Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil Review and Giveaway!

Photo of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil - 32 oz. Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut oil is hand-made in small batches by farmers and families in the Philippines.

In case you hadn't noticed, I am a huge fan of coconut oil.  I first discovered it when we learned about real food and the importance of a traditional diet.    Immediately, I fell in love with it.  I was completely amazed at its versatility; I could use it to cook an egg, roast vegetables, fry doughnuts or make candy.  I also use it topically - it feels wonderful on the skin, and smells great! I use it as a make-up remover and moisturizer. There is always a small jar of coconut oil in my bathroom.

I feel good about using this natural, traditional oil in my home: for my children as well as myself.   We go through a lot of coconut oil, too; Jeff and I estimate that we purchase a good 20-25 gallons each year.  Therefore I'm always looking for a good price for a quality product, and from a seller I trust.

I have purchased coconut oil from several different sources over the past several years, and recently I had an opportunity to try Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil for the first time.    This is the highest quality of coconut oil the company offers, which is saying something.  I have used expeller-pressed as well as cold-pressed coconut oils, and honestly I believe that they're both nice products.

However, I've been reminded that all coconut oils are not created equal.  The Gold Label virgin coconut oil is a nice consistency and much easier to scoop out of its container.  It also seems to work much better as a frying oil; my eggs are beautifully done and come out of the pan without getting stuck on the bottom of it...something with which I'd been fairly frustrated recently.  It also makes delicious raw fudge; see the link in the Recipes section of my sidebar.

I found this coconut oil to have a pleasant coconut scent.  I did not notice a coconut flavor in the foods prepared with it.   The thing I most enjoy about it is the texture - it is quite a bit more smooth than some of the coconut oils I have tried, which is quite nice.

Would you like to give it a try?  Well then...this is your lucky day - because I am hosting my very first giveaway!  You have the chance to win a quart of Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil.   Just follow the directions below.

To enter this giveaway, simply subscribe to Tropical Traditions' email news Newsletter by clicking on THIS LINK.  Then come back and tell me in a comment that you are subscribed!  It's that easy.  If you already subscribe to this newsletter, you can just post a comment on this post stating the fact.

This giveaway is available only to those in the U.S. and Canada.

This giveaway is running from Thursday February 28th through Monday March 4th.

Disclaimer: 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.

How to use Coconut Oil:

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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

the Facebook fallacy

Let me start by saying that I enjoy Facebook very much.  I've found it a fun way to get to know people I meet and to reconnect with those from earlier periods of my life.  I love it as a way to share what's going on with my life and my family with those far away.  My friends' remarks in this medium make me laugh, encourage me, touch me, and sometimes bring tears to my eyes.  FB is an undeniably popular mode of communication.

Of course, it has its critics.  There are those who say that FB limits our interactions with others to superficial exchanges, though I must say I don't agree with that.  I feel that my own relationships have been strengthened as I've gotten to know my acquaintances better - perhaps because I am such an introvert.  It is true though, that people are often more bold and even reckless with their words at times when they are online.  Something about being behind a computer screen can do that to people.  It's important to measure what one is saying and consider how it might come across.  As friendships have grown through this avenue, surely some relationships have been destroyed by it.

And of course, there's the temptation to make oneself look good.  To share only the happy times, to make it appear that everything it perfect and that you actually have it all together.  To "airbrush" the side of your life shown to those FB friends - showing none of the warts or blemishes in your life.

This is the crux of my post today.

You see, I find it a bit of a challenge, deciding what to "put out there."  If I post sweet photos of my kids and news about what I'm doing in the kitchen, it might appear that everything is smooth and peaceful in my home all the time.   If I mention that we're struggling with math one day or express frustration about how the morning is going, I'm often feel that I'm grumbling.  (I've actually had someone say, referring to Facebook, "It sounds like you're having a really bad week!"  And I had no idea what they were talking about.  I walked away from that conversation wondering if I was becoming a whiner.)

