Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Husband Time

A long time ago, when I was a little girl, I dreamt of getting married. I thought of all the wonderful things I would do for my husband, and how much he would love and adore me, and do kind things in return -- because spouses are always nice to each other, and have so much time to spend together, with just each other...

Now that I'm actually married it's easier and easier for me to see how the world tries to encroach on a couple's time together. And I believe time = unity. Nay, I know time = unity. And also, I'm kind of addicted to my husband, or Husby, as he's known in our house.

I know there are extenuating circumstances. There are spouses in the military, spouses in school, spouses busy with church callings... spouses in school, and with a church calling... Maybe we have little babies.

There are also seasons of our lives. Some seasons are busier than others. But I know in this busy period of my life there are things that, though not bad in and of themselves, take time away from my husband. Am I willing to give up something like that now so that I'll still like my husband later on? That may seem like a drastic jump to some, but I've seen people get so busy that when they finally do find time for their spouse, they don't like being with him/her anymore. So sad!

Can I choose a frozen veggi over making something luxurious to save some time? Yep. Can I leave dishes till a little later? It may make me cringe to do so, but I can. Can I tear myself away from my iphone?!

Just kidding, I don't have an iphone. But this is one of the reasons why. Would I spend time with my phone that I could be spending with my precious husband? Just an example.

I don't have a lot more to say than just that. Spend time with your spouse. Spend enjoyable time with your spouse. Spend time, other than sleeping, with you and your spouse alone. Not always easy, but oh so worth it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nursing Strike Revelation

When Daniel was nine or ten months old, he went on a nursing strike. It was my fault.

At the time, he was cutting his top front teeth, and accordingly, started giving me a little test chomp each time he would nurse. This hurt me so sincerely that I couldn't think before reacting, "Oh ouch! Daniel! Don't bite!" The first time I said this to him, he was deeply hurt and looked up at me with one of those heartbreaking pre-cry faces.

I only had to react a few times like this before he stopped wanting to nurse.

It took me half a day to make the connection between my reaction and his refusal to nurse. I had never spoken to him that way, especially not in our moments of ultimate closeness.

Fortunately, he was eating other food by this time, but he'd still been breastfeeding 6-8 times/24 hours. Now, every time I offered to feed him, he would seal his lips tight. This from a boy who LIVES for nursing (still does...). I was so sad!

The strike lasted a few very long days. The first night, I broke his resistance a bit by nursing him when he was super sleepy, but that didn't work for long.

Finally, I lay with him in my bed when he awoke one night, and tried again to nurse. He refused over and over, shaking his head and arching away. I felt to try a different approach. I held him close and whispered gently, "Daniel, I love you. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings." With that, he immediately latched on and drank a full meal.

I was touched by this sweet reminder that babies possess a deep sensitivity and understanding. Not every baby may have reacted this way, but Daniel wears his heart on his sleeve, and he needed to feel without a doubt that I love and accept him. It was what we both needed.

Things got better after that, but he watched me closely for a while. I learned to anticipate the nibbles and quickly break the latch. If I missed on that, I would just bite my tongue and try my best to smile instead of squeal.

He doesn't bite anymore, and nursing is lovely as ever.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Get Up and Get Out!

I make a point to go out on the town and play a few times a week.  I was asked recently to post about how I do it and where I go. 

