Homemade natural moisturizer = excitement!

December 20, 2010

Happy holidays, ye fellow bloggers and readers! I don’t even really know what “ye” means, but nevermind.

I just wanted to pop up into your RSS feed/inbox/Google search/etc. for two reasons, which are completely unrelated other than a tenuous connection to Christmas. One is this: I decided to make some from-scratch holiday gifts this year, hoping to save money and maybe impress my friends and family a bit. I’m knitting a scarf, but it’s taken me months and the yarn isn’t cheap; I made some cinnamon-hazelnut pear butter and a few soups and jams, too, but I was looking for something different. Finally, I decided I was going to make my own moisturizer. Full disclosure: This was also for my own benefit, because as content as I am to refill my all-natural body lotion at the Big Carrot and use jojoba and coconut oil for the drier months, I was really missing those thick body creams. Also, the weird rashy business around my eyes was coming back and it doesn’t respond well to straight-up oils.

Sooo… into the kitchen I went! I decided to start with some of the ingredients Meghan recommends in her Natural Body Care e-Tutorial — this is totally worth downloading, by the way; not just because I’m friends with her, but because it’s incredibly thorough, 100% healthy and eco-friendly — but of course, as Meghan herself always does, I veered slightly off-course from the official recipe. Here’s the thing I learned with natural moisturizers: EMULSIFIERS ARE KEY. This sounds like an evil toxic word, but it basically just refers to a type of wax that binds water and oil, which you need to do when you’re making these products, unless you want a very thick paste that melts into a rather oily substance when you rub it in (which is fine, for winter, but a bit much for the warmer seasons… it also means you’re not saving much money — the whole thing with adding water is that it stretches the product out more).

Now, some people claim that beeswax is an emulsifier… this may be so, but in all my attempts to use it, the water and oil never really blended together. Finally, I ordered some plant/vegetable-based emulsifying wax from Mountain Rose Herbs (AMAZING site, fyi) — you can find their waxes here — and tried it out. Result: PERFECT MOISTURIZER! So I bought some spice tins, some cute labels and presto — original Christmas gift accomplished. Here’s what one of the tins and moisturizer looks like:

I’m still fiddling a bit with the proportions of oils, wax, water and so forth, but I’m so happy with the final product. It goes on thick and creamy, smells delicious and actually keep my skin moist. It even cured the redness around my eyes!

Here’s the recipe for those interested:

Vanilla-bean and toasted marshmallow moisturizer (note: there are no marshmallows in here; it just smells like ’em!)


– 3 tbsp cocoa butter
– 2 tsp coconut oil
– 1 tsp vitamin E
– 3 tsp apricot kernel oil
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 tsp vanilla beans
– 1 tsp beeswax
– 4 tbsp emulsifying wax
– 1 1/2 cups filtered water

Another note: The vanilla beans are totally optional (mostly, they just lead to more “ooohs” and “aaahhhs” upon opening). You can also switch up the apricot kernel oil for another carrier oil like jojoba or almond oil, or just use more coconut oil. Beeswax can also be left out, but it adds a nice sweetness, I find.


– Using a double-boiler on medium-high heat (a bowl over a pot of boiling water, as you would when melting chocolate), melt the cocoa butter, beeswax, coconut oil, apricot kernel oil and emulsifying wax.
– When all is melted, gradually pour in the filtered water while whisking the mixture, either quickly by hand or with an electric blender. Remember that this solution will get thicker when it cools, so add enough water that it’s slightly more liquid than you want.
– Remove from heat, then add vitamin E, vanilla extract and vanilla beans, stirring until blended.
– Let cool for a few hours and scoop into sterilized pots.


That’s it! Enjoy! Now, onto other green Christmas goodness: My dear friend Mark Leiren-Young, a fellow film critic and environmental author (how often do those two professional roles coincide?) has created a couple of short videos that explore the un-green side of Christmas. What I like about Mark is that he understands why we need to maintain a good sense of humour in the face of depressing eco-stats. So here are the vids (starring his daughter) — watch, smile, and pass along to your pals!


Is there any point in having a green wedding if nobody notices?

October 28, 2010

Yep. Me again. Creeping into the blogosphere like I tend to do these days — about once every few months, with a totally random subject of conversation, which every blogger will tell you does NOT lead to a very consistent readership. Oh well.

