Peppermint Almond Chocolate Bark

Recently Young Living got the go ahead in Canada to label a select few of their essential oils as food grade. Though in the US they have been able to label them this way for quite a while.

This opens up so many more possibilities on how to use the oils! Though the label is different the actual oil inside the bottle is the exact same so if you have the oil from before you can still use them this way.

I’ve been on a chocolate kick lately and have seen several versions of this recipe floating around the Internet. It’s not my first time making chocolate, but I normally use cocoa butter and cacao etc. This time I just wanted a fast and easy recipe and I thought it would be fun to try out some essential oils in it too.

This took me less than the time it took to make a cup of tea – I know that because I made it while waiting for my tea to steep. I usually have a bag of this in the freezer and grab a piece or two whenever I’m craving chocolate (usually daily!).

So without further ado:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1-4 drops peppermint vitality essential oil
  • Handful of crushed almonds
  • Sea salt (optional)

Directions:

Melt chocolate and coconut oil together. I prefer to use the double boiler method but putting it in the microwave in 30 second increments and stirring after each time also works.

Once melted add the peppermint oil to taste. I love lots of peppermint flavour so I added 4 drops.

Line a cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper. Pour out the chocolate and spread with a spatula. Top with almonds and sea salt if you want.

Put in freezer for 30 minutes.

Take out break apart and EAT!

2018 Goals and Intentions

So now that I’ve reflected on 2017 and I’ve chosen my one little word for 2018 I thought it was time to set some solid goals and intentions for the year.  I’m not planning on setting any huge goals, or having a million intentions and goals.  I’m trying to keep it very simple but I do like to have something laid out to guide the year, a plan of sorts – Type A personality at it’s best!

I’m letting my word ABUNDANCE guide my intentions and goals for the year.  This year is going to be very big and busy for us.  For the first time in four years we will be a two income family, we have a lot of catching up to do financially and so that is a huge part of what our year will be as a family.  I’m feeling seriously conflicted about this part of our year (I’ll be blogging that soon!) and so in an attempt to release some of that stress I’m really trying to establish some healthy practices that will help me cope with the busyness and stress and that is what my intentions are born out of.

I sat down and wrote out some intentions for my Body, Mind and Soul.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Body – I intend to place value on my body, to love and nourish it and treat it with respect by:
    • Eating food that fuels and benefits my body.  Stop sabotaging my health and wellbeing for the short term satisfaction of eating food that does not benefit my body.
    • Starting to move my body daily.  Do activity that I enjoy and builds strength.
  • Mind – I intend to grow my mind, to slow the negative inflow and replace it with positive by:
    • Stopping the endless scrolling.  Put my phone down, engage in the present moments.
    • Decluttering online.
    • Reading and writing daily.
  • Soul – I intend to recognize my soul as a valuable and meaningful part of my being, to nourish my spiritual being by:
    • Daily Bible reading.
    • Daily prayer/meditation.

I really think all of these intentions will be very beneficial to my wellbeing in 2018.  I feel like I’m at a bit of an advantage in being able to anticipate my struggles as I return to work and the busyness of work/life balance since this is the second time!

My goals are small, and I think attainable.  I hope to achieve more than this but I want to keep this list short and simple keeping in mind that I’m also building a business on the side which keeps me very busy in the downtime of my days.   Here’s the goals I’ve come up with so far:

  • Have zero credit card debt and have paid down other debts by Dec 31, 2018.
  • Be 100% gluten free.
  • Knit at least 1 garment for each family member (already started on mine!)
  • Learn how to sew (FOR REAL this year!)
  • Revamp the blog to reflect current life (happening this month!)
  • Complete One Second Everyday video (LOVING this app this year!)
  • Only buy sustainable, ethical clothing for my wardrobe (and local when possible), thus beginning a real capsule wardrobe.

That’s it!

I know we are only 8 days into this year but so far I’m loving it! Have you set any goals or intentions for your years? What about a word to guide you? I’d love to hear them!

One Little Word 2018

TO THOSE WHO USE WELL WHAT THEY ARE GIVEN, EVEN MORE WILL BE GIVEN, AND THEY WILL HAVE AN ABUNDANCE.  BUT FROM THOSE WHO DO NOTHING, EVEN WHAT LITTLE THEY HAVE WILL BE TAKEN AWAY. MATTHEW 25:29

Well, It’s now Jan 2 and I’m late on getting out this post – but better late than never!

December snuck up on me, and went so quickly that by the time I realized I hadn’t even THOUGHT about picking a word for 2018 it was already half way through the month.  Then I felt overwhelmed and wondered how I was going to pick a word on time, and almost in an instant a word came.

