Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ninja Express Chopper: A Review

Oh. My. Goodness. I love this new little gadget. I have had the Ninja Express Chopper for several months now.  I have used it, exclusively,  for chopping almonds to put in my yogurt, until the other day. I was making a ragu (that sounds fancy but it really isn't). I needed to chop onions, carrots and celery. I don't mind chopping onions, to much, but chopping carrots and celery is not fun. I wondered how the chopper would do, since carrots are hard, celery is stringy and it didn't matter if everything was uniformly chopped. Well, you know the old saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words"? Here you go :)

The Ninja Chopper is a small, no frills chopper. It has one speed, go.

This is after 3-4 quick pulses. Strings were no problem.

I could have done more than one carrot at a time.
Again, just 3-4, maybe 5 pulses and done.

I am very happy with this little workhorse (I was not paid for this in any way, I just love this little gadget). I will use it more often now and for more than just almonds. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Personal Testimony: Lavender Oil for Burn Treatment

I'm still sort of a newcomer to the world of essential oils, though I don't feel quite as "Huh?" as I once did.  :-)  Lavender oil seems to be a go-to oil for many, many things; and this last week, I learned from personal experience just how good it is at healing the skin.  I've read that you can combine it with witch hazel to use on cuts and scrapes as a natural wash before bandaging, but you can also use it to treat burns.  Lavender oil is one of the few oils that you can put directly on your skin - never put an essential oil directly on the skin unless you have checked if it's ok first!  Many oils need to be put in a carrier oil such as olive or sweet almond.  Do your research!

That said, I just wanted to share my personal testimony to the healing power of lavender oil for a burn that graces my forearm.  I received the burn while cooking by iPhone light - Hubz and my dad were installing a new dining light fixture which meant lack of electricity to the kitchen.  I was pulling something out of the oven, and quick as a wink my forearm touched the 400+* rack.  I didn't think it was a terrible burn.  I put an ice pack on it for a few minutes and called it good.  Apparently, it must have been one of those burns where your skin was touching for a bit longer than you thought...  It blistered.  It was swollen, red, and irritated.  I made a tiny mixture of real aloe from my plant, sweet almond oil, and a drop of lavender oil.  I dipped gauze in the mixture, and then wrapped the burn.  It felt SO cool and soothing!  I did this for a couple of days, but the burn didn't really seem to be improving. If anything, it seemed to start feeling more painful and irritated.  I tried antibiotic ointment - which did nothing.  So, "Whatever...I'm getting desperate...I'll just slap some straight lavender oil on it."

Amazing things happened, folks.  By the next morning, there was zero pain, irritation, and inflammation (it was actually dipped below my normal skin level just a bit!).  It looked noticeably better, too.  I kept it loosely covered throughout the day just to keep fabrics and such from rubbing against the burn.  By night, I could tell there was a little bit of swelling around the edges.  I put another drop of lavender oil straight on the burn and wrapped it up for another night.  Next morning, again, a remarkable improvement!  I wish I would have taken a picture when I started using the straight lavender oil, but I did start documenting a few days ago.  Here is the progression of healing over the last five days (minus day 4 in which I did not put any lavender oil on the burn just to see if it would continue healing quickly after several days of treatment).  See for yourself!

After one night of treatment.  Ask my mom about the level of improvement!  She was here when the burn happened!  The burn went from blistery and angry looking to calm and smoothly scabbed overnight!

Day 2 - the scab is noticeably smaller and new pink flesh is appearing.

Day 3 - Again, the scab is remarkably smaller and the pink flesh is calming down in color.

Skipped Day 4 just to see what would happen.  This is Day 5.  WOW!  Only a dot of scab left, and the pink area is much less noticeable.  Can you tell I'm amazed and excited?  :-)

Hubz and I wonder how society has departed so far from natural remedies when clearly they work!  There is definitely a place for medicine (we're advocates of that, too!), but if you can keep it simple for simple things...why wouldn't you?

Friday, January 10, 2014

LEGO Storage: A Saga for This Family

Ah, Legos.  One of the coolest toys around and also the brunt of many parental jokes (like sprinkling Legos around to deter criminals).  My boys can spend hours building and have truly done some pretty amazing things!  I love Legos for that reason.  But...for someone who has a hidden OCD streak, Legos can be the bane of an organized, tidy existence.

We went through months of trying several different ways to organize Legos.  I looked to Pinterest for ideas, talked with my Hubz and my boys, and delved the depths of my own brain for the best way to store the gazillion bricks and their instruction manuals.  Here are some we tried...

1) The One Box Idea - Keep them all in the same box.  Use a big blanket to build on, and then you can just take up the blanket and be done with clean-up in an instant.  Simple.  But definitely cramps the style of serious Lego builders as it takes FOREVER to find the pieces you want.  Which also means there is tons of sifting going on...which *might* grate on the nerves of a mom who likes things to generally be quiet and peaceful.  Things had to change.

