Author Archives: eliseandemerald

Our Acreage Adventure!


We moved out to a farm!!!  I’m still in shock! We have been dreaming and scheming of moving to the country for YEARS and it is finally happening! I’m going to give you the reader’s digest version of our residential timeline so I can just get right into telling you how we FINALLY made our dreams of farm living a reality!


2010 – We got married and moved in together.  It was a tiny, 2-bedroom apartment in a complex of 8 other apartments.  Too many neighbors!


2012 – We moved to a new two-bedroom apartment with cheaper rent.  This new apartment was actually the mother-in-law-suite side of a large house.  So we got the benefits of a large yard and basement, without all of the rent cost and maintenance of a large house.


2014 – We both had steady jobs and were sick of throwing our money away on rent.  After 4 years of marriage, we were ready to finally own our own home!  We purchased a three-bedroom home in town.  Even at that time we knew we wanted to live in the country, but our budget wouldn’t allow for that.  So, we settled on a starter home in town to build up some equity for our dream home on an acreage!


2016 – We still love our house, but really want more land and fewer neighbors.  We decided to start looking for a new house in early Spring.


My goal was to find the new place, list our house for sale, sell our house, and move to the new house. If you have ever gone through the process of buying and selling a house – you know that this is not an easy feat.  Our real estate agent was not optimistic, but he was willing to play along.  So, we went to look at acreages.

The other difficult part of buying and selling a house is that you can only pick from what is on the market at that very moment. You have absolutely no idea what is going to come onto the market in 6 months or even 6 days.   Things change quickly, but you can only choose from what is on the market at the current time.  Since our house wasn’t even listed yet, we were not desperate to find a house.  However, we were eager to get some land and because we didn’t have a crystal ball that showed what houses were going to come on the market – we had some moments of weakness and tried to buy a few houses that just weren’t right for us.  God was watching out for us though and prevented us from settling on the wrong house just to get out of town.



  • 5-10 Acres of land

  • At least 3 bedrooms

  • Relatively new updates and/or not much maintenance

  • Hard surface road commute to work

  • Gas Range


The first house we put an offer on was a 5 bedroom house on 1.5 acres.  We got a lot of raised eyebrows on this one.  Since it is just the two of us, why would we need 5 bedrooms?  The way I saw it, I had room for a master bedroom, craft room, a guest bedroom, an office, and *hopefully someday* a nursery.  Sounded pretty great to me! It was a really funky house with a weird layout, but we thought we could make it work.  It was built on a hill with a great view right outside of town. The commute would be short, but it was on the main highway so there would be lots of traffic.  It really wasn’t the land layout we wanted, but we were eager to get out of town so we put an offer on it and the offer was accepted.  We buckled down and started to get our house ready for sale.  The same week we got our house on the market we got news that another offer had been placed on the house we wanted to buy.  The other offer didn’t have the same contingency as ours (that we needed to sell our house first) so we had 72 hours to remove the contingency or they would go with the other offer.  We knew this was a risk for the way we chose to do things, but we were still disheartened.  We said goodbye to the big house and started back at square one looking for a new house.



Now that our house was officially listed on the market we were much more eager to find a place.  This time we found a property with less house and more land. The second house was a one-bedroom cabin on 3.5 acres with a trout stream running through.  BIG difference between house 1 and 2 but, like I said, we could only choose from what is currently on the market.  Having the land was more important to us than having a big house.  It is a lot easier to build a bigger house or add on than to try to buy more land from your neighbors.  Farmland is precious in Iowa.  This house was also priced lower than the house we were currently living in – which made up for the half-hour commute we would now have.  We put an offer on it right away – it was priced too well to not make a move.  We knew full well that this house could get bought out from under us as well.  At the price point, it would be a desirable get-away cabin for hunters or other outdoor enthusiasts.  It took less than three days for us to get another 72-hour clause which we were again unable to remove our contingency.  So, we said good bye to house #2.



At this point, it seemed that the market had spoken – we were not going to find a house before we sold ours.  We changed our strategy and decided to wait until our house had sold before we put an offer on another one.  We had a lot of showings and really good feedback on our listing, but no serious offers.  Our eyes were still on the market and what was available, but we didn’t want to get our hearts broken again by losing out on yet another house.  All through the summer we showed our house and we remained patient that it would sell.  Once fall started to creep closer we got less patient.  We decided that if our house hadn’t sold by the end of September/early October we were going to take it off the market until Spring and then try again.

Thankfully, we actually had some friends who were interested in our house.  They had expressed interest even before we started looking but weren’t in the position to buy right at that time.  7 months had passed since we originally started talking about selling our house and getting out in the country and a lot had changed since then.  Our friends were now in a position to buy and we were even more ready to sell!  We accepted their offer and they were very gracious in giving us until the end of the year to find a new house!

House #3 was owned by another friend of ours who owns a lot of real estate in the area.  It was a little bit of a jog, however…. It was at least a half an hour commute for us and could be longer with weather conditions.  The house had two bedrooms and lots of potential for more in the unfinished basement.  Hub-hub was in love with the land and all that the 5 acre property had to offer with a pond, outbuildings, and woods for hunting. Our realtor went back and forth with their realtor for weeks trying to hash out the details.  We could never agree on the terms, so we said goodbye to house #3.



House #4

At this point we were feeling very discouraged.  Our goal was to move in the summer time and winter was now fast approaching.  It had now been 8 months since we started this process and lots of things had changed.  Hub-hub was offered a promotion at work, our house was sold, I was approaching my one-year anniversary at my job, and we had made 8 months of mortgage payments since our last talk with the bank.  We decided to go visit the bank and see if we could increase our budget at all so we could expand our search for acreages in the area.  The bank said yes!

With our newly widened search options, we set out to find our dream acreage!  We went to look at a few properties but only one was right for us.  Our new acreage is 10 minutes from town, on a hard surface road.  We only have 100 yards of gravel to travel to our driveway, so traffic is minimal on our road.  We have outbuildings and fencing already set up for animals and with 5.4 acres we should be able to get a nice little hobby farm going in no time! The house itself has been recently remodeled and all the rooms are large! It has three bedrooms and two baths.  We are in love and so relieved to finally have an acreage to call our own!


It has been quite the journey and I still have to pinch myself to remind me that this is all real!  Hub-hub and I feel so blessed to call this little chunk of land our own and are counting down the days until Spring so we can get some roots in the ground and animals in the pastures!   Thank you to all who have said prayers for us as we made plans to make this move.  We are so fortunate to have been able to find our dream property and are so grateful for all the support we received from friends and family!


Next Up: I’m hosting my very first family Christmas on the farm!!!!

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The Essentialist Movement is my personal journey towards health and happiness that I hope will inspire you too!

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Meal Plan Monday – Crock Pot Freezer Meals – Take 1


Meal planning is always something I am striving to do better at.  Most of the time, however, I go overboard.  I try to plan a whole month (or more) in advance and drive myself crazy.  Things don’t always go according to plan and we nights where the dinner we had already pulled out and ready to go just has to wait another day.  It is time consuming to plan the meals and very frustrating when the plans change and mess up what I had prepared.  I’m totally flexible with my plans! NOT!

We are also in the process of moving, so things are even more chaotic than normal.  All my recipes binders and books are already packed away, so Pinterest is my BFF.  I came across a post for 20 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals and it was the answer to my problem.  Having someone else think up the freezer meals and preparing them in advance helps me cut down on menu planning time. Having these meals be crock pot ready helps me save time each day that I would normally spend cooking – now I can devote that time to packing.

As always, I wanted to go overboard and plan out the slow cooker freezer meals for the next 6 weeks.  I figured that would carry us through all the packing, moving, and living-out-of-boxes-while-unpacking stages.  Hub-Hub, as usual, was the voice of reason for my over-planned plan and suggested we just start small.  So, we compromised and set out to prepare 10 out of the 20 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals that the blog suggested.  This way we don’t have too much money tied up in our freezer while we are buying a new house. We also aren’t planned too far in advance that we can’t be flexible with our meals.  I figure we will see how long we can stretch these meals out for and then we can make another set (or two) before we move.

Below are are the recipes that we choose.  As we go through them I will let you know what we think of them!  I had the day off on Wednesday, so we got them all prepped and ready to go!  Just seeing the ingredients put together was enough to make us very eager to try them!

  • Slow Cooker Maple Bacon Pork Loin  4.

    Delicious!!! I asked for a small pork loin at the meat counter – and it still made a ton!  I had some friends over for a craft night though, so that helped!  It was a big hit and I loved it!

  • Crockpot Chinese Beef and Broccoli

  • Ginger Peach Chicken

  • Slow Cooker Garlic Lemon Chicken  3.

    My crockpot cooks things so fast!  I put the chicken in way too early and it got pretty dried out.  I like my chicken dry, but Hub-Hub did not.  I also didn’t thaw the chicken out in the fridge overnight.  I just threw it in frozen (which I intend to do with all of the meals since my slowcooker cooks things so fast) and all of the lemon marinade fell to the bottom of the chicken.  The bottom of the chicken was VERY lemon-y, but the top wasn’t.  This meal really didn’t take that much prep.  It probably didn’t need to be a freezer meal – I could have baked it in the oven after work on a night we don’t work late.

  • Slow Cooker Mexican Chili with Cornbread Topping  2.

    I was so nervous to add the cornbread mix to the top!  I read the directions multiple times, but I was still worried that I wasn’t reading it correctly and that I was supposed to bake the cornbread first.  We had invited a friend over for dinner too so I was extra nervous when I poured the wet cornbread mix on top of the chili.  I had nothing to worry about, however, it set up beautifully!  Such a great idea!  I did deviate from the recipe a little.  We added red, yellow, and green peppers and added a can of kidney beans.  (Can it really be called chili if you don’t add kidney beans?) We also made our own chili seasoning instead of using a packet of taco seasoning.  When we make regular chili we always mix our own spices – so we just used the same idea for this.  I let Hub-Hub put the spices in though, so I honestly couldn’t tell you what he used.

  • Pot Roast Freezer Meal 5.

    Pot roast is a pot roast – right?  Yes, and no… we grew our own herbs this summer and dehydrated them ourselves.  When we added rosemary and thyme to this recipe it really made a big difference!  It was very good!

  • Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Apples and Sweet Potatoes

  • Slow Cooker Musroom and Barley Stew   1.

    This was the very first recipe we ate because we couldn’t get the freezer bag to seal.  I added the liquid right away and so it kept filling up the drip tray and wouldn’t allow the vacuum sealer to do its job correctly.  We just put it in the slow cooker right away and we excited to try our first meal of the fruits of our labor.  It was not good…. I don’t know if we used the wrong kind of barley or the wrong kind of mushrooms -but it tasted like watered-down spaghetti-o’s.  I don’t really know what could be done to doctor this recipe up and make it edible.  It made a HUGE batch though so I got to eat for leftovers for the next few days….

  • Black Bean Fajitas

  • Hawaiian Pork Chops

Thanks Stock Piling Moms for the awesome recipes!

Do you have any favorite slow cooker freezer meals?  I would love to hear them! Leave me a comment below! 🙂

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The Essentialist Movement is my personal journey towards health and happiness that I hope will inspire you too!

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Essential Oils, Positive Affirmations, and Chakras


My favorite Essential Oil? Balance!


This Doterra blend is my go-to staple and I don’t think that it is a coincidence that balance is also what I strive for most in my life.  I tend to have a lot of internal battles raging inside me as my Type-A, perfectionist side fights my creative, free-spirit side.  What I strive for most is a balance between the two where they can live in harmony. 🙂

I came across this handy chart for chakra balancing with essential oils on Pinterest and I decided to give it a try.  I liked the idea of targeting each chakra with a different oil to promote whole body balance. I made a roller bottle with each oil to easily apply them every day.  I don’t have DigestZen yet, so I substituted Bergamot instead.  I also used Wild Orange instead of Citrus Bliss because I need a little extra cheer in the morning. 😉

Chakra Chart.jpg

These seven oils are an awesome oil routine that I have really grown to love!  But I wanted to take it one step further.  Each oil is supposed to be doing some positive work for my body and I wanted to make sure my brain was clued into what I was doing as well.  So, I decided to start including a daily affirmation with each oil.  Every morning, as I am applying the oils, I look at myself in the mirror while I recite an affirmation for each chakra.

  1.  Elevation – Today I choose to be happy.  I am the owner of my own emotions and no one else gets to control how I will feel today.

  2. Serenity – I see the best in others and in myself.

  3. Whisper – I am a woman with a voice and I will not stay silent.  I will use my voice to stand up for myself and what is right.

  4. Breathe – I breathe out fear and breathe in hope.

  5. Bergamot – I am confident in myself and my abilities.

  6. Wild Orange – I value my relationships with others and I strive to be a positive light in their day.

  7. Balance – I am balanced and grounded.

By verbally reciting these daily affirmations I become more mindful of what my body can use these essential oils to do.  It is a great morning routine that gets me ready for the day!  If you want to start your own chakra balancing essential oil routine, feel free to use the oils that make sense to you.  You can also change the affirmations to target your own personal goals.

To make the roller bottles I used 6 drops of each oil and filled the rest with fractionated coconut oil.  Now each oil is very easy to apply and my pure oils will last longer!


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The Essentialist Movement is my personal journey towards health and happiness that I hope will inspire you too!

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Saying Goodbye to the Chickens



In the Spring of 2015 we got our first-ever batch of 7 chicks and I became a #happychickiemama.  My friends and family were surprised, but they were excited to see how our dreams of owning a farm were shaping up.  The most common questions I heard from people were, “Don’t you need a rooster to get eggs?” (NO – read article here) and “Are you going to eat them?”


This second question is a very valid one, considering up until I married my husband I was a vegetarian.  During high school and college I went through a 5 year phase where I didn’t eat meat.  I ate eggs and dairy, but no meat or fish.  I became a vegetarian because I took issue with factory farms and in protest of the alarming rate that our society was demanding more meat.  It was also a great way for me to control what I was eating. I have very specific things I like eating and if I don’t keep it in that box, I don’t eat it. I am a notoriously picky eater and meat has always been difficult for me to include in my box.

It was very amusing for my family to see Ms. Vegetarian marry Mr. Hunter/Fisher/Outdoor Man.  It was quite an adjustment for me to marry into a family whose regular dinner conversation included what part of the animal that cut of meat came from.  I adjusted however, and actually ate my first bite of chicken breast in 5 years on our honeymoon.  I ended my five year stint of vegetarianism – gradually shifting back to an omnivore after we were married- for many reasons. 1. It was expensive, and time consuming to prepare two meals for two people with very different diets. We got married at the ripe old age of 20 and didn’t have tons of money to be buying that much food. 2. I was not being a very good vegetarian and was not getting all my vitamins and minerals – my parents liked to call me a “pastatarian.”  This was an apt name for me as my favorite meal for most of high school was noodles with butter and parmesan cheese.  Not exactly a vitamin-packed dish.  3. I married Mr. Hunter/Fisher/Outdoor Man.

I have never had a problem with hunting or fishing.  Even when I was a vegetarian I respected the fact that people would spend their time learning about the animals.  In Iowa, it was also great that hunters helped with the population control of the overabundant whitetail deer herd.  I don’t have a desire to hunt myself, but I value and respect those who do it properly.

Truth be told, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to eat my chickens.  My answer to that question was always, “We picked chicken breeds that would be good for both eggs and meat.  That way if any of them are mean or stop laying eggs, we can butcher them.”  I have tried to keep them as farm animals in my mind, but it was hard not to get attached to them.  Chickens are fun to watch and raise.  They have quite the personalities and we enjoyed watching their antics.


