Arrival of spring provides an opportunity to freshen up

It is a time of transition. Furnaces are taking a long awaited break and prairie folk are stretching out of a long winter hibernation, ready to renew and energize.

We all know how to do housework, even if many of us procrastinate until we are forced to do it. Make a small start by sweeping or vacuuming out the corners that have accumulated dust bunnies from the winter. Next, throw out any air fresheners with synthetic fragrances; they are polluting your space and we are now starting fresh. Look for a natural alternative like Poo-pourri spray, made for the bathroom but really useful in the whole house.

Try making your own by mixing 1/2 cup (125 mL) of each distilled water and vodka in a clean spray bottle, then adding 15 to 20 drops of pure essential oil (like lemon, lime, orange or bergamot) and mist away. Freshening the air while disinfecting is the end result. You can also disinfect surfaces, such as taps and door knobs with this spray. Just polish with a clean cloth to complete the process.

Fresh-cut flowers such as tulips, lilies or daffodils are another way of freshening the air in your home. To make those beautiful cut flowers last, try this method:

Flowers keep best when cut on a 45 degree angle with a sharp, clean knife or kitchen scissors and put immediately into room temperature water. The exceptions are daffodils and tulips, which do best in cool water.

Remove any extra greens, stems or branches that would touch the water, leaving mainly stalks. And finally, use the packets of food that come with fresh flowers or make your own by mixing a dash each of lemon juice, sugar, and bleach to your water. Change the water every few days.

It is important to reset and detoxify our bodies. A great place to start is with a skin-boosting diet. Foods that are scientifically proven to help with skin repair include fresh cool water, vitamin-C-rich berries, fibrous apples, colourful vegetables such as carrots, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, flax seed, olive oil, nuts of any kind and good protein sources, such as meat, beans and perhaps the addition of a collagen powder.

I like to toss a combination of the healthy choices into a one-dish meal. It’s so simple and the taste and presentation are appealing.

Fresh vegetable pasta salad with chicken

This is a revamped meal salad that covers many of the hydrating food bases. By eating complex carbohydrates (like pasta, rice and potatoes) after they have been chilled, the starch becomes more resistant with less changes in blood sugar. Once chilled the sugar stabilizing effect is maintained, even if reheated.

  • 2 large cucumbers, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 orange pepper
  • 1/2 of a red onion, sliced into chunks
  • 1 c. feta cheese 250 mL
  • 1 c. creamy Greek feta dressing like Renee’s or Greek dressing of your choice 250 mL
  • 2 c. fusilli pasta, cooked according to package and rinsed with cold water 500 mL
  • 3 c. cubedcooked chicken 750 mL
  • 1 large roma tomato, cut into large pieces (or equivalent cherry tomatoes)

In a large serving bowl combine all of the ingredients, except the tomato. Refrigerate until serving. This salad can be made up to 24 hours ahead. Add tomato just before serving and toss.

In addition to your one dish meal entree, try some finger foods that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Caramel grapes

This is a refreshing treat.

  • 5 c. green seedless grapes, washed and dried 1.25 L
  • 2 c. sour cream 500 mL
  • 1/2 c. sugar 125 mL
  • 2 tsp. vanilla 10 mL
  • 1/2 c. butter 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar 125 mL

Wash and dry grapes. Combine the sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Gently coat the grapes with this mixture in a large mixing bowl. Pour into a 9 X 13 inch (22 X 33 centimetres), set aside.

In a sauce pan, bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil, let bubble for about three minutes, stirring often. Pour over the grapes, do not stir, and chill for three to four hours.

Serve in small dessert bowls or with toothpicks or appetizer forks. Source: www.recipeland.ca

Note: you can use red grapes or other fruits, such as peaches or raspberries when in season. Experiment.

Strawberry chocolate poppers

A small decadent finger food that is convenient to make.

  • 1 container of store-bought mini creampuffs found in the freezer section of the grocery store (100 pieces,1.25 kilograms)
  • 3 c. washedstrawberries 750 mL
  • 1 bar of dark chocolate of your choice

Remove mini pastries from the freezer. Cut each puff in half and place face up. Carefully decorate each puff with a few pieces of strawberry and a small chunk of chocolate or grate chocolate over the top. Place on a plate or tray and serve. If you are not serving immediately, be sure to refrigerate.

Just want some plain old chocolate to finish your meal or for a snack?

As I have mentioned in many columns, dark chocolate can be a nutritious treat because it contains antioxidants. It’s also good for your skin, but only a few squares a day are needed. The same holds true for coffee, loaded with antioxidants, but again, only a few cups a day. Look for the fair trade seal on the packaging, a symbol of sustainable food production with no child labour involved.

Check out the documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate.

Please feel free to wine

  • Water is a life staple, but sometimes we need to change our beverage choices. Enjoy a glass or two of red wine, which can be good for you because of the resveratrol content. Do you get headaches after consuming even small sips of wine? Choose a pinot noir because it is free of histamines, which means you’re less likely to feel negative effects. Or sip champagne, which is also made from grapes and can be great for your heart, skin and brain.

Source: drnatashaturner.com.

  • People wanting non-alcoholic drinks can choose pure fruit juice or lemonade mixed with club soda or plain water on ice instead of pop. Another alternative could be the new Zevia drink (my favorite is the cola) made with Stevia, a natural sweetener.

