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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!

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!

5 Budget and Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Shopping Tips

5 Budget and Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Shopping Tips Sweet Greens
While this time of the year is the most wonderful  – it is also the busiest. You may feel like there are so many things that you need to prepare and buy and deciding where to start can be overwhelming. Instead of getting things done ahead of time, many of us tell ourselves we will get everything done when the holidays get closer. Then, the next thing you know the holidays are upon us and we end of spending too much money, getting completely stressed out, and not making the best choices – not exactly the feelings that you want to experience. It happens to the best of us, right?To get your holiday shopping off on the right foot, I thought I would share my favorite budget and eco-friendly holiday shopping tips. These are all tips that I use every year to make sure that this time of the year is definitely the most wonderful without breaking the bank or losing my head!

1. Make a List – Check it Twice
Every year, I create a simple holiday gift list in my iPhone. It includes the name of everyone on my holiday shopping list, gift ideas for each of them and my spending limit per person. Since my list is on my phone, I can consult and update it at anytime. Then, I mark off each person as I finish their holiday gift shopping. This has saved me a lot of time and money and I never have to ask myself – did a buy a gift for so and so? Or, how many gifts did I buy for Eben or the mister? I just check the list and I am done!

2. Start Early
The earlier that you start your holiday shopping, the better. Just think, if you finish all of your holiday shopping early, you can spend the day after Thanksgiving at home, snuggled up with your family and a yummy warm beverage. I can’t think of anything more stress-free then having all of the holiday shopping done before December even arrives. It really frees up all of December to focus on making fun memories with my family. This is another place that #1 comes in, if you shop early picking up items when you find them on sale – you save a ton of money.

3. Shop Locally
Instead of hitting the closest big box store this holiday season, consider supporting small, independently owned businesses. Many towns have a shopping area that is filled with adorable shops that focus on the work of local artisans and many have eco-friendly options. In my opinion, a handmade gift is the best gift! You could also give a gift from your local farm, such as; fresh vegetables, fruits or dairy items. Another option is to check out Etsy for fantastic handmade goods, you can click here to shop Etsy shops located in your local area.

4. It’s All About Quality
Each year, I like to focus on purchasing the mister and Eben quality gifts that they will enjoy for years and years to come. I focus on items that I think they will really enjoy and steer clear of items that are disposable, or would only be enjoyed temporarily. My favorite items to purchase for them include; books, experiences (see below), heirloom quality items that they will keep forever and gifts that focus on their favorite hobbies.

5. Give the Gift of Experience
I am a huge fan of giving the gift of experience, some that I have given in the past include annual passes to local nature and science museums, state parks, botanical gardens, art centers and even scuba lessons. I think gifts that allow the recipient to learn something new or go to place they have always wanted to see builds memories and brings much more happiness long-term than any material gift could ever could. Plus, it’s just another excuse to spend more quality time with my family – and that is the best gift of all.

What are your favorite holiday shopping tips? Please share them in the comments section – I would love to hear! 

Healthy Habits for Green Kids Start at Home

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As parents, the most important lessons we can impress upon our kids are the sorts of healthy habits that will stick with them throughout life, especially once they’re off on their own for the first time. Healthy lifelong habits can include eating well and exercising, but also extend to things like keeping their living space clean and following good hygiene practices. Today I want to talk about the latter, as no parent wants to see their kid end up as a stereotypically smelly, unkempt teenager!

Of course, kids have to be given freedom to explore their identities and express themselves creatively with their clothing and hair choices. I think it’s only natural for kids developing their sense of self to explore those avenues. But good hygiene is simpler than that, and important for everyone. Teaching kids to maintain healthy habits and take good care of their bodies starts at home, and is something the mister and I have tried to approach in a positive way.

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Personal hygiene is also an area fraught with marketing campaigns (some of which rely on shaming tactics or other nasty approaches to selling their products) surrounding the products we supposedly need to use in order to keep clean. Many of these are full of synthetic scents, untested ingredients, or are otherwise not very eco-friendly, being tested on animals or produced in unsustainable ways. So even our choices of hygiene products can be a big influence on our kids, and what they choose to use in the future. One of my favorite brands of natural personal hygiene products is Tom’s of Maine, who never use artificial colors, flavors, fragrances, preservatives, or animal testing.

You’ve probably seen Tom’s at your local drug store or grocery, and they’ve been around since the ‘70s. I would bet that they’re the most recognizable brand of natural body products around today, not just relegated to health stores or other specialty retailers. I think Tom’s of Maine is great because they aim to operate sustainably and care for both the environment and the communities we live in.

I would say that three of the most important hygiene habits to build with your kids are the following:

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Brushing Teeth: Keeping teeth and gums in good shape is important to overall health and maintaining good breath. It can also be a task which kids (especially young ones) are more likely to shirk or do a half-hearted job of. Being a good role model by brushing and flossing with your children can go a long way to building good dental hygiene habits. Tom’s makes a wide range of oral care products including all-natural toothpaste that my family loves using.

Washing Up: Whether we’re talking regular hand washing to prevent the spread of germs, washing your face each day to help with teenage skin concerns, or getting active kids into the shower to rinse off sweat and dirt after they’ve been out playing, washing up is a huge part of personal hygiene.

Using Deodorant: This one can be a little more controversial, as depending on how you were raised, you might not think of deodorizing products as a necessity. However, in modern society they’re a pretty prevalent part of personal hygiene, and even if you choose not to use antiperspirants due to health concerns, a simple, natural deodorant is a good choice. Tom’s is probably best known for their extensive line of natural deodorants, for men, women, and children. If you’re looking for a healthy, natural deodorant, I don’t think these ones can be beat. My whole family uses them, and we’ve been really impressed by the quality and effectiveness.

I’d love to hear your tricks for helping your kids develop healthy hygiene habits, or your experiences trying natural body products. Have you successfully swapped your conventional hygiene products for eco-friendlier options? How do you teach your kids about the importance of taking good care of their bodies? Have you tried any Tom’s of Maine products that I haven’t mentioned? Let me know in the comments!

 

This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield.  All opinions are always my own.

Stonyfield Whole Milk Greek Yogurts – Even Your Teenager Will Love

Stonyfield Whole Milk Greek Yogurts – Even Your Teenager Will Love Them

Sometimes, it is easier to trick a teenager into eating healthy than to make a convincing argument. As a Stonyfield blogger, I receive shipments of yogurt periodically, and normally, my son won’t touch the stuff, he doesn’t’ care how good it is for him, he would rather skip it. I usually sneak yogurt into his smoothies, dips and a tablespoon on his baked potato! And I secretly don’t mind that he usually doesn’t like the fruit based yogurts, because I love the stuff! Ha!

But recently I discovered that Stonyfield Whole Milk Greek Yogurt comes in flavors that include real organic fruit cup sidecars. You just pull the top off the container and pour the contents of the fruit cup into the yogurt (Check out the photos). And or whatever reason Eben loves this! He has taken to eating one every day after school while doing his homework. The fruit is organic and delicious, mixing with the creamy yogurt to make a sweet snack. Eben likes them all: cherry, blueberry, strawberry, and honey. All organic, all sourced from all over North America!

These yogurt cups are fantastic for when you are on the go and you need a quick snack. For road trips, just toss them into a bag with some ice to keep them nice and cool until everyone in the car could use a healthy pick-me-up! Same with a day at the beach! If you and your kid are having a playdate in the park, bring a few cups along. Kids love them because the organic fruit or honey makes the whole milk yogurt taste like a sweet dessert. If you prefer yours without any additions, they also sell delicious plain yogurt as well as yogurt with a twist of vanilla bean!

The great thing about Stonyfield Yogurt is that you can trust they are only made with the best organic ingredients. They have never even come close to toxic pesticides and are non-GMO. Stonyfield guarantees that all of their products are both gluten-free and certified kosher. They source their ingredients from organic farms all over the United States and you can always be sure that the yogurt comes from cows that are pasture raised and ethically treated.

Stonyfield makes a ton of great products, but I think their Whole Milk Greek Yogurt might just be the best. Heck, if they can get my kid eating healthy yogurt, they must be good!

I am a Stonyfield blogger, and all opinions are my own.

Sick of PB&J? 3 Delicious Organic Lunchbox Lunch Upgrades

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Sometimes making a simple sandwich is just the easiest, but if your student is sick of seeing the standard PB&J in his lunchbox (or you’re sick of making it!) it’s time for a box-lunch upgrade! Read on for three new lunchbox standards that we love in our home and think you will too.

#1 Wraps and Burritos
Wraps are a great way to get a few servings of healthy vegetables into your kid’s day. I like to make extra chicken breast at dinner the night before and combine it with cucumbers, avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots—you name it!—into a hearty wrap the next day. Make sure to include a healthy fat like avocado and a protein like garbanzo beans or feta cheese so that your student gets a balanced meal. Burritos are one of my all time favorite lunch foods and I haven’t met a kid yet who didn’t like them, too! Create a healthy version by combining black beans and brown rice and a sprinkling of cheese. Send some avocado slices, lettuce, or tomatoes in a separate container and the meal is complete.

#2 Homemade Soup
Hearty, homemade soups and chillis are a great winter lunch to send to school with your kid. The next time you make a big pot for the family, portion some out into jars or Pyrex containers and freeze or store the portions in the fridge. On lunch morning, simply heat up the soup and pack it in a thermos. Add a slice of seedy, whole grain bread and the meal is complete!

#3 The Re-done Lunchable
Instead of serving your kids the highly-packaged, preservative-laden lunchables that come from the grocery store, create your own using healthy ingredients. Put together whole grain crackers and cheese with fruit and nuts or hummus with carrots, celery, pita bread, and almonds for a more filling, much more nutritious alternative.

What are your favorite organic lunches to send to school with your little ones? What’s the new PB&J in your household?

6 Eco-Friendly Lunchbox Essentials for Green Kids

Now that the kids are back at school – you are probably testing out the new lunchbox. If you are like me, it can be hard to find the perfect lunchbox essentials. We have had a hard time with the lunch bag being too small, containers leaking, water bottles that won’t fit inside the lunchbox and even worse, the lost lunchbox. Over the years, we have fine tuned Eben’s lunchbox and have found 6 essentials that we highly recommend – all of them are eco-friendly too, read on to check them out!

1. Large Reusable Insulated Lunch Bag $35
Over the years we have tried out quite a few eco-friendly lunchboxes, the key is a lunchbox that is insulated and large enough to hold everything including a water bottle. For Eben it also helps if it has a handle to carry it by – since adding another bag to his shoulder isn’t an optimal option. I love this one printed with EAT on the front. Such a fun statement at lunchtime!

2. Hen House Lunchbox Napkins (6) $25
Reusable fabric napkins are a must for the lunchbox – these fabulously designed ones from Hen House Linens add a pop of color and whimsy to the lunchbox. We loves our and have found them to be super durable too.

3. Contigo Reusable Water Bottle $25
I adore Contigo products – I am a huge fan of the reusable water bottles and coffee mugs. These are large enough to hold a sizable lunchbox drink for Eben, keep his drink cold and they don’t leak! They also have a fantastic kids line with insulted food jars perfect for soup or chili on a cool fall day.

4. Island Picnic Reusable Organic Cotton Snack Packs $17
Pretzels and Popcorn and Nuts – oh my! These organic snack packs are the perfect size for packing those back to school treats! I pack Eben a couple of snacks every day and these are perfect for keeping the snacks together!

5. Wean Green Reusable Glass Lunch Cubes $6-12
These are by far my favorite reusable lunch containers, we use them every-single-day. They come in an assortment of sizes that fit perfectly inside a lunchbox, are made from non-leaching glass and the lock seal means no leaks EVER.

6. SwaggerTags $4
Never worry about a lost lunchbox again – Swaggertags are a fantastic way to identify your child’s lunchbox without giving too much information away (you have to open them to see the identification – the outside is customized by you with any photo!) They come in a selection of fun colors too and are guaranteed to not fall off. Perfection!

What is a must have for your child’s lunchbox? I would love to hear – leave your comment below!

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