#JivaOrganics Organic Whole Cloves Review + Russian Tea Recipe

Russian Tea with Jiva Organics Organic Whole Clove

As temperatures drop and the leaves start to change, I always get a craving for warming spices like cinnamon, cloves, etc. So when Jiva Organics offered to send me their Organic Whole Cloves to review, I knew exactly which recipe I would use to test them! Russian tea has been a holiday tradition in my family for years and has as many variations as there are women in my family. Keep reading for my recipe (a great way to use Jiva Organics Whole Cloves!), which is also great ready in the fridge to help ward off fall/winter colds.

Product Features:

  • USDA Certified Organic Whole Cloves
  • Small, family business in the USA
  • All natural with no artificial flavors or preservatives
  • Available on Amazon
Russian Tea

Russian Tea

Russian Tea Recipe:

1 T. Jive Organics organic whole cloves
2 large cinnamon sticks
8 c. cold water
18 black tea bags
4 c. boiling water
1/4 c. organic sugar
3 lemons, juiced
2 oranges, juiced
1/3 c. orange juice with pulp Continue Reading…

#OldFactory Candle Gift Set Review + Giveaway!

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I have a love-hate relationship with scented candles — I love the smell and look of a beautiful candle burning but I know that “normal” scented candles release chemicals that aren’t the best for me to be inhaling and can give me headaches. I was very excited when Old Factory offered me the chance to review one of their soy candle gift sets. Keep reading to find out if they were up to my standards!

Old Factory Candle Gift Set - Happy Holidays

Old Factory Candle Gift Set – Happy Holidays

Product Features:

  • 2 oz candles hand poured with natural soy wax
  • Self trimming cotton candle wicks
  • Burns cleanly and evenly for 20 hours per candle
  • Each gift pack comes with 3 different scents around a theme so there’s a perfect set for every occasion:
    • Fall HarvestPumpkin Spice, Cranberry, Autumn Leaves
    • Happy HolidaysChristmas Tree, Candy Cane, Gingerbread
    • Winter WonderlandHot Cocoa, Roasted Chestnut, First Snow
    • RomanceRose Petals, Champagne, Dark Chocolate
    • Fresh & CleanLemongrass, Olive Blossom, Fresh Linen
    • Spa DayCucumber, Lemongrass, Green Tea
    • VacationSea Breeze, Hawaiian Lei, Awapuhi
    • Coffee ShopCoffee Bean, Hazelnut, Chai Tea
    • Man CaveStraight Razor, Leather, Mahogany
    • High as a KiteCannabis, Incense, Bag O’ Cookies
    • New Born BabyBaby Powder, Baby Shampoo, First Blanket
    • 50 ShadesLeather, Vanilla, Jasmine Bubbles
  • Made in the USA
  • Every purchase is 100% satisfaction guaranteed by Old Factory
  • Gift wrapping available

Continue Reading…

Vegan Weightlifting (Part 2)

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If you are a “Summer weightlifter” who only works out to look good on the beach for 2 months out of the year, this is probably not for you. I live, eat and work out in order to look and feel great every day of the year, rain or shine.

There is no end to diet advice and information that you hear from people at the gym, friends, assorted magazines and websites. A common theme that you will undoubtedly hear about when discussing weight lifting is protein. Weightlifters have an absolute obsession with protein. One of my favorite things to do at the gym is to listen to someone who looks dreadfully unhealthy tell me about diet. I don’t really care if you could life more weight than me, you still look like a heart attack waiting to happen and the advice that you are all too willing to share about food is awful. They will generally start telling me about “high quality proteins”, namely meats. When someone starts talking about high quality proteins, it sounds so good right? Who doesn’t like high quality things? Except these high quality proteins are more of a marketing gimmick from meat and dairy producers than actual realities.

One argument that I’ve heard that makes people think that meats have “higher quality” proteins is that they have a higher bioavailability. Again, sounds like a good thing at first. What it really means is that meats force your body to use these proteins, regardless of whether or not it actually needs them. While plant proteins have lower “bioavailability”, they are utilized by the body much better in places and ways that the body actually needs them. Complete proteins are the important kind, and you can get tons of them from non-animal sources. As a couple of quick examples, peas are a complete protein in themselves, and combining rice and beans has been a fantastic way that people have consumed complete proteins for thousands of years. The beauty of these plant based proteins is that they come without the cholesterol, saturated fats, hormones or antibiotics while still doing the same job or better.

Eating 1000 grams of protein each day will NOT get you big or help you lift more weight. It will, however, probably make your stomach feel pretty crappy, leave you constipated and have long term damage to your kidneys. All you need is enough protein to help your body recover, which is a lot less than the gym “experts” will try to push for. You only need about 50-70 grams a day. If you think this is a hard number to attain on a vegan diet, I eat about 30+ grams of protein with my morning oatmeal and nuts breakfast each day. And that’s just for breakfast. Just about every vegetable and grain has a considerable amount of protein, which really adds up at the end of the day.

Something the gym buddies don’t seem to know is that carbs are actually much more important than protein when trying to gain size and strength. You body is much more capable of processing carbs than protein, and when you want to add size the best way to do so is by eating a lot more carb calories. I’m not talking about white pasta and I’m definitely not talking about Twinkies. A carb does not equal a carb so to speak. Complex carbohydrates are by far the best thing to give you good sustainable energy that will allow you to perform at your peak in the gym, and thus yield the best results. Foods like oatmeal, brown rice, barley, quinoa, farro and bulgar wheat are all fantastic sources of complex carbs. They will not spike your glycemic levels and they have a lot of much needed fiber (and protein too). Eating scrambled eggs before the gym is a good way to puke, but eating oatmeal leaves me feeling great and ready to lift!

Try changing your diet just for a couple of weeks and see how you feel while working out. Let me know if you feel any changes in your mood or energy level and how your workouts go!

Azara Organics Organic #Seaweed Facial Mask and Body Wrap Review

Azara Organics Organic Seaweed Facial Mask & Body Wrap


I recently received Azara Organics Organic Seaweed Facial Mask & Body Wrap to review. What is an Organic Seaweed Facial Mask & Body Wrap? The only ingredient is USDA certified organic kelp powder harvested from the Atlantic Ocean (Ascophyllum Nodosum if you want to get all fancy about it). I can definitely get on board with 1 ingredient products!

Mixing up the facial mask

Mixing up the facial mask

I used the powder to make a facial mask. All you do is mix 1 t. of the seaweed powder with 2 teaspoons warm water and stir. You can also add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil if you find the seaweed smell to be too strong. The mask did smell like seaweed but not in a bad or overpowering way. It actually reminded me of the bay side on Cape Cod when the tide goes out — very relaxing memories.

Apply to your face, leave on for 10-15 minutes, and rinse off. Simple and Easy!

Facial mask in action...

Facial mask in action…

The mask made my skin feel nice and smooth and it was very fun to be able to have a little spa indulgence during pregnancy when so many products are off limits. I will definitely be using the facial mask again and am excited to try the body wrap, although I made need hubby’s help with that one.

Bottom Line:  I would get this product again! Want to get your own? Azara Organics Organic Seaweed Facial Mask & Body Wrap is available on Amazon.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Graze Nibblebox Subscription Box Review: October 2014

Graze Subscription Box - October 2014

My hubby is a big eater (see Hungry Man’s Vegan Oatmeal Recipe for his idea of a ‘light’ breakfast…) so I thought trying some of the many snack and food subscription box options was in order. I found a coupon code to get our first (and fifth!) box free with no commitment and that convinced me to give Graze Nibblebox a try. Keep reading for your own coupon code!

Overview:

Graze boxes can be scheduled weekly or biweekly to your home or office, depending on personal preference. Boxes are $6.99/month, including shipping. The package fits in your standard size mailbox so you don’t need to worry about being home to receive the delivery. Each box is a surprise but you have a lot of control over what goes in. Before your first box arrives, log in to your Graze account and you can “trash” any products that you don’t like or that don’t work with your dietary needs (i.e. vegan). Choose “Unsuitable for Vegans” under dietary preferences to trash all snacks containing animal products at once.

