Friday, August 29, 2014

Does a Pumpkin Spice Latte Have Pumpkin?

I am all about ingredients. I read every ingredient label and even periodically re-check the ingredient labels on some of my most commonly purchased packaged items (never know when a company can change ingredients). While there are some ingredients that I completely avoid (artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, HFCS to give you a few example), I am a little more lax about other not as toxic ingredients. While I try to limit the amount of processed food consumed in our house and out of the house, I understand that sometimes, we cannot avoid certain ingredients or we might want to indulge in a favorite food or drink. Understanding the ingredients and making a conscious and informed decision is important.

My husband loves Pumpkin Spice Lattes, so when Food Babe investigated the ingredients list, we were both a little surprised to find that the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte ingredients list does not even contain pumpkin. Then again, maybe not surprised. The latte has pumpkin spice, not pumpkin, along with some other potentially harmful ingredients. If you drink Starbucks blended drinks on a frequent basis, check out the graphics from Food Babe below.

>> Are you surprised by the ingredients list for the Pumpkin Spice Latte??

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Winner Announcement

The giveaways for the Vita Nut Best Nut Milk Bag and the Funkins Reusable Cloth Napkin have concluded! Thank you to all those that entered! Winners are listed below and have confirmed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Make Raw Almond Milk [Recipe]

Over the past year and a half, staying at home full time with my baby and now toddler has made me realize that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I love making healthy, homemade items for us to enjoy. Though I appreciate the convenience of pre-packaged food, I receive great satisfaction from making something myself. I have full control over the ingredients. After a recent search for an organic almond milk without any additives or sweeteners (yes, even natural and organic ones), I decided to make my own. Vita Nut Milk Bag is the best nut milk bag for making your own nut milks, raw juices, cold brew coffees and so much more.

Vita Nut Best Nut Milk Bag           ($9.95)
Rating: total green check marks out of 5.

The Good
The Not So Good
Rounded bottom for less waste
When drawn, strings can get in the way
No tearing under heat/squeezing

Ultra-fine mesh for better filtering

Reusable, quick-drying

Making raw almond milk is an easy process with just a few steps. Vita Nut's best milk bag helps to filter out the almond milk from the almond pulp and results in easy and sanitary clean up.

Homemade Raw Almond Milk

1 cup raw almonds, soaked in water (cover almonds and soak overnight, 8-12 hrs)
3 cups of water
Sweeteners such as dates (3-4 dates soaked for 1 hr), raisins, prunes, agave, honey, maple syrup (optional)
Vanilla or almond extract (optional)
Pinch of sea salt, to enhance flavor (optional)

  1. Place almonds in a small bowl and cover with water. Soak overnight, 8-12 hours. Can also soak for 1-2 hours, if in a pinch.
  2. If using dates, raisins or prunes as your sweetener, place those in the blender with a little bit of water and blend on highest speed until creamy. 
  3. Drain and rinse the almonds and place in blender with 3 cups of water, any sweeteners, vanilla/almond extract and sea salt, if using. Omit sweeteners for unsweetened raw almond milk.
  4. Blend on highest speed for 1 minute.
  5. Place the milk bag over a large bowl and slowly pour the almond milk mixture into the bag. 
  6. Hold the top of the bag closed and squeeze the bottom of the bag to release milk. Twisting the bag can also work. This creamy liquid is the raw almond milk.
  7. Pour into a glass or airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days. Shake container very well before using because the almond milk separates when sitting. 

Photo Directions
Drain and rinse soaked almonds. Place in blender with 3 cups of water and any other additions.

Blend on highest speed for 1 minute.


Place milk bag over a large bowl and slowly pour the almond milk mixture into the bag.

Let the almond milk drain, then squeeze the bottom and twist the bag to release the rest of the almond milk.


