100% Natural Does Not Mean 100% Safe: A Cautionary Tale

I love natural, green beauty products. I have dabbled in crafting lotions and potions, and have explored products from hundreds of natural beauty brands for decades. Needless to say, seeing words like, “100% natural,” “organic,” and “no artificial ingredients” on products excites me. On occasion, I need to remind myself that while such terms suggest that a product might be gentler and more natural than a conventional counterpart, they are not guarantees that the product is beneficial, effective, healthy, or even safe.

Yesterday I was lamenting my sore back due to some new exercises that I’ve been doing at the gym. I decided that a nice hot bath would be a great way to soothe my aching muscles. I ran the water into the tub and went exploring my shelves for the perfect bath product to enhance my soak. Initially I was thinking that a bath salt might be nice, but then I spied an unopened bottle of a liquid bath soak. I had received it before we had moved into the house (i.e., before we had a bath tub) and thus it had languished in a box of bath goodies, neglected until now.

The bottle had the words “100% natural” and “vegan” splashed across the label, and the ingredients were simple; a naturally fermented liquid base, high grade essential oil, and some natural preservative. The label explained that it was normal for the product to separate in the bottle since it contained no emulsifiers, and the essential oil and the “water” base do not mix. I followed the instructions to shake the bottle to mix well, and to add a tablespoon to the bath. The label also indicated that the product ingredients would relax my muscles and ease tension in addition to uplifting my spirit (perfect!). I was struck by the beautiful vibrant color of the liquid as I poured the directed amount into the bath.

After I finished running the water, I eased myself into the tub, preparing to be uplifted and soothed. The bath smelled beautiful; fresh and citrusy. The water felt warm though, too warm, hot really. I turned on the cool water to adjust the temperature. Something was really hurting on my side. I looked at my left side along my ribcage. I didn’t see anything, just the faint lines from the workout top that I had been wearing moments earlier. It really hurt though. It was distracting. I was not relaxing, I was in pain. I looked again. There appeared to be two very faint scratches on my side, probably made by the tag from my top when I took it off. As I watched, the lines grew redder and angrier. Now the underside of my legs were burning. Really burning. Something was wrong. I looked around the tub and there was a vibrant colorful ring all along the edges at the water line.

My brain clicked, and I immediately stood up and started draining the tub. I grabbed a bath pouffy and some soap and began washing off my skin. This did little to stop the burning sensation that had now consumed my side, back, and legs. I spied a sponge and some tub cleanser, grateful that I use chemical-free cleaning products as I stood cold, wet, and naked in the tub spraying and scrubbing the colorful stripe off the bathtub all around me. The tub had drained now and I used the handheld sprayer to rinse off every inch. I began to refill the tub with fresh water, but my skin was still burning. I knew that I needed oil, but I didn’t have any within arm’s reach. I went for the next best thing; a jar of body scrub made with a host of nut and plant oils. Fortunately, it too separates into layers, so I poured some of the top layer of oil off into my palm, taking care to avoid any of the scrubbing grains which would have likely decimated my tender, burning skin. I started rubbing the oils onto my skin. The burning began to subside. I sat back down into the fresh water, digesting what had just happened.

I wondered if this was a fluke. As is probably natural, I assumed that with a mass-marketed product made by a well-respected company the problem must have been due to user error on my part. They couldn’t possibly be selling a product that was unsafe, right? Especially not one labeled as 100% natural. It was not an inexpensive product either; costing over $25.00 for the small bottle. I must not have shaken it up enough. Maybe I used more than a tablespoon (although I do not think that I did). It had to be me. The problem had to be with me.

When I got out of the tub and dried off, I decided to do a little sleuthing. Some quick online searches led me to the answers. I was able to find product ratings and reviews on two sites; the brand’s own website and Amazon. In total there were over a dozen reviews. Approximately 95% of these reviews were one star and contained words like, “warning,” “worst experience,” “burns like crazy,” “horrible burning sensation,” “hurt for hours,” and “severe prickly burning.” I felt reassured that this was not user error. More importantly, I was pleased to see that the product has recently been discontinued.

In hindsight, I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t know better. The product was attractive due to its simple ingredients, but they were too simple. Something very important was missing. There was no carrier oil in the product to dilute the high percentage of essential oil. Even though the bottle instructed me to shake the product to combine the essential oil with the fluid, this does not dilute the essential oil because the essential oil and “water” never really mix; the essential oil just breaks down into smaller, undiluted droplets. These droplets then drift back together over time, where they can settle onto the skin in these concentrated amounts (and make really vibrant rings around the tub). This is why carrier oils are always needed to dilute the strength and intensity of essential oils before they come in contact with your skin. You can read more about the phenomenon in this article.

When I looked at the bottle (which had once again separated out into two distinct layers,) I could see that the formulation contained a ratio of about one part essential oil to six parts of fluid. I did some quick math to determine that the tablespoon of product had added about a half teaspoon, or approximately 50 drops of undiluted essential oil to my bath. It is no wonder that my skin felt like it was on fire and the superficial abrasion on my skin had quickly become inflamed. In truth, this product really was unsafe as formulated, despite being all-natural, vegan, cruelty-free and from a reputable company.

