Spelt Vanilla Cake

A delicious vanilla cake made with spelt flour and unrefined sugar. #spelt #wholegrain #cake I always feel obligated to preface every cake post with a disclaimer that goes something like this: I stink at cake baking.

Soooo if you’re a cake-baking expert, this post is not for you. However, if you’re a cake-baking stinker like me, keep reading!

I think my biggest problem with cake-baking is that I attempt to make a delicious, light, fluffy, high-rising cake with ingredients like whole-grain flour and unrefined sugars. I always tell myself that if I were baking with white flour and white sugar that – Certainement! – my cakes would be absolute perfection.

Since I don’t bake with white flour and sugar, the world will never know. Probably best to leave it that way. 

A delicious but healthy indulgence - a vanilla cake made with spelt flour and unrefined sugar. #cake #wholegrain #speltI bumble along the best I can, though, with freshly grained spelt flour and coconut sugar, and I have to say that this most recent cake experiment was overall a success. The resulting cake seemed heavy but had a nice light crumb, a moist texture, and perfect vanilla flavor. I made two cakes – one topped with caramel frosting, and one filled with lemon curd and topped with lemon frosting. Everybody said they were good, but I wasn’t completely pleased with the frosting recipes, so I won’t be posting those.

However, the cake is definitely a recipe worth sharing, especially since whole-grain spelt cake recipes are currently a rare commodity in this world. I made it in my WonderMix with the cookie beaters on low (speed 1). Whipped it up in no time!

If you’re looking for a delicious but reasonably nutritious (wouldn’t exactly call it healthy, but it’s not that much of an indulgence, either) cake for your next celebration, this one’s it! It pairs nicely with just about any frosting – I like to pop the layers in the freezer before spreading the icing just to limit the crumbs getting involved.

a healthy indulgence - whole grain spelt cake with unrefined sugars. #spelt #wholegrain #cake Recipe: Spelt Vanilla Cake

Summary: a delicious vanilla layer cake made with spelt flour

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How to Save on Grass-Fed Meat

how you can afford grass fed meatYou know that the mass manufactured meat available here in America is horrible, what with its hormones, GMO’s, antibiotics, occasionally horrifying additives (pink slime, anyone?), and other hair-raising issues. But what’s a girl to do when that’s exactly what’s available at the local grocery store… and for half the price (or less) of the good stuff?!

I hear you. That’s exactly why my family has only been enjoying grass-fed meat and dairy products for the past year or two instead of all our lives. The good stuff – pastured, grass-fed, local beef, chicken, pork and other meat & dairy – is pricey to say the least, often twice the cost of its conventional counterparts. Daunting, to be sure!

But it IS possible to work grass-fed meats into your budget, I promise. Here are a few tips that helped me work the healthiest meat possible into my family’s budget. (Keep in mind, by the point I started to add grass-fed pastured meat & dairy into the picture, I’d already gotten to the point where just about everything else we buy is traditional/clean/whole foods and totally from scratch. Removing processed packaged foods from the diet significantly reduces your grocery budget in the first place.)

1. Start small.

Instead of instantly replacing all your conventional meat purchases with the healthier grass-fed variety, start small. Every little bit helps and is a step in the right direction!

Here are a couple ways you could begin incorporating more grass-fed and pastured meats into your grocery budget:

  • Start with whole chickens or ground beef. Those tend to be the cheaper options and also more readily available at regular grocery stores.
  • Start with one kind of meat. For example, if you normally eat beef, chicken, and pork, choose just one of them to begin your grass-fed experiment. (I vote for beef because it’s the most noticeable improvement in taste and texture, in my opinion.)
  • Start with just one package. If all you can afford in a week or a month is one package of grass-fed ground beef, then do just that! Buy everything else conventional for now.

2. Keep your eyes peeled for sales and markdowns.

Before I committed to only purchasing pastured meats, I bought them whenever I could simply by keeping my eyes peeled for deals. They don’t go on sale in the traditional sense very often, but you can frequently find them on markdown in some grocery stores. 

In my personal experience, Safeway and Harris Teeter (and occasionally Wegmans) were the stores in my area that most frequently had marked-down grass-fed meat available. I suggest doing some reconnaissance in your area and noting which stores seem to have that type of meat available; also consider asking the butcher when they mark down the meat.

Whole Foods is one store that will have sales on grass-fed meat because they carry more of it than most other grocery stores. So if you live near one, keep an eye on their sales and take advantage of them when they happen.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway… when you find a great deal, STOCK UP to the extent that you can. Clean that store out of their grass-fed, baby!

3. Purchase directly from the farm.

When I say directly from the farm, I mean it literally. Most of the meat I purchase comes directly to me from the farms via their internet ordering systems. I haven’t found that any local store, including Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, has as good a price on their pastured meat as what I’m able to get by ordering directly from local farms. Ordering or purchasing directly from the farm is also cheaper than purchasing at a farmers’ market (I’m assuming the price is higher there because of the overhead costs).

I will say that it has taken a significant amount of internet research and local networking to find the best prices in my area. Most farms don’t spend a lot of money on advertising, and not all of them have an internet presence, so you’ll probably have to do a little digging in your area. Some suggestions for your search:

  • Join local email lists and Facebook groups that focus on natural or organic living. With any luck, those folks will already have a directory in the files somewhere with the info you’re seeking. If not, just ask around there.
  • Snap up pamphlets at the local library, coffee shop, health food store, etc. Some farms will have printed advertising material posted in such places.
  • Ask around your friends. The very first farm I ever ordered from was recommended to me by a local friend.
  • Search on localharvest.org. It’s the largest directory for local food that I know of. Also try eatwild.com.
  • Use a search engine and google various terms. Searching different terms (grass-fed meat in __your location___, grass-fed delivery, pastured meat, local farms, etc.) will bring up different results and broaden your choices.

