Sunday, December 21, 2008

12 Days of Conscientious Christmas, Day 12

Christmas Stocking Place Cards Craft

Budget-friendly fun activity for crazed pre-Christmas kidz of all ages.

Supplies needed: 
felt stockings (found @ Michael's, .79 each)
individual sheets of felt in white, red, and orange
mini pompoms 
black pipe cleaners
"googly eyes"
mini jingle bells
craft glue
glittery stick-on letters 
any ribbon you have around for the scarf

My 9 year old and I were trying to come up with either place mat or place card ideas for our family Christmas dinner, which will include 13 of us, 5 of them kidz.  Since school's out now and every day we get closer to Christmas seems to mean less sleep and more energy, I thought having lots of crafts planned would be a good idea.  While shopping at Michael's we found the mini-stockings pictured above.  We already had a box of glittery letters at home from another craft (making holiday hats for a "fancy dress, crazy hat" party), so we decided we'd purchase 13 of these and decorate them and add an initial for each person at Christmas dinner.  The cool/practical/earth friendly part is that these mini stockings can be reused many different ways: as Christmas ornaments or holiday decor for the future; sticky letter can be removed and stocking makes great "giftwrap" for small items like gift cards; or they can be reused each year as place cards.

Now, don't tell my family, but I am hoping, if I have time, to buy 13 scratch lottery tickets.  I'll place one in each stocking, and who knows?  Maybe someone will win $5!

Here are the directions:

Gather the items in the supply list, above.
  1. Momz can make this process go easier by pre-cutting the shapes: Santa hat (red and white felt), snowman (white felt), carrot nose (orange felt), pipe-cleaner arms, ribbon pieces.  I used a number 8 cookie cutter for my snowman template, but you can do your own pattern. Older kidz might not need this help at all and can create their own ideas.
  2. I set out all the small supplies in little bowls for small hands to easily pick up.  I poured glue onto plates and gave them wooden skewers (sharp end cut off) to dip in the glue.
  3. Glue the pipe cleaner arms to the back of the snowman.  Then glue the snowman to the stocking.
  4. Glue the white band to the santa cap.  Glue the santa cap to the top of the snowman's head.
  5. Glue jingle bell to santa hat
  6. Add features: googly eyes, carrot nose, pompom mouth and buttons.
  7. tie small piece of ribbon in a knot and glue on for a scarf.
  8. Add sticky letter to personalize.
What's really cool about this is that there are endless possbilities! You can put the initial on the snowman's body, or do penguins or reindeer or santa instead.  You can add decorative ric-rac or make the stockings yourself from extra fabric you have lying around.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2008

12 Days of Conscientious Christmas, Day 11

More Creative Ideas on a Budget: family tree with photos and decorated photo frame.  Thanks to Michele in Southern California for these ideas.  

I think Michele and I bought the same tabletop Christmas tree; where I made home made cinnamon ornaments with my Nature Kidz, she had another idea: make a family tree!! She also embellished a picture frame as a gift. Here are her descriptions:

"I made “family tree”. I spent about $6.00 per tree at Target for table top trees. Then I used mostly old small ornaments that I hadn’t used in years to decorate them. Hot Glue is my favorite tool, and makes everything go faster and STICK…although if it is too hot, it will melt those little pine needles J To personalize them, I used a photoshop type program to blend family members into (free) ornament clip art, printed them up, and then hung the ornaments on the tree. Each of our family members are represented, plus, I used extended family photo on my SIL tree. I think these would also make a nice wreath…we debated, but decided on the tree this year.

My Sister-in-law’s mom is joining us for Christmas, and I don’t know her very well. I was loathe to get a bath and body set or candy, so instead I printed up a picture of my brother and her daughter, and put it in a frame that was going unused. I garnished the frame with small ornaments and garland to dress it up."

Michele also made a DVD with photos and accompanying music to send as a gift. I've done this as well--she even made custom DVD labels! It's very inexpensive and grandparents adore them. When I made mine (using my Mac, of course) it was so easy to sync the songs to the pictures. Plus, I was able to use the song that always make me think of each child ("She" by Elvis Costello and "Wonder" by Natalie Merchant) and play each song for photos of each child. With today's technology this is a really great, inexpensive and thoughtful gift. In my opinion, way better than a $50 tie made by 8 year olds in a developing country for .20 an hour!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

12 Days of Conscientious Christmas, Day 10

A two-fer: a socially conscious and eco-friendly way to recycle Christmas cards

My friend Michele McPherson sent me this information after reading my post about day 4 of the 12 days of conscientious Christmas.  Talk about your feel-good activity: send your old Christmas cards to St. Jude's Ranch for Children's Recycled Christmas Card program.  Cards can be accepted through the end of February 2009, and should be sent to:

St. Jude's Ranch for Children
Card Recycling Program
100 St. Jude's Street
Boulder City, NV 89005

From their webiste: 

"The children participate in making the new recycled cards by removing the front and attaching a new back made with recycled paper. The new card is a beautiful, 'green' card made by the children and volunteers. The benefits are two-fold: customers receive 'green' holiday cards for use and the children receive payment for their work and learn the benefits and importance of 'going green'".

And we, those who send our cards, get to feel good about being green and in helping a worthy cause.  St. Jude's Ranch rescues children from abusive situations.  Learn more about St. Jude's Ranch at their website.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

12 Days of Conscientious Christmas, Day 9

Make a donation in a gift recipient's name. 

 We recently received a notification that some dear friends had given a gift to Heifer International in our names.  We are thrilled! I keep hearing that food banks are running low, and foundations and university endowments are suffering too; in fact, just yesterday I heard about a foundation whose funding for the coming year is partially gone due to a scam artist's illegal scheme coming apart after the economy fell apart.

Times are tough for all of us, all over the world.  I love that someone, somewhere, will receive some bees thanks to our friends' thoughtfulness.  I plan to do the same for some gifts.  After all, do we really need another Chia Pet?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

12 Days of Conscientious Christmas, Day 8

Countertop Composter in Stainless Steel


Stainless for $45.99 or white Ceramic for $32.99 from Chef's Catalog

Stainless for $29.99 from Always Brilliant

Stainless for $39.99 from Chef Tools

I think this is a great Christmas gift, especially for the Mainstream Mom going Natural (like me!).  The items I listed above are attractive (there are plenty of ugly ones out there) to go with contemporary kitchen decor.  

I have to admit, composting has always overwhelmed me--for some reason it seems just too complex; can I pile stuff on existing compost?  How often do I turn it?  Should I add anything to it?  Online searches for information haven't helped much.  Plus, who wants to set aside compostables and have to haul them out to the pile 3 or more times a day? This seems like a great way to make that first step.  It's easy and convenient. Lately every time I pitch an eggshell in the garbage I think to myself: "gee, that really could be great compost material!"  This countertop composter might just work the lazies out enough for me to try composting.  After all, we plan to plant a veggie garden in the spring; we'll need it!

Monday, December 15, 2008

12 Days of Conscientious Christmas, Day 7

Hand Painted Gift Boxes, Cookies, and Ornaments.

These are some gift boxes I created which can be reused by the recipients.  I bought them at my local craft store along with the unpainted wooden ornaments.  My kidz painted the ornaments and I painted the boxes.  We've been baking loads of holiday cookies using all natural ingredients (see my recipe in an earlier post by clicking the "cookies" label to the right) and I decided this would be a great way to present them. The snowflake cookies got a box to match, as did the Christmas tree cookies.  The Kidz can really have fun with this, as they helped me make the cookies and then decorated them with royal icing (I have a new recipe--Alton Brown's--which I like a lot) and India Tree colored sprinkles.  It really bummed out my 9 year old that I couldn't find green sprinkles for the trees, so we did mix up some  of the India Tree blue and yellow natural food colors, and got a green similar to the color on the box above.  Not too bad!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

12 Days of Conscientious Christmas, Day 6

Send your own ElfYourself eCards
Totally Free, Holiday Card that's also incredibly fun to make.  Enjoy--then make your own!

12 Days of Conscientious Christmas, Day 5

Adorable Pasta Wreath, created by Heather and Kidz

I just love this wreath, and it's a great craft idea to do with kidz.  It's also an economical and fun twist on a holiday tradition--natural wreaths at my nearby grocery store were going for $30!  

If you're sensitive to artificial food coloring, you can use natural alternatives.  I didn't like the flavor of the India Tree food colors, but since this craft isn't for eating they might be the perfect option! Thank you, Heather, for sharing!
Pasta Wreath Directions

Pasta of choice (amount will vary depending upon the size wreath you make) I used two bags of egg noodles
green food coloring
large ziploc bags (one for each kid involved works well)
Paper towels
Large carboard
scissors or utility knife
2-3 Bottles of white glue (one for each kid involved works well)

Coloring Pasta:
• Pour pasta into large ziploc bags. Do no stuff the ziplocs. The pasta needs to be able to slide around.
• Add drops of food coloring to the bags, 5-10 drops to start. Again, it will all depend upon pasta variety used and quantity that you are coloring. I add 5-10 drops, close bag and shake, slide, jiggle, whatever for a few minutes to get an idea of the coverage. Add more if desired. Some recipes call for adding alcohol or vinegar. I've never used either.
• Spread out 2-3 layers of paper towels on counter.
• After achieving desired coloring and coverage of the food coloring on the pasta, pour and spread out the wet colored pasta onto the paper towels to dry. I let mine dry overnight.

• Decide what size you want your wreath to be. I traced around a large platter in order to draw the large circle. I then traced a smaller plate for the middle. Because I was trying to bulk up the wreath, I cut three of those circles of cardboard and then trimmed them each down to be a little smaller than the next. All three layers were glued together with white glue.

Glueing on the Pasta:
• First divided the fully dried colored pasta into two large bowls (one for each child).
• Next, I drizzled white glue to coat the cardboard base. Leaving very little cardboard showing through.
• Place colored pasta on glue cardboard base anywhere and everywhere. Initially the kids were tentative placing only one piece at a time, but they soon learned that would have taken them days and we simply had way too much pasta. They then started taking small handfuls of the colored pasta and placing them onto the base.
• I then went and balanced the pasta heaping mounds out around the entire wreath. It would have been a tad lopsided otherwise.
• All three of us took a glue bottle and started drizzling large heavy amounts of glue all over the wreath. I think we may have used 2.5-3 full bottles by the end of all of it. We were overly generous, but they were having a grand time!
• Let dry overnight.

• I bought a roll of ribbon from Target that has the wire inside it, so it was each to shape. After forming the bow, I hot glued it in place.

• With the smaller wreath I made (that broke in our move!) I was able to use a small loop decorative silver ribbon similar to the kind you would wrap a gift with.
• We now have a glass panels on our front door, so there is no way I'm hammering a nail in the front and needed to use a over the door wreath hanger. The wreath hanger I purchased did not accommodate the bulk of the wreath very well, so I needed to create a way to attach the wreath to the hanger. First off, the wreath's size made it too heavy for the decorative ribbon to hang with, so I went with a spool of thin wire. I looped it through the center hole and twisted the ends together. Had I considered this issue prior to assembling all the pasta, I might have tried to leave a smaller hole or attach something to the back of the cardboard that would have hidden the hanging aspect of the wreath much more discreetly.

• My kids absolutely loved this project and each wants to make one for their bedroom doors. We'll see!
• I've wondered about adding more "red" to the wreath. I chose a silver bow, but could have used red. My daughter suggested red balls on the wreath like berries. I have mixed feelings about it. I like being able to see the pasta. Boring, maybe. Maybe next year!

Friday, December 12, 2008

12 Days of Conscientious Christmas, Day 4

Green Christmas Cards

For day 4 I thought I'd write about how to green up a not very eco-conscious holiday tradition: Christmas cards.  I love them--getting and receiving--and have a tradition of my own where I always include the word "peace" in some form or fashion.  Before we moved from Florida, we also always featured photos of Nature Kidz at the beach.  But I never really thought much about earth friendly approaches to the tradition. So here are a few I've gathered:

  1. Send online cards via email.  This is not my favorite because I adore getting something--anything--in the mail that isn't a) junk or b) bills.  But it certainly cuts down on tree killing--you can include photos, holiday clip art, and the Christmas letter if you do those.
  2. Send postcards instead of folding cards in envelopes.  This is what we are doing this year.  Because we ran low on time and creativity, I used an online template from Vista Print.  They offer traditional Christmas cards but I went to their marketing materials section and found an oversized postcard with a holiday theme, added my own photo and sentiments, and ordered them.  You can even have them mail the cards for you! I ordered exactly as many as I need and will have no envelopes, so I am thinking I'm cutting back on tree killing.
  3. Reuse last year's cards.  In an article by Jane Paige in the  Carolina Parent magazine, one green idea is to make new cards from old by crafting your own cards on your own recycled paper, then gluing the paper to the old cards--giving you a sturdy foundation for your new card.  You can also cut up elements you like from old cards to make ornaments, gift tags, and more!
  4. Create a traditional card, but instead of printing out the annual Christmas letter, write the letter online and include a link to the site in your cards.  That way you save paper and printer ink, and can also upload photos and such onto your website.  There are lots of free blogging sites (like Blogger and Wordpress) that work great for this purpose.
  5. Get the kidz involved--buy some plain notecards and envelopes made from recycled paper (try Paperworks online if you don't have a local source) and have the kidz make their own cards.  You can have some photos printed up; set up a large table with magazines, old christmas cards, tags, colored papers, crayons, markers and even glitter and paint.  Kidz can glue the photos down and decorate the cards how they want.  If you have a sticker maker, kidz can cut out holiday images from magazines and turn them into stickers to put on the cards.  What fun!
Whatever you decide to do, and I'm sure most people have already gotten their cards in the mail (guilty sigh), have fun!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

12 Days of Conscientious Christmas, Day 3

Creative Gift Idea: hand-made plaque.

This plaque was made for me by a friend as a gift.  The day before Thanksgiving I marked the one-year anniversary of a breast cancer diagnosis, so this Christmas gift is especially meaningful to me.  And it's customized to me specifically--the quote ("She didn't just survive, she became") really pertains to the last year of my life.  I just adore sea horses, so she added that touch as well.

Sure, this kind of craft requires some artistic skill--having the eye to select the various elements--but it's essentially paint, paper, a good quote, and a small (approx. 5x7) canvas board, which can be framed or hung as is.  I'm planning to do something similar (but with less creativity) in my Kidz' bedroom: using a large white canvas board, I'll trace a relevant quote and fill it in with a paint pen (something like "whether you think you can or you can't, you are right" or "be the change you wish to see in the world").  Because they have a stripes-and-dots theme I'll probably add some different sized colorful circles/dots/bubbles.  Then I will paint a large rectangle about 3" larger on each size than the canvas board and hang the board in the center.  Voila! Wall art with extra meaning! (I'll post a photo when I get this done--I have to paint the walls their base color first as soon as I find a low-VOC paint dealer near me).

This particular gift is very special to me, because it came from a good friend who was there with me every step of the way through my illness.  And, more than anything, she took time, thought, and care to make something just for me that no one else in the world has.  

If you're not feeling as creative, here's another gift idea: go to one of those paint-your-own pottery stores with your own little Nature Kidz and paint some coffee mugs, tea-for-one sets, or cookies-for-santa platters for your home or the grandparentz, who probably don't need anything but gush wildly over anything made by their favorite little people.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

12 Days of Conscientious Christmas, Day 2

Adorable Gift/Shopping bags, $1.49 each at Toys R Us.

Well, today is day 2 of writing about little ideas to make change in our lives towards a more eco-friendly, natural holiday season.  I am having so much fun this year, decorating and shopping and all the usual stuff.  And certainly, my kidz will be receiving lots of the usual.  But small steps are what I'm all about.  

We've never given them much for holiday candy, though I know it's a big deal if the many aisles of Christmas-specific candy at Target are any indication.  I like to offer perhaps one small item, but virtually everything I pick up, even the fancy luxe versions of chocolates like Dove and Hershey's Select and Ghiardelli are loaded with artificial flavors (like petroleum-derived vanillin) and preservatives.  Yuck.  

But then I was at that famous Big-Box toy store, Toys R Us.  They've struggled in recent years thanks to Target and Walmart, but they seemed to be doing a brisk business.  I have a wooden advent box that I use every year (instead of the throw-away paper kind) and was seeking small items to put in it for the kidz.  And boy, was I in for a surprise at good old TRU--they had a huge display near the checkout of natural and organic and kid-friendly treats! I was shocked and thrilled. They offered Yummy Earth lollipops, Fruitabu fruit leather, and more!  

I also picked up the shopping bags featured in the picture above.  TRU had a pretty good assortment and the tag says 100% recyclable.  They are a nice size to hold gifts and later reuse as gift bags, or to repurpose as grocery or other shopping bags.  I plan to use them to wrap gifts, and who knows how their new owners will use them?  And if you've bought paper gift bags at Hallmark or elsewhere lately, you know that $1.49 is a bargain for one this large. These are readily available in many stores now, and most stores are selling them with their logo featured prominently (free advertising!).  I like these because instead of having a massive Toys R US logo they have bright, fun prints.  

So there you go--even the big box stores are making efforts toward eco-friendly living.  Green has definitely gone mainstream!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

12 Days of Conscientious Christmas, Day 1

Personlized Photo Bracelet, available at Karen's Kitsch

I promised to write about ideas for a holiday season that are thoughtful and creative and really bring the spirit of the season into our homes.  So I am going to expand on one idea each day.

Today, day one, I'm writing about an idea I have touched on before: shopping locally and with small businesses.  The local idea means that our purchases don't require shipping and therefore reduce energy use.  Small businesses suffer during economic downturns, since they aren't able to offer the "doorbuster" deals that people trample each other to get to in Wal*Mart.  But they also tend to offer interesting, artsy, fun products that you won't find in big box stores.

Now, I'm not renouncing my love of Target.  But I do believe that small efforts, done daily, can have positive impacts.  So here are some of my ideas:

