November 2008

Hypo Allergenic Lotions and Potions

Hypo-Allergenic, Natural, Somewhat Organic Lotions and Potions

I live in Fort Collins, Colorado. According to the National Weather Service, the temperature right now at 2:02pm on November 18, 2008 is 75. The relative humidity: 14%. Whoops, sorry. It just went down to 13%. Low humidity is awesome. It’s cooler in the summers and warmer in the winters because you don’t feel damp all the time. Summers are particularly lovely. You don’t sweat in the shower, you don’t stick to yourself, and your hair looks terrific all the time. Winter is a little more complex. While we have more sunny days than Florida (I’m not kidding, folks) and all the snow stays in the mountains or blows over Fort Collins to the eastern plains (so you can ski or snowshoe whenever you want, but never have trouble getting to the grocery store), the dry climate does have a few drawbacks. In fact, we invested in a whole house humidifier because of frequent nose bleeds and cracked, dry skin.

When we first moved here in 2002 I really struggled with dry skin and even some strange rashes that even fabulous Dr. Beck couldn’t identify. She suggested that I use only hypoallergenic lotions and body washes. No problem. Except I really wanted to use products that were natural and earth friendly. That knocks out everything from Kiss My Face, Burts Bees and other favorites that I had used for years. I searched high and low – well, really I used the internet. Eventually I found a great company, Alba Botanica, that has a whole line of hypo-allergenic lotions, creams, sun screens and hair care products that are available at our local health food and even grocery stores. The stuff ain’t cheap, but whenever Vitamin Cottage has a sale, I stock up on the big bottles. Now I have no rashes and supple skin – for a 40 year old Coloradan.  As for the nose bleeds and other sinus issues. Also solved thanks to my acupuncturist, Pam DeVore, who recommended trying a Neti Pot. Ancient Chinese Secret… that really works. Here’s a wacky video that shows you how to use it. I don’t follow any of their advice and I certainly don’t do their post-neti pot exercises. Maybe I’m really missing out on more amazing benefits.

Neti Pot and Salt

Neti Pot and Salt

Here’s what I do. Make a saline solution of a teaspoon of salt and warm water. Then, and this is the crazy part, you pour the solution into one nostril and let it run through your sinus cavity and out the other nostril. Repeat with other nostril. Best to do this over a sink to avoid embarrassing wet spots on your clothing, a slippery floor or wet dog. Blow your nose after each Neti pot session. Then, voila, no sinus headaches, no allergies and no nosebleeds.

Before I found the neti pot, I used calendula creme inside my nose. I passed this Q-tip on to my mother who gets nosebleeds whenever she visits us from St. Louis.  Being my mother, you would be correct in guessing that she is also an overachiever.  She used so much calendula in her nose that she developed sores and had to stop. Good thing she has chronically low blood pressure.

P.S. No one paid me anything to write this.  And our humidity is now way up to 18%.


Scott and his mandolin

My husband is an accomplished mandolin player. He has a beautiful 1918 Gibson that is perfect for the old time jazzy numbers that he plays for the mature adult folks at Columbine Health Systems facilities. When we first met and fell in love I thought I could learn the mandolin. It’s smaller and lighter than a guitar – just right for my delicate female constitution. After a few minutes of strumming, I gave up. I didn’t have the patience for it at all. Scott made it look so easy. I decided to stick to the piano. And the kitchen.

Even though I love my food processor, for years I have coveted the manual slicing, dicing and julienning mandolin. I imagined perfect, slender french fries and crispy sweet potato and beet chips. Without the guilt of frying. Oh, how I love starchy root vegetables.

This year we are winter members of the Monroe Organic Farm, our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) organic family farm food source. We’ve been summer members for six years, but we finally took the plunge and last week we got pounds of yukon golds, sweet potatoes, acorn squash, leeks, celery, carrots, onions, garlic, lettuce and even a few stray tomatoes. We’re splitting a share with another member, so every two weeks through March, we’ll get a load of goodies.

Beth's Mandolin

Beth's Mandolin

With my commitment to slow, local food at full throttle, I felt it was time to invest in my own mandolin. Perhaps I didn’t do quite enough research before I seized the Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon moment. Or maybe I got what I paid for. All I know is my technique needs refinement. In other words, I still need to practice and my mandolin patience has again been tried.