If you live in a reasonably rural area, you might be able to save on delivery costs by driving directly to farms and picking up your orders there. The farms I order from are just enough out of my way that it’s worth it for me to order for delivery, but if I lived a few miles closer (and didn’t work full-time) I’d go pick up my orders in person. Also, many farms arrange local pick-up spots that are also cheaper than direct delivery. Take that into consideration when researching pricing.

4. Purchase roasts.

Not only are roasts cheaper per pound than many other cuts of meat, they go farther than most other cuts also, especially if you shred the meat once it’s cooked. A 3-lb roast can last a good 3 meals in my family, and can be disguised creatively so we don’t get tired of it. Once a roast is cooked, you can take a small portion of it, chop or shred it, and add it to pastas, pizzas, casseroles, salads, and sandwiches.

For more tips on sticking to your grocery budget while eating healthy, nourishing foods, be sure to read Your Grocery Budget Toolbox, chock-full of strategies and practical methods for cutting costs without cutting quality. 

5. Buy in bulk. Split with friends.

By far the cheapest way to buy pastured meat is to buy in bulk, by which I mean purchasing a whole cow or pig at a time. Most farmers also offer the option of purchasing a half or even quarter cow or pig also. The biggest problem most people have is that they don’t have the storage space (i.e. a big enough freezer) for all that meat, so that’s where your friends come in. This is where it’s helpful to be networking amongst like-minded local folks, so you can organize a bulk meat co-op or join in on one that’s already been organized.

In my area, I can save probably a good $2/lb by purchasing meat in this manner instead of buying individual pieces at a time. Do keep in mind that purchasing in bulk means you get a wide variety of cuts, some of which you may or may not be familiar with.

6. Stretch with less popular cuts, organ meats, bones, etc.

I have to admit this is the part I’m still working on. I haven’t been able to work up my nerve to order cow tongue yet, but I have ordered marrow bones and liver! As I advised above, start where you’re comfortable and work from there. Most people can stomach purchasing bones and using them for broth, so start there if nothing else! You’ll get a lot of bang for very little buck.

One little tip about liver: if you don’t like the taste (we don’t) and prefer not to eat it straight-up, you can grind it in a blender or food processor (Total ick but if I did it, so can you!), freeze it in ice-cube trays and then add a cube or two to ground beef when you brown it. You won’t be able to taste the difference, and it will add extra nutrition to your spaghetti. Not to mention it stretches that pricey ground beef a little!

7. Reduce meat consumption.

If you’re paleo or grain-free, this idea won’t work so well for you, but for everyone else, it’s an option to consider. I have a friend who stretches her ground beef by adding lentils to it, which is a great place to start. You could also try “Meatless Mondays”, or focus on making meat the side dish of your meal and not the main dish. For example, top a salad with it, or mix some chopped meat into a filling pasta dish. I also typically have one dinner a week that is based on fish rather than meat. A well-chosen can of tuna (taking care where it originates, how it’s caught, and how it’s packaged) still costs less than a pound of meat and forms the basis for a nutritious and filling meal.

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Lavender Syrup

Lavender Syrup  - 3 ingredients!  #yleo #essentialoilsI never ever would have considered lavender as a beverage flavoring were it not for a pleasant occasion a month ago or so when my sister and I went to a favorite coffee shop in Maryland, one we are rarely able to visit but enjoy very much. As we perused the lengthy menu board, the final item on the list caught my sister’s eye and she exclaimed that she *HAD* to try it. 

What was that concoction she had to try? Lavender Iced Coffee. 

Hmmm, I thought, unconvinced,but in the end, decided to follow my sister’s footsteps and give it a try. It sounded refreshing, and didn’t seem like it would be too horrible, plus I love to try new things.

A Refreshing New Twist

Word. It was amazing. Refreshing, yes! Also, quite delicious and crave-worthy. In a remarkable turn of events, however, I completely forgot about it once I got home and only remembered it when I was trying to brainstorm essential-oils-based refreshments for a class I was teaching.

In a flash of inspiration, I recalled the herbal goodness of the lavender iced coffee I had enjoyed, and realized it would be ridiculously easy to duplicate it by quickly boiling up a simple syrup and adding some lavender essential oil to it.

Easy peasy! And, of course, this versatile lavender syrup can be used for much more than coffee – splash it in lemonade, tea, punch, or anywhere else you’d like a dash of flavor.Lavender Syrup  - 3 ingredients!  #yleo #essentialoils

Recipe: Lavender Syrup

Summary: a refreshing flavored syrup you can add to hot and cold beverages

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar (I used coconut sugar)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3-4 drops lavender essential oil*

Instructions

  1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  3. Cool to room temperature and add lavender oil. Store bottled in the refrigerator.

*Most lavender oil available on the general market today is more than likely adulterated in one way or another. I only use Young Living lavender oil because I know that Young Living controls the process from planting the seed in the ground to putting the seal on the bottle, and I know there’s nothing in it but the best and finest lavender oil available!

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WonderMix Giveaway!

WonderMix Remember how I made those delicious Kumquat bars in my new favorite kitchen tool, the WonderMix?

