An Uncomplicated Life Blog: 2020


Monday, June 22, 2020

How To Scent Vinegar For Less Stinky Cleaners

Cleaning with vinegar is an effective way to naturally clean, but many people object to it's strong smell. Here's how to scent it for a more pleasant cleaning experience while still enjoying it's natural cleaning benefits!

My mom has been cleaning with vinegar for ages. Whenever she comes over to my house, I know I'll need to be well stocked in a bulk container of plain white vinegar, and she'll go to town cleaning my dishwasher, my water dispenser that's built into my fridge, my washing machine, my shower heads... I mean you name it and she's on it! I used to roll my eyes at her with her love for vinegar, but after she got my dishwasher - which had been rather "gunky" and not doing a great job cleaning my dishes despite being a "high end" dishwasher - clean AND cleaning well by running vinegar through it, I silenced my dissent and got on board. My one hang up with it... The smell. There's no denying that the smell isn't great. But I have a solve for that problem, and it's scenting your white vinegar so that it stinks less as you clean more. Here's how to do it.

First, let's take a quick minute to talk about why vinegar is such a great cleaner and grime buster. Vinegar is naturally very acidic. So acidic in fact, that it can dissolve away soap scum, built up food residue, and even sticker glue if you let it sit long enough. The part I like the best about it is that even with all that cleaning power, it's not a risk for children or pets. If they touch it, you don't have to worry. They might not smell great and they might not like the taste if they get it in their mouths, but it's not an inherent health hazard when exposed to it in low levels.

How to scent vinegar for less stinky cleaners - what you'll need:
- Citrus fruit rinds or hearty herbs (like rosemary/sage/lavender or any other wood-stalk based herb that's hearty enough to hold up to soaking in vinegar for several days to weeks)
- glass jar(s) like this one
- white vinegar
- funnel
- fine strainer

How to do it:
- Peel the fruit away from your fruit rinds so that it's just the oil-rich rind left. The fruit heavy part wont hold up in the vinegar and not only start to "pickle", it will make your cleaner foggy.
- For wood-stalk herbs, cut them down into pieces that will fit into your glass jar.
- Fill your glass jar about 3/4 full with white vinegar; add your desired scenting agent. You'll want to add enough of your scenting agent to make the jar completely full. It should look like the photos included in this post.
- Set aside in a cool, dark spot and let sit for one to two weeks.
- Strain out the scenting agent with a fine strainer into a large bowl. Discard the scenting agent and use a funnel to place the scented vinegar back into your glass jar for storage. Use labels on the glass jar to ensure you keep straight what's in it and what it's scented with.

How to use scented vinegar to clean:

Use straight up to clean super greasy or gooey spaces. Pour directly on surfaces like ovens, dishwashers, and/or sticker residue (or any adhesive residue you want removed) and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Use a brush or the rough side of a sponge to scrub the non-scratching surfaces; use the sponge side to clean surfaces prone to scratching. For a dishwasher that isn't getting your dishes clean, pour a cup or two into the bottom of the dishwasher and run a cycle. You may need to repeat this two or three times to really get it clean. You can also use the scented vinegar on the periphery of your dishwasher, like the rubber seal, to get built up grime off.

Scented vinegar is great for regular cleaning too. Want to make your own cleaner that's nontoxic and cost effective? Here's a great one:

Need an easy DIY cleaner with vinegar? Check out this powerhouse glass, window and outdoor patio furniture cleaner.

Vinegar is a powerhouse cleaner because of it's acidity. Bonus, it's also nontoxic (in small quantities, I wouldn't go drinking a bottle of it!) to your family and pets. But, it is stinky. Odd that an amazing cleaning agent has such a strong and undesirable odor when it's doing such a great job cleaning your home, right?! Make it smell more pleasant with your own natural scents. Your home and your nose will thank you.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Healthier Broccoli Salad With Apples and Walnuts

This take on an old favorite is healthier and fresher, and was a crowd favorite at our house

Easter this year was a weird one, wasn't it? We were all stuck in quarantine. Normally, I've ordered a special ham and have the boys' outfits picked out and bought months in advance! This year really crept up on me. In fact, I didn't even realize it was about to be Easter, until my nanny asked me what I was putting in the boys' Easter baskets. That was a Friday morning and Easter was just a few days away! I raced off to Target to get some supplies; and yet someone still forgot about making a meal. On Saturday morning I realized we'd need to put some sort of special meal together. Luckily, I had enough eggs for a simple fratatatta and I had been to Costco and had a ton (and I mean a ton, because Costco) of broccoli and apples. . In order to prevent making another trip to the store, I decided to make a meal "out of the fridge" and was pleasantly surprised how this side salad turned out! It was a great brunch side salad, but would also work for a cookout or even for some "green" on your plate, year round. Here's my (healthier) take on traditional broccoli salad, made with apples and walnuts.

Broccoli salad is delicious but I have two problems with it: the broccoli is never "soft" enough for my liking, and taking a big bite of raw broccoli is... Meh, not my favorite. The other part is that the amount of mayo used in traditional recipes is actually pretty gross/amazingly delicious/not part of my summer body diet plan. It really is a love-hate relationship I have with mayo. By far my favorite condiment; but lord, why does it have to have all those calories. Don't even talk to me about reduced fat mayo. That doesn't taste right. Nobody actually likes it. Just. No. 

