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! 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Simple Salve

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: one of my favorite ways to use essential oils is in a salve. It's moisturizing for the skin, creates a protective barrier, and helps us heal without harsh chemicals and alcohols that dry out our skin.

Plain salves with ingredients that we can count on are hard to come by, even with added essential oils. Before I use something on my already sensitive skin, I want to be sure that the oils are pure and the therapeutic value is high.

This ain't no easy thing...

We tried all sorts of products, before we figured out how to make our own salve. It is quite possibly the best deep skin moisturizer ever! You can change up the oils in the ingredients to support allergies, too. We use it on the itchiest, dry, cracked skin. When we haven't been able to get other remedies to work, this salve has done the trick every time.

If you've tried my miracle salve, you know.

Even your dry, cracked, flaky flip flop feet will come out feeling smooth. What I love the most about this salve is that I can add any essential oil to it and put it anywhere on my body. Dare I say, it's edible. Use some common sense here. Don't eat the salve. That's just wrong.

We store our big batches in glass jars - mason jars, jelly jars, etc. Keep it neat and you can melt it down any time to add an essential oil to it.

Here's how we make it: 
  • Fill a sauce pan 1/4-1/3 full of water on medium heat on the stove. It's important not to crank the heat, because you don't want your oils to burn (stinky!) and you need even melting. 
  • Place a glass measuring cup in the water and add the ingredients to the measuring cup - the beeswax takes extra time to melt completely. Be sure all of the oils and the beeswax have melted together, or your salve will be chunky and/or grainy. 
  • After all ingredients are melted together, carefully remove the measuring cup from the pan.

You'll need: 
Pour the salve in to the containers that you want to store them in before it starts to set. If you're adding essential oil, do that right away, by stirring the essential oil in to the mixture. Then, pour the final magic in to the storage container to allow the salve to cool and set.

The salve will look something like this when you're done. Your salve may come out a little darker, depending on the depth of color in the olive oil or beeswax you use.  

Words to the wise: 
Beeswax may give you a bit of a challenge when cleaning your measuring cup. It's helpful to fill the measuring cup up with warm water and dish soap right away, to keep the mixture from hardening in your measuring cup.

If you're a herb or flower lover, infused olive oil works well too. (I have not tried store bought, but have infused with fresh herbs and plants. 

You can melt this down in the microwave, though you will get a grainier texture that you won't like in the salve. Heating the oils in the microwave also breaks them down and can create a cooked scent (not good when mixing with essential oils). No one wants to smell like Thanksgiving Turkey! 

Sunday, January 20, 2019


I always look at the beginning of a new year as a new start for great things - diets, exercise, cleaning my house, saving for adventures. 2018 was an enlightening year. I'm not much for even numbered anything and even numbered years tend to take the cake. 2018 was no exception.

When life is going to switch gears on me, the message is usually a gentle whisper, like the wind, blowing me in a different direction. Not this time. The message came screeching around the corner leaving me without a doubt that it was time to listen. That happened in 2016 as well, when the best half of us woke up to a guard rail and found himself in the car floating across lanes of highway before dawn. (Definitely not a whisper). 

We've had growing pains, health issues, defining moments...all that good stuff that happens in a house with teenage humans. We've also had an evolution of self, as we're both searching for what brings us joy in our professional lives. 

I'm not sure that the joy is entirely missing, but the balance is. We can feel this on a long weekend, when there's enough time to get it all done and slow down enough to enjoy each other. When we're able to eat home cooked food together in the same place at the same time. When we're practicing self-care and enjoying our health, instead of trying to keep up and squashing the symptoms with meds. 

I've thought for a long time about balance. It seems like the last page in the parenting guide. The thing they forget to tell you about. Focus on success, family, bigger - better, bigger - better, but balance -- balance is what gets lost in the process.

So, we're on the path to balance. Something simpler. Being able to get it all done, spend some time with each other, and sleep. Crazy idea.

I'm starting with what does not bring me joy. That was easier to come up with. Things that I put a whole lot of effort in to, that bring me zero joy. I'm kicking those things (and people) out the door first. And, I'm adding more of the things that do bring me joy - being outside, being with my people, being flexible and free with my time, and focusing on who, not what. That's a big ask.

I think the hardest part of this is that to let joy in, I have to let stress out. Let stress go. For me, this is letting people and commitments that aren't working, for commitments that are. That's work of the heart. Letting go to hang on to something entirely unknown and unfamiliar, yet simple. 

I'm beginning to think simple is not easy. It may not even be less. I'm just hoping it's food for the soul. 

What am I diffusing this week to launch us in to joy? Douglas Fir and Bergamot to calm the soul and wrap us with positive energy. It's amazing how just a change in scent in the environment can activate the mind and our emotions in different ways. This is our favorite, never fails diffuser. We find our favorite oils here

Monday, January 14, 2019

Just sleep, kid!

One of the wonderful things that happens in motherhood, is that moment at night when your children fall asleep. Those beautiful little faces, resting peacefully and quietly, while you get 30 seconds to go to the bathroom alone before the dog or other people find you. Yep, you know the routine.

When my peeps can't sleep, neither can the mama. When this goes on night after night, there either has to be a solution or...well, there has to be a solution.

Enter lavender essential oil.

Lavender was part of our starter kit. We use it for so many things, particularly anxious children. We started diffusing it at night to promote relaxation and rest and we drag it along to sporting events - no anxiety there! I'm pretty sensitive to the scent of lavender, so I like to keep it light and diffuse or use a roller ball with fractionated coconut oil to apply it. Too much of anything can make it unbearable. 

We tend to like a more earthy scent in these parts, so when we discovered Juniper Berry essential oil, we definitely hit the jackpot! I always thought this would be a berry scent similar to fruit snacks. (Why? I don't know. Doesn't everything your kids like smell like a fruit snack)? 

It's a bit like lavender in scent, but has a depth that will ground your soul. Think clean, woodsy, and earthy plus a touch of lavender and you've got it! Juniper Berry is our go to night time diffusing oil and it goes well in a body butter or roller bottle if you want to carry it with you or diffusing isn't possible. 

Truth be told, we tried another brand of essential oil in the beginning. My tween, being our resident Juniper Berry expert reported that it was not as pure, not as strong, and didn't work the same. The scent is what lured her in, while the calming and ground effect of the oil is what keeps this oil at the top of her list. Right up there next to Starbucks Frappucino's and that's a tall order! 

Really, we're sleeping through the night and that's proof for me. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Changing the Game

Still on the quest to uncover the perfect glow, I was using my fave soap and seeing some improvements, though I hadn't arrived. Oily skin has always been a challenge for me. I've always used scrubs and acne washes, though they seemed to make the problem worse. Now I know that over stimulating the skin and going from oily to dry extremes can make problem skin worse, but you know, I'm wise now that I hit forty (ha!)

We've all heard about coconut oil. Some folks even gargle that stuff and push it through their teeth! While coconut oil has never made even a cameo appearance in my coffee, I do find that it is a lovely makeup remover and it works quite well as a light moisturizer for my face. Mind you, I used a miniscule amount. 

Goat Milk Stuff tea tree soap + coconut oil moisturizer and I was almost there, but not quite. 

I tried witch hazel. Too tight.

I tried a popular mail order face wash company, too tight.

I tried Sea Breeze, because, why not? If my skin wanted to behave like a teenager, I could try treating it like a teenager. No luck. Too stinky and tight.

Then, I had an overnight trip with a group of scouts.  A brilliant scout mama introduced me to essential oils. (Seriously, I had been living in the dark times). WHOA this changed my game. I knew nothing about essential oils, but they smelled great and I'm all about good smells. 

In my trial of essential oils, I came across melaleuca, my old friend tea tree oil, and thought hmm...I wonder if this would work for my face without the smell? I ordered some up and the scent was amazing. This wasn't anything like the pungent smell of the tea tree oils I'd found locally. It also did not burn my skin. I started mixing it in with my fave soap and coconut oil every morning. 


This was the missing piece I'd been searching for. 

I can tell you that for the last three years, I have been pimple free. My face is not dry, nor is it red or pimply. I even got Mr. Man to give it a shot and it works for him. YAY forty year old skin! 

This was the beginning of my essential oils adventure. I did do a great deal of research before deciding to try more oils or choosing a company to buy them from. There are so many options. You will be happy when you hang on to what makes you feel good.

A few years and many recipe inventions later, we have tremendous healing and joy in our lives (yes! just from essential oils). I don't buy in to anything I can't personally back up.  I actually don't like to do sales, so I shared my oils and concoctions with people to help them live a healthier life naturally too. This sharing gets a bit spendy, but I wholeheartedly believe that if you try it, you'll love it, and the rest is history! Essential oils have changed our lives, so why not share? 

I chose doTERRA because they support farmers, families, and education. Using essential oils with a high degree of purity and being able to check the quality myself are important to me. Using products that actually work is important to all of us. And the smell, oh how I love the smell! This is an important one, because who wants to diffuse oils that smell awful? Did you know your sense of smell is actually connected to memory? We definitely want those to be good ones! 

Curious how to make the fabulousness happen in your house? Check it out for yourself. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Slowing Down

This is the beginning of something different. It took some false starts (blogging ain't easy, y'all) and a lot of longing for the life we want to build, to get to this place. It's a little scary trying something new, but I think you'll enjoy our adventure.

I've never been one to shy away from change. This wanderlust spirit of mine almost demands change, on the regular. Then came the 40s. It's amazing how a few short years can have you feeling like you don't know what the hell you're doing with yourself and also very wise, wrapped up together with a nice little bow. Things hurt, bodies change, spirits are free, and I think I'm starting to understand why people adjust their way of living when they get to this mid-life thing. I look back and think, whoa, that was one hell of a ride. And, I look forward thinking, yikes, is that really where I'm headed.

That's how we got here.

Forty brought on some strange things. One of which was this desire to be a creator. Another was togetherness. I like to be alone, that's where I get my energy, but I also need to bring my people together and hold them close. The other, trying to figure out how my connection to the earth became so tattered. My energy, my immune system, my joy factor - all seem a little out of whack.

We've been climbing that proverbial mountain for some time now and at the top, there's a nice view, but the constant isn't making my heart happy. I think a lot of you find yourself just where I am, but stay that way.

So...what if I stopped climbing and just enjoyed this place? What if I rerouted the entire journey and took a new adventure?

What if, we change everything and do only what brings joy to our lives?