Homemade Lip Balm

Several years ago, in a land far, far away when I was the mother to just one, I started playing around with making some of my own skincare products.  I've always loved experimenting in the kitchen, and found myself experimenting with oils and beeswax when the lip balm I'd been using non-stop for years stopped working.

It took a while and several experimental batches for me to come up with a combination of oils I liked.  Once I had settled on some oils, it also took a long time to determine the beeswax to oil ratio - trust me, this can be trickier than you'd think.  What often happened was that either the lip balm would feel great but it was too soft and I'd go through a tube in a few weeks.  Or, it was too hard, and didn't transfer well.  You need a balm that's hard enough to stay put, but that also has enough oil-to-beeswax ratio to melt at body temperature.

I eventually started selling the balms (along with other homemade skincare products - I've made everything from lotion to soap) and have quite the small following of lip balm users.  ;)

I recently made some minor adjustments to the oils I use.  The oil-to-wax concentrations are the same, but the oils I use are different.  I've been quite satisfied with the results.  Sorry, I'm not going to give you the recipe... BUT, I will share the ingredients.  ;)

I use 3 different fats - lard (yes, lard... it works wonders), 
sunflower oil and aloe oil.  It is advisable to use a solid, a 
semi-solid - in this case, aloe oil, though I have used coconut
oil in the past - and a liquid.

I melt the beeswax first, and then add in 
the melted oils.  I don't think its necessary, but
I usually wait to add the essential oil until after the 
beeswax and the oils have been mixed.  This morning,
I used spearmint.

And then, we pour.  As you can see, this can be messy.
I also fill my tubes in 2 pours.  There is not necessary, but
I've found that if I use one pour, there is typically a hole
in the top layer of the balm.  It is completely a visual thing
but I don't think it looks as professional with a hole in the top.

 A single-pour tube.

A double-pour tube.

The finished batch.  The two tubes near the bottom are the
"extras" that will be for personal use only.  As a doula, I like
to carry a quality tube of lip balm in my doula bag - I'm yet to
attend a labor where the mom did not need it.  So, I figure, make
a mass volume, and always have a few tubes on hand.  Hey, it is 
way less expensive than buying a tube of Burt's Bees!

The finished product (different batch).

So, in case you've ever wondered what making lip balm looks like, there you have it.  As you can see, it is quite a messy process, but clean up isn't too horrible.  As long as you don't let the lip balm in the measuring cup start to solidify, that is.  It is easiest to pour any excess into the trash can and then thoroughly wipe out any excess with a paper towel and then wash it by hand.

Much of the time, there is some spill on the outside of the tubes - this occurs during the 2nd pour.  I simply let it harden and then use a paper towel to clean the tubes off.  If there is still some residue, I go ahead and cap the tubes and use an all-natural, homemade cleaning solution and a paper towel to get any excess off before I add labels.

And this, friends, is a day in my home.  


Big Day!

Today was a big day in our house.  

Patrick and Erin were s.t.o.k.e.d. and kept asking if "its time to go yet".

What made today so special?  


One year ago, I never saw this one coming.

Today is the day I took my kids on a run!!! 

Prior to late March of last year, I had always assumed Patrick and Erin would learn the love of running from Daniel, but with about 10 months of running and a 1/2 marathon under my belt, it makes more sense that I should be the one to get them involved in running.  Besides, I can more easily work daytime runs into their schedule as part of our homeschooling curriculum.  :)

We all had a great time, and it was also a beautiful opportunity to get in 2 miles on a non-running day (in addition to the spinner workout I'll do in a little while)!  I look forward to taking them again - possibly later this week.  :)

Nuun for the kiddos post run.


Weight loss, healthy eating, 1/2 marathons & a recipe

Ever since I got pregnant with my first child, I have struggled with my weight.  For 6 years, I have bounced back and forth between being overweight and being a healthy weight.  

In February of last year, I hit my all-time peak weight.  I saw a picture of myself holding my newborn niece and realized that I looked more than just a little overweight.  I realized that months of stress-eating (I had post-partum anxiety disorder that set in when my youngest baby was about 6 months old -  thank the Lord, it is now gone!), had caught up to me and that I could not afford to gain more weight.  

In addition to simply being overweight and not liking the way I looked, I realized that I was putting my long-term health at risk.  On a practical level, I had trouble getting in the floor with the kids and getting back up.  Kneeling on the ground made my legs fall asleep.  My weight gain impacted both my physical health and my day-to-day interactions with my family.  It was really quite appalling.

So, I jump-started my weight loss with a week of following the GM Detox Diet.  Google it.  You will likely find a few variations of the plan, but in short, it is a week of eating almost exclusively fruits and veggies, with carefully chosen, specific meats thrown in at specific points during the 7 day period.  It is a good way to pull yourself out of the habit of eating processed foods.

I shed several pounds that week.  I believe the one thing I did not omit was coffee and creamer.  But, for everything else, its only a week - I can do without diet soda, juice, milk, tea, etc. for a week.

I followed weight watchers loosely and continued losing weight.  

Then, the big dare happened.  

A very good friend who knew I was trying to lose weight dared me to start running.  

What?!  Me?  Run?  You're crazy.

Just a 5k.  She pointed to the list of races on her fridge.  Pick a 5k.  You can do it.

I'm not so sure about this.

Do it.

March 24, 2012 I started running.  

The first few weeks, I couldn't even run down my block.  But,  I ran in intervals.  I ran through weeks of serious knee pain (why I had always sworn I couldn't run if I tried) and spent a lot of time stretching and icing after.  I joined a running group on Facebook - the people there helped me trouble shoot through my knee pain, and I got through.  I can't remember the last time my knees bothered me.

Late June, 2012 - just after a training run.  I was still
early in my running training and weight loss process.

My "goal race" was a 5k in August.  Once I'd gotten through the knee pain, I discovered there was a fun-looking race on July 4.  It was a 4 miler.  My sister and I signed up for it, along with several of our friends.

Just after my first completed race!  Me, my sister, Cristen (who dared me
to get out there in the first place!) Erica, and Lauren.

Well, that 4 miler wasn't awful.  It was challenging, but not overly so. I began to peruse the local race lists and found that there was a 10k (6.2M) in mid-August.  I talked my sister into running it with me (she made me promise I would never try to talk her into anything longer than 10k ever again!).  Lauren joined us for the race.

Lauren, me, Sarah post our 1st 10k - this was both the 2nd race each of us 
had done and our 2nd race completed together.

Summer running proved to be a challenge.  Heat/humidity made it hard for me to breathe, so I fell into a comfortable run-walk pattern.  To this day, I actually prefer to complete my runs and races that way.  I still get a superb workout, but I feel like rather than worrying about the time clock and running as fast as I can, I'd rather push myself some, but not so hard that I don't enjoy the route, the journey from start line to finish line.

Hot and sweaty finish line - Patrick and Erin ran with me across the line.  :)

I'm not exactly sure how on earth this transpired, but somehow I wound up deciding I would complete the annual 1/2 marathon hosted by my home city.  


That was quite the undertaking.  I have a friend who is pregnant who had hoped to complete a different 1/2 marathon in Nov, but defaulted because she got pregnant.  So, we decided that we would complete this 1/2 marathon together using a combination of running strategically, power walking and walking.  Trish was great.  We spent so many hours together laughing, encouraging one another, walking or running in silence.  The fellowship while we trained was a huge blessing.  This also provided a way for her to stay healthy during early-mid pregnancy and a way for me to continue in my weight loss goals.  I've never felt healthier than season of 1/2 marathon training and am so thankful for a consistent, loyal training partner.  

During that training season, I challenged my body in ways I've never done before.  I don't care how fast or slow you complete it, a 10 mile training run is a 10 mile training run and that is nothing to scoff at.  I learned that weight loss cannot be measured solely with a scale if you are staying active and continuing to push your body like I was.  My weight loss had to be measured more by my shrinking clothing sizes rather than in pounds.

