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!

Enhanced by Zemanta

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:
Naturalcandystore.com 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 chocolatebar.com, 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.


Home-made:
 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.

Utensils
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!

Food
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!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Happy (and Healthy!) Halloween

Halloween is a little more than a month away, and I've been less than impressed with the expense of the mass-produced children's costumes and the cheap material with which they are made.  If we don't want PVC's in our shower curtains, or lead in our paint, why would I want them in my child's costume? So in an effort to go green this Halloween, I've decided to research some adorable do-it-yourself, easy and affordable Halloween costumes!

Here are a few highlights from my google search:

Here are some really great ideas, my favorites where the Clark Kent, The Spider, The Stringbean, and The JellyFish! I think I'll be creating this JellyFish look out of my garden sun hat and some strips of white garbage bag and some spare lace trims I have lying around so the tentacles will be nice and flowy.  I imagine you could also use streamers, ribbon, or even magazine or newspaper strips.

This site has some ideas that can mostly be created with clothing your child already has!

Costumes that require face paint can sound frightening because of the chemicals that would be so close to your child's skin, but I found a great and easy recipe for natural, home-made face paint. 

A lot of costumes can include plastic masks that are chemical laden and suffocating, but a more eco-friendly and healthy (and I think fun!) alternative is paper mache.

I really love Halloween, my mother hand-made all of our costumes growing up, and I'm excited to pass on this tradition to my own daughter.  I love that its not only good for my child, but for the environment as well!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, August 23, 2010

Teething Time


As anyone with a small child knows, teething is a tough time.  And that's probably an understatement.  It means that baby is in pain, and mom is getting even less sleep than usual.  Teething toys, manufactured in all sorts of standard plastics, have become a staple way of easing the process along.  It's come out in recent years though, that they aren't always totally benign.  PVC plastics, which many are made out of, carry serious health risks, as well as polluting our environment.  
Mothers in search of more natural remedies can find plenty of ideas online.  Here are some interesting ones:
-frozen washcloths
-frozen food, like bananas
-organic teething biscuits
 I really favor the frozen fruit idea.  Many stores also now carry manufactured toys in safer materials.  Although these can be more expensive, they can be pretty darn cute.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Brand New You. Healthy Recipes from General Mills!


General Mills recently rolled out a new initiative, entitled "eatbetter america," with emphasis on whole grains and healthy food.  Eating healthy can really be a chore when you are busy with a small child, but General Mills is out to show the world that food that's fast, easy, and suited to a modern life can still be wholesome.  I especially love their recipe section, with hundreds of inspirational ideas including breakfast recipes that are alternatives to sugary cereal (a guilty pleasure of mine that usually results in a sugar crash a couple of hours later).  All of the instructions are clear and include calorie counts.  I tried "Whole-Grain Raspberry French Toast" this morning, and all I can say is "wow!"  I love the mixture of a tangy and sweet, with the texture added from whole grains.  Sign up here to get free coupons and recipes!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Always on the go? Grab granola!

I've loved granola bars for years, as an easy, healthy snack that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.  General Mills offers the Cascadian Farms brand, which is undeniably tasty.  Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so: Cascadian Farm Fruit and Nut Granola Bars were voted Best Granola Bar by SELF magazine in their 2010 Healthy Food Awards!  You can sign up to get coupons here, and get $1.00 off your first box.  Yum!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What happened to A Day at the Beach? (BP Oil)


Recently my 7 year-old niece was spending some time with Mark and I playing with the baby, and she was asking why we can't take our usual summer trip to visit grandma and grandpa on the Florida beach.  Like I told her, it's a good question.  But then I had to pause.  My problem was not so much not being able to think of anything to say, as being able to think of too much.

Almost everyone, serious environmentalist or not, now knows about the BP Oil Disaster.  People are generally aware that the spill is bad for wildlife, and for the economy.  Less often discussed are the affects on children and families. 

The sad truth is that beaches near the spill are no longer safe for children to play on.  Because they have thinner skin and are more likely to put things in their mouth, children are more easily affected by toxins that wash ashore with the oil. I think about all of the fun I had running around on the beach as a kid, building sandcastles and exploring, collecting shells in a pail, sun on my cheeks and sandy wind in my hair (much to my mother's delight).  It saddens me that now because of some careless adults children are missing out on this freedom that used to seem like a right of childhood.


