We are officially hippies now.

It's true...two nights ago, during the big rainstorm, we collected rainwater in giant gray bins to provide water for our new garden, instead of using the hose. It's interesting how each little step seems huge at the time, but looking back, it's not big deal. I remember when we started using natural sweeteners instead of Splenda (ick), and started taking probiotics and gave up soft drinks. Then there was the day I thought I'd officially crossed the line when I bought grapefruit peel detergent for the dishwasher. Those things seem so natural now, and I'm sure one day this will too.

I've just had this inspiring feeling lately to go even further, to live "greener", to eat not only organically but locally, and to be mindful of what I am consuming. What can we give up to live more simply? What do I really need and what can I give up? Thanks to the survey the lovely Jenni posted on her blog, I fouind out I'm currently 72% green :) I have a bit of a ways to go, but at least it's a good start! I find myself really thinking about the environment lately, especially when getting rid of "#5" or "#6" to-go containers. I had a styrofoam one the other day from my lunch at Kavala Mediterranean Grill and experienced some tension when it was time to throw away. Could I reuse it? I chose to throw it away but mourned its addition to the local landfill.

In the spirit of eating well and going green, here is my list of recent favorites. (If you want to see my original lists of yummy things, click here, here, and here.)

1. GT's Synergy Organic Raw Kombucha - Mango flavor. MMMMM. I've posted abut Kombucha before and it's multiple health benefits but have admitted it was a bit hard to swallow sometimes with all that slimy stuff floating inside. No longer!! The new fruity flavors are delicious - especially mango! It kinda tastes like mango margarita! I have to restrain myself from guzzling a bottle in 2.5 seconds flat.

2. Arrowhead Mills Organic Buckwheat Flour. Oh, this will be your new best friend. Steven and I have been sticking our pinkie toe in to test the waters of the "gluten-free" world. Neither of us are allergic to gluten as far as we know, but several of our friends are. So I wanted to learn more about buckwheat since it's a perfect gluten-free food. Have you ever seen "soba noodles" on the menu at your favorite Asian restaurant? Well, they're made from buckwheat too. Anyway, I love this flour. I made buckwheat pancakes with it recently, and they were the fluffiest, most scrumptious pancakes I'd ever had! Here's my recipe:

Buckwheat 'n Honey Pancakes
1 cup organic buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk (or almond milk)
2 tbs local honey

* Once you've put the batter in the pan, you can sprinkle some Ezekiel 4:9 cereal (see below) on each pancake, or top them with some fresh berries or bananas!

I like to eat them with butter, milled flax seed, and Agave Nectar on top. Oh, dear.

3. Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Cereal. We had totally given up cereal, until we discovered this. I love the Food For Life company, because they strive to use ingredients that are straight out of the Bible. The ingredients in this cereal are: organic sprouted 100% whole wheat, malted barley, organic sprouted barley, organic sprouted millet, organic sprouted lentils, organic sprouted soybeans, organic sprouted spelt, filtered water, sea salt. Love it. No sugary crap, fake fruit, or "natural" flavors. As I mentioned before, we love to add this to pancakes (make sure you don't sprinkle it on too soon, or the grains will get soggy!), or sprinkle it on kefir yogurt. Steven also loves to eat it like regular cereal, with almond milk, but since there are no sweeteners, it's great if you add just a dab of Agave Nectar.

4. Madhava Agave Nectar. I thought this stuff deserved it's own 'lil paragraph. I do love honey, but what I love about agave nectar is that it not as thick. It's lighter and I like it better when I just want to add a little sweetness to something. This is how the Madhava website says Agave Nectar is made: "The raw agave juice is regularly harvested from living plants by Indian peoples native to central Mexico. To do so, they must slice off the top of the plant and hollow out its core. Then the plant is capped with a stone. The pineapple shaped agave plant secretes its nectar into the center of the plant, rather than into flowers like most plants do. It collects in the hollow center for several days, after which the milky white 'juice' is removed by ladle, one plant at a time. In a way it is similar to tapping a tree for maple syrup collection." I love the natural process and that it's made by Native American people - neat!

5. Ghirardelli 70% Cacao Extra Bittersweet Baking Bars. This is just dang good quality chocolate. We use it for most of our baking. I admit, I don't know if they use fair-trade chocolate, but I'm not ready to give this up yet for another brand, at least for baking :). By the way, check out the recipes on the Gluten-Free Goddess blog. She makes some chocolate recipes that are to die for, including the most luscious Dark Chocolate Cake you will ever put in your mouth.

6. 963 Coffee. Ok, I'm a little biased because this is my husband's company, but I had to do it. This coffee is truly divine, and a portion of the sale of every bag goes towards building clean water wells and providing HIV/AIDS medication in Africa. It's fair-trade, organic coffee, and we drink it every single morning. Thanks to 963 Coffee, we are now certified coffee snobs. Get it at 963missions.com.

And now for my non-edible recommendations:

1. Seventh Generation Non-Chlorine Bleach. Yay! Finally something that will brighten our white towels, without poisoning us and our ground water at the same time! I just love everything Seventh Generation does.

2. Dryer Balls. I haven't tried these yet, but I'm excited to. I recently ran out of fabric softener sheets and was sort of disturbed that there wasn't a more natural option that didn't clog up landfills like the loads of dryer sheets I use a year. These fun little balls are the answer! They even reduce drying time and soften your clothes, naturally, and are re-usable! By the way, I really want to recommend the Gaiam website - they have great eco-friendly home products as well as exercise balls, yoga mats, etc.

3. Evolution Light Bulbs. These are amazing. They provide all the "natural" looking light you want, fit into any fixture just like a regular bulb, and use 75% less energy. And they last for 10,000 hours! Again, you can find this on Gaiam, or even at Home Depot. Look for the "energy star" symbol on the bulbs to make sure they're the right ones.

4. Avalon Organics Vitamin-C Lip Balm. It's like rubbing a creamsicle all over your lips. Is there really anything else I need to say?

5. Nature's Gate Organics Skin Care. I got a bunch of samples from Whole Foods and have loved this stuff. I'm trying to decide which ones I'm going to purchase in their full sizes, but here are the products I tried and loved: Light Switch Brightening Serum, C For Yourself Texturizing Serum, and Have A Vine Day Chardonnay Hydrator. Mercy!

6. Sabadil Homeopathic Allergy Meds. Our saving grace for the past 2 allergy seasons. Steven and I both used to get horrible allergies - sinus infections, constant congestion, raw noses from blowing too much, etc. Combined with eating better, this allergy medicine has completely cured our problems. When I feel the slightest hint of congestion or sneezing coming on, I pop 2 of these pills, and it works almost immediately. It basically feeds your body the very things you are allergic to in the air, to let your body know it's not something to react to.

I could go on and on, but I'll leave you with this list for now. Happy healthy living!