Mindfulness Box Zen Subscription Unboxing & Review-October 2015

Crunchy Parent Mindfulness Box Oct 2015 unboxing review zen

Mindfulness Box is a relatively new lifestyle subscription service aimed at promoting mindfulness, inner peace and balance by giving people the tools to live with more intention and in the present moment. This lifestyle box includes holistic and homeopathic, essential oil, and mineral based health care products, handcrafted jewelry, delicious biodynamic treats, natural minerals/crystals and more. Each box contains 4-5 items accompanied with guided dialogue to enrich the recipient’s journey to balance and inner peace. Boxes cost $29.00 per month, which includes shipping, and are less with multi-month subscriptions. Use code CRUNCHY10 for 10% off of your order.

Mindfulness Box graciously sent me this box to review. I received no additional compensation, and all opinions are my own. See more of my Mindfulness box reviews here.

Asher and Alina have become my regular Mindfulness Box unboxing sidekicks. They love to see what interesting, useful, and tasty items will be included in the box. You can watch us unbox and discover, or if you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

The box came with it’s bright, smiling symbol and “Present Moment. Beautiful Moment” message to set the tone to best appreciate the contents. Everything arrived to me safe and intact.

mindfulness box enclosures meditation October

As always, Mindfulness Box included an enclosure card listing the contents along with descriptions and values, as well as suggestions for how to integrate the items into our life in a way that would promote mindfulness. We set the card aside so that we could discover the items on our own, but referenced it at the end to help us learn about what Mindfulness Box had curated for this month. Alina was the first to find what Mindfulness had in mind for the month, which was a box centered around warmth and grounding; perfect for autumn. Alina took two cards out of the box, each of which were printed front and back with a meditation. In total there were four meditations to help enhance mindfulness, focus, and gratitude throughout the day during routine activities such as eating, cleansing, standing, and sitting.

Flip side of the meditation cards.

Flip side of the meditation cards.

The meditations reminded me of exercises that I have done in my Mindfulness Meditation classes to help enhance awareness and to focus presence. The children and I all practiced the enclosed Chocolate Meditation together. They found it fun and delicious, and the exercise sparked a discussion about taking time to be present and grateful for the simple experiences in our lives rather than mindlessly moving through our day.

Mindfulness Box  Southwest incense sampler

Asher helped with the next item. I had been looking forward to it since Mindfulness Box had released a spoiler on Facebook. It was a beautiful collection of natural wood incense along with a holder by Incense de Santa Fe (value, $9.00). The incense set included seven cones each of seven different woods from the Southwest such as piñon, juniper, and mesquite.

Mindfulness Box Southwestern incense sampler-inside view

I have a special place in my heart for plants of the Southwest since going on my Arizona herbal adventure, and this box made me very nostalgic. I have tried several of the “flavors” so far. They smelled different that I was expecting; less “pine/tree-like” and more like a warming campfire. Burning the incense definitely shifted the ambiance of my space. I can see myself using it for meditation or at times when I want to create a feeling of serenity or coziness.

Mindfulness Box October unboxing review a wild soap bar & The Merry Hempsters lip balm

The next two items that we found in our Mindfulness Box set a great holiday tone. Mindfulness box included A Wild Soap Bar’s Warm Wishes soap (value, $6.50). The soap is a nod to the holiday season with orange, cinnamon, and oats among its ingredients as well as a blend of various organic oils to moisturize dry skin. The soap is topped with a piece of a cinnamon stick, and the package is decorated with pine boughs, pine cones, and bright red berries; giving it a very festive feeling. I think that it would be perfect for gifting too. Mindfulness Box had sent a different bar of soap from A Wild Soap Bar in the past. I love that they continue to showcase this small family business and their wonderful soaps.

As a nice complement to the soap, we found vegan lip balm from The Merry Hempsters in their cinnamon variety (value, $2.99). I have used lip balms from the Merry Hempsters before and like the formula a lot. The hemp oil is very moisturizing and the balm is not sticky or thick at all. I find that sometimes too much beeswax in a lip balm can make it tug at my lips when I apply, but this vegan formula uses candelilla wax and I find that it glides on very smoothly and easily. I thought that the cinnamon leaned more toward the “red hot” versus the spice side of cinnamon. It made my lips tingle when first applied, although it did settle down after a little while. Rich however did not notice any tingle, so perhaps I have more sensitive lips than others.

Mindfulness Box October unboxing review Zenbunni chocolate & tiger's eye

The next treat may have been my favorite indulgence in the box. The Zenbunni Maui Turmeric Ginger chocolate morsel (value, $3.00) was the perfect choice for pairing with the Chocolate Meditation. Another favorite that Mindfulness Box has sent in a past box, Zenbunni is a true artisanal chocolate company, using the finest organic, biodynamic, and wild crafted ingredients. I think that the Maui Turmeric Ginger flavor was just right for fall. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of biodynamic agriculture (and of Waldorf education) wrote about the time of year when the weather cools and the plant moves its energy away from flowering and fruiting, directing it down underground and into the roots. Steiner advised eating roots to help with grounding. I cannot say that I am in full agreement (or even completely understand) all of Steiner’s theories, but I can reflect that while slowly savoring the bar, I was struck by the fiery “root-iness” of it. The turmeric and ginger added a very earthy spiciness to the bar that got my attention and left an impression. I wish that I had another one to nibble right now.

The last item in the box was a beautiful piece of tiger’s eye, one of my favorite gem stones. I have always been drawn to the layers and dimensions in the stone as well as its chatoyancy, which I did not know was a word, but Wikipedia taught me when I was Googling how to describe the shiny amazingness in tiger’s eye. According to Mindfulness Box, tiger’s eye is a stone for protecting, and is both stabilizing and grounding. They went on to add that it enhances good luck, brings financial prosperity, and is protective, especially during travel. Tiger’s eye is associated with the solar plexus chakra. There was no value listed for the stone, and I am really not sure how to estimate its value.

Mindfulness Box October complete unboxing & review

I was especially pleased with the curation of this month’s box. I thought that the autumnal theme and transition to the holiday flavors and scents were very well executed. I also appreciated the emphasis on warmth and grounding, both of which are so important when the temperature cools and the schedule intensifies with holiday activities. The value of this month’s box was lower than recent boxes have been. The total value is $21.49 plus the tiger’s eye and meditation cards, whose values I could not estimate. As I looked at the box in total I would say that I think that it feels like a gift, and is well worth the $29.00 box price. I know that I have used, or will use all of the items. I also appreciate that the box is a nice mix of high-quality, practical, everyday items, special indulgences, and items to enhance my home and mindful practices. What do you think about this month’s Mindfulness Box? Are you happy with the overall value and the autumn feel?

To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you are interested in finding “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes to enhance the way you live, eat, craft, play, care for you home and body, etc. you can find them on my ULTIMATE list, newly updated for fall. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent!

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Crunchy Parent’s Ultimate Guide to Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes-Fall 2015 Update

For those seeking subscriptions for organic, eco-friendly, non-toxic, green beauty, food-allergy friendly, pregnant, new baby, fair trade, indie, and other crunchy awesomeness.

For those seeking subscriptions for organic, eco-friendly, non-toxic, green beauty, food-allergy friendly, pregnant, new baby, fair trade, indie, and other crunchy awesomeness.

Crunchy, green living is on the rise, and there has been tremendous growth in the area of natural, conscious, and otherwise crunchy subscription box offerings. The Fall update of the Crunchy Parent Ultimate List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes follows. All subscription services that are new or new-to-me since the summer update have been indicated in bold. If you are wondering how I came to compile this list, keep reading. If you just want to get right to the list, scroll on down.

As I mentioned briefly in this post I have been making conscious attempts to make self-care a higher priority in the last several years. Parenting can be all-consuming, at least it has been for me many times, and I tended to seriously neglect myself. My cancer diagnosis almost five years ago was a wake up call that I absolutely needed to take better care of myself mentally and physically if I wanted to be able to continue to be a good parent to my children, and to live a healthier and more balanced life. I also wanted to feel better about myself and how I presented myself to the world. Realistically, I still was not going to have oodles of “me” time, and being able to get away from home to do things alone is even more challenging.

Moreover, although I had been interested in naturally-based personal care items since I was a teenager, my diagnosis shifted green beauty from an interest to an absolute non-negotiable. Skincare, haircare, body care, and cosmetic products simply had to be no- or low-toxin for me to use them. I would rather go without than slather myself with ingredients that might make it harder to stay healthy, but I really didn’t know where to begin. My skincare products had distilled down to aloe gel, shea butter, and coconut oil and they just weren’t cutting it. So, I decided that one aspect of my self-care plan would be to join some monthly subscription services.

Just in case you’re unfamiliar, subscription services send out a “mystery” package (usually monthly) of products in sample or full sizes for you to try that fit within a certain theme such as eco-friendly beauty and skincare products, or gluten free snacks. I figured that by joining a service, I would get a special package (or more) each month just for me with products to encourage me to pamper myself. It would also help me discover new natural, organic, or otherwise eco-friendly products that had already been screened and curated by companies with values like my own. Once I got my boxes, I could have some R&R time with a new face mask after the kids went to bed at night, or if I had an occasion when I might want to wear lipstick, I might actually own one that I felt good about using. I have been receiving subscription boxes for almost two years now, and I must say that it has been great! Not only have I been enjoying receiving amazing green beauty items, but I have found boxes to promote mindfulness and balance in my life, to support my yoga practice, to discover new food-allergy friendly foods for our family, and more.

I personally found it overwhelming at first to select a couple of subscriptions to try. I always want to know all of my options to allow for informed decisions. Additionally, there are countless services available, with many different target markets and missions. There are new subscriptions being introduced and old ones phasing out all of the time. I decided to put my well-honed research skills to work (they didn’t give me that Ph.D. for nothing), and compile the most comprehensive list that I could of subscription boxes that represent values or areas of interest that are consistent with living a crunchy, natural, green lifestyle.

I thought that I would try to save you some of the trouble that I went through. I have compiled the most comprehensive list of subscription services currently available that may appeal to people of the crunchy mindset; wherever they may be along the crunchy continuum or whichever aspect of crunchiness is important to them. I have tried to include beauty and lifestyle boxes that might be organic, or vegan; that might be eco-friendly, GMO-free, or support charities. Food boxes might be gluten, nut, and/or dairy free. They may feature organic or non-GMO products, or provide pre-packaged produce all ready to juice for your next cleanse or to boost a new health practice. I’ve listed herbal boxes, essential oil boxes, fair trade boxes, and eco-friendly boxes for the expecting or new mama. Boxes for children likely feature organic products, high-quality wooden/battery-free toys, or promote natural handmade crafts, storytelling, and more. There is even a toy rental subscription service included. Some of the subscription services are large and well-established. Others are small, limited, indie subscriptions or may be just starting out. In any case, I hope that you will find what you are looking for.

For the sake of brevity I have included shipping information assuming shipping in the United States. Many of these companies may send boxes elsewhere for an additional cost. Please see individual sites for information. I have attempted to screen companies to most closely adhere to natural personal and family living ideals, but I cannot speak to the specifics of any individual subscription, nor am I recommending any of these services over any other. I am attempting to sample and review as many of these subscriptions as possible to allow for a more in-depth look at what each service provides. Wherever possible, I have included a link to my unboxing and reviews following a subscription’s description. If you have any personal experiences that you wish to share, or if you know of any subscriptions that you think should be added to this list, please mention it in the comments.

To see all of my crunchy subscription box reviews, look here. If you wish to exclusively view the video unboxings, you can do that on my YouTube channel here.

Beauty/Lifestyle

BabeBoxx $24.99/month includes free shipping. Discount on multi-month subscriptions. Focused on skincare, cosmetic, and grooming items, BabeBoxx goes for the products that are, all-natural, organic, hand-made, and free from the harmful toxins and chemicals. Their goal is to guide you through a unique and exciting journey to natural beauty! This recently-launched indie subscription partners with artisans to bring the newest products to their subscribers.

