallery of Dutch and Flemish paintings showing common everyday scenes with rich details near the end, as attention was waning.

There was a wonderful large painting of Lot(first painting above) and his daughter's fleeing the city of Sodom. We stood in front of this painting for quite a while because it was full of symbolism - lust, deceit, and lecherous folly vs. chastity, virtue, prudence and self-knowledge.

There was another lovely painting which sticks out in my mind, and that was the one of Mary and the baby Jesus surrounded by a garden wall (chastity/purity) where not even the angel enters. He hands her a lily from the other side.

It is a smaller museum, but has a decent collection of art and sculpture. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, nice enough to wander through the Victorian garden on our way out of the museum.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ancient Greek Studies for Middle Elementary

Two new vintage ebooks my son is beginning tomorrow:

The Story of the Greek People By Eva March Tappan, 1909.

The Heroes, or, Greek Fairy Tales for my Children, by Charles Kingsley, 1914.

Both public domain ebooks are free to read and download at Google Books. We load our free ebooks onto a flash drive and then read them on a laptop.

I even got my three year old daughter to read a book online with me today. We read My Book House: In the Nursery by Olive Beaupré Millera, 1920 which has cute illustrations.

Hints and helps:

In order to print or save pictures to your computer, you'll need to switch to the HTML version at the site. Look to the bottom right sidebar. Make sure you right click on the image of the page, or you'll get the entire web page.

I had trouble downloading these books with dial-up, so I use a free download manager which works very well, even with dropped connections.

If you need to return to a main page, click on "review book", and then "about book".

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Edible Garden

We have lots of shade in the backyard; we are covered by a cooling canopy of oak trees. So it's a bit dry and difficult to grow vegetables, although we keep trying. Things are growing much better this year thanks to Sluggo (organic slug and snail repellent) which is working better than Diatomaceous Earth.

Here are few herbs and vegetables which are growing well in a small corner with partial sun:

Sage, oregano, mint, and lavender

Garbage can potatoes

Tire tomatoes


See more at From Seeds to Harvest carnival.

Grenadian Spice Cake Recipe

I've got some leftover limes from Cinco de Mayo, so besides limeade, I'm making a cake using the lime zest. This Grenadian Spice Cake looks very good, and it has a rating of five out of five stars at

Image from

Update: This was very good, a bit plain for children, definitely a good tea or coffee cake. My tween son loved it, but my preschool daughter was looking for something more. It had a nice hint of lime, but I'd have rather had a stronger lime flavor. If I make this again I'll add lime juice and more zest.

Simple Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Tonight I am making something the children will like, homemade macaroni and cheese. I didn't have a car today, so I had to make do with what I had on hand. My substitutions and additions are in bold.


* 1 (16 ounce) package elbow macaroni(egg noodles)
* 1/2 cup evaporated milk(dried milk and water, and a bit of whole milk)
* 2 eggs
* 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream(ricotta cheese)
* 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
* 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
* 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 tablespoon butter(canola oil)
My additions: a few squirts of homemade catchup, onion powder, garlic salt, and seasoned stuffing bread on top with more cheese.

See rest of recipe here.

I'd add a picture, but my camera needs charging. It's still cooking, but a little taste of the cheese sauce tells me this will be really good!

Update: Very tasty, but definitely needs the sour creme for a creamier texture. I probably should have added more milk and oil. This recipe needs very little bake time as it can dry out quickly.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hygiene Hypothesis: Are We Too "Clean" for Our Own Good?

Interesting medical college article, especially if you suffer from an autoimmune disease. Click here. If this hypothesis is true, a little dirt and germs as a child could be beneficial.

"Increased hygiene and a lack of exposure to various microorganisms may be affecting the immune systems of many populations - particularly in highly developed countries like the US - to the degree that individuals are losing their bodily ability to fight off certain diseases.

That's the essence of the 'hygiene hypothesis', a fairly new school of thought that argues that rising incidence of asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and perhaps several other diseases may be, at least in part, the result of lifestyle and environmental changes that have made us too 'clean' for our own good."