Guess what?! You can win your very own WonderMix and make your very own Kumquat bars in it!

That’s right! Many thanks to WonderMix (the same company that brought us the WonderMill) for providing one of my readers with such a fabulous prize. This giveaway will end next Friday, May 15, 2015 at midnight. Complete one or multiple entries for your chance to win the WonderMill for yourself. The winner will be drawn randomly by Giveaway Tools and will have 48 hours to respond before.

Good luck!

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Kumquat Bars

2015's answer to Lemon Bars. Sweet and tart, creamy filling, crumbly crust. Lemon bars are SO last century. Join me in the twenty-first century (2015 people!) with a delicious twist on the old classic that takes it to new heights… a simple switch of key ingredients and you have an impressively exotic dessert that tastes just as good as (better?) than the original.

I’m talking kumquats. “Say wha?” I hear you mutter. Yep, kumquats! They look like baby oranges but taste like grumpy grandpa lemons. In other words, adorably cute but ferociously sour. Some people like to pop the little cuties right in their mouth, but I can’t personally even give a little lick without puckering up all over like I just drank lemon juice out of the bottle.

A delicious 21st-century version of the classic Lemon Bar.

However! Like their yellow and green counterparts, kumquats pair nicely with a bit of sweetener to create deliciously sweet-tart desserts, no pucker involved.

I whipped these bars up on a whim the other day, basically just switching out the lemon juice in a lemon bar recipe with kumquat puree, resulting in an orange-colored version of the favorite lemon bars. I was quite pleased to have my brand-new WonderMix at my disposal for the creation of the recipe, because its blender attachment made whipping up the puree and adding it to the filling mixture a total breeze. I love having appliances that do more than one job… and consequently take up less real estate on my countertop, which is quite valuable these days!

Blend and Mix with one machine!

Want to win one of these beauties? Check out our giveaway coming this Friday – May 8!

As a matter of fact, I have been experimenting quite a bit with this new mixer, and am looking forward to sharing more of my recipe creations with you in the very near future. This lovely little machine makes quick work of just about any dough or batter, giving me more time to try my favorite sort of experiment… the kitchen kind!

Wondermix

Enter to win your very own Wondermix this Friday, May 8!

Win your very own WonderMix! Enter the giveaway here!

Deliciously beautiful kumquat bars - a new take on the old-fashioned lemon bars.

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You Are a Failure

You are a failure. But God isn't. /Commence internal monologue

Words you don’t want to hear, and certainly wouldn’t say to anyone else (no matter that you secretly believe them). Words well-meaning people insist are a lie straight from the devil himself, meant to be ignored, or at the very least, overridden by louder voices with more encouraging things to say. Words you vehemently dislike.

But true words.

No, I mean it. If you’re honest with yourself, you are a failure on a daily basis.

You Are a Failure

Don’t believe me? Don’t want to face the facts? Maybe a glimpse into your typical day will help you:

  • 6:30 am: You ignore the Vienna Boys Choir boisterously singing “Goooood Morning!” over and over again in their valiant effort to awaken you. You roll over, close your eyes (and your ears) tighter and will them to stop. singing. forgoodnesssakes.
  • 6:35 am: They’re singing again. Good. Grief. Will they ever shut up?!
  • 6:40 am: Your husband walks into the room, turns off the incessant singing and hands you the tablet so you can read the Bible (which you should have started ten minutes ago). You mumble your thanks, manage to find the Bible app and open it up to today’s reading.
  • 6:45 am: You realize with a start that you’ve dozed off after reading the grand total of 1 whole verse. You rub your eyes, sit up straighter, whisper a desperate prayer for help, and focus your eyes back on the tablet.
  • 6:55 am: You manage to somehow finish your Bible reading and begin to pray.
  • 7:05 am: Your husband returns from showering and starts making noise in the room, waking you up as you realize you need to start showering NOW in order to head to work on time. Gah. Prayer time practically non-existent again.
  • 7:20 am: Emerging from the shower, you see your children eating their breakfast without the benefit of an accompanying nutritious health-fortifying fruit OR Vitamin C OR elderberry syrup, all of which you have asked your husband countless times to include in the morning breakfast routine that typically occurs while you’re in the shower. Hurling mental insults at your husband for his lack of concern, laziness, selfishness, and all other manner of unforgivable sin, you remedy the situation to the extent you can and proceed to finish getting ready.
  • 7:25 am: Interrupted from your concerted efforts to be ready on time for once in your life, you are irritated beyond reason by The Boyz’ goofing off when they are supposed to be getting dressed. You holler. You yell. You pronounce judgment and unreasonable consequences.
  • 7:30 am: You realize with renewed regret that once again, you are not going to be ready to walk out the door at the necessary time. Your day begins with frustration and anxiety…

And this is just the first hour of the day. It doesn’t include the impatient words, the raised voice, the proud thoughts, the inconsistent parenting, the irritation, the ill-treatment of your (truly beloved) significant other. The failure – and along with it, the shame, regret, and guilt – piles up, heaps on heaps, as you go through your day, determined to do right but instead only making everything very very wrong. You finish the day quite sure that you will one day lose your job because you stink at it, your husband will one day leave you because you rolled your eyes at him for the last time, and your kids will hate your stinkin’ guts when they’re grown.
OH, and no one will attend your funeral. Ever feel like a failure? The bad news is, you are. The good news is, God isn't!

