Tuesday, February 24, 2015

DIY Natural Antibacterial Yoga Mat Spray

Last week the Twitter-verse provided me with a reminder article on just how many germs live on my yoga mat. You may have seen it. In case you haven't: "What's living on your yoga mat?"

Now. I am a firm believer that we've been over sanitizing our lives and that a little germs are actually a good thing (there's actually some pretty legit science behind this belief). That said, I also recognize that perhaps I need to admit that my yoga mat, on my floor being run over by my cats and sweat on by my body, may collect some nasty stuff in it's spongy, read porous germ home, and maybe disinfecting is not such a bad idea.

The article suggests a few things that are a bit of an over-kill (and SUPER wasteful) in my opinion:

  1. Antibacterial washes/wipes: I don't think I need to even say why we're not going there. Right? You're reading this eco-blog because you already know that wipes are wasteful and antibacterial is filled with some sketchy chemicals.
  2. Throw out your mat every year.... OMG I can't even. I mean... they may as well have suggested you build a bonfire and burn the mother effer while screaming "BURN BABY!!!". If I could get beyond the fact that we would be throwing out millions of yoga mats filling the landfills, which I can't, just the cost would be astronomical. A good yoga mat, particularly an environmentally friendly one, isn't cheap. An absolutely ridiculous suggestion. 
  3. Use some combo of essential oil combo to kill the bacteria.

Ok. So on that last one. Some essential oils have antibacterial properties, such as lavender, tea tree oil and thyme oil. But are they really enough to kill bacteria on a yoga mat? A quick google search (which isn't really enough, but ya know), shows that yes essential oils are showing some very real antibacterial properties... but a lot of the studies have them undiluted and sitting on the substance for long periods of time (like 60minutes).

Maybe essential oils are an ingredient to support the BIG GUN:

Hydrogen Peroxide.

Yep. This stuff has been shown to be a killer of germs extraordinaire.

Recently I heard an interview on the CBC with "The Germ Guy": A microbiologist and specialist in microbes... aka germs. His reactions weren't 100% anti-green cleaning, which was refreshing. His perspective on vinegar and water was one I had heard before- good for light cleaning, lifting dirt but not so great for intense germ killing. He suggested hydrogen peroxide as THE natural heavy weight for germ killing.

Since my previous recipes have involved variations of vinegar and water, it was time I revisited my mat cleaner. That and the next time I practiced yoga I was completely grossed out with the reality that I hadn't cleaned my mat in MONTHS. (ick, I know, don't judge me).

Hydrogen Peroxide, although scary sounding in name, is actually very safe and easy on the planet. Woohoo!

Recipes that I could find generally suggested a 1 part HP (3% concentration) to 2 part water ratio. I decided to also add a few drops of tea tree oil (we will remember that last time I put too much and had an allergic reaction which resulted in swollen hands after my yoga practice.... Always know whether essential oils are for you!). Other EO options include lavender or thyme oil.

Natural AntiBacterial Yoga Mat Spray:

(In a spray bottle):
1 part hydrogen peroxide
2 parts water
10-15 drops of EO of choice

The key with hydrogen peroxide is to spray it on and leave it for a good 10 minutes to let the germ killing really take place. In my tub I sprayed the mat all over liberally and left the germs to die a horrible death while I did other house chore stuff (ie cleaning).

After about 45min (cuz I totally forgot about the mat), I took a cleaning rag (we use our old wash cloths as rags for cleaning the bathroom), ran some water and rinsed off the mat. Then I hung it up on the shower rod and let it dry for two whole days. Truly, the trick to cleaning a rubber mat is to allow enough time for all the water to dry from the porous, spongy holes. For my mats that has meant at least one, even better for two, days.

Three yoga practices later and no allergic reaction, my mat smells and feels great and we're good to go for another six months few weeks!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Extra Soft Chocolate Orange Whipped Body Butter (Pro-Tip Version)

If you aren't from the Canadian Maritimes then you *may* have seen the photos of the ridiculous amounts of snow and storm after storm (#stormchips !!!) we got in February. Perhaps, if you are the states, you may have seen a news shot of some snow in Prince Edward Island with the tagline "Prince Edward Island, ONTARIO"....

Just in case- PEI is not in Ontario, they are separate provinces (our equivalents to a "state") and one is an ISLAND. And Canada is not in fact referred to now as the country of "Ontario". Rant over.

