Category Archives: planet parenthood

Kids’ Carols

Our Big Guy adores Christmas carols, and loves singing them with all his heart. Last year he stood in front of Hubby’s entire family (around 25 relatives he sees once a year) and belted out Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He’s been practicing some new songs I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, and  Frosty the Snowman this season.

So, my homemade present to him this year is going to be a booklet of his favorite carols. LyricsMania has tons of lyrics. I also bought the kiddos a double CD of kids singing carols that has been a big hit for our holiday errands.

Growing up in a small town, we would go caroling every year and I loved it. My favorites are the 12 days of Christmas, Oh Christmas Tree, and Deck the Halls.

Frosty the Snowman is his new favorite:

Do you sing carols as a family?
What traditions do you have for free holiday entertainment?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Homemade Kids’ Kitchen

When we moved into our “new” house two years ago, we wanted our first Christmas to be special. But we couldn’t afford to spend a fortune…so-called eco-friendly play kitchens can cost over $300! So, my Twin Sis and I teamed up to create a built-in kids’ kitchen in the end of one counter. She took the lead and did lots of research on creating home made kitchens, and did a fantastic job.

She made a colorful laminated back-splash from old Body & Soul magazines, then she made a cook-top from recycled CDs and brads. She even included knobs and a clock, plus hooks and magnets, not to mention the touch light that helps to put a light on the subject and is oh so fun.  Then she went above and beyond by making homemade felted vegetables. The entire kitchen cost practically nothing, and was made of mostly reused materials. 

“Auntie” also bought him a pot set, and baskets for the all the veggies. My mom also sewed an apron, mitts and a chef’s hat. Hubby’s mom, Gram, bought a fun  Melissa & Doug Pizza Party set . I bought lots of utensils, and in retrospect I would have bought more that could actually be used to cook.

Alas, as it turns out, the kitchen didn’t hold Big Guy’s attention much (he was almost 3) and initially he only really played with it when other kids came over. It did inspire him to cook for real though, and he loves using the bigger utensils. But Girly has grown up with it and loves playing in her little kitchen (this pick was taken at 10 months last fall…hard to believe she has so many curls now!).

Lastly, I know not everyone has a spare open cabinet, but after seeing our kitchen a friend made one from a standard kitchen rack. The best part is that the rack is still useful and costs about as much as some play kitchens!

Here are some resources if you’re interested in designing a kids’ kitchen:

Eco-friendly Kitchen Accessories:

We’ve also shared a close-up for inspiration.  
Do you have a homemade play kitchen?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Oh Christmas Tree

As a teenager I started to question cutting down a tree for decoration, but I loved the tradition too much to consider boycotting it. The holidays we spent in California with family around a plastic tree didn’t feel quite right. There’s nothing like the smell of a fresh cut tree.

I practically grew up in the woods, so driving a little further into the mountains to cut one down was a simple family adventure. Now our family continues the tradition of buying a $5 permit from the National Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management to cut a tree for the festive season. It’s beats the price of any lot in the city or tree farm in the suburbs!

I’ve been happy to read about how even The Nature Conservancy is advocating for cutting down trees to increase carbon storage and reduce your carbon footprint, at least compared to a PVC tree.

We also do our best to demonstrate good forest practices, by selecting a tree strategically so that others will be able grow bigger without competition. This year’s tree was growing on a steep embankment and already had a crooked stump from trying to grow straight on a curved slope. I consider our tradition to be almost carbon neutral, or at least not entirely harmful. Plus, it allows us to live temporarily with nature during a time when we’re not out camping or even hiking much, and that’s precious.

And, yes, our first year of getting what I consider to be a “real” Christmas tree from the woods, Hubby was a bit taken aback because they don’t look anything like a farmed tree. Personally, I prefer the look of them, they have an airy feel and you can see ornaments on the other side of the tree. Plus, you know that herbicides weren’t used to grow a tree from the forest.

If you really want a living tree, here in Portland there’s such a service that delivers a potted tree, picks it up after the holidays to be planted at a regional restoration site. It’ll cost you $100 ($70 without delivery), but at least you’ll know that your tradition will have a positive environmental impact, not a negative or neutral one.

One other tradition to consider is giving the gift of a tree during the holidays, especially in honor of family members who have passed away. One of my favorite organization, Friends of Trees organizes an annual planting to honor gift recipients. This is another to good way to offset any impact from having a fresh cut tree as adornment.

Do you cut down a Christmas tree?
How much does it cost your family?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Save the Season

I hope your holiday weekend was as relaxing as ours. It reminded me of how laid back I want our entire holiday season to be. Less stress, more fun.

I read a great article on our drive that sums up how important it is to simplify the season. Just like the story they share of the overwhelmed toddler, I remember a similar event and I keep that imagine in my mind when I get tempted to buy too many gifts. We’ve already adopted many of the ideas they discuss:

  • We did a gift exchange in my family growing up, I loved giving/getting one special present. Hubby’s family also did one, and now the cousins do a “Pollyanna”. It’s such much more fun for kids to be a part of the gift giving and too many gifts for a child can be really overwhelming.
  • Send a “wish list” to family members that includes experiential gift like a family membership. Also list items that are off limits, like video games or toy guns. If you don’t send some guidelines there a much greater chance of having a misunderstanding and hurt feelings.
  • Make gifts. We often made some gifts growing up. I definitely plan on making more gifts as the kiddos grow up. So far, I’ve been giving away my homemade jam as hostess/dog-sitter presents.
  • Adopt a family. My mom’s group is adopting a family for the third year. We buy gifts, clothes, and food for two families in need. By pooling our resources we’re about to do a lot more together. Last year I remember buying hats/gloves/scarfs for the family members. My kiddos were also in need, and I just couldn’t imagine not being able to just go to the store and buy them cozy essentials.
  • Support a toy drive. Sock drive. Food drive. We support as many giving efforts as we can during the holiday season. Last year I was so proud of our Big Guy picking out a Thomas train to give to a child in need that just the year before he had coveted for himself. This year he really seems to understand why it’s so important that we share during the holiday season.
  • Throw a party! We’ve thrown a Danish “julefrokost” for the past decade to share the festive traditions of Denmark with our closest friends. I cook a ton of Danish foods, and enjoy sharing some the culture that I love so much.

How do you plan to simplify and “save” this season?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Eco Baby Shower

Last fall I hosted my first baby shower, and it’s hard to believe this weekend is his 1st birthday party! I’ve also been to two showers this week, so I’ve been thinking more about them.

Baby showers are an important milestone, and way to show support for the family-to-be. I remember being overwhelmed by the love and friendship that came with ours. But I also think there’s a lot of room for greening up this right of passage to lessen the impact and deepen it’s meaning.

It truly takes a village, and people want to help host. Recruit close friends to set up and clean up, and any other talents they may want to share. Prepare in advance and try to share the work load.

Invitations – Go paperless with an e-invitation. I used to send with E-vite, but I was recently turned on to Socializer. It’s free and green.

Decorations – Keep the decorations s imple. My favorite is decorating with a clothesline and baby clothes. If you want centerpieces, create them around baby items they can keep – like reused books standing up or a homemade lovey. A co-worker created towers of blocks in Danish for our shower, and I was so surprised. Now Girly plays and learns from them almost two years later, much better than something that goes in the trash!

eco friendly baby shower Games – Go with a more personal approach. Know your guests and tailor any games to a mixed age or co-ed group. For the co-ed shower I threw, the parents-to-be answered questions about their childhood in advance and guests guessed the answers. At another friend’s shower where I did the games, the theme was “A Star is Born,” so I taped the names of famous mothers on the backs of guests to guess as an icebreaker. Guests also tried to guess the baby names of celebrity stars. I gave organic/free trade chocolate bars as prizes.

Non-Games – Don’t feel like you have to do traditional games, many of which are honestly quite wasteful and not very meaningful to the expecting parents. While many groups may not be comfortable doing a more spiritual blessingway ceremony, you can still go a little deeper. Create something together for the parents. Share stories.

Gifts – Let guests know that reused gifts are welcomed. Since having a plentiful supply of used kid stuff, I’ve been giving a combo of reused and new. Here’s a short list of my favorite gifts:

Beyond the shower – Create a meal train for the family to get meal delivered 2-3 times a week for the first month, or after they return to work. This can be the most valuable gift ever!

I’m hoping that my experience will help you plan an eco-friendly shower. The Oregon Environmental Council has a fantastic resource, with an entire Tiny Footprints Baby Shower how-to kit.

Have you hosted an earth-friendly baby shower?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.