Jun 24, 2016

Product Review: Pure Hazelwood Products (Necklaces, Bracelets, and Anklets)

I am SO excited to tell you about Pure Hazelwood's products! I know that by the end of this review you're going to be just as excited about these products as I am.

I was lucky enough to be able to review Pure Hazelwood's necklaces, bracelets, and anklets. Even my husband and children got to test out some necklaces! I'm doing this review mainly as a video because Pure Hazelwood asked me to. I'm a little nervous! It's unedited, real life here - seriously, you can see Q jumping on the couch behind me near the end.

A couple weeks ago I hosted an event at my house for the local Crunchy Moms group here in Bellingham. We had a lot of fun getting together and chatting about hazelwood and trying the jewelry on. A handful of folks even ended up ordering necklaces for themselves and kids!

Hazelwood is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and full of antioxidants as well. Pregnant and dealing with acid reflux? Have an irritable teething little one? Hazelwood may very well be your ticket!

If you've been thinking about trying out hazelwood, I promise you they really are as fabulous as they are made out to be. To see more real life action shots of the hazelwood during normal everyday life, follow me on Instagram @hippiemamatess.


Check out these links to order some Pure Hazelwood products for yourself and your family!

Pure Hazelwood Main Website
Pure Hazelwood Adult Necklaces
Pure Hazelwood Children's Necklaces
Pure Hazelwood Bracelets
Pure Hazelwood Anklets

And as always, I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on these products if you decide to take the plunge! How have they been working for your family? Have you heard of wearing hazelwood before this? What were your first thoughts when you heard about these incredible properties? Tell me below!

Jun 23, 2016

Book Review: Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar

If there's one thing you take away from this book, it's that you are not alone. And that is one of the most comforting, reassuring things I can think of to tell someone going through a faith shift.

Kathy Escobar is writing from a place of understanding because she has been there - in the middle of her own faith shift. She shares her story as an encouragement to each of us, to let us know that we aren't alone, and that everything is going to be ok. Kathy is the lead pastor at The Refuge, a mission center and Christian community that she helped start as a safe place for faith shifters. And believe me, I seriously wish I lived close enough to be a part of that community!

The Refuge offers just that: refuge. It's a place where people are not judged or looked down on for having a faith crisis or for asking questions. I know that on my own journey, asking hard questions is seen as a bad thing, as "going off the deep end," or "straying," or even leaving "the flock" (how I despise that term!) altogether.  Since most of us aren't lucky enough to live in North Denver, Faith Shift offers us a bit of our own refuge within our own homes. This book is packed with snippets of stories from people's lives that are having spiritual shifts and feeling abandoned by the churches and people they grew up with.

My faith shift started about 4 1/2 years ago. I didn't realize it then. All I knew is that I was starting to think for myself and question things I had always believed. It wasn't until about 1 year ago when I started adventuring into seriously unknown territory that I realized something bigger was going on. I found a group or two on Facebook where I was able to connect with some like-minded people. More than the groups themselves (some of which I'm not even a part of anymore), I found a few individual people that I deeply connected with. They listened to my whole story, they understood, they offered me love and kindness and helpful advice. Without these people, my faith shift would have (would still be) the loneliest place I have ever been.

Luckily for me, I also somehow discovered books like Faith Shift which ended up impacting me more than I thought it would be able to. When I started reading this book, I couldn't get over how much I was relating to what Kathy was saying, and even more so, how she seemed to be literally telling my story back to me, and then predicting the future for me! It was SO freeing and comforting.

When you feel alone, the greatest gift that can be given to you is the gift of friendship and understanding. Of being told "Hey, I've been there. I know what it's like. It's going to be ok. Here's some helpful advice." There is nothing more comforting than knowing that there are actually real life people out there who get you.

Kathy has a really helpful diagram in her book that I wanted to show you.

from the book Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar http://kathyescobar.com/
To fully understand this diagram in it's entirety, you'll have to read Faith Shift for yourself. But for now, you can get a pretty good idea of the faith shifter's journey from this picture. Personally, I'm in the unraveling stage right now most strongly, with a fair amount of severing going on, and just the slightest hints of rebuilding starting to bud.

In the beginning of the book, Kathy talks about how the point of the illustration above, and the book in general, is to give language "to our shared but individual experiences and identify the progression of a faith shift." This sounded awesome when I first started reading, and then the further and further I got through the book, I realized how absolutely needed it truly was and is! Having the words and the descriptors to explain where you are in life may be the single most important thing to making this journey easier for you and for others. It's like being handed a super bright flashlight as you're walking through the darkest of dark caves.

I'm going to say: I want to just put this entire book for you to read on my blog. There is so much I want to cover in this review and I truly feel like I'm just grasping at straws trying to figure out what to say where and how much to say.

