Sunday, December 22, 2019

Nature Knows - Elderberry Syrup

Share your love, memories, and germs with your friends and family season is in full force! We have experienced a wild virus season at our house already and it's just getting started. Yuck!

This wasn't always as complicated. Even last season, we just jumped in to the germ pot and came up kickin' with cold medicine. Now that we're thinking about seizure triggers, gluten, and repairing the gut, we've had to change our game. Oh the hours of sleep lost to coughing before we decided to put the kitchen apothecary to work! The good news is that we found an awesome local-to-us honey and the kidlet now believes me that lemon essential oil helps clear up the phlegm "fun".

Last year we purchased elderberry syrup and gummies at about this time, which is also when we started contemplating tossing out the white flag. Most of what's out there works just fine, but as I started researching more, this little gem didn't seem as though it was too far out of reach to make at home. Nature knows what we need. Also, the less mystery chemicals we consume as we try to figure out seizure and belly ache triggers, the better!

A word to the wise about elderberries - they have some huge health benefits, but are also a berry that needs to be cooked/heated before being consumed. Elderberries contain the chemical lectin and a cyanogenic glycoside called prunasin. When this reacts with our digestive system, it creates hydrogen cyanide. If you eat the elderberry raw, you could build up a toxic collection of hydrogen cyanide in your body that is likely to make you sick or could potentially cause death. When you heat the berries, the cyanide inducing glycoside in the seeds breaks down and the berries are safe to eat. The rest of the plant? Also toxic.

As always, there are a few schools of thought on the level of toxicity one must reach. I assure you, elderberries don't taste great raw, so you'll want to cook them anyway. I'm just a mom, trying to find a simpler way to support our health and this should not be taken as medical advice. Given that there's a potential for an adverse affect, it's pretty important to follow the directions on this one!

Generally, in elderberry syrup, you'll find the black elder or sambucus nigra. High in antioxidants, many people use elderberry as immune support to shorten the symptoms of influenza or the cold.  We found success last year in both shortening the impact of influenza and reducing the number of times we got sick during the yuck season. This year, flu season hit much sooner and in different strains. Now we're ready to prevent round two!

We add star anise to our elderberry syrup. Star anise has a bit of a black licorice flavor. You can leave this out if that's not your thing. Star anise is rich in antioxidants, vitamins A and C. It supports digestion and nausea. You might even find it in a flu fighting chicken soup recipe!

The hardest part of elderberry syrup? Convincing the people to try mom's crazy idea. (Nothing is as bad as Formula 44D - 1980s green and cherry version).

Here's how we make elderberry syrup: 
-1 cup dried elderberries (from the food coop)
-4 cups water
-1 tsp whole clove
-1 or 2 cinnamon sticks (use 2 teaspoons of powdered cinnamon if you don't have sticks)
-2 T ginger (use raw ginger if you'd rather, powdered ginger root is great if it's what you have on hand!)
-1 star anise (optional)
-1 cup raw honey (local or other - wait until the end for this)

elderberry syrup straining and cooling on a mesh strainer Add the dried elderberries and water to a saucepan. Allow to soak for 30-60 minutes. Add the cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and star anise. Bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer for 45 minutes. (You should have 2 cups of liquid remaining).

Strain the goodies out from your liquid. Allow the liquid to cool. Once cooled, stir in the raw honey. I find it easier to stir it in a little, then dump it all in a large mason jar and shake!

elderberry syrup in pouring jar and mason jarThe elderberry syrup keeps for about a month in the fridge. You can absolutely freeze a batch, make cubes with it for a spritzer or add it to tea. Take a tablespoon daily.

Stay warm and be well!


Friday, November 29, 2019

I Can Sleep Through a Storm

There's nothing better than a good night's sleep during a storm. Mother nature doesn't clatter about, making you certain of her presence when it snows, still you know she's changing the world as you know it. The aftermath of the storm isn't always visually beautiful either, yet the renewal of life and the joy our littles find in splashing through the puddles or digging through the snow is endless.

As a teenage junior camp counselor, I came across a devotional about a man who didn't seem like much, but knew he could sleep through a storm. I loved this story. It reminded me of my dad and my mom, who each took these giant leaps of faith and built dreams into successful businesses. As the story goes, the man was looking for a job. He didn't come with a robust resume or a long line of people to vouch for him. He needed a job and it just so happened that a nearby farmer needed a farm hand. When asked what his skills were, the talents he would bring to the work, the man explained that he could sleep through a storm. 

The farmer was pretty confused as you might be now. He wasn't really sure of the man, who didn't look like anything special, but he needed help and gave it a try.

Then, a storm rolled in. 

The farmer looked to the sky, saw the storm rolling in from the house and called for the helping hand. There was no response. Frustrated and frantic, the farmer ran outside to close everything up as the storm began. As he went from building to building, what the farmer found was that even though he hadn't asked the man to, even though he man didn't come with some sparkling recommendation of greatness, even though they barely knew each other, the man kept his word to himself and to the farmer. That night, they both slept through the storm. 

I've taken that story with me. I think some folks will tell you that I take on too much. And, they might be right. I'm finding that I have to really think about what I am all in for, in my life, and what doesn't fit anymore to achieve peace and balance. It's kind of a like a Goodwill donation. If we're just cleaning out the closet, we hang on to things. If we know it's going to go to good use, it's easier to stick with a straight Hell, yes! Or, Hell, no! (Let me tell you, when your clothes don't fit and you can't breathe squeezing in to them, it's just a no. Hanging on to that guilt is just not fair to yourself - enjoy the cookie and get rid of the shaming pants, people).

Now some of us, we just can't imagine sleeping through storms. We have a hard time letting go. Life doesn't always let us. Still, you can achieve this same type of peace.

I recently leaped to a new job. When I took the leap, it was on the wings of an incredible leader. She has faith in me that I don't always have in myself. 

This new journey came with changes both for me and the organization. When I joined the team, a giant project was presented and when asked if I could make it happen, I answered "I got this, I got you" without hesitation. Doesn't that just make it entirely personal? Insert enormous fear of failure. My very next thoughts were: Crap! How will I pull this off? I'm all in -- I didn't even secure an option for what if. Wait, I can do this. How am I going to do this? I think I just took on way too much. I got this. 

The other night, as I powered through the last days of this project, it kept me up until the wee hours of the morning. Truth be told, it didn't have to. I could have closed myself off in the office for the last few days and taken until the last possible second to wrap things up. I can't work that way. I can't sleep if it's not done, if there's a potential that I told someone I got this, when in fact, I have nothing. So power through I did. I ended up with the cold the family shared, that I tried hard not to get, but you know what? Cold and all, I can sleep through the storm. The peace is amazing.

I'm not saying you should take on things that are larger than life. I am saying, there is immense peace and joy in a job well done. Balance is realized. Simple has entered the building! A year ago, I am not sure if I could have done it. I was half in on so many things that I didn't want to be part of. The missing joy factor was sucking the life out of me. 

dark gray storm clouds over farmland
This crazy journey to simple, it's more work sometimes. Make yourself the space to hang on to the things that are a hell yes. Let go of the things that aren't. Maybe they're a sort of yes, or a maybe no. You don't need those. They are making you feel bad and they are making you tired. Find those hell yes's, pour your talent on in, and let them fill you with joy. Enjoy the work you do, relish your people, and you'll find yourself sleeping through the storm. 


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Changing Games

As a parent, there have been times when we're moving along thinking, we got this! Life is great, the people are great, everyone is doing and enjoying all the things. Then something happens.

I sometimes hear people say, well, something always happens. Or, some people don't get a break. Why me? Must be nice...

In my life, if something is going to happen (read: break, go on the fritz, not show up, show up wrong), it happens to me. Somewhere in my third decade I embraced my wanderlust spirit and just starting rolling with the crazy stuff that happens. It does happen to me, but it's part of the fun, part of the adventure. What a relief that was to just embrace the crazy.

 It's so easy to get caught up in why me, or why not me, to perseverate on the negative, and start to feel just overall defeated. The stakes are high. We're told to succeed. We're conditioned for perfection. There are even pictures of perfection for us: family pictures in fields, photoshopping of every model in print, any ad you pick up, television, make up, the family dog. (This family picture thing has gone a little crazy, but that's another blog post). 

So, we're going along through life, striving for perfection and never get there.  There's a huge cost for this never being perfect, never being the best, never being enough. It's your mental health.

Then you get hit with a big thing. Life changes. A factor that you don't plan for, one that's not desirable, it doesn't look like that perfect family picture in front of the barn that you had in your mind, and bam. How will we go on? How can I survive this? Why me? These things, they start to circle in your brain and your life, and you have to figure it out or it'll take you over. 

That's so much easier said that done.

Even as I sit and share these thoughts, I realize the date. Today, is my gramma's birthday. Today, she'd be 104. She left us when she was 73. It's been a long time, yet those vivid memories of why, how, the huge hole, they loom on a day like today. I was 13. How profound that is, as we are now helping our teen work through losses of a different kind, but heavy on the heart just the same. I didn’t think then about being on this side now. 

About a year ago, our teen had a seizure. We thought it would be a one time thing, though it hasn't been. Fortunately, they have occurred in a controlled setting, but that doesn't reduce the fear level, chaos, or unknown. 

Watching my child experience a seizure and not being able to stop it, just wait, is the scariest, most awful experience I have had in my life. I struggle with what to share after, how much she needs to know, and what if. I struggle with why. She struggles with why. It's changed how we function, as now we have to pre-plan our adventures and account for the meds clock, in all that we do. That is not how our spirits are and it's maddening.

I know there are those of you out there working through things that are so much bigger, heavier. I want you to know, that difficult change, the kind we just don't want to do, it can also be freeing. Change your game, instead of letting the game change you. The great thing about a game, is that it's never played alone.

I started this post talking about how we feel when things happen - out of control, ruined, hopeless; and, this discussion around perfection. What's the connection? 

It's easy to feel defeated. At work. As a parent. As a chef (yeah right, I'm no chef, but we're fed!) As a human. Doubt creeps in - you try to block it, hide from it, say you don't have it, but it's there. When these things happen, these game changers, and we're not ready to shift, oh how the grief (for what was or what could have been) is hard. 


When change happens, especially when it's not by our own choosing, we grieve. So, let yourself. Grieve the thing, the perfect picture, the spotless house, the dreams you had, the life you knew, your people. Let yourself do that. You don't even have to own it. Give yourself a break. Activate your army and just take it all in, be with whatever is going on to allow your heart and your mind to make peace with it. 

We forget to do this. I spent weeks drowning myself in work, creating the perfect routine, telling the story but never dealing with it. I kept the frustration, pain, guilt - inside, because I didn't want her to see it and I most definitely did not want to deal with it. I tucked this whole thing into a nice corner, questioned my decision to change jobs, questioned my performance as a parent, my self worth, and just kept pushing.

Let me tell you, that didn't fix things. I suppose I'll admit now that squishing the grief into a cute little box and duct taping that beast shut never does fix it, but for me it's nice to drown the sorrow in some work for a while, even soul work! (Definitely something I need to work on there...)

When I finally spent some time with my feelings and honored where I was with all of the stuff that comes with mandatory shift, it was freeing. It allowed me to change the game, to change my game, to change my perspective. I regained some peace. I traded in a little fear for joy. 

No doubt having a child who has some health challenges in her life, particularly ones that are not self-induced and we cannot control, requires a strategy. There is never a day when we can just go back to what we knew, but this new adventure, it's ok too. It's time for her to use those how to be a warrior lessons we've been working on all along. 

She's grown. She's got this (oh, was she mad!) It's not fun, perfect, simple (at all), or anything like what we thought the teenage years would bring, but it's the gift we've been given to use in a way that helps others. 

November is epilepsy awareness month. If you've never supported someone with a seizure, take this moment to learn about #staysafeside

The game changed. It even required change in us. We won't let change beat us. We've got this. Whatever you might be struggling with, you’ve got this. You're never alone.


Friday, November 1, 2019

Then, they grow up...

We love Halloween over here, getting our Jack Skeleton groove on, and watching those PG Halloween movies on repeat. Usually, we're racing around to find all the pieces to a costume, or picking up trick or treater candy at the last minute. As kids get older, Halloween becomes an observer activity and that my friends, is bitter sweet. 

They tell you when your kids are born, don't blink, it goes by quickly. Then life happens. You get caught up in the daily grind, no sleep, working too much, trying to figure out how to keep the littles alive. Terrible toddlers, kindergarten, middle school, moody teens, driving and before you know it, it's over. You realize this when you find yourself enjoying the little kids who stop by in their costumes, looking out at the freezing adults escorting them to your door, wishing you could get those little kid days back. 

Reflecting, I wonder how much of the little stuff I missed just answering that last email, taking a work call at night, getting ready for a training. I do think it's good for children to see us working. It's ok to talk about things at work that are frustrating, how we worked through them, and for our children to see that hard work can be good work. (I love to work. When I'm struggling, getting lost in work is a good way for me to hide and figure things out). And yet, we never get the time back that we miss with our people.

Ugh, balance. Damn balance. If we forget about the balance, we may also be missing the good stuff. And the good stuff, that's what our souls need. (Don't you hate it when you realize that only you can fix your malfunction?) 

This was my revelation last night. It's not too late to adjust, to balance, to connect to the soul work. This work I've been doing to shed the extra, the joy suckers, it's getting me there - back to simple, back to balance, back to my people. That last email, it can wait. My people, the ones who love me and support me through my crazy ideas and adventures, they deserve to be first. I need them to be first, because that's where my soul work is and that's where I achieve the balance. 

You might be thinking, yes, but OH THE GUILT and now I feel worse about myself, thanks. Sure there's guilt in what I missed. But there's joy that balances that guilt when I honor the time, put the tech away, and make some memories. The laughter, the joy, it fills that empty space. Yep. Self induced change needed here - order up!  

So today, this first fabulous day of Christmas season (we've been counting the days!), the first morning we woke up with sparkling snow on the porch, is an opportunity to get a little closer to where I want to be. No guilt, no shame, just doing better because now I know better. Baby steps. I sure do miss those baby steps. I definitely don't want to miss watching them grow up to who they are meant to be, who I am meant to be. Good news is, I don't have to. 


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Slow your race

As I sit and enjoy my morning coffee, complete with my lactose-free milk, ( can be simple, but you can't be stinky!) I reflect on October, the month of change.

Some of this change was self-induced. Really, that's the only true change when you're talking about improvement. The change that you initiate and hold yourself accountable for. The change that you can feel radiating goodness in your soul and down to your tippy toes. The same change that makes you feel as though you might be going against every fiber in your body until boom! A breakthrough happens. That's the kind of change that September brought.

Then there's the change that is required of you, but you didn't chose it. Ours was around health. This change hurt. It was a surprise, it was up in our face, and it will hold us relentlessly up against a wall until we make it. When someone you love is struggling, you help them make the changes, to reduce the struggly. This is the change October brought.

