Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Book of James


This year in homeschool we are working through My Father's World Exploration to 1850.  One of our challenges is to study and memorize the book of James.  All of us - even momma.  What a great challenge!  I created digital note cards for our mobile devices to help us with memorizing and wanted to share them with you.  Please join us as we work through the book of James.  Feel free to Pin, share or download these digital note cards to spread the book of James across the web. 

Please stay tuned and join us in memorizing this wonderful letter.  Share your progress and what you have learned in the comments below.  I will be updating this post as we go along.  It's a work in progress and your comments are appreciated.  Let's make it a great study!

We are starting at the beginning.  James 1:1-3  If you are going to dig into the Word, it's good to know who is talking.  This letter is written by James, a servant of God.  He tells us who he is right up front, a servant of God - what a title!  What he doesn't say is that he is also the brother of Jesus.  Can you imagine?  

When he starts writing, he gets straight to the point with a hard challenge.  Consider it pure joy when you face challenges.  Pure joy, friends.  Meditate on that for a while.  He is challenging us to look beyond this hard time we are in right now and to toward the victory ahead.  To the growth, to what we will learn, to the finish line.  And to be joyful while we do it.  

There is no, "how are you?  Oh that's tough, I'm so sorry..."  No, right to the point.  Consider it pure joy, friends.  That can challenge you and if you let it, it can change you.

(Download image on white background HERE.)

Much love,
Michelle @ My Blue Daisy




Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Favorite Sugar Scrub

There is something really awesome about skipping the commercial scrubs and shave creams (which can dry skin and often has synthetic fragrances and other non-happy ingredients).  Homemade sugar scrubs are easy, inexpensive and they work well for a luxurious and uplifting body scrub and shave cream.  The only catch is that I have heard it's not a great product to use frequently if you have a septic system.  So keep that in mind if you do.
The basic recipe is above on the info-graphic - basically 2 parts sugar to 1 part oil, then add essential oil to your 'taste'.  There are so many ways to customize this.  You can use any oil that you like: olive, coconut, sweet almond, apricot,  or sunflower.  Here is some information on carrier oils that may help you select the perfect one for you.  



Personally, I love organic, extra-virgin coconut oil.  If you use it in solid form, slightly chilled, it will whip up so nice.  Just use your stand mixer and let it go for a while to create a lovely whipped texture.  Other oils will not whip up the same way.  But that's ok!  This sugar scrub works great without a whipped oil, too.  I often use olive oil with brown sugar, too.  Which brings me to sugars.

Use your favorite sugar.  Non-GMO, organic sugars are always best.  Some of the more natural sugars are more coarse.  You can give them a spin in your blender or food processor to break them down into a softer texture.  While you do want a nice scrub, you certainly don't want to be scratching your skin off with large crystals of raw sugar.



A third way to customize is to switch up your essential oil.  My favorites (so far) are Lime, Lemon, Grapefruit, Lavender+Frankincense, and Peppermint.  There are countless possibilities.  Mix, match and find your own sweet spot.
If you have sensitive skin, always try new oils on a small area first. And skip using citrus oils right before you head out for a day in the sun.  The citrus oils can act like tiny light intensifiers and make fair skin more sensitive to the sun.  If you are planning a day at the beach, try Lavender and Frankincense, instead of a citrus oil.

For a list of my other personal favorite DIY recipes, click here.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

This Year's School Room



Welcome to our beloved staging room for our family education!  I love our school room - so much. Technically, it's the dining room but I don't see us using a formal dining room for many years to come.  It's just not my style.  Meet me in the kitchen - that's where I prefer to eat and chat.

We schooled at home for years without a dedicated school room and that has made me so grateful to have one now.  We don't spend much of our time learning in this room, but it does at least provide us with organizational space to house our beloved learning materials.

As grateful as I am for this space I just spent way too much time decluttering this room this month.  It's just amazing how quickly extra books, random art projects, and completed curriculum materials can take over a school room - or house.  The results are worth effort, though.  I'm in the process of setting up an overflow library downstairs and better organization in general.   And someday, I will even lay down some fresh paint and new window treatments.  (I really hate painting walls so I'm choosing to procrastinate.)



