Uruguay 2016

Earlier this month Nick and I had the opportunity to go to Uruguay for about week with Leadership Excursions. We took a team of 10 people from the U.S., and we were there to lead a leadership retreat for missionary women in Uruguay. The property that we staying at is owned by our leader’s family. Her grandparents wanted the property to be used for ministry, and this is the second year that they’ve done the retreat for the missionary women. The first part of the week was freshening up the property, and getting things ready for when the ladies arrived. The second part of the week was serving them; allowing them to relax, rejuvenate, and connect with God on a deeper level, as well as connect with other missionary women in same country they serve in. It was really amazing to see them connect with one another, and forge new friendships with other women who understand the things they face on a daily basis. Uruguay is a very literate country, and it’s not very open to the gospel, so these women face a lot of hardships on a daily basis.

We had 3 flights to Uruguay, and we landed in Montevideo at about 4:00am. We had a lot of things to bring with us – supplies for the week, and special gifts for the women – and so every team member on our flights (there were 7 of us) had two, fifty pound bags. So it was quite an adventure getting those 14 pieces to where they needed to be! We had to take a city bus to the bus station, and then a bus to Colonia Valdense, and then a car ride to the property. When we arrived in Colonia Valdense, there were two cars waiting for us, and it was quite a feat to get all of our luggage packed up to the property. This was one of the cars – the trunk, and roof were packed, and we also managed to fit 5 people in the car!

Uruguay 2016

The property is gorgeous, and backs up right along beach. They call it a river, but it’s really more like the gulf of Mexico. It was massive, and you couldn’t see to the other side! The water looks muddy, but it’s actually quite clean. There is just a lot of sand and rock at the bottom.

Headed out to the beach:
Uruguay 2016

Looking down the beach:
Uruguay 2016

Uruguay 2016

We had a few hours one day (a couple of days before the ladies arrived) to go into the city of Colonia to explore, and have lunch as a team. We walked around Old Town, and it was so beautiful and amazing! It’s right along the ocean, and you could see Buenos Aires on the other side.

Uruguay 2016

Uruguay 2016

Last year only women went as a part of the U.S. team. This year men were invited so they could do some construction jobs around the property. They did so much, and we couldn’t have done it without them! Because of them, the rest of team was able to focus on getting things ready for women. Making beds, getting welcome bags together, planning meals, and organizing a “free store” for them.

This was the building that we used for session times, as well as meal times before:
Uruguay 2016

And after:
Uruguay 2016

The guys also built this cross that we hung inside as a focal point in our worship times.
Uruguay 2016

There are so many pictures that I’d love to share with you, but I want to respect the privacy of my team members, and the missionary women. There are loads of pictures of me in the kitchen because that’s where I spent the majority of the week. I did so many dishes, that I’m afraid that if I had counted them, it would have shocked me! But it was such a blessing to be able to allow the ladies to not have to do anything, and both Nick and I were more than happy to pitch in anywhere we were needed. We both grew in many ways – not only in our own personal relationships with God – but with our team members. We were a great group, with lots of different personalities, and gifts that all worked so well together. Neither Nick or myself had ever been a part of a mission trip before, but I know that this one will not be our last.

(In case you were wondering, Uruguay is NOT a vegan’s best friend. There are more cows in Uruguay than people, and they eat A LOT of beef. But God is so good, and our chef for the week always made sure that we had something to eat. We ate loads of bread, potatoes, and rice, but it was a good reminder that it wasn’t about us. That being said, Uruguay is a beautiful, beautiful country, but be sure to pack lots of snacks.😉 )

Friday Finds

As you may have guessed already, Nick and I love to go grocery shopping, and we love looking for new finds. I always get so excited when I see a new product on Instagram or Facebook because then it’s like a treasure hunt to find it! Over the last several weeks we’ve scored some really awesome finds, and I wanted to share them with you!

Square Bars:
Friday Finds
I’m usually not a big fan of protein bars, but these are awesome! They taste more like a candy bar, which makes me really happy! They do have some sugar in them, but I love that they are non-gmo, organic, and are a good source of protein. They are great when I need a snack, and they’re great before, or after, a workout. I haven’t gotten my hands on the peanut butter one yet, but so far the chocolate covered coconut is my favorite.

Glutiny Beer from New Belgium Brewing:
Friday Finds
I’m definitely not a beer drinker, but it’s great to have some tasty beer on hand for baking, or for a good beer batter. While this beer is not certified gluten free, it’s crafted in such a way to remove the gluten. There is a similar beer, daura, that we’ve used in the past, and this is a lot like that. Nick is a fan of New Belgium, and he liked it a lot. I will admit, I tasted it, and it wasn’t awful. (remember, I said I’m not a beer drinker) I can’t wait to make beer battered buffalo cauliflower!

