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from Lydia Krupinski

I’m having a serious love affair with the Eco Etsy blog. Not that I’m biased or anything (I’m an official contributor), but I really do find myself enamored by the daily articles and encouragement that ensue. If you’re a clever crafter or a super greenie, you’ll find that the blog has something for everyone, no matter how new you are to the concept of conscious living.

An article that was posted last week brought this home. Despite all my knowledge of DIY, I have still never experimented with home cleaning products made by hand. But this article from the Eco Etsy blog has challenged me to give it a go – and I think you should too! Beyond making life healthier, creating your own cleaners will be easier on your wallet while eliminating all of the packaging that comes along with store bought products.

So if you’ve put off making your own tub scrub or floor detergent – make this week the one where you give it a shot! I’ll be sure to post my updated finds in the comments below, and I hope you will too!

by Molly Kay Stoltz

Feeling a little indigestion from your last holiday party? You probably have the remedy hiding in your baking cupboard.

Just today at work I was a bit full from my lunch. I reached into my secret stash of tea, and found the ingredient I was looking for- cinnamon.

A cup of chai roobis later, and my stomach was back to normal!

Cinnamon is a tasty herb made from the bark of a cinnamon tree. There are many varieties, but we in the U.S. use cassia, or Chinese cinnamon.  However, cassia is not actually the “true” cinnamon. “True” cinnamon comes from Ceylon, and is much more pungent than the variety we’ve all grown up with. You can find different varieties at specialty spice shops if you are looking for a stronger tasting cinnamon!

Cinnamon has been used as far back as 2700 BC in ancient Egypt and China, and was widely used in medieval Europe on meats and with fruit. Today, we sprinkle it in stews and soups, steep it in teas, simmer it in curries, and of course, bake it in our cinnamon rolls and pumpkin pies. I can’t imagine my morning bowl of oatmeal without a dash of cinnamon.

Cinnamon isn’t just tasty, however. It has many benefits for your health, including soothing an upset stomach and aiding digestion, clearing urinary-tract infections, helping diabetics metabolize sugar better, relieving pain and inflammation, slowing the flow of blood, and killing disease-causing fungi and viruses. Cinnamon is a powerhouse herb, but is also relatively side-affect free- IN MODERATION, of course. IMPORTANT: Too much cinnamon will create a laxative effect. Don’t over-do it!

During the holiday season, when we do tend to overindulge on everything but cinnamon, it can be helpful to use cinnamon to break down fats during digestion and reduce intestinal gas. A spicy tea like chai or apple cinnamon tea or a spiced apple cider is a wonderful after-dinner drink.

Here’s a recipe for a spiced cider- add a dash of amaretto for an extra-special treat : ).

Spiced Cider

5 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
5 whole allspice kernels
5 whole cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 gallon apple cider
1 or 2 oranges

Blend cinnamon, star anise, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and apple cider in a large pot. Use a zester or grater to remove the rind of the oranges, and add to the cider mix. Add the juice of the oranges to the cider. Heat to just below simmer for several hours. Ladle into mugs and serve with a cinnamon stick.

And the extra-added bonus? Cinnamon has a germicidal effect. Using cinnamon may add extra protection from the flu and colds that appear during the holidays. So, here’s to cinnamon for keeping us healthy and happy as we go about our merry way! Happy Holidays!

Resources:

Cinnamon Health Benefits on The Modern Herbal

Cinnamon Varieties by Vanilla Review

Posted by Molly Kay Stoltz

Ginger is a familiar herb. Its golden root and slightly spicy taste has appeared in cuisine throughout the world, from China to the Caribbean. Its yellow flowers can also be found surrounding people’s homes in sub-tropical climates. Ginger is accessible in most grocery stores, and is incredibly easy to add to your diet.

Ginger is fantastic for a few reasons. It is considered a primary herb for boosting the reproductive, respiratory, and digestive systems because it helps improve circulation, making its effects felt throughout the body. Ginger can also be used over long periods of time with no known side effects (as long as it is used in moderation!).  Read the rest of this entry »

Molly Kay Stoltz, urban garden theatre diva extroardinaire, is joining the Sprout Chicago family! We are excited to have Molly coming on board to contribute her knowledge of green city living.

Molly runs her own sustainable clothing business, works at one of Chicago’s leading garden emporiums and also blogs about natural health remedies on Urban Herbal Girl.

If you have a moment take a peek at her freshly posted bio under the Contributors page. And if you’re itching to do some earth-friendly shopping take a peek at her adorable handmade line of clothing and accessories Rags by Sock Monkey here.

Welcome Molly!

If you’ve run out of time to shop for that special someone this holiday season – and don’t dare go out in the blizzardy snow – then make this year’s gifts DIY. There’s tons of things you can put together last minute for someone who will appreciate time, effort, and creativity much more than a purchased good.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interview composed by Lydia Krupinski

I discovered Soaphappy! this past November when selling my Pierogi Picnic goodies in a local craft show. Desperate for a stick of natural lip balm, I promptly snatched up a stick of their ultra hydrating Vanilla blend. This one product made me an instant convert. I now covet my stick not letting even my beloved husband snag a use.

Hanah and Nellie are the dynamic duo behind this local soap racket. Their delicious and down-to-earth products blend natural vegan ingredients with exotic spice combinations that will jazz up even the weariest Chicagoan’s winter morning ritual. With soaps like Jazz+Beet boasting ingredients like ginger, rose, beets and jasmine – it’s no wonder this fiesty pair is stirring up trouble at local craft fairs like the DIY Trunk Show.

To spice up your chilly holiday week Sprout Chicago brings you an exclusive interview with these two soap divas: Read the rest of this entry »

By Lydia Krupinski

Fall is here and with it dipping temperatures that make my already dry as a bone skin suffer with dehydration. Having worked in the cosmetic industry in the not-so-distant past I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs with skin care products. There was the heavenly but expensive creams by LUSH, the wha-wha inefficacy of La Mer, my biannual addiction to Philosophy, and the remaining smattering of products which included Aveeno, Burt’s Bees, Dr. Hauschka and more.

Since I am fearless when it comes to trying new products I’ve decided to go on a hunt for an eco and health friendly affordable moisturizer that will hydrate me through the fall and winter and last until the end of spring. Criteria that I have in place: It must be a cream. Nearing 30 I’ve tried and tested lotions and they just don’t cut it with my psoriasis eczema prone skin. I want something rich – not quite like butter but not as thin as yogurt. The other consideration is smell. I can’t stand any over-fragranced body care – no matter how organic – if it smells like roses you can bet I’ll be chucking it. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview and Photographs by Lydia Krupinski

I am on a mission. On a quest to find natural and locally made products for the day to day requirements of life. I’ve learned how to make my own deodorant, grown veggies, and have cleaned with vinegar. But there’s one task too daunting for DIY: soap making. There’s a fine art and science to the creation of this daily necessity that I dare not discover on my own.

That’s why I am delighted to bring you an interview with a local soap master who’s creations have stolen the hearts of many Chicagoans, including my husband. David Melis, of Edgewater Soaps, has been making delicious batches of  suds since 2002. From lavender oatmilk and rosemary lemon soaps, to avocado facial bars and coconut neem oil dog shampoo, David’s creations span a wide range of scents and needs. Read on to learn about his dedication to natural ingredients and passion for his work. Read the rest of this entry »

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