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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Online Piano Lessons From Hoffman Academy

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are 100% my own, and I have loved using their piano lessons with my own children.

I have always wanted my children to take piano lessons. I took them for many years, and I think there are so many benefits to learning an instrument. A couple of years ago, I was fortunate to learn about Hoffman Academy and my son had a blast taking their FREE piano lessons! If you are looking for a piano teacher, please meet one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Hoffman! 

Joseph Hoffman has always wanted one thing, for more people to be able to learn music and to love it while they're learning. He spent years developing his own comprehensive piano method based on research in early childhood education and great music teaching methods like Suzuki and Kodaly. After receiving his master's degree in music and founding a very successful music academy in Portland, Oregon, he wanted to find a way to teach music to children whose families might not be able to afford private music lessons, or who might live far away from a piano teacher.

Five years ago, Joseph and his wife Kelly came up with the idea to create piano video lessons and post them online, for free, so that anyone in the world could learn piano with the Hoffman Method. To support their project, they sold downloadable lesson materials, like sheet music and audio files, to accompany the video lessons. Mr. Hoffman's video lessons now have over 5 million views, with thousands of students watching lessons every day. But he's not done yet.

Right now, Mr. Hoffman has 120 piano video lessons online. He wants to double that number in the next 16 months, then continue to make more. His ultimate goal is to make Hoffman Academy a complete piano learning program, so that a student who completes all the lessons would be ready to major in music at any university and become a professional musician. 

The Hoffman Academy team is also working on building a new, interactive, subscription-based website that will include music learning games and online progress tracking. Video lessons alone can't give personalized feedback, but the new Hoffman Academy will be able to guide students through developing their skills in rhythm, staff reading, music theory, and ear training, and make learning the piano even more fun and engaging.

In order to fund these projects, Mr. Hoffman is running a Kickstarter campaign through the month of February. Campaign backers can try out the new Hoffman Academy premium subscription for themselves at a great discount. Or, you can contribute to this campaign and fund a Hoffman Academy premium subscription scholarship for a child in need. Head on over and check it out!

Do you believe in music education for everyone? Visit their Kickstarter page to learn more and contribute to help make it happen!

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Swiss Army Knife of Essential Oils

I am a huge fan of using essential oils. They have been used for centuries, not just for their beautiful natural scent, but because they promote wellness so well. I love using them to support my wellness - from occasional neck and head tension to supporting my digestive track - they can even be used around the home as an air freshener or even a hand sanitizer.

Lavendar essential oil is one of my absolute favorites, because it is one of the safest oils and has a lovely light scent. Lavendar oil is one of the first essential oils I ever used, and I have been hooked since. I call it the "Swiss Army Knife of Essential Oils" because I can use this little treasure in so many ways and with everyone in my family - from my 1 year old to my hubby. In fact, I use lavender every day in my homemade facial moisturizer. I also love to use it diluted with coconut oil on my children's feet for calming.

 Lavender and Frankincense are two of my favorite skin oils!
First, let me just say that it is important to make sure you are using high quality, therapeutic-grade oils that are in a dark glass container to keep the light from affecting them. Since it is a huge priority to me to only put the highest quality products in and on my body, I get my oils from Young Living.

Did you know almost every oil is a fragrant/cosmetic/perfume grade essential oil, which means they are filled with chemicals/toxins/synthetics/fillers - they can actually do more harm than good. BUT the average consumer doesn't know this and companies can write "pure, 100%, natural" on the bottle if 3-5% of the bottle is pure. This is why I prefer Young Living oils - I can trust them. When I use Young Living, I know I am getting the purest essential oil in that bottle, nothing more. No additives, no synthetics, just pure, essential oil goodness. In fact, they have a Seed to Seal Guarantee that is unmatched by any competitor. That is why they work so well.

 Here are two pictures from the Young Living St. Marie farm in ID. You can even go visit YL farms yourself and check out how your oils are made!

Lavender is so versatile and so very gentle that it can be used by almost anyone. Although it is very gentle on most people, make sure you use caution when applying oils. I always dilute them with a carrier oil like coconut oil or sweet almond oil.

Lavender has a sweet and calming scent, and I love to put a little on my neck as a natural fragrance (bonus: it helps me with occasional stress and tension).

