Thursday, February 18, 2016

Doing Away with Party Favors

Over the years the rise of bigger and better birthday parties for our children has some parents reeling.
Their child comes home from these parties sugared and artificial colored up, and carrying a bag of more sugar and colorings or cheap plastic party favor toys.

Some mothers take it in stride.
It's all part of the fun of birthday parties.

Others aren't so happy, and they are beginning to speak up.
Junior is messed up for a week from all the artificial colors.
The toys get lost or broken quickly and wind up taking up space in a land fill.

I, personally, don't want parents or guardians to feel obligated to give my child anything for coming to the party.  We're just happy we got invited to celebrate!  We don't need tokens or gifts of our own.

But, some parents feel it is necessary or just want to give back.

So, here are some ideas of how to "favor up" a child without the cheap candies and toys:

1.  PHOTO BOOTH:  You can either hire one or set one up yourself.  Children can dress up or just pose for a cute picture you can print out for the family to add to their album.

2.  SEED BOMBS:  This can double as an activity at the party.  Children can make seed bombs to take home.  Seed bombs are seeds mixed in balls of clay and allowed to dry.  The bombs can then be planted or thrown on the side of the highway (check local laws).

3.  FACE PAINT:  Instead of carrying a bag of goodies home, a child can wear a bit of fun on their face!

4.  MANICURES:  Get those nails done!

5.  PONY RIDE OR PETTING ZOO:  Give your guests something special by hiring a pony ride or petting zoo.  Experiences trump things!

6.  U-PICK FARM:  See if you can have the party at a U-Pick farm and children can take home some produce as a favor.

7.  HOMEMADE GUMMIES:  Find a recipe online for healthy, homemade gummy candies and make it ahead of time or as an activity at the party.

8.  RECYCLED CRAYONS:  Have your guests bring (or hit your own stash of) broken crayons.  Kiddos can melt the crayons (with adult supervision) and use molds to create their own new crayons.  
9.  FAIRY GARDENS:  Buy or gather natural materials, or have the children raid your yard for materials to build a fairy scene or garden to take home.

10.  CARDS:  Perhaps your child and his/her friends are card gamers, or collect cards like sports cards or character cards.  If all the guests are involved in the same game or interest, have them bring their collections to play or exchange and provide some new packages for them, or sleeves.

11.  BIRD SEED:  Guests can depart with their own bag of bird seed for their feathered friends at home or at the park.

Do you have any environmentally friendly and health conscious ideas?  Leave them in the comments.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Imperfectly Perfect Home

I'm a real estate junkie.

Every weekend I look for open houses to visit.

I'm very judicious, though.  I personally think it is poor form to bother realtors every weekend just to look at houses.  I'm sure they'd catch on and get a bit miffed or weirded out that this lady keeps showing up but never buying.

But, if a gorgeous vintage cape cod or bungalow shows up on the market, or a pretty farm house, or colonial with many originals still intact, you bet I'm going to be there!

This past weekend, my neighbor's house had their open house.

The house is a 40 year old small ranch that fell into sad disrepair since the elderly who lived there couldn't keep up with it, were sort of hoarders, and had dogs that kind of did what they wanted where they wanted.

A real estate company bought it, gutted it, and fixed it up and I just HAD to see the transformation.

It was quite the treat to walk in, smell the fresh paint, and see everything brand new and professional done.

No crayon marks on the walls.

No scuffs on the floors.

No stains on the carpets.

No dust bunnies behind the appliances.

No dirt on the welcome mat.

No scratches on the cabinet doors.

No fading, discoloring, yellowing, candle soot, dirty diaper smells, leaks, or pitting.

It. Was. Perfect.

Later that night, I was washing my kitchen floor and noticed my discolored, scuffed, stained, dripped on lower kitchen cabinets.

They are original to the house...1950...enameled metal.

Not easily repainted, and after decades of use, not easily cleaned to gleaming, either.

We have a little red chair in the kitchen for the children to use to put their shoes on, but it often gets dragged to the counter, and banged against the cabinets in eager hope to stir the batter and lick the spoon, leaving red paint streaks on the dingy white enamel.

I was tempted to be disappointed in my scuffed cabinets.

My house isn't perfect.
Far from it.

I can see the wrinkled noses of any future real estate agents should we ever sell.

But this little cottage is our home, and every scrape, scuff, and gouge has a story to tell.
No red marks on the lower cabinets means no little helpers to stir the batters for more.

Some day we'll repaint and repair.*  Perhaps we'll even be able to remodel.

For now, the best part of the glorious imperfection of our little cottage is that it isn't a big deal if the kids do mess something up.

*Now, don't get me wrong.  Our house isn't in such a state of disrepair it is disgusting.  Just well-lived-in.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Considering Before Tossing

One of my favorite shows to watch is BBC's Victorian Farm.
I was able to acquire the companion book for it as well.

In the series, Ruth Goodman explains how nothing went to waste on a Victorian Farm.  It wasn't a matter of environmental concerns so much as it was a moral economic duty to not be wasteful.

It really challenged me to consider what I haphazardly toss away on a daily basis.

I'm pretty frugal and environmentally careful, but there is always room for improvement.
For example, I tend to use tea bags twice.  I'll make hubby's mug of tea for breakfast and then make myself a cup of tea with the same bag.  I don't require it as strong as hubby does, so it works out that I get the weaker tea. 

Now, normally, I am pleased with the frugality and practicality of getting two teas out of one teabag before tossing it, but I learned through Ruth Goodman that I can save the tea leaves for another use.  Damp tea leaves sprinkled on the floors prevent dust from blowing up into the air when cleaning the floors!  (Yes, I am totally going to try this because I hate cleaning my floors and in the sunbeams streaming through my windows seeing the rolling clouds of dust billowing from my efforts.)

Ruth also says that the cleanings from the floors, including the tea leaves, then goes onto the compost heap.
I'm not sure if I can do that, though, simply because in the 21st century our dust is more synthetic.  There's plastic bits, polyester fibers, and other icky pollutants we sometimes have to live with simply because it's the 21st century.
So, in the dustbin my floor cleanings will go.

Just last night I had to scrub out some cast iron pans.
I dry them with paper towels (because the pans tend to blacken my cloth towels) and then rub them down with oil with a square of paper towel.

I am scrimpy with my paper towels anyway, but just as I was tossing the paper towels into the trash I realized they are not yet spent for the trash.  They can be dried and composted.  They can be dried and used as a fire starter for our outdoor wood boiler, especially the oil soaked one.

Even the wax paper wrapping off of the butter can be reused.  Use it to grease a dish and then the wrapper can become part of a fire starter

Yes, all of this is time consuming, and who wants bowls and buckets of trash laying around because it might have potential use somewhere else.
I get that.
But it is an interesting experiment to see how far we can go before something is discarded.

Not only do we in the 21st century have an economic concern for wasting not, but an environmental one as well.

For more information on reducing your waste and consumption, go to my sidebar and read The Zero Waste Home blog.

Don't be discouraged by the extreme success Bea has had with her experience.  It can seem all too much for some of us, but rather GLEAN what you can do.

Every little bit can help your purse strings and this earth that God gave us.