Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Squeaky Clean

I was a bit misleading when I mentioned that I had some homemade cleaning products to share - they aren't products for cleaning houses, but rather for cleaning yourself.  Here's the thing: I've given up on shampoo, and soap.

In January, I was home alone and screwing around on the internet, and I followed a few random links and stumbled across some websites discussing the No Shampoo Method, and the Oil Cleanse Method.  I read up on them.  I was intrigued.  I did some research, finding out the best ways to take up these soap-free, super-cheap, and gentle self-care techniques.  I found lots, and lots, and LOTS of websites, blog posts, YouTube videos, and forum discussions.  And I discovered that the only thing that can be concluded is that you have to work out what is best for your skin & hair.  So here's how I do it, using these ingredients...

I haven't used shampoo since January.  Instead, I wash my hair with a bicarb soda (baking soda) paste, and 'condition' with apple cider vinegar.  Some  people seem to use heaps more water than bicarb, and pour it over their hair.  I tried that, but prefer a runny paste.  I fill up a little container with bicarb...

And then add an equal amount of water (give or take a bit).  Then I stir and stir, until it is a smooth paste.

Then, once a week, I take a big scoop of this paste and massage it into my head.  I try to keep it to the roots, because it makes the ends of my hair a bit dry.  I rub it in, and leave it on for about a minute, and then rinse.  Be sure to rinse thoroughly - I've gotten out of the shower a few times and found a super white patch on my scalp.

I also keep a little jar of apple cider vinegar in the shower, next to a small plastic cup.  After all the bicarb paste is rinsed out of my hair, I tip 1 to 2 Tablespoons of vinegar into the little cup, and then fill it up with water.

Then, I dip my hair into the cup, to make sure the ends get their fair share of the vinegar.  After that, I tip the rest of the vinegar water over my hair.  Again, rinse thoroughly.  I like to end with a quick blast of cold water - it may be ineffective, but in my head it makes my hair shinier.

Once I get out of the shower, I towel-dry my hair and dab a bit of coconut oil on the ends.  All of this works best, for me, if I wash my hair in the afternoon or evening.  Then I let it air dry, and sleep on it.  For some reason, this gives me smooth, shiny, and easy to work with hair.  If I wash it in the morning, it goes a bit fuzzy.

As I mentioned above, I only need to do this once a week.  On the other days, I keep my hair dry for my morning shower, and rinse with plain water for my afternoon or evening shower.  My hair only smells like vinegar until it dries on the first day - after that, it's fine.  And it doesn't get sweaty or greasy, even though I ride to and from uni each day.  My hair is still as soft as it was when I was washing with shampoo, so I'm happy to save heaps and heaps of money by using cheap kitchen supplies!

The Oil Cleanse method is based on the notion that "like dissolves like", which may or may not be scientifically true.  In any case, it involves using oil to clean your face, and surprisingly, it works really well.

I mix my oils in a plastic bottle, which lasts for a few months.  About 1/4 to 1/3 of the bottle gets filled with Castor Oil (which is available from the chemist - but behind the counter).  I put a few drops of eucalyptus oil, for its antibacterial qualities.  Then I top up the bottle with olive oil.  The ratio of castor to olive oil depends on your skin type.  If you have very dry skin, you can go up to half-half, but if your skin is on the oily side you should use more olive oil.

So, every evening, I pull back my hair and get maybe a teaspoon, at the most, of oil in my palm.  Then, for 5 or 10 minutes, I rub it all over my face.  It's great for dissolving makeup, and I can literally feel my pores unclogging while I rub.  After a few minutes, I rinse.  With the hottest water I can stand, I rinse and rinse with a cloth, rubbing the oil off.  It takes a few rinses, and it's not finished until your face feels un-oily.  Then I dry my face.  I still use moisturiser after I'm finished - some people on the internet said they don't need to, but my skin gets too dry without it.  I do this at night, and in the mornings I just rinse my face with plain water and then moisturise before putting on makeup.

Why bother?
To be honest, I had no problem with the facial cleanser and shampoos I was using before I started these homemade options in January.  I was buying from Plant Essentials, which makes its products right here in Townsville, using certified organic plant ingredients.  And they're not even that expensive.  In fact, I still use their moisturisers and make up, because I truly love that shop.

But, (and this is an indication of my supreme laziness), I was home alone in January and the thought of going in to the city when I was running low on shampoo was unappealing.  So I decided to try out these methods I had read about.  And it turns out I like them.  Neither method has revolutionised the quality of my skin or hair - some people on the internet seem to suggest it has for them, but for me, I haven't noticed much difference at all compared to soap and shampoo.   Except, of course, for the price difference.  Bicarb soda, apple cider vinegar, and oil are cheap, and since you don't use much, it really is very cost effective. The results look something like this:

So there you have it - my cheaper-than-chips, easy-pants homemade self-cleaning products.  If you're interested and I haven't answered your questions, let me know in the comments - or do some googling, since there is a boatload of information on the interwebs.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Hi! I'm back! Back, that is, to a reasonable work load, done with marking, survived several deadlines, and feeling as light as a cloud for the past few days!  It seems like months since our trip to Eden, but we returned home only about 3 weeks ago.

View Larger Map

This Eden trip was both a welcome break from the crazy, and a poorly timed interruption to my busy-busy schedule.  But mainly, Eden is a soul-restoring place.  The coastline is just beautiful.  Eden is surrounded on three sides by extensive national parks and state forests.  Andy's family home has a fantastic garden and views of the bay.  And his parents are wonderful.  So, aside from the cold, it was a great trip - and the cold wasn't even all that bad, since it meant we could light the fire.

On the first full day we were in Eden, we headed south to Green Cape, in one of the many national parks nearby.  There, we were greeted with spectacular views, like these over Wonboyn and Disaster Bay.

The place was obviously windswept - the saltmarsh plants were all bent over.  According to Andy's dad, this is where the weather from the south comes and turns, instead of heading north towards Eden.

We watched the waves crash over the rocks - and this was on a smooth, non-windy day.

Andy trekked down onto the rocks for a closer look.  Note his "winter on top, summer on bottom" look involving a beanie-hat, long sleeves and layers, and then shorts and thongs.

We also went to Bittangabee, a secluded little beach in the state forest.

And Saltwater Creek, where this friendly-looking kangaroo turned out not to be so friendly, growling at Andy for getting too close.

On the other days, Andy's mum had to work, and I had some marking to do, but we also did lots of baking (pumpkin muffins, and chocolate birthday cake for Andy's mum) and cooking (roasted veggies up the wazoo).  We headed into Bega so Andy could visit his grandma.  On the way back, we stopped for chips in Merimbula, a summer resort town.  The chips were disappointing - soggy, overpriced, and a small serve.  But the scenery was good - we ate next to Bottom Lake, a saltwater lake with lots of boats and sea gulls.

Another day we went into Eden town, checking out the wharf, full of fishing boats (though, according to Andy, practically empty compared to when he was a kid).

And peering down at beautiful, but cold looking, Asling's beach.

We also helped Andy's parents clean out some of their closets - we came home with warm clothes for Andy, as well as some good Scanpan sauce pans and a few other kitchen bits, including two sets of chop sticks, so we can learn how to use them (this is foreshadowing for a future post...).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Snowed Under

I've been a bit busy with work in the last few weeks, and this will continue for a few more.  Between my part time job and some extra casual work I agreed to do, I'm up to my ears in marking, guest lectures, paper writing, and literature reviewing, and I have deadlines coming at me from all directions at the moment.  So my presence in blog-land will be minimal for a bit.

But I'll be back!  And when I have a bit more time to breathe, and a weekend that doesn't require hours of working, I will tell you about things like our recent trip to Eden, some homemade cleaning products I've been digging since earlier this year, a very mini kitchen makeover, some crochet adventures, and an upcoming, very exciting and very large trip Andy and I have now officially booked.

Until then, I'm leaving you with these 'Elvis Blondies', a peanut butter, banana and chocolate combination, from Vegan Bake Sale.  These were yummy - but when cold, tasted a bit stale, so if you have the cookbook and make the recipe, I recommend bringing it up to room temperature at least, or warmer, for the most deliciousness.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Birthday Trifle

Andy had a birthday recently, so despite his comments that he didn't want anything, gifts or food or anything, I got him a present anyways.  I also wanted to make some kind of cake-like dessert, because what's a birthday if not a great excuse for cake?  However, we were only a few days away from a long weekend to Eden (where we've just returned from, so more on that soon), so we were trying to empty out the pantry and avoid grocery shopping.

This made birthday dessert-making tricky, because we were out of cocoa, out of chocolate, out of pastry, out of frozen fruit, and a few other things.  But I did notice a box of vegan jelly we bought at the Asian grocery store a few months ago.  I was going to make some jelly.  Then I though -- why not make trifle?

I settled on a simple but hopefully delicious vanilla bean-centric trifle to go along with our strawberry flavoured jelly.  First, I made a vanilla bean cake, turning the recipe for Vanilla Bean Cupcakes from Vegan Bake Sale into a big cake.  This didn't work all that well; for some reason the cake took twice as long as I expected to bake through.  And it had a few funny bubbles.  However, it was absolutely freaking delicious.

I make trifle by splitting my cake in half and spreading it with jam, before sandwiching it back together and cutting it into chunks.  Those chunks go into the trifle dish (in our house, a deep-ish pan) and jelly gets poured over the top to set amidst the cake chunks.  This goes against Andy's family's method, which involves setting the jelly separately, then breaking it up and putting on top of the cake that way.  But luckily he's flexible, and willing to try new things.

Once the jelly sets, some vegan custard goes over the top.

Then I sprinkled on some toasted coconut.

I was struggling to come up with a whipped cream alternative, based on what we had in the house.  But then it hit me - vanilla bean + coconut cream = Andy's favourite ice cream ever.  Since we had both of those things, I made some ice cream, which we scooped on top of each serve of trifle.

The result was really, very yummy.  The only thing this needed was a layer of real fruit.  But for a quickly thrown together, using what we had on hand kind of dessert, I was pretty impressed with myself.