A Learning Experience

Getting Oily

From the desk of: Erin



Regarding “natural” living, I’d like to think of myself as “practically and skeptically crunchy”. For instance, I see the benefit of whole, unprocessed foods, but I’m not entirely sure that pumping supplements in addition to eating real food is the way to go. We diaper(ed) our babies in cloth diapers, but for bedtime they wear/wore  disposable because they stay drier. And I’m not anti-medicine, but if there is an alternative that might be cheaper, safer, and has been used successfully for centuries, I’ll give it a try.

I recently took up an interest in essential oils and aromatherapy. I follow a number of blogs about clean/green/natural living and those that use essential oils are kind of evangelical about it. Eventually, their sermons wiggled into my brain and I decided to try some out for myself. If it doesn’t do harm, why not?

I didn’t want to drop a boatload of money on this venture, so I limited myself to four oils and a diffuser (bought for a discount on Groupon). After doing some reading and inquiring on an essential oil forum, I decided on lavender, lemon, tea tree, and a “Germ Fighter” blend that includes clove, cinnamon, rosemary, lemon and eucalyptus. I also happened to have rosemary, lemongrass, eucalyptus, sweet orange and peppermint on hand from some attempts at cold remedies, homemade cleaning recipes, and bug spray.

So it has been two weeks and a whole lot of learning and reading. Here is what I have tried and the results.

  • FOR CONGESTION – BigKid has allergies and the congestion is back. I diffused eucalyptus and tea tree oil.  A few hours after each diffusion, his congestion decreased noticeably. After 24-hours (4 diffusion sessions), he could breathe easily through his nose, though he wasn’t entirely cleared up. I can probably couple this with something topical, but I am hesitant to use topical treatments often.  FINAL VERDICT: I think that he would still be stuffy otherwise. I say yes, this worked.
  • FOR RUNNY NOSE – Babe is teething hard and drippy, drippy, drippy. I mixed 1 drop each of lemon, lavender, and tea tree oil into 3 Tbs. coconut oil and have been rubbing it on his back twice a day. I would say the drips go away within an hour, but come back a few hours later. Maybe the snot-volume is less? In 24-hours, he is not nearly as runny as before. FINAL VERDICT: Maybe. I’ll definitely keep trying this.
  • FOR TEETHING – Teething!!! ARGH!! This guy suffers big time. I can’t find the recipe for a homemade teething balm that I used, but this is similar. Instead of clove oil, I used “Germ Fighter”. When he gets extra chewy on his hands, I rub some of this on his gums. I try to do it only once a day. It really seems to bring him relief, until the next day, that is. FINAL VERDICT: Works.
  • ACNE – I was blessed with two lovely zits on my forehead, just millimeters away from each other. Though I would have preferred to not have any zits, these couldn’t have been better placed for a more scientific approach to experimentation. They were so close that they would be treated the same way and they showed up on the same day. I rubbed one drop of undiluted tea tree oil on one and left the other alone. A week later, they were both diminished and still matched each other. FINAL VERDICT: This did not work.
  • BEDTIME CALM – I diffused lavender in BigKid’s bedroom during our bedtime routine to help calm him. He seemed to be staying up later and playing more actively than before. I went to an essential oil forum and asked about kids having an opposite reaction to lavender and a handful of people said that they had a kid who was energized by the scent (while a second kid in the same family was not). Interesting. So I stopped diffusing lavender and suddenly he was going to sleep an hour earlier. I was running the diffuser in our room at night, too. I’m not sure we slept better, but I haven’t done it consistently enough to know for sure.  FINAL VERDICT: NOT FOR THE KID. Maybe try again for the adults.
  • MOSQUITO BITES – We recently went camping and came back home with a healthy dose of mosquito bites. I rubbed lavender on them instead of suffering through the itch. Usually, for all of us, the itch seemed to go away within minutes and seemed to last fewer days. FINAL VERDICT: Do it again.
  • FOCUS – Currently, I am diffusing orange and lemon in the office for some focus and maybe a little energy. I have finished this post without too much mental effort, but I am still looking forward to a nap. FINAL VERDICT: Maybe try again? Maybe try a different oil?

It has only been two weeks, but I”m kind of liking the experimentation. So far, many things have worked. I’ll continue to learn and read and maybe report back.

Have you ever used EOs? What for? Did they work?



From the desk of: Erin

It turns out that my brain must need a specific quantity of goop to mull over. Now that my super huge work project is done and I have have outsourced a percentage of my childcare, I have a continuous stream of thoughts about experiments and projects that immediately filled the void and took residence in my brain.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to writing about or exploring the rest of the year:

1. Essential oils- beneficial or bogus?
2. 30-day “ab challenge” – Will I keep up with it? Will I see results? Are 30-day challenges really a good idea?
3. How possible would it be to truly cut out processed foods? Explorations in cheese, bread, and pasta making…
4. I started working on my 7 “art” projects requested by others. This is also turning out to be a way of reading/ re-reading classic books.
5. Poetry – reading various genres/ authors, responding, contemplating…
6. Anything else that excites me along the way.

What new or old projects are you excited about? If you ever feel like sharing, join us in writing or just comment below!

Energy through Food

OR How I Learned to Start Hydrating and Love Water

by Erin

(Note: I started working on this post and found it was getting very long. To avoid reading fatigue, this will come to you in two posts. First, my personal results. Second, a little research behind the strategies. Stay tuned.)

So, I have been working on my five “get energized” strategies for less than a week and I have already felt a HUGE difference. I’m still tired; my eyes usually have that fuzzy, heavy feeling behind them. That probably won’t go away entirely until these work projects are done…but, my body! My body feels better. Less heavy. And you know that feeling when your brain just kind of buzzes and you know you should be concentrating and doing work, but you just. Can’t? That’s gone, too. Here are some other observations:

Strategy: Eat protein and/or whole grains within thirty minutes of wake up

For me, it wasn’t so much changing the types of food I eat for breakfast, or adding breakfast to my routine. I was in pretty good shape there. My biggest problem was not delaying breakfast, which is easy to do with two young kids around. Before, I would nibble here and there as I fed the both kids and got Big Guy ready for preschool. I probably wouldn’t get a full breakfast in until about three hours after wake-up and well after some energy stores had been used.

I have found that I still don’t quite eat a meal within that thirty minute time frame, but definitely within the first hour. I can’t say that I notice much physical difference with this change, but my mood is better. Some protein + whole grain examples: a hard boiled egg on a whole wheat English muffin and cream cheese, sprouted wheat toast and sunflower seed butter, oatmeal with peanut butter and bananas.

Strategy: Fill up my water bottle and drink it throughout the day

My relationship with water before was casual. A little here, a little there. I didn’t really pay attention to intake. But, oh, the magic of water. This is what I attribute most of my good feelings to. General wisdom says to drink about eight cups a day. Nursing moms should drink about thirteen. While I am not checking off each and every cup I consume, I am pretty sure I am getting close to thirteen by consciously drinking water at breakfast and dinner, finishing my water bottle, and having my daily tea. While I have made a few other changes to my routine these past few days, I am pretty sure hydration is the reason I feel light and focused. An added benefit is that those circles under my eyes seem diminished and I know it’s not due to extra sleep. There is one downside, though:


Courtesy of xkcd.com

Strategy: Take my multivitamins at lunch instead of breakfast

I am probably taking vitamins (multi, fish oil, and turmeric) more regularly now, but I can’t say I notice any difference with this one.

Strategy: Make an effort to have a protein + fiber snack during that afternoon drag from about 2-4 p.m.

I think I pretty much did this before, but now I am making an effort to focus on the type of food. Some easy choices are apple/banana + peanut butter, yogurt + granola, or a fruit + nut trail mix. While I don’t think this was much of a change for me, I can say that I am pretty sure I am in a better mood near the dinner hour if I have had a snack. I don’t know if it really boosts my energy… I still prefer to take a 20 minute nap in the afternoon.

Strategy: Drink a glass of milk before bed

The theory behind this one is to give your body a little nourishment before the night time fast, which should improve your sleep. Unfortunately, I think I lose the benefit by working late on the computer and sometimes waking up to feed the babe. Still, it’s a good habit to form. Hopefully I can reap the rewards in the near future.

Do you have any success with any of these? What other ways do you use food to increase energy?

Can Did It

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic (book 3 of 4)
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect
  • Get selfishly creative



Classic #3 was Candide by Voltaire.

Here is the trouble with reading a classic on your own – sometimes you just don’t get it. I’m not afraid to say it. I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. Despite the constant action and the short chapters, it was repetitive and  tiresome. I have a feeling this is for two reasons: 1) I had no historical context, nothing to inform my reading and help me appreciate the satire, and 2) I had no one to discuss the book with, and therefore no one to make me slow down and reflect on my reading. (Already my appreciation is growing for the book as I write this post. Reflection is a big part of that.)

Published in 1759, Candide is a satirical look at philosophy, politics, and religion. It follows the misfortunes of Candide and companions around the world and demonstrates his transition from a young man full of optimism – accepting all as “for the best” – to an experienced man who honors the act of “cultivating your garden,” or (in my interpretation) actively taking control of your world. This, I imagine, is what I will ultimately take away from the reading experience.  Not a bad philosophy, really.

If you’re curious about the story yourself and want some familiarity with it, I found Leonard Bernstein’s operetta version (split into 12 separate videos) much more entertaining. As with all adaptations, the operetta is full of changes and exclusions, but it will give you the jist…and a few laughs.




Pen and Paper

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect (connection 6 of 12)
  • Get selfishly creative

“The word that is heard perishes, but the letter that is written remains.” – Anonymous


FACT #1: I look forward to getting the mail everyday.

FACT #2: More often than not, I am disappointed when I return from the mailbox. Typically, 90% of may handful goes into the recycling bin. The other 10% would be bills and account statements. So why do I still anxiously await the mailman’s arrival?

QUESTION #1: Is there such thing as mail Karma? If I sent more letters, would I receive more? From past experience, the answer is no.


In 2008, I started writing letters to my Grandmother once a month in an attempt to give her something to look forward to in her mailbox. I kept it up through grad school. Since the birth of Kid, I probably write four times a year. In 2009, I participated in a letter writing experiment during the month of April. The group goal was to write a letter or note everyday.  I wrote about half of what I intended. This month, I took time to reconnect through words. I didn’t take on anything as epic as committing to a once-a-month or daily note.  There were four people that needed to hear from me so they did…finally.  I wrote an overdue letter to my grandmother, a long thank you note, and two e-mails to old friends.


I was reminded how much effort it takes to write. The pressure is a little less present with e-mail as you can easily and instantaneously erase and edit. To hand write letters is a different beast. Thoughts have to be carefully crafted before you put them down. Spelling has to be in place, too, otherwise the recipient sees your error (or corrected error) in plain sight. It’s a tricky business, letter-writing. Maybe that is why my mailbox is still so boring.

I went searching through the internet to find out what others had to say about writing letters. Here are some of my finds:


When was the last time you wrote a letter?

When was the last time you received one?




Headed West

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect (connection 5 of 12)
  • Get selfishly creative

It has been about two years since I have seen my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousins. It has been about ten years since I have visited them in their home state. With Spring Break underway and the prospect of five days of Kid and I together, I thought this was a great opportunity to attempt the trip.

The obvious reconnection here was with these extended family members. While we created many fresh memories together, the two biggest things I left with were some new knitting skills and a deeper understanding of how we all relate and connect to each other. I won’t be sharing intimate secrets, but it is funny how family can give you perspective into who you are.

