I tried to make as many Christmas gifts as possible this year and one of the gifts I made was  grapevine wreath.  I did not want a traditional Christmas wreath so I made a natural themed wreath with moss and plants.  

Materials Used

dry grapevine
a bow
moss
cut pine cone "flowers"
lotus podseucalyptus
acorns 
small wired bulbs

Making the wreath is easy.  I bought a wire support from a local craft store and then just wound the grapevine  around it until it was as thick as I wanted.  I used some wire to hold it in place in certain spots but other than that I just twisted it in such a way that it stuck.  

I knew I wanted green moss and matched the bow to it and fortunately I also found little bulbs that matched my bow.  The rest is just setting it up.  I placed the wreath before me on a chair to set it up.  When I was happy I used a craft glue gun to secure all the pieces.  
 
 
As some of you know I have been on a health kick the past month and a half.  After gaining so much weight after my wedding last year and feeling so down after  all the holiday feasting my motivation finally has kicked in! 

 I do not know what happened to me to be in such a funk but I gained almost 30 lbs! I started craving all the wrong food and just did not care what I ate.  I was unhappy at my old job and I was alone a lot because my husband was gone for work or worked late.  I was lonely and depressed so I ate "comfort food".    Sound familiar?
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1. Find a Way to Motivate Yourself

It took a lot of mental "pushing" to be able to eat healthy again and motivate myself to lose the weight.  I think it really kicked in at a party at a friends house when someone called me a "plum"  in the cute purple dress I wore.  I proceeded to drink too much and eat too much until the morning came and I was very sick.  That whole day I was miserable and something switched in my head to make a change.  At that low point I became worried about my health.  As a nurse I should be an example of health for my patients not racing towards high blood pressure, diabetes and depression!

2. Make a Plan That Works For You
I began by researching foods and looked for super foods that I needed to eat regularly.  I decided to avoid dairy (cheese!) in many of it's forms and use soy milk for my cereal.  The only dairy I have not given up is Greek yogurt which tastes so amazing and it has 0% fat!  If you have not tried it yet I highly recommend it! I also made sure to avoid sugar and desserts except some dark chocolate on occasion. Instead I began to use honey or maple syrup.  The biggest calorie packers are carbs like breads, rice and pasta so they had to go as well!  
So you might wonder what I was left with?  Here is the original diet plan and example I came up with for myself.  At first I did this every day and kept it simple until I was not craving the bad foods as much. 

I think it is important to make a list of healthy foods you love to eat and to stock up on them! Here are some of my favorite super foods!
I tired to eat dried fruit like organic raisins or blueberries in the morning to give my self some energy.   If I did not have cereal (I use All Bran or Total)  I made a smoothie with frozen berries, a scoop of 0% fat yogurt, cinnamon, tsp honey, and fortified soymilk (I use Edensoy Extra it has 11 grams of protein).  I found this to be satisfying and to hold me over for a few hours until snack.  
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3.  Drink Your water!

One of the easiest thins you can do for your health and to promote weight loss is to drink plenty of water.   How much water should you drink?  I take my weight and divide it by two, the answer is how many fluid oz I should drink of water daily.  So if I weigh 160lbs I should drink at least 80 fluid oz of water per day.  Which works out to be a little more than 2 liters.   Some people have pre-measured water in jugs and just drink what is in the jugs to learn how many glasses they should drink per day.  Obviously if you are active you should drink more water.  Sometimes you are not hungry you are thirsty.  Try water first it cant hurt! 
I tried to avoid coffee but I found on work days I really needed it but on days off I use green tea which is really good for you.  When I did drink coffee I added some soy milk once again for the added protein.  I only drink one cup of it in the morning at work for the caffeine and sip it through the afternoon.    I avoid all diet caffeinated beverages because of the cancer causing ingredients in them.  I also read that the fake sweeteners also hinder weight loss so just another reason to use an organic coffee or tea for your fix.  
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4. Eat Healthy Protein


Let's talk about meat.  I put chicken on my list in case I really felt a craving for meat but I have not had any since I started even though Vermont farm raised chicken is healthy, local and free range  etc.   I believe salmon to be a super food but it is expensive and hard to find sustainably caught salmon.    When I find it I buy it and make it every few weeks.  I have also found some really good farm raised salmon that still has a lot of great nutritious properties and thus avoids killing other water life.  I avoid all other fish and only eat salmon once in a while.  I would do flax seed for the omegas but I have an allergy to it.   For meat substitue I eat a lot of chick peas, beans, tofu and textured vegetable protein.  
5. Make "Healthy"  the Key Word For All the Food You Eat  

What you put in your mouth is truly life or death! Ask yourself the question, "Is this giving me life or taking it away?"  Think of that question the next time you go to eat a pound of cheese or a Big Mac.   I think of it every time I plan my meal to avoid any problems.  Try to  eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables every day with every meal.  If I am really hungry I make a bigger salad or cook more veges for my meal.  
I carefully watch what I eat the first few months to make sure I am getting enough calories and needed nutrients.  I used a great tool on the web called Calorie Counter which helped me check my calorie intake before dinner and other important nutrients in my diet.  To lose the weight and be healthy this tool or applications like it are necessary.    My carbs sometimes are a little low and my fats but that is what I am going for and I make up for it with protein.  
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6.  Learn How To Control Your Portions
  I measure my servings.  I use my measuring cups to measure my one serving of cereal and soy milk every morning.  I measure my chick peas and any other calorie packed food and add them to my food log on Calorie Counter.  I do not measure fresh veges or fruits since these are foods you can eat as much as you want of.   (There are some exceptions of course!  Avocado's and olives are two) They sell portion control plates if you feel the need to have a visual aid.  In America our plates have gotten bigger, our portions piled higher and our bellies bigger.  Portion control is necessary.  
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7.  Pay Attention to Your Body
I  chose to weigh myself a few times a week some people pick a weigh day and only weigh in once per week. I do it when I first get up after I..um.. have evacuated..any fluids and other stuff and take off all my clothes and weigh in.  That is the weight I log in on Calorie Counter a few times a week.  If I start to gain weight I tighten my diet a bit and measure closer and maybe stay away from my Greek yogurt snack and replace with something else.  
If you do this right you eat when your body tells you you are hungry and stop eating if that feeling goes away.  It is important to learn to pay attention to those feelings.   Drink water in between meals and if you are still hungry after devouring a high calorie meal.  You may find that you end up eating smaller meals every few hours which is a great way to help you lose weight.  
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8.  Give Yourself A Break
Give yourself a day off once per week.  For many this is on Saturday or Sunday. Whatever you do do not just binge all day.  You will certainly make yourself sick and gain a few pounds.  Just loosen the reigns a bit and pick a meal to eat whatever you want.  Maybe you want to have a big brunch with pancakes, home fries and bacon or a four course dinner with buttered rolls,  a meat entree and cheesecake.  It is OK to have that one day per week.  I have read that it is actually a good way to fake out your metabolism and curb hitting a weight plateau as well. 
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9.  Take Your Vitamins!

I take my women's multi and vitamin D every day!  I also take an extra vitamin C if I am feeling run down.    This is very important especially if you have made a big diet change like not eating meat or dairy.  
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10.  Find Your Support Group
Lastly it is necessary to have a support network.  Gather people around you who are healthy, have been where you are or are fighting the same struggle you are.  You can find healthy support in many places:  family, friends, co-workers, Weight Watchers, and at fitness clubs.   If you can not find support among these people make a support group online!  Try Meetup.com and start a walking group, weight loss support or healthy eating group.  I have had great success on Meetup with making friends and finding support.  Or just start a group an Facebook for your area and see who joins! 

So far I have lost 15lbs by following my diet change.  That is one whole pant size!  I am happier and I feel better about myself.  I will put up some posts now again having to do with healthy eating options and how I am doing on my plan.  I wish you the best on your health journey!  If you need support feel free to contact me.  


*I am not an MD, dietitian or nutrition expert so..
 as with any health changes discuss options with an Md or consult with a nutritionist first*  
 
 
I said I was starting to delve into home made beauty products and I thought I would start  with something really easy by sharing a face mask recipe with you.  This is not just any face mask it is totally edible before, during and after application!  It tastes great too!  
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Apparently blueberries are not just good for your insides but are also good for your skin too.  Full of antioxidants  and vitamin C  this mask with have your skin glowing!  Honey is also a super food that heals your inner lining of your stomach and does wonders for pimples.  A certain kind of honey from the tea tree called Manuka Honey is even used by nurses to heal wounds! 


Ingredients

1/2 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)
1/4 cup honey 
1/2 cup oatmeal (natural cleanser)
2 TBSP lemon juice (anti blemish)
1 tsp cinnamon (circulation)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (exfoliation)

Put all ingredients except yogurt in a food processor until smooth.  Then add the yogurt and if needed you can add more yogurt to thicken or a bit of water to thin if needed.   Taste a few spoonfuls then spoon into a sealed container and refrigerate for 1 hour.   Pull your hair back or put up in a towel then apply mask to clean face with cotton balls or gauze sponges (I prefer the sponges myself) and let sit for 15 minutes and eat the rest while waiting.  Remove with cotton balls or gauze sponges and then rinse your face with lukewarm water. 

 Smile, breath and enjoy the glow!

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This is what it looked like on my face.  
 
 
Since I have been on the DIY home cleaning kick I decided I needed a wood cleaner for my tables, desks, and cabinets.  This is the easiest thing you can do to save your self money!  I bet you have these ingredients sitting in your cupboards at home!!
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Wood Cleaner Recipe #1

1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 TBSP pure lemon juice (or 3 drops lemon oil)
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Wood Cleaner Recipe #2

1 cup mineral oil (can use jojaba or coconut too)
1 TBSP lemon juice (or 3 drops lemon oil)



I use the first recipe since I always have those ingredients in my kithcen. For hard to clean spots try mayonnaise!  Just rub some over the spot and let set for a few hours then clean and polish.  

