Monday, November 29, 2010

Gifts that Give More

Is there a busier time of year than the Christmas season?  A big part of enjoying the season, for me, is keeping my stress levels down (and really, who doesn't need that?).  After barely surviving past Black Fridays and hearing horror stories from a niece who works at one of those low-price Black Friday retailers, I decided to sleep in and skip the madness this year. 
In order to still get my shopping done, and to be a little more eco-and-people-friendly this year, I found several (or technically one) online shopping site that should have something for everyone on my list.  There are technically six different sites (TheHungerSite, TheBreastCancerSite, TheChildHealthSite, TheLiteracySite, TheRainforestSite, and TheAnimalRescueSite) and each site makes a donation to their specific cause with every purchase.  I normally shop around to spread the donation love, but this year breast cancer is close to my heart, so I think I'll be shopping mainly from The Breast Cancer store.  Each site is connected though, so you have one basket and one shipping price if you do decide to shop around! 
The sites have everything from coffee to clothes, so I thought I'd put together a little green shopping guide!

My Mother:
 I love this Andean Opal Square Necklace, which is handmade and fair-traded in Peru!  And I know she would love these handblown wine glasses!

My Husband:Every time we travel, I find my toiletry bag being taken over by the hubby's things.  Maybe this Men's Recycled Tire Tube & Leather Toiletry Bag will stop that from happening!
My Teenage Niece: 
For the girl who has everything, and needs to carry it around with her, I think this Jaipur Recycled Sari Bag is perfect!  
My Baby Girl:
She loves animals and bright colors, so this Hand-Painted Noah's Ark Puzzle, handmade and fair-traded from El Salvador, will keep her busy for a while.  When she's all tuckered out from the intense puzzling, there are these Hmong Handmade Teddy Bears to cuddle with! 

There are many other gifts that give more out there.  When we buy local, fair-traded, or sustainable gifts, we're spreading the Christmas spirit to everyone.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yes to Natural Baby Care? Naturally!

Wow, looks like autumn has gotten away from me! Halloween was awesome, and we had the cutest JellyFish in the neighborhood! 

Today though, I thought I'd let you guys in on a new Baby Care line I've been using and love so far.  I picked up the Yes To Baby Carrots Gentle Foaming Shampoo and Body Wash a few weeks ago, and its worked amazingly so far.  Its made of all natural ingredients, hypoallergenic, and doesn't hurt little eyes. We play with the bubbles as much as we want, with no crying or red eyes later.  I also love that the scent is clean and fresh, without being over powering.
I've seen the other lines for adults, and after our success with the baby care line, I think that I may try the shampoo and conditioner the next time I run out.
After doing some looking around at the company, it seems like a good one to support.  The headquarters are not far from here, in San Francisco, and they donate a portion of their profits to their Yes to Seed Fund, which encourages kids to connect with Mother Nature in fun and engaging ways.
The best thing about the Yes to Baby Carrots brand? The cute graphics they use!

PS- I was not given any products or payment for this review, I just liked the product!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Back in Shape After Baby

Lately I've been lamenting the body that I had pre-baby, and I've been looking into new ways of it back.  One really interesting trend I've been reading about is barefoot running.  I really love my pink and silver running shoes, but I tend to get some knee and back pain during or after running, and many have said that running barefoot can alleviate those things.  It seems to make sense, man was not created with shoes on, so he was probably not made to run in them.  The thinking is that shoes make running have more of an impact on the body by allowing us to land on our heels more heavily, while barefoot running puts more impact on the balls of our feet.

The trend seemed to spread when the book Born To Run was published and became popular, although I've heard that many indigenous cultures have been successful barefoot runners for generations.  I haven't read the book yet, but I plan to soon.  Another product that has been pushing the trend is the Vibram Five Finger shoe.  These shoes look very much like those toe-socks that were popular a few years ago, and are designed to feel like you're barefoot without exposing skin to the road.  I especially like these pink ones!

If you're into the idea but want something even more simplistic, you can check out Luna Sandals, really, really minimalistic running sandals.

I'm not sure if I'll try it yet.  We have some pretty nice streets, but I really prefer my nice soft feet to calluses.  I think I may try changing my form first and find some Five Fingers to try on.  Maybe if I become a true believer I'll try it au natural!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Favorites of Fall

I don't know where the last week went!  I must have been too caught up in our fall festivities to sit down and write!  While it might not be as bright and colorful here as fall in New England, I love fall, and I thought I would share one of my favorite things. 
Carving Pumpkins.
I have such great memories of carving pumpkins with my family as a child, and I can't wait to make new ones with my daughter.  My sister and I would pick out the biggest pumpkin we could carry and make sure that each had a clean, flat spot where the face would go.  Then we would help Dad clean them out and draw the kind of face we wanted on our own jack-o-lantern.  While he carved, we picked as many seeds from the guts as we could so that Mom could season and bake them.  When they were carved and lit, the whole family would stand in the street to see how they looked on the porch.
Even though my daughter isn't old enough to appreciate whats going on, my husband and I still carve pumpkins every year, making it our family tradition as well.  I always want my pumpkin to turn out like the pumpkin on the left, it usually ends up looking like the pumpkin on the right anyway.  I'm not sure I have the patience for a pumpkin as complicated as that!

I've also decided on a costume for my daughter!  We're going to use one of my old sun hats, paint it lots of colors, and then hang streamers from it, making the jelly fish costume I posted previously.  I'll just have to make sure to keep them short enough that she doesn't trip over them!

