24
Nov

Fun Natural Toys – The Play Tepee

by Tiffany in Natural Toys

Little Turtle's Tipi

For a very long time now I have looked at play tepees and thought about how much fun it would be to have one for the kids. I am not sure why but I have yet to get over my childhood fascination with tepees. I have even been checking out a camp resort that has large family size tepees to camp out in. I think it would great fun.

In the meantime though I have been living vicariously through my kids, especially my littlest guy, and his new play tepee…the Little Turtle’s Tepee. It is a great toy made from natural materials (cotton canvas and wood) and made here in the USA. Bozeman, Montana to be exact. It sets up in minutes and basically provides an instant play house for 1-3 kids that can be used indoors or out. And it’s no boring, ordinary playhouse. It a tepee!

Natural toys made from quality materials are always better than anything made with plastics and other materials that will end chilling in a landfill for hundreds of years, long past their useful stage. The material is untreated, un-dyed natural cotton canvas and the poles are FSC Certified Solid Wood. Toys made in the USA are also going to have less impact than those made in foreign countries and then shipped here. You are also supporting local economies and usually small family business, which is important. This is a toy made with high quality, natural materials that are planet friendly AND meant to last. It taken care of this tepee will last for years and be a play object for many different kids over the years. It is a keepsake that can be passed around throughout the generations.

I also like that it is an open ended toy that encourages creativity and unplugged fun. My kids are not immune to the lure of the xBox and the iPad but it is important to me that they also know how to entertain themselves without the bells and whistles. Play houses are perfect for that and this tepee fits the bill.

teepee playing 5

Another bonus is that this toy is educational and can open doors to learning opportunities about other cultures and living history. A tipi is a Lakota name for a conical tent made from animal skins and wooden poles and used by the nomadic tribes. This toy could open the door to all sorts of historical learning, which I love.

I also like that it is fun to use inside the house and out. When the weather takes a turn for the worse (it already has here in Ohio) then the tepee can be transferred indoors and used there. It is super easy to take up and down (it takes seconds literally) and it has a nice canvas tote for storage so it can be easily tucked away in the garage or basement when not being played with. The ease with which you can get it out and set it up and also take it back down and store it are super important to me because we don’t have a lot of room in our house (about 1100 square feet). Anything hard to put up and take down would quickly be a pain in the you-know-what.  If you have a decent size car this would also be no problem to take with you to the park, camping, grandmas’s house, etc.

Below you can see it indoors, in the Florida room …

play tent florida room

The tepee also came with stencils so you can jazz it up if you want. We may do that later on. Also it came with a traditional game that uses sticks and rocks. Yet another great intro into living history. All around this would make a great gift for the kiddos if you are looking for open ended natural toys that will encourage creativity and that will provide maximum benefit for your dollars, since this is one that will last.

teepee autumn2 sm

parker teepee sm

14
Nov

Get the Scoop, on Genetically Modified Foods

by Tiffany in Environment

In the mid-90s something called a Genetically Modified Organism was introduced to our food supply. A GMO occurs when the genes of one animal or plant species is artificially inserted into another animal or plant. One side of the debate supports that studies showed a 61% decrease in herbicide usage on GM Cottons. However, the other side rebutted that because of the speedy spread of Super-weeds, resistant to herbicides, even more chemicals would be used to compensate.

When it comes to the GMO controversy, all sides are set on full fire, with no signs of burning out. Maybe you’re reading this saying “Yay, Go GMO!” Maybe you are on the other side of the river, ranting about GMO destroying the world. Then again, Maybe you are thinking, “GM…What!?

So, what’s the scoop? Are Genetically Modified Foods the answer… or are they just a harmful ploy of science? Do GM crops increase or decrease the use of herbicides? Does genetic modification have a significant impact on crop yields? Are the impacts on yield positive or negative? Does genetic modification place a heavy impact on a farmer’s social and financial stability? Most importantly, are GM crops held to the same standards and regulations as all other foods, or do they seriously cause dysfunction to vital organs such as the immune system, liver, pancreas, and spleen?

In the end, no matter what side you stand on, the story is far from black and white. In this controversy of greys, it is best to be educated on the good, the bad, and the in-between. It’s time you dig deeper in the soils of this Genetically Modified Food Fight. Take a look at this infographic provided by Carrington.edu for more information.

GMOs-argument

12
Nov

Ways to Lower Holiday Waste

by Tiffany in Green Holidays

Ways to Lower Holiday WasteThe holidays are just around the corner and that means lots of excess and waste. It’s that time of year when many folks will spend entirely too much on stuff they don’t need and they will pay little if any attention to how their purchases will impact the environment. It is not just the products themselves either, with their cheap plastic and toxic materials. It is also packaging…the boxes, the plastic, and the paper. It’s the holiday cards (2.6 billion sold annually) and the store gifts cards that we send and receive. All of it will end up in the landfill after the merriment is over. Most people will probably not even give all that garbage much thought as they take it to the curb. Yet according to the Clean Air Council, 5 million tons of additional waste is generated during the holidays, just in the US. How can we not see that this is a huge problem??

Well, some of us do see. There is definitely a small movement seeking to be bring simplicity and minimalism back to the holidays instead of rampant consumerism and mindless waste. We can be more conscious consumers by making a few small changes. I list three below…

Reusable Gift Bags

There are fabric gift bags on the market that take the place of wrapping paper. They can be reused again and again so if you have a nice supply you can simply reuse the bags for your family each year. Buy unique prints specific to each family member and you don’t even need to label or otherwise identify the gifts. Everyone will know what gifts are theirs. Instead of filling a black garbage bag with wrapping paper and disposable gifts bags you can gather up your fabric bags and put them away with the holiday decorations, until the following year. VZ Wraps has a great selection of fabric gifts bags all made with an eye on sustainability. They have standard, medium, large, and wine sizes. I love how you can click on each size (in the right sidebar of their web site) to see what kinds of gifts will fit in each bag. Great feature! The large will fit gifts such as blenders and gaming consoles. They also have a large selection of holiday prints…everything from ornaments, to poinsettias and snowflakes.

I love how EASY wrapping is when you use fabric bags. Booyah!

fabric gift bags under tree

Ditch the Party Disposables

If you are hosting any parties this holiday season, make it a goal to ditch all disposable plates, glasses, and utensils. Use your own tableware and simply ask guests for a hand in cleaning up afterwards. If you don’t have enough you can get some at thrift stores. I think mismatched table settings can be made to look quite fetching. Seriously, just look up ‘mismatched table settings’ on Pinterest. You will be amazed. Alternatively you can ask guests to bring their own. This is done in Europe often so why not here?

Change Up Your Traditions

Evaluate meaningful traditions to see if they are wasteful. An advent calendar may be one example. Do you buy new ones each year that need to be thrown away or do you have a reusable one? I love an idea I heard from Isabelle of VZ Wraps (mentioned above). She told me about her advent calendar tradition awhile back and I thought it would be lovely to share here:

Our advent calendar hangs on the door and has a little pouch for each day. Instead of giving candy or a treat each day, we decided to do a little something for each other instead. We would fill out little slips of paper that said “Today for ____________, I will _____________.” Since there are four of us in our family and 24 days of advent, we would each fill out two slips for each other – I’d do two slips for my husband and two each for my two kids – mix them up in a bowl, and put one into each pouch. The idea was to keep it simple with a fun little way to spend time together or make life a little easier for each other. For instance, I’d often put on my husband’s slips that I’d give him a back rub or take out the trash. For the kids, it might be reading them an extra book at bedtime or letting them choose what to have for dinner. The key was something that you could do any day. My husband used to get a little too enthusiastic and offer the kids a trip to the bowling alley or bookstore, but he couldn’t always come through with that activity the day the slip was picked, especially if it was on a school night with a lot of homework! We would all look forward to picking a slip each morning before school, and it was a fun way to ensure spending time with each other during a super-busy time of year.

I love how she reuses the same calendar each year and how she has made the season about spending time with each other and doing things for each other rather than eating candy or getting gifts.

A few small changes and a little planning can have a big impact this time of year. What ways have you lowered your family’s impact during the holidays??

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

4 Comments on Ways to Lower Holiday Waste

4
Nov

The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle

by Tiffany in Tidbits

 

Woot! The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle returns and it is better than ever. It includes 86 great ebooks and a bunch of other goodies. As a big reader and huge ebook fan I am mostly excited about the books. I have a tablet and I loooove to use it to read my vast collection of ebooks. I can literally take hundreds of books with me at any given time. I just store them in the cloud (Dropbox) and I can read them anywhere. So of course whenever I can add a large amount for an itsy bitsy price…I jump at the opportunity.

In this bundle I am excited about…

High Protein, No Powder: Protein Bars and Smoothies Made with Real Food
The Breakfast Revolution
Easy and Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes
Steeped: Simple Nourishing Teas and Treats
Baking with Quinoa
Weeding Out Wheat
Herbal Adventures: A Pocket Guide of Seasonal Natural Remedies
Energy Explosion: A 7 Day Guide to Jump Start Your Energy
From Garbage to Gourmet

If you are looking to add to your reading library and score a great deal I highly recommend this bundle. Enjoy!

3
Nov

Preparing Your Home For Cold Weather

by Tiffany in The Homestead

Preparing Your Home For Winter

When cold weather shows up and decides to stay that is when my cold weather to-do list starts being made. I have quite a bit I need to get done each year and making sure it all gets done is extremely important for a variety of reasons. Everything on my cold weather home preparation list ensures that our home is a safe, warm, affordable, reliable, energy efficient, and healthy place to be for the winter months. Some of it is just checking for problems before they happen. Other aspects mean doing some cleanup unique to fall and cold weather. Others address making sure we are not wasting energy or money during a season when bills can easily get away from you.

Here are some of the things I do to prepare my home for cold weather. Do you have any to add?

Clean and maintain gutters – Fall leaves, dirt, and debris can clog up gutters so it is good to do check them once or twice a year and clean them out. Doing it before winter is important because you don’t want ice dams or heavy snow accumulating up there. Also check to make sure they are fastened to the house securely and that none are loose.

Put away garden hoses – Drain and store garden hoses for the winter months to keep them in good condition. Sure they are cheap but why not take care of our things and save money and the planet??

Check for drafts – Go through the house and check windows, switchplates, vents, cupboards, doors, and any areas where cold air could be finding a way into the house. You can use foam insulation gaskets for switchplates and you can fill gaps with an insulating foam sealant. Small gaps can be effectively sealed with caulk.

Put the trampoline away – This is a high dollar item we don’t want to see damaged by winter’s foul weather and kids generally don’t want to jump on it in winter anyway. Away she goes until warm weather returns.

store trampoline for winter

Insulate – A hot water heater blanket can help conserve energy on your hot water heater and also gas or electric bills. You can also use blankets or foam for pipes to keep them from freezing if that is an issue in your home.

Clean and maintain your furnace – You want your furnace to work as efficiently as possible so clean up the area surrounding your furnace and make sure it has room to breathe. Now would also be a good time to have your vents cleaned out by a professional and get a furnace checkup.

Wash the windows inside and out –  Use water and vinegar and get to cleaning. Winter days are dreary enough as it is. Let’s not give the winter blues an even stronger foothold by making rare sunlight shine through dull, dirty windows. While you are washing you can also check for gaps/drafts.

Change your air filter – We should be changing our air filters with every season to maintain our A/C and furnace units properly but also to make sure our indoor air is as clean as possible. This is especially important in cold weather months when illness is more likely to be going around. Filtrete Filters last up to three months. Change your filter at the start of every season! You can get the Filtrete Healthy Living Filter, MPR 1900 at Lowe’s, Target, Walmart, Costco and your local hardware store or by visiting FindMyFiltreteFilter.com. It is ideal for allergens and small particles like bacteria and virus. It captures up to 93 percent of large airborne particles, such as household dust, pollen, mold spores and dust mite debris, from the air passing through the filter. It captures 4X times more microscopic particles, such as smoke, smog, pet dander and particles that can carry bacteria and viruses, than ordinary pleated filters.

change filter

Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors – You should be doing this regularly and during your cold weather prep/clean-up is no exception. Make sure everything is in working order and change batteries if need be.

Clean and store rain barrels – We use a rain barrel throughout the year to collect rain runoff from our gutters. We use it to water our garden and houseplants. When the temperature drops to freezing though our barrel can be damaged and cracked by the elements. To keep it nice we drain it, clean, and store it in our garage or basement until the spring. Goodbye old friend!

rain barrel in the garden

Use the reverse switch on ceiling fans – The reverse switch is available on some ceiling fans and it is very handy. It will reverse the direction of blade movement to turn clockwise instead of counter-clockwise. The air is forced downwards and heat rises so the heat will be pushed downwards.

Check insulation in the attic and roof area – Experts recommend a depth of about 12 inches so do a check and make sure your insulation is still effective against cold winters and remedy it if you find that your insulation is no longer cutting it.

Caulk windows and hang thermal curtains – Seal cracks and gaps with caulk to prevent drafts. Thermal curtains can also be used for the same thing. They are super heavy and will stop drafts in their tracks. Just make sure to open them on clear sunny days and let the sunshine in.

What do you do for cold weather prep??

This post is written as a Healthy Home Ambassador for Filtrete, all thoughts and opinions are my own.