Thursday, December 6, 2012

DIY Beef Dog Chews

If you own a dog, then no doubt you'll agree that your canine is just as much a part of your family as your spouse or kids. So of course you'll be including Fido in your holiday gift-giving! This year, I decided to make my dogs Lucy, Susse and Buddy homemade beef chews for their Christmas gifts. Of course I let them sample some ahead of time and they loved them!

These chews are incredibly easy to make and super inexpensive. Better yet, they're super healthy. Store-bought dog chews and treats often contain additives and preservatives, just like a lot of 'human food.' By making the chews at home, you know exactly what you're feeding your dog. Also, if you're an 'all-natural nut' like me, making them from scratch gives you the opportunity to add wholesome ingredients to make them that much healthier! (See below for flavor suggestions that pack a healthy punch!) Your pup will love these stocking stuffers, and I hope you enjoy making them as much as I did!

Flavoring ideas and their health benefits
You can develop your own custom flavors by adding different herbs and spices to the beef before drying. Aside from the additional flavor they bring, incorporating these ingredients into their treats can be very beneficial to your dogs health. Since I'm a big fan of herbs and spices used for health purposes, and a strong believer in their effectiveness, I've decided to share a list of a few herbs that may be helpful in alleviating and/or preventing health problems in your dog. Of course, your dog doesn't have to be suffering from any of these issues in order to enjoy these flavorings- He'll just be enjoying a super delicious snack that happens to be healthy, too!
Bad breath - Parsley, Rosemary
To repel ticks and fleas - Garlic
Digestive discomfort - Ginger, Catnip, Chamomile, Basil
Inflammation (arthritis, injuries, skin irritations, etc) - Chamomile, Rosemary, Basil 
Anxiety/nervousness - Chamomile, Catnip
Boost immune function - Garlic, Ginger, Sage, Oregano
Infection - Sage, Oregano, Thyme

Complete list of safe herbs for dogs

Feel free to mix and match and experiment with different herbs and spices- just make sure to research an ingredient to be sure it is safe for dogs before using it in the chews. I don't recommend adding salt, as too much sodium is not good for your dog. Also, avoid using spicy seasonings, like black pepper or cayenne.

What You Need

Very lean beef - Beef top round steak, flank steak or rump roast
Dried herbs or spices of your choice (optional)
Butcher twine or string
Wire rack (I used a cookie cooling rack)


Slice the beef (with the grain) into strips, about 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick and 4 - 6 inches long. (For easier cutting, place the meat in the freezer prior to slicing just until ice crystals begin to form)

Pat meat dry with a paper towel

If you're seasoning the meat, roll the strips in the herbs or spices of your choice, or sprinkle over top.

Use a piece of twine to tie 3 strips of meat together at one end. Tightly braid the strips, then tie the bottom ends together with another piece of twine.

Use the convection setting on your oven, and heat to 130 degree Fahrenheit. (Convection is ideal, because it circulates the air around the meat.) If your oven does not have a convection setting, heat to 150 degrees and leave the oven door open a crack.

Place braids on wire rack and put in oven. Cook for 4-5 hours. Turn down the oven temperature to its lowest setting and continue cooking braids for several hours. My oven's lowest temperature is 100 degrees, so I left the braids to finish drying overnight. If your oven does not go that low, just use the lowest possible temperature and allow the braids to dry another 3-5 hours. The braids are finished drying when they have shrunk to about half their size, are a dark color and are hard.

Untie the ends of the braids. The braids are ready to be devoured!

Store in an air-tight container or zip-top bag. 

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Candy Cane Shower Scrub

With Halloween already over and Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow, Christmas is right around the corner! Like I mentioned in my last post, I love to use seasonal foods in my body products. This doesn't just apply to produce, though. My latest shower scrub uses one of the holiday season's most popular treats- Candy Canes! I love this scrub. It may sound cheesy, but the warm smell of peppermint instantly puts me in the holiday spirit and brings me back to those fond Christmas memories which we all know so well. This Candy Cane Shower Scrub leaves your skin feeling silky smooth, and also makes a wonderful holiday gift- just pour into a pretty air-tight canister and tie a bow and gift tag around the top! Enjoy!


1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered candy canes (or 8 round peppermint candies)
3 tablespoons ground candy canes, for texture (not too big of pieces, or else they'll be sharp!)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla powder OR seeds of 1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoons vegetable glycerin
2 teaspoons grapeseed oil (any light oil, like olive, will work)
30 drops grapefruit seed extract OR 1 tablespoon citric acid
2 drops peppermint extract


Combine sugar, powdered and ground candy canes, sea salt and vanilla. Stir in glycerin, oil, grapefruit seed extract (or citric acid) and peppermint extract. Add more oil if desired. Pour mixture into air-tight container. To use: briskly massage a handful of scrub into damp skin. Rinse.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cranberry Orange Shower Scrub

 Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I couldn't be more excited! I love the whole holiday season. The cooling air, the short days, fires in the fireplace, and especially the wonderful foods of the season. Not only do I like to include seasonal ingredients in my dishes, but also in my homemade body products. What a wonderful way to utilize these different ingredients and bring the magic of the holidays into different parts of your day!

