Friday, December 7, 2012

Stocking Stuffers with Purpose

When it comes to filling stockings, I am definitely guilty of quantity over quality, but I'm hoping to put that behind me this year, at least a little bit.  Here are some ideas to stuff those stockings with purpose.  Maybe Santa will catch on!


Candy - look for Fair Trade chocolates and organic candy canes. Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and online at The Natural Candy Store are good places to look. Think quality over quantity. Had my first taste of an organic candy cane with no artifical dyes this season and it was SO good. 
Ginger Baby models a BeadforLife bracelet and Shea Butter Soap


  • One of these cute L.I.F.E. jackets for your coffee cup.  Pick them up at Whole Foods or order online

  Please chime in with your own suggestions!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Christmas Cards, or lack thereof

I don't know how to address this (pun intended) without sounding like a Scrooge, but last year I didn't send Christmas cards.  Why? 
  1. The time and the stress of taking and choosing THE right picture, layout and words. 
  2. The cost of the cards themselves and the postage (we've moved a lot and have a long list of people on that list).
  3.  I already post pics of my kids way too often already - it's not like most of these people haven't heard from me in a year.
Was it hard?  Yes.  I felt guilty with each card I received, but I did let all my friends on facebook know I wouldn't be sending cards out and why. 

Did I cheat?  Yes, a little.  I took an offer of 10 free Christmas cards from a card printing company and sent them to people that aren't on facebook like my grandma.

What did I do instead?  I took the money I would have spent on cards (which really adds up if you think about it) and I donated it to a charity.  We had more time to concentrate on the true meaning of CHRISTmas.

Am I doing it again this year?  You betcha!  Some ideas for where to donate that $$ you would have spent on cards are: 

  • a local mitten tree, food bank or fuel bank
  • SoleHope ($10 sponsors a pair of shoes)
  • Amazima ministries
Are you in?  Comment below with your answers or suggestions for alternative uses for your Christmas card budget.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Give Thanks, Give Hope

Lots of family gatherings will be held in the next few months.  Hopefully they will be precious times with memories made.   These times are purposeful in themselves, but here are two ideas to spread the love a little.

Order a Holiday Shoe Party kit from Sole Hope.  After the big meal, gather around the table and cut out some shoes for kids that may never get a Christmas present or a warm Thanksgiving meal.  It can be ordered here from the Sole Hope store.  Sounds like the start of a great yearly tradition to me.

Maybe cutting shoes out isn't for you, or maybe you want to do even more! How about asking your guests to bring an item that Sole Hope uses in their jigger removals in Africa, such as: 
  • large safety pins
  • medical gloves
  • gauze wrap
  • emla cream (or other topical numbing cream)
  • stickers for children
  • monetary donations to purchase basins and soap in country.

Supplies should be sent to:

Sole Hope
P.O. Box 1492
Asheville, NC 28802

So c'mon, give thanks, give HOPE!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Empowerment Store

If you've read the book or watched the PBS documentary Half the Sky, then you've heard of Somaly Mam.  Somaly is a survivor of human trafficking and has worked tirelessly to help others like her survive too.  The foundation which bears her name and which she co-founded has an aptly titled  Empowerment Store with beautiful items for sale made by survivors.  And like so many of the items I like to feature, a purchase from The Empowerment Store has layers of purpose.  This is not just financial support for these survivors, it is also a statement that you stand with them and they are not alone.  It is a stand against trafficking.  Wearing the jewelry or clothing is a good conversation starter about this cause.  And lastly you will have a beautiful gift for yourself or someone else. 

I ordered the medium silk empowerment necklace.  It is $25 and shipping and handling was $8.20.   There's not a whole lot of information on the necklace in the description, such as length or a photo of a person wearing the necklace, so I was a little surprised at how long the medium is.  I imagine since these aren't mass produced that each necklace is a little different but my medium necklace can comfortably be worn as a long single strand or doubled.  You cannot select a certain color.  Some people may not like that you cannot choose a color (perhaps you could request a certain color when ordering), but I LOVED the element of surprise when opening my package, not knowing what color I would get.  I received a lovely red necklace within a few days of placing my order.  Oh and one more really nice thing, I received via e-mail a tax receipt for the portion of the purchase that is tax deductible.

So who on your nice list is getting something from The Empowerment Store this year?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Krochet Kids

The next series of posts will focus on purposeful ideas for Christmas and other holiday giving.  For a complete listing, please click on the gift ideas under labels for items I have reviewed in the past.  And as always, I welcome comments with your ideas or questions on ideas for gift giving.

So how about a pretty handmade hat from Krochet Kids?  They have hats for men and women as well as scarves and other accessories, and tees.  The crochet items are handmade in Peru or Uganda and the really cool thing is that each item is handsigned  by the crafter that made it.  This is SO special.  Not only can you see her picture and read her bio, you can actually send her a message.  LOVE THIS!  What a special gift this would make for someone to receive.
So as Krochet Kids says, "buy a hat. change a life."  Thank you Laker Florence for the beautiful hat.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Halloween Treats

I've been struggling with what to do for Halloween candy to hand out this year.  I know that the typical chocolates found in the grocery store are made with slave labor.  I blog about spending purposefully.  How can I with a clear conscience hand this stuff out to the kids that come to my door on Halloween?  On the other hand, it is cheap and yummy and tradition.  Then there is the issue a availability, I don't even know where to begin to find a fair trade treat.  Most fair trade chocolate candy bars are large and expensive.  Earlier this week I was determined to find something so I started searching online. 

In my search, I found this handy little list from the green living section of Good Housekeeping magazine.  The Daily Green article link

Many of the items on this list came from The Natural Candy Store, so I decided to check them out.  I picked out some adorable spider gummies and  sour gummy worms.  They are made in the USA, allergen free, gluten free & organic.  And yes, they were relatively expensive.  It was $20.30 for a 12 pack.  But as I've come to learn, we all vote with our dollars.

