Why you should toss your candles and what to use in their stead

You may not think that you need an alternative to candles and air fresheners but that is not the case.  The truth is that candles and air fresheners are creating an unbelievable amount of indoor air pollution and most people don’t even realize it!! I am not going to get too deep into this but a quick google search will have you throwing all of your scented candles and air wicks directly in the garbage.  One study I read showed that being in the same room as a burning candle for one hour was the equivalent to smoking a cigarette!!  That is just the tip of the iceberg and I for one am not interested in being in that kind of environment and I certainly won’t have my children exposed to it.

There are of course some amazing alternatives, my favorite being a diffuser.  We now have in our home probably six diffusers of various styles all of which are used frequently.  We love to have a nice smelling environment so why not!  Not only do diffused oils smell amazing they also lift your mood and increase the amount of oxygen your body is able to absorb.  Today I have some of our favorite blends that we use, some of them for a specific purpose and some just because they smell amazing!! Enjoy!

Chest and Seasonal Discomforts

Mood Lifters

Chill Out

Hope all is well!!

XOXO -Amber

Change is Sometimes Easy

As I sit here this morning casually drinking my coffee looking at Facebook, I see lots of back-to school pictures.  This is the third school year that has started without me in a classroom.  Anyone who knows me knows I loved teaching.  Today I love everything about retirement and have no desire to return to teaching. That doesn’t mean I don’t think about school and the current climate of education.  I get to have discussions with friends still in the classroom. I’m even planning on helping in my nephew’s class if the teacher is responsive. (Retired teachers are not always welcome in the classroom since they come with their own ideas of what to do. I hope I’m not one of those!)
Another change in my life is my church.  I attended a large mega church on Sunday with my son and his wife.  The worship was great and the message was moving and thought provoking. I loved it, but it’s not the place for me at this time in my life.  I love my smallish church and the people that I know there.  I love the community and fellowship.  It’s wonderful to have someone tell me they’ve missed me if I have been out of town.  And of course I love being in the handbell choir.
Being retired doesn’t mean I ignore what’s going on around me, it’s being content with knowing I’m  in the right place at this season of my life.
Blessings,
Cathy

Salsa

In anticipation of Taco Tuesday we have two salsa recipes for you today!

Cathy’s Salsa

About this time of year we have an abundance of tomatoes.  One of my favorite things to do with the tomatoes from the garden is to make salsa.  It’s easy and delicious.  It’s great in tacos or just on the back porch with chips when the neighbors come over.

2 lb. of ripe tomatoes
2-3 jalapeños, seeds removed and diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 drops lime essential oil  (Use a vitality oil that is approved for consumption like Young Living.)

To remove tomato skins, first blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Drop in iced water. Remove the skins and core.  Chop the tomatoes to the size you like.  I do about a half-inch dice because I like it chunky. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix.

You can serve this right away but I like to make it an hour or so before I make tacos so the flavors develop.

When I served this to the neighbors with chips they asked what was that extra little flavor.  That’s the lime oil.  I makes a real difference.

Amber’s Salsa

Our Taco Tuesday sometimes consists of fish tacos, I’m a big fan!!  The best salsa to go with a fish taco is grilled pineapple salsa. Yum!!

1 Pineapple
1-2 jalapenos, roasted, peeled and diced
handful of cilantro, diced
1 small red onion, diced
Lime, juiced

Pineapple is a favorite in my house, all of my kids love it and ask for them all the time.  The easiest way to cut a pineapple is to cut the top and bottom off and then cut it into quarters down the core.  When the pineapple is in 4 pieces cut the core out and then cut down the outside to remove the skin.  Cut the 4 pieces lengthwise in half so you have 8 total pieces.  Rub the pineapple with olive oil and salt it, then grill on both sides until browned.  The sugar in the pineapple almost caramelizes, it’s delicious!  Cut the grilled pineapple into small bite size pieces.  From this point on you will have to watch for little fingers sneaking in to snatch bites!

There are a lot of ways to roast a jalapeno but my favorite is to put it under the broiler and rotate it every couple of minutes until the skin is charred.  Once the entire jalapeno is charred, pull it out of the oven and put it in a plastic bag for a few minutes.  The peppers will sweat while they are in the bag, this makes the skin practically fall off.

Mix together the pineapple, roasted jalapeno, red onion, cilantro and lime juice. This can be eaten right away or will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.

Enjoy!!