I had to change the way I ate.  I became sensitive to caffeine and carbs for the first time ever, during the last 6 weeks of training - the most intense weeks of the plan.  I would get jittery and sometimes my blood sugar would crash.  My level of physical activity was so high I continued eating healthy but didn't really have any restrictions - I stopped focusing on eating low-fat items, began eating a higher volume of healthy fat.  I continued watching my portion sizes.  I got smaller.

We successfully completed the 1/2 marathon exactly 33 weeks after my first ever training run.  I never saw that one coming, but I am so thankful we did it.  If you had told me a year ago that I would complete a 1/2 marathon before the year was up, I would have laughed.  

Trish and me about 15 feet from the finish line.

Now that we're through the holidays, it is time to keep healthy living going.  I'm in pre-training mode as I gear up for my 2nd 1/2 marathon which will take place in late-April.  This particular race is harder - by a lot - than the one in November.  In fact, the marathon associated with it is marketed as "America's toughest road marathon"... Oi... 

There are two things I'm thankful for as I gear up for this race:

1: I have found another running partner!  She doesn't live locally, so we won't be able to train together much, but we plan to stick together from start line to finish line, our only goal  : to finish.  So blessed!

2: As I said, this race is much harder than my 1st 1/2.  This means I have to train more, train harder, as I gear up for it.  This is a very good thing.  It will keep the weight coming off and will give me more overall energy.

Yesterday (after my spinner workout), I took some "midway" progress photos.  I look forward to having "after" photos sometime late-spring/early-summer!

Never felt healthier!

This is definitely incentive to keep running and to add in 2 spinner workouts weekly.

I saw this recipe on a friend's Facebook last week and decided to give it a go.  I figured it looked good, and had a lot of the things I need to both eat healthy and eat smart as I continue training.  

Protein: check  Carbs: check  Healthy Fat: check  Veggies: check  
Filling: check  Flavor: check

Definitely try this!  Sooo good!

1 can chick peas (rinsed and drained)
1 10oz container grape tomatoes (halved)
1 small white onion (finely chopped)
2 avacados (diced)
minced garlic, to taste (I used a heaping tablespoon pre-minced)
fine ground sea salt, to taste
lime juice, to taste (I used approx 1/4C)


Everyday Grace ~ Joy Dare 2013

The word art my sister had made for me for Christmas.  The reminder
to give thanks!

In celebration of my birthday, August 2011, I was given money for a NOOK e-reader.  I eagerly picked up my NOOK at Barnes and Noble and decided it was time to read "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.  I'd heard about it from a variety of sources, but didn't want to add another physical book to the shelves and shelves of books we already owned.  Nearly beside myself that my NOOK could hold loads of books, I enthusiastically purchased "One Thousand Gifts" as my first e-book.

I already knew a little history of "One Thousand Gifts" - that a friend of Voskamp's had dared her to find 1,000 things she was thankful for ~ 1,000 eucharisteos.

Inspired by the concept, I purchased a very nice Italian-made leather journal.  I'm a self proclaimed pen and paper snob, and the nicer the journal, the more seriously I take my writing.  My intent: learn to see all the "small gifts" in life, past through present.  With about 28~ years of life behind me, I had a lot of catching up to do.

Journaling eucharisteos became an incredible blessing, especially as I read Voskamp's book.

I began January 1, 2012 (just 4 months after my first journal entry) with eucharisteo #1368. My last entry on 12.31.12 was #3742.  That's 2,374 gifts I've documented in one year.

My current journal.  My first was the same size, just a different color.  
I started this volume on 4.21.12 on #2114

Two-thousand three-hundred and seventy-four gifts.


How many more have I missed?  Forgotten to document?

I. Am. Blessed.

Once I hit the one-year eucharisteo journaling mark, I became less consistent with my documenting, though I don't think I ever went more than two weeks between journal entries.  I remember frequently thinking I should take 5 minutes to write down a few things - I was always aware of the Lord's blessings throughout each day.  I regret that I didn't take the time to sit down daily.

