Mother Earth Living

Your Natural Home

Creating a cozy hearth for the family

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7/17/2013

Scent your home with natural fragrances using a homemade reed diffuser. It is simple to make your own reed diffuser. Plus, they look attractive in any home. But most importantly, this fun DIY project keeps homes smelling clean and fresh without the use of possibly harmful chemicals. Store-bought air fresheners contain an alarming amount of phtahalates, VOCs and hazardous air pollutants, and many use overpowering synthetic fragrances, which can lead to painful headaches. But homemade reed diffuser oil uses natural plant oils, including essential oils.

While essential oils can be a bit pricey, they last a really long time and have countless uses. Peppermint essential oil is a popular healing oil among aromatherapists, as there are many uses for it. This potent oil makes a great addition to foot scrubs, helps ease headaches, can relieve nausea, and is an excellent choice for homemade reed diffusers.

In this video, Mother Earth Living Assistant Editor Gina DeBacker shows you how to make your own reed diffuser oil. Here's what you'll need to get started: a small glass bottle (the smaller the neck of the bottle, the slower your liquid will evaporate, and the longer your room will smell great), 1/2 cup carrier oil (try grape seed, safflower or sweet almond oil, available at your local grocery store.), 5 to 10 drops peppermint essential oil (essential oils are highly concentrated, so you don’t need a lot to make your home smell great), bamboo skewers (these should be about twice as tall as your glass bottle) and a funnel (to help you pour without spilling).

For even more uses for peppermint essential oil, check out the article 15 Uses for Mint.


Gina DeBacker HeadshotGina DeBacker is the assistant editor at Mother Earth Living. She enjoys testing new DIY projects at home.



6/28/2013

Have you seen our new selection of apps? Mother Earth Living now offers a FREE Wiser Living library app filled with great resources that readers will love having right at their fingertips, including recipes for homemade cleaners, tips on herbal remedies and specialized digital issues of the magazine. To get our collection of reader resources saved to your phone, simply download our Mother Earth Living Wiser Living library app from the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store. After downloading the app, you can browse through our resources and download those that most interest you. Best of all, as we continue to create new guides and resources the library app will automatically update you with new content.

Guide to Homemade Household Cleaners

Homemade Household CleanersMost household products contain dozens of harmful chemicals that might have serious side effects on your family’s health, from mild respiratory irritation to liver and kidney damage. Some chemicals commonly found in household cleaners can even contribute to the development of some cancers.

Our guide to homemade household cleaners gives you a foolproof way to know exactly what’s in your cleaning products—by making them yourself using 25 simple, inexpensive recipes. Choose the type of cleaner you want to make by room—kitchen, bathroom, living room, laundry room—or purpose, and our Homemade Household Cleaners resource will give you the simple steps to create your own cleaning products arsenal using natural, easy-to-find ingredients, such as baking soda, vinegar and essential oils.

To start making your own household cleaners, download the FREE Mother Earth Living library app from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store right now.

Don’t forget to visit the Mother Earth Living Wiser Living apps page for information about all of our app offerings.



5/30/2013

On most evenings, architect and land planner Helena van Vliet carries her canvas tote to Kimberton Whole Foods just a block from her home and packs it with ingredients for the night’s meal. She prefers buying fresh food daily, never filling her compact, under-the-counter refrigerator.

The convenience of living next door to a natural foods marketplace is only one reason van Vliet bought her home in Kimberton Village, Pennsylvania. Raised in a small town in Germany, van Vliet’s 100-plus-year-old home reminds her of the simple existence of her European youth.

biophilic home exterior
Photo By Barry Halkin

“Living in the village offers me an integrated lifestyle in a community,” van Vliet says. “I can walk everywhere I need to go. Connecting these local conveniences with high-tech information services and systems necessary to run a business makes for a less stressful, more productive life with a much lower carbon footprint to boot.”

While the village life may not be an option for many of us, “integration” and “connection” are key words van Vliet uses to describe her design principles and lifestyle choices. Biophilic design, her blueprint approach to architecture, is a process that integrates elements of the natural world into built environments, thereby connecting people to nature. The concept is known to promote wellness and physiological restoration.

Helena van Vliet home exterior
Photo By Barry Halkin

Stephen Kellert, a social ecologist and author who has spent most of his life writing about biophilic design and studying the human-nature connection, explains that people “learn better, work more comfortably, and recuperate more successfully in buildings that echo the environment in which the human species evolved.”