Bare Bliss Box $19.99/month (free shipping) Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. In every box get 4-6 “healthier” sample-sized skincare and makeup products that will nourish your body and enhance your life, with occasional bonus lifestyle items. BBB screens products for ingredients such as artificial fragrances and dyes, parabens, SLS, and other potentially harmful chemicals. They also emphasize products that are cruelty-free and organic.

Beauty Heroes $39.99/month includes shipping. Less with multi-month subscriptions.The Beauty Heroes mission is to provide their customers with products from the very best non-toxic, clean, green beauty brands. Each month Beauty Heroes sends one full size luxury product, sometimes with a smaller bonus item (because every superhero loves a good sidekick). Products are chosen to fit with the season, and are screened to avoid an impressive laundry list of villain ingredients; and to include natural superpower ingredients to nurture your skin. For my Beauty Heroes reviews, look here.

Blissmo Box $19.95/month plus shipping, free shipping with multi-month subscriptions. Value of $20-$40+ per box. A monthly box of premium organic, non-toxic and eco-friendly personal care and food products. Full & trial-size. Allows choice among three themed box offerings each month (usually a food, beauty/personal care, and seasonal themes). Also allows for skipping a month if none of the themes seem to be a good fit.

BuddhiBox $32.95/month. Less with multi-month subscriptions. Box contains 4-6 full size items to enhance your yoga practice and lifestyle. BuddhiBox is committed to supporting non-profits. Most of the items featured are organic and vegetarian, and a brief questionnaire also allows the purchaser to indicate a preference for vegan items if desired. Each month BuddhiBox picks a charity and donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the boxes to them. They also offer a smaller sampler box for $11.95/month, and a jewelry box for $49.95/quarter. To see my BuddhiBox reviews, look here.

Calmbox $35/month, shipping included. Each month’s box features 4-8 mindfully chosen items to help with unwinding and calm such as candles, natural minerals and crystals, aromatic herbs, inspiring books, music, tea, motivational cards, and physical aids. Every month highlights a new theme like meditation, zen, or mindfulness.

Causebox Ships quarterly. $49.95 per shipment and includes shipping. You will receive at least $150 worth of full-size products for women from Sevenly’s favorite socially conscious brands. Each box also includes a new, exclusive Sevenly product. For every box sold, Sevenly gives $7 to one of 7 partner charities. Additionally, the box features products from companies that are committed to doing good all over the world. Some give one-for-one, some give meals, some medical aid, others give money to help various causes.

Conscious Box $40.00/month including shipping for the newly launched “Premium” version. Conscious Box had historically offered smaller boxes along the themes of classic, vegan, or gluten free. Boxes typically included small sample sizes of mostly food and supplement items with 1-2 full sized products. In their new re-branding, all boxes will be vegan and gluten free and contain more full-size and luxury items including stylish home items, delicious snacks, and lush beauty products hand-selected from brands who care about the planet. Conscious Box promises that every box will be valued at a minimum of $60.

Eco Salon This quarterly box is not a subscription, rather a first come, first served seasonal collection of food/nutrition, beauty, accessories, etc. There are generally pretty limited numbers of boxes available (around 50). Price and value varies but generally cost is $100+

Goddess Provisions $33.00/month with free shipping. Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. Goddess Provisions in a recently launched subscription service by the sister company to Vegan Cuts. Each month, GP sends a box filled with tools to nourish your inner goddess and grow your spiritual practice. Boxes feature a mix of 4-6 full size items, spanning across the categorizes of aromatherapy, apothecary beauty products, superfood snacks, teas, crystals, books and more. All items will be 100% vegan and cruelty-free. To see my Goddess Provisions reviews, look here.

Goodebox $19/month, including free shipping. Modest discounts offered for multi-month subscriptions. Goodebox is a trial and discovery service providing expertly curated, trial-sized healthy beauty and personal care products, along with samples of natural & organic health and wellness products. Each Goodebox includes a pre-screened selection representing what Goodebox thinks are among the best healthy beauty products available.

Hemp Box/Hemp Box for Men $19.99/month includes free shipping. Hemp Box features 5 health, beauty and nutritional products each month that contain hemp.

Herbal Bliss $25/month including free shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions (e.g. an annual subscription drops to $18/month) Herbal Bliss contains an exclusively curated assortment of high quality herbal delights. Five items will be included each month, representing the categories of well-being, culinary, aromatherapy, blissful body, and “spotlight.” All suppliers are small-batch producers.

holBox $30/month. includes shipping. holBox is a subscription service for women who desire to live a holistic lifestyle. It is intended to serve as a starting point for women transitioning into a holistic lifestyle. Each box contains 5-7 different sample products, and will include products that you can use for the body, hair, mind and in the household.

Honest Beauty $50.00/month. The Honest Company has recently expanded its product and subscription line to include cosmetic and skincare items. Each month, select three full sized items of your choice from among the products in the line.

Klover Box $25/month free shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Klover Box features natural, cruelty-free and organic beauty, health, nutrition and home products. Klover Box aims to provide opportunities to try affordable eco-friendly products, handpicked by their health conscious curators to allow the buyer to incorporate better products into every aspect of life. Each box features 4-7 sample and full sized products.

Love Goodly $35.00/box including shipping. Ships every other month. Cost per box is less with multi-box subscriptions. Each box includes 5-7 cruelty-free, natural, vegan products, including a mix of full size products and deluxe samples of nontoxic beauty and skincare, healthy snacks and eco style accessories. All products have been screened to eliminate Love Goodly’s banned ingredients and all products are selected and labeled to support one or more of Love Goodly’s values, which include organic, non-gmo, gluten free, and fair trade. Every purchase from Love Goodly supports either Farm Sanctuary or F*ck Cancer.

Mindfulness Box $29/month includes shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. A monthly subscription box service promoting wellness and reflection by giving people the tools to live with more intention and in the “present moment.” Boxes contain 4-5 items each month intended to promote mindfulness, meditation, and reflection. Offerings include holistic and homeopathic mineral/essential oil based health care products, handcrafted jewelry, delicious biodynamic treats, natural minerals/crystals evoking positive energy and MUCH more! To see my Mindfulnesss Box reviews, look here.

Nourish Beauty $34.95/month includes free shipping worldwide. Receive four full-sized products each month, including three full-sized, natural, earth-activated, cruelty-free, healthy beauty products, and one eco-friendly canvas tote bag, with limited edition, original print. Average total retail will be $70+

Organic Authority Goodie Box Organic Authority is a sister company to Eco Salon (see above) with a similar approach. They are not a regular subscription, rather a first come, first served seasonal collection of food/nutrition, beauty, accessories, etc. Numbers are quite limited. Price and value varies but generally cost is $100+

Petit Vour $15/month includes shipping. Petit Vour focuses on cruelty-free products, but tend to feature product lines that are also natural and organic. Petit Vour delivers 4-5 fresh beauty miniatures right to your doorstep each month. The samples are generously sized (and sometimes full-sized!)

PureBox $39.99/month (free shipping), less with multi-month subscriptions. Each box includes one full sized product and several deluxe samples from 1-2 featured brand per month. All products are ethically sourced and selected for being luxurious, of premium quality, cruelty free, and with gluten free and vegan choices. PureBox specializes in non-toxic, natural, and organic beauty products that are handcrafted and hard to find. Boxes will reflect a retail value of $60-$80. For PureBox reviews, look here

Prospurly $49.95/month includes shipping. Often run coupon codes for 10% off per month for the life of the subscription. Boxes feature 6-8 luxurious products each month that are artisinal and often organic. Items may be useful for home, beauty or personal care; food, beverages, and more.

Pumeli $49.95/month, less with multi-month subscriptions. Pumeli is a monthly delivery of relaxing goodies for busy women. Their mission is to inspire women to unplug and make time for themselves through practical tips, tutorials, and time-slowing rituals that are simple enough to do at home or the office, yet leave you feeling relaxed, recharged and present in as little as 5-10 minutes. Pumeli likes to feature products that are sustainable and handmade, and every box will include teas, items for journaling or reflection, and handcrafted items such as candles or handcrafted jewelry.

The Remedy Rush $59.00/quarterly box includes shipping. (boxes ship around the seasonal equinox). Discount for annual subscription. Each box includes a collection of seasonally-appropriate items for skincare, body care, and home. Products are screened to exclude a host of harsh irritants and health-compromising synthetics. Only the finest wildcrafted or organic herbs, herbal extracts, pure essential oils, cold-pressed, fruit, nut oils and butters are chosen as key ingredients in cherished brand creations. All products are cruelty-free, and all product containers, packaging, shipping, and marketing materials are made from 100% recyclable and/or biodegradable components.

Sapphire Soul Balance Box Sapphire Soul offers 5 different box configurations ranging from “Crystal Pack” of 1 or more crystals at a price of $9/month to “Large Lotus Balance Box” at $52/month which features a crystal, essential oil, a piece of handmade crystal healing jewelry, and one or more additional products (soaps, candles, and aromatherapy products tend to be featured frequently). Overall the box highlights holistic products to nurture mind, body, and soul; striving to increase balance and positive energy. Prices do not include shipping.

Teens Turning Green Conscious Collection Not an auto-billing subscription, but a first come, first served single purchase box available in limited quantities, and sometimes comes in both “male” and “female” versions. Cost is $75/box plus $20 shipping. The box includes Approximately 20 deluxe and full size items per collection. Each box highlights thoughtfully curated, ethically-produced products across many lifestyle categories. Product selections are based on health of ingredients, environmental impact, efficacy, and verified standards like USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO, Fair Trade, and data from the Environmental Working Group. Proceeds from the box benefit the Teens Turning Green non-profit organization.

Terra Bella Box Offering two levels of subscriptions for $17.95/month or $37.95/month respectively (shipping included and less with multi-month subscriptions). Terra Bella box features products that are created in small batches by small businesses, are always cruelty free, and are made with natural ingredients. The Terra Bella Lite box offers 2-3 products per month, and the full-sized Terra Bella Box offers 5-6 products per month. Items include skincare, body care, and cosmetics, and are a mix of full size and trial size items, with the majority being full sized. For those who like to try before making a larger commitment, Terra Bella offers a one-time Trial Box option for $24.00 and includes 4-6 items.

The Cosmic Box Cost is $27/month including shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Items for this indie box are chosen for being crafted with spirit, eco-consious, and cosmically good. Boxes include items from various artisans and also feature products from Wild Honey Apothecary, the sister company of The Cosmic Box. Boxes feature a mix of 3-6 trial size or full size goods and include everything from toxin-free skin care, organic/gmo-free artisan edibles, unique home goods, gems, jewelry, and more. A portion of the proceeds from each month’s boxes go to a charity, which varies from month to month. To see my reveiws of The Cosmic Box, look here.

The Simple Soap Cost is $19.99/month for a three bar box or $14.99/month for a two bar option. Shipping included free. The Simple Soap is a family-owned indie subscription box service that sends out their own organic, handmade bars of soap. Their soaps are scented with essential oils and plant materials, and do not contain artificial perfumes or other additives. According to The Simple Soap, a single bar of soap will usually be enough for one person for an entire month.

Truly Organic $55/month (shipping included). Each month’s box will include six full-size products from Truly Organic’s natural hair care and body care line consisting of shampoo, conditioner, scrub or body wash, lotion, face cream and a surprise accessory from the country your ingredients were harvested. Truly Organic offers several collections, including lines for mother and baby. All products are natural, organic, vegan, and fair trade as well as being free of sulfates, GMOs, and gluten.

Vegan Cuts $19.95/month included shipping. Modest discount for multi-month subs. Vegan cuts features 100% cruelty-free brands, many of which are also natural and organic. Each box contains 4-7 full and sample-sized products to try, ranging from unique cosmetics to luxurious skincare.

Yogi Surprise $35.96/month with free shipping. Each box features 6-8 full-size products designed to nourish and support your well being, vitality and growth. Items include pure, natural, and handcrafted goodies that are vegetarian, cruelty, and GMO free.

Yuzen $33/quarter includes shipping. Yuzen strives to include only the very best eco-conscious products to nourish the body and soul. Each beautiful box includes high-quality natural and organic personal care products, healthy snacks, and lifestyle items carefully chosen from about 6 companies.

Food

Cuisine Cube $34.99/month includes shipping. Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. Each monthly box features at least five exciting full-sized gluten-free breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and dessert items. Cuisine Cube tries to introduce lesser-known artisanal brands. Some products are certified gluten free, others use only gluten-free ingredients but are not certified gluten free. Many products are certified organic and CC strives to avoid GMOs and artificial ingredients.

Farmivore products Three box sizes range from $25.95-$69.95, which includes shipping. Farmivore sends boxes filled with all that you need to make blended or juiced drinks using only organic, GMO-free, fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices. Subscriber can select delivery frequency and either all-green juice boxes or “mixed” boxes with green, red, and orange juices featured. Produce will be sent bagged with recipes to create each of the juices featured in that shipment, and each box makes between 4-16 servings of juice depending on box size. Currently Farmivore ships to eight states in the Northeast.

Farm To People Tasting Box Two tiers of subscriptions (Casual Foodie-$29.95/month and Food Critic: $49.95/month both of which include shipping). Boxes include 2-3 or 5-8 full size products respectively. Items included will be unique, humanely made food items that are locally produced in small batches. All foods are GMO free. FTP also advertise that they are happy to accommodate any serious food allergies or dietary restrictions if you email them directly. Each box centers around a theme. Past themes have included Oktoberfest, Heat Things Up, Turkey Day, among others.

Green Blender $49/week shipping included. Each box brings you pre-portioned and individually wrapped ingredients to make 10 servings of blended smoothie drinks (2 servings each or five different recipes). Boxes include fruits, vegetables, superfoods, and whatever else you need to make a week’s worth of smoothies (you just provide the blender and the water). Produce is organic, local, and seasonal whenever possible. Currently Green Blender delivery area covers approximately a dozen states throughout the Northeast.

Healthy Surprise Offer three subscription options: Classic Box, Big Box, and Paleo Box. Boxes range from 15-21 full size snacks and are priced from $49-$74 depending on subscription option. Multi-month subscriptions are discounted. All items are gluten, soy, corn, wheat, and GMO free. Paleo box also does not contain any refined sugar, grains, dairy, or legumes, but may contain some items with honey, eggs, or high quality meat or fish. Classic Box and Big Box are 100% vegan.

Love with Food Offers three subscription options (Tasting Box, Deluxe Box, and Gluten Free Box) ranging in price from $12-$29/month, shipping included. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Designed to help you discover new organic or all-natural snacks. Boxes feature between 8-20 snack items depending on subscription type. Snacks are either organic or all-natural, GMO-free, gluten-free or free of artificial junk. All snacks in the Gluten-Free box are guaranteed to be gluten free. For every box sold, Love with Food donates a meal to several food banks such as the Feeding America Network and Share Our Strength – No Kid Hungry.

NoMoo Box $20/month plus $5.49 shipping, less with multi-month subscriptions. Boxes include carefully selected dairy free foods, coupons, recipes, and the occasional surprise. Each month you will receive 6 to 9 items in your box, including some full size and some sample size dairy free products. You will also receive coupons from dairy free brands to help with the cost of a specialty diet. A portion of the proceeds from every box goes to donate dairy free foods to a local Food Bank for families in need of a dairy free diet.

Num-Nums Munch Box Offer Single Box ($21.99/month) or Double Box ($43.50/month) plush shipping. Each box available as either Gluten Free, Dairy Free, or Nut Free, although most snacks are selected to be top 8 allergen-free (dairy, egg, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish) so the entire family can enjoy them. Single box contains 10 to 12 single-serving snacks, and double box includes 20-24 single-serving snacks. The assortment of snack items includes snack bars, chips, sweets, cookies and more. Although snacks are free of identified allergens, they may be manufactured in factories that process other ingredients.

Send Me Gluten Free $30/month includes free shipping. Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. Each box will include 8-12 gluten free products and will include at least 1 full-sized item. Product selection will include food, personal care items, supplements and household products that support a gluten free lifestyle.

Paleo Life Box $35/month shipping included. Less with multi-month subscriptions. Each box includes 8 to 10 snacks hand-picked from the best Paleo companies on the planet. Paleo Life likes to send a few of new discoveries each month in addition to several tried and true favorites.

Tasterie $25.00/month, includes shipping. Four box varieties (Gluten Allergy, Gluten and Dairy Allergy, Nut Allergy, and Top 8 Allergy). Each box includes 4-8 full and single-serving sized allergy-free foods. Nut allergy and Top 8 allergy foods are all confirmed to have been made in a nut-free facility.

Taste Guru $19/month plus shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Each box contains a mix of full and single-serving sized gluten free food items. Around 10 items per box.

Trade As One $99/quarter 12-15 hand-picked, ethically sourced pantry products. Each box is seasonally themed and includes a broad range of items from everyday staples to fun discovery items. We also help you unpack the meaning of the items in your box with stories from producers, tasty recipes, and product highlights.

Urth Box Offer multiple sizes from Mini (4-5 products) to Large (20-24 products), which range in price from $9-$49/month, including shipping. Each box includes food and beverage items focused health. All boxes are offered in one of four varieties: Classic, Vegan, Gluten Free, or Diet. In addition to snacks, boxes may include “extras” from categories such as supplements, personal hygiene, hair and skin care, gourmet and more. Products will be full sized, although this may include single-serving items.

Vegan Cuts $19.95/month includes free shipping. Each box contains 7-10 full and sample sized vegan food and beverage items. Most products are also gluten free.

Health/Wellness

Natural Herbal Living Herb box + magazine PDF $48/month ($44/month recurring) Mini Herb box + magazine PDF $24/month ($22/month recurring) Will include ingredients to make several recipes shared in Natural Herbal Living Magazine including, but not limited to, the herb of the month, essential oil, flower essence, additional herbs, oils, bees wax, vinegar, honey, and other herbal goodies necessary to make the recipes of the month. This also includes a generous amount of the “herb of the month” to experiment with above and beyond the recipes included in the herb box. The value of the contents of the box will range between $50-60 in addition to the magazine PDF ($4 value). All of the ingredients will be responsibly sourced and organic whenever possible. If the herbs are not certified organic they will be ethically wildcrafted. No box will ever include gluten, nuts, corn, or dairy.

Essential Oil Wizardry Three levels of membership $20/month gets 1 blend; $49/month 3 items including an essential oil and a tincture; $87/month for 5 items including EO, tincture, and, massage oil plus a 10% off coupon. (Shipping included). Limited to just over 100 members.

Kings Road Apothecary $53.50/month plus shipping. Multi-month subscriptions include free shipping. Kings Road Apothecary in an indie sub sending handcrafted, small-batch, herbal-based products that often are seasonal in nature. Boxes are themed (e.g., pinon, lymphatic support, seaweed, salt & water, etc.) and include four full-sized products in each shipment. Items may include an herbal tincture, tea, body scrub, facial mask or cream, massage oil, and more. Due to the sustainable wildcrafting of the box ingredients only approximately 50 boxes are available each month. This is not a re-billing subscription. Boxes are available as single purchases or can be pre-purchased as a multi-month subscription. To see my Kings Road Apothecary reviews look here.

Pregnancy/New Baby/Mom/Home

16 minute club $35/box, less with multi-month subscriptions. The one-and-only home-delivery lactation support program focused on helping new nursing mothers meet their breastfeeding goals. Developed by IBCLC Wendy Wright 16 Minute Club boxes are designed to provide lactation support for roughly baby’s first year, starting with a prenatal box option. Each box includes a chapter of the 16 Minute Club breastfeeding handbook, as well as a collection of breastfeeding support products. Boxes ship every 6 weeks.

21 Bundles $39.99/month, shipping included. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Started by a woman who has served as a pre and post-natal yoga instructor, post-partum doula, Certified Lactation Educator Counselor and nanny, 21 Bundles sends all natural, toxin free products to delight new mom or mom-to-be. Boxes tailored for whatever stage of pregnancy or of baby’s first year and will include 5-8 full size items, with a total retail value of anywhere from $50-$80.

Andrea Schroeder Candle of the Month Club $120 for a 3-month membership. Includes shipping. Each month’s box includes a full size 10.5 oz. Andrea Schroder candle, a travel size candle, a signature notecard, and a special hand selected gift from Andrea Schroder. Candles are made from a blend of coconut, natural, and palm wax. They are non-toxic and free of toxins, artificial dyes, or colorants. Candles are scented with essential oils stabilized with a blend of natural oils. Candles and ingredients are not tested on animals.

Austin Lloyd $49.99/month includes shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Each box includes 3-5 premium toys and at least one book catered to your child’s developmental level and gender (or gender neutral), focused on children ages birth to 3 years. All items are non-toxic and BPA-free. These are unique, high end toys that are not typically sold at large retail chains and come from brands like Haba, Plan Toys, Melissa & Doug, and Manhattan Toys among others. They are designed to be engaging and targeted at improving fine motor, cognitive, and social skills. No battery operated toys included.

Ecocentric Mom $24/shipment, shipping included. Ships every other month. Available in three box types (Pregnancy Box, Mom Box, Mom & Baby Box). Each box included 5-9 hand selected products that are gentle on your body and the earth. Items are natural, sustainable, organic, and ethical. Boxes feature a mix of large sample sizes and full size products. Items range from skincare, wellness, snacks, and more in the Mom Box to diapers, skin cream, and organic first food in the Mom & Baby box, to skincare, makeup, spa products, and more in the Pregnancy Box.

Homegrown Collective $39/month plus shipping. Price reduced and shipping free for multi-month subscriptions. Receive a seasonally appropriate, professionally curated box of products that deliver the satisfaction of living a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle. Examples of past boxes include Home Remedies and Cure Alls, Kombucha, Detox in a Box, and The Beauty of Coconut. Boxes include instructions and all supplies needed to create one or more awesome DIY products with each box (may need to provide some basic supplies). Also teaches you how to become more self-sufficient/sustainable.

The Honest Company Offers several monthly themed bundles: Eco-Friendly Disposable Diapers & Wipes ($79.95/month), Essentials-items for home and body care ($35.95/month), Honest Health & Wellness-food based and quality supplements (($35.95/month), and Organic Infant Formula + dha ($119.95/bundle; buyer sets frequency). With the exception of the formula bundle, bundles are fully customized buy the buyer within each theme and specified quantity of items (for example, any 5 items/Essentials bundle; any 2 items/Health & Wellness bundle.

Children/Adolescents

Happy Hedgehog Post Cost $30/month for a la carte purchases, less with multi-month subscriptions. See site for options to Canada. In addition, HedgehogPost offers a Sibling Envelope add-on for $18 with extra materials to make multiples of the primary crafts featured if you have multiple children or if you just want more. A monthly indie envelope subscription featuring products for children and families to enhance their home, crafts, and nature tables. With a distinct focus on the handmade and natural, this subscription may be a good option for families who are familiar with, and appreciate a Waldorf schooling and play approach. Each month will include materials and instructions for one or more craft projects, a Zine featuring season-specific stories, recipes, bonus craft, and more, and a special gift often appropriate for play or to beautify a nature table. 10% of the purchase price of every box goes to support a different charity each month. To see my Happy Hedgehog Post reviews, look here.

Little PNuts Annual subscription required, no month-to month or single box option. $60/quarterly shipment if annual fee of $240 is paid up front. Shipping is included. Can also opt for $25/month payments for 12 months ($300 total), but will still only receive 4 quarterly boxes. Filled with engaging Eco Friendly & Organic Toys designed to encourage creative play and discovery (3-5 toys/shipment). Choose from three programs : Infant 0-12 Months, Toddler 1-3 Years or Preschool 3-6 Years. Partner with many trusted brands such as Haba, Kathe Kruse, Green Toys, Tegu and more.

