Au Naturel Essence

All natural treats for body and soul


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2013 in review

Thank you 2013!

I’ve come to look forward to the WordPress Annual Report each year.  I’m thankful that my little blog has grown each year and this report shows that!  2013 was a wonderful year for my blog.  I met lots of like-minded bloggers and enjoyed sharing tips and tricks with you all.  Thank you!

The much awaited WordPress.com 2013 annual report

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Two Tone Soap

Last year, just in time for Christmas, I started experimenting with using colours in my melt and pour soap.  I made a few striped soaps and was quite pleased with the result.

That is, until the colours started to bleed and blend with each other.  After that, I stayed away from the stripes for a while.  What’s the point of stripes if they just blend together?

Two-Toned Soap

This year, as the Christmas Soap Making spirit caught me, I decided to try a two-tone soap using a non-bleed colour.

Two Tone Soap

Two Tone Soap

Here it is!  This photo was taken quite some time after I had made the soap and as you can see, there is no bleeding!  The colours have stayed separate!

It may seem like a small victory to some, but it’s huge in my little world.  I’m so pleased with the result.

Blue and White Two Tone Soap

Blue and White Two Tone Soap


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Homemade Deodorant Using Clay

I recently took the plunge into the world of homemade deodorant.  I tried for months and years to find a store-bought brand that worked for me.  After absolutely no long-lasting success, I made my own.

I was thrilled with my first go at it.  Click here to read all about it.  This recipe worked SO well for me!  In fact, it worked better than my regular store bought deodorant. The one complaint I had was with the consistency.  I found that it separated easily, requiring a vigorous stir prior to each use.  I was also concerned that it would not travel all that well.

I set out to find a recipe that was more solid and would fit into a deodorant stick.  I didn’t have to look that hard.  I went back to the Crunch Betty site and found a recipe that fit the bill.  Click here to see exactly what Crunchy Betty says. 

Unlike many other deodorant recipes out there, this recipe doesn’t use baking soda, cornstarch, or arrowroot powder.  Instead, it uses clay to help absorb extra moisture.

The Ingredients:

1.5 Tablespoons of Beeswax beads

4 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil

1 Tablespoon of Shea Butter

4 Teaspoons of clay ( I used White Kaolin Clay)

20-25 drops of Essential Oils ( I used Tea Tree, Rosemary, Lemon and Bergamot)

The Method:

I melted the beeswax, coconut oil and shea butter over low heat on the stove.  Had I actually done what the recipe said, I would have added the Shea Butter after the beeswax was melted.  Shea doesn’t do withstand heat all that well, so it’s best to heat it as little as possible.  Having said that, I was excited and put all three into the pot together.

Raw Ingredients

Raw Ingredients

Once that was melted, I removed the pot from heat and whisked in the clay.  The mixture turned a gray colour.  Then, I stirred in the essential oils.

Deodorant in the Making

Deodorant in the Making

I cooled the mixture by putting it in a cold water bath.  It wasn’t elegant, but it did the trick.  The mixture started to set up in about a minute.

Makeshift Water Bath

Makeshift Water Bath

Finally, I poured and scooped the mixture into 5 mini deodorant stick containers and popped them into the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Mini Deodorant Sticks

Mini Deodorant Sticks

Did It Work?

I tested this stick for 3 days.  I even managed to convince two good friends of mine to give it a try.

The texture of the stick was pretty slippery.  After coming out of the freezer, the mixture softened considerably.  While applying it one day, I thought it might do better in a roll-on applicator.

The scent was unique.  One friend of mine went through several love/hate cycles with the scent each day that she wore the deodorant.  I noticed the scent, but didn’t find it offensive.

The deodorant was effective for a few hours at a time, provided there was no undue stress or mild physical activity (like walking).  Yes, you read that right.  This stick just didn’t do the trick.  I really wanted to love it, but after several days of this, I couldn’t justify using it anymore.  This was far less effective than the first homemade deodorant that I made.

It’s back to the drawing board for me.

Disclaimer

Deodorant is a very personal thing.  What works for one person may not work for another person.  Further, what works for you one day may not be the solution on another day.

While this didn’t work for me, it doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you.  If you walk down this path of homemade deodorant, I think you’ll learn, just as I am learning, that experimentation is key.  Don’t discount this recipe just because of my experience.  Who knows, this may be just the right concoction for you!


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Black Bean Brownies

As a chocolate lover, I can’t imagine making brownies without some actual chocolate.  In fact, you’ll find a really easy and intensely chocolate recipe for brownies right here on my blog.

And then, that changed.

I found a recipe for Black Bean Brownies on Pinterest and pinned it to my Cleaner Eating board.  The pin links to a recipe on the Dr. Oz site for fudgy black bean brownies.  In my quest for cleaner recipes that still indulge my sweet tooth, I thought I’d give it a try.

Delicious Black Bean Brownies

Delicious Black Bean Brownies

The Recipe:

This is the recipe, as it’s found on the website.

