All posts by Heather Stevens

Your Journey to Minimalism

Recently I’ve been thinking about ‘Stuffitis’ and what role does it play in my life. Makes me think of “The Little Mermaid” song…” look at this stuff, isn’t it neat, how many collections can one hold.” I have always been nonmaterialistic, but how much stuff do I possess that I really need and what is clutter that is unnecessary in my home. But the thought of reducing all those items in my home seems overwhelming, where to start and with what. So, I thought I would share what I’ve decided are my steps on the journey to minimalism. I hope you’ll join me.

Word to the wise – start slow, clear out one room at a time. Make this journey to minimalism, not a dash, but a habit.

One room at a time

The goal of minimalism is to have fewer possessions and not create unneeded clutter in your home. Less clutter allows you to really focus on the things that make you happy in life, the things you really need. It also helps you focus on family and the time you spend with them, rather than looking for that lost item amongst all your stuff. The stress of needing to organize. There are businesses that have been created to allow you to store your stuff, meaning it is not even in your home to use, but you have placed it in a safe place for future use.

Pick one room, and focus on decluttering that one space before moving on to another. This is the best way to avoid overwhelming yourself. Believe me, I’ve been there.

Create a system and stick to it

Don’t create a mess trying to declutter, this will just create more stress. I recommend labeling four large piles calling them to keep, donate, recycle, and landfill. For most of us clearing out our wardrobe is the hardest, saying just let me keep this when I weigh 10lbs less. If you haven’t worn it in 12 months, you will not wear it again.

Do you have a Capsule Closet?

You know what we are talking about, you say that this one piece of clothing isn’t going to go out of fashion and they go with other items in your wardrobe. Believe me, it goes out of fashion. I recommend creating a closet based on these rules:

  • Don’t keep anything you feel uncomfortable in.
  • If you haven’t worn it in 12 months, donate it.
  • Stick with a similar color palette to make sure all your clothes coordinate.

Go paperless as much as possible

Paperless is the way to go and I love it. I carry all my files around with me wherever I go and I can access them with a moment’s notice. Go through your papers and shred the unimportant letters, don’t put them in a drawer to be forgotten. Going paperless not only declutters the house, but it reduces your carbon footprint.

Spend on creating memories, not gathering materials

Each time you create an experience with those you love, you are receiving so much more than any material item can bring you. For holidays and birthdays give experiences over material gifts. Buy the family an activity they can do together or a trip you can all enjoy with each other.

Replace, recycle – don’t add

It will be hard, but resist adding more possession to your stockpile. When things need to be replaced, replace them, but don’t accumulate more. When my husband and I shop we think about what we are replacing when we purchase something, not what we are adding to our already accumulated possessions. Think about all those items you have in your wardrobe that are worn on average once a year and what you could have done with that money spent. Resist as many new purchases as you can by waiting until you have something that needs replacing. You’ll thank me on the coin in your wallet and the decluttered space you have.

Plan your meals

The average person wastes more food per year then you’d like me to share. This typically happens because you purchase food planning to cook and then you don’t or you just don’t use what you purchased. This is not only wasteful, but it is a shame that so many go hungry and we waste so much food. Planning what you’ll eat will take a little time in advance, but you’ll be happy when you have a shorter grocery bill, you use all that you buy, and your family has good meals thoughtfully planned out to get through the week.

Even though I’ve started my own journey to minimalism I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface and I know I’ll keep learning more about my family and our habits, how we live, and how we can be more minimal, but effective. Would love for you to share your minimalism tips with me. Happy travels!

Rosemary Herb Shortbread

These delicious little savory herb shortbreads are sure to be party pleaser as well as a special treat if just by yourself. These crackers like herb bites have endless concepts, but today we are sharing a rosemary recipe. Think of other ideas to use this recipe with like thyme or sage. My favorite way to enjoy these is with a glass of crisp white wine, but you choose your beverage of choice!

