I’m back with an update on Vegan Cuts Beauty Boxes. I shared the first one I received in December, but in my experience subscription boxes have often disappointed after the first one or two. Luckily, the next two boxes of cruelty-free mostly organic and natural samples didn’t let me down. Check out what they contained:
This month’s favorite: Ofra Long lasting liquid lipstick – it smells great and feels great on, no stickiness here!
Aubrey Organics detangler and shine booster spray
Primal Pit Paste – I’m intrigued by this product, I’ve seen it lots in the real food blog world, but I will admit that I’m not quite ready to give up on antiperspirant yet (baby steps )
Better Botanicals Jojoba clarifying scrub and Coriander balancing cleanser
biao beauty rejuvenating night crème
Dew Puff natural plant sponge
Favorite product this month: Birthed by earth lemongrass tea light – this smells AMAZING, just like lemon essential oil. I almost don’t want to burn it
Chandler Farms pomegranate hand crème – also smells amazing!
Medusa’s make-up lipstick
Greenbody tea tea and rosemary natural deodorant
Yarok hair paste
Molly Rose mint truffle lip balm
You can get your own beauty box for $19.95 a month. (I paid for these boxes with my own money and don’t receive any incentive for you purchasing one)
What subscription box services do you belong to?
Hey friends! I feel like my last couple FF’s have been a little heavier, so let’s talk about something a little lighter: local food! I’ve talked a lot about how important local food is to me and how we always try to support restaurants that source local food, but I don’t think I’ve ever spent the time breaking down why. So today, while I sit here dreaming about a beautiful Spring and visiting the farmer’s market, let’s chat about why locally grown food is so important:
It is fresher
Since local food doesn’t have to travel, it can be harvested the day you buy it or a few days before. You can buy it at its freshest and it will last longer when you take it home too.
It tastes better
Fresher = better taste
It is better for the environment
Less travel and shipping for the foods means less pollution, less wear on the roads, less fuel usage and more.
It supports the local economy
By buying local, you’re supporting local farmers, which helps stimulate the local economy. You also have the opportunity to speak directly with the farmer, giving you the ability to ask questions about how the food is grown and what pest/disease prevention methods are used. This can help with the next item…
It reduces questions
Remember when a lot people got sick from eating salad served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster? They were sourcing greens contaminated with salmonella from a farm in Mexico (who by the way has had 4 different recalls on their greens in the last 3 years) . When you eat local, you don’t have to worry about running to the fridge to check where your spinach came from and whether you’re affected by a recall. You already know where your food came from.
It gives you more choices
It wouldn’t make sense for a farm to ship 20 different varieties of apples across the country to your local grocery store every week. They sell a limited set of varieties that the most people will recognize. When you eat local, you have access to more variety and more unique choices you might not find normally.
Do you eat/buy local? What do you try to buy local? What’s your favorite locally sourced restaurant?
I told you one of my January goals was to read The Unhealthy Truth.
Since February’s nearly over, I better get to sharing my thoughts with you. The book covers Robyn O’Brien’s journey from serving her kids the normal, processed American diet to becoming an advocate for transparency in the food industry and better food for all. The book was incredibly informative, but definitely not a light read. It made me mad and frustrated and feeling like I still have so far to go in my real food journey. It’s a little heavy, but the information is oh so important! Here’s what I took away from the book:
I immediately quit soy
Like me, you’ve probably heard mixed things about soy. I’ve heard that it might lead to an increase in breast cancer, but other reports that its perfectly safe. Through O’Brien’s research, she found studies that show soy causes problems with women’s breasts and reproductive organs, can negatively affect the thyroid and may cause cancer. Exposure during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of reproductive issues and testicular cancer in males. Soy also blocks absorption of minerals and interferes with the digestion of protein. If those things aren’t enough, genetically modified soy can cause “chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and other digestion problems, as well as headache, lethargy, acne, eczema.” Those things alone are enough to make this long-time IBS, migraine and fatigue sufferer decide to immediately kick soy and replace it with almond water milk. There are some benefits to soy, but there has only (as of 2009) been one study of the effect of GM soy on humans. That study showed GM soy actually changes the DNA of bacteria in our digestive system and can affect the immune system. SCARY! Anything that alters my DNA (even just in the bacteria in my stomach) has me running the other way!
GMOs are even scarier than I thought
I’ve talked before about the concerns with GMOs, also known as genetically modified organisms. The major concern is that we simply don’t know how they will affect us long-term and there is no required safety testing for GM plants. There has only been the one test on humans (the one mentioned above), but the numerous studies on mice have been very concerning. We’re talking negatives effects on the liver, kidneys and pancreas, even death.