For a cheaper option, pretzels, fruit snacks or gummies found at the grocery store are also alternative ideas.

I was thinking about including a note about why we chose these treats.  Again, I am torn between educating people but don't want to come across as judgemental.  I think I will save the education for this blog and other social media outlets this year.

Please share your thoughts, questions and ideas on this subject!



Thursday, October 11, 2012

More Purposeful Party Ideas

So I promised to share more ideas from my sister's bridal shower, and here they are!

Go purposeful in your attire. How about a cute dress from Mata Traders

If you have gift baskets or prizes think purposeful again.  This is not only a good place to direct your resources to support purposeful companies but it is also a great way to spread the word about products most people know little about.  I did a coffee basket with Three Avacados coffee and included their information card and sticker in the basket.  I also had a throw blanket, chick-flick and bar of fair trade chocolate for another.


Again, I would love to hear your ideas! Please share!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Party with a Purpose

My youngest sister is getting married soon and as we began planning her bridal shower I started to think of ways we could "go purposeful"with the shower.   Not wanting to steal the spotlight from my sis on this important occasion, I ran all my ideas through her first, but she is a Social Worker with a heart for helping others so she was on board immediately. 

Donations in lieu of favors are one way and are becoming more popular at Weddings and showers.  We decided that instead of trinkets, we would make a donation to Sole Hope.  A cheap $1 favor in my opinion just makes for clutter and with a big guest list can get quite pricey.  We thought of what a real impact a $50 donation could make to Sole Hope.  That would sponsor 5 pairs of shoes! 

Here is what we came up with for our fall bridal shower. On the back side the mission of Sole Hope is explained.
 

Here are some tips/ideas for doing this for an event:
  • Pick a cause or charity that is significant to the persons being honored or the occasion. 
  • I wanted each person to go home with the Sole Hope name and mission so we did do individual favors and candy, but you could just print out a piece of paper stating that in lieu of favors a donation was made to xyz charity and place it in a pretty frame on the gift table.
  • Consider a fair trade favor- chocolates or coffee.
Now for the best part!  I have 20 extra fall cardstock printed Sole Hope favors.  I will give them to the first person to make a $25 or more donation to Sole Hope, http://www.solehope.com/donate/  .  Please put in the comments of your donation "party favors - Carissa" , then in the comments below let me know you have done so (I will verify with Sole Hope) with your e-mail address and I will contact you and mail them to you.  Bags and candy NOT included.

Would also love your ideas or suggestions for ways to purposefully party!  More posts & pics to follow about the other things we did to make this shower purposeful.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fair Trade Finds

So most of the items I review I seek out online, take a chance and order them, but lately I've stumbled upon a few purposeful finds. The first are Krugers baskets.  The baskets are made from elephant grass by farmers in Ghana.  I found them for sale at a local farm stand.  Useful and beautiful, they are said to be long lasting.  I was happy to purchase a couple of baskets and encourage a retailer in offering these types of items. 

Second was a store called Ten Thousand Villages.  We were about an hour from our home out to dinner and had a few minutes to shop before having to be somewhere else and I saw this store. So disappointed that I couldn't spend more time shopping, but saw many things I really liked.  They have a store locator on their website to see if you have one near you, and hooray there is a store closer to me than the one I first visited.

Fair Trade items are out there, they may not be easy to find, but keep an eye out.. and please share with me your finds!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Y Not Help?

The idea for this post comes from my sister, a Social Worker with a big heart for kids.  If you want healthy living tips, check out her blog here.  She teaches an exercise class at her local Y and mentioned all the great things they are doing for the kids in that area.  For example, providing lunch over the summer to kids who would normally get free lunch at school but may miss that meal when school is out.  She points out, "they served grapes to the kids and some had never tasted them before and they grow right here in our county!"

If you have any experience with a Y you know what a great asset they are, not just to underprivileged kids, but to all kids and adults in the community. 

So, how about show a little love for the Y by ordering a cute Halloween tee!  They are SUPER cheap at $3.55 for white and $4.56 for colored choices.  This is a limited edition shirt and according to the Y shop's website, all orders are taken until 9/14 (that's Friday - so do it NOW) and are guaranteed to ship on 10/15.  Here is the link:  http://www.ymcastore.org/ViewCategory.aspx?det=1&cid=136

Would love to hear how the Y has benefited you or your community in the comments below.  Please share!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fair Trade Fashion

A friend connected me with a fair trade fashion company called Mata Traders through twitter.  I have ordered from them twice now and have gotten some great deals on the clearance items.

Mata employs women in India and pays them a fair, living wage for their work.  Ironically, you can't guarantee that with most high end, high priced fashion you find at the mall. 

As with ordering all things online, read carefully the description of the fabric and look at the fit to try to decide if it will look good on your body style.  Their sizes seem to run true. For example, if you normally wear a size 10 order the size that corresponds to that.  

One caution, the items I ordered indicate they should be hand washed.  I'm not a big fan of high-maintenance clothes but the clothes I ordered were for special occasions so I didn't mind making an exception. 

In addition to their clothing, they have beautiful jewelry and a few household items. 
 
Shipping was a very reasonable $5.99.  The items were shipped quickly and arrived a few days from my order both times.

Thank you Mata Traders for bringing fair trade and fashion together beautifully.

 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Charitable Giving - with perks!

Ok, I admit it, sometimes a little "bribe",  or let's just call it a cool bonus is just the motivation I need to make that step and give to a cause I feel passionate about. 

Well just this week two opportunities with different online fundraisers have come up, both for really special projects.  The first, uses Kickstarter and is for an art collaboration. Light Gives Heat in collaboration with Sole Hope, (an organization very close to my heart) and IAMJ3 are working to bring an artist to Uganda to paint some life brightening murals on run down buildings.  The way it works?  You choose a donation level and there are cool, one of a kind - can't buy in a store, perks at each donation level.  If the project isn't fully funded at the end of the fundraising time, you don't get charged and if you do your donation is tax deductible.  Check it all out here, SOON because there is only 1 day left to fully fund this project! 