I have chosen not to name the specific product or company because the product has been discontinued and is no longer on shelves. I have used many other wonderful products from this brand without incident. This was clearly a misstep and a shining example of why natural does not always mean gentle, healthy, or safe. It is still the responsibility of the consumer to determine what is natural, healthy, and safe for them. It is always best to educate one’s self about product ingredients and to read labels. When in doubt, a quick Google search before jumping in the tub might help to prevent a very unpleasant experience.

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La Ritzy Vegan Beauty Subscription Unboxing & Review: January 2016

Cunchy Parent La Ritzy Vegan Beauty Subscription Unboxing & Review January 2016

La Ritzy is a monthly beauty subscription service that sends 4-5 vegan, cruelty-free cosmetic and skincare items in each box. Although not specifically marketed as a green beauty box, the brands that La Ritzy sends have tended to be non-toxic, natural brands.

Boxes cost $24.99 per month, which includes U. S. shipping. There are discounts for multi-month subscriptions. I purchased this box and was not compensated in any way for this review. All opinions are my own. You can see my other La Ritzy reviews here.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing my January 2016 La Ritzy box, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

La Ritzy included an information card that provided a brief description and valuing information for all items in the box.

Crunchy Parent review La Ritzy Vegan Beauty Subscription-January 2016 Mai Couture highlighting papier papers Zoe Organics cream

The first item that I went for was a beautiful book of Highlighter Papier from Mai Couture (full size, value $28.00). The highlighting papers are available in two shades. I received Crystal Cove, the lighter of the two. I am not sure if this was the same for all subscribers or if there was variation among boxes. The highlighting papers are easy to tear out and use as needed to give a fresh glow to the skin. I liked the brightening effect of the powder. As shown in the video, a little goes a long way. I imagine that I would use each sheet for several applications, tucking it back in the book between uses.

The next item in the box was one that I was delighted to see, a full size jar of Zoe Organics Cream (2oz., value $18.00). I had looked at some of the Zoe Organic product line at A Night for Green Beauty this past summer. The indie line focuses on natural, plant-based products to nurture families through pregnancy, new mommy-hood, and for babies. The line includes a handful of products with broad appeal for the whole family, with their cream being among them. The rich shea butter-based cream blends nourishing oils and herbs, using rosemary extract as a natural preservative. All of the ingredients in the cream are 100% organic. I was surprised by the richness of the cream. Designed for use with eczema, I think that this cream will be a perfect answer to wind-kissed cheeks and chapped hands this winter.

La Ritzy vegan subscription box unboxing & review January 2016 GlamNatural Otavea

For the third month running, La Ritzy featured a product from GlamNatural. They sent a full size tube of GlamNatural’s Lip Cream in “Drop Dead Gorgeous” (value $20.00). Although I generally like to explore new brands through subscription boxes, I appreciate that the GlamNatural products (face powder, mascara, and lip color) have all been so different. I think that lip products are particularly important to use in healthy, green versions since they live on your lips and inevitably get ingested to some degree. Thus, I am always on the lookout for great, green lip products. The GlamNaturals formula blends shea butter with plant-derived oils and waxes along with mineral pigments. I liked that the creamy color went on easily, and had some subtle shine and sparkle. I found that the shade was less bold on my lips than in the tube and was a very wearable berry.

The last item revealed was a product exclusive to La Ritzy subscribers. Otavea sent a deluxe sample size jar of their new Lemon formula sugar scrub (value $6.00). I was not familiar with the Otavea product line and from the information provided by La Ritzy and on the product packaging I was unsure if the scrub was intended for face or body. In my experience, face scrubs require smaller, more delicate granules than body scrubs to avoid harming delicate facial skin. When I looked on the Otavea website, they refer to all of their products as body scrubs but picture a woman with the scrub on her face, so I’m still a bit confused. I think that it would be best to err on the side of caution and reserve this scrub for use on body, hands, and feet.

La Ritzy January 2016 box

I liked this box from La Ritzy. I really appreciate that they are not only featuring great vegan products, but are also taking care to send non-toxic, green skincare and cosmetic items. The value of this month’s box is $72.00, which I think is really fantastic for the $24.99 box price. Three of the four items included were full-sized products, with the fourth being a deluxe sample. I think that La Ritzy is a strong option for people looking for cruelty-free, vegan products that tend to be organic and green as well.

If you would like to see the most recent Crunchy Parent List 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 or reviews, please let me know in the comments.

To keep up with all the Crunchy Parent happenings, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel or follow me on Pinterest and Twitter.

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Just Darling Skincare for Teens & Tweens by Darling Naturals

Crunchy Parent review Darling Naturals Just Darling Tween & Teen Non-toxic green Skincare

My natural, non-toxic “ah-ha” moment came as soon as I saw the second line show up on my home pregnancy test. All of a sudden my choices were no longer just having an impact on me; they were influencing the precious being that I was taking responsibility for bringing into the world. This epiphany shifted the way that I ate, what I put on my skin, hair, and nails, how I cleaned my home, and so much more. In the beginning, I had a harder time finding the right products to support this new approach to health. I suspect this was due in part to me not knowing where to look and in part to fewer healthy options being available 13+ years ago than there are now.

Fortunately, I was not the only person to connect the preciousness of babyhood to an enhanced desire to avoid toxins. By the time that Eva was born in 2003, I had discovered some brands and products that I felt good about using on her skin. A handful of soaps and creams, an all-purpose hair and body wash; they got the job done.

As Eva moved through her tween years, I began to see a shift. Her skin and hair were changing. She was more conscious about the clarity of her skin. She was noticing the types of products that I used on my face, and was wanting to emulate some of my skincare routine. I let her peruse my stash of cleansing and skincare products (thanks in large part to my subscription box habit, I have a lot to explore). Unfortunately these forays into my stash yielded few attractive options; my products were not a great fit for her tween/teen skin type, and the packaging often failed to intrigue or compel her.

As a result of these experiences, I am always on the lookout for natural brands and products that target older children and teens. Surprisingly, this product niche has lagged significantly behind natural personal care products marketed for women, babies, and even for men. It can be downright difficult to find natural skincare lines for teens and tweens. If you haven’t yet raised a tween or teen, I can offer this bit of insight; hygiene is often not their greatest strength. Having products that they want to use and that are effective can not only help build good personal habits, but can be a blessing for the whole family.

You can only imagine how pleased I was when I was contacted by Darling Naturals and invited to have Eva (almost 13) and Alina (9 1/2) review their Just Darling Pretty Clear Skin Regimen. The Just Darling line is designed for children ages 10-15 years to serve as an introduction to multi-step skincare regimens and overall good hygiene. The products use many plant-based and organic ingredients and are free from GMOs, petro-chemicals, artificial perfumes and dyes, and parabens. They are also vegan and cruelty free.

Darling Naturals Tween & Teen Girls Pretty Clear Skin Set Review-Crunchy Parent

The products arrived boxed into a kit with three bottles and a palm-sized natural sponge. Each bottle was clearly labeled and numbered to indicate where it should be used in the skincare sequence. I spent a few moments with the girls, explaining how they should use the products. They’ve had years of face-washing experience, but toner and moisturizer were less familiar. I also provided the girls with a stack of organic cotton rounds to use with the toner, and then set the products in their bathroom for them to use at their leisure.

I checked in with the girls periodically over the next week to ask their thoughts about the products.

Consistency of the face wash, toner, & gel moisturizer

Consistency of the face wash, toner, & gel moisturizer

Step 1: Face Wash for Problem Skin (4 oz., $12.95)

Ingredients: Organic aloe vera juice, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium laurel lactylate, kosher vegetable glycerine, calendula distillate, tea tree oil, pink grapefruit oil, black willow bark extract, plantain extract, ethylhexyl-glycerine, phenoxyethanol.

Both girls said that they found the scent of the lightly-foaming, gel face wash to be strong and somewhat medicinal. This makes sense when you consider that it uses ingredients like tea tree and pink grapefruit oil to balance skin and control excess oils. Tea tree oil in particular can have a pronounced and sharp scent. Despite noting this feature, the girls did not find it to be a big deterrent to using the face wash. I however was a bit concerned that the tea tree oil might be too harsh on the girls’ skin. Fortunately the product also includes a host of soothing herbal ingredients such as calendula, plantain, and aloe, which I hoped would provide balance to the formula.

Eva has particularly has sensitive skin and sometimes has reactions to products. She said that with her first use of the face wash, she felt that it burned a bit on her skin. She added that in hindsight she thought that she used too much product at first. She said that on subsequent occasions, she used less product and did not find it irritating to her skin at all; rather it had a mild cooling sensation that faded after a short while.

Both girls were a bit wary of the natural sponge at first and unsure about how to use it. I showed them how a bit of water transformed the mound of crunchy swiss-cheese into a silky soft sponge. Eva continued to prefer using her hands, but Alina delighted in the softness of the sponge and the way that it helped the face wash to lather on her face. The first several nights of using the products, Alina flitted about the house, marveling at her soft skin and inviting us to stroke her cheek.

Step 2: Toner for Problem Skin (4 oz., $10.95)

Ingredients: Organic aloe vera juice, tea tree oil, green tea extract, kosher vegetable glycerine, calendula flower extract, black willow bark extract, polysorbate 80, pink grapefruit oil, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexyglycerin.

I was curious to hear the girls’ thoughts about the toner, and was pleased to discover that the didn’t find it harsh as toners can often be. Unlike most conventional toners, the Just Darling product does not contain any alcohol or witch hazel, which can be irritating to sensitive skin. The toner is an aloe-vera juice base enhanced with plant ingredients such as tea tree oil, calendula flowers, black willow bark, green tea, and pink grapefruit oil. The fragrance is of moderate intensity, but did not seem to stand out to the girls. I think that Eva and Alina both found this new-to-them toner step to be a novel addition to their skincare routine.

Step 3: Moisturizer for Problem Skin (2 oz., $12.95)

Ingredients: Organic aloe vera juice, kosher vegetable glycerine, calendula flower infusion, carbomer, triethanolamine, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexyglycerin

Interestingly, both girls commented that they really liked the smell of the light gel-moisturizer. Reviewing the ingredients, I am not sure what gives the moisturizer it’s scent, but it has a zippy, lime-like, citrus fragrance. The girls agreed that the light moisturizer felt just-right on their skin and was perfect for the dry winter months.

