Carefree Cleaning

Guest Post by Amanda Washburn

Being a keeper at home is a special blessing that the Lord has assigned us women. We have the honor of not only maintaining our homes but also caring for the health of our families. It is with that thought in mind that I write this.

We all know that as mothers and wives we need to cook nutritious and satisfying meals. But does our duty in fostering good health end there? I believe that we need to pay special attention to what we clean with too. Many commonly used household cleaners are nothing more than harmful chemicals with a nice perfumey smell. But, there are an abundance of alternatives to chemical cleaners.  One could buy some of the “natural” cleaners sold at many health food stores today, but why spend SO much money when many of the ingredients you need to make effective, safe, simple cleaners are already sitting in your cabinet?   Here are just a few of the recipes I use and find most helpful!

My most used:
All-purpose cleaner
2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 Teaspoon borax
16 ounces hot, filtered water
¼ cup liquid castile soap *(see note)

Mix vinegar and borax in a clean 16 oz. spray bottle. Fill with water and shake until the borax has dissolved. Add the liquid soap. Shake to mix again. Spay and wipe.

*if using ordinary dish soap (concentrated) use only a few drops.

Best for cleaning bathrooms:
Tub and Tile Cleaner
1 2/3 cups baking soda
½ cup liquid soap
½ cup filtered water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Mix baking soda and liquid soap in a bowl. Dilute with water and add the vinegar.  Mix with a fork until any lumps are gone and mixture has a pourable consistency (you may need to add more water). Pour into a clean 16 oz. squeeze container (I use an empty dish soap container). Shake well before using: keep the lid tightly closed to prevent the mixture from drying out. To use, squirt on tile, tub, sink, or toilet bowl and scrub. Rinse well.  If any baking soda residue remains, rinse with a mixture of vinegar and water and next time use a little less baking soda in the recipe.

Glass Cleaner
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
½ cup liquid soap
2 cups filtered water
Essential oil (optional)

Mix soap and water in a clean 16 oz. Spray bottle.  Add vinegar and essential oil (try lemon). Shake well. To use, spray windows and either squeegee off or wipe with newspaper.  Once you have cleaned your windows a couple of times with this formula, omit the soap (which removes the waxy residue left behind by conventional cleaners) and switch to ½ cup of vinegar mixed with 2 cups water.

Floor Cleaner
Distilled white vinegar
Filtered water
Essential oil (optional)

For spot cleaning: Fill a 16 oz. Spray bottle with equal amounts vinegar and water. Add 15 to 20 drops essential oil (try peppermint). Mix. To use, spirt on floor and wipe with a clean rag.
(For mopping you would just fill a bucket with equal amounts vinegar and water and mop as normal.)  Can be used on finished wood, ceramic tile, and vinyl.

Kitchen Cleanser
Baking soda
Essential oil (optional)

Fill a plastic or stainless steel shaker (ex. large salt and pepper shakers) halfway with baking soda.  Add 15 to 20 drops essential oil (try lemon). Stir. Add more baking soda until it reaches the top of the shaker.  Secure the lid and shake to mix.  To use, sprinkle on counters or in sinks, then wipe with a damp cloth or sponge.  Rinse well.  Don’t use too much or you’ll need to keep rinsing and wiping.

Other tips:

~Don’t buy expensive veggie and fruit washing sprays at the store. I keep a bottle of vinegar and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide under my sink. Spray veggies or fruit first with vinegar and then with peroxide. Rinse. It is quite satisfying to see all the germs and bacteria bubble away!

~Instead of buying scrubbing pads that need to be disinfected or thrown out all the time, save your bag next time you buy onions. Simply place your washcloth inside the bag and scrub. So easy!

Great tools to have:

~old toothbrushes
~cotton rags (keep those old socks!!)
~lots of spray bottles for homemade cleaning solutions
~a dutch rubber broom- while this is not a common cleaning item, I love mine.  It is a long handled rubber floor squeegee with a short fingered rubber rake on the other side.  I use it at least once a day. (
~a small portable steam cleaner- again, not very common but this is a great non-toxic way of removing grease and grime from most surfaces.
~ the book Organic Housekeeping
by Ellen Sandbeck. I have this book highlighted to within an inch of it’s life! She has a wealth of information on how to keep your home healthy and clean.

I hope these tips help those of you who are seeking to make your family environment a little healthier.  I no longer have to worry about my precious little ones getting under the sink, or if one of them  decide licking the window would be a good idea (it happens!). It is truly carefree cleaning! God bless each of you as you seek to glorify His precious name.

Amanda is 26 years old. She and her husband, John, have been married for almost 6 years. They have three children Lilly (4), Luke (3) and Bradley (1), with their 4th little blessing due at the end of February.  She feels blessed to have been called to be a keeper at home.  Over the past couple years she’s been learning how to keep her family healthy, and realizing it stretches to all areas of life ( i.e. food, cleaning, education, spirituality). She feels she has a lot more to learn but loves sharing what she can!  To get a glimpse into her life, visit

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When in doubt…

…try teething tablets.

Because you just might discover that the 19 month old boy you thought was pushing you to your limits and being somewhat of a monster child is in actuality working on his two year molars. More than one at a time. We're talking big time pain.

Yesterday morning I was ready to pull my hair out. The day before, Caden had been driving us insane, with non-stop screaming and whining, refusing foods, banging his head, covering his ears, and just being defiant in general. I thought, "Wow, where did my sweet little boy go?"

At breakfast yesterday, he kept putting his hands over his ears, throwing food and banging his head on his high chair tray. In sheer desperation (but not really thinking he was teething- I mean seriously, didn't we at least deserve a few months of peace after 13 months of completely consecutive and miserable teething?), I grabbed the Hyland's Homeopathic Teething Tablets out of the cupboard and popped two in his mouth.

In one minute (I kid you not), I had a different child. One that remembered how to eat his food and sign please and even smile! What a miracle! Thank you, Lord, for teething tablets and for giving me a clue as to what was going on!

Lesson learned. Some children will proceed to get every single one of their 20 baby teeth in record time. It's not pretty, but there's light at the end of the tunnel (only 4 more to go!!!), and I must say, the "terrible two's" are looking pretty blissful to this worn out mama!

(And no, Hyland's has not compensated me in any way for telling this tale, but if they'd like to, they're welcome to send me a case of teething tablets to get me through the next couple of months!)

Q&A- Healthy snacks and easy lunches for little ones

I've always thought I was a pretty decent, healthy, semi-granola-y mama, but I'm finding myself stumped lately.
I have a 3 year old and can't seem to think beyond the old peanut butter and jelly for lunch.
And for my 1 year old, I'm stumped for car snacks. Tomorrow we're
leaving for Nana and Papa's again, I'm just not sure what to feed her
in the car. Most of my healthy snack ideas just aren't portable. Ideas???


Lee, you're not alone! Every mom has times when she draws a blank, myself included! :)

Here are some of my current and past lunch and snack ideas, for my two little ones:


(Note- not every one of these is a complete lunch necessarily, but sometimes two random things put together can make up a quick and simple lunch. For example, applesauce and sweet potato fries, or muffins with veggies and dip.)

Fruit smoothie
Fruit smoothie (we make ours with a yogurt or kefir base)


Yogurt (with homemade granola,  or with canned or fresh or frozen fruit or berries- popular choices for us include peaches, bananas, raspberries or blueberries, applesauce, etc.)

Grilled cheese sandwich (using good quality bread and cheese, of course)

Veggie sticks, like carrots, celery, cucumber, or peppers with a bit of dip

Sweet potato or yam fries

Salmon melts

Fried rice (I add eggs, carrots, peas, corn and seasonings to mine)

Finger foods- cheese sticks, fruit or veggie slices, nitrate-free deli meat, crackers

Leftovers (ahh… my favorite, simple lunch. Reheat and serve. Bliss.)

Scrambled or hard boiled eggs

Pita sandwich
Sandwiches (using bread or pitas or tortillas, and then either nut butter with jam, or some sort of cheese, maybe meat, mayo, veggie or sprout combo)

Mini pizzas (tomato paste with a drizzle of honey over it, any veggies or pineapple or leftover bits of meat, etc. melted with shredded cheese in the toaster oven)

Homemade muffins or quick bread (like carrot, zucchini, banana or pumpkin)

Pancakes or waffles (either typically with butter and maple syrup or honey, or else with blended berries, or even with cream cheese and homemade jam- yum, yum, yum)

As well, here's a link to an early blog post I wrote on feeding kids easy and healtyh lunches, with quite a few of the ideas I mentioned in more detail (including how I make my fried rice and sweet potato chips, among others).

Finger Foods and Snacks on the Run

Homemade crackers or rice crackers

Fruit leather or fruit bars

Non-messy cookies or bars (ginger snaps, granola bars, baby cookies, etc. made with whole sweeteners, of course)

Dried fruit
Dried fruit (apple rings, banana chips, dates, raisins, etc.)

Apple or pear slices (depends on age of child, of course)

Cheese (in bite-sized pieces or sticks)

Portable fruit (mandarin oranges, bananas, avacados, etc. though depending on the age of the child, these need to be eaten at a rest stop, not while driving, but they're easy to bring along and serve, nonetheless)

Non-crumbly bread (or tortilla ripped into small pieces works well)

Jars of yogurt and fruit sauces (again, for the rest stop)

Alright ladies, I'm sure you have tons of other wonderful ideas to contribute and we want to hear them all! Please share your quick and easy toddler lunches and portable snacks for little ones with us!

Sprouts -The easiest greens you’ll ever grow!

With the lack of my garden and the ability to pick my own salad at any moment, I've been really missing fresh greens this winter.

Did you know that growing your own sprouts is not only easy, but wildly nutritious, too?

Sprouts are:

  • full of enzymes
  • easily digestible (in part due to the high enzyme content)
  • especially high in nutrients (it all depends on the seed you choose, of course, but sprouting immediately increases the nutrient content dramatically)
  • bursting with chlorophyll (the dark green pigment contained in leafy green), which aids detoxification, helps to protect our bodies from toxins and heavy metals, neutralizes free radicals (which are basically cells gone bad), builds our blood and cells, and numerous other benefits

Bought from the store, you'll easily pay $1.50-$2.00 for a teensy little box of them. I can make the same amount for literally pennies, and mine taste much (much!) fresher and more delicious!

Here's my method:


You'll need a regular canning jar (I like to use a quart jar for a bit more growing room, though a 1/2 quart works fine, too), a screw lid to fit the jar, a thin cloth (I use small, thin baby cloths, but something like cheesecloth or thin cotton would actually work better), and your choice of seeds.

Seed choice recommendations:
Our favorites are broccoli and clover. Some other options are radish, mustard (both a tad spicy), and alfalfa (I've read both amazing things and terrible things about using alfalfa- very conflicting. At the moment, I'm not using it, though I have in the past). I buy the seeds in 1 lb or 1/2 lb packages, either from Azure Standard or my local health food store.


Next, add 1 Tbsp of your seed of choice into the jar, add enough purified water to more than cover the seeds, and put the cloth and lid on.

Let it sit overnight (or throughout the day) on the counter, long enough for the seeds to really soak up a lot of the water.

Flip the bottle and drain out the water the next morning (or evening, if you soaked during the day). I like to leave my jars propped up on a towel, over the edge of the sink so that any extra water can drain out without making a mess.

Every morning and evening, add some water to the jar (you don't need to remove the cloth, simply pour right through it). Swish the seeds around to get them all nice and moist, and then prop the jar back up to allow the water to drain out. I rotate the jar once or twice a day, just to move the seeds around and make sure they're all getting air and light.

