How to Remove Label Residue (easy & non-toxic)

I had a couple of sticky things to deal with this morning, glue residue left after taking the label off a plastic bottle and sticker residue left on a polyester sport shirt that inadvertently got washed with the sticker still on.

Let’s start with the bottle label. I had a great plastic bottle left over after finishing up my Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Castile soap. But after pulling off the label I was left with a lot of sticky residue all over the bottle. It’s kinda hard to see in this pic, but believe me, it’s there.

Plastic Bottle Sticky Label Residue

So I went online for a little research and found that Eucalyptus oil, rubbed onto an adhesive residue will remove it quickly and easily and it smells great.


However, I recognize that not everyone has essential oil of Eucalyptus hanging around, so I decided to try another recommended method, vegetable oil.

I coated the bottle with vegetable oil and let it sit for about 1.5 hours. Then I came back and rubbed on the label residue. The oil had definitely started to do something to soften it, but it just all mushed around as I rubbed instead of coming off. So, I let it sit another hour or so (of course the website I got the instructions from said to let it sit overnight, I just didn’t have that kind of patience!).

So after another hour, I tried again and yes, Voilà! The sticky label residue rubbed right off and now I have a lovely clean, clear bottle that I can reuse for body oil, homemade shampoo, or whatever.


Homemade Sun Screen

The other day I bought a package of sunscreen for our son to take to camp.


Coppertone by Laura Gilmore used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

It was a 2 bottle set with a small spray bottle of sunscreen and another small bottle (4oz.) of sunscreen lotion. It cost $10.99, which was supposed to be a great “promo-price.” I’m either very behind the times, which is entirely possible, or that’s an awful lot of money for 2 little bottles of sunscreen.

Most commercial sunscreens have several chemical compounds, some of which are of health concerns, see the Wikipedia article entitled:

One of the main, and most effective, inorganic compounds in sunscreen is zinc oxide. So, I thought, what the heck, maybe I should try making my own sunscreen.

As it happens, both our children have very sensitive skin and to date have only been able to use Coppertone’s Water Babies (even though at 13 and 16, they are hardly babies). This was another reason to try a homemade version.

As with most things, I found alot of articles online about making your own sunscreen. See references. However, I found this little gem on Wellness Mama:

An Even Faster Way To Make Sunscreen :

  • Get a bottle of your favorite lotion (that doesn’t contain citrus oils!)
  • Add a couple Tablespoons of Zinc Oxide
  • Mix well
  • Use as Sunscreen

Well, Hooray! Couldn’t be easier, right? And as long as we are not allergic to Zinc Oxide (which you can get very inexpensively at Bulk Apothecary), I can just mix some in with lotion that we know won’t give anyone a rash and we’re in business.

Once the zinc oxide arrives, I’ll mix up a batch and put up a quick tutorial on Hubpages. If you have recipes for homemade sunscreen that works, please comment. Thanks.

UPDATE: I made a batch this week and I have spent some time in some of our hottest days this week out in the sun. Anecdotal Conclusion: Homemade Sunscreen works just as well as the commercial brand I’ve been using! Find the full “How to” at:

Update, 3 hours later.

The only place I did NOT reapply sunscreen was on my back. The homemade Sunscreen side of my back definitely got redder than the Water Babies side.

Other parts: arm, chest, leg where I used (and reapplied) the homemade sunscreen were great even after 3 hours on a scorcher of a day.

Conclusion: Homemade Sunscreen needs to be reapplied more frequently than commercial Sunscreen.


Homemade Organic Potting Soil

This post was originally posted in June 2013: Mixed up some potting soil this weekend. It was very easy to make, the texture is great, and it’s organic. I had always thought it was curious that most gardening sites recommend a sterile soil for seed starting and for propogating plants. I just loved this quote I found on the forum:

I’d no sooner raise seedlings in sterile potting mix than raise kids in an apartment without a yard; some things that are done are just not natural.

So I started looking for information to backup this opinion and found this article online: that made really good point.

The ultimate mixture for a potting mix should be teaming with life. Compost is the key in suppressing soil born disease. It is an amazing thing that the living organisms within the soil will eat each other. Your seedlings and young plants will have all the perfect nutrients in which to grow strong and healthy.