You Are a Failure

Yes, my dear self, you are a big fat failure with a capital F-A-I-L-U-R-E. Tell me, when was the last time you actually accomplished something that you determinedly set out to do? Because as I recall, you have made repeated attempts to:

  • Blog on a regular basis
  • Lose weight
  • Conquer the mid-life acne for once and for all
  • Exercise daily (or at least make it to 10,000 steps)
  • Eliminate sugar completely from your diet
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Speak kindly at all times to your children even when they’re driving you nuts
  • Not let your children drive you nuts but happily accept their childlike childishness as a matter of course
  • Not roll your eyes at your husband, at least when he’s looking. No seriously, you desperately want to be a wife who respects her husband because he deserves it.
  • Patiently – ever-so-patiently – teach your classroom full of littles while repeating everything you say ten thousand times (“Sit on your bottom!”) with a smile on your face and kindness in your voice.
  • Share the love of Jesus with those incorrigible little people
  • Stop eating out so much and make more food at home
  • Eat 80% clean food instead of this miserable 70-75% you’ve got going on
  • Ferment all the things! Probiotics everywhere!
  • Build your multi-pronged home business so you can fund your dreams

And on and on it goes.

Failure.

/End internal monologue

The Defeat of Failure

*Sigh* Depressing, isn’t it? Have you ever had that conversation with yourself? Surely I’m not the only one who repeats this mental monologue ad nauseum until I’m incapacitated by depression, fear, and an overwhelming sense of guilt because I just. Can’t. pull. It. Together.

And the truth is, no matter how many times someone lovingly encourages me that I am not in fact a failure (thanks, sweetie!), nothing can erase the sheer fact that my “successes” in life are so minimal as to be essentially nonexistent. The bare facts mock me in their invincible veracity. I am, in fact, a failure.

In and of myself, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.

BUT!Grace: Turning failure into victory every day

The Victory of Grace

Thank goodness the story doesn’t end there! Praise God that my failure doesn’t affect His view of me. How amazing that my continual failure at anything in life – spiritual, emotional, physical, practical – means very little in the grand scheme of things.

Because grace.

Here’s the deal: failure is a fact of life because Adam sinned and the world was cursed. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, life isn’t perfect, and the world is a horrible place because of our combined failure to get it right.

But grace.

For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.

We know these words, we’ve memorized them, we can recite them in our sleep. But somehow we feel like their power was already applied in our lives way back on the day we got saved, and that they are irrelevant for our daily (hourly, minutely) failures – and SINS. Grace forgives sin and grace fixes sin. We know about the first part but we forget about the second part.

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.

Did you notice that? Who is it that gives you both the desire and ability to do what is right? How is it that you can successfully perform God’s holy will in your life? By pulling up your bootstraps and trying harder? By renewing your determination? By praying more fervently? By being more spiritual?

No, No, NO, and NO! None of that does a lick of good, because trust me I tried and it didn’t help. (Doesn’t stop me from trying again… I’m a slow learner!) And anyway, God’s Word tells me it ain’t gonna do any good in any case: All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. So… the best I got isn’t anywhere near good enough. Even if I did manage to make it through a day when I woke up on time, read the Bible and prayed with adequate fervency, spoke kindly and compassionately to all I met, fed my family homemade nutritious food, and loved my husband perfectly, I’d still be a big fat failure because I’m still human.

But grace.

Nothing in me, in and of myself, is good. Yes, I’m a failure. But GOD and His GRACE work in me, changing me, helping me, forgiving me, fixing me, cleaning me, empowering me, and enabling me on a daily basis.

I fail.

But God doesn’t.

Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!

Grace.Grace - enough for every failure.

/Recommence internal monologue

So, yes, dear self, you are in fact a failure. That cannot be denied. However, greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. The Power that lives in you is greater than your failure, greater than your sin.

And besides that, you are not defined by your failure, not anymore. You are no longer condemned by your sin. You are covered by the blood that cleanses you, and the power of the Holy Spirit is changing you. You are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, made possible by the mercy, love, and grace of God.

Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. No matter how badly and catastrophically you manage to completely mess up your day – and the day of everyone you love most dearly – God’s grace is more than enough to forgive it and to fix it.

So. Stop looking inward (enough of this incessant internal monologue!) and start looking up. Confess, repent, move on. Lay aside the sin that does so easily beset you and look to the cross for your power to go forward in grace.

And watch God turn your failure into victory.

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Remembering {and Reviving} the True Story of Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann, a Symbol of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

As a child, I remember feeling a certain affinity for Raggedy Ann simply because she (sorta) bore my name. I didn’t really have a passionate interest in the doll (frankly, I didn’t love dolls much at all), but I did feel a kinship with my namesake doll.

Fast forward to 2015… I’m all grown up now and I still have an affinity for Raggedy Ann, but for entirely different reasons. As the vaccine storm whips up into a frenzy, I’m reminded that Raggedy Ann was a potent symbol of one of the earliest anti-vaccine movements that holds eery similarities to today.

Raggedy Ann, a Symbol of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

The Sad Story of Raggedy Ann

Johnny Gruelle was the creator and inventor of Raggedy Ann, a creation intended for the enjoyment of his daughter Marcella. Around the same time he was developing the story and character of Raggedy Ann to prepare for publishing, Marcella was given the smallpox vaccination at school without the consent of her parents. Shockingly, although she developed an infection from the vaccination, they inoculated her several more times. Marcella died a slow and painful death, eventually becoming so weak she could not move her muscles, and so was much like a rag doll in appearance. After her death, Johnny became a staunch supporter of the anti-vaccine movement and Raggedy Ann became a symbol of that movement. You can read more about the Raggedy Ann story here.

At a time when scared and angry parents are calling for compulsory and mandatory vaccinations across the board – no exemptions – it behooves us to remember the hard-won freedoms of earlier generations who had valid concerns about that very practice. 

Raggedy Ann, Symbol of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

I know many of us who have questions about vaccines have been feeling rather attacked lately in social media and mommy wars. The insults, the threats, the anger, and the hate are bullets that, while they may not change our course, certainly leave wounds behind. Many of my fellow vaccine-questioners have expressed to me that they are tired of dealing with the onslaught, tired of debating, tired of the hatred directed at them. Most of them have come to the conclusion that they’d rather not get into these heated debates – not with people they love, and not with strangers online – and so have resigned themselves to silence.

I’m torn myself because I am also heartily tired of the debate, and I’m tired of the vitriol. It’s exhausting to be constantly defending myself and trying to educate folks on the very real dangers of vaccination. But I feel like the heat of the battle means that it’s almost over, and if we don’t keep pressing on, we’ll lose. We’ll lose the right to make medical decisions for ourselves and our children, and that’s a slippery slope I don’t want to take a ride on.

So. I have an idea. Let’s all take up the symbol of previous generations who fought the very same battle and faced the same foes. Johnny Gruelle fought with ink and paper, let’s fight on social media. But you don’t have to say a thing! All you need to do is replace your profile pic on all your social media accounts with a picture of Raggedy Ann. It’s a seemingly innocuous image that won’t get in people’s faces and it won’t anger anyone. But it will represent what you stand for and it will remind you of your historic right to fight for that stand.

And if enough of us do it, then we’ll have a sea of Raggedy Ann profile pictures all across Facebook, across Twitter, across Instagram. Folks will see all those Raggedy Anns and will start wondering. And when they do, you can point them to the history of Raggedy Ann by posting a simple link. You don’t have to say a word. Let Raggedy Ann speak for you.

Are you in? Let’s do this thing!

Raggedy Ann Social Media Storm

  1. Download a free graphic of Raggedy Ann.
  2. Upload it as your profile picture to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… wherever you are on social media.
  3. If anybody asks you why, direct them to this link that explains the story of Raggedy Ann.

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Palm of His Hand Valentines

You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentines While browsing through Pinterest for Valentine’s-Day-Card inspiration, I spied a brilliant card/gift idea that incorporated the verse from Isaiah that says “I have engraved you on the palm of My  hand”. Beautiful verse, beautiful thought, perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Plus also, perfect for gifting with a pencil instead of junky VDay candy. Can I get an Amen?! You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentines

The particular card that inspired me was not exactly what I was looking for, though, and as it turns out, what I’m looking for really wasn’t out there. However, I’m very grateful I spied it because it started my wheels turning… and they kept turning… and turning… until they came up with this cute little Valentine idea!You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentines

I re-worded the verse just a bit (call it the Simpson Limited Edition Version) to make it more personal and easily understood by its future recipients… and also to make it fit even better with the pencil idea. As I was making the cards with my boys, I explained to them that sometimes people write something very important on their hand that they want to remember, and that’s exactly what we are to God: very important and unforgettable!

You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentinesI intentionally made these cards with the bold turquoise/red theme because I love that color combo and because – hello – I have boys. Pink and purple – not their thing. ‘Nuff said. You can use any color scheme you want, depending on the paint you have and the color of doilies you find. I kept you in mind when creating the printable circles with the verse on the back and made a set with pink and purple just in case. You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentines

Palm of His Hand Valentine’s Day Cards

Supplies

  • 1 package of medium sized doilies
  • paint
  • white card stock
  • printable verse circles
  • glue stick
  • black pen (or whatever dark color works best with your color scheme)
  • sharp scissors or X-acto knife
  • Valentines’ themed pencils

Instructions

  1. Have your child make one handprint for each card using whatever color of paint you’d like (we used a bold turquoise).
  2. While the handprints are drying, cut out the printable verse circles and glue them onto the back of each doily right in the center.
  3. Once the handprints are dry, cut them out and glue on the front of each doily in the center.
  4. Write the name of the recipient across the palm of the handprint.
  5. Use sharp scissors or an X-acto knife to cut a slit a little bit above and a little bit below the name. Thread the pencil from above into the bottom slit, and then from below into the top slit so that it is held securely on the heart.
  6. Spread Valentine’s Day cheer by giving to friends and loved ones.

You are written on the palm of His hand. #valentines

 

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Simple and Elegant Wedding Card Storage

Wedding Card Keepsake

In my ever ongoing efforts to de-clutter, I’ve come across my stash of wedding cards several times. As unsentimental as my husband accuses me of being at times (well, he’s right… I’m a pretty practical old girl at heart), there are some things that I am loathe to part with even though their one and only value is sentiment. Wedding cards are one of those things. Up until recently, I really didn’t know what to do with them; I just had them stashed in a wedding gift bag waiting until I had a brilliant idea.

Wedding Card Keepsake

And it’s true that good things come to those who wait… since I gave it about 9 years, give or take a day, I finally hit upon a brilliantly simple idea. Let’s not talk about how it should have come to me quite literally YEARS ago, ‘k? Let’s just call it brilliant, simple, elegant, and leave it at that.

