natural bug repellent

Homemade Natural Bug Repellent

Natural Bug Repellent

Most bugs sprays are pretty toxic and smell terrible. This natural bug repellent will keep you safe from toxins and unwanted critters. Using powerful citronella, this safe and effective bug repellent can be used on everyone in your family. With mild winters, most unwanted pests haven't been killed off. 

Now is the perfect time to get started on putting together this natural bug repellent, since it takes a few weeks to steep the citronella. You can also make your own citronella candle. 

While there are a good bit of recipe cards in this blog, I love a recipe that is so straight forward that you don't need one. People lean so heavily on being told exactly what to do any how to do it, but do we actually learn that way? This recipe for natural bug is vague on purpose. This is "recipe" is very forgiving and is effective if it doesn't "set" perfectly into a balm. 

Let's Make It

To begin, you'll need enough fresh citronella clippings to fill a quart jar. Dry them using a dehydrator, oven, or leave them out in the open air until dried through. Don't use fresh citronella, as the oil can go rancid. 

Top the jar off with fractioned coconut oil. Let it steep for 5-6 weeks. Using a cheesecloth over a glass bowl, strain the citronella out.

Noting the amount of liquid you were left with, mix the coconut oil with equal parts beeswax and shea butter.

Melt and stir mixture over a double boiler until beeswax is melted and everything is incorporated.

Very carefully pour hot liquid into jelly jars or balm tins.  

The Easy Button

You can also purchase Young Living's citronella essential oil or cedarwood essential oil to use as your own bug repellent. Be mindful that when applying essential oils to the skin, you should use a carrier oil. Typically, I'll take a teaspoon of coconut oil in my palm and add a few drops of essential oil then rub it together and apply it around my ankles, arms, and waistband to prevent bugs, especially ticks

Non-toxic dryer sheets

Non-Toxic Dryer Sheets

Non-Toxic Dryer Sheets

Commercial dryer sheets are loaded with toxic chemicals, synthetic fragrances, and hormone disruptors. By making your own non-toxic dryer sheets, you can avoid those chemicals and reduce your waste. 

All you need is scrap fabric - cotton or flannel are ideal, distilled white vinegar, essential oils, and a large jar with a lid. 

Don't worry the vinegar smell doesn't stick around. It will dissipate during the drying process and help with static.

Use caution when adding the essential oils, as some essential oils can be flammable. Use no more than 20 drops of any oil for this recipe. 

Ditch and switch to reduce your toxic load happens one small step at a time. Replace items in your home as you use them. Try out this recipe for homemade laundry detergent and natural laundry boost to fully replace your laundry needs. Switching out your laundry items is a huge leap to reducing the toxic load for yourself and your family. 

Don't have time to make your own homemade laundry detergent? Try out this Thieves Laundry Soap recipe. 

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how to make an herbal tincture

How to Make an Herbal Tincture

How to Make Herbal Tincture

An herbal tincture is essentially herb-infused alcohol. While herbs and oil will eventually get you essential oils, herbs and alcohol will get you tinctures.

Herbal tinctures are an excellent way to benefit from medicinal herbs. They are easy to put together and are shelf-stable for years. The easiest way to make an herbal tincture is through the process of maceration. Maceration is the process of soaking herbs in liquid (water or alcohol) for several weeks; it is the go-to tincture method for at-home herbalists. 

What is Menstrum?

Menstrum is the liquid portion of a tincture. The menstrum will extract the properties from the herb. It can be water, alcohol, vinegar, or, sometimes, glycerine. Most folks use vodka or everclear. 

Calculating the amount and ratio of menstrum to herb can be as easy or as complicated as you'd like to make it. However, most herbalists use a 50% water and 50% alcohol as their menstrum and that will get you an effective tincture with no issues.

While there are plenty of resources for getting very specific with your menstrum ratios depending on the types of herbs and accounting for loss, we are going to keep it simple in this guide and use dependable ratios to get us a solid product each time. 

Menstrum to Herb Ratio

Most herbalists will use the following ratios: 

  • Fresh Plant Tinctures 1:2 ratio, with 95% ABV menstrum
  • Dry Plant Tinctures 1:5 ratio, with 50-65% ABV mentrum

When making fresh plant tinctures, each 1 gram of fresh herb is macerated (soaked) in 2 milliliters of almost pure alcohol (Everclear) for optimal extraction.

For tinctures made from dry plant materials, each 1 gram of herb is macerated in 5 milliliters of menstruum with an alcohol content of between 50 and 65% (double-proof vodka).

Herb Preparation

Dried Herbs

Chop your dried herbs into small pieces, they do not need to be powdered.

Kitchen shears are the best tool for this. When using barks, roots, berries, or mushrooms that are difficult to cut with shears, put them into the blender for a few seconds, just enough to break them up. 

