Thursday, April 14, 2016

Instant Pot - Rescuing the Unprepared since 2016

Seriously, I think the Instant Pot has changed my life. 

Almost 6 years of wife-life and still I rarely remember to thaw out meat for dinner. It's basically the theme/bane of my existence. I want to be organized and super-prepared but it just doesn't seem to be in the cards for me. (At least at this stage of my maturity...anybody else ever hope they grow up to be more of an adult than they currently are?)

So back a long time ago (I think fall of 2014), we needed a new crockpot. And so, my husband got on Amazon and started reading reviews and the next thing you know, the Instant Pot arrives at our doorstep. I was thankful, but also bewildered because I had NEVER seen a contraption quite like it. It is an electric pressure cooker that also can double as a slow cooker and a rice maker and basically anything else you would ever need it to do. I successfully cooked a roast in it and we were impressed, and then I unsuccessfully cooked a few other things in it and it got sent to the storage room.



Then this past fall, I started hearing more and more people on Facebook sing the praises of the Instant Pot. Perfect everything meals! Cheesecake! Boiled eggs! Yogurt! Quick delicious food for life! So I joined a few facebook groups and resolved to use it more often.

So over the last couple months, I discovered that I really like it for quick soaking beans and also for making rice. It also does an amazing job of cooking an entire spaghetti squash in 6 minutes! And I cooked a whole chicken in it and then made bone broth in just 30 minutes. So those things were pretty cool. 

But THIS WEEK, the Instant Pot became my very best kitchen friend, possibly in the history of ever.
I discovered out of necessity this week (okay, twice) that I can throw a rock-solid frozen pound of ground beef info the Instant Pot, set it on high for 6 minutes and out comes a decently thawed hunk of meat! THEN I can use the Saute setting and cook it right in the pot and only dirty one dish!!

Now I want to sing the praises of the Instant Pot all over the interwebs, too! This means I can have a meal ready even if it is 5pm by the time I have my first thought about what's for dinner! My little free-spirited, unprepared, disorganized hot-mess heart can breathe a little easier knowing this contraption can turn frozen meat into edibility in just a few minutes.

You can purchase an Instant Pot on Amazon.com. Free 2-day shipping if you have Prime! Keep an eye on the prices or use camelcamelcamel.com to price check because there can be quite a variation in price depending on the week!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Reflections on a Year

It was a year ago this week that I found out I was pregnant. In my mind, I remember it feeling like a complete shock. Which is funny, because I had suspected for several weeks before I actually took a test to confirm it! I'm one of those people who goes underground when something BIG happens. I've always been that way. For some reason, huge news makes me feel like hiding.

Even though we had known that 2015 was "the year", I was beyond surprised for some reason. And, to be honest, I wasn't too happy. Sometime shortly before we got married in 2010, I did the obligatory OG/GYN appointment.  I hadn't *really* thought about it too much, but something about sitting in that doctor's office full of pregnant women and realizing that I was entering a phase of life where I could be one of them was a terrifying experience. I don't know what exactly it was that made it scary but that's about as far back as I can trace my fear.

I managed to hear lots of horror stories from friends and strangers about their absolutely terrible labors and delivery experience and totally missed all the redeeming parts of them. I kid you not - I have had moments where I asked myself why ANY woman willingly put herself through that because the stories I heard were so bad. And so the fear became stronger and more real with every passing month of marriage. By about 6 months of marriage, my husband was ready to have a baby. And I looked at him like he had six heads and told him an adamant "NO WAY!"

I was young! We were newly married. I was finally getting healthy and losing the extra weight I had carried through college. I wanted to travel. I liked our freedom. I liked our money not being spoken for by a baby. I liked....well, my life. And so I used all those selfish excuses and more and we pushed it off and pushed it off and I got more and more and more afraid as the years marched on.

Fast forward to last year. I knew. I knew it was time. I knew I needed to say yes to God's plan. But it still wasn't fun and I didn't want to obey.

And so, I found myself pregnant. April of 2015. I had known for weeks but there I stood in the kitchen with 2 pink lines on a stick and we couldn't deny it any more. Husband was excited. I was terrified and wanted to hide.

