5 Questions to Ask Your Essential Oil Company (Or, How to Find a Reputable Source for Essential Oils)

5 Questions You Need to Ask your Essential Oil  Company #essentialoils #youngliving #ylessentialoilsTo say that there is a lot of confusion out there about essential oils is sort of like saying that Niagara Falls is kinda big. In other words, it’s a gross understatement. No matter your query or how it’s worded, any internet search about essential oils is bound to bring up conflicting information, making it extremely difficult for a novice to sort through it all and find the kernels of truth hidden in all the hyperbole.

One of the most difficult questions to settle is the most basic: how do I know if the essential oils I’m using are quality oils? One fact that is uncontested in the aromatherapy world is that essential oils are notorious for being adulterated, and even experts admit it can be difficult for them to determine for certain if oils have indeed been adulterated. If even the experts have trouble, where does that leave the rest of us?!

I have been researching this question (and many others regarding aromatherapy) for the past couple years; and although I haven’t come up with any “foolproof” way to determine the quality of an essential oil, my research has taught me what I should look for in an essential oil company, and what kinds of questions I should ask when considering a purchase.  My growing knowledge of essential oils and essential oil quality has only confirmed for me that I made the right choice in my source of essential oils, and I hope to help others achieve the same confidence! So many people are curious about the oils and interested in using them, but overwhelmed by the options and the questions that abound.

Companies throw around terms like “therapeutic grade”, “natural”, and “organic” to the extent that those terms have become almost meaningless, so it’s difficult to sort through the marketing hype and find out what’s really going into the bottles they sell. Any company trying to sell you some of their oils is going to insist that theirs is the real deal, and unadulterated, but clearly they’re not all telling the truth. If you’re searching for a reliable source of pure essential oils, I have a list of 5 questions you need to ask any company that you are researching to determine if they really are selling the real deal or not. 

5 Questions You Need to Ask your Essential Oil  Company #essentialoils #youngliving #ylessentialoils1. Do the oils come from indigenous plants?

Plants are living things, and the essential oils that come from them prove that by their widely varying makeup. A lavender plant grown in France will produce a very different oil from a plant grown in, say, Canada. The reason is because the compounds in the essential oil are developed specifically for the protection, nourishment, and propagation of the plant they come from; and the needs of the plant will vary depending on a lot of factors including soil, climate, and pests. Aromatherapy has developed around the concept that certain plants have certain therapeutic properties… but those properties aren’t guaranteed to exist in a plant that has been grown outside its natural habitat. One oft-recommended essential oil company sources many of its oils from India, which is fine if you’re in the market for jasmine oil (actually an absolute), but not so fine if you’re looking for eucalyptus, which is native to Australia.

2. Do you own any of the farms or distilleries?

The majority of essential companies out there are merely distributors and not producers. This is an important distinction, because the further removed the distributor is from the process, the more opportunity there is for the oil to be adulterated. And the less a company has control over the essential oil production, the less they even know about the possibility of the oil being adulterated. Their sources may swear to the integrity of their oils, but how can a distributor know that for sure unless they are involved in the daily production process? I am much more comfortable purchasing from a company that has their hands in the process from beginning to end; and I’m extremely confident in a company that controls the process from beginning to end. 

3. What kind of tests do you run on the oils?

Most companies will boast that they run a GC/MS (Gas Chromotography Mass Spectrometry) test on the oils, and that’s a good start. Much has been made of the GC/MS test in online circles in recent years, but honestly, that particular test doesn’t really tell you a whole lot about the oil. It can tell you if there are any chemical solvents added to the essential oil, and it can tell you if the oil has the generally expected number of various chemical compounds that it should… but it can’t tell you if each of those compounds are natural or manufactured, and it can’t tell you if they all came from the same plant or were pulled from a variety of different plants.

An essential oil can pass the GC/MS test and be declared 100% natural when that might not, in fact, be the case. It’s entirely possible (and actually happens all the time according to chemists and aromatherapists in the know) for an essential oil to be labeled as “lavender”, for example, when it’s really compounded from several different other (cheaper) plants. The problem is that when the oil is pieced together like this, it doesn’t work as it should for therapeutic purposes, because – as I mentioned at the beginning – plants are living things. Genuine plant oils cannot simply be manufactured from this and that; an effective essential oil is the oil in its entirety.

4. What quality control measures do you have in place?

This question ties in directly to the last 2 questions. Because most companies are merely distributing an end product, and not actually producing said product, the only quality control measure they can take is on the back end. Their control over the seeds, cultivation, harvest, and distillation is minimal at best because they have no actual say over the production process. Their only option is to accept or refuse the final product based on their own observations and/or tests. And typically, the only test they run is the GC/MS test, which as I have shown is limited in its scope.

Having said that, there are a few companies that either own the farms and distilleries producing the oils, or they have an ownership investment of some kind (almost like share-cropping) in the farms and/or distilleries. Those companies are the ones that can actually control the production process to one extent or another, and those companies should have some quality control measures in place. Such quality control measures should include things like the choice of seeds used for planting (Heirloom? GMO?), quality of soil, pest prevention measures, harvesting procedures, distillation standards, etc. The more a company can tell you about the measures they take, the more confident you can be in their final product. 

5. Are the plants grown organically?

This is a no-brainer, really. You don’t want chemical pesticides ending up in your bottle of therapeutic essential oil! Organic labeling gets complicated, though, with the vast majority of oils being sourced internationally with different countries regulating “organic” in very different ways. So it’s better to ask some pointed questions about how exactly the plants are protected from insects and disease. The best oil companies use organic and natural planting methods that do not leave any kind of chemical residue on the plants that could make its way into the essential oil. 

As I mentioned in the beginning, the more I learn, the more confident I am in my own personal choice of essential oil brand. I’m sure there are other reputable and reliable brands out there, but to date I have not found any that answer these questions more satisfactorily.

Edited to Add: A fellow “oiler” actually did her homework and called a bunch of different popular essential oil companies, and asked them these and other questions. Here is a chart she made showing their answers:

questions to ask an essential oil company

If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils, how they are made, how they are adulterated, and how you can use them medicinally, I highly recommend the book “The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils” by Kurt Schnaubelt.  (That’s an affiliate link there; you’ve been warned!)

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Teaching with Heart – Printables from Love. Laugh. Teach.

20% off #teachercreated resources #printablesA couple years ago when I was doing preschool at home with my Certain Little Someone, I came across an amazing resource that I wished had been around back in the day when I was teaching K5. And now that I’m once again teaching preschool (K3 this time), I’m ever so grateful I live in this age of internet technology when I can access creative printables and other teacher tools at the drop of a hat… without dropping a ton of money! 

Teachers Pay Teachers

The resource I speak of is Teachers Pay Teachers, and I love the concept: all the material available is developed by actual teachers who’ve actually used what they’re selling. It’s totally a win-win all around, because the teacher who developed the material gets a little money on the side for all her (or his) hard work, and the teacher who purchases it receives a high-quality resource that does exactly what she needs without costing an arm and a leg.

Another thing I love about Teachers Pay Teachers is that the majority of what is available is very specific, so instead of buying a big huge $20 book full of printables, and using only a few pages, you can find – and pay for – only exactly what you need and only what will work for you.

So far, I haven’t created a lot of my own printables to sell on TPT, but my sister, who teaches K4/K5, has her own store on TPT where she offers printable worksheets for math and phonics. She currently targets a K5/1st grade level with the various worksheets she has available.

file0001694774604Love. Laugh. Teach.

Each of her sets focuses on a particular skill – patterning, for example, or consonant blends – and drills through that skill in a progressive fashion, starting with easier tasks, and continuing until the student achieves mastery of the skill in question. Because of their targeted focus, her printable sets are perfect for anyone who needs extra work on a particular skill, or to use as supplementary seatwork or homework to really internalize a concept.

One of my favorite resources she offers is Simple Addition Word Problems for Beginner Readers. What I love about this one in particular is that it is uniquely designed for emerging readers who are just figuring out how to sound out simple words – I don’t think I’ve ever seen word problem practice worksheets written with that skill level in mind! It’s perfect for your student who loves math but isn’t so great with reading, and/or your little kindergartener/first-grader who could use a little practice with word problem skills but can’t quite read the more complicated ones.

My sister’s store on TPT is very appropriately called “Love. Laugh. Teach.” Since my class is right next door to hers, I can attest to the fact that she loves her students and they love her… and there certainly is a great deal of laughter going on! Follow her on Facebook here.

From now until Tuesday, April 8, you can purchase any product in the Love. Laugh. Teach. store for 20% off! No coupon code or secret handshake necessary. This is your perfect opportunity to check out the wonderfulness that is Teachers Pay Teachers, while supporting a teacher at the same time… and getting a good deal for yourself! I tell ya, win-win all around.

