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This is the DVD set I have. Each session is 35 minutes; there is one session per DVD. The DVDs come with two sound tracks: one with Michelle speaking/giving directions and the other one with just music. Once you are familiar with the routine, you can use the music only session and allow the music to minister to you as you workout. Personally, I like to hear what Michelle has to say!

Today’s product recommendation is the show that encouraged me to start on my whole foods journey.  It is a fitness workout show that airs on a couple Christian channels and it is AWESOME!  The host of Faithful Workouts, Michelle Spadafora, is encouraging, uplifting, and professional.  She worked for many years as a fitness trainer and has found a way to make her own show incorporating Christian music and Biblical encouragement.  Her show encompasses all four of A Helping of Hope’s “F’s” (Faith, Family, Food, and Fun) and that’s why it is getting the STYDS bump from me:

  • FAITH: there is a lot of upbeat spiritual encouragement in Faithful Workouts.  Michelle shares personal stories, devotional thoughts, and edifying truths…how she does it so simply and succinctly is amazing!  It transforms a physical workout into a spiritual massage for the inner person!
  • FAMILY: some workouts include children: in fact, this is a workout you can do with the whole family. You can cleverly reinforce Biblical concepts in your children while promoting a healthy self-image and helping them get a foundation in making healthy choices.
  • FOOD: Michelle gives a lot of encouragement and advice for making a transition to a healthy diet (she comes from a “low calorie” perspective, which I don’t, but her advice on sugars, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains is spot on).  Hearing these simple, positive reminders repeatedly helps to change mindsets; we really can change the way we eat!
  • FUN: Three people workout with Michelle regularly: two women and one man.  They each work out at different “levels”.  The neat thing is, they aren’t perfect!  Occasionally, they wobble and giggle; this doesn’t take away from the quality of the workout at all, instead it emphasizes how accessible healthy living is to normal people.  We don’t have to be perfect bodybuilders…but we do need to work hard and work smart.  Michelle’s workouts include exercises for balance as well as toning; it is a lot of fun seeing personal progress over time as the movements become easier to do well.

Faithful Workouts DVDs are available here.  I have the “Loving God’s Way” 3 DVD set.  It helps to have exercise bands (also available on the site), an exercise ball, and an exercise mat, but they aren’t necessary.  I did the workouts for a long time without them by doing the low-impact version of the exercises.  I got mine as a Christmas present from my parents: if you know of a loved one who has been looking for a whole-body workout program, why not give them the gift of health and encouragement this Christmas?

Helping of Hope. Right Choice: work out regularly to upbeat, uplifting shows like Faithful Workouts three times a week (see, a 3 DVD set is perfect!)  Bright Future: much improved physical, emotional, and spiritual health…and perhaps, a reclaimed figure after this Season’s festivities? 😉

If you enjoyed this week’s SHOP-TIL-YOU-DROP SATURDAY post, please share using one of the many options below.  Thanks!

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You’ve won this wonderful all-natural cleaning and personal care package!

CONGRATULATIONS STAR SCOT! You’ve won the NaturOli Soap Nuts Intro Starter Package Giveaway. Star had 30 entries, more than any other contestant. Star: make sure to send me your mailing address (I have already sent you a confirmation email that you can reply to) so I can pass that info on to NaturOli. Thanks to everyone who participated! I hope I can bring another giveaway soon.

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My parents bought “Consuela” for my 4 year old: she still loves her! Consuela came with a friendship bracelet, rings, an information booklet about a hardworking Mexican family trying to make ends meet in Mexico City. This is a wonderful gift to bless and educate your little girl!

***Don’t forget to enter my first ever giveaway, ending in a couple weeks: NaturOli Soap Nuts Intro Starter Package Giveaway through a Helping of Hope ***

Want a wonderful way to give a beautiful doll to a special girl this Christmas and AT THE SAME TIME bless an underprivileged girl in poverty?  The Hearts for Hearts Girls Doll series by World Vision  (sold through Playmates Toys) helps to raise funds for at-risk children all over the world.  These Dolls are sold at Target, Toys R Us, and online through Amazon.com and the Playmates Toys website (accessible from the heartsforheartsgirls.com site).  Dolls cost approximately $27.99, with free shipping available from some sites.

Helping of HopeRight Choice: buy Christmas products from humanitarian organizations like World Vision to bless not only your loved ones but also unfortunate strangers in desperate need of your love.  Bright future: Guilt-free Christmas shopping, an opportunity to educate your special girl about how blessed she is, a sense of empowerment that we CAN make a positive difference AND enjoy meaningful traditions.

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Give yourself a kick-start to a new all-natural cleaning regimen!
(Shampoo Bar not shown, but included)

As an affiliate of NaturOli, I’m thrilled to announce that my first giveaway is a personal care and cleaning product package sure to give you a HUGE helping of hope as you see how easy it is to switch from expensive and dangerous products to all-natural, frugal ones.

The Giveaway includes one (1) NaturOli Soap Nuts Intro Starter Package, normally sold for $32.50.  You can click on the link for more information, but the package includes the following items that have reviews here on A Helping of Hope:

  • 1-oz Mini-Size of Extreme 18X Soap Nut Liquid Concentrate (Detergent and Cleaner) AND A Soap Nuts Laundry Soap Pre-Treat Stick, both reviewed here.
  • 2-oz Mini-Size of Extreme Hair Soap Nut Shampoo AND a Soap Nut Shampoo Bar, both reviewed here.
  • 4-oz NaturOli Select Soap Nuts, USDA certified organic, reviewed here.
  • A luxurious handmade Soap Nut Cleansing Bar.  This is an amazing and invigorating body cleanser.  It is not as drying as most soaps (even Dr. Bronner’s) and does an excellent job of cleaning dirty skin.  It is definitely **husband approved**; while it smells great, it is definitely not “girly”.

If you want to enter the giveaway (and who wouldn’t since it is free and only takes a couple minutes of your time?!), there are four ways to rack up the points (and your chance of success):

  1. (+10): like my A Helping of Hope page on Facebook
  2. (+5): like NaturOli’s page on Facebook
  3. (+5): follow @ahelpingofhope on Twitter
  4. (+5/day): tweet about the giveaway!

You can enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter widget/link below OR through my Facebook page under the Giveaways “tab” (picture menu)!  However, with FREE SHIPPING from NaturOli on orders $55+ ending tomorrow, don’t wait to win this amazing starter package.  Make sure to check out the NaturOli store and stock up on all-natural goodies today!  You’ll be glad you did!

Click here to enter the NaturOli Soap Nuts Intro Starter package Giveaway from A Helping of Hope

If you enjoyed this SHOP-TIL-YOU-DROP SATURDAY posts, please share it with all your friends using one of the many options below.  Thanks!

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This week’s shopping tip is based on the 18X Extreme Soap Nuts Liquid and the Soap Nuts Laundry Pre-Treat Stick from NaturOli (which I found a pretty unconventional use for)!

This amazingly concentrated cleaner is all natural and effective!

A few of you may already know that I love to use Soap Nut “berries” to replace laundry detergent and softener and I also make a liquid from them that I use in my dishwasher, but perhaps you didn’t know that NaturOli makes its own super-concentrated liquid that can compete with those toxic “tough-guys” out there?

I tried the liquid for three applications: dishes, dishwasher, and laundry. The best thing about the 18X liquid is how little you need: I think I used 1/2 tsp (just over 2 ml) of liquid for each use (mixed with a little baking soda for the dishwasher dispenser, mixed with water for the washing machine dispenser) and it did the trick. Dirt and food came off the dishes, dirt, and laundry. It is a very effective cleaner. (I have one caveat below, so keep reading).

The laundry pre-treating stick did an OK job of removing tomato juice stains on a cotton shirt: it didn’t remove

This little stick is killer on carpet stains!

them completely, but when I hung the shirt up to dry in the laundry room, the sunlight did the rest! I think the stick works better than not pre-treating…also, if I remember back to my “Shout days”, I don’t think the unnaturally-blue gel would have worked any better.  I have used this stick for a while now and it is better at removing some stains than others: the biggest factor is how soon you can get to the stain (before it sets in) and how long the saponin in the stick is allowed to act on the stain.

The biggest benefit of the pre-treating stick might surprise you, however…it works amazingly on CARPET. A little goes a really long way, too! I used it to remove stains that had accumulated under our couch (I had no idea: I only expected dust bunnies) from of all things, milk, RUST, and urine. Gross. I went over the bright yellow and orange stains with my spot steam-cleaner, which didn’t seem to remove anything but it did get the area wet. I rubbed the SoapNuts pre-treating stick on it (be careful or the coarse carpet will remove too much…wipe over stain lightly) and went back and forth over the stains several times with the steam cleaner (plain water). Completely clean with no residue. Amazing! No surprise we took our couches outside and hosed them down…

BEFORE.  This is what the original rust stain looked like: the photo turned out pale, so I “saturated” it to bring out the colors. This is obviously not indigenous to the carpet…

AFTER: same area of carpet (please excuse the green tint in the middle: my camera phone does that sometimes…I’m not sure why…) Notice that the yicky rust stain is completely gone. Amazing!

