Frankincense Essential Oil

Most probably only know about frankincense from the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth when the wise men brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (the last two are both essential oils). Just like in that time, frankincense today is an extremely valuable essential oil, which you will see reflected in its price compared to others. The name comes from Old French franc encens (“high-quality incense”).

Frankincense is one of my top five favorite essential oils. I use it nearly every day and it is well worth the cost to have on hand. It has a neutral woodsy scent that isn’t overwhelming to smell.

I mix a drop in with my face moisturizer each night. Cosmetically, it helps to clear skin of blemishes, smooths the skin and is anti-aging. The properties that help cosmetically also help emotionally (I put it on at night to calm before sleep) and physically. While it fights surface bacteria, it is also an effective immune stimulant. I use it on my & my daughter’s spine frequently when we are sick to safely kick our immune system into higher gear and recover more quickly.

Emotionally, it is extremely calming and can be smelled or used in a diffuser to reduce feelings of anxiety. It repels feelings of stress and brings focus.  It has been used in worship (think meditation) for thousands of years. I wrote a whole blog about that & essential oil use in the Bible here if you are interested.

Do you have frankincense? What’s your favorite way to use it?

10 Things I Didn’t Expect About Being a Mom to a Newborn

Now that my daughter is almost a year old, I’ve been reflecting back a lot.  I’m thankful to have a super content, happy baby these days, but the beginning months were really difficult for me. I knew that being a mom would be hard.  Rewarding, but exhausting.  We were the last of most of our friends to have a kid and our friends are pretty open & honest, so I thought my expectations were well-set. But, there were a few things I did not anticipate about those first few months having a newborn…

  1. My baby’s birth day was not the best day of my life. I knew childbirth would be really hard, especially because my plan was to do it without medication.  It is called labor after all. But, I thought millions of women have done this throughout history, I can do it too.  I did it, but the pain of back labor left me kind of traumatized.  (Read my birth story here.)  I’ve had hundreds of better days than being in excruciating pain trying to push a baby out. It was absolutely incredible (and a relief) to finally meet my daughter, so that moment was the best. But, the day itself was terrible.
  2. Breastfeeding may be natural, but it can feel impossible. Breastfeeding is another thing that I had heard plenty of stories about.  I knew it could be painful and take lots of practice through the pain.  But, I thought that getting help from a lactation consultant could fix all those things.  Or that maybe people just gave up too quickly. I am so glad it is an easy, beautiful thing for some people, but, for some of us, there can be so many obstacles to overcome.  I’ve made it almost 11 months and it still isn’t easy.  I’m shocked and so grateful we haven’t had to supplement with formula, but I will never think less of anyone who has to for their sanity or to ensure baby is fed. Read our breastfeeding journey here.
  3. You may dread car rides.  I thought that putting baby in a car seat and driving around was supposed to be this magical, instantly calming thing to make them stop crying and fall asleep.  Or your baby is like mine and instantly loses it as soon as you put them in the car seat and proceeds to scream the entire drive where ever you are going.  Maybe they will quiet down a bit once you get going on the highway, but the second you hit traffic or a red light, the screaming resumes. I’ve never hated yellow lights so much.
  4. Pacifiers will ruin nothing.  Nor will they solve everything. I heard & read that you should never give a baby a pacifier before 2 weeks old or you could ruin breastfeeding, so I was going to try my best to follow that.  Maybe it’s just my baby, but she wasn’t dumb- she knew the difference between something milk is coming out of and something it’s not. We made it a few days before getting desperate enough to try it; of course, she wouldn’t even take it, so it wasn’t very helpful.
  5. How it was possible to get so little sleep and still function. Maybe your baby slept through the night at 4 weeks old. Awesome. Mine didn’t until 9 months and I know some would even be thankful for that. To nap those first three months, she had to be held. Thank the Lord for my mom who would come over to hold her while I napped and for the solly wrap that allowed me to wear her and be hands-free to get things done. I still can’t even fathom how I worked full time and took care of a 3-month old fussy baby getting only a couple hours of sleep each night, but I did it. Somehow, you survive. P.S. If you aren’t a parent yet or pregnant, I recommend not saying you’re “exhausted” to anyone with a baby.
  6. Some babies are hot-natured.  I’ve always seen newborns bundled in so many clothes and blankets babies sleeping in footed fleece onesies and thought that’s what you were supposed to do.  My daughter has only worn socks like 4 times in her life.  I’ve gotten plenty of judgmental looks from strangers, but I realized very early on that she was getting extremely hot in “typical” newborn attire, so I stopped.  She wears long sleeve onesies and a muslin sleep sack to sleep every night and she’s just fine.  And it’s got to be cooler than 70 degrees out to even consider pants. Every baby is different.
  7. Bottles can take practice.  Babies love milk. But, even when a bottle is filled with that magical goodness, they still may reject it as if it is poison. We tried 5 types of bottles with the milk at different temperatures and several individuals trying in various positions over the course of two weeks.  Nothing was working. Then, finally, the week before I went back to work, my friend (thanks, Emily!) held her while standing, bouncing and facing the tv and she finally drank it. From then on, she took it no problem. Why did that have to be so hard!?
  8. Schedule? What is a schedule? If parenthood has taught me anything, it is to be flexible. If I followed the eat every 3-4 hours advice, my daughter, who struggled to get enough milk or gain weight, would have been a failure to thrive.  I nursed on demand and I’m thankful I did. But, it kept us home most of the time in those early months. I am still amazed when I see people out and about with their newborns because our fussy baby who needed to eat constantly wouldn’t really allow that. Eat, Play, Sleep?  No way. Not for us.  She nursed to sleep for months because it was the only way she would sleep.  She’s always napped when she’s tired and I watch for cues instead of watching the clock.  It’s what is best for her.
  9. The diaper part isn’t so bad, except for the blowouts. I thought I would find it far more annoying to change diapers all day than I did. Exclusively breastfed newborn baby diapers are not bad… Even my husband was surprised at how not terrible it was pre-solids. But, there is just something about that poo that no matter the brand/size/fit of a diaper, you are bound to have a blowout every once in awhile. And it will always happen when you’ve just put them in a cute outfit or are about to walk out the door.
  10. It can strengthen your marriage. I heard so many warnings about how having a kid is really hard on your marriage… yes, there is certainly less downtime and date nights are fewer and far between, but you still end up with many quiet evenings at home together.  Of course, it takes work, but I’ve found that us both being in the “we have absolutely no idea what we are doing” stage together, especially when we were both beyond exhausted, bonded us immensely.  I’ve realized more than ever how well we complement each other and what a great team we can be.  I’m also thankful for the 5 years pre-kid we had to travel and learn how to communicate.

We could have never gotten through this trying time without our friends bringing us meals, supportive texts and prayers, and help from my parents, especially my mama who would come over to pray over me, hold the baby while I slept, encourage me through nursing struggles, bring me lunch, make me tea and even clean my house. If you’re in the thick of it, I pray you have a community to support you too.

Parents- is there anything missing from this list you would add?  Were those first few months rough for anyone else?

Life Lately…

Apologies for being quite absent lately…. it’s been 3 months since my last post- eek!  I have a few drafts in the works, so you will see some more blog posts in the coming weeks.   Is there anything specific you want to hear about? Let me know!!

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is next week!  We sure have lots to be thankful for this year.  Our baby girl is already 10 months old and is such a happy, fun baby.  She’s adventurous and always on the move… I think she may start walking soon.  I’m so very thankful that we’ve been blessed to continue with exclusive breastfeeding still even with all our troubles in the beginning.  She also loves food, which I can thank the Baby Led Weaning process for- I’ll be sharing all about introducing her to solids here soon.

I’m also thankful to work for a company & manager that have been supportive of me as a working mom and allowed me to go part-time.  It’s allowed for much better balance in my life and I am blessed to be able to spend more time with my daughter.  Just a few months ago, I was in absolute survival-mode; now I can breathe again.  On Mondays, I try to prep our breakfast & lunch meals for the work week, so I’ll soon be sharing my favorite recipes like overnight oats and paleo broccoli salad, as well as some go-to weeknight meals. In the meantime, follow me on Instagram @chrissysu and #healthyandhopeful – I am always showing my #mealprepmonday routine and recipes on my Story.

I hope y’all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.  God Bless!

A Recap of 2016

Wow… is it really almost 2017!?!  As I look forward to the huge life change that 2017 will bring, I wanted to take some time to reflect back on 2016.  If you’ve missed any of my blogs this year, this will be the perfect opportunity to catch up!

