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honest-review-essential-oils

Essential oils can be such an overwhelming and trendy predicament. You have to figure out what the heck they are, where to buy them (and everyone has a scary story about that) and how to use them. I don’t work for an essential oils company, so I feel I can talk about them without a bias. I do have affiliate links to them on Amazon, but I am not particular to one brand as you will soon find out. So here we go!

What Are Essential Oils?

They are a highly concentrated form of the oil from a plant that has many great uses for health, beauty and home.

Where Should I Buy Them?

Ok, you probably have four friends who are selling different brands, and they all get a little crazy about how their company is the best, purest, most amazing thing that ever was. I have used a lot of different brands, and there are some I can tell a difference with and some I think are about the same. So, really honest truth here, most oils seem to be pretty good and try to be diligent about purity. I started with Edens Gardens on Amazon. I don’t think they are the best as I haven’t seen the results I have had with others, but if you want to start slow they are cheaper.

I love Rocky Mountain Oils (most of which you can find on Amazon), Doterra (also on Amazon), Young Living and Plant Therapy. They all seem to be very high quality and work well. There are probably lots of other brands that do as well—these are just the ones I’ve tried.

The issue I have with a lot of essential oils companies is that they make you buy into the membership somehow to gain access to cheaper prices. Why can’t they just let you buy them, I ask? I did the Doterra thing for about a year and finally got sick of feeling like I had to buy stuff all the time. This is why I go back to Rocky Mountain Oils often (free shipping and no membership!) and buying on Amazon if I want Doterra.

How Do I Use Them?

You can diffuse them (check out this amazing deal on this cute diffuser here) in your bedroom, living room, office, kitchen, etc. You can put them on your feet or other body part depending on the use, and often you need some sort of dilution with another oil.

Remember these are super concentrated, so you don’t want to go overboard. Some people use them orally but I haven’t done that besides the one time I threw back a drop of On Guard from Doterra and felt like my throat was on fire from inside—please don’t do that. Listen to what the bottle tells you about how much to use. Don’t go crazy here as a little is all you need—often just a drop or two.

I also make several beauty recipes with essential oils including miracle skin serum, body wash, shampoo and conditioning rinse.

Some Favorites of Mine

I know you didn’t ask, but I am always happy to offer my perspective on the best ones for the job. I love Deep Blue for muscle aches and headaches that start in your neck. I get the premade lotion because it’s just easier than mixing drops of the essential oil with something else. I use On Guard or Immune Strength for when I feel a cold descending on our house and am trying to get rid of it (usually by diffusing). I love Balance from RMO—it’s my perfume and it makes me so happy. On particularly stressful days you can watch me sniffing my wrists like an addict to find some stress reduction. I have used Ginger to alleviate motion sickness (mine is terrible if I’m not driving and I’m riding in a car up in the mountains) and just sniff the stuff the whole time I’m in the car so as not to…well, you know. I use Lemon in cleaning products that I make and it lends its lovely clean scent and helpful cleaning powers to them. Another favorite is Serenity which I use on the bottoms of my feet whenever I can’t sleep deeply (although my magnesium oil has made that less frequent). Rocky Mountain also has these great premixed kid rollerballs that you don’t have to think about when using on your kids. They aren’t on Amazon that I’ve found, but you can get them on their website directly. I love the Tummy Rub (I get the big bottle of this too for adult stomach issues) and Counting Sheep.

An Honest Review

So, no, essential oils will not solve every problem you have. And they may not even work on you like they did on your friend who loves them. But they are definitely worth a second look, in my opinion, as they can really have some great effects and provide you another way to really do some preventative care and take your health into your own hands. With the increased costs of healthcare these days, it’s worth checking into some of these little bottles to see if they might help deal with your issues before going to the doctor. (Of course, I am not a doctor and do not offer medical advice.) So, maybe hit up one of your friends who does this a lot and ask for a little sample. Or take the plunge and buy a bottle of your own. If you are going to start with something, I’d go with Lavender. That stuff is fantastic—relaxing (put some in your bath), soothing (for burns or cuts) and delightful. Give one a try and let me know what you think!

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new-years-resources-might-actually-help-achieve-goals

I don’t know about you guys but as the new year approaches I am always abuzz with my goals for the next year and what I’d love to accomplish. I can’t believe what goal-setting has done for my productivity in the last couple of years. I used to have a vague idea of what I wanted to do during the year, but without any concrete details or actionable goals, most didn’t get done. I would finish the year and think through the same things for the following year, all the while knowing it probably wouldn’t happen. That’s incredibly frustrating! Now, I don’t accomplish all my goals for the year, but there is definite progress and I finish more things because I have a plan of some kind.

