Thursday, October 31, 2013

Nourishing Your Skin Naturally

This month at Pasture Living, we are doing a series on how to take care of our skin naturally. The skin is the body’s largest organ and it absorbs everything we put on it directly into the body’s bloodstream; bypassing the organs that would filter out harmful ingredients. This is why it is so important to know what we put on our skin.

Many of us, including myself, probably never consider to look at the ingredients that are in our everyday skincare products. Even if we notice them, we don't really understand how these ingredients affect our health. And what is alarming is that there are no governing bodies that regulate the safety of ingredients in skincare products. 

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit organization that developed a site called Skin Deep which rates beauty products by brands and categorize them into: Sun, Makeup, Skin, Hair, Nails, Fragrance, Babies & Moms, Oral Care, and Men. They are rated on a scale of 0-10, 0 being the best and 10 being the worst. Try doing a little experiment and search for the safety rating of a product that you currently use. You may be surprised at what you find. Even the simplest products may still contain chemicals that you don't want on your skin. 

What Are the Alternatives?

There are still companies that make quality skincare products that are safe and natural, they generally cost more than the average conventional products. If that doesn't suit you, fret not, there are other ways that you can nourish your skin naturally, using simple ingredients that are easily obtainable to use as is or to make beauty products at home. Making your own beauty products is the safest and most frugal way to go. Not only we know everything that we put in it (and then onto our skin), we can personalize it to whatever we need.



- Castile Soap: This is a natural vegetable oil-based soap that doesn't have funky preservatives and additives added. Squirt a little bit (the soap is very concentrated), lather and rinse as usual.

- Baking Soda: It may sound weird to you but many have used this "no shampoo" method by just mixing baking soda and water as shampoo. You can try 1 part baking soda to 8 parts water in a bottle, give it a good mix, and squirt some to your hair. Lather and rinse thoroughly.

It is noteworthy that castile soap and baking soda are alkaline, which may make your hair tangle and irritate your scalp over time. For this reason, it's recommended to do an apple cider vinegar rinse (see below under "conditioner"). This restores the acid barrier in your scalp and gets rid of the tangle problem.


- Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) RinseThe acid in the vinegar removes scaly build up and residue on the scalp and hair shaft and closes the cuticles causing them to lie flat and shine. Vinegar also restores the natural pH balance of your scalp, preventing it from becoming dried out and itchy. It is not recommended to do a vinegar rinse with every single shampoo due to the high acidity. You can add a few drops of rosemary and/or lavender essential oils to your ACV rinse to help with dandruff, itchy, and flaky scalp. 


- Coconut Oil: Generations have used this oil to keep our hair and skin healthy. 

- Jojoba Oil: This is an excellent scalp moisturizer which can help re-balance sebum and prevent flakiness.

You can use both as a leave-in hair moisturizer.



- Castile Soap

Oil Cleansing MethodThe oil cleansing method is simple and frugal. Mix castor oil and any cold-pressed vegetable oil such as extra-virgin olive oil, apply it your face, place a warm towel over your face to open up the pores and let the oils do their work. When it gets lukewarm, do it one more time. When it's done, you can rinse your face and pat dry. Castor oil is anti-inflammatory which cleanse and heals the skin. Surprisingly it doesn't leave skin oily and often eliminates the need for moisturizer. 


Toners (or astringents) are very helpful in tightening pores, removing impurities and excess oil from the skin.

- Witch Hazel: It acts as a natural moisturizer which tightens the skin, stabilizes and normalizes the pH balance in your skin and shrinks your pores. This is good especially for oily and acne prone skin.

- Rosewater: Simply steep rose petals in boiling water and let it cool. Rosewater is a gentle and moisturizing antiseptic that stimulates circulation. If you have issues in broken veins or capillaries and you can see them, this helps to reduce the appearance of the broken veins. This is especially good for dry skin.

- Green Tea: Brewing green tea and refrigerating it makes a cooling toner that is rich in antioxidants and helpful for soothing irritated skin and sunburns. It's good for all skin types.

Moisturizer/Makeup Remover

- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, coconut oil and jojoba oil all hydrate and nourish skin. They also make good makeup removers. You just need a little bit of oil to apply to your skin. I love jojoba oil the best as I find it the least greasy. I read somewhere of a lady who uses coconut oil to remove her mascara and notices that new eyelashes started to grow, maybe it's because of the rich nutrients in coconut oil.

Acne Treatment

- Witch Hazel - Its antibacterial properties is helpful in treating acne prone skin.

- Tea Tree Essential Oil - Its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties is effective at banishing acne blemishes.


Jojoba, apricot kernal, avocado, and extra-virgin olive oil are all moisturizing and help to soften fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes.


I don't use lip balm in Singapore because the weather is humid so I don't get dry/cracked lips as I used to have living in the US. There are many natural lip balms that you can purchase such as this from Apple Valley Natural Soap. Or you can make your own using this tutorial which uses calendula and sweet almond oil.



Castile Soap


- Coconut Oil

- Jojoba Oil: It is the oil that most resembles our skin's sebum. It moistures the skin without leaving an oily residue.

- Sweet Almond Oil: It is very rich in fatty acids and contains a high concentration of vitamin E, which is great for our skin.

Stretch Marks

- Coconut Oil

- Argan Oil: This non-greasy, fast absorbing oil is one of the world's most potent beauty serums, is rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, which offers better protection for skin than most oils.

Of course, drinking enough water, eating healthy food (including good fats), and avoiding processed food will help our skin stay in good condition. What we put in our bodies is just as important as what we put on our bodies. It doesn't mean that you will not have any skin issue at all, but it will give your body the best chance to heal the issues that may arise.

What is your favorite natural beauty recipe?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Is Your Honey Pure or Fake?

The health benefits of honey, especially manuka honey, is widely known and the honey industry has caught on this as a money-making business and they are good at making honey look real even though they are not. For those who don't know, it is easy to get tricked into buying fake honey. Even for those who understand, labeling on honey can be misleading. Honey can be labeled as "real" or "natural" and they do not mean anything. They may be well have been heated or pasteurized, damaging the natural enzymes and nutrients found in raw honey. Do you know that to boost profits, some honey manufacturers even dilute honey with water, cheap sugars such as corn syrup or molasses, and then they add flour, starch, even chalk or sand, to increase the thickness of the honey? You are almost guaranteed that the rows and rows of honey you see in the supermarket aisle are not real honey. Prices are not always a good indication of quality honey and it's almost impossible to tell the bad from the good by just looking at the honey.

Different Labeling in Honey

Raw/Unpasteurized Honey: This honey comes straight from the honey comb and it is unheated, retaining all of the beneficial enzymes and nutrients. This is the honey that you want.

Raw, Filtered Honey: This honey has been heated slightly to make it easier to filter out small particles like pollen and propolis. The result is a somewhat cleaner (raw) honey but it doesn't contain all of the benefits of unpasteurized honey. It's still a better option compared to pasteurized or "natural" honey.

Pure/Liquid Honey
"Pure" honey label only means that there is read pure honey inside, but it doesn't guarantee its pure honey content is 100%. It can mean that it has been diluted with water or corn syrup, that is why the honey may be more runny, just like syrup. It is also most likely that the honey has been heated, destroying the natural enzymes that are present in raw honey.

Natural/Organic Honey: By now you probably already know that the term "natural" or "organic" do not hold much meaning. Like "pure" honey, it is almost guaranteed that it has been adultered, heated, and/or mixed with fillers.

Pasteurized Honey: You would rarely (or never) see honey containers that say it's "pasteurized." People often associate honey that does not crystallize as good honey, when in fact crystallization is normal in raw honey. Heating the honey and killing the enzymes through pasteurization ensures that the honey will not crystallize as quickly, but this is it, many do not know that this is a practice that destroys all the goodness in honey.

Characteristics of Raw Honey

- Does not separate into layers
- Has natural impurities such as pollen, bee bread, wax, propolis
- Has a soft texture
- Quite thick and trickles in a thin stream
- No foam

How to Test for Honey Purity?

- Hold a lighted match to the honey. If it is raw honey, it will melt and not begin to hiss straight away.

