Updated Simply Rustic Review

My original review of Simply Rustic products was 1st shared in Nov of 2012!. The products haven’t changed all that much, the line did expand a bit over the years. But the things I love about it remain: there is very, very little plastic used in this line. Most of the products come in glass jars or stainless tins. The beloved lip balms do come in a plastic tube, but I’m willing to overlook that for this particular product as I prefer a tube to a tin that I have to use my fingers to apply it from. What has changed with this line? Ownership! I was a bit sad when Amanda, the former owner, let me know she was considering giving up Simply Rustic for a full-time job elsewhere (one that she really wanted & enjoys). Amanda was running the company from Northern WI, my state, so I was sad to know it may leave here. She asked if I’d mind posting the opportunity for someone to take over the business in my group page. I thought it was a long shot, but didn’t mind posting it for her. We were both shocked how much interest there was! At least a dozen people were interested, and eventually a long-time member of my online community took over ownership just months ago. So while I was sad to see Simply Rustic leave WI, I knew it would be in good hands in the Pacific North West (WA state) with Britney. Britney is a former teacher & this shines through in her attention to detail & how she jumped right in & soaked up as much knowledge as she could from Amanda then hit the ground running, making nothing but positive changes to this line! Here is a bit about Britney from the ‘about’ link from the website: http://www.simplyrustic2011.com/about.html

Amanda had certainly been using all-natural ingredients, some local, some wild-crafted, some organic. But Britney has converted to using organic ingredients whenever possible. For each product listed you will see she includes an ingredient glossary down below, where she describes the benefits & purpose for each ingredient selected in the recipe. There is so much great info there & I’ve learned a lot in reading up on some of the oils & butters! She has also expanded the flavor selection of the lip balms so many of us love, offering warm, seasonal selections such as : Apple Spice & Pumpkin Spice! These in addition to a Vanilla Chai, Happy Birthday Cupcake (created for her daughter’s upcoming B-day), and even a S’mores flavored lip balm (created for her Son, who was jealous his Sissy got one created for her)! There is even a new Pumpkin Spice scrub & body butter for those who love that special autumn scent! I know it’s usually a love it or hate it on the seasonal offerings such as pumpkin. Personally, I’m kinda’ neutral on them, they’re not my favorite, but I don’t hate them. My opinion on Britney’s new creations: they still go on very nice & smooth & leave my lips shiny and moisturized. I don’t think I’ll ever find any I love more than the current offerings of pomegranate/coconut/vanilla (my all-time fave), chococate/strawberry & raspberry/lemonade. Those are just soooooo good, they’re hard for me to move beyond & I don’t desire any more than them, they make me happy J She did send me a choc/straw lip tube to compare to what Amanda offered. It had the same great texture, I did think it had a bit more of a chocolatey taste to it vs former batches, which wasn’t a bad thing! Britney said one reason could be because she switched to organic cocoa butter, the flavor could be a little more intense, which is definitely a possibility. My conclusion on the lip balms: they’re still great, and have gotten even better with an increase in organic ingredients & several additional flavors. Britney does plan to keep the seasonal ones around just for a few months, unless they become so loved that y’all can’t live without them, yet to be determined! The kids flavors could make excellent stocking stuffers this Holiday season! She also is offering an unflavored option, by request, for those who desire no flavor, but still want to nourish their lips. She only increased her price by $.50 to $3.50/tube, a great deal & very comparable to other great, safe choices from my ‘approved’ list. The ingredients vary, so check them out in this link here: http://www.simplyrustic2011.com/store/c10/Lip_Tubes.html

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Other products I’ve tried out that she sent me: Revive Body Butter ($15). It smells so good, and the benefits of the oils used are amazing. If you’re used to a whipped body butter, this is a bit more dense. But it truly melts on your fingertips as soon as you touch it & a little goes a long way. As we head into winter, and dry skin season, I’ll be so excited to have this product on hand to nourish & protect my skin! Ingredients in this butter: Fair Trade and Organic Unrefined Shea Butter, Organic Unrefined Grape Seed Oil, Organic and Unrefined Pumpkin Seed Oil, Organic Yellow Beeswax, Organic Carrot Seed Essential Oil, NonGMO Sunflower Vitamin E Oil. E

rise and shine

She also included a Rise & Shine! Body Scrub ($12), it has become a favorite of mine for sure. I LOVE coffee. I love the smell of coffee. I’m just a 1-2 cup/day drinker, but I love it. This scrub has coffee grinds in it & oh my goodness, it’s such a full sensory experience. I rarely bathe in the morning, usually evening, and this has helped give me a pick-me-up on more than once occasion, my second wind to keep me up those extra couple hours I need after getting the kids to bed (on occasion, often I crash with them). Here’s what Britney says about it: “There is a coffee shop in Sequim called Rainshadow Coffee and they sell the most amazing smelling fair trade and organic coffee beans. I used these ground beans to make the Rise and Shine! Body Scrub. It smells wonderful and it feels so good on your skin, especially after the shower. No need to moisturize after the bath or shower.” And she’s right, this product exfoliates, but also hydrates so, so well. You do not need any moisturizer after you get out of your bath or shower. It comes in a 4 oz glass jar. Full List of Ingredients: Fair Trade Demerara, Organic and Fair Trade Coffee, Organic Grape Seed Oil, Organic Cocoa Powder, Fair Trade, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Castor Seed Oil, NonGMO Sunflower Seed Vitamin E Oil.

