Friday, December 30, 2011

3 Eco Friendly Calendar Options for 2012

Need a calendar for 2012?  I use electronic calendars, but I still rely more on that paper calendar on the fridge.  My son and I love to set goals and then circle the dates for the days we acheived our goal.  For instance, every day I have a green juice, I highlight the date with a green highlighter.  For days we meditate, we circle that with a blue highlighter, and so forth.  It's fun to see all the green circles at the end of the month and gives you a sense of accomplishment.  It's nice to track your progress and it's fun to have a goal.  It could be anything, reading, running, doing a good deed, whatever you want to work on.

Check out this ENVIROMENTAL ART Calendar from Amber Lotus.  All of the Amber Lotus calendars are made from recycled paper and soy ink and they have a strong overall environmental policy (read here).  Environmental Art features  archives from, a non profit online gallery of environmental art.  Some are community based eco art installations which make a statement by incorporating objects from a clean-up, and some are more fleeting nature sculpture meant to be absorbed back into the environment.
WANDERLUST is another great option which features gorgeous photographs of Mother Nature and quotes from adventurers who embraced walking and the wild, like John Muir and Walt Whitman.  It's lovely inspiration to get out there and enjoy mother nature on foot and makes a beautiful presentation on the wall or fridge.
For Children, I love this LITTLE CRITTERS Calendar featuring artwork by Kate Endle.  These sweet images are perfect for little ones--my son loves having his own calendar and is fascinated by the passage of time.  He loves to anticipate holidays and special events and having a calendar puts it all into perspective for him.  Find this and many other eco friendly options HERE on the Amber Lotus website.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Need some ideas for your New Year's party?  The Tipsy Vegan is filled with recipes for those who want to crank up the festivities food-wise.   They're not drink recipes, they're food recipes, food with booze.  It's campy and is packed with colorful photos and illustrations making it fun to read and perfect for a hostess gift.  It would be fabulous for non vegans, and what an introduction to the genre!  The slightly naughty will love this.

I have not had a chance to try any recipes yet (see recipe below to try one yourself), and truth be told, I would likely omit the booze, but I am excited to try the Spicy Sesame Noodles and there are a couple of salads calling my name. The Baked and Loaded Acorn Squash sounds great for New Years Eve, doesn't it?  I love that this book puts an end to the idea that vegans are austere boring people and spices it up with some great humor and mischief.  Find it Here. 
Baked & Loaded Acorn Squash
Sweeten your winter suppers with this loaded squash that can’t help but warm you up from stem to stern when partnered with pears, granny smiths, nutmeg, cinnamon, and apple brandy.
4 acorn squash, halved, seeds and strings scooped out
3 tablespoons vegan margarine or extra-virgin olive oil
8 pears, peeled, cored, and diced
8 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1/4 cup Calvados brandy (apple brandy) or apple liqueur
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
4 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the halved squash on a sheet pan, skin side down. If necessary, cut a slice from the rounded side to make the squash level. Place 1 teaspoon (or so) of the margarine in each half, cover with foil, and bake until squash has softened, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Meanwhile, combine the diced pears and apples, and drizzle with the Calvados and lemon juice to prevent browning. Add nutmeg and cinnamon and stir until well mixed.  Spoon the mixture into squash halves, dividing evenly. Cover with foil and return to the oven. Bake until fruit is warmed through, about 15 minutes. Uncover and bake watchfully until slightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Yield: 8 SERVINGS

Image Credit: Amy Beadle Roth

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Got some Christmas money burning a hole in your pocket?  Or perhaps you need some rockin cool boots for New Years?  You have to check out El Naturalista .  They are a Spanish shoe company that uses recycled and eco friendly materials and operates under a beautiful philosophy of respect for Mother Nature, world cultures, and life.  They are very artful in their methods and their designs are refreshing and colorful.  And most of all, from my experience, they are super comfortable.

These Iggradasil Boots were inspired from Nordic legend.  Each line by El Naturalista is taken from global mythologies, folklore and art.  The Iggradasil line harkens back to the Tree of Life.  Apparently in Finnish lore, the gods once planted a giant ash tree whose roots encompassed the world.  How they got these cool boots out of that story I can't tell you, but I love it.

