Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MamaSuds - Handmade, All Natural Wonderfulness

Let's face it - not all of us are into DIY cleaners. Believe me, I've had more fails than successes when it comes to making my own homemade products. It takes patience, tweaking and several bad loads of laundry or dishes. Sometimes it's just nice to place an order online, have it delivered to your door and be ready to go (and work!). 

Meet Michelle from MamaSuds. She is a mother of three who started her own business after perfecting her DIY homemade soap recipe - she takes the Y out of DIY for us!! Do yourself a favor and bookmark this site: I love supporting a mama, especially one committed to providing safe, non-toxic products!! Michelle has a great product assortment including skin care products and essential oils - I will definitely be coming back for more! Here are some must-try products that I've had the privilege of reviewing:

Foaming Hand Soap:

I prefer foaming hand soaps for my toddler so she can see the soap as she learns to properly wash her hands - plus the bubbles make it fun. As soon as I tried it I went online and ordered more for my kitchen and for backup. I love the way it makes my hands feel - clean but not dried out. You can chose lemon or cinnamon (scented with essential oils so perfectly safe) or unscented. The dispenser is also very "I wanna do it all by myself" toddler friendly with an easy pump. $6.49 for one or $6 each for two or more.

All-Purpose Cleaner: 

I selected the Germ Away scent which is a "Thieves" blend of essential oils. This powerful combo of clove bud, cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus, and rosemary disinfects, purifies the air, improves immune function and fights various forms of infection. I used to avoid inhaling the toxic fumes when I used 409 type cleaners, but breathing in MamaSuds "germ away" actually improves your health - how amazing is that?! I use it in the kitchen, bathroom, random spills and messes throughout my house. It works great! You can also chose your own personalized scent with your own custom blend of essential oils for an additional $0.89- try that at Target! Priced at $8.99 for 22oz. of good stuff.

Laundry Soap:
I love everything about this label!!
Read my recent post about natural laundry routines here. MamaSuds laundry soap makes my clothes fresh and clean without any harmful ingredients. Since its a soap and not a detergent you don't need a fabric softener! I LOVE the safe and natural ingredients that all work hard (and successfully!) at deep cleaning my family's clothes. Michelle originally formulated this gem for cloth diapering and it gets rave reviews - once I restart cloth diapering next month I can't wait to try it! Another big bonus are the delicious smells you can chose - lavender, lemon, peppermint, sweet orange, ylang-ylang, lemongrass, tea tree, eucalyptus or create your own customized blend. This soap works beautifully with High Efficiency laundry machines. They also have a completely unscented version for the hunter in your life! Very reasonably priced at $13.85 for one gallon (128 ounces).

Castile Soap: 
For the DIYer castile soap is a prized ingredient that ranks right up there with white vinegar and baking soda - it is a critical component of most homemade products. It is made from pure olive oil and is gentle enough to use on your babies but powerful enough to tackle your biggest messes. It should be in every family's cupboard! I use it on carpet and upholstery spills, and also on my skin - love how it washes clean without any residue. MamaSuds Castile Soap is a tremendous value starting at $8.39 for 16oz compared to  $11 for Dr. Bonner's. Michelle is always posting great recipes and new ways to use castile soap on their Facebook page - be sure to like them! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Guacamole Super Toast

The avocado is my favorite super food and a staple in our diet. It is a perfect source of the incredibly good-for-you, monounsaturated fat which protects you from heart disease. I also just learned it has a high fiber content providing 30% of your daily allowance in a single cup - who knew!? 

My picky toddler fortunately is a huge avocado fan. Thank goodness since she won't eat anything else green - according to her it's all spinach (including basil in marinara sauce and strawberry leaves). During my pregnancy I had a major aversion to avocados but luckily I'm all about them again. I recently discovered guacamole toast and am hooked - perfect healthy snack or breakfast! This is how I make my guacamole "super" toast:

First you make the guacamole: mash up a guacamole, add a squeeze of fresh lime juice and pinch of sea salt (I've been using Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, great source of trace minerals). 

This avocado looks just right - slightly soft and recently brown
Spread on the toast - we buy either sourdough or sprouted whole wheat. I typically use half the guacamole and save the rest - if I don't finish it off with chips!

TIP: I had always thought that if you leave the pit in it helps from turning it brown - not the case,  just a myth. What does work is adding lemon or lime because the acid slows down the oxidation process. 

Top with sliced cherry tomatoes (love this organic heirloom,variety from Trader Joe's - soon will enjoy fresh from the garden!) chopped green onions, and a tiny sprinkle of red pepper flakes. 

 Voila guacamole super toast - YUM!!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Non-toxic Pedicure - Springtime Toes!

