Kids birthday parties are notorious for being extravagant wasteful affairs these days. The market is huge for all the party gear that is needed…the balloons, plates, napkins, favors, confetti, etc. They come in every theme known to man so that the birthday celebration can be a perfect example of the commercialization of our children. All of it has held very little appeal to me as a parent and I have chosen to “just say no” for years. For us that means we don’t do “themes” and we usually don’t even invite guests beyond family. In fact instead of parties we usually just plan a special event… a night at a hotel with a waterpark (for our two winter birthdays) and cake and gifts with parents and grandparents. Our summer birthday boy usually gets a paintball adventure.
It has been a very conscious decision not to buy into the commercialization of birthdays but I recently read a book that softened my heart to the idea of more traditional parties. The book is Naturally Fun Parties for Kids; Creating Handmade, Earth-Friendly Celebrations for All Seasons and Occasions. The book is gorgeous and some of the parties outlined in it reminded me of parties that might have been thrown for kids decades ago. They are simple yet elegant and fun for everyone, not just the wee birthdays guests. THESE are parties I can get behind…where Buzz Lightyear and Dora are nowhere to be found and there aren’t huge bags of garbage to be thrown out at the end.
The book is broken up into sections for each season, which is helpful but the intro talks about shopping thrift stores for party stuff, using regular plates and flatware, cloth napkins, and using nature as the centerpiece and backdrop of the party. I loved the themes too…pancake party, forest fairy party, natural spa party, strawberry picking/jam making party, winter solstice party, cooking party, upcycle art party and so on. There are plenty of ideas for both boys and girls and every party is perfectly outlined so you can reproduce it on your own. The pictures are sensational as well. I know my daughter would be thrilled by the spa party and the book includes recipes for facials and scrubs made with natural ingredients so that the attendees can have a spa experience without the toxins in conventional products. It is perfect for slumber parties too if you ask me.
I suggest that parents look a little less on Pinterest for birthday party ideas and check this book out instead. I highly recommend it! Enjoy!
See also: How to Host a Green Birthday Party
I have a complicated relationship with jewelry. Unlike most women it seems I don’t like wearing any. That goes for necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings…everything. The exception to this rule though comes into play when the jewelry has personal meaning or a story behind it that touches me. In that case I will happily wear whatever bauble it is with pride and a little smile every time I look down at it or touch it. These pieces with such significance are rare for me though.
When I walk into a jewelry store or a department store I find those pieces are cold and meaningless, even if I can admit they are pretty. At thrift stores, yard sales, and estate auctions, I like to look at the items and imagine the person who used them and what their story was. If I am able to learn of their story or if they remind me of some meaningful part of my life journey then I might actually buy. This doesn’t happen often though which is why I can fit all my jewelry possessions in a small box.
When the Global Team of 200 recently introduced me to 1000 Shillings I knew they carried one of those rare pieces I would wear. They have a story and their story breaks my heart.
These lovely necklaces (or earrings) are paper bead pieces made by six women who live in the Namatala slum of Mbale, Uganda. They live on 1000 shillings (or .40 cents) per day and this company is designed to help them start their own small business selling their art in the global marketplace so they are able to stand on their own two feet. The woman owners have worked in Nepal, China, Thailand, Mexico and Italy on similar projects but 1000 Shillings was born out of Uganda and the work they started there.
The goal of 1000 Shillings is that you get to know the woman you are buying from, and then, through purchasing her products, you help her to become a self-sufficient businesswoman that is able to support her family.
I cannot even imagine a better reason to wear jewelry…knowing the story behind the woman who made it and why she is making it and then in turn helping her better her life and realize her dreams with your purchase. The items are named after the woman in Uganda that made them and it tells her story on the product page. My favorite it is the necklace you see above called “Elizabeth”. It took me all of five minutes to see it and read her story (with tears falling down my face) before I purchased. I cannot imagine living through the things she has or trying to sell yams just to get by and feed my children.
Perhaps on some level I don’t like to wear baubles because it feels wrong to wear adornments like that when so many have so little but this necklace (when it comes) I have a feeling will be worn daily with pride because it has meaning and the simple act of my wearing it may have (hopefully) made someone’s life a little better.
Compassionate jewelry purchases, either for myself or as gifts for others, I can get behind with gusto!
Please, please visit 1000 Shillings and see what they are all about yourself.
This post was written as a member of the Global Team of 200 a group of mom bloggers banding together to work for social good.
