Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's The Great Pumkin Charlie Brown

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown airs tonight and again tomorrow night.  We will DVR it and watch it about 11 times between now and Halloween, it's one of the highlights of the season for me.  I love the music and the atmosphere, and the low key sweet vibe of it all.  We have ambitions to bake up some organic vegan pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and make an event of it.  Happy Halloween everybody!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vunce Upon A Time...

Story time is extra fun around the holidays, I think.  VUNCE UPON A TIME, by Seibold and Vivian, is an amusing tale about Dagmar, a little vegetarian vampire who ventures out on Halloween.  What's not to Love about a Vegetarian Vampire?!  He even keeps a vegetable garden--this is a character after my heart.   It's hard to grow vegetables by the light of the moon, however, so Dagmar keeps a candy stash.  When the candy runs out, he learns about Halloween and decides to participate for the first time.  This leads to an adventure and a sweet conclusion.

Vivian's illustrations are vibrant and often on a black backdrop, making them pop out at you.  There is one two page spread depicting Halloween night and trick or treating that is especially delightful and has tons of little details that kids love to look at for long periods of time.

Over in the Hollow
OVER IN THE HOLLOW is a numbers and rhyming book with a Halloween theme.  The reader will count skeletons, pumpkins, mummies and owls while looking at not too scary illustrations and enjoying the rhythm.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Boo-opoly for Halloween: Stay at Home Fun

Need some festive entertainment for Halloween?  If you like Monopoly, you will probably like this Halloween themed version of the classic.  Boo-opoly is perfect for Halloween parties or for fun after trick or treating. Instead of the shoe, the dog, the car, etc, lead free pewter game pieces include a ghost, pumpkin, and scary cat.

The houses are haunted, full moons take the place of hotels, and property names are transformed into apt titles, for instance Park Place in Boo-opoly is Dark Place.  The artwork on the board is great, featuring spooky trees, a full moon and dark clouds, the dice are black and orange, the properties are marked with tombstones--visually it's wonderful.  It's for players age 8 and up, but I played it with my five year old and we did great, he loved the imagery and got the concept.

For younger players, 5-8, Late for The Sky, the company who makes Boo-opoly, makes a more age appropriate game, Monster-opoly, which is a less complicated version of monopoly.  Players collect monsters instead of property and each monster has a funny bio with its own monster characteristics.  They're not scary, but funny, like the Giggle Monster and my favorite, the Broccoli Monster.  The die is large for little hands and the graphics on the board are silly and fun.  It's a cute game.

Late for The Sky games are made in the US and are printed on recycled paper using soy based inks.  I think these games and a big bowl of popcorn and festive treats would make for a great night in.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Plant of the Day

Check this out--botanical education coming right to your inbox.  I am not a fan of a ton of emails, so I choose wisely what I subscribe to.  When I saw this, I got excited to learn more about gardening and plants in such an easy and fun manner.  What a great idea!

Your Garden Show consists of a group of gardeners on a mission to "grow the global gardening footprint because we believe better informed gardeners improve the health, beauty and well being of all of our communities."

They will send you a daily email with an introduction to a plant.  From there, you can get more detailed information including gardening tips and demo videos.  Sign up HERE.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Must Have HORNY TOAD Dress: Eco Friendly Fashion

Do you ever find a piece of clothing you love so much you want one in every color?  That's this Rosalinda Dress from Horny Toad.  It's ridiculously comfortable first and foremost, being butter soft and cozy.  It's completely versatile taking you from the Farmers' Market to a fancy dinner, and it's eco friendly for your body made from organic cotton and tencel.

I got this in the purple--which is a gorgeous saturated grapey purple that is not done justice by the photos on the website--and I immediately went to REI and got the charcoal grey version as well.   The colors are all so pretty, I want the green too.

It's very simple, clean lines with three quarter sleeves great for bracelets and mobility.  There is an empire seam and a little ruching at the v-neck for added detail which makes a nice feminine touch and flattering lines.

