5.17.2011

Apartment quirks 1

 Because you can never have one of those too handy, you know. . .

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It certainly would have come handy had we come home a tad bit sooner the day we almost burned down our apartment!
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In almost two years of living here it's crazy it has never been pulled. . . not even as a prank at one of our parties. *knock on wood*

Have you learned to love the quirks in your home, yet?

5.13.2011

Why I switched to Coconut Oil

Check out this beast of a 5 gallon bucket that arrived the other day on our doorstep!

It's COCONUT OIL!

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Again, the best of both worlds: it's the healthier AND cheaper alternative!

You should have seen my face when I first read Sally Fallon's words about the dangers of commercial cooking oils (vegetable, corn, soybean and especially canola). Here are some excerpts:

Consumer acceptance of canola oil represents one in a series of victories for the food processing industry, which has as its goal the replacement of all traditional foods with imitation foods made out of products derived from corn, wheat, soybeans and oilseeds.
The oil is removed by a combination of high temperature mechanical pressing and solvent extraction. Traces of the solvent (usually hexane) remain in the oil, even after considerable refining.
Like all modern vegetable oils, canola oil goes through the process of caustic refining, bleaching and degumming - all of which involve high temperatures or chemicals of questionable safety. And because canola oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which easily become rancid and foul-smelling when subjected to oxygen and high temperatures, it must be deodorised. The standard deodorisation process removes a large portion of the omega-3 fatty acids by turning them into trans fatty acids.

I will forever be thankful to finally learn the real truth about nutrition! Read all about it in Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions Cookbook- she has great introductions with a wealth of information.

Let me tell you it was not easy and certainly not an overnight process to basically change how and what I cooked, but if the way I feel is any indication, then I know I am on the right path.

I remember well that for years I would always have stomachaches after eating- especially in college. Instead of the freshman 15, I ended up with the negative fifteen because I basically couldn't really handle the cafeteria food well. 

Now I know it wasn't any particular type of food allergy, but rather my stomach revolting against in some instances the unhealthy processed foods, but mostly to the shortcut/ cheap ways the food was being prepared.

After trying out cooking with some of my MIL's virgin coconut oil, we finally went for it and purchased some ourselves!


What is Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil?

Tropical Traditions Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil is a high quality refined coconut oil. This oil is processed the “old” way by what is called “physical refining.” The modern way of processing coconut oil is by chemical extraction, using solvent extracts, which produces higher yields and is quicker and less expensive. Tropical Traditions Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil DOES NOT use solvent extracts. It is made the “old” way by expeller-pressed mechanical extraction. This oil is also NOT hydrogenated, and contains NO trans fatty acids. It is a very good quality food-grade coconut oil.
Tropical Traditions Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil, non-certified, is made from high quality coconuts in the Philippines. This is the “common” type oil that millions of people in Asia consume on a daily basis. It is less expensive than our certified organic Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil because it does not include the cost of organic certification. We get our Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil, non-certified, from unpolluted areas of the Philippines where pesticides and fertilizers for coconut palms are virtually unknown. The coconuts typically come from very rural areas in the Philippines, far away from major urban centers. It is also deodorized and processed the “old” way with “physical refining” that DOES NOT use solvent extracts. This is the most economical high-quality coconut oil we sell.
                                                                                          Source: Tropical Traditions

They sell two other slightly higher quality virgin coconut oils on the site, and one day I'll be able to afford those, but for cooking, which is mostly what I will use it for rather than medicinal purposes (ex. eating it directly) this one works for me. Notice I bought the non-certified version to save money. I was OK with that after reading where exactly the coconuts come from (see above).

My personal uses for coconut oil:

Cooking: I replace all the commercial oils in recipes with either olive oil, butter or coconut oil. Coconut oil is cheaper, so I'm going to use it more often. Also, we definitely use it whenever we fry anything (ex. making french fries, or fried chicken pieces) in our Dutch oven. One of my favorite things is that there will not be a lingering fried food smell in our home!

