Monday, May 20, 2013

The Honest Life by Jessica Alba

First and foremost, after reading this book, I feel that Jessica Alba and I would be the best of friends.  Just sayin'. 

I started this book yesterday afternoon and already finished it today.  It's a quick read with lots of pictures of her adorable family...and I had a little help from a tornado warning that sent me to the basement so this book kept me busy while I waited the storm out.  The Honest Life FAR exceeded my expectations.  I loved it!  I think everyone, whether you have kids or not, should grab a copy.  The past couple weeks everything I've read about our food, our products, etc. has been so depressing.  I may have even come home from work last week and declared to Josh that he needs to start looking into how to get his medical license in Europe or Australia because we are packing up and moving.  I was kidding, obviously, but I was that frustrated.  I know, I know, there are bigger problems in the world than my GMO's I'm eating, or the fact that our cleaning supplies are full of harmful ingredients.  But, it still irks me how sneaky and misleading our system in America is.  However, Jessica Alba manages to really encourage you to make small changes, to do your best, and she's optimistic the future has good things in store for our children.  I sure hope she's right...and she's well on her way doing her part.  If you didn't read my review of her Honest products you can here.  My second order has already been placed and should be delivered to my doorstep tomorrow.  I'm most excited for the chap stick!

This book covers much more than I anticipated.  While she discussed food and cleaning to start it off, she fills the book with beauty, style, home, and baby tips.  I may have skimmed some of the style and home stuff, but some day when it comes time to get some furniture and decorate I know I'll reference this book.  Plus, she gives some great tips on pregnancy and making baby food, etc.  Here were some of my favorite parts:

*She is fully aware people are seeking out these natural, safe products and knows affordable options are hard to come by.  She said people told her it was impossible to make a disposable diaper that was safe for babies, but still worked.  Although it took a couple years and lots of testing, her Honest diapers rate very high when tested against all the name brands.  (This is super exciting to me, because I always thought I'd be a cloth diaper person, but the thought of putting that stuff in the washer freaked me out a bit.  Problem solved!)

*Furthermore, Honest is working on toothpaste, deodorant and more.  Woohoo!

*In the past 35 years, the EPA has restricted only 5 toxic substances and the FDA has banned 11 in the US.  Meanwhile, the European Union has banned more than 1,100 chemicals is considers unsafe in personal care products alone!  (anyone coming with me overseas?...still kidding, I promise!)

*It's important to buy honey organic.  (This is sad to me because I like to buy it at Aldi)  Why?  Many farmers feed their bees high fructose corn syrup.  Sigh.  I'm depressed again.

*I was a bit nervous to read this book because somewhere along the line I got the impression it was going to tell me not to use a microwave.  Side note: my friend Katie O is super woman and rarely uses the microwave.  I, on the other hand, LOVE leftovers and I use the microwave a lot and am too scared to research what could be bad about it.  Good news is, there were no strict instructions to discontinue microwave usage.  Bad news is, I just bought Michael Pollan's new book, Cooked and I'm pretty sure he's going to argue against microwaves. TBD.  Anyway, Jessica Alba very strongly recommends heating your food only in glass containers as plastic ones often emit chemicals into your food when heated.  Point taken and I'm making the change! She recommended a great brand that I found on Amazon so as soon as we get moved, I'm placing my order.

*She recommends opening your windows, even in the cold and really hot months, for a least a few minutes to release some of the bad stuff floating around inside your home.  These are things I never thought about, but apparently our couches and pillows release all sorts of bad stuff.  I always want to open the windows in the Winter because I'm paranoid about all the germs I know are just multiplying in that cooped up space.  Now, I have two reasons to open them. (Although, I know I'll see the $ signs floating in the air as our heat or cooling bill raises...maybe I'll just do it every few days.)

*I never thought about letting items "air out" outside.  For example, she recommends putting your dry cleaning  outside for a couple hours so many of the harmful chemicals get released.  I'm sure my neighbors are going to love me. She also says never bring them inside in the plastic bag as that traps everything and then when you take it off it all is released in the house. Although this never crossed my mine, it kind of makes sense if you ask me.

*Unscented and Fragrance Free are completely different.  Unscented is not safe.  Fragrance Free is a winner.

*Did you know tear free shampoo for kids works because there's a chemical in it that numbs their eyes?  I never thought about how it worked.  She hired chemists to make Honest's shampoo that is tear free the all natural way.  

I could go on and on, but that just gives you a little peak into what the book entails.  I will say, I didn't learn a whole lot food wise, but that's just because I've already read lots on the topic.  For many people, it will be a great educational read and eye opener about food products.  I learned much more about the cleaning and furniture aspect.  Speaking of furniture...if you like thrift stores and refurbishing furniture you'll also love those sections.  Most of her house is decorated from things she found and redid and she tells you all about her style and her decorating.

Lastly, the reason this book was so encouraging, is I feel it was titled perfectly.  She is absolutely honest through the entire thing.  She talks about doing her best, but sometimes you have to "be real."  For example, she says on regular days she goes with all natural, toxin free deodorant, but when it comes red carpet time she's sticking with her name brand, chemical filled stuff to keep her sweat controlled.  Same thing with mascara.  She realizes all those chemicals in it are what makes it last and there really isn't a product out there yet that is going to work.  So, you do what you can with what's available.  That's why it was so encouraging.  Plus, she did ALL the work for us.  The back of the book has a fabulous list of any website she mentioned in the book and I can't wait to go visit them all!  Even if you never read the entire book, it's worth purchasing just for the resources all in one place in the back of the book.

Okay, I know I said "lastly" in my paragraph above, but I can't seem to wrap this up.  I often hear the phrase (mostly from my brother's when they decide I'm going all hippie on them) that we all survived as kids so what's the big deal?  Which, yes, is true.  But, The Honest Life as well as Honest products came about because when Jessica Alba was pregnant she broke out in hives after washing her baby's clothes with a special (and pricey) detergent made for baby clothes that her mom used when she was little.  Well, guess what?  She did her research and while it's the same brand and same product name, it does not have the same ingredients as when she was little.  Sneaky, sneaky!  I very much liked how she explains this at the beginning of the book and really squashes that argument so many people have.  Yes, we did survive as children, but not always because there were things we didn't know about yet; it's mainly because these harmful additions were not included in our food, toys, cleaning supplies, and so forth.  So, take that, little bro's...I'm NOT a hippie and I'm NOT crazy.  :) 

Oh, and as to why me and Jessica would be great friends?  If the blog post alone wasn't enough, read this excerpt from the Baby section when she's talking about how she was a bit paranoid while pregnant with her first daughter:

...Be the kind of mom you want to be, and don't worry about how you're measuring up to anyone else's expectations.  

Of course, I didn't get to this confident place as a mom overnight.  During my first pregnancy, as you know from the fancy baby detergent story, I was pretty much in panic mode.  I did tons of research on every aspect of parenting, especially on how to put together a safe and healthy nursery-and there were definitely times when I went overboard and worried way too much about stuff you just can't control.  Cash and I had some tense moments, like when we received some baby shower gifts made from potentially toxic plastic and I didn't want to bring them in the house.  He thought I lost my mind.  (Okay, I sort of had, but seriously.  If you receive something made from a questionable plastic that you really need or love-it is a good idea to keep it out on the back porch for a few days until that stinky plastic smell wears off.  Let those chemicals off-gas outside, not in your baby's new nursery!)

Hmm...I see my future ahead of me, I mean, I worry about what I put in MY body, I can't even imagine what I'm going to start reading and panicking about when it comes to my baby.  And, since I can't call Jessica Alba and pick her brain, I need you all to read this book so we can help each other out!  Go buy your copy soon! 

Friday, May 17, 2013


I don't remember how I first heard about Somm.  I get a ton of food related e-mails so I'm sure it was in one of those.  I heard about it many months ago, possibly even a year ago.  I started following Somm on Facebook and boy, it was slow moving.  (It took three years to make)  They finally announced the release date to Netflix and ITunes and it's June 21st.  I crossed my fingers hoping it would be shown in Wichita on the big screen prior to June.  Shockingly, Jiro Dreams of Sushi was shown in our humble city, but it was only for one night and I was in Kansas City that weekend.  You can imagine my excitement (okay, elation) when I received an e-mail a couple weeks ago about a special screening of Somm.  Woohoo!  Just wait, it gets better.  Not only was I going to get to see this over a month before it comes out, I was also going to get to drink wine (only natural during a movie about wine) AND it was outside at our beautiful Botanical Gardens here in the Ta.  (I actually don't like it when people refer to Wichita as the "Ta", but I'm outta here in two months and figured I'd try it out just once.  Still isn't for me.)  Any who, if you're my KC friends reading this it was like Theatre in the Park, but with chairs, and food, and wine.  Oh, and a movie screen and not real actors.  Okay, maybe it wasn't like Theatre in the Park per se, but it felt the grown up version of that.  And, let me tell you, the weather could not have been more beautiful!  It was an absolutely perfect evening.

I've been telling people about this documentary for months now.  We invited a few friends and Josh conveniently waited until we sat down to tell me one of them didn't come because he looked up the reviews and it only got 3 stars.  My excitement fell a notch as I had three other friends joining us and I'd feel terrible if the movie was horrible. I was nervous.  

We grabbed some appetizers, our first sample of wine and then it was time to start Somm.  Thankfully, those professional critics don't know what they are talking about.  This documentary was fascinating!  Furthermore, it was very funny!  The entire crowd laughed numerous times at the banter between the characters.   

So, what's it about?  It follows four men who are preparing for the Master Sommelier examination.  It's a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world.  (Only 200 people in the world have passed)  A few minutes into this documentary you will see why.  What these men can do is nothing short of amazing!  Are you ready for this?  One of the parts of their test is they have six wines in glasses placed in front of them; three white, three red.  They have 25 minutes, or 4 minutes and 10 seconds per glass to determine what kind it is, what region it is from, and get this...what year it is.  Go ahead and read that again.  The YEAR!!!  I taste wine and can't tell you if it's Cabernet or Pinot Noir.  Can you imagine having to taste and study so much you could determine what year it was made?  I can't believe that is even possible, but as you watch Somm you will see their study methods and their tasting practices.  It's pretty awesome.

They explained there's three parts to the test: theory, tasting, and service.  Being a former restaurant worker (and boy, do I still miss it some days!) I naturally would have liked to see more of the service aspect.  There was only one teeny part where they showed one candidate doing a simulation for the service portion.  I liked it and would have really enjoyed more.  However, I can see why the director kept that short as I'm sure that would be boring for other viewers. 

If you like wine, this is a must watch come June 21st!  I found it extremely interesting and I would highly recommend it.  Watch this trailer to get a sneak peak:

My favorite catch phrase in the advertisements is:

"The hardest test you've never heard of."

Such a great set up.  They even passed out popcorn when the movie started! :)

I love this guy.  He had his practice oral boards the next day, but saw my excitement when I said I wanted to go see this and he came with me anyway. I mean, he's only heard me talk about for months now.  True love.  I owe him one!

These two thoughts aren't really specifics about the movie, but I felt like sharing. Lucky you. First, I find it so intriguing how people can be experts at different things.  I mean, think about coffee shop owners.  Have you ever heard them talk about the beans and the process and how you make different kinds?  Or, one time, I visited a flour plant.  That guy could have talked for hours about the kernels and how you make white flour, wheat flour, etc. I think it's awesome how we can be "experts" in so many different things.

Second, at one point during the movie, one of the candidates' Dad was interviewed.  He said at a young age (I think 8 years old) his son would grab a glass of wine off their table and start discussing the color, the smell, etc.  His father went on to explain this was not something the family would do, as they weren't particularly "into" wine, but his son just started doing it.  I was thinking how cool it is how God gives all of us, even at a young age, our interests.  Sure, some grow into more and some don't, but it's like the story of my mom saying when I was really little she looked over at the grocery store and I was reading a nutrition label.  She said the same thing as the dad in Somm. I didn't learn that from her, but I was interested in nutrition even as a young girl. 

That wraps up my kind of random review, but a great evening was spent watching a very interesting documentary.  I hope you get a chance to watch it!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Vegan Ranch

I've never purchased veganaise before.  I've heard of it plenty of times, but I'm not a vegan and I don't even have mayonnaise at my house so I've never had the need to purchase it.  I don't make sandwiches and if I make anything that calls for mayonnaise I sub it with plain Greek yogurt to make it healthier.  But, this recipe really intrigued me.  I've seen homemade ranch recipes galore and they always use Greek yogurt so when I heard about this one using veganaise, I decided to give it a try.

At first glance at the store I thought my ranch making days were ending before they started.  I saw the container of veganaise and it said it was made with canola oil.  Lame.  I try not to eat canola oil.  But, good news!  Right next to the original version was a newer version made with grapeseed oil.  Yippee!  I was in business.  Grapeseed oil is made with grapes (just so we're clear) :) and I haven't read anything about it that shows any concerns. 

You can find Veganaise at health food stores in the refrigerated sections.  It's approximately $5.

Pros: I can pronounce all the ingredients, I know the soy is non-gmo so I'm safe there, and zero grams of sugar. 

Cons: Just because it's vegan doesn't mean it isn't full of calories and fat.

Warning...still eat this in moderation!  It'll be tough.  I've been dipping my carrots in it for a snack like there's no turning back.  Josh always tells me I need some fat with the veggies to help absorb the nutrients.  For some reason I believe everything that man says...someday I will learn, but for now, I'm sticking with his advice. 1 T. of this has 90 calories and 9 grams of fat so moderation is the key!  (Although, I'm more worried about the saturated fat and it's only 1 g so that makes it more bearable)

You may be wondering why I'm an advocate of this when you don't save on calories or fat compared with real mayonnaise.  Here's why.  Mayo has refined sugars, fillers and preservatives in it.  (Phosphoric acid anyone?  This is a chemical that is also used for rust removal)  Lovely. And don't get me started on that bottle of ranch and it's list of ingredients.

Moral of my story?  This homemade version is way better because you know exactly what you're putting in your body and it's "clean".  Just don't make it every week if you're trying to drop a few pounds.  However, if your family enjoys ranch out the bottle, this would be a superb alternative!

As for taste-I LOVE it.  Is it exactly like ranch?  No.  But, it's so delicious.  Josh even liked it.  We've been putting it on our salads this whole week.  And last week.  Alright, I admit, I'm already on my second bottle.  I'll get the moderation thing down soon.  Do as I say, not as I do.

Homemade Vegan "Ranch"

1/2 C. Veganaise
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 t. almond milk (or more to reach desired consistency)
fresh herbs to taste (basil, oregano, parsley)

Place all ingredients in a jar and shake until  combined.  Easy as that.  Store in refrigerator.  Enjoy!

*I only buy unsweetened vanilla almond milk so I used it.  I didn't want to buy plain to only use a little bit.  It tasted just fine.  If you don't care if it's vegan, you can use regular milk.  I added more than a teaspoon of almond milk because I prefer it thinner and I figured the more I thin it, the less calories!  I also used fresh basil, but only had dried oregano and parsley.  Just a few shakes was enough, but adjust to your liking.

This is how Josh and I have started our meals most nights the past two weeks.  I love salads!