Monthly Archives: February 2014

8 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance

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Balancing work and home life can seem next to impossible especially if you throw kids in the mix. Lost time with friends and loved ones is the first victim of life lost in a rollercoaster of PTA meetings, soccer practice, dental appointments, and the dry cleaners. Throw in a full time job, chores, grocery shopping and you can kiss any down time you have left, goodbye. Life is a balancing act and the best way to get through it, is with a plan of action. Here are a few ideas to help you achieve balance.

Set priorities…

Do you really need to bake 32 muffins for the third grade Valentine’s day party? How about saving some time and purchasing them just this once? Enlist your partner to switch off taking the kids to school or watching the baby. It’s okay to skip scrubbing the tub one week. I promise. The kids will grow up just fine if they buy lunch at school once in awhile. Give yourself a break! These little chores you skip will still be there, but your piece of mind won’t be.

The most important event in your calendar…

When scheduling your appointments, don’t forget to add a bit of downtime in between work and home commitments to enjoy yourself. Make a list right now of the 5 things you need more of in your life. For me it’s things like dancing, time with friends and family, spending time outside, and exercise. I’m a much happier and better me with these things included. Now, go to your calendar and actually schedule your list items. Now, it’s up to you to honor it but you won’t have any trouble once you get the hang of it. Balance feels awesome.

Some fun ideas…

Enjoying a night out with friends can vastly improve an overworked body and mind. While you are out on your adventure, plan the NEXT excursion. Always have something to look forward to. Do something you enjoy every day. Watch a movie, go to the library, work on a hobby, or take a relaxing bath. Keep this time protected from other responsibilities. This is YOUR time. No interruptions!

Work for pleasure…

If you find that the only fun you have is outside the office, maybe it’s time to reconsider your career. I know, easier said than done, but really all it takes is the courage to change your circumstances and taking the first step. How empowering is that!

Time is money…

How much is your time worth per hour? Choose an amount. Then add up all the time you spend on things someone else can do for you. It’s a lot. Most of us are on a budget, but in many cases it is worth paying someone else to do things for you. It’s not extravagance, it’s just smart because what you end up with is time to spend with the people you love and do things that make you happy.

Some “let someone else do it” ideas…

Have the groceries delivered. Look for a local CSA that delivers. Local, organic food delivered…doesn’t get better than that. NM people check out Skarsgard Farms. How about paying the extra fee to have the Christmas gifts wrapped? Have the neighbor kid mow your lawn and help with yard work. How about using the loose-change-jar once in awhile and have your house cleaned? Better yet! Have the kids clean the house while you sit by the pool!

Move it…

Exercise is a very powerful tool especially if it’s done in the morning. It impacts your whole mood and puts a positive touch on your entire day. Schedule at least three, twenty minute workout routines a week, and I promise you you’ll fly through your workweek (and you won’t jiggle). Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, get some extra sleep, and voila! Your energy will get a serious makeover.

Be smart with technology…

Stay off the computer, your smartphone, anything where you can access messages, social media, and emails when you first wake up. I am so guilty of this. Nobody should be reading anything that may contain negative or depressing news first thing in the morning. Not to mention, your morning hours are the most productive. Don’t waste your best on Facebook. Save it for after lunch.

Track your time…

Lastly, track your time. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) how much time we waste during the day on frivolous activities. Cut out unnecessary time on the computer, phone, or errands that can be skipped or combined.

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton

 

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Adventures in Making Tallow Moisturizer

This is a blog about my adventure making tallow moisturizer (the best moisturizer I’ve ever used). Tallow is rendered beef fat, which is a little scary, so it took something serious for me to even try it. You can buy similar moisturizer already done for you for ~$30, or you can make your own. Feeling frugal and looking at it as a potential learning opportunity, I went for the diy option. Oh boy, it was an adventure…but an oh-so-worth-it one. Here’s what happened…

Why I ventured down the tallow road in the first place…

I hear your skin freaks out when you’re pregnant. For the most part, (and I’m totally bragging here) my skin was amazing. Better than it’s ever been….ever. No zits. I’m 32 and still get zits so this was a welcome 9-month reprieve. You’d brag too.

Then baby came out and the magic wore off. Pretty soon I developed dry patches on my cheeks. No big deal, I thought. I just have to change my moisturizer. So, I bought stuff with names called “deep repair” which had no effect. I even tried oil that comes from sharks. Knowing that our skin is a reflection of our internal health, I made sure I was hydrated and getting healthy oils….BUT NOTHING WAS WORKING!

In fact, the patches were getting worse and spreading and I was getting desperate. I was literally growing a force field on my face. I reached out to my smarter-than-me holistic FB friends and one gal recommended coconut oil (of which I’d heard a lot) and an alternative I’d never heard of, tallow.

Ok, duh. Why didn’t I think to turn to natural products instead of expensive BS deep repair creams? That’s what I’m all about after all. I’m blaming my baby brain. That night I started slathering coconut oil on my face because I honestly I had no idea what tallow even was.

Um, well my face didn’t like that too much. Not only did my force field get bigger but I developed a red bumpy rash all over my neck. Good lord, I was really good looking at that point. A quick google search confirmed that coconut oil can actually be drying on the face. Great. Not to diss coconut oil. My body loves it as a moisturizer. Not sure what happened there.

Ok, no more messing around, I decided…It was time to pull out the big guns. That night I started using the Oil Cleansing Method that we wrote about a few months ago. I really love it. Vanessa was so right about that … but even that wasn’t enough. It was time to try tallow. But now I’m a total OCM convert. Try it, you’ll love it.

How to Make Tallow Moisturizer…

Tallow, as I learned, is rendered cow fat so you can see why it took me a while to get to this point, right? I got a big chunk of cow fat from a farmer. It was good timing because the hubby and I were picking up our hog that same day so I just happened to ask if they had tallow and they did – I even got it for free.

This is how pretty it is…

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I couldn’t believe I was going to put this on my face either. Another google search revealed how darn good it is for our skin. Basically, your skin recognizes it because it’s so close to our biology and absorbs it – plus it’s full of great vitamins that the skin loves. Google it, you’ll see.

Next step is to cut it into chunks and put it in your food processor like so…

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When you’re done processing, it looks like this. I guess if you don’t have one, you can just chop small. It’s easier if it’s cold.

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Then you put it in your crockpot on low and wait for it to melt.

Note: All of the articles on tallow making talk about being extra careful not to burn it so I was scared to mess it up. I didn’t do anything extra careful and mine didn’t burn. I stirred it some and worried about it. That should work for you too.

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It melts pretty quick but I let it go a few hours. Next, I let the mixture cool down a little and strained it through cheesecloth into a bowl. Throw away the chunkies.

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Then I added some dried herbs like lavender and calendula both of which have soothing properties for the skin and put it all in a big jar. I should have just started with the jar instead of messing with the bowl. Live and learn. The herbs are easily found at a natural herb store.

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I thought I would have longer to let the herbs infuse but the fat solidified on me with the herbs still inside. I wanted them to diffuse longer so I heated it back up. This is where I hit a major bump in the road. I don’t recommend this approach.

I filled the crockpot with water. Placed my solid jar of fat inside, and set it to low. I checked on it a little while later and it was all melted…yay. BUT there was some oil floating in the water. Must have boiled over, I told myself.

Not so. I carefully removed the jar and to my great dismay only the top half of the broken jar came out. Oil in water mystery – solved. Darnit! I was left with a big crockpot full of water, oil, herbs, and broken glass. Now I’m thinking to myself that I’m a real genius and how much I freaking hate tallow.  What was I thinking trying to make moisturizer out of fat anyway???

I cooled off and decided that there had to be a way to finish this project after all the time I’d spent on it. Now my crockpot looked like this….a giant herby fat cookie floating in a bath. Image

I dislodged it. Poured out the water. Threw away the glass and remelted the herby fat cookie. I restrained the herbs out – let it cool a little and sighed with relief. By george, I think I’ve got it!

