Yoga Sweat DVD - Powerful And Fun Yoga Weight Loss Review #spon

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I consider myself "fitness savvy" and I enjoy almost all types of fitness. So when I had the chance to review the Yoga Sweat DVD I thought it was going to be a quick and easy workout.

I found it very mentally challenging and throughout the workout, I kept thinking back through the years and realized that I had never taken an "actual" yoga class. I've taken classes that incorporate yoga moves, or pilates, or tai chi - but never one that focuses on yoga alone.

This DVD is all yoga and nothing but yoga. That's a good thing, but if you're like me, then you might have a hard time staying focused and wanting to continue the workout.

Let me dial it back and explain what I mean, then I'll get into specifics about the DVD. When I workout, it usually hurts. I am constantly thinking about fighting or getting stronger. I usually have the music turned up loud and I am in that gym for a battle.

Yoga is more quiet. It's all about focusing on your body, your breathing, your moves. I have a really hard time with that. While I'm twisted into some pretzel-like shape, I notice the dishes need to be washed or that my kids left something on the floor. I stare at my hobbit feet and think "what the hell!!!"

Then I catch a glimpse of myself and realize that I look like crap, or I focus on how the person in the video can touch her head to the floor and I'm lucky if I can get it to my knees. It's a mental hazing - like junior high inside my mind. And it sucks.

I completed the whole dvd and even though the moves were good (and I learned quite a few new ones!) I couldn't get over my own drama. I don't know if I could do yoga again. Or maybe that means I need to calm down and find away to mindfully work through a full yoga session. I would probably be a better person for it, but I don't know that I can or want to....

Let's assume that you like yoga or want to try it even though I just rambled on about how mentally challenging it is. Here's some details on the actual dvd.

The Actual Workout:
This is the first workout video I have performed where the instructor does not talk and the entire video is done as a voice over. It caught me for a loop, but I think it's a good idea and all videos should adapt this style. Not only does it make doing the video easier (since the instructor is not panting or doing 2 things at once) but it makes watching it a second/third/nth time much more enjoyable.

I have videos with great workouts but I can not stand the instructor's commentary. It only gets worse the 15th time you hear him shout "ooh...squeeze out those cheeseburgers" or some other lame comment.

This video has none of that. The voice just tells you what to do with each move and the model does it along with you.

The moves themselves are a mix of easy and challenging. None of them were too hard for me to do (strengthwise) but quite a few of them challenged my balance and flexibility. Well, most of them challenged my flexibility.

I learned a lot about yoga technique by the voice on the video. She tells you where you should feel the pressure, where your weight should be focused, etc. I found that extremely helpful.

The pace is not fast or slow. If you have experience with yoga or even with a few basic moves, it will be much easier for you. If not, then you should probably watch once first so you know what to expect while you are twisted like an eagle or facing down and unable to see the screen.

Will it actually make you lose weight? I don't think it would burn enough calories to count as cardio or help a lot with "weight loss" but it would increase your strength, flexibility, balance, and focus/concentration. The moves are really good and I think they would be good to rotate into your workouts in order to improve those areas.

I may or may not do the video again. I will use the moves I learned in the video in my future workouts, but I will most likely donate this video to a yoga-friend (only because I can not focus myself for an entire yoga workout.)

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

Mattress Protector By Comfiy - Finest Full Size Review #spon

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I first discovered mattress protectors when my children were potty training. They were an amazing discovery. If you haven't put a mattress protector on every bed in your home (or at least your children's beds!) I urge you to consider it.

They keep dust mites, dead skin flakes, blood, milk, urine, vomit, bodily fluids, and anything that could be spilled from entering your mattress. That means less mold, less smells, and less germs.

I had the chance to review the full sized Comify Mattress protector and I put it on one of our guest beds. Guests deserve to sleep in a clean bed and if multiple people rotate through that bed, then a mattress protector is essential.

Since I have a bit of experience with mattress protectors, I can safely say the Comify protector is well made and will most likely protect against any spills/bodily fluids. I didn't spill on it on purpose to check, but I can tell by the backing.

