Tomorrow, December 8th, is our 10 year wedding anniversary and I am totally shocked at how the time has flown by.  I absolutely love being married to Nick Stewart.  He is the best person you'll ever know and the best husband you could possibly find.  Over the past decade, I've learned, grown and changed...so, I wanted to share my 10 tips for a happy marriage.


If Ironman takes out the trash, I tell him thank you.  If I do the laundry, Ironman says thank you.  If he stops by the store, thank you.  Thank you thank you thank you.  Sometimes we even laugh because of how often we say thank you to each other.  But it's important!  I don't want to ever forget to show Ironman how much I appreciate the things that he does for me and our home.


I'm Ironman's only wife, so I want to be a good one!  When he fell in love with me, he was attracted to the way I looked, dressed, my personality, etc.  So, it's important that I do my best to stay the person that he married.  Eating well, getting exercise and dressing nice are all things that Ironman notices and cares about, so I do my best to make them priorities in my life!


Although it's hard to be honest about the hard things, it's much better to do it before they become big things.  When we think something or feel something, we take time to talk through it now.  No need to wait until it becomes built up and one of us explodes.  Most times, if we share in the very beginning, it will be something that we can more easily work through together and move past quickly.  In the long run, this means less arguments!


I know it's tempting to go on vacations with friends and invite everyone you know and love so that no one is left out.  I get it.  But, the few times that Ironman and I have been on vacation alone have been some of our best.  We get away from everyone, turn off the social media and focus on each other.  By the time we get home, we almost always feel refreshed and have good memories of those trips together.


Ironman and I love to travel together.  We love to go on bike rides.  Finding a Netflix show to binge-watch together is our favorite.  There are lots of things that we enjoy doing together and look forward to.  This is important, but it doesn't mean we have to love doing everything together.  For example, I will help with the yard but don't enjoy it.  Ironman will walk the rail trail with me, but doesn't enjoy going as often as I do.  Although we will still do things together that one of us likes more than the other, I think it's important to focus on a few favorites to share and look forward to!


I don't mean just update each other on what you did that day, but really talk.  Tell each other details of your day that stuck out or meant something to you.  Share something that you've had on your mind.  Talk through ideas that you've been brainstorming.  Dream about the future together.  Don't just talk to check off the list, talk to each other like when you were dating and trying to get to know this interesting person you're crushing on!  When we got engaged, someone gave us the advice to go to bed together every night at the same time.  We've been doing it our entire marriage and I think it's a great habit!  Many good conversations come at the end of the day, while cuddling in bed, falling asleep.


Ironman thrives on compliments.  He loves to hear that he's doing well, that he's a hard worker, that our Fixer Upper looks beautiful, that he's talented and athletic, that he's attractive and all the other little things that I love about him.  Think about it, you go through most of your day not getting compliments.  So, when you do get a compliment, it makes you all warm and fuzzy inside and you think about it over and over for a long time.  Men and women are the same in that we both want to be complimented.  I try to compliment Ironman as often as I think about it because I want to be the one that makes him feel like a million bucks!


When we got engaged, my Grandma Jackson told me the best marriage advice ever..."Don't ever say anything negative about Nick to anyone".  Although Ironman is not perfect, he's perfect for me and that's good enough.  The world's hard enough already and people are just trying to survive.  There's no point in talking crap about your spouse to other people.  For one, those people will get sick of being around you because they will be tired of hearing you complain.  Another reason to avoid it is because the more you dwell on the negative, the more it will consume you.  If you are someone who talks bad, complains or says negative things about your spouse, hears some advice: stop focusing on them and start focusing on the things that you need to improve on.  I bet it will improve your marriage almost immediately.


Just like a hobby, you need to be learning together.  Watch some documentaries, join a Sunday School class, read aloud to each other, take a course together.  If you find that you have nothing to talk about with your spouse, it may be because you aren't learning or growing.  Take time to educate yourself on something new and share your new knowledge with your spouse!  It's always fun to be around someone who loves to learn and is excited about life.


Yep, get dressed up and go out to dinner or a movie or whatever you two enjoy.  I know we are slack in this area because we don't have kids and we enjoy being at home, so it's easy to just stay in.  But, there's something about making a plan, looking forward to it, putting on a great outfit and sitting across the table from each other at a restaurant.  Plus, wives really appreciate not having to plan a meal, grocery shop, cook and then clean up.  Less time doing these things means more time focused on her hubby.  And men like extra attention, right?  So, men, take your wives out regularly and treat them to a nice dinner.  It will mean the world to her.

Don't you LOVE our photos?!  Emily Christopher from Just Because Blog snapped them for us just two weeks ago!  If you need any photos done, I can give you her contact info.



I’m the girl who would have NEVER chosen to be a business owner, but it has been one of the best decisions we've ever made. 

Nick and I have been able to travel more frequently (including a 3-month vacation to South America), give more money to our favorite non-profit, become physically healthier, pay off more than 26k in debt and in January, we are headed out for another 3-month vacation while we road-trip the USA and Canada. We’ve never had another job with this much freedom. I’ve been able to work the days and hours that I choose and take time off when I want or need to, without having to answer to anyone or worry about still getting paid. It's seriously a Bucket Lister's dream job 🌎✈️😍 

Sounds too good to be true, right? It’s not. Want to know how we got started? We simply bought our own Young Living Premium Starter Kit. That's it. We didn’t go into tens of thousands of dollars in debt to start a small business. Just $160 to get our starter kit with 11 popular oils, a diffuser and samples. That's it! Plus, our team gives us all the training and resources we need for FREE. Starting a business doesn’t get any better than that. 

