Know your soap and enjoy a soapy sale!

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Let’s have a SOAPY sale in celebration of olive shoots!

If you are looking for a thoughtful gift for a loved one or a way FOR YOU to de-stress during the holidays, may I suggest something as simple as a bar of high quality soap?

Before my brain discovered why natural soaps are better, my skin told me. “We like this soap!” it squealed after first encountering lovely cold processed, handmade soaps. “I feel fresh and squeaky clean, not like I’ve been through a car wash!” my face declared one evening. 

There is a difference between natural soaps and commercially made soap. For a limited time, Olive Shoot Institute is offering a soapy sale. When I began to use soap nuts last winter and started a business in the fall, I discovered  100% extra virgin olive oil based soap bars. Since I’m the mama of three olive shoots, of course, the word “OLIVE” got my attention but to keep me interested, there had to be more. Here are some things to know about cold processed, handmade soaps –

Not many people make soap like this any more – it’s old school!

Caribbean Craze soap

Ingredients are unique – your nose will pick up notes of unusual ingredients – spearmint essential oil (Handsome Man), Pure African Shea Butter (Caribbean Craze and Charcoal Hippie), Cinnamon Leaf (Bay and Cinnamon Shaving Bar) just to name a few. The specks of color in each bar are visually appealing but offer their own health benefits. There’s a sense of care and nurturing I get in using and giving them to others. Honestly it was joyful giving my Soldier and my ministry-minded OS several bars of soap to take back with them to Fort Benning and Chicago.

Rich in antioxidants and natural nutrients

Glycerin – this gentle natural humectant is removed during industrial soap manufacturing which might explain why my skin always felt like it had been treated so harshly. Um, it was!

No petro-chemical derived ingredients, animal fats, synthetic fillers and/or synthetic dyes and fragrances.

True story, when I pick up my shipment of soaps, I rip open the box and take out a bar of  individually wrapped soap to inhale on the ride home. Weird, maybe. My latest fave is Charcoal Hippie. Activated bamboo charcoal helps deep clean pores without leaving a residue but is loaded with ultra-moisturizing botanical oils and shea butter of the highest quality. Too bad my blog doesn’t offer smell-a-vision.

Ike closed his eyes and he picked Handsome Man soap as his favorite every single time!

My orange hair, freckle face OS loves Handsome Man soap. He says, “it smells good. It smells fresh” Upon further pestering, Ike replied, “I don’t know, Mom, I just thought it smelled good.” There’s a succinct review for ya!

You don’t have to be a hipster to totally love Charcoal Hippie soap. Made with activated bamboo charcoal, pure African shea butter and essential oils of eucalyptus, lavender and patchouli!

Why torture your skin and expose yourself to unnecessary chemicals and toxins when there is a better alternative? Truly, cold-processed soaps are superior to what you are probably using. Treat yourself and others to the difference!

We also offer other natural products to clean your laundry and home! Check it out at Olive Shoot Institute!

Here’s another great resource that’s worth checking out – Environmental Working Group!


For the losers, 5 lessons learned in junior high about running for political office


Don’t let this picture fool you, I was a serious candidate, btw.

I know something about running for political office. I ran for Treasurer back in junior high. This is my advice for all the losers in today’s elections. It’s the least I can do for democracy.

Please feel free to pass this blog post along to the losers of today’s elections. I sure do hope it helps them move forward.

1. Be gracious – When I was running for Treasurer back at Jefferson Junior High in the 1970s, I learned to hold my head high as I walked past those who did not vote for me. And I did so in bell bottom jeans no less. Yes, I wanted to burst into tears upon the news of my failure. Sure, in addition, I was dealing with hormonal issues, what 12-13 year old girl isn’t? Yes, I had body issues, poor posture and pimples but did I seek vengeance on my opponents? NO! It probably crossed my mind but I chose higher ground. Dear losers, be nice even when you lose.

2. Work on your public speaking – I found speaking into the intercom during school announcements absolutely terrifying. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I lost. Not sure. My fellow classmates probably detected the quiver in my voice when I spoke into the microphone. So what did I do about it? Did that stop me from ever speaking again? NO, my friends. After college, I had a career teaching executives public speaking across the country and in three countries. Later, I spoke to over 50,000 kids about super private stuff like waiting to have sex. If you work on your presentation skills, you can channel that skill set into other endeavors. If I can do it, so can you.

3. Stand for something – With nearly three decades to ponder the reason for my unsuccessful bid as junior high treasurer, I think my platform might have been weak. I should have outlined clearer goals and strategies.