Fresh Herbs

Typically, you'll only need the leaves. Be sure to wash and dry them before use. Roughly chop the herbs. Refer to ratios above. 

How to Make an Herbal Tincture - Lemon Balm

In this guide we will make a lemon balm tincture. Lemon balm is incredibly easy to grow, as it is in the mint family. It calms anxiety, promotes sleep, and aids in digestion. 

Lemon balm is an incredible tincture to have on hand postpartum. It eases the night-scaries and mild anxious feelings and belly discomfort that come with postpartum. Lord knows we need help with in the sleep department, too. 

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Disclaimer: This information is intended only as education and is not a replacement for professional health advice. 


homemade magnesium spray

Homemade Magnesium Spray

Homemade Magnesium Spray

Magnesium is a staple for relaxation. While folks usually go for a bath or foot bath, this homemade magnesium spray is easy to absorb and apply when you're in a pinch. Magnesium has been shown to reduce stress and enhance sleep. It's also shown to support hormone function and provide energy support. These magnesium chloride bath flakes are the best.

During pregnancy, my feet (along with the rest of me) were very swollen during the third trimester, IYKYK. I was also sleeping terribly, as expected. Magnesium foot baths gave my feet incredible relief, helped set up a relaxing environment, and I slept as good as someone good when they have a pumpkin-sized gymnast attached to them. 

Once the baby came, I definitely needed all the support I could get with hormones, sleep, and reduced stress. Between the cluster-feeding and contact naps, I didn't have the time to continue with my evening foot soaks. Sure, I could steal away for a bath every now and then, but I felt like I needed support each night. That's where this homemade magnesium spray really came in handy. Now, I use it on myself and my one-year old during out bedtime routine. 

Homemade Magnesium Spray Recipe

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homemade toothpaste

Simple Homemade Toothpaste

Simple Homemade Toothpaste

When making the change to low-tox living, swapping out your toothpaste with this homemade toothpaste is a great first step. While it's very overwhelming once you begin to learn how toxic the products in our home are, taking small steps can lighten the load and make things easier. As you run out of items, swap them out for low-tox options. 

Why Switch to Homemade Toothpaste?

Conventional toothpaste is filled with chemicals that disrupt our body and do more harm than good. Fluoride is a known neurotoxin. It can cause a number of serious adverse health effects, including endocrine dysfunction in addition to neurological dysfunction. It's also been shown to negatively affect cognitive development in children. Parabens can disrupt hormone function by mimicking estrogen and has been linked to breast cancer. Triclosan has been linked to antibiotic resistance and skin cancer. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) has been shown to cause skin irritation and can aggravate aphthous ulcers. Propylene Glycol is linked to damage of the central nervous system, liver, and heart. Artificial Sweeteners have links to bladder cancer, brain tumors, and lymphoma. Diethanolamine (DEA) is found in antifreeze and brake fluid and has been linked to cancer in test animals. 

Simple Homemade Toothpaste Recipe

6 TBS Coconut Oil
2.5 TBS Baking Soda
35 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil

1. Melt coconut oil on low heat
2. Once heated, remove the heat and stir in baking soda
3. Add essential oil
4. Mix the ingredients together and store in an airtight glass jar. 
5. To use, place 1/2 TSP of the paste on your brush and brush for two minutes. 

canning mistakes

Top 10 Canning Mistakes

Top 10 Canning Mistakes

Even the most seasoned homemaker can make these common canning mistakes. Just starting out or need a refresh? Review these top canning mistakes to be sure you are getting the most out of your hard work and keeping everything safe for your family. 

1. Not Sterilizing Jars and Lids

Prior to placing any of your foodstuffs in jars, you'll want to be sure that all of your jars and lids are sterilized. To do this, take your canning pot, fill it with water and place your jars and lids inside. Get the water up to a boil and let the jars and lids boil for 5 to 10 minutes. 

2. Not Adjusting Canning Pressure Based on Altitude

The processing time for water bath canning and pounds of pressure for pressure canning needs to be increased at higher altitudes to destroy heat-resistant bacteria and to ensure home-preserved food products are safe to enjoy.

3. Using Incorrect Canning Method

For acidic foodstuffs like tomatoes, pickles, peaches, salsa, pickled peppers, and more of the like, you'll use the water bath method for canning. For non-acidic foodstuffs like broth, beans, meat, and more, you'll use the pressure canning method. 

4. Overfilling Jars

Always leave a 1/2 inch of headspace, minimum. Headspace is needed because foods expand as jars are heated. The air in a food, its starch content and the processing temperature determine how much a food will expand. Air expands greatly when heated to high temperatures; the higher the temperature, the greater the expansion.