It was Harvard biologist and Pulitzer Prize winner E.O. Wilson who popularized the biophilia concept in 1984 with his memoir, Biophilia, but it could be argued that it wasn’t until the publishing of The Biophilia Hypothesis, a book Wilson co-edited with Kellert in 1995, that the biophilia theory became widely accepted and influential in building design.

biophilic bedroom
Photo By Barry Halkin

You can see many biophilic features at work in van Vliet’s home, which she transformed years ago from a two-story store/café into a three-bedroom residence. She rebuilt with nature in mind, using the textures, sounds, patterns and colors found in the landscape.

“I consider the experience of space in a larger context,” says van Vliet. “I look at the settings and how buildings and spaces relate to one another. What surrounds the building? What do I see when I am inside looking out? How can I the improve flow and energy in the building to enhance the psychological health benefits for those visiting the space?”

biophilic home curved walls
Photo By Barry Halkin

The house, once tall and dark with a box-shaped façade, is now a gleam of open spaces topped off with an arching tower graceful enough to house Rapunzel. Inside, more curved walls painted in calm, earthy hues add shape and texture to areas that unfold and guide visitors naturally from room to room, or in the case of the tower, from the driveway to her front door.

The tower, actually, serves many functions. As an overlook, it provides a view of the village to the west, and a glimpse of the courtyard to the south. It also offers visual and acoustical privacy, separating the public areas from the private ones while buffering noise from passing cars and pedestrians.

biophilic home porch
Photo By Barry Halkin

Still, in the late afternoon the tower becomes an awning to shade the graveled terrace when the sun beams down. Even the bottom level of the column serves a purpose as van Vliet’s home office, which is conveniently street level, giving her clients easy access.

“When designing the three-story tower addition and outbuildings, my intent was to accentuate the natural elevations of the site while integrating the buildings with the landscape,” van Vliet says.

fountain
Photo By Helena van Vliet

She took advantage of the original structure nestled into the hillside facing south, making the home ideally situated for natural insulation. Since natural ventilation was equally important to van Vliet, she abandoned the air conditioning units, and chose instead to use ceiling fans to pull the colder air up from the bottom level. In closing her home during the heat of the day, the rooms remain cool, so by the time she opens the skylights up in the evening, any warm air releases into the night’s breeze.

In addition, van Vliet replaced the hot air systems with radiant heat throughout the home, adding energy efficiency to the cozy environment. Ultimately, van Vliet’s home is directly connected to its surroundings where details include scale, shape and placement.

gravel pathway
Photo By Barry Halkin

“Before I purchased the house I considered its setting and orientation to the sun,” van Vliet says. “It was an ideal spot for a home, sitting on the east/west axis in the long direction, gaining the southwest cooling breezes.”

Following the sun, van Vliet’s new spaces placed the living area on the south side where floor-to-ceiling French doors allow sunlight to flood the room in the wintertime. The southern exposure is ideal for her plantings in the courtyard garden, an outdoor space she visits often in the summertime to cook, relax and dine alfresco.

Her decorating style is influenced by her love of the southwest where she says “buildings disappear into the landscape.”

Elements of Biophilic Design

• Connecting living spaces/walls, plant life and sensory gardens

• Incorporating natural light, fresh air and moving water

• Integrating the outer with the inner by considering views

• Ensuring natural ventilation and open flow spaces

• Including natural forms, textures and sound

• Engaging a sense of discovery

• Combining local, repurposed and non-toxic materials


Margaret GilmourMargaret Gilmour is a freelance writer who loves the outdoors and knows everything is better if it’s just-picked and all-natural. You can find her at Fresh-Basil.com (where she plans to spend more time).  



5/24/2013

The Flower Recipe BookFrom alliums to zinnias, The Flower Recipe Book (Artisan Books, 2013) by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo acts as a floral encyclopedia, with complete intros to 50 blooms—from the correct pronunciation of flower names to the spectrum of colors they come in, to what’s in season, when, and details specific to each varietal. The Flower Recipe Book provides information on how to arrange flowers with arrangements that run the gamut of styles and techniques, from elegant and structured to wild and lovely, for occasions big and small. Check out the following excerpt for instructions on how to arrange a hydrangea bouquet.

