Monday, August 18, 2014

Memory Lane: First Day of College

The last few days, my social media feeds have blown up with pictures of kiddos going back to school. It makes me almost kind of miss school! Almost.

I was reminiscing with myself today about school and college days, and remembered a pretty hilarious story about my first day of college at SBU. It had been a beautiful August weekend in Bolivar, but on Monday when classes started, we woke up to rain.

No worries. I was prepared with an umbrella!

I got up early and put on a cute outfit for the first day of school, and made sure I was all organized and prepared. I even left early to go to breakfast before my 9:00am class.

On my way in to the cafeteria, I gracefully tripped and fell into a puddle and got an entire leg of my jeans soaking wet and covered in mud. Not exactly the ideal way to start off a new semester in a brand new place.

So...instead of breakfast, back to the dorm I went to change my clothes.

Donning outfit #2 of the day, I decided to drive to my class instead of walk since it was still raining, figuring I could at least walk with my umbrella through the parking lot and make it to class relatively unscathed by the morning's events.

While I was changing my clothes and driving across campus to class, the rain decided to flip the switch to monsoon and started coming down in torrents. Awesome. I pulled into the parking lot and couldn't even hear the radio in my car because the rain was so loud outside.

Is it better to be late on the first day of class, or to arrive soaking wet? I was torn. There were really no good options left for making good first impressions on professors and classmates!

I decided to make a run for it. Convincing myself it sounded like it was "letting up" (it wasn't), I opened the door, whipped out my umbrella and ran for it! About 3 seconds into my sprint through the torrential rain, my umbrella flipped inside out and rendered itself completely useless, so that was nice.

I arrived to my very first class looking like I had just stepped out of a fully clothed shower. Not a single inch of me was dry. Thankfully, other classmates also arrived wet....but nobody looked quite as soaked as I felt.

Oh, but it gets better still! My first class that day was Introduction to Public Speaking.
And everyone knows that in a college speech class, the very first day is impromptu introduction speeches.
Yep. That's right.
I gave my first college presentation looking like a wet dog.

Humble pie was served that day.

Thankfully, I can look back and laugh now at how ridiculous that day was!
Hopefully your back to school days go better than mine!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Taking Stock

This post kind of reminds me of Xanga, which was an awesome blog site back in the old days and I was a much more consistent blogger about the drama and angst of teenage me. Thankfully everyone lost their passwords to Xanga around the same time we all got sick of each other's drama and grew up, and so we no longer have those blogs anymore.

Anyway, I read Kate's blog and she posted this and got the idea from this blog, which I've never read. I thought it was cute so I decided to do it, too!

Making : plans to learn how to make kombucha next week with a friend! so looking forward to making our own and experimenting with flavors, and saving a ton of money by not buying kombucha anymore.
Cooking : Chocolate Avocado Cookies...recipe to come
Drinking : water, water, water. because i drink too much coffee, coffee, coffee.
Reading : Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. Highly recommend. And Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple by Dr. David Stewart.
Wanting : for God to change my heart on some things.
Looking : for new opportunities...an open door, a change in course...
Playing : this weird puzzle game on the iPad where you connect colored dots to each other without them crossing or touching. it is boggling.
Wasting :  food is the worst. :-(
Sewing : nothing but I have a sewing machine and half a closet of clothes that are too big so I wish I was a better seamstress!
Wishing : that abs weren't made in the kitchen, because chocolate avocado cookies are in the kitchen.
Enjoying : the long summer days where it is light outside until 9pm. there are only a handful of these days each year and they are my favorite.
Waiting : on The Lord.
Liking : that we very rarely have a need to go to Wal-mart anymore.
Wondering : what the future holds?
Loving : new and old friendships that are becoming so rich

Celebrating : four years of marriage with my love









Hoping : that I can reach a goal I have set for myself before the end of August.
Marvelling : at how smart my dog is.
Needing : a highlight and haircut
Smelling : Lavender...Stress Away...Dragon Time...Peppermint.
Wearing : shorts comfortably for the first time in my life.
Following : all the Young Living convention happenings this week and wishing I could have been there!
Noticing : a lot of hurting people in the world.
Knowing : that my attitude is always a choice
Thinking : about God's sovereignty and providence.
Feeling : sticky.
Bookmarking : www.seedtoseal.com
Opening : hopefully packages from Amazon with my kombucha tea and glass bottles!
Giggling :  with my husband - always.



And a picture of my Stella hugging my arm with both paws. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Make your own...nut butter!

The other day, as I was eating the last of the nut butter in the entire house again, I was complaining to my husband that it feels like we run out of nut butter every 3.5 days. It happens frequently, okay?