Ingredients
2 cups cooked black beans or canned no-salt-added or low-sodium black beans, drained 
10 Medjool dates
2 tbsp raw almond butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup natural, non-alkalized cocoa powder
1 tbsp ground chia seed
Raspberries or other berries for topping

Directions
Preheat oven to 200°F. Blend the black beans, dates, almond butter and vanilla in a food processor or high powered blender until smooth.

Add the remaining ingredients and blend again. Pour into a very lightly oiled 8×8-inch baking pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Cool completely before cutting into small squares. Top with raspberries or other berries.

Recipe courtesy of Dr. Joel Fuhrman.

My Method

I followed the recipe with a couple of minor exceptions.

I omitted the chia seeds because I didn’t have any in the house.  Also, I didn’t make any kind of fruit topping for the brownies.

I blended all of the ingredients as directed.  This actually took quite a bit of time and elbow grease as the mixture was not very liquidy.  However, after some stirring, mashing and blending, I was able to achieve a smooth consistency.  Here’s a shot of the beans, dates, and almond butter before the blending began.

Dates, Black Beans, and Almond Butter

Dates, Black Beans, and Almond Butter Dates and Black Beans

Also, the recipe directs you to “pour” the mixture into the pan.  My mixture was very smooth, but not pourable.  So, I used a spoon to dig it out of the blender and then spread it around to the best of  my ability.

Black Bean Brownies - ready for the oven

Black Bean Brownies – ready for the oven

The Result

After very patiently allowing these brownies to cool for hours, I cut them into 16 squares.  They cut easily and didn’t stick to the pan.  Do they pass for brownies?

Absolutely!

The cocoa powder gives them a great chocolate flavour.

The dates sweeten them nicely.

The black beans lend a nice texture to the treat.

I can definitely tell that they’re not full of sugar.  I like that.

They feel like an indulgence, which is exactly what I want to feel when I eat a brownie.

Black Bean Brownies

Black Bean Brownies


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The Sunshine Award

I am proud to say that I have been nominated for a Sunshine Award.  Blogger awards are a great way to share a little bit about yourself, and to pay it forward by calling attention to other great blogs.  I am tickled pink that Ashlee over at Willfully Disobedient chose to include my blog on her list of nominees!  Thank you, Ashlee!

Sunshine Award

Sunshine Award

The Rules

  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers.  They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer & let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated. You cannot nominate the blogger that nominated you.

11 Random Facts

  1. I love baking and cooking.
  2. I am a bookworm at heart.
  3. I once jumped out of a plane, willingly!  I was sky diving.
  4. I dream about travelling and always look forward to my next trip.
  5. I have donated my hair twice.  It’s been used to make wigs for cancer patients.
  6. I am slowly removing the chemicals from my family’s daily life.  It’s a slow process.
  7. My favorite workout these days is Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30.
  8. I really want to be fluent in Spanish, but have so far to go!
  9. I plan to perfect my skin care products and one day sell them.
  10. Since I was 10, I have always had a small business venture on the side.
  11. I volunteered at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Ashlee’s Questions

– If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?
I would like in a place where winter barely brushes up against the freezing mark. I love my city, but I always have a hard time adjusting to the -20 degree days in the winter months.
– Who is your favorite actor/actress? Why?
I love watching Denzel Washington.  He always gives such a convincing and authentic performance.
– What song always cheers you up when you’re sad?
With my little son, I sing a lot of children’s songs.  They all cheer me up – everything from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to When you’re Happy and You Know It.
– What is your favorite toy from your childhood?
I loved playing with dolls.
– What is your least favorite thing about being an adult?
There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being an adult.  Is there a way to pass some of that onto someone else?
– Someone is going to take you out to dinner, any restaurant you like. Where would you go?
My husband and I have a favorite Lebanese restaurant in town.  It’s not a fancy or expensive place.  The food is great and the atmosphere is welcoming.  We head there anytime we have a chance for a treat.
– If you have kids, how did you decide on names?
We chose names that other family members already had.  My son is named after my husband and after my grandfather.
– What is your favorite holiday?
I love Christmas.  It’s a great time for family.  I also love to give gifts!
– What is your favorite book?
Oh boy – I don’t think I could name just one!  I love reading!  I recently read Prisoner of Tehran and I loved it.  I’m not sure if it’s my all time favorite, but I definitely recommend it!
– How much sleep do you absolutely have to have to function?
Since getting pregnant, I’ve learned to function with a lot less sleep than ever before.  I can get by for a few days on 4 hours of sleep.  After that, the wear and tear starts to show!
– What is your favorite way to de-stress?
Working out is the best way for me to relax.  If I can’t do that, a good movie with a bowl of popcorn will do the trick!

11 Questions for my Nominees:

  1. What is your favorite food?
  2. How do you maintain balance in your life?
  3. What is/are your favorite brand(s) of makeup?
  4. Do you speak a second language?  If so, what is it?
  5. Where is your dream vacation?
  6. How do you get healthy when you have a cold or a flu?
  7. What is more important in a beauty product – packaging or price?
  8. What do you love most about blogging?
  9. Have you ever had the chance to meet a follower of your blog that you didn’t know before you started writing your blog?
  10. What is your favorite way to exercise?
  11. Do you have a bucket list and if yes, how much progress have you made on it?

