Real. Good. Fud.

and other joys in life

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It’s the Season of Gift-Giving: Think Outside the Christmas Box

Christmas is just around the corner!  It’s that time of year to start buying gifts for loved ones.  I love giving gifts.  However, I really hate it when you don’t have an awesome gift for someone and end up getting them something just to get them something.  That’s pretty silly, right?  I mean, sure it’s the thought that counts.  But, why waste your money if the person will never use your gift?  And don’t you feel especially loved when you know someone really thought about your gift, and personalized it to your taste? 

I’d rather not receive a gift than receive one that I can tell someone just randomly picked up to fulfill the obligation of getting me something.

I challenge you this year to give meaningful gifts; ones that will be used and not wasted.  There are some people that are easy and fun to shop for.  Maybe they give you a specific list, or perhaps the person has similar taste as you (like my sister).  There are others that seem to have everything (like my parents), or are really picky (like my husband). 

So my gift to you- a few ideas for gift giving.

Homemade- if you know someone that shares the passion you do regarding what goes in or on their body, make them something like lotion, bath salts, body scrub, body wash, brownie mix, pancake mix, the list goes on and on.  Check out Crunchy Betty and others’ blogs for ideas.  This link takes you to her kid’s list, but you can easily find other ideas for women and men.

Herbal Bath Sachets from Crunchy Betty.

Herbal Bath Sachets from Crunchy Betty.

Local- if you don’t have the time or energy to make something, look local.  Local food- coffee, brews, bread, tea, chocolate, etc.  Local products- candles, bath and body, etc.  A few examples:chocolate

  • Askinosie Chocolate: a local chocolate factory in Springfield, MO that builds relationships with cocoa farmers and produces the most delicious chocolate ever!  They are very picky throughout the process, and each chocolate bar you buy tells you the name of the farmer and where it came from.
  • Heroes Coffee: Wake Up. Do Good. Repeat. That’s their motto.  These folks are super-duper awesome, recognize people and organizations that ‘do good’, and roast ridiculously good coffee (and they sell tea, equipment, and more). 
  • Mother’s Brewery: Craft beer made with mother’s love.  What more can you ask for?  They brew love… enough said. PS- Winter Grind (and Mr. Pumpkin in the fall) is my favorite.

And if you have that person that wouldn’t appreciate homemade lotion any more than a Walmart brand, or doesn’t relish good food, why not give a gift in their name?

A little girl receiving her health kit from Food for the Hungry.

A little girl receiving her health kit from Food for the Hungry.

  • Kiva gives loans out to people around the world for personal and business costs.  The person then pays you back, and you can give the money to someone else.  My sister got me a gift certificate a while back, and I’ve helped out a few farmers in various countries, and most recently a Palestinian man buy medicinal herbs for his shop!
  • Food for the Hungry has a gift catalog where you can purchase a gift of water, animals, school supplies, pastor training, healthcare, and many other things- to help people around the world.
  • Or be original, and give a goat.  Chivas Goat Milk Skin Care has partnered with The Nomad Foundation to donate a herd of goats to the nomadic Tuareg people of Niger.  When you purchase the gift ($52), a goat will be donated in the recipient’s name to the tribe.  And, the recipient gets a gift box with goat milk bar soap.

So this year, think outside the Christmas box.  Think jars, bottles, and food for the hungry!

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Amazing post from my lovely sister. “Do not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.”

Hand in Hand

As we impatiently wait for our adoption to move forward, I am filled with questions and doubts.  There are so many orphans, why must we wait?  What kind of medical needs would we be okay with?  Are we with the right agency?  What’s the oldest age we feel would fit into our family?  Is this ever going to actually happen?  What if we’re blessed with another pregnancy, how does that affect things?  How do we know if a calling towards a certain child is a calling from God or just our impatient emotions?  These questions tumble through my mind endlessly, tossing and turning and leaving me with only more questions.