Darling Naturals Just Darling organic, vegan, gluten free skincare for teen & tween girls

Overall Impressions:

I asked the girls for their reviews after a week of using the 3-step Pretty Clear Skin Regimen from Just Darling. Eva said that she didn’t love her first experience with the face wash because she had a difficult time getting the product to create a lather on her face using the dime-size amount on her fingertips as instructed. This led to her using an excessive amount of product which she said made her skin burn. With subsequent applications using less product, Eva said that she liked the face wash despite the strong smell. She indicated that she had a red blemish on her face at the start of the week, and she thought that it faded over time with use of the products. She stated that she very much liked the ritual of the three steps, especially before bedtime; adding that the ritual felt like a nice way to wind down before bed. She said that she felt like she was, “pampering her skin like being at a relaxing spa.”

Alina independently shared that she too liked the multiple steps of the regimen. She very honestly reported that she generally does not like having to wash her face. She felt like the three step ritual elevated the experience, making her feel more, “responsible and important.” As mentioned, she took a great deal of pride and delight in how soft her skin felt when using the products.

Although some of the multi-syllable ingredients rated in the moderate range on EWG’s Skin-Deep Database, I was pleased with the products all being organic aloe gel-based, and they were well tolerated by the girls’ skin. I was thrilled that the girls found the product packaging, texture, and fragrance to be attractive enough to keep using again and again without prompting all throughout the week. Unprompted personal hygiene is not a common thing around here. I know that they will continue to use the products, and I think that they especially like having products that are made just for them. I think that the natural sponge in the kit that we received was a nice option, but not necessary to enjoy and use the products. In Eva’s case she preferred to use her clean hands versus the sponge when working with the face wash. Alina enjoyed using the sponge, so I suppose that it would depend on the preference of the child.

As much as we appreciate that Darling Naturals has developed a line of natural products just for tweens and teens, they also have a Darling Baby line and a Darling Mommy line for new babies and expectant and new mommies. For the time being, I think we’ll continue to focus on the tween and teen needs. I have my eye on the Good Hair Day Detangling Spray. Maybe it will be the answer for Alina’s long, tangle-prone locks.

What do you think about the Darling Naturals line for tweens and teens? Do you have any secrets for keeping older children clean and smelling fresh?

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Beauty Heroes Luxury Green Beauty Subscription Unboxing & Review: January 2016

Crunchy Parent Beauty Heroes Luxe Green Beauty Subscription Unboxing & Review January 2016

Beauty Heroes is a luxe green beauty subscription service. 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 such as parabens, mineral oil, and triclosan; and to include natural superpower ingredients to nurture your skin such as turmeric, reishi mushroom, and sea buckthorn.

Beauty Heroes boxes cost $39.00/month (shipping included) and are less with multi-month subscriptions. In addition, all Beauty Heroes members receive 15% off of any purchase from the Beauty Heroes online clean beauty shop.

I purchased this box and was not compensated in any way for this review, although review may contain affiliate links. This simply means that if you join Beauty Heroes through my links, I may receive a small compensation, which allows be to put more dollars back into the blog. All opinions are my own. To see my other Beauty Heroes unboxings and reviews, look here.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

The box came with a big, bright “Beauty Heroes” label. I opened it to find an enclosure reviewing the brand and products highlighted (more on that in a moment), as well a handy pocket guide listing both villain and superpower ingredients to notice in cosmetic, skincare, and beauty products.

This month’s expert selection comes from the brand Osmia Organics. I had the opportunity to talk a bit with the Osmia Organics founder, Dr. Sarah Villafranco at A Night for Green Beauty this past summer. A former ER physician with a passion for healthy skincare, Sarah began making soap before expanding her formulations and her company to include skincare and natural perfumes. Osmia Organics, whose name references the ability to detect scent, places great importance on the quality and function of the ingredients in their products. As mentioned in the video, Sarah’s article about emulsifiers and their environmental impact left a lasting impression; giving me a better appreciation for body oils and healthier emulsifying agents.

Beauty Heroes surprised and delighted me by sending a box packed full of goodies this month. As with the November box, Beauty Heroes sent a pair of Superhero products (which always makes me think of the Wonder Twins because I’m over 40 and these are my reference points for such things). In addition, Beauty Heroes tucked in a helpful sidekick product, and a great accessory item a la Wonder Woman’s invisible jet.

Beauty Heroes January 2016-Osmia Organics face cream

This month’s box contained a full-size bottle of Osmia Organic’s Purely Simple Face Cream (1.7 oz., value $60.00). This aloe juice-based cream is lightweight and designed for those with normal or sensitive skin, in particular those who may have perioral dermatitis, a condition that has inspired many of Sarah’s gentle formulations.

My skin tends toward dryness, especially in the dry winter months so this may be too lightweight for me to use right now. I can see this cream being a good fit for my face during the more humid summer months when my skin needs less added moisture. It might also be a smart choice for Eva, whose almost-teenaged skin could benefit from a lightweight, gentle moisturizer in winter.

