Rachel Robin's Nest

Crafts, Projects and Recipes to Help Feather Your "Nest"

Back to Basics April 13, 2013

Filed under: For the home — DarlinRae @ 5:55 pm
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Wow.  It’s been a while, huh?  Sorry about that folks.  I don’t really have an excuse other than life.  This blog is intended to be a hobby, and I just haven’t had a lot of time for it lately.  So what have I been up to?  Well, lots.

I’ve been knitting and sewing like a crazy lady, because a friend of mine is pregnant with her first child, a little girl, due July 4, so I’ve been working on little gifties.  Of course, since I haven’t given her the gifts yet, I can’t post them yet, but I will eventually, I promise!

I’ve been working on my overall health and fitness.  This is something that I always struggle with, and I have a hard time having a balanced approach.  It’s usually all or nothing, which can lead to less time for fun blog type activities.

I’ve been reading, researching and thinking a lot about using more natural, organic products.  About becoming more self-sufficient and making things that people in this day and age usually buy.  About a sort of “back to basics” approach to life.  Let’s face it:  I’m becoming a hippie.  For real.  I’m talking growing my own veggies, composting, raising chickens for eggs, beekeeping, canning, pickling, baking and cooking.  Making my own soap, lotion, lip balm, deodorant and shampoo.  Yeah.  We’re off the deep end and into hippie land now.

But here’s the thing.  I don’t think it’s that crazy.  I think it’s necessary.  I had a long conversation about this stuff with my friend Erin of Wicked Vegan, and talked about about it with my BF today.  My personal belief is that a lot of the behavioral issues and food allergies that have developed in children in recent years is due to the exponential increase in exposure to chemicals in our everyday products and processed foods.  I believe that the current obesity epidemic is because home-cooked meals are going the way of the dinosaur.  These concerns weren’t as present when we were kids, or when our parents were kids.  So what’s the difference?

We’re not cooking for ourselves anymore.  Our food comes from boxes and cans.  It comes out of the freezer.  It’s grown in Mexico or Chile and sprayed with chemicals and shipped clear across the globe to get to us.   It’s made in huge factories with oodles of sugar and sodium.  It’s packed with unrecognizeable and unreadable ingredients.  It’s made with things that are potentially harmful.  The ingredients that we are putting on or in our body are not things we’d normally choose to eat, but because they’re masked with big scary words, or hidden in an ingredient list a mile long.  Moms and Dads are tricked with words like “natural” or “whole grain” into thinking that processed foods are good for their children.  Children are being raised in a world where moms and dads don’t cook anymore, so they aren’t learning basic nutrition and culinary skills.  We’re raising generations of people who are completely disconnected from their food and unable to make healthy, nutritious meals.

I myself am a perfect example of this.  In my house, Dad did all the cooking.  And Dad is a meat and potatoes man.  He’s also the least adventurous eater I’ve ever met, aside from myself and my older sister.  The only “vegetable” he will eat is corn, and only if it’s dripping with butter and salt.  So as a child, my basic meals consisted of a meat and a starch, or even a meat and two starches (potatoes and corn, or rice and corn, or pasta and corn).  As a result, I never tasted most vegetables or fruits and never really developed a taste for them.  The only vegetable I could stomach until I was about 15 years old was carrot.  And I would only eat them raw.  My best friend’s family used to keep a bag of baby carrots in the fridge at all times in case I came over for dinner, because the rule in their house was that there was a vegetable with every meal.

The result is that I grew up thinking that grilled cheese with rice was a perfectly acceptable dinner.  I didn’t eat any vegetables other than carrots.  I didn’t eat any fruits other than apples and bananas.  Cheese was a major food group.  When I went away to college, I gained 20 pounds in one semester because all I ate was pizza and burritos.  If I ate a salad, it was drenched in ranch dressing.  I have struggled in my adult life to develop a taste for vegetables, and to retrain my brain regarding food and nutrition.  I had to teach myself to cook healthy, well-balanced meals.  Even now, when I’ve come so far and learned so much, most nights I still prepare a meat and a starch for dinner because I don’t like a lot of veggies, or don’t know how to prepare them.  Because it’s my normal pattern.  I’m still fighting the habits I learned in my childhood.

And that’s not even touching the environmental impacts…  I could go on and on about this topic, and I’m sure it will continue to come up, but for now, suffice to say that I’m going to try to break this pattern, at least in my own life, with my own family and future children.  I want to decrease our exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.  I want to be more self-sufficient.  I want to be better about recycling.  About buying responsibly raised and gently butchered meat.  As items in my pantry run out, I plan to replace them with all natural, organic alternatives.  And I want to make as much of my own stuff as I possibly can.  As I continue on this journey, I plan to share all of my useful recipes, tutorials, tips and tricks, because I think other people feel the same way I do, and I want to encourage others to live a healthier, more whole life.

If you’re looking for some resources for where to start, these are the books I’ve been using myself:

The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.  Their argument is that you don’t need a house and several acres of land in order to be more self-sufficient and less consumeristic.  They live in the middle of LA and keep chickens and bees, have apple trees and a veggie garden and a compost bin.  This book is more of the philosophy behind the whole thing.  Less a practical guide and more of a reason to start.  Their second book, Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World is the follow up.  This book will tell you how to do everything from building a hen house to making beer.  They break it out into sections for daily, monthly and seasonal projects.  You can do as much or as little as you want.  I think composting my own poop is a bit extreme, but nobody’s saying I have to do it, they’re just saying I can.

Skinny Bitch: Home, Beauty and Style by Kim Barnouin.  Kim of Skinny Bitch fame breaks down everything in your house that could possibly be killing you, and makes you feel like you need to replace everything in your house from your couch to your soap.  Take everything with a grain of salt.  She’s a bit extreme at times, but she does an amazing job of laying out the major bad-for-you chemicals in different household and beauty products so that you can be more educated when shopping.  My only beef with the book is that she’s vegan, and I’m not, so she tells me that wool, leather and other animal based products are terrible and evil and I’m a bad person for using them.  If you’re vegan, you’ll probably love it.  Non-vegans can just ignore that stuff and take advantage of the huge amount of research that she’s done.

***I’d just like to state for the record:  I LOVE Cheez Doodles.  I eat pre-packaged food and canned soups.  I’m human.  I’m not perfect, and I can only do so much at once.  This will be a slow transition.  I don’t want to shock my system or get overwhelmed.  It’s going to be interesting.  But I can do it, and so can you.


DIY Eye Makeup Remover January 16, 2012

Filed under: DIY — DarlinRae @ 2:57 pm
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If you are like me (and probably lots of other people, too), one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to save more money.  Unfortunately, experts say that an ambiguous goal like that is one of the hardest to keep.  A goal like “I will save $1000 this year” is firmer, and will therefore make it easier to keep up with, because you can measure your progress.  So I decided to tweak mine a little by saying that I will save more money by making stuff myself whenever possible.

One area where I can definitely commit to this is making my own personal care supplies.  Often there is an initial monetary outlay for the ingredients, but the savings can be tremendous.  You’ve all (hopefully) read my homemade deodorant post.  Well, I never did the math before, but suffice to say that if you are buying brand name deodorant for $5-6, you’re paying way too much.

So in the interest of making stuff for myself, I present to you DIY Eye Makeup Remover.  It’s quick, easy, and effective.  Best of all, it’s SUPER CHEAP!  The recipe uses mostly things you already have around the house.  The one thing most of you will probably have to purchase is Baby Shampoo, which, at $2 for an 8 oz bottle, is not exactly a splurge.

Here’s my feeble attempt at the math on how much we’re saving (I’m a theatre kid. We don’t do math):

Drug Store Brand Eye Makeup Remover:  $5 for 4 oz

Baby Shampoo:  $2 for 8 oz.  Olive Oil:  $15 for 68 oz.  Water: Free

One batch of this stuff uses 1 1/2 tbs Baby Shampoo, 1/8 tsp olive oil, and water.  You get 8 oz from one batch.  One batch costs mere pennies!  Which is a huge saving compared to $5 for 4 oz.  Hooray!  We’re saving money and being crafty together!

DIY Eye Makeup Remover


  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Baby Shampoo (I used Johnson & Johnson)
  • 1/8 teaspoon olive oil*
  • Funnel
  • One 8oz container or several smaller ones

*The original recipe at AdelynStone I found for this called for Baby Oil.  I didn’t have Baby Oil and didn’t feel like buying it.  Also, after reading through some of the comments, people are highly divided on whether or not it’s safe to use Baby Oil on your face, and recommended olive oil or coconut oil as substitutes.