Next I grabbed an old empty moisturizer tub and filled it up 1/4 of the way with olive oil. This helps keep the consistency workable. Otherwise it would be too hard to use. I also added Citrus Bliss™ doTerra essential oil and OMG it is amazing stuff. For all that work, and learning the hard way, it was worth it. Look how pretty now…

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Two days is all it took for the force field on my face to go away. And that was after weeks of trying other things. I swear my skin looks younger and I can hardly see my fine lines. I LOVE this stuff. I still have more fat sitting in the fridge and it’s going to make several more containers.

I might just start a tallow rendering business….ha ha, got ya.

In the end, I think it’s worth it to make your own but only if you learn from my mishaps. It’s better than spending $30 for someone else to do it, in my opinion. I’ll have enough to make moisturizer to last me a couple years now I bet. Think about how much that saves you in moisturizers that don’t really work. No brainer.

Try it out and enjoy your soft beautiful skin. Then let me know what you think.

 

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Filed under Clean Living Tips, DIY Beauty Recipes, Essential Oils

Healthy Kid Lunches Made Easy

Are you constantly on the go with the children in tow? Is the lunch packing, breakfast eating, fast track you call a school morning creating familial meltdowns? Trying to feed your family is tough. Trying to feed your family healthy, unprocessed foods, especially at school, can be tougher. If you’d like your kids to eat a healthy lunch that doesn’t take too much time to make, then keep reading!

Make a Plan…

I have two words for you: advanced planning. Five days a week we have to make lunch interesting enough for our children to want to eat it. Here are a few fun, quick, nutritious suggestions that will make the morning scramble a little less hectic.

Chop, chop…

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Chop fruits and vegetables up at the beginning week that will last until Friday. Veggies are a bit harder than fruit for children to get jazzed up about. You can cut up green beans, carrots, cucumbers, and corn niblets. Choose veggies that you know your children like and make them fun. I make little eye and mouth holes in the cucumbers, add a touch of light ranch to incite more interest in the carrots. Corn and green beans are fabulous warm or cold and great finger foods. Strawberries, sliced bananas, blackberries, and grapes are all wonderful, healthy treats for lunchtime. Throw the grapes in the freezer for snack time! A frozen, tasty tidbit!

Rollups the healthy way…

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Sick of PBJ and Lunchables? Try a deli-meat roll-up instead. You can use turkey, ham, roast beef, chicken. Any sliced deli-meat will do (preferably organic and without nitrates). Fill them with cream cheese, pineapple, peas, red peppers, greek yogurt….anything and everything. You can prepare these in advance so that half their lunch is already made for the week!

Get them involved….

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Have your children get involved with making their own lunch the night before. Ask them what they want for lunch. See what kind of suggestions they make, and counter offer with a healthier choice. Instead of cookies, suggest graham crackers. If they ask for a sugary yogurt, give them greek yogurt and sweeten it up with some strawberries or honey. Instead of chips, how about some pretzel sticks? Let them make their own sandwich, and make fun shapes with them using cookie cutters.

Try a blended approach…

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I’ve never met a kid who wasn’t crazy for a smoothie. Use your blender and add bite-sized pieces of fruit (or veggies). I love to add dark leafy greens. Add a dollop of yogurt and some crushed ice or some frozen fruit and blend. Voila! A healthy snack for lunch time (and they won’t know it’s healthy)! You can play around with different flavors by adding peanut butter, coconut, nuts, etc. This one is also easy to avoid particular diet allergies you may have.

Don’t forget to utilize that thermos…

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Remember that Steve Martin thermos song? “I’m picking out a thermos for you. Not an ordinary thermos for you.” I digress, but check it out for a laugh, here. How about chicken noodle soup or turkey chili for a cold day? Instead of sending them to school with juice, trade it out with some tea sweetened with a bit of honey.

Try a Bento Box…

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You can really shake your child’s lunchtime routine up by picking up a bento box. They make them specifically for kids now, and have several different compartments for a variety of lunchtime offerings! Let’s have fun with lunchtime and keep the kids from trading their dull lunches for Cheetos!

What works for your family? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

 

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How Green Smoothies Saved My Life

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By: Dr. Jessica McCord, Guest Blogger

It’s been almost 2 years since I made my first green smoothie, and you can bet that I celebrate that anniversary!  I would never have thought that such a simple thing could change my health, my eating habits, my awareness (of what goes in my body), and my overall mood and well-being.

