June 30, 2006

Dr. Woods Shea Vision Peppermint Castile Soap

My husband and I were shopping for shampoos the other day and we were looking for something natural. My first hint that something was not quite right was that I was shopping for hair care products with my husband. Both intrigued by the Dr. Bronner's brand, we investigated the range of castile soaps. While Dr. Bronner's is 100% natural, cleans every inch of your body and then your pet's as well, it is also quite expensive. Not wanting to give up on our pursuit of an environmentally friendly solution, we purchased a less expensive version in Dr. Woods Shea Vision Pure Peppermint Castile Soap.

Much like the more expensive brand, this soap claims to be a shampoo, body wash, facial cleanser, shaving lotion and even a mild laundry detergent. It is all natural, eco-friendly and contains organic shea butter for moisturizing purposes.

It smells fresh, kind of like a combination of mint ice cream and furniture polish. The washing was an extremely cleansing experience. Dr. Woods Peppermint Soap lathers up nicely and when rinsed out of my hair, left it so "squeaky" that it practically hurt to run my hands over it.

That is where the fun stops. This has to be the WORST feeling hair care product on the market. Now I'm not one to get into the actual styling of my locks (much to the dismay of many), however I do agree to a reasonable threshold of beauty to remain a part of general society. Dr Woods Shea Vision Peppermint Castile Soap left my hair feeling as if I had a damp, limp washcloth on my head. My hair was fat, dull and clung to my head like a helmet. I looked so bad that I went out to the store and immediately purchased a salon shampoo. And I'm more than a little embarrassed to admit that even though this new salon product has crushed pearls in it, my hair looks fantastic.

I'll still buy Dr. Woods products because I value their eco-friendly approach and would work nicely in a camping situation where no one will see my head, but for every day use I'll leave it for my dog and my husband -- the ones with helmet hair.

About Dr. Woods:

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June 29, 2006

Wallaby Organic Strawberry Yogurt

Given the healthy number of organic yogurt options on the supermarket shelves these days, I didn't think there would be anything special about Wallaby's organic strawberry yogurt. I'm glad I tried it.

Billed as a "creamy Australian style" product, this yogurt is a bit different in a number of ways. First of all, the texture is very creamy, almost "thin" and less gelatinous compared to other yogurts. Secondly, the flavor is more subtle and less sweet. I did a bit of reading about the company on its web site, and learned that the texture and mild flavor are a result of the way it's made. By using a longer culturing process, they avoid some of the tartness associated with most yogurts, allowing them to use less sugar (although I compared it to Stonyfield Farm's organic strawberry yogurt and found that Wallaby had only 1 gram less--21 grams for a six ounce serving).

The company's history is kind of funny. They are actually a U.S.-based company, but are called "Wallaby" because the founders were inspired by yogurt they ate on a trip to Australia. I've never been there, but it does taste more like yogurts I've eaten in Europe. The different style might not apeal to everyone, but personally I'd buy this yogurt over other brands because it doesn't leave you with a sickly sweet aftertaste that makes you feel like you just ate a pixie stik.

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June 20, 2006

Really Natural Cleaning Solutions

Last summer, while I was fighting against the foils of mildew on my tomato leaves, I discovered a wonderful and method for saving plants AND cleaning the house naturally.

To use the following recipe as a fungicide, spray on the plants -- both sides of the leaves -- to help keep the mold at bay.
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp mild soap (not detergent)
1 gallon of H2O

I mixed it all together using a biodegradeable dish detergent (because I couldn't find any Dr. Bronner's, etc. in the house) and misted the plants. But then I had an entire gallon left because I really don't have that many plants. So, I mixed it with more water and cleaned the apartment with it. It worked GREAT! Dust, grease, baby dirt... you name it and it cleaned off wonderfully! Add a squeeze of lemon to give a delicious, fresh scent.

Really natural living can actually be a lot simpler than we think. Here is an article about a new book called "Organic Housekeeping" by Ellen Sandbeck, which includes some recipes for common household cleaners that you can make with ingredients from your pantry.

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June 20, 2006

Morningstar Farms Broccoli Cheddar Veggie Bites

If you've read this blog long enough, you should know that one of the mantras is "Read ingredients lists." I fell victim to ignoring my own advice.

While spending time in the depths of Suburbia, I found myself at the grocery store with a minimal selection of natural and organic food options (they stock the four frozen veggie options with the T.G.I.Friday's Potato Skins.) Generally I like to make everything from scratch, but dealing with high heat and humidity and my mother's kitchen (a whole other blog, really) makes for complicated cooking. So, I decided to pick up some quick frozen bites for my two year old to make all of our lives easier.

I grabbed a box of Morningstar Farms Broccoli Cheddar Veggie Bites, since I knew that Morningstar Farms is a company that also makes veggie burgers as well as touts itself as a line of healthy foods. I never looked at the ingredient list.

When I went to prepare the bites, I looked at the list. I'll just start by saying that there are 42 ingredients in these bites that are half of the size of my computer mouse. Included in this list are two kinds of sugar (sugar and dextrose) and hydrogenated soybean oil -- two definite no-no's on my eating list.