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nurturing Nature

What a perfect day we had at the zoo today! The sun was out, the birds were singing, and someone even got to go home with a new stuffed lemur (which she absolutely adores). It's often hard to pass up a new toy when you are in the moment, but looking forward I am going to try and stick to some greener alternatives. Looking around I found Inhabitot, a site that sells 100% organic cotton stuffed animals. Not only that, but some proceeds go to conservation efforts. Perfect! Here is my favorite:

Aluana is still a little too young to really focus on all the big animals at the zoo, but seeing those animals myself made me feel like a kid again. It reminded me of all the zoo strolls with my mom, camping trips with the fam, and nature shows that made such an impression on me even at a young age to love and care for nature. I can't wait to share those experiences with my daughter....and as you can see I'm not waiting!

These absolutely adorable animal-insired alphabet posters seem like the perfect way to start learning about nature and the alphabet while you are at it! They are even made by a local artist. You can also get a custom name print done for your child - how fun!

I also used to adore animal coloring books, imagining purple zebras and polkadot lions. Here are some great animal alphabet coloring sheets that you can simply print out at home. I will of course be printing mine on recycled paper. I want my child to love animals but also understand the importance of protecting their homes by not cutting down too many trees.

Well for now I am just going to enjoy watching her all snuggled up to her new stuffed lemur. They make a great pair!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Another Happy and Healthy Halloween!

As my costume post stated, Halloween is awfully close (only 32 days!) and I've started thinking about what kinds of treats I'll be handing out this year.  My daughter is still a little too young for trick-or-treating (I'm pretty sure it would just be me doing the work and her enjoying the candy!) so we'll spend our Halloween night handing out treats and enjoying all of the costumes.  While the jury still seems to be out on High-Fructose Corn Syrup and its risks (I found a good article about it from the Mayo Clinic), I think that this year I'll stay on the safe side and look for organic or home-made treats. 
There seem to be pros and cons to each option: organic candies can be expensive and home-made can take time and some know-how.  I'll have to look into both options before I make my choice!

Organic: has some great Halloween options, but they can be expensive if you live in a high trick-or-treat traffic area.  I hate having to turn off my light early because I ran out of candy!  I do really like the sound of the Vegan Candy Party Mix. Everything comes individually wrapped, which makes it easy to hand out, but all of the wrapping is compostable.  The only disheartening thing is that price! Its hard to know that I could spend a fourth as much on regular candy, and the children wouldn't know the difference.  Another option is the individual chocolates from, the makers of the endangered species chocolate.  The individual milk chocolates sound great, and you get 144 for $39.99, which sounds okay, but is still pricey.

 I found some really great recipes for some home-made candy, some a little more involved than others.  This one for Fruit Jelly Chews seems the most labor intensive because you have to have a blender or food processor, but they sound great! One recipe for Maple Candy also sounds good, as long as you can find good, pure maple syrup.  The recipe for Chocolate Lollipops sounds easy, but I'd want to make sure I could find good, fair-trade chocolate.

The Decision:
I think that I'll try my hand at making the fruit chews to hand out, maybe make a trial run sometime this week. As a little extra treat for my daughter, I think I'll order her one of these cute Pumpkin Lollipops to enjoy for the night!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy B(earth)day!

My daughter and I attended a friends birthday this week, and while the children had fun and the adults got to enjoy some much needed "grown-up" time, all I could think as we left was "Look at how much trash is left!". From wrapping paper and packaging to cups and napkins, birthday parties can really leave a lot to clean up, and a lot that can eventually end up in a landfill.  Apart from recycling and composting, I wondered what I could do to make my daughters next birthday more Earth friendly.  I'll break down what I found by subject.

There are a few companies that sell biodegradable cups and things, like Eco Products and Cupdepot, but they don't come in package size small enough, and I have no idea what to do with 1000 cups!  My best guess as to how to be more eco-friendly with your utensils would be to use regular dishes and then resign yourself to washing them.  If you don't have enough, you could always invite each child to bring his or her favorite plate and cup, or ask a family member to bring over a few.  Most mothers I know have enough kid-friendly dishes around that its no problem to loan out one or two for the day!

While not everyone I know is Vegan, a few are, and to accommodate them (and maybe open some naysayers' eyes as well) I found a great recipe for Applesauce Vegan Cupcakes that I think I'll try for our next Birthday Bash!  Baking at home also means that you'll have less packaging waste and can compost the scraps.  Fruit salads, regular salads, and trail mix are all easy to make at home, and delicious to snack on!

Gifts and Gift Wrapping
When I look around my daughter's room, all I can see are toys, toys, and more toys.  I think this year we'll decide that she doesn't need anymore and request a donation to a charity we like instead. We're big animal lovers, so maybe the ASPCA or the local animal shelter.  Guests could bring bags of dog food or toys and then we can make the delivery ourselves and stop by to see the puppies.  
For those who would like gifts, you could request that every one skip the fancy wrapping and use recycled newspapers instead, or fabric that can later be used in crafting.  

Party Favors
I really dislike the idea of sending all of the other parents home with little plastic junk that they'll just have to get rid of, but every one loves a party favor! One of the best ideas I came across online was to have a book swap.  Each child brings a book that they no longer read (or has been read enough) and leave it on a table on their way in.  On their way out, each child gets to choose a new book to bring home, an instant, affordable and useful party favor! 

There are many more ideas for Eco-friendly parties, but I can hear someone waking up from her nap, so I'll just leave a few of the sites I liked here! This Site has some great theme ideas, while Nature Moms Blog probably sums it even better than I could!