Gift wrapping paper with all it’s bright colors and beautiful design is often hard to resist. Yet it is also expensive and wasteful to produce and use. Why use resources to produce beautiful paper that will end up ripped to shreds and thrown away only a few weeks later? Should we just go without wrapping the gifts that we give to others? Most people like to give gifts with some sort of embellishment so you may want to consider cheaper “recycled” gift wrap options. Thoughtful touches and embellishments to your gift can be accomplished by reusing everyday items. The gift should be the one to do the talking right, not the paper it is wrapped in? Of course!
When wrapping a gift for a child or the big kid at heart, save the funny section from your Sunday newspaper. This will make your gift interesting, fun and may even cause the gift recipient to chuckle.
Consider reusing old hat boxes, wooden cigar boxes or tins as gift boxes. If you do this, all you need to do is add some old curly ribbon and wrap it around the box or tin and voila! This will give your gift a unique classic look.
Other eco-friendly options include reusing wallpaper, maps and magazine pages. The use of brown paper grocery bags as gift wrap will give you the chance to bring out the artist in you (or your child). In order to this, grab a handful of colored pens, crayons and stencils and create your own designs.
Many people wrap gifts using reusable items. This includes squares of colorful fabric or old vibrant sheets, which you can often find at thrift stores. The use of blankets and scarves will make your gift unique, eco-friendly and beautiful. The recipient can also use the wrapping! If you are unsure of how to make fabric wrapped gifts attractive check out Wrapagami: The Art of Fabric Gift Wraps a book with complete instructions and tutorials for fabric gift wrap works of art.
Use pieces of nature to accent gifts, these items include: seashells, leaves, holly berries, painted pine cones, and other objects of nature. Highlights these accents by using bright red ribbon, light use of glue and add glitter to give your gift some sparkle. If you need tissue paper, use shredded material from a paper shredder.
Don’t let the cost of gift wrapping, or its wastefulness, take the fun out of it for you. There are many eco-friendly ways to wrap gifts. The DIY (do it yourself) approach will allow you to be creative, reuse old items and have fun. Tis the season to be creative, save money, and do something good for the environment.
If you are looking for something easier, perhaps something ready made but no less green and reusable, I like some of these options:
Set of 3 Santa’s Large Fabric Christmas Gift Bags - Can be reused year after year to wrap your children’s gifts and they say ‘From Santa”. Too cute!
Reusable bags! If you bought Disney toys then look for a Disney tote bag to to put the gifts in…same for Angry Birds, Star Wars, or Lego. For adults there are obviously more fashionable prints. Then depending on age, the recipient has a convenient toy storage bag or a grocery shopping bag after they unwrap their gift.
Reuseit also has tons of very pretty fabric and reusable wrapping ideas, like the ones below. Check them out too!
For more eco holidays ideas check out the Green Holiday Blog Carnival at Retro Housewife Goes Green.
This morning I got a great reminder from a green blogger I admire, and that I got to meet in person a couple months ago. The lovely Shane at Environmental Booty is asking others to share what they do to to find fulfillment and make the most of each day. It is so important to be able to find your happiness and joy in little things, each and every day and yet it is so hard to do for many of us. This is an important topic for me because I tend to be one of those “someday” people. I have big dreams. I have concrete ideas of what I want my life to be and what I want to do with it. There is nothing wrong with dreaming big of course but folks like me forget to live in the moment and seek out happiness right this very second. If I am not careful I find myself drifting aimlessly and starting to get depressed that someday is still so far off.
Last year though I made a resolution to spend greater time on self care and finding happiness NOW. It worked so well that my resolution this year was to have more fun. I would like to think I am getting pretty good at making the most of every day now. It is not uncommon to find myself thinking that if this, right now, was all my life would ever come to be, then I am pretty darn lucky. When you seek joy every day, you don’t have to worry so much about someday anymore.
So what do I do to find my happiness? These days I make time for myself and I seek happiness by going to the gym several times a week. It gets the day started right and I feel good when I do. I make time to visit the library usually once a week and just meander up and down the isles looking at books. Books=happiness. I take a class or go to a workshop on the weekend, for fun and to better myself. I visit thrift stores to find good deals. I go the movies by myself. I saw John Carter yesterday and fell in love.
Sometimes I tell my husband that we simply MUST go out for ice cream (while the kids are in school) and we go to Jeni’s ice Cream together. We did this just last week in fact. It is artisan ice cream with unique and amazing flavors. They also use local grass fed cream! Does this not scream happiness?!?!
Magnolia Mochi, Mango Kiwi, Icelandic Happy Marriage Cake, and Tres Leches w/Here and There Cherries
Mmmm, I think we need to go again this week. ;)
TODAY I have found my happiness in…
Getting up early so I could throw dinner in the slow cooker AND watch a few episodes of Friday Night Lights in peace and quiet.
Cooking yummy Garlic Ginger Chicken for me and two of my men folk, for lunch.
Buying myself some flowers and putting them on my desk to enjoy all day long.
The flowers teased me at the grocery all week long and I resisted their urges until today when I read Shane’s post. Then when I went out to get butter for the aforementioned chicken, I HAD to get them. I am so happy that I did. Someone at the store sprinkled them with glitter and it just gives them a magical feel. Every time I look at them I have to smile in contentment. Finding your happiness doesn’t only have to be about the big moments in life, it can be about all the small ones too.
What do you do to make every moment count and find happiness in the small stuff? Link up below:
Hiking is an easy and fun way to get in shape and work on your fitness goals. It is also a great way to reconnect with nature, get much need outdoors time in the fresh air and sunlight, and get away from the stresses of fast paced city living. Hiking has been one of my all time favorite ways to exercise for many years now. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
But like many sports and fitness activities it seems that synthetic clothing and gear is predominantly what you find in sporting goods stores. I happen to find much of it uncomfortable and prone to getting smelly if you wear it long enough. This clothing is often made of some sort of poly blend which is actually plastic. Unless it is recycled plastic, then it may not be the greenest gear for you to wear. Since hiking is supposed to help us connect with mother nature and identify with the need to protect our outdoor spaces, wearing clothing that harms the planet is a form of hypocrisy. Fortunately outdoor retailers are catching on to this and slowly we are seeing more green options for the hiking enthusiast. An example of affordable and effective green options are the north face products.
After checking local thrift stores and consignment shops you may end up with a few good hiking pieces but then again you may not. Serious hikers can go through gear pretty fast. You may find some hiking poles, an external frame pack, or wool socks though… it always worth a look right?
If you can’t second hand source this stuff I have put together a quick list of some of my fave eco hiking recommendations below, to give you some ideas of what is out there. Enjoy!
1. You may hate slathering yourself with toxic sunscreen but your head and face can get burned pretty quickly if you don’t cover up. This Earth Divas Hemp Floppy Hat is just what you need. If will help keep those harmful rays off your skin and it is made with natural, breathable hemp.
Wool is a great choice for hiking gear since it is a natural fiber with lots of great qualities. It is breathable, eco friendly, and it helps regulate body temperature, which makes it a good choice no matter what the weather looks like. Wool is also known for its ability to repel moisture and wick it away from the skin. Perfect! The next 3 items are made from wool…
2. Icebreaker Women’s Henley Lite Shirt - made with silky smooth and lightweight merino wool which gives great protection against the sun and wicking properties to keep you looking great and feeling cool.
3. SmartWool Foothills Full-Zip Sweater - Gorgeous! The color and style of this sweater is amazing. For chilly morning or evening hikes it will help you warm and toasty without making you overheat. Made with 100% Merino wool for excellent insulating power and breathability. Make sure to take this sweater on ski trips too! And if you need a jacket, SmartWool makes them too.
4. Socks are an important part of hiking, just like some good boots. No one likes cold and/or wet toes… that will ruin a hike right quick! Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks are made of itch free antimicrobial merino wool.
5. Finding eco friendly shoes is tough already, finding hiking boots is even more so. These are not the perfect choice but they are definitely a step in the right direction. The idea is to absorb moisture and keep it away from your feet and these boots – the Kayland Zephyr W – use a new technology that utilizes activated carbon derived from coconut shells.. which is a recycled, sustainable material.
6. MountainSmith backpacks are often made of recycled materials which makes them a green option. Hemp and canvas are also wonderful options but may be harder to find in something larger than a daypack.
7. This bottle is really unique and I intend to write a more elaborate post on it soon but it is bamboo on the outside and glass on the inside. It can also be attached to a backpack with ease. It is sleek, fun, and eco friendly.
Get outside and go for a hike this weekend okay? If you need some inspiration check out an amazing book I just read about a woman who has hiked the Appalachian trail 3 times… Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail.