Saturday, December 28, 2013

Essential Oil Options: Puritan's Pride

As a huge believer in essential oils, I'm always on the lookout for the right balance of pricing and potency. So when Puritan's Pride reached out with an offer to try some of their essential oils, I was up for the challenge.

recently tested out several of their single oils, including lavender, peppermint and euchalyptus. They had a slightly different scent from my usual brand, but that doesn't mean much on the outset - after all, plants take on the properties of the land where they are grown (think: wines from various countries.)

These three oils are great to have on hand for the winter months. Euchalyptus rocks for congestion and coughs. In our family we dilute a drop or two in a carrier oil and rub it on our chest or back, or you could add a few drops to your humidifier at night as well. Lavender is surprisingly beneficial for nasal congestion, though we most often use it in baths or in helping restless kids sleep. And peppermint is fabulous for fevers, nausea and vomiting. 

My daughter preferred the lavender and euchalyptus essential oils to the brand we had at home, and was happy to use that instead for her cough. The lavender helped with her itchy scalp as well.

What I loved most, though, were the massage oil and Scentsball diffuser. The Aromappeal® Wonder Oil  includes a blend of olive, sunflower seed, wheat germ, sweet almond, sesame and jojoba oils, along with grapefruit, lemon and orange essential oils. It was fabulous on my dry winter skin!

The Scentball Plug In Electric Diffuser is inexpensive and compact (on sale for $7.99 right now). It does require putting drops of essential oil on a refillable pad . I can't attest to how long the diffuser lasts at this point, but it is 
great to use as a booster for my oils to help keep us cold free this winter.

You can enter below to win essential oils of your own! One winner will be drawn on Jan. 6 and will receive a diffuser, Aromappeal® Wonder Oil, and a trio of lavender, peppermint and euchalyptus essential oils from Puritan's Pride.

You can enter by:
  1. Posting below. What essential oil would you like to try most and why?
  2. Tweet about the giveaway. Tag @goinggreenmama1.
  3. Pin this giveaway.
  4. Follow Going Green Mama on Pinterest.
  5. Follow Puritan's Pride on Pinterest.
  6. Like Puritan's Pride on on Facebook.
  7. Like Going Green Mama on Facebook. 

About Puritan's Pride
Puritan’s Pride® (www.puritan.com) began over 40 years ago, with the mission of making the finest quality nutritional supplements available at the best value to their customers. Today, the company remains true to its original commitment and serves millions of loyal customers. Puritan’s Pride manufactures thousands of vitamins, minerals, herbs and other nutritional supplements in their state-of-the art facilities located throughout the U.S. As part of the company’s commitment to quality, Puritan’s Pride only uses ingredients from suppliers worldwide that meet their Quality Assurance Standards, as well as Good Manufacturing Practices food quality standards.

Disclaimer: I received products for review and giveaway from Puritan's Pride but no other compensation. Opinions are my own.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Giving and receiving: When your loved one is struggling

"To learn to give, you have to learn to receive," a sister told me years ago.


It is the toughest advice I ever had to swallow but one I think I benefit from each day.

My baby boy was just a baby, my husband was out of work, and the great recession was in its beginnings. Everyone was scared. And so was I.

This was the year that Christmas came from loved ones - and many secret Santas I'm still grateful for. They blessed us with diapers, clothes, toys for the children. I spent that Christmas day in half tears, devastated by the fact we ourselves couldn't provide things for our family. The Kroger gift card - giving us a week's worth of groceries - drove the point home. Never intended, but our situation was too raw.

I learned my "lesson" that year and despite our financial situation tucked away a few things over the year (clearance summer clothes, etc.), determined not to be empty under the tree.

But it took even longer for me to learn the real lesson. Whatever we have - no matter how little - is a gift from God, and we always have the chance to grace others and share blessings.

Here are some ways we've learned to bless others - and some tips for friends and family who are on the "other side" wanting to help:

Blessing When You're Broke

  • Time and talent: I always try to remember that in our church they talk about gifts of time, talent and treasure. (Note the treasure is last!) Gifts of time and talent can make such a difference - whether it's donating time to a charitable organization or making an upcycled gift.

    In the last few years, while we try to recover from our financial upset, we have redoubled our efforts to help, whether it's at school, scouts or church. Not only does it provide needed volunteer support, but my children will remember that mom and dad were there! Maybe you can't donate to the Angel Tree; can you help wrap gifts or deliver them?

    The gift of time is simple too. While I don't do gifts for friends, we do invite them for cookie making - treasured time when everyone is so busy! Or offer to babysit one night for a dear friend.
  • Use ExtraBucks wisely. As we don't have a lot of extra money right now, we are very careful in what we can donate. But I have recently realized that ExtraBuck deals can bless others. Now I buy nearly free diapers for our Gabriel Project at church or free foods or medications for the church food pantry. Every bit helps.
  • Reach out. I believe people naturally want to help others but sometimes we need to give them the opportunity. A woman at church knew a family whose home burnt. She certainly couldn't help them in all the ways they needed, so she reached out. And we reached out. A few phone calls later and I had not only clothes for one daughter from us but also clothes for a son and decorations for a Christmas tree I had heard was being donated to the family.

Helping Loved Ones Who are Financially Struggling

  • Don't be afraid to ask what they need...and gently encourage them to share. Do the kids need new shoes? PJs? Maybe they need diapers (or maybe cloth ones they can reuse?) or gas cards?  Be specific. Saying to let me know if you need anything, or asking what I can do to help may not get you far.
  • Help meet emotional needs. While you're not a therapist, even something as simple as movie tickets and an offer to watch the kids for a night can give parents the emotional break from the constant worry of a situation.
  • Be practical without feeling"practical." Sure you could buy groceries, but you can also buy a basket of locally made spaghetti sauces, breads and salad dressings (for example) from the winter farmers market or buy a gift certificate to a local produce delivery service. It makes the ordinary - cooking and worrying about feeding the family - feel a bit more decadent.
  • Consider experience gifts for the kids. My mother one year bought the kids soccer and dance lessons at the parks department instead of toys. She likely even saved money, but more importantly, the kids felt a little more "normal" and for once weren't turned down when they asked to do an activity.
  • Take the focus, if you can, off money. Invite them for a popcorn and Christmas movie night at your house, take them to a free or low-cost Christmas event, go caroling or looking at the Christmas lights, or invite the kids out for an afternoon of sledding.
  • Remember, while they appreciate it, it's also hard to receive. Being in a position of constant worry is difficult, and it's hard to learn to receive gracefully.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

American Girl Stocking Stuffer: Make Your Own Sleep Mask

Last Christmas Eve, my daughter threw me for a loop. As we were setting out our stockings that night, suddenly a tiny stocking from the tree appeared for Sophie, her "American Girl" doll. 

I looked confused. Santa only brings for kids, I said. 

But, she argued, the doll was good. 

Fortunately I had a small accessory I had picked up that I quietly switched to Sophie's stocking that night. And I thought that was the end of it.

This year, though, she's already informed her brother that Santa will bring toys for his stuffed animals if he finds a stocking for him!

While I'm still shaking my head about that one, I did come up with a quick stocking stuffer idea for her doll this year. For the craftily challenged, it only takes about 5 minutes and can be done with minimal supplies at home. My daughter loves the sleep mask we had purchased for her for road trips, so why not make one for her doll, too?

Here's what you need for your a sleep mask for your doll.

Felt, craft foam or fabric scrap - approximately business card size or slightly larger.
Ribbon or yarn

Fold the felt in half horizonally and round the corners. Unfold.
Cut the ribbon or yarn in half and thread each half into one end of the sleep mask. Knot it so it doesn't loosen. 
To use, place sleep mask over face and tie around the back of the head. Sweet dreams!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

DIY Darth Vader Pinata for Star Wars party

A Star Wars themed party means bright plans for a soon to be six year old. The biggest wish on the list these days is a pinata.

Trouble was I couldn't find one, and even the generic pinatas were at least $20 to $25 in prices. I shuddered to think what I would be asked to pay (and would refuse to do so) for a Star Wars themed one.

I stopped at a party store that was going out of business and found two lowly pinatas left in the store. 
Trouble was they were Transformer-themed. A problem...until you looked at it upside down. Then I saw a striking resemblance to Darth Vader himself.

Six dollars later I presented the birthday boy with a task: We were going to make a Darth Vader pinata for the party.

We used a lot of leftover acrylic paint (both navy and black, I confess) to layer over the old design.

DIY pinata for Star Wars Party
 Both sides were painted solid black.
How to make a Darth Vader pinata | Star Wars party for kids
Then we added silver paint to copy off an image of Darth Vader off the Internet. It got the 5 year old stamp of approval.
DIY Darth Vader Pinata | Star Wars Party | Kids Star Wars Party Ideas

When it dries, we'll add a new cord or wire for the new top and fill it up.

The next challenge? Convincing my son we shouldn't hang a pinata from a Christmas tree!

This posted linked to the More the Merrier Mondays and Nifty Thrifty Tuesday.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Recycled Reindeer Ornaments

Some old bottle caps and branches from my dormant lilies should put a smile on faces this winter.

Our Brownie troop made Recycled Reindeer Ornaments to decorate a wreath for a local fundraiser recently.

Here's how we did the project - perfect for small gifts by little hands or a snowy day craft. It's quick but the girls enjoyed it.

Supplies:
Plastic bottle lids, cleaned (even if you avoid plastic, certainly a neighbor or coworker doesn't)
wiggle eyes
pom poms
glue
small twigs, branches or sticks
ribbon to adhere to back
marker if you'd like to add other accents, like a mouth

Glue the items together as below. Add ribbon loop on the back.

 Here is the finished wreath! Adorable.

