Clean House Hack: Dishwasher Detergent

Our quest to eradicate harmful toxins from our homes can get a tad overwhelming. Seems that everywhere we turn, there are hidden ingredients that would best be left out of products that we’ve come to depend on.

So let’s talk dishwasher detergent.

Often loaded with ingredients like “fragrance,” dyes, methylisothiazolinone (linked to neurotoxicity), sodium hypochloride (bleach), benzisothiazolinone (skin/eye/lung irritant and pollutant), and polyacrylates (respiratory irritant, toxic, causes eye damage and severe burns), here’s a good alternative for you, and it’s easy-peasy, homemade, and contains three ingredients!

You’ll need:

  1. an old dish soap bottle, cleaned out
  2. two capfuls of Thieves household cleaner concentrate
  3. 10-12 drops of Young Living Lime essential oil
  4. Fill the rest of the bottle up with white vinegar.

Voila! Use this like you’d use liquid dishwasher detergent.

Need some Young Living products? Give me a holler or click here to learn more.

And BONUS for a happy marriage/roommate situation hack: the age old “is the dishwasher clean or dirty right now?” question has been done away with over here: when there’s detergent in the little tub and the little door is closed, that’s code for These Dishes Are Dirty. If the little door is opened (like after the dishwasher is finished), then that’s code for These Dishes Are Clean. Hope that can save y’all some counseling time and money – ha!

People Doing Good: Hays Gray

I’m excited to share that Gute Leben will be donating a portion of our profits between September 1-10 to Hays Gray’s JDRF’s OneWalk team! Let me tell you a little about this awesome kid.

First off, I grew up with his stellar parents, Josh and Jolie, in Gonzales – lemonade stands, youth group, all the small town things. We went to church with Hays’ wonderful great-grandparents, Perry and Emily, and I have watched him grow up from afar thanks to the benefits of social media connectivity.

Hays was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes the week of his fifth birthday, back in 2015. Since then, he has been hard at work to raise awareness and help find (and fund) a cure. Each year, Team Hays is part of the JDRF OneWalk that focuses on fundraising to allow for research for a cure for Type One as well as better technology and care in the meantime.

Hays is proud to be a JDRF Junior Ambassador and released his first book last fall: “Hays’ Type One-Derful Journey,” sharing his story of diagnosis and life with Type One.

Any purchases you make through Gute Leben September 1-10th, 2020, whether that be Beautycounter, Scout & Cellar, or the Etsy shop, will help support the great work Hays is doing to raise awareness and fund a cure.

Clean Living Spotlight: Ami Smith

I’ve been on this throw-out-products-laced-with-known-carcinogens-and-hormone-disruptors for less than two years, but thankfully there are some pillars in the clean living realm who have been dedicated to providing quality products for much, much longer. And thankfully there are people like my friend Ami who help create safe havens by sharing these magical products with us.

Of course it’s nice for our homes to be free of toxins, but here’s a scary stat to think about, especially with so many of us working from home these days:

Norwex has been around for over 25 years. They offer a ton of products that are effective, sustainable, and don’t contain harmful chemicals. I seriously want everything in their catalog and am dreaming of their superior mop system right now (hi, this is 36). And this is why it’s so spiffy – all that’s missing is that it cleans by itself:

Ami and I have talked a lot about navigating this whole clean living movement, and she was kind enough to share some of these products with me. I am hooked. These rags and towels and cloths can be used with just water. The counters get just as clean when they’re wiped with a cloth and some H20 as when I use Thieves household cleaner.

Ami is super knowledgeable about safe ways to rid our homes of harmful germs. You can check out her site here! She’s a Fredericksburg native and lives in Woodson, Texas with her husband and two precious little ones, and loves to share safer products with others. Check her out!

Get Clean: Shower Tile Edition

Going forward, I’ll be sharing clean living/clean cleaning hacks and recipes that are hopefully useful to you! Search “Get Clean” in tags and categories to view them in all their glory (this is the first post so please be patient).

