acidophilus (1) activated charcoal (1) ACV (2) Aga (2) allergy testing (1) aloe (1) anaesthesia (1) anti-acne (3) arnica (1) arrowroot (1) art (1) autumn (5) baby (2) baby wearing (1) bags (3) bath (2) beans (2) beet (1) bentonite (1) berries (1) blackberry (1) body (12) bread (6) breakfast (5) bruise (1) cake (8) calendula (1) calories (3) canning (6) carb-free (1) carbs (21) cargo pants (1) catnip (1) cedar (1) chamomile (3) child play (9) chocolate box (10) Christmas (6) cinnamon (2) clay (1) cleaning (6) cloth pads (1) clothing (1) clove (1) coconut oil (13) coffee (1) comfrey (2) cookies and bars (6) cradle cap (1) dairy (11) dairy-free (20) date sugar (2) decadence (19) decorations (3) dehydrating (2) denim (2) dessert (12) dinner (7) dressings (1) drinks (13) emergency first aid (5) EPS (1) essential oils (32) ethnic food (7) eucalyptus (1) face (9) feet (4) fever recovery (1) fish (1) frosting (1) frugality (61) garden (4) geranium (2) gifts (1) ginger (1) graham cracker pie crust (1) hair (4) hair mask (1) Harcombe (7) hawthorne (1) herbal (48) herbal hair mask (1) home remedies (57) homeschool (4) hot chocolate (1) hot cross buns (1) infused oil (2) jam (1) jewelry (1) juicing (1) kitchen (20) knitting (2) lactation (3) laundry (1) lavender (4) lemon (2) lemon balm (2) man food (31) marshmallow root (1) meat (2) mud (1) NeilMed (1) nettle (2) oatstraw (2) oil diffuser (1) orange (2) paint (3) parenting (4) pasta (1) pastry (3) peppermint (1) pimple (1) pine (1) post-op (1) postpartum (1) potato (1) powders (1) precautions (1) pregnant (1) preschool (23) pressure cooker (1) pus (1) quotes (1) rapha (2) recycling (3) red rose hips (1) roller ball (1) rose (1) rose hip (1) rosemary (1) salve (10) sauces (4) savory baked goods (10) seaweed (1) serotonin (1) sewing (10) shavegrass (1) snacks (18) soups and stews (7) spices (5) spring (2) St John's wort (1) stamping (1) star anise (1) stevia (1) stock (4) storage (1) sugar-free (1) summer (5) sunburn (1) sunshine salve (1) surgery (1) sweets (27) tea (13) tincture (3) travel (5) turmeric (1) tutorials (14) Valentine's Day (7) vegetarian (10) veggies (6) vitamins (1) walks (1) wardrobe (1) wedding (2) wildcrafting (4) winter (1) wormwood (1) yarn (1)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

escalivada: spanish roasted vegetables

I love that I can make this dish ahead of time and serve warmed back up in a gentle oven, or at room temp. Not so great fridge cold, in my opinion, although it can be done and some may like that. You can also roast veg on the grill (use a cast iron pan for the toms and garlic) so it's super easy for many occasions, or simply when you want to save the cool air in the house during hot summers.

Escalivada: Spanish roasted vegetables

2 red peppers
1 med eggplant
2 sm red onions
4 tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 Tbs olive oil
juice of 1 lemon (about 3 Tbs)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 F. You will need clean and dry vegetables, and a large baking tray.
Arrange the whole veg on the tray, rub the oil all over them, including the garlic and onions in their skins, and pop into the oven for 25 to 30 minutes at 400 F.

This pretty little thing is my cast iron garlic roaster. Not necessary, but a handy tool for anyone who enjoys the sweetly nutty softness of roasted garlic, as this keeps garlic separated in the oven, or in a conveniently safe location on the grill.

Once roasted, the now soft veg should still have their shape but skins will be peeling or charring off in places. Let them cool until you are able to handle them. Peel off the skins, chop the veg, mix together in a large bowl and season with the lemon juice and a sprinkling of course Celtic sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.

spanish tapas: breadsticks

Spanish Tapas are a lovely change to standard cooking regimes, especially with summer coming on. You can arrange a variety of little dishes, warm and cold, prepared ahead and made fresh, and spark your inner chef with creativity.