Tips for Recipe

  • Butter should be at room temperature. I typically will just pull the butter out in the morning if I plan to make them later that day or I’ll pull it out the night before.
  • Always use fresh ingredients, so for this recipe, your rosemary should be fresh. Dried won’t be nearly as fragrant or as tasty. Remove the leaves from the stems and give them a quick chop before putting into the food processor.
  • You should mix the dough in your food processor just until it comes together in a lump. This should happen in less than a minute. You may need to add a little tiny bit of water to your dough to bring it together. Start with a 1/4 tsp and go up from there as needed.
  • I believe these taste best in a shortbread cookie texture, but if you want yours crisper, just cut them thinner and bake them a little longer.

Ingredients

  •  1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp finely minced rosemary leaves, plus extra whole leaves for the tops of the crackers
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • extra whole leaf herbs for laminating onto the dough (if you would like to)

Instructions

Put the flour, cheese, rosemary, salt, and pepper into the bowl of the food processor. At the same time, add the chunks of butter and pulse about 30 times to combine into mixture until the processed dough comes together, this should take less than a minute, but you may need to add a little bit of water to it. If you add water, mix again for good measure.

Place the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and roll out until the smooth flat top. The dough should be smooth and consistent, without floury or pockets of air. Wrap the flat disk and place in the fridge for an hour.

Pull the dough out and place on the counter on top of wax paper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out the dough to about 1/4 thickness. I recommend doing this between to sheets of wax paper and it keeps everything together. Best baking tip EVER! There should be no sticking if you do this. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out your crackers. Remove the cut dough to a baking sheet. Smooth out your remaining dough and make additional crackers. Roll and repeat until completed.

Bake the shortbread beauties for 10-15 minutes just until they start turning a pale golden light brown around the edges. Cool these for a few minutes on the pan and then remove to the rack. The shortbreads will firm up as it cools and be delicious.

These are really great for gatherings and for parties. As we enter into the Fall arm yourself with this recipe as a great side with a warm bowl of soup.

 

 

Benefits of Turmeric for Body and Brain

Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant. Curcumin in turmeric is what gives the powerful benefits. Most of the time it is not that high in concentration unless you are using an extract. Turmeric is considered one of the most effective nutritional supplements in existence and we are just learning from many high-quality studies the major benefits for our body and brain. We’ve pulled the top research-based health benefits of turmeric.

Natural Anti-Inflammatory Compound

Inflammation has been linked to how the body ages and how our body repairs itself. Inflammation is very important to human health and it helps the body fight, foreign invaders. Without inflammation, bacteria can easily take over your body and kill you. For inflammation to be beneficial it should be short-term. If inflammation exists longer than necessary it becomes a major issue where your body inappropriately attacks its own tissues. Researchers and Scientists believe that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s, and a variety of degenerative conditions (1, 2, 3).

Anything that can help fight chronic inflammation is of potential importance in preventing and even treating these diseases. Curcumin, as we mentioned, is a strong anti-inflammatory, so powerful in fact that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs, without the side effects (4, 5, 6). What we learned is that inflammation is extremely complicated, and the key takeaway is that curcumin is a bioactive substance that fights inflammation at the molecular level.

Increases Antioxidant Capacity in the Body

Antioxidants are important because they protect our body from free radicals. Curcumin, found in turmeric, is a very potent antioxidant. The properties of curcumin have been considered to be associated with its antioxidant properties. Curcumin is thought to play a vital role against pathological conditions. It basically interrupts the process of inflammation in the body. It also boosts the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Not only is it an antioxidant on its own, but it also enhances the effectiveness of the body’s own antioxidants. There are many studies and medical professionals who support the claim of turmeric increasing antioxidant capacity in the body (7, 8).

Boosts Brain Function and Lower Risk of Brain Diseases

Love your body and your brain. As we age, our ability to recall information slows. We become slower especially when multitasking. It has recently been discovered that curcumin enhances your brain function, reducing the chances of cognitive decline.

Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

The antioxidants in turmeric prevent damage to cholesterol, thereby helping to protect against atherosclerosis. Curcumin lowers both cholesterol and triglycerides, another fat that circulates in the bloodstream and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (9).

