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honest-review-essential-oils

Essential oils can be such an overwhelming and trendy predicament. You have to figure out what the heck they are, where to buy them (and everyone has a scary story about that) and how to use them. I don’t work for an essential oils company, so I feel I can talk about them without a bias. I do have affiliate links to them on Amazon, but I am not particular to one brand as you will soon find out. So here we go!

What Are Essential Oils?

They are a highly concentrated form of the oil from a plant that has many great uses for health, beauty and home.

Where Should I Buy Them?

Ok, you probably have four friends who are selling different brands, and they all get a little crazy about how their company is the best, purest, most amazing thing that ever was. I have used a lot of different brands, and there are some I can tell a difference with and some I think are about the same. So, really honest truth here, most oils seem to be pretty good and try to be diligent about purity. I started with Edens Gardens on Amazon. I don’t think they are the best as I haven’t seen the results I have had with others, but if you want to start slow they are cheaper.

I love Rocky Mountain Oils (most of which you can find on Amazon), Doterra (also on Amazon), Young Living and Plant Therapy. They all seem to be very high quality and work well. There are probably lots of other brands that do as well—these are just the ones I’ve tried.

The issue I have with a lot of essential oils companies is that they make you buy into the membership somehow to gain access to cheaper prices. Why can’t they just let you buy them, I ask? I did the Doterra thing for about a year and finally got sick of feeling like I had to buy stuff all the time. This is why I go back to Rocky Mountain Oils often (free shipping and no membership!) and buying on Amazon if I want Doterra.

How Do I Use Them?

You can diffuse them (check out this amazing deal on this cute diffuser here) in your bedroom, living room, office, kitchen, etc. You can put them on your feet or other body part depending on the use, and often you need some sort of dilution with another oil.

Remember these are super concentrated, so you don’t want to go overboard. Some people use them orally but I haven’t done that besides the one time I threw back a drop of On Guard from Doterra and felt like my throat was on fire from inside—please don’t do that. Listen to what the bottle tells you about how much to use. Don’t go crazy here as a little is all you need—often just a drop or two.

I also make several beauty recipes with essential oils including miracle skin serum, body wash, shampoo and conditioning rinse.

Some Favorites of Mine

I know you didn’t ask, but I am always happy to offer my perspective on the best ones for the job. I love Deep Blue for muscle aches and headaches that start in your neck. I get the premade lotion because it’s just easier than mixing drops of the essential oil with something else. I use On Guard or Immune Strength for when I feel a cold descending on our house and am trying to get rid of it (usually by diffusing). I love Balance from RMO—it’s my perfume and it makes me so happy. On particularly stressful days you can watch me sniffing my wrists like an addict to find some stress reduction. I have used Ginger to alleviate motion sickness (mine is terrible if I’m not driving and I’m riding in a car up in the mountains) and just sniff the stuff the whole time I’m in the car so as not to…well, you know. I use Lemon in cleaning products that I make and it lends its lovely clean scent and helpful cleaning powers to them. Another favorite is Serenity which I use on the bottoms of my feet whenever I can’t sleep deeply (although my magnesium oil has made that less frequent). Rocky Mountain also has these great premixed kid rollerballs that you don’t have to think about when using on your kids. They aren’t on Amazon that I’ve found, but you can get them on their website directly. I love the Tummy Rub (I get the big bottle of this too for adult stomach issues) and Counting Sheep.

An Honest Review

So, no, essential oils will not solve every problem you have. And they may not even work on you like they did on your friend who loves them. But they are definitely worth a second look, in my opinion, as they can really have some great effects and provide you another way to really do some preventative care and take your health into your own hands. With the increased costs of healthcare these days, it’s worth checking into some of these little bottles to see if they might help deal with your issues before going to the doctor. (Of course, I am not a doctor and do not offer medical advice.) So, maybe hit up one of your friends who does this a lot and ask for a little sample. Or take the plunge and buy a bottle of your own. If you are going to start with something, I’d go with Lavender. That stuff is fantastic—relaxing (put some in your bath), soothing (for burns or cuts) and delightful. Give one a try and let me know what you think!

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new-years-resources-might-actually-help-achieve-goals

I don’t know about you guys but as the new year approaches I am always abuzz with my goals for the next year and what I’d love to accomplish. I can’t believe what goal-setting has done for my productivity in the last couple of years. I used to have a vague idea of what I wanted to do during the year, but without any concrete details or actionable goals, most didn’t get done. I would finish the year and think through the same things for the following year, all the while knowing it probably wouldn’t happen. That’s incredibly frustrating! Now, I don’t accomplish all my goals for the year, but there is definite progress and I finish more things because I have a plan of some kind.

If you are thinking about some of the same things as you plan for 2017, I have three great resources that are on sale for a limited time. The first is Crystal Paine’s new course 15 Days to a Healthier You. I have taken almost all of Crystal’s courses, and she is the one who really helped me figure out setting goals and accomplishing things in a better way. I am excited as this one is about self-care—something I really need to work on a little! Each of the courses I have taken of hers don’t cost much, don’t take too much time, and leave me feeling more accomplished rather than defeated. She is very down-to-earth and I never feel as though she is condescending. Check out this course and all it offers for only $15 here! It’s only open until Jan 3rd, so get on it! I’ll be doing it as well, so I’ll see you in the private FB group if you sign up.

The other amazing resources going on sale for only 48 hours are the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle and the Herbs & Essential Oils Super Bundle. If you have never experienced one of these bundles before, you are going to be amazed at how much is included in them. You can buy one for $29.97, and they are running a special deal following checkout that you can get the other for only $15 more. You should check out what is included in these bundles—so many resources from incredibly reputable people! I was especially interested in the Essential Oils and Herbs one so I’ll be working through all the e-books and resources in the next few months. Remember they are only available until midnight on December 29th, so act quickly!

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homemade-healing-salve

In a house with two small kids (and one big kid–my husband), I need to take care of injuries often. Just tonight my little 5-year-old boy got a pretty intense gash on the back of his head from connecting it swiftly to a brick hearth. Thankfully, I have found the best healing salve around. And I can make it myself easily and inexpensively. I usually make one batch of it and it lasts a year. I put little tubs of it all over the house so there is always one within reach. I have used it on small scrapes, infected earring holes (that was me), diaper rash, insect bites, etc. You name it, I’ve tried this salve on it. I can’t believe how quickly it heals the wound, and also how it takes the sting out. This helps my little ones so much.

 

You need some dried herbs to infuse into the oils, but you can get these a few different places. You can grow your own (calendula is just marigold, lavender grows anywhere and I’ve never grown comfrey but it is quite possible) or buy it from Amazon or your local apothecary. Mountain Rose Herbs is also an option. Next year, I want to designate a place in my backyard for a little herb garden where I can grow healing herbs and dry them, but that’s for next year.

 

Please, please use a double boiler to do this. The first time I tried to make this recipe this year, I forgot about the need for that and burned those herbs completely in the oil. My house smelled like a combination of burnt hair and body odor—not pleasant. For my double boiler, I use a glass bowl on top of a little pot of water. The oils go in the bowl and the water is boiled below so the heat doesn’t actually touch the mixture. Much better, believe me.

 

Ok, so get your double boiler and put in ½ cup coconut oil and ½ cup olive oil. Both of these oils are antiseptic and healing in themselves. Turn on the burner (keep it low, people!) and let the oils melt and mix together. Once they are melted, add your herbs. I use 1/3 cup dried lavender, 1/3 cup dried calendula (again, just a fancy term for marigold) and 1/3 cup dried comfrey. Allow this to infuse for 30 minutes over very low heat. You can turn the heat off towards the end if you think the herbs are going to burn and just let it sit.

 

Strain the oil through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer to remove the herbs, and put back into the rinsed out glass bowl. Put in ¼ cup beeswax pellets (you can use the bricks of beeswax but the pellets will make your life so much easier) and allow to melt. This takes a while. You will think it’s almost there about 10 times, but you might as well be doing something else while this is going on because it takes forever. Once the beeswax is melted, remove from heat and add 10 drops lavender essential oil and 8 drops tea tree oil (or melaleuca). Allow to cool a little further and add 1 Tbsp raw honey. You don’t to add this while the mixture is too hot or it will kill all the benefits of the honey. Stir this around. It will start to change color as it cools and you want to get it into storage containers quickly.

 

I use little tubs like these to store it, but you can also use mason jars or whatever you’ve got. I also found these little labels that aren’t incredibly pretty, but they are really good even with water and oils—two things that don’t mix with labels usually. Most of my pretty labels have lost all ink and have just rubbed off. So, although not as pretty, they are functional.

 

Homemade Neosporin

½ cup coconut oil

½ cup olive oil

1/3 cup dried lavender

1/3 cup dried calendula

1/3 cup dried comfrey

1 Tbsp honey

10 drops lavender essential oil

8 drops tea tree essential oil




 

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5-diy-christmas-gifts-will-love

Some of my favorite gifts to give and receive are homemade ones. When you know the person worked to give you something they thought you’d like, it’s very meaningful. If money is a little tight this year, making gifts can also be a great money-saver while still giving a quality item. I try to give gifts to my son’s teachers, the mailman, and many others—this can get very pricey if I’m not careful. So, I often do a little gift card with a homemade item for them. I also make little gift bags of homemade items to go with other gifts I can purchase for family and friends. And they claim they love the stuff I make! That may be a very kind lie, but I’ll take it!

So, here’s a list of homemade gifts that can be made in under half an hour and will make your recipients so happy. Each link goes to a recipe on my blog for you to follow.

  1. Sugar scrub. This recipe has shea butter in it. It melts on your skin and makes it so soft. Don’t make this a month in advance or it will harden. Of course, you can just churn it up and add a little more oil and it will be fine. The smells really make this stuff. Choose smells that you think the recipient will love. Essential oils give you that smell without weird chemicals and added benefits of whatever oil you choose.
  2. Lotion bars. You can buy these giant “Chapstick” tubes on Amazon that make it much easier to put on lotion and everyone loves them! I usually make a double recipe and that makes about 20 lotion bars.
  3. Miracle skin serum. I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t love this almond oil serum. I put it on my face every night and have noticed a significant difference in fine lines. If you have a friend with nut allergies, try avocado oil instead. This is especially easy if you already make it for yourself or have several of the essential oils already on hand.
  4. Foaming hand soap. Yes, it sounds a little odd to give hand soap, but it’s all about the scent. People love a good-smelling foaming hand soap. Two of the less expensive essential oils are lavender and lemongrass (and you can buy them on Amazon or Rocky Mountain Oils so easily) and they smell divine together in a hand soap.
  5. Bath salts. They are delightful to give and to use! Bath salts help with stress, sore muscles and sleep. Make your own scent variation and put them in a pretty  jar or tub!                                                                                                                                                                     
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homemade-bath-salts

Epsom salts or magnesium flakes in a bath have fantastic effects on tired muscles, fatigued bodies and stressed minds. I don’t know about you, but I have all of those things! Making bath salts is so easy, and they also make great gifts. And the beautiful part about making your own is that you can scent them however you (or the recipient) would like.

 

 

Take 3 cups of Epsom salts (or 2 cups Epsom salts and 1 cup magnesium flakes) and mix with ½ c baking soda and about 50 drops total of essential oils. Some ideas are peppermint/vanilla, lavender/lemongrass, orange/grapefruit, or eucalyptus/peppermint. Put this mixture in a cute jar or tub, and use a good handful for each bath.




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top-christmas-gifts-natural-living-lover

Buying Christmas gifts can sometimes be hard. You want to get your friends and family something they will love, but discovering that perfect idea can be stressful. If you have someone in your life who desires to live more naturally while saving time and money, here are some suggestions to get you started!

Griddle

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One of my all-time favorite Christmas gifts (and most-used ones as well) is my griddle. I use it almost every day for making things like pancakes, grilled sandwiches, and French toast—I even used it for hot dogs the other day when we didn’t want to fire up the outside grill! It saves me so much time because I can fit four sandwiches at a time on it instead of doing only two in a pan, and then having to decide who is the most hungry and who will wait for the next round. I can cook up to 10 pancakes at a time, which is especially helpful when I do my freezer cooking session of pancakes to prep for busy morning breakfasts. I have seen some of these griddles costs over $100, but this one I’ve had for a couple of years now and it was only $30!