Whether you are a homeschooler or a school teacher, trust me, you’ll love what you find at Teachers Pay Teachers. So what are ya waiting for? Go check it out!

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DIY Furniture Polish – 3 Ingredients!

DIY furniture polish #yleo #essentialoils #nontoxic #naturalcleaningFirst off, let me start by being completely authentic with you. The absolute and total truth of the matter is that my natural tendency in life is NOT to polish the furniture. Meh. Polish shmolish. If it were up to me, dusting would be the extent of my furniture care (that and attempting to avoid liquid spillage on its surface).

But then I had two little boys (wonderful, darling boys), and I discovered that two little boys – no matter how small they are – can do quite a number on dining room furniture. Ya know, the wooden kind. Those little hands somehow always get sticky at every meal – or snack –  and those sticky little hands somehow find their way all over the chairs. And all over the table. And the table legs. And the chair legs.

You get my drift.

And suddenly, my polish-hating-self (please note that is “polish” with a lower case “p”) was forced to realize the unwelcome truth that nothing would remove the sticky, gummy residue but… furniture polish. *Sigh*. Believe me, I tried other, simpler methods, but nothing quite did the trick until I actually broke down and polished the dad-blasted thing.

Thankfully, this polishing chore is only necessary once every couple months or so – we get by in the meantime by wiping down every single chair and every inch of the table top with a wet washrag on a daily basis. And thankfully, I’ve come across a super-simple, inexpensive DIY, all-natural (and any other adjectives that apply) furniture polish that literally takes seconds to mix up. And what’s more, it actually works. Woot!

This particular recipe makes a little batch that is just the right amount for our dining room furniture (a table, chairs, and a buffet, which, sadly, is no stranger to sticky fingers either). I don’t make anymore than this at a time because I don’t want to bother with storing it… and I certainly don’t need any reminders hanging around that there is polishing to be done!

DIY Furniture Polish

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Pour the ingredients into a small jar. Seal the lid and shake well until combined.
  2. Dip a rag into the mixture, dab it on the furniture, and polish it into the surface.

*You can also use lemon or any other citrus essential oil.

The vinegar is optional, but it does help cut through any sticky stubborn particles of food left behind on the furniture. It also helps the mixture go further and absorb more easily.

Happy polishing!

Well, as happy as it can be. 

I’m happy to recommend Young Living essential oils as the highest quality oil readily available today. So much goes into Young Living’s quality control that sets it head and shoulders above almost any other oil on the market.  Anyone is eligible to open a wholesale membership with Young Living, simply by purchasing a starter kit (these range in price from $40-$150). After that, the only requirement is to purchase $50 within the first year; otherwise there is  no commitment to maintain your wholesale membership status. Check out my Young Living page for more information. 

Uh, and in case it’s not obvious, I’m an independent distributor of Young Living Essential Oils.

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Super Simple Learning {Review & Giveaway}

Win a copy of Super Simple Songs DVD

Win a copy of Super Simple Songs DVD

Boy you guys are spoiled! Right on the heels of the Einkorn Berries giveaway from Tropical Traditions, I have another awesome little gift for one lucky reader.

Today it’s a copy of the “Super Simple Songs” DVD from the folks over at Super Simple Learning, a great company with some wonderful resources for anyone working in early childhood education… or any mom of littles. 

Learning with Songs

My class of 2- and 3-year-olds got to review this gem of a DVD during our weekly Friday morning “movie” time, and they thoroughly enjoyed it. The songs are easy to sing along with and engaging, which can sometimes be quite the feat for children this age. What’s more, I found the graphics and videography to be very professional and well-done, a refreshing sight in a world full of cheap and (let’s be honest) crappy children’s videos.

Trust me, children know when a video is of less than stellar quality, and it won’t hold their attention for very long at all. You’ll have no such problems with this DVD, which was designed to match the pace and attention span of preschool-aged viewers. I think any child 18 months to 3 years of age will have fun watching and singing along with all the short clips found on Super Simple Songs.

Sample Super Simple Learning’s work by checking out their YouTube channelI particularly love the phonetic alphabet song, which introduces the letters by their sound rather than their name. My phonics-teaching heart thrills a little at the thought! Watch it right here:

If you’d like to purchase the DVD for yourself (ahem, I mean for your children), you can get a digital download for $13.99 or order a hard copy for $16.99. Whether or not you’ve embarked on formal preschool education for your sweet little one, the songs on this DVD will help them learn the basics of their age range: letters, numbers, days, months, etc. Plus, they’ll get a chance to work on their motor skills as well by mimicking the actions shown on the video. All of that put to music means a well-rounded mini-education in 30 minutes at a time! 

Super Simple Learning also has some great resources for moms and teachers on their website, including printables, flash cards, crafts, and more.

Win a copy of Super Simple Songs

If you’d like a chance to win this DVD, enter below. Please note this giveaway is only open to US residents aged 18 or older. The giveaway will end on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at midnight, at which time a winner will be chosen randomly by Giveaway Tools. This giveaway is sponsored and fulfilled by Super Simple Learning, and I am not responsible for ensuring that you receive your prize. The winner will be contacted and will have 48 hours to respond with their information in order to receive their prize, or another winner will be selected.

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Groceries for a Month for a Family of Four

OAMS Monthly Shopping List I realized recently that it’s been a long time – a really long time – since I’ve updated you all on our OAMS (Once-A-Month-Shopping) experience. It’s been almost 3 years since I last shared a sample monthly shopping trip with you, which is a bit too long, don’t you agree? A lot has changed since then – our location, our shopping habits, and even our diet to a certain extent.

For those of you new to the concept (you can read about it more at length in my eBook, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox, or by browsing through the OAMS archives), OAMS is a method of grocery shopping that saves time and money because you’re only shopping once a month, as the name suggests. Technically, though, I shop twice a month, because I usually include a mini-trip mid-cycle to re-stock produce and milk. However, the bulk of my grocery shopping is done in one weekend every month, and that’s what we eat on until the next monthly shopping trip.

This past weekend was my OAMS trip for March/April (I do my shopping in the middle of the month because that’s when we worked it into our budget), and it involved 6 stores over a span of about 4 or 5 hours (including a pit stop for lunch and a quick trip to the dollar store). Also included in this list is the meat and eggs delivered to me from a local farm. Here’s what I hauled home:

Meat #oams #frugal #wholefoods MEAT & SEAFOOD

1.6 lbs Wild Alaskan Pollock $6.42

1.3 lbs Ground Lamb $4.58

2 6oz cans Skipjack Tuna (pole-caught) $2.98

8 oz Black Forest Ham $3.49

2 lbs Grass-Fed Ground Beef $11.21

2 Pastured Roasting Chickens $23.81

Produce #oams #frugal #wholefoods PRODUCE

5 lbs. Grapefruit $1.99

2 lbs. Strawberries $3.99

3 lbs. Organic Apples $4.49

2 pkgs Blueberries $3.18

2 pkgs Blackberries $2.78

1 Mango $0.99

3 lbs Bananas $1.31

5 lbs. Pears $4.49

2 lbs. Organic Carrots $1.78

1 Onion $0.89

4 Organic Avocados $3.99

1 Pineapple $1.99

2.3 lbs Green Beans $2.98

1 bunch Cilantro $0.50

.5 lb Ginger Root $1.24

2.3 lbs Broccoli $2.26

1 Cantaloupe $2.49

.6 lbs Persian Cucumbers $0.63

1 Cauliflower $1.99

1 lb Sweet Potatoes $1.47

2 lbs Grapes $4.24

5 lbs Potatoes $1.99

1 Napa Cabbage $1.12

Dairy #oams #frugal #wholefoods DAIRY & NON-DAIRY

2 cans Coconut Milk $2.58

2 cans Coconut Milk Cream $4.58

1 pt. Organic Heavy Cream $2.99

2 lbs Organic Yogurt $2.99

2 6oz cups Coconut Milk Yogurt $2.98

<1 lb Goat Cheddar Cheese $4.80

1 pt Open Nature Coffee Cream $1.79

1 gal. Low-Temp Pasteurized Pastured Milk $5.69

1 box Coconut Cream $2.49

Dried Fruit #oams #frugal #wholefoods DRIED, FROZEN & CANNED FRUITS/VEGGIES

1 lb. Raisins $1.89

1 can Pumpkin $0.89

Organic Banana Chips $2.99

1 bag Frozen Spinach $1.49

1 bag Frozen Organic Corn $1.79

1 bag Frozen Organic Peas $1.99

8 oz Dried Cranberries $1.99

1 lb Prunes $3.29

Flour & Baking Supplies #oams #frugal #wholefoods BAKING, ETC.

5 lbs White Whole Wheat Flour $2.99

1 lb Quinoa-Brown Rice Pasta $2.99

12oz Spelt Pasta $2.49

1 lb Organic Coconut Sugar $3.99

1 lb Cashew Meal $4.99

1 bottle Organic Ketchup $1.99

12oz Fair Trade Coffee $3.99

2 lbs. Local Maple Syrup $15.99

2 lbs Coconut Oil $15.99

1 large bottle Cinnamon $2.59

4 bottles Organic Grape Juice $10.00

TOTAL COST: $236.41

A few notes about this month’s shopping trip:

I was unusually under my $250 budget – typically I go over by a few dollars!

Yes, this is really all the food we will eat for the next month, EXCEPT that I will go buy some more produce (apples, bananas, pears, etc.) in about two weeks and I will also probably buy another gallon of milk. Do keep in mind that I’m also working off of food I already have here at home -there’s more meat in my freezer left over from previous month’s shopping, as well as potatoes, pasta, rice, beans, and other staples.

Also note that I purchase grains in bulk about twice a year, and that is not included in the regular grocery budget. One of these days I’m going to start buying meat in bulk as well, and that also will come out of a separate budget.

I didn’t think to take pictures of my shopping trip, so the pictures here are just randomness.

 

 

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Einkorn, the Ancient Grain {Giveaway, Too!}

Win Einkorn Berries from Tropical Traditions #giveaway #ancientgrains #traditionalfoodAre you concerned about the effects of modern wheat on your health? There is certainly reason to be! Modern wheat has been blamed on a large number of health issues, and the rising numbers of people who simply cannot tolerate it seem to provide evidence that there is truth to the accusations. 

The Trouble With Wheat

My opinion, though, is that the issue is not with wheat in and of itself, because mankind has been enjoying wheat since the beginning of time (by which I mean Adam and Eve), and all of these health issues have only cropped up since the beginning of the Industrial Age. I’m thinking that the problem lies with all the changes modern science has forced on the ancient grain, turning it into a mere shadow of its former wholesome self. It’s now easy to grow and easy to harvest, and therefore very inexpensive… but at what cost? The cost of our health, it seems.

Now I haven’t turned my back on wheat entirely, but I have switched the bulk of my cooking and baking over to two ancient grains that are cousins (or forerunners) of modern wheat. These two grains - spelt and einkorn – have remain unchanged over history, unlike wheat, which has been tinkered with since the ’40s. As such, they retain a nutritional integrity missing from modern wheat.

wheatTry Einkorn Instead

Note: If you order by clicking on any of my links and have never ordered from Tropical Traditions in the past, you will receive a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil, and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you.

Today, Tropical Traditions: The Best Place to Get Virgin Coconut Oil, is generously offering one of my readers the chance to win a 5lb. bag of whole Einkorn berries that you can grind to make your own ancient flour! 

I had a chance to use these Einkorn berries myself, and I was very impressed! The flour I made with them worked much like regular ol’ wheat flour, and I didn’t have to make any adjustments to my recipes. The taste and texture were just as good – if not better – than those I made with wheat flour, as well.

The only thing that was different about the einkorn is the texture of the raw dough: for lack of a better word, it was significantly “stretchier” than the dough or batter made with wheat. I’m guessing it has something to do with the quantity or quality of gluten in einkorn, but it doesn’t affect the final product. Once baked, the texture was just like something made with wheat.

If you’re not sure where to start with Einkorn berries, here’s a great recipe from Tropical Traditions’ recipe site.

The main drawback to einkorn is the price. Gulp! It’s almost twice the cost of either wheat or spelt! If you can afford it, I say go for it! But if not… enter the giveaway below. 

Win Einkorn Berries to Try For Yourself

This giveaway is only for residents of the United States aged 18 and older. It will end on Tuesday, March 11, at midnight. Winner will be notified by email and has 48 hours to respond or will forfeit the prize.

Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

Curious about coconut oil? Click here for more information on its many uses!
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Why I Use Young Living Essential Oils

Young Living Essential Oils #yleo #essential oils If you are interested in using essential oils as an alternative to chemical-based medications, then you’ve probably come across at least a few different brands, all of them claiming to be the best for one reason or another. The information out there is often conflicting, always biased, and extremely difficult to sort through.

I can’t tell you definitively which brand of essential oils (EO’s) is the best, but I can tell you why I chose to use Young Living oils almost exclusively. I’m not writing this post to bash any other essential oil companies out there – I have no reason to do that – but simply to explain what benefits led me to choose YL over other brands in the event that my decision-making process is helpful to someone else out there researching the available options.