May is the Month for Lilacs

I Wonder if the tides of Spring
Will always bring me back again

Mute rapture at the simple thing
Of lilacs blowing in the rain.

If so, my heart will ever be

Above all fear, for I shall know
There is a greater mystery

Beyond the time when lilacs blow.

~ Thomas S. Jones Jr., The Melody of Earth, 1918

Poetry and literature about lilacs in public domain:

Lawns and Gardens, 1897

First poems, 1895

The Jones Fourth Grade Reader, The Story of the Lilac Bush,1904

The Language of Flowers, 1852

Flora's interpreter, 1838

Drawing Lessons, Primary Education, 1913

The First Year Nature Reader, 1896

Fairy Tales, The Forest of Lilacs, 1869

The Parks and Gardens of Paris, Lilacs of Paris Gardens, 1883

Gardens Near the Sea, 1910

The Child's Botany, 1831

Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott

The New Century Third Reader, The Lilac, 1899.

Lessons with Plants, 1907

Modern Prose and Poetry for Secondary Schools, Warble for Lilac Time, 1914

HT to Elena for her post, Lilacs.

Free Homeschool Stuff: Art Projects for Children

A few favorites from the Art for Kids blog:

Maud Lewis Cat Painting

Tinted and Shaded Circles

Marker Drawing

Click on titles to go to projects.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cute Wrap Skirts for Spring and Summer

I received my wrap skirts today from Thailand via ebay, and I love them! I had a pair of wrap shorts in the early 80's which were very similar. They fit very well, and will continue to fit when I lose this dern extra 25 pounds(two sizes smaller). One of the skirts is reversible. I also got a free gift of pretty pair of neutral Thai shell dangle earrings. Low light for these pictures, sorry. I was trying to figure out what was in my hair in the first picture...dirty mirror. Note to self - clean mirror! Click to enlarge pictures.

Not a bad price(less $14.00 at auction per skirt) even with shipping, and it arrived quickly. I clicked through for a little extra discount, and ebay gave me back some ebay bucks. Discover card is giving back 5% on clothing this month as well. I'm hoping that ebay purchases count for this.

K-Mart is having a sale on cotton sleeveless tops for $4.00(I'm wearing one), so I'll have to go back to purchase a few matching tops for these skirts. I'm also sporting a new wedding ring in silver. I outgrew my original gold one, and they were 70% off at K-Mart. I got a new band for $19.99.

Skirts were purchased from Nepal Silk on ebay. The reversible one at top is made from silk Saris, so soft, and beautiful fabric. The others are cotton Batiks. All need to be hand washed. They fit small - extra large( true to U.S. sizes). They sell some plus sizes as well - cute sun dresses. I like the kimono style because it covers chubby shoulders and arms(giggle).

Look at the fabric on this's the same style as the first one at top. I also saw a pink one which was beautiful. I love the feel of Sari material, and it works so well at keeping you cool. When I lose a little weight I'll wear my top tucked it, or wear a shorter top length to show off the skirt's waist.

I just discovered that you can wear this wrap as a sun dress, criss-crossed in the back and front. If I were skinnier, I could wrap it around to the back. I had to hold it for the picture. I can still wear it tied around the front, without the criss-cross, as a bathing suit cover-up. They have longer wrap skirts which would make a cute longer sun dress. What a versatile piece of clothing!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Free Old Fashioned Gardening Magazines

I found this over at Google books, The Garden Magazine. There are many editions from 1905 - 1920's. See this main page at bottom right to view other editions. These books are downloadable and in public domain. A tip for printing or saving pages, select HMTL mode on side bar at link.

Old Fashioned Victorian Gardens

All from vintage gardening books:

A nice list of Victorian flowers


Victorian Flower Garden Designs


Features and Equipment of the Victorian Garden, of interest - Garden paths or walks - how to build, How to make a Hot Bed, Fruit Gardens, Garden Manures, and Potting mixes in the Victorian era.

