Friday, November 30, 2007

Last Day of NaBloPoMo

Finally! Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo. I did it. I posted every day for the month of November. This really should not be that big of an accomplishment for me. I posted almost every day in Sept and Oct also. So why, then, did it feel so stressful for me to post everyday in November? For me, blogging suddenly became something I "had" to do, not something I did because I wanted. The pressure to post everyday was to meet the expectations of others, not myself. It took away from my true experience of blogging and forced me to meet the standards of others.

This idea is something I've been mulling over for awhile and NaBloPoMo just brought it to the forefront. Not about blogging, but about life. That need to live up to the standards of others. It is something I often find myself in an internal struggle over. I often feel pressure to fit into my "role" in society as a mother, wife, community member. The expectations of others don't always jive with my internal desires.

Matt and I are wrestling with several life decisions right now. It is causing us to really look at what we want in our life. I am also going through a normal holiday process for me where I examine what is important in my life. I clean out both physically and emotionally. I'm reading a related book right now by one of my favorite authors. I'll probably be blogging a lot about the book in the next few weeks. It has many "exercises" that I might complete on my blog.

I'd love to write more but my kids are going in opposite directions... and not the direction they need to be going!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

PIF Gifts

I am packaging up my PIF gifts so I can get them in the mail this weekend. I chose two of my favorite things for my PIF gifts (I sound like an Oprah show!). Hope all the receivers enjoy their gifts!

The first is a handmade card from India from Hope for Women. I love these cards and will tell you more about them when I have a Hope for Women giveaway at the end of next week.
The second item is a handmade coffee cuff from my friend's Etsy site Gretchen's Creations. Gretchen is an amazing crafter. She handknits the cuffs from 100% wool then machine felts them so that they fit to-go coffee cups. A much cuter and environmentally friendly way than cardboard holders to insulate your cup and your hands. Mention that you saw the coffee cuffs on Greenstylemom and she'll give you the 2 for $20 deal. They would make a great stocking stuffer! (If you email her, she'll even make you a coffee cuff in custom colors!)

Be sure to check out Gretchen's other items. I LOVE her felted bowls. I have several for me, and I've given several of them as gifts. The little ones make great jewelry catchers.

Wanna See Me Drive a Tractor?

From our Texas trip...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

You can get the "word" version of the self-given haircuts here.

Before



After

Saffron Rouge

My friend Nona at Everyday Yogini recently introduced me to the website Saffron Rouge which sells all organic skincare products. Since I am in the process of switching to new skincare and makeup products it was perfect timing. I love that you get to pick your own free samples when you order. Nona and I are both going to join the "Inner Circle" where you get free samples of organic skincare products so we can compare products.

Saffron Rouge has a special this week to save 15% off your order. Enter the code timeout in the checkout cart. Offer expires December 4th, 2007 and is not valid with any other offer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Recipe Rally - Butternut Squash Risotto

Thought I'd join in the Recipe Rally at Crazy Hip Blog Mamas because 1) choosing my favorite squash recipe is easy; 2) I need something to do while I am sitting at the computer waiting for trip photos to download; and 3) I'm avoiding unpacking...

This is a really yummy recipe, and I think I've posted it before. Just make sure the squash is fresh. Older squashes don't have as enough flavor for this dish.

Butternut Squash Risotto

1 lb butternut squash
7-8 cups broth
2 T minced parsley
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
s/p to taste
¼ cup olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 ½ cups Arborio rice

Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and fibers, bake in oven at 375 until softened (about 30min). Cool. Scoop out pulp and place in medium bowl. Mix in parsley and nutmeg.

Pour broth into a saucepan and warm to a simmer.

In another saucepan over med heat, warm oil. Add onion and sauté until softened (about 3 min) Add the rice, stir to coat with oil, and cook, stirring, until edges are translucent, about 3-4 min. Add a ladleful of broth and cont to stir constantly over med heat. When the stock is almost fully absorbed, add another ladleful. Cont to add broth, a ladleful at a time, as soon as each ladleful is almost absorbed. The risotto is done when the rice is tender but firm, about 20 min total. (If you have a rice cooker, I make my risottos in the rice cooker. Follow directions up until you add the broth. Put the rice/onions/broth in the rice cooker and use the slow cooking option. It takes about an hour for the rice to cook.)

When the rice is done, add the butternut squash mixture, stirring well.

Banned!

Remember the Online Nurse-In to protest the Facebook and MySpace ban on breastfeeding images? Seems that the video montage of breastfeeding (I am in it twice!) that was put together has now been banned on You Tube for being "inappropriate." Here's the press release from The League of Maternal Justice

Youtube Bans Protest Video
Video Depicted Breastfeeding Moms
A mom-produced internet protest video attacking Facebook's banning of breastfeeding pictures was itself banned by the popular video sharing service Youtube after gaining recognition as the top-five most discussed of its day. A group of moms called Youtube's action hypocritical and harmful, and pointed to dozens of sexually explicit and harmful videos currently allowed on the service. The moms also pointed to a number of state laws specifically stating that public breastfeeding was not inappropriate.
If you are interested in taking action check out What You Can Do.
If you want to see some "appropriate" clips on YouTube, check these out...
(warning: NOT family friendly)
Sample Three... ugh I can't look at them anymore... just search "breasts" and you'll get 64,200 results! (Note that there are several other videos of breastfeeding still up. There are also multiple videos of explicit "How to do a breast exam" and "How to do therapeutic breast massage" which I think fall into a gray category. I don't have a problem with them, but they are certainly exposing much more breast than the montage!)