Anyhoo, regardless it has been cold and snowy and dismal. Last night, the night before leaving for a three day work trip to even colder Cape Breton, that I ran out of body butter.

OMG I am OUT of body butter *screams internally while waving arms in a panic*.

So, despite the fact that I accidentally picked up and BOUGHT the tester for cocoa butter, I decided that desperate times called for throwing caution in the wind (and really, it looked like it was just opened so people could sniff the delicious chocolate-y goodness, and we live in Halifax where people aren't crazy so.... I felt pretty safe).

I realized as I was throwing the ingredients together frantically that I've adjusted or maybe "pro-tipped" my original recipe over time to make it faster and more efficient. And of course I thought I could share it with you! This recipe has less ingredients (cuz who can afford to buy cocoa butter AND shea butter these days??), takes about an hour start to finish and has some definite body butter tips. Enjoy!
(My Chocolate Orange batch- actually  made a whole other 500ml mason jar that isn't in the pic)

Pro-Tip Version of Whipped Body Butter (Extra softening version):

5 tablespoons of cocoa butter
5 tablespoons of unrefined coconut oil
5 tablespoons of almond oil
1 tablespoon of castor oil (optional)
20-25 drops of EO choice (optional)

*EO Note: For stronger scents like peppermint or anise, less is probably good. I used orange this time and found it needed at least 23 drops for it to smell like those Yulemas time chocolate oranges. I suggest trying 10-15 and cautiously taking a smell to decide whether you need more. There are health cautions with using EOs- please look into it if you have any health conditions (or are pregnant).
*Castor oil: I added this oil since I had it already for making soap and it's "extra softening". So far, I love the tiny bit of extra silky smooth it's had for my skin!

Place stand mixer bowl in the fridge to cool while you're melting the oils. (This will help speed up the cooling process that takes the biggest chunk of time).

In a double boiler (or pot with 2 inches of water and a stainless steel bowl on top) add all the oils. Keep the heat at medium so you don't over heat or boil over. Once melted, add essential oils.

Pour oil mixture into the chilled stand mixer bowl and place in the freezer. Let chill until the oils harden to roughly an inch ring around the edge and pudding-y type texture in the middle. This may actually take 20-30min, depending on your freezer temperature. That said, the already chilled bowl AND using the freezer instead of the fridge shave off about 15-20min of wait time.

Scrape away the sides of the congealed oils using a spoon before starting to whip. Set standmixer to the highest setting (make sure you have the shield in place since the oils fly everywhere) and let'er rip for about 5-8min. If it was cold enough, the oils should quickly form white fluffy peaks but continue whipping (it's not like whipped cream, you won't "break" it). Continued whipping allows for more oxygen to enter the body butter and makes for a more creamy, melt in your hand while keeping the "whip" shape.

Halfway through whipping, slow to a stop the mixing and scrape the sides to make sure no congealed oils are missing the attachment. Start'er up again.

Once done, scoop out into 1 cup mason jars. This recipe makes about two to two and a half cups. Store one in the fridge. If you live in a hot/warm climate or home you might want to store them both. For myself, even in the summer, as long as it's out of the sun it doesn't melt.

Application tips:

  • This recipe does need a bit more time to soak into the skin. It's definitely different than chemical filled lotions. All you need to do is melt a piece in your hand, apply and I dunno, brush your teeth while you wait for it to seep in. Honestly though, I've been using it for years and rarely wait longer than 2-3min and the oils have never damaged my clothing. (Though I don't wear silk... so...).
  • This stuff also works amazingly on your face. Especially as a heavy night cream.
  • It should last at least a month, if not longer.
  • If it starts to smell "nuttier" or look kinda wonky- throw it out! Oils can and do go rancid, so keeping it in a cool, dark, dry place is best (My bedroom is usually dark during the day since we keep the blinds shut to preserve heat...). 

In Halifax: I buy the cocoa butter and castor oil at Petes Frootique. So far it's the cheapest place I've found, but if you know of somewhere cheaper, let me know!
You can also purchase sweet almond oil and coconut oil at Petes, but some Superstores and Sobeys also carry it, and it's usually cheaper there.

Outside of Halifax: Most natural food stores carry these ingredients. Or you could order them online... although I am unsure it would be worth the shipping at that point.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Two Challenges: Breakfast and Caffeine

In keeping with the "living as if you're pregnant" rule suggestion I've begrudgingly (if I am to be honest) been trying to make two, albeit healthy, changes in my life.

One: eat some sort of breakfast most mornings of the week.
Two: decrease caffeine consumption.

