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 ListI 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 #wholefoodsMEAT & 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 #wholefoodsPRODUCE

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 #wholefoodsDAIRY & 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 #wholefoodsDRIED, 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 #wholefoodsBAKING, 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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Cheese-Stuffed Meat Rolls #BakingMyHeritage

Stuffed Meat Rolls #bakingmyheritage #groundbeef #FinnishcuisineBack in January, I introduced my new obsession, to which I very appropriately ascribed a hashtag, namely, #bakingmyheritage. In case you’ve forgotten the details, my mom is of Finnish descent; and when I was visiting her over Christmas in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I happened upon The Finnish Cookbook in a consignment store there. I’ve been having tons of fun baking and cooking all sorts of recipes from this awesome treasure of a cookbook. (Oh, and PLUS! It’s a vintage cookbook! You know me and vintage cookbooks...)

Stuffed Meat Rolls #bakingmyheritage #groundbeef #FinnishcuisineMy first post about my Finnish baking adventures was this deliciously awesome (and very easy!) Spice Cake, which I actually plan to bake this weekend for our church’s annual International Banquet.  Today’s post goes in a decidedly different direction with a savory recipe (which I suppose would then be #cookingmyheritage. Nah. Doesn’t have the same ring to it.), known in Finnish as “lihamurekekaaryleet”. 

Stuffed Meat Rolls #bakingmyheritage #groundbeef #FinnishcuisineYeah, we’ll just call ‘em “Stuffed Meat Rolls”. (Although my DH calls them “the bomb”… or maybe it was me that was “the bomb” because I made them. Huh! Anyway, they have his stamp of approval!)

If you want to keep up with my Finnish baking adventures, follow me on Instagram!

Stuffed Meat Rolls #bakingmyheritage #groundbeef #Finnishcuisine


Notes:

I used 1 pound of ground beef because I didn’t feel like defrosting another package (ha!), and it turned out OK. I only got 12 rolls instead of 16, and the mixture was not quite as sturdy, but they were still very good.

I also used cheese sticks, which were very easy to use.

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5 Steps to a Healthier You {and Me!}

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Authentic Simplicity!5 steps to a healthier you #gethealthy #health #fitnessOK, folks, there’s nothing earth-shattering or groundbreaking here. Just some simple (do I really need to say that still?!) basic truths that we all need to be reminded of occasionally.

This gentle reminder is intended largely for myself, because I have totally let these healthy habits slide in recent years, and it’s time to reclaim them. I have some minor little health issues that keep niggling at me, and I can’t help but feel that if I just took better care of myself, they would disappear.

So here goes: my 5-step plan to improving my health! These basic steps are applicable to anybody, no matter the circumstances, so this post serves as a reminder for you, too.

Here’s to good health!

5 Steps to Improving Your Health

1. Reduce Caffeine Intake

At this point in time, I’m not ready to say definitively that coffee must be completely eradicated from my diet. However, I’ll readily admit I have allowed myself to indulge in it far too much in the past year or so, and it’s time to cut way back! It used to be that I drank only one cup a day, maybe two. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with various coffee substitutes like Teeccino  and Pero, and they’ve actually been a lot more satisfying than I had anticipated. I’ve also started drinking more tea, especially chai, which delivers a nice bold flavor that I love, and helps me forget that it’s not coffee. I still do drink coffee in the morning, but I’ve successfully eliminated caffeinated beverages in the evening, and my overall coffee consumption is back to no more than two a day.

2. Drink More Water {And Then Some}

I have always, always been bad at this: I can remember even as a child my mother telling me to drink more water. I’m pretty sure that, as a result, I’m walking around with a permanent case of dehydration, and I’ve got to get better at increasing my water intake! I’ve already started this one (so maybe it should have been step one?) by drinking a glass before going to work, drinking two glasses at work, and then drinking at least 2 more glasses in the evening. That’s probably 60-75% of what I should be drinking, so I’m getting there!

3. Exercise

Ugh. I hate exercising, frankly. I just don’t find it fun – I’m totally not one of those perky kind of fitness people. (Sorry if I totally wrecked all your illusions about me there.) I do enjoy Pilates, and when I have exercised regularly in the past, that’s been my chosen poison (albeit a relatively pleasant one). However, recently, I finally took the plunge and bought Teresa Tapp’s  book “Fit and Fabulous in 15 Minutes a Day”, which details her basic “T-Tapp” workout. I’m currently on Day 4 of the 2-week “bootcamp” kickstart, and am anxious to see how it goes. If it works as well as everyone says it does, it seems like it’s pretty much the perfect exercise routine! I’m also interested in purchasing a small trampoline for exercise purposes – it seems like a fun and energetic way to stay fit and healthy, yes?!

