Saturday, December 26, 2009

Movie Review: Food, Inc.

Food, Inc.
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season :)  I had a family gathering to attend, out in California.  It was so great to get together with my mother's side of the family.  One of the highlights of the trip was a shopping trip through a Trader Joe's grocery store with several of my cousins, after a lovely organic lunch at the Stanford Cafe at Stanford University.  I was very pleased to see such an interest by the local college community in healthy, sustainable eating, and that affordable options are available, like at Trader Joe's.  We picked up lots of snacks and treats, like organic pita chips and chocolates, and we strolled the aisles while sipping samples of delicious hot organic spiced apple cider.  The prices at Trader Joe's are amazing.  $4.99 for almond butter, for example, which sells at my local grocery store for $10.99.  Eating organic doesn't require spending your whole paycheck.

Melissa and Doug Ice Cream and Cake Party BundleMelissa & Doug Slice and Bake Cookie SetMelissa & Doug Wooden Pantry Products

We had a lovely Christmas at home.  Our four-year-old is thrilled with the all-natural wooden food toys by Melissa and Doug, that Santa Claus left under our tree.  She's busy scooping ice cream, serving us fresh-baked frosted cookies, singing Happy Birthday to Jesus and serving cake, and taking her favorite stuffed toys to the grocery store.  She made me so proud when she remembered to bring her own reusable bags ;)  We're very happy that she's following in our green footsteps.

Now that we have a few days to relax, and spend time as a family, hubby and I finally got around to watching a few movies, including Food, Inc., which I've been very eager to see.  I remember reading Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation in college, and I was so glad to have taken that class in economics of food.  That book really opened my eyes to the industry of manufactured food, and was the starting point of what would eventually be a green, organic lifestyle.  I was very pleased to see that Eric Schlosser, along with Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, and In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, which I really enjoyed, were producers and hosts in Food, Inc.

This is a really well put together movie; not at all dry, like typical documentaries.  The crews explored the hidden ugly truths behind feed lots, the tyrannical power of the multinational food conglomerates, like Monsanto (which just happens to be on the top of my personal list of despicable companies).   Being able to see how powerless farmers are, at the mercy of these giants, really helped us reinforce our decision to make organic, local food choices, whenever possible.  If we, as consumers, continue to buy cheap, unhealthy products, that's what the market will produce.  But the opposite is also true.  Watching one farmer's commitment to producing real food, the natural way, gives us all hope, that maybe feedlots and food contamination will someday be a thing of the past -- humankind's one time experiment gone wrong.  Our family has already made the shift to organic produce through our buying club, and we've increased our proportion of organic meat purchases to conventional.  We're hoping to make a total switch by investing in a deep freezer, and splitting whole grass-fed steer with our club next.

Every penny spent does send a message to the producers and suppliers.  Let's all make a commitment in 2010 to send a loud and clear, green, organic message to all of them.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Product and Site Review, and Coupon Code: MyGoodGreetings.com - Eco-Friendly Green Greeting Cards

Happy Holidays, everyone!

This year began with some unexpected challenges, but we pulled through together, and we feel very blessed for all that we have :)

It's time to share in the holiday spirit.  We're very happy to see more options becoming available to help us have a greener Christmas.  Along with having properly recycled our old, broken incandescent Christmas tree lights, and now enjoying beautifully bright, colorful, and super energy-efficient LEDs, we'll be sending out eco-friendly recycled greeting cards.

We were very pleased with the lovely samples we received from MyGoodGreetings.com, a company that specializes in beautiful, customizable greeting cards, that are green, from the ground up.  Everything from Christmas cards, Hanukkah greetings, birth announcements, wedding announcements, thank you cards, party invitations, and address labels, customized with your own photos, can be produced by their Bay Area Certified Green Business printer.  I really enjoyed navigating the MyGoodGreetings.com website.  It's very easy to find the category you're looking for, and all of their lovely designs can been viewed together on one page.

The samples we received are printed on sturdy, FSC Certified recycled card stock, and the colors and print are bright and crisp.  Even with purchasing Green-e certified renewable power offset credits, MyGoodGreetings.com offers products that are very price competitive with many of the popular custom photo product printers on the Web, like Shutterfly.com; a conventional printer and online storage site, that we used before, for things like our birth announcements, Christmas, and thank you cards.  We'll be glad to switch our greeting card printing needs over to MyGoodGreetings.com.