This is the perfect dress for travel.  It doesn't wrinkle and would pack well and also serve many functions on a trip.  It can be worn with boots, leggings, over jeans, with heels or sandals, and it's great for all seasons.  It would be wonderful for upcoming holiday parties and it's appropriate for work situations as well.

It's the dress for women who want to feel feminine and look pretty but don't want to spend a lot of time on it or feel uncomfortable.  Throw this on and go.  You can't go wrong with this dress.  Highly recommended! Find it HERE.  By the way, the Horny Toad website is fun.  It's an eco friendly company with a great sense of humor and a great aesthetic, I'm eager to try more of their versatile clothes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

STACK THE BONES from Kikkerland

Perfect to leave out the rest of the month, this wooden Skull and Bones Stack The Bones game functions as a game and cool Halloween and Day of The Dead decor.

This is not a Jenga game, but made by Kikkerland and I have never played Jenga, so I do not know how it compares, the bones do seem somewhat lightweight. Players each remove one bone using only one hand, and place it on top without toppling the stack.  The last player to do this successfully wins.  It's appropriate for both little kids and big kids.  I think this would be great in the boardroom  or on a desk as well--studies show that having toys like this around the workplace increases productivity.

Comes in a gift-worthy box--would make a great hostess gift for any Halloween parties you might be attending.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Plants Vs. Zombies

What do you do with your five year old boy on a chilly Autumn morning?  Lay in bed under tons of covers and play Plants Vs. Zombies, that's what!  I am sooo not a video game person, eschewing them for years.  But we got an iPod Touch and I'm okay with some of those games which are apps (in moderation).  And they also have tons of educational apps for kids--math, flash cards, etc., very cool.

In the spirit of Halloween, I downloaded Plants Vs. Zombies and neither one of us can get enough.  We snuggled under the covers giggling and whacking zombies with peashooters and cherry bombs until the iPod needed a recharge.  It's visually great with tons of vibrant colors and graphics, and the zombies are cute, there's no blood and guts or anything.

For anyone who loves botanicals and has a sense of humor, I recommend this highly!  Is it green?  I think so, the ipod is a tiny self contained party box filled with endless options and I don't know how we got by without it.  Seriously, I can now make phone calls, I can go to appointments with my son, I can shop with ease and I can sleep in a little bit.  Amazing.  And it's also a fun interactive thing for us to do together.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Four Fun Fall Finds

There are certain things that just make you feel toasty.  Here are some fun things to help you cozy up to fall.

This Fall-colors Tassel Hat from Prana will get you in the mood for cold weather.  These cute hats are hand made in Swaziland by the "Go Go's" (meaning grandmothers).  100% of these fair trade profits go right in the pockets of the Go Go's and are used to support their families and improve quality of life.

As soon as the air starts to get crisp, I go for the Chai tea.  Tazo makes my favorite one because it has both ginger and anise and it's the closest to my own home made masala tea.  Mix it with some hemp or almond milk and stevia or agave, put it in a thermos and take it to the pumpkin patch.  Or, curl up on the couch with a good book, a fuzzy blanket, and a cup of this--major comfort.  Find it HERE.

Fall finds for Furry Friends:

Cloak and Dawggie makes a great harness for dogs that adds a little extra warmth with a fleece lining.  They just step into this harness--it's super simple and has a double d-ring to secure the leash and the harness on the dog.  Made for smaller dogs, it seems to be super comfortable and perfect for the transition into cooler climates.

Our dog loves warmth and will find any little spot of sun in the house and bask there.  For days when the sun doesn't shine, check out the Crater Dot from the makers of the Sleepypod.  There is a warmer pad (sold separately) that slides into a pocket on the bottom.  It's a heating pad that gets to 104 degrees (not too hot) to help keep your companion animal warm.  Would work for cats and small dogs. It's thin and easy to store when not in use. There is a demo video on their website so you can see how it works, very modern and good concept.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Face Painting for Halloween

Here's a cool book for Halloween.  Klutz Face Painting.  It is full of face painting ideas and comes with non-toxic water based face paint.  The colors are your basic primary colors, but you can mix them to make other colors.  It comes with a brush and foam applicator.