Popular shrubs: Azalea, Holly, Hydrangea, Rose, Lilac, Forsythia, Andromeda, Barberry, Peony, and Quince.

Flowers: Delphinium, Aster, Alyssum, Chrysanthemum, Tulip, Pansy, Violet, Lavender, Daylily, Hosta, and Yarrow. Crinum lilies AKA: cemetery lilies are coming back in style.

And of course all types of ferns were popular.

I tried to find modern designs for small Victorian gardens, but they were loose interpretations, very modern(almost Zen-like) with lots of concrete patios. They should appear all natural, but somewhat controlled. They used loose and wild plantings within controlled boundaries, a bit of like a cottage garden, but more formal and tidy. The pathways were typically loose materials, not concrete or hard surfaces(unless main walkway). I'll keep looking, but artist renditions are always a good source.

Here's one in London:

Found a good one thanks to Homeliving: Explore the Victorian Garden: find resources, history and information about gardening in the 19th century.

Other resources:

Old Fashioned Living: The Garden Path, a long list of plant and garden information.

Here's one under construction in Britain - notice the sharp contained boundaries which will house plants that overflow giving the illusion of naturalized planting areas.

"There is a distinct atmosphere connected with those simple one-path gardens that is most delightful. It lies not only in the gravel paths and the stiff, box-borders, but in the fragrant old-fashioned flowers that were grown promiscuously inside the trim line of box."(Garden Ornaments, 1916) This sums up Victorian gardens to a tee, and I think I feel most comfortable with this sort of garden - ordered chaos.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Free Homeschool Stuff: Online Courses and Education

A nice listing of free online courses and education as well as an informational video on how to use these resources.

Includes: Business OpenCourseWare, Technology OpenCoursWare, Science OpenCourseWare, and Liberal Arts OpenCourseWare.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Homemade Ketchup

Tonight I decided to make my own ketchup. We are almost out, so after we finished a bottle Kurtz Ketchup, I thought I'd just make a copy-cat recipe from the ingredients on the back of the bottles minus the corn syrup. I also checked around the web for other recipes to see how people were making their ketchup. Most recipes were pretty much the same. The main ingredients are tomato paste, sugar(sweetener), vinegar, onion powder, salt, and spices. Instead of using a recipe, I just experimented with these ingredients by keeping an eye on the texture and adding spices to taste.

You certainly can make ketchup with diced tomatoes, but next time I'll wait to get some tomato paste! It's taking a long time to thicken up; I've got it cooking on low, and added some corn starch. The taste is really good, just too thin.

Here's what I can remember using for a large batch:

- Two cans of tomato sauce, one can of diced tomatoes, and one can of seasoned diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup sugar, and a big pour of dark molasses
- 3/4 - 1 cup vinegar
- A little water(a mistake, needs less liquids!)
- Various shakes and pours to taste of onion powder, Italian seasoning, cardamon, celery salt, tarragon, salt, coriander, and garlic.
- A few sprays of canola oil
- A little corn starch to thicken which got blobby on me.

I used the blender to liquefy the tomatoes and combine everything, now I'm waiting for it to thicken up on the stove. I think I may need to get some tomato paste tomorrow to fix it.

Here's a formal recipe: Hillbilly Housewife Homemade Ketchup recipe

Is it worth it? Maybe, if you use the paste, or you have a lot of tomatoes to use up. I think it takes a lot of them to make a good thick paste. The benefits are a product free of artificial ingredients and high fructose corn syrup, made to taste, adjustable for sugars and salts.

You can also just purchase organic or Kosher ketchup which is free of artificial ingredients and high fructose corn syrup. Not all organic ketchups are free from high fructose corn syrup. Ketchups like Muir Glen, Trader Joe's(spicey), Annie's, and all Kosher are sugar based.These ketchups are about $3.50 a bottle and up.