10 Tips

The Green Mommy is collecting 100 tips to save the planet to celebrate her 100th post. She came up with the first 50 and is asking readers to come up with the next 50. Here is my 10 tip contribution (I tried to choose tips that aren't already on Jenny's list).

  1. Ride your bike
  2. Use the library
  3. Bring your own bag
  4. Use hand-me-downs (okay, those who know me can quit laughing... I would use hand-me-downs if I had someone to give them to me! At least I pass most of my kids' clothes on to become hand-me-downs.)
  5. Bring your own mug to the coffee shop
  6. Use scrap paper for all your lists (I probably save a forest a year doing this!)
  7. Breastfeed
  8. Hand pull your weeds instead of using chemicals
  9. Carefully choose the companies you support when buying new
  10. Teach your children how to care for the earth

And check out the Eco-Bag instructions on Penny's Walking Upside Down blog! I love the bag that she made for me. The stamping is SO cute!

The kids and I are headed home today (finally!) to join Matt who went home on Saturday. I'm ready to see the mountains again.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Holiday Tradition

How many times do you need to do something for it to become a tradition? Is two years in a row sufficient? For the second holiday season in a row, Kate has taken the scissors to her own hair and given herself a fabulous new do. This year she decided that Jack has enough hair to join in the festivities.

After hollering, "KATE!" and watching her scamper away, all I could do was give a good sigh and smile. And take them out to get the do's freshened up. The stylist was awesome. She blended Jack's chopped hair enough that he didn't have to have his head buzzed, and she gave Kate the cutest little stacked bob - as short as a bob can get - with a little unevenness of the sides where Kate did her finest work. I'll post some pics when I get home.

Sigh.

The Best Gifts Are Baked

Gift giving doesn't get much "greener" than baking gifts for family, friends, and neighbors. I love to give (and receive!) baked items during the holidays. Quick breads, cakes, cookies, candies. As I start more holiday baking, I'll share some of my favorite baked gift recipes.

I have been a fan of King Arthur flours (have you tried their white whole wheat? It is awesome.) for as long as I have been buying my own baking ingredients. I was naturally intrigued when I received The Baker's Catalogue from King Arthur Flour. I saw the bakeable paper pans in the catalog, and I knew I had to have some for gift giving this year. How cute will a loaf of quick bread look in theses pans with the recipe attached with a bit of ribbon?

The Baker's Catalogue has donated a set of 12 Paper Gift Bakers plus 3 of their new Bakeable Star Pans to be given to a Greenstylemom reader. To enter, comment on this post (be sure to leave an email address so I can contact you if you win!) and link to this post on your blog (if you don't have a blog, you can email 3 friends a link to this post and cc me on the email kristen at greenstylemom dot com). The contest will be open through next Tuesday, Dec 4th. A winner will be randomly drawn and announced on Wed, Dec 5th.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Monday Menu Plan

I enjoyed not cooking last week but that doesn't mean we quit eating! We are going to have some of our healthiest meals this week to counteract some of the not-so-healthy eating we did last week (I ate FIVE of Aunt Evva's Denver biscuits in one sitting - yum!).

Be sure to check out the giveaway I'll be doing tomorrow (Monday)! It will be an interest to any of you who like to bake.

Monday - Last day to enjoy Mom's home cookin'
Tuesday - EV's Veggies per Matt's request
Wednesday - Quick Barley Vegetable Pilaf
Thursday - Kids' meal - baked chicken, baked butternut squash, drop biscuits
Friday - Homemade pizza (using my favorite whole wheat dough recipe) and a great big fresh salad

Visit Org Junkie for more menu ideas!

Holiday Toy Gift Guide

Be sure to check out the Crunchy Domestic Goddess' Holiday Toy Gift Guide. It has some great info and ideas for holiday gift giving plus she has a great giveaway!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Toy Garden Discount

Time to start holiday shopping! I am happy to announce that I am almost done with my holiday gifts. I'll have everything for my side of the family wrapped and ready to give by the end of this weekend! I'll leave them with my mom to hand out and forget about it. I am giving pretty simply this year. I'll blog about some of my gift giving as the holidays get closer.

I have gotten several questions lately about age appropriate toys that I like. Thought it would be a good time to blog about one of my favorite places for toys. A Toy Garden carries the kinds of toys that I love for Kate and Jack to play with - open ended, natural, and creative. Many are made in the USA or are fair trade - and the website clearly marks these toys with little icons. I've bought many, many toys there. Thought I would share some of my ideas for the different ages for which I have given recommendations. Some are specific, some are general, all can be found at A Toy Garden.