 The book has detailed instructions to show you how to make  all sorts of fun faces, like a tiger, vampire, Frankenstein, leopard, and many more.  It includes little designs and tattoos so you can be as elaborate or simple as you like.  This would make any event more festive but I think it would be perfect for a Halloween party.  Find it HERE.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dia De Los Muertos is coming!

Dia De Los Muertos, aka, Day Of The Dead, is coming soon (November 2) and it's time to plan the ofrenda.  This colorful Latin American holiday is something I look forward to every year and so does my son.  It's a time to celebrate life and those we love who have passed on.  We build an altar, ie, ofrenda, to honor those who have passed.  On the ofrenda (our dining table), we place things the deceased loved.  For instance, if your grandmother loved chocolate chip cookies, you would have a plate of those.  The souls are said to enjoy the vapors of the foods from the other side.  We play Latin music and the house is festive and alive with excitement.

We also have a feast of Mexican foods such as black beans, Mexican rice, tortilla chips, salsa, a big molcajete with guacamole, Mexican chocolate, Mexican wedding cookies and if I'm feeling really ambitious, a veganized version of bread of the dead, pan de muerto.  We love to decorate our altar with skeletons, skulls, marigolds (traditionally used as a marker for souls to find their way home), Mexican tin ornaments, papel picado (papercut banners depicting scenes with skeletons), pictures of our loved ones and tons of candles.  Ofrendas traditionally are decorated with sugar skulls, but I have not ventured into the making of sugar skulls yet.  I will though!  And maybe this year.

There is a fabulous source for Dia De Los Muertos supplies online, MEXICANSUGARSKULL.COM. She has everything you could want for your Day of the Dead celebration and her site is beautiful and full of information and inspiration.  I think it's the best place on the web to find these supplies.  The owner, Angela Villalba, is passionate about this holiday and her enthusiasm will give you confidence and get you even more excited to celebrate.  She has me wanting to do a sugar skull party for five year olds.  I love the idea of storytelling during the painting of the skulls.  It's a time for keeping those memories alive, you tell your child stories about their relatives who have passed and keep them as part of your child's life in the present.  It's beautiful.

She has some oilcloth table clothes with the papel picado motif that is perfect for adorning the table during the sugar skull painting and she also has cloth table clothes decorated with skulls and other appropriate DOD images.

You can buy pre-made sugar skulls to decorate or the molds and supplies to make your own.  Marigolds are unavailable in some regions, so she has silk ones that you can get for your altar and reuse every year--they look real and add color and tradition to your ofrenda.  She has several kinds of papel picado, skeleton figurines...everything.  I highly recommend checking out her site, and if you need help, you can call her and she is extremely friendly and helpful and will help you figure out exactly what you need for your  party.

I think Dia De Los Muertos is a magnificent holiday.  It would be great to experience in the classroom for kids, or great for families or an adult only party.  There is something immensely comforting about it to me, it makes me feel more connected to those I love that have passed on and it makes me feel more comfortable about my own mortality.

Image Credits:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Non GMO Day Today and all Month

October is now National Non GMO month and today is Non GMO day. With the alarming spread of genetically modified foods and seeds, concerned retailers got together to create awareness of this crucial issue.

GMOs are created in a laboratory by combining genes from different plants, animals, viruses, bacteria and who knows what.   They are designed to tolerate heavy application of herbicides and pesticides or create their own. Have you heard of Roundup?  This is Monsanto's star pesticide, and the gmo plants withstand heavy doses of this very dangerous pesticide.  Roundup is known to  cause cell disruption even in very low amounts leading to a host of serious health risks.  You can find detailed studies with a quick google search and the chilling fact is that the dangers of Roundup have been known for years.

