31
Mar

Just Another Way to Reduce Paper Waste – Send eCards

by Tiffany in Tidbits

It is a big part of our culture to give cards for special occasions…birthdays, holidays, weddings, anniversaries, baby showers, illness, the list goes on. Even when we give gifts it is customary to give a card as well. I have always resisted the urge to buy cards because I think it is wasteful. The cards are beautiful and often funny (I like the humorous ones) and they provide us with something witty to say when we don’t have the words. But most likely they will just end up in the trash…or they will saved in some dark box along with other cards that have been relegated to the greeting card grave yard until they too are trashed when the recipient decides they no longer need to hang onto cards from years ago.

Greeting cards are also really pricey and you have to go to the store to buy them. For me that means a special trip usually because who remembers these details when they are already at the store? Not me. Any alternative that does not require me to drop $6 on a single greeting card (even if it sings), a special trip to the store, or sending paper waste out into the yonder is alright by me. Luckily there are more and more options out there.

American Greetings has new singing greetings and  video eCards that you can send. They can be  sent via  email, mobile, or Facebook. You pay a small monthly ($3.99) or annual fee ($19.99) and then you can send unlimited eCards. You can also try the service via a free seven day trial. Learn more.

I love the “Just Because” video eCards. I need to send one to my mom just to let her know I have been thinking of her a lot lately. Love this ladybug one! My grandmother used to have those exact same chairs. :)

Who do you want to  send a video e-Card too??

Ecard from American Greetings

31
Mar

Flavoring Home Brewed Kombucha

by Tiffany in Recipes

flavoring homemade kombuchaTwo weeks ago I shared my first foray brewing Kombucha with a GetKombucha Continuous Brew Kit. For two weeks our Kombucha has been brewing and yesterday we finished it off by bottling it and also flavoring it. Flavoring is entirely optional…the Kombucha tastes incredible on its own, but we like to jazz up some of our batches to create new flavors. Then we drink it throughout the day instead falling back on things like soda or sugary juice. We also take it with us in school and work lunches for a tasty, healthy drink on the go.

Our process is pretty simple. We allow our Kombucha to ferment for about 14-16 days usually, giving it a taste around day ten to see where we are at. When it is brewed to our liking we bottle it in glass jars that used to contain store bought Kombucha. They are the perfect size and we love reusing items when we can instead of tossing them in the recycling bin. We have about 4-5 dozen bottles because we typically brew 2-3 gallons a week . This provides a steady supply of Kombucha for the whole family.

Once the Kombucha is done and we know we will be bottling it we decide if we will flavor it and how. We also add chia seeds most of the time…extra flavor, extra filling, and we love the texture. First we brew up some flavored tea (peach this time around) and we put the chia seeds in it to plump and soak up the tea.

chia seeds in Kombucha

If we put them directly in the bottles we find that they clump together so a pre-soaking works better and they will absorb the flavor of the tea. You can also add juice to this mixture as well for extra flavoring. We added some tart organic cherry juice to ours and it complimented the peach tea very nicely. We like to experiment with a variety of flavored teas and organic juices.

Once the chia seeds have soaked for a bit we use a funnel to put them in our glass bottles. The gloopy, globby mixture settles down at the bottom.

bottling kombucha

Then it is time for the Kombucha and thanks to this new brew kit we can pour it directly from the spigot. This makes it much easier for us! Fill each bottle, seal them, and put them in the fridge for drinking throughout the week. The photo below is just some of the jars we bottled. A few them just had the peach tea chia seeds and others had the added cherry juice, hence the variation in colors. All were delicious!

finished Kombucha

Before we even started the bottling process though we brewed some more tea for another batch. Last week we made a gallon in our new kit but this week we filled it up (2 gallons). The scoby is now happily swimming around in a fresh batch of tea and fermenting away until we begin the bottling process again, in two weeks or so. The batch from this week provided us with a baby scoby as well. I typically save them for making extra batches as needed or I sell them locally for $5 a piece. I also compost them along with the loose tea or tea bags (depending on what we used). This is pretty much a waste free process.

scoby in kombucha

Continuous Brew Kombucha Kit

28
Mar

How to Help Kids Get By With Less TV and Video Game Use

by Tiffany in Children

How to Help Kids Get By With Less TV and Video Game Use - naturemoms.com

We will never be a TV free family. We enjoy our televisions and our gaming consoles here. We also have smart phones, tablets, and rokus. These are modern luxuries that we happen to love. It is all about keeping things in perspective though. Sometimes we need to do a technology cleanse (or detox) if usage is getting out of hand. We also need to remember that life should be experienced with all of our senses and not just viewed with a screen.

