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.