Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How to Pack Your Kids' Clothes & Keep it Organized

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I spend most of yesterday filling up 6 suitcases & 5 carry-ons full of freshly roasted coffee (want to buy some?!), handmade products from our trade school, gifts for our supporters, random things and in the midst of all those stuff... our clothes.

How often do you find yourself going crazy trying to keep your kids’ clothes organized in suitcases when traveling? This has been my dilemma year after year for the past 6 years of traveling back and forth from Central America and the States.

Most of you know by now that we travel to the States every fall for our 2-month furlough. We always look forward to this time as a family to reconnect with our family, friends and supporters. The only thing I don't enjoy is the constant mess I had to face every week with the kids' suitcases.

Especially as our family grew from 1 to 4 in the past 6 years!

So, each year my packing method changes as I try to find the best way to pack all the kids clothes that would meet 4 requirements:
  1. 7 days worth of outfits that they can grab easily without making a mess.
  2. Shows clearly who’s clothes are who’s.
  3. Everything stays organized & compacted.
  4. Everything fits nicely into two tubs (or one large suitcase) with room to spare for extra things.
What you think? Sounds & looks almost impossible, right?!

Well, maybe not...

Last fall, we flew to the West Coast from the Midwest and traveled around AZ & Southern California. It was essential for me to find the best way to keep their clothes organized and make sure they all fit in the tubs as we traveled to a new location almost every week. I did not want to be stressed out over silly clothes!

Thankfully, I was able to create a packing system that worked brilliantly for us last fall! The pictures you will see below were taken during that time and this is how I packed my 4 kids' clothes yesterday.

My Packing System… Using Plastic Bags

When July rolls around, we start counting down the weeks until we head to the states. I also start thinking about what we need to bring back to the States and how I was going to pack them into our suitcases... especially the kids' clothes.

As I was thinking (and praying!) about how I was going to pack everything and not lose my mind in the process, an idea came to me...

Pack 7 outfits along with dresses, PJs and extra socks & underwear using gallon-size plastic ziplock baggies and mark them with different colors of duct tape to help the kids know which bags were theirs.


So, when the time came to start packing. I grabbed one box of gallon-size plastic ziplock baggies and went to work:
  1. 7 outfits (along with socks and underwear for each outfit) for each kid.
  2. 2 PJs for each kid.
  3. extra socks and underwear for each kid.
  4. 2-4 dresses for each of the girls.
  5. 1 light jacket or sweater for each kid.
First, I fold each outfit into 7 plastic baggies along with a pair of socks and underwear. When folding the clothes, be sure to fold them flat. Do not roll them up! I will explain in the next few steps.

Second, I fold the PJs and extra socks & underwear in one baggie.

Third, I took the dresses and put one in each of the seven baggies of outfits. That way if the girls want to wear a dress instead of shorts and shirt, they can wear the dress from the bag I set out for the day.

Lastly, I would zip up the bags but leave a 1 inch opening to squeeze the access air out of each bag to make them completely flat. You will have compacted clothes that take up less than half the usual space!

With the light jackets or sweaters, I simply put them on top of their clothes along with 2 pairs of shoes so that it is easy to grab on any day they need it.

Each kid had 8 plastic bags… making it a total of 32 plastic bags to pack. They all fit in one large suitcase with plenty of room to spare!

Now. I had two rules with the kids on this system:
  1. Wear the outfit in the bag, no mixing it up with other bags.
  2. After the clothes have been worn for the day, they do not go back into the plastic bags… they go into the dirty pile.
Honestly, I have to say this is the best system by far for me with 4 kids. Our travels last fall was SO much easier! Laundry days became a breeze because I knew what needed to be washed and was able to quickly fold and put the clothes right back into their baggies.

Some Extra Details
The bonus of using plastic bags is that you can see what is in each bag without having to take out the clothes. I've thought about using reusable cloth bags because they would be much more earth-friendly and last longer, but then you would have to take out the clothes to know what is inside.

For some, that would be no big deal… but for me, I like to be able to quickly browse through the suitcase and get out what the kids want without wasting precious time looking through each bag to find a specific outfit. Make sense?

Well, I am delighted to share that I just recently browsed through a friend's newly released ebook, Sewing School 101, and came across a tutorial of hers where she used mesh to make her daily clothes bags. This is where I have to say... great minds think alike! Here I thought I came up with the most unique idea of packing and already this gal is two steps ahead of me! I am excited to tackle this project soon and these bags will be very handy for many years to come.

