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Things I’ve Been Loving Recently

January 16, 2016

Hello folks, Kristen here. Just stopping by with a quick list of things that have been making me happy recently:

  1. Homemade Laundry Detergent– My mom came to my rescue with this fantastic detergent recipe. You see, store bought detergent is a huge trigger for my gag reflex. Prior to getting pregnant, I loved the smell of our detergent. Now, I can’t wear clothes that have been washed in that detergent without getting sick! There are a few other advantages to this detergent as well. It is gentle on your clothing, and is gentle for people who have sensitive skin and are prone to allergic reactions. It is also cheap to make, and easy to customize to fit your needs. I like that it smells only faintly of soap, but if you’d like a stronger scent, add your favorite essential oil to the recipe. Ilana recently posted some great information on that topic. The recipe is as follows- 1 bar of ivory soap (grated), 1 and 1/2 cups borax, and 1 and 1/2 cups of Arm and Hammer washing soda. I’ll be making some more as soon as I  run out!
  2. Smitten Kitchen’s Oat and Wheat Sandwich Bread– Holy moly- this is good bread, guys. I know that bread is not the healthiest thing to eat, so if you are going to eat bread- why not make it really delicious, good bread? I love the experience of baking bread on a cold day when you are cozy and warm at home. This recipe is not difficult at all. I didn’t have whole wheat flour, so I just used unbleached bread flour, and it turned out fine. The beginning of the recipe is a little time consuming, but once you get past that part, you can totally do other things while the bread is rising and proofing. I used that time to do dishes and clean up the house. It makes the house smell amazing, and it makes two loaves, so you can always freeze one. The simplicity of the recipe is inspiring me to see how long I can go without buying store bought bread! We ate ours with this yummy chicken salad. I left the sugar and poppy seeds out of the recipe when I made it, and used almonds instead of pecans, because that is what I had. I also added a bit of shallot pepper and rosemary to season it more.
  3. Electric City Roaster’s Coffee– Now that I am past my first trimester, coffee is back to being delicious! I do limit myself to one cup of half caf, but it’s a nice way to start the day! Recently, a friend has been making fun of us for buying the cheapest generic coffee the grocery store has in stock, and he encouraged us to try out this company. My mom has also been on me to make sure that my decaf is water filtered, because apparently a lot of decaf is filtered using some kind of chemicals. On Sunday, we took the plunge and ordered a few bags of beans online. By Monday morning, my coffee was hand delivered to my door. We are super impressed. The coffee is delicious and we ordered a roast with low acidity, so it’s not as tough on my sensitive stomach. So far, we are pleased and plan to reorder more when we run out. I highly recommend checking them out!
  4. Bringing Up Bebe and The Happiest Baby on the Block– I read Bringing Up Bebe a few months ago, and it was a really enjoyable read. It’s interesting to read about raising children in other countries and different parenting methods. It does make the French childhood sound idyllic, but some of it isn’t realistic for me because I do not live in France. I will not deliver my baby in a fancy private hospital with fresh baguettes and champagne on the menu! A girl can dream though! However, I enjoyed the chapters on gentle sleep training and making sure your child’s diet is diverse. I’ve witnessed how well that works with my niece! Little Miss happily eats whatever Ilana puts in front of her. It is pretty fantastic! I’ve been rereading it again recently, and my husband promises to read it soon. I just started The Happiest Baby on the Block. It deals with methods of soothing your baby. I witnessed my friend using a few of these methods on her newborn, and they really seem to work.
  5. Finding out our baby’s sex- a boy!!! We were in total shock, because everyone who looked at me predicted girl! I’m not sure how to feel about that- I guess I’m carrying kind of low and round? I am a short girl with hips though, there is not a lot of space for this baby weight to go! Luckily my doctor says that my weight gain is healthy and right on target. We are so thrilled to start being able to call Baby “him” and to start making plans for our little fella! His tiny kicks are the happiest part of my day. He even kicked hard enough for his Daddy to feel him the other day. It’s the best. I am so thankful for him, and pray for him pretty much all day every day.

That is all for now! I hope you can all find a few things every day that make you feel happy. It’s the little things, right?

Feature Health & Home

Those oils: are they essential?

January 4, 2016
Essential Oils. Old Fashioned Modern Living.

When Kristen and I began this blog, our goal was to explore and share our experiences integrating the modern and the traditional. So while we do plenty of things in a newfangled manner, that also means we do plenty of things the old fashioned way. For me, doing things in an old fashioned way means something more traditional, and often more natural. Less chemicals, less preservatives, and less drugs.

Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate modern medicine and all it has to offer. I’ll take antibiotics when they’re needed. But the rest of the time, I’m very happy to find other, natural ways to combat little discomforts.

My mother has been using Melaleuca products since I was a child, so I have always been aware of the magic of tea tree oil (scientific name Melaleuca alternifolia, which is where the company got it’s name). As a teenager, on a family trip to Salem, Massachusetts (which was an incredible vacation, by the way), my mother and I found a little aromatherapy shop right on the water. We bought a book on aromatherapy and went back the next day to stock up on oils. That was the beginning for us.

There are plenty of people who will wave away notions of using essential oils therapeutically – it’s just scented oil! It can’t do anything!

And with that type of statement, I need to disagree. Will you be instantly cured of what ails you by essential oils? No. Of course not. But I can say from personal experience that they can be a simple and natural way to vastly improve and treat a number of issues.

Please note: there are a number of different schools of thought on the use of essential oils. Some oils may safely be used undiluted, some should not be. Some sources will recommend certain oils be taken internally, others will say not to ingest them under any circumstances. This blog post is not meant to serve as medical advice. Please do your own research and use your judgement if choosing to use essential oils therapeutically.

Years ago, following that trip to Salem, my mother and I amassed an impressive collection of essential oils, and used them for making different products we used as well as simply utilizing the oils. These days I have a small stash of oils I consider indispensable; ones with wide and varied uses while I have had success with.

Where did they come from, you may ask? Some were ordered from Melaleuca, some I have ordered from, and some of my Tisserand brand blends were found at a glorious price in Marshalls. If you decide to buy, look for pure essential oils (not scented oils) from reputable brands.

Now without further ado, my favorite essential oils, and how I use them:

Tea tree: Tea tree oil remains my number one most used essential oil. It is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral; basically, yucky things aren’t a fan. Using a cotton swab, dab a little onto pimples (even ones which haven’t fully surfaced) to dry them up. For ear aches, again with a cotton swab, apply gently inside the ear – your ear will feel a little funny for a few minutes, but I’ve had great success with this stopping the ache from progressing. It’s a great oil for skin conditions and rashes, and can help prevent fleas and lice, if those are concerns. I use a number of products that contain tea tree oil and have been impressed with them all.

As a note, it can dry your skin a bit, so keep an eye on the spots you use it on. As a second note, tea tree is a specific tree native to Australia, not the plant that tea leaves for the beverage come from.

Lavender: Lavender essential oil is my number 2 favorite, coming in right behind tea tree for it’s myriad of uses. Lavender oil is extremely healing for skin ailments, with a scent that many find more pleasant than tea tree. It can be used on acne, eczema, cuts and burns, and can help alleviate headaches. Lavender is also a calming oil (again, pure essential oils – you want the properties of the oil, not just the scent) which can be applied behind the ears before bed to sooth you and help you to sleep, diffused into the air or worn in a jewelry diffuser during the day to calm nerves and promote a sense of calm, or used in products.

One of my favorite uses for lavender is my coconut oil/lavender moisturizer. Heat up some coconut oil in a saucepan or microwave safe bowl, or simply do this when it’s warm  out! Remember, coconut oil goes liquid about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so don’t heat it too much. Once it’s liquid, stir in several drops of lavender oil, pour into a glass container and let cool. Once it solidifies a little, you have an all natural, super healing skin cream. It will be liquid when you rub it in because of your body heat but soaks into your skin almost immediately. I use it each evening before bed on my face and hands so I get the moisturizing benefits as well as the calming effect of the lavender. Oh, this makes amazing diaper rash cream too (obviously, keep it separate from your face stash!)

Peppermint: I have a bottle of peppermint for one simple reason – sniffing it helped with my terrible hormonal headaches when I was pregnant. That aside, it is antimicrobial, great for clearing the sinuses, and a natural alternative to Icy Hot (mix it with a carrier oil for a tingly, cooling rub). The scent is also an excellent pick-me-up, perfect to get you energized. Another great one for diffusing.

Eucalyptus: Similar to peppermint, Eucalyptus essential oil is antiseptic and can be used for skin irritations, and is amazing for respiratory ailments. It’s a fantastic decongestant, which is my favorite purpose for it. A drop on a tissue, or a few drops in a diffuser or humidifier can do wonders for sniffles and stuffiness.

Lemon: Lemon essential oil comes from, guess what? Lemon peel! You know when you zest a lemon, the oil that forms on the surface…it’s more or less that, just extracted differently. It’s great for your skin, can be used as a household disinfectant, helps get super dirty hands clean again, can polish silver and wood (and it removes permanent Sharpie marker from wood, FYI), improves mood and can ward off nausea (great for when you’re pregnant, just saying). Not too shabby, right?

Thieves Oil: This is the only oil I’m including on this list that is a blend. Thieves Oil’s unique name dates back to the middle ages, when thieves wore this blend of oils and spices when robbing their targets who were ridden with the bubonic plague as protection against the plague…and it largely worked. It’s a pleasant smelling mix containing lemon, rosemary, clove, cinnamon and eucalyptus oils. This oil is as it’s origin suggests, great for immune support. Mix with water and spray around your house or onto the air conditioner vents to purify the air, or spray it on stinky shoes to disperse the odor. A few drops in the dishwasher before you run it eliminates funky smells. It makes a great cleaner, and just smells really nice. There are about a million and one ways to use Thieves Oil.

Carrier oils: I mentioned diluting your essential oils earlier; your carrier oil is any oil that is used to dilute an essential oil before use. Many people swear by apricot or jojoba; I have sweet almond oil in the house, but often use coconut oil. Because you know, it works and I use coconut oil for everything.

These 6 oils are my go-to, my indispensable, must have essential oils. The uses and benefits I’ve listed are only the tip of the iceberg – a quick Google search will pull up everything you ever wanted to know about them and their uses.

So sure, some people may dismiss essential oils as frivolous, silly, unscientific. But with a lifetime of tea tree experience behind me and about 15 years experience using a wide variety of oils, I can’t argue with the results.

Have you tried using essential oils for their health benefits? Which are your favorites?