So while I was combing through my fridge in order to scrape together this Easter meal, I thought hey! We have plain Greek yogurt. We have mayo. We have white wine vinegar. There's got to be a way to make a tad healthier version so that I can use up all this broccoli I just got at Costco! I didn't have cranberries. And did you know, dried fruit has more sugar and calories in it than regular fruit? Switching out fresh apples for cranberries already makes it a healthier dish. I also didn't have sunflower seeds, but I did have walnuts. And indeed, there was. Here's my broccoli salad with apple and walnuts:

Healthier Broccoli Salad with Apple and Walnuts
- 3 cups broccoli florets
- 1 large apple, diced into bite sized pieces
- 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 a small red onion, finely diced
- 3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt
- 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- salt and pepper to taste

Let the broccoli sit in the dressing to soften the florets, for at least several hours to overnight for a better tasting salad

Making the salad a day ahead (preferred method):
In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, Greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, onion and sugar. I like to add a few "grinds" of sea salt and fresh black pepper, too. Cook off your bacon and set aside to cool before storing it to crumble and add to the salad right before serving. Add the broccoli and cheese to the dressing mixture. Cover and put in the fridge. Right before serving, cut up the apple and add it to the salad; then add the walnuts and bacon. You want the walnuts and bacon to remain crispy while the acidity in the dressing softens the broccoli.

Making the salad to serve immediately (not as good, but still good!):
In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, Greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, onion and sugar. Add a round or two of fresh ground sea salt and black pepper. Blanch the broccoli (this means that you boil a pot of water, add the broccoli and let it cook for about 60 seconds, then strain the broccoli and place it on ice to cool it down. You want it fully cooled before adding it to your dressing mixture) Cook off your bacon and crumble it after it's cooled, adding it to your dressing mixture. Dice your apple and add it, along with the walnuts and grated cheese, to the dressing mixture. Refrigerate long enough to cool the whole salad down, then serve.

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This salad is great for summers, since it's chilled (and you want to keep it chilled because of the mayo, so if you're bringing it somewhere, plan accordingly!) It's perfect for a backyard cookout when you want something more flavorful than mixed greens but not as filling as a potato salad. I happen to think it goes extremely well with grilled burgers or brats, but also pairs well with a marinated chicken breast. I think it's a tad too heavy for grilled fish or shrimp, though, but that's just my opinion. Any way you decide to make it or serve it, it's an excellent side dish for summer that beats the standard salad! It also will work well moving into fall, since the broccoli is a heartier green that can hold up to the dressing and be more a more substantial side dish. Enjoy! 

Monday, June 8, 2020

How Bulk Shopping Is Environmentally Friendly

When looking to make environmentally friendly choices, don't discount wholesale stores! Bulk shopping is (usually) friendlier to the earth

One of the coolest things I've seen start to "trend" is that most people are actively looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly. Whether that be via reducing waste, reducing the use of plastic, or searching out companies that go out of their way to help environmental causes, most people I know would prefer to shop in an environmentally friendly way at a "good" company (and there are many ways to define good). If you're looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and also be more cost effective, look into local area wholesale clubs! I'm going to outline exactly how bulk shopping is environmentally friendly. And also, the most cost effective.

Now, here's the thing we need to get out of the way really quick: if you take all your provisions home and break them into smaller amounts using plastic bags or plastic wrap, you've essentially un-done all the good you just did. Not from a cost perspective, but from an environmental perspective. I wrote this post on super simple (and also cost effective!) product swaps to get the bulk of wasteful plastic out of your home, so if you're looking for ideas, please go check it out! Most items in that list are under $10 and reusable to boot.

One thing that IS super environmentally friendly? This new laundry detergent from Revive. It's packaged in cardboard and is in strips, so you break a strip off and throw it in your load, right in with your laundry. It works wonderfully, is 100% PLASTIC FREE, and contains no fragrances, no toxic dyes, no parabens, no phosphates, no chlorine. If you want to scent your laundry, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the strip, then place it in the washer. Hello, no more plastic jugs of laundry detergent that take anywhere from 450-1,000 years to decompose!

Ok, back to bulk shopping: I prefer to shop at Costco, mostly because I'm really partial to their store brand, Kirkland. That brand is every bit as good as name brands, and sometimes better. We like to buy just about everything food-wise there, since we have so many people to eat it all. Crackers, a favorite snack food of my kids, comes in a large cardboard box with three large foil bags inside it. If I bought the same product at a regular grocery story, I'd have to buy two boxes to equal one of the bulk bags. That equals to two cardboard boxes, and the store brands use plastic to house the crackers, not foil like the bulk packaging, so essentially I'd double my environmental input for the same amount of product.

At wholesale stores, you get 1.34 lbs whereas at conventional grocery stores you get .85-.95lbs -that's a half pound more meat for the same amount of plastic!

Let's chat meat products. Yes, the meat I do buy there is wrapped in plastic. But here's the thing: at Whole Foods, the other location I buy meat from, I can get a pound of ground local beef (actually, it's just shy of a pound now... Yay for less product for the same cost) that's wrapped in plastic. When I go to Costco, organic ground beef is packaged in a pound and a half. I currently can use one of those packages to make a meal for my family, but I'd have to use two pounds (and therefore double the plastic waste) of the beef from Whole Foods.

Buying larger sizes means more product for less plastic. And more product for less money!

Fruit is another one I get in bulk, as all of my kids LOVE it. When I buy it wholesale, I get one large container that will be several meals for my kids. When I buy it at Whole Foods, I have to get multiple (plastic) containers for just one meal. We go through over two pints of berries a meal, so you can do the math on that destruction. The majority of our recycling is plastic berry containers! I love when I go to Costco and can get one big one for several meals worth of  fruit, it's such a breath of fresh air for me and my guilt about my family's plastic consumption!

The last component that I really like about shopping in bulk is that no plastic bags are used at checkout. Down here in the South, plastic bags still reign supreme at conventional grocery stores (as well as Target and Walmart) to pack up your goods upon buying them. Study after study has shown that those bags wind up in rivers, lakes, oceans. They wind up in landfills and take years upon years (decades, actually) to decompose. If you're not bringing your own bags to conventional stores, please consider doing so. Those plastic bags are amongst the worst. And bulk stores don't offer them (they will offer you a cardboard flat to put smaller items in - and cardboard is not only recyclable, it's also decomposeable!)

Bulk shopping isn't environmentally perfect. Yes, plastic is still used. And yes, not everyone has access to bulk shopping, whether they don't have a facility nearby or they don't have the funds to purchase all their food in bulk. But, it IS a *more* environmentally favorable choice. Perhaps the best choice of all is shopping at your local farmers market with your own bags. We've done that, and taking the family to the Dallas farmers market is actually really fun! But we can't always shop there. So when we need a regular trip to get food and other household items, I try to shop in bulk, because it's the more environmentally friendly choice.

Monday, June 1, 2020

My Favorite Natural Beauty Products

For over a year, I've been on a crusade to toss out all the toxic beauty products I've used and replace them with more natural or completely natural products. Here are my favorites I've found so far!

I've written a couple posts on the ways I'm switching out my beauty products to focus on more natural products - and also products that are more sustainable and use less plastic in their packaging. It's been a series of trial and error! Just like with conventional products, you've got to find what works for you. Just because it's natural doesn't mean your skin won't react to it. I've gotten breakouts from products that contain too much heavy Vitamin E while I've had zero issues using plain coconut oil on my face. It's a bit of work to figure out what works best for your skin type! These are the products that have worked well for me: I have combination skin that olive toned and doesn't burn easily. Wrinkles are far less of a concern than breakouts. I also have extremely sensitive skin that tends to react to everything. If that sounds like you, give these natural beauty products a try! They might work well for you too.

Makeup - Babo Botanicals:
I'm down to nearly no makeup... The least I've ever worn, and I'm SO good with it! Especially as we head into summer and it just melts off immediately anyway. If I need some coverage, or
- tinted sunscreen
- tinted lip balm
- lip gloss

Natural deodorants:
The issue with natural deodorants is that they either work and cause irritation or they don't work... These three, when used in a rotation, work and don't cause irritation lines or ingrown hairs. I've found that coconut oil based deodorants that also use a starch (like arrowroot powder) are terrible for causing ingrown hairs. The first two brands are liquid and the last one is coconut oil based without a starch, so if you have the same problem I do, give these brands a try!
Pit Liquor
Each & Every

From your face to your body, your skin is your largest organ and deserves the best products! All of these companies have amazing products that haven't caused any reactions with my skin. I couldn't recommend them more.

I'm a big fan of putting oils on my skin... And my absolute favorite is using the rose roller around my eye area. I use this rose quartz roller with the rose essential oil roller (I'm partial to the roller, not the oil. The oil is a high maintenance oil to work with, and gets tricky. Sure, cost per ounce it's more but the roller makes it so easy to use, I highly recommend it for your facial skin).

MIG Living
I have the lavender and clary sage lotion bar (now called Ritual Serum Stick, but this is the same thing I have in the new packaging), and use it on my body and on my face. It's rich and luxurious without being greasy. It's seriously one of my favorite products I own! In fact, I've just ordered this charcoal bar (I'm currently in love with all things activated charcoal) and can't wait to order more of the skincare line. I love that their soaps don't use plastic and the products feature organic beeswax and essential oils. And I also love that they have subscribe and save, so that if you love it as much as me, you can get it for cheaper, and auto shipped to your home so that you never run out.

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Now that we dove in, if you're looking for some of those posts I mentioned in my intro, here they are - a quick makeup routine, the best anti aging oils to add to your skincare and what easy steps you can take in the morning to set you up for a great day. Beauty is, after all, achieved from the inside out!

Related posts:
Two Minute Makeup Routine
5 Best Anti-Aging Essential Oils
Achievable Healthy Morning Routine

Switching to a more natural beauty routine is surprisingly easy. There are now so many products on the market, they're affordable and easy to find! The question becomes which ones to try. These are all my favorite natural beauty products. If you're acne prone with highly sensitive skin, I recommend giving them a try! I've tried many, and these actually make the cut.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Happy Memorial Day

I'm breaking for the Memorial Day holiday. Get offline and go enjoy yourselves! Hoping your state is at least a little bit open so that you can get to a park for a picnic or enjoy a patio somewhere. Thanks to all who have served our country and lost their lives in the process. We are who we are because of their sacrifice!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Currently, May Edition