  • A food processor can be used instead of a blender. The liquid tends to leak out, so you might want to do 2-3 batches.
  • Cheese bag, cheese cloth, flour sacks, etc. can also be used. Cheese cloth tends to tear with twisting, so be careful when squeezing and twisting to release the almond milk.
  • Recipe can be used to make any nut or seed milk. Most seeds do not need to be soaked or strained in the nut milk bag because they blend well with water. 
  • Feel free to add any other flavorings or sweeteners to the blender.
  • Liquid sweeteners can also be added to the strained milk.
  • Almond pulp can be saved and used as an addition to things like yogurt, oatmeal, baked good, or dried/dehydrated to make raw almond flour.

I really liked using the Vita Nut milk bag to make my homemade raw almond milk. The bag was easy to use. I did not worry about it ripping or tearing when I was squeezing the almond milk. The almond pulp inside the bag was dry, meaning that the bag and my hands did a good job at straining the almond milk. When I was done straining the almond milk, I scooped out the almond pulp to save for muffins. I turned the milk bag inside out to get all of the almond pulp out. The rounded bottom helped to scoop everything out and resulted in easy clean up. A little natural soap and water and the milk bag was clean. The milk bag dried quickly and I reused it later for removing liquid from frozen spinach.

The strings at the top help to keep the bag cinched, but tend to get a bit long when they are drawn. I found that they got in the way while I was trying to squeeze the milk out. Maybe next time, I will tuck the strings into the bag.

Vita Nut best milk bag is the secret to quick and easy homemade nut milks, raw juices and more! No tearing, less mess and frustration, and easy clean up make Vita Nut milk bag the perfect accessory for your milk and juicing endeavors.

Disclosure: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

California Oranges [Giveaway]


Welcome to the California Oranges Giveaway Event, hosted by Happy Mothering. During this giveaway, we'll be giving away a gift box filled with goodies valued at approximately $100!

This gift box will include:

Certified Organic Oranges

Tangerine Balsamic Vinegar


Thursday, August 21, 2014

KIND Nuts and Spices [Review]

I love a good granola bar! Though I prefer to make my own granola bars, sometimes the convenience of packaged granola bar saves time and makes travel (running errands or going on a trip) much easier. Individually packaged granola bars can be thrown into a diaper bag or a work back pack to always have a snack on hand. When I look for individually packaged snack items, I scrutinize ingredients closely. After the ingredients pass my requirements (no preservatives, no artificial/synthetic ingredients, etc.), I look for delicious flavors and a good taste. KIND bars offer indulgent flavors without artificial ingredients and preservatives.

KIND Caramel Almond & Sea Salt           (12 pack, $19.99)
KIND Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond    (12 pack, $17.91)
Rating: total green check marks out of 5.

The Good
The Not So Good
Simple ingredients list
Unknown source of some ingredients
Delicious flavor combinations

KIND released two new flavors of their Nuts & Spices bars: Caramel Almond & Sea Salt and Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond. Caramel Almond & Sea Salt is made with sea-salt and sweet caramel drizzled over crunchy almonds. Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond is made with dark roast coffee and whole almonds blended with honey and drizzled in dark chocolate. Both flavors contain 7g fiber, 6g protein and 5g sugar. KIND bars are a low-sugar healthy snack. Each bar is 200 calories.

I opened up the KIND Caramel Almond & Sea Salt bar on our trip to visit the grandparents. I love that the bar is pretty much made up of almonds because almonds are my favorite nuts. The bar had a slight caramel taste, not too overpowering. Though, I could not really taste the salt. Overall, the flavor combination worked well together. I enjoyed the bar and received an energy boost after feeling lightheaded all afternoon.

The ingredients list is as KIND claims, no artificial ingredients. However, I would question the source of sugar, soy lecithin, milk powder and natural flavor. The labels states that glucose is non-GMO, but the other ingredients do not have the same indication, so I would assume that they are GMO. If you are trying to avoid GMO foods, I recommend digging a bit deeper to find out the source.

KIND Caramel Almond & Sea Salt Ingredients: Almonds, chicory root fiber, honey, palm kernel oil, sugar, non GMO glucose, crisp rice, soy lecithin, sea salt, milk powder, carob powder, natural flavor, annatto.

