WHAT? Only 7 Shopping Days Left?!

AAAAAAHHHHHH!  How did this happen?!  Time is flying!

All the more reason to make living greener a priority now.

My whole blog started a year and a month ago, because I watched “Bag It,” the documentary.  And I started learning about all the harmful chemicals we have around us, not only in toys and products and all things plastic, but everywhere.  It takes a real commitment and continued vigilence to start living a cleaner, greener life.  But it doesn’t have to be hard.  That’s the part where I think a lot of people get overwhelmed.  I think blogs like mine and stores you should have near you (and yes, online stores, if you are more rurally-located) are making it much easier to live healthier, less polluted lives.

So…with 7 days left until Christmas, I am going to point  you in some directions for last minute shopping, if you haven’t already found them yourselves.

1. Sprouts/Whole Foods/Central Market – These grocery stores have a wide range of all kinds of products that are suitable for stocking stuffers and gift baskets.  Each of these stores have quite the treasure trove of natural/healthy personal care products in all sizes and for all purposes.  Even a gift card for one of these stores could be a most excellent gift!

2. Target/Walmart – I KNOW most of you are close to one of these stores.  If you are looking for personal care products that might be nice for gifts, I have had luck finding Burt’s Bees products in most Walmarts.  They also usually have “Yes to” products.  These are normally in the cosmetics aisle, not where shampoo or lotion are.  Depending on your store, they may have much, much more to choose from–this seems to be especially true for Target.  Not only do they have Burt’s Bees and “Yes to” goodies, they may also have Shea Moisture (a luxurious line of bath and hair products), Dr. Bronner’s liquid soaps (Peppermint is a nice wintery zing!), natural candles by Mrs. Meyer (in Iowa Pine!) and Beeluxe (Mandarin Clove is a awesome seasonal scent), and I even found some Caldrea products (on sale, no less!).  Take a tool around the aisles and see what you find!

3. Your Local Department Store – Okay, so call me crazy, but TRY IT.  You might be surprised.  There are a few premium brands that are healthy and you never know what your store might carry during the holidays.  It seems like Origins might be your best bet for a higher end product line that “are formulated with natural and certified organic ingredients and 100% natural essential oils.  And formulated without parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, PABA, petrolatum, paraffin, DEA and animal ingredients.  We manufacture using a combination of renewable resources, wind energy, and earth-friendly practices.”  They have lots of great gift sets that are probably perfect for someone on your list.  Maybe yourself? (I totally bought myself a gift box of this stuff on Black Friday…shhhh…don’t tell).

4. Sephora/Drugstore.com/iHerb.com – All of these places have a bevy of products with a lot of information about ingredients (usually in separate tabs on the product pages).  You can get reviews at these places, too, to see if you really want to get something.  If you are going to buy something here, though, you better do it asap because they do have to ship it to get it there before C-Day.  Sephora is probably the best bet for sussing out perfumes and specific products within a brand line (like Philosophy) that are better than others.  Drugstore.com has really huge variety of things, especially things that are hard to find in a store.  iHerb.com has more “regular” products, but you can find some items at super awesome prices.  Give ’em a whirl…but do it today!

5. Amazon – Same thing goes with Amazon for the shipping, but this is (as most of us know), the new general store of the world.  Because individual vendors can post their own products, you really can find almost anything.  I was looking for more BeeLuxe products, and that’s where you can find them.  Of course you can also get books and media and other things…where Amazon started it all.  Look up some books about natural products and/or how to make your own products for the craftier folks on your list…everyone likes new know-how and recipes (at least I do).

6. Pinterest – Okay, so maybe you have some time to do some last minute creations…go perusing for ideas here!  I think I just might go find some of the more excellent recipes, print them out on some nice paper, create a little box or book of them, and use this for a stocking stuffer for some of the cooks/bakers in my life.  It doesn’t have to be super elaborate…maybe even write a few recipes out by hand and tie them with a ribbon.  Or, heck, make some of those marvelous creations and take them with you to the office party or give out samplers to your friends in lieu of “stuff.”  Your only limitation at this point is time!

7.  Etsy.com – Again, time/shipping is of the essence, but this website is the website of crafters the whole world wide.  You can buy anything from art to  jewelry to homemade soaps or purses or shirts or even vintage items…just anything really at this site.  Individual crafters/collectors have their own pages, so you will be paying them and they will be shipping the items. HOWEVER, there is a “search by” feature that can limit your options to a zip code or town.  I can’t guarantee that a seller would be willing to have you come over to their home, but you can communicate directly with people via a messaging system (if you create an account)…you could probably work out some sort of “pick-up” method.  This way you can get something super-special and unique from a local crafts person AND avoid the shipping (thereby reducing your carbon footprint).  You might even make a new friend or become a loyal customer if you find the right craftsperson.  You never know until you look.

I hope this gives you some ideas at the very least…GOOD LUCK, Last Minute Shoppers!  Go get ’em!

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Only 19 Days ‘Til Christmas! Stocking Stuffers!