4. Campaign ads don’t always work – Trust me. I spent HOURS working on stenciling my campaign slogan on poster board. I bought neon poster paper plus I used brand new, smelly magic markers. WIN with WINTER was my catchy phrase, how perfect but guess what? I lost, people! You can pour yourself into your campaign, develop the slickest designs out there and still not rock the vote. It’s going to be ok.

5. Pursue other dreams. Try other things. If you would have told me as junior high Cindy and that in just two short years, I would make history, I wouldn’t have believed you. But sitting in front of me as I type, I hold the title for being Gala West’s MOST IMPROVED BOWLER – 1974-1975. The trophy sits proudly in my office next to my computer. I’m looking at it right now. Dear losers, may my story inspire you. My dreams were not dashed only diverted.

The coveted Most Improved Bowler trophy, yeah, I got insurance on this.

My Soldier, myself and my trophy. Btw, You can order your own doll at

Interesting side note – two of my three olive shoots have also run for student body political offices. I’m the mother of two former class senators (Nate and Aaron) and the mother of the student body President (Aaron). Furthermore, as the mama of a West Point grad (Nate), a comparative politics major no less, my public service aspirations or that of my olive shoots will not be revealed but here’s a hint. We will not rule out a future run for office. Stay tuned and be encouraged all you winners and losers out there!

Do you have any suggestions for the losers based on your junior or high school government days? I’d love to hear them! Check out if you’d like a super cool homemade gift for the holidays!

Five Minute Friday – Grasp


2/3 of my olive shoots live elsewhere. At 22, my oldest has graduated from West Point and is doing officer training at Fort Benning

Being the mama of a Soldier means I grasp pride – tightly

Nate in a tank. He isn’t deployed yet but he’s still in a tank.

And when he sends me pictures of him in a tank, that word grasp (and gasp) take on a whole new meaning

Jesus, hear my cries for his safety and for all those who serve

The other is 18 and a freshman at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago

He desires to be a bi-vocational pastor

This means that I grasp fear because I see how congregants can be so cruel to a pastor, how we in the pews can quickly judge, how those in leadership can go astray, become arrogant or lazy

And when he boards the train

and heads out to Kedzie each Friday

from about 3-7pm

to work with inner city boys,

he journeys to a part of Chicago where guys of his meager melanin level usually go only to score drugs and get high

That’s when that whole grasp thing is magnified for me as a mom too. Father, extend your protective hand to my/our precious child.

Taking the train in Chicago

Use Nate and Aaron today in their respective lands to do good for your kingdom.

Take their hands through the challenges they will face and the people they will encounter.

Even though they are young men, I know they will allow you and only you to grasp their hands just like I did when they were younger.

And while you’re at it, hold my hand too after all, because I’m their mom.

The coolest writing gig on Fridays! Join us!

Are you a Soaky McSoaker?


“The treadmill routine of the week is: washing, baking, ironing, fixing dried fruit, airing clothes, sewing, cleaning, baking and cleaning again. So it goes week after week. Eating and drinking, cooking and cleaning, scrubbing and scouring we go through life; and only lay down our implements at the verge of the gravel!…You bake, and boil, and fry, and stew; worry and toil, just as if the people’s principle business in this world was to learn how much they could eat-and eat it.” Jane G. Swissholm, Letters to Country Girls, 1853.

I love Helen Nearing’s book Simple Food for the Good Life. Filled with recipes and pithy sayings, I selected the above quote from Nearing’s book because it sums up my average day. I try not to find drudgery in homemaking and consider a skill, a privilege and a science. Our world has belittled the career of motherhood and domesticity. Most of us don’t teach these skills to our children and then don’t understand why our kids can’t take care of themselves, eat horribly and have homes in disarray when they are older. My three sons are ages 22, 18 and almost 16 and they know I’m on a mission to change that. They make a mama proud. God gave me three olive shoots for a reason and in general, I like how they’re sprouting up to be competent, Jesus loving, strong men who can also throw down.

But today I want to write about pre-soaking grains and seeds literally. I am a total neophyte in this arena. A caveat, please correct any of the information I am going to share as my desire is to contribute to the discussion. Add to the conversation also, I want to learn.

But first, did you know about 15 years ago, I had a funny flax seed story published in a book? It’s true! I shall soon share. It’s about Nate, brownies and a little bit of trickery on my part.