Nature has protections in place that keep different species from crossing. You can’t breed a horse and a chicken for example because their DNA is too different. The same is true of plants. GM engineering forces together DNA that would not be possible in nature, such as putting insecticide inside the corn so that releases as it grows or placing scorpion venom in tomatoes.
Sometimes science can be a wonderful thing and has certainly given us many blessings, but there are limits. I’m perfectly comfortable consuming a hybrid, such as grapefruit (which is actually a hybrid of a pomelo and sweet orange), but I’m not comfortable consuming something where animal and plant DNA have been crossed. Its just too unnatural for me.
I learned that Europe, as well as 60 other countries, have strong labeling laws that require any GM ingredients to be listed on food labels. Are they all just less advanced than us or are they right in being cautious and transparent? I say it’s the latter. I wish so badly that the US would get on board but unfortunately the food industry is doing everything it can to prevent that. Just take a look at this chart from Food Babe showing the previous fight over GM Labeling in California.
Follow the money
I could go on and on about all the surprising connections that O’Brien uncovered between the people who are supposed to be doing unbiased research on our health and the large, powerful food and drug companies who actually write their paycheck, but I’ll simply say that the government, Big Pharma and Big Food are far more connected than you realize. It can sometimes be difficult to find out who is footing the bill on grants and studies, but it often traces back to a large food corporation who wants to sell their product or a pharmaceutical company who has a vested interest in their drugs being needed. Can we trust studies that are ultimately paid for by the companies who have a profit to protect? Because of this, I believe that….
We aren’t getting all the facts
The omnipotent Monsanto has their hands in so much more than seed and pesticide production and they love to keep you from getting any potentially negative information about GM products. Just see the chart above. If GM seeds (Monsanto’s main product, along with the herbicide they sell to spray on said seeds) are as perfectly safe as they say they are, why did Monsanto spend over 1 million dollars to keep GMOs from being labeled in just one state?? Take this and the (often hidden) connection between government, the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry, its hard to believe that we are getting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Ultimately I can’t even scratch the surface of everything I learned from the book, but its already spurring me to make more changes with my food and in my home. O’Brien does an amazing job of presenting a heavy and sometimes shocking subject and it’s definitely worth adding to your reading list.
I’ve been trying something fun and new in my natural journey: experimenting with essential oils! They’re just another step in my (slowly moving) quest to remove harmful chemicals from my home and use more natural remedies. I’ve been having so much fun learning about all the different kinds and their different uses. Its hard to pace myself as I build my collection because I just want to buy all the different kinds right now.
When I first started buying essential oils, I thought they would be nice to put in my homemade laundry detergent and maybe make a few cleaning products. As I started researching them more, I realized they have infinite uses, especially as a replacement for traditional medicine and personal care. Essential oils have been used for centuries to treat ailments and are still widely used in other parts of the world as such.
You’ll be seeing more about essential oils on the blog in the future, so I wanted to start with an overview on what they are, what they do and how to use them.
What are they?
Essential oils are a concentrated liquid distilled from parts of plants (leaves, bark, flowers, seeds, etc.) Their medicinal use dates back to 3500 B.C. and possibly earlier (some sources say 18,000 B.C.).
How can they be used?
There are several ways to use essential oils. The most effect way to use is to inhale them, either directly from the bottle or by diffusing them in a diffuser. They can also be applied to the skin in various locations, but almost all oils should be diluted first with a carrier oil before applying them to the skin. They can also be taken internally, either in pill capsules, under the tongue or diluted in beverages. I won’t personally recommend that you take any essential oils internally, because I’m not a doctor. There are some amazing testimonials out there about people who have treated serious illness, even cancer, with the internal use of essential oils, but internal use is a controversial topic in the essential oil world, so that is something you’ll have to decide if you are personally comfortable with. There are some oils that should never be ingested under circumstances, so proceed with caution.
I will say, if you don’t feel an essential oil is high quality enough to ingest it (in theory, even if you won’t), you shouldn’t put it on your body. Your body absorbs things you put on your skin very well, so make sure you are putting only the highest quality oils on your skin and following instructions for proper dilution.
What are they used for?
Essential oils can be used for mood, for sleep, for illness, for injuries, for prevention and so much more. Any illness or discomfort you can name, there’s likely a useful essential oil to be found. They are also great for making natural cleaning products, natural bath, body and beauty products and making your house smell great without chemicals.
What should I look for when choosing a brand?
When I started buying essential oils, I thought any brand would do. Being frugal at heart, I looked for the least expensive because I love me a good deal. But as I explored ways to use them, I realized I needed to do more research if I would be putting them on my skin.