But I thought y’all might like to know that Miss Thistle is now officially Mrs. Thistle (let’s go with Ms., actually — never did like Mrs.). On lucky Friday, Aug. 13th, 2010, I tied the knot at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. If you want to know more about the boy — or shall I say, my husband — you can read my book (a recipient of the Green Book Festival award for Best Biography/Memoir, by the way).

Now, those of you who know me realize that I’d never have a wedding unless it was a completely green wedding; and that it was! It’s impossible not to leave some footprint, however, and of course weddings are all about compromise, so it’s not as if it was off-the-grid vegan or anything. But still: We splurged on a menu that had Ontario trout, a vegetarian curry and grass-fed, locally raised steak (compromise); we had hundreds of beeswax candles; wild flowers that were grown locally where possible, with vintage mason jars as vases; programs printed on recycled paper; invites on old postcards; a vegan wedding cake with antique cake topper; reusable tote bags that folded up into little rosebuds as gifts for the ladies; even my engagement ring was Jacob’s great-grandmother’s ring, so no need for a flashy new diamond.

Here are some photos, courtesy of the amazing Catherine Farquharson (no relation, if you can believe that):

Getting my dress on, with some help from mum.

View from inside the venue!

Vegan carrot cake with antique wedding topper!

My sister and me at the head table.

View of the reception, up in the trees!

Jacob put on a wig, grabbed some back-up singers (two of our friends) and serenaded me with a Zombies tune and the Monkees' "I'm a Believer"

Sneaking away for some photo-taking.

A quick stroll in the park.

My engagement ring.

But here’s the thing: I made all these eco-conscious decisions, and yet I’m not sure anyone really noticed. Nobody was looking to see what type of wax the candles were made from; nobody was scrutinizing the jars that the centerpiece flowers were in; and most likely only a few people noticed that the steak on the menu was from the very reputable Rowe farms. Obviously, I feel good about all these decisions and know that they made a difference in terms of our wedding footprint — but to all you green brides out there: How important do you think it is to make an eco-friendly statement on your big day? Does it matter if nobody notices?

Holy crap, my city officials have a sense of humour! And they care about the environment!

September 1, 2010

Sometimes, this city drives me crazy — there aren’t enough bike lanes, the public transit system is a mess and we’ve even banned kite-flying in one of our parks! And yet, every now and then, Toronto gets it right. The most recent example is here below, for your viewing pleasure:

This woman might just be crazier than me…

July 20, 2010

Hey everyone,

Yep, it’s me again. Resurrecting myself momentarily from the blogging graveyard, as I have some news for you — no, mom, I’m not pregnant. And no, I’m not starting another blog devoted to my eco-friendly wedding (although it’s coming together nicely, for those who may be wondering… we’ve got about 200 beeswax candles, have splurged on sustainably harvested fish and grass-fed, locally raised meat, sent out old vintage postcards as the invites and have antique mason jars for the centerpiece bouquets, to name a few things).

But what I really wanted to let everyone know about was this OTHER blog called Eco Mama. Now, before you groan and say, “Aren’t there enough green-mommy bloggers out there already?”, know this: Jennifer (the woman behind it) was inspired by Green as a Thistle and my book Sleeping Naked is Green and is now undertaking her own challenge to make an eco-friendly change to her life every day.

I can already hear your second groan: “Aren’t there enough bloggers out there copying your silly green-change-every-day gimmick?”

Perhaps. But what I especially like about Eco Mama is that: a) She gives me some credit in her inaugural post (thanks, Jen!); and b) The woman has three kids under the age of 8 and already practices many of the changes I made to my lifestyle, meaning that she not only has to put her husband and children through the green ringer but also has to come up with changes even I didn’t think of… AND, she’s doing a full 366 of them, despite the fact that it’s not even a leap year. Now that’s commitment (and also mild insanity).

Anyway, I wish her the best of luck and hope all of you lovely readers and fellow bloggers take her under your wing — the online green community is what kept me going during my challenge and I’m sure she’ll need just as much support. Check out Eco Mama here!