This is linked back to Motivation Mondays and the More the Merrier Mondays.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

5 baby products you can make from home

I was well into child #2 when I realized that many of the products I'd been scrambling to find discounts on - not to mention keep up with the ingredients on the labels - could easily be made at home. We easily made the move from cloth diapers to cloth wipes, using a homemade solution when needed. But it wasn't until I got more and more into the use of essential oils that I realized all the opportunities I'd missed to potentially save money and use greener options for our babies.

5 baby care products you can make in almost 5 minutes

Here are five baby products you can easily make at home:

Infant Massage Blend 

Mix:
2 drops Lavender essential oil
1 drop Melaleuca essential oil
1 drop Roman Chamomile essential oil
2 Tablespoons doTerra Fractionated Coconut Oil 4 Ounces

Diaper Cream 

¼ cup coconut oil
15 drops dōTERRA Lavender essential oil
Glass measuring cup
Saucepan
Glass storage container

Pour coconut oil into glass jar. Put 1 inch of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, put the glass jar with coconut oil into the saucepan until completely melted. Remove from saucepan and let rest for 5 minutes. Add essential oils and stir until combined.

Pour into glass storage container and allow to cool. Just apply a small amount when needed.

Talc-Free Baby Powder 

½ c corn starch
½ c Arrowroot powder
1 drop Roman chamomile essential oil
1 drop Lavender essential oil
¼ c finely ground oats

Mix well and place in a shaker-style bottle.

Baby Wipes 

1 roll premium paper towels (use cloth for reusable wipes Our family used flannel.)
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons doTerra Fractionated Coconut Oil 4 Ounces
3 drops Lavender essential oil
3 drops Melaleuca essential oil
An airtight storage container/empty wipe container/wet bag

Cut paper towel roll in half. Use half the roll now, and half later.
Combine water, fractionated coconut oil, and essential oils in a small bowl.
Pour the mixture over the paper towels and then cover with the airtight lid letting the mixture absorb for 10 minutes. Turn the container over and let sit for another 10 minutes.

Remove and discard the cardboard middle. Just pull the wipes from the center when you are ready to use. Store in container of your choice.

Air Freshener 

1 small Mason jar with a lid and band
1/4 cup baking soda
5-6 drops of your favorite essential oil
Hammer
Small screwdriver or nail

Put 1/4 cup baking soda into your small Mason jar. Add 5-6 drops of your favorite essential oil or blend.
Recommended Essential Oils: Balance, Cassia, Geranium, EucalyptusLavenderLemon, On Guard, Purify, or Wild Orange.

If you do need a resource for essential oils, please consider using my referral link for doTERRA products. My family uses them and loves them. (You can also save 25% off of retail prices by becoming a wholesale member or independent consultant - even if you just "consult" to yourself. Please email me if you have any questions about that option.) 

Note: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gifts that Give Twice (and a giveaway)

Giving a gift always leaves that unanswered question - "Did the person like it? Did it mean anything?"

This year, I'd like you to consider a gift that gives twice. 

One such option is the long-standing World Vision Gift Catalog, which offers more than 30 options for handcrafted items from around the world in addition to opportunities to support causes ranging from nutrition and safe drinking water programs, to poverty relief and community development programs.

The catalog includes hand-crafted gifts (which also include a donation to World Vision), including gifts for foodies, jewelry and scarves, and Christmas ornaments.

We had the opportunity to check out the Prosperity Cinnamon gift box, which includes Vietnam's renowned sweet cinnamon, sold to benefit generations of hard working families. I absolutely love the wooden box, adorned with the symbol or prosperity, and have to say it may be the best cinnamon we have tasted.

A great thing about this cinnamon, beside the taste, is that it comes from a renewable resource - the Cassia tree. Logging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices have contributed to soil degradation and deforestation in Vietnam. Other environmental issues include water pollution, overfishing, contaminated potable water supplies, and urbanization.

I invite you to check out the World Vision site for this and other foodie gifts for this holiday season. World Vision is also giving away one Prosperity Cinnamon gift box to one lucky Going Green Mama reader.

You can enter by:

  1. Posting below. What gift from the catalog would you most like to give?
  2. Tweet about the giveaway. Tag @goinggreenmama1.
  3. Pin this giveaway.
  4. Like https://www.facebook.com/worldvisionWorld Vision on Facebook.
  5. Like Going Green Mama on Facebook. 


We will draw one winner on Dec. 14, and we will contact the winner for World Vision to ship it to you.

World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children, families, and communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. It works in nearly 100 countries, including the United States, through interventions such as nutrition and safe drinking water programs, poverty relief and community development programs, disaster assistance, and more.In 2012, 85 percent of World Vision's total operating expenses were used for programs that benefit children, families, and communities in need. Visit them on Facebook or Twitter.

Disclosure: I did receive a sample from World VIsion, and the organization is providing the giveaway.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Santa's not stuffing us with toys

Santa's not stuffing us with toys this year. And I am so excited.

