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I haven’t done a Things I Love Thursday in a little while and I realized on Sunday that I was overdue, especially considering how I droned on and on about a new product I’ve tried.

I don’t often win things, online or IRL.  But I lucked out before the new year and won a trio of make-up primers from Bare Escentuals on Twitter.*  I have been a BE girl since Brendan was a baby and never felt the need for a primer for the products.  The minerals are powdered, very gentle, and tend to stay on my skin (well, at least, without the withering heat and sweat of Arizona, that is….), and have actually improved the condition of my skin.  When I first started with BE, I was distraught about my skin.  I had concealer in my purse, in the car, and in the house.  I was constantly touching-up and covering-up the blemishes (and scarring that came from the blemishes) that dotted my face.  It was a financial stretch back then to consider a make-up product that was so costly ($25 for a container of foundation), but I took the risk with a 60-day-love-it-or-return-it guarantee.

I simply couldn’t believe the improvement in my skin within a few short weeks!  The blemishes went away and after time, the scarring faded.  I put the makeup on and immediately felt better about myself – I looked up and forward much more often.  I carried myself differently – with more poise and confidence.  I didn’t have to carry concealer with me everywhere anymore, and I didn’t hide my face.  It sounds trite, but it really did infuse me with more confidence.  And I deduced that IPrime Time Brightening Foundation Primer was likely reacting to the concealer with all of the blemishes, because I didn’t change anything else about my life, diet, or habits that would have caused them to disappear – I just switched my foundation and stopped using my old concealer.

So fast forward 8+ years.  The heat here in the summer is stifling and suck-the-air-from-your-lungs intense.  And my propensity to sweat is equally intense.  I’ll be absolutely fascinated to try the primers in the heat of summer, but regardless – right now, they are the bee’s knees.  My foundation stays on all day and when I cleanse my face at night, I’m literally shocked how much makeup is still on my skin.  I don’t have oily skin (at all – I tend toward dry), and this stuff finishes to a powder finish and makes my makeup application that much smoother.  I’m in love.

Bare Escentuals Mineral MakeupI also received the eyelid primers, which was a treat.  I had begun “foiling” my eye makeup, which means to apply a powder with water to create a more intense, longer-lasting look.  It worked fine, but these primers make that practice absolutely obsolete.  I don’t need to foil my glimmer or glimpse (what BE calls their different eye colours), and even my favourite purple shade (“Bloom”) which I’ve had trouble applying and getting it to last does exactly that.  At the end of the day, my eye makeup looks as fresh and amazing as when I applied it at 7:00am.  Truly, I’m impressed.

Most days I don’t wear makeup, preferring to go instead with a sheer moisturizer, and it works well.  But when I want to put on makeup, BE is my choice.  I never look “made up” and most of the time, Mark can’t tell if I have a foundation on or not.  But I love enhancing my own features with subtle make-up, especially if it stays on well.  And I have to say, in my 8+ years of using BE, the foundation’s cost has remained constant.  In these days of skyrocketing expenses, shrinking packages, and the rest, I applaud Leslie Blodgett (BE’s CEO) for making a quality product and not gouging us in the process.

*Although I won these products from BE, I wasn’t asked to review them at all.  My opinions are my own – and if I hadn’t liked these items, I simply wouldn’t have written about them.  I also receive no compensation for this review.

We take having clean, safe drinking water for granted here in the States.  Even when I lived overseas, I was in “first world” nations that provided drinking water with a turn of the faucet.  It’s a blessing – but sometimes it doesn’t taste good enough to make you want to drink what comes from the faucet.

When we lived in Dexter, we had well-water.  I both loved and hated it – I loved being self-sufficient and not dependent upon city water.  I hated it when the electricity went out and we had no water (because the pump is electric).  I loved the lack of chlorine and other additives to the water, but hated the heavy iron and calcium deposits.  Boiling a pot of water for spaghetti reminded me of our iron-rich water because there were always rust-coloured bubbles on the water in the pot.  Bleah.

But moving to Phoenix was a shock to our system.  Our friend Ashley always used to say how fantastic our well-water tasted, but we thought it was less-than-ideal, having tasted well-water in the next county down which was much less iron-rich and had fewer sulfuric odors.  We had no clue how much we would miss our well water once we lived down here – until we went to brush our teeth and came up feeling like we had rinsed our mouths with pool water.  Blech.  The water here is that chlorinated – it smells like the community’s pool!

For emergency preparedness, I’d been stalking a Berkey water filter for several months, but moving put the plans to purchase one on the back burner for a bit.  We finally ordered one and have been using it for the last several days.  May I just say?

WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

Seriously.  The water doesn’t taste like chlorine, the tea tastes SO much better, the coffee is SO much smoother, and pretty near everything we cook that requires water tastes better now.  It is amazing.

The Berkey is definitely one of the more “powerhouse” purification systems out there.  There are installed units (under the sink or whole house), but this is portable.  We opted for the Berkey Light Max – it’s a clear (light blue) unit and it’s easy to determine how much water is there.  It’s easy to fill for any of us – Brendan can manage it readily.  The Berkey Light comes with 2 Berkey filters, but we paid a little more to have it upgraded to a Berkey Light Max – it has 4 filters.  It breaks down in to smaller pieces for transport very easily – which is great if a severe emergency ever required us to “bug out.”

The filters are easy to prime and install and filter out 99.9% of everything you don’t want in your water – chlorine, sediment, bacteria, even viruses!  Four filters don’t filter better than two, but it is faster, providing more surface area with which to filter.  Four filters will last for – get this! – TWELVE THOUSAND GALLONS OF WATER.  That’s mind-boggling to me.

For emergency preparedness purposes, not only is this portable, but it will filter potentially contaminated water to drinkable in short order.  This will cut down on the life of your filters, but in an emergency when you’re desperate for water, the life of the filters is less important than the ability to filter water.  And between living in the desert and being convinced that water storage is a huge part of any food storage plan, this fits in beautifully.

We did discover (accidentally) that you can’t put extra water in the filtering reservoir – as it filters, it flows.  And if the “ready water” reservoir is full, well… let’s just say we should’ve had a towel ready, just in case.  😮

We’ve already saved money by using this just a few days.  I drink close to 2 litres of water per day, and our monthly water bill (just for drinking) was somewhere in the $30 range for bottled water from Costco.  That was judiciously drinking water and not using it for cooking, coffee, tea, etc.  Our bottled water in the garage (other than our water-storage) is almost gone and I’ve already been able to skip one of the biweekly trips to Costco for just that – water.  Love it!

I’ll also be purchasing and stocking up on more filters in upcoming months just to have on hand.  The white (sterasyl) filters filter more water (for a longer life) than the black ones, but are harder to come by.  I’m so relieved to have this part of our preparedness done.  I’m gonna go get another cup of joe – it tastes so darned good now!  :)

I haven’t done a Things I Love Thursday in a while, but I realized this past weekend that I needed to do one for coconut oil.  Seriously – I think the stuff is AMAZING.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat (and that’s not bad for you – read about it here) and is multi-purpose in our home.  It is loaded with MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid – all of which are phenomenally healthy for us.  The MCTs stimulate metabolic function (that means you’ll lose weight if your body is carrying more than it wants to), brain function (read at Coconut Keytones about how Alzheimer’s disease can be actually REVERSED with it), and lubricates your body from the inside-out.  Lauric acid is present in mother’s milk, but after weaning, we rarely get the amount that is healthy to stimulate our immune systems.  With a mere 3.5 tablespoons per day, we can get the same amount of lauric acid as is present in a full-day’s nursing for an infant, thereby boosting our immune system and overall health.  And oddly enough, when there is sufficient natural oil in your system (not vegetable oil or other synthetic oils), dry skin goes away.

I also use coconut oil on my hair.  Research has shown that CO is the ONLY oil which actually bond with the keratin (protein) in hair – making it the natural choice for hydrating your locks, ending frizzies, and returning any curls you have to a springy-health.  I use it once a week now that I live in the desert – my hair loves it.  My curls are manageable, beautiful, and my hair is crazy-soft.  I also use it sparingly to style my hair (scrunching the curls when they are wet) and if I decide to straighten my hair with a flat iron, I use a tiny amount on each section before I straighten it – the heat of the iron makes the oil bond with my hair in a new way and the finished style is straight and soft, as well as smooth.

Of course I cook with CO – between butter and coconut oil with an occasional splash of sesame oil, we’ve moved to a traditional-food eating plan and love it.  I put CO in my coffee every morning (an easy way to get the proscribed 3.5 T per day), and when my skin is particularly dry, I rub it in and let it moisturize me from the outside, too.  There is never a greasy residue or oily feel when using it, as it absorbs quickly and well.

We also use CO as an intimate lubricant (ahem) and found that my incidence of yeast infections and other female unpleasantries went away.  When I researched the reason for this, I read that glycerin, which is in most commercially-available lubricants, turns to SUGAR after three months of air-exposure.  Which means that women are more prone to infection and reproductive-tract issues when they introduce sugar in to a potentially off-kilter system that might be too acidic or already have high levels of yeast (systemic candida).  Coconut oil is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and is hypo-allergenic.  It doesn’t stain bedclothes, either.

A good quality CO will be solid in ambient temperatures of 75F or less and liquid above those temperatures.  I moved from the “Land of Almost-Never Liquid CO” to the “Land of Almost-Never Solid CO” and have yet to have any coconut oil in our home be the white, solid stuff I knew in Michigan.  You can find good COs that smell and taste like coconut or some that are steam-deodorized, but do your research before buying and know if what you’re using is RBD – Refined, Bleached, Deodorized.  That is one kind of CO you’ll want to avoid – and I don’t have enough space here to explain why, so Google it and read about RBD on your own, please.

If you’re concerned about tree-nut allergies, please be aware that although coconuts grow on trees and are called “nuts” (hence their name), they are NOT the same as tree-nuts.  People who have nut allergies react to the protein in the nut; there is virtually no protein to react to in coconut oil.  It is a hypo-allergenic product and I really believe it will enrich your life and your health.

For more Things I Love Thursday, hike over to The Diaper Diaries and check out the posts there!  :)

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I spent a few days in the desert southwest last week and discovered, to my chagrin, that I was still sneezing my fool head off and blowing my nose like crazy.  When I inquired of the locals, I was told in no uncertain terms that was got me was “West Texas, ma’am.  Everything is dead here, so you’re reacting to the dead things in the air.”  So much for the idea that the desert is good for allergies….

But in the meantime, I found all the blowing and wiping of my nose equaled one AMAZINGLY sore nose.  And all the skin underneath my nose cracked and was raw.  No amount of my favourite moisturizer (coconut oil) even touched it.  So I dealt with it until I arrived back home and put some Neosporin ointment on it before going to bed.

The next morning I awoke and nearly all of the scaly, raw skin was GONE.  Not smoothed down from the ointment base, but GONE.  I have one tiny patch left and if I could remember to keep Neosporin on it, it would also heal quickly.  That’s not the fault of the ointment; it’s my own forgetfulness.

As much as I try to do things au naturale around here, there are times when I’m really grateful for the low-level antibiotics in Neosporin – and I’ll happily shell out a few bucks (after coupons and CVS Extra Bucks) to keep my medicine cabinet stocked with the stuff.

Here’s to happy, smooth noses!  :)

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I typically don’t talk about things that are costly on Things I Love Thursday, as I’m a frugalista at heart.  fagorBut this device is My New Best Friend and is well worth the expenditure of cash.  This thing is my Fagor 3-in-1 Multi-Cooker.  It is an electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, and slow cooker in one sleek package.

I used to be afraid of pressure cookers – the tales of my grandmother mopping beets off of her ceiling were plentiful.  The history of pressure cookers is fascinating, though, and I began to understand why Grandma had problems with her pressure cooker as I read.  Apparently, pressure cookers were initially made of aluminum and were quality – before WWII.  During WWII, aluminum was restricted and used for aircraft and war-purposes, so there were few PCs to be found.  Then after the war when aluminum was plentiful again, there were scads of producers who made PCs on the cheap.  And by on the cheap, I mean cheap quality, cheap products, and few, if any, measures of quality control. What you don’t learn, eh?  Among these 80 or so manufacturers, there were those who created PCs with bad seals, inexpensive gauges, etc., and there were women who bought them and then proceeded to mop beets, spaghetti sauce, and other things off the ceiling.  It was unfortunate, but not uncommon, either.

And so generations of us grew up with these tales and a fear of pressure-cooking.  I have never used a pressure-canner, either – for the same reason.  But my Fagor PC has eliminated the fear from pressure cooking for me.  I became interested in it as I researched food storage and decided to stop paying for pre-cooked and canned beans (and all of the water in the cans) and go back to basics.  But I knew with dried beans I would either have to slow-cook them for a day or more or I would have to get over my fear of pressure cookers.

What sealed the deal for me on this device was the fact that it was a rice cooker AND slow cooker in addition to being a pressure cooker.  Mark has wanted a rice cooker for years now, but I’ve resisted with a lack of cabinet space and a lack of counter space.  But my Fagor PC has permitted me to put my crockpot in cold storage and not worry about taking up counter space.  It’s larger than I thought it was, but smaller than my 6 qt crockpot and fits nicely on the counter with space to spare.

But enough about that – what does it DO?  I have the ability to make the most amazing beans – from dried beans – now.  I also have the ability to overcook my beans and make bean puree (more on that later).  I have made amazing brown rice in 20 minutes (yes, you read that right! 2o minutes of PC’g on high and the rice is PERFECT!).  I have PC’d spaghetti sauce to perfection, venison chunks from frozen to fork-tender in 10 minutes, and made my famous vegetable-beef soup in under an hour – a feat that ordinarily takes me 8 hours with a crock pot.  And the best part?  I get to set a timer and forget it.  There’s no watching it, waiting for the rocker to jiggle, or anything else.  It simply does it for me.

I LOVE THIS THING!  Holy cow do I love this thing.  The only thing I’m not crazy about is the Teflon-lined cooking pot, but I just keep wooden utensils around to keep from scratching it.

If you’re getting in to food storage or looking for ways to go back to basics in your cooking, I really think a pressure cooker is the way to go.  There’s no way to get burned (unless you hold your hand or arm over the steam release valve when you’re releasing the pressure), there’s no chance of opening it accidentally if there’s pressure built up in the cooker.  It’s got safety written all over it and there’s no chance I’ll mop beets off of my ceiling, beside the fact that I don’t cook beets.  😉

If you want to buy it through Amazon, I’m linking it here – the price is pretty stable all over the web and in brick & mortars around me.

Oh, and here’s a picture of the finished soup – perfect, beautiful, and delish.  The meat was so tender it fell apart in our mouths and the vegetables were not mushy at all.  Perfection in a bowl, my friends.  Perfection.

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Despite living in an incredibly “progressive” and “organic”-based community, I find that most organic things are beyond me – they are beyond our budget, but moreover, I find soap & water to do a fine job at removing chemicals from our produce and still manage to feed my family well.  One thing I simply cannot tolerate is High Fructose Corn Syrup, HFCS for short.

Back in the early 90s when my PCOS began acting up and no one knew what it was or why I was gaining weight despite following a strict diet, my doctor advised that I begin eating “low fat.”  And at that time, there was a plethora of products on the market that were touted as “low fat,” but which had enormous amounts of sweetener in order to make the products palatable.  And around that same time, HFCS was fast becoming the sweetener of choice for processed foods – because it was cheaper than sugar, due to governmental meddling (yes, I’m a bit passionate about that particular topic) in both the sugar market and the corn market.  HFCS was everywhere and I ate it frequently and unknowingly.

During a 2.5 year period, my symptoms of PCOS became much, much worse.  In retrospect, knowing what I do about HFCS, I truly believe that that processed sweetener, having all of the chemicals, etc. that it does, helped to damage my pancreas, increasing my symptoms of PCOS and deteriorating my overall health.  Some people seem to be able to tolerate the stuff without adverse effects; I am not one of those people.

Our son, possessing one-half of my genes, is more at risk for pancreatic issues than if he wasn’t my biological child.  While my husband doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, I’m not willing to bet my child’s health on whether or not he has his dad’s or my pancreatic markers on his DNA.  And so I’m fondly called the HFCS-Nazi over here.  Really, “Gestapo” is more accurate, but I’m not going to quibble over semantics.  😉

That means that I don’t permit our son to have HFCS in just about everything.  Occasionally he has a sweetened soda, but it’s infrequent.  He knows to look for “high fructose corn syrup” on ingredient labels at the grocery store, and understands that it’s a death-knoll for a product.  My health has improved by avoiding the stuff, my husband has lost about 5 pounds by drinking cane-sugar sweetened soda instead of HFCS-sweetened stuff, and our son has avoided pancreatic problems and issues thus far.

There are some products that I’ve had a hard time finding reasonable replacements for – ketchup was one of them.  I’ve tried Trader Joe’s ketchup and found it lacking; I’ve tried Heinz’s Organic Ketchup and liked it – except for the price.  Then one day last month, I was in Meijer and found a bottle of their “Naturals” line of ketchup – made with SUGAR, not HFCS! 😀

I bought a bottle of regular Heinz so we could compare taste and see which we preferred – we were out of ketchup anyhow.  A quick taste-test determined that we LOVED the Meijer Natural ketchup.  It tasted perfect – not tweaked to a point where we tasted tomato paste or overly salty or anything else.

So while it’s a small victory, it feels like a huge one and I’m crazy-excited about it.  Okay, maybe just crazy.  Either way, it’s one more thing that I have managed to remove from our lives to improve our health and haven’t had to sacrifice taste.  :)

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So I’ve had a mini-hiatus from writing here … I didn’t really intend to take a month off, but I did anyhow.  Sometimes life is like that.  It started out with wedding work for which I had to travel out-of-state and then it became recovery from the wedding work and travel (working vacations are far more work than vacation, really)…

And the next thing I knew, it was a month since I’d last posted.  😐

Really not what I’d intended.  But the time and realization did spur me to think more deeply about what I write here.  With this latest incarnation of my family blog, was I being genuine and authentic to me?  To my writing style?  Or had I bought in to a formula to rank my blog on Google?  See, here’s the thing – I love writing.  And I’m pretty good at it.  And there is some ego-massage that goes on when you’re getting hits from all over and people are reading your blog and coming back because you’ve linked to someone else’s post, ad infinitum.

But that’s not really what I’m about.  I love trying new recipes (Tasty Tuesdays).  I’m totally committed to encouraging other women to pursue their husbands and making their sex lives fulfilling and fun (The Challenge) and I really like sharing other “finds” with people and reading about what they can’t do without (Things I Love Thursdays).  But all of that is formulaic.  And I’m not a formula.  I’m far more (to use a catch-word right now) organic than that.  I want to write about what my garden is or isn’t doing.  What my friend overseas means to me.  How much fun we had doing “x” or showing off pictures of our son on his new bike.  And while that fomula kept me active, it also became a burden and stripped some of the joy out of writing.

Which I think is why a month of hecticness passed and I forgot to write.  Of course, the computer issues (now resolved!) didn’t help, either – it became a total burden to do *anything* on the laptop, which is where my files were stored.  Regardless, the formula of writing my blog just wasn’t working for me.

And so I’ve gotta be me.  I’ll still share recipes and I’ll still encourage women to get and keep the hots for their husbands.  And I’m still going to do an occasional “Things I Love Thursdays,” just because it’s fun to do.  But I’m not going to let it burden me any longer.  I’m going to write more about our homeschool adventures, my new garden (I’ve gotta prepare in case gas goes back up to $4 a gallon this summer – yikes!), my decisions about which school to attend (yep, I’m going back!) and how God’s gonna provide for that, and other miscellaneous things in my life.

So stay tuned… and thanks for reading this far.  Because it’s a journey and I want to be real and authentic – with myself and with those who read here.  😉

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