I *hope* you have already begun to use more natural products for yourself.  But maybe you are having a hard time convincing others to follow suit.  It can be hard to let go of favorite products and to venture out into the world of reading labels and knowing what to avoid.

So, an easy way to get some people to just *try* something new is to give them a collection of samples or maybe just fill their stockings to the brim with travel-size products.  If the product is a good one, they may just seek it out for that reason, not BECAUSE it’s good for them, just because it’s GOOD!

Try some of these:

Burt’s Bees has some easy to find, inexpensive, and varied sample-size collections.  You can find one for everyone on your list from babies and new moms to teenagers and dads.  If you can’t seem to find one in a store local to you, try their website.  If you go to “Gifts,” you will find “Gift Sets” and also “Travel & Trial,” where there are 21 different products you can buy individually to create your own little sampler.  Fun!

Aubrey Organics has a variety of pre-packaged travel sets for right around $10, which will give someone a good amount to sample.  They have six different collections to address different skin types and conditions.  They also have natural lip balms and 2oz. sizes of some products like the Natural Baby line. 

South of France Soaps is a new and surprising find for me…from their webpage, it says: 

The luxurious South of France® soap is kettle cooked in small batches using a traditional Marseille recipe with all natural vegetable ingredients. Each fragrance is chosen specifically for its cleansing and calming qualities. All South of France® soaps, lotions and body wash are free of sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, EDTA, paraben and phthalates and never tested on animals. As a result of its superior quality and fragrances, South of France has quickly become one of the best selling natural bar soap brands in the United States.

Many of the soaps also indicate they are soy free, gluten free, and vegan.  You can find this soap in various on-line stores, which will probably afford you the best prices.  I found it at World Market on sale 2 for 1.  At $5.99, regularly priced, it is kind of expensive, but the fragrances are really wonderful and the 8 oz. bar seems to be lasting a long time.  They do have a half-size bar that comes in a 2-pack if you can find it, which might make a better stocking stuffer.  But I’d be happy with a big ol’ bar of good smelling soap in my stocking!  With fragrances like Lavender and Tea Tree Sandalwood, even the men in your life will enjoy it. 

And to stick with the idea of soap bars, if you want to try a shampoo bar, look for J.R. Liggett brand.  You can find sample sizes easily online and they even come in a variety of scents…Peppermint is even a seasonal scent that is available!  These are made by hand in small batches with all natural ingredients.  Mr. Liggett, himself, indicates that you don’t even need conditioner with his shampoo bar.  Might try it myself!

Jojoba & Peppermint 3.5 oz.

And a new/old perfumer that is bringing some wholly natural and “mostly” natural options is Demeter.  They have a new line of fragrances called Demeter Naturals, but per their FAQs on their website:  “Demeter Naturals fragrances are completely natural. And while some Demeter Classic fragrances are all natural, we do use some synthetic ingredients in most Classic fragrances. Generally speaking, the ingredients in our fragrances are at least 95% derived from natural and sustainable sources, and we use no artificial color or Phthalates or parabens.”  They also conduct no animal testing.  The full size Demeter Natural fragrances (1.7 oz) go for about $30 online, but you can probably find them for less in stores or on sale.  They also have purse-size 0.5 oz sprays that might be better for stockings.  The Vetiver and Mimosa fragrances have gotten pretty good reviews.

So, these are just five ideas, but I hope they lead you to giving your family and friends the gift of healthier and more natural living this year!

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Day 3 Gift Idea – Give Experiences, Not THINGS!

If you are like me, you have a slew of people to buy gifts for.  I mean, in just my immediate family there are 10 people who (traditionally) need a “real” gift.  And of *those,* five are children between the ages of 17 and 8, two of whom expect Santa Claus to really blow it out every year.  This age range, in case you don’t have any kids in your life, or have forgotten your own childhood, is apparently the height of “wantist” behavior.

I remember sitting for hours and hours with the J.C. Penney and Sears catalogs and a legal pad taking careful notes of which items I would like to get, what color it should be if there was an option, and the price.  I knew the elves were supposed to make the gifts, but…I mean, in case it was cheaper to buy it at Penney’s, I thought I would just help Santa out with the price check.  And some years I was disappointed, because I didn’t get that one thing I *really* wanted, even though I DID get dozens of other gifts.

Ah, first world problems.

So, too, my kids have already been tricked out with fancy phones, iPods, gaming consoles of various kinds with various games, sporting equipment for every sport they ever expressed an ounce of interest in, puzzles, board games, and so many clothes we can’t even keep track of them all.  Based on how they take care of the things they already have, I am reluctant to buy them more.  Because here’s the thing.  They don’t seem to care if they destroy or lose or leave at the soccer field or stain any of the above.  And I’ve come to understand that they don’t care, because 1. They did not earn the thing they have broken or lost or ruined, so it has no real meaning or value, and 2. They believe the thing will be replaced almost as if with the snap of their fingers.

And who can blame them, really?  It’s the world they’ve become accustomed to—a throwaway society.  These kids are actually my stepkids and they don’t live with us full-time, only on the weekends.  You can imagine how well it goes over when I, self-dubbed “Crazy Stepmom,” tries to get them to eat like vegetarians, go outside and play, and earn things like X-Box privileges by doing simple chores like crushing cans and taking out the trash.  So…you can imagine how well this “let’s go do something instead of getting gifts” might go over.

But honestly, when I look back at it, I remember things I did with my family 1000% better than the gift I wanted but never got when I was 4 or 5 or 9 or 10 or…ever. 

So, especially if you can explain to your kids, or even just convince your folks or friends or whomever, that you are going to *do* something instead of get something, they will be able to keep the memory much longer than the thingamajigs they got (or didn’t get) this year. 

It doesn’t have to be that grand or even cost that much money.  I have tried this year to instill a little more Christmas doing and giving by taking the kids to the local Christmas parade where a local charity collected gifts for needy families.  Next weekend we are going to the “Trail of Lights” where there is a walk-through Christmas light display.  There are a handful of Christmas-themed 5Ks and Fun Runs complete with face painting and hot cocoa happening around town from now until Christmas Day and afterwards.  If you have a sporty family, it can be fun for all, especially if you just want to get out and get some fresh air. 

There are Christmas Markets in some parts of the world that have food and drink samplings and fun things to peruse/purchase.  There are sing-alongs, caroling, Christmas tree lightings, ice skating, parades…if you have snow, a simple day of sledding can be amazing fun for kids of all ages.  If you don’t have snow, try hiking or camping, and family games of charades or Pictionary or (something everyone has a chance to play and do well—let’s avoid the hurt feelings at Christmas) or whatever happens to be your favorite. 

It’s a perfect time of year to get your family involved in a charity of some sort, either volunteering at a place that serves the needy, visiting nursing homes, collecting items for donations, or getting involved with an animal rescue.   This kind of thing can really put the world into a different perspective for kids who are used to everything they could ever want being at their fingertips. 

Religion is an obvious part of the holidays, and if it is part of your family’s traditions, go and sing and light candles and remember why we celebrate.  I will always remember the specialness of getting dressed up on Christmas Eve, everyone holding candles and singing Silent Night, and then the stockings of apples and oranges and nuts and candies some dear soul at our church gave to all the kids.  Just a whiff of those fruits in the midst of a cold night takes me right back to those days.  How exciting it all was!

 And honestly, just making things together like cookies and decorations or a snowman becomes the stuff imprinted on our brains when think about the holidays.  I can still remember laying under the Christmas tree, looking up through the lighted branches, while my dad listened to Elvis’ “Blue Christmas.”  It was so simple, but so lasting.

Of course, these are all things you can do *this* season.  But maybe NEXT year, you can actually plan a trip somewhere special.  Go to the mountains, go to the beach, rent a cabin in the woods, go on a cruise…or, gasp! Go to Paris, Costa Rica, Hawaii, or Rome!  If you plan it now, or broach the idea to your family THIS year, you’ve got a whole year to plan and save and make it happen.   I mean, life’s too short to sit around dreaming about going somewhere when you could…you really could, if you just decide to spend all that Christmas money on something different and longer lasting than just “stuff.”

Of course, there’s no place like home for the holidays!  Just shake it up a bit, start a new tradition, and go DO something!

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Greener Christmas Day 2 – Make Some Snacks!

You know who you are, oh you of the kitchen, who prefers to cook for your best pursuit of the holidays, to show people you love them, to feel jolly and creative and, well, just right with the world.  To eat is human.  To cook is divine.  In my opinion.  BUT, you don’t have to be a master chef to make delicious goodies.

What better way to avoid consumerism and meaningless gifts than to give the gift of yumminess?  And with a little bit of effort, food can become a wonderfully special surprise for your friends and family.  If you use the right ingredients, it can even be healthy, or vegan, or local, or organic, or all four!

Here’s a super easy formula you can follow:

1.  Make three snacks.  These should be relatively easy to store (no refrigeration).  Keep in mind any allergies or food limitations of those whom you would like to give the gift. 

2.  Decorate three lunch size paper bags with stamps or stickers or drawings, or….don’t.  But you should probably, at least, write the name of the snack on the bag so that it is visible before the person opens the bag. 

3.  Fill the paper bags with snacks and tie them with ribbons or raffia or twine or whatever you like to make it festive. 

4.  Write the recipe for each snack (or type it up and print it out if you don’t like your handwriting), and enclose them in a Christmas card.  Write a sweet note to your giftee, too, while you are at it.

5.  Put the snacks in a basket with some colorful tissue paper.  Add things like pinecones, cinnamon sticks, and uncracked walnuts or pecans if you like.  Or, and this is the one I like best, place the three snacks and card with recipies into a seasonally appropriate reusable grocery bag.  Some of them are quite lovely, and when the food is gone, they can go get more with the bag!  Yay!

Easy, right?!  Of course there are so many variations to this that can make it less or more fancy.  You could use tins or jars for the snacks.  You can just give one snack, and maybe just put the recipe on a card and tie it like a tag to the bag.  Maybe write it directly on the bag.  Maybe don’t make a snack, but a drink mix instead.  There are really so many possibilities.

Here are some snacks that might be good:

Granola, spiced or glazed or candied nuts, “real” Chex mix, cookies, trail mix, chocolate dipped pretzel sticks, spiced tea mix, cocoa, homemade marshmallows, and stuff like that.

Do note that anything with butter or oil as an ingredient will make a plain brown paper bag become spotted with oil…in this case, think about using a jar or tin.  If you use any chocolate or white chocolate, make sure it is the kind that will essentially harden after cooling and don’t leave your gifts sitting in the car for too long.

And, to boot, check out the recipe tab of my blog for a good, healthy recipe for Pistachio Cherry Granola.  I’ll likely add some more recipes as the season progresses, so check back often!

If you double or triple your normal recipes, this formula might take care of several people on your list.  Don’t forget to include directions with your recipes so that someone could actually re-create the snack.

Most people love gifts like this, so take a chance and give some food.  Be divine for a day.

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25 Days ’til Christmas! Day 1 Gift Ideas

Now that the season is upon us, it is time to think about celebrating the traditions, sharing good times with family and friends, and making new memories.  In our pursuit of a greener holiday, there are all sorts of options to have a smaller impact on the environment while still making the holidays special.

Some of us may be choosing a life of reduced consumerism, while others may finally have a little bit of money they’d like to spend on nicer gifts this year.  Some of us may merely be on a budget, while others may be wanting to keep their money in the local economy. 

Over the next month, I’ll try to give everyone some good ideas that are greener, cleaner, local-er, and still special.

Today’s idea is one that may not be available to everyone, but you never know until you do a little research. 

For the foodies in the family, for the localvores, or really anyone who enjoys fresh food, check into your community for farms that participate in a CSA program.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  How it works is usually something like paying for a magazine subscription, except instead of a magazine, you get fresh, usually organic, usually extremely local, freshly picked vegetables and fruits.  Many of the farms that offer CSA participation call your investment in their farm a “share.”  Most CSAs operate under the concept that you are helping support the farm by paying for the products they produce in advance of the season.  With this investment in a share, farms are better able to plan their seasons, crops, deliveries, and profit.  Some farms (most of the ones I’ve checked out) even offer eggs, dairy, and meats also raised on the farm or a partner farm for an additional cost.  Some CSAs deliver while others have pick-up locations at farmer’s market locations.  You can even tell them which vegetables you would rather not get or trade with another shareholder.

You can get weekly or bi-weekly (meaning every other week) “shares” of food that are in season.  Of the farms local to me, they indicate that throughout the year there are 60-70 types of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and sometimes flowers you can get as part of your share, and most shares are 6-10 different kinds of produce that come to you in a box or paper grocery bag–sometimes up to two paper bags full.  What you get, of course, depends on what is in season. 

Additionally, several of the CSAs I have read about have “field” days where you are invited to come help harvest or do other work on the farm, which is optional and completely up to you.  Some even offer a “work for your food” kind of plan where you can earn your food through sweat-equity.  A couple of CSAs come with newsletters and recipes for cooking ideas.  There are even a few that have community meals where members come to the farm once a season and dine with fellow CSA shareholders and the farmers.  It sounds like so much fun!

As for payment plans, they seem to be as varied as the vegetables you can get.  Some have an annual fee, some break up payments throughout the year, some charge “per box” and some have a system that sounds like a season-specific plan, where you get anywhere from 4 to 8 boxes per season.  Right now, many of the local CSAs are offering gift cards or gift plans for as low as $25 for the holidays.  Of course, you can gift as much as a whole year’s worth, if you want, and I am sure they extend the gift-card giving to birthdays and other special occasions.

Considering how much produce I buy every week, this sounds like an amazing alternative/supplement to getting grocery-store fruits and vegetables that are sometimes already “over the hill” or weeks away from being ripe.  Additionally, you’ll not only get more nutritious food (because it’s so fresh–sometimes picked that day!), but you can also have the peace of mind that organically grown foods are lacking in toxic pesticides and have a lower impact on the environment with less inorganic inputs.  Since these foods have been grown so close to home, less energy has been spent on getting the food to you, which reduces air and water pollution.  At the same time, you are actively supporting farmers and their families make a more reliable living without having to be so dependent upon bank loans.

It is a really exciting option that I know I am going to look into not only for my own family but probably a few of my friends.  I hope you will look into a CSA for the holidays and think about giving this gift of green not only to the people on your shopping list, but to yourself as well!

 

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Endless Summer…Coconut and Mango!

I think I have well established the fact that I am addicted to fragrances. I use them to affect a mood that makes me feel…happy (hopefully). Since the scent-center of the brain is so strongly bound with memory, coconut (or coconut-inspired) scents are like summer in a bottle for me. Put a little bit of mango with that, and I am whisked away like in those old Calgon ads, except to a tropical island drenched with sun and sweetness. And in the face of the impending time and season changes to something ever more dreary and less sunshine-y, I intentionally cling to my summer with coconut and mango inspired products.

I know most people are all into the “pumpkin spice” or chocolate or mint or other seasonally appropriate scents, but not me. Not yet. So…let me, as your all-natural product guide who is also addicted to summer, offer some things worth trying and some things to avoid.

Let me first start by admitting that Alba Botanica is the brand that first introduced me to “good for you” products in the form of it’s Honey Mango Very Emollient Bath & Shower Gel.  This product literally smells good enough to eat.  When you look at the details of the ingredients, you will even find that there is no actual honey in the product, meaning that it is vegan (the company also conducts no animal testing and is cruelty-free).  This bath gel creates a creamy, moisturizing lather that seems to work (for me) against the drying powers of more wintery weather.  You can find a 12 oz. bottle for about $8-ish in natural stores and probably for less online.  If you aren’t super excited about a “honey mango” fragrance, they do have other scents like French Lavender, Island Citrus, etc.  I haven’t tried ’em, but I am sure there is something everyone can love.  I give this product a “Hooray!”

And just as a refresher, straight from the company’s website:

Alba Botanica® products are formulated without: parabens, phthalates, artificial colors, propylene glycol, aluminum, mineral oil, petrolatum, oxybenzone, PABA, nano-particles, DEA, MEA or TEA, PEGs and PEG derivatives, ethoxylated ingredients associated with 1,4 dioxane, formaldehyde donors, or GMOs.

Which leads me to the second Alba Botanica “Endless Summer” selection:  “Coconut Milk” Shampoo and Conditioner for “mega moisture.”  I bought a dual-pack of these two (also in a 12 oz. size), for around $11 at the end of September.  I expected something that looked, well, like coconut milk.  I also expected it to smell like, well, like coconut.  So, the shampoo is clear and gel-like and smells like coconut mixed with something that reminds me of that oh-so-popular potpourri fragrance:  mulberry.  Now I like the smell of mulberry, but I don’t think it smells like coconut, and I’m not sure how they arrived at that fragrance given the ingredients listed like pineapple and papaya and ginger.  Must have been a magical alchemy of sorts.  The shampoo works to clean my hair, but it seems to take a bit more than usual to get a good lather going and I sometimes feel compelled to “wash, rinse, repeat.”  So, that’s a bit wasteful.  The Coconut Milk conditioner is very thick and creamy, coming out of the bottle very “dollopy” instead of runny.  It smells like a lighter version of the shampoo, which is fine.  Still not too coconutty.  It does a good job at detangling and moisturizing without weighing my hair down.  So.  I’ll give this duo a “Yay.”  It does the job, and it smells fine, but just not what I’m looking for to satisfy my “coconut” craving.

On to Desert Essence, another brand I have featured before…they are dedicated to natural products that are phtalate-free, cruelty-free, organic, etc.  The Coconut Shampoo/Conditioner (Nourishing for Dry Hair), is also specifically touted as having no:  “parabens, sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates, Phthalates, artificial fragrances or colors, silicones, EDTA, glycol or petroleum based ingredients (from drugstore.com’s product details).”  For about $7.49/8oz., I think this product (on sale) is a bit too expensive for me.  But I wanted coconut shampoo and it was on sale!  This shampoo is also clear, but lathers really well…I’d say it’s just like “regular shampoo” with a nice rich lather that really leaves my hair feeling clean.  Unfortunately, I think the fragrance is…terrible.  I’ve really tried to like it, but I just can’t.  Again, it is another instance of coconut not being the “superstar” of the fragrance.  This was meant to smell like a pina colada, I think, but…sigh.  Okay, I’ll tell you what it smells like to me.  You know that white shoe polish people use to write on their car windows?  Yeah.  That’s what it smells like to me.  If I *try* to think about pina colada, I can kind of get it, but no.  White Shoe Polish.  The conditioner is similar to the Alba Botanica above, thick and rich, moisturizing without being heavy.  The fragrance is much diminished in the conditioner and I WOULD consider using just the conditioner with some other shampoo.  So…in the end.  This shampoo gets a “Not So Great” and the conditioner gets a “Yay.”

And now, the piece de resistance…the one that has NOT let me down, once again…Pacifica Perfumes, I love you.  I swear they are not paying me.   This IS summer in a bottle, to me.  It is a “true” coconut in my mind, not mixed with a variety of other fruity fragrances that detract from the star of this show.  There is some vanilla in the mix, but even with the dry down, coconut is the feature of this perfume.  I also think that this particular perfume lasts longer than some of the other, more citrusy fragrances that I love from Pacifica.  Here it is 3pm on a warm day and I still smell great.  One of my friends says it smells like sunscreen…which is just fine with me.  I wish they sold “Coppertone” as a fragrance.  All those childhood memories of my favorite time of the year come rushing back when I use this perfume.  Winter-schminter…now I can keep it summer all year long (which makes me happy–mission accomplished)!  So, if you haven’t guessed…this one gets a “HOORAY!”

I am still on the search for a natural shampoo/body wash that will really strike home that coconut summer of love when January rolls around.  If you have any favorites that achieve that feat, please DO share!  Stay tuned…I’ll share if I find some other good ones!

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A “Yay” for Nature’s Gate

Of any single brand, the one I have tried the most has got to be Nature’s Gate.  This company was founded 40 years ago with a natural-mindedness from the start.  Sounds like some guys who ran an herb shop started making shampoo with rainwater, and it became a major hit with the Venice Beach crowd.  Now they make tons of stuff including shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deodorant, soaps, toothpaste, acne-treatment products, skin-care products, and sun care products.  I have tried a handful of these, but certainly not all of their products…it’s extensive.  Nature’s Gate is relatively easy to find in most natural stores, and costs around $7.  You can find deals online, of course, and sometimes when a formula change happens, you can find these items reduced significantly.

Nature’s Gate Shampoos and Conditioners are my go-to products, now. I’m not going to stop trying other things, but I know I can rely on these shampoos and conditioners to suds like I want, to smell good, and keep my hair clean and manageable. Generally speaking. These products, however, are not really significantly different than regular shampoos, meaning I still have issues with fly-aways and split ends.  The fact that I am not “committed” to using Nature’s Gate makes the “Yay” grade for most of these products.  There are a few exceptions in the plus and minus, so here goes…

One “Hooray”

Nature's Gate Herbal Daily Conditioner

I have been reluctantly converted to using the The Herbal Daily Conditioner.  I will be honest in the fact that it was a bit off-putting at first, because it is, well, um, brown. And sort of has the consistency of a creamy balsamic dressing. And it smells very strongly herbal, and the fragrance does linger after you rinse and style your hair. I went into work asking my friends, “Do I smell like a hippy?” because it smelled to me as if I had been sitting around some sort of incense. HOWEVER, I don’t notice it now that I have gone through a whole bottle, and my friends often say, “What perfume do you have on? Smells like fabric softener,” and then it turns out to be my hair.

So, this conditioner, on my fine, tangly hair is very much more like a “cream rinse” that adds a little bit of conditioning power, but is super awesome at detangling. For me, detangling is really the name of the game because THAT is how tangly my hair is. It is recommended for daily use and all hair types. I will admit to switching this out with other conditioners when I feel like I need to add a little more moisture, but I look forward to the days when I use this conditioner. It is definitely worth a try, in my opinion, so don’t be afraid to try the brown conditioner and see if it works for you.

The “Yays”

Awapuhi Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner: This stuff smells really great and very similar to other salon brands that feature awapuhi. I will say that the volumizing intent of this set of products is meant to not weigh hair down, and is intended for hair like mine. The shampoo is great, but the conditioner is a little too light and not really great for detangling. If you have hair that tends to be already voluminous, well, this stuff might not be for you. If you have less tangly hair that tends to be easily weighed down, try this. It’s quite decent, but just a tad lacking.

Pomegranate Sunflower Hair Defense Conditioner:  I don’t know why I didn’t buy the shampoo…this might have been a find at a place like Marshall’s or Ross where they sometimes have big containers of hair products on sale for like $10. I was using this before my phthalate-free/BPA-free/other-harmful-chemical-free life began. It has a nice fragrance that doesn’t really linger. It is my “more moisturizing” conditioner and touts UV protection for color-treated hair. I *do* have color-treated hair, but I can’t imagine why a person wouldn’t use it anyway. It might lend itself to being too heavy when used continuously, which is why it is a “yay” and not a “hooray.”

I also tried the Hemp Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner, but I honestly have nothing to say about it. It worked, I guess. It didn’t smell bad or anything. My hair got cleaned and conditioned, apparently, because I used it all. But the fact that I don’t really remember anything about it (I used it back in Feburary and March), and wouldn’t be inspired to buy it again seems to imply that it is “nothing to write home about.” I’m not going to say it’s bad, just ho-hum. I don’t know if that makes it a “yay” really, but it isn’t “not so great” because it certainly is servicable as a general shampoo/conditioner. It is supposed to repair and nourish dry hair, but I am not sure that was really the case. If you find it at a good price, might as well try it. I guess.

The “Not So Great”

I bought some of Nature Gate’s Moisturizing Liquid Soap to have on the counter in the bathroom for regular hand-washing. Now, I am not really a “dry skin” person unless it is the dead of winter and I am living northward of the Oklahoma border. So, I didn’t think for an instant that this “moisturizing” soap would be problematic in the area of causing dryness. I mean, why would I doubt what this brand says about its own products when I have been generally pleased with everything else? Well, hold the phone.

This soap was so drying, I was, for the first time I can remember since moving away from West Virginia, driven to put lotion on my hands and lower arms minutes after washing my hands. After a week of using this soap, my skin started hurting it was so dry. Now, I will confess that I might have washed my hands more often than usual because I discovered poison ivy in my backyard, but this soap was supposed to be “moisturizing.” I can safely say, this is not the case. Regular dish soap seems less drying. And I imagine a person with truly dry skin would be more affected than I was, too. So. Steer clear of this. It’s much too harsh.

However, this isn’t going to keep me from trying other Nature’s Gate products. I think I might splurge on one of their deodorants and maybe one of the fancy face products…the Avocado Night Cream sounds fantastic. I will, of course, report back, when I do.

Categories: hair products | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hoorays, Yays, and Not So Greats

Hello, all!

If you read this blog often, you know my most recent post was the first “real” post since way back in the winter.  Well, what happened was that I had bought a lot of products, but needed to pace myself on actually using them for awhile, finding replacements for the duds, and well, using everything I had bought with all that money before I went to go buy more products.

So, I’m ready now with some new reviews.  My ratings go like this:  Hooray = I”m a FAN and will buy this product as long as they make it!  Yay = it’s good, but there’s some sort of issue, either cost or ingredients or something that hasn’t convinced me not to try something else.  Not So Great =  it might have been a good idea, but definitely not worth buying again.

To start, since the products I tried are quite numerous, a few Hoorays!

Tuscan Blood Orange Spray Perfume

Pacifica perfume sprays, lotions, and candles.  I’ve raved about this product in more than one place online, bought it for my mom and sister-in-law for Christmas, and pretty much wear it everyday.  The body butters are moisturizing without being too greasy and they absolutely smell delicious.  I pretty much replaced my vast collection of perfumes with about 6 different fragrances from this company.  My favorites are Tuscan Blood Orange and Island Vanilla.  Okay, and Malibu Lemon Blossom is a very close third.  This company is committed to only the best and most natural of ingredients, ensuring no pthalates or other “bad for you” chemicals, they do not test on animals, all products are 100% vegan, and by the way, gluten free.  They have some crazy good online specials once a month and can also be easily purchased at Whole Foods, Central Market, and other naturally-minded stores for around $20 for a 1 oz. perfume. They also have yummy all-natural lip balms with shimmer and tints, body wash, bar soap, reed diffusers, and more. I am. in. love. HOORAY!

Shea Moisture body wash – specifically the Coconut & Hibiscus scent…Holy moly, does this product smell so totally yum.  I was so sad that I had to give away all of my moisturizing and bubbly body wash for fear it was full of phthalates and other dubious ingredients.  Bar soap is fine, but it *can* be more drying than other soaps, as we all know.  This brand, Shea Moisture, has a broad variety of products that list all-natural products, fragrance created from essential oils, and promises “no parabens, no phtalates, no paraffin, no formaldehyde, no propylene glycol, no mineral oil, no synthethic fragrance, no animal testing, no PABA, no synthetic color, no DEA, and no animal ingredients.”  Their website is currently down for reconstruction (I imagine it was flooded with fans once their products became so widely available), but you can find their products at reasonable prices at places like Walmart, Target, Walgreens, and the like.  They have lots of other scents, and they specialize in hair products for ladies of color (more on this in another blog), so there is something for everyone with this brand.  Again.  Major win!

On a side note, I am impressed with the growing availability of natural products at places like Target and Walmart.  You do need to know where to look, though, because you aren’t necessarily going to find those “good for you” products in the same aisle as similar products.  While I did find the Shea Moisture products above in the usual aisle in Walmart, the Burts Bees, “Yes To” products, and other things like Dr. Bronners are often in a dedicated section of products near either cosmetics (Walmart) or in my local Target, they get their own side of a whole aisle between cosmetics and the pharmacy!  As you can imagine, the selection at Target is pretty extensive if it can fill up a whole aisle.

Next time…the “Yays.”

Categories: perfume | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Deodorant Debate: Spring/Summer Edition

I think it is time to revisit that age old debate…the one about being stinky or not.

For some of you, I will suggest that you have something of an easier task in finding an antiperspirant than my poor, old, sensitive arm-pitted, living in Texas self.  If you don’t have to face 90+ degree weather everyday, there’s that.  If you DO, then you likely have the same debate I have.

So, there was the baking-soda and water spray, which I used for about a month.  And the verdict:  Doesn’t really work on really hot days.  AND, even this water and baking soda formula was too “hot” for my sensitive skin.  I never switched it up with aloe vera or anything more moisturizing, because I discovered I didn’t really like the mess of it…waiting for it to dry and dealing with it dripping everywhere.  Yeah.  Gross.

Lafe’s, which I had also reported on back in December, is still on my counter as an effective back-up for not having something else. It is also water-like in its drippy-ness and needing to dry, and it does contain potassium alum, which contains aluminum. This concerns me for more than one reason, but if you read this article at Mother Nature Network, it seems to suggest that potassium alum isn’t as absorbable as other forms of aluminum commonly found in other deodorants/antiperspirants. And, when you look it up on the Skin Deep Database, it is graded with just a 1. Combine this deodorant with synthetic clothes, however, and it is lacking…at least for me. It does not irritate, my skin, though. So, that’s why it is still on my counter…good enough for most days, but when I have an important event or meeting, I have backup.

I said I would do it, and I did.  I splurged on LaVanila’s Healthy Deodorant.  It cost $18.  That is not a typo, and it isn’t missing a decimal.  I chose the Vanilla Passion Fruit, but I didn’t think it smelled too much like either–it did smell nice, though. Similar to the other natural deodorants, it worked decently with natural fibers and less so with synthetic fibers.  I didn’t notice it feeling wet or sticky, and it was very much like a standard solid deodorant stick, which I personally prefer.  The sad news for me, though, was that something in this “healthy” product was still too strong for my sensitive skin.  My significant other, though, liked it and said he didn’t notice it smelling too girly.  Truth be told, he actually went looking for it when I had misplaced it one morning saying “where is MY deodorant?”  He works construction in the Texas heat, and though he specifically prefers deodorant over anti-perspirant, he was happy with it’s de-stinking abilities.  The major problem, however:  when I told him how much it cost, he was shocked and a little upset that I would spend so much on something like deodorant.  “For this little thing?”  Yeah.  Not worth it for me, but maybe for you, if you don’t mind the expense.

The major disappointment for me was Desert Essence Tea Tree Deodorant.  Now, one of the things that is difficult about blogging about products is that the formulas change, like, almost every day.  I purchased this deodorant around January, but the kind I bought isn’t on the market anymore, unless you happen to find it in store that doesn’t turn over products often.  Anyway, don’t bother.  My main complaint with this product is that it is hard to apply.  It seems more “gluey” and sticky than glidable and applicable.  It just didn’t want to “go on” and maybe that’s why it didn’t work.  Stinky pits by midday.  Like didn’t work at all.  My significant other also gave a thumbs down on this one as “not working.”  Desert Essence has many other fine products, which I totally encourage you to try.  If you are brave, you might even try one of the new formulas of deodorant, but I would honestly try something else. Especially at almost $7 a pop.

And, just one more review that is really more of a “beware.”  In one of those moments where you are at the drugstore at midnight picking up random things you need (like a gallon of milk, tweezers, a birthday card for a co-worker, and deodorant), beware of the “natural-sounding” versions of deodorant that you may find from a reliable-sounding brand.   For example, Sure has made deodorant for decades.  I think some of us might remember commercials that had people dressed in business professional clothing stopping in the middle of a meeting to “raise your hand if you’re sure!” or some such.  Anyway, as it turns out, their recent formulas for just “deodorant” seem fairly mild as far as toxic chemicals go.  The asterisk next to that statement, of course, is the fragrance formula may contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals like phthalates.  Or it may not.  We don’t know.  However, and this is my main point, as odd as it may seem, Sure’s “Natural Extracts” version has a worse ranking than than its regular stuff on the Skin Deep database.  Now, it’s still not that bad, but it has more “non-active” ingredients making up the base of the product, and some of these are considered more toxic than less.  Go figure.

Also, you may think Arm & Hammer’s Essentials Natural Deodorant sounds like it would be pretty awesome.  Well, not only do we not know what is in the fragrance formula, but this version also uses Triclosan, an endocrine disruptor, as an anti-microbial to keep the stink down.  This is definitely something you do not want to put on freshly shaved skin every day, and serves as prime example of “what not to buy” when you are wandering those drugstore aisles too late at night.

Of course, one glaring reality that I have yet to discuss in this blog is the fact that all of these products are delivered in the form of a plastic container of some sort.   Many do not have recycling labels, and many, even if they do have a number on it, aren’t really readily recyclable, because the inner workings or caps are made of different plastic types.  Can you imagine how much plastic goes into landfills just because we feel the need to apply chemicals to our pits so we won’t stink/sweat?

You can, of course, like me, go back to the drawing board, and make your own.  My dear friend, Rebecca (fellow naturalist and good food foodie), swears by a simple powdery mix of baking soda and cornstarch dispensed by a glass spice-shaker…you know the kind they have at pizza parlors for the red pepper flakes?  Just a dusting seems to work for her.  I haven’t tried it yet (I will, I swear), but she smells pretty nice every day, and she even rides her bike to work in the Texas heat!  That sounds like a winning product review to me!

I personally think I am going to return to my original preference and create a spray formula of some sort (alcohol? water? aloe?) that will be scented with essential oils or oil blends that do not contain any crappy chemicals in them.  Hey, it works for me.

I will keep you posted on this on-going debate, but until then,  feel free to share any good finds or recipes that really work.  Any good ideas are welcome here!

Categories: aluminum, deodorant, endocrine disruptors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ah, Summer!

Oh my gosh!  Where did the time go?  I can’t believe I have been so behind in my posts.  I started a new job and have been trying to eat healthier/live healthier, and this has sucked away much of the free time I used to dedicate to writing.  Well, I’m carving out time for writing again, so I will promise updates.

Here is what you can expect:  revisiting toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo.  Since it is nearly summer for many of you (it has been summer-like in Austin since April), it’s time to think about sunscreens and chlorine.  I will also put preservatives and colorants on my schedule, in addition to other household items like cooking pans, microwaves, laundry detergent, how to replace plastic in your life, and last, but not least…more recipes!  I make my own soap and occasionally my own laundry detergent, so I will share some of the tricks I have learned over the years.  I might even start selling some of these products on www.etsy.com.  That’s going to take some gumption, though…

I also hope to open some discussions for debate regarding natural products or homemade solutions to those pesky “how did we used to do this before plastic?” questions.  If you have suggestions or questions, I’ll do my best to find some answers from somewhere.

As for me, I’m off to the farmer’s market.  Hooray!

Categories: being green | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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