Natural Makeup

Easy Beauty Routine


I make a lot of things myself for my beauty and home routines, but I have not dabbled in makeup because of all the extra ingredients that it requires. My favorite natural makeup is from 100% Pure Cosmetics and Skincare, and this makeup could be a fantastic gift. It comes in beautiful packaging as well, so it makes you feel so fancy while using makeup that doesn’t have nasty stuff in it. And feeling fancy is always important! Try the mascara, foundation or eye liner for an intro.

Food Processor/Blender

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If you are going to make laundry detergent,  or Mexican veggie soup, a food processor or blender is really necessary. I have this food processor that I received as a wedding gift (so it’s almost 10 years old now!) and it has been amazing. I also throw onions in there when I need some for a recipe, and it dices them splendidly so I have a lot fewer tears as I chop them. If you have a garden, you can puree zucchini or tomatoes before freezing them for soups, tomato sauce, zucchini bread or just trying to deal with the constant onslaught of zucchini throughout the late summer. I have heard wonderful things about Vitamix blenders also, but haven’t made the dive into purchasing one because of the cost. Amazon does have a refurbished one (with a 1-year warranty) for $360 which seems like a great deal for a blender that usually costs over $500!

Immersion Blender

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Along the same lines, I have talked multiple times about my love for my immersion blender. It’s something that is pretty inexpensive and yet allows you to not have to move hot food to a food processor or blender to puree. I use mine for easy pureeing of spaghetti sauce (you can hide a lot more veggies from the kids in there when you puree them!), applesauce and soups.

Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker

 

If your loved one doesn’t have a slow cooker, please get them one for Christmas! I am a busy mom who only survives by using my crock pot for dinners on days that I will be working all day or when I know we need a quick dinner once we get home. The joy of walking in the house after a long day and smelling a delicious dinner ready and waiting is second to none.

Bread Machine

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How about a bread machine? I received one for Christmas a couple of years ago and it has made my life easier. I love homemade bread but I didn’t love trying to do it in my mixer (and you know I am not kneading that bread for fifteen minutes by hand!!) so the bread machine allows me to put all the ingredients in and walk away. I usually do the second rise and bake it separately to the bread machine, simply because I don’t like the hole in the middle of the loaf from blade, but you can let it do the whole thing for you and have fresh bread without doing any switching!

Stocking Stuffers

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Some of my favorite stocking stuffer ideas are things like storage bag holders (which if you are freezing a lot of things make your life so much easier!), an oil sprayer (have your own oil spray with no added chemicals and for much cheaper), and whisks. I use whisks for all dry ingredients before mixing with wet ingredients on a recipe. It is almost like sifting without the pain of sifting!

Canner

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If your person is really getting into some of the homesteading skills, a pressure canner can open up a world of possibility for them to try new things. It might be a good idea to include a canning book like The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving to help them get started.

Essential Oil Storage Box

 

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I love the essential oil box I got this year. I have a lot of essential oils as I have grown my collection, and I had them all in the same cardboard box for years. My box started disintegrating and it was hard to find what I was looking for. You can get little stickers for the top of the bottles to make finding the right oil easier, and the boxes are so pretty. They make them in all different sizes so you can find the perfect one for however much of an oil junkie your loved one is. This one pictured also is tall enough to handle rollerballs, which was the reason I chose it.

Essential Oils

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Essential oils themselves are also really helpful when you are getting started. Sometimes it’s hard to fit an oil in the budget, even when you know it will last for a long time. If you want to start making face serums, hand soaps, body wash or shampoo, it is so nice to have a little collection of essential oils to start. I would suggest lavender, peppermint, tea tree and frankincense (which is the most expensive one out of the bunch but also does amazing things for so many parts of the body). I love Rocky Mountain Oils for this as you don’t have to sign up for a membership to anything to buy them and they have free shipping. Another option is to look on Amazon as they have a lot of the Doterra oils if you prefer them.

