Peppermint: Herbal Highlight

Unlike bitter yarrow and spicy cayenne pepper, peppermint is an herb even children enjoy. Not only is peppermint delicious, it is also a powerful herb that has been loved and enjoyed for centuries.

Although I tried my hardest to get myself to enjoy a cup of yarrow tea each afternoon (since yarrow is such an amazing tonic) but it was just too bitter. Peppermint though, is an herb I don’t mind enjoying every day.

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post contain affiliate links.]

The Bulk Herb Store is my very favorite place to buy high-quality dried peppermint (or peppermint tea bags

The Benefits of Peppermint

Ironically, peppermint is both stimulating and soothing at the same time. How it this possible? The volatile oils in peppermint stimulate the circulation and soothe the nerves. This unique trait is called “the peppermint paradox”.

Peppermint is one of the most-loved herbs for treating nausea and gas. Its soothing properties also make it a mild pain-killer. And, if you start feeling an after-lunch slump, try brewing up a cup of peppermint tea. It makes a tasty pick-me-up

Because the volatile oils in peppermint contain most of its powers, make sure you prepare tea properly to avoid damaging the oils. To properly prepare peppermint tea, bring water to a boil. Remove it from the heat and cool just a tad before adding the peppermint. Then, cover tightly while the tea steeps so that the oils  do not escape. (If you use the leaves or petals of an herb –instead of the roots— you should almost always prepare your tea like this.)

Although I generally prefer to use herbal teas and tinctures over essential oils, since most of peppermint’s herbal powers lie in the oils, a good essential oil is much more potent than an herbal tea or tincture. Depending on your desired use, this increased potency can be a great or not-so-great thing. For example, peppermint tea tends to be more relaxing to the nerves, but peppermint essential oil is generally much more stimulating to the circulatory system. (Because essential oils are so powerful, make sure you carefully follow instructions for diluting.)

 I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked at is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can cure a heart attack. As always, please do you own research (these are some of my favorite resources) and talk to your health care provider if your condition is serious. 

Practical Uses for Peppermint

Peppermint for nausea

When I was pregnant, I drank peppermint tea religiously. It didn’t make the morning sickness go away, but did help calm my stomach. Peppermint is also helpful for car sickness (if you have essential oil with you!) and the stomach flu. When the kids are sick, I have them sip strong peppermint tea or soak in a warm peppermint bath.

Peppermint for an afternoon pick-me-up

Peppermint is like a “‘blast of green energy.’ It renews, refreshes, and energizes without depleting or using up energy reserves.” Medicinal Herbs. These energizing properties make peppermint a wonderful pick-me-up tea when your start to feel like you are slipping into a slump. I drink it almost every afternoon.

Peppermint for frazzled nerves (and headaches)

Thanks to the “peppermint paradox”, peppermint not only works as a pick-me-up, it helps calm frazzled nerves too. If you get headaches from indigestion or poor circulation to the head (often caused by tension), peppermint tea or diluted peppermint oil rubbed into the temps can help calm your headache.

Peppermint for relieving pain

The volatile oils in peppermint have mild anodyne properties, which is a fancy way of saying peppermint helps relieve pain. Use properly diluted peppermint essential oil for relieving the pain of burns, toothaches, bee stings, and headaches.

Peppermint for digestive problems

From fighting indigestion to relieving gas to calming colic and easing cramps, peppermint is the herb of choice.

Peppermint for increasing other herbs effectiveness

Like cayenne, peppermint is a “catalyst” herb. Peppermint stimulates the circulation and helps your body absorb other herbs more effectively. (Plus, its pleasant taste can help mask other less-pleasant herbs.)

Not only does peppermint taste good, it's a powerful herb for easing stomach problems, calming the nerves, as an energizing pick-me-up, and much more.


photo credit

Enjoy the benefits of peppermint

Peppermint is a tasty herb that packs a powerful punch. Its paradoxical properties help it stimulate the circulation and calm the nerves and make it the herb of choice for digestive problems, fatigue, nausea, and frazzled nerves.

Even if you’re new to gardening, peppermint is one of the easiest herbs to grow (just make sure you keep it contained, otherwise it can spread like wildfire.) If you don’t want to wait for your peppermint to grow, purchase high-quality tea or essential oils and beginning enjoying its powerful benefits today.

How to Make ANY Recipe More Healthy

You don’t have to buy the latest health food cookbook to serve your family high-quality foods. Transforming your own favorite recipes to make them as nourishing as possible (without compromising on taste) is an adventurous kitchen challenge.

Practically any recipe can be make more healthy just by reducing the sugar, using higher quality ingredients, adding hidden vegetables, and making your own staples.