At this point, I had a starving child who had already spied the food, so into the oven they went. They baked up in about 15 minute's time and came out of the oven smelling vaguely of brownies (but that could be me.) Inside they had real chunks of broccoli and what appeared to be melted orangeish cheddar cheese, which impressed me. They tasted fantastic, with nice broccoli taste, creamy cheese and even a hint of pepper after finish. I'm sad to report they taste better than the all natural broccoli bites that I usually buy.

So here's the dilemma, do I buy them for taste or do I buy the less satisfying ones that are healthier? Tough call. I think that I would rather find a better tasting healthy option, than just succumb to the convenience of hydrogenated oils and sugar. Of course that didn't stop me from eating three bites myself.

And yet, despite all of this deliberating, my child wouldn't touch one bite.

About Morningstar Farms:

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June 20, 2006

Blogpire Productions Blogs Announce Investment in the Planet's Future with Green Tags

Green-Tag-Logo Type-Grn-1What can we say? We really thought our blogs should be a bit greener? As of today, we're going to buy enough Green Tags, also called renewable energy credits, from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, to offset the environmental impact from our hosting and computer operations for the coming year.

Green tags are an investment in the production of renewable energy sources through wind and solar power. Using clean renewable energy reduces emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. By purchasing green tags, Blogpire Productions hopes to lessen our dependence on burning fossil fuels.

We also hope you'll help out as well. Individuals as well any business can buy Green Tags. Please visit the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and purchase Green Tags to offset your use of fossil fuels.

Full Release at: PR Web

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June 16, 2006

BlogpireMobile.com and Weekly Email Updates

Criticalgamers Blogad-1This week we have a new, exciting program, affectionately called BlogpireMobile.com! We want to reward you for being Blogpire loyalists. This is one way for us to say thanks. BlogpireMobile.com provides online exclusive offers on the very best mobile service, Verizon Wireless. This online-only offer for you is for $50 Instant Cash Back. That means no rebates, no hassles, and no money out of your pocket when you get a plan and phone. With this offer, there are over 11 FREE PHONES currently available.

But we also know you have a busy life and a busy schedule, and that's why everyone here at BlogPire Productions wants to make it easier for you to get the latest news from any of our sites and not just the one you visit everyday. Just click the link - sign up and you'll get the list of headlines sent to you via email each Monday morning.

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Avoiding Monsanto's Growth Hormone

18% of American dairies use the controversial rBGH hormone to make dairy cows produce more milk. This hormone has been linked to increased risk of cancer and antibiotic resistance. Wal-Mart and Dean Foods, the largest retailers and distributors of dairy products in the U.S. are considering eliminating rBGH from their products. A good sign that, like Canada and Europe, the U.S. might ban it altogether some day soon.


April, 2005 - Tillamook's cheeses: The second largest producer of block cheese in the U.S.
June, 2005 - Eberhard Dairy: Central Oregon's largest dairy processing plant.
Nov., 2005 - Alpenrose Dairy in Portland
Feb. 2006 - Darigold's yogurts: A large western U.S. dairy.
June 2006 - Garelick: A large East Coast dairy processor, producing 45 million lbs. of milk per month.
June 2006 - Meadow Gold and Darigold Farms: Montana's largest milk producers.

For more information, check out this article on the Organic Consumers Association website.

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June 13, 2006

Sweet Seasons Lemon Bread Mix

I claim to like baking, but as much as I enjoy perusing recipes, the long list of ingredients with all of their tiny, precise measurements calls for more energy and patience than I can often muster up. Unfortunately, a lot of the baking mixes out there contain all sorts of suspect ingredients, so I stay away from them as well. I'm always on the hunt for a high quality mix with natural ingredients--that's why Sweet Seasons Lemon Bread Mix caught my eye (well, that and the jaunty yellow packaging). In preparation for a play group I'm hosting this week, I decided to whip this up as I have never, in the year-long history of the group, actually prepared anything "homemade" (hey if it involves melting butter and cracking eggs that's close enough in my book) the way every single other person in the group manages to do each and every time they host. The competition's brutal here in the 'burbs, folks, and I intend to dazzle the other moms with my "top secret" lemon bread recipe ;)

See my tabblo (below) for pictures and my review, and see the extended entry for the ingredient list.

How could you not love this peppy little package?  Just looking at it tastes good. ... See my Tabblo>

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Synergy: Trilogy Kombucha Tea

So, faced with reviewing either a well-tasted ginger beer, an almost mainstream pomegranate soda or Synergy Trilogy Kombucha Tea, I decided to take my life into my own hands and drink the tea. I'm pretty sure I'm going to sorely regret not jumping into the soda.

Kombucha tea (pronounced kom-BOO-cha) is the latest "miracle cure". According to the Wikipedia website, the chef at the Google cafeterias prepares it from scratch for the employees and over 100 glasses are consumed. The packaging of Synergy: Trilogy indicates that Kombucha supports digestion, metabolism, immune system, appetite control, weight control, liver function, body alkalinity, anti-aging, cell integrity and healthy skin and hair. Also mentioned is the fact that the creator, G.T. Dave, began bottling this tea after his mother's success from drinking it during a battle with breast cancer.