I will update this review when I’ve had a chance to use the rest of the products she sent, which are from the face line. I don’t have much of a face routine currently, usually a hot wash cloth & my nightly moisturizer, but I do want to give the products Britney sent a try as full routine. I have tried the face/body wash & as it says on the bottle, a little DOES go a long way! Seriously ½ a pump was more than enough to wash my face, it lathered incredibly well! Here’s what Britney said about the face wash: “This product is one of the many reasons we bought Simply Rustic. This was a new product that came out right before Amanda sold the company to me. I don’t think many customers knew about it or had a chance to try it. My husband LOVES this face wash. When I started talking to him about the idea of possibly buying Simply Rustic, he said that we had to do it to keep using the face wash. It smells awesome, cleans our skin so well and the bottle lasts forever. Just half a pump goes a long way. There are so many benefits to the ingredients of the African Black Soap (listed below). It is awesome!  Ingredients: Raw African Black Soap with Shea Butter (Wildharvested and Unrefined Shea Butter Fruit, Coconut Oil, Wildharvested Palm Oil, Cocoa Pod Ash, and Water), Organic Glycerin, Witch Hazel (alcohol free), Organic Frankincense Essential Oil, Wildharvested Rosewood Essential Oil and Organic Guar Gum . Comes in a 4oz glass bottle with pump cap!

The face care regimen she suggests is this (and she included all products for me). I intend to start using all 3 products & give them a full month trial & will update y’all on my thoughts. I expect nothing but a good experience!

Suggested routine:

1: face wash

2: toner (she sent me Dancing in the Meadows). Britney’s comments on her toner: “After washing your face, get a washcloth or cotton round (whatever you use), and apply the Dancing in the Meadow face toner. I love this step. The toner smells so good and makes my skin feel like anything that was left behind is being wiped away. It’s really pretty too. Those are calendula flower petals floating around. The toner is alcohol free so it won’t dry your skin.”

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3: Dusk til Dawn Serum + Face Oil: From Britney: “This oil is the first product that I bought from Simply Rustic and I love it so much. I love that my face still feels moisturized when I wake up in the morning. The smell makes me happy and the benefits to my skin are amazing.” Serums + Face Oils available in a 1oz Amber Glass Bottle with Dropper Cap. Need a little more umph with your facial care? The Concentrated Serums + Face Oils are packed full of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and graceful aging benefits plus vitamins and minerals. Yes, you can use this as the moisturizer part of a skin care routine. Dusk til Dawn has heavier oils so if you have normal or oily skin this would probably work better for you at night. In the winter, I can use this one as a daytime moisturizer. Serums + Face Oils are designed to penetrate deeper layers of the skin compared to a facial moisturizer. Don’t want to give up your moisturizer? You can use both…cleanse your skin, use toner or not, apply the serum and let absorb and then apply the moisturizer. Have frizzy hair or fly-a- ways? A few drops applied to palm of hand, rubbed between hands and smoothed through hair will tame both.”

In conclusion, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on this line that has been on my ‘approved’ list for several years now. I truly love the dedication, motivation, inspiration that accompanies small(ish) lines like Simply Rustic. I know many of us like supporting the “little guys” with our dollars. By purchasing from Simply Rustic, your dollars are truly going from one family, to another, and we all benefit by voting for safer products being created with the best possible ingredients.

You can purchase these great products via the website:  http://www.simplyrustic2011.com/

You can also purchase Simply Rustic via my Eco-Friendly USA One-Stop Shop order, I do 3/year: Feb, May & Sep, the Sep order opens next week! Details for that here: https://ecofriendlymamausa.com/buying-clubdeomy-poofy-organics/eco-friendly-usa-buying-club-2/

 

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The search for the best water filter

This is an EXTREMELY important topic, and I’m fortunate enough to have my own well out in the country, and I do not use any filters. But this is a very FAQ in my Facebook community so I thought I’d share the below info for those looking for more info. I was contacted by an organization with the following info, and I thought it was worthy of a blog post of its own vs just sharing in my closed group on Facebook. I am not able to independently verify this info, it’s up to you to do further research please! Email: “I’m reaching out because I wanted to share our in-depth research on water filters with you. For those trying to reduce plastic waste, one water pitcher filter can effectively replace as much as 300 standard 16.9-ounce bottles. But our team at Reviews.com wondered, which water filters are the most successful at removing contaminants and enhancing flavor?

We set out to answer this by spending months analyzing dozens of popular pitchers and faucet water filters to determine the top six. Our reviewers consulted with industry experts from the Water Quality Association as well as compared filter models, initial cost, and lifetime cost of filters to create a handy guide for consumers.

You can see our resource here: http://www.reviews.com/water-filter/

Because being environmentally conscious is important, we believe this guide would be a helpful resource for your readers looking to reduce their carbon footprint.”

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When asked for the reports on what specifically was filtered out I received this response: “We didn’t test for these contaminants, but rather only chose products who had certifications that certain chemicals will be filtered out. The first How We Found subheader breaks that down in detail, “The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) have set water treatment standards, and agencies like the NSF and the Water Quality Association (WQA) test against those standards. A filter had to be certified for NSF-42 and NSF-53 standards by one of those agencies to make our cut.”

Aquagear for example, was NSF-401 certified. So it filters microbiological and pharmaceutical contaminants like bacteria, herbicides, and ibuprofen. (This product also has a link in the review to a list of contaminants from the manufacturer.)

Thecontenders list shows which filters had which certifications. The NSF-53 certification covers a lot of chemicals so the specific chemical will be certified separately— “NSF-certified to reduce copper and cadmium,” for example. But it looks like they didn’t pull data on which specific contaminants each filter covered. “

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A few other resources with info I’ve gathered on this topic. This was from Sep of 2015, 1st gathering of the Berkey test results: https://ecofriendlymamausa.com/2015/09/29/berkey-fluoride-filter-test-results/

Another post from June of 2017 regarding Berkey: https://ecofriendlymamausa.com/2015/09/29/berkey-fluoride-filter-test-results/

Aquasana info: https://ecofriendlymamausa.com/2016/12/20/aquasana-finally-a-water-filter-living-up-its-claims/

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For those of you using water filters, I HIGHLY encourage you to do a before/after test of your water. You should 1st know what is in your water before trying to filter it out. Someone in the group assumed her city water was fluoridated, come to find out when she sent in her tap water for a before/after (using Berkey fluoride filters), there was none to begin with….. If you do test, no matter which system, please share the results with me: ecofriendlymamausa@gmail.com

Life and Balance Deodorant Review

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A very FAQ in my group is what is a safe yet effective deodorant? I’ve been making my own for 4+ years now & it fits both those criteria, but it is a cream style, meaning you apply a bit of the cream with your fingers. For some, that is not something they want to mess around with, they just want to be able to roll it on. Many times when this question is asked, I’ve seen people comment that they use liquid magnesium & nothing else, and it works… So when Nicole, a group member, contacted me asking if I’d like to try her magnesium-based deodorant I thought it would be a great time to try this simple ingredient out!I asked Nicole to describe her business in a few words and she said this: start up company, organic when possible, cruelty free (I only test on friends 😂), non-GMO, nature-based ingredients.

I’m happy to report the deodorant has worked well for both myself & my Husband, we’ve both used it for a full month & went through just about 3/4 a bottle. I LOVE that it comes in a glass bottle! Also, there is a refill available!!! The refill is a glass bottle that will refill the roll on bottle four times!! The roll on is $5 and should last you 6-8 weeks of daily use ($3 shipping) and the refill is only $12 and should last you 6-8 months! ($4 shipping).

It goes on very easily & smoothly, and soaks in quickly. I also love the lemon scent as it’s refreshing, uplifting, and has beneficial properties itself. But also, as I’ve mentioned I’ve been using natural deodorant for many years, so had no detox period which is a very real thing for most who are switching from a more conventional deodorant. We were on vacation a good deal of the time we tried it, and often ended up swimming mid-day in a lake, and sometimes re-applying afterwards, sometimes not. But also while home, my Hubby was doing a lot of work around the house, preparing for winter by splitting wood, etc. And he was happy with its effectiveness (he also uses mine otherwise).

Ingredients: magnesium hydroxide, purified water, organic corn starch, organic lemon essential oil. That’s it!! I did a bit of reading on different types of magnesium as Milk of Magnesium was the 1st thing that came to my mind, here’s an article if you want to read up on the differences: http://www.livestrong.com/article/472107-magnesium-hydroxide-vs-magnesium-oxide/. She also currently offers lavender as a scent, and has friends testing out more manly scents presently.

 

You can order via the “shop” button here on her FB page: https://www.facebook.com/LifeAndBalanceLAB/. Or email: LifeandBalanceLAB@gmail.com

Great news to add: Life and Balance will be a new addition to my Eco-friendly One-Stop Shop (AKA buying club) order, and she’s offering us an introductory special offer: her deodorant at $1 off meaning it’s only $4/glass jar! She also has lip balms which she’ll offer us for $2. That order isn’t until 9/11-9/26, with delivery ~2 weeks later in Oct. If you don’t want to wait that long, I urge you to order from Nicole now, try it out, and then stock up with your buying club order if works well for you! For more info on that, I have a tab on my website with this note, which constantly gets updated with new details for each order: https://ecofriendlymamausa.com/buying-clubdeomy-poofy-organics/eco-friendly-usa-buying-club-2/

 

Kiddiebite Silicone Divided Tray Review

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It always excites me to receive messages from Momtrepreneur’s in my group! I had this message from Denise:  Kiddiebites is a made in the USA children’s silicone dinnerware company.  We are currently the only company making children’s silicone plates in the USA!  Silicone is a durable and safer alternative to plastic tableware.  Unlike plastic, silicone is inert and will not leach chemicals into food. We just celebrated the launch of our first product, a Flexible Divided Plate Set.   Our silicone and pigments are both BPA, BPS, lead, PVC, and phthalate free.  They are made with FDA approved, 100% food grade and medical grade silicone.  Our products contain no plastic fillers, unlike other competing brands.  Both our silicone and pigment, as well as our plates themselves, are made in the USA.  Our plates are microwave & dishwasher safe and virtually indestructible.  They are easy to stack and clean, and are designed with an angled edge to help toddlers use their own spoon. 

 

By the time I received this message, my kiddos were 3 & 5 already, so we were past choosing our 1st platters. But for those of you in that process, the Kiddiebites is a good option to consider! Glass is always my 1st choice, but I’ve heard from many of you over the years who don’t feel comfortable with glass. I do have hesitations with heating silicone, in the oven for example. I’m not convinced it’s completely inert. But for eating cool/cold foods off of, I’m not nearly as concerned about any possible leaching.

I so appreciate the motivation & dedication of those like Denise amongst us. Follow your passion! 

Currently, Amazon is the only place Denise is selling these. I hope to be able to offer her product in future buying club orders!

Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2p8ChmG

Website: www.kiddiebites.com

 

 

 

Jolene’s My Green Mattress Review

MY GREEN MATTRESS REVIEW – PART I by Jolene Marty
(coming soon is Part II: Why I Tossed My Tempurpedic Mattress!)

VIDEO REVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv_P8Bh9SyU&feature=youtu.be

Hey everyone! Thank you so much for taking the time to watch my video review of the 9” latex mattress I purchased from My Green Mattress! I wanted to share the details with you so they are easy to read and go through, so you can see for yourself what a great company they are!

First some top points:

My Green Mattress –

  • Made in the USA
  • Family owned and operated
  • GREENGUARD Gold, eco-INSTITUT, Oeko-Tex Certified, GOLS Certified, and their encasements (cotton) are GOTS Certified.
  • Reasonably priced (and also offer financing options)
  • Offer latex pillows, latex mattresses, spring system mattresses, bedding, frames
  • Offer crib sizes through California king sizes
  • Have amazing customer service!

I wanted to give you some information on their materials…more in depth from what I discussed in the video.

WOOL:

Their wool is sourced from a supplier out of Montague, CA who ethically sources their wool from sheep that are raised humanely in northern California and southern Oregon. MGM uses their (Woolgatherer Carding Mill) Eco Wool. While this is not a certified organic wool, they do use organic farming and sheering practices. When I asked what the difference is between the wool they buy (which is not certified organic) and the certified organic wool, MGM said this This wool is certified organically processed as Eco Wool, however cannot be considered “certified organic”. For Eco Wool farmers to be granted this certification they would be required to feed their sheep a strict organic feed diet from the 3rd month of gestation. Woolgather’s farms allow their sheep to graze naturally in lush, open pastures which does not allow for a strict diet to be followed. We believe that this provides for a much happier life for the sheep and therefore stand by their practices” They went on to assure me that they are in fact 3rd party tested from the Animal Toxicology Lab out of UC Davis. They are tested for herbicides, pesticides, and naturally occurring heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. Doing this additional testing ensures that the wool is in fact pure and free of contaminants that are not good for both the sheep nor the consumer. Due to these practices, I feel 100% confident in their wool product and am happy they are so strict with the process and offer their transparency. I did ask if they thought they would ever switch to certified organic wool in the future, and they answered “no”. When I asked them why, they told me if they did that, the prices of their mattress would go up significantly and they want good, clean, safe mattresses available to as many people as possible! If you would like to go check out the Woolgatherers Carding Mill and the Eco Wool they use, please click around in the website here: http://www.thewoolgatherer.com/index.php

LATEX:

The latex that is used in their mattress is a Dunlop latex. It is a very firm latex that offers a great amount of support. The latex is a 100% natural latex from ARPICO. It is made from latex foam developed on the ARPICO rubber-tree plantation. This plantation is home to 5.5 million rubber trees and is GOLS certified by the Control Union, the largest organic regulator in Europe. This is their one items that is imported from outside of the United States. The great thing about this natural latex is that because it is pure and regulated, it is free from fillers, dyes, chemicals, adhesives, and pesticides. It is just that – 100% natural latex and nothing else! If you would like to look into the ARPICO latex click around here: http://www.arpicolatexfoam.com/

COTTON:

The cotton that they use is GOTS Certified Organic cotton. You can view their certificate (along with answers to other great FAQ’s) here: https://mygreenmattress.com/pages/faqs

THREAD:

Yes, I even asked about the thread they use! They used poly-cotton blend and also a (non-coated) Kevlar thread. For me as a novice sewer, I like to hear they are using a very strong thread for the mattresses to help keep the integrity of their sewing strong.

Ok guys, so there you have all the little details about what makes up the mattress. As I stated above, and in my video, the one extra thing that I absolutely love about My Green Mattress is that they have wonderful customer service. I spoke with two sales reps and the owner himself and I have absolutely zero negative things to say. They all knew a lot about their product and they worked hard to make sure that every single one of my questions was answered. It is just another reason why I love Made in the USA and FAMILY owned and operated businesses. You get to know the people and see their true passion for their product.

The latex mattress that I got was their “Simple Sleep Latex” mattress. I purchased the 9” King size mattress from them. They had it ready for me in just a couple of days and sent me confirmation via email. Below I am enclosing few photos of the mattress!

MGM5

By the way, I have loved my mattress and my experience so much, that I decided to become an affiliate for them! I would love to have you support this stay at home mama by purchasing through this link: http://ss1.us/a/X8Nm5hRJ

Also, for our readers, they gave us a discount code. You can save 5% by putting in the code ECOSAVE5. If you are military, they offer an 8% discount (just let them know when you order). Codes cannot be combined but, they offer free shipping! Even better news is they are having an Earth Day sale that is even better than that and on everything!

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~ Jolene Marty

AGAIN, HERE’S THE VIDEO REVIEW LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv_P8Bh9SyU&feature=youtu.be

Toys by Category Recommendations

Finding fun, safe, made in USA toys was what started me on my mission almost 5 years ago now! I was shopping for my Son’s 1st B-day & picked up a Melissa & Doug toy after seeing them recommended over & over in the “crunchy” Mom groups I was in on Facebook. I saw that Made in China sticker & it just didn’t sit well with me. I was in a store FULL of Melissa & Doug stuff. I thought: there has got to be great toys made in the USA still, right? And the great news is YES THERE ARE! My Son is going to be turning 6 soon, my daughter is 3, and I can say that it has not been difficult at all to find plenty of fabulous made in USA options for every Holiday & celebration along the way. I wanted to break my Safe Toys Master List down a bit (found here: https://ecofriendlymamausa.com/made-in-usa-2/toy-list/) and share some of my specific favorites, including popular categories such as art, dollhouse & kitchen play.

A general note: My 2 all-time favorite toy vendors are Smiling Tree Toys (STT) & Pure Play Kids (PPK). As you’ll see below we own a lot of toys from them. They’re my 1st stop, and I often accomplish most of my toy shopping through them. My kids are starting to outgrow STT, I love that PPK has a shop by age function, ends at 6+. It helps narrow it down, as they have so much to choose from. PURE PLAY KIDS HAS GENEROUSLY EXTENDED THEIR 15% OFF COUPON CODE TO THIS GROUP FOR ANOTHER YEAR: ECO2017 FOR 15% OFF YOUR ORDER TOTAL!

Personalization- My advice is to avoid it in general. One benefit to investing in great quality, made in the USA toys is that you can pass them along to other friends/family or sell when your family is done with them. I’ve not had any trouble recovering ½ of my cost on items I’ve sold after we’re done with them. But, if they have a name on them, that limits your market a lot, especially since a lot of us have pretty unique names for our kids. My kids both have a few personalized items, but generally I do avoid it.

I was going to organize my list by age, but it really varies so much by kid. What one 2 year old loves, the next 4 year old may love. I tend to buy things for my kids a bit earlier than they’re ready for it, but I’d rather have it for them sooner than later & they can grow into it (as long as it’s safe with no small parts). TAG Toys also has a shop by age function that goes up to 6, I don’t own much from them but they have a lot of fun stuff & I need to remember to check them out more! https://store.tagtoys.com/age-c5.aspx. Of course Etsy has a TON of options too. I’ve just come around to shopping on Etsy recently. A separate project I’m working on is an Etsy favorites list that’ll I’ll be asking for recommendations from y’all for. With so many vendors available, it’s nice to have personal recommendations.

I wanted to share some of the toys I’ve grown to love. These are all things we own or if it’s something I’m aware of as it’s been a FAQ I’ve added it. This includes popular categories such as pull toys, etc, that we don’t necessarily own items in. If you’re looking for something in particular, never hesitate to ask, even if I don’t own it, I’m likely able to point you in the right direction as I’ve clicked around a lot in many of these sites.

Recommendations for babies:

Keepsake Block: (these make a great gift!)

STT: http://smilingtreetoys.com/collections/decor-accessories/blocks

Rattles:

Smiling Tree Toys: http://smilingtreetoys.com/collections/rattles

Pure Play Kids: http://www.pureplaykids.com/search.php?mode=search&page=1

Bannor Toys: https://bannortoys.com/collections/rattles

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Giraffe Rattle from Smiling Tree Toys

Teethers-

Smiling Tree Toys: http://smilingtreetoys.com/search?type=product&q=teethers

Pure Play Kids: http://www.pureplaykids.com/search.php?mode=search&page=1

Bannor Toys: https://bannortoys.com/collections/teethers

Natulo (organic fabric with pocket for ice) : http://www.natulo.com/Natulo-Natural-Teething/Natulo-Ice-Teether-Organic

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Cloth toys:

Organic ball: http://www.pureplaykids.com/colorful-organic-baby-ball/

Organic cotton snuggle star: http://www.pureplaykids.com/organic-cotton-stuffed-star-USA/

Stuffington Bear Factory: http://www.stuffingtonbear.com/

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Organic polar bear from Stuffington Bear Factory

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Older Kids: I’m going to call this the 2-6 year old recommendations. These are things that we own/have owned to date.

Activity Cube- we have this one from Anatex: http://amzn.to/2iUKxPB. It is not solid wood, the walls of the cube are plywood, but that doesn’t concern me. I consider this to be a safe & great option for this category. My daughter got this for her 2nd B-day & is still playing with it at 3.5. They have many different options, this is one of the cheapest ones, they get pricy. They state this, so I’d double check what you’re purchasing is made in the USA: We manufacture almost all of our items in the USA! Here’s their website: http://anatex.com/

Art & projects- My kids are SO into fun projects & arts/crafts. Below are some of the things we enjoy:

Starter crayons:

Eco-Kids: http://shop.ecokidsusa.com/product/eco-crayons

Wee Can Too: https://weecantooart.com/product/natural-and-organic-veggie-crayons/

Paint: Earth Paints are our favorite- my kids love that they mix them up themselves: http://www.naturalearthpaint.com/

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Play Dough, Blue Egg Farmstore is our favorite: http://www.blueeggfarmstore.com/product-page/becef3cc-5cdc-6ace-1a59-b1d09e53df00

Pure Play Kids: I’ll just link to their category for this, so much fun stuff. The Sand Art Kits are super fun! http://www.pureplaykids.com/arts-crafts/

These are a lot of fun, from Pure Play Kids: http://www.pureplaykids.com/wax-fun-sticks-5-pack/

Art easel: beka http://www.bekainc.com/buy/01102-01110/bekas-deluxe-childs-easel This is all I own from them, but they have many great items!

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On the Beka Easel, we did get the big roll of paper with it when we received it as a gift for Christmas 2015 (pictured above). But I’ve not replaced it since we used it up, as I am as conservative as possible with paper usage. I’ve grown to love Crayola’s dry erase crayons & colored pencils instead of markers, they don’t stink. I believe both are made in Mexico. I’ve not found a better option for the dry erase category.

Colored Pencils: http://amzn.to/2iJuyUc

Crayons: http://amzn.to/2jodLaX, also available in neon: http://amzn.to/2jzEIuy

Chalk: My Mom, who bought the kids the Beka easel, gifted some large chalk sticks that came in a plastic holder kinda thing with the easel. They lasted a really long time  & I liked that they were big & fat as it made them easy to grip & they didn’t break right away like the small chalk can. But I’m not sure which brand they were, she likely got them at Wal-Mart, I’ve not seen them since. I’ve been meaning to buy more chalk from here: https://www.palumba.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=chalk

BATH:

Green Toys is a safe plastic option, in my opinion. It’s BPA, PVC & Phthalate-free. We have the submarine, tugboat, stacking cups, and watering can. Available through them here: http://www.greentoys.com/green-toys-bath-and-water

And on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2iJGYf7

North Star has this wooden boat: http://www.northstartoys.com/products/busy-boat

Ducky: http://shop.celebriducks.com/category_s/37.htm

1002-2t

Board Games: Hasboro makes many games here, some may say with foreign & domestic parts. We played a ton of Candyland & have now graduated to Chutes & Ladders/

We own these 2 from Briarpatch:

Goodnight Moon matching- http://amzn.to/2iX6DVY

I Spy Matching Game- http://amzn.to/1Gqar3F

Doc McStuffins Operation Game (yes, it is annoying….): http://amzn.to/1F50oUp

ispy&operation.jpg

BOOKS: We have a ridiculous amount of books, mainly I pick them up at garage sales. I LOVE the Lost my Name books, they are printed in the US although the company is based in the UK I believe. I’m not sure all their books are printed here though: https://www.lostmy.name/

Little Golden books are still printed in WI! And a friend’s Uncle works for them & has gifted us a ton of them. Otherwise, we have a total hodge podge & they are all well loved!

Building Blocks:

Smiling Tree Toys: http://smilingtreetoys.com/collections/block-sets

Bannor: https://bannortoys.com/collections/wooden-blocks

Bricks: http://amzn.to/2iJLz0L

Doll house: Here’s a photo album of what we have: https://www.facebook.com/397517646930548/photos/?tab=album&album_id=868582543157387

Furniture, TAG Toys: https://store.tagtoys.com/dollhouse-furniture-set-p58.aspx

We have this one from Elves & Angels, other options available through them as well: http://elvesandangels.com/collections/dollhouses/products/new-natural-wooden-our-maine-dollhouse-by-elves-and-angels

Dolls, we have several from here. The family, the royal family, kindness elves, birthday month dolls. I LOVE everything she makes & had to cut myself off https://www.wildflowertoys.com/

wildflowerdollslineup

DOLLS:

We have this one & the Ziggy zaggy one from Pure Play Kids. I asked them why they didn’t have a boy doll & they did make one & name it after my son: Orion. But it was only available a short time & the lady who sewed them was no longer able to. Ziggy Zaggy & Flower Girl (as my kids have named them, are still available)http://www.pureplaykids.com/handmade-organic-doll-happy-hexagons/

oriondoll

I let my Mom buy my daughter a Baby Alive doll for Christmas. Yes, I know… Her cousin has one & she really, really wanted one. All her other dolls are random grabs from garage sales, Good Will, etc. I was OK with her receiving this as a gift, and picked out some fun accessories to go along with it:

I got her this adorable doll carrier from Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/listing/475582576/little-mama-baby-doll-carrier-doll?ref=hp_rv

And a Mama in the group made a set of 3 cloth diapers & a pack of cloth wipes for her doll (the disposable diapers used on Baby Alive’s drive me bonkers!). I do believe in moderation, and variety, and my kids are quite rough with their toys as many end up outdoors in the mud pit with them. So spending a couple hundred bucks on a Waldorf cloth doll just isn’t feasible for us.

Felt & magnetic boards:

Pure Play Kids: felt http://www.pureplaykids.com/search.php?mode=search&page=1

Magnetic: http://www.pureplaykids.com/search.php?mode=search&page=1

We also have Pure Plays magnetic fishing set, and the extra fish & numbers: http://www.pureplaykids.com/magnetic-wooden-fishing-rod-with-5-magnetic-fish/

Kitchen stuff:

If I were purchasing new I’d go with Elves & Angels: http://elvesandangels.com/collections/wooden-kitchens

I was so lucky to score this used set locally for only $200:

woodenkitchen

Wooden eggs: http://www.pureplaykids.com/wooden-toy-play-eggs/

We have several things from Green Toys: sandwich & pizza shop, just added the cupcake set for Christmas this year, the tea, dish & chef set as well! In the summer my kids set up an outdoor kitchen & I love how durable & washable Green Toys items are! Here’s a link to them directly: http://www.greentoys.com/green-toys-kitchen-play

All items available on Amazon too, and many have seen sales in their local TJ Maxx, etc. Here’s an Amazon link to get you started there: http://amzn.to/2iJzVD3

We added some felt food this X-mas, and I will definitely be getting more from here. Etsy is FULL of felt kitchen food. As I mentioned above though, it is one area I don’t mind having some safe plastic in our otherwise all wooden kitchen set-up, as it is so durable. We have the breakfast platter so far: https://www.etsy.com/people/KidsKitchenKreations

We have oven mitts from here, I got my niece a personalized chef hat for her B-day, lots of cute & fun stuff including aprons: http://growingcooks.com/

For accessories they have a hodge podge. Some Green Toys as I listed above, an unused stainless fondue pot of mine, misc stainless whisks, etc.

Lacing toys-

Smiling Tree Toys: http://smilingtreetoys.com/products/wooden-lacing-tracing-toy-set

Holgate: http://www.holgatetoy.com/Lacing-Products_c_12.html

TAG: https://store.tagtoys.com/lace-and-learn-p90.aspx

lacingpuzzle

Make-up:

Blue Egg Farmstore: http://www.blueeggfarmstore.com/play

Marble run:

Tedco, I love the creativity this inspires, we play with this a lot! http://amzn.to/2ims4Pa

Memory matching tiles:

http://smilingtreetoys.com/products/memory-matching-tile-game

https://bannortoys.com/search?q=memory

Misc:

Smiling Tree Toys Misc toys (we have several items, the moon balancer, camera, penguin bowling, wands, tops, lacing puzzle): http://smilingtreetoys.com/collections/toys

Bannor Toys Misc Toys: https://bannortoys.com/collections/wooden-toys

Green Toys, we own many items from them:

greentoys

Dressup- we have superhero capes & crowns from here: http://www.pureplaykids.com/search.php?mode=search&page=1

Building logs- Roys toys, they come in different sets, here’s one: http://amzn.to/2ihb1O2

Music:

Drums: Remo Djembe and Doumbek are manufactured in the US: http://www.remo.com/portal/products/5/505/remokids.html

Xylophone, Smiling Tree (we have this): http://smilingtreetoys.com/collections/toys/products/wooden-xylophone

Xylophone, Pure Play: http://www.pureplaykids.com/metal-wood-xylophone-for-kids/

Ukulele, Pure Play Kids (we have this): http://www.pureplaykids.com/wooden-ukulele-for-kids/

Palumba has a variety of items, I don’t own any but they have a LOT of cool stuff in general! https://www.palumba.com/books-music/music-instruments/instruments.html

Piggy Banks- I got my kids both one from here, the same lady that makes the plug-in wax warmers I sell via the buying club. I don’t see any listed currently but you could write her to ask for one: http://www.dcstoneware.com/

piggy bank.jpg

Someone in the group let me know they got their kids one from here, a vendor on my Safe Toys List that I’ve not shopped from yet: http://www.wildapples.com/piggybanks.htm

Pounding table:

Holgate: http://www.holgatetoy.com/Classic-Bingo-Bed_p_41.html

Pull/push toys:

Hogate: http://www.holgatetoy.com/Ducking-Duck_p_171.html

Pure Play: http://www.pureplaykids.com/spinning-blocks-wooden-pull-toy/

Pure Play: http://www.pureplaykids.com/wooden-mower-vacuum-push-toy-rainbow/

Smiling Tree: http://smilingtreetoys.com/products/animal-puzzle-pull-toy

Puzzles- huge category of course! Puzzles are favorites in our house!

Smiling Tree now has name puzzles: http://smilingtreetoys.com/products/wooden-name-puzzle

The Puzzle People: http://www.puzzlepeople.com/  (we have several, I LOVE them!)

turtlepuzzlepeople

Portrait Puzzles: https://www.portraitpuzzles.com/home.php (they make great gifts!)

TAG: https://store.tagtoys.com/i-can-spell-alphabet-puzzle-p87.aspx

Shape Sorter:

Smiling Tree Toys: http://smilingtreetoys.com/products/shape-sorter

Train tracks: Bought for Son’s 3rd B-day, almost 6 now & both play with it often. I love that you can add on to. I’ve given add-on’s for recent B-days.

Maple Landmark: https://www.maplelandmark.com/detail.lasso?sku=11240

It’s currently available cheaper via Pure Play Kids actually, and sometimes it’s on Amazon for cheaper: http://www.pureplaykids.com/complete-train-track-and-town/

Name train: https://www.maplelandmark.com/nametrains/brightcolornames.lasso

traintracks

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Summer fun:

Pure Play Kids has several great things for this category, we have their shell collecting bags, beach stamps, butterfly nets & bug house: http://www.pureplaykids.com/all-outdoor-fun/

Green Toys sand castle set (very durable plastic!): http://amzn.to/2icvBzd

Green Toys Watering can: http://amzn.to/2hRty0q

Water Table: We have a Little Tikes one. It’s made in the USA of foreign & domestic parts. I know the accessories are definitely made in China, I did send one in to MisLead in a package of random things I sent her & it came back free of lead & other heavy metals which was good news. We improvised our own accessories, peg people & random things. My kids have enjoyed this a couple of summers now. Yes, it’s plastic but short of making something yourself, there aren’t many other viable options for this category. Step2 also has similar options. http://amzn.to/2iJRdjk

________________________________________________________________

Easter: This is an older note of mine with some good suggestions: https://ecofriendlymamausa.com/2013/03/05/made-in-usa-easter-basket-ideas/

easter16

Easter 2016 consisted of:  Hand kites made by former page co-admin Jolene, wooden egg paint kit from Earth Paints (where we got our egg dye kit also), Easter matching tiles, and 2 other word/picture matching games from Bannor Toys, and they each got a personalized bunny wand from Bannor also, Repositionable Stickers from Pure Play Kids (made by Mrs. Grossman’s), foaming bath paints & scented play dough from Blue Egg Farmstore, Bunny teethers from Smiling Tree Toys (they each received their 1st Easter, now I make them part of their annual basket as I will the bunny wands). They got NO candy from me, we went to a fabulous egg hunt yesterday hosted by my friend who had 300 eggs for 15 kids to find, filled with almost exclusively organic candy. Fun, fun, and more fun!

__________________________________________________________________

Conclusion: Do we own some things made outside of the USA? Yes, we do. I mentioned the Baby Alive doll above. I’m not 100% hardcore on not allowing anything not made here into my house. For example, my Son really, really wanted some transformers for Christmas & I did buy him some, he loves them, and I’m fine with it. For the 1st few years, I absolutely recommend sticking with safe, minimal, wooden toys, and it’s easily doable. Now, at 6 I’m more lenient with what he plays with as it’s not going in his mouth. At 6 he’s really into mazes, connect dots, art projects, making stews & potions in his kitchen & transformers. I can say, when I look around my house, there are very few items not made in the USA, and that makes me very happy! I hope you’ve found this list helpful & I will continue to add to it as my kids grow!

Aquasana: finally a water filter living up its claims!

From Jess/Eco-friendly Mama/page owner here: as most of you know, Berkey is THE name if water filters amongst the “green” community. Many well-known natural Mama bloggers endorse them. My page took part in a few Berkey group buys, trying to help save money on these expensive systems. When I started looking for 3rd party test results to show that they lived up to their claims, I had a very hard time finding much at all! So I reached out to the group to ask: has anyone tested their Berkey water? Interestingly enough, no one had at the time. I decided to help raise some funds to sponsor a couple of tests, and was definitely not impressed. I’m blessed to have safe water from my private well, and we do test annually to make sure nothing changes.

You can read the 1st results of a few tests here: https://ecofriendlymamausa.com/2015/09/29/berkey-fluoride-filter-test-results/

Then Catherine, a Mama in the group did a very thorough test on her own, and shared her very detailed write-up here: https://ecofriendlymamausa.com/2016/06/17/very-thorough-disappointing-berkey-test-results/

She is the same Mama who is sharing the below report on putting her new Aquasana system to the test. FINALLY, SOME GOOD NEWS!

Important note from Catherine:

No group sponsored this testing. It was all coordinated and paid for by myself. Also, there was nothing received in exchange for this review and I paid normal price for my system. I am solely sharing this to help others, as I’ve been surprised and disappointed in other water filtration systems in the past and I know not everyone has time and money to research, buy, and test multiple kinds of systems.

 

 

I’m so excited to share POSITIVE news about my search for great drinking water!

 

In September, a member of this Eco-friendly USA group (Jelena) shared that Aquasana was having a 60% off sale and the a BOGO code worked in addition to that, so I decided to purchase the OPTIMH2O™ REVERSE OSMOSIS + CLARYUM drinking water filtration system (Jess’ Amazon affiliate link: http://amzn.to/2h5IbAZ)

 

Many of you know my Berkey experience (linked here) and know I’ve been looking for something with better fluoride reduction that is more reliable and a better fit regardless of your pH… and that because of that, I was very skeptical of any system and determined to test it.

 

I had it installed in mid-October and did testing that first week. This was my first update posted 11/7 in the group “It was a 87% reduction in fluoride.  They claim 95% reduction, but honestly it is so small (.07 mg/L), I’m not too worried. It’s only half remaining of what it was with the Berkey and it’s slightly greater reduction than the in-line filter that was posted about last month. They are sending a new stage 2, RO filter though just in case. – Though they are sending a new one, if it wasn’t filtering optimally – I wonder if the first plumber we used might have damaged it somehow (vs. it coming defective to start)? He is a certified plumber but from the neighborhood. He just did the first half and then my husband drilled the hole in our countertop and we had a plumber from a different company come finish it. Who knows…

 

The pH of the treated water increased and I would not want it too high long-term but I wish I would have tested the Berkey water pH (I only did before), because I know that increases it too. Typically RO water is lower pH (~6, which is acidic, 6.5-8.5 is typical for regular drinking water), unless a remineralizer is used. They told me that it can take some time to balance out though, so he suggested I re-test in 1 month and the pH might be lower. (We had only purged the system for 24 hours prior to testing. I did try those at home test strips before taking the sample to my county health department but they are so subjective.)

 

There was significantly less magnesium, calcium, and chloride. That’s to be expected, though I thought it might be a bit higher with the remineralizer. So I bought [trace minerals] to ensure we are getting enough minerals. I know this is a concern people have about RO filters, and I understand there are pros and cons with every system. Obviously the best option is if our cities stopped adding fluoride to our water.

 

The company has been absolutely GREAT to work with (plus it’s a 90-day return policy) – I am very pleased so far! Once it’s been longer for us to switch the RO filter and use the water, I will re-test fluoride and pH. Also, since I still have the Berkey, I may even test the post filtration pH of that just to compare… though I won’t be using it myself. I’ll share another update once I have more results to share and I’ll include all the #s with that update!”

 

Here is my latest update:

 

The pH is right in normal range and fluoride isn’t found at all 0.0!!!!!!!!!!!! The only thing is I didn’t test my tap this time because I have tested it 3 times this year and I realized it isn’t fully apples to apples comparing tap to the RO water because it’s been sitting in the RO tank for a little bit (a couple days)? I wish I had, but the testing adds up. I feel confident with it. (I had also mentioned that I might test Berkey pH compared to tap as another comparison since their FAQs say it raises pH too but then I heard if you don’t store your filters properly they can dry out so I thought that may not be accurate at this point, plus more money on a product I am not personally interested in, so I didn’t.) Whenever I change filters in ~5 months, maybe I will retest tap vs. filtered just to have another data point and share. I am SO happy to have found a water filtration system that works for me. Plus, it was BOGO so my mom will have the other one. (I have been waiting to take it to her/ get it installed until my testing.) It was $222 for two systems, so only $111/ system plus installation, which is at least comparable to Berkey if not less up front. It even included 2 glass water bottles.

 

Also, some people say that they wouldn’t want an RO system because they don’t want to waste water, which I understand but I wanted to share that so far, I have seen less water consumption than a year ago. I know there are many factors in that, but I think we don’t (couldn’t possibly) drink enough for it to make a big difference. I think that is more valid for a whole home system like when you filter shower/ bath, toilets, and sink water. Those are the main places you use a lot of water.

 

Lastly, I know some people say that they don’t want minerals stripped of their water, but at what point is it worth it? That’s a personal choice for everyone to make and our reasons for choosing any type of water can vary and that’s okay. Since I stopped using fluoride toothpaste, I decided I don’t want fluoride in my water either. As I’ve said before (specific to fluoride), the best thing is if your city would stop adding it to your water! The main thing is that you should know the honest and full pros and cons of each system and be able to decide for yourself up front what you prefer and then if there’s anything you don’t want in your water – be sure to test your tap and filtered water so you can ensure you are drinking what you think you are drinking. Good water is out there; I hope everyone can find some that they love!

 

My results

aquasana

UPDATE 8/01/17: “As promised, once I changed my filters I would test fluoride one more time. I took in a sample from my tap and RO water 10 days ago and got the results in the mail today. I’m definitely pleased and wanted to share in case you want to add it to the blog. This is a 98.4% reduction!”

aquasana

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