Mint chocolate cocoa and tropical Eco Lips balm

I received four complimentary samples of Eco Lips balm to review for my blog. I was already a fan of the company and, as always, opinions are my own. Contains affiliate link.

Hot cocoa Eco Lips Kale and AleI’m a dry person. When we are talking wine or humor, it’s enjoyable. When we mean my skin and lips in a Minnesota winter, it’s anything but enjoyable. And with the high this week hovering around zero degrees, having chapped skin is a real concern.

As I get older and have moved back to a climate lower in humidity, I’m spending more time, resources and thought into my skincare routine. This includes avoiding dry lips.

I’m always hesitant of new lotions and balms, as many dry out my already cracked skin. I need something super hydrating yet not seeming too medical. I’m becoming more mindful of what I’m using, and being natural is important to me. Eco Lips fills all these needs, and then some.

Eco Lips Kale and AleThe company is based in my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I had the opportunity to stop in and talk with them a few years ago, and I love that what drives and motivates the company is their passion for good quality products. According to its website, Eco Lips has been first to market with several innovative organic lip care products and packages. It doesn’t test its products on animals and offers clearly marked vegan lip balms. A fun feature is that anyone can create his or her own lip balm at My Eco Lips.

The vegan lip balms go on smooth and stay put for a while, which is great because I always want to feel balm on my lips. The flavors are fun, consisting of lemon-lime, superfruit, mint and unscented. All flavors taste and smell real, like the flavorings and ingredients are real, taking me to a warmer climate (until I bundle up to step outside). I’m really happy with the products, their commitment to a quality item and supporting a hometown company. Purchase Eco Lips.

To compliment the tropical flavors of the balm while warming up in the winter, a great mint hot chocolate pairs well to stay warm but drift away to a warmer place.Hot cocoa ingredients Kale and Ale

Mint chocolate cocoa
Print Recipe
The addition to mint (real or in schnapps form) is a nod to a warmer location while warming up in the cold winter months.
1 person
1 person
Mint chocolate cocoa
Print Recipe
The addition to mint (real or in schnapps form) is a nod to a warmer location while warming up in the cold winter months.
1 person
1 person
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar I used a sugar substitute to save calories, amount to sub will be listed on package
  • pinch Salt
  • 6 leaves mint torn in half or bruised
  • 1 cup milk I used coconut (which makes it vegan), use any style you prefer
Servings: person
  1. Put all ingredients except milk (and any optional items) into a sauce pan and mix. Slowly add milk while stirring to make sure there are no clumps.
  2. Heat over medium, stirring, until hot.
  3. Take out mint leaves. Pour the hot chocolate into a mug and add any optional ingredients, if using.
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2015 In Review: Drink

2015 year in review: Drink | Kale and AleThis is the third in a series featuring highlights from 2015. Today I take a look at drinks and recipes I’ve enjoyed this year. Monday we discussed food and Wednesday talked about the active things I did this year so check it out. Share your highlights of each topic in the comments!

Since I moved into a house late 2014, I haven’t been going out as much, but I was able to try some new places and drinks. I made a point of going to Fulton Brewing and trying the HefeWheaties and going to the 36-tap takeover of Surly Beer at New Bohemia Bier and Wurst Haus, both worth it.


Since I have a house and more room, Aaron and I brewed a hoppy ale that both hopheads and malt fans enjoy. We hope to brew our next beer soon.

Maple Island 2 Headed Goose beer |

The beer I was most looking forward to at the Minnesota State Fair, a Maple Island 2 Headed Goose.

As I mentioned in the food highlights post, I had many good beers at my first Minnesota State Fair.

And don’t forget to bring my craft beer event bingo cards to your next tap takeover or craft beer festival, simply print them off as you’re making your pretzel necklaces.

What are your drink-related highlights of 2015?

Craft Beer Events Bingo

Once you start getting into craft beer, going to bars that have a good (hopefully rotating) selection of brews, or following bars and resources on social media, you will become aware of craft beer events, festivals, tastings and release events. At these events, you are likely to see the same types of people and happenings. It’s often so expected and cliché, you might become surprised when you don’t see it.

I recently wrote about going to Surly Darkness Day, and this weekend I went to the largest Surly tap takeover ever, 36 taps of Surly! Being a beer I really like being held close enough where I could bike, these have been exciting events for me.


These types of events bring out all kinds of people. This is awesome, as everyone is in a different place for craft beer or has a different reason to love it. Some people are curious and new to the scene, some come to get rare beers (as is the case for me at the tap takeover), some just like a good party. The reason for everyone is different, but the goal is to have a good time and enjoy a drink or two. I’m the type of person who seeks out new beers, so I’ve been to an event or two in my day. And since I love watching people and am curious and detail oriented, I’ve noticed some similarities in all the events.

Kale and Ale Beer Bingo

With that, I have with the help of my friend Kim, also a craft beer event fan, put together a bingo card that can be used at craft beer events and festivals. Click the card below and you will be taken to 16 Bingo cards where the words (think: pretzel necklace, person wearing unironic beer shirt, baby in stroller or hanging from parent) are in different boxes. If you use this, let me know how it goes over and how accurate it was (or feel free in the comments below to suggest more/new/different words to add).

Beer Bingo |


First Time Brewing Beer

Valerie Bitter Birthday | KaleAndAle

Enjoying the first brew, it was a tasty success!

If you like Kale and Ale on Facebook, I have posted pictures of my first homebrew adventure. I won’t post much now because I hope you have been following along, but if not, here are a few thoughts!

I attended a class a few years ago about brewing my own beer. They kept saying you can both mess it up and not mess it up, and the risk seemed too great to lay down all the money to get equipment. In steps a boyfriend with equipment, a science mind and experience! OK, I’m in.

We went to Northern Brewer and picked out an extract kit, which gave detailed directions, and even if you have questions, Northern Brewer is there to help, as they asked if we had any questions, had the right yeast, etc., before leaving. We opted for a bitter pale ale based on the temperature where it would be stored and our tastes in beer.

Sterilize beer | KaleAndAle

Had to realize when things had been sterilized. Don’t be that guy who ruins the beer, Val!

The hardest part of brew day was that it took some time and that everything had to be sterilized and it was so hard to remind myself what had been sterilized and to not touch it after the fact. But it was great adding hops smelling them and knowing how when they are added in the boil process will affect the outcome. At the end of brew day I was really giddy. Each step along the way was quick and another step closer to beer. Every day I would run to the carboy and look at the progress as it was moving along.

First ferment | KaleAndAle

First fermenter is active.

Second ferment | KaleAndAle

Moving to the second fermenter and dry hopped the beer.

Opening the first bottle and hearing the carbonation escape was a relief, and I loved tasting the hard work that we made.

Bitter Birthday bottle | KaleAndAle

Capping it old school.

Since then, we have talked about what style we might make next, creating our own recipe based off what we know about beer, what we have read and our preferences. As a recipe developer, this is very exciting for me and sounds like the perfect winter activity.

Do you brew beer? If so, how did you get into it and what memorable experiences do you have?

Surly Darkness Day 2015

Surly Darkness Day crowd | KaleAndAle

Crowd facing the stage at Surly Darkness Day 2015.

It’s been a busy week in my world (hence the lack of posts), what with Back to the Future Day and Surly Darkness Day this week. But I have some fun posts in the next few days you will want to come back for that are worth the wait.

Back to the Future Day

As I mentioned and I’m sure you heard everywhere, Wednesday was Back the the Future Day, the day Doc Brown and Marty McFly go to in the movie “Back to the Future II.” Having grown up in the 80s, I loved the trilogy and my young self couldn’t fathom 30 years into the future and what or how things might change.

Great Scott, we made it to Oct. 21, 2015! I celebrated by dressing up and watching the movie on the big screen, which was a lot of fun. Did you do anything to celebrate?

Back to the Future Day VDennis | KaleAndAle

Ready to go back in time on Back to the Future day.

Darkness Day

Yesterday was Surly Darkness Day. This is the day their Russian Imperial Stout is released. People camp out the night before to wait and get one of the coveted wristbands that allows you to purchase the beer. That beer isn’t my style so I slept in my own bed.

Darkness Day is a big celebration with beers including special casks, food trucks and metal music (to bring the darkness). It’s held at the former Surly taproom, which is still a production facility. Since we live close enough to bike, Aaron and I decided to check it out. It was sunny and the mid-50s, so the five mile ride was nice. We zipped past the people walking in who parked far away and cars trying to find a spot nearby, and parked our bikes near the action.

Right away you pass the food trucks and music to get to the beer. Everything was well marked and there was plenty of room to move around. The line for beer tickets was short, and we hopped into the first beer line we saw. It happened to be the only place the cask beer was served and, three hours into the event, three of the five casks were already gone, so I’m glad we happened into that line.

It was long but moved quickly. I went with a Thai Cynic with lemongrass, crystallized ginger and Puya, a pepper. It had a nice spiciness at the end. We also had Furious Black, Hopshifter, Darkness 2015 (so why did people get there 11 hours before me, it was on draft people?!), Surly Pils and Damien, brewed from the remnants of Darkness, which was really good.

And because it was a beer festival with metal music, the people watching was solid. There were a lot more kids and far fewer pretzel necklaces than I expected. The best, though, was a couple with detailed homemade Surly can costumes.

Surly Darkness Day costumes | KaleAndAle

Found this couple with great homemade Surly can costumes.

All in all it was fun to be able to ride my bike to go to a Surly event. Surly beers are very unique and I was sad for me but happy for them when they closed this location near me a year ago and opened a beautiful destination brewery farther away, but its awesome to go back to the original taproom.