  1. Combine all ingredients, mixing gently
  2. Using a funnel, pour into containers
  3. When ready to use, shake gently to re-combine ingredients, and apply using a cotton ball or pad

This took about 5 minutes to whip up, which I think we can all agree is not a huge time commitment, and I use such a small amount of it everyday I’m fairly confident it will last me a good long time.  The baby shampoo gives it a nice, clean scent, and it doesn’t leave my face feeling oily or greasy like many other eye makeup removers I’ve used.

It should be noted that I use waterproof mascara, and that it took some slightly more aggressive rubbing in order to remove the mascara, but it did work.  I haven’t had a chance yet to try it on non-waterproof mascara, but I can only assume if it works on waterproof, it will be even more effective with regular mascara.  I plan on playing around with the recipe to see if I can make it more effective on the waterproof stuff.  More oil perhaps?  If you try it out and make any adjustments to the recipe, let me know!

See how nicely the black came off?



Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup January 13, 2012

Filed under: Recipes — DarlinRae @ 10:11 pm
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This is something I have been meaning to do FOREVER!  Every time I roast a bird or pick up a quick rotisserie chicken for dinner, I think, boy, I should make soup too.  It’s a great way to extend leftovers and make something out of the chicken carcass that is typically thrown away.  And who doesn’t like chicken soup?  But I somehow never quite got around to doing it.  I actually started once, but, paralyzed by fear of not having a recipe to follow, I gave up.

This time, however, I was determined to follow through.  On Monday night, after a grueling round of grocery shopping, Ben and I decided we were too tired to cook and picked up a “Bourbon” rotisserie chicken at Stop & Shop.  Sadly, I think the chickie spent a little too much time under the heat lamps.  It was a little overcooked and dry in places, but definitely still edible.  Also, the “Bourbon” seasoning or whatever was not my favorite thing, but after eating enough to fill ourselves, I got down to business.  Please note that this “recipe” is merely approximations of what I actually did, because I myself did not use a recipe, and went by taste.

Homemade Chicken Soup

Ingredients (Chicken Stock)

  • One leftover chicken roast
  • 2 stalks celery,
  • 2 medium carrots,
  • 2 medium onions,
  • water
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch basil
  • pinch thyme

Ingredients for the Soup

  • shredded chicken
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 3 stalks celery
  • Half a box of pasta (elbows, radiators etc-small pieces)-optional
  • Spices to taste


  1. Grab your leftover chicken and strip all of the edible meat off the bones.  Shred the meat and save it for later.  Save the bones too.
  2. Wash and coarsely chop your onions, celery and carrots-don’t bother peeling them as long as you wash them well.
  3. Put bones and veggies in a large stock pot and cover with water.  Add seasonings (see Note About Seasoning below)
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 4 hours, but up to a full day, skimming off any scum or fat that may rise to the top.  Strain the bones and veggies out of the stock-make sure you reserve the stock.  Discard bones and veggies-you’ve extracted all the flavor from them and don’t want to eat mushy, overcooked veggies!  You may keep the stock refrigerated for a day or so or freeze it and make the soup at a later date

    What the stock looked like post-marathon simmer

  5. When you’re ready to make the soup, wash, peel and chop all of your fresh, new veggies into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Add your stock, veggies, and chicken meat to the broth and bring to a low simmer-season to taste with salt, pepper, basil and thyme
  7. If you are using pasta, boil it separately so that the pasta doesn’t suck up all your broth, and add the cooked pasta just before serving.

    The finished product. It was hard to get a good picture because the steam kept fogging up my camera lens.

I have to say, for a first attempt, the soup came out pretty darn good!  We ate it for dinner last night and again for lunch today, and there’s still some left over!  I definitely have some tweaking to do though-I only simmered my carcass and veggies for about 3 hours, and according to my dear friend Jaska (read her blog here), the key to a good stock is simmering the bird for a good long time-at least 12 hours, so I intend to do this next time.