The hidden connection was with Kid. Twelve hours of car travel will do that to you. I saw greater evidence that he loves books (though he can’t read) and I vowed to keep fostering that love. I also reaffirmed my belief that appropriate amounts of sleep make for happier kids. This one was solidified from somewhere in Illinois all the way home when a dropped water bottle snowballed into an hour long meltdown that also included the loss of a shoe and insistence that we were NOT close to home.

Car trips. They are good for connecting on the road and at your final destination.

Now go visit your grandmother.

“Real” Junk Food

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe (theme 4 of 6)
  • (Re)connect
  • Get selfishly creative

Over the past few years I have jumped on the “real food” bandwagon. I TRY to eat and feed my family foods that come from nature. I say “TRY” because sometimes in this busy world you need a pre-made ingredient to keep your sanity; sometimes in this American society those M&Ms beckon you and you give in; sometimes in a happy marriage you choose your battles and don’t say anything when the other one offers to do the grocery shopping and comes home with items that aren’t ideal.  I think the key to any lifestyle choice is to be flexible and do the best you can.

What do I worry about the most with this? Making my kid the “weird” kid at lunch time. You might have known someone like him. He’s the one with strawberries or homemade yogurt and granola instead of bright blue Go-gurt and fruit snacks. It was made clear to me that even at two-years-old, my child may the exception at daycare when for Christmas his teachers gifted this book to me. Actually, I was kind of excited when I opened it.

So over the past few months I have tried some recipes from the book. It has required some exploration into the world of non-traditional flours: spelt, millet, teff…yeah. I didn’t want to buy a whole package of _____ only to use 1/2 cup once and never again. So the bonus to this real junk food experiment was also learning new ways to bake. So how did it all turn out?

1. “Oreos”

Tastes like the original? After the cookies sit for a few days and get crunchy …pretty darn close to the original. Bonus: You can put in as much or as little filling as you want.

I won’t share the recipe I used…you’ll have to buy the book…but here is another version that may suit your needs if you want to try something like this for yourself.

photo cookies

2. “Pop Tarts”

I opted to not ice these so I could taste the basic recipe.  These were not at all like the original because they had so much more flavor. They really were like mini-pies. They were much more involved than pies, too.  Here is a quick version for you.

baking 3

baking 23. “Twinkies”

Had I not over-baked them, the cake would have been spot on. Had I actually managed to fill the cakes with the cream the right way, this would have been very close to the original. Instead these turned out to be dense, dry yellow cake loaves. It may worth another try.


Next up will probably be graham and goldfish crackers. But those seem a little daunting. It’s hard to imagine actually making crackers. We’ll see.

As for all that new flour I purchased… I am following the guidelines on the packages to substitute some of the new for when I would normally use whole wheat flour. I have made pancakes with a mix of whole wheat flour and spelt, which makes for much lighter pancakes. I tried millet in place of flour for my breakfast fruit bar recipe only to find that they didn’t hold together as well. That’s not surprising as further reading says millet may be better for fluffy things, like cake.  There are still half-full packages of these new flours that have yet to be consumed, but I am no longer afraid of them. I see more experimentation in my future.

P.S.  While there is so much out there about “real food”, here is one quick reference to look at just to give you an idea of what it is all about.

318: The Final Days

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect
  • Get selfishly creative (project 2 of 12)

Reflections on this set of 3:18 activities…

1. There is quite a variety of activity going on in my life and my afternoons show it. There is a balance of time for myself, time with family, and time for work. Balance is good.

2. The end of the month was much more about preparing for baby’s arrival the earlier in the month. I have entered the “nesting and resting” phase.

3. More photos in this set featured less what I was actually seeing when the clock struck 3:18 and were more representations of what I was doing at the time.

March 21.

Curtain: because sometimes it takes you all day to make it into the shower


March 22.

Catch-up: e-mail marathon


March 23.