The heel gives you height while adding extra cush, they are not boots you want to take off. They are utilitarian while still being sexy.  These are not clunky boots, and would be great with skirts and dresses and those who like a more feminine boot.  But they're not too feminine--they're really just right.

The outsole has an interesting texture and it's made from recycled industrial waste.  El Naturalista uses what they call a Frog Shock System to absorb impact and it works.  I like the contrast created by this flecked material and the body of the boot.

The leather is treated with river rocks and in an ecologically conscious manner.  If you look closely, you will see variations in the grain from this natural process.  These boots zip on the side and also have laces in the back so you can customize your fit.

If you need them for a New Year's party, you can find them on Zappos (currently on Sale I might add) and get them in plenty of time.  Have a look HERE.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Solay Fair Trade Himalaya Salt Lamp

Salt therapy has been used for centuries (think salt baths, neti pots, etc) but the Salt Lamp has to be the most beautiful way to utilize the healing benefits of salt.  Salt lamps radiate a warm negative ionizing glow that is said to be great for congestion, allergies, and cleaning the air.  In person, the lamp is very calming and creates a cozy ambiance.  The simple base goes with different decor and kind of disappears so that the focus is on the beautiful variations in the Himalaya salt rock.  It comes with the cord to plug in and a light bulb.  The on/off switch is quality, and located on the cord which is nice if you have it on your nightstand, you can just reach over and flip it on or off without a big reach.

The obvious place for one of these is the bedroom, but I think it would be wonderful in the workplace to keep energy levels up and to enhance the atmosphere, and reduce pollution from electro magnetic frequencies from computers, wifi and whatnot.  They are said to enhance concentration and to aid in meditation.  I think it would also make a very cool night light in a child's bedroom.  If you have a big enough bathroom with counter space, I think it would be so soothing to look at while soaking in a bath (and doesn't that sound nice right about now).

You can find your own salt lamp right here on the Greenwala Marketplace.  They come in three sizes, one being an aromatherapy lamp, to suit your needs.  And be sure to enter the giveaway HERE.  

Monday, December 26, 2011


Looking for some wool clothing to keep you warm this winter?  Icebreaker offers some modern styles that will keep you cozy.  I love their Realfleece.  It's a natural alternative to the synthetic fleeces out there and it breathes, regulates body temperature and does not retain odor, it's perfect for travel and outdoor activities.

Sophisticated styles and a great ethical policy set Icebreaker apart from your average wool clothing.  For starters, they have a wonderful environmental and animal welfare policy.  The animals are well fed, free range, and there is no muelsing.  You can trace the origins of each garment with the BAA Code.

Check out this elegant Igloo Hood.  It's sleek with clean flattering lines, the neckline is especially pretty.  It's very tailored and I find it runs small so consider sizing up with this.  It's soft, no itch like you find with some wools, and it's very warm.  The long length lets it function as a jacket, and paired with gloves and a hat will see you through some cold weather while allowing you to remain mobile.  It's a nice, versatile year round piece.

For kids, I like the Camper Hoody.  It's well made to withstand some heavy duty play.  This is something that will easily be passed down from kid to kid and the design is classic, it won't be going out of style.

Find these and other toasty Icebreaker clothes HERE on their website. They offer free shipping and free returns so you can get your sizing right.  Once you try it, you are likely to want more.  Hint:  I found some crazy good Icebreaker deals on Amazon.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Acorn Fuzzy Tex Slippers

Need a last minute comfort gift?  How about just some straight up comfort?  For You.  These fun fuzzy slipper socks from Acorn feel like heaven on tired feet, and they are warm.  There's memory foam padding on the inside for extra luxury and rubber soles so you can run out to the mailbox if you need to.  I love the gray, but they come in other colors and patterns as well.  These and some hot tea spell bliss to me and I think they are a wonderful gift, and a great last minute gift even online thanks to Zappos.  Find them on the Acorn site, Sundance (who has been offering promos), and Zappos (who can get them to you over night).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

21 Drops: Great Alternative to Perfume

If you are tempted to buy perfume for the holidays, remember that perfume contains carcinogens and irritants that can harm the wearer and people around them.  Personally, I despise the stuff and get an immediate migraine from being around it.  When someone goes to hug you and they are wearing perfume or cologne, you're stuck with that smell all day, and for people like me, we have to go and get a shower to escape the smell.  I could go on and on about how much I hate perfume, the chemical stuff.  And the more I talk openly about this, the more I realize I am not alone.
But I do like fragrance that comes from plants and flowers.  Essential oils are a different story.  They can be soothing, invigorating, and detoxifying.  They can create a mood, and they can lift a weary spirit.  21 Drops has some interesting formulas and fabulous packaging that would be great for gifts.  It's very modern, I love the colors and the the number graphics on the bottles.