Oh I know loads of you out there already do these things, and yes I recognize that they are good changes (which is why I'm doing them), but they are Kinda a Big Deal (sorry, just watched Anchorman and couldn't resist).

Eat Some Sort of Breakfast Most Days of the Week
(This was my breakfast one morning!)

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yes I know. Historically, I've either been nauseous every morning (it took years to figure out it was likely reflux... lovely) and when that was taken care of my sensitive stomach really just doesn't handle anything before 10am very well. Add to that the fact that I generally see clients all morning and eating breakfast isn't the easiest feat.

BUT... Last week I tried and sorta succeeded! By sort of, I ate a breakfast three out of the five mornings! YES! (On weekends we sleep in ridiculously late because we can...).

I owe this sorta-success to Chef Michael Smith... and his overnight oatmeal in a jar recipe (In Family Meals). (Unbelievably Andrew and I have TWO of his cookbooks and they are actually amazing. Highly recommend). Now, I don't actually really like oatmeal, but this recipe is pretty tasty and preps the night before which is fantastic.

Chef Michael Smith's Overnight Oatmeal Jar (w some EcoYogini mods)
1/2 cup rolled oats (organic is best!)
1/2 cup of milk
drizzle of maple syrup (or other sugar)
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves

Add to a 500ml mason jar and shake vigorously (with the lid on...). Add copious amounts of frozen berries (raspberries and blueberries are delish!) but leave room for the yogourt in the morning! Chill in the fridge overnight. In the morning add a dollop of yummy yogourt (I splurge for the rich fat and highly berried stuff). You could add some crunch. DONE.

I make two jars at a time since it will keep for one extra day!

Decreasing Caffeine
Now, I am a "one cup a day" coffee drinker as it is. But... that one cup is actually my Klean Kanteen thermos, which is really closer to two cups if we were being honest. Going full on decaf just sounds ridonculous and crazytown. Who willingly DOES THAT?

Sigh. But I *GUESS* I could try to decrease my coffee.

Which is what a co-worker suggest I do- not cut out (which would cause massive caffeine withdrawal headaches) but cut down.

Another co-worker, who was forced to go decaf when she was pregnant- sad I know, who was also a coffee snob so I could trust our tastes would be similar (I am not even pretending here), said that the BEST decaf beans were from Smiling Goat. Which are roasted at Java Blend.

If I'm going to do this it is going to be no holds barred, Andrew has to as well, and only during the weekdays. I still want my fancy full caffeine coffees on the weekend.

For the past two weeks I have been putting half decaf, half caffeine beans (1.5 scoops each) into the grinder and, gasp, mixing them together. Both locally roasted organic fair trade beans (Goddess I am such a hipster), both fancy and delicious.

And it has WORKED. No headaches, no extra tiredness, no awful disgusting taste. *Pumps fist in air*

One reason why I feel fairly confident both these new life changes will stick? My total lack of all-or-nothing approach. I often feel that as a society we often have unreasonable and, let's be honest here, crazy expectations when making changes in how we live. All these crash/30daychallenges with yoga/diets/cleanses (the last which is absolutely bonkers- our body never needs to be "cleansed") are never sustainable, sometimes dangerous and as a result never meant to be integrated into a feasible daily practice.

Small, attainable and easy steps to help me feel success, accustom to change and eat my darn breakfast.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Infertility and Me: I am coming out of the closet.

Last week Andrew and I came out on Facebook as Infertile.

It was terrifying yet completely exhilarating.

Not that I think my uterus and our sex life is anybody's effing business, but the effort and feelings of shame in keeping it a secret while simultaneously fielding the awful (inappropriate) questions from virtually everyone about when we were going to have a baby (of if we "wanted" to have kids, or just how BIG our house was for just the two of us... yeah) was emotionally exhausting and like continuously getting punched in the heart every time.

That and I realized that people at home in my rural nosy village already knew. And I'd rather they not talk about it as the shameful secret they weren't supposed to know. Because eff that noise.

What I've realized in both living and sharing about our experience is that infertility is VERY common among couples. And usually the only time someone "comes out" is when they actually manage to get pregnant. Which is so unfair.

Our journey reads like almost every other blog post out there.

Up until about three years ago I had no idea, no concept that making a baby would be that difficult. I mean, I had just spent ALL of my adult life actively avoiding that very thing. It was never even a QUESTION whether or not I'd be able to make a baby. The ability to conceive was always a choice I had.