We had a short, unproductive conversation about our VitaMix blender and the fact that we were pretty uneducated about what it could do besides make smoothies...

I went to hang out with a friend at the pool for the afternoon, and pretty soon I got a text with a picture of a 3lb bag of almonds and a question: Should I roast these before I make almond butter?

Oh boy.

I honestly didn't know but I guess the answer was yes, because about 30 minutes later I received this picture:


Ta da! Roasted almond butter! 
Literally just almonds freshly roasted and blended in the VitaMix. 
He said it took less than a minute. 
And he watched several YouTube videos before he did it. 

I'm seriously impressed, because this stuff turned out SO creamy and gooey - the perfect consistency that always seems to be lacking in almond butter, am I right? We think the texture has something to do with the fact that the almonds were piping hot when they were blended. 

Either way, he totally did it right because it is delicious. We figured that roughly 3 cups of roasted almonds made a little over 2 cups of almond butter. SUPER inexpensive considering you can usually find almonds on sale in bulk at health food stores.

Next up we are thinking cashew butter. Holy moly. 

Also, to clear up confusion, we had heard that the VitaMix blender 64oz pitcher was for "wet" ingredients and if you wanted to make your own flours or grind nuts, you would need to purchase their "dry" container for blending. I guess we decided to take a risk and used our wet pitcher to make almond butter and it worked out great! 
However, our almonds were very warm and probably a little soft from roasting, so I would not recommend trying to blend up rock hard nuts in your VitaMix without doing a little research first. 
Show some love to the VitaMix, people. 


Coming soon: we are in the process of starting to make all kinds of things on our own...including kombucha, water kefir, and almond milk! I could not be more excited about spending less money at the grocery store and having fruity fizzy probiotic drinks in my fridge! 



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Granola! (NYT Olive OIl)

A few days ago, some friends of mine on facebook were having a discussion about granola recipes. To my delight, several friends posted their own recipes that were their favorites, and next thing you know I had a hankering for granola.

Usually we don't eat grains at our house. Most grains cause at least a little bit of an inflammatory response in the body, especially if they contain gluten. Even if they don't, they aren't the best and they really don't give you any nutritional benefit -unless you count a blood sugar spike a benefit.

The one grain I am occasionally willing to make an exception for is oats. Not in excess, mind you, but every once in awhile, I say oats are okay. I have made granola only out of nuts before, but good grief that gets expensive.

So when my friend Natalie posted a link to this  New York Times Olive Oil Granola , I was all over it. There are only a couple of recipes that I have blogged about immediately after making, because they were so so good that I wanted to always have the recipe on hand. This blog is kind of my own personal cookbook, btw.



I made a few adaptations to the recipe, and it still turned out fantastic. Here's what I did:

NYT Olive Oil Granola

3 cups whole grain oats (gluten free)
1.5 cups hulled pistachios
1 cup pumpkin seeds hulled (except mine weren't...)
1 cup coconut chips (I used flakes)
3 Tbsp Chia seeds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger & nutmeg (Recipe calls for cardamom, which I didn't have, but it would be amazing)
Handful of raisins and chopped dried apricots

Preheat oven to 300. I added all the dry ingredients together in my mixer, and then added the liquids on top and mixed well. Reserve the dried fruit until after it is all baked, otherwise they will turn into little rocks that will break your teeth. I baked it all in a jelly roll pain for about 55 mins and stirred every 15. Once it is baked, add your raisins and chopped apricots and stir together. Enjoy!

The recipe I linked above suggests serving this with ricotta cheese and fresh berries (yum). I think it would be delicious with a splash of coconut milk or grass fed cow's milk, or used as a topping with some baked apples! It is calorie dense, but has lots of good stuff in it so it would be a great pre- or post-workout snack to give you energy! Hope you enjoy!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Sunburn Relief with Essential Oils

While in Jamaica earlier last month, we were a little naive when it came to how strong the sun was there. Our first day was cloudy, so we stayed and played in the sun way too long, and paid for it with a pretty bad sunburn. Ouch!

Obviously, I brought my oils with me, so I was prepared with a brand new bottle of Lavender in case a sunburn happened. As it turns out, we definitely needed it and used almost the entire bottle!

I had also packed an aloe vera gel that I had bought from a health food store. Most aloe vera gels in stores have alcohol as their primary ingredient along with a long list of other sketchy ingredients that are hard to pronounce. The one I brought was 99% pure aloe with water and a few other natural ingredients.

Here's what I used to treat my sunburn - and within 24 hours it was no longer painful or pink, and by the end of the week had turned mostly to tan skin!