Why I Use Young Living Essential Oils

  • History – Young Living has over 20 years built into the industry, giving them plenty of time to learn about and invest into the oils they sell, as well as plenty of time to develop a reputation. Many of the brands out there have popped up seemingly overnight (certainly that is not true of all of them, and surely there are companies even older than YL, but I am not speaking of those on this point), and are relative unknowns as far as I am concerned. It is awfully easy for those start-ups to be here today and gone tomorrow. Young Living is not a start-up or an unknown entity, and that’s enough to edge it out over others that were recommended to me.
  • Reputation – Twenty years has given Young Living plenty of time to develop a reputation, and aside from those who are skeptical of any alternative medicine, that reputation is a very good one. The vast majority of people who have used Young Living oils have been very pleased with them and found them to be of high quality. I can count on one hand the number of negative reviews I’ve read in terms of the performance of Young Living’s oils. 
  • Quality – The quality of the oils is what is behind their strong reputation. Much has been made online of Gas Chromatography /Mass Spectrometry testing, but in reality that test only tells the beginning of the story when it comes to essential oils. Young Living performs a total of 7 tests on every batch of oil that passes through their facilities and onto their customers, and if the oils don’t pass the tests, they don’t sell them. Even so, that’s not enough to establish the quality of the oils, because once again, each of those tests tells only part of the story. The chemical makeup of an essential oils depends on so many factors, all of which are highly variable, so YL makes sure that optimum conditions exists in all those factors. Starting with the seed of the plant, and continuing with its cultivation and harvest, YL monitors every step of the way to ensure that the highest quality oil is the end result. If you don’t believe me, read this summary from a chemist that explains in detail all the efforts YL takes to ensure a quality product.
  • Training and Support – If I ordered a random oil from a random company online, chances are I’m left to sink or swim when it comes to using that oil. Sure, a quick google search will tell me the basics about any particular oil. Or I could read tomes and tomes of textbooks about oils, their chemistry, their usage, etc, and I probably will (I’ve already read a few!). But what has helped me more than anything has been the support of my sponsor and the rest of the folks on her team. Any time I have a question, I know where to go, and someone on the team always has an answer for me! Young Living’s company structure was intended to create that network of support so that no one is left in the dark on how to use their oils. As my own team grows, my desire is to create that same environment of training and support that has been so beneficial to me.
  • Thieves’ Oil! – This proprietary blend is produced only by Young Living, and although others have similar products, this is the one I kept hearing about over and over and over again. I haven’t been disappointed with this powerful oil, and I always make sure to have some on hand. I clean and disinfect with it, and I use it whenever someone in my family gets sick! I have seen it first hand cut colds and the like short when they’ve already started, and I’ve also seen it prevent various sicknesses from passing through the family from one person to the next. Good stuff, I tell you.

Reasons Why YOU Might Like Young Living Oils

Some more for you to consider as you make your decision:

  • Young Living has grown 75% in the past year! That’s some pretty incredibly amazing word-of-mouth sales going on there!
  • Young Living’s wholesale price (available to distributors) is comparable to a lot of the companies I’ve seen online, plus you have the option to enroll in their Essential Rewards autoship program, which allows you to earn bonus points you can use towards free oils! I’ve received 4 or 5 free bottles of oil in the past 6-8 months. When other companies imply that they are cheaper than YL, that’s probably because they’re comparing against the full retail price.
  • Young Living makes it easy for you to get the wholesale price – all you have to do is purchase a starter kit (from $40-150) and then make another $50 purchase within the year. No other commitment, but all the benefits of having a wholesale account.
  • Of the major brands, Young Living is the only one I know of that owns and operates their own farms and produces their own oils. Not all of their oils are produced in this way, but quite a few of them are. Some of those farms are based in the US, and some of those farms are based in other countries where the plants are indigenous to that area.

If you think you’d like to give Young Living oils a try, I’d be happy to have you join my team! Visit my Young Living website for more information. 

Please note that I am not a doctor and I am not dispensing medical advice. I’m simply sharing what I use for my own family. 

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French Toast Casserole with Streusel Topping

French Toast Casserole with Streusel Topping #breakfast #wholefoods #nutfree

Delicious Breakfast – French Toast Casserole with Streusel Topping

On holidays and weekends, one of my favorite things to do is fix my family a slightly more involved breakfast than usual (read: something besides toast and a smoothie). It’s a plus if said breakfast is deliciously decadent without really being decadent. And it’s a total plus if said deliciously decadent breakfast is made with the leftover bread that accumulates over time in my freezer.

