Cookies and Brownies and Lemonade, Oh My!

So I’ve got my first ever vendor fair coming up in a few weeks for my oils and jewelry, and I’m trying to get everything organized for a successful event.  I’ve had a lot of time to prepare, and the amount of prep work and planning I’ve done probably seems excessive to people who don’t have the same {moderate} control issues that I have.  But, the way I figure it, if you get everything organized the first time around, then it’s SUPER easy to replicate that for future events.

So the biggest “to do” on my list this week was testing some recipes for food samples made with essential oils.  I’ve been Pinterest-ing like a mad woman for recipes for weeks now, and I finally picked a few that I thought looked like winners.  I had intended to narrow it down to two desserts and a beverage, but they all turned out so well, that I think I’m just going to do all of them 🙂

One of the coolest parts of using essential oils in cooking (for me anyway) is the reduced waste.  When I buy packs of fresh herbs, I wind up throwing half of them away, because I just don’t have a use for that much.  It’s important to note that not all types oils are safe for consumption, nor are all brands of essential oils.  Some oils, just by the nature of the plant they are extracted from, are not safe for consumption.  And many oil brands on the market use synthetics and fillers, made for use only in perfumes, bath products, etc. and could cause harm if ingested.  Please always do your research to determine what’s best for you and your family.  Personally, I use Young Living products, because I’m very confident in the quality of their products due to their Seed to Seal Guarantee.  Young Living actually has a whole line of Vitality Oils that are specifically intended for consumption as supplements, etc.  Also, if you’re swapping herbs, etc. for oils, remember that essential oils are HIGHLY concentrated and a little goes a LONG way.  Start with the smallest amount, and work up from there, tasting as you go.  You can always add another drop, but you can’t take one out!  If you have any questions about oils, please feel free to check out my Essential Oils page or drop me a line on my Contact page.

Now, without further ado…the recipes 🙂

Dark Chocolate Orange Brownies

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Okay, these can’t get much easier.  Buy a box of Dark Chocolate Brownie mix (yep, you heard me…ready-to-go, boxed mix…I used Duncan Hines).  Follow the mixing instructions on the box…it’ll depend on which brand you choose, but will probably include some variation of eggs, oil, and water.  Add 4-6 drops of Orange essential oil (to taste) and mix well.  Bake according to package directions.  I followed the directions for the mini muffins, since I’m doing them as samples, but you can do a whole tray instead.

Milk Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

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I bet you can sense a pattern here, right?  Same deal as the Orange Brownies.  Get yourself a box of milk chocolate brownie mix (I used Pillsbury), mix it up with eggs, oil, and water per package directions.  Add 2-3 drops of Peppermint essential oil (to taste) and mix well.  Bake according to package directions.  Easy peasy, right?  🙂

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

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Mix together 3 1/2 c. flour, 1 c. sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 3/4 lb. butter.  I cut it together with a pastry blender/cutter before busting out the electric mixer.  It will seem like it could never possibly come together.  Just keep cutting…it will eventually.  When it’s finally all starting to get to the point where it might hold together, go ahead and add 4-6 drops of Lemon essential oil (to taste) and then hit it with the electric mixer.  After that, it should be to the point where you can smush it together into dough balls.  Now, you have some options…if you’d like to roll it out and use a cookie cutter, you can.  If you’d like to roll it into a log, refrigerate it, and then slice off rounds, that works too (if you do that, make sure they get back to room temperature prior to baking).  Personally, I used a melon baller to scoop out evenly sized balls, placed them on a cookie sheet, and smashed them down to about 1/4″ thickness.  This yields about 50 cookies.  Then bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.  Optional: Put 1-2 drops of Lemon essential oil in 1/4 c. sugar and roll dough balls in the sugar prior to the smashing/baking portion of the show!  The most irritating part of shortbread cookies is that it’s obnoxious to tell when they’re done, since they don’t brown (well…I imagine they would at some point, but you definitely wouldn’t want to eat them at that point).  I did a few batches, from 10 minutes all the way up to 15, and 11 was definitely the sweet spot in the electric oven I was using.  If you’re worried about it, do a small batch first, let it cool, and decide if you like the consistency.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

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These are almost exactly the same as the Lemon Shortbread Cookies.  Just swap the Lemon essential oil for:  3-5 drops of Lavender essential oil in the cookie batter (to taste), and 1 drop in the optional sugar topping.

Lavender Lemonade

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Ohmigosh…I’m obsessed with this lemonade.  I have trouble with lemonade…usually it’s way too sweet, or waaaaaay too tart…I can’t ever seem to find a happy medium.  This one is perfect.  Mix one cup of water and one cup of sugar in a medium saucepan, bringing to a boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat and add 1-2 drops of Lavender essential oil, mix, and let sit at least 2 minutes (or up to a couple of hours, if you’re not ready to finish mixing yet!).  Pour mixture into a pitcher, add 1 cup lemon juice and 4 cups water.  Mix well and serve over ice.  The lavender is subtle, but just enough…and it probably wouldn’t hurt to mix it with vodka, if you were of legal age and feeling so inclined, but since I’m looking at this for a public event, I decided I’d leave that experiment for another day 🙂

In any event, I’m super happy with the turnout of my baking session, and continue to be impressed with the versatility of my fab little oils.  If you try anything, let me know how you like it!  🙂

One of those weeks…

It’s funny how life has a way of slowing you down when you won’t slow down for yourself, isn’t it?