Want to make your favorite recipes more healthy, without compromising on taste? Here are four smart and simple strategies to healthify any recipe.

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Decrease the Sugar & Increase the Flavor

If a recipe was created in America, chances are it calls for too much sugar. As a culture we’re addicted to the stuff. Sugar (or corn syrup) makes it onto the grocery store shelves in all sorts of hidden ways and helps mask cheap ingredients.

If you want to healthify a regular recipe, begin by decreasing the sugar/sweetener by a fourth and adding more flavor.

So if your pumpkin muffin recipe calls for two cups of sugar and 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin, reduce the sugar to 1 1/2 cups and add extra pumpkin puree or a nice dash of homemade vanilla extract.

[This pumpkin muffin recipe is pre-healthified, just for you!]

Each time you make the recipe, gradually reduce the sugar even more until you find the perfect balance of flavor and sweetness. I usually end up decreasing the sweetener by a third to a half.

The goal is delicious, rich flavor and not just sugar overload.

Substitute Better Ingredients

One of the simplest ways to “healthify” any recipe is to swap out the standard ingredients for higher quality ones. Many times there is no affect at all on the taste, but better ingredients often cost more. To avoid budget-overload, pick one or two items at a time to “upgrade” and find the things that seem most worthwhile for your family.

A few weeks into our marriage, I arrived home from shopping with a pound of margarine. When Joshua got home, he asked, “Where did you get that stuff babe?!” I read the label and agreed with him that we’d be a butter-only family from then on.

Depending on what I have in the pantry or fridge, sometimes my substitutions get pretty crazy. When a recipe calls for canola oil, I might substitute part homemade yogurt, part olive oil, and part coconut oil.

To keep it simple, here are a few very basic substitutes:

Salt —————-> Sea Salt

Cornstarch ————> arrowroot powder

White sugar —————-> raw sugar, honey, or even ripe bananas (like in these mocha muffins)

Vegetable oil —————> olive oil or coconut oil or part yogurt

Margarine ——————–> butter

Bleached white flour ————-> unbleached flour and/or freshly ground wheat flour

Part of the fun of homemaking is getting to experiment and find what works in your kitchen. There’s a substitute for practically every food under the sun!

(Of course, what qualifies as the healthiest food one generation often gets demoted in the next. Which is just one more reason to use wisdom and humility when making food choices.)

Add Hidden Vegetables

Camouflaged vegetables are a great way to “healthify” recipes and get more nutrients into your family.

The key is to start small.

  • Add a half cup of pureed vegetables to your cream sauces, soups, and smoothies.
  • Use fresh garlic and onions to increase the flavor in your favorite savory foods. (Read more ideas here)
  • Toss a teaspoon of chia seeds into smoothies, energy bites, or cookies.

If your family likes vegetables, openly add them in small quantities to your favorite meals. Turn Chicken Alfredo into Chicken & Spinach Alfredo or toss a small handful of spinach into your lasagna.

Make Your Own Staples

Staples like cream soups, seasoning mixes, and condensed milk make their way into many recipes. The trouble is, the prepackaged variety often includes unwanted ingredients too.

Start with just one or two base ingredients that you normally by pre-packaged and try making your own. Many are super simple and can be made in huge batches for later. (Here’s a Pinterest board of ideas.)

Just remember to start small. Even if most ideas aren’t worth the added effort, chances are you’ll find one or two items that are easy and enjoyable to make yourself.

Make ANY Recipe More Healthy

I’d be lying if I told you my cupboard is free of junk food. Nutella has a prominent (and permanent) place in my kitchen. I firmly believe you can serve your family Twinkies and still be a wonderful mother.

But trying to tweak your family’s recipes to make them as nutritious as possible is a fun and worthwhile challenge.

Thankfully, it’s pretty simple. You can make almost any recipe more healthy if you just reduce the sweetener (and increase the flavor!), use high-quality ingredients, sneak more vegetables in, and make your own base staples.

What are your favorite ways to make meals more nutritious? (And are you a fellow Nutella fan?) 

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post contain my referral links.]

Keep Weevils at Bay (or Why I Put Dirt in My Cupboard)

It was a beautiful morning. I was crossing things off the to-do list with delightful speed. I pulled out the bucket of oatmeal to whip up a huge batch of homemade granola. As I set the lid down, I noticed a bug.

It must have been sitting right on the rim of the bucket, I thought.

I looked in the bucket again. There was another bug. Hmmm, that’s odd, I thought. It must have slid inside when I opened it. 

And then the awful truth, which I was trying desperately to avoid, sank in. The bugs weren’t from the outside of the bucket. They were crawling out of it. And it wasn’t just one or two.

