Happy Earth Day

22 Apr

 

Today we celebrate Earth Day!
We should think about and take care of our planet every day but this special day turns the spotlight on green issues and allows us to plan events that bring green living to a wider audience.
Speaking of events, I’m very much looking forward to Maplewood’s Green Day coming up this Saturday 27th. I’m helping organize and will be volunteering on the day. It will be fun!

 

 

Picture books for budding feminists

8 Mar

Parenting young children can be tricky for a feminist. There are the gendered clothes and the gendered toys and the gendered cartoons and books let alone all of the influences on parents & extended friends and family about boys being a “handful” and girls being so “caring”. So in honour of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d share some wonderful picture books that we love and that fit with my feminist principles.

What Mommies Do Best/What Daddies Do Best written by Laura Numeroff & illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

This book was passed onto my son from his cousin and I assumed, from the title, that it would be an awful gender-role specific book. How wrong I was! It’s actually two stories, which mirror each other and come together in a center spread. Munsinger’s lovely illustrations show a variety of animal mums & dads doing the exact same things with their children – both parents hold you when you’re feeling sad, or teach you to ride a bicycle, or sew a loose button on your teddy, or watch the sunset, or play ball in the park, or bake a birthday cake. I love the equality of it, how it turns gender roles on their head. Parents do the same things in their own way, sharing the care and love of their young children. Crucially, my preschool boy loves this too! Especially flipping it over to start at the back again.

Kate and the Beanstalk written by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrated by Giselle Potter

We’ve gotten into fairy tales in a big way recently here. We picked up some old copies of Jack & the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood at our local library sale a couple of months ago and my son has really enjoyed them. But they really jarred with my feminist principles. So I was delighted to discover Mary Pope Osborne’s books at our local library.

In her clever retelling of this fairy tale, Kate is intelligent, courageous, resourceful and quick-witted (much nicer to read that a tale about a lazy, stupid boy!). But it stays true to the original tale, in that the same events happen, but adds such richness of detail and language that it’s a more complex story (so far more enjoyable for me to read!) and a wonderful take on the happily-ever-after of fairy tales.

My son loves this book – it’s a frequent request both when we have it checked out and when we’re looking for books in the library. We’re also fans of Sleeping Bobby by the same authors.

Sweet Dreams, Maisy by Lucy Cousins was the first Maisy book we got for our son. It arrived in the Bookstart pack we received when he was a baby and it quickly became part of our bedtime routine. And it still is now, nearly 3 years later (though I did have to replace the original when I accidentally put it through the washing machine!).

And now this beddie Maisy, as my son calls it, has much company in the form of other Maisy books. How we love Maisy Mouse! Maisy is the ideal strong, female role model to expose young children to, without any overt preaching or “issues” to discuss. She simply operates in a world where girls can do anything (admittedly, she also operates in a world where toddler animals can do anything!). She drives buses and trains. She plays dress up with her pals. She drives fire engines and rescues cats. She takes the bus into the city to see friends. And all illustrated in vivid colours by Lucy Cousins. I haven’t yet come across a Maisy book we haven’t enjoyed.

I’d love to hear any recommendations others may have. We’re always on the look out for new reading material!

Muddy boots and signs of spring

2 Mar

Things have been a little busy in real life so I hope to catch up on my blogging soon. Thankfully, we had some nice moments this week to slow down and cut through the mania with some mud and signs of spring.

We’re lucky that our local park has some great puddles to splash about in at the moment:

Boots in puddle

Nothings beats a bit of a splash about. I think my daughter will be glad to get walking so she can join in the fun instead of watching from the sling! Happy wellies are muddy wellies:

Muddy boots

We were on the hunt for signs of spring so were delighted to find some snow drops:

Snowdrops

These delicate little beauties are truly one of my favourite flowers. It always gives me a little thrill to see their graceful heads nodding, reminding me that the days are lengthening and nature is springing back to life.

We also found a lovely bank of crocuses. Another subtle sign that the seasons are turning.

Crocuses

Today we headed off to the Maple Sugar Festival at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham, NJ. It was a tremendous amount of fun. My associations with maple syrup were all with Vermont and the like (basically places I’ve never been!) so it was wonderful to realise that our New Jersey patch also has a fine tradition of maple syrup (I guess I now understand why our town is called Maplewood!).  There were some great nature tables for my son to explore as well as crafts. Here he is sporting the rather dashing mask he made: Mask

We also saw a plant new to me:

Skunk cabbage

I thought it was beautiful, with its scarlet fronds creeping through the swampy leaf litter. My husband recognised it immediately, the striking (but stinky) skunk cabbage. It’s a good reminder that beauty comes in all shapes (and smells!).

Happy dough

22 Feb

Happy dough

This happy face is the result of a lovely afternoon making happy dough. Aka salt dough. My boy thinks that “salt dough” sounds like “sad dough” and he, very sensibly, thinks that happy dough is a far better moniker!

The lovely Rosy Mammy over at Rosy Little Cheeks recently shared the great time she and her big boy had with salt dough. Her description of how much fun her 3 year old had with his diggers in the dough crumbs had me reaching for the flour!

The recipe is beautifully simple:

1/2 cup of salt

1/2 cup of water

1 cup of flour

Mix them altogether and knead into a dough. Then roll out, cut your shapes and zap in the microwave on high for 3 mins and voila, salt dough shapes ready to paint!

Salt dough

The painting was fun.

Painting salt dough

But if my son could type then he’d explain that it was what I did with the trimmings that was the real success here. Sure enough, Rosy Mammy was right – (nearly) 3 year olds can be absorbed for hours with some salt dough crumbs and diggers!

Diggers

The box of crumbs is still being enjoyed 24 hours later. The only downside is that I have to keep the box off the ground so his crawling sister doesn’t get her hands on it (she will attempt to eat anything and this is definitely not for little mouths). Honestly, preparing meals has been much easier as my usual little helper is absorbed in playing with diggers rather than insisting on “helping” me cook!

And here are the finished products.

Finished salt doughThe hearts are for his granddaddy, who had open heart surgery just a few weeks ago and is, happily, healing brilliantly. The happy faces are for me and my boy, momentos of this lovely activity. The rest were an attempt to make tea cups & saucers – I know, they’re not hugely “recognisable” as that but I guess that’s where imagination comes into it!

My boy is all about tea parties at the moment, so I may take this as a hint to make him a “proper” tea set for his birthday next month.

Change the World Wednesday – 6 Ingredient Challenge

20 Feb

It’s that time of week again – a chance to see what Reduce Footprints has suggested as this week’s #CTWW. There’s a definite food theme at the moment, after last week’s Use it Up challenge to reduce food waste, as this week it’s about the 6 Ingredient Challenge that Hobo Mama is hosting.

This is a great idea – a simple but effective way to change our habits and help the planet by only buying food with 6 ingredients or less. The aim is to have more whole foods by cutting down on processed food. This is both good for our health (as it helps avoid hidden salt & sugar) as well as the environment (as less processing means less carbon dioxide produced). It’s also a great way to become a more savvy consumer, as we should all get to grips with reading food labels.

While I had never thought of it in this way, I’ve realised that I already try to do this. For instance, we mostly buy dry beans & pulses as using our magic pressure cooker to gives us that lovely “straight out of a can” taste (honestly, no amount of soaking & boiling ever got our black beans tasting “right” until we discovered the pressure cooker!). Or yogurts, we avoid “diet” yogurts, with their artificial sweeteners, by using organic skimmed yogurt and adding a little stevia or honey if we need it sweetened. I also avoid children’s yogurts and the like, as they’re loaded with sugar and additives (I’m lucky that my kids actually love plain yogurt as they don’t know any different!). We make our own salad dressing using oil and vinegar.

But after checking my kitchen I’ve discovered some foods that I hadn’t really thought about – cereals and bread.

At breakfast we generally all have porridge, but my son also loves Trader Joe’s Os. In fact, he has a bowl of porridge & a bowl of Os and eats them both (yes, we’re in the midst of the fussy food stage so he insists on the two bowls!). I’ve just checked the ingredients of the Os and there’s definitely more than 6 on there. The rest of our breakfast selection seems quite virtuous (rolled oats, wheatgerm, flaxseed, fruit) and our son doesn’t get any added sugar or honey. But it’s a reminder that these Os are processed, despite the cute box with the tasty looking strawberry garnishing a bowl of them and “wholegrain oats” in large font. Realistically, I’m going to leave him to his Os as, honestly, I just like that he eats breakfast without a fuss (which can’t be said at every meal time!). But I will make sure that his nearly 1 year old sister doesn’t get her hands on them. It’s tempting to just give her a handful to scoff while I prepare breakfast but I’ll try and give her fruit instead.

But bread is something I can work on. I just checked and yup, our organic spelt bread contains lots of ingredients including sugar (I find America to be full of very sweet bread – it was kind of a shock when we moved!). I’m lucky that my husband makes great bread. But it’s something I’d love to try. So I’ll try to do my bit for #CTWW by making my own bread this week. Hopefully by declaring my intention on here I’ll have to do it!

