The Adventures of Barb Cat

In case you missed it, we are now back down to a one pet household; Poppy passed away after a long and lovely life (really though, hedgies are supposed to live 2-5 years, she was 7.) Barb and Poppy never really interacted, but I imagine Barb is happy being a single child again. ALL the attention, and ALL the toys and treats.

We got her a new toy a bit ago, and she loved it to death within 48 hours. Poor monarch butterfly. BUT LOOK HOW CUTE SHE IS. And how much fun she’s having. I definitely took way too many videos, but seriously it’s so amusing.

Anyway. Long intro short, we love Barb. So when I was given the opportunity to try out a cat backpack from Pet Magasin, I was more than thrilled. Barb loves being outside, but would totally bolt and disappear forever if we let her out on her own. Now, I’d be lying if I said anything along the lines of “BARB LOVES THE BACKPACK AND WE GO ON HIKES ALL THE TIME” ..as much as I’d love for that to be the case, Barb isn’t a fan of being confined in tight spaces.

Photo taken from Amazon

That said, we have gone on a few backyard backpack adventures, plus a trip to the vet where everyone in the office was loving Barb’s fancy new mode of transportation. So much better than a little cat carrier. The backpack has pop-out windows on the side (you can see them in the photo below) plus a few pockets to carry whatever you may need (mine has cat treats and a couple of toys) and can be carried on it’s side if necessary too. It also has a collar clip-in to avoid escapees, and while Barb is anti-collar, I imagine it’s a super useful thing for many other people.

Did you know that taking photos of a cat that doesn’t stay still is just about impossible? #Lambothecarrier

The backpack is pretty large – great for the animals, but a bit cumbersome on my small frame. My only real complaint about the bag is that the zippers aren’t as smooth as I’d like them to be, but just a minor detail when I have a carrier Barb doesn’t hate 🙂

Thanks so much to Pet Magasin for the opportunity to take Barb on more adventures! You can find the backpack on Pet Magasin’s website, or on Amazon.

Review: Vanity Planet Contour Pallet + Brushes

Wowowow. Hey blogo-o-verse. It’s been a minute, eh? Crazy how easily designing packaging for bottles and nipples and pacifiers can consume your life. I am VERY behind on reviews – so so sorry to the brands I’ve been neglecting! (And food recipes I’ve neglected to share out! And lack of general life updates.) Sheesh.

Waaay back when, I was lucky enough to be selected by Vanity Planet to try out a few of their products, and while I totally failed to write about them in a timely manner, I’ve been using them every day! (Seriously!) Absolutely no part of me is makeup-inclined, so when I decided to choose the contour pallet and makeup brush set, I knew I was in for a challenge – or at least something that would have a bit of a learning curve.

Vanity Planet is a boutique marketplace, focused on beauty, grooming, and wellness. They source, curate, and design products that benefit their customers’ daily lives. And holy moley – fast-forward a couple of months, and while I am still all about keeping my makeup v. natural, I actually kind of know what I’m doing now! I don’t need the cheat sheet included in the pallet to give myself a slightly contoured face anymore! (That cheat sheet though – it was a god-send. It’s like VP knew who they were sending the product to.) I’ve been able to incorporate the pallet into my daily routine without much adjustment on my (admittedly makeup-challenged) part.

I absolutely love the brushes – they’re so much softer than the randos I had previously – and the fact that I have a full matching set helps me feel like I have my life together a bit more than I probably do. AND I have separate brushes for my blush and bronzer now. IIIIII know. Moving up in the world over here. Is this an appropriate place to use #adulting? I think so.

Just lookit that contour.

VP was generous enough to share a discount code for any readers that also want to upgrade their makeup brush collection and/or feel like they have their lives together a bit more. Use code BBPalette70 at checkout for 70% (yes, SEVENTY) – thanks so much, Vanity Planet!

Review: Valentia Pure Glow Brightening Moisturizer

I’m glad Valentia seems to like me as much as I like their products – it’s easy to review what they send because it’s so hard to find something I don’t like!

I try to use a moisturizer every day, especially after learning my great great Aunt’s secret to pretty amazing skin at 100+ years old was Pond’s cream. That said, I notice that my skin has slightly different requirements as the seasons start to change. Joe and I seem to get out and about more often in the Fall, whether we’re climbing dunes, bar-hopping, or sitting around a bonfire for hours; so I need a moisturizer that can stand up to all of that chilly, blowy air!

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The consistency of the moisturizer had me a bit worried at first; it seemed like it would be greasier than I prefer, but it soaked right into my skin and didn’t feel greasy at all, phew. It’s been working well as primer for powder foundation (on the somewhat rare occasion that I use that…) – but I’ve also found myself wearing no foundation at all more frequently! Which I guess isn’t really that crazy for me, but still.

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The main ingredients in this moisturizer are:

  • Botanical Hyaluronic Acid to moisturize, support skin elasticity, and plump skin from within.
  • Kojic Acid to control melanin production and prevent dark spots.
  • Ginseng to boost skin firming collagen, fight wrinkles, and give the skin a brighter and more energized look.
  • Safflower Oil that repairs skin’s natural moisture barrier and provides superior skin protection.
  • Shea Butter that infuses skin with a myriad of vitamins and nutrients for superior skin hydration and nourishment.

It should go without saying , but I also like knowing I can feel good about putting Valentia products onto my skin. 🙂

Oh, and did I mention I have a discount code for you!? Use code MRNJMRV3 for 20% off of your purchase on Valentia’s website! I still use the Detox mask at least once a week – definitely my favorite product, but everything is fab <3 (ps, the code expires Nov 11.) Treat yo’self!

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Review: EverPro Back2Blonde + Giveaway!

Disclaimer: Back2Blonde sent me this product with no compensation other than the spray to test and review. This post consists of my honest thoughts & opinions about the product!

From lemon juice to Beach Blonde and Sun-In to getting my hair professionally highlighted, I’ve wanted to keep my hair a little blonder than its natural dirty blonde color for about as long as I can remember. (Except for that one year I decided to go with an auburn-y brown color. But that’s beside the point.) However…my hairstylist stopped working weekends shortly after I moved to the other side of the state, and the budget for highlights has been redistributed to health insurance, car payments, and little things like 200 pounds of mortar to tile a porch! Oh, adulthood.

Maybe someday I’ll find a salon here in Kalamazoo, but that day is not today! Or tomorrow, or probably the day after that. Plus I’m trying to grow my hair out again, so I don’t need to go in for a cut 🙂 Thankfully my hair does get a bit blonder in the summer, but that doesn’t keep my roots from coming in sort of dark.  Enter: Back2Blonde by EverPro.

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The spray comes in 3 shades; Dark Blonde, Medium Blonde and Light Blonde

Despite accidentally turning my scalp yellow the first time using it, the aerosol root-touch up was super easy to use…and I figured out how to avoid the yellow scalp issue after a couple of uses. I wouldn’t say that Back2Blonde is a miracle-worker, but there definitely was a noticeable difference after application.

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See?! Roots are still there, but look so much better! Maybe not quite as perfect as the models in the Back2Blonde how-to video, but that’s okay. I was sent the Medium color to try out, and I’d say it did a pretty good job. I’ve seen so many horror stories of root touch up products, so I was happy to see that the spray looked natural – especially since I was heading to work! 🙂

The only real downside to this product – other than a slight learning curve – is that it only lasts for one hair wash. Womp womp. It makes sense, since it isn’t a hair dye, but I’d appreciate a little more longevity! (And not have to worry about sweating it out/off during hot barre.)

The Verdict?

While I’m not one to worry about my roots showing, Back2Blonde does exactly what it should, and does it well! If you’re looking for a root concealer between hair appointments – I definitely think you’d be happy with this spray. Plus, $11 is much cheaper than an appointment at your salon 😉

Back2Blonde is hosting a giveaway – 25 people will win a full-size sample of the spray! Good luck!!

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Review: derma e Psorzema products


Disclaimer: I was sent these products from derma e with no compensation other than the product to test and review. The following post consists of my honest thoughts & opinions about the product!

Joe’s scalp has been giving him trouble for about as long as I can remember, and it gets worse when we switch to a different water supply. So going to GP for a weekend and coming back to Kzoo (still not sure which to call ‘home’ – both?!) wreaks havoc on his head! We’ve actually both been meaning to make dermatologist appointments; me for whatever is going on around my eyes, and him for his scalp and constantly itchy skin. But neither of us like talking on the phone, so appointments have yet to be made. I promise we’re adults 😛

Anyway – I was super excited when derma e offered me (well, Joe) the opportunity to review their new line of products aimed at relieving scalp issues and itchy skin. It’s like the campaign was made for him! Our fingers were crossed that maybe there was in fact something out there to help his scalp that wasn’t 1) super expensive, or 2) required a prescription.

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This line of products from derma e is aimed towards anyone living with psoriasis or eczema (combined, creating the products’ names: Psorzema. So clever.) looking for a more eco-friendly, natural way to help soothe their itchy, dry, and irritated skin.

Even though Joe has only been using the shampoo and conditioner for a week or so – he’s already noticed that his scalp situation is improving. The shampoo is sulfate free, has Salicylic Acid to help de-flake, tea tree oil and menthol to help calm and cool the itchyness, and the Psorzema herbal blend with Neem, Burdock, and Bearberry to replenish, soothe and improve a dry, scaling scalp. The conditioner is similar, but with almond oil, argan oil, and aloe to thoroughly condition hair instead of a cleansing agent 😉 duh.

Yay - no itchy skin and no sad scalp. Happy campers all around.
Yay – no itchy skin and no sad scalp. Happy campers all around.

I could go on and on about the shampoo and conditioner. Definitely two thumbs up from the hubby.

He’s not quite as enthralled by the body wash and Psorzema cream – I think because the results aren’t quite as immediate, but I’ve been using the cream on my elbows (which have been in desperate need of some TLC) and have definitely noticed some improvement! The cream is made with a blend of herbal extracts and skin vitamins such as Neem, Burdock, Bearberry, Vitamins A and E to help soften and soothe dry, irritated, scaling skin. The natural blend of ingredients help reduce redness and encourage healthy looking skin without the use of steroids, coal tar or pine tar. Woohoo, plant power!

While we definitely aren’t an all-natural household, we do try to stay at least somewhat conscious of what we’re putting in (and on!) our bodies. This past winter I decided to try some more holistic methods of staying healthy, and I *did* only get sick once – Echinacea tea, vitamin C/zinc when I felt something coming on, and Elderberry spray, just in case you’re wondering 😉 Really though – I get excited when we find something eco-friendly/natural that actually works as well as its non-natural counterparts…and have so far been beyond impressed with everything from derma e.

If you happen to have skin issues and are interested in the Psorzema line (or anything from derma e, really) you can find it in health food stores, or on their website (which has a sale going on right now – doesn’t get better than that!)

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BONUS.

Just for you lovely people that have actually read the entirety of this review…derma e is is providing samples (3 foil packs) of the Psorzema cream for the first 10 readers that click this link and submit your information 🙂

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Review: Valentia Royal Rose Hydrating Serum


Disclaimer: I was sent these products from Valentia with no compensation other than the product to test and review. The following post consists of my honest thoughts & opinions about the product!

Our house is pretty dry (we really need to refill our humidifier…) and Joe and I often wake up feeling super dry/dehydrated which just is not pleasant. To try and keep my face from getting too dried out, I’ve been on the hunt for a nice nighttime moisturizer that 1) isn’t too fragrant, 2) isn’t goopy or sticky, and 3) actually…does something. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Wrongggg. So sad.

A little over a week ago Valentia sent me their Royal Rose Hydrating Serum to review, and I’m loving it so far! I’ve been putting it on right before bed, and my face isn’t feeling nearly as dry in the morning (though my throat and nose certainly do. Maybe now that I’m writing about it we’ll actually refill the humidifier) and it definitely feels just….better in the morning.

valentia serumAfter the Benzoyl Peroxide tragedy of 2016, I’ve been trying to take a bit better care of my face – more natural ingredients and less harsh chemicals, which is exactly what Valentia’s Hydrating Serum brings to the table. From their website:

“After performing extensive research into what skin care customers find most important, we found an overwhelming demand for skin care that is natural, free of toxins and paraben-free. Natural ingredients with an organic base have proven most effective at repairing skin damaged by sun or wind, preventing signs of aging such as wrinkles, dark spots, and reversing the effects of oxidative stress on the skin. “

valentia serumI really like looking at the ingredients of all natural products – basically just to see what I recognize, and I recognize most of the ingredients in this serum…I suppose that’s a good sign. Or maybe I just have a weird bank of knowledge. You be the judge.

  • Rose Damascena: One of the most nourishing and skin friendly natural oils, providing balance, moisture, and a variety of vitamins and minerals to the skin.
  • Niacinamide (Vitamin B): This potent vitamin has been clinically proven to fade away hyperpigmentation, sun spots, and acne..
  • Rosehip Seed Oil: Naturally rich in Vitamins C & A, these essential fatty acids work quickly to lock in skin’s moisture.
  • Evening Primrose Oil: Provides light, non-oily moisture to the skin, never clogging or irritating the skin.
  • Bearberry: Reduces melanin production, thereby lightening the skin, revealing a brighter complexion.
  • Lavender: Heals the skin, treating pimples, wounds, and sores.

Really though, whether you’re looking to slow down signs of aging, or are just a 20-something like me trying to take care of their skin, I think this serum from Valentia has enough perks to benefit just about anyone.

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ps. Fun Fact! Valentia was the Roman Goddess of healing, who relied on nature’s gifts to heal the citizens of Umbria.

Review: OZ Naturals Ocean Mineral Cleanser

Disclaimer:  OZ Naturals sent me this product, with no compensation other than the product to test and review. The following post consists of my honest thoughts & opinions!

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I’m usually not too picky about face wash – we buy whatever is cheap at Target, and as long as it keeps my face clean and acne-free, I’m a happy camper! Face wash is one of the only things in our shower that Joe and I currently share…we’re working our ways through particularly feminine and masculine smelling bottles of body wash right now. There are too many bottles of things in our shower. Mostly my fault (I need 3 shampoo options, right?)

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Anyway, last week OZ Naturals sent me their Ocean Mineral face cleanser to review, and I’m already loving it! My face doesn’t feel like it’s crying out for moisturizer after I shower, and the smell kind of reminds me of being at the spa…which let’s be real, is exactly how I’d like to wake up in the morning. I also really appreciate that the cleanser is all natural and not tested on animals, which I know is important to a lot of people!

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The ingredients in the cleanser are all restorative and natural: Rose Hip Oil is a natural acne and eczema treatment, with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties that help decrease environmental damage and soothe the skin. Aloe Vera has anti-bacterial properties, which help to heal, soothe, and moisturize. MSM is a skin softener that is derived from healthy super food vegetables, and CocoBetaine is a solution derived from Coconut Oil that improves the foamy-ness of the cleanser, making it feel smoother on your skin.

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Pros:

Vegan and not tested on animals.

All natural ingredients that you can Google to read about their benefits to your skin! (That’s what I did.)

Makes your shower smell like a spa!

Cons:

It comes out of the bottle way too fast, I feel like I’m wasting a lot whenever I use it 🙁

I typically prefer a cleanser with an exfoliant – I feel like I’m getting my face cleaner than using just a foam, even when I know that’s not the case.

Info from OZ Naturals:

The CRUELTY FREE formula does not contain alcohol, parabens or sulfates, and is safe for all skin types. This face cleanser an extremely effective… you’ll want to add it to your natural skin care regimen.

MADE IN THE USA, in a state of the art FDA registered facility, OZ Naturals formulates the most effective anti aging skin care products on the market. This natural face cleanser will provide your skin a more vibrant appearance upon 1st use, we guarantee you’ll get results!

Our POWERFUL INGREDIENTS include rosehip oil, rich ocean minerals & vitamin e. This formula was developed to specifically be gentle on sensitive skin yet highly potent and effective at dissolving nasty particles that clog your pores.

Sooo, yeah, face wash! There are lots of things you probably shouldn’t rub all over your face, but this definitely isn’t one of them 😉

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Review: Chomps Snack Sticks


Disclaimer: I was sent these products from Chomps, with no compensation other than the products to test and review. The following post consists of my honest thoughts & opinions about the product!

Although I love snacking (probably too much,) snack sticks are usually more up Joe’s alley than mine. I’m more of an ‘oops I just ate an entire bag of ______ in less than 48 hours‘ kind of girl. Yes, I could probably stand to have more protein in my diet, and yes I’m on the hunt for some good snacking options to bring to work – but I’m sorry, a Slim Jim just doesn’t appeal to me 99% of the time.

Enter: Chomps Snack Sticks.

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With the new year coming up soon (where did the time go?) these snack sticks are a perfect way to start your healthy eating resolution off right! They are made with 100% Non-GMO Grass-Fed Angus Beef, which is sourced from New Zealand. They have no artificial ingredients (no nitrites, nitrates, MSG, colors, or flavors) and are shelf stable for a year with the help of celery juice rather than an artificial preservative.

I’m always trying to find the Clif/Kind/Luna bars with the most protein to get me through the day (plus I just don’t eat enough protein in general,) but each Chomps Snack Stick has 9g of protein, which is crazy awesome. We brought a couple on our trip to Disney to keep our energy up throughout the day, and they really were the perfect mid-day snack – even though I had to smush them into my purse a little bit.

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So, as far as meaty snack sticks go, these are pretty great. The Original flavor is definitely my favorite, Joe liked the Jalapeño, and my whole family thought the Crankin’ Cran flavor was a bit too spicy…but we do have a relatively low spice tolerance, so I’m sure it would be delicious to many others!

Pros:

All natural, including a natural preservative.

High in protein.

Gluten free and paleo friendly.

Cons:

Not quite as “snappy” as other snack sticks (the casing) which I suppose worked in my favor when we brought them to Disney – they fit in my purse more easily 😉

Info from Chomps:

Peter and Rashid started Chomps out of an apartment in Chicago in 2012 with the help of their wives. Since then the product has rapidly gained popularity in the CrossFit and Paleo space. It continues to grow in popularity hitting new target markets including Outdoorsmen, Bodybuilders, Gluten Free Dieters and Parent’s looking for healthy snacks for their kids.

The team mission is to create the highest quality jerky product on the market.

You can find the snack sticks on Chomps’ website and on Amazon – if you’re intrigued, get yourself a couple! Like I said, it’s (almost) a new year, time to kick those artificially flavored and preserved snack sticks to the curb 🙂

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Review: Matrix 6 Mega Bright Eye Gel

Disclaimer: I was sent this product for review from OZ Naturals, with no compensation other than the product to try out. The following post consists of my honest thoughts & opinions about the product!

For as long as I can remember I’ve had somewhat noticeable (dark/puffy) circles under my eyes…and for just about as long, I’ve been trying out different “un-puffing” “brightening” “caffeinated” “cooling” etc. products to try to fight the circles – pretty much unsuccessfully. If I’m being truthful with myself, it’s probably in part because of not getting enough sleep and/or being dehydrated, but I’ve continued the hunt for a product that works like it says it does! Soooo when I was approved to review OZ Naturals Mega Bright Eye Gel, I was super excited to give another product a try!

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Target + Suja Juice Cleanse / 1 day renewal – Review

Since a bit before our wedding I’d been looking in to doing some sort of cleanse, not to lose weight (goodness, emphasis on this – multiple people texted me on Wednesday after an Instagram post, concerned that I was trying to lose weight), but my eating/drinking habits absolutely aren’t the greatest, so I wanted to kickstart a (slightly) healthier lifestyle. After googling my options over a spoonful (or two/three) of frosting, I realized I probably wasn’t cut out for a cleanse where you pay a crazy amount of money to drink 7 juices a day for 5 days, with no food (mad props to anyone that can handle that. I don’t have enough self control…and like snacks too much.) So, when I came across Suja’s 3 juice, 1 day ‘renewal’ at Target – $3.99 a bottle – and read that you were supposed to eat 3 smalls meals throughout the day alongside the juices, I decided it was the perfect option for me! (Also, I suppose I should note at this point that this post isn’t sponsored. I just did a cleanse thing and am writing about it, plain and simple.)

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Huh, just realized I didn’t photograph the juices in the right order. Red, green, purple is the correct order!

There is a meal plan on Suja’s website, with 4 options for each meal and corresponding recipes/directions for each. I chose apple pie bites for breakfast, veggie burger for lunch, and Mexican stuffed sweet potato for dinner. They seemed filling enough! But boy, was I wrong. I don’t know what particular nutrient I was missing throughout the day, but I had zero energy, and just felt so hungry – even 10 minutes after drinking a juice or eating a meal. If nothing else, this was an amazing exercise to practice self control (every time I opened the fridge my mind went something along the lines of: Oh, that hummus looks delicious. It’s still healthy! I could totally eat a spoonful. Ugh, no. It’s not on the meal plan. But I’m so hungry! But no, not today. I guess. Sigh.) 

Anyway, on to the juices! All of the ingredients are listed on the front of the bottle – I’ve never been a ‘green juice’ fan, but that one wasn’t horrid, especially after the first few sips – and honestly I didn’t really care what it tasted like because I was so dang hungry. The morning and evening juices were amazingly delicious…I could drink the evening one every night and be a happy camper. But hmmm, what made these juices taste so good, you ask? Alas, there was SO much sugar, especially in the morning and evening juices. Despite it being natural sugar vs. anything else…sugar is probably the worst offender in my current diet – and I definitely consumed more sugar via these juices than I do on a regular basis (except when I eat multiple spoonfuls of frosting, or eat half a pint of Talenti gelato…) Knowing that, I definitely get why people don’t necessarily think cleanses are a good thing. On the upside though, all of my meals were pretty darn good, even if I didn’t feel satiated all day.

Breakfast

Breakfast (apple pie bites) was the least satisfying ‘meal’ of my day, but they did taste good! Dried apples, dates, toasted pecans, honey, and what seemed like a metric TON of cinnamon and nutmeg, ingredients I usually use relatively sparingly in things like cookies. But yes, definitely edible.

Lunch

While I was in the midst of my second juice (the green one) Joe came home for lunch and ate a couple of chicken tenders with ranch…I don’t think a meal has ever smelled so good. Oof. I contemplated asking if I could lick a piece of his chicken, but refrained. My lunch was still an hour or so away, and it was definitely the most photogenic meal (veggie burger, a little mustard, 1/8 of an avocado, and baby greens…I nixed the tomato and onion, adding in a little extra avocado). By that time (about 45 minutes after finishing the green juice) I was pretty much the human equivalent of a vacuum cleaner. I hardly even tasted this food as I was eating it. I was so hungry, but thankfully it filled me up enough to be able to focus on some afternoon freelance work.

Dinner

I didn’t get to eat dinner until about 8:00pm, because Joe and I had a few errands to run…including spending 20 minutes at Lowes picking out house plants, only to change my mind and decide to get them at Eastern Market, since we were heading back to GP for the weekend. Once we got home, I basically chugged the juice (which, though a bit chalky, was absolutely my favorite of the three) and anxiously waited for my sweet potatoes to bake. Joe helped make this meal, and ate it too…in addition to a chunk of steak. It was good, even though I messed up by not saving the skins to re-stuff. Oh well – it was just as delicious, and I wouldn’t have eaten the skin anyway!

I did end up cheating on the cleanse at about 12:15am, I ate a bit of a butterscotch flapjack I had gotten from Graze – but technically that was on Thursday, so I decided it doesn’t count 😉

Overall, the ‘renewal’ (I don’t think this can quite be called a cleanse, idk) definitely made me more conscious of what I consume on a daily basis, and as much as I’d like to say I’ve stuck to healthy eating as I had planned, I had a bowl of Cocoa Puffs for breakfast Thursday morning, and a good portion of our Talenti gelato before bed. Fulfilling the wishes of my sweet tooth can’t change overnight, y’all! I’d definitely recommend the Suja 1 Day Renewal if you’ve been interested in cleanses but don’t want to dive in to a 5 day long/only juice cleanse – it really is a great way to test your self control and start thinking about how you can eat healthier. Buuuut if you’re looking for a way to lose weight, I’m not so sure a cleanse would do the job unless you kept up the super clean, healthy, low cal, low carb diet after the cleanse/renewal. Shrug.