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!

DIY Bathroom Scrub


Happy Sunday friends!

Yesterday I managed to get my whole house clean (save the floors which I did today), it had been far too long since my bathrooms had a good scrub.  As I was cleaning using the products I make myself I thought that it was about time I start to share some of my tried and true DIY and toxic free living recipes with you.

I’m going to start with one of my very favourites – my husband was even blown away after seeing how powerful this is! This scrub is amazing for showers, tubs, sinks, stove tops or really anything that needs a good scrub.  I use this once every month or two on our shower when I notice the hard water spots building up.  My all purpose cleaner (which I’ll share soon) keeps the build up at bay for the most part but every so often it needs a bit more of a cleaning. When using this on the shower I make sure to clean it right before I’m going to have a shower.  I scoop it out with a wet sponge, scrub the walls and then to rinse off I just jump into the shower – because of the peppermint oil I use I get a wonderfully invigorating wake up shower at the same time as getting a sparkling clean shower!  I’ve used this on tough to clean bath tub, dull and stained kitchen sinks, caked on and burnt food on stove tops and it’s worked amazing every time.

The recipe:

1/2 cup baking soda
1-2 Tbsp Dr.Bronner’s Castile Soap (I like non-scented so I can add my own scents)
Enough distilled water to make a paste (you can alternatively boil water and let it cool down)
10 drops each lemon and peppermint oil (or essential oil of your choosing)

Add everything to a glass jar and mix well.

Give it a try and let me know what you think! If you don’t have any essential oils (and want to try them out) feel free to contact me via e-mail or leave me a comment and I’ll give you some more info.  If you want to know why I use essential oils check out this post.

Becoming Oily


I’ve been wanting to start writing a lot more about my journey with essential oils – why I love them, how I got started, and how we are using them.  As always I don’t really write unless I get a spark of inspiration and today that inspiration is coming from my husband jumping on my oily band wagon! So before the inspiration fades I’m going to just hammer out a post in true “Ashley” fashion.

I’ve been using essential oils for about 3.5 years now – ever since Ezekiel was a baby.  I’ve written before about how I really started to focus on wellness when he was a baby.  I’ve been back and forth on this wellness journey – one step forward a couple back, two steps forward one back and it goes on and on.  I’ve found beauty in this journey and I have no shame about my set backs because each one has taught me something new.  So anyways, when Ezekiel was a baby I ordered a starter kit from Young Living.  I chose Young Living after researching other companies and realizing that their Seed to Seal process was and is far superior to any other company out there.  I guess the gardener/farmer in me just really resonates with planting a seed, growing that seed and preserving the amazing product that comes from that, but I don’t think you need to be a farmer or gardener to appreciate knowing EXACTLY where the product is coming from and how it got there.

After receiving my starter kit I basically only used my oils for diffusing in replacement of candles as well as for all my own cleaning products.  I didn’t dive any deeper into the science of the oils or how they could really support our bodies and our health.  My main purpose in using them was to eliminate some toxins in our home, to have cleaning products that I could use while my small son could be right beside me helping and I wasn’t worried about him putting anything in his mouth or touching the products.

Fast forward to this past year, and specifically the last few months and I’ve been diving deep into the health portion of essential oils and I am BLOWN AWAY at just how incredible these little bottles are and how they are changing our lives.  I’m not going to share all of the ways here right now – that post would be far too long.  Here’s the thing: there is actual science behind these oils.  They may not be researched much in western medicine (but we are getting there!) but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t true science in the oils.  I used to think they were a bit “hokey” but since starting to learn the actual science I’m 100% a believer in these oils.  The same science that applies to any drug also applies to oils but oils are FAR superior!

Please don’t get me wrong – I am in no way saying we should all ditch the drugs we are on and use only essential oils.  I am currently taking two prescription medications and I will not be replacing those with essential oils but I WILL be supporting my body and all it’s systems with essential oils especially my immune system.  My husband is hoping to reduce the amount of prescription drugs he is taking by starting to eat healthier and use essential oils to support his body as well because the drugs he is currently taking definitely can be reduced by lifestyle changes.

