Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nutiva Coconut Oil Review/Giveaway!

I absolutely LOVE this stuff! Nutiva Extra Virgin Coconut Oil rubs me all the right ways. (Yeah, pun intended.) It's cheap, it's healthy, and it has a TON of uses. Since I'm not a healthcare professional or nutrition expert (yet) I will provide links to reputable sources that identify the possible medical benefits of coconut oil once I get done blabbing about how and why I use it.

Cooking and Baking
  • I use Nutiva Extra Virgin Coconut Oil to replace butter, shortening, or olive oil in recipes. Coconut oil doesn't oxidize as easily as other oils when heated, so it holds up better for sauteing and stir frying.
  • It contains a higher concentration of saturated fats, but those fats are believed to be linked to dozens of health benefits including weight loss, improved digestion, and increased metabolism. (I also use coconut products to substitute for dairy ingredients because my daughter has a milk sensitivity.)
  • So, as long as you don't eat the whole jar, you're probably going to be just fine--and maybe even better off--substituting coconut oil for other fats and oils in your diet!

  • Coconut oil has many topical uses because of its anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties.
  • I mainly use Nutiva Extra Virgin Coconut Oil for diaper rash prevention. (Obviously, I use a separate jar for the changing table from the one I use in the kitchen.) If you use cloth diapers, most diaper creams are off limits because they contain ingredients like waxes and petrolatum that will coat the diaper causing it to repel moisture instead of absorbing it. Coconut oil is cloth diaper safe and great for baby's skin. It creates the same "barrier" as commercial creams, and it's safer because it doesn't include preservatives, parabens or petroleum by-products. It glides on easy because it's not a thick paste or cream. It's also organic and 100% natural.
  • Since bath time is part of our nightly routine, I will occasionally give my daughter a little massage before putting on her PJs. It also helps to keep her skin from drying out.
  • I've also used it for acne, dandruff/cradle cap, and dry/cracked skin (like my lips and feet.)
  • CO is also used to treat thrush/yeast infections and athlete's foot, but fortunately I have not had a chance to test those uses.

More Perks
  • It contains ONE ingredient. Take a look at your skin care products like shampoo and lotion. I've counted over 30 ingredients in most of mine!
  • It costs less than $10 for a 15oz. tub. compared with $6 for a 3.7oz tube of diaper cream, $11 for 8oz of BBW lotion, $15 for 750ml of olive oil, $4 for lip balm, $15 for 4oz of foot cream... Should I keep going?
  • It's unrefined and cold-pressed, so you get that coconut smell and taste.
  • It lasts forever! I have only gone through one tub that I've used for cooking. The one in the nursery is only about 1/2 gone and I use it at every diaper change.

Where You Can Get It
- From Amazon with Subscribe and Save, which makes it 5% cheaper and includes free shipping.
- Check your local health food store.
- You can win it from me! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***I did not receive any compensation or free products for my review. I just <3 Nutiva Extra Virgin Coconut Oil! :)***

Labor Day

I'm driving up to Ft. Gordon this weekend to see my WONDERFUL husband, so I will not be updating. In the meantime, enter my giveaway, follow me on Twitter, and check out my Facebook page! See you next week!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How to Sell Cloth Diapers


One of the main reasons I decided to use cloth diapers was to save money. Kelly Wels has a great calculator that shows your savings for one year using cloth vs. disposables if you need a visual. One added bonus I hadn't initially considered was the possibility of resale. Not only do disposable diapers cost you (and the environment) more in the long run, but nobody wants your dirty Pampers. The cost of cloth diapers, however, can be partially recouped.
People choose to sell diapers for a variety of reasons. Maybe a style didn't work for them (like prefolds for me) or a certain brand didn't fit their little one properly (my Monkey has thunder thighs).  Otherwise, people attempt to streamline or "destash" because they simply have too many diapers. The value depends on the condition and quality of the diaper, of course.

