DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional or a tick expert, just a southerner who hates ticks.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've no doubt read or heard about how bad the ticks are this year. On Facebook Moms' groups, I'm seeing stories daily of people finding ticks on their little ones and asking for advice on how to remove them or what to do once the tick is removed. My answer: try to prevent the bite in the first place. Of course, no method is foolproof when it comes to trying to outsmart bugs and critters, but you can't just roll over and give up, you gotta give it a fighting chance.
First things first, know your enemy. Ticks come in many colors and sizes, but the most common is small and brown, which makes them terribly hard to see, especially if they get into your hair or on your pet (which can then be brought into your house). If you have pets that play outside, it is imperative that you treat your yard for fleas and ticks. There are several eco-friendly products out there, you just have to look for them. Or you could get a small flock of chickens... or opossum, I'm not judging. Chickens and opossum are both well known for eating their weight in ticks.
Ticks live primarily in the grass, but you don't have to live in a rural area to be potential tick breakfast. Ticks are known for spreading several serious diseases, the most common being Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The well-known bullseye type rash associated with some tick bites might even be the first sign you or your loved one was bitten. This rash can take 3-30 days to develop and always warrants a trip to the doctor for treatment.
According to the CDC... "The rash seen with Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) varies greatly from person to person in appearance, location, and time of onset. About 10% of people with RMSF never develop a rash. Most often, the rash begins 2-5 days after the onset of fever as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots (macules) on the wrists, forearms, and ankles and spreads to the trunk. It sometimes involves the palms and soles. The red to purple, spotted (petechial) rash of RMSF is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after onset of symptoms and occurs in 35-60% of patients with the infection."
Now that we know what we're looking for, where do we look? Well, in short, everywhere that is covered in skin. No, seriously, everywhere... yes, even there. I remember as a child, coming in from playing in the backyard my Mom would do a tick check in my hair and behind my ears, as I got ready for my bath. I didn't realize at the time how important that little ritual was, but I am so appreciative my Mom did.
According to this fun infographic from WebMD, ticks like to hide in all the creases and crevices you might forget about, so make sure to check your child (and yourself) thoroughly. And don't forget about Spot and Fluffy. Your pets can definitely be an unknowing participant in the tick's master plan.
As the old saying goes, "sometimes the best defense is a good offense". In this case, the offense is the offensive smell of the tea tree oil in the tick repellent I am about to tell you how to make. It is super easy, kid-safe and all natural. And, if you already have a basic essentials oils collection, you likely already have all the ingredients you will need to make it at home.
You can make this two ways, one recipe is for a rollerball and the other is for use in a spray bottle. I prefer the rollerball because I feel it is thicker and the slightly greasy texture makes your skin a harder target for the tick to cling to. (Or at least I have convinced myself of this, it might just be anecdotal, who knows) It's also super handy to toss it in your purse or backpack.
For the spray bottle version, the recipe is... 2 oz Tea Tree oil (safe to apply neat aka directly to the skin), a 2:1 ratio of a carrier oil (I use almond oil, but fractionated coconut would work too) and water. I also add a splash of 99% isopropyl alcohol (I have used PGA in a pinch) as a preservative. Add a few drops of lavender and some lemongrass for added benefits, but you could totally use just the tea tree if you're sensitive to the other two.
The recipe for the rollerball is the same, minus the water and the alcohol. Mix it in a glass jar or bottle and transfer to a rollerball. Use generously whenever you go outside until after the first or second frost when all threat of ticks is gone. Always remember to mix and store your oils in glass, as some oils will react with plastic.
You could also add some tea tree oil to your favorite pet shampoo, it's safe on their skin too, just make sure they don't lick the shampoo while you're applying it.
Have you heard the great news about our Lord and Savior, Keto?
Every time I talk about eating low carb or doing the keto diet, I feel like one of those TV preachers. Even after falling off the proverbial wagon, keto takes me right back; keto never gives up on me, even when I gave up on keto. Keto knows me better than I know myself.
