Make your own facial cleanser

You are all really going to have to hear me out and trust me a little on this one. I have been using a homemade facial cleanser for over a week now made from nothing but olive oil and castor oil. I swear it. When I first read about it I thought it was a mean joke someone was playing. Then I started reading my “green books” and searching the websites and it turns out not only is it no joke, there were A LOT of people doing this! There are even write-ups by dermatologists on why this works-it is called the Oil Cleansing Method. The article does a really good job of breaking down the process, although I admit it gets a little “out there” for me at times, with visualizing clear skin and meditating while you are washing your face. I am usually thinking about how good my bed is going to feel or what I will eat for breakfast the next morning, and my skin is fine.

Here is the general idea: the castor oil is what actually cleans your skin and removes all the bacteria and nastiness from your pores. The olive oil (or sunflower oil, which it seems a lot of people prefer, but I didn’t have any) works to moisturize and help transport the castor oil into your pores. I found a lot of different suggestions on how much of each oil to use, so I compromised and went with 50/50. I will say that actually dries my skin out a little (I truly am not joking), and I will add more olive oil the next time.

All you do is combine the two oils in an empty bottle (I got a little 3 oz bottle for about $1) and have a washcloth handy. Pour about a quarter size amount of the oil onto your hand and then massage it into your face, spending a little extra time on your “problem areas”.

WARNING-this feels really weird and kind of gross the first time. You get used to it.

After you have massaged it into your skin, soak the washcloth in hot water-you need it to create a steaming effect, so it needs to be good and hot. All of the other websites say don’t burn yourself, but I’m kind of hoping you all can figure that out on your own. Anyways…hold the washcloth over your face and let the steam work it’s magic. A couple of notes. They say to hold the washcloth over your face until it goes cool, wipe your face, and repeat several times. I hold it there until I’m bored (feels like about 2 minutes; I think it’s actually 20 seconds or so) and then I wipe my face and usually do it one more time. The steaming is important though-that is how you remove the oil from your pores, and therefore all the dirt and bacteria with it. If your skin feels dry or tight after, just pour a tiny bit of the mixture on your fingers and massage it in. To prove to you that this actually works I am going to include a picture of myself after having used this as my only source of facial cleanser for over a week. Please keep in mind this picture was taken at about 5:30 in the morning with no make up, so brace yourself…


Look Ma-no blemishes! I still have some of my little bumps, but I haven’t had a pimple since starting this and my dry, red patches that I get every winter are pretty much gone! PLUS, I no longer have to buy ridiculously overpriced cleansers. So I ask you…

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Homemade Greek yogurt

Yup, you heard me right-ever since Kelsey gave me this recipe, I’ve been a yogurt making machine. Okay, not really, I’ve only made it twice, but I haven’t bought a single cup of yogurt since I started. Cha-ching! It looks kind of intimidating, but it is actually not bad at all. Trust me-if I can do it so can you. I literally burnt my toast yesterday.

Anyway, here are the directions Kelsey gave me, with some of my pictures and comments added in:

First, you’ll need 2-3 tbsp yogurt containing live, active yogurt cultures.  Keep out a small amount from the yogurt you make, for this purpose. You can freeze a couple tablespoons of yogurt, in case you forget to leave some when it’s time to make your next batch, which will happen. I’ve used Oikos, and I’ve used cheap, artificially flavored and sweetened Walmart yogurt.  The main thing is the active yogurt culture. Put it in a small bowl/cup and let come to room temp, or thereabouts.  I just set it out when I start making the yogurt.

1 gallon milk – any kind, I use 2%.  Heat milk in a heavy pan to 183 degrees.  This can take 20 minutes or so, on medium/medium high heat.  I use a digital meat thermometer, works fine. (Dawn’s note: I use a regular needle meat thermometer, so in this case close enough is good enough. I also wrote down exactly what heat setting I used and how long it took to get there so I did not have to keep checking the temp the second time around). You have to stir often, but not constantly.  Use a non-stick pan, much easier when cleaning up.

Once the milk reaches 183 degrees, remove from heat and cool pan and contents in ice & water bath (in sink) cool to 111 degrees.  5-10 minutes, usually.

Add a bit of the cooled milk to the 3 tbsp yogurt you set out before, stir a little.  You are tempering the yogurt, slowly warming it up.   Then dump the yogurt/milk mixture into the milk, stir to mix. Gently.