This is the day that I put away my Uggs and paint my toenails pink. It is a springtime rite of passage for me and declaration of a new season. No more surprise cold fronts. Time for ALL my bulbs to pop up. Pink toes.  Ed always notices too, which I think is really cute for a clueless beauty guy- "pink toenails, must be Spring!!" I love a good pedicure, but have a hard time paying $40 when I feel I do a better job myself. Since I've converted to non-toxic products I have a few new favorites when it comes to my toes.

Poofy Organics makes a nail polish remover that I think that every woman needs to own (or man if nail polish is your thing). I don't think that anyone doubts how toxic traditional nail polish is - I put the cap back on as soon as possible to keep all the fumes and chemicals in! This remover is very different and is oil based with no offensive chemical smell - it scores a zero on EWG. It does take several more swipes with the cotton ball to remove ALL of it. Cutex always leaves a little polish behind in a groove or corner and Poofy removes everything. Your nails will also look healthy and nourished by the oil - they'll be so happy and appreciative. Seriously good stuff!
My favorite peachy pink shade "Trout Pout" - love the name!!
I'm a big fan of Butter London and their 116 gorgeous shades of polish. My polish tastes are pretty conservative with peachy pinks and reds, but they have fun options covering the whole rainbow - Nordstrom has a great selection. Butter was the first company to sell non-toxic nail polish in the US and all their lacquers are "3-free" meaning they are formulated without formaldehyde (known carcinogen), toluene, and DBP (both reproductive toxins). These three toxins were banned for use in cosmetics by the European Union in 2004. Sure would be nice if the US cleaned up their safety standards and stopped allowing ingredients KNOWN TO CAUSE CANCER in personal care products - drives me batty!! 
THESE ARE NOT MY FEET - doesn't the foot on the left look a little photo-shopped? (Pinned photo)
I found this exfoliating remedy on Pinterest and have wanted to give it a try every time I see my crusty winter heels. I'll spare you my before pictures… I followed the instructions and soaked my feet in warm water with a cup of Epson Salts for 30 minutes. My feet fit nicely in our big stainless soup pot. I was imagining the spas in Asia where the little fish nibble the dead skin off your feet. The instructions say to use a toothbrush to brush off excess skin. That didn't seem nearly coarse enough so the best thing I could find was my Libman dish scrubber( although I would have used a brillo pad if I had one). My feet weren't that bad, but a toothbrush certainly wasn't going to accomplish a thing. They seemed much The true test though was how they fared during my hot bath that night. You know how the dead crusty heel skin turns white after soaking in water? Mine were nice and pink - no white gunk!! SUCCESS!!!! I'm trying to convince Ed to do it - that would be the true test.

Mommy daughter toes!
Enjoy your pretty non-toxic pedicure and the beautiful Spring weather!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Get off the couch!!

3 under 3 - I can't even imagine
My son turns 12 weeks tomorrow, which means he's no longer officially a newborn. Feeling mixed emotions of sadness, relief, survival - HARD phase. It also means time to get my butt in gear and start exercising again. I really need to rotate the cushions on my couch because I sat in the same spot for three months straight. Me, Teddy and My Breast Friend spent hours upon hours on the couch eating, feeding and sleeping. We had a great set up at the right end of the sofa with all the necessities right there - my lip balm, Sigg water bottle, blanket, phone, computer, remote and view of Olivia's play area. We got comfy, TOO comfy. It's amazing how quickly and easy it is to evolve into a sedentary lifestyle.

My sweet view
And there it is - my tiny little kingdom 
I'm what Lindsey Vonn calls "skinny fat." I've fortunately already lost all my baby weight thanks to breastfeeding and clean eating (still holding onto 2-3 pounds which I'll retain so long as I'm nursing). While my BMI is low, I shutter to think what my body fat percentage is - probably pushing 100% if that is possible... There are a few small muscles in my arms from lifting Teddy and Olivia but other than that my body is pure mush.

Before kids I was a gym rat and in great shape. I trained for triathlons, half marathons and did serious workouts 5-6 times a week.  I looked great, felt great, slept great and loved all the energy that comes with exercise. I want to feel that way again but don't expect to be in that sort of shape. I just want a little tone and no more squishiness.

Starting tomorrow there are NO MORE EXCUSES. Spring is here, Olivia likes riding in the BOB again, I live 3 houses away from the Little Sugar Creek Greenway (perfect place to walk), 1/2 mile from Freedom Park and my workout clothes now fit. MOVE!!!

Beautiful Freedom Park in Charlotte
Here's my plan:
  • Every day wear my pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps. GET OUT AND MOVE. I bought this one off Amazon and really like how you can put it in your pocket. 

  • Saturday morning during my "mommy break" go take a yoga class somewhere. I've practiced yoga for over 15 years and love it - 
  • Restart trainer Kelly Fillnow's exercise routines. Kelly was my Personal Trainer (she set up me and Ed on a blind date!) and planned out a calendar with different workouts. I can break them up and do a little here and there throughout the day.
  • In another month when I'm comfortable leaving Teddy at the child watch, commit to Tuesday and Thursday visits to the gym. The Myers Park Presbyterian Wellness Center in Charlotte has everything I need at a great price. Plus they have wonderful child watch - $5 for two hours and there are always just a couple kids in there when I visit.
  • I hate exercise videos, but have heard good stuff about T-Tapp. Only 15 minutes, can't beat that. This will be my last resort.
  • I've also pinned several easy workout plans exactly like this that I might try.     

This is my declaration that I'm officially getting off the couch. Tomorrow. I've gotta give myself one last day to soak it all up.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Lip Gloss Diaries

 I had the orange, strawberry, bubblegum and Sprite (green) ones  - memories!!
In the wake of Bonnie Bell's bankruptcy I thought it would be an appropriate time to share my expert analysis of non-toxic lip glosses (Yes, I am self proclaimed expert on glosses considering I've been obsessed for nearly 30 years).

I think it all began around 5th grade with the Bonnie Bell candy canes that I would get in my stocking at Christmas. Strawberry was always my favorite with bubble gum a close second. I have had a serious addiction ever since and am NEVER without some sort of a lip product at all times, usually my Burt's Bees which I buy in bulk. Clothing with pockets is a must - Ed loves it when I find church dresses with pockets so he doesn't have to carry it around in his coat for me. Burt's Bees and Simply Rustic lip balm is stashed all over the house - there's one in the bathroom, in the kitchen catch-all tray, on my bedside table, in all my purses and has a prominent spot in my car cup-holder. I can't think of a time that I have been without it, just never happens. If you ever have chapped lips, come find me and I promise I'll be able to hep you out immediately.

Lip glosses have been my preference for a long time over lipstick because I like the texture and moisture. Glosses with a lot of scent or flavor are a big turn off - something very subtle is okay though, especially if it's minty. I also don't like anything that is overly gooey that your hair will stick to. Most recently Nars and Bobbi Brown have been my glosses of choice. They meet all my requirements - that is until I learned about the importance of safe ingredients in cosmetics. It's hard to comprehend how lead, a known neurotoxin that has no safe level of exposure, is still found in lipstick. In this FDA study, lead was discovered in 400 lipsticks at levels two times higher than found in a previous study. This is especially concerning for pregnant women since lead can interfere with brain development. Lip gloss is especially critical since you end up, well eating it. 

I've switched out all of my makeup to green, safer products but lip gloss was my last holdout. Last month I ran out of my Bobbi Brown and Nars and decided it was finally time to venture out of my comfort zone. Luckily Burt's Bees is all natural, what a relief! Unfortunately I don't like their glosses or lipsticks, way too much fruity flavor. After researching different brands online and referencing the EWG website I decided to try out the following brands: Poofy Organics, Josie Maran, 100% Pure, Jane Iredale, and Tarte. Here is my report and review: 

  • Jane Iredale PureGloss in Red Currant: This was my first natural gloss purchase and I wish I had given myself more time to test out the product before purchasing (I also wish I didn't have the pressure of my toddler's short attention span while shopping…). There were many salons in Charlotte that I found thru the website that carry Jane Iredale products and I chose T. Reid in Dilworth. They only had about 4 or 5 different shades and I was drawn to the Red Currant. The color is very pretty and has a very subtle shimmer. It does have  a little more fruity flavor than I prefer and is very thick and gooey. If my hair gets close to my lips its a big sticky mess. It also doesn't stay on very very long at all - this is common with glosses, but the Jane Iredale is worse than others. If you've ever tried the Sephora brand lip gloss, this is very similar. Not my favorite and I won't be buying again. Grade: C-

