Tag Archives: parties

Dreaming of a Green Christmas : 3 Ways to Make Your Holiday Environmentally Friendly

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 9.10.28 AMBy: Elizabeth Eckhart

The holidays are a time of family celebrations, reconnecting with old friends, and celebrating all that we’re thankful for. Unfortunately, the holidays can also be a time of stress, busy schedules, and worse of all, excess. No matter how frugal you may be, chances are you’re finding that extra cold weather and party hosting costs are eating into your budget. And perhaps, if you’re like many other Intent Blog readers, the idea of so much waste, with food and energy, may bother you quite a bit. In order to both keep our habits clean and green, and save some costs, we’ve put together a list of energy saving holiday tricks to get you through the season.

Decorating Tips

If you haven’t already, consider replacing all your holiday lights with energy efficient LEDs, which actually perform better in cold weather. For larger lights, switch to 5-watt bulbs, and place all your lights on a timer or just unplug, ensuring that they won’t be left on during the day when no one can enjoy them. When shopping for outdoor decorations for yourself or others, keep in mind the wide availability of solar powered options.

If you’re really feeling green, you can also decorate with candles. Many families already use luminaries along outdoor walkways on special nights. Consider holiday scented candles, which are a beautiful addition to any home. You can also turn off the lights inside when your brightly decorated tree is on and lit. This will not only save energy; it will immediately make your home feel full of holiday spirit.

Hosting Tips

It may go against holiday tradition, but you can cook some party dishes in the microwave. The typical microwave uses 75 percent less energy than a conventional oven, so even one dish can make a large difference. Using the same reasoning, look up recipes you can create using a slow cooker. Since you’ll still be using the oven for trickier dishes, check progress through the window instead of cracking open the door (which can make the temperature drop 25 degrees in less than a minute!), and feel free to turn the oven off before the food is fully cooked. As long as the door stays shut, your food will finish perfectly and on time. Using glass or ceramic pans also means your dish will cook more quickly, so turn the oven down 20 degrees to save costs.

To keep your fridge running efficiently no matter the number of guests, keep it as stocked as possible — an easy task if feeding a large group of people! You can also defrost items in the fridge instead of a watery sink. Both tips will result in the fridge keeping cooler with less energy.

If you do happen to find your fridge is full, hold off from hauling out the spare fridge, and instead keep extra beverages and holiday leftovers cold by storing them in the garage or in the backyard. And as much as you’d like to clean up quickly following a large holiday meal, your fridge will thank you if you wait until all the food has cooled to room temperature before storing it away.

On the day of your party, turn down the thermostat to 66 degrees. Most people will find this is a comfortable range in a holiday sweater, and the increased body heat should take care of the rest. Keep a few blankets handy for older guests and chronically cold friends. If you plan on setting the mood by using the fireplace, install a tight-fitting set of glass doors and crack open a window nearby. Open-hearth fireplaces actually draw in the heated air from your home and send it straight up the chimney — a problem glass doors can stop. With increased holiday lights on top of heat usage, your bills may still come out higher than expected. If you haven’t already, start monitoring your light usage and reevaluate your energy plan using sites like Energize Connecticut and TexasElectricityProviders.com. Not only can you switch to less expensive plans, you can also choose to have most or all of your energy generated from green sources such as wind or solar.

Gift Giving and Shopping

Although many of us enjoy wandering around decorated stores during the holidays, perhaps even stopping to see Santa, before the perfect gift emerges on its own, you can save time and costs by planning out the gifts necessary for each person. Make use of outlets and strip malls, which mean you have less driving to do from store to store. You can also shop for products made locally or buy materials to craft gifts on your own, which not only supports local businesses but detracts overall from the amount of overseas transit costs and pollution that trucks, boats, and planes cause. The same goes for shopping online  — if you buy your gifts from one store instead of three, you’ll have lower costs associated with packaging and transit.