The second opportunity is through an online fundraiser called Indiegogo.  It is not an all or nothing fundraiser like the above, and is raising money to help complete a documentary on a fair trade company that makes soccer balls - yes fair trade SOCCER BALLS, called Senda Athletics.  There is about a week left on this fundraiser and some great perks at every level of contribution .  Check them out too! http://www.indiegogo.com/sendafilm

And just think how it will feel when these projects come to fruition to know that you had a part in making them happen!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Project 7

This one is SOOO easy folks!  No online ordering necessary, no big investment required; I'm talking  gum and mints that can be found in the checkout aisle at Walmart & Target.  Project 7 sells products that support 7 different purposes.  The products (in addition to mints & gum) are bottled water, coffee & apparel.  It's as simple as looking on the product you buy to see where your money will be directed. 

I recommend a quick visit to their website which is filled with great information on the products and projects.  Check out what the products look like so you know what you are looking for in the store and you can even type in your zip code and see which stores near you carry the items.

So no excuses!  This purposeful shopping is for everyone.
p.s. The gum tastes great too! 


Friday, August 17, 2012

Non-Profit Coffee

I've talked about Fair Trade Coffee in a previous post. It is pretty easy to find in stores and online in any form.  I decided to take it a step further and give a non-profit coffee company called Three Avacados a shot.  I am a keurig user and awful at brewing my own coffee so I was a little hesitant because they do not sell k-cups.  That problem was easily solved though with a reusable k-cup that allows you to brew coffee in a keurig (that's next week's review though). 

So what's so great about Three Avacados that I broke away from the easy peasy k-cups?  Well, 100% of their net proceeds go to providing clean water in Uganda, Africa.  Clean water is something I take for granted but it has the power to save lives.  It is so simple but so impactful.  How awesome that a delicious cup of coffee can change a life. And yes, it is delicious, like I would order it even if it didn't provide clean water to people in Uganda-good, as in this one cup per day person  wants another cup cause I just hit the bottom of the mug.  The best way to describe the taste is rich and smooth. 

I ordered a bag of the ground coffee and a Three Avacados travel tumbler.  Shipping with this was free but if you order the coffee alone, shipping is $2.95.  The coffee comes in a 12 oz. bag.  It arrived in just a few days, regular mail from Missouri and they included a couple stickers.  Not only is their coffee DELISH, the travel mug worked great on a recent trip.  I filled it up each day with hotel coffee, rinsed it out and reused the next day and saved a few cups from the landfill.  Their website contains lots of great information about their coffee, their projects and their mission including the story behind their name. 

Thanks Three Avacados for a great cuppa joe and helping me be a Conscientious Consumer.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Body Shop

I've decided to review some of the more well-known companies that promote fair trade, starting with The Body Shop.  I've always been a little intimidated by The Body Shop store in the mall, not being familiar with their products so I decided to begin with exploring The Body Shop's website.  Personally, when shopping online I can take my time and make a better decision than I would in a store.  I was happy to find information on their values and campaigns as well as many sale items.  Among other good things, The Body Shop has a commitment to responsible sourcing (their website has information about where their products are sourced and how their alliances have helped those communities) and has a campaign to end human trafficking.  Customer reviews on their products help in deciding which items to try.  They offer an extensive selection of products including make-up, men's items and products for the home.  Shipping was a reasonable $5.95 and I saved well over that amount with the sale items I chose, but had I spent $50 shipping would have been free.  I placed the order late Monday night and received the items by Thursday.  Loved the box it came in, packaged in crinkled paper confetti like a personalized gift box and well protected.  

My order from The Body Shop

Not surprisingly, I like their products too.  The coconut hand soap and shower cream I ordered smell great.   Cannot wait to use the Rain Forest Moisture Hair Care Kit on our next road trip.  The sizes are generous enough to share with the family but small enough for travel and even include a comb and a good size tub of hair butter.  That is great for me since I always need some type of leave-in for my hair and often forget to pack it!  Their roll on deoderant (I picked the cool & zesty scent) works great and has a light scent that lasts.  I am happy with all the products I chose. 

When faced with the choice of many bath stores at the mall, the purposeful choice is The Body Shop.   And since this isn't some obscure, unknown little company, it's an easy choice to make.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sole Hope, again

I've blogged about Sole Hope before, you can read all about my daughter's African themed birthday party where we had a shoe cutting party here.  Here is a video that explains what Sole Hope is all about.  Please watch and share!  Then do some purposeful and fun shopping by checking out Sole Hope's store.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tukula

I discovered Tukula when an organization I follow on twitter mentioned them.  I was SO excited to find a company that offers handmade bags from Uganda!  I love the website which introduces you to the beautiful women that make the bags and a video of how the items are made.  I purchased some clutches and wristlets as I knew I would want to have them on hand to give as gifts.  I placed the order on Friday and got confirmation that afternoon that my items had been shipped.  Oh joy, the package arrived on Monday!   These little clutches are so cute, unique and will make great gifts for tween birthday parties, especially with some lip gloss, a gift card or cash inside. 

Now to add to my enthusiasm, Tukula has announced a party feature similar to BeadforLife.  (I’m thinking this would be a great combo jewelry/purse party right before the holidays for all your friends’ holiday shopping, huh?)  Click on the Get Involved tab on their website for more information.