5. Not Wiping Jar Rims

Any liquid, oils, or debris on the rim can prevent the lid from making an airtight seal. Use a clean rag to wipe the rim of all jars. 

6. Leaving Air Bubbles

Removing extra air and leaving only the proper headspace amount is important to ensuring a proper seal. As the hot air escapes the jar, it removes the oxygen from the jar and creates a vacuum seal. Too much headspace, due to trapped bubbles rising to the top, can reduce the seal's success. 

7. Reusing Canning Lids

Lids are only meant to be used once. Save used lids for dried goods like teas and herbs, ferments, oils, and storage. 

8. Overtightening Lids

When tightening your lids before dropping them in, be sure to only finger-tighten the rings. Overtightening the lids will prevent air from escaping through the top. This is how the bottom of the jar may pop off. 

9. Moving Jars Too Early

Once removed, let jars sit and rest, completely undisturbed, for a minimum of 12 hours. After 12 hours, check to see that lids sealed, remove bands, and place the jars in storage. 

10. Leaving Rings on Jars During Storage

By removing the rings, failed lids are easier to spot. Without the rings, you will be able to see mold and rust much easier. 

bone broth

Herbal Bone Broth

Nourish your body with this delicious nutrient-dense bone broth. All of that gelatinous goodness will fuel your body. Warm bone broth in a large coffee mug was my go-to during those early postpartum months to get my mineral stores back in a good place and re-hydrate. After pregnancy, birth, and nursing - your minerals really take a hit. 

Sourcing quality products is what you'll want to focus on when making bone broth. This version is a little extra. Feel free to add or subtract what you have on hand. My best bone broth hack is to add vegetable and bone scraps to a bag in my freezer for a few weeks as I use them for dinners. Once the bag is full, it's time to make broth. 

Try fire cider for another option to boost that immunity. 

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cast iron care

Cast Iron Care

Cast Iron Care

Ahhhh, yes. Cast iron. The staple of a homestead kitchen. Much like sourdough, cast iron care is one of those things that folks are terrified of and don't know where to even start. Much like sourdough, again, cast iron is very forgiving. Keeping in mind how these pans were used by your grandma is helpful when approaching your cast iron today. 

How Grandma Used To Do It

First, a single pan or dutch oven, or a pair of each, was likely used for every single meal, every single day. This means they got a lot of work and if you know anything about cast iron, it's that it gets better the more you use it. 

Second and related, your grandma probably didn't have to go through the hump of seasoning it enough for use. Cast iron is incredibly durable, so it was likely passed down from generation to generation. That's a lot of meals. Getting a cast iron now means you're likely buying one brand new. If you can find one at an antique or second-hand store that is in good shape, snag it. 

Third, cooking fats used then were very different than cooking fats now. Now, the American kitchen uses a lot of oil. Your grandma likely cooked every meal by starting that pan with a heaping scoop of butter or lard (pork fat), instead of the more lean options like olive oil.

Fourth, cast iron care isn't a skill that is passed down anymore. Folks, mostly women, don't know how to care for their cast iron and when non-stick requires literally zero care and you can throw it into the dishwasher, why wouldn't you go that route?  

You just bought your first cast iron. Now what?

Alright, congrats! You're doing this. I believe in you! Everyone says you need to "season" your cast iron. But, what does that really mean? To me, season just means to build grease over time. When you buy new, you're starting with a blank slate. Without enough extra fat or oil, things are going to stick to your pan. Stick with it though, pun intended! The more you use your cast iron, the better it will be. 

Take it out of the box and wash it well with soap and hot water. You're starting with a blank slate. Even though some say that are "seasoned", they likely haven't been, so it's better to get a good clean to start off right. 

Next, set your oven to 350 degrees F. Put your pan on the stovetop and turn it on low. Take a tablespoon of lard or butter, drop it in the center of the pan. Let it melt a little so that it will easily spread. Remove it from the heat and use your hands to grease the entire pan. Once the oven hits 350 degrees F. Put the pan in and turn the oven off. Come back later in the day after the pan has cooled and wipe it with a dry paper towel and store it. 

Ideally, you would do this multiple times before you actually cook on it. I like to do this every so often when my pan needs a little extra TLC.  

If you want to start cooking, just use extra cooking fat (butter, lard, oil) to keep things from sticking. 


  • It's always, always, always way easier to clean cast iron when it's warm.
  • The only care item you truly will need is chain mail. Think of it as your cast iron's own personal dish sponge. This will help get 99% of the gunk off with water alone. 
  • You really don't want to use soap, ever. Unless you have something terribly stuck on and nothing below is doing the trick. Use some soap. The soap removes the grease that you've been working so hard to build. Best to use it sparingly. 
  • The handle gets hot, grab a handle cover or two. 
  • Besides my heirloom cast iron pieces, I really like Lodge cast iron. It's durable, reliable, and affordable.
  • There's nothing better than cranking up the temp, smoking up the kitchen, and getting an incredible cast iron sear on a steak. 

