Thursday, January 22, 2015

Life in pictures...

Still going strong on this no refined sugar thing.  It's been surprisingly smooth sailing once I got over the initial two weeks.  I have episodes of feeling very tired sometimes, but I usually need water or something to eat to perk up again.  I am buying quite a lot of honey though as you may notice from the size of that half gallon jug. ;)  ha  I wouldn't say I'm lacking in the sweet department... per say...
If interested: 
Melt together in a sauce pan: 3/4 c coconut oil, 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 c honey, 2 tsp vanilla.  Pour into lined muffin molds and cool to set.  Add a dollop of peanut butter of your choice and flatten it out a bit.  Add a thin layer of chocolate on top until it's evenly distributed among the cups.  Cool again and keep in freezer as they melt rather quickly. Vey good right out of the freezer though, so no waiting for them to soften up when you want one. :) 
 Gisella kept pointing out the door at these saying "Cook it!  Cook it!" ha

 I wanted to know how long it took to clean the coop... It's been about 4-6 months since I cleaned up in there.  I waited for a warm day and gathered the gear...
Time stamp for start...
 It's been so cold that our golden comet has frost bite on her comb (the red thing on her head) even with a heat lamp on 24/7!  Crazy cold temps at night.  She's still laying an egg every day though crazy girl.  All of our other breeds in our coop have very small combs for cold weather climates...which is proving a good thing in IN lately.
 We used fall leaves for deep bedding in there...

Thrown on the garden to compost in through the spring...
 Done... about 45 minutes to clean the whole thing including the run.  Not too bad.
 I've had some energy rushes being off sugar...I'm organizing all the closets! :D ha  Luke the neat freak is kind of loving it.  I normally don't act like this unless I'm nesting (which I'm not currently ;)
 Christian my crazy kid...
 and he did this over and over...trying to break his leg...
 When asked what they were doing "harvesting ice"- got it, whatever keeps them outside for a while.
 all parents think their babies are the cutest in the world when they are sleeping...
 Gi has been talking!  "Cook it...ball" translated means "Hey dad, I'm going to smile really cute and then you will cut, peal and take the white stuff off this orange even though mom doesn't want me to eat it in my church dress."
 she of course got her way...without her church dress on.  I found a white vintage high chair finally.  I've been on the look out for a while.  Plan to keep it forever...it should last that long I think.
 Raw milk yogurt.  It stays raw since the milk is only heated to about 100 degrees to get the cultures brewing.  The texture is quite thin-it's basically drinkable yogurt.  
(This is "dangerous" to your health if you don't know the difference between rotten milk and cultured milk when it's done.  It's pretty easy to tell the difference in my opinion, but this isn't pasteurized yogurt.  The milk should of course be from somewhere with very strict bacteria testing)   
 And this yogurt is also quite spill-able.  YAY :P  This is after Willem "cleaned it up" ;)

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

White Collar Scams... Halsted Financial Services

(my nervous doodling while on the phone with Halsted Financial)

If they call...they won't give you that name actually, so you won't know it's them.  You have to request that name very specifically and they must answer (lest you know they are a complete joke and hang up I assume).  They will just ask for the last four digits of your (or spouses) social like they already have it and then wait for you to respond.  We've been getting automated calls from these people for the last month but the calls came to my phone asking for Luke.  It said if it wasn't Luke on the phone to hang up, so I did.  Then finally Luke was home and I passed the phone off to  him.  They asked for the last four numbers of his social "to verify his identity" and he asked for more specifics before handing over that information.  They dogged the question.  Luke finally got fed up, said not to call again and hung up.  They called the next day anyway.  I hit "0" to talk to a human because I was mad they called again after being told not to.  I was treated so disrespectfully and rudely that I got really huffy.  basically they try to make you so mad and flustered, questioning if you really are who you say you are, hoping that somehow you'll feel the need to defend your identity enough that you fork over the info they need.  The voices of the reps are sneering, obnoxious and accusing.  I got the guys name and asked to speak with a manager.  He said he would have a manager call me later.
"NO!  I don't want you ever to call this number again, let me talk to your manager."  I was getting very rude back at this point.  He transferred the call.  The manager was like the "nice cop" or the "good guy"in a sales deal.  Basically, we needed to give him the last four numbers of Luke's social so he could help me settle some debts we owed...or we would be in worse trouble.  I said we didn't have any unsettled debts...to which he sarcastically replied "Then I guess you have nothing to worry about then...if you are so sure."  Arg....I wanted to scream.  I didn't know a human could make me feel so uncomfortable and angry in 5 minutes time.  Finally he gives the ultimatum "We've been talking for ten minutes about nothing (we hadn't) are you or are you not going to verify your identity?"
I said "I'm not".
He gets the last word in "Well, it looks like we'll be calling you again." and he hung up.

So the reason this is all SO very annoying is that this company is not completely illegal (or at least I don't think so...enough people have had problems that I would think they would be shut down if illegal-not 100% sure though) and they have a nice formal looking website (that makes making payments very simple of course).  They get your info (the info I and Luke were thankfully hesitant to give), look up old debts you may have that have been legally closed/settled out because it's been so long (I think it's 6-7 year) and try to collect on them.  You have to file a cease and desist order to make them stop calling you or send a letter to their address by snail mail (listed below if needed).  It's CRAZY!  I just blocked the number on my cell and hope it ends there, but had we given them the social number, they may have been able to track down a work number for Luke somehow and they will call you at work...and call you again based on BBB reviews I read (not that they are BBB accredited, but people have posted nearly 160 complaints there anyway).  Relentless.

I'm posting about it because they are so good at what they do.  I even knew Luke thought it was a scam from the conversation he had with them the day before, but was still tempted to give them the number so they would give me the debt info we possibly owed.  I was concerned about identity theft maybe... I don't know...they sort of talk you into a corner.  So I thought it was worth the heads up.  Hold your ground.  They probably don't have any of that information they claim to until you hand over your identity.  If you don't have unsettled debts, tell them so and hang up, they've got nothing on you.

copy paste from this site:

"You have the right to tell a debt collector to stop calling you about your debt at any time. When asked, the debt collection agency must provide you with the full name of the company and a mailing address where you can send a letter requiring them to stop contact regarding this debt. You may do this even if you owe the debt. After they receive that letter, the debt collection agency may only contact you to tell you that they will stop their collection efforts or to inform you that they are no longer trying to collect the debt or that they are taking legal action against you."

Halsted Financial Services Address

Halsted Financial Services
P.O. Box 5773
Evanston, IL 60201-5773
Halsted Financial Services Phone Number: 877-833-1629
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Do you use essential oils...?

Well sure... doesn't everyone these days. ;)  Then the next question is which brand do you use.  Do I have to choose one?  Because it seems to me I'll loose friends somewhere if I say which brand I'm buying. ;) ha  It's not like that...not totally.

So you're still wondering which brand I buy...?

Once upon a time long long ago... :)

I had my hair washed at an Aveda salon and I'll never forget how I fell in love with the smell of oils that day.  I visited the same salon later for a massage around Christmas and she used all these wonderful pepperminty Christmas smelling oils throughout the massage and it was simply bliss.  That was after I had Noah...so we're talking 11 years ago.  I was relaxed, and I felt like I could breath.  These are two very important things for a new mother.  So... I bought Aveda oils because that's where I fell in love with them.  The oils where for smelling and though I didn't know the difference at the time, they were quite diluted.  But they were not very expensive as a result, and that was a good thing.

My vintage bottles of not very therapeutic grade oils from back in the day ;)  Mmmmm they smelled good though... 

Fast forward a few years... I started buying oil to put in cleaning stuff.  So again, not good quality oils, I wanted good smells.  I grabbed some oils at Whole foods at one point to add to lotion for massage.  I also bought some citrus oils for cooking because citrus oils are pretty inexpensive.  I was very unconcerned about quality I guess because I would smell the oil, and if it smelled good to me that was all that mattered.

