Thursday, January 28, 2016

One Month, Month One

Me after losing 10 pounds in one month.

If you follow this blog for doll making tips, I really apologize. I know I haven't done a new doll for a while now. I know several of you are unhappy because you have unfollowed me (so you're not even reading this anyway) but my job, first and foremost, isn't the doll making and repair or my eBay or Etsy shops or even selling Young Living. My most important job is to mother to my children. I can't be a good mother if I'm sick all the time or asleep all the time or too fat to live long enough to see my children through their transition to adulthood. Taking care of myself so I can perform to my best ability as a mother is a huge part of that responsibility and I'm sorry if you'd rather read about dolls, but this is what I'm doing right now. I promise, promise, I will get back to the dolls as soon as I can. I have a huge pile of them half finished in my studio.

I've been devoting the majority of my time to myself for a change, because I really need to. Besides gaining all kinds of weight steadily over the years and then even more recently (for no apparent reason), I was not feeling well at all. I was exhausted all the time and was having a lot of GI issues. As you know if you've been reading the blog, I joined a closed Facebook group called Healthy and Fit 2016 whose purpose is to use Young Living oils combined with Beachbody coaching to help us improve our health and lose weight if we need that. As you can see from the photos, this is working fabulously for me. After so many years of trying different things and really struggling, I feel like this might finally be the key to getting my health and figure back. I've tried weight loss group meetings, Beachbody workouts and meal plans, essential oils, and pretty much every diet or new exercise trend you can imagine over the past 17 years and absolutely none of them worked well. The few times I saw results I gained weight back after a while. However, combining the Facebook group where we check in every day with the Beachbody coaching (using several different meal plans/workouts from Beachbody) and with the Young Living products has made an enormous difference. I lost 10 pounds in a month and today I'm down another pound. You can see from my face on Christmas how swollen I was before. I'm much less swollen now and my digestive problems are fewer, so I'm sure I have less inflammation. I chose to give up wheat because of my allergies. In my before picture I wasn't just bloated, my arms were covered with a rash. Giving up wheat is not required in this group but some other members are also giving up wheat or all grains, so we can support each other. The next month of the challenge begins on February 8th. I hope you will join us. Please visit my Naturally Amanda Facebook page and message me to find out how to join or email

I am happy to tell you what I've done to get these results, but I'm not sure you'll do as well without the group support. I exercise at least 30 minutes most days. Often I get a lot more. Yesterday my step count was over 24,000! Mostly I walk but I also do pushups, planks, jumping jacks, crunches, and other old school resistance moves with and without weights. I try to eat 6 cups of vegetables (preferably green) and 4 cups of fruit a day. I TRY but it doesn't often happen. I also substitute beans for lots of items made with wheat, like using beans instead of bread crumbs as binder in meatloaf. I snack on kale chips and lentil or quinoa chips with hummus and eat dates for a sweet treat. I drink 3-4 drops of Young Living Slique oil in water before each meal and every morning I apply 4 drops of YL Progessence Plus to my forearms and a blend of EndoFlex, Energee, and Oola Fitness oil to my carotid arteries. At night I apply Cel-Lite-Magic massage oil to my stomach, rear, and thighs, OrthoSport to my knees and feet and any other sore places, and a blend of EndoFlex, Frankincense, Peppermint, Lemongrass, and JuvaFlex diluted in flax seed oil to the soles of my feet. I drink 80-100 ounces of water per day, often livened up with YL lemon or lime oil. I check in with my group at least once a day to get ideas, show the foods I'm eating, ask for encouragement, etc. Below I will share a favorite new recipe I discovered.

Tuna Melt Boats

3 small avocados
2 cans of white albacore tuna in water, drained
Young Living lemon oil
6 ultra-thin slices Colby-jack cheese

Cut each avocado in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh, saving the shells. Mash up the avocado flesh and mix in the drained tuna until smooth. Add dill, salt, pepper, and Young Living lemon essential oil to taste. Spoon the mixture evenly into the avocado shells. Top each shell with a slice of cheese folded in half. Place on parchment paper or foil-lined cookie sheet under the broiler until the cheese melts and bubbles. Serves 6.