I will spare you all the "rules" of eating low carb or keto, since you probably found this post from a Google search, I'm going to assume you are already familiar with the ins and outs of low carb dieting, but for those who aren't, here's a very brief synopsis... Your body typicially uses carbs for fuel, but when it doesn't have them, it starts to burn fat when you reach a state of metabolic ketosis; not to be confused with diabetic ketoacidosis. When you burn fat, you lose weight, it's a very simple concept.
I started keto over a year ago and had lost about 40-50ish pounds, then I fell off bad around the holidays (yes, the holidays that were five months ago) and gained about 20 lbs back, but I'm re-dedicating my life and body to keto in a major way, starting with meal planning.
For me, half of the success of eating keto is having a plan. (The other half is not cheating, which is the really hard part.) In an effort to stay on track, at the start of the week I sit down and Google yummy recipes I want to try and add them to my weekly menu. Some are hits and some are misses, but this recipe is already back in rotation this week. It's super easy and so delicious, even my super-picky-husband-who-hates-when-I-try-to-turn-cauliflower-into-potatoes, raved about this dish.
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 Cup diced onion
Minced fresh garlic (to taste, or 1 Tbsp)
1 head cauliflower (rough chop)
2 Tbsp Better Than Bullion (chicken flavor)
4 cups water
1 Cup heavy cream
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
1/2 tsp Onion powder
4 Strips of bacon, fried and crumbled
Fresh green onions (sprinkle)
1/2 Cup Shredded cheddar (or Monterey jack, whatever)
Here's a very basic weekly menu planner I made a while back. It's simple and cute and you're welcome to download and use it. ; )
Not so many moons ago, I used to dread "that time of the month". I was having a really hard time with my PMDD symptoms and it felt very hopeless and I wasn't sure what to do or where to start to get myself back to good again. My period felt like the enemy. After a ton of reading and a little trial and error, I was able to find a regimen of supplements that have made a world of difference.
I wrote about it last year, but the tldr (too long, didn't read) version is... Krill oil is pure magic (as long as you're not allergic) and your body requires a lot of ALAs, DHAs and GLAs to support the brain to function properly. I talk more about the sciencey stuff and how and why it works in this post about natural help for PMDD symptoms. If you suffer from PMDD or any of the PMSy type disorders, I highly advise giving it a read.
Since I've been taking the supplements and I have reached a new "headspace", my entire attitude about my period has changed. Instead of dreading it, I have come to accept it and actually look forward to getting a break for a couple of days. I have come to view my period as my body's way of telling me everything is still running smoothly and I use this time to pamper myself in ways I normally wouldn't.
I try really hard to listen to the subtle cues my body gives me and give it what it needs to feel better and function better. This includes lots of self-care the week before and the week of my period. Does this mean I just stop living and eat candy all day... no, but don't we all wish?! Life still goes on, even during your period. (that sounds like an amazing ad campaign)
The dishes still get dirty, the kids still need rides places and they will probably want to eat a couple or three times a day, so giving up is not an option. Since cloning yourself is still years away and sister wives are illegal, you're just gonna have to find other ways to still "git 'er done" while your insides are slowly becoming your outsides.
1. Get your mind right!
Make peace with your period. It is what it is and it is just a phase of your life you have to experience, make the best of it. Educate yourself. When you have respect for someone or something, you will treat them with more kindness. The female human body is an amazing machine. It sounds very cliche', but we are strong, magical beings capable of amazing things. Embrace your power and use it for good.
2. Stock up on supplies before you need them!
Simple enough. Even if your periods are irregular, keep supplies on hand, because no one wants to have to make a Target run on the most blessed day of the month. Don't forget the aspirin... and chocolate. No, seriously, there's something in chocolate that helps with cramps... or something like that. Who cares, get the chocolate. The good stuff. The darker, the better.
3. Schedule any important appointments for the week after your period.
Be it oil change or parent teacher conference, schedule it for the week after (or weeks before). Get an app or go old school with a calendar, but keep track of when to expect your monthly visitor and you will be much more prepared for whatever life throws at you... or not, but at least you won't be sitting at the quickie lube while you'd rather be at home under a fluffy blanket with your favorite pajama pants on.