Kids may need assistance from mom and dad with this issue because they aren’t known for their abilities to self regulate (yet). This is an issue that could have profoundly positive effects on your family. Do you think you could resolve to live without television or computer games for  a week? An entire month? Okay maybe smaller… how about large block of time each day when no screens are allowed? You decide. The computer would be used for work purposes only (homework, jobs, and so forth) but not entertainment. And you couldn’t cheat by watching videos on the computer!

Do you think you could do it? If you’d like to take this plunge, here are some ideas on how to get started, and some of the effects your family will likely enjoy.

1. Hold each other accountable. If you’re going to do this, no one can cheat. Make sure everyone is on board, however reluctantly. Even if your kids do not want to go with it, as parents you need to make sure you stick to the resolution and keep the television and computer games off.

2. Focus on the positive – emphasize all the things you can do now. Has someone in your family always wanted to learn to ride a bike, explore a particular natural area, or view the stars? Now that you are unplugging for the month, take advantage of the free time and do those things. Point out that you are doing this-and-such activity (perhaps watching a meteor shower) because you aren’t watching TV or playing computer games.

3. Make plans to fill the void. Replace computer games with board games and card games. “Parlor games” are also fun, like charades. I like educational games like Wildcraft or cooperative games that each us to work together to meet a goal.

4. Read books as a family. In the days before visual and auditory media, families would take turns reading aloud to the family. Try Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, or classics such as the Little House books.

5. Family members can learn to play an instrument, and have family “concerts” or recitals. Other skills that can be showcased in this way include drawing, painting, singing, sewing, and other crafts. Think how much your family will learn about each other this way.

6. Have a cookout. In fact, cooking outside saves a lot of energy, and you can engage in some really interesting energy projects this way. You don’t have to use fire to cook out, although that’s fine if your property allows. But you can also make a solar oven with aluminum foil and cardboard boxes. Let your kids build an outdoor oven like this and cook various foods.

7. Plan outdoor activities. There are concerns today that kids are not getting enough of the great outdoors. Go on hikes and explore the landscape. Use field guides to identify birds, plants, rocks, and other interesting things in your area. Look for the locations of natural springs and local waterfalls. Hunt for covered bridges in your area. Whether it’s cold or warm weather, there is something fascinating to discover in nature.

By the end of the month (or week) you probably won’t even miss the television or computer games. And your family will have a greater appreciation for each other and for what it is to live life and not just watch it.

24
Mar

Going Green Has Personal Benefits Too

by Tiffany in A Green Home

Why do we try to make our lives just a little greener? It is because we care about our planet and the future that our children will face someday. They inherit the problems we have created as a society and the problems we fail to do something about. We are also concerned about the present. Numerous global challenges we now face… air pollution, water pollution, climate crisis, wildlife facing extinction… these things impact us all every day and give us cause for alarm and motivation to do what we can to affect change.

There are reasons though that going green benefits us personally and perhaps will help sell those who don’t identify as environmentalists on the idea of “greener” pastures. Going green can help us save money and it can be better for our own health and the health of our families. Most of us are amenable to ways to save some cash and ensure that we have the healthiest and happiest lives we can. Maybe we won’t all unite for the exact same reasons but there are plenty of reasons in general to unite and do better by our planet.

Greener Living Saves Money

Green home building an renovations are all the rage right now and it is only partly because the home owners care about Mother Earth. They also care about saving money! Adding solar panels and wind turbines allows them to produce their own energy. Others insulate their homes with reclaimed jeans or install uPVC double glazed windows to keep their homes warm in winter and cool in the summer so that energy costs are reduced. Working with a home improvement company or sourcing your local experts gives you a variety of ways to reduce your carbon footprint while making your wallet just a bit fatter.

There are many of us though that cannot afford snazzy solar panels or the price tag of some of the greener building and renovation materials. There are options for just about any budget though. We can reduce energy costs by replacing our old appliances (washing machines, dishwashers) with energy efficient models. They cost about the same as any high end appliance.

Shopping used at thrift stores, consignment shops, and yard sales is good for the planet and the wallet too. We reduce the amount of new products entering the marketplace because we lower demand. We give new life to products already out there, keeping them from the the landfills. Buying used can save us an outrageous amount of money in the long run. Once you get used to that cost savings, paying full price for anything starts to leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Greener Living Is Healthier

Fixing our broken food system benefits not only the planet but also our health. All the pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers we use to grow food with on a large scale are doing terrible things to our soil, to our groundwater, and to local wildlife and ecosystems. They are also extremely bad for our health. Going back to organic, local, and smaller space food production systems will benefit our health as well as the planet’s health, and it will invigorate local economies. Also important is the fact that is takes money away from gigantic corporations who actually work against our interests and health.

Many conscious consumers are now creating their own green cleaners, making batches of crockpot soap, and growing and preserving their own food. They are returning to homestead activities of days past. This is beneficial for saving money but also it allows us to control the ingredients and products we allow to enter into our lives. Conventional cleaners are often filled with nasty ingredients that can make us sick. Good old baking soda and vinegar though is effective and healthy. Growing food at home allows us full control over how it is grown and what is used to control weeds and pests…usually just some brainpower and some bodily effort.

Many greener living enthusiasts moderate their use of a car. This can mean public transportation, which is certainly better for our planet but it can also mean more walking and bicycle riding. This translates into less impact on the planet and a more active lifestyle, which in turn improves our health. We are far too sedentary as a society but the green movement is helping us move away from so much car driving and pushing us toward people powered transportation and more walk/bike friendly cities. Everyone benefits.

How has greener living helped you to save money or improve health?

19
Mar

The Terrible Twos – What to Do

by Tiffany in parenting

The Terrible Twos – What to DoTwo year olds get a bad rep. Everywhere you look and listen you read and hear about the so-called “Terrible Twos.”  To be fair, many young tots are going through a phase of disequilibrium at age 2 1/2, according to many child development experts.

Add to that the fact that most parents are trying to potty train at this age, and Mom may be pregnant or already have another child, and it’s no wonder the 2’s can be a bit challenging.

Here are a few tips to help you deal with your toddler and even enjoy this phase!

1) Remember that a toddler is nothing more than a baby on wheels. Meaning, toddlers are active and can get into a whole lot of trouble, fast… yet they’re still so immature emotionally. That’s why tantrums are so common at this age. Toddlers have a hard time dealing with the overwhelming emotions they experience. Reading about the developmental milestones children are reaching at this age can help. I recommend Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender. This book is actually part of a series for children of every age and they are very attachment parent friendly.

2) Don’t forget babywearing. Or perhaps we should call it Toddlerwearing! Wearing your 2 to 3 year old in a soft cloth carrier, backpack or sling can still be a huge lifesaver. When your toddler is tired, overstimulated or otherwise out of sorts, wearing them will help them to settle down and maybe even go to sleep! The same is certainly true of breastfeeding. Dubbed “baby Prozac” by many, nursing can soothe the boo-boos and help a reluctant napper settle down.

3) Take care of Mom. By the time the baby is a toddler, we moms often expect life to get back to “normal”. We think that we should have it all together, be back at our prepregnancy weight, and have the house spotless like it was before baby came into the picture. This is unrealistic, especially for a mom who is expecting another baby and caring for a 2 year old! Life with a toddler is often more fatiguing because toddlers are heavier, require more supervision and discipline, and now that they’re mobile they create much more housework too!

Mom would do well to not expect too much of herself and to make sure she’s taking a break from her duties once in awhile.  Most toddlers are getting closer to their Dads and Grandparents, so asking these loving people to take over for a few hours so you can read a book, exercise or nap is a priority.

Doing so means she’ll have fresh energy and perspective to devote to her favorite little person – her busy, intense and lovable 2 year old.