Here are some other uses:
  • rub a drop on your palms and smooth on your pillow to support your sleep
  • mix a drop with coconut oil on dry or chapped skin
  • use 2-4 drops as deodorant
  • put a few drops on a wet cloth or wool dryer ball and throw it into the dryer to scent clothes, deodorize and freshen the laundry
  • mix with coconut oil to help soothe occasional skin irritations due to weather or activity
  • add a few drops to Epsom salts to relax and unwind
Lavendar EO is a great place to start if you are new to essential oils. If you are an old pro, this oil is probably one of your favorites. If you are curious about oils or have any questions, comment below and I will do my best to help you! Also check out my Essential Oil Q + A: How and Why to Use Them.

If you have any other great ways you use essential oils, please share them!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Paleo/Primal In 5 Ingredients or Less!

Who else scans their cookbooks and recipes, skipping over the meals with super long lists of ingredients?

Maybe it is just me, but I don't have time for extra grocery trips to pick up unheard-of ingredients that I don't usually use. I like simple. I like delicious. I like easy. Which is why I am doing a lot of my cooking out this awesome new cookbook I just received for review, Paleo/Primal in 5 Ingredients or Less.

In this new book, Bestselling author Dana Carpender helps readers remove the processed convenience foods like frozen entrees and takeout, but still make healthy, fast, easy meals that everyone loves. Dana gives the modern caveman 200 recipes that can be made from 5 or fewer ingredients. All recipes are also sugar-free, grain-free, and gluten-free. Yay!!

One of my favorite recipes is for their Basic Stir-Fry Sauce. This one is so versatile. I feel I am always stir-frying veggies, chicken, shrimp or whatever I have on hand, so this is great to have waiting in my refrigerator.

Basic Stir-Fry Sauce

1 cup coconut aminos
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
2 tsp dark sesame oil

In a bowl, just mix it all together and store in a tightly lidded container in the fridge. Then you will already have it ready for a super quick dinner. 

I have to share one more recipe that you will love. It is unbelievably easy, but tastes so good you will be begging for more.

Roast Chicken with Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

2 lbs chicken pieces (thighs or whatever you would like)
Ground black pepper
1 clove of garlic
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup coconut milk or heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Season the chicken with salt and pepper all over and arrange it in a metal baking pan. Roast the chicken until it is done, about an hour or less depending on how big your chicken pieces are. 

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chicken to a platter. Pour the excess grease off the drippings and put the pan over a low burner. 

Crush the garlic and stir it around for just a minute. Now add the tomatoes and coconut milk. Stir the mixture, scraping up all the nice brown stuff, dissolving it into the sauce. 

Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes until it thickens up a bit and then serve over the chicken. You can add some riced cauliflower for a delicious meal. 

Now, who wants their own book? We are giving away (2) copies of Paleo/Primal in 5 Ingredients or Less. Enter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was given a cookbook to review. No other compensation was given. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Crunchmaster Giveaway

I have been a long-time fan of Crunchmaster. Our family eats gluten free for many reasons, and these crackers have been a family favorite because of their delicious varieties, super crunchiness and quality. Besides being gluten free, these crackers are packed with pure, U.S. grown rice, sesame, quinoa, flax and amaranth seeds and other natural ingredients – all baked to a light, crispy perfection. They are low in sodium and saturated fat, and contain no trans fat or cholesterol. Crunchmaster crackers are a great alternative to processed wheat crackers!

We are planning our annual New Years Eve party, and I knew Crunchmaster was definitely on our list of must-haves. These crackers have all the crunch and taste without all the GMOs and gluten. With varieties like Rosemary and Olive Oil, Roasted Garlic, Sea Salt, and Roasted Vegetable, you will love the real flavor in these crackers. Pair them with some raw, grass fed cheese or fresh shrimp. Perfect party food!

Want to try some? Look for them at your local grocery stores or enter our giveaway below.

(1) Winner will receive (6) Crunchmaster products of their choice!

Enter to win below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received product to try out. No other compensation was given. All opinions expressed are 100% my own. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Happy New Year From Us