Dump the mixture into crock with lid.  I use a large removable stoneware crock from my crockpot.  I also warm the crock with hot water before dumping the milk in (Dawn’s note: I did not, I forgot).  What you are attempting is continual warmth of the mixture at around 100 degrees, from here on.

Heat oven for 1 minute.  Turn oven OFF, turn oven light ON.

Wrap lidded crock in bath towel, place in oven 12-15 hrs with light ON. Here is what mine looked like right before it went in:

Remove crock, drain/strain mixture using large colander covered with 6-8 layers cheesecloth.  I use clothespins to hold the cheesecloth in place. (Dawn’s note: I ran out of cheesecloth and it was only two layers. Plus, I left it in the yogurt in the fridge draining while I was at work, so about 8 hrs. I’m not a very good recipe follower, but it worked. I rested our colander in a large pot so there was space under it to catch the liquid-see picture below).

Drain 2-3 hrs, stirring mixture off the bottom/sides of cheesecloth occasionally.   Discard the liquid.  Whisk the yogurt to smooth consistency. Some more of Dawn’s notes-not all of my yogurt fit into the strainer I had, so I left some out in a plain bowl:

I have handled this extra yogurt differently each time. The first time I left it in the separate bowl and mixed it in at the end, making it a little less thick. However, it also gave it a stronger taste. This time, I waited for about an hour and the yogurt in the colander had settled enough to fit the remainder in to strain as well. It made it thicker, but I liked the flavor better. You can see how much it settles here:

That’s it-you have Greek yogurt! What I have been doing it separating it out into different containers and freezing some of it-turns out yogurt freezes pretty well. I leave some plain to use in recipes that call for yogurt, or in place of sour cream. Some of it I put a little agave syrup in and a pure extract-I have developed quite the collection. The ones I have tried so far are vanilla, lemon, almond and coconut. All delicious. Just start with a few drops and add as you like. I have also added fresh fruit and granola. So stinking good.

If you try this, let me know what you think, and if you have any questions feel free to ask.  PS-I have no idea where the random temperatures came from, but if you want to ask that anyway I’ll be more than happy to make something up 🙂

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Maintaining your weight during the holidays

Who doesn’t love the holidays? Decorations, music, parties, great food, that extra layer of fat to keep you warm for the rest of the winter…okay, maybe that’s not one of the fun parts of the holiday season. Don’t beat yourself up-you’re not alone. The average weight gain during the holidays is 5-10 pounds! If it’s Christmas year round at the North Pole, it’s no wonder Santa Claus has a belly like a bowl full of jelly (brace yourself for more of that over the next couple of months-the holidays make me even cornier than usual).

In all seriousness though, this is a major stressor for a lot of people, and to be honest it should be. Considering a healthy weight loss is 0.5-2 lbs per week, we’d have to start preparing for bathing suit season on New Year’s Day. Maintaining your weight throughout the season can be easier than you think though. The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center recently hosted a webinar on the topic, and we had three of our subject matter experts address the different components of weight maintenance: mindset, physical activity and healthy eating. Click on the link to take a look at the Power Point presentation: Weight Maintenance During the Holidays. There is some great info in there-especially if you read the speakers notes!

Some of the key points I walked away with:

1. Know your weaknesses. Is it parties? Sneaking a taste while you’re baking Christmas cookies? Sugary drinks? (Egg nog with a little whiskey? Don’t mind if I do!). Once you have recognized where you tend to slip, plan for what you’re going to do about it. Keep bite sized fruits and veggies handy when you are baking, so you can pick at those. DO NOT HOVER OVER THE FOOD TABLE AT PARTIES!

2. Make a conscious effort to work physical activity in to your daily life. If you plan for it, you probably actually do have time to go to the gym, go for a bike ride, run, whatever you normally do. Exercise as early in the day as possible to give yourself less time to come up with excuses. But if your schedule starts to get away from you, make sure you are doing the little things. Don’t be the person who drives around the parking lot for an hour looking for a spot close to the door. Elevators should not be an option at this time of year-take the stairs. Shovel instead of using the snow blower. Have a push-up contest at work. You get the idea.