Breadsticks are a fabulous staple for a tapas meal. These are pretty straightforward, but if you are not familiar with bread baking or handling dough, I suggest you read my bread tutorial first, as I won't be providing you with every detail of instructions here.

1 lb 2 oz (4 1/3 c) whole grain hard white wheat flour, or the best quality strong whole wheat bread flour you can find
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp fine ground Celtic sea salt
1/4 oz (2 tsp) dried active yeast, or 1/2 oz fresh yeast
12 oz tepid water
optional sesame seeds
optional course Celtic sea salt

In a large bowl, combine flour, oil and salt.
Make a well and add yeast, followed by water. Let froth, then mix and form into a ball.

Knead dough for 10 minutes.
Let it rest, covered by a lightly damp cloth, for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 F, or 200 C.
Knead for another 10 minutes.

Divide into 1 oz balls -- about 16 pieces from a standard batch of dough -- and roll into long skinny sticks of about 8 inches long.
Roll through sesame seeds or course salt if desired. No further oil or binding should be necessary.

To form soft pretzels, roll out to 10 inches long. Loop the strand in half, forming a long U with the bend at the far side from you. Grab the bend of the U and twist once over, forming a fold half way down the length. Loop the two tails up in bends around the sides and secure them underneath the top loop. Classic pretzel shape.

Bake at 400 F for 15 to 20 minutes, until browned and baked well. You can choose to bake these to a soft doneness, or bake a few minutes longer until they have more snap to them. Store in an airtight container for several days, or freeze extras. Slightly stale breadsticks go well with certain tapas, providing the staleness is dry and there is absolutely no evidence of mold.

Monday, April 28, 2014

healthy ranch dressing

Any American knows there is no dip quite like Ranch Dressing, but the commercial stuff contains stabilizers, additives, MSG, and sometimes, sugars. Any English person is missing out. I have a recipe that will fix both those problems!

Healthy Ranch Dressing

1 cup total of one or combination of: mayonnaise, sour cream, homemade dairy-free mayonnaise, natural live yogurt.
optional 1 Tb organic buttermilk powder

3/4 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp fine ground Celtic sea salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp ground mustard seeds
1/8 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp ground paprika

Mix all ingredients together by hand, or if needed, in the blender. Add a drizzle of olive oil or a Tb or two of milk as needed to thin to your desired consistency. Pictured above is unthinned, all natural sour cream with the spices only and no buttermilk powder. I like to mix the spices together ready to use in an empty spice shaker, so that I can make up just a little Ranch D fresh as needed for my son's lunch, or for sprinkling on other foods. This blend is amazing on fish!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

toddler toothpaste

 Almost every parent, guardian, and babysitter knows how tough it can be to get little ones to cooperate with brushing teeth time. Many times my husband and I have teamed up on our little guy, pinned him down, tickled him until he finally laughed or complained, and mercilessly shoved that loaded toothbrush into his unwilling mouth for the length of the alphabet song. The closer my Baby Bear gets to 3, the easier this part of bedtime becomes.

But then I reevaluated the toothpaste we use. Hmm. My husband and I use a homemade tooth powder (a post to come soon!), but not one we could reasonably expect a toddler to use. Also, the kid still swallows most of the toothpaste, and I don't really want him swallowing even food grade bentonite clay at this tender age. We used store bought stuff for a while, but the day I went hunting through the unnaturally quiet house and found him eating the stuff directly from the Thomas the Tank Engine tube I knew I had to find something better.

I did. I made it. Coconut oil is for antibacterial properties, baking soda for cleaning and whitening, xylitol for making the soda more palatable, and xylitol rather than honey because it can help prevent plaque and bacteria from adhering to teeth. There are many articles available on natural teeth care, however. Do some reading. Get started here, and here, and here.

Toddler Toothpaste
1/2 c raw, unfiltered, cold pressed coconut oil 
2 Tbs baking soda
1 Tb powdered xylitol
up to 5 drops peppermint, cinnamon or cinnamon cassia essential oil

Blend together in the Magic Bullet or a food processor, to ensure baking soda is perfectly distributed. Give it a quick taste, or brush your own teeth with it, before trying on your child. Adjust if needed. It shouldn't be quite so desirable that they go hunting for the jar, but less than awful enough to contribute to the brushing battles. Store in a glass jar, preferably, but a small batch can be made up for use in a BPA-free, food safe squeezy tube if you are concerned about broken glass.