2) The Ziploc Idea - This one is all over the place.  And I think it might be for the OCDers out there who just don't get the big picture of Legos.  I confess: I was there.  Why WOULDN'T you want to keep a Lego kit all to itself in one Ziploc bag with the instructions slipped inside?  It makes perfect sense.  Then all your pieces are right there, ready for building.  Where this fails: This is an imagination and engineering killer.  By doing this, you are confining Legos to only be used for what has already been thought up.  One of the benefits of kids (and adults) playing with Legos is the way it forces the brain to imagine, engineer, create, and even do math without realizing it.  Also, I guarantee that these Ziploc kits will NOT stay complete.  They will NOT be put away correctly every single time by young kids, especially if they are hurrying to "clean."

3) The Instruction Manual Notebook - This one is also all over the place.  How on earth do you store all those manuals??  Why, get a three-ring binder and some page protectors, of course.  Slip instruction booklets inside, and viola.  Excuse me while I laugh at my ignorance.  Your child(ren) would have to already be OCD to keep those page protectors unwrinkled and in one piece and the instructions neatly placed inside rather than jammed in.  I was shocked at how badly this idea failed.  My Hubz was shocked that I actually thought it would work.  :-)  (PS - If you are a hard core paperless person, Lego does have all of the instruction manuals online!  We let the boys build from the Kindle at times.  The boys have an endless supply of things to build without our having to spend a dime on kits.  This is also neat because then they must improvise for pieces they may not have.)

4) Separating Legos into bins/drawers by type - I thought this would be a great idea.  I realized my error in thinking that keeping kits together was perfect and moved towards the bigger Lego picture.  Freeing up blocks to be used for whatever my kids (and Hubz) could think of.  So let's try it by type.  Big, unique pieces in one bin.  Tiny little one-dots and bits in one bin.  People in one bin.  Flat bricks in another.  Normal bricks in another.  And so on.  We were SO close to finding a system that worked.  This one almost did.  Here's where it failed: Clean-up.  Some pieces could go in two different kinds of bins.  How is a kid (or mom??) to know which one?  And when kids are using instruction manuals, they have to check more than one bin to find that particular piece they need.  And a 3 year old?  Yeah, there's no way she's helping clean up because then the bins would be completely messed up.  This one was longer lasting, but it still took a few hours every now and then to set things right - going through bins and putting bricks back in the right places.  Eventually, this got annoying.

Enter the "I told you so" moment.

My son Judah (who could probably already be a Lego designer for the company) had suggested a while back that we just sort it by color.  My brain didn't compute that because that would mean lots of different kinds of pieces would be together.  Why, oh why, did I not listen to my sweet 7 year old when he said that!  He's the one that builds, not me.  So, I gave in.  We already had been using the perfect storage unit from Ikea (Trofast with 9 small drawers is Lego organization heaven!), so we set to work separating every brick by color and some by type.  I printed labels for the bins.  We purchased three extra rubbermaid/sterilite drawer units for the categories that didn't need huge bins.  Failure?

NO.  WAY.  This has truly been a blessing - yes, a blessing - to this mother.  And to the Lego builders in my life.  Anyone can clean up Legos this way - 3 years olds and even younger kids can certainly figure out that this red brick goes in the red drawer.  Judah and Elijah appreciate this organization method because as they build from instructions, they know which drawer to go to.  Yellow dot?  Yellow drawer.  White piece with a sticker on it?  Sticker drawer.  Large grey flat piece?  Grey drawer.  Judah knew what he was talking about when he told me how we should do it.  ;-)  Bliss.

Here are some pictures of our system with captions for explanation.  Soon, we hope to get some simple, thin white shelves to put next to the Lego storage to get the built projects off the ground where they can be stepped on or where they take up play space.

Our Lego Storage.  Ikea Trofast system and smaller drawer units from Walmart.  We have two big bins in the Trofast for our Thomas wooden train set and for cars, but the other bins are Legos.
Organized by color.  Plain and simple.  This also makes it SUPER easy to get the drawers perfect as you can tell when there are colors that don't belong.
Our drawer units.  The blue basket on top holds extra Ziplocs so the boys can keep kits they are working on together rather than having loose Legos everywhere or having to put all the pieces back only to find them again when they are ready to finish building.

A closer look at the bigger drawer unit.  These drawers are the PERFECT size for Lego instruction manuals.  As you see, we have them divided up into categories.
Our small tower holds drawers for the smallest categories.  Although the people are about to outgrow their drawer!  And it's a little weird to look in there and see heads and tiny hands and half bodies.  :-)  This drawer also houses the awesome Lego separators that I think were the hit of Christmas.  $5 a piece.  I'll take that!

This post has been Judah, Lego Master, approved.  :-)