4. Take your vitamins!
Mom was right, you should totally take your vitamins. Your body goes through a lot of changes in the days building up to your period, give it the proper vitamins and minerals it will need to function effectively in the coming days. If you're feeling sluggish, consider an Iron supplement, but be careful of the type of Iron. Some are not very well absorbed by your body and can actually do more harm than good.
5. Eat well!
It goes without saying you should always try to fuel your body with the best, most nutrient-rich foods all the time, but this is even more important during your period. Do your best to avoid simple carbs and refined sugars. Instead, try to eat more protein, healthy fats and dark leafy greens and don't forget to up your water intake.
Treat yourself to some healthier takes on old fashioned comfort foods. Something easy to fix and warm in the belly always sits well with me. Soups, stews, a whole pan of mac and cheese.... whatever, I'm not judging.
6. Get plenty of rest!
With the loss of blood comes loss of Iron and other nutrients that can cause a feeling of fatigue, tiredness and general crappiness. (That's the technical term) To help with these symptoms, try to get plenty of rest.
With small children at home this can often seem like a fantasy, but there are ways to sneak in a little rest here and there, like, for example, a short cat nap in the bath might be just what you need. (kidding... kind of) A warm Epsom salt bath can be both relaxing and therapeutic.
Magnesium is a known muscle relaxant and the warm water will soothe your achy body and the closed door means your partner will have to handle any "issues" that might arise.
If you truly can't squeeze in a full-fledged nap or a hot bath, take a little break, even fifteen minutes off your feet will often give you the little boost you need to continue through your day.
7. Be comfortable!
Wearing loose fitting, comfy clothes is a great tip, but why stop with just comfy clothes. Be comfortable in every aspect of your day. Fluff your favorite blanket in the dryer and use it to snuggle with while you're taking a break, catching up on your favorite TV show or book or blog. (wink wink)
Make sure your favorite pillowcase is on your pillow and spritz it with a little bit of lavender water. Light your favorite incense or candle; diffuse your favorite oils, whatever you need to make your space comfortable. Go outside, breathe in the air, listen to the birds singing, feel the sun on your face (assuming it's not raining or Winter or Midnight).
8. Keep your brain busy!
Using your brain will help keep you from focusing on any cramps or other symptoms you might be feeling and when your physical energy starts waning, you can just take a brain-break and recharge.
Read a book, listen to some music, plant a seed in the dirt, learn about a topic you've always wondered about. Take a virtual vacation. Pop in some earbuds and listen to a guided meditation. Write a letter to an old friend, send a birthday card to your bestie who lives out of state. Pin some new sewing ideas to your Pinterest boards. Do some meal planning for next week. Play a game of solitaire.
9. Don't be so hard on yourself!
We can't all be beautiful graceful yoga models running through fields of sunflowers during our periods. Some of us get break outs, or cold sores or the ever-so-pleasant diarrhea and gas and some of us might even stop adulting the entire week of our periods. Whatever you need to do to survive the week, do it. This is why we planned ahead in tips 1-3 above, so we could auto pilot through "hell week" and also why God created dry shampoo. (told y'all she was a girl)
10. Don't be afraid to ask for help!
Ok, let's face it, even with the best essential oils, the softest blankies, the cheesiest mac and cheese ever and all the krill oil and aspirin in the world, sometimes, our periods are just quite literally unbearable.
The thought of getting up one more time to fix a kid some lunch sounds akin to walking cross country ala Forrest Gump. I get it, I really do. That's when it's time to call in reinforcements. Dad, older siblings, Grandma, friends from a Mom's group. I don't care who you have to enlist, never ever be afraid to ask for help... ever.
What do you do when you've ghosted an old friend for no good reason whatsoever, but they keep popping into your head. Like, at the most random times, this person just pops up and you wonder what they've been up to, how are they doing, are they seeing anyone new?
