Essential Oil Blend for Head Lice

A friend called this week to say their family just had head lice, and they kicked it with a blend of essential oils in olive oil. (This friend lives a long way away from the Portland area, in case any of you local readers are starting to feel your skin crawl already.)

A lice infestation is gross, and makes a mother feel like a louse of a clean person (pun intended). But having lice just means one of your children hugged, wrestled, or traded a hat, coat, or scarf with another child who had lice. Children with good mothers get it, and pass it on to other children with good mothers.

So if your kids get it, don’t feel guilty. But also, don’t reach for Uber-Toxic over-the-counter lice shampoos until you try this blend. (And there are reports are that lice are now showing resistance to the OTC and prescription insecticides.)

2 cups olive oil
1 tsp. each: essential oils of tea tree, eucalyptus, oregano, peppermint, cinnamon
Note: the cinnamon seemed quite “hot” to the skin, and was too strong for the little boy in the family whose skin is sensitive. The mom thought it could probably be left out and the blend be just as effective.

Mix well, apply to head and scalp, massage into all the hair. Leave on for 1 hour, then shampoo out with normal shampoo.

The olive oil seems to dissolve the nits from the hair shafts, while the essential oils do a number on the parasites themselves.

I hope this is one recipe you (and I!) never have to use!

Update from the Mom whose family had lice:

I didn’t get to finish telling you this the other day, but the essential oils washed out a lot of the nits, but not ALL of them. To get them out, skip the plastic nit combs from the drug store or that come with the toxic lice shampoo, and go right for the Nit Terminator.

http://www.amazon.com/Terminator-Professional-Stainless-Treatment-Removes/dp/B000HIBPV8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293934455&sr=8-1

It is sold for about $8 on Amazon, but I found it locally at my Ulta store for double that, $15.95. I didn’t care that it was twice as much money, once I found out we had lice I wanted to start the war THAT DAY and not wait for a package from amazon!

I have gone over everyone’s hair with this comb and the first day it produced quite a few bugs and nits. Ewwww. But on successive days I would only find one or two nits, some days none at all. None the less, I have continued to give everyone a combing each day and will do so until the end of the incubation period, so that if I did miss a nit I know I can brush out the bug.

My plan was to reapply the essential oil mix if I found any live bugs, but I haven’t. My husband has called me the TSA because of my unresonable inspections, but I don’t care. I’m not messing around with this!

Also, I was worried that maybe our long haired inside dog could have caught lice from the children, since she often snuggles with them and sleeps on the furniture. However, a quick search online revealed that lice only live on human blood, and can’t live on dogs or cats. I’m glad I don’t have to start doing lice inspections on her!

Cranberry Panna Cotta

I made this creamy, sweet, and refreshing dessert twice during the holidays, and have been asked for the recipe multiple times. Once I served it at a dessert buffet with salted dark chocolate cake. The two flavors played off each other well.

This recipe is really easy, can be made a day ahead, and can easily be modified with other toppings. I’m trying chocolate next.

Cranberry Panna Cotta

Thanks to Nancy Jo Newman for the original recipe.

In a small saucepan, heat until sugar is disolved and liquid begins to simmer:

1 and 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream (if there are clumps of cream clinging to the sides of the carton, scrape these out and use them…the richer, the better!)
1/4 cup sugar (I used xylitol for a low-glycemic sweetener; maple syrup would also be wonderful)

Mix together in 1 qt bowl:

1/4 or so of the hot cream
1 packet gelatin (2 and 1/2 tsp.) Read more about gelatin in this post.
The gelatin will disolve. Use a wire whisk to beat until smooth, adding the rest of the hot cream. Then beat in:

1 cup whole milk yogurt (I used Trader Joes Organic European Style Whole Milk Yogurt)
1 tsp. vanilla

Pour into a 9X12 inch pan, or 8 sorbet glasses. Refrigerate for a few hours until set.

