Archive for the ‘Holiday Gift Ideas’ Category


First Birthday Gift Ideas

Rocking Horse

Rocking Horse

wooden-tricycle

Tricycle Walker

Hammer Set

Hammer Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frances is coming up on one year at the end of the month, and the grandparents have started asking for gift ideas. I don’t remember what it was like to be that young, so I’m not sure what to suggest. She has certainly outgrown some things since Christmas, like her bouncy seat and jump-up, but I don’t know if they even need to be replaced with anything.

She’s too young for crayons and still prefers to chew on books rather than read them, so I don’t want to request art supplies or more books. She loves her wooden blocks and stacking cups, but I don’t think she needs more of them. She’s too young for a Doll House, and I think I would have more fun with that than she would.

What about a Hammer Set? Will she be into that soon? What about a Tricycle Toy? Or a Rocking Horse?

I was trying to think of some bigger items that would be nice to not have to purchase ourselves, but I can’t think of anything we don’t already have: high chair, car seat, backpack. Is there some expense we’re overlooking?

As a new parent, each stage is something new and different so I’d love to hear what some of you veterans have to say!

Recipe: Medjool Date Fudge

Looking for a holiday treat that no one else will be bringing to the annual pot-luck?  Fudge is a classic choice, but this spin will have everyone grinning over how “healthy” it is.  There is no added sugar and it uses unsweetened chocolate, an antioxidant powerhouse.  No one will know that it uses dates, unless you tell them.  I’ll leave that decision up to you!

It definitely is a seasonal recipe, since you can only find Medjool dates this time of year.  But you can get them just about anywhere, even Costco! Or if you are a Trader Joe’s fanatic like me, you can find all the ingredients (even the ghee) there.

Medjool Date Fudge

Dark Chocolate Fudge

Dark Chocolate Fudge

Adapted from Gluten Free on a Shoestring

  • 6 ounces chopped unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 pound pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup cream, heated
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  1. Line 8-inch or 9-inch square pan with parchment and spray with coconut oil or other cooking spray.
  2. Put pitted dates in a food processor with a blade attachment. Heat cream and pour over dates. Melt ghee and chopped chocolate together in a microwave, mixing often until melted. Pour over dates. Add vanilla.
  3. Process until the mixture is smooth, which might take a couple of minutes. Scrape down the sides if necessary. Add cocoa powder and process again until smooth and shiny.
  4. Drop big spoonfuls into prepared pan, and then spread evenly with a spatula. Chill in the refrigerator until firm, about an hour.
  5. Pull fudge out of the pan using the parchment handles, and slice. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

I’ve made this recipe with ghee and coconut oil, and both are great. I bet it would be easy to adapt the recipe for butter, but I haven’t tried it. The coconut version would be great with nuts, if you’re into that. I’d like to try the recipe again, using rum extract instead of vanilla. Add a little nutmeg and it would be a perfect accompaniment to eggnog!

Looking for a simple, thoughtful gift for Mother’s Day this year?

The Pearhead Canvas Print Set is such a great idea! If you have multiple children, you can have each make a print, or simply make one print for each member of the family. The canvases come already primed with brightly colored paint, ready for you to make your prints! At just 19.59, this is a terrific gift that you can display for years! (And if you have more time than money, you could easily do this yourself by buying supplies at a local craft store.)

If you’re as overwhelmed by framing as the rest of us, digital frames like this Coby Widescreen Digital Frame for about $25, can help you spend less time printing and framing and more time watching all your favorite images flip by. Disclaimer..this is NOT greener than a traditional frame, but more practical for families with limited time and growing kids.

Let your child make a stepping stone for mom for less than $12! (and it may be even less expensive if you hunt down the materials at a hardware store.) Midwest Products Kids Garden Stepping Stone Kit is just $11.00 and will be a fun memento tucked in amongst the zucchini and cucumbers in your veggie patch.

(Shameless marketing plug coming…) For moms-to-be, our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, is a fantastic gift. It’s currently on sale for about $8.00 on amazon and is packed with recipes for homemade baby food, green product recommendations,and facts about buying and caring for cloth diapers. We’re completely biased, but it’s the book we both wish we would have had as expectant mothers.

What is the best Mother’s Day gift you have ever received? We hope that this year you at least have the time to put your feet up, sip a bit of tea, and maybe even enjoy something as decadent as an afternoon nap.

I had visions of whirling up organic autumn blends of apples and squash for my babes. And I did, but not for every meal. I made huge batches of sweet potatoes and mashed bananas in my blender, froze them in ice cube trays, and then stored them in zip lock bags in the freezer. It was long process, but I loved reflecting on the fact that making baby food means saving about 90% over the cost of pre-made organic baby food and avoiding the environmental costs of packaging and processing. Still, working nearly full time, not getting enough sleep and having a relatively picky baby motivated to buy jars of organic baby food to save my sanity now and then.


