Archive for the ‘Green Holidays’ Category


Blast from the past! This was our very first post on the Green Baby Guide. It ran almost three years ago today!

What would Christmas morning be without festive wrapping paper and fancy bows? (“It’s about peace and love and the birth of our Savior!” you answer.) Okay, but stick with me here. I’m talking about every kid’s much-awaited vision of Christmas morning. Will my daughter grow up deprived if I deny her the tearing-up-the-gift-wrap experience that is every American child’s birthright? Oh, she’ll have Christmas gifts aplenty—but this year, I’ve devised some eco-friendly alternatives to disposable gift wrap. If I start this practice before she’s speaking in full sentences, it should be easy, and she’ll never know what she’s missing.

Joy’s mom was way ahead of the gift wrap revolution when she sewed a set of fabric gift bags in the early 1980s. Family names are ironed onto bags, some are just decorated with quilted fabric, and all of them have a fabric ribbon sewn into the seam for quick “wrapping.” They use them for all holidays and especially enjoy seeing the familiar ones year after year. Those bags have saved reams of wrapping paper, hundreds of dollars, and hours of time in their nearly thirty-year lifespan. Last year Joy’s favorite gift was a set of her own gift bags to be used for her family’s holidays for many seasons to come. If you would like to invest in bags that will last you for years, check out http://luckycrow.com. They have several beautiful fabrics and sell some of their designs in organic fabrics.

As for me, I didn’t have any special gift bags to use this year. Piles of used ribbon, fancy gift boxes, gift bags, fabric, and Christmas tins multiply down in the depths of my basement. I try not to hoard things. I even like to think of myself as somewhat of a minimalist. But somehow, it happens. “Maybe I’ll reuse them one day,” I think to myself. Well, that day has come! Just look at what I accomplished with my handy reusing skills:

Some of those presents are for my mom, stepfather, and sister. On Christmas day they will have the very enticing option of keeping their decorative tin, bag, or box or leaving it behind to be relegated to another year in my basement. If they choose the latter option, they may very well find another Christmas present inside it next year. Despite the beautiful presentation, I’m sure my daughter will still tear into her presents. Most likely she’ll be happier placing the boxes on her head than she will be with what is inside.

DIY Last Minute Holiday Gifts

If you’re in a last minute panic and can’t imagine lugging your children through crowded shops, our vintage posts can save the day!

These fast and easy gingerbread cookies taste great and handle beautifully.  Although people always seem to be impressed by the mysterious qualities of gingerbread, you’ll have a batch whipped up in no time flat.  (There’s no refrigeration required.)

You can involve your children with making DIY: salt dough ornaments.  You can also use the dough for their little handprints if you want a great gift idea for grandparents.

Simple homemade play-dough is a great stocking stuffer or holiday craft to keep your kids busy while you tuck presents under the tree.

If you have a big chunk of unexpected time, you can whip up some DIY fabric holiday gift bags.  Give a set away as a gift or make one for your own crew.  We’ve used the set my mother made for our family nearly four decades and I now have a set of my own.  It makes wrapping presents incredibly easy and eliminates those scrapes of wrapping paper that litter your floor after those gifts have been opened.

What are you doing in the next week?  Are you taking any steps (even small ones) to make your holiday green this year?

Joy went over our top holiday crafts for kids a couple weeks ago. That post contains classics like how to make a proper paper snowflake and homemade baked Christmas ornaments. Yesterday Audrey and I spent a couple hours decorating construction paper trees and gingerbread men—a highly recommended activity for the preschool set. We also gathered branches and leaves and tied them onto a paper plate ring to make a simple wreath. Even really young children could enjoy gathering the supplies for that one, though I suppose if you live in a snow-encrusted area, that might prove difficult.

What are your favorite holiday crafts?

Wooden play kitchens have gone mainstream! Just a few years ago, I couldn’t find a wood child’s play kitchen for under $250. (I’ll admit I didn’t look too hard after my initial search proved so disappointing.) So what did I do? I picked up something similar to this Alex Toys In My Kitchen Set at a consignment shop for $12, tricked it out with some IKEA pots and pans, and voila! I had an inexpensive little play kitchen for my child. (Here’s the original post I wrote about this slap-dash effort at creating an affordable wooden play kitchen.)

This year I looked around and found several darling wooden kitchens, many of which were under or around $100!

Alex Toys in My Kitchen Set $53.85

Melissa and Doug Cook’s Corner Wooden Kitchen $74.99

Maxim Wooden Kitchen Center $98.98

Kidkraft Vintage Kitchen in Pink $99

Classic Wood Kitchen – Stove/Sink Combo $99.99

Educo My Creative Cookery Club $104.64

Kidkraft Suite Elite Kitchen $109.99

Kitchen Center Play Set $117

Wonderworld Eco-Friendly Cooking Center $147.75

Guidecraft Kitchenette $165

KidKraft Silver Retro Kitchen $169.99

Melissa and Doug Classic Deluxe Kitchen $198

Kids All In One Play Kitchen in Multi Finish $299.99

A Simple Hearth (Childs Wood Kitchen) $344.95

Does your child play with any of these wooden kitchens? How do they hold up in real life?

Looking for more wooden gift ideas? Check out last year’s post: wooden toys for babies and youngsters.

Pregnant women need pampering.  Why?  Because when their feet are massaged, when their tongues are bathed in dark chocolate, and when they are immersed in honey bubble bath, their babies are enjoying an atmosphere of relaxation and contentment as well.   Those bambinos will be getting piles of presents in the months to come, but new and expectant moms deserve some special thought as well.

After trolling the Internet for the perfect gifts (and remembering my own pregnancy cravings), here’s what I came up with:

The Microwaveable Flax Seed Filled Neck Pillow or Momma Earth Herbals Aromatherapy Packs are perfect solutions for driving away winter chill while luxuriating in relaxation.  (Please consider a few free foot massage coupons to accompany these lovely gifts!)

No matter what strange cravings your pregnant pal may have, chocolate is always a good bet.  Endangered Species Rainforest has a line of chocolates that sound smooth and lovely–and they’re eco-friendly!  If you want to make a bit more of an investment in the hard core European stuff, splurge on a box of Leonidas Belgian Chocolates.

Deep Steep Organic Honey Bubble Bath blends the scents of grapefruit and bergamont with thick, abundant bubbles.  Afterwards, she can slather herself with Earth Mama Body Butter just to soften that skin and prepare her for a relaxing snooze.

Most of us spend the first few days or even weeks after baby’s birth in pajamas. Aimee Bra-less nightgowns have gotten rave reviews and make a nice transition between maternity and early motherhood. Belabumbum also has some lovely empire waist nightgowns that are specifically designed for maternity and nursing.  If she loves flannel comfort, go for the basic Frankie and Johnny Pajamas, Sleepyheads, or Nick and Nora sets in larger sizes that will accommodate a post-pregnancy shape.

I would have LOVED any of these gifts in the tired last stretch of my pregnancy, but I also would have enjoyed restaurant gift cards or meal deliveries.  Now that I have made it through two pregnancies, I am passionate about supporting women as they transition from pregnancy to motherhood.  What do you do for pregnant friends?  What were some of your favorite gifts as an expectant parent?

Congratulations to the winner of our Sealy Naturalis Crib Mattress with Organic Cotton giveaway!  Catherine Alley will soon be receiving a very large package in the mail thanks to Kolcraft, our giveaway sponsor.  We hope your baby enjoys the unexpected holiday gift Catherine!

You may have savings on hand for heirloom green gifts, but if money is tight this year, consider some creative thrift store gifts that any child would love. (They’ll be just as cherished and even more eco-friendly!)

  1. A Dress-Up Treasure Chest: Fill up a wooden crate with lovely secondhand ensembles.  Costume jewelry, scarves, purses, vintage hats, and princess dresses are all easily found while hunting for thrift shop treasures.
  2. A Real Tool Box: Find everything for an older child’s toolbox secondhand including a real hammer, screwdriver, wrench, screws, and nuts and bolts.  Throw in a few pieces of scrap lumber and a promise to help build a birdhouse sometime soon!
  3. A Stationary Set: Have you ever noticed how much kids adore paper clips, post-its and rubber bands?  Pick up an old tackle box secondhand and stock the sections with office supplies.  You can even throw in a hole punch and stapler for fun!  (For younger kids make it an “Art Box” and limit it to crayons, erasers, and other objects that are safe for little ones.)
  4. A Sporting Kit: Fill a plastic crate with all sorts of thrift store loot such as frisbees, soccer balls, bats, and whiffle balls.  If you’re athletically gifted, throw in some coaching coupons along with the gear.
  5. A Doll Bed: Pick up a secondhand basket, line it with a pillow case, and fill it full of whatever you can find in the thrift store toy aisle including stuffed animals, beanie babies, or baby dolls.   Make little cards telling the name and care instructions for each of the toys you include in the basket just for fun.
  6. Toys: Don’t underestimate what you might find in the toy aisle!  We have scored some amazing gifts for our son as people begin to purge their shelves to make room for incoming holiday presents.

The whole thrift store gift idea may seem downright depressing to you if you’ve never cruised through your local secondhand shop.  But used gifts offer an opportunity to give something that’s more personalized, less expensive and greener than just about any other option.  Plus, you’ll be able to purchase more on a limited budget. Have you braved the aisles of your local thrift shop lately?

You could be the lucky winner of a Sealy Naturalis Crib Mattress with Organic Cotton! Go to our organic crib mattress giveaway post to enter multiple times. We are looking forward to randomly selecting the winner after midnight PST tonight and emailing them with the news. What a fantastic holiday gift for you or someone you love. We’ll post the winner’s name in the next few days. Great luck!

When the rain hits around here, cabin fever quickly descends unless we seek creative indoor entertainment.  Luckily we have a huge supply of cozy kid-friendly fall activities for those chilly afternoons indoors.

If you’re still waiting for that first baby to arrive, you can while away the time with our DIY baby mobile made of beautiful paper birds.  Or, you can whip up a few homemade hemp diaper liners to fill out your cloth diaper layette.  Don’t forget to buy or use your library for free access to books! Check out our practical little publication, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide for some entertaining and eco-friendly reading.

Those of us who already have a few little helpers will enjoy our homemade Play-dough recipes. You can even combine playtime with snack by making Edible Play-Dough!  While you’re mixing up play clay, make some salt dough for Baked Dough Christmas ornaments that can be slipped into stockings in just a few weeks.

Clove oranges are another great craft that can later be used for homemade seasonal gifts.  You’ll enjoy pomanders as all natural air fresheners that will bring those spicy scents into your home before the holidays hit.

Even if it isn’t quite time for snow, you can make some elegant paper snowflakes with your children on those long cold afternoons and then string them in the windows!  And one of our favorite creative recycled playthings is the DIY Cardboard Dollhouse made of a box and a few furniture catalogues.

And when this list runs out, you can always get the kids outfitted in PVC-free children’s raingear and hit the puddles!  Have you had any cold weather fun yet this year?  What is the temperature at this time of year where you live?

Also, don’t forget that our Sealy Naturalis Crib Mattress with Organic Cotton giveaway is coming to a close soon.  Go to our organic mattress giveaway post and enter multiple times!

A wooden spoon?  A secondhand rattle?  A children’s museum membership?  A ribbon?  What are you planning to wrap up for your tot this year?  If you opt not to give her a gift, don’t worry.  She’d most likely play with the wrapping paper anyway.  (Unless you decide to whip up a batch of homemade holiday fabric gift bags!)

We also love buying gifts of experience.  Since they were activities rather than objects, they didn’t have to be stashed in baby’s tiny room and they always provided great memories.

Our baby was just six months old during her first Christmas and had no idea what was going on so she received a few secondhand playthings plus gifts from family and friends. Now that she’s older, we’ve found some amazing garage sale deals including a dollhouse and wooden pull toy, but she won’t be getting mounds of loot.  How are you handling the holidays with your baby?

Gratitude, Thy Color is Green

The dark has descended, the cold has hit, and the looming holiday lists are here.  In the midst of the short term pressures in my life including boundless laundry, a floor that I sweep 17 times per day, and alternating screaming fits from both my children, it is critical that I remember the spirit of this upcoming holiday.  Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

The more we’re grateful, the less we get impatient about what material and situational things we can’t have–which usually don’t provide a true sense of lasting joy anyway.  When I feel myself getting “the gimmies” (a term that I found in a Berenstain Bears book and instantly loved), I try hard to work on gratitude, even for those things that don’t at first seem to be gifts.

Gratitude while I nurse my 17 month old at 4am each morning.  I try to keep my eyes open long enough to notice the curve of her cheek and the curl of her hair instead of grumpily wondering when, if ever, she will sleep through the night.

Gratitude for this tiny but cozy house that has to be cleaned about 137 times each day.  I’m thankful there isn’t that much more square footage to pick up, and that it naturally limits the stuff that we collect.

Gratitude for that pile of dirty diapers that both my children have worn, that won’t make it to a landfill for years, and that has saved us heaps of cash to spend on other more interesting investments.  (Such as dark chocolate and family vacations)

Gratitude for my spirited, hilarious, and endlessly creative kids.  Although I am often humbled by the enormity of this job, I am also honored to be their mother.  Also, so thankful to have a supportive husband!  (I bow before all single parents in admiration and awe!)

Finally, I’m filled with gratitude for this green journey we’re taking together.  For Rebecca, my first and most important green parent pal, and all we’ve managed to do for the last three years.  For this blog, for our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide that went from being a distant dream to a real accomplishment, for all of you, our loyal and supportive readers and fellow green parents, and for our limits.  (Both real and self-imposed).  They help us appreciate what we have, respect our planet, and raise these babies with a sense of responsibility and appreciation.  Have a wonderful week of gratitude and Happy Thanksgiving in advance!

(Those are my family’s feet.  Yes, my toes are green and yes, my feet are the largest of the bunch.  Did I mention that I’m grateful for having immense feet?)

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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