Natural Silhouette Easter Egg Dyeing

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This eco-friendly craft can go from a simple twenty-minute project to a full-fledged artistic adventure lasting several hours.  The result is quite beautiful in either case.  My mother first made a batch of blown natural silhouette eggs with my sister and me when we were little.  She saw the article in Sunset Magazine two decades ago explaining how to silhouette leaves and ferns onto blown eggs using natural, homemade dyes. 

I envisioned myself with pots full of red cabbage bubbling and beautiful eggs emerging from the multicolored washes.  In fact, I flubbed this craft up quite a bit before I had success.  Hopefully you will learn from my un-Martha-like mistakes and have better luck.

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How to Recycle Your Clutter

My basement is a level of hell where all my failings as an environmentalist are revealed.  Up above this musty, dank repository of castaway boxes, Christmas decorations, charity donations, and mismatched pots and pans lies a perfectly ordered house.  In fact, the first thing most people do upon entering my humble abode is marvel at the sheer emptiness of it.  “Where’s your stuff?” they ask.  I just offer a smug smile in return, affecting an air of effortless minimalism. 

Where’s my stuff?  It’s in the basement.

Sorting through the contents of my basements was akin to doing an archeological dig, uncovering remnants of my wedding and my baby’s first year.  I’d thought a lot about the environmental impact of bringing a baby into the world.  I limited the baby gear that entered our home and bought much of what we did want at secondhand stores. 
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A Greener, Thriftier Easter: Five Simple Tips

With daffodils just beginning to bloom, toddlers decked out in bunny costumes and thousands of families planning their egg-hiding strategies, Easter is a wonderful holiday full of hope and fun.  (Also, chocolate.)  Growing up, my family bypassed the bright, commercial idea of Easter by keeping it simple.  Now I realize that our basic Easter celebration was pretty green as well.  These tips were developed from my experience of a fun, but frugal holiday.

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#1: Buy a used Easter basket for each child and then re-use it each year.  These are unbelievably cheap and plentiful at thrift stores and will bring up cherished memories as your child gets to find it anew each spring.  Let your child be part of the selection process and add decorative raffia or ribbon for extra flair.  In my family we never tired of hunting for our own personalized basket again and again.

#2: Skip or reuse the Easter grass. When did we all decide that the best way to celebrate this ancient Christian holiday was to line our baskets with Astroturf? I have to guiltily admit that the green plastic stuff was in our childhood Easter baskets too, but we kept the same grass in there for decades.  Our Easter grass is now quite vintage, but it’s still providing new memories.  If you’d like an alternative to plastic, put a piece of green paper into the shredder and Voila!  You have yourself some recyclable Easter grass.

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#3 Use food coloring and vinegar to dye eggs.  Instead of shelling out the money for the dye kits each year and ending up with all that packaging, just fill mugs with warm water, add one tablespoon of vinegar and then pour in food coloring.  Dump the eggs in and watch the magic with your child. You can use color crayons to draw on the eggs before you immerse them and the designs will stand out after the dye sets. 

#4 Consider all natural egg dyes.  I think our family is going to experiment with this exciting tip from the tushbaby website.  If you add a bit of vinegar to the water while boiling your eggs and one of these natural ingredients, they’ll have a full range of hues.  The drawback is that you have to have a different pot of eggs boiling for each color you want to use, but you can always just pick a few and experiment.  The eggs need to boil and then simmer for a full fifteen minutes in the vinegar and natural dye mixture.

  • Purple grade juice (for lavender)
  • Red cabbage (for blue)
  • Spinach (for green)
  • Carrot tops, orange peels, or lemon peels (for yellow)
  • Coffee or black walnut shells (for brown)
  • Yellow onion skins (for orange)
  • Beets or cranberries (for pink)
  • Red onion skins (for red)

#5 Hide Real Boiled Eggs.  Rather than hiding candy in plastic eggs that you’ll find months later while pruning the begonias, hide real eggs this year.   Then you’ll have a healthy snack to share with your child that might distract him or her from the chocolate bunny. (We can hope, can’t we?)  We always enjoyed deviled eggs, egg salad sandwiches and some other creative egg dishes in the days following Easter.

What is your favorite tip for a greener Easter?  Send us your photos and stories and you just might make it into our next blog!

Why Kids Should Watch More T.V.: It’s Good for the Environment!

30 Rock during Green Week on NBCThe American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children watch no television at all until after they turn two and urges parents to limit television after that.  We had no trouble sticking with these recommendations during the last few months.  With the writers on strike, there wasn’t much to watch, anyway.  I wonder if the AAP will rethink their position now that the writers are back and networks are showing so much concern for the environment.  Before the strike, youngsters could watch Leonardo di Caprio on Oprah praising adjustable thermostats and Ty on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition tearing down a perfectly good house and building an eco-friendly house in its place.  Surely all this media coverage will influence young minds everywhere, changing the world one Nielsen point at a time.
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We’re (A Bit) Famous!: Greenbabyguide.com Makes it to T.V.

Greenbabyguide.com was featured on Better Portland’s Surfin’ with Steph segment as a cyber pick just a few weeks ago.  How exciting!   The February 15th show included bits on G-diapers, eco-friendly cleaning products, and greener baby shower gifts, along with a very positive review of greenbabyguide.com.

Imagine your baby here!

If you would like a small brush with fame, please consider being a part of our website.  We would love to incorporate photos of your child eating, enjoying nature, or doing anything else green (composting, gardenting, recycling, etc) into our blogs.  Please email the photo to us at greenbabyguide@gmail.com and include your child’s first name, if you want it posted as well.  

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The Best (and Worst) Products for Making Baby Food

I’ve always wanted to be one of those minimalist cooks who owns nothing more than a good knife and one skillet.  After years of acquiring every kitchen gadget and appliance under the sun (including, but not limited to, a crepe maker, stand mixer, hand mixer, waffle iron, and panini press), I finally had to admit that I’m actually a kitchen maximalist.  The upside of this is that I didn’t have to run out and buy anything for my baby-food making needs. 

Below you’ll find my review of every conceivable food-masher known to home cooks.  Needless to say, it makes the most sense to start with what you already own and purchase something only if what you have doesn’t work.  I’d also recommend buying something that you’ll use in the kitchen for years, even after baby’s palate has matured.
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Downsizing Domestic Dreams: How Much House Does Baby Need?

When winter hit this year, the walls of our small house seemed to close in with the darkness and cold.  Listening to updates about lowering interest rates and the drop in housing prices, I was suddenly hit by a wave of cramped angst.  Should we consider searching for a larger house before our family grows beyond our square footage?  The thought of going to open houses with a precocious toddler in tow was enough to make me nauseous. (And no, I’m not pregnant.) Below, Roscoe contemplates a new home and the concept of snow.

baby-and-snow.jpgSo I started to evaluate why we were thinking about purchasing another home.  My first reaction was that our son needed more room.  Together my husband and I wrote a list of all the things we would love in a future house.  We imagined a living room and a family room for Roscoe to play in with an ultra-efficient gas fireplace.  I envisioned a kitchen full of windows and long countertops to undertake summer canning events and large homemade meals. A huge row of solar panels and a solar hot water heater would be the icing on our dream-house cake. 

Then it dawned on us–-only one of the items on our list really involved our son-and to be honest, he has no idea that we’re missing a family room.  All the other details on the list were our housing fantasies.  Was it possible that we were inadvertently giving into social pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” by moving up into another house?  After all, Roscoe seems to be perfectly content with our home.  He especially enjoys the bathtub. 

bath-baby.jpgCoral Serene Anderson’s article “Towards the Ecology of the Home,” posted here on our site, helped put things into perspective. Her family of three happily contemplated moving into a home with just 400-some square feet. Hmm… All of a sudden our living space of around 1,000 square feet became rather luxurious. Then I looked into how house sizes have changed over the last fifty years, and was astonished (and validated) by the data.  According to the National Association of Home Builders, in 1950 the average new single-family home was just 953 square feet.  AND family sizes were larger than they are today!  By 1970 it had jumped to 1500 square feet and by 1990 it had made it just over 2,000 square feet. The NPR article on the exploding increase in home sizes has some excellent information.   Although we didn’t intentionally think about our carbon footprint when purchasing our small and affordable home, the limited square footage has also shrunken our annual emissions and kept our utility bills low.  We need less than half the energy to heat and light our home than the average 2349 square foot American house.  In the summer we’re shaded by a giant maple tree that provides all our air conditioning.   A small, enclosed entryway provides solar heat in the spring and fall and keeps the warm air inside during the winter. 

Because we opted for a small house, we can afford to live in an area that is within walking distance to shopping and parks–and my husband can bike to work for more than half of the year.  The cost savings in taxes, commuting, energy consumption, and house payments has provided us with the freedom to cut back on our work hours to spend valuable time with our baby. 

dad-and-baby-read1.jpgOur cozy home has kept our family quite comfortable-even with all the gear that a new baby brings to the picture.  In fact, our limited space is a great consideration when it comes to accumulating baby paraphernalia.  We don’t buy it unless we’re willing to trip over it. There’s no need for gates simply because Roscoe isn’t ever far enough away to get into too much trouble. (Well, most of the time!)

 So, have I become proud of my tiny house?  A little.  Also, I’ve learned that with some bundling we can easily get beyond these walls and spend time outside, with friends, or touring the supermarket on toddling legs. And while we’re here, I appreciate the fact that I’m never more than a few feet away from my favorite people. 

The Best Green Baby Blogs

Although we hope that one day the Green Baby Guide will be chock-full of absolutely anything you’d ever want to know about raising an eco-baby, sometimes it’s good to branch out a bit.  We scoured the Internet for the best green baby blogs and found mothers and fathers discussing everything from the best organic products to musings on home schooling and breastfeeding.

Pirate Papa is “a journal of anarcho-green D(o).I(t).Y(ourself). Parenting.” It reminds me a lot of our site . . . except that we are not rock-n-roll pirates.  Or dads.

Soft Landing Baby Blog provides “Non-toxic baby gear news and reviews.” NFunny Faceeed a BPA-free sippy cup?  Get recommendations here.
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Phthalates in Baby Care Products: How to Avoid Toxins without Losing Your Mind

When you have a baby, you’re always hearing about the latest hidden dangers and toxins lurking in almost everything you own.  Since my baby was born, I’ve been learning more and more about harmful chemicals in plastics.  The most recent panic-inducing study, published in this month’s issue of Pediatrics, proves that using baby bath products increases the amount of phthalates in babies’ urine.  Phthalates, found in many plastics, can affect reproductive development and play a role in allergies, runny noses, eczema, and even the concentrations of your baby’s hormones.

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Was I just awash in toxic chemicals?

Yikes!  This information is enough to cause even the most laid-back parent to freak out.  (MSN’s headline, “Babies Awash in Toxic Chemicals,” didn’t help.)  You may have been lathering the baby up with baby wash and sprinkling him with powder since day one.  Now what?  According to uwnews.org, “Parents who want to decrease their baby’s exposure to phthalates should limit the amount of baby care products used on the infant, and apply lotions or powders only if medically indicated.”  I have decided not to freak out over the possible phthalate exposure of the past–instead, I’ll just work on limiting possible future exposure.
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Last-minute Eco-friendly Valentine’s Day Creations

My daughter is attending her very first Valentine’s Day party today.  Ah–what is more romantic than a room full of toddlers exchanging cards and eating heart-shaped cookies?  The party hostess, Audrey’s daycare provider, gave us a list a couple weeks ago with the names of the children in attendance on Valentine’s Day.  Of course I immediately went to work making chocolate-covered cherries, composing personal poems for each child, and cutting out doilies and foil hearts.

All right, I didn’t really make candy or pen sonnets–how could I, when I left everything to the last possible moment?  I did manage to create my own last-minute Valentines rather than buying a box at the store.  A few days ago I saw a woman on television demonstrating how to make some easy eleventh-hour Valentines.  She threaded a tissue through a hole in a cut-out heart and wrote “Ah-cho-choose you” on the top.  I don’t know . . . unless I used 100% post-consumer recycled tissue, I just wouldn’t feel right about giving Audrey’s daycare friends this Valentine.  (Although, on second thought, who needs a tissue more than a little tyke in the dead of winter?)
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