Hydrangea Bouquet

DIY hydrangea bouquet 

FLOWERS

• 1 stem of hydrangea
• 5 branches of blackberries
• 9 wired and skewered succulents*
• 8 stems of flowering oregano

MATERIALS

• 3-foot length of 1-inch ribbon

* How to skewer succulents: Wooden cooking skewers can be used to give heavy-headed succulents longer stems. The simplest method is to cut a succulent from its roots, leaving as long a stem nub as possible, and push a skewer into the bottom of the succulent through the nub, taking care not to push it all the way through the top. To create a more durable “stem,” push floral wire halfway through the stem, just below where the leaves start. Wrap the ends of the wire around the stem and down the length of the skewer. Wrap with floral tape to finish.

1. Hold the stem of hydrangea at the base just below the leaves.

2. Add the branches of blackberry to the grouping in hand, feeding them through the florets of the hydrangea so that the berries sit just above the bottom.

3. Feed the succulents into hydrangea so that the bottoms of the succulents are resting on the florets, clustering them more densely on the left side.

4. Add one stem of flowering oregano to the back left so that it arcs to the left and slightly above the other elements. Scatter the remaining stems of oregano throughout. Then tape the base of the bouquet under the leaves of the hydrangea with floral tape. Finish by trimming the stems and wrapping and tying the ribbon around the base to cover the floral tape.

Excerpted from The Flower Recipe Book by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Paige Green.



5/21/2013

The Flower Recipe BookFrom alliums to zinnias, The Flower Recipe Book (Artisan Books, 2013) by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo acts as a floral encyclopedia, with complete intros to 50 blooms—from the correct pronunciation of flower names to the spectrum of colors they come in, to what’s in season, when, and details specific to each varietal. The Flower Recipe Book provides information on how to arrange flowers with arrangements that run the gamut of styles and techniques, from elegant and structured to wild and lovely, for occasions big and small. Check out the following excerpt for instructions on how to arrange zinnias.

Zinnia Bouquet

hanging zinnia bouquet

FLOWERS

• 20 zinnias
• 4 stems of amaranthus
• 2 stems of lupine
• 4 stems of veronica

VESSEL

• Hanging basket

1. Using a hanging basket provides the opportunity to bring an arrangement into an area that may not be suited for a traditional tabletop piece.

2. Trim all the zinnias and fill the basket so that the lower leaves rest at the rim.

3. Trim and add the amaranthus to the front and left side of the basket, allowing the blooms to hang over the rim.

4. Trim and add the stems of lupine to the back right side of the basket so that the spires sit several inches above the zinnias. Finish by trimming the stems of veronica to a similar height and adding two stems to the center and two stems to the back left side.

Excerpted from The Flower Recipe Book by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Paige Green.



4/25/2013

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and it’s time to start brainstorming some unique handmade Mother's Day gifts. This holiday offers a wonderful opportunity to celebrate people who share motherly love with us. Whether she’s a friend, aunt, grandma, sister, or the woman who gave you life, these recipes will surely express your loving gratitude. What better way to celebrate “Mom” than with the gift of pure relaxation? These calming gifts will leave her feeling nourished, grounded, peaceful, and ready for the daily challenges and triumphs of motherhood.

Handmade Mothers Day Gifts 

Mom’s Relaxing Room Mist

This easy to make aromatherapeutic blend of pure essential oils will refresh any space with calming fragrance. Spray liberally in the air, on mattresses, pillows or on bed linens before retiring for the night. The gentle perfume will help inspire relaxation and peaceful sleep after a busy day being mom.

• 1 (16-ounce) spray bottle
• 3 ounces unflavored vodka
• 4 drops each of organic lavender, orange and sandalwood essential oil
• 12 ounces organic lavender or rose hydrosol

1. Pour all ingredients into a 16-ounce spray bottle.

2. Shake well to distribute the oils.

3. To use, spray as needed.

Bliss Tea 

Mom’s Bliss Tea Recipe

This tea is perfect for frazzled nerves or any mom in need of a mood boost. The skullcap and oat tops are classic nervine tonics that help support the nervous system during times of stress. Raspberry leaf is considered an important tonic herb for women’s health that is rich in nutrients like iron, manganese and niacin. The tasty addition of roses, vanilla and cinnamon offer floral spiciness and inspire feelings of well-being. This tea can be sipped daily to maximize the pleasant effects.

