Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

Snowflakes falling out my window. I love seeing them on a working afternoon.

That somewhat simple thing is just one sign of the many changes I've seen in 2012. I've been fortunate, looking back at all the positives coming my family's way.

I've shaved my commute time significantly the last few weeks. My son started pre-k at my daughter's school, eliminating a commute to a child-care provider each day. Our office (which has an actual window!) relocated to a few miles from my home recently, taking off even more time from my drive to work.

Our family has enjoyed the extra time at night - that 30 minutes can ease a lot of the chaos, giving us time to walk, make dinner or spend extra time with homework without racing through the motions.

We've had more time to explore the outdoors, hitting activities like Bug Fest (which we'll likely visit again in 2013),  exploring vermicomposting, and enjoying a stint at Girl Scout Camp. Our family even had a chance to travel, visiting Savannah, the Smoky Mountains and doing the Great Girl Scout hike.

We took a greater interest in our health, taking on a "Go Green Get Fit Challenge" (which we're starting back up for the new year!) and beginning a family journey on the use of essential oils. My love of essential oils has grown into a part-time business as well.

For the first time in a long time, I feel positive, not anxious, as I head into the new year. I am feeling more in control of my family's health, my journey toward fitness and cleaner living, and my spiritual state.

I wish you many blessings as we look to 2013!

Robbie @ Going Green Mama

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The end of the world as I know it

So today ends the last day of "normal," if you believe the Mayan calendar. Funny thing is I'm hoping "normal" comes to a close pretty soon.

Everyone I know has been so wrapped up in the busyness of life - the hassles of work, the commutes, health scares, holiday shopping, school and children's events - that we've almost forgotten to enjoy life. We've been given such a gift in this world: the gift of being able to watch a sunrise, hug your child, hear the wind rustle through trees - yet we too often turn a blind eye to it all.

We're so wrapped up in our own worlds that we forget about our communities. Our local Salvation Army drive is at just 51% of donations needed this year just days before Christmas, and many other charities are begging for support to meet growing needs in our backyards.

But what if today we lived life as if it was the last day on this world? How would it be different?

These past few days I've been more cognizant of that idea - not because of the coming "end of the world" but just because of the uncertainty of life. I couldn't imagine that empty hole at Christmastime without my children by my side, as many Newton families are facing this year.

So I've been a little more focused on living my day as if it was my last. Extending a smile to stranger. Saying a prayer for those who hold signs looking for work along the highway. Remembering that the dishes left on the kitchen table by my husband really aren't the end of the world. Finding ways to share my bounty with  families in need, even if it means nagging my sick husband to fix an outgrown bike so it's ready to be under someone's Christmas tree.

So my challenge to you today: Live today as if it is truly your last. Because every moment matters.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Jenny's Cranberry Sauce

This fresh cranberry sauce recipe was brought to our department pitch-in last year and was a huge hit.

Jenny's Cranberry Sauce
Combine in medium saucepan:

2 bags cranberries

2 cups white sugar (I did use Splenda in my recipe)

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

Grated zest from 1 orange

Juice from 1 orange, about 1/2 cup

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups water

Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved and the berries start to pop. Reduce heat to simmer and continue to cook until the syrup thickens slightly. If it still tastes too tart for you, add a little more brown sugar and cinnamon and cook a little longer on low heat.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Savory Christmas brunch

After all the candies, cookies, chocolates and desserts, who really wants more sweets for breakfast on Christmas Day? (Unless of course, you're under 10 years old.)

But many Christmas morning treats just add to the sugar blitz. And that's fine, but sometime's you need a reprieve from the sweets!

Instead, you might consider something simpler for the morning rush. In our home, we've enjoyed baked French toast for years on Christmas morning. It's easy to prepare once the children have gone to bed, and you can pop it into the oven in the morning.

Last year, we deviated from the sweeter French toast recipes that abound and tried this savory recipe. While mustard, chives and gruyere cheese don't sound like the typical makings of a French toast, this recipe is well worth it. We paired it with bacon, yogurt, fresh fruit and leftover apple streudel and povotica for those who couldn't bear not to have something sweet on the table.

Savory Baked French Toast

8 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup snipped chives (fresh is best)
16-oz. loaf day-old French bread, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
6 ounce Gruyère, shredded (original recipe also suggested Swiss as an alternate)

Grease 9x12 baking dish. In medium bowl, whisk eggs, milk , mustard, salt and freshly ground black pepper until well blended. Stir in chives.

Arrange half of bread in bottom of prepared baking dish, overlapping slices to fit. Pour half of egg mixture over bread and sprinkle with two-thirds of Gruyère. Cover with remaining bread, overlapping slices. Pour remaining egg mixture over bread; gently press down to help bread absorb egg mixture. Sprinkle with remaining one-third of Gruyère. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the French toast dish from the refrigerator 20 minutes before baking.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until puffed and golden and tip of knife inserted in center comes out clean, covering top during last 15 minutes if browning too quickly.

Let stand 10 minutes to set custard before serving. Sprinkle with snipped chives.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Peppermint Patties recipe and cooking with peppermint essential oil

Peppermint patties are a wonderful treat! But I hated the idea of adding in the alcoholy-smelling peppermint extract from our pantry.

Recently I stumbled on this recipe using peppermint (or even orange, cinnamon or cassia) essential oil. What I love about using essential oils in cooking is that you need so little. It took two drops of peppermint oil to turn a ho-hum box of brownie mix into the fastest-eaten dessert at my neighbor's card party.

You can find other tips for cooking with peppermint essential oil here. If you are looking for a therapeutic grade essential oil, I'd recommend DoTERRA, which we use for cooking and for our family. It's worth the expense and the bottles truly go a long way!

What other recipes do you recommend for peppermint essential oil?

Note: The link in this post is my referral link.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Since I've been gone

Six weeks is an eternity in the blogging world. Yet it went by in a blink of an eye.

Here's what's been up with us during my blogging hiatus from Going Green Mama:

We did the Great Girl Scout Hike during Fall Break. An awesome way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting in America, several Girl Scout councils came up with the idea of having Girl Scouts cover every mile of the Appalachian Trail this year. More than 8,200 girls and leaders joined the fun - and we were part of it!

My daughter (and my husband and son) loved the scenery of the trail, which we picked up during a trek through Smoky Mountain National Park. We hit a small stretch near the North Carolina-Tennessee border, then another quieter route a few miles down the road. It was well worth making a memory.

