True Beauty with Melanie from No New Plastic

I recently “met” this wonderful lady in Cyberland. Melanie Parker is a prolific blogger (with THREE blogs – I can barely handle two!), a green activist, and a ray of sunshine. She has one of the happiest dispositions I have ever encountered, and it’s always a joy to chat with her. She recently embarked on a “no new plastic” challenge with her fiance, Mark. On her NNP blog, the two discuss their challenges and successes and it’s always a good read.

One of my favorite subjects is their progress in potty training their cat. Yes, you read that right! It’s so adorable – like Jack and his kitty, Jinx, in Meet the Parents! I always love the updates on the cat!

Here’s a recent chat I had with Miss Melanie:

Tell me a little about your project, No New Plastic. What inspired you to begin it, and what have you learned from your experience so far?

My fiancé, Mark, and I have always been interested in eco-friendly living.  We took our cloth bags to the grocery store, used florescent light bulbs, recycled, and thought that was pretty darn good.  Then we saw the documentary, No Impact Man.  It was a real eye-opener.  Suddenly, we both wanted to do more to lessen our impact on the environment.  We wanted to do something BIG.  I had also just recently learned about Charity:Water, a charitable organization that raises money to provide safe drinking water to people in impoverished countries.  Scott Harrison started Charity:Water in 2004 with an idea to help people all over the world get clean drinking water.  In 3 1/2 years, they raised $19 million dollars and funded over 2000 water projects.  I was really inspired by Scott’s story, and I knew I wanted to do something that I was passionate about that would make a positive impact in the world at the same time.  Mark and I knew it had to be something with the environment, because we’re both so passionate about eco-friendly living.  After learning about and watching the videos about the Pacific Garbage Patch (about all the plastic in the ocean), I told Mark I didn’t want to buy anymore plastic, and he agreed.  We came up with the idea of a No New Plastic website that would document our month without buying any plastic.  Wanting to make it even bigger (because who wants to read about a month, right?), I suggested No New Plastic Year, and that’s how we came up with our website.  We created it to get the word out about plastic and its effects on our environment, as well as to document how we get around using plastic in our daily lives.

I just made a hilarious discovery.  I was just thinking, “How many months have we been doing this?”  I thought at least 3 or 4.  It’s been a month and a half.  I guess that says a lot about what I’ve learned so far — there have been some major adjustments in our lives!  Ha!  The biggest realization for me is that plastic is everywhere and almost in or around everything.  I didn’t realize the extent to which it has become part of everyday life before I tried to go without it.  Mark and I decided before we began that we wanted everything to improve our quality of life.  A lot of times, being eco-friendly is thought of as living a grungy lifestyle and not enjoying modern conveniences.  We believe in modern conveniences as long as they are enjoyed in a sustainable way that doesn’t harm the environment.  We have billions of people on the earth who have incredible creative and intelligent minds.  There is no reason why we can’t invent healthy alternative solutions to practices that harm the environment.  Mark and I have found that our alternatives actually increase our quality of life.

What are some of your greatest successes in the green beauty department?

One of my greatest successes was becoming comfortable not wearing makeup.  Part of the no plastic journey has been reawakening my appreciation and understanding of myself and my body.  I began to question what I’d thought was the way to live.  I have never worn a lot of makeup – usually just eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, and gloss – but going totally without day after day and meeting people was a bit uncomfortable at first.  I decided that before I allowed myself to wear makeup again (which I do occasionally), I wanted to feel comfortable and beautiful just as I am.  I stood in front of the mirror and thought loving thoughts about my face and my beautiful features.  Now I make the choice to wear some makeup occasionally, but I feel just as beautiful without it.

What’s the craziest/silliest you’ve ever done for the sake of green beauty?

I think several of the changes I’ve made so far might be considered crazy by some people, like using baking soda for deodorant, cloths instead of toilet paper, and the Diva Cup instead of tampons.  However, my most recent experiment is not using shampoo.  I researched for a long time about alternatives to buying shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles.  I learned that many people use baking soda and vinegar or shampoo bars.  Then, I stumbled upon a few blogs written by people who weren’t using anything on their hair.  I decided that if going without shampoo works, I’ll go with that.  I’m currently on week 3 of no shampoo, and I’ve had great success.  When I take a shower, I rinse my hair with water and massage my scalp.  That’s it!  While it feels different when I first get out of the shower, after I dry my hair it feels great and super thick!  When I was younger, my mom used to say my hair was “flat as a pancake.”  Before this experiment, I used volumizing mousse and a gooey wax to make it look a little funky and edgy.  Now, I don’t need any products.  I blow dry my hair and it looks amazing!  I went to my grandmother’s just last night, and she is really into current fashions and high style.  She gushed about how great my hair looks.  I laughed so hard!  Finally, I confessed my new haircare routine.  I have heard that other people have to go through a transition phase before their hair looks good without using shampoo, and I’m sure results also depend on hair length and type, but my hair looks the best it ever has and is so easy to fix.