The white dresser holds our puzzles and family games.  On top is a few of my favorite books, plus my favorite library references - Honey For A Child's Heart.  The tiny book shelf with a castle on top holds our collection of Bibles, including some family Bibles.  And above the dresser we will display a few favorite art work pieces made by the children.



The book shelf in the corner holds a row of current favorite books for each of my children.  Any books that don't fit here are stashed downstairs on overflow shelves.


Pencils, colored pencils, markers, and extra fine markers all standing at ready.  Easy to find, easy to put away - which is most important.




I love having some covered storage.  This armoire holds a plethora of supplies.  On the bottom shelf is our accumulation of math manipulaitves.  The upright binder in the middle contains our favorite pieces of artwork the children have made over the years.  I try to keep a few pieces from each school year.  And then the paper stacker holds printer paper, lined paper and graphing paper.  Up on the top row is our office supplies in a wooden box, colored paper, and some fun animal information cards that belonged to my husband when he was a child.

The three drawers below contain extra school supplies and all our most used art supplies: paints, paint smocks, oil pastels, chalk pastels, charcoals, large markers, crayons, watercolor paper and multimedia paper.



The other side...


I absolutely love having a large wall map.  This room is home to the world view map.  I have a US map in the 'formal sitting room' - there is nothing formal in my home, by the way.  This book shelf is home to our curriculum recommended books, reference books, history and science books, classics that I need to read this year, our favorite poetry and dictionaries.




This is where I sit and plan and drink coffee.  And knit.  I've learned that I am much better off picking up some yarn and a hook or needles and just park myself here during "morning school hours" so that I am always available when needed.  If I start working in the kitchen, doing chores, reading, or surfing on my phone I invariably end up asking my kids to "Wait just a minute while I finish..." and then we never finish school on time.  So I am planning to get lots of yarn work done this fall.  It's not always possible and it seems like such a time waste to just sit there for the morning hours.  I always think I will be more productive if I can get up and run to switch the laundry and run to read one more chapter, etc.  But that multitasking is actually counter-productive for me.  It's HARD to sit there all morning and yarn helps.  I can knit, talk, teach, soothe, love, hug, correct all at the same time.  But if I get sucked into chores or reading then that time becomes about ME finishing a task/chapter instead of me teaching and inspiring them.  As my youngest two grow, this will no longer be true.  For right now, this is my spot.

That little round about caddy - I *love* that thing - it's from Staples.  It's huge - which is good and bad.  It blocks the walk way between the table and the bookshelf, but it is worth it.  When it's time to switch subjects or grab my planner and my hands are tied with the yarn that I use the tie myself to that chair, most of what I need is at my finger tips.




This section is where we file our completed work and where the school room diffuser is stationed.  It often comes to the school table during work times (especially when I'm sitting there), but otherwise it diffuses here.  I love using Cedarwood and Orange during school time.  Peace and Calming when someone is feeling stressed, Purification and Lavender when anyone is not feeling the best.   Often the children will mix their own blends and start it up before I even get around to it.  I will be keeping a stash of favorite Young Living oils right on this counter behind the diffuser.  They really do work and they keep school flowing well.  I use that wall space to rotate through work from our favorite artists.




This little station is set up in the adjoining room for my youngest.  She just likes having her own Mommy-Daughter spot. And she needs to finish up the last bit of first grade before joining her older siblings in Exploration to 1850, this spot will be where we work together.



The family room - this is where read-alouds, strategy games and math usually take place.  Although my oldest usually prefers to do her math in her room early in the morning before anyone else is awake.  I love having our on-going time line that we add to year after year.  It's not exactly... aesthetically pleasing.  If anyone has a better idea for me, I would love to hear it.  Please comment and let me know!  I was wondering about running something like a wallpaper border around the room after we paint - or maybe even putting up a wide chair-rail like trim?  I don't know.  Hanging frames level and room decor is not my strength.  I doubt any frames will stay level regardless of how carefully they are hung when the living room is used like a gymnasium most days.
And this would be why I call our school room a staging area.  Because no matter how cute your desks or how perfect your tables are, sometimes they learn best by finding their own little spots.  Learning happens everywhere in our home.