Omit essential oils for children under one year of age, and just use plain coconut oil on a washcloth covered finger or infant toothbrush for babies under 8 months.

As your child gets older, encourage them to spit out the paste after brushing, rather than swallowing. While littles are still learning, though, this is a food safe option that is naturally fluoride-free and has provided reliable cleaning power for our little family.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

easiest tandoori chicken bake

We love Indian food. I may have mentioned that once or twice before. This recipe for tandoori chicken is just about the easiest you may come across, and the ingredients are Harcombe-diet-friendly, too. You can make this with natural live yogurt, coconut milk, or a combination of the two.

You need a whole chicken, lemon juice, tandoori spice mix, a little Celtic sea salt, plain live yogurt, and/or coconut milk.

You need a chopping board and sharp knife. You need a large casserole dish. You need an oven.

Begin by pulling apart the cuts of chicken. Separate the legs and thighs together from the body, then the wings, then the breast meat. There is still a lot of good meat left on the body, though, so add that to the pan as well. I leave the skin on for cooking and just pull off before eating. You may remove the skin but you will probably have to baste the meat partway through cooking to avoid dryness.

Drizzle 3 Tbs pure lemon juice all over the meat. Sprinkle on 1 tsp or so of Celtic sea salt, rough or fine, and rub in.

Mix up 3 Tbs tandoori spice mix into a paste with 3-4 Tbs plain yogurt and rub that all in, too. If intolerant to dairy, you can use a little coconut milk instead of yogurt. The live yogurt cultures do tenderize the meat and compliment the tang of the spices very well, though.

Now, cover up the dish and let it marinate for two or three hours.

Preheat oven to 400 F, or about 200 C. At this point, you can decide how saucy you want this dish to be. You can bake it as is. You can add more yogurt, about a cup's worth, poured over the top. You can add up to a can of coconut milk instead. The extra liquid will combine and reduce with the natural chicken juices and gelatin to make a delightful gravy that doesn't require thickening. Bake at 400 F, uncovered, for one full hour.

Serve over mashed cauliflower as a rice alternative, with plenty of green veg on the side.

Sorry about the pic below! We were so hungry for dinner that I served up right away, forgetting to take a pic of the finished full dish of tandoori chicken, or of a plate, so at some future date I will have to update a pic for you.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

pan salmon and veg

I love fish. I don't eat it nearly as often as I would like, given the availability of fresh fish in the Arizona desert. Many fish have been fished to a state of compromise in their numbers, so I don't feel too badly about eating it only once or twice a year. However, there is just nothing quite like a lovely piece of fresh, wild ocean salmon for dinner, so I like to keep an eye out for the sales that come on a rare but welcome occasion at my local supermarket.

Today, I brought home this gorgeous piece of salmon. And then looked at it and pondered for a moment, feeling mildly adrift by my dismal failures at making homemade, sugar-free, soy-free, vinegar-free mayonnaise or alioli, which would have mixed up with a little dill as perfection for a sauce on the side. So, I dug through the vegetable drawer and pulled out all the veg I had. Suddenly, easy peasy.

My husband approves this meal on the list of man food. It has the stamp. We polished off the entire pound of fish in one dinner. It was gorgeous! The chard brings a healthy dose of green healing nutrients, but it's flavor is almost entirely hidden, for those who are not a fan of chard. It will merely taste of salmon and onions by the time it reaches your plate. The red pepper lends a sweetness to the meal that compliments salmon very well. For the sweetest pepper, choose one that has three bumps on the end, not four.

1 lb fillet of salmon
1 red pepper, sliced very thinly lengthwise
2 cups chopped red chard
6 large cloves garlic, flattened and chopped
1 large white onion, sliced in half and then into slivers

1-2 tsp dill
salt and pepper
1 Tb lemon juice

Begin by adding a healthy glug of olive oil to a hot pan, and chasing the garlic and onion quickly into it. Turn down the heat to medium or medium-low and cook the onions until tender, sweetened, but not browned. I love cast iron for this type of frying as it seldom ever sticks to food. If using stainless steel, keep the pan closer to medium-low heat and keep an eye on the oil at all times. No smoking.

