Monthly Archives: April 2018

Soap Dreams Beer Soap – Review

We were recently contacted by Jamie at Soap Dreams to see if we would like to sample her handmade Beer Soaps. Well, of course we would! Natural soaps are something I think we’re all still feeling out, trying to find a good one.

All the ingredients in the beer soaps are listed both on the soap packaging and on the website for each product. Why beer, you ask? In addition to it being a bit of a novelty, Soap Dreams states that using beer as a base for soap is great for cleansing, lathering, and moisturizing.

I know one of the ingredients we were all wondering about on the labels was ‘sodium hydroxide’ – in case you are also curious, according to Jamie at Soap Dreams, sodium hydroxide is actually the lye used in the soap making process. The final product no longer contains lye, as it is not left in the soap after it has cured for 4 weeks. I have seen this ingredient on other natural soaps before as well, and the same ‘note’ was attached… sodium hydroxide is not in the final product. Just in case you were wondering what that un-natural-sounding ingredient was. 😉

This soap comes in lots of yummy scents. There may be different therapeutic qualities to the different soaps as well. Some have said, for instance, that the charcoal beer soap is great for acne-prone skin. The plain beer soaps and the carrot beer soap do not contain fragrance oils, so they are safe for most people to use on their faces.

Jamie was generous enough to send each of us some samples of her handmade beer soaps to try. I’m a sucker for cute packaging, and I thought these little blue bows were a cute touch…

Here is my (Angie’s) review of the Beer Soap… I think this soap is great! It is definitely moisturizing, and it lathers GREAT. These soaps smell great, too. One other thing that I really noticed is that my full bar lasted a really long time. I wish I would have actually tracked how long the full bar lasted because it was pretty amazing. I used it every day in the shower, and I also used it on my face! (Even though my full-sized bar was Strawberry Rhubarb, I still used it on my face in the shower and didn’t have any issues). I had a smaller sample of the Carrot Beer Soap, and I used that on my face at the sink. In the daytime, I actually didn’t even need moisturizer after I used this to wash my face! Overall, I think these soaps are unique, good-for-you, and are great at lathering, moisturizing, and cleansing.

From April… I love this soap! I had the full bar of the Honeydew Melon to try. Oh, it smelled so good! It has such a light clean smell. At first I was using it really sparingly, just in my nighttime baths. I then started trying it on my face, thanks to Angie’s suggestion, and it worked well as a face wash too. It lathers really well and was moisturizing too. I would love to try the Carrot soap, which is supposed to be the best one for your face. The Honeydew Melon did not disappoint though!

From Shannon… I first tried natural soap about 6 months ago and I haven’t looked back. I thought I would have a difficult time transitioning from my typical Dove bar soap but I didn’t at all! The Curry Almond Beer Soap by Soap Dreams was so nice! It created a much better lather than any other natural soap I’ve tried. This particular scent also has little bits of almond in it so it’s great to use if you want to exfoliate a bit, too! 🙂

From Katie… Testing out the soap samples from Soap Dreams was the first time I had tried any sort of natural soap. Having said that, I didn’t think it would have much of a lather, but (as you’ve read above), it really does lather great and seems to be quite moisturizing. Here are some of my favs… The most fragrant one I tried was the Chamomile Beer Soap. I loved the flowery scent. There are some large bits of actual chamomile laced in the soap that I didn’t totally love, but other than that, I would say this was my favorite. The other really great scented one was the Cornmint and Green Tea Beer Soap – it smelled as if I was walking out of an aromatherapeutic spa after showering…ahhh! The soap that caught me by surprise a bit was the dark gray Bergamot Charcoal Beer Soap bar. My first thought was, “Um…I’m going to be bathing in charcoal???” And although the light gray tinted lather can be slightly off-putting for a soap, you get over it pretty quickly after smelling the fragrant bergamot essential oil. And, as I’ve learned from the product’s web page, bamboo-activated charcoal actually cleanses and moisturizes better! This definitely also ended up being one of my favs. 🙂

Thanks, Jamie, for letting us try your awesome soaps! If you are interested in purchasing Beer Soap from Soap Dreams, you can check out their retailers page to see if there is one in your area, or you can simply order from their website.

Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid – Review

When I first started switching over my cleaning products to more natural items, dish soap was one of the first things I tried to find. I clean our Vitamix every day with a few drops of dish soap, and I kind of used to freak out about rinsing every last sud out since I was making the kids smoothies in there daily! I didn’t want there to be any harmful dish soap residue in there!

Because it was at the grocery store (easily accessible) and it was reasonably priced, I tried this Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid.

This works great! It’s comparable to what I had been using previously. I like that the back says “Seventh Generation products, although not intended for consumption, aren’t poisonous.” It makes me feel a little better about using it on our dishes daily. I know we’ve mentioned it on our blog before, but Seventh Generation is a company that discloses all the ingredients on its product labels.

Although this has a better Health Score at GoodGuide than many mass-market brands, I think I will still keep looking because there are some alternatives that score much better. But until I can find something that is convenient to buy and reasonably priced, I am sticking with this for now!

Vitamix – Review

We’ve had our Vitamix for about 2.5 years, and we absolutely love it. I figured it was time I actually put together a review on it!

If you’ve ever looked at purchasing one, you know that these bad boys are pretty pricey. We have the Vitamix 5200, and we got it at Costco during a demonstration, so we saved $50 off the original price (this model is typically about $450).

While they are expensive, we use our Vitamix every single day! It came with a 7 year warranty and a 300+ page recipe book. Unlike some of the kitchen appliances made nowadays, this guy is here to stay!

If you don’t know what a Vitamix is, it’s a very high speed blender. We make smoothies, nut butters, soups, and frozen desserts (a frozen banana, Vitamix-ed? Tastes like ice cream!). You can make baby food purees, beverages, dips, sauces, salsas, dressings… the list goes on and on. You can use the variable speeds to create chunkier textures, or turn the speed to High to puree anything! If you’ve ever watched The Iron Chef or Chopped on the Food Network, chances are you’ve seen the Vitamix at work!

The reason we love the Vitamix is that it makes it so easy to consume fresh, raw fruits and veggies. If you make a smoothie with bananas and berries, it’s so easy to sneak in a handful of spinach and another handful of carrots (my kids’ favorite in the morning!). Even before lunchtime, I know they’ve had a few servings of fresh, healthy produce. Soups are a breeze as well – one of my favorites is Carrot Ginger soup, made in minutes.

Another awesome thing about the Vitamix is its clean-ability! When you’re done using it, you simply rinse it out, fill it back up with a few cups of fresh water, and add a drop or two of dishwashing soap. Then you simply turn it on High for a minute – I remember the guy at the Costco demo telling us that the Vitamix is its own dishwasher! Unlike a blender, there are no parts to disassemble, so cleanup is one of the best parts! You can check the Vitamix website if you want to read more about this great machine.

I know this guy is expensive, but it has been worth every penny to us. And it makes a great Christmas gift to ask for (or save up for)!!

HappyTOT Pouches and Happy Times Crazy Crunchies and Sunny Buddies – Review

A while ago, I posted about HappyBaby Greens Puffs, but since then I’ve come to realize there is a lot more to offer from this brand! I really enjoy the HappyTOT Pouches and Happy Times Crazy Crunchies and Sunny Buddies.

In regards to the HappyTOT Pouches, they carry some great fruit/veggie combos (which I love), but additionally, they include chia seeds (their registered variety is called Salba). I’ve just begun learning about these little “super grains,” but for those of you who don’t know, they are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. When mixed with water, chia seeds form a gel-like outer layer which aids in digestion and absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Although my son eats table food now, I will bring these pouches when on-the-go because I know they have a little more bulk and will leave him feeling satisfied. The varieties my son loves are apple and butternut squash as well as green pea, pear and pea. Because they’re organic, there’s no need to worry about GMOs or harmful additives.

