2017: be someone who makes you happy

Wow, it has been a while since I’ve blogged!  The first week of 2017 has been busy, but I’m excited for what is to come.  This year, my focus is on self-improvement.  And one of the ways I plan on doing that is by utilizing this blog more to savor memories, write down my successes, share the things I am proud of, and connect with more people.  On January 7, I am already quite happy with where I am in this journey.  


One of the biggest changes I have made so far is transitioning into a Paleo lifestyle with my husband.  We are currently on our 5th day of the Whole30 challenge and it’s definitely testing us and our marriage!  Since our wedding in November, we both pretty much cannon-balled into the world of fast food, craft beer, and eating our weight in candy so we decided it was time for something different.  Personally, I was tired of waking up and feeling like shit every morning and having weird headaches that seemed to last for days at a time.  I know there are millions of people making similar choices for the new year and I commend them, especially in a world full of haters who bitch about people wanting to better themselves.  Kudos and good luck to you!  

Another self-improvement goal is to be more aware of my environmental footprint.  After reading tons of “the average American” stats and watching/reading about the decrease in our biodiversity and contamination of the world’s fresh water, I chose to start with small changes in my daily routines.  I started my own compost, I stopped buying styrofoam, I am practicing “reduce, reuse, recycle” like it’s my job, and I’m trying to avoid buying/using plastic as much as I can.  I’ve been laughed at and called “hippie” but that’s ok.  I feel good about what I am doing; it makes me happy.  I also realize that there is SO much more that I can do and eventually, I will.  But, another goal of mine is to not fill my plate with so many projects that I get burnt out on them.  I want these to be lifestyle changes and I have accepted that no matter how hard I try, nothing happens overnight 🙂

And, although it seems contradictory, another way for me to self-improve this year is going to be to disconnect from time to time.  Not sure what it’s like for other couples, but my cell phone has actually caused arguments between my husband and I.  He isn’t a big fan of social media and he’s had to point out to me more than once that I am sometimes consumed by it.  So, I downloaded the Moment app to 1.) track how much time I’m spending on my phone and 2.) set limits so I can spend that time with my husband, or exercising, taking a walk, or to even take a damn bubble bath!  Plus, sometimes I unintentionally compare my life to people I follow on Instagram or friends on Facebook and honestly, I don’t want to waste my time doing that anymore.  


I have so many more ideas/goals than this, but I don’t want this post to turn into a novel.  When I have the time, I plan on sharing projects, recipes, and anything else that makes me happy on this blog.  Because connecting with people all over the world is exciting and I want to enjoy new relationships as the year progresses.  So happy new year to all of you who took the time to read this and may you be someone who makes you happy this year!

XOXO Nicki 

Happiness is Homemade

IMG_1885

To say I am obsessed with cold brew coffee is an understatement.  When I learned about this tasty beverage a few months ago, I was making daily trips to Starbucks.  I did not care that I was spending about $35 a week on my addiction.  And then… the idea of making my own came to me when I was strolling through the Gilbert Farmer’s Market yesterday.  I bought a cup of homemade brew and thought “I need to make my own, too!”.  I am currently sipping on my first cup out of my own stash and I have to say, it is amazing.  AND, I poured it in the comfort of my own home within minutes of stumbling out of bed.  Not having to get in my car, drive to Starbucks, and shout out my order to a way too perky teenager on Sunday morning is priceless.

Fun Facts about Cold Brew

  • It is approximately 67% less acidic than hot-brewed coffee.
  • Cold-brewing leaves behind some bitter-tasting components found in coffee.
  • The high levels of heat in hot-brewing coffee are suspected of damaging positive properties of the coffee bean.
  • Environmental benefits of cold-brewing include less energy consumption since you aren’t using a coffee machine!

