green living


Every new parent enters their first summer season with a certain amount of reservation. With so many things to be wary of, combined with the natural anxiety of being a new parent, it can be challenging to be confident about one’s capabilities. As any parent will tell you, a certain amount of trial-and-error will come into play. On the other hand, a little bit of common sense will go a long way too.

While it is natural to want to keep your baby’s skin covered, parents must be careful not to overdress the little one. Yes, it is good idea to keep baby’s skin protected from the sun. Just be sure that your baby is not overdressed. Try to use clothing that is made from light cotton or linen, and always be sure to cover the wee one’s head with a great, big hat.

It is next-to-impossible to completely avoid the sun in the summer months. Many parents opt to keep their children out of the sun, as opposed to using sunscreen and letting them roam free. This is a very thoughtful approach, but not always practical. Be sure to use a high quality sunscreen, with an SPF rating no lower than 30, when you are in the sun with baby. And don’t forget that the little one will need sunscreen when in the pool, too!

Insects are another consideration, especially those pesky mosquitoes! In the past they were more of an annoyance than a health concern, but in recent times there are some valid concerns regarding West Nile Virus. Aside from the standard mosquito prevention techniques advised by the public health authorities, there are a few alternatives available. As a parent, I would not feel comfortable applying DEET to may baby’s skin. DEET is an extremely poisonous and toxic chemical designed for the military, not for babies. Try using scented oil such as tea tree oil or rosemary. These are safe, natural alternatives. If you are going to be spending time in the wilderness, make sure baby is wearing light clothing that leaves very little skin exposed.

If your little one is old enough to ride a tricycle, be sure that you have a good quality helmet for him or her to wear. Every year, hundreds of children are rushed to the hospital for easily avoidable injuries. Play it safe, and make sure your child always wears a helmet when playing with any moving toy with wheels. For smaller children that are just learning to walk, why not consider using a baby harness? This way, you can let your child run free without having to worry about scrapes and bruises! Have a great summer, and play safe.

Rachel Thompson is the proud mother of two young children, and a member of the editorial team at thebabydepartment.com – a wonderful online resource for parents and caregivers with information about crib safety, bath time, toys and more.

One of our favorite Smart Mama Blogs is Kids Stuff and Stories – a destination where you can find some great books and activities to do with your children.

Blogger and the Smart Mama behind Kids Stuff and Stories shares with us some of her favorite book picks.

Winnie The Pooh: Complete Collection of Stories and Poems

Winnie the Pooh: The Complete Collection of Stories and Poems was originally published in 1994, but this beautifully produced slip-cased edition has been specially created to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the publication of the very first stories about Winnie the Pooh.

It consists of the classic, well-loved, tried-and-tested stories by AA Milne, from “Winnie the Pooh” (1926), “The House at Pooh Corner” (1928 ) and the poetry from “When We Were Very Young” (1924) and “Now We Are Six” (1927).

My favorite story is the one where Tigger and Roo get stuck up the tree…

Please Don’t Chat To The Bus Driver by Shen Roddie

The bus is late so please don’t chat to the bus driver… Various animals get on the bus and are told not to chat to the bus driver. Can you guess what happens next?

This book is so original and so very very funny! You may not have come across this but do not be put off by that. It is a winner and expect to be reading it 3 times a day. You have been warned.

We Honestly Can Look After Your Dog (Featuring Charlie & Lola) by Lauren Child

Lola loves dogs. So when Charlie takes Lola and her friend Lotta to the park with his friend Marv and Marv’s dog Sizzles, Lola is thrilled. Marv lets her and Lotta look after Sizzles on the promise that they don’t let him off the lead…

As seen on BBC TV. You really can’t go wrong with this. It has been a big hit in Britain for the last couple of years.

The Bears Winter House by John Yeoman (Illustrated by Quentin Blake)

This has always been in my top 5 books of all time for young children. The only problem is that it is possibly out of print. There are a few second hand copies on Amazon.co.uk (the British site) and prices range from a couple of pounds up to over a hundred! I think even a battered paperback copy will be fun so why not do what I did and get a battered paperback copy off Amazon, ebay or your friendly neighbourhood second hand book seller.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Quentin Blake who is best known for the work he did on the Roald Dahl books.

The story is all about Bear who starts building a winter house to hibernate in. Along come Chicken and Pig to watch but don’t really want to help. Soon. however, summer is over and the wind is whistling through the hen hut and pig sty and they are getting a little bit chilly.

Will Bear let them stay the winter? Will they behave if he does? You can probably guess the answers to both these questions. A great fun book.