I've been loving learning about essential oils. I know, it sounds crazy, but I am truly enjoying this adventure. It's been wonderful not having to reach for an over-the-counter medicine to battle the condition of the moment. Who needs medicine for motion sickness, headaches, stomach issues and more when you can just grab your bottle of peppermint oil? But the best part is the network of people I've met in Indiana who believe in trying natural first.

I've been happy being a Brownie leader...and a mom. This is a particularly big year, as my oldest participates in her First Communion, so are many additional activities we are enjoying. These seasons are so short in life. So my blogging may take a back seat - I will never get these moments back.

Wishing you all a wonderful week!
Robbie @ Going Green Mama

Friday, October 5, 2012

American Doll clothes for pennies

Sophie is one admittedly unstylish American Girl knock-off.

Since she joined our family two years ago, she's gotten not one name-brand outfit.

Sure, Santa's bought her an outfit or two, and she got a Girl Scout sweatshirt for a birthday. But largely she's been spared of high-priced duds.

Lately my daughter has been begging for more clothes for Sophie. Admittedly these can quickly break the bank. But I found a simple solution: hand-sewn clothes for pennies.

Liberty Jane offers a small selection of free doll clothes patterns on its website. I downloaded the pants and tank top patterns and used some worn khaki shorts of mine to make a pair of pants and a pair of khaki shorts. Sophie also got several tank tops and T-shirts cut from a layered shirt she'd taken a pair of fabric scissors too, and she'll also be getting a swimsuit this Christmas season too.

The patterns are fairly easy for a rusty sewer to work with; in fact, I hand-sewed mine while catching up on Revolution. The only out-of-pocket costs were for elastic.

So if you have an hour to spare and an old piece of clothing, you might consider reinventing it as a Christmas present for your favorite American Girl-type doll.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book character costumes from the closet

Costumes - whether for Halloween, school plays or book character day - don't come cheap. But a little creativity can help your little girl become a favorite literary character. Here are a few ideas that don't involve a trip to the store, nor a hunt for a fairy or princess costume:

Junie B. Jones: Cardigan, T-shirt, skirt, socks pulled up, dress shoes and hair bow. Combed hair or matched items not necessary!

Fancy Nancy: Take your pick of your frilliest accessories to dress up your fanciest of skirts: baudy necklaces, clip-on earrings, hair bows and barettes, dress shoes. The more details the better!

Thing 1 and Thing 2: Repurpose two long-sleeve red shirts and write "Thing One" and "Thing Two" on the front. Use hair products to create a wild look!

From Winnie the Pooh: Abbie at the Farmers Daughter quickly created a Kanga costume from a sweatsuit.

Little Mermaid: Take that old prom dress or other formal and convert it into a mermaid costume.

Star Wars: OK, in my world, it's a stretch, but given the popularity of the book series, I'll add it too. Here, Suburban Greenmom shows off her Annakin Skywalker costume.

Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Dressed from old PJs and mom's T-shirts.

And of course, there's the simplicity of the eternal vampire.

What are your favorite costumes that came from the closet?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Excavating the Apple Mummy

Making mummies is not one of my usual fall activities for fun, but it made quite the splash for my family earlier this year.
Although my daughter's class learned about Egyptian mummies in mid-winter, I thought it was appropriate to share as Halloween approaches. It's a simple science project that's easy enough for curious kindergarteners and first-graders. My 4 year old even enjoyed the daily excavation of the mummy for his sister's homework:

How to make your "mummy:"

Slice one apple in half, and place in a bowl, covering it in salt (1-2 lbs.). You can check the apple daily to see its progress toward "mummification" as the water is drawn from the fruit. Here's how it checked out after a week:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Beating sore throats with oregano oil

Sore throats that burn when you swallow and make you squeak when you talk. Not a fun thing.

But days after battling this, my coworker gave up and made me this sign this week:

And it wasn't for a lack of trying. The last several nights, I was clocking in 10 hours of sleep nightly. I was taking throat drops. Drinking fluids.

I caved and called my doctor. No luck getting in. I even tried our employee health program, too. No such service there.

Frustrated, I searched for sore throat on There, I found a suggested protocol of a few drops' oregano oil and a few drops' lemon oil, mixed in water. Gargle and repeat hourly. Unfortunately I was out of lemon oil, but I tried a mix of oregano oil, doTerra OnGuard essential oil blend and water. Needless to say, oregano oil isn't just "hot" as some describe it - it felt like it burned. But the good news is it helped resolve my sore throat! Within a matter of hours I was feeling like myself again.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My essential oil adventure

Essential oils: I always thought the people who used them were of one of two camps: those using for aromatherapy for stress and those who were, well, just plain experimental.

Fragrance has long been a part of our sensory experience. We love perfumes and wear it on our bodies, in our shampoo and hair sprays, in our cleaning products, in our candles, you name it. But far too often they're composed of chemically produced combinations, and not necessarily the best products to put on us.

The last year or so, I've flirted more and more with the use of aromatherapy as stress relief. I've bought products from esty and products from commercial chains, all with varying success. And then I finally dived into essential oils. Wow, what a difference it made.

Using essential oils meant using small amounts - a drop or two - as opposed to liberally spraying a room with a product. Using essential oils meant versatility: I can use one product for personal use, for cleaning, for disinfecting... instead of buying six different cleaning products alone.

I've been blessed that personal use of essential oils has helped my family battle a nagging cough that had lasted a year, pain from stitches and overall stress.

In the coming months, I'll be sharing some of the lessons learned in my use of essential oils. Feel free to post any questions you may have, and I'll address them too in future posts!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Go Green Get Fit: Overcoming a major hurdle

I may not been thinner. I may not be faster. But I think I’m healthier than I’ve been in a long time.

And it can be wrapped up in two words: stress management.

While watching your stress levels and how they play out may not be the sexiest of topics to write about, getting a handle on this chronic problem has been one of the biggest benefits I’ve seen of my journey the last 12 weeks.

Professionally, I went through a grueling project that eroded my workout time and should have amped up my stress levels and my blood pressure. Personally, I’ve dealt with the ups and downs of a little guy’s pain management from a needed dental procedure and an ER visit, the family change of schedules due to school starting and a change in daycare settings, and the little bumps along the road of life.

Before, any of these things could have tipped me over the edge: tension rising. Feeling the rise of blood pressure in my arms. Grumpiness abounding. Munching unceasing.

But this summer, I learned a few ways to reduce my stress levels and recall the phrase that there is only so much I can control. I can control my breathing. I can take breaks and walk around the building. I can invest in aromatherapy and the one minute to use it to help with tension headaches and help with relaxation. I don’t have to go for that brownie in the break room. Heck, I can even use some of that PTO I’ve accrued the last decade and (gasp!) actually take a few hours off!

I can say no. I can say enough. And I can say “This is what I can or can’t control.”

It’s a big step for me.

Overcoming stress is a first major milestone on my journey to better health. By bypassing this hurdle, I’m on the road for a bigger journey.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Go Green Get Fit Challenge Earth Mama Angel Baby Review

I wish I knew about  Earth Mama Angel Baby seven years ago.
Diaper rash, upset tummies, teething,allergies...and that was just baby #1. I can't tell you how many over the counter products I've tried.
I'm glad new moms have an alternative these days and can find herbal and natural products to care for their little ones easily.
I recently had the chance to review the Earth Mama Angel Baby's first aid bundle for the Go Green Get Fit Challenge. At first, I thought, isn't it a little late? But after reading reviews and realizing that bottle of lanolin cream I'd bought when I was nursing still works great on my dry heels, I was open to see the possibilities for not-so-new mommas, too.

Mama’s Herbal First Aid Bundle comes all packed up in a handy Organic Cotton Tote and includes:

I'll admit - I blessed my neighbor, due any day, with several of these products. The Happy Mama Spray was a mild relaxation spray, a more moderate alternative to my doTerra oils that can seem a bit intense for some when I'm in the office. And the tea was great when I battled a stomach bug. The Nipple Butter? Worked great on my heels, and not as greasy feeling as the lanolin cream.

If there are any surprises in my or my friends' futures, I'll be sure to send them here!

Earth Mama Angel Baby is also on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and even Pinterest.
Note: I was sent these products to review and give my honest opinions. I was not paid one cent to try these, review them or publish this post.  I simply love reviewing local organic products from amazing companies.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Peach "Whipped Cream" Smoothie

A smoothie that tastes liked whipped cream with none of the badness? I'm all for it! I was surprised when my daughter said this smoothie tasted like whipped cream the other morning, but she was right.

Peach "Whipped Cream" Smoothie
2 peaches, pits removed
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup vanilla almond milk
1 cup ice.

Blend all ingredients but ice, add ice and blend until desired consistency.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tiny Fitness Partners: My Go Green Get Fit Update

You won't see a time posted for my first 5k in five years. In fact, I never even showed up at the start line.

Instead, due to worries about Isaac, I clocked my miles with not one but two training buddies on Saturday. My first was an early-morning hike with my four-year-old. Later in the day, post-rain drops, we logged another mile and a half with my daughter.

Working out with your little ones may not always get you in that target heart rate, but it puts your heart in the right place. It's always amazing what they come up with.

Sharing my exercise journey with my children has been one of my biggest joys of this challenge. While initially I was frustrated with my little guy waking up and wanting to "run" the minute I was about to leave for a jog, I've grown to love our conversations when it happens. And I'm loving the one-on-one time afforded by alternate soccer practice times, leaving me with the other child on the sidelines to kick a spare ball around and just chat.

Have I made great strides in this journey? Perhaps not. My scale has stubbornly stayed at the same place - but I take that with a bit of a smile, as it dovetailed with a horrendous project at work that otherwise might have meant a five or 10-pound jump on the scale from too much chair time and not enough taking care of me.

But I'm glad to have made this journey, simply because of those who joined me.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stress, deadlines and personal avoidance

I don't know what's been quieter the last few weeks: my blog or my fitness routine.  Stymied by a major launch of a corporate website and resulting sleepless nights of worrying, I've come completely off-kilter.

My stress levels? Through the roof? My dietary habits? Not so great. And exercise? Lost to mornings of desperate attempts at catching up on sleep. This past week, as we got through major hurdles with our site, I came home over-caffeinated, over-stressed and under-nourished. Oh, we munched, just not on healthful choices. And I confess to more than one evening of carryout pizza or chicken nuggets.

Friday night, I made my kids a pack of mac and cheese and collapsed in the arm chair. I made it five minutes into a self-declared movie night.

Saturday, I was still worn out. We purposely stayed at home and I recharged, working slowly on household projects but not overexerting myself.

Yesterday, I was asleep by 9 and woke up 10 hours later. It was a beautiful thing.

Today, however, is a new day. I may have woken up late, but I did so with a renewed attitude. I added water to my meals, incorporated produce into my dinner and took the kids for a mile-long walk before bedtime.

Tomorrow, we have soccer practice, an excuse for one-on-one ball-kicking and conversations with my daughter while my son practices on the field. It may not be hard-core, it may not be the most intensive of workouts, but the important thing is I combine one thing I care most about with another thing I want to care more about: my family and my health.

Life will be stressful, and there's no guarantees, but you can only live so long in crisis mode.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too: A Review

My family could be using 400 pounds of plastic a year. A pound per day in our household alone.

It's a statistic that's shocking but not exactly surprising. When you factor in toys and my husband's creamer containers and toothpaste containers and everything else we use on a daily basis, you can see how quickly consumption adds up. Even if you consider yourself on the more environmentally friendlier side of the equation.

I recently read Beth Terry's Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too I've followed Beth's blog for years and was thrilled to get a chance to read her book that was just released.
Admittedly in one of my more lax phases as a parent and environmentalist (hampered by bad work schedules and led astray by back to school and store closure sales), I know I also have a responsibility to my children and to future generations. We've been having family conversations lately about reducing our consumption - from turning down the lights and water to whether we want to buy "things" or "do things" for Christmas. (I'm paving that path now.) But Beth's book gives me great discussion starters and family project ideas that even young gradeschoolers and preschoolers can tackle:

  • Tallying up your recyclable and non-recyclable items to see how much you add up in a week's time. It's a natural extension for our kids - who fight over who gets to take out the recycling - and has the added benefit of a quiet lesson about addition and charts.
  • Collecting all those plastic bottle lids from prescription bottles, milk jugs and soda bottles - those that I've tossed for years - and send them to Evansville's Caps N Cups. (This may actually end up being a Brownie scout service activity during our Wonders of Water badge journey this year!)
  • Choosing fresh, more waste-free ideas for school lunches. (I confess: Though we use reusable bags and containers for school lunches, I'm not perfect on this. My son's spacer and his troubles chewing means I've stocked up on fruit cups and other soft options until this brief phase is over. Then we'll be back to his much-missed apples!)
  • Cook a little - whether it's crackers, bread or even nut milk or yogurt. (It's healthier, and a great way to spend the afternoon with your children.) 
  • Make your own sugar scrub and other toiletries. I love the variety of recipes and tips in this section, and I'm anxious to try them out once my work project passes!