This breakfast is all of these and more. My DH even called it “epic” and he’s not one to effuse over his food. I’m thinking the cinnamon syrup is what pushed him over the edge this time.

French Toast Casserole with Oatmeal Streusel #breakfast #nutfree #wholefoods

Delicious French Toast Casserole with Oatmeal Streusel Topping and Cinnamon Syrup

If you don’t keep your bread ends in your freezer… well, you should! You can make a lot of things with leftover bits and pieces of bread, and this recipe is one of them. Other recipes include:

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Bread Crumbs

Easy Peasy Cheese Ball

Chicken Zucchini Stuffing Casserole
French Toast Casserole with Oatmeal Streusel #breakfast #wholefoods #nutfree

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5 Creative Ideas for Leftover Meat

5 ideas for leftover meat Got some leftover meat and no idea what to do with it? I’ve got an idea for you! No more boring casseroles or lame pasta dishes: Here’s some creative fun you can have that will turn your hunk of “meh” into “YUM!”.

5 Creative Ideas for Leftover Meat

1. Spring Rolls

This is probably one of my favorite leftover options. Literally any kind of meat – and it doesn’t have to be Asian-flavored – can be rolled up in a rice paper wrapper, fried or baked, and served with a dip. Certainly you can make them Asian flavors if you want, but why not go with Mexican or BBQ, if that’s what you’ve got? Mexican spring rolls can be served with salsa, and BBQ spring rolls with (what else?) barbecue sauce.

If you’ve never played with spring roll wrappers before, here’s my super brief tutorial: 

  • They come fresh or dried. Many regular grocery stores carry both types, but I usually buy mine at the Asian store. The fresh ones are more expensive and can be found in the produce or freezer section, while the dried ones are usually somewhere near the rice noodles and that kind of thing.
  • The fresh ones (which I’ve never actually used) are pliable and ready to be used. Just place a couple tablespoons of the filling (whatever you want!) on to one side of the wrapper, and fold up the closest edge to cover the filling. Fold the sides up, then roll the whole thing all the way to the other edge. Dip your fingers in water to seal the edge.
  • Dried wrappers need to be briefly soaked in water before using. Once they’re pliable (but not too much so, or they’ll rip) fill them in the same way I described above. No need to seal with water, though.
  • Fry them up on the stove top (make sure your oil is hot enough or the seal won’t stick).
  • OR bake them in the oven following these directions.

I’m totally serious, by the way, that just about any thing can be wrapped up in a spring roll! Don’t feel like you need a special recipe or anything: if you’ve got shredded BBQ meat, for example, just plop some of it on the wrapper, top it with a sprinkle of cheese (or maybe some cole slaw?), wrap it up and cook it!

2. Stir Fry

Again with the Asian influence, but seriously. Stir fry is the way to go! Especially if you also have leftover veggies – even better!

Once again, you don’t have to worry about sticking to an Asian flavor of some kind, although practically any cooked meat can morph into Asian cuisine via stir fry. Just follow this great tutorial from AllRecipes.com , keeping in mind that pre-cooked meats and veggies will not need nearly as much time as is prescribed in the article.

A stir fry is also great because it can also utilize any leftover starch (noodles or rice, for example) that you may have. Get rid of those leftovers in one fell swoop!

flatbread sandwich thins3. Sandwiches

Now, I’m not talking about a boring ol’ meatloaf sandwich with a hunk of nasty cold meatloaf shoved between two slices of plain ol’ bread. No way. Not how I roll. 

What I’m talking about is creativity, and it starts with the bread. If you want your leftover sandwich to appeal to the masses (i.e.  your starving leftover-hating family), it’s going to have to have some charm to it. Thankfully, the possibilities are practically endless:

  • biscuits
  • English muffins
  • flatbread
  • muffins (why not?)
  • waffles (Yes! Truthfully my favorite sandwich bread.)
  • pita bread
  • croissant
  • bagel
  • etc.

You get the idea. Now top it with some fancy (or not so fancy) cheese, a little bit of sauce and maybe some crunchy shredded veggies for good measure, and you’ve got some gourmet leftovers goin’ on!

sausage zucchini pizza4. Pizza

Everybody knows that everybody hates leftovers, right? BUT! Everybody loves pizza, right? So there ya go. Turn the leftovers into pizza and everybody’s happy. 

And it’s so easy, too! Pizza crust is a yeast bread, but it doesn’t require all that bothersome kneading and rising stuff, so even a novice can manage it. I usually make either my Spelt Pizza Crust or my Honey Whole Wheat Pizza Crust, but you can make any kind of pizza crust you desire.