Here's what's happening around here, currently

Texas is coming out of quarantine life, and I've never been happier to be a Texan! I know there's lot of opinions about "reopening" and how various states are doing it and evaluations about their timeline. I actually feel really good about Texas' because our governor (whom I don't typically like, so I'm surprising even myself by saying this!) is using the infection rate/positive tests vs total tests taken rate to determine when things should open. So, yes - our numbers are increasing, but so is our testing. So clearly our numbers are going to go up, and clearly deaths will increase. But the percentage of tests taken vs the number that turned out positive has decreased from over 6 percent to about four percent, which means overall infections are down. That's a long way of saying, I feel good about how we're opening and super happy to get out and about again! Of course, with a mask. Of course, lathering hand sanitizer on every so often. But seriously, PRAISE BE for getting out of the house and getting away from all my kids and experiencing something that feels somewhat normal again. Here's what else has been going on around here, currently:

All the celebrations! Mother's Day, hubby's birthday and Henry's birthday:
I'm used to it now, but having all three of these days happen in less than a week is CRAZY. Mid-May is a nonstop party of good food, cake, flowers and presents. This year was no different! I got a funny gift and a sentimental gift, plus flowers for Mother's Day, and it was super sweet. We were able to bring everyone to my favorite taco spot and sit outside, and for an hour or so, life was totally normal. It was a great Mother's Day.

Hub's birthday was mid-week, so we celebrated on Friday. He wanted ice cream cake, so I had to figure out who in Dallas makes those. In Minneapolis, I'd hit up a Dairy Queen but those are only wayyyyy out in the country here, and it'd melt before I got it back home! I eventually found one at TBCY and it was way better than one from DQ.

For Henry, we clearly couldn't throw him a party, but we managed to have fun anyway. I baked him his requested cake - a vanilla heart shaped cake with two layers and sprinkles. That was his exact request and lucky for me (and him) I have a heart shaped cake pan! We knew his birthday would be stormy, so we gave him his "big" present a day early. A new red bike. He was a little scared to ride it at first because it's so much bigger than his other bike, but he got the hang of it right away. Then he got to open up the rest of his gifts on his birthday, and I even let him play tag in the house to run off the sugar high from that cake.

Found this company, and it's awesome:
Living Libations was recommended to me in the strangest way! First, one of my followers over on @uncomplicatedlifeblogoils highly recommended it. I love that account and all the people I interact with there! But I didn't have time to look into it before my mind went elsewhere. Several days later, I was watching a IG Live broadcast with two women I really respect and admire. Both of them mentioned the brand! I said, ok, I'm definitely looking into this tomorrow. I ordered toothpaste, and some travel sized skincare items. I love that they offer travel sizes so that you can try the products out without dropping a bajillion dollars! And they have everything, from oral care to deodorant to makeup to sun care and even items for kids. Check them out for sure if you're into natural products or looking to replace some traditional products in your home.

Ditching online homeschool:
Do you know how stressful online learning is when your child can't read and needs to be watched with electronics? Yeah, "remote learning" is an absolute joke for kids under third grade. So, we're not doing it. Henry HATED his classroom Zoom calls, because they were just cluster-you-know-what's of kids screaming and calling out each other's names and it was overwhelming. He'd look at me wide-eyed and say, "Mommy, why is everyone screaming?" Then he'd walk off, uninterested. Fortunately, our school district also sent out packets of workbooks for the youngest kids, and Henry has been doing those (with an interested younger Otto giving him help, too). In fact, many of my friends with young kids like me have also ditched all this online BS. We do some worksheets in the morning, then get outside. Too much screen time for these youngsters. If you're feeling the same way, talk to your teacher and tell them what you will and won't do. They'll work with you!

Here's a small sample of what we have - tons of printables, and kindergarten math and science books too. So much better than micromanaging young kids and technology.

PS - I saw some summer camps on the east coast are looking into "virtual experience" models, and I've never laughed so hard in my life. They know we send our kids to camps to get them AWAY from screens and into the outdoors, right? For hands-on skill learning? Ok, just making sure. Is it just me or are people taking "virtual experiences" way way way too far? I wouldn't be surprised if vacation packages start being sold as "an online experience you can enjoy from your couch!" Ummm, that's not how that works.

Waiting in the wings...
For what will happen with our schools in the fall. And IT IS STRESSFUL. Like I said, online homeschooling a six year old isn't really effective or fun for anyone. This isn't how kids that age learn - or, rather, it isn't the only way they should be learning. They need to be doing, not sitting and watching a screen. Our governor hasn't created any rules or mandates on schools or day cares yet so. We wait. I hate waiting on stressful situations.

That's what's going on around here currently! How's your state re-opening? If it is, are you venturing out or staying home? I haven't gone shopping or hit up a mall yet, but I never really did that anyway so I doubt I'll be doing that anyhow. But eating out at a restaurant with a patio has been a treat. Now if I can just get the confirmation that schools are opening this fall, life will be dandy.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Saving Money On Prescriptions

If you recently lost your health insurance, never had it, or have a high deductible plan that makes getting your prescriptions too expensive, check out this resource for saving big bucks on nearly every FDA approved medication

This post is sponsored by Optum Perks but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

I remember when I first started working out of college in a corporate marketing department, we had new employee orientation. In that orientation, we learned about how to enroll for our benefits. I was shocked at how much health insurance cost - I had always been on my parents plan and never paid a cent of any premium! Since I was young and healthy, I signed up for the most affordable plan, which was a high deductible one with no prescription drug coverage. Of course, the first time I got sick and needed antibiotics, I wished I had enrolled in a better plan! Prescription drugs can cost a fortune, especially if you're stuck on a plan without a copay option. Or if you've been laid off and have no more coverage. Or worked at an employer where you couldn't get any coverage at all! Optum Perks is one of the coolest websites I've seen that offers real help to folks who can't afford a prescription, who don't have health insurance or who's insurance doesn't cover the particular drug they need.

