Our daughter Ava turned one in September. This Christmas season feels so different in many ways. I find it crazy that so much has changed in just one year. Last year I was sleep deprived, still learning how to nurse and figuring out how to be a mom of a three-month-old. I had such high hopes for Ava’s first Christmas but here’s the reality: I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day crying in my kitchen with a very sick baby. She was so congested from her cold that I spent every few hours steaming the shower in the bathroom to help her breathe easier. At one point I thought we may have to spend Christmas in the ER. It was very scary for us as new parents, but she pulled through and I learned a very important lesson: I needed to manage my expectations and find joy in the midst of WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT ME or else I would never be happy, and never be the kind of mom I aspire to be.
Last year I didn’t make it to the parties I was looking forward to, or the family outings we had planned. I was at home with a very sick baby who needed every ounce of energy I could muster. The one party we did make it to was my husband’s “fancy” work party. We showed up in ugly Christmas sweaters because, hello, I just had a baby, and nothing fit, plus I was nursing and had to pump/feed every couple hours. Try doing that in a fancy dress. When we dropped Ava off at Grandma’s house, I FORGOT to bring her bottle, so we had to turn around and go back home to get it. Needless to say, my husband wasn’t ecstatic, and we got in a huge argument and I was fighting tears the entire drive to the party, so I wouldn’t look like a clown on top of already feeling huge and disgusting in front of his coworkers……...SIGH……I look back and laugh now because it’s just so funny and so typical of how real life is at times.
Can any moms out there relate? (insert winking emoji here…...I know every single one of you can. And by the way, if no one has told you today, YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB AND ALL YOUR HARD WORK ISN’T FOR NOTHING!!!!) Let’s just take a moment to recognize how hard it is to be a mom. For me, it’s been anything but easy. I feel like a hot mess every single day.
This year I am still sleep deprived but am enjoying the Christmas season much more. What’s changed? I’ve lowered my expectations to practically none (HA-HA) and it’s been much more rewarding. We made homemade salt dough ornaments and decorated our tree with them. I mostly tried to prevent Ava from eating the dough, but we did it together, and the proof is hanging on our imperfect Christmas tree. We decorated a gingerbread house. It looks terrible, but we had fun and laughed together. We went to our local zoo and looked at the lights they set up every year during this season. I’ve never seen her eyes so wide and full of wonder. We visited our favorite coffee shop as a family and my husband and I talked about our dreams together. (In case we sound too perfect, let me paint you a picture of when we go out with our one-year-old: we take turns feeding her snacks and shoving books at her to keep her quiet. If that doesn't work there's always Binky ready to pop in her mouth. I'm the mom who gets super stressed and starts to sweat if she cries or throws a tantrum in public. And usually, we have a few hushed arguments while we are there because we’re human with a healthy marriage.)
LIFE IS CRAZY SO ENJOY THE LITTLE THINGS!!!!!
Merry Christmas from our family to yours.
Gabbi, Patrick, & Ava
I'm very passionate yet still learning about essential oils. To further my knowledge about each one, I like to get one to two new oils per month. That way I can take time to research each one to find out the best uses for it and it isn't so overwhelming. This month I chose to focus on grapefruit and tangerine. I purchase all my oils exclusively from Young Living because of their commitment to quality. I have compiled the research I found into a list that can be used as a helpful reference. I hope you find it useful!
GRAPEFRUIT ESSENTIAL OIL:
-supports healthy skin
-stimulates immune system
-curbs sugar cravings
-helps with weight loss
-fights throat/respiratory infections
-natural remedy for arthritis
-fights food-born illnesses
-fights mold growth
-candida killer, fights UTI's
-can treat lung/nasal infections when inhaled
-increases blood flow
-fights headaches, pms cramps, bloating, fatigue, and muscle pain
-protects skin agains pollution, uv damage, cellulite
-heals wounds, cuts, bites
-prevents skin infections
Fun Ways to Use Grapefruit Essential Oil:
*add to lotions, body creams, and scrubs
*apply with coconut oil on cellulite (rub into skin for a few minutes)
*mix with patchouli and massage on chest and wrists to combat food cravings
*rub on wrists, neck, back or chest with coconut oil to relieve stress
*diffuse with lemon, tangerine or orange and feel refreshed and energized or to *sharpen focus while studying
*combine 2-3 drops with coconut oil and rub on abdomen to help with pms related *cramps or as a digestive booster
*add 1-2 drops into water or white wine
*apply to insect bites or minor irritations
*apply to fatigued muscles/joints, or to bruises
*use in dressings, desserts, & marinades
Energizing Blend: 2 drops grapefruit, 2 drops tangerine, 2 drops lemon
Spring Clean Blend: 1 drop geranium, 2 drops lemon, 2 drops grapefruit
Rise & Shine Morning Blend: 2 drops peppermint, 3 drops grapefruit, 2 drops lemon
Other oils to consider combining with: basil, orange, bergamot, eucalyptus, frankincense, tea tree, ylang yang, rosemary
*Stay out of direct sunlight after using any citrus essential oils.
TANGERINE ESSENTIAL OIL:
-sedative (inflammation, anxiety, stress, allergies, depression)
-helps stomach, soothes inflammation
-stimulates cell generation
-helps maintain oil, moisture balance
-treats diarrhea, gas, rashes, dry cracked skin, hair problems, dandruff
-supports healthy immune system
Fun Ways to use Tangerine Essential Oil:
*add 2-3 drops in cookies or cake recipes
*add 1-2 drops in water, smoothies, teas, lemonade
*add 1-2 drops in palm of hand and inhale or diffuse to boost energy and mood or in times of grief or stress
Energy Booster: 3-4 drops tangerine, 2 drops spearmint, 2 drops lemongrass
Mood Lifting: 2 drops tangerine, 2 drops ylang ylang, 2 drops bergamot
Other oils to consider combining with: cinnamon, clary sage, clove, frankincense, lavender, & nutmeg.
* I am not a doctor. Always read instructions on each oil bottle and follow recommendations. Always keep oils away from eyes and understand that therapeutic grade essential oils can be dangerous and harmful if not used properly.
Like most normal people, I have a budget to stick to. Essential oils can add up quick, especially when you are buying the best quality. These six oils from Young Living are the ones I keep stocked in my cupboard at all times. They serve multiple purposes ranging from natural medicine treatments, beauty care, aromatherapy, and household products. I have listed a few ways that I use them in our home. Hope you find this helpful!
One of the most powerful and versatile oils, the uses for this plant are almost endless!
*Add 8-12 drops to water and spray under beds and in closets for a fresh, pleasing aroma.
*Apply 2-4 drops to skin to moisturize and enhance skin radiance.
*Diffuse at night for a calming aroma during sleep.
*Put on mosquito or other bug bites to help decrease itching, soothe, and disinfect skin.
*Combine 2 -4 drops with coconut oil and smooth onto skin after waxing to help soothe and calm.
*Combine 2-4 drops with coconut oil to soothe sunburns or rashes.
*Combine with peppermint and lemon and diffuse overnight for allergy relief.
*Add 2-4 drops onto small rag or cotton balls and put in car vent to use as air freshener.
*Add to face and body lotion to heal, improve, and purify skin.
The fresh, energizing aroma of peppermint essential oil helps maintain feelings of vigor and vitality. Great for flavoring drinks, it also has properties that have been known to support healthy digestion.
*Add 1 drop peppermint essential oil to a glass of water and incorporate it into your daily diet.
*Add 1-2 drops in a capsule after mealtime to help support normal digestion or to help calm upset stomach.
*Combine 1-2 drops with coconut oil and rub on belly to soothe upset stomach.
*Add 1 drop to herbal tea to enhance flavor and aid healthy digestion.
*Combine with lavender oil & a few drops dish soap into spray bottle to keep pesky bugs off plants and flowers.
*Rub with coconut oil onto temples and behind ears to help alleviate headaches, migraines, and/or neck tension.
