Create a DIY spa day with a cucumber yogurt face mask

This year I’ve had a bumper crop of cucumbers and I’ve used them to make soap and infused water. I still had some cucumber pulp left over from juicing so I decided to give myself a DIY spa day by making a soothing yogurt and cucumber face mask.

I kept this recipe simple because my skin is extremely sensitive and breaks out at the slightest provocation.

Yogurt and cucumber pulp

Fat free greek yogurt and cucumber pulp left over from juicing.

My first batch was a colossal failure. I used equal parts yogurt and cucumber and the result was a messy goo that slide off my face and into the sink. The cucumber pulp was very wet and watered down the yogurt.

My second attempt turned out much creamier. I used 4 tbsp of greek yogurt and 1 tbsp of cucumber pulp. (If you don’t have a juicer, you can add a few chunks of cucumber and the yogurt to a blender and mix until smooth.)

I slathered the mixture on my face and laid on my back to relax for 20 minutes. What a great way to relax!  The cucumber had a wonderful cooling effect on my skin. It felt great!

Facial selfie

 Spa day selfie. It may be the best picture of me ever taken.

After 20 minutes, I rinsed my face and washed with a bar of Emmet Street Creations  Banana Soap to moisturize my skin and give it an extra hit of antioxidants. My pores looked and felt tight and my skin was soft and smooth.

I ended my spa day with a soak in the tub using a bag of Lavender Bath TeaThere’s no better way to escape from the every day grind than a warm soak in the tub surrounded by the soothing scent of lavender. 

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A Monday meditation on… ‘Maters!

Heirloom Tomato Collage

Ah, August. Not only is it the time of year those of us in the northern hemisphere experience the dog days of summer, it’s the celebrated time when we get to enjoy tomatoes that were homegrown in the dirt–the way nature intended!

Being a hobbyist gardener allows for a summer-long meditation practice.

First, you contemplate the seeds you’re going to start and gather the proper materials to give the seeds a good start in life. You spend time checking your little seedlings to make sure they have all they need to grow into strong, healthy plants. You take your seedlings for walks, so they can get used to being in the great outdoors (this process is called hardening off, but that sounds so… hard).

When the seedlings are ready to move, you prepare their home mindfully and create the ideal soil conditions for them to dip their rooty little toes into. You take more walks around the tomato housing complex, checking their growth and contemplating their needs: Are they getting enough food and water? Are they sick? Do they need a little support? As you tend to these needs, you focus only on the task at hand and free yourself from the endless to-do lists in your mind.

And then August arrives and get your first ripe tomato!

Since you’ve attained some enlightenment, you complete a calm ritual of slicing the tomato, artfully arranging it on a plate and gently sprinkling salt over the tomato slices. You gently cut a piece of tomato, place it on your fork and bring it to your mouth. You relish every bit of salty, citrusy, tomatoy flavor in that first bite. Every memory that winter exists is purged from your brain.

Then the bite is over. You’re still blissed out, but now you’re ravenous to get every bite of that summery goodness down your gullet as quickly as possible and all your good meditative work is undone.

I guess that’s why it is said there are many paths to enlightenment.

How about you? Are tomatoes your favorite summer treat? How to you like to eat yours? I’d love to hear all about your summer food passions, please share with us in the comments. 

Quench your thirst with water infused with cucumber, lime and mint! Easy infused water DIY

A few weeks ago I told you about a luscious cucumber, avocado and wheatgrass soap that I made with the juice of cucumbers I picked in my garden. An inevitable byproduct of juicing is vegetable pulp. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see wasting perfectly good vegetables just because they are smashed beyond recognition. I usually give the pulp to the McWormerson’s to compost, but this time around I decided to try something different.

I love cucumber-infused water in the summer but just slicing up a cucumber doesn’t flavor the water as strongly as I would like. So I decided to use the cucumber pulp to make a super-infused water. My juicer, and I’m assuming most juicers out there, comes with a handy cup that catches the pulp. The cup has a strainer at the bottom that allows excess juice to run out into a larger cup.

I left the pulp in the cup and poured filtered water over it, allowing the water to drip into a pot.

Making cucumber water

After a few minutes, I was left with delicious, light green cucumbery water. Next, I added slices of lime and a few sprigs of mint and allowed the water to chill for several hours. The result was a light and refreshing beverage to sip while hanging out in my yard.

cucumber lime and mint infused water

Coming up in the next few weeks, I’ll tell you about the soothing cucumber and yogurt face mask I made with the rest of the pulp. It’s an easy way to pamper yourself!

Have you used the pulp from your juicer to make something delicious or useful? Tell us all about it in the comments!

The Loofah Soap Experiment: Update #3

For most of the summer, I’ve been convinced that my loofah plant would never bear fruit. It has been an unusually cool summer and loofah plants need heat. The vines are huge and getting bigger very day. Neighbors, don’t let your cats out. Loofah hungry!

Loofah plant

The plant has been blooming for the last month, but no loofah.

