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Monday, November 30, 2015

Essential Oil Q + A: How and Why To Use Them

While I have had a long standing, loving relationship with essential oils as you can see here, here and especially here, I had been using them without a huge amount of expertise and only as situations arose that I needed them.

Several weeks ago, Audra Bassett, my wonderful friend with a lot more know-how about oils that I have, wondered if I might be interested in learning more about essential oils and using them on a more regular basis. Learn more about something natural and healthy? Of course!

She sent me this fabulous book, The Essential Oil Truth - The Facts Without the Hype by Jen O'Sullivan, which I read in about a day or two and then re-read several times after. From there, I started using oils and oil blends daily with my whole family. I am super excited to share what I have learned with YOU!

I am going to be doing a three-part essential oils series. Today is the first part, answering your questions about how and why to use them.

Let's get started:

Question #1 - Why would I use essential oils?

I could give you about a million reasons. The biggest and best is because we are in a bit of a health crisis in our country. Much of that is due to unhealthy lifestyles, scary ingredients in the majority of products sold, and people being handed out quick fixes that mask the problem. Symptoms are our bodies way of telling us there is something wrong. When we try to get rid of them with a quick chemical fix that has a slew of side effects, instead of dealing with what is really wrong with our bodies, it often just gets worse and worse.

Oils are different. They are natural - from plants. They are safe. They are effective. And they smell sooooo good. As a mom of four with a lot of responsibilities, I feel comfortable using oils to help myself, my hubby and my children stay healthy.

Question #2 - What are essential oils? Are they safe?

An essential oil is a liquid that is generally distilled from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots, or other elements of a plant. Essential oils are the life-force of the plant, much like our blood. They are highly concentrated, and you only need a little to go a long way. They have been used for centuries, not just for their beautiful natural scent, but for their antibacterial healing properties as well. I love using them for anything from headaches to stomachaches, from an air purifier to hand sanitizer.

They are safe when used properly for people and animals. I recommend that you always start out with a very small amount along with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or olive oil. Apply a bit to your skin and see how your body reacts. Always do your own research and be responsible. I do not personally ingest essential oils, but if you do, MAKE SURE you use only the very best quality and be very informed about that choice.

Basically, essential oils are natural and very very safe, especially when compared to the alternatives - pharmaceuticals, prescription drugs, etc. But again, I cannot stress this enough - make sure you use only the very best quality.

Questions #3 - How do you use essential oils safely?

See my note on how to use them safely in the above question. But to expand on that, let me share with you the ways I use them. Here is a different post I wrote sharing how I use essential oils.

Oils can be used in three different methods: topically, aromatically, and internally.

Topically - This is applying the oil onto our skin. Oils can either be applied undiluted (neat), or with a carrier oil (which slows absorption). Always follow the directions on the label, and when in doubt, dilute. If any burning occurs or you get it in your eyes, never try to was it away with water. Oil and water don’t mix! “Wash” it off by adding more carrier oil.

Aromatherapy - This is inhalation of the oils. You can use a diffuser (pictured below), place your head over a steaming bowl of water with a few drops added, or directly inhale from your hands or the bottle. When doing so, you trigger aromareceptors, triggering chemical responses in the body.

Internally - This is through direct absorption of the digestive tract. Like I said before, I personally choose not to do this one. I may try it once in a great while, but have not decided to do that at the present time. Surely do NOT ingest any oil that does not say that it can be used as a dietary supplement right on the label. Again, do your own research and make informed decisions. Make sure you know where your oils are grown and how they are handled all the way to the bottle.

Question #4 - Which brand is the best? Why?

I have tried out many brands and you have probably seen me talk about them on my blog throughout the past 7 years. There is one company that I have used throughout my entire time using essential oils - Young Living. They were my first love, and after looking very, very closely at the differences between essential oil companies, I am now ready to say they are my only love.

Let me share with you why.

Did you know that you only need 5% pure essential oil in a bottle to claim it is 100% pure? Unfortunately, that is totally true. So while the labels on that grocery store brand may spout they are "100% pure" it is not what you are expecting in that bottle. Typically it's a little essential oil, and up to 95% additives, fillers, and synthetics - things that will lower the price and quality and result in you needing to use more, or worse, having a reaction to the "other 95%" they added to that bottle. You may notice the other labels say "for inhalation or aromatherapy use only". This means you shouldn't even put those brands on your skin. Some other brands will smell good and work wonders for your needs, but personally, I choose the brand that goes beyond smelling good, and has been tested for use beyond aromatherapy.