*Inhale or diffuse in the morning to help wake up and feel energized.
With a strong, purifying, citrus scent that is revitalizing and uplifting, lemon can be used to enhance the flavor of foods & water, and may be beneficial for skin.
*Use 1–2 drops to remove gum, oil, grease spots, glue or adhesive, and crayon from most surfaces.
*Combine 2–3 drops with water in a spray bottle to help cleanse and sanitize surfaces.
*Place a drop on oily skin or blemishes to help balance oil glands and minimize oil production.
*Add to water or a smoothie for a refreshing pick-me-up.
*Diffuse to help replenish your mind, body, and spirit.
*Place a few drops on a cotton ball and put in the refrigerator or trash can to help eliminate odors.
Thieves essential oil blend was inspired by the legend of four 15th-century thieves in France who formulated an aromatic blend composed of cloves, rosemary, and other botanicals to use while robbing the dead and dying. Taken internally, it can support a healthy immune system.
*Dilute 1 drop of Thieves in 4 drops carrier oil and add to capsule, taking daily for extra immune support, or when you feel a cold coming on.
*Diffuse to rid the air of germs.
*Make hand sanitizer with Thieves blend and vodka. Spray in public places such as on toilet seats, shopping carts, as well as hands to kill germs.
*Gargle with water to help with sore throat or cold.
*Add to hand soap, dish soap, and laundry detergent.
A powerful antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-fungal, oregano essential oil helps in illness recovery, oral and skin health, & culinary uses.
*Dilute 1 drop oregano oil with 4 drops carrier oil when fighting illness
*Dilute and use topically for ringworm, athletes foot, or other fungal infection.
*Dilute and take in a capsule to treat candida, yeast infections, and UTI's.
*Use 1-2 drops in sauces to enhance flavor.
This blend is made up of six different essential oils for the ultimate weapon against odors!
*Add 1-2 drops to laundry to refresh.
*Apply 1 drop directly on pimples & blemishes and watch them disappear!
*Diffuse to rid home of odors.
*Add 1-2 drops to small rag or cotton balls and put in car vent as air freshener.
*Add 1-2 drops into running shoes, soccer, football, or baseball cleats with baking soda and let sit overnight. Vacuum out next day to fresh smelling shoes!
*Diffuse lavender, lemon, & peppermint to combat allergies.
*Diffuse purification and lavender to remove odors from the home.
*Combine purification and lavender and make a simple sugar scrub for bikini line after waxing to help prevent ingrown hairs.
*Combine lavender, purification, & lemon with witch hazel and ACV to make a DIY facial toner.
For more tips on how to use different oils, check out this fun list:
101 Essential Oil Uses and Benefits
*I am not a doctor and do not in any way, shape, or form, claim to be one. Essential oils can be very dangerous so use at your own risk and follow all instructions on each bottle. Always keep oils away from eyes.
Allergy Relief Recipe
I have been lucky enough not to struggle with seasonal allergies. My husband however, has not. Every spring and summer his allergies flare up to the point where he is always miserable and has trouble breathing. He often wakes up in the morning with severe congestion and sometimes a bloody nose due to inflammation and irritation. We have tried several different remedies, some natural and some not, to find the perfect concoction to help give him relief. The following recipe using essential oils has by far worked the best, and is all natural! We have even tested it out. The nights I do not diffuse this blend, he wakes up stuffy and congested. The nights I do diffuse, he wakes up with clear sinuses the next day. Pretty cool stuff! Here's what I use:
5 drops lavender essential oil
4 drops lemon essential oil
3 drops peppermint essential oil
Diffuse overnight and wake up refreshed!
*Not all oils are not created equal. I exclusively use Young Living essential oils because of their commitment to quality.
Here are a few resources you might enjoy if you want to learn more about essential oils and how to diffuse them!
I've always had a passion for delicious food. The tastes, aromas, and the satisfaction of cooking a meal and seeing people who I love enjoying it, makes me smile. Let me just say: I love food!
