Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gifts that Give Twice (and a giveaway)

Giving a gift always leaves that unanswered question - "Did the person like it? Did it mean anything?"

This year, I'd like you to consider a gift that gives twice. 

One such option is the long-standing World Vision Gift Catalog, which offers more than 30 options for handcrafted items from around the world in addition to opportunities to support causes ranging from nutrition and safe drinking water programs, to poverty relief and community development programs.

The catalog includes hand-crafted gifts (which also include a donation to World Vision), including gifts for foodies, jewelry and scarves, and Christmas ornaments.

We had the opportunity to check out the Prosperity Cinnamon gift box, which includes Vietnam's renowned sweet cinnamon, sold to benefit generations of hard working families. I absolutely love the wooden box, adorned with the symbol or prosperity, and have to say it may be the best cinnamon we have tasted.

A great thing about this cinnamon, beside the taste, is that it comes from a renewable resource - the Cassia tree. Logging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices have contributed to soil degradation and deforestation in Vietnam. Other environmental issues include water pollution, overfishing, contaminated potable water supplies, and urbanization.

I invite you to check out the World Vision site for this and other foodie gifts for this holiday season. World Vision is also giving away one Prosperity Cinnamon gift box to one lucky Going Green Mama reader.

You can enter by:

  1. Posting below. What gift from the catalog would you most like to give?
  2. Tweet about the giveaway. Tag @goinggreenmama1.
  3. Pin this giveaway.
  4. Like https://www.facebook.com/worldvisionWorld Vision on Facebook.
  5. Like Going Green Mama on Facebook. 

We will draw one winner on Dec. 14, and we will contact the winner for World Vision to ship it to you.

World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children, families, and communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. It works in nearly 100 countries, including the United States, through interventions such as nutrition and safe drinking water programs, poverty relief and community development programs, disaster assistance, and more.In 2012, 85 percent of World Vision's total operating expenses were used for programs that benefit children, families, and communities in need. Visit them on Facebook or Twitter.

Disclosure: I did receive a sample from World VIsion, and the organization is providing the giveaway.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Santa's not stuffing us with toys

Santa's not stuffing us with toys this year. And I am so excited.

We've really tried to watch our consumption of toys and stuff, and have been doing considerable purging of late. Even this Christmas has been lighter from a "stuff" perspective. We still got the kids three gifts each, but they were smaller, like small Lego sets and photo books of our day at Disney World. It was a relief to have October arrive and not have to sweating Christmas gifts for my kids - or where to put them.

But what about from Santa?

We realize this may be the last year both my children "believe," and we don't want to diminish the joy of stockings on Christmas morning. But again, we didn't want to fill our kids up with candy or lots of trinky toys.

Our solution: Simple. Santa got each child a book for their stocking and a small item to quietly play with Christmas morning (my daughter is getting washi tape; my son a mini Lego set that was free with purpose.) But the "Santa gift" will be the best surprise of all. We found a Living Social deal for a trip to an indoor water park to knock off the winter blahs.

We're excited that this year Mr. Claus is giving the gift of experience. Hopefully it will be lighter on his sleigh, too.

Looking for experiential gifts? Here are some ideas:

 Family Experiences

  • trip to a museum
  • trip to the zoo
  • an afternoon movie
  • tickets to a children’s show at a local theatre or the movies
  • ice skating
  • rollerskating
  • tobaggoning
  • going to a minor league baseball game
  • train ride
  • trip to the beach
  • skiing

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dating the demon Depression

I do not know the day I lost my husband. Was it when he lost his job in the recession? Another more innocuous moment? Was it a gradual erosion of his spirit, or just a moment that sucked him of his soul?

I've been with this man for two decades, but I have been dating someone for about four years. His name is Depression.

I don't know the exact moment Depression crept into our lives. But I know he's taken a larger and larger stronghold on us all. He's robbed us of what should be happy moments, of our sense of peace, our spirituality, our home. I lie awake at night and wonder how much longer my husband has before he is completely lost.