4. Avoid Sugar

I go back and forth on this one; sometimes I’m good at this, and sometimes I’m not. Back before I had kids, I used to be perfectly happy going a whole day without anything sweet; but I find that harder and harder to do as I get older. Generally, my rule nowadays is one sweet a day. When I stick to that, I feel so much better! I’m hoping that I can get to a place where I am once again allowing days to pass before I realize I haven’t had any sugar… that would be marvelous!

5. Sleep!

This is another one I’ve already started working on. Over the holidays, my DH and I developed a really bad habit of staying up until almost midnight, and I feel like it’s really taken a toll on me. Now I’m trying to go to bed between 10 and 10:30, with a wake-up time of around 7:00, which gives me 8+ hours of sleep. I feel so much better when I manage to do this, so hopefully that feeling will motivate me to continue!

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How to Help a Friend: Just Do It

How to Help a Friend in Need #justdoit

Not sure how to help your friend? Just do something! Anything!

You didn’t hear from me at all last week (I know you missed me, didntcha?!), and it wasn’t because I was busier-than-usual (I’m always busier-than-usual, so that’s not a good excuse). I had all these great plans to write a post or two detailing how my DH and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary on the cheap (I think I still will, but in the meantime, check out a few Instagram pics), but just as I was about to sit down at the computer and start typing out my thoughts, my husband made a phone call that unexpectedly and dramatically changed our plans. 

He called his dad for the purpose of checking on our kids, who were staying with his family for the weekend while we were busy celebrating; but as it turns out, God had divinely appointed that he check on his dad with that phone call instead. As soon as my father-in-law had answered the phone, my DH could tell something was wrong, and he was right. As it turned out, Dad had suffered a stroke and ended up spending the next few days in the hospital, undergoing various tests and treatments.

Change of Plans

We cut our anniversary celebration short – and I never did sit down at the computer! – and made our way as quickly as we could to the town about an hour away where his family lives. We got there just in time to see his dad before they whisked him away to start the medication for stroke, and we spent the rest of the week juggling our time between filling our responsibilities here in town and visiting with family an hour away. 

During the course of the week, the entire family experienced such an outpouring of love from the dear folks who know and love my father-in-law,  the founding pastor of a thriving church, that we cannot even begin to properly express our appreciation. Amid the uncertainties and fears of the first few days following the stroke, it was a tremendous blessing to witness love demonstrated in tangible ways. 

My Certain Little Someone, reading with Grandpa not one week after Grandpa’s stroke.

Encouraged and Provoked

As happens when the Body of Christ operates as it should, I was encouraged by the loving response of God’s people to our need, but I was also personally “provoked to good works”, as the Bible says. You see, I always have this trouble – and I know I’m not the only one – of knowing exactly what to do when someone I love has a need. Certainly, I always offer help, but just as certainly, they always turn it down. The conversation typically goes like this:

Me: Is there any way I can help you?

The Person in Need: Oh, I appreciate it, but we’re fine, thank you!

Me: Ok, but I’d love to help. Let me know if you think of anything.

The Person in Need: I will, thanks!

Ever had that conversation? And, of course, the person in need never actually calls on my help because they hate to be a burden to anyone. And I go on my merry way when the reality is, there are things I could do to be an encouragement and a blessing.

What I learned this past week has a familiar ring to it, and it’s this: Just. Do. It. Don’t wait for your friend to call on you, don’t wait for the “perfect opportunity” to be a blessing, don’t hem and haw and second-guess yourself. Just do it. Whatever you can think of that seems like it would be helpful, just do it.

How to Help a Friend in Need {Just Do It}

A few things done for us and for my father-in-law that were greatly appreciated and might spark an idea for you: 