15 Fun Facts About 2015 With the Nitz Family
1.     Our sweet baby Ashton Benaiah was born at home on January 6th. If you are interested in the whole story: click here. He came a whopping 3 weeks past the due date, but that was no surprise to us. He is just as stubborn as his siblings.  Now he is walking and chatting up a storm.
2.    We had a great trip to the Black Hills – seeing Wind Cave, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Needles Highway, Bear Country, Spearfish Canyon. We also had fun panning for gold, hiking Harney Peak (Malachi, Ashton, Adam and I), getting close enough to buffalo to touch them, and playing with Biebert family that went along.
3.    Besides hiking Harney Peak all by himself, Malachi has had a lot of fun stuff going on this year. As a second grader, he is learning more responsibility. He has a hard time concentrating on other things when he could be reading a book or throwing a football, so we are working on being responsible about homework and picking up after himself. He loves his Green Bay Packers, his family, and his Savior. 
4.    Kailana has been enjoying doing preschool at home with mommy. She is just like a mini-me! From teaching fitness classes to her dollies and sister, Brynn, to taking care of little brother, Ashton, like he is her own, she sure is a little mommy already. She CANNOT wait to get to Kindergarten next year, but I cannot even imagine my days without her.
5.    Brynn brings a lot of laughter and drama with her wherever she goes. While she still seems to carry that Terrible 2 attitude around with her, she also has a very hilarious side. She sure knows how to make us laugh. She also started a new Sunday School class that she can attend without her mommy, but she still requests I stay with her, which is just fine by me!
6.    We had a huge garden and an especially large amount of pumpkins! The kids helped out a little more with the picking and weeding, and they were overjoyed to see how much food came from just tiny seeds.
7.    We were able to take another longer trip as a family to visit Grandma and Grandpa Nitz in Nebraska. It was nice to see cousins and family there, while we celebrated the 4th of July. 
8.    Adam and I had the police pull us over in our own yard. Turns out, our neighbors called the police on us for walking in our own yard. Scandalous! 
9.    We started having a family coloring night once a week. The kids love doing their very best and it is very relaxing – that is, when Ashton isn’t eating crayons, ripping up someone’s paper, or screaming. 
10.  Adam is still working like a mad man. He gets up very early each day to write his second book, I Was There When Jonah Was Lost. Then he works 11-12 hour days as a plumber. On top of all that, he has to deal with me. Ha! Biggest job of all!
11.  Adam and I, along with my sister Marissa and her husband Josh went to the TobyMac concert last month. It was awesome energy and music!
12.  I had a blast planning the 4th annual Biebert Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt. We did a photo scavenger hunt, with a few more ideas on ways we could serve others. Needless to say, we were writing down a lot of encouraging notes as fast as possible. 
13.  I have been continuing work as a personal trainer at the Maplewood Community Center, working in my several health and wellness businesses, and just began as the social media director for Attention Era Media. They are all things I love, so it is a balance being a full-time mommy and doing extra things. 
14.  One of our favorite places is…surprise, surprise…the library! I take the girls and Ashton there every week for story time and to pick out books for the whole family. We got a new children’s librarian this year, so there were a few tears shed when Miss Tammi went to a different library.

15.  The girls are now sharing a room. They chat into who knows what time of night, but I know these are memories they will always treasure.
Happy New Year to all of you! We wish you many blessings and many wonderful moments in 2016!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gift Ideas for Foodies

I consider myself a bit of a foodie. I mean, I love food. I love specialty food that is hand-crafted. I love trying new foods, especially when they are good for you. I love interesting flavor combinations and finding tasty treats you can’t just pick up at your local grocery store.

Know anybody like that? If you do, I have the perfect gifts that will have them singing your praises and, if you are lucky, sharing a bit with you.

I am a bit of a raw honey freak. I love the health benefits, how it is made, all the ways you can spice it up, and the many ways to use it.

Foodies love raw honey. Trust me. Bee in Your Bonnet Infused Honey has some incredible honey varieties including: Aged Balsamic Infused Wildflower Honey, Ghost Chilli Infused Honey, Ginger Snap Infused Honey and more. Their delicious honey is so special because it is made from the best! They use the highest-quality pure raw wildflower honey - sourced from independent beekeepers in their own Southern Appalachian region, and infused with the rich, lovely flavors of a select variety of 100% organic herbs and spices.

I personally love their Ginger Snap Infused, Cinnamon Infused, Harvest Spice, and Vanilla Bean varieties. Their honey is pure and simple. I love that they let nature speak for itself. And it sure does. These are delicious, even by the spoonful. :-)

Manuka honey lovers, raise your hand! PRI Manuka honey is some of the best! Not only is it delicious, but it has many healing properties. PRI brings us the highest quality manuka honey in all kinds of delicious products such as: Dark Chocolate with Manuka Honey, Manuka Honey Nuggets, Manuka Honey Lozenges, and so much more.
I love all of these products. When I was introduced to PRI manuka honey, I became an immediate fan. You can notice the difference immediately. I use PRI manuka honey in my homemade immune booster tonic, for healthy treats, and in homemade throat drops.

PRI also makes one of my favorite kitchen must-haves: sea salt. Sea salt has become quite popular lately, because it is such a great way to get trace minerals into your diet and makes food so much more flavorful.

