For Valentine’s Day, Go Fair Trade

Equal Exchange, one of my favorite companies, is now offering the Chocolate and Coffee Pairing Gift Bag just in time for Valentine’s Day. Mambo Sprouts, a website dedicated to offering savings and coupons on green and organic products, sent one of these great bags to me to review.

I’ve always been impressed with the quality of Equal Exchange’s products and this is no exception. The coffee is wonderful and the chocolate is delicious. The gift bag includes two 12 ounce bags of Organic, Fair Trade Coffee (Love Buzz and Mind, Body & Soul), two organic Panama Extra Dark Chocolate Bars, two organic milk chocolate bars and a coffee pairing instruction card. All of this is packaged in a 100% recycled, printed gift bag with recycled tissue paper and ribbon.

I make it clear in my review policy that I will not promote products I don’t genuinely love. Nor will I promote products that go against the principles of this site. Equal Exchange is a first rate company that is doing a lot of good.

This Valentine’s Day, why not consider a gift that will not only make the recipient happy, but one that will provide the producers of the products with a living wage?

Visit Equal Exchange to read more about the Chocolate and Coffee Pairing Gift Bag and to order.

Clean + Green Review

clean green logo

I was recently introduced to a new line of products called Clean + Green. I’m pleased to say that the product I tried works. We sampled the Dog-Concrete & Grout Cleaner and were pleasantly surprised. We have a 110 lb. yellow lab and when he uses the bathroom on the garage floor, suffice it to say, the mess is plentiful and smelly. We’ve tried numerous products in an attempt to get the left-over scent out of the concrete floor, but have found they really just mask the smell for a short period of time.ps_dogconcrete

About a week ago there was a storm coming and my husband moved our dog from his pen into the garage. The next morning, there was the usual mess. After mopping it up, my husband went after the can of Clean+Green. He followed the directions exactly, which were incredibly simple: shake can, spray on affected area, allow to air dry. The next day when I went into the garage to get something, there was absolutely no urine odor. That’s something I haven’t been able to say for some time.

Clean+Green contains a large line of pet products. In addition to the concrete cleaner, there are cleaners for carpet, wood & tile, auto, furniture, and cat’s litter box. Another great looking product is the De-Skunk Coat Cleaner. The Clean+Green website says the cleaners are “effective on any common household odors such as animal and people urine and feces, skunk spray, smoke, sweat, and food odors.”

Speaking of smoke, our power went out last week for a few days and we kept warm by burning a fire in fireplace. Even though my husband cleaned out the ashes, the ash smell has remained. I reached for my can of Clean+Green Concrete & Grout Cleaner, and once again, the smell is gone.

It’s obviously important that the products work, but the best thing about them is that they are safe for children and pets and eco-friendly. According to their website, “CLEAN+GREEN is all natural, non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, non-corrosive, and non-flammable. Per the U.S. Federal Regulations Toxic Substances Control Act, Title III, Section 311 & 312, this product contains no health or hazardous materials. It is perfectly safe to use around people and animals when you spray an odor source.”

I can only assume that their other products work as well as this one did. I know I’m sold. Clean+Green products can be purchased online at their website and in stores like Wal-mart, Petsmart, and PetCo.

[Disclosure: We received one free can of Concrete & Grout Cleaner to sample. We are receiving no other payment or incentive for this review. The links in this post are NOT affiliate links. Please see my Review Policy for more information.]

Unclutter Your Life In One Week: Book Review

unclutter-your-life-cover

I actually wrote yesterday’s post, Some Thoughts on Clutter, a couple of weeks ago. I’d been thinking about my clutter and scribbled out the words by hand. Before I had a chance to upload it on the site, I learned that Erin Doland, Editor-In-Chief at Unclutter.com, was preparing for the launch of her new book. I really like the website, but didn’t know if I wanted/needed to read yet another book on getting rid of clutter. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve read a lot, but still haven’t taken much action. On a whim, I emailed Erin and asked for a review copy of her new book. She kindly agreed and sent it to me.

Many of the positive things in my life have come about as the result of a whim. I’m so glad that I took the time to contact Erin. I found the book inspiring and, most importantly, do-able. Erin’s motto: simplicity is revolutionary. Clear the clutter so you can pursue what you love the most.

The problem I’ve had with many of the other books I’ve read is that the tone can be off-putting. Some authors attempt to amuse you and much of the time reading the book is taken up with skimming and skipping around silly jokes to get to the point. Other authors take a more therapeutic approach and try to assume the persona of a dear old friend who wants to counsel you through your issues with clutter. Others assume the reader is exactly like they are, and so they provide the one set of steps and tips that worked for them.

When I take the time to read a book about simplifying my life, I’m not interested in being entertained or looking for a friend, and the way my personality works and the way my life runs may not be exactly like that of the author.

Enter, Erin Doland’s book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week. This book really is different and if I’d found it first, I could have saved myself a lot of time and money.

What I like:

◊ The tone of the book is casual, but to the point. The impression I came away with is that Erin is like a lot of us — she once struggled with clutter, but has found a way to straighten it out. She does, however, realize that everyone has a different style and that what worked for her may not work for everyone. For each of the “steps” she walks the reader through, she offers several methods of accomplishing the tasks that are sustainable for a variety of personality types.

◊ The book is comprehensive. Erin addresses all three of the main types of clutter: clutter in your home, clutter at work, and clutter in your life. There are tips for reducing the clutter in each of these areas each day.

◊ The goal is clear from the beginning. When you reduce the amount of stuff in your life and streamline your routines you have more time and space for the things you enjoy. In the first section, titled “Foundations,” she writes, “Simple living isn’t about depriving; it’s about enriching. You’re getting rid of what doesn’t belong to make room for what does.”

What’s inside:

The book is divided into days of the week. There are 3 primary tasks for each day.

Monday: Your Wardrobe, Your Office, Your Reception Station

Tuesday: Your Bathroom, Your Files, Your Chores (Creating Routines)

Wednesday: Your Bedroom & Commute, Communication at Work, Your Kitchen & Dining Room

Thursday: Your Living Spaces, Working at Work, Your Home Office

Friday: Scheduling Strategies, Routines at Work, Living with Clutterers

Weekend: Taking Care of Yourself, Preparation, Making the Most of Your Personal Time, Vacations, Socializing

And finally a section on “Celebrating and Maintaining Your Success”

Throughout the book, Erin includes worksheets and charts to make the whole process easier. There is even a comprehensive list for both Fall and Spring cleaning.

This may just be the resource that helps me finally tackle my clutter. I plan to post periodic updates of my progress in hopes that doing so publicly will encourage me to achieve the goal.

If you feel at all overwhelmed by your stuff or if you feel like you need a plan to make your days run more smoothly, I can’t recommend Unclutter Your Life in One Week enough. It’s available on Amazon in hardcover for only $14.96 and the Kindle edition is $9.99.

Book Review: Above All, Be Kind by Zoe Weil

bekind I recently finished reading Zoe Weil’s book, Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times and find myself thinking a lot about the ideas contained within its pages. Weil’s book looks at parenting from a somewhat different angle than most parenting books. This book isn’t so much about discipline or potty training or how to get kids to eat healthy foods. It “begins with the end in mind” so to speak, in that it asks us, as parents, to consider the kind of adults we want our children to be and provides suggestions on how to get them there.

According to the back cover,

Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times offers solutions to the problems of apathy, materialism and dangerous peer influences by teaching parents how to raise their children to be humane in the broadest sense: to become not only more compassionate in their interactions with family and friends, but to grow up to make life choices that demonstrate respect for the environment, other species, and all people.

After having finished the book, I can honestly say, it delivers. Here’s a look at what’s inside:

◊ Definition of Humane. Weil begins the book by defining what it means to be humane. From page 3, being humane is “having what are considered the best qualities of human beings.” What follows is an expanded discussion of those qualities and what it means to possess them.

◊ Chapter 2 is titled: Tools to Raise a Humane Child: The Four Elements. These elements,

1. Providing information.
2. Teaching Critical Thinking.
3. Instilling reverence, respect and responsibility.
4. Offering positive choices.

serve as a blueprint for all the stages of a child’s life.

◊ Chapter 3 encourages parents to focus on their own lives for a bit and the extent to which we teach by example. One of the most resounding ideas from this book, for me, comes from this chapter. Weil mentions that a reporter once asked Mahatma Gandhi what his message was and he responded, “My life is my message,” which is the title of this chapter. I find myself thinking over and over about the extent to which my life is (or is not) reflective of the message I wish to convey.

◊ The next few chapters provide specific strategies for applying the Four Elements at different stages in a child’s life (The Early Years – Birth to Age 6, The Middle Years – Ages 7-12, Adolescence, and “The Child Becomes a Humane Adult”). These chapters are especially useful for dealing with age-related questions and concerns.

◊ At the end of the book is a thorough compilation of resources about a variety of issues, including environmental, human rights, animal, and socially responsible causes. There is also a “My Life is My Message Questionnaire” that is immensely thought-provoking. In addition, Weil has provided a series of facts and statistics, lists of companies and products that do not involve animal testing or sweatshop labor, and information on how to avoid genetically modified foods. There is also and extensive list of web resources for gathering even more information.

I came away from reading Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times feeling like I had useful tools to help my children (and myself) become people who think about the consequences of their actions and who are more fully aware of the world around us. There’s no question that we live in “challenging times,” but Zoe Weil makes that journey a little easier.

For more information on Zoe Weil, visit www.zoeweil.com or the Institute for Humane Education where she is the co-founder and President.