Smaller babies - wooden rattles (there are lots of great ones on this site!), baby utensils, soft dolls, or any of the gifts listed for older babies - perfect for growing into

Older babies - Chunky wooden cars or rolling animals (my kids at 2 & 3 still love these kind of toys); stacking toys like this Dwarves Stacking House (a great gift that kids won't outgrow for years and years!)

1-2 years - my favorite gift to give for this age is pull and push toys - they are always a hit! Any vehicles for little boys. Jack likes these mini cars. Also check out the several cute floatable boats

3 years - Kate has this dolly stroller and loves it, anything crafty like this bead set, and anything that involves pretending to play house - tea sets, pots and pans, etc.

Always good for all ages are blocks, dolls, puzzles, and books. I almost hate to list any of the above toys in a specific age category, because these toys are so open ended that kids continue to use them as the grow and enter different stages.

Sonya at A Toy Garden has generously offered readers a 10% discount on purchases of $50 or more using coupon code GSM1007. If you want to do any of your holiday shopping there, hop to it! The coupon code is only good through November 30th!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pay It Forward Recipients

I finally have my Pay It Forward (PIF) gifts ready send! I will post pics and tell you all about the gifts next week after I send them out. The commenters I chose to continue the PIF are...
Shannon at The Cole Mine
Shokufeh
Geggie

Email me your addresses, and I'll get those off to you as soon as I get home next week!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I have so many things to be thankful for this year, but want to know what is at the top of my list? I am very thankful that NaBloPoMo is almost over!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's a Day

I'm not having the greatest of days...

  • I have a nasty cough and a bit of a stuffed nose
  • The decongestant I took last night before bed kept me awake from 2-4am.
  • Jack kept me awake from 4-5am.
  • I haven't had internet access for several days (which was a good thing!) but now I am behind on emails again (I am perpetually behind, huh?)
  • I left my laptop power cord at my father-in-law's house, so no laptop
  • I forgot to pack the skirt I was going to wear for Thanksgiving dinner.
  • I forgot my cell phone charger at home, but I did remember my car charger.
  • I forgot to charge my cell phone with my car charger on our long car trip yesterday.
  • This morning while trying to charge my cell phone in the car, I locked my kids in the car with the keys in the ignition! Fortunately the car wasn't actually running.
  • And that is all by 10am!

BUT it is Matt's birthday today! The day can only get better because we have a birthday party this evening with chili, presents, and a pecan pie birthday "cake" planned.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Spinach Balls

I didn't do Monday Menu Plan this week because I am off cooking duty this week while we are away for Thanksgiving. Instead I'll share this recipe that I've been making it anytime I need to bring an appetizer to an event. It is a recipe my mom always made. I'm posting it at the request of Shokufeh.


Spinach Balls
2 10oz packages of chopped frozen spinach, cooked and drained
2 cups herbed seasoned stuffing mix (I found an organic brand at the grocery store)
1 large onion, chopped (I like it finely chopped in the food processor)
5 beaten eggs
3/4 cup melted margarine
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon garlic salt (I often use fresh garlic plus reg salt)
1 tsp pepper


Mix everything together. Chill 2 hours. Roll in small balls. Bake on cookie sheet for 20 min at 350. Let cool 3-5 minutes before serving or balls fall apart when taken off cookie sheet. Can freeze before baking. Makes about 90 balls.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Free Subscription to Organic Gardening Magazine

After reading Mindful Momma's post on the Horizon boycott, I switched over our yogurt brand to Stonyfield Farm. When I opened a tub of yogurt last week, I noticed on the bottom of the lid seal that you can receive a free one-year subscription to Organic Gardening magazine by sending in 4 of the specially marked lids. We our big yogurt eaters so our family uses about 2 tubs a week. Since I'll have my subscription and extra lids in no time, and I am considering using the offer to give a free gift or two as well. You can get details here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Another Interview with Greenstylemom

Another interview! This one by Everyday Yogini. What amazing questions. Nona was one of my neighbors in cohousing until she decided to leave me and take off on her great adventure. She was also my first friend in Colorado!


1) Kristen, I love your blog, Green Style Mom. Where did you come up with the idea and what is your vision for your site?

My original idea stemmed from reading some of the mom-baby shopping blogs that review products and offer discount codes. I love the sites but often find that the products don't fit with my desire to buy more sustainable products. I wanted to write a blog where product reviews are more environmentally friendly. I also realize that being greener is more often about products you don't buy, so I decided to also write about other ways our family is trying to be more green (plus I didn't want my blog to be impersonal).


I'm not sure I have a true "vision" for my site. My approach right now is to see where it takes me, but I would like to eventually move to my own domain and learn more technical blog things.


2) You live in a cohousing community. Living in close community with a diverse group can be challenging. What is the greatest lesson you've learned living there?

