IMG_2130 (1024x1024)I found this little guy at my Aunt Irene’s pond. The white background highlighted his features beautifully. Reminds me of a southwestern pattern or midcentury modern decor.

I went online and I think it is a hickory tussock caterpillar, which turns into a moth.

Is Your Makeup Safe? Introducing Beautycounter

BCbeautyimageI was shocked to learn that cosmetics companies are allowed to use known toxins – ingredients linked to cancer, reproductive issues and hormone disruptions – without telling us.

I’ve been a long-time food label reader, and when I had my kids I became aware of the dangers of oxybenzone (found in most sunscreens). It was only after my cancer scare a year and a half ago (more about that some other time) that I started becoming more aware of the ingredients in beauty products – shampoos, lotions, lipsticks, eye shadows, moisturizers, you name it.

Kidscounter Bath CollectionI already knew there was a link between serious health issues (asthma, learning disabilities, cancer, infertility) and our exposure to certain chemicals (plastics, exhaust fumes, etc). What I didn’t know is that companies are allowed to use ingredients proven to be extremely harmful in the products we put on our bodies. Every. Single. Day. Formaldehyde in our baby shampoo, lead in our lipstick, neurotoxins in our lotions and perfumes. Unacceptable!

IMG_9718 (1024x910)Enter Beautycounter, a cosmetics company devoted to progress. Beautycounter has banned more than 1500 ingredients (the EU bans 1300 and the US? just 11), setting a new health and safety standard. Each product batch must pass strict internal testing guidelines before being put on the market (and yes, they have scrapped production batches that didn’t make the cut).

Take a look at The Never List, a list of ingredients you will never find in Beautycounter products (and the reasons why).

BCcollectionI spent two months testing their products and am happy to report that they look great, feel great, smell great and best of all, they perform beautifully. Organic coconut oil, shea butter, calendula, fruit acids and flower extracts are just some of the awesome good-for-you ingredients used in the line.

I’m so proud to be involved with this great company as one of their consultants. To learn more or to shop, visit:

I will be offering specials and giveaways from time to time on the blog, so stay tuned!

Top 10 Non-Toxic Products for Body and Home

I’ve been loving making lists lately (and you’ve been loving them, too, from the comments and emails I’ve been getting), so you’ll be seeing more on the blog this year.

This month I give you my top ten non-toxic picks for body and home – the start of a new year is a great time to re-evaluate our health and our environmental consciousness. Every little decision you make matters. Whenever you replace a harmful or potentially harmful product with a safe one, you are (even if in a very small way), helping to make the world a better place!

1)   Beautycounter All Over Sunscreen –  $26.00
When I learned a couple years ago that oxybenzone (the active ingredient in most sunscreens) was a potential hormone disruptor, I started using sunscreens with a zinc oxide base. Every brand I tried had a similar issue – a thick, white pasty consistency that was hard to apply (especially on the kids – they are squirmy!) and made us look like ghosts.

Not this one. Beautycounter’s lightweight sunscreen is smooth, creamy and goes on like a dream. And no white streaks! Safe for the entire family.

Please note: not all zinc oxide sunscreens are safe to use. CVS Pure & Gentle Baby Sunscreen, for example, contains BHT, a likely carcinogen, hormone disruptor and may cause liver damage. Definitely do not want that on baby.

Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant - Cedarwood & Juniper
2)  Schmidt’s – Cedarwood + Juniper Natural Deodorant – $12.00

When I first saw my friend Susan, co-founder of Butch Basix, putting on this product, I was like… what are you doing? Turns out, it’s a deodorant you apply with your fingers. Sure, it takes some getting used to, but it’s a vegan, cruelty-free, propylene glycol-free, paraben-free and phthalate-free product. And it works!

It has a nice earthy scent that’s not overbearing (I’m very scent sensitive) and it comes packaged in the cutest reusable Butch Basix logo bag. If you can’t get over the application process, they also carry natural deodorant sticks.

Ology Bathroom Cleaner Spray Peppermint

3)  Ologoy – Bathroom Cleaner – $4.99

I love this cleaner as an alternative to Clorox, Lysol, Soft Scrub and other brands that contain bleach and other harmful ingredients. It smells wonderful (peppermint) and leaves countertops, sinks and toilets shiny-clean.

I must admit that when I need heavy-duty cleaning, I still use a couple drops of bleach and water (like the time I had to clean the workers’ bathroom after the remodel. Oy). Available at Walgreens.

16 oz Dish Soap – Further Glycerin Soap

4)  Further – Dish Soap – $17.99

This natural soap for dish washing is derived from the making of biofuel. The company picks up used vegetable oil from restaurants and then processes it in their warehouse. The biofuel goes into cars and the glycerin goes into their soaps.

If you’re not into spending $18 on dish soap (I bought Further as a new-kitchen welcome gift to myself), there are a bunch of less expensive options out there. I like Ecover, available at Whole Foods.

Color Sweep Blush Duo - Tawny/Whisper

5)  Beautycounter – Blush Duos – $36.00

Beautycounter makes it on the list again, this time for their powder blush. Before finding Beautycounter, I knew some cosmetics were safer than others, but was unaware how little the industry as a whole was regulated. Beautycounter has banned over 1500 ingredients (the U.S. only bans 11) and all product batches must pass a strict heavy-metals testing process before being put on the market.

These beautiful blush duos (there are three) deliver just the right amount of color for a perfect flush. I love how you can use just one shade, or layer the two shades or blend for a third option. Each compact contains porcelain flower extract, known for its antioxidant and moisturizing properties.

6)  Shea Moisture – Baby Head-To-Toe Wash & Shampoo – $8.99

A few months ago, I looked at the ingredients on the back of my Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and freaked out. The bottle I had purchased over the summer included the ingredient quaternium-15, a substance known to cause cancer in humans. Johnson & Johnson was supposed to phase out this ingredient (among others), but it obviously did not happen yet.

I found a much better alternative in this two-in-one shampoo and body wash. It has a pleasant scent, suds well and the kids don’t complain if it gets in their eyes.

7)  Babyganics – Stain Remover –  $4.99

This plant-based stain remover has never met a stain (in our house) that it can’t get rid of. No parabens, fragrance, sulfates or chlorine. The only weird thing is that it doesn’t spray very well (it only comes out in a stream) which can be remedied if you water it down (weird, but true). Available at various drugstores and Babies R Us.

Seventh Generation™ Natural Liquid Laundry Detergent - Free and Clear (100 oz)

8)  Seventh Generation – Laundry Detergent – $11.69

There are lots of great non-toxic detergent options out there. I’ve tried a bunch (including Trader Joes, which sadly did not clean that well), but always seem to come back to this Seventh Generation formula, which is biodegradable. I always get the Free & Clear, since my kids and I are sometimes sensitive to scents. Available at Target and various drugstores.

Jazz it Up

9)  Piggy Paint – Nail Polish –  $7.99

This polish was developed by a mom who wanted a safe nail polish alternative for her two young girls. These cute water-based polishes contain no toxic chemicals; they are free of formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, Bisphenol A, ethyl acetate and acetone. They are also low odor, so you don’t have to worry about the kids getting dizzy on chemical fumes.

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10)  Mutt Nose Best – Hypoallergenic Shampoo – $15.99

Our pets deserve to be toxin-safe, too! When we were in Northern Michigan this summer, we popped into a local pet supply store, looking for a biodegradable shampoo we could use in the lake. We found Mutt Knows Best and it worked great. Free of parabens, sulphates, alcohols and DEA.

My Winter in Pictures

IMG_9641I’m loving winter. It’s been a mild one so far, with some very cold days and a few inches of snow, but no extremes. My husband and I were just saying yesterday how we wished the Northeast blizzard were here instead of there.


sunriseThe winter sunrise is gorgeous. The last few weeks the sun has been coming up around 8 o’clock and we can see it from our street. It’s so beautiful reflecting on the snow and the wet concrete. Golden, pink, orange. Soooo pretty and of course photos aren’t nearly as good as the real thing.



IMG_9582I love watching the snow fall. And the way everything looks before snowplows or footprints ruin its newness.

IMG_9694 IMG_9685 IMG_9466 IMG_9670 (1024x768)Snow and wintry skies add mystery and intrigue to buildings.

IMG_9619 (1024x768) IMG_9417 (1024x1024) yachtclubAnd the lake is constantly changing.



Ask me again in March, whether I’m sick of the cold yet. I do hate that I can’t run as often (sure, there are folks who do, but I don’t gear up unless it’s warmer than 29 degrees). But I’m trying hard to enjoy what’s in front of me at this moment. Right now. So often I’ve not lived in the moment with heavy regrets later on. So I embrace you, winter. All of your harshness and vulnerability. I see you. And you are beautiful.


Fall: A Gallery

What Grosse Pointe lacks in the food department, it makes up for in beauty (and that’s saying a lot, friends). Fall has been an amazing display of color. The landscape changes a little bit each day, and I can’t stop staring.

The pinks are my favorite. Normally they’re paired with yellow hues, so you have this beautiful combination of the brightest yellow close to the trunk, and then a slow fade to pink. The perfect ombre. Nature gest it right every time.

But the oranges are also striking. So bright, so bold. And the plums! The reds! It’s enough to make you fall on your knees and weep.

There’s something foreboding about Fall that makes it seem more intense than Spring. Winter is coming. There are already whispers of another bad year (Farmer’s Almanac and such). Right now, though, the trees are trying hard to tell us to pay attention. Look around. Enjoy. And I, for one, am doing just that.

The Homes of Grosse Pointe


Lots of weathervanes, a feature that I love.

The homes of Grosse Pointe are super different than the homes in San Francisco. For all I know the houses here are typical Midwestern homes, but all this is new to me, so nothing here is truly “typical” from my point of view.


A summer cottage back in the day. Photo credit: GP Historical Society

Initially (and without getting into all the nitty-gritty history, which can be found via the Grosse Pointe Historical Society), Grosse Pointe was first a French colony. After the Civil War, the upper echelon of Detroit started vacationing in Grosse Pointe, taking over farms and building summer homes. In the late 1800s, according to the GP Historical Society, the first year-round residence of Grosse Pointe was established. Huge estates started to pop up all over the Pointes – homes that took up full city blocks and have since been torn down, making room for several more modest homes.

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Typical Grosse Pointe brick home.

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More brick. And those trees!

So, here we are, present day. For sure there is a lot of brick going on. I don’t want to go as far as saying that most homes are brick, because I’m not sure that would be entirely true. Lots of red brick, of course, but also white-washed and sand-blasted brick, both of which I quite like.

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There are also a good handful of farm houses (which I would love, love, love to live in) and craftsman-style homes (also, if you haven’t noticed, I’m not an architect. Some of the terms here I’m using are probably not actually correct architectural terms. And I’m okay with that). A wee handful of stone homes, lots of siding, loads of columns…

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and a bunch of homes built in the 50s and 60s with some midcentury modern homes stuck in there (I used a correct architectural term! I think.).

homes.50smodern (739x800)Typical decoration items are weathervanes, mostly over garages, with mounts ranging from ducks to geese other birds to dogs. There are also many colorful front doors here, a favorite being bright red.

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Shutters are also extremely popular and colorful shutters seem to also be “in” (particularly dark teal-ish and mauve). Other popular decorations are the American flag (don’t see much of that in San Francisco)…

IMG_6944 (636x800)…and stone statues flanking the porch or front door or driveway. For example, two crouching lions or two regal dogs, or perhaps one dog holding a basket in its mouth, etc.

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photo credit:

Something I really love here are the trees and plant life. San Francisco had trees and Golden Gate Park was gorgeous, but the trees here are enormous, reaching way up to the sky. And summertime trees are so full (and full of life) and bright. And they are everywhere. On every block. It seems like every house, big or small, has some kind of garden going on. Almost daily I see people working in their yards – weeding, putting mulch down, planting new flowers. It’s nice being part of a community that cares about nature (well, except for the pesticide thing. sigh).

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So there’s your short (and hopefully sweet) tour of the neighborhood. Coming soon in a future post, I’ll take you inside some of the homes we visited (and some we didn’t) on our house hunt. Helloooo, wallpaper!