According to all the calculators I was about 7 weeks along. Aside from the sneaking suspicion and other obvious reasons, I had been feeling really great. But that all came to a glorious end about 2 days after I took the test. The nausea was real, folks. Also, barely 50 days pregnant and I suddenly hated eggs and coffee - which made me feel like my soul had been stolen from me. And literally the only thing that sounded good ever was Panera soup and Caesar salad. (I still don't miss those days!)

We waited about a week and then told our parents, and then told other family and friends over the next few weeks. Everyone was elated. I wanted to be...but I was more scared than happy - and sick - so I felt all kinds of conflicted. I'd like to say I snapped out of it rather quickly and got giddy about it, but the truth is I allowed that fear and anxiety to fester for most of my pregnancy. Really, I robbed the joy of it from myself because I was so caught up in all the uncertainty (but quite convinced that it was going to be awful). I spent 41 weeks (ha! that last week the joke was on me!) in complete dread because I had NO IDEA the joy that was ahead of me. People even tried to tell me, and it just didn't compute. I heard their words and even saw their heart, but I just did not have the capacity to understand. Until I met our sweet Charlotte face to face, I had no idea what "worth it" meant.

I hope to share more of this journey in the coming months because the Lord met me and sustained me and unconditionally loved and pursued me through some very ugly days over those 41 weeks. And I believe that He brings us through things so we can have a testimony because no one is ever alone in their struggle, despite how they feel. And believe me, I felt like the ONLY woman in the history of ever to be more scared and uncertain than happy at the news that I was expecting a baby.

I'm happy to report that a year later, I survived all stages of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and recovery. I absolutely have to humble myself and admit that it wasn't all AS terrible as I thought it would be. My rebellious heart did not want to take this journey and I fought the Lord on every ounce of sanctification in the process. He was so merciful and long-suffering with me!

I am still processing some of the things He used in that season to change and soften me. And the life-altering, mind-bending, emotion-wrecking work of motherhood has been no cake walk for me (more on that to come, for sure)! But I am so very thankful for His grace in all things. In the coming weeks, I am looking forward to sharing more of my heart and experience. It is therapy for me to write and share, and I am so honored that you would read!

Biggest Blessings,



Tuesday, March 1, 2016

You Wash Your Face with What??

Once upon a time, I used harsh, drying chemical-laden face washes every single day, and I thought had I oily skin. These products left my skin feeling "clean" (read - dry) so I thought that they were working, except for the fact that I always had breakouts and oily skin.

Since I've been following a more natural, toxin-free way of life....I threw away all my face washes because I couldn't pronounce a single one of the ingredients and that kinda scared me. I bought several "natural" brands of face wash that seemed to work okay, but not great.

I finally looked into oil cleansing. One day, I ran out of the face wash I had been using, and I was in a pinch. I've been using coconut oil to remove my eye makeup for awhile (hello - revolutionary), so I thought I'd just give the coconut oil a try on my entire face and see what happened. I know, I was a little behind on the bandwagon, but it sounded totally weird to wash your face with oil and I thought I already had oily skin, so I had kind of dismissed it. Since being into essential oils and learning more about different carrier oils, it made a lot more sense!

Oil and water don't mix, you know? We all know this. Our skin naturally produces oils to protect and nourish itself since it is the largest organ of our body. If you've ever looked at your bottles of lotion or washes, you'll probably notice that 2 of the main ingredients are Water and Alcohol. These, among other weird ingredients and fragrances, actually strip our skin of the natural oils leaving it damaged and very dry, leading to over-production of natural oil to compensate. This is why I thought I had oily skin my whole life.

Oil actually dissolves oil. This is one of the principles I teach in EO classes about carrier oils - oils bind together and combine (hence we dilute essential oils with coconut or olive oil so it will combine and slow down absorption, etc). So when you think about washing your face, you need something that will help to pull away the oil and the dirt and makeup that gets trapped on your face without being harsh or drying. Cleansing with an oil to bind with the oil and impurities on our face makes perfect sense! And since we are using an oil instead of a stripping agent, our skin is left undamaged and moisturized when we're done.