Since I've just earned my first $100 reselling some used cloth diapers, I thought I would share a few tips.
  1. Inspect the diapers you plan to sell. Look for stains, aplix/snap/elastic issues, pulls in the fabric, or general wear. 
  2. Determine the condition (New, EUC, VGUC, or GUC - you generally won't make any money off of diapers unless they are at least in good condition.)
    • New (never washed or used)
    • EUC (washed and/or used once or twice, practically new)
    • VGUC (used infrequently or in a large rotation, little to no wear)
    • GUC (used regularly, shows some signs of wear)
  3.  Find a venue. I've had success with CraigsList (in a very small, very non-crunchy town no less) and You can also check Facebook for swap groups in your area.
  4. Be honest and thorough in you descriptions. It is better to get less money than you think a diaper may be worth than to deal with the headache of unhappy buyers--especially if you are selling online and going through PayPal. I try to avoid disputes, refunds, and negative feedback at all costs, but maybe that's just me. ;)
  5. Compare to other listings of the same or similar-quality diapers in the same condition in order to come up with a fair price. (Example: A Sbish fitted is going to sell for more than a GMD fitted because of the initial retail price, materials used, and perceived value to buyers.) 
  6. Some sellers including shipping costs in your price (listed as PPD - Postage Paid Domestic) out of convenience, but you may choose to quote shipping depending on the zip code of your buyer. I've personally found there is very little difference in shipping cost based on zip code unless you are sending packages OCONUS, so all of my prices are PPD.
  7. Try to sell in lots as opposed to listing individual diapers. Group by type (prefolds, pockets, AIOs, hybrids) or size (NB/XS, S, M, L, One-Size, or Size 1/Size 2) if you can. You'll get rid of more diapers and save on shipping this way.
  8. Consider shipping costs and PayPal fees when listing online. Some sites also require you to include Delivery Confirmation. You can get an inexpensive postal scale from Amazon and reuse mailers/boxes so there are no surprises at the post office!
  9. Have a back-up plan. If your diapers don't sell, you can store them for future babies or see if a shelter, foster home, or day care center in your area would be interested in donations!  Sites like Giving Diapers, Giving Hope also accept donations for families in need.
Happy diapering, mamas!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

To Sell or Not To Sell

One particular trap I believe most people fall into while trying to declutter is the "But I can sell this!" trap. I know I do. Who has clothes in their closet with the tags still attached because it was cute and/or a great deal? I have at least one dress that fits this description. It was on sale, my favorite color, and it made my butt look phenomenal. I have yet to wear this dress. Partly because I got pregnant shortly after I bought it, but also because I have nowhere to go all dressed up! (This is another trap -- The "Someday!" trap -- but I'll save that for another post.)
Nothing provides a clearer visual of throwing away money like getting rid of something brand new and, if you're like me, you HATE that! So what do we tell ourselves? "I'll sell it!" While there is nothing wrong with attempting to recoup a piece of your original expense, there is one question you always need to ask yourself before you make that decision:
Is it worth it? Is it worth the time, effort, and maybe even more money to try selling an item?
In order to list something for sale on eBay, CraigsList, or any other online auction/classified/swap website you need to:
  • take and upload pictures
  • calculate shipping
  • have shipping supplies on hand
  • maintain and update your listing 
  • respond to any contacts from potential buyers
  • make a trip to the post office or meet up with your buyer
  • pay shipping/eBay/PayPal fees
Yard sales are an even bigger pain. For one of those you'll need to:
  • advertise your sale at least a week in advance
  • set prices for each item
  • get up REALLY early (my biggest issue)
  • physically haul out everything you're planning to sell
  • haggle with people who want to pay you a nickel for a garbage bag full of clothing
  • drag everything that doesn't sell back into the garage or house

In other words, are you willing to go through the trouble to list every single Beanie Baby you've ever owned to possibly make $5 a piece? What if they don't sell? Do you look forward to the physical demands of a yard sale when it's possible you'll end up with $100 and a horrible farmer's tan at the end of the day?
Remember, the goal here is still to minimize your clutter and get rid of STUFF. If you have listed items for sale online or plan a yard sale, you need to have a back-up plan for the items that remain when the party is over. How long do you give yourself to sell before it's time to just donate? You have to set a deadline! For the items I just listed (a ton of shorts, jeans, and pants that no longer fit since pushing a person through my pelvis has widened my hips) I am giving myself 30 days. After that, I am off to Goodwill to make another donation. Otherwise, things sit around and take up my valuable space which is exactly what I am trying to avoid.
Not to get off on a tangent, but that reminds me of the Storage Wars-type shows where they buy junk and then they show us their "profit" even though they haven't sold anything yet! Just because that old gas station sign is worth $300, you don't get the $300 until you sell it! Don't count your chickens, people. You may think something is worth a lot of money, but it's really worth nothing if nobody is willing to buy it from you. You are better off donating what doesn't sell instead of waiting for someone to come along and pay you for it. A clutter-free home is priceless!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Day 1 Results: Sugar - 1, Kiersten - 0

Anyone who doesn't believe you can be addicted to sugar, allow me to introduce myself. After just one day completely sugar free, I have started experiencing (very common) withdrawal symptoms like headache, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and even the shakes. My body has become so dependent on sugar that it's only taken one day to feel like I am falling apart. Unfortunately, caring for a 3-month-old who is still nursing several times a night, I can't afford weakness, dizziness, or fatigue. I didn't realize my addiction had become so severe. So, the detox is on pause until my husband gets done with training and I can count on him to help out with the baby. I'm so disappointed that I can't just quit cold turkey, but instead I will continue to eat the food I've prepared for this week and allow myself more fruit. I'm going to need to wean myself from sugar, as sad as that sounds.

