Indoor Container Gardening: 3 Spring Vegetables to Start Growing Now

Friday, April 28, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
I don't have a lot of room to garden. Just two windowsills (and one of them is in my parents room!). That's why I created this indoor container gardening series: For people who don't have access to balconies or yards! Even in books and articles on container gardening I'll see the reference to "putting your plants outdoors" or "transferring plants outside" at some point. Not here! This series is specifically designed to talk about plants that will flourish indoors in a container and stay there. Welcome to part two: Spring vegetables.
My first post in this series was about spring herbs. If you'd like to see the first article in this series, I got you covered. But if not, stick around because we're going to cover spring vegetables this time around. Specifically spinach, carrots, and arugula. These all grow great in containers, and I really want to encourage everyone to get their hands in the soil (even if you don't have a backyard).
Just so you know, I'll be publishing more posts in this series once a month now through August. Next month will feature spring fruits, just a heads up! More than likely, expect these posts towards the end of the month. I publish every Friday, so be sure to look for the next one around May 26th!

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Spinach

Spinach is a great plant for indoor container gardening. I'm actually growing some now! I planted them a few weeks ago and they're doing really well. Just follow my tips and you'll be able to grow spinach too. Also, spinach is great to add to just about anything: Salads, soups, sandwiches, side dishes, or even to rice dishes. Personally, I love spinach and artichoke dip (artichokes are also in season right now, FYI), so there's an idea.
You will need:
  • Spinach seeds (preferably organic)
  • 6 inch clay pot with drainage hole
  • Organic potting soil (I got mine at Home Depot)
  • A dish, saucer, or tray to place under pot (to capture any water leaked out of drainage hole)
  • Sunny window (South, west, or east facing windows are best)
Directions:
  1. Fill your 6-inch clay pot with your organic potting soil.
  2. Now add some seeds to your soil. I recommend no more than 4 seeds per pot. Give them their space too: Seeds should be about 6 inches apart, so two at the left of the pot and two at the right.
  3. Now cover the seeds with some more soil, about 1/2 inch deep (in other words, don't bury them). Transfer the pot over to your chosen windowsill. Over the next few days, water by gently misting the soil, instead of with a watering can. Personally, I don't even use a watering can: I use an upcycled glass bottle. It's easier to water plants this way because there aren't several watering holes (just one) so I have better control over my watering.
  4. Watering: You should start to see sprouts within 8-10 days: Now you can use your watering can (or for me, my upcycled glass bottle - which I painted and made look all pretty by the way). Make sure you water around the sprouts, not on them (sprouts are very fragile and you don't want them bending in awkward ways!). Water ONLY when the soil at the top is dry to the touch.  Spinach loves water so make sure to water daily!
  5. Transplanting: You might have to transplant one or two of your spinach sprouts to a new container, if you'd like them to have more room or get really big. Totally up to you.
  6. Sunlight: Spinach also need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Essentially, that means I don't even bother moving them away from my windowsill. If you see them reaching for the sunlight, rotate the pot to make sure they're getting sunlight evenly on all sides.
  7. Harvesting: To harvest some spinach leaves, simply snip off the leaves you'd like to take. This encourages new growth. You could also take the entire plant if you'd like.  

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Carrots
Carrots. The perfect spring time vegetable. I don't know why, but I can't stay mad when I look at a carrot. If that makes you laugh, then good, but I'm being dead serious. There's a cute, positive energy to carrots I absolutely love. Maybe it's because bunnies love them so much. Hey, they are pretty tasty! That said, growing carrots indoors is pretty easy. I've grown some in the past. I will say this about them: You have to have a deep container, not so much a wide one. They grow downward, after all, so it's important you give them loooots of wiggle room. They make great additions to salads, soups, side dishes, and even just as snacks (dipped in humus).
You will need:
  • Carrot seeds (preferably organic - make sure you get a miniature variety too. These are best for containers.)
  • 6 inch deep (or more) clay pot with drainage hole
  • Organic potting soil (I got mine at Home Depot)
  • A dish, saucer, or tray to place under pot (to capture any water leaked out of drainage hole)
  • Sunny window (South, west, or east facing windows are best)
Directions:
  1. Fill your 6-inch deep clay pot with your organic potting soil. Since carrots need a lot of room to grow their roots, you might even want a deeper pot than that (depends on the variety you try growing). I suggest growing a variety of carrot that's smaller. This won't take up as much pot space. Here are the ones I like to use (they have 4 inch roots, so make sure your container can accommodate that).
  2. Now add some seeds to your soil. I recommend spacing them 3 inches apart. Try not to add too many, depending how big the width of your pot is. I usually add about 4 or 5 to one pot.
  3. Now cover the seeds with some more soil, about 1/2 inch deep (in other words, don't bury them). Transfer the pot over to your chosen windowsill. Over the next few days, water by gently misting the soil, instead of with a watering can.
  4. Watering: You should start seeing sprouts within 7-14 days: Now you can use your watering can (or for me, my upcycled glass bottle). Make sure you water around the sprouts, not on them (sprouts are very fragile and you don't want them bending in awkward ways!). Water ONLY when the soil at the top is dry to the touch. I recommend watering once daily so the carrots get as much moisture as possible, but don't overdo it.
  5. Sunlight: Carrots also need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Essentially, that means I don't even bother moving them away from my windowsill. If you see their leafy greens reaching for the sunlight, rotate the pot to make sure they're getting sunlight evenly on all sides.
  6. Harvesting: Knowing when carrots are ready for harvest is a bit tricky. All you can see are their leafy greens. Generally speaking though, they should be ready to harvest within 68 days (or at least the seeds I used were). Make sure to look at the seed packet you're using: It should say when to expect them to be done. When that time comes, just pull the carrots out from the soil and brush off the dirt. Wash them off using cold water only before you're ready to use them.

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Arugula


Arugula is one of my favorite plants, like ever. I love it in salads, but mostly I love it in a beet and goat cheese sandwich. Ugh. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. There's a place by my house that makes that exact sandwich. I order it every time. But um, getting back on track, arugula is just a great, versatile plant. Totally easy to grow too. The roots to this plant are not deep, so id you'd like to grow a lot, get a pot that's got more length than depth. What do you like using arugula in? Here are a few arugula dish ideas. You're welcome.
You will need:
  • Arugula seeds (preferably organic)
  • 6 inch wide (or more) clay pot with drainage hole (make sure your pot has more width than depth)
  • Organic potting soil (I got mine at Home Depot)
  • A dish, saucer, or tray to place under pot (to capture any water leaked out of drainage hole)
  • Sunny window (South, west, or east facing windows are best)
Directions:
  1. Fill your 6-inch wide clay pot with your organic potting soil. Since arugula's roots aren't that deep, it's important to get a longer, wider pot than a deeper one.
  2. Now add some seeds to your soil. I recommend 4 - 5 seeds per pot. Seeds should be about 1-3 inches apart. You can always thin them out too (6 inch spacing) when they sprout.
  3. Now cover the seeds with some more soil, about 1/2 inch deep (in other words, don't bury them). Transfer the pot over to your chosen windowsill. Over the next few days, water by gently misting the soil, instead of with a watering can. 
  4. Watering: You should start to see sprouts within 7-14 days: Now you can use your watering can (or for me, my upcycled glass bottle). Make sure you water around the sprouts, not on them (sprouts are very fragile and you don't want them bending in awkward ways!). Water ONLY when the soil at the top is dry to the touch.  Arugula needs a lot of water, so once daily should do the trick.
  5. Thinning: You might have to thin these out. Just pluck out the sprouts to create 6-inch spacing. This will give the really good plants room to grow. You could always transplant them too, but don't throw out the sprouts you thin: Wash them off and add them to salads or sandwiches!
  6. Sunlight: Spinach also need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Essentially, that means I don't even bother moving them away from my windowsill. If you see them reaching for the sunlight, rotate the pot to make sure they're getting sunlight evenly on all sides.
  7. Harvesting: To harvest some arugula leaves, simply snip off the leaves you'd like to take. This encourages new growth.

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Want more indoor container gardening? Check out the rest of the series here (this list will be updated):
Part 6 - Coming soon! *Summer fruits*
I'll update this series once a month on a Friday. Part 4 will probably be on June 30th. See you then! 

Review: Bees Wrap - The Zero Waste Alternative to Plastic Wrap

Friday, April 21, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
Most people believe they can recycle pretty much anything made out of plastic. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Turns out, certain plastics are harder to recycle than others. In fact, some states won't even accept certain plastics for pick up. I live in New York, so when I did a little digging, I found out plastic wrap was a non-recyclable. This struck a cord with me because I'm relatively new to joining the zero waste community and still have plastic wrap in my home. I realized my folks and I use a lot of plastic wrap and it really got me thinking about how much waste I was contributing to the environment. Every time I opened my fridge, at least one item was covered in plastic wrap. That needed to change, ASAP.
And that's where Bees Wrap comes in. You might have heard of them before (BuzzFeed just featured them not too long ago). I don't recommend this brand to you if you're vegan (seeing as the product contains beeswax), but for all non-vegans, this is the perfect alternative to plastic wrap. Essentially, Bees Wrap is a reusable wrap made from organic cotton, beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin. It can be used to wrap anything from half an avocado to a loaf of bread (depending on the size you get). There are several sizes available, such as small, medium, and large. They also have bread and sandwich wraps. You can choose to buy just single wraps (one wrap on it's own with your chosen size), or 3-packs (which can contain just one specific size, or a variety of sizes). Each size can be used to wrap something as small as kiwi to as big as half a melon.
Bees Wrap was generous enough to send me a few samples to try out. I received their lovely assorted pack, which has 3 different sizes of Bees Wrap in it. Honestly, if you're new to Bees Wrap, I really recommend getting that pack only because you will be able to see which size is most convenient for you. For example, not everyone uses plastic wrap to wrap huge items: Most of the time, they might be wrapping small items. If that's the case, the small or medium sized wrap would work best for them. That's why I was so excited to try out the assorted pack: I'd quickly learn which size I liked best and which I used most. But enough chit chat. Want to see the different sized wraps for yourself and what I thought? Keep reading.
 
 
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Bees Wrap: The Basics
 
First, I'd like to share with you a few important pieces of information about Bees Wrap. Here's everything you need to know about ingredients, usage, and care of Bees Wrap. To be honest, it's pretty simple stuff. And while I don't recommend this product for vegans, I do want to stress that the beeswax is sustainably harvested in the USA. So that's a relief!
 
Ingredients:
Organic cotton, beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin.
 
Price:
The assorted pack I got costs $19, but each 3-pack costs a different amount of money, based on size and print. Generally speaking 3-packs range from $16 to $19. If you'd like a single wrap, those range from $6 to $15, depending on the size. All bread wraps are $15 and all sandwich wraps are $10. Please be aware at the time of writing this review, Bees Wrap is temporarily out of stock due to publicity from Buzz Feed's video. They're working on producing more products as we speak!
 
Where does Bees Wrap ship:
They ship worldwide!
 