Happy Birthday!: How about some homemade “Twinkies”?


March 24.

Bleeding: my brackets are sore


March 25.

Too pretty to work: snow, puzzle, and mint tea


March 26.

Meal planning: time for groceries again


March 27.

To do list: paint bathroom

015 (2)

March 28.

Above the drum circle: client meeting


March 29.

Visualization: practicing for a calm birth

028 (3)

March 30.

Travel North: family celebration


March 31.

Recharge: rest the body

026 (2)

In case you missed it, here are the previous ten days.

Cin City


by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect (connection 4 of 12)
  • Get selfishly creative

Last Saturday the family ventured off to Cincinnati to visit some friends. We knew them when we lived in North Carolina almost four years ago and within a year of one another the four of us moved northward: we to Indianapolis, they to Cincinnati. That’s less than a two hour drive.

In the past four years we have seen each other three times (not including this most recent trip). Really, with as close as we are geographically, this is a little ridiculous, but not surprising given our side’s hesitancy to do anything with people outside of our family. Have I mentioned we have that problem, yet?

It was a beautiful day to get away and drive. I won’t give you the play by play of the visit but here’s what I learned and some good trivia for you if you ever find yourself talking about/visiting southwest Ohio.

  1. When spelling the city name, just count 1-2. That’s 1 N first, then 2 Ns.
  2. Compared to Indiana, this area has so much more elevation. It caused our adopted Hoosier eyes to stare and our Hoosier-born son to throw his hands in the air and shout “roller coaster” every time we went down hill.
  3. If you ever decide that Cincinnati is not the right place for you, you can just jump over the river and head to Kentucky.
  4. The only restaurant I can recommend is Bakersfield. They have awesome and unique tacos that you can order a la cart so you can try more than one.
  5. If you want a crazy shopping/browsing experience, head to Jungle Jim’s International Market. We spent an hour and half there. Husband, who recently developed an interest in spicy foods, found and purchased the hottest pepper in the world, which will probably never leave its bag. This was in lieu of purchasing the $5,000 bottle of hot sauce he found behind a locked cabinet.

But this was really supposed to be a reflection of the reconnection…so:

We ended up spending too much time catching up and reminiscing to take pictures or explore the city. It was worth it. And,  just for kicks (and speaking of trivia) here is a glimpse of the four of us (plus one) during our last week in North Carolina together. Yes, you are looking at coffee-shop trivia winners. Thank goodness we didn’t have to spell Cincinnati. That may have lost us our title.


Thanks for the day out, K & A. Maybe again sometime next year?

318: The Second Ten Days

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect
  • Get selfishly creative (project 2 of 12)

In case you missed it, here are the first 10 days.

What have I learned during this second third of the project?

1. Late afternoon seems to be becoming my official nap time. I might be on just as much of a nap schedule as my three-year-old. Maybe this is a sign that the baby growing within will easily fall into sleeping on a schedule. One can only hope.

2. …yet I still seem to be balancing my nap time with work. It is so easy to get distracted when one works from home. I’m not the world’s most disciplined self-employee, but I have photographic evidence that I do actually accomplish things.

3. I had fun with some photo filters and touch-ups this time around. Might as well spice it up. Some of my photo subjects have been a bit ordinary.

March 11.

Work Break: descending the basement stairs to switch laundry


March 12.

Work Meeting: I need to get gas


March 13. (no photo today)

Down for the Count: sleeping off some food poisoning

March 14.

Surprise: actually at my desk


March 15.

The Greatest Love: he half-sleepily called my name and that was my cue to go cuddle


March 16.

Get Out of Town: a pleasantly warm day on the porch with friends


March 17.

Hand Buzzer: Photo-reminder alarm goes off just as I am about to make a call


March 18.

3:18 on 3/18: another mundane activity


March 19.

Delicious: Some naps can be so


March 20.

Research: just kidding I was napping again, but this is what I did as soon as I woke up