If you are thinking about some of the same things as you plan for 2017, I have three great resources that are on sale for a limited time. The first is Crystal Paine’s new course 15 Days to a Healthier You. I have taken almost all of Crystal’s courses, and she is the one who really helped me figure out setting goals and accomplishing things in a better way. I am excited as this one is about self-care—something I really need to work on a little! Each of the courses I have taken of hers don’t cost much, don’t take too much time, and leave me feeling more accomplished rather than defeated. She is very down-to-earth and I never feel as though she is condescending. Check out this course and all it offers for only $15 here! It’s only open until Jan 3rd, so get on it! I’ll be doing it as well, so I’ll see you in the private FB group if you sign up.

The other amazing resources going on sale for only 48 hours are the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle and the Herbs & Essential Oils Super Bundle. If you have never experienced one of these bundles before, you are going to be amazed at how much is included in them. You can buy one for $29.97, and they are running a special deal following checkout that you can get the other for only $15 more. You should check out what is included in these bundles—so many resources from incredibly reputable people! I was especially interested in the Essential Oils and Herbs one so I’ll be working through all the e-books and resources in the next few months. Remember they are only available until midnight on December 29th, so act quickly!

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miraculous-magnesium-oil

Well, if you’ve hung out with me at all in the past couple of weeks, you know about magnesium oil already. I’m afraid my friends and family probably get sick of my new “discoveries” sometimes! Ha! The thing about magnesium oil, though, is that most natural remedy-type things take a little while to have an effect, but this was almost immediate for me. Hence the excitement. I have slept more deeply (even during a time of some serious stress), thought more clearly and have eased sore muscles in the shoulders and neck. I also feel I have more energy—not the caffeinated, tweaky kind of energy that I’m known for, but a steady pulse of being more on top of things.

 

Magnesium oil isn’t really an oil—it’s just magnesium flakes dissolved in water. I keep mine in a little glass spray bottle that I then spray on my skin about 10 times per day. Apparently, a lot of people are deficient in magnesium and transdermal absorption allows you to get more of the magnesium to your bloodstream than orally taking it. I have always had an issue with drinking lots of water and still feeling dehydrated, and I’ve been reading that it could be a magnesium issue.

 

I got magnesium flakes on Amazon (these are the ones I ordered because I had heard good things about this brand) and then used a 1:1 ratio with water. I brought ½ cup water to a boil (either in the microwave or on the stove) and then removed it from the heat and added ½ cup magnesium flakes. I stirred this until the magnesium dissolved, then poured into my spray bottle. Super easy!

 

I now use the spray every other day or so (I did feel a little tweaky when I was using it every day) and do 10-15 sprays on my shoulders, neck, back and anywhere else I’m sore. Please don’t spray this on sensitive or recently-shaved skin! It will sting like crazy! It does get a bit itchy or tingly where you spray it for a minute even on unsensitive skin, but that goes away pretty quickly.

 

You can also put magnesium flakes in the bath. I just don’t have time for a bath every day or every other day, so the spray is easier for me. I can’t believe the difference this has made in my body! If you have any issues with sleep, sore muscles or stress, I dare you to try it!




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homemade-healing-salve

In a house with two small kids (and one big kid–my husband), I need to take care of injuries often. Just tonight my little 5-year-old boy got a pretty intense gash on the back of his head from connecting it swiftly to a brick hearth. Thankfully, I have found the best healing salve around. And I can make it myself easily and inexpensively. I usually make one batch of it and it lasts a year. I put little tubs of it all over the house so there is always one within reach. I have used it on small scrapes, infected earring holes (that was me), diaper rash, insect bites, etc. You name it, I’ve tried this salve on it. I can’t believe how quickly it heals the wound, and also how it takes the sting out. This helps my little ones so much.

 

You need some dried herbs to infuse into the oils, but you can get these a few different places. You can grow your own (calendula is just marigold, lavender grows anywhere and I’ve never grown comfrey but it is quite possible) or buy it from Amazon or your local apothecary. Mountain Rose Herbs is also an option. Next year, I want to designate a place in my backyard for a little herb garden where I can grow healing herbs and dry them, but that’s for next year.

 

Please, please use a double boiler to do this. The first time I tried to make this recipe this year, I forgot about the need for that and burned those herbs completely in the oil. My house smelled like a combination of burnt hair and body odor—not pleasant. For my double boiler, I use a glass bowl on top of a little pot of water. The oils go in the bowl and the water is boiled below so the heat doesn’t actually touch the mixture. Much better, believe me.

 

Ok, so get your double boiler and put in ½ cup coconut oil and ½ cup olive oil. Both of these oils are antiseptic and healing in themselves. Turn on the burner (keep it low, people!) and let the oils melt and mix together. Once they are melted, add your herbs. I use 1/3 cup dried lavender, 1/3 cup dried calendula (again, just a fancy term for marigold) and 1/3 cup dried comfrey. Allow this to infuse for 30 minutes over very low heat. You can turn the heat off towards the end if you think the herbs are going to burn and just let it sit.

 

Strain the oil through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer to remove the herbs, and put back into the rinsed out glass bowl. Put in ¼ cup beeswax pellets (you can use the bricks of beeswax but the pellets will make your life so much easier) and allow to melt. This takes a while. You will think it’s almost there about 10 times, but you might as well be doing something else while this is going on because it takes forever. Once the beeswax is melted, remove from heat and add 10 drops lavender essential oil and 8 drops tea tree oil (or melaleuca). Allow to cool a little further and add 1 Tbsp raw honey. You don’t to add this while the mixture is too hot or it will kill all the benefits of the honey. Stir this around. It will start to change color as it cools and you want to get it into storage containers quickly.

 

I use little tubs like these to store it, but you can also use mason jars or whatever you’ve got. I also found these little labels that aren’t incredibly pretty, but they are really good even with water and oils—two things that don’t mix with labels usually. Most of my pretty labels have lost all ink and have just rubbed off. So, although not as pretty, they are functional.

 

Homemade Neosporin

½ cup coconut oil

½ cup olive oil

1/3 cup dried lavender

1/3 cup dried calendula

1/3 cup dried comfrey

1 Tbsp honey

10 drops lavender essential oil

8 drops tea tree essential oil




 

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homemade-apple-cider-vinegar

I used to do shots of apple cider vinegar… yikes. Not really into that anymore but I do try to use it in a lot of cooking and dressings to get the good stuff it provides without the horrible vomit feeling that followed my shot of it. I discovered this year that you can make your own apple cider vinegar and it is really inexpensive! If you are making homemade applesauce or even an apple pie, save the peels and cores for your own vinegar. It does take while, but it is so cheap! And it’s not that involved of a process—just stirring and waiting.

img_0961

 

So, take the peels and cores from about 10 apples (or you can use 5 whole apples if you’d rather) and put them in a gallon jar. Of course, organic apples are preferable here as you are soaking the pieces of them that would have the most pesticides. Put in enough water to cover the apples (leaving a little bit of room at the top) and then stir in 1 cup sugar. Take a piece of cheesecloth and a rubber band (or hair tie, in my case) and cover the top. Now, let it sit for about 2 weeks. Please put this in a basement or garage or somewhere you won’t mind the smell. It is very potent!

 

Homemade apple cider vinegar

Pour the hard apple cider (it’s alcoholic at this point and I may have tried a little at 10 AM–in the interest of experimentation of course) through a strainer, wash out the gallon jar and pour the strained cider back in. Put the cheesecloth and rubber band back on the top and allow to sit for another month. Give it a try! There should be a “mother” (which sounds like an alien life form to me) floating around—it kind of looks like a weird blobby ghost to me. This is important as it’s necessary to make the apple cider vinegar do all the good things it does.

 

I use this vinegar in chicken marinades, salad dressings, crock pot meals, etc. It really does have a better flavor than any I have tried from the store, and was almost free to make as I was going to throw the apple scraps in the compost anyway!

 

Apple Cider Vinegar

-Peels and cores from 10 apples (or 5 whole ones)

-1 cup sugar

-water

Make your own apple cider vinegar--easy and cheap!
Make your own apple cider vinegar–easy and cheap!

 

 

 




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3846-2

Colds are the worst. Often, they aren’t bad enough to actually make you miss work but still make you feel miserable the whole day. And if you are a parent, there are no sick days from parenting. You just have to muscle through. Cold remedies are everywhere, and half of them are maybe more terrible than the cold itself! I, of course, am no doctor nor do I offer medical advice. I can tell you about my go-to when it comes to feeling a cold coming on, though.

  1.  I always have some elderberry syrup (go here for recipe) made up and sitting in my fridge. It seems to stay good for several months at a time, so I can always have some available. The instant I feel a cold coming on, I start taking a tablespoon of elderberry syrup every two hours. It is delicious, so this really isn’t too hard to do!Elderberry syrup
  2. I make up a batch of Mexican veggie soup (find recipe here) using some chicken bone broth and chicken from a whole chicken I have done in the crock pot and then frozen for later use. Seriously, preparing ahead is what allows me to have time to do things that seem like they’d take forever. The combination of bone broth and fresh veggies do amazing things, and often I add extra onion and garlic to really pack a punch. I try to eat this for lunch and dinner the day of the cold coming on. Again, this is one of my favorite soups, so it isn’t difficult to convince myself to eat it often.Mexican Chicken & Veggie Soup
  3. I put some On Guard or Four Thieves blend in my diffuser and on my feet at night. I feel like these essential oil blends really help to encourage my body in its fight against the virus. And they smell like fall, so that’s a win-win in my book.Knock-Out Cold Remedies
  4. I keep up with my multivitamin, probiotics and sometimes add an Emergen-C at night. I know there are lots of opinions about all of these, but I share them just in case you are looking for a good option and can’t find it. If you have a multivitamin you love, awesome! If you think that Emergen-C is a waste of time, no problem. I do find they help my body, so that’s why I put them in this post.natural-cold-remediesthat-dont-taste-terrible
  5. I try to take a hot bath with Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil in it. This helps to detox your body, and relax it enough to sleep better. Of course, sleep is another warrior in the battle against illness, and we want to kick this cold quickly.

That’s it! Try these and see if you can’t knock out your cold before it takes you down for the count. At the very least, at least you will enjoy the remedies!

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oh-priorities

As the fall approaches and things get exceedingly busy again, I have been thinking through what allows those of us who consider natural living a big deal to continue to make it a priority. For each person, there are things that they consider to be preeminent. No matter how much time you think you have, you make time for the things that are the most important to you. I realize with my kids my priorities are sleep, nutritious food, avoiding harmful chemicals, and good time together (I don’t always get it right, but I know at the end of the day, these are the things I want to strive for). I hope that through these things we can avoid more illness, maintain good energy levels and succeed in all areas of our lives. I also notice behavior is better when I can maintain these, which keeps mama much happier!

Oh, Priorities!

Now, in making these the priorities, I have to make other things lower on the scale. I don’t want my kids playing four sports at a time, (and it’s ok if you do!) or doing so many activities that they don’t have time at home. Everyone has different values that they decide should be first in their kids’ (and their own) lives. Some people make the sacrifice to leave their kids with someone else during the day so they can provide the kind of life they want their kids to live. Every choice requires a sacrifice in some other area to make the choice possible. I have been watching the Olympics recently and realize what incredible sacrifice there has been in each of those athlete’s lives both by them and their families to make that dream a reality. The point is to know what your dream is so that you can make the right sacrifices to get there.

Oh, Priorities!

The people who follow my blog are primarily those who want to make natural living a priority because they like the results that play out in their family’s life from this decision. It isn’t always easy to choose to make something at home, to realize your calendar is too full and needs some breathing room, to say no to a quick fix in favor of a more time-consuming solution. But for me, this is important as I want my kids to have that space to learn creativity and imagination, to avoid illness as much as possible, to allow sleep and rest, and just to be together.

A friend recently wrote a post on Facebook about how they had chosen as a family to do things together, and how that wasn’t always the easy thing. We all choose to make certain things a priority, even when it’s hard. When you can discover what those priorities are, you are able to make decisions with more clarity and less guilt. I don’t have to feel guilty saying no to staying out late doing something every night because I choose sleep for my kids over lots of stuff to do. If you choose differently, that’s ok. You make your sacrifices for the things you desire in yourself and your kids.

What are priorities for you in this season of your life? What sacrifices need to be made in deciding according to your priorities?

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natural-toothpaste

Ok, people, I’m ramping up the recipes today and we are going all in on toothpaste. That’s right, I said toothpaste. Yes, I know you can buy toothpaste easily and, if you use coupons and sales, can often get it free. You can’t, however, do that for natural toothpaste, and I do think there is something to the natural toothpaste. It is said that the ingredients in this toothpaste can reverse tooth decay and even restore the enamel on your teeth. Some of you might be rolling your eyes at this point, but there is some evidence out there that it does work. I have been slow to mention this because I wanted to make it through two dentist appointments (6 months apart) to make sure I wasn’t doing something really stupid here. So, I have been using this homemade toothpaste for over a year now, and the dentist said this last checkup was my best one yet (including those where I was still using good old Colgate). My sensitivity is greatly reduced and I have gotten used to the weird taste that is natural toothpaste. So, if you are up for a little adventure, give it a whirl!

Some of the ingredients for the natural toothpaste might be new to you, so it may take a little more mental stretching than some of the other natural recipes on this site. I can’t really use most of them for anything else, so I buy them specifically for the toothpaste. Also, most people say to spit the toothpaste in the trash can when you are done brushing rather than the sink as coconut oil can do bad things to your drain. Then you can rinse in the sink just fine. So, with those votes of confidence, here we go!

Calcium powder (the giant warning sticker is for the plastic wrapper, by the way!) and Xylitol
Calcium powder (the giant warning sticker is for the plastic wrapper, by the way!) and Xylitol

You are going to need calcium powder and xylitol (a natural sweetener made from a tree bark that has been shown to help with teeth enamel regeneration). I know it sounds weird but you can get them both from Amazon and it’s not really that crazy. Also, you need some bentonite clay.

Redmond clay
Redmond clay

I love this Redmond clay and have done some giveaways from them. I’ll do another one soon because I think the stuff is fantastic, but it’s often something that scares people a little. You can use the clay in a detoxifying bath, mixed with water for digestive issues and for healing wounds. It’s pretty amazing stuff. And that’s pretty much it for the weirder stuff. The rest is baking soda, coconut oil and some essential oils (I like peppermint and clove). Here’s the breakdown of the version I make:

Natural Toothpaste

5 Tbsp coconut oil

2 Tbsp calcium powder

2 Tbsp baking soda

2 Tbsp bentonite clay

1 Tbsp xylitol

20 drops peppermint essential oil

3 drops clove essential oil (very antiseptic but don’t want to use too much because it can numb)

I mix all the dry ingredients first and then sprinkle on the essential oils and mix. Finally, I take the coconut oil and mash it into the rest of the ingredients with a fork until it’s well mixed. This is definitely easier when it’s warm and the coconut oil is already super soft. A word of warning—your toothpaste can melt if you are out camping or have it out in hot weather, so keep that in mind when you are opening whatever container you put it in. It will solidify again once it cools off, but you don’t want it sloshing all over your toiletry bag.

IMG_0631

I usually just use a popsicle stick or my clean finger to pull a little out of my container and put it in my mouth. Then, just brush as usual. It does take a little to get used to the taste—kind of a weird sweet-salty mix. But I really like it now, especially the peppermint bite that it has to it. It has done the job and seems to be really effective after a year of use, so I’d say if you are interested at all, go for it!




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the-immune-boosting-power-of-homemade-elderberry-syrup

Getting a cold during the spring or summer is a real downer. All you want to do is enjoy the sunshine and good weather, and instead you are sniffling and sneezing and generally hating life. I started making elderberry syrup for immune system help last year after seeing it recommended on several websites. There is talk that a dose of elderberry syrup daily might be very effective at preventing flu. I know whenever I start to feel a cold coming on, it is the first thing I turn to and the first thing I give my kids. The magical thing about this syrup is that it tastes delicious! I give my kids a teaspoon of it daily (when I remember, because let’s be honest—I am not going to remember this every day) and one teaspoon per meal on days when they are definitely getting a cold. Adults can do one tablespoon daily, or one tablespoon three times a day for when sickness is looming nearby. I have overdone this, and you pay with a bit of an upset stomach, so don’t go there.

You can get elderberries from Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs but they are not always available. It depends on where you are in the season and if they’ve sold out. I would buy early as they are dried and last for a long time, and you don’t want to be left with no opportunity to buy them this year. That said, if they don’t have them when you look, keep checking back to find these tiny boosts to your immune system. They are worth it! Or find a happy neighbor who grows them (as opposed to a grumpy neighbor) and barter/trade/beg your way into some of theirs.

Elderberries

The actual making of the elderberry is simple (like most things I attempt to make) and it makes the house smell amazing. Put 2/3 c dried elderberries, 2 cinnamon sticks, 10 whole cloves, 1 star anise, 2 slices ginger root and 2 allspice seeds (are they called seeds? Or pods? I don’t know—the little tiny balls of allspice) in a pot together and cover with about 4 cups of water.

Elderberry syrup ingredients

Let this simmer for about 30 minutes. If you go over that a little, it’s ok, but you don’t want to boil all this goodness away. Allow this to soak off the heat until it is lukewarm or room temperature.

Simmering elderberry syrup

Strain it through a strainer or cheesecloth. I usually strain it straight into a big mason jar. Now, add 1 cup of raw honey (local is better but any raw honey will do) and stir it in. You don’t want the syrup to be hot or it will kill all the good stuff in the raw honey.

I store this in the fridge for 2-3 months and use it daily or whenever we need it. Don’t let it stop you from making it if you don’t have all the spices, or if you are allergic to one and need to leave it out. Use what you have (even use powdered if you have that—the texture will be a little different, but it’s still great). If you are like me, any little boost in immunity is a great thing, especially when it tastes this amazing!




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