Monday, July 14, 2014

Gluten Free Crescent Rolls


These are the best things ever.  They are.  You have to try them.  I am not a baker and I generally eat grain-free, but I challenged myself to make a decent gluten-free, egg-free roll for my son one year for Thanksgiving.  Mission accomplished.  Oh these are so tasty!  This recipe is modeled after Pioneer Womans cinnamon rolls and they are worth the effort.  I now make them regularly, usually with ham and sausage wrapped up in them middle.

First, let's talk gluten free flour blends.  Oh what a wide and winding path to go down!  There are so many options commercially available and for mixing on your own.  Gluten free flour is an entire series of posts on it's own, so I will just tell you that my current favorite is Namaste All Purpose Gluten Free Flour.  And it ranks as our favorite simply because it is nut free, legume-free, dairy-free, egg-free and potato-free.  My girls are intolerant to potatoes, and they react severely.  Unfortunately for us, more and more companies are adding potato flour and potato starch to their flours and products.  So currently, I either mix my own flours using xanthum gum, arrowroot starch, tapioca starch, sorghum flour and sweet rice flour, OR I buy the Namaste.  Please feel free to use your own favorite Gluten Free flour blend in this recipe.



Here is how we make 'em.

Ingredients:
1 can Organic Coconut Milk
1 cup Sunflower Oil
1 cup Sugar
2 pkg Active Dry Yeast (0.25 oz per pkg)
9 cups, divided, Gluten Free Flour blend
1 heaping tsp Baking Powder
1 scant tsp Baking Soda
1 Tablespoon Real Salt
Melted Earth Balance
1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum (ONLY add this if your gluten free flour blend does not contain xanthum gum)
Optional add-ons: cinnamon & sugar for cinnamon rolls or ham for ham rolls


1.  Pour coconut milk into a 1 qt measure and add water to bring the volume up to the 1qt line.  Whisk gently to combine.  Combine this now diluted coconut milk with the sunflower oil and sugar in a large sauce pan.  Heat the milk, oil and sugar over medium heat to just below a boil.  Set aside and allow to cool slightly.  While still warm, but not hot, sprinkle the yeast over the top of the liquid and let it sit for one minute.


2.  Add 8 cups flour and stir until just combined.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm spot for 1 hour.

3. After 1 hour, remove towel and add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and the last cup of flour.  Stir to combine well then chill for one hour.  Your dough is ready! (Anyone spend winter weekends kneeding bread dough at your Grandma's?  I love those memories, but they also remind me that this recipe is so much easier than that.)  At this point, you may use the dough as is or you may keep it covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Punch the dough down as needed if left in the refrigerator.

4. Preheat over to 375 degrees.  Prepare half the dough at a time, leaving the remaining dough in the refrigerator.  It just works up better if the dough stays chilled.  On a nicely floured baking surface, pat your dough out into a thick, even circle.  Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out very thin, approximately 1/4 inch or less.  Slice into strips about 1.5 inches wide.  For crescent shapes, slice the rolled dough into pie wedges.
5.  For crescent rolls, lightly brush the cut dough with melted Earth Balance (or butter of your choice).  The roll up into crescents or rolls, pat the extra flour off, and place on a baking sheet.  For ham or sausage rolls (my son's favorite), place a slice of fully cooked ham or sausage at one end and roll up inside the dough then place on a baking sheet.





6.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top and done all the way through.  By the way, these freeze *really* well.  I always make a double batch and freeze them.  I pull them out of the oven before they hit the golden brown stage and allow them to cool before sealing in freezer bags.  Each morning I can pull out a single meal's worth of ham rolls and pop them in the oven while we get ready for the day.

7.  Cinnamon Rolls.  This dough works really well as cinnamon rolls, too.  It does not make a light and fluffy cinnamon roll.  It's more of a dense, but delicious, confection.  So make this adaption, go back to step 5.  After you brush your dough with Earth Balance, sprinkle it liberally with cinnamon and sugar.  Roll and then place on your baking pan.  Feel free to top with more butter, cinnamon and sugar as fits your sweet tooth.