3. Don’t deny yourself your favorite foods or treats at the next holiday party-it’s a time of celebration! Just make sure you are in control. Use a smaller plate to keep your portion sizes reasonable. Ask yourself if the dessert is worth it. I personally am not a huge cake person, but every once in a while I apparently feel the need to have a piece just to confirm that. Not worth it. If it is worth it, try to split it with someone. Whatever you do end up having, pay attention while you are eating it and enjoy it! If you don’t even notice you ate it, you are just going to look for something else to satisfy the craving.

4. Choose your drink wisely. If you are a sucker for egg nog, treat yourself to it on a night where you know you will only be having one drink. In it for the long haul? Try rum and diet coke, or a white wine spritzer. Don’t you worry-there will be some low-cal drink recipes coming soon to a blog near you 😉

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Adapting to a cleaner diet

I used to think I was a pretty healthy eater, and that I ate fairly “clean”-not too many processed foods, mostly natural foods like fruits, veggies, grains and meats. Then Tim started a 9 week paleo challenge. For those of you who are not familiar, the paleolithic diet (paleo diet) is based on the concept that the start of the agricultural age is when we started experiencing many of the health problems that are common in our society today. Basically, the belief is that when humans start messing around with food, we screw it up. Probably not a stretch; we screw a lot of things up. But anyway…they don’t eat grains because they began being processed and made into food products primarily at the start of the agricultural age, no dairy is allowed, no sugar…I’ll discuss the diet separately if anyone is interested (or better yet put you in contact with Tim because he’s much more versed in it than I am). You might be wondering what Tim’s challenge has to do with me-I certainly didn’t sign up for it. Except that Tim does 98% of the cooking in our house right now. So yes I did…I just didn’t know it at the time. My dinners have become almost 100% paleo. My lunches are frequently primarily paleo foods as well, because they are usually leftovers, or things grabbed quickly from the fridge on my way out the door (Tim has done a great job of keeping easy-to-access fruits and veggies on hand so he doesn’t get stuck). Don’t get me wrong-I haven’t given up coffee creamer, or my yogurt, which I’m fairly certain I would wither up and die without. Although I have started making my own thanks to Kelsey Knutti, therefore eliminating all of the sugar they add to the store bought brands, but that’s a discussion for another day. And I still eat bread once or twice a day. But overall, in addition to all of the clean foods Tim is preparing, I am finding that I have been paying more attention to what I am eating overall. If I go for a processed food-especially my beloved salt covered, processed, refined starch of an afternoon snack also known as pretzels-I feel guilty. If I eat something with a lot of added sugar, the sweetness becomes overwhelming. And I feel guilty. I would love to blame that on Tim, but if I’m going to be honest I would have to admit he has not pressured me or attempted to convert me at all. Oh what the heck, let’s blame Tim. It’s more fun that way.

This is a really long and rambling way to get to my actual point, which is that at the beginning of this somewhat new diet I was cranky. I craved my carbs with dinner, I wanted beer, I wanted my sugary yogurt, and I REALLY wanted to go out to eat again. But then things slowly started to change. I am starting to notice the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables more, and when I get a sweet tooth, grapes or an apple will usually do the trick. When I eat processed foods, I don’t feel so good after. If I do treat myself to sweets, it does not take nearly as much to kick the craving-moderation has become the norm and not a dirty word. When I think about Tim’s challenge wrapping up in two weeks, there are certainly things we will go back to eating, but if I’m going to be honest, I really don’t want our diet to change too much. Crazy-but kind of cool.

Why am I sharing all of this information about my diet that really has nothing to do with you? To encourage you to be patient. Take an honest look at your diet and try making small changes. Don’t use salt as your primary means to season food-give some herbs and spices a try. Don’t eat too many foods with lots of sugar in them-and start reading the list of ingredients in your foods before you assume you don’t. Have you looked at the amount of sugar in ketchup lately? Or how much sodium is in some wheat breads? Again, I’m not saying you have to eliminate these things from you diet, but realizing just how much is in some of your more commonly consumed foods is important. They add up fast. If you do start eating a more “natural” diet, understand that things might taste a little bland at first. Give it time. Unfortunately I can’t tell you how much time. I have researched it several times, and how long it takes for your taste to adapt depends on the individual. Some people notice a difference in two weeks, others 5 months. Some overcome the cravings for salt very quickly, but can’t shake that sweet tooth. But everyone adapts eventually. Give it a try, and if you have tried it in the past let us know how long it has taken you! I would say it took me about three weeks to be okay with the diet, but about 4 or 5 weeks before it became my preference. I can honestly say it was worth the wait.