- Mix the honey in the water. Raw honey will not dissolve. If you add 2-3 drops of iodine to the solution, it will not turn blue.

- Put some honey onto a piece of paper. If a damp patch spreads around it then it is diluted.

- Dip a piece of stale bread into the honey. After 8-10. Minutes it should be firm and not soften.

- Mix some water into the honey and add 2-3 drops of vinegar essence. If the solution becomes foamy, it is not raw honey.

- Heat a stainless steel piece of wire and insert it into the honey. Raw honey will stick to the metal and not flow back into the jar.

My stance is no matter how cheap a "pure" honey is, it's not worth the cost if it doesn't contain the natural beneficial enzymes or if it has been adultered or diluted with water or cheap sugars. The best is to always buy raw/unpasteurized honey, preferably locally so you know where your honey comes from. I visited a bee farm while in Cameron Highlands, and asking questions directly to the people in the farm is the surest bet that the honey is 100% raw.

Can share your favorite raw, unpasteurized honey sold in Singapore?

Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Recipe: Chicken and Bacon Potpie (Pastel Tutup)

This dish is called "pastel tutup" in Indonesia. A comfort food that my family loves.


Boneless chicken, cut small
Bacon, cut small (optional)
Carrots, cut small
Rice vermicelli
Cheddar or parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Coconut oil


1. Boil or steam potatoes until soft, mash, add some milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

2. Boil rice vermicelli until soft. Set aside.

3. Hard-boil eggs. Divide each egg into four smaller pieces. Set aside. (You can use as many eggs as you like, I use four eggs for one casserole dish).

4. Make the potpie filling. Heat up coconut oil, stir fry garlic, then add chicken, bacon, and carrots. Cook until meat is well done and carrots are soft. Add in rice vermicelli, a little dash of nutmeg, milk, salt, and pepper. Add in cheese to thicken the filling. Stir well.

5. Place the filling and eggs in an oven-proof dish and cover with mashed potatoes.

6. Bake at 375 F until the top of the mashed potatoes turn brown.

Bon appétit!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Elin's First Birthday

This post is long due, but it's never late than never. One year birthday is a major milestone I don't want to forget. It's a day to celebrate God's love, blessings and providence, and a way of thanking our families and friends who have supported us in our journey of parenthood. A lot of amazing things happen in the first year of a child's life and I cherish every moment of my first year as a mom. I shared this post from 1 Corinthians 13 as a birthday favor for the Moms. It is my prayer and desire to teach my children to fear the Lord and bring them up in the way of the Lord.

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." - Proverbs 9:10

We love you, sweet darling, from long before we've met you.

Read here for Elin's first year (month by month) scrapbook.

Read here for Elin's first year's milestones.

Here is Elin's First Birthday Celebration in Video and Pictures.

This video was created by our friend, Dharmawan. Thank you, De!

The food
The homemade decor, birthday cake, and favors.
Blowing the candle!
Thank you for all the gifts!
She is one very happy girl!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Elin's First Year's Milestones

I want to compile Elin's many little milestones in her first year before I forget. It is to remind me the miracles of God's most amazing creation: humans created in His likeness and image. I want to remember that we can only do so much in helping, nurturing, and teaching our children but in the end, God is the composer and author of her life and future. I can't wait to see what comes next in her "storybook." 

This was the beginning. Elin's firsts and milestones. 

First month: We first caught her big smile on camera while Daddy was holding you in his arms.

Second month: She cooed a lot and smiled when we played with her. Her eyes could follow objects and she could lift up her head up while lying on her tummy. She also took her first plane ride from Singapore to Jakarta when she was forty days old and she did well on the plane.

Third month: She smiled wide when we played and talked to her. She said "buuuu" when she was about to cry. She could move her head left and right while sleeping and we heard her first laugh on April 11! She had her first cold and fever, but thankfully she recovered quickly. We traveled to Jakarta for the second time with her to celebrate her grandpa's birthday.

Fourth month: She started to babble a lot, flip over on the bed, hold her body up with her hands, lift her head high, reach for things, grab everything she saw, and move around while sleeping. We also started bringing her swimming using a neck ring and she loved the water.

