Category Archives: Natural Living

How to Take Care of Houseplants + Their Benefits

Introducing my full guide on how to take care of houseplants, their health benefits, and what I do to keep my 100+ plants alive and thrive.

How to Take Care of Houseplants

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that my love for plants runs deep. It’s been a long time since I counted, but the last time I checked, I had over 100 plants, and it’s a growing collection. After my fur babies, my plant babies bring me so much joy and I just find such comfort in taking care of them and watching them grow.

While having this many plants might seem overwhelming and daunting for many, my collection grew slowly over the years and yours can too! I received many questions about how to take care of houseplants to keep them alive and healthy, and I’ll share my tips and tricks with you guys today.

Benefits of Houseplants

First, I just want to go over the benefits of having houseplants, because they are a form of therapy for me. This is why I don’t mind investing in my houseplants, because they are 100% worth it!

  • They purify the air. With so many toxins and chemicals in everyday products, indoor pollution is real. According to NASA, plants remove up to 87% of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) every 24 hours!
    • Best air purifying plants: snake plants, devil’s ivy, money tree, spider plant, dracaenas, golden pothos, areca palms, rubber plants
  • Introducing greenery indoors helps to lower your cortisol level. We all feel more calm and less stressed when we go hiking or listen to nature sounds. We can recreate this feeling at home with plants.
  • Plants actually reduce background noise if you live in a city or a noisy street! The leaves create a soft wall for sound to absorb, deflect, or refract on. How cool is that?
    • Best noise blocking plants: rubber plants, weeping figs, peace lilies, tall cacti, fiddle leaf fig, money trees
  • They remove carbon dioxide from the air so there’s more oxygen and we feel less tired and fatigued.

Where I Purchase My Plants

This is one of the most common questions I get because I have such a variety of plants. The answer is all over! Here are some of the places I’ve purchased my plants from:

  • Local nurseries: This is where most of my plants come from. I try not to shop at Home Depot or big brands, because I find that they are usually overpriced there, and it’s so much better to support local businesses! I’m really lucky in that I live in California and there are plant nurseries everywhere. Local nurseries are usually cheaper and you can usually negotiate prices! I make sure to be extra friendly when I buy plants for a possible discount.
  • Nextdoor, OfferUp, or Letgo: All of these sites and apps are where people can sell anything they want get rid of. I actually have an alert set up for plants, so I can jump on them when they are posted. You can usually negotiate prices on these apps, because people are usually moving and they just want to get rid of things.
  • Etsy: I’ve never bought a full plant on Etsy (although they are available), but it’s a great place to find clippings of plants that aren’t rooted, especially if you are looking for a specific plant that’s hard to find locally. It’s not the cheapest option and it can be risky, because clippings are delicate and they can easily die. However, I have had really great luck with them and my pilea, prayer plant, and philodendron have all rooted and thrived beautifully from this shop.
How to Take Care of Houseplants

The Basics of How to Take Care of Houseplants

While care instructions differ from plant to plant, MOST plants require similar care and I treat most of my plants the following way:

  • Lighting: While plants love light, bright, indirect light is the best with the exception of desert plants. That means near a well-lit window, within sunlight or in the shade next to it (for medium-low light plants). If there’s direct HOT sunlight on plants, especially in the summer, put a sheer curtain on the window so the plants receive diffused, filtered light without getting burnt. One exception is succulents and cacti. They love bright, direct light!
  • Water: While there is such a thing as under-watering, I find that many make the mistake of overwatering which can quickly kill the plants. I only water my plants once a week, and even less in the winter. Before watering, stick an inch of your finger in the soil. Only water if the soil has no moisture. Make sure to only use pots that have drainage holes!
  • Wipe the leaves: For leafy plants, dust can settle on them easily, just like furniture. This dust layer actually blocks the plants ability to photosynthesize, and makes the leaves look dull and the plant weaker while attracting pests. When you see dust settle, take a damp microfiber cloth and gently wipe off the individual leaves. You may be shocked at how much dirt comes off on the cloth. I’m really bad at remembering to clean my plant leaves, but try to do this every 2-3 months!
  • Fertilize during growing season: This is usually during the spring/summer for most plants. I use organic fertilizer (I love this one!) and add it to the watering can every 2-3 months between April and September. It really makes a huge difference!
  • Repot as the plants grow: Always research the plant to see how much soil space it needs, but once it outgrows its pot, it needs more space to grow to stay healthy. This is also a great chance to replace the soil in the pot, which I highly recommend.