  1. It's easier than ever to find small businesses thanks to the internet; you can even go local by checking the chamber of commerce or locally themed bulletin boards online like the forums at  
  2. find mom-run businesses and help a mother help her family.  Here's one I just love: Karen's Kitsch (see picture for an example of her work).  Karen makes gorgeous personalized jewelry.  Check out the site!
  3. I have a new favorite business: Just Write! stationery in Cary, NC.  I have been driving all of 5 minutes (saving the earth with the short drive!) to select gorgeous note cards and other stationery products as gifts; this local small business feels like what it is: it's staffed by personable, knowledgeable folks, and service is friendly and professional.  Plus, when I purchase notecards or other products which can be personalized, I get to choose the font and color for personalization--and it's free!  They have invitations, note cards, place cards, holiday cards, just about anything paper related.  If you're like me and not quite artsy enough to do it yourself, finding a great local stationer is a great way to go.
  4. For those nights you just can't cook because you're busy decorating or shopping for Christmas, visit your local pizza place.  Unlike employees at big chains, they are probably more willing and able to talk to you about allergy and natural food product concerns.  If pizza's not your thing, seek out a local restaurant that offers freshly made meals, or your local natural food store; many of these offer ready made or ready to cook dinners for a reasonable price.  I found this online listing of organic/natural restaurants in the US and Canada.
  5. Sure, kids aren't going to be thrilled about a jar of home made jam or hand-crafted Christmas cards, but there are alternatives to the usual stores for some of your shopping.  Believe it or not, there are still local toy stores out there.  I have been doing a lot of shopping at my local Learning Express store, which is a franchise but owned locally.  The toys there are usually more creative and learning-focused than your average TRU store, and I have even found organic baby toys there.  
That's it for my first day of Conscientious Christmas Thinking.  Send me ideas for the next 11!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Practical and Creative Ideas for the Holiday Season

Featured Photo:
Kristin Phillips' Home made Christmas Card. 
Here are the creator's own words describing how she made this card: 
"I stamped the reindeer image (Stampin' Up) on plain white cardstock with Nearly Navy Ink. I cut out the image and mounted it onto silver cardstock (Bazzil Basics). I stamped the upper corner o fhte same image again with Versamark Ink, making sure to get the little flower motif. I then embossed the image with silver embossing powder. I cut out the little flower motif using a 3/4" square punch and placed it over the original blue images with dimensional adhesive. I put the whole thing on a folded piece of dark blue cardstock (Bazzill Basics).  The glittery snowflakes are buttons (Dress it up) with the shanks removed."

Do you have a home made Christmas card you'd like to share?  Email it to me with your name, details about how it was made, and what inspired you to make it.

I promised that in this post I would start a list of creative, family-oriented, and/or green Christmas gifts and ideas, so here it is.  Send me your ideas on how you plan to spend the holidays and I'll add them to my list!
  1.  Make home made ornaments and bring the kids into the fun for a double benefit: family time + checking off some names on the Christmas list. Some specific ideas: applesauce/cinnamon ornaments (see previous post).  Use to decorate your tree, as gifts, or to tie to gifts as tags.
  2. Make personalized stationery.  If you're really crafty, make your own folded note cards and stamp or otherwise embellish them.  You can also go simpler and add a pretty monogram or personalization with your computer.  Tie with leftover grosgrain or giftwrap ribbon and you have a great gift.  
  3. Bake cookies and consider having a cookie exchange in the neighborhood or with family and friends. I like the neighborhood idea because it brings neighbors together during a festive season when people decorate their homes but it might be too cold to run into each other on the street regularly.  I'll have a separate post explaining the tradition. 
  4. Bake cookies as gifts.  Home made cookies are a great treat at the holidays.  Have the kids help decorate them.  To gussy them up, be sure to make up pretty recipe cards.  You can also buy simple cardboard boxes at your craft store for a couple of dollars, paint them with craft paints, and put the cookies in them and tie them up with a bow.  You can even trace cookie cutter outlines on the box to hint at what's inside! Then you have a beautiful gift box that can be reused for another purpose.
  5. Here's a great idea shared by Karen of Karen's Kitsch: buy cute shopping bags at stores (she saw some great ones at Ikea; a girlfriend of mine had the same idea and got some great ones at Trader Joe's) and use them as gift bags.  These bags are all the rage now at grocery stores, even at my local Hallmark!  So not only are you wrapping up a gift in an attractive fashion, you're giving the recipient a shopping bag for future use. How cool is that?  You can even find fabric bags in a variety of sizes at Oriental Trading in bulk.
  6. Use newspaper as gift wrap.  The comics are a colorful and fun way to reuse, and then recycle, your newspaper.  It's practical, it's funky, and it's eco-friendly.
  7. Have a clothing swap: find other Momz who are about your size and who have kidz who are either your kidz' size or one up/down.  Pull out the clothes that don't fit your kidz any more or those pieces that, let's face it, you bought and they just never wore.  Find things of your own that you bought without trying on and just didn't work; the shoes that turned out not to be as comfy on you as you thought; or things you might not have use for any more (such as business attire when you're working from home or in a less formal environment).  Have everyone over, make hot cocoa and offer some of your home made Christmas cookies, and go "shopping!"
  8. Make things from scratch. Yes, I know, you want to smack me. Who has time, especially during the holidays?  But if you can set aside a Sunday afternoon you can probably knock out several entrees in large batches and freeze them in portions sized for your family.  You can also save money this way--processed, prepackaged food is more expensive than buying whole ingredients.  We pay for convenience with our wallets and our health.  Make your own cocoa instead of buying the boxes with the mystery ingredients: Hershey's has the recipe right on the can and it's nothing more than milk, cocoa, sugar and vanilla.  My kidz love it! 
  9. If money's tight, make an agreement with the family that this year will truly be about the kids.  Skip the ties and the itchy sweaters for the adults and just do presents for the kids.  You'll save tons and have less "stuff" to clutter up your house.  Or, just do home made gifts that the kids had a hand in making.
  10. Make shadow box picture frames.  You can make them yourself or buy them at a craft store.  One year I bought smallish shadow box frames on sale (my craft stores are perpetually offering 40% off a single item coupons).  I used scrapbooking paper for a mat, mounted a photo of my children at the beach and a seashell or two they had collected, and personalized by writing or printing out a related quote on vellum.  Voila! A grandparent gift.  This is an especially good idea if you have pictures from a special time your kids spent with their grandparents.
I'll be writing more ideas in the coming days.  Do you have great holiday ideas?  Send them and I'll include them here!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What is your Christmas message this year?

Mini Ornament Tree

Well, it seems that everywhere everyone is talking fearfully about this terrible economy, and I'm no exception.  Many people have said that they're cutting back for Christmas this year (and again, I'm no exception).  But it seems like the parking lots at retail outlets are as packed as I've ever seen them at the holidays, and the tensions are just as palpable (there was plenty of honking in the Target parking lot today).

So I have been thinking, rather than grouse about the economy or, for that matter, the angry shoppers at Big Box stores, why not think up some creative, fun ways to make the holidays festive?  The tree in this photo is an example of making the holidays fun with kids without enlisting the help of a game console or a trip to the mall.  My 9 year old had a sleepover last night, so I consoled 6 year old Nature Kid by promising some fun crafts this morning.   

