Treasure Hunting: Why Secondhand Shopping is Sustainable.

When I was young I was a treasure hunter.  I grew up on a diet of Enid Blyton books filled with exciting adventures and discoveries of ancient treasures.  I made up my own treasure maps and buried them in the ground.  I trailed behind my older neighbour friend who had a metal detector, to watch him find treasure.  I searched through jars of pennies to find old ones.  I dug through 100 year old dumps to look for ancient (albeit broken) china.  I searched through bags of hand-me-downs with thrills of excitement.  And I would shop at the only old antique/junk store my tiny town had, looking for fantastic finds.  I blame it in part on my reading, in part on my frugal parents, and in part on my aunt who could kick start excitement in any child while touring ghost towns and antique shops. 

Today I still treasure hunt.  I don’t bury or search for ancient treasure maps anymore.  I don’t bother with a metal detector.  And you will no longer find me peering into old, abandoned houses with my aunt.  But you WILL find me wandering through thrift stores with my radar on high.  Treasure doesn’t mean buried gold ingots anymore.  It means unique decorating ideas, clothes that were never worn out, and kitchen utensils that most people think they will use and never do, like clay baking dishes and canning jars.  Treasure means old Fisher Price toys that I grew up playing with and that are still around because they were made well.  Ice skates for my children’s ever-growing feet.  Old story tapes that my kids will listen to over and over and over.  And so on. 

Treasure hunting serves a variety of ”green” and “frugal” purposes.

  • First and perhaps most importantly, you are reusing, instead of buying new.  There is so much unwanted STUFF in our landfills.  New furniture is cheap, and with payment options and deferrals, most people buy new rather than secondhand. Buying secondhand gives these items a new life and keeps them out of the landfill for longer.  Our disposable society can only last so long.  Already over-full landfills are causing huge problems.  Buying secondhand is one way of keeping something else from heading to the dump. 
  • Secondhand shopping saves you money.  Ever looked on craigslist?  There are SO MANY of the same kind of things there, that the price HAS to be low or it won’t sell.  I know someone who bought new furniture, kept it for about a month, and then decided she didn’t like how it looked in the house so she bought MORE new furniture.  Her items were available on craigslist for a fraction of the initial cost and it was basically brand new.  Baby and child items are a great thing to find secondhand, since they aren’t always over-used.  I buy almost all our kids books at thrift stores because they are cheap, and it doesn’t matter as much if a page gets torn out. 
  • Secondhand shopping reduces your carbon footprint.  Secondhand items have already been made, packaged, shipped and sold.  That means that the item you are buying does not have to use up valuable natural resources, add extra pollutants to the environment during its manufacturing, or jeopardise the health of over-seas labourers who are working under pathetic conditions.    The money will not go into the pocket of big business. 
  • Secondhand shopping gives you the opportunity to find things that aren’t even available anymore.  Antiques are a good example of this.  Vintage clothing and toys.  Old books that are no longer published.  And if you are sentimental like me you’ll find things you had when you were growing up that you think are better than their later replacements. 
  • And finally, if you are shopping at thrift stores a portion of your money will go to a charitable organisation to help others.  Ask your thrift store to find out who benefits from their sales. 

There is still a bit of a stigma attached to secondhand shopping and I am doing my best to eradicate it. I know people who refuse to set foot in secondhand stores because they are above buying people’s old things.  The thing is, thrift stores aren’t just for poor people who can’t afford anything else.  They are for shoppers who want to make a difference.  Who want to green their purchases and reuse things that have absolutely nothing wrong with them. 

My love of treasure hunting has been passed on to my own children.  Secondhand shopping is a regular part of their life.  I hope that my children will never be looked down upon for it.  And I hope that secondhand shopping will develop into an integral part of the REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE mantra so we as a society can make better use of our purchases and live in a more sustainable manner. 
Note:

Common sense requires buyers to beware:  do your research.  You don’t want to end up with a recalled car seat or crib, or toys so old they are painted with lead paint.  Also, bedbugs are a growing concern in secondhand stores just as they are in hotels and other areas. 

This post has been linked to The Prairie Homestead’s Homestead Barn Hop. Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Attainable Sustainable’s Patchwork Living, I Thought I Knew Mama’s Green and Natural Link Up, Common Sense Homesteading’s Living Well Blog Hop #26, Our Simple Farm’s Simple Living Linky and Natural Parenting Group: Monday Blog Hop.

