Things have got a bit heavy around here.  Sorry about that.  It’s all just a reflection of the ebb and flow of this little struggle, I suppose.  Some days we are crazy optimistic, and other days are just pure self-pity.  It’s all necessary.  The days I listen to the news, read about the Occupations and hear the dismal economic reports are pretty depressing.  Yesterday was bad; the commentators on an NPR show about the economy all were just muttering, “The caller is right.  We are all doomed.” That did not bring a ray of sunshine into my life.

I got our first pickup at the food pantry and was just so overwhelmed with the help.  Thirty-three pounds of food for my family!  We got a chicken, some fresh pollack fillets, cans of tomatoes, dry beans, bags of rice, organic lentils, some fresh sourdough bread for the kids, sweet potatoes, apples, carrots, pears, beets, lettuce from local farms, milk and eggs.  Amazing.  Please, if you need help feeding your family, head to your local food pantry. If you don’t have a hard time feeding your family then please consider donating to one.  We all need help sometimes, and even those of us who struggle need healthy food.

I had an “interview” with a local pizza place to answer the phone and take orders, under the table.  Is it weird that I’m excited about it?  Considering my Plan A was holiday help at the Macy’s half an hour away before this fell into my lap, then it’s no surprise.  I’m really hoping that he hires me.  I think it would be a good symbiotic relationship and would help so much until J gets some work.  It’s been a long time since I walked into a place and just said, “Listen, I need some money for food and heat.  I can do whatever you need me to do, and I can lift a hundred pounds.”  I can dead lift a lot more than that, but didn’t want to show off, you know.  Didn’t want to intimidate the guy, right?

Anyway, onward and upward.  I’ve taken a close look lately at our daily expenses.  One of the things that we go through a lot of are toiletries and cleaning products.  In the past, I had been skeptical of drugstore cosmetics because of the long lists of thing of who-knows-what so I changed over (almost exclusively) to the “all-natural” brands.  Part of this switch meant making my own.  Elias was born with some coin eczema and since it was january and the heat was on, it was itchy and inflamed and irritated.  None of the usual stuff from the store worked, so I made my own and it cleared right up.  That was what led me to my little company, Great Marsh Artisan Skincare.  I made salves, balms and oils by hand.  I’m just starting out, but I have a lot of fun doing it.  It’s not going to save the family farm by any means, but we are carried in a few stores and have some pretty loyal customers with wonderful feedback.  So, I keep at it.  My plan is to soon introduce some new products soon, too.  A lot of the toiletries that I use on myself and my family are DIY, but there’s some things you just need to have someone else make for you.  I’m always looking to keep quality and simplicity high and cost low, so here are some of the ways that I do that.

Soap.  I stopped using it, for the most part.  It dries your skin out and I rarely get that dirty.  If my hands are nasty from digging in the dirt or cooking, I wash up with some hot water and scrub with some salt and olive oil.  In the shower, I used to use Dr. Bronners castile soap (you know, on the dirty bits) at fifty-three cents per ounce, but to save money I have switched to Dr. Woods at twenty cents per ounce.  Castile soap is castile soap.  I use it to clean the house, wash up the kiddos and in the shower for those times when soap might be required.

I have tricky hair.  My husband and the kids use the castile soap without a problem, but I have very curly, colored, fine, dry hair.  I have tried to do the “no poo” method that so many people rave about without great results.  I was greasy and my hair felt like straw.  It just wasn’t for me unfortunately because I think the principles are awesome.  I think everyone should give it a go for 30 days and see what happens.  If you’re one of the few people for whom it doesn’t work out, then consider using Aubrey Organics.  Their ingredients list is flawless and there are about a million formulations for any hair type.  Currently I’m using the Blue Chamomile Hydrating shampoo with the Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner.  Vitacost has the best prices.

To tame my hair down from Jimi Hendrix to more Robert Plant, I just use some coconut oil.  TINY amount of coconut oil just on the ends.  I get a 54 ounce container of organic, unrefined coconut oil for only forty-three cents per ounce.  Very cheap, and we use it for everything.  It’s my primary cooking oil and my primary body-care ingredient.  I put a bit in a container or mason jar up in the bathroom and use the rest down in the kitchen. Coconut oil has a myriad of uses, if you didn’t know so it’s a great thing to have around the house. I use it for an all-over moisturizer for myself and the kids, and yes I do put it on my face.  It’s fine.  It also has a natural SPF of 15 (though you didn’t hear it from me) and its the only thing I used all summer at the beach and didn’t burn.  It also makes a great deodorant when you mix it up with some cornstarch and baking soda.  I have some tough pits, and this stuff works just as well as Secret Clinical Strength without the potential Alzheimer’s disease down the road!  Or whatever.  I still don’t like putting something on my body when I don’t know WTF it is.

Another deodorant that I love is the Thai Crystal.  The DIY doesn’t work long term for me because I get a weird rash.  I’m the only freak with this issue though, so I still swear by it for everyone else on the planet, but for me I have to break it up by using the Thai Crystal most days.  People, this thing costs $5.25 and it lasts for three to five years.  What is the problem?  Go buy one.

For the kiddos skin, I use my own Lavender Honey Hard Lotion or some olive oil infused with chickweed, plantain and Calendula.  I find that, as with most things, simple is best.  The fewer products, the fewer ingredients, the fewer steps to processing, the better the results, the better for your health and for the planet.

I don’t really know what else is needed.  I wear some mascarra, eyeliner and sometimes concealer that I get from the drugstore.  I shave my legs with coconut oil, exfoliate with a dry brush. I do dye my hair at home every couple of months with the regular commercial dye, whatever happens to be on sale.  I’m not perfect and I keep a few “luxuries” in my back pocket, though my definition of “luxuries” as certainly changed in the past couple of years.  But oh, how I miss bi-monthly, 90-minute massages!