UPDATE: I was so exhausted and shaky when I woke up, I knew my blood sugar had plummeted, so I had a cookie with some coconut milk and fortunately my in-laws agreed to watch the little one for a couple hours while I "slept it off." New plan of action: baby steps.
Step 1: Cut out all the crap. No more sodas. (Not even diet.) No cookies, chips, ice cream, granola bars, or other processed/packaged foods.
Step 2: Cut out grains. No breads, rice, or pasta.
Step 3: Limit fruit.

I plan to stay on each step for a week. If I need more time, I'll take it. I wish I could just follow the original plan. (It's a great plan, and I'll review the eBook soon!) Unfortunately, I can't afford even one day of withdrawal with my husband so far away and not here to help with the baby in the middle of the night. I know my limits.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sugar Detox - Day 1

Let the baking begin!

So thanks to a donation from an awesome friend, I have the official 21-Day Sugar Detox eBook! Today, I am pre-making my egg muffins and burgers which will be breakfast and lunch for the week. (Unfortunately, it's apparently really difficult to get bison on short notice here, so these burgers will be lean ground beef and ground turkey.) For snacks, I'll be baking up some kale chips and making some homemade applesauce in the crock pot. The number one "excuse" I have for not following through with this plan is that I don't have time to cook or make my meals. If I can get a week's worth of breakfast, lunch, and snacks done in one day, I'll be in good shape. The eBook has some really great recipes and meal ideas. I can't wait to try more!

I loosely followed the recipe from The Food Lovers Kitchen. I didn't have any broccoli or peppers, so I just sauteed some spinach. Next time, more veggies!

Minimal (love it!) clean up. I used a shaker bottle to scramble the eggs. Way easier than using a whisk and bowl.

Well, they're not pretty. Next time I will skip the liners and just coat the tin with some coconut oil. I will also lower the temp, because this is what they looked like at 15 minutes on 400. I'd say they were a success. I can definitely eat one of these for breakfast every morning, but I'd need to add something else to my meal in order to be satisfied.

Today is also my first day back to the gym in a week. I had a nasty ingrown toenail cut out last week (TMI? I know you want pics!) and it's still healing, so I'll be doing some lifting but keeping weight off of my foot, and then I'll be starting my 5/3/1 schedule over again on Monday. *sigh* Setbacks happen, people. You just have to keep trucking!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Attempt at a Sugar Detox

My diet has been appalling. I'm not going to lie. And that makes me feel like such a hypocrite because I know what I'm eating is horrible for me. It's shameful, but I feel like I need to be honest. I've eaten two waffles with syrup and butter for breakfast every morning for the past three days. I've also polished off half a bag of Doritos. I'm staying with my parents for a few days because I have family visiting from out of state, so I'm out of my element. I obviously haven't done any grocery shopping, and since we have company, we've been eating "convenience foods" all weekend. Last night I had a peanut butter sandwich for dinner.

After my daughter was born, I lost about 15 lbs. right away. I haven't lost anything since then and I've actually gained weight. It needs to stop. This is pretty much a diet emergency, so it calls for an extreme fix. Right now, I am working on putting together a menu for a 21-day sugar detox. So far, I have breakfast figured out. I can eat the same thing every day (thanks to that "living uncomfortably" plan) so I will be eating egg muffins every morning. I'd love to get the official 21 Day Sugar Detox eBook, but I am working on not spending money, so I will put together my menu from this blog post instead. Then, when I make my next $21, that download is so happening. I'm thinking I will make ahead some of these Bison BLTs. If I can make breakfast and lunch for the week, I should be set.
I can make the following excuses:
I don't have time to shop or cook.
I have a baby to take care of.
I can't afford groceries.
I hurt my toe.

Don't ask about that last one, but these excuses are all true. Unfortunately, so are the following facts, if I continue to eat this way:
I will gain more weight.
I will feel sick and lethargic.
I will set myself up for long-term health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

So, I will take the same advice I offered a couple days ago because it applies to our dietary choices as well. It's time to act like a grown-up and make responsible decisions. It won't be fun or easy, but it's better than a future of immobility, pharmaceuticals, and insulin dependence. This starts now.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Happy Three Months, Monkey!