No-Time-To-Care Care

It's Wednesday night, you threw together dinner and have to get everyone cleaned up and ready for bed. The last thing you can do is care for one more thing.

If your cast iron is warm, bring it to the sink. Use the chain mail and hot water to get everything out from dinner. Throw it on a drying rack or towel and you're done. 

If your cast iron is cold, pour some water in the pan on top of dinner remnants. Put the cast iron on the burner and bring it back up to medium while you clean up other items from dinner. Trust me, this is better than fighting the cold stuck-on bits. Grab the warm pan and bring it to the sink. Use the chain mail and hot water to get everything out. Now is a good time for your drain catch to shine. Throw your cast iron on the drying rack or towel and you're done.

A-Few-Minutes-To-Spare Care

You've done the steps above from "No-Time-To-Care Care" and have your cast iron cleaned out and wet. Put your pan on the stovetop on medium-low, dry or wet. Clean up the rest of dinner. Turn the burner off and leave the pan until tomorrow. 

Dad-Has-Bedtime-Covered-Tonight Care

Before you start cleaning up dinner, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You've done the steps above from "No-Time-To-Care Care" and have your cast iron cleaned out and wet. Dry off your cast iron with a dish towel. Pour or place a tablespoon of oil, butter or lard in your pan and put it on your stove top on medium. When the butter/lard just  starts to melt or the oil starts to spread and shine, remove the pan from the heat. Take a paper towel, fold it up to protect your fingers, and rub the oil or fat all over the inside and outside of your pan. When your oven is preheated, put the pan inside and turn the oven off to let it cool as the oven cools. Remove the pan tomorrow before you cook again.

Grab a glass of wine, run the sink periodically, bang a couple dishes around, get into your secret chocolate stash. He's got this, take the breather. 

Tough Spots

My go-to approach is to fill the cast iron with water, typically an inch, but feel free to add more depending on where the sticky gunk is. Bring the water to a boil. Turn the burner off and safely and carefully pour the water into the sink. Again, let that drain catch do its thing. With more hot water and your chain mail, scrub the bits. 

My last resort is to add a little soap to a sponge and spot treat stuck on areas, rather than putting soap in the entire pan. If you have to use a little soap in the entire pan this one time, it won't be the end of the world. 

fire cider

Homemade Fire Cider

Homemade Fire Cider

If you've never heard of fire cider before, it is a spicy tonic that is used to fight colds and flus and boost the immune system. It's a mixture of fruits, vegetables, and herbs all topped with vinegar. After steeping for a few weeks, all of these beneficial ingredients are strained out and the liquid is used to add to soups, stews, sauces, marinades - but I most often use it as a tea or as a shot. 

Use a variety of ingredients in your fire cider, whatever you have on hand or prefer. Common additions are ginger, honey, lemon, oranges, red onion, elderberry, garlic, horseradish, turmeric, and cayenne. Other beneficial ingredients that can be used are black pepper, jalapeno, echinacea, cinnamon, rosemary, oregano, thyme, rosehips, pomegranate, and limes. 

A large glass 64-70 ounce jar is best. Apple cider vinegar is going to be the best tasting and beneficial vinegar to use. As always, use high quality ingredients. 

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starbucks medicine ball

Homemade Starbucks Medicine Ball Recipe

Homemade Starbucks Medicine Ball Drink

Let's make this popular order - the Starbucks Medicine Ball - into a drink that is actually nourishing for the body. Kick your winter cold with this homemade version.

The Starbucks version has 30g of sugar. There is honey in the Starbucks version, but it is not up to the standards you would want to provide a medicinal benefit. It contains potassium sorbate (a preservative), gums, and "natural flavors" (can be a unknown variety of lab-made flavorings). Nothing about those ingredients set your body up healing. 

Let's stick to the good stuff that will actually support our bodies. That's the whole reason we would order the Starbucks Medicine Ball over your usual double-pump, cold foam, latte-blah-blah triple espresso, right? 

Ginger, honey, lemon, and peppermint are the ultimate tried and true threat for cough, cold, flu, congestion, and overall funkiness. Take a drink if you feel something coming on or if you need a little immunity boost. 

I like to swap out the tea depending on how I'm feeling or what I have on hand. Ginger, honey, and lemon - you really can't go wrong adding it to any tea blend. I prefer loose leaf tea. You can typically find it for much cheaper than bagged tea, plus you avoid chemicals and bleach that are used in most tea bags. My favorite tea balls are durable and reusable. Plus, you can mix and match single varieties of tea to make your own custom blend, depending on your needs. 

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