One of the biggest changes I experienced in 2012 (I mean, besides becoming a mother) was Steve’s and my transition into a more natural lifestyle. Out went the parabens and sulfates in our shampoo and GMOs in our cereal, in came loads and loads of organic produce, full-fat dairy and homemade household cleaners. It’s been so good. I’m not much of a crafter, and I cringe at the thought of DIY home improvement, but somehow where those two things meet in the middle, I feel right at home. Plus, despite the fact that all my life I’ve struggled with my champagne taste and beer budget, I am really enjoying finding new ways to be frugal! So you might say I have been busy these last few months earning my natural living merit badges. And I thought I would share a little about the things I’m doing and learning.

First — the kombucha.

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The kombucha is a work in progress. I am having a hard time making it, well, taste good — by the time I drink it, it’s vinegar! I found a good method of flavoring it (using frozen berries from last summer’s CSA boxes) but where I falter is knowing how long to ferment the berries, and then knowing whether and how long it will keep in the fridge. I have made a few good batches but in general I think I have a long way to go before Whole Foods offers my specialty brew on tap.

Next — yogurt.

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I got a Euro Cuisine yogurt maker for Christmas and I am in love. As it turns out, making homemade yogurt is INCREDIBLY EASY — basically the yogurt maker just acts as an incubator. Lots of people use insulated coolers or crock pots for their yogurt (or, in my dream kitchen, an oven warming drawer), but a yogurt maker takes the guesswork out for a newbie like me. I made my first batch last week and was thrilled with the results. My next task is to strain it so it thickens to be more like Greek yogurt, but for right now I am just so excited to have found a way to enjoy organic, grass-fed full-fat yogurt for a tiny fraction of the price I would pay to buy it at the store — that is, if I could even find organic grass-fed full-fat yogurt.

Third — oil cleansing.

I waxed poetic a few months ago about the oil cleansing method, but our relationship has not been smooth sailing. Yes, I loved how it left my skin feeling soft, nourished and moisturized, without the flaky dry patches and tight feeling I was so used to. But my skin seemed to be having a hard time adjusting to the new routine, and just last week I declared that the oil cleansing method just didn’t work for me, and that I would have to go back to using ordinary face wash every night and spackling on ordinary moisturizer, jumping right back into the vicious cycle of dry skin. But the more I read about it, I think my skin was just going through what’s called a “purge” — basically, that things get a little worse for a while before they get a whole lot better. That is, if the hundreds of gushing testimonials I’ve found are to believed. I am going to give it another try. I promise. I am going to stick with it for a while and (I hope) leave the vicious dry skin cycle behind for good.

And in the meantime, I have a recipe for a homemade foaming facial cleanser to use on my non-oil-cleansing days. Frugal, easy, and natural: yes.

Lastly — gardening.

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Sigh …

Okay, so it’s only January. But I am hard at work planning on what I want to plant this year! We have a pretty small garden space, but we are planning to redo the garden beds and fill it in with new soil. Steve got me a book on vegetable gardening for Christmas which I have been studying, and I am really looking forward to learning more in the coming months. It’s so nice to have warm summer sunshine to think about during these cold (or, well, unseasonably warm as the case may be) winter nights. What should I plant?

Coming up I have a few more merit badges that I’d like to earn — namely in pressure canning (guess what’s coming home with me next week when I turn 33), homemade bread, composting, sprouting grains, and maybe making some kefir. Eventually I also want to try making my own body butters and soaps, but one thing at a time for now!

Told you 2013 was going to be a great year … we are off to a wonderful start already!

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