Beauty Heroes-Osmia Organics black clay soap and exclusive pre-launch nectar vital rose drops face serum

Partnered with the face cream was a full-size bar of Black Clay Facial Soap (2.25 oz., value $24.00). You can read more about the soap and how it compares to traditional African Black Soap here. Beauty Heroes also included a small soap saver (value $2.00), which is the perfect accessory to protect any bar soap from being softened and prematurely melted away by residual water.

The final treasure tucked into the box was the bonus sidekick item. This extra-special sidekick was an exclusive launch to Beauty Heroes members; a small dropper bottle of the yet-to-be-released Nectar Vital Rose Drops Face Serum (value $10.00). As the product has not yet been made available to the public, I was unable to find much information about the ingredients or the product online. I can say that it smells divine. There is the distinct scent of roses, but based on fragrance alone I would venture to guess that other florals and non-floral botanicals play a role as well. The serum is fairly light and easily absorbed, leaving a silky feeling on the skin. I often add several drops of facial serums or oils to my moisturizer step to enrich my moisturizer, which is precisely how Osmia Organics suggests using this precious product.

Crunchy Parent Beauty Heroes non-toxic organic green beauty subscription unboxing & review Osmia OrganicsJan 2016 – Version 3

I continue to be impressed with the quality of natural, green brands and products that Beauty Heroes brings to its members each month. There has been such exciting growth in the green beauty industry, especially among small companies driven by knowledgeable, passionate, creative individuals and teams. I so appreciate the extent to which Beauty Heroes researches their brand partners and curates great boxes month-to-month that over time build a high-quality and effective natural beauty collection. The value of this month’s box was an incredible $96.00.

Historically, Beauty Heroes has focused on products for skin, body, and hair. With the new year, Beauty Heroes has announced some new expansion plans to include cosmetic items as well. Beauty Heroes will aim to focus on universally-flattering shades to complement all of their members. I’m excited to see what these changes will bring in the months ahead. What do you think about adding cosmetics to the Beauty Heroes boxes? If you want to be sure to be among the first to see how Beauty Heroes will bring Luxe green beauty cosmetics to their members, be sure to sign up.

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

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Haul Video: Vitacost Natural, Organic, Gluten-Free Food

*I purchased all of these items and receive no compensation from Vitacost for this post, although post may include affiliate links. What follows are my honest opinions*

If you read my post about Barganic Alerts you know that I am really passionate about making natural, green-living choices accessible to anyone who desires to make them. Throughout my evolution as a parent and as a person, one of my goals has been to seek out healthier foods, which for us includes prioritizing organic foods, avoiding GMOs, and respecting our gluten and dairy sensitivities. This can add a lot to our food cost bottom line, but it is well worth it to me; better health is priceless.

The desire to buy the best food that we can afford has moved me to research the resources available to us in our community and through the interwebs to stretch our dollars. There are a few online retailers that I have found who offer very competitive pricing on high-quality natural, organic, and food allergy-friendly food items. Vitacost is a retailer that I shop with often for supplements, personal and home care items, and nonperishable foods. Not only is the value very good, but they offer an extensive range of products that are not always available to me locally.

Recently I got an email from Vitacost promoting a 20% off all food and beverages sale. This was the motivation that I needed to place a big order. I also went through ebates and earned an additional 4% off of my purchase. You can see the complete haul video above.

There were a few items that I bought that were not included in the sale. Specifically, the raw, organic honey was actually part of a buy one, get one 50% off special, making it an even better deal. The Spry gum was not part of any additional sale beyond the regular Vitacost price, but we needed it and by piggybacking it onto this order, it shipped free.

In the video I talk about a few things that I wanted to link to to if you wished to learn more. First, I mentioned that I store my bulk grains in large food-grade plastic buckets with Gamma Seal lids. They provide an air-tight seal that keeps out moisture, critters, and prolongs freshness. They are a workout to get on the bucket at first, but after the initial set-up they are very easy to open and close. I love them.

I also mentioned a few recipes in the video that I make using some of the products that I ordered. These include my versatile gluten free flour mix, my favorite green smoothie, and my gluten free/dairy free banana bread with hemp seeds and chocolate chips.

I encourage you to do your own research to see how pricing compares to what is available near you. To give a sense of the prices during this deal, I have provided a sample of my purchase prices below. The promotion is no longer active, but Vitacost frequently offers various deals. You can sign up for their emails to be alerted of sales.

Prices are before tax and do not reflect the additional rebate received through ebates. For ease of comparison, I have converted pricing for “bulk” items into price per ounce or per pound as appropriate.

Lundberg Organic short grain brown rice $1.72/lb.
Arrowhead Mills organic brown rice flour: $1.52/lb.
Vitacost potato starch $1.60/lb.
Vitacost tapioca starch $1.60/lb.
Nutiva organic raw hemp seeds: $0.60/ounce
Glutino GF crackers: $2.74/box (4.4 oz.)
Ener-G GF pretzels: $2.39/bag (8 oz.)
Kinnikinnick GF graham crackers $3.29/box (8 oz.)

So what do you think, are these prices a good value for your area? If you want to give Vitacost a try, you can save $10 off your first purchase through this link. Do you have any healthy food resources to share?

