Natural family living

The Natural Manicure

Filed under: Uncategorized, Health, Beauty, Frugality — March 24, 2008 @ 8:51 am

969025_hands.jpgIf you want to have prettier hands, you can use natural ingredients that won’t cost a lot of money and that also don’t contain cancer causing chemicals. Here are a few easy steps to have prettier hands, naturally.

The Natural Manicure

First, fill a small bowl with warm water and a few drops of your favorite relaxing essential oil, such as lavendar, rose or ylang ylang. Soak your hands for a few minutes to soften cuticles.

Second, push your cuticles back gently with an orange stick. Using a cuticle nipper, trim excess skin and any pote811884_hand_brush.jpgntial hangnails. Don’t go overboard - you don’t want to remove your cuticles entirely.

Third, whip up a sea salt or sugar scrub. Combine 1/3 cup sea salt (you can also use sugar), the juice of one lime (or lemon), and 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Rub this into your hands for a couple of minutes to slough off dead skin. Rinse with warm water.

Fourth, massage some organic lotion into your hands. Or use a couple of drops of olive or coconut oil. If you do this while your hands are still damp, they won’t feel greasy. Wipe the lotion off your nails with a dry washcloth.843216_isolated_red_nail_polish.jpg

Fifth, buff your fingernails with a fingernail buff until they shine. Shiny, healthy nails are beautiful on their own, but if you want to paint them, be sure to use toulene, DBP and formaldehyde free formulations. Most nail polishes and removers contain these toxins so check labels carefully.

Why Spanking Doesn’t Work

Filed under: Uncategorized, Mothering, Discipline, Toddlers, Preschoolers, Older Kids, Family Life, Fatherhood — March 13, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

948308_ryan_and_cora.jpgWhy Spanking Doesn’t Work

A child misbehaves by poking, kicking or hitting another child. The parent grabs him by the arm and slaps or spanks him for hitting that child. Is there anything wrong with this picture?

Spanking teaches children that violence is the solution to behavior problems.  Essentially when we talk about discipline we are talking about teaching the behavior that we would like to see and correcting the behavior we don’t in our children.  What better way to teach our children than to model that which is considered respectful, fair and appropriate.  Slapping or spanking a child is a behavior not considered respectful or even civil so why would we subject children to that?

There are many advocates for corporal punishment (spanking) that argue that children who misbehave (or seriously misbehave) will only respond to spanking and that parents who do not spank such kids “spoil” them.   As stated above, spanking teaches kids that violence is okay.

One of TV’s more popular advice experts, psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw, notes on his website that research has shown that “long-term consequences of spanking can include increased aggressiveness, antisocial behavior, and delinquency.” Of course, proponents of spanking say that this is only true of abusive kinds of discipline, and that all spanking doesn’t fall under that umbrella.

Still, no matter what immediate benefits that spanking may bring (stopping the misbehavior) to parents want to accept these potential long term consequences of modeling violence as a solution to conflict?

In many cases parents spank because they simply don’t have an ideas or approaches to stop the misbehavior that does not include spanking. Many parents simply raise their children in the manner that they were raised. Often times parents do things without even being aware that they are repeating a behavior they were taught as a child.

Parents need skills! So said famed child psychologist Haim Ginott. Books like How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, which is based on his ideas, may help teach parents how to set limits with their kids and express their own feelings appropriately.

So how do parents break the “spanking cycle”?  A good way is to become informed about the alternative ways of discipline. These alternatives may be more time consuming and frustrating but on one ever said parenting was easy.

Take the time to talk to your child.  It may take a while for your child to respond to “talking” but with consistency and firmness in your approach it can be a much more satisfying and educational moment for both you and your child. Use natural consequences to teach your child that their behavior has consequences.

Whether the child is 3 or 9, taking the time to express and communicate your displeasure with a behavior honestly is a rich learning moment.  It may not feel that way at the time, but by honesty and sincerely expressing your discontent in language that reaches your child, you are showing real concern and engaging your child in a way that teaches him respect and good communication.