We've really tried to watch our consumption of toys and stuff, and have been doing considerable purging of late. Even this Christmas has been lighter from a "stuff" perspective. We still got the kids three gifts each, but they were smaller, like small Lego sets and photo books of our day at Disney World. It was a relief to have October arrive and not have to sweating Christmas gifts for my kids - or where to put them.

But what about from Santa?

We realize this may be the last year both my children "believe," and we don't want to diminish the joy of stockings on Christmas morning. But again, we didn't want to fill our kids up with candy or lots of trinky toys.

Our solution: Simple. Santa got each child a book for their stocking and a small item to quietly play with Christmas morning (my daughter is getting washi tape; my son a mini Lego set that was free with purpose.) But the "Santa gift" will be the best surprise of all. We found a Living Social deal for a trip to an indoor water park to knock off the winter blahs.

We're excited that this year Mr. Claus is giving the gift of experience. Hopefully it will be lighter on his sleigh, too.

Looking for experiential gifts? Here are some ideas:

 Family Experiences

  • trip to a museum
  • trip to the zoo
  • an afternoon movie
  • tickets to a children’s show at a local theatre or the movies
  • ice skating
  • rollerskating
  • tobaggoning
  • going to a minor league baseball game
  • train ride
  • trip to the beach
  • skiing

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dating the demon Depression

I do not know the day I lost my husband. Was it when he lost his job in the recession? Another more innocuous moment? Was it a gradual erosion of his spirit, or just a moment that sucked him of his soul?

I've been with this man for two decades, but I have been dating someone for about four years. His name is Depression.

I don't know the exact moment Depression crept into our lives. But I know he's taken a larger and larger stronghold on us all. He's robbed us of what should be happy moments, of our sense of peace, our spirituality, our home. I lie awake at night and wonder how much longer my husband has before he is completely lost.

I don't know why Depression moved in. Was it genetic. Was it a chemical imbalance. Was it situational and is my husband stuck in a cycle. But the fact is, Depression is there, and he's not budging.

And we're working to kick him out.

I don't know what happened in that horrible moment a few weeks ago, when my husband broke his silence and admitted to his struggle of the last four years. And the darkness was deeper than I had ever dreamed.

We've been able to see his physician, get him counseling. But our war against Depression is a daily struggle. Some days getting out of bed is a struggle for him.

Yes, my home shows the scars of these last four years. Some day, the repairs will be completed, the clutter and chores overcome. Our bills from the moments when he didn't even process life will be eventually caught up too. One day, he'll be back in school, and we will be proud to call him a college graduate.

I worry though about the toll it takes on my kids. They see mommy's stress. They feel daddy's sadness. They are victims to the resulting chaos and the hectic juggle.

Some day, I'll be able to explain to them about Daddy beating Depression, and I hope they'll understand.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Upcycled desk system for kids

My daughter has struggled her entire life with organization. She gets it honestly, as my coworkers who have seen my desk can attest.

We have tried everything to help her. Planners. The Brownie organization badge. You name it.

Our latest project came courtesy of the school pizza fundraiser. No, it wasn't a prize for selling, either.

You see, each year, we're stuck with the question of what to do with the boxes leftover from the pizzas we buy for our house. And then I got inspired by Pinterest. Somewhere, along the way, we'd seen a project about project drying racks out of pizza boxes. Granted, the post has long since left me, but the idea stayed pinned in my brain.

So this year, I took a stack of pizza boxes left over from storing them in my freezer (I don't put the boxes themselves in due to space.)

I folded in one side and stacked them, then went nuts taping row after row of peace sign, heart and flower duct tape I'd bought at the school supply clearance.

Ten minutes of effort and a few dollars' worth of duct tape later, and my daughter was blessed with a surprise on her desk: A new organizer for all of her random papers.

Now she has plenty of space for her looseleaf notebook paper, her construction paper, and her various works of art in progress!




The best part was SHE was inspired to do something as well. She took a McDonalds Happy Meal Halloween bucket that was otherwise destined for the Goodwill bin and redecorated it with Monster High duct tape for a storage bucket for her rolls of duct tape. She even took a toilet paper roll and made her own pencil holder.



What ways have you creatively reused or upcycled items to organize your home?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Recycled denim pet toys

When November brings you tornado watches and warnings, you tuck into the bathroom and work on your Christmas gifts!

My oldest had wanted to make a gift for her "dog cousin" and a pair of well-worn jeans provided just the opportunity to do so. We had seen this great idea for a fleece rope toy from Parents magazine and had tucked the idea away in our "emergency" binder of ideas.

For a few short minutes, we had a great distraction from the day's storms.

Each side of the leg was cut lengthwise into three strips, which were knotted and braided.



We wound up with simple gifts for four of our closest four-legged friends!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Recycled Jesse Tree Ornaments

I'd been kicking the idea of a Jesse Tree for a few years now, but it usually was in the middle of December, when it was far too late.