Overall, what are your thoughts on greening your beauty routine?

I think the biggest thing we can do to green our beauty routines is avoid any advertisements and people who say we’re not perfect the way we are.  Most of the products sold are to fix our “problems”.  When we recognize our innate beauty and perfection, we will stop buying wrinkle creams, age-defying products, and trying to cover up all our skin with makeup.  Makeup should be used to enhance our natural beauty, in my opinion, not to cover up our faces.  Also, what we put on our skin and in our bodies should be natural and nurturing to ourselves and our planet.  There are so many great, eco-friendly products available, and it feels good to use them.

What does true beauty mean to you?

True beauty means loving yourself and appreciating yourself just the way you are.  When we see the beauty in ourselves, we can see the beauty in other people and the world around us.  When we treat ourselves well, we treat other people well.  Spreading love and peace within and without is truly beautiful to me.

If you take away all the traditional beauty props (i.e. makeup), what makes you feel the most beautiful?

My spiritual connection.  I have a deep spiritual connection to myself and the Universal Loving Energy that I believe is in everything.  Whenever I loose track of who I really am and start feeling fearful or judgmental, I can meditate and connect with that loving source.  In my meditation, I am reminded that I am a spiritual being, and I feel such incredible love from the Universe.  I feel connected and grounded, beautiful, and appreciated for the amazing being that I am.

Thanks so much, Melanie – it was a pleasure, as always!

Be sure to check out Mark and Melanie’s progress at No New Plastic. You might also be interested in her inspiring blog, My Magical Journey, and her sewing blog (The Laughing Princess Sewing Diary), where she’s documenting her journey on making her own wedding dress – from an old duvet cover she found at Goodwill! (Cool, huh?! And it’s a gorgeous dress. Seriously.) You can also find Melanie on Facebook and Twitter.

Photos used with permission.

True Beauty with Elizabeth from Yogic Dancer

I have recently fallen in love with yet another blog. (I’m a blog addict, I admit it.) Yogic Dancer is written by Elizabeth, an American currently living in the Republic of Georgia, studying dance and anthropology on a grant. Her posts are beautiful and thought-provoking. Whenever I visit her blog, I feel so peaceful.

Elizabeth graciously consented to answer the following questions about True Beauty:

Tell me a little about yourself.

I am a dancer, yogini and movement arts teacher. For the past nine months I’ve been living in the Republic of Georgia, studying Georgian folk dance on an independent research grant. It’s been an amazing journey so far- nothing like living in another culture to completely rock your Self! Learning about others is mind opening and can intrinsically cause deeper understanding of multiple things, Self included.

Over the past year, my personal yoga practice has grown deeper roots. I started my blog Yogic Dancer as a means to share my evolving path, and I am grateful for the world-wide mindful community it has connected me to, including A Green Spell!

What have you learned about beauty from your adventures abroad, your dancing, and/or your yoga practice?

Cultural standards vary from place to place. Yet a thin figured woman dressed in a certain way with styled hair/makeup is regarded as beautiful in more cultures than I anticipated. That image is shared worldwide through the film and television industries (and even the internet). Yet in my experience, authenticity is valued as well. Different cultures have different norms for when it is appropriate,
but smiling, for example, can really be beautiful, well received and provoke greater relaxation and deeper trust between people.

In dance, beauty standards differ from style to style. However, across many genres one thing is an essential element: the commitment/submersion of the dancer into the dance. This has little to do with “knowing the steps”! It is the commitment of the dancer to the particular dance they are dancing at that moment. This could be a trance dancer as easily as a professionally trained ballerina- if they are committed to their dance, it is beautiful. I think this is a lesson in yoga, too… those times when I have been truly “present in the moment” have resulted in the most beautiful moments of my life.

What makes someone truly beautiful, in your opinion?

People being truly and completely themselves are gorgeous to me. When people are fully listening to their Selves and acting on that, they radiate happiness because they are content with themselves… and that happiness is glowingly beautiful.