Jane Iredale "Red Currant"
  • Jane Iredale PureGloss in Spice ($24): This very pleasantly surprised me! I recently switched my hair stylist and started going to Follicle Salon, which sells Jane Iredale products. Caroline was telling me how much she loves their glosses and encouraged me to try a few other shades. They had a selection of probably 15 compared to the only 5 at the other salon. I LOVED the pinkish nude with a gentle shimmer and shine that is appropriately named Spice (doesn't taste spicy though). Nice smooth finish, unlike the sticky and gooey Red Currant. Weird how they are so different, but I'm glad I found Spice! Will definitely buy again, very very pretty gloss! Grade: A-
Jane Iredale "Spice"
Here is a real life photo of the two. The "Red Currant" looks a little scary bright, but is much more subtle.  Love the spice and this is a better photo of the actual color. This tube fell out of my purse at the Trader Joe's parking lot and was unfortunately run over a few times - luckily I found it safe and sound, just a little beat up...
  • Poofy Organics is a brand I recently discovered and I'm crazy about everything I've tried - their EWG scores are all 0, which is unheard of with a gloss. The only problem is you can't try it on before you purchase (unless you live in New Jersey and can visit their stores…), which is a huge risk when buying cosmetics. Since I had been happy with all my other Poofy products and read several positive reviews about their glosses I figured I'd take a gamble. Their shade "Powerful Plum" looked very similar to my Bobbi Brown "Aubergine" which is my more dress up shade that I wear to church or out to dinner - my fancy, bold gloss. It is very full coverage, not sheer at all and a little goes a long way. It's texture is just right and stays put. I was surprised how much I like the faint vanilla scent because this fragrance is usually my least favorite. It smells just like the real deal vanilla extract you bake with, not the artificial fake stuff used in the likes of Bath and Body Works. While I like this shade, I don't LOVE it and am hesitant to make blind lip purchases in the future without trying on first. Grade: B
Poofy comes with VERY basic packaging - nothing fancy.
  • Tarte LipSurgence lip tint in Buff ($24) When I went to Sephora and found I was so happy I could have cried. For years and years my "signature" lip color was Shu Uemura's OR513 which was a gorgeous peachy pink with a little bit of frosty shimmer. It was perfection. I wore it on my wedding day and remember having Ed hold it in his suit pocket for me. If I would have made a late 20s personal time capsule would be in it. I was crushed when they discontinued it about 4 years ago and my search for a replacement ended when I discovered. IT'S THE SAME!!! (well almost the same - closest I've found).I love it's creaminess, the faint faint mintyness (is that a word?!), the slight shimmer, the perfect shade of peachy pink. It comes in a chunky pencil that you push up and is more of a creamy lipstick rather than a gloss - SO HAPPY!!!!! I want to try more shades - Obviously an A+ 

Buff deserves THREE photos!!
  • BeautyCounter Lip Sheer ($28): I'm itching to try this but you have to attend a party or host one as it is only sold thru reps. Raisin, Petal and Twig look like they belong in my purse. Awesome ingredient profile, but very pricey. Love the glam gold packaging - would make me feel super fancy every time I use it! I've heard nothing but rave reviews about this brand across the board - think I need to host a party soon :)  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Featured Fruit: Pineapple trick

We love pineapple and I buy a whole one every week at Trader Joe's during my Monday morning shopping trip. I'll leave it sitting out on the counter until Thursday to get nice and ripe. When I can easily pull out one of the leaves I know its ready.

A new trick I just learned is to set it upside down for about an hour before cutting and all the sugars and juices will spread throughout the fruit - yum!

For all its yummy sweetness, pineapple has only 82 calories for a cup of cut up chunks.  It is a great source of Vitamin C, manganese, fiber and is one of the only sources of the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromeliad. I add a slice to my smoothie (along with frozen berries, spinach, coconut milk, Brazilian nuts, flax and a banana) and love it in fresh squeezed juice.

When we were undergoing fertility treatments I ate A LOT of pineapple - supposed to make your uterus sticky. Both times I got pregnant quickly, so ya never know - maybe it was the pineapple!!

Try grilling it sprinkled with a teeny tiny bit of salt and pepper - DELICIOUS!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Natural hair color

Ah, the joys of getting old. About five years ago my brunette hair sadly started turning gray. At first it was just a few that were easily hid but over time they multiplied. Why do they have to be so much thicker and wiry?! I was able to hold off on coloring for a couple years and then the time had come. Dang professional hair color is expensive! After a couple bad experiences in college I don't trust home treatments, so off to the salon…

There is a reason why you're not supposed to color your hair while pregnant - the chemicals they use are seriously toxic and absorbed right into your scalp. Not to mention all the wildly strong fumes you inhale.

I knew I didn't want to go to an Aveda salon - have heard negative reviews about their hair color. Plus they're what I consider to be a "greenwashing" company - that means they pretend to be all natural but it's just a marketing gimmick. Henna is probably the most natural option out there, but that wasn't the look I was going for. I had driven by Follicle Salon on East Blvd. in Charlotte a zillion times and was excited to learn about their Keune So Pure line. The ingredients are 100% plant based - a combo of "over 30 rich plant extracts and essential oils  that are harvested using biological agriculture that sustains the health of our ecosystem and the quality of the oils." One of the key ingredients is PhytoKeratin which rebuilds the natural hair structure from within and protects during the color treatment. most lines Keune is ammonia and paraben free. Instead of inhaling fumes that burn your nostrils you experience aromatherapy - it smells so good!!

Here is a Keune salon finder link.

I had all over color and balayage highlights - I'm thrilled and a month later it still looks great! I also had 11 inches cut off at this appointment which I donated to Locks of Love. This has been on my bucket list for years and I hope my hair brings a little happiness and smile to a child fighting cancer.