We are now Gold Leaders, going on Platinum and making enough money for Nick to step back from full-time construction right after Christmas. This may be a “small business”, but it's not small to us...it's changed the course of our lives. 

Do you want a change? Do you want more freedom? We would LOVE to mentor you through launching your own Young Living business and teach you exactly what we did to get to where we are today!  Even if you’re just curious, don’t be afraid to ask...we are open books and want to answer your questions 😉   Reach out to us today and let's talk! 

Oh, and because we talked money, here's the Income Disclosure Statement.

Let's chat!!!...connect with us through:

Or, are you ready to go ahead and dive in?!

Click HERE to get started, choose "wholesale", leave my sponsor and enroller id (#1570543) in the boxes, create your account and place your order.



Since Ironman and I got married in 2007, we have been eating mostly plant-based.  Not only do we believe that it's healthier for us, but it was cheaper when we were poor, young and married, while still going to college full-time!  Although we believe this lifestyle is healthier for us, we are by no means perfect and have fallen off the path many times.  But, doesn't that make you feel better?  No one's perfect.  Isn't that a relief?  So, I want to share our journey with food that got us to where we are right now.

PLANT-BASED (with cheating):  

Since 2007, we have mainly stuck to a plant-based diet except for a few circumstances.  One was Friday night pizza night...our favorite tradition together.  It's just wonderful to come home after a long week, get a pizza (not cook), watch a movie and go to bed early (with little clean up).  Am I right?  And now that we're talking cheese, that was our major weakness.  Oh yea, and every now and then, I wanted a good burger when we were out at a restaurant.  But, the hardest time to stick with plant-based was when eating with other people...especially when invited into their homes.  We never wanted to offend or hurt feelings.  So, this was us: mostly plant-based at home, but occasional slip-ups.  Got it?  Let's fast forward about a decade.


At the end of 2016, I was ready for a change.  I had been trying to get in better shape, exercising more and beginning to feel better.  I wanted to take it to the next level.  My sisters introduced me to FullyRaw Kristina on Instagram and I was intrigued.  I never knew that some people only lived on uncooked fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds.  I couldn't imagine, but made it my goal to be a raw vegan by the end of 2017.  During the first few months of this year, I continued to follow Kristina on Instagram and watched almost all her YouTube videos.  I loved what I was learning.  From January 1st through May 31st, I started making better choices with my food and noticed pretty significant changes in my body and health.


I decided that on June 1st, I would make a few drastic changes to keep the ball rolling.  I cut out caffeine, sugar and alcohol (wine) and my remaining toiletries with dangerous toxins (deodorant).  The first month was pretty easy and on July 1st I treated myself to something sweet.  I wasn't perfect and still "cheat" some with coffee, sweets and the occasional glass of wine, but I was improving a little each day.  Sometime during mid-July, my family watched What The Health and it really affected me more than anything else I had watched or read up until that point.  I seriously couldn't even look at cheese, let alone eat it.  Mid July I had my annual check up an the nurse commented that I had lost a significant amount of weight and my blood pressure had dropped since my last visit.  She said "whatever you're doing...keep doing it".  I was very encouraged and motivated to keep up the hard work!  At the end of July, we went on a 17-day road trip and it was hard to stick to our lifestyle 100% because we were traveling and didn't want to offend or hurt people's feelings that we were going to be seeing.  However, we were so used to feeling good that now we really noticed when we ate food (animal products) that made us feel bad.  By the end of that trip, Ironman and I both decided that we are in this vegan lifestyle 100% from now on.  Since that decision, we haven't had any animal products (knowingly, at least).


One day towards the end of the summer, my sister was talking about people who were 80/20 raw vegans.  Meaning they eat raw vegan foods 80% of the time and cooked vegan foods 20% of the time.  It's also sometimes referred to as "raw 'til 4" because they will eat raw all day and then dinner is cooked.  Anyways, my sister was talking about it and it dawned on me that I had basically become one of these types of vegans!  During the day, I eat raw vegan (uncooked fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds).  It's habit now and I don't even think about it.  Once Ironman gets home at night, I have a cooked meal prepared.  As soon as I realized this, I felt so proud of myself.  Yes, it had taken 9 months of slow changes, but I was on the right track towards the goal I made at the end of last year!


During September, we headed to Florida to enjoy the beach with Ironman's parents for a full week.  In the past, we would have felt too guilty to be picky about our food.  We would have caved and eaten the same things as everyone else and we both would have ended up feeling sick.  Although we felt bad to be "difficult", we simply let his parents know that we are being more strict with sticking to plant-based and that we weren't going to cheat.  They had some questions, but accepted it and we didn't have any trouble.  All week, we found things that we could eat!  Since neither of us felt sick to our stomachs or bloated after meals all week, it made for a much more enjoyable vacation and we were really happy that we had stuck to our goal.  Also, it confirmed to us that it can be done whether at home, out and about in town or while traveling!