I use a dab of castor oil and coconut oil to wash my face about 3x per week now and I absolutely LOVE it. It moisturizes while it pulls makeup and oil off my skin, leaving it cleansed, but not dry! I don't have any flakey, weird patches on my face during the winter anymore. My skin feels conditioned and supple. And my breakouts are MUCH fewer and far between, and I know that they are tied to poor food choices rather than clogged pores and oil build-up under the skin.


I moisturize my face after cleansing with jojoba oil that I add a drop of Frankincense too. 

About 3-4x per week, when I don't feel like taking the time to do oil-cleansing, I use Young Living's amazing ART line of skincare. This is a 3-step system that comes with a gentle foaming cleanser, refreshing (not drying) toner, and a light moisturizer. This trio of products makes my skin feel absolutely divine - refreshed, clean, and glowing. Seriously, it is amazing stuff. I have had no adverse reactions to using any of the products and my skin has only continued to improve since using it! No going back for this girl! 

I also apply a drop of Geranium and Vetiver to any blemishes or potential blemishes. The way those 2 oils work on blemishes BLOWS MY MIND. I have had multiple times that I have applied Geranium & Vetiver to a zit before bed, and woken up the next morning with it gone. The combination sounds (and smells) weird. I know. But seriously, when you find something that can zap zits this effectively, you use it no matter how it smells! Vetiver is also very calming (many people use it for attention issues!), so it's great to apply before bed. Goodnight, world! Goodbye, zits! 



I love the way my skin feels using this new routine instead of using harsh soaps and lotions. 

If you are interested in essential oils, click here to learn how to get started and receive a free gift! 



Friday, February 26, 2016

Teach Us to Number Our Days


"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." James 4:14

It's been almost a year since I last posted anything here. I know. I have a lot of 'splainin' to do. I have a lot of things on my heart that I'm finally ready to share (I think), that will give some clarity to my prolonged absence. 

But the big news is that we had a baby! Our precious little girl, Lottie. She has changed my life in the biggest and best ways in her 3 short months here. I'll share her birth story here eventually. 

I have had a lot of time to think and process as I spend my days taking care of a usually-sweet-but-sometimes-irate newborn who has turned my world upside down. Lots of thoughts and feels a new mom has. 

As I wake up each day and nurse, change, burp, play (repeat x342938) with our sweet girl, I am constantly reminded how fleeting our days are. Sometimes the days feel long, and yet as I put her down for bed every night, I think to myself, "I never get this day back." In fact, I try to remind myself of that fact during the difficult moments, too. 

I've always "known" that life is short. I've heard it taught and heard people say it and probably have even said it myself. Life is short. Days are fleeting. Don't waste your life. But Lottie has been the vehicle the Lord has used to show me that life really is short. Days really are fleeting. And I don't want to waste a single day I have with her. 

I never realized before actually having a child of my own that they really are only little once. I'm not sure why this has been such a big revelation to me. Maybe because I feel like other people's kids are little for a long time. My friends who have babies seem to have babies for a long time. But now that I have a baby myself....gosh, she's only little once! She's only a month old for one short month. She's only 6 weeks old for ONE WEEK - 7 days - and then she races off to be 7, 8, and now 13 weeks and older and older she gets. Every day older, bigger, smarter. 

Watching her develop is amazing. Watching her discover and become interested in new things and start to show recognition when she sees me or her daddy. Seeing her hold her sweet big head up like a big girl when she does tummy time. Knowing that one of these days soon, she's going to roll over, start laughing, start grabbing for things, be able to sit up on her own, and just keep developing and growing more independent. And she only does all these things ONCE. 

As I watch with complete delight as she grows and changes and reaches milestones and gets cuter by the day, it makes me both sad and incredibly thankful as I think "I never get this day back." She'll never be *this many days* old again. Tomorrow, she'll be one day older, smarter, and cuter. 

And so...
when she refuses to nap for any length of time longer than 30 minutes (or altogether some days),
or screams her head off and I can't figure out why,
or I don't get a single thing done all day...

when she stares straight into my eyes and wants to hold my hands as she is nursing
or smiles her huge sweet smile and coos at me when I talk sweet to her
or melts totally into my arms when I pick her up

It's not wasted. I don't get this day back. 

Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
                                           Psalm 90:12

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Paleo One-Pan Sausage "Skillet" Dinner

I am about to share what might be my best-kept secret.