*Visit Coffee Brew Guides for more information about the cold brew process

So, here is what you need:

  • ground coffee – I am using Kona coffee (also a new obsession).  You can use any kind you want or grind your own.
  • a storage container – I found a french press at Ross for $4.99.  If you don’t have one, you could use a mason jar, pitcher, etc.
  • mesh strainer (if you are not using a french press) – you will need it to filter out the grounds, come pouring time.
  • Spoon (or anything you can use to stir with)
  • OPTIONAL – your choice of spices.  For this batch, I used 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.

coldbrewmaterials

Cold Brew Small Batch Process:

  1. I used a 1:4 ratio for my batch – 1 cup coffee, 4 cups water.  I dumped the coffee in the french press first and then added the 4 cups of water.
  2. If you’re using spices, add them next.  I dumped them right on top of the mixture.
  3. Stir it up!
  4. If you’re using the french press, put your top on but DON’T push it down.  If you’re using any other type of container, you’re done for now.
  5. Place in your refrigerator for at least 12 hours (I let mine sit overnight).
  6. When you’re ready for your coffee – push your strainer all the way down on your french press and pour your cold brew over ice OR place your mesh strainer over your glass of ice and pour your cold brew.
  7. ENJOY!

New Year and a Natural You – DIY Shampoo

diy coco shampoo

New year, new goals, new projects!  Let me first start out by saying I have totally slacked on my blog… but that happens when your 9-5 becomes a 6 – 8 and all you want to do when you get home is eat and sleep.  But, that is going to change in 2016… I WILL make time to be crafty and I WILL be sharing my creativity with the world 🙂

So, my first order of business for the new year (like many) was to get back on the healthy lifestyle track.  After all, I have to fit in the wedding dress of my dreams in 308 days!  Along with my eating habits, exercise plan, and vitamin routine, I decided to add in a few more changes to the mix.  For the month of January, my goal is to get rid of at least 3 chemically-filled products that I use daily in my bathroom and replace them with my own, all-natural concoctions.  The first one to go is….. my shampoo!  Seems weird, but for me, it’s totally logical and I’ll tell you why.  Growing up, I had the thickest hair imaginable.  Over the last few years, I have noticed not only how thin it has gotten, but that I also have to part my hair different just to hide how thin it is around my crown!  I have tried expensive salon shampoos that guarantee thicker hair.. I take Biotin.. I’ve done crazy Pinterest deep conditioning wraps on my head.  But I want more… and I want to know it’s something I can trust and be comfortable with.  And let’s be honest, none of us know what half of the crap in our shampoo bottles is!

c2i_902016154340-1

Ingredients list in shampoo from store

**essential oils plug now joining the conversation**

Another goal I have for this year is to indulge in as many of my essential oils as possible.  I will admit, I am a collector of things.  So, my oil cabinet is stocked with over 50 different oils (and that number is always rising), but I tend to favor certain ones.  I did some research for my shampoo recipe and found out I have a ton of oils that help promote hair growth by helping to improve blood circulation in the scalp and stimulating the hair follicles*.

Knowing this, I went to Pinterest to find some different DIY ideas and I came up with a combination that seems to be working so far.  Oh, and did you know how beneficial coconut milk is for your hair?!  Not only does it help replenish the moisture, but it also nourishes and helps stimulate growth!  AND, how about almond oil.  It is rich in calcium, zinc, and magnesium – all important minerals for healthy hair.

It wasn’t hard saying goodbye to the Herbal Essences after I made my new, all-natural shampoo!  Here’s what you will need:

20160109_145212-1.jpg

  • a container to keep the shampoo in.  I just reused an old bottle I already had.  **quick tip – if you want to get label residue off of old shampoo bottles, put a couple of drops of grapeseed oil and a couple of drops of lemon on a cotton ball and scrub away!**
  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk ( I got mine at Sprouts, but you can get it anywhere).
  • 2/3 cup of unscented pure-castile soap
  • 2 tsp. vegetable glycerin
  • 1 tsp. of almond oil
  • 15 – 20 drops of essential oils (your choice, your combo.. I’ll list what I used below).

Are you ready for how easy this is?  Add the coconut milk, castile soap, vegetable glycerin, and almond oil to your container.  Mix it up (or gently shake).

Add your essential oils.  I used 4 drops Rosemary, 4 drops Clary Sage, 4 drops Lavender, 4 drops Cedarwood, 2 drops Sacred Frankincense, and 2 drops Eucalyptus.  Shake/stir some more.

Now you have your own, all-natural shampoo.  And guess what, I bet you can pronounce everything in it 🙂img1452379601395.jpg*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

Holiday Stress Away

Over 2 weeks since I’ve posted… why?!  Work!  And with all of these hours, I decided I need to share my secrets of avoiding stress.. especially during the holiday season!  Some of us (including myself) can’t make weekly trips to the spa… but bringing the spa into your home can be affordable!