**Please note that when I say diet I am using it to mean our daily diet that we plan on maintaining-not a temporary change designed to cause weight loss.

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Too far? I don’t think so

Although I work at the Navy & Marine Corps Public Health Center, we are physically located in Naval Medical Center Portsmouth so I occasionally eat in their galley (that’s the cafeteria for my non-Navy friends). You may be able to imagine my dismay when I would go to buy my lunch and see just how long the “speed line” would get. As most speed lines are the same, I’m sure your familiar-burgers, fries, chicken wings-anything with grease and/or cheese. Basically it’s a speed line to the cardiac clinic. Therefore I was thrilled, and actually very proud, when they made the decision to kill of it. That’s right-the staff made the decision to hold a “Death of the Speed Line” celebration on Halloween to commemorate the move towards healthier options to be offered in the future. No more high fat foods will be sold. They even went so far as to place the names of some of the most common speed line food items on tombstones to memorialize their death-pretty clever if you ask me.

There are of course those who are not as excited as I am. They believe it’s intrusive, and the hospital does not have the right to make those decisions for them. I’m going to pause a moment here to gather myself before I make a few points. Okay, I’ve counted to 10 and think I can type not all in caps now. NMCP is a hospital. They promote health. It’s their job.  I was more angry when they were sending the hypocritical, mixed messages by telling people their diets were a main cause of their medical problems and then turning around and serving them up a hearty portion of chili cheese dogs, heavy on the cheese. The galley staff did not go to people’s home and dictate what they could eat there. They didn’t even take away the Taco Bell and KFC that are in the food court. They basically just made a very clear statement that they are going to support the hospital efforts to create a healthier population. Do they have the right to do this? To me, this question is absurd. According to the CDC, in 2008 the estimated national medical care costs of obesity were approximately $147 billion. As a medical treatment facility facing continuously rising healthcare costs-healthcare the majority of the beneficiaries receive FOR FREE-I think they not only have the right to try to cut back on these costs, but I believe they have a responsibility to do so.

This is something I am extremely passionate about, and therefore know I can be a little narrow-minded. So what is your opinion? Was the galley staff within their rights? Take the poll to let us know your thoughts!

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Dietary supplements-where do you get your information from?

I am a big believer in trying to avoid dietary supplements if at all possible as I think it is much better to get your nutrients through a varied and healthy diet. I do realize however that people may lack certain nutrients in their diet for a variety of reasons, in which case a well-researched supplement may be the best alternative. But with all of the information out there, how do you know who to trust? And as scary as it is, to an extent you do have to trust. Keep this notice from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in mind when looking for your next supplement:

What is FDA’s role in regulating dietary supplements versus the manufacturer’s responsibility for marketing them?

In October 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) was signed into law by President Clinton. Before this time, dietary supplements were subject to the same regulatory requirements as were other foods. This new law, which amended the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, created a new regulatory framework for the safety and labeling of dietary supplements.

Under DSHEA, a firm is responsible for determining that the dietary supplements it manufactures or distributes are safe and that any representations or claims made about them are substantiated by adequate evidence to show that they are not false or misleading. This means that dietary supplements do not need approval from FDA before they are marketed. Except in the case of a new dietary ingredient, where pre-market review for safety data and other information is required by law, a firm does not have to provide FDA with the evidence it relies on to substantiate safety or effectiveness before or after it markets its products.

Also, manufacturers need to register themselves pursuant to the Bioterrorism Act with FDA before producing or selling supplements. In June, 2007, FDA published comprehensive regulations for Current Good Manufacturing Practices for those who manufacture, package or hold dietary supplement products. These regulations focus on practices that ensure the identity, purity, quality, strength and composition of dietary supplements.


That’s right-although a company has to notify the FDA when they are going to be marketing a new product, the product itself does not have to be evaluated by the FDA. The company that produces the supplement is responsible for ensuring they are not making misleading claims. Seriously? Sigh-this is why I try to avoid them when possible. But as usual, I digress. Where to go if you realize you are lacking a nutrient and need reliable intel?

The FDA webpage is a good place to go for the latest warnings and advisories. They even post copies of warning letters to pharmaceutical companies who improperly label manufactured ingredients as “dietary ingredients”. You can check out the FDA dietary supplement website here.

Another website I love is actually geared towards service members, but has great info that is applicable to everyone. The Human Performance Resource Center has an entire section on dietary supplements here.