Cathy and Amber

Fresh Sauerkraut

So I got brave and made my own sauerkraut.  I am a big fan of kraut as well as pickles, kimchi, really anything crunchy and acidy/salty.  I was pleasantly surprised at how simple and easy this was.  Seriously, anyone could do this!!  I got the recipe from a cookbook called EAT DRINK Paleo by Irena Macri.

Start by thinly slicing a half of a head of cabbage and one carrot.  I used purple because I they did in the recipe that I was following and it was so pretty I couldn’t resist.

The next step is almost therapeutic.  Add the cabbage and carrot to a bowl along with a crushed garlic clove and top it with 1 1/2 Tbsp of sea salt and 1/2 tsp  of ground coriander and start mixing it all together with your hands.  The salt will make the veggies start to release their liquids as you are doing this and that is what you want to happen.  Keep mixing and squeezing the mixture together for several minutes, the more you squeeze the more liquid will be released.  Once I was pretty sure I had gotten all of the liquid out that I could, I pushed everything down into the bottom of the bowl and topped it with saran wrap.  Then I placed a saucer on top and weighted it down with a full tea kettle to continue pressing out more liquid.  Leave the mixture for a couple of hours as more liquid will come out than you think is possible.

In the meantime, sterilize a jar.  This is not as daunting as it sounds, just submerge an empty jar to a pot of boiling water for a few minutes and then retrieve it with tongs (be careful) and set it out to dry.  Add the cabbage mixture into the jar pushing everything down so it is submerged in the liquid and close it tightly.  Leave the jar at room temperature for about three days (ours was out for 4 days).  When you open the jar it will smell like sauerkraut 🙂  You can eat it at any time after that.  It keeps in the fridge for a long time.

Eating fresh sauerkraut is very good for you.  Any fermented food has probiotics which are very good for gut health because they balance the bacteria in your digestive system.  The majority of your immune system resides in your gut so it is extremely important to consume probiotics daily.  This can be difficult so I also supplement with Young Livings Life 9 probiotic.  It is the best option I have found as it has 9 different strains of good bacteria and 17 BILLION bacteria!!  No matter how you get your good bacteria, I encourage you to add it to your day.

Hope all is well!!

XOXO -Amber

What’s New in the Garden  

One of my joys in our garden is growing our veggies from seed.  We get to choose what plants and specifically what varieties we want to grow.  Fortunately our garden has lots of space so we try a few new plants each year to see how they will do.  Sometimes we have a winner and sometimes not.
This year we tried three new varieties of tomato but don’t love any of them. They won’t get planted again.  Our favorites again this year are Carmelo, Ramapo, Fourth of July and Steak Sandwich.  They have proven to be winners and each will be planted again next year.
We are having good luck with the bush green beans too.  We usually grow pole beans but the bush beans don’t take as much room and they fit into the space we had available.  Another winner!  So far they are more tender, stringless and are producing well.
         
The purple hull peas are a first year surprise.  I loved eating these peas growing up in Arkansas and was reminded of them when I visited my aunt and uncle in Nashville.  I saw them in the shell when Aunt Shirley got them at a road side stand.  I decided to give them a try. I had to order the seeds since none of the local or chain stores carry them here in Albuquerque.  I’m so glad that I did.  They got off to a slow start but when it got hot they took off.  It is such a surprise to see how they grow too.  There are only about three pods ready but I can hardly wait to cook the first “mess.”
  
Another love of my childhood is okra.  I’ve grown all different kinds over the years.  This year I’m growing Arkansas okra.  That’s not the variety but the home of these seeds.  My friend Kay, who lives in Arkansas, saved me some seeds from the okra I admired in her garden.  Okra loves the heat and is doing great.  The first okra will be picked this week.
Ok, kids.  Eat your veggies.  They are DELICIOUS!
Happy Gardening,
Cathy

School Lunch Planning

Well, school is upon us.  My children go to a school with no cafeteria which means I pack lunches every. single. day.  I have a few lunch ideas if you pack your students lunches (or even if you pack your own lunch).  One is super fun and not too difficult as well as two practical ideas.

I always start the school year off with the best of intentions.  I want my kids lunches to be healthy and delicious, preferable not monotonous, etc…  By the time May rolls around my kids are lucky if they get something in addition to a pb&j and a banana, but I digress.

The first idea is spring rolls.  Spring rolls are delicious and you can put anything your heart desires in them.  We made ours with lettuce, carrots, cilantro, grated cabbage, and sauteed cod.  We found the Vietnamese rice wrappers and peanut sauce at an asian market.  The process is easier than it seems.  I think it helps to lay all of the options out in an assembly line style before you start.

We used a pie pan filled with warm water to moisten the wrappers.  You submerge the wrapper until it softens up and gets almost silky in texture. Lift it out of the water and let the excess drip off.  Then you just lay your wrapper on a flat plate and place the toppings in the middle.  Roll the bottom edge up around the stuffing fold both sides up and continue to roll it to the other edge of the wrapper.  The rice paper sticks to itself so it stays together really well you just have to be careful not to fold it in half before you get started.

Delicious!! When you pack this in a lunch box, I would line your container with a lettuce leaf to keep the wrapper from sticking to the container.

While it’s fun to pack a colorful lunch that’s full of veggie it’s not always practical.  One of the things I like to do is pre-make sandwiches and freeze them.  I prefer to use natural almond butter in sandwiches but I absolutely loath having to stir together almond butter that has seperated and is covered in a layer of oil.  To remedy this we use the almond butter that you grind fresh at the supermarket and make the sandwiches as soon as we get home.  The kids love to help with this, even my five year old!  Again, we do assembly line style.  We lay out an entire loaf of bread in pairs.  One person spreads on the almond butter and another spreads either jelly, banana puree or honey on the other and sandwiches the pieces together.  The last person puts the sandwiches in bags and stacks them in the freezer.  These keep for a couple of weeks.  I just put them in the lunch boxes frozen and by lunch they’re thawed, they also keep everything else cold in the meantime.

The last idea is new to me but we tried it and it’s tasty and super easy, sheet pan meal prep.  We used a recipe I found on Pinterest and it was great.  Roughly chop a zucchini and a red onion, cut a head of broccoli into florets and cut two chicken breasts into 1 inch pieces.  Place all of the ingredients in rows on a sheet pan lined with foil and add a row of cherry tomatoes.  Drizzle olive oil over the entire pan and season with salt and italian seasoning.  Roast in the oven for 25 minutes at 450 degrees.  While that is cooking make a batch of rice or quinoa, whatever you choose really.  When everything is done you can portion it all out into about 4 or 5 seperate containers starting with a little bit of the rice and topping it with a bit of chicken and each of the veggies.  That is a pretty complete meal that you can just stick in a lunch box with a fork and be happy that your kids (or yourself) are getting a tasty and healthy lunch.  This would work with several different vegetables as well, you could easily make this work with your families favorites.

Hope these ideas are helpful for you.  Packing lunches can be a point of stress but it doesn’t have to be with a little bit of planning.

Hope all is well!! XOXO -Amber

 

Gratitude 

Gratitude has popped up twice this year in a big way.  After I read Oola by Dave Braun and Troy Amdahl, I started trying to write down one thing I was grateful for each day.  I tried to be specific and it had to be different every day.  At the Young Living convention Shawn Achor talked about happiness.  I followed up by reading his book The Happiness Advantage.  One of his strategies to improve happiness is to write 3 things you are grateful for each day.  I started writing at least one grateful statement on March 17th. I’ll admit that I have missed a few days but that’s usually because I’m busy with family and friends.  I’ve been doing it long enough now that I can tell when I miss.  I think about it but writing it down makes a difference.

              

Some of the things I have written:

* I’m grateful that (friend’s name) is in a happy place with her new home.

* Grateful for a great place for sewing.  I don’t have to clean up when I stop for the day.

* Grateful that I get to be in the bell choir at my church.  It’s fun.

* Grateful for my hairdresser.  She gets me and I trust her.

* Grateful that people like to visit and hang out at my house.

Ok.  That’s enough.  Well, one more- so grateful that I have spent the last 6 weeks surrounded by family.  It included trips to Utah and Colorado, special time with both my children and their spouses and all of the grandkids have had special time (without parents) at our house.  Life is good.

       

Here comes the challenge for you.  Find something to be grateful for every day.  It is not that easy to write something different every day.  My examples may seem trivial but it’s often the simple things that matter.  I am often grateful for family but it needs to be different and specific.

Give it a try for two weeks and leave me a comment about how it went. Most people that I’ve talked to about this think they are pretty happy.   But who doesn’t want to be a little happier?

Gratefully,

Cathy

 

The Pursuit of Physical Wellness

Exercise and fitness are an important part of a healthy lifestyle.  Not only is exercise important for a healthy body, it also creates a happy mind.  Everyone has heard of a runners high, but I personally think it goes way beyond that.  Working out is empowering, it gives you confidence.  When you are strong you feel good about yourself and your body feels good as well!!