Benefits Against Fighting Depression

Curcumin may be a great natural alternative to drugs to fight depression. People who suffer from depression often try numerous medications, in search of one that is effective without horrible side effects. Curcumin helps with depression by increasing the two critical neurotransmitters associated with depression, serotonin, and dopamine (10).

We recommend the herbal liquid form of turmeric to get the best benefits, but there are also capsules and of course adding the spice to your food is always delicious and beneficial.

We Ban Nanoparticles From Our Shelves

Every heard of it?

Nanoparticles are in personal care products. Most nanoparticles serve as delivery agents that help other ingredients penetrate into the skin and homogenize the distribution of colored pigments in cosmetics, making the delivery of sunscreen and other treatments less greasy. They also create a silky texture found in creams and powders. Nanoparticles are smaller than a human cell, so tiny that they are invisible to the human eye.

Why it’s not welcome

This is a new ingredient technology and there are a lot of unknowns in terms of nanomaterials and their effect on human health and our planet. What we do know is that when inhaled, nanoparticles can become embedded into your lungs. Another potential issue is that they are so small they could potentially be absorbed into the bloodstream. We just don’t have enough information on this, and the little we do have suggests that it is not good. So until we know more, that’s not a health risk we are willing to take, especially when it comes to our customer’s health (1). Plus the chemicals these nanoparticles are delivering are typical of a toxic composition.

Although there is little definitive evidence, the health effects of nanoparticles are likely to depend also on their shape. A significant example is nanotubes, which may be only of a few nanometres in diameter but a potential length of several micrometres. A recent study showed a high toxicity of carbon nanotubes which seemed to produce harmful effects by an entirely new mechanism, different from the normal model of toxic dust (2).

Before you panic

The research is contentious and not yet conclusive. But we know that there are safer alternatives, so why risk it? At Soap Hope, we think it’s far more important to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to ingredient safety, so when in doubt we ban it for the safety of our customers, their families, and their homes.

We’re in good company

Every Maker (the brands we carry on our shelves) has either never used Nanoparticles or eliminated it from their formulas in favor of safer alternatives that are allowed at Soap Hope. The ingredients in each and every product at Soap Hope are vetted for safety before we decide to carry them. We care as much as you do about what we put in and on our bodies. Learn more about our ingredient philosophy, the ingredients we ban, and our product rating system of Good, Better, Best.

Anti-Aging Herbs to Fight Skin Aging

We’ve put together our best anti-aging herbs to fight skin aging for you. While there are plenty of other powerful herbs, these are our favorites.

Basil

Holy basil helps prevent the signs of aging on the skin. Exposure to UV in high volume damages our skin and causes collagen depletion. Collagen is that beautiful compound that gives your skin the bounce and elasticity of your skin, that youthful appearance. It is proven that topical application of basil helps in retaining skin moisture levels, reducing skin texture issues, and reducing and preventing wrinkles (1). We love the herbal liquid form of holy basil by Herb Pharm in our DIY skin mask recipe. To make our mask all you need is liquid holy basil, flour, and honey. Mix together until you achieve the consistency you prefer and place on your face until dry. Rinse off with warm water.

Clove

Clove oil is widely used for treating many ailments and has immense health benefits. Clove has free radical properties and contains antioxidants that slow down signs of aging. You can make a DIY face mask with just a tablespoon of coconut oil and 3-4 drops of herbal liquid clove. Just wash your face with warm water before applying mix on your face, to open the pores, massage it on your face, and let it sit for about 30 minutes, and wash your face with cold water and a washcloth to ensure it is all removed. Try this herbal clove liquid if you are interested in making this mask or would like to add it to your routine by placing a few drops in your moisturizer.

Ginger

The ginger herb has been used in eastern medicine for thousands of years. Ginger is full of antioxidants and just like turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that help in preventing signs of aging. Ginger can control the production of harmful free radicals that affect your metabolism and increase oxidative stress, which can harm your beautiful, youthful skin (2).

Ashwagandha

This powerful herb has antibacterial, antifungal, and cognitive boosting properties,  and as a bonus it is loaded with alkaloids that protect the cells from oxidative stress and damage. Keep your skin healthy, fight acne, and keep signs of aging at bay (3). I love to add ashwagandha herbal liquid to my hydrating moisturizer once a week, and the signs of improvement are really visible.