Both items–the liquid and pre-treating stick–work wonderfully at getting rid of dirt. There is one caveat, however: neither item can dissolve grease or oil (see pictures below). This is actually a good thing, I think, because it means these cleaners won’t dry out your skin, remove wax from furniture or your car, or ruin the natural oils in leather or cloth diapers; this would also explain why softener and conditioner aren’t needed when using SoapNuts laundry or shampoo products, respectively. I don’t know of any other cleaner that can boast that without ADDING (harmful) chemicals to compensate for harsh drying effects.

BEFORE. I think this was coconut oil from our “Pina Colada” oatmeal…

AFTER: Two washes later (I even tried rubbing in some Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap after the first pre-treat attempt failed), the oil is still there, although much less visible. I think the Pre-treat stick helped, as did the castile soap, but nothing I have tried so far seems to be able to completely remove oil stains like these.

BEFORE: This is the dirty dish water after adding 1/2 tsp to a sink of hot water to hand wash a small load of dishes. The dirtiness is a good thing: that shows you how much came OFF the dishes (the 18X liquid is a very good cleaner). However, you may notice the oily film on the top of the water. This is not so good, because it coats the clean dishes as they come out of the water (the dishwasher does NOT have this problem). If you are going to hand wash dishes using 18X liquid, try to avoid adding anything oily or greasy until the very end; if possible, use a degreasing soap on oily dishes instead of relying on the Soap Nuts Liquid alone.

AFTER: this is what happened to the surface of the water within a second or two of adding some of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap. The Castile soap cuts through oil and grease almost instantly: however, Castile soap is more drying than Soap Nuts Liquid and it is not any better at removing dirt (in my experience). Now the surface is clear, you can really see how dirty the dish water is! The 18X liquid is an effective cleaner, but not a degreaser. I recommend using Soap Nuts Liquid in the dish water and keeping a foaming pump-bottle of diluted Dr. Bronner’s handy to dispense small amounts of degreasing soap for stubborn dishes, when needed.

With all this in mind, I highly recommend these products for cleaning: I still use my homemade Soap Nuts Liquid (I just have to use a lot more of it since it is weaker; if you don’t make your own, you should give the 18X a try!) and the Pre-Treat S.  I’m still on the lookout for an all-natural solution for removing coconut oil and stock fat from clothing, but for all other stains (including the carpet) I trust the stick.

If you want to check out the 18X Soap Nuts Liquid Laundry Soap, it is $19.95 for 8oz (over 90 loads of HE laundry).  The Soap Nuts Laundry Pre-Treat Stick is only $5.00 for 0.5 oz (tiny, but it packs a punch!).  Both of these items would make for great gifts for health- and earth-conscious family members and friends.  Make sure you treat yourself to them also!

Helping of Hope. Right Choice: choose non-toxic, effective cleaners like NaturOli Soap Nuts liquid and laundry pre-treat stick and supplement, when necessary, with all-natural degreasers; avoid harsh cleaners that strip natural protectors, damage materials through over-drying, and add toxic chemicals to compensate.  Bright future: softer skin and hair, reduced toxic load, material possessions last longer and look cleaner!

If you enjoyed this Saturday’s SHOP-TIL-YOU-DROP SATURDAY post, please share with a friend using the options below.  Thanks!

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As I wrote earlier this week, regular hair care products can be extremely hazardous to your health.  I provided an all-natural shampoo and conditioning alternative that works great and is probably cheaper than anything you can buy in the store.  However, it takes Mama guts to transition from store-bought care products to homemade.  There is an easy solution that is no compromise: a liquid shampoo or shampoo bar from NaturOli!  (I am an affiliate of their store and was given some samples to try: I am so glad I had the opportunity to do so and I’ll tell you why…)

NaturOli Soap Nut Shampoo EXTREME Hair

This stuff works great! No conditioner needed 🙂

I love my baking soda cleanser…but I had forgotten how good shampoo feels and how fast it is to use!  This trial-size bottle has lasted me for over two weeks.  My stepdaughter tried it and loved it.  One of the first things we noticed was how well it lathers; a little goes a long way!

The second thing we noticed is that it does a great job of cleaning and softening hair, so that we didn’t need to use conditioner.  I noticed a little static, but that was remedied quickly with my ACV conditioning spray.  My hair was very soft and easy to brush.

This shampoo is one of the safest ones to buy, rated at a risk factor of “1” by the Environmental Work Group (the chief concerns being the use of Guar Gum, Citric Acid, and Aloe Vera Gel…pretty tame, wouldn’t you agree?).

This trial size (2 oz.) is perfect for camping and travel: it costs $5.60.  Or, you can buy the regular size shampoo bottle (16oz) for $19.95.  That sounds expensive, but it does last a long time AND you really don’t need to buy any conditioner ($AVING$).

Next time I get soap nuts for my laundry, I’ll think I’ll get some shampoo, especially if we travel to see family at Christmastime (I have yet to try lugging around my baking soda cleanser bottle…I think this shampoo will work a lot better for us, don’t you agree? 😉 )  This would make a VERY thoughtful and unique gift if you’re trying to impress a health- or earth-conscious loved one in the upcoming festive Season!

NaturOli Soap Nuts Shampoo Bar – Saponin Secret

This little bar will work wonders for your entire family…including your dog!

This is the most surprising product of all, I think.  Not only is it very economical (you produce as much lather as is needed to wash your hair from the bar) and compact (no bottles; this should pose no problem through security check points!), but it works just as well as liquid shampoo.  The crazy thing?  It worked wonders not only on our hair, but on our dog’s coat too!

Our dog Zeus gets a terrible allergic reaction to Ragweed in Michigan each September.  It is especially bad after a heavy rain.  All his skin turns bright red, gets swollen, and he has usually licked himself raw by October.  Gross.  However, we used the shampoo bar on him and he instantly felt, looked and smelled MUCH better.  He was obviously relieved.  Whether you use this on yourself, your kids (they can have fun making the lather too!) or your DOG, you will be doing your skin, budget, and environment a huge favor!

The Shampoo Bar costs $5.75, and there is a citrus version I haven’t tried but has a low-risk rating by the EWG (there is no rating available for the regular shampoo bar, but I imagine it is fairly close).  This would make a great stocking stuffer and conversation starter!  Make sure you pick some up for your loved ones (bipedal and quadrupedal) today!

Helping of Hope: you don’t have to put cancer-causing materials on your precious skin just to look and smell good!  Buying all-natural personal care products like these can help save your immune system without breaking your piggy bank!

If you enjoyed today’s SHOP-TIL-YOU-DROP SATURDAYS post, why not share it with a friend using one of the may options below?  Thanks!

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Let these guys make your life a lot sweeter…and digestion much easier!

I’m back to my old habits again, posting late on a Tuesday night (this is quickly becoming a Transformation WEDNESDAY post)!  This weeks Transformation Tuesdays post is a follow-up to the very first, STEP ONE: Avoid Corn Syrup and Artificial Sweeteners.  If you have already followed the advice therein, by now you should have swapped most of your foods containing toxic sweeteners for sugar-sweetened ones, with a few corn syrup-laden favorites “on notice”.  Perhaps you took the plunge to make some of those favorites from scratch! (Please let me know how that process is going in the comments section below –A.M.)

Today I’m going to discuss two natural sweeteners that have some health benefits and are significantly less damaging to the body than refined sugar (which is pure sucrose, a non-nutritive chemical that can create dependency).

The first of these is my favorite, RAW HONEY.  It is available at many Farmer’s Markets and health food stores; you can also call a local apiary to find out if their honey is processed raw and if so, where it is sold.  “Raw” means the honey hasn’t been heat-treated, a process that destroys one of honey’s most valuable assets: ENZYMES (particularly amylase, from pollen).  Enzymes provide energy and overall good health by making the nutrition in food more readily available.  That’s why raw honey on whole wheat toast, in moderation, is actually good for you.  In fact, because of its amylase content,  raw honey it is the perfect sweetener for grain-based carbohydrates because it helps the body to better digest them.

If you are going to use raw honey, make sure you do not heat it above 117 deg-F (just above “lukewarm”), or the enzymes will be destroyed.  Add it to oatmeal that has already cooled slightly and try to incorporate it into desserts (like homemade ice cream) without heating.  It may also be used in warm coffee or tea instead of sugar to sweeten; if you need a “hot cuppa”, you may still use honey but you’ll lose the enzymes.

If you can find it, UNFILTERED RAW HONEY is best; it’s the one with the little specks in it and the tiny bits of beeswax that have worked their way to the top.  Those “specks” are bee pollen.  According to Sally Fallon of Nourishing Traditions (2001):

Bee pollen contains 22 amino acids including the eight essential ones, 27 minerals and the full gamut of vitamins, hormones, and fatty acids.  Most importantly, bee pollen contains more than 5,000 enzymes and coenzymes. (p. 617)

The benefits of bee pollen have been linked to incredible longevity; bee pollen is a potent detoxifier (and can trigger allergic reactions if too much is consumed too quickly) and a natural remedy for all sorts of ailments.  While bee pollen can be consumed as a supplement, which is probably very useful for treating certain conditions, I’d rather take it “as God intended” by consuming unfiltered raw honey every day, especially on my steel-cut oats and whole wheat sourdough bread.  Unfiltered raw honey has a slightly different taste than filtered raw honey (I can taste mild hints of wax and pollen, but those “flavors” are not very noticeable; it gives the honey an overall more “earthy” note); on toast or in oatmeal, it is barely noticeable (and pretty good even on its own).

Even if honey is heated, it is still easier on the Endocrine system than refined sugar, resulting in a lower “sugar-spike”.  The difficulty comes in incorporating it in recipes that call for over-processed and refined ingredients.  Here are some guidelines for switching from refined sugar to honey (it will not produce the same results, but the recipe should still “work”…sort of):

  1. Reduce the liquid in the recipe (if possible) by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used (honey is 17% water)
  2. Use 1 cup of honey to replace 1 cup of sugar; the taste will be slightly sweeter.
  3. Recipes calling for creaming butter with sugar will not adapt well to honey; the “crumb” will be more dense.
  4. Honey absorbs water over time; this keeps baked goods moist.  Some suggest this reduces the shelf life; I think it depends on the baked good.

If your recipe really doesn’t work with honey, try to use Rapadura (dehydrated cane sugar juice that is the least processed and the most nutritious out of ALL “natural” sugar-cane based sweeteners, explained here). One of my favorite honey recipes is for HEALTHIER MARSHMALLOWS (try finding THOSE without corn syrup at the grocery store!)

Of course, every honey post has to point out that infants’ stomachs cannot kill bacteria spores that may naturally occur in honey; please do not give honey (raw or otherwise) to any child under 12 months old.

Another beneficial sweetener is a Michigan-favorite,  PURE MAPLE SYRUP.  It contains many beneficial vitamins and minerals (including manganese and zinc) that maple trees extract from the ground through their roots.  Two notes of caution: avoid pancake syrups and buy organic.  Most “Maple Syrups” are corn syrup with maple flavoring; there should only be one ingredient listed (e.g. Grade A or B Amber Pure Maple Syrup).  Non-organic maple syrup is more likely to contain formaldehyde.  While using formaldehyde to keep tap holes from closing is illegal in the U.S. and Canada, there is little to no guarantee that this practice has entirely ceased.  USDA-certified organic maple syrups have to go through rigorous screening that would hopefully catch any clandestine formaldehyde use.  To convert to baking, follow the honey guidelines above but reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 cup per cup of maple syrup used.  Of course, the nice thing about maple syrup is that it can be converted to maple sugar!  Maple sugar can be substituted for refined sugar 3:4. Maple syrup doesn’t come with the same warning as honey: recommendations for its usage vary.  It is produced by boiling; this supposedly kills off mold and bacteria, but does not address possible contaminants in the packaging process.  If you are concerned, contact your child’s pediatrician.  I have read that 9 months may be a safe age to introduce maple syrup (read my disclaimer –>).

I love the taste of Maple Syrup, but it is significantly more expensive than honey, especially for baking.  It’s primary nutritive component is manganese.  For most of my needs, honey is my sweetener of choice and unfiltered raw honey is the most nutritive.  Except for the organic white sugar I bought to start my Kombucha Tea culture, I haven’t bought regular sugar in almost a year and I am not missing it at all!

Helping of Hope!  Right Choice: as you are able, gradually give up all the products containing refined sugar (the ones you recently switched to from corn-syrup laden alternatives) by replacing them with products sweetened only with organic honey, maple syrup/sugar, sorghum syrup, and rapadura.  This may require making many of your favorites by scratch (I hope to provide some recipes on this site that will help). Bright future: reduced risk of sugar addiction and insulin resistance; increased vitamin, mineral, and enzyme content of diet leading to better overall health.

I hope you enjoyed this Transformation Tuesdays post! If so, please share using one of the many features below.  Have a sugar question or suggestion?  Ask/comment below.  Thanks!

 

 

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