Cranberry Sauce

Simmer in a clean saucepan:

4 barlett pears, cored, pealed, and cut in chunks
1 cup black cherry juice (I used Knudsons Just Black Cherry)

When pears are soft, mash them in the pan, and continue to simmer. Then stir in:

1/3 bag fresh cranberries, cut in half each (this avoids the skins from bursting off and rolling up into those little spears in sauce)
sugar to taste (I used 1/4 cup xylitol)

Simmer/stir for 5 minutes more, then cool for about a half hour on the counter before layering over the set cream. Refrigerate until serving.

Gluten-Free Ad Nauseum

I know. I’ve written a lot of gluten-free posts lately.

This isn’t intended to be a gluten-free blog; mainly my focus (normally) is how to make changes to a clean-green lifestyle. Avoiding chemicals in the home. Using personal care products that aren’t toxic. Learning some forgotten methods of cooking. Starting healthy habits.

However, since it’s the holidays, I’m doing a lot more (gluten-free) baking than usual, so that is coming out in my blog.

My apologies to those of you who don’t cook gluten-free. You’re welcome to those that do.

And post variety will resume after the holidays.

Cookie Exchange: The Perfect [GF] Chocolate Chip Cookie

Are you ready for this one? A perfect (as in the real deal) Chocolate Chip Cookie, in GF form.

It’s taken me awhile to attempt this classic. I made it today for a Christmas Party/Desert, and I knew I’d succeeded when I heard those words from a surprised guest:

They’re gluten-free? But they are so good . . . I would never have known.

GF Chocolate Chip Cookies

Whisk together:
2/3 C. brown rice flour
2/3 C. sorghum flour
1 and 1/3 C. tapioca flour
3/4 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt

In a separate bowl, cream:
1 cup organic butter, softened* (see note below)
3/4 C. packed organic brown sugar
3/4 C. organic granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg

Add half of flour mixture to wet mixture, work in with beaters, then work in the rest of the flour. Add:

1 bag (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Drop in rounded spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet (I use my baking stones). Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes, or when you begin to see the edges browning. Remove from oven and let stand on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to racks to cool.

Yields 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on how large you like ’em. (I make mine like prizes: 3 dozen is all I got out of one batch.)

* The key to perfect cookies is to have butter at the right temperature. Leaving butter on the counter for about an hour will cause the butter to be soft enough to cream yet firm enough to hold the cookie in shape while it bakes. Melted butter is a disaster: flat cookies. Cold butter won’t cream.

Six and Twenty Blackbirds, Baked in a Pie

OK, so I didn’t have black birds, just a turkey. But turkeys have a lot of meat, so after the initial roasted turkey meal, I usually do a lot of soup, sandwiches, and an occasional casserole.

But after such success with my GF pie crust, I decided to make a turkey pot pie.

Oh Yum.

I sauteed onion in butter, added GF flour, salt and pepper, simmered with turkey bone broth and some leftover GF gravy. I layered this in a GF pie crust with cut up turkey dark meat and peas and carrots. Baked until golden and flakey.

That’s comfort food.

 

Ants In The Kitchen

photo credit: axialmotion.com

Q:

We got home from our trip late last night. Found a kazillion sugar ants in the house when we arrived. We had them coming in before we left and had put out a few of the ant traps that take poison back to the nest . . . and it didn’t stop them from moving inside en masse. Do you have any healthy solutions? We’ve put sweet pantry items in the freezer and have been spraying Windex on the ones in the kitchen as that kills them (ammonia) and is not toxic. I don’t want to call pest control but I may have no choices left. It is bad.

~Susan, via email

A:

Sounds like you’ve got a good start on cleaning them up. In addition, you can try some ideas (below) from a natural gardening guide which I have on hand. (Also available for download at oregonmetro.gov .) Using silicone sealant at entrypoints seems like an excellent solution in your case. Remember to be patient with the problem; you may be able to irradicate them in a few days with just these simple measures and that would be so much healthier for your family than exposure to chemical killers.
Prevention
Store food in tightly sealed containers. Keep all kitchen surfaces clean and
free of food scraps and standing water.
Physical control
If a line of ants is marching across the kitchen, find the point of entry and
seal it. Use a silicone seal. Use petroleum jelly for a short-term fix until you
have time to do a better job. Remove what the ants are eating and mop
them up with soapy water. Some have found that sprinkling red chili pepper
at the entry point helps discourage ants. Wrap a band of tape, paper or
cotton coated with a sticky substance such as Tanglefoot around the main
stem of outdoor plants to trap ants.
Biological control
Birds, bee flies, humpback flies and thick-headed flies are natural predators
outdoors.
Least-toxic chemical control
Diatomaceous earth, silica gel, boric acid and pyrethrum can be effective.
Diatomaceous earth and silica gel are dusts that kill insects by drying them
out. They are dangerous to breathe, so if they must be blown into wall
spaces, a professional should do the job. Pyrethrum can be combined with
silica gel to give a faster effect; one form comes in a non-aerosol squeeze
dispenser that allows for application in cracks and crevices to minimize
human and pet contact. Boric acid can be used in cracks, but only in areas
not accessible to crawling children or pets. Prepare 1 percent boric acid
solution by mixing 1 teaspoon boric acid, 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
and 2 cups warm water. Store in a clear container. Use on cotton balls
placed in the bottom of a plastic cup or tub with holes cut for ants to enter.
Recharge each week. After three to four weeks, use 1/2 percent solution
for continuous control. You can also use insecticidal soap to drench an
ant colony outdoors or in a crawl space. More than one treatment may be
necessary.

Cloth Diapering Myths Debunked


My first two children spent all their diaper years in paper diapers, and even though I felt small bursts of guilt when I thought of our contribution to landfills, I didn’t consider cloth diapers an option. I mean, cloth is so yukky and hard to do, right?

Wrong. But it took two cloth diapering friends to debunk my myths.

Myth 1. Washing Cloth Diapers is a lot of work.

It’s work, but not a lot of work. Like 2-3 small loads a week, and I don’t even fold, I pile. It’s also a little work to keep up a stash of paper diapers, and this is eliminated.

Myth 2. Cloth Diapers are uncomfortable to the baby/ aren’t as healthy as paper.

Maybe vinyl pants are uncomfortable, but not the new laminated or fleece cloth covers (which there are dozens of choices on). Paper diapers do tend to wick away better, keeping baby dry, but then mommies tend to rely on that and not change the paper diapers as often as they should (this was me!) and that paper diaper can heat up. Some people think hot paper diapers are associated in male infertility when those baby boys grow up. Whether or not this is true, I’m just glad to avoid those clear bead things (chemical absorbants) which are use in the paper diapers and the bleach in the paper which is a known carcinogen.

Myth 3. Cloth Diapers are ugly.

Oh, they are so cute, with colors, patterns . . . whatever your flair. What’s ugly is a plastic bag of cartoon printed paper diapers, and later a pile of soiled paper diapers.

Myth 4. Cloth Diapers and hard to put on.

There are several methods of diapering (inserts, all in ones, prefold plus cover, etc.) but each is pretty easy to learn. With the new Snappi fasteners, it’s easy to secure the cloth diaper without pins, and most covers velcro on like a paper diaper.

Myth 5. It’s better to throw away the mess.

A (non-stinking) diaper pail which is dumped into the wash is so much nicer than a trash can of diapers stinking up the garage every week. And, ever thought of all the poop entombed in the landfill forever? That seems like a ecological nightmare.

Myth 6. Paper Diapers are a pretty cheap luxury.

Huggies from Costco was costing us about $40/mo. That’s times 30 months or so (if they potty train early). I think I can get more fun out of $1200 than buying diapers. 🙂

Myth 7. It’s All or Nothin’.

Even doing cloth diapers, I still use paper when we travel. And now on my 2 year old who is potty training (fingers crossed) and keeps the paper one dry a lot (Seventh Generation: no bleach in the paper diapers).

How To Start Cloth Diapers

There may be better ways to start cloth diapers, but I gave myself a challenge to spend about $80 and try it for 2 months. That way, if I hated it I could resell the diapers on diaperswappers.com and still be ahead money-wise.

I started reading some diaper websites, and was amazed at all the options (it can be overwhelming). What I finally settled on is the most simple, cost effective, and easiest method I know.

Cotton prefold from greenmountaindiapers.com because they are extra wide so they fit better. (Started with 12, at the end of my trial added another 12.)

Snappi from babyworks.com for fastening. (Started with 1, got another as a spare.)

