Clean Your Microwave in 3 Easy Steps

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clean your microwave

How often do you clean your microwave? If you’re like me, not often enough! Yikes!

I don’t use my microwave very often. Growing up, we didn’t even have one, so I’m used to reheating food in the oven. I don’t think I could ever actually cook a meal in a microwave…that just seems gross to me. And I’ve read somewhere or other that microwaving your food kills all the good things in it during the quick heating process.

If you’re sticking to a minimalist kitchen, you don’t need a microwave, but currently we have room for one and it is convenient sometimes. I’ll use it for reheating coffee, melting butter, and the occasional reheat of lunch when I’m in a time crunch. I’ll also use it to speed up my soap making. Cocoa butter and shea butter take forever to melt in the slow cooker.

Regardless of how often you use your microwave, you do need to clean it every so often. I had some butter pop in mine the other day, and just realized I had left the mess when I pulled my sticky coffee cup out. (As I write this it makes me sound like a complete slob. Hm…maybe I should reconsider this confession…)

Instead of ignoring it, I decided to test one of the many life-hacks I see all over social media. I saw a fancy little meme about placing a wet sponge in the microwave for a few minutes, heating it up, and then bam, steam bath for the microwave and all the grim comes off in seconds. Of course I’m skeptical because I read it on the internet (and even more so because it was on Facebook).

But I thought I’d give it a try. And guess what? It works!!

I didn’t have a sponge, but tried a dish cloth instead. I added a little soap to the process since it seemed like the right thing to do. And the whole thing only took about 2 minutes.

Clean Your  Microwave in 3 Easy Steps:
  1. Place damp cloth in your microwave and “cook” for 1 minute.
  2. Carefully remove the cloth and add a dab of liquid castile soap. (It may be hot!) Wipe out the grime.
  3. Rinse the cloth in hot water and wipe out any remaining stickiness.

Yeah, it’s that easy. Why did I put off this simple task? Now that I know it works, no more excuses. None for you either!

Have you cleaned your microwave lately?


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How to Make Beer Soap

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How to Make Beer Soap

I love that my husband and I share several interests together. Camping and hiking are at the top, but also simple living and the desire to be off-grid homesteaders one day. I also love that some of our independent hobbies overlap.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know I love DIY projects, such as soap-making. It seems to have rubbed off on my hubby a little bit because he has a few DIY hobbies, one of which is brewing beer. And we found a way to combine soap and beer! Beer soap!

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I won’t get into how to homebrew because I’m sure I’ll forget some important step and it’s actually quite lengthy but part of the process uses crushed grain. It is soaked in hot water for a specific amount of time allowing the water to pull the sugars from the grains. After it is soaked and “spent” there is a lot of crushed grain left over.

Instead of wasting the spent grain, we like to find creative uses for it. One way we use is to dry it in a dehydrator and then add to breads and baked goods for a unique texture. When we had chickens they would love to nibble on spent grains. I like to use a bit of it in soap.

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Using my basic Hot Process Soap making technique, I adjusted my recipe to include beer and spent grains. It turned out amazing! Very soft and soothing, with a slight soapy scent. The spent grain foliates to soften the skin even more. SO without anymore introductions here’s the beer soap recipe:

How to Make Beer Soap

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Wearing proper protective gear, measure beer by weight into a heat proof bowl. In a well ventilated area (I go outside), add lye to the beer (NEVER pour liquid into lye). Stir carefully to incorporate the lye into the beer. It will get very hot. Let rest while you work on the oils.
  2. Measure each oil and add to a large slow cooker. (Sometimes I will melt the hard oils/butters in the microwave to speed up the process.) Once the oil is melted, carefully add lye/beer mixture. Stir to combine.
  3. Using an immersion blender, mix soap together until it reaches trace, a pudding-like texture. Cover and cook on low for at least an hour. It will thicken and bubble strangely. At this point you can stir in the spent grains. This will add an exfoliating texture. Add more or less depending on your preference. You could also grind the grains into a finer texture if desired.
  4. Pour soap into a mold lined with parchment paper, a loaf pan works great as a mold! Nestle the mold into a cardboard box and cover with a towel. Place in a safe location to set. After a day or two, remove from mold and slice into desired size bars. The bars store best standing up without touching in a cardboard box.
http://neverlackingzeal.com/2016/02/02/how-to-make-beer-soap/

You can find a photo tutorial of the hot process method on my original soap making post here. You can also add scent to this recipe at trace. I like to add scent with essential oils.

Beer soap is very gentle on the skin. If you leave out the spent grains it would make a great shaving soap.  Pair this soap with an old fashioned shave kit and you have an excellent gift for the man in your life.

beer soap

Have you ever made beer soap?


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How to Make Lavender Simple Syrup

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How to Make Lavender Simple Syrup

Have you ever tried lavender in your coffee?! AMAZING!

I would not have thought that lavender would pair well with the rich earthy flavors of coffee, but it does.

Just imagine the sun is rising, you are sitting in a rocking chair on a beautiful porch overlooking the serene beauty of the forest. You’re sipping on a lovely cup of goodness that brings into your soul all the wonderful feelings of joy and joyness. Add into that mix the delicious floral aromas of lavender. Calm, sweet, heavenly lavender.

Now, before I lose my non-coffee drinkers, this isn’t just about the coffee. You too can enjoy the delicious taste and flavor of lavender in a variety of ways. Keep on reading!

You might say I have a thing for lavender. I rarely go to sleep without rubbing a bit of lavender essential oil on my wrists before bed. I love using lavender in my homemade soap and body oil. The soothing scent combined with the sweet aroma lifts and calms me.

I honestly didn’t care for lavender before I discovered the essential oil and the dried flowers. Most commercial uses of lavender always had an off scent to them that I couldn’t place. Now I’m assuming it was the artificial aspect of lavender scented things. They tried, but you just can’t beat the real thing.

Lavender Simple Syrup 2

Back to the subject at hand, lavender simple syrup is a treat. It uses refined sugar, which I know is not a real food item, therefore, I really only use this recipe for special occasions. (Or on occasion because I made this batch up for the sole purpose to enjoy it and share with you.)

Lavender simple syrup is of course delicious in coffee. Just add a dash of milk and there you go. Sweet, floral, and yummy. But it also tastes amazing in lemonade, orange juice, tea, and steamed milk. I’m thinking of trying a bit of it in some oatmeal with a little cream!

You could definitely come up with some delicious ways to use lavender simple syrup. The key thing to remember is you only need a little bit. You might be surprised at the amount of flavor it adds.

Lavender Simple Syrup

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat ingredients in a small saucepan on high until boiling. Reduce heat and let simmer about two minutes. Let cool. Pour into an airtight jar or container. (These work really well.) Store up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
http://neverlackingzeal.com/2016/01/27/how-to-make-lavender-simple-syrup/

Have you tried lavender in your coffee?

 


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One Small Change That Gave So Much Freedom

One Small Change

There is one tiny thing that I recently changed that gave me immense amounts of freedom. Freedom I didn’t realize that I’d lost. Time that I didn’t realize was missing. Joy in the little things that had slipped away.

I wonder sometimes, if all the technology around us these days is making life easier, or just more complicated.

Think about it. Yeah, our washing machines help A LOT. We no longer have to spend an entire day scrubbing and line drying the family’s clothes (and cloth diapers). Dishwashers are nice (although I’ve lived the last five years without one). Oh and central heat, I’m not giving that up! (Ours went out last week and it was COLD.) There are some aspects of technology that I don’t want to lose.

But what about your TV? Your tablet? Your smart phone? Uh oh, I’m stepping on some toes!

There is definitely room for allowing entertainment and enjoying technology for sure. And access to the internet brings in a whole new world of learning and communication, and a world of opportunity! It’s hard to complain about that.

What I find complicated is the distraction that some of these things cause. I’ve talked about Unplugging. That can help tremendously in reducing the interference our devices cause in our relationships. But I found that one or two hours in the evening wasn’t enough.

Want to know my secret? I turned off ALL notifications on my phone. ALL OF THEM!

Oh. My. Word. You have no idea how FREEING it is!

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I somewhat tried this before. Most of my notifications were off. But slowly as updates came, I allowed them back on. And I was suddenly sucked in to keeping up with the notes across my phone or the red dots alerting me that something had “happened”.

Once I turned them all off, and I mean all, no emails, no Facebook, no Instant Messenger, nothing on my lock screen, nothing telling me that something somewhere out there was going on, my life became my own again! Wow.

The ONLY exception is text messages and phone calls. (I should go back to an old school Nokia! Ha!) The reason for that is to keep in contact with my husband and close friends. A ding or beep now means that someone is specifically needing my attention. In my circles, most all other forms of communication are not time sensitive or can wait until I have sit down time at the computer.

