Friday, February 24, 2012

Waste-Free Birthday Party Goody Bags

Waste-Free Goody Bag
Who doesn't love a good goody bag? We know kids do. They pretty much demand them upon leaving a birthday party these days. Parents hate them (at least I do) because of the excess candy, plastic toy fillers, and plastic or paper bag waste. Honestly, I would love to join the "Goody Bag Boycott" that is on the rise - parents who flat out refuse to provide their little guests with any trinkets whatsoever when they leave the party. This is how it SHOULD be; after all, we go to a birthday party to celebrate the birthday child, whose parents already shelled out a small bundle for food, cake and entertainment. However, I am just not there yet. My kids simply LOVE the idea of creating a take-away for their party guests and so I've decided to indulge them in this little childhood desire...but on my own healthy, planet-friendly terms.

This was our waste-free, plastic-free, eco-friendly Goody Bag solution for the last birthday:

* A  "design-your-own" unbleached, 100% cotton tote bag (bought in bulk from Joanne's Fabics)
* Handmade felt puppets (you can buy felt puppet kits - or make your own)
* A few small pieces of chocolate

I set up two craft tables: one with fabric markers for the kids to "design" their own bags and another with colorful felt puppet bodies and cut out felt eyes, ears, noses, hats, etc. so they could "design" their own puppets to take home. At the end of the party, the kids packed their puppets into their bags and the party girl dropped in a few pieces of yummy chocolate. The bags are big enough to be used as book bags, small totes or lunch bags - we use ours for lunch. They do great in the washing machine!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to Make All-Natural, Soy-Free Balsamic Dressing

Homemade All-Natural Salad Dressing
I am on a huge kick to get soy out our family's diet - but it isn't easy. Soy is in almost everything: chips, crackers, cereal, bread, chocolate, energy bars, and more. Grab a bottle of salad dressing - even the all-natural varieties - from any store and chances are it contains soybean oil. My issue with soy -- unless it is in its whole form, like edamame -- is that it is heavily processed, almost always genetically modified, and that it contains endocrine-disrupting phytoestrogens, which have been linked to breast cancer and other estrogen-dependent cancers.

Oh a whim, I decided to make my own soy-free balsamic salad dressing and I was shocked at how easy, delicious and affordable this solution was. The kids love it because of the natural tangy sweetness. They key ingredients in a great balsamic dressing are the oil and the vinegar - and when you make it at home, those are the only two ingredients  you need!
I prefer the tangy 2:1 ratio below - but equal parts vinegar and oil are also great:

* Organic Balsamic Vinegar (two parts)
* Extra Virgin Olive Oil (one part)

TIP: Make small batches. If you store in the refrigerator, the oil will start to coagulate.

Friday, February 17, 2012

How to Cure Stinky Sneakers Naturally

Sneaker Stink Cured with Tea Tree Oil
After wearing her brand new sneakers a few time without socks, my 6-year's feet started smelling like nachos. Bacteria had set up camp in those cute little shoes and was not about to leave - even after she committed to wearing socks again. Airing out did not work. Washing with soap did not work. Baking soda did not work. A good friend of mine said she'd had success with bleach, but we don't do bleach at our house, so that was out. I finally decided to take the soles and laces out and soak the whole lot in hot water with a few drops of tea tree oil. I placed some backyard stones in the shoes to keep them submerged in the mixture and let them soak over night. The next morning, voila! No more nacho cheese smell! My daughter's new shoes once again smell fresh and new - thanks to the natural antibacterial properties of tea tree oil.

I know there are shoes on the market that have a built in antimicrobial layer to help prevent the inevitable stinky sneaker scent, but I don't want my kids or myself absorbing those toxic chemicals every time we go for a walk. I'd rather stink up our shoes naturally and then treat them naturally with tea tree oil.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2012 Toxic Car Report Just Released just released its 2011/2012 toxic car report. That new car smell - just like fresh paint or new carpet - could be poisoning you. The toxic chemicals we're talking about are bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers); lead; and several other heavy metals. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, liver toxicity, birth defects, impaired learning and allergies, so be sure to read through the list of healthiest cars (Honda Civic) and worst offenders (Mitsubishi Outlander) before you make your next purchase:

Go to today to view their complete list and to see where your current or future vehicle fits in. New this year is a list of completely PVC-free automobiles. Watch this informative video to find out how you can lessen your family's exposure to the harmful chemicals found in most of today's vehicles.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Eco-Friendly Lunch Bags in Cool Retro Styles

Urban Harmonie Eco-Friendly Lunch Bags
Because I care about what goes into my kids' bodies, I pack their school lunches every day. I also care about the materials used to carry their food to and from school since trace amounts of whatever that material is will inevitably end up in their bodies too. When I found out that the Canadian company Urban Harmonie was making lunch bags that were BPA free, PVC free, lead Free (not merely "lead safe"), phthalate free AND formaldehyde free - I just had to check them out.

Urban Harmonie lunch bags are made out of laminated cotton and contain absolutely no glues or resin. What my kids love best about them are the adorable retro-inspired fabrics. What I love best about the bags is how roomy and heavy duty they are. I pack all my kids' lunch food in stainless steel containers - so roominess and durability really are key. The Urban Harmonie large lunch sack has room for my daughters' bulky Thermos Funtainer and several stainless steel food containers - which is perfect because my kids eat a ton.  I'm talking a minimum 6 to 8 containers, including main course, snacks, nuts, yogurt, etc. No joke! If your kids keep their food outside at school, be sure to order the Tall Boxed Lunch Bag WITH Zipper. If they keep their food inside, or stored it in a zippered back pack, then the bags with the cute button closurs will do just fine.

To check out the complete collection of Urban Harmonie lunch bags and snack bags go to: