29
Jun

Tips for Healthy Summertime Snacks

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating

watermelon

Guest post by Lisa Cain, co-founder SnackSnoop, a website devoted to healthy snacking.

Feeding children snacks on a daily basis is a really big challenge.  Since they are home from school, they seem to always be in the kitchen asking you for something to eat.  They can really drive you nuts.

So what is a busy parent to do?  First, you want to feed them something healthy.  Secondly, you want to feed them something that they like.  Finally it can’t be too expensive.

Healthy snacks, especially ones that aren’t in packages, aren’t hard to find.  You just need to be organized and a little creative.  Here are five tips to help you choose well:

1. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket.  Since we are in Summer, it is easy to find peaches, plums, watermelon, cherries, and cantaloupe for a reasonable price.  Yes, you will have to wash them off and cut them up, but any whole food that you choose will be much more healthy than anything you buy in a package.  If you are lucky enough to have a Farmer’s market near by, shop there for the best deals.

2. If you only shop once a week, buy a collection of fruits and vegetables that you can serve immediately and some that you can serve later.  For example, strawberries or peaches should be eaten right away, but you can store cantaloupe or watermelon for over a week (even cut up!).  Keep canned pineapple on hand for when you run out of fresh fruit.

3. Use dips.  Kids love to dip.  If you are feeding them carrots or broccoli, have a little cup of dressing for them to dip in.  Hummus, yogurt, and peanut butter, are also good choices for dips.

4.  Make it a game for children to eat their snacks.  Pretend the broccoli is a tree and everyone in the room is a dinosaur.  Or fashion little faces out of apple slices, raisins, and add carrot sticks for the legs.  Give them the raw ingredients and then let them “make” their snack.

5. Read the label carefully of any packaged snack.  Too often, the label will say “all natural” or “make with real fruit” and you think you are buying something healthy.  A good indicator of whether it should be considered a healthy snack is if it contains high fructose corn syrup.  If it does, that food item is more likely a treat than a healthy snack.

Get some more healthy snack suggestions at http://www.snacksnoop.com

26
Jun

Nowali Moccasins – Cool Shoes Alert!

by Tiffany in Children

Nowali Moccasins

As parents we may have been taught that hard sole shoes offer the best support for growing feet but research has actually shown that this may not be true. A child’s foot is soft and pliable and pressure from the wrong shoe may actually impede proper foot development. Many pediatricians, including the renowned Dr. Sears, are now recommending that children under two not wear shoes at all. Going barefoot helps their feet to grow naturally and helps them to gain musculature and strength. Soft sole shoes provide an excellent alternative for those times when going barefoot might not be so practical. They still allow for feet to grow and develop with confinement.

My two youngest wore soft sole shoes often in their younger days but I was often disappointed by the fact that most soft sole shoe company’s did not offer shoes for kids past baby and toddler age. So I was thrilled recently to find Nowali Moccasins!

I love soft sole shoes and I adore moccasins so this is the best of both worlds. Nowali moccasins are a cozy sock-in-a-soft-shoe that stay on kids’ feet.  The one piece design makes them super easy to put on, and the double elastic at the top helps to keep them on.  Because they are soft and have fun designs, kids want to wear them all the time.
 
Nowali moccasins are especially popular with children who are starting to walk and run around the house.  The non-skid soles really help prevent slips and falls on hardwood and tile floors.  As parents know, pediatricians generally recommend footwear with flexible soles to help the foot muscles and arches develop naturally.
 
Winner of The New Parents Guide Seal of Approval, Nowali slipper socks have been keeping little feet happy for over 50 years.  This year, Nowali introduces adult versions of their cozy footwear.

My daughter is wearing pink striped Nowali moccasins in size 6Y. They have some styles that go up to 10Y. I LOVE the fact that I can get them for both my older kids AND my toddler. My daughter also really likes them. She does find them a bit hard to get on but with my help she is good to go. They aren’t too hot either because it has been super hot here and yet she wears them non-stop.

This morning she wore them to Costco and we were stopped by 3 different moms wanting to know where we got those cool shoes. At first I think people assume they are socks and then when they look closer they can see they are actually shoes and they want some. ;) We are very happy with ours and will continue to buy them as the kids grow.

So, do you want some of your own? Sure you do! The people at Nowali gave me a coupon code: HAPPYFEET, which gives you 10% off + free shipping for orders over $40.  This is good thru 12/31.

Pink Shoes

24
Jun

Market Baskets for Easier Green Shopping

by Tiffany in Eco Tips

Market Basket

I have fallen in love with a new reusable bag. This one is more like a bag/basket hybrid and ever since I got one last month I have been using it non-stop. They are polyester bags (wish they were canvas), on an aluminum frame. Mine has an attached cover that zips around it to enclose the basket. It is super light too.

Here are some of the things I have already used it for:

Shopping the produce isles at the supermarket
Shopping at farmer’s markets
Using it to hold books at the library
Packing lunches for the zoo or a picnic
Holding towels and sunscreen at the public pool
Cleaning out miscellaneous junk from the car
Holding my other reusable bags in the trunk
Holding takeout so I don’t have to take a plastic bag home

How did I manage without this nifty bag before??

You can find these market baskets on Amazon.

23
Jun

The "Go Trash Free" Challenge!

by Tiffany in A Green Home

garbage can

Guest post by by Lia Mack, www.TheGreenMamas.com

We all have a very hard time throwing away anything, since it’s final destination is a landfill, inevitably polluting our water, air, and land. We breath the air. We drink the water. We grow food in the land. Why on Earth would we want to pollute it?!??! So I’ve been doing something about it on a personal level – at least I have been moving in that direction for some time now. I’m trying to be trash free.

Yep, that’s right! Totally and utterly trash free.

What exactly does that mean, you say? Well, that means you leave nothing out for the trash man on Monday or any other day. You compost everything you can, reuse, recycle, or just don’t buy it (aka: reduce consumption). It’s pretty simple on the surface. However, when you take on the challenge, it gets a bit more complicated.

. We’ve been born and raised in a not so green way: to throw it away if it’s broken, if we don’t want it anymore, or want a new one.
. You go out to eat, you take home your food – in Styrofoam or plastic containers, usually wrapped in another plastic bag.
. We’re all religious about the 3 R’s in the kitchen, but what about about the waste basket in the bathrooms, laundry room, garage, car?
. We have guests over and they don’t take heed to our cute little signs above our recycle and trash containers and toss out everything.

Ok, so you see where I’m going with this. If you want to join in on the Trash Free Challenge, it’s a full-time commitment. You can’t just use the “I’ll do it next time” routine. You have to commit mind, body, pocket book, and spirit to the cause.

Are you game?

Jump in and join the “Go Trash Free” challenge!! Here are some ways to help you stay on your game. And remember, no trash means nothing to the landfill. You can recycle ’till your heart turns, well, green. But no trash. No toss. No more!

* DIY Green Style – You’re already in the habit of bringing your cloth bags to the farmer’s market and grocery store, decreasing the need and waste of plastic bags. But what about other shopping ventures? What about when you go out to eat and have leftovers? Do you really want to deal with the Styrofoam take out box? Why not bring your own reusable containers for food leftovers to the restaurant. You’ll be out to eat with other greenies, so you won’t have to worry about looking like the crunchy hippie you are…you’ll fit right in ;)

* Compost everything! – I have a little sign above my – now empty – garbage can in the kitchen. It reads “No veggie scraps. No egg shells. No fruit peels. These go in the compost bin! Thanks, Management :)” Don’t toss out that soon-to-be black gold for your garden. Make sure everyone in your home is on board with this one. And if that means being a compost-police for a while ’till they get the hang of it, so be it. Why would you want put that in a plastic bag to stink up the house anyway? Get a kitchen counter top compost bin, fill it up with all your kitchen scraps (minus the meat, bones, and dairy products) and toss it on your compost heap every few days. Trust me, it doesn’t stink at all in comparison to when you put food scraps into the trash.

* Remember the 3 R’s – When you’re out shopping, before adding something to your cart, ask yourself, “Can this be recycled? Can it be reused? Do I already have something like it?” The bottom line for all purchases should be: if it doesn’t fit in the 3 R’s, you really need to rethink the item. Chances are, with a little ingenuity and creativity you can find another way to satisfy your need, want, just gotta have it!!! Yes, we were born into this compulsive consuming society, but if you are going to be trash free, you have to “be the change you wish to see in the world”. Go Gandhi!

* Be Creative – There are some things that don’t fit nicely into the 3 R’s, compost, and not buying categories. Donate used computer parts, cars, clothing and more. After making stock with leftover bones, should you put the bones in a plastic bag and leave it out for the garbage man? Heck no! Make bone ash makes a great soil amendment for the garden. Maybe you have another great idea to share? Anything to keep the plastic bags from piling up in a landfill, the better!

One question you’ll eventually end up asking yourself is this: are there certain things that just HAVE to be trashed? We have been sold on this theory, but I just don’t buy it anymore! Honestly, we are a smart mean green thinking machine! I think we can find alternatives to all of these items that we’ve been told we must throw away. I think that’s where the NO TRASH challenge comes into play.

Are you ready?!

Start with a week. Next week. Go Trash Free! After a successful week, add another week. Then another. Once you get the hang of it, be daring. Go for a whole month. Let me know how long you can make it and what you couldn’t NOT toss. What are some of the great alternatives you have come up with? Did you find the secret? Can you share it with the rest of us?!

I think this is a great thing for us to do. Why do we need to add to the landfill system? Our ancestors – yep, I’m pulling out the oldies – made it just fine without trashing our Mother Earth. Now we’re destroying it for our children and our children’s children.

Make the commitment. Test yourself. See how far YOU can make it. Be green! Be trash free :)

22
Jun

Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream

by Tiffany in Book Reviews, Frugal Green

turning-around-the-unsustainable-american-dreamThis weekend I had a chance to read The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome – Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream by John F. Wasik.

It was a timely read as it has much to so with the current economic situation and what got us here but it is short on political blame and deals more with the attitudes and ideals that have permeated within the American mindset and how that has caused a lot of trouble for us.

It talks quite a bit in the early chapters about the housing bubble and it was incredibly interesting. Especially since I was living in Arizona during the boom and I saw first hand how completely outrageous it was. We wanted to buy a new tract home in Phoenix during the boom but thank goodness we had enough common sense to recognize how unsustainable the market was.  To get a house at the time you had to put your name in a lottery drawing. Every week the builders would draw 5- 10 names and those people would get houses. Our names were not getting picked right away and every week that your name was not picked the price went up about $10,000-$20,000 dollars. In the end this meant that many people were paying $50-$100,000 or more than some of their neighbors for the exact same home model. My husband and I refused to play that game.

The people who got the houses for the initial price were elated because now they were told their homes had went up in value by $100 grand in the first year alone but that did not make sense to me. Instead of thinking their homes were going up they should have just realized that their neighbors paid way to much. Some of them sold right away and did manage to make a good amount of money but we all know how the story ended for most of the country… the bubble burst big time.

In Phoenix people started losing their homes left and right because they couldn’t refinance the bad interest rates they got in their hurry to buy a house. They found that they owed more on their house then it was worth.

Another issue that is highlighted in the book is that few people could even afford to buy these upgraded homes. Instead of being content to see a marble floor at a bank or a museum the average Joe decided he need marble in his bathroom. What changed the American mindset that hard work and time was no longer needed to secure what you wanted? When and why did we decide that we all deserved luxury home regardless of income or circumstances? Remember the story of the immigrant crop picker with an annual income of 15K who managed to get a home for $720K?? The American Dream has morphed into something reckless and dangerous and something VERY unsustainable.

It seems we have gotten too big for our britches and classify what used to be “wants” as “needs”. We somehow “need” a big house, a nice car or two, big screen TVs, our kids attending private schools or the ones in the best areas (which require high property taxes to sustain them), and all the luxuries life has to offer. We don’t save and we don’t delay gratification anymore. We want it all now. This coupled with the fixed costs we obligate ourselves too as outlined in The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke is why we are in the situation we are today.

Of course is not to say that greedy corporations and banks as well as lax government oversight are not equally responsible for this mess… it is just that greedy corporations and banks only capitalized on a trend they saw. They couldn’t make people behave recklessly if they didn’t want to ya know? ;)

So, what is the solution? Well, this book outlines a need for a move to New Urbanism to prevent suburban sprawl. You cannot change people but we can change the way cities are designed and the way homes and cities are built. We can make cities more walkable and less driveable instead of the reverse. There are also numerous other ideas that I felt were awesome.

One of the ideas in the book is to un-link property taxes and local development to school funding. By making schools rely on local, state, and federal funding that would effectively keep people from moving further away from central cities to suburban areas where housing costs give schools mammoth budgets. If everyone is on an even playing field the schools would then be forced to be responsible with the money they get AND it would keep people in cities. Cities are greener and cheaper.

Other ideas include spending more money on transportation and infrastructure instead of sprawl. Creating communities that seek to be self sufficient and even generate their own energy. Funding a smart grid, trim real estate tax breaks, create private incentives for affordable housing, and heck yes… give the citizens of this country universal healthcare. I am a BIG supporter of that. I want to stop seeing hard working families go bankrupt because of health issues and greedy insurance companies. And for the economic conservatives it has ideas for what we can cut to defray costs for what we need to spend. Although I would not classify this book as liberal or conservative… I just know some people’s hair stands on end when they hear talk about government spending.

It is a good book with lots of good ideas. If you like books on economics and new urbanism then check this one out. Also if it interests you, make sure to stop by the blog of my friend Sharon at New Urban Mom who has been involved with promoting new urbanism for years.