Monthly Archives: September, 2014

Updating the Blog

Please forgive the lack of new blog posts this week. I’ve been working on the blog itself this afternoon. I eventually want a customized theme, but that’s going to take some researching on my part. 😉
New Layout
I altered some of the design on my blog, moving the archive to the left and changing the look on the right hand side. I hope this makes it easier to spot everything. 
There are now tabs near the top of my blog. You can easily move between them and I’ll be adding more soon. You can use these tabs to find out more about me, to see the books that I have available, get updated information on my new work in progress, and more. 
I also implemented a new theme. What do you think?

Canning a Batch of My Famous Spaghetti Sauce

Okay, so it’s famous in my house. That counts for something, right? 😉
I have a large pressure canner and I’m slowly learning to can different foods – emphasis on the slowly. So far, I’ve canned spaghetti sauce, pinto beans and salsa. But the spaghetti sauce is a monthly project because we eat so much of it. Not only do we use it for actual spaghetti, but it’s one of the few things that our son will eat. I can put it on bread for pizza bread and I can even hide other vitamins or nutrients in it. We can’t live without our spaghetti sauce! 
Now, before I started this post, I was going to include the recipe. Then I realized something: I don’t follow a specific recipe. I mix it a bit to taste. So I’ll share my approximate recipe. But I think that, for those of you brave enough to give it a try, you’ll really like it! 
First, a quick note about the tomato sauce we use. We buy the gigantic 106 oz. cans at Sams. I’m sure they are available at other locations as well.
Spaghetti Sauce Recipe (Approximately)
2 cans of tomato sauce (106 oz. each can)
2 tbsp sugar (use whatever kind you like. I’ve used white, raw and coconut and liked them all)
4 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder 
Combine everything and mix well. Bring the sauce to a boil. Once it is at a good boil, reduce to a simmer. Place a lid on the pot (or you’ll be finding spaghetti drops on your walls and floors for weeks) and let it simmer for at least an hour. Two is better. Stir every 20 minutes or so. 
That’s it! You can freeze big batches like this or can them. Either one works great. 
A batch like this lasts our family of four about a month. Very easy and so yummy! 