I don't know why Depression moved in. Was it genetic. Was it a chemical imbalance. Was it situational and is my husband stuck in a cycle. But the fact is, Depression is there, and he's not budging.

And we're working to kick him out.

I don't know what happened in that horrible moment a few weeks ago, when my husband broke his silence and admitted to his struggle of the last four years. And the darkness was deeper than I had ever dreamed.

We've been able to see his physician, get him counseling. But our war against Depression is a daily struggle. Some days getting out of bed is a struggle for him.

Yes, my home shows the scars of these last four years. Some day, the repairs will be completed, the clutter and chores overcome. Our bills from the moments when he didn't even process life will be eventually caught up too. One day, he'll be back in school, and we will be proud to call him a college graduate.

I worry though about the toll it takes on my kids. They see mommy's stress. They feel daddy's sadness. They are victims to the resulting chaos and the hectic juggle.

Some day, I'll be able to explain to them about Daddy beating Depression, and I hope they'll understand.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Upcycled desk system for kids

My daughter has struggled her entire life with organization. She gets it honestly, as my coworkers who have seen my desk can attest.

We have tried everything to help her. Planners. The Brownie organization badge. You name it.

Our latest project came courtesy of the school pizza fundraiser. No, it wasn't a prize for selling, either.

You see, each year, we're stuck with the question of what to do with the boxes leftover from the pizzas we buy for our house. And then I got inspired by Pinterest. Somewhere, along the way, we'd seen a project about project drying racks out of pizza boxes. Granted, the post has long since left me, but the idea stayed pinned in my brain.

So this year, I took a stack of pizza boxes left over from storing them in my freezer (I don't put the boxes themselves in due to space.)

I folded in one side and stacked them, then went nuts taping row after row of peace sign, heart and flower duct tape I'd bought at the school supply clearance.

Ten minutes of effort and a few dollars' worth of duct tape later, and my daughter was blessed with a surprise on her desk: A new organizer for all of her random papers.

Now she has plenty of space for her looseleaf notebook paper, her construction paper, and her various works of art in progress!

The best part was SHE was inspired to do something as well. She took a McDonalds Happy Meal Halloween bucket that was otherwise destined for the Goodwill bin and redecorated it with Monster High duct tape for a storage bucket for her rolls of duct tape. She even took a toilet paper roll and made her own pencil holder.

What ways have you creatively reused or upcycled items to organize your home?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Recycled denim pet toys

When November brings you tornado watches and warnings, you tuck into the bathroom and work on your Christmas gifts!

My oldest had wanted to make a gift for her "dog cousin" and a pair of well-worn jeans provided just the opportunity to do so. We had seen this great idea for a fleece rope toy from Parents magazine and had tucked the idea away in our "emergency" binder of ideas.

For a few short minutes, we had a great distraction from the day's storms.

Each side of the leg was cut lengthwise into three strips, which were knotted and braided.

We wound up with simple gifts for four of our closest four-legged friends!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Recycled Jesse Tree Ornaments

I'd been kicking the idea of a Jesse Tree for a few years now, but it usually was in the middle of December, when it was far too late.

Then I got the email yesterday morning: Walking the Seasons had a last-minute need for a Jesse Tree ornament swap, and would I be interested? 

Interested, yes. Time and cash-strapped, most definitely. Add in the fact that I needed to get them in the mail this weekend, and I just eliminated any hope of running to the store for last-second supplies.

The solution? A recycled Jesse Tree ornament that ended up being a whole-family affair.

Here's how we pulled off 28 ornaments in little time, all by using items in our home.

1) We took cardboard boxes we'd yet to recycle and mod-podged scrapbook paper to it for a background.

2) We traced a cup lid for the round ornament shape and cut them out. We free-hand cut tear drops, the shape we were assigned to, and adhered them to the ornament, then covered them all with a layer of Modgpodge to ensure no loose ends.

3) I had  bottle of pearlized coating for stamping that my mother had given me some time ago that I had not used, so we used a small layer on that to add additional shine to our tears.