Fast forward a few more years.  Everyone and their brother start talking about the benefits of Young Living oils.  My mother-in-law gave me some from time to time for different things, mostly for the kiddos.  I cringe when I consider how much sacred frankincense I sloshed onto Christian without understanding how to dilute it properly.  I had no idea it how expensive it was.  I didn't know a lot of things about oils...come to think of it...I still don't know a lot about them. :)  I need to read more.

So now we are to present.  My sister-in-law is a rep for Young Living and works her tail off driving all over the place delivering chest rubs to sick babies and such at a moments notice.  It's quite inspiring really.  So I can get YL oils through her.  But I like to dabble with things.  Never quite content to let things be.  So I ordered some different brands of oils to see what the differences where.  I didn't want to just read about someone else's opinion on a blog or website...especially if they had links to oil brands that were sponsored (could they really be unbiased...?).  So if you are still reading, you are interested in oils enough to see what I found out with the limited supply I purchased so far. :)

When you start collecting oils...it's like a disease...you may need a box for all the little bottles you get your hands on.  For sanity sake.
 You'll also need some roll on bottles for your diluted oils for ease of use...not that it's a must, but it sure helps with not wasting oil that drips out too fast...or if you have other things to do besides dilute oil in the middle of the day.  I find if I don't dilute them...I just start applying oils "neat" which is a huge waste. The bottles I'm holding are good for so many uses and have maybe 40 drops of oil in them.  If you apply concentrated, you'll spill out about 3+ drops an application which is way much and hard to spread around.  If they are not tinted glass like these, they need to be out of the sun if possible ;)
But just to clarify again...these big bottles are mostly Jojoba oil and have only as much essential oil as that little bottle there to the right (which is a sample size). :)  So about a 3:1 ratio.  For babies it should be a much smaller ratio.... like .5% or less depending on the oil.  Like...if you want to use peppermint oil, you'll need a few drops to two tablespoons of oil at the most.  Don't be rubbing that stuff undiluted on your little one okay?  That being said, when Gi had the chicken pox, I rubbed a lot of lavender on her liberally dripped into lotion which is considered okay for babies and older individuals too-but that's an exception to the rule. :)
 Awwww, look how cute that little sample bottle is. Samples rock to figure out what you like and don't like. ;)  Comparison of Frankincense oil in three different brands yields there is a difference.  Now, I can't say if it's a quality difference for sure, but the smell is definitely less strong/clear in cheaper brands.  I'll still use what I bought of course, but good to know you get what you pay for on that one.
 So blue oil blends are the ones that are confidence boosting and seem to help with alignment issues in addition to other things.  I really like the smell of Valor which is YL blue oil (and I think is always out of stock).  Heritage Essential Oils is another brand I really like.  The quality is right up there with the expensive brands and their blue oil is mixed with a bit of Emu oil to reduce inflammation (not for diffusing).
 Lalala...diluting oils...lalala... why did I take this picture...? ;) 
 or this one....oooooooow...diluting oils is messy messy ;)  At least the mess smells good...
 Other fun things to do with oils.  You can pretty much adde them to anything.   I added little flowers (Heritage Ess oils- smells AMAZING) to my Argan oil for my face.  So now that ritual actually smells good.  Yay.  And I added an anti-break out oil to my night lotion for good measure.  It smells pretty fantabulous now too. :)

 The diluted oil on the left is an uplifting happy smelling oil, and wouldn't you know it- it smells a lot like the one on the right which is just tangerine.  So it must have a lot of that in it. :)  It's fun when you start identifying notes in the oils...makes you feel like a real know it all. ;)
 Cheap knock off brand of Thieves.  NOT as good.  Flat lame actually.  I smelled both of them to try to describe the difference.  The cheap one smelled sort of similar but weak.  YL thieves... burned my lip.  So there you go... that's how they are different. ;)  That doesn't mean there isn't another brand out there that distills antiviral oils properly...Edens Garden isn't it though (if the price is too good to be true: $8 for 10ml...than it is too good to be true).  Another thing I noticed on the cheaper brands is that they are mostly cheaper to grow oils in the blends.  Like lavender or peppermint for example.  When frankincense is listed as an ingredient, I don't think they are flat out lying...but they probably only add a drop or two because they couldn't sell the bottles for $7 otherwise.
Inspired by Laura Lee to make an antibacterial spray that actually smells good and didn't have alcohol in it...I made some and labeled it "Germ death spray".  Good thing it's hard to read because it looks like I just wrote "death" only. :D  Might need a label revision on that.  (4 oz bottle, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 20 drops thieves oil, filtered water).  I don't know if that's what Laura used as a recipe as a little disclaimer.
 Forget the diffuser people... (well, not really if you like yours) if you spray this Thieves spray like 6 times in a room, it smells like a diffusers been on for an hour. :D  Mine may be a little concentrated, I was trying to get rid of the cheap brand and dumped some of that in there too for good measure.  

On diffusers, I got one that didn't use water and ended up returning it.  It was a glass globe style one that used air only with a motor in a wood base; it was pretty but I didn't feel like it spread the oil very far into the room.  Back to water based ones.
So there you have it...that's all I know about oils so far...
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Silver bells and a date night...

***Correction to Blueberry muffin recipe two posts back!!!  baking powder should be in teaspoons not tablespoons.  So sorry about the mistake, hopefully no one made bad muffins before the correction (3 teaspoons baking power).  See recipe if you would like a few extra details I discovered tonight making them again. :)

Our simplified allowance system so far pictured below.  We started out with mason jars and tickets...it was bulky and I thought quite ugly to look at on top of the piano.  So now we have shot glasses with bells.  They start with 10 silver and 3 gold for the month.  The silver ones can be taken away for bad behavior.  Silver bells are earned for extra jobs we give them above and beyond their normal chores.  And gold bells are given if they do a really big job without being asked (which again, can't be taken away for bad behavior).  Some days there is quite a lot a of bell swapping into the reservoir jar-some days not.  It's been working surprisingly well though. :)  They get a dollar per bell at the end of the month; two go to church and one goes right back to me after I hand it to them for taxes. ;)
 And then there is Mimosa and a Masterpiece.  Luke was amazing enough to come with me on a date night here.  I think they probably sell quite a lot of mimosas to poor boys that get brought in against their will.  Luke was a good sport though, really.

 Here is the image we were supposed to paint, it's a play on Stary Night with an Indy skyline :)

 The owner sweetly offered to take our picture...ha...such a winner. ;)

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Life in pictures...a snow day

It all started with below freezing temps and some snow.  I got out of bed and willed myself to shoo the kids in from outside in the snow (at 7:30a) and into the car for our CC meeting.  In the flurry and rush I did't check e-mail.  I guess I thought we would have called off school the night before if we were going to....anyway, we showed up and there was no one there.  SO, we rerouted and went to the Children's museum...where again...no one was there, despite it being open. :)

BumbleBee all alone in the atrium...
Leonardo!  This is an amazing display.  It will be at the museum for 9 years on loan, so if you get the chance, it's worth seeing.  It's a mummified duck bill, so you can see some skin patterns, ligaments and they x-rayed to see some plants it had eaten in it's stomach when it died.  Very cool and unique in the fossil world.
 mummified ligaments along spine in criss-cross pattern :)

 Dino-sphere, A very sweet employee did a presentation on the injuries one of the dinosaurs has on it's fossil remains.  The boys then acted out what it would be like to move with the injuries themselves. :)
 An actor portraying Wilbur Wright.  This was very fun mostly because the actor had SO much energy.

 Jude demonstrating his version of bird flight :)
 just to show how empty it was...
 sent this one to Luke at work....haha... captioned "the only ones here"
 experiment on bio-plastics and molding

 cornstarch, corn oil and water heated in the microwave then kneaded.

 we rode the merry go round like 5 times since there was no line. :)

 and then out in the snow when we got home.

 With the boys outside playing in the tundra, I finally cleaned out the coat closet.  I really should have taken a before picture...I'm sure you can imagine what it starts to look like after years of no upkeep though.  I'm so not a closet organizer my nature.  It's not that I don't like organized things, I just can't bare watching my work destroyed.
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