It really helps that the kids clothes are small enough to fit in the plastic bags. I know in a couple years I will not be able to do that for my oldest daughter, but by then she will be responsible for her own clothes and keeping them organized. That will be interesting!

For now, this system keeps this mama sane and happy!

What do you think? Would you try this packing system? Do you have your own packing system that works for your family? Please share with us in the comments below!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

If You Are Willing

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With the morning sun caressing my face, I prepared to read the section of verses for my quiet time in the Word.

What I read stilled and pierced my heart...

"In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. "Lord," he said, "if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean."

Jesus reached out and touched him. "I am willing," he said. "Be healed!" And instantly the leprosy disappeared. (Luke 5:12-13)

I have read that verse multiple times over the years, but right that moment... it touched something deep in my heart.

A deeply buried desire. A desire that I don't want to have or feel anymore...

The desire to be healed.

I tried, again, to bury that hope & desire to be healed as deep as I could, but I could feel the Lord digging down in there... reaching and pulling aside the dirt, rock and cement that I painfully & deliberately used to bury, over the years... that desire.

Looking out to the mountains and seeing the golden glow of the rising sun... a whisper escaped from my lips, "Lord, if you are willing, you can heal me and make me hear. Today. Right now."

For so many years, since I was a child, people have come to me and asking to pray for healing for me. They would put their hands on my ears and pray with all they had. In the beginning, I was grateful... 

But as the years went on by and still no healing... I grew to resent the prayers.

While on the outside, I would smile and say, "Sure!" when someone innocently asked if they could pray for me. But on the inside, over the pounding of my heart, I would be yelling, "No! I am fine just the way I am! Leave me alone!"

As I grew up over the years, I buried that hope & desire to be healed as deep as I could...

Because I was afraid.

Afraid to let my hope rise.

Afraid to feel the crushing disappointment.

Afraid that I would be denied once again.

Afraid that I would be told that I don't have enough faith to be healed.

For years I used to silently ask... demand... beg the Lord to heal me, but I stopped doing that a long while ago.

It wasn't until I served at a deaf school in Mexico that I started to "accept" being deaf. 

That is where the prayers stopped. I still had my struggles, but at least I had more peace about being a deaf woman.

Sitting there and listening to my thoughts rolling around, I sense the Lord speaking to my heart, turning the verse around and saying...

"Marillyn, if you are willing, you can embrace being deaf and make Me greater in your life for others to see Me."


Really, Lord? My being deaf will make You greater? What about healing me? Won't that make You even more greater?

"Yes, but for only a short time and people will forget. Even you will forget, but your deafness is my gift to you. For I am greater in your weakness! Your inability to hear is what drives you closer to Me. That's why I created you to be who you are"

I sat there... speechless, a calm settling my thoughts.

"My daughter, you are a miracle to many because I have given you many gifts, abilities and talents. You can speak. You can read lips. You are able to wear a hearing aid. You have been able to do many different things that doctors claimed you couldn't and shouldn't do! Those are the things that bring glory to me."

I could sense a a different kind of healing happening at that moment...

"I promise you, Marillyn, you will be healed. Be patience. Be steadfast. Be courageous. And most importantly...

Be who I created you to be."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Easy Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream (dairy-free & sugar-free)

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Summer is in full swing. The ice cream truck is playing its music on every street. Fresh watermelons abound. Swimming pools are full everyday of the week. Books beckon to be read & cherished. The light of day lasts longer. Fireflies fly lazily about when the night finally falls. Mosquitos swarm around for blood. The air is warm and with a hint of sweetness... These are my sweet memories of all the summers in the midwest after moving there when I was 9.

But my all time favorite memory were the brownies my mom would make once a week and served with a big scoop (or two) of my dad's homemade strawberry ice cream.

O... my... sweet... goodness... there is nothing like a spoonful of fresh homemade strawberry ice cream straight out of the old-fashioned ice cream machine!

This Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream, in a way, brings back those memories.

My husband commented that this ice cream tasted very much like a cheesecake ice cream, even though I used coconut milk instead of dairy. I believe it the combination of tangy balsamic vinegar and sweet strawberries along with the nutty milk gave it that yummy flavor.

This is actually a simplified version of my Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Crème Fraîche Ice
Cream that you can find in my book, Just Making Ice Cream.

I chose this ice cream flavor to make ice cream sandwiches specifically for a friend's birthday. I wanted to go the extra mile for her and make something special, but I had to make over 30 ice cream sandwiches! That's why I simplified the ice cream recipe...

They were a huge hit.

And you can totally, easily make these yourself with my simple 'step-by-step' tutorial over at the Healthy Aperture Blog

Go on now and whip up some of this easy & yummy ice cream. While you are at it, make a batch of your favorite brownies to make some homemade ice cream sandwiches... you will wish you had started doing that summers ago!

Easy Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream
(dairy-free & sugar-free)

6 cups whole strawberries (fresh is best, but frozen is fine)
2-3 Tbsp coconut sugar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Remove the stems and rinse the strawberries in cool water. Place them in a strainer.
  2. Slice the strawberries and place them in a large bowl. Toss with coconut sugar and balsamic vinegar. Let them sit for about 10 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F. Pour the strawberries and juices into a large ovenproof dish.
  4. Roast them in the oven until they start to caramelize, juices are bubbling and strawberries are hot (but not mushy). About 15-20 minutes.
  5. Scoop the the strawberries and juices into a container and let them chill in the fridge while preparing the ice cream base.
2 cups coconut milk (or milk of your choice)
1/4 cup coconut sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 heaping cup of roasted strawberries
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together coconut milk, coconut sugar, sea salt and roasted strawberries.
  2. Pour the mixture in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  3. When ice cream is done churning, quickly scoop it into a container and serve right away or let it firm up in the freezer for a couple hours before serving.
Top your ice cream with the more roasted strawberries and drizzle with homemade chocolate syrup (didn't have any, boohoo)... there you have it! Told you it was easy!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pregnancy Notes: DIY Natural Nipple Cream {recipe}

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Let's be honest... breastfeeding can be painful. Especially the first week and when your baby starts teething!

When I was pregnant with #1, I had romancing visions of happily cuddling & nursing my sweet little baby... oh man, all that went out the window at the first latch.

After the first few nursings... my nipples were painfully sore and cracked. 

After almost 3 days of nursing... I was grinding my teeth & curling my toes every time my baby latched on. I was not prepared for the pain! I wished someone had said something about that important little big detail while I was pregnant!

But I made it through… with some lanolin and lots of prayer.

Concerns about Lanolin
I don’t know about you, but I really hated using that common lanolin stuff on my nipples! I felt that it didn't help much. I hated the oily feel and the stains it left on my bras & shirts. I did not feel much relief and found it uncomfortable on my sore nipples.

What exactly is Lanolin? I didn't know until I did some research and found out that Lanolin is the greasy discharge from a sheep's sebaceous glands. It is used in all kinds of cosmetics, from lip balms, shaving creams, hair products to breastfeeding creams. Although it has been touted as highly effective in soothing & healing chapped skin (but not for me!), lanolin usually contains a heavy load of pesticides from the wool being soaked in chemicals to remove parasites before the lanolin is scoured out of it.

Since your baby will basically be ingesting small amounts of whatever you smear on your nipples, it is critical for the ingredients to be safe (in my humble opinion). Many mamas swear by lanolin, but I rather use more natural ingredients that are 100% edible and safe! At the moment, there are no organic options for lanolin out there.

Unfortunately and completely clueless at the time, I used lanolin with both my first and second babies... after that, I promised myself to find a different alternative.

Finding an Alternative Relief
Thankfully, it was my mom who found it. A herbal nipple cream called Motherlove that she picked up at Whole Foods. I used it after Tobias was born and...


It smelled good, did not feel oily, felt really soothing, absorbed quickly into my skin and did not stain my bras & shirts. I clearly remember my nipples healing very quickly... like 4 or 5 days! I used it again with Poema, my 4th baby, and got the same results.

Y'all, that’s a big deal!

Why? Because both my midwives (from my 1st & 2nd births) have told me to bear the pain of nursing for 10 days, use lots of lanolin and then I will be fine. True enough, by the 11th day... the pain was significantly less and breastfeeding became a much more pleasant experience.

But now I think that 10 days of pain can be cut in half... using the DIY Natural Nipple Cream!Of course, every mama has different experiences with breastfeeding and some take longer to heal and get the hang of breastfeeding. I truly hope this cream will help lessen the pain, speed healing and shorten the time it takes for your nipples to get used to be sucked on by a hungry little mouth! Ouch!

Buy it or Make it?
The Motherlove nipple cream is a little pricey for such a small bottle and I only used about half of it during the first couple weeks of nursing Tobi, but to me… it was worth it!

Of course, I wanted to try making my own... simply because I enjoy DIY projects and wanted to save a little money. I looked high and low around the internet for a recipe, but didn't find much. Most simply said to use 100% coconut oil or a combination of coconut oil, beeswax, cocoa butter and shea butter... but was I looking for something more similar to the Motherlove nipple cream. 