Welllll, that's how I feel about you guys, the readers of this blog. I don't really know what happened. We were good, we saw each other every week, sometimes two times a week. We laughed, we chatted on Facebook, we hearted each others Instagram posts, then one day, I just stopped responding to your messages. There wasn't anyone else, it wasn't you, it was me.
The day to day life crept in and I just stopped texting back. I guess I was just busy.
I was busy sewing, it has become my therapy. I love the tactile feel of the fabric in my hands. I love the visually stunning colors and patterns of the fabrics. I love the smile on the faces of the children who receive my projects. When I am sewing and focusing on the next stitch, I don't have time to think about anything else, which is key for people like me who have anxiety. Which is also getting better, by the way.
I was busy making new memories and experiencing new experiences. I was busy yard sale-ing and grocery shopping and making dentist appointments and running errands and paying bills and going to co-op twice a week.
I was busy failing miserably at my low carb diet and put on *mumbles* pounds that I had previously lost. I was busy getting back on track at least four times. I was busy being a Wife and a Mom and a Daughter and a Friend. I was busy being a teacher and a taxi driver and a chef and a shoe-tie-r.
I was busy living life and it was amazing!!! Even the sucky parts. But just know you were always right there along the way. I knew we'd talk again, I just wasn't sure when or how. So, I apologize for ghosting you and I will try to keep in better touch from now on. So, what were you busy doing?
We're all familiar with the ch-ch-ch-chia pets that rose to popularity in the 80's, but did you know Chia seeds are high in essential the omega-3 fatty acids our brains need to function properly and they are also a good source of fiber, antioxidants, Iron and calcium?
"Plant-based foods have long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality. They have been shown to support a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight."
The evidence is overwhelming, adding a plant based fiber source to your diet can help raise your good cholesterol, while lowering the bad. It can also help your body feel full longer which can aid in weight loss.
The benefits are obvious, but one question remains... how in the heck do you get those tiny little buggers inside you where they can do their job? Well, wonder no more, my friends, say "hello" to overnight chia pudding.
This recipe, if you can even call it that, is so easy and delicious you will kick yourself for not trying it sooner.
In a jar or cup with a lid, combine the following ingredients...
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup low carb or almond milk
1/3 cup chia seeds
2 tsp (or more) vanilla extract
A good dash of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
Sweetener of your choice, I used Splenda
A small dash of salt
Put the top on and shake, then refrigerate overnight, shaking here and there. (I'm not sure if this step is completely necessary, but it works for me)
This was enough for two servings.
Since the chia seeds are mostly fiber, you can count off most of the carbs, making this an excellent keto breakfast or snack.
DISCLAIMER: A huge "thank you" to Gatlinburg Falls Resort for hosting my family and me.
Have you ever visited a place that just felt like home, even though it wasn't? A place where you can unwind, relax and leave the day to day struggles behind. A place to make memories and laugh with your kids without having to worry about school or work or all the little things that bare down on us.
A place far removed from the sirens and traffic and busyness of the city. A place that feels like your very own little slice of heaven. A place with beautiful, serene views that you never tire of.
For me, this place is the Smoky Mountains. Every time my tires hit the Sevier county line, I feel like I'm back home. I see that beautiful mountain range come into view and all the worries of life fade away and my only concern is where to focus my attention first.
Being a native Tennessean, trips to the Smokies were a yearly occurrence as a child. Even now, I remember the feeling I had when we would get right on the outskirts of the main strip that runs through Pigeon Forge; the anticipation and excitement that would well up inside me as the putt-putt golf courses and fun roadside attraction started coming into view.
I can remember the feeling of driving "up the mountain" to get to Gatlinburg proper. The sheer awesomeness (for lack of a better term) of the mountain faces and the flowing creeks and the trees with their beautiful foliage and the longing to actually spot a bear. Even as a kid, I knew this place was magic.
The smell of funnel cakes and yummy street food permeate the air as you drive down the parkway. The sound of live music being played by a band and the smiles on the faces as you drive by.