Loofah flower

Then, we had rain and several sunny days in a row and suddenly, loofah!

Loofah

At last count, I have five little loofah growing and dozens of flower buds. If the weather would just warm up, I think I might get at least one loofah that is large enough to dry and work with before the snow starts to fly. I might even get brave and pick a few small ones to eat.

Did you miss the first few installments of the loofah saga? Catch up with them here and here.

The Loofah Soap Experiment: Update #2

Where has the time gone? Between prepping for my first Cleveland Bazaar and making more soap to replenish my stock, I almost forgot about posting an update on how my loofah is growing. Looking back on my last update, I can’t believe how much the plant as grown. It went from this sweet little seedling:

Loofah seedling

So cute.

To this Little Shop of Horrors like vine:

Loofah vine

“Feed me!”

I’m not sure how big this vine is going to get, or where it’s going to go, but for now it seems happy to grow up the side of the bird net covering my blackberries.

 

Loofah and blackberry

Don’t get too close to those tendrils!

I’ve read that loofah can have a very long growing season and needs warm temperatures to thrive. We’ve been having an uncharacteristically cool summer so far, so I’m not surprised that it’s mid-July and I’m only now seeing flower buds. Hopefully the temperatures warm up and I get a couple of good sized loofahs by the end of the summer.

Loofah flower bud

Are you growing anything fun in your yard this year? I’d love to hear about your gardening adventures!

Eating green in the garden

Beet Greens

Image credit: Beet Greens by Amy, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

It’s getting close to the time we get to enjoy the goodies our home gardens and farmer’s markets have brought to our table! Since a lot of hard work and sweaty hours were put in to grow these tasty delights, don’t you want to take advantage of every morsel?

The cool thing about growing your own vegetables–or getting them fresh from the farm–is you usually get the greens still attached to the vegetables. Did you know that most of these greens are edible, too? Even better, the leaves are packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, potassium and calcium.

When I last participated in a Community Supported Agriculture group, I was determined to eat everything I got (even if I didn’t know what it was). I knew that beet greens were edible, but I didn’t know that the greens of most of the items in my farm share could be eaten, too. Due to my lack of knowledge, I didn’t take advantage of my bounty as much as I could have.

To spare you from making the same mistake, here’s a list of common vegetable greens you can eat (and some recipe ideas to whet your appetite):

Beets

I tried sauteing beet greens with a little olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and, honestly, I didn’t love the results. But I had a lot to use, so I tried them raw. I julienned the leaves and mixed them with other salad greens and topped the salad with a lemony dressing and had a more pleasant experience.

Here are a couple of other ideas:

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi had a funny name and it looks weird, but it’s really quite tasty. I enjoy eating it roasted with some olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. (But, really, what vegetable doesn’t taste good roasted with those things?)

If you want to go beyond a simple roasting, try these:

Broccoli

I haven’t tried these yet, but they are said to have a hint of broccoli flavor in them. According to those in the know, the smaller leaves are better for eating in salads and larger leaves are better for cooking.

Want to give them a try? Check these options out:

Cauliflower

Again, a green I haven’t eaten yet, but it’s packed with vitamin C so it’s worth giving a try.

Carrots

I haven’t tried carrot greens, either, but I imagine they have a grassy flavor. Here’s some creative ways to use the greens up:

Radish

I have eaten radish greens and they are delicious chopped up in a salad. The have a mild peppery taste, much like the radish root.

Here are some recipes I want to try this summer:

These are just some of the many edible vegetable greens that may make it from the farm to your table. Have you tried these or any others I didn’t list? I’d love to hear about your culinary adventures cooking with vegetable greens!

We are a pollen nation: Thank you, pollinators, the most important farm workers

I’ve been getting reminders to sign up for my share of the bounty my local Community Supported Agriculture group will bring to the ‘hood this summer. As I was drooling over the deliciousness that will make its way to my kitchen, I started thinking of some of the hardest-working members of the farm-to-table movement: pollinators.

Honeybee

 Image credit: Weedy Wildflower Patch by Bob Peterson, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

What is pollination anyway?

Simply put, pollination is the process of moving male flower reproductive parts to female flower reproductive parts. For many plants, it requires the intervention of an animal or insect matchmaker–a pollinator–to make the move for the flowers. If the pollinator is successful, a baby seed or fruit will result. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 80% of our food crops require pollination in order to produce the food we eat. So, pollination is kind of a big deal.

Who are the MVPs in pollination?

Probably the most well-known brand ambassador for pollination is the humble honeybee. It’s true bees are responsible for a large portion of our agricultural pollination needs, but did you know other insects (such as wasps, ants, moths and butterflies), birds and bats hold a position on Team Pollination?

Pollinators are at risk. How can you help them thrive? 

Much has been reported about the threats modern farming methods and changes to habitat pose to our pollinators. As people much smarter than me work toward finding solutions to these problems, here are some things you can do to help your local pollinators thrive:

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