Oregano

This herb doesn’t just make your dishes delicious, it also helps the slowing of visible signs of aging. Oregano is a powerhouse of antioxidants and flavonoids that prevent free radical damage, and aging, of course (4). Add oregano spirits to your water a couple times a week and allow the benefits to flow throughout.

Rosemary

This soothing herb protects your skin from photodamage. Overexposure to UV rays causes fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of UV related aging. Rosemary prevents photodamage while improving your skin’s collagen reserves and preventing wrinkles (5). We are in love with The Seaweed Bath Company’s Rosemary & Mint Facial Scrub, it’s so popular we sell out all the time (especially since the price is right and everytime you purchase at Soap Hope 100% of the profits  are invested into economic empowerment programs for women), so place your order if you want one and we’ll be sure and get it to you! Seriously detoxifying and gentle enough to use every day.

Sage

Sage, Sage, Sage is so rich in antioxidants, smells amazing, and is also in the infantry army in the fight against aging on age spots, wrinkles, fine lines, and more. Sage contains flavonoids, phenolic carboxylic acids, phenolic diterpenes, and other antioxidants that protect your skin from aging (6). Derma E has an amazing Rejuvenating Sage & Lavender Face Oil that provides a boost of intense hydration for soft, smooth skin. These essential fatty acids work to improve elasticity, support healthy collagen, promote healthy cell renewal, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for a healthy, youthful glow.

Thyme

Nobody has thyme for aging, so let thyme work for you rather than against you with this immensely useful herb. This herb provides relief and prevents skin damage and signs of aging. Thyme gives you just a little more as a free radical scavenger and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (7). Take a mixture of alcohol-free witch hazel and herbal liquid thyme and use it is a toner.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant, and is considered one of the most effective nutritional supplements in existence not just for the body, but for the skin. But for your skin, it also aids in repairing and protecting your skin from UV related signs of aging (8). Andalou takes the healing power of turmeric and vitamin C to create a facial serum that has fruit stem cell complexes, skin-friendly magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, vitamin C, and turmeric enzymatically to help with skin vitality, aiming for over-exposed surface cells in order to bring about brighter, tighter, and lighter looking skin.

5 Zero Waste Strategies

We live in a society that consumes, consumes, consumes and it is taking a toll on our planet. The average American throws out 4.4. pounds of trash a day and more and more disposables are ending up in landfills and floating in our oceans.

We’ve seen the campaigns about straws, but that is just the tip of the iceberg, our consumption is going to consume our environments if we don’t take care.

On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, we were on the beach early in the morning visiting with fisherman and watching them go out into the ocean. Along the beach was plastic and trash that had washed up on the shore and there were women picking up the trash, trying to clean it. Trash from other places far away littering the beach in a community. Imagine the fish and other creatures this trash harms.

So with all this consumption, what can we do to move towards a more waste-free life? Here are 5 strategies to try.

Compost

The easiest way to reduce your food waste is to go to the grocery store with a list and be mindful of what you buy so that you actually use it. The second easiest way is to compost your waste. We toss out about one-third of all food we grow. That is a true waste and if we don’t compost properly the food isn’t able to decompose properly. Instead, they break down under oxygen-free conditions, creating gases that include methane that pollute our breathing air.

Many cities are offering curbside compost removal and there are also community compost sites. A favorite tip we learned this year was to reduce odors, freeze your food scraps and add old shredded newspaper to the bottom of the bin.

Leftovers

Instead of storing your leftovers in plastic containers, try reusing containers from products you have purchased or pick up some mason jars and use those beauties. There are also food storage containers like Klean Kanteen’s stainless steel containers.

Cleaning Solutions

Traditional cleaning products are packed full of chemicals that are harmful to you and the planet. They come in non-recyclable plastic packaging. Lucky for you, Soap Hope sells a variety of brands that provide natural, non-toxic cleaning solutions and come in eco-friendly packaging. These cleaning alternatives are excellent for your clothes, body, and home. Better Life, Indigo Wild, J.R. Watkins, and Seventh Generation have great alternatives that won’t harm you or the earth.