Ok. How many of us have gotten lightheaded as we scrub the steamy shower with bleach or bubbles or whatever concoction that forces us to open windows, turn on vents, and wonder WHAT THE HECK is in this little bottle?!

I’ve found the very unglamorous shower scrubdown (that I admit I don’t do as often as I should) is made infinitely easier (and safer!) using this scrub that’s super easy to whip together (and bonus: it’s safe for you AND the kids so put those little ones to work!). Here’s what we used yesterday – I forgot to take before and after photos but seriously the change was impressive! We were getting that weird pinky orange stain because it had been a bit since I cleaned it. Ew. Ok, here’s whatcha do:

In a bowl or spray bottle, mix the following:

  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 5 tablespoons liquid castile soap (we used Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint)
  • 1/2 capful Thieves Household Cleaner
  • 3 drops Lemon essential oil

To use, apply the mixture with a damp cloth or brush and scrub away!

(this was taken from Young Living’s The Lavender Life blog). I don’t actively promote Young Living, but do have a wholesale account. Send me a note if you’d like to try some products – whether you go through me or one of my YL slinging pals, I’d love to connect you!)

Skincare Spotlight: Adaptive Body Moisturizer

Covid threw my makeup routine out the window, I’ll be honest. I went through a span of zero makeup for days and would kinda jump when I caught a reflection of my blank slate face. Then I went through a phase of actually liking lipstick, then mandatory masks appeared and so that went out the window. Now I’m at a place where we’re into more of a rhythm. Work out before the kids are up. Shower before Tim leaves for work. Put on some makeup to give that little boost of self-assuredness to face the day. But throughout this whole zoo of a year, my skin care habits have held decently strong. You do you, you know? This has been my “thing,” my little self care corner of covid.

But it’s HOT AS THE BLAZES here, as you Texans well know. Walking outside is like sticking your face in a preheated oven. But my arms and legs are so scaly dry. But the last thing I want to do is slather myself with greasy lotion. Conundrum no more: the single product that is lifegiving right now is the Countermatch Adaptive Body Moisturizer. It’s like lotion with a brain: it matches the composition of your skin, absorbs quickly, isn’t sticky, and legit works all dang day. More info is here.

Fun fact: new clients get 20% off their first order with the code CLEANFORALL20 now till the end of August! As always, do send me a note if you have questions prior to ordering.

(my old bottle is on the left – new one is on the right! New packaging, same formulation.)

What do I SAY? When is this OVER?…listening and grief.

Hi there! This post is the first of what I hope are many that help us with ideas and inspiration and resources for how to foster deeper connections with others who may be going through difficult times. In this whole pandemic chapter of life, it sure seems like the usual human suffering is magnified. Job losses, sickness, isolation, death, fear… it’s everywhere. And it’s frankly not fun or convenient to enter into someone else’s pain or suffering. It’s much easier to avoid the situation, not acknowledge the proverbial elephant in the room, and although you might love them a lot, it’s less awkward to just gloss over what you know is really hard for them…. or is it?

It would be weird to live in a world where you have zero interaction at a deeper level with other people, you know? We humans were made to live in community. We’re going to encounter other people and it sure would be kind of us to – at the very least – acknowledge their pain.

Two verses that have brought me some comfort: 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4. “What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.”

It’s not all for naught… God created us for connection and community. And what a gift that we can use our own journey through hardship to give sympathy and empathy and encouragement to others. But gosh it’s a long journey to get to that place of seeing pain as a gift!

AND YET there’s no formula I’ve found for the perfect catchphrase to say that adequately comforts others’ fears or validates others’ pain…or my own… 100% of the time. There’s an element of hard work you’ll need to do – you can’t just chirp This Proven Phrase That Will Help Every Person With Their Difficulty. Some folks might need space. Some might need you to listen to them without judgement. Some might like to field some clarifying questions. Some may appreciate your presence to help them process. Some might simply need you to acknowledge The Thing.

A fabulous book that is helping me is There is No Good Card for This: What to say and do when life is scary, awful, and unfair to people you love by Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D. and Emily McDowell – I’ll be drawing from this book a good deal in future posts to be sure.

Crowe and McDowell remind us, “Any one event, at any particular point in time, for each individual, can include a wide range of emotions, including but not limited to: grief, anger, numbness, fear, acceptance, despair, and excitement. What is the person you care about actually feeling? Even if you’ve been through something similar, you don’t really know until you ask. But we know asking can be hard….”

Before publishing this post this morning, I felt something tugging at me to wait a bit. So I listened to the Don’t Mom Alone podcast episode released this morning. Topic: grief. Welp, that’s nothing if not timely. Something the guest, Stacey Thacker, said struck me. She said we never really get “over” or “past” something or someone we’re grieving. Rather, we go deeper.

“I used to think that we had a trial in our life and we passed the test and we moved on….but I have learned…as you mature, you don’t get to move on – you move deeper. So for me, I keep seeing these similar tests show up in my life, and it’s not like, ‘well, you passed, you get to pass and move on.’ (Instead,) it’s you passed and you get to move deeper. And in that deeper, there’s maturity. Over time, God is developing in your life. And you find yourself saying, ‘LORD! didn’t we go through this?!’ And He says, ‘yeah, but you know what? This is a great work. A deeper work.'”

And the podcast host Heather McFadyen added, “Someone told me it’s like a spiral. You draw a line on one side of that spiral – that’s your thing. (And as life goes on,) you’re hitting it every time you go around. It’s right there, that issue.”

Back to Stacey: “I think it’s a spiral because the Lord knows we can’t be held to that fire continually. We do have those times… led beside the still waters, but it loops back because He cares that much. He doesn’t want to leave us… What’s the goal? That when we see him we will be like him…”

SO that was just a snippet of their conversation – I HIGHLY recommend you listen in here – it’s worth your time if you’re interested!

So for starters, let’s try to lean in and really listen to others. That means:

  • being okay with silence… 95% silence on your part (this is empathic listening – google it – there’s a ton more on this out there)
  • giving them time to share what they’re comfortable sharing without rushing to fill the silence
  • avoiding inserting your own experience with a similar or maybe not at all similar situation that makes the convo be all about you instead of them

And then let’s try to give grace to ourselves and others when it seems that we’ve hit that blasted line on the spiral of life and we’re reliving another aspect of grief we’d thought we’d already “passed.”

So that’s it for today’s fireside chat. I’d love to know: what are the types of situations that seem to be popping up often with your friends and loved ones? Divorce? Terminal Illness? Traumatic loss? What’s the broad theme of your spiral? Drop me a note if you’d like – it would be an honor to help provide relevant resources to you in this space.

Misty, contemplative morning at Osprey Point Inn, outside Rock Hall, Maryland

Words are hard.

Remember the simple joy of receiving a handwritten note from someone? No requests for time or money, just a note to say hello? Connecting with others, showing you care, pointing you and them toward the good life.

How about when you’ve been in the middle of a really hard season and you receive a real letter in the mail from someone who simply says I see you, I’m here for you, I love you? Not an email. We’re talking something tangible you can hold onto?

Sadly, there’s no shortage of hard things we face in life…. but have you, too, noticed a sad and stark decline in the art of letter writing in the past few years? Birthdays and Anniversaries and Valentine’s Day and Christmas cards are great, don’t get me wrong. But what about all the little moments that often pass without fanfare? Those “just because” notes that totally make your day? Those heartfelt non-Hallmark notes you’ve kept in the drawer inside your bedside table because they really resonated with you?

How many times have we been overwhelmed in the greeting card aisle at the grocery store, trying to find a card that adequately sums up what we hope to convey… and finding options falling far short of what we’re needing?

Think back to a time when your friend was going through a really hard time. You didn’t know what to say that could possibly give any comfort, so you said nothing. Distance grew, the relationship faded. All you needed to do was say “I’m here and I love you and you matter,” but in the moment, you froze up and avoided interaction. I get it. I’ve been there, too.

Or that time you were going through a painful season and people tried to offer words of encouragement but it would almost have been better if they just hugged you and kept their mouth shut than the string of babbling vomit that ended up providing no help and frankly just ticked you off? I’ve been there, too.

Here’s something that might help. Cards you can use to connect with others in an authentic way. No rhyming fluff, no placeholders for sentiment. These are photo and quote cards that you can share with your friends and loved ones to get inspired, offer comfort, acknowledge pain, communicate love, get motivated, have a laugh, and carry on.

What’s more, included with each card will be a few suggestions of things to say, in case your words are falling short.

They’ll be clean – no profanity or sleaze. They’ll be cogent – timely, to the point, no wasted words. They’ll be collaborative – I’m seeking out guidance from experts and friends for the kind of cards we need so we can actually connect with each other.

I opened an Etsy shop so you can head over to and let me know what you think!

Thanks for walking with me on this good life journey.


Product Safety: Let’s TALC about it.

Talc, or hydrated magnesium silicate with the chemical formula Mg3Si4O10(OH)2 (source: Wikipedia)

I wanted to share some hopefully helpful information about what’s going on your skin and into your body. The ingredient we’re discussing today: talc.

What is talc?

Talc is a base ingredient in many powders and it’s in some of our products at Beautycounter. It greatly contributes to the product’s high performance and allows us to meet our self-imposed, stringent heavy metal limits. The heavy metals that are harmful and toxic to humans are, unfortunately, naturally occuring and often show up in cosmetics.

That means there’s no shortage of potentially harmful chemicals that are hidden within ingredient labels, and talc can very easily be contaminated with asbestos. Not good. Asbestos is a natural mineral and carcinogen that causes mesothelioma, in case you haven’t seen any cheesy/scary class-action lawsuit commercials in the last few years!

Heavy Metals

At first, Beautycounter worked with a non-talc base for all our powder formulas, but unfortunately our heavy metals tests came back far and above our health protective limits, so back to talc.

In the heavy metal exposure realm, talc has been determined to be a safer alternative due to its performance and the lower levels of heavy metals. For many years, there’s been concern that talc mines (sourced from the magnesium silicate mineral) are located nearby deposits of asbestos and thus might be contaminated with asbestos fibers.

We have certificates of purity from our talc supplier, certifying that there is no detectable asbestos in the talc used in Beautycounter formulas. We also conduct additional, third-party testing on each and every batch, using the most sensitive testing method and instrument we can.

You may have heard reports of asbestos in talc-based body powders being linked to increased ovarian cancer or uterine cancer, and those powders being marketed to black women and overwieght women. You can read more about that here and here. Note that as of earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson has finally ceased selling their talc-based baby powder.

Thankfully, we can rest assured that there is no scientific evidence that correlates exposure to small amounts of certified asbestos-free talc (on the face vs. genital exposure) with any health concerns.

With all that said, a number of our clients have requested products without talc in an abundance of caution. While we’re confident in the safety of the talc in our formulations, we are set to begin introducing talc-free products by the end of 2020. Pretty spiffy, huh?

Now I have to ask: what products do you use that contain talc? Are they certified asbestos-free? It’s your money and your health – don’t let yourself get swayed by ads. Do your homework and learn about the ingredients and their sourcing in items you buy. You’re worth it, my friend!

Image of items containing talc. Source: New York Times

Source: Beautycounter Talc Safety Overview

The ‘Burg

Portrayal of peace treaty between Comanche Chief Santa Anna and John Meusebach – the only unbroken treaty in the entire United States between Native Americans and Settlers. The statue is in the garden at Marktplatz – read more about the treaty here.