Love Yourself First Now $29/month, shipping included. Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. Developed by a mother of two and school psychologist. LYFN is targeted for young women ages 14 and up, and is aimed at promoting self-esteem and developing a sense of self through appreciating one’s self rather than looking to others for validation. Each month’s box features a theme and includes 4-6 functional products like jewelry, makeup, accessories, and inspiration to LOVE YOURSELF FIRST-now. Products valued at $40-$60. To see my Love Yourself First-Now reviews, look here.

Magic Craft Box $65/box or $250/year. Magic Onions sends four seasonally-appropriate eco-friendly crafts per seasonal box, using all-natural craft materials. Craft projects echo Magic Onion’s emphasis on handmade treasures for the natural home. Crafts are intended to be done by kids or with kids.

Mindfulness Box Kids $29/month includes shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Intended for children ages 3-12 years. This monthly box is aimed at teaching mindfulness to children, while promoting peace in themselves and the world around them. Each month is thoughtfully curated with hands-on activities, literature, meditations, a healthy snack and so much more to nurture your child’s heart and mind.

SparkBox Toys One Sparkbox every 4 weeks $34.99/month; 1 Sparkbox every 8 weeks $19.99/month. Two month minimum for membership. Designed for children ages 0-4 years, Sparkbox is all about the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. This toy rental subscription sends 4 age-appropriate, gently used toys to your child to enjoy for 4-8 weeks. When the fun is done, just sent the box back for more toys. Shipping both ways is included in the subscription price. Sparkbox will curate your box based on child’s age, but they allow members to review, edit, and fully customize their box if they desire. Toys are screened to be high-quality, unique, award-winners. Some may be plastic and/or require batteries (included), others are made from natural materials. SparkBox uses only eco and child-friendly sterilization solutions to clean their toys between shipments. All toys go through a 5-step cleaning process that includes surface cleaning, sterilization, disinfecting, inspection and vacuum sealing.

SwiggyDiggyDo $39.95/month. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Designed for children ages 6 months to four years, however currently box contents will only vary relative to clothing size so some items may be to hand down/gift or grow into depending on your child’s age. SDD seeks to find the best, eco-friendly products that are free of BPA, lead, bromine, phthalates and a bunch of other weird chemicals that companies decide to put into toys, clothing and basically everything else. You will get a custom designed, limited edition shirt for your kid. Along with the shirt, your box might include toys, crafts/activities, books, clothing, feeding items and more.

Whimsy Box $35 plus shipping. Multi-month subscriptions are discounted and include free shipping. In addition, they offer a Sibling Add-On option for $20 which includes the box contents minus the book if you wish to have duplicates for the sibling or if you already own the featured book and would like the additional items to enhance the story. Each month’s package features a book appropriate for children approximately ages preschool through age 8 years as well as several artisan and often handmade items related to the book’s theme to extend the story into the child’s play, as well as a few additional small extras such as stickers, organic treats, and post cards. Past items have included play silks, face masks, wooden figures, musical instruments and more, and often are made from natural materials. To see my Whimsy Kids reviews, look here.

Fair Trade/Handmade

Craftly Just launched and still in beta phase. $19.99/month plus shipping. A lifestyle subscription box for either men or women that features high quality products and handcrafted goods from independent artists, small businesses, and mid-to-large scale brands. Every month, subscribers receive a surprise box of 3-5 samples, full-sized items, and exclusive offers for home, beauty, grooming, tech, fashion, stationary, food, fitness, and more.

Fair Ivy $30/month. Currently monthly and multi-month subscriptions are full but you can request to be added to the wait list. Fair Ivy sends a handmade and hand wrapped gift each month. All items are created by individual US artists, with each month representing a single artist’s creations. Each gift you receive is vegan-friendly, and contains an information card with details of the artist’s process, background, or inspiration, so you can understand the time and care put into each hand-wrapped item. Past selections have included a single jewelry item, a purse or clutch, set of stationary, or selection of bath products.

Fair Treasure $35/month. Discounted for multi-month subs) FT hunts for the most amazing designs in home décor, jewelry, and other accessories, personally curating these finds for each month’s treasure boxes. Sometimes they even work collaboratively with artisan groups to develop and design unique products just for their boxes. Each box will contain at least $30 in retail value of ethically sourced treasures. Typically, your treasure box will contain 2-3 items. They will also include information on the people and communities who made your treasures and are benefiting from your purchase.

Fair Trade Friday $35/month plus shipping. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. monthly membership club that delivers a box of 3-4 high quality items to your door by the first Friday of the month. The items in the box are often jewelry and accessory items, are fairly traded, and provide employment to women all over the world. 100% of the proceeds from each box goes to the empowerment of impoverished women.

GlobeIn Artisan Box $35/month, shipping free. Discounts for multi-month subscriptions. Each box includes 4-6 artisan-made products from around the world (a “globe in a box”) packaged in a Mexican palm leaf basket, as well as a story about the crafters whom you have supported with your purchase. In addition, GlobeIn just launched a new mini box called the Benefit Basket for $19.99/month, which will feature one lifestyle products per month in their signature Mexican basket. To see my GlobeIn Benefit Basket reviews, look here.

MakrBox $29/month MakrBox features handcrafted artisan goods from the Pacific Northwest. Each month subscribers receive 2-3 curated artisan made kitchen or home goods.

I hope that everyone can find something in the listing above that would be perfect to add a little crunchy delight to their mailbox own or to gift to someone else. If you know of a sub box that I missed that you think belongs in the list, please mention it in the comments.

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Kings Road Apothecary Herbal Subscription Unboxing & Review-September 2015 (Pinon & Sagebrush)

Crunchy Parent KRA September 2015 unboxing review picture

King’s Road Apothecary is a company owned by herbalist Rebecca Altman. In addition to selling handcrafted seasonal herbal products through her site, Rebecca offers a monthly indie subscription service. Each monthly box features four herbally-based, small-batch, handcrafted items that center around a theme. Box pricing is $53.50 plus shipping each month when ordered individually, but multi-month subscriptions include shipping. The September theme was “Pinon and Sagebrush.” As of this writing, the September box is still available for purchase. To see my other Kings Road Apothecary unboxing and reviews from prior months, look here.

I purchased this box and received no compensation for my review. All opinions are my own.

Please enjoy the complete unboxing video. If you want to better acquaint yourself with some of the herbalism terms that I use throughout the video you can do that through the Crunchy Parent Herbal 101: Glossary of Common and Unusual Herbalism Terms and 50+ Great Ideas for Using Herbs. If you just want to see closeup photos of what was in the box, scroll on down.

The idea behind the KRA Surprise Boxes is that each month Rebecca picks the theme for the box, gathers plant material local to her that fits with the theme, and takes the month to reflect on the plants and experiment with new recipes for products. Her four favorites end up in the box. I was very excited for this month’s box as I absolutely adore the rich scent of piñon pines and find the varieties of sage native to the Southwest to smell rich and fabulous. I was looking forward to seeing what Rebecca would create this month and to receiving the goodies.

Kings Road Apothecary September unboxing review-pinon sagebrush inserts painting

The box came with the entire contents wrapped in a piece of muslin, hand dyed in beautiful shades of green. All items were carefully protected with bubble wrap, individually wrapped in coordinated tissue paper, and tied with kitchen twine. In addition to the four herbal items, the box also came with a copy of a watercolor painting of spring of sage and pine as well as pine and piñon cones penned by Rebecca exclusively for this box. On the back of the drawing were recipes for pine nut roca and for pine infused sugar. I love the flavor of flowers, herbs, and other botanicals in edibles, so I am happy to have these recipes to try. The roca calls for butter, but I think that I can make it with a simple substitution of either coconut oil or palm oil shortening. i think that pine infused sugar would be amazing with baked goods in fall and winter and I also think that it would make a unique holiday or hostess gift. In addition to the above, the box included a letter from Rebecca describing the box contents.

Kings Road apothecary indie herbal subscription september unboxing review pinon sagebrush tea and foot balm

The first item that I pulled from the box was a bag of Pinon Nut and Vanilla Black Tea, which is the same as the Pinon Toffee Black Tea listed on the KRA site, now sold out (approximately 1.5 oz oz.). The blend mixes black tea, oolong tea and puerh tea, along with with cacao, cardamom, vanilla, piñon cone, and roasted wild pine nuts, and then studs the whole mix with chunks of piñon toffee. The toffee in the tea is the same as the roca recipe included although the rock also adds chocolate. I am a big tea drinker, although I generally stick to herbal and other non-caffeinated teas. Receiving the KRA blends has nudged me to try some different teas and so far I have not responded with jitters or sleep disruption at all, so I’m happy. I made the tea with a bit of honey and a dollop of coconut milk cream. I was warming and gently spiced, and as I got closer to the bottom of the cup, I found myself getting a bit sad that I had drank it up so quickly. Fortunately there will be several more cups in my future with what was provided in the box. The tea gave me a very “autumn” feeling. I can see craving a cup of it after tromping around outside in the crisp air and fallen leaves.

Next in the box was a 2 oz. glass jar of Pinon and Juniper Foot Balm, which was available exclusively through the subscription box. The balm infuses piñon needles and resin, juniper berries and branches, and sagebrush leaves into a blend of organic sunflower, jojoba, coconut, and avocado oils. This mixture is enhanced with a mix of essential oils and stabilized with organic beeswax to produce the lightweight balm. The instructions suggest applying the balm to clean feet before bed and then wearing socks while you sleep to help the balm infuse into, and soften your skin. The balm does feel exceptionally light and softening. When I applied the balm to my skin, it felt silkier and softer almost instantly. The foot balm is also one of the best things that I have ever smelled. The fragrance is intense and very natural all at the same time, due no doubt to the layering of the infusion of fresh berries, branches, needles, and resin as well as essential oils into the blend. Closing my eyes and smelling the balm immediately transported me to a pine forest.

Kings Road Apothecary Herb Indie Subscription Box Unboxing Review October Pinon Sagebrush room spray and elixir

The next product discovery was a 1 oz. bottle of Pinon and Juniper Sagebrush Room Spray (value $10.00). This spray is a mix of pine and juniper hydrosols with pine resin and essential oils of pine, juniper, and sage. Rebecca created this blend to evoke the scent of the Pinon flats; the mix of plants and trees, fresh air, and sunshine. The spray has a “greener” scent than the foot balm, reminding me more of green pine needles and less of the earthier barks and resins brought through in the balm. Rebecca suggests using the spray to freshen a room, especially if someone is sick, as it can be helpful in killing airborne microbes.

The final item was a 1 oz. bottle of Pinon Flat Elixir, exclusive to the box. The multi-purpose elixir can be used medicinally to help with lung congestion or tightness or in smaller amounts as digestive bitters or to flavor cocktails. The blend of pine cones, needles, resin, and nuts along with sage, yarrow, mullein, and aralia (spikenard) tasted fresh, earthy, and very pleasant to me. I found it to be grounding, but others may experience it differently.

Kings Road Apothecary herbalist subscription box September 2015 Pinon Sagebrush box complete unboxing review

I greatly enjoy my Kings Road Apothecary boxes. They are a splurge relative to the typical monthly subscription box, but they are in a class of their own in terms of the freshness, seasonal appropriateness and relationship to herbal plant ingredients. I appreciate that someone across the country is out gathering plants that are not available in my region, and is working with them as I would to create incredible products far beyond what I have the knowledge or experience to create on my own. The products and recipes inspire me to work more directly with plants when I can get ahold of fresh plant materials, and to seek opportunities to learn more about medicinal plants and their many uses. It is difficult for me to assign values to the individual items in the boxes because they are often unique items that are exclusive to the box or the size of the product sold on the site is not listed so I cannot estimate the value of the sizes received. Nevertheless, this box feels very luxurious to me; handcrafted products that are created exclusively for a small group of subscribers with wildcrafted ingredients at their peak. I don’t think that I could want for better.