A few things to note:
There is no regulation on using “therapeutic grade” on essential oils. Anyone can label their oils that without any third-party testing required.
Purity or “100% pure” isn’t necessarily an indication of quality. More important is whether the oils have been adulterated, which includes adding chemicals, diluting a quality oil with a cheaper, lower quality oil or adding synthetic ingredients to make the oil smell stronger.
Look for a company that uses organic farming methods. Pesticides used on the plants can end up in your oils and you certainly don’t want to be inhaling those or absorbing them through your skin.
Since you can’t test oils for quality at home, choosing a good essential oil company requires a little research. A good essential oil company should be open about what farms their oils come from, the processes they use to grow and harvest, their distillation process and their internal quality control process.
Which ones should I start with?
I had a hard time narrowing them down, but these would be the three I would start with:
Lavender – great for dry or chapped skin, relaxation and stress, healing burns and irritations
Peppermint – useful for fatigue, easing tension and headaches or digestion
Lemon – helps with energy, digestion and is especially useful in cleaning and freshening
How do you use essential oils? Which are your favorites?
Hey friends! I’ve missed chatting with you lately! We’re smack dab in the middle of what shouldn’t be that busy of a time, but totally is. I’ve got so many things I want to share with you, but it seems like never enough time to do it! I wanted to check in with a quick Focus Friday and talk about something that drives me crazy!
Let’s talk about what the word “natural” means when you see it on your food (and also your health and beauty products). The very definition of natural is “existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind”. When we talk about natural, we usually think of things that are left in, or close to, their original state. They don’t have added chemicals or other man-made ingredients added. And they must be better for you right? BIG WRONG.
I bet you’ve seen some of these products on your grocery store’s shelves:
Tell me, have you ever seen a cheeto in nature?
Those fruit snacks contain corn syrup, mineral oil and even carnuaba wax (yes the same wax in both car wax and furniture polishes)
And just because you slap “natural” on a soda doesn’t make it any less of a chemical stew.
The chicken probably makes me angriest of all. Besides the MSG and GMO-laden breading, the chicken inside is filled with antibiotics and likely raised in horrible, unsanitary conditions.
The truth is, anyone can put natural on ANYTHING. There is no FDA regulation on the word natural. Yet companies put it on their products because they know it makes you feel like you’re making a healthier choice. Whether it says “natural”, “all natural” or even “100% natural”, it may still be filled with GMOs, growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and other junk. It makes me so angry that they purposely mislead people! That’s not to say that there aren’t some great products labeled as natural that truly are, but unfortunately its not something you can trust without doing a little more digging.
I think this cheeky video does a great job of summing it up:
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen the word “natural” on?
We visited Urban Table during KC Restaurant Week, a weeklong restaurant exhibition where restaurants offer a prix fixe menu with part of the proceeds going to various charities in KC. Urban Table offered one of the more extensive prix fixe menus, so we chose to visit them.
I loved the rustic burlap and metal décor.
The restaurant was extremely dark, but I tried to get the best pictures I could.
For our shared starter, we picked the trio of spreads with toasted bread, herb goat cheese, hummus and arugula pesto. The goat cheese and hummus were delicious, but the pesto had that arugula bitterness.
For the soup/salad choice, we both chose the potato soup. I would describe it as almost a bacon soup but it was superb.
I chose the chicken and dumplings for my entrée
and the husband went with the hanger steak and mashed potatoes.
he enjoyed his main course, but I found the chicken a little flavorless and dry. The mushroom gnocchi was delicious, which surprised this mushroom hater.
We ended with the bourbon bread pudding. I practically liked the caramel off the plate.
It wasn’t the best local place we tried, but it was definitely good enough to try again.
I was recently faced with a dilemma. If organic produce is not available or unattainable, is it better to eat conventional produce or none at all? For me, the answer is its better to eat some conventional produce than none at all, but it got me thinking about organic produce. Some will argue that its not worth the additional cost, but I disagree.
I went looking for some support on this. According to the USDA, pesticides on conventionally grown produce do not exceed governmental safety thresholds. But we also know that washing your produce can’t remove all traces of pesticides. The Mayo Clinic recommends you “select a variety of foods from a variety of sources. This will give you a better mix of nutrients and reduce your likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.” If they’re safe, then why do we need to limit how much we consume? The EPA tells us that “the health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide. Some, such as the organophosphates and carbamates, affect the nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may be carcinogens. Others may affect the hormone or endocrine system in the body.” Affects on hormones and increased cancer risk definitely concern me. They say they only allow pesticides that they are “reasonably certain” to not be harmful to humans to be used. That just isn’t enough for me. How many times have things been thought to be safe and later found to be harmful? I’m just not willing to take the risk.
Luckily there are ways to still avoid pesticides if you don’t want to spring for all organic produce.
These are the 12 items that have the most pesticides and the 15 that have the least. You can use this information to weigh which items you want to buy organic. (A note about corn: corn is something I won’t buy if its not organic since the majority of conventionally grown corn is GMO.)
Like I said at the beginning, sometimes I feel like getting produce into my diet is the most important thing, but I try very hard to at least buy organic versions of the dirty dozen to limit possible pesticide exposure.
Here are some ways to save on organic produce:
- Frozen organic fruits and vegetables are a good option because they are frozen at their peak freshness and can be cheaper than fresh. Especially when you’re buying things out of season.
- Buying things locally and in season will also save you cash, since they don’t have to be transported across the country.
- CSA’s are also a good way to save some money. We found that organic produce was a little cheaper when we bought a box through the CSA. Luckily our CSA lets you choose which items you want each week so we don’t get stuck with things we won’t use.
- Growing your own garden is also an amazing way to save on produce, since you can get a huge return on a small monetary investment. You get to control what kind of seeds and pest control you use, so you know exactly what’s on/in it.
Do you buy organic produce? Which items are most important to you to buy organic?
I’ve been on a hunt for a great natural beauty subscription box. I love getting surprises in the mail and I love being able to try new things without buying a bunch of products. But its been harder than I thought. First there were the Vitacost Be Boxes, which were amazing, but were discontinued. Then there was the Eco Emi subscription. The first one was good, but the next two were a let down, so I cancelled that one. Now I’m on to the Vegan Cuts Beauty Box, a monthly subscription box full of cruelty-free beauty products for $19.95.
My December box contained:
Pacifica Coconut Kiss cream lip butter
Soapbox black soap sample
Earth Science shampoo and conditioner sample
La Fresh face wipes
Everyday Minerals blush and finishing powder samples
Meow meow Tweet body tonic
Concrete Minerals eyeshadow
Color Club nail polish 4-pack
So far, I’m happy. It’s a good mix of samples and full size products, a good mix of both beauty and body. My January box should arrive in a few days, I’ll let you know if its as good as the first.
(This is not a sponsored post, I bought the box with my own money and I don’t receive anything for you ordering your own.)
I’m on a quest to remove all the toxic cleaners from our home. So when I needed to polish the cabinets, I decided to look for some natural solutions.
But first, let’s look at why I went hunting for a natural solution. Here’s your typical orange wood polish:
Look at all those chemicals! Just one of them, methylisothiazolinone, is known to cause irritation to the skin and eyes. That’s not exactly something I want to put in every room in my house!
A Google search turned up lots of recipes, but I wanted something simple, so I turned to coconut oil. I got a cheap jar, melted it in the microwave, grabbed a couple rags and tried it out.
It worked like a charm! It took minimal elbow grease and covered all but the worst of the scratches. (I’m embarrassed to show you the before, but I think it demonstrates how well it works nicely)
Its as easy as that! What natural solutions do you use around the house?
The other day my husband brought a box of something to me saying he didn’t think it was clean. This happens to be one of my favorite products and I was pretty sure I had properly vetted it, so I was surprised. He pointed out two ingredients he was concerned about: sodium bicarbonate and monocalcium phosphate. Sodium bicarbonate I know to be baking soda, but I had to take a second look at monocalcium phosphate. I know I had looked it up before, but I couldn’t remember what it was.
Turns out it’s a acid that is a leavening agent, that, when combined with sodium bicarbonate, makes baking powder. It appears to be generally accepted as safe, but as I dug in some more, I found something I had not previously known. Baking powder often contains cornstarch. This is a typical ingredient list for baking powder: corn starch, bicarbonate of soda, sodium aluminum sulfate, monocalcium phosphate.
You may know that corn is one of the largest GMO crops in the US and in nearly everything, so anything besides organic cornstarch is something I try to avoid. And there’s also the concern about aluminum that it can be irritating to the nervous system, as well as the eyes and the lungs.
I know it can be argued that it’s a very small amount, but take all those small amounts you consume in various foods, add them up and you suddenly have a large amount. So I’ll be making my own baking powder from now on to avoid GMOs. Here’s how:
1 part baking soda
1 part organic cornstarch
2 parts cream of tarter
So, just because something has a big long name, doesn’t necessarily mean its dangerous BUT even normal pantry staples deserve a second look, because sometimes they’re not exactly what you expect.