I just did one of our large desks and cabinets; it looks and smells great!
 
 
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I have such sensitive skin, nose and lungs that I have to be really careful about what products I clean with including what I  clean my clothes with.  A few months ago I started making my own house cleaners and then I thought about making my own laundry detergent as well.  It is so cheap to do! The products I used cost me less than $10 bucks and that will make me many more batches!  Not to mention it is better for the environment and better for you. 
So I have researched this and come up with two recipes for laundry soap that I want to share with you.  One is for a powdered detergent and the other is a liquid detergent. I use the liquid detergent recipe myself and put it in a saved detergent bottle.  

Powdered Detergent
2 cups finely grated soap
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax

That's it!  Use Dove soap, Ivory soap or some other plain scented soap that is safe for your skin.   Just grate your soap finely, mix together and store in an air tight container.  You only need to use 2 TBSP per load of laundry!

Liquid Detergent
10 cups boiling water
1/3 of a bar soap (grated)
1/2 cupsborax
1/2 cup washing soda
1 gallon of water plus 6 cups
*Optional*
*for fragrance add a few drops of your favorite essential oil*

First boil the 10 cups of water and add grated soap.  Mix until soap is melted.  Pour this mix in a bucket and add the borax and washing soda and mix well.  Then add the final gallon of water and store in a sealed container.  Once cool add your essential oil.  Use only a few drops per gallon! I chose not to use fragrance since I am so sensitive. You might have to mix your liquid detergent now and again.   I have used mine and it works great!  Use 1/4 cup of liquid per load of laundry! 


 
 
So you like to clean your house occasionally but you are sick of using harmful chemicals that bother your respiratory tract? I was too!  So I started looking up ways to make my own cleaning supplies and I did it! It's cheap, fun and easy!  Below I will list the three home made cleaners I started with and will add more as I transform my cleaning cabinet into a toxic free zone! Below are some of the products you can use for safe home cleaning. 
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My home cleaning kit.

#1 You need this easy  DIY All Purpose Cleaner:  It was so much fun making my own cleaning you take a recipe, measure and mix.  This all purpose cleaner is great for your every day surface cleaning.  Mix the following ingredients in a 32 oz spray bottle. 

All Purpose Cleaner Recipe

3 cups water
1/3 cup of Castille soap, baby shampoo or dish liquid soap
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 Tablespoon of lemon
(you can also add a few drops of your
favorite essential oil but fragrances bother me so I
go with out and just add more lemon at times)

#2  This Natural Disinfectant is fabulous! It contains Tea Tree oil which is known for being "antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and an antiviral agent and is also believed to have beneficial cosmetic properties." (Wiki) What better product to use? Add the following ingredients to a 32 oz spray bottle:

Disinfectant Recipe

2 teaspoons tea tree oil
2 cups of water

* If tea tree oil bothers you you can use thyme, eucalyptus, or pine essential oils as a substitute*

#3  Home Made Glass Cleaner is so easy to make and will make your windows shine!  Mix the following ingredients in a 32 oz spray bottle:

Glass Cleaner Recipe

1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 liter water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3-4 tablespoon baby shampoo


Watch for more posts as I figure out to make furniture polish, laundry detergent, and bathroom tile scrubber!






 
 
So I was watching the news the other day and they gave a report that pollen is the worst it has been in years due to all the precipitation we have had this year!  I have been dying of allergies here in Vermont and was relived that I was not the only one!  I was starting to think it was old age!  I am on every med in the book for allergies and I have asthma to top it off so I was in a real state.  The steroid inhaler and nasal sprays were not helping my congestion.  I was so worried I was going to stay locked indoors during all that nice weather we had!  I am a gardener and I can not stand being inside this time of year! 
Then I remembered my good friend the Neti pot hiding in the bathroom.  For those of you who do not know what this invention is it is pictured below.  You just fill it with warm water and the salty packet that comes with it and rinse your nasal passages out.  You can see the gunk leave your opposite nostril as you rinse.  When I have used all the water mixture I give my nose a few good blows and I feel better.  The directions say you can use it every 2 hours but I used it 4 times a day.  After my shower in the morning, after lunch, after any activity outside, and before bed.  Now that I am feeling better I am only doing it twice a day. 

 I am even using my rescue inhaler less because I have less sinus drainage back into my lungs!  It is also important to keep you windows and doors closed during this season.  If it gets warm you should run your air conditioner  and not run a fan!  A fan only stirs up dust mites in your room and irritates your allergies more!  It is a vicious cycle and I am so glad to be feeling much, much better!  Good luck with your allergies this season!
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(The spout goes in one side of your nose then you breath out of your mouth over the sink so the fluid comes out your other nostril)
 

    By Christine

    Nurse, artist and blogging nut!


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