How to use Bees Wrap:

Just fold/secure the wrap around your item as you would with plastic wrap. Use the warmth of your hands to soften the wrap, and create a seal. This literally takes a few seconds. When cool, the wrap holds its shape.
 
How to care for Bees Wrap:
Since it's reusable, you can keep it for up to 1 year or longer (if used correctly). All you have to do is wash it in cool water after each use. If something is sticking to it a lot, just scrub off using a sponge and mild dish soap. Then, let it dry (I just let it air dry on a towel I placed on the counter). Once dried, you can use it again immediately! Or, store it in a drawer or basket in the kitchen until you need it again.
 
What to do with Bees Wrap at the end of it's useful life:
When Bees Wrap reaches the end of its usage (approximately 1 year from purchase), it's biodegradable and compostable. That means you have a couple of options: Cut the wrap into strips to add to your compost heap, or wrap them around pieces of kindling and use as a natural and effective fire starter. Totally up to you, just don't send it to the landfill!
 
Important note:
Not recommended for storing meat. Also, since this is used to store food, Bees Wrap does not accept returns.
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Bees Wrap: The Assorted Pack 
 
This 3-pack comes with a mix of different sizes: 1 small, 1 medium, and 1 large. I'm going to show you each size that comes with the assorted pack, and what I used it for. This will give you a general sense of how big each wrap was and what you could possibly use it for.

 
 
The Large Size
 
 
 
Okay, so here's the large size. This measures 13" x 14". It can be used to wrap half a melon, greens, baked goods, or cover a bowl. Personally, I used it to cover half a red cabbage. And if you're curious, I used this red cabbage in an attempt to dye Easter eggs naturally using plants. Red cabbage leaves are actually known to dye white  eggs blue. Unfortunately, my eggs did not come out blue (I didn't leave them in long enough). Anyway, getting back on track...
 
 
Here's the cabbage on the large Bees Wrap. It was the biggest thing I had in my fridge at the moment, and it really needed Bees Wrap. So yeah, that's why I decided to use it. Want to see it all wrapped up?
 
 
Not much to look at, I know. But still, this is how it looked wrapped. To wrap it, I simply used the warmth of my hands to seal it in place. When cool, the wrap naturally holds its shape. Definitely cuter than plastic wrap. The only disadvantage is that you can't actually see the item. That's okay though, I simply placed this cabbage in a separate area (in the fridge) away from the other items covered in Bees Wrap. Oh, and also, this stuff has a very pleasing, beeswax scent to it. Nothing overpowering (I read it fades with time and after use), but just thought I'd let you all know in advance. As you can see, it does a great job at covering the cabbage. In fact, it could definitely cover something bigger because there's a lot of excess wrap (meaning if the cabbage would've been bigger, it would've been able to cover it too).
 
The Medium Size
 
 
Okay, so next up is the medium. This one measures 10" x 11" and can be used to wrap cheese, carrots, herbs, or cover a bowl. I used it to cover an onion that was previously being covered in plastic wrap. And I will now make this onion appear before your very eyes...  
 
 
Tada! Okay, yes, not very impressive. But whatever, here's the onion. So now, I just wrapped it up like I did with the cabbage. Easy-peasy.
 
 
Here it is! A wrapped onion. Oh, and if you're curious, I used the onion skins to dye some eggs orange for Easter (that's why this onion didn't have any skin on it). And unlike the red cabbage, it did work (the orange was a deep color and so pretty). Anyway, I digress. I stored this in the fridge right away but made sure I didn't place it next to the cabbage (might've gotten a little confusing). As you can see, it does a great job of covering the entire onion.
 
 
The Small Size
 
 
Okay, so this small size was my absolute favorite. And not because I didn't use the other two: I did. It's just, I found myself using this one more. It measures 7" x 8" and can be used to wrap a lemon, avocado or small snack. I decided to wrap a slice of cantaloupe in it. I know this wrap couldn't cover an entire cantaloupe, or even half one for that matter. That said, there was a lonely slice in my fridge and I figured I'd give it some love.
 
 
 
Okay, so the cantaloupe is now on the wrap. As you can see, it's kind of big for this small wrap. In reality, I probably should've used a medium sized wrap on this, but I was determined to make it work. So, when I wrapped this one, I kind of had to wrap it from the top. I didn't care so much about wrapping the bottom part: Just as long as the top of the fruit was covered, it would stay fresh. Want to see my wrap job? It's not too pretty, but it got the job done.
 
 
Tadaaaa! I know, I have to stop saying that. But yup, here's the cantaloupe wrapped in Bees Wrap. As you can see, I did a pretty decent job with it! I made sure it was as covered as possible. While you can't see it in this picture, the bottom of the cantaloupe was a little exposed. But that's okay: What mattered most was covering the top, and it worked! Suffice it to say that cantaloupe stood fresh. My mom actually got to it before me (sadly). But it's alright: I was able to wash the wrap off in cool water and let it dry for my next use. In fact, I used this again today on half an avocado. I wrapped it without problem, covering the entire halved avocado. The other half of the avocado was generously donated to my toast.
 
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My Final Thoughts
 
Left to right: Cantaloupe, red cabbage, and onion wrapped in Bees Wrap. The gang's all here.
 
Now it's time for my overall thoughts on this zero waste alternative to plastic wrap. Well, really all I have to say is this: Bees Wrap is brilliant. The woman who invented it is a genius (her name is Sarah Kaeck). And clearly, people are loving it (it's currently out of stock!). When it is back in stock, I plan to get more, that's for sure. I'd love to get another assorted pack and also try out one of their bread wraps.
 
Here's why I love Bees Wrap so much:
  • Bees Wrap is made from only 4 simple ingredients (all of which I can pronounce: Organic cotton, beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin).
  • Bees Wrap is ecofriendly and zero waste because it can be reused and is biodegrable - when mine is no longer usable, I'm just going to rip it up and add it to compost! Heck, maybe I'll add it straight into the dirt.
  • It really works. Food I've wrapped in it a week ago has stood fresh as the day I bought it.
  • It's so easy to care for: Just a simple wash and dry is all it takes!
  • Bees Wrap isn't annoying like plastic wrap. I'm sorry, but if you're not careful with plastic wrap, it sticks to itself. Ugh. Not this. If you make a mistake with Bees Wrap, you don't have to throw it out and start all over again. Just saying.
  • I'm majorly cutting back plastic waste by owning these - and I'll cut back even more when they restock (and I can buy more)!
  • I loved the assorted 3-pack because it was the perfect way to be introduced to Bees Wrap. It really helped me see that I tend to use the small wrap most, although I could certainly use more of each. After all, you can't always predict what you'll need to wrap next or how much Bees Wrap you'll need!
  • The best part is, if you had a really big item to wrap, you could simply use two large sized Bees Wraps (or a bread wrap). That would get the job done!
  • I must confess I really liked the smell of the beeswax when I opened the Bees Wrap up for the first time...
 
Here's the downside:
  • I really wish I had more! The only good thing about plastic wrap is it can be adjusted to the size of the item you want to wrap. Bees Wrap cannot: It's a fixed size and that's that.
  • At the moment, I do not have enough Bees Wrap to completely abandon plastic wrap. I will continue to use the Bees Wrap I do have until I can stock up on more. I will do my best to avoid using plastic wrap until then, but it sure is an annoying downside!
  • They're currently out of stock of every kind of wrap in their shop. I know it's from the recent attention they got from Buzz Feed, but come on Bees Wrap! I need more of you in my life!
  • It's not vegan. While that's not a problem for me, I could see where it might be for others. That said, there are worse non-vegan items out there besides beeswax (like gelatin - shivers).
 
All together, I really did enjoy this experience and cannot wait to get more Bees Wrap in my hands. And yes, I mean that literally. If you'd like to get your own, here's a link to the assorted pack I got. I suggest following Bees Wrap's Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts to get updates on when they restock. In the meantime, stay green my friends.
 


Review: The Little Flower - My Experience with Reusable Cloth Pads

Friday, April 14, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
Did you know the average woman will use up to 16,800 disposable pads and tampons during her lifetime? That's a lot of pads and a lot of waste. And I'm not just talking trash waste, I'm talking wasted money. Think about this: Lets assume a woman menstruates for 40 years and buys an $8 pack of disposables every month. That eventually adds up to $3,840 over a lifetime. Amazing. Men certainly don't have to worry about that added expense.
That being said, you're probably wondering why I'm bringing this up. Right? Well, despite it being a very sensitive topic, I felt there was a real need to talk about disposable pads. Since starting my zero waste journey, I became shockingly aware at how much waste I produce every month for simply being a woman (and experiencing a monthly period). That, and how much money I've been dishing out for them. It's simply ridiculous! But there's another concern with disposable pads: Health problems.
That's right, you heard me. Disposable pads are hazardous to your health for a number of reasons. First off, disposables are typically made out of plastics, cotton, wood pulp, and synthetic fibers. Gross. And if you're thinking "oh, but cotton is a safe material to use", remember this: Conventionally grown cotton is one of the most toxic crops grown (it uses 20 percent of the world's pesticides and herbicides!). To make matters worse, the materials in pads are then bleached with chlorine dioxide, which creates polluting (and harmful) bio-accumulative by products (like dioxin). These enter the environment and the body - and they remain there for decades!
What the heck right?! But it's not over yet: They also add synthetic chemicals and artificial fragrances to the mix. Lovely. And now you know why so many women suffer from hormone disruptions, allergic reactions, reproductive issues, and even endometriosis. Because this stuff is actually allowed near such a private, sensitive area on our bodies. Does that make any sense at all to you? It certainly doesn't to me.
Well, not anymore. I decided I was done being a part of their little game and did my own research. That's where The Little Flower comes in: They're a shop on Etsy that sells reusable cloth pads (and other cloth goods). Apparently, making the switch to reusable, cloth pads is better for an abundance of reasons: You save money, it's so much healthier, and you aren't polluting the environment. Score! The Little Flower was super generous and gave me a set to try out and review on this blog.
Now I know for some people, this is a freaky idea. Reusable pads might sound gross to you (they did to me too, at first). But actually, it's not that bad. They're completely washable and can last for up to two years (or more) if cared for properly. Think about that. But I promise to go into the details more as we move along. If you're ready to see what these pads look like, how I cared for them, and how they changed my life (and made my period an enjoyable experience instead of a painful one), read on.
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My Pad Set
Section 1

Okay, so this review is going to function a little differently from my other reviews, considering there's a lot of ground to cover. I want to be as thorough as possible with this so that I can answer as many questions you might have.

Here's how I plan to break down this review:

Section 1: My Pad Set - Here I will show you each of the pads I received in this set and break down their materials, role, and usage.

Section 2: Caring for My Pad Set - Here I will explain exactly how I went about caring for the pad set, including how I pre-washed them, how I washed them after use, how I dried them, and storage.

Section 3: My Final Thoughts - Here is where I share with you my conclusions and honest opinions on this whole experience. I want you to understand exactly what I liked, what I didn't like, and if I believe more women should give reusable pads a shot.

Please feel free to skip ahead to any section you'd like. For starters, here's the entire set of pads I used (before I completely unpackaged them), courtesy of The Little Flower Etsy shop. 

Pretty right?! The Little Flower's shop owner, Mary, was super generous and so sweet to work with. I told her about my monthly flow, and made sure she knew I was new to all this. She reassured me she'd create the perfect set of pads for me to have a comfortable period and boy, did she! This pad set is super versatile. It comes complete with 3 light day pads, 6 day pads, and 2 overnight pads. Being new to this, Mary suggested I try a mix of different fabrics so I could access which I liked best and which made me the most comfortable. She even let me choose what sort of designs for the pads I wanted. She sent me a bunch of photographs featuring different fabric patterns to choose from and I told her which ones I liked best. So literally, all the pads you see here are (in a way) designed by me (but she did all the work - I just choose which patterns I liked). She was so friendly, accommodating, and made the process super easy. Also, she included a wet bag and a pad wrapper, which are two items that were very essential to this whole process. She told me she'll be selling the wet bags on her shop eventually, in the next few months. If you'd like to make your own pad set with Mary (which I highly recommend) just click here. Just for your own information, making your own set costs $80, but ultimately saves you in the long run (more on that in section 3). Now, I will explain each item in detail so you can better understand their role, their use, and so on.
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Light Days

  
Light Day Pads: These are made from 100 percent organic cotton. Aren't they gorgeous?! They're essentially panty liners, perfect for when your period is just starting out or at the end of it's cycle. All of them are winged with KAM snaps, making it super easy to secure in place (and adjust). I personally only used one this cycle (towards the end).

Day Pads


Day Pads: Okay, so these are made from a mix of different fabrics and 9'' (inches) long. The two green ones are made from cotton with windpo fleece, the blue ones are made from cotton, and the white one is made from cotton with pul. There is also an extra pad I left out of this picture which was tucked away in the pad wrapper (see three pictures down), so technically Mary gave me 6 day pads. The extra one was also made from cotton with pul (it looks exactly like the white one in this picture). All of them are winged with KAM snaps, making it super easy to secure in place. Don't they all have such lovely patterns? I definitely used these the most, out of the entire set. 

Overnight Pads


Overnight Pads: These two overnight pads are 12'' (inches) long and made of two different materials. The pad on the left is a minky pad with windpro fleece (on the back). The pad on the right is all cotton (on both sides). Both of them are winged with KAM snaps, making it super easy to secure in place. I definitely used these two a lot (but only at night and in the morning), since they were kind of essential. After all, it's important to have that extra protection at night when all you want to focus on is sleeping (not bleeding).
Wetbag



Wetbag: This wetbag is made out of cotton and the inside is lined with waterproof material. It also comes with a strap (which is hard to see in this picture). The strap made it easy to hang from the toilet paper roll as well as secure in a small ball when not in use. If you're wondering what I used this for, it's quite simple: A wetbag is a safe place to store dirty pads in. I know it sounds gross, but the inside is lined with waterproof material, so it won't leak. The only time I needed to use this was when I was out and about and couldn't afford to wash my pads right away (a topic I'll be discussing soon - since I'm sure you're all dying to know how I cared for these). If you decide to give reusable pads a try, note that you'll probably be better off using a bigger purse during your cycle: It will be easier to stash your wetbag in!

Pad Wrapper



Pad wrapper: This is made from pul. You know how disposable pads are covered in more plastic (to protect them when not in use)? Well, this kind of functioned like that: It protected my cloth pads when not in use. I would stuff 1-3 pads in here when I knew I would be going out. This way, when I changed my pad, I not only had a wetbag (to put the dirty pad in), but another clean pad to put on (thanks to the pad wrapper). Depending on the size of the pad, it wasn't exactly easy to get the pad inside it. If I wanted to wrap the overnight pads, I could only fit one in there (with difficulty). To make sure 3 day pads fit in there, I had to snap the pad's wings and fold the pads so they would fit. It was a tight squeeze, but doable. Certainly better than just dumping the cloth pads in my bag, unprotected!
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Caring for My Pad Set
Section 2

Prewashing
Okay, so now that you know what my pads look like and their fuctions, you might be wondering how exactly I went about using them. More importantly, how I kept them clean. Right? Well, first things first: I had to pre-wash them before I could use them. And before I tell you anything else, I'd like to stress something else: I don't have a washing machine or a dryer in my home. I live in an apartment that provides several mini laundromats inside the building (which you have to pay for, of course). Instead of wasting my time and money on that, I decided to just hand wash my reusable pads. Thus, all the instructions I will be giving involve hand washing methods. So if your main reason for not investing in reusable pads is because you don't own a washing machine or dryer, let me be your inspiration.

Since I don't have a dryer, I like to let the pads hang dry, after a thorough wash of course.

How to prewash (by hand):
Before I even used the pads (so, while I was still PMSing, pretty much), I had to pre-wash them. As I said before, I do not own a washing machine or dryer (my building has weird rules), so hand washing was the way to go. Here's what I did instead:
  1. I filled my bathroom sink (you can also use your bathtub) with some warm water (not all the way to the top though). Then, I added in 1 tablespoon of all-natural detergent (I used The Simply Co.'s laundry powder detergent and highly recommend it). It's best to avoid detergents with fragrances and fabric softeners (so look for something all-natural, but unscented). I proceeded to swish around the soapy water with my hands until the detergent was mixed in entirely.
  2. Then, I filled the rest of the sink up with cold water. I added the pads to the water and gave each of them a few squeezes. I let them sit in the soapy water for about 10 minutes.
  3. Next, I drained the water and rinsed the pads off again with cool water. I made sure to squeeze as much water out of them as I could.
  4. After that comes drying time! I experimented with several drying methods. The best method that worked for me was creating an impromptu "clothes liner." I just took a clothes hanger and hung the pads to dry using safety pins. Super simple: Just poke a hole through the top of the pads and safely secure them on a clothes hanger. I usually just left mine to dry overnight and then into the morning. That said, if I was in a hurry and needed clean pads ASAP, I would blow dry them (which still took a while and a lot of wrist work, but was ultimately quicker).


Hanging the pads out to dry. On my door.

How to prewash (by machine)
Alternatively, you can wash the pads 1-2 times in hot water and dry on low (assuming you have unlimited access to a washing machine and dryer). The pads will continue to increase in absorbency with each wash.
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 How to use cloth pads
So, here comes the next part: Actually using them. To be honest, it's not that complicated, though it does take some getting used to. You have to be a little strategic. You don't want to use up all your pads and have no clean ones left, so you have to stay on top of washing and drying them. Here's how I used my cloth pads:
  1. I would change my pad every 2-3 hours (depending on what felt right). I would place the dirty pad into the wet bag if I was out and take a fresh, clean pad out of the pad wrapper. Then, I would just snap it into place.
  2. If I was home, I would rinse the dirty pad under cold water until the water ran clear. Then, I would place it in the wet bag. This method is called "the dry method". Mary told me there's another method too (called "the wet method"): I could've placed it in a bucket of cold water and changed the water out every time I added a new pad. Suffice it to say I stuck with the dry method.
  3. FYI, the reason I kept the pad wet between washing is because this helps avoid stains.
  4. Mary recommended I full-on wash the pads at least every 2 days, but I wound up washing them practically every day. I usually washed them at the end of the day. The amount of pads I washed varied with the amount of pads I used during the day. Obviously, as my period progressed, the amount I had to wash per day lessened.
  5. When my period was completely over, I made sure all my pads were thoroughly washed (and even cleaned the wetbag too).

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How to hand-wash dirty pads

Okay, so now that I showed you how I pre-washed the pads and how I used them, it's time to walk you through how I washed the dirty ones. Once enough pads had accumulated in my wetbag, I decided it was time to give them a wash. This usually occurred at the end of the day, since I would go through a lot of pads. Here's how I washed the dirty pads (by hand):

  1. I put all the soiled (but rinsed) pads into a big bucket and filled it up with cold water. I let them soak for 1 hour. Of course, if I used the "wet method" (mentioned under subtitle "how to use cloth pads"), I could've skipped this step.
  2. Next, I filled my sink up with some warm water, added 1 tablespoon of The Simply Co. detergent, and mixed it up. After it dissolved, I filled the rest of the sink up with cold water, then added the pads to the soapy water.
  3. I didn't rub the pads together, as this would wear the cotton down faster. Instead, as suggested by Mary, I put the pads underwater and squeezed the pads over and over again.
  4. I waited about 10 minutes to let the detergent do its thing and give the pads a chance to soak in it.
  5. Then, I  simply held each pad under running water and squeezed it to make sure all the detergent was gone. Lastly, I squeezed it out and hung it to dry on my nifty little DIY pad-hanger.

How to wash dirty pads (by machine)
If you do have access to a washing machine and dryer, you're in luck. Just wash all soiled pads in the washing machine with your chosen detergent. A second rinse is helpful. Then, dry in the dryer on low (or hang dry - totally up to you).

  
Storing the pads (when not in use)
When not in use, I like to store the pads in a decorative box I bought from Michael's craft store. You can pretty much store them in any container of your choice though: Just make sure they're not dirty or wet!
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My Final Thoughts
Section 3
Okay, so, you've come this far. Or, maybe you skipped here. Either way, I'm going to tell you how I really feel about these pads. Sure, everything else was important, but my opinion and experience is important too, right? Well guess what?
I loved them.
 Despite how tedious it was to wash them, it was totally worth the  effort. And I genuinely mean that.
 Picture taken from The Little Flower's Etsy Shop page. These are light days (I have the one in the middle and the one on the right).
Here's why I loved these pads:
  • These pads are so much prettier than conventional pads. I thought it was awesome how Mary let me pick and choose which patterns I wanted for them. It made this entire experience a more personable one, and a much more comfortable one at that.
  • Having these pads come straight to my door is such a stress buster. I'm sure most women can relate when I say buying pads at the store is not fun. I've been given dirty looks and even been snickered at simply for purchasing conventional pads. It literally felt like there was a huge sign over me that read "PERIOD. PERIOD. SHE HAS HER PERIOD." So uncomfortable. But not with these. My period remained just that: Mine. No body else's. And that's empowering.
  • They were extremely comfortable. Since Mary wanted me to get the full experience, she gave me pads with a bunch of mixed materials to find out which I loved best. Honestly, I enjoyed the cotton ones, but preferred the ones with minky fabric the most. They were just so cozy! 
  • Mary - she was the sweetest person to work with! In fact, this review was supposed to come a lot sooner - last month to be exact. It didn't because my period decided to skip a month (it figures), so poor Mary had to wait much longer than expected. She never once complained about it though. That's something I'm eternally grateful for.
  • My period was pretty much a non-event. And when I say that, I mean I had practically no cramps or pain at all after I started using these cloth pads. This is a HUGE rarity for me, considering the first two days often require at least some form of pain killers. Not this time. I literally needed absolutely no pain killers during my period. And let me just say, that is a first. Never have I had a single period that didn't require me to pop at least one Advil in my mouth. But I'm not the only woman who has experienced this sudden "cramp vanishing act": Check out this forum dedicated to the topic, as well as this woman's moving story.
  • I created no waste during my period this month. Which is amazing! Usually, I go through a whole pack and a half of pads in one period. The disposable pads I used to get had about 24 pads per pack. That's like, 36 pads in one period cycle. Sheesh! At least now I can say I didn't contribute 36 more plastic pads to a landfill this month. After all, it takes hundreds of years for the plastic in 'disposable pads' to decompose. Not too disposable if you ask me...
  • They save money in the long run! Simple as that.
  • I felt a deeper connection to my period and an appreciation for it that I never felt before. It made me connect to my feminine side in a way that I never thought possible. In the past, I've caught myself wishing my period would never come the next month because of the pain I would endure. Yet after this experience? I can honestly say I have something to look forward to next month.
 Picture taken from The Little Flower's Etsy Shop page. These are light days (I have the one in the middle and the one on the right). This is how they snap shut.
Here's the downside (yes, just one): 
  • The only downside to these pads is the work I have to put into washing them. It is exhausting, I won't lie. Was it gross touching the bloody pads? Yes, but no more gross than touching the disposable pads. There were a couple of times I felt like my arms would fall off from all the washing, but I got through it.

Conclusion: More women should wear reusable pads
So, if you think you'd like to give this a shot, I highly recommend creating your own pad set with The Little Flower. Mary, the owner of the Etsy shop, is super accommodating and such a joy to work with. You can choose exactly what materials you want in your pads, and what designs you'd like on them. While it is pricy ($80 to be exact) keep this in mind: With the proper care, these pads will last up to 2 years or more. Think about that. You won't have to buy another pack of pads for two whole years. Assuming you buy an $8 pack every month over the course of two years, you'd be saving $112 by buying the $80 cloth pads (and even more money if you make them last longer). Sweet! And if you don't feel like building your own set, you can always just buy the individual pads she has for sale on her shop as well.  And if you don't like any of the patterns on the pre-existing pads, you can always request a custom order! Either way, in the long run you'll be doing your wallet, the planet, and your body a favor.

Phew! That was a mouth full. But totally worth it. Got any questions? Let me know in the comments blow!

This post was sponsored by The Little Flower. All thoughts remain honest and not influenced by a third party.

Review: Kore Herbal Alchemy - Anoint + Remedy

Friday, April 7, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
In another life (or maybe in this life, further down the line), I must have worked with herbs. I absolutely adore them and love using them in everything from tea, to salves, to beauty. That's why I was so excited to come across Kore Herbal Alchemy: This all-natural beauty brand loves herbs just as much as me! Created by Korie Goodman, an herbalist (who also offers awesome workshops by the way),  Kore Herbal Alchemy's entire line is relatively new. That said, this brand's mission is devoted to combining the healing power of plants with beauty products your skin will adore. To top it all off, their handmade products are packaged in eco-friendly containers and are very zero-waste friendly. That, to me, says a lot: Since starting my journey with zero waste living, I am constantly looking for beauty brands that share my ethics. This brand is great because all their products are packaged in glass jars, or biodegradable tubes (which can be composted, since they're made out of paper!). 
I had the honor of trying out Korie's anoint herbal skin wand and their remedy facial mask. The herbal wand is made from a compostable paper tube (so much better than a plastic tube), and the facial mask is stored in a cute jar. I'm totally reusing the jar when it runs out. Kore Herbal Alchemy also has other products available too though, such as ritual body scrub and rune scrub + mask (and both are packaged in glass jars, FYI).  I'm sure there will be more fantastic products released in the future too, so you should definitely follow Kore Herbal Alchemy on Instagram to see what goodies they release next. Now, are you ready to hear what I thought of the herbal skin wand and facial mask? Keep reading.


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Why you want it: This multitasking wand can be used as a moisturizer on almost any part of the skin (plus it's for all skin types - sweet!).

Its value: $12

My review: I love this stuff. I know that was blunt, but I'm being dead honest. It's absolutely amazing. When I first got it, I was so excited to give it a try, since I've never used one of these before. I was amazed when I read the back: Apparently it can be used "as a moisturizer after cleansing, as an under eye serum, a lip balm, or topically on small cuts or burns." Damn! That's pretty versatile. While I didn't use it to treat any cuts or burns (thankfully I don't have any on my body right now - and I'd like to keep it that way), I did use it as otherwise suggested. It's super easy to apply too: I simply popped the cap off, pushed the balm up, and applied it to any part of my skin that needed a little extra hydration. One or two swipes and I'm done! Lets just say my skin couldn't get enough of this stuff: As soon as I applied it, it soaked it up! Application went on very smooth and had an herbal scent to it that was very comforting and nonirritating. My favorite method of application by far was to apply it after cleansing my skin. You see, I have combination skin, so my cheeks and my forehead tend to dry out quicker than other areas on my face. So much so that certain areas of my face will actually start to get flaky (particularly my cheeks). So, after washing my makeup off at night, I habitually applied this stuff to the flaky areas. Then, I gently rubbed it in with my fingers. Almost instantly, it made the dryness disappear. And upon continued use (for a full week to be exact), morning and night, it the flakiness didn't come back! What a relief. Having this little wand around really made applying makeup even smoother (after all, blush and concealer don't exactly look amazing on flaky cheeks). It also gave my skin a soft, almost dewy glow. I also love putting this stuff on my lips: Instant hydration! When I'm in a pinch, I just apply a little to my lips and smack them together: They instantly become smoother and healthier! That's another thing I must point out: Less is more with this stuff, and because of that, it's bound to last a while. Totally a worthy investment. I also put it under my eyes too, if you were wondering, but I didn't notice as dramatic a difference as I did with other areas I applied this to. It did help decrease darkness and puffiness a little though, so that's something. More than likely, I would have to keep putting it under my eyes, morning and night, over the course of several months to see real substantial results. Still, overall, I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants a versatile moisturizer that's super easy to apply. If you have dry or combination skin, this will be a life changer for sure. Zero waste bonus: The wand is packaged in a biodegradable paper tube, so I can compost it when it's empty! Woohoo!


Ingredients
Almond Oil Infusion of Lavender Flower, Yarrow Flower and Leaf, Dandelion, Beeswax, Vitamin E Extract, Essential Oils.

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Why you want it: This facial mask is perfect for brightening, toning, and smoothing skin!

Its value: $22

My review: As you might already know, I love facial masks. They're so luxurious and give me an excuse to pamper my skin. In addition, I'm also a rose fanatic. So, when I saw this particular mask is made with rose clay and also incorporates pink rose petal, I did a happy dance. Two of my favorite things joined forces! Yay! That aside, this mask is great for all skin types and combines vitamin rich florals with crushed pearl powder. Believe it or not, pearl powder has been used for decades to brighten and tone skin. And let me tell you, there's certainly something to it. But more on that in a bit. To apply the mask, I simply mixed two teaspoons of it with warm water in a small ceramic bowl. I think I added a teeny bit too much water to mine (it's supposed to look like a paste, not liquid), so be careful with how much water you add. Still, even if you do add a bit much, the mask is still perfectly fine to use! I scooped some up into my hands and applied it directly onto my face. I literally covered every area, leaving only my eyes and lips untouched (obviously). I must say I looked pretty unattractive, but I knew the results would be worth it. I left the mask on for a while, approximately 25 minutes. There was no set time to leave it on or anything, I just went with my gut. That, and I wanted to wait for it to completely dry before removing it. 25 minutes just seemed to be the magic number. When the time was up, I washed it off using warm water and gently patted my face dry with a towel. And guess what? I was impressed. My skin looked very well toned and had a revitalized, soft glow to it that was rejuvenating. Also, my skin felt very soft to the touch, which is always great, considering sometimes my skin can get rough and dry in certain areas (like on my cheeks). Now they felt as smooth as a baby's face! Suffice it to say I was impressed. It's recommended to do this mask once every week, and I'm sure I'll be doing exactly that until it runs out. On that day, I shall mourn, but until then, my skin will thank me! Zero waste bonus: The facial mask comes in a reusable glass jar! Score!


Ingredients
Rose Clay, Lavender Flower, Pink Rose Petal, Dandelion Root, Yarrow Flower and Leaf, Pearl Powder, Essential Oils.

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The (quick) rundown


The pros: The pros heavily outweigh the cons.

  1. I really loved communicating with Korie Goodman, who gave me the samples in the first place. She was very sweet and I could tell she loves what she does!
  2. I love how the products are zero waste friendly: They're packaged in glass bottles and biodegradable paper tubs! 
  3. I haven't finished using any of these products yet - they should each last me about a month or more!
  4. I adore how it's only made from a few, all-natural ingredients you can completely pronounce.
  5. Half the ingredients could be grown in a garden (or in my case, an indoor container garden).
  6. The instructions are easy to follow and are included right on the packaging and shop.
  7. Using these products seriously minimizes the amount of waste and chemicals I put into the environment.
  8. Both products actually do what they promise to do - no fibs here!
  9. There are so many health benefits to using the ingredients in these products (after all, half of the ingredients used can actually be consumed).
  10. My skin felt absolutely amazing after using each product (the facial mask didn't feel too tight when it dried and the skin wand was very light instead of heavy on my skin).
The cons: There was only one con - but it's very important in terms of zero waste living.

  1. When these products were shipped to me, the package containing them had a lot of plastic bubble wrap, and even a mini plastic bag in it. I understand this was designed to protect the products, but it was excessive and defeated the purpose of the zero waste containers the products were in. I hope Korie chooses to use only paper packaging (like boxes and shredded newspaper) to cushion her products in the future. To her credit though, Korie did use a recyclable plastic bubble mailer (made from Plastic 2 + 4) as well as some tissue paper to protect the products as well. This means I can recycle the plastic and upcycle the tissue paper (so it works out).  
Conclusion: I highly recommend Kore Herbal Alchemy. Their products actually work and are completely all-natural. The containers their products come in are also very zero waste. However, there are some things that could stand to be a little more zero waste about them (like the actual package the products shipped in). That said, this is a new brand, so I'm sure these things will be tweaked over time. Korie seems like the sort of person who truly loves the environment and would be willing to make her packaging just as zero waste as her products. However, I intend to recycle the plastic that came from her product, so there's not much to worry about. I'm also going to reuse the tissue paper (my mom's birthday is coming up after all), so again, I won't send anything to a landfill. Also there's something else to consider: The package she'll be sending to her customers could be different than the one she sent to me. I guess it all depends on what she decides is best and economical at the time. If this is a real concern to you, and you still want to try her products, just reach out to her and let her know! I'm sure she will be able to accommodate you and send your package as zero waste as possible (she's extremely nice and was a pleasure to work with). All in all, I'm very impressed with this brand and cannot wait to see what else they have in store and any improvements they make along the way! Be sure to follow Kore Herbal Alchemy on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to be a part of their all-natural, eco-friendly journey!

This post was sponsored by Kore Herbal Alchemy. All thoughts remain honest and not influenced by a third party.
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