Wherever you are in the journey towards lighter living, whether you're a young child or have hours to devote to a cause, Beth's book has a new idea for you. Check it out!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Doing your part during the drought

A good rain hasn’t hit our town since May, and farmers and families alike are feeling the pinch. Area businesses are having serious conversations about whether to use disposable items or continue washing reusable ones.

While it seems like water reduction is a futile thing in a family of four, but these days, every drop counts. And while our efforts seem small, they could make a difference in extending the availability of water in the coming days and weeks.

Some low-cost and low-effort ways to reduce your water use inside your home:

Reuse your water when you can. While it seems strange to save the water from steaming your broccoli or cooking pasta, cooling and reusing it can add nutrients back into your garden’s soil. Lately, given my garden fiasco, I’ve turned to pouring that water – as well as my husband’s leftover coffee – onto my compost pile to keep it moist.

Watch your leaks. Replace washers on dripping faucets and fix that annoying leak in the toilet.

Take shorter showers. I’ve been even plugging my bathtub and using that water for my kids’ baths. Or place a bucket in the shower to catch excess water for watering plants.

Replace your showerhead with a low-flow version.

Turn off the faucet! Don't let the water run while brushing your teeth, washing your face or shaving.

Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects, and other similar waste in the trash rather than the toilet.

Fill up that dishwasher or washing machine before you run it.

Compost your kitchen scraps instead of using your sink disposal.

What are you doing to reduce water usage at home?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Go Green Get Fit Challenge Update

Half-way through the Go Green Get Fit challenge, I'm declaring a do-over.

I confess: I have been up to my eyeballs with a huge corporate deadline looming at the end of next month. My typically coping patterns: Snack. Or take a walk around the block during the workday to vent - the latter of which has been derailed by the last months' 90 and 100-degree temperatures.

So my sugars are off. My stress levels are up. My kids are feeding off of it, and the air quality is so bad that I'm even reluctant to take them to the pool.  A recipe for bad news on the scale.

I've been sucking down Diet Cokes left and right to stay on track. It's not a great sign for my health.

I could keep complaining. Or I could declare a do-over.

A few days ago, I had a realization. If I don't take care of mom, who will take care of the family?

So I quit making excuses and just did it. I've gone walking-running most mornings, and often take a pint-size running partner with me if he is up early enough. (Why not share healthy habits now?)

I bought portion-controlled fruit juice packs and bulk nuts to have on hand in the office - no more excuses to reach for cookies at the front desk.

I packed my lunch.

I signed up for my first race since I was pregnant with my 4 1/2 year old.

I took my children for walks and pool-walked while my kids happily splashed in the shallow end of the pool.

And I feel better already.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Edible Fire Safety Tutorial for Kids and Scouts

With the recent drought and wildfires in this country, teaching kids fire safety is even more important than ever. 

I loved this lesson we had during Girl Scout camp, which taught the girls how to safely start and put out a campfire for cooking.

Edible fire safety lesson for Scouts
What you'll need:

  • mini marshmallows and/or cheerios
  • pretzels
  • potato sticks
  • red hots, hot tamales or other candy
  • candy corn
  • cups
  • plates

  1. Pull back your hair.
  2. Create a safety circle outside your "fire circle." (Make sure the area is clear around your plate.)
  3. Fill a "water bucket" (a cup) and keep nearby.
  4. Make your fire circle ring with cheerios or mini marshmallows.
  5. Create an A-frame of "logs" with your pretzels.
  6. Make a teepee of "tinder" (potato sticks).
  7. Light with a match (red hots or hot tamales).
  8. Add your "kindling" (short pretzels or Chinese noodles).
  9. Candy corn will show it's burning brighter. (optional)
The girls loved this activity, and we were sure to plan an active activity soon after!
Follow Robbie @'s board Girl Scout Camp on Pinterest.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Second-Chance Gardening

Yes, the drought destroyed my spring garden, but I'm not giving up hope. After all we're only halfway to frost date!

Today at the Green Phone Booth, I'm sharing plans for my second-chance garden.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Getting their Goats

When I heard there was a goat farm in the middle of suburban Carmel, I had to check it out.

So on a hot summer Sunday, the kids and I joined members of Slow Food Indy at a tour of What the Goat Farm, located not far off of U.S. 31 and Main Street.

My son dived in and wanted to hang out with the goats in the barn, but my daughter was a bit reluctant once she heard the eager goats might jump up on her. She finally warmed up though, and was thrilled to find out they loved the asparagus that had bolted. The kids fed them handfuls of grass and asparagus shoots for an hour.

I have to admit, they are awfully cute!

I wanted to "complete the cycle" so to speak and show the kids what the goats could contribute. Since What the Goat Farm doesn't yet sell goat milk products or have a working kitchen, we decided to take our journey elsewhere. 

After giving the goats lots of attention, we went on to Whole Foods, where we splurged on all things goat. We examined the goat milk products in the dairy aisle and settled on a yogurt smoothie. My daughter bonded with the cheese guy as he gave her sample after sample of various types of goat cheese. The kids poured over the goat milk soaps and insisted on a bar for each. So it wasn't the cheapest excursion - as anyone who has lulled into the treats at Whole Foods knows - but the kids loved their day of goats.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Easy worm bin for vemicomposting

Vermicomposting has been on my list of things to try, but I will be honest in that I've been a bit reluctant to step foot into the world of composting with worms.

After an evening composting class where I saw a worm bin - created out of a file box - I figured it was worth a try. My oldest child is obsessed with worms, and after all, didn't they want a pet?

The owner parted with a cupful of worms, and armed with directions, we created our worm bin in about five minutes.

I reused a styrofoam cooler that was used to ship insulin to me. It's been collecting dust in my garage for a year, as I've never really known what to do with it. 

I poked holes for air in the lid.

Inside, we added the recommended mix of worm food: Shredded papers (newspapers and others), a banana (covered to deter fruit flies) and some dill and weeds. We mixed in the container of worms and, well, worm poop, and are letting them do their thing!

My little guy's job is to feed the worms - I learned that  a pound of worms might eat 1/2 pound of food each week, and they love banana peels and eggs. My oldest's job is to make sure the environment stays damp but not drippy.

It will be an interesting experiment to say the least!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Quick homemade ice cream

Hand-cranked ice cream made by my mother-in-law is one of my favorite memories of summer. But, being a diabetic and aiming to reduce clutter in my home, I don't have the desire to buy and store an ice cream maker for the occasional summer treat for my kids.

Instead, I stumbled on a simple recipe for homemade ice cream that's portion-controlled and quick to make! The kids loved the process, and in 10 minutes - just a few quick songs on our playlist - they had a cool treat on a hot summer day.

Easy vanilla ice cream
1/2 c. half and half or whipping cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. sugar
Put in a small plastic bag and seal.

In a gallon bag, add 6 tbsp. ice cream salt or kosher salt, then fill halfway with ice. Add the small baggie; seal the large bag. Shake 10 minutes for a soft-serve consistency.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Go Green Get Fit Update

Like many women, I dread getting on the scale. Especially at the doctor, where it's public and documented for all history.

But this week, I got an unexpected surprise.

"You've lost weight, girl! You're down 11 pounds from last year!" the NP announced in my room.

It was a great feeling, especially since I've felt challenged with my weight of late. I've plateaud for months, and have really struggled with energy levels the last two weeks. The heat has taken its toll, as well as stress at work. I've struggled with exhaustion every morning this week, barely getting out of bed. This morning I've realized a pattern: unexpectedly high morning blood sugars like I've neever seen before. And it's not obviously diet-related.

Despite challenges, I've been focusing on sneaking in exercise when I can. Even on my late morning wake-ups, I make sure I get in 15 minutes of stretching and strength work before I get the kids up. And even if I'm playing with my kids at the pool, I'm making sure I'm always moving, not sitting at the sidelines.

My health got here in a series of steps. And it will get better in baby steps, too.

How is your challenge going?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Everything I know about diabetes I re-learned at Girl Scout Camp

Going to Girl Scout camp for the first time in more than two decades, I had one goal: Have enough energy to make it through the day with 16 Brownies.

But little did I know I'd learn a few lessons from a little girl named Lauren.

Lauren has type 1 diabetes and was diagnosed this spring, but she never let her "condition" stop her from enjoying life. And she never stopped life from taking care of her health.

Lesson 1: Diabetes care is a team approach, and we should all look after each other.

Another leader would talk in hushed terms about her needing to sneak away for blood sugar testing or an insulin injection at the nurses's station. Having been diabetic for 15 years, I knew the more open you are about your diabetes, the easier it is for others to help in a time of crisis.

So I took her under my wing. I told her we were blood sugar buddies, and we'd check our sugars together at the nurse's station (even though I carry my meter at all times). By the end of the week, we were comparing notes and playing "beat the blood sugar." More important, she felt comfortable enough coming to me when she felt shaky so we could get her care.

Lesson 2: Take care of yourself.

Being diabetic for so long, I have been burnt out on my care on more occasions than I should count. I confess that with work schedules of late, my testing had been infrequent - going for days in some cases. (Luckily I am in fairly good control and can tell my highs and lows.) Lauren reminded me that to be your best self, you have to take care of yourself.

It's not an all-or-nothing approach. I'd been testing more frequently that week and virtually cutting out insulin since we were averaging eight to nine miles of hiking each day. The morning after our sleepover, I wrestled with the resulting morning 160 from two s'mores and no insulin. Her response? A very serious, "You need to walk more!" and starting up a funny hiking game on our route to the lodge.

Lesson 3: Who cares if you're diabetic?

Yes, there are days when blood sugars rule your day. But that doesn't mean they rule you. What I admired about Lauren so much was that she was the last to leave the pool, the most stubborn at attacking the rock-climbing wall, the first to join a group game. Diabetes was part of her, but it wasn't her. And I can't let that be an excuse for me, either.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The first steps are the hardest

The last few weeks have been an eye-opener for me. After pulling my back muscle while overlifting at work, I've become acutely aware of the blessing it is to be able to move.

Today, I felt strong enough to finally push myself and begin working toward one of my goals of finishing a 5K. I've walked several half-marathons, but I'd like to get healthy enough to actually run a 5K this fall.

The first steps are the hardest. And I'm not talking about heading outdoors. Making that decision to get out of bed early, to get dressed, to put on your shoes and step out the door are the toughest moves to make.

But I did it. And I walked/jogged my first mile toward my goal this morning. It felt great.

Take that first step with me! It's not too late to join the Go Green Get Fit challenge! Share your goals below.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Go Green Get Fit: Taking Note of Changes

Wrapping up week one of the Go Green Get Fit challenge, sponsored by, my biggest strides have been mental.

As I'm still battling a back injury, my workout routine has been minimal: reworking my core, some pool time and stretching.

But despite this challenge, I'm a winner. And here's why: I had a breakthrough on my diet.

I've heard for years that keeping a food diary can make you more consistent on your diet. I've been lukewarm about that at best over the years and felt as long as I kept the mental tally of exchanges I'd be pretty much on track.

Except I wasn't. This week I logged my meals and it was an eye-opener. My "once in a while" treats or meal choices were nearly a daily occurance.

I hadn't been planning for lunches at work, nor snacks in the day in case I needed to boost my blood sugar levels.

I was guilty of too little dairy and produce and too many starches.

And while I could do little during a road trip this weekend to address this, I've reworked my eating since.

I went to a birthday party Sunday, choosing salmon and spinach salad for my meal since I knew I'd want dessert.

I dug out my smoothie book for a breakfast alternative to the all-to-easy cereal.

I planned a dinner last night with carbs on the side, serving myself a smaller portion and loading up on the fish.

In the end, it's 1 million tiny choices that make the difference. Even when I'm back to 100%, I can't out-exercise poor eating choices.

How are you doing on your fitness goals?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Go Green, Get Fit: The importance of a plan B

The Go Green, Get Fit challenge begins today, and it's the worst possible timing for me.

  • I am recovering from a back strain from overdoing it at work. (Take more trips next time!)
  • My kids are off schedule from two week's at scout camp and evening Vacation Bible School - we're still not back to regular bedtimes, and I'm worn out by the time they're in bed.
  • Tomorrow my 4 year old, the one who's worst at bedtime, has his first corrective visit for a cross-bite, and we're bracing for a week or more of continuing poor sleep and cranky boy.
  • We're facing another week of 90-degree heat.
  • And we're planning a fairly impromptu road trip this weekend to see my sister, her husband and our niece at my parents' home.

Which means that I need a Plan B. Stat.

My workouts tend to lean toward the mornings before the kids wake up, all good unless you're wiped out and struggle to get up at the alarm. And the idea of hiking to the park is out with a foreecast of 92.

I could just throw up my arms and say I'll start next week. But that is another week wasted.

So this week's Plan B:

  • Focus on strength work to slowly work back my core.
  • Use a few nights of "walk away the pounds" type videos, which won't result in a lot of bouncing but will raise my heart rate.
  • Children's behavior permitting, use that neighborhood swimming pool!
  • Write down my eating, and focus on eating fruit on a daily basis (my toughest thing to do).
Do you plan for your "Plan B" when workouts get derailed? What works best for you?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Not my best week

Suffering from a spider bite and back pain from overlifting at work (saving two extra loads to the car was not worth it) this week. Add in evening Vacation Bible School and 484 emails to catch up on at work after summer camp, and it's a recipe for a worn-down mom. Promise I'll recouperate quickly and be back on the blog soon!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Go Green, Get Fit!

Twenty miles in three days. You'd think I was a fitness buff.

But no, I'm truly just a tired mom working a week at scout camp.

I've carried the idea of getting in shape for years now. I haven't had a consistent workout routine since I walked a half-marathon, pregnant with my 4 1/2 year old. First it was new mom exhaustion. Then it was not having money for a fitness class since my husband was out of work for a few years. Then it was time.

But I finally realized have to stop making excuses. My health, my family is far too important for that.

My turning point was sheer I could barely make it through the work day. I've slowly made changes the last several months, reducing my starchy carb intake (I truly was eating far too much), introducing meaningful exercise (like taking a walk instead of sitting in a chair to discuss something at work), making sure I get enough sleep and getting my blood sugar levels back in check.

Yes, I'd love to love 20 pounds. Thirty or forty would make my doctor happier. But my first goal was simple: Having enough energy to survive Girl Scout camp each day. Halfway through the week, I can tell you I've succeeded. I'm sore, but I've succeeded.

All this hiking has reminded me I have the potential to be stronger, and it's a great kickoff to the Go Green, Get Fit blogging challenge that starts June 18. I'm excited to be part of a diverse group of bloggers, from the experienced athlete to the aspiring exerciser.

Here are my goals for the coming months:

1. Exercise each morning. I am honest enough to realize that although I hate getting up in the morning, it's my best window for real exercise--a mix of aerobics, stretching and strength training. I am committing to 30 minutes each morning. Even more so, I am committing to slipping in exercise even if I hit the snooze too many times or my kids wake up early.

2. Incorporate my kids. We are blessed with walking trails and a pool nearby, not to mention a plethora of balls, lacrosse tools and other outdoor toys. Taking advantage of these things means I'm setting a great example for fitness and telling them, yes, I will play with you!

3. Build my aerobic fitness. I do well with the little things, but I need to push myself more. My dream? To  run a 5k this fall. I know I have a lot of work to get there, but I'm rooting for myself!

4. Eat seasonally. As much as I love gardening and attending farmers markets, when I'm busy eating seasonal produce admittedly falls by the wayside. I want to recommit to that for our family's health.

I know these steps seem minor. But if there's one thing I've learned this week, it's that goals can be achieved, one step at a time. Are you with me?

I’d love to hear about your fitness or health goals for the coming months! And please join us on June 18, when the Go Green Get Fit Challenge begins!

In the meantime, join us on Facebook to get details and updates!

You can also follow the Go Green, Get Fit Challenge on Pinterest, Healthy Home Magazine, and Twitter.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Recycled Swap Ideas for Girl Scout Events

Swaps - "Special whatchamacllits affectionately pinned somewhere" - are a strange Girl Scout tradition that somehow I managed to avoid during my childhood stint.

But following one spring activity when my daughter learned about these, she was determined not to go to the next event empty-handed.

I struggle with the idea of swaps. I don't like clutter, and I don't like spending money to create more clutter for others. So I tried to find ideas for recycled swap ideas online to no avail.

My answer came in an unusual place: Our school's Girl Scout closet. When looking in there for supplies for another activity one day, I stumbled across a bag of cast-aside patches. Most were dated and could never be used. They became the fodder for several swaps!

On this patch, I used leftover flower brads to cover the date. I then attached the safety pin on the back.

With this old 100 cookie boxes sold patch, I added a brad with a Girl Scout trefoil sticker on it, then adhered a safety pin on the back. Perfect since it was for the 100th anniversary celebration!

This is the only swap that didn't use "recycled" supplies per se, but I figure old leftover scrapbooking supplies are just as good! We attached random metallic letters and numbers ("GS," "BGS," "100," etc.) to safety pins and then tied it with that feathery string that was the rage in scrapbooking more years ago than I care to admit.

This was from a 2006 Daisy Scouting event. We trimmed off the background and date information and attached the pin on the back. Interestingly, this was one of the favorites at the 100th anniversary event!

With a little creativity and some leftover supplies or castoffs, who knows what you can create!

Sit-upon sewing tutorial

Sit-upons - the name says it all: Something to sit upon to keep yourself clean and dry (and hopefully itch-free) when sitting on the ground. 

I remember my mom making these for camp when I was a Scout. That sit-upon lasted through several summers of camping, storms and mud pits, and I finally tossed it when my volunteering at camp days were over.

Flash forward two decades, and my daughter got her camp letter. Sit-upon topped the list. Of course, now it was cushioned with the "You can use a stadium cushion" line. Which we don't have in our home. 

Granted, I was tempted by the on-sale Jayhawk stadium seat cushions that were selling for $5 each. Really tempted. But knowing I was buying not only for my daughter but my son and I, that's a lot to store over the next few summers. Especially if we didn't know if we'd ever require multiple ones again - and that I knew these were easy to make.

How easy? A Brownie could do it. Seriously.

My old Brownie Girl Scout book has directions on how to do it. And supplies cost me a mere $3 for cording at Joann's.

Here's how:
Spread out an old vinyl or plastic tablecloth or shower curtain, folded in half, and lay several layers of newspaper on top. Trim to fit to a preferred size. (You know what you need!)

how to sew a sit upon

By hand or machine, stitch the sides together. Include a piece of cord on two corners so you can easily tie around the waist. (Great for campers who are hiking a lot!)

sit upon sewing tutorial

A few minutes of work later, and you're set. I made three sit-upons in roughly an hour. My only delays were a cranky sewing machine!

sit upon sewing tutorial

While sit-upons are great for camping, I've found since making them that they are fabulous to use when you're weeding or gardening and you prefer to sit down rather than kneel.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A house of dreams

My first-grade friend Ashley Miller had the Barbie dream house. A three-story mansion. For a little girl living in a ranch, it was incredible. And I had to have it.
I asked for it for Christmas. I asked for it for my birthday.

My baby sister got one years later.

Instead, my homeless Barbies got to improvise. The cardboard cases of Girl Scout cookie boxes became the building blocks of some serious square footage. Our Barbie's homes would stretch in custom communes that covered my bed and bedroom floor. And each time it had a new look.

Flash forward 30 years, and my daughter tells me she wants Barbie dream house for her birthday.

But you already have a Barbie house your uncle bought you at Christmas, I remind her.

But it's not a dream house. It's small.

I sigh. The "starter home" tucked away in the corner truly hasn't seen much play time, and she's asking for an expansion.

So I tell her the story of a little girl, whose imagination, a little brother and a lot of cookies made for great memories of building Barbie mansions. Her eyes light up. "That's a great idea!" she says.

Here's hoping that her dreams create that "dream house" of her imagination. I can't wait to see what they bring.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Not your mama's Gardening badge

I realize many kids don't realize that a carrot comes from anything but a plastic baggie, and that many others have never had the thrill of playing with those "helicopter" leaves. But I had to admit, for our soon to be second-grade girls, the Plants badge for Brownies was just too rudimentary. (Particularly since they did the gardening journey series in kindergarten.)

The great thing about our Girl Scout council is that they encourage adaptation of badge requirements to fit the girls' needs. So we took advantage of the idea, and tossed the whole Plants Try-It on its side. (I should note: This badge was being retired and nothing remotely was taking its place, a miss I think for the Girl Scouts!)

Instead of seed starting and plant rubbings, here's what our Brownies are doing this month:

Planting a vegetable garden for the sisters who live at our church's convent. The girls got a huge kick out of starting their seeds last year and planting the garden, which fed the nuns all summer. So much so that we're having another planting night later this month, after the risk of frost has passed.

Growing their own mushrooms. Thanks to a very kind donation of mushroom kits from Back to the Roots, the girls are growing their very own oyster mushrooms. The kits themselves are being divided into sections of 4 to 6 mini-mushroom kits.

Experimenting with seed paper. After getting a cute wildflower seed paper from the University of Kansas during a fundraising campaign last month, I contacted the alumni association about getting seed papers from envelopes with bad mailing addresses for the girls to try out. (If that fails, I'll make my own homemade seed paper to share with the girls. Making homemade paper during a Brownie meeting can be the epitome of mess!)

Making pressed flower and leaf cards. I found this great activity on that we'll be sure to try!

What other great ways have you found to teach children about plants and gardening?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mushroom fail (or success...)

Mushroom growing has been a fun adventure for my kids ever since we got a kit at Christmas.

I figured it'd be a great activity for my gardening-loving Girl Scout troop. We were blessed to receive a donation of mushroom growing kits from Back to the Roots. I started a demo one, which went like gangbusters.

Today, as I went to divide up the packages and prep the sample for next week's gardening night, I realized that the others did as well!

It is a really cool example of seeing how mushrooms develop; it's just disappointing the girls won't get to enjoy it! They're right -- truly no green thumb is required! ;-)

Back To The Roots Mushroom Kits are actually pretty affordable experiments in gardening - they retail for about $20 on Amazon.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mama made compost!

Composting may be nature's fertilizer, but I'll be the first to admit that I'd been a bit scared by the concept. Close neighbors and the possible smell of rotting produce put me off for years.

My husband finally pushed me over the edge with a gift of a compost bin two Christmases ago, and we discovered the results of our first attempt at composting this spring!

Today at the Green Phone Booth, I'm sharing my initial foray into composting. It's even easier than I'd thought...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Chole's Kitchen: A review

Vegan anything and my husband. Seriously, it's not two things that go in the same sentence easily. But I was surprised to see his willingness to go out of the box recently.

I had the chance to review the vegan cookbook Chloe's Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way . I fully expected to see this be one of those things that mommy does when daddy is working late. After all, I married a good Midwestern, beef-loving boy.

After flipping through the cookbook, I was impressed by his willingness to try out vegan recipes from the book. Truthfully, vegan isn't a large step from meatless, anyway. I loved the idea that we're a few cups of almonds away from mock mac and cheese. (Something I haven't yet tried because of my cutting back starches.) The stray and hay pasta was fabulous - subbing almond milk for a more fat-laden substitute. If I hadn't had the audacity to include the sub-dried tomatoes, it would have been a huge hit.

Chloe's Kitchen got us off the fence into doing what we've been meaning to do anyway: Introduce healthier, more varied options into our diet. It's given us a fresh inspiration as we head into farmer's market season.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My great green friends

I have always been the wierd neighbor. I spend more time on my veggie garden than my landscaping. I have an attempt of a compost bin in my yard. I save seeds and recycling from my office.

Most of my friends shake their head. "I'm proud you actually spent time on your front yard," one told me the other day. They simply don't understand.

My haven has been online. The friends I've made through the Green Phone Booth and other green blogs help motivate me to stay on the path toward sustainability, even when work, volunteer and family committments divide my time.

But I'm happy to have found some great green friends at home, too. My happy accident was getting to know three wonderful women who became our Girl Scout Troop's co-leaders this year. Each brings her own talents, but what we've found is a common desire to help make our world safer for our children.

For the last few months, we've been brainstorming ideas for a water conservation badge series the girls will take on in Brownies next year. We share ideas, large and small, found over the internet and in copied library book pages. We cheer on each other when we stumble on a county-sponsored rain barrel workshop or composting classes. And we have big dreams. That our girls learn to love our world.

It's great to find camaraderie among women like these. And I'm blessed to be part of the group.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Recycled Easter baskets

Making Easter baskets out of paper. That's what my daughter had on her mind.

In my naivity, I thought this would be a great activity while her brother was sleeping. And then I went hunting for directions.

Got coupons? I have stacks of ads and good intentions, and this basket from Roots of Simplicity would be a great solution: roll, glue and go. The project takes about an hour, not including drying time.

Unfortunately, needed something a little more in tune with the inpatience of a kindergartener. Instead I found another alternative at Miss Birtie's Blog. Simple, but easy enough to do with some leftover cardstock or magazine ads.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bunny "baskets" for the garden

Baskets from the Easter Bunny have been something I've struggled with since becoming a parent. I don't want the kids overrun with trinkets, or worse, drowning in sugar, but there's something fun to the tradition of a little treat on Easter morning.

In recent years especially I've worked to simplify the kids' baskets, adding a small religious book or item or a toy that they can enjoy. Last year, The Bunny brought "harvest baskets" - large baskets that the kids have since used to harvest their beans and tomatoes from the garden.

