CultureHealth

For the holidays, I decided to give my mom a “spa package.” I made her some natural lotions, natural sugar scrubs and got her gift certificates for a mani/pedi and facial (I tried making natural soaps, too, but that was a major fail). While making the lotions and sugar scrubs, I realized just how simple they really were, and I decided to make them for all of my family members and friends.

If you need a super last minute gift idea, or plan on giving friends gifts after the holidays, this is a great one. If not, this is still a simple, fantastic sugar scrub recipe that will leave your skin soft, smooth, hydrated and smelling delicious. It takes about three minutes, two everyday ingredients that I guarantee you already have (if you have a kitchen) and a container, like a mason jar, for storage.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Small mason jars (I found some cute 4 oz. ones at a craft store. You’ll want a fairly small size, because this scrub contains no preservatives and should be used within two months)
  • ½ cup sugar (white or brown)
  • ¼ cup oil (olive, almond and coconut are great options)
  • Optional: essential oils of your choice (I used lavender, rose and peppermint essential oils in different batches)

All you need to do is add the sugar, oil and about 15-20 drops essential oils into a bowl and mix until the sugar is completely coated. Then scoop it into a jar and you’re done! Add a cute label or tie some twine around it for effect.

You can also add different herbs or spices – I added ground cinnamon into my peppermint batch and thyme leaves to one of my lavender batches. Raw natural honey is a wonderful addition, too, as it’s great for softening skin.

A few things to note – be sure you choose a natural, organic oil, or else you’re thwarting your whole natural, chemical-free plan!

Additionally, should you choose to use coconut oil, most will come in solid form. You will need to melt it to liquid form before mixing. It is quite easy to melt – you can scoop it into a glass jar or container and put the container in a pot of simmering water until it melts. You could also use a double boiler or microwave it, although I prefer the glass jar method. It only takes a few minutes at most.

Finally, if you don’t want your coconut oil to smell like its strong coconutty self, be sure to buy refined coconut oil. It’s still natural coconut oil, and I prefer it in natural products because of its scentless-ness.

I used olive oil for mine and the olive oil scent is easily masked by the essential oils!  Olive is a great oil to use in natural products because its smell is light and often undetectable, even when not mixed with essential oils.

I hope you love this sugar scrub! What natural products or homemade gifts do you like making?

Image: Debra

CollegeCultureInspiration

I think every female has noticed this phenomenon at some point in their life: men tend to notice women a bit more if their features are slightly enhanced…by make-up. I notice that when I go on my occasional morning jog with no make-up on, barely any guys will try to communicate with me. When I’m at the gym in the evenings after class, I have a bit of make-up on, and for some reason, males will try to come talk to me.

Another instance of this “cosmetic on/off” phenomenon occurs on days when I am hardcore studying in the library after sleepless nights when I tend not to have any sort of lipstick, eyeliner, or foundation on. My acne scars are showing, the shades of dark circles under my eyes are present, and my forehead wrinkles are visible. I do not mind this. This is my natural look and I am proud of it. But why is it that the days I am bereft of any modification, absolutely no guy will sit with me in the library? On days when I am well-rested, showered, and have my make-up on, males with come and occupy some of the vacant seats around me. I attract them with my red lips, and perhaps I repel them with my pale lips.

Why does this happen? I have the same amount of intelligence with or without make-up. I am the same person with or without make-up. I have the same memories, the same sense of humor, and the same sarcastic undertones in some of the words. I am the same person, the same soul, and the same human despite my disheveled and haggard appearance or my prim and proper look.

Perhaps this condition does not only apply to males, and I have only noticed it in them. Maybe it’s just human nature that we tend to approach those who seem clean and beautiful, as opposed to those who look like they just rolled out of bed. It’s just natural for us to judge people by their appearance; it’s an inherent ability that we possess. We tend to feel safer around those who look put together physically.

However, is it possible for us to evolve out of this behavior and thought process? Can we look past people’s physiognomy and actually try to explore their minds? Is that something that our generation could possibly accomplish and set as a trend? Quite possibly, yes. I believe we can do this…next time you see someone sitting alone, regardless of what they look like, just go up to them and talk to them. I try to do this in college and I have met many beautiful souls and amazing characters.

Image: Hayley Bolan

Health

The feeling that comes with knowing your laundry, kitchen, and bathroom are clean is something like intense joy. We often judge this cleanliness by what we smell: the smell of disinfectant. Bleach. Soap. Strangely tropical flowery fragrances that would never actually be in our apartments naturally.

What these smells actually tell us, though, is that we have replaced dirt and germs with chemicals and artificial substances. Replacing bacteria with these agents is sort of like replacing a stomachache with a headache – the unpleasantness is still there, just in a different form. We clean our little living spaces with chemicals that are unsafe to even inhale. What is up with that?

I’m not dissing our love of freshly cleaned chemical smell. I love it, too. I am saying, though, that there are some natural cleaning agents that actually get the job done better, and much more safely, than the commercial products to which we’ve become so accustomed.

Below are five natural cleaning products to replace commercial cleaners:

Task: laundry
Natural solution: soap nuts

I’m sorry, what? Soap nuts? That’s the reaction I often get to this.