ABUNDANCE

It instantly resonated with me and initially I was thinking of the physical manifestations of abundance, namely health and wealth.  Those are the two things I desire the most right now in life and so naturally those were the two things that came to mind right away.  As I mulled over this word, ABUNDANCE, I had this deep feeling that it wasn’t just about money and physical health but so much more.  Yes those are my two biggest “needs” at this point, and we as a family are believing for those still but there’s more than just believing.

I want to live ABUNDANTLY in every area – in motherhood, marriage, career, mental, physical, spiritual.  I want ABUNDANT living to permeate every part of my being – but here’s what I’m coming to know and understand – to live ABUNDANTLY we must abandon those things that keep us away from ABUNDANCE.  My mindset must change from a poverty mindset to an ABUNDANT mindset.  I’m not just talking about monetary poverty, I believe my generation has grasped on to this idea that we don’t have enough (money, health, talent, courage, time….), we are constantly grasping for more instead of being satisfied with what we do have.  I think this keeps us from enjoying the day to day life, it pushes us into a place of comparison (which is known as the thief of joy).  We take for granted what we have been blessed with in this moment and instead of being blessed with more we just work ourselves into what we believe we have (less health, money, talent, courage….).  It’s like a self fulfilling prophecy and I am ready to break the cycle of this in my life.

Instead of saying:

  • I can’t…
  • I won’t…
  • I don’t have…
  • I am lacking…
  • I’m not…

I will say:

  • I can
  • I will
  • I have
  • I lack nothing
  • I AM

I will live in faith that I DO have everything I need.  I will be far more generous knowing that what I have been given was meant to be given to those around me.  I will no longer hoard time, money, love, joy, I will give freely in faith that what is given will be returned in ABUNDANCE.

So, as I move from a year of rest to a year of serious hustle I hope to be daily reminded that a poverty mindset keeps me from living a full and balanced life.

ABUNDANCE

I’m ready for you.

One Little Word 2017 Reflection

December 31, 2017.

How did this day get here so quickly? Where did 2017 go?

I’ve been reading and following some others who have reflected on this year and I’m seeing a mix of reactions to the past year.  Some had an incredible year, and others had difficult years but what I have noticed is that regardless of how the year was everyone has been grateful.  Some grateful for how wonderful their year was and some grateful for the challenges and lessons they brought.

I am definitely in the latter category – the year was difficult, far more difficult than I was anticipating yet I am so grateful for 2017.  We welcomed a beautiful baby girl who is our miracle girl.  She is feisty, determined, stubborn, and so so sweet and she fits perfectly into our family.  It’s safe to say she is so loved and so adored by us all.  We watched and followed as our now four year old grew and matured and learned so much.  His deep desire for knowledge is inspiring, his drive to learn is what spurs me on daily to live as a present parent and teach him what he wants to know.  Truly our schooling has been 100% led by him and he has advanced leaps and bounds.  Every goal I set for our homeschooling journey has been hit and it’s only because he has so desired to learn.  Carlos finished his schooling despite so many obstacles that would have stopped many in their tracks and made them quit.  His perseverance in the face of trials has always been inspiring for me.  Truly, he is incredible and if anyone can inspire you to chase your dreams and crush your goals, it’s him.

As I watched my family have an incredible year I tried so hard to follow in their footsteps.  I had so badly wanted to reach so many goals, to accomplish so much and it seemed the harder I fought the less I accomplished.  Last year at this time I felt the Lord was asking me to use REST as my guiding word for the year.  I honestly didn’t anticipate just how much rest I needed.  I didn’t realize how broken and worn down my body and spirit was.  I didn’t realize how much I needed to stop and rest.  Quite literally I spent this year in deep rest – almost like a hibernation.  The first part of the year was spent resting, having a baby and resting more.  The second part of the year was me feeling like I was ready to go, to accomplish, to be productive and being shut down every time I tried.  I fought hard against REST, sure that my body was ready to GO.  Maybe my body was but my mind, my heart, and my soul needed more rest, more reflection, more intentional attention.

When I look back at the year, I’ll be honest, it’s a hard pill to swallow.  It’s hard not to be disappointed, and not to dwell on that disappointment.  It’s hard to not feel like it was a “year wasted,” but I know those are lies designed to make me feel inadequate.  The truth which I’m reminding myself of minute by minute is that my year was EXACTLY what I needed.  The truth is that my year was orchestrated perfectly to give me what I needed – time to REST.  I’m thankful for the challenges of parenting two children, for the joys of watching those children grow and learn (even when that means more challenges for me).  The truth is I was stretched in ways I wasn’t anticipating, I discovered parts of me that I wasn’t proud of.  The impatience, need for perfection, the struggles for control – all things that came out and tried to rule my life.  I struggled to fight against those things, I struggle(d) to know my worth and adequacy.  I struggle(d) to mother in the midst of being faced with my worst self.

Yes, 2017 was hard for me, but it was necessary.  I was forced to rest in the hands of my Father, to search for and know His truths in my life.  I was forced to cling to a God who knows and loves me and I’m going into 2018 with the knowledge of these deep truths:

  • I am worthy
  • I am adequate
  • I am beautiful
  • I am enough

The beautiful thing about my truths, is they are your truths as well.  So whatever your year brought I hope that you can also cling to these truths.

A Tiny Light in The Long Tunnel

Ah, the trials of being a parent are endless.  I mean I’m only just in the beginning of this life long journey and sometimes I feel like I’m a rockstar and other times I feel like I’m just barely keeping my head above the water.  Yesterday was one of those treading water, barely surviving days.  I mean I’ve had worse days for sure but I’ve had much much better days as well.

Let me be 100% honest here. There are two things that are essential to life that if I don’t have adequate amounts of I will turn into someone I despise – sleep and food. I mean probably everyone struggles if they don’t get enough sleep or don’t eat well, but I feel like my reaction to exhaustion and hunger is extreme. I don’t want to talk to anyone and give Carlos a glare if he tries to talk to me. My answers to Ezekiel’s incessant toddler questions are short and impatient. That’s just a very small sample of my outward reactions to people – if you knew my internal turmoil you’d probably think I was a terrible person – and you’d be right. The worst part is that I see it all, I am 100% aware of my behaviour and I loathe it but find it incredibly difficult to change my attitude. It’s like I’m watching myself and yelling “ASHLEY GET OVER YOURSELF!” I might be able to change it for a few minutes, maybe even an hour, but it won’t last long.

That was me yesterday.

Eden has been having trouble sleeping at night and after several consecutive long nights in a row I was done. Not only that but I questioned every single thing I was doing, I convinced myself that I had created her inability to sleep at night and that there was nothing I could do to change it.  I mean, probably I am to blame for some of it but I was in full on “woe is me” mode.  Poor, poor pitiful me.

Do you hate the person I am explaining?

Me too.

On top of not sleeping well, I was also not eating well.  I have struggled this year in this area.  It’s not that I’m eating junk food, it’s that I’m not spending time planning and preparing food and so most days I’m falling short on the nutrition I should be getting into my body.

So yesterday, despite my terrible attitude, I knew I had to eat better because that’s at least one part of this equation I can control.  I can’t control how well Eden is sleeping but I can control the food I’m putting into my body.

After a long day I put the kids to bed, falling into bed myself right after at 6:50 pm.  I drifted off to sleep at 8:30, was woken at 10 pm and wondered how I was going to make it through another night like this.  I feel back asleep at 10:30 and was woken again at

5 AM!!!!!!

Cue the angels singing.

Seriously.

A little tiny glimmer of hope.

A small tiny pinprick of light at the end of this long tunnel.

The first year of life is one full of so much.  So much growth, so much development, so much learning, so many challenges, both for the babies and for their parents.

It can feel long.

It can feel hopeless at times.

Then there are these little moments where you understand that, yes, you can absolutely do this.

So for all you parents out there wondering if you’re going to make it.

You will, and you are.

Keep on going, you got this.

Inspiration

Inspiration has been an ongoing topic of discussion in my house lately.  My husband and I are both very drawn to things that spark inspiration – I would guess everyone is drawn to those things as well, but I wonder if everyone stops to appreciate these little sparks.  I would bet that in a world of fast everything – food, fashion, technology – that it’s getting harder and harder to not only recognize the sparks but also to appreciate them when they are recognized.

We’ve had an unexpectedly slow December with my husband being laid off in the first week of this month.  It’s a big blow for sure, and if we allowed ourselves to sink into worry and stress it would make this month horrendous.  I mean it’s the busiest and most expensive month of the year and here we are wondering how we’ll be able to pay the bills and buy the groceries let alone fill the bottom of the tree with presents.  We could definitely dwell on the negatives but that would only make it worse.  Instead our conversations and focus has been on our future, our goals and our dreams.  Somehow, though there are moments of stress, we’ve been able to stay positive and truly enjoy each day.

I’ve been thinking about this today.  I wonder what it is that we are doing that makes this time less stressful than I feel it should be, and I think it lies in our desire to fill our lives only with things that encourage and inspire us.  There are a few specific things that we have been doing, some of them for a while and others we are just starting to do.

A big place of inspiration for both of us is our home and how we fill it.  When you come to our house the first thing you would probably notice is the plants.  I’ve lost count at how many plants we now have, but it’s well over 50 and will continue to grow.  Plants inspire us to live closer to nature and to live simpler lives.  I’ve recently taken time to fill our office with inspirational art, things to remind us where we want to go and what it takes to get there.  We don’t fill our home with clutter but think carefully about each and everything we bring into it.

We both take time to listen, read, or watch things each day that inspire us to do better and be better.  My husband searches through Pinterest, reads things he finds on Facebook, and watches shows or documentaries that inspire him to overcome obstacles.  I belong to a bookclub dedicated to self development.  We read 10 pages per day and use an app called Marco Polo to discuss the book.  I also read my Bible daily and make sure I’m spending time in prayer.

Something else we are both passionate about: sparking inspiration in others and I think this goes a long long way when it comes to having a positive outlook on life.  If you know me, you know I love Instagram.  It’s been a love of mine for almost as long as it’s been around.  Over the years my use of the app has changed and now I mostly use it as an online journal.  Each thing I post will more than likely have a twist of positivity because I feel strongly about building people up and letting go of negativity.  If I can’t post something positive I probably won’t post that day.  My husband is the same way with Facebook, he only shares what he feels will encourage others.  You can also listen to him on the phone daily, talking to his friends and speaking words of life and encouragement.

I’m beginning to see the absolute importance of inspiration in our lives, and I truly think it’s the key to why we can stay positive in a stressful time.

What’s your daily inspiration?

Homeschooling

If you would have asked me when I became a mother if I wanted to Homeschool I would have said HECK NO! I was 100% on the side of public school, and actually thought that homeschool was detrimental to the development of children.

Not joking.

I also was under the impression that only crazy Christians who wanted to protect their children from the corruption of the “real” world homeschooled.

Guys – have I ever talked about that time in my life that I thought the entire world operated in black and white?

I’m so thankful for personal growth, because WOW.

Over the last year and a bit I’ve started to have a passion for homeschooling. There are a number of reasons for that and the closer we get to Kindergarten the stronger this grows.  The more we talk about it the more my husband and I feel like this is what needs to happen.

So, why homeschool?

Well, one of our biggest reasons is the fact that I can tailor my children’s learning to their unique interests and learning styles.  I never thought about this until this past year while watching Ezekiel’s love of learning develop.  He’s such a little sponge and actually gets upset if we don’t do school every day.  What he doesn’t realize is that all throughout the day we are actually doing school – just not sitting down writing and colouring.  I try to tune in to his interests (currently we are back to being completely obsessed with Thomas and Friends) and then use those interests to challenge his learning.  Right now we are working on pen control, confidence with writing, counting, letter sounds and sight words and most of what I do outside of our workbooks centres on Thomas and happens during Ezekiel’s “playtime.”  For example, we might count the number of freight cars that Thomas is pulling, talk about what letter Percy starts with or try and draw Gordon while colouring.  All of these things are done intentionally but seem like they are just part of our day.

Some other reasons we are leaning towards homeschool is:

  • Freedom of time to travel without being “pulled” from school.
  • Ability to homestead and not have to worry about formal school hours during busy seasons.
  • Ability to help develop strong work ethic and life skills beyond school work.
  • Ability to focus on our children’s unique personalities and skill sets.

Of course there are definitely downsides to homeschooling but at this point we really feel strongly that the benefits far outweigh the downsides.  So with that in mind we power forward and work hard to try and make that a reality for September 2019, which primarily means paying off debt in order to be able to bring me home at least for the majority of the time.

With this being our ultimate goal I figured that this year at home with Ezekiel would provide a great “trial” run with homeschool.  I decided that I would undertake home preschool.  I had grand plans, I tried laying it all out and building a curriculum while I was on bedrest and waiting for our sweet babe.  Then I became a mother of two, life was hectic and I was trying to figure it all out.  So my grand plans became my “good enough” plans and we’ve done everything very informally.  I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a bit disappointed with my inability to make it more formal.  Yet I recognize my limitations and honestly I think we’ve done pretty good considering all things.  I try to do some form of school at least 3 times a week and that looks much different each week.  What I am so excited about is the fact that I’ve seen Ezekiel advance leaps and bounds from a year ago.  He’s a really easy student to teach given that he’s the one asking daily if we can do school and he would honestly sit for a few hours and just learn.

So, this year hasn’t been perfect, and there’s a million and one things I would like to change once kindergarten hits but it has solidified our desire to homeschool even more and for that I’m saying it’s been successful!

Would you consider homeschooling your children?

I plan on sharing a bit more in detail our homeschool journey so feel free to ask some questions and I’ll try and answer!