Then I got the email yesterday morning: Walking the Seasons had a last-minute need for a Jesse Tree ornament swap, and would I be interested? 

Interested, yes. Time and cash-strapped, most definitely. Add in the fact that I needed to get them in the mail this weekend, and I just eliminated any hope of running to the store for last-second supplies.

The solution? A recycled Jesse Tree ornament that ended up being a whole-family affair.

Here's how we pulled off 28 ornaments in little time, all by using items in our home.

1) We took cardboard boxes we'd yet to recycle and mod-podged scrapbook paper to it for a background.



2) We traced a cup lid for the round ornament shape and cut them out. We free-hand cut tear drops, the shape we were assigned to, and adhered them to the ornament, then covered them all with a layer of Modgpodge to ensure no loose ends.

3) I had  bottle of pearlized coating for stamping that my mother had given me some time ago that I had not used, so we used a small layer on that to add additional shine to our tears.

4) We punched a hole in the top and threaded some leftover ribbon through.


Simple but effective for symbolizing tears of pain and abandonment in the Old Testament.

I'm excited to see how the others turn out and introducing this new tradition into our home!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Patriotic Punch Recipe (kid-friendly)

This was a great Pinterest find that I adapted for our Brownie troop campout. The Camporee had an honoring the military theme, so the Patriotic Punch was a great tie-in with that and the Brownie Snacks badge. The girls absolutely loved doing this activity!

(Note for leaders: Yes, we went sugar-free for our survival!)

Patriotic Punch (per person)
Ingredients
ice
3 oz. 7-up or Sprite
3 oz. fruit punch
3 oz. blue Gatorade
12 oz. clear plastic cup

Instructions
Fill cup 1/3 full with ice. Pour in fruit punch to the top of the ice.
Add another layer of ice. Pour in blue Gatoriade.
Fill to top with ice. Pour in 7-up.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Brownie Family of God Award Retreat (work plan for leaders)

Family of God Catholic religious award for Brownie Girl Scouts - activity plan for troop leadersOur Brownie troop is working on our Family of God Award this year as part of a tradition for third-graders at our parish. I mentioned some time ago on my blog we were working on the award - and learned since that there are so few resources to help leaders plan how these girls can fulfill their Family of God requirements.

So, for all of you stumped leaders out there: Consider planning a morning retreat with your girls.

I am so glad my co-leader suggested this idea. We were able to allow the girls to meet most of their award requirements, give them some one-on-one time with their parents, and keep them from being annoyed that they were "still" working on this. (We had burnout with a journey experience, and I have heard other leaders say they nearly lost girls from their troop from dragging the award out too long.)

Here's what we did for our retreat:

  • We blocked out a three-hour morning session and announced it early in the year. Girls were to attend with a parent.
  • We jumped around the requirements, switching quiet activities with interactive ones (table or troop discussion,  parent interviews etc.)
  • Our goal for the retreat was to meet several award requirements, plan a community service project and culminate in a girl-led prayer service.


Activities we completed (listed in chapter order, not in order of the day):

  • Chapter 1 (I am special to my family): Make a list of four activities you can do well.
  • Chapter 2 (I am special to God's family): Write your own prayer thanking God for someone special. (These were shared at the prayer service at the end of the retreat.)
  • Chapter 3 (I belong to my family): List the members of your family and list two or three jobs they do in your family. (It is a wonderful eye-opener: even siblings make a difference!).
    Plan a prayer service with family members.
  • Chapter 4 (I belong to God's family): Learn the names of parish staff and others who work in the parish. Why is the priest called father? What do they do to serve the parish?
    Talk to your parent about your baptism and your name. Why was that name chosen or who is your patron saint?
    Write or draw how your parish family of God does things together. What activities are there especially for youth?
  • Chapter 5 (I can help my family): Make a prayer bag with names of each member of your family. Pick a name each day to pray for them or send a special thinking of you note to them.
  • Chapter 6 (I can help God's family): Read John 6:1-15 (loaves and fishes). List ways you can share or draw a picture of what you can do for people to show how you love them.
    What does the word Christian mean? Talk about the special things that make us Christians. Plan a service for your parish. (Our girls voted to earn money for an Angel Tree gift at our church.)
I should add also, that much of this was self-paced. If the girl wrapped up a requirement early, we guided her toward another requirement that could be quietly taken care of. (This is important to consider; we quickly had two girls break out a pack of cards for go fish while they were waiting and had to put a stop to it!)

The prayer service was simple but an awesome experience. One table chose a reading; the other picked a song the girls all knew from church and school. The girls shared their prayers they had written that morning, and my co-leader shared some personal things their family used in their prayer life, including crosses that had been handed down for generations. The best part was that the girls came up and added impromptu prayers at the end, and they were so beautiful!

If you have other ideas for Family of God Award, or have questions, please post! I am happy to share from our experiences!

Please note: You can order the award books online here: http://store.nfcym.org/shop/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=24

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kansas City with Kids - Frugal Edition

Our trip to Kansas City was derailed before it began.