We’d been eyeing it for some time: picking up and moving to a small town in Texas. Fredericksburg, to be exact. It took a few years, but we pulled it off last summer! And we love it. It’s been good for the soul. I could keep going, but the purpose of this post is to give YOU, dear reader, some recommendations for Auslanders (outsiders): where to go, what to do, where to shop, etc.

Disclaimer: We’re smack dab in the middle of a pandemic, and this list might be ever-evolving as new businesses open up and old ones close… and it’s REALLY challenging to not list everything, and I should probably disperse this post with cute photos of downtown, but alas, life is short and THE PEOPLE NEED THIS LIST. So allow me to present….drumroll please…. Gute Leben’s Zuerste Beste Liste Der Erlebnis in Fredericksburg (I thiiiiink that translates as the first best list of experiences/adventures in Fredericksburg, forgive me if it doesn’t).

Gute Leben’s Zuerste Beste Liste Der Erlebnis in Fredericksburg

Shop: primo real estate is on Main Street between Adams Street and east to Lincoln Street, or you could get brave and discover some treasures off the beaten path.

  1. Zertz for fun women’s clothes, shoes, jewelry. I love this store and probably window shop way too much.
  2. Remember Me for books, home decor, clever signs, cards, funky jewelry.
  3. Heirlooms for fun, happy, affordable gifts
  4. Fredericksburg Natural Baby for kids – super cute clothing brands and fun books and toys.
  5. Dooley’s 5-15-25 – go be a kid again and visit Dooley’s. It’s a slice of nostalgia. Cash or check only.
  6. Hill Country Outfitters – upscale clothing for men and women, fun accessories, gifts.
  7. Home Simple Goods + Design – basically I want everything in this store. Proceed with caution.

Eat: in order of more laid back to more fancy:

  1. Pecan Grove – Only open Thursdays – Saturdays, but it’s SO good. Don’t be a wimp: get a ghost burger and fries and a Shiner Bock, k? Very laid back burger joint. Sometimes there’s live music, sometimes not.
  2. Alamo Springs Cafe – it’s in the kontry, but it’s the BEST greasy burger joint. As in, go once a year to let those arteries get their fill: bloomin onions and the best jalapeño cheese burger buns and order a slice of pie and enjoy the fun atmosphere.
  3. Tubby’s Ice House is delicious – salads, tacos, burgers, bar, and a playground for the kids! Try the veggie burger or the pulled pork loaded fries with a margarita.
  4. Caliche – great place to get good, strong coffee and a light breakfast (fancy a scone? Avocado toast? Everything is awesome).
  5. Frisch Juicerie – super healthy and delicious smoothies and juices – check their Instagram (@frischjuicerie) for secret menu items you can order and feel a part of the in crowd!
  6. Crossroads – ah-mazing steaks and sides. My mouth is watering just thinking about this place.
  7. Otto’s – They have fancy German fare with a twist, and have awesome cocktails and desserts, too!
  8. Vaudeville – want to feel like you aren’t in small town Texas? Go here. Go to the basement bistro. Order a fancy Madagascar latte and get the chicken confit salad and some bubbly and a gigantic cookie and treat. yo. self.
National Museum of the Pacific War, or as the locals call it, The Nimitz Museum – it’s on the DO list below!

Stay: there are SO many cute AirBnBs sprinkled around the city. I’ve highlighted some below that are owned by friends!