Then top it with a sauce of some kind, and it most certainly does not have to be pizza sauce. (I guess technically it doesn’t even need sauce… but it’s nice if you have it.) If you have a sauce that went with the meat when you first ate it, then that’s perfect! Whatever it is, it will work. If not, try Ranch dressing, or BBQ sauce, or a basic white sauce or cheese sauce.

Next, slice or shred the meat and sprinkle it over the sauce. Top with veggies and cheese like you would any pizza, and bake as usual. No complaints on leftover night!

ham fruit pasta salad5. Salad

Here you have two options. You can go with a green salad or a starch salad, and you can get as creative as you want with either one. 

Personally, a green salad seems kind of like a boring option, so since we’re looking at creative ideas here, let’s talk about the “starch salad”. I say “starch salad” because you can use just about any kind of starch as the main component: 

  • potato (and voila! you have potato salad!)
  • bread (panzanella anybody?)
  • pasta
  • whole grains such as rice, barley, and the like
  • quinoa

Cook the starch as you normally wood, then add your meat and whatever vegetables you like. To finish off your leftover magic, whip up a simple vinaigrette  to bring it all together. My “Not Your Grandma’s” Ham & Pasta Salad is a great example that can get you started.

There you go, friend! Five fun ideas for leftover meat that will please your palate and your hungry family. Here’s to NO WASTE!

 

 

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Upcycle Your Christmas Cards – Christmas Card Ornaments

upcycled christmas card ornaments text

Now that Christmas is over, I’m sure you have a plethora of Christmas cards you don’t really know what to do with. At least I know that’s what happens to me every year! The photograph ones I keep in a photo album, but the actual Christmas cards are not so easily dealt with: they’re so pretty, you hate to throw them away… but what can you do with them?

This year, I hit upon a creative solution: Every year at Christmas, I like to help my boys make some ornaments they can give as gifts to various family members. One year it was cinnamon ornaments, and another year they were made with salt dough. I feel like the whole process teaches them the joy of giving as well as the joy of creating, and family members (grandparents especially!) love to receive their little handmade treasures – a total win-win!

This past Christmas, I took on an ambitious project for their ornament gifts; and in the end, their role was minimal (probably shoulda waited ’til they were a little older), but I loved the final result anyway! What I particularly love about this project (which I originally found on Pinterest , of course) is that it is made of recycled materials. In particular, it makes use of Christmas cards, which are so beautiful… but so plentiful. You can only use them for gift tags so much, and then even that gets a little old, ya know? I was thrilled to find this unique and creative usage for all the Christmas cards I’d been hoarding in a little box.

Christmas card ornament

This isn’t as simple of a craft as I usually undertake, and I actually did have to buy some items specifically for this project (never happens!), but I love the result. I might make some more next year and give them as gifts myself!

Upcycle Christmas Cards into Christmas Card Ornaments

christmas card ornament 3

Christmas Card Ornaments

Summary: Upcycle your old Christmas cards into these beautiful ornaments.

You will need:

  • Mason Jar Rings
  • Christmas Cards
  • Acetate Sheets (I found a pad of “mock” acetate at Michaels)
  • Hot Glue Gun & Glue
  • White Glue
  • Foam Adhesive Stickers
  • Glue Dots
  • Sharp Scissors
  • Glitter
  • Ribbon

Instructions

  1. Choose a Christmas card with a picture or motif that will fit within the frame made by a Mason jar ring. Place the jar ring on the card, and trace around the edge of the ring with a pencil. Cut out the circle you traced, and glue the picture to the back of the ring.
  2. Cut out one or two small details from the remainder of the card (or from complementary cards), and attach them to the circle with a foam sticker to create a 3D effect.
  3. Place the ring down on a sheet of acetate paper. With the hot glue gun, glue all around the edge of the ring, adhering it to the acetate. Allow it to cool and dry completely, then trim the paper and the dried glue close to the edge of the ring.
  4. Pour some glitter onto a plate. Drizzle some glue around the outer edge of the acetate, then place the ornament face down in the glitter. Shake off the excess glitter and allow to dry.
  5. Cut out one or two more small details from a Christmas card, and affix them to the front of the acetate sheet with a glue dot.
  6. Tie a ribbon around the ring, creating a loop at the top so it can hang. (You might need to secure the ribbon with just a bit of hot glue.)

christmas card ornament 2

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