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Review: Maple Holistics shampoo and conditioner

8 Mar

Disclosure: I was sent the Winter Blend shampoo and conditioner set to review. I am not otherwise being compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

My beauty routine is pretty simple, and thus, my arsenal of haircare, skincare, and cosmetic products is pretty small.

In terms of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and face wash, I prefer products that are fairly natural with clean, fresh scents and that leave my skin feeling clean and invigorated.

Maple Holistics, an American company that makes all-natural haircare and skincare products, with an emphasis on shampoo and conditioner, offers several items that fit that bill.

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I’ve used their Winter Blend shampoo and conditioner over the past 8 weeks, and I love it.

The limited edition Winter Blend formula contains five varieties of mint: peppermint, spearmint, eucalyptus mint, bergamot mint, and wild mint.

The scent is lovely and transforms your shower into a cooling, refreshing environment. It’s perfect in the morning, to wake up your senses with the brightness of invigorating mint; it’s wonderful after a sweaty workout, too, to cool and refresh your body and mind.

The conditioner specifically is Maple Holistics’ own Silk18 blend of ingredients to treat dry, damaged hair; it contains 18 silk amino acids, plus argan oil, jojoba oil, botanical keratin, sea buckthorn, pomegranate, aloe, and more.

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The shampoo, naturally, left my scalp and hair feeling clean, thanks to the bright mint blend. And the conditioner, which feels thick and silky straight out of the bottle, left my hair feeling soft and smooth.

The two 8-ounce bottles retail for $19.95, which is far more than I would ever pay for shampoo or conditioner. But you are paying not only for high quality products, but also for products that are all natural, sulfate free, and made (animal-cruelty-free) in the United States.

So if natural hair and skincare is important to you, and if supporting domestic manufacturers is important to you, Maple Holistics offers some wonderful products.

The company currently offers free samples of its lemon oil, massage oil, or sage shampoo in exchange for honest reviews online, either on social media, a blog, or Amazon. The offer is good only through March 17!

I finished the Whole30!

15 Feb

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We finished the Whole30!

I won’t lie to you and tell you it was easy or that it completely changed me (for the better or for the worse). But I will admit it was not as hard as it is purported to be. It also was not as life-changing as it is marketed to be, either.

Some quick thoughts:

  • Christopher lost about 10 pounds during the program. I lost fewer than 5 over the 30 days.
  • We both reported better sleep — an easier time falling asleep and staying asleep — although we did not usually wake up feeling as well-rested and restored, probably in part to both of us being sick with a cold at some point in the last two weeks and to dealing with sick toddlers in the last two weeks.
  • We mostly avoided the withdrawal and “carb flu” early in the program — a testament to the quality of our diet and exercise regimen pre-Whole30? — but we never really experienced the “Tiger Blood” that supposedly comes midway through the program. We are most disappointed about that.
    • We both came down with a cold in the last two weeks, though, which probably had a lot to do with lackluster energy.
  • Neither of us really suffered from digestive issues before Whole30. So I don’t know if the emphasis on meat and fat did is to blame, but I suffered from diarrhea (sorry, TMI!) for almost the entire 30 days.
  • I successfully ditched MyFitness Pal. I had been religiously counting calories (and often lying to myself about the amount by conveniently not tracking some foods) for years. I didn’t count a single calories over the 30 days, and I don’t plan to start counting calories again, unless I notice my pants stop fitting properly. It is so liberating to cook and eat without having to log every bite.
  • We did not fully follow reintroduction protocol. At the start, we did; we reintroduced legumes, then waited a day, then reintroduced non-gluten-containing grains, then waited a day. But on Saturday evening, four days after the end of Whole30, we went out and finally indulged. And while we didn’t feel too badly after that, we continued to indulge and imbibe Sunday and by then, we felt crummy.
    • We learned that we simply need to watch it with things like sugar and alcohol. My personal rule going forward is no sweets and treats unless they are homemade or a once-a-year indulgence (i.e. Cadbury Mini Eggs at Easter). I don’t need to waste my time or calories on crappy candy or store-bought cookies. My other rule, which sort of goes along with the limit on sweets and treats, is no refined carbs or sugar, again, unless it is 100 percent worth it. No white flour or sugar, no white pasta or rice. There are much better options out there that make my body feel so much better.

Christopher swears he will never do Whole30 again — that the benefits we experienced do not outweigh the effort we put in. And I can’t say I disagree entirely. I would do a Whole30 again, if I felt myself spiraling out of control, but I concede that the ends did not justify the means. We spent a TON of time planning and preparing, and a TON more money grocery shopping and for what, really? Frankly, our wallet really took a hit eating this way, whereas before Whole30, our grocery cart was filled with very little processed or patently unhealthy foods, and our bill was two-thirds the size. The fact of the matter is oatmeal, brown rice, black beans, chickpeas, Greek yogurt, low-fat cheese are a part of a well-balanced diet and do not make us feel crummy; and those foods are just not as expensive as pounds on top of pounds of chicken and beef and pork (and let me tell you, we went through two or three dozen eggs a week!).

Overall, I am really glad we did Whole30. We learned a lot about our food, our emotional attachment to food, and how our bodies respond to having (and not having) certain foods. We also learned that we can do something that most people consider damn near impossible for 30 freaking days! That is definitely something to be proud of.

 

Whole30 Recap – Week 3 and Meal Plan – Week 4

1 Feb

Well, we’ve reached the proverbial summit!

Week 3 was supposed to be all about Tiger Blood — the newfound energy, through-the-roof confidence and pride. While both Christopher and I are confident within the Whole30 framework and proud of ourselves for making it two-thirds of the way through the program, we certainly haven’t experienced boundless energy. We understand that the program affects everybody differently, but to say we are slightly disappointed and underwhelmed would be an understatement.

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(A day of eats: Left column – breakfast: two eggs, hashbrowns, and avocado; lunch: chocolate chili with onions and avocado; dinner: burger with sauteed onions, chimichurri, and Ranch dressing and roasted carrots. Right column – snacks: mixed nuts, pineapple, strawberry-apple-chia bar, and plantain chips.)

Here’s how Week 3 shaped up for us:

  • We’re still snacking. Homemade cashew-date balls, Larabars, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, and fruit are our go-to snacks.
  • I’m still drinking 88 to 96 ounces of water every day.
  • We have yet to experience the purported physical benefits of this program — especially the surge in energy. Christopher is still battling a cold. And I now am feeling run down. Our weight has stayed mostly the same. My cravings are not as strong — but they are not gone.
Recipe wins from last week:

(Italics denote the recipe is from the Whole30 book.)

And here’s our meal plan for the week:

Breakfasts

Lunches

Dinners

We are definitely ready to be done, but we want to do reintroduction the right way so these 30 days weren’t for nothing. Any Whole30 alumni have some advice?

Whole30 Meal Plan – Week 1

5 Jan

Christopher (who agreed to do the Whole30 with me!) and I planned our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the first two weeks of our Whole30.

Here’s what we’re going to eat in Week 1:

Breakfasts

Lunch

Dinner

(Italics denote the recipe is from the Whole30 book.)

We plan to have fruit and nuts for snacks, if necessary. We’re also going to have frozen fruit, spinach, and almond milk on hand for green smoothies for pre- and post-workout fuel.

What’s on your Whole30 menu?

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Merry Christmas

25 Dec

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Review: Illumin8 by Sunwarrior

7 Jun

Disclosure: I was sent a container of Illumin8 by Sunwarrior to review. I am not otherwise being compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

I’m a pretty au natural girl. I use very few beauty products. I don’t take much medication, even pain reliever. And I certainly don’t use supplements or meal replacement products.

For the most part, supplements and meal replacement products leave me wanting more–more in terms of results, more in terms of satisfaction, just more of something.

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But the new Illumin8 organic plant-based meal replacement by Sunwarrior is different.

Illumin8 covers your most important nutrition bases with superfoods, such as baobab, chia, flax, whole grain brown rice, kelp, holy basil, guava and coconut, among others. It combines clean protein, gluten-free carbohydrates, healthy fats, minerals, fiber, natural vitamins, enzymes and probiotics to make for a nutritionally sound snack or, with a few additions, a satisfying replacement for a traditional plated meal.

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Sunwarrior suggests combining a scoop of Illumin8 with 12 ounces of water, milk (dairy or non-dairy) or other beverage, then experimenting with the addition of fruit, greens, or other real foods.

For my first taste test, I combined a scoop of Illumin8 (in Aztec chocolate flavor) and 12 ounces of 1% milk. It was disappointingly chalky, artificially sweet, even crunchy (because of the milled chia and flax seeds). I honestly was not impressed.

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For my next test, I combined a scoop of Illumin8, 12 ounces of 1% milk and some frozen strawberries. It was much better in terms of texture, but still tasted a bit artificially sweet, and it lost that “Aztec” spiciness from cinnamon and cayenne.

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Finally, for my last test, I combined a scoop of Illumin8, 12 ounces of 1% milk, one to one and a half frozen bananas and 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. The texture was smooth, thick and creamy. The taste was balanced–not too much banana, not too artificially sweet, plenty chocolatey, but not without that little bit of spiciness.

That combination clocks in at about 450 calories, which makes it a very respectable, healthy meal thanks to the Core Eight nutrients.

I have occasionally had Illumin8 for breakfast, as a healthy start to my day, but I most often have had Illumin8 after a long run. The combination of protein, carbs and essential vitamins and minerals makes a shake akin to a glass of chocolate milk, which lots of sources argue is the best refueling option after a long run or race.

I don’t think I’d drink it as a snack–at least not doctored up with banana and cocoa powder, the way it seems to taste best, as it’s a little too calorie dense for my liking–plus I prefer to actually munch on my snacks, rather than drink them.

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Meet your new plate, friends! Give Illumin8 a try for a tasty, well-balanced, truly healthy meal.

Mother’s Day gifts from UncommonGoods

3 May

Disclosure: I was asked to collaborate on a sponsored post and/or review some home decor products from UncommonGoods. I selected a couple of products for my home, and I am not otherwise being compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Mother’s Day has become a really special day for me, a day to celebrate the amazing and incredible job of being Mama to my sweet Anna and Elise.

The last two years, we have gone out for brunch as a family, and Christopher and the girls have spoiled me with cards and gifts. And this year, we will do much of the same.

But why not surprise the special mother or mother figure in your life with a unique gift from UncommonGoods?

UncommonGoods features unique jewelry, designer decor and tabletop items and handcrafted gifts. The company’s mission is to support and provide a platform for artists and designers; in fact, half of what the company sells is made by hand. Most of the jewelry, home decor and tabletop items are made in the United States, and about a third of its collection incorporates recycled and/or upcycled materials.

So awesome!

One of our big projects of late has been to finally get art on the walls of our living room. We recently got a new sectional and ottoman, and we recently bought an oversized framed print to hang on the largest expanse of wall–and both of those moves sparked my creative side. We settled on a color palate and a theme.

I selected two items from UncommonGoods to help achieve a unique modern, but cozy (not farmhouse or rustic, but not sleek or refined) look:

  • This really cool suspension bridge shelf here
  • This adorable heart marks the spot pillow here which comes with two buttons to sew onto the map

The bridge shelf has been hung as part of our travel-themed gallery wall, and currently, it holds some framed city coasters. The shelf is made of sturdy iron and is solid enough to hold several frames, candles, or even small houseplants. It will brilliantly complement our travel photos, many of which feature unique architectural wonders, such as the Eiffel Tower, Gateway Arch and Stonehenge (whenever we get them printed).

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The heart pillow sits atop the love seat–with the heart button sewn over Wisconsin–and will look great near the travel photos and with other uniquely patterned pillows (whenever we get around to that project). The pillow cover is made of a durable canvas-like material, and the map looks almost like counted cross-stitch, which lends a very homey feel to the item.

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UncommonGoods has great gifts for mothers. I found dozens of things that would have warmed my heart to receive, from hand-stitched tea towels to handmade jewelry to kitschy knick-knacks.

See their home decor collection here or find a one-of-a-kind personalized gift here.

UncommonGoods has such a wonderful and wide variety of fun and unique items; I know where to return for gifts–whether for myself or for the special people in my life.