As I learned to my dismay, weevils can make their way into your cupboard from a bag of flour! Major yuck! Be proactive and protect your food with diatomaceous earth.

 Thank goodness this was not my pantry. It was disgusting, but nowhere near this bad. (photo credit)

Tiny black bugs infested the bucket of oatmeal. In dismay, I turned to the internet to try to figure out what the disgusting little critters were… and how to get rid of them.

The identification was easy: weevils. Getting rid of them was a much more difficult task.

Opinions on the gravity of the situation varied from “OH MY GOODNESS! I saw a weevil in my crackers and threw EVERYTHING in the pantry in the dumpster, bleached all surfaces in the kitchen and have an exterminator on the way,” to “No big deal! It’s just a bit of protein. Besides, you’ve almost certainly eaten some without knowing it.”

The first position seemed rather extreme, but (as all guests we’ve hosted recently will be relieved to know) I’d much prefer serving my family other sources of protein.

So, what to do if you find a weevil in your oatmeal?

Natural Kitchen Pest Control

First, don’t panic.

As disgusting as it sounds, you’ve probably eaten a fair number of weevils without knowing it and survived. Grain weevils lay their eggs in, you guessed it, grain. Given the right conditions, the eggs hatch and the weevils multiply. Chances are, the weevil larva entered your home in food you bought.

Second, survey the damage.

As I feared, it wasn’t just the oatmeal that was infested. I completely cleared out the pantry and found weevils in flour, shelled nuts, chips, crackers and more. Thankfully, I’d already started storing many things in mason jars with lids tightly shut. These little stinkers can chew through cardboard and plastic, but not glass.

Properly dispose of infested food

(unless you hold to the “it’s just protein” camp): I gave bulk grains to a friend with chickens and carefully disposed of other infested food in the dumpster (putting it in the garbage can in the kitchen would just spread the problem!) Anything suspicious got tossed or frozen.

Clean thoroughly

Add tea tree essential oil to dish soap for additional cleaning power. If you need to vacuum out crevices, make sure you throw the vacuum bag in the dumpster.

Store food carefully

I love having a well-stocked pantry, but sure don’t want a repeat of that disaster! Rice and other grains go straight to the freezer for a week to kill any larva that might have been present in the store. Things like Saltine crackers that we don’t eat often but keep on hand in case we get sick either get stored in mason jars or in the freezer.

After tossing about $150 worth of food and cleaning like crazy, I thought the pantry was weevil-free. Guess what I found a few days later crawling in the pantry? Yep! Another weevil.

Did you know that you can carry weevils home in a bag of flour or box of cereal? Keep your cupboards safe from infestation with diatomaceous earth!

Food-grade diatomaceous Earth from the Bulk Herb Store 

Spread diatomaceous earth in the crevices

Clearly we needed something to kill off the rest of the weevils, but I didn’t want to use anything toxic in the pantry. Diatomaceous earth to the rescue! (Thanks Mom!) Diatomaceous earth, or fossil shell flour, comes from hard-shelled algae. Although it’s safe for mammals and earthworms to take internally, when weevils or other insect pests crawl through it, it dries out their exoskeletons and kills them. (Make sure to use the food-grade kind!)

I sprinkled it generously around the edges of each shelf, under any bags of chips that didn’t fit in the freezer, and inside the buckets of un-infested grains. “Dirt” pretty much covered all the crevices of my freshly-cleaned pantry. Then I sprinkled diatomaceous earth in all the cupboards that weren’t affected, just in case.

As added precaution, I taped bay leaves to bucket lids and put them on each shelf because they are traditionally reputed to discourage weevils.

It’s been about three months. I’ve seen a few dead weevils (who appeared to have trekked through the “dirt”) but NO MORE LIVING WEEVILS. Hurray!

Be proactive. Prevent a disgusting weevil infestation with diatomaceous earth... because weevils could be lurking in the bag of flour or box of cereal you just brought home!

Keep your cupboards weevil free

Even if you’ve never seen a weevil in your pantry, I highly recommended sprinkling diatomaceous earth around the edges of your pantry, just in case. Believe me, dealing with an infestation is not fun.

Anyone else had a pantry infestation? What did you do?

 [Full disclosure: links to some products in this post are my referral links.]

Pain Free: Works for Me

A few months ago my neck was so stiff I could scarcely move it. I tried not to wince when one of the kids gave me a hug. Holding baby Edmund hurt. Moving hurt, but so did laying down. I woke up in the night in pain and tossed and turned for ages trying to find the least painful position. The pain was so intense that I felt nauseous.