Just like I choose high-quality, organic nourishing foods for my body, I want to choose high-quality, organic nourishing oils for my body. I like to know as much about things that go on, in or around my body as I possibly can. My tips for you when choosing essential oils are:
  • know where the company grows their crops
  • know what they use to fertilize and treat the crops
  • know their harvest process
  • know their distillation process
  • know EXACTLY what they are putting in that bottle

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.

P.S. Did you know you can even go to Young Living's farms and help plant, harvest and distill crops? Yup, you can watch and be a part of the ENTIRE process. I think that just rocks!

Not all brands are created equal, and it is up to individuals to determine what is best for their family based on the research they are aware of. Do your research, no matter which oils you choose, make sure you know exactly what is in that bottle and be confident in using it on yourself and your family.

Let me know if I can answer more of your questions or guide you in your essential oil journey. I am here to help! If you would like to be added to a free, educational resource full of people sharing how they use oils, ask to join the Apothecary Society. It is one of my favorite places to go to get ideas about how others are using their oils and what they love about them. Everyone is so positive and helpful. I just love it! (And no, nobody will be trying to sell you anything!) You can tell them that I (Cara Nitz) sent you over.

Next post, I will be talking about how oils have helped me when I am suffering from stress and headaches. Stay tuned...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Aurorae Resistance Bands Set Giveaway

Who has ever used resistance bands? I love them for a variety of reasons:
  • They are great for strength training and stretching
  • They are affordable and allow you to do a variety of at-home exercises
  • Anybody of any fitness level can get a good workout from using them
  • They are easy to take with you on trips or vacations, so you can workout from anywhere
Aurorae, an active lifestyle e-retailer that is a long-time favorite of mine, recently sent me their awesome resistance bands set.  It is a very complete set that comes with padded handles, a door anchor, am ankle strap, a detailed guide book and a carrying case.

Each band is a different resistance, so you can use them for many different muscle groups and use harder ones as you get stronger.  

Yellow 2-4 lbs., Blue 4-6 lbs., Green 10-12 lbs., Black 15-20 lbs., Red 25-30 lbs

 One way you can use them is by attaching the handles to the bands with a very easy click attachment. With this, you can do all kinds of exercises: squats, rows, chest presses, tricep extensions and bicep curls, which I am doing by standing on the center of the band and pulling upwards with my palms facing the ceiling, seen below.

 If you want to try the ankle strap, then just quickly click the handle strap off and click the ankle strap on.
 You can attach the other side of the band to a door with the door anchor. From there you can have fun doing all kinds of exercises such as: leg extensions, leg abductions and adductions, and so much more.
 Now, do you see why I love resistance bands? These Aurorae bands are super durable, very easy to use and come with a how-to guide and carrying case to get you started on your workouts immediately. Plus, they come with a lifetime guarantee! Cannot beat that!

We are sharing the exercise fun! (1) Lucky reader will win (1) Aurorae Resistance Bands Set! Enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Aurorae for their product for review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are mine. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Waste-Free, Plastic-Free, Healthy Lunch Time

If you had an easy solution to cut down on waste in a big way, eliminate plastic and BPA from your lunches, save money and eat healthier, I bet you would jump right on that!

Lets transform your lunch to do all those things! Instead of grabbing fast food from the nearest restaurant, how about saving some money and making your own. How about instead of wasting plastic bags full of chemicals, using reusable, completely safe stainless steel storage containers?

I am loving my new Seal Cup Trio sent over by ECOLunchbox. It is the perfect container set for packing three different items, keeping the foods separate, stopping all leaks, and keeping chemicals out of your healthy food.

Not only are they great for your child to take to school, but they are adult enough for you to use at work!

My son loves taking homemade applesauce to school. Finally, we have a container that will not leak all those delicious juices!
Try bringing your leftovers from dinner last night as your lunch for today. I love grilled salmon and some raw veggies. The cooked salmon is even good cold!
Here are a few more delicious ideas for healthy lunches that will save you money, keep our planet healthier and happier, and fuel your body properly for a great day!


Thanks to ECOLunchbox for their product to try out. No other compensation was given.

Friday, November 13, 2015

6 Ideas to Rejuvenate Your Marriage When You Have Young Children

Marriage...I remember the days my hubby and I used to go out on dates whenever we felt like it. Romance was in the air. We made out like teenagers. Fast forward four kids later, and the picture is quite different. In fact, we are in desperate need of a relationship makeover.