10 Great Ideas Dad and the Children can do for Mom!

Mother’s Day is the perfect opportunity for dads and kids to get creative and organize a fun and relaxation-filled day to thank Mom for all that she does 365 days a year. This year, incorporating a green, eco-friendly theme into your Mother’s Day celebration is the latest trend, and there are countless ways to honor Mother Earth, as well as your mother, on this life-affirming holiday. No, this doesn’t entail buying her expensive gifts or treating her to a pricey meal in a restaurant. But, it does require a little effort and advanced planning to ensure that the day is perfect for the special mother in your life. So, here are ten great, budget and eco-friendly things that will surprise and delight Mom this year.

(1) Plant a Tree
There is simply no greener and more wonderful way to commemorate a special holiday like Mother’s Day than to plant a tree. Plant it in the yard, and let Mom enjoy the ever-bearing gift that will remind her for years to come of your thoughtfulness. Take the kids to the nursery or garden store to pick out an appropriate tree for your particular zone and climate, and don’t hesitate to ask for instructions on how to best plant, water, and fertilize it. Don’t have the space to plant a tree? Consult your local park and recreation department about planting a tree at a nearby park.

(2) Get Creative with Recycled Paper
Almost every craft store is now selling a variety of recycled construction paper that can be used for making fun and eco-friendly Mother’s Day cards. Let the kids experiment with nature-themed items by using vegetable dyes, leaves, and dried beans to design memorable, home-made cards that express their personal appreciation for Mom.

(3) Create an Indoor Healing Garden
Create a gift that will give Mom a healthy reminder to unwind when life gets hectic – an indoor healing garden. Simply find a place in the house or on the patio that gets a little sun, and fill it with small pots of plants with medicinal qualities such as chamomile, aloe vera, and lavender. Next scoot over a comfy chair, and create a quiet oasis for her to retreat to when it’s time for some relief from the daily stress.

(4) Make a Composter
Is Mom always complaining about the trash not being taken out? Why not surprise her with a compost bin or pile that you will actually use! It’s a great way to create organic compost that can be then spread in the garden, under shrubs, and used for potting soil for outdoor plants. Start with a dry, shady spot near a water source for your bin or pile. Then, add brown material such as dead leaves, branches, twigs. Next, combine green material including grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds. Moisten material as you add it. Mix the pile, and cover with a tarp to keep moist. Keep adding material and mixing. When the compost at the bottom is dark and rich in color, it’s ready to use (usually in a couple of months).

(5) Mix Bath Salts
After a long, busy day, treat Mom to a relaxing, interruption-free bath. To give her an incentive to take a “spa” break, give the gift of homemade bath salts. All you need is a cup of baking soda, a cup of sea salt, a cup of Epsom salt, and about 10 drops of essential oil (choose a fragrance that Mom prefers). Just add the ingredients to the blender and whirl. Pour into a Mason jar, and tie with a colorful bow.

(6) Decorate a Garden Stone
A fun project for kids, Mom will appreciate a hand-painted stone that she can add to her garden or use as a door-stop. Choose large, smooth stones, and wash before painting. Brush with Tempera paint and spray with Clear Coat once paint is dry.

(7) Buy a Membership
A lovely way to thank Mom on Mother’s Day and throughout the year is to purchase an annual membership to one of her favorite destinations. Museums, botanical gardens, zoos, and many parks all offer memberships that she and the rest of the family can enjoy again and again.

( 8 ) Make a Donation
A donation to a charity or non-profit organization in Mom’s name is another considerate gift that can go a long way to help others.

(9) Clean the House with Eco-Friendly Products
You can be guaranteed that Mom doesn’t want to be cleaning house on Mother’s Day. Instead, head to a store that sells eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and surprise her by tidying up without her asking.

(10) Pledge to be Green
Is Mom always reminding everyone to turn the water or lights off? The time is now for all of us to be more conscientious of the energy and resources we use. Write up a pledge to uphold the initiatives that your family can undertake to be more eco-friendly, and sign it. It’s not just a gift for Mom; it’s also a gift to the planet!

Here are some great recipes that Moms and kids will love.

Chocolate Bananas — created by Sandy Sandler
Ingredients:
6 bananas
8 oz bag of chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
6 popsicle sticks
baking pan lined with wax paper

Instructions:
Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave.
Peel the bananas and place a stick up the center of each banana.
Dip each banana in the chocolate,
then roll them in the chopped nuts.
Place the bananas on the baking sheet and place in the freezer

Breakfast Fruit Kabobs – created by Sandy Sandler
Cut up Mom’s favorite fruits and then put about six slices on each Kabob! Serve it with yogurt and toast and mom will love her breakfast!

No-Bake “Dreamsicle” Yogurt Pie – from AmazingMoms.com, a great source for kid-friendly recipes
(An easy to make recipe for kids and much healthier than most cream pies!)
Ingredients:
1 9″ graham cracker crust shell
1 8oz. container of orange flavored yogurt
1 C. thawed whipped non-dairy topping
1/2 C. canned mandarin orange slices – drained and
broken into pieces

Instructions:
Combine yogurt and whipped topping together in a bowl and stir with a spoon.
Add mandarin orange slice and stir. Spoon into the pie shell. Cover with plastic
wrap and chill. Tip: You can also freeze this pie and thaw
slightly before serving.

With the wonderful selection of flavored yogurts available,
your child can try different flavor combinations:
– Vanilla yogurt with banana slices
– Lemon and lime yogurt combined
– Peach yogurt with canned peach pieces

Breakfast Pies – one of my favorite recipes from Kaboose.com
These buttery, flaky pastry pies are filled with smoky sausage, sweet pepper and Monterey Jack for a savory breakfast treat. The individual pies can be frozen and warmed up as needed for a toasty, tasty way to start your day.

Ingredients:
3/4 pound breakfast sausage
1/8 cup minced onion
1/8 cup minced green bell pepper
1 (12 ounce) can refrigerated biscuit dough
3 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese

Cooking Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, combine sausage, onion and green pepper. Cook until sausage is evenly brown. Drain, crumble, and set aside.

Separate the dough into 10 individual biscuits. Flatten each biscuit out, then line the bottom and sides of 10 muffin cups. Evenly distribute sausage mixture between the cups. Mix together the eggs and milk, and divide between the cups. Sprinkle tops with shredded cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, or until filling is set.

Baked French Toast – another great recipe from Kaboose.com
This sweet vanilla-and-cinnamon-scented French toast is made the night before and refrigerated to soak up lots of lovely flavors. Baked up in a matter of minutes the next morning, this recipe makes a sweet and sumptuous spread for morning brunch.

Ingredients:
1 (1 pound) loaf French bread, cut diagonally in 1 inch slices
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups half-and-half cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup butter
1-1/3 cups brown sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Cooking Instructions:
Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Arrange the slices of bread in the bottom. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour over bread slices, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a small saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar and corn syrup; heat until bubbling. Pour over bread and egg mixture.

Bake in preheated oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

About Sandy Sandler:
Sandy Sandler is a corporate gift expert and creator of the QVC best-seller, the Bowdabra®, a crafting tool that helps people make professional, hand-tied bows. Her products and supplies are designed to transform the creatively-challenged into creative pros.

**GIVEAWAY!! ENTER TO WIN A BOWDABRA AND SCRUNCH RIBBON KIT!! CLICK HERE!!**

Cooing, sitting up and crawling are signs that your baby is growing. Your baby’s vision has stages of development too, but usually there are no signs to mark the progress.

The American Optometric Association encourages parents to include a trip to the optometrist in the list of well-baby check-ups. Assessments at six to twelve months of age can determine healthy development of vision. Early detection of eye conditions is the best way to ensure your child has healthy vision for successful development—now and in the future.

InfantSEE® (www.infantsee.org) is a public health program designed to ensure that eye and vision care becomes an integral part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life.

Under this program, member optometrists provide a comprehensive infant eye assessment within the first year of life as a no cost public health service.

One in every 10 children is at risk from undiagnosed eye and vision problems, yet only 13 percent of mothers with children younger than 2 years of age said they had taken their babies to see an eye and vision care professional for a regular check-up or well-care visit. Moreover, many children at risk for eye and vision problems are not being identified at an early age, when many of those problems might be prevented or more easily corrected.

An InfantSEE® assessment between six and twelve months of age is recommended to determine if an infant is at risk for eye or vision disorders.

Since many eye problems arise from conditions that can be identified by an eye doctor in the infant’s first year of life, a parent can give an infant a great gift by seeking an InfantSEE® assessment in addition to the wellness evaluation of the eyes that is done by a pediatrician or family practice doctor.

InfantSEE® is a first-of-its-kind national program to provide children professional eye and vision care earlier in life. The program addresses the early childhood segment of the pre-school population, providing no-cost infant eye and vision assessments before the age of one year.

For our Happy Green Heart Giveaway to go along with our Green Valentine’s Guide, we asked people to share their favorite “green” tips with us.

We were blown away by some of the fantastic ideas (some you may have never thought of!) and thought we’d share them in a smart mama post!

1) I love taking my own takeout containers to restaurants. We just toss a clean container with a lid in the diaper bag and head out. Fast, easy, and far less wasteful! (thanks to Heather H.)

2) The best way to get rid of things that can still be useful instead of throwing them away is to freecycle. You can find a freecycle group in your area at freecycle.org. (thanks to Lesha)

3) In the summer we always save our grey water (i.e. from dishwashing, household cleaning, etc.) and rainwater to water our trees, flowerbeds, & vegetable garden. (thanks to Brian E.)

4) I save each greeting card that I get and use them to cut gift tags for gifts that I give (I always get 3-4 tags from one card). I use both the graphics and oftentimes the message too. Scissors do amazing things! That way the card gets used many times over! (thanks to Mary)

5) I love recycling my plastic milk cartons by cutting them up and painting them for holiday decorations. (thanks to Marilouise K.)

6) Now that my daughter is in school, we have a “create no trash” rule – her lunch and snack must not leave anything to throw away. No baggies, no juice boxes, no paper napkins. (thanks to Carrie)

7) Get your name off of the junk mail list. It will save so many trees with so little effort! Try Catalog Choice. (thanks to Tiffany)

8 ) I’ve made reusable bags from old t-shirts. Just sew the bottom closed and cut off the arms and neckhole. The “shoulders” become the handles, as your hands go through the armholes. (thanks to Kathleen W.)

9) Start a “free box” at your workplace where people can bring items that are in nice shape but they no longer use (items such as books, toys, small appliances, etc.). Some one else can give it a new home. (thanks to Dorothy)

10 Remember that instead of throwing away your ashes from the fireplace, add it to your compost heap for your garden. Nice additional fertilizer. (thanks to Alan M)

The other day, when I went shopping for groceries, I was asked to pay for the plastic bags used to carry my purchases. I was appalled. That happened to be bring your own bag day. Many customers walked off in a huff that day. We tend to take for granted the plastic bags stores usually give their customers for free.

On hindsight, the stores which tried to get customers to bring their own bags rather than use the stores plastic bags were doing the environment a favor. Even if it meant offending their customers.

Plastic bags are among the modern conveniences that are insidiously destroying our world. They use up the earth’s precious resources, kill the wildlife and pollute our world.

1. Plastic bags require petroleum to produce.

We are already short of petrol. Mankind has been draining off the earth’s precious resource to its breaking point. Petroleum is critical for our modern life. Petrol is needed for energy. Computers, lighting, heating, transport, factories… the world as we know it today will grind to a halt if our supply of petroleum is turned off. Why are we wasting this precious resource by making plastic bags?

2. At least 100,000 animals like penguins, whales, turtles and dolphins die each year because of plastic bags.

Many animals mistake plastic bags for food and die as they ingest these bags. After the the animal dies and decomposes, the plastic bag stays intact. It litters the landscape and awaits its next victim.
Plastic bags kill wildlife. That would further upset the balance of nature.

3. Plastic bags form 20% of the litter found on beaches.

Besides killing wildlife and wasting petrol, plastic bags destroy the natural beauty of our world’s beaches. Imagine going to your favorite beach. Once, it was unspoiled. You could clear blue sea for miles out there. The sand was white, or like gold in the sun. Birds were flying around. Now, you see litter everywhere. Thanks to inconsiderate humans who dump there cans and plastic bags all over the coastline.

4. In USA alone, 100 billion plastic bags are used every year. How about China, India, Europe and the rest of the world. The numbers are staggering.

5. The problem doesn’t end here. These billions of bags are not bio-degradable. It takes 1000 years before a plastic bag starts to decompose. That compounds the problem drastically.

So what can you do about it?

We have become so dependent on these convenient one-use bags it is hard to imagine life without them.

Let’s start with baby steps.

Get a tote bag like one of these at Bags Mall to hold your shopping. Tell the cashier to keep the bags and put your purchases directly in your tote instead. Keep your receipt carefully as proof of your purchase.

Recycle your existing plastic bags. You can use them to hold the garbage instead of buying additional garbage bags.

I’m sure you can think of other ways to reduce your use of plastic bags. A little effort will go a long way.

Written by Janice Tham
The tote bag is one of the top 5 winter bags at Bags Mall

1. Recycle your old cell phone at Green Phone and earn as much as $35.

2. Carry it out when you shop and leave the bag behind.

3. CFL light bulbs use 75% less electricity and last 10 times longer. It’s as simple as that.

4. Dust off your bike.

5. 401K: invest in environmentally conscious mutual funds.

6. Go meatless at least 3 times a week.

7. Let your grass grow a little longer. It will have a thicker turf and longer roots so you won’t have to water it as much or use as much gas throughout the season to mow it.

8. Keep a chart of how many kilowatts of electricity you use each month. When the bill comes try and beat last months usage. Make it a game.

9. Buy a laptop. It uses much less electricity than a desk top.

10. Keep your car tires filled for better mileage.

11. Okay one more…Buy local, buy in season, support your local farm.

Louise Cady-Fernandes owns The Hole Thing, whimsical sweaters and accessories made from recycled felted wool. She blogs here.

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