Friday, December 21, 2012

My Blogging Vacation Starts NOW!

Since starting this blog in January 2011, I have yet to take a true break from all posting. I think it's time! With the holiday season upon us, my son's 4th birthday, Christmas and New Years, I can't think of a better time to rest, relax and recharge. Hubby will have a bit of time off too so I'd like to spend some quality time with my family without interruptions and blogging obligations.

I will be answering emails and accepting reviews and projects for January and beyond, but I don't plan on any blog posts going up at all for at least a couple weeks. I may tweet occasionally or pop in on Facebook, but that's about all you'll see from me!

Merry Christmas to you all! I hope you are able to truly enjoy the reason for this wonderful season with your families.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

TRM's Christmas Gift Guide :: An Overview For Last Minute Shopping!

Christmas is upon us! I'm finally done with my shopping, but I know that many of you are late shoppers and enjoy the hustle and bustle right before the big day. To mark the end of my Christmas Gift Guide for 2012, I put all of my gift guide sponsors in this one post for you so you can easily go through my gift recommendations for this year. I realize that some of these are only available online and wouldn't arrive in time for Christmas, but at least you may discover some amazing new shops and companies next time you need a gift! To find a local retail location for any of these, click to read my reviews and get further information.

I've also included just a few more recommendations that were not reviewed as part of this gift guide, but still offer up amazing gifts for everyone on your list. This is not an inclusive list only because I love a lot more brands that I have reviewed or featured in the past and loved , but it's a great start and has something for every person in the family!

Women's Apparel & Shoes - A unique destination for eco-friendly, natural and organic, stylish apparel for the whole family. {Read my review}
Mikarose - Elegant and modest dresses, tops, skirts and accessories for women. {Read my review}
Shabby Apple - Dresses, apparel and accessories with an old-fashioned, vintage flair. {Read my review}
Zkano - The best place to find organic cotton socks that are made in the USA, comfy, colorful and practical, and that you'll a want to live in 24/7! {Read my review}
Soybu - Active, stylish performance apparel for women made using eco-friendly fibers. {Read my review}
31 Bits - Beautiful handmade paper bead jewelry made by inspirational women from Uganda. {Read my review}


    Hail Merry - Delicious, gluten-free, macaroons that melt in your mouth. {Read my review}
    Nicobella Organics - Gourmet chocolate truffles and Munch snacks made with real, simple ingredients. {Read my review}
    Liz Lovely Cookies - Scrumptious, handcrafted gluten free and vegan cookies made with all-natural ingredients. {Read my review}

    Kitchen & House 

    GlassDharma - Glass straws create an eco-friendly, safe solution to plastic. {Read my review}
 - Order beautiful canvas prints in just a few minutes. {Read my review}
    ReUsies - Cut back on plastic with reusable sandwich and snack bags. {Read my review}
    Be Kind - Tempered glass kitchenware for kids. {Read my review}
    Bambu - Beautiful bamboo products for the kitchen and home. {Read my review}

    Baby & Kids

    Little Passports - A monthly subscription for children that explores new countries or states each month. {Read my review}

    Green Toys - Kids toys made from 100% recycled plastic and made in America. {Read my review}
    Oompa - Natural, unique, sustainable toys sourced from around the world, available in one amazing online store. {Read my review}
    Betty Lukens - Find felt educational resources, and activities including felt activity books, felt boards and more, all made in the USA. Many have Bible themes also. {Read my review}
    Charlie Banana - Organic cotton boxers for toddlers and young boys for the ultimate in luxury, safety and comfort. {Read my review}
    Simply Merino - 100% Merino Wool pajamas and thermal apparel for babies and kids up to age 12. {Read my review}
    Florsheim - High quality dressy shoes for holiday parties and Sunday dress. Sizes for toddlers and up! {Read my review

    Family Fun & More
    Bananagrams - Various award-winning anagram tile games for multiple players or singular play and for young children to adults. {Read my review}
    Artifact Puzzles - Laser-cut, heirloom quality wooden jigsaw puzzles in unique prints. {Read my review}
    Squatty Potty - Potty stools for a healthy colon. {Read my review}
    Philips Norelco - A trusted brand for men's trimmers and razors. {Read my review

    Other favorites I've shopped at and/or previously reviewed and highly recommend: 

    Kiwi Crate - A wonderful monthly craft box for kids age 3-7! Get $10 off your first box HERE! We get a box each month and LOVE it. {Read my review}
    Naughty Naughty Lingerie - Handmade Etsy shop owner and designer of beautiful lingerie and comfortable undergarments.
    Bulk Herb Store - Recently featured in the Green Christmas Gift Giveaway Hop, help get your gift recipient's new year off to the right start with this online shop full of health and wellness herbs and remedies. {Read my review}
    Dr. Bronner's - Also recently featured in the Green Christmas Gift Giveaway Hop, enjoy truly natural organic soaps and body care products with delightful scents. {Read my review}

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    Maggie's Naturals :: Natural Food Coloring & Sugar Sprinkles {Review}

     Maggie's Naturals is a family-owned business that shares my strong belief that we should know what's in our food. Offering a line of truly natural food coloring and colored sugar sprinkles, this company is for those natural families that don't want to lose the colored fun in sweets. Maggie's Naturals are gluten-free, GMO-free, and truly all-natural with no junk or fillers.
    Throughout my journey of eating healthier, real food, I've taken on one thing at a time so I can ensure these changes will stick. In the past year I've started really working on getting artificial food dyes out of our diet. Honestly, I didn't think much of them a couple years ago. I'm definitely in a different, healthier place than I was then and also lot more researched and knowledgeable. Taking control of your health requires full disclosure of ingredients, and confidence that those ingredients you're ingesting are coming from a trustworthy source. We've decreased our intake of processed foods significantly, which of course has helped limit our intake of artificial food dyes to practically nothing (there's nothing in my house right now with artificial colors). And when we do eat sweets, they're mostly homemade so I know what's in them. Really, it's the processed store-bought foods that contain these artificial food colorings, so it's best to cut them out as best you can.

    I've never allowed Buddy to eat a bunch of junk food throughout the day, and especially nothing with artificial food dyes at home (it's beyond rare). But occasionally out with extended family, grandparents, or friends, I've allowed that bright red piece of cake or those chocolate candies covered in every color of the rainbow in the past. The result is always interesting, and different than that of just eating too many sweets or just being overly tired. You know something? My son is rarely a crazy hyper child. Busy, but not crazy. But when that artificial food dye hits his system, his behavior is a bit out of control. It almost appears to be like what most parents would assume is a sugar high. But knowing my son well I can spot the difference. Learning that artificial food dyes are linked to hyperactivity, I instantly made the connection. It's sad to think that many kids are probably wrongly diagnosed with a disorder when in fact the food could be to blame instead. Artificial food dyes are also derived from petroleum, can cause cancer, and are really quite nasty when you think about it. 100 Days of Real Food wrote an article on artificial food dyes that I'd encourage you to check out!

    First I'd like to share about the food coloring that I received. They have six colors available, and I received four of them: green, blue, pink, and orange. Each 2 oz bottle includes organic vegetable glycerin, citric acid, and up to three more natural ingredients that provide the actual color. For instance, blue gardenia extract gives the blue it's color and annatto seed for the orange.

    The pigment of each food coloring color appears to be quite dark when it's poured out, similar to rich color an artificial food dye. Where they differ in this way is in how much of Maggie's Naturals you need to add to a classic butter cream frosting compared to just a toothpick scrape of an artificial dye paste I used to use. Really, you need 1-2 teaspoons or more of Maggie's Naturals to get the same rich pigment, depending on the amount of frosting you are coloring of course. That could mean you'll go through Maggie's Naturals food coloring pretty quickly and it could prove to be quite expensive if you use food coloring quite often. However, we all know quality and safety comes at a price, and I think Maggie's Naturals is pretty reasonable with all things considered.

    I tried to edit my photos to accurately represent how the colors turned out, but I also know each computer screen will show these off differently. However, you can hopefully see that Maggie's Naturals are really different tones than artificial food coloring altogether and offer a pastel pallet that feels a little vintage to me (I love it!). The pink is almost like a dusty pink with a purple tone and blue is a bit of a beautiful periwinkle. Overall they're gorgeous, and definitely not the crazy bright reds and oranges of artificial food dyes that make my stomach turn. Keep in mind that I didn't measure mine at all into each bowl since I prefer to eyeball liquid measurements of any kind, but I'd say each color here required about 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons. You can just add more or less of each food coloring liquid to reach your desired richness of color.

    Maggie's Naturals food coloring are really easy to work with and the "natural" aspect of them doesn't require you to compromise your final product in any way. They don't change the texture of the frosting other than thinning it out a little because you're adding a liquid. Just add a little more powdered sugar to compensate. But there's no weird clumping, shine, taste or separation with Maggie's Naturals. They just blend right in seamlessly.

    The Sugar Sprinkles are so much fun and the perfect complement to make a completely naturally-colored classic cut-out sugar cookie, cupcakes, cakes and more. I received four of the seven sugar sprinkle packets they offer: green, blue, red and orange. Again, the coloring doesn't give the sugar any odd flavor and really has the same texture as a gritty natural sugar. The colors are also very rich and pigmented. I have a few extra spice jars on hand so I transferred mine into those instead of the packets because I found them a bit hard to pour without using my fingers. However, I'm excited to have sprinkles again! You really can't tell these are naturally colored and they look so rich and beautiful.

    These are actually my new gluten-free cut-out sugar cookies that turned out amazing. I'll have recipe posted soon so you can try them too. My mom is somewhat of a sugar cookie expert and was very impressed with how normal the taste and texture turned out! We had so much fun decorating them with Maggie's Naturals too.

    Over the weekend we had a family birthday party for my son and he requested an orange cake! At first I cringed, but having Maggie's Naturals around I had no problem complying with his request. You may be able to see that I used three different tones of the orange by just adding a little more food coloring to the batch with each part. The background is lightest, the sides were a medium orange and the "Happy Birthday" I added a little more food coloring to make it stand out. To top it off I threw on plenty of Maggie's Naturals orange sprinkles! Buddy was very happy with his birthday cake!

    At times, I've realized I can't be that frantic helicopter parent all the time (really, I feel like I'm just doing my job!). But, I have to protect my son and his health all without offending loved ones who really just don't align with my families' real food beliefs. If I have the ability to offer up the colored frosting or sprinkles for treats, I'm going to do so. With the ease of use from Maggie's Naturals, even a non- real food family won't even notice they just skipped the artificial food dyes. With Maggie's Naturals I have full confidence in what I am choosing to allow my family to consume, and all with happy, beautiful colors!

    Price: Food Coloring 2 oz bottles - $9.99 each, Sugar Sprinkles 4 oz packets - $4.99 each

    Buy It: Check out to order today!

    Disclosure: I received the above mentioned product(s) to facilitate this review for free. No other compensation was received. This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Winners Announcement!

    Green Toys winner...Rafflecopter Entry #1516 Linda R.!
    Bambu winner...Rafflecopter Entry #583 Jennifer R.

    Bananagrams winner...Rafflecopter Entry #100 Ruby Y.!
    Zkano winner...Rafflecopter Entry #188 Kim H.!
    Liz Lovely winner...Rafflecopter Entry #688 Heather W.

    Betty Lukens winner...Rafflecopter Entry #411 Barnolds B.

    Simply Merino winner...Rafflecopter Entry #475 Leann L.! 

    Green Christmas Gift Giveaway Hop GRAND PRIZE Winners:
     Prize Package #1...Nicole L.!
    Prize Package #2...Sharon P.!
    Prize Package #3...Allie G.!
    Prize Package #4...Catie R.!
    Prize Package #5...Elle T.!
      All winners have been contacted by email! Congratulations to you all! 


    Thursday, December 13, 2012

    TRM's Christmas Gift Guide :: Charlie Banana Organic Boxers {Review}

    Gift giving traditions in your family may include some delicious candy, fuzzy new socks, or even underwear! For your young little boys, consider giving organic boxers!
    You may recognize the brand Charlie Banana if you are familiar with cloth diapering, or other reusable cloth products like cloth pads, nursing pads, and underwear styles for toddlers. This luxury brand delivers premium quality materials, outstanding quality and great style. I still enjoy using their Double-sided Cloth Wipes to wash my face, and be sure to check out my Organic Cotton Underwear review from Charlie Banana that I did in June.
    This time around I received the 3-pack Organic Cotton Boxer Shorts for Buddy in the medium size. This size is for ages 3-5 and Buddy's current measurements are exactly what is shown on the size chart. They actually have plenty of room for him to grow up and out, and yet they fit fantastic on him right now too (yay for extended use!). They are made from the same luscious 100% organic cotton as the underwear we own from Charlie Banana which I absolutely love. It's a beautifully safe, healthy material against their skin that really feels amazing to feel. These boxers also have the pocket opening right in the front for easy bathroom breaks for boys, especially when out in public and you just want to get out of there as soon as possible! Sometimes I think of boxers as more comfortable than briefs for boys anyway, but whatever your son's preference, with Charlie Banana you can't go wrong!
    Something that is always a pet peeve of mine on any bottoms for my son is the waistband. Often they are not wide enough, too thick, and just too tight which everything else hangs in a baggy fashion. No so with these boxers!!! Not only is waistband a generous width, but they're this really thin, super stretchy elastic that is the best I've seen on any underwear, ever. The elastic's softness also coincides with the organic cotton for the ultimate cotton boxers for any young boy this Christmas.

    Charlie Banana is without a doubt a wonderful brand when it comes to Eco-friendly reusable cloth products. They also give back by donating 1% of all worldwide sales to Operation Smile. This amazing organization provides life changing surgeries for children around the world suffering from facial deformities such as cleft lip. It's awesome to know that your purchase is not only keeping your children safe and lowering the impact on the earth, but also affecting children around the world in such a positive way. I definitely recommend Charlie Banana for all your cloth needs for yourself and your children!

    Price: 3-pack Organic Cotton Boxer Shorts - $24.88

    Buy It: Check out to find retailers near you or shop online!

    Disclosure: I received the above mentioned product(s) to facilitate this review for free. No other compensation was received. This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    TRM's Christmas Gift Guide :: 100% Merino Wool PJ's from Simply Merino {Giveaway Ends 12/15} US/CAN

    Warm cozy PJ's are a must for babies and children. Why not treat them to some amazing ones made from natural Merino wool!?

    Simply Merino is a Canadian company that offers 100% Merino wool pyjamas (yes, they use a different spelling in Canada!) and thermal wear that are sourced and manufactured in New Zealand. For infants and babies they carry sleepers, gowns, booties, blankets, hats and two-piece PJ's. For toddlers and up to age 12 you will find sleep dresses, hats, thermal tops and bottoms, and two-piece PJ's. Each come in soft mellow colors that bring simplicity and comfort to the bedtime routine or for cold weather layering.  

    Merino wool is a natural material that is really quite desirable for sleepwear. Buddy is a hot and sweaty sleeper so I always go with 100% cotton for him to sleep in. I really didn't think another option existed besides synthetics like polyester. After reading a bit about Simply Merino and their Merino wool PJ's, I was excited to test them out on Buddy and see if our options to choose from would broaden a bit!

    Putting your children in Merino wool has lots of benefits that I was surprised to find. First of all, Merino wool is incredibly soft and yummy to the touch. At first glance (and feel) I probably would have told you that these were made of a 100% combed cotton. They look and feel that similar. The wool is also breathable and helps regulate body temperature. Even if Buddy does get too warm the Merino wool will wick away any moisture to help keep him dry. Not only do I get a breathable material like cotton, but also one that is naturally fire resistant without being chemically treated. This makes them a safe option that I'm really happy I found.
    The quality is also beautiful and we love this green! They are a relatively thin material, but incredibly soft as I mentioned and made to last through repeated washings. They're machine washable by the way, in case you were thinking that Merino wool is high maintenance. It's easy! They also don't hold on to odor like synthetic materials do so no need to worry about that either. As far as fit goes, these pyjamas are great. They are slim fitting but the ribbed feel of the Merino wool allow for a bit of stretch for a really comfortable fit. The rear also has seams on each side instead of one down the rear which is especially comfortable. I like that the waist band is a little wider than most.
    If your child is between sizes, I'd suggest sizing up. Buddy is wearing a size 5, despite measuring as a 4. The top is a little long this way, but that means no bare back in the middle of the night. You can also see the generous length of the bottoms on Buddy, yet they stay up around the ankles. You can size up without much worry as you can see. Simply Merino also suggests using these for thermal layering which is a great idea. Because they're fitted, they can easily add extra warmth and help regulate body temperature as a base layer in cold weather, or be used just as a layering piece at any time.

    My only feedback would be that I'd prefer screen printed tags instead of sewn-in ones. Buddy complained right away that the tags were bothering him so I had to cut them out. Otherwise, he loves them! He calls them his "fast pajamas" because he thinks he can run faster in them and he races around the house like a car. Go figure. :)
    Simply Merino pyjamas are a great option for PJ's as we go into winter and even colder weather. Keep your babies and kiddos warm and cozy! I also love how simple it is for siblings to match colors and/or PJ styles with Simply Merino. It would be so fun for siblings to open together and get to match. These PJ's would be a wonderful Christmas Eve gift if you have a tradition of opening a movie night gift box with new pajamas like we're starting this year. No matter how you do it, you simply can't go wrong with Simply Merino.

    Price: Pyjamas (size 4T to 6 yrs) - $59.99
    Buy It: Check out to order today!
    Win It!
    One winner will receive one pair of pyjamas in any size and color!

    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    TRM's Christmas Gift Guide :: The Philips Norelco Vacuum Stubble & Beard Trimmer Pro {Review, Coupons & Contest}

    Guys like gadgets, right? I know my hubby does! For Christmas, how 'bout a useful gadget that you know they'll get plenty of use out of?

    Philips Norelco is a trusted name for men's shaving products like razors and trimmers. A few months ago my hubby had the pleasure of reviewing the Bodygroom Pro with me, and this time I'd like to share with you the Vacuum Stubble & Beard Trimmer Pro. Since my hubby is usually clean shaven and doesn't maintain a beard or stubble that often, I had my brother test this one out. After hearing my sister-in-law's grief about finding his hair trimmings in the sink every morning, I knew this was the perfect trimmer for him!
    The Vacuum Stubble & Beard Trimmer Pro is packed with some awesome features that make stubble, moustache, sideburn, and beard trimming simple and easy. There are 18 length settings from 1mm to 18mm, maintenance-free blades, a multifunctional digital display, and even a turbo power boost button to increase cutting and fan speed if needed. The Trimmer Pro can be used cordless, or corded if currently charging the battery in it. The attached contour-following comb that goes up and down with the length settings allows for easy cutting along the curved contours of the face, without compromising comfort or a quality cut. I like that I was able to easy hold the Trimmer Pro in one hand and still use all the functions. The vacuum is by far the neatest feature and makes the already quick process of trimming a tidy one too.
    My brother likes to sport a few facial hair styles with his wiry blonde stubble but like I said, his wife is grossed out by all the trimmings! So, here's his brother thinks that the vacuum is awesome, and his wife is a happy camper! It does a great job and sucks up all the trimmings and contains them inside the handy compartment that empties with ease. He also commented on the lithium-ion battery that has lasted him over five times, 5-10 minutes each time without even being close to needing a recharge yet. Even so, charging is simple and just requires you to plug it in. Overall he's pretty impressed, thinks it's easy to use and very convenient. Personally, I wouldn't expect anything else from Philips Norelco, the Shave Experts. Definitely consider finding the perfect razor or trimmers from Philips Norelco to put in your man's stocking this year!

    Price: Vacuum Stubble & Beard Trimmer Pro - $59.99
    Buy It: Check out to shop today!

    Current Contest ------->> You can also check out Philips Norelco's current Twitter sweepstakes by following them on @ShaveExperts. Just check out their lastest tweets to find out how YOU can win a SensoTouch Shaver. One will be given away every day through December 16th, along with $1,000 a week, and a donation at the end of the month to a lucky blogger's favorite charity (how cool!).

    Coupons ------->> We're all looking for the best price in town this time of year, so check out the current coupons and print yours today!
    Disclosure: I received the above mentioned product(s) to facilitate this review for free. No other compensation was received. This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

    Friday, December 7, 2012

    TRM's Christmas Gift Guide :: Felt Activity Books & More from Betty Lukens {Giveaway Ends 12/13} Open WW

    Toys and activities that hold educational value are always on the top of my list as gifts for children. For a unique way to teach your kids using sturdy felt, check out Betty Lukens!

    Betty Lukens has been providing felt educational resources and activities for over 35 years. They know what they're doing! Because they specialize in felt, they are able to focus on what they make best and ensure they aren't spread too thin with a million types of products. All Betty Lukens products are manufactured here in the USA from high quality 100% polyester felt. They are best known for their Through the Bible Felt Sets which are shipped and enjoyed throughout the world. We thoroughly enjoy our felt board sets from Betty Lukens (view that review HERE), so I can attest to the wonderful features, high quality, and educational value of Betty Lukens felt products.

    We received two Felt Activity Books, a Children's Bible In Felt set and a Felt Storyboard. I was thrilled with the opportunity to check out more from Betty Lukens to share with you!
    Felt Activity Books are the perfect quiet way to keep your kids occupied and learning at the same time. Betty Lukens carries seven of these soft storybooks to choose from, four of which are Bible stories. They're great for young children that need to keep busy and quiet in situations such as church, doctor offices or just as a way to calm down before a nap. We received Bible Stories and Old Testament Bible Stories.
    The Felt Activity Books are actually not pre-cut like the felt board sets. They come as one big piece of felt with each page and the felt figures printed on it. I quite enjoyed the project of cutting these out and putting them together, but I realize it's not for everyone. It takes no real creativity either and the assembly directions are thorough so really anyone can put it together with ease. Bible Stories measures 7-1/2" x 10-1/2" and includes 7 pages, and Old Testament Bible stories measures 7-1/2" x 11" and includes 8 pages. Of course with each you have a bunch of felt figurines to tediously cut out, but again, I had so much fun doing it and Buddy couldn't wait until I was done! I used a hot glue gun to put the pages together back to back and the included yarn to bind the book for the ultimate soft, indestructible soft storybook. The yarn is thick and perfect for these books, and of course they're printed with bright inks and a high level of detail. Overall I'm very impressed with these books and I like the low price they offer since you're the one putting it together. 
    The Children's Bible in Felt series consists of seven Bible stories to choose from. We received The Birth of Jesus set along with a blank Felt Storyboard - Hillside to layout the felt pieces. The felt set has 18 pre-cut pieces to fill the entire classic Bible scene including the inn, stable, animals, shepherds, angels, wise men, and of course baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Beautifully colorful with lots of detail, we've been keeping this one out a lot instead of a nativity figurine set that would most likely get played with too roughly (or broken!). The felt storyboard measures 12" x 14" so it's generously sized for use with the felt sets without being huge and cumbersome to store. They're a thin, sturdy cardboard too so they easily store on the side of or under something. Again, the Children's Bible In Felt sets are a wonderful way to use felt as an educational resource, just like the Felt Activity Books. Either avenue of felt learning is wonderful depending on what your needs are and where/when you would need a felt activity.

    With Christmas fast approaching (and my slight despise for the whole santa thing), I'm taking every opportunity I can to teach Buddy the real reason we celebrate Christmas which is Jesus' birth. Actually, in general I'm trying to teach Buddy about the Bible and Christian faith using ways he can understand at his young age. Having tools available like these felt board sets and activity books are a great tangible, visual way for Buddy to explore common Bible stories and concepts, especially during this Advent season when his interest is high. Felt is the perfect way to introduce and reinforce concepts and stories in a fun-filled way without the mess or cheap plastic toys that break easily. This Christmas, bring the real meaning of the holiday into your home with these wonderful felt activities from Betty Lukens.

    Price: Felt Activity Books - $14.95, Children's Bible In Felt Sets - $10.50, Hillside Felt Storyboard - $10.50
    Buy It: Check out to order from today!
    Win It!
    One winner will receive the Felt Activity Book of their choice (not all are Bible stories in case that does not interest you)!