Over the weekend, I found myself in a highend purse store.  While I admired the beauty of the pricey bags, I could not help but think how much more joy I get from carrying a colorful Tukula clutch.  And if you are into one of a kind, you can't get more unique than these hand made items as no two are exactly alike.  Companies like Tukula make it enjoyable to be a Conscientious Consumer! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bar Shampoo

So I decided to try Bar Shampoo.  No plastic bottle waste, all natural, but it just seems weird to lather up a bar of shampoo and put it in your hair.  So even after ordering the bar shampoo, it sat in my closet for awhile until I worked up the courage to try it.  What if it turned my hair green or something?  Finally I gave it a go.  It is easier to use than I thought, just get your hands soapy and then put it in your hair.  I think that is the ONLY positive thing I can say about it, oh and it rinses easily.  A little too easily if you ask me.  My hair didn't feel clean.  I did use regular conditioner after on my hair.  The result?  Once dried and styled, my hair felt sticky, like the soap was still in it.  I had to re-wash with traditional shampoo.  I don't recommend!  Anyone have a better experience with bar shampoo?  Please share!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Reusable Lunch Bags - Revisited

Well, it’s been one whole school year using the reusable sandwich bags I blogged about here.  It was actually the first item I blogged about!  Will I be using them again next year?  Well….probably not, but I definitely won’t be switching back to disposable plastic bags either.  Going a whole school year without using disposable bags, buying them and throwing them out was SUPER.  But the reusable bags aren’t super durable or easy to clean up and they are kind of icky after a year of hard use. 
This lunch bag says it's been a rough year!

Even with that said, they are a great alternative to the plastic bag.  There are just some limitations they share with the plastic bag.

I am going to try a BPA free plastic, dishwasher/micro safe bento box style for next year.  There are many styles but I chose the ones from Easy Lunchboxes because they are reasonably priced (you can order them on Amazon and they are free super saver shipping eligible) and their website also offers great nutritious lunch packing ideas which I also can’t wait to try! 

Well, that’s my thoughts for now, I’ll keep you updated on my experiences. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sole Hope

This year for my daughter’s birthday, she wanted to have an African theme.   I LOVE planning my kids’ birthday parties around a theme so early on we ordered a slew of animal print favors from Oriental Trading, picked up some National Geographic giraffe note cards in the dollar bin at Michael’s to use as invitations and the planning began.
The goody bags
We weren’t sure what kind of activity we would do or what charity she wanted to raise money for at the party. I googled different ideas and there were several that were possibilities but we just weren’t sure how to tie it all in together.  I read several adoption blogs and one evening was reading a blog of someone that was at an adoption conference and it included pictures of the booth for their organization and next to them was a booth for Sole Hope.  I went to their website and read all about them.  Children in eastern Africa suffer from jiggers, awful insects that burrow into childrens feet and make them sick.  Sole Hope helps in two ways.   First, they provide employment to widows through teaching them the trade of shoemaking.  Second, the shoes are then given to children in western Africa that have no shoes.  The children are also educated through a story book about why wearing shoes are important.   If that isn't wonderful enough, the soles are made from recycled tires, the heels are made from recycled plastic (such as milk jugs), recycled jeans and fabric.

I thought their shoe-party kits would be perfect for my daughter’s birthday party.  I ordered the kit for 10 people and it arrived within a few days. We watched the video and made a list of supplies we would need. I saved milk jugs and jeans and bought ½ yards of fabrics we liked that were on clearance. 

Prepping for the party, cutting out shoe pieces from old jeans.

Pieces ready to go!





A friend who had been to Africa donated Shetenges (wrap skirts) for the girls to wear. Everyone had a blast! Even though this is a serious and sad problem, the kids got the message of hope that SoleHope is all about. They even got the meaning of the name. It was great to see all the moms come pick their kids up and the first thing they asked were, “Can I see what you guys made?” and I got to explain to them all about this great organization.

Decorating the denim and tracing their chosen fabric.

Shoe Making Checklist






The completed product ready to send to Sole Hope to make 1 pair of shoes.

The cake- simple to make with printed sugar paper, available where cake supplies are sold.
The kids watched the SoleHope promo video before making the shoes so they understood the what and why of the organization.  I think that was the best part of the whole party. It really opened their eyes to why we were doing this.  Instead of gifts, the girls made donations to sponsor the shoes. In all we were able to make and sponsor 12 pairs of shoes!


We made hair ties out of the fabric to remind everyone of the shoes we cut out.
Would you like to have a SoleHope birthday party or a shoe cutting party for you church or organization?  I would be happy to answer any questions and help out in anyway.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Purposeful Reading

If you’re looking for a purposeful read, check out Half the Sky by Pulitzer prize winning authors Nicholas B. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, a husband and wife team.  Half the Sky refers to a Chinese saying that Women hold up half the sky.  The book is about the plight of women globally.  It reads a little like a college textbook, filled with statistics but they are sprinkled throughout real (and moving) stories.  It starts off a little somber, but builds you up to hope in the end.  It is an eye-opening book that will have you feeling grateful for the life you have and inspired to help others.  There is even a 2 part documentary planned for PBS this fall based on the stories in the book.

If you are looking to inspire your children (and summer reading is right around the corner), there are some great books that will help convey clearly how a seemingly small act of kindness can make a big difference.  Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier and One Hen – How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway are good choices.  Both have excellent illustrations too.  You can read the follow up to the true story of Beatrice and her goat here.

Read, be inspired, get motivated, make a difference.   

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sevenly

Sevenly is a t-shirt company with a purpose.  They are unique in that each week they support a different charity and the t-shirt that they offer is unique to that charity.  For example, last week their charity was Heifer International.  There was a men's t-shirt, a women's t-shirt, tank and a sweatshirt for men and one for women.  It is only available for that week and the next week the charity changes as do the corresponding items.  I like the limited edition concept, because once the week is over those items are gone (just keep that in mind when you order), you cannot order the items from previous weeks.  Not only does each purchase raise funds ($7 per item goes to the charity of the week), it also helps raise awareness for that charity.  The artwork featured is not typical t-shirt fare. 

