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11/26/2012
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For most of us, the holidays are a season filled with a lot of hustle and bustle. If we can conquer our shopping list, decorate the house, get the cards in the mail and still find time to don a reindeer sweater and sing a carol or two, we’ve found success. 

So, while I am wary of adding another item to your holiday to-do list, I do want to propose that we parents keep in mind that the holidays are one of the best times to teach kids lessons that they will use for life about how to be thankful, how to be generous, and how to be responsible for their actions in the world. The best part is that most of these teachings arise from the things that you’re doing anyway; you just need to be aware of them.

child with Christmas gift
Give kids the best gift of all this year—self-awareness. Photo By Fotowerk/Courtesy Fotolia.

The underlying lesson for children is to realize that they are part of something bigger and that every action has a consequence, good or bad.  Here are three ways to keep these goals in mind during the holidays:

1. Celebrate thankfulness at Thanksgiving.

So many families focus on turkey and pumpkin pie, but not nearly as many spend time actually talking about what they’re thankful for. Whether setting up an activity like a Gratitude Tree, or simply making a point to go around the table during dinner and giving thanks, make sure that you focus on this key aspect of the holiday. For younger kids, I suggest that parents get the ball rolling so children think past the extra gravy they’re happy about and start thinking deeper. Don’t get discouraged if you get answers that wouldn’t inspire a Dickens novel. It will take time, but they’ll get the idea eventually.

2. Invite your children to give.

Having talked about some of the things you’re thankful for, and things that make you happy, ask your kids to answer this question, “Can you think of anything you can do to make someone else happy?” In an effort to support their creativity, try to resist the urge to evaluate their ideas but simply encourage them to brainstorm as many as possible. Once you’ve gotten a good set, pick out a few that are actionable. Calling Grandma and singing her a song, shopping for groceries for a family who doesn’t have a nice meal, donating old blankets so someone else can have a warm bed, and donating toys to kids who don’t have as many are all wonderful outcomes. Try to find some activities where kids can witness the effects of their actions first hand, supporting their understanding of cause and effect. For more ideas, Dr. Robyn Silverman offers a good list on her blog.

3. Teach them to be kind to the environment through modeling.

At Green Kid Crafts, one of our goals is to use our craft kits to engage kids with nature and help develop their respect for the environment. We feel that it is not only imperative that the next generation understand the importance of caring for our planet, but that this creates a higher level of self-awareness and compassion in them for all things. During the holidays, there are plenty of ways to teach environmental awareness at home:

• Make gifts by upcycling found objects at home. You can find any number of ideas online; we’ve collected our favorites on our DIY Gifts and Gifts for Kids Pinterest boards. Think too about immaterial gifts, like doing something nice for someone, instead of giving them a physical gift.

• When you do buy gifts, look for options that are minimally packaged and produced by socially responsible companies. Green America is a great resource for this. Talk to your kids about these benefits and why they’re important to you.

• Think upcycling when it comes to decorations and wrapping paper to avoid introducing more things to the waste stream. You’ll save money, have some fun and end up with a more personal and special result. Brown paper bags, egg cartons, and other commonly found household items make amazing decorations. Check out some inspiration here. Your kids will have a blast making these projects with you, and you’ll be able to talk to them about why you’re doing it this way versus buying something in a store.

• Recycle. Recycle. Recycle. Don’t let the holidays throw off your family’s good habits!

Keep these themes in mind throughout the holiday season, making sure to talk to your kids about them at every opportunity. You’ll be amazed at how responsive they’ll be and what a positive effect it will have on your holiday!

What are your best holiday moments? Leave us a comment below.


Kristine Ford is part of team at Green Kid Crafts, a mom-owned company making fun, earth friendly craft kits for kids. Learn more about Green Kid Crafts and their craft kit subscription service at GreenKidCrafts.com. 



6/20/2012

KyLynn HullKyLynn Hull is a freelance writer who dabbles in many things including writing, urban farming and raising backyard chickens. She writes regularly for garden and food blog, Green City Garden Girl - Bound by the Seasons. 