Some people, like FullyRaw Kristina, simply become a fully raw vegan overnight!  That's awesome.  As for us, it's been a journey over a decade long (even longer for Ironman) of watching documentaries, reading books, doing research, trying new recipes and slowly making changes to our diet and lifestyle.  It takes sacrifice and consistency, but I'm loving the changes.  I enjoy food prep more, I'm more in tune with my body and I crave better foods.  We both truly feel so much better since deciding to stick to 100% vegan. 

Let's cover one thing while we're on this topic.  I know many people say there is a difference with "eating vegan" and "living vegan".  We like to eat a raw vegan diet.  This means we eat veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts and some beans and grains, avoiding all animal products.  Aren't sure what an "animal product" is?  One of the men on the Forks Over Knives documentary put it like this:  If it walked, hopped, swam, crawled, slithered, had eyes, a momma and a daddy - don't eat it.  Basically, if it's not a fruit, veggie, seeds, nut, bean or grain, don't eat it.  One area we haven't changed is we still use honey, which is an animal product.  However, we don't strictly live as vegans in every sense. Our car has leather seats, I own a leather purse and leather boots and we probably have many other things that are made from animal products that we may not even realize!  Although I haven't been careful in these areas in the past, it is something that is coming to matter to me more and more as I learn about animal cruelty.  

Long story short, we both feel great and highly suggest a raw vegan lifestyle! Remember, we aren't perfect and it's not about perfection.  The important thing is to spend time learning, try out new things and decide what's right for you so that you feel your best!



Ironman and I just got back from camping at Lake Hartwell and, as always, we loved it.  Sure, the weather was cold and ended up raining the morning we were leaving, but we always enjoy camping.  Not only is it so good to get out of town and away from our everyday life, but to unplug from the world and spend more quality time one on one.  I truly recommend it!  Aren't convinced yet?  Here are the 5 reasons why I say you should go camping ASAP:

CHEAP.  We often can't afford a hotel, but a tent site can be as cheap as $14 per night!  Once you've invested in your camping gear, you'll have it for years.  We did that back in 2011 and haven't had to buy anything else so far.  So, a weekend camp trip may cost $30 for your site, money for food (which you would have eaten at home anyway) and gas to get you there.  That's a pretty inexpensive getaway!

QUIET.  You won't have plugs, so even if you stay on your cell phone a lot the first day, it will quickly die.  Then, you're just left with the quiet breeze, sound of the birds and the crackling fire.  It feels so good to hear nothing.  I often feel like I can finally hear myself think.  Settle into a comfy camp chair and bring a good book or climb into your ENO and take a nap.  It's so wonderful to have options taken away from you so you are forced to truly rest!

RELATIONSHIPS.  There's nothing out there to distract you, so you end up having some really good conversations.  It's so good to get away from your normal life and be able to think more clearly about the present and future.  Each time Ironman and I camp, we talk through a lot of bigger issues that just seem like too much to handle at home.  We always come home renewed because of it.  More than likely, you'll also make new friends with your neighbors at the campground or you can even invite friends to join you!

TRAVEL.  Each time you camp, you can pick a new park in your state.  Not only is it not too far to travel in state, but it means that over the years, you will have really gotten to know the area around you.  Plus, since it's cheap, it means you'll get to travel more often!  One camping weekend per month is not too hard to make happen.  By the end of the year, you'll have taken 12 mini vacations!

EXERCISE.  Camp near an area that you want to get to know on foot.  Take a hike.  Check out some local waterfalls.  Walk around some unique little town.  Choose someplace new so that you get out there and explore.  During our normal work week, we spend so much time sitting down.  Use the weekends to get outdoors and get moving!

Are you already in love with camping?  What's your favorite part of it?  Share in the comments below!



I remember back in high school when I wanted to go to Beauty School. My parents would sing Grease's Beauty School Drop-Out to me (click here if you don't know what I'm talking about) and tell me that I could go to Beauty School after I graduated from college, with a degree. So, I went to college, tried to drop out a few times because I didn't enjoy it. But everyone kept telling me it would be different when I had my own classroom. Plus, my parents wouldn't let me quit. After 4.5 years of studying, I graduated with a degree in Elementary Education, got my own classroom...and still didn't like it! 14 years later at the age of 32, I finally got to go to Beauty School last weekend with my mom...and I absolutely loved it! This is right up my alley, just like I thought back at 18-years-old. Don't feel too bad for me, though. If I hadn't gone to college, I might not have ever met Ironman. So, college was super beneficial to me in the long run, for my M.R.S. degree.

Young Living's Beauty School was only 2 days, so we just covered the basics. One day, however, I'd love to go for much longer...like to get a 2 year certificate or something along those lines. But for now, I want to share what I've learned so far.

What’s ON you is IN you. What are you putting on you? Is it completely safe, non-toxic and actually good for you? Please take time to check every product and ingredient in your entire home using the EWG Skin Deep site or Think Dirty app. You’ll be shocked at what dangerous ingredients are lurking around! Beauty is not just how you look on the outside…it comes from what’s inside. If you are physically, emotionally and mentally putting “junk” in, that’s what will eventually be pushed out. The things we eat, drink, slather on, listen to, smell and watch all effect us on the inside, constantly helping us or harming us. I’m so thankful that Young Living takes time to ensure that their products are good and safe for us. I know it’s tempting to just use make up to cover up all the imperfections. But, instead, it would be better for us to take the time to address the problems so that we can enjoy naturally beautiful and healthy skin! So, skin 1st, then make up 2nd. Ok? Ready to get started?

What skin type do you have? Normal, dry, oily, combination or mature? No matter what type you have, Young Living has great products for you to enjoy your best complexion ever!

Getting pampered at Young Living's Beauty School!

Here are the 7 steps to beautiful skin, as mentioned at Beauty School:

Start with clean hands and in between each step, allow time for skin to dry.

1. CLEANSE: Wash your face daily, morning and night by going through all steps listed below. Start by cleansing…ART Gentle Cleanser and Orange Blossom Facial Wash are your two choices.

a. ART Gentle Cleanser won’t dry out skin and is suitable for all skin types, especially mature skin. It is formulated with orchid extract. Wet hands and face, squirt one pump cleanser in hand and massage onto face and neck in circular motions.

b. Orange Blossom Facial Wash is soap-free and is suitable for all skin types, especially younger skin. It is formulated with botanical extracts, minerals and fruit acids. Wet hands and face, squirt half a dime sized amount of cleanser in hand and massage onto face and neck in circular motions. This one is often a favorite for teenagers or adults with troubled skin.

2. EXFOLIATE: Our bodies naturally shed older cells, but as we age, the process is slower. Help keep skin fresh and bright by exfoliating with Satin Mint Facial Scrub a couple times per week. Do NOT over exfoliate, as this can aggravate skin. Although this is a scrub, it is also moisturizing, so it doesn’t leave your skin stripped of the healthy, natural oils. Wet face and neck and massage on skin in circular, massaging motion.

3. TONE: Balance the pH of your skin, remove left-over residue and close large pores by using ART Toner. Squirt small amount on cotton round and carefully swipe across face and neck.

4. RESTORE: Serums often contain ingredients that are able to penetrate the layers of skin faster, so it is important to use one before moisturizing. ART Renewal Serum nourishes and hydrates and contains unique botanical ingredients and complex blend of traditional Chinese extracts, like orchids. After cleansing (and exfoliating a few times a week) and toning, apply one pump of serum and tap over face and neck.

5. MOISTURIZE: This step is important for protecting and hydrating your skin and should be done as often as possible or needed. A dry face now is a wrinkled face later. Apply a small amount of moisturizer to face and neck and massage in with upward, sweeping strokes. Here are the moisturizing options available to you:

a. ART Light Moisturizer helps reduce the appearance of fine lines, while being lightweight. It is perfect for all skin types.

b. ART Intensive Moisturizier helps reduce the appearance or fine lines and wrinkles and is a heavier option for long-lasting hydration. It contains plant cells and is the perfect night cream. Good for all skin types, especially mature skin. If you were using and loving Sandalwood Moisture Cream or Bosweilla Wrinkle Cream, this is Young Living’s replacement product that’s even better! It’s like the two combined forces and made an even better moisturizer.

c. ART Sheerlume Brightening Cream, AKA “moisturizer with benefits”. Sheerlume helps give a younger complexion by brightening skin tone and reducing signs of age spots, skin dullness and rough texture. Definitely my favorite Young Living moisturizer so far, as I have gotten many compliments when I’ve consistently used this product!

6. REFINE: Help skin health by using a masque a few times a week (or up to every day) for at least 25 minutes each time you do so. Here are your three options:

a. ART Beauty Masque is an orchid based formula designed to hydrate skin and leave it more radiant. It is for all skin types.

b. ART Creme Masque is a luxurious cream and is ideal for a deep facial moisturizer, 25 minute masque or even an all night skin treatment. It is formulated with hyaluronic acid, but does not contain the orchid ingredient. It is for all skin types.

c. ART Chocolate Masque is formulated with Ecuadorian chocolate and infused with essential oils. This masque leaves skin soft and glowing and is an excellent one if you are looking for the antioxidants. It is for all skin types.


a. Wolfberry Eye Cream is conditioning, with wolfberry seed oil, and minimizes the appearance of fine lines.

b. Rose Ointment is a heavy moisturizer for dry, rough or chapped skin.

c. Young Living Lip Balms protect, moisturize and soften.

d. Essential Beauty Serum is the perfect moisturizing option for dry skin that needs an extra boost. Also, it can be use for any skin type for facial massage.

e. Mirah Shave Oil is so moisturizing that you can skip the body lotion after bathing. Also, it can be used as a hair oil for silky, smooth hair.

In addition to these steps for healthy, beautiful skin, don’t forget to get at least 10 minutes per day of full sun on your skin for vitamin D, but then use Young Living’s Mineral Sunscreen to ensure skin safety and beautifully aging skin for the rest of the day.

Also, don’t forget that nutrition plays a huge role in skin health. Do your best to reduce meat, dairy, gluten and sugar. The best diet is high in whole, plant-based foods such as veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds. Each time you put something in your mouth or on your body, you should be asking yourself, “Am I feeding disease or fighting it?” Make sure to take supplements like Young Living's Ningxia Red, Master Formula, Enzymes and Probiotic for optimal health. Oh, and don’t block your sweat! Your body sweats to eliminate toxins, which makes you cleaner on the inside and your skin more healthy on the outside. So, get Young Living's deodorant and be prepared for a bit of body detox as your body adjusts to natural deodorant!

Now that your skin health is in optimal condition, you are ready for make-up!

Although the lighting is slightly different, you can see how both of us have
improved skin from just November 2nd to the 5th...just 4 days!