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Barganic Alert! 20% off Cosmic Box

Crunchy Parent Barganic Alert! 20% off Cosmic Box-subscription box sale, coupon code

February is right around the corner, and Cosmic Box wants to share the love. They are offering 20% off your first month when you sign up for a subscription using the code COSMICLOVE. There are a few more days to sign up for the February box (which is almost sold out). Once those are gone subscriptions will start with the March box. Cosmic Box has also announced that beginning with the February box, they will now be including goodies to balance your chakras.

If you would like to see my prior reviews to get a sense of what Cosmic Box includes in their spirit-enchancing, cosmically positive subscription, you can check those out here.

Are you going to take advantage of this deal?

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Goddess Provisions Spirit Enhancing Subscription Box Unboxing & Review: January 2016

Crunchy Parent Goddess Provisions subscription box unboxing & Review January 2016

Goddess Provisions is a relatively new subscription service, created by the owners of Vegan Cuts. Goddess Provisions is a monthly lifestyle box for women. They send products 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 are 100% vegan and cruelty-free.

Boxes cost $33 per month, which includes shipping. There are discounts for multi-month subscriptions. I purchased this box and was not compensated in any way for this review, although review may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. For my other Goddess Provisions unboxing and reviews, starting with their very first box, look here.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing of the January Goddess Provisions box, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

The box came well-packaged, and everything was received intact. As always, I loved the bright and informative enclosure card. Goddess Provisions does an exceptional job of highlighting their featured brands and products, as well as weaving the theme into the box. This month’s theme was “Calming Energy.”

Crunchy Parent unboxing & review Goddess Provisions vegan lifestyle subscription box January 2016

The box was quite heavy this month, and I was eager to discover why. The culprit was a beautiful glass bottle of Float Salt Bath by Being For Skin & Soul (8 oz, value $18.00). If you’ve visited CrunchyParent before, you’ve probably caught wind of the fact that I absolutely love soaking in a warm bath, so I was very excited to receive this item. Goddess Provisions sent each subscriber one of the three bath salt varieties available from Being For Skin & Soul. The Float version that I received combines French green clay with Dead Sea salt and cypress and peppermint essential oils. I have been putting in a lot of extra hours at the gym since the new year (resolutions for a stronger, healthier me). My sore muscles are going to very much appreciate this cooling and relaxing soak. It is on the agenda in the days ahead, and I can’t wait.

swatch Concrete Minerals vegan lip tint Bombshell-Goddess Provisions subscription january 2016

I was also happy to see a tube of Concrete Minerals Vegan Lip Tint in “Bombshell” (.15 oz, value $6.00). I tend to wear tinted lip balms or glosses in my day-to-day life, and I really liked the flattering Bombshell shade. The color is a bumped up nude tone that can be kept fairly sheer and subtle or layered for a bolder lip. I found the balm to be moisturizing and it has a great minty tingle to it. I loved that it was made with a bunch of organic ingredients in addition to being 100% vegan. I can see this being a purse staple for me.

Goddess Provisions January 2016 subscription unboxing review Crunchy Parent-Gaba Baba, The Goddess Line perfume

I was understandably distracted by the yummiest looking item in the box, a small bar of Gaba Baba chocolate from Yes Cacao (.88 oz., value $5.00). Yes Cacao purports that the bar is designed to, “unwind your subtle intensities” and help you breathe and relax with the aid of kava kava, Gaba, and blue lotus, among other organic and wild harvested ingredients. I found the bar to be a delicious rich chocolate with light spice notes. I was pleased to see that the bar is vegan, gluten free, 99% organic, raw, and otherwise delightful and delicious. I have been taking little squares now and again and trying to appreciate it mindfully rather than gobble it all up (challenging, but a worthy goal nevertheless).

The beautiful packaging of the next item caught my eye. The Parvati fragrance from The Goddess Line was held in a small box adorned with a beautiful rendering of an East Indian dancer (.3 oz., value $30.00). The roll on fragrance oil, that pays homage to the goddess of preservation and devotion, blends a host of moisturizing oils including coconut and sweet almond oil along with vanilla and amber scents to create a warm and grounded fragrance. I did my traditional ritual of thrusting my wrist into the faces of my loved ones, asking their opinion about the scent and everyone loved the sweet, warm fragrance.

The final item has become my anticipated Goddess Box unboxing finale; the tiny bag that always holds a small lovely crystal. This month, the little bag held a small tangerine quartz point (value $5.00). Goddess Provisions states that tangerine quartz brings in energy of understanding and acceptance of past events, aiding one in releasing old stories that no longer serve them. This seems like a poignant way to acknowledge the new start in the new year.

Goddess Provisions January 2016 box-complete unboxing & review. Vegan, spiritual, crystals, bath, green beauty, cosmetics, makeup, raw chocolate

I really loved this month’s box. Every single item is something that I will use and enjoy. Goddess Provisions always introduces me to new vegan, green brands and items. I really appreciate the curation of the boxes both within Goddess Provision’s stated mission, and through each box’s individual theme. The total value for this month’s box is $64.00, which I think is fantastic. I have been very impressed with all of the boxes that I have received from Goddess Provisions. It has quickly become a favorite subscription that matches my lifestyle and values very well. What do you think of Goddess Provisions so far? If you want to get your hands on your very own box sign up at Goddess Provisions.

