June 30, 2014

June Favorites

First, these two articles I love! They are gutsy, motivational, empowering and  best of all, real:
-My wife is not the same woman I married
-Mom's, Put on that Swimsuit!

1. I've been loving this sweet black tea that I found at a local restaurant, which, is totally natural, calorie free and gluten free!
2. Wouldn't this be such a cute onesie gift for a mom and her newborn? I love that it lists the birth stats. Definitely shadow box worthy!
3. I also thought this pop art pet portrait was fun and easy! It reminded me of a project I did long ago. Hmmm, maybe that'll be a post for another time! 
4 & 5. I'm crushing hard on this wool pillow and black and white pillow!
Ah, the symmetry. :o)

Some Pins I'm diggin':
-You are Loved
-Color blocked pegboards.... such a cute way to add some color to your garage.
-I've got a gallery wall in the making (for awhile now), and this wall and this wall provide great inspiration!
-Easy DIY toddler bed

June 24, 2014

30+ Toddler Travel Toys & Activities

30+ Toddler Travel Toys & Activities
30+ Toddler Travel Toys & Activities
Recently hubby and I took our, then 18 month old son, on a 4 1/2 hour flight to Mexico for a family wedding. Yowzers! PLUS we decided to not purchase him his own seat so we could save where we could. Looking back, we might just fork over the $$ next time.

Luckily on the way to Mexico there was one extra seat, and it happened to be right in front of us! The passengers were willing to rearrange so that Christian could have his own seat. That flight he did very well. He didn't have any melt downs, but did want to play with almost all the toys we packed for the flight. Talk about being tired because of constantly needing to be on and entertaining a toddler for hours on end!

The flight back home we were not so lucky. The flight was packed so C had to be a lap baby. Luckily we were flying back with many family members and he was able to walk the aisle to visit with everyone.

This is a list of most of the toys and activities that we packed for our trip that helped save us!

VARIETY IS KEY (along with easy accessibility, and gadgets with many functions)

1. stickers
2. window gel clings (great for windows or the pull down trays)
3. cheerio necklace (prestrung on embroidery floss thread, so it's ok to suck on)
4. Melissa & Dog Water Wow Coloring book (only uses water! and it dries for reuse)
5. Aquadoodle Travel (drawing/painting again with just water)
6. Clothes pins and a paper tube (clip the clips, send them down the tube, use the tube to talk into or see out of etc.)
7. Quiet book (with buckles, touch and feel pages, zippers etc. )
8. hand or finger puppets
9. books (Indestructibles, and lift the flap books are great)
10. old makeup brush
11. travel brush (one that folds, has a mirror, and the brush bristles push out. so many options in one gadget!)
12. snacks and water (for ascending and descending. plus a handy sippi grip that awesomely has a velcro strap! another added toy with a purpose!)
13. bubble wrap
14. iPod, iPad (we used these as a last resort)
15. kid headphones (to use with above. we liked Kidz Gear since it limits volume and has other good functions)
16. pipe cleaners and water bottle
17. straws
18. mini slinky
19. mini calculator
20. koosh ball 
21. triangular crayons (no rolling!)
22. kaleidoscope
23. Reusable sticker book (like Melissa & Doug's
24. sentimental stuffed animal
25. photo book (with family photos slid inside)
26. ziploc bag with duplo legos
27. toddler backpack (they will love going in and out of pockets, zipping the zipper, pulling things out etc. we added a chest buckle to ours and C loved it.)
28. travel magna doodle
29. bubbles!
30. small flashlight
31. the old fashioned jelly bracelets 
32. tissue paper
33. flowy scarf (peekaboo, stuffing into water bottle, tying onto things etc.)

The possibilities are almost endless!

-items that roll
-games or activities with small or many pieces
-valuable toys 
-glow sticks (especially for toddlers. if chewed, they can break!)

Between the toddler back pack and our diaper bag, we were able to easily bring many toys and activities for the flights.

*Don't forget, the Dollar Store is your friend!!!*

Coming soon: our toddler packing list and toddler iPad apps!