  • Children can learn so much by going out and seeing things and experimenting.
  • When you and the kids are not in the house, it can't get messed up!
  • It's hard to find time to exercise with little kiddies around, so chances are you'll get more exercise leaving the house than staying home.
  • You model and teach a non-sedentary lifestyle. 
  • I have found that it's easier to get out if I go early.  Our schedule's pretty set after lunch, and nap time can go long, and before I know it, it's time to start dinner.  Right after breakfast is a good time.
  • Keep a diaperbag ready.  When you return from an excursion, load it up with more diapers if needed.
  • Keep diaper changing stuff in the car.  Then, what's stopping you?
  • Don't clean the house first.  Then it'll never happen.  Don't even clean the kitchen.  Throw the dishes in the sink and take off.
  • Empower your kids as early as possible to put on their own shoes, socks, and jackets (know the "jacket trick"?  Put the jacket on the floor, stand facing the hood, put your arms in the sleeves and flip it over your head).  Older kids should be getting ready while you ready the baby.
  • Pack lots of food.  I hate buying food while we're out, and I hate going to all the trouble to go out and just finding I have to go home early because we're hungry.
  • A walk.  The most important thing is to get out.  Plop the babe in the stroller, and walk out the door.  You won't regret it.  Even if it's raining or cold.
  • The park.  Find a new one nearby. 
  • Arboretums or gardens
  • The Zoo
  • A pet store is sometimes as good as a zoo
  • A popular dog park or skate park
  • Museums.  Okay, I'm spoiled living in DC with lots of free, world-class museums, but I bet you have one by you.  Call and ask if they have any days that are discounted or free.
Abraham admiring some Pollock at the National Gallery of Art
  • A farm (to watch animals or pick fruit)
  • A farmers market
  • Children's theater
  • Children's concert or any good outdoor concert
  • Somewhere to watch horses for a while
  • A state park
  • Trains or ferries
  • The Library (we go weekly!)
Our local children's library, the Noyes Library
  • Large machines--take a picnic to somewhere you can watch a bulldozer or tree-lopper
  • Call your local bakery and see if you can take a little tour of the back
  • Bring a book and drop your (potty-trained) toddler off at the IKEA playland!
  • Anywhere you want to go, chances are your child wouldn't mind being for a little while.  Just don't stay still for too long or they'll get anxious.
  • At the Silver Spring Thanksgiving parade
  • A Parade (there are more around than you might think!)
  • Go on a nature walk to collect "nature"
  • Playdates
  • Sign up for emails from your local community calendar or children's community calendar
Happy outings!  What are your favorite spots to hang out? 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Xenoestrogens and Phytoestrogens

The other day while having dinner with my husband and some friends the subject of plastics came up. Our guests informed me that lavender has been found to have feminizing affects on young boys along with those plastics I've been trying to avoid. I decided to do some research, this is what I have found.

First of all I have found these two words tossed around, xenoestrogen and phytoestrogen. Xenoestrogens are any estrogen mimicking substance foreign to our bodies, that somehow enter our bodies. BPA and phthalates for instance. Phytoestrogens are xenoestrogens that specifically come from plant matter; soy for instance.

As we know these endocrine disruptors cause human cells to perform in ways that are opposed to their natural way of performing. There was recently an article in Time Magazine about what is known as precocious puberty, or early onset puberty in young girls. There are girls who are showing signs of maturation as early as 5 years old, which is crazy, but more commonly around 7 or 8 years. Puberty for girls is directly related to how much body fat a girl carries. This article is not my favorite because is tells people to have their young girls on low fat diets to prevent early puberty, which is not healthy. I recently wrote a blog about why fat is essential to a person's diet. The article does do a great job of showing what a serious problem these substances side effects are.

Cutting to the lavender/tea tree issue, all the research I have found supports the supposition that lavender and tea tree products have estrogenic effects on the people who use them, men and women, boys and girls. The big issue that we hear about most often in the research is three boys that were found in 2007 who had, before the onset of puberty, grown breast tissue. (Apparently it is not uncommon for boys to grow breast tissue during puberty. I didn't know this until researching this topic.) Each of these boys had been using one product or another that had lavender and/or tea tree oil. When they stopped using these products the breast tissue shrunk, or disappeared completely.

There was a study done because of what was seen with these boys. In this study different cell types were exposed to tea tree and lavender, (different mammal cells, and even breast cancer cells). The scientists found that the oils caused the breast cancer cells to grow, and caused changes in the other cells as well. You can find a great overview of the research linked to these boys here. I would like to insert a portion of the discussion section of the research article here, but you need permission in writing to do so. Basically it states that the threshold of when these oils begin to have an effect on a person's body is not known, and so people should use extreme caution when using products containing them.

I believe strongly that God has given us plants for our health and benefit -- I also believe that these plants need to be used in wisdom and order. There was a time in the not-too-distant past when the human body was not exposed to as many environmental toxins as we see in our day. It's simply not that way anymore. We are exposed to an ever growing number of such substances, so I personally have stopped using any products that contain these agents.

Here is a video I found on Youtube that sheds some more light on the topic of xenoestrogens.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sprouting Wheat Berries for Flour

I have recently taken to sprouting wheat berries for flour. Sprouting, like souring and soaking, is another traditional way to prepare grains to our benefit. I love having a jar of sprouted, dehydrated wheat on the shelf, especially for those times I don't plan ahead enough to soak.

Sprouting does some amazing things to the grain, notably:
  • Cuts carbs and calories by well over half (significantly lower GI score)
  • Creates vitamin C (I've heard stories about sailors who avoided scurvy with the vit. C from sprouts)
  • Activates phytase, our "hero" enzyme that dissolves phytic acid, the "villain" anti-nutrient that interferes with the absorption of key minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and others.
  • Increases protein 
  • Increases enzymes such as amylase, protease, and lipase

I understand that there are also decreases in fiber and some nutrients. But it's nice to know that whatever's in there will probably be more available!

Sprouting is really only a three-step process: soak 'em, rinse 'em, and dry 'em.

STEP 1: Soak Overnight

I used two large pickle jars and one gallon jar, filling each one about a third full of grain and covering generously with filtered water (they swell a bit in the soak). My jars were covered with that mesh material from onion bags and fastened with rubber bands.

Grains have enzyme inhibitors, meant to keep the seed from germinating while in storage. When you soak the grain, these inhibitors are neutralized, allowing the seed to start growing. So the seed begins to consume the starches in the endosperm, thereby producing a sprout!  The energy used in this process is what causes the decrease in calories.

STEP 2: Rinse and Drain

For the next day or two, rinse the wheat berries every few hours and let them drain in between. I just tip them upside-down in these glass pans.

After the rinse/drain phase, my jars look much fuller:

See the little sprout tails? You can sprout them however long you like. I let them go until they were about the same length as the grain. I've also done less.

STEP 3: Dry

I dried the sprouts in my dehydrator at about 145 degrees. Normally I like to dry things raw to preserve the beneficial enzymes (which die around 117 degrees), but I know I'll be using all this wheat for baking so I figure it doesn't matter.

You can also use your oven. Spread them in a pan on the lowest heat possible. (You don't want to cook them, just dry.)

Now the little tails are all shriveled up. They're done when crunchy like a pre-sprouted grain. It hasn't taken longer than 12 hours.

Grind and use just like you would regular flour. So far I think we've made bread, waffles, pancakes, pizza crusts, raspberry muffins, ginger cookies, and emergency brownies.

Happy sprouting!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mormon Radio

As a mother, it's really difficult to find time to sit down and read.  However, there is ample time to listen--working around the house, in the car, playing with the kiddos, etc.  There are lots of wonderful online programs (ted for education or npr for news), but perhaps my favorite thing to listen to is the Mormon Channel.

Have you heard of it?  I have recently found that some of my close friends haven't heard of it, so I thought I'd do a post to help get the word out.

The URL for their homepage is:

For a live stream go to:

There are so many wonderful programs!  Here are a few of my favorites:

Conversations has interviews from LDS people with "an interesting story to tell," including apostles and other GA's.

Everything Creative is really fun.  They have featured LDS cartoonists, Mommy Bloggers, and many more!

Why I Believe is a really good one.  The title kind of says it all.  It is filled with interviews where people have an opportunity to share their testimonies, in essence, why they believe.

Ensign Preview is great if you have trouble getting through the Ensign, you can listen to it here! (They also have the Friend and New Era.)

Speaking of the youth, they have two of their own shows.  One is called Youth Voices, with kids talking about good, relevant Gospel topics.  The other is For the Youth.  I find it personally inspiring.  It features really great seminary teachers.

A big favorite at our house is "Kids Mormon Radio," formally known as Scripture Stories.  It's a group discussion with about the cutest kids around.  It follows the illustrated scripture books.

Of course I have to put in a personal plug for my dad!  He was interviewed on their program Legacy, episode 56 about Joseph Smith's City of Zion.

And that's really just getting started!  The live stream is speckled with fabulous old conference addresses, music from General Conference and if you're lucky, really wonderful old BYU devotionals or CES firesides.

Happy listening!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Natural Remedies for Your Medicine Cabinet

My source of information for this post is Sher Anderson, the nutritional genius (former RN and midwife) who taught my natural childbirth class before #1. What I learned from her, both then and since, has had significant bearing on my thinking. She was a catalyst for the lifestyle we pursue.