Lukas HullThis is our newest addition. His name is Lukas or "Lu" for short. He's six months old and the smiliest little thing you'll ever meet. I wish I could say it was always like this, but we had a rough start when he developed a little thing called colic. After a few dozen tears (on my part) we got through it with flying colors and his charming personality shined through.

It's funny how quickly you move on from those tough times with a newborn. It's like it never happened, and now the fun begins. He is a breast-fed baby, which I'm happy to say has not only gave him a nice nutritional start but also saved us A LOT of money. Recently, we started introducing solids after a recent trip to Idaho visiting my sister. We are a bossy bunch and she demanded to be around for some of his firsts, which included starting him on solid foods. (And this she says after being there when he was born; I would say that was some first!) So we steamed some of his "first" carrots, added some unsalted butter and watched him go to town. It was like he had been eating this stuff his whole life. (Yes, all six months of it!)

I don't like to rush my kid's little lives, but I have to admit I was anticipating this stage because, with my first son, I loved preparing his food and being very specific about what he ate. It was always a family joke about my obsessive ways and the many kidney beans I gave him to snack on. "Kidney beans?" My brother would ask, convinced I was ridiculous. I was a little, but it gave me complete satisfaction to methodically prepare his food and I was really looking forward to doing it again.

The best thing about making your own baby food, besides saving you tons of money, is the fact you know exactly what you're giving them. I like choosing fresh foods and, although I don't always buy organic for my family, I do for my baby. Somewhere down the road later, much later, they'll want their candy fix and some french fries—but right now it's a time for wholesome baby foods.

fresh pureed carrots 
Fresh pureed carrots. Photo By KyLynn Hull. 

unsalted butter 
Adding unsalted butter to carrots actually makes them more nutritious. Photo By KyLynn Hull.

steamed peas 
Steamed peas ready for a spin. Photo By KyLynn Hull.

Homemade baby food recipes are so ridiculously easy. It's a cinch to make enough food ahead of time to store in the refrigerator. I don't spend the time freezing mine for future use, because I make small enough batches. (I think I just like the whole process of preparing the food, so I don't mind making new batches twice weekly.) If this isn't your style, and you would rather make several weeks worth in advance, I'd definitely recommend freezing your homemade baby food.

Now the fun part: exploring homemade baby food. It's a fun process and the opportunities are endless. These could be the easiest and quickest recipes I write, so let's get started. Here are some tried and true wholesome recipes you'll have success with. These are "firsts" for baby when introducing them to solids; down the road you can add some fun stuff like wild salmon, organic chicken and legumes.

Homemade Baby Food Recipes

Note: you can add rice cereal to any recipe with baby's preferred milk. You can also have fun combining the recipes below for a variation, like peas/carrots, avocado/carrot, apples/pears, etc.

Homemade Organic Pureed Carrots  

Adding butter to the carrots actually adds nutritional value because it allows the beta-carotene in the carrot to be absorbed.

Organic carrots
Unsalted, high-quality butter

Peel carrots and place in a steamer over boiling water; steam until soft and place in food processor or blender. Add a dollop of unsalted butter and blend until soft; add carrot water to thin puree.

Homemade Organic Pureed Peas 

Frozen varieties are just as nutritious as fresh.

Bag of frozen, organic peas

Place peas in a steamer over boiling water; steam until soft, add some reserved water or baby's preferred milk and blend each until smooth.

Homemade Organic Butternut Squash or Sweet Potato Puree

Peel and cut in cubes and place in a steamer over boiling water; steam until soft, add some reserved water or baby's preferred milk and blend each until smooth.

Homemade Organic Broccoli and Cauliflower Puree

 Note: broccoli loses half of its vitamin C content when boiled; it pays to steam it.

 Place in steamer over boiling water; steam until soft, add some reserved water or baby's preferred milk and blend each until smooth.

Smashed Banana, Avocado and Papaya Baby Food 

No need to make in advance: these are dandy no-cook, nutritional options.

Half, ripe banana (or avocado or papaya)
Baby's preferred milk

Smash banana in bowl until smooth; add baby's preferred milk to thin.

Homemade Quinoa Baby Food 

The best part of making this highly nutritional seed is you can add any above fruit or veggie to add additional flavor. 