Millet & Chia gluten free/vegan bread from Little Northern Bakehouse:
Friday Finds
I got a heads up on this product on Instagram from Melissa at It’s Got Vegan in It. While I’m not a celiac, I like to cut my gluten intake because I like to try different flours, and different grains. When I found out that they sold this bread at MOM’s, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! I grabbed a loaf of the millet & chia bread to try. I made it as toast, and topped it with cashew butter and raspberry jam. Delicious! It has great texture, and flavor. And it doesn’t have a gluten free free flavor. I was worried it might be really dense, and gummy, but it’s light, and wonderful! I can’t wait to try their other flavors, too!

Wegman’s Organic Cashew Butter:
Friday Finds
I like nut butters just as much as the next person, but I usually just stick to peanut or almond butter. But while at Wegman’s last week I happened to see this jar of cashew butter and I was intrigued. Cashews are a vegan staple, so I was excited to try them as a butter. This stuff is SO good! Now, I’m sure that there are other brands of cashew butter that are available, but this is just what I happened to grab. (I’ve heard Trader Joe’s makes a good one) It’s super thick and creamy, and it’s great on toast. I definitely reach for this when I head to the pantry!

Trader Joe’s Scandinavian Swimmers:
Friday Finds
We heard about these on Instagram through VegNews. Nick LOVES Swedish Fish, and so he was excited to find something similar without all of the artificial colors. These things are crazy good, and crazy addictive. They’re super soft, and they have great fruit-like flavor. I think the bag was only $2.99. What a steal! So, so good.

Lily’s Stevia-Sweetened Dark Chocolate Chips:
Friday Finds
Now to be honest, we haven’t tried these yet, but we can’t wait to try them! They are a favorite of Somer McCowan who wrote “The Abundance Diet”. She suggested them (or Enjoy Life) for several recipes, so we were excited to get our hands on these. Can’t wait to bake something delicious with them! And they’re fair trade! Yay!

Amy’s Candy Bars:
Friday Finds
I’ve always looked at Amy’s candy bars in the past, and they were never vegan, so I always walked away sad. BUT! I happened to look at them again while at MOM’s (all of the bars were on sale), and TWO of them were vegan! Say what?! Needless to say, I bought them both. I think the Dreamy is going to be like a 3 Musketeers or a Buccaneer bar. The Sunny bar is a lot like an Almond Joy. There are two bars in each package, so they’re great for sharing!

Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy ice cream:
Friday Finds
I might, or might have not, squealed out loud when we found these. I would have grabbed all 4 flavors, but we didn’t have room in our freezer, but believe me, I’ll be making room for them! We tried them when we got home, and they are AMAZING! They’re creamy, delicious, and full of all kinds of yummy chunks of stuff. I also love that they’re fair trade! There are some arguments out there that we (the vegan community) shouldn’t buy these because they support a company that’s a part of the dairy business. My hope is that they will out-sell the dairy flavors and we’ll send a huge message to them! I’ve heard they’ll be rolling out nationwide in the next 3-6 weeks. We found these at Wegman’s, too. They weren’t with the non-dairy ice creams, but with the regular Ben & Jerry’s display. And you know what? The non-dairy flavors had been ransacked! Yay for non-dairy!

I love finding new things to try, and sometimes you have to look where you might in a crazy spot, but it’s always worth it in the end! What great vegan finds have you found recently?

Vegan & Cruelty Free Household Favorites

Did you happen to see my post on vegan and cruelty free beauty favorites? This is a similar post, but these are just a couple of our most used and favorite products. It’s really getting quite a lot easier to find recycled, and/or environmentally friendly household cleaners, and products. It used to be that you could only find these things online, or at a specialty store, but more mainstream grocery stores, and Target are carrying things that I feel good about purchasing.

Vegan & Cruelty Free Household Favorites
{method: Smarty Dish dishwasher detergent tabs // Eco Nuts: Organic Laundry Detergent // The Honest Co.: Premium Recycled Bath Tissue}

Is it weird to talk about toilet paper on here? Whatever, everyone uses it (well…). We used to use the recycled one from Trader Joe’s, but we didn’t have one nearby, and sometimes you don’t want to buy ALL the toilet paper when making a Trader Joe’s run. People just look at you funny. When I found out that Target started carrying Honest products, I was ecstatic! (you can ask Nick) We also use their paper towels, too. I try not to use paper towels all the time, but sometimes you just need them. I love that it’s affordable, and accessible to everyone! Who doesn’t love Target? Besides my dad, that is.

If you follow the method link, you’ll notice that these tabs don’t get a lot of great reviews. I don’t know who those people are, or what their dishes look like when they go into their dishwasher. I love these! They’re fragrance and dye free, which is a great bonus! I’ve noticed that when we don’t quite get everything clean it’s because something was blocking one of the spray arms or something. These tabs are great. We were having a problem with all of the dry powder actually coming out of the door, and so these are the perfect thing. When the door pops open during the cycle, they fall right out and do their job! I think you can get these at Target as well. We usually remember to buy ours at our local grocery store, or Whole Foods.

Lastly, it’s talk about Eco Nuts. Nick was one who first found these at our local MOM’s store. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical because WHAT IN THE WORLD?! They aren’t even nuts! Eco Nuts are dried berries that grow in the Himalayas. When agitated in water they produce a low-sudsing soap called saponin. They are fragrance free, dye free, organic, non-geo, nut free, and cruelty free. The box we bought will wash at least 100+ loads for only $10! You just put 5 berries in the linen sachet bag that’s included and throw it in the washer with your clothes. And if you accidentally throw them in the dryer, no worries! These work great with our front loading washer. Our clothes always feel and smell fresh, so I’m sold!

What are some of your favorite vegan and cruelty free household items that you use the most?

Vegan & Cruelty Free Beauty Favorites

I’m a pretty simple girl for most things, but I LOVE beauty products! I’m always on the lookout for great vegan and cruelty free products to try. There are a lot of companies that are vegan and cruelty free, but perhaps their parent company is not. While I prefer not to buy from those companies, sometimes I still do. I guess it just really depends on the product. My favorite blush, for example, is owned by a parent company that I wouldn’t choose to support. But until I find the perfect replacement, I’ll continue to buy it. You have to make the best choices that you can. Progress, not perfection!

That being said, there are some great resources out there to help you make smart choices when out buying these products. I have this website saved on my phone so it’s always at my fingertips. So handy!

So, without further adieu, here is just a handful of products I use on a pretty much daily basis. Well, except for the conditioner. I try not to wash my hair everyday – it helps keep it healthy and my color stay fresh when I don’t!

Vegan & Cruelty Free Beauty Favorites

{Snow Fairy from lush – seasonal}
I debated on whether or not to share this one. It’s only available from about mid-November to December whenever they run out. But I had to put in here because it is by far my FAVORITE lush product! It smells like cotton candy/bubblegum/amoxicillin. Remember that pink medicine you used to take as a kid? It kind of smells like that, but in a fabulous way! We bought 2 bottles of the largest size this year, so I’ll be able to smell sweet for quite sometime. Bonus: there are tiny flecks of glitter inside. I mean, is that perfect or what?

Vegan & Cruelty Free Beauty Favorites

{9 to 5 Facial Cleanser from lush}
This facial cleanser is the best makeup remover I have ever used. Not only does it smell great, but it’s super gentle, so you can just rub it all over your face, including on your eyes, and it won’t burn or sting. I like to apply it and then wipe my face clean with a warm washcloth. It works on the toughest eye makeup, too, including waterproof mascara! It’s awesome.

Vegan & Cruelty Free Beauty Favorites

{amika: undone texture spray}
I was first introduced to amika from the salon that I used to work for in Iowa. My boss had attended a hair show and brought back a bunch of samples for us to try. I didn’t try this product at the time, but I decided to try it after Kate at The Small Things Blog said how much she loved it. It not only smells divine, but adds just enough of that little something extra to my hair to make it not so flat and plain. I use quite a few products on my hair, but this is one I use a lot. It’s not sticky, or heavy, and it doesn’t make my hair feel like a helmet, either.

Vegan & Cruelty Free Beauty Favorites

{amika: Nourishing Mask}
Okay. This is hands down AMAZING. It, too, smells awesome like the un.done spray, but it’s super thick and it makes my hair feel like silk. I have a lot of thick, coarse hair, and when I use this it makes my feel so smooth. You can use it as a daily conditioner, or you can use it like I do most frequently, as deep conditioner. I’ll wash my hair with shampoo, and after rinsing I’ll apply a about a nickel-sized amount of this to my hair. I’ll leave it one for about 5 minutes while I was wash my body and enjoy the warm water. I’ll usually comb it through with a wide toothed comb that I keep in the shower as well. It’s like magic.

Vegan & Cruelty Free Beauty Favorites

{Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara}
I’ll admit, this one has a slightly embarrassing name (just as my blush does), and I while I don’t agree with it’s claims, it is a pretty awesome mascara. It’s a rich, black color with an hourglass-shaped brush that really grabs a hold of your lashes and gets them coated. I usually curl my lashes with my eyelash curler and then apply a nice, even coat. If I’m going out, or if it’s for a special occasion, I’ll add an extra coat or two, but for everyday, I just stick with one.

Vegan & Cruelty Free Beauty Favorites

Honorable Mentions:
lush Shampoo Bars (we really like the NEW! bar)
Pretty much anything from the Yes.To company (the Grapefruit Scrub is a go-to)

What are some of your favorite vegan and cruelty free beauty products?