And My 11 Nominees Are:

Thank you again to Ashlee for the nomination!
Congratulations to my 11 nominees! I hope you’ll find some time to answer the questions so I can get to know each of you a little bit better.
If nothing else, please check out these 11 blogs.  They are all full of great information!


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A Lesson in Lip Balm

I make a lot of lip balm.  It’s easy and the lip balms actually work.  How easy, you ask?

Really easy.

Making Lip Balm

First, get your ingredients ready.  You’ll need oil, some wax, and some butter if you feel like it.

Next, melt all of the ingredients together.  I do this in a pot on the stove on the lowest heat setting possible.  If I had a double boiler, I would use that instead.  It’s important not to overheat the ingredients or burn the oil.

Melting the ingredients

Melting the ingredients

Once everything is melted, take the liquid off the heat and add your essential oils.

Melted Ingredients

Melted Ingredients

Finally, pour your lip balms.  I use this fancy lip balm tray to hold all of the tubes steady.  As it turns out, I actually need help holding my hand steady as there is always some spillage.

Lip Balm Tube Filling Tray

Lip Balm Tube Filling Tray

Finally, let the balms set and cool.  It’s a bit like watching the kettle boil, so it’s best to find something else to do in the meantime.  When possible, I like to let mine set overnight.  Once they are ready, you can taken them out of the tray and pop the lids on each tube.

The Result?

Do these simple steps and you’ll have a homemade lip balm.  I like to call mine Lip Lube.

Here’s a shot of two tubes I just made up for a friend who was brave enough to try out my formula.

Lip Lube

Lip Lube

The Recipe

It took me a long time and many trials to come up with the recipe that I use.  I like it because it’s soft enough to be used in the cold winter months, but doesn’t melt in your purse or pocket in the hot summer months.  I just might end up selling these tubes of Lip Lube one day. So, for now, I’m opting to keep the recipe to myself.

If you’re looking for ideas, check out one of my favorite sites here.  It’s the Crunchy Betty site.  It’s full of ideas, recipes and tips.  It’s a great starting point!  Or, if you’re more adventurous, try a few combinations out on your own.  It might take a few tries, but I’m sure you’ll end up with a formula that works.  Either way, have fun!


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The Leibster Blog Award

Thank you to Isabelle at Ginger and Aloe for nominating my blog for the Liebster Blog Award.  I am honoured and thankful for the nomination.

Blog Awards are a great way to share a bit about ourselves with other bloggers.  They are also a great vehicle for paying it forward and calling attention to other fabulous blogs out there.

THE RULES

1) Acknowledge and link back to the blogger who nominated you
2) Answer the 10-11 questions posed by the nominator(s)
3) Nominate 5-11 bloggers who have less than 200 followers
4) Create your own 10-11 questions for the nominees
5) Leave a comment on your nominee’s blog that you nominated them

Isabelle’s Questions

1.  Who or what inspired you to start blogging?

I was inspired to start blogging by a good friend of mine.  She wrote a blog for many years and eventually, I decided to jump on the bandwagon.  It has been a great way to share my skin care experiments.

2. What is your favorite make up?
I love the Jane Iredale line.  I also like the All Natural Face.
3. What is your favorite body lotion?
I make my own body lotion.  By far, it’s my favorite. I just can’t find anything else that works as well on my dry skin.
4. What is your favorite fruit?
Mango!
5. Favorite time of the day to work out?
First thing in the morning.  It gets me going and ready for the day.
6. Favorite drink of the moment?
I love a cup of Hot Lemon Water.
7. What do you think about juice cleanse?
I do a lot of juicing using my Hurom Juice Press.  I think it’s very healthy to incorporate freshly squeezed juices into your daily routine.  I always feel best when I am juicing regularly.
8. Favorite song?
I don’t have one.  I like music, but can never recall the name or artist of a song that I like.  It’s a part of my brain that just doesn’t function…ever.

9. Your favorite place?

My favorite place is home.  Home is with my family, wherever that my be.

10. Favorite inspirational quote?

“Hope is not a plan of action”.

I love this quote.  It’s a reminder to me that I need to make my dreams come true, rather than wait and hope that things turn out how I want.

My Ten Questions

1.  How do you keep your skin clean and fresh?

2.  If you could travel to one place in the world, where would it be?

3.  What is your favorite animal?

4.  What is your favorite type of food?

5.  How do you motivate yourself to get difficult tasks done?

6.  How many times do you wash your hair in a week?

7.  Who do you admire the most and why?

8.  What is your favorite brand of make up?

9.  What is the one word that describes you the best?

10.  What is your favorite book?

And the Nominees Are:

Zen in the Big City 

Little Steps

Day Dreaming on a Dime

Tomatoes and Jasmine 

Green For Baby 

Please take a moment to visit these five fabulous blogs!  I’ve enjoyed each of them and I hope you will too!