We bought our chickens in April of 2015 and raised them up from chicks.  In August they finally started laying eggs and we were in business!  I NEVER got tired of collecting their beautiful eggs!  We had 3 Americaunas – which laid blue eggs, 2 Rhode Island Reds, and 2 Black Australorps – which all laid brown eggs.  I am not “egg-aggerating” when I say – they were the most delicious eggs I have ever had! (Ha! I couldn’t resist one little pun)  We did some additional research and decided to let our chickens take a break from egg-laying for the winter (article about this here) and this spring they picked right back up where they laid off. (Ok last one I promise!)


I love raising chickens and it was great to have farm fresh eggs to eat and give to friends and family.  However, this summer  we decided to put our house for sale and work to find an acreage (more on this adventure very soon!).  We decided to butcher the chickens so we wouldn’t have to deal with moving them and their coop once we found a place.  When we first moved into this house we had moved out of a rental so it was easy to take our time moving out of the old and into the new.  When you buy and sell a house the same day you have to be completely out of the old house and into the new in one day!  Our homemade chicken coop was quite the labor of love and was hodge-podged together.  It will take more than a few hours to take a part and re-assemble.  So we decided to make things simple and butcher the chickens so we would have a freezer full of meat for winter.

This is where Mr. Hunter/Fisher/Mountain Man came in handy.  Although he obliged me and helped me take care of the chickens and their chores when asked, he was not as fond of raising them as I was.  He is, however, very good at processing animals.  His Dad has been a butcher his whole life and taught all three sons how to process deer and other animals.  Hub-Hub and his Dad took a few hours one afternoon and butchered the chickens while I was at work.  This was not something I wanted to witness.

It was hard to say goodbye to the chickens that I had raised and I still miss their antics and getting fresh eggs.  Hub-Hub is an excellent chef, however, and he made me some delicious bbq chicken!

When we do move to our acreage, I will get a new flock of chickens.  For now we are focusing on packing and cleaning without worrying about extra chicken chores.


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The Essentialist Movement is my personal journey towards health and happiness that I hope will inspire you too!

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My Journey with Doterra Essential Oils


Hello, my name is Elise and I am a Doterra Essential Oil Wellness Advocate. Today I want to share with you a little bit about essential oils; what they are, what they have done for me, and what they can do for you.   But most importantly, I want to talk to you about finding your inner voice to determine your own personal health and wellness journey.  Essential oils have been and will continue to be a big part of my health and wellness journey.  I love their versatility and their holistic nature.  Maybe, after today they will be a part of your health and wellness journey too!


The human body is an amazing creation.  The body is a self-healing, self-regulating mechanism. It is only when we interfere that health is not maintained.  These interferences come when we get distracted by everyday life and forget to provide ourselves with the daily support our bodies need to maintain themselves.  We don’t eat right, we forget to exercise regularly, we don’t get enough sleep, and we stress way too much.  Even though we know that all of these things are important to our general health and well-being, in the chaos of everyday life, we forget to listen to our inner voice.

Did you know that your brain is actually a super computer?  It is programmed to gather information, track patterns, and alert you to anomalies.  Our brains are constantly gathering this information to help sort through the multitude of questions we ask ourselves every day. Sometimes we ask our brains easy questions like – “Why am I so tired?” – answer – “You only got 5 hours of sleep last night – get some more sleep tonight and this problem won’t persist.”  Other questions can be more challenging with answers that need more research.

As I attended my first Doterra class I was instructed to think about my Top 3 Health Priorities.  To me that meant finally facing the hard questions – the health concerns that had been weighing on me, even though I hadn’t let my conscious-self aware of them yet. My subconscious had been working on them, trying to find the answers but the truth was I hadn’t given my brain enough information.  Like I said, your brain is a super computer and it can do amazing things – the key is giving it all the necessary information so it can do its job!  As I sat in my first Doterra class I was forced to bring these issues that had been in the back of my mind, gathering dust, to the forefront of my mind.  They were finally going to be given the attention they deserved! I was determined to start researching information to give to my brain, to do the work of finding answers.

The trick with these health questions that we sometimes ask ourselves is that the answers are not always easy to find.  It requires developing hypotheses based on what information you already possess and rigorously testing your hypothesis to provide answers to your unique health needs. This process is neither quick, nor is it easy.  It is not uncommon for us to get discouraged that the answers were not as easily attainable as we hoped and to give up seeking these answers out for ourselves.  The quicker, easier path to health and wellness, as we sometimes see it, is to go to the doctor and get a prescription for whatever ails us and be on our merry way.  I would like to encourage all of us to not automatically take the path of least resistance but instead to challenge our brains to come up with the answers and solutions to our health problems and concerns on our own.

Let me be perfectly clear – I am not saying that you should not go see a doctor when you are sick or experiencing a health crisis.  The medical profession as a whole is a wonderful resource to have in the 21st century and I feel very blessed to be living in this period of history.  The technological advances medicine has made are amazing and have improved the quality of life for all of us.  We have more solutions to medical problems than one doctor could learn in a lifetime.  It is quite remarkable what modern medicine has the capabilities to do.  However, the reality is, just like the rest of us, health professionals are very busy.  The government has stepped in and required so much more out of each patient visit than ever before.  While this should be a good thing, it does limit the amount of time they can actually devote to helping their patients as they try to keep on schedule.  Of course, most health care professionals are still doing a fantastic job of treating patients even as busy as they are.

Of course, the responsibility of our own health and healthcare needs ultimately falls to us. We are the expert of our own life experience and our brains already have all of the information about our daily routine, habits, symptoms, medications and conditions.  The doctors only have as much information as we give them.  So it is up to us to make sure we have all the information to give to them and that we advocate for our unique healthcare needs.   The daily choices we make have a big impact on our health and wellness and we need to take responsibility for that.

I began using Doterra Essential oils a few years ago when I was working in a chiropractic office.  My mother-in-law is actually who introduced me to them, but working for a chiropractor had opened my eyes to the field of holistic healthcare strategies and I was eager to learn more.  I could sense that some of the answers I was seeking were to be found with essential oils, but I needed to give my brain more information.

As I attended my first Doterra class and was pondering my top three health and wellness concerns, I found it a difficult task.  It was difficult because I hadn’t been listening to my inner voice in a while…. I am also fortunate to have experienced pretty good health thus far in my life. I always aced my annual exams, never experienced a trip to the E.R., wasn’t on any medications daily, and the only surgery I ever had was my wisdom teeth removal.  I didn’t have any chronic health problems. My mental health, however, wasn’t necessarily grading as an A+.  I was working a ton of hours at a very stressful job.  There was also a fair amount of conflict in my work life and I was experiencing serious anxiety because of it.

I wanted to do something about this anxiety because it was wreaking havoc on my family, social, and home life – as well as making it even harder to work at a stressful job.  I did not want this anxiety to become my chronic condition. Of course, there were medications I could take to control my anxiety.  I knew this was an option, but I was uncomfortable with the idea of taking a medication to control my emotions for an extended period of time when I knew that there were other, safer, more natural solutions to get me through this temporary situation.

I decided to listen to my inner voice and start working on my own hypothesis.  I bought the Doterra Essential Oil Blend called Balance and started wearing it instead of perfume.  I chose Balance because that is what I strive for in life and I thought the oil was aptly named. It helped keep me grounded, calm, and balanced through the ups and downs of my work life.  I also tried to cut back on my coffee consumption because I had read that caffeine may make anxiety worse.  I had started to pay more attention to what I was eating and drinking and tracking how it made me feel.  On the days I drank coffee, if I had an anxiety attack, the intensity was much more severe than on days when I didn’t drink coffee. I also met with a massage therapist who specialized in abdominal massage – which is where I was experiencing the physical symptoms of the anxiety. She was also interested in listening to my problems and getting down to the root cause of my anxiety and she let me talk it out. In addition to that, I met with a mental health counselor a few times to help me process my thoughts and emotions.  All of these things helped me manage my anxiety and even alleviate some of the symptoms, but the work stress was still there so it was not gone completely.  Finally, after months of agony I decided to quit my job – tremendously improving my anxiety levels.

It wasn’t an overnight fix, but using the Balance essential oil and decreasing my coffee consumption helped me get though the days, meeting with a massage therapist and mental health counselor helped me get through the weeks, and finally quitting my horrible job helped me get through the months.  I still wear Balance on my feet every morning and I would like to see my massage therapist more regularly, but my anxiety attacks are few and far between.  It flares up when I let life get to crazy and don’t take time to take care of myself properly and manage my stress level.

Doterra’s Balance blend is just one of the oils I use in my daily life to deal with my health and wellness concerns.  What health and wellness concerns would you like to tackle today?

Visit my Doterra page for more information or send me an email to schedule a private consult today!

Thanks for visiting!


The Essentialist Movement is my personal journey towards health and happiness that I hope will inspire you too!

Would you like to get more from The Essentialist Movement?

“Like” me on Facebook – The Essentialist Movement

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2016 Garden Recap – The Flood and The Resilient Resistance

2016 Garden Recap  – The Flood and The Resilient Resistance

The peaceful prairie next to our community garden plot!

We live in an absolutely outstanding community in Northeast Iowa.  Decorah is home to some pretty great programs, businesses, and ideas.  The program we came to know and love this summer was their Community Garden Program!  For $40 and a $20 clean-up deposit, we secured a 24 foot X 24 foot plot for the summer that the Parks and Recreation department kept supplied with water and mulch!  To top it all off, this was the first year they added an 8 foot fence to keep deer out!  We were very excited to have a satellite garden that would allow us to have a space to put all our plants while still listing our house for sale (more on our acreage search later!).  It gave us a place to hang out while our house was being shown and the dogs loved to visit the big, open prairie right next door!  It was so peaceful!

So I scoured the town and started buying up as many little green things and seed packets as I could get my hands on.  Seriously, come spring time, I CANNOT leave a grocery or hardware store without adding just one (or five) more little green things to my collection of plants. There is ALWAYS room for one more tomato plant and I definitely NEED three varieties of basil! 😉


Gardening is always an experiment.  I am still working to figure out which plants I like to start from seedlings and which I prefer to start from seed.  Luckily for me, we have some great resources in Decorah to get any and all combinations!  For seeds, no one compares to our lovely Seed Savers Exchange.  For seedlings, I LOVE the Oneota Co-op, the Winneshiek Farmer’s Market, and River Root Farms!  One sunny day in early Spring we got to work on starting seeds and re-potting seedlings.  As my plant collection continued to grow in the one sunny window available, we kept visiting the new garden plot hoping the frost would end so we could FINALLY get some roots in the ground!

In May we did get those roots in the ground and the garden flourished!  It was an awesome rain/sun alternating pattern for gardening all through out June and July.  Even though water was supplied at our garden plot, we didn’t have to use it as much as we should have.  It would rain every few days and then the sun would come out for a few days.  The plants were loving it and everything was growing beautifully!

We did keep a few pepper and tomato plants at the house for easy access.  As the season progressed, continued to visit the garden to check and see what new vegetables were ready to harvest.  Having such a large garden plot really allowed us to grow a TON of nutritious veggies that we loved finding new ways to prepare.

It was so wonderful to be providing food for ourselves!  Now that we had a bigger garden plot to grow more veggies than ever before, we felt we were ready to dive into the world of canning.  We invested in a bunch of jars, a water bath canner, a pressure canner, and some fun new attachments for my Kitchenaid mixer. For things that are better frozen, we purchased a vacuum sealer saver system.  We were ready to go!  To get our feet wet, we got some peaches in July and canned some as slices and made some jam.  It didn’t take much – we were hooked!  Now we just needed the rest of our veggies to finish ripening and we were on our way to a pantry full of home grown goodies all year round!

And then this happened………..


In the early night hours of August 24, 2016 our area received over 8 inches of rain.  The normally tame Upper Iowa River rose 10 feet, pouring over its banks into the surrounding low lying areas – which included the beautiful prairie and our garden.  You can see the outline and the tips of the 8 foot tall fence peaking out above the water.  The garden was almost totally gone.  Many people lost their homes due to extensive flood damage and water pouring into their basement.  One man even lost his life after his car got swept away in the raging water.  Our little corner of Northeast Iowa was not very pretty for quite a few weeks as more rain and flooding continued to ravage our area for weeks after the first major flood!  Here is a video that shows a better perspective of just how devastating the water damage was.



Thankfully, the flooded river has since pulled itself back to below its banks and flows much slower now.  This past Wednesday I went to the garden to get it cleaned up for the season. The fence had been torn apart by the river and so I followed the deer tracks to find what once was a thriving, growing garden had turned into a graveyard of rotting, disfigured, and dead vegetable remains.  But God has a beautiful way of ensuring that there is always hope for the future.  As I walked up to the dark ghosts of the sunflower plants that had once bloomed over this  magnificent garden space, I pulled one down to reveal a full head of seeds!  I immediately retrieved a bag from my car and set to work harvesting the seeds to grow a whole sunflower patch next spring.


This summer my garden taught me a lot about love and loss, about preparing for the storms of the future, and believing in the hope of new life through God’s promises.  I am so thankful that my family was safe and I am so proud of our little community and how once again we have banded together to help one another.  Decorah truly is a wonderful place to live!


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Meal Plan Monday: May 2-8



2 – Crock Pot Butternut Squash & Chicken Quinoa Soup

This recipe makes a huge batch, but it is delicious!  Hub-Hub thought it would even make a good filling for enchiladas!

3 – Morel Mushroom and Swiss Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries

We didn’t have the ingredients to make the dipping sauce, but the fries turned out great!  We have been mushroom hunting quite a few times this spring and have found over 300 Morels!  This year we also started finding and trying Pheasants Back mushrooms.

Our next project will be drying the morels to extend our crop after the season is over.  I bought a dehydrator.  Stay tuned for reviews!

4 – Leftovers/Scrounge

I work in the evening so my husband, who is a fantastic cook, will have to fend for himself. It makes more sense for us to prepare big dinners when we are both home to share in the cooking and eating. 🙂

5 – Broccoli and Beef Stir-fry

Great flavor and quick stir fry!

6 – Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce over pasta

NOPE!  I’m sure I did something wrong, but this recipe was an epic fail!  It looked like mashed potatoes on top of spaghetti!  Fun fact: Hub-Hub hates cauliflower, but I am bound and determined to find a recipe that he will like. I keep trying to sneak cauliflower into recipes but Karma got me this time!

7 – TBD

8 – TBD

We may be doing a little traveling this weekend, so I don’t want to plan something if we aren’t going to be around.  Plus, if we are going to be home, my husband likes going into a the grocery store with no plan and letting the food inspire him. I’ll let you know what we come up with!


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Meal Plan Monday: April 25-May 1


healthy nachos

Spring always gets me excited about eating healthy.  I had the weekend off and I decided to get serious about meal planning again.  I do love cooking, but I HATE deciding what to cook when I get off work.  I am much more enthusiastic about preparing dinner when I have a plan.  A little planning goes a long way with me!

I scoured my Pinterest page and I am trying a bunch of new recipes this week. I will let you know what the verdict is for each new menu item!

April 2016

Lunches – Salads and Veggie Fried Rice

Over the past few months I have been gradually adding more and more glass bowls (like Pyrex) with lids to add to my kitchen.  Once a week I buy a big container of organic greens, cut up my vegetables, and prepare all of my salads for my lunches in these bowls.  I pile them high with veggies – so they really are satisfying!  Typically I add peppers, carrots, celery, sprouts, almonds or walnuts, and cherry tomatoes.  These salads are very healthy and give me lots of good nutrients, but they are cold.  I am a naturally cold person – so sometimes I like a little warmth from my food at lunch time.  The only problem is, I am incredibly picky when it comes to what I will eat heated up as leftovers.  Rice and or pasta dishes are about all I can do as far as leftovers go and I do NOT cook leftover meat in a microwave.  This veggie fried rice was delicious!  Not only could I use eggs from my backyard chicken flock, but it is also full of veggies and tastes awesome even after cooking in the microwave.


I didn’t look closely enough at this recipe before I chose it.  When I pulled it up to make it my heart sank when I read the words “cook spinach according to package directions.”  There are some vegetables I just can’t stand cooked and spinach is right up there with them.  However, I am trying to give different foods a second try to win my affection.  This was an “ok” attempt.  My husband really liked it – which is good since I doubled the recipe and put three in the freezer for future use.  I did eat the whole thing, but I am definitely not rushing to make this one again.

26 – Asparagus and Parmesan Tart

I really wanted to put the onion in this tart like the recipe called for, but my husband hates them.  So, we made ours sans onion.  The lemon in this tart REALLY shows itself!  I think it blends very well with the cheese and the asparagus.  The only thing I would change was making this recipe when asparagus was actually in season.  I think it is a little early to be getting the really good stuff!  It was pretty woody stuff.

I actually pre-made the crust in the morning from scratch!  I par baked it and then my husband made the filling so it would be all ready when I got home from work.  I LOVE making pie crust from scratch and even added some herbs for fun!

27 – Citrus Chicken Qinoa Salad

I actually made this recipe for lunch, as my husband and I had the day off together but I worked in the evening.  It was awesome!!!!  I will certainly be making this one again!  I even kept the cilantro as an ingredient in the dressing and actually liked it!  The avocados I bought weren’t ripe yet, so next time we will add them as well!

28 – Eggplant Rollatini

How could I have picked two spinach recipes in one week?!?  Luckily for me, I forgot to pull the spinach out to thaw in time so I had to make these cheese only – shucks! They were good!  I should probably also wait until eggplant is a little more readily available.  I was scraping the bottom of the barrel finding the ones I did, so you can imagine the freshness level…. Maybe I can experiment with a different vegetable option to stuff them with instead of spinach.

29 – Mini Pepper Nachos

I actually made these as our entree versus a snack or appetizer like the recipe called for.  I think they made a nice Friday night meal! I love substituting vegetables for bread/grain products.

30 – Leftovers/Scrounge

May 2016

1 Leftovers/Scrounge

Maybe we will get more ambitious with dinner for the weekend, but for now I am working both jobs this weekend so we won’t have much time for dinner.  Based on our menu, I’d say we will have some really tasty leftovers though!

Steaks on the grill and Zucchini Pasta with Avacado Pesto

We actually will get ambitious tonight and try to make some steaks on the grill.  I had done some cleaning in the kitchen and found my veggie spiralizer! My plan is to make the zucchini pasta while my husband is grilling.  I will let you know how it goes!

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#swapitoutsunday – Eye Makeup Remover




I’ve decided to start a new series called #swapitoutsunday (not my hashtag) where I will feature simple ways to replace less-than-great habits with positive new habits!  I, for one, typically embrace change and like to keep things interesting.  However, if I try to adopt too many things at one time, I end up getting frustrated that I am not able to keep up with all of the good habits I intended.  Others struggle with change and may need to take baby steps toward new ideas and habits.  Cue – #swapitoutsunday

I love coconut oil.  I have been using it for cooking and in my beauty regimen for some time now.  I am constantly finding out new things about coconut oil and ways it can apply to my life.  My most recent coconut oil discovery was that I can use it to replace my eye makeup remover!  *mind blown*  So, this week’s #swapitoutsunday is all about using coconut oil in place of eye makeup remover!

I have a jar of coconut oil in each bathroom so that I do not confuse it with the coconut oil used for cooking in my kitchen.  This also makes it readily available and easy to remember.  I have no excuse to use conventional eye makeup removers because the coconut oil is right there and just as easy to use!

To use: with clean hands get a small amount – about the size of a pea – of coconut oil on your fingers.  Rub the coconut oil on your eyelids and under your eyes.  Let it melt on your skin – shouldn’t take more than a few seconds, as your body heat should do the work.  Wipe away with a cotton ball. It is as simple as that!

But I would like to take this deeper.  I would like to explain why I believe coconut oil is a better choice than conventional eye makeup removers.  While my research is by no means exhaustive, I am working hard to back up my opinions with facts so we can all be well-informed.

Skin: Our Body’s First Line of Defense

Our skin acts as a barrier between us and the outside world – protecting us from harmful bacteria, chemicals, and irritations.  However, skin is not impermeable.  It does have the ability to absorb some of the things it comes in contact with. This does not mean that everything we come in contact with has a direct path to our blood stream. Whether or not our skin absorbs something it is exposed to depends on a number of different factors:

1. The length of exposure

The reason we wash our hands after using the bathroom and maintain a regular shower routine is to limit our exposure to harmful agents.  The longer you let bacteria, germs, or chemicals sit on your skin, the more likely they are to penetrate your skin’s protective layer.  The risk that you will touch your mouth, nose, or eyes also increases.  These organs may be more susceptible to permeation due to their thinner layers of skin, as in your eyelids, or their mucus membranes, as in your nose and mouth.  Germs and bacteria have an easier time getting to the blood stream through these ports.

2. The molecular size of the exposed element

Your skin is a waterproof covering  comprised of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous tissues/fat.  The offending agent may penetrate the first layer, but it has to break the skin barrier in order to be absorbed by your bloodstream for it to have the potential for internal damage.  The size of the molecules has a lot to do with whether or not it can get past the barrier.

3. The solubility of the the exposed element

The other determining factor in the harmfulness of an exposure would be the solubility of the exposed element.  “The epidermal cells that form the skin’s outermost layers are tightly knit together, but allow a certain amount of pliability. The cells are almost entirely full of the tough protein keratin, which resists attack by many kinds of chemicals.  The natural secretion of sebum from the millions of sebaceous glads, each associated with a hair follicel, is slightly oily at body temperature and spreads easily.  It furnishes the skin with partially water-repellent and antibiotic qualities, inhibiting the growth of certain microorganisms, and prevents hairs from becoming too brittle.” (Source: The Human Body Book by Steve Parker)  This oil also protects things from entering our system that are not lupid or fat soluble.

What if something does get through?

Skin is only our first line of defense; it is hardly our last.  Our immune system, circulatory system, and digestive system are all constantly working together to keep our whole body clean and healthy.  Our body is designed to filter out toxins, bacteria, and germs and remove them from our body.

So, if our body is so great at getting rid of bad things, why are so you concerned with switching to healthier options?

Our modern life is filled with a hailstorm of germs, bacteria, and chemicals.  While our bodies are adept at filtering all of these out and keeping us healthy, things like stress and worry can diminish our bodies abilities to fight back.  My goal is to limit the amount of chemicals I put on my body.  Even though my skin will keep a majority of harmful things out of my body, I still find more value in providing it with supplemental products that help it do its job instead of making it work harder.  Furthermore, if I know that it is safe to ingest, I know that it will be safe to put on my skin. Coconut oil is one such supplemental product that has a multitude of health benefits for our bodies.

Here is an awesome excerpt on the benefits of coconut oil!

“Coconut oil is an excellent skin conditioner containing medium-chain triglycerides, naturally occurring fats which deeply penetrate, moisturize and acts as a protective barrier against environmental and free radical damage. The oil also provides sun protection by screening 20 percent of ultraviolet exposure.

Coconut oil is rich in anti-oxidants and bursting with the natural microbial and antibacterial agents caphrylic and capric acids. . Its ability to smooth the skin while infusing with anti-oxidants makes it a perfect anti-aging moisturizer. Moreover, it contains vitamin E, another antioxidant popular for hastening the recovery of skin abrasions, burns and other trauma. (”

Sounds pretty great to me! Which is why I’m making the change to using coconut oil in place of eye makeup remover in today’s #swapitoutsunday

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Sources: (And great reads in themselves!)

The Busy Women’s Guide to Saving the World


I’m very busy.  You are very busy.  We are all VERY busy.

Saving the world sounds like a pretty daunting task. The good news is it doesn’t have to be.  There are small, everyday changes that you can make to reduce waste and help the environment.  We all know how important it is to reduce, reuse, and recycle – but how consistent are we with making these things into positive habits?  The key, I’ve found, is making it easier for yourself.  When we remove the barriers that form our excuses, these small little changes can add up to big things and they become regular habits.


Here is an awesome video that demonstrates the importance of recycling. 🙂

Now, let’s make it easier to do, shall we?

Our community just recently added curbside recycling to our regular garbage pick-up.  Whahoo! Though they always had a drop-off site in the middle of town, it can be pretty easy to talk yourself out of driving aaaaaaalllllll the wwwwwwwwaaaayyy over there.  Even so, we dropped off our recycling on a pretty regular basis, but it so much more convenient that they have a curb-side pick-up service!  To make it EVEN easier, I keep my big blue bins right out in the open.  I don’t care if they are not pretty – they sit in a hidden corner of my kitchen and I have easy access to them at all times.  They are not tucked away in a closet or stored in a garage.  Then on the first and third Wednesday of the month, I haul them out to the curb – easy-peasy. 🙂  The city even dropped off the three containers when I signed up – for free.  Having three separate buckets means that I can sort as I go. Seriously, can this BE ANY EASIER?!?



Composting is another great way to reduce your waste and recycle the nutrients for future use in your garden.  We got an Earth Machine composting bin from my in-laws.  It is so easy to use!  Just screw into the ground, dump in food scraps, and let the sun do its thing – so easy! Still why is it so hard to walk aaaalllllll the wwwwwwwwwwaaayyyyyy out the eeeeeeennnnnddddddd of the yard to compost? Too lazy, erm, busy! 😉

So I put two bins in my fridge – one for food scraps for the chickens and one for regular compost.  Keeping it in the fridge means it stays “fresh” so I don’t have to run outside EVERY time I cut up some fruit or make a salad.  I can let a bit of food pile up and then take it out at my leisure.  Bonus points – I even recycled old containers to make the buckets!  Maybe some day I will buy nice stainless steel buckets, but for now it is about establishing good habits. 11798442_10207194929849739_875270763_n

These are just two examples of ways to make it easier on yourself to reduce waste and recycle.  Now stop making excuses! What ways can you find to make it easier on yourself to do positive things to impact the environment? A little time, thought, and effort NOW, could equal BIG results over the LONG-TERM in the FUTURE.  I believe in you!

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