I’m going to give you 3 different ways to spoil yourself, using one of my favorite oil blends from Young Living and household items you probably have in your kitchen and/or bathroom right now!  But first, let’s talk about Stress Away.

stressaway

Stress Away Q&A

What oils make up the Stress Away blend? 

Copaiba, Lime, Cedarwood, Vanilla, Ocotea, and Lavender.

How can this blend be used? 

Aromatically, topically, and dietary!*

But what does it do? 

It helps relieve daily stress and nervous tension.  It can assist with normal, everyday stress and also help promote relaxation.*

Does it have any other benefits? 

It can assist in calming anxiousness, help promote healthy sleep, help to uplift and unwind, and aid in restoring equilibrium.*

Should I try it?

YES!

Spoil Yourself – Stress Away Edition

The blend sounds like magic in a bottle, right?  I’m telling you from experience, it is… and I never let mine run out!  So, let’s talk about what you need – go and grab the following:

relaxrecipe

  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • A carrier oil (grapeseed oil, liquid coconut oil, olive oil)
  • Epsom salt/bath salts
  • Cotton balls
  • A couple of glass jars (re-purposed or mason jars)
  • YL Stress Away

The easiest (and most convenient) way to use this oil is aromatically.  But, I’m not just going to say “take off the cap and inhale” (although, you can definitely do that too!).  I have a couple of DIY ways to keep the aroma of the oil around a little longer.  First, you can use the cotton balls as a make-shift air freshener.  Put 2-3 drops on the cotton ball and place it near you OR in a vent (car/home) to get a diffusing effect.  I have also had great results with putting a few extra drops on cotton ball and placing it in the boxed fan in my room and desk fan at work.  Easy, right?

air

Another way I love to relax and unwind with this oil is to take a bath with it :).  3 steps is all it takes – 1.) pour bath/epsom salt into glass container 2.) put desired drops of oil into the salt (I use about 6-8) 3.) let salt absorb oil (I usually let it sit overnight).  And now you have a Spa quality bath soak you can use in your own tub.

soak

And finally, who doesn’t love making their own sugar scrub?  My recipe includes minimal ingredients with awesome results.  I try to stay consistent with my ratios so the concoction doesn’t get too oily: 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup carrier oil, 20 drops of Stress Away.  (Optional – you can add some of your epsom/bath salt to the mix if you want an extra grainy texture.)  Mix it all up and you’re good to scrub-a-dub!

sctub

1 hour at the spa, plus enhanced therapies for a sugar scrub and aromatherapy can run you at least $75 (and that was the introductory price I found).  All of the ideas I shared with you here amount to roughly $18.67, all materials and drops of oil used included. And, keep in mind, you can use the bath soak and sugar scrub more than once…

Saving money and keeping stress away one scent at a time 🙂

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

 

2 Step Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Hi, my name is Nicki, and I’m a pumpkin addict.  Ask anyone and they’ll tell you my obsession is out of control.  But, I can’t help myself 🙂  Being that I am addicted, I’m always looking for new pumpkin goodness to try… and tonight, I found another!  (I will add, if you’re looking for a healthy treat, this may not be the best option).  The ease in which I made these cupcakes was impressive and satisfying, seeing as it is Sunday night and I had time to try it out AND blog about it.  Here’s what you’ll need:

ABM_1447635030

  • 1 box of cake mix (I’m using the Spice Cake Mix, but there many varieties you could
    try).
  • 1 can of pumpkin (make sure it’s actually pumpkin, and not the pie filling).
  • Optional: spices and/or oils, and pumpkin chips.  I chose to add a little extra kick to my cupcakes (and don’t forget my obsession, hence the pumpkin chips), but the cake mix and pumpkin would still make a delicious treat.

That’s it!  Now, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and put your cupcake liners in the tin
you’ll be using.  Then, pour the whole box of cake mix and your entire can of pumpkin
into your mixing bowl.  I used the #2 setting on my KitchenAid, so I’d say beat the mix together at a medium speed.

While you’re mixing, you can add your optional ingredients (if you’re choosing to use
them).  If you go with the spices route, I recommend 1/2 – 1 tablespoon, depending on your preference.  If you are using the oils, I’d say 1-2 drops of each, also depending on your preference.  I also used about a 1/4 cup of the pumpkin chips.