October Box Contents:

Our box contained 4 snacks:

  • Fruit and Seed Flapjack
  • Salsa Corn Chips
  • Trail Mix
  • Punchy Protein Nut

Snack Reviews and Coupon Code: Continue Reading…

Vegan Weightlifting (Part 1)

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When one thinks about weightlifting, perhaps a vegan diet is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, I can attest that it can certainly, and successfully, be done!

If I were to talk about diet with my weightlifting friends or with a random person at the gym, I would hear a lot about whey protein shakes, chicken breast, fish, etc. The common theme is always protein, protein, protein! It’s the weightlifting version of Marsha from the Brady Bunch, and just as dramatic too. Protein is the holy grail of the common weightlifter, the elixir of life. All must bow before the almighty protein! That said, they generally don’t know much else about nutrition or how it works, so the concept of not eating meat while weightlifting is as farfetched an idea as Wile E. Coyote catching the Roadrunner.

One thing to remember is that most weightlifters are paradoxically not very concerned with health. Most of them either just want to “be big” or “bench 3 plates” (sometimes, but far from always, both). I personally started working out way back when because I wanted to look and FEEL good. Feeling good, to me at least, was synonymous with being healthy since that’s probably the best way to feel good. I too went through the protein to the max stage, but for me it was only a stage and a foundation to learn more and more about nutrition. Back in my copious meat eating days, I would eat approximately 200 grams of protein or more each day. Did I notice any major increase in strength or size? Honestly no I did not. I also tried drinking various whey protein shakes. With the protein shakes, I noticed one thing immediately; they made my stomach feel like a rebel conflict just broke out in it. Anything that makes my stomach feel like that is just not something I am interested in- no matter how much protein it contains. I stopped drinking those, and “shockingly” I didn’t notice the slightest difference in either my appearance or how much weight I could lift. My stomach did feel a lot better though. The bloated weightlifter is just not the look I was going for.

Continue Reading…

Paper & Twine Liquid Chalkers Review

Paper & Twine Liquid Chalkers

I recently received Paper & Twine Liquid Chalkers to review and (spoiler alert) I couldn’t be happier with them! I’ve been meaning to pick up chalk pens for awhile now to update our kitchen organization and use for some holiday crafts and baby-to-be DIY projects.

Product Overview and Features:

  • 6mm Chisel Tip (write thin or thick lines)
  • Includes 8 bright colors: green, purple, red, orange, pink, yellow, blue, white
  • Can use on any non-porous surface (always test first) such as glass, mirrors, ceramics, and of course, chalkboards!
  • Dust-free on non-porous surfaces
  • Wipes off easily with a damp cloth or tissue

How to Use:

Shake the chalker and depress the tip of the chalker several times until ink flows into the tip. With colored chalkers, this is very easy and obvious to see.

Liquid Chalkers in Use:

The first test I put the Paper & Twine Liquid Chalkers to was updating the labels on our baked goods — I have chalkboard labels and have been using regular chalk, which is hard to write with and always getting smudged off. Check out the before and after! Continue Reading…

Walmart Baby Box Subscription – Second Trimester Review (October 2014)

Walmart Baby Box - Second Trimester

At 25 weeks, I’m nearing the homestretch of my second trimester and getting a little over-excited for all things baby so I was super excited to receive my Walmart Baby Box – Second Trimester in the mail this week.

How It Works:

The Walmart Baby Box is a FREE subscription box for Mama’s-to-be (you do pay $5 shipping each time).  Boxes ship every 3 months – one for each stage of pregnancy and babyhood. You can choose a boy, girl, or unisex box. I chose the gender neutral box. Is it worth the shipping costs? Read on to find out!

What’s In the Box:

  • NUK Orthodontic Pacifier (0-6 months)
  • ALL laundry detergent and dryer sheet samples (Free & Clear)
  • Lansinoh breast milk storage bags and nursing pad samples
  • Pampers sensitive wipes and newborn diaper sample in diaper pouch
  • Assorted coupons (NUK, Little Remedies, Dreft, etc.)

Continue Reading…

Why We’re Not Finding Out the Sex of Our Baby Before the Birth

Bambi, Flower, Thumper

When you tell people that you’re expecting, it seems the first question is always “Do you know if the baby is a girl or boy yet?”. And when we share that we’re waiting to find out until baby makes his/her grand entrance into the world, we get one of two responses:

“Awesome!”, “Good for you!”, “That’s what we did!” or similar

OR

“Whyyyyy?!?!?” which is quickly followed with “How will you decorate the nursery?” (We’re not having one) and “What about the name?” (We’ll pick out options for each, not so hard) and my personal favorite “Isn’t it driving you completely CRAZY not to know? Don’t you want to know? How can you not want to know?!?” (No, we’re okay with this, but clearly you could use a glass of wine after hearing our news…).  So for those of you wondering “Whyyyy?!?!?”, here is why waiting to find out was the right choice for us:

Ultrasounds Are Still Educated Guesses

Ultrasound technology has come a long way over the years but even now, they can still lead to the wrong gender prediction. Everyone knows at least one person who was supposed to have (or be) a girl/boy but got quite a surprise in the delivery room.

Babies Do Not Care About Pink v. Blue

Beautifully decorated nurseries are more for the parents than the baby, at least at first. Our nursery is half of our master bedroom, meaning it needs to be something both hubby and I can live with on a daily basis. Pale yellow and sage work with our white furniture and current bedspread/curtains/rug and scream “baby” a lot less than a pepto-bismol or blueberry explosion over half the room. If the gender is not known, it prevents well meaning friends and family from gifting us with large quantities of pink or blue “stuff”, at least for now.

We Want More Than One Kid Continue Reading…

The Most Important Trait to Going Vegan

Cat with Sombrero

This is how some burned potatoes taught me the most important trait to have in order to eat a vegan diet, or any diet for that matter.

Some people might say that perseverance, will power or determination is the most important personal trait to have in order to finally switch over to a vegan diet. I say that the most important trait is something much simpler… and perhaps unexpected.

A sense of humor. That’s right, the most important trait to have in order to be able to successfully change diets is a sense of humor. Persevering is important, will power is wonderful, and being determined is great! However, those qualities fall short long term. Fad diets all run on them and seem to make good headway initially but in the end utterly fail. Here is their downfall: they all require a lot of effort and force. Force has a limited ability to make things happen and while force is fantastic for temporary changes, something much more powerful is required to really make an impact.

This is where a sense of humor comes in. Humor is effortless. Humor has powers that all the exertion in the world cannot rival. Laughter can turn a “trying” experience and into an enjoyable one, even though the events stay the same. When we want to make changes in our lives, they CAN be stressful, hard and frustrating but there is no commandment that states that it has to be. A sense of humor can turn changes in our lives into adventures that are delightful, exciting and a lot of fun.

I think a lot of vegans and striving vegans take themselves way too seriously. Lighten up. If you are trying to switch to a vegan diet and are having a hard time with it or are afraid to try it because of all the things that you will have to do without, try finding the humor in all of it. There is so much humor in the world of food that you will never run out of things to amuse you. I recently saw pre-cut, pealed and packaged avocados in my local supermarket that really tickled me. Even the daily setbacks and struggles are rife with silliness. Take the following example:

A couple of weeks ago I tried making a potato dish that my wife likes for dinner. Despite my best efforts, I must admit that I thoroughly messed up and destroyed the dish. I’m not saying it was just not that good or that it could have been a little better. I felt bad for the garbage can to have to hold this atrocity! Completely inedible. So as a stubborn male, what do I do? I try again! And this time I made something we can eat… although barely. To my horror, in my haste and rashness I ended up replicating my mistake from round one. Now I mess up meals maybe a couple of times in a year tops so twice in one night nearly blew my mind. Luckily for me, I have an amazing supportive wife who just laughed about it and after a couple of self-deprecating jokes had me laughing too. Continue Reading…