So don’t think that just because I’m a bit more crunchy than before that I’m swearing off western medicine – not true and I don’t think that will ever be true of me.  What I am saying is that the less toxins and man made and manufactured things we put into our bodies the healthier we will be.  I’m so excited to be on this journey and the more changes I see in myself and my family the more I want to share!

If you have ANY questions at all PLEASE connect with me, I have so much more to share and I’ll be doing that on the blog from time to time but I really love a good one on one chat!

You can find me on Facebook or Instagram (m_l_ashley) or E-mail me at joyofsimplicityblog@gmail.com

Are you currently an oil user? Have they changed your life like they have changed mine??

Garden Update August 5, 2017

I wrote this post sitting in a  car, driving to my parents.  It’s a long drive and an even longer one with two kids – one being 4 months old.  I figured it was a good time to post another update! We are enjoying our very short trip and I’m really hoping the garden is still doing well when we return! That’s the downside of gardening – travelling is hard to do unless you have someone to tend to the gardens. 

It’s been a busy week around here but I still managed to get some gardening done.  I finally have all the tomatoes supported, including catching up on the big gardens tomato weave – the pictures I have were taken on Tuesday before I finished the weave.  The greenhouse tomatoes have almost grown taller than their supports and still look awesome.  The outside potted tomatoes don’t look amazing but they’ve all been fertilized now so hopefully they perk up.  The garden peppers seemed to have liked the fertilizer, there are lots of peppers popping up now and they look a lot greener and healthier.  We are eating a zucchini a day and I think I’ll be making a lot of zucchini baked goods.  I put up a garden net securing it to the garden box and then to the fence for the butternut squash, watermelon, and cucumbers to climb.  I haven’t had any flowers or fruit on any of those yet – next year I definitely have to start them early in the greenhouse.  

I think that’s it for updates this week.  Seemed like the tomatoes are all getting ready to start ripening – then the fun begins! 

Disclaimer: you are about to see my yard in its truest form – always cluttered with various things Ezekiel drags around.  I did clean it right after these pictures but in the spirit of keeping it real didn’t retake them! 


That’s it for this week! Happy gardening friends! 

Garden Update July 8,2017

I’d really love to make these updates more regulated – like say – make an update every Sunday.  Yet this time in my life and motherhood journey I’m learning to be ok with “good enough” for most things.  So I take pictures regularly (confession: currently I have more garden pictures on my phone than kiddo pictures) and when I have some time to sit on my phone (and not scroll Instagram) I’ll write out a post.  Right now my baby needs some momma snuggles while sleeping so I have Jessica Jones on Netflix (my husband and I have recently become obsessed with all the Netflix original Marvel shows) and a post to write.

Since I last wrote I’ve actually gotten quite a lot accomplished in the garden.  I have all the tomatoes potted up, the tomatoes in the garden are pruned, supported and fertilized.  I harvested A LOT of greens and we’ve been enjoying salads daily.  The garden is growing amazingly, the wildflowers are blooming more and more each day, the herbs are coming along well, the tomatoes are mostly all flowering and many have tomatoes, and the peppers are finally starting to perk up and we already have a few growing.

This next week there’s a couple “have to” items on my list: hang up a shade cloth in the greenhouse and pot up the rest of the peppers.  Along with those two things I’m going to try and work through the rest of the potted tomatoes – prune them, stake them and fertilize them.  Lots and lots to do around here!

So here’s the last while in pictures:

Now, here’s the garden today:

Garden Update June 22

I’ve been trying to sit down and write this for a couple days but each time I try a little person needs my help.  I suppose that’s the life of a mom – especially moms of younger ones.  So I’ve resorted to writing this on my phone – convenient but not as trust worthy when it comes to spelling (dang autocorrect!) so forgive any grammatical and spelling mistakes.  

It’s been a good week in the garden. We are going to be having fresh salads next week and I cannot wait! There’s several tomatoes forming, some of the plants have sun damage but there’s lots of healthy new growth which is what really matters. The hot peppers seem to be struggling I guess I should have been a bit more patient before putting them in the garden.  I have a lot still in the greenhouse to fall back on if they don’t produce anything.  My paprika peppers, jalapeños, and sweet peppers all seem to be doing well though! The rest of the garden is sprouted and growing – I’m most surprised by the watermelons, really hoping to get at least one! The wildflower gardens are thriving as well – it’s going to be fun seeing what pops up there when they start to bloom.  

Here’s the pictures this week: 


Gourmet, rocky top, and midnight ruffle lettuce in the back.  


Arugula (super delicious!) and kale in the back.  Swischard and spinach in the middle.


Butternut squash, cucumbers and watermelon, peppers in the back. 


The tall pepper plants are paprika, then there’s the tomato forest! 


The rest of the peppers and the squash at the back. 


I’ll never tire of looking at this! Greens in the back, carrots in the center and onions in the front. 


Barrels of potatoes are doing well – time to add more dirt.


Ezekiel’s gardens are also doing pretty good.  I’m interested to see for how long they do well.  Carrots in the top picture and peas in the bottom.


Wildflower beauty.


Last but not least – the greenhouse.

How are you gardens growing? Any fun surprises? Or hard challenges? 

Happy gardening friends! 

Garden Update July 31

Well, another 2 week garden update.  It’s been busy and I’ve been pretty tired lately so blogging hasn’t been on the top of my list.  However, the garden is doing pretty great!  I have a lot of cucumber’s starting but none that have produced anything, today I did some manual pollinating so hopefully I get a few!  Some of my peppers weren’t doing so great in the greenhouse so I cleaned it out completely and put all the plants on the deck.  I’m hoping they perk up.  I’ve had some zucchini’s, tomatoes, a pepper and of course greens harvested.  A lot of flowers have started to open which is fun for me, I’ve never really grown flowers before.

Without further ado here’s the pics!

July 24:

July 31:

Until next week friends!

Taking Back Control

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I’ve been thinking a lot today about living with a chronic illness and/or chronic pain.  I bet there’s thousands upon thousands of blog posts on this subject but I process best through writing and so I will add my few words to the millions already written.  Grab a coffee with me and keep reading if you’re interested :).

Why this post today?  Well I guess it’s because the last couple days I’ve been struggling more with my energy and so I’ve been wondering why.  I’ve gone through the mental list of possible reasons and in the end I think it’s just what comes with the territory of chronic illness – and you know, that’s OK.  I’ve come to the conclusion that there will always be ups and downs but I really think living well through all of it requires consistency, persistence, and a whole lot of grace.

I’m not quiet about my medical conditions/history, in fact I’m probably annoyingly verbal about it.  Yet if you were to meet me and spend a week with me and if I were not to verbalize anything you would never know that I have any sort of condition (granted you could probably pick up on the twisted back if you were really paying attention).  In fact I would have never ever given myself a label of “chronic” anything up until a couple years ago.  I suppose I never labelled anything until I was trying to conceive and was advised to stop taking my NSAID’s to boost my chances.  In that moment I began to understand that I did in fact suffer from chronic pain and had done so for so many years that I can’t remember a time without pain.  Despite the chronic aspect of my pain I continued to live well and it really didn’t impact much of anything in my life.

Fast forward to the last 7 months.

I was just coming out of my full time working momma fog and began to realize that I had been feeling significantly unwell.  I’ve already wrote about my health struggles but it’s only recently that I have accepted that this too could very well be a chronic thing.  The thing is, it’s only the last 4-6 weeks that I’ve began feeling well again despite my health issues.  I feel as though I’m finally rising above the fog and now that every serious scenario has been ruled out I can finally begin to gain control again.  See, in the midst of all of this I had allowed myself to spiral downwards in a number of ways.  I felt out of control of my health as a whole and because of that I began to feel out of control of other areas of my life – spiritually, mentally, and financially.  I am so thankful for amazing physicians who allowed me to find solutions – even if they are just helping symptoms at this point – so that I could be lifted out of the dizzy fog and back onto solid ground.