Box of quinoa

Cook as directed on package. Blend in food processor until smooth. (Now would be the time to add banana, steamed apples, carrots, etc...)



4/19/2012
Tags:

 safe makeup 

Lately I have been looking for make up that is free of potentially harmful chemicals.  Feeling and looking beautiful should not come with the price tag of our health.  It’s important for makeup companies to know that we want beauty products that don’t hinder our wellbeing in any way.  I vote with my money, and will purchase products that are free of: 

 

  • Benzophenones (oxybenzone) – Can have photoallergic reactions and is a hormone disrupter. 
  • Paraben (butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben) – The most widely used preservative in cosmetics and personal care products.  It can mimic estrogen in the body, may disrupt hormones and possibly increase the risk of breast cancer.  (see this video - http://envirocancer.cornell.edu/research/endocrine/videos/makeup.cfm) 
  • Phthalates – A chemical additive that can disrupt the endocrine system, mimic estrogen, cause thyroid problems, allergies and asthma. 
  • Sulfates (sodium laurly sulfate SLS or sodium laureth sulfate SLES) – This thickening, lathering agent is a skin irritant (despite being used in products that you put on your skin!) and can mimic estrogen.  SLS has been linked to cancer causing carcinogens. 

A resource is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.  Just type in your make up brand and it will give you the lowdown on that product http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/  My complaint with this site is that it does not state why some products don’t get better marks than others.  So, use it.  But sometimes question how they came to their conclusions. 

Here’s what is in my makeup bag!  I am very happy with all of these products: 

  • Zuzu liquid eyeliner 
  • Gabriel foundation 
  • Mineral Fusion lipstick 
  • Badger lip tint & shimmer 
  • Pacifica Hawaiian Ruby Guava perfume 

 

 



4/2/2012

Faith MoserFaith Moser is the creator of eco ike {organic baby t’s + cookbooks full of yummy, healthy and quick recipes for kids and grown-ups}! If you want your kids to grow, live, eat & play green, visit ecoike.com.  

Board games are a great addition to structured play! They combine entertainment and education into one fun experience, and it’s the perfect activity on a rainy day or when there’s time to fill and your kids are saying, “I’m bored.”  

board games for kids 

Simple lessons such as taking turns, learning to win and lose, and communication intermixes with lessons about anything from math to astronomy (depending on the game you choose). There are endless options for children’s games. Choose ones that are age-appropriate and that would be of interest to your child. 

There are so many great games on the market today, but these five made our “must play” list! 

  • Uno: This classic is a favorite for so many reasons! It’s super fun, fast-paced, easy to play and it teaches kids simple (but important) lessons such as colors, numbers, matching and order. It’s also super portable making it a great game to bring on any trip. 
  • Trouble: This game is so much fun for all ages! I love playing this with my 9-year-old nephew. The bubble can lead to trouble or victory, all depending on how things shake down. Great skills like counting and taking turns make this game fun and definitely worth playing. 
  • Bananagrams:Bbuild connecting words! You win when you’ve used all of your letters. It’s a fast-paced and fun way for beginning spellers (and established spellers) to test their skills or show off their quick wit with words. 
  • Connect Four: Literally connect four pieces in either a horizontal, vertical or diagonal direction. Tic-tac-toe-ish in nature, this game reinforces counting, color recognition and strategy. 
  • Checkers: An oldie and a goodie! Kids learn reasoning, logic and pre-math skills with this classic. It’s a must-play and a wonderful game that your child can play with any adult and as a grown-up.


4/2/2012
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coconut banana carrot cake


4/2/2012
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Who doesn’t love sugar? It’s one of the most delicious ingredients in the food world… but unfortunately, it is also is one of the unhealthiest! Our beloved sweetener is void of any nutritional quality and worst of all, is linked to diabetes, depressed immune systems and obesity. According to Pediatrician, Dr. Kavey, “The reason that we think of it as a problem is because of the big rise in obesity in childhood, and that rise has occurred over the same time period that there’s been a major increase in the amount of simple sugar that children consume.

The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 5 percent of total calories from sugar and that children should have no more than 3 teaspoons a day and teens should consume no more than 5 to 8 teaspoons daily. Considering that one can of soda contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 1 cup of children’s sweetened cereal has roughly 5 teaspoons of sugar, it’s pretty safe to say that most families are exceeding the recommended daily sugar intake!

Knowing that an excess of sugar is not good for us, what can parents do? Here are four steps to consume less of the sweet stuff:

Be sure to read labels! You wouldn’t think that a company is putting sugar in your marinara sauce, peanut butter, crackers or soup, but they are. They are also doing in it obscure ways. You are looking out for “sugar” on labels and food companies are sneaking them in with murky words like: barley malt, cane juice crystals, carob syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextran, dextrose, diatase, diastatic malt, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, glucose solids, high fructose corn syrup, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, mannitol, refiner’s syrup, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose. Basically, anything ending with, “-ose” is a sugar. Know the sugar lingo! One of my golden rules with food products is that if I do not know what the ingredient is, I pass on the product!

Know that “healthy”sugars (honey, molasses, maple syrup & agave) are still sugars! They all have added nutrients and would be the preferred sweetener choice. Honey contains minerals, amino acids and B Vitamins. Molasses contains iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Maple syrup contains zinc, manganese and potassium. Agave contains small amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium. Even though they are not stripped down of all their nutrients, these sweeteners basically break down in the body the same way that sugar does. They may have some added nutrients, but once digested they are basically seen as sugar by the body.

Modify family-favorite recipes! An easy way to omit or reduce sugar consumption is by modifying recipes. When possible, omit sugar in savory dishes. When it comes to baking, try reducing the sugar by tablespoons or 1/4 cup. You can compensate the lack of sugar by adding another dash of cinnamon or your favorite spice. Baked goods are not as adaptable as savory dishes, so some trial and error may be involved.

Start a food journal! I know that families barely have time to sit down for breakfast, let alone write in a food journal, but the best way to reduce sugar is to be aware of the sugar being eaten on a daily basis. Once you are conscious of how much is being consumed, you may realize that the family’s daily intake is far more than you realized. A quick notation of the food & sugar content can be a great tool to see how quickly and frequently you are consuming sugar.



3/27/2012
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 Our children’s easy, go-to breakfast on weekday mornings are organic cereal bars. They love them and request them every day. After a little label reading it became very clear why they love them so much! They are LOADED with sugar. I am trying to reduce our family’s sugar intake, so I decided to come up with a cereal bar alternative that was low in sugar and high in protein and nutrition (and of course, deliciousness!). This breakfast cookie fits the bill! It is so scrumptious that they are almost addictive. They also are far more nutritious than the average cereal bar sold everywhere. Made with almond flour, oats, walnuts, cherries and chunks of dark chocolate, this recipe will quickly become a family favorite! Feel free to tinker with your families personal preferences! Replace the cherries with cranberries, dates, raisins or banana chips, or the chia seeds with flax, pumpkin, sunflower or sesame seeds.  

 
Who knew that a breakfast bar alternative could be this tasty and good for you! 
 
½ cup butter, melted 
2-3 Tablespoons honey 
2 organic eggs 
½ teaspoon vanilla 
1 cup almond flour 
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
¼ teaspoon ginger 
¼ teaspoon cloves 
½ teaspoon baking soda 
¼ teaspoon baking powder 
1 cup oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free) 
¾ cup dark chocolate chips 
1/3 cup dried cherries 
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut 
1/3 cup walnuts, broken in half or quarters (I like them chunky, but cut to your preference) 
2 teaspoons chia seeds 
 
1.) Preheat oven to 350°. 
2.) In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter, honey, eggs and vanilla. Add the almond flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking soda and baking powder until just combined. Add the oats and stir until just combined. Add the chocolate chips, cherries, coconut, walnuts and chia seeds until just combined. 
3.) Using a small scooper, drop onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Lightly flatten the dough. 
4.) Bake for 11-12 minutes. Once cooled, store in an air-tight container. I pop most of these in an air-tight freezer container. 12 seconds in our microwave will thaw and warm them.  
 




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