Green Living

I’d be the first person to tell you that the green movement isn’t where it was a few years ago. “Eco-friendly” this and “organic” that was once on the forefront of many people’s minds, but the conversations have shifted a bit. I’d like to think it’s because so many people are now aware of the need for sustainability that it’s become a habit that they don’t talk about often (that’s definitely the case for my family). Still, for some people, the relative quiet nature of sustainability makes it somewhat invisible.

Walmart is working to change that.

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For several years now, the company has been actively working toward making the entire operation more sustainable, and a big part of that has been a push to get the companies that supply their products to do the same via their Sustainability Index. To find the companies that are acting on that push, look no further than the Walmart Sustainability Leaders Shop.

When you’re shopping at Walmart.com, this page makes it easier to find products made by companies that have scored as “best in class” in the Walmart Sustainability Index. Here’s a quick video that better explains the way it works.

Long story short, while you’re shopping at Walmart.com, look for products with this badge:

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There are more than 10,000 products available that are made by companies that meet the sustainability standards, and the badge makes it easier to find them. Plus, this is Walmart, so the prices will be affordable.

I’m really excited about this new badge, because I’m the type of shopper who looks for this type of information about the products I buy, especially online. I want to know if it’s organic, or recycled, or at least made by a company that is making sustainability goals a priority, and actually achieving them.

What about you? Do you look for eco-friendly products when you’re shopping online? Will the badge help make that easier?

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

I wish I could say my Christmas shopping was complete, but alas, it is not. I still have a few people to shop for, and I still have to get a few more items for our stockings. If you’ve procrastinated this year, like me, not to worry. You can still shop your conscience. Just head to your nearest Whole Foods Market and pick up a gift that will woo the recipient and make you feel great about wooing the Earth. Even if you did buy it just days before Christmas.

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So what kind of great green gifts can you really get at Whole Foods? Well, whether you’re shopping for a fashionista, a beauty maven, your husband or the kids, there’s something for everyone. Here are some of my favorites:

Threads 4 Thought Fleece Leggings, $30

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I love Threads 4 Thought because they’re committed to using sustainable materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester, the latter of which turns plastic bottles that otherwise would’ve gone into the waste stream into fashion. Cute fashion, at that. These fleece leggings are the perfect complement to a winter outfit and a great way to make all those summer dresses work during the colder months. Also, Threads 4 Thought gives portion of their proceeds to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Yellow 108 Infinity Scarf, $24.00

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I have one niece who is a scarf fanatic, and I know she’d love these. Yellow 108 is a Los Angeles-based company that makes sustainable accessories and hats made of salvaged materials from eco textile factories. These infinity scarves are made of 100% salvaged cotton, and the nature of the materials means that every run is “limited edition”.

Chavez for Charity Bracelets, $11.99

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What girl (or boy) wouldn’t love some gorgeous, stackable bracelets on Christmas morning? Plus, in this case, for each green bracelet purchased, Chavez for Charity will donate 25% of the profits to the Whole Plant Foundation, whose mission is to alleviate poverty through microlending programs in communities throughout the world. And you can only get them at Whole Foods Market this holiday season.

Pacifica Wanderlust Trio Roll-On Perfume Set, $18.99

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Though I always give cologne as a gift, I’ve never been a big perfume person myself, in part because it’s too hard to tell what’s in them these days. Well, these perfume roll-ons from Pacifica would be right up my alley. They’re 100% vegan and free of phthalates, nitro-musks and benzene, made with natural grain alcohol and essential oils. The scents included in the set: Indian Coconut Nectar, Tuscan Blood Orange and Island Vanilla. Don’t they sound amazing?

Mineral Fusion Sheer Moisture Lip Tints, $19.99

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I may not be into perfume very much, but one thing I have been loving of late is lipstick. This three-pack contains Mineral Fusion’s most popular lip tint crayons, and you can only get them at Whole Foods. The colors included are Flicker (sheer berry), Smolder (bright cherry red) and Glisten (nude caramel shimmer). And unlike your favorite matte lipstick, these tints will hydrate your lips with cocoa butter and botanical oils, and they even taste sweet because of their natural vanilla-mint fragrance.

Every Man Jack Body Kit Sandalwood Pail, $17.99

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Let me just say, my husband LOVES Every Man Jack. The fragrances are musky and manly, and they last all day. This all-in-one grooming kit comes with a hydrating body wash, aluminum-free deodorant, soothing face lotion and bonus SPF lip balm in a refreshing Sandalwood fragrance. Neatly packed in a unique, reusable pail, the items in this set use naturally derived ingredients from coconut, jojoba oil and aloe to soothe, hydrate and protect skin. No parabens, no phthalates, no dyes, no sodium lauryl sulfate, and never tested on animals. All products meet Whole Foods Market’s strict Premium Body Care™ standards.

PBS KIDS x Whole Foods Market Produce Pick Up Shape Sorter, $22.99

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PBS KIDS and Whole Foods Market have joined forces on a line of eco-friendly toys this year. Whole Foods Market will donate a portion of their proceeds to support the Whole Kids Foundation, and 100% of PBS proceeds will support its mission of educating all children. The Produce Pick-Up Shape Sorter is a great toy for kids who are learning their shapes and colors. It’s made with FSC-certified pinewood, printed with vegetable inks and packaged in recycled materials, plus it comes with 13 pieces, including a detachable crate to store the produce pieces. Made for kids ages 3 and up.

What about you? Are you still shopping for a few gifts? Do you consider buying green when you’re in a hurry?

Disclosure: I was provided with compensation for my time and effort in creating this post. As usual, all opinions are my own and completely authentic.

OK. I’ll admit it. I’m one of THOSE moms. I don’t believe in filling my family’s Christmas stockings with random stuff just so it’s full. In the past, when my husband and I have done that, the stockings have remained full, with the kids ignoring the small gifts and trinkets we added as the last-minute. But those last-minute stocking stuffers don’t have to go ignored. We’ve since shifted our strategy to giving two types of gifts in our stockings: Small and meaningful, or useful and needed.

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When Walmart challenged me to share some last-minute gift ideas, I chose to focused on the latter: stocking stuffers that anyone can use.

Personal care products

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My family and I use very specific types of personal care products: ones that are organic if possible, but all natural at the very least. But we always seem to run out at inconvenient times. This year, I focused on those items that I know we’ll wind up needing sooner or later: Shea Moisture soap, lotion from Gud by Burt’s Bees, and an EcoTools bath sponge for my daughter, who has been begging for one for the past several years.

Walmart also carries other natural and organic brands, including Yes To, alba botanica and more. These brands do tend to cost a bit more than their traditional counterparts, which makes them an even better gift idea. Noone will complain about saving $7-10 on lotion they needed anyway.

Hats, gloves and scarves

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Let’s be honest. Most kids don’t do a very good job of keeping track of their hats and gloves during the winter. My daughter has a habit of mixing and matching her gloves every day, so we can never find more than one of any pair at a time. Plus, she’s outgrown many of her gloves from the last several years. I snagged this awesome red, gold and green hat for my husband, in the colors of the Ethiopian flag, for less than $8, and I plan to go back for a couple hat and glove sets for Ja’Naya and baby Juliza for just $5.

Gift Cards

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There’s not a single person on this planet who will complain about getting gift cards in their stocking. Or at least not a single reasonable person. Walmart gift cards are always welcome in my house for everything from groceries and household items to toys for the kids or a new outfit or boots for mama. They’re practical, but the recipient will feel special because they get to choose their own gift. I’ll also be heading to Walmart to complete the rest of my gift list affordably. Check out all the gift ideas you can still order online and pick up in store.

What about you? How do you approach stocking stuffers and last-minute gifts?

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

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A few years ago, I was THAT mom: The one who was militant about making sure everything I bought had some sort of eco-friendly story behind it. It had to be organic, or made of recycled materials or FSC-certified wood, or acquired secondhand, or made by Fair Trade artisans. I’m not that mom any more. I still care deeply about the planet and look for these qualities in the products I purchase, and we’ve made some changes that we’ll never go back on, but I have relaxed my stance a bit. Part of the reason for this is that even with all my knowledge about what makes products green, it can still be difficult to find ones that meet those exacting standards. This is especially true as the holidays approach and I begin shopping for toys for my kids — particularly baby Juliza — and gifts for my family in general.

All of this is why I’m so happy to have found Wild Mint, a great online retailer that aims to help families live greener, healthier lives. When I shop there, I don’t have to worry about how things were made or what they’re made of. I can trust that they have vetted the products for me, ensuring that they provide only the best for my family.

This makes perfect sense, given that Wild Mint was started by a mom and daughter duo back in 2011 to serve folks who were looking for an easier way to buy non-toxic, eco-friendly products. While they started offering products for the kitchen and lunch products, realizing that toxic products really are everywhere, in so many things, they expanded their business to offer products for every part of our lives.

In other words, Wild Mint lets me get back to the “green” part of “Green & Gorgeous” without any added stress.

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And with an active 9-month-old baby on my hands, the last thing I need is to stress out about that new thing she’s putting in her mouth — because she’s teething, so everything goes directly in her mouth. These teething rings from Lifefactory were just what we needed.

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There are a couple of textured areas to massage baby’s gums, and — much to my delight — they’re big enough to be worn on my wrist so they’re always accessible even when we’re on the go. They’re also dishwasher safe, and we can put them in the refrigerator or freeze them for those days when the new teeth are really bugging Juliza. Best of all though, they’re made of medical grade silicone rather than potentially toxic plastic, which means that they are free of BPA, phthalates, PVC, polycarbonate, lead, and latex, and Wild Mint carries other teethers that meet the same criteria.

Check out Wild Mint’s Toxins in Toys Guide if you need a reminder of why we should all be avoiding these ingredients and materials, particularly in products we’re giving to our kids.

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And now, when the rest of my family asks what to give the kids, my husband and I for Christmas (because they know I’m picky), I can send them to a store where everything is safe and meets mama’s needs as well as baby’s. They’ll be able to find everything from organic baby toys and wooden toys to nontoxic nail polish all on one site, and I can maintain some peace of mind that I won’t have to vet every single gift that gets unwrapped on Christmas morning.

If you’d like to get started shopping for natural toys or other eco-friendly gifts, check out this great discount from Wild Mint.

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Just in case you can’t see the image, from now through 12/3/14, use coupon code “WILDMINT” to get $10 off orders over $75, plus all orders over will $49 ship free! Free shipping is for ground shipping orders only.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Green Sisterhood. As usual, all opinions are my own.

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My mother is an amazing woman, and I’m thankful that my family and I get to spend as much time with her as we do. But when Mother’s Day rolls around, as it will this weekend, it can be difficult to figure out what to give the woman who has given you — well — everything. Flowers just wouldn’t do the job. So when Walmart challenged me to do something special for Mother’s Day, it really took a lot of brainstorming to decide what to do.

Until I remembered that my mother loves photos. She has an album for each of her children and grandchildren featuring photos from our childhoods onward. These albums are the source of about 75% of my #tbt (Throwback Thursday) photos. She also has a family wall with framed pictures of all of us, and she’s always looking for more. So I decided to head to Walmart’s photo center for an awesome gift.

There are dozens of options, from basic prints to posters, blankets, mugs and more. But because I had so many photos I wanted to use, I chose a photo book. It also helps that several of the books can be ordered online and picked up at your local store on the same day.

So with photos in hand, I proceeded to the photo book layout area. After uploading the photos I wanted to use, I chose the cover color I wanted (only 2 colors are available for same-day pickup) and page backgrounds (there are dozens of design sets to choose from). Finally, I started organizing the photos onto pages.

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I admit that this part took a while, because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. You can let the site autofill the book for you. But if, like me, you have a lot of photos without a logical organizational structure or naming system for the files, the photos won’t necessarily be grouped the way you’d like. So I did autofill, but then I went in and grouped the images onto pages the way I preferred, by event and/or theme. Of course, you can forgo autofill altogether and design each page individually, but autofilling will give you an idea of how to use the specific number of photos you have, so you’re not shooting in the dark or using just one photo on every page. You can also add captions and titles to the pages if you like.

When you’re ready to check out, you’ll be able to choose the option of having your book shipped or picking it up at a local store. Assuming you didn’t choose any custom options (like book cover colors), you should be able to get it the same day. I was very careful to choose options that were available same-day. So a few hours later, I went to my store and picked up this beauty.

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I love it, and I can’t wait to surprise my mother with it. The paper is great quality, as is the printing. It’s the kind of gift that I know she’ll cherish forever. And in fact, I plan to make a couple photo books for my own household. Then we’ll finally get some to enjoy the couple thousand photos I have on my computer. I just have to find time to organize them all.

If you’re looking for a unique, super-personal gift for mom, or really for anyone, this a great way to go — especially given that you can pick it up the same day. There’s even one book that’s available within an hour! It’s the perfect last-minute gift that won’t feel last-minute at all.

Walmart also has a coupon for $5 off a photo book. Click the link to print it. The only caveat is that the total for your book has to be less than $25 for you to use the coupon, and if you have a lot of photos — and therefore a lot of pages — the total can climb above that pretty quickly.

So what about you? Would you give a photo book as a gift,
or would you make one for yourself?

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.

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Anyone who has been reading my blogs or even talking to me casually for more than 5 minutes knows that sustainability is a big deal to me. While the fashionista in me constantly battles with consumerism and the lazy cook in me tries not to justify eating processed food, pretty much every other area of our lives incorporates green practices. Knowing this, it can sometimes be difficult to explain why I have chosen to work with Walmart, a company that — on its face — is just too big to be sustainable.

Well, I’m here to tell you that Walmart is doing a lot more for the sustainability movement than you’d expect. And this week, I got to experience the excitement around the company’s efforts firsthand at their first Sustainability Expo. Baby Juliza and I traveled to Bentonville, AR, home of Walmart headquarters, for the event.

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But before we went, we had a film crew come to our home — along with the homes of a few other moms — to find out from us firsthand what sustainability means to us and our families. My kids and hubby even got to make an appearance!

The great thing about making a video like this is that it doesn’t feel like lip service. Two of the moms, Denise from Wholesome Mommy and Jenn from Frugal Upstate, got to go up on stage during the expo to share some more of our thoughts about what consumers are craving. (Nicole of Presley’s Pantry was there too). They did this in front of a captive audience of Walmart executives and CEOs of major manufacturers. It feels like Walmart is actually listening to what consumers say they want and trying to provide it.

There’s really a lot the company is doing behind the scenes that may never affect customers directly, including their goals to achieve zero waste and to fuel their truck fleet with renewable energy. But more and more, sustainability is becoming inseparably woven into the customer experience as well — which generally translates to more organic, natural (though I hate that word), and otherwise eco-friendlier products on shelves.

My fellow Walmart Moms and I at the Walmart Sustainability Expo.

My fellow Walmart Moms and I at the Walmart Sustainability Expo.

However, the consumer side is just one small part of the sustainability movement. I tend to speak to my readers as the voice of a fellow consumer, and share the changes we can personally take on to make the world — and our homes — healthier places to live. However, sitting in a room full of the CEOs of the largest companies in the world made me truly grasp how important it is for them to make changes for the better. Because of the sheer size of not just Walmart, but their suppliers, including huge corporations like Cargill and Kellogg’s, small changes multiply exponentially for dramatic impact.

For example, one initiative aims to reduce the amount of air in packaged products. Just air. On its face, that doesn’t seem like a very green change. However, the impact means that more product can fit in a single truck for transport, which in turn leads to fewer trucks needed on the road and an overall reduction in carbon emissions.

Realistically, sustainability is a very complex concept — particularly when it comes to manufacturing — and it would be a waste to look at it one-dimensionally. There needs to be consideration at every stage of the production process. Walmart’s 7-pronged approach to packaging is a good example of how many things need to be considered when creating true sustainable change:

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There’s so much work to be done one so many fronts, and I’m happy to be on the front lines of that.

I tend to consider myself a green activist, and it can be difficult to listen to large companies promising to do better. Because what we’d really like to do is for them to get rid of the products that are not eco-friendly altogether and replace them with greener options. I get it. Really I do. But what I also understand is that huge companies aren’t going anywhere, and we as consumers have to continue pushing them to do better, even if it takes baby steps. Because the absolute truth is that they are listening and learning and understanding that sustainability is not just better for the world, but better for their bottom lines as well.

Walmart is a great example of that. They are truly leading the change with innovations like their sustainability index and their initiative to remove 10 toxic chemicals from products. These changes will inevitably lead to suppliers making better products, and that will benefit us all.

Check out my Twitter stream from the last few days or search the #WalmartExpo hashtag for more about what we heard and learned, and share what you think about Walmart’s commitment to sustainability. I’d genuinely love to hear your thoughts, and Walmart would too.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

HappyEarthDay

As a blogger who focuses largely on sustainability over at Green Your Decor and weaves it into this blog as often as possible, I talk and think about sustainability often. As a result, I tend to neglect Earth Day, because I try to be mindful of the Earth every day. (Except when I’m shopping for clothes for me. Then, all bets are off. Just being real.)

Seriously though, in the future, I’m going to do better about making a big deal of Earth Day, because it’s nice to have the whole world paying attention to this issue that is so near and dear to me.

Today, make ONE change in your life. Just one. Read the ingredients on the personal care products you buy, and opt only for ones with ingredients you can pronounce. Call your trash collector and find out if you can recycle through them. Cut out paper towels and use regular towels and dishcloths instead. When there’s lovely spring weather, turn off the air conditioning and open the windows and doors. Sign up for a Recyclebank account and start earning points for learning about green issues and, possibly, for recycling in your area. And now, you can even use your points to shop for green products.

It’s not hard to find small ways to make a difference. And once you begin to make that mental shift, it only gets easier.

And enter my $25 gift certificate giveaway from Soft clothing so you can get some organic clothes for your kids!

Feel free to leave more tips for making green changes in the comments and share what you’re doing already.

You’ve got a lot of junk hanging around the house. But, is it really junk? Before you throw away that chest of drawers, or those random buttons that are piling up, maybe you should try repurposing them. You’ll be surprised at just how pretty and chic they can be once you use them as decoration or for some other functional purpose.

CD Case Picture Frame

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If you’re like most people, you’ve started trading in your CDs for MP3s. But, you don’t have to ditch the plastic cases just yet. On a computer, open a high-resolution photo of your choice, and then resize the image to 26 ½ x 18 ¼. Now, use a selection tool in your favourite image editor to divide the image into twenty 5 3/8” x 4 5/8” squares. Now, digitally cut and paste each square into a separate 5 3/8” x 4 5/8” file.

Print out all the documents onto a 5” x 7” piece of photo paper. It should look like an image. Now, trim off any white space. Pop out the interior section of 20 standard-sized jewel CD cases. Also, make sure you remove any paperwork or art.

Trace one photo segment onto a piece of thin cardboard and cut it out. Repeat this process 19 times so that all cases are taken care of. Use double-sided tape to attach one piece of cardboard to the back of each and every photo segment. Now, slip each segment, image side up, into a CD case and close it. Once you’re done, Velcro or use mounting strips to attach the segments to the wall. The end result will be one very unique photograph.

Old World Globes

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Have an old globe? It might not be dead yet, even if it still has the USSR instead of Russia listed as a country. To create your own globe light, you’ll need a 12-inch diameter cardboard globe. You’ll also need a pendant light cord. First, remove the globe from its base.

This is pretty easy with a utility knife. Now, cut a 3 ½ inch diameter opening at the bottom of your globe, using the latitude as a guide – who said geography class would never pay off? Now, hold the light cord’s socket at the top of the globe, trace around it with a pencil (you want something you can erase later), and then cut out the circle.

Drill out the circle and pierce small holes around the outline of each continent. Leave a quarter-inch between holes. Now, insert the socket at the top and follow the lighting kit’s instructions. BAM – you have a globe for a light now.

Books

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A lot of old books, as found on online stores, can be turned into sophisticated art. How? First, start with an old and ratty book – one that’s on its last legs. Hardcovers work best for this, because the shell of the book will look rustic when it’s all done. The older, the better.

Now, decorate it with pretty much anything your little heart desires. One idea it to cut stars or butterflies or even flowers out of construction paper or even some of the pages in the old book. Then, glue them onto the cover. Frame it using a blank page or glue a square in the center of the outside of the book cover and make the flowers or what-have-you “leap” out of the book.

Find a nice place to set your finished project. A bookshelf might be nice, but a better place might be on an old piano or a wall shelf.

Mason Jars

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Mason jars make excellent soap dispensers. You don’t need that many of them, either. First, measure and mark the centre of the jar’s lid. Now, drill a small hole in the top of the lid. Make sure it’s screwed on nice and tight first. If you really want to do this on the cheap, use a pump from an old soap dispenser that’s ready to die. Fill the jar with liquid soap, and screw the lid back on.

Push the pump down into the jar, through the hole and you’re done. You have a neat soap dispenser that didn’t cost you very much money at all. And, it looks amazing.

Buttons

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Those buttons that are collecting dust can be put to better use. Let’s assume they don’t belong to any shirt or coat. Turn them into rings for you or your children. Start with an adjustable brass ring – a blank. They’ll run you about $6.50 for 10 of them.

Now, if your button has a shank on the back, snip it off with wire-cutters and sand it down using a rotary tool. Make sure the back is nice and smooth. Apply a thin layer of metal-bonding glue to the back of your button. Now, adhere it to the top of the ring blank – Vwala! You have yourself a ring. Let it dry for 24 hours before you wear it.

Scarlett Watson has spent much time decorating and renovating her home. An avid blogger, you can read her helpful articles on a variety of blogs.