A couple weeks ago I made the conscious decision that I was now going to gain back some control.  Obviously I know I’m never fully in control but there are always steps we can take to live well and live responsibly in a way that benefits our own lives and therefore the lives around us.  The hard part is realizing that it is our responsibility to live well, and living well always takes a certain amount of effort and consistency.  I know from past experience that it is very possible to live well despite chronic illness and pain and I am determined to get back to that point.  Here’s what I’m doing to get to that point:

Physical

  • Daily walking – this means getting up as early as 0445 in the morning and walking for a minimum of 30 minutes as well as getting out for walks during the day.  There’s not a lot I can do safely in terms of exercise but walking is easy, cheap and safe.
  • 3x/week body weight exercise – a lot of the time this is a very short amount of time and crammed into the daily routines of life.  It looks like dance parties with my son incorporating squats, planks, push-ups etc, or cooking supper while doing squats, or planking during Ezekiel’s bath time.
  • Eating fresh and eating green – having the garden has helped a lot with this part and I’m not being strict yet because I know it will be a natural evolution of life but I am trying to be far more conscious of what goes into my mouth.

Mental

  • Podcasts – I’ve been listening to a lot of health and wellness podcasts that have greatly enhanced my mental health.  I love learning but rarely have time to do new learning so this is something that’s easy to do while walking and driving.
  • Sleep – I’ve been getting to bed at a consistent time and waking at a consistent time.
  • Walking and exercise also contributes to mental wellness.

Spiritual

  • Meditation – I’ve committed to a daily meditation using an app.  I don’t outline a specific amount of time or what I want to accomplish – all of that will come with practice.

Financially

  • Keep the credit cards at home – I’ve taken them out of my wallet and put them away in a drawer.  I don’t do much online shopping so that’s not even a temptation for me but I consistently have been using my credit cards when I run out of cash and then paying them off with my pay cheques instead of just keeping myself accountable to the budget.  I’m determined to be credit card debt free in the next few months so that I can focus on paying student loans/debts.  The easiest way to get rid of the temptation is to remove it all together.
  • Strict grocery budget – I spend a ridiculous amount of money on food.  So I’ve instituted a strict grocery budget and I’m following it by using a calculator in the grocery store which helps me to say “no” to those extra items that I don’t really need but think I want.  When I go to the farmers market I take only the amount of cash left over from the grocery store and leave my wallet in the car so I’m not tempted to by anything extra.
  • Drink drip coffee – this is huge for me guys.  This was the hardest one to come to terms with.  If I have some extra money in the budget I’ll buy my special coffee but otherwise I’ll drink the drip coffee that my husband drinks.

There are sacrifices that need to be made but I know that these small sacrifices now will reap amazing rewards when it comes to living well and especially living well with chronic illnesses and pain.  Each part of our lives are intertwined and when one part is suffering the other parts are sure to follow which is why I’m addressing each area of my life in order to gain back wellness.

The end goal is to be in optimal health before getting pregnant with our next child and I’m determined to reach that goal.

 

Garden Update July 17

How did three weeks go by? It’s been a busy time around here.  The first of those 3 weeks was full of work for me, I worked 6/7 days which was nuts.  After that I spent time catching up around the house and garden and then we were off to Saskatchewan for a wedding.  This past week I’ve been doing things here and there around the house, doing a TONNE of walking (a post on that to come soon with an update on my health) and a couple night shifts thrown in there.  So to say we’ve been busy is a bit of an understatement but it’s been good, so so good.

The rain hasn’t stopped in what seems like weeks.  The yard and gardens are water logged and squishy and I’m really hoping for some sun this week to help the veggies grow.  Despite the lack of sun things seem to be doing well although my tomato plants are really begging for sun, a lot of the fruit is split on the bottoms and the leaves are curling on a lot of plants – sure signs of overwatering.

I’ve had quite a bit of harvesting to do, mostly leafy greens, lots of kale and swiss chard.  There have been 4 tomatoes that we have enjoyed and 2 zucchini’s which have been sautéed and loved.  The spinach and radishes are completely done, pulled and composted and I’ve replaced them with three different types of lettuce.   I thought we would be drowning in greens but actually we keep running out and having to harvest more!  I’m finding that I’m just becoming more creative in incorporating them into our meals and so far everyone has enjoyed it which is a very good thing :).

Despite me not writing posts with updates I’ve been taking pictures with intentions of blogging so here’s pictures from the week of July 3.

Now from the week of July 10:

Finally, this past week:

Well that’s it for now.  Hopefully this week I’ll have time to do some more blogging that’s not just gardening.

Ciao friends!

Garden Update June 26

I’ve been waiting all day to be able to post this.  I literally had these photos done by 730 this morning and here it is 1030 at night when I should be sleeping.  It’s been a good day but a day that has been full of family and friends being together and the in between has been time to sit and just be.  So I may pay for this in the morning but I really wanted to get this update up.

The garden is thriving and I couldn’t be happier.  We are now enjoying garden goodies daily.  One of my regrets is not planting more lettuce earlier on but I will be planting more this week.

Let’s start in the big garden, the tomatoes are doing lovely.  I must admit though, they are now getting to the point of growing like crazy and I’m a little overwhelmed with the upkeep.  I thought I’d be able to do weekly up keeping but I’m finding it now has to be done every few days.  I can’t complain though, they have some beautiful looking tomatoes on them!

 

I have thinned everything out to the best of my ability and now it’s just weeding and harvesting to do.  One variety of carrot did really well, the other is pretty sparse.  The seeds were a few years old so that’s likely why.  My terrible planting is really evident by how much (or little) space is between things.  I’ll be pulling all the radishes this week.  We aren’t huge radish eaters so I didn’t plant a lot but what I did plant has done really well.  I’m actually really impressed because I’ve tried to grow them several times with no luck.  The three varieties of lettuce I tried growing did absolutely nothing – there is some romaine growing though.  In the place of the radishes and where the lettuce didn’t grow I’ll be planting a mixed variety of lettuce which I have been growing in a container and we really like.  I’m not sure how the beets are doing, but judging by their tops I think they are ok.  The spinach and kale are doing really great, I did a big harvest today which is almost gone already, we are eating greens like crazy lately.

Now the smaller garden:

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The butternut squash plants are struggling, I’m not sure if I let them grow too long in small pots before planting them.  I’m going to pick up a plant tonic to try out and see if that makes them happier.

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The spaghetti squash, zucchini’s, and cucumbers are doing well though:

The pumpkin seeds I thought were duds finally sprouted.  I doubt anything will produce from them but I’m willing to wait and see.

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The flowers are doing well other than the Violas which I’m pretty sure never germinated, there are some plants growing there that I’m almost positive are just weeds but I can’t pull them just in case!

The greenhouse gardens are doing well.  Everything is coming up, some more slowly than others but I have high hopes.  I ended up deadheading the snapdragons after this photo.

The greenhouse plants seem to be doing well – the peppers especially.  The tomatoes I’m not sure about, one of them seems to just be shooting high with very little branches.  I’m interested to see if it produces much.  I’m really excited about the amount of blooms starting on the habanero’s and there’s a few peppers growing already.

The deck tomatoes are doing so much better than I expected and our container strawberries started to really produce!

Now it’s way past my bedtime and 5am is going to come quickly! I have some posts brewing in the back of my mind so I hope to get some time to jot those down.  For now I’ll just say see you next week! If you have a garden blog please share it with me, I’m obsessed with browsing gardens 🙂

Ciao friends!