So here’s how you create you very own simple, elegant, and truly quite brilliant wedding card keepsake and you probably won’t even have to spend a dime.Wedding Card Keepsake

Wedding Card Keepsake

Required Items

 a length of ribbon, preferably left over from your wedding or at least in the same color scheme

a hole punch

your wedding/bridal shower cards

Process

  1. The hard part is the de-cluttering process where you might need to part with some of your cards if you haven’t already. If you don’t have a stack that rivals a mini-mountain, you can skip this step; but if your stack looks anything like mine, you’ll want to weed it out a bit. I went through my stack and threw away (yes, it hurt a little) all the cards that were multiples from the same person (Bless their heart, those people who bothered to gift and/or write a card twice! They are much nicer than me.) and all the cards from people whose name and face I could not put together and/or am no longer in touch with. (When you wait 9 years, this happens. Sad but true.)
  2. Once you have a manageable stack, grab your hole punch and punch a hole in the top left corner of each card, making sure to leave enough of a margin around the hole that it won’t wear through easily. In other words, put the hole a good half inch or so down into the card.
  3. Thread your ribbon through each card one at a time until they are all strung. Tie as beautiful of a bow as you can manage, making sure to leave just a bit of a gap to allow for moving the cards back and forth.
  4. Voila! Done!
Wedding Card Storage

See my little wedding card keepsake snugly tucked into the photo album shelf?

Told ya that was brilliantly simple. And really rather elegant, yes? And it makes it easy for me to read the card from my grandma and grandpa, both who have passed on to their eternal home within the past nine years. Their legacy of a lifetime of love is one I will treasure always. A Lifetime of Love

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5 Indisputable Facts About Vaccines

5 Indisputable Facts About VaccinesI don’t normally get controversial here on the blog but some things weigh heavily on my heart and this is one of them. I’m concerned by the growing number of people who are angrily shouting “You dumb anti-vaxers with your pseudo-science! You’re killing everybody else with your stupid refusal to vaccinate!”; they are so blinded by their anger (fueled by media reports funded by pharmaceutical companies) that they don’t stop, take a breath and listen to actual facts. Well at any rate, that’s the impression I get from their ranting internet comments.

First of all, I’m not technically an “anti-vaxer”. My children have been partially vaccinated  on a delayed schedule and I myself have had at least one vaccine as an adult. I do believe strongly, however, that vaccines carry an inherent risk and that every parent should have the freedom to decide if they want their children to take that risk or not. There are valid, logical, science-based reasons why some parents choose not to vaccinate, and I think everybody needs to take a step back and acknowledge that truth.

So here we go. Five indisputable facts about vaccines:

1. Vaccines Contain Toxic Ingredients

A vaccine does not contain merely the active vaccinating ingredient (i.e., a virus in some form or other) and the culture media required for its development, it also contains additional ingredients that are intended to either increase the effectiveness of the vaccine, or to stabilize and preserve it. The CDC has published a little booklet called The Guide to Vaccine Contraindications and Precautions, for your perusal. Among other things, this booklet informs you of all the known ingredients in the vaccines currently available today. Here are a few selections detailing some of the ingredients in commonly administered vaccines, copied and pasted directly from the bookDTaP (Daptacel) - Aluminum Phosphate, Ammonium Sulfate, Casamino Acid, Dimethyl-beta-cyclodextrin, Formaldehyde or Formalin, Glutaraldehyde, 2-Phenoxyethanol, Aluminum Hydroxid MMR (MMR-II) - Amino Acid, Bovine Albumin or Serum, Chick Embryo Fibroblasts, Human Serum Albumin,  Gelatin, Glutamate, Neomycin, Phosphate Buffers, Sorbitol, Sucrose, Vitamins Pneumococcal (Prevnar) - Aluminum Phosphate, Amino Acid, Soy Peptone,  Yeast Extract Rotavirus (RotaTeq) - Cell Culture Media, Fetal Bovine Serum, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Phosphate Monobasic Monohydrate, Sodium Hydroxide Sucrose, Polysorbate 80 Other vaccines have very similar lists. To sum up, vaccines contain a cocktail of the following ingredients:

  • Antibiotics
  • Aluminum
  • Animal and Human Cells, including from monkeys, chickens, cows, and aborted human fetuses
  • Formaldehyde
  • MSG
  • and of course, the infamous Thimerasol

Additional facts for your consideration:

  • It’s important to know that in order to protect the trade secrets of vaccine manufacturers, they are only required to disclose inactive ingredients “when a safety factor”. One would assume that vaccine manufacturers abide by this stipulation, and therefore those undisclosed ingredients should fall under the category of “Generally Recognized as Safe” by the FDA. Unfortunately, potential allergens and other ingredients many people choose to avoid are considered GRAS by the FDA, and thereby could be included in vaccines without anyone’s knowledge. One can only speculate about potential additional ingredients, but let’s stick to the facts, which are: there are additional unlisted ingredients in vaccines.
  • Another fact to consider is that by utilizing animal and human tissue for the development of vaccines, a whole assortment of various contaminants can potentially find their way into vaccines. The FDA has discussed the difficulty of ensuring that “adventitious agents” do not make their way into the final vaccine product. This is a valid concern because it has actually happened on several different occasions, the contamination of the polio vaccine with SV40 being the most infamous. Of course, vaccine manufacturers do their very best to ensure that such things don’t happen; but consider how difficult it would be to effectively test every batch of a vaccine, in each step of the process, for any number of known and unknown pathogens and other undesirable materials. The fact is: developing vaccines with animal and human tissue increases the risk of “adventitious agents” finding their way into vaccines.
  • The CDC and FDA and all vaccine manufacturers insist that the majority of these ingredients are present only in trace amounts, but keep in mind that a child following the CDC schedule will have received 16-18 shots by the time they are 6 months old. Those trace amounts (of multiple toxins and other potentially dangerous ingredients) add up quickly at that rate. Those who say a child could encounter that much or more of the same toxins environmentally fail to take into consideration that these toxins are injected into the bloodstream, bypassing the body’s natural defenses.