Source: DrWeil.com

Freshen your skin care

Our skin is our largest organ and absorbs everything we put on it. Personal-care products go far beyond making us look good; ingredients can really affect our health. Progress was also made in Canada when these products had to be labelled, making it easier for the consumer. Remember, like food labels, ingredients are listed in order, from highest amount to lowest.

  • First step, choose products that are not tested on animals. Look for logos on the label.
  • Second, think about responsible packaging that can be recycled. Look for glass containers that can easily be recycled, with brown or clear being easier to reproduce. Look for beauty companies that are embracing recycling their own products. For example, Mac lipstick promotes recycling by offering free product if you take back the empty tubs. Simply ask before you buy your products.
  • Third, you must know the ingredients by checking the ingredient listing on the label. Avoid anything with parabens, petroleum, formaldehyde, phthalates (labels will show fragrance/parfum), sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan (found in many toothpastes) and silicones. All of these ingredients could potentially irritate and eventually damage skin. If you want a fragranced product, look for labels that show “formulated without synthetic fragrance or “scented with essential oils.”

Finders keepers

The following is a list of products that have become favourites in our home:

  • Attitude personal care products range from baby care, shampoo and conditioners, body wash and moisturizers and a wide array of safe household cleaners.
  • Everyone Soaps and Lotions are excellent cleaning and moisturizing products, but also are three in one.
  • For dry skin try a 100 percent shea butter cream. Earth’s Care shea butter is my top choice, found online at www.well.ca.
  • For those of us who wear makeup, check out Andalou CC crème, which is an all-in-one sunscreen and moisture cream. Top with a Body Shop Multi Velvet Stick for Lips and Cheeks for some colour. All you need is mascara and you are out the door. Check www.ewg.org for healthy makeup choices.
  • Try Jason’s PowerSmile toothpaste as a healthy alternative. Green Beaver toothpaste is a great option for kids, with many tasty flavours.

Along with the skin-care products, try these home spa devices:

  • The Zinger Scalp massager by Relaxus — such a great way to relax, and so simple. Available at drug and department stores. One was not good enough for our house. I had to buy multiples.
  • Rose Quartz Facial Roller by Delia Organics — so helpful for sinus or headache pain and for skin detox and improved circulation. Available at www.deliaorganics.com.

As consumers we always want to be able to experience the latest, most advanced products on the market, but this process can be overwhelming and expensive. Subscribing to a sample service is a fun and economical way to go. First, you must buy a subscription and then each month or for some, each season, you receive a parcel in the mail allowing you to try the latest products in sample sizes. For healthy home products my personal favourite is Simply Beautiful, which includes pampering products for you and your home, available at www.simplybeautifulbox.com.

Here are others to try depending on your interests:

Instead of buying, you may want to make your own skin-care treatments and if do, look no further than your pantry.

Anti-aging detox skin mask

  • 1 tbsp. coconut oi 15 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda 5 mL
  • 3 capsules of 1000 mg MSM powder available at drug stores or health-food stores.

In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients with a spoon or fork.

Apply directly to your face, avoiding your eyes.

Rub gently with your fingers in a circular motion for five minutes.

Leave on for 10 minutes.

Wash the mask off with cold water and pat your face dry with a clean towel. You will notice the difference. Source: www.wyldeabouthealth.com.

Bath salt

To relieve stress and relax muscles. This is especially helpful for headaches, skin rehydration and improving sleep.

Mix two cups (500 mL) of Epsom salts with 1/2 cup (125 mL) of baking soda and 10 drops of pure lavender oil (relaxing) or lemon essential oil for an energizing effect and two tablespoons of carrier oil of your choice, such as jojoba, coconut, argan, avocado or olive oil.

Add a large scoop to a warm bath and soak your stress away.

Foot and hand scrub

To make a scrub to apply directly to hands or feet, combine 1/2 cup (125 mL) sugar, 1/2 cup (125 mL) Epson salts, 1/4 cup 60 mL) of olive oil and five drops of essential oils of peppermint or lemon. Put on wet skin, scrub and rinse.

To smooth off chapped lips simple combine one tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil, one tablespoon (15 mL) sugar and a few drops of fruit juice for flavour. Rub on lips with fingers and lick or rinse off.

Here is a recipe for making your own moisturizing cream. It benefits are worth the extra effort.

Rosemary’s famous face cream

Group I Ingredients

  • 3/4 c. grape seed (for oily skin), avocado (for dry skin) or apricot (for all types) 175 mL
  • 1/3 c. shea butter orcoconut oil or a comboof both 80 mL
  • 1 tsp. grated beeswax 5 mL

Melt the beeswax over very low heat and then stir in the other oils and mix well.

Pour into a blender and let sit on the counter for several hours or overnight to let it come completely to room temperature.

Group II Ingredients

  • 2/3 c distilled water 160 mL
  • 1/3 c. aloe vera gel (pure with no alcohol) 80 mL
  • 1-2 drops pure essential oils for scent (optional )
  • *use pure frankincense or rosemary oil for smoothing wrinkles
  • Vitamin E, few drops (optional)

Method:

Blend Group II ingredients in a glass mixing bowl or measuring bowl, then turn the blender on and slowly drizzle the Group II ingredients as the blender mixes the Group I ingredients.

Pour into clean glass storage containers. I like a smaller size.

Your end result will be a creamy, white, rich-looking cream.

Store in fridge.

Source: Herbal Healing for Women

Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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