As you can see, this is a simple and easy recipe with lots of healthy ingredients and built-in portion control! That's the sort of thing I'm cooking right now.

The winter storm

I am especially proud of myself for doing well on my exercise plan this month because we were hit with Jonas, the big winter storm that covered pretty much half the country. We got about 4 inches of sleet, snow, and freezing rain over the course of about 48 hours. By the third day this mixture had formed into solid ice almost everywhere, making any kind of outdoor activity difficult. I fought the urge to sleep all day and shoveled snow/ice and went for long precarious walks and took the kids sledding. Between winter break and the storm the kids went to school only one day in two straight weeks!

The latest Kitty Kapers replica

I did pass the time with some work. I had a custom order for one of my Kitty Kapers Barbie replica cats. These are meant to look enough like the 1972 Barbie pets without being so close you can't tell they're replicas. I've made many of these over the years, customizing them for people who want them more or less like the originals. You can find out more about those in my Etsy store listing or in my first Kitty Kapers blog post.

Barbie with the cat

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New Year, New Me, Continued

The next healthy challenge involves Ningxia Red.

It's been a little over two weeks since I joined the Healthy and Fit 2016 group, an online challenge group which combines Young Living oils and Beach Body fitness coaching. Although it's not part of the group's mandate, I also gave up gluten this year. Well, I'm happy to report, this group is working well for me. I was not happy to stop eating gluten; it's expensive and I have cravings for cookies and things I don't usually want much. However, I was having so many stomach issues and rashes and things which I identified a couple years ago as coming from wheat, I decided to just let it go. I lost six pounds pretty much overnight giving up gluten! Now I wish I'd done it years ago! My stomach problems and rashes seem much better as well. There are other members of the group who have given up all grains, and everyone else is on a fairly low carb plan, so I can make most of the recipes and have some sympathetic people around. All together, since Christmas Eve, I've lost 9.4 pounds. For me, to lose nearly 10 pounds in less than a month is incredible. I finally feel like I have the support and guidance to optimize my health and weight.

This month the challenge we started with was to use Fitness oil and either Cel-Lite Magic or OrthoEase to see if it helped us with our plan. I do believe the Cel-Lite Magic in particular is helping me reduce where I want to, which is pretty much everywhere! I should just start bathing in it, because I noticed a distinct loss of inches from my waist (3 inches in one week) and thighs (1.5 from each thigh in one week) where I am applying it. Next month, starting February 8th, the challenge we are trying is to drink 2 ounces per day of Ningxia Red each day and see what it does for our health and weight loss efforts. Ningxia Red is the number one antioxidant product on the market today, which is confirmed through research, a whole body, synergistic nutrient infusion. I can't wait to see how it helps my health! We would love for you to join our group. Please contact me at to find out how. If you would like to become a Young Living member you can order a starter kit here.

Other exciting Young Living news is the introduction of the Vitality line of dietary essential oils. These petite bottles are perfect for use in the kitchen when cooking. The smaller size makes them a more economical way to try many of the oils as well.

Girl Scout cookie season
My family has been trying to help me stick to my plan, which I appreciate, because it's hard. Girl Scouts cookie season started Sunday and I spent three hours walking around selling cookies. Even though the girls begged to buy a box and open them I said "NOOO!" and we didn't eat any. My little ones are interested in learning to cook as well, so I have them help out as much as they can. I hope I can instill healthy habits that save them from the long journey and painful health consequences I suffered as a result of unwise crash diets and excessive exercise plans.

My helper

Saturday, January 16, 2016


A nesting doll family
Recently I was inspired to try a new project. My sister's family was visiting and her youngest had a wonderful time playing with my matryoshka dolls. My dolls, a gift from my mother, are not really made for play. They are thin wood and covered with metallic leafing. However, if someone sits right with a child then it's a good learning activity for them; they learn a lot about size order and fitting the pieces inside each other is good for fine motor development. Since my nephew just turned two (how can that be, already?!) I decided to make him his own set. Of course, the smallest doll is a choking hazard, so someone will have to play with him when he uses these. That's the nice thing about being the aunt instead of the mom; I can let his parents worry about that stuff! My nephew loves elephants, so I decided to make an elephant family.