Regarding the actual gift, aim to buy fewer gifts that use electricity and batteries. An amazing 40 percent of all batteries are purchased during the holiday season, which means a lot of energy is used. If you must buy electronic gifts, definitely opt for the energy efficient versions, and maybe even throw in rechargeable batteries instead of singular usage batteries.

The holidays are the perfect time to show appreciation for those around you. Whether it be through gifts, parties, or decorations, the holidays can be exciting, albeit expensive. But, if you plan accordingly and shop wisely, you’ll find the damage to your wallet and the earth can be greatly reduced.

Elizabeth Eckhart is a Chicago born and bred blogger who is passionate about keeping the environment clean. Some of her favorite writing topics include new renewable energy technology and various ways to live a healthy lifestyle. 

How To Make Easy & Healthy Ice Pops for Kids

choc-mint-ingredients-copy-1024x704We frequently have multiple extra kids in this house. I make ice pops by the dozen to keep them satiated until the next snack, which is usually about 15 minutes later!

I have lots of different, fun ice pop molds I use to make these special treats. I can freeze just about anything in an ice pop mold and my kids will eat it. I freeze almond milk, coconut water, kale berry smoothie and my kids go crazy for it. If it is cold and sweet and shaped like a lady bug, why wouldn’t they?

Here are two delicious ice pop recipes your kids will love. Feel free to experiment, try different ingredients, and have fun watching your kids go nuts for these sweet treats!

1. Chocolate Mint Pop

This chocolate mint pop is one of the most requested ones. They say “Uh, do you have one of those chocolatey minty ones?”

I love this simple, and tasty pop because it is so easy to make, and is rich in all things good. It combines fiber-rich coconut milk, anti-oxidant rich raw cacao and cleansing mint.

The kids take their pops, and giggling, run back into the summer sun. Life is good.

Ingredients:

  • coconut milk – full fat- 2 cups
  • raw cacao powder – 1 tablespoon
  • agave – 5 tablespoons
  • mint – fresh, chopped- 1/4 cup
  • himalaya salt – dash

Instructions:

Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend until completely smooth.

Pour into ice pop molds

Put in freezer for 6-8 hours.

Enjoy!

2. Fudge and Spinach Ice Pop

These fudge pops, combined with spinach – yes, spinach – are sweet and cold and chocolatey AND very nutritious. It’s a win win in my book – and theirs.

Ingredients:

  • coconut milk – 1/2 cup
  • raw cacao powder – 1/4 cup
  • mesquite powder – 2 tsp
  • water – 1/2 cup
  • vanilla – 1 tsp
  • agave – 2 tbsp
  • salt – dash
  • spinach – 2 cups, fresh or frozen

Instructions:

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into ice pop molds. Put them in the freezer for @ 8 hours. You will need to run hot water over the mold to get the pop out.

 

Have a favorite treat you like to make for your kids and their friends? Share with us in the comments below!

Originally published on my website, Tapp’s Tips.

Cooking School Parties for Kids

 Entertaining your children’s friends is never an easy task and coming up with an idea for a birthday party is often harder. When Fresh Baby creator Cheryl Tallman’s son Spencer turned five, the event was celebrated with a cooking school extravaganza. For 2 ½ hours Cheryl and her husband transformed their home into "The Cooking School for Brilliant Kids." Here she shares just how she did it!

 

 

 

We started out doing a little research on the Internet and ordered disposable chef hats and aprons, and picked up a few kid-sized cooking utensils to use in the take-home gift bags. We also planned the menu and developed a schedule for the party.

 

Before the children arrived, we covered a ping pong table with white paper, did some prep on the foods, and decorated the dining room table for the birthday luncheon with balloons and the Star Wars tablecloth and plates that Spencer picked out.

 

When each kid arrived, they were fitted with their chef hat and apron, and we took a digital photo. We printed out their names (i.e "Chef Spencer”) on plain paper, cut it out, and used clear packaging tape to stick their name on their apron and hat. While we were waiting for all the guests to arrive, the children were given stickers to decorate their chef hats. This gave them something to do and also gave them some time to get comfortable.

 

The party menu included French bread pizza, pigs in a blanket, carrots sticks and green beans, and for dessert, ice cream and cupcakes. Our school started with a “group” experience of making ice cream. Each child took a turn pouring, measuring, or whisking, while the others watched attentively. We poured our ice cream in the machine and moved on to making lunch.

 

We spread the kids out around the table and started with the French bread pizza, each child took a piece of bread and “painted” it with pizza sauce, sprinkled cheese, added pepperoni, and placed their creation on a cookie sheet. The pigs in a blanket were next. Each child took a piece of crescent roll dough that were already separated onto a piece of wax paper. They picked up a hot dog with tongs and then rolled the dough around the hot dog, and they were placed on another sheet pan.

 

After the main course was prepared, we took a class photo, and it was time for a break while the master chef (me!) put everything in the oven. The kids all went into the living room for a game of “Pin The Mustache On The Chef", and a magic show put on by my husband Roger, who picked up some magic books at the library the week before. By the time entertainment was done, the kid’s masterpieces were ready to be served. In the dining room each child’s plate had a piece of pizza, a pig in the blanket, some carrot sticks and green beans. The kids were so excited about their accomplishments. They all happily and proudly ate their lunch.

 

After lunch, it was back to cooking school for cupcake decorating. We had colored icing bags (tied at the top) and an assortment of sprinkles. This was the BEST event of all, the kids had great time. The creativity of a five year old is absolutely precious. After about 20 minutes, it was back to the dining room, were we sang “Happy Birthday”, and gobbled up our cupcakes and homemade ice cream. After that, we opened gifts and gave out the take-home gift bags. Two and half hours seemed to fly by.

 

Spencer’s thank you notes were sent with a certificate (printed on our home computer) from “The Cooking School for Brilliant Kids”, and it included the child’s picture and the class photo.

 

We learned that a cooking party is a great theme to entertain kids, keep them engaged, and to teach then some new skills. This party was quite affordable too – about $100 total. It just required some upfront planning, a little research and some creativity to make it fun!

 

If you are thinking of having your own cooking extravaganza, here are few tips that you might find useful:

 

-Keep the recipes simple and have the steps written down to follow.

 

-Do food prep in advance, so kids are not waiting, and you can avoid the use of knives, graters and other dangerous utensils.

 

-Make the experience hands-on, a combination of group recipes and individual ones worked well to keep kids focused.

 

 

-Have an adult work the oven or stove and keep the kids away from them.

 

-Use a big table for your workspace (the ping pong table was perfect) and line it with paper (or plastic table cloth) for easy clean up.

 

-At $2/kid the chef hats and aprons were totally worth it – not one kid took them off during the party. We heard one girl wore her hat all day!

 

About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com for more delicious tips.

 

Halloween Adventure!

My biggest problem is depression. It spirals downward from a quick disparaging thought into a full-blown attack of my life is nowhere near where I thought it would be.

So, to both celebrate Halloween and to pull myself away from negative thoughts, I am doing two things.

  1. Going with a friend to take pictures in a graveyard for a personal project.
  2. Going to a Halloween party at my best friend’s house.

The first comes as a result of a swap on swap-bot.com, so I’m excited not only to take my pictures, but to receive pictures back from my two partners. I’ve never done a swap like this, and I’m nervous about others not liking my photography, but I decided to join the swap anyway! I think it’s a good step towards branching out.

The second comes from my need to get out of the house. If I’m out, being "forced" to have fun, I’m not sitting at home wawllowing in my dark thoughts. I have most of my costume ready–I just need to get a good "biker chick" t-shirt. I’m thinking of going with Guns ‘n Roses. 🙂

I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful Halloween and a beautiful autumn season. This is my favourite time of the year, so I’m going to make the best of it!

Namaste.

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