vegan

Oh so CHARMing: an ethical alternative to down comforters

(Disclosure: post contains affiliate links.)

CHARM is turning the traditional approach to down comforters on its head with natural, breathable fiber alternatives.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, then you probably know one of the reasons I got into blogging in the first place was my desire to find natural, affordable, animal-friendly alternatives to the lifestyle products I was currently using. Things have come a long way since I started back in 2008—animal-friendly fashion, beauty, and home goods are continuing to take up a larger market share with each passing year—but there are some goods that remain difficult to replace. Take bedding, for example: if you don’t want to utilize animal-sourced wool or down, the alternative is often synthetic. But synthetics are sucky in their own way, and not just because they’re hard on Mother Earth: they’re not as breathable and often not as soft as a natural fiber, making for a less-than-zen sleeping experience.

So imagine how intrigued I was to discover CHARM. Drawing on years of design experience, and an unwillingness to settle for anything less than perfection, the company is upending traditional comforter design with a plant-powered blend that offers all the loft and coziness of down with none of the ethical complications. (more…)

Oatmeal power-up cookies (vegan, healthy, easy!)

These oatmeal power-up cookies are vegan, healthy, and easy to make!

Lately I find myself constantly on the go. I know a healthy breakfast is a must, but it’s frequently one of those things that’s scrapped as I hit snooze and then scramble to get out the door to work, appointments, and all of the other stops on my daily agenda. Hence this healthy oatmeal power-up cookie recipe, which I crafted on a whim over the weekend so I’d have a healthy option for breakfast on the go once the chaos of the workweek hit.

This isn’t your childhood oatmeal cookie recipe. With added nutrients from kasha, wheat germ, and flaxseed, and half the sugar of traditional recipes, these oatmeal power-up cookies are a great alternative to the sugary, expensive prepackaged breakfast bars sold in grocery stores. And yes, they still taste great with a cold glass of (plant-based) milk for dessert. (more…)

Spooky OREO Spiders and Eye-Popping Fanta Punch

(This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SpookySnacks #CollectiveBias)

Spook up your Halloween bash with these Spooky OREO Spiders and Eye-Popping Fanta Punch! #SpookySnacks #CollectiveBias

I’m at a weird time in my life when it comes to planning holiday parties. Some of my friends are still child-free, while others have five-to-ten-year-olds in tow. Planning a holiday get-together, then, means coming up with a balance that will keep adults and kids alike entertained, and that’s especially true with holiday recipes! I want to serve items that look and taste good, but they still need to appeal to kids who might have a picky palate.

Since Halloween is around the corner and I’ve been thinking about having a party, I decided to test-drive a couple of fun recipes that would be kid-friendly for little guests. The best part is that you have kids of your own and they want to get involved with making snacks for a Halloween bash, these recipes are simple enough that the kids can help out in the kitchen! Read on after the jump for step-by-step instructions and more photos.

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Giveaway: Aloha Superfood Dark Chocolate

Win a six pack of Aloha superfood chocolate!Yay, it’s the weekend! I’m excited to spend some time curled up on the couch with a good book and some homemade chocolate chip cookies. Unfortunately I can’t give away a plate of cookies here on the blog—I’m pretty sure they’d be fuzzy before they made it through the post to the winner!—but I’m giving away something else delicious instead: a bundle of Aloha Superfood Dark Chocolate bars.

If there’s a way to make these bars better for you, I’m not sure what it is: they’re vegan, kosher, USA-made, non-GMO, free of soy and gluten, and made with fair trade ingredients. They’re loaded with superfoods like wheatgrass and moringa for a nutritional boost. Oh, and they’re pretty tasty, too!

One reader will win a six-pack of original dark bars; you can enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Impatient? Head over to the Aloha website and order your own six-pack in original dark, hazelnut & fig, macadamia & coconut, tropical twist, or cereal crunch. You can use the code “MARTHA37” to get $20 off your first order!

The giveaway is open internationally and will close next Sunday. Good luck!

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Product review: Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

(Disclosure: I was sent a sample product for testing purposes; however I was not compensated to write a review and as always all opinions are my own.)

Can you guys believe it’s July already?! We’ve had nothing but sun lately and temps near 100, and it’s been intense–even driving in the car you’re liable to get a sunburn if you don’t slather on SPF first. Kelly from Block Island Organics got in touch recently to see if I’d like to review some of their new mineral sunscreen and of course I jumped at the chance to try it out–here’s what I thought after a long, bright weekend!

Check out my review of the Block Island Organics natural mineral sunscreen! It's SPF 30 and free of parabens, sulfates, dyes, and other nasty ingredients. Plus it's vegan and goes on super-sheer, so you won't feel greasy by midday!

The product: Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30; $19.99/3.4-oz. through the company website, BlockIslandOrganics.com. (Currently on sale for $16.99!)

What it does: A lightweight, fast-absorbing sunscreen free of nanoparticles, gluten, animal ingredients, artificial fragrances and dye, parabens, phthalates, sulfates and petrochemicals. (Whew, what a mouthful!) Suitable for face and body. Block Island Organics is family-owned, USA-produced, and committed to producing simple, effective, affordable formulas without the harmful ingredients found in traditional skincare products.

I tried it: Hands-down, my biggest pet peeve with sunscreen is that it feels and smells like, well, sunscreen. You know: greasy and chemical-laden, and not at all pleasant. You can’t exactly forget you’re wearing it. Luckily, sunscreens have come a long way in recent years and now we have products like this one, which are so light you might mistake them for regular moisturizer. In fact, I would say this is one of the nicest sunscreens I’ve tried recently in terms of weight, texture and scent. The formula is super-thin, so it absorbs quickly and without that infamous white cast left behind by some zinc sunscreens. My skin felt dry to the touch afterward. The scent is nearly undetectable, too, and the dye-free/fragrance-free formula didn’t irritate my sensitive skin.

I also have to say that I really, really love being able to tote one bottle in my bag for face and body alike! I’ve found some sunscreens that were fine for my body, but couldn’t be used on my face because they stung my eyes, turned my skin slick or made me break out. Not so with this sunscreen! You could easily layer this with makeup if desired; I used it over my regular facial moisturizer.

This sunscreen isn’t waterproof, so you’ll need to reapply after swimming or if you’re sweating heavily, but since you’re supposed to be reapplying your sunscreen frequently anyway, I don’t feel like this is a big deal. It’s so light, and a little goes a really long way–no need to goop it on–so it doesn’t feel like you’re suffocating your skin.

Overall I love this sunscreen; it takes all the “yuck” out of daily wear, so I can stay protected from the sun without feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. Block Island Organics has generously offered readers a 15% sitewide discount, so you can try out their products for yourself! Just use the coupon code “Martha” at checkout, now through July 7th!

Check out Block Island Organics on social media: Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter

Ingredients: Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 22%. Inactive Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe Vera Gel) Juice*, Aqua (Deionized Water), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Oil, Gluconolactone, Glycerin*, Lecithin*, Octyl Palmitate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Xanthan Gum, Zemea Propanediol. (*Certified Organic)  

Product review: Andalou Naturals Lavender Shea hand cream

I’ve struggled with dry hands all winter and have tried a few different hand creams, without finding one I really love. Now that spring is here my skin isn’t quite so dry, but I still need something, so I picked up this fresh-smelling hand cream from my local natural foods store.

Andalou Naturals Lavender Shea hand cream review from I'd Rather Be Reading blog

What it is: Andalou Naturals Lavender Shea hand cream; $8.95/3.4 ounces. An organic, vegan and gluten-free hand cream designed to nourish dry hands and cuticles.

What it does: It’s a fairly thick cream that absorbs quickly and smells strongly of lavender, without that baby powder tendency found in some lavender-scented products. It’s less sweet and more earthy, which I like.  I do feel like the scent fades quickly.

I like how this feels on my skin, but it’s still not quite thick enough for the winter months. You still have to reapply every couple of hours or after washing your hands, and I’ll be shopping for something a bit thicker for the colder, drier winter months. That said, I feel like this will be a good hand cream for the spring-to-fall period, when I want something with a medium thickness and a clean scent. I also really love that the profits from this hand cream support projects to benefit women’s education–I feel that it’s important for companies to find ways to give back to society, and human rights and education are important to me.

Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Juice (organic), Aqua, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil (organic), Stearic Acid, Prunus Amygdalus (Sweet Almond) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter (organic), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Butter (organic), Mangifera Indica (Mango) Butter, Vegetable Glycerin, Calophyllum Inophyllum (tamanu) Oil, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Malus Domestica (apple), Solar Vitis (grape), Vaccinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) (Fruit Stem Cell Cultures and BioActive 8 Berry Complex. Organic), Allantoin, Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis Extract, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Extract (organic), Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil (organic), Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Oil, Xanthan Gum, ethylhexyl glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Lavandula Officinalis (Lavender) Oil (organic).

Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe (book review)

'Vegan Holiday Cooking from the Candle Cafe' (book review)(Disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. However I was not compensated for writing this review and as always all opinions are my own.)

Vegan holiday cooking doesn’t have to be hard; it can be fun and tasty and please everyone at the table, meat-eaters and gourmands included! This book makes it simple. Crafted by the chefs at the trio of Candle eateries in New York City, this cookbook is divided up into ten menus: Super Bowl (or gametime recipes), Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, Passover, Easter, Cindo de Mayo, Fourth of July barbecue, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. At first glance covering so many different holidays throughout the year might seem a little odd: many cookbooks only focus on the traditional trifecta of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

However, there’s always been a big gap between the recipes available for non-vegan vs. vegan holiday cooking. I get a variety of magazines that feature seasonally-themed recipes and entertaining guides, and they’re seldom easy to adapt to a vegan table. Easter is all about eggs; Memorial Day and Fourth of July barbecues mean burgers; game time means cheesy nachos; and so on. This cookbook gives you recipes for those events and more.

Plus, lots of the recipes feature here would be great for everyday dinners and will impress even your non-vegan friends. Black bean tacos? Sweet fried dumplings? Roasted squash soup? All would be easy enough to whip up for a weeknight dinner yet look and feel fancy enough for a special occasion.

Lots of big, bright photos will make you hungry just flipping through this book. The recipes are laid out in an easy-to-follow format and the ingredient lists are largely made up of items that can be found at any well-stocked grocery store. (A few, like seitan or arrowroot powder, will require a trip to a natural health food store.)

This cookbook is a must for anyone who loves entertaining, whether you’re totally new to the world of vegan holiday cooking or are a seasoned pro. There are even seasonally appropriate cocktail recipes, and of course some cookie recipes for the Christmas cookie exchange! Yum!

Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe (hardcover, 176 pages), by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda. Published 2014 by Ten Speed Press. Genre: cooking, vegan food, entertaining. Five out of five stars.