My new favorite finds are the Crazy Crunchies and Sunny Buddies, both in the Happy Times family.

The Sunny Buddies are bite-sized pouches of sunflower butter and berry jam (pictured on the left). They taste just like mini peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, without the peanuts! (Yes, if you picked up on that, I’ve tried them! Yum!) 🙂 They are made mainly from shredded rice flour so they’re very light and dissolve quickly in your mouth – perfect for little ones.

Crazy Crunchies are freeze-dried carrot apple bits (pictured on the right). Although they look like mini Cheetos, they couldn’t be further from them! They contain all natural, organic ingredients and pack a very robust and flavorful punch. They’re definitely crunchy (hence the name), but like the Sunny Buddies, dissolve quickly when in your mouth (yup, tried these too!).

Both the Sunny Buddies and Crazy Crunchies are packed in individual pouches, great for on-the-go and portion control. I highly recommend these to moms trying to find convenient finger foods for their little ones. My 1-year-old loves them!

Wellshire Chicken Franks – Review

These are one of our favorite lunch items. They taste so good and are all natural, free of preservatives, nitrates, nitrites and antibiotics. I love that they only have 6 ingredients, chicken, water, sea salt, vinegar, evaporated cane juice, natural flavorings. This is a great lunch option to have on hand for kids!

The only downside is that they are extremely hard to find (not just in stores but even to get a good picture on this post…Angie, HELP!!). The Whole Foods I normally shop has them sometimes. The Whole Foods in Nora usually always carries them, it is just a bit harder to get there as often as the Whole Foods in Clay Terrace. So I stock up when I find them and freeze them. They are usually thawed out by lunch if I pull them out in the morning.

Wellshire Farms has lots of natural meat options, even a turkey frank, which we have also tried. We really like them both, but the chicken franks are our favorites. You can purchase them in bulk from their site if you don’t have a Whole Foods that is close to you. I even asked at the customer service desk at our Whole Foods about placing a special order through them and they told me it was not possible. These hotdogs are so yummy it is worth trying to find, buy and freeze them.

So keep your eye out for these as they are a yummy healthy alternative to the classic hotdog and kids love them! If anyone finds another or more convenient place that carries them regularly, please let me know.

Immaculate All Natural Chocolate Chunk Cookies – Review

My husband and I are suckers for some good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies once in a while. I came across a new break-and-bake brand the other day at Target called Immaculate Baking Co. They sell all-natural and organic cookie dough (among other refrigerated dough products like biscuits, scones and pie crusts).

Target also sells Ginger Spice and Vanilla Sugar cookie dough varieties. Let me tell you…they are delicious! Slightly embarrassed to admit, out of the 24 cookies in the package, I ate 9 all by myself right out of the oven! The ingredients include organic unbleached wheat flour, organic light brown sugar, organic palm fruit oil, chocolate chunks and chips, whole eggs, organic evaporated cane juice, organic invert cane sugar, vanilla, sea salt, baking soda and baking powder. Just the way I like it – all of the goods without the mess! 🙂

A little fun fact – the company gives back by donating art supplies, offering folk art workshops and holding “giant” bake sales, one of which set the Guinness record for baking the world’s largest cookie at 102 feet in diameter!

Thermos Vacuum Insulated Hydration Bottle – Review

I am a big water drinker. And when I’m heading out of the house, I love the convenience of grabbing a water bottle and being on my way. But as we’ve all heard, disposable water bottles create an abundance of waste and may leach potentially harmful chemicals into the water they contain. Now I’ve tried several different refillable water bottles but I always find something wrong with them. Ones made with BPA-free plastic still have a funny smell and taste to me. I know – I’m crazy! And most of the metal ones have awkwardly shaped, uncomfortable mouthpieces. After several attempts, I finally found a refillable water bottle I LOVE! It’s the Thermos Vacuum Insulated Hydration Bottle.

The container is metal and the top is plastic. The mouthpiece is perfect; it’s about the size of a disposable water bottle (maybe a little smaller). And when you are done drinking, you can flip the lid down to close the top and the mouthpiece is covered. (I don’t like exposed mouthpieces either. They can get dirty and you usually have to touch part of the mouthpiece to open it.) As a little added bonus, it’s insulated. So the water inside stays cold for hours.

If you’re in the market for a refillable water bottle, definitely check out Thermos. They have a ton of options; ones that please even the pickiest water drinkers. 🙂

Annie Chun’s Roasted Seaweed Snacks – Review

After posting my review on Annie Chun’s potstickers and mini wontons, I was contacted by the company and sent their Roasted Seaweed Snacks in Cracked Pepper & Herbs to try.

I had seen these little “green sheets” around the grocery store aisles more and more but hadn’t ever thought to buy them. I’m not much of a seafood lover and don’t particularly care for sushi. However, when presented with them (and willing to try pretty much anything), I couldn’t pass them up! They are all natural and contain only Korean seaweed, canola oil, sesame oil, salt, black pepper, spices and onion powder.

Pulling them out of the package, it’s evident how delicate they are. The texture is almost like crepe paper, but with a sheen. They’re hard to bite into…you almost have to tear it apart with your teeth. When you do get it into your mouth and the layers fold together, it’s actually quite chewy. They are a bit fishy, as was expected. I only cared to eat just one at first. Then they stayed in my pantry for a week or so, untouched. One day, I decided to try them again. And again…and again! I’m sure it was the seasoning that kept me going for more, but they didn’t even seem as fishy…it was the strangest thing!

So because they’re light, I know they’re not going to fill me up…but they do satisfy my “savory” craving. The packaging boasts of being “chock-full of vitamins and minerals to keep you going all day long.” Excited to read what’s contained in these healthy little green sheets, it only shows 25% of Vitamin C (in 10 sheets) and doesn’t mention any other vitamins or minerals. Thinking maybe the packaging didn’t allow for much space, I went online to see what other nutritional information they offered, but didn’t find any additional. 🙁 But hopefully they’re there!

At the end of the day, I feel more “cultured” for trying them, and am glad I ended up being pleasantly surprised. 🙂

Pillsbury Simply Chocolate Chip Cookies – Review

The kids are asleep. I’m sitting on my couch, sipping tea, and eating Pillsbury Simply Chocolate Chip Cookies. Ahhhh, life is good!

Have you heard of the Simply line from Pillsbury? There are Simply biscuits, cookies, and bread. They contain no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives and no high fructose corn syrup. The cookie package says, “made just the way you would make them at home”. They are delicious!! Not necessarily good for you but when you need a treat, this is a good option!

Wholly Guacamole – Review

My hubby and I LOVE guacamole. It’s one of our favorite things about going on vacation to Mexico, drinking Changuitas and eating authentic chips and guac by the beach. 🙂 I don’t tend to make it very often at home, though, because it goes bad so fast!! And most packaged guacamoles I’ve tried in the past have definitely not been delicious. That is, until I tried Wholly Guacamole!!

There are several things I love about this. First, it is REAL guacamole! The ingredients are minimal: avocados, jalapeno, onion, salt, and garlic. Secondly, these 100 calorie packs are great because you can just use one little packet without the rest going bad instantly and having to throw the entire container away. The little packs are great for dipping (we dip baby carrots a lot) or for opening and spreading (tacos, sandwiches, etc.).

Wholly Guacamole offers several varieties of guac, including Organic, Spicy, and others. Not all varieties come in the small packs, however. But I have bought a few other varieties, and they’ve all been delicious.

I get these at Super Target, and very often they have several varieties in stock except the 100 calorie packs. I think everyone loves the convenient packs. But when I can find them, I stock up on a few boxes because they can be frozen and used later. Delish!

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