Why Your Plant Might Be Dying

So you’ve followed all the tips, but your plant still looks brown or yellow, and seems to be shriveling up. Here are some common reasons why your plant may not be looking so healthy:

  • Overwatering or under-watering. Check my watering tip above.
  • Too much sunlight or too little. Also see above.
  • Bacteria in the soil. If you really can’t figure out what the heck is wrong with the plant, it might be worth replacing the soil and repotting. There could be bacteria in the soil inhibiting the plant from growing properly.
  • Dry leaves. Tropical plants like ferns and split leaf philodendrons require a lot of moisture in the air and are more high maintenance. Make sure to spray the leaves with water every few days so they don’t dry out, even with consistent watering. If you aren’t good at remembering or you are lazy, you can get a humidifier instead.

Salvaging Almost Dead Plants

How to Take Care of Houseplants

You can actually save most plants that are on their last leg by snipping off the healthy looking leaves and propagating them. I’ve done this many times with success, and it’s so exciting to have a plant come back to life after you thought you lost it.

Place the bottom of the snipped leaves in water and let it sit in bright light. Change water every 3-4 days. After a week or two, the clippings will grow roots. When the roots and the leaves look healthy, plant them again in a pot with new soil. They’ll grow into a full, lush plant in no time with proper care!

Other Notable Plant Tips

  • Research: I don’t usually trust the instructions on the label that the plant comes with, because they are usually so simple and basic. Make sure to Google the plant once you are home so you know how to take care of it in the best way.
  • Watering can: While watering cans with sprinkler heads are popular, I find that it’s easy to accidentally spray water all over the floor when using them, especially for indoor plants. I really like long spouted cans (I have this one) and they are also great for accuracy in aiming if you have hanging plants like me!
  • Soil: There are various types of soil for different plants but this soil for succulents and cacti has worked for all my plants. I really like well-draining soil because holding on to moisture can cause bacteria, and even my humidity loving plants do really well with this soil.
  • Considerations if you have pets: Some plants are poisonous to pets so make sure you check this if you have fur babies. I’m lucky and my dogs have zero interest in my plants so I don’t pay attention to this, but if yours are a bit more curious, I would take this into consideration when you purchase a new plant.
  • Know before you buy: If you are shopping for a plant for a specific room, make sure to assess the lighting in that room and where you are planning to put the plant. You can then figure out what plant is right for that environment. I always check with the person working at the nursery how much lighting and water a specific plant requires before buying.
How to Take Care of Houseplants

Easy Beginner Friendly Plants

If you are just starting out with houseplants, you may be nervous about what plants to purchase at first. These are some of my favorite, low maintenance plants that are easy and will thrive in most conditions.

  • Pothos: Does well with low and bright light and also flexible with watering. And really leafy and pretty!
  • Snake plants: Also does well in various light and watering conditions.
  • Succulents and cacti: I was hesitant to add this one because I’ve heard many people having trouble with these. Just make sure to keep them in bright, direct sunlight. And while many say do not water them too much, I find that succulents thrive when I water them once a week as I normally do with other plants.
  • Spider plants: Not picky about water or sunlight and will grow well in various conditions.
  • Dracaena or money tree. I treat both of these plants similarly and they grow very easily. They like bright, indirect light and weekly watering. However, they didn’t mind when I forgot to water them for a 2-3 weeks or left them in direct sunlight for too long.

My Personal Favorite Plants

Of course, my favorite plants are the prettiest ones to look at, in my opinion. I’m a very visual person. However, they are not always low maintenance. It doesn’t matter. I love them so much that I make sure to give them extra loving and care if I see them looking a little sad.

  • Monstera
  • Pothos
  • Fiddleleaf fig tree
  • Birds of paradise
  • Rubber tree
  • Pilea
  • Prayer plant (maranta)
  • All forms of calathea – they are the most fickle plant ever so they frustrate the heck out of me, but so gorgeous!
How to Take Care of Houseplants

That’s it, guys! I hope you found this guide on how to take care of houseplants helpful. I tried to answer all the questions you asked me over on Instagram, but if didn’t answer some of them or if you have any more, just leave me a comment below and I’ll try to get to it as as soon as I can.

Lastly, don’t be intimidated by plants! I used to have a black thumb myself, and you can only get better at being a plant mom or dad by actually growing them yourself and making mistakes on the way. I actually do kill houseplants sometimes, even though it happens less and less now, and that’s okay. I just think of it as a learning experience and move on. You can only get better by adding more plants to your collection!

Happy growing, friends.

What Great Grandma Ate / Jean Choi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Regarding other affiliate links and affiliate relationships: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and understanding.