There are so many lessons to be learned in cohousing! I think the most important on that I am trying (not always successfully) to live is to keep my mouth shut. Cohousing can be like its own small town where information travels quickly and not always accurately. Several times things that I have specifically said in confidence have come back to me only hours later. I am getting very good at going directly to those with whom I have an issue and encouraging others to do the same. There are so many other lessons I've learned living here. I have a few posts mentally planned about some of them. The best part is that these lessons not only apply to life in cohousing, but also to life in the great community.


3) If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be, and why?

Physically it would be the second toe on my right foot. It is a long, wormy toe and sticks out further than all my other toes. Non-physical... I would like to be less paranoid. I won't even get into that.



4) How have motherhood & your kids changed you and your perspectives on life?

I've become much less judgemental. In typical fashion, I knew just how to be the perfect parent until I actually became one. I am also learning more how to appreciate individuality. I am realizing that I can't make people be who I want them to be (esp my children!) and instead I am learning to better love them for who they are.

5) If you could wish one thing into your life right now, what would it be, and why?

A daily housekeeper who would pick up and clean my home, know where everything belongs, know how to take care of everything (like not to soap and soak my cast iron or my porous stoneware), prepare meals as needed, and babysit as needed. Basically be at my beck and call. Do I even need to elaborate on why?

Now that you've read my interview, do you want to be interviewed? If you would like me to interview you on your blog, just leave me a comment!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Interview with Greenstylemom

(If you are looking for my TV interview, it is below!)

Awhile back (okay, a long while back) Amy at Crunchy Domestic Goddess was interviewed by a fellow blogger and offered to interview any of her readers. It has taken me much too long, but I finally found some quiet time to answer.

1) What was your inspiration for starting your blog?
I had been contemplating a blog for several years (even had my Blogger account!) but just never felt I had the time to start. One afternoon on a long drive, I was listening to a podcast by Hip Tranquil Chick featuring the founders of Ladies Who Launch. I was inspired to just start writing and see where it goes.

2) You have two beautiful children. Do you feel your family is complete or do you see more children in your future down the road?
I am pretty sure our family is complete. Occasionally I have an urge to add another child, but I also like the balance in our family. I am also enjoying the increased freedom of having older children. I'm not sure I want to return to the baby days. However, Matt won't do anything permanent because he says that he is only 98% sure that we are done.

3) What little known fact about you might surprise some of your readers?
Everyone always seems surprised to find out that I was a waterpolo player in college.

4) If you could ask everyone in the world to make one single change to benefit the earth, what would it be?
Recycle everything they can. It isn't that difficult, but I am amazed at how much people complain about it or don't think it matters. It sickens me when I think of the amount of waste that we produce.

5) Let's say you are going to be stranded with your family on a deserted island for 90 days. What 3 things would you take with you and why?
- My laptop to stay connected to friends and family (there is Wi-Fi on this island, right?)
- Sunscreen for my red headed husband and his sensitive skin offspring (although both kids tan)
- A collection of children's novels that we can read out loud around the campfire

It is interview weekend - I am doing another interview tomorrow!

Friday, November 16, 2007

TV Interview

Here is my big TV Interview! No making fun of me. It isn't easy to think clearly with a camera in front of your face.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Birth Story Collection

Every mom I know loves to read birth stories. I was inspired by the hostess at the screening of The Business of Being Born to share my stories. I think it is important for all of us as mothers. So if you haven't already, post your birth story (or multiple birth stories!) on your blog and use Mr. Linky to let use know it is there. To participate:
  1. Post your birth story
  2. Please mention the birth story carnival in a current post on your blog and link back to this site.
  3. Sign Mr. Linky below. You may sign more than once for multiple birth stories. please link to your individual birth story post instead of to your home page. You can do this by: right click on the time at the bottom of the post you want to link to, click “copy shortcut” and then paste it into the Mr. Linky.
  4. When signing Mr. Linky, please list after your name what type of birth you had. Examples: c-sect, home birth, unmed hosp birth, etc.
  5. Please respect everyone's birth choices.

I am really looking forward to reading all the birth stories!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Last Minute Great Deal

I have said before that I love Garnet Hill (and no doubt I'll say it again!). Great products, many of which are environmentally friendly. If you love Garnet Hill like me or you are interested in trying out their products, they are offering 20% off any purchases until midnight tonight! But you must use this link to get the discount.
Garnet Hill

I know I am behind on the birth story carnival. I am going to do it tomorrow... cross my heart!

AND interviews! I have lots of 'em! My TV interview should be ready to post on Friday. I also plan to post interviews from Crunchy Domestic Goddess and Everday Yogini over the weekend so you can learn even more about me.

Edited to add: Garnet Hill has extended their 20% off on the entire site until 11/18/07 if you use source code H7W44B

Cast Iron

Another great thing about cohousing? There is a box in the common house for "things that need a new home." There is a variety of things put there, but mostly it tends to be household goods. Since I am usually trying to downsize in our house, I usually don't take anything. A month or so ago I did find something that I wanted. A set of old cast iron skillets. They were a little rusty, but with a good scrubbing and re-seasoning, they were good as new. Jackpot!

My love affair with cast iron is fairly recent. It started last Christmas when Matt got me a cast iron griddle. I use it for everything... pancakes, fish, chicken, veggies, eggs. I expanded my cast iron cookware last spring and bought myself a small skillet. I continue to be amazed at how well food cooks on cast iron. It heats evenly and is nonstick once it is seasoned.

Cast iron is relatively inexpensive, and it lasts forever. Unlike Teflon and aluminum, you don't have to worry about what is seeping into your food with cast iron. Any iron in your food from cast iron is actually considered healthy!

Cast Iron Cabin has a whole line of cast iron cookware and is offering readers 10% purchases on their website using code GSMBS07. It would be a great place to start or expand your cast iron collection. They carry a 3-piece pre-seasoned skillet set that would make a great starter set. They also have muffin & biscuit pans or apple bakers that would make great gifts. And look at the cute alphabet cookie pan. I am planning on expanding my cast iron collection soon to include some bakeware and a dutch oven. I am also planning on giving several cast iron gifts this Christmas.

Edited: I missed a letter on the discount code, so try the corrected one!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Room for Guests

One of the benefits of living in cohousing is the use of the common house. I know that common houses vary from community to community, but our community has a great common house. As my friend Nona said when she and her husband were looking at homes in our community, "I want to live in that one!" (ie the common house). The common house is one of the ways that cohousers share resources.

The common house has multiple rooms for multiple purposes - a big kitchen, dining room, lounge room, playroom, etc. Our common house also has 2 guest rooms. One has a queen bed and the other has 2 twin beds. There is no charge to use them, and it is as easy as signing up in the reservation book for whatever nights you need them. Your only requirement is to clean up after your guests - wash the sheets and towels, make the beds, empty any trash, and do a quick vacuum. The guest room users are usually family and friends of community residents, although occasionally the community will host visitors in the rooms.

We use the guest rooms whenever we have visitors. I often leave our guests a little basket of extras in the room with some sample shampoos and soaps as well as a snack and some water. Can I tell you how nice it is to have guests close but not too close? At night guests usually wander over to their common house room before it gets to late giving our family a little alone time. I also don't fret over making sure guests are accommodated in the mornings. If they are early risers, they can shower and head over to the coffee shop on the corner for coffee or tea and a breakfast taco. If they like to sleep in, we don't worry about being quiet and trying not to disturb them.

There is also an environmental benefit to these guest rooms. We have over 30 households all sharing the use of two rooms. (Rarely is there a problem with one not being available - usually only over holidays) Instead of 30 families heating, cooling, lighting, cleaning, and up keeping 30 guest rooms, we share those responsibilities in just 2 rooms.

We hosted my friend from Indianapolis in one of the rooms last night. She is heading home this afternoon, so I gotta go get the room ready for the next guest!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Just for the record, I already don't feel like cooking this week. Sorry it isn't a more inspiring menu.

Monday - Dinner out with a friend in town

Tuesday - Community Meal - no cooking, just eating!
Wednesday - Salad (I still have some greens in the garden from my late summer planting!) with grilled veggies and goat cheese
Thursday - Kids' Meal - baked chicken, baked acorn squash, and roasted potatoes

Friday - Leftovers to clean out the fridge

And I forgot that I was going to do the birth story carnival today! I am going to try to get it up later today, if not maybe Tuesday or Wednesday.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Argh!

I finished my online class last night! Woohoo!

I have put everything on the back burner the last two weeks with traveling and trying to finish the class. The only reason I have been blogging is because of NaBloPoMo. I am at least 100 emails behind, and when I just went to check my Bloglines, I have over 500 posts to catch up on! So I'll be emailing and commenting a lot this week...

A quickie update on the kids - Jack started pedaling today, and Kate started really swimming on her own last week. I'm a very proud mommy.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Weekend Plans

On the agenda for this weekend:
  • College hockey game (did that last night - I think Jack is going to be a hockey player!)
  • Finish online class (please, please, please let me get it all done...)
  • Memorial service for our friend Jinne (have to make spinach balls for reception)
  • Girls' night out with my good friend Becky visiting from Indiana
  • Double date with our good friends Shannon and Joe
  • Something outdoorsy with Becky from Indiana
  • Review and finish Christmas presents for my family (I'll be giving my side of the family gifts over Thanksgiving)
  • Hopefully do a little baking. I have a few new recipes I want to try. I'll share them if they are good.

What do you have planned for your weekend?

Friday, November 09, 2007

American Girl

Last Friday Kate and I were in Dallas for opening weekend of the American Girl store. We attended a grand opening benefit that evening at the store. Tickets and 10% of the proceeds that night benefited the Children's Medical Center. We went with my parents, my brother and his family, and my good friend Krista and her daughter Abbie. Everyone looked so nice dressed up. Kate and her cousin Mira even wore matching outfits! Because of my father's involvement with the store, we went right in when we arrived and didn't have to stand in the looong line.

If you have never been to an American Girl store (there are only a few in the country), the stores are decorated in a sweet candy pink with red accents. We were greeted at the door with champagne and pink lemonade. As we wandered the store and admired the displays, we were brought grown up appetizers along with child-friendly appetizers of heart-shaped, mini grilled cheese sandwiches, fruit skewers, baked pretzels, mini pizzas, etc. There was a craft room for the girls, and little shakes available at the soda fountain. Yum, yum, yum!
I had intended not to go overboard with purchases for the evening. I wasn't even sure if I was going to get Kate a doll. In fact, I made my purchase at the end of the evening (a couple books and a little doll outfit) and was walking out of the store when I spotted THE DOLL. Somehow I had missed her earlier. She has blond hair and brown eyes just like Kate, and I had to get her. So I did. Plus a few accessories. So much for my best laid intentions.

I was feeling a bit guilty about my purchase partly because of price and partly because Kate really doesn't need the doll. But by the end of the weekend, I was glad that I did buy one. It is a special gift to commemorate our girls' weekend, and the girls had a great time together with their dolls and matching outfits. A newspaper article that weekend also pointed out that an American Girl doll and accessories are less expensive than a video game setup, more wholesome, and will last for generations. It eases my conscious... a bit.

A few more pics from our weekend:









More Girls' Weekend Pics











Thursday, November 08, 2007

Palm Oil Lessons at the Zoo

It is a beautiful day today. I really need to finish up the work for my online class (have I mentioned that?!? LOL) so I called our regular babysitter. She has the kids at the zoo for the afternoon. The kids were really excited to go, and I was really excited to let them go!

There are lots of baby animals at the zoo right now. Three baby giraffes, four baby lions, a baby gorilla, and a baby orangutan. And can you believe that the zoo allows these animals to nurse in public?!? (sorry... had to get that in!)

Our zoo is also very active in conservation and other environmental issues. One issue that they are trying to bring more to the spotlight is the problems with palm oil. Do you know about the problems with palm oil? Here is what I found out.

Why is there a Palm Oil Crisis? The increased demand for palm oil – which is obtained from the fruit of the oil palm tree and can be grown only in tropical environments – is fueling destruction of the rainforest habitat of Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, pushing those endangered species even closer to extinction. Estimates show that if something is not done soon to stop the spread of palm oil plantations into the forests that harbor these orangutans, they will be extinct in ten years. Supply and demand pressures are driving the production of palm oil up to an all time high because of recent trans-fat health concerns and bio-fuel development. Palm oil is now the second most widely produced edible oil. Palm oil is found in cookies, crackers, shampoo, skin care and beauty products, in different varieties of pet food, and many other products. It is also found in a wide array of products sold in natural food stores.
Orangutans
The wild population of Bornean orangutans is estimated at 45,000-50,000. There are 15 times more deer in the state of Colorado alone than there are orangutans on Earth! There are about 7,300 Sumatran orangutans in the wild; they are on the list of top 25 most endangered primates in the world. Orangutans give birth once every 6 -10 years, the longest interbirth interval of any mammal! Orangutans are the only Asian great ape; they are the largest arboreal mammal on earth... and their babies are super cute! (not high on the conservation list, but they are really cute!)

Local People in Borneo and Sumatra
Millions of people in Borneo and Sumatra rely on the palm oil industry for their livelihood. That is one reason not to support a blanket boycott on all palm oil. The land for new plantations is often forcibly taken from indigenous people who traditionally owned the land, resulting in violent conflicts. Local people can and should be trained in environmentally sustainable agriculture, (including palm oil and other food sources) and other sustainable trades, crafts and professions.

YOU Can Help!
Read product labels at the store and find the labels that contain no palm oil OR labels that contain sustainable yield palm oil or palmitate. How will you know when Palm Oil is sustainable yield? Start with a Shopping Guide to Sustainable Yield Palm Oil Products

A great resource is the website for Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

So watch those labels and buy from companies that use sustainable palm oil.

Quick TV Follow-Up

I thought the TV interview last night was great. They did a super job of getting the message across and even made me look good! There were also a few really cute shots of Kate and Jack. I think I am going to get a few copies of the segment, so hopefully I'll be able to post it here soon so everyone can see!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

TV Interview Airs Tonight

You thought I wasn't going to post today, didn't you? I wasn't sure if I was going to have time to post today. We've been busy but mostly a good busy. I am in the last week of my online class and trying to finish by the deadline this weekend (which is really stressing me out!). I still need to spend time with a lactation consultant this week, and I have some written homework left. It has been a really interesting class, but I don't think I'll be going back to school anytime soon. It is really hard with two little ones. Kudos to any of you who do it.

Tonight my big interview with the local Fox news station is airing. I don't think I ever elaborated on how the interview went. I was a bit nervous and found that I said some silly things with a camera in front of me. I had a few giggle moments, and I hope I come across as semi-intelligent. Thank goodness for editing! I can't wait to see the finished product tonight. Hopefully someone local will record it for me so that I can post it eventually.

We'll see what makes the final cut, but the lifestyle choices that I tried to highlight were
  • Organic & local foods
  • Environmentally friendly cleaning and personal products
  • Reusable bags
  • Composting
  • Recycling
  • Smaller living space with shared community space
  • Home that is built green and energy efficient
  • Wooden toys
  • Recycled home products

I think they may also do a blurb on my blog, so welcome to any new reader and visitors!

I have some more giveaways and discount codes coming soon. I also am going to choose the PIF recipients this weekend, so there is still time to comment if you want to be included. And I am planning to host a birth story carnival next Tuesday, so start writing out your birth stories!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Green On the Go - Food & Drink

I do a decent amount of traveling with the kids, and I would like to do a series of posts about what my family does to stay green on the go. While traveling in and of itself is not exactly environmentally friendly, I still try to keep up my green habits as much as possible when we travel. One of the toughest parts for me of staying green during travel is continuing to eat healthy and green while on the move. Here are a few of the things I try to do to stay green when traveling.


- Bring our own water bottles. Since we can't bring them full of water through security, we bring them empty and fill them up at one of the restaurants or a drinking fountain. Takes less time than buying a bottle of water and is free!

- Bring your own snacks. I like organic mini carrots, Lara bars, Annie's organic whole wheat bunnies, fruit leathers, Puffins cereal, and our new favorite organic lollipops.

- Plan for any meal during travel time and bring your own food from home. You'll feel better than if you eat the fast food junk in the airport, and you don't have to worry about time. I pack PB&J, veggie bootie, apples, grapes, etc.

- Refuse airplane snacks. They are overpackaged and really aren't that healthy (most I have seen have hydrogenated oils)

- Refuse airplane drinks or bring your own small cup (or use your water bottle!). Think of all those plastic cups that are being used everyday on every airplane. I usually let the kids have a can of apple juice while on board, but we use our own cups.

- Take any recyclables off the plane with you and recycle when you reach your destination(although some airlines do recycle the aluminum drink cans).

-Dine at local restaurants. I find them by using websites like Happy Cow (specifically for vegetarian establishments, but many of those tend to also be local), Dine Originals, or Best Independent Restaurants. I also check out restaurants associated with local museums or just search online "local restaurants" or "independent restaurants" in the city or state I am visiting. Not only is this a green and sometimes more healthy way to dine out, but it is also a great way to get a feel for the local culture and find little places you might not normally stumble upon.

I'd love any of your tips on how to eat and drink in a healthy & environmentally friendly way while traveling.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Football!

Go Cowboys!! They beat the Eagles last night! Woohoo! (okay, I'm not really a big football fan, but Matt likes to watch and I like Matt so sometimes I end up watching) I was semi watching the game last night with Matt when a segment caught my attention. Did you know that the Philadelphia Eagles are a green football team? And I don't mean just their uniform color? The announcers mentioned that the Eagles' stadium serves drinks in green plastic cups. I did a little online research and found that the tickets and programs are printed on recycled paper, the stadium has recycling bins, the machine that vacuums the field after games runs on biodiesel, 30% of the power comes from so-called clean sources (wind power and methane reclaimed from landfills), and the team office building has solar panels. The team also has a pretty intense tree-planting program to offset their carbon-emitting plane rides. Read more about what they are doing on their Go Green website.



I'm still a Cowboys and Colts fan, but it almost makes me want to become an Eagles fan...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Monday Menu Planner

Back to cooking...

Monday - Kids' meal - Spaghetti
Tuesday - Quick Barley Vegetable Pilaf (recipe below) & baked squash
Wednesday - Wheat Berry Salad (recipe below - this is a new one that I am trying. Got it from Wild Oats) and broiled salmon (just lemon and butter)
Thursday - Community Meal - I am helping to serve, but no cooking!
Friday - Dinner out with friends!

Check out OrgJunkie for more menu ideas

Quick Barley Vegetable Pilaf
2T butter
½ cup chopped onion
1 chopped red pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 clove minced garlic
Pepper
1 cup broth
¾ cup quick cooking barley
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
2 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded & chopped
¼ cup minced fresh basil
3T grated Parmesan

Melt butter in large saucepan or deep skillet. Add onion and sauté until tender. Stir in red pepper, mushrooms, and garlic and sauté until red pepper is tender. Season generously with black pepper. Add broth; heat to boil. Stir in barley. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in spinach, tomatoes, and basil. Cook, uncovered, one to two minutes or until spinach is wilted. Spoon into serving bowl and sprinkle with Parmesan. Makes 6 servings.

Wheat Berry Salad
1 cup hard red winter wheat berries
1 1/2 cups broth
1/8 broth dried cranberries, chopped
1/8 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup whole walnuts
6 T olive oil
3 T white Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 T fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 bunch green onions, finely diced
4 butter lettuce "cups"
2 oz crumbled feta

Rinse wheat berries and place in a saucepan. Add broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for about an hour or until the wheat berries are soft. Remove from heat and stir in cranberries and apricots. Cover and let sit 10 minutes. Chill in fridge until ready to use.

Place walnuts in a skillet. Toast over med heat. Allow to cool and chop.

Place olive oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, and rosemary in a blender. Pulse to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place cold wheat berries in a bowl. Mix in walnuts, onions and just enough dressing to hold everything together. Place in butter lettuce cups and garnish with feta.

How To Build Community

I am heading back home today. I miss my home and feel I've been gone too much lately (although that isn't going to change much in the upcoming months). Thought I'd share these tips on building community that came from a postcard one of my neighbors gave to me. Many of the tips are not only community builders but environmentally friendly also! I love how the two often go hand in hand.



How to Build Community

  • Turn off your TV
  • Leave you house
  • Know you neighbors
  • Greet people
  • Look up when you;re walking
  • Sit on your stoop
  • Plant flowers
  • Use your library
  • Play together
  • Buy from local merchants
  • Share what you have
  • Help a lost dog
  • Take children to the park
  • Honor elders
  • Support neighborhood schools
  • Fix it even if you didn't break it
  • Have pot lucks
  • Garden together
  • Pick up litter
  • Read stories aloud
  • Dance in the street
  • Talk to the mail carrier
  • Listen to the birds
  • Put up a swing
  • Help carry something heavy
  • Barter for your goods
  • Start a tradition
  • Ask a question
  • Hire young people for odd jobs
  • Organize a block party
  • Bake extra and share
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Open your shades
  • Sing together
  • Share your skills
  • Take back the night
  • Turn up the music
  • Turn down the music
  • Listen before you react to anger
  • Mediate a conflict
  • Seek to understand
  • Learn from new and uncomfortable angles
  • Know that no one is silent though many are not heard
  • Work to change this

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Lame Saturday Post

What a great idea Shannon suggested! I am going to have birth story carnival sometime next week. We can all share our birth stories since I didn't "know" most of you when our children were born. I'll figure out a good day next week since I really need to organize it from home.
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We went to the American Girl grand opening benefit last night. So opulent (so NOT green) yet so much fun. I'll post all about it next week when I am home and can download pics to post also.
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Kate is having an amazing time with Abbie. I think both girls are enjoying being only children and getting lots of attention. So many giggles and so little discipline. Krista and I are talking about making girls' weekend a regular event.
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I am so far behind on reading and commenting on posts. I didn't have much time last week with Matt off work and now NaBloPoMo is making it even worse. I'll catch up when I get home!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Business of Being Born

Last Saturday I attended a screening of the documentary film The Business of Being Born. It was awesome. Awesome. The film examines the birth process across the spectrum of maternity care with the focus being on the United States' low use of midwives and home births. I was amazed at some of the statistics and learned from the hostess that Colorado's c-section rate is 1 in 4 (Denver's is 1 in 3!)


I always come to birthing discussions from two different angles. I am intimately involved in the medical system as a nurse and as the spouse of a medical professional, but I also chose to have unmedicated births. My first birth was attended (well, supposed to be attended, but that is a story for another day) by a midwife, and the second by an OB who was very supportive of my decision to have an unmedicated birth. She is also very supportive of midwife attended births and was the backup OB for a group of independent nurse midwives. I originally wanted a home birth, but Matt was quick to veto that idea. We then explored the freestanding birthing center option which was very convenient as it was only 3 blocks from our home. Our insurance wouldn't cover it. Instead I chose the birthing center within the hospital, but I ended up in regular L&D for both births (but not for medical reasons - read Misconceptions by Naomi Wolf for more info on the misleading practice of hospital "birthing centers" as well as more great info on our birthing systems in the US.) Still I had amazing, unmedicated births. I'll post my birth stories someday. But I digress...

I am a proponent of birth being treated as a natural process. I like to see as little intervention as possible, and the statistics certainly support the safety of midwifery and home births. On the other hand, I also understand how and why hospitals work the way they do (not saying it is right or shouldn't change, but I understand). I also understand the pressure our legal system puts on health care providers. The rate at which legal action is taken agains doctors is ridiculous.

My point being that I am always concerned that information about natural childbirth is going to be anti-hospital and/or anti-doctors which always puts me on the defensive. This film didn't do that. While doctors and hospitals weren't always shown in the best light, the film did an excellent job demonstrating that sometimes the interventions of hospitals and doctors are absolutely necessary.



I did get a little annoyed and spoke up after someone at the screening made the comment that unmedicated birth is "impossible" in the hospital. It is very possible and relatively easily attained with the right information, the right mindset, and the right support.

My only real complaint about the movie is that it made me want to give birth again... but Matt veto'd that idea too.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Girls-Only

No, I'm not doing another post about how much I love my mooncup...

Kate and I are taking off today for a girls-only weekend. We are going to the grand opening benefit for the new American Girl store. I think I may be more excited than Kate!

One of my bestest friends Krista and her daughter Abbie are joining us from Minnesota. Krista and I know each other from way back when we both started working as new graduate nurses at Parkland Hospital (infamous for being the place where JFK died and where Matt and I met). Krista and I met in computer class and have had many wonderful adventures together. We even lived together for a short time. Eventually she moved back to Minnesota to be near her family, but we have remained friends and have seen many changes together. We were in each other's weddings and between the two of us, have supported each other through a combined 6 babies and 6 moves. We even have children days apart (my 1st, her 3rd!). I sometimes talk to Krista on the phone almost as much as I talk to my mom!