2016 was certainly a roller-coaster for my health.  The year started off with me still trying to figure out what was causing my random high cortisol responses and unexplained weight gain.  Then, in May, we found out we were expecting, even though doctors had told me I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant. Pregnancy brought on constant nausea and exhaustion that kept me down and out for a few months, and then a gestational diabetes diagnosis rocked my world.

Here’s a recap of the blogs I wrote in 2016:

Travel

VeniceI’m a huge believer that vacations are super important for your overall health and well-being.  We all need to take a break and relax, and traveling to experience different foods and cultures is great way to relieve stress. The past couple of years, we have taken two trips to Europe that were incredible.  I got so many requests for advice, I just decided to write all about our itineraries and recommendations right here:

My Favorite Natural Products & Organic Grocery Deals

BruschettaHealthy Recipes

Pregnancy:

Essential Oils

Thieves Essential OilHighlighting the benefits of some of my favorite essential oils to both your overall wellness and to creating and keeping a natural home.

Happy New Year!!

2016-recap

Vacation to London

This is the last installment of a five-part blog series all about the details of our travels to Europe the past 2 years. So far, I’ve covered our time in Italy with the Amalfi Coast, RomeTuscany+Florence+Venice+More, and our time in Paris.  Today, I’m sharing about our trip to London two months ago.

London

Getting There & Around: We flew into London Heathrow airport. Once you arrive, follow signs for the Underground. We took the tube directly from the airport into the city- it was easy and much cheaper than the Heathrow Express (and not much longer either).  We bought a couple of Oyster cards and filled it up with money to use throughout our trip – you can refill at stations as necessary. We took the Underground everywhere throughout the city; Google maps makes it easy to figure out your route.

When we flew out of London, we left from Gatwick. Since our flight was early in the morning, it was before public transportation started running to the airport. Instead, we hired Hummingbird car service to pick us up from our apartment and drive the hour-long ride out there. It was half as cheap as Uber or a taxi.

What to Pack: Late March/early April is a tricky time in London.  We happened to visit during the first weekend they had Spring weather and only had one night of rain. But, it snowed just a couple weeks later!  Here are the top items I would recommend packing to make sure you are prepared for that time of year:

  • IMG_3870Layers + Jacket – I debated bringing a coat, but knew it wouldn’t be necessary in Italy (the second part of our trip).  I was glad I had a jacket that I could wear over layers when it was chilly, but I also took it off a few times when the sun was shining warm.
  • Flats (Shoes) – Bring a few cute pairs of flats that are comfortable to walk in. I don’t think I ever saw anyone wearing heels in the entire city.  Even if you take the tube, you’ll still be doing lots of walking.
  • Umbrella – While it only rained one evening, it certainly caught us by surprise. Bring a small umbrella that’s easy to pack in your purse and have on hand when the weather changes.

Where to Stay: Anywhere in central London near an Underground stop is going to be great. We stayed in the South Kensington neighborhood and it was a beautiful area with lots of restaurants and shopping. We absolutely loved our flat – this adorable Airbnb. Sign up with this link and get get $20 in travel credit for your next vacation!

Sites to See: There is so much to do in London… plenty of museums to visit and famous places to see. Here’s what we decided to see:

  • Kensington Palace Gardens – FREE! We did not go inside Kensington Palace, but instead just saw it from the outside and walked through the surrounding gardens and park.  We also enjoyed Afternoon Tea onsite at the Orangery (see under Eat/Drink below).Kensington Palace
  • London Eye – Reserve tickets in advance to skip the long lines and visit at sunset so you see the city both during the daylight and as the city lights begin to turn on.  This was a great experience for our first night to help us get a feel for the layout of the city.  The ride lasts 30 minutes.IMG_7034
  • Big Ben – FREE! Of course you have to see the famous clock tower! Make sure to visit both at night and during the day.
  • Tower of London – Buy your tickets online in advance and pick up from the Group Tickets counter onsite to avoid lines. This palace was the home of many former monarchs and has a rich, dark history (many know it as the site of Anne Boleyn’s beheading).  The Beefeaters (guards officially called Yeoman Warders) guide a FREE tour every hour on the hour leaving from the front gate – I highly recommend taking it to learn some fascinating bits of history.  Don’t miss the Crown Jewel exhibit… you’ll have to wait in line once you get inside the complex, but they are absolutely stunning. It’s also here that you’ll get some fabulous views of old Tower Bridge.
  • Borough Market – Across the London Bridge, you’ll find an outdoor farmer’s market with lots of unique, local foods to eat.
  • IMG_7072Old London – FREE! This area of London was the central town in Shakespeare/Elizabeth I times. Download Rick Steves’ audio guide to walk through the area and learn about the Great Fire, the many churches built afterwards by famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, Fleet Street, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the original Twinnings tea shop and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub where Charles Dickens and Dr. Johnson wrote and drank.
  • Westminster Walking Tour – We took an awesome walking tour with Free Tours by Foot (the tour is technically free, but they work for tips) of the beautiful Westminster area. We began at Buckingham Palace for the Parade of the Horse Guard and Changing of the Guard.  Seeing these events in this tour saved us tons of time and allowed us to get the best view – we are so glad we didn’t wake up early to spend hours waiting at the gate to watch. We saw St. James Palace (built for Anne Boleyn by Henry VIII), 10 Downing Street, the former location of White Hall Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.
  • British Museum – FREE! This beautiful museum is open to the public and displays many historic artifacts.  The museum website has great guides for what to see if you only have an hour, 3 hours or all day at the museum. Highlights for us were the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, Parthenon sculptures and Assyrian lion hunt reliefs.
  • IMG_7178Windsor Castle – There are so many options for day-trips outside London and I had such hard time choosing… I don’t regret this choice at all! It was easy to get there: train to Windsor/Eaton Central from Paddington Station in London (40 minutes total). When we arrived, it was lunchtime, so we stopped for meat pies & pints at the Duchess of Cambridge pub across the street from the castle. It was not crowded at all this time of year (late March) so we got right in with no lines.  You get a free audio guide to take you through the castle’s main sites: the State Apartments and St. George’s Chapel. The State Apartments are just stunning with medieval knights armor, swords, guns and coats of arms all over. In St. George’s Chapel, you’ll find the burial sites of Charles I, Henry VIII and Jan Seymour. Plus, you are likely to see another Changing of the Guard while you are there.

Where to Eat & Drink:

  • IMG_3815Breakfast: The Muffin Man – This adorable place was just around the corner from our apartment in South Kensington.  We both got pots of tea to drink, then hubby got the full English Breakfast (complete with baked beans) and I chose toasted scones with clotted cream and jam. Everything was delicious and it was a ton of food for super reasonable pricing.
  • IMG_3829Fish & Chips: Rock & Sole Plaice – The oldest place for fish and chips still makes everything according to their original recipe. We chose the cod fish and chips – the regular is a huge serving. The homemade tartar sauce was amazing!
  • Pub Pies & Pints: Barrowboy and Banker Ale and Pie – This old bank building was transformed into a pub and the keep the beer in the old vault and cellars below.  We grabbed a couple of local pints and shared a meat pie for lunch, which was perfectly filling and delicious.
  • IMG_3728Afternoon Tea: Orangery Restaurant at Kensington Palace – This beautiful building is just off the palace gardens and is the perfect setting for Afternoon Tea.  At 27£ per person, it is one of the more reasonable options.  You can add glasses of champagne for an additional cost. The three-tiered tray of food is certainly enough for a meal – we barely finished it between the two of us.  It includes a selection of tea sandwiches (I loved the egg mayonnaise and hubby loved the coronation chicken curry wrap), soft scones with decadent clotted cream and strawberry jam, and several delicious mini desserts on top.  As for teas, the Lady Earl Grey was my favorite!
  • IMG_3811Curry: Dishoom – Our BEST meal of the trip… do not miss this spot!  There are several locations around London and all will have a queue if you arrive after 7, maybe earlier. The drinks (especially the green tea old fashioned) are amazing and the food is unforgettable.  Our server was great in helping guide us through the menu and decide on what to order, so if you’ve never tried Indian food, don’t let it scare you.
  • Cocktails: The Blind Pig in Soho – With a very speakeasy-like entrance (we almost missed it!), this cool bar had some incredible hand-crafted cocktails.

P.S. Looking for more details? I reviewed hotels, restaurants and sites on TripAdvisor here. Or, feel free to email me with questions and for more details at healthyhopefulblog(at)gmail.com.