• 2 parts organic skullcap leaf
• 2 parts organic oat tops
• 1 part organic raspberry leaf
• 1 part organic rose buds
• 1/2 part organic chopped vanilla beans
• 1/4 part organic cinnamon chips

1. Mix all ingredients together until the herbs are evenly distributed and place in a lidded glass container.

2. Store in a cabinet away from heat, moisture and light.

3. To make a cup of Mom’s Bliss Tea, pour 1 cup of just boiling water over 1 tablespoon of the herb mixture. Allow to steep for 5 to 10 minutes, strain and enjoy.

Mom’s “Me Time” Bath Salts

Who wouldn’t love to finish the day with a warm herbal bath? This luxury is the only opportunity most moms have for alone time. Even if she soaks for just a few minutes, these bath salts will leave her feeling relaxed and rejuvenated—both body and spirit.

• 1 cup salt (Epsom, sea salt, Dead Sea salt, or a mixture)
• 1/4 cup baking soda
• 10 drops organic lavender essential oil
• 5 drops organic geranium essential oil
• 5 drops organic sweet orange essential oil
• 1/2 cup organic calendula, rose or lavender flowers

1. Mix salt and baking soda together in a large bowl. Add essential oils and flowers, then blend well.

2. Package in a lidded jar along with a cotton muslin bag.

3. To use, simply add 1/4 cup to a 1/2 cup bath salts to the muslin bag, drape over the faucet, and allow hot water to run through the bag as the tub fills. Toss the bag in the tub once filled with water and soak your stress away.

Bon Bons Recipe 

Mom’s Adapto-Bon Bons Recipe

This recipe is based on Rosemary Gladstar’s famous Magic Zoom Balls and has been modified to offer adaptogenic magic, rather than zooooom magic. Although, these surely provide a burst of energy, too, the eleuthero, ashwaganda and rhodiola will help improve mom’s ability to cope with stressful situations by reducing stress-related anxiety and fatigue caused by overwork. She can enjoy one or two of these delicious bon bons a day between meals.

• 3 cups organic tahini (drain excess oil from the top)
• 1 cup organic cashew or almond butter
• 2 cups local honey, to taste
• 2 ounce organic rose powder
• 2 ounce organic eleuthero powder
• 1 ounce organic ashwaganda powder
• 1 ounce organic rhodiola powder
• 1 tablespoon organic cardamom powder
• 1/2 ounce organic cinnamon powder
• 1 ounce bee pollen
• 1 package organic carob or bitter chocolate chips
• 8 ounces unsweetened organic shredded coconut flakes, toasted
• 1 cup finely chopped organic almonds
• Unsweetened organic cocoa powder
• 2 pounds organic bittersweet dipping chocolate

1. Mix tahini, nut butter and honey until smooth. Combine the herbal powders and bee pollen, and add to nut butter mix.

2. Add chips, toasted coconut and almonds to the mixture and mix well using your hands.

3. Mix in enough cocoa powder to bring the dough to the desired thickness.

4. Roll the dough into small balls about a tablespoon in size. If you want to coat the balls with chocolate, chill them in the refrigerator for easier dipping. You can also spread the mixture onto a baking sheet—allow mixture to cool and cut into squares.

5. Melt the dipping chocolate gently in a double boiler. Drop the balls one at a time into the melted chocolate, remove, and place on waxed paper to cool.

6. Store the bon bons in baking tins in a cool place. They will last for weeks if properly stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Nerve Tonic Tincture
Photos by Erin McIntosh

Mom’s Last Nerve Tonic Tincture

This nervine tonic tincture formula will help Mom keep her cool during stressful situations. Oat tops in this recipe provide mild nourishment to strengthen the nerves. Both oats and skullcap—which tends to have a more immediate, yet gentle calming effect—are indicated for nervousness, exhaustion, some types of headaches and restless sleep. Skullcap is also antispasmodic and helps relax tense muscles. Holy basil is an important adaptogenic herb in India that allows the mind to adapt and react to incoming stress with calm, perhaps thanks to its antioxidant content including flavonoids, phenolics and carotenoids.

• 1/2 organic milky oat tops tincture
• 1/4 organic skullcap tincture
• 1/4 organic holy basil tincture

1. You can make your own individual herb tinctures and mix them according to the ratio above, or blend our premade tinctures in a glass dropper bottle.