If you can relate and are committed to taking steps to improve your relationship, you will love the ideas I am sharing today. While I am no expert in marriage, I am on my own personal journey to rekindle my relationship with my hubby and get some romance back in our marriage.

1. First things first. Get interested in your spouse again. What makes them tick? What are they struggling with in life right now? What excites them? What means the most to them? Interests? Hobbies? You get my point. Get a degree in learning about your spouse - maybe you need to start with just a grade school diploma in learning about your spouse or maybe you are already at the college level. No matter how much you know, you can always learn more.

2. Know their love language. This is one thing you will hopefully learn from #1. What is a love language? It is how someone most feels loved. My personal love language is kind of a tie between quality time and gifts. My husband's love language is words of affirmation. Often, we love others with our own love language, because we know it makes us feel special. But, when you learn to speak your spouse's love language, it can have a much greater impact on helping them feel special. I can speak from experience on this one. When my hubby and I learned each others' love language, it was a game-changer.

3. Date night in. When you have little kids, it costs a lot to have a date night out. Not only does it cost a lot of money, it costs a lot of stress. If you are still breastfeeding, like I am, then it can really become a pain in the butt. I know it is not nearly as fun as getting out of the house and away from any chance of kid interruptions, but sometimes it is a necessity. When you do not have access to many babysitters or do not have the funds, you can still have a fun date night in. This weekend, I am going to attempt this. Here are a few ideas I am using this weekend:

  • waiting until after the kids go to bed to have my hubby's favorite dinner: pizza. Recently, Smart Flour Foods sent me their new pizza varieties. We are excited to try them this weekend! These are not your average frozen pizzas either. Made with an ancient-grain based crust and certified gluten free, each pizza is free of preservatives and artificial ingredients, made with real mozzarella and provolone cheese that is free of rGBH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone), and topped with hand-selected uncured meats that are free of nitrites and nitrates. It is always a bonus when your splurge is a healthier splurge.
  • feed each other - sounds weird. I am an adult. I can feed myself. But let's try it. It might be romantic, or at least funny.
  • grab a blanket and head to the backyard for some stargazing and...maybe some other fun.
  • color together. We do this as a family, but you could do it with just your spouse. Plenty of time for good conversation and a great way to relieve stress.
4. Kiss each other even when you do not feel like it. Okay, mommies, so you have been tugged on, pinched, kissed and hugged by your kids all day. You may not want anywhere near you at all. While we do need some space and time alone, your husband will love it if you just lay one on him. And I mean, love it! You may not feel it right away, but maybe as you start kissing, you won't want to stop. :-)

5. Forgive as you would like to be forgiven. Yes, I know it is hard to move past the fact that your spouse just did that thing you hate for the 4,000th time. I know it is easy to say I would never do that. But, we do. We do annoy our spouses. We say and do things that really hurt them. We are selfish. We hurt them intentionally and unintentionally. And we can't move past these things if we are not forgiven. Marriage will crumble without forgiveness by each person. Love as you want to be loved.

6. Love your spouse as much as or more than you love your kids.  Check out the post, Do You Love Your Kids More than Your Husband, for more thoughts on this critical one.

That is just the beginning. What are your ideas for keeping your marriage a priority with all those littles running around?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Add Spice To Your Life With Drew's

I love spice. I add turmeric, sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salsa to our scrambled eggs, all kinds of different spices and herbs to my fish and salads, and love to get lots of spice into meat dishes, soups and pretty much everything I cook. Here are four spices to start using now.

If you are a newbie to using spices, short on time, or just want some inspiration for creating your own combos, I recommend using a great salsa or dressing as a marinade, on eggs, with fish, or to add a kick of flavor to your favorite dishes. One of my favorite companies, Drew's, can provide you with a new flavor experience with their unique flavors and huge variety.

They just recently sent me some of their delicious organic salsas and dressings to try out for myself. Boy, was I excited to try them out! I love adding their pineapple and mango salsas to chicken and veggies. It makes the dish absolutely mouth-watering! Their chipotle lime salsa is perfect for dipping. And their double fire roasted salsa is great over scrambled eggs. Is your mouth watering yet?

I also love their dressings. Not only do they make a great greens salad even more tasty, but they are great as a marinade. My favorites are Italian, Balsamic and Asian Ginger. Each one adds a very juicy, delicious flavor to chicken, fish or veggies.

The best part? All Drew's products are now non-GMO project verified! They have an entire line of organic products, which I absolutely love. Find them at your nearest grocery store!

Great news! We are offering a super fun giveaway for you today! (1) winner will receive (3) Drew's salsas of their choice and (3) dressings of their choice! How awesome is that? 
Enter below for your chance. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Drew's for their products for review. No other compensation was given.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Easy Tips for the Perfect School Lunch

School lunches. I personally think school provided lunches are out of control with the ick factor. Processed foods galore. Low in nutrition. High in pesticides. Full of gluten and dairy and sugar. No thank you.

What is a mom to do? Well, pack your child's lunch. It really doesn't have to be hard.

Check out these ideas for how to get started with a healthy easy lunch for your child or yourself!

There are many mornings, I do not want to go through the hassle of making my son's lunch. But, then I remember that it really only takes me about 3 or 4 minutes to make, and it will give him all the healthy nutrition he needs to have a great school day. Totally worth it.

Start off with making sure your child gets lots of good protein, vegetables and food that will give them energy and keep them sustained.

Here are some ideas to get your started:
  • hard boiled eggs
  • raw or cooked veggies like carrots, peas, broccoli and cauliflower
  • a piece of fruit or handful of dried fruit
  • fish - my son likes sardines or skipjack tuna
  • leftovers from dinner last night
  • celery, sunflower seed butter, and raisins
I depend a lot on nuts and seeds to give my son the nutrition he needs. Nuts and seeds are full of protein, healthy fats, and lots of other vitamins and minerals. We love SunRidge Farms for their fantastic trail mixes and huge variety of organic nuts and seeds. They offer so many great choices for healthy lunches, from their baking goods and spices to nut/seed butters and trail mixes. I am always looking forward to my packages from Sunridge Farms in the mail!

One of our favorites is the Organic Supreme Fruit and Nut Mix. It has a variety of all of your favorites, so you get even more nutrition packed in a handful of flavor.

Almonds, raisins, cranberries, peanuts, cashews, and dried apples. All organic, all delicious!
We also love to change things up by adding in organic pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, which are both full of vitamins and minerals your body needs!
What are your favorite lunches to pack? Any tips to share?

Thank you to Sunridge Farms for their products to try. No other compensation was given. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Better-For-You Halloween Treats

I received products to try out. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own.

Who wants a few better-for-you Halloween treats with ingredients that won’t make you scream? Thankfully, companies are listening to what we want for our families. Let me share a few products you can try out this Halloween.

Dandies are the first Non-GMO Project Verified marshmallows on the market. Indistinguishable from their conventional counterparts, these light and fluffy air-puffed balls of fun are made with all-natural ingredients and completely free of gelatin, artificial ingredients, and high fructose corn syrup. Dandies Marshmallows are also free of wheat, gluten and corn, and 100% vegan. I have not had a marshmallow in years, because there is no way I am consuming GMO sugary marshmallows. It is not worth it to me. But these Dandies marshmallows are a great, once-in-awhile treat for my family to roast over the fire or add to a fun recipe, like the picture above.

Instead of passing out candy, what if we passed out fruit to trick-or-treaters and our own children?

These bags of Healthy Munchy contain a low calorie (up to 90), filling serving of 100% fruit crispies, made from nothing but picked in season fresh Fuji apples, pineapples, or bananas that are freeze-dried using a technology that removes moisture but retains nutrients and yields a delicious crunchy texture. Unlike sugary snacks, there are absolutely no additives. Each bag is a great source of dietary fiber as well. There is no need for candy, when you can have a sweet treat that is actually good for you! And what fun packaging!

I see so many parents giving out fruits snacks to their children. The problem is - although they are marketed as fruit, many do not have any type of real fruit in them. Unlike other fruit snacks on the market, Go Organically is made with multiple real fruit purees that taste delicious. This new product is GMO free, gluten free, contains 100% DV vitamin C, is an excellent source of Vitamins A and E, and has a delicious taste and texture. At Go Organically, their mission is simple. They believe fruit snacks should be made with real fruit, and as such, source their ingredients from USDA certified organic fruit to offer you the best, most authentic, and delicious fruit snacks. These are another super easy idea for a treat to pass out to trick-or-treaters or as a treat for your own children.

Besides passing them out to neighborhood kids, here is another great idea. If your kids are going trick-or-treating, you might buy a couple of these products and trade them for the candy they picked up as they went door-to-door. They will love them!