Topical: Coconut oil prevents the formation of destructive free radicals, and can prevent your skin from developing skin blemishes caused by aging and overexposure to sunlight. I use it as body lotion AND as makeup remover! It works better than the commercially sold ones, and leaves my skin  feeling oh-so soft! I know people who use it as facial moisturizer. I personally find it kind of thick, so I rinse it off, but not before letting it absorb a little. I've also read it's great for hair. . . I have yet to try this.


Nutritional: Coconut oil aids in the absorption of nutrients and minerals. It is THE substitute to commercial cooking oils. Coconut oil isn’t stored as fat but is burned for energy. Your metabolism speeds up with coconut oil so you will burn more calories each day, accelerating weight loss Read why here.

Medicinal: Read all about it here and here. There's an endless list!

Source: faces for life

How to save money with coconut oil:
  • Save $ in medical bills and improve your health by buying a good quality coconut oil like Tropical Traditions.
  • Save $ by signing up for their e-mail list or by following their blog. They e-mail and post great coupons- many of which are one day deals! We saved over $40!
  • Buy the gallon pail- it is cheaper by the pound. We went for the 5 gallon pail after considering how much cooking we do and doing the math when compared with how much we spend on butter and olive oil. 
  • Go for the Expeller-Pressed non-certified. Why pay extra for the certified premium when they have such quality sources. I do miss the coconut smell from the virgin coconut oil, but it's not worth the price to pay for me right now.
Why not cook with merely olive oil instead? The Trader Joe Giotto Olive Oil we buy actually is slightly cheaper by the oz. than the coconut oil (but by pennies), but I know olive oil is no substitute in baking. [flashback: nasty olive-oil brownies in college that Sarah Anne and I tried to unsuccessfully salvage by soaking in khalua. . . haha!] In addition, olive oil goes rancid when heated to a high temperature, so you cannot fry with it. . . and I like my hand-cut french fries crispy!

By the way: OOPS! 5 gal. was TOO much! Don't buy the 5 gal. unless you're planning on splitting it with friends or family. Thankfully we found one family so far.

Coconut oil is solid at room temperature unless it's way too warm in the house like mine is (my frugal husband hates a.c.). To measure for baking you can melt it on the stove (it melts faster than butter!). I also keep a jar in the bathroom. When I'm using it as makeup remover, if it's particularly cool in the room and therefore the oil is solid, I take a little chunk and rub it in my hand for a few seconds and then soak the cotton ball.

Remember, it's oil, even if it doesn't look like it when it's solid. When you're heating it to cook eggs in the morning, it will spatter more easily than butter if you don't keep an eye on it and reduce the temperature accordingly.

Buy expeller-pressed coconut oil- click here.

Read more:

"A New Look at Coconut Oil" by Mary G. Enig, PhD.
"The Oiling of America" by Mary G. Enig, PhD and Sally Fallon

5.09.2011

Remodeling a rental apartment’s kitchen

 Yes, we dared to do it. What’s stopping you?

One definition of order is leaving a place better than how you found it.
 
All it takes is asking the landlord! A little paint, we were sure, would go a long way.

This was our reasoning at the time:
1. It would brighten the room so much.
2. It would give the entire kitchen a much classier look.
3. It would improve our outlook of our home.
4. It would improve the overall value of the place.

And the landlord said yes! Actually, he was quite indifferent to the whole thing, even to the paint swatches I tried showing him for approval. Whatever works, I tell you: ask, tell or don’t tell if you have enough confidence . . . anything but an outright "no" will do!

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We couldn’t get over that shade of green! It made the room so dark! It also made the uneven tile stand out. That wooden trim separating the kitchen from the dining area also had to go. It would be a small change with a large impact. It was all probably a fast job when they added the extension (the dining room and the deck) since half the trim in this window and in the edge of the pantry door were unpainted.

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I’m not going to lie. The kitchen was a pain to paint, especially with all the corners, cabinets, appliances and counters, not to mention all the priming that the wood trims needed. But what an impact!