Instead of spending Fall Break with our family, we were waiting in the car shop. That, coupled with some unexpected expenses, meant we were going to have to tighten down on the trip to Kansas City.

I'd lived in KC for a decade, but we found great ways to enjoy the days with Grandma and Grandpa even on a budget. We weren't completely perfect - we did eat a few meals out and did stock up on some local foods to take home for the year - but these were great budget extenders, and even better activities to do!

Getting Crafty At Kaleidoscope

I'd heard of Kaleidoscope in Crown Center but had never been, as we were childless when we lived in the Kansas City area. An afternoon at Kaleidoscope was just the trick for creative types with a big case of the wiggles.

Kaleidoscope is basically a huge kids craft playground, filled with the leftovers from Hallmark's projects. Paper crafting with glow-in-the-dark paints, making cards, designing your own puzzles. It was the fastest hour spent all week. Everyone from my rambuncious 5 year old son to his preteen cousin and grandfather enjoyed experimenting and creating their own works of art. Best of all, it was free to the public - just requires a timed ticket.

(As an aside, Girl Scout leaders and educators take note: Kaleidoscope offers themed packs that you can take home - for 50 cents per child. For frugal troops, this is a great idea, and they do ship!)

Betting on Basketball in Lawrence

One bet failed, but the other was a hit.

We had hoped to attend the (free!) open scrimmage for the basketball team, but weather and a sick cousin derailed our plans. Luckily, our little jock had the chance to enjoy some KU basketball earlier in the week.

The Booth Family Hall of Athletics at Allen Fieldhouse has a stuffy name, it's far from a boring monument to basketball. Sure, there's 100 years worth of sports memorabilia to peruse, but the kids loved the interactive exhibits. Their favorites? Pretending to call some classic basketball games - from the tie-breaker game against Memphis in the Final Four to a game from Wilt Chamberlain's days. They also loved checking out their wingspan and attempting to palm as many balls as they can in 10 second's time. Mostly, they loved wandering the stands around the hallowed basketball court - site of many a memory for their mom and dad.

Other Free Things to Check Out In and Around KC

Family time is just that, so while we had a lot of ideas on our list, we also kept things simple: a lot of time with Grandma and Grandpa, with ample time at the local park.

On our list to do this fall but didn't get accomplished:

Kansas City natives: What are your favorite ways to spend a week with the kids?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Pecans Recipe

This quinoa dish is another meal derived from my need to eat cheaply. This recipe for Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Pecans was inspired by a recipe I found on the Whole Foods site.

Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Pecans
Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Pecans | Meatless Meals | Lent | Fall Recipes | Seasonal Eating | Meatless Monday
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
salt and pepper
1/2 cup pecans, toasted

Heat over to 400. Toss butternut squash with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.
In saucepan, boil chicken broth and add quinoa. Reduce heat to low, and cover and cook until broth is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let stand.

Toss together cinnamon, quinoa, pecans and squash in a bowl.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Wild Mushroom and Yellow Potato Pizza Recipe

This Potato Mushroom Pizza recipe was adapted from a recipe in "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking in a moment of panic this week. We were counting the days until payday, and the house was admittedly quite bare. I had made bread for the kids' sandwiches as I had the ingredients, and was looking at the contents of the kitchen counter: a pound of bread dough, four meager yellow potatoes, some garlic. The fridge was even less promising, as we had just returned from nearly a week at our in-laws.

Fortunately I had stumbled on a recipe for Rustic Wild Mushroom and Potato Pizza Provencal. With a few herb changes, some reconstituted dried oyster mushrooms, a cheese swap and omission of sun-dried tomatoes, we had a winner in our house. Adding a drizzle of white truffle oil, a gift from a friend that's been far too long unused, made it even better.

Wild Mushroom and Yellow Potato Pizza
Ingredients
1 pound pizza dough
4 yellow potatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oils
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried basil
red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
3 oz. Parmesan cheese
white truffle oil (optional)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 500. Saute mushrooms and potatoes in olive oil. Add minced garlic, salt and pepper.

Roll out dough and add toppings and herbs. Sprinkle cheese on. Bake at 500 for 10-15 minutes.* Cool and drizzle with white truffle oil before serving.



* In the book, the authors warn you to turn on your exhaust because of smoking. Since I had omitted the cornmeal as originally called for, I figured I was home free. No such luck. Do turn on your exhaust fan!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Yes to restful Sundays - even as a working mom

I don’t think it’d be possible for me to stay home on Saturday and Sunday…that’s when I get everything done around my house that I’m not able to do during the week when I’m working. And I so wish I had some margin in my days, but again, it’s just not possible with a full time job. 

When I saw this quote from Allison on the Money Saving Mom blog this morning, I just felt sad. Yes, working moms can make the impossible happen: Making Sunday a day of rest.