June 18, 2014

Life Is: Peaceful

Life is peaceful here on my husband's grandparent's tree farm.
Walking around the tree farm and gazing at God's beauty is one of our most treasured and peaceful moments! Michael's grandparents purchased this land in 1978 because they realized how much money people were spending on Christmas trees, and thought "why not grow trees and sell them?" They had the soil tested by a local forester and it was ideal for many types of trees! It wasn't until 1981 that they planted evergreens, walnuts, blue spruce, white and red pine, and cedar seeds. 
Before the land was a tree farm, it was farm land full of tall grass, corn fields and a cow pasture. There was a lot of work that went into prepping the land to get it ready to be seeded.
The great thing about a tree farm is that there is an abundance of fire wood, and the potential to have your own home grown annual Christmas tree!
Michael's grandparents had hoped that one day their grandchildren would benefit from the tree's harvest profit. The farm still has yet to be harvested, but one day in the future the farm will look quite different.

The tree farm has much sentimental value to our family with some of us growing up on the land, many of the grandchildren spending their summers working on the farm, and a few of us (me!) just have memories of visiting the farm to enjoy the beauty it has to offer. 

Having never heard of a tree farm before meeting my husband, he would recall fond memories working the land. There were always fallen branches to collect and feed through the wood chipper, lower branches to trim to help promote straighter boards with fewer knots, sick trees to weed out, and other tasks. I remember specifically hearing about the volunteer trees (trees that the squirrels planted, no joke!) on my first visit to the farm. After realizing hubby wasn't trying to fool me, I thought it was so interesting (and made perfect sense) that squirrels had helped plant some of the trees on the farm!
Little hubby helping on the farm. Isn't he so cute?!

Did I mention that before purchasing the farm land, Grandpa and Grandma Nelson acquired lake front property? This property is where they built a homestead in 1950, and still live there today, almost 65 years later.

The crisp, fresh scent of pines in the fall is something only God could imagine. Ahhhh, cedar too.

Michael and I were lucky enough to get our first Christmas tree from the Nelson tree farm (in 2008!). We hauled it the entire 6 hours back from MN to our home in IL, inside our vehicle. You don't want to lose all the needles, right?
The tree farm is also beautiful in every season, even during a Minnesotan winter.
Our dog Niko also loves to visit the tree farm. You should have seen him on his first visit! He loved to run around the 10+ acres off leash, tromping through mud puddles, chasing squirrels, getting a drink from the lake, and chewing on sticks! Oh there were sticks galore!
(Isn't our first little boy, Niko, so pretty? He is a Finnish Spitz, and we've had him since he was 10 weeks old. We love him so! He's now almost 5 years old!)

This tree farm has been in my husband's family for decades, and I hope that one day our children will have fond memories of the farm too. Grandpa Kenny's biggest reward since starting the tree farm has been that his grandchildren acquired a bit of love for nature because of it, and I definitely think that was accomplished!
This is one of my favorite pictures of us on the homestead. It's perfect with the lake and sunset behind us. This was taken in the beginning of 2008 when we were newly engaged! :o)
Nature seems to always help settle me and bring me back to my center. 
Do you have a place that you like to visit that automatically calms you and is peaceful? 

June 10, 2014

Fresh Habañero Salsa!

Michael and I both have a spicy tooth! Or many spicy teeth for that matter. Yes, you read that right, we love most things spicy! You should have seen our container garden in 2011 when we grew 8 different kinds of peppers from seeds! We had a whole set up complete with grow lights. 

We ordered the seeds from The Chili Pepper Institute and they varied in heat from mild to hot: Jalapeño, Tabasco, Cayenne, Cajamarca, Chiltepin, Datil, Habañero, and Bhut Jolokia (aka the Ghost Pepper, the hottest pepper at the time) because why not? Ahem... *cough,* Michael.
We learned that we LOVE peppers, but that growing many different kinds from seed is kind of hard work. I think we'll stick to growing maybe a few different kinds, instead of eight. 
We made lots of different foods from spices, to sauces, to recipes with the peppers we grew. One of those recipes that we have perfected over the past few years, is our fresh habañero salsa! Our recipe has been adapted from this one.
Fresh Habañero Salsa
*For the true spicy lovers*
-makes about 15 cups, so start with a huge bowl*
-prep time: ~10 min.

5 small jalapeños (3 for a half batch)
2 large white onions, roughly chopped
one head garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper 
2- 4oz. cans green chile peppers 
2 bunches cilantro, chopped
2 limes, juiced
4- 1 lb. 12 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes (strain 2 cans for a less runny salsa)
2 habañeros (seed them if you'd like less heat and/or reduce to 1 habañero)
gloves (use for the habañero at least for the first time)

1. Chop jalapeños, garlic and habañeros until finely chopped. (We like to use a simple chopper like this one instead of our food processor.) Add to large bowl.
2. Combine remaining ingredients to large bowl and stir!
3. Let the salsa marinate for a few hours, and it'll be at it's peak! 
Serve with chips, or even crackers!