Later, when Rebecca and I wrote, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Time and Money, I discovered (and included in the book) recipes for homemade teething biscuits and pumpkin pancakes. With my second child I got to try them out and she loved them, but I didn’t always have time to bake everything from scratch. And as we say in the book, it’s all about “progress, not perfection” so any effort was better than none!

Have you made your own baby food? What are some of your baby’s favorites? What is your favorite store-bought baby food?

Somewhere in the midst of laundry, errands, and picky eaters, I have lost my love for preparing the family dinner. And yet I yearn for mealtime perfection…the image of my children eagerly crowding around steaming dishes of nourishment. Are simple, healthy family dinners even a possibility?

The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time is on my Christmas list. It’s packed with tips, recipes, anecdotes and green tips for a better family dinner. Somehow the fact that Laurie David (producer of An Inconvenient Truth) manages to keep her teenage children at the dinner table is inspiration enough for me.


Dinner: A Love Story is a lovely combination of reality and ideology. Jenny Rosenstarch chronicles how her and her husband make dinner a priority, no matter how crazy their family life becomes. The recipes she shares are tried and true and her voice is like that of a good friend, full of encouragement and lacking in judgement.


My other favorite, simply because the humor and tone immediately seem to lessen my meal-making angst, is One Bite Won’t Kill You, By Ann Hodgman. The reviews are fantastic and seem to imply that both adults and children have enjoyed recipes in this book. It looks like it just might be a success with my picky crew!

I know Deceptively Delicious is quite popular, but I didn’t have tremendous success with the recipes. The garbanzo bean chocolate chip cookies were a whole lot of work, and were rejected by everyone, including me. If you have younger children and are pureeing foods anyway for the baby, it might be worth the effort. Otherwise the pre-blending of cooked veggies seems unrealistic.

What is your go-to family cookbook? Thanks for your ideas!

If you’d like to add to the stash of gifts for your tot, but can’t imagine totting her into the shopping fray, you’re in luck. There are several ultra-easy gifts that will delight your tot, cost nothing, and take very little time. And remember that toddlers often spend more time playing with boxes and ribbons than they do with their new toys.

Doll sling. You can buy one of these (like the Ergo baby doll heart rose carrier above) for $46, or wrap a scarf around your toddler’s shoulder and call it a baby doll sling. It’s free, it’s elegant and if your toddler is at all interested in babies, he or she will love it. My daughter wears her baby doll in a scarf sling all day and insists upon having her sling adjusted first thing in the morning each day.

Dollhouse from a box. The Make Do: Find & Make a Dollhouse featured above is made out of cardboard and costs just under seven dollars. But Rebecca came up with another glorious (free!) cardboard dollhouse that your child can help build. Get a simple box and a home catalogue (ikea is ideal) and then cut out a kitchen, a bedroom set, wall decorations and glue them in various “rooms.” It will be great fun for your toddler and won’t cost a dime. If you find a refrigerator box, let your tot turn it into a castle, playhouse, or spaceship.

Sock puppets. You could buy the above Make Your Own Sock Puppet Kit for nearly $15, or just dig through your sock drawer for free. If you deck these babies out with yarn hair, button eyes, and even clothes made from scraps of fabric, your child will be delighted with the results. Add a cardboard theater and be prepared for hours of entertainment!

Homemade play dough. All you’ll need is flour, water, cream of tarter, oil and salt to whip up a batch of homemade dough. Mix in the food coloring of your choice and refrigerate between uses. Check out an online recipe here.

Noodle necklaces. Make up some of these as jewelry or let your child string his own to keep busy while you’re preparing for the holidays. If he eats a few noodles here and there, no harm done!

What toys are you giving your toddler this holiday season? Will she have a huge stash or are you trying to minimize the influx of stuff? Does your tot seem to understand gifts yet?

Surprise your tree-hugging Picasso with new, eco-friendly art supplies this holiday season!

Alex Eco Craft ($12.99) comes with everything your child needs to create over twenty craft projects. Best for ages 6-8.

 

Stockmar Beeswax Stick Crayons ($21.45). Set of sixteen crayons.

 

Eco Kids Natural Plant Dye Modeling Dough Made in the USA ($19.89)

 

Artterro Art Dolls Kit ($19.95). Here’s Amazon’s product description:

Eco-friendly art kits from Artterro have colorful, fun art supplies. No two kits are exactly alike, each features a unique assortment of colors and patterns. Craft four fun dolls with gorgeous handmade paper, glass beads, colorful 100% wool felt dresses and needle and thread. Turn them into bookmarks, decorations, scrapbook covers, friends to play with or even pins to wear! Ages 7 and up.

