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11/28/2014

Menstrual Cup Variety 

Menstrual cups have been around since the 1930s when Lenoa Chalmers patented the first one. Women didn’t take interest and they fell off the radar until the 60s to similar fanfare. It wasn’t until the 70s to mid-80s that reusable menstrual cups hit the market—and stuck. The Keeper was the first menstrual cup to succeed where others had failed and it's still widely available today.

Just the Facts

70 percent of American women use disposable feminine hygiene products. On average that equals 11,000 tampons or pads.
• For a box of 36 tampons, average prices hover around $7 per box.
• Tampons and pads must be changed at least every 6 to 8 hours to avoid leaks, health concerns and other unwanted problems.
Average menstrual cycle lasts 5 to 7 days, from ages 12 to 50.

Let’s assume every woman buys one box of tampons every month. That’s close to $90 per year. Given these figures, one woman is likely spend more than $3,000 on her period alone during her lifetime, not to mention the many other costs associated with female reproductive organs. Thankfully there’s a simple, affordable solution: reusable menstrual cups.

Now I know what you may be thinking:

“OMG, I am not sticking something up there!” or “No way, that’s so gross!”

Having been there myself, I assure you it's not as gross or horrifying as you imagine it to be. If you use tampons you “stick something up there” every month anyway. Plus, once you get over the initial gross-out factor, it’s really not that bad. I swear!

The Diva Cup

The Diva Cup comes in two sizes: One for women who have had children and one for those who have not. I used the smaller of the two—for women without children—for about a year. At the time I loved it, but unfortunately due to some health issues its use was discontinued.

Diva Cup, size 1 and 2

PROS
Longevity:
Although the company recommends replacing your cup annually, I know people who have had the same one for several years without a hiccup. Even at $40 per year, that’s still cheaper than a year’s worth of tampons!

Freedom: Who’s really going to complain about 10 to 12 hours of leak-free protection?! No one! I was able to go hiking, camping, rock climbing and swimming without worrying about if and when I’d need to head to the restroom or if I’d packed enough tampons.

Easy to find: I’ll be honest, I had no clue about the world of menstrual cups until a friend ranted and raved long enough to convince me to try a Diva Cup. Luckily, they’re easy to find at local natural-food stores or some chain supermarkets such as Hy-Vee.

CONS
Ease of use:
I could just be bad at following directions, but it wasn’t just a simple insert cup like this and go scenario. One of two things happened: I wound up spending more time in the bathroom making sure things were accurately situated, or I was making more frequent trips to the restroom to adjust things because I was uncomfortable sitting or moving in a certain way.

Flexibility: To insert a menstrual cup, you first have to fold it in some fashion. I didn’t find the silicone to be very pliable. This made it more difficult to hold the cup in its folded shape long enough to get it comfortably inserted.

Comfort: It made life in general more comfortable in terms of worrying, but physically I always felt a bit of discomfort. The stem was rigid and sometimes felt like it was poking me, and I could always kind of tell it was there.

Cleaning: Be warned: Prepare for gross-out feels. The stem is a short, hollow tube meant to make removing your cup easier. Removal was easy enough, but occasionally menstrual blood would get into the open part of the stem. There were also measuring lines on the inside of the cup. Both of these made it difficult to clean thoroughly at times.

Most of my gripes are, more than likely, just personal. No two bodies are like, and as such no two vaginas are either. As a woman in her mid- to late-20s, without children, I ultimately decided that The Diva Cup was too large for my body. Even though I was using the smallest size, it always felt present, which made emptying and reinsertion less than optimal.

Lunette

Once my health concerns were under control, I still wanted to use a menstrual cup for all the pros I had experienced with my Diva Cup. At this point, I had learned that menstrual cups have a cult-like following, so like any internet-savvy girl would, I hit up Google to help me make a decision! I knew it would be easy to find real-life reviews and comparisons on YouTube and blogs. However, I didn’t realize there were so many options.

After a lot of reading and YouTube watching I decided that Lunette, a Finnish company, would be the best to try next. There are women out there who have tried them all (or close to it). If you’re on the fence about which cup to choose, watch one of these informative videos.

Lunette 

PROS
Comfort:
Lunette is also available in two sizes and runs around $40. After my experience with The Diva Cup, I still opted for the smaller of the two cups (Model 1). Although this is often recommended as a “starter cup” for younger girls, this cup has been perfect for me. I don’t even notice it’s there except when it's time to empty it or it isn't sitting right in my body (which is a much easier fix than it was with The Diva Cup).

Longevity: The company says to replace your cup when any signs of damage are observed—this could be holes, any kind of abrasion or drying/flaking. I’ve had my Lunette cup for close to a year; I’ve not seen any signs of wear, but I also follow the care instructions to a tee. Keep in mind: If you choose to buy a colored cup it may be more difficult to notice discoloration.

Freedom: Again, no one is going to complain about 10 to 12 hours of protection. Since using the Lunette cup, I’ve begun aerial dance classes without fear or worry (on top of the activities I was able to do freely with The Diva Cup.)

Ease of use: This cup is so easy to use! Both models are made of "softer medical grade silicone" and it's so flexible! The cup easily holds its folded shape making insertion extremely easy.

Cleaning: Care instructions for most cups are pretty universal with a few caveats here and there. The stem on this cup is flat and sealed. Both the inside and outside of the cup are free from lines or ridges (perfectly smooth). These simple features make cleaning a breeze. (Try the Lunette Feelbetter Liquid Wash, which is specifically designed for silicone and smells heavenly.)

CONS
Easy to find:
At the time of purchase, Lunette wasn’t available at any of my local stores. There was one location offering them in the neighboring city, which I choose to order online from. However, there is now a U.S.-based online store on their website that makes purchasing even easier. Check “Where to Buy Globally” to support local retailers and business owners.

I really don’t have anything bad to say about my experience with Lunette. It’s far more comfortable in every way, and just as affordable as The Diva Cup. Sure, I can’t just run to the store and a buy a new one tomorrow, but that’s not a deal breaker for me. I also like that it comes in a variety of colors and has several “accessories” to pair with it. Quite frankly, I’m kind of in love with it.

Make Menstrual Cups Your Product of Choice

I would suggest getting familiar with your body and natural cycle to best choose which cup is right for you, even if it's not the Diva Cup or Lunette. The Lunette site has a wealth of information about understanding your anatomy and cycle that can be helpful to women of any age.

Regardless of your choice, menstrual cups are great for the environment, will save you a ton of money and give you peace of mind. If you’re new to menstrual cups, give either one of these a try and if it doesn’t suit you, move on to the next or a different brand entirely. Lord knows, there are plenty to choose from!

What do you think about menstrual cups? Have you tried a number of brands available? What's your favorite reusable feminine hygiene product? Share your experiences, thoughts and tips in the comments below to help others find the perfect, natural solution that fits their lifestyle.


Ashley Houk is the web editor for Mother Earth Living. When she’s not producing online content, she’s probably reading or writing blog posts of her own. Find her on and .



11/28/2014

Creating art with leaves and nature can be fun, interesting, meditative and inspiring. Plus, it can connect you with the outdoors in an enjoyable and relaxing way. Here are a few great ideas to get you started.

Lily collecting leaves
Photo by Kristy Severin

1. Collecting Leaves

This can be such an enjoyable activity, whether you're alone or with family or friends. Spending time outside in nature and taking the time to look closely at the world around you can bring such a sense of peace and wonder as you may find something unique and wonderful or even something you've never noticed before. Take notice of the brightness of a particular red maple leaf or how different trees lose their leaves and change colors at different times. Once you've collected your leaves, you can begin creating art as you wish.   

Leaf Rubbings
Photo from KC Edventures

2. Leaf Rubbings

This can be the start of a small project or an extension of a layered piece of art. It's a simple way to create art with leaves that can be done alone or with children of all ages. By simply placing paper on top of your leaves and rubbing them with crayons, you can create a detailed leaf in any color and preserve its beauty. 

Leaf Mandala
Photo from Pinterest

3. Leaf Mandalas

Mandalas, a meditative process of arranging the leaves in a circular patterned shape, can act as permanent or temporary art. 

Leaf Garland
Photo from G Sheller

4. Leaf Garland

Arranging leaves in patterns by stringing them through yarn, twine or string can be a lovely decoration for your home or even a great gift for a friend. 

