Drying oranges

So we've dried some orange slices. And they turned out ok, so we will be doing more of it closer to Christmas. I haven't really found out what to do with them yet, although I initially wanted to use them as ornaments on our Christmas tree. But the colour orange and Christmas is a bit hard to get used to... I love the connection to the sun though - a perfect solstice ornament.

The slices ready for the oven. I had a small opening on the oven door to let the steam out (or else the slices will burn easily, and get cooked – not dried) and turned it up to around 80-100 degrees Celsius. You could probably let them dry overnight, depending on how thick the slices are. The final result so far is this very simple mobile hanging above our wood burning stove.

Of course you can make more elaborate crafts with these – for example a wreath, garlands, use them in potpourri...



Some very hush-hush holiday crafting going on right now. At the moment our kitchen looks like an art gallery and, well -chaos. I guess December is soon upon us. It's good. Although I'm late as always - So many ideas and plans and not so much time or energy to do it all. But there will be some homemade gifts this year. Quite a lot of edibles - it has somehow become a tradition of mine. We've made candy, walnut and apricot biscotti , heavy duty Christmas fruit cake, oranges soaked in brandy, vanilla sugar, tarragon vinegar, chili sauce, mocha liqueur, green/mint tea from the garden... And this year I'm making apple chutney for the kindergarten Christmas fair - and probably some for gifts as well.

I love the idea of edible gifts, and of course handmade gifts in general. And I'm looking forward to Christmas (or jul/yule as we say) this year. Although a part of Christmas is seasoned with stress and the immense pressure to buy more stuff, we can somewhat choose not to follow the masses, not focus on the consumption. Instead we can focus on, and rediscover, the true meaning and traditions behind this season and this holiday. It is difficult - at least for me. Not to get stressed out about gift buying, cleaning, decorating, list writing, crafting, and even more buying. But I am working on it - on slowing down, on grounding and centering and celebrating our way.

This year I'm really looking forward to the decorating and the making of decorations. I'm thinking of drying slices of oranges (haven't tried it yet) to symbolize the sun (we're pagans, and we celebrate the winter solstice - more on that later). Hanging them in windows around the house and probably decorating the tree with them as well. We're also making lots of gingerbread hearts, animals, people etc to use as decorations, making popcorn garlands etc. I'm hoping to make most of the decorations this year - and because a lot of them will be edible - the birds will have a feast sometime after new years :)


A very, very long post about the ups and downs of being green

It's not always easy being green... OR is it? We're trying to convert to "greener" solutions in every aspect of our lives. One of the major contributors to our co2 footprint is chemicals. Our lives are full of different kinds of toxins and stuff that's really not good for us or the environment. Its in our cleaning supplies, detergents, in our makeup, all kinds of hair and body products, in our furniture, in the paint on our walls and even in our food. Its not an easy job to avoid it, to educate oneself about it or even to reduce our use of harmful chemicals.

Let's begin with the cleaning supplies. I used to clean with both chlorine ("Klor") and sal ammoniac ("Salmiakk"). I actually used to love the smell of chlorine in the bathroom (ehm... no - not the smell of napalm in the morning, but not far from it actually :D) - it didn't feel clean until it smelled like the community swimming pool. And of course I used to buy the ready made chemical mixes - "allround" bathroom cleansers, kitchen-, window-, toilet and all kinds of sprays. Not to mention the anti-bacterial stuff, and the dish soap... Well, we're much better off now. No chlorine or ready made anti-bacterial sprays comes into this house any more.

So this is how I clean now; I use mainly two ingredients in all kinds of cleaning around the house. And it is the wonderful, magical vinegar and baking soda.

And believe me - I wish that I discovered this years ago. It's so easy, useful and effective. I really wonder why people bother using all this time, energy and lots of money on the store bought stuff! I'm not writing a long post about the wonders of vinegar and baking soda right now - but I really, really encourage you to check it out. Google it, buy a book about it or check the library.

Except the vinegar and baking soda, I also use washing soda, pure, natural soap and a couple of essential oils. For dishes I use Ecover dish soap. But this is where our problem areas starts showing up. We have a dishwasher. Yep. We have. And I'm not getting rid of it anytime soon. We've used Ecover dishwasher tablets earlier, but after a while the machine doesn't clean very well, and soap and other "stuff" builds up in the machine and on the dishes. Rinsing with vinegar helps, but not enough in the long run. So we've bought mainstream dishwashing powder now and then (labelled by the swan/Nordic ecolabel - but still).

Over to the laundry. Same problem here. "Stuff" or residue builds up in the machine and on clothes after awhile and the clothes are not as clean as I would like. We've used Ecover here as well (insanely expensive - we cannot afford to buy it continually). I recently switched to Ecover liquid instead of powder - and so far so good. Rinsing with vinegar instead of fabric softener - works wonders.

So - to the real problem areas. Hair and body products. Products for our daughter are OK environmentally speaking. She uses Urtekram Calendula shampoo (also for bodywash) and Urtekram toothpaste. I love the shampoo, but it's expensive (in my opinion). If the both of us are to use this - I guess we'll have to buy three or four bottles a month or something. Shampoo and hairproducts are a big problem area for me. I've tried many different "green" and organic/natural shampoos, but most of them are disappointing - or they don't do it for me. Even other Urtekram shampoos does not work for my hair. I don't feel clean, or I have to wash it twice or thrice and use a lot of shampoo to get it clean. My husband doesn't need shampoo :)

I have short hair. (I've tried long many many times - it just does not look god on me). And that's definitely not the smartest thing when it comes to being green. I need some kind of styling product. OR at least I feel that I need it, and I cannot see myself without it. So I need to find the right one(s). Right now I'm using a stylingpaste from the hairdresser. And cheap hairspray from the grocery shop... I know - bad. But to my defense I do not "do" my hair every day. But I need this. Help? Any ideas? I've bought hairspray at the healthfood store once, but they don't have it anymore. And it was expensive. Again - my opinion, but I guess it's OK to pay more to be green and to get a high quality product. But when you don't have much money to spend - you don't.

And then to the coloring. Another one of my not-so-green luxuries. I'm 28 and I have grays. Lots of'em. Yep. Not really a problem, but I like to color it once in a while. I have not been brave enough to try henna, and the local healthfood store has one brand of "natural" hair color. I must admit I don't know much about it, but I guess it's not very good environmentally speaking - not matter how you do it. It's a luxury with a cost. Like most luxuries...

Bodywash. We use Jäson. I don't know how "green" it is, but I'm hoping it's better than the cheap stuff from the grocery store. At least it's not tested on animals, has no animal byproducts, no parabens or other known nasties. It's also at least partially organic. We also use Jäson body lotion and we love both. (I have the shampoo as well, but still thinks the Urtekram childrens shampoo is better. For me anyway.)

I've tried different kinds of bar soaps in the past (are they greener or not? I wonder), but can't seem to get used to it. I don't know why, but there is something with bar soap that groses me out... :/

For my face I use baking soda mixed with honey to cleanse in the shower once in a while. It's really great and my skin loves this. Just don't do it every day - it's very exfoliating. To moisturize I use Dr. Hauschka Day Cream and I'm quite happy with it. Especially in the winter when my skin is quite dry.

We both use Kingfisher Natural toothpaste and are very happy with it.

And then there's the deodorants. Right now I'm going back and forth between the mainstream antiperspirant (yuk...!) and the Thai Crystal deodorant stone - sometimes mixed with some baking soda patted on afterwords. Some days it works perfectly and some days.... Well, I smell. I guess it takes some time getting used to as well. We're so used to perfuming away all that reminds us of natural body odor. Many people starts perfuming their babies almost from birth. No wonder we think it's strange and unhygienic not to smell like blossoms all the time! I've tried different kinds of natural/organic deodorants and this is the best one. Most of the other ones I've tried... I ended up smelling really bad - it would be better not to use anything.

Shaving cream. Well, I'm not the expert here. There was an article in Norwegian media recently on the health and environmental risks of commercial shaving cream. It was not good. But what to use instead? I've heard of oil (olive, almond etc.), but my husband was not very keen on the idea. He hasn't tried it yet though. Bar soap? This is something we have to check out.

And then.... What's left. Oh. Makeup. I don't use much makeup, but one of the things I need is mascara. I sometimes use more, but this is the one I need to find a greener alternative to. I've just tried one brand when it comes to organic/natural mascara, and it was not... well, lets say as good as I'd hoped. It smudged, left my lashes sticky, short and never dried. But maybe I'll give it a another try.

This is just some of the chemicals we use in our daily lives. What about you? What do you use and why? I'd love to hear your experiences - good and bad :)



This seems to happen now and then. Life - real life intensifies and takes all the time and energy available. So this blog ends up alone and unloved for quite a while. But hopefully my energy levels are raising, and things are falling into place. So this blog is reinventing itself. Again.