Soap nuts, native to India and Nepal, are these little round berry things that grow on trees and do a fantastic cleaning job by releasing natural saponins to free dirt, oils, and stains from clothing. They are unscented and wonderful for those of us with sensitive skin and allergies. In fact, they’re used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for eczema and psoriasis.

Not only that, but they clean incredibly well. I spilled red curry all over a new white shirt. In a moment of pure stupidity, I didn’t wash the shirt right away, leaving it to bask in all its curry-stained glory for two days. I felt defeated when I finally put it in the wash. To my surprise, it looked good as new after I took it out.

What you do is place around five soapnuts in a reusable muslin bag (which typically comes with the order) and place them in the washing machine. It’s not unsafe to put them in the dryer, but I prefer not to do that. The soap nuts can be reused for about five washes.

The best part? Soap nuts are completely non-toxic and can be composted when done, and they are pretty darn inexpensive. I love them, and order mine here, although Amazon and plenty of great retailers also carry them.

Task: dishes (in the dishwasher)
Natural solution: white vinegar

I know, I know. It sounds strange. But, if you want your dishes to actually be stain free and deep-cleaned, I’m telling you, this is how. Just put white vinegar in the dish soap slot and run the dishwasher. That’s it. They will be sparkling when they’re done, and the vinegar smell isn’t apparent when used in the dishwasher.

Task: quickly remove a stain from clothing or carpet
Natural solution: Dr. Bronner’s castile soap and water

I can’t tell you if it’s ok to use on fabrics that require dry cleaning – I’m going to assume it’s not. I can tell you that last time I spilled hot sauce down my cotton shirt (I’m messy, ok?) I put water and a little dab of Dr. Bronner’s almond castile soap on a tissue and wiped away the stain. It went away completely after wiping for around 20 seconds each with three damp/soapy tissues. It probably would have been quicker had I used a washcloth, but that would have made too much sense.

Castile soap is good to have around the house, too, as it has many uses, including washing dishes in the sink, as an ingredient in natural body washes and shampoos, and to hand wash delicate fabrics.

Task: maintain shower cleanliness
Natural solution: apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle makes a great everyday shower cleaning spray. I also like to add a few drops of lavender oil to remove the vinegar smell. You can use this as a quick toilet bowl cleaner, too, by spraying and letting it sit, or using a toilet brush. Add coconut oil, too, and lemon or lime juice for an extra cleaning kick.

Task: use an all-purpose cleaner in the bathroom and/or kitchen
Natural solution: coconut oil

Coconut oil is magical and life-changing. It has hundreds of fantastic uses, and it’s incredibly gentle and safe on skin. In fact, I use it as a face wash and body moisturizer every day. Aside from its gentleness, its cleansing properties are incredible.

Dampen a rag or sponge with coconut oil – it can be in liquid or soft form – and wipe down any surface that needs cleaning. The dirt will come right off; it’s amazing to watch.

Pretty amazing, and a little strange, that we can safely and naturally wash our faces with the same product we use to clean our showers, floors and countertops.

I hope these cleaning products help you replace the dangerous, nasty chemicals currently under your kitchen and bathroom sinks! I swear by each of them and have found success using them to keep my apartment clean. They’re great for dorms, too, because we all know those little rooms can get dirty. Happy cleaning!

Do you use any natural ingredients in cleaners? Share below!

Image: Umberto Salvignan

EducationSkills

Meeting people in a purely professional context can be nerve wracking, especially if “small talk” isn’t quite your thing. Placing yourself in a setting specifically geared towards meeting new people and talking about yourself can feel contrived or just plain awkward.

But it’s time that we reclaim the concept of networking and shift the perception from “weird” to “organic.”

Start embracing networking in a new way…

Organic networking is about preparation. This may sound counterintuitive but stick with us! Like any activity (sports, academics, a new skill) practice makes perfect. This same concept can be applied to networking. Prepare by having professional/personal cards at the ready, wearing comfortable and appropriate clothing, and reviewing your own résumé before stepping into a professional environment.

Organic networking is about knowing yourself first. Don’t try to be a people-pleaser. You are who you are, and you have your own unique experiences. Rather than attempting to appeal to somebody else’s expectations of who you might be, speak confidently about what you are truly interested in and your personal experiences. From a technical point of view this tactic will help you speak more clearly and definitively, therefore making you sound, appear, and feel more confident.

Organic networking is about having a clear vision. How do you want to present yourself? What will you say when meeting someone new? Having a clear vision ahead of time about what you want to say about yourself is extremely helpful. You are essentially taking yourself off of the hot-seat and appearing calm, cool, and collected instead. If you don’t know exactly how to describe yourself, focus on two important details and go from there.

Organic networking is about enjoying the moment. In the midst of school and sports and extracurriculars and friends and family life can get pretty hectic! Think of networking as an opportunity to take time for yourself and meet new people who are interested in similar things.

Networking can happen anytime and anywhere. Therefore it is by nature an organic activity that you should be ready for rather than scared of. Networking is an awesome way to make new professional connections or even just to meet new people and be inspired by the interesting work they are doing!

How will you embrace organic networking?