Sketching the design

I looked at a lot of vintage elephant prints and toys to get the retro feel I wanted. My initial sketches were a little scary, I thought, but eventually I drew some I was happy with. I just drew the designs with regular old pencil.

The finished designs

I wasn't super thrilled with the matryoshka blanks when I first saw them because the bases hadn't been sanded down, so they still had little bumps on the bottom where they were attached to the lathe. They were also very hard to open and close because they fit together extremely tightly. So, I sanded the bases and interior edges down with my Dremel tool.

The blanks needed sanding.
Just in case one of these does end up in my nephew's mouth, I wanted to make sure the paint is safe. I used leftover low VOC latex interior house paint for the gray elephant skin and artist's acrylics for the details. I still don't recommend anyone chewing on these, but they should not have any harmful chemicals to rub off on a child's skin and get into the bloodstream. I looked into making natural paints, like milk paint, but I don't have a wide range of all natural pigments or any way to test the paint. Artists' paints and commercial house paints are all tested for safety.

I used low VOC latex paints.
It became apparent to me that I was a bit ambitious in my level of detail when I was sketching the designs. The littlest elephant is only about an inch tall, so I had to use a minuscule brush!

A tiny brush

In keeping with my child safe theme, I decided to use all natural homemade paste wax to finish the dolls, rather than polyurethane or commercial wax. I found Crunchy Betty's wood polish recipe perfect.

Melting the beeswax

Betty's idea to melt the wax right in the jar instead of dirtying a double boiler is pure genius!

The wax is melted right in the jar.

I doubled the original recipe and added 25 drops of lime essential oil (from Young Living of course!) because I just adore that fragrance! I have a bunch of wooden spoons I want to refresh with this polish, so I wanted a food safe oil option.

I used YL lime oil to scent it.

Once the wax hardened I just applied it like paste wax, rubbing it all over the insides and outsides of each piece, letting it sit, and then buffing it off. The polish leaves a smooth, buttery finish that feels wonderful, protects the paint, and makes them easier to open and close.

Applying wax
I tried really hard to make these cute and to include a high level of detail. I enjoyed these so much I ordered 10 sets of blanks from Russia so I can make some to sell in my Atelier Mandaline Etsy store. Look for them in the shop in about a month or so.

Papa Elephant

Baby Elephant

Baby's tiny tail!

I did have trouble deciding whether the elephants should have hair, and if so, what color hair. In the end I gave the mother and sister lots of hair but the father and baby didn't get much. I tried to add some textural interest using 3-D accents. Things like buttons and polka dots and necklaces are all slightly raised paint. My Russian set has raised details like that and I think they appeal to children and adults.

The family nests together.

Front view

Back view

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Grown Girl

My daughter's outgrown clothes
Around here we are having some serious growth spurts happening! On Saturday I got my daughter all dressed up for her Cotillion dance, a 1950's Sock Hop. I found pedal pushers, a white blouse which I tied at the waist to crop it, real handkerchiefs from the 1950s which belonged to my grandmother, and a couple signet charm bracelets that were my mom's back in the day. My daughter looked so cute! We drove to town, about a 40 minute trip, and when we arrived I was horrified to see she'd taken her outfit all apart! She'd untied the shirt, removed the bracelets, taken her ponytail down. I questioned her as I got her re-dressed, but all I could get was that her outfit was bothering her. I could see her clothes were pretty snug, so when she got home I asked her to get all the too-small clothes out of her room. The result? THREE laundry baskets full of stuff! "You can't possibly have outgrown all this!" I cried. "You wore this last week!" I made her try some things on. They were skin tight.