The consistent show of respect and patience in listening to your child explain his behavior will teach your child the importance of dignity and compassion during those times when it matters most.

You will be exhausted and it will take likely far greater effort than a spanking, but the benefit will far outweigh the inconvenience of fatigue and extra time spent.  You don’t have to be perfect as a parent; you just have to be willing to take each disciplinary experience as a learning one for you and your child.

The Responsive Parenting online parenting course

The Benefits of Homeschooling

Filed under: Uncategorized — March 12, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

home schooling benefitsThe Benefits of Homeschooling

When many parents consider homeschooling their children they often think the longest about all of the challenges that would face them as homeschooling parents. Often times the hardships, perceived and real, dwarf the benefits. Parents wonder how they will find the time to homeschool. They may doubt their ability to be a good teacher or instructor. Lack of socialization and structure may also be a concern.

What about the benefits though? Are they receiving the same consideration or do they get trumped by all of the potential hardships and problems? What are some of the benefits? Here are few things to consider:
Homeschoolers Can Work at Their Own Pace

The public schooling system is often times criticized for its failure to consider the individual needs and learning styles of each child. In classes with 20 or more students it is impossible for children to get the one on one attention they may need and it is easy for a child to be labeled as “slow” or learning disabled because they appear to be behind their peers academically. The problem with this thinking this that it does not consider the very real possibility that they are simply learning and working at their own normal pace and development. When one standard of excellence is forced upon all children then inevitably some children will fall behind and be made to feel inadequate. Homeschooling can be incredibly liberating for you and for your child when they are allowed to grow and learn on their own terms and at their own unique pace.  The one on one time you spend with your child may be just what he or she needs more than anything else.

Homeschooling Is Flexiblechild-home-school.jpg

Parents of publicly schooled children are all too familiar with pressure. Their lives are dictated by alarm clocks, bus schedules, lunch money, school activities, teacher’s conferences, homework, and bedtimes just to name a few. It may seem that public school is the easiest option for a busy parent but when all of the demands placed upon parents by the public schooling schedule are considered it starts to look more like a burden than a benefit. Homeschooling can be done on any schedule that works for your family.

Homeschooling Allows Parents to Teach Their Values

Parents of publicly schooled children will often be the first to tell you about how the issues that face young children in schools today are of great concern. Children are exposed to foul language, drugs, smoking, illegal activities, and sex just to name a few. Most parents would probably consider this peer top peer education to be inappropriate and lacking. Parents that homeschool are in the unique positioned to be the able to teach their children about these issues on their own terms and at the appropriate time without too much outside influence counteracting their instruction.

Homeschooling Can Increase Socialization for the Whole Family

The availability of homeschooling playgroups and support groups and other homeschooling activities such as travels to museums and historical areas of interest provide opportunities for socialization for everyone. More and more homeschooling parents are realizing that they don’t need to stay home and assist their child with workbook drills. They can take their children out of the home and benefit from real life experiences, meeting to new people, and seeing new things and places. The whole family benefits when learning is expanded in this way.

When considering homeschooling for your child it is easy to dwell on the hardships that may be presented by this choice but don’t forget that there are a lot of benefits too.

Reusable Bags for Green Shopping

Filed under: Uncategorized, The Planet — March 11, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

reusable shopping bagReusable Bags for Green Shopping

One of the easiest yet biggest impact steps to you can take toward greener living is to ditch the paper and plastic shopping bags and shop with reusable bags instead. Anywhere from 500 billion to one trillion plastic shopping bags are consumed around the world each year and they end up in our landfills, along our highways, and in our oceans. They have become a big environmental problem. Environmental clean-up crews site plastic bags as one of the 12 most common items polluting our earth. Plastic bags are also responsible for the deaths of thousands of marine animals each year as sea turtles and whales that eat plastic bags after mistaking them for food.

