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