I would layer those 4 items over the burned areas in that order, topping off with coconut oil to seal in moisture. I reapplied every hour or so the first night, mostly because the peppermint felt so good against sunburned skin! If I had been at home, I would have treated the sunburn first with apple cider vinegar to help take the burn out even more! 

This felt so much better than just slathering on aloe vera gel from the drugstore that makes your sunburn feel worse after a few minutes of relief because it is robbing your skin of moisture. Sunburned skin will become very dry and start to flake anyway, so it's very important to keep it moisturized! Hope this helps you get prepared for the sunny summer days ahead! 

BTW - It's best to avoid sunburn at all, so use this DIY sunscreen recipe and wear a hat and know when to get out of the sun! 

If you are interested in using Young Living Essential Oils to help you eliminate and replace toxic products in your home, and have safe natural alternative remedies, please leave a comment or message me on Facebook, or email me at hbshanks@gmail.com. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

DIY Sunscreen - Really!

Hopefully you have heard by now that most chemical sunscreens found in stores are loaded with chemicals that are toxic to the human body. Sun exposure is a tricky thing, because too much is obviously not good for us. The body has been given a mechanism to tell us when to get out of the sun, because our skin starts to burn after awhile. A little bit of sun exposure is actually really good for us, because our body knows how to convert cholesterol in our skin into vitamin D3, which is a vitamin we all probably need more of in naturally occuring forms like sunshine and food. 

However, we all know that there are times when we will be in the sun all day, whether it's a vacation on a sunny beach, bright days on a ski slope, or a day full of outdoor activities in the summer, there are times when we know we will exceed the limits of "responsible sun exposure" and be in the sun most of the day (willfully or not!). On those days, we need some form of sun block. 

But what to do if you're committed (like me) to not using any toxic chemicals on your skin? 

I have a solution!

I know all these natural homemade things make people super skeptical - for good reason. We don't want to trade something out if it isn't gonna work. However, I have personally tried the following recipe while we were in Jamaica a few weeks ago, and it really does work! 


  • I used an old empty lotion bottle about 8oz, 
  • and filled it with roughly 1 cup melted coconut oil
    (which I melted with my hair dryer. classy, right?)
  • and then I dropped the whole 5ml bottle of carrot seed oil (about 85 drops) into the container, 
  • and added 20 drops of lavender, and then shook well to mix. Ta-da!
Coconut oil melts at 76 degrees, so if it hardened in our hotel room I just set the bottle outside for a few minutes and it liquefied so I could use it.

I purchased a natural sunscreen with zinc oxide in it at a health food store, because I didn't want to mess with mixing the zinc in and wearing a mask, etc. I would put a few swipes of the zinc sunscreen on the most exposed areas (shoulders, face, ears, etc), and then use my homemade sunscreen all over. I feel like using the Carrot-Coconut oil sunscreen helped thin out and spread the zinc (which is extremely hard and gross to rub in!) over my skin much easier. 

When you use this sunscreen, you have to remember to reapply! As usual with oils, early and often is the key! Apply at least 15 mins before sun exposure, and reapply every 1-2 hours, or after being in water.

 The only time I got burned in Jamaica was when it was a cloudy afternoon, and I was naive and thought that I wouldn't get burned if it was overcast. So I didn't reapply sunscreen for about 4 hours, and got nice and pink on my legs, stomach, shoulders, and nose.  I'll share what I did about that sunburn in another post on another day! 


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

One Love - Jamaica 2014

We were so thankful to be able to spend a few days in Jamaica in May! We used my husband's airline points (perks of traveling for work frequently!) to book flights and found an all inclusive resort called the Royalton White Sands near Montego Bay, so there really wasn't a whole lot of planning involved! Neither one of us really had the time to spend hours researching and planning a trip, 
so we went the easy way! 

Come to find out, the Royalton is located in Falmouth, Jamaica, which is the same town that Olympic runner Usain Bolt is from. All the Jamaicans we met were seriously in love with him. Truly...one guy we met named "Corn Flake" (also true) literally said "I love that man!" They absolutely love that he has become so successful and they are so proud of him! We saw the school he attended and track where he learned to run from the highway on the way from the airport. Pretty cool stuff. 

We booked an "Ocean View" room, but as it turns out the rooms with the best views actually face the pool at this resort. We technically could see the ocean from our view, but it was definitely mostly trees and the service road behind the hotel. Not a big deal, because we really did not come to spend time sitting on the balcony. There were plenty of other nice places to sit and hang out on the resort property. 

At the beach, there was a cute little "island" that you could walk to. The beach had tons of little "umbrellas" and chairs, so even though there were hundreds of people at the resort, there was almost always a beach chair available. 

However, guests at the resort would come out to the beach super early and try to put towels in chairs to "claim" them, but not come back for hours. Pretty soon we didn't feel so bad about throwing their towels on a different chair and taking the empty chairs we wanted. We never had a problem or awkward encounter. 


 The beach is where we hung out most of the week. I much preferred the breeze and the shade at the beach to what was available at the pools. The ocean was so warm and calm - we were able to walk out all the way to the resort's boundary and were only to our shoulders. It felt like bath water, and the waves were really gentle so it was super fun to play and swim at the beach! It was a beautiful turquoise color, and if the wind was calm, the water was super clear. Absolutely loved it!


There were 3 different pools, plus a kids pool with water slides at the resort. The pool was incredibly difficult to find an open chair with any shade, which is why we stayed at the beach for the most part. At the pools, the resort's entertainment team would play music and try to get resort guests to play games and have dance parties, etc. They did a pretty good job at engaging the people who cared and providing background noise to the rest of us. And Loren got in on some of the pool volleyball games. :-)




We were forewarned that there is a lot of poverty in Jamaica, and that there would be lots of people who try to sell you their trinkets, or drugs. It didn't take us long at all to see the poverty on the island, and our first night at the resort, we walked down to the beach and immediately realized that there were merchants on either side of the resort property who would walk up and down the beach every day trying to entice people to go down to their little shacks and buy their...stuff. We quickly realized that they would stay away if you would either avoid eye contact or firmly tell them no. But it was kind of eye opening and sad to see the same people standing out in the sun all day every day trying to sell their goods and walking up and down the same stretch of beach. 

We're not sure where they came from, but there were a handful of dogs who probably belonged to the beach merchants who would hang out on the beach and come visit people during the day. One day while we were hanging out under an umbrella, we noticed one of the dogs looked like she was hot, so we poured some water into a cup and gave her a drink. :-) 





So cute. We had made a friend until a girl a few yards down opened up a bag of cheetos. 

 There was a ping pong table and Loren played with a little boy one morning. lol

The weather was pretty good, considering we went the week before hurricane season starts! Our first day was cloudy, and we got sunburned, of course. All the other days were bright, sunny, and very warm, and windy.  Each day, around 4pm, it would cloud up and start raining. Our last day there, it started raining while we were in the pool, but we decided to stay in. That was fun for about 10 minutes until the rain started coming down so hard we couldn't see. We grabbed our stuff and took cover under the nearest building, and then ran for our lives back to our room because it was not letting up any time soon! It rained most afternoons for an hour or two, but it really wasn't bad at all. And it was beautiful!



The resort truly was beautiful. This was our view walking from our room to the elevator, and every time I passed by I would stop and admire the view. This was right after the rainstorm, but the sky was already bright again after just a few minutes. 


Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures of us at the restaurants, but the food was pretty good for an all-inclusive resort! We knew what to expect since we had been to all-inclusives before. I would say the Royalton had average food, and I was grateful that I could pretty much always find something relatively healthy to eat. Breakfast was always buffet, but they had tons of options including a smoothie bar and an omelet station, which we took advantage of every day. 

There was also an Italian restaurant, a steakhouse, a sports bar, and a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant where they cooked the food in front of you. We tried all of them and ate at the Japanese place twice because it was sooo good. Definitely the best food in the whole place! And the fried ice cream was delish. Both times that we ate at the Japanese place, we got to talking with the couples next to us and had a great time getting to know them. One sweet couple had just gotten married the week before (a double wedding with the bride's sister!), and we ended up hanging out and talking with them a few times for a couple of hours! It was sweet to be able to encourage a new young couple and share even a tiny bit of our lives with them while we were there. 

View of the Japanese restaurant from the outside. It was surrounded by a beautiful pool of water in the middle of the resort property. 

One of our favorite things about this resort was that they had a little coffee bar that was always open during the day. They served Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and had a legit espresso machine where they would make cappucinos, mochas, lattes, americanos, etc. 
No surprise here, but we stopped by this place probably four times a day! We figured since we don't drink alcohol, we could at least kind of make up for it by our coffee consumption! 







Our attempts at selfies outside the coffee shop. 


Every night there was some sort of entertainment for resort guests. Usually it was kind of typical lackluster song/dance, but one of the nights they had a steel drum band that was awesome and so talented! They were seriously the best of the whole week! 



It was so nice to be able to get away for a few days and just spend time together and relax, read, play, and have fun. We seriously did the same thing every day for four days straight, and we were sad to have to leave and come back to reality! But we did come back refreshed and thankful to have had the opportunity to go somewhere so beautiful and nice!














We've been back about 10 days, and the Bob Marley songs in my head have finally died down a little bit, but we still have great memories of our time on the island! Jamaica is charming in its own little way, and we had an awesome week there!

Thanks for reading, friends!