**A Note About Spicing-I think all told I ended up using about 3 tbsp of salt, but the amount you use will depend on the amount of water you use, so start small and incrementally add more.  Just be careful and patient!  I also ended up using quite a bit of black pepper, and about 1/2 tsp each of basil and thyme.

What else did you try putting in your soup?


DIY: Earrings from Paper Clips and Emroidery Floss January 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — DarlinRae @ 5:34 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Well what do you know?  Rachel is at it again!  Making things she found on Pinterest.  Yaaay!  Seriously, my pinboards are so full, I’ve got to start making some of this stuff or my head is going to explode.  I intended to have this post ready to go before the holidays, but unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

These babies are quite pretty.  I first saw them on Pinterest months ago, pinned them, and promptly forgot about them because I got distracted pinning another 8 gajillion cute, fun ideas.  Then, a week or two before Christmas I found another website with 25 homemade gifts for under $5, and wouldn’t you know it, there they were again.  It was like a sign from the cosmos that I should make some for Christmas gifts.  So I did.  And I’ll share them with you today, although you should definitely check out the original tutorial as well, because I think hers are a lot prettier!

How to Make Paperclip Earrings


  • Embroidery floss
  • 2 paper clips (size is up to you)
  • Earring hooks
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun
  • Elmer’s glue


  1. Unbend the paper clip at all the corners and shape into an isosceles triangle (2 long , equal sides and one short side)
  2. Fasten the edges together with a tiny bit of hot glue.  The less you use the better.  I know it’s kinda tricky, and you can see on mine that you end up with a fat area.  As far as I can see, there’s not really a way around this.  If you find one, please let me know!
  3. Cut a long piece of embroidery floss (approx 2 arm lengths) and wrap embroidery floss tightly around the entire surface of the paper clip, securing with small dabs of Elmer’s glue.  I placed tiny dots, then dabbed them flat with my finger so that the glue would dry very thin and clear
  4. Once all of the metal is covered, start wrapping the embroidery floss around the paperclip however you want-make a messy web, a spider-y web, go dream catcher style, or wrap the whole thing.  It’s really up to you.  Just make sure that you secure the floss by going around the edge, and use some Elmer’s once in a while to keep it all together.  The tighter the better!
  5. Once you have a pleasing design, secure earring hooks and you’re good to go!

These green ones are for my best girlfriend Mandy, and I made some purple ones for my friend Lauren.

Aren’t they pretty?  And making one pair only took about an hour, so they’re not too time consuming.  Give it a try and I bet you’ll be surprised at how nicely they come out!


I’m turning into a hippie… November 11, 2011

Filed under: DIY — DarlinRae @ 10:34 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I grew up in Vermont.  For most people, that conjures up one of two images:  slack-jawed country yokel, driving around in a pickup and listening to country music, or granola-munching, sandal-wearing, pot-smoking hippie.  Personally, I’ve never really identified with either of those stereotypes.  I will admit that I love a good pair of Birkenstocks, and until very recently my vehicle of choice was a 1987 four-on-the-floor Toyota pickup, but I’m neither a hippie nor a hill-billy.

Lately, however, I’ve been involved with the musical “Hair.”  It is the infamous “Tribal love-rock musical” set in 1968.  Yes, we are doing the nude scene.  Yes, really.  I’m also growing out my underarm hair.  Yes really. I know musical theater is not for everyone, but this truly is a powerful, provocative show, and it’s very relevant to the current youth generation’s mindset about politics, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and personal freedom.

It’s also rubbing off on me a lot.  I’ve been getting more and more into natural, homemade beauty products lately, and I think this show is partly to blame.  I mean, I can’t pretend to be a hippie four nights a week and not have it bleed over into my real life a little bit.

So this week, I did something I never thought I would ever do in a million years:  I made my own deodorant.  Now, I’m the kind of girl who has needed deodorant and/or antiperspirant since puberty.  I sweat a LOT, so I’ve always used store-bought, heavy duty stuff.  I’ve gone through a few “natural” phases, but the stuff I tried never seemed to do enough.

Unfortunately, it seems not a day goes by without another product once thought to be perfectly harmless showing up on the news as the next thing that’s going to give you cancer/kill you, and aluminum antiperspirants are on that list.  I don’t know how closely this has been studied, but what they’re saying is that antiperspirants made with aluminum are now being linked to both breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  I already have a family history of both, so I figure I should probably do my best to minimize risk where I can, and I think  eliminating antiperspirant is a good place to start.  Also, get this:  the way aluminum works as an antiperspirant is, the molecules get inside your pores and sweat ducts, and expand so sweat can’t come out.  Doesn’t that sound creepy and wrong to you?  It sure does to me!