It is not as thick as some of the one's I've purchased in the past but in this particular bed, we have a pillow top mattress and are not relying on the protector to provide the "plush" feel.

It's machine washable and fits the mattress well - there was no pulling or sagging.

It was a great protector and I would recommend it to friends and family looking for a way to protect their mattresses. It even comes with a 30 year guarantee.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

Silicone Wine Glasses/Pouch/Collapsible Bottle Review #spon

When your traveling, how do you take care of your drinking needs? Can you travel with glass? What about space issues?

I recently had the opportunity to review the silicone wine glasses and collapsible bottle set from MoiChef. It's a set of two silicone glasses and one collapsible bottle.

I've seen photos were people fold the cups and put them in their back pockets. I could not get the cups to fit in my pocket - even one at a time. But with large enough pants/pockets, it's probably possible.

The cups do collapse and that makes them ultra portable - plus they can't break. They are fully able to stand on their own and do not roll around or fall onto themselves. They definitely serve the purpose for which they were intended.

The bottle is also useful, but only holds about 3 cups of liquid. I would definitely use it for water but would have liked it to hold more liquid.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Food Thermometer Review #spon

We eat very little meat in our home (for compassionate reasons) but when we do, I want to cook it right. There is almost nothing more disgusting in the culinary world than wasting food. That's where a food thermometer comes in.

I had the chance to review the EatSmart digital food thermometer. It's so easy to use! And it's pretty much perfect for being able to tell when a meat is cooked to a safe temperature (or the perfect temp for rare, medium, or well done.)

The temperature pops up on the screen very quickly (less than 5 seconds) and is easy to stick right into your food. The probe gradually tapers to 1.5mm to minimize the hole left in your food - maintaining the juices inside and the appearance of your dish.

It comes ready to use right out of the box, since it comes with all necessary batteries and instructions.

This would make a great Father's day gift and at less than $20 - it's something even the kids could buy for him.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

Kendama Review #spon

I have been battling to get my children away from screens. I am currently losing that battle. As much as I offer them new non-electronic toys, take up hobbies, put them in sports, or drag them outside, they still run back to the screen as soon as they can.

But I'm not giving up the fight! I will continue to do crafts, take them on excursions, bring them outside, put them in sports, and find books and toys for them to engage with.

So when I had the chance to review Kendama, I took it. Kendama is a toy that has long been popular in Japan among children and adults. I first saw this toy a few years ago when the "super organic" moms were buying them for their kids.

They were buying them at a trendy (read: expensive) boutique and their kids played with them for hours at the park.

Hours? Yep. It looks like a simple toy, but it is very difficult to master. And there are many ways to play with it. According to the manufacturer, there are over a 1000 different techniques for playing it.

It helps develop hand-eye coordination, concentration, and perseverance. Plus it doesn't use electricity!!!

My children have enjoyed trying to master the game and have especially enjoyed competing against each other. My son even tried to bring it to school today! School does not allow toys and would confiscate it, so.... it stayed home.

It may not be the only thing they play with or the cure to our screen dilemma, but it's another toy in the arsenal in the battle against the screens and I would recommend it to any parents with children over 3.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

The Dehydrator Bible Review

Monday, May 11, 2015

If you've never dehydrated food and want to know what it's all about, then The Dehydrator Bible is a great resource to teach you the basics. It's also a useful guide for those of us that have been dehydrating food for years.

Why would you want to dehydrate food in the first place? Well - it's a great way to preserve food and make it shelf stable (no refrigerators necessary!) It's a fantastic way to make use of a bountiful harvest or to save produce you find on sale at the store or farmer's market.

My favorite things to dehydrate are pineapple rings, apples, mushrooms, herbs, fruit leathers, and tomatoes.

I received a copy of The Dehydrator Bible for review purposes, and was very impressed with the contents.

The beginning of the book goes over all of the produce you can dehydrate with all the steps and details you need for each type of food (herbs, vegetables, and fruits.) Which ones need to be blanched, which need to be skinned, etc.

Then the book discusses how to dry grains, beans, dairy, and meats.

The bulk of the book covers recipes. Both dehydrated recipes (like fruit leathers) and meals made from dehydrated goods. This is extremely useful information if you want to pack dry foods to cook while camping or for use in an emergency situation.