Since my mom makes homemade cranberry sauce every Thanksgiving, she has bags and bags of cranberries in her fridge. So I decided to make a shower scrub using cranberries and another popular holiday fruit: Oranges. This scrub does wonders for your skin. The sugar and salt slough off dead cells and makes your skin silky smooth. Cranberries are packed with antioxidants which protect the skin, especially from harsh winter weather. Oranges also contain antioxidants as well as Vitamin C, an amazing nutrient for the skin. (Learn about Vitamin C's skin benefits here)

This scrub looks good enough to eat and will make your skin sweetly soft and radiant!


1/3 cup fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


Use a food processor and puree cranberries and water. Combine puree with sugars, orange juice, salt and vanilla. To use, massage into damp skin while in shower, then rinse. Store scrub in refrigerator in an air-tight container.

Friday, November 2, 2012

DIY Pine Cone Bird and Squirrel Feeders

Some of you may remember this fun craft from when you were a kid. It was one of my favorites. I loved going out in the chilly weather with my mom to gather pine cones, making the feeders in our cozy kitchen, and watching and identifying each bird that snacked on our creation. This is a fun project to do with or without kids. It's a great craft to kick off the fall months and they look adorable hanging in the backyard!

I hope you have as much fun making these as I did!

What You Need

5 large pine cones (Experiment with different sizes and quantities!)
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups mixed birdseed
Wire (I used beading wire), crimp beads and pliers or strong twine
1 shallow microwave-safe dish  (I used a short, square Gladware food storage container)
1 deep dish  (I used a tall, rectangle Gladware food storage container)
Pastry brush or clean paint brush
Wax paper

Make sure the pine cones are free of dirt. Cut 5 pieces of wire or twine, about 2 1/2 to 3 feet long each. Start by taking a pine cone and wrapping the wire once or twice around the middle, and tucking in the tail to keep it from unraveling. Now, continue wrapping the wire around and toward the top of the pine cone. When you get to the top of the pine cone, wrap the same spot several times, as well as thread the loose end of the wire under and through a few already-wrapped spots, and pull tightly, to secure (sort of like sewing!) You don't need to go over-board on the wrapping, but you do want to make sure that the pine cone isn't going anywhere- squirrels have some arm muscle! Position the wire so that the pine cone hangs straight down. Repeat for each pine cone.
Step 1: Wrap Pine Cone with Wire
Prepare your work area with a tablecloth. 
Set aside a piece of wax paper in a safe place for drying.
Pour the 1 1/2 cups birdseed into the deep dish.
Pour the 3/4 cup peanut butter into the shallow microwave-safe dish. Microwave the peanut butter in 20 second intervals, stirring each time, until it becomes thin and runny.
Step 2: Prepare Your Work Area
Now the fun part! Take a pine cone, holding it by the top, and place it into the dish of melted peanut butter. Using a pastry brush or clean paint brush, 'paint' the pine cone with the peanut butter, turning it to coat it evenly. Make sure to use the brush to get into all the nooks and crannies and to coat both the tops and bottoms of the all the 'scales.' You may prefer to drizzle the peanut butter over the pine cone and then use the brush to spread it out. Whatever works for you! You'll probably need to reheat the peanut butter between each pine cone to keep it thin and easily-spreadable. Hold the pine cone by the wire over the dish and let the excess peanut butter drip off.
Step 3: Paint the Pine Cone with the Melted Peanut Butter

Now, place it into the container of birdseed and gently roll, shake and pour the seed over the pine cone to coat it thoroughly and evenly, again making sure to fill all those nooks and crannies!
Gently shake off any loose birdseed.
Step 4: Roll the Pine Cone in the Birdseed

Place the pine cone on the wax paper to dry, about 30 minutes. Repeat for all the pine cones.
Step 5: Allow the Pine Cones to Dry

Now it's time to hang your Pine Cone Bird and Squirrel Feeders!
Step 6: Hang the Pine Cones by Wrapping the Wire Around a
 Branch, Trellis or Other Support Very Securely
I used crimp beads from my jewelry supplies to hang the feeders. Hardware stores also sell a variety of crimps. Just thread a crimp onto the wire, wrap the loose end of the wire around the support (tree branch, board, etc), and thread the end of the wire back through the crimp from the top. Slide the crimp up the wires toward the support to tighten. Use pliers to squeeze the crimp closed and trim the excess wire.

If you don't have or don't want to use the crimps, simply just wrap the wire or twine around the support several times before tying and knotting the ends very securely. You may even want to hammer a nail into the support and wrap the wire or twine around it several times before knotting the ends.

Wherever you decide to hang your feeders, they must be secure, otherwise the squirrels will be running off with the pine cones (I speak from experience, much to the squirrels enjoyment!) This is why I prefer wire over twine- it's a lot stronger and not as easy for the squirrels to chew through.

This is What Happens When the Feeders Aren't Secured Tightly!
The deck in my backyard is the bird and squirrel hot-spot, so I decided to hang the feeders on the trellis that's on the deck. I hung them at different lengths for a pretty display. You can hang them however and wherever you like!! Hang them from whatever support you like: a fence, tree branch, trellis, gazebo- use your imagination! You could even attach the feeders to a wire clothes hanger that's been bent into a circle, or a small embroidery hoop, and hang the whole thing for a whimsical mobile display.
 Now sit back and enjoy watching the wildlife snack on your creations!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Garbage Disposal Cubes: Naturally Deodorizes and Cleans

This week's tutorial is for an all-natural and easy solution to smelly garbage disposals. These cubes use citrus peel, baking soda, borax, salt and water to not only deodorize but clean your garbage disposal. The citrus works in two ways: The oil from the peel leaves a wonderful, fresh fragrance, and the acid helps eliminate odor-causing bacteria. The baking soda deodorizes the disposal and also works as an abrasive cleaner along with the borax and salt to get rid of grime and build up. They're not only easy to make but easy to use: Just toss one in with some running water, turn on the disposal and voila- A clean and deodorized garbage disposal!

I always feel so wasteful when I throw away the citrus skins after juicing them. It takes a lot of lemons or oranges to get just a little juice! I knew there had to be a use for the unused portions, and this is a great way to put the leftovers to use! Each time you juice a lemon, lime or orange, put the peels in a zip-top bag and store them in the freezer. When you've saved up enough, just thaw them out and they're ready to be made into Garbage Disposal Cubes.

Note: I used limes because they were on super sale when I bought them, but you can use limes, oranges or lemons, or a combination of the three. It's totally up to you. However, since the fruits vary in size, you'll need to adjust the amount of peels needed depending on what fruit you use. Before measuring, cut the peels into about 3 inch pieces.

Makes about 18 cubes

  • 2 cups juiced citrus skins and peels ( about 6 limes OR 3 lemons OR 2-3 oranges) -do not use the juice
  • about 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup Borax
  • 1/4 cup any type coarse salt (I used epsom)

Use a food processor to combine citrus peels with enough water to make a wet paste, about 1/2 a cup.

The moisture should be wet but not runny

Stir in the baking soda, Borax and salt.

As soon as I added the baking soda, Borax and salt, the mixture turned neon yellow!
Spoon the mixture into ice cube trays and press down lightly to pack each cube. Transfer trays to freezer.  Once the cubes are totally frozen (several hours), pop them out of the ice cube trays and store in the freezer in a zip-top bag.

Please forgive the poor photos, my condo has terrible lighting!
To deodorize and maintain daily or after each use, turn on cleared garbage disposal and add one or two cubes with running hot water.

To deep clean or for very heavy odors, add three or four cubes to garbage disposal with 1/2 cup water. Turn disposal on and off very briefly. Let sit for 1/2 hour, then turn on disposal with running hot water to clear.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

How To: Make a Lotion Candle

I love this project! I first saw a lotion candle at a cute little boutique in northern Wisconsin, and fell in love with the idea. When I was a kid, I used to dip my fingers in the warm wax of my mom's expensive candles, leaving little wax dribbles on her table and fingerprints in her candles. When I saw the lotion candle for the first time, I immediately felt like a little kid again, excited to dip my fingers in the wax! But this candle is meant for putting fingers in!

This lotion candle is made with Cocoa and Shea butter, moisturizers which have low melting points and are easily absorbed into the skin. Beeswax is also added for a more solid consistency. The candle has a wick like a typical candle, but once melted and allowed to briefly cool, the wax can be massaged into skin to moisturize just like lotion. Not only do the essential oils nourish the skin, but they create a wonderful fragrance that will brighten any room!

What Are the Benefits?
I like to make each and every beauty product with incredibly nourishing ingredients, and this lotion candle is no exception! In addition to the deeply moisturizing Beeswax and Cocoa and Shea Butters, this invigorating lotion candle also contains Rosemary, Lemon, and Orange Essentials Oils, as well as Jojoba Oil and Vitamin E Oil. Here's a brief summary of the health benefits of these oils:

Rosemary, Lemon and Orange Essential Oils are all found to be stimulating, improve circulation, and contain astringent, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties.

