Friday, August 28, 2015

Essential Oils Actually Work

I guess it should be no great surprise, given how many people use them, that essential oils work, but I have to say I've been pleasantly shocked at how much they've helped my family.  I know, just one more step towards crazy . . .

I was using essential oils for my homemade deodorant and bug spray and cleaning spray, but I wasn't really looking to them for any kind of medical solutions.  But this summer I talked to some people who were saying they could do all sorts of things, and I thought, OK, here goes . . .

So my first issue was figuring out which oils to buy, because apparently these oil-users have a basic stash on hand at all times.  I had some of these already for frangrances, but I decided to keep on hand the following:

lavender oil
lemon oil
tea tree oil
clove oil (or clove bud)
peppermint oil
oregano oil
german (or roman) chamomile oil

I have some more, but really, these are my heavy-hitters, and I just ordered big amounts of lavender, lemon, peppermint, tea tree, and clove (oregano lasts longer, I don't use it quite as much).

I tried some doTerra oils, but I must say, they are expensive!  And I went through a few little bottles in a month now that I really got going using them!  So I just ordered some WAY cheaper NOW brand which looks (according to my research) like great quality for a significantly cheaper price.

Here are the following things I'm doing:

My kids allergies are under control for the first time in years as a result of the essential oils we started using.  I haven't taken them off of Zyrtec at this point, it's just that Zyrtec wasn't taking care of the problem all the way and now they can actually breathe out of their noses!

Allergy spray: (We're using a few sprays into the back of our throats twice a day)
In a tiny one ounce bottle, mix

  • 4 drops of lemon oil, 
  • 4 drops peppermint, 
  • 2 drops oregano, 
  • 1 drop clove
  • fill rest with water
Allergy rub (at night on sinuses and under nose)--I made this in a little plastic pill container.
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 4 drops peppermint oil
  • 2 drops frankincense oil (you could skip that one if you don't have it)
  • 2-4 drops of eucalyptus, lavender, or chamomile
Allergy foot rub (at night on bottoms of feet)  Also helps with trouble falling asleep!
  • 1-3 drops of chamomile (can be in a carrier oil like coconut)
Pain relief:
I have chronic shoulder pain issues and haven't been able to sleep on my right side in years.  I used to take a fair amount of ibuprofen, but lately I've cut that out completely.  I rub clove oil on anything that hurts--if it is an area of more sensitive skin, like the neck, it needs to be "watered down" with coconut oil.  For back or shoulder pain I put it straight on the skin and it works like a strong Bengay.  It gives immediate and long-term pain-relief.  (It helps me fall asleep and keeps the pain away until morning--and sometimes resolves it altogether.)

Heat rash/burns/skin problems:
Tea tree oil or lavender oil work great to help with these.

I tried making my own chamomile oil using coconut oil and dried chamomile for 8 hours in a crock pot.  It seems to be working some, but it's not as strong as what I bought.  I didn't strain out the chamomile in hopes that it gets stronger.

I have been shocked at how well these remedies have served my family.  I am now open to new uses.  Any suggestions?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Tooth Rat

You know an interesting Dominican tradition?  Instead of the Tooth Fairy, for over-protected American children, they have the tooth rat.  Kind of a different feeling putting that tooth under your pillow for a rat to get, isn't it?  I'm not sure it's worth a dollar to me.  Or even 50 pesos.

The Plot Thickens

My maid told me today that Monday (the day of the rooster) she actually saw my old neighbor lurking around (my words, not hers), checking on his chickens.  And she saw him put the mother hen and chick in my yard!  Now my old neighbor is not vindictive or cruel.  I think he just wanted to put the mom with her other young chicks still in my yard.  But is he seriously raising chickens in my yard?? when I've so clearly communicated my problems with the enterprise?  It is enough to make my American jaw fall open in appalled shock.  Seriously!

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Nature-y Night: Revenge of the Roosters

On my way to school this morning, I saw a chicken huddled in my flower bed in my front patio.

And I thought, oohhhh no, not on my watch.  There will be no pesky chicken-folk in MY yard! And I proceeded to chase it and shout and clap and behave as a maniac.  It wouldn't leave.

