Wednesday, March 26, 2014

6 Simple Green Ways to Reconnect with Your Family this Week

Reconnecting with your family is super important, especially during those busy weekdays. Between work, school, appointments, extra curricular activities and homework, it may seen like a feat to simply have dinner together as a family. To keep your family bond tight and communication between family members open, it's important to have fun activities "scheduled" each week to spend time together. I am a huge fan of getting creative when it comes to reconnecting with your family - especially since it doesn't matter how good your intentions are, you won't have a lot of time to spend together at the end of a busy day.

That's why I try to pepper in a handful of fun ways to reconnect with my family, especially Eben (since the mister works late most nights) during the week. Whether I surprise them with a themed movie night, pick Eben up from school for an impromptu lunch date or chat with him during breakfast - it's that little extra effort that makes the week a little lighter and brighter for everyone.

Read on for all 6 of my favorite ways to reconnect with my family and add a couple of them to your weekly routine.

#1: Movie Night
It doesn't matter if we have a movie night planned for Saturday night or Sunday afternoon - it is always a fun way to snuggle up with the family. We grab a ton of blankets and pillows and snuggle up on the sectional - however, you can throw a bunch of pillows out on the family room floor too. The mister usually makes homemade pizza and we pop up a ton of popcorn and we are ready to go. Believe me, it's a fun treat that everyone enjoys and we try to sneak it in a couple of times a month.

#2: Family Book Club

There are so many great books that both children and adults will adore, making a family book club a no-brainer. Sit down with your family and decide on a book or a particular series of books that your book club will be reading. Meet once a week during dinnertime to discuss what happened in the book during that particular week. Spend time discussing what you think will happen next and what parts so far you liked and dislikes. If you have younger children, you and your spouse can read the book of choice to them each night before bedtime.

#3: Get Outside
I still think spending time outside with your family is the best way to reconnect. I like to take walks with Eben and the dogs after dinner. Not only is it great to sneak in a little extra exercise before bedtime - I swear he really opens up to me when we walk. On the weekends we always try to spend most of our time outside, between paddleboarding, hitting the beach, biking and swimming - we get to spend a lot of time together as family doing activities that all of us enjoy.

#4: Dinner and a Game
Some nights the only time that I get to reconnect with Eben (beside while doing homework!) is during dinner time. We have made it a habit to play a card game at some point during dinnertime as a way to reconnect. For whatever reason this helps him relax and he is more opening to talking to me about "teenage things" while we are playing. It is also a great way to get a few giggles in, especially if it has been a particularly difficult or long day. It's a tradition that we have kept since he was a tiny little guy who could only play "go fish", and has grown to include several card games over the years. We have a large bowl on our dining room table full of games, so there isn't a chance we will forget!

#5: Breakfast Club
Several times a week, I shift my schedule around to have breakfast with Eben. It's a great way to spend a 1/2 hour with him in the morning, chatting about his upcoming school day. It is also a great time to go over homework that will be included in a test that day, items that he needs to finish before the end of the school week, or plans that he wants to make for the weekend. It's also nice to talk about these things during breakfast because the day is still fresh, he isn't tired and he still has a positive lookout on what the day may bring (remember, he is almost a teenager!)

#6: Lunch Date
Once in a while, I love to surprise Eben or the mister at school or work for an impromptu lunch date. If I am picking Eben up early for a dental or doctor appointment, I will pick him up a little earlier so we can grab a bite to eat together before the appointment. Or, at the very least we will stop for a scoop of ice cream after the appointment. It's a nice little way to see my family during the week, surprise dates are my favorite.

YOUR TURN: How do you stay connected with your family all week long?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Forget April Fools', We Had a Spring Break Surprise!

Hello, Friends! How have you been? Are your children home from Spring Break? Eben has been home for the past 12 glorious days - so posting has been non-existent. Our Spring Break was pretty spectacular - we had friends visiting from Montana and our days were spent snorkeling, paddleboarding, beachcombins, flyfishing and traveling to the Keys! We had so much fun, which made getting back into the school routine that much harder. However, we managed to get up and to school on time today, only to find out that there isn't school - it's a teacher work day!