Try one of these this Chrismas and see if your natural living lover doesn’t rejoice in a gift that makes their life easier the whole year through!

 

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top-14-must-have-ingredients-for-diy-skincare

Getting started with making your own beauty products can be intimidating. It can also seem like it will be expensive to invest in ingredients that will allow you to make your skincare—but don’t forget that these will mostly last a great deal longer than purchasing premade beauty products each month. If you’d like a list that will allow you to get started, here is what I consider the basics to start your DIY skincare journey. If you’d like more info on using them, this blog post has links to all the recipes and all the products replaced, as well as the amount of money I’ve saved making my own stuff!

ingredients

foaming soap bottles

Shea butter

Coconut oil

Cocoa Butter

Beeswax

Quality essential oil or two (I would suggest lavender or tea tree oil)

Sweet almond oil

Jojoba Oil

Castile Soap

Microfiber cleansing cloth

-Apple cider vinegar (not sure if you have King Soopers in your area, but I have found really great prices in their online store for apple cider vinegar)

Aloe Vera

Vegetable Glycerine

Argan Oil

(Affiliate links included, so I make a little commission on each sale. Please note all these products are the ones I use and love. More info on disclosure here. )


 

 

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my-favorite-natural-shampoo

In case you were wondering, I consider myself your guinea pig of sorts. I figure that I can try all the weird natural things and decide if they are a crock or actually worth checking out. I realize in that process that I have been through at least three different natural shampoo recipes (actually more than that, but I haven’t told you about a few of them because they were hopeless disasters). I loved my coconut milk shampoo, but it kept going rancid in the shower and I am not going to march my butt downstairs to the refrigerator every time I want to take a shower. I can barely remember to have a towel waiting—there isn’t a chance I’ll remember to grab my shampoo from the fridge.

 

My Favorite Natural Shampoo

I liked the baking soda shampoo (and a lot of people do) but I kept hearing horror stories of hair gone bad after a couple of years of using it. And my hair was a little funky on it—not terrible, but not exactly like I wanted it.

So, I have now settled on my favorite natural shampoo! I was actually in love with this natural shampoo from Trader Joe’s that seemed to really clean and make my hair soft. I tried to imitate it, and failed multiple times. This recipe is the closest I have discovered to this and I hope you will try it and see if it will work for you.  I love my hair on this shampoo! I still use my apple cider vinegar conditioner (mostly just using the apple cider/water simple version) and it works great.

shampooThe mix is ¼ c castille soap, 1/8 c aloe vera (follow the link to Amazon to find my favorite aloe as it doesn’t clump and doesn’t need to be refrigerated), a drizzle of almond oil, 1/8 c water and essential oils of choice (I used peppermint and tea tree as that mimicked the natural shampoo I was trying to copy). Put it all in a squeeze bottle. It lathers beautifully, cleans, softens and gives my hair shine. I follow with apple cider vinegar rinse on just the lower 4 inches of my hair.

You can double the recipe if you have a larger bottle. I don’t have to use that much, though, so see how you go. It is quite watery compared to store-bought shampoo, so I squirt it straight on my head rather than in my head first. Once you start working it into your hair, though, the lather gets going. Love it!

 

Tea Tree Peppermint Shampoo
-1/4 c castille soap
-1/8 c aloe vera
-drizzle of almond oil
-1/8 c water
-10 drops peppermint essential oil
-10 drops tea tree essential oil

Pour in squeeze bottle and shake to combine.


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how-to-save-over-1000-per-year-with-diy-natural-toiletries

Often I have people ask me why I chose to go natural with a lot of my home products. The cost benefits are definitely one of the reasons, although I didn’t begin with that in mind. I wanted to reduce harmful chemicals in my home and help our family eat fewer processed foods, and I ended up saving thousands of dollars per year! DIY natural beauty was a big part of that.