Sea salt derived from solar evaporation of sea water is completely different from modern, refined salt which is primarily sodium chloride that’s been kiln-dried – a process that involves scorching salt at high temperatures in order to remove moisture and impurities in the ocean water. Unfortunately, it’s also a process that also removes trace minerals as well as calcium, magnesium and potassium salts. The result: a salt that’s been “refined” to within an inch of its life and is instead as far removed from nature as it is damaging to the human body – therefore making a switch to Pacific Sea Salt a natural choice in every sense of the word. PRI sea salts are fantastic for any type of cooking. They offer fine salt, which I love to sprinkle over homemade popcorn. I also love their flaky salt, which is great for soups, meat and fish. Then, of course, you have to try their mesquite smoked, which is made using their secret Louisiana family smoked process. We love that on our scrambled eggs!

For a specialty holiday treat, I love Bakery on Main’s Nut Crunch Snacks. Although these may appear to be another granola mix, this is actually a mix of cashews, almonds, pecans and walnuts, certified gluten-free oats, and sweet fruit bits or chocolate. Certified gluten free (GFCO), Non-GMO Project Verified, dairy and casein free, these tasty snacks are better-for-you, made without artificial flavors or preservatives, low in sodium, and free of trans fat and cholesterol. They are handy to take with you, so you always have a filling snack on hand.  
The Peppermint Chocolate Nut Crunch Snacks are the perfect stocking stuffer for foodies. They have a lovely hint of peppermint and the perfect amount of chocolate, plus they are very satisfying with all that protein and good fat.

Coffee! So many foodies love their specialty coffee. Peet’s Holiday Blend is a favorite in our house.  Peet’s has this yearly tradition to make a special blend of the best beans from each year. This year’s special blend is a spicy, rich and satisfying blend, slightly bittersweet balanced by notes of ripe fruit to create a smooth and full bodied- finish; perfectly suited for the season.
If you want to learn all about what they put in their special blend, read more about the 2015 Holiday blend. It is quite interesting how they pick and choose the best of the best.

Are you a foodie? What is your favorite foodie find?

I received products to try out. No other compensation was given.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Healthier Holiday Snacking and Giveaway

We are in the danger season. From about mid-October through New Years, there tends to be a LOT more snacking, more sugar, and unhealthy foods at work, at home, at parties. You know what I am talking about. How can you turn down all those tasty holiday treats?

One tip I love is to have lots of healthy alternatives available and make sure you are not hungry before you go places full of temptation. Snack on something healthy this season with some of the delicious products below that I was generously sent to try out for myself.

Crunchies Natural Food Company and its delicious line of freeze-dried fruit adds a nutrient boost to your snacking. Unlike traditional dried products, Crunchies’ freeze-drying method preserves the nutritional value of fresh fruit while delivering a satisfying crunch.

What I love most about Crunchies is that they have so many more varieties than most freeze dried fruit products I have tried. My family loves their grapes, mango, blueberries and cinnamon apple. All Crunchies products have just one ingredient – fruit. Gotta love that!

As a mom of four, I always try to keep a Happy Family package or two in my purse. One of the kids is always hungry, and these make delicious, organic, healthy snacks or additions to less healthy meals you might be faced with around the holidays. We especially love their Coconut Creamies, Love My Veggies, Happy Tot Plus, Happy Squeeze and Fruit and Veggie Crisps. Between my four children, Happy Family has products for everyone. They are also perfect for paleo, gluten-free, or other allergy sensitive families.
From my seven year old all the way down to my 10 month old, these were a huge hit!
My kids think these snacks are super cool and fun. I think they are super healthy and provide just the kind of nutrition I want my kids to have. Plus their handy packaging makes snacking a little less messy for all of us! Find Happy Family products at Target stores and other retailers near you.
If you are looking for a bit of indulgence without the unhealthy aspect, you have got to try Big Slice snack pouches. These are like adult sophisticated applesauce, but so much more. Their fruit combinations, like Blueberry Pomegranate, Cherry Vanilla and Lemon Berry, are just divine. That's because they slowly cook fresh slices of GMO-free, USA-grown apples until they transform into thick juicy chunks. Then they mix in pure whole fruits and superfoods, resulting in a delicious, healthy snack that provides protein, fiber, and energy.
You have 16 luxurious flavors to choose from, all of which are around 100 calories per pouch. As much as I would have liked to keep these all for myself, the moment my kids spotted them, they were begging to try them.I do not know who loves them more - the kids or me?

Now you can try them too!
 We are giving away an awesome Big Slice package which consists of 12 sample pouches, assorted flavors, Big Slice Tumbler, and Spork. ($50 value) Enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to all the companies for their delicious products for review. All opinions are my own. No other compensation was given.