This is my stand-by meal.
The one I make when I forgot to thaw out meat and don't have a plan for dinner. (which happens a lot...)
The one I ALWAYS keep the ingredients for stocked in the fridge.
This meal and taco salad are probably the only dishes I can say I make "frequently".


The prep for this is seriously so easy - chop, and roast. The chopping is really the only labor intensive part, but the best part is throwing it into the oven and forgetting it for 40 minutes while you go do something else other than fix dinner (hallelujah!).
photo cred: 4kowboys
Paleo One-Pan Sausage Skillet Dinner

Ingredients:
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced 
(or white potatoes, or cubed butternut squash)
2 cups brussel sprouts, washed and cut in half lengthwise
1 large head of broccoli, chopped into florets
3-5 "clean" sausages*

Other ingredients I have added in the past - chopped apples, cauliflower florets, sliced carrots, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, etc. 

1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Garlic Powder to taste
Black pepper to taste

 *We buy the kielbasa sausages from Costco that don't have any preservatives or weird ingredients in them. There are other brands like Aidells or Gilbert's that have clean ingredients and lots of yummy flavors!

So first you chop all your vegetables into bite-size smallish chunks. This is the most time consuming, but you don't want to try to roast huge chunks so smallish is best. 
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees while you chop. 

Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and spray or rub with olive oil. 

Side note: I highly recommend getting one of these Olive Oil Misters because they make my life 100x easier in the kitchen. I spray all my pans with olive oil instead of sketchy PAM or cooking spray with weird ingredients in it. If you've never looked at the back of your bottle of cooking spray....go do it right now and then throw it in the trash and get one of those olive oil sprayers. Seriously. Ok back to recipe. 

Arrange all the veggies onto the cookie sheet in a single layer as much as possible. It's ok if there's a little overlap. Sprinkle generously with salt. 

Slice the sausages into 1/2 inch thick slices, then arrange on top of the veggies on your cookie sheet. This will allow the juices from the sausages to cook into the veggies. yum. Spray the entire pan again with the olive oil to coat the veggies and sausage pieces in oil. Sprinkle generously with garlic powder and some black pepper (if you like spice - cayenne!). 

Pop into the oven and leave for at least 30 minutes. Let everything get soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Keep an eye on it and if it needs to be stirred around half way through, go ahead and do that. Otherwise, let the roasting do its magic. It's ready when the sweet potatoes are soft and the broccoli is a little bit crispy. 

The best part about this whole meal is that you only dirtied the following things: a cutting board, your chopping knife, and the bowls and forks you eat it with. Not even the cookie sheet! Remember the aluminum foil? Toss it in the trash and your cookie sheet is still clean. 

I know. You don't even have a reason to run the dishwasher tonight because you basically still have a clean kitchen. You can hug me later! 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Essential Oils Safety & Usage

This is adapted from an email series that I sent to my entire Young Living organization. We wanted to have a place to permanently store this information so it can be shared with others in the future!

Hello Oily Friends!




Hopefully by now you have had all kinds of fun experimenting and using your essential oils from Young Living! We know it can feel a little overwhelming at first to learn how to use them all. We also know that there are lots of scary-hairy blog posts on the Internets about how dangerous essential oils are that try to make you feel afraid of those colorful little bottles! We want to equip you today to know how to feel SAFE using your essential oils with a few basic precautions*. Read on! 
Click here to read the official Safety Guide from Young Living!

*Please note that this is in no way a comprehensive safety guide, but just a few suggestions and main ideas about how to use your oils safely. Please take seriously your personal responsibility to know and understand all of your personal and health care decisions. We encourage you to do your own research and only practice usage that you feel comfortable with. Please consult your doctor if you have any medical questions regarding oil safety and usage.


One of the most common ways to use essential oils is to apply them topically to the skin.

You will want to apply a carrier oil almost all of the time when you apply essential oils to the skin. Make sure you have a good quality carrier oil like an organic coconut oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Some oils are very gentle and can be applied "Neat" or without any carrier, but others can feel hot to the skin and cause discomfort. 

Also, something called "skin sensitization" can occur when you use an essential oil neat too frequently, but this can usually be avoided by making sure you use a carrier oil. 

A carrier oil is a GREAT thing because it helps your essential oil stretch further! Using a carrier oil can make just 1-2 drops of your peppermint oil spread over your entire abdomen for a tummy ache or your entire back for a sore back! It also helps the essential oil to be metabolized more slowly through your body so it elongates the amount of time that your body will benefit from those powerful essential oil molecules! 


The back of your Young Living bottles will have instructions about how much carrier oil to use per one drop of essential oil under "Topical Application." It is ALWAYS a good idea to read the back of your bottle before applying any essential oil just to make sure you are diluting with enough carrier oil. The back of the bottles also have guidelines for usage as a Dietary Supplement and Aromatic application (diffusing) of your oils.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER!


1. If an essential oil feels hot on your skin, add more carrier oil! The amount of carrier specified on the back of the bottle is a minimum amount, so always add more to cover a larger area or to help bring relief to any oil that feels hot. 


2. NEVER put an essential oil in the eyes. If any oil (or residue from it being on your hands) gets into your eye, immediately apply coconut oil NOT WATER and that will help to dilute and wick away the essential oil. Water and oil do not mix (obviously), so adding water to the eye will just spread around the essential oil and make it worse. Trust me - use the coconut oil (or whatever carrier you have) as quickly as you can and it will feel a million times better! 


3. NEVER put an essential oil into the ears. If for some strange reason an oil gets into your ear, please seek immediate medical attention. Seriously, just don't do it. 


4. We advise to start slow and don't overload your body with too many oils at once. If you have a lot of toxins in your body from processed food, cleaners, and other chemicals in your household products, there might be a detox reaction when you start using essential oils, as they begin to aid your body in it's natural cleansing, detoxing, and healing processes. Oils are very powerful substances, with millions of molecules in each drop, so only 1-2 drops is sufficient for each application. If you do experience a detox reaction, lay off the essential oil for several days to let your body rest. Maybe consider doing a cleanse and helping the body to detox by drinking lots of water, taking epsom salt baths, eating lots of fruits and veggies and no sugar, etc. Reintroduce oils slowly and heavily diluted after a few days of cleansing to see how the body responds. 


5. Be sure to use more carrier oil while pregnant and on children than you would for an adult. A good general idea is to at least double the amount of carrier oil on children. For anyone who is pregnant or has babies or young children, I HIGHLY recommend getting the book Gentle Babies by Debra Raybern. Debra is a midwife who has been using Young Living oils for 20 years and this awesome book is chock-full of safe recommendations for babies and small children under the age of 5, as well as oils to use during pregnancy!


6. Speaking of kids, it is not recommended to use strong oils like Peppermint on children under the age of 5. In rare instances, using Peppermint on small children has caused respiratory distress. It is a good idea to use more gentle oils on little ones like Frankincense, Lemon, Lavender, Chamomile, Myrtle, etc. and leave the Peppermint and stronger-smelling oils for older children and adults. Yet another reason we recommend having a copy of Gentle Babies on hand so you can know what oils can be used safely on small children. 

Gentle Babies is an amazing resource for moms to know how to use their Young Living Essential Oils safely throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and with babies and small children up to 5 years old.



Testimonials combined with professional knowledge from midwives who have used Young Living oils in their practices as well as many natural remedies and ideas to create a healthy home environment for little ones.

Order a copy by clicking here!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Scruff-Tastic Face & Beard Oil

Valentine's Day is this weekend! My hubby and I have never really made too much of Valentine's Day. We usually go out on a date night, but we never really do fancy gifts or anything over the top. 

I was surfing the Internet last week and saw an ad for a moisturizing beard & face oil for men that looked really interesting! Unfortunately, it had a bunch of chemicals and junk in it that we don't want on our skin, but it got me thinking that I could totally make my own version using all natural ingredients and none of the junk! 

I came up with this blend of essential oils and moisturizing oils that I am super excited to give to my hubby this weekend! The smell is absolutely fantastic - kind of bright, earthy, and manly.
 I hope your man loves it!


If you'd like to learn more about how to get these wonderful essential oils from Young Living into your home, read this post or email me at hbshanks@gmail.com