Klean Kanteen Does Hawaii

A picture post with my Klean Kanteen.  Where I go, it goes…

Klean Kanteen does Ahalanui Warm Spring, Big Island.



Baby Klean Kanteen does Anaehoomalu Bay, Big Island.  With a little fresh coconut on the side…



Klean Kanteen does Habuna Beach.  Sand, surf, and sun…



Klean Kanteen does Mt. Kilauea.  Active volcano!
Klean Kanteen does Coco Crater, Oaho.  1000 railway ties straight up! 

Good times, Klean Kanteen!   Pure water, pure fun.

 

Ban the Doll Bottles: Today I Taught My Daughters To Nurse.

While baking with my youngest daughter (almost 3) the other day, I made a startling discovery.  We were mixing milk powder into the batter and she said “that’s what you used to put in my bottle when I was a baby, right?”  My jaw dropped.  She was never formula-fed. Where did she get this idea from?

I breastfed all my babies, and when I nursed my youngest, my middle child nursed her doll too.  I loved it.  But that was then, and now that all my babies are weaned and growing up, I discovered that my two daughters no longer remember how they were fed.  Most of their dolls come with baby bottles, and while I am not condemning bottle feeding, I discovered that my daughters now thought that babies were fed by bottles, not breasts.  After thinking about it for a little while I realized I don’t have any close friends who breastfeed anymore so they haven’t seen it since I nursed them years ago.

I love these MamAmor Dolls that nurse their babies.

I gathered my daughters close in my chair with me, reached for the computer and showed them pictures of breastfeeding women.  I pointed, explained, pointed to myself and to them.  I talked about our goat and baby goats.  They got it.  Now I see them happily breastfeeding their dolls again.  Could those plastic dolls that come with plastic doll bottles affect the way girls mother later in life?  Who knows?  Maybe banning the doll bottles will give girls the understanding they need to, once they are mothers, nurse their babies.

This post has been linked to Authentic Parenting: Sunday Surf, I Thought I Knew Mama: Green and Natural Link Up and Natural Parenting Group Monday Blog Hop.

Cheater Vegetarian Chili that Kids Love!

With my latest resolution to start Meatless Mondays this year, comes moments of scouring the internet for kid-friendly vegetarian meals.  Usually right before I need to start cooking, not right before I go grocery shopping.  So then I am forced to use what I have.  Since no one really knows (including myself) exactly what is in my pantry, this can be a challenge.  Or, a great opportunity to look outside the recipe box and into the fridge for inspiration. 
Tonight was no exception, or, the exception being, dinner turned out great, and the kids actually ate it.  I started chopping vegetables, and before long I had what turned into a great vegetarian chili.  With left over whole wheat biscuits from lunch, our meal was done.  No need for a side dish of vegetables when the whole meal is meatless! 
The last time I made a vegetarian chili (and followed a recipe) I used great ingredients like cumin and chick peas.  My husband and I loved it, but the kids did not.  We have to work on these new spices, and while I am not defeated, I didn’t feel like a fight tonight.  Besides, it is so much more satisfying to see empty plates rather than the alternative, and be forced to make a huge bedtime snack.  This recipe uses good ‘ol carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peas, corn and pumpkin.  Because that is what I had in my house.  And the kids didn’t recognise the broccoli, pumpkin or cauliflower, fortunately.  The rest, they know and love.  
Now, I call this a cheater vegetarian chili.  The cheating part is not the hidden meat (there is none) but rather, the jars of pasta sauce I had stashed in the pantry.  I usually try to post only made-from-scratch recipes here, but we ran out of my own homemade pasta sauce a few weeks back, and quite frankly, there was no time to whip up another batch.  When you start a meal a half hour before it is served, you have to use what you have.  So, forgive me, this recipe calls for 2 jars of pasta sauce and if you are so good as to have pasta sauce already made up, then please use it in the recipe!  But you can also choose a good, organic, all natural pasta sauce from the store and it is pretty incredible tasting on it’s own.  The beans I used were cooked and previously frozen which is my newest weapon against BPA from the lining in cans.  (There, does that make up for it?)  Of course canned beans would work too.
So let’s make chili!
Ingredients:
  • 2 large carrots, peeled.
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 cup corn
  • 2 cups kidney beans (canned, or cooked)
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped VERY finely
  • 1 cup cauliflower, chopped VERY finely
  • 1 cup cooked pumpkin or squash, cut into cubes.
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
     
  • 3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 jars tomato pasta sauce (about 5 or 6 cups)
  • 1 tsp. chili powder (or to taste)

Directions:

  • In a large pot, heat oil, and add all vegetables except corn, peas beans.  Saute until tender, 5-10 minutes. 
  • Add pasta sauce, Worcestershire sauce, corn, peas, beans and chili powder.
  • Bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes, until vegetables are cooked through.  Stir frequently. 
  • Serve!  makes about 8 portions. 

Notes:

  • Serve with biscuits, on rice, with corn bread, bread or nothing!  Enjoy! 
  • I used organic ingredients because that’s the way I roll.
  • Feel free to use what is in YOUR fridge.  Have some egg plant?  Try it out!  You could change this recipe to make it as gourmet as you like.  Let me know how it goes!

Healthy and Delicous: Cinnamon Squash Muffins

I still have squash and pumpkins left over from a great squash year in my garden.  They need to be used up though, and so I baked some of them.  My kids don’t do squash straight up very well so I searched around on the internet for a while until I found a great looking muffin recipe. 
Naturally, it wasn’t quite healthy enough for me so I made some changes, and the muffins turned out to be fantastic!  Light, moist, tender and tasty.  A great way to use up squash or pumpkin, and also a great way to get squash or pumpkin into your kids!

So with no more delay, here is the recipe:

Cinnamon Squash Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 4 farm eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 c. virgin olive oil or unrefined coconut oil (melted)
  • 2 c. pureed (or mixed until smooth), cooked organic squash
  • 1 c. organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. organic unbleached white flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg (optional)
  • 3/4 c. brown cane sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3/4 c. organic walnuts or raisins (optional)

Directions:

  • Blend eggs, oil and squash until smooth
  • Blend flour, sugar, baking powder cinnamon, nutmeg (optional), salt and raisins or nuts (optional) until mixed.
  • Combine wet and dry, and fold in until just mixed.
  • Fill greased muffin pans to about 3/4 full.
  • Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes.

Makes about 12 good sized muffins. 
Muffins can be frozen for later use.
This recipe is mix-friendly.  Mix dry ingredients and store in a jar.  Mix and add wet ingredients when you are ready to make your muffins. 

Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Butternut Squash Muffin Recipe.

This post has been linked to Whole New Mom: Traditional Tuesdays , Natural Parenting Unnatural World Make Ahead Mondays, Common Sense Homesteading’s Living Well Blog Hop #24, The Homestead Barn Hop # 45Attainable Sustainable’s Patchwork Living Blog Hop and Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday.

A Birthday Party Revolution: How to simplify and make a difference.

I have three children, each with their very own birthday, their very own group of friends, and their friends’ very own birthday parties.  Most have been normal, standard parties.  Some have been a little large, or the food and goodie bags a little junky, or the location a little pricey.  But really, nothing unacceptable.  Until now. 

My 4 year old daughter has been invited to her preschool friend’s birthday party.  The party is at a place called My Gym which is a prestigious gymnasium for children.  They host birthday parties, and with a little researching I discovered that My Gym offers parties for $300.  The package includes invitations, a table cloth, napkins, paper plates and a special gift just for the birthday child!  Alright, not something I would choose for my children, but nonetheless, sounds like a place my daughter will have fun at. 

I spoke with the mother and she told me that there will be 32 children, and that there unfortunately won’t be room for any other children (ie. my own) so I will either have to find someone to care for my other children during the party while I attend with my 4 year old, or I will have to drop her off.  Since I don’t know the mother any better than most of the preschool parents, I am not just abandoning my 4 year old at the gym for 2.5 hours.  Fortunately for me, a good friend (and co-blogger Healthy Green Mama) will also be attending with her son and is willing to watch my daughter for me at the party.

Those are the facts.  We haven’t actually attended the party yet. 

What has happened to make massive, expensive birthday parties the norm?  What kind of example are we setting for our children?  That we have to spend $300+ on a birthday party every year (for each child) in order to have fun?

That’s 32 children.  That means 32 gifts.  If each child brings a gift valued around $20 then that is over $600 in gifts!  Brought by children who hardly know the birthday girl, and will choose some well-intentioned but inappropriate, or poorly-made, made-in-China toy.  How long is the birthday girl going to play with one of those toys let alone 32 of them!  Does she really need 32 new toys for her birthday, plus everything else her family showers on her?   Of course not. 

Those 32 children come from her preschool and various other activities she is involved in.  A standard is being set (or followed, more likely) to include every child the birthday girl knows, more than likely so no one feels left out.  That means parents have to buy an unnecessary gift for a the birthday girl who hardly knows their child.  In a word, it is WASTE.

The parents have to buy 32 goodie bags generally full of candy and cheap toys that will break before they even get home.  Fake tattoos made from toxic ink.  Cheap toys made in China from an unknown plastic.  Candy from the Dollar Store that likely originated in China.  Just what you want your child to take home. 

The food typical of these birthday parties are pizza or hot dogs, chips, pop and cake.  I don’t feed my children these things and I shudder when they eat them at birthday parties.  Lets think about saturated and trans fats, too much salt, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sugar, genetically modified organisms (GMO) chemical preservatives, nitrates and nitrites, artificial color and flavour.  Lets then fill our children with them at birthday parties. 
The carbon footprint left behind the typical birthday party is huge.  Paper or plastic plates, cups, cutlery, tablecloth, decorations.  Roll them all up in the table cloth and throw them away.  They end up in the landfill for the rest of your life and many lives to come.  Balloons are chemically-produced and don’t biodegrade.  Those made-in-China toys have a horrendous carbon footprint when you consider the packaging, the distance travelled from the manufacturer, the environmental pollution during production and the plastic and paint on the toy itself. 
I am not blaming the mom for any of this.  I am blaming a wasteful, consumer-driven society where we have to keep up with (or one up) the Joneses.  It turns into an unnecessary spend-fest that gets worse every year.  And the children come to expect it, year after year, and then they give their children the same kind of parties.  It’s a vicious circle that needs to be stopped. 
How can we stop it?   Society expects big, disposable parties.  They are the norm.  But they don’t have to be.  Here are some ways to drastically decrease your carbon footprint, cut your waste, and save money while still throwing a party and still having as much (or more) fun.
Have a party at home or at a park.  It will be more work but you will save money.  If you need to rent a space, look for a local community gymnasium where all children can participate, including siblings. 
Invite only close friends, or if that is an issue, only invite one child.  There are lots of fun things to do with one child, from ice skating and swimming to a play or a movie.  If you are having it at a larger location, you can easily invite more children.  But keep the following things in mind.

State ”ABSOLUTELY NO GIFTS” on the invitations.  Have a donation party where “SMALL DONATIONS” will be accepted towards a charity.  In the past, we have bought goats and chickens for needy families in Africa through World Vision, we have donated to the SPCA (animal shelter), and we have purchase charity stuffed animals through World Wildlife Foundation.  The parents seem to appreciate the simplicity of it, the money spent is less, but when combined it provides a decent donation.  Children learn how to give in order to help others.

Provide healthy food at the party.  Not only will the parents thank you, but you won’t have out-of-control children hopped up on red food coloring or high fructose corn syrup.  Some examples are sandwiches, fruit and vegetable trays, crackers and cheese, real fruit juice or water (what’s wrong with water?) and a homemade birthday cake with natural food coloring. 

Don’t give goodie bags at all, or choose things that the children can do something with when they get home.  One year we gave away tree seedlings.  Another year we gave away bird seed feeders.  One year Healthy Green Mama gave away sunflower seedlings, which turned into giant gorgeous yellow balls of sunshine later that year.  She also gave away homemade cookie mix in a jar.  I’ve been to a party where the only thing my son brought back was a giant chocolate chip cookie.  There are lots of ideas online.

    Tree in a box from Green Planet Parties

Use reusable tableware.  Borrow, borrow, borrow!  Check with your friends for cloth napkins, plastic or stainless steel plates, cups and trays.  Use a real fabric tablecloth!  They do exist!  It creates a little extra work to wash them but we have even done it when away from home.  We just collect the tableware in a box and stick it all in the dishwasher when we get home.  Make homemade invitations or use online invitation sites like evite

When buying a gift for someone, consider what they will actually use.  If you don’t know them very well, try a gift certificate to a book store, or a restaurant.  Buy them things they can use up like crayons and paper.  Find green gifts like stainless steel water bottles.  Make homemade gifts.  Or head online to stores like Green Planet Parties or Green Gifts Guide to choose environmentally-friendly, charitable, or locally-made gifts. 

It doesn’t have to be fancy.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  It doesn’t have to be hard.  But we CAN make a difference.  We can change the way society throws birthday parties because we ARE society.  Little by little, we can make a difference.  The next time your child is invited to a birthday party think a little harder, and a little greener about what you are going to give.  Make a statement at your child’s birthday party  You might be surprised at who follows your lead.  When you are planning a party, focus on fun, health, the environment and frugality instead of the Joneses.  In the long run a fun birthday party, in a child’s mind, is not about how much money you spent but how much time you spent making it a good one, with your child.





Cloth decorations from Green Planet Parties
Wooden Loom from Green Planet Parties
Eco dolls from Green Planet Parties

This post has been linked to Living Well Blog Hop #23, Homestead Barn Hop, I Thought I Knew Mama’s Green and Natural Mama Thursdays and Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

Happy New Year: Healthy Beginnings

I know, such a cliche.  Let’s eat better in the new year.  Our family does fairly well, but we can always do better:)
It’s been a long haul since September.  I started back to work full-time and have had a tough time finding a balance between full-time work, daycare and being a mom.  Not to mention, being an absent blog partner:( I was still nursing my daughter into December and finally said goodbye to breastfeeding.  It was a bittersweet farewell, but I nursed her until she was 19 months and she was a tough one.  Up every night for many hours and the pain she seemed to inflict was just not pleasant. This means that I get to start working on me.  I found a great cleanse in my Whole Living magazine, that focuses on eating items that I already love to eat or am willing/wanting to try.  
I started the cleanse on the 1st, just because it is a Sunday and we were out for New Year’s Eve.  I shopped on Friday and could not easily find one of the ingredients, 100% pomegranate juice.  So, our New Year’s Eve involved my husband making squash pies and me making pomegranate juice and vegetarian meatballs for our party.  Amongst the cooking chaos, my 1 year old daughter fell and bloodied her nose and I whipped off to the thrift store after receiving a phone call from Free Range Mama about a great stoneware muffin pan that I had been looking for.  Just a regular day at Healthy Green Mama’s house.

When I purchased the pomegranate fruit,  I saw a little posting in the store that made getting the seeds so easy.  The method was much like this post.  I also read that pomegranates are selected for their weight and not their colour.  This selection method has worked well for me.  But how much juice can one get from a pomegranate?  Each little, tiny seed is so precious.  My Antioxidant Smoothie recipe called for 1 cup of juice and I would probably drink twice this amount during the week, so 2 cups was my goal.

First, I quartered the fruit and attempted to harvest
each precious seed.
I tore the membrane, removed the seeds in the water and skimmed the pieces of floating membrane with a slotted spoon.  I wasn’t too fussy, because I was going to juice my pomegranate seeds with a steam juicer.

The bottom basin is filled 3/4 full with water

This is the second occasion that we have used the steam juicer.  We also used it for making blueberry syrup last summer.  My husband’s family had one and used it for making jellies. It is pretty cool to use a kitchen item that isn’t made of plastic and does ALL of the work for you.  I get a certain sense of satisfaction from using items that our parents and grandparents used.  No bells, no whistles, but it still works great.

The catch basin collects the juice that is strained
and a tube deposits it into the container.
The seeds in the top straining pan are equivalent to 5 pomegranate fruits.

The water in the juicer is boiled on the stove and the steam comes up though the centre, heating the seeds, until they burst and the juice falls down the holes to the catch basin, where the tube collects the juice for dispensing in a separate container.  The whole process is lengthy, taking 1-3 hours to totally juice a fruit.  This is dependent on the amount of fruit, type of fruit and whether you help it along by mashing the fruit.  The mashing will cause some pulp to come out with the juice.  I left this juicing project with my husband, went shopping for 45 minutes and the process was still continuing when I returned:)

These are the spent seeds.  I mashed a bit of juice from them at the very end.

So, after a day in the kitchen of messy pomegranate fruit, juice leaking on the floor, kids afoot and a tower of dishes I ended up with some fresh pomegranate juice.  How much did I get and was it worth it?

5 pomegranates yielded about 4.5 cups of juice.

Was it all worth it?  You betch ya!  I ended up with enough juice to make 8 smoothies:)  The smoothies were a bit tart, but edible and when it is the only item you are eating for breakfast, you can’t be too fussy!

Pomegranate and Frozen Berries Smoothie

This post has been linked to Simple Lives Thursday#77.