Later, after learning how to make a few different kinds of salves/creams... I took the basic salve recipe, the ingredients from Motherlove and set out to make my own natural nipple cream.
I'm glad to say that it was a success! I have been able to use it as my 4th baby is still nursing pretty strong at 18 months old. The small amount I made was enough for me to share with another mama who recently had a new baby. She loved it and noticed quick relief from using it. 

The Ingredients & Its Benefits
Below you will learn how each ingredient is very healing for those sore nipples! For those who might be concern... this natural nipple cream is completely safe for the baby. I have used this for my 3rd and 4th babies with no concerns or side effects.

In fact, with Poema still nursing at 18 months and has teeth now... I still use the nipple cream whenever I start to feel little sore. If you are not convinced, then you can simply wipe off the cream just before you nurse, but it will most likely already absorbed into your skin.
  •  Marshmallow Root: The genus name comes from a Greek work meaning "to heal".This herb contains some germ-fighting and inflammation-relieving phyto-chemicals. It also contains compounds that help stimulate the immune system slightly. Marshmallow Root is known to help with bruises, chafing, sores and wounds... which is beneficial for the nursing mama! 
  • Calendula Flower: A herb long used through Europe and the Americas for wound healing and ulcer treatments, Calendula is known for its amazing healing properties. The phyto-chemicals in these flowers opposes fungi, bacteria, viruses and inflammation. Calendula also excite the white blood ells in the immune system to fight microbial invaders with a little more vigor. It is good for treating skin problems of all kinds, especially cuts, scrapes, bruises and minor wounds.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil and/or Coconut Oil: Both oils help promote healthy skin regeneration, fight off infection & thrush and moisturizes the skin.
  • Beeswax: Helps to keep needed moisture in the skin, promotes new cell growth and protects the skin.
  • Shea Butter: Moisturizes, protects, strengthens and regenerates the skin. It is great for minor cuts and cracks in the skin.

Making the Natural Nipple Cream
Thankfully, making nipple cream is super easy. I ordered my herbs & beeswax from Bulk Herb Store and the shea butter from Mountain Rose Herbs, but you can purchase all the ingredients at Mountain Rose Herbs. I love both companies and love their quality & prices! You can also purchase most, if not all, of the ingredients on too.

I am sure most of you already know this, but I feel it is important for me to say that It's highly recommended to use organic oils. When making my batch of nipple cream, I used 100% organic olive oil and loved the results. If you prefer, you can use a combination of coconut oil and olive oil or 100% coconut oil... whatever you like or have in hand!

Once you've made the natural nipple cream, you can start using it even before your baby is born! Rubbing the cream into the nipples throughout the latter part of your pregnancy and the beginning weeks of nursing will create healthy, flexible tissues that will be more resistant to cracks, tears and chapping.

Natural Nipple Cream

1/4 cup Calendula

1/4 cup Marshmallow Root
1 cup Olive oil and/or Coconut oil
1/8 cup Beeswax
2 Tbsp Shea Butter

Scoop herbs into a glass canning jar and pour oil on top. Make sure there is at least one inch gap between the mixture and top of the jar. Screw lid on tightly.

Set out a medium size slow cooker and line the bottom with a thick hand towel. Place the jar inside and fill the slow cooker with water up to the level of the oil in the jar, but keep the water level below the lid.

Turn the slow cooker on the "warm" setting and leave it on for 3 to 5 days, partially covered. Add more water into the cooker when necessary.

After 3 to 5 days, remove the oil infusion from the cooker and let it cool a little. Strain the oil through a fine sieve and/or cheesecloth into a small stainless steel sauce pan. Squeeze with your hands or use the back of a spoon to release the finished oil. Throw the used herbs away.

Add beeswax and shea butter into the sauce pan and turn heat on low. Stir until wax and butter has melted. Pour the mixture into 4oz glass jars or 4oz tin cans. Allow them to cool completely before putting the lids on. Date and label the nipple cream. Keep them in a cool, dry and dark spot. Will keep for several months.

With the recipe above, you should be able to fill three or four 4oz tin cans or jars pretty easily. You will most likely only need one for yourself and the extras will make fantastic gifts for your mama friends! I would love to make a gift basket with all my natural remedies to give to a mama friend... one day I will do it!

Think you can tackle this easy DIY project? For those who have made this cream and used it... Did it help your sore nipples? Did you noticed anything different? 

Note: The links above are my affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you decide to order the herbs through those links (no charge to you!). Thank you for reading this and supporting my family through your purchases!