As mentioned above, this box is currently available for purchase if you want to capture this celebration of Pinon and Sagebrush before it is gone. The October box will focus on four plants, palo santo, cacao, hawthorn, and kava kava. It is designed especially, “the dream weavers, the witches, the makers, the edgewalkers,” and sounds rather magical to me. I notice that the October single box price is listed at $54.00, which is a 50 cent increase over the September box. Among the four herbal products included in the box may be any of the following, or other inspired creations: palo santo, sandalwood and kava infused cocoa body butter; smoked kava hot chocolate; cacao and hawthorn spiced syrup; kava, hawthorn and palo santo between the worlds elixir; kava, cacao and palo santo massage oil; palo santo and cacao ritual incense; smoked kava kava and palo santo ritual bath; hawthorn and cacao bitters; palo santo and cacao shimmering body oil (a deep bronze shimmer that looks like autumn leaves).

As a reminder the KRA boxes are made using wild crafted ingredients. In an effort to support plant sustainability in harvesting, only a limited number of boxes are available each month. Are you going to snap up one of the remaining September boxes? I’m tempted just to have another jar of the incredible foot balm. Is the October box calling to you?

If you would like to see my most recent comprehensive listing of “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes, you can find that here. To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe!

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What I Learned By Taking My Daughter to My Cancer Yoga Class

Photo credit: Patrick Savalle / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: Patrick Savalle / Foter / CC BY-SA

I’d mentioned here a while back that I was bumping up my self-care commitment to include yoga class for me once again. In the spring, I started taking a weekly class at a nearby cancer center. There were a few reasons why I chose the class, not the least of which being that I feel compelled to keep myself involved in a community of people living through and beyond cancer. It keeps me grounded and connected in a way that a traditional yoga class cannot. I also remember that when I was first diagnosed almost five years ago, it was very important for me to see and be around survivors. It gave me hope to interact with people who were okay and living their lives, knowing that they had once been as scared and overwhelmed and uncertain as I was. I want recently diagnosed people who are at the cancer center to see me, to talk to me, and to know that there is hope beyond diagnosis and treatment. I also appreciate that the class strongly emphasizes mindfulness and meditation in addition to the strict yoga practice. It helps me to actively tune into calm.

As the school year was winding down in the late spring, Asher was enrolled in a morning camp program held at his school, and Eva had a summer school program on her schedule. Alina however was not interested in the idea of camp or classes at all. It was a difficult time for her. She was coming to the end of the school year, having finally become settled at the school where she had started in October when we moved from our old home into my parents’ house. She knew that we were looking for a new house of our own, and that although we were committed to staying in the same town and school district, it was likely that she was going to have to change elementary schools again before the next school year started in the fall. For a child who craves security and is slow to warm up to new people and situations, the idea of another new school, her fourth school in four years, was daunting. She was adamant that she was not going to go to camp over the summer too; too many new people and places in the recent past and on the horizon. She did not want a new school and she WOULD NOT go to camp. Despite many attempts at revisiting the conversation from every angle, she was adamant, and I was going to respect her limit. I decided that it might just be what she needed to have some one-on-one time with me during the summer while her siblings were away in the mornings.

I enjoy Alina very much, and she is an easy companion. Unfortunately however, that left me with the challenge of having to figure out what to do for the hour each week that I had set aside for my Cancer Yoga class. The easy answer would have been to just take a break from the class for the summer, but I hoped to find a way to meet both of our needs. I took a chance and asked the yoga instructor if she would mind me bringing my nine year-old to the class on occasion when there was nobody available to stay with her at home. She was open to the idea, and even a bit excited when I told her that Alina might be tempted to join in; she has an enviable tree pose.

It has only been within the last year that we have been talking openly and more frequently with the kids about me having had cancer. There were many reasons for that decision that warrant their own post entirely, but nevertheless my cancer is now part of the family culture. This class was going to be a chance for Alina to take a step with me into the cancer community at a deeper level. Before the first class, I talked with Alina a little bit about the cancer center and who would be attending the classes. I wanted her to be prepared for the possibility of seeing people in different stages of their cancer treatment and recovery; some might be bald, many would be wearing compression sleeves to address lymphedema. I wanted her to know that everyone there would be doing what they could, and what they needed to, so that she wouldn’t be upset if she saw someone take a break or sit out during a pose. We talked about what she could bring to keep her quietly occupied throughout the hour-long class if she decided that she wanted to observe rather than participate. She opted to bring a notebook and colored pencils to the first class, and to watch from the sidelines.

The yoga class is held at the cancer center in a large room with a wraparound window and a view of a pond across the street. As I prepared for class, I once again offered to lay out a mat for Alina next to my own in case she wanted to join in on any pose. She declined and seated herself on the floor near the wall a few feet from my mat. The teacher welcomed her and began instruction. Alina watched quietly while she drew a picture in her notebook. On occasion, as I moved through poses I would sneak Alina a little wink or a quick kiss. She mostly smiled shyly and watched. At the end of class the teacher acknowledged her for being a good observer and presented her with a small gift of candies and tumbled stones carved with some inspiring words. Alina was in heaven.

As the weeks wore on, there were many times when my parents were home to watch Alina during my class, but Alina still wanted to come with me. She did not bring a book or pencils after that first class; she preferred to watch me and to watch the instructor. She only joined in once after repeated invitations. She stood in front of me on my mat as we did tree pose. Her little body stood straight and strong in front of mine. She did not waiver until the teacher tried to snap a photo of the mother and daughter trees; then she quickly retreated back to her safe space by the wall. She would not return to the mat for yoga the rest of the summer. Slowly however, she came to take comfort in the rhythm of the class. After a while, I was able to entice her to come snuggle up next to me under a blanket at the end of the classes. We would relax in our “spooning shavasana” and listen to the guided meditation together.

I often thought that I would have found the experience rather uncomfortable and boring if I had been in her position. Spending an hour each week during the summer watching a bunch of grownups do yoga doesn’t sound like much fun to me, yet she always wanted to come with me to class. As I observed her in life, it became evident that she was gaining more from the class than I had realized. In quiet moments of our days, especially when we were out in nature, she just started to assume poses on her own. It became her own silent practice; something that she did in her comfortable space and at her own pace. The experience of attending class with me also helped her put faces to cancer; to demystify what is often a scary and overwhelming word. She saw many people, standing straight and strong, breathing their way through challenges and stretching themselves just a little bit beyond what was comfortable.

Tree pose at the lake.

Tree pose at the lake.

As summer drew to a close, we found a house and moved in a week before the start of the school year. Alina was leaving her grandparents’ home and going to a new house and a new neighborhood across town. She would be attending another school in the fall, as she had feared. She was miserable. Beyond miserable. It was a lot of change. One day, just prior to the move, Rich took the kids to the park so that I could focus on packing. He sent me a picture from the park with the message, “I think that this is your influence.” It made me smile. She was breathing her way through challenges too. Finding space for peace and calm amidst tumult.

"I think that this is your influence."

“I think that this is your influence.”

The first day of school was approaching, and the energy within the house was pretty intense. Three kids starting new schools, and for Alina it was especially difficult. She did not want to go. We made the decision to have Alina and Asher ride the bus on the first day so that they could get any initial instructions about bussing to school, and begin to become familiar with the routine. I then drove to the school on my own to attend a meeting that was being held for the kindergarten parents just after the school day began. I had not told the kids about the meeting because I thought that they would balk at taking the bus if they knew that I was going to be driving. I was also afraid that Alina might refuse to get out of the car if she rode to school with me, and this would send her brother into a tailspin too.

I arrived at school while all of the students were still standing outside waiting to be let into their classrooms, which I had not anticipated. My eyes found Alina, standing alone, head bowed while the other fourth graders around her chatted and laughed with their friends. Before I could even think about the wisdom of my action, I approached her and gave her a hug. As soon as she saw me, she burst into tears. I held her and promised her that this was the last first day when she wouldn’t know anyone. I reminded her to breathe. I took a few deep breaths myself as the bell rang, she wiped her tears, and she headed in through the doors.

Parents’ Night at school was the following week. It was a chance to meet teachers and to see the classrooms. Alina wanted me to be sure to introduce myself to a couple of moms because their daughters were her newfound friends. As I walked into the fourth grade room we were encouraged to look around before locating our child’s desk. Strung up along the perimeter of the room were essays that the children had written and mounted on bright construction paper; “What is something fun that you did this summer?” This is a start-of-school essay that my kids tend not to enjoy. They have never attended fancy overnight camps or gone on a family vacation like many of their classmates, and it sometimes leaves them feeling sad about what we haven’t been able to provide. We try to encourage them to remember the simpler, but still fun things that we do, and to write about those. I saw Alina’s essay “Yoga with My Mom.” As I started to read, I found myself fighting back tears.

cancer yoga with my mom essay

The thing is, we all find ourselves at times having to do something that we really don’t want to. Not just math homework or eating blue cheese, but something that we would give anything to avoid, like saying goodbye to our friends and being the new kid at a new school again, or being diagnosed with a scary disease that makes you wonder if you will live to make any new memories with your children. What began as a creative solution to a logistical problem became a life lesson for my girl, and for me. Sometimes life is hard in ways that nobody can change. When it is, look for the simple joys, find peace in the quiet moments, turn inward for strength, and outward for support. Above all, remember to breathe.

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BuddhiBox Subscription Unboxing & Review: September 2015

Crunchy Parent BuddhiBox Unboxing & Review September 2015 picture

BuddhiBox is a lifestyle subscription service bringing mindful living products to use in your yoga practice and to enhance your life. Products are ethically source, cruelty-free, and created with intention. BuddhiBox is guided by the principles of discovery, union, and compassion; hoping to help you discover new products and for you share them with your community. In the spirit of compassion, BuddhiBox donates a portion of each box’s cost to a new charity each month. Every box includes 4-6 full-size items for $30.95/month (shipping included). There are discounts on multi-month subscriptions.

I purchased this box and all opinions are my own.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing, please enjoy the video unboxing below. About 1/3 of the way through the video, the Universe decided to shine a spotlight on me, making me all glowy for the remainder of the video, so that was kind of special. If you would like to skip along to the closeup photos and review information, scroll right on down.

The box was well packaged in an outer shipping box. Everything arrived to me safely and intact, although I think that one item leaked somewhere along the way. I was really struck with BuddhiBox’s presentation. The box had several useful cards and inserts and the box itself was jam-packed with goodies.

BuddhiBox unboxing & review yoga card, co our hair & body butter; greenbeauty

The first insert that I saw was a yoga pose card. Each month BuddhiBox includes a “Yogicard” to highlight a single yoga pose. My card this month was Downward Facing Dog, a pose with which I am familiar and enjoy. I loved that the card had a cute illustration, described the benefits of the pose for the body, and gave step-by-step instructions for the correct form of the pose. I think that these Yogicads are fantastic, and intend to create a little deck that we can select from when we want to practice a pose or two after school or at other times when we want to be centered or grounded. I think that all three kids will enjoy using these cards, and I will look forward to using the cards with them. Other inserts included a pasta recipe from Ground 2 Table (more on that in a moment) and a the description card for the box contents, which also featured a nice quote from Paul Coelho. I appreciated that the description card not only listed the items included, a bit about them, and their values, but also indicated which items were vegan, organic, and/or cruelty-free. The card also highlighted Sgt. Pepper’s Friends, a dog rescue organization that is the recipient of this month’s charitable contributions.