At least. That's what I thought.

If you're not experiencing a similar journey, you have absolutely no idea what it feels like to be so betrayed by your own body. And no matter what anyone says, in today's society infertility still implies shame and blame on the would-be mother.

For us it started with testing prior to actively trying to conceive due to my years of disordered cycles. All those awful, invasive tests followed by loads of blood work just to determine that well- everything physically appeared just fine.

Then, two years ago we decided to try to conceive. We figured it would take a couple months, at the max five or six.


Months of daily temperature checks, cutting caffeine in half, eating almond butter from a spoon every morning and following a ridiculous meal regime recommended by the naturopath, tracking my cycle-symptoms and sex life with a ridiculous App on my phone... And every three weeks the crushing, heart wrenching realization that we had failed. Again.

All this in secret.

At the year mark it became obvious that we weren't going to just "make a baby". A referral to the fertility gynaecologist was made.

Followed by more blood work and more invasive test after invasive test. All the while every three weeks we faced another cycle gone by. Another missed opportunity, another failure where we must have done something wrong. Each month I can't help telling myself- "NEXT month we'll do things right. We'll eat better, meditate more and catch it exactly at the right part of the cycle. Next month we will succeed."

At around month 16 "living as if I were pregnant" was starting to wear on me. All it did was to remind me several times over the course of the day what we'd failed and what we struggle against.  My first waking thought was shutting off the alarm and sleepily taking my morning temperature. Followed by a disgusting breakfast that hurt my stomach, lunch vitamins, a special fertility three part cycle specific smoothie at supper and the evening Folic Acid.

I decided it was too much. We stopped going to the Naturopath- I couldn't take the daily reminders of our failure with the intense fertility regime AND go through all the painful and personal medical testing that had to be done.

Last fall the gynaecologist sat us down and shared our options: either we keep trying (which for the past 18 months had not been working), I go through exploratory surgery to see whether I had endometriosis (for which I have ZERO symptoms other than infertility) or we go to the fertility clinic and begin the process for fertility treatments.

January 9th we returned to the Naturopath and the fertility "boosts" have returned.

On January 12th we met the fertility specialist at the fertility clinic and paid 175$ for 30 minutes of her time (NOT covered by Canadian Health Care system nor my work health insurance). As we sat there, I still had a tiny glimmer of hope that she would have some good news.

Holding hands nervously, we listened as she outlined the truth: at this stage of trying to conceive Andrew and I have a 3% chance each month. The longer we aren't successful, the lower that percentage gets.

It felt like being slapped in the face. It still feels surreal. My body FEELS fine. I am healthy, I am active, I eat well, I have taken care of my body. I did all the right things and I have all the right parts. I AM SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS.

Our only real option with any hope for results over 20% success rate is IVF: In Vitro Fertilization. She kindly went through a diagram of the entire process. I could barely process a word she said. I remember acronyms, weeks of drug injections, more blood tests and then some scary procedures.

There's an info session. We haven't gone to it yet.

The week before this appointment, on January 5th, Andrew lost his job. IVF costs over 10,000$ per procedure. None of that is covered in our health care system nor in my insurance.

So. Here we are. Last week I tried acupuncture. It was awful. The acupuncturist judged me and gave unhelpful and hurtful advice. She told me to "just act as if you're pregnant all the time". I wanted to slap her. Who can live that way for years on end?

This is not like "choosing" to wait until later to have a baby, or "choosing" to not have a baby at all. This is not my choice.
This has been the most difficult part of my adult life so far.

So, EcoYogi peeps. I am sharing this here because it's such a huge part of my life now.


Because I think it's unfair that we keep something that happens to SO many couples a shameful secret. Because I want at least one person reading this to reconsider the next time they ask someone "when are you going to have a baby" or "do you even WANT kids?".

And because I haven't given up.

Friday, January 9, 2015

GPB: #KilltheKcup a Horror Film about the Single Brew

I have some "eco" aspects that I can set aside judgement... but single serve coffee brews aren't one of them. 

K-cups and the like are one of my soap boxes, my line in the sand. They cost more long term, make crappier coffee and are wasteful as shit. 

If you'd like to read a bit of my rant (take two since I posted about this pre-full blown craze in 2010) AND see a ridiculously amazeballs short "horror" film spoof about K-Cups, check out my post at the Green Phone Booth today:

May your weekend be filled with GREAT delicious organic fair trade coffee NOT from a pod.