I was excited that Rachel Held Evans, Brain McLaren, and Sarah Bessey all gave glowing reviews of Faith Shift. It majorly added to my excitement and I mean...when Rachel Held Evans recommends a book, you know it's gotta be good.

Kathy goes through each stage of faith shifting in great detail. I found this incredibly helpful in identifying certain areas of my own journey, and it was especially impactful in the area of offering me comfort. The constant reminder of "You are not alone. You are ok." was so helpful to me.

Probably my most favorite chapter starts on page 82, and it's called Soul Care for Unravelers. Self care (soul care!) has been such a huge theme for me lately. And you know that if you've been reading my blog for a while. Being handed some tools to make sure that my soul is being properly cared for during this season was really meaningful to me. Obviously I can't put the whole chapter here in a blog post (I wish I could) but here are some of my favorite parts.

Below are a handful of ideas that Kathy gives for keeping yourself together while you're unraveling. Now, keep in mind that under each of these points, Kathy goes into great detail to further expound on what she means.

  • Get used to blank stares and nervous twitches (from others)
  • Expect the unexpected 
  • Come to terms with negative emotions 
  • Consider the possibility that your soul is not at risk 
  • Accept that some relationships will fall away
  • Make time for safe, life-giving friends 
  • Treasure laughter 
  • Practice Serenity 
  • Try experiencing God in new ways
  • Trust the process
  • Swear if it helps!
  • Be selective in what you read
  • Be selective about which events you attend 
  • Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others 
  • Avoid big triggers if possible 
And then right after this list, Kathy gives a really, really refreshing list of "life-giving acts" that she personally found helpful. I LOVE how down to earth these things are, and how much I related to them. Having permission to actually do these things - being encouraged to do these things - this is huge! The basis for this list is "Does this help me feel more peace, love, hope, joy, and/or rest?"

  • Lighting candles (lots of them)
  • Watching movies
  • Turning off the radio in my car and putting my cell phone in the back seat
  • Taking walks in the rain or sun or snow
  • Making time for friends who make me laugh 
  • Reading only fiction 
  • Reflecting on art or poetry 
  • Writing 
  • Water skiing 
  • Hiking 

And for me, this list would look something like this...

  • Taking a quiet bath alone with candles, my cell phone or a movie on the computer 
  • Listening to music and singing and dancing 
  • Eating delicious food
  • Drinking a cup of coffee or tea that I prepared mindfully 
  • Meditating 
  • Walks and hikes or time at the beach with my family 
  • Reading
  • Having good talks with Chuck 
  • Dinner with friends 
  • Connecting to nature through earthing, stones and crystals, new moon rituals, etc. 
  • Smudging my house and myself 
  • Music and dancing 

Among the bazillion other things that stood out to me in Faith Shift was the fact that Kathy encourages you to explore things you may have previously been taught were off limits. She says (page 153) "Explore different ways to connect with God that your previous faith tradition might not have validated, such as nature, social activism, contemplative practices, and so on." This is in the section titled "The Art of Experimenting Spiritually".

Also, I don't think I mentioned this yet, but bullet points and lists in books are one of my ultimate favorite things. Faith Shift doesn't let me down in this area!! 

Continuing on in the section about experimenting spiritually, Kathy goes on to list a few possible practices that you might decide to try out (or not) in the process of rebuilding. Below is a quickly paraphrased version:

  • What makes you feel alive? Loved? What are you passionate about?
  • Put the Bible on the shelf and find something else inspiring and challenging to read. Many other faith traditions have amazing material worth bravely exploring. 
  • Practice reading the Bible for its beauty and inspiration instead of for study or knowledge. 
  • Consider other aspects of God's character. What part of God do you want to connect with, or do you really need, right now? Start there. It could be God as friend, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Mother, Creator, Advocate, and so on. 
  • Practice soul care (see above!)
  • Create something. 
  • Skip parts of church that you aren't ready for or don't like (or skip church all together!)
  • Have fun, lighten the load, laugh.

Following is a whole section called "Different Ways of Loving God". I loved this quote from Karl, the previous co-pastor at The Refuge: "Love God. The problem is that I don't know what love is, and I am not sure who God is...but other than that I've got it nailed down." It just sums up in total perfection that we kind of know...but we don't really know. What a perfectly confusing, comforting way to say that.

There is so much to say about Faith Shift and I just can't seem to get it all out here the way I want to. This book deeply impacted me. I am so happy to have been able to read it and learn from it, to find comfort and friendship in it. I can't wait to pass it on to others who will also find it helpful. Chuck is reading it right now, and then after he's done, I'm sending it to my good friend in Maryland. 

If you get a chance to read this book, do it!!! You won't regret it. If you have read Faith Shift I would dearly love to hear your thoughts on it and to hear how it affected your own shifting faith. Feel free to leave a comment below or to send me an email. I'd really love to chat. 

Lastly, thank you so much to Kathy for sending me a copy of this book for review. I had no idea it would be this good. Thanks for giving this gift to the world...and to me. <3 

Jun 16, 2016

When life feels overwhelming

Chuck and I were instant messaging back and forth this morning. We seem to communicate best that way throughout the day even though his office is only right through the kitchen.

"When do you want naps to be today?" I messaged him.

"When would work best for you? It sounds like the kids are being kind of crazy." he replied.

"Yes, they are. I feel overwhelmed. And like I want to be here so badly, but I can't show up the way I want."


The past week and a half I've felt so unbalanced. It's probably because I'm working hard to grow a baby, keep up with housework and cooking, bearing the weight of hard news - both personal and communal, going through huge faith shifts, putting effort and time into relationships, and have been forgetting to make time for self care.

I've been forgetting to take time to notice what Mandy Steward calls secret messages. I've been missing out on taking things slow. On softening. And I realized when I started writing this post how much this is affecting me and how much I need it.

When my self care practices get pushed aside (never on purpose) my whole life feels it, and my family feels it. I have less patience. I have less to give. I have shorter attention spans. I have harsher words and fewer smiles. I have more judgement and less grace.

All of this in the middle of trying to parent two beautiful toddlers. In the middle of dealing with the news of sickness in my family. In the middle of trying to wrap my mind around the massacre that happened on Sunday. In the middle of trying to feed myself and this growing baby and my children and husband healthy wholesome food. In the middle of judgement from other moms, self perceived or openly given. In the middle of tiring faith shifts with seemingly no end to them.

I want to be here. I want to be so present that I notice the bugs crawling around me on the grass and the laughs of my children as they play with their toys, I want to see the flowers like my boy sees them, and I want to pluck them up and give them as a gift to somebody, just like he did for me.

I want to be able to hold space for all of those who were hurt on Sunday and are trying to heal.

I want to be able to tell myself that it's ok to not be able to bear responsibility for all the things I want to do or can't do. And sometimes that's just making dinner. And on those night when we eat a frozen pizza from Trader Joe's, I will try my hardest to block out the voices of moms who (seem to) have it all together and who wouldn't feed their growing children frozen prepackaged food.

But for me? I've been realizing lately that sometimes survival and happiness is more important than pushing through miserably.

Because who wants to be miserable? Not me. And I know that when I am, my children are too (their sweet, sweet tender souls). They feel so deeply that even when I am emotionally distraught, they offer me hugs and cuddles. And it's in those moments that I know a frozen pizza (or a TV episode or water play outside or "let's pull everything out of the recycling bins") is indeed the right choice. It's the healing choice.

I'm writing this as a reminder to myself. To soften. To be present. To be mindful. To enjoy the moment - the living breathing moments and the living breathing souls around me.


May 25, 2016

Introducing the Agnostic Christians Facebook Group


I've shared a bit here about my current faith shift and what that's been looking like. I'm still working my way through Kathy Escobar's book, Faith Shift, and today, as I hit on a fresh section, I was introduced to the term "Christian Agnostic." It described me almost perfectly: believing in Jesus without any of the baggage of Christianity.

I was inspired to create a safe place online for those of us who identify within this to come together to share, find support, cry, laugh, get help - whatever we may need at any moment! I would be honored if you joined and shared so that others can find us as well.

Faith shifting can be such a lonely journey, and my hope is that this new community will make that journey a little more bearable and joyful for each of us. <3

I'll see you there!

May 20, 2016

Recipe: Sustaina-BALLS

Every once in awhile I like to try my hand at creating a recipe. Yesterday was one of those days! I've had a breakfast ball recipe that I've been making for a year or so, and from that recipe, I created a breakfast cookie. Both of those recipes had aspects that I didn't like. The breakfast ball base is oatmeal, and the breakfast cookie base is oats and bananas. While both dairy and gluten free, I just wanted something that I was IN LOVE with. And so, I present to you...Sustaina-BALLS! Thanks to my awesome local What's Cookin', Mama? Facebook group and one of it's members, Ashley B. for the epic name suggestion!


Ingredients

  • 10 medjool dates, pitted 
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes 
  • 1/4 cup of ground flax seed
  • 1/4 cup of gluten free oats* 
  • 1/4 cup of hemp hearts 
  • 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds 
  • 1/4 cup of chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup of your choice of nut butter*, or a mixture of nut butters and/or coconut oil
*Notes: You can choose to omit the oats if you'd like a grain free snack. If you do choose to omit the oats, be sure to lessen the amount of nut butter you use. Alternatively, you could add a pinch more of the rest of the dry ingredients to equal a 1/4 cup and keep the nut butter ratio the same.