Beauty and Body Tools

Our everyday grooming products can be harmful to the planet too. Consider using recycled materials and renewable products that are good for your body and environment. EcoTools is a favorite of ours with their bamboo and recycled plastic products they are putting something old, back to use in a clean, green way.

BYOB

Bring your own bag! Cut down on those plastic bags by bringing your own to the party. Carrying reusable bags with you takes time to create the habit, but when accomplished makes a world of difference to you and the environment. Consider your own produce bags too if you want to take it an extra step.

These are just a few ways to get started, there are more ways to go zero waste and we’ll continue to give you tips!

Breastfeeding: Why It is Important and Everyone Should Support

As a new mom of eight months breastfeeding was extremely tough for me and my body didn’t want to cooperate. Even though I struggled, I really wanted to breastfeed because I knew how important it was to my new baby girl. While there are so many challenges to breastfeeding, one big one is making sure those around you are supportive and that the environment and communities you are exposed to support breastfeeding. Our offices have a room dedicated to allowing a woman to breastfeed or take care of her child. Remember children are our futures. Since this is National Breastfeeding Month, it’s a great time to talk about how we can support this life-giving effort.

Like I said, breastfeeding is challenging. It may seem like it should come naturally, but just like any new thing, breastfeeding takes time, practice, and support for both mom and baby.

Breastfeeding is good for both mom and baby – research shows it can reduce the risk of chronic diseases for both. Breast milk is the safest, most nutrient-rich food for babies and can provide lifelong health benefits. It also strengthens the bond between mom and baby. It also helps the social and emotional development of babies. On a bigger picture – breastfeeding creates stronger, healthier communities. It is also the eco-friendly and economical solution.

So now how can you support a breastfeeding momma?

In the Home

Breastfeeding is more successful when family members are involved. When your family supports you and encourages you and provides you the solitude time you need to bond it builds a stronger foundation for breastfeeding. Family can also help with chores, take the baby out for a while so the new mom can sleep. Also help supply a mother with the needed vitamins and supplements.

Social Settings

Along with offers to help as needed, friends can be a big support by just listening and making sure their homes are welcoming to a new mom. There are community groups, but friends are the best. Provide advice, guidance, support, and a snack or two. Maybe even gift her a nurturing life gift box by Motherlove to show you care.

Clinics and Services

Health care providers are important and provide support to a new breastfeeding mom. They give their wealth of experience and guide the new mother when challenges occur. Like in my instance I needed that type of guidance and it helped. I also learned about More Milk Plus and it became my hero supplement.

Public Spaces

Be it in a mall, restaurant, pool or park all mothers have a right to breastfeed their children and the community they live in should support that too. Accept breastfeeding as a normal way for women to feed their babies and know that it is not indecent, but a beautiful and nourishing necessity. Create a safe, secure, supportive environment for women to breastfeed.

Again we all play a role in supporting breastfeeding mom’s. Think about your own behaviors and how you can protect, promote, and support breastfeeding women and babies in your community all year round, not just National Breastfeeding Month.

 

Homeopathy: How It Works

Homeopathy means “the treatment of disease by minute doses of natural substances that in a healthy person would produce symptoms of disease.” So in other words, it’s an alternative medicine practice that uses the smallest possible amount of an active ingredient in order to help treat or cure an illness, even if the same ingredient caused or contributed to an illness in the first place. The concept is called “like cures like.”

Homeopathy dates back to the late 1700s, and today the World Health Organization recognizes it as the “second largest therapeutic system in the world.”

Homeopathic medicine comes from a range of natural, pure substances, which can be in the form of a plant, mineral, or animal-based ingredient. Examples of this may be: fresh or dried herbs, activated charcoal, vinegar, garlic, caffeine, poison ivy, stinging nettle plants, and the list goes on and on. These substances are extracted and processed to create tablets, ointments, gels, drops, and creams.

Some known remedies that you might recognize: St. John’s Wort, chamomile, calcium carbonate, and potassium.

Homeopathic medicine is considered a safe practice and remedies have been regulated by the FDA since the 1980s.

