Youphoria Yoga Towels Review

Monday, October 27, 2014

A mat and a towel are all you really need to practice yoga, but the quality of those two items matters. I recently had the opportunity to review a Youphoria Yoga Towel. It's a 100% microfiber, non-skid yoga towel.

This towel is super light weight and absorbent. You can tell just by feeling the towel that it will offer substantial grip for your feet and hands. In practice, it does provide a nice grip but also has the advantage of absorbing sweat so your mat stays nice and clean.&

It's super easy to wash (machine washable) and is light enough to carry along. My only complaint was the durability. I imagine it would last for quite a while, but after the first machine washing, my towel had a large snag that ran the entire length of the towel. It's obviously still usable but not as attractive.

I did wash my daughter's hoodie in the same load and it's possible that the zipper grabbed a hold of the towel during the wash. So I am willing to admit that the snag might accidentally be my fault. It's still a little annoying to have it snag within the first week of use.

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

Potato Ricer - Baby Food Masher Review

I have always made mashed potatoes with a hand masher, but potato ricers intrigued me. Professional chefs rave about ricers, so I offered to review the  Priority Chef® Potato Ricer and see what all the fuss was about.

All in all, it's a simple device to use. You just boil your potatoes, put them in the hopper, and press down. It was easy to use and produced really nice potatoes. But I thought they were just as good as when I mash them by hand. No better, no worse.

The biggest advantage of using the ricer (aside from the coolness factor) is you don't have to peel the potatoes first. And you can use it for mashing up other fruits and vegetables (similar to a foley mill) and make sauces and/or baby food.

I bet it would work great on butternut squash or when you want a semi-pureed soup.

It cleaned up easily and is made of stainless steel, so it will be durable and long lasting. All-in-all, I liked it but see it more as a fun way to cook than a necessity.

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

Bee Sili SUPER Silicone BBQ Grill Oven Gloves & Basting Brush Review

There is no way I am going to back to regular oven mitts after using the Bee Sili SUPER Silicone BBQ Grill Oven Gloves!  These gloves rock in the kitchen! I have used them to pick up hot steaming butternut squash (and hold it while cutting), boiling hot jars while canning, and even boiled eggs right out of the water. 

They offer heat protection and dexterity (because they are fingers instead of mitt hands.) They clean up super easily, but you can even put them in the dishwasher!  

They are heat resistant up to 425 degrees F so there are a lot of potential uses. I am absolutely loving these and will put be giving them as gifts for the holidays.

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

Manual Citrus Squeezer and Juicer Review

Juicing and zesting citrus has always been hit-or-miss in my kitchen. I have a reamer and grater, but somehow the process just wasn't right. So I was more than happy to review the Priority Chef Jumbo Manual Squeezer in hopes that I would solve my citrus dilemmas.

The first thing that surprised me about this squeezer was the size. It's huge. Full orange huge! I cut an organge in half and gave it a head-to-head comparison with my glass reamer. I did my best to squeeze every lost drop out of each orange half to ensure I was getting the most from both juicers.

The results: The Priority Chef Jumbo squeezer was harder for me to use at first, so my husband squeezed the juicer. I used the reamer. The juice in both containers was visibly different. The reamer contained all sorts of yummy pulp. I am the only one in my family that enjoys pulp, so my husband was happy to see no pulp in the juice from the squeezer.  

After I strained the pulp from the reamed juice, we measured the volume of juice. They were about the same. Then my husband squeezed a couple drops out of the orange I reamed using the squeezer. They essentially created the same quantity of juice, but the jumbo squeezer did it without any pulp. 

If you like pulp-free juice, this will be a major advantage to you. Plus, it was really easy to clean up. It's made of stainless steel and you can basically squeeze your juice right into a glass so you won't need a bunch of bowls or other containers.

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

How to grow seedlings in the winter in Northern climates

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I recently read a fascinating book about growing world record tomatoes. The growing results were amazing and I plan to incorporate some of Mr. Wilber's tricks in my garden....but living in zone 4 means we will never have outrageously productive and/or large plants. They only have 2-4 warm months to grow, and most of that time may include sub optimal temperatures and/or heavy rains/snow.

Even still, I have a plan to start growing my garden earlier this year and improve overall yields. I have four plans.

1. Winter Sowing: This is most likely dangerous in zone 4, but I plan on winter sowing a few Siberian heirloom tomatoes, leeks, marigolds, rhubarb, ground cherries, and possibly a few others. I am only going to use a few seeds in case it is a dismal failure.

2. Mini Greenhouses within the garden: I plan to direct sow peas, swiss chard, scarlet pole beans, radishes, beets, butternut squash, buttercup squash, and sugar loaf delicata earlier than normal. I will plant them mid/late April and cover the squash with the top half of a milk carton (cap removed for ventilation.)