My daughter cuts fabric.
All you need right after Christmas is to have to replace someone's entire wardrobe, right?! Well, I don't have the money just yet. Luckily my daughter likes to sew and had some fabric for a new shirt and pants. She set to work cutting those out and I started listing her old clothes on eBay. ANYWHOO... my Atelier Mandaline eBay store is filling up with girl's clothes. Most are size 8s, but there are a few 6s and 7s in there as well. I do hope you'll check, because I'm also holding an auction event right now. Almost have the store is up for auction with starting bids 50% or more off the Buy It Now price! Atelier Mandaline Etsy is still offering the Favorite for Coupon and Pin for Coupon promotions. Favorite any item or pin 3 or more items to your Pinterest and I will send you coupon codes for 10% or 15% off. For my blog readers, I have a special Etsy code. Use the coupon code: BLOGGER when ordering for 10% off your purchase!

My daughter got tired after cutting out her outfit, so I will probably end up sewing it for her. That's fine by me; I never have liked crawling around on the floor to cut stuff out and would much rather sew. My great dream is to someday have a big sewing room with a cutting table. Maybe in my next life!

Our cat helps out.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year, New Me

Me, with the Family

Every year for the past 16 years my New Year's Resolution has been the same: lose weight. And pretty much every year I end up fatter at the end of the year than the beginning. I have never been stick skinny but I never struggled with being overweight until I was pregnant with my oldest. I just gained weight like crazy during the pregnancy. I managed to lose most, but not all of it, on maternity leave, and then when I went back to work the lack of sleep and stress put it all back on and then some. Since I started my pregnancy as a size 4 it took a long time before I could get doctors to pay attention at all when I said I was gaining weight uncontrollably. They'd say things like, "Well, eat less." Um, DUH. If dieting helped I would not have a problem. I have ample will power. Over the years I've averaged one new doctor and several new diets a year. I've had my thyroid tested ad nauseum. The only thing any test ever found was a huge vitamin D deficiency. Last year I was able to use Young Living's Slique essential oil to lose about 12 pounds in 2 months, but then I started the P90X 30 minute exercise program with my husband and gained it all back, and then some. You may remember the terrible family photo in which I looked like a dancing hippo despite all the working out and dieting. So, I just gave up.

Unfortunately, That hasn't worked for me either. I've gained even more weight and for the past couple months have had a lot of GI upset. I've also been really bloated and itchy. I was lamenting my moon-pie round face in the photo above and my sister pointed out she notices my face gets really puffy and swollen some days. She said she noticed my face was much rounder that day than it had been just the day before. Thinking back, I remembered I had an itchy rash all over my arms that day too. I believe it probably signifies a food intolerance or allergy. So, I joined a Facebook group called Healthy and Fit 2016. This is a combination support group, weight loss group, and healthy eating and exercise group. The coach is a Beach Body coach as well as a Young Living executive. She provides meal planners, hydration charts, shopping lists, exercise tips, and Young Living product tips. There are free giveaways as well. To join the group you purchase a customizable "starter kit" of products shown below:

You can purchase these products from me on my Young Living web site. Obviously, signing up as a YL member by purchasing a kit will save you money, as you would get the YL products wholesale and also have the opportunity to join the Essential Rewards program to earn product credit toward future oils. Please feel free to follow my Naturally Amanda Facebook page free of charge, regardless of whether you join the group. I provide lots of recipes and tips on that page and you can contact me to keep in touch. Please note, the web address of my Facebook page has changed to: so you may not be able to use the link from past posts and should use that address instead.

Ortho Sport

The Healthy starter kit lists Ortho Ease as a required product with good reason. I don't have that one, but I do have the Ortho Sport and I have to tell you, it's amazing. Every New Year's Eve for the past 8 years my family and my sister's family have held a video game tournament. It started as a Wii tournament but evolved almost immediately into a dance-off using the Just Dance games. This year the new Just Dance wasn't available for the Wii so I scraped together nearly every cent I possess to buy an Xbox with Kinect and we had the dance off using that. Let me tell you what! It is much more challenging when you have to do more than just move your arm with the Wii-mote. It's more accurate, too. I actually won! I even beat my 11 year old dancing queen! However, this morning I could barely lift my arms. Last night my sister and I walked 2.5 miles and then danced for 3.5 hours. I soaked in a tub with Epsom salts and PanAway oil and then applied the Ortho Sport across my shoulders and I feel SO much better. In the past I made a DIY version of the Ortho massage oils, but I have to admit, the real thing is better! It gets cold and just numbs everything.

I have a set of oils I find really helpful in addition to those shown on the Healthy and Fit flier. Cel-Lite Magic is great for tightening saggy skin. I add Tangerine oil and Citrus Fresh for extra oomph. The OOLA Fitness oil is helpful in the diffuser. It gives me a rash if I apply it straight, though, so I recommend diluting it if you want to wear it. When I really do a good job drinking Slique oil (4 drops in 8 oz water) before each meal and pay attention to my body I truly do eat less. Lemon, Lime, Ocotea, and Citrus Fresh all make drinking adequate amounts of water easier because they taste great. Ocotea can help with healthy blood sugar balance and Lemon and Lime both help with digestion. Grapefruit is another great help with detox and digestion and makes water taste really good and fresh.

My recommended products

Besides the oils and the Healthy and Fit plan, I am going to try limiting grain and totally eliminating wheat again. I did Dr. Atkins' yeast overgrowth allergy elimination diet two years ago. You cut out pretty much all foods except meat and green vegetables for one month and then add foods back in slowly to see which ones make your allergies worse. I definitely saw improvement when I didn't eat wheat. I switched to only sprouted wheat, which isn't as inflammatory, but regular wheat has really been sneaking back in lately and I think it's the source of the swelling and itchiness as well as the GI issues I've been having lately. I am going to try to just focus on following the health and fit plan and NOT fixating on my weight. I'm trying to not even weigh myself to start. I just want to be healthy and happy with myself, and to have the energy to get through everything I need to accomplish each day.

When I really look back over the past year I can see how much oils have helped me, even if I am still not as thin as I would like. I started the year on January 1st, 2015 with a migraine so bad I couldn't see and which caused vomiting. I had gotten to the point that I would get a migraine during menstruation every month, and would have several others as well. That day everyone was asking how much I drank during the NYE celebration the night before. Well, not much, due to the aforementioned dance off. I had I think one glass of red wine with supper and then two glasses of champagne at midnight. It was definitely hormonal. I had ordered my Young Living starter kit in November but hadn't really used it much at that time. At the suggestion of a Facebook oils forum I ordered Progessence Plus and Dragon Time and started using those. I use PP every day and Dragon Time during my cycle and for about a week afterward. I have only had two more migraines all year during 2015! I am so much less crazy and I'm no longer losing two weeks of every month because of headaches and illness caused by my cycle.

I also got completely off chemical allergy medicines during 2015. I now apply the "Allergy Trio" of lemon, peppermint, and lavender oils diluted in grapeseed oil twice a day and use a homeopathic allergy medicine as needed. Please note, the oil trio is helpful but didn't "cure" my allergies. I still have to monitor my diet closely to see what's making things worse and avoid my known allergens, like dust. I have no carpet on the ground floor of the house, use a foam pillow, have leather or wood, not upholstered, furniture, and have no curtains or blinds except in bedrooms. There's no magic bullet for allergies, but I have personally found the oils extremely helpful. Over the year I also put my son on a wonderful, all-natural acne regimen which has been more effective than any commercial product, including that one heavily advertised on infomercials. My son has beautiful, clear skin and I am proud to have helped him achieve that without scary chemicals. I also helped my husband reduce his incidence of snoring to almost nil using oils. If you read back over this blog for the past year you will find all kinds of recipes that have been a wonderful help to us. As always, this blog should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment. I do highly recommend finding a doctor who is open to helping you find essential oil solutions to problems.

Whether you join the Healthy and Fit challenge group or become a Young Living member or not, I really hope you have a happy and healthy 2016 as well.