Since getting E.Coli in 2013, the last three years have been a struggle for me. My stomach has not been the same. I used to be able to eat anything without any issues. After E.Coli, my gut health has been up and down and has progressively gotten worse. I've felt good one week, then the next, I'm in intense pain. I've seen naturopaths and digestive specialists who have all told me the same thing: "Your stomach is EXTREMELY inflamed." (Yes, thank you for telling me something I already know.) All I had to do was lift up my shirt and you could see the outline of my poor bloated angry stomach screaming out for help, along with the fun layer of fat that E.Coli left me with, that refused to go away no matter how hard I worked out or how many abs I did. Oh, and don't forget my stabbing stomach pain and chronic diarrhea for three years straight! Yep, every... single... day.
I knew my body wasn't happy with what I was feeding it, but I couldn't determine which foods were causing the problem. The vicious cycle continued. My frustration peaked. I just wanted someone to tell me what to do to fix the problem.
Finally, a little over a month ago, I got entirely fed up with feeling crappy all the time and decided it was time to get to the bottom of it. I looked online for a food elimination diet to figure out what foods were causing the issues for me. I found the website of a doctor who claimed she had helped thousands of IBS sufferers get their digestion back on track. Since my symptoms seemed to indicate IBS, I looked at the recommended diet and decided to try it out for a week and see if it helped. Here's what I generally ate:
Breakfast: Oats or rice cereal with almond milk and banana
Lunch: Grilled chicken/fish/turkey with white rice
Snacks: Rice cakes with almond or peanut butter, bananas
Dinner: Salmon/chicken/turkey with baked potato or white rice.
I tried this meal plan for five days. By the end of day five I was in EXTREME pain. It felt like someone was stabbing my stomach from the inside. I couldn't figure it out. I was eating "healthy," right? Everything I knew or thought I knew about good nutrition didn't seem to be helping. I was at a loss. I felt so helpless. In addition, two weeks before I got E.Coli, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (under active thyroid). After E.Coli, I was diagnosed as hypoglycemic (low blood sugar). I was a mess and I knew it.
About two years ago my sister-in-law Sarah gave me a book called, "Practical Paleo" by Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC. She thought it might help my stomach. I looked through it and thought, "What kind of weird s**t does this lady eat? There's no way I'm eating like that even if it does help me!" I tried a few recipes but then gave up. I threw the book in the cupboard and went on my not-so-merry way. I tried eating gluten free by purchasing gluten free bread, crackers, and other products. No improvement. I tried eating vegan for a month. No improvement. The first time I cut out sugar I was eating spoonfuls of honey like a crackhead needing drugs. No improvement.
On May 14th, 2016, I was desperate enough to dig through my cupboard and pull out the book my sister-in-law had so thoughtfully given me. That same day I started Day 1 of the "AutoImmune Conditions" Meal Plan that Diane recommends. Here are the types of food I started eating, based on her meal plan:
Breakfast: mustard glazed chicken thighs with sweet potato & raw sauerkraut, flank steak with onions & butternut squash, roasted chicken with avocado & blueberries, breakfast sausage with plantains sautéed in coconut oil.
Lunch: Wild salmon or tuna with mixed greens, avocado & olives, turkey meatballs with mashed cauliflower, grilled salmon wrapped in romaine with mango cucumber salsa, bacon wrapped chicken thighs with grilled zucchini.
Snacks: Bananas, homemade herbal tea gelatin, bone broth, raw sauerkraut.
Dinner: Lamb lettuce boats with avo-ziki sauce, whole roasted chicken with root veggies, pesto shrimp and squash "fettuccine," Italian style stuffed zucchini.
(Her recipes are listed in the back of her book).