My Conclusion: I go to great lengths to ensure that my children eat a healthy diet that is as free as possible of GMO’s, pesticides, artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, refined sugars, and refined flours. I purchase only grass-fed pastured meats and dairy products to avoid overexposure to antibiotics and hormones. I avoid antibiotics as medication whenever possible. In fact, I avoid pretty much all medication, finding instead that natural remedies are at least as effective as the pharmaceutical options. I also breastfed both of my babies, avoiding introducing food until they were at least 6 months of age, and continued to breastfeed as long as I could. In short, I do everything I can to reduce my family’s exposure to chemicals and toxins to the extent it is possible. Based on this working philosophy, why would I intentionally repeatedly inject the very ingredients I otherwise work diligently to avoid, into my infants’ developing body? To do so would contradict all my efforts to ensure their maximum health. 

2. Vaccines Can Have Serious Side Effects

Most doctors will say when pressed that vaccines typically only trigger mild side effects or reactions, such as slight swelling at the injection site, a mild rash or a low fever. Those are indeed the most common reactions/side effects, but that does not mean they are the only ones. On the contrary, a brief skimming of a vaccine insert will reveal that at least two pages are required to list and explain all the possible side effects of each vaccine.  If your doctor didn’t offer you a chance to read through the vaccine insert before injecting your child, you can access the information readily online from each manufacturer’s website. Here’s a partial listing from some of the more common vaccines: MMR - Atypical measles; fever; headache; dizziness; malaise; irritability; pancreatitis; diarrhea; vomiting; nausea; diabetes mellitus; anaphylaxis and anaphylactoid reactions; arthritis; encephalitis; Guillain-Barré Syndrome; febrile convulsions; pneumonia; otitis media; conjunctivitis DTaP - Cyanosis; injection site pain; injection site rash; injection site nodule; injection site mass; cellulitis; febrile convulsion; grand mal convulsion; partial seizures; screaming Polio - lymphadenopathy; convulsion; febrile convulsion; headache; paresthesia; and somnolence Additional facts for your consideration:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services maintains a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System that catalogs all submitted vaccine reaction reports. All reactions deemed “serious” are reviewed by medical experts; and from October 2011 to August 2013, on average, 870 serious adverse event reports were filed per month. The CDC is the first to admit that one of the main limitations of VAERS is underreporting, meaning that the actual numbers of serious adverse events are significantly higher. How much higher? It’s impossible to know for sure, given the variables, but the FDA surmises that in some cases, as little as 1% of adverse reactions to medications are reported to MedWatch, the pharmaceutical product counterpart to VAERS. In the same publication, they mention that the British passive reporting system estimates underreporting to be anywhere from 2-10%. So let’s go with the highest estimate of 10%, and that means that if an average of 870 serious adverse events are reported to VAERS each month, then in all likelihood, there are at least 8700 serious reactions each month. 
  • Another limitation of VAERS is that anyone can report an adverse event, including parents of affected children. You might assume, therefore, that the database would be rife with inflated reports from militant “anti-vaxers”. However, the DHHS confirms that the majority of reports (83%) are actually filed by vaccine manufacturers, health professionals, and state immunization programs. Only 7% are reported by parents, and the remaining 10% are “other sources”.
  • The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (more on that establishment in a minute) has awarded more than two and a half BILLION dollars for vaccine-related injuries and deaths since 1989.
  • Autism and developmental disabilitiesfood allergies and asthmaType 1 diabetes, and other autoimmune diseases have all dramatically risen in number in the past couple decades. Coincidentally, the number of vaccinations has also risen dramatically. When confronted with this fact, many people say, “Correlation does not equal causation”. In other words, just because those two numbers rose concurrently does not mean the one caused the other. Interestingly, the same people will say that vaccination eradicated smallpox worldwide and polio nationwide because the decline of those diseases coincided with the increase in vaccination against them. If that is not a correlation/causation argument, then what is? Furthermore, such an argument fails to take into consideration other factors involved in the eradication of disease, namely, clean water, healthy nutrition, good hygiene, and excellent medical care. It also fails to take into consideration that cholera and typhoid disappeared in this country without the help of vaccination programs. It also fails to take into consideration that all infectious diseases -including those we currently vaccinate against – were on the decline from 1900 on, and were already well on their way out the door prior to the vaccinations that began in the forties. A fascinating study on infectious diseases (and other causes of death) during the twentieth century was conducted at the end of the last century and can be found in its entirety here. Of particular interest is Figure 4, which shows that measles, polio, and pertussis all declined rapidly during the first half of the century, and that trajectory merely continued. To say that vaccination alone caused the decline of those diseases is patently false. Now, back to our correlation/causation argument: I think it is safe to say in both instances that vaccines played a part, both in the eradication of infectious disease, and the rise of autoimmune and other diseases. One final thought on this matter: correlation does not equal causation… but does it disprove it? Hardly. Rather, it indicates a potential connection that must be explored

My Conclusion: The risk of vaccination is incredibly high. The potential side effects and possible reactions are enough to give me pause, especially considering that is the main reason I avoid most pharmaceutical medication in the first place. I prefer remedies with few to no side effects for the treatment (and prevention) of disease. 