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Replacing tile, countertops, the floor or painting cabinets are obviously out of the question for us renters, homeowners on a tight budget, or for the ones who like to make do with what they have. Besides paint, there are plenty of other small touches that can really add impact:


1. Trim. If you can't paint the whole room or an accent wall, go for the trim!

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 2. Accesorize with an accent color, but just be sure to do it purposefully and keep it light to avoid clutter. I picked white, of course.

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3. Window treatments. Get rid of the plastic seen-better-days blinds and get curtains instead. We added tablecloth curtains on cheap, painted rods to the windows.

4. Max out the space. We’re using the top of the cabinets and the fridge to store larger items such as large ceramic bowls and pitchers so they are also easily accessible. Get creative with arrangements or with hanging plates on the walls. (I'm still working on simplifying, switching things out, and adding  more character).

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Generosity is a wonderful thing. Not only did we do all this work ourselves and not ask to be reimbursed for the paint (though you certainly could ask), it really worked out in our favor in another unexpected way.

We noticed our appliances weren’t the greatest. The oven door wouldn’t latch closed, and the dishwasher didn’t really clean those dishes. We got used to it after 3 months. . . old apartment, old appliances. I used the dishwasher as a drying rack (haha). One morning I was doing major cleaning and when I dropped off the rent I happened to mention I was sorry if running water was disturbing (the landlord works downstairs- there are a few businesses down there) and that I was almost done washing the dishes since the machine doesn’t do as well a job. . . and one week later he called to set up a time for installation of new appliances!

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And it’s a GAS stove/oven! It’s so much more efficient and easier to cook with! No more worrying about crooked electric burners and wobbly pots with uneven heating! They’re not anything fancy, but still- new appliances- what a luxury it felt like for us unassuming newlyweds trying to make do with what we had!


Lesson learned: Embrace the quirks and/or take initiative!
All it takes is creativity.

5.06.2011

There Be Dragons

"I was struck by Josemaría's statement that God is found in "everyday life," and that everyday life, in his case, was the Spanish Civil War.
I wondered: How could one find the divine in war? But then the same question can be asked of all the fundamental challenges in life, and how we face them: How we respond to hatred and rejection, or the desire for revenge and justice -- all those dilemmas are heightened in wartime.
Those dilemmas are, in a sense, the "dragons" of the film -- turning points in our lives where we're faced with potent choices, choices that are going to affect our future.
"There Be Dragons" is about the very different choices that people take at those turning-points -- temptations, if you like -- and how hard it is, and yet how necessary, to escape cycles of hatred and resentment and violence."

Source: Zenit's interview with There Be Dragons director Roland Joffé.


The movie opens this weekend in select theaters!

Please make an effort to go see it. If successful this weekend, it will show in all theaters across the country. It's an amazing opportunity to show the world that solid, meaningful movies are WORTH making, and it can be a great tool for conversion for so many. Movies have the potential to reach so many because they are so accessible, and this particular one is definitely going to have an impact. It already has had one on the director and has caused the conversion of main actor, Wes Bentley:


5.03.2011

What I’ve been up to

Happy Easter! It’s such a wonderful time to rejoice in life and God’s graces and blessings!

Sorry I’ve been so MIA and have been posting so sporadically. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Celebrating Easter!
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Doing a lot of this especially in light of Divine Mercy Sunday, the Beatification of the now Blessed John Paul II, and May, the month dedicated to Mary.
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Celebrating weddings!
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Getting my hair chopped off.
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Spring Cleaning… inside AND outside (no judging).
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Having bonfires (Yes, it’s still chilly around here, plus had to burn that Christmas tree…)
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Trying to go back to my Argentinian roots:  Wannabe-be-choripan (but really Italian sausage) with real-deal chimichurri (porteno style!)
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Taking LOTS of road trips (IN, MS, WI, OK, OH, MN).
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AND even thrifting on the road trips!
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In light of recent world events here are some must reads:

Important commentary on the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Beatification of John Paul II.
Modesty coming back in style.
There Be Dragons movie opening this weekend- so important that we flood the theaters (upcoming post from me soon).

I’ll be back soon!
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