Essential Oils: Reducing Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

In the beginning
If you’re like me, and like a good deal of people, you suffer from seasonal allergies. Truthfully, I didn’t have any noticeable allergies until nearly eight years ago. But it seemed like, by the time our son was two, they were bothering me more and more. About three years ago, I even went so far as to get allergy testing done. I did not have a major reaction to anything, but a mild reaction to a lot of things. I started allergy shots and after five or six months of them, saw no results. I know that you’re supposed to take them longer than that, but we then moved and I would have had to start all over again anyway. 
By the time we changed locations almost two years ago, I was miserable. In the fall and winter, I had sinus infection after sinus infection. I remember having to take three rounds of antibiotics between the beginning of November 2011 and February 2012. 
Enough is enough!
After trying allergy shots with no relief, I decided I had to do something. I really didn’t want to start back up with allergy shots again once we moved and I wasn’t convinced they would help me anyway. I was feeling desperate. I started doing some research into essential oils and figured that it certainly couldn’t hurt to try. 
That next winter, every time I started getting sinus pain or a sinus infection, I would put peppermint, rosemary and eucalyptus oil (just a drop each) into a bowl of water and breathe in the steam for 30 seconds. I did this several times a day until I didn’t feel like I was on the verge of a sinus infection anymore. I was amazed. I did not have a single sinus infection all winter and when I had a cold and did this, I was so much more comfortable. 
Expanding essential oil use
I was still having bad allergy symptoms that at least twice a week would develop into a headache that only a Coke and migraine medicine could ease – and even that didn’t always work. I also took an over-the-counter allergy medication every day. Impressed with my experience using essential oils when I was on the verge of a sinus infection or sick, I began to look into it to see what could be done to lessen seasonal allergies in general. This is what ultimately led to my obsession with essential oils. 
Recipe for success
I found a lot of suggestions for different oils that could help ease allergy symptoms. At some point in my search, I ran into a blog post by Baldwin’s Girl that contained an actual recipe to try to relieve allergy symptoms. This was exactly what I was looking for! 
10 drops eucalyptus
10 drops lavender
5 drops cedarwood
5 drops peppermint
3 drops helichrysum
I did not have helichrysum for quite some time, but I did mix up this recipe without it and began to use it. I first bought a necklace made of clay that could absorb the oils into it so that I could wear it around my neck and breathe those oils in all day long. 
Later, I upgraded to a locket-style necklace that has a cotton pad in it that I can add a couple drops of the oil blend. I found that this worked so much better and the smell lasted much longer as well. I also added helichrysum to the mix. 
My experience
I have been using this recipe for almost a year now and I have had great results. Am I absolutely allergy symptom free? Of course not. For example, we’ve had rain off and on the last five days and my allergies have kicked up a lot. I’m stuffy and uncomfortable. But I know I would be feeling much, much worse if I weren’t using the oils. I can also say that, in the last year, I have to take migraine medication once or twice a month as opposed to consistently needing it 2-3 times a week before. A huge improvement in my book. I did have one sinus infection this last winter, but one in two years is a whole lot better than 2-4 every winter.
When I do get bad sinus headaches, I roll some Relieve Me (50% oil, 50% carrier oil) on my temple or the back of my neck. I also have used an unscented, all natural lotion and added some peppermint, lavender and spearmint oils to it and will rub that in as well. They definitely help. 
I wish I could get rid of my allergy symptoms completely, but compared to where I was a year ago, I feel like essential oils have been a miracle in my life. 
If you’ve tried just about everything to lessen your allergy symptoms and you’re still feeling miserable all the time, you might want to give essential oils a try! 
Remember, do your research on all essential oils before you start using them. Most essential oils must be diluted (I do not dilute the allergy relief recipe, but it also doesn’t touch my skin) and some oils that might be okay for adults are not okay for kids, etc. Definitely educate yourself about oils before you just jump in and use them! There are a lot of great resources online and people you can ask for help or advice as well. 

Essential Oils: Hobby or Addiction?

When it comes to essential oils, what camp do you fall into? 
I am personally a huge fan of essential oils. Not only do many of them smell good, but I have also found them to be incredibly useful. Is it a hobby or an addiction for me? Probably a bit of both. 
What brand of oils is best? 
I remember when I first started researching essential oils. It was incredibly overwhelming. There are the two main brands that battle each other and numerous other brands of oils out there that you can find in health food stores, online, and some even in grocery stores. So which brand is best? I really don’t think that you can point to one brand and say it’s better than any other. 
Recently, The Humbled Homemaker put out a blog post about this very thing. There’s no way I could state this better than she did, so I definitely recommend you go and take a look at it. 
I can tell you that I have a wide variety of brands and types of essential oils in my collection. My favorite brand of essential oils is Rocky Mountain Oils. If I can buy an oil from them, I will. But it’s not always possible. If I have a choice, I will almost always choose an oil that is produced here in the United States. So that can determine where I purchase my oils (for example, I always buy my lavender from Liberty Natural because they distill it from their own lavender fields in Oregon). I guess what I’m trying to say is, get what you feel is right for you and your family.

