Monday, July 22, 2013

27 Weeks & Gluten-Free, Vegan Chocolate-Covered Pretzels

Well someone has been doing some growing since the last time I posted! Now although I'm just 27 weeks, I'm starting to feel a bit big in the belly department. I can't complain too much though, I feel great and after a visit with our midwife last week, Mila seems to be doing great as well.

This week's photo background: This week's photo background is at the clubhouse of a local lake. I've always thought the aged and weathered shingles looked pretty cool, so they were a must-have for this belly shot project.

An old-shingled wall at a clubhouse for a local lake.

The lake. 
Usually Avery is pretty content just to see the lake and venture out onto the dock, but as we were walking back, a guy who worked for the water patrol asked if we wanted to help feed the fish. We figured he was referring to the tiny little fish we saw swimming a few minutes before. But the second he threw the food into the water, a group of massive catfish came to the dock!

Avery was very excited and gladly started throwing fish food into the water...

Feeding the fish with Dad.

Here's two of the biggest fish we!

Sometimes the fish would get so excited they would splash
around and get Avery wet.  She didn't complain one bit!

Can you tell she took her job very serious?

We wrapped off our "belly bump adventure"
with a little bit of swing time.
I love the memories we're making with these bi-weekly photo shoots!

Questions of the week:

1. How big is the baby (with Avery's help)?

Cauliflower seems pretty fitting for the baby size this week...finally a food that seems as big as I feel or at least how big Mila feels. 

"Wow, that's pretty big."

"Well, I can't throw it so I better just eat it."

We then took it inside and whipped up an awesome "Vegan Queso Dip" from the blog Eat & Talk (yes, there's cauliflower in it!).  I had some trouble finding a link to the recipe that would work, so here's the recipe: Boil 1 cup chopped, peeled russet potato, 1 cup chopped cauliflower, 1/3 cup diced yellow onion for 10-15 minutes until soft. Drain and add to a food processor. Blend vegetables with: 1/4 cup cashews, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/3 cup Earth Balance vegan butter. Blend until smooth, add water if needed to thin out, and serve with veggies or chips.

Veggie-ful Vegan Queso with organic corn tortillas

That dip is a pretty big hit in our house, as you can tell by Avery's reaction...

"Is there cauliflower in this?"

"I think I feel like dancing!"
(Never mind those pink undies and the
potty in the background, it's been a
"potty training" kind of summer over here!)

2. What I'm eating...
Isn't it funny how pregnancy makes you get creative in the kitchen? My craving this week was chocolate-covered pretzels.  These have been a favorite snack of mine for years and we even had them (covered in caramel and chocolate) at our wedding reception. But when I went gluten-free, and vegan traditional Almond Bark was out. On top of that I had a bit of trouble finding a good gluten-free, non-GMO pretzel! 

But the other day, the stars must have aligned and I realized I had all the ingredients I needed to make gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO chocolate-covered pretzels!  Here's the recipe:

Gluten-Free, Vegan Chocolate-Covered Pretzels
Makes about 15-20 chocolate pretzels (enough for 2 people, or 1 pregnant mama!). Feel free to double or triple the recipe if you would like to serve more.

The ingredients.

1. Melt 1/4 cup chocolate chips over medium heat with 1/2 tsp.
coconut oil until melted.

2. Remove from heat immediately once melted. Drop pretzels
in a few at a time and stir them around with a spoon
 until covered.

3. Place dipped pretzels on wax paper or a Silpat mat.

4. Top with sprinkles if you would like. 

5. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes or longer.  

Then eat up these yummy "veganized" salty and sweet snacks!

3. Best moment of the week?  My favorite moment of the week comes something Avery said while playing at my parent's house. Earlier in the day we spent some time going through her old toys, and we had her help us find some toys we could put in Mila's room.  The whole experience was pretty funny because it was the first time Avery had seen some of those toys in several months, others in over a year, so aside from getting some for Mila, we also let Avery pick out some to bring up to her own room. It was like Christmas all over again!

Fast forward a few hours later and while she was playing with a toy dollhouse at my parent's house, she began fixing up a pretend room for Mila. She placed all kinds of toys and furniture in  one of the rooms of the house and while doing it she would say, "Mila needs a bed. Mila needs a potty. Mila needs a plant. Mila needs some toys."  She wrapped it all up by saying: "Her needs lots of stuff!" LOL! It was so cute to see her playing out what we had just done and starting to take care of Mila already. I know she's going to be a great big sister!

