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.


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.


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.


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.

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.