  • Meals Provided: No fewer than three people simply called and said, “Hey, I made some food for you, when is a good time to drop it off?” If those people had called and said, “Can I make you a meal?” we would have said, “Oh, no, thanks, no need to put yourself out!”, and then both parties would have missed out on a blessing. On Friday night, our entire family sat around and enjoyed a veritable feast, and we barely had to lift a finger to fix it (which was a good thing, after the week we’d all experienced!); and our enjoyment of the meal was enhanced by the fact that our friends had made it for us in a sheer demonstration of their love and care for us.
  • Snacks and Treats: Maybe a full meal doesn’t fit your budget or your time constraints, but a snack of some kind is totally do-able! As we sat around my father-in-law’s hospital bed, we all enjoyed some homemade fudge that a friend had prepared for us. Another friend brought a towering basket of fresh fruit! Other options include breakfast foods (a batch of muffins, maybe?), or lunch supplies (a loaf of bread and a package of lunchmeat, perhaps).
  • Care Packages: One sweet friend ran by the grocery store and picked up a few things she thought my mother-in-law might find useful while at the hospital: snacks, tea bags and a mug, lip balm and lotion, and more.  This was so thoughtful and was the perfect thing for Mom, who was so busy caring for Dad that she didn’t properly take the time to care for herself. Many care-givers find themselves in the same boat, so a gift that helps them relax and regroup is perfect.
  • Messages: Words are powerful healing agents (Don’t believe me? Read Proverbs 16:24.) and they can be communicated in so many forms: in person, over the phone, via text, on Facebook, on email, through video, or even an old-fashioned card. We received all of those this past week, and each one was treasured. We read them to my father-in-law and I know he was encouraged by the loving words of many friends.  And don’t forget… laughter is the best medicine! It was a treat to be able to laugh together with various friends… even one who put together a short video with an inside joke that was appreciated by all.
  • Prayer: Talk about healing power! Ultimately, God is the One Who heals, and we have the privilege of coming boldly to His throne and asking for His healing. We witnessed my father-in-law progress from the point on Sunday night where he could barely say simple words like “OK” and “Bye-bye” to the point exactly one week later where he and my DH maintained a lengthy phone conversation about a variety of topics. I firmly believe his progress had just as much to do with the prayers of God’s people as it did with any medication or treatment he received. People were praying literally all over the world – in the Philippines, in France, throughout the United States, and more – and their prayers were as effective as Scripture promises they will be. When you can do nothing else, you can certainly pray!

Remember the phone call my DH made that launched us into the week we weren’t expecting? Well, at exactly the same time a week later, my DH made another phone call to his dad, this time with dramatically different results! We were amazed and so grateful at the progress Dad had made during the week, and we are confident that he is going to make a full recovery and be back in the pulpit where he loves to be. I can’t help but think that every single person who prayed and helped in any way they could think of had a tangible part in his healing, and they will in turn be richly blessed.

So now if I have a friend or loved one facing a crisis of one kind or another, I know what I can do. It doesn’t really matter so much *what* I do… as long as I just do it. 

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5 Reasons Why I Use Essential Oils

5 Reasons to Use Essential Oils

When I first signed up as a distributor with Young Living Essential Oils, I wrote a lengthy post about that decision. (You can read that post here, and you can sign up as a distributor yourself here, because once you’re done reading this post, you’ll probably want to. *wink*) I detailed then the mental and physical journey that led me to essential oils, but I didn’t specifically address the reasons why I chose essential oils as the primary healing modality, if you will, in my  home.

Now that I have over a year invested in learning about and using the oils, I figured it was past time to put into words the reasons why I chose to go with essential oils. Naturally, I believe these reasons are good reasons for you also to choose essential oils, but please keep in mind this is only a post about my experience and it is not to be construed as medical advice because I am not a doctor. If you  have any concerns or questions, please do speak with your medical practitioner before experimenting with the oils.

1. Essential Oils are Safe

Did you realize you have probably been ingesting essential oils and rubbing them onto your body already without even knowing it? That’s because many of them (here’s an itemized list) are categorized as “GRAS” (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA and approved as such to be used as food additives. Companies add GRAS essential oils to food and toiletry items for flavor and fragrance purposes all the time.

And if you don’t trust the FDA (Ahem. I don’t blame you.), here’s an interesting analysis by Dr. Robert Tisserand, an expert on essential oils, about the safety and various concerns regarding the use of oils. I encourage you to read through for yourself, but my conclusion after reading it myself was that he was hard pressed to find any hard evidence of any sort of serious negative side effects or reactions from the usage of oils. A quote from this article: “As used in aromatherapy today, essential oils have not caused a single death.” The same cannot be said for modern chemical medicine!

Certainly, we need to respect the power of essential oils and use them wisely and with a heavy dose of common sense. First of all, we need to make sure the oils we use are of the highest quality to avoid the adulteration and chemical exposure referred to in the above referenced article by Tisserand. Secondly, it is a good idea to dilute essential oils for both topical and internal use.  And it goes without saying that caution should be exercised when using oils on children (although I have read that studies done on children reveal no negative effects when they are used properly). With all that in mind, I think one can say that aromatherapy is just as safe as any other readily available therapy, if not safer. 

2. Essential Oils are Effective

I have experienced the effectiveness of essential oils personally and in my own family, and I have heard the testimonies of many others’ positive experiences. Browse through Oil Testimonials and see how many people have benefited from the life-blood of a plant that is called its “essential oil”.

3. Essential Oils Very Rarely Have Side Effects

The most common side effect of an oil is that it can cause a minor reaction in sensitive skin, like a tingling, stinging sensation or even a slight rash. The best way to avoid this reaction is to dilute the oil with a carrier oil.

