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Paying It Forward (to Local Wildlife) this Holiday Season!

Disclosure: I am an ambassador for Stonyfield Farm, all opinions included here are my own.

For many, the holiday season is a time to celebrate and come together with friends and family. However, for many others it can be a painful and difficult time depending on their circumstances. I like to try and do something for others and the planet each holiday season, to give back. I find it makes celebrating with my family all the more special, when we know we’ve done a good deed or donated to a good cause as part of our holiday time together!

As an ambassador for Stonyfield Farm, I’m partnering with them this holiday season for their giving back campaign. Stonyfield wants all of us to take some time with our families this month to spread good fortune in the form of a charitable act—in the hopes that our compassion will inspire others to do the same! I think it’s an admirable idea, and am excited to share with you what I chose to do this year.

Stonyfield gave me a $50 Visa Gift Card to donate towards a good deed or a charitable organization of my choice. I decided to match their donation and added my own $50 too, for a total $100 donation. The charity that I choose was our local wildlife sanctuary, Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, who have done great work that we’ve been privileged to witness firsthand! Since most folks I know choose to make donations to help other humans at this time of year (which is of course a wonderful cause), I worried that the animals would get skipped over! It’s easy to forget that the other creatures we share the planet with need help, too.

Helping animals is a family activity
My family is all about animals, and I’ve put effort into saving them for my whole life. Just ask my husband about our bunny rabbit Peanut—While we were dating, I overheard at the pet store that they were going to feed a bunny to a snake because he had an injured leg! Nope – Peanut came home with him. Ha! You’ve probably seen me post about Olive the French Bulldog, who was a rescue, and Noodles the Pug, they are our sweet little snuggle bunnies. They’re important members of the family, too! So we thought it would be great to remind people to help our furry friends at this time of year.

My dad is super passionate about helping animals, too. When I was a kid, we had a Great Horned Owl and a Bat, both of whom my dad found injured, and brought home to nurse back to health. This was before there were places that would help with injured wildlife. He instilled in me a strong sense of care and responsibility for the other species on our planet. As a teenager, I was driving home from visiting my parents, and at the end of my hour-long car ride, I saw an injured duck in traffic. His wing was broken and he wasn’t looking too good. I scooped him into a box and called my dad, who told me to bring him right back to their house. My dad set his wing and built a pond for him in the backyard. He nursed him back to health, and then when spring come around, a flock of ducks flew by and my duck joined them. Hooray!

Our great experience with Busch Wildlife Sanctuary
Just recently, Eben and I found a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, injured in the bike lane of a major road outside our neighborhood. He was so hurt he couldn’t move, but an injured animal can be dangerous when they’re scared. I called my favorite local wildlife rescue group, and they came out to pick up the hawk.  I wasn’t going near those talons! The great people from Busch Wildlife Sanctuary rushed out at 10:30 at night to rescue him. They rushed him into surgery, and he was later released to the wild.

I found that the experience with the hawk was a great chance to teach Eben about how to handle a situation involving an injured wild animal. It’s so important to teach our kids how to help injured wildlife, and what the best practices are when you find a hurt animal. If you want to talk to your kids about this, try using these points for discussion:

  • You really shouldn’t try to touch the animal. They can lash out when they feel threatened and are hurting. You could get an infection from them if you aren’t careful with how you handle them and wild animals have sharp teeth and claws.
  • It’s best to call for help. Always get an adult who can assist you with helping the animal and keep your distant.
  • Let the professional rescue organizations take over whenever possible. Look up your local wildlife sanctuary and contact them when you find an injured animal. They’ll know what to do and give you instructions.

Another thing I love about Busch Wildlife Sanctuary is that they offer a bunch of educational programs, weekly activities, and special events that are fun for the whole family! If you’re located in South Florida, definitely check out their programs and see if there’s one or two that would be good to take your kids to. They offer everything from wildlife encounters, large animal feeding shows, story time, snake and bird of prey introductions, exhibits, to nature tours and nighttime walks at the sanctuary. We have been visiting the sanctuary since Eben was little, it’s fun for the whole family!

I hope that your family gets the chance to do something charitable this holiday season. It’s a great bonding experience and I think it’s so great to impress upon our kids the importance of helping others and the planet. Plus, doing acts of generosity or good deeds really helps you get into the holiday spirit of giving! So whether you choose an organization to make a financial donation to, or one to volunteer some of your time with, try giving back this holiday season. I guarantee it’ll make you feel as jolly as Santa himself!

Helping Holidays: 4 Green Gifts That Give Back

The holidays are all about celebrating acts of giving, making it the perfect opportunity to make your gift giving smarter this season. There are so many amazing businesses out there that give back when you purchase one of their products. These companies are tied to doing good somewhere in the world every time a purchase is made. Read on for my 4 favorite gifts that give back – and if you hurry you can still get these goodies by Christmas.

1. Warby Parker Glasses
Eben and I both wear glasses and love the stylish, affordable frames from Warby Parker. For every pair of glasses that you buy, a pair is donated to a person in need. If you don’t wear glasses, that is alright – Warby Parker also offers fantastic sunglasses.

+ Warby Parker  

2. Feed Bags
I have been familiar with FEED Bags for a very long time – I remember first seeing them in Whole Foods back when we lived in Georgia! FEED Bags come in a huge selection of styles and sizes and with each purchase a portion of the proceeds go towards feeding the children of the world.

+ FEED Projects

3. TOMS Shoes
Most likely you are already familiar with TOMS shoes – for every pair you purchase a pair is donated to a child in need. With a great selection of shoes for everyone on your list, TOMS is the perfect holiday gift!

+ TOMS
4. Smile Squared
Every year I stick a toothbrush in the holiday stocking – this year I will be stuffing a brush from Smile Squared! Smile Squared is another company that donates a product to a child in need – in this case, an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush – because a healthy smile is a happy smile.

+ Smile Squared

Do you have a favorite gift to give that gives back too?

Blue Orange Games Make Excellent Holiday Gifts + A Giveaway

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Are you getting excited for the holidays? I know my family is! We all love the extra time we get to spend together, the fun seasonal activities, and delicious foods that come along with the holiday season. Of course, there are some additional stresses at this time of year—party planning, attending events or taking your kids on various outings, finishing end-of-year tasks, preparing to host family, and gift shopping, to name a few.

If you’re anything like me, coming up with gift ideas ahead of time takes away some of the pressure surrounding the holidays and makes everything more enjoyable. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a great gift idea for the kids or other families in your life! You may have seen me talking about Blue Orange Games before, because they’re a great company and their games are always a hit with Eben and Mr. Sweet Greens. With a chance to win a game from them in this blog post, hopefully they’ll become a favorite with your family, too!

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Why Blue Orange Games Make Great Gifts
These games get my seal of approval for gift giving for many reasons. The games produced by Blue Orange are heirloom quality, so you can pass them on to younger generations in the family when your own kids outgrow them. These games are also eco-friendly, made from high-quality materials that gets replenished by the Blue Orange Games commitment to plant 2 trees for each one used in creating their products. That kind of commitment to sustainability and keeping the planet green for our kids and grandkids makes you feel good about buying their games as gifts.

Beyond the basic facts of sustainability and good design, these games are my favorite ones to play with my family. They’re fun, they make you think, and they’re a convenient length to squeeze in between homework and dinner, or in between activities on the weekend. Many of the Blue Orange Games are also designed with families in mind, being fun to play with a small but flexible number of people; often 2-4 makes for a great gameplay experience (it’s great too because Eben and I can play together when Mr. Sweet Greens is at work!) Plus, they work on your cognitive skills, memory, creativity, fine motor skills, and more, so you’re getting some real benefits from playing!

I purchase a handful of these games every year to gift to Eben and Mr. Sweet Greens as our family gift. I always pair it with some of our favorite organic snacks and hot cocoa. It gives us something new and fun to play as a family during winter break, and is a really positive way to spend some of the extra time we have together. This year, I am also giving Blue Orange Games as gifts to my sister’s family, I’m hoping that her and her family will love them as much as we do!

flash

Enter the Giveaway
Want a chance to win your very own game from Blue Orange Games? I’m happy to be able to give away a copy of Flash! to one lucky winner. Flash! is a super quick and exciting dice game with multiple play variations and 8 challenges to complete. It has a fun element of competition and is great for all ages, from 7 to 97! It is a huge hit in our home and it will make a great holiday gift for your family.

Leave a comment below to enter. Tell me which game you’re most interested in, or what your family enjoys doing together over the holiday break.

For extra entries, follow Sweet Greens and Blue Orange Games via your favorite social media platforms and leave a separate comment for each!

Blue Orange Social Media Channels:

Facebook: Blue Orange Games USA
Twitter: @BlueOrangeGames
Pinterest: Blue Orange Games
Instagram: @blueorangegames

Sweet Greens Social Media Channels:

Facebook: Sweet Greens page
Twitter: @SweetGreens
Pinterest: Sweet Greens
Instagram: @SweetGreens

 

US winners only, please. Sorry to my international readers! Winner will be announced on December 13th!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Hello Friends!

Can you believe the holidays are officially here? I am super excited! We kicked off the holiday season last night making pies as a family and watching a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. So fun. Today, Eben and I spent the morning getting our home ready and putting together the tablescape. We think it turned out pretty great! We are calling it a success.  The mister does all of the cooking and we are drooling over all of the amazing smells and sights coming from the kitchen. Yay!

I hope you have an amazing Thanksgiving Day full of family, friends and amazing food! I hope you get to spend the weekend doing whatever makes you smile (relaxing, sleeping in, reading a great book, shopping or like us, heading to the beach!)

Happy Thanksgiving!
Sweet Greens

5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Plan for Thanksgiving Dinner

5-eco-friendly-ways-to-plan-for-thanksgiving-dinner

Hello, Friends! November is finally here – Hooray! Which means Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Are you hosting the big dinner this year? There are many eco-friendly ways to green your Thanksgiving dinner – all of which are easier to implement if you plan ahead. Many of these ideas will save you money and time while cutting down on the amount of waste that can accumulate from a big family dinner. Read on to learn my 5 favorite eco-friendly ways to plan your Thanksgiving dinner and start planning today!

1. Decorating 101
You don’t have to spend any money when decorating for Thanksgiving, instead use items that you already have or consider bringing natural items indoors. We always have a handful of pumpkins leftover from Halloween that we use as Thanksgiving decorations. And Eben and I like to take a nature walk to collect natural elements (pine-cones, acorns, branches and leaves) to display as our Thanksgiving table centerpiece.

2. How Much is Enough?
It is really easy to go overboard when planning the Thanksgiving menu. Consider the dishes that you will be serving and ask yourself if you are making more than is necessary. Choose a few dishes that you are sure your guests will love and skip the rest. Also, consider which parts of Thanksgiving dinner you want to or can afford to purchase organic and whenever possible, avoid pre-packaged items.

3. Consider the Table
Do you have enough dinnerware for everyone in your dinner party? If not, consider borrowing place settings from close friends or family members instead of purchasing new. If you aren’t a china and tablecloth kind of family and choose to go with disposable place settings, choose a great compostable version that is made from 100% recycled materials.

4. Think Seasonal
When choosing fruits and vegetables for your Thanksgiving menu, think seasonal. You want to avoid purchasing produce that are imported from far away. You may consider joining a local CSA for the holiday season – not only will you have delicious, local foods to serve this Thanksgiving, but you will be supporting a local farm too.

5. Plan for Leftovers
What do you plan to do with the Thanksgiving dinner leftovers? If you are planning on sending goodies home with your guests, have glass resuable storage containers ready to go. If you made more than your family can consume, you could donate some of the leftovers to a local food bank, freeze them for later or have a menu plan for the days after Thanksgiving so all of the leftovers will be used.

How do you green your Thanksgiving dinner? I would love to hear – please share your thoughts in the comments!

7 Simple Eco-Friendly Fun Ways to Spend Fall with Your Family

7-simple-eco-friendly-fun-ways-to-spend-fall-with-your-family

I love fall – it is my favorite season and my favorite time of year! What’s not to love? There is cooler weather, chai tea, cozy sweaters and pumpkin everything. But my favorite part is spending time with my family. Here are 7 simple, eco-friendly ways to inspire you!

1. Take a Listening Hike
One of my favorite fall activities is hiking! And one of my favorite ways to enjoy a hike is when we take what we like to call “a silent hike.” A silent hike is just that – we hike together as a family in complete silence. It’s amazing how the act of simply being quiet and listening can have a huge impact on your hiking experience. There have been many times that we come upon an animal grazing or fish swimming in a creek – it’s amazing. We also like to stop along the way to listen to the rustling of the trees, chirping of the birds or to watch leaves quietly wafting to the ground. It a great time to reflect within too, while still being with the ones you love.

2. Take It Outside
Fall is the perfect time to take whatever you are doing – outside! The mister and I start every morning by taking the dogs on a walk around the lake in our neighborhood. And Eben and I like to sneak away after dinner to take the dogs on another walk. It is my favorite way to start and end each day.

3. Slow It Down
Now that school is back in session, you have to admit that you are much busier than you were all summer. I know that if something isn’t on my schedule, it probably isn’t going to happen. Which is why during the fall months, we really take extra consideration to slow things down at our house. We like to schedule extra time in the morning and afternoon, just to be. We usually spend this time snuggled up chatting about our upcoming adventures.

4. Get Centered
Along with slowing down, fall is a great time to get centered. Spend time each day doing whatever it is that makes you feel connected and centered. For the mister, this means swimming – he will get up early everyday to swim his laps before heading to work. For Eben, this means a hot cup of cocoa and a really good book right after dinner. For me, I like to snuggle down with my iPad to pin my favorite eco-friendly things or end the day with a relaxing yoga session!

5. Plan Ahead
One thing that I have definitely learned along the way is that it is super important to enjoy the moment. To ensure that every moment of fall is enjoyable for my family, I like to plan ahead. I sit down with my journal and jot down things that I really want our family to do together during September, October and November. I include all of our traditional fall family activities, as well as new ideas that I can run by the boys. The idea is that if I plan these activities ahead of time, we spend the months doing fun things together without much thought – since I planned it well in advance.

6. Find an Adventure
One of my favorite parts of fall is the cooler weather – which always equals more time outside. We usually do the bulk of our camping and sailing trips during the fall months. We really enjoy the cooler days spent outside, followed by the crisp nights roasting marshmallows over the fire!

7. Get Cozy
Fall is a great time to reconnect with family and friends. We like to plan long dinner parties with friends, have family stay for extended weekends and plan unexpected get together with close friends. Last night, I kicked off my fall cravings by having a close friend over for a glass of wine at 8 pm. It was the perfect way to end a busy day, we were able to relax, sip wine and giggle about how hard it is to get into the back to school routine – it really made my week and will definitely become a tradition!

What ways do you plan to spend fall with your family?

4 Fall Inspired Eco-Friendly Art Projects for Green Kids

I love fall – it is my favorite season. Have I mentioned that before? Ha! I love the colors, textures, and find myself crafting with Eben more during the autumn season. With that being said, the artwork really piles up around here. Many pieces get photographed and recycled, however there are pieces that we love so much we want to keep and display. Here are 4 fall inspired art projects that we have enjoyed over the year and thought they might inspire you this autumn:

1. Baker’s Twine Apple
Whenever I work with baker’s twine, it seems like I am left with a few scraps that I keep for craft projects. I recently came across an amazing baker’s twine apple project that would be perfect for those leftovers. I adore it!

+ Baker’s Twine Art
+ Domestically Speaking

2. Button Art
If you have a large button collection – this is the project for you! I love the different colors and sizes – I think it would be fun to do a set of four, one for each season, arranged on a wall together. This would be a perfect project for children of all ages too!

+ Button Art
+ Diane Payne

3. Leaf Prints
Eben loved this project because it incorporated a nature walk and pigment paints. This is a project that we tend to make over and over again each fall. It’s easy, a fun way to get our hands dirty and the perfect excuse for working together after school.

+ Leaf Prints

4. Alphabet Leaf Animals
Again, this is the perfect fall project for kids! It gets their creative juices flowing as they arrange the leaves into different animal shapes. I have to admit, Eben is much better at this than me – he is fantastic as seeing things that I never would. Are your kids like this?

+ Leaf Animal Prints

What fall inspired art project are you and your children working on?

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