August 11, 2008

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The Cooper-Sohn household is a pretty DIY place for many reasons: thrift, environmental conservation, better heath, and curiosity.  I’ve grown a bit tired of products that come in plastic that will be here for millenia after I am gone, have wacky ingredients that I cannot pronounce, are used for industrial purposes, or are just unreasonably expensive when I know I can make it easily.  This photo is a prime example of our household satisfying those urges.

From left to right:

Queen of Hungary Water – I bought the book Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond a couple of years ago.  It is full of practical recipes to make a healthier home – from body care to cleansers, even paint.  I’ve tried many of the cleaning recipes, but only recently turned to the body care section, baby steps.  Queen of Hungary water was originally made by gypsies as a medicinal remedy, but she swears by it as an astringent, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.  It contains lemon balm, rose petals, comfrey, rosemary, lemon peel, sage, and apple cider vinegar (most of the herbs grown in my very own garden!).  After it sets for six weeks (one more week to go), I will dilute it with rose water (that I also made myself), and watch my skin turn to something akin to a baby’s bum.  Well, at least, here’s hoping.

Deodorant – This is a variation of a recipe I found over at Angry Chicken.  I used baking soda, corn starch, shea butter, cocoa butter, vegetable glycerine, jojoba oil, and essential oils.  I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks and am very pleased.  If I put it on when my pits are moist, it rubs in quite easily and keeps the stink down.  Thanks Amy!

Kombucha – Gregory and I first saw a recipe for this in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  Our curiosity was piqued, so we consulted the oracle that is the internet and read more.  The descriptions of this “tea,” and more importantly, the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), sounded healthy, but a little gross, too, so when we saw a bottle at New Seasons, we proceeded with caution.  We needn’t have.  It was good, and we were hooked.  Said bottle cost $3, so we started looking for a source for the culture to make our own, which was a bit of an adventure.  We asked around at a couple of natural grocery stores, gave them our phone number, and were eventually contacted by a guy in North Portland.  We went to his house, met his family, and saw his colony of scobys.  Very interesting to say the least.  Now, with dear Gregory as my brew master, I’ve got all I need at about fifty cents a bottle.

Birch Water – I keep my plastics consumption pretty low, but the place where I had the biggest trouble was hair care.  Nobody bottles shampoo in glass, so I turned to Better Basics and found a recipe that was pretty appealing.  It uses birch water (branches steeped in boiling water, then strained), glycerine, castille soap, rum (yeah, that’s right – rum), and essential oils.  It doesn’t make the lather like we’re used to, but it smells great and leaves our hair shiny and scalp tingly.  I’m hooked!

I’m still buying some of these ingredients in plastic containers, but I feel a little better knowing that I use them for multiple purposes (like cleaning, skin care, deodorant, and shampoo), which, ultimately, is reducing my overall consumption of the junk.  It’s the best I can do for now.