If you take away the traditional beauty props (makeup, clothing, hair styling, etc.), what makes you feel the most beautiful?

Sunshine. Dancing. Experiencing the beauty of Nature. Moments that remind me to “be here now”.

Thanks, Elizabeth!!

Don’t miss Elizabeth’s articles on Elephant Journal, either!

Photos by Daniel Winters. Used with permission.

When Sugar Does You Wrong

For those of you who aren’t interested in reading about my personal experience with hair removal (though we’re just talking about legs here), you may want to skip this post and come back tomorrow. TMI – you’ve been warned! ;)

Alternate titles for this post: The Day a Beauty Experiment Made Me Feel Like an Incompetent Idiot, How to Treat Legs Suffering from PTSD, or A Spoonful of Sugar Does NOT Make the Medicine Go Down.

After doing research on sugaring last weekend, I was completely stoked to try it. People said it really didn’t hurt much, was non-irritating and oh-so-easy. The only drawback seemed to be that it didn’t get all the hair. I could live with that.

Making the syrup was no big deal. I heated mine to 244 degrees on a candy thermometer, as I’d read that 240-246 were best. That process took almost an hour.

After it had cooled, I sat down in the kitchen (the only room with no carpet, and I sure didn’t want this syrupy stuff in the carpet!) to get down to business. I already knew I was in trouble when I scooped it out and it was still a little too warm. Not painful, but just too stringy. I let a gob sit out on a plate for several minutes, and it hardened up a bit. However, I still initially had trouble with this, as it wouldn’t pull off easily. I resorted to using cloth strips to getting it off and……OUCHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I’ve never waxed before, so maybe I’m a big baby, but let’s just say that after hearing me scream bloody murder four times in a row, my boyfriend and our dog went into the bedroom to drown out my cries of pain with the TV.

For some reason, that initial pain didn’t last long – maybe my leg had become numb? And I finally got the syrup to a temperature that allowed me to use it in a big, gobby handful, like the videos I posted. I pulled it up my leg, then pulled hard in a downward motion. I found this process to be a bit painful – especially around the ankle, and below the sides of the knees. But nothing to induce screaming, like the cloth strips had. No big deal.

However, I just couldn’t get all the hairs, and I was redoing areas over and over. As time wore on, each gob I’d pulled out of the jar got warmer and warmer, and more incorporated with arrowroot powder (which I had used in place of talcum powder), and the warmer it became, the harder it was to get off. Sometimes, the only way I could get it off was to pull it off with more cloth strips. I know I could’ve washed it off, but I wanted to get to the hairs I had missed, and didn’t want to mess up the process by getting my legs all wet.

Time dragged on. And on. And on. Two and a half hours later, I was still working on the second leg (and this was just from the knees to the ankles!). As you can imagine, the longer it took, the more trouble I had keeping the sugar wax at the right temperature. I had to reheat it, which made it too hot, then I had to cool it, and on and on. I had to get up and wash my hands at least ten times because they would get so webbed with sugar strings that I couldn’t maneuver properly. And with all that smoothing and flicking of the sugar wax on my legs, the sugar mixture got EVERYWHERE. I mean everywhere. On my shorts, on my shirt, all over the table, on the kitchen chairs, all over the kitchen floor… In fact, when I woke up the next morning, I found a HUGE gob of it on the kitchen counter about 10 feet away from where I had been sitting. How on EARTH did it get there???

At 10PM, I finally “finished.” I use that term loosely, as I still had lots of areas on my legs that still had hair on them. But I couldn’t take it anymore. B (the boyfriend) had walked in twice to find me crying, with sugar dripping from my fingers. I felt like one of Roald Dahl’s naughty child characters, tortured to within an inch of her sanity in Willy Wonka’s candy factory. I was sure at any moment, the Oompa Loompas would come and cart me away.

My legs hurt so bad when it was over. They were red and irritated and stung a bit. I had tons of bruising on the left leg, which I guess is because I didn’t hold the skin taut enough? (After 2 1/2 hours, I could barely move my fingers! Come on!) All I could think was: How could this have possibly turned out SO BADLY?

Bruising on the left leg, 12 hours later.

Yes, I am intoxicated by the smoothness of certain areas of my legs. I’ve never felt them so smooth before, which almost makes me want to try this again. Almost. But…bruising, pain, irritation? THREE HOURS of effort and it didn’t even get all the hairs? Sugar all over me and the kitchen? So not cool!