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Getting started on this make-your-own venture is often confusing and I wished someone would have given me a comprehensive list of the basics to begin making my own products.  So, I made one for you! If you are just beginning this journey, these are some ingredients that will allow you to make many of your own toiletries and natural beauty products. Some of them will be a little more of an investment in the beginning than a bottle of shampoo, but they will last way longer.

Shea butter
Coconut oil
Cocoa Butter
Beeswax
Quality essential oil or two (I would suggest lavender or tea tree oil)
Sweet almond oil
Jojoba Oil
Castile Soap
Microfiber cleansing cloth
-Baking soda
-Apple cider vinegar (not sure if you have King Soopers in your area, but I have found really great prices in their online store for apple cider vinegar)
Aloe Vera
Vegetable Glycerine
Argan Oil

With these ingredients, you can replace the following:

Face serum

To purchase a one-year supply of ingredients for all these products, I spent about $250. To purchase a one-year supply of my store-bought products, I would have spent at least $1200!
That is a savings of almost $1,000!!
If I was buying fancy shampoo and conditioner instead of cheap stuff with coupons, it would be an even bigger savings. And if you want to do even more, you can spend another $150 on some essential oils (which should easily last you a couple of years if only using in this recipe) and make your own wrinkle serum. Making my own serum has saved me at least $250 per year, and I was buying cheaper stuff when it was on sale and I had coupons!

DIY Hand Soap

 

So, the grand total for me has been a savings of over $1,000 per year on just toiletries and natural beauty products! Of course, this would have been an even bigger savings if I was purchasing natural or organic toiletry products from the store and switched to making my own. By going the DIY route, I save money and get to use products I love!


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rose-vanilla-sugar-scrub

There are some affiliate links included in my blog posts. I only recommend products and services that I have personally used and really love. Please see “Affiliate Policy” on About Me page for more info about affiliate links.

I made a few different sugar scrubs for Christmas gifts last year and really enjoyed both making and using them. They make showers feel much more luxurious (even when there are small people yelling “Mom!” outside the shower door) and smell delightful!

My husband had given me some roses for our anniversary this year that were drying out, and I decided to use the rose petals for a new sugar scrub! Eureka! I have seen a couple of recipes on Pinterest with rose petals that are just beautiful, so I thought I would try to make one that visually appealing and also smelled good (I thought about writing nasally appealing, but that just didn’t sound right—I’m sure there is a science-y word for that but I have no idea what it is).Rose Vanilla Sugar Scrub

So, without further ado, here you have rose vanilla sugar scrub! Put it in a nice glass jar and it makes a beautiful gift. If you prefer something plastic because you might drop it in the shower (I would know nothing about clumsy problems like that…) here are some little plastic tubs that work beautifully for that. If you are thinking about Christmas gifts, well done for thinking ahead! But don’t make it yet—it only lasts 1-2 months in an airtight jar, so just hold on and make it a little closer to Christmas.

Rose Vanilla Sugar Scrub

Sugar scrubs are so simple. I whipped mine up in under 10 minutes. First, take ¼ cup coconut oil (I use this one and get it by Subscribe and Save from Amazon) and ¼ cup shea butter (I use this one)and melt it over a double boiler. It really won’t take long. Mix 2 ¼ cups white sugar in there (you can also use ultra-fine sugar if the regular stuff is too harsh on your skin) and stir it until it’s well combined. Add about a teaspoon of almond oil and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Remove the dried petals from two roses and throw them in a food processor or Vitamix. Process them until they are small enough not to be annoying in a scrub. Mix them into the sugar combination, and dollop the mix into the jars or tubs you’d like to use. I’d let them sit in their airtight containers for a few days to really let the scents percolate a little.

Rose Vanilla Sugar Scrub

To use, just scoop some out of the tub and rub it on your wet skin in the shower. I use it on my legs and arms especially as Colorado is known for being torturously dry on the skin (I thought I had developed leprosy when I first moved here as chunks of dry skin kept coming off—sorry, was that too much information?) and the shea butter in this scrub makes them so smooth and moisturized. Watch the shower floor as it can get a bit slippery when you use this. Enjoy feeling like you just stepped into the spa as you shower, and just ignore those little screamers outside the door for a second—they’ll be fine.

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