I am sharing this with you because I like to believe that I like change, until I don't. It's probably the same for you. Change isn't always easy. Usually, this is because we're grieving the loss of one thing to have another. Sometimes it's not even something we need, like gluten. (Yes, I said it, I don't need gluten). When the loss is about all we've ever known, we grieve it even when it really isn't that important to us.

It helps to be ready for this change, the letting go, but we do have to give ourselves a little push. It hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be to give up some of the things I thought we needed. Still, we know we want to get back to simple. We've made some trades. We've grieved some losses. We've gained some sanity. We may never arrive and that's ok.

It's easy to get caught up in the next best thing. I think we're all guilty of that at one time or another.
Our mantra becomes, "when I just have this or when I can just accomplish that, I'll be enough." It's a journey, like a continuum. What happens when we realize that we'll never fully arrive? 

The truth is, we're already enough. What we're missing is relationship - with each other, with ourselves, with our world. When this is lost, then we are truly lost, and we feel it in the depth of our soul.

This hit me in the face, hard this week. It made me question taking a leap of faith to change jobs. It made me afraid that I made the wrong choice to leap when diagnoses and unknowns took over our lives. It made me angry that I lost track of the relationship, when I thought I was doing pretty well leaving the things behind. I spent hours reflecting on my work as a mom, wife, daughter, friend, educator, maker, adventurer and not once did the race to get it all done, the stuff I earned, or my title at work make it to the top of the list of things that were most important.

True change requires reflection. I did just that. With enough time to just think in the quiet of my own reflection, I know I made the right choice to leap. When I bring it all together and reground us, I know we'll get everything under control. When I wonder, are we doing the right thing trying to simplify our lives to enjoy each other the answer is an astounding yes.

I'll never regret letting the extra go.

Find your center this week. Spend time in the quiet space of your reflections. What speaks to you? Who do you need more of? What do you need less of? What brings you sustaining joy? This is your soul work.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Older as Better

Funny things happen when you turn 40. It's almost as though an instant meter of oldisms kicks in and you get a higher dose - bones creak, you get to have extra medical tests done, you need more sleep, recovery time for any self-induced injury is double, your body actually needs the vitamins you've been taking, coffee and you are besties, and computer glasses.

Computer glasses?

Yes. It's a funny thing how we change the name of something that's been around for a long time, because it sells. It sells, because it makes us feel better. Would you buy them at forty if they were still called reading glasses? Probably not.

Usually, we try to keep it simple around here. Much of my 9-5 work, however, requires computer work, reading, writing, and I'm finding that the lights have to be turned up just a little bit more each year. And threading a needle, well...bring on the LED spotlights!

About four years ago we had Lasik. This was a beautiful thing. It is incredible to be able to see all of the things all day long. Is it simple? No, but it simplified our lives tremendously. I think we may be past the point of no return. (HA!) Lasik doesn't help with the need for 'computer glasses'.

Why do I share this? I want you to know that it's okay to get older. It's okay to embrace the changes and love yourself. You don't have to make yourself crazy chasing perfection. The people who have something negative to say about your beautiful silver hairs, your reading glasses, or whatever else this journey has given you, their opinions don't matter. It's okay to be you. In fact, it's amazing to be you! You'll feel so much better if you just do you.

I figure, I made it into the forties and I deserve to enjoy myself. SO DO YOU!

I'm going to take my great new computer reading glasses and enjoy seeing things, all the things, even the sparkling silvers while I sip my Sunday coffee and learn more about keeping it simple to increase healthy living for the littles.

We all need something. Today, I need a little more self love and time to enjoy what is. I hope you find that too.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

You guys: We buy bananas to make banana muffins. Every now and then one of us will actually eat a banana, but the goal is ripe bananas = muffins.

I've tried a few times to make our favorite recipe gluten free. If you've ever tried to transition from a gluten delicious recipe to a gluten free recipe that can trick not only your taste buds, but the rest of your senses, you know that it takes a few fails. And, we have fails! Most of them have turned out gritty. No one wants a gritty muffin.

As I've been playing around with what makes gf baked goods similar, I've discovered that sour cream and cream cheese bind things together and help with the grittiness. This gf muffin recipe doesn't rise as big and fluffy as wheat flour muffins do, but the taste is the same. FINALLY! I get to enjoy what the people are eating!

With any recipe, you're going to change things up a bit - this recipe has room for that! If you like a more banana bread tasting recipe, you might add a dash of cinnamon or Penzey's cake spice.

Here's what you need: 
3 large ripe bananas
2 large eggs
1t baking soda
3/4c light brown sugar
2 cups gluten free Mama's blend almond flour (the brand and texture matters - must be smooth!)
1/2t xanthan gum
1/4t salt
1 stick (1/2c) butter - slightly melted (somewhere in between softened floating in some melted butter)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 to 1c mini chocolate chips to taste

How to make it: 
-Mix the dry ingredients.
-Separately, mix the wet ingredients.
-Combine the dry and wet, mixing until the bananas are broken up and mixed in well.
-Add chocolate chips.
-Fill regular sized muffin tins almost to the top.
-Bake @ 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

gluten free banana chocolate chip muffins stacked on a plate
A few notes: 
-The butter being partially melted helps the muffin ingredients bind better and makes for a creamier batter. If you accidentally melt it all the way, let your butter cool just a bit before adding it.
-If your batter seems way too runny, add a little more almond flour. This happens sometimes due to the variation in bananas and eggs.
-You can use regular size chocolate chips if you'd like a lot more chocolate flavor. The minis maintain the banana flavor with just the right amount of added chocolate fun!


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Pasta e Fagioli

I am thrilled that the fall weather is upon us! Bring on the soups, stews, and all things comfort food.

We gave pasta e fagioli a try this weekend. It was pretty awesome, homemade, and an inexpensive dinner in under half an hour. This is a pretty flexible recipe. You can change up the veggies, use ground sausage instead of beef, beef broth instead of chicken broth and pick your spices. It's one of those whatever is in the kitchen kind of soups - my favorite kind!

Here's what you need: 
1 T olive oil 
1 lb ground beef or sausage
1 chopped yellow onion
1 to 2 cups diced carrots 
1 cup diced celery
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
24 oz (canned or homemade) tomato sauce
30 oz chicken broth
1/2 to 1 cup water (add more after you taste test if you'd like) 
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 t granulated sugar (not required) 
1 1/2 t dried, crushed basil
1 1/2 t dried, crushed oregano
1 t dried thyme
1/2 t dried marjoram
2 t salt 
2 t freshly ground pepper 
1 15 oz can dark red kidney beans (drained and rinsed) 
1 15 oz can great northern beans or canelli beans (drained and rinsed) 
1 cup of dry pasta (ditalini or elbow pasta works best!)

Optional toppings: 
Finely shredded parmesan cheese & 3 T chopped fresh parsley or basil for serving

Cook it up: 
  • Brown ground beef or sausage in a large pot over medium-high heat. 
  • Drain the fat from the ground beef and transfer the ground beef to a bowl. Set this aside. Add 1 T olive oil in the same pot. 
  • Add veggies (onions, carrots and celery). Saute until tender (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and saute for one more minute. 
  • Add broth, tomato sauce, water, canned diced tomatoes, sugar, spices, and cooked beef. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to medium-low. Cover with a lid and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft (15-20 minutes). 
  • In a separate pot, prepare dry pasta. Cook and drain the pasta. 
  • Add cooked and drained pasta, as well as beans, to the soup.
  • If the soup is too thick, thin with more broth or water. 
  • Cook for one minute longer. 
  • Top with toppings if you like.

We make both regular and gluten-free pasta in our house when recipes call for pasta. If you have leftovers or need to serve this dish to some people gluten-free, add the noodles as you dish up the bowls. Pasta gets pretty squishy and sucks up the extra liquid if it's left in the soup overnight or frozen.


Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Joy Factor

This last year has been about the search for simple. Things get too complicated. We spend our time running to and from, using products that are quick and accessible, buying things we don't even need. As moms, there is an unwritten expectation that we will mom perfect, work perfect, keep our house perfect, keep our people alive - perfect. That's not even possible. What we can do, is let go until we find balance. What we can do, is create space for play, and joy.

My work outside of the search for simple can be really stressful. This stress, it's a funny thing. You don't really see a wall coming, but it's in there, all disguised behind the stress, just waiting for your forehead to make contact. I knew it would come, but I was working on this simple life - right? So, obviously I could keep it at bay.


Here's what I've learned: there is incredible beauty in the imperfections of life. Simple is good. Imperfect is real, it's lovable, it's memorable, it's me. It's you, too, which is why we need it. We're losing ourselves, our joy factor, in the quest for perfect, while the quirky parts of us, the best parts of us that bring us joy -- they're shoved in a winter sock drawer somewhere. When we do this, we end up stifled. We shrink. We feel lesser about ourselves. We wonder, what else is out there?

If you know me, you might think me outgoing, outspoken, a doer of all things. An extrovert of sorts. When you know me well, you'll find that my peace, my joy, my energy, is in the little the silence of thought and creativity.

So this joy thing is part of the simple I've been searching for, though this is a recent discovery. I have to pay attention to doing it.

I have been asked, how do you find time to do things like make candles and learn about essential oils? Well, sometimes I don't. Those times, I end up miserable. I race to get it all done and then my garden fails (miserable fail this year, laughable actually), I get cranky, I refuse to cook, I forget things, and I keep myself so busy that I start to feel badly about not being able to do it all. This, friends, is not good for the soul.

Truth be told, I have to make time. I schedule that time and then, because I'm a yes person, I have to fiercely defend that time. Multiple. Times. A. Day.

It goes like this: Could you put this together for...Thank you for thinking of me, but I can't help you with that right now. Ask me again next time. I can't get ahold of, since you're over there would you...I'd love to be able to help you, but I can't help you right now. Here's a resource that might help. Mom, I need this tomorrow and it's mandatory...I'm sorry you didn't plan this out very well, what other options do you have?

This is protecting time is dang near impossible for me to do. Did I mention I'm a yes person? I never thought of myself that way, until I started defending this me time. It's ok to say no. In fact, in order to keep myself in order and honor the time I set aside to do the things that bring me joy (cue candles and oils), I have to say no. It's part of defending the space to have my own joy.

tealight candle in dim lighting with twinkle lights behind
The things we share with you here, are my soul work. They are the things I do to bring me peace and joy, to give myself thinking time, and refill the ole bucket.

Give yourself this kind of time. Schedule it. Defend it. Start small and allow yourself to play, to create joy, to share it with other people. I am a candle maker, an essential oil lover, a seeker of simple things that make our lives richer, and these are the things that bring me joy. I need these things. I give myself permission to do these things and the joy keeps on coming. It's ok if you do it, too.


Thursday, October 3, 2019

A Cleaner Clean

This blogging monthly has become a thing. There's so much to share and so little time! I always think -- I'll get up early, before anyone else, enjoy my coffee and blog. Fat chance. I love this find so much, that I just had to share!

On our search for cleaner living, we've tried a bunch of different laundry solutions. Liquids, powders, homemade, store bought, weird things from websites that we didn't have a ton of experience with. So far, nothing we want to make that life long committment to.

We have some requirements for our detergents: must be able to break through big dirt and dust, must be able to get the smell out of work out clothes, has to be super sensitive skin friendly, and our clothes have to smell good when they are clean. That's not too much to ask, right?

Over time, my sensitive skin has decided to revolt against our old trusty store bought powder, so we needed another solution. I'm not a huge fan of borax on my skin and the homemade detergents we've tried just don't get the grime out that the better half of us collects at work. Also, we sweat big, and any detergent worth keeping around has to do better than a swish.

Given that we love our oils (and it's cold season), I thought well, let's use up some freebie points and give this On Guard Laundry Detergent thing a try. It smells delicious, just like On Guard, and we love that smell!

I have to admit. It's awesome. It's ultraconcentrated, which always makes me skeptical. How can so little detergent clean all of that stuff in the washer? It works. REALLY. WELL. All of our dirt, stink, stains, and sweat were gone (I'm half way through the bottle - that's a lot of washes!) My skin is happy. My clothes are clean and not as crunchy. It's human friendly, dog friendly, and earth friendly. I get about as many washes as I do with old trusty powder and I'm sold!

Try it out. See what you think!

P.S. I'll let you in on my laundry secret weapon, too. If you have a really stubborn stain, as simple as it seems, this stain stick is the best.

clip art woman with clean laundry shirt

Friday, September 6, 2019

A Light Unto My Path

We've been playing around a bit with a new thing. Some of you may have gotten samples or the real deal to sniff, share and enjoy. You're in for a treat!

It does take 2-3 times longer to get things rolling when there are so many moving parts -- and, when we are some busy humans!

Here's what we've been up to...



We have been sampling essential oils, fragrance oils, more soy waxes that you knew existed, new containers, old containers, recyclable containers, and all sorts of gadgets, so we could bring you a candle that we adore.  We can officially say that we have created a selection of soy candles that we love and we think you'll love them do! 

What's so awesome about our soy candles? 
-100% natural American soy wax
-Braided cotton wicks
-No added chemicals, no zinc or lead, and no color additives to keep the burn clean
-When the candle is gone leave a quarter inch at the bottom, (you don't want to burn the house down) so you can wash out the container with soap and water to reuse it

So, how do ya' get some? 

Shop Mikelly Farms to the right to visit our Mikelly Farms Etsy shop. We've added a small selection of our soy candles with a few fall scents to get started. We'll share a seasonal scent or two with you each season, to keep it fresh. Let us know what you love and we'll make more. You can get some of our fave essential oils and oil accessories there too! 

If you're local, give us a shout about our candles if you want to pick them up. 

Peace, love and candlelight, friends. 


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Sizzle Sizzle

Work hard and play hard in the sun? We do!

While we'd like to believe that we're awesome about protecting the good ole skin and peepers over here, the truth is, we're just not. That first layer of sunscreen, yes. That second layer is usually where we fail.

Enter: refrigerated sunburn relief! (Brr! Yes! Run! Relief! All at the same time).

sunburned guy putting sunscreen on head

There are quite a few oils in this mixture. Each one has its job to bring you relief.

Lavender is usually known for bringing on relaxation and peace. Lavender also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which supports your skin's healing process. Peppermint just makes us think of cool and ahhh. Peppermint promotes a cooling sensation and the scent will just bring you joy. Geranium has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce redness. Frankincense helps to promote the healing of your skin through regeneration.

What you need:
-4 oz glass spray bottle
-10 drops lavender essential oil
-7 drops frankincense essential oil
-5 drops peppermint essential oil
-5 drops geranium essential oil (or, exchange geranium for chamomile essential oil)
-3 Tablespoons of aloe vera gel
-2 Tablespoons of witch hazel
-Top with Fractionated Coconut Oil

Feel free to add a few drops of vitamin E oil as well, if you have some.

Shake well and spray on to sunburn. This mixture is for external use only. 

We like to keep our after sun spray in the fridge, which adds a little challenge, as you have to let it sit out for a few minutes to warm up so it sprays well when you use it. And, it may be a little surprising, but it feels oh so lovely when the cooled after sun spray hits your skin and just about sizzles.

Load up on your oils here. You never have to sell oils to get them at wholesale prices! We just love using them and want to share this goodness with you all.