Last week we had a special guest speaker at our church.  Carl Medearis is an expert on Muslim and middle East relations.  A US native, he moved his family (including his 17 and 4 month old daughters) to Lebanon.  For…

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Quick and Easy

I often get asked what I kinds of things I regularly eat, and where I buy my food.  People who know my passion for healthy, homemade foods sometime think that always means lots of work and lots of money.  I’ll write a separate post on the money situation- and where I buy my food.  For now, I’ll focus on some tips and ideas to incorporate healthy food into your everyday diet… not just on the weekend when you have some extra time.

First and foremost- PLAN!  I could write a whole post on how I do my meal planning, but just think ahead.  And, when you do your grocery shopping, only buy healthy options- what you have in your house is what you will eat.  If you don’t have any canned soup and Cheetos, you probably won’t eat them!  Check out a previous post on more ideas for planning.

For now, I’ll share some recipes to use after you’ve done your planning.

A few great weeknight meals regularly consumed at our house:

Pasta, with pesto made from pureed kale and olive oil, with random vegetables I needed to use up!

Sweet Potato Tuna Melts

Tilapia with Roasted Garlic, Potato, and Kale Crust (you don’t have to roast the garlic- just microwave potatoes and stir in other ingredients).

Whole Chicken– just put it in the crock pot, and use the leftovers all week.

Greens with Carrots, Feta, and Brown Rice (use any cheese, grains and vegetables)

Learn to use what you have, and don’t pressure yourself by thinking every dinner has to be extravagant.  Make a big salad, and use leftovers as toppings.  Toasted sandwiches.  Breakfast for dinner- make a quiche, homemade pancakes and eggs, or French toast.

And finally- get creative.  Use the following ingredients to mix and create something that your family enjoys, depending on what you have available and what your personal preferences are.

Eggs, beans, lentils, leftover meat/chicken/fish

Grains- barley, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, pasta

Vegetables- onion, garlic, carrots, greens, peppers, broccoli

Use the above Greens with Carrots, Feta, and Brown Rice recipe and play around with it!  Make extra- and use leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.  You could even stir in some raw greens and avocado, sprinkle with some lemon juice- and there’s a hearty, healthy, and delicious salad.

I leave you with my meal from last night- nothing fancy, whatsoever.  But, practical… easy… I think it took 10 minutes

Saute onions and peppers in coconut oil until just cooked, but still crunchy.

Add spinach and garlic and stir together.

In a separate portion of the pan, or a separate pan… cook an egg (or two, or three…).

Serve your greens, with the egg on top.

I had a protein bar before dinner, so I just ate this with some sweet potato chips (from Food Should Taste Good).  However, serve over some grains, with some leftover chicken, or with a side such as sweet potatoes for a more filling meal.

What are your very favorite, busy night meals?  Or, what tips have saved you from running through a drive through after a long day?


Chicken- it’s what’s for dinner.

Chicken.  Most people concerned about health, but not wanting to go vegetarian, probably consume a lot of this famous white meat.

Not in my household… I can live with or without chicken, but the husband is not a fan.  Say chicken and he’ll think “dry, bland, and not good”.  So for the first 2 years of our marriage, I almost never cooked chicken.

In an attempt to cut back on deli meat, I decided to roast a whole chicken- and use the meat on sandwiches and salads.  The results were fabulous.  Full of flavor, unbelievably moist… even the husband thoroughly enjoyed it!

His wings fell off😦

When looking into chicken, I was amazed to see all of the health benefits homemade broth has to offer.  There’s actually a reason for this soup of choice when ill!

So, we know it’s really great for your health.  It’s also a great way to be frugal.  The bird I most recently bought was $14 (almost 7 pounds, free range, organic).  That included a dinner for 2, a week’s worth of meat (for leftovers, salads, sandwiches), and lots of broth!

This is one of those dishes you can get really creative with!

Here’s how I cook the bird:

Remove giblets, pat dry, and place in a slow cooker with about 2 inches of water in the bottom.

Season with salt, pepper (I use whole peppercorns), garlic and onion powder, sage, and rosemary.  (the options are endless-try experimenting with orange, cinnamon sticks, fennel, paprika, thyme, and other herbs!)

Cover and cook until done!  My 7-pounder was done in 6 hours on high (maybe sooner).  (Of course this will depend on the size of your bird, so just check with a meat thermometer before taking him out.  And remember, it will continue to cook after you take it out and let it rest.)

When you remove the chicken, be very careful!  I recommend using some tongs and a huge spoon or sturdy spatula for underneath support.  This guy’s meat will literally slide right off the bones.

Now-very important- let the chicken ‘rest’ after you remove it from the slow cooker- for about 30 minutes.  By doing this, you avoid all the juices escaping when you cut it.

When you ‘cut’ it, there is really no ‘cutting’ involved.  You should just be able to pick the meat off with a fork and tongs or your fingers.  Sometimes I just pull the bones out, and then pick through the meat to ensure it’s ‘clean’.

Okay- so now you have your chicken meat.

Eat it, pack it up, freeze it, do whatever you need to do with it.

Now it’s time to make your broth:

Put all the bones and other ‘inedible’ pieces back in your slow cooker (along with the juices).  I throw the skin out, but some people leave it in.

Add a splash of apple cider vinegar, some fresh garlic and peppercorns (and onion, carrots, celery if you’d like).

Cook overnight on low.

Strain the broth.

If you want low-fat, store it in the refrigerator for a few hours and the fat will solidify on top- then just scoop it off!

I usually store some in the fridge for immediate use, and freeze the rest in bags or jars (leaving room for expansion- learned that lesson the hard way!).

Whew- looks like a long post, but it really is incredibly simple and takes little ‘hands on’ time.

This chicken is so moist and flavorful for two main reasons: it’s cooked very slowly, and it’s cooked with the bones in and skin on.  I don’t eat the skin, but leaving it on during cooking produces dramatically different meat!

If I haven’t convinced you- do a little research on chicken broth, and try it for yourself!


Apple Cider Vinegar for Beautiful Skin (and hair)

I think I’m on a train to hippie-ville.  If I keep it up, I will be making all of my home and body products (with the exception of makeup, hairspray and toothpaste) by the end of the year.  Or sooner.

I love the oil-cleansing method; it worked a serious miracle on my skin.  However, my complexion still isn’t perfect.  It’s still just a bit oily, and I have red spots from acne scars and such.

That’s when I decided to make my own toner.

Have you experimented much with apple cider vinegar (ACV)?  I’ve always loved it for salad dressing and to catch gnats… but never thought of it for beauty.

ACV is supposed to balance the pH of your skin (and hair), which is naturally slightly acidic.  For skin, it helps balance complexion; your skin can find that happy place between oily and dry.  It helps to soften skin, and reduces red marks and blemishes.  ACV absorbs oil and kills bacteria (making it a great acne treatment).

ACV helps to soften and smooth hair (by closing the cuticle), and detangles.

And perhaps best of all- it is INCREDIBLY cheap and easy.

Be sure to get the good stuff- organic, raw, and unfiltered- to enjoy all these benefits.  Even the high quality ACV is just a few dollars.  And since you dilute it (always dilute it!), a bottle will last you a while!

I just started a new hair routine, which uses ACV as a rinse.  Since I’m not sure the outcome, and will be experimenting- I’ll share it later.  But in the meantime here is what I do for my skin.  Brace yourself…

1 part ACV

2 parts distilled water

Mix them and apply to your face with a cotton pad or washcloth.

Think you can handle that?  Keep in mind that you may need to dilute it a little more, depending on your skin type.  You can also use an herbal infusion for water (e.g. chamomile tea), or add anything else (e.g., tea tree oil).

Side note- check out the other health benefits of ACV when consumed- it is believed to reduce sinus infections, balance high cholesterol, fight allergies, strengthen immune system, increase metabolism, prevent UTI… and the list goes on.


Natural Living- Wash your Face with Oil

I’ve found myself becoming more and more interested in making products for home and body.  It started out as a simple all-purpose cleaner to save money, and after falling in love that turned into window cleaner, laundry detergent and wood polish. 

My sister told me how great the ‘oil cleansing method’ is (for your face).  I’ve always had super sensitive skin, and battled with breakouts.  I thought, “no way am I putting oil on my already oily, acne-prone skin!”  Well… I tried it.  And. I LOVE it!  It gets rid of makeup, and leaves my skin healthy feeling- not stripped.  It makes me angry at commercial products and medicine for failing me all these years… but that’s a whole other conversation! 

Now, I don’t like to reinvent the wheel.  So instead of writing much about specific things I’ve made, I will lead you to some people who have lots of information and recipes.

The best blog I’ve found for all things homemade- for home and body- is Crunchy Betty, You have food on your face.  She has a great post on the oil cleansing method, along with many others.

Here is a great article on what the oil cleansing method is, how to do it, and why it works.

Everyone is different, but for my sensitive, oily but can get dry, acne-prone skin… I use about 60% castor oil, 40% sunflower oil, and tea tree oil.

Let me tell you, this seriously is a miracle for me.  I’ve been using clindamycin (topical) and prescription Retinol for the past year.  It worked okay at ridding the acne… but my skin was still irritated and sad.  Also, I always knew it wasn’t a ‘forever’ fix considering the toxins I was putting in my body.  When I started the oil cleansing method I planned on continuing the prescriptions for a while.  However after seeing such wonderful results, I’ve quit using them altogether.  In the past 4 weeks (since beginning the oil cleansing method), I’ve had 2 pimples.  Two very small pimples, that were gone within 1-2 days.  The hubs even said my skin looks good.  Score!

Everyone’s skin is different, so I hope others have the beautiful experience I have with the oil cleansing method.  Have you tried it?  Or, what else do you use to clean your face?

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Fascinating Fall: Pumpkin Tea Latte and Kettle Corn

Ahh… the sweet flavor of fall.

Fall is above and beyond, my very favorite season.  I guess it’s the feel of the cool air- a fresh sensation following the dreadful humid heat, the beauty of trees changing colors, the smells, and most importantly- the food. 

As much as I love the fresh produce of summer, I cannot wait to begin seeing pumpkin, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash available!  My favorite seasonings are cinnamon, cocoa, and honey.  I think I was “born this way” (and remember, “God makes no mistakes; I’m on the right track baby…”; sorry- gotta love Gaga!), but I have always loved rich food; dark chocolate; dry, bold red wine; dark, bold coffee; creamy casseroles; and heavy soups.

So naturally, I get giddy when I see orange leaves outside! 

An obsession with rich, heavy foods does not have to mean you can’t be healthy!  I will be sharing all kinds of foods to fit these fancies, and how to keep your health in mind along the way.  Don’t forget that the fundamental principle with living a healthy lifestyle is to keep it real- make it yourself.  So put down that package of hot chocolate loaded with sugar and unknowns, and let’s get into the kitchen!

First in line- the perfect enhancement for my night in last Friday…


Pumpkin Tea Latte

adapted from Modern, Christian Woman 

1 tea bag (any kind- I used green) 

1 cup water 

A couple spoonfuls of cooked (or canned) pumpkin 


 Pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg) 

1 cup milk (I used soymilk)


Steep the bag until tea is ready.  Heat the milk, then whisk in other ingredients.  Combine milk mixture with tea.  Feel free to mix it up- add cocoa, vanilla, or whatever else sounds delicious!


Have you ever made popcorn on the stove top?  I have always avoided it, thinking I needed that special popcorn popper pan… not true!  I hear you can also do it in the microwave (in a paper sack), but have never tried.  On the stove, just use a heavy bottom pan with a lid.  Add some oil to it (I like sunflower or coconut oil– something that can withstand high heat), and some seasonings.  For my kettle corn, I added salt and brown sugar.  Pour in a couple tablespoons of popcorn.  Note- popcorn explodes way more than you may estimate; so start with a little and add more if you need to!  When it begins to pop, just shake that pan like crazy, so it doesn’t burn.  Once there is a pause between pops, remove from the heat and enjoy (the entire, humongous bowl if you’re like me).


What’s your fall favorite?