Being the green beauty fan that I am, the first item that I grabbed out of the box was the Co-Pur Hair & Body Butter (7 oz., value $22.00). I could not find the product listed on the Co-Pur site, but I think that it is the same as this Hair Mask (ingredients, size, and pricing are all the same). Co-Pur is an up-and-coming green beauty brand whose products I have been beginning to collect and sample, so I was excited to see this included in the box. I think that a portion of the product must have leaked out at some point, because the jar was only about 2/3 full and when I weighted it it was less than 7 oz. even in the container. That said, the product inside smells great with lavender tempered a bit by the citrus scent of the bergamot. I have not yet tried it on my hair, but the blend of shea butter along with the coconut and avocado oils was fairly light on my skin, but very moisturizing. I think that this would be great for using after bath or shower, and I am looking forward to trying it as a deep-conditioning pre-treatment for my thick, dry hair before the Midwest winter takes hold.

BuddhiBox unboxing & review: organic spices, no sweat athletic detergent, essential oil headache relief

The next item that I pulled out of the box, was No Sweat detergent, specifically designed to remove stains and odor from your workout gear while protecting and preserving stretchy fabric (4 oz., value $6.00). I really like this product for a yoga-themed box. I personally am really sensitive to artificial fragrance, and the Sweet Freesia scent included was pretty strong. I don’t think that I’d do well with it right up against my sweaty skin when I workout. I was pleased to see a fragrance-free variety on the No Sweat website though so I may have to pick some of that up and give it a try.

Another item tucked into the box was a small packet of Ground 2 Table’s organic spice blend #9, an Italian spice blend that combines the basil, oregano, and rosemary (.07 oz., value $2.00). This spice blend was called for as an ingredient in the enclosed recipe for “Pasta alla Norma”. I like that Ground 2 Table has a mission to transform the way that we buy and use spices. They package all of their spices into single-use packets to promote the use of fresher, more flavorful spices in our food, and to encourage us as consumers to buy just what we need and eliminate excess and waste. I think this is admirable and know that I have spices in my cabinet that have probably been there longer than they should have been. That said, $2.00 for a single serving of spice blend would probably not be a sustainable price point for me to use on a regular basis versus the cost of fresh or larger multi-use, organic spices; not to mention the environmental cost of the single-serve plastic packaging. The pasta recipe that Ground 2 Table included for the box did include gluten and dairy, but with an easy swap to gluten free rice penne and leaving out the small bit of ricotta cheese called for in the recipe, we can all enjoy it. This may be on the menu here very soon.

Another small but mighty item hiding away in the box was The Ease Up headache and tension relief rollerball by The Essential Nest (10 ml., value $14.00). I have received products like this in past subscription boxes and I am happy to have another. The rollerball blends sweet almond oil with essential oils of peppermint, basil, and lavender to provide relief from headache pain and stress. I love keeping these in my purse (great for diaper bags too). When a headache strikes, I rub the oil on my temples or at the base of my head/neck. I also find that sniffing the rollerball can help settle an upset stomach (peppermint is good for that).

BuddhiBox yoga subscription-vegan gluten free macaroon, YogaAmytime.com free membership, Love reusable snack pouch

Some of my favorite items waited for the end of the unboxing. The Rickaroons macaroon was a happy discovery (single cookie, value $3.00). I love macaroons, but sometimes they are made with wheat flour or include dairy. These macaroons are vegan and gluten free and are nutritionally punched up with the addition of almond butter. Their “Megaroon” variety even adds ground chia seeds. We received the Chocolate Blonde variety, which was studded with big dark chocolate chips, much to the delight of Eva and myself who polished it off immediately following the unboxing. The cookie was dense and delicious. I could have gobbled the whole thing myself, but was happy to share. It always thrills the kids when we receive gluten free and casein free treats in subscription boxes that they can discover and enjoy as well. They are so used to being told that they can’t eat something due to its ingredients that they are really excited to be given the green light to try a treat.

The next thing that I grabbed was an absolutely adorable two-pack of Love Reusable Bags snack pouches (2 bag set, value $12.00). What an appropriate name, because I love these bags. We had made a decision to try to cut down on single-use plastic bag use in the children’s school lunches this year. We got each kid a set of reusable snack bags and have really liked using them not just for the children’s lunches but also to bring snacks along on weekend outings, so I was very grateful to receive another set. I think that the whale pattern that we received is very cute and I really appreciate that the bags are top-rack dishwasher safe and also have a band across the front to write the child’s name. They are a great size for sandwiches and snacks. Alina has already asked if she can adopt this set and re-assign her former set to “family weekend use.” This was a big hit with us.

The last item was a card with a unique code for 30 days of free, unlimited access to YogaAnytime.com (value $18.00). I have never tried an online yoga subscription service, but I am really excited to give this a go. I have been debating about joining a local recreation center or gym so that I can have access to additional classes, but the times and types of classes offered aren’t always a good fit for me. I really like the idea that anytime I want, I can just unroll my yoga mat at home and select the type of yoga class that I want to do. The classes vary based on the style of yoga, level of intensity of the practice, and length of the video, and even can be searched according to the area of the body that you wish to target (e.g., core, internal organs, or spine to name a few). I am particularly partial to Vinyasa yoga, and saw over 100 Vinyasa videos to choose from in addition to videos in other yoga styles and meditation videos as well. I will be starting my YogaAnytime practice this afternoon, and am very excited. I also plan to have Rich give the meditation videos a go since he likes meditation but often does not find the time to meditate on his own. I saw on their site that YogaAnytime.com is offering a free 15 day trial on their site at the moment if you didn’t get this month’s BuddhiBox and want to give it a try.

BuddhiBox yoga lifestyle subscription boc September 2015 complete unboxing and review

In total this month’s BuddhiBox had a product retail value of $77.00 in addition to the yoga card and recipe, which I think is fantastic. Given that this is my first BuddhiBox, I am not sure if this value is typical, but I can say that the box made a great first impression. I am really thrilled with the quality and variety of the items included in the box. Not every single item was a perfect match for me, but overall the box really hit it out of the park and we will get great use out of the majority of the goodies included. I discovered a number of new products and services and am excited about what the box had for me, for my kids, and for our whole family. I am looking forward to next month’s box and have a feeling that this box will be a new addition to our list of favorites.

What do you think of BuddhiBox? Are you as excited as I am to see the “crunchy, zen, mindful” subscription box market expanding?

To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you are interested in finding “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes to enhance the way you live, eat, craft, play, care for you home and body, etc. you can find that here. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos or unboxings, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent!

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Kombucha 101: Grow your own SCOBY

Crunchy Parent Kombucha 101 Growing your own SCOBY at home from store bought kombucha

I remember the first time that I tasted kombucha, a fermented tea beverage. I was at a trade show for the specialty food industry with my mother and some brand representative thrust little cups of this exotic, fizzy, tea beverage into our hands as we walked down the aisles of vendor booths. We each took a sip, turned to one another with expressions that communicated our displeasure, and deposited our little cups into the next trash receptacle down the aisle. This was about fifteen years ago and I have no recollection what brand we were trying, why we found the taste so unpleasant, or how I came upon kombucha again with a more open mind years later, but it is now one of my very favorite beverages to make and to drink.

For those unfamiliar with kombucha, it is a beverage made by introducing a symbiotic culture of (good) bacteria and (good) yeast (known to its friends as a SCOBY) into a batch of sweetened tea. The SCOBY feeds off of the sugar in the tea and releases carbon dioxide throughout the fermentation process, creating a bubbly brew. The fermenting process allows the yeasts and bacteria to multiply into the tea, yielding a probiotic elixir that can do all of the wonderful things for the gut that we have come to understand and expect from probiotics. (See this article for a bit more about which probiotics have been found across kombucha samples). As we have also been learning more about the important connection between our gut and our overall immune system, kombucha may represent another way to introduce robust probiotic populations into our diet and into our gut, resulting in an overall healthier immune system.

I had become interested in kombucha once again when I began to learn and think more about cultured foods as the kids advanced through their Waldorf school. Part of the parent education piece in preschool included discussions about diet and the gut, and featured a lot of conversations about Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, as well as Weston Price, both of whom emphasized cultured foods and gut health. As I played around at home with sauerkraut and other cultured vegetables, at some point a bottle of kombucha made its way into my cart at the health food store. This was a bit odd for me as I am a water and hot tea drinker by nature. I really do not enjoy any other beverages and am not inclined to experiment with them often. That said, I loved the refreshing bite and bubbles in kombucha, and it quickly became another preferred way to hydrate and refresh.

As any regular kombucha drinker knows, a kombucha habit can become costly to support as bottles can run upwards of $4-$5 each at the store. Moreover, although the selection of available kombucha options is ever-expanding as kombucha’s popularity soars, one is still limited to the flavors available at their local markets. Fortunately kombucha is very inexpensive to make on your own, especially once you get your basic ingredients and set up ready to go (i.e., loose tea, organic sugar, good water, a brewing container, bottles, and of course your SCOBY). I knew how to source out the basic ingredients, but finding a SCOBY can be a challenge. I was lucky because one of the teachers at the school at the time brewed her own kombucha regularly and thus had SCOBYs to share (each batch will yield a new “baby SCOBY” in addition to the reusable “mother SCOBY”). I used the SCOBY that I was gifted and its resulting babies to brew and share for years. Unfortunately, with our move and extended time living in someone else’s home, I could not maintain my brewing or my SCOBYs. As soon as we got into our new house, brewing kombucha was high on my list of things to do right away, but despite asking around I could not get my hands on a new SCOBY. I considered several options (purchase one online, drive a distance to a store that sells them fresh, etc.) but in the end I opted to just grow my own.

There has been a fair amount of debate in kombucha brewing circles for a while about the feasibility of growing a SCOBY from store-bought kombucha. I participate in an active kombucha-brewing discussion group and this topic pops up a lot. Some of you may recall that a number of years ago, Whole Foods sent a panic out to their kombucha-drinking customers when they pulled all of the kombucha off of store shelves for months due to concern that the alcohol content in these beverages may have exceeded the 0.5% threshold that distinguishes “non-alcoholic beverage” from “Mommy can’t drink that in the car on the way to yoga class.” As a result of this debacle, many kombucha manufactures modified their brewing practices. It has been speculated that these changes in the brewing process have somehow altered the viability of the kombucha in such a way that it hinders the growth of a SCOBY. The general consensus is that if one is attempting to use store-bought kombucha to grow a SCOBY, they should look for a bottle that is clearly labeled “raw” and that has no added flavoring agents, like juice. To grow my SCOBY, I purchased a 16 oz. bottle of GT’s Original Organic Raw Kombucha. For good measure, I looked for one that had a lot of “gunk” in the bottom of the bottle (which I think is technically yeast, not gunk, but nevertheless having more seems to jump start the process).

Empty bottle. So excited to get started that I forgot to take a picture first.

Empty bottle. So excited to get started that I forgot to take a picture first.

There is not much that is required to grow a SCOBY, but it is important that you keep everything really clean. Because you are working with a fermentation process, you don’t want to have bad fungi or bacteria hanging out and proliferating along with the good. Accordingly, you want to make sure that you use a sterilized, clear, non-leaded glass vessel to grow your SCOBY or a sterile ceramic fermenting container. DO NOT use a plastic container or any glass with additives such as colors or metals as chemicals will leach into the tea and SCOBY during the fermentation process, which means that you’d be sipping toxins with your tea and we do not want that. I used a quart size glass canning jar that I sterilized in my dishwasher and immediately removed to put to use as my SCOBY incubator. You can also sterilize your glass jar in boiling water, in a low temperature oven, etc. I would recommend using a large-mouthed jar if possible to allow for the best air flow and surface area for SCOBY growth. The SCOBY will grow to the exact circumference of the container and you want a good size SCOBY for future batches. Also, if the top of the container is more narrow, it can be tougher to get your SCOBY out of the jar in one piece when you are ready to make your batch of kombucha.