It cracked me up, Eben had a mix of emotions - happiness, there isn't school today, followed by disappointment, he didn't get to stay up late last night and woke up early on a day off. I had to snicker, it's like April Fools' Day snuck up and surprised both of us. Ha!

What surprises have you had over Spring Break?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Do You Use Herbs During Flu Season to Boost Your Immunity Naturally?

October - March is cold season, which means that over 1 billion of us will have a nasty little cold and 10% of us will get the flu. Getting sick can't always be avoided, it may just be your body's way of telling you that you need to slow down and take some time out to rest. I think this is what my body is trying to tell me - I have decided to listen.

You can help your body avoid the cold and flu by pumping up your immune system. Your immune system is your body's natural defense team with the ability to protect you from potentially harmful bacteria and viruses. There are four key steps that I follow to help keep my immunity in check. You can also support your immunity by discovering what ancient healers have known for centuries - that certain herbs can help support your body's immune system. My favorite herb immunity boosting herb is ginger - you can put it in a lot of different dishes and it makes a lovely tea too! And remember that the number one way to prevent getting sick is by washing your hands!

Tip: Elderberry tea is super effective when it comes to helping you fight a cold because it has massive anti-viral properties. 

How do you prevent a cold?
If you do come down with a cold or the flu - how do you make yourself feel better?

photo credit

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

7 Simple Ways to Save Money and the Environment Today

Many people feel that going green is simply too expensive to achieve overnight. Or, they feel that the process is simply too overwhelming, and don't know where to start. And while I completely understand that buying an electric car, harvesting rain water and retrofitting your home with solar panels isn't feasible for many of us - there are ways that you can start living green today. A lot of these tips take minimal effort, but have a huge impact on the environment, your health and your wallet, read on. 

1. Unplug
If your home is like ours, you have several electronics that aren't used on a consistent basis. When you aren't using those electronics, unplug them. Even if they are turned off, they are still using energy, until you actually unplug them - that's why they call them "energy vampires."

2. Look for Local and Seasonal
We are lucky here in Florida - our farmer's market is still going strong. However, if you live in an area of the world covered in snow or don't have access to a farmer's market, you can still eat local and seasonal. When you hit the grocery store, look for local and seasonal foods. For example, here in Florida I make sure to purchase produce that was grown locally, instead of those grown across the country or internationally.

3. Meatless Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday....
We all know that meat has a huge impact on the environment, so when possible skip it. On taco night, instead of filling your tortilla (or lettuce cup!) with meat and cheese - top it with organic beans and vegetables. This idea isn't only good for the environment, your wallet and body will feel the impact too!

4. Plan Ahead
I can't stress this tip enough and it is one that I live by, get organized and plan ahead. When we do our grocery shopping, we plan out the meals that we will be eating that week and make a list of any toiletries or household items that we need. This saves us from those last minute trips to the grocery store all week long. I also bundle all of our errands - once or twice a week I take Eben to the library, make all of my deposits at the bank, and hit our medical appointments. 

5. Walk More
We live in a large family friendly community with an amazing clubhouse and pool. The clubhouse is centrally located, however there are homes that are about a mile away from the pool. This means that an insane amount of people actually drive to the pool everyday. Friends, let's commit to walking more. We picked our new home, not only because of it's tiny footprint, we can walk or bike to the grocery store, school, local restaurants and even the beach.

6. Ditch the Plastic Bottles
This is an easy one - simply do not buy drinks in plastic water bottles. Invest a few bucks in a great reusable one that you will be happy to use everyday. You can find my favorite resuable water bottles and coffee/tea mugs here.

7. Do You Need It?
There is a series of questions I ask myself every time I am considering making a purchase:
  1. Do I really need it? 
  2. Do I have something like it at home that I can use instead? 
  3. Can I find it at the thrift shop?
Then, based on those answers I make my choice, many times I skip it, figure out something that I already own that I can use instead or I hit the thrift shop to see what I can find. Not only does this help the environment, it saves our family a lot of money and keeps me creative.