For the next 30 days I cut out all grains, legumes, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, nightshades, refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and chocolate, as recommended in her book. I also stopped taking birth control. I started drinking either homemade bone broth or kombucha every morning. I purchased a good quality probiotic and took that every day. I ate a small amount of raw organic sauerkraut daily. I kept a journal of everything I was eating so I could go back and reference if something bothered me. For example, I discovered fresh apples and oranges are a no-go for me! After five days of starting her recommended meal plan, my pain was gone. GONE! After two weeks, my stomach bloat diminished and the layer of fat also was nowhere to be seen. I still had diarrhea, but I knew I was heading in the right direction. Those 30 days were anything but easy for me. It took a lot of discipline to stay on track! However, I liked the way I was feeling so it kept me going. I also had a few unexpected things happen in my body that I noticed:
-Back stopped breaking out
-Higher sex drive
-No mid-day crash, more energy
-Skin clearer than ever
Needless to say, today I am on day 42 of this new lifestyle change. As of four days ago, my bowel movements are solid. For the first time in three years. I called my husband to tell him. (When you've had E.Coli, nothing embarrasses you, especially bowel movements! Plus at this point in our marriage we now have matching bite guards we wear while sleeping. If you can still love your spouse with one of those on, now that's true love!)
I am no doctor but this book changed my life. I haven't felt this good in years. I want to encourage you that with the right tools and information you can change your health, too! Might I add that my thyroid levels are completely normal now and my blood sugar is right on track. I am on no medication. Simply amazing! Thank you, Diane! I recommend your book with all my heart.
I can't fully explain how hard it has been for me to recover from getting E.Coli in 2013, both physically and mentally. The weeks and months on end of something that once was a joy to me (eating) becoming my worst enemy has been horrible. Eating differently then pretty much everyone I know has taken a toll on me. I feel guilty for writing that. What right do I have to feel sorry for myself when people are facing much larger mountains with their health that ultimately could be death sentences? I know I should just be grateful that I haven't suffered any internal organ damage. However, this is my reality. And no matter the terrible things that could have gone wrong, I still have to face my food battles every single day, and at times I feel alone in doing so. No naturopath, no digestive specialist, or doctor has been able to tell me exactly what I need to do to fix my digestive problems. I have had to feel it out on my own and struggle through the pain and discomfort of trying different foods only to realize I may never be able to eat that food again.
I hate that I can't eat dairy, gluten, spicy food, or fried foods without having extreme stomach pain and feeling sick for days, when I never had a problem before. It is an inconvenience to make one meal for my husband, and one meal for me. I don't enjoy looking over a menu at a restaurant hoping to find one thing that I can possibly eat. I despise telling people what I can and cannot eat if we are invited to dinner, as if I am being a nuisance to them. I irritate myself when I don't have the discipline to say no, and I end up in pain because I ate something I know I shouldn't have.
I actually didn't intend to complain when I started this post! I intended to share my "beautiful journey and all the life lessons I've learned along the way". But let me tell you, it hasn't been pretty. I've had some pretty ugly moments. Life doesn't always go our way, and I hate that. I wish I could control every little detail, but I can't and it makes me want to kick and scream like a little kid. And sometimes I do in my own way. What kind of life is living in fear of the unknown and fear of the past? I need to let go of the "I wish it was different" bullshit and embrace that life has changed and be happy with new things. Holding on to what used to be or things you think should be doesn't help with the present.
Today I enjoyed life. I ran 4 miles with my running buddy and searched for cool driftwood and rocks at a local beach so my new air plants have a home. As I type this, the wood pieces I found are drying by the fire and the sound of rain is hitting our rooftop. Our apartment is filled with the smell of vegan chocolate chip almond cookies I just pulled out of the oven from a new recipe I found that doesn't suck. (click on cookie pic below for recipe). I have a husband who loves me and supports me in my journey, whether rocky or pleasant. I have friends who I trust and know they love me. Today, and everyday, I will choose to be thankful. I choose to be brave and live life. I choose to be happy under any circumstance. Because sometimes all we have is today.
Gatorade Replacement Drink
My goal this summer was to find something to replace Gatorade for my both myself and my husband's frequent softball games. We play 3-4 times per week, so we have to have something to replenish the electrolytes, especially in this hot summer weather where we just sweat everything out. Drinking plain water doesn't always cut it when you play high intensity sports. I think I have been fairly successful, yay! As long as I have known my husband, he has been a die-hard Gatorade fan while playing sports. Probably because it is all he's ever known. However, have you ever read the ingredient list in Gatorade? It is scary. I don't even know what half the stuff is! So I did a little research:
Most Gatorade drinks contain water, sucrose (table sugar), high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, citric acid, natural flavor, sodium chloride (table salt), sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, modified food starch, red 40 and other artificial colors, and some Gatorade flavor variations use brominated vegetable oil as a stabilizer.
Brominated vegetable oil has been associated with a wide range of health problems including delayed fertility, thyroid disorders, and kidney problems. Here's a link with some additional info:
The article I linked above also states that "a single serving of Gatorade contains 14 grams of sugar. This isn’t the simple table sugar your familiar with, but a potent mix of heavily refined sucrose syrups, think liquefied empty calories, and glucose-fructose."
Gatorade also has a wide range of artificial food colors, which have been found to cause damage to DNA. Some studies have shown cancer and tumors have been linked to certain artificial coloring.
And the list goes on! All of these horrible ingredients are in one drink! High fructose corn syrup could literally kill you. I'm not trying to be all doom and gloom, but come on people! Do some research and know what you are putting into your body. READ the article I linked below. This guy cuts through all the crap and propaganda that is fed to us about another health danger: high fructose corn syrup, also found in gatorade drinks.
Basically, anything that isn't real shouldn't be put into our bodies. Food shouldn't be from a lab. No wonder cancer, disease, diabetes, tumors, autoimmune disease, and other awful health related illness are rampant in our society today! It's like we're being used as guinea pigs - I feel like we're just experimenting and saying, "Lets's see what happens if humans ingest this genetically modified piece of crap.... Boom - Cancer." I for one like to know what I am eating and what the consequences are if I eat it. I don't trust something just because I am "told it's good for me." We have brains for a reason. Use them!
*End Rant* - On a lighter note, see the picture below, which is what we are consuming every softball game instead: :) It is a plant-based electrolyte hydrator that is dairy, gluten, and soy free. I ordered it off Amazon for a significantly cheaper amount, but it can also be found at Whole Foods. Whole Foods also sells individual 1 serving packets for $.99 each if you want to sample if before buying a whole box.
We like to mix in about a cup of organic, low sugar lemonade, and then 2 cups of filtered water. I think it is also great just mixed with water alone. They have two flavors: berry and lemon-lime. Berry is by far the better of the two, in my opinion.
Now mind you, this is not going to taste like Gatorade. One of our friends tried it and wasn't too keen on it - probably because they expected it to taste just like Gatorade. This drink is actually good for you and will get the job done. You have to acquire a taste for more natural foods/drinks if you aren't used to it. Hope this is helpful!
Cranberry Lime Party Punch
Everyone needs a good basic punch recipe for baby showers, bridal showers, or any party or get together during the holidays. Well here it is! This recipe is non-alcoholic, but hey I won't stop you from adding vodka or rum, it would taste fantastic!
Cranberry Lime Party Punch
Make Ahead Breakfast Sandwiches
So I've definitely been slacking on posting new recipes lately. I'll own that. Life gets so dang busy, and it seems all my energy is gone after I work hard, come home and go running so I don't plump up, tidy the house, get dinner ready, try to look somewhat presentable when my husband gets home (I fail a lot)....anyways that is my sorry excuse for not posting anything since April. :( But this should make up for it! I make these, freeze them, and put them in my husband's lunch so he can eat them for breakfast with his coffee. HE LOVES THEM! I could give them to him everyday and he wouldn't get tired of them.
So make them!!!
We ate these 3 days in a row! They were delicious, it made more than I anticipated, and it is softball season so quick dinners are essential! This dish is perfect for a family because it is cheap, makes a LOT, and prep is easy on mama! It literally took me 5 minutes to throw this together and it cooked on its own all day in the crockpot. A win for everyone! Hope you enjoy! Happy Cooking!!!