This year, we're taking a different spin on it. Noting my kids' love of (OK, fights over) watering our plants with the hose, we're investing in cute watering cans which will be used as the "baskets" this year from The Bunny. Keeping with the theme, my little guy will get his own pint-size gardening tools, and my daughter will get a flower ring she pined over at the Girl Scout shop.

You could easily add seeds or other fun items to the mix, but in our home, we're well stocked-up.

Are you doing any alternate Easter basket ideas this year?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gardening mishap #432

Note to self: While your children might understand the concept of one pea seed per hole in the ground, it does not necessarily translate to other seed packs. Like radishes. Of which an entire pack of heirloom seeds was poured on the ground into the diameter of a coke can! Yikes.

Sprouts anyone?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Brownie Wonders of Water Tie-Ins

The WOW Wonders of Water It's Your Planet - Love It!  Journey is on the agenda for our Brownies next fall, and we leaders are anxious to get going.

I'm always surprised by comments I've seen online poo-pooing a potential year focused on water. Think of all it ties into: our food, our health, our environment, our animals, even our faith. The possibilities are endless.
brownies wonder of water journey activities

Today, I'd thought I'd share a few resources and ideas to tie into the Wonders of Water Journey, for any Brownie leaders out there hunting ideas:

Water Patch from the EPA: Though I'm not exactly certain the patch is still available, there are wonderful activities to consider.

World Water Monitoring Day resources: Water monitoring is an activity seemingly more geared toward older students than our second-graders, but there were some things more geared for younger ones, such as a mystery book on water we're at least exploring whether to offer the girls for fun. (Bonus: The items are free, though they encourage the donation of water-testing kits.)

Ocean Discovery Try-it

Let's Get Digging Try-it, which focuses on caving, erosion, etc...

In the Mud Try-It (though Midwesteners would have to tailor this)

We're also looking at the Home Scientist badge (great water-related activities!), our council's Fishing Try-it and the Household Elf badge, which focuses on greening our home.Would love to hear from others who have tackled these projects!
Follow Robbie @'s board Girl Scout Projects on Pinterest.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Teamwork and tornadoes

The tornadoes that hit southern Indiana two weeks ago struck too close to home. And I don't mean geographically.
I grew up in Wichita, where tornado sirens blew twice a week in the worst of the season and you didn't really worry until the crazy weather spotters on the radio spotted something on your end of town. I remember clearly the F-5 that hit the suburb of Anderson just before my senior year and how one house, walking distance from my home, was fine, and the next looked stepped on.
I was blessed that when the F-1 hit our one-stoplight town in Kansas in 2001 that it lifted a block from my home. I still remember the train sound, the destruction, the leaves embedded in my plastic lawn chairs and siding. And I remember the little children hysterical in church the next time it stormed.
And of course the former reporter and tornado survivor (a decade ago at work) watched it all unfold on Twitter and the news. And the children were watching.
You forget how much little ones absorb, even when they're playing. So when my daughter wanted to pray for the people in Henryville two days later, I knew we had to do something. Children need to know that they can pray for results, but they also need to know they have the power to make change.
That was when we decided our Daisy Girl Scout troop needed to do something. The funny thing about tornado relief, though, is that organizations aren't equipped immediately to take things. They need food. And water. And shelter. And cleaning supplies. And, ideally, money. All of which would teach the girls nothing, and impose yet another thing for parents to buy.
Several calls and emails later, we found our answer.
Our troop would do a shoe drive, collecting outgrown shoes from our closets for Soles 4 Souls. (As my pastor put it: Kids lose their shoes on a good day!) My hope? Each family could find one pair to donate.
And then it grew. Our church's disaster committee, who I contacted for possible help in donating them, hooked us up with our pastor, who announced it during a sermon on Girl Scout Sunday. (The first-graders were thrilled!) So we made posters and collection boxes. And the word spread.
Each day, I'd tell my daughter: We have 11 more pairs. We have 20 more pairs.
Officially, our drive is over, but a few donations are trickling in. We've easily exceeded 200 pairs of shoes. More than half are going to Osgood, Indiana, with the church disaster committee this weekend. The rest are being shipped to Soles 4 Souls to help other communities in need.
It's an awesome lesson to share with our girls: By yourself you may not be able to do much, but as a team, you can accomplish a lot.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jayhawk Smoothie

In honor of our basketball team, a smoothie for the Kansas Jayhawks!

This morning while making smoothies, I quickly realized the blackberries I'd grabbed were actually dark raspberries instead. I threw in blueberries in a blender and declared it a "Jayhawk Smoothie."

My 4-year-old quickly corrected me. It's not enough that it was red and blue. We also needed yellow for a beak! A banana quickly pacified him.

Here's the final recipe. Rock chalk Jayhawk!

Jayhawk Smoothie
2 cups raspberries
2 cups blueberries
1 large banana
2 1/2 cups almond milk (vanilla)

Blend. Enjoy!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Donut Day

Cooking breakfast with my 4-year-old has become one of our new family traditions. But when you realize you're out of eggs (no waffles), milk (whoops) and other staples, you have to get creative.

Fortunately I had on hand a review copy of Chole's Kitchen: 125 Easy Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way. I'll do an actual review when I've had the chance to try more recipes, but the discovery of a donut recipe was a blessing in disguise. Or a curse. I'll get to that later.

I'd heard of baked donuts but was somewhat skeptical. And vegan? I'll admit it sounded strange. But it was worth a shot. The kids loved it. Loved making it. Loved eating it even more.

Here is the recipe, as we tweaked it for our ingredients we had on hand. The official recipe said it made a dozen, but ours came out closer to 18 donuts.

Baked vegan donuts
2 2/3 c. all purpose flour
2/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinammon
1 tsp. salt
1 c. unsweetened (plain) almond milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375. Spray or grease 2 cooking sheets or donut pans.

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet in another. Whisk together until just combined. Do not overmix.

Using a quart-size plastic bag with the tip cut, pipe batter into the donut pans or in a circle on the cookie sheets. (Note: If using a cookie sheet, purists be prepared that the donuts may lose their "hole" while baking.)

Lesson 1: DO NOT OVERFILL THE BAG. Just trust me on this one.

Bake 10-12 minutes, then cool before removing from pan. Glaze with mix of one cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons almond milk.

Lesson 2: Watch your children carefully. And I don't mean in the baking process. I mistakenly thought my boy had two donuts, only later to find he'd snuck off with another four! Let's just say we paid dearly for our donut experiment, as he bounced off the walls during his sugar buzz. Then of course, on the way to church, he said he and his bear needed a donut after church - but they would share.