Just how honest should we be?  How blunt?   I'm fairly sure no one wants to see photos of (or even hear about) the unflushed toilets that drive me absolutely insane.   I am thankful for my life, and grateful for the opportunity to I complaining if I talk about how much I didn't want to educate my children this morning?  Do I mention the bickering children, or does that only spread negativity and bring everyone down?  These are the things I wrestle with.

I've gotten the impression more than once that people gather from my Facebook "persona" that I'm this fantastic, awe-inspiring, super-organized woman with the patience of a saint.  I assure you, I am not.  And I don't desire to present this image of myself either.  What I am attempting to do it accentuate the positive and focus on the good things - all the gifts in my life.

I read an article this week which stated, in a nutshell, that everyone should just stop lying on Facebook.  It spoke about lies of omission.  My question is, how do we find that balance?  That balance between this...

"Blessed." from November 2012

...and the surprises I discover in the toilet each and every day.

I want honesty.  I want transparency.  But is letting loose with how (extremely!) frustrated I am at my kids' constant messes the way to do that?  Or going on and on when I'm feeling discouraged and upset about how the day has gone?  I'm truly not certain.

For now I plan on continuing to try and strike that balance.  Finding humor in the tough stuff, delighting in the blessings.  And being honest about the fact that I fall short just the same as everybody else.

What do you think?  How do you define the word "honesty" in our interactions online?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

sad but true

My littlest boy needs his first haircut.

Monday, February 25, 2013

ready or not, here we come

My brood and I were off to Monday School today!  It was a fun whirlwind of a day, only a half day to ease us into it all.  I got to chat with some wonderful ladies and enjoy the fellowship of other families who have chosen this path.

We're so thankful for our co-op and for all the people who work so hard to make it happen.   The kids had a wonderful time, and so did I.   Here's to a great spring term!

*Gabriel was squeezing in a nap before we headed off.  One benefit to his very early morning today!

Friday, February 22, 2013

a boy & his booch

Owen loves kombucha.  I'm talking adores.

When I go to pour him his daily glass, he comes running.  "Kombucha alert, kombucha alert!" he says.

A kombucha alert is a very happy thing.  And whenever Owen invents a superhero, that hero?  Drinks kombucha.

"Hey, what are you doing here in my picture?"

"It's alright.  Let's have some kombucha!"


Thursday, February 21, 2013

sign #57 I might be a little obsessive

I secretly organize my children's kitchen.

Chicken in the fridge, ice cream in the freezer.   But keep those tomatoes on the counter!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

small kindnesses

Lately I've been blessed by small kindnesses my children are showing to one another.

Little moments where they're choosing to think about others first.  Taking them into consideration.   Loving their siblings.

Those times are a nice respite from the bickering which sometimes seems so prevalent.  I know it happens with siblings.  I have a brother; I remember.  But still there's an ongoing quest in the better direction.  At least there is for me as their mother.

Checking in when his brother didn't feel well, to see how he could help.

Giving a toy away.

Playing with a fussy toddler-baby.

Saying they're sorry.


Working overtime to repair broken trust.

Sharing a snack.

Inviting a younger child to play with them.

Impetuously saying "I love you."

These things...they may not be the norm yet, but I do see them in my young brood.  These things give me hope that my little ones may still grow up to be caring and generous adults.  When I see my children making the choice to put someone else first, to lay down their own rights, to show love, it blesses me.

They bless me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

my go-to coconut flour recipes

Coconut flour and I have had a tumultuous relationship.  I love the idea, but the reality of flavor and texture has sometimes left me wanting.  Coconut flour is wonderfully nutritious, low-carb and a great source of both fiber and protein.  It's a wonderful gluten-free option, and it avoids some of the issues associated with consuming large amounts of almond flour.  The texture is different, however, and coconut flour is a bit temperamental - so I don't recommend substituting it for other flours, at least not without careful planning.

I very rarely develop recipes; I prefer to let other people do that work for me!  But in hopes of keeping my youngest son grain-free for as long as possible (at the very least until 18 or 24 months), I've been looking into coconut flour ideas lately.  And because this is my blog, I thought I'd share some of our favorites.

Coconut flour is pricey, but for most recipes a little goes quite a long way.  So you're using considerably less than with other flours.  I'm talking 1/4-1/2 cup for most recipes.  Pretty economical.

Something else to remember is that coconut flour needs a lot of eggs.  If you're planning to experiment much with this stuff, you might want to stock up.

Alright, without further ado, my current go-to coconut flour recipes:

Cinnamon Bun Muffins from Comfy Belly.  We love this recipe!  It's especially handy to mix them up just after dinner - then enjoy them the next morning for breakfast, ready-made.  This recipe is sweet, spiced, and tender.  I enjoy them best when I've added a shake or two of cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter before filling the muffin pan.  Delicious.

Coconut Flour Waffles from Health, Home & Happiness.  We enjoy them with pureed pumpkin stirred into the batter, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  I appreciate waffles because they're fairly quick to mix up, and then they're cooking while do other breakfasty things - such as cooking the eggs.

This Pancake Mix from Andrea Fabry of Handpicked Nation.  The link is to a list of real food gift ideas.  Sroll down the page and you'll see a recipe for coconut flour pancake mix.  I've been messing with coconut pancakes for several years now, and this is by far my favorite!  It may be the extra egg, possibly the addition of vanilla, but they're far superior to the other ones I've tried.  Easier to turn with a great flavor and texture.  Coconut flour pancakes can be very tricky, and I was so pleased to come across this gem.

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Muffins by Cheeseslave.  In a word, ohmywordIlovethesesomuch!  Savory, cheesy, flavored with bacon (I've also used sausage crumbles).   So, so good!

Banana Chocolate Chip Coconut Flour Bread by Chocolate and Carrots.  A very nice basic banana bread.  Let it cool before you slice!

Coconut-Lemon Meltaway Cookies by Addicted to Veggies.   I am a big lover of (almost) all things lemon, and these are a lovely springtime cookie.  I don't use agave nectar in my kitchen, so I replaced that with honey.  The honey I had on hand was a delicious but rather heavy orange blossom variety.  I suspect these cookies would've been lighter and even more "melty" if I'd used a lighter flavored honey, or even agave.  Still, very nice.

Maple Pecan Cupcakes from Riddlelove.   Alright, people.  I love pecans.  I mean, I really love them.  But I made this recipe on a day when I didn't have a pecan in the house, and I didn't have time to make the icing either.  The cupcakes were still awesome.  Try them.  Now.  Just do it.

Assuming you have coconut flour, of course.

That about covers it; my current favorites when it comes to coconut flour.  Coconut is amazing stuff.  The more I learn about it, the more I'm astounded by it.   Finding more ways to work it into my family's diet is a definite goal of mine.   Happy eating!

Monday, February 18, 2013

this and that on a Monday night

Here are a few random, rambling thoughts at the close of a long weekend...

I chose to spend the time slot usually allotted for exercise to organize closets.  The result is a happy one, but I'm left with the haunting feeling that my stomach could've been flatter this evening.

My husband was off work for the holiday, and the neighbor kids were home too... but I still made my boys do school.  I'm mean like that.

Actually, I'm scared like that.  I don't know how I became a slave to the School Schedule, but I am.  I've always had that tendency.  I think it's that I'm just insecure about things, specifically about how we operate as a homeschool I try not to take many days off.  Weekdays, that is.  I'm not mean enough to make my kids do fractions on a Saturday after all.

Speaking of school insecurities, I'm cracking down on the horrendous spelling of late.  Today was the first day doing "daily tests," and I think it went alright.  I was ridiculously nervous, though.

Not mean, just nervous.

In other news, my toddler is hilarious.  That child is chock full of character.  I may need to hire a nanny by the time he turns two,  It could be a wild ride!

It's amazing what a difference some shelves can make!  We inherited some recently, and the younger boys' dresser is neat for the first time in ages!  They finally have a place for those odds and ends.  And there was much rejoicing!

My husband planted peas in the garden by himself today.  I let him do it.

Dinner was was crumbly.  It seems to always turn out crumbly.  I've taken to calling it "Mealoaf Crumble."  Happily it still tasted delicious!

I'm off to put my hilarious toddler to bed.   G'night!

Friday, February 15, 2013

I was spared!

Remember this post?  The one where I was wondering rather self-indulgently whether or not I would fall to the same sicknesses which claimed (nearly) the rest of my family?

Just thought you might liked to know that... I was spared.  Against all odds, I was spared.  I think it's safe to say it now that this much time has passed.  In the face of high fevers, sleep-robbing coughs, and gastrointestinal distress, all I ended up with was a cold which had completely run its course within 48 hours -and a small cough.

Not bad.  Not bad at all.

What saved me?   The fermented food?  The extra cod liver oil?  The excessive hand-washing, the essential oils?  The crazy onion-in-a-bowl idea? The mercy and kindness of my Lord...or was it that and a blend of all of these other things?

I don't know.  In truth, I hardly care.  Because, although there are times when a day on the couch with an afghan and a warm beverage sound awfully inviting...I really did not want to be sick.

So I'll offer thanks to my Creator.  I'll continue to tinker with alternative and natural remedies.  And I'll certainly keep on washing my hands, and I'll accept it joyfully.

With or without an explanation, a gift is a gift.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

try, try again: Valentine's Day

Holidays such as Valentine's Day are not my strong suit.  Remember this post from last year?  I mean, I used to do alright with them, before we had kids.  My husband and I made a point of doing something special, as well as getting one another a little something.   But when we had kids, things got a bit more difficult.  We'd still mark the day in some way, but the regular going out, even the gift-giving, has gone the way of the dinosaur.  I'm alright with that, truly - and we still give one another carefully-chosen cards.  But the rest of it has faded away.

And as you may know, I've never been particularly crafty or creative.  As a result I'm a pretty boring mother to have on minor holidays such as this.  I despise doing crafts and I hate creating clutter.  So yeah, not so fun.  

I did make a bit of an effort today, though.

When I was preparing our sourdough waffles this morning, I put some of our natural, plant-based food dye in.  Red, you see, for pink waffles.  The batter barely had the grace to blush.  I even dared to drizzle in some magenta liquid from my jar of pickled beets.  It made almost no difference (perhaps I wasn't sufficiently bold to add enough?).  The children didn't mind the beety addition, but neither did the result look pink.  If I hadn't mentioned it to the kids I don't think they'd have noticed at all.

In a flash of inspiration, I whipped up some honey butter, "for my honeys."  A little orange blossom honey, some cinnamon  a drizzle of vanilla and some softened, pastured butter.  It was delicious!  But alas, my brood didn't care for it.

At this point I pretty much gave up.  I'd had thoughts of printing out some coloring sheets with hearts on them (see how crafty and creative I am?), but my son only wanted Leapfrog, so...whatever.

Still, I managed to make a big heart cookie for us all to share after dinner tonight.  I'll light the candles and play music, and I'm sure they'll be fairly pleased with those offerings.  But that's all I've got.  At least, all that I'm willing to blog about.

So here's to all us underachievers out there.  Those of us who work our fingers to the bone, who love our kids desperately, but are chronically unable to jazz things up much for the day of Love.  

Let's hope the big chocolate chip cookie will carry the day.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


1)    Owen, age 4, looking at the cat, "Mom, why didn't we name her Cuteness?  We should've named her Cuteness and not Molly..."

2)   Benjamin, age 10, referring to his 14-month-old brother, "Gabe looks just exactly like a gummy bear.  Especially when he's sitting down!"

3)   Kyle, age 7, at dinnertime, "May I please have some more potatoes?"
Owen, "I want some more tomatoes too."
Me, "Owen, they're potatoes."
Owen, "That's just what I said!"
 (Remember this post?)

4)  Me, "Ben, I haven't noticed a problem or anything...but you're getting old enough that you might want to start wearing deodorant."
Elise (who is sitting next to Ben), very excited, "And me too?!?!?!"