The 21st Century Survival Kit provides aromatherapeutic support for life in our fast paced world which includes oils to Uplift, to help you Sleep and De-Stress.  It probably wouldn't be too hard to think of someone who could use this.  They use organic and wildcrafted essential oils, find them Here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Gifts for the Outdoorsy Types

Sea To Summit has some wonderful picks for the stocking.  Wouldn't it be fabulous to put a Kitchen Sink in someone's stocking?  With this portable sink, you can adhere to Leave No Trace principles (you don't want to be washing dishes in mountain streams) and also make things easier on yourself.  Plus it's super cool looking and would make a great gift.

Also from Sea to Summit and perfect for the Stocking is their camp cutlery.  I love the Alpha Set.  It's light weight, also very cool looking charcoal gray aluminum, and also comes with a caribiner to hold it together and clip it to other gear. The holes on the end of each utensil double as hex wrenches--pretty brilliant.  I also like the long spoon for eating out of unusual containers or stirring something hot in a pot.

Trekking poles are something you just might not think to buy for yourself, but wouldn't it be fun to find them peeking out of your stocking on Christmas morning?  These Mountainsmith RHYOLITE Trekking Poles are a really pretty cobalt blue combining great design with practical need.  They are adjustable, which makes them very versatile, and they come with removable baskets.

The grips are comfortable, the poles are lightweight aluminum and they are very good looking (the photo does not do them justice at all), and would make a great and unexpected gift.

Another unexpected gift would be the Steripen Adventurer Opti.  This will purify water whether you are in the woods or in a hotel in a country whose water your body hasn't adapted to yet.  It's also great for emergency preparedness, it's just one of those things that you might not think to have, and you might not use it every day, but when you do need it--it's a lifesaver.  You just place the stem into a glass or water bottle (preferably filtered, if you are getting it out of a stream) and the ultraviolet light sterilizes the water.  It's very straightforward and uses no chemicals.  It takes batteries and they even offer a solar charger--how cool is that?

Finally, Black Diamond Lanterns.  They're the best and I consider myself a bit of an expert on this topic having lived in places where power goes out quite a bit and thus developing a habit of hoarding light sources.  The small ones are compact and so useful with the little clips on the top.  My favorite thing is that they dim, which not only conserves batteries, but also makes for a nicer atmosphere.  A lot of those LED lights are blinding and abrasive, but not Black Diamond's.

I love the small ones (Orbit and Apollo) but sometimes you need a little more light.  Check out their newest lantern, the Titan.  This is the big daddy of the series and a super nice lantern.  Though someone like me would love getting this as a gift, I think it would be great for the elusive male gift.  If you need a man-gift, be sure to have a look at this because if anything, it's going to tap into his inner adventurer and I've never met a man who didn't like that.

* You can find the above locally or on Amazon with overnight or two day shipping.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stocking Stuffers for the Foodie

Eat Your Greens Organic Tea Towel:  How cute is this functional reminder?  It's art for the kitchen and perfect for those of us who can't live without our daily greens.  I think this would be fabulous in a frame on the wall.
The first time I tried the Smoked Olive's Sonoma Blend, I got very excited because I love that smoky flavor and don't often get a chance to enjoy it.  This is wonderful for vegans and vegetarians looking to change it up and also would be fabulous for raw foodists as the smoking process does not damage the integrity of the raw oil, I am told.
The Microplane Artisan Series 4 Piece Grater Set comes in different colors and would be great in the stockings of anyone who loves to spend time in the kitchen.  They come in varying blades, each for a specific purpose.  Each grater sports a cover picturing what the grater is meant to be used for such as citrus, ginger, and vegetables. Graters are a kitchen necessity and though they do come in white, the bright colors feel festive and energetic and I love the idea of color coding.

Angell  Bars are Organic, fair trade, and offer gluten free and vegan options.  And they're yummy too.  The blue one pictured above is made with white chocolate and coconut and it's called Snow, how perfect for stockings.

Monday, December 19, 2011

WATERFI: Listen to Music while Swimming Laps

Did you know you can swim laps and listen to music at the same time?  How cool is this?  And why didn't I know about this sooner?!  WATERFI offers a waterproof iPod that allows you to listen to your favorite music while swimming your heart out.  This is huge for those of us that love to swim laps, but get a little bored at times or need that extra push.  Think of how fast your work out will go by with the Waterfi.  You could also listen to college lectures (how I would have loved this while I was in school), motivational stuff,  podcasts, Spanish could accomplish two things at once.

It's very straightforward and easy to use.   It's tiny, not cumbersome at all and it works.  The device is an iPod Shuffle that Waterfi has sealed with a waterproof coating.  This is one of the coolest things I've come across in a long time.  You just strap it on to your goggles with the included velcro strap, plug in the waterproof headphones and go.  There's a 2G memory which holds about 500 songs and it lasts up to 15 hours before it needs a recharge.  You just plug it into your computer for charging.

Swimming is a wonderful form of exercise, I find it to be as good for my mind as it is for my body.  People who run get to enjoy music, and I think you really get a better quality workout when you have the benefit of songs you love.  You go faster and push yourself harder.  That swimmers now get this benefit is fantastic.  Though it would be nice for people who run in the rain or live in rainy climate, I think it's even more appropriate for swimming because when you're outside running, it's a good idea to be able to hear your surroundings.  But in the pool, you're in contained environment and you don't have to worry about cars and whatnot.  It's a perfect match.

This would be great for Holiday gifts (and is available on Amazon with overnight shipping), it would be super cute in a stocking for anyone who does water sports, snow sports, or traveling.  It comes in a gift worthy clear acrylic box and makes a fabulous presentation.  Wouldn't this also be perfect for New Year's Resolutions?  You can get it with or without headphones, but you will need waterproof headphones for the water.  I would suggest the Swim System but you can check out all your options HERE on their website.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Darn Tough Socks for Stockings

There is something amusing to me about putting socks in a Christmas stocking, but it's very practical, everyone needs socks.  Darn Tough Socks are not just any socks, however, and they make a fabulous gift.  Not only are they very good looking and come in many different weights, designs, and colors, but they are very well made.  So well made that the company guarantees them for life.  Seriously, have you ever heard of such a thing?  Talk about sustainable.  My socks are expensive, and I'm almost never caught without slippers because I can't stand to walk on the floor in bare socks for fear of wearing them out.   So there are those moments when I'm tipy toeing to my slippers or shoes so as to try to keep as the socks off the floor.  With Darn Tough, I don't have to be quite so neurotic, uh, careful.  I confess to tipy-toeing a couple of times, but only because the socks are so beautiful, whether they're guaranteed or not, I still want them to last as long as possible.

This time of year, I like knee socks.  They're great under boots and when I'm not wearing boots, they give me the extra warmth I need.  My favorite ones are the cushioned ski socks which are padded and super comfy.  They stay up too which is important.  Wool socks rule--they regulate your temperature, don't get soggy when you sweat and don't hold unpleasant odors.

I am completely sold on Darn Tough, they are made in the US and they are made to last, concepts I wish other companies would catch on to.  They have a huge variety on their website, everything from plain and simple to feminine, to stripey and fun.  They come in all sizes, so there's something for everyone in the family.  Find them HERE.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Need a super easy meal for those bustling pre-holiday nights?  Pizza is fast and easy and fairly nutritious, providing you pile on the veggies.  You can make it vegan, you can make it organic, and you can even make it gluten free.  And you can make it Fast.  Emile Henry's Flame Top Pizza Stone makes pizza easy and delicious, and it does it with that fabulous eco friendly French clay.

The pizza stones I've tried in the past  (two of them) were just not functional.  Little bits of food and oil would remain on the stone, baked in, only to smoke and create a bad burning smell the next time I tried to use it. I couldn't cut my pizza on the stone, so I had to then transfer it to another surface, and the traditional stones stain and are near impossible to get really clean.

What  I love about this pizza stone is that I don't have to worry about any chemicals leaching into my food.  Ergonomic handles make it easy to get in and out of the oven (others don't have handles at all) as well as add to the cool design.  I can cut the pizza right on the stone which saves having to wash another surface like a cutting board or serving dish.   And it's washable by hand or dishwasher and won't absorb soap-taste like other stones.  It's super easy to clean and takes just a minute or two even with stuff baked on.

Trader Joes has pre-made pizza dough for $1.29 that couldn't be easier.  Pair it with vegan cheese (or organic cheese which TJ's also has cheap) and load it up with veggies.  Children love to make their own pizza and sprinkle their favorite toppings all over the pie.  It really makes veggies more appealing to them in this context and you'd be surprised how easy it is to get them to eat vegetables this way.

It's also great for frozen pizzas (there are several great vegan, vegetarian, organic and gluten free options now), the stone helps make the crust bake optimally, and it keeps your oven clean.  It makes a lovely presentation on the table, elevating the frozen pizza to a nice looking dinner.  Pair with a salad and you've got a fabulous kid friendly meal.

You can use the stone for baking bread, but I have not tried this.  I think you could also use it as a serving platter for appetizers and whatnot.  The pizza stone comes in a gift worthy box, making it a great pick for holiday gifts as well and comes in several colors.  Find it HERE.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

LEAVENWORTH: Bavarian Christmas Extravaganza

Nestled in the cascade mountains, the Bavarian themed town of Leavenworth, Washington, makes for a fabulous family getaway, particularly around Christmas.  Leavenworth has an interesting history.  Officially founded in the late 1800's, the town began to thrive when the Great Northern Railway built a route through Stevens Pass.  It became a bustling town with a prosperous sawmill.  However, the railroad company eventually rerouted and pulled out.  After a sharp decline in revenue following the loss of the railroad and logging industries, the folks of Leavenworth decided to reinvent the town for tourism to boost the economy.  So they hired German architects and remolded the village to resemble Bavaria.  Over 20 percent of Leavenworth's population are German, which says a lot for how they managed to get the vibe right.

If you love Christmas, Germany is The Place To Be in December.  Actually, almost anywhere in Europe, but particularly Germany as they really do it up for the holidays, and they do it beautifully.  Having lived in Germany, I was very curious to visit Leavenworth and see if it felt familiar, and while I didn't exactly feel like I was in Germany, it definitely brought back some fond memories of Bavaria and I was thrilled to show my son.  It was close--some cobblestone and a few Smart cars and Fiats just might have done it for me.  Much of the architecture seemed accurate and there were even smells that transported me.  The Munchen Haus smells like Germany and offers a couple of vegetarian options.  We enjoyed a hot pretzel with mustard outside in their courtyard heated with lamps and fire.

This year, the city greened their celebrations by converting to LED lights and they did a beautiful job decorating.  The village is very winter wonderland magical and ideal for children, particularly with sightings of both the German Father Christmas and Santa.  It's also very romantic and hundreds of people get married and engaged in Leavenworth every year.
For families, Leavenworth is a great destination with something for everyone.  There are places to sled with varying degrees of difficulty.  For instance right on the main street there is a small hill for kids to play, perfect for little ones.  For more of a challenge, there is a spot with pulleys to help you up the hill for tubing as well as cross country skiing and moderate downhill skiing.  Snow shoeing is also popular and accessible.
If you would like to go on a sleigh ride, there are several options.  Icicle Outfitters offers sleigh rides, complete with hot chocolate, apple cider and real cowboy coffee in a tent with a wood burning stove.  Horse drawn sleighs glide along a majestic backdrop featuring the Sleeping Lady--an image you can see hidden in the mountain silhouette.  Rides are inexpensive and in case you are wondering, the horses don't mind.  They swap them out so they don't get fatigued and these are powerful animals who for centuries have been bred to plow fields and haul heavy loads.  There are even farmers in Leavenworth who still use these magnificent creatures to plow their crops in lieu of machinery.   Icicle Outfitters also offers guided trips, camping, hiking and fishing trips.