This amount of salsa is great for sharing. Otherwise it'll last you a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks? Yes, we still eat ours since it still tastes fresh! Enjoy!

June 4, 2014

Hazardous Beauty Products?

Ever since being pregnant with Christian I have been more attuned to the food I eat, items I own, amount of garbage accumulated from packaging, use of chemicals, and even the products I use plus more. I'm still not perfect, not even close, but I've been on a mission to start becoming more of global citizen by being more natural and Earth friendly conscious. We cloth diaper Christian, we have always recycled, we use known and proven natural remedies before jumping straight to medicines, I have stuck to using no bottled water this year to cut back on waste (with an except of vacationing in Mexico for 5 days), and the list goes on.

Cut to the products we use every day. How safe are they really? What kind of ingredients are in the every day products we use like toothpaste, deodorant and even food? (hint: chemicals, pesticides and GMOs!) How do those ingredients affect our future bodies and health? Children and population? Animals? Earth? Many studies have proven that ingredients and chemicals found in the products we use and eat are loaded with carcinogenics (cancer causing agents) such as parabens (found in lotions, shampoos etc.), formaldehyde (found in cosmetics), parfum (fragrances), petrolatum (found in moisturizers, lip balms etc.), and phthalates (found in lotions, deodorants etc.). Not to mention that toxins from GMOs (like pesticides) have been found in our blood and even fetuses, causes gluten disorders, and can alter our bodies chemistry. SIGN ME OUT!

Don't get me wrong, medicines in particular, are great especially when they are necessary, like after a surgery. But if I have a headache, minor aches and pains, fever etc. I'd rather take (or even give to my child) a natural remedy first. It is the healthiest option for our bodies. For example, relieve a headache or fever by using a few drops of peppermint oil, or use Neem cream (an herb that's antiseptic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and immune enhancing properties) for a diaper rash.

I have never been one to use a lot of products, especially beauty products. But the ones I do use I have been pretty much set on since they have been tried and true for me. I'm sure I've got some hazardous products that I'm not even aware of. There are items (lip balm, lotion, deodorant, toothpaste etc.) that I use on a regular basis, that I wanted to check out. I'm already into tons of other natural stuff, why not check out natural beauty products?

After subscribing to a new YouTube channel, Beauty Nature's Way, (her other channel, Naturally Thrifty Mom, is my favorite mom channel) I found out about a website that rates products' toxicity based on their ingredients. 

Enter the Environment Working Group.

Needless to say, after I found out how easy it was to rate your products, I went straight to my bathroom, grabbed some items and plugged them in to see what they would rate. 

EWG Ratings
0-2/green= low hazard
3-6/yellow= moderate hazard
7-10/red= high hazard
*They show an exploded view of all the ingredients in the products and what each of them rates, then give an overall rating for the product.
Here's what some of my products rated:
Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion- 2
Blistex Lip Balm, SPF 15- 5, yikes
Dove soap- 2
MAC eye shadows & lipstick- not rated :o(
Neutrogena Deep Clean Cream Cleanser- 5, ugggh
Tarte Smooth Operator Foundation (tinted moisturizer)- Agent 04- 3

Like I thought, there were a few items I use that were considered moderately hazardous. Ekk! I'm going to start diving into natural products and see where it takes me! I'm also thinking this will be added to my 30 while 30 list.

Natural Products I'd like to try:
-Tarte Lights Camera Lashes Waterproof Inner Rim Liner
-Tarte Glamazon Pure Performance 12-Hour Lipstick in Fierce 
-Physicians Formula Organic Wear 100% Natural Origin CC Curl + Care Mascara 
-Physicians Formula Organic Wear CC Cream in Light/ Medium
-Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir
-100 %s Pure Fruit Pigmented Brightening Concealer
-Anti-Bacteria Wood Pulp Blotting Papers
-Physicans Formula Natural Wear Bronzer
-100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Eye Shadow
-100% Pure Organic Mint Lip balm

How do your products rate? Anything really surprising?

Another fellow advocate for natural beauty products and way of living is actress Shailene Woodley! I have so enjoyed reading and watching her interviews, due to her new movies Divergent and The Fault in our Stars. She has a lot of knowledge in this area since studying many indigenous cultures and herbalism. But not only that, she's also a rewilder in the sense that she collects her own spring water and forgers for food. A little more extreme than me, but oh so interesting to listen to and learn about!  

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