Finding the balance between work, home, chores and faith is always a struggle. My husband works odd hours and most weekends, and I confess many weekends I feel behind and ever-ragged. But building out a bit of down time into your weekend - which in theory is a time of rest but in practice often is not - can be a gift from God.

Has my family evolved into one from "Little House on the Prairie," where the kids sit sullenly on the chairs while their father reads from Scripture? No. But we are quietly working in ways to enlist a little more rest into our weekends.

Here is how we're making the juggle happen.

1) On Sundays when dad is off work, it's family day. It may mean listening to the Chiefs game on the radio, snuggling watching cooking shows or going for a hike, but family is together.

2) Homework gets done before Sunday night. It gets squeaked in before Friday dinner or early Saturday morning. (We even did it before we left town for fall break at Grandma's.) Getting homework done early sets the tone for a positive start for the week.

3) Church is family time. Whenever possible we attend as a family. It may mean attending at unusual hours but the kids know that unless someone is sick, we worship as a family.

4) Sunday morning is quiet time. The kids may quietly play, catch up on "Cat Chat" recordings or read books. We enjoy a home-cooked breakfast and stay in our PJs as late as we can.

5) Laundry doesn't stack up for Sunday. I'm blessed to have a washer with a timer, so I get my laundry loaded before the kids wake up in the mornings and set it to wash about an hour before I get home. (OK, I do confess, the folding may accumulate, but at least no one has dirty clothes.)

6) Errands are reserved for Saturdays when possible. It might be a trip to the farmers market or pharmacy, but I try to group them all together.

7) I try to begin my day with a quiet reflection or prayer before the kids wake up. Somehow it sets the right tone.

8) I use my late Sunday mornings or early afternoons as a time to cook meals or things that might not otherwise get done. Cooking is a form of relaxation to me, and I'll admit, the smell of the bread dough rising is calling!

While my Sundays may not be completely quiet, I feel just by carving some of my time for rest has made a huge difference in our home life.

How to you make the juggle? What works for you in trying to create  a sense of rest in a hectic weekend?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Honey peanut butter popcorn with essential oils

Sneak in a little essential oils into your snacktime!

This honey peanut butter popcorn recipe came out of a sick-day request from my daughter, who loves her grandma's peanut butter popcorn recipe. Sadly, we were out of brown sugar, but a little creativity allowed me to sneak in some essential oils and wildflower honey to help with her sinus congestion!

Honey peanut butter popcorn with essential oils
1/2 cup popcorn, unpopped
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/6 cup wildflower honey
2 T. butter
2-3 drops On Guard essential oil blend

Pop popcorn in your popper according to directions. In microwave, melt butter and peanut butter. Add honey and On Guard essential oil and stir; toss over popped corn.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Juliette Low Birthday Party for Brownies and Daisies

My purpose... to go on with my heart and soul, devoting all my energies to Girl Scouts, and heart and hand with them, we will make our lives and the lives of the future girls happy, healthy and holy.
Celebrating Juliette Gordon Low's birthday was the theme of our October Brownie meeting. Our girls invited the first-grade Daisy troop to celebrate with us as we worked on our Brownie Girl Scout Way badge and started working on bridging requirements. As with all birthdays, we celebrated with songs, games, candles, cupcakes and cards.

brownie girl scout way badge ideasToday, I thought I'd share with leaders ideas on how to celebrate Juliette Low's birthday with younger girls and impart a sense of history for them.

Game on: Celebrate Juliette Low’s Birthday
The girls loved this little story, and it was a great way to introduce a story about a real person who lived long ago. I don't remember the original source, but I do remember this from when I was a child.

Steps:
1. Divide the girls into eight groups. Each group will represent one of the people, places or groups listed below. When they hear the name of their assigned person, place or group, they should stand up and make their sound and action.
Little girls Giggle with hand over mouth
Juliette Low Curtsy and say, “Be my friend.”
Georgia Wave and say, “Hi, y’all!”
Horses Stamp your feet and say, “Neighhhhhh!”
Lord Baden-Powell Bow formally and say, “How d’ya do?”
London Sing “London Bridge is Falling Down.”
Boy Scouts Make Boy Scout sign (same as the Girl Scout sign) and say “Be Prepared.”
Girl Scouts Make the Girl Scout sign and say, “On My Honor.”


2. Read the story below to the girls.
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Juliette Low who lived in Georgia and loved
to ride horses. After she grew up, she went to London where she met Lord Baden-Powell, who
founded the Boy Scouts. She was fascinated by the work he was doing. She studied with him for a while and decided to found a troop of Girl Scouts for the little girls who liked to ride horses in
Georgia. So, Juliette Low said goodbye to the Boy Scouts in London and came home with the ideas that Lord Baden-Powell gave her. She formed a group of little girls who liked to ride horses and be together into a troop of Girl Scouts. The girls loved it so much that the idea spread and now there are Girl Scout troops all over the world. Aren't we glad that a little girl named Juliette Low, from Georgia, who liked horses went to London and met Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, and came to start the wonderful world of Girl Scouts?