Their recipe for potting soil is 4 parts screened compost, 2 parts organic sphagnum peat moss, 1 part perlite and 1 part vermiculite (make sure they’re organic and not chemically treated).

Easy Homemade Potting Soil

We have a backyard composter where garden waste and kitchen scraps are composted. I don’t yet have a nice framed screen to screen the compost, but a bit of screening put over your mixing bucket will work just fine in a pinch.

I didn’t measure very carefully (lazy gardener!) but I did base my “parts” on the number of shovelfuls of material I used.

My plan for my lovely trug full of organic potting soil? I’ve started some cuttings of rosemary, thyme, sage and lavender. I will write more about that project and process next time.

Do you have a favorite recipe for potting soil? Please share.


What’s in Season: Connecticut Seasonal Produce Chart

This crop availability chart, created by the CT Department of Agriculture: is handy for seeing what’s locally available.

CT Produce Chart

As much as I would like to, I haven’t yet been able to integrate this into my buying habits. I suppose it would help if I spent more time shopping at Shortt’s Farm and Garden Center instead of Stop & Shop.

So, what’s in season now (September)?

  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Greens
  • Herbs
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Nectarines
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Peppers
  • Plums
  • Potatoes
  • Raspberries
  • Summer Squash
  • Corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Watermelon
  • Winter Squash

A mighty bountiful time of year!

To get myself in the mood for some season cooking, I’ve decided to make Peach Cobbler for dessert for our Labor Day Picnic. In fact, it was the great price on peaches that got me thinking (again) about making more of an effort to eat locally.

Next, I have to learn about preserving… canning, fermenting, freezing, maybe even jams and jellies.

[wysija_form id=”3″]

Easy Kale Chips – Putting the Crunch in Crunchy

We know that lots of dark green leafies are good for us. But eating enough of them was always a challenge for me. I like Swiss Chard in a lot of dishes, but I could never really enjoy Kale. Until I found a recipe for making Kale Chips.

Kale, Olive Oil, Popcorn Salt

As with most things, there are simple and complex recipes. This is a simple kale chip recipe. One bunch of Kale. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tad wilted, like mine was, since you’re going to dry the kale to a crisp anyway.

Kale - tough stems trimmed

Trim out thick stems, wash the kale. Tear into pieces (I leave mine pretty large because they shrink a lot in drying.) Coat with kale chips with olive oil. On this, you do have to get in there with your hands to make sure all the curly leaves have a nice sheen of oil on them. I then sprinkle with some fine popcorn salt. Go easy, though, they have an assertive taste on their own and don’t need much salt.

Kale coated with oil and salt

Put the oil-coated kale leaves into the dehydrator. It’s a damp day today and mine took 3.5 hours to dry. The last time I did them, they were very crisp at 3 hours. I also had some parsley drying today, so that could have effected the time as well.

Kale on dehydrator tray

Take out your kale chips and munch away. I like them a lot and my 13 year old daughter thought they were “pretty good.” I have also mixed some kale chips in with freshly popped popcorn. Yum!

Kale Chips

Footnote: A Facebook friend commented: “If you don’t have a dehydrator you can bake them in a 275 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. I like mine Spicy-cayenne pepper, red chili flakes, garlic powder and kosher salt – yum!”

[wysija_form id=”3″]


My “no poo” adventures

No, it’s not potty talk. “No Poo” is a catch-phrase used to describe hair-care without Shampoo. I learned about it a while ago while surfing around some crunchy blogs.

The basic recipe for going completely no ‘poo is; about a tablespoon of Baking Soda in 8oz of water, shaken well, scrubbed into hair and scalp and rinsed. If you need conditioning, the recommendation is for a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in 8oz of water for a conditioning rinse.

No Poo

I was totally intrigued and decided to try it. I had recently jumped on the Wen bandwagon, an absurdly expensive “cleansing conditioner” that I had used years ago with great results. However, this time around, it made my hair very heavy and greasy, so I was looking for an alternative.