Homemade Beeswax Lip Balm (All-Natural and Toxin Free!) + 5 Ingredients to Avoid in Store-Bought Lip Balm

Learn how to make soothing and nourishing homemade beeswax lip balm (Burt’s Bees copycat) that’s made with natural and toxin free ingredients!

Homemade Beeswax Lip Balm

A good lip balm is one of those must-have items for me. I have dry skin and have always had trouble with chapped lips along with it. I think I might have a lip balm in every room of my house, as well as in my car. Trust me, it’s necessary.

Homemade Beeswax Lip Balm Recipe

I’ve been making my own homemade beeswax lip balm for about 3 years now and I love it so much. Not only does it smell amazing (peppermint, always), but it’s actually so nourishing and effective. I used to use Burt’s Bees lip balm all the time, but I actually prefer my version better and it also makes a great gift as well!

With a soothing combination of shea butter, beeswax, coconut oil, and peppermint essential oils (or whatever scent you like), this homemade beeswax lip balm is so easy, costs pennies, and takes less than 15 minutes to make.

Homemade Beeswax Lip Balm

5 Harmful Ingredients in Conventional Lip Balm

I actually started making my own homemade beeswax lip balm after learning about some shady ingredients in drug store versions that are known to cause a host of health issues. It’s especially important to be aware of these ingredients because we are putting these products on our lips and we can easily consume them!

These are some common ones to watch out for and avoid:

  1. Parabens (also known as other ingredients that end in -paraben like methylparaben and butylparaben): Used as a preservative, parabens are widely recognized as endocrine disruptors. They are known to increase the risk of breast cancer and other reproductive issues.
  2. Petroleum jelly: Yes, the main ingredient in Vaseline! Petroleum jelly is a highly refined oil made from fossil fuel. Not only does it block our pores, it also contains carcinogens and chemicals known to cause estrogen dominance.
  3. Synthetic colors and dyes: These are especially common in tinted lip balms. Synthetic colors are composed of heavy metals that cause allergies and irritation, and if accumulated for a long time, are even known to cause cancer!
  4. Chemical sunscreens (also labeled as avobenzone, homosalate, oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and octocrylene): All of these chemicals help the sunscreen be absorbed in our skin fast, especially when our skin is exposed to sunlight. They are estrogen mimickers and are associated with endometriosis in women and lower sperm count in men. If you want a lip balm with SPF in it, look for ones with non-nano zinc oxide instead.
  5. Fragrance or flavor: Companies are not legally required to disclose what chemicals make up “fragrance” or “flavor” on ingredients labels. Those words can mean absolutely any chemical, whether or not it has been tested for safety. Usually, it is a synthetic concoction that includes phthalates and synthetic musks, which are known hormone disruptors.

Don’t Want to Make Your Own?

There have been times that I’ve been busy or lazy and ran out of my homemade beeswax lip balm. In those cases, I ended up buying safer option that are free of the above toxins. Here are my favorite brands that smell amazing without chemical fragrances and work really well:

  • Beautycounter’s Lip Conditioners: Beautycounter is probably my favorite skin care company that has banned over 1500 ingredients that are known or suspected to be harmful in their products, when the US has only banned 30. Their lip conditioners come in peppermint or calendula and these products are so soothing and hydrating with clean ingredients! If you are looking for something that’s tinted or has a light color, I highly recommend their sheer lipsticks which are also made with coconut oil and are extremely moisturizing.
  • Primally Pure Lip Balm: Primally Pure has amazing, natural lip balm made of all the soothing oils like coconut, beef tallow, and beeswax. They come in 5 different flavors, scented with organic essential oils, and the peppermint is my favorite. You can get 10% off your first purchase with them with code: JEAN10.
  • Perfect Supplements Lip Nutrients: These come in 2 flavors, lemongrass and tangerine, and I prefer tangerine. These contain all organic ingredients that nourish you lips you coconut oil and beeswax, along with jojoba oil, essential oils, and vitamin E. You can get 10% off with my code: GREATGRANDMA10

Perfect as Gifts!

If you are wondering what to get for someone special in your life, or if you are looking for stocking stuffers for the holidays, I highly recommend these homemade beeswax lip balm, because there’s nothing better than homemade gifts. I’ve gifted them myself before and all the recipients have told me that they love them. My mom actually insists I make her 20-30 of them every year so she can use them throughout the year. Good thing they are so easy to make!

Because these do not contain any water or moisture and only healthy oils, they actually last indefinitely so you don’t have to worry about them spoiling or going bad!

Print

Homemade Beeswax Lip Balm (All-Natural and Toxin Free!)