Enjoy.  Please let me know how you like them!
Michelle

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What is in Your Sunscreen?


Read through your typical commercial sunscreen label and decide for yourself it that's a good thing to apply.  Do some searching on sunscreen chemicals.  Personally, chemical-laden sunscreen is not something I feel good about applying on my own skin, let alone my children.  Please do your due diligence and research the chemicals in your skin care products before you apply them to your children.

There are many recipes available for free on how to make your own sunscreen from safe ingredients. Here is the recipe we are using this summer.  It has worked so well for us during long afternoons on the beach, a full day at Disney, and even a full week of sunny church camp.  Not one time did we burn when we applied this mixture and followed common sense rules of being in the sun ALL day long - staying hydrated, eating well, and re-applying occassionally.

The wholesale cost of Myrrh is $64.75.  That single bottle of approximately 265 drops will make about 13 batches of our sunscreen recipe - so about $5 per batch.  (For us, a family of 6, that single batch of oil lasted us two days at the beach and a day at Disney.  It would have lasted longer, but one of my industrious children accidently tossed it out while washing dishes.  It was my fault for mixing it up in a stainless steel Hello Kitty Thermos container while we were on vacation.  The next batch is still going strong.)
That's easily enough to last you the whole summer and then some, or enough for a few families to divide the cost and share a single bottle.  If it seems cost prohibitive, go back and read the label and research the chemicals in your typical commercial sunscreen.  Let me know if you do not have a Young Living membership.  I would love to help you set up an account to purchase your own oils at wholesale.

Here is what Young Living has to say about myrrh.  "having one of the highest levels of sesquiterpenes available. Sesquiterpenes are a class of compounds that have a direct effect on the hypothalamus, pituitary, and amygdala, the seat of our emotions. Myrrh is referenced throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The Arabian people believed it helped wrinkled, chapped, and cracked skin. Today, myrrh is widely used in oral hygiene products. Myrrh has an approximate ORAC of 3,193,813 (TE/L). TE/L is expressed as micromole Trolox equivalent per liter."  

A quick Pubmed search for myrrh turns up even more encouraging news about this amazing oil.  Myrrh is a powerful antioxidant, anti-tumoral, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, analgesic and anesthetic.  And it helps keep our skin healthy while we enjoy the summer sun.   

So give it a try.  Wouldn't you rather use a healing oil of Biblical times to nourish your skin, too?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Planning Out your Essential Rewards


Are you a planner?  With 4 amazing children, 3 of whom are homeschooling, I have learned that planning and preparation is key for my peace of mind.  

Previously I shared about how awesome Young Living's Essential Rewards program is.  Today,  I will take you through how I am utilizing this to cover our families needs and wish lists.  Many essential oils are seasonal.  And as I have learned the hard way, sometimes those oils go temporarily out of stock.  So I came up with this plan to make sure we always had the oils we wanted stocked in our medicine cabinet.  We started with a great base of oils with our Everyday oils that came in the Premium Diffuser Kit, so now I just focus on keeping our favorites in supply.  I typically order enough oils and product to receive the monthly promotions of free oils, which more than exceeds the minimum Essential Rewards order.  Since not everyone orders oils like we do (I love sharing my oils so I often order for friends and family), I made this base plan out at an estimated monthly order of around 50 PV ($50 in oils).  

Disclaimer: In case my calculator typing fingers are flawed, all amounts are approximate and are based on wholesale prices as of May 2014.  And keep in mind this is only my example.  




So that is what goes on my base order each month to cover our needs and likes.  I try to stock up on those oils a month or two before we would actually need them, just in case something would go out of stock.  And for the most important oils I try to make sure we always have at least one brand new bottle hidden away.  I don't ever want to get caught without Thieves, especially in the middle of cold and flu season.  Then I add to my order whatever else we need for ourselves for friends.

If you don't have your own stash of Young Living Essential oils, feel free to ask any questions.  Or click here to access your own Diffuser kit and Everyday Oils stash.