Fifth month: She started to move around more easily, was alert, and able to sit up for a while unsupported.

Sixth month: She could lift up her body (kneeling position) while holding to the crib railing, started to crawl, and was able to lift up one hand while crawling. She stood up in her crib (holding on to the crib railing) for the first time towards the end of her sixth month. She also started to complain if we take things away from her. We went back to Jakarta for the third time to attend her great grandpa's funeral.

Seventh month: She could crawl forward and roll over quickly, sit up without support, and stand up quickly. She could sit herself up from a sleeping position. She started to experience stranger anxiety and cried when other people approached or carried her. She could put her pacifier in her mouth herself and her back was strong enough to sit on a highchair. We brought her to Bali to attend a friend's wedding.

She also didn't like to eat much and needed a full band to entertain her.

Eighth month: She could cruise along, crawling fast, grabbing and putting everything in her mouth. She also realized the fun of throwing things to the floor.

Ninth month: She stood up for a few seconds for the first time without holding on to anything on her bed. We also brought her to the beach and introduced her to the sand but she didn't like how the sand felt on her feet and she cried. 

Tenth month: She could point, clap, do high-five's, and dance (moved her body left and right) when she heard music or when we told her to. She could go up the stairs but not down. She also started to stand up without holding on to anything more often and learned to balance herself for a few seconds. We finally saw her first tooth coming out and by the end of the month, she had three teeth (two middle bottom and one middle top left). 

Eleventh month: She was baptized. We went on our first family vacation to Korea for a week and it was so much fun! Unfortunately she fell sick after we came back to Singapore. She had diarrhea for a week, followed by ear infection, cough, cold, and fever. It took two weeks to fully recover because I chose the natural route to treat her cough, cold, and fever. I did give her antibiotics for her ear infection because I wasn't familiar with a natural way to treat it at the time.

Twelve month: We celebrated her first birthday at home with family and friends and we started teaching her simple sign language (more, eat, water, kiss bye, bird, fish, milk, wave, please, thank you, pray, etc).

A week after she turned thirteen months, she took her first few steps and walked on her own without holding to anything. The rest is history in the making. 

Having her makes me appreciate my mom. Having her refines my own life. And having her brings out my need for a Savior.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Elin's First Birthday Cake

I wanted to make something unique and special for Elin's first birthday cake. Then I remembered seeing a rotating cake online and I knew I had to make one. So with the help of my sister, Kathy, we bought some fondants, food colorings, a rotating system, and we make this lovely rotating hot air balloon four-tiered cake.

Making the pink fondant flowers.

Put them on the white fondant background.
Halfway done.
Making "Happy Birthday Elin" Alphabets.

The yellow ladybug.
The turtle.
The sheep.
Working on the rotating system
for the top of the cake.
Making the hot air balloons with the
moral support of my little Elin down below.
And it's done!
Elin loved the rotating hot air balloons!

You can see this video on how the cake rotates.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Recipe: Soaked Breakfast Oatmeal

My family loves oatmeal for breakfast. But I used to buy instant oatmeal before I knew the importance of eating whole foods and soaking grains. Instant oatmeal is convenient but it is nowhere as nutritious as using whole oats and cooking it from scratch. They are highly processed and many of them contain too much refined sugar that I would rather avoid. Now that I know better, we've been eating soaked steel-cut oats for breakfast everyday. Not only it cooks up faster, it reduces the anti-nutrients in the oats, and making it more digestible for our body. I like to sweeten it with fruits or raisins and natural sweeteners when it needs a little bit more sweetness.


To soak the oats, I use:

Steel-cut oats
Apple cidar vinegar
Rye flakes

And I add the following to my oats:

Fresh fruits: Bananas, apples, peaches, etc., cut small
Cinnamon powder
A bit of pastured butter


1. Soak your oats 12-36 hours prior (I always have oats that are being soaked on my kitchen counter every day). Drain your oats and rinse it under running water to get rid of the sourness from the apple cider vinegar.

2. In a pot under medium heat, put the oats, fruits of your choice, raisins, butter, and a few dashes of cinnamon. Cook until oatmeal is soft. Serve warm. 

Bon appétit!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.