Here's how it works: search, find and save. No, seriously. You go to their website and type in your prescription. You don't have to create an account, you don't need to enter any personal information. Just search your drug! Then you can alter the dosage to fit your prescription. Optum Perks will list out your cost at a number of participating pharmacies in your area. In fact, their coupons are good at 64,000 pharmacies nationwide, so odds are strong your preferred pharmacy is listed! Pick your pharmacy, then click get the coupon. You can print it, have it sent to your email or have it texted to you. Present the coupon when picking up your prescription and boom. You've just saved as much as 80% on your medication! There's no memberships or fees - they just send you the coupon to use.

Searching my prescription

Finding it and entering the specifics of my dose

And my savings card they texted me! The process is so easy

If you follow me on Instagram, you've likely seen my stories where I talk about the random eczema outbreak I get above my eye several times a year. To treat it, I have a prescription steroid from my dermatologist. I only use it when I have a flare up, but I keep it on hand all the time so that I'm ready for those flare ups! Which, by the way, my derm thinks are partially stress induced, and right now living in a quarantined world from COVID 19 is extra stressful, so I want to make sure I have plenty on hand!

Mandatory supplies to head into the pharmacy to get my cream!
Face mask, who dis?!

There wasn't a soul there, so I felt completely comfortable getting my prescription

I looked up the cost for this drug, and it was $10.19. When I entered the information in Optum Perks, my cost went down to just $4.17 with the prescription coupon! That's nearly the same price I pay with my insurance. So if you've got a high deductible plan, don't have health insurance at all, or if your insurance doesn't cover your drug, this is an EXCELLENT resource for you. The best part is, you can use the prescription coupons in your pharmacy (like I did), at the drive through window if your pharmacy has one, or via a mail order service. However you get your prescriptions, you can use Optum Perks for the discount.

Life right now is a weird time. Take some of the stress off your shoulders by using Optum Perks for your next prescription! I loved how easy it was - just search, find and save. In less than 2 minutes I had the text to my phone and was on my way to the pharmacy to get it. The pharmacist scanned my phone and boom - I got the discounted price. Saving money on prescriptions is easy with Optum Perks.

Monday, May 4, 2020

My Top 10 Most Used Essential Oils

What they are and how I use them in daily life

I've been "oily" for six years now. I've amassed quite a collection of oils. In fact, they're all over my home! The biggest stash is stored in a box from Aroma Outfitters in a cool, dark and childproof'd cabinet. But there's a few by my bed and a good number in my bathroom vanity drawer too. I travel with them. I reach for various oils throughout the day. Once you learn about them and get to know them, you find you can't be without them! Some I reach for more than others. This post is all about my top 10 favorite, most used essential oils. The ones I order before I'm even out of them because I don't want to be without them.

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Since I found Revive, most of these oils are super affordable. That's because there's no multi-level-marketing club to join, which essentially means you're not paying your "upline's" bonuses or their trips to Hawaii that you'll never get to go on. You simply buy the oil that you want, when you want it, and it ships free. The quality is the same as Young Living or doTERRA, but since you avoid the MLM drama, you don't have to pay their prices! If you're looking for high quality, affordable oils, check them out. You can use CODE PAIGE10 for 10% off your order, too.

If you're a budget shopper, check out this post I made about my top 10 oil list for essential oils that cost $10 or less!

This list of my top 10 most used essential oils covers a wide range of uses, to extremely practical like cleaning and laundry to immune support to simply my favorite blends to diffuse. There's a little something for everyone in here! If you're looking for more ways to use your oils, be sure and follow @uncomplicatedlifeblogoils on Instagram. I post tons of ways to use oils, oil info, diffuser blends and all kinds of other good stuff on that account almost daily. Whether you're new to oils or an old pro, check out all these uses for my all time favorite oils:

Lemon is one of those oils that has a million uses. I make this cleaner, great for windows, glass and patio furniture that isn't wood. It's in my most favorite diffuser blend (rosemary, lemon and peppermint) that smells just like a spa. It's an energy boosting oil, so diffuse it if you're feeling sluggish. I carried a bottle of it around when I was pregnant and smelled it whenever nausea would hit me.

I call lavender the queen of all oils. It literally has a million uses, from calming skin irritations and reducing scars, to promoting sleep to helping my kids calm down from a tantrum. I have a DIY acne clearing face wash with lavender in it (check out the before and after pics of how it helped my acne scars!)

Kind of a weird one for a "top 10" list, right? But this is one of my favorites to use with other oils. It's a staple in my diffuer! Patchouli and sweet orange is amazing; it's my mood boosting blend when I'm having a "blah" day. Patchouli and lavender is calming and grounding. If you're lucky enough to have a bottle of rose essential oil, patchouli and rose is fantastic diffused in your home. The earthy scent of the patchouli and the floral of the rose go together like peas and carrots.

Sweet Orange
There's no way you can smell this oil and not be happy. It's just like cutting into a fresh orange! Since it's in the citrus family, you can use it with your cleaners. I use it with other oils (see above) in my diffuser. In fact, this might be one of my most diffused oils! In the fall, I'm a fan of sweet orange and clove and often have that running all holiday season. I wish this oil came in a big 30ml bottle because I use it that often!