P.S. To go along with number 7, here are 8 eco-friendly living questions to ask yourself. 

YOUR TURN:What other tips do you have for living a green lifestyle starting today? Your comments support us all!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

7 Steps to Creating an Organic Garden with Your Children this Spring

Gardening is a fantastic activity that everyone in your family will enjoy, regardless of age. It is the perfect way to spend several days a week working together outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Gardening is also great for instilling a sense of responsibility, cooperative learning and excitement in your child. Not to mention, when all is said and done, you are left with a beautiful bounty of fresh, organic foods that your family grew together - and will consume together. Read on to learn how to create an organic garden with your children this spring, you will reap the rewards all year long.

#1: Garden by Design
The first step to creating an organic garden with your child is to design the garden. You and your child will need to discuss which types of plants you will have in your garden and what type of garden you want to cultivate. You will want to take into account where in your yard is the best place to have a garden and what ways you will deter critters from eating all of your goodies. Then, you must figure out where to plant each of those plants within the garden so they have enough room to grow (if you live in small space, a container garden is a great idea), and receive the correct amounts of water and sunshine.

#2: Prepare the Garden
After you have created a design for your garden, it's time to prepare the space for new life. It is a good idea to measure the space to make sure that it will be large enough for your goodies to grow. Remember goodies such as pumpkins, zucchinis and cucumbers will need a lot of room to grow. Then, you will want to make a border of some sort - in the past we have used reclaimed decking to make a raised garden bed. Next, grab a wheelbarrow and fill your garden beds with a good mix of high quality topsoil and organic compost. Children will love to help fill the wheelbarrow and then dump the dirt into the garden beds. Once you have filled the beds and leveled the tops, you are ready to begin planting.

#3: Get Planting
Now comes the fun part - children love to get their hands dirty, so planting the garden will delight them. You can provide them with handheld shovels, rakes, and hoes to assist in their gardening. Next, it is time to start planting your seeds. Great seed picks for children include; organic carrots, cucumbers, peppers, peas, melons, pumpkins, cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce and berries. Children especially love plants such as melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers because they can see the vegetables growth every day. However, there is a lot of fun in pulling carrots right out of the ground or eating berries straight from the patch. Just don't forget to label the different goodies in the garden, so your child will know exactly what is growing.

#4: Maintain the Garden
Children love to help maintain the garden - they can help with the watering of the plants, weeding, organic fertilizing and recording the growth of all of their goodies. A fun way to record the growth of your garden is to allow your child to take photographs of it's progress and encourage them to record how much each of the plants in the garden has grown throughout the season.

#5: Learn as the Garden Grows
Gardening teaches children much more than simply how to grow their own food. Gardening also teaches children the importance of working with others, proper nutrition, responsibility, life cycles, life skills,  and can have a wonderful impact on their mental health and well-being. Not to mention, it is a perfect way to spend warm spring mornings together with your children. Oh yes, and they will also learn about bugs and insects - which delight most children!

#6: It's Harvest Time!
When it comes time to harvest the goodies from your garden, give your child a large basket to collect the bounty in. Allow your child to pick each of the goodies directly from the plant or pull each carrot from the soil. There is something very satisfying about picking a fresh piece of produce from the earth. Then, prepare a space inside or outside where your child can clean each fruit before storing it, until you use it.

#7: Share the Bounty
A wonderful way to turn gardening into a social activity is by sharing the bounty with others. If you have more cucumbers then your family can consume, consider sharing them with family, friends and neighbors. If you have an insane bounty of zucchini, consider baking zucchini bread with your children and then delivering the goodies to someone you love. And if you have a lot of extra vegetables, consider inviting friends and family over for a lovely dinner that you prepare with your child. 

Do you organic garden with your children?
What are your favorite tips for gardening with the kiddos?

photo via Pink Sherbet Photography

Monday, February 24, 2014

Celebrate National Children's Dental Health Month With Tom's of Maine

Hello, Friends! There is still time to download the Tom's of Maine's “Brushing Fun,” activity book which supports Oral Health America, a national nonprofit dedicated to oral care and prevention. Remember, with each free coloring book download, Tom’s of Maine will donate 10 tubes of its Wicked Cool! natural toothpaste (up to 200,000 tubes) to children in OHA’s Smiles Across America program. You can find OHA Health America on Facebook and Twitter too!

Parents, you can show off your kiddo's creativity and inspire others to get involved by sharing a photo of a completed page from the coloring book on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #NaturalSmiles (You can see our's here!) You will also have a chance to win a Tom’s of Maine natural oral care prize pack and a $100 Utrecht Art Store gift card to foster your child’s creativity. Yay!

Full Disclosure: This information was provided through a #NaturalSmiles paid partnership. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SkinnyLimits Delivers Juice Cleanses + Cold-Pressed Juices to Your Front Door

As you already know, our family is really big into juicing. The mister and I usually do a juice cleanse every few months. So, I was excited when SkinnyLimits asked me to give their juice cleanse a try.

Skinnylimits offers juice cleanses and cold-pressed juices that are delivered to your front door - I couldn't resist! I am doing a 3-day cleanse and started this morning. So far, I can tell you the juices are good (they taste almost identical to the juices that we make at home), the program is easy to follow (the juices come with a quick-start guide that outlines everything you need to know), and you get to drink a lot of juice (6 bottles a day!).

Stay tuned - I will be going into a lot of detail as to what I thought of the entire experience next week. I can't wait to share!

YOUR TURN: Do you juice? Have you tried a juice delivery service?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Talking Produce? Your Produce Can Tell You if It is Genetically Modified

Did you know that those annoying little stickers that come on your produce really do have a great purpose? Those stickers, also known as PLU codes can actually tell you whether your produce was grown conventionally, organically or if it has been genetically modified. Here is how it works:

1. Conventional Produce:
You will find a four digit PLU code on the sticker.
2. Organic Produce:

You will find a five digit PLU code that starts with the number 9 on the sticker.
3. Genetically Modified Produce (GMO):
You will find a five digit PLU code that starts with the number 8 on the sticker.

Let's break it down with some examples.

- A conventional apple would have the PLU code: 5454
- An organic apple would have the PLU code: 95454
- A genetically modified (GMO) apple would have the PLU code 85454

How great is that? Next time you are shopping, take a look to see how your favorite produce was grown.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Do You Bulk Up at the Natural Bulk Bins?

Do you buy in bulk from your local natural grocer? If you do, you already know how affordable it can be, right?  However, do you realize that shopping in bulk is also great for the environment? When you buy in bulk, you are only purchasing the exact quantity that you need - which means nothing goes to waste. If you bring your own reusable containers, you eliminate the need for packaging too. There are tons of organic options available in the bulk bins including; cereals, snacks, dried fruits, spices, nuts, seeds, and even peanut butter and honey. Plus, many co-ops offer personal care items such as soap, shampoo, and condition in bulk too.

YOUR TURN: Do you shop in bulk? What are your favorite items to buy? What are your favorite stores to bulk shop at?

photo via bcmom

Monday, February 10, 2014

Faire Collection Monroe Necklace Giveaway for Valentine's Day

Today's giveaway is sponsored by Faire Collection one of my all-time favorite companies. I love every single thing about them, from their ethics to their beautiful, eco-friendly jewelry and accessories. They are offering a beautiful Monroe Necklace to one lucky reader!

Faire Collection's newest collection Horizons has me smitten and right in time for Valentine's Day! Isn't it yummy? I love mix of colors and textures! If you are looking for the perfect gift, check out these 7 on-trend, perfect for Valentine's Day pieces. And if you hurray and order today, you can still receive these goodies in time for Valentine's Day.

Or, enter the giveaway below - for your chance at my favorite piece the Monroe Necklace

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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