All I did was put 1 cup of cinnamon, a cup of natural applesauce, and a squirt (oh, maybe a Tablespoon) of white Elmer's glue in a gallon zipper bag (you can put the ingredients in a mixing bowl if your child will tolerate hand mixing; mine will not).  Then my daughter got to squish and mush and have a great time mixing up the ingredients.  We popped the mixture in the fridge for about half an hour, then made it into a ball and rolled it out between two sheets of parchment paper like rolled cookie dough.  She selected her favorites out of our cookie cutter collection and proceeded to roll, cut, and set out to dry her creations.  These really required almost no help from me.  You can either dry them by leaving them out for a day or two, or pop them in a 200 degree oven for a couple of hours.  Then they're ready to decorate.

Nature Kid decided she wanted to make them into ornaments.  We then decided that, since it was her Aunt's birthday, she should make an ornament for each member of Auntie's family (uncle and 3 cousins).  Eventually the ornaments she chose for them got holes put in them (while still wet) with a skewer (toothpicks or straws work just as well) and, once dry, wrapping paper ribbon we had in the closet.  For a final touch I wrote the first initial of each person in gold pen.  While we were out at Target we saw the little trees on an endcap and decided one would be a great present to also showcase the ornaments for Auntie.  Sure, it's artificial, but on the up side she will be able to use it for many years and can put her own decorations on it or incorporate it into her holiday decor as she wishes...or pass it along to someone else!  With more time and forethought they could easily be incorporated into a natural wreath, door swag, or mini tree or rosemary bush.

Since completing that set, we've had a bunch of great ideas: Nature Kid 1 came home and wanted to help, so her little sister let her help by putting Elmer's glue on the remaining dried cookies with a paintbrush, and then sprinkling glitter on them to make them extra fancy.  In fact, the larger star Nature Kid 2 made will grace the top of our tree this year!

Here's what I am taking away from this little craft: that Christmas is not just about buying stuff and throwing it at already overpriveleged children, but it's also about sitting down and sharing time and creativity with those children.  I was thrilled to see how excited my daughter was to make all these ornaments and, even more so, that it was entirely her idea to make them for other people.  She chose each ornament for each cousin or aunt or uncle based on what she thought each would like.  She got to make something almost entirely on her own and really enjoy the experience.  As an added bonus, my house smells like cinnamon, which feels very nourishing and comforting.

Next post: ideas for a greener, more meaningful holiday season.  Send me yours!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Back to Basics: Simple Roast Chicken

With the pace of life being so frenetic these days, it seems like most of my recent years have been nourished (I use the term loosely) by bags of frozen food or semi-fast food.  While I feel okay about trips to Panera, with their fresh baked bread and organic options for the kids, I have to face facts: there are about 10,000 too many french fries in my family's past.  

As a mom who was working full time, running a household full time, and trying to be a full time mom (yes, I know, it's simply not possible), dinner time often got put on the back burner--or, rather, not on any burner at all; we ate a quick bite out or microwaved something.  These days life's pace is a little saner--not slow, I am still crazy busy, but I do have time to throw something in the oven while I work on my book and do other things.

While shopping the other day I saw something I hadn't noticed in many years--a simple whole chicken.  This is one of the easiest things to prepare, provided you have time, and it's nutritious and counts, in my book, as comfort food.  I bought an all-natural chicken with a little pop-up timer; to prep it I simply washed it, added some sea salt, pepper, and bay and parsley leaves, and popped it in the oven for a couple of hours.  Of course, I also basted it with real butter every half our or so.  I steamed some broccoli and roasted some potatoes and voila! a real dinner.  It was delicious, nourishing to the spirit and body, and, wonder of wonders, the Kidz ate it.

Ahhhh, happiness.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Below is a link to a great holiday resource: almost 300 alternative shopping ideas from Twitter Moms.  With the economy in so much trouble, I've been trying to shop locally and with small family-run businesses as much as possible; I have to worry that they will be the first to suffer.  Check out these shopping ideas--there are some wonderful, creative, and unique gift ideas, all from moms!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

RECIPE: iced Thanksgiving turkey cookies

I made these cookies for Thanksgiving, which is at our house this year and includes 8 chilren.  Nature Kidz helped me decorate them.  The cookie recipe I found online and tweaked to my own taste, and it's a winner.  I'm still searching for just the right icing recipe.  These are royal icing made with cocoa for a brown color, and the India Tree food colors for the accent colors; since the India Tree colors don't taste all that good I didn't want to use much of that.

Royal icing is nice because it dries nicely.  Another recipe I have which I have used is thinner and less effective for piping has a nice glossy finish.  I'd love a great recipe for a nice icing that can be worked for decorating and dries well so cookies can be stacked--email it to me!  

Till then, here's the cookie and icing recipe.  

Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
3 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour (I use Eagle Mills' White/Ultragrain blend)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Mix together butter and sugar; beat in eggs and vanilla.  
Stir together dry ingredients and then incorporate into sugar/butter mixture.  Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour---but if you let it stay overnight it can get tough to work with.

Roll out cookies to about 1/4-1/2 in thickness (I use 3-4 inch cookie cutters) and bake at 400 for about 7=8 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Chocolate Royal Icing
(from Recipezaar)

1 lb powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa (Hershey's)
7 T. warm water
3 T powdered egg whites (like Just Whites)

mix powdered sugar, cocoa and egg whites.  Slowly add water until you get the consistency you want.  It's important to remember that with royal icing, you sometimes have to beat the mixture up to 8 minutes with a mixer to get the whipped, workable texture you want.  

For the colors on these cookies, leave out the cocoa to make white icing and then use the colors of your choice.  If you want natural coloring, you can try blueberry juice, cherry juice, beet juice, or some other vegetable/fruit colorings

Product Review: India Tree Natural Decorating Colors

$22.99 plus s&h 
set of three: red, yellow, blue
Rating: C--

India Tree is a Seattle-based company that sells "sugar, spices, and other fine food products from around the world" according to their website. I have used their powdered sugar
 to make cookie icing and it's really quite good.  I recently was on the prowl for natural substitutes for the food colors you can buy in the grocery store, which are of course artificial.  I did a thorough web search and found that the India Tree brand was the only one that seemed to have any positive reviews.  Even this brand had some negatives, ones that turned out to be true.

I wish I could rave about these, but I can't.   The package of three costs anywhere from $17-25 online; I wasn't able to find them locally anywhere--my Whole Foods carries India Tree products, including decorating sugars, but not these colors.  Two of the three places I found them online ended up not having them in stock. 

Once I finally got them in the mail I was ready to make Royal Icing for my Thanksgiving cookies (recipe to follow).  I followed the instructions and put a few drops of the yellow and the red in the icing to make orange.  I was never able to get more than the palest of peaches, and there is a decided flavor to the colorings, which is not pleasant to me.  The Kidz said it tasted like orange tic-tacs.  Unfortunately, I am not fond of orange tic-tacs.  Plus, I didn't see the resemblance.

I did some more internet research and found some other ideas, such as using cocoa, coffee, and berry juice to color icing.  I even tried cherry natural gelatin and got a nice pink out of it and a nice taste, too!

So for now, I have to recommend against using these as real alternatives to the saturated, dense colors you can get from artificial food colors.  If you're okay with more muted, pastel colors, trying berries and other natural foods is a cheaper--and tastier--way to go.  I will probably buy some of the decorating sugars to accent white icing in the future and see how they taste; they come in lots of beautiful, rich colors.  

Review: Hoover Steamvac Deluxe

Price: $165 including shipping from Ace Hardware Outlet
Rating: B+

I know, it  probably seems weird to have a loud electrical appliance on a "natural" themed website.  But we still have to clean, and I have petz and kidz, so, well, 'nuff said.  Instead of spending a lot of money on having pros come in I decided to get a carpet cleaner and try it out.

Now, as you can see, the machine came with some liquid cleaning solution which I don't use (not only so much because it's not natural, which it isn't, but because using soap on carpets can cause dirt to be attracted to the carpet more so than without).  Instead, I use a mixture of about 1/3 vinegar and 2/3 very hot water.  Vinegar is said to clean stains, eliminate odors, and freshen laundry and fabrics.  And it's natural! 

Well, I really love this machine.  Not only does it spray the water/vinegar mixture and then suck it back out, it has 3 rotating brushes to really scrub the carpet.  Plus, there's an awesome hand tool that also has rotating brushes for upholstered furniture and stairs.  And in a 3 story house, I gotta lotta stairs.

Basically, the machine worked.  My carpet it pretty new but it still pulled a lot of dirt out of my highest-traffic room--the family room--and we don't wear shoes in our house!  So I'm thrilled to have this machine and plan to use it monthly.  Don't hold me to that, though, as I'm a rather mediocre housekeeper.

But why the B+?  Because the hand tool is an incredibly huge pain to attach.  You have to remove the waste-water tank, change a part out, and then reassemble the whole thing. It's certainly not as easy to use as your everyday vacuum cleaner.

I know what you're thinking: "vinegar?  Ewww! The smell!"  And, well, yes, it ain't so pretty at first.  But as soon as it dries the smell is gone, and the house is clean.  And fresh.  And naturally so.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Natural vs. Mainstream: Lime Ice Pops

The Contenders:
Edy's Lime Fruit Bars, $4.15 for 6
365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods Brand) Lime Frozen Fruit Bars, $3.89 for 4

Edy's Ingredients: water, sugar, lime juice from concentrate, citric acid, citrus pulp, natural flavors, guar gum, carob bean gum, lime and lemon peel, ascorbic acid, Yellow #5, Green #3.

365 Ingredients: lime juice, water, cane sugar, natural stabilizers (guar gum, carob bean gum, carrageenan), citric acid.

As a person newly committed to natural living, I have a whole history of delicious and bad for me junk food for which I now have to find healthy replacements. I have long loved Edy's frozen fruit bars and, for "junk" food, they're really not all that bad.  A look at the ingredients shows that there is no high fructose corn syrup, and there is real lime juice and citrus pulp, though the juice comes from concentrate.  And there are those pesky artificial colors, a no-no on the Feingold program.  

So, while I was browsing Whole Foods the other day I saw these Lime Frozen Fruit Bars in their 365 Everyday Value store brand and thought I'd give them a try.  There are no artificial ingredients whatsoever, and the first ingredient is lime juice. NOT from concentrate.  

I made the sacrifice and tried one of each.  The Edy's brand is decidedly green, the color of artificial food colors.  I didn't have to read a book to figure this out--a fan of real key lime pie, I know that lime juice isn't actually green.  The 365 brand is nearly colorless.  So, to a kid, I guess the Edy's brand looks awesome.

And, truthfully, it is pretty good.  It  has the tart bite you'd expect in a citrus fruit bar, and does taste like lime--at least, it tastes a far sight more lime than the standard grocery store popsicle. But there is a bit of a weird aftertaste.  Overall, Edy's has made a step toward "real" food.  The texture is quite firm and dense.  More so than your usual firecracker pop or grape ice pop.  It's very smooth.

The 365 brand packaging is pretty lame.  It looks generic, which I suppose the 365 brand is supposed to be since it's a store brand.  It's green and has a picture of the nearly-white bar on the front.  The Edy's logo is more pleasing and, to someone raised in and inhabiting an environment full of bright eye-catching colors via advertising, the Edy's box promises flavor and healthfulness (it does, after all, say "fruit" and "fat-free" on the packaging).  In Whole Foods' defense, I suppose we Nature Momz might be suspicious of anything healthful that looks alarmingly like something McDonalds might sell.

But what the 365 lacks in branding it makes up for in taste.  I am so in love with this ice pop that I bought 3 boxes the other day and am treating myself to one bar per day.  At night. After the kids are in bed.  I have no intention of sharing.

The texture is smooth but with more give than the Edy's bar.  It's somewhere between the Edy's bar and a frozen lemonade.  The flavor is equal parts tart and sweet, and very refreshing.  It's not green, but it's just delicious.  It just tastes real--the way fountain lemonade just can't stack up to fresh-squeezed, Edy's can't hold a candle to 365 Everyday Lime Frozen Fruit Bars.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Product Review: Ian's Mini Chicken Patty Sandwiches

Ian's Mini Chicken Patty Sandwiches
Kidz Rating: D
Momz Rating: B

These were listed in my Feingold manual as acceptable for stage 1, so I bought them for Nature Kidz' dinner for a night when Nature Parentz wanted to eat something other than pizza or burritos (Kidz faves).  They look pretty darn kid-friendly.  They're about the size of a 4-year-old's palm, and we all know that for kids, especially girls (and most especially Nature Girlz in my house), cute rules.