The great thing about homeopathic treatments is they are tailored to each person’s specific symptoms, body, and needs. This is an individualized process. Homeopathy most often is used to treat the following health problems: depression, allergies, asthma, migraines, tension headaches, digestive problems like IBS, anxiety disorders, dermatitis, skin disorders, arthritis, fatigue, thyroid or autoimmune disorders, and more.

The 5 major benefits from homeopathy are:

  1. All aspects of an individual are considered when finding the right treatment.
  2. Low does of natural products are used.
  3. Helps to treat allergies and asthma.
  4. Can help reduce depression or anxiety.
  5. Helps control pain.

What’s missing from your natural medicine routine? We recommend Hyland’s Homeopathic if you are interested in checking out a brand.

Note: Many homeopathic substances are capable of causing toxicity, poisoning or negative reactions if taken in high enough doses. Therefore, very low doses are usually administered — even doses so low that the substance itself if practically unidentifiable due to be being heavily diluted. Always follow instructions when taking medicine or homeopathic substances. 

Apple Cashew Butter

This week our Soap Hope team was in the Dominican Republic for our annual “Impact Cycle”. This is when we take the profits of our company and invest 100% of the profits into economic empowerment programs and resources for women. This year we partnered with Esperanza International to cycle our profits and help over 150 women. You can read the full press release here.

As we were on the trip we had breakfast as a group and they had the most delicious homemade Apple Cashew Butter. I talked to the front desk that shared the recipe. This is the only butter that should go on your toast!

This recipe is so easy and simple, but it definitely needs to be shared.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 2 organic apples
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  • In a food processor, process cashews for 5-10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the processor as needed.
  • Add apples and cinnamon and process for another 5 minutes or desired texture.
  • Put toast in the toaster, wait, and spread your butter!

 

 

Health Benefits From Burning Candles

Part of living healthy is self-care

We can eat great, workout, and have professional and personal life balance, but taking care of your body and mind, dropping all other things and going zen is necessary to a well-rounded, healthy life. That’s where candles come in. You can add them to your self-care routine easily and receive a plethora of benefits along the way. Burning candles do more than adding a sense of Feng Shui to your home. The action of burning a candle can provide an atmosphere to induce calm and a sense of well-being. Candles play a big part in the power of meditation and when you burn candles that have essential oils in them, you open yourself up to a whole new world of self-care.

Candles with essential oils like bergamot, lavender, and patchouli can fill the space with an easy gentle scent. The oils will quiet your mind and help you clear your stress. Candles are known for their soothing, healing properties and are often used by therapists, such as massage therapists, to create a peaceful ambiance in their service rooms.

My favorite type of candle is aromatherapy candles that can help you relax, feel calm, energized, and help your brain get more focused and productive. Lavender candles help ease your mind and relieve stress. Eucalyptus candles are energizing and improve focus. Lemon candles bring a clean, also energizing atmosphere and can relieve anxiety and depression. Whatever the health benefit you seek there is an essential oil infused candle waiting for you to light up their world.

Know your Candle!

Paraffin Wax

Paraffin Wax is a by-product of the crude oil refinement process. The mass amount of commercial candle companies use paraffin as their wax because it is extremely low cost. But when burned, these candles with paraffin wax release toxins into the air. Paraffin candles also burn faster than beeswax, soy, palm oil, and other waxes. We here at Soap Hope recommend staying clear of paraffin wax for those who are conscious about their health.

Enjoy the Soy

By nature, soy wax is soft, creamy, and burns clean. Soy candles can be made from 100% soybean and palm oil. There are large multitudes of soy candles available. Buyers beware: as long as a wax blend contains 51% soy, it can be branded as a soy candle – so its important to check the purity. We always check all ingredients at Soap Hope, so we’ve got you covered! Soy blends (part-soy, part-anything else) and paraffin candles should be avoided if you’re looking for anything better than a toxic flame.

Just like everyone has different tastes in fashion and music, we also have particular fragrance preferences, and everyone smells scents differently. Show off your individuality and personality by burning the scents that you love.

Why do you burn candles?