If you would like to see the most recent Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes for other great crunchy-friendly subscription or gift deas, 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 or reviews, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com and the Crunchy Parent YouTube channel!

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Love Yourself First-Now: Teen Esteem Subscription Unboxing & Review-January 2016

CrunchyParent Love Yourself First-Now Jan 2016 unboxing & review

Love Yourself First-Now is a monthly subscription service targeted for young women ages 14 and up. LYF-Now was developed by a school psychologist/mother of two, 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. Boxes cost $29/month, shipping included. Discounts with multi-month subscriptions. Use code CRUNCHY for 10% off of your subscription purchase.

Love Yourself First-Now graciously sent me this box to review. I received no additional compensation, and all opinions are my own. To see my previous LYF-Now reviews, look here.

Eva, my almost teen helped me with the unboxing. She is always excited when the LYF-Now boxes arrive. Please enjoy the video unboxing, or if you prefer to skip directly to the product close-up photos and details, scroll down past the video.

The box came with cute colorful trim and an LYFN sticker. Everything was received safely and mostly intact. One item had a small chip in it, as noted below.

LYFN included an enclosure card describing the box contents as well as providing valuing information and some usage suggestions. We set the card aside during the unboxing so that we could enjoy opening it all on our own, but did reference it to learn that this month’s theme is “New Year, New You.” Because LYF-Now tends to include non-branded items, all values listed below are those provided by them on the card.

Love Yourself First-Now teen esteem subscription for girls

The first item that Eva grabbed was a small box with a beautiful turquoise damask print and a bright orange bow. It came as no surprise that she was eager to open this adorable gift box. Inside she found a cute turquoise and gold, vegan leather, wrap bracelet/watch (value: $20.00). The bracelet featured three different snap settings to accommodate wrists of different sizes. Eva loved the trendy look of the accessory and was anxious to wear it.

LYF-Now January 2016 watch bracelet

Eva was also intrigued by a little silver-toned, crown-themed photo holder (value: $5.00) that LYF-Now had paired with a cute card that encouraged girls to list and display three of their resolutions or goals for the new year. Our photo stand had a small chip in its clear plastic base (as mentioned in the video). This did not affect the stability or function of the stand.

LYF-Now January 2016 unboxing & review

The final two items focused on room decor. LYF-Now sent cute wall decal with the saying, “A dream is a wish your heart makes” (value: $8.00). Eva really liked this decal and asked immediately if she could put it up in her room. We’re holding off for the moment. We’re still in the process of deciding on wall colors for her new room, and I am not sure how well the decal holds its “stickiness” if we were to put it up now and then take it down to paint. Hopefully I’ll get to that painting before too long and we can add the decal to her cute “teen” room.

For the final bit of bedroom flair, LYF-Now included a blank pillow case that featured a plastic sleeve to hold a favorite photo or saying. Along with the pillow case, they sent a rainbow of permanent markers to use to decorate the pillow case with goals or dreams for the new year (value: $10.00) . I thought that this idea was a very cute one and would make a great craft for a New Year’s party for kids. I wish though that LYF-Now had included some additional crafting and washing instructions for the case. I’m worried that the markers may bleed or fade if washed incorrectly, and I’m not sure the best approach to wash given the plastic sleeve on the case. I also would have appreciated suggestions for where to purchase a pillow to fit the case. I imagine that a craft store might have accent pillow-sized inserts that may fit, but I can’t say for certain since I have not looked yet.

LYF-Now January 2016 unboxing

I thought that this box did a nice job of curating appealing teen-friendly items around the New Year’s theme, and encouraged girls to think about, and set goals for the year ahead. Eva was especially drawn to the cute watch and the wall decal in the box. As an adult, I sometimes find the quality of the items included less than top-notch, but I think that is fairly standard for kid-focused items. To some extent, the value is in the experience more than in the end-product, and cute, trendy fashion or decor items aren’t intended to be heirloom-quality pieces. The total value of the box according to LYF-Now is $43.00. I think that some of the individual item prices seemed a bit generous to me, but overall I think that the value of the box is still strong for the price, and Eva thought that the box was fun and cute.

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. 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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Immune Boosting Spiced Elderberry Syrup-Deliciously Fight Cold & Flu

Crunchy Parent Spiced Elderberry Syrup picture
Photo credit: cobaltfish via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Goodness, I’ve missed being around. In addition to the gremlin infestation, we seem to have gotten caught up in an endless cycle of illness around here. It reminds me of the importance of warm clothing, adequate sleep, and nutritious food even in the midst of holidays, schedule changes, and celebrations. I’ve been searching for other ways to fortify our health. One of my preferred ways at the moment is a delicious spiced elderberry syrup.

**As a reminder I am not a doctor and you should seek advice from your own health practitioner before changing your health regimen.**

Elderberries get a lot of attention for their immune-boosting properties. The elder flowers are also excellent for supporting the immune system, so I use a blend of both in this syrup. However, if you only have the berries on-hand you can use a cup of berries and skip the flowers.