Clary Sage
Ladies, how are those hormones? Clary sage is an estrogen booster, and if you're looking to balance your hormones, it's great to use for the first 14 days (or until the day you ovulate) of your cycle when your estrogen naturally drops. It's also been noted to be a natural anti-depressant and anti-anxiety oil. I apply it to my inner forearms with a carrier oil before bed regularly for it's calming benefits.

Tea Tree
Anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, this is the anti oil king! Good for acne breakouts (apply directly to the blemish). I put a drop on my toe when I had a particularly aggressive pedicure that caused some red inflammation (the gal was a little too heavy handed digging out my cuticle) and it prevented an infection. I've used it to clean my yoga mat (a few drops added to witch hazel; spay your mat down and let it sit in the sun).

If tea tree is the king of being "anti-bad-things", frankincense is the king of oils for the skin! It's great to add to your skincare routine for anti-aging benefits. I add a drop to my moisturizer daily. It's one of the oils that's safe during pregnancy and (very dilluted) for babies. One drop of lavender and frankincense added to coconut oil is great for a diaper rash. Speaking of, this oil is great for various skin rashes and irritations. I have a DIY makeup removing wipe that has frankincense in it which helps with wrinkle prevention, too.

My favorite blend of all time, this oil is a dupe of Young Living's Peace & Calming. I diffuse it all the time! It's also good in a roller bottle as perfume. It helps with anxiety and stress - in fact, it's my go to oil for stress relief. It's also great diffused at night to help create a calm environment great for sleep.

What I love about this oil is that it's a blend of various sandalwood varieties, as well as a few other earthy, grounding oils. Sandalwood is a super expensive oil, but this blend gives you access to all that oils benefits for $22. I love diffusing this for it's calming, relaxing and earthy scent. When you want things to be mellow and chill, put this one in your diffuser and get re-centered and connected.

Immunity Boost (Protect)
As a former Young Living oil lover, Immunity Boost is an EXACT dupe of Thieves. As the name suggests, it's great for boosting your immune system, and I have it going as soon as school starts and the kids start bringing home all the bugs from their classmates. Diffuse it (especially with lemon), put it in a roller bottle and apply it to the bottoms of your feet before bed (I keep the roller bedside) and if you take oils internally, add a drop to your favorite tea. I swear it shortens the length of any cold I get and if I start my regimen the second I feel something coming on, sometimes it curbs the cold entirely before I actually get sick. I put Protect in parenthesis because it's the doTERRA On Guard dupe. I never used that oil brand so I was unaware of how great it is, but it's very similar to Thieves. I ordered it to compare the two, and I have to say... I'm a bigger fan of Protect than Immunity Boost! It uses wild orange instead of lemon and a different variety of cinnamon, and it's quite lovely. I'll likely switch out all my Immunity Boost bottles to use Protect instead!

These are all the oils that I use consistently in and around my person and home. Whether I'm making a DIY like a cleaner, trying to boost my health and immune system or simply want a pleasant smell diffusing, these are my top 10 most used, go to essential oils. The ones I order more of before I even run out, because I never ever want to be out of them!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Achievable Healthy Morning Routine

What's an easy, achievable way to start your day off right and promote your overall health? I've got the simple steps I take to set up my day that has a lasting impact and is easy to implement

Our stay at home order was just extended well into May here in Dallas. While as a mom of four that was a lot to take - this all has been a lot to take, no Netflixing and chilling going on over here! - it made me want to focus on the positives, unless I wallow in darkness of isolation for too long and wind up depressed. I realized how lovely and slow our mornings have become, and how much I'm enjoying that. When Henry started kindergarten last fall, our whole morning routine got bumped up by almost two hours! I'm decidedly NOT a morning person. If left to my own devices, I'd sleep until at least 8am everyday, not get out of bed until 8:30 and not really get anything done besides sipping coffee and reading until 9:30. This stay at home life has reminded me how much I love slow, easy mornings that ease you into the day. If you're looking for a re-boot for your morning routine, now's the time to practice! In light of that, I thought I'd share a few healthy morning rituals I do that get my day off to a great start. Since we all have a little time right now, might as well read up, give them a try and see what works for you, right? Here's my achievable, healthy morning routine:

1) Upon waking up, drink 8oz of water
Whether it's warm with lemon, cold with ice, or what you put by your bed last night, the first thing you should do after opening your eyes is drink some water. Think about it: you just slept for hours, not consuming any hydration. Your body needs a drink! Replenish your cells by giving them some water immediately.

2) Easy skincare routing
The last time I got a facial (that feels like 3 years ago even though it was just December...) the gal who worked on my face gave me some sage advice that I've been able to incorporate easily, since it takes all of about two minutes. Splash your face with COLD water. This will help reduce any puffiness. Pat dry and use your moisturizer. Then use a rose quartz roller (they're less than $20) to press that into your skin. The roller helps your skin absorb it and the cold quartz helps with further decreasing puffiness while also increasing circulation. I took it a step further and use my moisturizer along with this rose roller under my eyes, then I use the rose quartz roller to press it all in. Takes less time than going to the bathroom and makes your face look refreshed and dewy.

If you're looking for an easy makeup routine, I wrote this post on what I use and what I do that helps you look polished and put together in about two minutes. Notice a trend? I'm all about easy and low maintenance!