Some people respond strongly to some oils think they are having an allergic reaction. However, it is more likely that any reaction to an oil is actually part of the detox process, which can be a good thing. (Even so, it’s a good idea to stop using any oil when you experience detox symptoms and allow your body time to recover before using it again.) There’s some debate about whether or not oils can be allergenic at all, but here’s a good rule of thumb: if reactions strengthen with each use of the oil, it’s probably an allergic reaction. If the reactions reduce in intensity, it’s probably detox.

One thing worth mentioning here, although it’s not the purpose of this post, is that some medical conditions do not tolerate certain oils. Epilepsy comes to mind, since I recently had a friend with this concern. If you have a chronic medical illness or condition, do your research and make sure the oils you want to use will not aggravate your condition.

4. Essential Oils Have a Long History

The aforementioned Dr. Robert Tisserand gives a brief history of essential oil usage here, but suffice it to say that ancient cultures (Rome, Egyptian) regularly used essential oils medicinally. And, of course, the Bible is filled with mentions of oils (distilled and infused) used for many purposes, including physical and emotional health.

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot more trust in something that has stood the test of time! Modern medicine miracles exist and are not to be discounted, but give me a time-tested remedy any day over!

5. Essential Oils are Easy to Use

You know how I like things to be simple! I find aromatherapy to be the most accessible of all modern alternative remedies: Chiropractic care is expensive and time-consuming (although very beneficial!); acupuncture is also expensive and exclusive in that it’s not really something you can do at home; homeopathy is just downright confusing; and I confess that I find herbal medicine to be much the same.

Essential oils are easy to use at home – simply diffusing them into the air is an effective way to use them, as is rubbing the diluted oil into the skin. Although there is much to learn about the science of aromatherapy, at its very basic level, it can be used at home by even the most inexperienced person. (Provided, of course, that inexperienced person is willing to learn the basics of safety and usage!)

They are also neither expensive nor exclusive like the other therapies I mentioned. The average wholesale price of a bottle of essential oil from Young Living is around $20 and contains several hundred drops. (Ask me how you can get the wholesale price for yourself!) When you consider that you use only one or two drops at a time, that price is actually minimal in comparison to most other alternative meds out there. (Hey, it’s even cheaper than most run of the mill OTC meds!)

 

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Simple Wall Art: Fill Those Empty Walls

Win your own free wall art from Bigstock!

Win your own free wall art from Bigstock!

It shouldn’t be a secret to anyone around here that I like it when things are simple. (Hence, authentic simplicity. Yeah, that’s where that comes from!) I don’t really consider myself lazy (most of the time), but for sure I’m not going to put extra effort into anything that isn’t worth it.

Home decor is one of those things, right up there with crafts and making the bed. (Changing the sheets, now. That’s important!) In the past year, the craftiest thing I’ve done is making some monogram-esque picture frames for our living room. They turned out pretty sweet – if I do say so myself – and weren’t all that difficult; but trust me when I say the easier the home decor is, the better.

Ya with me? Ok, good, because I have a fantastic idea (and a giveaway!) for you today. See that fun vintage wall art in the photo above that is now gracing my kitchen wall? It’s actually a photo from Bigstock, printed in poster size and framed. Very cool, yes? And very simple!

Bigstock has tons of photos available to purchase and download… and then print on a large scale and hang on your wall. With over 17,000,000 (yes, that many zeroes) photos to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect one for that bare spot. (Unless you’re really really picky, and then I’m afraid I can’t help you.)

FIFTY Images FREE!

And guess what?! Every single one of you – yes, even you! – gets to try Bigstock out for free! And I know you love free stuff, because you’re just like me. Here’s the deal: Bigstock is generously offering my readers a free 5-day trial of their site, which means that for 5 days, you can download up to 10 images absolutely FREE! The standard free trial only includes 35 images, so this is an extra 15 just because you like my blog (you knew that had to be good for something someday, right?).

Bigstock wall art

Click here to start your free 5-day trial. Browse through Bigstock’s massive selection of photos and start dreaming of all you could do!

That’s Not All, Folks!

One lucky reader also will win a free poster-size image for themselves! You can choose the cute vintage coffee one I chose, or you can choose another from a list of selected images (something for every style). Please note that the frame is not included.

This giveaway will end next Monday at midnight and is only open to residents of the United States, aged 18 or older. The prize will be shipped directly to you by Bigstock. The winner will have 48 hours to respond with their shipping information or will forfeit the prize.

Enter the giveaway here:

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Why I Use Young Living Essential Oils

Young Living Essential Oils #yleo #essential oilsIf 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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