Monday, August 5, 2019

Summer Bug Busters

We're loving summer - the sunshine, summer nights, time at the lake...and the bugs are loving us! Chomp chomp.

We love to use Terrashield to keep the bugs off without all of the chemicals. It smells nice and will keep you from being skeeter dinner.

Terrashield is safe to diffuse and it won't stain clothing.

What you need: 
-1 oz glass spray bottle (always put essential oils in a glass bottle)
-10-20 drops of Terrashield (you can you get your favorite oils here)
-1/2 oz witch hazel (with alcohol - this works as a preservative)
-1/2 oz distilled water (distilled to keep funky sedatives out)

Shake and spray! 

Here is another similar recipe you might like:
-4 oz glass spray bottle
-10 drops Terrashield essential oil
-5 drops Purify essential oil
-3 drops lemongrass essential oil
-3 drops lavender essential oil
-1 Tablespoon fractionated coconut oil
-1 teaspoon witch hazel
-fill the remainder of the spray bottle with distilled water

Shake and spray!

You can find any of our favorite oils here.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins

You know when life gets a little hectic and you, well, hibernate?

Summer's finally here!

We have a great company recipe to share with you, in case you're spending the weekend celebrating our Independence with some folks who just can't do gluten.

What you'll need: 

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups + 2 T Gluten Free Flour (divided)
1 t Xanthan Gum
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 c sour cream
2 t vanilla extract (be sure to use real vanilla extract; some imitation versions may contain gluten
1/4 c milk (we use Ripple Vanilla Unsweetened -- any milk will do!)
1 T lemon juice
1 T + 1 t lemon zest

2 T Gluten Free Flour
2 T melted butter
4 T granulated sugar* 
1 t   lemon zest
*if your topping is not crumbly, add a little more sugar; if it is not crumbly enough, add a tad more

What to do: 
-Put together your crumble topping in a small bowl. Mix with a fork.
-In a small mixing bowl, roll your blueberries lightly in 2 T of gluten-free flour to coat the berries.
-In a second small mixing bowl, mix together 2 cups of gluten free flour, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt.
-In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, vanilla, milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Beat until smooth. (Don't panic if things start to separate...flour is next and that'll bring it all together!)
-Add the flour mixture to the large mixing bowl one cup at a time.
-Add the sour cream to the mixing bowl.
-Carefully fold in the blueberries.
-Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full of muffin batter. Spring each muffin top with a T of topping before baking.

Notes: The gluten-free flour you use matters. If you have one that you adore, give that a try. Some gluten-free flours and flour mixes have a grainy texture that you won't like in your muffins!

If you want a really lemony punch, add a drop of lemon essential oil.

-Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. These muffins will have a light color when baked - use a toothpick to check if they are done at 20 minutes.
-Let your muffins cool, then enjoy!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

April showers brings...snow? Spring cleaning with essential oils.

Here in the midwest tundra of MN, one can never really tell if it's time to put the winter gear away and leap in to spring. Usually, a sure fire way to get another snow storm is to start adding spring clothes to my closet. Worked great this year! We're working on 12+ inches of snow - in April!

A spring snow day home from school is a great time to get some little things done around the house. I tend to let things 'to do' stack up on our counter tops, so we made it through the pile today. But then, it's cleaning time.

Our fave essential oils co has some great pre-made OnGuard products for cleaning if you're not in to mixing stuff up or inventing potions on your own. OnGuard is a protective blend that smells fabulous anywhere in the house. We use it in a salve on our feet to keep us healthy during cold and flu season and it's a great natural household (and sheshed and barn) cleaner.

If you like to mix and mingle your own inventions, here's one that I like to put in a 16 oz (or bigger) glass spray bottle to clean all over the house:

  • 1/4 c white vinegar
  • 1 3/4 c water (distilled if you have hard water)
  • 20 drops OnGuard essential oil
  • 20 drops lemon essential oil

If you're thinking meh, no thanks, I like my toxic cleaners, you might also add OnGuard to your daily routine in other ways:

  • Diffuse 3-4 drops of OnGuard to give yourself a boost 
  • Add 2-3 drops in a veggie capsule for an immune boost
  • Mix 10 drops with water in a spray bottle to clean toys 
  • Add a drop to honey to soothe a sore throat
  • Add to dishwater fluid to help remove water spots
  • Put a few drops on your vacuum filter to freshen the air 

Monday, March 11, 2019

You Do You

Lately I've been getting questions like, you do essential oils? You make candles? You make vinyl sticky things? You - insert comment here - do that? Where do you find the time? How'd you figure that out?


I've got a mean talent for rhinestoning costumes, too. E6000 is some wicked glue. But, that's not what this is about.

As we travel along this journey trying to figure out how to do this thing, live more simply, quite a bit has surprised me. There's a lot we can live without. There's a lot I was holding on to that I can live without. There are also so many things we love to do, that we don't get to do enough of. We forget these simple things that fill our souls, when we're dashing from one thing to another all of the time. While this started out being about more simple 'stuff', it's evolving in to choosing to spend our time in a different way and with different people.

Make the time to do the things you love. Honor that time. You'll never regret it.

We used to run all over the place every weekend. We were trying to make everyone else happy. You know, do it all, have it all. So...we all got in the same place and stopped running. Don't get me wrong, there's still stuff to do, so we do some of it, and then we spend the rest of our time doing what makes our hearts sing. Creating.

Crazy idea: this doing better stuff is not sold at Target. I know, I love Target. The magical land where everything you need is in the back of the store, so the mesmerizing music can hypnotize you into buying $98 worth of stuff when you went in thinking you'd spend $2. Welcome to my life! Target even has Magnolia Market items there now and ughhh --- it's wonderful, farm-y looking stuff that I think I need to have on those days that I'm missing the dirt. You know what? When I buy those things they look cute in my house. Yet, they never spark any joy and wonder like the old stuff does. Ever.


That right there is what I'm talking about. Target doesn't even fuel my fire anymore. (To the Zon and sister Prime, we're still pals, don't worry, but your time may be coming, too).

I like old stuff. Stuff that already has a story, that brings renewed joy, that makes my mind wander and peaks my curiosity. Dishes, farm stuff, furniture, lamps - things that have filled the space for someone else and fits perfectly into our being, just as it has before.

I like simple stuff. Food and life hacks that come from my kitchen. Essential oils that smell good and make a body feel good. The flicker and scent of the soy candle I made, filling the room with yummy and no black soot. Curling up on my chair with a chai tea. Mermaid hair stuff that has rosemarytea, essential oils, and sea salt in it to calm the crazy frizz. Homemade spa days with the fam. Tossing snowballs at the Queen.

[I like internet that works. Yes. Simple. 21st century. I can live with that, even at the farm.]

I like a little online boutique that has clothes that fit me all the time, that make me look sexy, that I love to wear...and I now own one third of the clothes I did a year ago, because I don't need all of those clothes to choose from. I just wear what actually makes me happy. (I do need a clothes line and this tundra business isn't helping). Still, happy.

I like me. I don't mind the judgement from other people. I don't mind missing the things I used to do. I don't mind being enough and having enough. I don't even mind setting boundaries and saying nope.

I didn't expect to get here, though I also don't think I'll ever truly arrive. You might say I'm glad to be participating in 40 bags in 40 days, which is something I love about lent - finding your inner self just a little bit more. Each year, more stuff goes and more happiness fills its space. I'm starting to like it here in this happier, emptier, simpler space.

Don't take my word for it. You decide when it's time to let it go. You find yourself in there and let it all out (hold on tight!) You do you. We'll still love you.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Thaw

Wondering where we've been? Digging out from snow after snow after snow!

It's beautiful here in the tundra and all of that snow makes for a sore body. Mixing essential oils with epsom salts for a muscle loving soak is one of the best ways to thaw and rejuvinate.

A few notes for the wise: epsom salts dissolve in warm bath water, essential oils don't. Using essential oils neat on your skin could cause a burn, so be cautious when adding those drops of blissful oil. Essential oils done right are a beautiful thing!

The best way to spread the essential oil love in your bath is to add the essential oils  to your epsom salts before you put the salts into your bath. To do this, put 2 cups of epsom salts in to a container with a lid. Add the drops of essential oil throughout the salts, cover, and shake 'em up well. This will help to mix the oils with the salts and disperse them more evenly throughout your bath.

Optional adds: If you have something like liquid castile soap or liquid goat milk soap, you can also add this to the bath. If this crazy cold weather caused your skin to chap, you can also add a tablespoon of carrier oil to the bath.

You can use other salts, such as dead sea salt, or himalayan salt. We like to keep it simple and are looking for some muscle relief, so we use epsom salts.

Salts Bath
-2 cups epsom salts
-10-15 drops essential oil
-liquid castile soap (optional)
-1 T carrier oil (jojoba, coconut, etc. - optional) if your skin needs moisturizing too

Which oils do I use? 
Many people love the smell of Lavender in the bath. Peppermint can be uplifting and give your muscles some relief.  Eucalyptus provides stuffy nose support. Roman chamomile is calming. Wild orange puts in a spring in your step.

Not all oils are skin friendly. Learn more about each oil here.

If you're using a citrus oil in your bath, you only need a few drops. Citrus oils (most of which contain furocoumarins) are also photosensitive, and some are phototoxic. This can make your skin much more sensitive to the sun's rays (including tanning beds), which can cause burns when you're exposed to sunlight or UV light. Fear not, if you're in the tundra like us you won't see that ball of light for a few more months! Still, guard your skin (trust me, I tend to only learn the hard way).


More info about using peppermint and eucalyptus with kids.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

People often ask about the best essential oils to get started with.

Essential oils support us in so many ways and we each have scent preferences. Two easy essential oils to get started with are peppermint and lavender. These oils are pretty flexible in their use. Still, they are concentrated, so diluting them with a carrier oil is needed for use topically. If you're using essential oils for kids, diffusing is a less intrusive way to introduce essential oils. It's best to consult with your physician before using essential oils with very young children. Our fave oils have a kids line, with guidelines for use to help you out!

Let's start with peppermint. We use it every day. It's wonderful on our diffuser bracelets, in lotion or in a body butter. I just love the smell.

The better half of us is not a spider fan. He uses peppermint throughout the inside of the house in the city and in all of the buildings at the farm to ward off spiders - works pretty well! A spray bottle with water and peppermint or rubbing alcohol/vodka and peppermint will do the trick.

Peppermint supports you in a number of ways: it's a pick me up, reduces nausea and headaches, supports focus and activates the thinker, provides some pain relief for muscles and sunburns (add it to organic aloe in a spray bottle and toss it in the fridge - ahhh!) Peppermint also smells great and can help to clear up stuffy noses. It turns death breath in to sparkles. Make a peppermint breath spray in a 10 ml glass spray bottle with 4-6 drops of peppermint essential oil (depending on the flavor intensity you're looking for) and filtered water.

Lavender is quite popular in the bedroom. For relaxation. You dirty minds!

Lavender doesn't usually get as much recognition for the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties as it does for aromatherapy, though it's often used to calm the skin. Lavender also supports relaxation, can calm and easy anxiety or restlessness, and it might just reduce your crankies. Many people love lavender in a diffuser at bed time to calm wiggly humans. We like lavender in a roller bottle with a carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil to calm nerves.

Wherever you start, do a little pre-research (pre-search?) and enjoy! There is no right or wrong, just what you're comfortable with in your home.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Love Day Blends

The day of love is underway at our house, with chocolates and heart shaped sour patch kids on the horizon. It's snowing outside and the sun is fading, setting the stage for - laundry!

Let's get real. When you have kids and pets at home, every day is laundry day. There's nothing a mama loves better than when the laundry is done. Leave it for the weekend folks, another couple inches added to the laundry pile won't hurt anyone. For now, spoil yourself a little bit. 

I've been thinking about diffuser blends to make the nose and heart happy today. Here are a few faves that you might like for this day of love:

Heart Day 
2 drops Ylang Ylang (a magic love oil!) 
1 drop Wild Orange
1 drop Sandalwood (trade this out for clove if you have it)
1 drop Cedarwood 

2 drops Wild Orange
1 drop Cardamom
1 drop Nutmeg (or clove) 

Hubba Hubba
1 drop Clary Sage
2 drops Bergamot
2 drops Ylang Ylang 

If you're in the mood for a massage, trying adding these essential oils to 2 T of miracle salve (this makes THE best massage lotion) or 2 T of lotion/massage oil:

2 drops Ylang Ylang
1 drop Ginger
1 drop Wild Orange
1 drop black pepper (substitute cinnamon or cassia essential oil)

Ylang Ylang is the theme today! Learn more about ylang ylang and our favorite essential oils here

Happy day of love!


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Unbottling Your Energy

Ever watched a toddler and thought to yourself, if I could only bottle than energy!? Me too. Me too.

One of the simple living thing strategies we've been working on is energy - put good things in, to get good things out, organizing, and everything in between.

A few weeks ago, I tried Reiki. Needless to say, I was pretty skeptical. Sleep issues are not a problem in our house, but letting go and truly relaxing are. All that running causes fatigue and crankiness. Enter Groupon and a path to Reiki was cleared.

Reiki is a Japanese technique, believed to channel energy to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and support your body's natural healing. (Hmmm...I thought quick nap, pretty music, essential oils, mom time - I'm in). I will say that I'd like to try this a few more times, but, my cranky is gone. There were some things I was holding on to that I've excused from my thoughts, which has been fab-u-lous! 

Given my limited Reiki knowledge and the brief information I was given by the Reiki therapist, I started digging in to the connection between essential oils and the chakras, to support energy post-Groupon. We've always used the essential oils that appeal to us through aromatherapy, but we've been ignoring the connection between particular oils and our bodies. There are some pretty great ways to use essential oils to support your health, and if nothing else, your thoughtful well-being just because they smell good.

chakra body sketch clip art Chakras are wheels, so imagine this wheel as the hub for the center of your energy in your body. I learned that I hold a lot of energy in my head, which didn't surprise me. My mind is always going, making connections, looking for meaning. Energy swirling around in there and getting stuck wreaks some havoc on my peace and joy. The two chakras at the top of your head and between your brows are referred to as the crown and the third eye, respectfully. Think of the third eye as a bit of intuition and the basis of your decision making. (Stick with me here, I too was thinking, uh - right...but it's true, energy is constant and it makes a body move).

If this chakra thing has you listening, you can gather a little more information here.

There are many ways to support your energy. You might find out there that running and meditation are ways to support the crown. Great ideas, except they involve running and meditation. Give me another ten years and I may be saying that meditation is the thing of the fifties, but for now, dark lights, pretty music, nice smells, zzzzzz - sleep.

This might all be a little much for you and that's okay. If you don't run unless you're being chased or meditate because it's weird or also makes you snooze, you might find a boost through aromatherapy from diffusing some essential oils. Our minds and bodies are impacted by scent in a significant way. If you've ever walked by someone wearing a perfume or cologne a loved one wears, or smell a great recipe cooking that a loved one has made for you, you know how smells can impact your memory.

Some essential oils have similar aromatherapy benefits. There are a few of these in the blends below with options to choose from depending on the scent you prefer or what you have on hand. If you're not sure where to start, try our favorite oils.

Grab your bottles and diffuse your way to balance!

3 drops Frankincense
2 drops Cedarwood (or Sandalwood)
2 drops Jasmine (or Neroli)
1 drop Lavender

3 drops Juniper Berry
2 drops Rosemary
2 drops Lemon (or lemongrass)

In all of this I started to wonder, how many of us hit forty and have what kind of feels like a mid-life crisis, when maybe what's going on is our energy is out of whack? We've put so much time and effort in to one or a few things and have forgotten about balance for ourselves. Then, something clicks, we work toward alignment. Not everyone needs this or gets there, but we look at those who are doing this work and think huh, mid-life crisis.

What if we do this work before we get there and lead a balanced life every day?  

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Are you ready for it? Chai Tea Latte Mix!

I love a good chai tea latte. I don't love the $6 price tag at the local coffee shop, the heavy syrup flavor in the ready-made mixes, or leaving the house when it's cold outside to go get one.

I invite you to add some heat to this recipe with a dash of cayenne pepper or a vietnamese cinnamon - delish! Throw on your favorite slippers, a winter diffuser blend, grab a book and sip your latte.

What you'll need: 
-food processor (very important or your chai tea will be chunky and funky, instead of smooth - I like small appliances that are multi-purpose, like this one)
-large airtight container 
-1 c powdered plain non-dairy coffee creamer
-1 c french vanilla flavored non-dairy coffee creamer
-1 c nonfat dry powdered milk 
-2 1/2 c white sugar 
-1 1/2 c unsweetened instant tea
-2 t ground ginger
-2 t ground cinnamon (my flavor fave is vietnamese cinnamon - it makes a difference!) 
-2 t ground cardamom (yummay)
-1 t ground cloves (yes! love my cloves!) 

Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl until all ingredients are combined. Process half of the mixture in a food processor until the granules are fine and the mixture has a smooth texture. (Generally, this batch is a little too large to put through the food processor all at once, unless you have the mother of all food processors). Store your chai tea latte mix in an airtight container in a cool, dry place (you don't want all of that deliciousness sticking together!)

To enjoy: 
I have found this tastes best when you put 2 tablespoons of the mix into an 8 ounce cup first, then add piping hot water and stir well. Top with whipped cream. Add a dash of cinnamon and you're set! 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Warm Thoughts

I love snow, fuzzy sweaters, warm drinks, spicy scents, and all things winter. Yet sometimes, when you're living in the tundra (how we affectionately refer to home in the upper midwest), you need some inner warmth.

If you're a parent of little ones, the book Frederick is an incredible way to describe how one needs some inner warmth to keep the soul fires going when the cold seems endless.  Frederick also teaches how each person's unique talents are valuable. It'll give you and the kidlets the warm fuzzies.

Back to us.

One of my favorite ways to bring warmth to our home is to diffuse some great warming blends. (Stay tuned for cold abyss weapon #2 - our chai tea latte recipe)!

If you're looking for some diffuser blends to support warm thoughts this week, while we thaw a little from the snow and ice blessings, try out these essential oil blends:

Cozy Up
3 drops Wild Orange
3 drops Cinnamon or Cassia
2 drops Clove (my favorite!)

If you want to toss a little up north in to your blend...

4 drops Wild Orange
3 drops Siberian Fir (Douglas Fir works great too!)
2 drops Cinnamon

To warm up and bust the germ crud...

Winter Warrior
3 drops OnGuard
2 drops Wild Orange
2 drops Frankincense

Our tried and true essential oils come from here. If you're not in to cold mist diffusing, but are seeking the benefits of essential oils, take a peek over here.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

This Crazy, Gluten Free Adventure

The polar vortex tried to take the midwest by storm, but we're a tough people. Fifty below ain't got nothing on us! Truly, we've been out of school for four days. We've been staring at each other for four days. We have eaten at home - for four days. Until today. Today, we were released in to the wild (only -18). And today, I failed GF and ate a cookie.

I admit that I've been playing with this gluten free thing a bit. I'm a skeptic, particularly when it comes to my own limitations. I'm definitely the one who dances on the edge to see how far one can really go. Within half an hour of eating that glorious, gluten filled cookie, it was on. 

Full body revolt sprung in to action, though I've never been without gluten so long to be able to determine if the yuck was truly from gluten alone. Today provided some great, useful data -  immediate headache, stomach ache, nauseousness, sinuses clogged up, nose running, head heavy...from one cookie. 

Remember when I said that being forty is fabulous? It is. Except for the part where your body doesn't behave like it used to and starts acting like an ahole. That part, I could live without. 

I've been rationing my benadryl intake this week because of a sensitivity to who knows what that caused me to break out in to one wicked rash. Safely home and off the roads, I took some and viola! Gluten stuffed, aching head, runny nose issues also gone. 


Figuring I was on a roll, I put a few drops of DigestZen in a veggie cap, along with a few drops of Copaiba and cue miracle moment 2! My stomach stopped hurting and I haven't had the painful swollen gluten consumption thing going on yet. Now, this isn't a cure for my gluten issues. It did help me, personally, feel better and I'm looking forward to a post gluten-cookie sleep without heartburn. 

The adventures don't end here. I now have to test this theory. This isn't going to fix my gluten issues, but it sure helps the reaction when I screw up. There are so many delish cookies out there that I could consume, but I'm going to have to choose wisely, because rotten stomach, headache, heart burn, stuffed head isn't worth it for just any old thing. (More later). 

In the meantime, I do want to share these two oils with you. DigestZen is a blend of essential oils. Don't use it neat (alone, without a carrier oil or salve) on your skin. If you have sensitive skin without reason like mine, your skin is likely to react and you'll hate your skin for a few days. Our fave oils have DigestZen in capsules and a roller bottle if you want to take it on the go. I prefer the capsules. You can also take your liquid DigestZen and put it in a veggie yourself, if you're not dripsee. DigestZen has ginger, peppermint, caraway, coriander, anise, tarragon and fennel in it. It's a bit...strong scented, if you will. But boy does it settle an upset stomach! 

Copaiba is something very different. This is an oil that truth be told, I've been playing with some. If you've done any research into CBD oil, you may have run across some discussion about copaiba. They are not the same. Copaiba comes from a tree (various species) and supports the systems functions, as well as my forty years plus malfunctions. Copaiba is another essential oil that you'll want to dillute in a carrier oil or salve before applying it to your skin. It's a pretty powerful antioxidant, and provides some old body relief as well. The littles use it mixed in miracle salve on their tired, sore muscles after sportsing for many hours and find great relief. It helps my creaks and cracks, and supports all the things. 

So that's what we've been up to for four days of cold. Playing with oils and putting the wood stove to work. Not such a bad way to spend the day! 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Homemade Aromatherapy Play Dough

Are the kids driving you nuts yet?

One of the early lessons I learned is to collect crafty things and stash them, so we have something to do during the winter months. This is especially helpful now that we're in the season when school is canceled due to winter weather. A few days at home staring each other down will usually do you in!

Home made play dough with essential oils is a fabulous way to keep the people smelling great and keep them busy.

What you'll need: 
-1 1/2 cups of flour
-2 T oil (extra virgin olive oil works well)
-1/2 cup salt
-2 t cream of tartar
-1 cup boiling water (add food coloring to the water before pouring the water in)
-food coloring
-5 drops kid friendly essential oil

If you're living the gluten free adventure, try this recipe instead: 
-2 cups gluten free flour
-2 T oil
-1/2 cup salt
-2 T cream of tartar
-1 1/2 cups boiling water (add food coloring to the water before pouring the water in)
-food coloring
-5 drops kid friendly essential oil

Directions for both: 
Mix flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil in a large bowl. Slowly add the water to the mixing bowl. Stir or fold in the ingredients with the water until the mixture forms a slightly sticky dough. Fold the dough into a ball and remove it from the bowl. Knead the dough to remove any lumps and bumps. Add essential oils and knead to mix the oil in. Keep your play dough in an airtight container to store.

Note: You can wait to add the food coloring until after the dough is made. Grab some plastic gloves and knead the food coloring into the dough before adding the essential oils. 

Kid friendly* essential oil ideas: peppermint, lemon, wild orange, rosemary, lavender

*Omit the use of essential oils for kids under 2 who are still exploring the world one mouth at a time.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Soul Fires

We were starting to think this balmy tundra winter was going to stay warm...until this week. Welcome back frigid temps (moving in to -45F wind chills next week)!

While you're going to have to bundle up to keep the frost from settling on your toes this week, diffusing essential oils that are grounding and warming to the soul increases our winter happy! I pair these warm blends in the diffuser with a cup of our chai tea latte or hot chocolate in my mug, and snuggle inside for a few days.

We also love to bake when it's cold outside. A few weeks ago, I tried a gluten free cookie recipe and I cannot keep these things in the house long enough to get more than one or two myself. The better half may or may not have eaten four in a row. YES! Yum. This gal is a brilliant gluten free mama.

When you're mixing essential oils together scents are important, as are the positive properties of each oil. There are a few essential oils that are out there that aren't used that often, probably because we just don't know much about them, but they are oh so good! We use our favorite essential oils when diffusing, because, well, the purity of scent matters. You'll hang on to a scent memory far longer than others.

Ylang ylang is one of those essential oils that might leave you wondering what you can do with it.

Ylang ylang (ee-lang, ee-lang), supports emotional connection, joyfulness, and innocence (try this in a massage oil...zing!) It's a heart healer that pairs nicely with uplifting citrus scents and sultry flowery scents. Using it as the undertone grounds us in joy, something that I sure start to look for when day 15 of below zero temps are in the forecast!

Cinnamon is an interesting one. It encourages us to feel free and connected. Cinnamon is a hot oil, so definitely wash up right away if you get this oil on your skin (and never rub your eye if you do - youch!) Even the flavor is a connector in recipes. Cinnamon also supports our immune system and helps us kick the winter blues.

For many, lavender is calming to the mind, releases tension, and encourages expression. Around here, we use lavender before a big game or nerve wracking new experience. Not everyone is a fan of lavender. You might try juniper berry instead, which we love in our house for peaceful sleep. Either of these oils will bring a more flowery scent to this blend, juniper berry adding depth with its earthy tones.

If neither lavender or juniper berry are your thing, our other go to favorite is wild orange. You can blend wild orange with just about any essential oil and it smells wonderful! It's uplifting and connects with our playful side - if it's not yet frozen.

Some connect very deeply with the smell of clove. I like a little more clove than less, but you decide what works best for you. After learning more about it, I understand why the wild and free spirits in our house love this smell! Clove ignites our soul fire and stimulates the mind, which can much us feel empowered, independent, and safe.

We've use quite a few different cool mist diffusers, but this is our go-to diffuser. It's small enough that it can be moved around the house and has a auto shut-off feature.

For your diffuser: 
Soul Fire
-3 drops ylang ylang
-2 drops cinnamon
-2 drops lavender (or try juniper berry, citrus bliss, or wild orange)
-1 drop clove

A few more blends to try: 
Stay Warm
-2 drops cinnamon
-2 drops wild orange
-2 drops clove
*add one drop douglas or siberian fir if you want to add an up north kick to this blend

Bustin' the Blues
-2 drops bergamot
-2 drops eucalyptus
-2 drops wild orange

What I love most is that you can explore essential oils as often or as slowly as you like by diffusing. The blends are limitless. 

Stay warm!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Bustin' the Winter Blues

Up here in the tundra, winter gets long. While I love me a good hot cocoa and peppermint schnapps, that doesn't work for everyone (especially not the littles!)

We use peppermint and cinnamon essential oils to give our hot cocoa a kick!

Alton Brown at the Food Network came up with a great hot cocoa mix that you can make in a big batch ahead of time (and add a few personal touches to). We mix ours with hot water. I like to toss the dry ingredients in to the food processor, to bring all of the flavors together and it makes for a smoother, more consistent mixture.

  • 2 cups powered sugar (weeeee!) 
  • 1 cup cocoa, Dutch-process 
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered milk 
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 t cornstarch
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper 
  • 2 t vanilla, pure powder (optional) 
  • 1 cup dehydrated mini marshmallows (optional)
  • 1 c white chocolate chunks or chips (optional)
  • 8-12 oz hot water in a cup 
  • 1 drop of essential oil (our faves - peppermint, cinnamon, wild orange)  

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Red Beans and Rice

If there is one thing that I am not and wish I was, it is a southern cook. The family has a hankerin' for hot stuff most of the time and I tend to stick to my good old German Russian/Scandinavian bland food. Every now and then I get a crazy idea and try something new.

Like that one time, I bought lots 'o small red beans.

One would think that dry beans are easy to cook with. Uh, no. Not for this northerner. We do tubers, but beans, well... Leading a gluten free life has to start somewhere!

I've played around with this recipe a little bit. If there's a spice missing that you adore in your red beans and rice, it's pretty safe to add it to this mix.

A few things I've learned, when playing around with this recipe:
-You can use ham or andouille sausage, both taste great
-You can add a few more spices or a little more heat, depending on what you can handle
-If you have food allergies, you can sub out Worchestershire Sauce for soy sauce, add 1/8 t brown sugar and 1/8 t ground mustard too
-I may or may not have tossed a little rosemary in to my pot for good measure
-White rice is so much better than brown rice in this dish
-Day 2 = yum also
-mash a few of the beans up a little when you add the meat if you want a mushier consistency

What you'll need: 
  • 1 lb small red beans - I like to soak the beans for 4ish hours, but they will lose color if you soak them for too long (lots 'o small red beans)
  • 1 lb Andouille sausage or cooked ham, chopped
  • 8 cups chicken stock 
  • 1 ham hock
  • 2 T olive oil 
  • 1 chopped green pepper (red if you'd rather that flavor instead) 
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 gloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 t ground black pepper
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t oregano (our most favorite spices)
  • 1 t thyme
  • 1/2 t smoked paprika (yep, it's a thing! substitute 1/2 t paprika with a pinch of cumin)
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper (this is optional, add a pinch or two more if you like the heat)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 T tabasco sauce or other hot sauce (Yay! Tabasco has no gluten ingredients!) 
  • 6 cups prepared white rice 
Making mouths happy: 
  1. Cook the mirepoix and peppers, along with the salt and pepper, oregano and thyme, in a large pot in the olive oil until just tender (low medium, 5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. Add chicken stock, tabasco sauce, smoked paprika, cayenne, ham hocks, and beans. Heat on high, stir until boiling. Once boiling, decrease the heat to simmer. Cover and cook on a slow simmer for 2 1/2 hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes. 
  3. Chop Andouille sausage or cooked ham in to bean sized pieces. If using sausage, brown the sausage near the end of the 2 1/2 hour simmer. (No need to brown if using cooked ham). 
  4. Add the meat to the beans. Cook at a high simmer for 30 minutes. 
  5. Remove ham hock and bay leaves before serving. 
  6. Serve over white rice. 
  7. Add extra yum with cheddar cheese or sour cream to your liking if you need to bring the heat down a notch!