3) Set up your coffee or tea right
Some people are anti-caffeine, but there have been tons of studies that show drinking one cup of coffee a day (a small to moderate amount of caffeine) boosts your metabolism, provides antioxidants and is also anti inflammatory. I drink one small cup (I'll get through about 3/4 of the cup I have pictured) and I'm set for the day. Speaking of, here's a good way to boost the health effects of that coffee: add a tablespoon or two of coconut oil. You'll get a dose of medium chain fatty acids - the kind that are good for your health and have also been shown to reduce tummy fat! I'm not a fan of cooking with coconut oil, as I don't like how it makes everything taste "coconut-y." But in my coffee? I honestly don't taste it at all! I still add half and half to cut the acidity of the coffee, so you can still prepare your coffee as you like it, even with the coconut oil in it. The same goes with tea, if you're a morning tea drinker.

Yes, my pomegranate juice is in a Jameson glass... It's the right sized glass for the job!
4) Take your immunity boosting vitamins
I'm not a breakfast person, so I actually do this step a little bit later into the day, but if you are a wake and eat type of person, this is perfect to do as you eat your first meal. I add one scoop of a prebiotic (this one was recommended to me as a quality brand) to either acai berry juice or pomegranate juice. Prebiotics are the fuel needed to support a healthy gut (whereas probiotics are the actual bacteria you add to your gut - many of which are killed off by the acid in your stomach before they even get there! Prebiotics have proven to be more beneficial than probiotics, or they can be used together for maximum efficiency) Then I take a B vitamin that has zinc in it, a turmeric capsule, and selenium. All of these support a healthy immune system, are anti-inflammatory and/or are minerals we're deficient in. The two juices I take all these with are loaded with antioxidants too!

That's it. I told you this would be achievable, so I'm not going on and on and listing a hundred things for you to do. Just drink a little water, de-puff your face, add some coconut oil to your coffee and take your vitamins. All in all, we're talking less than 15 minutes of a "routine" here, and most of it you're doing anyway (like washing your face and making yourself coffee.) 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Planting A Raised Vegetable Garden For Maximum Yield

When you plant multiple varieties of plants in one container or raised bed, there's a layout to follow so that you get the most veggies for your space

This will be my third summer growing veggies. Let me tell you, it's been a learning curve! Texas is a much different climate than most areas, and we essentially have a 12 month growing period. I've learned about summer plants and fall plants. That barely anything survives August here. That plenty of plants happily thrive in our winter months (that's mind boggling to me, coming from Minnesota!) That I need to rotate out my veggies not for "summer and winter" but more like spring and fall so that they can grow during summer and winter. Lots of lessons as a newbie and also as someone who wasn't familiar with the Texas growing climate! The other big lesson learned was how to space our plants and properly plan my raised garden for maximum veggie yield. There is definitely a right and a wrong way for that. Here's how to plant a raised vegetable garden for maximum yield, or in other words, how to grow the most veggies for the space you have.

The first step is figuring out your light. You want to know what part of your garden gets light first and the direction light travels. My bed was planned to have nearly full sun, all day long (8+ hours). The left side of the bed gets it first, and the right side is the last to get light before the sun sets. If we had placed it in a different spot in our yard or build another one, odds are good (because we have large live oak trees) that parts of it would be "partial shade" meaning that they'd only get 6 or so hours of sun. Shade plants are considered full shade with just 4 hours of direct sunlight a day. Knowing how the light hits your bed will help you pick your species of veggies. How much sun is required to grow each plant is always listed on the seed package or the insert that's stuck in the dirt of your sprouted plant.

Speaking of that insert (or back of the seed package), read it! Because it will tell you the second thing you need to know. How much physical room the plant needs to grow and how tall it will get. If you plant too many plants, they'll block the light from each other and not produce as much fruit (or veggies, in this case). Make sure and follow those directions! I didn't my fist year. I basically just dumped a bunch of seeds in the ground and waited to see what would happen. I had carrots that grew intertwined together and were so hard to pull up out of the ground - and nearly impossible to eat. I ended up making carrot cake with them so that I could grind them up. My kids didn't complain about that...

Just as important, the height. Like I said, my light hits the left side of my raised bed first, then moves right. So I wouldn't want to plant a tall tomato plant on the far left side, followed by some radishes, then perhaps some spinach because the tomatoes would block the light to all the other veggies. Where ever your light source is, plant your shorted veggie first, then progressively plant taller and taller plants so that the last space to get light has the tallest plant. This way, that fall plant won't block everyone else's light and all your veggies will stay sunny and happy.

This Rapunzel tomato plant is supposed to grow to 5 feet tall! It's placed in the back of the garden so that it won't block other plants' light

There's also pairings of plants that go and grow well together and plants that shouldn't be grown next to each other (or even in the same garden bed) because one will attract a pest that eats the fruit of the neighbor plant. I'm still learning about all the ins and outs of this, but I do know that I have vicious squirrels who love to eat my tomatoes. So this year, I planted a hot pepper plant near the tomatoes to discourage the squirrels from eating my fruit! That will be a bummed out squirrel who takes a big bite of a spicy pepper thinking he's diving into a delicious tomato. I've also learned that I can spray the plants with a cayenne pepper and water spray that should discourage any brave squirrels. I'll let you know how that goes.