I’m not sure what caused the neck pain. Maybe it was flare-up from a fender bender I was in several years ago. Maybe it was falling forward down the stairs when I was pregnant and landing with a thud on my left hand. Maybe it was simply from carrying a cute chubby baby around for hours each day.

Whatever the cause, the symptoms went from occasional tenseness to sharp pain and stiffness that flared up and then lingered for days. I felt eighty, not twenty-eight.

I went to the chiropractor, took warm baths in epsom salts, and rested with cold packs. The relief was temporary. Pain medicine barely took the edge off.

[Full disclosure: links to some products in this post are my referral links.]

Then I remembered a book that a good friend had recommended: Pain Free. I’d ordered Pain Free for Women* months ago, but let it sit on the shelf untouched until the pain simply got unbearable.

I turned to the first page and started reading. At first I was skeptical, but as I kept reading, the case Pete Egoscue made grew more and more convincing. Unlike our ancestors, he argued, most of us lead sedentary lives. What little movement we do get is often repetitive. Even many of our sports and exercises only work small groups of muscles.

After spending countless hours pouring over school books or hunched over computers, our posture is compromised and our core musculoskeletal structures are highly taxed. That, Egoscue claims, leads to chronic pain and other problems.

The solution, he says, is simple. Instead of masking the symptoms, we need to correct the underlying problems with our alignment.

It seemed too simple. How could lying on my back with my knees bent over a chair and my arms stretched out help my neck? But like Naaman’s servants urged him, “If he’d asked you to do something hard, wouldn’t you have done it in order to be healed?” Of course.

The results astounded me.

After doing the neck exercises from Pain Free just once, I could move my neck and the pain was almost 100% gone.  That night I slept soundly and woke up feeling incredibly refreshed.

Egoscue recommends doing the exercises daily and not listening to music or audio. Just do the exercises and listen to your body’s signals.

I haven’t always been able to fit 20-30 minutes of quiet exercises into the day, but whenever I can it has been time well spent!

Not only am I pain free, after regular struggles with insomnia, now when I go to bed I fall asleep almost instantly. When I get woken up in the night, I don’t lay there for hours wishing for sleep, I just go back to sleep. After over a decade of not being able to wear mascara or put my hair up without getting a headache, I’ve done both. My poor posture has improved dramatically. Plus, it forces me to “be still” for a few minutes in the midst of a noisy world.

Needless to say, I’m stoked at the amazing results I’ve had. Although Egoscue claims that our spine and hips, which are incredibly designed to bear our weight without pain, are the result of lucky evolution, I think it’s just one more reason to praise and worship our Creator.

Each of our bodies are different, but if you’re in chronic pain, I’d  highly recommended trying out Pain Free.

(Aneysa and Abigail, my very hearty thanks for your recommendations!)

*Pain Free deals with specific areas of pain, while Pain Free for Women deals more with overall women’s maintenance.

Natural Ways to Combat Insomnia During Pregnancy

Don’t you think it’s ironic that even when you’re utterly exhausted from pregnancy, sometimes pregnancy induces insomnia? This pregnancy I struggled falling asleep and woke regularly with nightmares and couldn’t go back to sleep for hours. 

My midwife recommended Unisom (considered one of the safest drugs during pregnancy, plus it fights morning sickness!) and I used it regularly for about two months. Eventually though, it just stopped helping. 

Pregnant and exhausted, but can't sleep? Try these natural ways to combat insomnia.

[Full disclosure: Links to products in this post are my referral links.] photo credit

Finding a pregnancy-safe alternative wasn’t as easy as I thought. Melatonin and valerian, two of my favorite insomnia helps, aren’t recommended during pregnancy. The melatonin might disrupt the growing baby’s natural production of melatonin and valerian is so strong that most doctors–and my midwife— feel more studying needs to be done before it’s safe to recommend.

After lots of prayer and research, wonderful advice from friends, and a talk with my midwife, we came up with a plan that has helped me so much.

I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked at is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can cure a heart attack. As always, please do you own research (these are a few of my favorite resources) and talk to your health care provider. 

12 Natural Ways to Fight Insomnia During Pregnancy

Manage your expectations. When sleepless night follows sleepless night, it’s easy to let discouragement and fear creep in. Instead, put your expectations in Christ’s strength. Don’t dread going to bed. Trust that Jesus will give you the sleep yu need and the strength to face the coming day even if you don’t sleep much.

Stop taking naps: when I’m pregnant few things sound better than a nap. However, if you struggle with insomnia, taking  a nap can further compound the problem by throwing off the circadian rhythm that regulates your sleep. The first few days without naps were miserable (especially since I wasn’t sleeping well at night) but after a few days it did get better.

Exercise regularly. Exercise is good for your heart. It makes you feel more cheerful. Exercise curbs weight gain, naturally increases iron in your blood, and helps combat “diseases of affluence.” Plus, regular exercise helps get your body tired so you can fall asleep at night. Do a pregnancy work-out, take a good walk, or swim. Getting regular exercise will help fight insomnia. Just make sure to exercise in the morning or early to mid-afternoon so your body has time to cool down before bed. [Here’s how I find time to exercise with little ones.]

Establish a good sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each morning. In the evenings, establish a “going to bed” routine that helps you relax and unwind. As bedtime approaches, force yourself to yawn. Soon, it will be natural and seems to help me get sleepy.

Spend time outside in the afternoon. Getting afternoon sun can help regulate your sleep cycle. (Here’s what I do to get Vitamin D while avoiding sunburns.)

Are you pregnant and exhausted, but simply cannot sleep? Here are 12 natural ways to fight insomnia during pregnancy

(photo credit)

Take 1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses before bed. A friend recommended this to me and said it worked wonders for her. Blackstrap molasses is often recommended during pregnancy as a high source of usable iron and calcium.

Drink chamomile tea before going to bed. Many sleep-inducing herbs aren’t considered safe during pregnancy, but chamomile is an exception. Chamomile isn’t as strong as valerian, but it does help sooth the nerves. (Buy high-quality chamomile here.)

Drink warm milk before going to bed. Warm milk has been recommended as a sleep aid for ages. Why it works is still up for debate (it may be mostly psychological) but the calcium in it could also help your body naturally produce melatonin. Whatever the reason, it does seem to work and if you add a dash of nutmeg it tastes quite good.

Get enough calcium and magnesium. Waking up in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep is miserable. It could be caused by a lack of calcium or magnesium. James F. Balch, M.D. writes that “A lack of the nutrients calcium and magnesium will cause you to wake up after a few hours and not be able to return to sleep.”

Why? These minerals help calm the nerves and encourage sleep [and prevent night terrors in children.] According to William Sears, M.D, “Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods.”

Relax and breathe. My friend Kristy reminded me of just how important this was and it sure helped. My favorite relaxation technique is one a dear midwife friend taught me. While laying in bed, start with your head and relax each part of your body all the way down to your toes. (Then, if you want, start at your toes and work up to your head.) It’s amazing how much tension you can unconsciously build up in your forehead or shoulders.

Have a midnight plan (i.e. if you can’t sleep, get up.) Laying in bed for hours desperately wishing you could sleep isn’t very helpful. After several nights, I was almost afraid to fall asleep because I was dreading waking up at 2:30 a.m. If you don’t fall back asleep after 20 or 30 minutes, get up and do something calming (like ironing or folding laundry while listening to the Bible or a book on tape) until you’re sleepy. Having a plan makes falling asleep much easier and waking up less miserable.

(Another optional, though highly helpful strategy, is to get a cold. Lol! I’ve never been quite so grateful to come down with a cold. It made me just sleepy enough at night to be able to fall asleep easily.)

Do simple E-stretches: Sadly, I didn’t read Pain Free until after my baby was born, but after doing a few simple exercises that improved my posture and skeletal structure, my sleeping increased dramatically. I would definitely talk it over with your health care provider before doing the exercises, but the ones I have done are simple not-jerky and made a huge difference for me! (Read my full review here.)

Fight Pregnancy Insomnia Naturally

When your body is growing a new life, it’s important that you get plenty of sleep. Sometimes though, pregnancy insomnia kicks in and makes life miserable. If you’re struggling with insomnia, try these twelve natural strategies to start getting a peaceful night again.

Do you struggle with insomnia? What’s your favorite way to combat it? 

How (& Why) to Propagate Houseplants

If you’ve been impatiently waiting for the snow to leave and spring weather to stay so you can get outside and play in the dirt (like I have), propagating your houseplants is a great way to use the time.

photo credit 

Houseplants are amazing. As studies by NASA scientists confirmed, common houseplants make the air in your home healthier. They remove dangerous chemicals and dramatically increase air quality. Plus, they’re beautiful.

In his book, How to Grow Fresh Air–(read my review here), Dr. Wolverton lists the very best purifying indoor plants and recommends you have at least one plant per 100 square feet. That’s a lot of plants.

One of the easiest ways to grow your collection is to propagate the plants you have (or beg cuttings from your mom.)

Not only is it fun to add a new plant to your collection and watching it grow, I consider it plant insurance. My brown thumb is bound to kill at least some of my plants. This way, if the mother plant dies hopefully the daughter will survive.

 Heartleaf Philodendron–one of the easiest houseplants to grow

There are two very easy ways to propagate houseplants that have multiple trailing stems, like ivy.

Water Method: Just cut back long stems right above the leaf node (where a new leaf grows). Trim the bottom few leaves and place the stem in a glass of water.

In a few weeks new roots will emerge and you can plant the stems in a fresh pot with good drainage. Water well after transplanting.  

How to Propagate Wandering Jew

Wandering Jew— I killed the “mother plant”. The one on the left is a four-month-old “daughter plant”. On the right is a three-week-old “granddaughter plant”

Moist Dirt Method: 

Cut off stems above the node. Strip off the bottom few leaves. Place the stem in a pot and keep the soil moist. In about 3 to 6 weeks, new roots will grow and the plant will send out new shoots.

How’s that for easy?

Want to make it a really frugal project? Look for beautiful pots at garage sales (often they’re practically free!) I’ve even found some lovely healthy plants at yard sales for a dollar or two.

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherHealthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways,Works for MeWild Crafting WednesdayWalking RedeemedProverbs 31Natural Living, & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

8 Ways to Deal with Morning Sickness

Does anyone else think that morning sickness is ill-named? I usually feel my best in the morning and get worse as the day wears on.

Before I share things that have helped with my evening sickness, I want to be up front and say that mine ranges from mild to moderate. I have never been unable to eat for days on end or had to get an IV to keep fluids down. For those of you who deal with this kind of morning sickness, my heart goes out to you and I am so proud of you. (If I got that sick, it’d take a whole lot of grace for us to not be a one child family.)

I’m not sure if these “remedies” would help in serious cases, but they have staved of an impending trip to throw up for me. Though I’ve not heard of any problems with these remedies, you should always check with your own health care professional before trying something new, of course!

“The fruit of the womb is his reward!” (Photo credit)

  1. Ginger: When I feel like throwing up, the last thing I’m really hungry for is a piece of ginger. Ick. But, if I can just force myself to take it, it’s amazing how quickly the ginger helps calm my stomach! Ginger gum, “candied” ginger (homemade or from the health food store), or a sniff of ginger essential oil have all helped settle my stomach and keep food down. Ginger ale or ginger cookies would make nice milder alternatives (though I’m not sure they’d work quite as well!) 
  2. Sea Bands: My sister-in-law recommended sea bands to me, saying they’d really helped her during her morning sickness. It sounds odd, doesn’t it? Can bands around your wrist really help with morning sickness? Yep, they can. The bands “put pressure on the P-6 point between the two central tendons near the wrist.” Somehow that pressure relieves the morning sickness, without any side effects (except for slight indents on the wrists!)
  3. Protein in the evening: “It’s easier to keep a fire going, than to start a new fire from scratch,” my midwife told me. “Your metabolism is similar. It’s much easier to keep it going with a protein-rich snack in the evening that to start fresh in the morning.” It’s true! Eating a snack rich in protein before I go to bed helps me feel much better in the morning.
  4. Figure out your blood sugar: With my first pregnancy, I was determined to be a good, healthy Mama. But every time I woke up and fixed myself a nice plate of eggs, I lost them. On the mornings I sneaked a bite or two of a healthy-ish dessert (like these Mrs. Thompson Bars) first, I was able to keep the eggs down. I finally learned that when my blood sugar gets too low, I simply can’t eat protein first, but a bit of carbs will help build up the blood sugar so I can handle the protein. Try to figure out what keeps your blood sugar happy.
  5. Exercise: Exercise releases toxins and builds new blood cells. It increases energy and stamina. Something about it also seems to helps with morning sickness. I entered this pregnancy exercising regularly (though I’ve dropped the jumping jacks) and have continued mostly regularly. Not only was my iron count good at my first check-up, I think it’s helped the morning sickness not be as bad this time.
  6. Take vitamins strategically: the calcium and/or iron in many pre-natals can be real tummy upsetters. Taking prenatal vitamins right before going to bed at night helps me be able to keep them down. Or, you could ask your heath care provider if you could take a child’s multivitamin and supplement with extra folic acid.
  7. Add ice: Staying hydrated is so important. Sometimes regular water just won’t go down, when sips of ice water will. (If you carry around a super cute glass water bottle, it’s easier to remember to drink!)
  8. Smile: “A cheerful heart does good like medicine,” Proverbs says. When I’m feeling icky, it’s easy to focus on just making it to bedtime. Smiling helps. It’s almost impossible to force your face into a smile without remembering the many ways you’ve been blessed… and the incredible privilege it is to carry a new little life into the world.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or nurse. The only hospital I’ve ever worked in is a doll hospital. There a band-aid heals a heart attack. Please talk to your health care professional and do your own research before treating serious health problems!

Did you struggle with morning sickness? What helped you most?

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherHealthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways,Works for MeWild Crafting WednesdayWalking Redeemed, My Joy-Filled Days, Our Simple Country Life, Proverbs 31Natural Living, & Simple Lives

Use the “Dirty Dozen” & “Clean Fifteen” to Eat Better and Save

“Approximately 5.1 billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States,” admit the folks who regulate pesticide use, the EPA.

That’s a whole lot of pesticides!

Many of the pesticides are removed from the time our food is harvested to the time it reaches our tables, but many fresh fruits and vegetables, even after being washed, still contain residues of pesticides. That we end up eating.

Peas, one of the Clean Fifteen (photo credit)

Most of us don’t have the ability to grow all our own food or purchase it organically. Eating fresh foods with pesticides on them is still much better than not eating fresh foods at all.

But, the EWG’s (Environmental Watch Group) handy Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists make it easier for us busy moms to decrease the amounts of pesticide residue we and our munchkins consume, while still getting our daily dose of fresh fruits and vegetables.

If you don’t already use their lists, here is how I use them to keep my grocery budget low and our pesticide intake low.

Focus on the Clean Fifteen

It is discouraging that 98% of apples test positive for pesticide residue and that one sample of grapes had 15 different pesticides on it, even after being washed.

Don’t focus on that. Focus on foods that are low in pesticides. Onions, cabbage, sweet potatoes, avocados, and peas are delicious, packed with nutrition, and low in pesticides. Do your best to incorporate them and the rest of the Clean Fifteen into your diet.

Here’s a sample day’s menu using just fruits and veggies from the Clean Fifteen:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with grapefruit on the side

Snack: Homemade yogurt shake sweetened with frozen pineapple

Lunch: Bean dip with guacamole, cheese, and sautéed onions and mushrooms

Snack: Cantaloup or watermelon slices

Dinner: Grilled chicken with baked sweet potato (or sweet potato fries!) and frozen peas or fresh asparagus

There are so many possibilities using just those fifteen fruits and vegetables. (I’d wager a guess that most women in history haven’t had even fifteen fruits and vegetables to work with at any given time!) Even if you can’t just use those fifteen, replacing even one or two vegetable servings from the Dirty Dozen list with ones from the Clean Fifteen is a good start!

Want to avoid pesticides while keeping your budget in check? Here's how to use the dirty dozen & clean fifteen lists to eat better and save money!

Grow your own peppers! (photo credit)

Grow Your Favorites from the Dirty Dozen List

Many garden favorites, like lettuce, bell peppers, and cucumbers, make it onto the dirty dozen list. Thankfully, many of them are fairly easy to grow yourself, even with limited space. If you are planning a garden, focus on growing your family favorites from the dirty dozen list. (I’m really tempted to try planting an apple tree!)

Look for Bulk & Organic Deals on Dirty Dozen Foods

Places like Azure Standard and Country Life Natural Foods  offer many good deals on organic and bulk purchases.

For example, grapes are on the dirty dozen list so naturally raisins have been tested positive for quite a few pesticide residues. However, you can get organic raisins from Country Life for just 10¢ more a pound (when you buy them in bulk ) than you can purchase regular raisins at Aldi. Speaking of Aldi, they are rolling out more and more organic products. (Another reason I love Aldi!)

Given how many raisins my kids eat, I’m quite happy to be able to find organic raisins for just a few cents more than regular!

We used to eat apples all the time, but since they’re number #1 on the Dirty Dozen list I’ve cut way back on the amount of regular apples I buy. However, the local health food store frequently runs sales on organic apples. Check to see if yours does too.

Choose Gratitude and Don’t Stress

People have been looking for the elixer of life, that will grant them long life, for ages. They’ve yet to find it. You’re not a bad mom if you serve your kids non-organic apples.

Sin and death are part of this world. No amount of organic food is going to give you or your children eternal life. The fact that we have food to put on the table is a huge blessing that many women throughout history have not had. Choose to be grateful, even if your apples aren’t organic!

After all, “a cheerful heart does good like a medicine!”

Onions for Bruises (& Tumbles!)

Today’s topic: another great use for onions (besides helping break up congestion. And flavoring food, of course!)  But first, a funny story:

Last Wednesday dawned sunny and beautiful. The kids and I all got up earlier than we have of late. After a holiday on Monday and sick day on Tuesday, I determined that today WILL be productive. We’ll get lots of school done. We’ll do extra cleaning. And I’ll spend time just enjoying the kiddos.

With that resolution, I skipped down the stairs to rescue the 3-year-old from the bathroom. We were out of toilet paper. So back up the stairs I ran. On the way to restock, I noticed little Meg peeking her head out from the crib with a smile. So, with three rolls of toilet paper and my water bottle in one hand and Meg and her cozy blanket in the other, I hurried back down the stairs to a now quite impatient little boy.

If your totally productive day gets hijacked by a nasty tumble, onions just might save the day. Use onions to fight swelling and bruises.

At the landing, my socks slipped.

Toilet paper went flying. The water bottle landed halfway down the stairs. And I fell down the stairs face-forward. In the split second it took to hit bottom, I managed to pull Meg close to me and brace our landing with my free hand… and my foot.

Thankfully, Meg was cushioned well, but I landed hard. As the room started darkening and my ears started ringing, I cried out that God wouldn’t let me pass out in front of the shocked and horrified face of my sensitive five-year-old. Instantly, the darkness faded.

(Rose also prayed “God! God help!” Later, when I told her that God has answered our prayers, she said, “But I wasn’t really praying.” It was such a privilege to get to explain to her that we can call upon God when we’re in trouble, just like she would call for me to help. And that He answers!)

I was filled with gratitude… but hardly able to move. I finally managed to crawl to the couch, all plans for a productive morning vanished. Rose and Will (who managed to get himself out of the bathroom by himself) got breakfast ready all by themselves. It was so fun to watch them serve so cheerfully, even if it did take almost an hour!

I can’t help but smile whenever I think of our “productive” morning turned on its head. Especially since there was no real damage, except to my foot.

Which brings us back to onions.

I’m not quite sure how (except maybe that I’m talented like this, you know), but the top of my right foot took most of the brunt of our fall. Moving or touching it send throbbing pain through my whole body. Even keeping it perfectly still, it hurt.

Then I remembered reading that onions are really good for healing bruises and falls in 10 Essential Herbs (a new favorite herbal book !)

After I was able to get up, I cut off a big slice of onion and slid it under my sock against the foot and left it there the rest of the day. The onion helped ease the pain and prevent swelling.  If I hadn’t have run out of onions, it might even have prevented any bruising at all!

I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked at is a doll hospital. There a band-aid can cure a heart attack. Do you own research (these are some of my favorite herbal resources) and consult a health care provider if your condition is serious. 

Do your “productive” days ever turn out quite unexpectedly? 

Review: Lifefactory Water Bottle

I received a gift for Christmas that has become practically indispensable. I carry it with me around the house, have it by my bed at night, take it on errands, and bring it to church with me.

It has quickly taken on my most-used-item status. It is my Lifefactory glass water bottle.

Have you ever gone for a sip of water from a plastic water bottle only to spit it out because the water tastes like chemicals? I have. Even from a BPA-free plastice water bottle. 

Advice and rumors on the best plastic water bottles abound. 

  • “Buy a water bottle, but make sure it’s BPA-free.”
  • “Actually, BPA-free bottles still might leach chemicals.”
  • “Drink water, just make sure not to leave your water bottle in the sun because it will leach chemicals.”

For better or worse, I decided it was wiser to drink water from a possibly chemical-contaminated plastic water bottle than to not drink water at all, especially on hot summer days.

Until a friend introduced me to Lifefactory’s glass water bottles (sold in protective, pretty silicone sleeves.)

I was instantly sold. Now I can leave the debate about which plastic is best to the scientists and enjoy sipping fresh tasteless water from my glass water bottle all summer long.

Aside from the fact that it’s glass, what’s so great about these water bottles?

Well, I haven’t tried tossing mine around like a baseball, but the silicone sleeve did protect my water bottle on a tumble down the stairs.

Plus (my model at least) has a heavy duty handle which makes it easy to carry and the flip top cap is just right for getting good sips of water without accidentally gushing it down your front (and works for kiddos to drink out of too.)

You can also put the whole bottle in the dishwasher, though I generally wash it by hand so I don’t have to wait a whole hour!

The only problem I’ve had is that a couple times I thought I’d screwed the lid on properly after filling it up, but hadn’t and water leaked until I fixed it. (I’m pretty sure that’s a distracted mom problem, not a design flaw!)

Lifefactory doesn’t just make adult water bottles. In fact, the company began with a single product: a glass baby bottle with silicone sleeve. (Isn’t it cute?!)

They also make kid-sized water bottles, in sippy cup or screw-top styles. Rose received a purple water bottle for Christmas and just loves it!

These bottles are, naturally, more expensive than plastic water bottles, but make an amazing gift and I’m pretty sure I’ve already gotten my money’s worth out of it…. even though I’ve only had it for a month! You can find them at your local health food store or order on Amazon 

Have you ever tried a glass water bottle? Did you like it?

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]