Elevate Difference

Reviews by Erika Mikkalo

Erika Mikkalo

Erika Mikkalo — fiction author, essayist, poet, product reviewer and humor columnist — earned a M.F.A. in Fiction Writing from Columbia College, Chicago. She received the Tobias Wolff Award for short fiction in 1998 and her work has appeared in the Bellingham Review, 2nd Hand, Massachusetts Review, Exquisite Corpse, Columbia Review, fence, Another Chicago Magazine, Chicago Review, and other journals. She lives and writes in Chicago.

Rosehip & Hibiscus Facial Lotion / Tea Tree and Vinegar Toner

Rosehips and hibiscus have long been combined in teas. Rosehips provide vitamin C and are also a source of A, D and E. Rosehip tea is said to prevent bladder infections and ease headaches. Hibiscus tea contains phenolic compounds, reportedly a positive in preventing heart disease and promoting arterial health. A 2008 study linked hibiscus tea to decreasing hypertension. In India, hibiscus is used in medicinal Ayurvedic preparations and hair care. This is my first topical experience with the combination, and it is positive. Truly organic natural lotions are at least half plant-based.

Rosemary Body Lotion

A Spanish proverb states, "Where rosemary thrives the mistress is master." I've had to give up gardening, but perhaps I should keep a pot of rosemary in the kitchen. Folklore states that it's an aid to memory, with a half-dozen antioxidant compounds. An abortifacient in high doses, it mitigates capillary weakness and rosemary leaf was approved for dyspepsia, high blood pressure, and rheumatism by the German Commission E at doses of four to six grams a day.

Mandarin Maximum Moisture / Sweet Orange & Silk Protein Styling Gel

'Orange' is an unrhymable word. Of course, you can get around this by utilizing some poetic license. Willard Espy's “The Unrhymable Word: Orange” jams with enjambment by informing us that: "The four eng-/ineers/Wore orange/brassieres." I don't own an orange brassiere, but I am fortunate to own both a rhyming dictionary and some fine John Masters Organics products. Admittedly, I go for orange because I like the scent.

Long-sleeved Black Red Star T-shirt

You can wear your heart on your sleeve, or your politics on your chest. Ban T-shirts—“redress your world”—provides political t-shirts on themes including the political, environmental, organic, anti-war, Native American, and anti-religious. They break it down from the EZLN to GMOs, and have the sense of humor to send up some traditional idols by combining Manson's face with the iconographic image of Che Guevara. A sign of fanaticism: no sense of humor.

Sunscreen Soap 10 SPF

No one wants skin cancer. But if lighter-skinned people avoid the sun, there's vitamin D deficiency. What to do?

SPF 30 Mineral Sheer Moisturizer

Everyone has been telling me to increase my consumption and application of, and general proximity to, antioxidants for quite some time, now. A science enthusiast, but minimally educated in the field, it was worth perusal. Of course, I had always thought of oxygen—clean pure air, number eight on the periodic table, part of water—as good. Apparently not. At the cellular level, it can cause the metabolic processes to get funky (that's a technical scientific term) and cause irregularities that may contribute to cancer and disease. Antioxidants mitigate this decay.

Slate T-shirt

George Carlin once observed that a house is where you keep all your stuff, until you have too much stuff, and then you get a bigger house so that you have enough space for your stuff. I appreciated the Annie Leonard digital video The Story of Stuff.

Organic Maple Syrup

Perusing vegan cookbooks recently, I've noticed a tendency to recommend maple syrup as a sweetener. Yes, it's sucrose, but perhaps tree juice is ahead of refined cane sugar and the demon corn. And it also has flavor. I cannot abide most artificial flavorings, and although some faux maple comes from the authentic spice fenugreek, there's nothing like the real thing. Coombs Family Farms' maple syrup is very real.

WonderToast Onesies

I originally noticed Ann Woltz's charming illustrations when looking for a birthday gift for a surrogate niece. Odetta is flourishing on the other side of the planet, but no matter where she's planted, I have no doubt she will bloom. And what better food for a flower than knowledge of global cuisine? Even though one may be mashing bananas through its fists, it's never too early to expand an infant's palette. The items available at the WonderToast site provide assistance.

The "Happy" Collection

As if anyone needs an excuse to spend more time under a hot shower—well, here's another, or five others—each a more compelling reason to recreationally cleanse. LUSH produces fresh, hand-made cruelty-and-lard-free and frequently vegan personal care products. All bathbombs, gels, soaps, shampoos, and other innovative items are individually made by skilled suds people—Sara, Czarina, and Reggie contributed to my 'happy' package.

Bliss Bodice and Bamboozlement Bloomers

That which is covered or veiled in chiffon, silk or lace can intrigue more frequently than the rawly exposed. The scene that continues once the screen fades makes me smile more than any clinical documentation. (Obvious, boring, lacking subtlety...) Also, most agree that some sort of underwear is a practical necessity. Under the Root offers comfortable and charming designs of historically inspired but contemporary coaxing clothing.

13 oz. Silver Parsley Water Bottle

A new baby inspired the fine bottles available at Earthlust: it was time to start thinking about the future, and giving generations to come a clean place to stay seems reasonable. There is the Native American saying: “We are not inheriting the planet from our parents—we are borrowing it from our children.” Even the childless can appreciate the folly in generating unnecessary garbage, so why not use a water bottle?

Chipotle Habanero Hot Sauce

“Healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I was hoping to achieve three out of three, but it now appears that I'd be lucky to hit one. However, you want to make a choice that is smart, economical, and health-conscious, it is time to consider the lowly legume.  Everyone's on the lookout for cheap protein. Some favor black beans—my favorite version is a Cuban-style soup garnished with diced red onions and sour cream. Michael's Uptown Café of Bloomington, Indiana always got the cumin just right.

Letting Go of God

The nation appears to be greatly moved by the election of our first African American President. I eagerly await the election of the first open atheist to the highest office in the land, or at least the public consensus that religious practice or lack thereof is someone's own business, and by no means indicates competence as an executive.

Rich Rainforest Dark Gourmet Fudge Bar

There are many definitions of 'fudge.' The first recorded use of it as a name for a confection made of sugar, butter, milk, chocolate, and sometimes nuts is from 1895. Some speculate that cooking it was an illicit practice on college campuses, and this violation of the rules called its production to be called 'fudging,' although this is likely apocryphal. Other meanings of 'fudge' include: nonsense or humbug; to cheat or exaggerate; to avoid coming to grips with.

Travel Pack

“The essential foundation of beauty is health.” - Dr. Alkaitis Sociobiology makes me cringe. The realities of economics and aesthetics are frequently politically uncomfortable. There appear to be some basic principles that all humans operate by—for example, that everyone likes money and beauty. Money is intrinsically meaningless and worthless: a bale of Benjamins won't do you much good in the middle of Antarctica except as tinder. Pot shards, metal disks, cocoa beans—all have done service as manifestations of worth, tokens of sweat and time.

CleanWell products

Physicians advocate washing your hands five times a day. My favorite medical hero is Ignaz Semmelweis, the Hungarian doctor who performed his research at Vienna's maternity hospital and had the temerity to suggest that his colleagues could spread disease through failure to wash their hands. His theories were derided as laughable and insulting to the profession, and he died in a mental institution after being roundly discredited and succumbing to a downward spiral of disintegration. This was the mid-nineteenth century and Dr.

Earthy Cosmetics and Eco-Friendly Applicators

NVEY is an Australian cosmetics manufacturer. Apparently you say NVEY as "nah-VĀ," and after repeated uses, I say it's "Ō-kā," or definitely exceptionally good, in terms of durability and vibrancy. The organic line claims six years of testing and forty-six years of cumulative cosmetics experience. Application is smooth and even, not flaky or powdery, and the spectrum available includes a bracing lime green and rich eggplant, and some shimmers, in addition to a refined range of tans, taupes, and pinks.

Advanced Anti-Aging Eye Treatment

Garden Botanika is a twenty-year old company with a mission of “creating products that are: botanically based, a careful blend of nature and science, cruelty-free, gentle to the environment and 100% guaranteed.” But age is just a number...we shouldn't make light of their efforts despite their relatively recent origin.

Women Writing Africa: The Northern Region

Women Writing Africa: The Northern Region is the fourth in a series of volumes, following The Southern Region, The Eastern Region, and _[West Africa and the Sahel](http://www.amazon.com/gp/pro

The Marcelle

Apparently Danish feminists demand, “Respect, equal wages, and orgasms.” Fortunately, they don't have to demand comfortable shoes, as Denmark is where Danskos come from. Full disclosure: I have been a Dansko fan for years. When I finally met the right podiatrist, after repeatedly having fractures misdiagnosed as neuromas, he told me that I was permitted to wear one of two brands for the remainder of my days. One of them is Dansko.

Victory Garden Supplies

The Victory Garden project continues. While there have been temporary setbacks, a portion of the lot is overturned, sod torn up to reveal a formidable substratum of solid clay, and it occurs to me that the garden might need a path once April showers subside and leave May mud. Neighbors have been kind enough to show me their backyards, and this appears to be a common phenomenon.

Chocolate Body Treats

Buddhism instructs us that suffering is caused by desire. Alright, I have established that I desire chocolate. I can consume it copiously and repeatedly. With utter abandon, and complete abandonment of moderation and concern for my health. I can consume chocolate indoors, outdoors, in the kitchen, from the nightstand, at the theater; while trudging down the sidewalk, operating a motor vehicle, or taking the train. In the park, at work, at play, in celebration and commiseration.

Dr. Hauschka Cosmetics

Everyone's gone "green," but some have been doing it earlier than others. Dr. Hauschka Skin Care has provided holistic skin products for over four decades, and the original Dr. Hauschka was a Viennese chemist who sought to manufacture naturally healthy potions as early as the establishment of his laboratory in 1935. He used rose petals, and WALA Heilmittel (WALA is an acronym of warmth, air, light and ash, and "heilmittel" means "remedy") utilizes organic plant substances to this day. Apparently the plant of the month is the birch.

Demeter Fragrances ½ oz. Purse Spray

Demeter Fragrances now offers a half-ounce purse spray for girls who can't have just one, need variety, and find it impossible to make up their minds. With over one-hundred scents to select from, the small size is in this case a positive—these petite cylinders are both portable and convenient. At a reasonable ten bucks per "flavor," you can choose to reek of anything from angelfood to ylang ylang (a much-missed pal once had an allergic reaction to some ylang ylang in a massage oil, and the subsequent rash... nevermind).

Spouted Lazy Ladle

Chicago has ample historical precedent for soup kitchens and breadlines, manifestations of want that more may revisit in our bright shiny here and now. Gangster Al Capone even sponsored one as a public relations boost after the 1929 crash—no word on whether Scarface spooned out minestrone or his grandmother's Italian Wedding Soup recipe.

Adagio tea

“tea leaves/tea loves/loves tea/lives tea/leaves tea?/never.” – Uniek Swain “Adagio” can refer to the section of a pas de deux in which a dancer and her partner execute steps combining lyrical grace and technical prowess. One rarely thinks of tea as “powerful,” but it is precisely this combination of serenity and strength that earn Adagio Teas their top rankings by organizations ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Progressive Grower. In our animal comforts we are all the same.

Thursday Night Supper Club and Urban Sustainable Living (3/26/2009)

If you are concerned with economy, food security, and health, a vegetable garden makes perfect sense. The first family's organic plot is underway, and instead of being daunted by some potential setbacks (the condition of urban soil, limited space, a non-existent budget), I have decided to be inspired by their example and undertake an attempt to grow my own produce. Therefore, I was delighted when the Backstory Cafe offered a presentation on urban gardening.

Two Tier Action Pack

Everyone wants to avoid waste. And—yes, the pun is the lowest form—everyone wants to avoid waist. An effective way to do both is to eat only one-half the entrée at a restaurant whenever you eat out. Seeing that the American conception of a "portion" is generally equivalent to a meal in other nations, this is not a threat to the health of the standard-issue eater in the U.S.A. However, generating extra landfill waste through requesting carry-out packaging could be construed a threat to the planet. Fear not: no longer will you be able to use Styrofoam avoidance as an excuse to clean your plate.

Atlantic Blue Eyeshadow

The number of newly unemployed in the United States now equals the size of three cities. I visualize them on a map: Obsoletopolis in the Midwestern Rustbelt, Techbustfield out west, and Down Size to the east. Each would have a flag with a light pink field.