Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Green and Black's Organic Chocolate Bars


     I admit it, I am a chocoholic. A big time CHOC-O-HO-LIC!!!

What the world needs now (besides love sweet love ...) is more chocolate of the superior kind. And recently I think I found the ultimate in chocolate bars: Green and Black's Organic Chocolate Bars.

So far I've sampled and enjoyed the Cherry  (my favorite. bittersweet dark chocolate and plenty of luscious cherries), Almond (loaded with almonds), Raisin and Hazelnut (a Fruit and Nut Bar only 10 X better than the "regular" variety) and Espresso (oh, la la...if you appreciate a good cup of java you are going to LOVE this one).

The fact that these bars of  yummy delight are also organic and fair trade is merely "icing on the cake". Let's face it, we all want to buy with the "big picture" in mind these days, if at all possible. But when it all comes down to it, especially for chocolate and other treats, it's still all about TASTE as the number one must-have factor.

And delicious, rich taste ohhhhh yes, these bars have plenty of that and then some. Luscious, creamy texture, a just-right sweetness (not too sweet or bitter) and loaded with other yummy ingredients like fruits, nuts, liquors... to add to the enjoyment of each 100G bar.

 As far as calories are concerned, not too bad either considering the quality and richness of each delectable bite. For example a 40G portion (ample for 1-2 people) of the Espresso bar is a mere 200 calories. Not bad, not bad at all. This is a treat after all, not a main course for a meal. We all need our indulgences don't we? And if I'm going to splurge on the calories and fat, I want to make it worthwhile.

Another thing I appreciate about these bars is their relative low cost, considering the quality you are getting. At our local food co-op, these bars sell for less than $4.CDN each. Definitely reasonable. And over at Amazon, in addition to single bars,10 and 5 packs of bars are also available at a discount IF you dare to keep more than one of these luscious bars in the fridge at any given time!

Here's some background information about how the Green And Black's company began, from their beautifully designed website:

"It all started back in 1991 when Craig Sams, founder of Whole Earth – the UK's pioneering organic food company – was sent a sample of dark 70% chocolate made from organic cocoa beans.
His wife, Josephine Fairley, environment columnist for The London Times and confirmed chocoholic, found the half eaten bar on Craig's desk and sampled some herself. The bold, rich flavor was unlike anything Jo had tasted before, and she was convinced other chocolate lovers would appreciate it in the same way.
Jo and Craig set out to bring to the masses the world's first organic chocolate. The result was a high-quality, bittersweet dark chocolate bar, packed with 70% cocoa solids - enough to make chocolate fans sit up and take notice.
Not surprisingly, the brand began to build a loyal following. Then in 1994, while Jo and Craig were vacationing in Belize, they discovered how local cocoa farmers were being harmed by decreasing cocoa prices. They agreed to pay the farmers a fair price for their crops and created the flavor of Maya Gold®, which was inspired by the ancient Kukuh drink traditionally enjoyed by the Mayan farmers.
This way of doing business didn't seem different to them - it just seemed right and came naturally – and in the process, the Maya Gold brand earned the UK's first Fairtrade mark."

Jo and Craig, you've made a happy customer for life! Thanks for the real (chocolate) deal.
Overall rating for this product: Excellent. 5 out of 5. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Secret:The Power by Rhonda Byrne

I recently read The Secret and also The Power by Rhonda Byrne. What struck me after reading both of these books is that Ms. Byrne has simply taken timeless wisdom, quotes, beliefs...that have been around for centuries, thanks to prophets,teachers,inventors,artists... and ended up making a bundle of money for herself by packaging this information in two beautifully presented books.

On the plus side, I think there is a lot to learn in the pages of these books. Yes, we have the power to attract goodness into our lives (to a point). Yes, love is (usually) the answer. Yes, we can manifest many things that do come true (but not always). Yes, being positive and putting a positive spin on life is helpful, supportive and can change a bad day into a good one (sometimes).

What I really object to is the implications throughout both of these books that everything that comes into our lives is due to our own "law of attraction". That we manifest bad things that happen, through our own thoughts and actions. As many reviewers over at Amazon expressed and I totally agree, this kind of "doctrine" is a slap in the face to every innocent person who has been the victim of crime, abuse,neglect...and that's just wrong.

In terms of manifesting, it appears that Rhonda Byrne has been doing some rather negative manifesting in her own life, based on the court battles and controversies she has been embroiled in. Check out this article at the Huffington Press for more about this. This is just one of many online about where Ms. Byrne has headed in her own life, after the publications of these books and the release of The Secret movie. Sadly it appears that greed has once again reared it's ugly head.

There are good lessons to be learned in both of these books but they are the eternal messages that have been written about again and again, in other books and since the beginning of time. The Golden Rule still applies. Love can and still does transform lives, there is power in Positive Thinking, Knock and the Door Shall be Opened, Seek and Ye Shall Find....and many, many more.

If nothing else, maybe Rhonda Byrne has at least reminded many of us to heed these truths and to think about them, once again. And how they can impact our lives every day, in significant ways. And for me, that's been the good result of reading these books. Her work is flawed but still has some merit.

Overall rating for this book: Fair. 2 out of 5.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread

 As an avid cook, vegetarian cookbook author and cooking instructor, I've tried many butter-substitutes/margarines over the years. A spread to use on toast in the morning is one thing. But when it comes to baking, it takes a winner to stand up to the challenge of being just as good as regular dairy butter for flavour, texture and consistent excellent results. Let's face it, butter IS a tough act to follow. If you prefer a non-dairy choice for health, ethical or other reasons and still want to turn out great tasting baked goods, Earth Balance Buttery Spread is definitely a good alternative to try.

From Earth Balance website: "As deliciously satisfying on morning toast as it is a baking ingredient, our Earth Balance® Natural Buttery Spread is an excellent all-around butter alternative. It was the 2010 Winner of the American Tasting Institute award for best tasting natural buttery spread, and all you have to do is taste its smooth flavor and creamy, silky consistency to see why."

Stop by their website for a fun browse and links to ingredients for all their products, they've got quite a few including various types of spreads and some new beverage options. There are also recipes, reader's community options, contests etc...Check it out if you are looking for more information or inspiration for perhaps healthier food options for you and your family when it comes to these types of staple products.The kind of food choices that most of us make on a daily basis so the implications to our health are considerable too.

Speaking of inspiration, how's this?

These delicious Bread-Machine Rosemary Flax Buns (click link for recipe)  from my cookbook: Not Just for Vegetarians are a perfect example of a recipe I've made many, many times with Earth Balance Original and always with consistently good results.

I also use Earth Balance when baking: pie crusts,cookies,breads, scones, muffins etc...and of course it tastes great on toast too!                        

Overall rating for this product: Excellent. 5 out of 5.
Updated rating as of Feb. 12 (see my comment below) Good. 3 out of 5.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Auction Buddies

This is a review that I wrote some time ago, over at my cooking and craft blog: Veggies, Yarns & Tails.

I'm re-posting it here as it appears from the continued comments and visits to this post that Auction Buddies is still causing a lot of people, nothing but grief. They certainly added to my stress level at the time.

You be the judge! And if you've also had problems with this company, please leave a comment, thanks.

Overall rating for this company: BAD. 0 out of 5.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Erzulie Cosmetics: Eye Depuffer Balm

I am a big fan of all things Etsy the online marketplace that truly is different.

If you aren't a member of Etsy or have ever shopped there before, you are in for a treat. I've been on Etsy for quite a while as a member (it's free and very easy to sign-up to shop or set-up shop). I also recently started my own Etsy shop: Catgirl Creations where I sell handmade earrings and some other items too.

One of the best things about visiting Etsy are the sellers you meet and the amazing variety of unique (most handmade, lots of vintage too) products you can find.

If I can buy it on Etsy, I'm a happy shopper!

On a recent browse for natural lipsticks there, I came upon this shop and product: Erzulie Cosmetics Eye Depuffer Balm

I've spent a lot of moola over the years for eye gels, creams I wasn't really sure what to expect for the low, low price of $5. a tube. Well I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of this all-natural Eye Depuffer Balm and the results (after only a few days) have already been as good or better than after using some of the commercial eye gel offerings like: Estee Lauder. Yes I admit it. One of my favs for too many years, at about $40. a pop for a tiny jar, as I remember!

Stop by Erzulie Cosmetics if you are looking for quality natural cosmetics with a difference. I've tried the lip gloss as well and it was good too. Not exactly what I was looking for in terms of coverage/texture but it is a gloss and it is color-true based on the photos at the shop. And a gloss, is a gloss right and not a lipstick which I still prefer.

As far as this Eye Depuffer though, I am very pleased.If you are bothered by puffiness or dark circles around your eyes, you might want to give this one a try. Pleasant to apply, nice mild scent, all natural ingredients and the next morning, voila! smoother skin under the eyes and noticeablely reduced puffiness.

So long "baggy" eyes! This product is a keeper!

Overall rating for this product: Very Good. 4 out of 5.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Posting Update for My Real Life Reviews

Hello readers,

Thank you for your continued support and readership here at My Real Life Reviews. I have been very encouraged to date by the stats, feedback, emails and comments from readers all over the world! 

I have been focusing on posting/writing at my other new blog: Take A Happy Break in the past couple of weeks and have gotten behind with posts/reviews here. I will be back to MRLR soon. I have a LOT of product reviews in the works that I hope you will enjoy and find helpful.

In the meantime, I hope you will also stop in at Take A Happy Break where I am posting on a regular basis . Happy, inspiring posts to add some good energy and vibes to the day.

Stay tuned and BFN, Geraldine

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Green Beaver Natural Toothpaste

Have you checked the ingredient list on a tube of toothpaste lately? 

The manufacturers don't seem to want to list them online  (I wonder why!!!) I checked several popular brands. I did find this interesting article with an overview  about commercial toothpastes that you might want to check out. I wasn't surprised by what this article had to say.

I've been trying/buying several of the more natural toothpastes available for several years ago. So far, the best by far has been from the Green Beaver Company, located in Ontario Canada. They also offer a wide range of other natural, personal care products for children and adults. Stop by their website it's a fun and very colorful browse! Informative too.

Also from their website about this product:

Quick Overview:
 Available in 5 different Flavours Frosty mint, Green apple, Zesty orange, Cilantro mint, Star Anise
- Vegan, biodegradable, gluten free, nut free
- Star anis toothpaste is mint free thus homeopathic friendly
- Can be safely used by children
- Green apple and Zesty orange toothpastes are kids favourites

Calcium carbonate, sorbitol, aqua, glycerin, sodium bicarbonate, aroma, illicium verum (anise) oil, xylitol, silica, citrus medica limonum (lemon) extract, calcium ascorbate, melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil, sclerotium gum, coco glucoside, xanthan gum.

 Many of the Green Beaver products are also available at Amazon, including their various flavours of toothpaste. 

And what a great toothpaste this is! The Star Anise flavour is absolutely yummy. Another plus I've noted with this toothpaste, it actually does improve the whiteness of your teeth, without harsh ingredients used in some of the whitening toothpastes on the market. 

If you are looking for a more natural choice when it comes to your toothpaste, Green Beaver brand is definitely one to try. I'm a big fan of the Star Anise flavour but the others are pleasant too. Happy Brushing!

Overall rating for this product: Very Good. 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

West Bend Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper

UPDATE RE: RATING as of Nov. 15:

After using this popper for a longer period of time, I am now downgrading my rating for a few reasons. 

It started scorching popcorn and left too many not popped. 

The stir-wand started to scratch the surface of the popper, when going around. 

And worst of all, it started to give off a WEIRD, chemical smell (LIKE RAID bug spray!!!) at times when it was heated up. Must be something in the plastic composition for this product. Not something I want in contact with food I'm going to eat. 

It is on it's way to the recycling center now. :-(


I LOVE popcorn!

It's probably my favorite all-time snack, especially fresh and made at home.

 I've tried several types of popcorn poppers over the years. Sometimes, I've just reverted back to the basics: stove-top and a big pot. Just recently though, decided to give another commercial popper a try after receiving a Home Hardware gift card as a gift.

The West Bend Stir-Crazy Popcorn Popper came highly recommended.

It has a rather unique design (we think it looks like a small flying saucer!!) but still takes up a minimal amount of counter space.

It's fairly easy to use although I've made some slight modifications to avoid burning any corn kernels. By heating up the vegetable oil on the cooking surface for a minute BEFORE adding the popcorn kernels, I've been turning out lighter, fluffier popcorn. The instructions state that you should put the oil and popcorn on the cooking surface at the same time. I found that this resulted in soggy popcorn.

Also, when the popcorn is starting to slow down at the end of the popping process (which is very quick) I unplug the popper and allow the last few kernels to pop, without the unit being plugged in. There's enough heat to finish off the popping and this helps to avoid any burnt popcorn. Again, this was a problem with the first try.

One thing I think is poorly designed on this appliance is the butter-melt feature. The clear dome/serving bowl has holes around the top, some for steam to escape and some to place butter on to melt down into the popcorn as it finishes popping. These holes are flat, no slant inward and they tend to trap the butter or margarine along the top edge. I usually push the butter through with the end of a spoon but it's rather messy. Not the best in design ideas here.

The key with this unit is to have everything ready before you start: popcorn, oil,butter...and then place the oil on the cooking surface and plug in and heat up BRIEFLY just before adding the popcorn and the dome lid. It goes very quickly and as with any appliance, caution is required. I wouldn't recommend allowing small children to use this unit unattended,that goes without saying, doesn't it?

This is a much quieter popper than some of the poppers I've used previously and it is quick and relatively easy to operate. Reasonably priced too, especially over at Amazon

Updated rating (as of Nov. 15): Unsatisfactory. 1 out of 5.

Previous (initial) rating: 3 out of 5. 
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