My lack of precision is made up for with great enthusiasm and creative use of tiny vegetable fragments. I thought I was making sweet potato fries. Instead I got sweet potato threads. Never one to waste perfectly good organic local produce, I made up a new recipe. Shoestring sweet potato pie thingy. I took my very thinly julienned sweet potatoes (one very large potato) and mixed them with a clove of minced garlic, two eggs, some panko (Japanese bread crumbs), some cinnamon, salt and pepper. I olive oiled a ceramic 10″ pie plate, spread the sweet potato stuff evenly and topped it with sliced pears. I baked it at 350 for about 1/2 hour. Side dish or dessert? You decide. We ate it too quickly for a photo.

Crabapple Front 2005

Our front yard in 2005

Crabapple Front 2008

And the front yard in 2008











We live on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.  It doesn’t rain much and Kentucky Blue Grass just isn’t right for our arid, sunny climate.  When we bought our house I was inspired by our next door neighbors, the Kings.  Their front yard was more garden than lawn.  I designed new beds and we installed 7 tons of strip stone and 10 yards of mulch.  The only grass left is on the new paths – we just haven’t had the money and inclination to lay the stones yet.  I’ve planted native and drought tolerant shrubs and perennials and now we only have to water once a week – and I do it by hand so I can check in on each of my plantings.

You can probably guess what drew us to the house – our amazing crabapple tree (and the 6 other mature trees on our little suburban plot).  We’re so grateful to the original owners who also loved to garden and had the foresight to plant so many awesome trees.  We have a shadiest yard in the neighborhood.  And now, our front crabapple tree has been nominated as a Colorado State Champion.  We’ll find out in December if we’re winners.  Stay tuned.


2005 Grassy Lawn

2005 Grassy Lawn


2008 Mulched Beds

2008 Mulched Beds


What’s not to love about a meal that can include pancakes, waffles, eggs, cheese, fruit and syrup? Well, I guess that’s not really recommended, but breakfast is a meal I love. I try to power walk, run or do yoga every weekday morning. And then I eat breakfast. This is my latest concoction for everyday eating.  Add milk or yogurt and fresh berries in the summer.

Granola and Yogurt Parfait

Fall Breakfast: 1/2 cup Granola, 1/2 cup low fat plain yogurt, raisins

Beth’s Granola

6 cups of oatmeal (not instant or steel cut oatmeal) 
6 cups of puffy, whole grain cereal – my latest favorite is kamut
1-3 cups of assorted chopped or sliced nuts like almonds, walnuts and pecans
1 1/2 cups peanut and/or almond butter
1/2 cup local honey (you’ll never have allergies again, I swear)
2/3 cup canola oil
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1/3 cup apple butter
2 Tbs vanilla
1Tbs cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 cups raisins

Making your own granola doesn’t take long and you will never go back to boxed crap again. You can control all the fun ingredients plus the sugar and the oil, so how can you go wrong. Once you’ve made this a few times, adjust the ingredients to your family’s tastes or health desires. Add syrup. Cut down the oil. Increase the banana and add flaked coconut and dried pineapple.

Preheat the oven to 300. Spread the oats, puffed cereal and nuts in two large, shallow baking pans. You need pans with sides. Don’t use a flat cookie sheet; it will be a huge mess. Bake for 15 minutes, then switch the pans and bake for another 15 minutes. This will give the granola a nice crunch before you add the fabulous coating. After you switch out the pans of nuts and grains, heat the nut butter, honey, oil, banana and apple butter in a sauce pan and whisk it all together until it’s smooth and hot. Add the vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and whisk a little more and remove from heat. Remove the pans from the oven and glop half the goo on each pan and carefully mix it all together until the goo is evenly coating all the toasted grains and nuts. Alternate, cleaner method: Dump one pan of the toasted ingredients into a large bowl and add half the goo. Stir until everything is evenly coated. Spread the gooey toasted clumps back onto the pan. Repeat with second pan and rest of goo. Bake the pans of almost granola for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and flip everything around on the pans to keep things from burning. Bake a final 10 to 15 minutes. Check the pans and make sure the granola is the color you like. Cool the pans on racks and sprinkle the raisins over the warm granola. Definitely use your masterpiece as an excuse to buy a fun new cookie jar that you can keep right on your counter for easy snacking. Or breakfast.