It was a rough [last] weekend and a frustrating first half of the week.  Then, I had my days off overscheduled to try and catch up with the stuff I’ve been missing out on at home lately.  It was too much, and I knew it, but I neeeeeeeded to get this stuff done!

Nope.  Second trip down my stairs after I got home from work Tuesday night, and I was out of commission.  My left foot had been bothering me some since Friday, but that last step finished me off.  I limped my way back upstairs and cancelled all my plans and scheduled a doctor’s appointment.

The doctor said most likely a bone bruise…to take it easy and no ladder climbing for a while, or I could “snap the end of the fifth metatarsal right off.”. What the what?!?!!  Snap it OFF?!?!!!  I was feeling pretty good about my little bone bruise and getting back to business till she threw that out there.  I don’t want anything snapping OFF for Pete’s sake!

So I gathered up some stuff I could do while sitting, and figured I’d just get a different bunch of stuff done during those two days.  It didn’t have to be a loss…I could still be productive.

Nope.  My lil’ Daisy May got herself into something or another that didn’t agree with her.  That little monkey is a pitiful sight when she’s not feeling well.  We actually almost ended up at the emergency vet Wednesday night.  Thank goodness she’s feeling better now, but she was wiped out for a couple of days.  She just wanted to be on a lap.  And who am I to say no to that sad, little face?  Plus, it seemed like the universe was telling me to just STOP for a minute, and I’m not one to argue on that front.

Anyway, I have good intentions of not overdoing it in the next few weeks.  I don’t need my body rebelling any further than it already has.

There was a line in Eat.Pray.Love. about Americans only valuing productivity, and not rest/self-care (phrased in a much more artistic way, of course, but you get my drift).  I wouldn’t say I don’t value that time.  When I have time to do nothing, I do NOTHING, and I adore every minute of it.  But, it just seems so impossible to carve out that time most of the time.

Conscious effort.  Argh.  Easier said than done.  Well, here’s to the next few weeks of attempting to take it easy!

My Nemesis, Pollen…

If you know me, you know that me and the great outdoors are not besties.  I volunteered to do laundry when I was a kid so I wouldn’t have to go outside…laundry, for Pete’s sake!  To be fair though, that was mostly cuz I was sneezing every 2.3 seconds, and my eyes were watering like I just got tear-gassed.  So…can ya blame me?

After spending 8 months a year in a haze for as long as I could remember, a good friend (who knew full well what an obnoxious skeptic I can be) introduced me to this blend, and I’ve never looked back!

Try it…you won’t regret it 🙂

Pollen Puncher Blend

10 drops Lavender Essential Oil
10 drops Lemon Essential Oil
10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
10 drops Copaiba Essential Oil
Carrier Oil (I use Sweet Almond Oil)
10 mL Glass Roller Bottle

Just add essential oils to roller bottle, top off with carrier oil, and mix gently.  Apply behind ears and to back of neck 1-3 times daily, as needed. 

Personally, Young Living oils have the key to my heart (you can find out more on my Essential Oil page if you’d like to know why).  Since I’m so obsessed, and I love sharing, here’s the deal…if you comment on this post between now and end of day on July 25th, I’ll enter you in a drawing for a sample bottle to try!  And remember, if you ever have oily questions, please don’t hesitate to ask and/or send me a message on the Contact page!

Finding Happy…

Finding happiness has  been weighing heavily on my mind lately…on account of my own personal wants and desires, and on account of a national climate of seemingly constant anger and outrage.

I’m overall a pretty happy person, but I’ve spent time desperately unhappy in my life.  I mean, I have my days of intense crabbiness and aggravation now, but nothing like it used to be.  Back then, I’d try to forget about it with alcohol and sleep and boys at parties.  Not soooo many years ago, I remember sitting in the parking lot of my then-job, weighing the pain of a broken leg against potential time off work. Yep.  (For the record, I got out of the car and went to work.)  So for anyone that thinks I’ve got my shit together…I’m working on it…but I still remember that desperate, out-of-control feeling I had in those days.  And I’ll be the first to say, nobody is immune to that…everyone has bad stuff to deal with…it’s just different bad stuff for different people.  And at the other end of the “comparison is the thief of joy” spectrum, comparing our bad stuff to other peoples’ bad stuff is pretty irrelevant at the end of the day…it’s how we deal with it that matters.

So then there’s the whole ‘pursuit of happiness’ thing.  That ‘pursuit’ word is a tricky one.  It seems like it was so much easier to just BE happy when I was a kid…when I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and everything seemed easy.  But the world doesn’t owe anyone happy…at some point, we have to find it for ourselves.  Whatever it is that changes that state of ‘being’ to a ‘pursuit’ is different for everyone.  I think for a lot of people, it’s probably when you start being responsible for yourself…or maybe when you start being responsible for someone else.  For me, it was my dad’s battle with cancer.

I was in college when Dad passed away.  And I’ll say, if the death of a loved one doesn’t call into question your outlook on life, I don’t know what will.  People deal with loss in different ways…some people hide from the world, and some people hide from themselves.  I was a hide from myself-er.  I carefully arranged all the pieces of my life for maximum normalcy.  I loaded up my class schedule so I could still graduate in 4 1/2 years (even though I had switched schools twice, took a half a semester off, and changed majors), I got A’s in my classes, I joined an Honor’s Society, and I went out drinking with  my friends six nights a week.  I checked all the little boxes in my life.  I made it a point to show everyone (including myself) that I was okay…and sometimes I was.

In hindsight, I think maybe my college boyfriend had me figured out…probably because he had moved on to the ‘pursuit’ stage of his life too.  He saw my pursuit of perfection for what it was.  And pursuit of perfection sure isn’t the same thing as pursuit of happiness.  At the time, I was just mad that he’d called me out on it.  In any event,  the real world, post-college, was what it took for me to realize that you couldn’t get to happy with a to-do list of mandated fun and normalcy.

So, self-awareness is half the battle, right?  For me…notsomuch.  As the intensely impatient person I tend to be, this whole never-ending process of ‘pursuit’ isn’t my favorite thing.  I want it fixed and I want it fixed NOW.  But I’m chipping away at it.  Fighting for who I want to be and what I want to do with my life.  Developing myself, making small choices every day that will hopefully lead me to where I want to be in the long term…and hanging onto the long view when the short-term picture gets frustrating.  (Admittedly, that little piece of the puzzle is NOT my strong suit.)  It’s always a choice, and some days that choice is easy, and some days it’s hard, and some days it seems like an epic freaking battle.  And when I really just need a minute (or an hour, or a day, or even a whole weekend) of relaxing and resetting, I bust out my oil stash, rev up the diffuser, and color…or make jewelry…or scrapbook…or whatever little quiet, creative endeavor I can get my hands on, really.  Something to bring me back to myself and make me smile for now, so I can figure out the next move that’ll make me smile later 🙂  And for the most part, I’m really happy.  There’s always crappy days, obviously, but I’m not Groundhog Day-ing them over and over again.  I’m taking a breath and moving on to something better.

Pursuit…that’s what we’ve got…no matter what else happens.  Doing the right thing…putting out into the world what we’re hoping to get back…making better decisions…working our butts off in the direction of where we’d like to be, pursuit.  Doing a little more…finding a little peace…giving ourselves a little grace, pursuit.  It’s never going to be perfect…just keep working on making it better a little at a time, pursuit.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got.  And now I’m off to work on some more jewelry, cuz I’m still coming off of inventory at work, and the daily news is a bit much right now, and my heart needs a little extra happy today  🙂  Smile!

 

 

Here we go…

I have a not-so-secret secret.  This isn’t my first blog.  I started one in college a dozen-ish years ago, and I went through cycles of posting a whole lot of lists, or a whole lot of recipes, or a whole lot of scrapbook pages and cards.  In all of that time, I graduated from college, failed rather spectacularly at a career in financial planning, had two really good relationships followed by two even worse breakups, a couple of soul-sucking jobs that just paid the bills, an amazing group of friends at a company that I finally loved and which ultimately went out of business, an out-of-state move that started with a sense of adventure and ended with a sense of isolation, and a lot of hours in the car wondering where I go from here.  I spent the last few years in my bubble, feeling like I didn’t really have much to say to the world.  I was just working all the time anyway…what was there to talk about?  Nobody wants to hear my work stories (okay, you might want to hear a FEW of them…I’ve got some doozies).  I felt stuck.  In a rut.  Defined by my job and not much else.

In the last year and a half, I transferred locations and moved back to Illinois, bought a condo, and decided to get serious about my essential oil side gig.  I also realized that moving back to my support network wasn’t quite the golden ticket I was hoping for.  Don’t get me wrong…I love being back around friends and family…but it turns out the larger problem is that I just haven’t invested much time in myself in the last few years.

But self-awareness is half the battle, right?  I know I’m good at my job, but that’s not all I’m good at.  So I’m working on it.  I’m (VERY slowly) working on renovating my condo, I’m taking classes and learning new things, and I’m ‘creating’ again.  I’m trying to take my lunch breaks at work, and I’m trying to leave work on time (it’s harder than it sounds).  I’m working on being more intentional with my time, so I can spend more of it with friends and family.  I’m fighting the knee-jerk “I can do it myself.  I don’t need help.” reaction that comes with my fiercely independent streak.  And I’m really making a concerted effort to reduce my stress…or at least to deal with it in healthier ways.

So this is going to be my little journey.  My new blog with my new outlook and my new plans.  A story about my dogs, and my oils, and my fixer upper…my craft supplies and my big ideas…my sarcasm and my eclectic taste in music and my camera.  I hope you enjoy it.  🙂