Cards

Juliette Low believed not only that girls could do anything boys could do but also in learning and serving others. Our girls took a moment to celebrate her day by creating birthday cards for children at the Holy Name Shelter in Indianapolis.

Candles and Cupcakes
I know what you may be thinking: first-graders, fire and sugar? Potentially a bad combination. But the girls loved the idea of doing something like the older girls do and loved the candle lighting ceremony. (Needless to say cupcakes were the last thing to do!)
Juliette Gordon Low Candle Ceremony
Materials Needed:
• Candle (1 per girl)
• Matches/lighter
• Bucket with water in it
Steps:
1. Have girls stand in a circle and give each girl one unlit candle. Explain you are doing a special Girl Scout ceremony. Ask girls to be respectful and quiet.


2. Have the narrator read the introduction below.
Long ago a special ceremony was formed. Juliette Low wanted the girls of her original troop
to carry a special spark with them as their Girl Scout group broke up. Some from the girls were
moving away, some working to help their families and some wanted to help a group of girls a
little younger than themselves. Whatever their reasons, Juliette knew no other group would
ever quite be the same. As the girls stood in a circle holding candles they had made, Juliette
knew what spark it was that she wanted to pass on. She lit her candle and spoke.


3. Have the adult reading Juliette Low’s part read the passage below.
With this candle I, Juliette Low, give you each something very special to pass on. As I light the
candle on my right I ask each of you to light the candle to your right and pass it on. I want you
to carry this thought with you wherever you go. This is the ETERNAL FLAME of Girl Scouts.


4. Light the candles, starting with the adult reading the Juliette Low part and going around the circle to the right.


5. Have the adult reading Juliette Low’s part read the passage below.
Now that we all have the ETERNAL FLAME, let’s say the Girl Scout Promise. Then we will think
about and share our favorite memories from our time together in Girl Scouts.


6. Recite the Girl Scout Promise and give girls time to share their favorite memories.


7. Have the adult reading Juliette Low’s part read the passage below.

I will hold my candle up and as I do, you will all raise yours and we will blow them out together.

Leaders: What ways have you celebrated Juliette Low's birthday or the history of Girl Scouts? What worked well and didn't?

Looking for more Girl Scout ideas? Visit my new scout leader resource site, Use Resources Wisely. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Jessica Alba's essential oil chest rub

An essential oil chest rub for allergies or cold season - tried and touted by Jessica Alba in her new book The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You. I am putting this to work this week!

Chest Rub Recipe
Blend a few drops of euchalyptus, ginger, peppermint and tea tree (melaleuca) essential oils with a body oil (ie fractionated cocoonut oil) or balm. Rub on chest back, under nose and on bottoms of the feet.

I love, love, love that someone who has so many resources at her disposal chooses simple home remedies to help heal her children at home!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Honest: A review of Jessica Alba's "The Honest Life"

honest life jessica albaTrying to do the right thing for your kids is pressure enough. But sometimes you do the best you can.

That's the overriding theme of Jessica Alba's recent book, The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You Being natural shouldn't come at the expense of insanity. It can come in small steps and simple ways.

Unlike a lot of green living books, "The Honest Life" has a very conversational, non-doomsday approach. I appreciate Alba's honesty in the fact that trying to live a green and organic lifestyle can lead a parent to questioning and requestioning whether they are making the right choices for their child. But that decisions can be made in little ways: from choosing hand-me-down clothes or seasonal foods or making your homemade body scrub.

Alba's book is a quick read and a great starter resource for a number of affordable choices for healthy, organic living - from pregnancy and early motherhood to cooking, clothing and home decor. I appreciated that many of these options were achievable for the everyday person who was concerned about natural living without sacrificing your budget in the process.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Checking out Miessence Hair Care (review)

Dry yet frizzy at the ends. Fine and too often limp. That is where my hair has ended up - a mop of hopelessness.


So I was given an offer to try out Miessence's hair products, and I was skeptical. Sure they were made of mostly organic ingredients. Yes, they were green. But could they actually make a difference on my hair?

Surprisingly, YES. After trying out the Desert Flower shampoo and Shine Herbal Hair Conditioners for two weeks, I've seen more of a difference in my hair. It's less dry at the ends. Has a little more life to it. And I don't feel as resigned to throwing my hair back in a ponytail just because it won't do anything else.


The Dessert Flower shampoo is mild enough for daily use or use for babies and children. Ingredients include Yucca juice, organic avocado oil to hydrate damaged ends, and organic herbs to add sheen and body to your hair.

The Shine Herbal Conditioner includes moringa seed oil from Tanzania, organic herbs and organic apple cider vinegar. I loved that it didn't weigh down my hair like so many conditioners do and yet still did its job!

If you're interested in checking out Miessence, they have a great deal this September. Place a single order of $100 or more through Ely Organics (an independent representative of Miessence) and receive a 20% discount on your $100 order, 20% discount on all future purchases and member specials.