I hope that helps to explain how Essential Rewards can benefit any member!  I have a document loaded here that might help you create your own custom ER Yearly Plan.  Fee free to print that out and use it to help make sure your family's needs are covered.  Have some better ideas?  Join us in the discussion in the comments below.

~Michelle @ My Blue Daisy  





Understanding and Making the Most of Your Essential Rewards


If you are a regular essential oil user and you like free stuff, then take a moment to learn about Young Living's Essential Rewards program.  I love that Young Living makes it easy for me to order at wholesale prices and then turns around and gives me shopping rewards.  Yes, they will actually give you frequent shopper rewards just for buying what you were already going to buy when you utilize Essential Rewards.  And that's in addition to the free oils they already send out when you take advantage of the Young Living Monthly Promotions.  

To find out more about the Essential Rewards program, you can start by simply calling Young Living.  They have great customer service!  You can also log in to your virtual office for information.  (The web page you use to reorder your favorite essential oils and other household needs.)  This "virtual office" is full of information for all of us Young Living members.  

This is what your virtual office web page looks like, well this is what mine looks like anyway.  Just go to www.youngliving.org and log in with the user name and password that you set up when you first purchased your diffuser kit.  


Need a better explanation?  Click here for a video to watch and listen to.  

The short and sweet of what's great about Essential Rewards is that you receive discounted shipping (Yay!!) and cash back rewards you can use towards any Young Living products you like.  What you must do?  Enroll.  It's easy.  Just click on "Essential Rewards" on your virtual office and follow the directions.  After that you will be ordering your oils and products by adding them to your Essential Rewards cart into of by clicking on "Products" at the top of your page or "Order" on the left side menu of your virtual office.   You will need to order 50PV ($50 in oils) each month in products - any products you like.  And because Young Living is just this awesome, you can change your order date each month, change the products each month and you can even cancel at any time or put your Essential Rewards on hold for a month.  So enroll, collect some rewards, and do so without worrying about the strings that are typically attached to an autoship program.

Now you can cancel anytime you want.  Anytime.  But if you love your oils like we do, and you keep ordering, the rewards keep getting better.  The first 6 months, they give you 10% of your order back in points.  Months of 7-12 Young Living gives your 15% back.  And after that? 20% back.  Young Living will add your Essential Rewards Points into your bank each month and you can see that total on the upper right of your page.  I just cashed in most of my points last month for several free products.  Whoot!  Love free stuff.  Here is what I chose when I cashed in my points last time.  I know, its an odd hodge podge of products, but that's another awesome thing about Young Living's Essential Rewards.  You get to pick what works for you.  It doesn't matter what works for me because you can customize your orders and rewards for your own family.



And to make it even better, Young Living even counts Essential Rewards orders towards the monthly promotions! That's probably a whole other blog post.  Check your virtual office for details on the monthly promos.  In short, every month that you place an order of 190 PV ($190 in oils), Young Living sends you the free monthly promotion oils.  I have received Frankincense, Sacred Frankincense, Oregano, Aroma Siez, Christmas Spirit.... So many.  Next month (June 2014) I heard the free oils are Purification, Lemon and Citrus Fresh, although that hasn't been confirmed yet.  So by ordering 190PV in oils in your first - sixth month on essential rewards, you would receive 2-3 free oils + $19 in Essential Rewards points.  The next few months you would receive 2-3 oils + $28.50 in ER points each month.  And so on. 

My best tip for making the most of your Essential Rewards program is to save up your rewards and then cash them in on a large order of free products.  Since you still need to pay shipping on those free products, group your order to minimize your shipping costs.  Another great tip is to not order heavy items like the Thieves cleaner or Ningxia Nitro with your rewards points.  Order those heavy items on your regular monthly Essential Rewards orders when you get the super awesome discounted shipping.

Want to know what a year's worth of ER orders might look like all planned out?  Click here for my base order plan to serve our families likes and needs.

Wait - do you not have your own stash of oils?  What??  Click here if you aren't working with another member and want to your own stash of amazing Young Living oils.

Have great tips to share about Essential Rewards or your favorite oils?  Join the conversation below in the comments.