The quaint artisanal shops and hand made candy shops are forever ingrained in my mind and I am so glad that I have a chance to share this amazing, wondrous place with my own children., because about a year ago, that was almost not a possibility when Gatlinburg became the victim of a horrendous wildfire.
The damage was pretty bad, and it looked very bleak, but I'm pleased to report; in the three times we have been to Gatlinburg since the fire, nothing has changed.
The people are still as friendly as ever, the scenery is still just as breath-taking, the homes that were lost are rebuilding bigger and better than ever. If anything, the fire has only strengthened the resolve of this beautiful, close-knit community. Gatlinburg is still open for business.
If you've never been to the Smokies... what in the world are you waiting for?! Within a day's drive for most of the eastern United States, the Smokies are the number one family destination in the south. For me, it's one of those places you can visit several times a year and never get tired of or run out of things to do and see.
On our most recent family adventure to the Smokies, we were fortunate enough to be hosted by the amazing folks at Gatlinburg Falls Parkside Resort. Voted #1 family resort in The Smokies, Gatlinburg Falls boasts over 400 cabins scattered throughout the Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Wear's Valley areas.
Whether you need a cozy one bedroom cabin or a monster 18 bedroom mountain mansion, Gatlinburg Falls has you covered. Amenities vary from cabin to cabin, but you can be assured no matter where you choose to stay, you will be surrounded by first-class accommodations and the best customer service anywhere.
The cabin we stayed in, Cypress Lodge, boasts 4 king sized master bedrooms, with a full bath in each room on the top floor. A fully furnished kitchen with updated appliances, enough dishes for a small army and seating for a family of 8 plus bar seating. I light up just thinking about the memories that were made over morning lattes at this bar.
Adjacent to the kitchen is a beautiful living room, complete with a fireplace, (electric, of course, for safety) a half bath, for convenience and a broom closet stocked with everything from extra blankets and pillows to an ironing board. (yes, people still use those things)
The entire bottom floor is a kid's dream come true. (The grown-up kids loved it too) With a pool table, air hockey table and several full-sized stand-up game consoles, there was never a cry of "Mooommmmm, I'm bored!" like in years past.
This floor also has a full theater room with a wall-sized HD screen and a surround sound system that will literally knock your socks off. (yes, I'm old, I use old people vernacular, sue me) The entire cabin is equipped with wi-fi (it actually works on all three floors of the cabin, which is tough to find that high in the mountains)
There's also a bunk bed downstairs for late night slumber parties and a deck off the entertainment room with a Jacuzzi tub that would easily fit six people. This floor of the cabin got lots of use, to say the least.
The only other place that got as much use as the game room would probably be the beautiful deck. It sounds so cliche', but watching the sun rise over the mountains is truly an experience one MUST have before they die. Even the kids were in awe of the beautiful show Mother Nature provided for us each morning.
I know I say this every time I go to The Smokies, but this was truly an adventure I will never forget. The views from any and every vantage point were amazing. The kids were good, there were no vehicular emergencies as in years past, (the time we glazed our brakes driving through the National Park), the weather was nice, even for winter in the mountains; there was just the perfect amount of snow on the ground, but not the roads... It truly was one of those "pinch me" moments.
I crossed several things off my bucket list on this trip... Share a blanket with the hubby on the deck of a beautiful cabin in The Smokies while the sun rises, get my obligatory picture in front of the sign at the entrance to the National Park, step out of my comfort zone and explore new places, say "yes" to every adventure, no matter how crazy and the best of all, just be in the moment and enjoy whatever life has to offer.
If these chairs could talk, oh the tales they could tell. The stories shared and memories made here will last me a lifetime... or until the next time I can make it back.
For more info on Gatlinburg Falls, and to stay up-to-date on all their seasonal specials, you can follow them on Twitter, "Like" them on Facebook and see all their beautiful pictures on Instagram.
Keep an eye out for next week's post when I will be sharing my list of fun, free, family-friendly things to do in The Smokies. You can subscribe to my weekly emails here, if you like or you can find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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