Friday Favorite: Coconut Oil

Friday, September 22, 2017

If you've seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then you might remember the dad in the film's obsession with Windex as the balm to anything bad or irritating.

That's how I feel about coconut oil.

Coconut oil is known for its amazing health, gut, and skin benefits (but it needs to be organic virgin oil).  It's full of really healthy saturated fats that actually help us properly absorb other fats and has also been proven to help in a medicinal nature.

I LOVE coconut oil for cooking and for health benefits; but my skin has really been the best benefactor.  I have major issues and very sensitive skin, thanks to plague psoriasis.  Coconut oil has helped my flare-up symptoms greatly.

I usually buy it in giant tubs at Costco, but I've bought probably every organic extra virgin coconut oil at most grocery stores.  I keep a big container in my kitchen and use it daily (see below), but I also spoon out some more for a jar I keep in my bathroom, with a little tablespoon inside to help scoop it out.

If you haven't tried coconut oil yet, you've got to. It might be safer to try a smaller jar first (like this one--look at alll those reviews!) until you get used to using it for a variety of things.  Then you can spring for the giant jar stuff!

Here are some things I use coconut oil for:

*To replace oil/butter in cooking and baking: I NEVER use canola/vegetable oil anymore.  Roast some veggies, saute your chicken, use it in your muffins and cakes.  There are countless ways to incorporate coconut oil into your cooking.  Those tubs will go fast!

*Body moisturizer: Coconut oil is my go-to as full body moisturizer, goodbye body lotion! I rub about a TB size of this all over while my skin is still damp from the shower.

*Makeup remover: Dab it on a cotton ball and go to town. Works on Lipsense, too!

*Facial oil cleanser: Have you heard of washing your face with oil?  It's super helpful with acne.  I now use a different oil recommended by Kayti from The BeYOUty Bureau (who was a guest on my show, here!), but I use her same method with coconut oil when in a pinch.  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND her method, at the very least. My skin is looking better than it has in years (although that might just all be thanks to pregnancy--I switch off between terrible and good skin each pregnancy).  All the same, I know this method helped my skin even before I got pregnant.

*Nighttime face moisturizer: Just a littttttle bit goes a long way here.  Sometimes, just around my eyes. If it clogs your pores, then you'll know you're using too much.

*Skin treatment: I make a little concoction with shea butter, coconut oil, and a little tea tree oil, and castor oil (here is a similar recipe).  When my skin and scalp get enflamed (again, plaque psoriasis), I use this to settle it down, asap.  With my skin, I rub in my special cream right out of the shower BEFORE toweling off (seals in the moisture).  For my scalp, I massage it onto my scalp, pull up my hair, and let it sit for an hour or so before showering and washing my hair.  (You'll have to shampoo a few times to ensure your hair doesn't stay greasy.)

*Hair treatment: Besides the shea butter concoction mentioned above (which is realllly thick and heavy), pure coconut oil is easier to apply and excellent as a deep conditioner for your hair.  Rub it into your hair dry--especially the ends--pull up your hair or wrap it in a warm towel, and then wash it out.

*Prenatal/Nursing/Infant Care: I use coconut oil as a belly cream for stretch marks, as a replacement to nipple cream, and for diaper rashes and other skin ailments my babies face.  LOVE. IT.

*Oil Pulling: I haven't done this in a while because it wasn't working with having three small children to get ready and out the door (aka, I need to be able to talk), but I did use coconut oil for a while to do oil pulling in the mornings.  If you haven't heard of it, google away!!!

Are you already a fan?  What do you use coconut oil for?

Elyse Beard and Ashley Aikele: Being Your Own Kind of Brave

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

“Bravery is being scared, it’s being afraid; but doing it anyway . . . It’s OK to be afraid of something, but own those feelings and rise above.”  

You think if you were the masterminds behind a magazine with "Bravery" in the title, that you would be a very courageous person.

Not so for these ladies.

Elyse Beard and Ashley Aikele both profess that they have let fear hold them back for far too long.  But when they had the idea to create a publication that inspires courage in children by sharing stories of brave women, they knew they had to be their own kind of brave.

To build something so monumental from nothing entailed a lot of letting go alongside a whole lot of work.  Elyse and Ashley talk about how they practiced "fake it 'til you make it," used their different talents, and now witnessing their vision take life.  Their dream is that ultimately this publication is far more than a magazine; it's a movement.

Elyse and Ashley share how a huge part of being your own kind of brave is figuring out what your "thing" is, and how even the process alone can demand a special kind of courage.  Ashley shares how perfectionism prevented her from following through with many ideas in the past; Elyse talks about how she couldn't figure out what talents she had to offer to the world and how unfulfilled she felt because of that struggle.  But these women have risen above their own fears, and shown us that if we dare to believe in ourselves, try new things, and even risk failure, we can create something life-changing.
Ashley and Family
Elyse and Family
You can listen to this podcast below, or on iTunesSoundcloudStitcherPocketcastsGoogleplay, or search for "About Progress" wherever you get your podcasts.  If you like the show, please subscribe and leave reviews!!

Show Notes:
Bravery Magazine's Kickstarter (where you can order the first printing!), Instagram, and Facebook (website coming soon)
Last week's episode with Nicole Kalkowski
SURVEY!!!! (It takes less than a minute to fill out--thank you!)
Monica's Facebook and Instagram
Contact Monica
Free Audiobook through Audible! (Affiliate link)
More Podcasts from About Progress
Song Credit: "Sweet Promise" by Nicolai Heidlas

Happiness Hack: Take Five Minutes

Monday, September 18, 2017

I started a news series last week on my Instagram account.  Each Monday, I'll share one small way to boost your happiness and help prevent a case of the Monday Blues.  I'll continue to post there, but I also thought I'd post them here at times for those of you who don't spend time on Instagram.

My first share was this: Eat Something By Yourself.

It can be a whole meal while the kids are napping/having quiet time (that's what I do!); it can be a piece of chocolate in the shower; it can be an apple on a quick walk away from the office.  Just having those few minutes to yourself--and not multi-tasking!!!--is essential to re-grouping.  There is a whole mindfulness piece here too.  You actually enjoy your food more AND know better when to call the quits when you're actually paying attention to it.

Having lunch by myself was a practice I started as a teacher.  I would literally lock my classroom door and the kids knew that that time was for me.  If I hadn't done it, I think I would've quit like three months in.  As a mom now, this is also essential to my sanity.  My older kids know to give me some time when I ask for it midday, but they're usually busy sleeping or quietly playing anyway!

I was pretty shocked by how many commenters (here) said they NEVER eat alone, or even sitting down for that matter.  I understand that for most meals of the day, honestly, with so much going on whether you're home or at work.  But I honestly feel that if each person makes a point

My second Happiness Hack: Take Five Minutes.

This can happen at any point of the day.  You just take five minutes to simply sit.  You can meditate, read, look through a magazine, draw, listen to music, or just close your eyes for a little cat nap.  The days are long, busy, and stressful.  But we can all spare five minutes.

If you know your day is going to be out of control, I'd recommend waking up early.  Each morning, I've been trying to wake up around when my husband leaves for work at 5:30 AM.  I used to wake up then to work out, but now that I exercise later I've been attempting to instead meditate, do a spiritual study, then knock out a bit of work and house duties before the kids get up.  But even if I don't get up by 6:00 or even 6:30 AM, I still get up a little before I know kids' clock is going to light up.  I meditate just five minutes.  Even that makes a big difference in my day.

So when can that be for you?  Before your day begins?  Right in the middle of it?  Before the afternoon rush?  Or at night to help wind down for bed?

Oh, and in case you didn't get the KEY to this five minutes, here it is: no phone.

I hope you instill this short practice and let me know how it goes!!!

Friday Favorite: Tinted Eyebrow Gel, Yep!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Two weeks ago, I shared my FAVORITE way to grow eyelashes and brows.  This organic castor oil that costs $12, won't kill your budget, or you, for that matter.  (I shudder when I think of the chemicals in serums, let alone the cost.) I was shocked by how many people wanted to know more, so I'll do a little tutorial soon with more information, and put it here for you.

In the meantime, I need to share another beauty favorite of mine: tinted eyebrow gel.  Yep.  This is happening!  And it's from the drugstore, too.

I'm not totally lacking in the brows department--I have enough that I don't NEED to fill them in daily; also, I don't want to.  (#lazy) (also #notskilled)

But in recent years--just like my lashes--my brows have lightened a bit and thinned out in some parts.  Plus, I have to give in to all the beauty bloggers and own that having a bit more defined of brows goes a long way to having a pretty face.  Most days, I just wear concealer, mascara, blush, and this eyebrow gel.

This gel is tinted, comes in five colors (I use dark brown), and is a three-in-one: keeps your hairs in place, slightly darkens them, and plumps them up a bit.  At first, I used this one--which I also love.  But then I accidentally bought this kind with the fibers in them.  At first, I almost returned it; but after trying out for a few days, I was sold. Because it defines my brows a bit more without it looking like I filled them in.  That's the look I go for--the one that makes it look like I didn't do much.  (Misleading, I know...)  I still use both kinds, though!  It's all a matter of preference of whether or not you end up liking the fibers or not.

With either of these versions, there is a bit of a learning curve.  My tips:

1) Use a light touch, with slightly flicking motions
2) Take a the excess product off the wand before applying
3) If it gets applied a bit too thick, let it dry then brush them through lightly with an eyebrow brush (I rarely have to do this)

I promise I'm not going to become a beauty blogger, because that is not my skill set at all.  And reminder: these aren't sponsored posts, just things I genuinely love.  Although the Amazon link is affiliate and will earn me literal cents if you buy it from there.  I don't care though girl, go to Target!

If you use either of these, let me know how they work for you!  Next week will be another cheap or free Friday Favorite!!

Until then, I'll leave you with my subtle photo sharing this product.  If that doesn't sell you, I don't know what else will.

Nicole Kalkowski: Fighting for Children with Special Needs

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

“You have unique experiences with each one of your children. I think that working to cultivate happiness in your home, even though you could be going through hard things . . . really pays off.  What you think about transcends, and it impacts your everyday life.”

Nicole Kalkowski has had to fight for her son throughout his entire life.  From a toddler diagnosed with regressive autism then immediately after with a myriad of diseases, including mitochondria and epilepsy (see below for a more extensive list). Nicole has relied on her intuition and resilience to get doctors to hear her and to help her son.  She has literally kept him alive.

Redbook Magazine covered the Kalkowski family for an entire year, documenting what it was like to have a then-three-year old son with autism.  (A beautiful picture from the feature is below, with article links in the show notes.) Nicole later became an advocate and got amazing legislation passed that will ensure other parents don't have to face the darkness helplessly, as her family had.  

Ryan (now almost a teen!) requires round-the-clock care.  Nicole, with her husband and three other children, have adopted the phrase "Roll with it!" when life presents new challenges or interruptions  to each day.  That decision to let go is repeated often in Nicole's story, as she learned to rely on others, on God, and to search for happiness wherever possible.  And Nicole sees it everywhere.

You'll be inspired by this mother's resilience, how she knows who Ryan is at his core, and how she can say she is now grateful for the dark times she and her family have faced.

Ryan's Diagnoses:
* Mitochondrial disease
* No immune system
* Multiple autoimmune diseases
* Dysautonomia, affecting heart and organs
* Hypoglycemia
* Life-threatening epilepsy
* Global hypotonia and bigamous laxity
* Tremors
* Debilitating nerve pain
* Sleep apnea
* Asthma
* Hashimotos
* Multiple gastrointestinal diagnoses
* Autism and developmental delay

You can listen to this podcast below, or on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Pocketcasts, Googleplay, or search for "About Progress" wherever you get your podcasts.  If you like the show, please subscribe and leave reviews!!

Show Notes:
Redbook articles on Kalkowski family: hereherehere, and here
Another article on Ryan's Make-A-Wish fulfillment
Last week's interview with Briana Johnson
SURVEY!!!! (It takes less than a minute to fill out--thank you!)
Monica's Facebook and Instagram
Contact Monica
Free Audiobook through Audible! (Affiliate link)
More Podcasts from About Progress
Song Credit: "Sweet Promise" by Nicolai Heidlas

Special Upcoming Episode: I need your help!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


I am so excited to tell you that we are going to be approaching our 50th episode in a few weeks!  I am going to air a more informal, fun, and (hopefully) curious podcast for you, but I need your help.

