Archive for the ‘Holiday Gift Ideas’ Category


Best Books for Baby

We’ve always maintained that books make excellent baby gifts, which is why I plan to devote the next few posts to my daughter’s favorites through the years. Let’s start with best baby books:

Goodnight Moon is always a classic. (On a related note, I tried to take Audrey to a stage production of Goodnight Moon when she was three and she cried all the way through it.)

Owl Babies. She still reads this one!

Goodnight Gorilla.

Hush Little Baby illustrated by Marla Frazee. Audrey still pages through and sings the songs as a part of her bedtime ritual. She’s done this most of her life now, so I think it qualifies as Audrey’s favorite book of all time!

Hush Little Baby by Sylvia Long. Another “Hush Little Baby” book with alternative lyrics.

I’ll throw in a couple holiday books, too, for good measure:

Snowmen at Christmas

Snowmen at Night

Coming up this Thursday: The Best Books for Preschoolers. Stay tuned!

Our Favorite Eco-friendly Toys

Do kids even play with wooden toys? Do they always get more fun out of the battery powered plastic gizmos? Will you end up investing a chunk of your holiday budget in something that your child won’t even touch?

(Speaking of your holiday budget, don’t forget to enter our Charlie Banana Hybrid Diaper giveaway! The contest ends on Wednesday and you can enter up to four times!)

I cannot totally guarantee that your tot will love the following toys, but I can attest to the fact that my children have played with them vigorously for hundreds of hours spanning years of their lives. For us, they were worth the investment!

I wrote an entire post about how much we love our daughter’s Green Toys Tea Set. Made from recycled plastic, this sturdy and cute little set has already been thoroughly enjoyed just in the last few months. I love the simple design, interchangeable lids, and lovely colors in this little ensemble. (The Green Toys Recycling Truck was my son’s favorite vehicle for a full year.)

Grandma and Grandpa purchased this Melissa and Doug shopping cart for my daughter, but I wasn’t sure it would be worth the hefty price early on. I was entirely wrong! Both my kids push it around the house on a daily basis and it doubles as a doll stroller and block transporter as well.


Something about the shape and size of City Blocks makes them a staple building tool at our house. The kids have made pirate ships, bridges, and complex skyscrapers over hours of playtime.

I love that the Alex Toys in My Kitchen Set is small and colorful. It’s glorious being able to avoid a giant plastic kitchen while still enjoying hours of imaginative play over those bright burners.

Many of the hand crafted wooden vehicles we have been given have sat neglected over the years, but Automoblox are a grand exception. The fact that each vehicle comes apart and can be combined with other vehicles has made them hugely popular around here. My son received a set when he was two and is still messing with them three years later.

If all of us had a limitless holiday budget, we might buy dozens of sustainably crafted heirloom toys for our little ones. But if you can only buy a few, which ones will you be purchasing? Will you end up buying used or possibly even making some of your gifts by hand this year? What’s on your gift list?

Since we’re nestled here in the Pacific Northwest where our biggest complaint is rain, I can’t quite imagine toting my newborn home in sub-zero weather. We’ve hit a patch of chilly days here lately and it had me wondering what mothers in cold climates do to keep their infants warm on winter walks. After all, part of maintaining the motivation to live a green lifestyle is simply getting outside and connecting with nature–which can be challenging in places like Northern Alaska. Finally, I can across an image of a car seat cover.

So just what is this contraption? It fits around the outside of the car seat to provide a cozy cocoon for a newborn or infant. The one pictured above is a JJ Cole Carseat Cover and costs just under $30.

The Jolly Jumper Sneak-a-Peak Infant Carseat Cover keeps baby entirely enclosed within the car seat, providing just a tiny window for peering out. It’s also water repellant and is elasticized for a snug fit with any car seat.

Babbaco’s Babbacover Snuggle Fleece Beepbeep wins the prize for being being utterly adorable, but it’s also one of the pricier covers at $61.00. It’s nice that it does have a flip down window so that you can cover baby if she’s napping.

Are car seat covers really worth buying? It depends entirely on your geographic location and your personal values. If you live in an incredibly cold climate and are feeling desperate to get outside, it might warrant the cost. You can clip the carseat into a travel system stroller with the cover and take baby out for a walk on a freezing day without feeling like you’re risking her health. (Would you then need to put the stroller on skis? Hmm….)

Or you may just want to purchase some ultra warm baby clothing and skip the car seat cover altogether. Of course, if you only experience severe winter cold for a few weeks out of the year, it’s probably not worth worrying about car seat covers or extreme winter clothing for baby.

Have you ever even seen an infant car seat cover in use? Are they common where you live? Do you use one?

The glider rocker that has been dutifully serving our family for the last two years has broken into shards in the midst of a lullaby. It was the third in a series of used gliders that fell apart, one by one. On the journey to their demise, they squeaked and groaned just as our babies were falling into a deep slumber–usually between midnight and 3am.

We don’t really need a rocking chair at this point, but I have to wonder if we’d have been better off with a traditional rocking chair to begin with. I was adamant about buying a glider with a rocking ottoman. Why? My sister-in-law had one and I was sure it would be far more comfortable than the antiquated version.

But old rocking chairs become antiques simply because of their simple design and sturdy build. Why mess with a design that has worked for the last 300+ years? (Napolean actually had the above rocking chair in his bedroom way back in the 1800’s.)

Perhaps high quality glider rockers will eventually become antiques of sorts, but if you’re buying secondhand, which is both green and thrifty, it might be worth it to go for a traditional rocker. If you’re buying new, the greenest option is to purchase a piece of high quality furniture that will last for generations. Or, if you’re anything like Rebecca, you’ll skip the rocking chair altogether and opt to slow dance to lullabies for the first few years.