This woman has such a wealth of knowledge about wellness, I wish I could keep her in my back pocket. In a phone conversation over a year ago, Sher told me about six strong natural remedies she has discovered, and recommended I keep them stocked in the medicine cabinet. As Sher put it, "they work gorgeously." She so genuinely cares for others, I'm sure she won't mind my sharing:

Three ANTIBACTERIAL Remedies for Your Medicine Cabinet

1) Manuka Honey: made by bees who collect nectar from the flowers of the manuka bush (New Zealand). This honey has amazing antibacterial properties. It has been tested in a Petri dish against all sorts of different bacteria and consistently held up. Sher knows a man whose appendicitis was cured by manuka honey. Like all honey, it stores wonderfully.
  • Look for 10+, 12+, or 15+ (20+ would be topical only).
  • Adult could take a tsp. 3x a day, a child ¼ - ⅓ tsp. a day.
  • Get a good brand (try or Some companies sell honey with less antibacterial effectiveness. Make sure the container says “active.” 
    • Comvita is a tested brand, always good 
    • Nelson’s Manuka 
    • Wedderspoon’s 
    • sells it as healing honey

2) Oreganol: type of oregano oil from Italy with very powerful antibacterial properties. Tastes terrible but works beautifully. Has even worked on bone infections.
  • Available as gel caps in regular or super strength (3x more powerful). Take two of the regular kind several times a day, or 1-2 per day of the super-strength. 
  • Can also get a ½ oz. dropper of oil, but it’s awful-tasting! The easiest way for kids to take this is to mix it with a spoonful of frozen juice concentrate, which will mask anything. (**I tried mixing a few drops of the super strength with orange juice concentrate and I thought it was still nasty. I advise getting them as caps or encapsulating it yourself. It burns.)
  • Brand to buy: North American Herb and Spice Company.

3) Grapefruit Seed Extract: antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral
  • Get in tablets from 
  • (**Since this conversation with Sher, I have come across a bit of controversy about how GSE is made. I would like to follow up with her on this one.) 

Three ANTIVIRAL Remedies for Your Medicine Cabinet

1) Elderberry (or Sambucus, the latin name): created by an Israeli virologist, this remedy has extensive antiviral properties. Great for flu season!
  • Can get as a syrup, in a dropper, or as chewable lozenges (my personal favorite)
  • Nature’s Way is a good brand to get. 
  • (**My family has been using Sambucus regularly for over a year now and can attest to its incredibleness. I have had the beginnings of colds and when acting quick with Sambucus, had nothing materialize. Sammy got a cold from a neighbor last winter, and thanks to Sambucus, he was over it long before she was. When sickness is spreading around us, we also take it as a preventative. Love it.)

2) Umcka: old European remedy from Pelargonium root in Africa
  • Can also get in different forms: drops, syrup, chewables...
  • Nature’s Way is a good brand
  • (**I haven't tried this one, but Keenan used some on a cold last year and it worked well for him.)

3) Oscillococcinum: a homeopathic combination of different remedies that address flu/cold. One ingredient is Gelsemium, a huge flu preventer/remedy in the 1918 flu pandemic.
  • Comes in a vial about 1 ½ inches tall. You pour the contents in mouth and let them dissolve. The indicated serving size is a full vial, but you only really need a ⅓ or so for it to be effective.
  • Boiron is the brand to get
Antiviral Anecdotes
Sher’s niece had mono and was completely incapacitated, unable to do school work or function normally because of her illness. The niece’s mother, a nurse normally uninterested in natural remedies, finally called Sher to ask her advice. Sher told her about the above antiviral remedies. The girl used all three of them on a Tuesday (that morning she’d been so sick she couldn’t eat!). After a day or so, she was back at school. By Saturday, she was just fine. 

A woman in Brigham City, UT was severely infected with West Nile virus (mosquito-borne). Her doctors had told her to get her affairs in order, that she only had days to live. The family contacted Sher, who told them about the antiviral remedies. The woman used them in combination, and they turned her completely around.