Do you want to hear a super creepy story in the interim? I had a friend whose boyfriend had his wisdom teeth extracted. He ate pizza a few days post-surgery. A few days after that, the guy went into the bathroom and screamed to his girlfriend to come right away. She rushed right in and there he was mouth agape. He said, “@*&@!!,” pointed and she spotted it. Back where one of the wisdom teeth had once lived, a tiny sprout had grown in its place! Can you imagine what it would have been like to pull a small plant out of a hole in your mouth! I would have Instagrammed it.

If you thought the only time you sprouted a seed was before you planted it or following dental surgery (!), here are some things to know.

Sprouted seeds

Sprouting biologically activates the seed and makes the plant proteins, essential fatty acids, starches and vitamins bio-available.

Flax seeds are hard for our body to digest. They have natural enzyme inhibitors which prevent digestion. There is much to love about flax seeds – their crunch, color, flavor, even tactically, put your hand in a bag of flax seeds before and after you buy them from Whole Foods and you’ll notice their silky texture. Let’s just say I “know” someone who does this. You’d really like her. 😉

Despite a flax seed’s many attributes, though I don’t need a stomach ache. My family will usually try anything I make but if they have a bad reaction or don’t like it, I’m done. They won’t revisit it. Ask them about kale cake. Gigantic epic fail. If you’re sensitive or allergic to certain grains, soak your whole grains beforehand, in a salt brine, anywhere from 7-24 hours and it will probably lessen the symptoms. Oh, and don’t ever make kale cake. Ever.

Use warm water. It coaxes the enzymes out of their little crusty shell. Don’t soak them too long or they will grow bacteria. I think I did this for you, so trust me. Last year I made a batch of granola. I was a Soaky McSoaker and soaked the oats in a mixture of keifer, coconut oil, butter and water. Recipe said overnight but I pushed it a little. This resulted in a granola which brought facial expressions reminiscent of kale cake. I fed the trash can, not the Hubs or my OS that time. Duly noted. puts it this way,  pre-soaking, “allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to not only neutralize the phytic acid, but also to break down complex starches, irritating tannins and difficult-to-digest proteins including gluten.”

Here are some great websites with additional information. I’m giving them mad props for their discoveries and information. They’re not quite as humorous but super helpful.

The Nourishing Gourmet

and in case you’re interested in soap nuts, which are not edible but organic, biodegradable and incredible, 100% natural laundry soap, there’s always

Olive Shoot Institute!

Let’s be Soaky McSoakers, kk?

An American mom wonders about voting


I have some sincere questions about voting. To me, voting is a privilege and a personal responsibility but I’m really struggling about something. Maybe you can help.

“Voting is a big decision,” Ike contemplates the significance of his choice.

Cue reverse time travel machine…Twelve years ago, I took my three OS with me to vote. Our county had a kids’ voting program which I loved. It was truly adorable to see each of them check off the candidates they wanted to be in public office. Of course at the time, I influenced their decisions. They wanted my opinion which I offered but I also reminded them that it was THEIR vote ultimately. They could check any boxes they liked but just one per political office. Nate, Aaron and Ike were 12, 6 and 4 respectively and it was a big deal. We celebrated the right we ALL had to vote.

Now I have two OS of voting age. As many of you know I have a 2012 West Point graduate who is an officer in the Army. He’s also a comparative politics major. For Nate, politics is the intellectual equivalent of a bowl of slightly melted vanilla ice cream with warmed caramel sauce and sprinkles on top or a massaged kale salad depending on how you roll. I roll both ways sometimes during the same day.

And it will be Aaron’s first time voting as an adult! Not that he is especially excited about either of the presidential candidates but we have long taught our OS that they must vote. It matters. I’ve been on both sides of the political aisle. The Hubs and I have cancelled each other’s votes in the past. (That doesn’t happen anymore, we are both in agreement on most political issues). I wear the “I Voted” sticker all day with pride and have even transferred the sticker to another shirt if I spilled something on the previous shirt just so everyone would know that I had declared my preferences. Dare I say, I have choked back a few tears as I have left polling places, I’m not exaggerating. My grandma worked at the polls for years and instilled in us the importance of voting. She was quite proud of herself and I loved that about her.

I’m just so confused about why we don’t have to show an ID when doing this. The first time I went to vote here in my hometown, I was ready to produce my ID. It took me aback when they told me there was no need. How could that be? Couldn’t someone pretend to be me and just show up and take my “voice” away? In this digital age, it seems easier than ever. If you have to show an ID to board a plane, pick up a prescription, heck, get a Sam’s Club card, why shouldn’t people wishing to vote be required to show a picture ID?

“One day I’m going to West Point and be a comparative politics major and have huge muscles!”

I understand that a homeless person might not be able to vote if s/he didn’t have an ID. That is unfortunate. I want people who have polar opposite opinions to be able to put their voice in the mix. Still though, a homeless person would have to have some kind of identification if s/he needed social services, right? What am I missing? I just don’t get it.

Everyone should be able to vote but it’s baffling how producing a reliable form of ID prohibits a person from doing so. Honestly I see it as the opposite. Using a form of identification allows MY voice to be MINE. Your voice to be yours.

Respectful thoughts most welcome…

Five Minute Friday – Wide


I will cherish this moment always

I think most of us have had a few bad church experiences. Some are worse than others. Some people never set a foot in a place of worship again until they’re dead. This must really anguish the Lord. One of my sayings is, “We’ve got to be better than the bar.” I mean, I have got to find more support, love and encouragement in church than if I wore a too short mini-skirt and a too-tight tank top and bellied up to the bar with all my troubles and woes. It’s one of my finest sayings! 🙂 I never hung out much at bars and no one ever came up to give me a drink when I did but getting back to the point, it is so sad when people mess up God’s plans.

So I contemplate the word “wide” on Five Minute Fridays with a sense of trepidation. The word “wide” feels sad to me right now. Deep fissures have erupted in places that mean a lot to me. I don’t want to be too specific but if you know me and there is a pang in your heart as you read this, you have correctly identified one of the “wide” areas in my life. I pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. Without the Lord, I’m sure to botch things and sadly still stumble even though Christ lives in my heart. I love the idea of how God’s forgiveness is “wide.” I even accidentally made a Guinea Pig Girl Doll to unintentionally demonstrate that. But I prefer closeness in most other aspects of my spiritual, emotional and physical life.

This world is not my home

Many years ago, before I came to know Jesus, Mark and I were attending a church. Mark was on the “Board” at the church and they had monthly meetings. We got a new pastor and he said something one day in a sermon that offended me so much, I told Mark, probably during the service, I had it. I’m never going back to that church again. I didn’t care if he went or if he was on the board, Nate and I would never enter that church again. I meant it. I never did go back though I think I let Mark take our toddler with him a few times. Obviously, this created a lot of strife between the two of us and I never had closure. Eventually Mark left the church. It was awkward, I can’t remember if the pastor wanted to talk to us/me before the final departure. Regardless it never happened. Honestly I’m not sure if the pastor said the same thing now if it would tick me off given where I am with the Lord. I don’t think I made the right decision, I created the rift in a sense.  The Hubs and I needed to be of one accord and we weren’t.

Tabitha who is now living in Nepal reminds me about Psalm 103 “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

So this is what I pray, “Heavenly Father, could you fill this wide gap over here and the chasm over in this other place? You never disappoint and your ways are always true. Not with the spiritual equivalent of a gin and tonic but with something good and real and true? I pray this not only for myself but for the many I know and love who are also hurting. Amen.”


What color was your dinner?


“Hey everybody, this is important!”

Food is on the table

Getting ready to pray

When I look at the spread before us

And notice

Hey, this is a bi-color dinner!

Quick, grab the camera!

People need to know!

Edamame – green

Massaged kale salad – verdurous with splashes of bright yellow (mango) and sage green (pepitas)

Italian quinoa salad – social butterfly yellow, green pepper green, yellow corn

This is my unintentional bi-color dinner, everybody!)

Within arm’s reach, a shaker of homemade celery powder, made in my dehydrator

Over to the side

Popcorn – hints of soft yellow amidst the white explosions speckled with Fire Dancer seasoning

Then I realize, WHOA!


The plates are

Green plate swirls

Garden spot green

Witty green


Optimistic yellow!

The Pyrex bowl containing the roasted kale (brown green), you ask?

Cut the Mustard gold

I love all the beautiful colors in Pyrex!

I exclaim, “Hey, guys! This is really important!

But no one else noticed,

Neither, the Hubs nor the orange hair, freckle face OS cared.

They were just hungry. Phooey.

This blog post was brought to you by the colors yellow and green and by the word observant

Find your colors at Sherwin Williams and this amazing app on Sherwin Williams ColorSnap. I didn’t know about this app until I started writing this post. But you can use your smart phone to match real-world colors with paint colors. All for free! You can take a picture of your dinner (like I did) and it will tell you the names of the corresponding paint colors! How cool is that!