less is more

I’ve been very quiet lately. Very. Quiet. It’s been an interesting, but good, past 7 months. I have finally (almost) overcome my struggles with PPD and anxiety (more on that later) and have rediscovered myself again. I have learned some new things, let go of some old things, downsized, de-junked my life. I feel good about where I am now as opposed to 3 or 4 months ago. Much of what I have discovered about myself was shocking, but in most ways comforting because I feel more okay with myself than I ever have in a very, very long time.

I have learned the very valuable lesson of simplicity. In a world of over-scheduling and social media it is easy to get lost in all the wrong things, meaningless things. I had started to resent all the cute ideas on Pinterest that I was collecting because I couldn’t get around to them, or I had been relying so much on Facebook and texting for my socializing that I lost connection with the real world. I found myself saying “I talked to so-and-so the other day” when the reality was that I had texted so-and-so. Although both are a form of communication, the last time I checked texting and talking are very different types of communication. I missed hearing someone’s voice. I missed watching facial expressions and connecting emotionally. More than missing it I knew I needed it. After a short break from FB and breaking up with Pinterest for a while I forced myself to be in the company of people, albeit a select few. What a difference it made for me. I had realized the importance of face-to-face contact, or hearing the gentleness of a friend’s voice. Making that change in my life was some of the best therapy I’ve had. Ever.

Another important thing I have learned is that it’s okay to not be involved in everything. Seriously. It’s okay. There was a point in time that I was feeling like a underachiever of a mother because my daughter was not signed up for any sport activity or dance lessons, not in a preschool or joy school, nor was I filling up our schedule with play-dates. I really had felt like a loser. A big, anti-social loner who doesn’t care about entertaining my children. But that is not so. My daughter puts on her pretend dance clothes and prances around the house all day long – for free. We go to the park and kick around a soccer ball. Also for free. We do play with friends on occasion when we have some free time. I take them to the gym several times a week and they play with friends there, some of which my daughter has known since birth. Really, it’s okay that I haven’t loaded my schedule with things to do and places to be. I wasn’t okay with that before, but I feel quite fine with it now. I see my children and how happy they are. They are loved, cared for, entertained. They don’t know that they are not in dance classes, soccer practice or preschool. None of those matter right now.

I have been through several rounds of de-junking my living space. Do I need it? Do I want it? Is this important to me? Will I need it in three months, six months? Does it make me happy? If the answer is NO it was gone, baby. Gone. And it feels sooo good. I’m currently on round 3 of de-junking. I’m done with saving things, unnecessarily cluttering my life with ‘things’. I have never been a  hoarder or pack-rat, but it’s amazing that I keep finding things that I don’t need or use to get rid of, and it’s a great feeling to have them out of my life.

Simplify. It’s been a good thing. So good that I’ve spent more quality time with my family, and more time focusing on becoming more aware of my needs. Yes, that is right. Me. Me, me, me. For several months after my son was born I forgot about me and it ended up not such a good thing. Now that I have found a better balance in my life I am happier and feel more fulfilled with less in my life.

Now that I have explained the reason for my silence I’m gearing up to share some things that I have discovered that have brought me joy, balance, and a brighter outlook on life. Surprisingly, I can say that less is more. More time to enjoy, discover and share, which I intend to do with you. Check back soon. I’m planning on writing a big post about the many ways I use coconut oil, my new love.

Keeping life simple,

Steph

coconut oil: experiments, stories, and the results

A long time ago in a land far, far away I was introduced to coconut oil. I was young, maybe 11 or 12. At that time I was living on a small tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Everywhere I looked there were coconut trees. And I mean everywhere. No mountains, only fields and fields of coconut trees. I have been the partaker of fresh straight-off-the-tree coconut goodness. Coconut meat, milk, water and even the husks were used in every day life on this small, beautiful island. So I’m no stranger to coconut.

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A year ago or more when coconut oil made a popular appearance in the American market I was pleased to see how many people were using it, however I was not. But I quickly changed my ways back to my island days and bought myself coconut oil. (By the way, Costco carries an amazing product by Carrington Farms: 54 oz of unrefinded, extra-virgin organic cold pressed coconut oil and for only $16.30! Best price ever – and it can get it whenever I need it without it being shipped. Nice!)  I was not shocked that so many of my friends had purchased and loved the product. I mean, I grew up with it and knew there were many uses for it, but I didn’t really know just how many other things I could shmear the oil into. Seriously, it’s a lot.

A friend of mine did me a huge favor and sent me a link to a great resource for understanding and knowing about coconut oil. After reading Hybrid Rasta Mama’s blog post 333 Uses for Coconut Oil I was SOLD! And I couldn’t wait to try using it in ways I had never imagined

Cooking

This was a no-brainer for me. Use it in place of butter or other oil. Easy-peasy. I use it for baking,  pan cooking, roasting my vegetables and I even ditched the tradition non-stick cooking spray for Coconut Oil Spray for non-stick purposes. FYI, Trader Joe’s has the lowest price with the coconut oil cooking spray.

Body

Of course it made complete sense to me to use it on my body. For years I watched Tongan dancers oil their bodies while performing, and even use it to tame frizzy hair. But it doesn’t stop there.

Goodbye, lotion! After trying coconut oil in place of my favorite ‘smelly lotions’ (and in a good way, not a bad way) I immediately saw results that were much better than lotion. My dry areas (knees, feet, elbows and hands) immediately softened up after two days of use.  I was so thrilled and I vow to never go back to using lotion. There is no  point. My skin has never felt smoother and looked healthier. My new favorite thing to do is whip 15 drops of lavender essential oil in with a cup of coconut oil to use as my new ‘lotion’. It is heavenly. I use it after I shower, at night on my face (best moisturizer EVER) and I always use it at bedtime since lavender has a wonderful calming effect. My kids also get rubbed down in coconut oil on occasion, and even my 4 year old daughter asks for it almost every day.

My baby’s bottom has never been happier. I stopped using diaper cream and started using coconut oil and immediately saw a difference. Rashes cleared quickly. Many times I would use it before I knew a dirty diaper was coming up and it works great to keep the, um, ‘stuff’ from sticking all over him bottom.

Nails? Yes, it works. When I use the coconut oil on my hands I notice that my nails stay hydrated and my cuticles look healthy when normally they are dry from hand-washing and dish washing all day long.

Coconut oil has also been my new deep conditioning treatment for my hair. I was a little nervous at first but it washed out nicely and my hair felt silky for days afterward.

A big experimental step for me was making my own deodorant. When I read that coconut oil can be used as a deodorant I was very skeptical because all I could think of is how oil my armpit would feel. Ick, ick, and ick. Then I found a few ‘recipes’ like this one that convinced me to make a small batch to try. And so I did. I committed to using it for 7 days to see what it would do. By day two I was loving it. I didn’t have any oily feeling under my arms (note: I started using this is the hot Texas month of May when everyone is hot and sweaty). The big selling point for me is that I didn’t have any body odor. One of my gripes with traditional deodorants/antiperspirants is that I end up smelling like roses and BO. But, with the homemade coconut oil deodorant I didn’t have any body odor, and no issues with oily-ness. Eight months later I am still using it religiously.

Coconut and organic coconut oil in a glass jar on white background.photo credit and link: Coconut Mama

PS – it’s really inexpensive to make, and I like that I can add essential oils to the mix if I want to, but I haven’t needed to yet.

The next big experiment was making my own toothpaste. This was a harder transition for me. I had read numerous blog articles, and the hundreds of comments accompanying them, about making toothpaste. Although I never had a big issue with any ingredients in traditional toothpaste I began to sense that many who make their own are against fluoride and other additives that I can’t even pronounce. So, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and give it a try. I have been using a paste that I found on OneGoodThingByJillee.com that was simple enough for me. A few tablespoons of coconut oil, baking soda and peppermint essential oil was all I mixed up for the experiment phase. Like the deodorant, I decided to try it for 7 days. I’ll be honest. I gaged through days 1 through 4, but after that I was fine. I didn’t like the taste of baking soda. That was hard for me, but after the small sample that I made I decided to make another batch with less baking soda and more peppermint oil, and that seemed to work for me. There are a few recipes that have bentonite clay that I will be trying soon, like this one from Coconut Mama.

My last big experiment was using coconut oil for cleaning. I prepared for my experiement by placing about 1/4 cup of coconut oil in a small plastic container. Cleaning project number one was to polish stainless steel appliances. I used a microfiber cloth, rubbed it in the oil and then used it on the refrigerator first. I liked the results so much that I also shined the toaster, blender, stove top display, my counter-top canisters and the crock pot. NICE!

What I like most is how the coconut oil works on stainless steel kitchen sinks. First, I clean the sink and fixtures really well with hot water and soap. Next I rinse off any soap residue and wipe it clean with a cloth so that there is no wetness. I take a paper towel, dip in into the coconut oil (it usually soft unless it’s winter time) and then wipe down the entire sink area. Not only does it shine, but it helps to repel the water so that there are not water marks or stains. Success!

Other ways I have used coconut oil: reduce itching from bug bites, lubricate squeaky doors, lubricate and loosen my can opener, clean my leather couch (watch out! a little goes a long, long way), used it on scratches on the dining table (totally disappeared!), and more!

I’m still in the process of experimenting with other uses that Hybrid Rasta Mama suggested (on her blog post 333 Uses for Coconut Oil). So far I have been impressed with everything I have used the oil for, and look forward to discovering many other ways to use it in my home and for my body, too. My husband teases me anytime I suggest using coconut oil. “You are like the father on ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’, except you use coconut oil instead of Windex!”

I just think coconut oil is one of the greatest natural resources on earth. And, in the words of my daughter, “coconut oil makes my feet look shiny, and then I can lick my fingers when I’m done”. :)

mothers day

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to be a mother. A few years ago I didn’think I would have the chance. Because of two consecutive miscarriages my doctor did some testing, discovered I had Factor V Leiden and MTHFR (both blood clotting disorders), put me on daily shots (ouch, ouch, ouch) for my next two pregnancies and now I have my two babies. It was a painful process physically and emotionally but I am so blessed. So. Incredibly. Blessed. Although I am not a perfect mom I am a great one because I strive every day to give all my love to my children. “I love you” is the phrase they hear from sun up to sun down and all the time inbetween. They need to know that I am here to nuture, protect and love them always.

I am happy and blessed because I am a mother. Happy Mothers Day!

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creamy raw almond butter with cinnamon and honey

Warning! This post will make you run out and by your own almonds and make your own almond butter. Then you will eat it all.

A few weeks ago I started a nutrition program that not only has been phenomenal for me but has introduced me to some very delicious things to eat. The new first new amazing food item I found was raw almond butter. Why raw? I had been eating roasted almond butter but my body didn’t like it. I got headaches and plus it made me gain weight, and I’m not interested in any more unwanted pounds. When I went to the store to buy the raw version I quickly noticed the HIGH, HIGH price of raw almond butter. No thanks. Certainly I can find a way to make my own, and I did, and it is the easiest, most delicious nut butter I have had (second in line is cashew butter – but that will be another post for another day). I found several recipes, but this recipe here is the one that I was most helpful for me, however I am giving you the recipe that I made and that I absolutely love.

Do you want to make your own? Good, because once you make it you will never need to buy it. Ever.

You will need:

  • 2 cups of raw almonds
  • cinnamon (optional)
  • honey (optional)
  • a food processor (doesn’t have to be the most expensive one on the market)
  • a spoon to use to shovel some of the finished product into your pie hole once you are done making this

Put almonds in your food processor. Pulse until the almonds become flour-like and then let it process continuously for 10 – 12 mintues (sometimes longer depending on your processor). You will need to stop a few times to scrap the sides.

BE PATIENT! This really does take a while before the nuts begin to ‘butter’ up. Just be patient. It will happen.

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DO NOT ADD ANY LIQUIDS!  Let the almonds process and process and process all by themselves. Once you get the butter texture and you are done processing add in a teaspoon of vanilla and cinnamon to your liking (I am a cinnamon freak so I put quite a bit). Pulse a couple of times until mixed in.

Stir in your honey, do not process or you will get a funky result. Apparently the honey does not appreciate being disturbed. I’m sure there is an explanation for this chemical reaction but I’m not going to look it up. Just trust me since I ruined one batch by doing what I told you not to do.

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Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. I’ve had mine for two weeks and it’s still great. I’m thinking next time I am going to add in some cocoa powder and a bit of coconut flavoring next time around. Almond Joy spread, anyone? ;)

home is where your heart is…and your stuff, too.

A little more than a week ago we moved back to Addison after spending a year in Lewisville. Why? I could give you a really long explanation but the bottom line is that we absolutely love Addison. There are so many great things about Addison that it deserves it’s own post. Seven of our eight years of marriage are here. Many fun memories are here. Our hearts never left Addison so here we are back where we love and we brought our stuff with us too.

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{PS, this kid is now going on 10 months and 10 hair cuts. And oh how I love his chubby littleness!}

Today we went out for a little walk to the park. I allowed Bella to ride her way-too-small-for-her-massively-long-legs tricycle while I pushed the boy in the stroller.

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I began to think about how many times I have moved. Seriously, I’m a professional packer-upper. My Mom taught me well. She is a pro too because she grew up an Air Force brat (meant in the kindest way, Mom). I’ve seen her pack up our family several times. I remember thinking to myself “I’m not going to move around when I’m grown up”. Wrong. I have. Here is the breakdown:

Arizona
Mesa (born)

Utah
Orem, probably three or four different houses until I was nine years old.

Tonga
Matangiake, two apartments and then to LHS campus housing all in five years.

Hawaii
La’ie, three houses with the fam, five houses/apartments during college, and a brief move to Mililani somewhere in there with the fam too, all within 9 years.

Oregon
Eugene, for a Spring and Summer term as an Oregon Duck.

Utah again
Taylorsville and Sandy, six different places in five years.

Arizona again
Gilbert, with my brother and sis-in-law for 8 months.

Texas
Addison, six years, two apartments (five years in one of them), Lewisville for one year and now we are back.

Phew! See, I am a pro, aren’t I? Can anyone beat that? One day my little family will be somewhere more permanent, but for now this our home and we are all very happy to be back.