The reason that this works for me, is if I have to intentionally unlock my phone and open an app to find out what has “happened”, then I’m going to think twice about that action. Is this something that I have to do right now?  Most often the answer is no.

I’m breaking the habit of picking up my phone and letting it distract me from my day. That is the freedom that I am enjoying. I have time to finish the tasks on my to-do list. I’m finding joy in the little things in life again, like a quiet moment right after Little Man falls asleep. And when he’s awake I can give him my undivided attention when he needs it.

I just have to say again how freeing it is. Maybe I have a problem with my excessive phone use, but I don’t think I’m the only one. I’ve read about other’s that struggle with this, so I hope this one simple change can give you freedom too.

If you find yourself distracted by your phone, tablet, TV, or whatever device that becomes your vice, turn it off for a while! See if you can find some freedom and take back your time. Enjoy the day to day aspects of life. Be in the moment with your kids and spouse. It brings a renewed level of satisfaction in those relationships. It keeps you connected to the things and people that really matter.

Do you find yourself distracted by technology?


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Top Ten Reader Favorites from 2015

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I still can’t believe the new year is here. I’m not sure I’m ready to embrace it! But I have my theme and I must move forward. Before we move on, I want to celebrate some of my reader favorites from this past year! This blog has grown quite a bit and I am always blown away at the positive response I get from my lovely readers. So, a big THANK YOU to you for joining me in this journey!

Here’s the count-down to Never Lacking Zeal’s reader favorites:

How to make garlic oil

10: How to Make Garlic Oil – With its high nutritive benefits, garlic is one of the best things you can have in your kitchen. This simple garlic oil is great to have on hand this time of year to boost your immune system and ward off infections.

5 reasons you need epsom salt in your life title

9: 5 Reasons You Need Epsom Salt in Your Life – Plus a recipe for a relaxing foot soak! Epsom salt has some really amazing health benefits. Read the list to find out more.

what are the benefits of baltic amber 2

8: The Benefits of Baltic Amber – Is Amber all it’s cracked up to be? Although Baltic amber is often just looked upon as a hookey hippie necklace, there are some proven benefits that can make positive changes in your body. I don’t think we could have made it through teething without it.

DIY Sore Muscle Rub Title

7: DIY Sore Muscle Rub – Don’t forget to pack this in your gym bag. Sore Muscle Rub uses natural ingredients to help your body fight the inflammation caused by a tough work out. You can make your own Muscle Rub or buy some from my soap shop, Southern Vines Soap Company.

benefits of cedarwood eo

6: The Benefits of Cedarwood Essential Oil – If you’ve never smelled Cedarwood, you are missing out! One of my favorite essential oils to diffuse in my home and has quite a few benefits for the body too.

DIY Flea and Tick Repellent Dog Shampoo

5: DIY Dog Shampoo – Let’s not forget about our furry friends when it comes to switching to green household products. This shampoo will clean your pooch and help repel fleas and ticks. Make sure to whip up a batch before the Spring hits.

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4: DIY Liquid Shampoo – Although I’ve switched to using Herbal Shampoo Bars, you can’t go wrong with a wonderfully scented liquid shampoo. This combination of liquid castile soap, coconut milk, and essential oils will leave your hair nourished and smelling great.

DIY Static Stopper

3: DIY Static Stopper Spray – The dry season has recently hit at my house with the increased cold and use of the central heat. With it comes the static on my clothes and hair. And it drives me nuts! Thankfully, there’s no more craziness with this quick recipe.

DIY dry shampoo

2: DIY Dry Shampoo – I LOVE this recipe and so do my readers! So easy to make. And I use it almost every day (when I don’t shower).

12 ways to use grapefruit eo

1: 12 Ways to Use Grapefruit Essential Oil – This quick list has gone viral on Pinterest! Grapefruit essential oil is a mom’s best friend. Go read it to find out why it’s so amazing.

Again, thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. I love writing and I have some really amazing stuff for you this coming year. I hope you are encouraged and inspired to live a simple natural life.

What is your favorite post from this past year?


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New Year, New Theme

design (4)Ahh, the New Year. The time where most people pick a resolution and make a plan to become better at some thing or other.

I’ve expressed before how I don’t care for resolutions. New Year’s Resolutions tend to be loosely based ideas of who you want to be or thing you want to achieve. But without putting specifics on it, it can easily set you up for failure.