Within just a day or two, you'll start to see sprouts emerging. Continue on with this until your sprouts are a couple inches long and have begun to form small green leaves on the end. It also helps to place your jar on a window sill during the last day or two, to help chlorophyll develop in the leaves.


This is what my clover seeds looked like, when I was finished sprouting them last time.

I store them in a container or a bag in the fridge (it's helpful if it's not airtight, because lack of air will make them go bad faster). Mine will last quite nicely up to a week, though we'll often use them up before they go bad.

1 Tbsp of seeds will make about the amount found in a grocery store sprout container, so if that's too many sprouts (or not enough) for your family to use up, just adjust the amount accordingly.

We love to put our sprouts on any type of sandwich, our very favorite way to eat them! They are also good sprinkled on top of a green salad, and you can even chuck extra ones into a fruit smoothie for the extra nutrition and as long as they're well blended, you'll never, ever notice they're in there (nor will your kids)!

Enjoy your winter greens, you incredible windowsill gardener, you!

Does this look easy enough? Does anyone else make sprouts in a similar way? Any other fun ideas for adding sprouts to our diets?

One last winner!

At long last, the winner of the 4th and final stainless steel giveaway…

MacKenzie @ BRC Banter

(I haven't heard back from you yet, so please email me as soon as you can!)

Congratulations and thanks to all who entered! There are more giveaways coming up in the next little while, so stay tuned…

Happy New Year (and it’s great to be blogging again)!

Well, it’s about time but I’m finally back!

Happy New Year to you all!


I decided to extend my Christmas break into the New Year, since my husband wasn’t going back to work until this Monday. It’s been wonderful and relaxing, and we’ve had so much time together as a family. Christmas was a special time, and so was our trip to Seattle. We’ve been back for over a week now, just working on various projects, enjoying time with the kids, visiting with friends, working on New Year’s goals, etc.

I wish I could share specific memories and events (or even photos, but guess who forgot her camera this Christmas??? Thankfully Grandma and Auntie took a few for me!), but what with all the snow, both in Seattle and when we arrived back home, we haven’t really gone and “done” too much of anything specific. Most of our time these past two weeks was just spent talking, playing games, eating, laughing, reading, watching family movies and thoroughly relaxing together. It was really, really good.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog in the last few days, and I’m so excited to let you know about some of the things that are coming up:

* A review of spud!, an organic grocery delivery company located in BC, Canada as well as Washington, Oregon and California. I will be trying out their services for the next two weeks, and giving you detailed reviews of what I think and how the service is working for me!

* Healthy Pregnancy series (due to popular request) instead of the digestion series I had been planning (though digestion is such an important topic, I’m sure I’ll get back around to it)

* A fantastic line up of 6 guest posts, starting this week and going until early February

* Simple-to-make sandwich sprouts- an easy way to grow your own “greens” in the winter

* Links to a few recipes we’ve been enjoying lately

* The truth about what we’re really working on in home educating (please, pay no attention to my sidebar- it’s terribly outdated and needs to be refreshed!) We’ve been having so much fun together, and I can’t wait to share what we’ve been doing.

* My New Year’s nourishing foods and practices goals (a la the Nourishing New Year’s Resolutions carnival this Friday)

* The ultimate BPA-free sippy cup review (including Klean Kanteen, Sigg, Avent, Born Free, and Foogo- I’m awaiting the last cup in the mail so that I can try it out and start putting my thoughts together)

* The start-up of Living Simply Saturdays again, starting this week (Jan.10). I’ll be diving into the second half of From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out
, which gets into so many practical areas like saying no, busyness, time with God, possessions, physical clutter, money and more. Be ready to join in with a post of your own, on  a way that you pursue simplicity in your own life (or your thoughts and reflections on Ch.8 if you’re following along in the book).

* More exciting stuff that I can’t wait to share with you all!


So tell me, how were your holidays? What were the highlights? What are some of your plans as you step into this New Year?

What home education looks like in our house these days

Change this and give an example of a week and what I might do each day or the week. Keep it shorter and simpler.

Hee, hee. What home education looked like today is not exactly what it looks like most other days, so it feels like a rather funny thing to be writing about this afternoon.

But (oh, I'm sorry to all the grammar teachers out there, but sometimes I just can't help myself), isn't that one of the beautiful things about home educating? The ability to be flexible and allow learning to happen along the ebbs and flows of real life and changing seasons? 

So, what have we really been up to these past couple of months?

Read Alouds

This is something I have learned from my Mother-in-Law, and I am so glad for her insistence that we begin this wonderful practice! It's not something that I might have thought of on my own, at least not at this young of ages (my kids are currently 19 mths and just over 4 yrs). They love it, though! Sometimes, they play on the family room floor while I read, and sometimes they sit beside me on the couch, but they're always excited when I pull out the book for the day's reading!

The first book we began with was Paddington, and these are delightful stories about a very curious little bear from Peru, who ends up living with a family in London and gets himself into all sorts of trouble. We enjoyed this book, but what we have most enjoyed are the books that came next… the Little House on the Prairie series! We began with Little House in the Big Woods, and are about to finish On the Banks of Plum Creek any day (the 3rd book). Such fun!

We also read various children's books every day, from the silly to the serious, from board books to beautifully illustrated award winning tales. I can't even begin to guess how many books we have, but they are numerous, and well loved! Caden has recently grown especially fond of books, and will come up to me multiple times a day, book in hand, saying "Na! Na! Na!" which I loosely translate as "Mommy, I desperately need you to read this book to me immediately or I don't know what I will do with myself"!

Bible Training

We are continuing to use Big Truths for Little Kids, and are working on having Abbie memorize this children's version of the Shorter Catechism. She loves it and does so well with it!

We are also using the book My ABC Bible Verses, sometimes reading the story that goes along with the verse, and other times just practicing the verses to keep them fresh. I like the stories in this book, as they are a little bit shorter and more to the point than in Big Truths for Little Kids, and a bit more appropriate for preschool aged children.

Character Training

We have been using the Little Jewel books, from Rod and Staff, to bring up a variety of character issues and discuss them together. We also sometimes use Teach Them to Your Children, which is a really great resource although some of the stories are just a bit above Abbie's level and she doesn't completely understand what they are about (many are just fine, though).

Learning to Read

At 4, Abbie has just begun to read simple words, after a little over a year spent on phonics and pre-reading skills. This fall we allowed her to borrow a phonics video (LeapFrog's Talking Words Factory) which really helped to cement the concept of letter sounds for her and inspired her to want to keep learning more! I have also allowed her to watch/interact with some of the ABC and phonics videos on from time to time, and these are also helping to further her understanding of how letter sounds make words.

To practice reading, we are using the Bob Books, a fun series of very short, very simple books that go from simple to more complex, and take less than 5 minutes to read. Because they are so short and simple, I read them with Abbie one word at a time (I read the word, and she repeats it or tries to read it on her own). Since the words are often used repeatedly, she can begin to recognize some of them on her own by the time we get closer to the end of the story and I let her read those ones independently.

Arts and Crafts

Oh, this is my major weakness! I am just not really into pulling all the stuff out, making a mess, coming up with ideas, etc. I am trying to make sure that we do something of this sort once a week, even if it's just painting or cutting and gluing. We were also given some paint markers for her birthday- I can't remember who they're from, but I would love to kiss whoever it was! She loves them and they make so little mess. Ahhh…

I've also begun to introduce Abbie to very simple sewing crafts, and she is really doing well with them! So far we have tried one felt puppet (it already had the holes in it and came with yarn and a large needle- she needed to just stitch it together, about 30 stitches, which she did beautifully!). The second project we are still working on, and is a bit more finicky. It's a mesh bug catcher, and it all needs to be stitched together, but it will only fit a large but real sewing needle, so she needs very careful supervision to do this one. The third thing was sewing a popcorn string, which she did really well with, although she tired of the project with the attention span of, well, a four year old!

General Concepts

We were so blessed to receive several Rod and Staff preschool workbooks, which we are diligently working our way through. These give Abbie a chance to practice her letter recognition and printing, as well as skills like sorting, matching, differentiating, cutting and pasting, tracing, etc. She always begs to do more than the 1 or 2 pages I usually suggest!


This is not something that we have worked on much recently, but will begin to work on more this winter and spring. Last year we did calendar time every day, which included counting the days in the month, and we also did some counting and patterning practice using colorful counting bears. Together with using math in our everyday activities (counting the stairs as we walked down them, counting cups of flour in baking), this rounded out the math that we felt she needed to learn at that age (3).

Now I have bought a math workbook, K-Gr.2 Cut and Paste Math. Of course, many of the activities are too advanced, but some are just perfect and will help her to match written numbers with pictures of objects (ie. match the 5 to the picture of 5 cars), learn some very simple addition and geometry (shapes, mostly) and also help her begin to learn to tell time, a skill I am eager to teach her! She can't wait to begin using this book, as well as two write-and-wipe counting and addition books she was given for Christmas by Grandma.


At this point, we are keeping science just a part of our everyday activities and not teaching it specifically. We read many books on nature and talk about things we see when we go out for walks and drives. Before our trip to Arizona, she and I spent a bit of time reading up on the desert, it's animals and also on cactus (cacti?). This winter we read about snowflakes as the snow began to fall, and last spring we read about all sorts of different insects, frogs, bees, etc.

This winter, we will be planting our own seedlings indoors once again, for our garden this spring. Abbie will be getting her very own portion of the garden this year, where she can plant her choice of vegetables and she will be responsible for weeding and watering (yes, it will be very small!). She was also given a beautiful pack of flower seeds for Christmas, and I will give her some space to plant those in our front yard garden as well. She is eager for spring to arrive! 

How do I put it all together?

Well, at this point I am still somewhat of an eclectic home educating mama! I don't have a firm schedule that I stick to. Days when we have more time and inclination, we pull out more books and activities. Days when we're squeezed for time, we do the essentials (reading and Bible training) and I don't stress out about it. I just try to make sure that we work our way through all of the things that we are working on over the course of each week.

As we approach next year, I am planning to set aside some time to do some reading up on different styles of home educating, in order to help us better decide exactly how we want to go about this incredible task we have been given to train and teach our children! After that, I will likely become a bit more scheduled and purposeful in how I plan out each day's "learning time" as we fondly refer to it.

Merry Christmas (and a bit of housekeeping)

Christmas tree We're gone, even as you read this post!  (Isn't time-delayed post publishing a beautiful thing?) One entire week (8 or 9 days, actually) of vacation. Much needed, and much anticipated. 

While we are gone, I will be taking a hiatus from my beloved blog. Though I love, love, love to write it and keep up with all of you, every once in a while I need a true break where I can just rest, relax, and be refreshed, ready to jump back in to writing once again with new ideas and excitement.

Before I go, a few things worth mentioning:

1) I completely stripped my cloth diapers and tried using them again. Within a week, same problem. The rash was back. It became unbearable, so we went back to disposables, and it was gone again within days. Ugh. I'm buying training pants, and will probably begin in the New Year. So sad, but hey, maybe he'll be trained early? A mom can hope, right? :)

2) I bought Josh Groban's "Noel" last night, and it's wonderful. Thanks Allison, for the suggestion (and thanks to all of you- it was such a hard decision to make)!

3) Sorry I couldn't get to the immunity boosters or the sling giveaway… in the New Year, I promise!