After doing this experiment, I have a couple of observations, though remember, these are from a complete (and possibly incompetent) amateur:

1. Temperature is everything. It is essential to get the syrup to the right temperature when cooking (and I suspect 244 wasn’t right), in order to make it work effectively. It is also essential to have it at the right temperature when applying – otherwise, it is too hard or too runny and sticky.

2. You have to really push hard when you are applying (at least I did), and it is best to make several “passes” in upward strokes before pulling down. This seemed to be the most effective way of getting most or all of the hairs off one section.

3. Pull the skin taut as best you can, before pulling the sugar off.

4. If the sugar gets stuck on your leg, try pulling more out of the jar, applying over the stuck sugar, and ripping off from there. If that doesn’t work, try washing it off, or using cloth strips (ouch!).

Right leg - nicely smooth in some spots, but some bruising. :(

I hate to say it, but I don’t think I’ll be trying this again. I kinda want to – I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I want to learn how to do it right. And I LOVE the feeling of the smooth patches on my leg (ha ha). But, my legs are still feeling irritated 12 hours later, and the bruising is not something I want to encounter again. I guess this is something I’d best save for the professionals!

But please don’t let this post discourage you – I know you’re probably laughing to hear that. Like you want to try sugaring after reading this! But seriously – I have talked to people who have done this, and the ONLY problem they had was that it didn’t get every hair. I have yet to encounter someone who has experienced this much pain, and no one had such a messy time. I’m convinced that some skin problems I have contributed to the pain, and that I just didn’t get the sugar wax cooked correctly (hence the mess).

If you have tried this method, how did it work for you?

True Beauty with musician Erin Cole-Baker

In mid-April, I had the pleasure of interviewing two lovely local businesswomen for I love kombucha and wanted to learn more about a kombucha company right here in my town. When I went to their office to take pictures, I met their delightful staff of employees, including Erin Cole-Baker.

I always Google the people I interview, just in case they have any businesses, blogs, etc. that I can link to within the article. In my search, I found out that New Zealand native Cole-Baker is a very talented musician. I contacted her and asked if she would be willing to answer a few True Beauty questions, and she kindly consented. Since then, I’ve listened to the songs on her website and am just enchanted by her music. It is, well, truly beautiful! Take a listen for yourself.

Here’s what Cole-Baker had to say about True Beauty:

What makes someone truly beautiful, in your opinion?

I see beauty in people who embrace the skills that they have been given, work at them and share what they have with people. Life with purpose and passion is beautiful.

If you take away the traditional beauty props (makeup, clothing, hair styling, etc.), what makes you feel the most beautiful?

I feel beautiful when I am playing my songs and connecting with an audience. I find beauty in sharing life with others, the good days and bad….all scenarios put out there to be understood and to understand.

Thanks, Erin!

Find Cole-Baker on Twitter, and MySpace. Get her latest album, Talon and Spur, here.

Pictures by Josh Cordell, used with permission of Cole-Baker.

Here’s a great video – what a pleasure to see my current hometown in a music video!

Good Seed: Teeny Bunny

I recently found this amazing shop on Etsy. Teeny Bunny store owner, Angela, creates the most beautiful vintage designs for babies and children. They are positively adorable.

And check out this organic cotton flower girl dress for those summer weddings!

Look for more of Teeny Bunny on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Photos used with permission.

More Sugaring

From Beauty & Fitness Savvy

Okay, I know I just said that I wasn’t interested in pulling my hair out from its roots after an unfortunate experience with the Epilady in 1989, but…I haven’t been able to stop thinking about sugaring since I wrote yesterday’s post. I’ve heard about it many times before, but just assumed it was pretty much the same as waxing. In other words: OUCH.

But after yesterday, I found a few videos that have made me want to try it…

The recipe I have found is 2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup water, and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Cook these over medium heat until it is amber-colored and the consistency of honey. If any of you have made candy before (peanut brittle, toffee, etc.), you’ll know this will take some time. I’ve heard some people say that you want it to get to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.

After that, let it cool. I see some have used it with “ripping cloths,” while others just use a big ball of the stuff.

I’m still cynical about this type of hair removal, thanks to Epilady. But I have to admit…I’m so intrigued that I’m probably going to try this. I’ll report back. (I know – just what you wanted. A diary of a blogger’s hair removal experiments.)

Have a great weekend!