  1. Hoffman Haus is a fun compound and event venue – a block off Main Street. Highly recommend.
  2. Josephine House is a 2/1 (6 guests) on North Llano
  3. Haven Haus is a 4/2 (6 guests) on East Morse
  4. Cottage 506 is a 4/1 (6 guests) on North Llano
  5. The Juniper is a 4/2 (10 guests) on Burbank

Imbibe: welcome to wine country! Lots of options all over the place, but here are some of my favorites:

  1. Southold Farm + Cellar – incredible views, great story, biodynamic wine.
  2. Crowson Wines – the tasting room is in Johnson City, but you’ll get over the drive – in fact, stop for peaches at Vogel Orchard on the way! Non-interventionist approach to winemaking – so, so good.
  3. Pontotoc – get the sangria and the lunch basket to go with the best pimento cheese sandwich fixins!
  4. 78624 The Bar – awesome live music, gorgeous atmosphere, great wine and cocktails.
  5. Elk Store – cocktails are made with their moonshine. Get a Smoked Old Fashioned and the French Queso (warm brie and bread. Be still my soul).
  6. Tabak Haus – this one’s for the guys: a cigar lounge! With drinks! Drop your guy off so he can relax while you spend all the money.
Weingarten at Pontotoc Vineyard on West Main Street

Do: what, you aren’t tired yet?

  1. National Museum of the Pacific War – pretty cool that it’s here. It’s worth your time to visit!
  2. Enchanted Rock – great views. Get a reservation ahead of time because apparently it’s super popular now.
  3. Cross Mountain – cool story, no reservations needed, fun/easy hike with kids, nice views.
  4. Pioneer Museum – check what events are going on, and sit for a bit to watch the cool documentary that tells the fascinating story of how Fredericksburg was founded.
  5. Fort Martin Scott – the first U.S. Army outpost on the Texas frontier!
  6. Fredericksburg Farmers Market – if you’re here on a Thursday, head to Marktplatz for some fresh vegetables, pastries, pizza, wine, live music, and socializin’ with the locals!
The kids on a recent Cross Mountain hike

Ok that’s all for now – feel free to share this list with friends wanting to visit, and please reach out if you have any questions or additions!

Coming up next, a post on how the locals live.

Here’s to das gute leben (the good life) in Fredericksburg,


Hi, I’m Emily!

I started Gute Leben (“good life” in German) soon after moving with my family to Fredericksburg, Texas (a place where they still speak German – how cool is that?) I promote authenticity and transparency, empowering people to make cleaner, better choices for what goes IN and ON their bodies.

In addition to my love of parentheses and the Oxford comma (please don’t get me started on the latter), I write a blog that centers on education, advocacy, parenting, healthy living, decency, and whatever else I’m inspired to write about, frankly: all pointing toward ways we can experience the “good life” wherever we are in this world.

Since taking a step back from Texas politics to stay home with my two little ones, it’s been a joy to work with Beautycounter. Our mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone, and that matters greatly. Did you know that a whopping ZERO federal laws have been passed to update statute from 1938 that governs the personal care products industry, despite the fact that over 80k different chemicals have been introduced in this sphere since World War II? Another way of putting it: known carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and other toxins are LEGALLY allowed in personal care products in the US. NOT COOL.

I also promote Scout & Cellar clean-crafted wine. I’ve loved wine for years, but haven’t been a fan of how I’d feel the next day (or even a few hours after drinking): groggy, headache, stuffy nose, swollen joints… then I realized that it’s the norm for many mass-produced wine companies to inject a hefty amount of sugars, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals to help their wine taste more consistent over the seasons, regardless of changes in the wine’s terroir. With Scout & Cellar, we’re on a journey to discover the unknown good and share it along the way. We up the clean wine game by being incredibly transparent about what’s in our wine, and all our wine is tested by two independent labs. SCIENCE. COOL.

Thanks for being here! Want to receive my free monthly e-newsletter, Gute and Clean? Send me a message or visit the main page of to sign up. If you’d like more info on what it means to be a consultant for Beautycounter and/or Scout & Cellar, you’re in luck! I can help with that. Click on the link in my profile for more info or send me a message.

I look forward to walking with you on your good life journey!

#gutelebengoodlife #guteandclean #cleanliving #cleancraftedwine #cleanbeauty #goodlife #discovertheunknowngood #knowbetterdobetter #dowhatmatters #hpxlife #whatsyourwhy