Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Favorite Sunday Slow Cooker Recipe

This is my favorite throw-in-the-slow-cooker-before-church meal because it's super easy, yummy, and is one of the rare meals to have earned the approval of my picky preschooler.  (He will not eat beef in any other form.)  I adapted it from this recipe at Menus4Moms to make it even easier (frozen peppers and onions!) and a little broth-ier, and to use mostly Trader Joe's ingredients.

Slow Cooker Mexican Meatball Soup, Trader Joe's edition

1 bag Trader Joe's Party-Size Meatballs (frozen)
1/2 bag Trader Joe's Grilled Peppers and Onions blend (frozen)
2 t. Trader Joe's jarred garlic
1 container Trader Joe's beef broth (32 oz.)
1 16-oz. jar salsa (your choice, but we like mild)
1 T chili powder (or less, if you prefer less spicy)
1/4 t. ground cumin
1 c. Trader Joe's Orecchiette (or other small pasta)

Combine first seven ingredients in slow cooker.  Give it a good stir. Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours.  Toss in pasta for the last hour of cooking, or cook separately and toss in right before serving. Depending on your slow cooker, you may want to add a cup or two of water towards the end.

Garnish with sour cream or plain yogurt and shredded cheese.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Brief YA Review: Like No Other

Like No OtherLike No Other by Una LaMarche
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when two teens from very different backgrounds fall in love? Thankfully, this is no Romeo and Juliet, but it is realistic and satisfying, even if there can be no happily-ever-after.

Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-galley for review through NetGalley.

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Experience with Essential Oils

Disclaimer: I do not sell essential oils.  I do not have any sort of financial affiliation with any of the resources I am going to mention.  And I truly don't want to offend anyone I know who sells essential oils, since they are honest and lovely people, but here goes...

Suddenly, essential oils are everywhere -- in my Facebook news feed, taking over blogs I follow...maybe you've noticed it too?  Maybe you are a little "crunchy" like I am (using cloth diapers, trying to eat whole foods) and you're intrigued by the thought of using something all-natural to treat ailments or clean your home. Well, that was me.  And my first introduction to essential oils was through the two big MLM (multi-level marketing -- think Avon or Thirty-One) companies, who shall remain nameless.  When I saw the prices, I balked.  With a husband who has been unemployed or under-employed for over a year now, just trying a few oils seemed like a huge investment I couldn't afford. But I thought I could at least do some research (hey, I'm a librarian) for the far-off day when I might be able to.

And boy, did I learn a lot.

First of all, I learned that the prices being charged by the MLM companies aren't necessarily an indication of quality, but are higher most likely because a lot of people are getting a portion of the price of every oil sold. (For more on these quality claims, see this article from Granola Living.)  I also learned that some of these companies were promoting irresponsible uses of oils (i.e., applying them undiluted or taking them internally without being supervised by an aromatherapist).  I joined a few Facebook groups to learn more; one woman claimed she had esophageal damage from drinking water with a few drops of lemon essential oil in it for several weeks at the recommendation of her sales consultant.

I also joined a group sponsored by an MLM comapny to learn more and saw firsthand that unsafe recommendations are being made.  I also found out that the page is policed and censored.  I had a few comments deleted.  One was just a link to a different company that sells essential oils; someone asked for where to buy supplies for mixing up your own oils, since this particular MLM company doesn't sell them, and I posted a direct link to the page where these items are sold -- not the oils themselves, mind you, just the supplies, on Plant Therapy. Another resource I shared (not a commercial one) that was a reminder of some essential oils that aren't safe to use with children was deleted as well.

Which brings me to the company I have ordered a few oils from: Plant Therapy.  Direct sales (i.e., much lower prices), high quality, and free shipping, as well as certified aromatherapists on staff (who answer questions in their Facebook group, Plant Therapy: Safe Essential Oil Recipes). The Calming the Child synergy is a miracle in a roll-on bottle for helping my little guys go to sleep at night, and I've been happy with all of the other products I've gotten from them so far -- I was able to order quite a few when they were having their Christmas in July sales.  What has most impressed me so far is their new line of "KidSafe" essential oil blends, which were developed in collaboration with Robert Tisserand, who literally wrote the book on Essential Oils Safety.

My conclusion: essential oils can be helpful for a lot of things, but they're not meant to be a cure-all. The oils I've found most helpful deal with emotions, like anxiety or depression, and are very effective when inhaled. They also don't have to cost a fortune. I don't have any sort of arrangement with Plant Therapy, but I have learned from my research that there are lots of non-MLM companies that sell high-quality essential oils, and usually at much lower prices, Plant Therapy among them.  So if you're interested, shop around like I did!  And if you want to do more research for yourself, I'm leaving you with a list of the best online resources I found for educating yourself on essential oils, including a free online class from the Aromahead Institute.

Learning About EOs (a website by a certified clinical aromatherapist)
Using Essential Oils Safely Facebook group
Plant Therapy: Safe Essential Oil Recipes Facebook Group
Robert Tisserand
Aromatherapy 101 -- free class from Aromahead Institute

And where I've purchased from:
Plant Therapy


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Two Book Reviews: The Latest in Christian Fiction

All Right Here (The Darlings #1)All Right Here by Carre Armstrong Gardner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher: Tyndale House

I absolutely loved spending time with the Darling family of small-twon Maine. Even the secondary characters are believable. I've seen comparisons to the TV show Parenthood, and it was like Parenthood, in all the best ways. Plus -- and I hate to say this -- it was a Christian novel that didn't read like a Christian novel. The ending made it clear that there will be more to come about the Darling family -- and I can't wait.

Thanks to the publisher for providing an egalley through NetGalley for review.

View all my reviews Here to Stay (Where Love Begins, #2)Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher: Bethany House

This was my first Melissa Tagg book, and I enjoyed it very much. I'd like to read the first in the series to get more of Blake's backstory, and I'd like to spend more time in Whisper Shores, a Stars Hollow-like town in Michigan.

My only complaint: overuse of the word "dude."

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

More on the Nightingales

The Nightingale SistersThe Nightingale Sisters by Donna Douglas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As soon as I finished the first title in this series (see previous review), I rushed to request the next two from NetGalley. And then I did what could only be described as binge-reading -- staying up late several nights in a row to finish them. And then I did something I very rarely do: I purchased the fourth in the series for my Nook, because it's only available as an e-book. And now I have to wait (sigh) for the next one to be published. If you're interested in England, the 1930s, the history of nursing, or just strong female characters with plenty of drama and romance in their lives, then you will enjoy this series. 

You're welcome.

View all my reviews

(Thanks again to the publisher and NetGalley for the egalleys!)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Book Review: The Nightingale Girls

The Nightingale GirlsThe Nightingale Girls by Donna Douglas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was billed as a good choice for fans of "Call the Midwife," and since I am one, I thought I'd give it a go. And indeed, it was quite enjoyable. Set in 1930s London, it follows several girls who start their nurses' training at Nightingale Hospital through their professional and private lives. The historical setting and medical details were interesting, and the girls themselves were fun characters to get to know. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

*Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an e-copy to review.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review: Surprised by Motherhood

Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a MomSurprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom by Lisa-Jo Baker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A lovely memoir of losing and becoming a mother. As I read this book, many tears were shed and much head-nodding occurred. This is a beautiful book that I will be sharing with every new mom I know from now on. As a mom and a librarian, I have read many parenting/motherhood books, and this is among the very best of them. It's not a "how-to," but a "why" -- and don't we need more of those?

*Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-galley for review through NetGalley.

P.S. For more from Lisa-Jo Baker, check out her blog.

View all my reviews