They come in a 4-pack and cost about $5.  Ian's makes a good variety of kid-oriented foods geared toward children with allergies and parents who want a natural alternative to McYuckets.  Two of them can be cooked in the microwave for 90 seconds.

I tried one, and the bread was dense but soft, and the chicken patty had a pretty generic, mild taste. I thought for sure it would go over well with the Kidz.

Nature Girl #1, the "good eater", took one bite, made a sour face, and said, with her best attempt at Not Being Rude, "um, I don't like it."  She rated it a D. Nature Girl #2, my picky eater, didn't care for the bun but ate the entire chicken patty without a hint of a complaint.  She rated it just average.   The mere fact that she ate it without complaining makes it a winning choice for me.  But if both Girlz don't like it, it can't cross my threshold.  Mama'z not making 2 Nature Kidz meals in one night!

Overall, I think that they're a great choice for preschoolers and young kids who haven't gotten their tastes so much set yet--you know, the McYuckets virgins.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nature Kidz in Nature

Yesterday we took the kidz and dogz to Umstead State Park. One of the things I love about living in NC (we're recent transplants after 8 years in Tampa, FL) is the parks: we have a state park just minutes from our house, and loads of local area parks all around the metro area. We have parks with sailboats and paddle boats to rent, parks with miles and miles of walking trails, even a park with a carousel.

Umstead State Park has over 20 miles of walking trails. It's autumn in NC now, and I am realizing that this is my kidz' first ever real fall, since Central West Florida is not known for its deciduous trees. It was utterly beautiful yesterday, and it was such a joy watching the kidz run around, pick up leaves, and just enjoy the beauty of the place. Other than the sirens we heard at one point, it was very peaceful and quiet. We occasionally saw other people walking their dogs or running the trails.

It was a wonderful (and free!) outing and a great way for my Nature Kidz to experience autumn for the first time. Go check out your local parks and enjoy!

Amy's Organics Mac and Cheese

Amy's Macaroni and Cheese made from Organic Pasta
Kidz Rating: A (kid 1), C+ (kid 2)
Momz Rating: A

It's not easy finding prepared foods that aren't full of scary ingredients like artifical flavors, colors and preservatives that are made from petroleum. Amy's is a yummy, natural option that has the added bonus of not having any GMOs in it--it says so right on the box.

I have never been a fan of the scary blue box. My kids never had it until dining out, and of course they loved it. I've had a hard time weaning them off it. Can nuclear orange powder really somehow have any relation to actual cheese?

I love Amy's. Whenever I prepare this for my kids I always lick the spoon and scrape the sides of the box for my own secret treat. 6 year old Nature Kid loves it, too. 9 year old Nature Kid is less enthusiastic, calling it "goopy." Apparently all that real cheese offends her palate.

And the best part? This meal takes 3 minutes in my microwave and serves two Kidz (they eat this along with veggies and usually a bread or fruit, too).

Amy's isn't cheap. But it's comfort food one step away from Momz own.

Natural living in the 21st century Depression

Cherchie's White Bean Chili and a Home Made Slow-Cooker Alternative
Momz Rating: A
Dadz Rating: A+
Kidz Rating: B-

Momz Rating: B-
Dadz Rating: B+
Kidz Rating: C-

So, this afternoon I was slaving over my Kitchen Aid mixer making yummy cornbread from scratch and Cherchie's White Bean Chili for dinner when the doorbell rang. Nature Dad answered and, when he returned from a brief discussion with whomever was at the door, informed me that Thomasville (that's the furniture people--we live in NC) had people at the door asking if we wanted to buy furniture direct from the warehouse; they had two trucks full of stuff and were going door to door selling it.

Within two minutes, Nature Dad returned from the playroom after checking on Nature Girlz (they were being too quiet--we knew that they just had to be up to no good) and informed me that they were playing "homeless children." He asked if I remembered playing something like that as a child.

Of course not. We didn't even have the term homeless when I was a child.

Now, maybe it's because I recently watched Kit Kittredge for the second time, but this really affected me. Here I am trying to live a more back-to-basics, natural existence for my kids' sake, and someone (was it really Thomasville reps? was it stolen? Is Thomasville going under?) it out selling nice furniture out of the back of a truck, and the world seems to be crashing around us.

9 year old Nature Girl has been bringing home her ziploc bags from her lunch box--so I can use them again.

And I remarked the other day to another mom that I think I might go bankrupt at Whole Foods just trying to keep artificial junk out of my family's foods (Though I'm learning to find things at my local grocery store, too). Why is is that Cheetos are much cheaper than cheese? Why is it that, pound for pound, it's cheaper to buy fatty ground beef and Hamburger Helper than it is healthful meats and fresh vegetables? What's going to happen to our health in tough economic times?

I, for one, have no intention of turning to Velveeta and margarine.

The soup I made tonight claims to be "81 cents per serving" on its website (I think I paid a bit less than the site's retail price for my bag); I added some cut up chicken breast to it, and served it with homemade cornbread (another inexpensive option). While this meal was, of course, less costly (to our wallet and our health) than a meal out eating food of questionable provenance (did you know that many shredded cheeses have an anti-caking agent made from WOOD?), it is also labor-intensive and takes an 8-mile hike to Whole Foods to get everything (hello, Whole Foods, can you please open a store closer to me?)

But as for the food: I cooked the chili in my crockpot, bypassing the directions. I used a carton of natural low-sodium chicken broth to replace most of the water called for, and also added about a pound of cooked, chopped chicken breast. My additions made the meal not vegetarian, but leaving out the chicken broth and chicken makes a nice, inexpensive vegetarian meal (with leftovers!). The chili is also gluten-free. I topped each bowl with a hearty dollop of sour cream and shredded cheese.

The chili cooked in my crockpot all day while the Nature Peepz were out enjoying ourselves. The result was absolutely wonderful. Fall has really set in here, and it was a blustery day in the 50s. Chili was a great option for dinner. The white beans make for a creamy, thick, yummy concoction and Cherchie's adds just the right seasoning. I often make my own white bean chili, but I think I like the mix better than my recipe. The package states that it has jalapenos, and I suppose it does, but it's not an especially spicy food--suitable for kids for sure!

For the cornbread I used the basic recipe on the package of my corn meal. I don't use corn meal "mix" because I never really know what goes in there--I used House Autry Plain Yellow Corn Meal for this recipe. We found it to be really too dry--I had to choke it down. We like a moister corn bread, ever since a former neighbor baked a sinful recipe with sour cream and all sorts of other additions that my kids dubbed "corn cake" for its moist, sweet yummy-ness.

