Saturday we gave back a little to our Earth and our beautiful city
April 16th, 2012 | 12:31 PM
In the spirit of Earth Day a few of us Plummies volunteered for The Natural Areas Program at Golden Gate Park. We woke up and drove to the park on this gloriously sunny Saturday morning and were greeted cheerfully by our enthusiastic and very knowledgable gardner Dylan. Dylan told us that we would be working on an area of the park called Oak Grove. He explained to us the history of Oak Grove and how he and the team at Golden Gate Park work in coordination with volunteers to restore indigenous plant life to areas of the park.
As we walked through the area, Dylan would point out rare and locally specific plants that none of us had ever heard of or realized were specific to the San Francisco area. We were quickly tasked with helping promote the growth of these plans. We put on some gloves and began working away and weeding anything that might prohibit the growth of these plants. For Maggie, Sasha and myself this was a couple hours on our Saturday well spent. It was really amazing to help contribute to beautifying such a robust little ecosystem in our big city.
Help celebrate Earth by organizing a work or family event and spend a couple hours giving back to our beautiful planet! Try searching the National Park Service or contacting your local recreation department.
Go Green and Clean!
April 14th, 2012 | 9:25 AM
Deb Clem offers her advise and easy recipes for keeping your home dirt and germ free using eco-friendly cleaners.
A few years ago in a bold and crazy move, I got rid of all the toxic cleaning products in my home. My motivation to go green was prompted by the knowledge that we were breathing chemicals all day long and it wasn’t good for me or my daughter Rosie’s asthma. I fondly said goodbye to the scrubbing bubbles and set out to find a better way to clean.
I’ve probably tried every “Green” cleaner out there (and yes, I put that in quotes for a reason. Some aren’t good for the environment at all). I really like the Seventh Generation line and some of the Melaleuca products, but at the end of the day, many green products are pretty pricey. Once I discovered that most have one magic ingredient, I decided to make my own.
Essentially, it’s easy (and cheap) to make an effective hard surface cleaner. Vinegar is the base, and no, it doesn’t smell great, but with a little essential oil you can customize your cleaner and mask the smell of vinegar. Here’s the recipe:
2 cups white distilled vinegar
2 cups water
20-30 or more drops of essential oil (I like lemon but rosemary is delightful too).
You can also make your own furniture polish that’s 100% safe for the environment – no more toxic fumes from the Pledge bottle.
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
20-30 drops lemon essential oil
Because this mixture contains oil, you have to be sure to shake it before using.
I will confess that I still have some store-bought products around. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to make it all! Two of my favorites that work well are the Method scrub and Simple Green all-purpose cleaner. Both clean well, smell great and are better for the environment.
The one thing I can’t give up? Toilet cleaner. I still haven’t found a way to get the bowls sparkly bright without a few toxins. Oh well. I’m trying!
Easy and delicious for the whole family
April 13th, 2012 | 12:18 AM
Here’s a GREAT Mom dish brought to you by Las Vegas District Consultant, Maria Oakes! It’s quick, easy, tasty and healthy – all things we moms look for in every meal we make!
Pick any Taverna, Cafe, or restaurant anywhere in all of Greece and you will find a “Horiatiki” salad on every menu. The Greek-style salad is a staple in Maria’s home. It can be served as a side dish when you’re missing that healthy extra- oomph or even as a meal in itself! Prep time is just about 5 minutes….literally as long as takes to cut the vegetables and drizzle the Olive Oil.
- Tomatoes (as close to home grown as you can, is the best)
- English Cucumbers preferably (but other Cucumbers work just as well)
- Red Onions give the most flavor (but white or even green are great in a pinch too)
- Green peppers (or get crazy and throw in yellow, orange or red too)
- Kalamata olives (or whatever olive you might fancy)
- Feta Cheese – the favorite is FRENCH Feta (shhh, don’t tell the family)- mainly because it’s creamier and doesn’t have the bite that some of the others have!
- Freshly baked bread- French Loaf, Baguette or Italian Round all work great!
- Simply chop your veggies up to bite size pieces
- Drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil (yes, always Extra Virgin – you can find some that are very tasty AND inexpensive)
- Season with salt, pepper and Oregano to taste
Reduce, reuse, recycle your way to greener living
April 12th, 2012 | 12:01 AM
I don’t just tell my kids to “reduce, reuse and recycle,” I get them involved so they understand how to do it. Reducing the amount of trash that we all create, reusing items as much as possible, and filling the recycling bins with anything and everything recyclable are important steps to living greener. There are many ways for your family to help protect the environment from unnecessary waste — here are three easy tips that have been successful for us.
Carrying a lunchbox is a great way for kids to reduce and reuse.
I cringe when I think of all the brown paper lunch bags that I threw away from elementary through high school. Not only do my kids take lunchboxes each day, their sandwiches, fruit, crunchies and drinks are packaged in reusable containers. The goal is to create as little garbage as possible. Much of the time they have no trash after lunch — with the exception of their napkins (if they even use them).
Keeping reusable grocery bags in your car will force you to remember them.
At this point we own about 20. Whenever I go on a big grocery trip, I unpack everything and put them right back in my car. Most of them are in my car and a few are in my husband’s. This way we have them available whenever we run into the market. It’s become so normal for us that my kids will remind me if we start to walk into the store without them.
Recycling is one of the most important green living lessons to teach your kids.
We are fortunate to have recycling picked up from our neighborhood every other week. My kids know what goes in the recycling bins (we have three) and what goes in the trash. They will even correct me if they see something in the garbage that doesn’t belong there. One of my son’s responsibilities, at age 5, is to transfer the kitchen recycling out to the big bins in the garage. When we are out and have to drink from disposable bottles or cans, we will take them home if can’t find a place to recycle them in public.
Shannon Vetter is a mother from Frederick, Maryland. She has two daughters ages 10 and 7, and one 5-year-old son.
Skincare Tips from Plum District's Experts - Our Moms!
April 11th, 2012 | 3:06 PM
Ah, post-winter skin. That pastiness! That flakiness! That general ickiness! After a few months bracing harsh winds and soppy snow, your face could use some major TLC. Of course, year-round skin care is a vital part of maintaining a healthy complexion. We chatted with some of Plum District’s trusted network of Moms to get their tips for healthy, gorgeous skin for the whole family.
Melissa Carlisle – (District Consultant – Dallas)
My biggest skin secret is to exfoliate, wash and moisturize. Yes, ma’am, the exact same advice your mother probably gave you as a 12 or 13-year-old girl. But the truth of it is, there’s a reason for each step. When you skip a step, your skin pays the consequences.
Deb Clem – (Regional Manager – Kansas City)
I grew up in the 80′s when it was still cool to slather on the baby oil and bake in the sun. My mom always made us wear sunblock when we played tennis (which was so uncool) but I thank her now as my 40-something year-old mommy skin looks great. I wear SPF every single day and as the sun’s rays get warmer in the spring, I make sure that we’re all covered and that there’s plenty in my tennis bag. My other tip for great skin: water. Nothing gives you a springtime glow better than hydration.
Shannon Vetter – (District Consultant, Frederick, MD)
Springtime can be a difficult and deceiving time for us moms to adequately protect our kids from the sun. It can be cool and breezy and still the sun can do damage to our kids’ skin. My second daughter is so fair, with pale skin, blue eyes, blond hair (the kind we pay for with BIG bucks!) and freckles. I always think of her as the barometer for the five of us. If I adequately protect her, then we are all fine. I put Neutrogena face 70 SPF sunscreen on everyone including myself.
I always use the lotion, rather than the spray. I think that the sprays create a lot of waste. It takes a bit more time to slather up the kids with the lotion, but then I know they are covered and protected…at least for the next two hours when I need to re-apply!
A few helpful tips on raising earth conscious kids
April 10th, 2012 | 9:42 AM
Spring is here! It’s time to kick the kids off the couch and commune with nature! Teaching your children about the environment doesn’t have to feel like a lecture series. Make learning about our big, beautiful planet fun and exciting with these easy and cost-effective outdoor activities.
Get a Green Thumb: Planting flowers and trees allows children to beautify their yard with splashes of vibrant color. Picking out seeds is half the fun and kids will love getting to help decide what to plant. After sowing the seeds, kids will see that with a little water and patience they can sprout a beautiful bouquet of blooms and food. Planting herbs and vegetables shows children how to contribute to the dinner table and save some greenbacks!
Take a Walk: Get exercise while simultaneously discovering the many wonders of the natural world with your family. Whether it’s a state park trail, a beach, or even your subdivision, pick a serene setting where you can stroll and discuss a variety of environmental topics. Explain how to recycling, why we don’t litter, or something as awesome as how bees help flowers multiply. Having a beautiful backdrop for these conversations illustrates why making smart, “green” choices is so important.
Read a Book: The library is a great resource that many of us forget to tap into. At your local branch, you’ll find a multitude of books (and even some e-books for on-the-go reading) to help illustrate eco-friendly ideas. Check out your books or read them aloud with your kiddo. The best part? The card is free, the books are free (if you get them back in time!), and you’re reducing your footprint by sharing books instead of buying your own!
Regardless of your teaching methods, these experiences will give your children a greater appreciation for their environment and their eco-friendly mama!
Leneille Brathwaite lives in Atlanta and is a mother of one adorable 1-year-old. She’s a mom on a mission to stay on budget but still have fun.
Some of our favorite style picks in pastels we love
April 8th, 2012 | 12:25 AM
You don’t have to feel like an Easter egg in order to rock some fabulous spring shades. Soft hues of blue, yellow, lavender, and pink practically scream “So long, Winter!”, but too much pastel can be a candy-colored overload.
The key to any look? Moderation! O Magazine suggests that you try pastel accents in the form of accessories, or pair them with black or gray for a more contemporary look. Try sporting a soft, daffodil-colored T-shirt underneath your work blazer, or tuck a baby blue blouse into a sleek pair of charcoal trousers.
Love the idea of softening your look, but uncomfortable with deviating from your daily uniform? This season’s hottest make-up trends are actually cool! Pearly shades of pastel glosses, shadows, and polishes can give you a springy break from your regular makeup routine – without making you feel like a human jelly bean. Harper’s Bazaar recommends fun and flirty shades of pink for your lips and cheeks, while your eyes can have it all! Play around with bird’s egg blue, seafoam green, or peach. For a fun splash of multi-colored magic, try painting each of your nails a different shade of the pastel palette – a conversation starter that’s pretty and playful.
Family vacations don't have to be super stressful. In fact they can actually be fun!
April 7th, 2012 | 12:42 AM
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” — Henry Miller
It’s spring break season and for many of us that means it’s time for a family road trip. Whether you’re packing up the mini-van and heading cross country to visit Grandma and Grandpa or finally taking that trip to Hawaii, traveling with little ones can be a challenge. To keep them from shouting, “Are we there yet?” every two minutes and actually using travel time to bond with your family, we’ve asked some of our road trip all-stars how they make it work.
Jill – San Diego
2 kids ages 10 and 13
”We took a two day road trip to Baja, Mexico, it was off-road for most of it! Six months later we did two and half days of airport travel from San Diego to Montevideo, Uruguay!”
Heather – Fishers, Indiana
4 kids – Kaitlyn (8), Sadie (6), Porter (4), and Logan (16 months)
Bag of Tricks
“We went 1,500 miles in three days once for a family reunion. I packed a Mary Poppins bag to take in the car. I bought two huge reusable bags and filled them with all kinds of activities — in gallon-sized Ziploc bags — to pull out every couple of hours!”
Heather’s ‘Mary Poppins’ Bag of Fun:
- dry erase board and dry erase markers
- pipe cleaners & instruction book
- chalk and construction paper
- Bingo sheets w/ stickers to mark them
- brand-new spiral notebook and crayons/colored pencils
- mazes, dot-to-dots
- joke books
- new coloring book & crayons
- “how to draw” books & blank paper
- Custom CD mixes
- Portioned out snacks (goldfish, granola bars, juice boxes, suckers, etc.)
Tara — Atlanta, Georgia
3 kids ages 2,7 and 8
American Idol Car Edition
“To keep everyone entertained I sing. I’ll sing Lionel Richie, Green Day, Coldplay, Katy Perry, cartoon theme songs, show tunes — even The Brady Bunch! The kids like to ask questions about whether or not the song is ‘old people’s music.’ It works every time!
Shannon — Frederick, Maryland
3 kids ages 5, 7, and 10
Making Something Old New Again
“I pack each of the kids a bag of things that I have either purchased for the trip or things from the house that I don’t think they have played with in quite some time. These include books from under their beds, games from the basement closet, a few easy crafts that I find in the dollar bins, snacks and drinks, car game books that I make from online printables and magazines to cut up. They also LOVE to write on index cards so I buy a pack or two for them to use.”
Products that take care of your skin - and the planet!
April 6th, 2012 | 12:26 AM
Author Melissa Carlisle writes the blog www.MelissaStuff.com and is the mother to three boys who keep her constantly guessing about what new trouble they have discovered.
It’s that time of year . . . time to break your body out of hiding and to reintroduce your skin to the sun (and to everyone else!) But your skin isn’t ready for its close-up. Want to whip it into shape as quickly as possible but also use products that are easy on your skin and the environment? Check out some of our favorite skin care products!
Kiss My Face is one of the more established natural beauty product lines. The company creates products which are healthy, effective, environmentally friendly and economically friendly. They come in a variety of scents and products to pamper you from head to toe.
The Cream Perfume Company is known for using pure and naturally-derived oils and extracts in combination with French essential oils to combat dehydrated, sore, inflamed and damaged skin. Their products are certified to be vegan, wheat and gluten free, with no glycol and no animal testing. In addition, they smell great and don’t fade easily.
Nature’s Baby Organics products come in various scents to keep you and baby calm and happy. Made with the highest quality natural and organic ingredients to create a clean, soothing and luxurious experience, all products are allergist-approved. They contain no paraben, propylene glycol, sodium laureth sulfate or synthetic fragrance. This company was started by a work-at-home-mom and all of her products are family-tested.
Earth Mama, Angel Baby uses only the highest-quality Certified Organic or organically-grown herbs and oils in their teas, bath herbs, gentle handmade soaps, salves, lotions and massage oils. Their products are 100% toxin-free, cruelty-free, and vegan, as well as free from all artificial preservatives, fragrances and dyes. These products smell great, but you do need to note that they are not tear free.
Don’t let Easter brunch take a bite out of your budget
April 5th, 2012 | 12:12 AM
There are endless wallet-friendly recipes you could make for Easter brunch, and the most befitting ingredient is obviously eggs. You need a solid meal between tearing through the Easter egg baskets and waiting for the Easter egg hunt to begin. Have some fun by making dishes that the kids can pitch in with, but keep the cleanup minimal by going for a “one pot” approach. Forget made-to-order eggs, here is an easy family-style brunch for under $30.
The Main Dish: Egg & Chorizo (or Soyrizo) Casserole
Cost of ingredients: $12
- 1 dozen eggs
- 12 oz chorizo or Soyrizo, crumbled
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
- 3 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 12 oz pre-shredded hash browns
- 1 small container of sour cream
- Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat eggs in large bowl and combine with bell pepper (or any vegetable you like), milk, pepper jack cheese and Soyrizo or chorizo. (Soyrizo is a delicious vegetarian alternative to chorizo available at all Trader Joe’s for about $4.) Evenly scatter hash browns in bottom of greased 9×13-inch rectangular casserole dish and pour egg mixture over them. Bake for 45 minutes until eggs are set and sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese on top. Bake for additional 15 minutes or until cheese has melted. Great garnished with a dollop of sour cream or your favorite hot sauce. You’ll love the crispy potato crust on the bottom.
Something Sweet: Ooey Gooey Monkey … err … Bunny Bread
Cost of ingredients: $10
- 2 cans of pre-made buttermilk biscuits
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour the granulated sugar and cinnamon into a large bowl and remove the biscuit dough from the cans. Separate each biscuit into four pieces and roll into balls (this is a great job for the kids). Place all of the dough balls in the bowl and use your hands to coat them in sugar. Add more granulated sugar if necessary. Arrange the dough balls and pecans in a greased Bundt pan, making sure nuts are evenly distributed. Combine melted butter and brown sugar in a bowl and pour mixture over the dough. Bake for 30 minutes and let cool. Remove from pan and place in center of table. Kids have so much fun pulling apart the sticky sweet monkey bread.
*This meal is about 8 adult servings.
TIp: Use your remaining budget to buy some fresh fruit to slice up, or sneak a bottle of champagne for the grownups!