4) We punched a hole in the top and threaded some leftover ribbon through.

Simple but effective for symbolizing tears of pain and abandonment in the Old Testament.

I'm excited to see how the others turn out and introducing this new tradition into our home!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Patriotic Punch Recipe (kid-friendly)

This was a great Pinterest find that I adapted for our Brownie troop campout. The Camporee had an honoring the military theme, so the Patriotic Punch was a great tie-in with that and the Brownie Snacks badge. The girls absolutely loved doing this activity!

(Note for leaders: Yes, we went sugar-free for our survival!)

Patriotic Punch (per person)
3 oz. 7-up or Sprite
3 oz. fruit punch
3 oz. blue Gatorade
12 oz. clear plastic cup

Fill cup 1/3 full with ice. Pour in fruit punch to the top of the ice.
Add another layer of ice. Pour in blue Gatoriade.
Fill to top with ice. Pour in 7-up.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Brownie Family of God Award Retreat (work plan for leaders)

Family of God Catholic religious award for Brownie Girl Scouts - activity plan for troop leadersOur Brownie troop is working on our Family of God Award this year as part of a tradition for third-graders at our parish. I mentioned some time ago on my blog we were working on the award - and learned since that there are so few resources to help leaders plan how these girls can fulfill their Family of God requirements.

So, for all of you stumped leaders out there: Consider planning a morning retreat with your girls.

I am so glad my co-leader suggested this idea. We were able to allow the girls to meet most of their award requirements, give them some one-on-one time with their parents, and keep them from being annoyed that they were "still" working on this. (We had burnout with a journey experience, and I have heard other leaders say they nearly lost girls from their troop from dragging the award out too long.)

Here's what we did for our retreat:

  • We blocked out a three-hour morning session and announced it early in the year. Girls were to attend with a parent.
  • We jumped around the requirements, switching quiet activities with interactive ones (table or troop discussion,  parent interviews etc.)
  • Our goal for the retreat was to meet several award requirements, plan a community service project and culminate in a girl-led prayer service.

Activities we completed (listed in chapter order, not in order of the day):

  • Chapter 1 (I am special to my family): Make a list of four activities you can do well.
  • Chapter 2 (I am special to God's family): Write your own prayer thanking God for someone special. (These were shared at the prayer service at the end of the retreat.)
  • Chapter 3 (I belong to my family): List the members of your family and list two or three jobs they do in your family. (It is a wonderful eye-opener: even siblings make a difference!).
    Plan a prayer service with family members.
  • Chapter 4 (I belong to God's family): Learn the names of parish staff and others who work in the parish. Why is the priest called father? What do they do to serve the parish?
    Talk to your parent about your baptism and your name. Why was that name chosen or who is your patron saint?
    Write or draw how your parish family of God does things together. What activities are there especially for youth?
  • Chapter 5 (I can help my family): Make a prayer bag with names of each member of your family. Pick a name each day to pray for them or send a special thinking of you note to them.
  • Chapter 6 (I can help God's family): Read John 6:1-15 (loaves and fishes). List ways you can share or draw a picture of what you can do for people to show how you love them.
    What does the word Christian mean? Talk about the special things that make us Christians. Plan a service for your parish. (Our girls voted to earn money for an Angel Tree gift at our church.)
I should add also, that much of this was self-paced. If the girl wrapped up a requirement early, we guided her toward another requirement that could be quietly taken care of. (This is important to consider; we quickly had two girls break out a pack of cards for go fish while they were waiting and had to put a stop to it!)

The prayer service was simple but an awesome experience. One table chose a reading; the other picked a song the girls all knew from church and school. The girls shared their prayers they had written that morning, and my co-leader shared some personal things their family used in their prayer life, including crosses that had been handed down for generations. The best part was that the girls came up and added impromptu prayers at the end, and they were so beautiful!

If you have other ideas for Family of God Award, or have questions, please post! I am happy to share from our experiences!

Please note: You can order the award books online here: http://store.nfcym.org/shop/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=24