Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Honest Company – Mini Reviews of 25 Products!

My most recent shipment...

My most recent shipment…

I don’t remember how I got hooked into actress Jessica Alba’s book The Honest Life, but it was my introduction to the importance of “clean” ingredients in household and personal care products. Alba’s book really struck me and changed the way I shop for and use makeup, sunscreen, cleaning supplies, food, etc. As a result, my eczema is better than it has ever been in my life (for real) and I’ve been able to clear out so many sketchy chemicals from my house. I highly recommend The Honest Life as a first “primer” for people who are curious about the chemicals in the products that they use every day—or for people who are struggling with skin allergies. Alba’s book was easy to read and understand and it covers a lot of ground. I still refer back to it every now and again!

Image from

Image from

Because she was frustrated at the limited quantity and quality of clean household products for her home and family, Alba started a safe, all-natural, mail-order line of household, personal care, and children’s goods called The Honest Company. I’ve subscribed to the Honest Company’s discounted “bundles” for a couple of years now, and I order a new supply of goodies about every three or four months. I’ve tried quite a few of the Honest products by this point, so I thought I’d give some mini reviews. Read on if you’re interested…

What I Love And Regularly Purchase:

Laundry Detergent and 4-in-1 Laundry Packs. My clothes get really clean with the liquid detergent and the laundry pods, and neither has perfume or fabric softeners. My eczema really improved after I began using this for all the household laundry (towels, linens, etc.). Highly recommend.

Conditioner in Sweet Orange Vanilla scent. This is hydrating and detangling and it smells like a Creamsicle. I use it as a great shaving lotion, but others in my family use it as a great conditioner.

Organic Lip Balm Trio in Sweet Orange Vanilla, Rosemary Mint, and Pure & Simple flavors. These lip balms are the bomb. The Sweet Orange Vanilla flavor is my favorite and I have one at my desk, one in my purse, and one on my bedside table. The balm lasts a long time on your lips and is very moisturizing. Works great during dry, cold winters.

Stain Remover in French Lavender scent. I hate the strong smell of most stain removers, so I really appreciate the lavender scent of the Honest version. This remover works just as well on clothes as other brands, plus I use it directly on carpet to clean up pet messes.

Organic Healing Balm. This is good stuff to use in place of petroleum (yuck) jelly to moisturize and waterproof skin.

What I Like and Sometimes Purchase:

Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 30). This stuff works, but I find it thick and hard to spread, plus it’s expensive. My sister likes it a lot, however.

Oxy Boost laundry pods. Hmm. I didn’t see much of an effect from this on my laundry. The regular Honest detergents are very effective on their own.

Toilet Cleaner in Tea Tree Eucalyptus scent. The cleaner smells fresh, herbal, and pine-y. I like knowing that I’m not dumping chemicals into the water supply when I use it. However, I could probably achieve the same results—i.e., a clean toilet—with just my toilet brush and some baking soda. Note: This cleaner got thick/sticky/clogged over several months. Always close the spout after using it and aim to finish the bottle in a few months.

Bubble Bath in Tangerine Dream scent. This smells great and foams up decently. The bubbles are short-lived, but that’s okay with me. I’d rather have “clean” temporary bubbles than more persistent and chemical-laden bubbles. I use this more for the scent than the bubbles. Would be a great gift idea for kids.

Conditioning Detangler Spray in Sweet Orange Vanilla scent. Smells great and works great. Personally, I need to wash it out before going a second day after using it or my hair looks greasy.

Hand Soap and Foaming Hand Soap in Mandarin scent. Smells good, rinses clean.  (I also use diluted Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap in the peppermint scent.)

Hand Sanitizer Gel. This gel is fine. I just don’t use hand sanitizer. The smell of sanitizer (including this one) is too strong for me.

Dish Brush and Caddy. The short, chunky shape of this brush is comfortable to use and the bristles are medium-firm. Inside the caddy, there’s a pierced platform mounted atop a spring, so you can add soap and water and then pump the brush up and down to produce bubbles.

Wipes. I don’t have a baby, but these are good wipes to have around. They are very large, thick, and soft.

What Did Not Work For Me and What I Will Not Repurchase:

Bug Spray. This did not work for mosquitos. I would spray my skin and then watch the mosquitos light on me right afterwards.

Air & Fabric Freshener in Orange Cypress scent. Ugh. This scent was very bitter and medicinal. Also, the pump-style spray nozzle was hard to use and there was no cap.

Organic Body Oil. This was too runny and greasy for me. Would probably be great for babies. I prefer the Organic Healing Balm instead.

Shampoo & Body Wash in Sweet Orange Vanilla scent. This was drying to my hair.

Face & Body Lotion. I loved the original formula of this (it used to smell lightly like roses and absorb quickly) but I dislike the new version, which doesn’t absorb into my skin.

Dish Soap in White Grapefruit scent. This didn’t cut through grease for us. (We use Seventh Generation dish soap instead.)

Multi-Surface Cleaner in White Grapefruit scent. This counter spray didn’t seem much more effective than plain water for us.  (We use J.R. Watkins pomegranate spray instead.)

Glass & Window Cleaner. This is essentially vinegar and water. I could have made the equivalent on my own.

Toothpaste. Does not contain fluoride, which I prefer in toothpastes. (We use Tom’s of Maine toothpaste instead.)

What I’m Trying Next:

Spray Sunscreen
Stick Sunscreen
Dryer Cloths

For me, the discovery of the laundry detergent, lip balm, stain remover, and conditioner is more than enough to keep my subscription with The Honest Company. Let me know if you want more details on any of the products I’ve tried.

P.S. – You can find Honest products at Target now, too! Look in the baby section. I’ve also seen Honest toilet paper at Target!

P.P.S. – Honest also sends fun free treats every now and again. Once I got a baby tree in commemoration of Earth Day or maybe Arbor Day (sadly, it died after I planted it), and once I got an extra lip balm for Mother’s Day. Last Christmas, subscribers received organic sugar cookie mix and a snowflake cookie cutter, but I skipped that month. D’oh! 🙂

P.P.P.S. – This is just a reminder that I am not being paid or compensated by any company in any way. I just like this company and I’m sharing my thoughts.

Junk Mail War!

Just some of this past week's junk mail--ugh!

Just some of this past week’s junk mail–ugh!

I’ve been devouring Bea Johnson’s book (and blog) entitled Zero Waste Home. Johnson is a French-American wife and mother who began to completely overhaul her family’s consumption habits several years ago. After she and her family:

  1. refuse things they don’t need,
  2. reduce what they do need,
  3. reuse whatever they can,
  4. recycle whatever they can, and
  5. rot (compost) everything else,

they produce only a quart-size jar of landfill garbage each year. It’s pretty amazing.

Johnson has years of research and trial-and-error under her (secondhand) belt, and her book and blog are full of tips and tricks to reduce waste. I produce a LOT of personal waste, and my two biggest culprits are probably food packaging from (frequent) drive-thru visits and packaging/shipping materials for (frequent) online purchases. I’m inspired by Johnson, though, to take some steps to reduce my impact. For starters, I’ve decided to start a junk mail war.

When I moved into my house several years ago, I received TONS of junk (and legit) mail for TENS of people who no longer lived there. It was insane. The former tenants never must have completed formal change of address paperwork with the post office. I would mark everything “return to sender” and scribble a note about the addressee not living there anymore, and then send it all right back. I even wised up and made a few sheets of stick-on labels with the same language so I didn’t have to write the same messages over and over. The misdirected mail dropped off sharply after two or three months of this attack, but I still receive all the junk mail that’s properly addressed to my family. I decided to use a similar label method for my junk mail war.

This past week, I collected all of the junk mail we received, which was about 15 pieces. It doesn’t sound like much (and maybe it isn’t?) but each piece was a doozy–lots magazine-type advertisements with multiple pages stapled together, and big envelopes stuffed thick and full with paper. Seeing it all together made me realize, interestingly, that most of the junk mail my family receives is from companies with whom we already have an account. In other words, the bulk of our junk mail is not from “new” companies who want our business, but from companies who already have our business and want us to do something else with them–change pricing plans, order new products, etc. How annoying.

Anyway, I made two sets of labels with the following language (I couldn’t get all the language to fit on one label in a readable font size):

  1. “REFUSED – RETURN TO SENDER. Please remove me from your mailing list. Thank you.”
  2. “Please do not sell, share, rent, or trade my name or address. Thank you.” (The bit about “do not sell, share, rent, or trade my name or address” is Johnson’s suggested language, so I’m using it. She’s done the research and is nothing if not thorough.)

The labels I had were eco-friendly (i.e., the labels and packaging were made from post-consumer waste and were recyclable), but all label backing sheets are coated with a plasticky finish and are NOT recyclable (I learned this from Johnson’s blog). Sigh. Baby steps.

I then applied both labels to the front of each piece of mail. If the junk mail was from a company with whom I already do business , I wrote a note to the effect of “Please remove me from your marketing mailing list. Send account-related correspondence only.”

A couple of tips from Johnson:

  1. Do not open the obvious junk mail, because then you cannot return it for free.
  2. If mail is addressed to “Current Resident” or “Occupant” or another generic term, you have to contact the sender directly (via phone, email, or website) and ask to be removed from their list. This kind of mail does not include return postage.

I’m keeping my labels by the front door and I plan to keep up my attack. I’m curious to see how this will work!

P.S. This past weekend I also canceled three catalogs I don’t want/never asked for (via website/email), one recurring coupon pack (via website), and our annual copy of THREE different area phone books (via website). Yeah!

Birchbox Review – March 2015


I used to love getting my Birchbox, but lately I’m just meh about it. I haven’t had a good box since November and December. I’m keeping my subscription, though, because of Birchbox’s coupon codes, free shipping (as an ACE member), and reward points, but I may need to adjust my expectations for the actual monthly box.

I got my box later than usual this month—on the 17th—and my favorite thing about my March box is the actual cardboard box itself. The theme for March is Creativity, and the boxes are adorable with bright watercolor colors and mixed patterns. I plan to use some stickers or washi tape to cover the Birchbox logo and then use my box for giftwrap or storage. Here’s what I got this month:

It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product – This was my sample choice, and I got it because so many people (including my girl crush, Light by Coco) rave about this brand and product. It has parabens, though, and I have yet to try it.

Fekkai PrX Reparatives Shampoo – This shampoo has parabens and PEGs/PPGs, and Birchbox didn’t send the coordinating conditioner. I’m not crazy about the scent, either, and I don’t plan to use this.

Jelly Pong Pong Glow Getter Highlighter – More parabens! This is very sparkly but I think it could be fun to use sparingly. I’m not crazy about the application style. The highlighter is a thin liquid that’s housed in a nail polish bottle and applied with a nail polish brush.

Temple Spa Peace Be Still Calming Face & Body Balm – Sigh. I’m really tired of all the boring lotion I get from Birchbox—Bee Kind, Naobay, Gilchrist & Soames, and now Temple Spa. They all smell roughly the same to me (like diluted lemon-scented cleaning fluid) and all of these brands are owned by Gilchrist & Soames (except for the Naobay). I appreciate that this lotion has clean ingredients, but I don’t like the scent and don’t plan to use this.

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré (24-Hour Miracle Cream) – Now THIS I like. I used it after I washed my face this past weekend and it was great—decent ingredients, light and unoffensive scent (which is important to me in facial products), etc. My skin felt soft and clean and moisturized—not greasy or oily. I will definitely use the rest of the sample and might even buy the full-size tube!

Word on the street is that April’s curated box will have a Mad Men theme. I hope it’s good!

Schedule a Get-It-Done Day!

Do you ever have one of those rare days when you get everything accomplished on your list? Ahh.

I once read a blog post (wish I could remember where) that advocated scheduling a whole day once or twice a year to tackle the odd, difficult, or neglected errands on your list–the tasks that never seem to get done on a regular day of errand-running. These tasks might include things like visiting out-of-the-way specialty stores (to find certain batteries and lightbulbs, for example), dropping off items for repair (small appliances, shoes, jewelry), making deliveries at recycling centers and charities, etc.

In the blog post, I remember that the writer wanted to have her favorite lamp rewired, buy a new battery for her fancy watch, drop off donations, etc.  She wanted to tackle the things that weren’t needs but that would be awesome to get done so she could enjoy her favorite things again, help someone in need, do something good for the environment, etc. For best results on a get-it-done day, the writer suggested that you clear your schedule, arrange for childcare (if you have kids), and dedicate the whole day to tackling your odd tasks. I would add, too, to give yourself a treat for all your hard work–maybe lunch at your favorite spot or fancy coffee. 🙂

This past weekend, I scheduled my own get-it-done day. I slept semi-late on Saturday, loaded up the car, and then I:

– Got breakfast at Hardee’s (I have a thing for their bacon biscuits)

– Went to an important meeting

– Dropped off a carload of donations (household goods) at Salvation Army

– Bought some Girl Scout cookies (for the  second time this year…love those Thin Mints)

– Went to the craft store for a couple of supplies

– Went to the credit union to deposit the contents of my coin jar (they have a machine for this)

– Stopped by the ATM at another bank

– Dropped off plastic bags for recycling

– Went to Target to stock up on household goods

– Got a late lunch at Chick-fil-A

– Stopped by Toys R Us for to look for a specific gift (no luck)

– Dropped off a bag of donations (toiletries) at the women’s shelter

– Cleaned out my car (it was a mess after all this activity!)

Whew! It was a busy, tiring day but I accomplished everything on my list and took a loooong nap afterwards. This was a very satisfying way to spend a few hours and I highly recommend it!

P.S. I once read an article (in the New York Times, maybe?) that advocated taking off a business day once a year to attend to your own financial health. The writer suggested staying home and using the day to examine your bills, research better deals, inquire about adjustments, open or close various accounts, contact advisors, etc. This sounds like another great idea to me…


Welcome to London!

Welcome to London!

A new Happy Street update hit the App Store last night…and it’s all about LONDON, mates!

Squee! I haven’t been this excited about an update in a long time. The artwork is so, so cute and I really like the red, gold, and white color scheme. Everything looks so crisp and fancy! Here’s what’s included:

Londoners Home – This red brick house with white trim is described as the home of “Famous Londoners.” I can’t wait to see who that includes! The doormat has a tobacco pipe on it—maybe we’ll see a Sherlock Holmes character? And maybe a queen or king? Shakespeare?

Big Ben – This handsome clock tower is tagged as a game in the store—I wonder how that will work?

London Taxi Stand – Ohemgee. This is cute. A fancy black cab pulls up and deposits a wealthy visitor in the neighborhood.

Imperial Bus Stop – Ack! Another cutie! A red double-decker bus full of tourists pulls up here!

London Tea Shop – What a pretty building—it has white columns and gold leaf decorations! I would totally want to eat here.

Theater – This is another pretty building with white columns, but this one is topped by a regal coat of arms flanked by two gold lions.

Phone Booth – It’s red, it’s chubby, and it’s adorbs. It also creates a London Bridge background when paired with the Tea Shop and Theater.

British Letter Box – Eek! A little red mailbox! It’s cylindrical! I wish we could leave letters here like we can for the Santa mailbox.

There are also three new outfits in the Tailor Shop, too! There’s a red guard’s uniform complete with tall fuzzy black hat, a Robin Hood outfit, and a Harry Potter outfit! I can’t wait to make these.

Well done, Godzilab! This might be my favorite neighborhood yet. The update also reopened the annual Easter egg hunt and brought back last year’s adorable Saint Patrick’s Day buildings.

I’m off to earn some Flooz!  Cheers!

I Can’t Stop Watching This

Marlon Brando's screen test in "Rebel Without A Cause" (1955).  GIF file from

Marlon Brando’s screen test in Rebel Without A Cause (1955). GIF file from

Click on the photo and enjoy.  Whew.  That cheekiness!  That smolder!

A Growth Spurt on Happy Street!

My Happy Street Ninja Neighborhood - Level 2!

My new ninja neighborhood – Level 2!

After weeks/months of not working, the free Flooz videos finally came back to my Happy Street.  I saved up what Flooz I could and then bought the rest I needed to get all the new Valentine’s Day and ninja buildings.  Considering how much time I’ve invested in this game, I consider it money well spent to keep entertaining me and supporting the developers!

My Happy Street Ninja Neighborhood - Level 1!

My new ninja neighborhood – Level 1!

My new Valentine's Day buildings - Level 1!

My new Valentine’s Day buildings – Level 1!

My new Valentine's Day buildings - Level 2!

My new Valentine’s Day buildings – Level 2!