3.Vaccine Manufacturers are Not Held Accountable For Vaccine Injuries

Due to increased concerns from parents whose children suffered serious side effects from vaccinations, and resulting lawsuits and liability costs, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was passed into law in 1986. Several measures took effect with the law, including the aforementioned VAERS, but the key element was this:

(1) No vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action for damages arising from a vaccine-related injury or death associated with the administration of a vaccine after October 1, 1988, if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings.

This is astonishing, considering that any other type of pharmaceutical manufacturer can be sued by anyone who is injured by their medication. Medical malpractice laws protect patients from negligent and inept practitioners. If you or your child is injured by a vaccine (and as we have discussed, this happens with alarming regularity), your only recourse is to file a claim with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. From there, your claim is passed around to a few legal and medical experts, who add their reports to your file, which ends up in the hands of a “special master”. The special master is a lawyer who decides if the claim is worthy of compensation or not, and if so, how much. No trial, no judge, no jury. Just one lawyer who decides whether or not your case is solid. If your claim is determined to be eligible for compensation, guess where the money comes from? Not the manufactures! Oh, no, they don’t give a dime to those injured by the vaccines. The money comes from a tax excised on all vaccinations, so the injury compensation is actually paid for by the people (or their insurance companies) receiving the vaccinations.  If your claim is denied by the VICP, then you may file a civil lawsuit under certain conditions.

My Conclusion: I believe strongly that all manufacturers should be held responsible for their products and the claims they make regarding their product. This means that anyone affected by a vaccine should have the freedom to sue the manufacturer in a court of law. If vaccine makers are not held liable for the safety and efficacy of their product, then how can anyone ensure they are indeed safe and effective? 

4. Immunization From Vaccines Doesn’t Last Forever

Many people assume that once vaccinated, they are protected indefinitely, but that’s simply not the case. In truth, it’s very difficult to come up with accurate numbers regarding the duration of vaccine-induced immunity, and you’ll find that different studies come up with different numbers. There are a couple obstacles to determining exactly how effective a vaccine is, one being that scientists must first figure out what level of antibodies indicates immunity(another topic that raises important questions which we will not delve into here). Here are a few estimates for the duration of immunity from various shots:

Additionally, one should consider that it is common knowledge no vaccine is 100% effective even immediately after the shot. In other words, with some people, it just doesn’t “take” no matter how many boosters they get, perhaps due to genetic factors.

My Conclusion: This fact in and of itself may not persuade me to forego vaccines, but combined with the vaccine’s toxic ingredient list and potential side effects… to me, the risk/benefit analysis provides clear direction. 

5. Vaccines are Not the Only Way to Prevent Disease

If I should insert my opinion here, it would be to say that neither are they the best way to prevent disease. But let’s stick to established fact: Vaccines are NOT the only way to prevent disease. In fact, there are lots and lots of things you can do to boost your immunity very effectively. Some of them are simple, some of them take more time and effort. But they’re all effective.

Just to scratch the surface, here’s a little list:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Definitely before cooking, after using the restroom or changing a diaper, before and after visiting a sick person or a newborn, and any other time that it makes good sense.
  • Practice good personal hygiene. It seems obvious, but seriously. This is why in developed countries we don’t struggle so much with infectious diseases, not to the extent of developing countries at any rate.
  • Eat nutrient-rich foods. And by nutrient-rich, I do not mean “diet” foods. I mean foods that are naturally rich in nutrients like bone broth, cultured and fermented foods, fruits and vegetables of all kinds, grass-fed and pastured meat and dairy, etc.
  • Take supplements. Given the toxic environment of modern life, and the depleted nutrients in our food sources, it helps tremendously to supplement. I’d start with a good probiotic, vitamin C, vitamin D, and a few other immune supporters like elderberry syrup and Thieves oil. Up your dosage whenever you’re exposed to sickness of any kind.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid sick people. If everyone were as careful about spreading disease as they were about vaccines, we would have a lot less illness going around! If you’re sick… stay home! If your child is sick… stay home! If someone you live with or work with is sick, then limit your exposure to them and up your supplementation.

These are just a few of the simple, every day things we can do that in the end are extremely effective in fighting disease and helping our immune system out.

My Conclusion: There are easy methods of fighting disease readily at my disposal that are not only safe but actively beneficial to my overall health. They not only prevent disease, they enhance wellness. Weighing these options in the balance against injecting myself with dangerous toxins that may or may not prevent disease… for me the right choice is painfully obvious. 

So there you have it! I don’t expect everyone to agree with my conclusions (hey – we’re all individuals, free to make up our own minds!), but you cannot deny the basic facts. Each of the 5 points in this post is a confirmed, actual fact that cannot be argued against. Anyone who chooses to vaccinate needs to understand and appreciate that there are true logic-based, scientific facts that give a person pause when considering the issue. Even if you feel strongly that the benefits outweigh the risks, you have to acknowledge that there are indeed risks that some people are not comfortable taking or forcing their infants to take. Each one of us should have the freedom to weigh the risks and benefits for ourselves and choose what is best for ourselves and our children without fear of angering or alienating our friends, family… and the CDC and FDA.

PS. Because pro-vaxers are some of the most hateful and malicious commenters I have experienced in my life, I am closing comments on this post. Thanks for understanding.

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