In the matter of journaling, there is positively zero point in focusing on the things I did not document.  I was still abundantly blessed, given many gifts meriting thanksgiving.  Writing them down only impacts my memory.  I was given a multitude of gifts regardless.

Ann Voskamp is actively challenging people to join her in the 2013 Joy Dare.

Thanks giving leads to thanks living ~ A. Voskamp

On her website, she offers a year's worth of prompts - just write down a mere 3 eucharisteos per day, and you'll have 1,000 in a year.  The idea is that, if nothing else, you follow the prompts to seek out the Lord's daily gifts.

The monthly prompts from Voskamp's blog, and 
my current journal.

Trust me: once you start looking, the lists begin to flow.  There is no rule that says you must follow the prompts, but there are days where they can provide a beautiful challenge.  My personal goal for this year is to try and follow the daily suggestions, in addition to the gifts I notice on my own.
Day 1: 3 things heard, Day 2: A gift outside, inside, on a plate,
Day 3: 3 graces you overheard...

There are no hard and fast rules to remembering eucharisteos, the gifts the Lord has given us.  There is nothing that says you can't be thankful for that first cup of coffee every single day.  Or, a smile from your child, a kiss from your husband.  Repeated entries, in my opinion, are new gifts, enjoyed once more.

Studies have been done on the impact thankfulness has on the overall well being of an individual.  To see exact benefits, click here.  My short assessment?  Taking the time to journal thanks is well worth the time.

This is a large book and it is over 2/3 full.  I have another of equal size
that is already completed.  Seriously, why wouldn't a person
want to have those reference points of grace?

3 gifts heard, a gift outside, inside, on a plate plus
my own observed graces

So, 2013, I invite you to join me in counting grace, remembering blessings, giving thanks.  This is a win-win challenge.  

What are you waiting for?  Give thanks for His grace!

January 1, 2013
#3760: Gift heard 1: All 3 of my children laughing and playing together
#3761: Gift heard 2: Daniel's voice, saying 'I love you'
#3762: Gift heard 3: Bailey's contented purr

January 2, 2013
#3763: Outside: gray-white skies
#3764: Inside: the spinner exercise bike
#3765: On a plate: warm lunch


"I'll see you later."

There are no words.  

That moment you hear a beautiful, godly woman, age 39, wife, mother of 2 boys ages 9 & 7 - a woman who has been your mentor, your friend, who has played a huge role in your life by allowing her then 3 year old son to be in your wedding and whom you have worked with for your own sister's bridal shower - is dying.  "...perhaps a month (and probably not that long)", according to her husband's CarePage post.  

She's fought hard for 2.5 years, for her husband, for her sons.  

The Lord has positively shone, brightly, through this dear woman and her husband throughout the last few years.  

She and her husband told their two sons the latest update and, in her own words, via facebook, "that was absolutely the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life".  That, after fighting 2.5 years of cancer.  After hospital stays.  After physical and emotional pain and suffering.  In her last weeks of life.  

God, why?

...For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. (Habakkuk 1:5b)

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord.  So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.  For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:7-9)

Trusting Him.

Before the boys knew their mother was nearing the welcoming arms of the Lord, within hours of learning her life here on earth was coming to an end, fast, she posted on facebook:

"The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He wakes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He Restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his names' sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enenmies. You annoint my head with oil. Surely my cup overflowes. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Psalm 23

The Lord continued to shine through her.

After she told her sons that she was going Home, she posted:

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home!

Isaac Watts 1719 (Ps 90)

She was released from the hospital to be treated with hospice care at home during what became her final days.  I don't know exactly how much longer she was lucid, but I do know it was only a few days.  She became extremely tired and slept peacefully most of the time. Yet, she was still fighting.  

She was fighting to bring glory to the Lord.  With each of the final breaths she took.  I can only pray the Lord gives me a similar grace - that He will shine so strongly through me, in my final days.

