Wednesday, January 29, 2014

5 Bath Time/Grooming Products We Can't Quit

Why quit a good thing?
Shower/bath time should be a welcome, soothing part of the daily routine.

These 5 (totally unsponsored- these opinions are my own) products make bath/shower time a hassle-free, luxurious experience in our home.
Oatmilk and Calendula body wash
1. For our kiddos, seeking the safest shampoo and body wash that's gentle on the eyes, I researched via the EWG (see its rating here) and found Babo Botanicals Moisturizing Baby Shampoo & Wash (we get ours here).

The natural calendula fragrance is so divine that I often use it for myself. My kids smell amazing. Except when they don't but…you know.
2. Every day after shower/bathing, I apply baby oil to lightly towel-patted skin from the neck down. Check for the purest, funk-free products at Skin Deep Cosmetic Database here (more on this topic soon).

Baby oil is an ideal moisturizer that requires minimal supplement all year long (hands often require more intense treatment) and it feels silky and fab. Use it as massage oil! Go.
3. Dr. Bronner's All-One Peppermint Pure-Castile Soap (see its excellent EWG rating here) is now a total addiction for me. I've written about it before and still the only word to describe it is ZING.

Try it and see. I'm never switching.
4. If you or your kids deal with knotted hair, get a Hair Bean or Goody detangler immediately. With long and curly-haired pipsqueaks in this house, there is no other way.

These detanglers have saved everyone in this house from many a meltdown. Great for adults and kids alike.
5. A true New Jersey-ean at heart, I hate wasting time. Investing in a Elchim 2001HP hair dryer (got mine here) cut dry-time by 2/3rds—a substantial difference that makes "doing hair" far less annoying or time consuming. Plus, the extra long cord is an added convenience for maneuverability. Worth it.

Of all the products we use, these are the 5 we just can't quit. If we're headed out on vacation, you'd better believe that these daily do-gooders find their way into our travel bags.

What are the bath time/grooming products you can't quit? Do tell!

Here's to making the most out of the "you time"in your daily routine, sweet friends!
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Shooting with a Telephoto Lens: Up Close and Personal

New year. 
New lens.
New possibilities. 
I have to admit that I got a little freaked out when I first loaded my Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IF-ED (Shop around. You can find this for much better prices online!) beast of a lens onto my D5100 camera. 

Holy heavy. 
Holy huge!
But the details are divine!
After adjusting to the sheer size and weight of the camera/lens combo, the magic started to happen.

I've been having a blast experimenting with this incredible new lens, and my left arm has been getting a great strength and balance workout as I practice steadying my camera for distance shots.

Couldn't "get there" in time to stop this little stinker from plowing her sister in the face with a snowball, but with telephoto reach, I was able to capture the evidence from afar. Busted, sucka. 
On a fire and ice kind of day, I was able to get a groovy close up of flames while keeping the kids at a safe distance.
And the bird nerd in me is just busting with giddiness. Isn't this cardinal couple the cutest?
This dude was zipping by on his snowmobile in the field across the way. Totally practiced my paparazzi shots and managed to capture his drive by. 

Yeah. Guess I'm THAT creepy neighbor now.
My fella was doing some telephoto spying of his own this weekend and caught two red-tailed hawks chillin' in the trees across the street. So exciting!
And she's off...
Although I'm learning that shooting with a telephoto lens takes patience, practice and precision, I am beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to experiment with this spectacular equipment. 

Because I've been primarily shooting with my 50mm fixed lens, I've been extra psyched to regain the quick range this telephoto enables.

I was lagging waaaaaay behind when I zoomed in on my crew during this woodsy traipse. 
And, as you can imagine, this flock of geese was ridin' high. All eyes on the skies!
I'm just itching for spring photo shoots!

Now talk about empty nest syndrome…
All last spring and summer, I was spying on this robin's nest. Mama cared for two separate broods, and every time I tried to get close enough to capture her little miracles, homegirl got perturbed. 

I ran a few test shots on the site and am now confident that I'll be able to get right into the action without upsetting Mama this spring. I couldn't be more eager to get up close and personal. 

Been shooting with a telephoto for awhile and have some tips? You know I'd love any and all advice as I grow with this new lens. The possibilities are just endless.

Here's to seeing it all, sweet friends!

P.S. "Like" From My Hearth to Yours on Facebook here to stick around for updates, reader tips/comments and news.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mars One: A Reality TV Show in Space

Have you been following the Mars One story?

The mission?

"Human Settlement on Mars One will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Crews of four will depart every two years, starting in 2024. Our first unmanned mission will be launched in 2018. Participate in this mission to Mars through our crowdfunding campaign."

Image Credit from the Mars One Facebook page
Thinking about this project makes my mind melt.

A sustainable, human settlement on Mars is fantastic enough, but the interpersonal dynamics—the idea of these people living in forced, inescapable proximity amidst a whirlwind of risks just launches this concept to a whole new level of daaaaaaaang.
Bryan Versteed/Mars One
It's hard to imagine how these (over 200,000) volunteers are willing to give up every one of Earth's magnificent wonders for a one way ticket to the harsh isolation and radiation on the Red Planet.

It's not like you can take a break and pop out for some fresh air and a hike, you know?
And what happens if astronaut Dick just can't get along with astronaut Jane?
Murder on Mars?

Sounds like this could get dramatic.
Bryan Versteeg/Mars One-Inside 
Smelling the ratings from 35 million miles away, it looks like a Mars One reality TV show is already in the works, where earthling viewers can vote to send their favorite astronaut hopeful to the Red Planet.

but I'm totally watching it.

I can see it now.

The Real World Mars- With nothing to do but work on building muscle, watch your favorite sexy astronauts get buff, drunk, hooked up and bedded down in their inflatable living units!

Survivor Mars- There's no Redemption Island here. See who can outwit, outplay and outlast without losing their minds. Watch astronauts vote each other OUT without space suits. The tribe has spoken.

The Bachelorette Mars- Which astronaut will win Jane's heart? With romantic dates to hamster cage living units, spacesuit walks to the outdoor rover and canned food delicacies by glow stick light, watch to see which handsome astro-bachelor earns the final rose!
Oh, the anticipation! I'm programming my DVR now.
Would you EVER consider volunteering for a mission like this? 

For more Mars One info, check out this recent NPR article or keep up with project development and astronaut selection news on the Mars One Facebook page here.

Now tell the truth, are you going to watch the reality show? 
Here's to planet Earth, science and what dreams may come.
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Holiday Decoration Storage: Stashing Santas

I'm determined to keep my holiday stash under control.

For Christmas this year, I actually asked for a wrapping paper storage bag and a holiday storage box to keep the goods nice and neat.

We'd previously stuffed seasonal decor in standard cardboard boxes, and the tangles, broken ornaments, wrinkled stockings…less than ideal.

When it was time to pack up the holiday decorations, I set up this Homz ornament storage box (it can hold up to 56 ornaments) and breathed a sigh of relief as every ornament nestled into its safe place.
I love that we are able to rearrange the compartments to accommodate various shapes and sizes. Added bonus? There is a shelf that goes on top of the ornaments to create another layer for storage.

After all our ornaments were safely stored, I still had room to lay our stockings and around-the-house holiday trinkets inside as well! Tons of space, though I do wish this box was made of a sturdier material and that the lid stayed on more securely.

The concept, however, is great and everything packed away nicely!
Now I don't know about you, but my gift wrapping materials were a mess

Paper rolls spilled out of our closet— and scissors, tape, ribbons, labels and tissue paper that had been shoved into a paper bag made organization extremely difficult. 

This gift wrap storage bag is a godsend! It's made of an incredibly lightweight, tarp-like material that will resist moisture and holds/organizes TONS of gift wrapping goodies.

This bag is enough to hold everything I'll ever need for wrapping presents all year long, and it fits easily under a bed or on a shelf. 

Organization super score!
giftwrap storage bag
Now if only we could figure out a better way to store Christmas lights. Ugh.
Got ideas? We need 'em!
I'm suddenly reminded of a hysterical scene from my all-time favorite Christmas movie...
"Whoops. Little knot here. You can work on that."
If you have any other tips, tricks or handy products for holiday decoration storage, send them our way! We're always looking to organize and simplify whenever possible.

Here's to keepin' it together, friends!

P.S. "Like" From My Hearth to Yours on Facebook here and stick around for updates, reader tips/comments and news. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Niagara Falls Partially Does My Heart

So how 'bout this eastern weather lately...
just a little wackadoo?
Aaron Harris
REUTERS/Aaron Harris
It appears the "polar vortex" that slammed us last week did a number on Niagara Falls and partially froze its flow, giving Reuters photographer Aaron Harris a photo-op field day. 
Aaron Harris
REUTERS/Aaron Harris
Although I'd be beyond thrilled to have the rare opportunity to photograph a phenomenon like this, I've gotta admit that it would super unnerving to skate around the edge of this beast with ice underfoot at every edge. Gads.

Not a good day for The Maid of the Mist boat ride under the falls, huh?
Aaron Harris
REUTERS/Aaron Harris
But these photos are just breathtaking.
What an incredible wonder.
This last photo spins me out hard.
Aaron Harris
REUTERS/Aaron Harris
Oh, Mother Nature—you are, most certainly, the boss.
You have definitely been keeping us on our toes lately, but what beauty you create.

Hats off to brave Aaron Harris for his mind-melting photos.
I'm sure this was a shoot to remember. 
Check out more photos of the partially frozen falls here

Have a spectacular week, sweet friends!

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Theremin: A Fusion of Science and Sound

You've heard the spaced-out, eerie whinny of a theremin (or electro-theremin) before. 
Leon Theremin, playing his instrument. Yowza.
Not sure of the sound? 
Click the links for theremin samples in The Beach Boys' Good Vibrations, the soundtrack from The Day The Earth Stood Still, Portishead's Mysterons, Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love and The Rolling Stones' Please Go Home.
Whole Lotta Love theremin
Image Source
Even Star Trek's original theme song was sung by a soprano emulating theremin-like effects to lay down that weird, wiggly sound. 

This cuh-raise-zee instrument is played with no physical contact. The musician gracefully moves his/her hands between two antennas to control pitch and volume. 

At first, I couldn't believe it was real.

Every time I witness a theremin a-humming, I kind of freak out. 
You've really gotta see for yourself—
a fusion of science and sound to the max. 
So freakin' cool. 
Check out this short Youtube video of Leon Theremin playing his own instrument. Watch his fingers stroke invisible strings. Bagonz!

Wanna try? I totally do.
For that someday, would-be-theremin-ists can find instruments for sale online for about $200-300.
Modern theremin—for sale in many online shops
I want one!

Let's cap this awesomeness off with a fun finale. Have a quick gander at this dude playing Super Mario Bros. on his theremin. Shazam, brutha! Git it!

Which instrument blows your mind most?

Here's to wacky and weird, my friends.
Got a whole lotta love for those good vibrations!
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

P.S. "Like" From My Hearth to Yours on Facebook here and stick around for updates, reader tips/comments and news. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Complete Boot Guide: The End of a Quest

I've accomplished an extraordinary, albeit absurd feat, and—although I went through several duds over years of searching, I've finally compiled the perfect collection of comfortable, wearable boots.

All year round, I'm covered with an ideal go-to for any traipse or adventure.

Because I have high arches, comfort is paramount when choosing footwear, so this (completely unsponsored) post is based on wearability, quality, performance and all-around awesomeness.

I take comfortable shoes seriously, friends.
And I've found boots that will definitely withstand the tests of time.

THE COLD MONTH EVERYDAYS- I wear boots all fall and winter long, so I always opt for a solid leather that will break in to my shape and withstand moderate exposure to snow/rain.

These NAYA Sabre (they normally cost about $250 but you can snag them on sale for under $100 if you shop around---click the link above- I found them on super sale) have a luxe lining that breathes, so my feet/calves never feel stifled in there. They go well with skinny jeans, leggings and dresses and can be comfortably worn all day/night long.
comfortable leather boot
If it's lightly snowing, rainy or I'm feeling more casual, leather Merrell Tetra Launch Waterproof boots are one of my all-time favorite picks.

These are my main autumn boots, but I rock them in winter and spring as well. They're beyond comfy, great with jeans and dresses and I could easily run a mile in 'em.

I snagged these at an outlet store, so know that you can score a boss deal on these bad boys if you shop wisely.

***The ONE downside to these is that the buttons holding the leather straps on the back have fallen off a few times. I wrote to the company and they sent replacements, but that's kind of a drag.***
Merrell Tetra Launch boot
If you have a yard for rompin' you NEED a pair of galoshes. We trudge in mud, ice and gravel out here- plus we share a yard with Beast dog, so...

every member of our family has a pair of galoshes by the door. We use 'em. A lot. 

Our Northerner's (found some here but you can prob do even better!) have been stompin' for several years now. We've found Kamik boots are best for the kids. 
We're woodsy folk, so ankle support, waterproof leather and exceptional traction made us pick Timberland Euro Hikers (Timberland outlet store- find a deal). Yes—we really have girl/guy versions of the same boots What of it?

You've probably owned a pair of these at some point in your life. They're timeless because they're the best. My cousin was just here rocking hers that she's had since the 90s! They're still waterproof, still comfy and still truckin'!

Worth every penny and can be worn comfortably in any season and any weather.
comfortable waterproof boots

I tried galoshes in deep snow- too cold. Needed 4 pairs of socks for long adventures.
I tried the Timberlands, but no-go in deep snow.
I tried snowboard boots, but walked like an astronaut.

:::Enter angelic music and light:::

These (Sorel Joan of Arctic boots) are the end-all-be-all in brutal winter boots.

With fully waterproof leather/suede, outstanding traction and an unbelievably warm felt lining, these boots felt like my legs and feet were getting a snuggly hug while I tromped through 7-inches of snow in  single digits for over an hour this weekend.

Passed the test.
Love them and am keeping them forever.
(Shop around on this one. You can get great prices on certain colors.)
comfortable waterproof boots

These are the specials, not for rain or snowy weather. 
This was YEARS of searching, friends. Years!
And it ends here.

I found tobacco suede Zigi Tactical boots and NAYA Virtue booties on sale on Ideeli and both are comfortable to wear all day long.
The leather on the Naya booties is incredibly soft and luxurious. They're perfect for Girls' Night Out, Date Night or everyday wear. They accent dresses, jeans, leggings and tights with comfort and edge. Love them!
comfortable booties
And until I wear holes in the soles, friends, I won't need to make another boot purchase for years! My bases are covered—boot ready for any occasion.

What are your favorite comfortable boots? 
Get ready to kick it, ladies!
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours
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Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Hearth's Top Ten Favorites of 2013

Oh, my sweetest readers— Happy 2014 to us ALL!

Starting the new year off with fond remembrance of the past, today's post is the top ten list of the Hearth's most popular posts from 2013.

I can't thank you dearies enough for hanging out at the Hearth and for all your insightful tips, feedback and support as we branch out into the future. Your voices are always valued and welcomed here. Bring on the dialogue in 2014!

#1 Three Steps to the Toilet- Living in a Tiny House must've struck the strongest chord in the number one spot. I'd bet this amazing story inspired you environmentally conscious and do-it-yourself readers.
#2 I feel a little bit bad about posting my rant, I've Got Beef with Tinker Bell, but it appears that many of y'all relate. Why does homegirl gotta be so MEAN, right?!?
#3 Shock vs. Electrocution taught us all a lil' terminology. I actually still catch myself using the wrong term, especially since I've been getting ZAPPED all winter long.
#4 I'm glad The Thanks Board got around out there, because it's still posted in our kitchen. It's humbling and helps me remember what's really important when I'm about to complain about something frivolous.
#5 The Real Giving Tree: The Sacred Oak of Oley is our coolest site find this year. I feel changed every time I stand against that ol' oak. It's something.
#6 For the Girls: Let's Talk About Boobs was a great get-the-ball-rolling conversation with the ladies. I'm still searching, girls. Keep the comments/updates coming on the post or in our Facebook convo here.
#7 Choosing Favorites: My Top 5 Book Collections for Kiddos is always good encouragement to keep those kiddos reading. Books have the potential to inspire and to deliver such knowledge. Please read.
#8 Oh, a thousand thanks to my readers/commenters on Looking Chalazia Right in the Eyes. We've learned that this will likely be an on-going battle with our darlings, so I will update and continue our discussions as we progress, research and prevent recurrences.

#9 Insert string of capitalized, italicized expletives here:::Ten Scenes of Horror: Living with Stink Bugs was popular because those of you who read it know. The horror is real. They all must die.
#10 I'm so psyched that Three Reasons to Donate Your Hair finished out the top 10 list, because if you can, you totally SHOULD donate your locks! That hair ain't trash, friends—it's treasure. Grow it, donate it and send us a pic!
Any wishes for topics in 2014? 
Send ideas, questions, inspirations and we'll roll it out together this year.

HAPPIEST NEW YEAR to you, my darlings!
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

P.S. "Like" From My Hearth to Yours on Facebook here and stick around for updates, reader tips/comments and news.