Leaf preserved in beeswax
Photo from The Magic Onions

5. Preserve Leaves in Beeswax

This is a natural way to preserve the beauty of a leaf.

Leaf Book
Photo from Pinterest

6. Leaf Identification Book

Another enjoyable way to arrange some of the beautiful leaves you may have collected, start your very own leaf identification book. 


Kristy SeverinKristy Severin is a mother of two, a certified art instructor, photographer, painter, writer and cook. She earned her BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda, East Africa. Inspired daily by her children and love of the earth, you can find her fine art and writings at The Art of Green Living.



11/17/2014

Holiday season is right around the corner, and if you’re anything like me now is the time to start crafting all of those handmade gifts. To make life a bit easier, here are a few craft hacks to make all of your holiday DIY experiences less painful and stress-free.

Check out our Pinterest page if you’re in need of some inspiration for DIY projects.     

DIY Bow           

1. The Perfect Bows

Make the smallest of embellishments, for cards or packages, with this hack for making perfect bows using a fork. Simply weave ribbon in-and-out of the fork tines before fastening it in the center with another piece of ribbon and trimming the ends to size. Via Slow Robot.

Bonus Hack: remove creases or wrinkles from ribbon with a light bulb. Via Plaid Crafts.

Clean up extra glitter

2. Excess Glitter

As any DIY-er or craft connoisseur will tell you, glitter makes a mess. No matter how careful you are, it still manages to get all over your work surface before you’ve finished a project. Clean up the glitter-bomb that is now your table quickly and easily with a lint roller. Via Buzz Feed.

Bead Organization

3. Store Tiny Bits and Bobbles

If you’re a frequent do-it-yourself, you’ve probably accumulated quite the array or supplies. Bobbins, beads, buttons, stamps and the list could go on and on. Consider utilizing those unused ice cube trays that are probably just sitting in your freezer. This is an extremely convenient (and cheap) solution for keeping things organized, especially if your other storage containers are filling up fast as they tend to do. Via Handi Quilter.

Crochet in comfort

4. Knit and Crochet in Comfort

Get excited for school supplies again and prepare for some reminiscing. Personalize your knitting needles or crochet hooks with pencil grips. The added diameter will keep your hands from cramping, and the fun patterns and colors will add a touch of personal flair. Via Crochet Concupiscence.

DIY Stamp

5. DIY Stamps

There are several ways to make your own homemade stamps. One of which we all learned, once upon a time, in elementary school: a potato. This is still a viable option, but if you’d rather not waste food just for crafts try using a piece of Styrofoam instead. The lid of a takeout box will work just fine. Cut out the center and size as necessary, sketch your design onto the Styrofoam with pencil, cover in paint and apply the stamp to paper, cardstock or the desire material. Via Coisas Que Gosto.

Let us know in the comments below if you have used any of these craft hacks, or have developed any hacks of your own. We’d love to hear them!



11/13/2014

Last weekend we asked our Facebook community to share stories and photos of their tiny homes. The stories were varied, and everyone had their own reasons for choosing to downsize and try this lifestyle on for size, but one thing held true for all: They love their tiny spaces!

From traditional, modular tiny homes to small houses with a plot of land for gardening, teepees to houseboats, our readers know how to live large in small spaces.

Tiny Empty Nest

Name: MJ Boyle
Location: Oregon
Square Footage: 196

After helping design and supervising the construction of two full-sized homes earlier in life, MJ Boyle decided that once her youngest headed off to college she would build a space all her own. In March of 2014 she officially settled on the mission of building a tiny home.

DIY Tiny Home In-Progress 

“Nothing is life goes according to plan.” Boyle says this is one thing she’s learned in all her years on this great green Earth. Luckily, a tiny home can often go wherever life sees fit to send us and this is part of the appeal. After acquiring a sponsor and designing her own 196-square-foot home, Boyle set to downsizing. Her journey is still in progress, but she’s well on her way to having the home of her dreams. Keep up with her progress on her blog.

Downsized Haven

Name: Holly Dormeyer
Location: Arizona
Square Footage: 565

When Holly Dormeyer’s mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, Holly quit her job as an attorney in Arizona to move back to New York to spend their last months together. Upon returning to Arizona, she realized it was time to revamp her own life.

She permanently left the law firm and a six-figure paycheck to focus on making a living in a way that she enjoyed. She also cancelled construction on her new, larger home and moved into a 565-square-foot house instead. “I think what makes my house feel a bit bigger is that there is no carpet and no hallways. The laminate and tile make the space feel larger, as do the white walls,” Holly says.

Arizona Tiny Home 

She has lived in the space, with her three beloved dogs, for almost three years and can’t imagine living in a larger space. She has even considered going smaller!

Wilderness Home

Name: Rohn Amegatcher
Square Footage: 400

Reclaimed Materials Tiny Home 

This 400-square-foot home was built with reclaimed materials in just four months! Rohn Amegatcher uses wind and solar energy to power his tiny home year-round. An upper level, loft-style space allows him to comfortably host four, when necessary. His home also has a rainwater cistern to provide residents with water and inner walls provide storage with a built-in pantry.

Mobile Life

Name: Ashley Morin
Location: Washington
Square Footage: 240

Upcycled RV Tiny Home 

Two adults and 3 pets live, without regret, in a mere 240-square-feet. Almost a year ago, Ashley Morin and her boyfriend decided they were tired of paying rent on a place they’d never own, but unsure of where they wanted to settle down they opted for a house they could take with them. Their vintage 30-foot RV has been upcycled into a tiny home to serve just that purpose.

Roughing It

Name: Dandelion Perfect
Square Footage: Unknown

Wilderness Tipi 

Although we weren’t provided any information about Dandelion Perfect’s style of living, this tiny home is certainly unique! Not unlike a yurt, teepees can serve as temporary or permanent living spaces, even in our modern world. (Tipi, in Lakota, means “living in.”)

For the month of November, we’ll be asking our readers for more submissions that will be turned into blog posts. We got a huge response for this post, in particular, and would like to thank everyone for participating!

Like us on Facebook for your chance to submit your stories and photos, and to keep up to date on all things Mother Earth Living.


Ashley Houk is the web editor for Mother Earth Living. When she’s not producing online content, she’s probably reading or writing blog posts of her own. Find her on and .



11/4/2014

We are deep into an age of human innovation. New creations are beginning to shape our lives in ways not seen since the industrial revolution. We now carry computers in our pockets and soon might be wearing them on our wrists. Life is constantly being shaped, for better or worse, by the wonders of human invention, and yet we continue to utilize outdated non-renewable energy resources that have a debilitating impact on our environment.

The struggle to achieve clean renewable energy has been one fraught with frustration, from both a technical and political point of view, along with the actual logistics of harnessing energy in a similarly clean fashion. The grasp of the oil and coal industries are so tight on the political spectrum that putting forth long-term plans or legislation that could potentially hurt them is often met with fast and harsh opposition. But the true tragedy of the quest for renewable energy, thus far, has been the simple fact that one of the most viable forms of clean, renewable energy has been right under our noses all along—or I guess I should say above our heads. Solar energy promises to be one of the defining technological leaps of our generation and, despite it’s critics, is finally to the point where it’s ready to be adopted on a large scale. What follows are 5 reasons why solar energy is ready to take hold as the energy source of the future:

1. Dwindling Existing Resources

Perhaps the most pertinent argument in favor of moving away from traditional energy resources lies in the simple fact that resources such as oil and coal are non-renewable. When they are gone, they are truly gone. Crude oil can take millions of years to form, meaning that the likelihood of supply keeping up with demand is quite literally 0%. Humans use nearly 93 million barrels a day as of March of 2014 according to the International Energy Agency. Sunlight on the the other hand is plentiful and will continue to be plentiful long after humankind is gone from this Earth.

2. Cost Effective

Solar energy also provides an extremely affordable alternative to other energy resources. Unlike oil or natural gas, sunlight is readily available to anyone at anytime (nighttime excluded) and even better, it’s free. After the initial investment of installing a solar energy system, whether it’s 25 year panels on the roof or a solar powered water heating system, savings begin to pile up rather quickly. Between using less city- or county-provided electricity and the local tax incentives or rebates that often accompany the installation of a these systems, both residential and industrial structures promise to benefit financially by adopting a solar energy.

Solar Energy System
Solar panel installation has never been as widely available as it is today.
Walmart Corporate via photopin cc

3. Wide Availability

One of the early limitations of solar energy was it being not readily available to consumers on a wide scale. Thankfully, that has now changed. Multiple online outlets allow everyday consumers to investigate the realities of having solar panels installed on residential properties without spending an arm and a leg have begun cropping up. As the integration of solar energy into both residential and industrial sectors becomes easier, the mass adoption of the technology promises to get closer and closer.

4. No Emissions

Unlike traditional energy resources, solar energy has the distinct benefit of releasing zero emissions. Even the production of the panels themselves creates surprisingly low carbon dioxide emissions, and even the amount it does create is up to 30 times less than traditional energy resources such as coal.

Carbon Emissions Graph
Wikiversity

5. Ability to Expand Rapidly

Solar energy has some unique benefits that are not available to other resources. Solar energy systems can be installed quickly and inexpensively while offering a high reward through yearly energy savings and tax incentives or rebates. This allows the solar industry a leg up as it can expand rapidly through multiple industries in relatively little time. This is not attainable by the oil, coal or natural gas industries as implementation of those systems are not only more expensive, but also more difficult and complicated to install and maintain.


Alicia Hobbes is a freelance blogger who is passionate about the environment, renewable energy, and green initiatives. In her free time she enjoys reading Ann Rice novels and spending time with her family and golden retriever, Calvin.



10/7/2014

No matter what you celebrate, the holiday season can sometimes feel overwhelming. By prioritizing what’s most important to you and your family, you can take control of the craziness and create the experiences you want. After all, the holidays should be about finding joy, not hanging on for the ride. You don’t have to do everything: Try making a list of the emotions you hope to cultivate this season—joy, peace, generosity—and the ones you don’t—stress, anger, envy. Any time a new request arrives (Can you staff the office holiday party? Can you attend four events in one day?), return to your list, refocus on your priorities and make your decision from a clear mindset.

Staying SaneChristmas Decorations

If you tend to get stressed-out during the holidays, try these tips and tricks to feel balanced and under control.

1. Be yourself. Skip the minefield of comparing yourself to others. Sure, it can seem as though everyone else has the perfect cookies, the better-organized home and the more harmonious family—when you are looking in from the outside. Don’t torture yourself by comparing your own life to your observations about the lives of others. Instead, be positive about the things you do well, and do the things you enjoy.

2. Manage expectations. Keep yourself on track throughout the holiday season by carefully setting priorities. You can’t fit in everything, but you can consciously focus on doing activities that are important to you (and only those things). This mindset can help keep you joyful, instead of harried.

3. Get enough sleep. No more late-night cookie baking or emergency wrapping sessions—you can’t have a good time if you are exhausted and irritable. By focusing on what you do well and what you enjoy, and strategizing about what activities you choose to engage in, you can hopefully knock off some of the holiday “filler.” This will free you up to take care of yourself so the holiday weeks are fun ones.

Give heartfelt, handmade gifts this season by packaging items in these DIY Reusable Felt Boxes or offering up the edible with our Herb-Infused Honey.

Learn how to keep messes under control during the holiday in Stress-Free Holiday Cleaning Routines.



10/7/2014

Our homes can serve as a utopia for our often busy and action-packed lifestyles. Home is a reflection of what's important to us and who is important to us, as well as indicative of our personal style and preferences, according to Robi Ludwig, a nationally known psychotherapist. It’s here that we spend an important part of our day, which is why it has such a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves.

In a very stimulated and sometimes stressful world, we need our home environment to be the place where we can take both personal and physical refuge; a stress-free environment. It’s here that we can balance ourselves and our psyches because our home is the place where we can relax, regroup and reinforce the best part of ourselves. It’s the first place we want to go when we need to renew our sprit.  

Transforming our homes into this stress-free, utopian zone might sound challenging, but it’s highly doable and vital for our mental and physical well being. Multiple studies show how even the smallest positive lifestyle change can help us to relax, take better care of ourselves and reduce our stress levels. These changes play a huge role in altering the quality of our lives for the better.

Fortunately, a lot of these healthful lifestyle changes are easily achievable. All it takes is a few deliberate and creative tweaks to turn our living space into a healthy place. And here are 10 easy tips to help you do just that: Turn your home into the stress-free, pleasing environment it can be.

Stress Free Environment 

1. Declutter and Simplify

Messy outside equals messy inside. Having a cluttered environment isn’t something that just lives in our home, it lives in our heads. A messy space impacts our self esteem. To successfully declutter and simplify, go through your home with an objective eye. Start with as little as five minutes a day. Get rid of what you don't need. Ask yourself, "Do I love it?" "Do I need it?" "Will I use it?" If the answer is "NO!", get rid of it!

2. Organize, Organize, Organize

The truth is, there's always going to be stuff that you just can't or don't want to live without, so you want to create the perfect organized space for these keepsakes; you don't want these much-loved mementos to pile up around you. Do whatever works for you to put them in attractive organizational baskets or drawer dividers, which will help create a neat space for your treasures. Just make sure whatever strategy you use, it looks appealing to you. There are so many options these days to get a modern and wonderful looking organization system. Have fun finding what works.

3. Toss the Negative

Sounds very intuitive, right? Some things around your home carry a negative memory. Whether it's a piece of art work, a gift from a negative person, or a purchase you associate with a dark time in your life, it may be time to let it go. Don't do this impulsively of course, but after you've assessed the memories, you need to make peace with it and discard it. Make this a physical clearing and a therapeutic opportunity for both your home and your psyche.

4. Create a Personal Touch

Your personal environment should reflect who you are as well as who you want to be. Add those photos of the people you love and who matter most to you. Include objects that encourage good feelings and good memories. Add artwork if it evokes positive thoughts, and don't forget to have fun splashing your personal sense of style around. 

5. Create Your Own Personal Sanctuary

Choose one space in your home that feels comfortable and is semiprivate. Once you locate this area, take it to the next magical level. Turn it into a place to exercise, do yoga, read a book or a place to meditate. Add plants, candles or favorite authors. Whatever you choose, make sure it's a place that allows you to be alone with your thoughts and more importantly allows you to have a Zen moment.

6. Treat Your Senses

Use colors to encourage relaxing and engender tranquil emotions. Comforting colors such as soft blues, beiges and greens are considered calming colors. Use comfortable furnishings, lighting, music and pleasant scents to stimulate your senses and thus your psyche in the most positive way.

7. Create a Sleep-Friendly Bedroom

Getting better sleep is a must if we are going to manage our stress levels and stay healthy. Cultivating good sleep habits requires a certain environment. Make sure this room is dark, cool and technologically free to promote a restful night's sleep. This will also help you start the following day in a bright way.

8. Healthy In, Healthy Out

Keep your home nutritionally healthy. Make sure it's filled with food that nourishes your mind and your body. We tend to eat what's around, so keep healthful foods nearby. It has often been said that you are what you eat. So, make sure these go-to-choices are good for you.

9. Create a People-Friendly Home

Part of living a healthful lifestyle includes developing a supportive social network. Make your home cozy and welcoming. Make it an atmosphere where you are proud to include your friends and family. Make your home a place where you can experience special and fulfilling life moments.

10. Highlight Empowering Words

Reading supportive words can shift your mind from a dark place to a positive place. Uplifting phrases help us to think in a more optimistic and encouraging way. Place these affirmations and strong, positive phrases all around your home. Feed your mind with elevating ideas and attitudes. Remember, we become what we think. So make those thoughts work for you.

Turning your home into a place of balance and harmony isn’t a new idea, but it's certainly a timeless one. Give yourself a gift. Apply these small changes, and see what happens to your life.

Just as it's important to build the proper physical foundation for your home, it's equally as important to build the proper emotional foundation for it. Now is the perfect time to reset your home to be a healthier and more nurturing environment. It’s time for you to make your home the happy haven you want it to be.


Miles YoungMiles Young is a freelance writer, designer and outdoorsman. He’s worked as a roof contractor and part-time engine mechanic. He spends his free time fishing and tinkering in his garage. You can follow him on Twitter @MrMilesYoung.





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