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Gardening has been so fun to learn about, and to teach my kids about. Everyone - all four boys, the dog and myself - love going outside and digging in the dirt! The kids will even try the veggies we grow, which is a huge win. Even if they only take a bite, at least they tried it and know that growing food takes time and care. Sure we can all run to the grocery store and pick it up there, but all that food comes from somewhere and I'm happy that my kids are learning about it! With six people in my family, it's important to plant my raised vegetable garden for a maximum yield

Monday, April 13, 2020

COVID 19 Quarantine Life Update

We've been on lock down for an entire month here. These are some of the wildest things we've done or thought during this insane COVID-19 outbreak:

It's been a wild ride, that's for sure. Our schools have been out since March 13, so that puts us at a whole month of this quarantine/social distancing life. I want to be positive, but honestly, I've hated just about all of it. Sure, I've had some fun moments with the kids building forts or gardening, but mostly this has all just been hard. I like to get out and talk to people. I like to work from home, filming recipes and staging shoots for this blog. I'm a huge routine person. All of that has gone out the window this past month, and likely won't let up for another two or three weeks. All this cabin fever has led to some pretty crazy thoughts or activities over here, so I thought I'd lighten the mood and tell you some of the things we're scheming up/dreaming of/have actually done during this bizarre time in history. This is our weirdo COVID-19 quarantine life update:

- It was an unusual Easter.
I normally plan out matching outfits for the boys weeks in advance. All I manged to get this year was bunny ears. The shirts are all from last year (don't look too close, the sleeves are def not long enough anymore!) and the twins were wearing hand me downs. I managed to put together a brunch from what we had in the fridge. We watched an Easter movie. That was the extent for us, which is kinda sad, but that's how it goes.

- I've had car dates with my friends.
Since we can't sit in the restaurant and we have to be 6 feet apart, I've taken to getting takeout and sitting in my car with the windows down to eat it. A friend will join me and we have a solid "car date", speaking loudly out our windows so that the other can hear. Hey, we might look insane, but that's because we are going slowly insane. If I can get some food that I don't have to cook and eat in with my steering wheel in the way while I shout at a friend, I'll take it. I'll take any outing I can get these days, actually. 

- I actually broke down to tears at Whole Foods.
Not sure if you know this, but I joke that WF is my office. Since it's based here in Texas, we have some amazing WF stores. The one near me has a restaurant and two bars in it, plus a BBQ smokehouse. I love it there! Where else can you get a smoothie, a few sushi rolls and a glass of wine all at the same time? Free wifi. A cafe to work from. Perfection! When you work from home as an extrovert, you've got to find your locations to hang out at to get social interaction, and WF is one of two places I frequent. Literally, the bulk of the staff know me by my first name, that's how often I'm there. I went there after Dallas went on a full out "shelter at home" order. It was so sad to see the deli totally shut down. To see the cafe turned into a "pick up order" counter. To see consistently empty shelves. I went back to the bathroom and just cried. My little Whole Foods community was all disheveled and rearranged; I didn't see any of the staff I normally talk to. My "second home office" wasn't recognizable and it broke my little heart.

- I contemplated getting in my car and driving to the coast to ride this out by the ocean.
It's a 6 hour drive down to the Gulf. I seriously contemplated pointing my car south and driving until I hit water. I'm a water lover. The ocean or a lake is my happy place. There were more than a few (mentally unstable) days where I thought about climbing in my car and taking off, camping out at a beach by myself until this storm passes. But, you know, I've got kids and a husband and a house to take care of, so right as I started to drive my car to the freeway that would take me there, I snapped out of it. But damn if that doesn't sound like a good plan.

- I've contemplated buying a hobby farm just outside the city.
Remember this post when I laid out all our thoughts on staying in the city/moving to the 'burbs for our next home? Yeah, I took that to the next level and said, screw it, let's buy a hobby farm where the kids can play outside all the time, I can finally get the chickens I've always wanted. And maybe a few goats, too. Because, why not? My husband actually looked and found one in our budget! And it even had an adorable red barn. Looks like I know my new life plan! I mean, if we're gonna go outside the city, let's just go ahead and go ALL out. 

FYI, we're not buying a hobby farm. But I can watch organic farming documentaries on Netflix with a bottle of wine and dream about it. And we did harvest our own carrots to use in the carrot cake cupcakes I made for Easter!

- Homeschooling isn't going great.
I knew I wasn't cut out to be a teacher but I didn't think I was this bad! And I've got a kinder and a pre-k-er, so we're not talking rocket science. I think that might be the problem, actually... It's a lot of mundane tasks. And they have to be submitted online. My problem might stem from me feeling like I'm wasting my time (and my kids' time too - which is also hilarious because ALL WE HAVE IS TIME but who cares about small details like that, right?) Or my problem is I'm trying to keep them from cutting their fingers off with adult sissors because we don't have kid scissors like a school does, while also watching 17 month twins. I don't know. I don't like this home school nonsense though.

That's how things are going over here in isolation. I'm telling you, I was not meant to be kept at home! And I LOVE being at home; but too much of a good thing is just too much. I love kids but I'm sick of mine. I love being outside in our yard, but not when that's the only place we can go. I love getting takeout but not when it's the only other option beyond me cooking. I love cooking, but not when I *have* to. I swear, when we're allowed to leave our homes again, I'm going to hit up every single restaurant that actually reopens and I'm going to go to every class at my gym and if we're ever able to drop our kids off at school again, I'm going to relish the silence and set up elaborate photo shoots just because I can. Oh, little things, how I miss you so.