Leavenworth has a natural foods store, dining options offering vegetarian fare, and a Farmers' Market with organic produce.  Leavenworth is actually the number one exporter of organic pairs in the US.
Lodging options are plentiful.  We stayed at the Icicle Village Resort and found it to be luxurious and accommodating.  I strongly recommend splurging on a suite.  You might spend a little more, but you get a lot more and it really enhances the experience.  There is a microwave and fridge, so you can bring some of your own healthy food and snacks--particularly nice when you have growing children that never seem to stop eating, and it's wonderful for those of us with special dietary needs.

The room was so inviting and comfortable neither one of us was in a big hurry to leave.  We sleep on a Tempurpedic at home, with soft bamboo sheets and fancy pillows and we are very spoiled.  When I go to a hotel, it's unusual for me to find the bed super comfortable and the pillows--forget it, I usually bring a travel pillow to supplement.  This hotel nailed it with a plush mattress, soft bedding and perfect pillows, I slept great which is rare for me in a hotel.  It was clean and quiet and very nice.  The room also came with a iPod docking station/speaker so we were able to listen to Christmas music without having to bring along travel speakers.
Our room had a fireplace and a whirlpool bathtub which, for my six year old, was like having a little swimming pool in the room.  Speaking of swimming, there is a pool on the grounds that is heated and enclosed in a big bubble.  It was fun to be able to go for a swim even though it was freezing cold outside.

Breakfast is included and is set up as a buffet in the hotel's restaurant, JJ Hill.  The menu, I was happy to see, includes vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options, and a train circles the room while you eat, which is fun for the kids.  They had it decorated festively and portions were generous.  The Icicle Inn has its own movie theatre on the grounds and we went to see Happy Feet Two on a full size screen in a very clean cozy theatre. To get to the movie, you walk through an arcade, which is not my cup of tea, but great for some, it's another thing to do for kids which is nice for weary parents.  There are enough activities on-site that you could stay right on the premises and still have plenty to do.  Views from the inn are beautiful and our room had a balcony and a big window so we could really enjoy the mountain atmosphere.  The hotel is in a good location, about a 10 minute walk from downtown.

We were there on the night of the Lighting of the Christmas Tree and the city had a special tent set up for hot apple cider and glowine.  It was very festive and if you weren't in the mood for Christmas, you would be after this.  The main street has some interesting little shops to check out.  There is a Nutcracker Museum in a shop filled with nutcrackers and several places to find Christmas tree ornaments, many imported from Germany.  There's a crazy hat shop with everything from Viking hats to kitty cat hats, to hats covered with eyeballs.  There are bakeries, one of which is an authentic Bavarian bakery that was closed while we were there (which may have been a good thing after all).  Shopping is plentiful, but when I'm in a new place there are two things I really love to do:  eat and explore.

My favorite restaurant from my brief sampling was South, a Latin place.  The atmosphere is rustic with exposed brick walls, lots of color, and Mexican fixtures.  They have vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options and the food is delicious.  I want to go back in the Summer just so I can eat outside in the courtyard.  The Good Mood Food Cafe is another great choice and offers fresh juices, salads, wraps, and other healthy satisfying meals.  It's kid friendly, with a little play table and chairs, and they aim to use organic, local and natural foods.  There were more yummy food options in town than I had time to try, but there's always next time.  I'd definitely like to visit again.

If you need a winter getaway that will satisfy the whole family and get you in the holiday spirit, or if you'd like a little taste of Germany without the overseas travel, check out Leavenworth.   There are festivals all winter to keep you in wonderland mode.  Find out more on the Leavenworth website HERE.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Toys for Budding Eco Engineers

Would Santa like to leave toys that not only green but so fun the educational value escapes the child?  You bet!  Check out these fabulous blocks from Citiblocs.  They come in different colors (I like the warm colors for this time of year) and are open ended fun leading to hours of quiet--that's right, quiet--fun.  My six year old loves to play with these and I'm amazed at how calming and creative they are.  The blocks are made from certified renewable pine and they are completely free of any toxins, so if they end up in any mouths, kids or canine, they should be okay.

The more technical oriented and older children will love science based kits from Thames and Kosmos. I'm especially intrigued by their Alternative Energy and Environmental Science projects.  Check out this Renewable Energy Science Kit focused on wind energy.  This is so cool, think of how toys like this could potentially have an impact on the future.  I also like this Remote Control Machines kit which is so much more interesting than a plain RC car.  Shaping young minds to create eco friendly transportation and renewable energy is very exciting and I think these would also be fabulous in the classroom.

For stockings, Think-A-Lot makes a holiday edition of their clever Think-ets, an open ended story telling game featuring little trinkets.  There are numerous ways to play this game and their size makes them wonderful for travel.  Not for little ones due to choking hazard, older kids get a kick out of using their imagination in tandem with being able to touch the little objects such as a Christmas tree, a snowman and a polar bear among others.  My six year old loves to scatter them on the table and make up stories using the pieces for the story line.  Think-ets encourage creativity, logic and reason along with good old fashioned fun.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Enjoy the Cold Outdoors in The North Face

What do you wear when the weather is super cold, but also wet?  If you live in a rainy climate, it's a little bit tricky.  If you leave the house in a down coat and get caught in a downpour, you get soggy.   But there are solutions that will keep you warm and dry.  Check out this Brooklyn Jacket from the North Face.

It's a waterproof shell with down on the inside, so the water doesn't get near the down and it stays very warm.  The faux fur trim on the hood is removable and you can throw the whole coat into the wash when you need to clean it (sans detachable fur).  There are plenty of pockets for tickets, lip balm, id, money, etc., and the hand pockets are soft and cozy.  This coat has features that keep wind and rain out, like the cuffs, belt and zip/button down combo keeping well sealed against cold.  The fit is very snug, I recommend sizing up.

North Face makes another coat very similar to this called the Arctic Parka.  For those preferring a belt-less look, this one hits a little longer for added warmth.  Both coats have that durable HyVent 2L waterproof fabric that breathes while sealing out water and wind, in addition to ultra warm goose down on the inside of the coat.

I learned while taking the bus, or rather freezing at bus stops, that a good coat is a big deal.   When I wasn't driving, in the winter, I began to think of my coat (and footwear) as my car and with that came a lot of freedom. It makes all the difference in the world to keep warm, opening up various options like taking the bus and walking and playing outside.  Because of my proper cold weather clothing, I was comfortable taking the bus and dragged out getting a car a good extra year or two, not to mention being able to hang out in the cold and snow with my son as long as he wanted to.  Buy quality and you only have to buy it once.  Find these coat and other cold weather options HERE on the North Face website.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Allsop Eco Friendly Solar String Lights

Are you going to decorate your yard for the holidays this year?  Check out these fabulous Aurora Solar Lights from Allsop.   Probably the most eco friendly lights I've ever seen, the beautiful globes are made from hand blown glass.  Not plastic!  Each one is unique and casts a magical glow.

The lights are attached to a clear wire and they give a generous space between the lights and the solar panel so you have many options as to how you want to configure them.  You just place the lights where you want them, stake down the solar panel (or secure it it in a tree or whatnot) so that the panel can get light, make sure they're turned ON and voila!  When the sun goes down, you have festive lights.

They come in different colors and they also come with copper hooks so you can really get that placement the way you want it.  They are so much prettier than the new plastid LED lights, don't you think? I think they are perfect for the holidays, and they'd also make a fabulous gift under the tree.  Find them HERE.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NEMO Asashi Tent: Big on Design, Big on Function

"Design like you give a damn," it says in the Nemo Catalog.  Music to my ears.  All your stuff should be as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional.  There should be no ugly stuff, period, even your rugged gear should look good to you.  I always say,  just spend the money and get the quality thing that you love, that way you'll take great care of it and have it forever and it's way better than having to go through several mediocre things when you could have had the one good thing all along.   In the end it saves you time and money and it's better for the earth. I think Nemo is one such brand that combines high quality and good looks to create things you hang on to forever.

Nemo is an exciting new company to me, though they've been around since 2002.  I love their philosophy to protect the people and places that make adventure possible.  Nemo allows their employees an off-day each month for community service as part of their Green Re-thinking program.  They have heart and they have brains for great design--it's not an accident that their tents are bad ass and beautiful.  Look at this gorgeous Nemo Four Person Asashi Tent.  It looks like a work of art, but one touch and you can feel the quality materials, and it's loaded with little details that make it function like a dream.
The fly doubles as a beach shelter when paired with the optional footprint.  I always recommend a footprint when they are available because they help to keep your tent in good shape.  It's also very convenient to have a footprint--when you're done with your camping trip, you can just fold up your tent, nice and clean and worry about the footprint when you get home to hose it off.  For the inside of the tent, Nemo offers the optional Pawprint which lines the inside of your tent for added comfort.

