Thursday, February 28

Tropical Traditions Winner!!

Congratulations to Alicia, the winner of the Tropical Traditions giveaway!

Thanks so much to all who entered! 

Wednesday, February 20

Tropical Traditions (a Giveaway!)

I LOVE cooking with coconut oil.  I love doing hundreds of other things with coconut oil also, but cooking is my favorite, especially since our health journey has led us toward more traditional and whole foods, and our food sensitivities have led two of us away from dairy (for the moment).  Coconut oil is a fantastic substitute for butter and usually works for shortening.  It always works as a substitute for canola, corn and vegetable oil in recipes (which is a big plus for us - I won't get into it here, but trust me, there is a lot to be said about fats and health and which ones are best).

Tropical Traditions has been my go-to source for excellent quality coconut oil. The bonus with this company is that the customer service is fantastic, shipping is very quick, and the quality is very consistent.  I am happy with their ethical farming practices, and when I purchase in bulk, the prices are great! They also have a great referral program - if you choose to order through my link (see sidebar), and you are a first time customer, I get a credit! Yay! At first I started with their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, and then as I also needed something without the coconut flavor, I added  their expeller pressed coconut oil to our pantry, which is completely unflavored.  We use the expeller pressed for frying and sauteing, roasting vegetables, and more.  The Gold Label is sooooo delicious in baked goods - I am a huge fan of coconutty brownies and cupcakes!

If you've never used coconut oil before, it's important to know this - coconut oil is solid at temperatures under 76 degrees!  Around here, that makes it pourable in the summer and solid in winter.  It's also important to know that you should melt it before adding it to recipes! (ask me how I know! ha!)

Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil - 32 oz. 
Win 1 quart of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil!
Tropical Traditions is America’s source for coconut oil. Their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is hand crafted in small batches by family producers, and it is the highest quality coconut oil they offer. You can read more about how virgin coconut oil is different from other coconut oils on their website: What is Virgin Coconut Oil?

Tropical Traditions also carries other varieties of affordable high quality coconut oil. Visit their website to check on current sales, to learn about the many uses of coconut oil, and to read about all the advantages of buying coconut oil online. Since the FDA does not want us to discuss the health benefits of coconut oil on a page where it is being sold or given away, here is the best website to read about the health benefits of coconut oil.

Here's how to enter (open to the US/Canada):
1. Sign up for Tropical Traditions Newsletter (this one is required)
2.  Leave a comment telling me whether you have tried coconut oil before
3. For bonus entries, "Like" Tropical Traditions on Facebook, follow on Twitter (@troptraditions and @ttspecialdeals or Pinterest 

You MUST leave a comment telling me which items you have completed.  (one comment including all of them is fine). Giveaway ends one week from today!  (Next Wednesday, Feb 27th @midnight EST)

Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

Monday, February 18

I'm not the (only) crazy one

This morning, I was instructing a first grader and a preschooler on different grade levels, different subjects, simultaneously. One child thought his work too hard, the other too easy.  They complained loudly, we discussed that. The baby, who had woken too early and then avoided her morning rest, sat screaming at my feet, folding herself in half and lying her forehead on the floor and weeping out the largest most pathetic tears she could muster, and the phone was ringing.  My espresso machine was steaming out it's "I'm done" song and I just wanted to crawl back in bed.  There are other things on my mind, which makes everything less manageable.

The van needs repair, there's something scheduled tomorrow that I still haven't quite figured out with no van.  We keep cycling through the sicknesses and fevers and dishes and laundry and dust and there's a washing machine repairman coming today to replace the gasket.  I'm getting ready for a Pampered Chef show and hoping I don't forget lists and games and catalogues! Oh my! (such giant first world problems)

Life is messy, and it just gets messier. There are big issues, hurting people, broken and bleeding and waiting for hope and help, and those who have given up hoping and waiting.  There are big hurts, big questions, big unknowns. That big-ness wins over my supposed, and sometimes self-inflicted issues.

Still, it is ok for me to freak out a bit and get a little crazy.  Because it's those little moments of crazy that help get me to the point of growth.  That help me take a millisecond to refocus, to just breathe.  When I breathe, and focus, there are moments of pure amazement, glittering with clarity. Moments that I can see God, and remember His glory, and all that is important.

Mostly I just need those reminders that I am HIS child, chosen for This Task, made up of these tasks.  And it's going to be all right.  Even when I'm overwhelmed by the ridiculous and mundane, even when things get worse than merely overwhelming. And especially when I think about how crazy and messed up and tragic things are in other parts of Earth.  Any little things that I'm stressed about now will work out, and if not, they won't. But I don't need to add contrived guilt to my overwhelmed, and my crazy.  I don't need to panic. I need to let go.  And run to Him, and breathe in and out, and trust.

God is here, and He is there. In your crazy beautiful mess.  In the ugly. In the hopeless. For the tired, the lonely, the alone, the weary and depressed, the abused, the fainthearted (and yes, even the slightly crazy). He says, "Come to me. . . and I will give rest. . . to your soul."

Thursday, February 14

Sunday, February 10

this is not my first confession

Facebook makes me feel social, but really nothing could be further from the truth.  I want to be the kind of person with a revolving front door and a smile and maybe even baked goods for every surprise visitor, but really, at least ninety percent of the time, I'd rather just curl up with my husband and kids and a book and shut the world out.

