Believe Soap Company {Product Review}

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My friend Noelle approached me a couple months ago, asking if I’d be willing to review one of her handmade all-natural bar soaps.  As a fellow straight-shooter, I think she knew that I’d provide an honest review 🙂  I had been wanting to try her soap for a while, but I was holding off until I finished my current supply of bar soap.  I chose the Milk & Honey scent, which smells just as good as it sounds.  She also sent me samples of Lavender Oatmeal and Refreshing Mint.  They smell awesome too!  Lavender has calming properties so this would be great to use at night, and since mint is energizing, it would be perfect for those I-just-rolled-out-of-bed-and-need-to-wake-up showers.
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So, what did I think of the Milk & Honey?  It’s great!  It lathers well, which is sometimes a challenge for bar soap.  I’ve been using it for close to two months and I’ve only used about half of the bar, making it a great value in my opinion.  I like that the scent is mild, and I love that all the soaps are natural, 100% vegan and made by one person – no assembly line here!  I have eczema so I’m always nervous when trying any kind of new skin care product, but I had no issues with this soap – no adverse reactions and my skin didn’t dry out.  I’ve also used it for shaving and it worked great for that too.  I know not everyone is into bar soap, but use this as shaving soap and get rid of the awful commercial-made shaving cream (seriously, look up the ingredients used in that stuff…terrible!).  As you can see from the pictures, the bar has a cute shape with fun oatmeal “sprinkles” on top.
image (4)image (1)I wanted to give you some insight into the company, its practices, and philosophies, so check out this Q&A with owner Noelle…
Q.  How long have you been making soap and why did you start Believe Soap Company?
A.  I have always LOVED / been semi-obsessed with artisan handmade soap, and I am super picky about scents and ingredients. The ones I loved were really expensive (think $10 a bar), which led me to want to make my own. But getting started is expensive for all the equipment and supplies, so I decided to make them for Christmas gifts (we like giving consumable gifts), and I could also have some for my own family. After doing a TON of research and taking a long DVD class by a boring chemist, I ended up making about 180 bars to give to friends, family, husband’s co-workers and bosses he wanted to schmooze 🙂
The phone calls started a few days after Christmas, with “Thank You” and “YOU SHOULD SELL THESE!” from a BUNCH of people. I think after the fifth or sixth call, I started thinking seriously about going into business. Then, the organic farmer I work with (I volunteer at a CSA) said he really thought I should sell the soap, and that I could sell at his farm to CSA members on pick up days. I went home, prayed about it, talked to my hubby, and started making more soap.  I am now in my second year!
Q.  What’s the simplified process of soapmaking, without giving away any of your secrets?
A.  I take Olive Oil, Shea Butter, and Coconut Oil and blend those with a mixture of water and Lye. I then add essential oils and herbs or spices, and pour the mixture into molds, cut them into bars after 24 hours, then cure them for 6 weeks.  
Q.  Is it safe to use products that contain lye?
A.  The lye is consumed in the saponification reaction and the water evaporates, so you are left with a bar of just Saponified Oils and Herbs after the long curing process.  Since the water and lye aren’t technically in the final bar of soap, some companies don’t list them as an ingredient, however I prefer to disclose all ingredients.
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Q.  How do you choose your scents?
A.   I am selfish in that I don’t make any scents that I don’t like – I love all my different blends.  I started with my favorites, then added on based upon available pleasant smelling essential oils.  I create my scents by adding essential oils to a glass ramekin, then blending and adding and blending until it smells just right. I write down what I did, then voila, a recipe is born.  I have also taken suggestions for ingredients (“Can you make a soap with honey in it?” “Please make a chamomile soap”), which is how I arrived at my Milk & Honey and Chamomile & Cream blends.
Q.  What are your most popular scents?
A.  Lavender Oatmeal, Refreshing Mint and Spiced Citrus.
Q.  Are you working on anything new?
A.  I am testing a Coffee Soap right now (round three on getting the scent right!), and I will have two soaps coming out for Christmas: Peppermint and Frankincense & Myrrh.  Also, we’re currently creating a “Soap of the Month” Club where you can choose any 3 bars (or I can choose for you!) and pay one flat-rate cost which includes shipping.  You can opt to have a one-time shipment, or set up a recurring shipment.  You can also opt to have the soap sent directly to a gift recipient, which makes this a great gift set for holidays, birthdays, weddings, housewarmings, etc.
Q.  Are your soaps sold online only, or can they be purchased in person anywhere?
A.  I sell online through my website and at the following California locations:
Good Seed Organic Farm (on unscheduled Tuesdays)
Bravo Farms Gift Shop – Tulare and Visalia locations (hopefully expanding to their Traver and Kettleman City branches soon!)
L.T. Sue Co. Tea Room – Soaps sold at this location are private label.  I create recipes and make soap using their teas, but you’ll see their branding on the packaging.
Q.  Is Believe Soap Company involved in any charitable organizations?
A.  I love giving back to our local and global community. 10% of profits are donated to charity.  I also helped do a fundraiser for Save the Girl (via Care India) this last summer.  I am glad my little business can help people around the world.
Q.  Anything else you’d like to add?
A.  I love making soap and providing customers with quality, all-natural ingredients at an affordable price.  My mission statement is “Add Something Fresh to Your Day.”  The goal is for my soap to make your daily routine a little more cheerful…like a vacation in your shower!
Head over to Believe’s website and check out the wonderful soaps Noelle has to offer.  And make sure to check out the handcrafted soap dishes made by Southern California artist, Linda Wolford.  The best thing you can do to make your soap last the longest is to store it properly in a soap dish and these dishes are unique with a cool vintage doily imprint, much better than the cheap plastic ones you can find in any store!
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Photo used with permission from Believe Soap Company

You can also get info and updates from Believe’s Facebook page…go give ’em a like so you can find out when all those new scents are available!
Disclaimer:  Believe Soap Company sent me a bar of soap at no cost to me, however, all opinions in this review are my own.  You can’t buy my opinion folks…I just tell it like it is 🙂
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The 21 Day Sugar Detox: Completed!

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I finished!  I can’t say I loved the program, but I’m glad I did it.  My biggest takeaway was “Sugar Awareness.”
Awareness that there’s a lot of sugar in a lot of foods.  The main reason the diet plan is primarily vegetables and meat is because they don’t have much in the way of natural sugars.  Which is a good way to eat until you start adding dressings, marinades, sauces, etc., especially if they’re store-bought.  If I buy food that has a label on it, I read it.  Being dairy, egg, gluten and soy-free means I have to read labels all the time.  But my eye is trained to look for allergens, not sugar content.  So this program has taught me to take sugar quantity and type into account now too.  For example, every now and then I buy coconut milk yogurt of which there are two kinds at my local health food store – regular and Greek style.  The difference in sugar content between the two?  Regular style has TWICE as much sugar as Greek style.  22g vs. 11g is a big difference in my opinion and I don’t feel slamming my system with 22 grams of sugar first thing in the morning is the wisest choice, so we’re going Greek from here on out.  Bottom line: read labels and determine if the amount and type of sugar listed is what you want to put in your system.
Another thing I learned while doing this detox is that I don’t care for the Paleo diet.  I mentioned here that the provided meal plans are primarily Paleo and I wasn’t a big fan at that point (Week 2).  After the full 21 days, I can definitely say I won’t be incorporating a Paleo diet into our lives.  Like I mentioned before, it’s fine for some people, but it doesn’t work for me.  I can’t be convinced to eat that much animal protein when there are other protein sources that are perfectly healthy to consume.  To each their own!
So, did I gorge on chocolate and carbs on Day 22 like I thought I would?  Nope.  Surprising, since I had these bad boys waiting for me…
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During Week 2, hubby was in Norway and before he left, I told him to make sure he brought me back some chocolate.  The awesome thing about these?  They’re vegan! (And non-GMO, which is a bonus.)  Do you know how difficult it can be to find chocolate that doesn’t have some form of milk in it?  Sometimes even dark chocolate has milk derivative(s) added.  Anyway, I was excited to try these, but still had a week to go on the detox.  I thought for sure I’d have gone officially crazy by the end of the 21 days from too much meat & too little happy foods, and would end up eating all carbs or sweets in sight.  But I did good.  I only had one square of chocolate on Day 22.  As for other sugars, anything else I consumed that day was in the form of natural sugars.  We aren’t generally stocked with cookies, breads, or even much fruit so there wasn’t much in the way of sugars for me to even eat.  And since the completion of the detox about a week ago, I’ve noticed my sugar cravings have dramatically decreased.  I see those chocolate bars in the pantry, but I rarely reach for them.  Hubby & I went out to dinner right after I completed the detox and he offered to buy me a cupcake for dessert, but I didn’t want one (which is the first time I’ve ever turned down a cupcake!).
But I feel I should confess to another slip-up.  I confessed here to my earlier tiny sugar cheat, so I’ll confess again: I had corn chips at a beach BBQ.  I don’t even really like them and I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually bought any.  But they were there, I was tired of meat and vegetables, and I was close to the end of the program.  I didn’t feel guilty then, and I don’t feel guilty now, but chips have always been one of those foods that I purposely don’t buy because I’m a snacker and have a hard time stopping at just a few.  So my rule is that if we go somewhere and chips are available, I can have as many as I want.  If 95% of the time I never have chips, then I’m going to enjoy that 5% 🙂
Do I recommend the program?  If you think it’s something that would be beneficial to you – you know you’re addicted to sugar, or want to find out if your body is without you realizing, and you’re relatively healthy (if you have health issues, research or discuss with a doctor first to decide if this is something you should do), and you’re not endurance training – then absolutely give it a try.  There are 3 levels to choose from, some more forgiving than others and the book provides a short quiz that will help you determine which level is best for you.
Advice if you do the detox:
  • Be prepared for your body to go through an adjustment.
  • Take the time to do the shopping and as much food prep ahead of time as you can.  When you have a hunger headache, or feel like you have the flu, the last thing you want to do is be in the kitchen for a long time making a snack from scratch.
  • Play around with the meal plans to suit your taste and be prepared to be in the kitchen a lot.
  • Eat some starches if your body is telling you to (squash did wonders for me the two times I had it).
  • Don’t feel bad if you cheat, but keep cheating to a minimum.
  • Only weigh and/or measure on Days 0 and 22, not during the detox.  It’s not a weight loss diet, but there is potential to lose.
Speaking of losing, I lost 4.5 pounds and 2.5″ total.  More than I was expecting, and I’ll take it!  I think it was all “sugar weight” anyway courtesy of my sweet tooth 🙂
If you’re interested in the program, check out the author’s website.  She provides a lot of info that could help you make the decision about whether this detox is right for you.  FYI, I’m not being compensated in any way for these posts.  I bought the book on my own and decided to do blog updates as a way to keep record for myself, and to possibly raise a little awareness in the meantime. 🙂
Cheers to health!

21 Day Sugar Detox: Week 2 Recap

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I actually finished up Week 2 a few days ago, so here’s my late recap on how it went:
Day 8:  Woke up hungry, but not nearly as bad as the previous week.  Craved bread big time.  The Beef & Broccoli recipe was really good.  Our cat agrees as he was willing to stand on a warm stovetop in order to eat the steak out of the pan.  Thankfully we had already served ourselves.
Day 9:  Felt okay overall, but a little tired.  Tired of having to make snacks so I craved ready-made snacks, especially chips!  Made the Herb Drop Biscuit recipe to satisfy the still-present bread craving.
Day 10:  Turning point of the program for me!  Woke up feeling good, not hungry, not tired.  I think my blood sugar levels officially evened out to where they could handle the overnight fast.
Day 11:  Felt good, but needed to eat every couple hours to prevent a “crash.”
Day 12:  Made sunflower seed butter from scratch, which was pretty good.  Discovered I can only tolerate small amounts though.
Day 13:  Needed to snack less, not as hungry throughout the day.
Day 14:  Lots of cravings and really tired of cooking for every meal, but feeling good.
Thoughts:  My main takeaway from Week 2 is that I’ve decided the diet portion of this program has way too much meat.  I’ve mentioned the diet is primarily Paleo, and it’s just not for me.  I know some people love Paleo, but I can’t see a reason to have meat be my primary source of protein at every single meal.  I’m looking forward to introducing other non-soy, non-meat protein sources back into my diet when I’ve finished the detox.  There were days where I felt I needed to detox from meat, so Week 2 lunches often consisted of vegetables and salads.
So happy about Day 10 – the turning point!  The author suggested that Days 7-10 were when most people started to feel better and it was true for me.  Since then, I’ve felt fine every day.  The first week was rough, so I’m definitely happy to be beyond that part of the program.
Like I said, I’m behind in sharing my recap, and I actually finish the program this coming Sunday so I’ll be posting my final recap soon.  Very much looking forward to saying that I completed The 21 Day Sugar Detox!

21 Day Sugar Detox: Week 1 Recap

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Here’s a rundown of what I experienced during Days 1-7 on Level 2 of The 21 Day Sugar Detox
Day 1:  Headache kicked in late afternoon.  Particularly enjoyed dinner of mustard glazed chicken and roasted golden beets.  Two thumbs up from hubby too, so that’s a recipe we’ll use again even after the detox.
Day 2:  Woke up super hungry and had a headache all day long.  Didn’t care for the breakfast veggie hash or shepherd’s pie recipes, so kind of a downer day for food.
Day 3:  Hungry and a little shaky first thing in the morning.  Headache was mild in the morning, but came back to previous days level in the afternoon.  We had dinner at a friend’s house and it was challenging to find something to eat.  I’m sure I inadvertently ate something on the “no” list.
Day 4:  Hungry and shaky again in the morning, plus the addition of a new symptom – muscle fatigue.  So-so food day…nothing really stood out as amazing or terrible.
Day 5:  Woke up hungry again and felt like I had the flu – shaky, winded, muscle fatigue.  By late morning, I was feeling better, but remained tired all day.  The olive and caper tapenade recipe to go with our salmon dinner was really good – another keeper.
Day 6:  Worst morning so far.  Felt awful – shaky, weak, exhausted.  I didn’t wake up crazy hungry though so that was a plus and eventually felt better by late afternoon.  Part of breakfast was half a grapefruit and I could tell my taste buds were starting to change because that half actually tasted much less tart than the other half I had eaten on Day 4.  We had dinner at my in-laws and the natural sweetness of roasted butternut squash was amazing after not having anything sweet for 6 days.
Day 7:  Felt less hungry than any previous day upon waking and flu-like symptoms had mostly subsided.  Felt pretty good throughout the day until late night when the consumption of almonds, almond milk, and almond meal caught up with me.  As far as food sensitivities go, they’re a “moderate” for me so I do best if I only eat or drink almond products once or twice a week.  I had been so focused on feeling sick over the course of the week, I didn’t realize just how much almond product I had consumed.  But lesson (re)learned on almonds!

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Level 2:  No sugar, sweeteners, dairy, gluten, grains, legumes, caffeine, alcohol.  The only fruit allowed is under-ripe bananas, grapefruit, and green apples.  Nuts are okay, except for peanuts and cashews.  Since the diet is primarily Paleo, eggs are allowed, but they are considered a “high” food sensitivity for me so I’m egg-free and had to modify a lot for breakfast meals.

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Slip-ups:  Only 1 so far – I ate a mint without thinking.  And I don’t care.  The 1g of sugar from that mint isn’t going to do any damage.  Plus, it was just about the best mint I’ve ever had – I’m pretty sure my taste buds registered it as 3 times as sweet as normal.
Thoughts:  I was surprised by my symptoms…I expected headaches, but not the flu-like symptoms even though the book warned about that.  I’ve gotten the hang of the author’s menu planning so I’m able to make up my own meal if a particular day calls for something I don’t like.  Day 7 was definitely the turning point for me.  The book says that most people start feeling better somewhere in Days 7-10.  One thing I found to be interesting timing is that the day I started feeling better was also the day the sweet cravings set in.  Hubby was really good about encouraging me when I’d start to complain or say I thought I might be dying.  He’s the best.  But he did eat sweets during the week…in front of me…so he’s also not the best.  I’ll forgive him though…eventually…like in 2 weeks when I can have sweets again.
Now on to Week 2!!

I’m Doing The 21 Day Sugar Detox!

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21DSD

I’m starting The 21 Day Sugar Detox program today.  I’ve always had a sweet tooth and sometimes it gets me into trouble with myself.  Ever feel like your body is just holding onto something?  Or that your past record of good self-control isn’t so stellar anymore?  Or that you work from home and you like to bake so you end up eating way more of whatever you baked because it’s staring at you all. day. long?  So those all apply for me and it’s time for a change.  I’m not a “detox” type of person, but after reading the book I see it as more of an elimination diet than anything else.  And I’m certainly not a stranger to those as someone who is gluten, dairy, egg and soy-free (gluten because of my thyroid, dairy & eggs because of food sensitivity testing, and soy because of thyroid, but more so because I have a negative opinion about it).  So, you see, after all that I can handle giving up sugar for 3 weeks, but I don’t intend for it to be a long term thing.  Moderation is what it’s all about…don’t go through life depriving yourself of treats.
My main goal is really just to see if I feel better, to reset the sweet tooth a bit, and if, in the process, I lose the 3 pounds I’ve gained from my recent baking sprees, then I would be okay with that too.  Most of the recipes look pretty good, but it’s basically a Paleo diet and I’ve never felt like that much meat is necessary in a diet, so we’ll see how it goes.  I already modified the first breakfast, so I’m sure I’ll be doing that throughout the whole process.  I’ll jump back on with a review of Week 1 once I’ve made my way through it and you’ll find out if the dreaded Days 3 & 4 get me like they do most people.  Anyone else out there ever done this one before?  Curious to hear thoughts and/or results!
Now, to go hide that last cookie that’s been eyeing me all day…