A blend of cardamom, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, and ginger all lend a delicious spiced flavor to the syrup. In addition, many of these herbs and spices are warming and drying, which can be helpful if there is an illness that causes chills and runny, congested gunk. Ginger is also beloved for its anti-viral and anti-nausea properties which can come in very handy when fighting a bug. Star anise is anti-viral and anti-bacterial as well as being an antioxidant-packed expectorant.

Echinacea an osha root are both included as optional ingredients. Echinacea is popular as an immune-booster, but there are some differing opinions as to whether echinacea is appropriate for longer-term preventative use, or is if should be reserved for acute illness only. Accordingly, you may want to include the echinacea if you plan to use the syrup during illness only, and skip it if you want to use the syrup preventatively.

Osha has an affiliation for the lungs. It has historically been used for respiratory illness, especially in Native American medicinal tradition. Osha root has suffered losses more recently due to over harvesting and is really not commercially available. If you happen to be fortunate enough to have access to osha root through mindful and sustainable wild harvesting, a small piece of osha root can be a nice addition to this syrup.

The directions for making the syrup are pretty straightforward, and I like the almost instant-gratification of the process. It seems that the first colds of the season always catch me off guard; before I have had the proper time to steep a tincture or elixir. This syrup can be made and used the same day when I sense that it is needed.

Please use my photos as illustrations of the steps in the process. Pay no mind to the quantities shown. I took some of the photos when I was making small, experimental batches and others when I was making large batches of the favorite recipe.

Spiced Elder Syrup (yield approximately 3 cups)
All plant materials used are dried unless otherwise specified. I highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs or Frontier Co-Op as resources for dried organic herbs (learn more about establishing a Frontier wholesale buying club here).

Herbs and spices awaiting their big moment.

Herbs and spices awaiting their big moment.

Ingredients:
1 qt. water
3/4 c. elderberries
1/4 c. elder flowers
10 cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
4 whole star anise “stars”
2 cinnamon sticks
1” chunk of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
2 T. echinacea (optional)
2” piece of osha root (optional)
1 c. honey, raw and organic preferred

Instructions:

1. Place water and herbs into a sauce pan and bring to boil over medium heat.

Crunchy Parent spiced elder syrup herbs in pot 1-12-2016

2. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes, until liquid is reduced by approximately half and syrup is slightly thickened.

Crunchy Parent spiced elder syrup simmering 1-12-2015

3. Strain the liquid from the spent herbs into a glass jar, being sure to press the herbs to extract the most liquid. A nut milk bag, jelly bag, or fine mesh sieve can be helpful for this step.

crunchy parent spiced elder syrup strain 1-12-2016

pressing herbs in sieve to extract elderberry syrup

4. Allow the liquid to cool to approximately 105 degrees fahrenheit and add the honey, stirring gently to dissolve. Tip: this is a great way to use raw honey that has become more solid and grainy over time as it will dissolve well in the liquid.

IMG_3541

5. Cover, date, and label syrup. Store in refrigerator.

We enjoy this syrup during times of illness or preventatively. I take a Tablespoon every day when there seems to be some illness brewing in the house, or 2-3 times per day if I am feeling under the weather myself. So far the kids have refused to take it, but if they were willing, I’d say a teaspoon dose for them. It tastes delicious, and I could probably add it to a chai tea without the kids noticing, but I haven’t attempted that yet.

The syrup requires refrigeration. I have found it has lasted for at least a month or so. I usually have used it up by then.

I hope that you enjoy the syrup and lots of good health. What are some ways that you support you health during the cold, dark days of winter?

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Gremlins


Photo credit: Inti via Foter.com / CC BY

I have been missing you all. I want you to know that I have not drifted off to sea. I have however been plagued by what I can only assume to be gremlins. I have always had trouble getting my photos and WordPress to agree. WordPress often wants my photos to appear in a different direction than I would like, but I had figured out a work around for that problem for the most part. Then however WordPress began to reject my photos outright, refusing to upload them with any consistency. I managed to find a few tricks that generally avoided the problem, but required two or three extra steps for every photo upload and tripled the time it took me to complete each post. A pain, but not insurmountable. Not to be outsmarted, WordPress upped the game and began rejecting those too with a flippant “Http Error.”Now I can’t find any way to get photos to upload consistently and keep ending up with only partially completed posts as a result. The word on the street is that my iPhone and WordPress do not see eye to eye right now.

Feeling a bit forgotten, the videos acted up too. The memory storage on my phone maxed out and then on my computer hard drive as well. There was a lot of saving and transferring involved. I kept going through the motions, but couldn’t seem to gain any space back. Fortunately we figured out that problem and I uploaded a truckload of videos to YouTube. When I began editing, some YouTube glitch had started dropping the audio out of the videos at random points even though the audio was fine in the raw files.

This all made my brain hurt. I promise I’m trying to make my way back and have a lot of unboxings, recipes, and thoughts to share. I also have a craft tutorial in the works but want to get the video sorted out before getting in too deep there.

Thank you for your patience, Rich has promised that he will spend some time this weekend trying to troubleshoot the photo piece and I’ll proceed with the video. I will be back soon!

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