Once your mixture is ready, spoon it into your cupcake liners.  Note: I made these huge so I got about 15 total cupcakes.  You could easily get 2 dozen if you fill each liner about a half full.  Let them bake for about 13-16 minutes.

20151115_153750-1

And that is it!  Easy, right?!  Feel free to top them with any kind of frosting you’d like… I’m going to be using cream cheese frosting (just store bought) once they are done cooling.  These are perfect for a last minute treat, potluck contribution at work, your child’s snack at school, or to win brownie points with your boyfriend’s work friends 🙂

20151115_173055

Enjoy!  Nicki

Thrift Pick: Baking Soda

cattLet’s talk about my cat, again.  Whether you’re a feline owner or not, I think it’s safe to say we all know that litter boxes are a smelly inconvenience.  In the past year, I have tried everything from the pine-type litter to the scented “litter sprays” they sell at Pet Smart.  They’ve worked for about a day or two, at best.  And then one day, I read somewhere (on Pinterest, probably) that people get great results with litter box odor by using baking soda in the bottom and mixed throughout the litter.  Light bulb!  I decided to mix one of Young Living’s oil blends (Purification) with some baking soda… and Cat and I haven’t looked back since.

And then my thriftiness went to another level… why not use that perfect little, amazing deodorizer for other things in my home?  It would save me money, it’s chemical-free, and it would save me money! (see what I did there?)  So today, I’m going to share with you 5 different ways you can use the SAME deodorizer mixture you create… all for under one whole dollar.

bakingsod

What will you need?  A glass jar/container of any kind (preferably, with a lid).  And to stay on the thrifty theme, I’m telling you, don’t go out and buy a jar!  Go to your refrigerator, see what’s almost gone… and eat it.  Then, let the jar sit with (you guessed it) baking soda and hot water overnight. Wipe it out and you have yourself a place to store your deodorizer.  Seriously, anything like these will do:

jars

If the lid with your jar is metal, get creative.  You’ll want holes in it so you can use it as a shaker.  The handy man in this house used a drill bit.  If you’re using a mason jar that has the little metal, removal disc in the middle, you can either put holes in that OR replace it with a piece of scrapbooking paper.  Simply trace the disc out on the paper and cut it.  It will fit right into the lid.  Once you have it on the jar, you can poke as many holes as you want through it using something sharp.

bakingsoda2

Baking soda.  Cheap and easy to find.  If I’m looking to buy it quickly on the run, I’ll head over to the Dollar Tree.  They sell it there for $0.59 a box.  But, if you know you’ll be using it for countless projects, then you can save one more penny per ounce and get it at Walmart – where it’s $2.24 for 4lbs.

Your optional choice in this project is the essential oil.  Baking soda already neutralizes odors on its own.  I add the Purification blend because it can help with cleansing and disinfecting* AND I just love the way it smells.  (If you are opting to use Purification and need some direction on how to get it, let me know!).

purification

Have everything?  Great!  You’ll need 1 cup (8 ounces) of baking soda and 10-12 drops of oil (if you’re using it).  Pour the drops in and stir really good, making sure the clumps are gone.  And put your lid on.  Note: you can use other essential oils besides Purification.  I have used Thieves and Lavender, as well.

bakingsoda1

Now you can get to shaking!  Here are my 5 favorite ways to use my universal deodorizer:

  1. Cat’s litter box.  Every time I clean it out, I sprinkle it across the bottom before adding her litter.  Then, I sprinkle it on top the litter and mix it around.  I like it, she doesn’t mind, and it’s safe for her.  Winning.
  2. My boyfriend’s work boots and my tennis shoes.  I have no shame – my feet can STINK sometimes, especially after working out.  I’ll sprinkle the deodorizer in the bottoms of the shoes at night.  And sometimes, after taking my socks off, I’ll rub a little on my feet too.
  3. On our mattress.  I always wash our sheets and blankets… and when I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll even vacuum the mattress before putting everything back on.  But now, I take a quick extra step and do a quick sprinkle too.  It’s game changing.
  4. The carpet before vacuuming.  No more buying Febreze Carpet Deodorizer.  Again, this is cheaper and safer for the whole house!
  5. In the sink and garbage disposal.  Sprinkle it around (like you would with Comet or something similar) and scrub away.  Get some down in the disposal, too.  Let it sit for a while and then run the hot water.  I’ll repeat it – cheaper and safer.

Let’s break down the costs and compare.

1 16 oz. box of baking soda from the Dollar Tree comes out to $.04 per ounce.  At 8 ounces, that’s $0.32.  If you’re using Purification, the cost comes out to $.06 per drop.  At 10 drops, you’re at $0.60.  Your universal deodorizer is $0.92 with Purification and $0.32 without.  

diy

  • Cat Litter Deodorizer – I’ve seen it at $6.99 at PetSmart.
  • Odor Eaters Shoe Deodorizer – at Target for $4.29.
  • Febreze Hawaiian Aloha Room and Carpet Deodorizing Powder – $5.99 on Amazon.
  • Comet – at Target for a low price of $0.99, but it is also to be kept out of reach of children and pets and could be harmful if swallowed.  You’re DIY deodorizer is safe and chemical free.

By using the universal deodorizer you make, you would potentially be saving $17.34!  I call that a win, too.

“I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake…” 🙂  Nicki

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Fiesta Friday Feature: LIME!

img1446773722999 (2)Hola, my friends!  It’s Friday!  And it feels like a good day to share one of my favorite (and very versatile) oils… Lime!  It can be used in a variety of ways, including a FREE GIVEAWAY!  After you learn a little bit about this amazing essential oil, be sure to comment with your favorite “fiesta food” to be entered for your chance to win your own 15ML bottle.

KEY LIME FIVE

Want to know some fun facts about Young Living Lime essential oil?

  • Its pleasant, citrus scent may help promote mental clarity*
  • The energizing aroma encourages creativity*
  • Topically, it provides antioxidants to the skin*
  • It supports a healthy digestive system and may aid in weight management*
  • You can use it in place of limes in tons of recipes.

PUT THE LIME IN THE COCONUT…AND THE GUACAMOLE!

Yes, Lime (and other essential oils) can be used in your favorite recipes!  And because it’s so concentrated, you don’t need to use a large amount which can end up saving you some money in the long run.  If you think about it, you probably use 1/2 to a full lime in guacamole – give or take.  That will cost you around $0.23 per lime.  A 15ML bottle of Lime (at wholesale cost) is $12.25… which means it will cost you about $.04 a drop.  A lot of times, the equivalent of using the juice from a lime is 1-2 drops of the essential oil (depending on your taste preference, of course).  And, this math can apply to more than just guacamole… think about all of the recipes you use limes for!

I’m sure you’ve already figured it out, but I’m kind of an Instagram fanatic.  I started following an awesome woman who takes some of the best pictures I have ever seen on social media! @ashleymartinessentials shares similar interests with me, including a passion for essential oils… and Lime!  She was also willing to share her amazing guacamole recipe.  I tried it out with and without lime juice and found that I enjoyed the latter.  It’s all about preference, though!

guac

What you will need:

  • 2 avocados
  • 1/2 a diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 a diced small white onion
  • 4 drops of Lime essential oil
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • **optional – you can still use a little bit of the juice from a lime for a thinner consistency, if you want**

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LIME EO, YOU MAKE MARGARITAS

That’s how the saying goes, right? 🙂 And guess what… it works!  It’s also the perfect addition to a cold Corona.  I use one drop in mine and am able to skip the messy, “squeeze the lime in then put your finger on the hole and flip it upside down” nonsense.  Trust me, you don’t want me trying that around you (or any electronics).  I have also used the oil in salt FOR my margaritas.  Yes – simply add 8-10 drops of Lime EO to a 1/4 cup of fine sea salt.  Store it in a glass jar with a lid and bust it out for your fiesta occasions!  (FYI – it tastes pretty amazing on tortilla chips, too).

fiestaAnd keep in mind, there are other uses for this amazing little bottle.  I add it to my water, diffuse it when I’m looking for a pick-me-up, and sometimes just take the cap off and take a whiff because it smells that good!  Want one of your own to whiff with me?!  Comment below naming your favorite “fiesta food” and you’ll be entered for a chance to win one from yours truly!  I will pick the winner on Wednesday, 11/11/15 at 5PM.  Will it be you?

Adios!  Nicki

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.