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9 Tips for Keeping your Family Safe from Sharks this Summer

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As you already know, my family loves the ocean. We spend the majority of our free time paddleboarding, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, and free-diving. Our love for the ocean includes everything that lives in the ocean. There are many creatures that inhabit that ocean that humans may find dangerous – especially after all of the media coverage surrounding some recent shark attacks. While I understand that some people may find sharks to be terrifying, the ocean is their home and we are simply visitors. However, as a family, we have a realistic view of these animals and follow the rules of the ocean to help ensure no harm comes to the sharks or our family.

Eben learned how to swim before he could walk or talk, he was almost 6 months old. He is a natural in the water – it is the one place where he feels completely at ease. When it comes to the ocean, he has no fear – he has been stung by jellyfish, bitten by countless creatures, stepped on a sea urchin and even tore his leg open kneeling on the ocean floor. However, all of these incidents have not changed his view of the ocean, it is still his favorite place on Earth.

I am not as adventurous as Eben or the mister, I am the cautious one – the one always on the lookout for possible dangers. We have swum and snorkeled with sharks many times and we have never felt threatened by them. In fact, we have nothing but love and respect for these amazing creatures. Since I am so cautious and a natural planner, I have tips that I live by to keep my family safe in the ocean. I am not trying to scare you, you are more likely to be hurt by a toilet than a shark! However, if you are hitting the beach this summer, read on and take note, these tips can help to keep your family safe.

#1: What’s Going On?
The first thing to consider before even getting into the water is to stay on top of what is happening in the ocean in your area. A great place to start is at the lifeguard station – they will have a sign that will outline any dangers for the day. Check the news, have there been reports of whale migration, baitfish or seals in the area? If so, stay out of the water. Also, if sharks are migrating through the area, it is a good idea to steer clear of the water too.

#2: It’s All in the Sky
Waters tend to be cloudy at dusk and dawn – and if you can’t see well through the cloudy water, a shark won’t be able to either. Many causes of shark bites happen simply as a case of mistaken identity. Also, if it is overcast or stormy, going in the ocean isn’t recommended – again the water is usually cloudy and incoming storms can stir up bait fish, the last thing you want to do is get between a shark and its prey.

#3: Watch for Fishermen 
I don’t recommend being in the water anywhere near fishermen. Whether the fishermen are simply fishing, cleaning the fish in the water, dumping fish guts into the water, or chumming, it’s a good idea to steer clear of the area. Sharks have an amazing sense of smell and taste and fish guts in the water may attract them to the area. Some sharks have been known to hang around areas where fishermen fish, snatching the fish from their lines too. So as a rule, we do not swim near anywhere near a fishing pier.

#4: Stick Together
As with many things in life, there is safety in numbers when in the ocean too. I don’t recommend swimming far offshore or even hanging out in the water by yourself. Sharks come into all depths of water. We have seen them in knee-deep water and 30-foot waters – swimming or playing in the water as a group is a much better option. Stick together.

#5: Skip the Shiny
Shiny or metal objects can attract sharks – they are curious creatures, they may just want to check out your bling. When heading out to the sea, remove all of your jewelry – and skip swimsuits with any shiny metal embellishments.

#6 Keep Noise to a Minimum
Stick to playing Jaws at the swimming pool only! Splashing around, yelling and thrashing about may attract sharks to the area. They may think you are a struggling prey or may just be curious to see what all the ruckus is about.

#7: Keep a Safe Distance
Most of the times that we have encountered sharks have been on a reef. We always respect their space, put a lot of distance between us and them, stay close together, all the while remaining calm and still. They have always just swum past or under us – never giving us a second look. Again, I don’t recommend snorkeling or diving at a reef alone and when you do see a shark, don’t freak out and frantically try to swim back to the boat. Stay calm and still, and most likely the shark will just swim by.

#8: Pick a Guarded Beach
If you are on vacation, not familiar on how to read the ocean or just want a little more protection, hit the guarded beach. The lifeguards are not only there to keep us safe from drowning, but they will also alert you as soon as they see sharks, baitfish or other dangerous creatures or weather conditions. As soon as you hear that whistle blow, get out the water until the lifeguard says it is safe to go back in. Also, when you arrive at the beach make sure to read the signs at the lifeguard station if there is baitfish in the area or they have a red/no swimming flag – follow their recommendations.

