Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hop To It: Make Your Own Awesome Beer!


Life is too short to drink bad beer. Thanks to the surge in craft brewing, good beer is pretty easy to find these days. What you may not know is that making your own good beer is also easy, fun and allows you to experiment with your own ideas. This article will give you all the information you need to get started.

There are two basic approaches to home brewing: Extract and all-grain. The liquid you will make that becomes beer with fermentation — called “wort,” which is pronounced wert — comes from drawing the sugars out of crushed, malted grains. In all-grain brewing, you do that yourself by steeping the grains in hot water for an hour or more. In extract brewing, that step has been done for you and the resulting wort condensed into a syrup or dried into a powder, called malt extract, which you can purchase from brewing supply stores.

I am going to teach you how to brew with extract because it requires less equipment (and therefore, costs less to get started) and is a good way to get some experience learning basic brewing principles.

Part One: Shopping List

You can get most of the equipment you need by buying a homebrew kit from a homebrew supplier, which supplies the basic tools you need. Buying an equipment kit might cost a bit more than buying things piece by piece, but it also (mostly) ensures you don’t overlook anything you need. You can get a good kit at any homebrew supply store, whether local or online. When I order online, I prefer to go through Northern Brewer. If you do want to buy the individual pieces instead, watch for the boldfaced words in Part Two of this article below—I will highlight each piece of equipment as it’s used.

In addition to the equipment in the kit, you will need:

A brewing kettle. This is simply a stockpot that you will use to boil your wort. In extract brewing you don’t have to boil the entire volume of water of your batch, but you do want some added space to accommodate the expansion of the liquid as it boils. A five-gallon pot is ideal. It needs a lid as well. You can buy a good boiling kettle at any homebrew supplier, but a repurposed kitchen stockpot will do just fine. Stainless steel is a good material, but aluminum works well too and often costs a good bit less.

Bottles. You can repurpose commercial beer bottles if you want to — those with traditional caps, not screw-offs — but it does not cost much to buy bottles made for homebrewers from a supplier. A five-gallon batch of beer (the standard size for extract brewing) will fill about 54 12-ounce bottles or 30 22-ounce bottles.

Bottle caps. You can’t repurpose bottle caps, so make sure you have enough on hand on bottling day. These also come from any homebrew supply store.

Sanitizer. There are a few choices here. My favorites are StarSan and Iodophor, both of which come in concentrated form and are diluted significantly to use. Sanitization is critical to keep unwanted organisms out of your beer while it ferments.

Ingredients. I recommend you start with a recipe kit (not to be confused with the equipment kit I mentioned earlier), which includes all of the ingredients you need for that particular beer. Your kit may or may not include yeast and priming sugar (it varies with supplier.) If these are not included, the kit will tell you which yeast is recommended. Priming sugar is just a small bag of corn sugar. (More on this later.)

Choose a simple ale or a stout for your first brew. Lagers require cooler fermentation (meaning more precise temperature control) and longer fermentation time. For this article, I used the Irish Red Ale kit by Brewer's Best. This was the first beer I ever made, so I can confirm it is an excellent beginner's choice.

Part Two: Brew Day

Before you begin: Get a notebook and plan to keep a log. Write down the measurements you take (more on that later), any variations you make to the recipe or process and anything that happens that could potentially cause a problem.

Your recipe kit will come with directions that you should follow. In general, though, this is what you can expect.

Fill your kettle. For a five gallon extract brew, you will boil 2 ½ to 3 gallons of water (your recipe will specify.) The resulting wort is concentrated and, when you move it into the fermenter later, you will add more water to bring it to the full five gallons.

(Note: Even though you will boil only about half of the water a five-gallon kettle holds, don't try to use a smaller kettle. Boiling wort expands with heat, and a boilover is practically impossible to prevent if you don't allow ample capacity.)

Steep your specialty grains. Most extract brew recipes (though not all) also call for a small amount of grain to add flavor. You’ll put the grains into a small muslin bag and steep them in hot water (the recipe will specify the temperature and time, but it’s usually around 160 to 170 degrees F for 20 minutes.

Your kit should include a thermometer that is capable of measuring very hot water. You are not trying to create fermentable sugars here, just add some flavor and color, so the steeping time is much shorter than it would be for an all-grain brew.

Prepare your yeast: Yeast comes in several forms. It might be a packet of dry yeast powder. If so, you will want to reconstitute it with warm water about 20 minutes before you need it, so come back to this step later. 

It might be vial of liquid yeast, in which case you’ll want to take it out of the refrigerator now so that it can come to room temperature before time to pitch.

Or it might be a “smack pack,” which is a plastic pouch that contains yeast and yeast food. There is an inner pouch inside that you need to break by smacking the package with the heel of your hand. After that the outer pouch will expand as the yeast begins to feed and multiply. Smack it at such time that it can expand for at least three hours before you need it, and longer is better.

Start the boil. Turn up the heat and let the liquid come to a boil. Expect this to take a while; boiling multiple gallons of water requires a lot of heat.

Add the extracts. It’s a good idea to take the kettle off the heat for this step, as adding the extract can lead to a messy boilover if you’re not careful. You will have a long-handled metal or plastic spoon to stir the extract into the water. Make sure to stir well to avoid a sticky burned-on mess at the bottom of your pot.

Return to boil and add other ingredients as specified. During the boil, which is usually one hour, you will add hops on a schedule specified by your recipe. A simple ale or stout recipe should not have any special flavoring ingredients, but if you are using those, add them when the recipe says too (not all additional ingredients go into the boil, so read your instructions carefully.)

Hops come in pelletized form, and there are many varieties. The bitterness of hops come from the alpha acids, and those you add near the start of the boil contribute the most hop flavor. Many recipes also call for an addition of hops near the end of the boil. These are not in long enough for much flavor extraction, but they contribute to the all-important aroma.

Note that there are many varieties of hops and if your recipe uses more than one type, make sure you are using the right one at each hop addition.

Cool the wort. The easiest way to do this is to put the kettle, covered, into the kitchen sink and fill it with ice and cold water. Your goal here is to cool it from boiling to around 70 degrees F to prepare it for the yeast.

NOTE: You didn’t need to sanitize anything earlier because the boil takes care of sanitizing the wort and the kettle it’s in. However, the boil is now over and everything that touches the wort from this point on must be sanitized, including the thermometer you will use to track the cooling.

The easiest way to sanitize the fermenter and the other equipment you need is to add the specified amount of concentrated sanitizer to the fermenter and fill it with water, and soak the other components in it. Star San calls for an ounce of the concentrate for five gallons of water. After things have been in contact with the sanitizer for a few minutes, they are safe to use. Place the smaller items on clean paper towels and dump the sanitizer out of the fermenter, retaining a cup or two for touch-ups.

Move wort to fermenter. The fermenter is a food-grade plastic bucket with an airtight lid. The lid has a hole in the top, rimmed with an o-ring, to accommodate an airlock. The airlock is a small plastic device that you will partially fill with water or vodka, which allows the gases of fermentation to escape while preventing outside contaminants from getting in.

Pour or siphon the cooled wort into the fermenter, trying to leave as much of the sludge in the pot behind as you can. (Buy an auto-siphon, which starts with a pumping action rather than your mouth). Note that you have less wort than you started with, because some of the water has boiled off. Add enough clean water to the fermenter to bring the total volume to five gallons. (If your bucket was made to be a fermenter, it will probably have a scale on it to show you the five-gallon mark.)

Using a sanitized measuring cup or coffee mug, dip out a cup or so of the wort. Be sure not to touch the wort remaining in the bucket with your hand or anything else that hasn’t been sanitized. You’ll use this sample in a moment to check the specific gravity.

Pitch the Yeast: Pour it in and stir, or put the lid on the fermenter and rock it, to aerate. Some recipes will tell you that you can pitch dry yeast by simply sprinkling it into the wort. This usually works too, but I prefer to reconstitute it according to the packet directions.

At this point, put the airlock into its place and put the fermenter somewhere that it will be out of the way for a few days.

The gravity of the situation.  Now take that sample you pulled and use your hydrometer to measure the specific gravity. This is a measure of the density of the liquid relative to pure water.

Your recipe should give you the desired Original Gravity (O.G.) range, the density you should have achieved if everything went as planned. 

You will also have a specified target final gravity that will be lower than the O.G. This shows the action of the yeast in converting the sugars in the wort to alcohol.

Pure water has a specific gravity of 1.000. A typical ale recipe might say, for example, that the O.G. is 1.050 and the F.G. is 1.010. You might not get those numbers exactly, but they should be close.

Note: You also need to know the temperature of the sample. The hydrometer is calculated to give an accurate reading at a specified temperature, usually 68 degrees F. If your sample is warmer or cooler than that, you can use an online calculator like this one to convert the reading. 

The hydrometer might look like something out of a laboratory (because it is), but it is easy to use. You simply pour some wort into the sample jar and float the hydrometer in it, weighted end down. The instrument will float higher in denser liquid. Take your reading on a level surface.

You can also taste the sample to see how the flavor is, but it will not tell you much about the finished product, as you will be tasting the unfermented sugars. In any case, discard the sample, do not return it to the wort.

Part Three: Bottling and Conditioning.

Your recipe should say how long to set the fermenter aside, as this will vary depending on the type of beer, but generally it will be within 2 to 4 weeks.

The next step will be to add priming sugar, bottle your brew, and condition it, which means letting it age another 1-2 weeks to mature the flavors and develop carbonation.

Your first step is to sanitize your bottles, bottle caps and dissolve your priming sugar into boiling water. For the bottles, you can soak them in Star San or Iodophor (diluted per the instructions).

I usually use the dishwasher to wash them in hot water, adding the heated dry and steam sanitize functions to get them ready.

To sanitize the bottle caps, boil them on the stovetop in enough water to cover and let them cool enough so that you can fish them out one at a time without burning your fingers.

Once the bottles are ready, boil the priming sugar that came with the kit using the ratio of sugar to water your instructions specify. Let it cool just a bit and pour it into the bottling bucket, which is similar to the primary fermenter, but with a spigot to let it pour into bottles. The equipment kit comes with both a fermenter and bottling bucket.

Siphon the wort from the fermenter into the bottling bucket. As you did when it first went into the fermenter, get a sample and test the gravity again. This measurement is called the final gravity, and hitting the target range confirms that your fermentation was effective and complete.

After you have transferred the wort into the bottling bucket, rock it gently for a minute or two, or stir with your long-handled spoon (sanitized!)  to mix the sugar water through. 

The last piece of equipment you need is a bottle capper, which is basically just a lever that crimps the cap around the bottle.

You can get a two-handled hand-held model or one that rests on a counter or floor.

Fill the bottles and cap them as fast you reasonably can, using whichever method you prefer.  You probably will have a few bottles left over, which is better than not having enough available.

Store the bottles somewhere safe for a couple of weeks. During this time, the priming sugar reawakens your yeast and a tiny bit more fermentation happens; because the bottles are now sealed, the carbon dioxide cannot escape and instead dissolves into the liquid to carbonate it. That lovely head of foam you get when you pour a beer is the result of this step.

After the conditioning period has passed comes the moment of truth. Chill a few bottles of your brew, and then pour one.

If everything went well, your should see a smooth pour with a nice head, but not too much. (If the beer geysers out of the bottle when you open it, your carbonation has overachieved.)

Look at the color. It should match the style you were aiming for, whether a golden pilsner, a ruby red ale or an opaque chocolate-brown stout.

Finally, lift the glass and inhale, and then taste. Pay close attention to the sweetness of the malt, the bitterness of the hops and the balance between them.

If you have followed these steps and also paid attention to your specific recipe, it will probably be wonderful.If it is not, though, look back through your log and think back through the steps you followed to see what might have gone wrong. Take it is a learning experience and try again.

Soon you will be ready to ,build on these basics, making more complex beers and even designing your own. As a hobby, homebrewing allows tremendous creativity and pays off big -- both in fresh, wonderful homemade beer and the pride of having created something truly your own.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Awesome Life Friday #8

 Happy Friday, All!  Thank you so much for your understanding and well wishes last week - I've been wrangling several mysterious symptoms that have led to a lot of diagnoses but not a lot of answers, and I'm still in the thick of it.

But our link up makes me happy, so I didn't want to skip it for another week!

Here's what we've been up to since then -

This saline cleansing system provides a safe and effective way to clear congestion in babies and children.  Our reviewer, Jackie, shows how the system works.The Giveaway is open to US residents until Mar. 7.

Last month's PetBox was chock full of great toys and treats for Sadie Beagle! Sadie (and our reviewer Lynda), shows off everything they received.

Babycorn Soaps provides a themed monthly subscription box of artisan soaps and other goodies - read Lauren's review of the February Valentine's Day box, and then enter to win a March box full of all things Irish!  Open to US residents and ends Mar. 2.

Elderberry Syrup for Colds and Flu
One of our newest reviewers, Christine, shares how she makes Elderberry Syrup, to help prevent and treat Colds and Flu.  This easy to follow recipe will have you making your own in no time!

Aurora checks out some of Rustic Silk Soaps body butters, sugar scrubs, bath bombs and of course, soaps.  Very friendly to sensitive skin, Rustic Silk Soap is offering a $30 store credit to one lucky US winner.  This giveaway ends Mar. 9.


Even though we had to cancel Awesome Life Friday last week, due to illness, we had enjoyed reading all the posts and selected a few to feature.

Our apologies to all who entered - we weren't able to get around and respond to each post, but do know we loved that you took the time to share!

Congratulations to each of you, and thank you for sharing!  Please feel free to display our button, linked back to us, if you like!


Monday, February 23, 2015

Unboxing/Review: January Petbox

Note: This is an affiliate post. We are able to offer a standing discount code for our readers for new PetBox accounts. There is a small bonus for sign ups that use this code, which will allow us to offset some of the costs of the blog itself. 

To receive 10% off your own PetBox subscription, use the code RCHREVIEWS at check out! 

This past month's Petbox was a real winner for Sadie!  By now, she totally knows what's coming when the blue box arrives, and has no patience at all for waiting for me to dole out the month's goodies!

When I first opened the box, I had to try to push her away long enough to get a look for myself at what was inside.  In fact, she nosed her way into it, and grabbed hold of the first thing she could get - a longnecked squeaky toy shaped like a cow that (mysteriously) proclaims "Poop Happens", and ran off with it.

That's a first! Not only is she usally not so certain that something belongs to her that she will snatch it without permission, but she doesn't even like rubber squeaky toys all that much!

This is the Pet Speak Long Neck Cow from Ethical Toys. The vinyl on it is very soft and lightweight, so squeaking the bulbous body is easy (and loud).

She happily played with it for several days, but I will admit that when we had houseguests that included a six-year old and two-year old that fell in love with it themselves (and cracked up at learning how to spell 'poop'), I was happy to send it home with them for their own beagle.  I already put up with an old favorite toy that screams like a dying tyrannosaurus, and I just wasn't going to have anymore of that squeak. (But kudos, strange cow, for getting our old dog to find her inner puppy!

But that wasn't the only grabby behavior from Sadie - her second dive into the box netted her a Beef Ear from Copper's Classics.  This time, she was dead serious - she grabbed it, still in it's plastic wrap and refused to let go - my husband scooped her up to try to get her to give it back and that face you see is Sadie growling at us for trying to take it away!  Eventually, we wrestled it out of her grasp long enough to unwrap it and she ran off to enjoy her favorite thing in the whole world!

Sadie has a long history with pig ears - when she was younger, Michael used to play a hide and seek game with her to make her hunt them down, a game they both enjoyed mightily and only ended when we decided the regular pigear habit probably wasn't the most healthy thing for an overweight dog past her prime.  This was as if she was saying "At last I found one! THIS IS MINE! MIIINEEE!!!"  She was in total ecstasy over this, and we'll probably have to reintroduce the occasional beef ear into her life now.

While she gnawed on the beef ear, I was finally able to look at the rest of the goodies in the box.

The Bison Chewies by Prairie Nature were huge hits and will definitely be reappearing in the house - I don't always care for the way pet treats smell, but these smell delicious - like very good quality smoky beef jerky.  They come as cut up pieces of a chewy (not hard) smoked meat stick, and we were rewarded with a happy dog dance every time we brought out the bag.  Made with good quality food items, I feel good about offering these to her, and she adores them.

I also like offering her the Smart n' Tasty Seafood Medley Treats (although they smell as fishy as you'd think).  These are grain-free, full of the nutrients she needs and she likes them fine.

The fish and seafood shaped snacks are on the thick side and crunchy, and one or two is a substantial enough snack to keep her happy.

Fortunately, I haven't noticed that the scent of the snack has translated into fishy doggy-breath!

I really like it when Petbox supplies a full-sized bag of a treat or other product, and there are always at least one or two items that come in a generous size.

The Ruff & Tuff Snake Chew Resistant Toy was the really big hit in this box.  Made with a tough canvaslike material, it is solid and sturdy and contains a squeaker in the head - but its real strength is that it is a fun toy to play tug of war with.

Sadie loved getting in a rowdy game with this, both with Michael and with our young houseguests who enjoyed running away from Sadie with it so she could chase them.

After many of these games, it did eventually develop a couple of splits long the cording, but so far  the stuffing isn't leaking out, and Sadie still enjoys it when someone picks it up and invites her to play.

I have to say, this is my favorite part of Petbox - it has reinvigorated our dog, by providing stimulating toys and healthy treats and supplements, long past the point where we'd thought she'd mostly given up active play.  When I began this series of reviews, I wasn't sure any of the toys would appeal to her, and I'm so happy to be wrong about that.

The Smart n Tasty Twizzies Chew Stick is a big generous stick that is chock full of good things:

"Pork meal, pork liver, pork gelatin, natural flavor, pork broth, mixed tocopherols (preservative), rosemary extract"

A few hours before our houseguests were ready to leave, the boys were getting antsy, and Sadie was played out - she started feeling nervous and exhibiting signs that she really needed them to chill out.

I decided that might be a good time to bring out the Twizzie, so she could spend some alone time.

She took it off to a corner where she could still watch the boys (by now, she was in full 'nanny dog' mode' and gnawed and worked through almost the entire thing over about 20 minutes, which gave all of us - especially Sadie - a much needed break.

By the time she was finished, they were ready to make  their goodbyes, and she could give them a last bit of doggy love before crashing hard for a long nap.  All in all, a successful visit, made much more exciting and fun for everyone by Petbox!

The last item in this month's box was a sample size of Evanger's Low-Grain Chicken & Brown Rice Formula dog food.

We've decided to hold this back to have on hand for a day trip, rather than packing up her regular dog food.

There is no wheat, soy or corn in this product and it is full of good herbs and vegetables as well healthy supplements, and Evanger's carries a large variety of both wet and dry dog foods and other products, which all all made in the US.

All in all, there were no losers in this box at all (well, maybe the parent that has to hear that squeaky dog toy we regifted....), and I was very impressed by the range and quality offered!

Our next Petbox box has arrived and yep, once again, there was much Sadie rejoicing at the sight of her favorite blue box!

Review/Giveaway: Rustic Silk Soaps


First of all, it’s not often that I use bar soap. I’ve mentioned before that I have rather uncooperative skin that’s both sensitive and oily, and your everyday bar soap puts my skin on the NOPEWAGON with a one-way ticket to NOPEVILLE.

I've always associated all bar soap with that feeling of being shrink-wrapped in itchy dryness, followed by next-day peelyness and bonus facial blowout.

After trying a couple of the bars of Rustic Silk Soaps, I have since seen the light. All bars are not created equal, and it turns out that I’d been using the saponified version of that cheap toilet paper college students steal from gas station bathrooms (I mean, you’re not gonna turn it down in an emergency, but it’s not like you’re going to purchase the stuff on purpose).

Lesson: If you don't want a chapped butt, you're gonna have to spring for the grown-up toilet paper. And the same rule applies to bar soap!

Hunter Love of Rustic Silk Soaps makes all of her products by hand with the highest quality ingredients, such as shea butter, jojoba oil, herbal teas, pure essential oils—even coffee. No sulfates (yay!) or other nonsense.

Many of her products are made to order, such as her bath bombs, scrubs, and body butters, to ensure freshness. Her honey and beeswax is locally sourced from a farmer who uses no antibiotics or pesticides with his bees. Vegan items are available, and she even does custom orders.

The first thing I noticed was that customer service was great and shipping was fast. Hunter asked me what sort of scents I liked (herbal) and was very generous with her goodie box, and I soon received Lavender & Sage and Cucumber Wasabi soaps, Lavender Mint, Lavender Oatmeal, and Balancing Calm bath bombs, Grapefruit Rosemary Sugar Scrub, and Flowering Dogwood Whipped Body Butter.

The Soaps

I’d have to say that the Cucumber Wasabi soap was my favorite, possibly of all the products. I was a little unsure about it at first because wasabi soap? Isn’t that, like, going to burn or something?

It didn’t, of course, and was surprisingly moisturizing. It sounds like an odd choice, but the scent of cucumbers and wasabi is actually really nice and light.

The Lavender & Sage had a lovely herbal scent, but wasn’t as soothing as the Cucumber Wasabi. Both lathered up nicely without the aid of sulfates; I would recommend using them with a bath puff.

Bars of soap range from $5.75 - $6.25 each, and there are also sets of multiple bars, including travel sized samplers and a 'soap of the month' club.

The Bath Bombs

The bath bombs were very freshly scented, and the Lavender Mint and Lavender Oatmeal even contained actual lavender flower buds. I only wish they were a bit bigger!

One thing I discovered, however, was that the remnants of the pretty pale purple-colored Lavender Mint bomb rather adeptly highlighted a heretofore-unseen/unacknowledged filth ring in my bathtub. Oh well, it gave me an excuse to clean the tub.

Bath bombs come in a variety of blends and are $3.50 each.

The Sugar Scrub

I’d never used a sugar scrub before, and the Grapefruit Rosemary smells delicious. It’s far more moisturizing than I expected. Well, it is made from sugar, avocado oil, sunflower oil, and vitamin E. Just wet your skin a bit and rub some on whatever needs exfoliating, then rinse it off. I used it on my face after washing and it left my skin nice and soft with no fallout.

A 4 oz. jar of the sugar scrub (in the blend of your choice) is $10.25, with 8 oz jars available for $18.50.  Rustic Silk Soaps also carries salt scrubs and exfoliant scrubs worth checking out!

The Body Butter

Flowering Dogwood body butter sounded interesting. I’d never smelled a flowering dogwood. If this is really what a flowering dogwood smells like, it’s a soft floral perfume smell. It smells nice in the jar, but it turns out this one is just too sweet for my taste.

It feels nice, though. It’s thick, melts at body temperature, and sucks right into the skin. Winter in the mountains caused my skin to slurp it up quick--with no grease marks on my phone (or, no more than any normal human’s greasy mitts, sans lotion). A little goes a long way, so use less than you think you need at first.

The whipped Body Butter - again, in a variety of blends - costs $10.50 for a 4 oz jar or $19.00 for an 8 oz jar.

So, like most things, I learned you get what you pay for.

Considering the quality of the ingredients used and the care that goes into preparing each product, Rustic Silk Soaps is pretty reasonable. The prices are comparable to bath and body specialty shops, but these are handmade, natural, and much nicer.

It’s definitely worth the extra few bucks if it keeps my skin from screaming like a banshee and bursting into flames.
 Rustic Silk Soaps Website
Rustic Silk Soaps on Etsy
Rustic Silk Soaps on Facebook

Hunter Love from Rustic Silk Soaps has generously offered a $30 gift voucher for your choice of any combination of products. (I recommend the Cucumber Wasabi soap!)

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 allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 3-9-15. 

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review/Giveaway CLEARinse Nasal Cleansing System


Nasal congestion is one of the worst feelings ever! Whether it's yourself, your husband, or, especially your kids, it is absolutely no fun.  We've been dealing with a lot of congestion lately. My husband is blowing his nose nonstop, my 5 year old tries her best but mostly just whines about it, and we were using a bulb sucker (I've referred to them as Snufflupagus since I was a toddler) on the baby.

As mentioned in many of my reviews, we live in the middle of the dry Mojave Desert. Both my husband and my older daughter, Hailey, have been suffering from nosebleeds often.

One night, when my infant was having trouble breathing and nursing at the same time, we pulled out the bulb. After a few squeezes, nothing came out. We did one more, and blood was now coming out! Obviously, that was enough of that. We've tried humidifiers, steaming up in the bathroom, but nothing seemed to work all that well.

I had a few people recommend a product that includes a straw (and filter) to suck the gunk out of the baby’s nose…using your mouth! My husband basically vomited when I suggested that.

Then I discovered CLEARinse Nasal Cleaning System. It seemed easy enough, so I was excited to give it a try. I watched a video online with my daughter, who agreed to let me try it on her once it arrived. The kids in the video looked completely unphased by this procedure. For days, she kept saying she couldn’t wait for it to get here!

It was simple to put together. It had to charge for about 15m before it turned green and was ready to use. Adding the premeasured vials of saline solution to the compartment was a breeze.

Naturally, after all of Hailey’s excitement, she was the first I wanted to try it on. We stuck the opening just inside one of her nostrils, and it fit nice and snug. Then we pushed the button to shoot the saline upward. Her reaction was kind of priceless.

Then, sticking the head in the opposite nostril as instructed, we began the irrigation, plugging and unplugging free nostril. She HATED it. However, it worked. We just wont ever be close enough to her again to do it again! When cleaning the head, you could see the muck it collected, proving that it did get some stuff out. She did admit that she felt much better after.

The system includes 2 heads, and 10 saline vials. It does say each person should have their own cleaning head, although with 4 of us we opted to just leave the baby her own, and share the other. For $19.99 for a pack of 2, we will likely buy more in the future.

My husband was both excited and apprehensive about trying. He has used many different rinsing solutions, but never anything that irrigated. Although the website only shows small children using it, I confirmed with them that everyone over the age of 2 months is cleared for use. His nostrils are obviously a bit bigger than a child’s, so it was a little harder for him to get a good cover on the wash head. Once over that hurdle, it worked well for him as well. He agreed with our oldest that it was certainly a weird sensation, but he has gone on to use it again a few times.

I waited until really needed to try this on my baby. I was nervous of scaring her, or choking her with the saline. When the time came, it took two of us- one to work the machine, and the other to hold her arms away and open and close opposite nostril. However, again, as much as doing it stunk, it really worked! We’ve used it numerous times on her and she screams at the top of her lungs, but is calm as soon as we are done. For that, I know we aren’t hurting her, just freaking her out a little bit. A necessary evil, we believe.

I don’t tend to have the same nasal issues as the rest of my family, but who am I to properly review something without first hand experience? So I went for it. What I was really afraid of was the saline draining down my throat, as various methods have caused before. I find that to be one of the worst sensations. With this, you aren’t sucking the saline in, you are shooting it in and immediately sucking it right back out, so I honestly didn’t get that terrible sensation! I would use this again if I needed to.

We did end up having to buy more saline pretty soon. You can purchase ampoules from them for in 20 or 50 count boxes, for $9.99, and $24.99. We opted to just buy a bottle and measure it into an oral syringe to load into the wash head.

The CLEARinse Nasal Cleansing System, which includes the device, a charging port, 10 saline ampoules, 2 wash heads, and instructions, retails for $129.99 on their website and is available on Amazon for $119.99.

I really would recommend this to houses with small children. They may not like you in that moment, but it certainly performs its task well!

CLEARinse Nasal Cleaning System
CLEARinse on Facebook

CLEARinse on Amazon

CLEARinse  is generously offering its Starter Kits as described above  to one of our readers in the US.

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 allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 3-7-15. 

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, February 19, 2015

No Awesome Life Friday This Week

Hi, all!  We're going to need to skip Awesome Life Friday, and are busy rearranging our schedule of posts for the next few days.

What's NOT making this week awesome is a heart attack scare that turned into a pneumonia diagnosis that ultimately revealed that I've got a hernia in my esophagus that is making breathing extremely painful and also making it nearly impossible to keep anything down.

So, when I'm able, I'm sleeping it off  and when I'm not, I in too much discomfort to think.  Hopefull, this will be under control shortly, but for right now, I need a vacation.

We'll be back as soon as we can sort out some adjustments in our tasks!  Thanks for understanding!

~ Lynda

Monday, February 16, 2015

Review/Giveaway: BabyCorn Bath and Body


I hope you all had a wonderful, love filled Valentines day! There are many ways to experience love on Valentines day and one of those ways is by pampering yourself. I was so fortunate this month to receive an amazing subscription box of goodies designed to do just that.

BabyCorn Bath and Body crafts artisan soaps, lotions, body oils, lip balms, sugar scrubs, bath bombs and more. Each month, you can receive a selection of Cornea’s amazing products in a gorgeously packaged box to pamper yourself in so many ways.

I received the February box, which of course had a love theme.

One of the great features of the BabyCorn subscription box was this personalized letter that had really great descriptions of each item. They were so funny I have to share them with you.

In my package were the following items:

You Da ‘Bomb’ Bath Bomb 8oz
“Oh you know you are, you little bombshell, you! Let’s just skip right to dessert. Rich decadent notes of brown sugar and vanilla nestled with a hint of musk warm our hearts. Just throw it in the tub and watch it fizz! …”

This thing was GIANT! Seriously about the size of a baseball and it smells amazing. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to use it yet because our bathtub is not holding water, but I am certain that it is going to be a mind blowing experience. I love bath bombs but I’ve never received one in the mail that held up or smelled as wonderful as this one.

Sweet Pea Milk and Shea Butter Soap, 3oz
“One of our bestselling fragrances, sweet pea petals and watery pear entwine with sheer freesia, fresh berry and soft, delicate musk to create this beautiful, delicate scent showering you with sweet nothings and puppy love. Packed full of shea butter, avocado butter, olive oil, coconut oil, aloe vera oil, goat milk and vitamins A and E. . .”

I don’t know how she did it, but this soap is engraved with words of love. It was so pretty, we almost didn’t want to use it but it has quickly become our favorite hand soap. My daughter and I use it to wash our hands and face. It smells wonderful, not too strong; and leaves your hands feeling soft and moisturized.

Kiss and Tell Organic Lip Balm, 1oz
“Pucker up for your sweet chap. Scented in Sweet Apple, this lip balm will keep your lips so soft this cold month that the apple of your eye will be sure to seal it with a kiss.”

1 oz is a ton of lip balm! I like this one because the fragrance/flavor is very mild. Its ultra moisturizing without being sticky like some lip glosses/balms can be. I have been using this as a lip balm and as a cuticle cream.

Love Spell Sugar Scrubs, 3oz
“Cast a spell to ward off dead skin cells and fall in love with yourself all over again. Just take a heart into the shower with you and squish it under warm water to turn it into a soft scrub! It cleans, exfoliates and moisturizes all in one! . . .”

There were about eight of these in a little bag. A mix of pink and purple, but all the same scent. I will admit that with the first one, I skipped over reading the part about taking them into the shower and instead tried to use it at the sink. I got one wet and scrubbed it across my hands like a soap. The sugar was very exfoliating the fragrance stays with you for a long time.

Pink Sugar Body Oil, 0.5oz
“Hey there sweet thang. This bath & body oil can be applied while you are still damp after a shower, before bed, as a massage oil, on the ends of your hair or poured in the bath- whenever you need some warming love and care. It’s a non-alcoholic, vegan, paraben free, phthalate free perfume oil, perfect for throwing in your purse and freshening up during the day. Just apply to wrists and pressure points and you are ready to go, sugar! Bask in sweet delectable cotton candy essence with hints of jasmine and musk all day long.”

I. LOVE. THIS. OIL!!! Seriously it is the best thing ever. It smells amazing. Swoon-worthy. I dabbed a little on my neck and wrists and when my husband got home he nearly attacked my neck. He couldn’t stop leaning down and nuzzling me.

I have been wearing it every day as a perfume and I started using it as a cuticle oil as well. My cuticles have been really dry with the cold weather and all the hand washing to avoid germs. With this oil, I no longer have hangnails, splits at the tip edges of my fingers or cracking. I want to buy this by the gallon because I love it so much.

Lovebirds Lotion Bar, 1.5oz
“Can you feel your heart melting? Enjoy our solid lotion bar by just rubbing the bar onto your skin. The shea and avocado butters melt to the warmth of your skin, leaving you moisturized and scented with a soothing combination of Spanish lavender and warm Madagascar Vanilla. A little something to share with your butter half.”

I’ve been interested in trying a solid lotion bar and this one did not disappoint.

The moisturizing effect of this is much thicker than your standard hand cream. It feels a little heavy and greasy at first but starts to absorb into your skin immediately and leaves you with soft, sweet smelling hands that don’t feel greasy at all.

My lotion bar broke into two pieces when I was using it, but it was actually a little easier to use in the smaller pieces.

The subscription boxes are only $20 with shipping which is an insanely good deal when you consider you are getting up to 6 full sized items. The retail value is $30-$35 so its really a great bargain!

Are you still with me? I realize this was a long one but I just loved everything in this box so much that I didn’t want to skip over anything.  Your patience has been rewarded because if you’ve read this far you’ll find out that BabyCorn Bath and Body is offering a Discount Code AND a Giveaway!!!

You can go to Babycorn Soaps right now, place an order and enter the coupon code RCH20 for 20% off your order! This coupon code will expire on February 28th, so act fast!!   

Find BabyCorn Bath and Body on their website,at Etsy, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Babycorn is also giving away a March "Get Your Irish On" Subscription box to one of our readers, which I am certain is going to be filled with wonderful things!

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 allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 3-2-15. 

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway