5 Vegan Game Changing Products

So I know its been a WHILE since I last posted on Artistically Organic. Summer for me tends to be a little crazy. Its when the place we live comes alive with tourists. We have to make the best of this time before it ends and we go back to a ghost town.

I have been experimenting like crazy with recipes and new vegan products that let us kindof be like “everyone else” or as some would say “normal people. For those of you interested the recipe book I am writing “Back to Plants” is still in the works. I plan on having news of an official release very soon. I just wanted to make sure my recipes were polished. I wanted to ensure that they would not only help you stay healthy and fit but be delicious and hard to believe acceptable as healthy choices.

Even being vegan myself I have noticed my own weight fluctuating a little lately. Things feel a little tighter and don’t fit the way they always have. Summer time is where I kind of let loose and eat whatever I feel like, I have strayed away from eating the greens and fruits I should be relying on to keep my body healthy and in check. I know many people who are focused on getting their bodies to a healthy goal weight that they have in mind, or maybe preparing for a wedding, event or something coming up. So I want to stress that these products I am listing here are not something we eat all the time. We mostly rely on plant based meals with little additives. However sometimes you need something you are craving and there are some amazing products you can use to achieve that without meats or dairy products. I am going to list several products that are vegan and what I use them for.

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1.) Daiya Vegan Ranch: So before I was a vegan I LOVED ranch on my pizza, ranch with cucumber slices and ranch on many other things. I readily gave it up when I chose this lifestyle and never thought I would enjoy it again. Well, let me tell you, this stuff is amazing. I dip my cucumbers in a little of this and drizzle a little on my vegan pizza (from whole foods) and it is heaven. This feels like such a spoil to a vegan who has given up hope on enjoying ranch delights. They also have two other dressings, blue cheese and caesar which I have not tried but if you are looking for those options then I would give it a shot!

2.) Veganaise or Vegan Spread: Who doesn’t love a fresh coleslaw or potato salad especially during the summer time. Well when you are vegan its rare you get to enjoy such delights. Vegan mayonnaise has created so many possibilities! Fresh vegan coleslaw, pasta salads, potato salad, add a little nutritional yeast to warm pasta and a vegan mac’n cheese is what you will get! If you are having a get together and want to make one of those awesome salads or just want to enjoy it yourself give these options a try!

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3.) Kite Hill Vegan Yogurt: You could call yogurt a staple for not only breakfast foods but lunches as well. Its a wonderful source of helpful bacteria, its delicious and refreshing, and now vegans can enjoy it too! As a vegan family I get so excited knowing I can serve my son a cup of vegan almond milk yogurt from Kite Hill with blueberries and chia seeds added. If you love yogurt but are dairy free or vegan then definitely give this product a try!

4.) Light Life Veggie Dogs & Light Life Vegan Ground Meat: This company has done it right. Veggie dogs that satisfy that summer hot dog on the grill craving and meatless ground meat substitute that makes killer tacos, chili and burritos. If you have a hankering for something that calls for a ground meat of some kind or a veggie dog that even meat eaters could enjoy, then check out the Light Life section of your grocery store.

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5.) Califa Farms Vegan Cold Brewed & Regular Iced Coffee Selections: Okay lets talk about coffee. Coffee can be complicated when you are non dairy or vegan, finding the right cream replacement, the right combination. Califa Farms has done something incredible. Much like the pre-made starbucks iced coffees you can buy on the go to satisfy that caffeine boost you need, they have made exactly that, with almond milk. These coffee selections are deliciously creamy, exciting, and cruelty free. Furthermore, they have very clear recycling directions on the bottles to encourage less waste than other products. We tried these on a long road trip and I was so excited about them. They even make these iced coffees in large bottles you can keep in your fridge and use through a whole week to grab pre-made coffee on the go quickly. Thank goodness for companies like Califa Farms for making products like this to make life convenient for even us non dairy folk.

So I hope this list is helpful to those of you who are looking for substitutions for certain things in your diet. I work hard to pair these products with a substantial amount of healthy fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh salads and plenty of water. These products are not really intended to be eaten alone but to accompany and accent other amazing healthy foods for well rounded meals not very different from those meals you may have enjoyed previous to giving up meats or dairy products. I think these items are a great tool to use when making a slow transition into veganism or just a healthier diet in general. None of us want to deprive ourselves of the foods we love so just finding better options that are just as delicious and maybe a little lighter on our bodies is a great idea. Please let me know what you think about these products and other suggestions you might have! So excited to share more with you all soon!

Why A Meat Lover Went Veggie…

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This post is for the meat eaters, I understand you and I want to make a connection that is not often made with these two sides. I loved meat, all my life, up until I made big changes in my lifestyle. I don’t attempt to force or persuade anyone to change what they are doing, they have to make that choice for themselves. However, I think its worth a discussion. I was that person who made fun of vegans, I proudly stated that the way they lived was unhealthy and un-necessary. I had no information that backed up my view I just said it. I am certain I posted things and said things about vegans that were very hurtful and harsh. I feel badly about that especially since I am now in the position of the people I made fun of. I now know that people who are vegan and vegetarian most of the time are only trying to do the best they can for themselves, their families and their environment.

So why? Why would I change my opinion on something so crucial? What made me think that what I had always been taught and believed to be true was suddenly wrong? The answer to this question is… I was searching myself because of my own motivation and found the true facts. I can tell you even to this day I am as surprised as you are that I am vegan, but I’m never going back.

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So it all started when I was reunited with the love of my life. Things change when you are a couple, you start eating together, merging your lives together and in turn making life decisions together. We had tried going “vegetarian” once before, but we didn’t do it properly and ended up always been tired, exhausted and hungry. We mostly ate what we liked to call “lettuce wraps” which you can imagine were not filled with any sort of nutrients and did not keep our bodies satisfied. We went from a full meat dairy diet to cutting several of those things immediately. Knowing what i know now, our bodies were freaking out. I can see why it didn’t work then. So maybe about two months in, we quit. That little false representation of vegetarian lifestyle convinced us “we just needed meat.” However we did decide that we needed more real fruits & veggies in our diet. So we started just slowly incorporating more plant foods into our meals. I truly believe this was the spark that ignited the transition that took several years to complete, but was the right way to do things.

So after telling our friends and family that we tried being vegetarian but it “simply was not practical” and “did not work for us”, we set back on a more “regular” diet as we knew it. We did eat meat again, but we were more selective. We choose our meat carefully and we paired it with salads and veggie dishes. Slowly but surely we began to really enjoy some of our vegetable sides, we got more creative and better at cooking.

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Little by little we began to learn more about food in general. We learned what health benefits came from which foods, we tried new recipes. We watched documentaries and read books about different effects of certain lifestyles. The more we learned, the more concern we began to have about the way we were eating. This led to realizations that we really needed to change the way we lived more drastically, if we were going to protect our health in the future. Many of our family members were shocked to hear we were considering going vegetarian again because they knew how it did not work for us in the past and they thought this was just another phase we would be in and out of quickly.

A key moment in our lifestyle transition was when a close family member developed cancer and began treatment. Seeing that person go through what they did. Seeing what it did to our entire family, learning what they went through to attempt fighting the disease. Eventually saying goodbye loosing them to the fight. We wanted to know where this disease came from, what fueled it and what seemed to stop it. Many books and studies on experimental treatments with organic and raw vegan diets seemed to suggest that diet could have a strong effect in the growth or deterioration of the cancer cells that can take over your body. This information linked plants to possibly stopping or preventing cancer cell duplication and processed foods, meats and dairy contributing or fueling the disease. More and more we began to dive deep into information and research.

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The trick was, how do you know that something you read or learn is right and what exactly to change? We checked and double checked all the information we could find on healthy living and the relations or links to disease. Of course there were doubts. However, from all the information we went through there did not seem to be any negative effects from incorporating more plants into your diet so we started there. We learned about studies that showed organic food being far less toxic without those pesticides and chemicals all over them. So we started shopping organic, we bought at local farmers markets as much as possible.

It was then that we really discovered the facts about meat and dairy that we had never seen before. We learned that in a Harvard study, cutting out red meats and processed meats (hot dogs, sausages, cold cuts) lowered risk of death by 20%. That was ONLY cutting out red meat. This information floored us and we decided to make some changes. We cut red meat out right away. Little by little we began focusing on plant based meals and avoiding red meat and as much meat products as we could. Then we learned more about dairy, about how the animals are treated with harsh antibiotics and they end up in the milk, how puss and other substances end up in milk and we ingest it. We learned about the biology of our bodies and why many humans have digestive problems as a result of these substances. We were thoroughly disgusted and this was all before the ethical information came to us about the treatment of animals who produce milk. The forced insemination and taking baby cow calves away from their mothers the moment they are born. It was heartbreaking and we could not stomach being part of this industry any more for the sake of our own health, our future family and environment.

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We sought out all of this information ourselves so I know my explanation in this blog post will not change the minds of others who are meat and dairy lovers. It was really hard to learn this was the way things were. It was really hard, at first, to give up things we thought we really liked. However there was light at the end of this transition and I truly believe the reason we completed it and feel so great about it, is because we saw the potential. The true reason for the transformation in our lifestyle was health. If we could lower a risk of death by disease by 20% by just cutting red meat, what else could we do? If the only thing standing in our way was making vegetarian and vegan food replacements as delicious as the meals we had come to love, then that was a challenge we would gladly accept. The more we cut out the questionable things and replaced them with quality healthy produce, the better we felt. The proof was in the results. We scoured the internet for amazing vegan and vegetarian takes on “traditional meals.” Some we liked and others we didn’t, we even made some of our own and they are now staples in our home. We prefer our vegan nachos or tacos recipes to going out any night!

We are not doctors obviously, I am finishing a certification on nutrition and health, but I do not have a masters degree. I only know what I have read and heard and seen, and of course how I now feel having changed my entire lifestyle. What all this information is telling me, is that we are meant to eat plants. The science and the facts show that we need plants for optimal survival. Eating more plants and becoming vegan, I have eradicated any trace of my asthma I suffered from as a child, I can concentrate better, sleep better, have more energy and remember more accurately. We feel amazing and we only started feeling this way when we found the perfect balance and truly started giving our bodies what they needed to thrive.

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It is so easy to look at vegans and vegetarians and poke holes in their lifestyle because many of them truly, are doing it wrong and depriving their bodies of what they need. They are not eating enough, they are still counting calories and depriving themselves of essential nutrients. The facts are clear you do need to eat more when you have this lifestyle, but focusing on the right things. This lifestyle is not taught when you grow up, its not explained and sometimes its unclear how to do it right. We are not “meatless product” vegans, we do not live on processed foods and vegetarian products. A yummy veggie burger is fine once in a while but its real food from the earth, grown on trees, bushes, in the ground, on vines that is going to sustain true health and that is what we live by.

Until we made sure we were eating enough, plenty of fruits and veggies, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, we did not feel the best we could. Getting good sources of proteins, (beans, avocado, tofu & tempeh, nuts) and healthy carbs (rices, grains, oats) and all the nutrients the human body needs (iron, vitamin c, vitamin K, calcium, and more) is essential to satisfying your body. It is totally possible to do this as a vegan, meats and dairy are not essential to health. Those products may even inhibit your body from being as healthy as it can be.

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Again we know we will not change the minds of others, but if you are curious or asking yourself why vegans and vegetarians are always talking about food and it seems like they are always trying to convince you that this is the way to go, its not because they think they are superior, despite what many people say. The reason they want to share so much is because they care about you, your health, and the environment too. It takes dedication to your health, your family’s health, and the environment to make these changes and live this way. We have a great deal of difficulty going out to dinner because everything is covered in dairy or served on meat. Believe me, we wish it was not so hard, but we do it because its the right thing for us. Not everyone is ready, not everyone will be able to do this now, or as soon as we did, it takes time. We only share because we believe with proper information people can make changes for the better. Its true just like Maya Angelou said “I did then what I knew how to do, Now that I know better, I do better.”

The world is slowly waking up to the reality of food, the harsh realities of the meat and dairy industries. People are choosing organic, they are choosing sustainable they are choosing life and color in their food. I encourage you to choose for yourself, to discover and find out what is in the foods you are eating. I know there is a chance I could be wrong about many of the things I believe about food. However, when I think about it, adding more fruits and veggies into peoples meals everywhere really can’t hurt right? So if you don’t want to give up meat, then don’t! If you want to keep your glass of milk then do so! You can still make changes without giving things up day one. Maybe choose some organic milk next time you are at the store, or buy a smaller carton. Maybe be mindful about drinking more water. You could choose more responsibly raised meats, learn about grass fed, cage free, antibiotic and hormone free. Maybe visit your local farm and see what they have to offer? Then you are not giving up something you really like but instead fueling your local economy. Just making these small changes and adding more fresh foods into our diets can make a great deal difference. I hope this article does not offend you but helps you, I hope its relate-able. I truly only wish to give information to those searching for it like I once was and I only wish to help those who want the help I offer.

Natural Baby-Parenting Hacks THAT WORK!

Recently I had a conversation with my best friend, her baby is about a year younger than mine and she was asking me some questions about remedies and different tips and tricks surrounding teething, I realized I had lots of cool tricks (for multiple situations) I had done in my sons two years of life that really worked! She told me I should put these into a post so here it is! Courtesy of my best friend ❤

Screenshot 2018-02-22 at 6.16.34 PM1.) Frozen Breast Milk Teether:

This one I am sure many of you parents have seen. Babies love to gnaw and chew especially on COLD THINGS. So when teething began but my son was still mostly on breastmilk I was unsure what to give him at first. I had a great stash of frozen breast milk in the freezer so one night when he was particularly uncomfortable I broke off a piece and rinsed it a bit to soften any harsh edges and stuck it in the mesh teethers we had and voila! We got our teethers from our baby shower but I have seen them at ToysRus, Target, Amazon etc! He was so happy!! I also did this same thing later on with frozen fruits!

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Just like above we always need clever exciting and new tricks when those teeth are cutting through. I tried making these little baby popsicles for my son to gnaw on when his gums got sore. I tried breastmilk pops which he loved and also fruit pops with real frozen fruit I blended and poured into the molds (no added anything just the fruit was fine) and he LOVED them!! Warning!! They are VERY messy but worth it for when those little babes are in pain 😦 Molds like these are easy to find at your favorite places to shop for baby.

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3.) Baby Smoothies:

Depending on how your little one is doing with foods and how soon, this could be an awesome way to get some fruits and veggies into your little one start building up that healthy gut and help them develop a taste for the healthy stuff! I started doing this around 8 months. It was really time consuming for my little guy to be spoon fed puree and he made a huge mess eating little finger bite sized foods. Sometimes when I was trying to get something done around the house I would make him a quick smoothie, lay him down propped in his bobby pillow in his playpen with some of his baby music playing. I only did this once he was able to sit up comfortably and I knew it was safe for him. I would sit and fold some laundry next to him or get some computer work done right there all the while to make sure he did not choke or was in any danger. Anyways, some of the common foods I used in the smoothies were bananas, berries, mango, pineapple, kiwi, spinach, I would mix some of these in the blender with a little almond milk. Once he was a little older I would add oats, chia seeds, maybe some peanutbutter or almond butter. He loves these smoothies even still now! When I first started I cut the nipple of a bottle we barely used in an X on he top so he could suck out the smoothie with ease and it worked perfectly!! These were a go to on hot summer days and so so easy!

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4.) Tummy Time Happiness:

We all know that when our little ones are teeny tiny, and we are trying to do “tummy time” it sometimes isn’t always happy. I learned some tricks along the way that made tummy time more enjoyable and helped my little guy get stronger and stronger. First thing I did was to make sure that in the very beginning I used some sort of support, like a boppy pillow or a blanket for support. Then I would use something baby found interesting like a colorful bright book or toy to keep baby’s interest. This worked incredibly to prevent tummy time from being boring or uncomfortable.

 

5.) Baby Safe Splash Pool:

On those  hot summer days we will do anything to help baby cool off and have some fun too! Sometimes they are a little small to be in the pool to cool off so what is the alternative? Filling a small container or bucket with water or even several buckets can be an exciting and mesmerizing experience for baby. I laid a blanket out on the deck and threw some fun toys into the water, endless entertainment! This activity is intended to be for babies who are sitting up well on their own and grasping toys.