Where to Find the Remedies
I found every one of these remedies (with the exception of a couple manuka brands) at Their products are discounted and their shipping is cheap and fast. is another affordable resource and probably carries all of them as well. In an emergency, you could find them at a health food store.

Have a healthy cold and flu season, everyone!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Essential Oils

This week I invited our cousin Liz Marshall Ford to write a guest post on essential oils. I want to learn more about them! I have had one or two very good healing experiences with essential oils in the past, but have not taken the time yet to investigate them extensively. Here is a wonderful introduction for all like me --- From Liz.

In her search of natural healing, my mother started using essential oils a few years back. She has since introduced me, and it has been a wonderful experience. I have been taking classes and studying about them and am impressed.

First off, what are essential oils? They are the natural aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. Pure essential oils are extracted from the plant through steam distillation, or for citrus oils, by pressing them from the peel. Although they are fat soluble, they do not include fatty lipids or acids found in vegetable and animal oils.

Essential oils have been used for centuries. In Egyptian and Chinese culture, they were their first medicine. In 1937, they were "rediscovered" by a French chemist who healed his burnt hand with lavender oil. Another French man used essential oils for healing wounded soldiers during World War II. He went on to become a world leader in the development of aromatherapy practices. The Bible itself includes 188 references to essential oils.

Essential oils can be used in 3 ways:

Aromatic -- Using some essential oils in aromatherapy can be very stimulating (peppermint, wild orange) while others can be calming and soothing (lavender). They also clear the air of unwanted odors and airborne pathogens. They can also be used to clean and purify laundry and as surface cleaners. Use a diffuser to spread the essential oil particles into the air, or rub two drops on palms and inhale.

Topical -- Essential oils are easily absorbed by the skin. They have stimulating and relaxing properties, as well as natural disinfectants. Their chemical structure allows them to be absorbed quickly into the bloodstream for internal benefit throughout the body. With babies, within seconds of placing certain oils on their feet, you can smell it on their breath. Be sensitive to combine essential oils with fractionated oil, or lotion, when using on babies. They don't need as much oil as adults.

 Internal -- Essential oils can be used as dietary supplements supporting a variety of healthy conditions. Place 1 to 2 drops under the tongue, or mix in a glass of water. You can also purchase empty capsules, drop the oil, and swallow like any other pill. This benefits the mouth and throat, supports the digestive system, and supports immunity. Not all should be taken internally, so be sure to read the label!

I am partial to doTERRA essential oils. They are CPTG (Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade) and are made from the the best parts of the plant. For example, some peppermint oils are bitter because they are created from the entire plant. But with peppermint, only the leaves carry the essential oils that are needed. DoTERRA is sensitive to this and uses plants harvested at the correct time and place. Their medical and research team (Harvard doctors, if you're in to that sort of thing) are constantly working to develop the best products.

Some of my favorites:

LEMON: I put a drop in my water bottle, laundry, and clean my kitchen counters with them.

GINGER: When pregnant, I rub them on my feet to help nausea. This is one of two oils my 4 year old will use. He gets carsick and allows me to put it on his belly before long trips. Haven't had an accident since using it.

FRANKINCENSE: I put this on my kid's bonks and scrapes. The sores heal twice as fast, leaving no scars.

PEPPERMINT: Put behind my ears and neck to wake me up. I use this when I feel under the weather or a cold coming on. I also love this in a diffuser.

LAVENDER: I put this on my feet before bedtime. I have a friend who put it on her baby's feet, and combined it with water in a spray bottle and sprayed it on his sheets before bed. This got rid of his night terrors. A great relaxing oil.

ON GUARD (a doTERRA blend containing wild orange, clove bud, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary): I use this daily, especially during this time of year. It helps prevent infection and limits sick time.  
DoTERRA has throat drops and toothpaste containing this oil. I use these daily as well.

TERRA SHIELD (another blend containing 15 essential oils): a natural bug repellant. No bug bites at the cabin!

Essential oils are fun, folks! If you are interested, start small. There are so many, it can be overwhelming. If you are in Utah or are coming for a visit, stop on by to experiment!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Diabolical Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

"I'm in love! I'm in love! And I don't care who knows it!" -- Buddy the Elf


"Oh, that looks sinful!" -- Strongbad

These cookies will make you exclaim at least one of the above quotes. It's almost a guarantee.