#9: Don’t Feed the Fish
There have been documented cases of people being bitten by sharks after feeding them. Sharks are highly intelligent creatures if you feed them once they will remember it and come back to the area for more. What happens when someone else swims in that spot and doesn’t have a treat to offer them? They may bite someone on accident simply looking for food. As in all cases, do not feed the wildlife, it isn’t a good idea for you or for them.

How do you keep your family safe from sharks at the beach? Are there tips I may have missed?

5 Tips for Throwing Green Summer Parties

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Summer is almost here which means BBQ’s, baby showers, and engagement parties are right around the corner. Since these events are often filled with flowers, decorations, catered food, and disposable cutlery and plates, their carbon footprint is often bigger than you’d expect. Don’t worry, there are tips you can take to make your summer party more eco-friendly. Read on for my five great tips for greening your summer parties.

#1. Serve Locally Grown Food
Unless you know where the restaurant or grocery store catering your event sources its food, chances are it’s traveled a long distance to make it to your doorstep, using manpower, gasoline, and a lot of packaging. And while a catered meal is impressive and beautiful, most hosts find themselves throwing away 30-50% of the food after the party is over. These two factors amount to a lot of unnecessary waste. Instead of ordering an elaborate meal that won’t get eaten, why not shop for produce, cheese, and pastries at your local organic farmer’s market? For starters, you could grill seasonal veggies, make fruit-infused water with local citrus and cucumbers, or even pick up a few growlers of a local micro-brew. Some farms even sell locally raised meats! You’ll be supporting local farms and serving seasonal, organic food so it’s guaranteed to be a healthy, delicious spread.

#2. Go Compostable
If you’ve ever hosted a party you know that the used plates, napkins, utensils, and platters from your event make trash day quite the spectacle. Instead of adding to the enormous amount of garbage already filling our landfills and oceans, spend an extra few bucks on compostables. Specialty stores, and an increasing number of mainstream supermarkets, carry everything from compostable cups and forks to straws. And you don’t necessarily have to compromise design; sites like SustyParty.com sell biodegradable party supplies that are fun and colorful. If you’re planning a big event, many eco-product sites offer discounts for bulk orders of compostable party supplies.

#3. Let Nature Do the Decorating
Instead of hosting your party inside where you’ll need to decorate (and air condition your guests!), take it out back or to a local park and let nature’s beauty do the work! You’ll be saving money, trips to the store, and the waste created by cheap decorations that only offer a single use, and won’t be filling the house with cut flowers that will only last a week.

#4. Email Invitations
Paper invitations and RSVP cards are becoming a thing of the past. With the speed and convenience of electronic invites, there’s no reason not to go green! Sites like Evite offer dozens of designs for all kinds of holidays and events, and personalizing is encouraged. Creating and emailing invitations or sending guests a message about updates takes mere minutes. Plus, your guest list and RSVP’s will all be in one handy place!

#5. Green the Gifts
If the event you’re hosting is for you or you have a say in the gifts, offer guests the option to give money or gift certificates. Even items purchased from a registry can end up being duplicates, or the recipient may change her mind if the list was made before she had enough information. If the guest of honor is also eco-conscious, she may accept a hand-me-down like used baby clothes or a beloved heirloom, with as much excitement as a store-bought gift.

YOUR TURN: How do you minimize waste at your gatherings? Do you have tips we didn’t think of? Let us know—and get creative!

How to Make Your Next Summer Shindig a Lot More Eco-Friendly

Many families have embraced an eco-conscious lifestyle. But when throwing a party, sometimes convenience takes precedence over preserving the planet. It’s so easy to go out to the store and purchase processed foods, plastic cutlery, and packaged paper plates that considering the alternative doesn’t always seem all that alluring. However, it might actually be easier — and more fun — than you’d think to throw a green get-together. Here are some of our favorite tips for making sure your next summer soiree, backyard barbecue, or birthday party will be as eco-friendly as possible.

Choose the Right Location

One of the most energy-efficient ways to host a get-together is to take advantage of natural lighting. That means heading into the great outdoors. Whether you choose your backyard or a local park, you can keep your energy usage low and be surrounded by the beauty of nature all at once. Remember that by choosing a local location and encouraging guests to carpool (or use greener forms of transportation), you’ll create a more eco-friendly environment from the start.

Opt for Digital Invitations

In the digital age, it’s become a lot more commonplace to skip paper invitations and send invites via email or Facebook. While some traditionalists may scoff, the truth is that this is a lot less wasteful and is now a generally accepted practice. If you want something a bit more special than a Facebook event, there are specific sites that will send invitations of your choice and even track RSVPs for you. And if you feel you really can’t do without paper invitations, make sure to construct them out of recycled materials and encourage recipients to recycle them once they’ve told you whether they can attend.

Be Thoughtful With Your Decorations

When you’re decorating for a party, the decorations tend to be pretty standard across the board: tablecloths and toppers, streamers, banners, flowers, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of those items tend to be thrown away after the party’s over. But by using reusable decorations and natural elements, you can be a lot less wasteful and make your party place look incredible. Use linen tablecloths and napkins that can be washed and used year after year or opt for recyclable brown paper that the kids can decorate with crayons. Use fresh flowers, branches, shells, and stones from your own garden to decorate the table. Instead of balloons, get some reusable bunting, make banners and chains from construction paper, or create pom-poms out of tissue paper or yarn that you can reuse. If you can, forgo electric lighting in favor of candles in mason jars or other glass containers.

Reuse Your Tableware

Plastic cutlery and plates are a ubiquitous sight at many a get-together, but they don’t have to be. By using real dishes instead of plastic ones, you’ll be able to wash and reuse over and over. If you’re worried about breakable plates and glasses, you do have some alternatives to disposable plastic or melamine. Sterling silver tableware (which is an alloy that usually consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper) can be a good option, as can recyclable paper products or disposable wooden cutlery. Some hosts might even consider asking guests to BYOP or BYOC (bring your own plates or cups) to cut down on waste. If you need to use straws, get some reusable crazy straws (or invest in metal or biodegradable ones) instead of plastic. For any items that do need to be thrown away, get some eco-friendly garbage bags to make clean-up a bit easier. And be sure to set up a recycling bin or a tub for reusable items.

Get Creative With Party Favors

If you want to send your guests home with some party favors, don’t go for plastic goody bags or junky toys. The typical American home already has 300,000 items inside, so you don’t want to add to the unnecessary clutter or have your gifts end up in the garbage. Get your hands on paper or cloth bags and fill them with useful gifts like chalk, pens, puzzles, books, plant seeds, small notebooks, wooden toys, or even some homemade or local treats. Make sure to wrap any leftover food in recyclable materials!

Pick the Right Food and Drink

In general, cooking outside is usually a good way to go, particularly if you use a gas grill (which uses less energy and gives off fewer pollutants than charcoal versions). Whenever possible, choose homemade foods over processed ones. Buy fresh, local foods from your local farmer’s market to ensure the highest level of eco-friendliness. Typically, the more veggies the better — they come with a reduced environmental impact and are a bit easier to incorporate into meals when there’s a lot left over. Instead of bottled water, opt for refillable pitchers or serve juice in old jam jars. Try to think mobile whenever you can; the fewer plates and forks that have to be used, the less clean-up you’ll have to do (and therefore, the less water you’ll need to waste).

Throwing an eco-friendly party may not be the easiest endeavor, but it’ll end up being a lot more fun than you think. Plus, you’ll encourage your friends and neighbors to think twice about their environmental impact, too.

9 Eco-Friendly Summer Outings for Kids

9 Summer Eco Activities for Kids

Now that summer break is in full swing – you may be looking for some fun activities that will get your kids out of the house. Green outings are a great way to get you kids involved in the environment and add a little more excitement to long summer days. Here are 9 of my favorite eco-friendly summer outings for kids.

1. Local Farms
A farm is a great outing to show your children how our food is grown and harvested. They can see which fruits and vegetables grow in your area and can also have a hands on experience with a farm animal. Many local farms have classes that allow the kids to milk a cow, collect eggs from the hens, feed the goats and sheep, and ride a horse. You could also visit a fruit farm such as a strawberry patch and spend the day picking strawberries, find a nice place to sit, wash the berries and enjoy on the spot with whipped topping that you packed.

2. Nature and Science Museums
Our local nature and science museum offers exhibits that allow the children to see, touch and even climb on parts of their environment. We recently experienced fabulous exhibits on natural disasters and your health. At these particular exhibits, you could see the effects that a natural disaster has on our environment and the other showed what your face may look like as you age. You can also check out an IMAX – it’s always a super fun time.

3. Butterfly Pavilion
Visit a butterfly pavilion and experience free flying butterflies, birds, subtropical and tropical flowers, plants and trees. We love the butterfly pavilion, and could spend hours there looking at the butterflies up close and personal.

4. Zoo
Your local zoo may offer a junior zookeeper program where your child can learn about caring for the animals as well as learn about their natural environments and any threats that they face. This is an amazing experience for children who are especially interested in animals and show interest in growing up to work with them as a career.

5. Nature Preserves
Your local nature preserve may offer guided tours to learn about the animals that live there and many offer classes as well. You can also simply pack your binoculars and camera and then hit the trail for an afternoon of animal sight seeing.

6. Library
Your local library is stocked with information about the environment that your children will love. When Eben was younger he always enjoyed checking out issues of Ranger Rick and National Geographic Kids. His favorite part of our library, by far, is the window seats, it’s a great place to hang out and read – he could spend a lifetime there.

7. Botanical Gardens
Visit your local botanical gardens and learn about native plants, trees and flowers. Our botanical gardens has a great exotic frog exhibit which Eben loves. Many offer classes and have ample space for an outdoor picnic. While you are there, look closely for bugs and birds – don’t forget your magnifying glass and camera.

8. Hike and Swim
No matter where you live there is somewhere outside where  you can explore. Whether it is a park or hiking trail, let the kids look in nooks and crannies and climb on the rocks. If you live in a n area where you can take a long nature hike, pack a lunch and enjoy it next to a watering hole where the kids can take a swim.

9. Your Own Backyard
If you want to stay close to home, take a walk around your neighborhood or local park. Prepare a nature scavenger hunt for the kids by writing down several items on a piece of paper, give each of your children a pencil and a bucket and collect the items found on the list, such as a leaf, rock, flower, feather, etc;. This is tons of fun and gets them looking for items they may have usually overlooked.

What are your green outing plans for this summer?

5 Spooky Fruit and Vegetable Halloween Treats for Healthy Kids

Halloween is my favorite holiday – mostly because it is an anything goes, don’t hold back, get as creative as you want holiday! I have been adding a little spookiness into Eben’s snacks by getting creative with fruits and vegetables. He seems to enjoy these “sweet” treats just as much as a sugary alternative – maybe even more. Read on for 5 spooky fruit and vegetable Halloween treats that I have used as inspiration for celebrating the holiday with my healthy kid.

#1: Jack o’Lantern Fruit Plate
This may be one of the easiest treats in the bunch – simply peel, cut and arrange a selection of organic strawberries, clementines, blueberries and grapes and you have a Halloween treat that is sure to please everyone!

+ Jack O’Lantern Fruit Plate
+ via Wholesome Dinner Tonight

#2: Veggie Skeleton
Looking for a fun way to get your child to eat more vegetables this autumn? Look no further than this adorable veggie skeleton. This, along with the Jack O’Lantern Fruit Plate would be perfect for your child’s class Halloween Party or your family’s spooky get together!

+ Veggie Skeleton
+ via Feeding Four Little Monkeys

#3: Pumpkin Oranges + Banana Ghosts
Yum! These goodies are definitely calling my name – I bet the bananas would be even better if they were slightly frozen! These would be great for a kids party – just grab and go.

+ Pumpkin Oranges + Banana Ghosts
+ via Kid Party Food Ideas

#4: Apple Teeth Treats
While these little yummies might take a little more time to prepare – I bet they are worth all of the compliments you would get at your Halloween party.

+ Apple Teeth Treats
+ via All Recipes

#5: Halloween Sweet Potato Fries
I want to whip up a batch of these yummy sweet potato fries to go with Halloween dinner. Not only does my family love them – but the spook factor will win them over for sure.

+ Halloween Sweet Potato Fries
+ Babble