1.11.2013

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.  

1.09.2013

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?  

Running

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.

1.03.2013

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.  

What.was.I.thinking?!

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!

Recipe:
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)


1.02.2013

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.

Wow.


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