Diabolical Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 Cup Bulgar flour
3/4 Cup Whole wheat flour, spelt, or kamut
*(If you don't have bulgar, simply use 1 1/4 cup wheat, spelt, or kamut)
1/2-3/4 Cup Rapadura, sucanat, (or I've heard you can use date sugar. I've never tried it personally)
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 Cup oats (optional)
1 Sparse handful nutritional yeast (Optional, but preferred)
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 Egg
1/8-1/4 Cup butter, or coconut oil (you can even do half and half)
1 Bag dark Chocolate Chips separated into equal halves (I use Ghirardelli's 60% dark chips)

  1. Begin by melting half of the chocolate chips in a double boiler. (If you don't have a double boiler you can make your own by simply using glass bowl dipped into a sauce pan of simmering water. Experts say never to let the glass bowl touch the bottom of the pan. I'll be honest, I've made these cookies a lot... I've never seen an adverse reaction to the bowl touch the bottom of the pan.) When melted, set the chocolate aside to cool a little.
  2. Mix together the flour(s), rapadura, salt, baking soda, oats if you are using them, and nutritional yeast.
  3. Mix in butter or coconut oil. Your mixture will be a little chunky at this point.
  4. Mix in the melted chocolate. This will smooth out your dough.
  5. When mixed thoroughly add the egg, and vanilla.
  6. Add chocolate chips.
  7. Eat some dough... I mean bake your cookies at 350 for about 10 mintues!
This recipe doesn't make a very big batch, but they are heavenly. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Start of Sourdough

Look what I caught: 
Wild yeasts!!

I started this sourdough start two days ago, and see how lovely and bubbly it is already? I followed the instructions on "starting a start" from the GNOWFGLINS Sourdough eCourse, and it worked immediately.

In a pint-size jar, I mixed:

        •  1/4 c. pure water (no chlorine) with
        •  3/8 c. freshly-ground whole wheat flour

I covered it loosely with a napkin and let it sit overnight. The next morning, I was so excited to see some bubbly life already, I did a wild yeast dance for my boys. They joined right in.

I fed it again in the same manner, mixing in the water first, and let it sit another half a day.

As anticipated, it began to rise on its own, so now with subsequent feedings, I discard half the start, and feed 1/4 c. water followed by 3/8 c. flour. (Many say using rye flour in a start is best, so I may start mixing some in.)

Just like me, a start stays happy if warm and fed. :)

Once it's been alive for about a week, and is doubling in size between each feeding (about every 12 hours), it will be ready to use. Can't wait to try my hand at some whole grain sourdough bread this weekend!


But do you know that you can make more with sourdough than just bread? Pancakes, tortillas, pasta, crackers, scones, muffins, pizza, chocolate cake... anything you do with flour can be done with sourdough. In fact, yeast as we know it wasn't commercially available until the 1870s. Sourdough is the choice of the ages. Some people have starts that date back to the pioneer days!

It may not surprise you that lacto-fermenting grains is the healthiest way to prepare them. The sourdough process helps breaks down gluten, increases nutritional content, neutralizes phytic acid (which inhibits absorption of some key minerals in the body), and improves digestibility by pre-digesting the starches. This video reiterates some of what I've said, but also explains nicely how sourdough works and enumerates the benefits:

It's nearly impossible to find sourdough made with whole grains (no refined flour), and once I've found it, I usually shouldn't afford it. Well, it doesn't get cheaper than flour and water, so I'm crossing my fingers that I'll get this right.

Stay tuned for more on sourdough. In the meantime, why don't you start your own!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good (D&C 122:7)

Researching and writing have never been a problem for me, in fact I relish the tasks. But coming up with an idea --- you know: an original, earth-shattering idea --- has always been a great struggle. (I realized in grad school that the real problem was self-doubt; I would not raise my hand in class because I thought my answer was too obvious, or perhaps wrong, only to see the next student lavished with praise for offering the same answer. You've all had it happen!)

When a deadline is thrown on top of it all, I reach near paralysis.

Hence, as I neared the end of my MA, I began to feel a great deal of pressure to get that big paper written and to have it be brilliant. I struggled with idea after idea, researched topic after topic, and simply could not settle. My committee was offering me little guidance (mostly because I wasn't seeking enough), and my supervisor was overconfident in my abilities. It came to a point where he said he needed a proposal --- tomorrow.

I struggled all night to solidify something, and in the morning drove to campus woefully unprepared. I sat and cried in the parking lot, feeling a real degree of despair, and wondering how after all my prayers and all my work I still was empty-handed. Then a hymn came strongly to mind (and even though it wrecks the story I can't at the moment remember which), and delivered to me a message of peace. I wiped my tears and opened my scriptures, which fell to the verse, "Wherefore ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men" (2 Nephi 31:20).

Steadfastness, I had demonstrated. A love of God was embedded in my veins. Love of men I had strived diligently to cultivate by serving well in my family and in the church. But hope! And a perfect brightness of it?

An unexpectedly genuine smile slid onto my face, as I felt my burden lifted completely from me. I felt light and joyful, and somehow so hopeful. I gathered up my books and headed to meet my supervisor. I had no idea what I was going to present to him! But I was now the complete recipe --- steadfastness, love, and hope. Somehow, when I left his office I had a complete and comfortable plan laid out for my paper, and his approval besides! The rest is history.

Today I taught Sunday School to the 12-13 year olds. The topic was on how we are refined by adversity, and that God allows us to pass through trouble so that we can be made stronger. He knows that very pure metal comes only from the very hottest fire (and he needs men and women of the very purest metal for his work). He has said he will not allow us to be tried above that which we are able to bear --- so perhaps it is a compliment from him when we are given that kind of trial which we think is too strong for us. He knows we are the stronger ones.

I warned them that Satan would like it if he could get everyone to stop loving God. But he knows that, with some, this is an unrealistic goal. So instead he tries to get them to believe God has stopped loving them. This is just as effective. The belief that God has turned his back on us leads us to despair and to seek other avenues for help. Despair is the devil's playground.

But hope, a perfect brightness of it, has as much saving power as despair has destroying power. It has saved me more times than the one above, and in far more serious circumstances. I have passed through more dangerous despair in my time than I'd share here, though I am no Job. But as I am called to pass through adversity again and again in the future, I must remember that the Love of God was the victor then --- and it will be ever.

If we, who know of God and his beautiful plan for the human family, cannot express hope in this life, who can? I believe we, above all people of the earth, have the responsibility to hope. And with that responsibility, when we are loving and diligent, comes a most elegant capacity.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Diapering When You Can't do Cloth

I currently live in an apartment setting where we only do our laundry once every other week. My husband and I would love to use cloth diapers for our son, but I just can't bring myself to use them knowing they will be hanging out in my room, until laundry day...

This post is about our earth-friendly alternative, and how we save money in the process thanks to and my good friend Mia.

Step 1:
Google Amazon mom, and join. This avails you of certain deals and free shipping if you purchase a certain amount every month. It's easy to hit that amount every month when you are purchasing diapers!

Step 2:
Search out earth friendly diaper brands such as Seventh Generation, or Earth's Best. These are the main brands I'm familiar with, and I know you can purchase these on Amazon. Both of these brands are non-chlorinated, and have excellent reviews. They also come in completely recyclable packaging.

Step 3:
When you find the brand of diapers you want, instead of hitting the "Buy new" link, go to the "subscribe and save" link. When you sign up for this service they send a monthly/bimonthly, or however often you want, shipment of diapers to your door; you choose how many packages you want to receive. Additionally, as the name suggests, you get a discount for buying them this way, and if you've signed up for amazon mom, you also get free shipping.

Amazon sends you email reminders a few days before they ship your diapers to you, so if the time comes for a shipment of diapers and you aren't ready for it, you can log into your Amazon account and skip your coming shipment. Likewise, you can order extra in between if you're running low.

Both of the mentioned brands also sell wipes on Amazon under the subscribe and save banner.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Azure Standard

Since my post on natural sweeteners, a handful of people have asked me where I find them. Well, folks, one BIG answer is finally here.