See more entries at this week's Make It From Scratch Carnival.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Make Your Own Mulch and Compost from Leaves

"Every spring we make new leaf mold. This is part of this year’s huge pile of ground-up leaves… by next spring it will have become a pile of rich black “soil” that will do wonderful things to our gardens." Read the rest here.

We do a version of this as well, more out of laziness than anything else! ;) Seriously, this is an efficient and cost effective way to recycle, and take advance of nature's cycle of decomposition. We use a mulching mower to shred the leaves, tiny sticks, and grass into tiny pieces so that they decompose more quickly. Instead of piling them, we just mow right over the stuff and leave them. Everything returns to the earth as free fertilizer. Anything extra or unsightly gets raked up around the trees in a neat circle, or wisked into the beds as mulch.

In addition to the using a mulching mower, we get free wood chips from local tree cutting companies. I dress the beds with these, right over the leaves and weeds. It all breaks down into lovely rich soil with the help of lots of worms who find the mix lovely.

Less work and cost for us, and better for the environment.

Our local government is encouraging this natural method of landscaping in order to minimize fertilizer and other chemical run off(storm drains) into the Chesapeake Bay, which is suffering a slow death from algae bloom and pollution. In addition to loss of wildlife, waterman jobs have been lost due to poor catches. Crab and fish are no longer as plentiful.

Yogurt Recipes and More

Just what I needed! See Denese's post for a list of homemade yogurt techniques, recipes with yogurt, and as a bonus, homeschool yogurt science.

I just made a mixed berry yogurt smoothie with one of the recipes, yum.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Natural Inspect Repellent Spray

It's that time of year again in our area. The mosquitoes are out in force already. This year we are trying a natural deet-free products. In the past we've used Avon's Skin-So-Soft(deet-free), but not all natural, with very little success.

Seven natural insect repellents:

California Baby(some Targets)
Aubrey Organics Gone!
Kiss My Face Swy Flotter
Sport Bite Blocker SPF 20
Homemade on Etsy

You can also make your own with essential oils added to either oil, vinegar, witch hazel or vodka. To name a few, these essentials oil are known for their natural bug repelling properties: lavender, eucalyptus, citronella, lemon grass, lemon eucalyptus, peppermint, clove oil, rose geranium, cedar, *neem oil, and tea tree oil.

*Neem oil stinks! I have found that citronella completely covers the smell of neem oil, so it's a good choice for pairing.

I plan to make my own, and purchase a commercially produced natural bug repellent. I have read that these products work with your skin chemistry, so no one product is good for everyone. I'm guessing that a combination of many different essentials oils that are known to repel mosquitoes is probably better than just a few.

Using natural soap scented with the bug repelling essential oils in addition to the spray might not be a bad idea for layering the protection. I think I'll look for some at either Target, Etsy or . Vitacost has a bar of neem soap for $1.32.

Check as well. I buy discounted Dr. Bronner's products from them. The shipping is very low at $4.99 on any size order, and they ship fast. I'm trying
All Terrain
All Terrain Herbal Armor Insect Repellent Spray Deet-Free 4 fl oz $5.19. It's got one positive review. I'm also ordering some essential oils for some other projects - great prices as usual.

Also see :Five Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

7/09 update: I made my own and used the All Terrain. Both worked well! I still got a few bites, but then I got bites with DEET repellents as well. BTW, it works well as a natural deodorant too. I used vodka as a base, and added neem oil, eucalyptus, citronella, lemon eucalyptus and cedar essential oils. I didn't measure, but recall pouring about a tablespoon of neem oil and 2 tablespoons of citronella into an 8 ounces spray bottle full of vodka. The remaining essential oils measured out at about 10-15 drops.

I haven't tried this, but you might be able to add zinc oxide powder to your bug spray in order to give it sunscreen properties.

About Me

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I'm a homeschooling mom of two, a teen and a little. I hope this collection of mine helps you as much as it has helped us. I have an Etsy shop here: And a blog: