Sunday, January 17, 2016

Essential Oils - My New Medicine Kit


Anyone reading this blog or my facebook page has seen that I am constantly talking about essential oils.  This post is to explain my not so little obsession.

These are a few of my favorite essential oils (Cool Azul is actually a cream with oils in it)
To start, let me just explain what essential oils are:  They are powerful natural oils that are extracted from plants and can be used as medicine.  Only the best essential oils should be used for medicinal purposes.  Each essential oil treats a different range of ailments when applied in different ways.  For example, if I have a stomach ache I could put a drop of peppermint in some coconut oil and rub it on my tummy but if I have a headache I could use the same mixture on the back of my neck.  If I wanted to sleep more deeply, I could put a drop of lavender under my toe.  The possibilities are endless.

So far I have used essential oils in my own home to treat/alleviate headaches, splinters, blisters, severe burns, sore throats, nausea, itchy skin, common colds, belly aches, anger(this sounds crazy but it is so true), frustration, zits, back aches, knee pain, muscle pain, teething gums, asthma, allergy sniffles, stuffy noses, trouble sleeping, distractibility, creative blocks, and the list goes on and on.

I had no idea what essential oils were until last August.  I was signed up to run the Falmouth Road Race for a charity and I needed a race donation.  I boldly decided to call my cousin.  While talking to Jadzia, I received a little education on Young Living's Essential Oils.  I had heard her talk about them before but the information kind of went in one ear and out the other. By the time I hung up I was thinking that I was going to end up buying something to try out but I was still completely clueless.

Over the next few days I did a lot of research (I like to research everything exhaustively...just for fun) and I started to be enamored by the idea of these magical oils but deep down I was a skeptic.  Even so, I couldn't stop thinking about how Jadzia's son Nicholas had been medication free-- no steroids, inhalers, breathing treatments, and trips to the hospital-- since he had started using the oils.  And that is after ripping out the carpet, installing hardwood floors, and trading cloth couches for leather, failed to solve the problem.  The reality was that they were making trip after trip to the emergency room and investing big money on household changes in an attempt to alleviate Nicholas' suffering but nothing worked until the oils came along.

In the end, I took a huge leap of faith and got a premium starter kit from Young Living.  It came with 11 oils and blends, a diffuser, and a few other samples.  In all honesty, I felt guilty about the purchase at the time.  At the time didn't seem like a justifiable expense, like buying a unicorn on amazon.  Only now do I understand what  great deal that package is.  Now I realize that buying that little kit is one of the top ten best things that I have ever done.  Yes, it is on the same list as Marrying Ale and bringing Max into this world.

After getting my oils I quickly realized that there is an oil for everything.  I also discovered that these little babies are really powerful.  When I use the right oils, they consistently work faster and more efficiently than "modern medicine" and they are completely natural.

Since I began using oils, I have noticed that the overall quality of my life has actually improved.  For me it is weird to say this because I was happy (although oftentimes stressed) before trying my first oil.  I did not realize that things could get much better.

With the oils, I am able to get more of the "good stuff" out of every day and the bad things don't affect me as much.  I now have more natural energy and focus to enjoy the great things in my life while being more productive.  I use oils to manage my mood while working at my insanely stressful job.  I have completely stopped using Motrin and Ale has cut back significantly- we just don't need it anymore.  Additionally, I encounter a lot of germs as a teacher.   In the past I would be sick for days and days as my body took its sweet time to fight off whatever bug I picked up.   Oils have helped me to fight off a few bugs very quickly - so quickly that at the time I kept saying "I am getting sick", but I never ended up actually "being sick".

Every day I am so thankful that Jadzia introduced me to Young Living Essential Oils.  As a result, I feel a burning desire to teach others about essential oils.

If you are interested in trying out essential oils, here are a few suggestions to help you get started.  As you read this, please keep in mind that I ONLY RECOMMEND YOUNG LIVING ESSENTIAL OILS (there are a thousand reasons, but that will be another blog post):

  • try out one essential oil and get to know it really well (I can help with this)
  • consider taking the plunge and getting a premium starter kit - this will give you a variety of 11 oils and blends, plus a diffuser.  I could go on and on about how great a deal this is.
  • Host an Essential Oils 101 class - I will come over and teach you and a few friends about the basics, and how to use a few of the most popular oils.



I just want to give a little disclaimer here. I am so impressed with Young Living Essential oils that I recently became a Young Living distributor(#3126359).  The oils have been so helpful to me that becoming a distributor was just not an opportunity that I could justify passing up.  If you are interested in using oils make sure you do some research about which oils are safe for your situation.  My statements have also not been approved by the FDA.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

No More Sad Salads!

A bowl of salad toppings with my favorite
salad dressing
I used to get compliments on the salads that I brought to work but a couple of weeks ago someone at work - not saying any names or anything ;) -pointed out that my salad was pretty sad.  But she was right; my “salad” was basically this pathetic bowl of lettuce with a few seeds on top – nothing worthy of the name “salad”.  This year as part of my new years resolution of becoming a meal prep master, I am going to up my game when it comes to salads.  To do this, I am going to keep my lettuce spinner loaded with clean, crispy; lettuce and my fridge stocked with homemade preassembled salad toppings.  No more sad salads!

The purpose of preassembled salad toppings:
  • Is to makes delicious salads the easy alternative to junk food.
  • Save time on cleaning and prepping food – cutting all my veggies at once means digging through the fridge and washing veggies, cutting boards and knives one time for several salads.
  •  Prevent food waste – this is your chance to use up the last chunk of a cucumber or onion before it gets lost in the bottom of your crisper drawer… and you know what happens to those little bits of lost veggies- they turn into little lumps of squish.
  •  Plan ahead!  Planning ahead helps me to stick to healthy food choices and it makes going to the grocery store easier.


If you are interested in making your own ready-to-go, customized-to-you, salad toppings, these are some guidelines that I tend to go by.  See the end of this post for a massive list of ingredients that could be used.

Step one:
Choose and prepare (wash, cut, cook, etc.) the veggies, fruit, grains, beans, cheese, and nuts that you want to use or have on hand.  I recommend sturdier items like peppers, nuts, and dried fruit, over fruits or vegetables like tomatoes that get mushy when combined with liquid.

Step two:
Combine items from step one in a Tupperware or glass bowl with a lid and mix.

Step three (optional):
Add your favorite seasoning and salad dressing to taste, and mix.

 
Excellent ingredients for pre-made salad toppings:
Cucumbers, peppers, onions, garlic, celery, cabbage, summer squash, zucchini, carrots, beets, peas, corn, apples, pears, water chestnuts, kimchi, pickles, banana peppers, olives, beans, lentils, rice, wheat berries, quinoa, dried berries, raisins, slivered nuts, seeds, and some cheese that can withstand moisture like feta and mozzarella.

Salt, Pepper, Mrs. Dash spice mixes, Italian herbs, Oil & vinegar (balsamic, apple cider, white wine, etc.), Lime-juice mixed with agave, Greek or Italian dressing, etc.  




Voila!  Easy but vibrant salads in no time!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Dusting off my Lettuce Spinner – The Road to Becoming a Meal Prep Master


This is our OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner.  
Max is jumping for joy because he knows a healthy lettuce eating mom has more energy to play!

I LOVE eating salad but one of the big obstacles to eating salad is the fact that it requires some preparation and when I am hungry (or “hangry” as some would say) there is usually an unhealthy, ready-made alternative that I can just pop in the microwave instead.  When I open my fridge to “grab” something to eat, a tasty salad often crosses my mind but I usually think “but then I would have to wash the lettuce!”

But this year, that is not going to be a problem because I am going to keep my great big lettuce spinner filled with crisp, clean, lettuce.  I want eating a bowl of lettuce to be the easy alternative to junk food as I work on my New Years Resolution of building healthy habits and becoming a meal prep master.

 Some of you might be rolling your eyes and mumbling something about how “lettuce spinner” and “easy” should never be in the same sentence together.  If you are a skeptic, stay with me until the end of the post.  You may change your mind.

My first salad spinner experiences were laughable at their best and nightmarish at their worst.  My mom and mother-in-law both have dinky little spinners that basically defeat the purpose of using one.  The few times I have tried to use theirs, I have ended up with wet lettuce and water all over the counter, the floor, and myself. Then I have a wet salad, which I inevitably end up drying with paper towels.  This I might add, defeats the purpose of the spinner in the first place.  Oh, and did I mention that it is an awkward contraption to clean so after you spend a million years washing and drying your lettuce, you spend another million years washing and drying the spinner.

I never understood the beauty of a lettuce spinner until I bought a really big one.  The biggest one that I could find.  When I picked it out I thought, “there is no way I am going to fit this in my fridge”.  But, I made room for it and I am glad I did.  Unfortunately the habit of using my lettuce spinner fell by the wayside for a while and it has since been collecting dust, until this week.  Over the last several days I have eaten at least 1 salad a day, Alejandro has had a few, and we have only washed lettuce twice!

There is a big up side to using a lettuce spinner, IF you get a big one.  A big enough lettuce spinner can allow you to wash and dry 2-3 heads of romaine lettuce at a time.  What? You don’t eat 3 heads of lettuce at a time?  That’s ok because you can keep all of the leftover lettuce in the spinner for days and it stays crisp and fresh.  In fact, I notice that the lettuce stays more fresh in the spinner than when I leave it in the store package.  And the best part is, you don’t have to wash and dry the lettuce or the spinner the next time you want a salad.  Your lettuce is just sitting there, waiting for you to eat it!

Before you jump all in and start spinning lettuce like crazy, here are a few tips:
  1. Don’t skimp on size, go big or go home!  A big lettuce spinner will make it worth your time to use because you can wash and store a lot of lettuce at a time.  You don’t want the small spinner disasters that make many people weary of all lettuce spinners.
  2. Take a few minutes to make a home for your lettuce spinner in your fridge.  You are more likely to use it if it is easy to get in and out of the fridge.  Be sure to put it in a place where you won’t be temped to pile other food items on top of it.
  3. Keep pre-cut/cooked/assembled salad toppings in a container that you can just throw on a bowl of lettuce.  I sometimes even add my salad dressing to my toppings so that they are fully marinated.  And lets face it, I can be pretty lazy so any time I can cut out a time consuming step like ‘opening a bottle of oil and vinegar’, I’m game.
Ok got it?  Good.  Now go dig out your dusty lettuce spinner.  If you have a little lettuce spinner (mom this is for you) throw it away and get a new one, seriously... just don't forget to use a coupon if you are going to Bed Bath and Beyond.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016: Building Healthy Habits and Routines!


I want my 2016 to be all about building and maintain healthy every day habits and routines.  At a glance it may seem like I am adding to my already busy life, but in reality many of my goals and resolutions will make my life easier.  My hope is to basically declutter my routines, home, and body so that I have more time and energy for my little family J.  So… without further ado, I invite you to read my goals and resolutions for 2016! 

2016 Goals and Resolutions:

Diet:

  • Become a meal prep master.  That means we are going to be having healthy home cooked meals EVERY DAY around here.
  • Control my milk allergy – that means, NO MILK in anything L
  • Avoid added sugar (milkless chocolate chips in trail mix are ok, but sugar in coffee and baked goods are a no-no.)
  • Take my Ningxia Red every day morning and night!
Exercise

  • Rehabilitate my knee.  For those of you that don’t know, my exercise has been minimal since I hurt my knee in June.  I will be seeing an awesome physical therapist soon and I need to be disciplined about oiling up my knee and doing my exercises at home EVERY DAY!!!

My living room when it is actually clean... isn't it peaceful?
Mental

  • Build household organization routines.  My husband often jokes, “una casa limpia es una seƱal de una vida desperdiciada” (a clean home is a sign of a wasted life), but I disagree.  A clean and organized home helps me feel accomplished, relaxed, motivated, and focused.
  • Continue to play and read with Max every day.
  • Spread the love of essential oils – these have changed my life for the better and I want to share that with people.

Financial

  • Do what Dave Ramsey recommends: tell my money where to go at the beginning of every month... and follow through of course!


What is your # 1 goal for the New Year?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hooray for Diaper Mega Savings!

Has the cost of diapers got you down in the dumps???

Max is pondering the cost of diapers...
Diapers and all that relates to them seem to be the most universally dreaded part of parenthood.  If I am honest with myself, my least favorite parental activity is changing Max’s diaper.  In fact I pretty much try to do whatever I can to get out of it.  Luckily my husband has embraced this aspect of fatherhood and I can literally go an entire weekend without changing a single diaper.  This is pretty amazing and fortunate for Max too because I don’t seem to have the diaper changing skills that my husband, pro-diaper-changing extraordinaire has.  In fact, the other day after wrestling with Max for about 8 minutes, I managed to get his poopy diaper off and just barely wipe him clean when he actually escaped and crawled out of his room, all the way down the hall, and hid under the dining room table where he sat giggling at me.  I have to admit that part of the reason he was able to get so far was because I was debilitated by laughter—his little butt wiggling under his onsie had me rip roaring with laugher.

Anyway, in our household Alejandro changes the majority of the diapers and I procure the diapers and all the other stuff we need.  I am so to speak, the logistics and procurement officer of our household so I mainly take charge of determining what we need and where to buy it, then I order it or go pick it up on the correct day so that I can use my wad of coupons.


So, I have two big tricks that I use/have used to save big money on diapers and other baby items. Read on!


Diaper and Baby Gear Mega Saving Method 1:

When Max was first born we used pampers and we saved a significant amount of money on them because we purchased several boxes of them on our registry at Babies R Us.  We made this purchase knowing that we could easily exchange them within a year of purchase without having any problems.  When we made our trip to Babies R Us to use our registry completion discount plus some other discounts, we made sure to do a few things:

1.  We purchased everything that we knew we were going to end up buying. We also made sure that we had all of these items on our registry.  This included a several month supply worth of diapers.

2.  We researched competitor prices and made sure to use the price-match guarantee at the register, especially for big items like our BOB Jogger.

3.  We used any coupons that we had.  We didn’t know it at the time but Babies R Us offers competitor coupons.  We could have taken a 20% off coupon from Buy Buy Baby or Bed Bath and Beyond and used it on our jogger.  Oops!

3.  We used our registry completion discount to get 15% off of the entire purchase (including sale and price-matched items).

4.  We opened a credit card that day to get an additional 15% off of the entire purchase (including sale and price matched items).

5.  We made this big purchase on a Saturday (Thursday works too) to get an additional 10% off of the entire purchase.   There was a promotion for using your toys r us credit card on a certain day.  Year round, this promotion works on Thursday but in November they offer this discount on Saturdays too.   

6.  After our purchase, we took all the money that we had been putting aside in an envelop for this purchase.  We stuck it in the bank and paid off the Toys R Us credit card right away.  We did not purchase anything unless we had the money for it in that envelope.

7.  As Max grew, we ended up with extra boxes of diapers of certain sizes.  We just took them back to the store and got the next size that we needed.  Easy peasy.

Here are a few of the great deals we ended up getting:

$32.04 per 186 ct box of Pampers Swaddlers.  For the same price you can buy a 129 ct. box of Pampers Swaddlers.  Be basically got 45% more diapers for our money by planning ahead.

$207.61 for a BOB Revolution SE Jogger.  This compares with $459.99 at Buy Buy Baby (minus 20% because it is silly to not use a coupon in that store).

$58.52 for an additional Chicco car seat base.

$76.49 for a crib mattress original price $99.99.

$52.01 for a Kiinde Feeding set (bottle warmer, disposable bottles, various nipples, pump attachments, solid food pouch filler, etc.) original price $99.99.

$12.55 for a 808 count box of pampers sensitive wipes.  Original price $23.99.


Overall, we hit the jackpot on this purchase.  I even saved the receipt to prove it!  And now for my next tip…



Diaper Mega Savings Method #2

This tip will help you once you find the diaper that you love and you have an idea of how many you typically need for the week or month.  We use Earth’s Best now and we started using this trick once we had settled on our diaper brand and we knew we would be in the same size for a while (3’s and 4’s).

Tip number 2 is:  Get an Amazon Mom account through Amazon Prime and use “Subscribe and Save” to buy your diapers.  This will save you up to 20% or more off the price of diapers.  It does require an amazon prime membership, but I can assure you it is totally worth it.


This method of buying diapers will save you a lot of time and money.   You won’t have to make the dreaded diaper run to the store with a baby in tow.  You won’t have to go diaper deal hunting, which frankly is not an easy task.  Buying diapers with coupons can be tricky and amazon mom takes that out of the equation.  You know every month that you are going to pay a great price for diapers.

We spend about $35 dollars for 140 Earth’s Best diapers (these are generally more expensive than many brands but they actually fit Max really well).   The list price for this amount is $79.99.  Pampers Swaddlers are slightly cheaper at about $36 dollars for 162 diapers.  And if you like Huggies Snug and Dry, a 192-count box of size 4s runs at about $31.

Places like Babies R Us only use coupons on diapers if they are diaper coupons or if they are able to apply a total purchase coupon.  You have to buy diapers every month but you won’t come across special deals and coupons on diapers every month.   I like that I can use subscribe and save and save my energy for the sweeter parts of parenthood --- basically anything but diapers or diapering.

So this is how subscribe and save works.  Every month you will have a ship date.   Anything that you purchase through subscribe and save will be automatically shipped to you by that date.  When you subscribe for an item, you are adding it to your automatic ship order.  You determine the frequency of your order based on your needs.  For example I am currently a subscriber of two boxes of earth’s best diapers.  I have it set up so one box is shipped monthly while the other is shipped every two months.  I typically adjust this as my diaper supply waxes and wanes.  Next month I will be skipping both shipments because I have a massive stash of diapers right now.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are going to use this tip:

  • Keep in mind that you can change your order.  Maybe you order two boxes this month so you only need one next month.  Change your order. 
  • You can plan your monthly orders months in advance if you need to.
  • You can add other baby or adult items to your order.  In fact, the more items on your order the more you save (up to 15%).  I have bought canned baby food, kitchen sponges, Swiffer dusters refills, Vega One Protein Powder, etc. on subscribe and save.
  • Making returns with amazon is not convenient or cost effective.  Only buy diapers this way if you have found the diaper that fits your baby.  When I decided to try Earth’s Best, I spent more money at a store just so I could try them out before making a bigger purchase.
  • There are also other perks of using amazon prime and subscribe and save.  Explore the perks and use them.  We watch a lot of amazon prime movies because they are free with a subscription.
Max approves of Amazon Subscribe and Save... I think he just likes the boxes.


Anyway, I hope this post will help you save time and money.  If you have any insight about saving money on diapers or baby gear, please share in the comments.  I would really appreciate it!