Pretending to get Mila's room all ready for her.

Here she is taking having the big sister take care of the little
baby in the bed. 

See you in two weeks for the next update!

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Friday, July 19, 2013

The Green Beauty Products I'm Using Right Now

Several years ago, I put a goal on my vision board to switch all of my traditional make up and beauty products over to non-toxic, natural alternatives. Back then it seemed pretty daunting, since I only had maybe one or two switched over. Fast forward a few years to now and I can finally say I did it! Now like all "green journeys" there are times when it was easy (eye liner) and times when it was hard (face wash), but I can say that I have officially kicked all toxic products out of my beauty routine.

Will I use these products forever? Who knows? I'm sure I will find some that work better, more that I can make from scratch, and some I may just get tired of...but no matter what I will keep striving towards that goal only using green alternatives. So today, I'm going to share those green beauty products with you. Everything from my toothpaste to my eye liner.

Here they all are...everything I need to get ready in the morning.
Kind of funny how in going green I reduced them down
quite a bit! I would have had  full counter a few years back!

Now if you're just starting on your green journey, you may wonder why should I care about switching over to green alternatives? My CoverGirl mascara works just fine or this Herbal Essences shampoo smells fruity so it must be natural, right? But I'm afraid that the "green truth" to traditional personal care products is that they are loaded with chemicals and toxins. Just take a look at the ingredient list on the back of the product, see things you can't pronounce or that match up to the visual below? That would be a sign you would want to drop that product and a find a green alternative.

Here's an awesome graphic that sums up not only what dangers are lurking in personal care products but also the effect they can have on our body...and it's anything but pretty.


Okay so now that we know what to avoid in personal care products here's a video rundown of not only, the GREEN products I'm using, but also HOW I use them everyday...

The "Green" Beauty Products I'm Using Right Now...

1. Lotion- This was one of the first swaps I made because I knew I covered my whole body with it, so that was a lot of surface area getting exposed to toxic ingredients.  My favorite green alternative lotion is a brand called: Dessert Essence Organics Hand and Body Lotion in "Fragrance Free".

Desert Essence Organics
Hand and Body Lotion

As I said in the video, before I got pregnant with Baby Mila I was using coconut oil for my body lotion and I really liked it. But when my belly started to grow, it started to itch, which I never had with Avery's pregnancy (when I used the Desert Essence Organics lotion).

So I switched back and the itchy feeling went away, knock on wood it keeps the stretch marks away...but if it doesn't at least my skin will feel smooth, soft and moisturized in the process. 

Here I am at 41 weeks pregnant with Avery
stretch-mark free. Not exactly a claim they
make on the back of the lotion, but a
benefit I've noticed. ( :

2. Lip Gloss/Lip Balm- This one was the next priority for me because I got to thinking about how much lip gloss/lip balm I was ingesting, just from day-to-day use and it kind of freaked me out. I've tried a variety of products over the years and my go-to for color and shine is Burt's Bees 100% Natural Lip Gloss in the shade "Autumn Haze".

My go-to gloss.

Now when my lips feel dry and I just want some moisture, not the shine and color, I go to this organic lip balm from The Honest Co. in the flavor "Lavender Mint". When you order this lip balm you get 3 flavors in a pack for $10, and I like the other two (Sweet Orange Vanilla and Purely Simple), but the Lavender one is my favorite.
The Honest Co. Organic Lip Balm

3.  Body Wash/Hand Soap/Shave Gel- My go-to for all things soap is Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap.  It's plant-based, all natural, organic, and it has no additives or foaming agents.  Even better, Dr. Bronner's has 18 different uses! In order to make body wash, I fill about 1/3 to 1/2 of an empty 16 oz. bottle with Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Castile Soap and then I fill the rest with water. Other scents they have include: citrus, lavender, almond, and rose. Read more about why this is my favorite soap in the post, "A Green Alternative to Toxic Soap."

Dr. Bronner's Unscented Baby Mild
Castile Soap
Here's more ways that I use this awesome green soap!

I use the Dr. Bronner's diluted soap for hand soap around
the house.

I lather it up with exfoliating gloves for a body wash in
the shower (I know the gloves look kind of weird, but
it's my favorite thing to use instead of a loofa in the shower).

I even lather it up again and use it as a shave gel/shave soap.
I've also used coconut oil in the past and had some success
with that...just beware it will make the shower floor slippery!