Once you have your sterile glass jar all clean and dry, just open up your bottle of kombucha and dump it in. It’s that simple. You are going to want to let your kombucha breathe while it works to grow that SCOBY since it needs to keep taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. That said, you don’t want your jar open to all of what is floating or flying around in the air. I generally cover my jar with a scrap of clean muslin or cotton. In a pinch a scrap of an old (clean) cotton shirt will work, or in the case of having just moved into a new house and not knowing where anything is, you can use a piece of a clean paper towel. Secure your cover to the jar with a rubber band, string, or the band of the canning jar lid (without the lid piece). Next you just want to place your SCOBY jar in some out of the way place. Not too cool or too hot, and not in direct sunlight. You also want to be mindful of the need to breathe, so a counter top is good, but a closed cabinet is not. In my experience the kombucha does not like to be jostled about, especially in the early stages when a new SCOBY is growing. If you do it will disturb the SCOBY growth, which happens along the very surface of the tea. This may cause the growing SCOBY to drop down from the surface and a new one will have to start growing all over again (not a critical error, but annoying). So it really is best to find some out of the way counter space for your SCOBYs growth process, which can take from weeks to a month or so.

The following photos show my SCOBY’s progress:

Here she is after about three days. Not a whole lot going on.

Growing SCOBY from store-bought Kombucha. Slow progress on Day 3

Now we’re about a week in. You can see a thin film starting to form on the surface. That is the new SCOBY growing. From the top it looks a bit patchy, which sometimes makes people freak out (they think that it’s getting moldy). If it is fuzzy, blue, green, or black you may have a problem; but slimy, white, brown, or tan are typical SCOBY traits, and those patches will expand and grow together to make the complete SCOBY surface.

Kombucha progress-Day 7 of growing my own SCOBY from storebought GT's

It’s been about 19 days. SCOBY is starting to thicken up. You can see a couple of layers because there were two occasions when I jostled or moved the jar a bit because I was trying to get a better angle for taking pictures for demonstrative purposes to show you what it would look like. I also was worried that there might not be enough sugar in the tea to support healthy growth, so I added about a teaspoon of organic sugar to it and tried to push down the edge of the SCOBY gently with a clean straw to allow the sugar to dissolve into the tea. The new SCOBY just continued to form over the layers and they had not totally separated from the top so no biggie.

Growing my own kombucha SCOBY from storebought booch. Progress on day 19

Day 30 (today)!!! I can’t believe that it’s been a month already. I really should have unpacked more by now, which has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but goodness a month already!?!

Growing my own kombucha SCOBY from scratch. Progress day 30. Success!

The SCOBY is not quite 3/4” thick and is very pretty, if you’re into that sort of thing. You can see some of the CO2 bubbles trapped below the SCOBY and some yeast “gunk” hanging off the bottom of the SCOBY to the right. I will be brewing up my first batch of kombucha with my new SCOBY soon, as well as using the remaining tea in the jar as the starter tea for the batch. It is still a small SCOBY, so I will need to brew a relatively small batch, but it will get the job done.

If you want to join me in kombucha brewing, start growing your SCOBY now and get your hands on some organic sugar and non-flavored, loose leaf, black tea or you can blend black, green, and/or rooibos tea (unflavored is a must though). You’ll also want a larger non-leaded glass container for your larger brew. I use this type of jar without the lid. They are often sold in 1/2 gallon, 1 gallon, or 2 gallon sizes at stores like Target. Hold onto that kombucha bottle as well because it will come in handy when you are bottling your homemade brew. We’ll talk more about the “why”s of all of those specifics next time, but just trust me for now.

Have you ever brewed your own kombucha at home or grown your own SCOBY from scratch? If you have any tips or favorite flavor combinations to share, I’d love to hear them.

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Kings Road Apothecary Herbal Subscription Box Unboxing and Review-August 2015 (Cactus and Cool)

King’s Road Apothecary is a company owned by California herbalist Rebecca Altman. In addition to selling handcrafted seasonal herbal products through her site, Rebecca offers a monthly indie subscription service. Each monthly box features four herbally-based, small-batch, handcrafted items that center around a theme. Box pricing is $53.50 plus shipping each month when ordered individually, but multi-month subscriptions include shipping. The August theme was “Cactus and Cool.” The August box is sold out, but as of this writing there are still a handful of September Surprise boxes available for purchase (more on those in a bit). To see my other Kings Road Apothecary unboxing and reviews from prior months, look here.

Please enjoy the complete unboxing video, during which you may feel compelled to toss slippery elm lozenges or bags of tea at the screen as you listen to me cough my way through the unboxing with a bothersome cold that still lingers. Sorry about that. If you want to better acquaint yourself with some of the herbalism terms that I use throughout the video you can do that through the Crunchy Parent Herbal 101: Glossary of Common and Unusual Herbalism Terms and 50+ Great Ideas for Using Herbs. If you just want to see closeup photos of what was in the box, scroll on down.

The idea behind the KRA Surprise Box is that each month Rebecca picks the theme for the box, gathers plant material local to her that fits with the theme, and takes the month to reflect on the plants and experiment with new recipes for products. Her four favorites end up in the box. I was very excited for this month’s box as I have been really drawn to prickly pear cactus and its remarkable medicinal and skincare uses over the past several months. I am not sure if it is gaining a stronger foothold in our collective consciousness and consequently being used more, or if I am just so taken by it that I have had my eyes out for it everywhere that I go so I’m noting it more often. In any case, I was looking forward to seeing what Rebecca would create this month and to receiving the goodies.

King's Road Apothecary Subscription Box Unboxing Review August 2015 Cactus and Cool

The box came with the entire contents wrapped in a piece of muslin, hand dyed in beautiful shades of purple, berries, and wine. All items were carefully protected with bubble wrap, individually wrapped in coordinated tissue paper, and tied with kitchen twine. In addition to the four herbal items, the box also came with a copy of a watercolor painting of a prickly pear cactus with beautiful bright pink blooms that was penned by Rebecca exclusively for this box. On the back of the drawing was a recipe for prickly pear fruit syrup and a prickly pear margarita. As luck would have it, a local market was having a sale on prickly pear fruit this week, so I have a bag of them ripening up in my kitchen waiting for their big moment to shine in these recipes. I love when my subscription boxes inspire me to try new things and discover new favorites. In addition to the above, the box included a letter from Rebecca describing the box contents, and an invitation to post box images on instagram to enter to win a little gift.

Kings Road Apothecary August Subscription box-cactus & cool

The first item that I pulled from the box was a bag of Prickly Pear and Hibiscus white tea (approximately 1 oz., maybe 2 oz.? I drank several cups before I could weigh it and also made the bag messy before the photo-op. Forgive me). The KRA site indicates that both prickly pear pads and hibiscus are good for soothing and moistening. At the time that I filmed the video I had an irritated, dry throat and nagging cough. Immediately after finishing the video I brewed myself some of this tea and continued to drink it in the days that followed because it helped my throat feel so much better (hence the reason why the bag looked far more full in the video than when I got around to taking the photo-oops).I do not generally drink caffeinated teas because I am often sensitive to caffeine, but I had no problems with this. Likewise, I am not much of a hibiscus fan, but I found the flavor enjoyable and appreciated the medicinal properties of the plant; accepting what it had to offer me with gratitude.

Next in the box was a 1 oz. bottle of Prickly Pear and Rose After Sun Potion. The lightweight gel combines prickly pear with aloe vera, rose, and calendula to provide quick soothing and cooling relief to skin that has been upset by too much sun. Although I have not spent too much time in the sun since receiving the box, I can say that in testing the product, it smells really good. There is a distinct rose presence but also something astringent and not quite citrusy that I cannot put my finger on. Maybe it’s what the inside of a prickly pear pad smells like. I don’t really know (if you do, please tell me because I’m terribly curious. I’m holding myself back from going downstairs to cut open and sniff a prickly pear paddle right now). The product was exclusive to this box and is not available for purchase through the KRA site.

KRA herbal subscription box cactus and cool-prickly pear summer heat relief elixir & prickly pear and sage wound powder

The next product discovery was a 1 oz. bottle of Prickly Pear and Rose Summer Heat Relief formula. Unfortunately the instructions on this bottle were accidentally mislabeled and the ingredients were incomplete (sometimes small-batch products made by human hands will come with the occasional human error; a small price to pay if you ask me). When I reached out the Rebecca, she offered apologies and clarified that the elixir is to be taken at a dose of “3-30 drops, 3 times a day or whenever you’re feeling extra aggravated.” I may have suggested that as a mom of three young kids/tweens I have occasion to feel extra aggravated that is not even related to the summer heat, but I am sure that it is excellent for heat relief too. I can say that the elixir is delicious. I don’t think that I’ll ever get enough of how wonderful rose tastes in anything and everything. I wish that the elixir had arrived a couple of weeks sooner. We spent a sweltering day at a local Renaissance Faire recently, and by the day’s end all of the children were hot, aggravated, and looking like this.

Hot & sweaty day at the Renaissance Faire. Some Summer Heat Relief elixir would have hit the spot I am sure

Hot & sweaty day at the Renaissance Faire. Some Summer Heat Relief elixir would have hit the spot I am sure.

Bet that potion sure would have come in handy, and I would have felt all Renaissance-y talking about getting my herbal elixir from the apothecary to treat our ailments. I know that I will get good use out of this potion on hot days or whenever that hot aggravated feeling sweeps over us. This product was another box exclusive.

The final item was a 1 oz. bottle of Prickly Pear and White Sage Wound Powder. I have been very intrigued by wound powders. I have just recently become aware of them and they are quite unlike anything that I grew up using to treat cuts, scrapes, or burns. I guess that I was more accustomed to using a salve, cream or ointment to treat wounds, so I am finding herbal powders very novel and fascinating. This wound powder blends prickly pear with yarrow, white sage, rose, plantain, and calendula to help fight potential infection and promote healing. I greatly appreciate being able to build an herbal first aid kit and will be happy to grab this the next time that one of us gets a bit banged up. The powder smells fantastic, but I may be biased because I could sit and sniff white sage happily all day long (more on that in a moment too). This item was yet another box exclusive and is not offered for sale at this time.

King's Road Apothecary Herbal Subscription Box Unboxing & Review August 2015 Cactus & Cool

I always look forward to my Kings Road Apothecary boxes. I find Rebecca’s creativity to be inspiring and she shares so much of her process and research through her email newsletter as well (signup for the free newsletter here). I love seeing and using her formulas and find them to be delicious, effective, and they all smell wonderful. As I have been subscribing over several months I see how her products have woven their way into my life from my kitchen to my shower, to my first aid kit. I don’t think that there is any other subscription box out there currently that offers a comparable herbal experience month to month. I really enjoy supporting a small business and feel connected to the process by what Rebecca shares with her subscribers as she works on the items throughout the month. This box feels very luxurious to me; handcrafted products that are created exclusively for a small group of subscribers with wildcrafted ingredients at their peak. I don’t think that I could want for better.

I am anxiously anticipating the arrival of the September box, which focuses on what may be two of my very favorite herbal ingredients, at least based on olfactory delight alone. The September box theme is “Pinion and Sagebrush” and is inspired by the plants one would find walking the pinion flats of southern California in the fall. The box is designed to be a sensory experience, with products intended to delight at least four of the five senses. Among the four herbal products included in the box may be any of the following: pinon, white sage, and sagebrush room and body spray; white sage, juniper, and sagebrush smudge sticks; juniper and sagebrush foot cream; juniper, sage, and pinon digestive bitters; pinon and juniper scented candle (with a hint of white sage); wild pinon pine nut liqueur; pinon flat elixir (for lung health); pinon resin infused body oil; pinon and pinon nut caramel black tea; or pinon oxymel.

As a reminder, the KRA boxes are made using wild crafted ingredients. In an effort to support plant sustainability in harvesting, only a limited number of boxes are available each month. Are you going to grab a September box before they sell out? I can only imagine how the whole room will smell when I open that box. I can hardly wait!

If you would like to see my most recent comprehensive listing of “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes, you can find that here. To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe!