My experience with them?  I ordered a women's sweatshirt in x-large.  Typical of women's fit, the item runs slim.  The sweatshirt is very soft on the inside.  I ordered the item on a Friday evening, and received confirmation that the item had shipped the following Thursday.  The item arrived Saturday. Shipping was $5.99.

My Sevenly Sweatshirt supporting Heifer International
Check them out and learn about some great causes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Purposeful Mother's Day Gift Ideas

My mom is special, so is my mom-in-law.  Finding the right gift though can be stressful and a lot of work, and as mom myself I certainly don’t need the pressure of finding a PERFECT gift.  Here are some gift suggestions as special as your mom.  Most of them have already been featured in my blog at some point, but here it is in a convenient list.

  1. Think out of the BIG box.  Shop Local.  If the mom you are shopping for lives nearby and you don’t have to worry about shipping, consider shopping local, or even a gift certificate to her favorite local store or garden shop. 
  2. BeadForLife Jewelry (read about them in my blog post here).
  3. Find the perfect unique gift on ETSY, (see my list of favorite shops here).
  4. Fair trade chocolate or coffee.  I blogged about chocolate and coffee, and some sites to check out are:   Three Avacados and Divine Chocolate.
  5. A donation to her favorite charity.  Not sure?  Here is a great idea from An Orphan’s Wish, or how about Heiffer International?
  6. Shop The Greater GoodHere is my blog post about this site.
 As a mom myself, I would love ANY of the above items.  Share your ideas for purposeful Mother’s Day gifts with me, I’d love to hear them!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Trader Joe's

It’s been awhile since my last post and I have really missed having the time to blog.  Things are still pretty hectic around here, so this entry is about a subject that comes very easily to me, Trader Joe’s.

I first heard about Trader Joe’s, probably around the year 2000 when they came to Columbus, Ohio.  A neighbor who loved Trader Joe’s from when they lived in California was so excited.  I visited the new store and I wasn’t all that impressed.  It was small and I didn’t recognize any of the products.  I thought, "What's the big deal?" and didn’t go back.  Then we moved to San Diego a few years later and I tried them out again.  I bought some milk and other items that were so much cheaper than the regular grocery store.  Here and there I tried out new products.  Little by little, I became a BIG fan.  Now we live in a rural area in southern New England.  It is about a ½ hour to the closest Trader Joe’s, but I carpool with a friend there at least once a month and stock up.  For someone whose initial reaction was “whatever”, I am now someone who has to have my Trader Joe’s stuff!  I love their healthy but reasonably priced selections.  I love their easy dinner items.  Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell exclusively organic, but their organic products are usually a lot cheaper than most stores.   Here are some of my favorite products: 

  • All Natural Creamy Salted Peanut Butter – you have to stir it up the first time you open it and store it in the fridge, but once you taste this you will never eat regular peanut butter again.
  • Organic Concord Grape Jelly – you can’t beat the price, even with non-organic.
  • Masala Sauce- follow the ingredients on the jar to create a simple but tasty chicken dinner, serve over Organic frozen brown rice and whalla, dinner!
  • Any of their chips/snacks.
  • Their organic frozen vegetables and frozen fruits (I keep them on hand for smoothies).
  • Their Joe Joe’s put other sandwich cookies to shame and come in a variety of combinations.
And a few items into this list, I realize it will be about 100 items long.  Quite a bit for such a small store.  I also love that I can get through the store quickly but with a lot of useful items.  If you don’t like an item, they have a generous return policy.  What are your favorite Trader Joe’s items?






Tuesday, March 27, 2012

soleRebels

Some shoe companies offer a handout to those less fortunate when you buy a pair of their shoes, for example they will donate a free pair for each pair you purchase.  Those shoes may still be made in low wage factories in China.  soleRebels are different.  soleRebels are an Ethiopian company which offers a fair wage to their employees and are made from organic cotton and recycled tires.  We are talking about a fair trade shoe here!  That alone is exciting to me, but even better, their shoes are great looking and comfy.   

To be fair, I must confess that I am NOT a shoe hound.  I own less pairs of shoes than my husband.  I prefer to spend as little as possible on them (we are talking end-cap clearance rack of Target low) and keep them forEVER.  So for me to spend, $60 on one pair of shoes is major, but I did it and I am very happy with my new shoes. 

soleRebels are made in Ethiopia and each pair is custom made.  Sizing is easy with a chart you can print out and check your size.  The price includes shipping (all the way from Ethiopia).  From the date I ordered the shoes until I received a shipment notice was exactly 2 weeks and I received them within 3 days of the shipment notice.  I picked the TOOs xxYYY elite style shoe in Steel Blue.  They are a medium wash denim color; super soft and comfy and they fit great.  Only problem is, I want another pair now.  Maybe soleRebels will make a shoe hound out of me yet!  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hearts for Hearts Dolls

Without mentioning the brand name, there is a particular 18” doll that girls are fond of that can be very pricey.  I know, we own two of them.  You know the ones, with a few select boutiques with restaurants in major U.S. cities, their own magazine and website?  No doubt the dolls are beautiful.  They come with books that encourage reading and some even teach about history in a very real way to our girls.  But for 1/4th the price, you can get a similar doll that is NOT a cheap copy of these expensive ones I am talking about, but original in its own way; Hearts for Hearts dolls.

If you have heard the commercial for Hearts for Hearts dolls, there is an annoying little jingle that is played which I think has certainly not helped with their popularity.  Please don’t let that discourage you from checking them out.  There are 5 dolls in the collection, from 5 different countries.  Each doll has it’s own little story of how she is trying to make a difference in her particular country and community.  A portion of the purchase price from each doll is donated to the humanitarian organization, World Vision. 

The dolls are well made, and the quality of hair is much better than their more expensive counterparts.  There are also additional ethnic outfits that can be purchased separately for the dolls.

There is also a website that can be accessed by a code with each doll or outfit to create a personal page for the girl who owns it.  The page is like a bulletin board in which the girl can put what issues are important to her.  The dolls are fun and educational.  I have seen them at BJ’s, Target and Wal-Mart and they can also be purchased online from Amazon. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

147 Million Orphans

Sometimes a name says it all.  Take 147 Million Orphans for example.  Then think about it for a second.  147 MILLION orphans.  ORPHANS – kids without a mommy or a daddy to love them, alone.  147 MILLION of them in this world.   I would love to adopt 1 or 2 or 4.  I would love for there to be 147 million orphans minus one.  If you can’t adopt 1, you can feed 1, love 1, help 1.

Check out the 147 Million Orphans website.  They have an ever-changing supply of gear.  Purchases help orphans in need with basic necessities.  Sporting the gear will help raise awareness too.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Cupcake Kids

Over on the right of my blog, on my links button, you will see The Cupcake Kids.   

What are The Cupcake Kids?  Well officially, The Cupcake Kids are little people with big hearts for God and the imprisoned children of Africa.  Technically, my Cupcake Kids are on the bigger side of little as they are in their tweens, but they do have great big hearts for God and the imprisoned children of Africa.  

The Cupcake Kids raise money for Sixty Feet.  You can read more about Sixty Feet by clicking HERE.  

This year will be our first year participating in the sale and can I just tell you how excited I am?   I sent an e-mail out a few months ago to see if any of my mama friends would want to join in and I was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic support I received.  Since we live in a fairly rural area, a local preschool volunteered their building to host the sale.  We have lots of families on board for baking and manning (or "kidding" I should say) the sale and we even have our church’s puppet group set to perform. 

It’s a wonderful thing to have your heart set on fire for God’s children.  It is beyond awesome to see that fire lit in your children.  Oh, and the picture of the cupcake in this post was drawn by my sweet little neighbor boy, for our sale.

The Cupcake Kids represent how easy it is for everyday people and kids to make a difference. Go  HERE.  Sign up for a sale.  Send in your money.  Change lives forever.

 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:34

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Greater Good

Looking for a unique and meaningful gift for someone special?  Look no further than The Greater Good.  They offer a variety of items supporting a spectrum of causes.  My personal favorite is the Hunger Site, but you can support Autism, Veterans, Breast Cancer awareness, Literacy, the environment or rescuing animals.  You can also make a donation to charity through this site. 

Through the hunger site, www.thehungersite.com I ordered a fair trade purse made in (big surprise) Uganda.   Each item has an explanation of its origins and how it is helpful, and tells you how many cups of food are provided when you purchase the item. 

There is also news on the website relating to each particular cause.  I recommended liking them on facebook as they often offer special deals like free or reduced shipping to their fans. 

So the next time a friend’s birthday rolls around and you are struggling to think of something special and meaningful, something she doesn’t have and nobody else does either, head to http://www.greatergood.com/.  Pick a cause that is most meaningful to you or the recipient and start shopping.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Purple Prairie

I plan to blog in the near future about a very useful site for finding products that are not harmful to our bodies called Environmental Working Group (EWG).  Hopefully you’ve already heard about them!  Today though, I am sharing a company that I found through EWG.

Both my neighbor and I made the decision last summer to switch to a sunscreen with let’s just say, milder ingredients.   Think about it, we slather this stuff all over our skin and our kids’ skin all summer long.  EWG provides a list of products and rates them.  Many of the recommended sunscreens are more expensive and difficult to find.  Purple Prairie offered a well rated and reasonably priced sunscreen, so I decided to give it a try, while my neighbor ordered another product and we decided to compare notes.  The sunscreen my neighbor ordered, while it worked well, had a peanutty smell to it that her kids objected to.  We both gave Purple Prairie’s sunscreen high marks.  

With each order for sunscreen I placed with Purple Prairie, I would try some of their other products.  Mosquitos seem to love me (must be all the sugar I consume), so I tried their Bug Spray.  This really kept them away.  I shared it with my family.  I shared it with my daughter’s cheer squad.  Nobody thought it would work.  They were so surprised by how well it does work, and bonus, it smells good too.  I had to order more because people kept taking my bugspray!

I love their soaps and candles too, but another of my favorite products is the Gardener’s Carrot Salve.  It comes in a cute tin and is the only product I have ever found that heals my son’s dry, cracked, bright red winter hands.  He just ran out and even he was saying he didn’t want anything else for his hands but more Carrot Salve.  Ever the bargain shopper though, I was waiting for a sale, so I was very happy to get an e-mail from them today with a sale!  Purple Prairie is currently offering 20% off your entire purchase through February 28th with the code NewMoon at checkout.  You can also score Free shipping on orders over $50. 


Happy Shopping!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Kisses From Katie

I can’t remember the exact chain of blogs and/or websites that led me to Katie Davis and her ministry, but I am so glad I stumbled upon her inspiring story. I found out about Katie just before her book, Kisses From Katie was released. After watching this clip on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfXgCx3f_1c , I knew I had to read her book when it came out and pre-ordered it on Amazon.

I think it’s corny to put a period after each word for emphasis, but, wow, this young woman has got. it. together.

Got it together in a way I may never. In a way I strive to. If we all had a tenth of Katie’s passion and compassion, we could change the world. Katie IS changing the world.

Katie is a single 24 year old from Tennessee that has adopted 13 Ugandan girls. She founded Amazima ministries which feeds and sends over 400 children to school each day. She started a feeding program for the poorest of the poor in her Ugandan community, feeding over 1600 children 5 days a week. She has also started a program to teach the women of the community to make magazine paper bead necklaces, similar to those offered by BeadforLife.