While this is happening, place the fish skin side down on a plate and pour the lemon juice over it. Sprinkle on dill, salt, and pepper.

Once the onions are ready, add the chard and stir until just beginning to wilt. Bring the pan heat up to high, but not smoking.

Add the red peppers and mix together.

Right away, make room in the center of the pan for the fish, add another tsp olive oil or a small knob of butter and place the fish, skin side down, on top. Fry until the skin blackens somewhat and the fish is about half cooked through. Flip over. Peel off the skin, which will be easy to remove now, and sprinkle again with dill, salt, and pepper as desired.

Once fish is cooked to the tenderness you prefer, serve with the pan veg along with sides of steamed vegetables.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

leftovers: stir fry

You know those leftover steamed vegetables that seem to accumulate sometimes? You can throw them into an omelette. Fab idea. However, I can't have cheese at this particular point in time, nor any dairy, nor soy sauce, nor vinegar, nor sugars in any form. So...  I took an uninspired look at the fridge and discovered that I actually had the makings of yum right there, just unassembled.

Allow me to inspire you. Stir fry is just about the easiest, fastest way to cook up a medley of veg with a ton of flavor, despite the dietary restrictions. You can use leftover cooked veg. You can use fresh. You can use a combo thereof. You can add in cooked noodles or meats. Here is the combo pictured. Adapt as needed.

Start with 4 Tbs olive oil, 1 tsp ground coriander and 1 Tb powdered ginger in a hot pan, the type that has a lid.

Add 1 leek, sliced into thin rounds.
Add 4 cloves garlic, pressed with the flat of a knife and roughly chopped.
Cook up until the leeks start to get a little soft.

Add 2 carrots, sliced roughly into matchsticks.
Add 1 bell pepper, sliced long or diced.
Add 1 bunch green onions, chopped.
Add 1 c leftover steamed red cabbage.
Add 1 c leftover boiled beetroot sticks.
Add 3 Tbs water and pop the lid on.

Let the cooked veg sort of steam itself for just a moment in the water you just added. It won't take long as you've chopped it up thinly. Don't overcook the bell peppers. They should be softened but not limp.

Lastly, add 2 c leftover diced chicken, pulled off a roast from the day or two before. Add a sprinkle of salt, stir through, and just keep it on the heat long enough to warm the chicken through. Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

perfect roasted chicken

Alright, I know what you're thinking. Everyone can roast a chicken, right? Wrong. You've been doing it wrong! (Most likely. Am I complacent? No...)

I did it wrong for years. I also kept roasting birds that had beautiful crispy, savory crackling (skin) and red, still slightly raw insides. I can't count how many times my husband has been served a roast chicken dinner, the bird at the table in resplendent glory and my red face beaming with a love-me-now newly-wed pride, only to be shoved unceremoniously back into the oven for another 30 minutes, drying out the breast meat in the process. Sometimes, I cried.

Roasting a chicken isn't all that tricky, actually. There are some basic rules that, if followed, should ensure a beautiful roast every time without bursted pride bubbles.

1. Get the right kitchen tools.
I like a roasting rack as pictured above. The height the bird sits is variable by how wide you set the sides, which means I can use the same rack for a turkey as well as a chicken. Place the roasting rack in a casserole dish, so that the bird is sat above the dish to catch any drips during cooking but also so you can add water to the dish to maintain moisture in the meat. The drippings can be repurposed directly into a gravy to serve with the meal, thickened with a little flour while the bird sits for 10 minutes before serving, or saved to add to a batch of homemade bone stock.

2. Get the right ingredients.
A classic easy lemon roast chicken is my go-to, but there are many ways you can season the bird. You need an astringent, such as lemon or orange juice, or vinegar, about the juice of one fruit or 3-4 Tbs. I like lemon juice most often. You need a fat, about 2-3 Tbs. I like olive oil, but you can use many others. You need seasonings, about 1-2 Tbs. Plain old Celtic sea salt and cracked black pepper are staples, but you can add any variety of other things, too, such as dried or fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano), and dried or fresh finely ground or minced garlic and onion, ground turmeric, paprika, cumin, coriander... If using a fresh lemon or orange, stuff the squeezed out rinds inside the cavity of the bird. If you don't have rinds, you can use sticks or diced up stems of herbs, carrots, onions, celery, and other veg, to maintain the moisture in the meat as well as increase flavor.