I tried the KIND Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond the next day with my daily 3:30pm coffee. I love that the bar is made with dark roast coffee. Maybe I do not need to drink the coffee with it after all! I really liked the combination of dark chocolate with almonds. Once again, the bar is mostly made up of almonds, which I love. The chocolate flavor was subtle. I would love the KIND Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond bar even more if it had more of a chocolaty taste.

Once again, I would question the source of sugar and soy lecithin. The labels states that glucose is non-GMO, but the other ingredients do not have the same indication, so I would assume that they are GMO. If you are trying to avoid GMO foods, I recommend digging a bit deeper to find out the source.

KIND Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond Ingredients: Almonds, chicory root fiber, sugar, palm kernel oil, honey, non-GMO glucose, cocoa powder, crisp rice, chocolate liquor, coffee, soy lecithin, cocoa butter, vanilla extract, Madagascar vanilla, salt.

If you are looking for a low-sugar healthy snack that will give you a lasting energy boost, look to KIND's new Nuts & Spices flavors. If you have sensitivities to ingredients or are trying to avoid certain ingredients like soy, non-GMO, etc., do some research before purchasing.

Disclosure: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Organic Shea Butter [Review]

Hand washing dishes and cleaning always leave my hands so dry. Nothing seems to help heal the dry and cracked skin, even out of the natural and organic oils that I used to moisturize my body. While lighter oils like coconut oil and argan oil are good for every day and summer use, heavier oils like olive oil leave my feeling greasy. I have tried a couple of brands of organic and raw shea butters in the past, but decided against a repeat purchase because the shea butter seemed to take forever to absorb into my skin. After a few years of using other oils, I needed something that was heavier and healing. I needed something to heal my skin! I tried another brand of shea butter and absolutely loved it. Cleopatra's Choice Organic Raw Shea Butter provides instant moisture without the greasy feeling.

Organic Shea Butter  (1 lb, $16.00)
Rating: total green check marks out of 5.

The Good
The Not So Good
100% Organic and Fair-Trade
Comes in a plastic container
Raw, unrefined

Moisturizing, but not greasy


Ingredients: 100% pure, organic, unrefined shea butter

Cleopatra's Choice Shea Butter is made from hand selected nuts of Shea Trees in Africa. The shea butter is produced by women subsistence farmers and is Fair-Trade and Organic. This shea butter is Grade A, organic, pure and raw. Grade A is the purest form with the highest concentration of Vitamins A and E. Other grades are usually processed and refined, thus losing a of purity and healing qualities. As soon as I opened the container and got a little bit of the shea butter out, I could tell that it was a very high quality. The color was ivory, it smelled nutty and it moisturized my skin immediately.

Pure, unrefined shea butter will have a slightly nutty smell and a color that is yellow or ivory. Let's talk about the yellow and ivory color choices. Both colors are high quality and are real, raw shea butters. The color you choose depends on your personal preference for a moisturizer. The color depends on the region of Africa where the shea butter comes from. Some trees have more carotene than others. The yellow shea butter comes from Ghana, Africa and the ivory shea butter comes from Benin, Africa. The yellow shea butter is thicker and nuttier. It works well for moisturizing hair. The ivory shea butter is a big softer and lighter and works better for moisturizing the body and the skin.

Shea butter has been used for thousands of years to heal and moisturize the skin. Here are some of the benefits of using pure, unrefined shea butter:

  1. Helps to prevent stretch marks, including from pregnancy and significant weight loss
  2. Deeply hydrates and moisturizes dry skin
  3. Reduces itching and irritation caused by extremely dry patches of skin
  4. Helps reduce skin peeling and irritation from sunburn
  5. Helps restore the hair's sheen and luster
  6. Restores elasticity to the skin and helps to reduce the appearance of blemishes and wrinkles
  7. Great moisturizer for certain skin conditions such as Eczema and Psoriasis
  8. Reduces dryness and flakiness of the scalp and hair
  9. Helps reduce the symptoms of various skin rashes
  10. Dramatically softens tough and cracked skin on hands and feet

I wanted to provide some background on shea butter and its benefits to educate about purchase high quality shea butter. Shea butter is used in a lot of body and beauty products, but only pure, unrefined shea butter will provide the healing and moisturizing benefits to your skin. Cleopatra's Choice Shea Butter is the highest quality offered and never processed.

I could tell the high quality of the shea butter because my dry and cracked hands were healed within 1-2 days. I also used them on my really chapped lips (somehow, I got chapped lips in the summer). The sensitivity from the redness went away within minutes and my lips looked better within 2 days.  I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the shea butter healed my irritated skin.

When I worked in a corporate setting, I would wear skirts and skirt suits year round without pantyhose. Shea butter was great for moisturizing my dry legs during the winter months.

I would highly recommend that Cleopatra's Choice Organic Raw Shea Butter become a staple of your body care routine for those times when you need to heal the skin or would like long lasting moisture.

Disclosure: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. All opinions are my own. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Toddler Adventures: Parks and Back Yards

I am starting a new series, Toddler Adventures, to capture our weekly toddler activities. My 16 month old toddler is running around and discovering the world. This series will capture unschooling activities, free play, park and playground visits, Montessori style learning activities like sensory bins and busy bags, and whatever else we get into.

I am a firm believer of spending as much time outside and in nature as possible. Fresh air and the green grass and trees help to calm me down. A dose of sunshine boosts my mood. Plus, my 16 month old toddler loves discovering something new in the back yard, ripping freshly bloomed flowers in the front yard or apples off dedushka's (grandpa's) tree. With the mild summer weather we have had, playing in the yard and visiting parks has become part of our everyday life.

Apple picking in dedushka's back yard

Discovering sand in the horseshoe pit

Taking a rest on a park bench

Playing at the base of a big tree

Walking down grammy's street to see what's at the end

>> What kinds of adventures do your kids get into??

Friday, August 15, 2014

Massage Accessories [Sponsored]

People are becoming aware of the benefits of massage. When French clients are interested in buying accessoires de massage, they may realize that they can find the widest selections online. By investing in a boutique table de massage, they can offer this service to friends and family. They can also go into business if they so choose.

The website offers a wide variety of massage-related items from which to choose. For example, cupping is becoming very popular in this industry. Many people rely on cupping to help them relax their muscles and relieve their pain. They can find an array of cupping items online and purchase the quantity that they need to serve their clients. They can also expect to have their order delivered to their homes or businesses.

Many clients like to be exposed to pleasant scents when they are being massaged. Owners can choose from an array of aromatherapy scents to use in their homes or in their boutiques. They may select subtle aromas that only hint of the smell of flowers or sandlewood. They may also select more obvious aromas that can help people be put at ease. 

When people want to know more about massages, they can also go online to read educational articles and information about this service. People might decide that they can benefit by receiving regular massages rather than going to their doctors for pills or other unnecessary services. In time, people might escape the pain, stress, and anxiety of their lives by receiving helpful massages regularly.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Compensation received supports this blog. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Funkins Reusable Cloth Napkin [Giveaway]

I love baby products that have multiple uses. I tend to over pack for everything, so having one product that can be used for many different purposes is a plus in my book. Funkins reusable cloth napkins serve not only as a cloth napkin for your child, but they also serve as a place mat when eating away from home or eating at school. The generous sizing of 13"x15" are great for meals-on-the-go and for school lunches. With over 300 different designs, Funkins will add some fun to your kids' lunches.

Reduce waste with Funkins reusable cloth napkins!

Funkins' mission is to educate parents, teachers and children on the significance of reducing waste generated in schools, especially reducing lunch time waste. Take a look at this short video with an important message from 7-year-old Fiona.