Happy Valentines

14 Feb

It’s mid-afternoon on Valentines and the sun is streaming through the window.

I’m lucky enough to be in the middle of a lovely Valentines day.

Breakfast all together, when we got to enjoy the new coffee the kids “treated” us to (see how I got around our “no gifts” Valentines rule this year?). A local Maplewood couple launched a roastery last year – This Town Coffee – so I popped over to pick up some freshly roasted, organic coffee yesterday.

And then lunch all together, rounded off with a sweet treat of specially decorated biscuits.

Valentines cookies - decorated

They were made and decorated with love by some little hands.

Valentines biscuits - little hands helping

The streaky marks on the table are because my nearly 3 year old loves to eat flour. Honestly, he’ll stand there happily eating the flour while helping bake bread or cookies. Strange tastes he has!

Valentiens cookies - little hands cutting

We couldn’t resist cutting some rocket biscuits too, since flying to the moon in a rocket is one of his favourite games to play at the moment!

Valentines cookies - baking

It was a tasty way to celebrate all together. The older I get the more I think the way to my heart is definitely through my stomach!

Change the World Wednesday – use it up!

13 Feb

In January, myself and LowImpactPapa had a serious look at our food shopping habits. We had had an expensive few months with the move from London and Christmas and were looking at ways to tighten our belt financially. Grocery bills were an obvious area to examine (along with abstaining from eating out for the whole of January and turning our thermostat down a couple of degrees!). We were on a mission to reduce our grocery bill, reduce our waste and eat healthily. So we started meal planning and trying to find some new, simple recipes to approach our usual ingredients in new ways.

And it worked! We’ve significantly cut our grocery bills, we’ve cut our food waste by being more mindful in our eating, we’ve each lost about 9 lbs and we’ve got some new recipes that we are enjoying. Plus the kids are enjoying the new takes on familiar ingredients!

But food waste is a huge issue for the world. The NRDC released a report last year about this  called “Wasted: How America is Losing up to 40% of its food from Farm to Fork”. (see here for more information including a pdf of the report). Here’s a quote from the summary:

Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste where it accounts for a large portion of U.S. methane emissions. Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables. Increasing the efficiency of our food system is a triple- bottom-line solution that requires collaborative efforts by businesses, governments and consumers. The U.S. government should conduct a comprehensive study of losses in our food system and set national goals for waste reduction; businesses should seize opportunities to streamline their own operations, reduce food losses and save money; and consumers can waste less food by shopping wisely, knowing when food goes bad, buying produce that is perfectly edible even if it’s less cosmetically attractive, cooking only the amount of food they need, and eating their leftovers[emphasis in bold added my me]

So this week’s Change the World Wednesday (#CTWW) over at Reduce Footprints really chimes with the current food philosophy here at Chez Lowimpactparenting. This week’s challenge comes via Mrs Green’s Half Term Challenge over at My Zero Waste. It’s about taking stock of what’s in our fridge, planning some meals around it and enjoying them, knowing that we’re saving money and protecting resources. It’s sounds like what we’re trying to do anyway, so how could I not join in :). But seriously, we were away visiting the in-laws at the weekend, so we’ve been a bit more lax this week than usual as we didn’t have the time to meal plan as thoroughly as usual so this challenge is helping me to refocus on this.

I hadn’t realised quite how many different leftovers we had lurking until doing this. We have some leftover pizza sauce, some leftover rice, some leftover egg whites (from Pancake Tuesday last night!) as well as some homemade black beans. So for lunch today I think I’ll do some bean quesadillas with rice & beans on the side.

Vegetables-wise, we have some courgettes & leeks that I bought last week so should really use up. So I think it’ll be homemade courgette & leek pesto for dinner tonight (which conveniently gets some veg into my nearly 3 year old who’s going through a fussy food stage…though he’ll eat pesto til the cows come home!).

In the fruit bowl, we have some bananas that are on the turn, quite a few grapefruits and some pears, including one that’s half cut already. Luckily, neither of my kids turn their noses up at brown bananas though sometimes we’ll mash them up and serve them on toast if they’re just too mushy to eat from the skin. So afternoon snack will  be bananas and pear and a grapefruit (my 10 month old loves her citrus fruit so I’ll share it with her as the boy only likes grapefruit in juice form!).

Though I’m hoping to get some messy play aka baking in this afternoon too (since Valentine’s Day tomorrow is the perfect excuse for some heart-shaped baked goods!) so afternoon snack may well end up being derailed by that…

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