2. To use, take 3 droppers up to three times a day to help prepare your nervous system for unexpected stressors as you balance family, friends, work, love, hobbies, finances, and more each day.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Erin McIntoshErin is the Communications Manager at Mountain Rose Herbs and a graduate of the Columbines School of Botanical Studies. She spends her days photographing flowers, creating herbal treats and wildcrafting medicinal plants in the magnificent Oregon Cascades.



3/18/2013

These potentially toxic chemicals can be found in many household cleaners. For a safer way to clean your home, check out the post Spring Cleaning with Eco-Friendly Cleaners.

chemical cleaners
Photo By Les Cunliffe/Fotolia

Chlorine Bleach

Usually found in scouring powder and dishwashing detergent. Contains:

Chlorine: Fumes can cause stomach disorders and irritation to eyes and respiratory tract; may cause reddening of the skin

Ammonia

Usually found in window/glass and all-purpose cleaners. Fumes can irritate eyes, lungs; can cause burns or rashes on skin; if mixed with chlorine, creates chloramine gas, which can cause coughing, loss of voice, feeling of burning and suffocation

Drain Cleaners

Contains:

Lye: caustic; can cause burns to skin and in severe cases, blindness
Sulfuric acid: can cause severe skin burns and blindness

Floor Cleaners

Contains:

Pine oil: irritates eyes and mucous membranes
Petroleum distillates: irritate skin, eyes, respiratory tract; may cause fatal pulmonary edema, the swelling of soft tissues due to water accumulation
Naphthas: can cause drowsiness, headache, coma and cardiac arrest if inhaled; can irritate eyes, throat and skin

Furniture Cleaner

Contains:

Petroleum distillates: irritate skin, eyes, respiratory tract; may cause fatal pulmonary edema, the swelling of soft tissues due to water accumulation
Oil of cedar: central nervous system depressant; may cause miscarriages

Toilet Bowl Cleaners

Contains:

Sodium bisulfate: forms sulfuric acid, can burn skin
Oxalic acid: damages kidney and liver; irritates eyes and respiratory tract; corrodes mouth and stomach
5-dimethyldantoin: forms hypochlorite in water, which can corrode skin and mucous membranes
Hydrochloric acid: fumes are caustic; can burn skin
Phenol: can depress central nervous system and adversely affect circulatory system; corrosive to skin

Disinfectants

Contains:

Ammonia: Fumes can irritate eyes, lungs; can cause burns or rashes on skin; if mixed with chlorine, creates chloramine gas, which can cause coughing, loss of voice, feeling of burning and suffocation
Cresol: damages tissue, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and spleen
Lye: caustic; can cause burns to skin and in severe cases, blindness.
Phenol: can depress central nervous system and adversely affect circulatory system; corrosive to skin
Pine oil: irritates eyes and mucous membranes

Carpet Cleaner

Contains:

Perchloroethylene: fumes are carcinogenic; can cause dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, loss of appetite and disorientation
Naphthalene: damages liver; prolonged vapor exposure can lead to cataract formation

Air Fresheners

Contains:

Formaldehyde: a suspected carcinogen; can irritate eyes, throat, skin and lungs
Petroleum distillates: irritate skin, eyes, respiratory tract; may cause fatal pulmonary edema, the swelling of soft tissues due to water accumulation
P-dichlorobenzene: irritates skin, eyes and throat, can cause liver damage in animal studies
Aerosol propellants: either associated with brain damage or highly flammable

All Purpose Cleaners

Contains:

Ammonia: Fumes can irritate eyes, lungs; can cause burns or rashes on skin; if mixed with chlorine, creates chloramine gas, which can cause coughing, loss of voice, feeling of burning and suffocation
Ethylene glycol monobutyl acetate: can poison animals and cause damage to internal organs through skin absorption; inhalation can cause dizziness
Sodium hyperchlorite: corrosive to skin and mucous membranes; fumes irritating

Oven Cleaners

Contains:

Sodium hydroxide: burns skin and eyes
Potassium hydroxide: burns skin and eyes
Lye: caustic; can cause burns to skin and in severe cases, blindness

Laundry Detergents

Contains:

Enzymes: can cause asthma and dermatitis from large amounts of exposure.

Sources: The EPA; dishwasherdetergentphosphate.com


Lorraine HalstedLorraine Halsted is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Virginia, and enjoys writing about environmental issues and natural living. She is an herb grower and a member of the Shenandoah Herbal Society.  



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