And then I thought, oh NO, there is a SICK chicken in my yard!  So I poked at it with an aloe leaf I broke off.  And I scared it away enough that I saw the baby chick it was protecting.

And then I thought, OH NOOOOO!  We are breeding baby roosters to keep me up at night in my very yard!!!!  But I had to leave for school, Owen was out of patience, waiting in the street with the kids for me to get in the car.

So this afternoon when I got home from school I investigated further and found a NEST of eggs, some hatched, with a few dead-looking chicks.  A little while later, the mother came back with a chick.  Well, you may imagine . . . I was not pleased.  I told Owen that before he ate the yummy supper I was preparing that I needed him and the boys to get all fowl out of the yard.

I wish I had thought to video the chase.

While I'm at the kitchen window finishing dinner, I see Micah and Jesse, shouting and screaming, run past the window as they charge the squawking chicken across our patio.

The neighbors come outside to watch at this point.

Then there is a reverse and I see them turn and run, screaming, FROM the chicken.  It was very amusing.  Eventually they got all live fowl (the mom with two chicks) from our yard and into the abandoned lot next door.  Micah had to carry one of them over.

I'm sure we could have just bludgeoned them all to death, and guaranteed that there are no future roosters, but I'm telling you (if you're like me anyway), that unless you are used to killing that is just all talk.  You think you're tough, but you just grab that bat and then wimp out.  And use it to shoo them instead.  And although my kids offered to kill them for me, thinking of protecting my sleep, I told them I didn't want them killing helpless little chicks.  Too disturbing.

Of course, things will look different in a few weeks when those little chicks become crowing roosters.

But here's the crazy part:  an hour or two later we hear a loud ruckus next door and the NEIGHBORS are chasing roosters around their yard.  They are plagued by the former renter's roosters, my enemy roosters, who don't understand the change in residence and think they still live there.

They told me their dog is going nuts barking at the roosters all night (I can attest to that, I heard it), and it is driving them crazy.  They were very confused at why so many chickens came in their yard each night and were a little disturbed to learn that there had been a serious fowl-raising enterprise over there even a few months ago.

So I'm not sure if it was any great consolation, but I assured them that now that everyone is on the same team, we will triumph!  Working together, surely a bunch of green city folk can catch a few pesky roosters--with a sheet, maybe?  The plan is still in progress.

On a side-note, I seriously trimmed the hedges.  Clearly I am offering too much protection in my yard.  Let's keep visibility high!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Now that's pollution . . .

We passed this creek on our way into the zoo, and when we left to go back to our car, this is what we saw.  The kids thought it was blood.

Pray for rain . . .

I can't remember the last time it really rained, but it was months ago.  We're really desperate for rain.  It really is a reminder that man is not in charge, because there's nothing we can do but wait and pray.  The sky gets black from time to time, and we've gotten thunder, and occasionally we've had a one minute light shower.  But it's like we're holding our breath and looking out the window throughout the day, getting excited if we see clouds.  I don't remember experiencing a drought like this.  I guess it's also worse because of how hot it is.  Usually it rains from time to time to give us relief from the heat, but lately, there's no rain to really cool it down.

Pray for us!  Pray that Danny hits us in the next few days!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Plot Thickens: Rooster Update

So it seems that the roosters really were captured the other night--well, the loudest one, anyway.  So while some still roam free and greet the morning, Mr. 4:45 a.m. is gone.

Also, on an interesting note, a new family moved into the rooster house.  Unfortunately for them, they moved in during a power-outage at night, so it was a dark move-in.  Not sure how they feel about the chicken guests that congregate every evening (I hear them gathering now) in their yard or their backyard alarm clock.

I'm sleeping better with the loud rooster gone, the runner-up is still bothering Owen because he is not using ear plugs.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Wow! Can it be?

We were interrupted in our movie tonight by what sounded like the screams of a dying cat, or, more accurately, a rooster.  It looked like our old neighbor was over there chasing his roosters--and from the sound of it, he caught some!  I will report more after I see if I am awakened by a rooster tomorrow morning!

A Day in the Capital

We planned a family fun day in the capital for before school started, and we left Saturday morning (after I had actually spent the night at some friends' because the house alarm next door went off until 1 a.m. and I knew I'd be awake all night until it stopped).  Our plan was to see the Aquarium and Descubria (Discovery) Children's Museum.  We got to the aquarium a little before lunch and were really impressed.  It cost less than $5 for the whole family to get in and was kind of an open air aquarium with nice tanks and pools.

There were mostly smaller marine animals, but nice and interesting ones.  And we did see some manatees that they're rehabilitating and two sea turtles.

We got whale moves . . .

Later we went to the mall where the children's museum is and had a great Dominican fusion meal for a really good price in their food court.

Sculpture made of kitchen utensils and bottles

We were disappointed to find that the museum was closed for renovations, but we decided spur of the moment to go to the zoo.  We paid more like $8 for the whole family to get in the zoo.  I must confess to rather low expectations for the zoo.  So I was blown away when we started walking.

First of all, it was huge.  You could take a "train" sort of trolley to each exhibit, but if you chose to walk it was actually a hike to get to the animals--a shaded, tree-lined lovely walk.  And the animals were all free-roaming with big ditches to contain them and very low fences.  It was incredible.  If all zoos were like that I wouldn't think of them as depressing.

A Hiking Path!

I don't think you understand how shocking the discovery of a hiking path is in Santiago unless you've visited.  We once drove for three hours searching for a hiking path only to get back out of the car and give up.  It's possible to hike in the mountains, which are an hour and a half away, but even then you have to be on someone's land or on one of a few paths.  There are no national parks or anything.

But someone from our school found a hiking path around a pond (probably built by the industry right next to it)--and it is amazing.  It makes me feel like I'm back in the U.S.  I'm giving you some pictures below of the family hike we took with some friends.

Friday, August 7, 2015

All Kind of Crazy!

We just finished watching "Cheaper by the Dozen," the cute and crazy movie about a family with 12 kids and continuous chaos.  While we watched the movie the house alarm next door sounded continuously for 2 hours.  It's too hot to close all the windows, so it's almost like it's going off in our own house.  We all squished on the couch, while trying not to touch each other (way too hot), able to hear only the crazy parts of the movie (all soft dialogue parts were lost in the alarm sounds).

After the movie ended I tried to hurry Abigail into bed (we meant to watch only the first half of the movie and just got too distracted) while Micah spilled water down the stairs and created a scene, gesturing wildly to protest his innocence and throwing yet more water everywhere.  Jesse shouted from the shower that he couldn't find the soap, I found water on the book left on their bathroom floor, and Owen made calls to security, who have no immediate plans to do anything at all about the continuous alarm-ringing next door (think really, really loud car alarm that lasts for 3 full minutes only to trip again a few seconds later).

I am struck by how much I feel I relate with the movie, even though we only have three kids.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Make Your Own Muffin Recipe

This morning I experimented with some Dominican fruits (pears which are nothing like U.S. pears and mangoes that were so soft and sticking to the pit I had to squish and scrape them into the batter) to make muffins.  I didn't see a recipe I liked and everyone was hungry, so I just made the recipe up.  I am a cook, but not a baker.  So I was very excited that the muffins were actually good!

I used almond flour, quinoa flour (which I ground in my coffee grinder), sweet potato flour (something they sell here), two eggs, lots of walnuts, almond milk, honey, black strap molasses, a drizzle of olive oil, and the mango and pear (pera)--in unmeasured quantities, of course--and baked it about 30 minutes.  They were unattractive but very tasty.  What usually keeps me from baking is all the measuring.  I may start experimenting with muffins regularly if they keep turning out that good without having to!

[Update 8/9:  I tried them again today with honeydew, strawberries, and almond slivers--they were also good!  This time I added a little baking powder, but it made no noticeable difference.  Though I did try coconut oil and I'm thinking the olive oil baked faster?  Not sure . . .]

Anyone have some suggestion for good ingredients??

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Easy gluten-free blackberry crumble

I went jogging in the park near my parents' house and was pleasantly surprised to find wild blackberries growing.  In the northeast black raspberries are the real treasure and blackberries take a distant second, but still, I figured we could make something out of them.  I checked to make sure there are no poisonous look-alike berries, and there aren't (a necessary precaution after the roasted horse chestnut debacle), so we all trooped down to the park to pick berries.  I found this simple recipe for cobbler and simply used gluten-free flour and didn't bother to melt the butter, I just cut it up and puts dots of butter all over the top.  It was incredible!  I'm usually a "why bother if it's not chocolate" dessert kind of person, but I promise you, this was so good!

Summer Highlights

Our school starts up in less than two weeks, so it is only fitting that I post some summer pictures (great photos, Aunt Amy)!

Yes, believe it or not, we went to the beach in the U.S. at the Jersey Shore!

Boat ride in Jersey--we saw more shore birds in that trip than I ever have in my life.

Sleepy girl, just like the old days

Lots of high-pitched giggles over sand crabs

Gotta love the big waves!

Date time at a winery

Friday, July 31, 2015

Rooster Update

So I have heard through the grapevine that there are those who want to know what's up with the roosters.  Having paid the neighbor to get rid of the worst two roosters (who started crowing loudly each morning at 3:30 a.m.--prompting me to drag a mattress into the bathroom to escape them some mornings), supposedly along with all future roosters, we waited to see if they would actually disappear.  They were still pretty much there by the time we left for the summer, so Owen asked him to get rid of them before we got back from visiting the U.S.

Imagine our surprise when we returned from our summer trip and found our neighbor moved out of the house--having left the chickens behind.  The owner is fixing it up (it needs a lot of work, I think the fowls did nothing for the yard and the house was in some state of disrepair) and plans to rent it out again soon.  But the now wild chickens have kept to their familiar residence, and though they get around during the day, early early morning finds them in their former yard outside our window, greeting the dawn.

So we went to the Ministerio de Ambiente (Ministry of Environment) to report the rogue chickens and we shall see if this government branch is willing and/or able to do something about the chicken situation.  Our most recent morning wake-up was before 5:00 a.m.

I'll keep you posted.

Only here . . .

Only in the D.R. can you randomly pass a dead hedgehog in the road while jogging--not because they're native to the country, they're not, but because you just never know . . . anything is possible here.  I passed one while jogging and could not believe it--and yet was not surprised at all.  I'm putting a picture of it at the very end of the post because my husband and good friend assure me that it's in bad taste to paste a picture of a dead animal, even if it's cute, and so you can skip the picture if youwant.

On my hedgehog-spotting jog I brought hot pepper spray with me for the first time.  It really isn't the safest place to jog, mostly because there are dogs in the street a lot of the time, and since the loss of my jogging partner (Grenade) I have felt nervous.  People have told me that you're fine as long as you're not afraid of the dogs--they can tell if you're afraid.  They say that about horses, too.  Here's the problem.  I am afraid.  It probably doesn't help that we used to have a nasty pit bull next door in Philly that snarled at me when I picked veggies from my garden.  Either way, I am, and they know.

I realized I was at least as likely to spray myself with the pepper spray as I was to get bitten by a dog, especially because I have trouble picturing myself calmly aiming and spraying while getting rushed by a dog.  I decided I needed to at least test the spray once and see how it worked.  It was breezy, I thought I could risk it if I pointed downwind.  But I could not get the "liquid fire" to spray no matter what I did and ended up going home for a stick.

So it's a good thing I didn't encounter a rabid dog, because really, what the world will I do with my stick?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Black Eye, Better Sleep, and Dairy-Caused Fatigue

We have been having so much fun with family!  Seeing the grandparents and cousins is a highlight of our year every year--along with all of these lovely days off school!

Two interesting discoveries this summer I thought I'd share:

Micah got a shiner the other day on the Slip n Slide when he collided with Jesse.  He started with a huge lump over his eye (which we did ice, to no great effect) and then yesterday morning when he woke up his eye was swollen shut.  (He reminded me of how my cousin, Devin, looked as a child when--if I remember correctly--he slipped in ice and fell against the trailer hook or something metal on the truck in his driveway.)  Micah was miserable--there's not a whole lot you can do in that state, he found.  And we were trying to get him to ice or put other things on his eye, which meant he was one-armed and one-eyed and bored sick.

Eventually we hit on a solution that worked like magic, that I thought I'd share in case anyone else has a shiner to deal with.  We took a handkerchief and tied a cucumber to his eye (to free up his hands), switching to new refrigerated slices every 20 minutes or so.  Within a few hours ALL of the swelling was gone and we were left with just a dark stripe above his eye.  It was amazing, so extreme of a reaction in a relatively short period of time.

This is what he looked like after the swelling went down--now it just looks like some dark purple eye shadow.

The other discovery I had was a breakthrough on my sleep issues.  I started taking Oona (an herbal supplement) for hormonal balance (since hormone changes are what mess up my sleep) and it's really helping.  I'm also jogging every day when I wake up.  I've had much better sleep than I've had in ages since I've started taking it.  

The surprising thing was that I still have been feeling tired all day, and I had to make one more change.  What I realized with the help of a friend (thank you, Sarah) is that milk is affecting my energy levels.  

A lot of the time I get what I call foggy brain, I just feel exhausted and like I can't think straight.  And I thought it was related to not sleeping well.  But I spent a day at Sarah's on a dairy-free diet and she mentioned that I should be avoiding dairy if I'm having hormonal issues, which served to bring dairy to the forefront of my mind.  And after 24 hours off of dairy I realized I felt way more awake than normal (3:00 in the afternoon driving I felt great, and I never feel great while driving in the late afternoon, especially after sleeping badly the night before).

I really like cheese and ice cream, so I wasn't motivated to stay off of dairy for long, but as I added more and more back into my diet I realized I was feeling worse and worse.  And after a seriously tired and foggy day I decided to try cutting all of it again.  And it really does make a huge difference!  I've heard a rumor about some home-churned ice cream being at our picnic tonight, so I may just be groggy tomorrow, but in general I think I'll have to cut out some of my favorite foods because I feel so much better without them!

I will say this, if chocolate is ever to blame for any health issues I rather just not know . . .

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Velveteen All Night Cry Fest

So we just watched The Velveteen Rabbit, a version that I can't say I liked too much, though the kids loved it.  In this version, for whatever reason, they have the little boy's mother dead (at her funeral, actually), the father avoiding him, and the boy living with his mean grandmother--so it's off to a running start.  Then he switches to this wild cartoon pretend-world with lots of flying and singing and the kids thought it was great.

So I wasn't too worried about anything but my own boredom every time it switched to cartoon, until the little boy gets sick.  And the animals in cartoon world tell us he's dying, and in the cartoon tree house the lightening strikes the wood and it starts burning, and the bunny has to sacrifice himself to the flames for the little boy to be pushed off into the river below.  Very strange and disturbing.  At this point, Abigail was hysterical; had I known it was coming, we wouldn't have watched it.

So then the boy wakes up and then we really have problems.  Because the boy's father takes the bunny downstairs in a sack and immediately starts a bonfire (whatever happened to the gardener waiting until the next day and the fairy coming overnight to take the rabbit away?) and tosses the sack in.  And they actually let us watch the sack burn, it was unbelievable.  I didn't turn it off because I kept telling them it was going to get better and end happy, but it was a bit of a train wreck.

So there is a redemptive ending, in which the dad and now happy "Nana" play baseball with the boy, and a real rabbit watches, but we had trouble getting past the burn pile.

So I lose one of the boys to wild tears because the movie is so sad--and then he remembers his lost monkey from years ago that he periodically mourns (our best guess is that it was in the little storage container of his broken rider tractor that broke and got thrown out) and vows to go searching for in the dump.  So he came unglued for a good 15 minutes.

Then I lose the second one because he feels so bad for his brother that he can't stop crying.  And even though I read them the book so they'd know the real ending, I find that for some of us, The Velveteen Rabbit is just too sad.  And also, I'm a little jealous of daddy having to work tonight.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Question after Church

Mom, at night does Jesus come to get the offering?

[Are we having tooth fairy confusion?]