Green Shaving

Preserve Razors

I have to warn you first that I won’t be an enormous help in this area. I only have limited experience with green hair removal. (That sounds gross, doesn’t it?)

So here we go…

Shaving is a tough one. People argue that it isn’t the most earth-friendly option, because, no matter what, you’re using up too many resources (the razor/replaceable heads). Some have argued that the absolute best, greenest way to deal with unwanted hair is electrolysis. But I won’t be doing that anytime soon.

Waxing has its pros and cons. The average commercial brand is full of chemicals I wouldn’t want anywhere near me. Here’s a list of ingredients from Veet and Nair, respectively:

-Triethylene Glycol Rosinate, Glyceryl Rosinate, Silica, Fragrance, Isopropyl Myristate, BHA, Green 6, Mentha Piperita Leaf Extract

-Triethylene Glycol Rosinate , Glyceryl Hydrogenated Rosinate , Microcrystalline Wax , Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract Matricaria , Glycine Soja Oil Soybean , Bisabolol , Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil Sunflower , Achilea Millefolium Extract , Fragrance , Mineral Oil , Ethylhexyl Stearate , Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate , Isopropyl Myristate , Bisabolol , Chamomilla Recutita Extract Matricaria , Methylparaben , Ethylparaben , Propylparaben , Butylparaben , Isobutylparaben , Fragrance

Mineral oil, parabens, fragrance? No thanks! Even products that look eco-friendly are often just the result of greenwashing.

I have heard that there’s a great product out there called Moom, however, that is supposedly very eco-friendly and effective. DIY sugaring is supposedly easy and effective, though a friend, who shall remain nameless (unless she pops up in the comments to talk about this) said sugaring didn’t give her the results she was looking for. Here’s an interesting video on the sugaring process:

However, if you’re like me, you have zero interest in pulling hairs out from their roots. (I pretty much made that decision after using the Epilady for the first time in 1989. “Whisks hairs from the roots,” was the understatement of the decade. “Whisks?!” Yeah, right!) That leaves us with two options:

1. Shave with the greenest razors you can find. I personally use Preserve. The handles are made from recycled plastic, and are, themselves, recyclable. The heads, unfortunately, have to be thrown away, but if you’re like me, you’ll use them longer than you should! ;)

The downside: No one really likes these razors, including me. Of all the eco-shaving adventures I’ve read online, we all love our Venus. Nothing beats the Venus. BUT…I’m willing to make sacrifices in the name of Mother Earth. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a better green razor out there – if you know of one, please let me know!

If you are on a no-plastic-whatsoever mission, then you can look for other options. I read about this one on Fake Plastic Fish and am contemplating about going this route in the future…

2. Don’t shave. Now don’t run off in horror and vow never to come back to this crazy, no-poo, shower-every-other-day blog. Hear me out: Ever since I heard Mo’nique talk about her no-leg-shaving policy (and saw her wearing a dress and putting it right out there on national television), I thought: Damn! Good for her! Why shouldn’t we embrace our body’s natural state and stand tall in the knowledge that yes, we are beautiful! Why shouldn’t we decide what is beautiful instead of letting our society do that for us?

And I don’t think this is so uncommon. I know a LOT of women (myself included) who “fudge” shaving for long periods of time. You certainly don’t need to shave every day, or even every other day in the winter, when your legs are covered up with pants.

As for shaving creams, ditch them! They’re full of chemicals, and are often packaged wastefully. I mix up a 1:4 mixture of liquid castile soap and water and keep this in the shower. Just shake, squirt onto the legs, and shave. It makes a really good, slippery (but not dangerously so) surface to help get a close, non-irritating shave. Remember to turn the water off or down while you shave to save some H2O.

Let me know if you have any other green hair removal (there’s that gross-sounding phrase again!) tips!

Ecouture: Moutain Girl Clothing’s Upcycled Designs

Etsy is a great place to go to find completely unique designs that you won’t find in the stores. Best of all, many of the designers create their clothing from upcycled and repurposed materials.

I recently stumbled upon Mountain Girl Clothing and am completely and totally in love with Margaret’s designs. Check them out:

Does this gal have style or what?

Photos used with permission.

Good Seed: The Faerie Market

Some time ago, I stumbled upon The Faerie Market over on Etsy. I was completely enchanted by Betsie Withey’s designs. They are so whimsical, and earth-inspired. There’s just no better, or more fun way to jazz up an outfit than by putting a flower in your hair.

Check out these beautiful designs:

Photos used with permission.