4) We turned on the heat in our house last weekend, when the snow started and the temperature dipped below zero (we hit -17 with wind chill). Enough was enough. We're a bit warmer now. :)

5) I had a wonderful birthday dinner with my husband last night, and a birthday lunch with a few girlfriends today!

6) I am probably still going to try couponing again, though I haven't put any effort into preparing to do so, as of yet. So we'll see.

7) Someone mentioned my ebook just recently. Ebook? What ebook? You mean that thing I've been trying to get finished for the last 8 months? Oh, that one! It is actually almost done, and my husband and I are hoping to complete it over the Christmas break and have it up on my site sometime in January. I feel like I've said something like this before, but I promise it's really closer to being published than ever before!

8) This one is important. Even if you skipped the rest, stop here!

I am looking for guest posters, one per week for all of January. Any takers? If you're interested, please email me at keeperofthehome (at) canada (dot) com. I'm looking for posts on nutrition, natural living, mothering young ones, home educating, going green, frugality, etc. If you already have an idea of what you would write on, please let me know that in the email. Thanks so much!

And I think that's it!

I hope you have a blessed time with your families, celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior!

Manger scene 

Come, let us adore Him.

(Image from

One last hurrah for amazing stainless steel products!

Ok ladies (and any gentlemen that happen to be reading this!), this is the last of 4 giveaways from the Tickle Trunk this month, so please make sure you don't miss out on this one!

What I love so much about these giveaways is that the products are high quality stainless steel, intended to replace the plastic in your kitchen and food storage. Wouldn't we all like to find more ways to reduce our dependence on plastic and make certain that no harmful chemicals are leaching into the foods we feed our precious families?

Here's a sampling of what they have to offer:

Rectangle container 

Small stainless container 

Silver bottle 

Double walled stainless 

There are such a great variety of sizes and shapes to suit anything you want them for… leftovers, baby food, taking lunches to work, etc. As well, a full selection of excellent quality water bottles ranging from 12 oz to 40 oz with 4 different lid styles to choose from, as well as 4 different colors.

This is your last chance to enter to win any (yes, any!) item from The Tickle Trunk before Christmas! I tell you, the Christmas spirit of generosity is flowing this month! :)

1) Visit The Tickle Trunk and take a gander through their impressive selection of products.

2) Leave a comment letting me know which item you would like to win, and which item you think would make the best gift for someone you love.

3) To be entered a second time, post about this giveaway on your blog and leave me a comment with the url of that post.

4) Contest ends Wednesday, December 24th. Wouldn't winning be a nice Christmas present?

Edit: This giveaway has now ended. Merry Christmas, everyone!

And for those who entered last time, the winner is:



My Top 3

Three chocolates
Imagine taking a chocolate-loving woman (so, that would be pretty much any woman) to some incredible chocolate store, perhaps in, say, Belgium. The shelves and counters are lined with incredibly decadent, melt in your mouth, sweet perfection and goodness. Chocolate truffles, chocolate covered cherries, chocolate toffee, hazelnut chocolate pralines, chocolate ganache.

As she stands there, taking it all in and salivating at the delicate smell wafting through the air, she is bluntly told, "Alright lady, take your pick. You get 3. That's it. No more, no less. Just 3." Can you feel her agony as I do?

So that's sort of how I felt when Judy so graciously asked me this:

I love all these posts on
nutrition and healthy eating — but I am SO overwhelmed of where to
begin. I guess I must unlearn 45 years of grocery shopping and food
preparation. I do some of the obvious — 100% pure juices — some
organic grains sprinkled in here and there. I used to think Soy Milk
was good but then I thought somewhere you might have said it isn't.
What would be your top three areas that I could begin to focus on?
and/or eliminate from our diet.

Three?!? I can only choose three?

Ok, calm down. Stop shaking. You can handle this. It's a simple question really, and all it needs is a simple answer. She's not asking you to never post about anything important ever again, she's just asking for a starting place. You can do this.

Deep breath. Here goes:

1) Move away from processed foods, towards a whole foods diet

I say this, knowing that it is a large step, but it starts in small ways, and that is all that I'm suggesting. Really, truly. It starts by choosing 1 or 2 processed foods that you regularly buy, and starting to learn to make them from scratch or to substitute a whole food in it's place. Don't even worry yet about whole grain, organic or natural, pasture-fed, etc, etc. Just concentrate on foods that are as close to their original state as possible.

This can be as simple as forgoing the pasta mix (like Lipton side noodles, Kraft dinner, or even a Prego sauce) that you like to purchase, and try making your own sauce to pour over some noodles. It could be attempting to make some homemade bread or muffins instead of buying them from the grocery bakery. It could be learning to make homemade white sauce or trying out some new soup recipes in lieu of canned soups. Chopping and steaming your own fresh veggies instead of the usual canned or frozen ones. Try battering and baking or simply seasoning your own chicken or fish, instead of buying frozen, deep-fried chicken strips or fish sticks.

2) Switch over from a reliance on vegetable oils and margarine, to truly good-for-you fats

What goes: Margarine or any half-half mix or imitation butter spread or spray, canola oil, sunflower oil (this one can still be used minimally, but really, keep it minimal), safflower oil, corn oil, generic vegetable oils, Crisco, Pam, all hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils (look in the ingredients on many packaged foods to find these)

What to add: Honest-to-goodness butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, palm oil, flax oil (not for cooking), and even animal lard or tallow

(For more on this, see these posts, Part 1 and Part 2, for more on cooking oils, and this post on butter)

3) Start to decrease and move towards eliminating refined sugars from your diet

There are just so many good reasons to cut out refined sugars entirely:

  • They contribute to weight gain and obesity
  • They contribute to blood sugar imbalances and Type II diabetes
  • They are empty calories and actually rob your body of needed nutrients
  • They damage your teeth
  • They are addictive (I kid you not!)
  • They are a major cause of hyperactivity and an inability to focus and learn well in children
  • They cause your body to be highly acid, rather than slightly alkaline as it should be, which contributes to disease
  • They feed cancer cells (did you know that one of the most effective cancer scans looks for cells that are uptaking glucose at a fast rate?)

Do we really need any more reasons to get rid of them? Work towards this by slowly finding replacement snacks and foods for the more sugary things you have a habit of eating (pops, store-bought baking, sugary beverages, candy, cereals, granola bars and many other processed foods- look at the ingredients!). Try having one or two days a week where you don't have any refined sugar at all, and gradually cut it down more and more. Learn to use natural sweeteners in your own baking and treat-making at home.

(And if you really want to know, the other suggestion that I really strongly considered was to add in a Cod Liver Oil supplement- it gives you crucial essential fatty acids like EPA and DHA, plus high amounts of Vitamin A and D, which most North Americans are lacking in but are vitally important to good health. So if you're struggling with one of the above suggestions, consider Cod Liver Oil another good step to take instead.)

Phew! That wasn't so hard… :) Think I'll go have a piece of chocolate now. (See, there's that addictive thing I told you about!)

Aren't you proud of me for not mentioning soaking and sprouting your grains? And working to avoid food preservatives, dyes, MSG and other such chemicals? And adding more fermented and cultured foods to your diet?  And drinking raw, not pasteurized, milk? And trying to buy more organic or unsprayed produce and learning to wash and peel to avoid pesticides? And finding a good source of…

I could have mentioned all of those things, but aren't you glad I didn't?

Truthfully, I don't know that it matters where you begin. The point is simply to start somewhere. Anywhere! These are just my suggestions, to give you a few points to focus on, and I hope you find it helpful! Blessings as you begin to make these positive changes for you and your family!

For those who have a long ways to come yet, do these 3 suggestions sound possible? Could you begin to implement these 3 things, and allow yourself to not feel guilty or stressed out or overwhelmed by the other things that you aren't doing? What are some of the simple, beginning steps that some of you have already been taking?