Monsanto is also responsible for engineering Terminator Seeds.  Seeds that produce plants with no viable seeds!  So you have to go back to them to get more seeds, the plants can't reproduce.  Destroying our food supply is not smart.  Animals won't eat these plants. Other countries don't allow GMOs.  It seems all common sense and reason goes out the window in the US where money is concerned.

For me, this is beyond bizarre.  That we are even having this discussion--it's madness.  The GMO issue reminds me of cartoons or comics I saw as a kid.  There was the mad scientist who had come up with a crazy way to control the masses or a major resource to Rule The World.  Luckily, Spiderman or some other benevolent force would foil the plan and save the day.  Well, the mad scientist is real and it's Monsanto, and there's no Spiderman to save the day.   The whole thing is surreal.

Approximately 80% of processed foods in American grocery stores contain GMOs.  And you don't even know it because they are not required to label their food.  This is yet another reason to buy ORGANIC FOODS ONLY.

Labeling GMO foods was in the works, but Mosanto, armed with millions in lobbying funds is not in favor of this.  Of course not, at least a few people would be turned off by frankenfood if they knew what they were eating.  The FDA recently stated that GMO foods do not need to be labeled with disclosure.

The Non-GMOP roject has come up with a new labeling system stating that the product is GMO free, with the "Non-GMO Project Verified" seal.  From what I understand, the FDA also opposed the notion of declaring foods GMO free, so I'm not sure how this will pan out.  Whole Foods Market is in the process of having their 365 brand certified by the Non-GMO Project, so maybe they have found a way around the FDA who clearly is not serving the interest of the people.

So far, only 300 retailers and co-ops are participating in the Non-GMO Project.  This seems like a low number to me, but I suspect by next year that number will be much bigger.  Corinne Shindelar, Independent Natural Food Retailers Assoc. CEO says, "We have a responsibility to consumers to ensure the integrity of our food system, and among shoppers who value safe, healthy food, there is a strong desire to avoid GMOs.  Non-GMO month is a fantastic opportunity to give people the information and non-GMO choices they are looking for."

Image Credit:  Uncyclopedia Commons

Friday, October 8, 2010

PLANET DOG October Deal for the Dog: Free Recycled Ball

PLANET DOG is my favorite dog supply store, and there's a whole lot more to them than cool dog stuff.  Planet Dog is on a mission to create eco friendly products while bringing people and dogs together for mutual benefit and good fun.  Their toys are non toxic and recyclable and also very good looking and practical.  The Planet Dog Foundation helps train and place working dogs with people in need.

Through October, Planet Dog is offering, free with purchase,  this cool black and orange Orbee-Tuff Recycle Ball made from recycled materials.  It's buoyant and non toxic and perfect for Fall.

There's a huge selection of eco friendly dog products to choose from.  I love the earth balls with the little hiding place for treats.  Just a little peanut butter will keep our chihuahua busy for a good half an hour.
They have fruit and veggie chew toys, also with the little holes for treats in various sizes, the raspberry is perfect for our dog, and so are the other smaller earth balls.  There is a great assortment of shapes and sizes.  They have treats and grooming supplies, all sorts of things.

PD has wonderful Hemp collars, harnesses and leads naturally dyed in rich earthy colors.  "It's what you would wear if you were a dog," they say.  They're soft and washable and hemp is the one of the world's most sustainable crops.

Planet Dog also offers their GLOW FOR GOOD Ball which is not only a cool ball that glows in the dark, but 100% of proceeds go toward Planet Dog Foundation in support of canine service programs.  Find out about the 2010 Rompathon HERE.  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

ZEN GHOSTS by John Muth

My son and I eagerly await John Muth's Stillwater books and I'm so thrilled to have this latest effort, ZEN GHOSTS, which takes place during my favorite time of year, Autumn and Halloween.  Stillwater, the giant panda is my most adored contemporary children's book character.  But these books are obviously not just for children.

Addy, Michael and Karl, featured in the prior books, are getting ready for Halloween.  Stillwater  joins them for festivities and reads the children a story by candlelight.  The vibe of the book is both cozy and mysterious.

As you can tell from the cover, the illustrations are magical.  There is a two page spread depicting trick or treating that is magnificent, so visually the book is incredible, and perhaps the most striking one of the series to date.

The Buddhist theme is appropriate for young children as they can be even more receptive to subtle teachings than adults.  In some ways, a koan is more accessible to a child.  As with the other two Stillwater books, Zen Ties and Zen Shorts, this is a story within a story and this one goes pretty deep.  What genius to contemplate illusion in a Halloween setting!  What is real and what is not real?  "Which Senjo is the true one?  Are they one or are they two?"  This book works on many different levels and I can't get enough of it.  Find it HERE.

Monday, October 4, 2010

PORTLAND DESIGN WORKS Awesome Radbot-Spaceship Headlight Set for Your Bike

Though my five year old son and I ride mostly on trails, there are some busy streets we need to take and cross to get to the trail opening.  A blinkie is a great idea for riding anywhere around cars.  This is obvious for commuters, but I think it's a good safety feature for kids or adults riding with kids, even if you're mostly on trails.

Portland Design Works has a great light set in the Radbot 500-Spaceship Set, which is "built to withstand rain and meteor showers to keep you safe from blastoff to touchdown in all conditions."  The light set makes me feel more secure crossing busy streets--sometimes people have a hard time stopping at the crosswalks and the light really helps to get their attention.  It's very well made and solid, I've taken it on bumpy trails clipped to my trunk and everything has stayed on just fine.  It's also done great in the rain.

The Spaceship Headlight takes two AA batteries and has two modes, solid and flashing light.  We don't ride at night, so I can't say how it does for lighting the way, but it really adds to your visibility, particularly in flash mode.  I love the cool blue light on the top.

The blinkie takes three AAA batteries and consists of a 0.5 watt Japanese LED and has three modes--solid light, pulse, and pulse with flashes.  The built in reflector is another safety feature and conforms to regional requirements to have a tail reflector.  You have to press and hold down the button to get it to turn on, so it won't accidentally turn on and run down your batteries.  The set comes with several attachments and hardware to mount it virtually anywhere you like.  Mounting couldn't be easier.

For Halloween, I'm going to clip the blinkie on to my son's costume during trick or treating to make him more visible both to cars and to me.  On a holiday note, I think this would make a wonderful Christmas present, the packaging makes a great presentation and this would work well under the tree or in the stocking.

Portland Design Works' website is wonderful--very organized, easy to shop, and visually appealing.  I love their product selection and the demo videos. They have a modern and fun look, but the products are serious.  Find the light set and other cool bike accessories HERE.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Biking with Kids

About two months ago, I got a bike so that I could ride with my five year old son.  It's proved to be one of my best purchases, enabling us to have a fun, healthy and bonding activity each day.  I used to bike all the time, but after having my son and moving, I gave my bike away and haven't touched one until recently.  How I missed it!  I urge any parent who has a kid who's into biking to hit the trails.

Here are a few tips for keeping it safe with the kiddos:

1.  Try to keep on the sidewalks until the child is 10 years old.  I had to look this up because I wasn't sure about the rules here, but apparently it's best to stay off the streets wherever possible until they are ten.  Kids should bike only when supervised until 10 years old as well.

2.  Flow with traffic even if you are on the sidewalk.  In other words, don't ride against traffic.  It's easier for cars to see you if you are going in their direction, and most accidents between cars and bikes happen when bikes are not riding with traffic.

3.  Dismount and walk across busy streets and crosswalks.

4.  Try to wear bright colors such as orange, yellow or red, and utilize reflectors, blinkies and flashing headlights.  

5.  Other stuff is fairly obvious--always wear helmets (that's obvious, right?) and proper shoes (no sandals or slides), don't ride at night, avoid busy streets, obey all traffic signs, etc.

For more safety tips regarding kids and bikes, check out the IBF's safety page and for a more thorough look at bike safety and how not to get hit, read HOW NOT TO GET HIT BY A CAR on

Image Credit: Mark Wiewel