I don’t usually go to the gym because I do most of my exercise in the dojang, training in taekwondo.  I also do some yoga at home and I enjoy hiking with my husband around our house (when it’s not 100 out with a chance of rattlesnakes).  The easiest way to incorporate some sort of workout and have any consistency is to find something that you really enjoy for more than the physical benefits.  I found a saying once, “fall in love with the process and the results will come.”  That is so true!!

To supplement my fitness there are several Young Living products that I like to use.  The newest being AminoWise.  Here is the description taken directly from their site. “It uses three blends for one powerful result: The Muscle Performance blend aids muscle building and repair, the Recovery blend helps reduce muscle fatigue, and the Hydration Mineral blend replenishes important minerals lost during exercise.”  I have been using this supplement for over a month now and it is fantastic!! I’m less sore and I have noticed the difference it has been making in my energy level through my workouts!!

There are also two different products to help with sore muscles, deep relief and Ortho Sport.  The deep relief is a roller ball that can be used directly on muscles that have intense discomfort.  The Ortho Sport is a massage oil that can be used on a large area and massaged in.  Both of these products contain oils that cool and sooth the skin and muscles without any unwanted chemicals or the grease slick most products leave on your skin!!

To boost your energy levels at the start of, or during a workout I would recommend using peppermint oil or the En-R-Gee oil blend topically to put an extra pep in your step!  I also really like the NingXia Nitro supplement for helping with not just my energy but also my level of focus.  Nitro contains ingredients that help with both cognitive and physical fitness.

It’s also really important to make sure you are drinking a lot of water.  I put the AminoWise in my water for more intense workouts and I like to use citrus in my water the rest of the time for a flavor boost and for the antioxidant benefits.

I hope this post finds you well!!  If you have any questions about how to get your hands on some of these awesome workout supplements use the contact me button and I will be happy to talk to you about your options and walk you through it.  I also strongly encourage you to either keep up your pursuit of fitness or take up something new, you might be surprised at all of the amazing things you are capable of!!

XOXO -Amber

Ripe Tomatoes

Gardening is work. It needs daily attention which means watering in New Mexico. Sometimes the pests and disease are taking their share.  Weeds are a constant fight in an organic garden.  When I was watering this morning I found a huge hornworm on a pepper plant and two ripe tomatoes that the bugs had eaten. I had to just put them in the compost. Ugh!
Sometimes I wonder why we do all this – 20+ raised beds is a serious commitment. But then I pick a few perfectly ripe tomatoes.  I know they have been grown in good, rich soil with no pesticides or herbicides and good organic fertilizers. I know what I’m eating because I grew it- from a seed. Have you eaten a freshly picked tomato while you are standing in the garden with the juice dripping down your chin?  I hope so!!  Nothing to me says perfection like a ripe tomato with just a touch of salt. Sliced tomatoes from the garden will be eaten every day for weeks. THAT’S WHY I DO IT!!!
If you don’t have a garden of your own, I would encourage you to find a friend with a few extra tomatoes or at least try a farmer’s market.  Think about how you can grow a  tomato next year.  All you need is a spot of ground that gets 6 or more hours of sun or a good sized pot.  Plant, water and be patient. You will be rewarded.
Happy Eating,
Cathy

Yoga Time

We have reached the later parts of the summer and the kids are getting a bit unruly.  They start bickering with each other and (in my house at least) kicking each other.  It is impossible to entertain the children every second of the day and I get it, they’re bored.  Especially here in Phoenix where it really isn’t much fun to play outside when you don’t have a swimming pool.

 

To combat this phenomenon we decided to take a little time to do some yoga practice.  Yoga is great for strength and flexibility but it is also really good at slowing the mind.  Connecting your breath with your body and being intentional with what your focus is takes practice and concentration. I find it to be a great supplement to any sport, especially one that requires flexibility and focus like taekwondo.  Kids are fascinated by their bodies and naturally proud of all of the things they are able to do.  I find yoga to be a phenominal thing to practice with kids as they can challenge themselves in a way that other play doesn’t do.

Penelope prefers to follow along with a video and her favorite is Julia Jarvis.  Julia has a ton of free videos on instant streaming through Amazon as long as you have Prime, and who doesn’t 😀  Even if you don’t care for Julia’s style, there are so many free options that you can try from the comfort of your own home.  While they do have special videos with kids in mind, you might be surprised at how well a child can follow a regular practice video.

   

Hope everyone is well!! XOXO -Amber