Plastic bags are also made using a non renewable, highly polluting resource…petroleum. Using plastic bags diminishes the availability of our natural resources and damages the environment as petroleum is extracted from the planet. Plastic bags can usually only be reused one or two times and they are seldom recycled. They may be touted as the cheapest, most convenient solution for touting your goods and products but their environmental impact is quite costly. Green consumers everywhere are seeking to ditch the plastic and start a BYOB campaign, “Bring Your Own Bag”. It is actually pretty easy. Just start bringing your own bags whenever you go shopping.

Chances are you probably already have a good starter selection of reuseable bags in your home. Beach bags, backpacks, canvas bags, large purses, etc. can all be used to carry items home from a shopping expedition. If you don’t have very many bags you may have luck finding some at thrift stores and garage sales. You can also make your own with some sturdy fabric and thread. There are also dozens of online stores that carry reusable shopping bags in many of styles, colors, and material choices. You can buy bags made form sturdy canvas, stylish bamboo, or even recycled garbage. Some bags are made to be super compact so that they can be attached to a keychain, belt loop or backpack.

Major grocery stores and shopping chains are even encouraging customers to use reusable bags by offering them for purchase in their stores and by offering monetary discounts for each bag you use in their stores. Whole Foods and Ikea are two such stores that offer cash discounts and even Wal-Mart is selling them. They are so accessible and fashionable now that there are no excuses anymore NOT to use them.

One big reason why so many people still use plastic though is because they are free and they are given out by stores so you have no need to remember to bring your own bags. More and more cities and countries are beginning to impose bans or taxes on plastic bags to reduce their consumption so there is no time like the present to break your plastic bag habit. Reusable bags can easily be stored in your car trunk or glove compartment so that you always have some on hand. Attaching a compact bag to your purse will remind you to have your bags ready for shopping trips and soon it will be habit. Now you can visit a grocery store, department store, mall, or even a roadside market and be prepared to use your own bags.

Green Your Finances

Filed under: Uncategorized, Frugality, The Planet, Finances — March 7, 2008 @ 8:01 am

678948_writing_check.jpgGreen Your Finances

An average family concern for most is that of finances. When people think about budgeting and money matters they visualize check books, account statements, tax records, stacks of receipts, a calculator, and the like. The visual usually involves a lot of clutter and chaos and perhaps a stressed man or woman poring over their financials.

There are a lot of steps we can take to streamline and simplify our finance management for your family and many of these methods happen to be green too. Even paying our bills and managing our money can be hassle free and environmentally minded. Here are a few ideas to green your finances:

1. Manage your finances with budgeting and finance software for your computer for a hassle free and paper free option. Quicken and QuickBooks are two popular accounting programs. Microsoft Money can be linked to your online bank accounts and will pull transaction data directly from your banks upon request. This is a very handy feature. In lieu of fancy software programs you can also use a simple spreadsheet and there are many templates available online that are free and customized to meet the needs of finance management.

2. Request that your bank stop sending you paper account statements in the mail. Most banks now offer online reconciliation and account statements. Online statements usually go back up to six months and can be printed if you need them for any reason. Account statements can also be emailed upon request.

3. Request that your bills be sent to you electronically as well. Some companies may not yet offer this service but more and more are offering this every year. When the bills come to you via email you can just click and pay. The emails can be filed away on your computer if you need to refer back to them.

4. Get away from checks and snail mail by paying bills online, over the phone, or through monthly drafts direct from your checking account. These transactions are easy and waste free.

5. When online paying bills or making purchases, refrain from printing confirmations and receipts. Instead capture an image of your screen and the receipt using the control+alt+print screen function. Then just save the image as a .jpg file using a photo editor and file it on your computer accordingly. You can also keep track of what receipts you have and dollar amounts on a simple spreadsheet.

6. For paper receipts that you accumulate you can tame the paper beast by scanning them and filing them on your computer as well. You can also use a product called Neat Receipts. It scans, analyzes and organizes your receipts, bills and other papers and then sends everything electronically to a database on your computer.