If you would like to add sweetener, you can choose to add some raw honey or pure maple syrup. If you do this, be sure to lessen the amount of nut butter you use. However, these are delicious without ANY added sweetness! And much healthier for you. ;)

This recipe makes around 20 balls, depending on how large or small you create them.


Directions

  1. Put all of the pitted dates into the food processor and then blend until they are a paste. 
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients, holding back a little of the nut butter for later. Blend.
  3. Test to see if you need to add more nut butter by seeing if the mixture stays together when you squeeze it in the palm of your hand. If it sticks together without falling apart, then it's done! If not, add some more nut butter and blend until it's the correct consistency. 
  4. Shape into balls using your hands and set on a plate. Place the plate in the fridge for about an hour to allow the Sustaina-BALLS to harden up, and then store them in an airtight container for later snacking! These will last a couple weeks in the fridge, or a handful of days out on the counter.
  5. Enjoy! 
This recipe is SO flexible and you can change up the ingredients and ratios any way you'd like!

These balls make a great all-occasion snack. As long as they are in a container that can't crush, they travel well and provide lots of good protein! They also will make you thirsty, so be sure to have water on hand. Pack them to take camping or hiking, or just for a picnic in the park. 

What are your favorite go-to snacks? I'd love to hear about them since I'm always on the lookout for new things to add to the kitchen! 

May 19, 2016

Product Review: Pengie's Products - Salves

It's one of my favorite things when people contact me wanting me to test out their products and review them to share with you - especially when the products are handmade and amazing!

Today I want to tell you about Pengie's Products, a small business created and run by Megan.

Megan mainly specializes in salves, but will sometimes offer other speciality items (she is currently offering Bug Bite Relief Sticks, for instance! I didn't get to test these out, but they look and sound amazing!)

I was sent a collection of each one of her salves to test out. They came beautifully packaged, and in my opinion, it's one of the BEST parts about receiving something in the mail! It says a lot to me when I can tell the person on the sending end put time and thought and love into the package. <3 And we're not even talking about the salves yet!

Pengie's Products salves are made with wild harvested herbs (or when not available, herbs sourced from a reputable company), Young Living essential oils, and organic base components. Megan has created each salve recipe herself, which I think is my most favorite part! All of the salves are non-GMO and organic.

Pengie's Products offer a variety of salves for all sorts of different ailments.

  • Burn Salve 
  • Deep Tissue Salve
  • Healing Salve 
  • Drawing Salve
  • Scar Salve 

My favorite out of all of them was the Healing Salve - most likely due to the fact that this is the one I most commonly reached for throughout the week. The Healing Salve has garlic in it, which I adore. I thought it was incredibly clever to add garlic to a salve, especially since garlic is one of the most powerful healers out there. Having it in a salve to spread on the largest organ of your body will get it into your bloodstream and tissues in a timely manner and jumpstart the healing process. I felt almost immediate relief when I applied the healing salve! 

Whenever my kids get hurt they ask for "cream" which means salve to them. ;) A cat scratch, a head bump, a bug bite, a burn from the stove, a bruise - whatever it is, they always ask for their cream. I am so pleased to have found Pengie's Products to offer a variety of creams to keep stashed in our home. I usually only keep one all purpose salve on hand from our local herb shop, but it's so handy to have specific salves for certain ailments. The slaves go on cleanly and smoothly, and once you've massaged it into your body, you won't even know it's there.

Each salve comes in a 1 ounce or 4 ounce tin with the name and ingredients listed on the lid. I love that Megan chooses to list her ingredients on each product! I had been keeping my salves next to the bathroom sink, but I moved them up because when water splashed onto the lids, it would wash out the sticker. Now I know! The ingredients for each specific salve are also listed on her website which is great for reference. 

Ordering from Pengie's Products is quick and easy with PayPal. The Pengie's Products website is easy to navigate and understand, everything being well laid out in an intuitive fashion. 

I would highly recommend Pengie's Products as a staple to your medicine cabinet. You won't be disappointed in these high quality salves! 

I am super excited to be able to say that Megan has offered you a special discount if you decide to order within the next few days! 

The first 5 people to order between now and May 31, 2016 will receive a FREE Bug Bite Relief Stick! You only have 12 days to take advantage of this generous offer, so make sure to move quickly! Be sure to mention in the notes upon check out that you're coming from TessaMcKnight.com. 

And when you order $30.00 or more worth of merchandise, you'll receive TWO FREE Bug Bite Relief Sticks! This is a limited time offer! Be sure to mention in the notes upon check out that you're coming from TessaMcKnight.com.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on Pengie's Products if you end up deciding to get some for yourself. Which one did you decide on? How is it working for you?  

I'd also like to thank Megan for reaching out and sending me free salves for the purpose of this unbiased review. It has been such a pleasure working with you!