5)  My boys, vying daily for their sister's affection.  I'm afraid she may end up getting spoiled after all...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

a berry sweet time

Another busy weekend: we had a certain little (I mean big!) girls' birthday party.  She chose - and was very excited about - a Strawberry Shortcake theme.  You did know that Strawberry Shortcake is in again, didn't you?  It's like my own childhood all over again when I walk through the store these days...

For the first time ever, I chose not to bake my child's cake/cakes for a party.  We ordered these beauties from a rather famous local cake shop, and they were scrumptious!

Elise had a lovely group of girlfriends over to help celebrate, but as you may remember, I try not to post photos of other people's children on my blog.  Still, here's the birthday girl (and a couple of brothers).

Jeff's parents were able to join us, which is always lovely.   I have the best in-laws! 

In the end, it was a very sweet, very pink, very fun day, berry full day.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

a success story: self-perception

Here's a funny thing:  I find myself feeling better about my body more and more.

I haven't made great strides toward my goals, and although I've been faithful in my routines (exercise, skin brushing), I haven't lost any dress sizes just yet.  Don't worry, I'm not discouraged.  I'm mostly feeling good about how I'm eating, though of course no one can eat perfectly all the time.  At present things are holding pretty steady - my efforts as well as my waistline.

But here's the interesting part.  It seems that the more tender care I take of my physical self, the more I am able to overlook the flaws I still see reflected in the mirror.

Take skin brushing, for example.  Each morning I am taking a few minutes to tend to my skin.  To go through a specific routine, to cater to my feet, legs, stomach, etc.  As I work my way almost feels like a love letter to my body.  It's as if I'm saying: "You're worth it.  I believe in you.  I want to take care of you."  Perhaps it seems far-fetched, but as I take the time to do this, and the other things I've made a priority, I'm  growing an appreciation for my tangible form.  For my shape.

I suppose maybe it's something like praying for one's enemy.

But my body is not my enemy - although it has seemed so at times in the past.  It's a part of my human self.  It has served me well; it continues to serve me well.

It's true that I am seeing some differences.  The brushing is helping, and so is the regular exercising.  I see toning where there was scarce before; I can feel that I am stronger.  And when I make wise choices about the foods I put into my body, I feel better on many different levels.  There is progress here - slow, steady, but not altogether intangible.

And so, I believe I've had some success.  Not so much in hard, cold numbers - the scale, the measurements, the figures on the tags of my clothing - but in my attitude.  In my heart.  In my level of acceptance, appreciation, and ...yes, joy.   I am learning to take joy in my shape again.

It's all so worth it.  Maybe I will be a success story after all.

Friday, February 8, 2013

more than rubies

This is a surprise guest post by Jeff (Mindy's husband)

I know it's cliche, but it's amazing what you see and hear when you stop and take a moment or two. Earlier this week I was sicker than I have been in a long time. So sick that I didn't even feel up to watching tv while I rested. So there was lots of quiet. And in that quiet, I heard things float up from downstairs every once in a while. Mindy's sing-song request for someone to complete an assignment. Her excitement at some small accomplishment or treasure that one of the littles brought to her. The stern words when there was disobedience. And the welcoming invitation to lunch when it was ready.

Mindy will claim it was delirium, but as I told her that day, I was reminded of why I love her so much and how amazing a woman she really is. I've always known, but being in a position to just listen and soak it all in was amazing. I know I don't tell her how amazing she is often enough. What a great teacher, nurse, chef, disciplinarian, cheerleader, counselor... Simply put, what a great mother she is and what a wonderful wife she is.

Thank you for all the hard work you do to keep Isom Academy and our household in general successful. If I could give you a raise, I would, but I can't so I hope my love and gratitude will suffice.

Mindy, You Rock! Thank you!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

just call him... little sous chef.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Our darling girl celebrates her birthday today!  I can hardly believe it has been three years since this beautiful blessing made her entrance.  

We love you, Elise!