This tent has light diffusers--this is something I've never seen before.  You put your head lamps in the four corners and it makes for some nice lighting.  Small flashlights work too.  There are four stash pockets (one for each person) and they all have integrated drink holders.  There's a vestibule with a built in window to store gear.  If you need extra storage room, there is an optional Garage.

I set this tent up myself in under ten minutes without looking at any directions.  It's very straight forward and simple with features that make it all come together seamlessly, like the Jake's Feet corner anchor system which locks the poles into place, and the fly fastens with adjustable clips to get it nice and tight.  It couldn't have been easier.

The carry bag is the nicest I've ever seen with a tent, with pockets and zippers for each thing.  It even has a little diagram of constellations on the inside--how cool is that?  Seriously, it's romantic.  The care that went into this and that artful touch, you just don't find it every day.  Tom Freidman (Hot, Flat and Crowded) was saying recently that in the old days, people put their stamp on things they made, their seal.  They put so much thought into what they did they were proud to put their name on it, they took pride.   Nemo seems to be doing this, in a modern sense, that's what I thought when I saw the constellation patch. He also said that only the companies who do take great care will move forward in our evolving world.  I hope he's right because I'd really like to see more of this.

The Asashi is spacious and very comfortable.  My six year old can stand up in this tent with plenty of room, and though, at 5'5, I can't stand completely, I find it roomy and easy to maneuver in.  I like to size up with tents, so this is great for one to four people.  Why not?  If you're car camping, you can afford that extra luxury.  This tent is too heavy for backpacking, though I'd love to see what Nemo has in store for that type of camping.  This tent would make a super awesome gift for the holidays.  Find it HERE.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Recycled Christmas Tree Ornaments

Need some ideas for decorating your Christmas tree?  Check out Crate and Barrel's options for recycled ornaments.  I love these little bicycles made from recycled paper.
 Or, if you like sparkle, these glittery stars are also made from recycled paper.  They come in two sizes and they're so cute, almost nostalgic.
And finally, made from recycled tin, there's a star, a heart, and a tree to choose from.  you can see the odd word peeking out and each one is unique.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Veggie Dyed Kork-Ease Ankle Boots

Need some snappy boots for holiday events?  Check out these fabulous MARLO booties from Kork-Ease.  These boots have wonderful crossover appeal ranging from dressy to casual, from a whisper of cowgirl to metropolitan sophistication.  Have you ever looked longingly at those fashionable cute ankle booties wishing you could wear them knowing full well you wouldn't last an hour in them?  Being the boot freak that I am, I've been lusting after this style for the last couple of years but wouldn't dare attempt most of them due to the heels.  I'm a firm believer that you can be feminine and sexy without killing yourself in high heels.  And for me, heels are just not practical at all, I need my footwear to function.

I've been curious about Kork-Ease for a long time, I love the fusion of modern with retro chic.  When I saw the MARLO Platform Ankle Boot,  I thought, finally, an accessible ankle boot with a heel! These fit the bill in a big way.  They are modern and fun, and most importantly, they are super comfortable.  The side zip makes them easy to get on and off, the platform makes them manageable to walk in and provides height, and I just love their elegant simplicity which makes them classic.  The Marlo works with dressier outfits to something more casual like jeans or leggings.  The colors are natural and derived from vegetable tanning which utilizes plant tannins like bark and wood.  Untreated eco friendly biodegradable Vachetta leather from Tuscany, Italy, develops a rich patina over time, giving each shoe its own unique look.  They've got a lot of character and I can see them getting even more beautiful with time.

They run true to size, I take an 8.5 and unlike most boots in my closet, I did not have to size up with these, they fit perfectly and offer some arch support.  If you are like me, you want as much cushion as you can get, so I put some gel insoles in and it made them feel just right. You can find these fabulous boots on the Kork-Ease website, Zappos, and Sundance.  The different sites offer various colors, so be sure to check out your options.