So then, all natural deodorant, made from stuff in my kitchen.  And honestly, folks, it couldn’t be any easier.  It smells really nice, and so far, it’s kept pit-stink at bay.  Please realize, however, this is NOT an antiperspirant-you WILL sweat, you just won’t smell when you do it :)

DIY Deodorant from CheapLikeMe


  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 5 tbsp coconut oil
  • 5 drops tea tree oil
  • 5 drops peppermint (or any other) essential oil

Making this stuff is simple as can be.  Sift the corn starch and baking soda together to combine well.  Zap the coconut oil in the microwave for 10 seconds to soften.  It’s only semisolid at room temperature anyway, so if it’s a warm day when you’re doing this, you may not need to heat it up at all!  Combine coconut oil with the powder mixture and mix well.  Add the essential oils and mix well again.  Pour into small pots/tins etc and allow to cool 24 hours before using.  The finished product will be a nice paste-like consistency.

I used some old face cream jars for mine (washed and dried thoroughly of course).  I ended up with just enough to fill these two:

One for me and one for Ben :)

When you are ready to use, just scoop up a small amount with your finger and rub into your underarms.  I must say, it feels really weird with all the hair there right now, but I’m sure once I shave again all will be well!

Thus far, I’m impressed.  After a really intense, sweaty workout at the gym yesterday, there was only the tiniest hint of B.O., which happens with most other deodorants/antiperspirants I’ve tried anyway.  And that was a single application!  I need to get a few smaller pots/tins to have natural deo on the go :)  As a heads up, the coconut oil WILL melt at high temperatures, so keep that in mind when selecting your receptacle!


Homemade Hair De-Tangler October 24, 2011

Filed under: DIY — DarlinRae @ 8:33 pm
Tags: , ,

For most of my life, I’ve had relatively short, straight hair, so knots and snarls has never been a huge problem for me.  However, I’ve been growing my hair out for the last couple of years, and it’s now the longest it’s ever been.  Considering that my hair is pretty much pin straight, that’s not usually a problem.

Lately however, I’ve been dealing with a lot of difficult hair brushing sessions because I’m rehearsing for the musical “Hair,” which involves a lot of whipping my hair back and forth and generally letting my hair run wild, while I dance around and get all sweaty and gross, making me the temporary mayor of Tangletown.

I was looking at hair detanglers at Target, and all I could find was stuff made for kids that smelled like bubble gum or sour apple Jolly Ranchers, or stuff that cost WAY too much.  So, I hit the internet and started searching DIY hair de-tangler.  It turns out that it’s actually incredibly easy and cheap to make.  All you need is a spray bottle, a leave-in conditioner, and some warm water.

I’m going to be honest:  I did not use any measurements when doing this.  All the tutorials/recipes I found had different measurements.  It seems the general rule is:  the more tangled and/or dry your hair is, the higher the conditioner to water ratio is, and the less tangled and or/oilier your hair is, the lower the conditioner to water ratio should be.  If you a a recipe sort of person and would like more explicit instructions, you can check out this tutorial from Racks and Mooby or this one from Tip Nut.  I promise I won’t be offended!

Since my hair is generally pretty smooth and somewhat oily, I only filled my spray bottle about 1/8 of the way with conditioner.  Then, I filled the bottle the rest of the way with warm tap water, put the lid on, and shook it to combine.  It really is that simple!  I just give the bottle a gentle shake before each use to make sure everything is well mixed.  I’ve been using this stuff for a week already and I’m very pleased with how it came out, but you may need to experiment a bit to get the ratios right for your hair.

Also, I’m sure you could use a regular old conditioner too (that’s what most DIYers recommended, as it’s cheaper), but I’m just a little weirded out by the idea of leaving conditioner in my hair that’s meant to be rinsed out.  However, I’m probably just being paranoid.  Some folks also recommended adding a bit of gel or hairspray to the mix if your hair is curly, to help tame the frizzies.

Let me know how it works out for you!



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