Kombucha is inappropriately referred to as a mushroom. Actually it is the symbiosis of a live culture, much like what is found in yogurt, when mixed with yeast and fed a diet of sweetened black or green tea. The result is a filtered sparkling beverage, Kombucha tea, that holds the health properties of the cultures, as well as a slight alcohol content (less than 0.5%) from the fermentation. Essential nutrients are then present after fermentation such as active enzymes, viable probiotics, amino acids, antioxidants and polyphenols.

Bottom line: drink this and all will be well again... sort of.

First of all, there is no proven documentation on the health benefits of Kombucha, despite the fact that it has been around for centuries. No matter, the company's website boldly proclaims, "Feel the healing power of Kombucha."

Second, it is expensive. A 16 oz. bottle of the stuff cost $3.50.

Thirdly, Synergy: Trilogy Kombucha Tea tastes awful. It smells like yeasty ginger bread and tastes like sparkling raw lemon juice. There is nothing sweet about this. And thanks to the bits of yeast floating around, I stupidly shook the damn bottle, which caused it to explode upon opening and now my kitchen smells like bread dough.

Do I feel better? Not completely, although I do feel oddly wide awake, and I'm guessing I'm going to have to choke down more than 2 sips to find out the full story. The best part? Because of the unstable nature of the contents within, it has been known to create intestinal problems and in one case death. (It only has a 160 day shelf life.) It cannot be left improperly stored, which means I have to figure out a way to consume all 16 oz. this evening.

But by tomorrow my intestines should be glowing and my body balanced and ready to attack the day. I'll have to let you know.

(By the end of this article and 2/3 of the bottle of the tea, I was feeling very alert, like a cup of coffee alert without the jitters, despite 2 margaritas earlier in the evening and the taste was growing on me. No pun intended.)

About Millennium Products:

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June 9, 2006

Father's Day Gift Guides from the Blogpire

Liquor Snob 125 Macnn-4We want to remind you that Father's Day is just around the corner. Actually it's next Sunday, but don't worry we've got you covered. Single Serve Coffee has a great Father's Day Gift Guide and so does Shaving Stuff with their Father's Day Specials. If you're really looking to impress Dad you might want to get him the ultimate TV remote. The Logitech Harmony Remote 628 - Universal Remote Control is nothing short of the best remote we've ever used and we think Dad will like it too. That's just some of the picks we've got for you from around the Blogpire. Visit our other sites below to find more deals and tales for your Dad on Father's Day.

Cheap Fun Wines
Italian Red Roundup
Italian Reds Rock

The Cooking News
Recipe News: Paula Deen shares her easy recipe for Vidalia onions
Recipe News: Hot new recipes for summer grilling

Liquor Snob
Bad Week Plus New Liquor Equals Good Week
Advanced Drinking Gear from Cocktail Vibe

Really Natural
Synergy: Trilogy Kombucha Tea
Sweet Seasons Lemon Bread Mix

Critical Gamers
Now Shipping: "Apples to Apples Party Box Expansion 2"
Now Shipping: Axis & Allies Miniatures D-Day Boosters

Single Serve Coffee
Rumor Mill: New Keurig B70 Platinum At Home K-Cup Brewer Coming in September
Father's Day Pick: Grindmaster GPOD Precision Brewer & Kona Coffee Pods

Just the Chips
Ultimate Dealer Button
Texas Hold'em Poker Table Top

Kitchen Contraptions
Hotdog Bun Pan
Appliance Panels

Shaving Stuff
The Expensive Side of Father's Day Shaving Gifts
More Father's Day Shaving Ideas from ZIRH

TV Snob
Deal of the Day: Logitech Harmony Remote 628 - Universal Remote Control
VIZIO Announces Breakthrough Father's Day Prices on HD Plasmas and LCD TV

Shirt Snob
Review of Threadless Winning Tees and American Red Cross Clothing
Crochet Braid Cardigan by Free People

GPS Lodge
GPS Review: Sony Nav-U70 GPS Review
GPS Review: FineDrive 400 GPS

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June 1, 2006

Spring Fruit Spread

Jams and jellies have always been unexplored cooking country in my world. I think it was the use of pectin, the unknown ingredient, that deterred me since locating and using such a foreign substance was too complicated. It wasn't until I found a local preserve that was made without pectin that I got the nerve to try it. That and the fact that this same preserve was selling for $8 a jar!

Actually, preserves are probably the easiest and most natural thing you can make. The secret is careful and very slow cooking for thickness.

Spring Fruit Spread
(makes 1 16 oz. jar)
This spring fruit spread is a great way to use up apples from the icebox and get the first fruits of the season, rhubarb and strawberries, onto the table.

5-6 stalks of rhubarb, peeled and chopped
3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
handful or 2 of strawberries, hulled and chopped
about 1/4 cup of orange juice
squeeze of a lemon 1/2
sugar to taste (this depends on how tart you like your spread. I used roughly a 1/3 cup. I also used Turbinado sugar because it is not refined and a natural alternative to white sugar.)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer on very low heat until all ingredients combine to desired thickness. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Set aside to cool and pour into container.

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