Healthful Beauty

While most years I try not to make resolutions I can’t keep, 2011 brought on a lot of slowing down. There were a variety of reasons and the largest one was obviously selling my car to see if I could live without one. Slowing down in at the end of 2011 also involved making more food from scratch and eventually making health products from scratch as well. Since many of them ended up as holiday presents, I had to wait until the new year to post all of the wonderful things I got to make!

Living at altitude partly means one needs to hydrate. I’ve always had the winter itch-ies, but over the past few years of living here, it’s gotten worse and worse. I have tried all of the natural products but when I have looked at the ingredients, no matter how natural or organic, they always have unpronounceable items in them. This year is the time for me to experiment and find out what I can make on my own at the beginning of itchy season- to hopefully eliminate itchy season 2012.


One of the first products I decided to dive into making was lip balm. No matter how much water I drink, my lips always crack from December to March. But I have found the perfect natural solution:

1 part beeswax

1 part coconut oil

1 part almond oil

a few drops of peppermint extract

I filled up Altoids boxes for the gifts and have heard from many of the recipients how much they enjoy the balm. My own stock was poured into an old medicine container. I haven’t figured out the packaging if I want to sell them, but I have definitely figured out the recipe.

While making this batch, I definitely had to utilize my preschool teacher patience. The wax took far longer to melt than I was expecting and I knew turning up the heat was probably a  horrid idea (since I only wanted to make these presents once).


Just behind the Altoid boxes in the top picture, are various body scrubs. The white bottles on the left are salt scrubs.  I mixed them in a large bowl and distributed amongst recycled glass jars.

2 cups epsom salt

2/3 cups of almond oil

a few drops of vanilla extract, peppermint extract, orange extract or a combination


I will definitely experiment with essential oil instead of extract next time. The alcohol used to make the extract is a little stronger than I was hoping. Right idea, not the full effect I was hoping for in the scrub. Now that I have found multiple local and online sources for essential oils, I should be able to experiment. The finished bottles have various pretty labels and borders so the gift recipients had more than a recycled bottle with scrub inside.


The scrub on the right side of the top picture is a sugar scrub. Same idea as the salt scrub, just replace salt with brown sugar. I only used vanilla extract for that one in the hopes it would have a baking smell.


The last item, not shown above, that I tried was a coffee scrub. I adore coffee. I love the taste and it seemed perfect that I found a coffee scrub on one of the websites I was scouring for recipes. I made the coffee scrub for myself and am glad I tried it out before I made a batch for anyone else. I love the feel of the scrub as well as the smell of coffee on a slow morning. However, what I was not anticipating was the mess it left in the shower. Unlike sugar or salt, coffee grounds do not dissolve. I know, obvious, right? Not obvious to me before I used it and then had to clean the shower. I will just have to save that scrub for the days I’m planning on cleaning my tub anyways. The smell is heavily and my skin is so soft after using the coffee scrub. It does not, however, outweigh how much I hate cleaning the tub.


The next round of healthful beauty to get rid of the winter itch-ies will be lotions and oil cleansing recipes. Do you get the itchies? What do you use to relieve them? Have you made your own products yet?

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Wishing for Trains

Over the past two weeks I’ve been back on the east coast visiting various friends and family. While I was there I traveled by train (as well as plane and automobile- no bus). My first train trip was from NY to Washington DC where I slept as much as my body would let me. Apparently the older you get the harder it is to fall asleep anywhere. Who knew.


I loved that Amtrak had wifi (are you listening airlines? We all know that our electronic items are not hindering your flights, so please just make free wifi standard). I loved that I could get up and walk around whenever. And the leg room was luxurious. If only there was a way to cheaply get across the country on a train, I wouldn’t ever bother flying again. Yes, I am my train-buff dad’s daughter.

Now that I am back home I am back to busing and walking. The thought of buying a car has crossed my mind a few times, but then I figure I’ll just buy one when I need it. So far that is not my  need. So the adventure continues.


As for the new year, I rarely make resolutions at this time of year. If I make them, they will be at my birthday time because I figure THAT is my new year. I will continue to encourage friends and family to use their cars less. I also hope to find some sort of volunteer position with a transportation organization around town. I still haven’t found something that would fit my schedule, but I am keeping my eye out for an opportunity.


Do you  make resolutions for New Years? What do you plan on focusing on this year?

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One of the biggest questions I got when I started this adventure was, “Do you think you will survive the winter?” So far I have not yet bought a car, so I guess the answer is yes!


Here I am on the first snow- in October. I took a few pictures and this is the only one that looks happy and not confused.


Since October, I have subsequently confirmed that layers are the key to staying warm. I have a waterproof outer shell, a fuzzy fleece that used to be my only winter coat during the car days, thick wool socks and boots are my new best friend. As someone once said, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”  I have not ventured into any further long underwear layers. So far I haven’t needed them- but I would not be surprised if they joined the layer pile at some point this winter. Now that I have been car free for a while I also know how long it takes me to get to my usual bus stops so there is minimal waiting time.


The other wonderful thing this winter? I don’t have to clean off a car. I never realized how much I hated that task until recently when I looked outside one morning, pointed and laughed at the poor souls in the parking lot who were scraping their cars.


Next up? Posts about all of the fun crafty DIY I’ve done lately. I have piles of craft supplies and fabric that need to be used up before I will buy more. Some of the projects are presents so their posts will go up in a while. But in addition to getting rid of the car to slow down, I’ve enjoyed using crafting and visual art to exit the fast lane as well. Hope you are well, dear readers!



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Six months car free

As you have guessed from the title, I have made it six months without a car. Here are the highlights:

March- sold the car and used car share/car rentals about once a week. Mostly for groceries and because I NEEDED TO HAVE A CAR. There was a smidge of anxiety those first two weeks without a car. Especially since most people were reminding me regularly I was crazy for selling my car and not getting a new one.

April- continued using the cars and exploring the bus system. It was still gig season so for the most part when I had orchestra I was getting a car. Looking back now, I realized it was mostly because I was worried the bus wouldn’t get me to a rehearsal or concert on time. Looking back now, I realize that was not a necessary concern.

May/June- started spending less on Carshare and fewer rentals. I also spent more time in Denver than I have the entire time I have lived in CO. The bus there was far easier than driving and paying for parking!

July- I practically overdosed on car usage. There were a lot of weekend gigs.  There was a week where I was house/dog sitting, working at a camp that was an annoying bus ride away. During that week I didn’t really have time between each activity to get where I needed to go. After finding out that every car in Boulder was rented, I found out I could use Carshare for a few days in a row, similar to a rental. By the end of the 3 days I was tired of driving. Yes, it saved me time but anxiety and general annoyance on the road came back very quickly. This was definitely the worst car month and I am trying my best to avoid a repeat of this type of month.

August- one car share for 2 hours. I was only in the car for about an hour of that. AN HOUR DRIVING A CAR in an entire month! This was by far my favorite car free month. I hope to duplicate this month as much as possible while I can be car free.

September-  Orchestra season is starting up again and I know more bus routes. So for the in town concerts and rehearsals I think I will be able to just use the bus. For out of town rehearsals a combo of car share and car pooling will likely be the route I go. Looking back in April, I could have used more car share and less car rental. But I don’t think I realized how little I truly needed a car at that point. I was just excited to drive something that didn’t have the potential to leave me stranded.

For now there are still some days I wish for a car so I could be lazier. Then I quickly do calculations about car payments, gas prices and insurance and I happily continue walking wherever I am headed. With the exception of a couple of friends, everyone is within a bus-able range. Over the past six months I have realized how much excess there is involved in having a car. I watch people speed past as I am walking to my destination and often wonder, “do you REALLY need that car mister speedy person?” Yes, by all means there are a lot of reasons to own a car and in this culture there are many places my lifestyle is not possible. But in honor of my six months without a car, will you at least think about whether you really need to run that errand, or use the car for that trip next time you walk out the door?

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Can US municipalities pull this off?

There was an article in the NY Times yesterday about European cities aiming to reduce the number of cars by making it hard for them to use personal vehicles. By far the most striking quote of the article was from Pio Marzolini, “… I can’t get used to the idea that I am worth less than a car.”  Even in my town, which is extremely pedestrian friendly for it’s size and location in the US, I often feel like if I could just *talk* to the people whizzing past me in cars, they might consider getting out of them and enjoying the fresh air. For the full article, go here.

How would you react if your current town or city made it harder for you to drive everyday? Would you complain to the government or take it as an opportunity to get some fresh air?

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minor keys = sad

In addition to being a no-car geek (lately) I’m also a music geek (since always).  I guess the daughters of musicians have a hard time not ending up that way. I also have an affinity for trains inherited from my dad, but alas I generally don’t find train articles.

One of the things I teach my little itty bitty students is music can be happy or sad. We delve into bigger words once they are potty trained.  No matter how long I expect them to take to hear the sad (minor) music, it always goes faster than I anticipate. It’s usually the second try after I say their name with a sad voice using a minor third. From then on they can shout out if the music is sad or happy no matter how complicated Mahler tried to make it. I found this article amongst my email lists about how western music creates sad music.  If you are a music geek like me, you might also find the article too interesting.




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Bike commuting preparation

Now that the weather is fantastic and it has stopped raining daily (as soon as I hit publish on this post that will change, I am sure)- it is time for me to start the bike commuting preparation. I used to commute about 6 miles one way a few times a week. There was a sidewalk/bike trail that went from home to work. I made it my goal to get up one large, stupid hill and finally accomplished it at the end of the summer. Then my schedule changed and I moved and my work hours switched and five years passed and now I am here. And I am looking to start bike commuting again at least some of the time.

I decided I should start with internet research. And finding a map since I’m not exactly sure where all of the trails go from my current home to my place of work. I located a simple five point list of reminders about starting a bike commute route.

1- Think on two wheels- or basically plan out your route while you are sitting on the bus (or driving). The one stretch in my potential commute I’m not sure about is roughly a mile stretch. So one bus ride I watched carefully to see if I could spot a trail. Once I found it I referred to the town’s bike and walking trail map to see where it got me.

2-Map it out- That part is easy in our town. There is a published map of the various types of trails one could use on a bike or on foot!

3- Troubleshoot your route- The past few bus rides I’ve been watching how wide the shoulder is on the stretch I will have to ride on the road. The cars look fast and right now there is some construction. The other parts look as if they will be on paths which don’t allow motor vehicles.

4- Dry Run- One of my friends, Becky, was visiting and I asked her to bring her bike. Our original plan was to ride around the reservoir near my house. Instead we opted to do a dry run of my commute to see what it was like.

We started off the test run on a paved bike path.

The first part of the path is basically a sidewalk. Luckily it’s really wide so I think it is considered a multi use path.

Next stretch was a wide shouldered road which I mentioned above. This is the part I have been really hesitant about. As you can see the speed limit is 45. I thought for sure I would be scared out of my wits to have cars whizzing by me. But it wasn’t so horrible. I think I could get used to it if I just ride it on a regular basis.

This is after the road stretch and where there is a random bus stop near a field. I always imagine that this stop is somehow like platform 9  3/4- if I could only find out where the secret bus goes…

This was definitely my favorite part and even if I opt not to ride to work, I will certainly ride this magical trail (with bug spray next time!).

From here it was another 20-30 minutes of paths and bike lanes on pretty low speed roads.

5-Expand your horizons- While I am not at this point I do remember doing this five years ago when bike commuting was part of my weekly routine. Look for a new coffee shop or take a slightly different path or find an alternate route! I’m excited to get to this point again in my car less lifestyle adventure!

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