Yours greenly,

An epilogue to the epilogue…

April 13, 2010

OK, I know I’ve technically wrapped up ye ol’ Green as a Thistle, but something very exciting happened! Those who’ve read Sleeping Naked is Green through to the end will know that the epilogue is all about how one of my best friends became my boyfriend. Well, now my boyfriend is also my fiancé! Yep, he proposed while we were on vacation, sitting in a hot tub on the deck of a treehouse (which had a solar-powered composting toilet… but that’s another story). He didn’t yet have a ring, so he reached over and grabbed a palm frond instead:

We’re both very giddy and stupid in love. Already in full eco-wedding planning mode… but again, that’s another story (or maybe another blog). Hoping all of you are keeping happy and healthy and green.

– Vanessa

Final Post: As they say in Copenhagen, hej hej

December 13, 2009

You know when you say goodbye to someone and then you both realize you’ll be walking to the same subway station so you have to do another goodbye five minutes later and it’s kind of awkward? Well, I feel like I’m in that kind of situation, having pretty much said my farewell already.

Still, there are four final blog posts from Copenhagen to share, so here they are, in chronological order:

Thursday’s entry, about bad Tiger Woods jokes at the Women’s Perspective on Nuclear Energy lecture and “Early Grey” tea is here;

Friday’s entry, about Bolivians and the necktie-to-keffiyeh ratio is here;

and lastly, here’s the diary entry from Saturday (which is probably the best, seeing as it features some X-rated content).

Here are some photos:

This is Baby, a waste-picker from India.

Bolivian protesters at the Bella Center.

A balloon representing a tonne of CO2 outside parliament.

The Greenpeace ship docked at the harbour.

And finally, some quick video footage of protesters dancing (with solar-powered speakers):


In response to criticism about my irreverent tone in these articles, I’m just going to say two things: One, I’ve been doing other, lengthier interviews while here and hope to use the material for more earnest features at a later date, so it’s not as if I’ve come all the way to Copenhagen for the sole purpose of being snarky; and Two, in fairness to the Post, there is a lot of stuff here worth mocking — like the French activist who lingers outside the Bella Center in his skinny jeans with his collage poster that says, “Which climate fraud will you vote for?”, smoking his cigarette and generally adhering to every single French/activist stereotype there is — as well as a lot of people who don’t really need to be here, a lot of paper, plastic and food waste (and chile con carne on the menu? Seriously?), not to mention a series of press conferences and side events that either state the obvious or say nothing new at all about climate change and what we need to do about it.

Anyway, I truly hope something does result from COP15, and I really do love that over 30,000 protesters descended on the local parliament this Saturday to demonstrate (not including those who threw bricks, mind you), which just goes to highlight the sheer volume of people who care about the planet and want to make a difference, even if they aren’t a high-ranking politician with a PhD in environmental science.

So with that, here’s to keeping the enthusiasm alive; please keep reading Crunchy Chicken and Fake Plastic Fish and Arduous and Treehugger and Grist and listening to all the amazing green voices out there who are strengthening this movement each day. If you want to get in touch with me, my contact info is all here. Peace out,


Copenhagen diary entries: Monday and Tuesday; also, Thistle is going off the air!

December 8, 2009

All right peeps, I’ve gotta be honest with you — I kind of need to bail on this blog. There are so many green bloggers out there who are so much more willing to sit at a computer after a full day’s work and actually write something meaningful; I’m just not one of them. Out of pure selfishness (which I like to disguise as eco-friendliness), I’ve decided to put a concerted effort into unplugging myself from technology as much as possible. I already stare at a screen for eight hours a day and, to be frank, I don’t think my ramblings are worth the bandwidth.

However, I promised I’d report on my time in Copenhagen, so I’m going to follow through with that. The catch is that I’m writing about these climate talks for the National Post, which means that if I don’t eschew earnestness and embrace irreverence (our paper’s mandate), I could get fired. Well, probably not fired, but it would be useless because my editors wouldn’t print anything I filed. In short: my COP15 diary does not include heartfelt and lengthy interviews with people making a difference; it features quips about the Little Mermaid statue.

If you still want to read them, here’s a link to Monday’s story.

And here’s another link to today’s story.

Finally, here’s the introductory piece I wrote when I arrived on Sunday.

I’ll post the others later this week. Please don’t hate me for ending things on a sarcastic note!