If you like a dense, crumbly corn bread, this one is good.

For my home made white crock pot chili, the recipe is from the Fix-it and Forget-it slow cooker cookbook and it's quite good and, based on the ingredients, suitable for Feingold Stage 2.

1 lb. bag large Great northern beans, soaked overnight
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut up (us all natural with no solution added)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 4.5 oz cans of green chilies
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
14 1/2 oz can chicken broth (Whole Foods' 365 Organic Chicken Broth)
1 cup water

1. bring soaked beans to boil and simmer 20 min.  discard water.
2. brown chicken in 1-2 Tbsp. (Bertolli or 365 Every Day olive oil) oil in skillet.
3. combine everything in slow cooker and stir.
4. cover.  cook on high 5-6 hours or low for 12 hours.

You can serve with cheese, sour cream, or just as it is.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Home made Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Momz rating: A-
Kidz rating: A-
Dadz rating: A

My 2 Kidz helped me make these cookies. I got the initial recipe from another blog (Gluten Free Girl), did some more searching since this recipe didn't specifically say "chewy" (a MUST in our house) and found another website (Chowhound) and created my own version using organic sugars, peanut butter, and egg, and adding some vanilla. I think the result turned out great! I got about 3 dozen small (1.5-2in) cookies out of this recipe.

The upside to this recipe is their chewiness; no one in my house likes a crunchy cookie, and of course peanut butter cookies are usually crunchy (note in the picture that these do not have the traditional fork-smashing pattern). Also, they get better with time--I actually (and this is unlike me) preferred them after cooling for about an hour to the fresh-out-of-the-oven taste. Because I rolled them in sugar before baking, they might be a bit too sugary. Overall it's an incredibly simple recipe that we managed to make in just a few minutes and pop in the oven while I was prepping for dinner.

Here's the recipe:

1 cup organic peanut butter (with only the ingredients peanuts and salt)
1 cup organic brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla (the real stuff, no artificial vanilla allowed!)
1 tsp baking soda

beat together the peanut butter, sugar, and egg. Add baking soda and vanilla and mix until dough becomes firm and malleable (it may seem too wet at first but let it mix a bit and it will thicken). Form dough into small (tablespoon sized) balls and, optionally, roll in white sugar (I used organic evaporated cane juice, which is not really "white" sugar). Place on cookie sheets and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. When removing from the oven, make sure to let them sit on the cookie sheet to cool for about 5 min. (otherwise they may fall apart). Let cook completely and enjoy!

Product Review: Lifeway Probugs Organic Whole Milk Kefir (Sublime Slime Lime flavor).

: B+

Lifeway Organic Website
My first reaction to this product was to think that finally someone in the natural food industry has figured out kid packaging. The bright colors, yucky name ("Sublime Slime Lime"), and cool screw-off top seemed like a sure seller to me. Who bought the stuff while in the grocery store alone. Oops.

I'm going to try another flavor with my kids to see if they prefer that and will review later. I am a regular customer of Lifeway's "adult" versions of kefir--it's smooth, delicious, and, if you buy all the hype about probiotics, very good for you. I prefer to buy whole milk products for my kids since the Vitamin A that gets added to reduced and nonfat versions can have artificial elements, so I was thrilled to see these on the grocery store shelf. A closer look at the ingredients, however, says "Vitamin A Palmitate," which is always a warning flag to us Nature Momz. They have all the parent-friendly buzzwords on the front: organic, probiotic, and my favorite: "no spill spout."

My six year old (pickiest eater on the planet) was interested in the top--it's a cool black plastic device shaped similar to a 4-leaf clover. She told me at breakfast: "I don't want this, but I want the top." I told her to try it. And that if she wanted the top, she had to finish it. She tried it, made a face, and shook her head no. Tried it again, same reaction. She said it was too "banana-y" even though there was no banana in it.

My nine year old thought it looked cool enough to try (and who am I kidding, she's a great eater and will try most anything). She thought it was "okay" but didn't like it enough to want a full one of her own.

I tried it and I think it's delicious. Almost like a creamy lime popsicle, just not frozen. I say give it a try. After all, as the label says, the product is made with 100% renewable energy. Gotta support that!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Product Review: Tom's Toothpaste for Kids: rated "B-"

In our efforts to avoid artificial colors, flavors, and other unwanted additives, we recently purchased some Tom's toothpaste. Back in my crunchy vegetarian grad school days I'd used Tom's and liked it, other than the somewhat chalky texture. I bought the kid version at my local grocery store and asked my kids to give a review.

Kid 1: "this stuff smells and tastes like a strawberry banana smoothie! Yum!"
Kid 2: "this stuff smells. and it tastes awful!"

In a world where even toothpaste for kids comes with sparkles, stars, and cool shapes, Tom's "silly strawberry" flavored natural toothpaste, which is a regular white paste (kinda like what I used in the days before Aquafresh's fun stripes), is really rather bland looking. But it has a sweet fruity scent and cute, if unexciting, packaging. Its real selling point is written on the label: "This product does not contain saccharin, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colors, or flavors; or animal ingredients." Since food dyes, especially red ones, have been shown to have harmful effects, Tom's seems like a more healthful choice.

Thankfully, the child who declared it "yuck" didn't refuse to use it--she simply prefers her old red Colgate with stars. Go figure.

An Introduction

Welcome to Nature Kidz, where I try to cover all topics concerning natural living--from recipes and product reviews to natural cleaning supplies and news information.  As a mom, I have become increasingly worried about the artificial elements in our lives--and have learned that they're harder to avoid than I would ever have imagined! Just browse the grocery store, and every aisle is full of artificial flavors, colors, scents, and preservatives--from bread (which often has food dye!) to cat litter to milk.

Do you have a product you love, a recipe to share, or something you'd like reviewed here?  Email me ( and I'll post about it.  

My first blog entry will be a cleaning tip: I use white vinegar for almost everything, from cleaning up pet accidents to washing windows to freshening laundry.  I keep a spray bottle of vinegar and water in every bathroom and the kitchen, and have stopped buying bathroom cleaner, window cleaner, cleaners with fact, I've replaced nearly all my old cleaning supplies with this effective and CHEAP ingredient! Read more here.   If you're looking to start healthier living and feel overwhelmed, this is a great place to start!