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Barganic Alerts: Yoga, green beauty, and organic baby items

I usually like to post my Barganic Alerts individually to highlight each and every one, but the green, crunchy bargains are piling up. I’m going to post a few all at once so be sure to give ‘em a good look. I think there’s something for just about everyone in this mix. I am not affiliated with, or responsible for these companies; just looking to pass along bargains.

Vegan Cuts is one of the many crunchy-friendly subscription box services featured in the Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes. They source and send quality, 100% cruelty-free cosmetic, skin care, and beauty products to their monthly subscribers. On occasion, Vegan Cuts curates limited edition themed boxes available for purchase individually.

Vegan Cuts Ltd. Edition Yoga Box

Due to the popularity of their recent yoga-themed box, Vegan Cuts has decided to offer a second limited edition box for yogis everywhere. The Yoga Box (pictured above) includes sixteen items for yoga enthusiasts to eat, wear, use, and enjoy. The box costs $39.00 (shipping is free) and features $139.00 worth of jewelry and accessories, yoga props, healthy snacks and tea, and aromatherapy products. See the link for the complete item listing and to order (yoga mat not included).

As an added bonus, Vegan Cuts is running promotion code OHSOPRETTY for $10 off orders of $50+ (through 8/28). I am not 100% sure if the code will stack with this deal, but it can’t hurt to try. Please let me know if you try the code and succeed.

Petit Vour Leaping Bunny Box

The next offer comes from another company featured on the Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes. Petit Vour focuses on cruelty-free products, but tends to feature product lines that are also natural and organic. They too are offering a limited edition, single-purchase box at the moment.

The Petit Vour Leaping Bunny Limited Edition Box is filled with a luxurious collection of five Leaping Bunny-certified, non-toxic, vegan cosmetic and skincare items. In addition, 10% of sales will be donated directly to Leaping Bunny.

The Petit Vour Leaping Bunny box costs $50.00 and includes shipping. The retail value of the items included is $142.00. Please see the link for item specifics and to order yours.

Bambino Land sale 50%  off with Blissmo code

Last in the group is another subscription box service featured in the Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes. Blissmo offers a monthly box of premium organic, non-toxic and eco-friendly personal care and food products.

For this Barganic Alert, Blissmo is partnering with Bambino Land for a limited time promotion. Bambino Land is a mom-owned product line of 100% certified organic baby clothes, swaddling blankets, crib sheets, gifts, and accessories. Through Friday, August 28th 10 pm PST, shoppers can use code BLISSMO for 50% off their entire Bambino Land purchase. Many items on the site are already marked down. When I added both sale and full-price items to my cart, the code deducted 50% from all items. This deal looks like a great opportunity to stock up on cute and cozy clothes, blankets, baby leggings and more made with organic materials.

Did you find something in the Barganic Alerts list that you can’t pass up?

Make sure that you don’t miss out on any Barganic Alerts, these babies tend to be time-limited. Subscribe to Crunchyparent.com, or follow Crunchy Parent on Twitter or Pinterest to get these alerts delivered straight to you via your favorite social media outlet.

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TBT: The Cancer Series-Part 3 (the one where I talk about hair)

I sometimes wonder if I am being self-indulgent or living in the past when I post these excerpts from my personal cancer blog from early 2011. I may be, but I also think that although these experiences and feelings are in my past, they are very much present for others who might relate to my words. A longtime friend-through-a-friend whom I have known since college will be having surgery to remove cancer from her body tomorrow while her children wait at home wondering why mommies and daddies get cancer. I saw her recently and it was clear that so much of what I struggled with is washing over her. I hope that for her, and for anyone else who might be fighting against cancer right now, these words serve as some form of empathy and validation. Just keep moving through it. If you want to read parts one or two of the cancer series, please do. This will be here when you get back.

This entry was originally published on January 28, 2011; six weeks after receiving my diagnosis and about two weeks into my radiation treatments. It reflects in part on my gratitude for looking well despite being sick; this allowed me to protect the kids from some degree of my vulnerability. However, the mismatch between my outward appearance and my internal state also reminded me a bit of being in one’s first trimester of pregnancy; so much is going on, you may feel exhausted, sick, concerned and yet to the average passerby there is no hint of a deviation from normal, unless you tell…

Several people have commented lately that I’m looking great (thanks!) It makes me think of a t-shirt that I saw when looking for cancer advocacy clothes (I’ll show you the t-shirt that I settled on once I get a picture of me in it).

My mirror selfie in the women's changing room at the cancer center. It was Feb. 4, 2011; World Cancer Day. I wore my t-shirt as my battle armor before changing into my hospital gown for radiation.

My mirror selfie in the women’s changing room at the cancer center. It was Feb. 4, 2011; World Cancer Day. I wore my t-shirt as my battle armor before changing into my hospital gown for radiation.

Anyway, the shirt that I saw said something like, “Nobody told me I looked this good before I had cancer.” It took me a second to get the joke, but once I did I found it quite funny, and it’s true. I am hearing with much greater frequency that I look good. No complaints, I’ll take it thank you very much. I’m not sure though if the joke is that people say that you look good because they’re trying to make you feel better, or if they don’t know what to say, or if they are in fact surprised that you don’t look more “sick” given the gravity of what’s going on with your body. In my case though, there has been one recent significant adjustment that I imagine factors in to the observed change in my appearance as well.

When Eva was born, amidst all of the drama and stress and confusion my hospital bag was brought back home even though I had not been. I was stuck in the hospital for six days with a brand new baby, limited ability to move, tubes in my hands and plastic hospital bracelets all up my arms that kept scratching her new baby skin, and no ability to pull my hair up and out of the way because my hair elastics had been brought home in the bag. I remember thinking that my hair was such an annoyance and always in the way as I struggled to figure out how to mother this new little person from the confines of a small bed in a miniscule room tethered to machines seemingly everywhere (Interesting Fact: Rich hit his head 112 times on the TV suspended from the ceiling in that room). About fourteen minutes after we got home from the hospital I assumed my “mommy hairdo” of my hair pulled back off my face in either a ponytail or makeshift bun. For eight years I’ve pulled my hair back to keep busy little fingers from tugging at it or tiny faces from wiping their noses in it as they snuggled against my shoulder. Wearing my hair down became relegated to the extremely rare adult-only outing, so much so that Alina developed a unique Pavlovian response wherein she would burst into tears any time that she saw me take my hair down even briefly for fear that I was leaving her to go off somewhere.

When I go to radiation each morning, I tend to see the same group of women moving in and out of the women’s changing room. We smile and chat briefly. There’s Breast Cancer, Colon Cancer with Metastases to the Kidney, Stage 3 Endometrial Cancer, Round 2 of Chemo, Lady with the Pretty White Wig, Lady Who Won’t Wear a White Wig Because She Always Dyed Her Hair Dark, Lady with the Grumpy Attitude, etc. I can’t help but to notice that among them I am clearly Young Lady with the Baby as they are all between the ages of my mother and my grandmother. I can’t help but notice that I’m also The One With the Hair Who Doesn’t Need Chemo, as all but one of them comes to radiation sporting a wig or a hat to protect her against this windy cold weather and this evil disease. I hear them talk about chemo and the nausea and the debilitating pain and I am acutely grateful that at least for now that component of the cancer trifecta (radiation, chemo, surgery) is not part of my future. Truth be told, there is not really an effective chemotherapy for liposarcoma, which is why it has not been recommended as a part of my treatment. Regardless of the reason, I have been spared the physical and emotional pain of losing control of one more part of my life, and I have been allowed to keep my hair and at the same time allowed to remain healthy looking regardless of my cancer status. To my children their mom looks and is healthy, and for that and many other things I am thankful. So if you’ve seen me you may have noticed that after an eight-year hiatus I am once again wearing my hair down. It’s my very small tribute to the others who have needed to sacrifice so much more than I have to this illness, and it is my personal expression of gratitude that I still have my hair to enjoy, even though Asher has been wiping his nose in it all week.

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My Great Big Herbal Adventure-Day Two

Arizona plants, mountains, and sky

You can read more about how a stay-at-home crunchy mom from Illinois came to find herself on a great big herbal adventure in Arizona and my first day here. Now that you’re here, let’s move onto the story of day #2.

Our classroom for the day

Our classroom for the day

Day number two my friend and I grabbed a quick breakfast at the motel and headed back to the hot springs reserve for what was to be essential oil day. It was amazing. Michael, our teacher, set up three steam distillation stills and talked us through the process of assembling, using, cleaning, and storing an essential oil still.

Still assembly-many bits & pieces

Still assembly-many bits & pieces

Michael had collected a host of medicinal plants in his home state of New Mexico just prior to driving in for the class, and fresh yerba mansa was dug from the stand adjascent to the classroom that morning. The boxes of plants had been perfuming the classroom as he spoke, and now they were ready for their big moment.

Watching, learning, and processing osha root

Watching, learning, and processing osha root

As a group we chopped up osha root, juniper, yerba mansa root and leaves, elephant tree, and white sage.

Processing yerba mansa to make whole plant essential oil

Processing yerba mansa to make whole plant essential oil

We then split into groups and got to work setting up our stills, packing the flasks with plant material, and watching the steam and cold water work together to extract and collect the essential oils from the plants.

Osha root in the bioflask

Osha root in the bioflask

Me attempting to use my hand as a level as we prepare for juniper essential oil

Me attempting to use my hand as a level as we prepare for juniper essential oil

For hours, we sat in our classroom while the oils were extracting, inhaling the scent of these amazing desert plants. We spent that time discussing the properties of the plants that we were working with, as well as learning about safe, responsible use of essential oils to support healing.

Juniper, yerba mansa, and osha filling the air with their powerful scent

Juniper, yerba mansa, and osha filling the air with their powerful scent

We were encouraged to drink plenty of water and use milk thistle seed glycerite to support our liver as we were inhaling, rubbing on, and otherwise absorbing so much of these powerful aromatics hour after hour. We also took an extended break mid-day to eat some lunch, soak in the hot springs, hike, and responsibly gather plants from around the reserve area.

Gathering chaparral, fresh air, and sunshine during the lunch break

Gathering chaparral, fresh air, and sunshine during the lunch break

After lunch, we returned to the classroom to watch the essential oils be separated from the residual water from the distillation process (hydrosol).

Dark band of yerba mansa essential oil collecting in the separator. Can you see it?

Dark band of yerba mansa essential oil collecting in the separator. Can you see it?

We then got to see a demonstration from a former student of Michael’s who had been invited to show us her process of making a medicinal herbal lotion using the yerba mansa essential oil and hydrosol that we had just made. We all received precious small jars of the lotion as well as jars of osha hydrosol. We were all also given 8 oz. glass jars to pack with the remaining plant material of our choosing and organic alcohol so that we could begin to create tinctures that we could bring back home.

Pinon pine & organic alcohol: the humble beginnings of a tincture before the alchemy sets in.

Pinon pine & organic alcohol: the humble beginnings of a tincture before the alchemy sets in.

Our final DIY project of the day was a healing oil that we were able to custom create using Michael’s proprietary oil blend and the osha, yerba mansa, elephant tree and white sage essential oils that we had created earlier. It was a wonderful way to watch, make, and blend a variety of herbal products that we could begin to put to use as soon as we returned home.

Sampling of the end products of "Essential Oil Day"

Sampling of the end products of “Essential Oil Day”

The evening wound down with collective pizza making in the brick oven on-site and long soaks in the hot springs.

Pizza making: when no rolling pin appears, grab a beer.

Pizza making: when no rolling pin appears, grab a beer.

Pizza oven firing away at sunset

Pizza oven firing away at sunset

Students grab a restorative soak in the large hot springs pool before nightfall

Students grab a restorative soak in the large hot springs pool before nightfall

After emerging restored and relaxed from the hot springs pool, we made our way back to our casita. That night our sleep was intermittently interrupted by the sound of wild animals howling outside our window, and mice scurrying around our mattresses (Well, it may have just been one mouse. We named him Cattywampus). We awoke ready for another day of herbal field study.

I will continue with day three of my herbal adventure in Part 3.

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