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6.) Wear Baby To Nap Time:

Sleep regressions, teething, fevers, gas, growing pains you name it there are so many reasons babies wont sleep. We as parents can be pulling our hair out trying to get baby down for just an hour nap so that we can try to get something done or even just sit down! When my little one wouldn’t settle down and I knew we were in a little phase of something, eventually I learned some tricks. Aside from the usual, nurse, swing, swaddle etc… There was another trick that worked really well. I used to wear that baby to sleep. I would wrap him up in the baby carrier and do whatever I had to do, clean, take a walk, fold laundry, all kinds of things all the while waiting for him to drift off to dreamland. Most of the time this trick worked like a charm. Because babies want to be near their momma so much when they aren’t feeling right, this was so easy. He was happy to be close with me and I got a great workout in while doing regular chores and getting things done. Once he dozed off I would gently remove the wrap and place him in his bed for a much needed nap.

 

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I hope that this short list of easy and effective parenting hacks helps you in some way! I will certainly have more as time goes on and I will definitely be sharing as my little one gets older things always change and new healthy but helpful ideas are always needed!! Good luck!

-Alexa-

Home-Preschool | Where do I start!?

We all want to put together those “easy” Pinterest activities that are going to accelerate our childs’ learning right? Lets be honest, its not as easy as it looks and sometimes activities don’t always go as planned. Some of the most attractive things I have seen on Pinterest have turned into “Pinterest Fails” for me. So since my son has now turned two and his little mind is full of possibility and wonder, I thought it was about time I start adding some structure to our days and track the activities he can do successfully and some that we maybe should work on.

Our days were already filled with fun activities, reading books, being outside as much as possible. I just felt like I needed a way to measure progress and make sure I was working on the right things. So I took to the internet to see what other moms are doing at home with their preschoolers. I found everything from “unschooling” articles saying to do absolutely nothing… to moms that have their toddlers memorizing facts at two years old! I needed a middle ground. I felt overwhelmed.

I was not ready to have my toddler memorizing facts that he was not able to understand, but I did want to add something to our activities to help track how he was progressing. Here are a few things I did and would recommend to other parents looking to start a light regiment of activities that will enhance your child’s early learning experience.

1.) Use what you have: 

So the simplest thing for a parent trying to start some learning activities with their preschooler, is to use what you already have at home. Colored blocks, musical instruments, legos, puzzles, other toys can be really useful with different learning activities.

One of our favorite activities we can do with our colored mega blocks is a color sorting activity. I spread blocks of many different colors on the floor and on our coffee table I place several different colored pieces of construction paper. I instruct my two year old to grab the blocks and place them on the matching color papers. He loves this activity and as we place the blocks we also say the colors aloud. There are countless activities you can do with different colored toys and things your child may already have. By getting creative and using toys and common objects you are easily showing your child that they can learn from their every day environment.

2.) Let your child lead the way on their own learning journey:

The one thing I have learned (especially being the mother of an active spirited toddler) is that he will show me what he really wants to learn and where his limits are. When trying to have a child sit down and focus on one activity, there are some things you should keep in mind. First, disinterest in sitting still and working for a toddler is not at all abnormal or a sign that your child is behind in any way. In fact this is often a sign that your child is very active and creative, maybe an “out of the box” thinker. Sometimes accommodating your activities to where your toddler wants to be works really well! You want to learn on the floor? Or on the couch? You can make many scenarios work for your child so they can learn without feeling like they are being forced to sit down and be quiet. Sometimes we will go outside and observe nature, run around and then come in and see if sitting down and doing some preschool work book is something that he wants to do! The more I let him lead and show me where he is at, the more we are able to accomplish these activities. Now, when we have had some active outdoor time, when we have had a snack and all his needs are taken care of, he will sit for a really great amount of time and work on an activity un-interrupted. It has taken time to get there but we are really making great progress.

3.) Try new things but don’t feel like you have to spend lots of money:

So, naturally there are ENDLESS options when it comes to schooling materials. How do you know which ones are good and which are excessive? No one wants to spend hundreds of dollars on supplies especially if its unclear whether they will work for your child. The way I like to deal with this issue is by research and some trial and error. I read articles on preschool homeschooling and see what other parents are using. If there is one product that many parents recommend then I might give it a try if its reasonably priced. A good example of this is the Preschool wipe away books. I kept hearing about these and seeing posts about how amazing they were. I finally spotted them at Target for a great price so I bought two (there were so many different books with different topics.) We tried them and my son LOVES THEM so we will be buying more as he progresses through his learning. Also when I was at Target, I found these AWESOME sticker books that were $1 each! They have a variety of different subjects from, first words, farm animals, vehicles and more! There are places with missing images and you go find the stickers and place them where they belong. They are so great and my son absolutely loves them! After you are done with the sticker activity the books are still a useful learning tool for many different activities. I bought a bunch of these because I know we will be using them consistently! Some other small things I purchased are flash card sets, and some safety toddler scissors. With these items I probably spent around $25 and this group of materials can help us do a large amount of activities that will facilitate learning and play!

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4.) Look in unexpected places for homeschooling inspiration and materials!

I have learned that sometimes when thinking of activities to do with your little one, using the internet but also looking in unexpected places can reveal amazing ideas you might not have previously seen. First of all, Pinterest is an amazing resource for learning tools activities and ideas. That might be a more obvious place but I had no idea Etsy was full of resources for homeschooling! With all my searching I wasn’t completely happy with what was out there for my child. I decided to develop my own line of homeschooling worksheets. I have them all available on Artistically Organic’s Etsy page and I am constantly updating them with new lesson sheets and downloads. These files are all instant download and can be printed again and again to work with your child on different activities.

I wanted to make my worksheets more realistic with real photography so your child will be able to identify the objects they are learning about in the real world. I also wanted my worksheets to be friendly for vegan families and with an eco friendly twist. Many of my worksheets will feature earth friendly lessons and lots of healthy foods! Visit Artistically Organic on Etsy to see our homeschooling section and find downloads priced as low as ninety nine cents!

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5.) Use or make a visual learning board for your toddler!

When starting a routine for home-preschooling, its important to be in some sort of a routine and start establishing activities and timing your little one can rely on. I found that the best way to do this was to have a visual board that I could show my toddler the date, the weather, what we were going to do that day. I made my own board but you can certainly buy these and save the time. I used a posted frame with a plastic panel instead of glass and a simple piece of plain wrapping paper inside. I also used adhesive velcro and packing tape or a laminator. I found some images online of different things that could symbolize different activities. I printed and laminated a picture of our vehicle so that I could let my toddler know when we would be going out. I printed objects for meals, simple hygiene routines and other activities. Once these images were laminated and I placed velcro on them I could easily show my little one how to use the board and now every morning we start the day by changing the date and weather, adding what we will be doing that day. Its a great way to communicate and plan the day.

Well I really hope this article helps some parents beginning their home-preschool journey. I really want to pass on any information and tricks I have learned as we begin our journey. I will be posting again once we are further in our lessons and explain the progress we have made, what has worked and what hasn’t. If you are a pre-schooling parent what do you do to help your little one grow and learn? I would love to hear from other parents! Until next time! 🙂

I tried Thred Up, this is what happened…

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So… I really try to make the best, eco friendly, organic decisions that I possibly can. You know those funny videos that mock moms for packing the eco friendly packaged, vegan, organic snacks? I am that mom. I don’t really care about the jokes people make, what people think. I stand by what I do and I truly believe I am doing the best I can to reduce my family’s carbon footprint, make smart educated decisions and live a happy healthy life.

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When it came to clothes however, I have to admit I was a bit of a snob. I have hated the fact that the places I like to shop at for my son are not great for the environment or as cost effective as I would like. The stores I shop at dont sell clothes with organic cotton or eco friendly packaging. What can you do? Those boutiques are expensive and with a rambunctious little boy who likes to be in the dirt and lay on the floor, a good size wardrobe with durable clothing is necessary!! All of this and at a great price, not too much to ask right?? Before my son was born he had a larger wardrobe than I did. We didn’t have hardly anything used aside from a few hand-me-downs from a close friend. I didn’t know of a place where I could get high quality second hand clothes that didn’t smell thrifty and look ratty. It kind of freaked me out.

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This has all changed now. First of all I heard of Thred up on a Facebook ad. Usually I ignore these ads but I saw a cool video advertisement and thought wow that’s kind of cool! I was always looking for places to bring my clothes that I had gotten sick of or weren’t in style anymore and once I had my son, clothes that didn’t fit any longer! This site made it look incredibly easy, which for a busy working mom, seemed PERFECT!

So I gave it a try and sent in a nice big bag! To start, I have to be honest many of the things I sent in, were not really the quality for resale but I wanted to see what happened and I didn’t really care what they did with the items they didn’t accept. I sent in a combination of women’s clothes and baby clothes. Some items were definitely not in season, some items were missing the bottoms to a set or the top. So I was not surprised when my total for the bad of probably 35 items was about $10. I had wished I could get a little more but I had no idea how far $10 could go on Thred Up!

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So when it came time for me to spend that $10 I was so excited! As I started looking through the toddler boy clothes I was ASTOUNDED seeing gorgeous khaki pants from reputable children’s clothing companies for $2.99, $4.99 and $5.99!! I saw nice dress pants for a fraction of what they usually cost!! I saw amazing companies like Crew Kids, Tea, Gap and more, I just kept adding to my cart! After shopping I had a ton of clothes in my cart. Luckily there was a coupon on the site and I used my $10 credit too!

My total for about 12 items was about $28!!! I was stunned! My only concern was that I would get these items in the mail and they would be so clearly worn, used and not what I wanted. I could not have been more wrong! When my packages came in the mail, I got them in three disbursements, two in envelopes and one in a box. The reason for this is that some of the items were coming from different warehouse locations. The clothes were neatly folded and wrapped in tissue paper with a Thred Up sticker, they smelled nice and clean and absolutely no sign of heavy use wear or tear. I was so so happy and excited!

Needless to say, I will be sending more clothes in and shopping there more as well!! With kids, there are always stains, accidents, messy crafts and more. It feels so good to order clothes that are cute and look good but given new life after being used and then re-bought and used again! I honestly feel like every mom at-least even if she doesn’t want to shop here for herself should try it for her kids. This is an amazing company and these clothes are clean and in great shape!! I don’t worry as much if my son stains a shirt if it cost me $4 on Thred Up!! I definitely love to dress my son up for special occasions and this site has awesome items for those special moments! My son wore some khakis from Thred Up on his birthday!! Definitely try this site because you won’t be disappointed!!

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Eco-Friendly Birthday Party on a Budget | 5 Easy Tips to Follow

Birthday parties, they are so fun, so meaningful, but also… so wasteful. From paper plates, plastic cups to disposable cutlery sets, there is a lot of waste. So what can we do? No one wants to wash dishes for a large party, is there a way to throw a birthday cookout on a budget and still have everything looking classy?

Well you guessed it!! THAT is exactly my mission with my sons second birthday!! So we have decided on a TinkerBell and Peter Pan theme. He loves the TinkerBell movies and Peter Pan is such a timeless and classic theme. The first thing I did, the first place I started was with the disposable plates, cups and cutlery.

Eco Friendly Supplies:

I scoured Amazon for eco-friendly, biodegradable materials. I found a set of plates for under $6 for 50 plates! They are wheat straw fiber plates and they are completely biodegradable, earth friendly and natural. I then moved on to plastic cups, I found completely compostable plant based plastic cups that are sturdy. The set of 50 cups was $6.69 Lastly, I chose a wooden disposable cutlery set with 100 forks, 100 knives, and 50 spoons. This set being only $9.99 it was frugal and economical.

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Don’t buy certain materials:

So there are certain things I won’t use and wont buy for birthdays. Mostly these items are really terrible for the environment when discarded. First one is balloons, I will not buy balloons anymore for parties. If the balloons are let go into the atmosphere and then popped and back into the earth as trash they are very damaging to animals and our environment. I just do not see them being worth it for the damage they cause. Another item I will no longer buy is confetti or glitter. In the past I was all about the glitter and sparkly confetti for parties but after learning how damaging these microscopic pieces of plastic are, they have made it on to the “no buy” list. If I do purchase glitter I will look for something made from plants, something eco-friendly and biodegradable. A great example is the image below, biodegradable star confetti. Just making better choices can lead to unique and original decorations and also better results for our earth too!

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Reduce Reuse Recycle:

Another thing I do very often for parties is I reuse things I already have at home. I am a big crafter so chances are I have things I can fashion into any theme around my home. I have fabric, notions, twinkle lights, paint, markers, printing paper, all kinds of craft paper and much more!! I do not buy anything that I might already have or that I can make myself. For Augustus’ birthday this year I made my own Tinker Bell stickers using this print and stick paper I got FREE at a yard sale!! This was one of the coolest things I did, I really enjoyed the way it came out when I was done. I used some of these stickers to press on mason jars (recycled from jars of sauce or salsa) that I filled with mini light sets and tulle. The rest of the stickers I bought will be stuck on a fairy forest backdrop I bought on Amazon for $13. This will create a scene with the characters from the theme we are using and be a fun backdrop for photos! Being a photographer I know I will use this backdrop later! I can’t wait to see how these things come together this weekend!

Skip the cheap breakable favors:

We all know the items I am talking about, those cheap sets for like $10 with 50 party favors and decorations. Whistles, plastic rings, Stamps, keychains… does anyone even keep these items after the party? If your child received these items at a party would you be ready and excited to dispose of them once the novelty was over? Getting nice party favors can be expensive sometimes, creating decor that’s classy and nice looking without being wasteful and excessive can be a challenge too. I decided to skip the cheap crap for our goodie bags and have the kids who attend create something themselves that they can keep and that parents wont be totally disgusted by! I bought a bunch of mini wooden chests for the kids to decorate, they were only $1 each!! I already have tons of materials for them to use to decorate so that part was easy! I also threw some other cute items in the bag that are useful and fun. So once they finish their chest and it dries they can take it home in their Tinker Bell goodie bag! I think this is going to be really fun!

For decor, get creative think outside of the box:

So aside from my awesome DIY stickers and the backdrop I ordered, I have a few other ideas up my sleeve to add to the fun atmosphere. I took some wooden frames ($1 at michaels) and printed out some cool Peter Pan art from online and framed them. What a cute thing and its going to really make the decorations even better! I also printed out a sketched map of “Neverland” and framed that as well. These are simple ideas and easy to incorporate into your decorating skills. I then used some scrapbooking stickers to write “Peter Pan” on one frame and “You can fly!” on another. These frames can also be painted, you can use stickers there are endless possibilities but I kept it simple because the natural wood look goes really well with my theme!

I also used felt. Felt is really inexpensive and I made flowers, leaves and a leafy garland for the party. I think this is going to add a lot of color and fun!

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So, I shared most of my ideas I am using for the upcoming birthday party this Saturday! Its really possible and even easy to have a tight budget and still make really amazing original decorations! Just having a little creativity using ideas from Pinterest you can really impress your guests! What do you do for birthday parties? Do you make your own decorations? I would love to hear more about what other people are doing to create awesome creative DIY party decor! Stay tuned for a post with pictures from the party and details about how it went!!! Cant wait to share!

Lets get messy | The importance of doing something fun this holiday season with your family

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Lets just face it, when you have small kids everything is messy. From eating yogurt, to drinking water, somehow some way it always ends up everywhere. I think there comes a time in every new mothers life where she goes…. okay, I am over it, you are messy and that is okay. It took a while for me. I am one of those parents, I was always wiping my sons chin when he was a baby, no drool no spit up no nothing on my spotless baby. However now having a toddler I have quickly learned to embrace the mess.

Its harder than it sounds. The other day my son was coloring with markers and thoroughly enjoying himself but also getting marker just completely all over his little hands. My inner self was cringing a little, wanting to wipe it but I took a deep breath and reminded myself that it was simply washable marker and that when he was done it would come right off. He had such a nice time and was so proud of his creation afterwards.

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To celebrate the holiday season this year I really wanted to find a sugar cookie recipe that was vegan. This seemed like a task but strolling through whole foods one day I found a mix that was dairy free, and cruelty free. How exciting, when I read the ingredients I recognized most all of them and was so happy to know something like this existed. I found a vegan frosting tub as well, this was seriously awesome. Some of my fondest childhood memories around the holidays or even just in the winter time, were baking with my dad. He loved to show me how to bake. We used to make brownies, cookies, all kinds of things and I was always so proud tasting our creations when we were finished baking.

I could already see it, my little family baking and decorating cookies together. So I have had this mix in the cabinet for at least a week now and something made me wonder why I hadn’t pulled it out yet. Its been feeling stressful in our home since we are going through a lot of transition. We notice it in our little guy, he is heading into that toddler, two year old phase where things are a little more challenging. He is just asserting his independence and as any parent knows, it can make day to day tasks very exhausting. Furthermore, I am co-hosting a big craft show in 16 days, down to the wire now I spend a lot of my time during the day on the computer, on the phone and at the sewing machine making sure I am prepared for this big event.

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As I was doing dishes and cleaning up after dinner tonight I saw the mix on the shelf and said to myself… “I think we need to do something as a family tonight.” I mean it was a Friday night, dinner was done relatively early, sounded like the perfect thing. So we prepped the kitchen got everything out that we needed, kitchen aid mixer, spatulas, flour for cooking cutting, cookie cutters. I had literally just made Auggie the cutest apron today and he was excited as I put it on him, knowing something good was about to happen because we were all in the kitchen.

So it began, pouring the ingredients, almond milk, vegan butter, vanilla extract, make the dough here we go! Auggie loved the dough spinning and clumping together in the kitchen aid. He helped me pour, he helped pull the dough out of the bowl and suddenly the mess began, flour was going everywhere it was on his hands, on his face on the floor. However in that moment, I wasn’t worried about the mess, because we were having so much fun. Jon and I taught Auggie how to “press” the cutters into the dough and transfer them to the sheet. He kept pushing his little hands and saying “Pressshhh Presshhhh.”

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Then after putting a few cookies in the oven we just let him use his imagination and go at it, he was pressing all the cutters into the dough, looking back at us and laughing. We enjoyed this beautiful moment of peace watching him enjoy the experience he was having. His face was so concentrated, focusing on every little thing he was doing, then even transferring his own “creative” looking cookie to the empty sheet beside him. He was truly learning and having such a great time, we couldn’t have been more proud and happy.

It didn’t matter that everything was a mess after we had just cleaned the kitchen from dinner because we were enjoying each other. The best part was because there was no raw egg in the dough, when Auggie grabbed a little piece an ate it I wasn’t reaching to stop him. I felt like even if it was not a fruit, it was a little sugary and a little bit like junk food, he still could enjoy the holidays like we used to, like other kids without sacrificing his health and our values about what we put into our bodies. So the cookies are baked and ready to go, tomorrow night is decorating night!

This will be a night of memories we show him when he is all grown up and maybe someday when he has a special person in his life we will be sharing these memories with them or his own children one day. I realized tonight that we need to do this more, simple little activities that make a world of difference to us and to him. In a time of transition and stress we all got laughs and memories we desperately needed.

 

Healthy snack tips when cravings hit!!

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It happens to all of us right? After lunch, late at night, it can happen often! We get a craving for a snack.  If we are out and about it’s easy to grab something quick but not always a healthy choice.  I’m going to go over some tips to avoid grabbing those not so healthy craving snacks and to keep you on a healthy track!

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1.)   Don’t buy it: DO NOT BUY JUNK!! This is the number one way to avoid eating junk foods and sugary snacks that have us craving more. Instead buy a bag of apples, oranges, a bunch of bananas. Reach for those things when you are hungry.

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2.) Don’t limit yourself:  If your hungry and you would really like some bananas don’t trick yourself into thinking that you can only have one banana a day, have a few, slice them up and put them in a bowl with some  almond butter or peanut butter.  When I say don’t limit I mean produce, I don’t mean processed foods. Bananas are one of those fruits that are very inexpensive and great for your body so if that’s going to fill your craving then have as much as you need! If you want to  eat an entire carton of raspberries then do that! Many people would say “that’s way too expensive you shouldn’t do that” but if we think about it a coffee and a pastry can run more than $5 at some places where as a carton of berries can be anywhere from $3-$5.  The cost is relatively the same but the benefits are incomparable.

3.) Have healthy snacks on hand: Maybe my pregnancy taught this but I’ve learned that it’s much easier to stay healthy when you have snacks on hand all the time.  I like to have a lunchbox with me in my car full of bananas apples oranges figs and even trail mix.  This way if your hungry it’s easier to grab some healthy snacks from your car or lunch box then run through that drive-through and get that coffee and donut.

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4.) Be creative, try something new: Try a smoothie, there are SO MANY recipes and healthy snack ideas!! Create your own snack using healthy ingredients you love! I love to experiment with different snack ideas and find something I love!!

5.) Don’t be fooled: Many companies make processed foods claiming to be “healthy” and “natural.” Don’t fall for this nonsense. Many dieting companies make snack bars claiming to be under a certain amount of calories, but they are filled with preservatives and chemicals. Even if these snacks are lower in calories than produce that you love, it’s still not healthier. You are much better off snacking on a piece of fruit. These fake “healthy alternatives” actually make you crave sugary processed foods more, so they are the opposite of what you want.

6.) Prepare Food Ahead of Time: Take a little time in the kitchen maybe when youre making another meal and prepare some snacks for another time. Slice some fruit for layer, maybe a pineapple, watermelon. Cut up some vegetables to eat with some hummus. The more preparation you do, the more likely you are to make good choices.

I hope these tips help! Below are some of my favorite snack ideas!!

Assorted fruits and veggies

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Multi grain toast with almond butter and a side of fruit

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Avocado slices with red pepper hummus

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Fruit

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Sliced bananas with raspberries and dates

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Banans almond butter and dates

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Fresh fruit and veggie juice

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fresh homemade avocado tomato salsa

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What kind of healthy snacks do you like? Share your ideas I would love to hear them!!

 

Health & Beauty | How they go hand in hand

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Beauty. For many of us it requires lots of work and sometimes time we don’t have. I know so many women who wish their hair was healthier, thicker,longer, and wish for a clear complexion. This post does not exclude men either, I know many men who wish for thicker hair, clearer skin etc…

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My appearance is something I have struggled with since I was young. Looking back now it’s so sad how young girls have a negative image of themselves. I hated my long curly hair so much as a young girl, I couldn’t tame it, I just wanted it to be straight and style it like all the other girls. I was always trying to change my hair. What I never realized is that in order to be my most beautiful self I had to accept and honor my hair the way it was.

I don’t think I learned to love my hair and my self until just recently in the last few years actually. I’m sure we all know the feeling, searching for anything to make our beauty routines easier. What I never would have guessed is that healthy eating and healthy lifestyle was the most important step I needed to take for myself and my body.

When I was a teen, I used to straighten my hair as much as I could. I would spend hours on end taming my long locks to look like the other girls at school. This was really damaging to my hair but luckily then I didn’t have as much time to do it constantly. Once I became about 18-20 I experimented with my hair and my looks a lot more. I dyed my hair, straightened, curled, and much more. This is when my hair really started to suffer.

From all the chemicals, hot tools and abuse my hair started to break. To make things worse I wasn’t even sleeping properly or eating right. I was always breaking out with blemishes and trying to cover those with more makeup. I had no clue how to make this situation better, I was so embarrassed of my skin and my hair. Never had I ever had such a problem with my skin and hair. I struggled to hide my flaws and keep up my makeup and hair routine.

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It wasn’t till my hair was literally breaking off in chunks I decided to do something different. My mother in law gave me some advice, to use a more natural olive oil curl treatment. It never occurred to me to use something more natural in my hair. But it wasn’t really until I started eating right, sleeping, and taking flax seed oil that I really noticed an improvement in my hair and skin.

My curls came back and they were healthier than ever. From then on I vowed to use only natural products on my hair and take better care of myself. I learned a valuable lesson about my beauty routines. I needed to give my hair and skin respect. I couldn’t pile on makeup every day it wasn’t great for my complexion. I learned to not wear makeup as much and in turn my skin got so much healthier. Now I rarely get a breakout and when I do it can be easily remedied. I make sure to keep hydrated, that helps with my skin and hair, I eat lots of healthy foods that help also.

Of course during my pregnancy my hair and nails were especially beautiful. I was eating very healthy, sleeping and taking prenatal vitamins. Now I still take meticulous care of my skin, hair nails and just myself in general. Here are some tips if you are struggling with keeping clear skin or want healthier hair.

1.) Keep Hydrated: Drinking enough water is so important to keep your skil lively and healthy. Make sure you are drinking a few glasses a day, carry a water bottle with you to encourage hydration.

2.) Limit Hot Tools: Accept your hair for what it is! Give it a break and try styling it in non envasive ways without heat. Try some braids if you have unruly hair try some natural leave in conditioner or gels.

3.) Eat Healthy: Eating the proper fruits and vegetables can seriously aid in helping your beauty routine. Many foods are proven to clear skin and give hair beautiful shine. How much easier will it be to not have to cover those blemishes with concealer or try to get shine back with hair products.

4.) Respect Your Skin: Give your skin a break as much as you can, I know many of us can’t go without makeup for our professional jobs, but take it off when you get home. Try going without concealer or makeup when outdoors, expose your skin to sun, it’s good for it.

5.) Use Healthy Products: It’s best to read everything you use on your body. I always make sure I am making my best effort to only use natural safe products in my hair and skin. There are so many products out there that can do harm to your body. When you’re using natural products you will find clear skin and healthy hair are a lot easier to obtain.

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I hope these tips help you. I hope you can make your own connection with healthy lifestyle and beauty. Let’s face it, we all would love to have a shorter beauty routine, so if being healthier can help why not right? Just another excuse to make some better healthy living habits. What do you do to stay healthy and beautiful? I would love to know!

Berry, Sweet Potato, Spinach, Salad | A Summer Fall Fusion

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We all could stand to eat more greens right? However it’s not always easy. Sometimes we need a little excitement, a little motivation to urge us to eat those greens. I like to make interesting unexpected salads to motivate me to make a salad at least once a day. This salad is a delicious combo of sweet berries, fresh veggies, and the unexpected twist of soft sweet potato as well! Of course as always you can experiment and add different veggies or other ingredients you love.

For my greens I started with baby kale, and spinach. On top of that I chopped some mushroom, radish and onion. I also added some raspberries, strawberries, almonds and some cooked sweet potato chunks. I was already cooking the sweet potato for my little guy so I just added some extra for myself! This recipe is so quick and delicious. The sweet berries mixed with the crispy greens, and the soft sweet potatoes on top, make an amazing fusion of flavor.

This salad is interesting and delicious. Fall is on our doorstep and we are going to be ready for all our favorite fall foods! Let’s get ready for it and put a spin on our green salads!! I challenge you to make yourself an interesting salad this week! How do you liven up your salad? We would love to hear about it!

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