Greening your sprout's birthday party (or any party!)

Birthday parties can have a huge environmental impact...think about all the waste that is generated: partyware (themed plates, napkins, etc.), invitations (& the fossil fuels it takes to deliver them), decorations (usually balloons, streamers, etc.), and wrapping paper galore! Not to mention the typical party food is definitely not organic or local and the cake is typically decorated in a dozen different artificial colored sugary icings. However, there are many ways to have a blast for your sprouts next birthday bash without all of the trash!

1. Invitations: if you can bear to have a party without printed invitations then use a site like Evites or simply invite the guest by word of mouth. But, if your like me and want to have a cute invitation to add to the scrapbook of party photos then a) order invites from a company that uses recycled paper or b) make your own! With little ones most of us have craft supplies around and it can be a blast creating your invites. And when it comes to delivery, hand deliver as many as you can!
2. Decorations: get creative here! Use wildflowers or fresh cute flowers from your yard to decorate (then compost when the party is over), create your own birthday banner than can be used each year and is sure to become an heirloom for your sprout, use Mylar balloons because they can be used over and over, use toys, etc. that you already own to add to the decor without adding waste or cost.
3. Partywares: if you are having the party at home use washable plates, cups, napkins, etc. But if you are on location (or your sprout REALLY wants a themed party, plates and all) then compromise with themed plates and napkins and recyclable cups (if you do this make sure to have a clearly marked place to recycle) Then you can wash off the plates to make a really cute craft with your little one after the party (pictures to come on this one... I am making one soon!)
4. Gift Wrap: have guest either: a) donate to a charity or to a fund for your sprouts extracurriculars, b) don't wrap the gifts and request that the items be used, c) don't do gifts at all...if you start this early your little one won't even notice, and d) recycle and or reuse the paper (such as a background for the party scrapbook page)
5. Greening the food: get cute with the food: cut cucumbers with a wavy slicer, make ants on a log (celery with nut butter and raisins), etc. Sprouts love anything that looks like something else. Go to your local CSA or farmers market to plan your menu...only serve items you can source locally. Go organic (and local if possible) on the cake...color your icing with fruit/veggie dyes (or you can contact me via Simply Sweet Cakery if you are in the greater Columbia SC area).

Most importantly, take this teaching opportunity and run with it! You can teach recycling, reducing waste, upcycling, knowing your food sources, and that a birthday is not about the gifts.

Feel free to post your green party photos!


Give beets a chance...a foodie friday

Known in the south as something that you typically only eat pickled and and stains your hands horribly beets have gotten a bad wrap. But recently they have come to surface as a great natural dye. And rightly so...they make wonderful natural food coloring that you can easily use to dye Easter eggs, cake icing and even tie dye clothing. But they taste WONDERFUL and have a vast array of health benefits. My favorite way to fix beets is to roast them. So, today I share a delicious recipe with you and as an added bonus, health benefits too!

Roasted Beet Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
(from http://www.ebfarm.com/)


8 medium beets (red and gold)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
10 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar


3 oranges
2 lemons
1 lime
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste


Lettuces of your choice, 6 cups
30 spears of asparagus, blanched
1/4 cup black olives, chopped
3 navel oranges, segmented
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
20 springs fresh chervil
1/2 cup feta, crumbled (optional)

pre-heat oven to 400f. Make marinade by whisking oil, thyme, vinegar, onion in bowl. Prepare each color beet separately. Toss each color with 1/3 cup marinade. roast each color in a separate pan, covered with foil for 1 hour or until soft. Cool, peel, cut into segments.
To make vinaigrette, juice the citrus & place in non-reactive pan. Over medium heat, reduce juice by 3-quarters. Whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss some vinaigrette on the salad greens. Transfer to platter and place beets on top. Arrange remaining edible garnish around platter and drizzle with vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Beets help with:
skin care
gall bladder issues
colon cancer
heart disease

beets are nutrient, vitamin and mineral dense...give them a try (or second chance) and let me know what you think!


Looking for Great Cookbooks? My top 5 baby/kid & family cookbooks

These cookbooks are so wonderful you'll have to have them re-bound! (No joke! I just had to do this!) And of course, remember to cook organically, cook locally & cook seasonally!

Top 5 Family Cookbooks

1. Food to Live By Myra Goodman
2. Williams-Sonoma Family Meals By Maria Sinskey
3. Easy Green Organic By Anna Getty
4. In the Green Kitchen By Alice Waters
5. Southern Farmer's Market Cookbook By Holly Herrick

Top 5 Baby/Kids Cookbooks

1. Organically Raised By Anni Daulter
2. Organic Baby & Toddler Cookbook By Lizzie Vann
3. Top 100 Baby Purees By Annabel Karmel
4. Top 100 Finger Foods By Annabel Karmel
5. The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet By Karin Knight

Post your favorites too!


Top 5 ways to Green your Sprout-friendly Mardi Gras Celebration

Mardi Gras (shrove Tuesday, fat Tuesday, pancake Tuesday) is today, the day before Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Parties and parades (as well as pancakes) have long been associated with this celebration; so what's a eco-parent to do? Celebrate of course!

1. Start the day off with organic, local pancakes (if your in the greater Columbia area check out Anson Mills!)
2. Create your own mardi gras beads by stringing colorful bottle caps on a string or get fancy with this recycled silk scarf necklace
3. Raid the recycling bin for a cereal box or two. Cut out mask shapes (be creative!) and let your sprout have a blast with paint, markers and any random craft items you may have (be sure to let these dry in time for #5!)
4. Cook and enjoy vegetarian gumbo & rice with your little sprouts (yummy recipe here)
5. End your day with a King cake (hide a berry or bit of chocolate in the cake instead of a plastic baby to avoid BPA, phthalates and neurontoxins)...the sprout with the surprise gets to lead the "parade of masks" to bed!

Enjoy your Fat Tuesday... and consider doing a carbon fast for Lent (check out this calender for information!)


Square Foot Gardening with Kids: Where to Begin

Growing your own vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers is a wonderful tool for teaching kids about nature, the 3 R's (reduce, reuse, recycle) and have them enjoying them in no time! Regardless of if you live in an apartment or a single family home square foot gardening can work for you! Best of all it produces tons more food from 80% less space than that required by a traditional row garden.

So, in this pre-spring time how can you get your children involved in growing this year's garden? And how can you grow your own food while in an apartment with only a patio? Here's the answer to both!

First, gather gardening magazines, crayons, or vegetable & flower stickers. Draw a grid on a plain sheet of paper (recycled of course!) A 3x3 garden works best with a child's arm span. Then, with a list of what grows best in your growing zone (information available at http://www.thevegetablegarden.info/) help your child/children "create" the garden. Let them cut out photos or draw pictures to "fill" their box with vegetables, fruits and don't for get the flowers! Use this chance to teach them about plant relationships (i.e. marigolds help with pest control, etc.)

Then, if it's close to your last frost get those seedlings started! Have your little sprouts help you go through the recycling bin for yogurt cups, egg cartons, etc. to begin your seeds in. Use either vermiculite or Mel's mix (1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite) to get those seeds growing! Let your child sort the seeds on their grid to begin making the connection between seed and full grown vegetable. Involve your child throughout this process letting them label the containers by drawing the veggie (for younger ones) or writing the names on the upcycled seed pots. Help teach responsibility by having your child either assist or on their own water the seedlings...I promise with the first sight of green you'll want your camera handy!

You may be thinking, okay but I have no yard only a patio or balcony. No problem! Square foot gardening takes place on top of existing soil in a traditional yard which means it can take place on top of almost anything! A table, a concrete slab, it doesn't matter! You can even use a gardening box (such as earth box) as long as you have the width for a 1x1 you are golden. And imagine, in one square foot you can grow 16 carrots! Many container gardening pots are this size so you could have lots of mini SFG's on your apartment balcony. And there is nothing more rewarding, healthy, and cost-effective than growing your own food.

So grab your little ones and start drawing/pasting...and get growing! Soon your little sprouts will be lighting up as they see the seeds they planted becoming the veggie they love (or soon will love) to eat.



Upcycling is the process of taking a waste and turning it into a higher quality, useful item...and I am a HUGE fan! Here are the photos of Styrofoam from shipping materials that I have turned into wall art for my oldest sprout's room. More projects with the last of the foam to come! Let me know your thoughts and any ideas you can share to upcycle items.

Sunday's Eco Inspiration

"Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind." Job 12:7-10

Look around you...God is everywhere. Feel Him in the cool spring breeze, hear Him in the bird's morning song, smell Him in the earthy mud after a cool rain, taste Him in the natural sweetness of the first picked strawberry, and see Him in the trees you drive by daily to work. Worship Him, Praise Him for He has made all and declared it good. Let's loose ourselves in the beauty around us and begin to take notice again of God and His amazing creation. Only when we see Him in it will we finally begin to embrace the stewardship we are all called to.

This week take time to sit in a park, daydream on a bench and reflect on the amazing works of the Lord & then act in stewardship toward Creation.