 

Check out all the Arttero Art Kits for more ideas, all around $20: the Artterro Wire and Bead Art Kit, the Artterro Paint With Wool Portrait, the Artterro Handmade Paper Bookmaking Kit, and many more.

Arttero Wool Felt Bug Kit

Or keep it simple with the EcoPaper Art Pad 9×12 Tree Free Banana Paper for $12.95. This paper is made from a blend of post-consumer waste and agricultural waste.

What art supplies are on your kid’s gift list this year?

I have experienced the joys of pregnancy (and the swollen ankles, back pain, and cravings.) And I remember the things I so longed for on a daily basis. On the whole they weren’t material items, but rather support. And the best news is that “gifts of service” are utterly eco-friendly, thoughtful and very low cost.

A bottle of The Naked Bee Green Tea Lotion and a free coupon for regular foot massages. The lotion is made from organic ingredients that will nourish her itchy, stretching skin. Husband alert: She will LOVE this! (I would love this, and I’m not even currently pregnant…) If a partner is attentive enough, foot massages could be delivered on a daily basis.

A Hamilton Beach Half Pint Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker and a promise to whip up a batch of butter brickel at a moment’s notice. I’m convinced that in the late stages of pregnancy I needed ice cream as a nutritional supplement. An ice cream maker allows you to whip up mango sorbet or mint chocolate chip without climbing into the car. And the fact that this one only makes a half pint can help limit those late pregnancy scarfings.

A copy of our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, along with a gift certificate to a consignment shop or green baby boutique. Our masterpiece will give her everything she needs to know about cloth diapering, buying secondhand gear, and saving money while going green. She can use that gift certificate to buy maternity clothes, baby gear, and heaps of onesies before baby arrives.

A Pyrex Storage 10 Piece Set filled with homemade spaghetti, vegetable curries, and brownies. After all, why wait until the baby arrives to support an exhausted woman in the third trimester of pregnancy? You can (and should) always bring her more food in a few months.

Are you currently pregnant? What are you hoping to receive this holiday season? What was the best gift you ever received during your pregnancy? (For me, it has always been, and will always be, food.) Sigh…

Dolls are a new play item in our household. Although we encouraged my son to embrace his nurturing side, he wasn’t the least bit interested. My daughter, on the other hand, is fully engaged in rocking, walking, and caring for her dolls. A comment by one of our readers early this week sparked my search for eco-friendly fabric dolls. My mission was to find an organic doll that was inexpensive, cute, and cuddly.

Global Green Pals has a line of dolls that I utterly love. They’re adorable but look sturdy enough to stand up to hours of active play. They’re made of 100% certified organic cotton and stuffed with post consumer plastic PET bottle stuffing. The clothes are removable, the dolls are machine washable, and they’re all under $25.

In our personal search for dolls, I’m always keeping an eye out for one that looks like my daughter. There are so many blond, blue-eyed options, but not always dolls with cinnamon skin and chocolate eyes. For that reason Global Green Pals Pani Rani is my favorite and the one I will probably get my daughter. (I have to add that I am disappointed that Global Green Pals has only one doll of color and hope that they start adding some more diversity to their collection soon.)

Of course, if my daughter had her choice, she would opt for whichever doll was wearing more pink, which would be Global Green Pals Coral Laurel.

Global Green Pals Carbon Offset Chet is rather spiffy in his doll glasses too. (or are they goggles…Hmmm…)

Global Green Pals Organic Kate looks hip–and ready to stir the compost. I love that she’s feminine without ribbon or lace.

If your child is wild about fairies, he or she may love the MiYim Good Earth Simply Organic Good Earth Fairy. The MiYim line of organic dolls are made from fully organic materials and dyed with natural plant extracts.

The MiYim Good Earth Ballerina is similarly adorable and would work well for my ballet-obsessed two-year old.

I have to add that Etsy has some beautiful hand-made dolls that are crafted by other mothers. It’s a great way to support a mom and find something unique for your child. Or you can hit the local craft fairs in your area and find something created by a local artisan. I’m always a big fan of secondhand toys, but haven’t had much luck with fabric dolls. Have you?

The Best Books for Preschoolers

My daughter (now age 5) loves books. She can spend hours paging through them. We typically have at least 40 books checked out of the library for her. During the preschool years, here were some of her very favorites:

Mary Engelbreit’s Nursery Tales. We own this one.  Hours of amusement!

Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose. We own this one, too.

Audrey can’t get enough of naughty David’s antics. No, David!

David Goes to School

David Gets in Trouble

And I just saw that there’s a David Christmas book! It’s Christmas, David!

Napping House

I Took the Moon for a Walk

Something from Nothing

Olivia (Warning: some parents do not appreciate Olivia’s strong-willed personality!)

What are (or were) your preschooler’s favorites?

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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