The format with be Q&A.  So, I'll need questions from you about things you are curious about: me, the podcast, my family, living in the Bay, health, food, balance, etc.  You can comment below with your question(s) as long as they're appropriate/nice, or contact me via email.

Questions are already rolling in and it's very entertaining to me what you are interested in.  Keep 'em coming and I'll be sure to prepare a fun episode for you.

Thank you for your support!!

Friday Favorites: My Go-To Podcasts

Friday, September 8, 2017

I am certain that it doesn't surprise you that I LOVE podcasts, and have for years.  It wasn't until I a little over a year ago and heard some more "amateur" podcasts that I suddenly realized this was something lay-people could do.  (Eventually, that meant me!)

I thought today's (free!) Friday Favorite could be a list of the podcasts I find myself listening to almost religiously.  From the top to the bottom, I'm listing them how long I've been a follower--not in order of my preference.

My Go-To Podcasts
1) Fresh Air, with Terry Gross: Terry, Terry, Terry.  I love her silky voice, her thoughtful questions, her laughter, how celebrities even go ga-ga over her, and I even love her stutters.  She is an incredibly bright woman and I feel that each episode teaches me something incredible or is just plain fun to listen to.  There's a great variety there.
2) This American Life: Ira, Ira, Ira.  (OK, I'll stop doing that from now on.)  I hang on EVERY WORD each episode.  Sometimes I skip Fresh Air, but never This American Life.  I don't think there's a single episode from the last four years that I haven't heard.  And shhhhh, this might be my very favorite.
3) Happier, with Gretchen Rubin: I listen to most of these; however, it took me a few months of occasional listening to suddenly really love this podcast.  It tends to focus on "white people" problems--meaning, how we are obsessed with happiness despite having so many reasons to be happy--but I still get a lot out of most episodes.  The sister-to-sister (monotone) banter is fun, too.
4) Young House Love Has A Podcast: This was that first podcast where I thought, "Man, I would love to do this."  John and Sherry were VERY VERY successful interior design bloggers who left it all behind when it was getting too much.  Then they started this podcast.  I love the married banter, the quizzes, and learning about interior design. But that's because I love that thing!
5) The Chris Loves Julia Podcast with Preston Pugmire: This is similar to YHL, but very different too.  I don't miss either of these podcasts.
6) The LifeBeats Project: Briana Johnson has become a friend, but even before that I would have considered her one just as a listener.  This is the first "amateur" podcast I discovered and was hooked right away.  She connects SO SO well with her guests, asks amazing questions, and seems to know just how to navigate really difficult, really personal stories.  I don't miss an episode.  Psst: she was a recent guest on my show here, and I was on hers as well here.
7) The Extraordinary Moms Podcast: I discovered Jessica Dalquist around the same time as Briana.  I love her style--she is very good at coming up with new questions, interviewing an AMAZING variety of guests, and getting to the meat of what matters from the interviews.  She was also on my show here, and I on hers here!!
8) Bold New Mom: I found Jody after we both interviewed the same person--Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife.  I absolutely love how she reframes things and I've learned a lot from her.
9) Vibrant Happy Women with Dr. Jen Riday: She has the same format for each interview, but we somehow get something different out of each one.  I love the variety of women she has on her show and how she's able to distill things down to takeaway tips.  She also has a killer voice for this sort of thing and the whole podcast looks and sounds very professional.

But, wait!  There's more.

Newish Podcasts to me that I'm digging: Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations (just started last week and I love it, but who doesn't LOVE Oprah?!); 10% Happier with Dan Harris (LOVED his book); How I Built This with Guy Raz (just getting into this one and it's fascinating--going to be a favorite, for sure); Parenting Great Kids with Dr. Meg Meeker (really great); More Happy Life (these are shorter in length and very educational/easy to follow--Andy was a guest on my show!); Wow in the World (GREAT for kids!!!!); Pod Save America (don't listen to this around kids because they use adult language).

Beyond this list, I've listened to countless others.  Some I come back to, but these are my tried and true.  I'm always interested in hearing others though--so please share your own go-to's in the comments!

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