NEAT Receipts Professional Mobile Receipt and Document Scanner and Software Combination Version 3.0Following the tips above will almost certainly reduce the amount of clutter and needless waste in your life when it comes to matters of finance.

More resources for greening your finances: The Green Magazine Guide to Personal Finance

Practice the 3 Rs as a Family

Filed under: Uncategorized, Family Life, Lifestyle, The Planet — March 6, 2008 @ 7:51 am

797901_recycle_logo.jpgPractice the 3 Rs as a Family

The three R’s of environmentalism are reduce, reuse, and recycle. They are important for green families to know and consider in daily life as they often serve as the foundation for green goals and family ideals. All three of them should be considered whenever we take out the trash or buy new products for the home.

Reducing basically means eliminating things you don’t need to; making less garbage. When making purchases it is important to determine if the products you are buying are really necessary. Many times we tend to find that we buy many luxury items along side the necessities. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself occasionally but as a rule simplicity is better. If you do decide to buy, you can still reduce your landfill contribution buy electing to buy products that will last for a long time or have another use later on.

Purchasing reusable items that need not be thrown away is another great way to avoid landfill waste. It is environmentalrecycling binly reckless to use disposable products that can only be used once before being thrown away. This puts a burden on our planetary resources and creates needless waste.

Recycling is the process by which materials are collected and used as a basis for new products or materials. Recycling items that you would otherwise throw away reduces landfill waste and helps us conserve energy and money. Buying products made from post consumer recycled materials encourages more recycling.

Here are just a few of the ways that green families can practice the 3 R’s:

1. Use dishes, flatware, and glasses instead of their disposable counterparts.
2. Set out cloth napkins for family meals.
3. Use cloth diapers and cloth baby wipes.
4. Start a compost pile for kitchen scraps.
5. Ask yourself if that item you have your eye on is a necessity or a luxury.
6. Donate toys and clothes you no longer have a use for to others that can use them.
7. Instead of buying new check out second hand stores or online message boards like Craigslist and Freecycle.
8. Start an organic garden to reduce your grocery bill and time spent shopping.
9. Buy rechargeable batteries.
10. Invest in reusable shopping bags and stop using the paper and plastic ones provided by the store.
11. Join a book or clothing swap.
12. Recycle your old cell phones and eyeglasses.
13. Use paper scraps and old magazines for kids craft projects.
14. Don’t purchase greeting cards and invitations from the store, send digital invites and greetings instead.
15. Use worn out clothing and make a memory quilt that will be treasured for generations to come.


Five Fertilizing Options for Organic Gardens

Filed under: Uncategorized, The Planet, Gardening, Organics — March 6, 2008 @ 7:45 am

Five Fertilizing Options for Organic Gardens

Most people have different ideas on how to fertilize their organic gardens.  While some depend on compost, others visit their local gardening stores to purchase ready-to-use fertilizer.  To this end, here are an additional five fertilizing options for organic gardening which you may consider as well.

Due to the fact that nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are the three main ingredients needed for organic garden fertilization, home-made compost may not be enough to do the job.

If you want to ensure that you are giving your organic garden enough of what it needs to be able to plant a healthy and quantitative crop, here are some fertilizers which can assist you in this endeavor:gardeningtools.jpg

1.  One fertilizer that has all of the nutrients needed for your organic garden is alfalfa meal.  Its components contribute to plant growth.

2.  Much has been made of a fertilizer called blood meal.  A source of nitrogen, it has a ratio of 12-2-1. 

3.  Bone meal is also being recommended by garden experts.  Since it is a great source of phosphorus and calcium, it’s a good one to add to your list.

4.  High in potassium, kelp meal is recommended as well.  Using it in combination with bone meal is ideal, since kelp meal does not contain enough phosphorus.

5.  Another nutrient which is high in potassium and nitrogen is comfrey.  This is especially useful if you plan to grow organic tomatoes and fruit.

In addition, you can also compost certain nutrients which can further enhance the fertilization of your garden.  The first nutrient is called nettles, which is a food which insects ingest and which can also be composted into an organic liquid.  The second alternative is to use compost worms with any waste products from your kitchen.  This will also provide nutrition for the soil.  The third is the process of composting tea.  If you find that your soil is not at its best, this process will add the nutrients that are lacking in your organic garden.

Well, there you have it.  These are the five fertilizing options for organic gardens you can utilize when you begin planting in the spring.  For now, it may be prudent to take all the leaves in the back yard and prepare a compost pile.   Since the compost pile is a rich source of carbon, nitrogen, and water, there is no doubt you will be sufficiently prepared to plan what to plant in your organic garden.

Five Places to Buy Organic Produce

Filed under: Uncategorized, Nutrition, Health, Homemaking, The Planet, Gardening, Organics — March 6, 2008 @ 7:40 am

farmers marketFive Places to Buy Organic Produce

Whether you grown your own organic garden or shop at your local farmer’s market, you can be assured there are plenty of places to obtain organic fruits and vegetables.  To assist you in this endeavor, here are five places to buy organic fruits and vegetables:

1.  Organic Delivery Online.  There are several websites devoted to purchasing organic fruits and vegetables.  Some sites offer you the opportunity to buy directly online, while others give you lists of places where you can purchases fruits and vegetables.  The Organic Consumers Association has a comprehensive website that is totally devoted to organic foods.  Here you will find lists of places where you can purchase organic foods.

2.  Farmer’s Markets.  This is a great place to find organic fruits and vegetables.  Once you have determined that the market is in fact organic, you will be afforded the opportunity to purchase freshly picked fruits and vegetables when in season.  In fact, you may find that the prices are a bit less than traditional supermarkets that carry organic food

3.  Grow Your Own Organic Garden.  This is probably the best way to ensure your fruits and vegetables are grown safely and pesticide free.  Many people are now in the process of starting a compost pile which will aid them in the planting phase in the spring.  There is absolutely nothing like the taste of a freshly grown tomato, as well as other vegetables from your own organic garden.  It’s affordable and easy to maintain.  In addition, you can check online sources to assist you on where to purchase seeds as well as get gardening tips.

4.  Local Supermarkets.  Since there is a demand for organic fruits and vegetables, you may wish to check several of your local supermarkets to determine if they have organic products available.  The prices may be a bit high, so research is required to ascertain who has the best prices and availability.

5.  Co-ops and CSAs (community supported agriculture).  This is probably the most inexpensive way to obtain organic fruits and vegetables.  There are many food cooperatives which offer discounts to its members based on bulk buying.  Not only can you save money, but you are helping these local farmers to continue to provide organic foods at low prices.  The only requirement is that if you buy in bulk, you have enough storage space where you can easily store the fruits and vegetables for a few months.

As mentioned earlier, the Organic Consumers Association is your best bet in locating organic fruits and vegetables, especially if you live in a community where farmer’s markets or local supermarkets do not carry organic products. 

What’s the Big Deal About Organic Foods Anyway?

Filed under: Uncategorized, Nutrition, Health, The Planet, Organics — March 5, 2008 @ 7:33 am

What’s the Big Deal About Organic Foods Anyway?

There is still a debate going on as to whether or not organic foods are better for you than conventional food products.  So what’s the big deal about organic foods anyway?  Well, here is a hint that non-organic foods might be a problem. 

According to the National Research Council (NRC),

traces of pesticides left on traditionally grown products are unlikely to cause an increase in cancer.  If fruits and vegetables are properly washed, most of the chemicals are likely to be removed.” 

This statement not only proves that non-organic foods can be hazardous to your health, but is contradictory to say the least.  On the one hand, the NRC, who are proponents for non-organic foods are saying it’s okay to buy these foods, yet on the other hand they are admitting that pesticides are present and can pose a health risk.  So who’s right?      