Learn how to make soothing and nourishing homemade beeswax lip balm (Burt's Bees copycat) that's made with natural and toxin free ingredients!
Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 10 minutes
Cooling Time 30 minutes
Total Time 11 minutes
Servings 18 lip balm tubes
Author Jean Choi

Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a double boiler, or a heat-safe bowl nestled on top of a pot of simmering water over medium low heat, combine beeswax pastilles, shea butter, and coconut oil.
  • Heat for about 10 minutes until the mixture is completely melted.
  • Remove from heat and stir in peppermint essential oils. 
  • Pour the mixture into a glass cup or a measuring cup with a spout.
  • Carefully pour into the empty lip balm tubes and fill them up to the top.
  • Let them cool for 30 minutes before putting on the cap. 

Notes

*If you don't like the peppermint flavor, you can use other essential oils like grapefruit or lavender. Avoid them altogether if you prefer unscented!

What Great Grandma Ate / Jean Choi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Regarding other affiliate links and affiliate relationships: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and understanding.

My Experience With Everlywell Women’s Health Test

Read my honest review of Everlywell Women’s Health Test, and how I applied the results to improve my PMS symptoms, anxiety, sleep, and other hormonal health issues!

Everlywell Women's Health Test

Hey friends! So many of you appreciated my review of Everlywell’s at-home Food Sensitivity Test, and the results from it were so helpful in me pinpointing exactly what was causing my symptoms and alleviating them with an elimination diet.

To further improve my health after some recent issues I’ve been dealing with, I thought it would be wise to take another test to see how my hormones were doing. I ended up taking the Women’s Health Test and I want to share my experience with you, in case you were curious about doing something similar.

Why I Chose Everlywell Women’s Health Test

If you’ve been following me along on the blog for a while, you know I’ve gone through several hormonal health issues in the past and it’s one of the reasons why I’m so careful about the food I eat and the products I use on my skin. I had a long period recovering from adrenal fatigue, suffering from stress-induced hypothyroidism for a few years, and not having my period for several years after I went off of hormonal birth control.

I’ve been slowly recovering for the past several years by taking extra caution to take care of my health, but there are still some issues that linger that seem to be hormone-related, like:

  • not sleeping well at night,
  • being super sensitive to stress,
  • intolerance to cold at all times,
  • painful menstrual cramps,
  • anxiety,
  • and being easily fatigued.

It was time for me to tackle these issues and see where I currently stand, and the hormones measured by Everlywell Women’s Health Test seemed to be the ones that would be the most helpful to know. With the positive experience I had with Everlywell taking the Food Sensitivity Test, I decided to try out the Women’s Health Test as well.

Test Process

Everlywell does a really great job of making their at-home tests easy to take with simple step-by-step instructions, as well as a video tutorial, to help guide you through the entire process. Once you order the test through their website, you get it in in the mail and the kit has everything you need, as well as a prepaid shipping label to send it back to their lab.

The first thing you do is to register your kit online so you can receive updates about your shipping and test results. Then, I had to collect 2 blood samples and 4 saliva samples within 18 days of my cycle. I actually couldn’t take the test for a few weeks after receiving it because you have to wait until day 3 or 4 of your menstrual cycle to take the first blood collection. Here is the schedule for the samples you take:

  • Day 3-4 of menstrual cycle: take first blood sample
  • Day 19-21 of menstrual cycle: take 2nd blood sample + 4 saliva samples (in the morning, at noon before lunch, before dinner, and before bed)

Taking the blood sample

Everlywell Women's Health Test

The blood samples were actually easier for me to take because I’m not afraid of needles and I’ve gone through the same process with the Food Sensitivity Test. They provide alcohol swabs, a few lancets, bandaids, and a blood collection card that you have to fill with your blood samples. You pierce the end f your finger with the lancet provided and fill 6 circles on the collection card, and that’s it.

Taking the saliva sample

I found it a bit more challenging to provide saliva samples, especially the first sample of the day which you have to collect in the largest tube within 30 minutes of waking up before food and water. I honestly didn’t feel like I had enough saliva to fill up the large tube first thing in the morning so it was a bit of an effort for me. The samples for the rest of the day were a bit easier because the tubes were smaller and my mouth wasn’t as dry as it had been in the morning.

Once you label the tubes, you can keep them in the freezer until you ship them out. When you have all the samples collected, you fill out a form that they provide. You input your personal information on the form and then you ship it out, along with all the samples, in the prepaid envelope that they provide. They then reach out to you once the results are ready.

