Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Broccoli Tree House

Brock Davis couldn't build a real tree house for his son, so he created this.  Fabulous. 

Image credit: Brock Davis

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ISIS Coconut Carbon Tempest Jacket

A jacket made with coconut carbon?  How cool is this?  The ISIS Tempest Jacket utilizes natural technology called Cocona.  This is coconut carbon utilizes ground coconut shells to create a more breathable material and reduce chemical materials used in other waterproof fabrics.  It spreads moisture over the surface accelerating evaporation and drying.  Coconut carbon is a recycled and sustainable material.  This is great progress and a win-win for eco friendly technical clothing.

This is a figure flattering jacket.  The seams along the sides create slimming lines and the back goes over the bum.  There's a stash pocket on the inside, the zipper pulls are chunky and comfortable and the zippers are two way and have taped seams to keep them waterproof.   The right pocket of the jacket doubles as a stuff sack making this great for travel or keeping on hand in your bag for unexpected weather.

It comes in some great colors, blue, green, a perfect-for-cycling orange and my favorite, black.  Contrasting patterned white is on the inside--I wish it were black as well, but it is a cheery pattern.  I do really like the little stars along the inner zipper seam.  The hood is adjustable and cinches down and stows when not needed.  This is a soft coat.  The material is flexible and comfortable which is not always the case with rain jackets.  There's even a velvet patch to protect your neck and chin when you have the coat zipped all the way up which is a nice touch.  Great attention to details with the Tempest.

I love the little details like the fortune cookie-esqe note that's in the pocket that says "You are a Goddess" (now on my fridge), and the fun little quotes on the tag like, "Journeys are always more interesting than destinations." I'm new to ISIS, but I have to say, my first impression is great.  Check out the Tempest Jacket HERE. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Coleman Instant Tent: Doesn't Get Easier

When Coleman says "instant" tent, they are not kidding.  You pull this tent out of the duffel it comes with and open each pole similarly to the way you would an umbrella.  In less than a minute I can set this up by myself, it doesn't get easier. Taking it down, which in some ways is even more important to me, is just as simple.  The duffel is big enough that there is no struggle getting it back in and the tent comes down with ease.  You can watch a demo video HERE showing the process and they are using the bigger version of this tent, the four person is even easier.  This makes camping accessible and opens up a world of Summer activities for the family.

It's made with heavy duty material and taped seams so that you don't have to use a rain fly.  I would not push this too far however.  If you will be camping in windy weather, opt for a dome tent.  I'd say the same for heavy rain.  It's not appropriate for back packing, but it's great for car camping and for Summer, I think it's ideal, particularly for people new to camping or who might be intimidated by setting up a tent.

It's great for the back yard and even inside the house.  Because it's so easy to operate, there's no hesitation if your kids want to play "camp out" on a rainy day.  You put it up, they play for a couple of hours, you take it down.  It's that easy.  My son loves to get cozy in the tent and read books or play with the Ipad.   On sunny days, he's an adventurer.

While camping, if it is raining or dark during set up or take down, how helpful to have it happen fast.  It's a one piece design that comes with stakes to secure the tent once it's up.  There are no parts to lose and everything is pre-attached and stays together.  I'd get some heftier tent stakes if you think you will be encountering wind, and I wish the tent had four windows instead of three, it can get stuffy so again, I wouldn't choose this one for prolonged rainy weather camping.  It's a four person tent, but I think it's the perfect size for two people and when you are car camping, you can afford such luxuries.  The tent also comes in two bigger sizes to accommodate more people.  It's a great tent, a good value, and a really great idea for easy Summer fun.  Check it out HERE.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

BODUM Fyrkat BBQ Grill: Perfect for Summer

The Fourth of July and BBQs are synonymous.  This year, Bodum combines great design with function in their new FYRKAT BBQ GRILL which is festive and Summery and perfect for seasonal celebrations.  It comes in bold bright cheery colors like orange, red and green, which really enhance the atmosphere.  The silicone on the handle is a great touch and it's portable.  There are clamps on the side so that you may take it with you to the park the beach or the camp ground for BBQ-picnics.  It also dresses up the back yard. 

It's easy and straightforward to use.  Be sure to get the chemical free charcoal briquettes, you can also add extra flavor by using mesquite.  Veggie kabobs, grilled portabella mushrooms, and corn on the cob are all great healthy ways to use a grill.  For kids, you can do tofu-pups, veggie burgers, and vegan marshmallows. I think this grill would be fabulous for Fourth of July and other Summer festivities.  Find it HERE.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Go the F*k to Sleep

For those of us who go through nightly bedtime drama, Adam Masnbach's Go the F*k to Sleep offers some desperately needed comic relief.  Most of us can't be shocked these days, but seeing this made-for-adults childrens' book does initially shock, just a little, and in a delicious way. 

The illustrations by Ricardo Cortes are beautiful, and if you didn't read English, you would just think this was a sweet little bedtime book.  The innocent graphics make for a mischievously delightful juxtaposition to the prose.   Mansbach has been writing for a decade and just happened to make a joke on facebook, it spread like wildfire, and the book was born.

This irreverent jab at bedtime is a great antidote to pastel bunnies and saccharine rhymes, and it's just a welcome chuckle for exhausted parents.  Not for those offended by four letter words (and if you are, read this).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Eco Friendly Chacos for Summer--Kids too!

When I heard that Chaco had come out with kids' sandals and shoes I got very excited.  For the past six years, my black Chaco sandals have been my Summertime staple.  They look great with everything--dresses and jeans and I have worn them almost daily every Summer.  You'd think with all that wear, they'd be pretty ratty by now, but they look almost new.

The great thing about Chacos, is that when they finally do wear out, you can send them in for new tread.  How eco friendly!  The ReChaco program will preserve the life of your favorite sandals by replacing the tread.  Speaking of the tread, it's rugged, but not too rugged to dress up.  You could go hiking in them or dancing in them which makes them awesome for travel.

Another wonderful thing about Chacos is that they are fully adjustable.  And finally, they have unparalleled arch support.   This can be difficult to find in a sandal and it can be draining on your feet if you walk a lot.  This extra comfort and support makes them ideal for extended wear.

The kid version is a mini version of the adult Chaco, only a little more fun.  Look at these fabulous Robot sandals with the red soles and reflector pull loops.  My son went bananas over the robots and runs like lightening in these.   He can go wading in the rocky bay waters and these protect his feet  without slipping off.

They have the 25% recycled content EcoTread outsole and a footbed designed to promote proper body alignment.  You can wash them in the machine and they won't mark up your floors.  They're virtually indestructible and look adorable.  Chacos run a bit big in general, by about a half size in my experience, so keep this in mind when ordering.

Chaco has also started producing shoes.  I love these Devotee Vibram Gunnison shoes which have the wonderful arch support and versatility of the sandals but will take you through more seasons and more situations.  You could wear them to the office, traveling (they would be great going through security since they will slip right off), and anywhere you want to be cute and comfortable and a little more dressed up than you are in sandals.

There is no way to adjust the back straps, so sizing can be a little tricky on these.  I recommend trying them on in person if you can or ordering from an online retailer like Zappos which has a free, easy and immediate exchange program so you can quickly get the right size.  I normally take an 8.5-9 and with Chaco I take an 8.  With this particular shoe, I needed a 7.5, so keep in mind they run big.  They are worth the effort, they're very well made, comfortable and foot-flattering. 

I'm so excited Chaco has decided to offer more options, I can't wait to see what they come out with next.  Check out their selection (including vegan sandal options) HERE.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

3 Easy GF Vegan Dishes for Outdoor Dining

 Cold grain and pasta salads that you can throw into a glass container and cooler are ideal for camping and picnics.  It's a little more decadent and festive than sandwiches and so satisfying eaten at a picnic table.  I like to keep it minimalist and easy.  I found this cooler at REI and it is perfect for two-three people, holds a ton of stuff in an organized manner and is very comfortable to carry.  I keep a little cutting board and knife,  salt and pepper, and silverware in the side pocket ready to go for spontaneous picnics.   Best cooler I've ever had--if you need one, seriously check this one out, it happens to be on sale at the moment. 

Tabbouleh and Hummus:  I make my Tabbouleh with quinoa and it is out of this world and more nutritious than the traditional bulgar wheat.  Using quinoa also makes it gluten free.  I just make a batch of quinoa which couldn't be easier, then I let it cool and add a ton of chopped parsley, mint, lemon juice, a little olive oil, chopped cucumber and a little chopped tomato.  This is so refreshing on a hot day and quinoa is one of the cleaner burning (non) grains.  Hummus is easy and if you don't have time to make it yourself it's cheap to pick up a little container.  Some kalamata olives and carrot sticks and some sort of rice crackers and you have a lovely portable Mediterranean feast.

Pasta Salad:  Trader Joes' organic rice pasta which is wonderful cold in a salad.  I like mine with chopped veggies (it's a great way to use up your produce before it goes bad) such as broccoli, carrots, peas, and tomatoes and fresh basil.  I use a little balsamic and olive oil and top with chopped kalamata olive (which I think belongs in everything).  It's fast and easy to transport.

Peanut Noodles:  Cook pasta of your choice (long rice noodles work nice for this and Trader Joes also makes a yummy organic version of these) or you can use kelp noodles and/or zucchini noodles. Cool and toss in peanut butter, sesame oil, chili oil, chopped scallions, cucumber, cilantro, shredded cabbage and any other veggie you like, sea salt (I like Real Salt), shoyu sauce, ginger, a few drops agave nectar or stevia.  You can also add finely sliced lime leaf and lemon grass if you have it.  If peanuts are a problem for you, almond butter works great too, I love the raw version of this using the kelp and zucchini noodles

If you don't have time for food prep, don't let that stop you!  Pop into Trader Joes or your healthiest store and grab some stuff from the deli, produce, and fridge section.  I know this can be hard for those with limited options and then you have to go back to making your own, but if you are lucky enough to live near a co-op or market with organic whole foods, then you're good.  We are used to spontaneous picnics because the weather changes so fast here.   We like to seize the opportunity to eat outside and dash to the park for a picnic whenever we can.  Food tastes so much better that way.

Image Credit 1:  cyclonebill

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Travel Part 2: Tech Necessities

Headphones are a necessity for travel, you need them for your iPod, iPad, computer, etc.  For a long time I used ear buds but then I discovered how wonderful noise canceling head phones can be. For a little more bulk, you can basically drown out much of the unpleasant sounds of travel.  You can also hear the audio on movies so much clearer, music is more crisp--they really make a huge difference. 

Able Planet's True Fidelity Foldable Active Noise Canceling Headphones allow you to escape into a movie or music with a full lush sound you would think comes only with very expensive headphones.  I was so grateful to have them on a recent crowded train ride where there was a ton of chaos and noise.  I just put them on and off I went into my own peaceful little world.

They fold up compactly and come with their own little bag.  They take up very little space and if space is an issue for you (and when is it not when you're traveling?), they are well worth it.

There is a volume control knob on the cord and the texture of the headphones themselves is very pleasing.  They come with different jacks to make them compatible with various devices and airplane outlets.  Many people find engine noise to be very draining and to cancel that out finds them with less fatigue at the end of the flight. 

Noise canceling headphones are not meant to put you in a black hole of silence, you will still be able to hear extraneous sound, but they do buffer out a ton of noise.  You'll still hear annoying passengers and sounds, but it will all be buffered out significantly.  I've used these when I had a migraine and was subjected to a lot of loud noise that I couldn't get away from.  They helped considerably and their value went way up after that.  These will forever be in my bag and I highly recommend you try them out too.  Find them HERE.
Kids like their entertainment every bit as much as we do, and as long as they are engaged, travel is infinitely easier for adults.  I find headphones work much better for children than ear buds and I particularly like these KIDZ GEAR HEADPHONES.  My son was using regular adult headphones but they didn't stay on so great.  These are a perfect fit, they're well made and comfortable.

I also don't have t o worry about him blasting out his ear drums because they are set for the volume to only go so high. But they also have their own external independent volume control so your child does have some leeway. These are awesome for use at home too.  We take them to the doctor's office or anywhere I know we will have a wait time.  Kidz Gear also makes a wireless headphone for wireless systems.  Total must have for kids, find them HERE.
If you have an iPad, you probably feel protective about it.  If you have and iPad and kids, even more so.  OtterBox has the solution to traveling with an iPad, or even just staying at home with it and feeling comfortable letting the kids use it.  I love letting my son use my iPad because there are so many educational "games" he can play.  Math Bingo, reading apps, vocabulary apps, there are plenty of wonderful ways to occupy his time without rotting his mind.  Balance that with some appropriate frivolous games and you're good.  The iPad has made it possible--even enjoyable to sit in waiting rooms, and any other time I need to focus my son's energy it's there like a pocket nanny (I suggest using it wisely and moderately to keep these magical powers intact).  

None of this would be possible without the protection of the OTTERBOX DEFENDER.  Even though we got a first generation refurbished iPad, it's still a very expensive toy.  I would be reluctant to let my son, an active six year old, use it without this heavy duty cover.  But with the OtterBox, I feel safe.  There are three layers of protection, this thing is hard core.  It's got a silicone skin, then a hard polycarbonate shell and a protective film for the screen.

The case does not interfere with any of the iPad's functions and it has a handy stand to prop up your screen for viewing movies.  The silicone keeps it steady in your hands (great for kids) and the shell makes it less vulnerable to drops and dings.  I had no problem at all installing the case, even the protective screen film was easy because OtterBox includes a cardboard tool to help you apply it evenly.  It comes with a microfiber cloth and the packaging is recyclable. The Defender does create a tiny amount of extra weight to carry, but it's well worth it.  Fabulous for travel, camping, and the rigors of daily life.  Find it HERE. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cute and Comfortable Riding Your Bike

Have you noticed a growing trend of just normal regular people out riding their bikes?  For a while it seemed like here in the US when you saw someone on a bike, they would be wearing spandex racing clothes.  In the last few years it seems like more and more people are riding bikes for reasons other than competition or getting exercise.

I love seeing people wearing their regular street clothes on their bikes, riding for transportation and dressing for the destination. Would you rather be wearing a cute little dress or spandex?  The cute dress immediately makes riding your bike more fun and also more accessible.  If you're dressed in normal clothes--cute clothes--you are open to all sorts of things.  It also takes the pressure off to just think of yourself as simply a person on a bike.

So how do you keep warm enough while looking so cute?  If you're living in a climate like mine, Summer seems like it will never get here.  The weather changes at the drop of a hat and you can leave the house looking great and feeling comfortable and come back freezing or soaking wet.  The solution?  Smartwool undergarments.  I can't believe it's taken me all these years to discover Smartwool's Cami Tops and Lightweight Leggings.

Wool is the perfect material for those of us who have allergies and don't do well with synthetics.  It breathes.  Wool keeps you warm when it's cold and cool when it's hot.  If you get caught in the rain, the wool will help to wick the moisture away and it dries quickly.  It's perfect to wear under that cute dress.  I like the footless leggings for bike riding because you can wear sandals and because they're cooler than tights.  You can easily slip off a pair of socks if you start to get too hot rather than taking off the whole legging.  They'll keep your legs warm under a dress or skirt and they look cute too.

The Cami is a wardrobe essential.  I want one in every color--this is the ideal cami top.  It's perfect for bike riding because it's nice and long, it's great for travel or outdoor activities like camping or hiking.  It's the ideal layering piece because it will help to regulate your body temperature.  It will keep you cooler and also warmer than a cotton cami.  You could also wear it more as a tank top, it would look great with jeans.  It's comfortable and it comes in my favorite wardrobe basic colors--black, gray and white.  The shoulder straps are adjustable to customize your fit and it's soft and comfy.  I wish Smartwool would make a slip-version of this, it's just wonderful.

Smartwool's stance on sheep is that they care about how their sheep are treated, stating, "We would never hurt sheep, we love our sheep."  They are involved in environmental initiatives and work to improve production of this sustainable material.  Their sheep live on small farms in New Zealand, and are free range.  The Smartwool Advocacy Program focuses on the environment, the sheep and economic stability for the farmers. 

Opening Image Credit: PortocalaMecanica

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Backyard Fun with Solar Lights

Solar Chinese Lanterns?  Yes!  Solar string lights?  Yes! How cool is this?  Smart Solar makes Chinese Lanterns to make things more festive for Summer.  They look fun in the day and at night it gets magical.  The lanterns are a little larger than cantaloupes and have a little solar panel on top and an LED light inside.  They're made of nylon so they'll be safe in the rain. These are great for Summer nights in the back yard and would be fun on a camping trip.

The Crystal Ball String Lights are a more elegant.  I find the clear LED lights a little cold--I wish they would have tinted the globes so that the light was more warm and glowy.  Nevertheless, they are very cool.  You can find both on Amazon and throughout the web.  I think they are fabulous for celebrating the season.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gear Up for Summer Travel Part 1: Luggage

Did you know there is an eco friendly luggage option that is made from 100% recycled fabrics?  Eagle Creek has come out with the perfect green wheelie bag suitcase for Summer travel, the TARMAC.  It comes in different sizes, but for flying, I like the 22" so you can carry it on and avoid fees and inconveniences.  This suitcase holds so much stuff, you won't believe it's a carry on, and if you are bringing treasures back from your trip (and who doesn't), the main compartment expands to hold your new loot.

Eagle Creek is known for organization, and they are masters.  Organization abounds in this bag and it really helps to simplify packing which can be somewhat stressful at times.  I'd use this bag for a two week or a two month trip. 

The Tarmac comes in different colors, I always prefer black for my gear but I was pleasantly surprised to find a sienna orange interior which I thought was a very pleasing design touch.  It's a great looking piece of luggage.

There are two mesh zipper pockets inside, and behind those, a large zippered pocket.  There are compression straps with panels to help keep stuff down while avoiding wrinkles straps can cause.  The carry handle is comfortable and heavy duty and I love the beefy zipper pulls--they're over sized and coated with rubber to make access a breeze. 

There are two outer pockets for easy access.  The smaller one would be appropriate for your zip lock baggie of 3oz liquids which you have to remove for TSA inspection, and the larger pocket would work great for magazines, electronics, a shawl or sweater for the plane, etc.  The bag has a handy toggle to attach another bag or purse.  There are multiple grab handles and reinforcement at the critical spots to help decrease wear and protect your bag.

Eagle Creek offers a No Matter What guarantee and will fix or replace your bag anytime anywhere. I appreciate their commitment to quality products eliminating the need continually repurchase luggage thus adding to landfills.  The Tarmac is a practical, good looking, organized and eco friendly to boot.  I highly recommend it for Summer (or any season) travel.  Find it HERE.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

ENO Hammock System: Portable Summer Fun

I haven't enjoyed a hammock in long time, not since I brought one back from Mexico years ago.  That was a great hammock, made from woven string.  I took it camping, enjoyed it at home, and had a lot of fun with it.  But after a couple of years, the rope deteriorated and it fell apart and that was the end of it.
When I saw Eagles Nest Outfitters Hammocks, I got very excited because they reminded me of my old Mexican one.  Eno's hammocks are way better however, and address all the issues I had with the other one.  This is a hammock you buy one time.  It's made of quality nylon that feels like a parachute.  It's easy to clean, super durable and will last.

With the stuff sack, it's quite small and appropriate for backpacking. You could keep it with you for everyday use in your day pack, messenger bag, or purse to pull out at opportune moments.  Keep it in your lunchbox to rejuvenate on your lunch break at school or work, it's something that can easily go anywhere.  The carabiners on either end combined with straps make set up and removal take less than a minute.
For camping and hiking, the Onelink System comes with everything you could possibly need such as the pro straps, a rain tarp, stakes, a bug net and the nest of your choice.  I recommend the double nest for its versatility.  There are many color combinations to choose from and you can get the Onelink System or purchase each component as needed.  If you do buy ala carte, I strongly suggest the Pro Straps which make set up incredibly easy allowing you to be very flexible in choosing the two objects you will use for mounting the hammock.  
If you have children, know that they are going to be all over this.  My six year old had to be dragged out of it after at least two hours on the porch and flew out of bed the next morning to get back to the hammock and has been quite obsessed with it ever since.  The two of us can fit perfectly in the hammock, and it's very cozy and comfortable.  There is something so soothing about floating in the air and swaying back and forth.  The built in stuff sack doubles as a bottle holder so your beverage is in reach (or flashlight, book, etc).

We haven't tried it camping yet, but it's awesome at the park and on the porch at home.  I've heard that people enjoy this hammock so much that they rig them up in their bedrooms in lieu of a bed.  These are good for any season, people use them in the snow.  If you are going to be sleeping in colder climates, it's recommended that you put a sleep mat in your hammock, and use an appropriate sleeping bag, otherwise you'll get cold.

For me, it's a Summertime luxury, and an attainable one at that.  The ENO facilitates one of the key hallmarks of Summer--the idea that at some point we will get to relax.  Find ENO Here and consider buying extra for your friends and family, they're going to want one too.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

First Ascent Sirocco Jacket

First Ascent's Sirocco Jacket is meant for climbing, but I think it's great for cycling as well.  It's ultra--and I mean mega ultra light and folds up into it's own little pouch.  The bright colors and reflector details are great for visibility and the elasticized hem will keep the wind out.

This fits perfectly in a small bike bag or pack and if you find yourself in a rain shower or a situation where you wish you were more visible to cars, there it will be.  This would be nice for Summer hiking and traveling as well.  Find it HERE.