5. Mascara- A great affordable and healthy option I use for my mascara is "Organic Wear" by Physician's Formula.  Their mascara is free of harsh chemicals, synthetic preservatives, and parabens.  
Organic Wear Mascara by Physician's Formula

6. Eye Liner-  I so loved my old eye liners of the past, but when it was time to go green, I found Lavera's Eyeliner No.2 (Brown) and it's really done it's job well.  
Lavera Eyeliner

Another favorite is Mineral Fusion Eye Pencil in the shade "Rough" and although it's great for a little lighter shade on my eyes, I use it most to fill in my eyebrows, mainly because it matches my eyebrow color perfectly. And hey, we all can use a little help on our eyebrows right?  ( :

7. Eye Shadow: I use Larenim Eye Shadow in "Bewitched Beige".
Larenim Eye Shadow

I've even tried to "green" my make up tools with this brush set from EcoTools, which as you saw from the video, Avery enjoys playing with as well!

EcoTools make up brush

8. Concealer- I don't use any foundation, powder, blush or bronzer, just this concealer for under my eyes and if I have any small blemishes. It's called: MyChelle Concelear in Solar.

MyChelle Concealer

9.  Deodorant- So in the past I made sure to get "green brands" of deodorant that were aluminum-free, but when I learned a simple and effective recipe I could make from home I ditched the store bought brands and went "super green" with this one. 

Is that a yummy treat? Nope, just my deodorant.

The recipe I use is from my post, "How to Make Your Own Deodorant" and here's the recipe:

Natural Homemade Deodorant

  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder also called arrowroot starch/flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (I use Nutiva)
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and then transfer to a jar or other container. My husband poured the mixture (when melted) into an old deodorant container and he keeps it in the fridge so it will stay solid. When you do this, you can apply just like you would a traditional deodorant. 

10. Toothpaste: Staying on the homemade bandwagon, here's another product that I can now say I make from scratch and it comes from my post called, "How to Make Your Own Toothpaste". 

My homemade toothpaste.

Here's the recipe:
Non-Toxic Toothpaste
(from Crunchy Catholic Momma)
If your coconut oil is soft (climate is warm where you live, mine was warm when I made it this time):
1. Pour baking soda, coconut oil, xylitol, and peppermint oil extract into a large mixing bowl and combine until smooth. Then jump down to step 2.

2. Transfer to some sort of jar or container that closes to help keep it fresh and ready when you need to brush your teeth. We just scoop it out of the jar when we need some, but if you wanted you could keep a little spoon close by and scoop it out with that and apply it to your toothbrush each time.

Looks a little different from traditional toothpaste,
but boy does it make your teeth feel clean and smooth!

12. Shampoo and Conditioner- This one of the coolest green swaps that I made in my beauty routine because not only did it save me from being exposed to unnecessary toxins in traditional shampoos and conditioners, it also saved me a lot of money! The method I currently use is called "The No-Poo Method". 
Don't mind me, just spraying vinegar in my hair!

This method consists of using two mixtures on your hair:
  • Shampoo: 1 cup water + 1 Tbs. baking soda (spray on and then rinse out)
  • Conditioner: 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (spray on and then rinse out) *a more common ratio is 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar + 1 cup water for this one, but my hair is extra dry so I find that the extra vinegar is helpful.*
My new "shampoo and conditioner."

Read more about the technique and other tips in this post, "How to Wash Your Hair with the No-Poo Method".

13. Hair Gel- Now after switching to the No-Poo Method I was curious if I could start to make my own hair gel.  I had one homemade hair recipe under my belt, why not try another? This is where the savings really started to roll in because I found out about Flax Seed Hair Gel! 

Hair gel from flax seeds? You bet!
This is one awesome gel that is made from flax seeds and water, total cost per recipe: 16 cents! My previous hair gel was costing me $13 every 2-3 weeks, so this was one swap that my wallet really loved. Read more about how to make it in my post, "How to Make Flax Seed Hair Gel".

Well that wraps up my entire beauty routine, I hope this helps to give you some ideas when it comes to "greening" your beauty products. If you have any questions about the products I use, I'd be happy to answer them.

Also, if you want some more information about this topic or to see how your personal care products rank check out: The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.  On this awesome website you can enter a personal care product in the "Search" box and then it will rank it for you on a scale of 1-10.  One being groovy and healthy, and a ten being super toxic.  It will also break down each ingredient and let you know how toxic it is on the ranking of 1-10.  Very educational and easy and to understand.  ( :

Do you have any favorite "green" beauty products that you're using right now? Share below!

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