This book is a very good reference guide and the information inside is accurate (at least according to my 20+ years of dehydrating experience.)

If I were to make one criticism - I wish the book would have explored the idea of solar dehydration. It does a great job expounding on tips and techniques for electric dryers, but a page or two on how to dry correctly in the sun would have been appreciated.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

2015 Garden Part 6 - It's ALL planted!

The entire garden has been planted as of 5/10/2015! Very scary for zone 4, but I have quite a few legitimate reasons for planting early. One of those reasons has to do with the fact that I am keeping better records and testing previously held gardening assumptions. This is a year of research.

I grew everything in our garden from seeds using a coldframe/greenhouse or by direct sowing into the ground. I am growing more perennials, testing out new methods of producing organic compost/mulch/fertilizers, I'm pushing the boundaries of our zone, and I am even experimenting with a host of new plants (new to me!)

It's been an exciting year so far.

Here is the list of what's in the garden and pictures of everything as of 5/10/15.

Sweet corn (unknown and unexpected variety from my son's classroom)
King of the North bell peppers
Minnesota Midget Cantaloupe
Golden Midget watermelons
Pineapple Ground Cherry
White Stemmed Pak Choi (bok choy)
Yellow Crookneck squash (from seeds my son found on a charity clean up event)
Scarlet Runner Beans
Bush Lake Green Beans
ButterBush Green Beans
Super Sugar Snap Peas
Victoria Red Rhubarb
Northland, Northsky, Northblue, and Chippewa Blueberries
Heritage Red Raspberries
Jewel Black Raspberries
Latham Red Raspberries
Quinalt Strawberries
Fresca Virginia Wild Strawberries
Waltham Butternut Squash
Marketmore Cucumbers
Tomatoes: coyote, moneymaker, siberian, mister stripey, rutgers, brandywine (I ended up with 21 and planted them all!)
Golden Flax
Martha Washington Asparagus
Fordhook Swiss Chard
Champion Radishes
Herbs: Thyme, basil, lemon balm, sage, cilantro,
Garlic and onion chives
Grocery store onions (yellow)
Russet and Yukon gold Potatoes
Dwarf Sunspot sunflowers
Hollow Parsnips
Windsor Fava Beans
Golden Amaranth
Green garden Purslane
Walking Egyptian onions

Of these - we've already eaten 4 bok choy plants, a few handfuls of asparagus, and onion chives.

I made a mistake and cut the bok choy to the ground. Next time, I will cut it above the crown so it has a chance to grow again and/or flower and make seeds.

Here's a look at our progress:
Blueberries full of flowers in the foreground - potato boxes in the background

Buckwheat and asparagus near the melons inside the cold frame

Clockwise from left: Fava beans, amaranth, cucumbers, and bokchoy - parsnips in the middle

All Tomato Bed - 18 in this bed - and a row of Golden Flax in the front

Leeks and Grocery store onions (growing like wild!) and blueberries in the background

Ground Cherries - 5 total

Cantaloupe Seedlings - embarrassingly behind schedule - hill #1

Minnesota midget cantaloupe - second hill

Onion Chives

Super Sugar Snap peas just about ready to start climbing the fence

A closer look at 2 of the 3 potato boxes. They are growing well now that they made it through the frost

Golden Midget Watermelon and Radishes (holding the space until the melons start to vine out and take over)

Heritage Raspberries - just starting to really get growing - May 10, 2015

One of 9 Rhubarb seedlings planted in various random locations

Corn from son's school - not looking like it survived the bike ride home very well

Spindly Asparagus - too thin, so I am letting it fern out (go to seed) early to recapture enough solar energy for next season (and beyond.)

Yellow Crookneck squash amid pakchoi, beets, beans (not yet above ground) and swiss chard

Dwarf Sunspot Sunflowers

An experiment to see if heat rocks will aid in tomato seedling growth
More articles from this year's garden:
19 Tomatoes and counting
Growing Heirloom Tomatoes without electricity
2015 Garden Part 1
2015 Garden Part 2
2015 Garden Part 3
2015 Garden Part 4
2015 Garden Part 5
Growing Potatoes from the Grocery store 
Growing Espalier Grapes on a Fence
Can Tomatoes Survive temperatures below 28 Fahrenheit?

Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow #spon

My husband has searched for years for the "perfect pillow." He likes the solid pillows that I could never think of using. Unfortunately, once he finds a pillow he likes, it starts to lose it's shape and lose the "solidness" that drew it to him in the first place.

So when I was offered a chance to review this Bamboo covered shredded memory foam pillow, I gladly accepted.

This pillow arrived at my home rolled up really tight and skinny. Small and Skinny are not what you look for in a pillow, so I was worried. As it turns out, the pillow was vacuum packed for shipping (good idea) and it promptly became a regular looking pillow within seconds.

The pillow itself is nice and solid, but the thing that makes it stand out is it's ability to keep and hold it's shape. The pillow contains shredded memory foam wrapped in a Kool-Flow (tm) Bamboo cover. The bamboo cover keeps the pillow cool and the shredded memory foam holds it's shape.

So far, it is holding up nicely and if you like a firm pillow, it just might be what you're looking for.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

100% Authentic Tencel Bed Sheet Set #spon

As I was making beds last week, I stared at the sheets and wondered if it was possible for the sheets not to look like a wrinkly mess. For cotton sheets, the answer is no. 

I have accepted my wrinkly sheets, but I would like them to look better when guests visit. And I don't want to spend hours ironing. It turns out there might be a solution.

That solution is Tencel bed sheets. I'm sure you've never heard of Tencel, and neither had I before I had a chance to review a sheet set made from 100% Tencel.

What is it? It's fabric made from wood pulp. Like paper, but not scratchy or biodegradable in water. It's super soft and comes in beautiful colors. I would say the feel like really high grade cotton sheets.

I love the idea of making products from renewable resources and trying new things. These sheets are great and I would definitely order them again.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

How to get Bell Pepper seeds to germinate

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pepper seeds are notoriously difficult to germinate! I started with different varieties (California Wonder and King of the North) and had no success germinating them indoors (in soil and on paper towels), under growlights in soil, or outdoors in a cold frame.
bell pepper seedlings
King of the North Bell Pepper Seedlings

My goal was for my garden to be self-sustaining. To grow all my own plants from seeds without the use of electricity or relying on nursery transplants.

I ran a bunch of experiments with various plants - starting seeds indoors, under lights, outdoors, and in the outdoor coldframe. I started some in winter and some in spring.

More than a month went by before I finally got the pepper seeds to germinate - and those were in the cold frame outdoors.

To be transparent, I live in zone 4, and our spring was mottled with 20-70 degree weather. We had long stretches of warmth and long stretches of cold. We had rain, snow, and hail in April and May.

But I finally got half of my bell pepper seeds to germinate.

Just leaving them in a cold frame in 20, 30, 40, 50, and even 60 degree weather was not going to get them to germinate.

Leaving them in my house in 67 degree (constant) temperature did not cause germination.

I finally got them to germinate by taking advantage of the heat sinks within the cold frame.
growing in a solar greenhouse in zone 4

My cold frame is a basic poly box - small and not very insulating. I place bricks and stones inside the frame to hold heat (to radiate in the cooler evenings.)

I had tomatoes, squash, and melons all survive the 20 degree nights inside that cold frame (I did wrap the cold frame with another layer of plastic on the coldest nights.)

And using the heat sink bricks - I finally got the peppers to germinate. How? By placing the growing container on top of the bricks.

Duh!! Why didn't I think of that before? Peppers NEED heat to germinate. Most people use electric heating mats. Why couldn't or didn't I think to use the heat collected all day in those bricks to heat up the soil?
germinating bell pepper seedlings outside
2 bell peppers seedlings inside cold frame on top of heat sink bricks

It happened by accident because I planted things inside the coldframe and ran out of space. So I put my melon containers (which had not germinated in weeks!) on the stones because there was no ground space. I noticed that my melons finally germinated, and it all clicked. The peppers went on the stones and germinated within a few days.

The problem of germinating peppers and melons without electricity has been solved. Tell your friends!!
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