This raises another important question for me: How can we best talk to children about big issues like this?  When my daughter is older, I want her to understand similar challenges in a way that will enable her to be a leader in helping to create a better world.  I think to just say that we can't go to the beach because it's dirty is not enough -there is a reason why it is that way, and children of a certain age (as I'm learning with my niece) are very good at asking "why."  I think it's important to talk about challenging issues with kids, but at the same time, it's hard to know what to say because we want them to feel safe.  I think a solution-oriented approach is generally the best way to interest people in problems, and maybe this is true for children as well?  This author provides some ideas of her own, for how to raise little people into responsible citizens in this big, complicated world.

Monday, July 26, 2010

5 Sites to Find Green Coupons


Since I care about my daughter's future, I'm constantly looking for ways to be both environmentally AND economically sustainable. Does being green have to mean spending more? This author doesn't seem to think so. They also provide five sites where you can find coupons for green products, and who couldn't love that?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Eco-Moms: A New Marketing Trend

According to a report released by EcoFocus Worldwide, eco-conscious parents were identified as a powerful new trend for marketing. These days parents feel that being eco-friendly is not only a part of leaving a positive legacy, but also has to do with setting a positive example for their kids. Linda Gilbert, the CEO of EcoFocus, says that eco-moms are “a new archetype that will define next generation products and communications.” In fact the 21st century is already proving to be full of eco-minded parents, with 35% of moms sending their kids to school with zero-waste lunches.

This report also found that parents who behave in an eco-friendly way noticed positive changes in their health and quality of life. For example, 2 in 5 eco-moms are more physically active from leading a greener lifestyle. And most moms conclude that a greener lifestyle helps them spend more time together as a family, with almost “70% of parents agreeing that being eco-friendly provides them with teachable moments with their kids.”

Although this report clearly shows the facts that there is a growing movement of eco-conscious parents, it also hints to companies that this is their new demographics of consumers to target. I agree that the population of eco-minded parents is growing, which is increasing the demand for eco-friendly products. Obviously I won’t be complaining if I see a greater number of companies producing green products, but I am concerned that that real intention of being eco-friendly will be lost in an effort for companies to sell more new products. I don’t want to just buy a product because the packaging says it’s green, I actually want products that are better for the environment, produce less waste, and use less chemicals.

As this EcoFocus report clearly states, eco-moms have considerable buying power, so let’s continue to ask for the best quality products for both our families and the planet. Of course there have been eco-friendly products out on the market for decades, but it’s still good to know companies are recognizing the growing demand for environmentally friendly products!

Read the article here!

What do you think? Leave me a comment!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cleaning with Natural Ingredients

To get things clean around the house you don’t have to depend on tough, chemical cleansers. I am constantly seeing ads for new cleaning products that produce “sparkling” results. Sure there are plenty of products out there that will “do the job for you,” but what kinds of chemicals are they made of? Call me old fashioned, but I think there’s nothing wrong with using a little elbow grease to get the job done. Besides I don’t want to pollute my house and family with strong chemicals when I can use natural ingredients to do the same thing!

There are three main natural ingredients that I use in my house to do a variety of jobs. All three are affordable and you probably already have them in your kitchen.

1. Vinegar.

Vinegar is my staple cleaning product because it works as an all-purpose cleanser. I prefer to use distilled white vinegar for cleaning. Costco sells huge containers that last a long time. Mix 1 part vinegar with 1 part water in a spray bottle and you’ll have something to clean most parts of the house. You can play with the proportions according to what works well in your house, but it is best not to increase the amount of vinegar in your solution. Vinegar heavy solutions are too acidic and can eat away at tile grout.

If you have tougher spots to clean, try adding a few drops of normal dish washing liquid to help cut the grime. And don’t worry about the smell; it goes away as soon as the surface dries. Vinegar is safe to use on most surfaces, except marble. It also acts as a deodorizer and disinfectant. Always test your surfaces with your solution in an inconspicuous area before use. Use a vinegar solution for glass and mirrors, in the bathroom (toilet, sink, tub, countertops, floor, etc.) and in the kitchen (appliances, refrigerator, stovetop, countertops, floor, etc.)

2. Lemon juice.

Lemon juice can be great to clean your home, plus it smells fresh. Lemon works best to clean and shine metals such as brass and copper. It also works to get rid of soap scum and hard water deposits. If you mix lemon juice with baking soda, you can make a cleaning paste to get out stains and scrub surfaces. To make furniture polish, mix 1 part lemon juice to 2 parts olive oil.

3. Baking soda.

Baking soda works like an abrasive cleanser as well as a deodorizer. Put a box in the refrigerator to absorb odors or anywhere else you might need to neutralize smells. Mix baking soda with water to make a paste to scrub out grease and stains.

Depending on the cleaning project that I have, sometimes I find it useful to look up natural cleaning recipes online. For example, I recently looked up a recipe to naturally polish silver. I found a great recipe which consisted of warm vinegar, water, and lots of salt and it worked pretty well!

What are your ingredients for natural home cleaning? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

You'll like making baby food from home!


If you are a new mom like me, at some point you will begin to introduce your baby to solid foods. My baby is just over 6 months old, so I began this process a little over a month ago. I have enjoyed making my baby food at home. Depending on the brand, a lot of store bought baby food is not as nutritious as it seems, and they may also contain a variety of chemicals or preservatives. By making your own baby food, you can control the quality of ingredients that your baby will eat. Plus, homemade baby food costs a lot less and you create less packaging waste. It is easy to make your own baby food! Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

-Buy organic and pesticide free fruits and veggies to decrease your baby’s exposure to toxic chemicals.

-Keep it simple! An old trick is to mash or blend the food you are already cooking for yourself to give to your baby.

-Use these guidelines when deciding what foods to prepare:

0 to 4 months: Breast milk or formula only

4 to 6 months: semi-liquefied rice and grain cereals (such as oat and barley)

6 to 8 months: puréed or strained fruits and veggies

8 to 10 months: Time to get creative! It’s now appropriate to introduce small amounts of dairy, mashed fruits and veggies, small amounts of protein, small finger foods, non-citrus juice

10 to 12 months: cut fruit, bite sized cooked veggies, protein, finger foods, iron-fortified cereals, cheese and yogurt, non-citrus juice

-When introducing protein, get creative and change the variety. Try things like black beans, lentils, fish and tofu!

-Use highly nutritious veggies like squash, avocado, sweet potato, and carrots.

-Remember to make sure baby has a well balanced diet. Variety between meals ensures that your baby is getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Variety also means that your child will learn to like an array of foods (and hopefully be less picky in the future!). Try not to depend on giving your child only simple carbohydrates like processed cereal or breads, which just don’t have much nutritional value.

Check out these useful websites:

http://www.babycenter.com/0_age-by-age-guide-to-feeding-your-baby_1400680.bc

http://www.wholesomebabyfood.com/

My baby’s current favorite food is blended sweet potato and peas. Do you have any suggestions for awesome homemade baby foods? What is your baby’s favorite food? Please leave a comment!


Photo by tiffanywashko at Flickr

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spring Gardening...starting your seeds indoors!


Spring has sprung and gardening time has begun! Since the start of May and spring sunshine, I’ve been so excited to start planting my vegetable garden! But my husband keeps reminding me that those cold nights that bring frost are not quite over. If I want my garden to be successful, I’ll have to wait just a few more days! Typically we wait until May 15th to begin planting to make sure that no seedlings die if a frost hits.

*A mild frost is considered at or around freezing. A hard frost is occurs when temperatures fall below freezing. Some plants can survive a mild frost, but usually they cannot survive a hard frost. Check with the seed packet instructions or search it online.

One great way to get started gardening in early spring is by starting your seeds inside! I like reusing egg cartons to plant my seeds because they hold the moisture well and I am recycling at the same time. The great thing about starting your own seeds inside is you can grow a larger variety than the seedlings you can find at your local nursery. Plus you can get your plants going before the cold is completely gone!

First things first, follow the instructions on the back of your seed packet. These instructions will give you the best information to grow that particular plant in the zone in which you live. Following instructions can make a big difference, especially if you aren’t very familiar with gardening.

Second, you need to make sure your seeds can get enough sunlight. Most seeds require 12 hours of sunlight a day, so you’ll most likely need to supplement sunlight with artificial light. If it gets really cold outside at night, make sure your seeds aren’t against a window (on a window still) at night. Rotating seed containers in the direction of the sun will also keep your seedlings growing straight.

The final key to germinating seeds indoors is to water them, but not too much. If you stick your finger in the soil and it is dry, it is time to water. Seeds are delicate, so try watering your seeds from the bottom, instead of the top. If the top of the soil is very dry, you can mist the top with a spray bottle.

Tips taken from: http://home.ivillage.com/gardening/veg/0,,hqnj,00.html
Photo: DrStarbuck