Dear little girl,

     We have made it through jaundice, colic, acid reflux, sleepless nights, long car rides, and breastfeeding setbacks. We still have a long way to go, but I think we make a good team. We are learning to co-habitate, slowly but surely. I am learning the difference between the times you are hungry and the times you are just tired. You are learning that you can depend on me to take care of you in both of those (and all other) situations, and also that you have hands. Soon enough, you will figure out that nobody is going to steal those little piggies from you so you can settle down with the munching.
     I hope you like the silly games we play, because I love watching your face light up when I say, "Kiss Mommy on the nose!" I hope you like our time nursing together, because I love watching you fall sleep on my lap when you're full. I promise to keep reading (especially Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss) and singing (I know you love Journey and Jason Mraz) to you for your benefit, and taking lots of pictures of you for mine.
     There are days when I get frustrated that I don't know what you want, especially when you've been sufficiently fed, changed, and cuddled. There are days when I wish you could talk to me and just tell me if you need the lights turned down or if you want to play. But when I see you napping contently in your swing with one or both arms raised above your head like you fell asleep mid-stretch, I know you are getting what you need. You won't be this little forever and I accept that. So, while I sometimes worry that you aren't getting enough sleep or tummy time, I do my best to enjoy every waking minute (and these days, there are a lot of those) with you. I love you, Silly Monkey!

<3 Mama

Monday, August 6, 2012

Living Uncomfortably

I have to explain - this is not my house. It belongs to my in-laws. This is where I am currently living with my daughter to save money while my husband is in training. It's a lovely home, and they are lovely people. However, things can get a little cramped with three adults and a baby.

I had a conversation with a friend recently about people who live beyond their means. I will take the time to brag here, because my husband and I have worked very hard to not end up in that situation.
In college, I fell into the credit card trap. My bank offered me a credit card. I don't even remember the terms and conditions but I'm pretty sure a free t-shirt and slice of pizza were part of the negotiation. I started using it right away and paid it off at the end of the month. I wanted to build credit, and I had a few thousand dollars saved from my high school part-time job, so it wasn't hard to keep that up. Until I had to pay for textbooks. And rent. And cable. And new clothes. And then school started and I couldn't get another job, but I could continue to make payments with my financial aid, even if I didn't pay off the whole card. I paid every month on time, so they kept increasing my line of available credit. And I lived that way for four years until I had a $5000 balance on my $7500 credit card. It took years to pay that off, and for what? Most of the things I purchased with that card stayed in Gainesville after I graduated and yet I was essentially still paying for the $20 pots and pans set I got at Wal-Mart my freshman year.
Before we got married, my husband and I made it a goal to be completely out of credit card debt before our wedding. And we did it! We moved in with his parents, which took a lot of pride-swallowing since we had both been on our own for years before that. We worked three jobs. (How? The economy has been so bad!) How is that we weren't above asking for work wherever we went. We both ended up getting hired as banquet servers at a local country club because we asked if they were hiring when we stopped by their booth at a wedding expo. We went to previous employers to see if they needed any extra help. We looked for opportunities everywhere we could instead of sitting around assuming there were no jobs available.
We also had to train ourselves (OK, I had to train myself; my husband's brain has always worked this way) to make choices before we made purchases. If we went shopping, which happened rarely, we may have seen things that we wanted but before making a commitment to purchase, two questions had to be answered:
1. Can I afford it?
2. If the answer is yes, could I spend this money in a better way?
The answer to the first question was often NO. Occasionally, there were things we could afford and that was tough because we had to decide if it was something we really needed. It usually wasn't. (Truly, how many things does one need?) If we had decided that we could afford to spend $30, was it appropriate to spend it on a new pair of shoes? Or should it go toward our debt? Or does another purchase need to be made? And I had to ask myself these questions EVERY time I went to the store. That helped us pay down $5000 in debt in a little over a year. That and those rare and mysterious jobs we were able to find when "nobody was hiring."
It's not fun eating the same thing (in the same dining room) every night or wearing the same clothes week after week. And goodness knows, it's not much fun living at home after you've been out on your own for years. But think about it this way:
How much fun is it going to be avoiding bill collectors? Having your car repossessed? Filing bankruptcy? Explaining to your children that you can't afford to send them to college? I may sound like a bully here, but I feel like our generation has to finally grow up. We are adults! We are married with children! It's time to start making responsible choices with our money. If you can't afford your iPhone or high speed internet or 200 HD channels, you can live without it. Basic cable still exists, and believe it or not so do pay phones and public libraries. Because my husband and I sacrificed early on (and are continuing to do so) we now have great credit, our own home, and the titles to both of our vehicles.

What can you live without? Do you think you could cancel your cable subscription? Skip the movies? Eat at home instead of a sit-down restaurant? How uncomfortable are you willing to be now so you can have a more secure future?