I know this is a quick summary of what I took in over the two days of Beauty School, but I hope it helped you see where you may have gaps in your own beauty routine. If you live out of town and want to learn more, I'd love to do a live video/FaceTime to teach you! I may even be able to come to you if you'd like to learn in person and try each product. Or if you live in town, I'd love to get together, teach you and let you try each product. And don't forget, the more the merrier...gather some friends and let's make a girls night out of it!

Connect with me by phone (if you have my number) or by using the links to my FaceBook and Instagram found at the top of the page. Don't forget, you can also email me by clicking here! I can't wait to spend time with you and help you feel more confident in your skin through Young Living essential oils and products!



About two weeks ago, Lauren, the outreach coordinator for Maple Holistics, reached out to me and asked if she could send me some of their tea tree oil shampoo.  For FREE.  Not gonna lie, no one has ever sent me something free to review, so I wasn't sure what was happening!  However, I was interested (and quite gullible), took a look around their website and wrote Lauren back, hoping that this was for real.  Short story even shorter: within a few days, the tea tree oil shampoo was on it's way to my home with a tracking number!  What?!

Honestly, when I received the package, I was in shock.  I sat it on my bathroom counter and looked at it for a few days, wondering what in the world to do with it.  For the first time in my life, a company sent me something free for me to try and review.  Fairly often, I get companies asking me to write about them on my blog, but have never been sent anything as compensation, like money or free product.  Most companies want me to do them a favor without doing one for me.  And not only did Lauren actually send me the tea tree oil shampoo, but she sent me a full-sized bottle!  Needless to say, I was impressed with Lauren and Maple Holistics before I even washed my hair.

Let's get down to the real reason why we are here, the nitty-gritty, as Nacho Libre would say.  I'm going to share my honest review about the free product I was sent, the tea tree oil shampoo.  I washed my hair with it twice so far because I wanted to make sure I had time to wash, dry and style my hair and truly think through how I feel about it.  Maple Holisitics didn't send me any conditioner and I didn't want to mix brands and tamper my review, so the first wash was with the shampoo only and not followed up with conditioner.  What I liked about the shampoo was that it was thick, rich and creamy and lathered up fairly easily compared to many natural shampoo options.  However, I believe that the tea tree oil must be slightly drying because my hair was more tangly than normal.  It took extra time to comb through it after my shower, but had tons of volume (which was a plus).  So, if you have dry hair already, I might suggest you use one of their more moisturizing shampoo options, especially during the upcoming winter months.  This tea tree oil shampoo might be a good option for people with oily hair or during the summer months when it's hot and humid and everyone's hair is slightly oilier anyway.  The second time I washed my hair with the shampoo, I followed up with my own Young Living Copaiba Vanilla Moisturizing Conditioner.  This favorite conditioner of mine is super rich, thick and creamy and moisturizes really well, so of course, my hair felt like silk after that and was much easier to brush through!  Oh and one more thing, the shampoo has a light tea tree oil smell, but not so strong that it leaves me with headaches, so I was pleased.

When Lauren originally reached out to me, she wrote that Maple Holistics is high-quality, natural ingredients and cruelty free.  I did a little digging around to see what I could find to back that up.  While looking online, I found that the tea tree oil shampoo has these ingredients listed: aqua, jojoba oil, Botanical Keratin, Argan Oil, Tea Tree Oil, Lavender Oil and Rosemary Oil.  I was really impressed with such a short list!  My only concerns are these: I couldn't find any real information on the ingredient "botanical keratin" except on Maple Holistics own site and I don't know where the company sources their essential oils.  These are some of the reasons that I consistently choose Young Living oils and products.  I can always find information on ingredients and I know exactly where the essential oils are sourced (I've even been to the farms and helped plant!).  Fast forward to this morning, though, and I found myself a little disappointed.  When snapping the photo for this blog, I noticed the ingredients listed on the back of the bottle don't match the ingredients list found online.  There are about 15 extra ingredients!  I tried to look up the product on the EWG Skin Deep site, but couldn't find it.  I also tried to look it up on the Think Dirty App, but it wasn't there either.  This really surprises me for a company that's been around since 2001.  So, I took the time to type in each ingredient, one by one, on the (EWG Skin Deep site) to see if they are truly safe.  There were about three that couldn't be found, but the ingredients I did find, rated well.  So, I'm pretty happy with the ingredients I know and read about, but feel that not having a complete ingredients list online is a little deceiving.  I take time to research things before buying and want to have confidence that the company is giving me all the information up front.  On a more positive note, Maple Holistics has an easy to navigate website.  They seem to care a lot about health and educating people on good choices through their blog.  I was impressed that they even offer a free samples program and 100% money-back guarantee!

This is after my second wash!

So, what do I honestly think about the free tea tree oil shampoo that Lauren sent me from Maple Holistics?  I'm happy enough with it that I will be finishing the bottle, while following it up with my own favorite conditioner.  I would, however, suggest only using it consistently if you tend to have oilier hair, as it is slightly drying.  Also, I would recommend doing more research on the ingredient "Botanical Keratin" and the others that I wasn't able to find on the EWG site to make sure it's truly safe and non-toxic.  But, all in all, my first free product review was an excellent experience and I hope to get more opportunities in the future to do the same for other companies!

I've been blogging since 2008, for almost a decade now.  For years, I've wished to be a sponsored blogger and wondered how to do it.  Although I truly tried, nothing I was doing seemed to get anyone's attention, except the companies who wanted me to blog about them and their products for free.  So, I kinda gave up.  Why try so hard, only to fail?  So, although it was only a bottle of free shampoo, it was so much more to me.  As I stood in the shower and washed my hair, I thought about all my hard work over the last decade, was proud of myself for not quitting and felt like I was finally the real deal.  It's funny how sometimes the little things are really the biggest things.  So let me leave you with a little something that has nothing really to do with shampoo.  If you want something, don't quit.  Keep working at it until you get it.  Even if it takes you 5 years, 20 years, 48 years.  It's worth it.  Those years are going to pass anyway.  You might as well work towards a dream.



Life has seasons that come and go.  Some are happy and restful.  Others can be stressful and busy.  Right now, Ironman and I are in the stressful, busy season and it leaves me feeling overwhelmed almost all the time.  We are trying to wrap up our home renovations, after 2.5 years of living in this Fixer Upper.  The list of to-do's is now pretty short, but we feel burned out and just ready to be done. Although I'm not the one doing most of the construction, it's still draining to have it constantly going on around me.  Sub-contractors coming and going almost daily.  Ironman working nights and weekends.  Me, trying to keep the house tidy and clean.  It's been a vicious cycle and we're tired.  But just because we're tired, doesn't mean we can kick back.  So, we keep pushing forward, checking things off the final list and looking forward to the day when the renovations are done.  This lifestyle has left me overwhelmed, especially in the last 6 months.  In case you are also struggling with feeling overwhelmed, here are the 9 things that truly help me feel more calm and grounded.

1.  GET OUTSIDE.  Simply stepping outside into the sunshine and fresh air makes such a difference.  I'll often sit on my front porch swing to read or table to work and I find I'm much more productive.  Going on a walk is another of my favorite things.  I don't listen to music and usually don't bring my phone.  It's just me, listening to my breath and my steps.  Something about the exercise gives me a fresh start and I come back home with a better attitude and more energy.  Plus, walking is always a great way to catch up with a friend, while you're both getting in a work out.  How often do you get outdoors?

2.  DO SOMETHING YOU ENJOY.  I love a slow morning when I can take a bath.  I pour in some epsom salt with essential oils while the tub in filling, dry brush my entire body until I feel tingly and then step in for about 30 minutes.  My water bottle and kindle always come with me and I'll lay in there, drink 32 oz and read a few chapters in my latest book.  It's an amazing way to start the day.  Walking is something I enjoy.  Organizing.  Blogging.  Reading.  Watching a good movie on Netflix.  Going out for coffee with a friend.  There's always something that I can choose to do for fun.  What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

3.  PRIORITIZE.  Learning to say no has been a huge thing in my life.  Ironman would always tell me that I needed to learn to say no.  It took years.  I don't know why it was so hard, but for the most part, I'm good at saying no now.  Since I like for people to like me and be happy and I like to do things right, I end up piling on the responsibilities (whether they are real or made up in my own mind).  I'll often find myself agonizing over something that I need to do, but when I really think about it, I wonder "Why do I even need to do this and why am I worried about it?".  Many times, it's all made up in my head and it's not something that I need to spend time on or worry about.  Do you have things on your list you could erase?

4.  LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE.  Creating a list of priorities really ties into the big picture.  I can made a million tasks for myself that I believe I'm "supposed" to be doing.  I can make sure that everyone likes me and is happy.  It doesn't take long to make myself busy doing all the "right" things.  But, who made the rules?  No one.  I'm making up rules for myself, killing myself to try to do everything perfect and then, come to find out, many of these things don't even matter in the long run.  Sure, I can't sit around doing nothing my entire life.  But, it's important that I choose to spend my time on things that truly matter in my own big picture.  Are you spending your time and energy on things that truly matter?

5.  ASK FOR HELP.  There's nothing wrong with asking for help.  Chances are you have a friend, parent, spouse or sibling or who be there for you in a second.  It's easy to feel isolated and alone when you feel overwhelmed.  I tend to have a million things on my mind that I think that I "should" be doing, but then clam up and get nothing done.  Once you make your priorities list and see what you actually truly need to do, reach out and ask someone to help you.  I bet they would love that!  It can even be a housekeeper or nanny, depending on what you need help with and who's available.  When's the last time you asked for help?

6.  GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.  No one is perfect, so neither will you be.  You're not going to make everyone happy.  Not everyone will like you.  You aren't going to do everything perfect.  Sometimes you'll forget something or show up late or somehow fail.  That's ok!  You're human.  Stop putting so much on your plate.  Choose the important things and do your best.  I'd much rather do my best in a few things than spread myself thin in a lot of things.  Plus, I'm a much nicer person to be around when I don't feel like a chicken running around with her head cut off.  Are you being too hard on yourself?

7.  UNPLUG.  Turn off Netflix.  Step away from the laptop.  Put away your phone.  Feel the tension immediately drop from your shoulders.  I don't know what it is about technology, but it really contributes to my anxiety.  I feel pulled in like a magnet and out of control.  I honestly think this is why I love to get outside so much and go camping with Ironman.  There is nothing but nature and dirt and a campfire and us and it's wonderful.  I feel like I can breathe easier, dream bigger and find myself smiling much more.  Crazy as it sounds, I even feel more in love with Ironman.  Maybe it's not that I'm more in love, but it's so quiet around us that I'm reminded of how much I love him and how grateful I am for him.  Do you take time to unplug?

8.  GET INSPIRED.  So now that I just talked about unplugging, I'm doing a 180.  Sometimes it helps me to forget about how overwhelmed I am by being inspired by others.  Watch a good documentary.  Browse quotes on Pinterest.  Google a topic you're interested in.  Read an educational or business book.  Listen to a podcast.  Talk to someone you look up to and ask them "How do you do it?".  Even with my blog, I find that when I am in a slump it helps me to find ways to get inspired so that I can get out another new post.  What or who inspires you?

9.  PRACTICE MINIMALISM.  When every where you turn is a mess, you're going to be overwhelmed.  Make simpler meals so that dinnertime isn't so daunting.  Adopt a Capsule Wardrobe so you aren't always saying "I have nothing to wear" as you stare at your jam-packed closet.  Donate unused toys so that the kids play areas aren't out of control.  Get rid of the clutter in your home so that cleaning takes less time.  Your environment has a huge impact on your daily life.  Is your home causing you to be stressed out all of the time?

Are you overwhelmed in life right now?  I know I am, but I also know that taking myself through these 9 steps really does make a difference for me.  Maybe they can help you too!  If you have other methods to deal with feeling overwhelmed, I'd love to hear in the comments below.



Growing up, I was always skinny.  I never dieted and pretty much ate whatever I wanted.  I hated the gym and "exercise", but was involved in sports and dance because I enjoyed that I was with my friends outside of school hours.  However, everything changed once I graduated high school.  We moved back to the USA (enjoyed a lot of Little Ceasar's and Krispy Kreme) and I immediately put on about 20 pounds.  I wasn't on any sports teams and wasn't taking dance classes, so my workouts came to a complete stop.  After getting married at 22, I found myself eating more often and bigger portions because I was eating when and what my husband was eating.  On top of that, my 20s were really difficult years for me, full of anxiety and depression and I ended up doing a lot of emotional eating.  Before I knew it, my 20s were gone, I had put on another 30 pounds, I was constantly exhausted and really didn't feel like myself anymore. 

Fall 2016 vs. Fall 2017
Photos by Emily Lynn Christopher at Just Because Blog

It was about a year and a half ago now that I began to work out and eat better and I can't believe how incredibly different I feel.  It wasn't that I just wanted to be skinny...I felt like I lost myself somehow and just wanted to feel like "Emily" again.  I wanted to feel my best and began making changes towards that goal.  It's been a gradual process and I didn't do all this cold turkey.  But, since May 4th, 2016, here are the 10 changes I've slowly adopted:

1.  Stop the caffeine.  Although I may not drink soda but a few times a year, I did tend to have coffee a couple times a week.  Unfortunately, it brings on the jitters and leads to anxiety filled days, so it was good to get the caffeine out of my system.

2.  Kick the sugar.  I LOVE sugar and wish I could live on Cinnamon Sugar Pop-Tarts.  But, the affect is basically the same as caffeine...speeds up my heart and leaves me feeling all flustered.  Since sugar is clearly a problem for me, I've cut way back.

3.  Quit the alcohol.  I like beer, I love wine and I adore all the sugary girly drinks.  But, just like caffeine and sugar, it leaves me not feeling so great.  It's so crazy that all the things that I consider "my treats", leave me feeling the worst!  I thought it would be hard to give up, but I've only had wine once since May this year and I don't miss it.

4.  Exercise daily.  Daily exercise helps me feel better emotionally and sleep better at night...and those are huge.  Plus, it's helped me feel stronger and have more energy.  However, one big thing for me is I've had to learn to work out alone instead of relying on others to be my constant work out buddies.  But the biggest thing is I've had to make the decision that I will work out every single day whether I want to or not.  

5.  Take supplements.  I've been taking Young Living's Ningxia Red and Master Formula daily and can tell a huge difference in my digestion, energy, hair and skin when I take them!  I try to eat well, but it makes me feel better knowing that I'm covering all my necessary antioxidants and vitamins each day.

At 21-years-old, I was around 120-130 pounds and really felt great!

6.  Sleep.  Cutting out caffeine, sugar and alcohol really makes a difference in my sleep.  Going to bed and waking up each day at the same time helps too.  Count in a hard workout that day and my diffuser going with Peace&Calming blend that night and I sleep like a rock.

7.  Cut out toxins.  Did you know how dangerous the toxins in your toiletries, makeup, food, drinks and cleaning supplies can be?  Even candles, air-fresheners and things like that are harmful.  Now that I've detoxed from these types of chemicals, just being around them for a short time will give me headaches and is further proof that they should be avoided at all costs.  Your entire body, inside and outside, can be negatively affected by toxins.  Plus, I've learned that a lot of fat is full of stored toxins.  Sounds dangerous to me.  So, getting rid of anything toxic and replacing it with a healthy alternative has been high on my list.

8.  Eat well.  I hate diets.  I see people deprive themselves, lose weight, go off the diet, gorge on all the food they missed and then gain back all the weight they lost.  Diets are not sustainable.  What I had to learn, though, was how the food I ate really effected how I felt.  There are things I love to eat, but now don't because I realized how bad they made me feel.  I have learned to choose foods that help me feel good, which happen to be whole, plant-based vegan foods.  And I've also learned to eat when I'm hungry and don't eat when I'm not hungry.  It's not a difficult concept...who knew it would take me 32 years to get it?!  Oh yea, and drink more water, right momma?  Haha.

9.  Minimize stress.  Stress really affects me in every way.  I'm easily anxious and depressed, but since I know that about myself, I can try to make good choices.  One thing is not allowing myself to get too busy.  I have to have some space and alone time each day and so I am careful to plan my calendar accordingly and don't schedule things back to back.

10.  Wrap up looming projects.  Talking about stress, one big thing that I want to do is finish our home.  As you know, if you follow this blog, we are living in a fixer upper and have been for the past two and a half years.  Weekly, if not daily, we have sub-contractors over here working on projects.  Along with the workers, comes the dirt and dust and mess.  With all the nails and staples and plaster chips and who knows what else laying around, I know that living in this environment has really added to my stress.  I'm so happy that we are on the home stretch now and hope we don't take on another project this large again (not going to say "never" because then it's bound to happen).

10 years later, 31-years-old and 169 pounds...my heaviest.
I felt constantly exhausted and uncomfortable in my own skin
The past year and a half has been all about getting rid of the things that made me feel worse and adding in the things that help me feel better.  It's not just about diet and exercise, but even my schedule, relationships, work, free time, hobbies and other small things that felt like big things because of how they affected me so heavily.  I've come a long way and feel like a different person...a lot like the old "Emily".  Sure, I miss some foods and would sometimes love to slack off and just wing it, but I don't want to go back to where I was a year and a half ago.  I want to continue moving forward towards better health and feeling my best!



As the holidays approach, I'm reminded once again of my mom's accident, how God saved her and how she has impacted so many lives through her non-profit, Burn Care International.  For over a decade, she has traveled all over the world and worked to improve the lives of burn victims through effective rehabilitation, helping over 10,000 victims!  This time of year marks a season of giving and I hope that you will take a moment to read these stories below and consider giving a tax-deductible donation to Burn Care International before the end of 2017.

A little patient name Emily, with her
pressure garment on.

Harold Torrez Araoz -   "The gas explosion happened when I was at work.  At first, I didn't feel any pain, but I felt so hot.  I pulled off my clothes and noticed that the burned skin had turned white.  My brother ran in to see what happened and ended up not really helping me because he went into shock.  I told him to call our parents and tell them what happened.  The Ambulance came to pick me up and took me to a hospital in Vinto, since I was working 15 kilometers outside of town.  They didn't know what to do with me there, so I was taken to another hospital.  I got there and waited and waited and no one attended me, so I finally went to a 3rd hospital, where I was finally seen.  The accident happened at 2:15 on a Wednesday afternoon and I didn't get taken care of at the hospital until 6pm that night.  (Click the link to read more of Harold's story.)

Maciel Fernandez Peredo - "I was burned three years ago, when I was 15 years old.  I was out of town with my family, celebrating Carnival.  We had a fire going and my mom took a bottle of alcohol and poured it onto the fire.  Instantly, the flames leapt towards me!  My arms were on fire and my mom ran at me to help me.  However, she ended up pouring more alcohol on me by accident and then my chest and face caught fire.  My father grabbed the alcohol bottle and threw it and then he pushed my mother away from me.  (Click the link to read more of Maciel's story.)

Alejandra Cruz Romero - Alejandra's story, told by her mother: "Six years ago, when Alejandra was three years old, she fell backwards into boiling water.  I took her immediately to Univalle Hospital and she stayed there for one week.  They didn't know how to care for her burns properly and she got worse and worse as time went on.  She developed an infection and her body kept swelling more and more.  By the time I took her out of that hospital her 2nd Degree burns had turned into 3rd Degree and her skin was coming off all over her back as if there was nothing holding it there.  (Click the link to read more of Alejandra's story.)


Javier Abel Espinoza - "Two years ago, when I was 32, I was burned in an electrical explosion.  My wife was 2 months pregnant and I took up a second job to make some extra money for us.  It was only the second night on the new job that I had the accident.  When the accident happened, I was sitting down on the floor, facing the piece of machinery.  The electrical currents were too strong and caused the explosion.  I guess from the surprise, I sucked in a breath, which caused me to also suck in the fire.  I passed out and came in and out of unconsciousness while I waited on the ambulance to take me to the hospital.  (Click the link to read more of Javier's story.)

As you can see, burns aren't just for a certain age, gender, race, etc.  Victims are men and women, young and old and all over the world.  Some are burned much worse than others, but every accident is terrible and traumatic.  Many victims are scarred for life in every way, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally too.  It's so important for them to receive good care so that they can properly heal and get back to their life.

   By supporting BCI, you will be providing material, thread, zippers and foam for the Pressure Garments and Suits, silicon for the difficult scars, essential oils and creams for itching skin, salaries for Juana and Maria (the workers) and basic supplies for the Burn Clinic.  

     Please CLICK HERE to visit BCI's website to learn more about our important ministry.

-You can DONATE ONLINE by scrolling to the bottom of the website, click the "DONATE" button.  
-Or you can MAIL A CHECK to:
Burn Care International
419 Woodland Drive
Florence, SC 29501

  All donations are tax-deductible and will change a burn victim's life!