Jojoba Oil is a very effective moisturizer, often used to treat acne and other irritating skin conditions due to it's antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Jojoba oil also contains Vitamin E, Complex B Vitamins and several minerals.
Vitamin E Oil is an indispensible ingredient in skin care products. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, protecting skin from damagin free radicals, and helping heal already damaged skin cells. It promotes the production of collagen and elastin and helps the skin retain it's natural moisture.

Feel free to experiment with various essential oils to create different scents that you love, and try out different oils, like almond or olive oil, in place of the Vitamin E and Jojoba oil to create a customized moisturizer! Just make sure you keep the proportions of oil to Beeswax, Cocoa and Shea butter the same, otherwise the consistency of your candle will be off.

Let's do it!

What You Need
  • Wick from a tealight candle
  • Small heat-safe ramekin or candle mold (I like to melt the ingredients in the same dish that will hold the candle, it's one less dish to clean!)
  • Wax warming stand OR microwave
  • 1/2 tablespoon (4g) Cocoa Butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon (8g) Shea Butter
  • 2 g Beeswax (if you don't have a scale, cut a square of beeswax that's 1/2 inch wide, 1/2 inch long and 1/8 inch thick)
  • 1/8 teaspoon Jojoba Oil
  • 5 drops Vitamin E Oil
  • 5 drops Orange Essential Oil
  • 3 drops Lemon Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
Beeswax, Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter
Vitamin E, Lemon, Rosemary, Orange and Jojoba Oils

 Combine the Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter and Beeswax in a small heat-safe ramekin or mold. Use a wax warming stand or microwave to melt the ingredients. (If using a microwave, heat in 10 second intervals) Add all the oils and stir to combine. 

Once melted, very carefully position the candle wick at the bottom of the dish

 Allow to cool and harden completely.

There you have it, a lotion candle! When it's time to burn the candle, blow out the flame and allow to cool for just 2 or 3 minutes before massaging the warm 'wax' into your skin. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

How to: Make All-Natural Dish Soap

Did you know that with just a few simple ingredients, you can make your own All-Natural Dish Soap?

What are the benefits of making my own dish soap?

1. There are no harmful chemicals or additives
    Although store-bought dish soaps are considered 'safe,' they include chemicals and other additives. My theory? If I can't pronounce the ingredients, I don't use it! I like to know exactly what goes into every product I use, and the best way to do that is to make everything from scratch.

2. Homemade dish soap is less expensive than store-bought dish soap.

3. You can easily customize your dish soap recipe to your liking!
     See notes below

So what's in it and how does it work?

This dish soap recipe contains Tea Tree Oil, Grapefruit Seed Extract and vinegar, all of which are considered antimicrobial. The vinegar helps prevent water spots, and the Orange Oil and Extract create a fresh smelling product. The finished product is a fairly thin consistency and because it doesn't contain lathering agents, it won't bubble as much as a store bought soap. But don't worry! It cleans just as well as the thick, bubbly stuff!

Let's get started!


  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 oz and 10 grams pure glycerin soap, finely grated         
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon vinegar          
  • 1/8 teaspoon Tea Tree Oil                                            
  • 12 drops Orange Essential Oil
  • 25 drops Grapefruit Seed Extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon Orange Extract

In a medium mixing bowl, slowly stir together the glycerin soap and water until the soap has dissolved completely. Add the vinegar, Tea Tree Oil, Orange Essential Oil, Grapefruit Seed Extract and Orange Extract and slowly combine. (You don't want to mix the soap quickly, as it will create foam.)

Set aside for about 1 hour. As the water cools, the dish soap will thicken just a little bit. If you would like to adjust the thickness, this is the time (See notes below)

Using a funnel, pour the dish soap into a container of your choice. I like to use a clean olive oil bottle with a pour spout.

There you have it! Your very own all-natural dish soap!

A few notes

*For a thicker dish soap, add more glycerin soap, for a thinner dish soap, add more water.
Since this soap doesn't create much lather, it can be used in your dishwasher. Add a tablespoon to the detergent dispenser. If you add more glycerin soap to the recipe for a thicker consistency, it may alter the amount of bubbles the soap creates- so be careful not to add too much to your dishwasher if you made a thicker soap!

*You can find glycerin soap at health food and craft stores (like Hobby Lobby or Michael's). Tea Tree Oil, Orange Essential Oil and Grapefruit Seed Extract can be found at health food stores, and Orange Extract is found in the baking section of your grocery store, near the vanilla extract.

*You can easily customize this recipe by using other essential oils and extracts instead of orange. Lavender and peppermint also make wonderful smelling dish soap!

Let me know how your dish soap turns out!