Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is

shoplocalI’m not sure why it took me so long, but I have recently become obsessed with going to farmer’s markets.  And after going to my first one, I realized it was about more than good food and pretty flowers.  There is something so genuine and inspiring about each and every interaction you have there, you find yourself never wanting to leave.  After going to one of my favorites last weekend (Gilbert Farmer’s Market) I thought, “I hope other people in the world get to experience this at least once” – I was referring to both being at the market AND to the amazing green chile pork hand pie I was eating from the AZ Food Crafters booth.

But really, as great as the experience is, it’s even better when you leave knowing you are supporting your local farmers and businesses.  Not only are you contributing to the community, you are able to make healthy, conscious choices while doing it.  I’ve been doing a little research on these benefits and I thought I’d share a couple – well 10, actually – with you.

Top 10 Reasons to Support Your Local Farmer’s Markets

  1. You can find a variety of fresh, organic produce at more affordable prices than in a supermarket.
  2. You know where your food is coming from!  Meeting and talking with farmers and food artisans is a great opportunity to learn more about how and where food is produced.
  3. You can connect with your community.  Shopping at a farmer’s market is more of a pleasure than a chore AND for every $100 spent locally, $68 goes back into your community.  If you spend it at a national chain, $43 stays in the community; If you spend it online, NOTHING goes back in.  (check out the 3/50 project to learn more).
  4. You have access to what is in season.  Supermarkets may highlight this for you, but at the farmer’s market, you know you’re getting it fresh and with the truest flavors.
  5. You are promoting humane treatment of animals.  The meats, cheeses, and eggs are from animals that are raised without hormones or antibiotics; they have grazed on greet grass and eaten natural diets; they have been spared the cramped and unnatural living conditions of feedlots and cages that are typical in animal agriculture.
  6. The food and products you are getting are generally safer.  Things like E. coli outbreaks happen mostly in large industrial settings, where businesses mass produce food, preserve it, and bag it in mass amounts.
  7. The nourishment of yourself and your family.  Most food found in grocery stores is highly processed and grown using pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and genetic modification. These practices may have negative effects on human health. Most food found at the farmers market is minimally processed, and many farmers go to great lengths to grow the most nutritious produce possible by using sustainable techniques.
  8. Variety – you’re going to find things you don’t usually get the privilege of seeing in the supermarket or shopping centers.  From watermelon radishes to pumpkin spice soap, you get to experience an above average consuming experience.
  9. You get access to ideas and recipes from vendors and other farmer’s market customers!  Does the cashier at the supermarket chat with you for 20 minutes about the 10 ways you can use that garlic?
  10. You have the opportunity to have a new tradition, whether it be for your “you time” or an outing for the whole family.  A fun, relaxed, local tradition.

Where Is Your Heart?

My heart is in Arizona (and Wisconsin – forever a cheesehead), so I thought I’d let fellow blog readers in on some great places to get a farmer’s market experience in those areas.  I’d love it if you would comment with where your favorite farmer’s market is in your city, state, and/or town!  You never know where you may end up and personally, I’d love to add some extras to my bucket list.

All Arizona markets are open!  Click here to find one near you.

Don’t worry Wisconsinites – Winter’s farmer’s markets are in full swing.  Click here to find one near you!  (And here’s your summer listings).

Happy shopping!  – Nicki

Chemical Free Holiday Air Freshener

My ride on the chemical-free train didn’t begin until I started using essential oils; I can admit that.  But I cannot tell you how thankful I am to have started that journey because I am slowly discovering how toxic some of the things I was using in my home really are.

As you know, I have a cat.  And let’s be honest, sometimes, cats stink.  So, a few times a month I was buying different plug-ins and air fresheners to keep in the room where her litter box was.  In June, I started using my YL oils and I discovered 2 things: that I liked the way the oils smelled more than the scents I was buying from the store and, they were 100% therapeutic and natural.  My curiosity light bulb came on at this point and I decided to do some research.  I will share some of the things I found out about the ingredients in these products then I will show you how you can avoid these things altogether!

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Chemicals called phthalates (pronounced thal-ates) are used as solvents in perfumes and fragrances, as softeners in plastics, as anti-foam agents in aerosols, and as sealants in adhesives.  They are used in air fresheners to dissolve and carry the smell of fragrances.
  • Some of the most offensive ingredients found in air fresheners (volatile organic compounds aka VOCs, benzene, and formaldehyde) can cause headaches and nausea, can aggravate asthma, and have been linked to neurological damage and cancer.
  • Exposure to phthalates can alter hormone levels in pregnant women, which could harm the fetus,  as well as in males, leading to reproductive problems.
  • Many air fresheners may deaden the sensitivity of nerves that help pick up scents and many of the chemicals have also been linked to memory loss, kidney and liver damage, skin irritation, and some are even suspected carcinogens.

SOLUTION: DIY

So, what is the best way to avoid these scary, potential risks?  Do it yourself!  Here’s what you will need:

diy air freshener

  • 1 cup of water
  • a pinch of salt
  • a whisk
  • a small, glass container/jar (there are many good deals on these!)
  • 2 packets of unscented, unflavored gelatine
  • your choice of essential oils (I am using YL Christmas Spirit and Clove)
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Ribbon (optional)
  • Glue gun (for optional ribbon)

I found a variety of ways to do this on Pinterest.. and by trial and error.  Here is what worked best for me:

Get your jar prepped first.  That way, all you have to do is pour the gelatin into it.  I used 8 drops of red food coloring, 25 drops of Christmas Spirit, and 5 drops of Clove. (Also, keep in mind you can use any scent combo you choose)  All of these quantities can be adjusted, based on how strong you want your air freshener to be.

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Next, pour 1/2 cup of the water into a small pot and bring to a boil.  (NOTE: if you are using a larger jar, you can adjust the quantity of water as well).  Once the water is boiling, slowly start to pour your gelatin in.  Some helpful hints: snip the packets before you begin boiling the water and only pour a little bit at a time while whisking like crazy until it is dissolved.  If you just dump the whole packet in, it WILL get clumpy and you WILL get frustrated.

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Once you have dissolved both packets into the boiling water, set the pot aside (don’t forget to turn off the burner!) and add your other 1/2 cup of cold water and pinch of salt to the mixture.  Stir a little bit more to make sure everything is dissolved.

Finally, pour the mixture into your jar.  I find it best to do this over the sink, just in case. Feel free to stir everything a couple more times!

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Let the jar sit in a cool place overnight so it can firm up.  I have also found that you can throw it in the refrigerator for a couple hours to jump start the process.  If you feel like making it fancy, add a little holiday touch to it.  I hot glued ribbon and tulle around the edge of the jar, and topped it off with a tulle bow.

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There you have it.  First official blog post from yours truly.  Until next time…

xoxo Nicki