Being that I have oily hair to begin with, I was leery of trying the baking soda alone, but I gave it a try. Unfortunately, there can be a transition time (up to a couple of weeks) as your scalp gets used to the fact that all the natural oils are not being stripped away by shampoo. I have to confess, I couldn’t take the transition time, my hair was too greasy with just the baking soda wash. That first day it was as if I hadn’t washed my hair at all. I might try again this summer…

I did a little more research and found that there are both simple and complex recipes out there for a homemade shampoo. What I ended up with was a sorta ‘poo method using 1 part liquid castile soap to 3-4 parts water. I added essential oils to make my own scented blend. This seems to be the perfect recipe for me. The castile soap and water combination foams up great, washes my hair completely clean and costs SOOO much less than commercial shampoo. Not to mention that it avoids all the chemicals in shampoo.

I do occasionally use the vinegar and water rinse (again with a little essential oil added for scent.) I know it seems hard to believe, but the vinegar water is a great conditioner. I need it only rarely because my scalp and hair are now very “balanced” and my hair is neither oily or dry. I also no longer need gel or mousse or anything else to style my hair. It’s is soft, has body and, mostly, behaves.

[wysija_form id=”3″]


What’s it like Keeping Chickens?

“Chicken” by © used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

Occasionally, I get to feeling really farm-girl and decide that we should get some chickens for our backyard… ah, fresh eggs, free fertilizer. It seems like such a good idea from the safety of my couch.
What wakes me up from my dream state is the fear of what keeping chickens would be like in the “real world” vs. the world of my mind.

I did do some research around the idea and found these resources online:

The article that scared me off was the last one… what you should know before getting chickens.

Some of the things the author mentions are:

The biggest annoyance is the noise. We don’t have a rooster (we are not allowed to by zoning laws, nor would we want one) but still the noise that these creatures make is impressive.

Chickens eat a lot of food, requiring re-stocking of their feeder about every three days. Of course this food turns into chicken poop. Chicken poop is high in nitrogen so it is an excellent fertilizer but it also releases a lot of smelly nitrous oxide.

Yikes, it sounds like having a bunch of noisy, smelly beasts invading our property. I’m not sure “home-grown” eggs and free-fertilizer are worth it.

However, I would love to hear from people who are actually keeping chickens. Particularly anybody in the New England area, who have to cope with cold winters and very changeable temperatures.

The last bit of info for today… I found this great infographic on Visually on how to build a backyard chicken coop. Which is what got me thinking about keeping chickens again.

How to Build A Chicken Coop
[wysija_form id=”3″]

Why and How to Make Homemade Deodorant

Deodorant by © Clean Wal-Mart used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

Before our children were born, I was seeing a Homeopath for fertility issues (the regular medical docs said nothing was wrong, but at the time we had been married 8 years and had 2 miscarriages and no babies.) One of her suggestions was that I stop using an antiperspirant with aluminum in it and switch to just a plain deodorant instead. So that’s what I did.

In the last 10 years or so, there has been more flurry of information about antiperspirants and deodorants containing ingredients that cause breast cancer or contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. And it’s not just the aluminum, it’s also things like parabens that are under investigation. From my research it appears that there is not a clearly documented link between these ingredients and disease. However, as the Wikipedia article on deodorant site quotes:

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence of a harmful effect” and “these chemicals are being directly applied daily, by very large numbers of people, and the long-term health effects of exposure are essentially unknown,” toxicologist Philip W. Harvey tells WebMD in an interview.

Here’s a list of some commercial deodorants that do not contain aluminum:

  • Berts Bees Deodorant
  • Aubrey Organics Calendula Blossom
  • Weleda Citrus Deodorant
  • Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant
  • The Body Shop DeoDry


Mennen Speed Stick is also aluminum-free (as long as you get the deodorant vs. antiperspirant.) The deodorants listed above cost between $5 and $11 per container (I think you can the Mennen Speed Stick for about $3).

Homemade Deodorant Fail
Homemade Deodorant Fail

So, recently I decided to make my own deodorant at home. I found some great recipes online (see resources below). I first tried making a balm with coconut oil, fragrance, cornstarch and baking soda. But the first warm day we had the whole thing melted into a mess, the coconut oil turned liquid and the baking soda/cornstarch clumped up on the sides of the jar. Bleh!

Next, I tried just a powder based deodorant, which would not only not melt (a plus) but also would actually act a bit like an antiperspirant by absorbing perspiration.

The ingredients are simple: cornstarch, baking soda and essential oil for scent. The proportion is about 5 parts cornstarch to 1 part baking soda and as much essential oil as you like. Take care with essential oils, some can be skin irritants. Use sparingly.