Thirsties cover from babyworks.com to cover; reuse all day long unless a blowout. Fits well, few leaks, cute, good price. (Started with 3, but quickly had to buy 3 more so I could get through at least 2 days.)

Read about using Cloth Wipes here.

5 Gallon Bucket with lid which I had on hand; for throwing the soiled/wet diapers in (breastfed baby; but for baby eating food, the poop gets flushed down the toilet first). No solution in the bucket, I just dry bucket. When the bucket is full, I do laundry.

Laundering: dump bucket into washer, rinse bucket with 1 cup white vinegar which I then pour into wash. Rinse cycle on cold with vinegar. Wash cycle on hot with tiny bit of Bioclean soap and scoop Oxyclean. Second rinse in warm, no soap. Line dry the covers, send cloths through drier on hot (or line dry in summer).

That’s it.

It’s doable, cheap, and soft on my baby’s bum. What’s not to love?

How To Make Ginger Kombucha

What is it? A fermented tea drink, sweet and with a kick (though non-alcoholic).

Why make it? Taste’s yummy, and it’s good for you. Here are some of the benefits:

  • full of probiotics: good bacteria and good yeasts
  • the amino acids created by the fermentation process help with liver/body detox
  • reported to prevent cancer in peoples from a polluted area of Russia where it was widely consumed (probably a result of the first 2 benefits)

How To Make Ginger Kombucha

Kombucha is made by fermenting sweet tea for several days or weeks. I have been making it off and on for about 2 years, and our favorite is Ginger Kombucha. My children love it; since it is strong I only give about 1/4 cup to them at a time.

Ingredients

1 Scoby with some starter Kombucha
3 qts. purified water
2 Tbs. organic black tea
1 cup organic sugar
candied ginger
Equipment

large stainless kettle
gallon size glass jar
cloth cover (tea towel or handkerchief)
rubber band
strainer
large knife
funnel
1 qt. glass bottles for bottling

 

Boil about 3 qts of water in the large kettle. Remove from the heat, and add 2 Tbs. black tea* (see note below) and 1 cup sugar.

Stir to dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool on the counter for several hours. If scalding tea is added to a scoby, it will kill the yeast.

Here is a scoby in finished Kombucha. You can see there are three pancake-like pieces (2 are floating sideways). The three can be separated to start three new batches. The newest one always forms on the top of the Kombucha.

When starting out, you will place 1 scoby and about a cup of Kombucha in a clean gallon glass jar, and then add the tepid sweetened tea to it. Use a strainer to catch the loose tea leaves.

Then place a clean towel over the jar, fasten with a rubber band. Leave on the kitchen counter, or another clean warm place, for 7-14 days. You can go longer if you like, but it will taste like vinegar. The warmer the room (or season), the faster the Kombucha will ferment, so begin to check it after 7 days. When it is fermented to your liking, it is ready to strain into bottles.

To flavor it with ginger, I chop up candied ginger to place in each bottle; just a few pieces for each bottle.

Chop it finely so that it doesn’t get stuck in the bottle after the Kombucha is gone and you want to wash the bottle.

Then put the ginger in the bottles.

 

Then pour or ladle the fermented Kombucha into the bottle; leave a few inches at the top. I use a funnel with a strainer piece fitted inside it.

Close the bottles of Kombucha, and leave them on the counter for 2 more days. This allows the Kombucha to continue fermenting the sugar in the candied ginger. Carbon will be formed and trapped in the sealed bottle, which will give the drink a nice bubble when it is opened. After 2 days, place the bottles in the refrigerator to halt the fermentation. Drink chilled, using a tea strainer to strain ginger pieces as you pour.

*Organic tea is preferred to conventional, as conventional often has aluminum residues from processing. Any black tea will work; English Breakfast and Oolong are both delicious varieties I have tried.

Although some people use green tea, I found that there wasn’t nearly enough flavor.

For this batch I used Hampstead Tea and Now Foods Ginger, which can both be ordered from iherb.com. If this is  your first order with iherb, use my coupon code: RON268 and receive $5 off your order.

You can order and scoby from Cultures For Health. Or, if you live near me (Portland area) email me and I’ll give you one!