Instead I pick one word to use as a theme throughout the year. It is amazing what I learn. Last year’s theme was Be Present. I wanted to learn to focus more on the task at hand or be there wholeheartedly with my son and husband.

I believe I achieved that to some degree by simply putting down my smart phone and focusing.  But I also learned something else. Being present isn’t just focusing on what you are doing or who you are with at the moment, it can also be going out of your way to be in someone’s presence.

Taking the time, even when it’s inconvenient, to bring a friend out to coffee or be with a family member when they are facing rough circumstances, can make a huge impact on their lives. Physical presence is very important in our day and age of fast paced technology. It’s easily put on the wayside because we “don’t have time”. In reality, that is all we have to give.

Because of my strong introvert personality, I have a long way to go when it comes to reaching out to people. But I’m coming to realize the importance of it and also to be intentional in my conversations. Now, thinking of the growth that I still need to do in this area, Intentional would be a great word for next year. After considering it, though, it doesn’t quite fit. I believe my word this year needs to be Joy.

I have a feeling there will be some challenging things this next year and I want to face it with Joy. I know the Joy of the Lord will give me strength (Nehemiah 8:10).  I also know that I can rejoice in the Lord.  Philippians 4:4-7 is a favorite of mine.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So this year as you think about who you want to be and the things you want to achieve, what theme do you want to carry with you? Set your goals and achieve your dreams. Choose your theme and open your eyes and ears to all the God has in store for you this upcoming year.

What is your New Year’s Theme?

Christmas Thoughts

design (3)There are other things I need to be doing at the moment. Things mostly related to making our family Christmas a joyful and restful day, filled with the warm-fuzzies that come along with a hugely blessed life.

But I took some time out of my day to continue my Advent study. I attempt to do one every year and this year am finally succeeding (although I will go a few days past Christmas, I struggle making this a daily habit). I am blown away at what I am experiencing.

This small study is taking me through many of the prophecies about Christ and their fulfillment. There are so many amazing specifics spoken in the Old Testament that come true in the New that firmly convince me of God’s greater plan. I love reading about the prophecies of Jesus, many of which focus on his birth. This year has been a little bit different.

Generally at Christmas I like to think of the happy stories in the Bible. The story of Jesus’ birth and the miracle of his arrival. The glory of God wrapped in a small babe here to save the world. The heavenly angels singing to proclaim His coming. It gives me joy and happiness to think of Jesus here as a human, experiencing life as we know it.

But the Scriptures that are really hitting home are quite surprising to me. Not that I haven’t read them before or dwelled upon them, but for some reason they are really heavy on my heart. And that is hard for me to admit. I don’t like to share my emotions, especially if they are negative. I tend to keep them hidden, even from myself!

Have you read Isaiah 53? The Suffering Servant? The clearest picture of Christ painted in the Old Testament? It has me in tears. I’ve been reading it every day for almost a week now and I can’t stop the feelings! Besides that portion of Scripture there are many other’s that tell of the suffering that Christ endures.

Christ came to earth as a tiny baby, lying in a manger, born to poor parents that were nearly outcasts. He starts humbly and continues to keep that attitude throughout his life. If you know the story, jump ahead to the end of his life.

Jesus KNOWINGLY faces the most trying experience that anyone could face and he does so with humility and grace. He is rejected, betrayed, illegally tried, falsely accused, abandoned, mocked, beaten to disfigurement, spit upon, and crucified.

This is not just the Jesus of the nativity scene that we admire at Christmas. This is the Jesus that loves us so much that he would endure complete and total rejection from us to save us from death. Wow. I mean, can you even imagine all that? This is not the warm fuzzy story I want to dwell on at Christmas!

But the birth of Jesus is greatly to be celebrated because he is coming into the world to deliver us from death. And there is of course the most amazing ending to the story. Jesus lives again. Although he suffers more than anyone can bear, he conquers the grave and brings us new life.

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His glory shines through the story from the beginning to the end. It is spoken of throughout the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New. You can see how God’s Plan is greater than we can imagine. He loves us SO MUCH.

As I continue to think this week about what Christ did for me on the cross, I am going to celebrate his humble beginning all the more. He truly changed the course of history so we could live with him one day. I am so thankful he bore the burden that I couldn’t bear and saved me for a glorious life everlasting.