Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Three Cool Things: April 2, 2014

I've finally finished binge-watching bad vampire-themed soap operas and it's time to get back to real life. I won't promise this feature will return weekly, which was my original goal, because life is crazy, but I do want to share some cool stuff from time to time, when I find it.

First up today is a shopping site I first heard about on The Browsers radio show on KSL. Nomorerack sells a wide variety of items at good and great prices. Some deals are better than others, but it's worth giving a look. They have iPads, computers, jewelry, home decor, bedding, clothes, shoes, luggage, and much more. I do wish their site was a little more user-friendly-- searches are especially annoying to navigate, because you can't narrow searches by category or anything else. Hopefully over time the site will improve useability. 

Second is the children's book author that I think will replace Doctor Seuss as the best writer of entertaining books for early readers. Mo Willems has a brilliant sense of humor that comes through in his books, especially those that he also illustrates.
My favorite!!
In fact, my current favorite children's book is one of his: "Edwina the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct" is funny and heartwarming story about a boy named Reginald Von Hoobiedoobie, who is very frustrated by the town's ignorance about Edwina, who is helpful and loving and makes cookies for the townsfolk. He decides to educate them in various ways, including flyers and protests-- it's very cute. Finally, when no one else will listen to him, Edwina kindly offers to, and Reginald tells her all about how extinct she is. I love this story. I also enjoy "Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs", and all of the Pigeon books (these are great fun to read aloud with my Kindergarteners-- they love to participate and exuberantly tell the pigeon "NO!") 

From the award winning We Are in a Book!
Willems has written many children's books, and they are all charming, funny and enjoyable to read over and over. Best of all, though, are his easy early reader books about Gerald the elephant and Piggie the pig, who are best friends. When authors decide to write a book for early readers, the challenge is the limited number of words they can use (in fact, I think there's a list somewhere) and the fact that repetition is key to helping kids learn to read. Doctor Seuss did a great job with this concept in "The Cat in the Hat", and Mo Willems's Elephant and Piggie books take that concept to the next level. In each book, the two main characters have little adventures and funny situations. If I had preschoolers and babies at my house, I would buy the whole set; they are that good. I might anyway, for future grandbabies...

The third cool thing today is something that many people are already very excited about, but that I've only recently begun really using: Coconut oil. In the past, I bought and used one container of coconut oil in my cooking, and then decided it was so expensive, I might not be able to use it regularly. Then my sister sent me an email discussing all the ways she uses the stuff and how wonderful it is. I decided to give it another look. There are many ways to use coconut oil, but the kicker for me was this post about how good it is for dental health. My teeth aren't terrible, but I do get cavities in spite of being a faithful brusher/flosser and almost never drinking soda. And my husband has some gum disease issues, so I decided we could give coconut oil a try. 

from Food Matters
It's also good to use as a moisturizer, dandruff control, and in cooking it, supposedly, encourages weight loss. It is expensive, especially if you can't get to Costco and have to buy it at WalMart. But it doesn't cost more than olive oil, which we use a lot in cooking. So I'm committed to giving it a good try. These are the ways my family are using coconut oil. I'll report back on whether I think it does what people claim it does in the future.

  • I use it in place of toothpaste every few days, and in addition to paste the other days. 
  • My husband has started working up to the 10-20 minute, 1 TBSP "oil pulling" that purportedly will help with his gums and overall oral health.
  • I have been using a little once a week on my daughter's hair for dandruff control. She is in the pre-teen almost 12 age group and as such she has both oily and dandruffy hair. The coconut oil does seem to make a difference, though she has to shampoo twice to get it all out of her hair, and as shampoo isn't very good for hair, I'm not sure if it will be beneficial or not in the long run. We'll find out!
  • I have begun putting about a TBSP of coconut oil in the pan when I cook an egg, instead of the canola oil cooking spray I normally use. I also used it when I made brownies last week, in place of canola oil, and they tasted just like normal to me. 
  • I have adult acne, and it used to be pretty bad, but a few years ago I found a solution that really works well. One of the steps is to mix jojoba oil with an oil-free moisturizer and use it generously on the face. I just ran out of jojoba oil (which is extremely expensive), and I have been putting a little bit of coconut oil with my moisturizer instead, and it seems to be even better. It has a melting point around 70 degrees, so I just put a little in my palm and squirt the moisturizer on top. As soon as my body heat melts the oil, I just mix it together with my fingers and apply it to my face and neck. 
  • Our favorite way to use it is to pop popcorn on the stove. It smells amazing and tastes almost as good as movie theater popcorn-- I'm not exaggerating! It's really good. We just use a normal pot on the stovetop, put in a couple of scoops of oil, and after it melts add enough popcorn to loosely cover the bottom. Add the lid and shake it as it pops, until the popping slows. Then, we dump it into a big bowl, sprinkle on popcorn salt and enjoy! (You can find measurements online, if you prefer to be more exact.) Because of the health benefits of coconut oil, this has become the only way we make popcorn. It's so yummy and not a greasy mess on the fingers, like home-popped and buttered corn. (For the record, I love butter and will continue to use it in much of my cooking and baking, but coconut oil sounds like a great healthy alternative for many recipes.) 
HERE is just one list of other ways to use coconut oil. There are many online.

So, how do you use coconut oil? And, if you've found a great place to buy it, share that information, too, please.

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