Finally, has a comprehensive overview of dietary supplements including how to shop for supplements wisely. Because the contents of supplements are not federally regulated, there is no site that can provide a comprehensive list of what is contained in each product. They do give you tips and tricks to shop wisely however.

Hope this helps!

Posted in Get your geek on | 2 Comments

Do your employers recycle?

Mine don’t. Not well anyway-we have an aluminum can recycling bin next to the vending machine, which is certainly better than nothing, but there is nowhere to recycle plastic. So I rinse out my plastic and bring it home with me to throw them in our bin. Someone just last week asked me what I was doing so I told them, and they seem to think I’m crazy. I tend to think they are crazy for not doing it. I don’t know about anyone else, but I come home with at least two pieces of recyclable plastic every day. You add that up over the course of a month and I think it makes quite the difference. That got me thinking…what else can we do at work to help the environment? I do a few things well-I bring the plastic home, I keep a set of silverware at the office so I don’t use plastic ware, I refuse to use baggies (I put everything in tupperware) and I try to ride my bike to work at least a couple of times per week. When I look at that list, I am pretty proud of the efforts I make on a daily basis to reduce waste, but there is always more to be done. Is it a little bit of a pain sometimes? Sure. Do I want to use plastic ware so I can just throw it away instead of taking the time to wash it? Every day. But I force myself to think of what minor inconveniences they are compared to the impact I might be making.

What do you all do? I need some more ideas…

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When good medical professionals go bad…

I first read this article  because I was interested in reading what the latest “miracle cure” for weight loss was. For the most part, there were no surprises-one study (founded by a company that makes the product) concluded taking this green coffee bean extract led to a significant increase in weight loss; other studies (deemed by fellow scientists to be poorly designed) found similar results. The conclusion is that while the medicine is not likely to cause any harm, unless you have heart disease, there is not enough evidence to support spending the money and using this product. Ho hum, same old story. What really struck me about this article is that this pill became a hot topic because Dr. Oz featured it on his show as a “fat burner that helps women lose weight”. Now I should put out the disclaimer that I have never liked Dr. Oz all that much. One of the reasons I never liked him is because I feel like he targets the insecurities of his primarily female, daytime TV watching audience and promises to “fix” these women. If you go to his webpage and click on the episodes tab, here are first four topics listed: The Secret World of Binge Eaters, the fountain of youth, weight loss secrets, and how to let go of your emotional baggage. Huh. Annoying yes, but similar to his touted green coffee bean extract, harmless enough. Until he starts recommending supplements based on “studies” he is apparently conducting on his show.

I am going to copy and paste the description of the good doctor’s study:

“Oz tested the effects of the extract on 100 women. Half were given 400 mg of green coffee bean extract 30 minutes before breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two weeks; the other half were given a placebo. Participants were told to maintain their regular diets and to keep a food journal. The women who took the extract lost two pounds on average, while the placebo group lost an average of one pound.”

Two weeks. One pound difference. He deems it a fat burner and recommends it on his webpage. I am disgusted that any physician would use their title and the trust and respect that it generates to prey on people like that. Not to mention disrespecting science by calling a two week trial a study.

I realize this post is more of a rant than an informational post, but I needed to vent. And once again, please be careful what you believe. Just because someone calls themselves a doctor does not mean they are not a moron.

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Mmmm…brussels sprouts!

I realize the extent of my love for brussels sprouts is a little unusual, but I know there are other fans out there! Give this sweet and spicy recipe that I got from (quickly becoming a new favorite website) a try:

1 lb. brussels sprouts, cleaned and washed, bottom trimmed and halved
1 TB. olive oil
1 TB. honey
1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper


1. Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch roasting pan with cooking spray.

2. Toss brussels sprouts with olive oil and honey in the prepared roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt (if using) and red pepper.

3. Cook for 25 minutes or until leaves turn brown and crispy.


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Save the environment-drink beer!

Okay, that might be a sensationalized headline to make you read my post, but I hear that’s an acceptable journalism tool. Regardless…while drinking beer might not save the environment, I did find this post on about some of the more earth-friendly brewing companies. They are not actually completely out-there ones either…I personally love the Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale, and who doesn’t love a good ole Fat Tire (made by New Belgium Brewing Company)?? Just in time for football season, an excuse to drink beer! You’re welcome.

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