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Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Grey & Green



I have always been fond of handmade soaps and lotions, believing that they are held to a higher standard by their makers and consumers than your average big brand product you find at the department store.  So, you can imagine my pleasure when I was given the opportunity to try some of Grey & Green's products!

Grey & Green is a company that creates handmade products using natural, raw materials such as cocoa butter, beeswax, coconut oil, and essential oils.  They specialize in soaps and lotions (both bar and liquid), though also offer lip balms, scrubs, and gift sets.

I was fortunate to be able to try the Cocoa Butter Cold Process Soap and the Shea Butter Lotion Bar, both in the Crackling Firewood scent, as I miss the smell of campfire in the summer and wood heaters in the winter.  Each product is only $4.00, available from their Etsy store.


My Grey & Green order arrived in a very pretty, bright green bag, with the soap wrapped in wax paper and the lotion in its own convenient tin.

My initial impression of the soap was "WOW that's a large slab of soap!"  It was honestly larger than my hand.  The most prevelant scent, though far from strong, from it was a generic soapy smell, with a hint of woodsmoke, though I most often find that handmade soaps don't have a strong scent.  

It doesn't even fit in my soap dish

My whole family loves this soap.  The Mr is actually quite fond of the fact that it does not have an overpowering scent, unlike most commercial soaps.  Mischief, who likes to think that even walking by the bathroom is a good excuse to wash his hands, thinks that the ridges tickle.  I love the how well it lathers and that it leaves behind the faintest smell of woodsmoke.  

The ridges also help me grip it when small hands drop the soap (again) into the sink.  Because of the materials used, this soap leaves your hands feeling, not dry and stretched, but soft and moisturized; even the lather feels soft.  After a month of constant use (we only have the one bathroom), the Grey & Green bar is still quite large, and will last us a long time.  This is definitely a good investment for only $4.00.


Being what the Mr affectionately calls a "fiber freak" (I knit, crochet, and even spin yarn) who has a marked preference for natural plant and animal fibers, my hands are often very dry.  I very quickly found that the best remedy for this is bar lotion.  Most commercial liquid lotions dry too quickly and sometimes even leave my hands feeling drier than before.  

I can't get over how good this smells!
The Shea Butter Lotion Bar was a treat to my poor, dry hands.  It left my hands feeling wonderfully refreshed, even after working with wool and cotton which completely sap my skin of any moisture, and left behind a lingering scent of woodsmoke, which I love.

The lotion bar had a markedly stronger scent than the soap. The size and shape of it, which reminds me of a votive candle, is a perfect fit in my hands to grab and massage it into whatever dry patch of skin is desperately crying for it (hands, feet, elbows, etc).

I also like that the little tin that it comes in is especially handy for keeping it in your purse/project bag/bag of holding.  It keeps the lotion from getting random debris embedded in it, and protects your stuff from getting lotion all over!  Again, I've been using this lotion bar for a month, and it is going to last me quite a few more; another steal for $4.00!



Bar lotion can take a little to get used to, as you don't just glob it on and rub it in and be done with it.  You need to take your time and massage it into your skin, letting it melt into the skin.  It doesn't completely absorb right away, but doesn't leave your hands feeling greasy either, more like they have a protective layer.

This is great for anyone wanting to put a little extra effort into keeping their skin moisturized.

One fantastic way to use it is on your poor feet after wearing flip flops for a few too many weeks. Massage it into those dry tootsies before bed and put cotton socks on.  In the morning, wake up with new feet!

Over all, I adore these products, and I am most definitely going to be recommending them to my friends and family, as well as trying more scents and products (like the Doctor Who Dalek and Tardis Glycerin Soaps).

These products are not only high quality and non irritating to my sensitive skin, but also very long lasting. Unquestionably, worth using again and again!

Grey & Green Etsy
Grey & Green Facebook



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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: Budable Self-Stick Flower Arranger


Sometimes you come across a nifty little item that does one simple thing so well that you wonder where it's been all your life - that's how I felt when I first heard about the Budable: a jellylike stretchable plastic cover that handily sticks to glass, plastic and metal container tops of various shapes and sizes.  There are holes of two different sizes in the top that stretch open, allowing flower stems and whatever else you might wan to store upright to be contained without flopping over.

My husband had brought me a bouquet of flowers for our anniversary - getting flowers doesn't happen all that often, but I really love it when it does.  Unfortunately, all I can really do is plop them in a vase, where they usually fall a bit to the sides.  I was hopeful that this time, the Budable would help me make them look a bit more arranged.

But life got a little bit busy, so they sat in water for a couple days before I could get to them - and sadly, they lost a few petals while I was working with them.  (Not from the Budable, but because of the less than fresh quality of the flowers themselves)

The Budable directions ask that you pull and stretch it a bit before using it so it will be easier to stretch it over the top of a vase.  I spent a few minutes doing this, pulling at it in all directions.

I know they actually make toys and 'stress objects' out of this material, but I will admit that I don't much care for the 'feel' of this sort of stretchy plastic.

After a couple of minutes, I was more than ready to move onto the next step.

After giving it a good stretch, I tried mine out on a few different vases and tins, to determine how far I could actually stretch it.

I decided to try stretching it over a few vases and other containers to get a feel for the size range I could use it for.  I tried a bulb-shaped vase with a lip that's about 5" in diameter, a metal tin I use to store drawing pens, also about 5" square, and a flared top vase with an 8" opening that is 'petaled', which is what I hoped to use for the flowers.


Putting on the first two was easy - the Budable gripped without any trouble to both the glass and the metal.

The last vase, with its wider and uneven lip was more challenging - I could stretch it over 3 of the 'petals' but then couldn't stretch it further without letting go and losing the progress I'd made.  After a few minutes of this (and with water in the vase, since I planned to use this for the flowers), I called in for backup support.

My husband was able to pull it over the remaining portion of the vase while I held what was already where it should be in place.  Between us, it only took a minute, and once it was actually pulled over the rim, it held with no further tendency to spring off.

Even so, I think in the future, I'll use it for smaller lipped vases, because if your flowers are fresh enough to last awhile, you'll want to water them now and then, and there is no way I'd be able to take this off to water and then get it back on again.  But that's ok, as there are many vases in my closet that will work just fine and let me deal with it on my own.

This is the part where I learned  that flower arranging is no skill of mine.  The Budable did its part perfectly - me, not so much.

First, like I said, these flowers were just about done.  Petals were dropping off, flowers were drooping...

Second, to actually do a flower arrangement, you want greenery, maybe some baby's breath or some sort of other interest, in different heights so that the end result is an attractive composition.

Even so, the Budable let me put each stem where I wanted to, and it holds it there, so flower arranging is a skill I can practice to do better.

A whole lot better.

In the end, there was no tearing of  the holes (and these were some pretty thick stems), and the Budable does exactly what it says it does.

Washing it is as simple as some gentle care with soap and warm water and it will revert to its original shape once it's released from a vase.  If you plan to arrange roses or other items with thorns, the Budable website also carries a rose de-thorner which is another very simple and very brilliant answer to a common problem.

Once you get to know what Budable can do, you're probably going to want more than one, because in addition to flowers, it can also be put into service for organization.

I tried mine out with my drawing pens, but it could also be used to store paintbrushes, make up brushes, small kitchen utensils, and whatever else you can think of.

It occurs to me that it'd also make a great corral for yarn, which could be reeled out through one of the holes.

A single Budable costs only $3.95, and right now you can buy 3, get 3 free for just $14.95 +S&H, and get a flower arranging guide thrown in to boot.  I think it would be a real boon to those who have some flower arranging skills, and might just provide enough of a boost to give the hopeless cases like me some motivation to learn.

Budable Website
Budable on Facebook


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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review/Giveaway: Golden Hands Designs - Warm Weather Whimsys


Several months ago, I was able to review one of my favorite handicrafters - Golden Hands Design.  All of her items have a wonderful Bohemian Chic air about them, perfect for crunchie hippies, young and old alike. (Her motto is "Hippy fashion from an Old Hippie!")  The purple 'gnome' hat I reviewed last winter became a signature piece for me, and will be again once the weather turns cold.

This time, I took a look at couple of Cathy's warm weather designs.  As much as I love Golden Hands Design winter hats and shawls, I think it is her crocheted halter tops and barefoot sandals that really show off her free-spirited design personality.

In fact, one of her rainbow halter tops has been used in a major production of Hair at the Hollywood Bowl!

Going right along with the halters, Golden Hands Design makes delightful little barefoot sandals - these are basically foot decorations, as there is no actual sole.  Made of delicate weight yarn in many styles and colors, the sandals wrap around the ankles and hook onto a toe.


The set of barefoot sandals I received were black trimmed with a bright multi-colored triangular patch that decorates the top of the foot, adding a colorful splash of interest to any summer look where shoes aren't necessary.

I find them to be ridiculously cute, but not for me, so I asked my friend Aurora to do the honors of modeling the pair of barefoot sandals I received.  Aurora is, among many other things, a belly dancer, with a whimsical fashion sense that I think plays quite well with Golden Hands Design.

Our getting together to take photos turned out to be a comedy of errors - we normally get together a couple times a month to hang out with friends around a good fire, but first she couldn't make it and then I couldn't make it, and then when we'd given up trying to have me take photos (her boyfriend agreed to do it instead, she went on a camping trip that apparently included all the mosquitoes in the known universe, and they all agreed her feet tasted delicious!

But finally, she was able to model them - and I think it was well worth the wait, because they look just fantastic, don't they?

In terms of worksmanship, while I don't crochet, I found them to be very well made - delicate without being unduly fragile.

Obviously, they're not intended for hiking or rough use (because, hello, barefoot!), but the only portion that might wind up with some real wear and tear is  the bit under the toe - nothing else touches the ground.

I think they'd look amazing with any sort of summer dress, shorts, or even jeans, and I'm rather jealous that my balance issues make going barefoot difficult for me.  Depending on the exact design, Golden Hands Design barefoot sandals run between $10 and $20 for a pair.

The other item I received for review was a Purple Crocheted Wine Sling, and I plan to make heavy use of it at a few upcoming events, including our local Renn Faire.

I absolutely love  the idea of these - a wine glass fits into the sling which can then be worn around the neck for handsfree portability. These little goodies come in several colors and cost only $15.00 with a wine glass included.

If you want to walk handsfree with these, I'd suggest keeping the liquid below the half way point to avoid sloshing (common sense, that).  I find that the best use of these, other than making you look adorable, is to wear them as a way to hang onto a glass easily between drinks.

A few times a year, when I gather with friends, we have a tendency to share a communal cup together. While I love this as a practice, pragmatically, my lowered immune system creates risk - I am going to bring my Golden Hands Design Wine Sling with me the next time, as a way of sharing a toast without sharing anything unintentional.

One thing I think these wine slings would be perfect for would be a bachelorette party or 'girls night out' event - at such a low cost, these would make wonderful favors and souvenirs of the event.  Someone crafty could even mark the wine glass with something meaningful to commemorate the experience.


Before I move on, the biggest question I had when the package arrived was how easily the glass could be removed for washing - have no fear there!  It easily lowers down the stem and slides off from the bottom without stretching.  As long as any other glass has a base that isn't much wider than the one that comes with it, it shouldn't be a problem switching it out for your personal favorite bit of stemware. (I also find myself wondering how this might do with a small drinking horn!



Please do go to Golden Hands Design and check out all her whimsies - in addition to winter hats and scarves, there are fingerless gloves, and her warm weather items include these lovelies, but also crocheted dreamcatchers and some fabulous repurposed china garden art.

Each Golden Hands Designs garden art piece is completely one-of-a-kind, because she uses repurposed thriftshop and yardsale finds to create them.  Some may have very minor chips or scratches as a result - as Cathy says, it's unlikely the birds will mind.

To set these up in your yard, all you need is a 3-4ft pole (not included), about 1/2" thick (such as rebar), planted into the ground or pot where you plan to put this.  The piece includes a bottle that can slide over  the pole.

Cathy's agreed to let us offer this gorgeous repurposed  maroon and white china plate garden flower to one of our readers.  Due to the expense of shipping such a heavy item, this giveaway can only be open to US residents.

As we move into fall, our garden blooms may be going away - wouldn't it be great to have this splash of color to remind us of the lush days of summer?

The value of this China Garden Art piece is $25, and the Giveaway will run until just before midnight on September 13.




To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This lets us contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

Good luck, everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Golden Hands Website
Golden Hands on Facebook
Golden Hands on Instagram


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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: bodyBrana Organic Skincare



As a 53 year old woman, I have typical concerns about aging skin - years of sun and environmental damage, wrinkles, sagging and dry skin that never seems to be hydrated enough.  There are a lot of products on the market that are touted as The Answer to all these natural aspects of aging, each with ingredients lists that read like a chemist's lab, and many of which are caustic - on purpose, even!

But I'm a "Less is More" girl, and while I have a skincare graveyard full of commercial products that I've tried and abandoned, I find that I am much, much happier using very simple products with no scary ingredients.  Simple costs less, works better, and doesn't make me concerned with what I'm taking into my body through my skin.  I sometimes make my own, but I'm also very happy when I can buy from someone else who values simple, wholesome ingredients as much as I do.

BodyBrana is one of those companies.  BodyBrana carries skin creams, toners, face masks, deodorant sticks, baby care products and more, each made with understandable, organic ingredients, made to order at time of purchase and sent in recyclable containers (they'll even give you a $1 credit per container if you mail your finished containers back for reuse).


For review purposes, I was sent a full-sized container of bodyBrana Strawberries and Cream Facial Mask, a travel sized ItWorks Citrus Mandarin Antiperspirant stick, and two sample sized skin creams - Organic Bliss and Organic Rose Face Cream.

My first step, of course, was to open all the containers and huff in the good scents of the creams and the antiperspirant, before taking on the wonderful task of using each product regularly for a few weeks to see how well they worked.

BodyBrana makes antiperspirants and deodorants in full sized sticks and small travel-sized sticks.  Honestly, due to the nature of freshly made products, I'd select travel sized and reorder as needed.

According  to the website, products last about 6 months, and do better stored in the refrigerator.  Because there are no chemical preservatives, the essential oils will lose a lot of their scent over time.  I've been using the travel sized Mystic Mandarin antiperspirant for a month, and still have plenty left.

I stopped using commercial antiperspirants many years ago, due to concerns about what it is they do - sweating is a biological mechanism that has a sound purpose, so stopping it from happening doesn't seem like a grand idea. (I do not deal with excessive sweat, to be fair - if I am perspiring, it's so I don't keel over from heat stroke)

I can't say I actually understand the difference between bodyBrana's antiperspirants and their deodorants, but my experience with using this is  that I did not experience any sweating other than under conditions where it would be expected (long walks outdoors in hot, muggy Washington DC summertime), and the Mystic Mandarin scent is lush and wonderful - it definitely works as a very pleasant deodorant.

The texture is what you'd expect of a deodorant stick. By default, deodorants in the summer mnths are made using a 'summer formula.'  However, bodyBrana will let you select Summer or Winter, with the following instructions:
"If you prefer a softer, creamier formula, live in a cold climate, or your house temperature is below 70F at night, please ask for a WINTER formula, please indicate this with at NOTE AT CHECKOUT. Summer formula is for indoor (bathroom) temperatures that exceed 72F at night or for carrying around in heat (beach, gym bags, purses, etc...)"
I kept mine tucked in a backpack for a couple of trips, and it held up well to summer heat, so I think mine is a summer version. Since everything is made to order, you can request which type you'd like best for your situation.

You can also select formulas for regular or sensitive skin, which would avoid any potential skin irritants.  I have had no negative effects at all from using the regular version.

I did have one minor accident when I failed to fully twist the stick back into the container before putting the lid on - a bit of it broke off into the lid. (This is what happens when you don't take due care!)  I was able to scrape it out of  the lid, spread it back onto the stick, and then stow it in the fridge for a day or so, and it's worked fine since without any more coming apart.

There are a ton of lovely scents available for the antiperspirants and deodorants, ranging from Fir Forest and Men's Classic  to Rose Geranium, Warm Spice, and Spring Breeze.  You can by a 3-pack mix and match set of travel sized sticks for $12, and I think the hardest part would be deciding which three scents to try!

The Organic Bliss cream has been one of my favorite items - it works very nicely as a night cream for the face, and also does a fine job as a hand cream.  Since I only had a small sample to work with, I haven't tried it as a full body cream, though I am sure it would do very well.

It doesn't take more than a small dab, goes on smoothly and richly, and has long lasting softening and moisturizing qualities.

The scent is really pleasant to me - I haven't been able to really define what it is, but it is subtle enough that I can layer on other scents without clashing.

The ingredients are all organic: aloe vera gel, natural beeswax,  extra virgin coconut oil, grapeseed oil, extra virgin olive oil, organic hydrosols, cold pressed hazelnut oil, natramules, rosemary extract, radish root preservative, essential oils, and rosehip seed oil.

A 2 oz jar of Organic Bliss Cream costs $23.00, and should be kept in the refrigerator to extend its life long enough to use it all - it should easily last months unless you get into a daily all-over body routine.

The Organic Rose Face Cream is slightly thinner in consistency than the Organic Bliss Cream, and I like using this in the morning as a light moisturizer for my face.

As you might guess, the scent is roses!  Rose Otto Essential Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Rose Hydrosol all work together with a variety of moisturizing oils to make a delightful scent and a moisturizer that nourishes without feeling heavy.

Again, a small dab does the trick.  The first couple of times I used this, I experienced a very minor bit of irritation and was afraid I might be sensitive to something in it, but after that first couple times, that stopped completely and hasn't returned.  I would use caution with this one if you have any known sensitivities, though.

A 2 oz container of the Organic Rose Face Cream is $25, and again, should be kept in the refrigerator to maximize its shelf life (it also feels so good to put on cooled moisturizer in the morning!)

While I have enjoyed both of these creams, when it is time to order a full sized version, I think I'm really most in love with the Organic Bliss Cream, both for its long lasting skin softening benefits and its multi-functionality.

Last, but definitely not least, I've been using the Strawberries & Cream Clay Facial Mask a couple of times a week for a few weeks now, and I absolutely adore it.

One of four varieties, each designed for different facial needs, the Strawberries & Cream Facial Mask removes impurities in a gentle way without causing drying of the skin - each time I've used this, my face has been left firm, yet smooth and soft to the touch as if it had been buffed, without any sort of skin peeling caustic nonsense one often finds in commercial smoothing treatments.

There are a number of ways to customize the face mask - it comes as a dry powder blend of pink kaolin clay, white clay, organic milk, organic dried strawberries, arrowroot and honey powder.  To use it, you simply mix a teaspoon of the powder with an equal amount of a moistener of your choice. The company suggests a few options, such as their Strawberry Toner/Mask Activator, or milk, yogurt, witch hazel, juice, tea or, of course, water.  You can also add some honey to it for additional nourishing properties.

I have tried both milk and yogurt, and prefer the yogurt, as it makes a thicker, creamier spreadable mask than the milk - but each of them work perfectly.  There is no need at all to slather this on thickly, as it is only the part of the mask that touches your skin that actually does anything.


Once the mask is mixed up, simply spread it over your face.  I find that this rinses cleanly and easily, so I am fine with getting good coverage without worry.  It goes on cool and wet and I have had no issues with it running before it sets, even when it starts out more as a liquid than a paste.  Within just a few minutes, it begins to dry, without cracking or flaking off - another reason to use a thin layer rather than wasting the facial mask powder to create something thicker than needed.


Leave the mask on for about 20 minutes, and then rinse it off (I use a microfiber washcloth to gently wipe away all traces with warm water.  The picture on the left is just after it's been removed - all dead skin and roughness is gone and my face feels like silk, no kidding!  It has a great firming capability that doesn't at all feel like stretched, dry skin.  I love that I can get this effect (and it lasts for well over a day) without any rough abrasive scrubbing.

I like to follow up the mask with a light application of the Organic Rose Face Cream, and then head into the rest of my day feeling pampered and knowing I've done something good for my skin.

BodyBrana's Facial Mask powders cost $10.50 each for a 2oz container.  Using only a teaspoon of the powder at a time, this is very cost effective, and it works better than any clay mask that I've ever tried.

All in all, I have enjoyed working with these products, and expect to purchase them again (as well as try some of their other products).  I really like  that each batch is custom created at the time of ordering for maximum freshness, and that there are built in options for sensitive skin and other concerns.
If you're looking to get into natural skin care, I suggest trying a few of bodyBrana's organic products as a great way to get to know how they work for you.  I've been really impressed and pleased with their results for me!

bodyBrana Website
bodyBrana Etsy Shop
bodyBrana on Facebook


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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review & Giveaway: SmartKlean Laundry Ball



With a new baby on the way, and frankly just growing up in generally, I have begun doing what many people in the country have - looking for ways to better the planet by removing unnecessary chemicals from my everyday life. Sometimes it is the food I put in my family's bodies, or the household cleaners we choose to use. In this case, I was able to try a detergent free laundry solution!

I certainly didn't know such a thing was possible before I learned about SmartKlean. Even after it arrived and I read all the included instructions, as well as their website and past testimonials, I STILL wasn't convinced that such a thing exists.


Reading the packaging, I confess I was simultaneously impressed, and rolling my eyes at the claims.  

According to the box, the SmartKlean Laundry Ball performs a physical process to naturally boost the water’s ability to clean and soften, without leaving behind a chemical trace on your clothes, your skin, or our environment. Sounds great! 

But wait...I’m supposed to believe that this little green plastic ball that sounds like a baby rattle when shaken, is going to help my Mojave Desert water clean? (think Erin Brockovich, people!  That's our water!) 

Although I am not filled with much scientific knowledge, the way it is explained actually makes sense. 

The green outer shell is filled with four different kinds of small ceramic pellets and two magnets. Together these eliminate bacteria and mold from your fabrics, elevate your water’s pH levels to help lift dirt and oils, eliminate chlorine and reduce surface tension, reduce size of water clusters and increase dissolved oxygen, decompose impurities and odorous bacteria, and ensure sterilization. 




The outer ball itself has a shape and texture designed to agitate the water to beat the dirt off your clothes. All of that sounds like exactly what is needed to get the job done! It’s best read The Laundry Ball's Science for the full scientific breakdown. 

It says that is it great for general laundry, delicates, baby clothes, cloth diapers, wool, wetsuits, sports and outdoor gear, and light stains. Although it does add that for set in stubborn stains you should pre-treat with a stain remover. They even have a stain stick you can purchase for $9.80 + $4.50 shipping. 

Also, you should know that Borax or other washing soda is recommended for extreme hard water. I was a little annoyed reading that, thinking, ‘well, what DO you do then?’ Then I had it pointed out to me that even big name detergents make those same recommendations. Well then…

It sounded like it was about time to just put it to the test!

The first week, it was hard for me to choose the SmartKlean Ball over my trusty bottle of TIDE. I found myself trying it with clothes that were routine, rather than clothes I really NEEDED clean, if that makes sense. When it came to my husband's Army uniform, or baby clothes, or cloth diapers, I just couldn't trust it and would chicken out on giving it a chance. The clothes were always coming out seemingly clean, but how could I really know?

The answer was obvious, I had to let go and use it on clothes that NEEDED it. In deciding to make the official full switch from detergents, the first thing to do was clean our machine! This is essential for the laundry ball to work to its full potential. Our washer is probably around 8 years old and I know that we have never cleaned it in the 4 years its been in our possession. 

I had no idea just HOW gross it was. Over time, grime, mold and detergent residue build up inside the nooks and crannies of your machine, preventing your clothes from achieving their best clean. My husband, Daniel, spent a few hours making it sparkle again, but that will be another post for another day!




Now that we had a clean machine to work with, we were ready to give it a try.

First up, we challenged it hard: Army PT’s. Stinky, smelly, August-in-the-Mohave-Desert sweat filled, Army PT’s. To my absolute amazement, they came out smelling like, well, nothing. Which is way better then what they went IN smelling of!

After that success, I decided to really let go, and just start incorporating the SmartKlean Laundry Ball into my routine regularly. I never once was disappointed. Clothes never came out unquestionably clean, and the whole process was much quicker, from just being able to keep clothes moving without stopping to measure detergents or otherwise.

The only hang up I had was entirely mental. The Smell! Or, rather, lack there of. 

Fabric softener would change that, as my Bounce dryer sheets do the trick. (Though you should be aware that SmartKlean eliminates the need to purchase EITHER of those anymore - the SmartKlean ball acts as a fabric softener, too!) Also, you can add a few drops of essential oils on a piece of cloth in the dryer, to add a scent.

So aside from the scientific obvious answer of ‘chemicals are bad’, why should you make the switch?

The entirely biodegradable, BPA and PVC free SmartKlean Laundry Ball and packaging can be purchased for $45+$5 shipping. Sound expensive? What about when I tell you that the ball is good for 365 loads! With that math, it would cost roughly $170 to achieve the same with a bottle of my usual. To put it another way, SmartKlean costs just .15 cents per load. 

On top of the money you save on your grocery bill, how does saving money on your utility bills sound? This laundry ball operates on cold water only, so no need for your water heater to run. Not using detergents, you eliminate the need for a rinse cycle, saving 10-12 gallons of water per load! I can only imagine how much that will help your water and electric bills. So, you know, there’s that.

But if financial savings aren't  incentive enough, how about a few environmental factors? Without ever having given it much thought, it seems like common sense that the water in your washer has to drain to somewhere. Which means, somewhere out there your soapy, chemical filled water runs off into some body of water, changing pH balances, overgrowing algaes and harming wildlife. Not anymore!

You will also be extending the life of your machine by cutting down the wear and tear. Chemicals can be very harsh on the inner workings, creating rust spots and minimizing the life of your appliance. Furthermore, one of the processes the ceramics in the SmartKlean Laundry Ball perform is to strip the water of chlorine. Some of you may be quite surprised to learn just how much chlorine comes out of your faucet along with your regular water.  

You are leaving no chemical residue on you and your family’s clothing anymore, either. This is big for us, as I have had sensitive skin my entire life. Early in life, I had to be very brand specific as everything was causing to me break out in hives. I always have to keep an eye on my children, waiting for the day that they show signs of it as well. This really puts my mind at ease!




The only aspect that I saw as a negative, initially, is the size load. Because of the physical process of the laundry ball, it needs ample room in your machine to agitate the water. If you overload it, it wont have the proper space to do its job. Smartklean suggests sticking to no more than 18lb of clothes, or no more than ¾ of the way full. As someone who really hates household chores, I was annoyed by not being able to pack it full to lessen the work. However, I have since seen the trade-off and just needed to shift my priorities. Though if you just can’t wrap your head around any added loads that would accumulate, you can buy a second ball to add to your loads to accommodate the size. 

The only other thing to keep in mind, is that although it is thoroughly cleaning your clothes, it does not contain any optical brightners, so you may want to occasionally add Oxyclean or something similar to keep whites white.

The only upkeep to the ball itself, is to sit in in the sun for 1-2 hours roughly once a month. This helps recharge the ceramic balls inside, maintaining its effectiveness.  

I'm a fan, and ditching my detergent for good!


SmartKlean on Facebook 



If you'd like a chance to try one for yourself, SmartKlean is offering a giveaway of one SmartKlean Laundry Ball and 1 SmartKlean Stain Remover Stick to one of our readers in the US or Canada. 

The combined value of this giveaway (including shipping) is $59.80, and the contest will end just before midnight on Tuesday, September 9th.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This lets us contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cucumber Turkey Roll-ups (Meal Plan)


FOOD! I have always loved food, sometimes to an unhealthy obsessive amount. However, what I didn’t realize until recently, I never really CARED about it. If it tasted good, I’d eat it, without much other thought. I didn’t care for anything that took a significant amount of preparation, without taking into consideration if it was worth that or not. I am so incredibly happy to report, that is NOT how I live my life anymore.

For a few different reasons – gestational diabetic diet restrictions, writing these meal plans, thus making me accountable to all of YOU for what I eat, and our bi-monthly Abundant Harvest hauls – I now but a lot more time and energy into planning our meals! Luckily I have a wonderful husband who not only is good in the kitchen, but enjoys being in there to help with the actual making of these meals.

So let’s start with seeing what goodies we got from AHO this week!



All that adds up to:

4 Asian Pears
5 carrots (probably best for roasting)
1 Cauliflower head
1 Honeydew
5 lbs flavor rich plums
5 small hot chilis
1 bunch of kale
1 head of lettuce
1 bunch Sorrel
1 bunch chives
4 plumcots
over 20 small potatoes mix
1 bunch of tarragon
8 tomatoes
1 pint yellow pear tomatoes
a metric shit ton (like over 10) onions mix
1 pint garlic bulbs
1 big bag of sunchokes (jerusalem artichokes - I'll have to look into how to use these
)

4 packages pork Argentine Inspired sausages
1 package chicken breast
1 dozen eggs

7oz Happy Tummy Cheesecake (Organic Sprouted Cashews, Lemon Juice, Probiotic Dairy Free Water Kefir, Grade B Organic Pure Maple Syrup, Organic Coconut Oil, Sunflower seed Lecithin, Organic Madagascar Vanilla, Himalayan Pink Salt.)

4oz Cashew Queso (Organic Sprouted Cashews, Dairy Free Water Kefir, Himalayan Pink Salt, Organic spices)

1 half gallon raw whole milk


Great haul right!? How could you not be passionate about food after all of that? Unfortunately you will have to wait until next week to learn what we did with it all.

This meal plan tells you what we did this PAST week.

Tuesday:
Lemon pan seared Tilapia
Salad


Wednesday:
Chicken taco salad


Thursday:
Lima/green bean mix
Sweet Potato Fries




Friday:
Cucumber Turkey wraps
(See recipe below!)


Saturday:
(Ate out)
Round Table Pizza
Rainbow Froyo

Sunday:
Fried eggs
Bacon
Fried Potatoes
Tortilla

Monday:
Tuna wrap in a spinach tortilla

Tuesday:
Leftovers

So although all of this doesn’t sound like perfect diet foods, there is a skill to 'cheating'. Portion Control! I didn’t think I was capable of such a concept, but I have been doing great with it!

I am also nine months pregnant, and think I’m allowed just a BIT of leeway ;)

Every Friday morning, I meet a wonderful group of fellow women in our Military community for what is called Coffee Break. It is a Family Advocacy Provided service, where we are given a nice sized conference room to hang out for two hours, with free childcare! We go about it potluck style and everyone brings a little something to share with the group.

On a lazy day, that means running to the Commissary for a package of Oreos. Usually, I try to actually make something, however. I am always stumped on what to bring until the last minute though!

In comes Pinterest….

I came up with this after browsing Pinterest. I never clicked on any links, so I wont call this anyone else’s recipe. I just visually saw photos from many different sources and decided to wing it.

Here is how I did them, but I think there are infinite possibilities with it.


Cucumber Turkey Roll-Ups

Ingredients:

3 Cucumbers
Baba Ghannouge- Roasted Eggplant Meze
1 Package deli Turkey
Toothpicks

Instructions:

1.   Cut off the ends of the cucumbers, leaving both ends flat.

2.   Using a Mandolin, if possible, thinly slice Cucumber. The thinner the better. (I was using a cheese slicer on lowest setting and I wish I could get thinner) Cut each cucumber slice in half, short ways.

4.   Thinly spread Egglant Meze over each cucumber slice.

5.   Tear or fold a single piece of turkey and place onto the cucumber slice.

6.   Carefully roll the cucumber slice up, and secure with a toothpick!


Everyone at Coffee Break was a little skeptical of these (especially in the midst of the homemade chip dips, and muffins!) but once they tried them, the plate emptied quickly!


I think the spread could be any hummus, or your usual sandwich spread. Also, turkey, ham, chicken, tuna - the meat is interchangeable! Cheese would also be a fabulous addition.

Sadly, they did not come out as pretty as I had hoped, and many of the cucumbers cracked during the rolling process because they were a little too thick, but it didn't stop them from being delicious!



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