How do I keep them organized? 
I have a larger, padded container that I keep my oils in (and yes, I alphabetize them because that’s the way I am lol). I buy my oils in 15 ml bottles and I store them in within that padded bag in a cool, dark place. I also carry some with me everywhere I go. For that, I finally found the perfect solution: A custom bag from Our Happy Healthy Home. I just received this bag last week and I’m already loving it. But there are a lot of other options out there if you’re looking for something smaller, less expensive, or just in a different style. I started small, carrying five kinds of oils with me, and I have upgraded three times to this OHHH bag. 
Do we have to hear the obligatory caution statement? 
YES! Before I go any further, I want to remind you that not all essential oils are the same. Some are safe to use on children, others are not. Some are safe for a pregnant woman to use, others can cause problems. There are some essential oils that you can apply neat (undiluted) and others that you cannot because they can cause skin reactions. The point of all of this? Do your research! If you decide to get into essential oils, find yourself a good book and keep that handy for reference. Learn everything you can about each oil in your collection. Double check the use for that oil before you apply it to yourself or anyone else. Would you just grab a medication off the shelf and give it to your child without first reading the cautions on the back? Of course not! Essential oils are no different. Educate yourself about them before you start using them. Alright, now that we’ve covered that, on we go! 
What oils do I carry?
Okay, so right now, I carry a lot of oils with me. Seriously. In addition to essential oils, I carry a well-stocked first aid kit with me in my car. I may have to do a blog post about that one in the future as well.
Rollers: Most if not all of these are half essential oil and half almond oil
Relieve Me: This is a blend from Rocky Mountain Oils that I just love. I use it for muscle cramps and aches and also for really bad sinus headaches. 
Geranium: I love the smell so it’s like my perfume. 
Lavender/Chamomile: I bring this to put on bug bites, burns, scrapes, etc. 
Peaceful Child: This is a blend we’ve used on our son who has autism. It has been wonderful, helping him relax and focus when he’s overwhelmed. I don’t go anywhere without this. 
Immunity: Another blend from RMO. During cold and flu season, we put some of this on the bottoms of everyone’s feet before going out in public. 
15 ml bottles
Lavender – I use this for so many things and don’t go anywhere without it. 
Allergy Mix – I have a diffusing necklace that I wear when I’m having issues with seasonal allergies. I will do a blog post about this mix here in the next few days. 
Spray bottle
Purification: Another great blend from RMO. This is great to spray both as an air freshener and also to help clean the air around you. I’ve been known to use this on chairs in a doctors office before. 
2 ml bottles: Unless mentioned, these contain 5 drops of an essential oil and the rest almond oil. There are a lot of uses for all of these so I’m not going to go into all of that. I just want to show you which I carry with me. Those that are full strength are mostly kept that way because I get a lot of sinus pain and I like to use these full strength to breathe in. I don’t recommend applying most oils  to the skin without first diluting them. 
Eucalyptus (full strength)
Tea Tree (full strength)
Peppermint (full strength) – helpful for headaches
Rosemary (full strength)
Vetiver (the main ingredient in the Peaceful Child blend I use)
Ylang Ylang
I also have a small bottle of Grapeseed oil in case I do need to dilute something on the fly and a 2 ml bottle of arrowroot powder. 
There we go! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. If nothing else, I can at least direct you to a site or book that might be able to give you some answers.
Essential oils are a lot of fun, incredibly useful, and yes – addicting! 

Missing Writer – Recovered!

Or at least partially recovered. 
I apologize for my lack of posts this last week. My husband was out of state for work. He left early Monday morning. The kids and I managed to not drive each other completely insane while he was gone and then picked him up from the airport again very early Friday morning. And I do mean early. I woke the kids up at midnight and we drove to the airport. The kids were so excited to see their daddy! I was as well, it was good to finally have my best friend and husband back home again. 
Being home alone with the two kids for extended periods of time is not new. When our daughter was a baby, he flew out of state for work five days out of the week for eight months. But it has been a while since I had experienced being a temporary single mom. While I am very thankful this is not something that happens often, it does serve as a good reminder of things that I tend to take for granted. 
I know it’s true that “you do what you gotta do.” I think that’s the case for everyone, no matter where they are in life. You take the circumstance you’re in, see the positives, and go forward. We all have challenges – it’s what tests us, refines us, and pushes us to improve ourselves and our situations.
This writer is back and I look forward to blogging regularly again. I appreciate your patience through this past week. 