In a few hours, I'll head off to the Rose Bowl to pick up my monthly order from Azure Standard, a family farm that specializes in "natural, organic, earth-friendly foods and products." Finding this company was like finding a small gold mine. We've been ordering from them since March and have been absolutely thrilled with their commitment to what's real. Here's what they have to say:
"We chose to call our business Azure Standard, to signify by the name what we are attempting to do. Azure is a shade of blue which has been associated with law, justice, and honesty. In raising an azure standard, we want to place an honest standard in the marketing of food. We feel that the correct way to effect a positive change is not to attack the way it is being done, but to begin to do it right."

Delivery Service
Azure delivers to drop points in most of the western states. They currently have routes through Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. That's nearly half the states! (Keep your fingers crossed, East Coast -- they're always expanding...)

If you can't reach a drop point, you can order UPS from their website. I don't know what the shipping fees are like. (See Policies.)

The Drop Point
If you live in one of the above states and wish to start ordering from Azure:
  1. Call a customer service representative at 541.467.2230 to locate your nearest drop point. They will give you the name and phone number of the drop point coordinator. 
  2. Call the drop point coordinator. Ask if you can join the drop and get the drop point number.
  3. Use the drop point number to place your order online (you can also order by phone or fax or mail... do people still do this?). Whenever I place an order, my drop number comes up automatically as I'm checking out, so I don't have to remember it. :)
The order deadline is generally seven days prior to the drop day. If your order is below $50, there will be a small order handling fee, otherwise delivery to the drop points is free! Trust me, you'll have a hard time keeping your order under $50 once you discover this place. If you want to start your own drop point, you have to have a minimum order of $550 (can be a combination of people). There are a few dozen people who usually meet at my Pasadena drop point. The truck pulls up, unloads, you grab your stuff and skedaddle. It's a 15-minute affair. It's also a nice way to meet like-minded people.

Things I've Ordered
Azure Standard carries a HUGE variety of products, all high quality and reasonably priced. Much of it comes from their own farm, which is "dedicated to the 'organic principle' of cooperating with nature." They also sell many other brands of natural and organic products. One of the things I love the most is what a great resource they are for expanding food storage. They sell a lot of bulk items! To give you an idea of what's available, I went through my past orders and compiled a list of what I've ordered so far (I make new discoveries every month). This is just a drop in the AS bucket:
  • Whole Grains: hard white wheat, hard red wheat, soft white wheat, spelt, kamut, teff, quinoa
  • Legumes: small white beans, green lentils
  • Nuts: walnuts, cashews, (truly raw) almonds
  • Seeds: chia, sunflower, pumpkin
  • Sweeteners: rapadura, sucanat, maple syrup, date sugar, sorghum syrup, molasses
  • Seasonal Produce: apples, garlic, oranges, leeks, apricots, peaches, onions 
  • Other Foods: coconut milk, raw cheddar cheese, beef bones, beef liver
  • Baking/Cleaning Necessities: baking powder, baking soda, raw apple cider vinegar, 100% beef gelatin, arrowroot powder, nutritional yeast, coconut oil (I usually order this from Tropical Traditions), Redmond Real Salt, kelp powder, peppercorns, ground cinnamon, unbleached parchment paper, Charlie's Soap
  • Supplements: fenugreek, Rainbow Light prenatals, potassium iodide
  • Essential Oils: lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, bergamot, cinnamon, clove bud
  • Other: organic strawberry starts, Desert Essence shampoo and conditioner (red raspberry), 5-gallon buckets, gamma lids, clamp-on lids
Now, you're not guaranteed to get everything you order each month (they don't charge your card until they load the truck). Though I have received complete orders before, I generally get everything except maybe one or two items. So I just try for them again the next month. 

If you've ordered from Azure, I'd be very curious to know what you've found. Or -- if you know of another company like this, please share!

Additional Thoughts
  • If you want to browse prices on the website, you have to register first (free). Their prices don't show up in google searches or anything. I bet you that when you see them, you'll be hooked.
  • The only Emails I get from Azure are my monthly order confirmations. Yippee!!
  • I have been very happy with the fresh produce. (The truck has a refrigeration unit for anything that might require it.)
  • While writing this post, I discovered the Links page on their website, which lists the many suppliers they deal with outside their own farm. Below that is another list called "Health-related Sites," which I drooled over for a few minutes.

I am touched that there are people out there, like the ones who run Azure, committed to helping others access good products at such fair prices. I whole-heartedly recommend this company!