Final days... to those who are united in the Lord... those "last days" aren't really last days.  It may be many, many years before we see them again. Yet, when one is a child of God, what are 60, more or less, years of physical separation when all eternity, in the presence of God stands before you?

When my dear, godly grandmother passed away, Sunday, Thanksgiving weekend, 2003 - the grandmother who's ring I now wear daily with remembrance of her testimony - I was with a college friend's family in Philly, Pa. for the holiday.  I called my grandmother (who had apparently been relatively unaware of her surroundings prior to my call) to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving and to tell her I loved her once more.  We knew she had only days left here on earth.  She, by His grace, perked up, sounded like the grandmother I always remember - (she was tired that time, of course, yet) joyful.  We talked for a few minutes.  As our conversation drew to a close, my last words to her were, "I love you, Grandma.  I'll see you later."

I'll see you later.  

Yes, as believers, we will see those believers who have gone before us later.  In the midst of physical grief, appropriate grief, for those who are sons or daughters of the King who have gone Home, there is comfort that we will see them later!  


Life here on earth is a mere season.  When one thinks in terms of eternity, life - no matter how long or how short - is a season.  Our spirits are eternal.  For believers, life hear on earth is the spiritual pregnancy/gestation in preparation for the birth of our souls into Heaven.

This is a hard concept to grasp, yet, I know it is true.  

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep... For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 16-17)

While many of us know these Words from Scripture to be true, as sinful, frail human beings, we can still struggle to make sense of suffering.  Ann Voskamp, in a recent blog post, (please visit the link and watch the video!), addresses this very issue.  Please take time to watch the video on her blog - SO worth the 15 minutes!


The Small Things

Oh, childhood discovery and imagination!

Recently, I collected a large Kroger bag full of CDs, along with two short reams of CDs from my parents house...  I've been enjoying muddling through them, reminiscing my beautiful high school and college years with genuine fondness for those years and thankfulness to my Heavenly Father for the growth I experienced during those years.  

The thin plastic Kroger bag contained a smattering of loose CDs and many albums in their original cases.  

I can't believe how far digital media has changed already in my lifetime.  From vinyl (I actually owned a Big Bird record player as a child!), to 8-tracks, to cassettes (and the walk-man), to CD's (the personal CD player), to mp3s (the mp3 player), to iPhones/smartphones, hold stinkin' everything!

My kids are growing up in a world where the world, literally, is at their fingertips.  On facebook alone, I have friends in Texas, California, Ireland, Sri Lanka, and Hordaland.  I follow the daily life of a beautiful, godly  woman in Western Canada.  I can be in communication with any one of them easily, cheaply and relatively quickly, by merely logging onto facebook or email and hitting a few keys on a keyboard, followed by a single click from my mouse - or by hitting carefully calculated spots on the touch screen of an iPhone!

Childhood.  Beautiful childhood.  That season of physical, emotional, and spiritual growth (though the latter two don't ever end here on earth).  That season of seeing life, the world around us with fresh eyes.  Those moments of self-instigated environmental discovery.  They are beautiful.

The small things in life; those are the moments I love - the moments I deeply cherish.  

Patrick had a moment of discovery today.  He somehow got hold of the clear lid of a CD case and discovered the joy of reflection.  The smile, the joy, the genuine enthrallment of such a small facet of Creation.  He turned the clear piece of plastic into his own "flashlight".  (I picture a child, hundreds of years ago, finding similar fascination with the reflection of themselves in a pool of water.)

He was mesmerized for at least 15 minutes.

Beauty.  Eucharisteo.  Watching my son discover creation on his own initiative was incredible.  That, and the awe I saw in his eyes.  In the picture directly above, note the light spot on the carpet between the green train (lower right quadrant of the photo) and the pink sock (directly by the bottom of the sofa, near the center segment).

Patrick experimented with shining his reflection on the ceiling, the wall, the floor.  Erin frequently chased after it.

Awe in Creation.  Isn't that how life is supposed to be?  Joy and thanksgiving, praising Him from Whom all blessings flow.

In those minutes watching Patrick in his moment of discovery, I longed for Home.  I can't even fathom how beautiful, how mind-blowing, how overwhelmingly joyous eternity will be and I can.not.wait.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for a refreshing view of the world YOU made.  Thank You for my son.  Thank You for the ability to find joy in the small things.

To me: small = mindblowingly massive

Thank You, Jesus.


Fully Living in the Moment

Today has been a day full of the little blessings.  Little blessings.  Every second of every day is a gift from God.  Every breath, every smile, every hug, every cloud, every rain drop. They are all blessings.

I often struggle with not slowing down long enough to be genuinely interested in the things my children want to talk to me about or the things they want to show me.  When Erin wants to tell me about her "Baby Bunny" or Patrick wants to show me a map he has found in a book, it is a genuine challenge for me to stop.  To remember that relationships are more important than taking a nap when I'm exhausted or checking an item off of a to-do list.  
Patrick has loved books for as long as I can remember.  When he was little, he would often sit and look at the same book, over and over and over again, studying it intently.  In many ways, he hasn't changed.  He still loves books.  And he loves to share the excitement he experiences from his books with me.

One thing I've noticed, particularly since we've started doing Glory Hunts, is that Patrick asks me to take a picture of something he likes.  Prior to Glory Hunts, he had perhaps asked Daniel once or twice to take a picture of a stick or pine cone when they have gone on mini-hikes together.  But, since then, his requests for photos are much more frequent.  He is learning to find joy - to see the gifts - in the small things.

"Three Planets."

The same precious face he made as a young toddler, mesmerized by books.

Today it sort of hit me, when I spent 15+ minutes with Patrick while he showed me the things he loved from his book, that you don't have to go outdoors to have a Glory Hunt.  If you are fully living where you are each moment of each day, you clearly see the glory of the Father.  Today, I tried to go on a glory hunt wherever I was, specifically inside my home.  Oh, how many blessings have I missed because I just wasn't paying attention?!  I am truly surrounded by His blessings.

 This, taken from a window at the top of our stairs.

The cactus in my kitchen.  I've had him since my college years and his name is "Pete".

The warm glow of a homemade candle.

My dear Erin and her already-strong nurturing instinct.  I have no doubt she will be a fantastic mother one day. 

My baby, Cammon MacKenzie, who woke up around 10p for no obvious reason.  I brought her down for a few minutes of play before giving her a 2nd bottle and putting her back to bed.  She's my little dancer.

Cammon, like Patrick and Erin, also loves books.

The photos, specifically of the kiddos, in this post are generally blurry - they are active and move a lot!  That is part of what I love about them.  :)

Then, there are the moments I was not able to capture in photos...  

At church - 
  • Worship with the body of believers.
  • Erin, who sat in the row behind us with my parents, coming around to me, just to give me a hug and to say, "I love you, Mommy.".  
  • Holding a young baby - a baby I witnessed enter the world - during the sermon so his mom could have an opportunity to take notes.  The beautiful spit-up-babywash smell of tiny ones.

Outdoors - 
  • Rays of sunshine peeking through thick clouds, and the bright edges it highlighted in the clouds

More from home - 
  • A hug from my mom, who popped in on her way home from church small group, just to say "goodnight.".  
  • A visit from a friend and her son and the sometimes overwhelming noise generated by three 4-5 year olds having fun.  
  • Sitting on the sofa with Daniel while he ate lunch.
By His grace, I am slowly learning to live in the moment.  My calling as a wife and mother is to nurture my family - the people God has entrusted to me.  Sure, the toilets need to be cleaned, the dishes washed, the clothes folded and put away, but stewardship over my children, taking time to nurture them, taking them on Glory Hunts, pointing them to Jesus and helping them understand their need of Him - those are the things that really matter.

Everywhere I look, I see that I am blessed.  Thank you, Lord, for today.  All is grace!