It’s a Rain Outside, Rainbow Inside Kind of Day

It’s an overcast and rainy Saturday morning, a site that is relatively unusual here in West Texas. Having lived in the Pacific Northwest a good part of my life, I’m loving every minute of it. It’s one of those mornings where I am happy to be indoors as I work on my writing. 
The majority of the family feels the same way: My husband is playing a computer game and our son is watching Aladdin on TV (which brings forth even more emotions now than it did as we remember the late Robin Williams). Our daughter, however, woke up bored and kept insisting she get to go outside and play in the rain. While I don’t necessarily have any objections to playing in the rain, I was looking forward to a cozy day indoors. 
So in contrast to the gray weather outside, I thought I would bring out the rainbows. The rainbow rice, that is. It was a project the kids and I did back in February where we used rubbing alcohol, food coloring and rice to create a bright alternative to sand. 
Our daughter was clapping her hands as I spread the sleeping bag on the floor, collected a variety of items for her to play with, and then opened the container of rainbow rice. Since then, she has been creating rainbow rice milkshakes, burying her feet in it, and letting it slowly flow out of a funnel into another container. 
Even Jessie, one of our dogs, got into the action. Laying with her body just off the sleeping bag, she expertly used her tongue to grab rogue piece of rice as they bounced off plastic containers and scattered her way. 
This is a great way to keep little ones (and even big kids) busy when they are stuck indoors!
If you are interested in making some rainbow rice of your own, check out this blog post and recipe from Joybilee Farm! Just be prepared to have fun. And if you happen to have a rainbow-rice-eating dog, cleanup is a breeze! 😉

Giant Pink and Black Spiders

Our poor daughter. We discovered a black widow near the door of our house a couple of days ago. She is three-years-old and has never liked spiders anyway, but apparently seeing the large arachnid was the last straw.
That night, she woke up three separate times screaming, nearly hysterical, after dreaming about spiders. I do know that, at one point, she had a dream that giant pink and black spiders were crawling down her walls to sit on her tummy while she was in bed. We finally just let her lay in our bed for a while and eventually I exchanged my pursuit of sleep for a zombie-like stupor while she watched an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. 
All day yesterday, she talked about the spiders. She was so frightened of them, she wouldn’t even go into her room with the lights on until I went with her and showed her that there were no giant pink and black spiders hiding in her covers. 
Exhausted, she fell asleep in the car for a while yesterday. When she woke up crying about spiders trying to get her in the car, I knew this wasn’t just going to go away. 
So yesterday evening, we mixed up some spider spray. A special spray of water with lavender essential oil that she could use to spray all over her bed and her room and it would keep those nasty giant spiders from even coming near her. We sprayed her bed, the walls, her umbrella, each of her stuffed animals (especially her teddy bear so that he could help bonk spiders on the head), the rug and even the ceiling. Then her daddy brought in a wooden mallet that she and her teddy bears could use to really knock those spiders out, though she shouldn’t expect to see them on account of all the spray. 
Our daughter was nervous. But after saying a prayer for peaceful dreams and giving hugs and kisses, we left the room. 
Thankfully, she fell asleep almost immediately and slept peacefully all last night. This morning, she woke up with a triumphant grin. “There weren’t any spiders in my room!” 
We have a lot of extra anti-spider spray and we may have to use it again tonight. But here’s hoping there aren’t any giant pink and black spiders wandering the house at night anymore.

No Internet – Still

Hi Everyone!
I apologize for the lack of blog posts. We still have no internet access at our home. They say that will be fixed sometime tomorrow and I really hope that will be the case. Meanwhile, I appreciate your patience with my lack of an online presence! 
Amazon has Calming the Storm on sale for the paperback version. Instead of the regular $9.99, you can get it for $8.99. I have no idea how long the sale is good for. 
I think my family and I are just going to hang out together today for Labor Day. I’m very thankful that my husband has the day off and that we get a rare three-day weekend! 
I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed day. Hoping to see you online more often starting sometime tomorrow!