Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Easy Crock Pot Fajitas

Monday nights can be a bit crazy around here. Lauren has chorus rehearsal on the other side of town from 5:00 until 6:00 so it's already late when we get home. The fastest to get dinner on the table this nights is to leave something in the crock pot so that we can serve ourselves as soon as we walk in the door. Brennan often helps out by fixing a side-dish or two to round out the meal.

One of our crock pot favorites is Beef Fajitas.

Easy Crock Pot Fajitas

1 beef roast (mine is usually about 2 - 2.5 lbs because I like leftovers)
1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, cut into strips
1 red pepper, cut into strips
1 cup salsa
2 (or more) cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
toppings: sour cream, guacamole, shredded cheese, salsa

Cut the beef roast into quarters and place in the crock pot. Cover with sliced onion and peppers. In a separate bowl (or large measuring cup), mix salsa, garlic, and spices. Spoon this mixture over the vegetables. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4. (My crock pot tends to cook faster than I expect; other crock pots may take 8-10 hours on low.)

Using two forks, shred the beef. It should fall apart fairly easily. Serve the meat and vegetable mixture in tortillas with a choice of toppings.

Lauren cannot have either corn or flour tortillas so she usually has her fajitas served over rice. This week Brennan warmed up some refried beans to serve as a side dish.

This recipe post is part of this week's Review Crew Round-Up. Be sure to click the button below if you'd like to find more great slow cooker recipes. I'm hoping to find lots of new options for our crazy Monday nights.

Slow Cooker Recipes Round-Upl
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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Koru Naturals {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

I started reviewing products because I enjoy trying out different homeschool materials, discovering my children's best learning styles, and figuring out what works for our crazy family. Every once in a while I get to try a product that's just for fun, no educational take-away required.

This time, Addison and I received products from Koru Naturals, a US based company that specializes in all natural skincare and beauty products. For more than 10 years, Koru Naturals has been bringing some of the best beauty products that they found in New Zealand to America. Both of us have been using Emu Oil, but I let Addison take the Manuka Oil and Manuka Honey Shampoo and Conditioner to her bathroom where I haven't seen it since.

For several years Addison has battled teenage greasy hair. She tried all sorts of shampoos, shampooing with dish detergent, and even a month of no 'poo. None of her previous attempt at controlling the grease helped much at all. I'm happy to report that her hair looks better than ever since she started using the Manuka Oil and Manuka Honey products. She agrees that the new shampoo and conditioner is far better than anything else she has tried. She also reported that she only needs a tiny smidge of each one when she showers. The 8 ounce bottles looked small when she first saw them, but she's certain they'll last every bit as long as the economy size bottles of baby shampoo that I had been buying for her.

We loved the Emu Oil even more than the shampoo and conditioner. Emu oil penetrates the skin easily and moisturizes powerfully. When I first received my bottle, I shook it up and put a tiny drop into the palm of one hand. It was more than enough to cover both my hands. For a few weeks, our bottle of Emu Oil stayed on the kitchen counter so that we could reapply throughout the day. Addison says that this oil works better than anything else she's tried for her extremely dry hands. The Emu Oil soaks in quickly so she doesn't have the heavy, greasy feeling that keeps her from reapplying other moisturizers.

The Emu Oil works for much more than just an awesome hand moisturizer. I've started using it on my  legs after I shower. It only takes a drop to make my legs look and feel more like human skin and less like a scaly desert. (It's been warm enough here to run in either shorts or capri-length running tights and my legs were starting to show how harsh some of my windy runs had been.) The Emu Oil also works much faster than any other lotion, cream, body butter, etc. that I've ever tried. I don't have to wait for the moisturizer to soak in; I can smooth on some Emu Oil and then immediately put on a pair of skinny jeans without having the fabric stuck to sticky lotion residue.

I don't often need a face moisturizer, but I've used our Emu Oil a few times over the past month. It works especially well when I use it for small, extremely dry spots like the patches of eczema on my eyelids or slightly chapped cheeks after running in the wind. When I used the Emu Oil all over my face, it worked well and didn't leave a too-greasy feeling at all. I rarely need that much moisturizer, though, and I'm not one to add steps to my beauty routine just because.

I have also used the oil as a leave-in hair conditioner. It took a bit of practice to figure out just how little it takes to moisturize my shoulder-length hair. Basically, I use a drop on my legs another drop on my hands after I shower. Just before all of the oil has soaked into my hands, I run them through the ends of my hair. Perfect!

Since I can use the same bottle of Emu Oil to moisturize my dry legs, soothe the eczema on my eyelids, condition my hair, and soften my hands, I carried a much smaller toiletry kit the last time we traveled.

Koru Naturals Emu Oil is the new workhorse in my beauty routine -- I've never found a product that has so many uses and does them all so well.

A two-ounce bottle of Emu Oil costs $9.85, and it looks like it will last a long, long time. The Manuka Oil and Manuka Honey Shampoo and Conditioner costs $5.75 for each eight-ounce bottle.

Koru Naturals Review

Crew Disclaimer

©2009-2015 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rare Disease Day

Earlier today one of my Facebook friends posted about Rare Disease Day. I know that February is American Heart Month and that February 7-14th (the week prior to Valentine's Day) is Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week. Feeding Tube Awareness week is also in February (overlapping with CHD Awareness Week). I had completely forgotten that there was such a thing as Rare Disease Day.

As I did some further research, I realize that Lauren is actually a triple winner on Rare Disease Day.

According to, a "rare" disease is one that affects less than 200,000 Americans at any time. Both Pediatric Cardiomyopathy and Eosinophilic Esophagitis are both listed on their register of rare diseases. Lauren also has a gene mutation that has only been identified in one other child. That definitely counts as rare in my book.

The statistics I found tonight are that 30 million Americans have a rare disease and that nearly two-thirds of the people with a rare disease are children.

I've shared Lauren's story before, but that's not really why Rare Disease Day matters to me. Over the years I've made friends with many, many families who are dealing with Rare Diseases. Families who search relentlessly for answers, even if many times the newest round of testing leads to more questions than answers. Families who deal with medical issues and procedures that they never dreamed that they'd handle.

More importantly I've seen children rise above their challenges: a girl who plays beautiful piano solos even though Eosinophilic Esophagitis means that she gets nearly all of her nutrition through a feeding tube,  a boy bridging into Boy Scouts despite many hospitalizations for Mitochondrial Disease, and many other stories.

I'm praying for a day when there will be effective treatments for Eosinophilic Esophagitis, Mitochondrial Disease, the unnamed gene defect Lauren shares with a little boy named Ryal, and so many other rare diseases.

©2009-2015 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Friday, February 20, 2015

34 Weeks of Clean -- The Dining Area

I am so happy to be finished cleaning and organizing the kitchen. It seemed like some of the messiest chores (scrubbing the oven racks) and some of the most difficult organizing tasks (dejunking the junk drawer) were in the kitchen.

I smiled a bit when I saw that the next area in our 34 Weeks of Clean challenge was the dining room. I thought I'd have an easy week because we don't have a dining room in this house. We do have a dining area, though, and I conveniently skipped over it when working in the kitchen. I still had work to do.

I don't have a china hutch or any other storage spaces in this area so I really just need to clean.

My first step was the table. After several military moves, the alignment for the table is a bit off and the crack to insert extra leaves is a bit wider than it should be. Since I was deep cleaning, I decided to find out what had managed to slip through the crack since the last time we added a leaf for company.

Ick! I found some sticky goop from a spilled drink, a few straight pins, and a couple test strips from my glucose meter.

When I moved on to cleaning the chairs, I tightened up the loose bolts underneath so they wouldn't rattle as much when we move them around.

Thankfully I didn't find too much gunk that had collected on the table and chairs. They really just needed to be wiped down well.

I took a damp cloth to the light fixture above the table, but then decided it would be easier just to take the glass parts off and dunk them in a sink full of soapy water.

While I was at it, I took the glass off the light fixture in the adjoining living room, too. (Since I had the ladder out, I went ahead and dusted the long-neglected ceiling fan blades. If you look closely in the picture you can see how badly the dust had built up.)

I didn't take pictures, but I also cleaned the blinds and the window to the side of the table.

The finished product:

I enjoy seeing the clear surface on the dining table so much that I've remembered to put away the placemats and other assorted items after meals. Without placemats and stray salt shakers lying out, the table collects far less clutter than it used to.

If you'd like to join me with the challenges, you can find Michele's posts on her Family, Faith, and Fridays blog, on the Facebook page, or by clicking the button below. She posts a new challenge every Friday and will also be hosting a weekly link-up for any other bloggers who are brave enough to share pictures of their progress.

©2009-2015 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

34 Weeks of Clean -- Finishing up the Kitchen

Last week's 34 Weeks of Clean challenge included all the little (and not so little) things in the kitchen that I haven't already attacked this year -- the oven, the microwave, the toaster oven, the countertops, etc.

A few weeks ago I guessed that Michele would have us clean the oven sooner or later. I checked the weather forecast and found a cool morning to set the self-clean cycle on the oven. (My northern friends are incredibly jealous that we're already having afternoons that are too warm to run the self-cleaning cycle on an oven without turning on the air conditioning.)

After letting the self-clean cycle run, I used a razor blade to scrape off all the gunk on the glass window and a bit of steel wool to scrub the racks.

The toaster oven and the microwave simply needed a bit of elbow grease.

The biggest improvement in the kitchen came when I cleared off the countertops. This part of the counter is several inches higher than the rest and divides the kitchen from the dining area. It often becomes a catch-all area, collecting all sorts of junk. 



I love the way that clearing out just a bit of random clutter makes my whole kitchen look better. I haven't been able to keep this area completely clean, but I have been able to keep it from becoming a jumbled mess. And when that area of the kitchen looks clean, then I notice the things left out on other counters that could be put away. Before I know it, the whole room is sparkling and I'm smiling.

If you'd like to join me with the challenges, you can find Michele's posts on her Family, Faith, and Fridays blog, on the Facebook page, or by clicking the button below. She posts a new challenge every Friday and will also be hosting a weekly link-up for any other bloggers who are brave enough to share pictures of their progress.

©2009-2015 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday, February 11th

©2009-2015 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Wordless Wednesday at Life at RossmontPhotobucket

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Rasmus and the Vagabond {Review and Giveaway}

A few months ago Lauren started asking to pick the books that I read aloud to her during our school day. We reached a compromise by alternating who gets to pick the book. This way she gets to pick whichever fun new book catches her attention and I still get to pick some good books that she might overlook. The one problem with this system is that I feel a lot of pressure to make sure that I pick good books -- books with a engaging characters and a captivating storyline.

When I heard about a review opportunity for Astrid Lindgren's book Rasmus and the Vagabond, I thought it would fit the bill perfectly. It's been a few years since I've read her famous books about Pippi Longstocking, but I remember the stories fondly.

About the book:
After running away from an orphanage, nine-year-old Rasmus finds the world a cold and unfriendly place until he befriends an extraordinary tramp called Paradise Oscar. Together they meet more adventure than they ever imagined, solve a mystery, and catch the culprits. Rasmus dreams of finding a family and a home someday. But when he does, will he be able to part with his new friend and life on the road? (publisher's description) 
Our thoughts:

Rasmus and the Vagabond was a perfect read-aloud to add to our collection. It had lovable, real characters and plenty of action to us interested in reading the next chapter. Lauren's favorite part of the book was when Rasmus met Oscar and joined him as a vagabond. I preferred the action-packed chapters where Rasmus and Oscar were hiding from the gangsters.

Although it was a great book to share with my daughter, this book might be even better to share with a young boy. I remember when Brennan was younger and I struggled to find quality children's books with strong (but likable) male characters. Rasmus is the sort of character that boys can identify with, a character that tries to do the right thing but somehow gets mixed up in trouble.

Rasmus and the Vagabond is 180 pages long and is written at a third or fourth grade reading level (according to my calculations). It would be perfect for third or fourth graders and would also appeal to a slightly younger audience. I'd definitely recommend it for early readers who are having trouble finding age-appropriate materials written at a more advanced reading level.


The publisher has offered to give a paperback copy of Rasmus and the Vagabond to one of my readers. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below. A winner will be randomly chosen from all comments posted by 10:00 pm (MST) on Friday, February 13th.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. 


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