The Results

I couldn’t believe it but my results were ready just 2 days after the lab received my samples!

The Everlywell Women’s Health Test measure 11 different hormones that are known to be instrumental in women’s health:

    • Cortisol

For the women’s reproductive system, as well as our overall health, to be functioning properly, all these hormones need to work together in a harmonious balance.

I got my results via email, and was able to look at them through the Everlywell online portal that you can access when you register your kit. You also have the the option to download the PDF version that you can print out to look over and/or share with your doctor. Here’s what it looked like at a glance:

Just from looking at the color code next to each hormone, I was fairly within the normal range for most the most part. I was actually thrilled to see that my cortisol was at a normal range throughout the day, because I’ve had blood sugar issues in the past which now seem to have normalized. I was also very happy about my thyroid numbers (free T3, free T4, TSH, and TPO antibodies) being well within the normal range, because I suffered from hypothyroidism for a little over a year during my worst days of adrenal fatigue

However, the red dot next to Estradiol and yellow dot next to Progesterone/Estradiol Ratio gave me pause, although I wasn’t surprised by them.

I knew that because of my past of chronic stress and how sensitive I am to stress still, that my estrogen levels would be higher than normal. Estrodiol is one of the 4 main estrogens occurring in women and it is the most predominant one. Estrogen dominance is a common health issue in the modern world because of everyday stressors, environmental toxins, and the harmful chemicals prevalent in the personal care products we use.

Here’s what showed when I clicked on each of these hormones:

everlywell women's health testeverlywell women's health test

Beyond these explanations, Everlywell gave some basic tips to regain my hormonal health like making changes to my diet, and more importantly for me, managing my stress. It’s something I struggle with the most so I wasn’t surprised to see this recommendation:

everlywell women's health test

While the rest of the hormones were within the normal range, I still looked them over to see if they were within the high or low ranges of normal just to make sure. Thankfully, my levels looked really good for the rest.

In addition to the practical recommendations, Everlywell also suggested various articles that I may want to check out about different hormonal health conditions like thyroid disorders, testosterone levels in women, PCOS, and more, which I found interesting and helpful. Even if they didn’t directly apply to me, I loved learning a bit more about various conditions and it also kept me aware of how I can keep my hormones healthy and happy.

Lifestyle Changes I Made Since the Test

After learning that I am estrogen dominant from the Everlywell Women’s Health Test, I decided to take further action to help regulate my hormones. It became clear to me that my stress level was a huge contributor to a variety of health issues I was dealing with.

Here are some actions I’ve taken to reduce stress in my life:

  • Meditation at the end of the day for 10 minutes.
  • Trying to journal everyday. Writing down my thoughts like what’s giving me anxiety and what I’m thankful for each day has been such a game changer.
  • Working smarter. Instead of trying to multitasking or doing all the things at once, I’ve been better about breaking up my tasks and doing one thing at a time. I’ve also been putting away my phone when I work so I’m not distracted by social media and notifications.
  • Giving myself weekends. It’s difficult as a business owner and as someone with a type A personality to stop working when you have free time. This one is still hard for me, but I’ve been trying to put work aside and give myself time to do nothing when I need it.
  • Cleaning up my personal care products. I started doing this a long time ago and I’m so glad that I did. Turning to safer brands like Beautycounter who make amazing products without harmful chemicals that disrupt our hormones has been the best decision.
  • Taking chaste tree supplements. Chaste tree supplements are amazing for PMS symptoms, estrogen dominance, and hormonal imbalance. I’ve been taking this one for about 2 weeks now, and I’m excited to report that my latest period cramps and pain have been significantly diminished! I plan to keep taking it for 3 months. Please consult with your doctor before taking this, especially if you are taking exogenous hormones.

Take the Test Yourself!

If you are having hormonal issues like menstrual cramps, irregular periods, low sex drive, hair loss, infertility, depression, and/or insomnia, Everlywell Women’s Health Test is an easy-to-use and comprehensive test that lets you get a snapshot of your hormonal health by testing out the levels of your various hormones. The test is easy to take with well written instructions to help you guide you through the process.

I’m honestly so glad I was able to take this test and see how my hormonal health was doing. I knew that I needed to take action because I was going through several symptoms which I mentioned earlier in this post, but I didn’t know exactly what was wrong with me and what I specifically needed to do to improve my health. The test has been such a great tool, and I plan to take it again in the future to see if and how much my numbers improve.

Ready to take the test yourself?

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE EVERLYWELL WOMEN’S HEALTH TEST!
Take 15% Off All Orders with code GRANDMA15.

This post contains affiliate links. In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and understanding.