Saturday, January 10, 2009

absence makes the heart grow fonder

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I have posted here. Not that I haven't thought about it. Life just gets in the way sometime. My desire to get back to this blog has been fueled by the fact that people still stumble upon it, read it, and make fabulous comments. I have many things brewing for this little blog. I just recently had a baby (within the past week) and once our routine gets established I plan to be a little more active here. So rest assured that I will be back very soon. In the meantime, please keep reading and commenting!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

rethinking the blog

It's been a while since I've posted here. Not that I haven't wanted do. I've been re-thinking the format of this blog for a while. In its current form, it feels disorganized to me. So I am planning a complete overhaul. It will likely take a couple of months for me to get it up and running. I'm aiming for a spring re-launch. Please come back and check on me then.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

it's not easy being green...

I just listened to a fantastic edition of the CBC's Listener's Choice podcast. It's an interview with Michael Pollan, an award winning writer of books and articles on "places where the human and natural worlds intersect: food, agriculture, gardens, drugs, and architecture. " (Quote taken directly from his bio.) In this particular interview he speaks about the organic food industry. I found him absolutely riveting. It's obvious that this guy knows his stuff and he's able to deliver the findings of his research in a calm, rational, seemingly unbiased way. If you have any interest at all in organic food I urge you to listen to this podcast. (It is the November 23rd edition.) It certainly cleared up a few misconceptions for me and further reiterated the fact that we as consumers have the power to influence what happens in the food industry.

Note: I have cross-posted this entry to my other blog, ramble on.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

facial cleansers

I've been test driving a few facial cleansers over the past couple of months. Here's the rundown.

Green Beaver Aloe Gel Cleanser
According to the package, this product "Does not contain harsh detergents, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), methyl or propylparaben (preservatives), artificial fragrances, dyes, petrolatum, propylene glycol or animal products." Since this is a Canadian company, I wasn't surprised when I didn't find it on Skin Deep. But thanks to their new user tool I entered the ingredients myself and it came out with a fantastic 1 out of 10. I was very happy with this result because I LOVE THIS CLEANSER. It's perfect for my combination skin. Not drying at all but very effective on the oily areas. It has a beautiful grapefruit, lemon scent and we all know that I'm a sucker for citrus. The best part is that a little goes a long way. A dime sized squeeze is enough to clean my entire face and neck, including mascara. I will definitely be buying this again. I paid $13.99 for it at Goodness Me.

Alba Organics Hawaiian Pineapple Enzyme Facial Cleanser
I bought this one before I discovered Skin Deep. Unfortunately, it gets a 5 out of 10 rating. It contains polyparaben. It does clean well and smells lovely but is not safe for the eye area, as I found out when I tried to use it to remove my eyeliner and mascara. Wow, does it ever sting! For this reason (and the polyparaben), I probably won't be buying it again. I am frankly too lazy to use both an eye makeup remover and a cleanser so I need cleanser that is safe on the eyes. I bought this one for $12.99 at Goodness Me.

Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash
Now this one is interesting. I was thrilled to see that it received a 1 out of 10, low hazard rating on Skin Deep. Some of the package claims include: "No animal ingredients or testing. No alcohol, detergents, artificial color or synthetic perfumes." Excellent! Actually, not so much. The cleanser is incredibly watery, making it impossible to use with your bare hands. So you'll need to have a washcloth or one of those pouf things. The tea tree aroma is completely overwhelming. I actually choked and coughed the first time I used it. And it's incredibly drying which is fine on my oily forehead but not great for the rest of my face. I think I'll pack this one away until the hot summer months when my skin gets really greasy. But even then, I definitely won't be using it everyday. Unfortunately I can't recall where I bought it or how much it cost.

Avalon Organics Hydrating Lavender Toner
Ahh how I love lavender! The fragrance of this toner is beautiful. Unfortunately, it doesn't rate will on Skin Deep with a moderate, 4 out or 10 rating. Out of all of the toners/astringents on the site, 64% score better than this one. The main culprit is salicylic acid. It does work well though. Oddly enough for a toner, it is hydrating. Most toners completely dry out my skin so I don't use them very often. But this one does clear up the oil while not leaving my skin dry. Still, I think I will try a few more. I picked this one up at Whole Foods for $8.99

Sunday, October 28, 2007

these apples are delicious...

This summer, Steve and I took our first serious foray into organic produce. We purchased a half share of produce from Plan B Organic Farms. Since the beginning of June, we have been enjoying an incredible array of fresh and tasty organic fruits and vegetables.

This was really a huge step for us. Steve and I are both very bad at consuming balanced meals. Protein? No problem! Load us up with meat and cheese and we are happy campers. Throw a salad in front of us and we go out for chicken wings. So committing to a weekly supply of fresh veggies was huge.

I'm proud to report, that we have done pretty well. Much better than I expected. I can't say that we have consumed everything before it became too wilted or moldy to eat, but we tried harder to not throw out too much. Partly it was the psychological aspect of paying a rather large sum of money up front ($450 for 20 weeks) rather than a few bucks every week. But the bigger reason was that this stuff tasted so much better than what we bought in our local grocery store. Flavours were more intense and everything seemed so much fresher.

These tomatoes actually tasted like tomatoes rather than cardboard. I can't remember the last time I ate a store bought tomato that had flavour. Steve borrowed a recipe from our friend Samantha in Regina. He chopped up the tomatoes, put them in a casserole dish, threw in some olive oil and fresh herbs and baked it in the oven. What emerged was delicious, roasted tomato goodness that we ate with pasta. (Thanks Sam!)

I'm not much of a raw carrot eater, but these carrots along with some sweet potatoes and onions (from the first picture) made a delicious soup.

Perhaps the yummiest peppers ever! Slightly sweet with a bit of heat. Steve sliced them, stir fried them with some garlic and when these were cooked, added a few spoonfuls of sour cream until heated through. Yummy!

And by the way, the organic garlic we received (see first picture) is the best garlic ever!!! So intensely flavourful.

Time to head back into the kitchen. These apples are about to become apple crisp.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

lip service

I'm a lip balm junkie. Always have been. So I decided to pull a few of my favourites out of the bathroom drawer to see how the rate on Skin Deep.

Bad news. Carmex came in at an awful 7 out of 10 with phenol and salicylic acid as its major hazards. Health Canada lists phenol as a prohibited ingredient in cosmetics. Salicylic Acid is a restricted ingredient on Health Canada's list. Both ingredients are associated with carcinogenic and developmental/reproductive toxicity issues. Enough for me to stay away from the Carmex.

Rosebud Strawberry Lip Balm and Moisturizer
I picked this up at Sephora a while back and fell in love with it. It really moisturizes and softens my lips. And it has a yummy strawberry flavour. Not that I eat it on purpose, but you can't help but taste it when it's on your lips. I was thrilled to discover that it rated 1 out or 10 on the Skin Deep website. I'm happy to not be throwing this one in the trash!

C.O. Bigelow The Classic Rose All Purpose Salve
I love this one! Unfortunately, I can't buy this one in Canada. I picked this up at Bath and Body Works in Chicago. It's similar to the Rosebud but with more of a lip gloss texture. Slightly more goopy and with more shine. This one wasn't rated on the Skin Deep site so I ran it through the new function that allows you to rate products that are not currently unrated. It also did really well, rating at a low hazard level with a score of 1 out of 10.

Philosophy Empower Mint Lip Shine
This is another one that I bought at Sephora. A great lip gloss that is very moisturizing. And with a great minty scent. This wasn't rated on the Skin Deep site so I plugged in the info. It ended up with a 3 out of 10 and a moderate hazard rating.

Recently I picked up 2 new lip products at Whole Foods.

Green Beaver Apres Ski Winter Lip Balm
My new favourite! It's incredibly long lasting and gives my lips a beautiful shine. And it's highly moisturizing. I ran it through Skin Deep and it came out with a score of 1 out of 10. Excellent! And it's made in Canada! (I've picked up a couple of other products from this company that I will review in future posts.)

Badger Tangerine Breeze Lip & Body Balm
A great daily lip balm with a yummy flavour. It also works really well under lipstick. I have very dry lips and find that lipsticks last longer on me with a layer of lip balm underneath. I went with the tangerine because of my love of citrus but it also comes in Chai Rose, Cinnamon Bay, Ginger & Lemon, Highland Mint and Lavender & Orange. It is also a low hazard product with a rating of 1 out of 10 at Skin Deep.

So there are a lot of great lip balm options out there that are safe and work well. Even though I have a few in my stash that I love, I'm sure it won't stop me from testing others...

Monday, September 24, 2007

who told you to put the balm on?

Thanks to a problem disc in my neck, I suffer from regular aches and pains in my neck, shoulders and back. Thankfully regular visits to the massage therapist and ART practitioner keep me relatively pain free. But once in a while, between these appointments, I have a bad day where I need some sort of relief. Pills don't usually work so I had been using an analgesic gel instead. Well, my pain relief of choice is full of parabens so I went looking for an alternative. I'm very happy to have found this.

Made by the W.S. Badger Company, this is the Badger Sore Muscle Rub. I've been dealing with a rotten cold for about a month now and have spent many sleepless nights coughing. As a result the muscles in my mid-back have been driving me nuts. I had my husband apply some before bed one night and when I woke up the next morning, the pain was gone. Ever the sceptic, I tried it again a week later when my right neck and shoulder were seized up from too much time on the computer. Again, the muscles loosened and the pain was gone. This stuff rocks! And check out the ingredients list:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Castor Oil, Beeswax, Extracts of Ginger, Rosehip & Cayenne, and Essential Oils of Rosemary, Ginger, Thyme, Sage, Cardamom & Lemon Grass.

I know what all of those things are! It's natural and it works. What more could one ask for?

I picked it up at Whole Foods in Oakville for $12.99.

so what's the deal with parabens?

In my search for safer cosmetics, I have noticed a lot of products, shampoos and conditioners mostly, advertising that they are paraben free. So what are parabens and why would I rather be without them?

Parabens are a group of preservatives added to beauty products to keep them from growing bacteria and to increase their shelf life. They are widely used in the cosmetic industry because they are cheap and have, until recently, been considered safe. Recent studies have linked parabens to increased estrogen levels and increased risks of breast cancer. This recent article in the Chicago Tribune gives a brief but good summary. So while concerns are rising over parabens, the US FDA has stated that consumers do not need to be concerned.

The way I see it, if a few studies have shown links between parabens and breast cancer, there will probably me more. So I picked out a couple of paraben-free shampoos & conditioners to test them out.

Avalon Organics has a range of skin, body & hair care products including a baby line. They are a company committed to producing quality products using safe ingredients. Their shampoos are made without the use of parabens or sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates.

I purchased two shampoos and one conditioner. The Peppermint Revitalizing Shampoo has an intense peppermint scent and tingles on the scalp. I find that it works especially well when my hair gets a bit greasy or when my scalp is really itchy. The Ylang Ylang Glistening Shampoo is also very aromatic and cleans really well. I can't say that my hair appeared shinier than usual, but I am blessed with healthy, moderately shiny hair so I don't really need a lot of help in that department.

The Clarifying Lemon Conditioner is excellent. I'm a sucker for a good citrus scent and this one is beautiful. And I found that I didn't have to use very much, just a quarter size dollop on my long hair, to get a great conditioning effect.

I also picked up a bottle of Burt's Bees Super Shiny Grapefruit & Sugar Beet Shampoo. Burt's Bees is an earth friendly company that specializes in natural beauty products. This shampoo is paraben sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate and phthalate free. The scent is lovely and quite sweet and it left my hair squeaky clean and shiny.

The only thing I had difficulty with all three shampoos was the lather, or lack thereof. I guess this has something to do with the lack of chemicals in the formulation but at first it was very weird to not have a head full of lather. With the Burt's Bees in particular, I found I had to use a lot more than I normally would to get a decent lather. For that reason alone, I probably won't buy the Burt's Bees again. The lather problem was not as bad with the Avalon Organics shampoos and I found that after a couple of months of using them, I got used to the reduced lather.

As for the cost, the Avalon Organics products were $8.99 at Whole Foods in Oakville and $7.49 at Goodness Me in Burlington. I picked up the Burt's Bees at Shopper's Drug Mart for $10.99. Since my hair is just as clean and healthy as before, I've decided to stick with paraben free shampoos and conditioners and look forward to trying other brands.


Those who know me, know that I love chocolate. On a recent trip to Goodness Me, I picked up a bar of Green & Black's Organic Chocolate.

After much debate, I opted for the caramel, milk chocolate combination. I couldn't wait until I got home to give it a try so I sat in my car, broke off a square and popped in my mouth. Although sweet, the chocolate had a bit of a salty taste, that seemed to really intensify the flavour of the caramel. It was fantastic! As I sampled a second square, I flipped over the wrapper to find that they actually do use a bit of sea salt in it. Interesting!

As for the organic side, this chocolate meets the Soil Association's standards for organic food and farming. The Soil Association is the UK's leading campaigning and certification organization for organic food and farming. The 100 g bar set me back $3.99 which is perfectly reasonable for the quality of this delicious chocolate. Can't wait to try the other flavours...

EDIT: An eagle-eyed reader wisely commented that I failed to mention that Green and Black's products are Fair Trade, which basically means that the farmers in developing country receive a fair price for their goods. This is a key movement in helping people in developing countries improve the standard of living and make them economically self-sufficient. Thank you to the reader for pointing out my error.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

laundry soap roundup

Over the past few months, I have been testing three different laundry soaps that are readily available in my area. I'm pleased to say that I am happy with all three although I have made the decision to stick to one particular brand. Here's the summary.

I focused on the Arm & Hammer Essentials Powerful Natural Laundry Detergent and the Nature Clean All Natural Laundry Liquid in earlier posts so I'll talk a bit about the Method Laundry Detergent. This one is compatible with the new High Efficiency washers that are now readily available. The bottle is tiny, which means less waste, but I wasn't sure it would actually last the 32 loads it claimed to on the bottle. But it did, and it did a great cleaning job as well. I tried the unscented one, called "free + clear" but there are also a couple of scented varieties and a baby formulation.

In the end, I have decided to make the Nature Clean my detergent of choice for a few reasons. First, it is readily available in the grocery store I normally shop in. Second, out of the three I tried it probably had the best cleaning results, although it was really close. Third, it is made by a Canadian company and I am trying very hard buy as locally as I can.

As for price (in Canadian dollars), the Nature Clean is $12.99 and claims 52 loads. The Arm & Hammer is $5.69 for 32 loads and the Method is $9.99 for 32 loads.

So that will wrap up my quest for a green laundry detergent...for now. I still intend to try other products as I discover them. But for now, I'm happy with the outcome.