3. Get your backbone up.
And this is really the secret here. I got it from a Jamie Oliver cooking show a few years ago and it really has made all the difference. Roast birds breast side down. Really. I know, they're always pictured breast side up, but there is a reason so many people prefer dark meat -- the white meat from the breast portions have been roasted breast side up, and all the moisture has drained from top to bottom during cooking, leaving the breasts dry. So get your backbone up. Not your breasts.

So, you have your tools and ingredients all lined up in little pots, as pictured above, so that you don't have to worry about getting raw chicken juice on the olive oil bottle and your spices are ready to slap on quickly.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Place the bird on the rack, over the casserole.
Pour 3-4 Tb lemon juice over the bird and rub in.
Pour 2-3 Tbs olive oil over the bird and rub in.
Pour 1-2 Tbs salt, pepper and optional spices over the bird and rub in.
Settle the bird nice and high in the rack, breast side down, and with wings and legs firmly wedged underneath itself.
Add 2 cups water to the casserole dish.

4. Finally, get the temperatures and cooking times right. The average cleaned chicken weighs about 5 lbs. Start with this basic rule of thumb, and for a larger or smaller bird adjust the overall cooking time accordingly.

Roast the dressed bird for 30 minutes at 425 F, and then a further 90 minutes at 375 F, totaling 2 hours altogether.

So if the bird goes in the hot oven at 4 pm, you can serve dinner at 6. If you bird weighs more than 5 lbs, add 15 mins to the cook time for each pound heavier. If lighter, subtract 15 mins from the cook time for each pound. In most cases, though, my chickens vary between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 lbs each and I still find that the 30-90 at 425-375 is a good rule to run with.

To check the bird for doneness, just to be sure it is cooked properly, the best place to check is under the thigh near the ribs. Slide a sharp knife in and watch the juices. They should run clear. Pull the leg out a little from the bird and look at the meat close to the ribs. Any redness should be dark and properly cooked. If there is any bright color or the juices do not run clear, pop the bird back into the oven for another 15 minutes. Most birds cooked properly will start to fall off the bone with a sharp tub on the leg, so when checking, be careful not to pull too hard if you are hoping to present the whole roast on a dish at the table.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

anti-acne scrubbing facial masque

Anti-acne Scrubbing Facial Masque.
You've been waiting for the next installment of clear skin remedies, I know. This one is super easy, fast, effective, and cheap! Love me? Well, good!

Skin wounded and damaged by itching, sore acne breakouts, whether in a large area or only a few spots, is extra fragile. Skin on the face, neck and decolletage (the collar bones and breasts) is especially delicate. But it's still important to exfoliate. Regular exfoliation removes dead skin cells that clog up pores and make acne-prone areas more likely to break outs. We need to get the junk out of there. But many exfoliants are too harsh for already damaged skin. 

Anti-acne scrubbing powder is comprised of just two ingredients: bentonite clay powder, and walnut shell granules. I mix them in equal parts, 1 Tb of each in a little batch, but you can use more or less of each to suit your needs. Bentonite clay draws out toxins while calming redness, and so makes a fabulous solution to problem skin of all types but especially deep, painful boils. Walnut shell granules are very fine and exfoliate delicate skin efficiently with low risk of damage. I love sugar scrubs for body exfoliation, but in my opinion sugar is just too abrasive for the face, neck, decolletage and breasts, and bikini line, as well as for any area with deep stretch mark scars from pregnancy, sudden growth spurts, or weight gain.

Essential oils are an optional extra. Astringent, skin gentle oils such as tea tree, lavender, rosemary, and helichrysum, and moisturizing oils such as rose, geranium, cucumber seed, rose hip seed, and carrot seed, are good on the face. Never use citrus oils as they are UV volatile and can cause skin damage or discoloration after sun exposure. I recommend using up to 5 drops e.o.s in a base of 2 Tbs clay and walnut blend.

To use. I prefer to keep my dry powder as it is, in glass, in the bathroom. Stored dry and sealed properly, it should be fine for many months. You can mix up the powder ahead of time with any of these bases, but some may need to be refrigerated and none will keep for long once mixed. The dry powder also makes a travel-friendly, packing light solution.

Mix 1/2 to 1 tsp dry powder in about 1 tsp base. You may use aloe gel cut from inside a fresh stem of aloe vera, aloe vera juice, your favorite facial lotion, an oil such as castor or coconut, plain water, cream, or yogurt. I prefer to use whole or Greek style yogurt, as the cultures and lactic acid help to combat infection while balancing healthy surface bacteria, and the fat present in good quality yogurt moisturizes the skin without leaving a thick residue.

Mix up your dry with wet until you have a paste consistency. Massage all over face, neck and decolletage, giving the backs of your hands a little extra attention while you're at it. You can scrub gently on chapped lips, but avoid the delicate eye area. This scrubbing masque is also a fabulous solution for those prone to armpit and bikini line irritation from hair removal.

Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing clear with clean water. Follow up with anti-acne toner, and your favorite moisturizer. Use two or three times a week.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

bug off rose spray

Bug Off Rose Spray comes in handy at this time of year. I give you a tried and proven recipe that has worked for me for several years now. When we bought our house in AZ, these gorgeous roses were already well established. Their deep roots tap down into our septic system, I'm pretty sure, as I hardly need to water them, and they provide me with lovely, delicate, fragrant, dark pink blooms all summer long. I love to collect the fresh petals for infusing into oil (post coming!), and dehydrating to add to bath salts. They are so pretty.

But greenfly also love my roses. Drat them. Those pesky little aphids sweep through on the wind all spring, every year, and multiply like crazy on all the new growth. Left to their own devices, they will eat the new leaves, and especially all the rosebuds, and I will have no lovely flowers for me.

Enter Bug Off Rose Spray. I certainly don't want to use any commercial aphid killers, as they are not great all round and I want to harvest organic roses. So nothing gross. In my garden in the back of the house, I've been working hard to cultivate bee and butterfly attracting flowers and plants, and to balance as much healthy plant life in together as possible to create a little mini ecosystem, complete with all the good bugs and spiders that come with it.
(No black widows or grey recluse, please, but garden spiders we love.) In this front area, though, I just have roses and rosemary, and a septic covered with gravel on top of which I cannot plant. So I have to get rid of the greenfly a different way.

Step one. Make up Bug Off Rose Spray:
  • 3 cups water in a spray bottle
  • add 1 tsp biodegradable dish soap, such as blue original Dawn, or BioKleen
  • add 8 drops each of essential oils of rosemary, citronella, geranium and lavender
Step two. Shake up bottle and spray roses thoughly. Soak those little pesky insects, and all vulnerable new growth. They hate the essential oils, and the soap gums up their wings and makes it hard for their feet to grip to the plants.

Step three. Blast roses with a strong jet of water, pulverizing the dying greenfly.

Step four. Once roses are cleaned and fresh, spray with Bug Off Rose Spray all over the plant once more, to leave a residue that inhibits greenfly attaching to the roses on tomorrow's wind.

Let your kids help with the spray! This is a fab activity for preschoolers, in particular, as there are no nasty chemical to worry about getting on their hands, and they love to spray and spray and be useful. They genuinely are useful in this activity.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

taking a natural approach to hanky panky

Hanky panky? Uh, yes. I figured if I put "lovemaking" in the title, some of my usual readers might be scared off. Got you.

Now that you're here, this is a really important subject. Let's be honest, at times we ladies just need a bit of lubrication before we are ready to rock and roll in the sack. Nothing wrong with that. This need can be based just as much on where we are in our monthly cycle as anything else, as during ovulation the body is trying to get pregnant and so provides a slip'n'slide a bit more readily, but at other times pre- and post-ovulation, dryness can be more normal. This is often simply related to levels of estrogen, which is why many women nearer to or during menopause can experience dryness. It's a part of life.

So what do you do about it? No! Don't reach for the KY!

Why not? It's filled with grossness which you (I hope, by now) wouldn't even put on your face. Most commercial lubricants are petroleum based products, derived originally from crude oil, which while "natural" in essence must be refined and refined, and then to form different products have various synthetics added as well. The resulting personal lubes really aren't good for your skin in general, and they are even worse for application to a delicate, sensitive, internal part of a woman's body. When you use a personal lubricant, it is given entry right to the inside of a woman, to her uterus if she is near ovulation. Even for the people who don't have an allergic skin reaction to petroleum based products, basically contact dermatitis in a rather uncomfortable place, the seemingly harmless use of these lubes can cause or contribute to a host of problems. Besides the obvious discomforts of increased candida and decreased healthy vaginal flora, the one that stands out most to me? Nerve degeneration.

Hey, wait a minute! So my personal lube, that I use because I'm feeling a little dry or maybe want some extra sensitivity, could actually be causing or worsening my dryness and lack of sensitivity?!

You've got it, babe.

But I can't leave you hanging. There are alternatives! Oh, yes. There are fun, cheap alternatives that you can personalize to your own special needs.

My top recommendation is Coconut Oil. Good old crunchy classic. Coconut oil is antibacterial, mildly anti-inflammatory, extremely gentle, and a little goes a long way which checks the frugality box. While solid to a salve-like density in most room temperatures (although liquid for about 4 months during summer in my Arizona kitchen), coconut oil has a low melting point and dissolves rapidly at body temperature. You can use it plain, or add things to it. Make sure you buy organic, unfiltered, cold pressed oil. I buy 62 oz tubs of the stuff by Nutiva when I go to Costco.

Coconut oil leaves very little residue on fabrics, too, and washes out easily leaving hardly any staining. Oil stains lasting through a wash can often be removed by applying powdered white chalk (crush up some standard teacher's chalk sticks) to the area and running through the wash again after 5 or so minutes.

Alternatively, you can whip up some Body Butters. Scroll down to the end of my post for several varieties you can easily make up at home. As with Coconut Oil, these are (ahem) edible, and you can even add raw honey to taste as desired.

You can also add vitamin E oil or primrose oil to any oil based lube, for extra healing power. You can also use any basic salve (oil thickened with beeswax) as a lubricant.

Ah, but oils are not latex-safe! So if you rely on condoms for birth control, you can switch over to a latex-free (polyurethane) brand, or you can get adventurous and try one of these following suggestions. 

Raw Egg Whites are a natural alternative to oils. Okay, not natural as if it's obviously the first thought that pops into your head, but natural as in from a totally natural and unprocessed source. You should apply common sense with egg whites and use fresh, not old, and from a reliable source of chickens. (Or ducks, or geese... Peacocks? Quail?) It's also a good idea to set the egg out at room temperature before cracking and using, as cold egg whites may well produce a knees-clamped-together reaction rather than enthusiasm from Maid Marian. As the natural texture of raw egg whites tends to be a little difficult, you can beat them up a bit, sans-yolk, with a fork before use. Discard any leftovers.

Vegetarian and vegan friendly Vegetable Glycerine makes another food-safe, fabric friendly option. Use pure, not diluted as you would for making a glycerite tincture. Glycerine is colorless, with a slightly sweet taste, although despite the pleasing flavor is not tacky sticky. As with the Sexy Body Honey, you can add a drop or two of essential oils for a light buzz. Glycerine is totally fine stored at room temperature, too, so this may be the most convenient latex-friendly solution for many people.

My last suggestion for you is another totally vegan option. I can see how it would work, despite having not tried it myself for the purpose of personal lube. Flax and Chia Seeds contain mucilagenic properties, and so they swell up in water, chia more so than flax. I think chia seeds look kinda like frogs eggs once they've sat in water for five minutes. They get all gooey and thicken up the water. Take 1 Tb each of flax and chia seeds, add to 1 1/2 cups of boiling water, and simmer to reduce by about half. Strain solids through a sieve, pushing the natural gel through with gentle fingers, and reserve the gelatinous product resulting from your efforts. This is a water soluble, latex-safe, entirely plant-based option. Store for up to 2 weeks in the fridge, although as with the egg whites you will probably want to set out a little before use.

What other remedies have you tried or created as safer alternatives to petroleum-based personal lubrication products?

**Note: I realized, belatedly, that I finished and posted this article on April 1st. I promise, most heartily, that none of this info was a Fool's Day joke, and all are legitimate tips and recipes! :)