Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Eco Mama's Green Gift Guide: Mother's Day 2011

Before becoming a mother I used to take baths all the time.  I'm not sure exactly what happened, but it's a luxury I left behind. Until a recent trip to Seattle and my stay at a hotel where they have Japanese bathtubs, I hadn't had a bath literally in years.  I took some of these Himala Rose Bath Salts with me and it was like being at a spa.  I want that ritual back and I have a feeling I am not alone.  Himala Rose Healing Rituals bath salts are good inspiration for taking that time to just exhale a little. 

Made with Himilayan sea salt, they contain minerals, trace elements and aromatherapy to help purify your body and soothe your spirit.  They come in Lavender and Rose, smell great (and not overwhelming like some bath products), and leave your skin soft and detoxified.  I love the story about how founder Melissa Kushi grew up taking outdoor baths in a tin washtub her great-grandmother threw rose petals into.  This product is certified organic, vegan, and cruelty free.  Find it HERE

The most important and wonderful gift you can give is your time.  Wouldn't it be beautiful to give (or receive) this WEWOOD WATCH along with a lovely weekend adventure or afternoon together?  I love the symbolism and the actual watch is fabulous.  Where have you ever seen a watch made from wood?  WEWOOD is an Italian company and the "avant garde approach to sophisticated sustainability."

They come in different colors and styles, but I am partial to this Date brown which has nice color variance.  The watch feels good to the touch and is completely natural and non toxic.  It comes big, with tools to fit the watch to size.  I had to take out several links, but it was simple and the watch now fits my wrist--which is not always easy since I have small wrists and things often slide right off, so it was nice to be able to customize it.  For every watch purchased, WEWOOD plants a tree.  Find them HERE. 

At the end of the day it is such a treat to climb into a soft cozy bed.  You would think all of my bedding would be organic because I am a stickler for these things.  You spend eight hours a day in bed, it should be a chemical free environment.  Most of my bedding is indeed organic, but until recently, not the sheets!  I have tried so many organic sheets and have yet to find any that are soft enough--until now.  Kassatex makes some wonderful sheets.

These are a bamboo organic cotton blend and are super soft.  I'm incredibly picky about sheets, and these pass my test.  They're light and breezy and perfect for Summer.  Every mom I know could use some quality sleep and these luxurious sheets would make a thoughtful gift.  Find them HERE.

For newer mamas I love this stroller compatible Armitage Satchel from Po Campo.  I recently got the Armitage and fell in love with it (read my review here).   This bag fits on your bike rack, carries your yoga bag, holds everything you need and looks fashionable.  I love it for anyone, but it would be a very special treat for Mother's Day.  Find it HERE.

Wraps are great for Spring and Summer and Yala Designs makes several Bamboo Dreams wraps that would be great for Mother's Day.  The Lucy Wrap is versatile, comes in different colors and is made from ultra soft sustainable bamboo rayon.  Find it HERE

Monday, April 25, 2011

Po Campo Armitage Satchel Bike Rack Tote

Spring is here!  That means the bike comes out of the bike shed, gets dusted off, tuned up, and off we go on new adventures.  This year I had some wonderful inspiration to get going.  Look at this super cool Armitage Satchel from Po Campo.

This is where function and design meet for a blissful union, and in an area that sorely needs it.  Making riding your bike beautiful and artful--yes!  This bag is just as lovely in person as it is in the pictures.  It's the perfect weight and feels substantial without adding unnecessary heft to your bike.  It attaches with very little effort and stays on, you can watch a very good demo video to see how easy it is and also how much it can hold here

I love the chunky silver hardware, and I especially like the big modern circles that serve to hold your strap in place over the rack.  There are reflector strips on both ends, not too noticeable for when you're using the bag for non-bike related things, which serve to strap in the tote.  I think they look cool and they help to make you stand out in traffic.  There's space for your blinkie as well. 

The outer material is a fade and water resistant material.  I haven't had it out in the rain yet, and that's just a matter of time, but I feel secure because there is a lining on the inside which looks sure to keep my stuff dry even if the outside is exposed to a heavy rain. 

There's an outer pocket perfect for your phone, a zippered inner pocket, and a detachable adjustable shoulder strap. There are loops to attach keys or additional blinkies.

This bag also easily attaches to a stroller (boy do I wish I'd had this five years ago), and holds a yoga mat, making it an incredibly versatile piece. 

Po Campo is the brainchild of two women who had a vision to blend fashion with function.  Emily and Maria own Po Campo and I love that they had a unique idea and saw it through.  They are big on community and I am big on supporting women run businesses.     I can't wait to see what they come up with next.  Find them HERE.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Health Benefits of Asparagus

Asparagus is in season and is full of health benefits.  We picked some up for our Easter celebration, there is something so Spring-y about it.  I love the bright green and it's fun to eat something in the form of spears. It's an old crop, enjoyed by Romans, Greeks and Egyptians over 2000 years ago. 

Amongst the virtues of asparagus are its nutritional content and ability to reduce inflammation.  Asparagus is good for the digestive tract, and helps stabilize blood sugar.  It's high in B vitamins and is rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, selenium, and beta carotene.  

I like to flash saute my asparagus with a little garlic and top with hemp seeds.  It's great on pasta or just plain by itself.  Be sure to use asparagus within 48 hours of purchase, as it has a high "respiration rate" and will perish faster than some other vegetables. 

Image Credit: Esteban Cavrico

Friday, April 22, 2011

Klean Kanteen's New Plastic Free Bottles

Klean Kanteen has come out with some new bottles that are completely plastic free.  Not only that, but they are beautiful.  The KLEAN KANTEEN REFLECT has taken the water bottle to a new level, look at that gorgeous bamboo lid. Artful green function, yes!  No nasty chemicals to worry about here, just stainless steel, sustainable bamboo, and food grade silicone.

They purposely left off any paint to avoid scratched bottles ending up in recycling bins or landfills.  The logo is etched on and won't scratch off, brilliant. I'm wild for the lid, it makes the bottle scream adventure to me.  I can picture this bottle in a saddle bag on an expedition, in someone's pack on safari in the 1930's, or in a messenger bag on a bullet train.  It is old world and very modern all at the same time. 

I don't fool around with plastic at all, we know that it is not just BPA we need to worry about, so why take the chance?  All my bottles are stainless or glass.  Stainless is the best for more active situations like biking, traveling and camping, particularly if you have children around.

Klean Kanteen has come a long way since it's inception.  I used to buy their sippy cups for my son.  He still uses them (with a different lid) four years later, that's how well they endure.  Just be careful if you have them in a side pocket of your pack, because if you slam it down hard on the ground, you can get little dents in the bottom.   I took this bottle on a recent trip and it fit perfectly in my pack and was the right amount of water to have with me, I was grateful I brought it.  I think the Reflect might just be my favorite water bottle yet.  It's Earth Day, treat yourself!  Find it HERE.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Bunny Finds: No-Sugar Basket Ideas

Want some stuff for the Easter basket that doesn't involve sugar?  I don't know about your children, but sugar has the effect of rocket fuel on my son.  Therefore, I try to minimize sugar consumption as much as I can--I do the raw organic sugary stuff, but it's still sugar.  And because of all the hoopala, it's always harder to manage on holidays.  So here's what I do.  One or two sugary things--a chocolate bunny is fine.  The Easter Bunny also always brings my son a big bunch of fresh organic carrots with the tops (my son gets a huge kick out of this).  To fill the rest of the basket, how about books and toys?

I love these Garden Cards from Barefoot Books.  It's a box of 40 over sized colorful cards with gardening ideas, info, and games.  Perfect for the budding gardener and a great activity for parents to do with kids outside.  For me, Easter is about renewal and life--what better way to celebrate that then get outside and dig in the dirt.  Plant some seeds and nurture life.

This RoboBox Stencil Set fits nicely in a basket and is great for robot obsessed boys (or girls).  They also have a dino box, a zoo box, and a finger painting box.  This is very portable and keeps my son occupied for quite a while while fueling his creativity.
Every year the Easter Bunny brings my son a rabbit-centric book and he gets a big kick out of that.  Big Rabbit's Bad Mood is a funny and unexpected book for the Easter Bunny to bring.  Big Rabbit is in a terrible mood that won't go away, even after watching tv and eating a yummy salad.   I relate to Big Rabbit--sometimes it can be difficult to shake a bad mood!  His appears in the form of a stalky monster.  It's nice for kids to have imperfect characters to look at and in the end, Big Rabbit does conquer his bad mood. 

This Hungry Animals Stencil Set is lightweight and thin and perfect for the basket and later, to travel with. Each animal is fit to scale and they all nest inside one another making a cool looking and compact activity.

Bananagrams are so cute for the basket in their little fruit zipper pouches.  Good for older kids and adults too, the Pear is best for the little ones.  My son loves to make words out of the tiles, they feel great in your hand and build those word skills.

Chalk The Block is a spiral bound book that comes with sidewalk chalk.  This would be fun on Easter Sunday, weather providing, to hang out and decorate the vicinity.  It's very much like the Klutz face painting book that gives you ideas, tells you how to create a look, and includes the medium.  In this case, it's four pieces of chalk.  I love combining art with being outside.  As you can tell from the subtitle, the ideas are pretty humorous, particularly for children.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Earth Day in the Classroom

 If you're a teacher or a mama, it's especially fun to make a big deal about Earth Day.   Here are three things I think would be wonderful to have year round in the classroom, but are particularly educational for Earth Day.

RESPECT THE EARTH FLASHCARDS:  For the budding environmentalist.  These cute large retro looking flash cards are perfect for Earth Day.  They depict various animals doing earth friendly activities like going the the Farmers' Market, unplugging chargers and recycling.  They are sweet while stressing the importance of taking responsibility.
GREEN TOYS TRUCK AND RACE CAR:  I think this would be great for pre-school and kindergarten.  It's rounded edges and non toxic materials make it safe for little ones.  Green Toys is an innovative company that uses recycled milk containers to make their toys.  As cute as they look, they are durable and can take some serious play. 
THIS TREE COUNTS:  This book is way more than a counting book, though it does offer some of that.  It helps to instill reverence for nature and deep appreciation for one of the earth's most magnificent and vital adornments: trees.  Together a class plants trees and learns that they are necessary for cleaning the air, and providing shelter for humans and other creatures.  The artwork is lovely and this was a book my son wanted me to read over and over.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Green Getaway: Seattle

Eco friendly travel does not necessarily mean camping or picking grapes on an organic farm (though that sounds fun too).  An eco friendly retreat in an urban setting is completely doable.   If you don't have time for a week,  I think a weekend escape can be every bit as satisfying if you use your time wisely and stay at the right hotel.   You can have a luxurious kid friendly green getaway in the city. 

Seattle is wonderful for this sort of thing.  Green options abound, the geography is gorgeous, and the food is fantastic.  My favorite thing to do when I visit the city is walk around, meet up with friends, and eat.  If you're traveling with a child, it's a good idea to have a couple of kid specific activities planned as well and Seattle has plenty to choose from.
Here's what you do.  You take the train or bus, everybody brings a stainless water bottle to refill and reuse, try to stick to vegetarian and organic local foods where available, take your non toxic toiletries in their reusable bottles, turn the lights off when you leave---all the things you do at home.  Only now, there are hotels that are on board with eco friendly thinking making it much easier to maintain your green lifestyle.  We took the beautiful Amtrak Cascades train into Seattle for a green mini vacation during Spring break and we stayed at the perfect hotel.     
Hotel Monaco is an eco friendly four star hotel brimming with individuality and charm.   It's Green Seal certified and complies with a list of green initiatives to make your stay healthier for the planet and for you.  I was grateful to walk into a room that didn't smell of cleaning supplies (they use eco friendly products) or fragrance.  Recycling, water and energy conservation, and organic food and beverage options are all part of their EarthCare Program.

Entering the lobby, the first thing I noticed was all the color.  We were lucky enough to visit during April, while they are celebrating Earth Day with some beautiful lamps created by artist Russ Morgan, using colorful upcycled glass.  They're funky, fun, and bohemain, and added to the ambiance.  On the ceiling there is a lovely sea creature mural lending an air of enchantment.  The style is eclectic and the vibe is playful and relaxed.  I immediately felt transported.  The folks at the front desk were welcoming and efficient and had us checked in an on our way very quickly.

The Monaco is incredibly kid friendly, catering big time to the little ones.  The staff were especially attentive and jovial with my six year old, looking him in the eye and speaking directly to him.  They made him feel comfortable and excited to be there.  There's even  a zebra patterned secret toy box with complimentary toys.
Once in the room, my son was elated to find a bright orange goldfish waiting for us, available to all guests upon request.  Rivaling the goldfish was a gigantic Japanese bath, that for a six year old, was like a pool, and it became a major focal point of our time in the room.  There are some fun animal print robes for your use at the hotel (if you get too attached, they're available for purchase).  Vibrant colors and spaciousness are both soothing and revitalizing,  and a welcome antidote to typical beige hotel rooms.  Our room reminded me very much of a room I stayed in once in Venice, Italy.
The hotel is in a great location for Seattle attractions like Pikes Place Market and shopping (hello Anthropologie), Pioneer Square, and the waterfront.  Just a few blocks away, you can hop on the Monorail and head for the Pacific Science Center, Experience Music Project, and the Space Needle.  My son is obsessed with Star Wars and dinosaurs, so we opted for the Science Center.  There he got to touch a replica of a T-Rex foot, understand fossils, and spy a Tara dactyl overhead.  But the real thrill for him was the Star Wars exhibit.
Though it's not exactly my cup of tea, I must admit I got chills looking at the iconic costumes and standing next to Yoda and R2-D2.  They have some key memorabilia from the movies including Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder (surprisingly small in person).

You get to see Darth Vader's costume, C-3PO, Wookies, and Stormtroopers.  Whatever your favorite Star War's character may be, it's apt to be there.  It's a very stimulating atmosphere with interactive displays and lots of variety.  I'd love to go back for the Butterfly and insect exhibit and look forward to see what else they have in store for future attractions.  The Science Center is a wonderful place to get kids excited about science and the world we live in, and there is something for everyone. 
When we got back to the Monaco, we were offered Star Wars dvds, so my son could keep riding that wave.  Seriously, they think of everything.  At 5:00 there is complimentary wine hour in the lobby,  featuring local wines and beverages to unwind from your day and get you energized for the evening.  Since the hotel is pet friendly, we spotted a few dogs of various sizes walking around, which we really enjoyed.  The atmosphere is relaxing and somewhat festive.  On Wednesdays they have a fortune teller at the wine hour, and on Fridays they play Guitar Hero, how fun is that?
We ate dinner at Sazerac, the Monaco's restaurant which is next door and connected to the hotel.  They utilize local, seasonal and organic foods.  If you are visiting with children, I highly recommend sitting at the Chef's counter where you can get in on the action.  The chefs were super friendly and eager to please, engaging my son and treating him like a little king.  We were there on a Thursday evening and it was packed, so be sure to make reservations.  Everything we tasted was delicious, but the house Artisan Greens Salad knocked my socks off, and since returning, my Cuisinart has been ablaze as I try (and try) to recreate the dressing.  They are happy to accommodate any sort of dietary needs and will make whatever you'd like.

I've stayed in some very nice hotels, but not many have this much personality.   So often a hotel is just a place to sleep,  and normally I can't wait to get out the door and on to the adventure.  But the Monaco is a destination in and of itself.  If you like some character along with your luxury, check them out.  They even offer discounts for those who take the train, as well as special packages.    I highly recommend Hotel Monaco as part of a green getaway in Seattle, you won't want to leave.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Organic Easter for the Pooch: Simply Fido

Our dog always gets excited during holidays when we are enjoying festivities, so we like to include her.  Santa remembered her and I suspect the Easter Bunny will too (kids get a big kick out of this).   How about some Easter treats for your dog?  I love these Organic toys and blankies from Simply Fido.   I  provide organic food and goods for my household as much as I can, how great that there are a few companies making safe toys for our four legged friends.    Cotton is a heavily sprayed crop, any chance I get to choose the organic option with textiles, I take. 
What a great idea to combine a toy with a blanket.  The Lollie Lamb Blanket is too cute and so practical.  My dog loves to shake fabric--you know what I'm talking about?  It's very funny to watch.  This is perfect for travel, providing comfort and play all in one.  It's butter soft, completely organic, and very sweet. 

Look at this bunny, ideal for the season.  Or, you can add it to your child's Easter basket with a little note that it's for the dog.  They're plush and durable and made from sustainable bamboo, colored with plant pigment and contain a sqweekie inside.   They seem to run a little large, and since there's a heft to them, I hope they make an extra small version for all the toy loving Chihuahuas out there!

Simply Fido offers many wonderful and well made options for your dog, toys you can feel good about that are safe for your friend and much better for the earth.  Find them HERE.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Too Cool for School: Mad Pax Backpack

This has got to be the coolest backpack I have ever seen, look at these crazy cool Mad Pax.   The folks at Mad Pax ask, "why blend?" and I couldn't agree more.  These packs are quirky, artful, tactile and fun, evoking visions of dinosaurs, sea urchins and other wonders from natural or alien worlds. 

"Mad Pax are three parts funk, a pound of punk, a dash of dare and a tab of turbo...the perfect way for kids to express their inner creature."  Express their inner creature---yes yes!  I love this!  Make them in my size already, these are fabulous.  They come in different colors and oh how I wish to see more of this creativity in the world!  Find them at BABYBOX.COM.

Friday, April 1, 2011

RADIATION: Four Foods That Can Help

Japan's nuclear disaster has given the world a lot to think about.  It's not really their problem, it's a global problem, we all share in this.  The NYT reported that we can expect radioactive release for weeks and months to come. It can be unsettling to hear about radiation coming your way, even though they are saying that the radiation is still at "safe levels."  It's a scary prospect and one that can make you feel pretty helpless.  This ongoing crisis  has me wondering what I can do. 

Beyond reevaluating the whether or not we should use nuclear energy and donating what we can to Japan, we can be proactive by beefing up our intake of healthy foods and food known for counteracting the effects of radiation.  We should be consuming these foods anyway, especially after flying, medical tests, etc.  We are exposed to radiation on a regular basis, why not include some foods that protect us from harmful effects? 

Spirulina:  This blue green algae is packed with nutrition.  It was used to treat Chernobyl victims years ago.  It contains a substance called phycocyanin which binds with heavy metals including radiation.  I like it in powder form, including it in my smoothies on a regular basis.  It turns them a pretty blue green and you can tell your children it's a "swamp monster smoothie" and they will love it. 

Chlorella:  As you can surmise from the name, chlorella is loaded with chlorophyll which lends some protection against radiation and helps remove toxins from the body.  You can buy it in tablet form.  I'm not taking this one at the moment, but for those who have a hard time consuming a lot of greens I think it might be a good idea. 

Cilantro:  One of my favorite herbs, cilantro is known for removing heavy metals from the body, and is often utilized for mercury detox as part of chelation therapy.  It's so attainable and tastes good in everything (unless you are one that doesn't like cilantro, which is unthinkable to me).  I like it in salads, juice, smoothies, stir fry, pretty much anything and everything. 

Miso:  Yummy and versatile, this fermented soy bean paste is said to have helped save patients who were involved in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.  It's great for promoting intestinal heath as well.  Add it to soups (but don't let it boil), salad dressings, and dips, or eat it as a soothing broth.