Enter to win a Funkins Reusable Cloth Napkin below! Winner will select the pattern from available ones.

Please use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Open to US only. All entries will be verified. Duplicate and invalid entries will be deleted. 

 Funkins Reusable Cloth Napkin ($10 value)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Vita Nut Milk Bag [Giveaway]

I have made almond milk from scratch several times, using cheese cloth. While cheese cloth is a versatile accessory for the kitchen, bags that are specifically made for making nut milks, pulp-free juices, cold brew coffees, among many other raw foods, are the secret to saving you time and money. While cheese cloth can tear and could be hard to clean, Vita Nut offers a high quality nut milk bag that reduces messiness, lumps, waste, tearing and frustration.

Enter to win a Vita Nut Milk Bag below!

Please use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Open to US only. All entries will be verified. Duplicate and invalid entries will be deleted. 

 Vita Nut Milk Bag ($25 value)
Disclaimer: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. All opinions are my own.

Monday, August 11, 2014

5 Ways to Extend Life of Clothing [#CTWW]

I just completed round 8 of closet clean out. The decluttering started about 2 years ago when my husband and I found out that we were expecting a baby. Once we realized that our closets were stuffed full, we knew that we needed to get rid of stuff we no longer used. Clothes were the biggest culprit. Transitioning from a college wardrobe to a professional wardrobe resulted a large number of pieces of clothes that were no longer worn, but still took up room in the closets and dressers. As we were cleaning out the items that we were no longer going to wear, we created a mend pile. The mend pile is comprised of pieces of clothing that need to be mended: a button needs reattachment, a hole needs to be sewn up or a stain needs to be removed. In an effort to reduce future mend piles, I share with you tips on how to extend the life of clothing.

This week's challenge:

This week take a look at your clothing and fix anything which needs repair. This might include darning a sock, sewing up a rip, or replacing a lost button. Perhaps a shoe's sole needs to be glued or a shoe lace needs to be replaced. The idea, this week, is to repair an item of clothing to extend its life.

OR ...

If this is something which you regularly do, please offer tips and ideas for extending the life of clothing. This can include mending, laundering, or even buying for longevity.

While there are easy and simple ways to mend clothing, taking a preventative approach to keeping clothing in good shape is the best way to go. Below are five tips on how to extend the life of clothing.

Purchase Quality Clothing

Focus on purchasing clothing that is made from 100%, or mostly, natural fibers like cotton, linen, wool, etc. Some synthetic items can last a long time also. Quality clothing could be an investment, but is also going to last longer than cheaper clothing that might only be worn for one season. I have a lot of high quality items purchased on sale or on clearance that have lasted me for 5-10 years. Shopping at consignment and thrift stores can reduce the cost of high quality clothing. 

Use Appropriate Washing Techniques

Follow the recommended washing instructions on the clothes' tags. Most natural and synthetic items can be machine washed, but some do require a gentle cycle, hand washing or even dry cleaning. From my experience, most dry cleaning items can be hand washed at home. Dry cleaning often can also cause clothes to break down due to the harsh chemicals that used in the dry cleaning process. Also, remember that washing too often can cause clothes to become worn and faded. Hanging an item that was worn for only a few hours to air out can save you one washing cycle.

Line Dry Clothes

Line drying clothing reduces the amount of stress on the item of clothing. The lint in the dryer is actually small fibers of clothing that have come off during the agitation against other items that are also in the dryer. Line drying will make them a bit stiff. If you prefer the softness of clothes dried in the dryer, you can throw the line dried clothes in the dryer for 10-20 minutes to fluff them up. 

Make Repairs Sooner

Treating stains the same day and repairing holes as soon as they are discovered will help to prevent stains from permanently setting in and holes from getting bigger. The longer a stain stays on clothing, the harder it will be to remove it. Wearing a sweater with a small hole in it will inevitably cause it to become bigger. When you remove clothing, or when you gather laundry, do a check for stains, holes and rips. Put those items aside and take care of them as soon as possible.

Rotate Clothing

Rotating clothing in your closet not only will keep you excited about your wardrobe, but it will also help to extend the life of clothing. Wearing the same 3 items over and over again will cause the fabric to stretch out and wear down over time. For example, natural fibers need time to return to their original length after being stretching out from being worn. Once a month, rotate 3-5 pieces of clothing with the ones in the back of the closet.

These five ways to extend the life of clothing will help keep you mend pile to a minimum and help to keep your costs of replacing worn clothing or paying high prices for the dryer cleaners to remove stains.

>> How do you extend the life of your clothing??

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Soap Nuts Liquid Laundry Detergent [Review]

Ever since I switched to natural cleaning products, I cannot stand the harsh smells of some of the popular laundry detergents. Not only are the synthetic scents not healthy to breathe, but the chemicals and brighteners that are contained within the big plastic bottles are harmful to our bodies and to the environment. While there are many natural and non-toxic alternatives to laundry detergent, soap nuts takes the #1 spot for the most natural. Soap nuts produce a natural saponin that combines with water to create a 100% non-toxic laundry detergent. Soap Nuts Liquid Laundry Detergent is a natural and non-toxic way to clean your clothes.

Soap Nuts Liquid Laundry Detergent  (8 oz, 120 HE wash loads, $18.95)
Rating: total green check marks out of 5.

The Good
The Not So Good
Liquid easier to use than soap nuts
Cloth diapers (2 days old) were still stinky
Made with USDA Organic Soap Nuts

Chemical-free extraction process

Contains low-toxicity preservatives
(caprylyl glycol, phenethyl alcohol)

The natural laundry detergents I have used for a few years come in a powder form. While I do appreciate the natural and non-toxic ingredients, I have to rinse my hands after scooping because the powder ends up getting on my fingers. I love that Soap Nuts Liquid Laundry Detergent is in a pump bottle. For my top loading washing machine, I use three pumps. No mess. No soapy hands.

Soap Nuts Liquid Laundry Detergent contains three ingredients: Soap Nuts Liquid (extracted with water and chemical-free filters from USDA Certified Organic soap nuts), Caprylyl Glycol (preservative rated 0 by EWG Skin Deep Database), Phenethyl Alcohol (preservative rated 1 by EWG Skin Deep Database).

The bottle shipped in a box and was protected fairly well. No damages to the box or the bottle. The liquid laundry detergent comes in a plastic bottle with a screw cap. The pump comes separate. Initially, I could not screw on the pump top, so I asked my husband for help. He was able to attach it within one minute. After a few pumps to get the liquid in the line, I was ready for laundry.

The first wash included two day old cloth diapers, including ones that were stained with poop. After the usual cloth diaper wash routine, I smelled some of the inserts that previous had poop on them. They did not smell clean. I went through another wash routine with the Soap Nuts Liquid Laundry Detergent (using 2 pumps each time for a small cloth diaper wash load). After the second wash, the cloth diapers smelled a little bit cleaner, but there was still some remaining dirty diaper smell.

The next wash included regular clothes and bath towels. I used 3 pumps for a large wash load. The clothes came out smelling clean. I have done a few more washes of regular clothes and dirty towels with Soap Nuts Liquid Laundry Detergent and have been pleased with the results.

The Soap Nuts Liquid does have a slight fragrance to it. I did some research on the preservatives and read that Phenethyl Alcohol is also used as a fragrance ingredient. This preservative could be contributing to the smell of the soap nuts liquid. The smell washed out and did not linger on the clothes. I need to look into whether this smell is the natural soap nuts smell or one of the preservatives that is used. Read more about the low toxicity preservatives that Soap Nuts chooses.

Soap Nuts Liquid Laundry Detergent is easy to use, non-toxic for my family and for the environment and is effective. Though I will continue to use my other natural laundry detergent for the cloth diapers, I will use Soap Nuts Liquid Laundry Detergent for regular laundry.

Disclosure: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. All opinions are my own. 

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