I love adventures; dream of worldwide travel; it's not that I hate new things, or change.  It's far worse.

I have never really learned how to make friends.  I grew up with them built-in, through the magic of my small parochial school, the one where I knew all my classmates from 4 years and on, my family and my one brother, and my church, with many of the same friends that I had at school.  I am just now realizing what a huge problem it is that I don't know how to make friends.

I am painful at it, really. 

I've run into people, as we all do; people with kids who are also playing on the same playground equipment as my kids, people who look very nice and far more normal than I.  And I sit with paralyzed tongue, waiting for who-knows-what.  I overcompensate by smiling too much, in silence, which I'm sure has an entirely-not-what-I-intended creepy effect.

College was different - being thrown into a new situation, knowing no one, and (eventually) I did fine and made friends, and it was great.  Since then, it's been different.  I have made a few *new* friends over the years, but all of them are SUPER at making friends. They smile, they come up with some topic of conversation that doesn't sound weird at all when it comes out of their mouths (as do my first attempts at conversations with strangers).  All of a sudden, we're talking normally and we're friends, and it's great. We really don't have to have much in common at all - it's easy once those first few conversations are started.

Seriously, what is the DEAL? I worked in customer service for years (admissions counselor, office assistant, receptionist, etc) and loved it!  I was a classroom teacher! I'm a Pampered Chef consultant!  All of those situations are fine - put me in front of people to do public speaking and I'm not really that nervous.  One on one for no specific reason?  I turn into a blob.

I think this problem is made 100% worse by the fact that I can't concentrate on anything when I have my kids with me - trying to make sure that the baby doesn't get into trouble and the boys don't take off or take their clothes off or anything in between takes every brain cell. 

I am trying to be better.  I joined a Bible Study a few years ago to try to meet people out of my comfort zone, and the study was great, and I did meet people!  I have also met some really nice people through our new home school group.  I still need some how-to-make-friends tips, or some lessons.  Play dates still give me a minor case of panic.  But I'll be fine, right??  Baby steps!  If that doesn't work, I'll just get some therapy like this.

SO.  Got any tips for me, or confessions of your own?

Friday, February 8

Recent Happenings

Aaron finished his first grade reading curriculum - hurray! We had a party to celebrate - with cake! and grandparents! and spaghetti! He really enjoyed the special night.

We got just a little bit of snow - this isn't an accurate measurement.  Most people around here measured 12 inches.  :-)  Maybe I just measured too early!  It's our first big snow of the year!

we played outside with the neighbor kids!
we had "hot vanilla" with strawberry heart marshmallows

Cadey is a sad sick little baby

She really *wants* to eat the sausage.  Find the energy, girlie!

 We are all VERY ready for the sicknesses to leave this house!  I got so desperate that I opened the house (in 30 degree weather) and turned on the fans while the kids were resting yesterday, and Lysol-ed all the doorknobs and handles.  This afternoon we disinfect the bedding and curtains and vacuum some more.  We really are weary of this illness making continual house calls to our address!!

Giveaway WINNER

Thanks to the kiddos, the winner is RICHELLE!

Congratulations and thanks to everyone who participated!

Monday, February 4

The Tenth Plague GIVEAWAY!

Last  week, I posted an interview with author Adam Blumer, upon release of his newest book, The Tenth Plague, and over the weekend he contacted me to let me know that I could do a giveaway!  I'm so excited!

3rd Grade Me
I don't know how many of you are into reading novels - but I will tell you - I LOVE reading!  As a kid, I could easily devour a 200 page book in a summer day - or maybe even two!  I sat on my bed in my room for hours on end, reading and imagining.  We did not have a television, so books were friends most dearly treasured.  One summer I read nearly all of the Newberry Award Winner books as part of a deal my dad made with me - I had to read one Newberry book for every non-Newberry Book I read.  I think he was trying to thwart my interest in the Babysitter's Club books, ha ha!  It worked - I found several favorites and saved up my money to buy my own copies! Of course, I did find a loophole - I think I read "Island of the Blue Dolphins" about 8 times that summer as dad had forgotten to specify that they had to be DIFFERENT Newberrys! (the photo to the left is of me just as I was falling in love with reading)

My love of reading never waned - but the time allotted for reading certainly DID! I know that before I got my Kindle and really made a concerted effort to do more reading, it had been since before I had kids that I had sat down to read.  When I did get my Kindle, I immediately tried to find some free books to upload and read.  I found a Christian Suspense novel, and while I hadn't ever read a suspense novel before, I decided to give it a try.  My page swipes became fast and furious as I tried to make my eyes read the words faster - a new genre was open.  And I was hooked.

Adam is giving away an e-copy of his newest book, and it is compatible with either Kindle or Nook, or any device that has an app for those devices. That would include iPads, tablets, iPhones, smartphones, etc. And if you don't have any of those, you can also read the book on your computer!

For one entry, comment on this post to let me know what your favorite fictional genre is.  For additional entries, "Like" Adam's author page on Facebook, tweet or facebook this giveaway, and for 5 additional entries, buy his first book, Fatal Illusions, which I just got done re-reading (it's FANTASTIC).  Then leave a comment letting me know which items you have done!

Anyone, anywhere can enter this giveaway!  Just be sure that you enter by Thursday, February 7th.  I'll announce the winner on Friday!