I used to drag myself out of bed, rush around the house with no time to spare, except for grabbing  the all-important large mug of coffee full of creamer and sugar.  No breakfast, perhaps a sugary snack sometime in the morning, followed by my afternoon ritual of Coca-Cola or a super-sweet White Mocha from Starbucks.  I needed my caffeine, I didn’t have time for breakfast, and I rarely ate lunch. When I did, it was usually something processed and microwaved with very little nutritional value.

I came home each day feeling tired, battled frequent headaches, caught every little cold that crossed my path, had terrible constipation and bloating (you ladies know what I’m talking about) and didn’t sleep very well.  I ate out most evenings, had little motivation to work out, and felt lethargic a vast majority of the time.

One day, Lisa (owner of this blog and one of my oldest and dearest friends) pointed out a few questionable ingredients in my sacred coffee creamer. We talked about alternatives and sweeteners.  She knew I needed to take baby steps away from my caffeine overload so she gave me advice she knew I could handle at the time.

It didn’t take long for me to start questioning other parts of my diet such as the amount of sugar in my routine, the lack of good healthy foods, and my continued exhaustion.  Changing my coffee creamer and sweetener was a good first baby step, but I knew I needed to do more.

Lisa talked me through my first green smoothie, and although I’ve made little tweaks here and there, it’s remained mostly the same over these past few years. I found a way to get a healthier version of my caffeine in there that even has anti-carcinogenic properties (green tea powder, or Matcha).

I know I’m a nerd for getting excited to wake up in the morning to make my smoothies, BUT they have changed my life.  First, it’s amazing that I am excited to get up in the mornings (ask my husband, he has often incurred my morning wrath). I now wake up 2 hours before I have to be anywhere so I have time to make my smoothie and enjoy it while I relax and do some reading to begin my day.

Not to mention, I now visit my bathroom like clockwork…every morning. Every morning!  That’s right, no more regular constipation and bloating! I leave the house with a happy tummy, a good head-start on my fruits and veggies for the day, and a desire to keep my daily habits in line with my awesome beginning to the day.

I never drank water before I began my smoothie regimen.  Now I drink it all the time. Somehow downing a Coke and a latte every afternoon lost its luster knowing how great I feel without them!  My body loves me for listening to it.

It’s so empowering knowing where my food comes from, reading labels, and taking on healthy habits. My morning smoothies are the way I begin my day with health and it truly carries through the rest of my day.

I rarely get headaches or colds, my stomach is regulated, I have way more energy, and I sleep great. Eventually, I started running and doing yoga because I feel motivated to compliment my healthy eating habits with some exercise. My skin is glowing and I feel wonderful… all from a little smoothie. What an easy and satisfying way to get on the path to better health!

I encourage everyone to try it out, so here’s my recipe below.  Try out different fruits and combinations to suit your style. That’s the great thing about smoothies – you can personalize them to your own needs and tastes.

Jess’s Green Smoothie

All ingredients are organic…it’s worth it!

Place the following in your blender:

  • Handful of spinach (or your favorite greens)
  • Handful of baby carrots
  • 1 scoop of Amazing Grass GreenFoods (I use chocolate or the berry blend, but you can choose your favorite flavor)
  • 1 cup or so of SoDelicious Original Coconut Milk (I’ve tried the unflavored, that’s good too)
  • I scoop of Natural Factors Whey Protein (unflavored) Helps keep you full until lunch!
  • A tablespoon of honey (I do this because I buy local honey and it helps with my allergies)
  • I teaspoon of green tea power (Matcha)
  • About a cup of frozen mixed berries

Then blend and enjoy! Cheers to your health.

ImageJessica McCord, PhD.

Jessica just recently graduated (with honors) from UNM with her Doctorate in Special Education. When she’s not drinking green smoothies, she spends her time trying to figure out how to save the world one student at a time. You might also find her riding bikes with her police officer hubby, playing with her two adorable dogs Bella and Indigo, and sometimes you’ll find her rollerblading along the Rio Grande with me.

 

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