Whisk it all together (breaking up any oil lumps with your fingers). Put it into a jar and either use a powder puff or make a “shaker” top. I decided on the shaker top for easy of use.

For the shaker top, I cut out a piece of craft plastic mesh to fit the top of my mason jar, then put the ring top on to hold it in place. Done!

I’m sure you’re wondering how it works…. It’s great, very effective, no chemicals, super inexpensive and easy to make. I love it. No stinky pits for me.



How to stop Invasive Species – Fight back with Native Plants

Years ago, we were going for a hike at Saugatuck Falls in Redding, CT and I saw a woman covering parts of the forest floor with black plastic and pulling up plants. I must have given her a very quizzical look because she quickly informed me that she was removing an invasive species of plant. I recognized the plant and commented that it was also growing all over our neighborhood. This was my first exposure to knowledge of invasive species of plants.

Some of the prevalent invasive plants in my neighborhood are:

Invasive Plant: Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard, hedge garlic)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard, hedge garlic)


Invasive Plant Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress)
Invasive Plant Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress)
Invasive Japanese Knotweed
Japanese Knotweed by Muffet used under a Creative Commons Attribution license
Multiflora-Rose-2 © homeredwardprice used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

The Nature Conservancy Site has some suggestions for how each of us can help stop the spread of invasive plants in our neighborhoods.

  • Verify that the plants you are buying for your yard or garden are not invasive.
  • Replace invasive plants in your garden with non-invasive alternatives.
  • Ask your local nursery staff for help in identifying invasive plants!
  • Clean your boots before you hike in a new area to get rid of hitchhiking weed seeds and pathogens.
  • Volunteer at your local park, refuge or other wildlife area to help remove invasive species. Help educate others about the threat.

Why Grow Native Plants?

There are many advantages to growing native plants
in your yard. Since they’re adapted to the natural
ecosystem, they’re better able to withstand climate
changes and invasions from insects and diseases.
Natives require little care once established in your yard.
Native plants also are not invasive. They have evolved a
delicate balance with other plants, pests, and diseases
so they don’t overwhelm an ecosystem, but remain an
essential part of it. Because they’re so well adapted to
a specific region, they provide reliable food and shelter
to local wildlife, such as birds, mammals, and bees.

Sometimes I get a little freaked out by the sheer volume of invasive plants I see taking over. They tend to go places where people are not carefully watching… the roadsides, places where the soil has been disturbed (like construction sites). But then I remember the story of the Indian man who single-handedly planted a forest: and I feel that the steps I take month after month and year after year to replace invasive plant species with native plants will actually make a difference.


Great Resources for Containers for Homemade Stuff

Where do you find: glass bottles for fermenting water kefir, bottles for shampoo or body oil, containers for body balm or powder or even cloth grocery bags that are not imprinted with a store logo?

Today’s post is my Go To List for containers. My container of choice for most things is the ubiquitous mason jar.

I use mason jars for salads, oatmeal, snacks and fruit. Also for sprouting beans and for the first ferment of water kefir. Lastly, I use mason jars for my body balm and body powder too.

The other kind of bottle I use are flip-top bottles for the second ferment of water kefir or homemade flavored vinegars, oils or liqueurs.

Specialty Bottle

I got these bottles from Specialty Bottle: I was very happy with their pricing, delivery was efficient and everything arrived in good condition.

I recently ordered a bunch of other bottles & jars for homemade body wash, shampoo, lip gloss (my daughter’s specialty), we also got a few spray bottles, some foaming hand-wash bottles (remind me to share my hand soap revelation) and bottles and reeds for DIY reed diffusers. Got the whole bunch from Container and Packaging Supply: Great prices, no minimums, lots of variety, speedy shipment, great online chat; a couple of bottles broke en route, used the chat to report the trouble, replacements were on the way within a day.

ScreenShot965 (1)

The last thing wanted to mention, while it’s not related to bottles or jars, is a great place to get cloth grocery bags. I have been using cloth bags since before the grocery stores were selling their own “brand” of bag. These bags are sturdy, machine washable, perfectly sized and reasonably priced (they were less $ when I bought mine back in the 90’s). Added bonus: The Cloth Bag Company bags are USA made.

What are your favorite resources for containers for homemade stuff?