I always plant peas, swiss chard, beets, and radishes around Easter, so this isn't a huge change for them. My garden is a south facing raised bed so it generally warms up and is workable well before Easter, so I *think* there might be a fighting chance that mini greenhouses can allow me to extend the squash season.

Even still, I will be planting seedlings in the greenhouse just in case.

3. Planting more perennials: This year I planted some seeds and bulbs in the ground in the fall. I planted ramps, walking egyptian onions, strawberries, and asparagus. I grow some of these already, so it shouldn't be that big of a change. The change is mostly in making a bigger chunk of my plantings recurring perennials. I will be further propagating my black cap raspberries and red raspberries (with the help of a nearby willow tree) to increase their span. I am also adding rhubarb (by seed, so wish me luck!) and possibly currants and/or saskatoon berries.

4. Using a Mini Greenhouse: Many people use greenhouses and have success growing seedlings and even whole plants. Those people don't usually live in really frigid temperatures (unless they have a gigantic, fully heated greenhouse.)

I plan to grow my seedlings outdoors in early spring (March is the target.) I plan to do this without any use of electricity. No heaters. No grow lights.

Here is the actual greenhouse I plan to use:
I bought this from someone on Craigslist for $20. It's basically a metal shelving unit covered in a thick clear plastic that zips closed. Admittedly, I am a bit scared to put this out on a snowy winter day and expect it to protect my plants.

But I do have a plan....

Right now, the greenhouse is storing my gardening supplies. My son calls it the "recycling center" because I have milk carton parts, toilet paper rolls, egg cartons and various other recycled objects littering the shelves. Each of these items is being saved for use in growing my seedlings...but it's a mess for now.

This is my "written plan:"

The main goal with the greenhouse is to provide protection from wind/snow and to trap solar energy using thermal mass. There are 4 shelves in this greenhouse. The bottom shelf will contain 4-12 gallon sized milk cartons filled almost full with water (leaving space for expansion) sitting on top of bricks.

The other 3 shelves will contain plants arranged as seen on the right side of my drawing (paper drawing above.) Each shelf holds one black plastic tray (technically a boot tray.) The shelf holds the tray, 2 bricks, and 2 gallon milk cartons almost exactly. The bricks are thermal mass (heat sinks) and the water filled milk cartons will also trap and release thermal energy.

Each black tray holds 4 milk carton bottoms (the tops were cut off to be used as mini greenhouses in the garden) and 2 black meat trays. The four milk carton bottoms hold plants and the two black meat trays hold pebbles.

There will be a lot of thermal mass in this greenhouse. The bricks, the pebbles, and the water will all hold the heat from the sun and release that heat in the evening. The black trays and containers should absorb the sun's heat during the day. They will most likely give up their heat quickly when the sun goes down for the evening.

I will have to pay attention during the day to ensure the plants don't get too hot or steamy. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't. But I'm going to give it a try.

I also had plans to compost a bunch of horse manure, incorporate more leaves and compost, and the usual crop/legume rotation. I did incorporate more leaves, then spent a long time killing slugs, then incorporated more leaves/compost. Considering my last foray into horse manure use....I changed my mind and am thinking about new ways to organically improve my garden soil.

I chopped up all the bean and squash foliage and turned it into the soil. It was completely gone in less than a month.  I double dug my beds this fall and covered them all with a leaf cover to keep the soil from drying out (I do have clay, after all.  Intense, hard and sticky clay.)

I also experimented with "in garden" composting. When one of my beds was done growing for the season, I turned it into a living compost bin. I added kitchen scraps, leaves, and dead plant parts. Then I covered it with sheets from the inside of an unwanted phone book (seriously! Why do they keep sending these? We have the internet! Plus, I call every year to get taken off "the list,") and cardboard, wetted it all down, then covered it in heavier dead plant parts and bricks.

This "compost bed" lasted about a month and a half before I took of the bricks and looked inside. The composted materials were all gone, including the phone books and cardboard. The soil inside was gorgeous and scary at the same time.

It was moist, crumbly and deep black. It was also full of LIFE. Centipedes scurried everywhere (they eat worms and slugs.) I saw green worms for the first time in my life, huge fast racing night crawlers, and of course the regular worms. And slugs and frogs. I let everyone live except for the slugs. I have no respect for them.

Actually, I feel bad about killing them so I strategically relocate them knowing with almost complete certainty that their new home (the road!) means imminent death. If only I had a duck or chicken to feed them to. They are so meaty and juicy looking; it's a shame no one is able to eat them - though the turkeys have been coming around more lately...

The ultimate goal is to have a self sustaining and productive garden with minimal external inputs. This is the goal set for 2015 - let's hope it works out!

Key West Retinol Cream Review

I made a mistake when I took a break from using retinol creams. About a year ago, I decided to use only all natural products and stop buying creams at the drugstore. I noticed some quality changes to my skin, but one horrible side effect erupted. Acne.

Retinols had kept my acne at bay for years and stopping them was a big mistake. But honestly, in order to get an semi-decent percentage of retinol in the products I bought I had to pay exorbitant prices and the products were filled with "other" ingredients.

In my battle to repair the ravages of acne, I came across Key West Retinol cream. This night cream is an advanced formula with 97% natural and 71% organic ingredients, at a strength of 2.5% (2 1/2 times the amount of retinol as the standard 1% strength found in most retinol creams and is the strongest percentage available without a prescription.)

A higher percentage means I can use less of the product and the 1.7oz size means it will stretch a lot further. Since I am just getting used to retinol again, I am glad it's almost winter! The sun and retinol are a dangerous mix.

So far, I am quite happy with the Key West retinol cream. If you try it and are ever unhappy, the company offers a 100% money back satisfaction guarantee!
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

USDA Certified Organic Raw Shea Butter Review

Shea butter comes from the nut of the African shea tree. It's a common ingredient in moisturizers and cosmetics. But it's a great, pure moisturizer on its own.

We recently reviewed USDA Certified Organic Raw Shea Butter. We used it mostly for body skin. It is an amazing emollient and it smells great! Your skin just drinks it in and you can tell it's a high quality product.

It is a little difficult to use in our northern climate because unless you have a super warm house, it will be in it's solid form. If I'm using it on myself, I will use it solid. But for my kids, I warm it up so it is quicker to use.

This particular jar of shea butter is 14 oz or almost an entire pound. If you want to use pure organic products or even if you mix your own organic products, this is a great product to use.

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

Stark Safe Cut Gloves Review

I cut my hands often while cooking. It's a scary and unfortunate situation. When I saw the Stark Safe Cut Gloves, I knew I had to try them. Stark Safe Cut Gloves are 4x stronger than leather and offers an EN388 Level 5 cut resistance.

Still, I couldn't bring myself to purposely cut my hands to see if they "worked." Instead, I wore them during cutting and did not cut myself. Maybe it was because the gloves made me more aware of my hands, but I did not even come close to cutting myself.  But given how thick they are, I am fairly certain it would stop the nicks I commonly suffer.

I found it kind of awkward to wear gloves while cooking/cutting. They fit really well and did not interfere with dexterity, but my hands are normally naked during cooking and being gloved is going to take some getting used to.

My other concern was cleanliness. Personally, I have decided to wear these only for fruits/vegetables. My main accidents happen with rolling vegetables and I just don't want any issues with blood and bacteria. These are machine washable but meat is always a tricky situation, so I find it better to just take them off when it's time to cut meat.

Overall, these are a great solution to a common problem. I like them and am glad to have found them.


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

Hyperbiotics Pro-Kids Review

Are your kids getting sick every time they go back to school? Mine used to - then we started taking probiotics. The are many choices out there, but I always try to choose a natural product that's easy for kids to take.

My kids will take the medicine they are given but they generally complain about the taste or difficulty in taking large pills. They hate the taste of our current probiotics.

Then I had the chance to review Hyperbiotics Pro-Kids. These are all natural, sugar free probiotics designed for kids. It's a super small pearl shaped pill. It was easy for my kids to swallow.

The bottle says it has a tangy citrus flavor. I tried them, chewed them, and thought they tasted horrible. Horrible! And they stuck in my molars making the taste last until I could get it out. However: my kids thought they tasted fine and even preferred the taste over the other brand of "not sugar free" probiotics they were taking. That surprised me, but if they like them that's all that matters. I would swallow them whole if I were taking them.

If you'd like to try them, you can find them on amazon and combine them with another order to get free shipping.
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Gurin Professional Rechargeable Water Flosser Review

When a good friend bought her son a water flosser to go along with his new set of braces, it was the first time I had ever heard of such a product. Maybe it's a "braces thing." I never thought about it again until the Gurin Professional Rechargeable Water Flosser arrived on my doorstep.

Since I have tight teeth and floss often breaks in my mouth, I thought it might be good for me to try this water flosser. 

I immediately hated it. I turned it on and water sprayed everywhere. All over the mirror, all over me, all over!! I couldn't control it and I started typing an email to the company to let them know I had to write a negative review.

Then I told my husband about it and he looked at me like I was an alien. Did you close your mouth, he asked? Of course not. I wanted to see where I was "flossing." 

I guess that was a big deal because when I tried it with my mouth closed, there was no water disaster. Then it worked like it should, I guess. I was still really gun shy and I'm not sure I could really get used to spraying my mouth in order to floss but I can see how it would be really useful for people or can't or won't floss with actual floss. 

On actual performance, I have a few comments. One - I found the battery life to be adequate and long-enough lasting. Two - I wish it held more water. 

If you want to try a water flosser, this seems to be a good choice, but you will want to search the right way to use them so you have a good result the firs time you try it.
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.