Green Toys Tea Set Review

My son, who helped to inspire our book The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, just turned five. Did he request reclaimed wood toys or organic cotton garments for his birthday? Nope. He’s in the midst of a feverish obsession with monster trucks, which are just about as ungreen as you can possibly be.

On the other end of the gender spectrum is my two-year-old daughter Jovi who must wear the finest dresses available (purchased at thrift stores), jewels, and purses on a daily basis. For her brother’s fifth birthday party (which included “pin the wheels on the monster truck”), Jovi received one special gift: A Green Toys Tea Set.

My thrift shopping habit has wildly skewed my price perception, so spending over twenty bucks on a plastic tea set was slightly painful, but I was happily surprised with the quality of the product. And when I did some research on the company, I was glad that I shelled out a bit more. All Green Toys are made in the U.S. from recycled milk containers. The whole process happens in California which saves the carbon cost of having raw materials shipped into the factory from overseas. They’re BPA free and meet the strict toy safety and environmental laws for the state of California.

I love the practical heft of the plastic, the colors, the simple design, and the fact that all lids are completely interchangeable. Since she got the set two weeks ago, we have had dozens of tea parties, and I think there are hundreds more to come. With a quality product like Green Toys, you get an heirloom toy that is made of recycled materials and costs just a bit more cheap plastic sets made in China. I’d definitely recommend it!

Do you own any Green Toys? Have you been satisfied with their quality?

As frugal souls, we love that you can get our book for free at your local library. It’s even more exciting when the price of The Eco-nomical Baby Guide randomly falls to below eight bucks on Amazon! You can now score a copy for just $7.98, which is sixty percent off the original price of $19.99.  Considering that our little gem can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars, it’s worth the meager investment in a green baby guide that’s infused with humor and humility.  These price dips usually last just a few days so you might want to pick up a few for gifts while the sale lasts. Good luck!

As a new mom or a pregnant woman, I didn’t always feel particularly romantic on February 14th.  But I did appreciate any efforts to make me feel loved and appreciated.

My husband, who is a fantastically thoughtful fellow, took me out for Valentine’s Day sushi while I was pregnant with my son.  I had been experiencing deep and vivid sushi cravings and enjoyed the food so much that I actually asked him to stop talking so I could chew in silence with my eyes shut.  It was so rude–but the sushi was divine!  That kind of patience and grace is really the stuff of true love.

So what would a pregnant mother or new mother want this Valentine’s Day?  I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that for many women, their longings aren’t limited to flowers and chocolates.  Here are some suggestions based on my hazy memories from those time periods.

Sleep. Taking the baby overnight so that a new mother can get a solid six to eight hours of consolidated slumber is utterly glorious.  I know I would have even been thrilled to get a break for a few hours for a nap and a shower.

Food. Growing another human being in your body is bound to make you hungry.  When that little person arrives and you’re breastfeeding ten times in twenty-four hours, it can seem impossible to get enough to eat.  What a gift to provide dinner or offer to grocery shop for someone! My mother filled my fridge with nutritious foods and served them to me at regular intervals when each of my children arrived.  It wasn’t Valentine’s Day, but I felt nourished with love!

Housecleaning. What would it feel like if someone arrived at your door and spent a few hours washing dishes, doing laundry, and straightening up?  I suppose some people would feel uncomfortable, but I am not one of them.  What a gift to save time and be able to enjoy a more orderly home.

A date. It took my husband and I a long time before we could secure a babysitter, make plans, and haul ourselves out for an evening with a new baby.  But what a wonderful reminder that we aren’t just parents, we’re partners!  If you can provide babysitting to friends or family to allow a couple to go on a short date, it would probably be greatly appreciated.

Time alone. As mothers, we become accustomed to being with our children every waking moment.  I was just laughing with a friend about how we sometimes have to hold our babies on our laps while we use the toilet.  What happened to privacy?   Imagine having two hours to clean out your closet, journal, or run errands.  Bliss….

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide. This is pretty much a shameless marketing ploy, but we do heartily believe that our book is a good investment at a cost of twenty bucks.  Even though we’re frugalistas, sometimes you have to spend a bit to save heaps.  And maybe they’re just being polite, but we keep getting enthusiastic thanks from readers who are glad to have found an eco-friendly, budget-friendly baby guide like ours.   We also get regular praise from women who read our book after they’ve had a few children, and wish they would have had it years ago.  It’s packed with the sort of realizations you have in the years following your first child, such as “We don’t really need a lot of gear!” And, “We could save heaps by buying secondhand clothing and using cloth diapers.”  And, “Hey, why don’t we just puree up the baby food ourselves?”  Plus it has a full guide to the best values in new green gear.  Who could resist?

Whatever you get for Valentine’s Day this year, I hope that it makes you feel cherished.   Many of us will receive roughly scribbled pictures on red construction paper, bordered with glitter.  Really, what could be better than that?

Eco-friendly Valentine Gift Ideas

These Valentines are more interesting than a heart-shaped box of waxy chocolates–and they’re better for the planet, too.

Greenfire 3 Pack Lavender Sandalwood Vanilla All Natural Massage Oil Candles, fragranced with essential oils

$25

The tins are even recyclable!

The Lorax Project by Dr. Seuss Eco-friendly 24 Valentines

$1.49

These bookmark valentines are perfect for a child’s whole class.

8 Organic Chocolate Bars, Tea-infused, in Organza Bag

$29.90

Organic tea-infused chocolate!

Lettuce Mesclun Valentine Certified Organic Seed

$2.39

What could be eco-friendlier—or more romantic—than some organic Valentine lettuce?

Come back later this week for some DIY Valentine gift ideas!

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?

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!

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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