You can find out more about Katie and Amazima ministries at http://www.amazima.org/ or by reading her book. There is also a link on the Amazima site to an online store that supports her ministry. At Christmastime they offered a plastic tub filled with useful supplies that included a Bible, blanket, 4 cups, 4 plates, buttons and thread, a mosquito net, jerry can (water jug), razor blades and knives that would be given to every family in their sponsorship program. I printed out a picture of the gift, mounted it on card stock and decorated with glitter and string to hang on the tree, wrapped it up and gave it as a Christmas present.

I hope Katie inspires you like she’s inspired me!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My Ode to Etsy

Surely you have heard of Etsy, kind of like an online version of a craft show. I LOVE Etsy. I joined the site a few years ago, just to browse but more recently have begun actually ordering things from the site.

Things I love about Etsy:
The items are unique. I ordered a stuffed animal for my daughter made out of a recycled sweater. It is one of her most treasured items. No one else has one just like it.



You are supporting small businesses and eliminating the “middle man”.



The personal touch. You are in contact directly with the person making your item, allowing for customization and heartfelt thank you’s for your order.



Inspiration. It is fun to just look at all the items for sale and be inspired to make something yourself.



You can shop for items that support your values, such as repurposed items, or items that support a family trying to fund an adoption.

If you have never ordered from Etsy, here is a list of helpful hints:
· You are not ordering from Etsy, you are ordering from a shop within Etsy (kind of like ebay). In craft show terms, Etsy is the building, each shop is a booth. Be cautious.
· Check the seller’s rating, read their reviews.
· Read the item description carefully and look at shipping prices.
· Start a conversation with the seller if you have any questions before you place an order.

Some of my favorite Etsy shops:



Auntiejans - Auntiejans makes clothes that fit American Girl dolls. They are very reasonably priced, well made and cute!



AdoptingNations – I ordered a set of pillowcases from this shop. They are well sewn and very pretty. Best of all, 100% of the proceeds go towards funding their adoption from Uganda!



Sweetpoppycat – This is where I got my daughter’s beloved stuffed Pug made from an upcycled wool sweater. Check out her one of a kind creations!



MermaidTearDesigns – My dear friend Lauren makes wonderful jewelry from beach glass, old buttons and vintage typewriter keys. My mom has a pretty pink beach glass necklace and earring set from Lauren.

Do you have a favorite Etsy shop? Tell me about it!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fair Trade Coffee

Fair Trade coffee is fortunately much easier to find than Fair Trade chocolate. You can find Fair Trade coffee at Target and BJ’s wholesale or online from Amazon. Green Mountain coffee makes several Fair Trade blends, which are my personal favorites. Vermont Country blend is my favorite of their Fair Trade blends. Again, look for the Fair Trade label as not all of Green Mountain’s coffees carry the label. Newman’s Own also offers a Fair Trade brew. Starbucks claims ethically made coffee on its website but I could not find a Fair Trade seal on their K-cups or bulk coffee sold at Target.

Here is an interesting article about efforts to make it illegal to sell anything other than Fair Trade coffee.

http://articles.latimes.com/2002/jul/03/news/lv-coffee3

While I would love to see no other types of coffee sold, I personally don’t think throwing people in jail for selling coffee is a good use of my tax dollars. I think we can get a lot further by educating consumers to make choices that fit with their own values.
If you have a favorite Fair Trade chocolate or coffee, please share!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fair Trade Chocolate



Maybe you’ve heard about the problem with child slavery in the chocolate industry. If you haven’t, CNN has done an investigation into the issue as part of their Freedom Project.

http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/19/child-slavery-and-chocolate-all-too-easy-to-find/

This link also has links to more articles to help understand the issue better. In an era of government gridlock, it doesn’t seem we can or should rely on this issue to be legislated away. I personally think the best way to bring about change is to speak with our wallets.

Fair Trade chocolate is NOT easy to find. I didn’t see any at my local Target (even though they sell several higher end brands in their candy aisle) or BJ’s wholesale club.

You can order it on Amazon and I found 2 different bars of Fair Trade chocolate at Trader Joe’s, a milk chocolate and a dark chocolate variety for a very reasonable $1.99 per 3.5 ounce bar. In the name of research, the kids and I tasted these bars and they get the yummy seal of approval. Both kids liked the Dark Chocolate better (I must be raising them right), but the sugar addict in me preferred the sweeter Swiss Milk Chocolate variety. Trader Joe’s also offers some varieties of Fair Trade hot cocoa.

I also found this list of the top Fair Trade chocolates. http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/latest/fair-trade-chocolate-organic-chocolate#fbIndex1
It may be a little bit of a pain to go out of your way to find and slightly more expensive than your drugstore variety chocolate bar. I think it's worth the extra effort.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Charitable Giving

In my previous post, I mentioned how BeadforLife was a catalyst in changes in my spending habits. Everywhere I turned last summer UGANDA kept popping up. I was at the library for the tween summer program with my kids and picked up a book that was displayed on top of one of the book cases called “Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa that Brought them Together” It was about a little boy (Ryan) from Canada and how he ended up building a well in Uganda.

One day I was searching on the internet for an Africa shaped cookie cutter to make at my BeadforLife party and I landed on a blog about adoption from Uganda, which led me to reading about various charities that tugged at my heartstrings. All in all that summer (not to say I was a Grinch prior to all this) I was much like the Grinch whose heart grew “three sizes larger that day.”

So maybe you are like me and you are motivated to help others, donate your time, money and resources but you want to be sure your donation is going to a group that is really going to be faithful with your donation. The Better Business Bureau has a list of charities that it rates, lists their standards and reports, and warns of possible scams currently going on. It is a great resource to help make your own decision.

I was very surprised to find that a popular charity that I had donated to in the past was not recommended by the BBB because they didn’t provide enough information to the BBB. Not particularly alarming, but what they did provide to the BBB was the salary of the head of the organization. It was disturbingly large to me and made me decide not to donate in the future to them.

Not all charities are large enough or National enough to make the list. You can request the BBB to review an organization and if they get enough inquiries they may do so. Some charities also make their financial records available for review.

Much like my introduction to Fair Trade, this is an introduction on charitable giving and look for future posts about some of my favorite charities.

http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/

And as a final note, little Ryan from the book that I mentioned above is all grown up now and his Canadian charity is still building wells, not just in Uganda but all over the world.
http://www.ryanswell.ca/

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bead for Life




















If you know me personally, then you have no doubt heard me talk about Bead for Life, so it’s no surprise I would choose to post about them on this blog. We could even say Bead for Life was the catalyst that moved me to make changes in my spending.


I heard about Bead for Life a few years ago on the Today show and tucked it away in my mind as something I would like to do “someday”. Well the timing finally felt right last summer and I signed up to host a Bead for Life party.

We’ve all been invited to neighborhood jewelry parties before – you know what I’m talking about, - beautiful jewelry, fun catching up with the gals in the neighborhood. But if you are (cheap) like me, you can’t help but thinking you could get the same thing at Kohl’s for a fraction of the price. You suck it up though because you know that extra cost is going to a good cause, getting your neighbor some free jewelry. Bead for Life takes the positive concepts from a jewelry party – fun with your friends, shopping, beautiful jewelry and makes it more meaningful.

The jewelry is made by Ugandan women from recycled paper, turned into beads. Each piece is unique. And to quote directly from the Bead for Life website, “The beads and shea butter become food, medicine, school fees and hope. It is a small miracle that enriches us all.” And the prices are SO reasonable. A simple bracelet is $5. Try finding something for $5 at a typical jewelry party. Necklaces range from $13 - $30. Inexpensive, unique and supports a wonderful cause, what more could you ask for?

I didn’t have a whole lot of people show up for my party in August, but those that did LOVED the jewelry. People came back and bought more and slowly it was a big success. I try to wear my Bead for Life jewelry everyday (yes, I was my best customer) and when I get a compliment I tell them all about Bead for Life.

It has been a great learning experience for my kids too. It started us on a journey to learning more about Uganda, about thinking outside of our tiny circle and about how we can help others. Bead for Life also has a teaching curriculum that can be used in youth groups, schools or for you homeschooling mamas.

So how about it? Want to help others and have some fun social time with your neighbors or friends? Head over to the Bead for Life website and sign up for a party! They send you everything you need to host the party. The best part is that your guests pick out their jewelry and take it home with them right at the party. No waiting weeks for the item to be shipped and then distributed, no additional shipping charges on the items you purchase. Bead for Life sends you all the jewelry to sell, you collect the money and send it back (they even conveniently provide you with the prepaid label to send it back) with any jewelry you don’t sell. There is no cost to you for having the party.

Right now they are having a March out of Poverty campaign and trying to reach 750 people signing up to host a party by March 31. The friendly people at the organization can answer any questions you may have and I would love to answer any questions you have for me about my experience.

http://www.beadforlife.org/

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fair Trade

I am expecting that many of my future posts will introduce my favorite Fair Trade items, but before I address specific products, I wanted to talk about Fair Trade itself. What is it and why should we look for it? It’s a simple definition and the name Fair Trade really sums it up, but specifically it means that the worker was paid a fair wage under healthy and safe working conditions, without child labor and that environmental impact was minimized. It is not the same as organic but often the two can be found hand in hand.

Fair Trade USA is the most common certification you will see on products. They are a nonprofit organization that certifies if a product is fair trade or not. Their website is http://www.fairtradeusa.org/

Here is a quick Youtube video from Fair Trade USA that explains it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7K4G5-ydhS0&feature=player_embedded

Do you look for the Fair Trade label? What items do you buy that are Fair Trade?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reusable Sandwich Bags

My kids prefer a bag lunch. Waiting in line at the school cafeteria just eats up too much of their short lunch break. So everyday, I pack them a lunch. And everyday I use at least SIX plastic bags total for my two kids’ lunches. It really adds up. This summer I made the decision to switch to a reusable sandwich bag, prompted by a GROUPON offer that made it enticing to give it a try.

I’ve been using these bags for about 5 months now and I have noticed a BIG difference. On the occasional day that I haven’t had a clean reusable bag to use, I cringe at the thought of going back to the plastic bags.

There are a few companies that offer the bags. You can check Amazon.com or etsy. Plus you are likely to be supporting a small business when you purchase these bags. If you decide you like them, I recommend ordering enough to get you through the week, however many that may be for you and then you can wash them all at once at the end of the week. I seem to use the smaller snack bag size more often, finding that they hold plenty.

I use the REUSIES brand (www.reusies.com). The kids loved being able to pick out a style they liked. They are lined, but not waterproof. They are dishwasher and washing machine safe, or for a quick clean up, I just wipe them with a soapy towel, rinse and let them air dry. I like that there is Velcro in two places on the bag, depending on how much is in the bag, you can get a tighter closure.

Just a warning though, as I mentioned above, the bags are not waterproof and there is not a tight seal like you get on a disposable zipper bag. For something a little more airtight, check out Laptop Lunches (www.laptoplunches.com). They offer adorable bento box style lunch boxes.

Still not sure? Here’s something to think about (info is from the Reusies website):

Plastic bags make up over 10% of debris found on US Coastlines. Each plastic bag takes over 1,000 years to break down. Plastic bags do not biodegrade, they photodegrade whereby over time they breakdown into smaller, more toxic petropolymers. Less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled. It costs more to recycle a plastic bag than to produce a new one.

So what do you think? Do you have a particular reusable bag you really like? Please share!

Welcome to my blog! I've decided it is time for me to be educated about the items I buy, whether it be making healthier choices with food or health and beauty products, or choosing to spend on items that have greater meaning to the recipient, less impact to the environment or benefit to a worthy cause. I would like to share my findings on this blog. Each post will feature a different item or company. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!