It has long been confirmed that organic food does not contain high amounts of pesticides.  Thus, organic food has become more popular today than ever before.  Companies and organizations who promote healthy eating, as well as finding ways to protect the environment, may still be in the minority.  However, they are gaining ground in light of the recent recall of certain vegetables and meats.

It also follows that families who are making a conscious effort to protect the environment are leaning towards an organic lifestyle.  So the question still remains:  What’s the big deal about organic foods?  Quite frankly, it is only a big deal to those who oppose this alternative lifestyle.

Let’s take a look at some facts about organic foods: 

* Consuming foods that are naturally grown is healthier and provides more nutrition. 
* Foods organically grown are known to contain more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 
* There are no additives present.
* The process of organic farming eliminates any form of chemicals or hormones.  Our environment is protected and our wildlife are given much better treatment than by conventional standards. 
* Most importantly, the fertilization of soil promotes healthier crops.

Finally, those in the know tell us that organic foods taste better than the more traditional non-organic foods. 

Consuming organic foods is an individual choice.  But whether you grow your own organic garden, eat at restaurants which only serve organic foods, or purchase organic foods at your local farmer’s market, there is something to be said for the nutritional value contained in organic foods.

So what’s the big deal about organic foods anyway?  Obviously, the big deal is most likely an economic one.  Organic farming, or converting a conventional farm into an organic one, would take years before it can be certified as organic.  In addition, while there are organic farms today, the supply has not yet met the demand.  For now, however, those who prefer an organic lifestyle are living healthier, eating healthier, and are contributing to a more viable environment.

Is Your Local Farmer’s Market Really Selling Organic Food?

Filed under: Uncategorized, Nutrition, Health, The Planet, Organics — March 5, 2008 @ 7:31 am

farmers marketIs Your Local Farmer’s Market Really Selling Organic Food?

There was a recent story written about a farmer’s market whose products were taken from supermarket shelves and sold to the public.  Sound incredulous?  Perhaps, but given the likelihood this story is true, many people would pose this question: Is your local farmer’s market really selling organic food?

The only way to determine if your farmer’s market is selling organic food is to look for the USDA Organic Seal.  Of course, those of you who have been consuming organic foods for some time have already developed a relationship with your local farmer’s market, and already know who has organic status and who does not.

There is a noticeable contradiction when it comes to organics.  While the USDA has strict guidelines for farmers who wish to obtain organic status, the USDA also seems to ignore its tenets as it relates to larger corporations.   Because the supply is not meeting the demand, there is a battle between companies who are increasing their production of processed foods versus the organic farmers who are working very hard to gain organic status (which, by the way, can take a year or more).

For those farmer’s markets who only sell organic products, the good news for them is they are now listed on the Organic Consumers Association website.  This means that anyone who wants to be absolutely sure their local farmer’s market has organic status can easily make that determination. 

Throughout the world, government regulations are kept in force to ensure that farmer’s markets are not only organic certified, but adhere to the stringent rules and regulations governing their status.  For example, the NASAA monitors Australian organic farms; the JAS equally does so in Japan; and here in the US, the Organic Food Production Act requires the USDA to develop standards for organic products nationally.

Therefore, it is clear that the consumer is the best judge as to whether or not their local farmer’s market has organic status and meets the standards set forth by their respective government’s regulations.

Farmers are hard workers.  The process of gaining organic status is a daunting challenge, and one that is not taken lightly.  To suggest that farmer’s markets in general are somehow duping the public is ludicrous.   There may be a few unscrupulous people trying to get away with this kind of action, but one can be assured they will not be in business for long.

Those who have chosen organics as a lifestyle are far more savvy when it comes to spotting imposters: both seller and product.  For those that are new to organic living, as mentioned earlier there are plenty of websites that can help you discern where to purchase organic foods, locate certified organic farmer’s markets, and even shop online as well.