 

Just in time for the holiday season, MyGoodGreetings.com is sharing a special coupon code for our Green Organic readers.  Place your orders by January 31, 2010 and enter the following code, and enjoy 10% off your order!

GREENORGANIC10

This would be perfect for your holiday greetings, thank you cards, Christmas and New Year's party invitations, and maybe even some birth announcements :)

Best wishes to everyone for a safe and happy holiday season!





No promotional consideration was paid for this review.
Images courtesy of MyGoodGreetings.com

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Product and Site Review: SproutBaby.com, Bye Bye Bugs Organic Insect Repellent, and $2,500 Giveaway!


Aside from being a green, organic mom, I'm also a HUGE fan of the Food Network.  So, imagine my delight in finding out that celebrity chef Tyler Florence is the mastermind behind Sprout Foods organic baby food!



I've been  HUGE fan of Tyler Florence for years!  His "Food 9-1-1" show was one of my favorites.   The man knows food ;)  I remembered seeing these unique pouches in the baby aisle at our local Publix grocery store, but that was long after Green Organic Girl was finished with her last jar of puree.  But I am so glad to see more and more organic baby food offerings coming available, and I had no idea that Tyler Florence was the chef and organic dad behind Sprout Foods.

Sprout Foods can be found online, from the fabulous website, SproutBaby.com. They offer a huge array of products, from diapering, to kid care, to mom care!  We got to try out a fantastic organic insect repellent, called "Bye Bye Bugs", made by the Bye Bye Shop.  Living in South Florida means that we spend a lot of time outside.  And waiting just outside are plenty of mosquitoes, no-see-ums, and other biting pests.  The weather was lovely last night, and we enjoyed it, while grilling in the back yard.  Before we head out, we always spritz ourselves with some kind of bug spray.  We, of course, avoid DEET at all costs, and we're glad to see more natural products available.  Lately, we've been using Jason "Quit Bugging Me" natural insect repellent spray.  It is all natural, and it works, but the smell is a bit unpleasant and strong, though it does go away.  However, it appears that we've found a new favorite, in the "Bye Bye Bugs" that SproutBaby.com sent us.  This organic insect repellent is a lovely smelling blend of red thyme, lemongrass, lavender, and peppermint essential oils.  It comes in a very convenient spray bottle, and just a light spritzing is all it takes to keep the nastiest mosquitoes and biting bugs away.  It goes on very easily, and doesn't leave a greasy film.  I even spritzed a little on my hand, and patted it on my face, and my makeup didn't smear.  We love this stuff!  I can vouch that it really does work, as we had the unfortunate incident of our grill running out of propane.  Hubby had to come outside and unhook the tank, and make a quick Home Depot run to get it exchanged.  When he returned, it was much darker outside, and as hubby wasn't wearing any spray, he got bitten numerous times.  Green Organic Girl and I were outside for over an hour after dark, and we weren't bitten once :)

Bye Bye Shop makes a few other products, including the very cutely named "Bye Bye Monsters" spray; a blend of relaxing essential oils for scared children to use at bedtime, to spray around their beds, to ward off scary monsters.  We don't have a problem with scary monsters, but I would love to try out the "Bye Bye Germs" spray, which is an alcohol-free blend of eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, and tea tree essential oils, for disinfecting.  I'm totally against conventional hand sanitizers -- I'm a firm believer that they do more harm than good; killing off your own body's natural defenses, and potentially creating "super bugs", by weakening, but not killing, harmful bacteria.  "Bye Bye Bugs", however, is one all-natural sanitizer I would welcome into my home (and in the car, and in my purse) :)

We'd also like to wish SproutBaby.com a Happy First Birthday!  To celebrate, SproutBaby.com is giving away $2,500.00!!  Every purchase made between October 15, 2009 and December 15, 2009 is an automatic entry in the giveaway.  Entries can also be made without a purchase.  Click on the picture below for more details :)



Please keep up the great work, SproutBaby.com! :)


Images above of Sprout Foods, Tyler Florence & Baby, Bye Bye Shop products, and $2500 giveaway courtesy of SproutBaby.com.
One bottle of "Bye Bye Bugs" spray was provided for free for review.

No promotional consideration was paid for this post.

Creamy Dairy-Free and Egg-Free Seafood Pasta Alfredo

I'm having a grand time, experimenting with the vegetarian food supplement, nutritional yeast, which I first posted about here.  I'm discovering all sorts of uses for this amazing, vitamin-B-packed, all-natural product, that adds an amazingly cheesy and nutty flavor to foods, all without the dairy.

Green Organic Girl loves shrimp and pasta, and tonight's dinner adventure was an attempt at a creamy Alfredo-like pasta, with shrimp, scallops, and asparagus -- minus the traditional cream, eggs, and Parmesan cheese, to accommodate my milk allergy.  The experiment was a success!!  I'm also happy to report that it was super easy to make -- requiring not much more effort than the traditional recipe.  Here is my dairy-free, and egg-free version, using organic fusili pasta:

1 lb dry pasta
1 lb fresh asparagus, ends trimmed, and cut in one inch pieces
1/2 lb frozen, cooked, peeled shrimp
1/2 lb frozen scallops
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup rice flour (or substitute with all-purpose flour)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

2/3 cup almond milk (or any unsweetened soy or nut milk)
1 tbsp vegan margarine (like Earth Balance)

Cook one pound of your favorite pasta in salted, boiling water, according to package directions, to al dente doneness.

While pasta is cooking, thaw the shrimp and scallops in a colander under cool running water.

 In a dutch oven, sautee the garlic and asparagus in extra virgin olive oil on medium heat.

In a small bowl, blend together the nutritional yeast, rice flour, garlic powder, kosher salt, and black pepper.  Stir in the almond milk to form a slurry.  Set aside.

Drain the shrimp and scallops well, and toss with the garlic and asparagus.  Turn the heat down to medium-low.  Add the yeast and almond milk mixture, stirring constantly, as the sauce will thicken quickly.  Cook for about two minutes.  Drain the pasta well, and toss with the sauce.  Cook for another minute, and serve immediately.

This dish was a hit with my cheese-loving hubby and daughter.  I'm very happy to have found a way to incorporate creamy pasta dishes back onto our menu, while keeping them dairy-free :)


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Have a Green Christmas: Recycle Used/Broken Christmas Lights at The Home Depot and Save $3 Off New LEDs!



Happy Veterans' Day everyone!   We'll always remember those who made sacrifices for us.

We're enjoying a family day together, and soon we'll be heading off to The Home Depot.  While it doesn't snow in the Florida Keys, we still love to decorate for the holidays.  Nevertheless, no matter where you live, there's always the problem with broken strings of lights.  We have a couple sets that have just completely given out.  This year, The Home Depot this year is offering a special recycling program for used and broken strings of Christmas lights!  Until November 15th, they're also offering a $3 off coupon when you recycle your old lights, and purchase a new set of eco-friendly, low-power, long-lasting LED Christmas lights!   Perfect timing, as our old lights have reached the end of their useful life.

We're big fans of LED lighting in this house, as they are super-bright, they stay cool, and use so little power.  Hubby is a wedding DJ, and has proudly phased out all of his old conventional stage and show lighting, and incorporated all the latest and greatest in DJ LED technology.  He puts on a fabulous show, and never has to worry about tripping circuit breakers at the hotels and parties he attends, as the whole rig uses so little power.   He also doesn't have to sit around after a gig, waiting for his light rig to cool anymore.  LEDs stay cool, from their low power consumption, so hubby can just pack up and go.  We use LED flashlights for emergencies, and we'd love to eventually phase out our CFL bulbs, which are already more energy-efficient, for LED bulbs, in our light fixtures around the home.  We're very happy that we'll be able to incorporate some more energy-efficient lighting this holiday season, and that our old lights are going to be recycled and disposed of in a responsible way.

So, hurry and dig out those old lights before this coming Sunday, November 15th, and enjoy a Green Christmas ;)





Christmas Light Trade-In image courtesy of HomeDepot.com.
No promotional consideration was paid for this post.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Winners of our Eco-Friendly Kids Toys and Gifts Giveaway!


Thanks again to Challenge and Fun for sponsoring this HUGE eco-friendly kids gifts giveaway!  And thank you to everyone who entered, and for your Facebook and Twitter follows, and daily tweets! :)

As promised, THREE prizes are up for grabs, and here are the results of our Random.org drawing:

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:
2 23 29
Timestamp: 2009-10-31 21:00:58 UTC

The winner of prize #1, the totally awesome Labyrinth Balance Board is Anne from Mommy Has to Work!!  Congrats Anne :D

And talk about luck!!  The winner of prizes #2 and #3, the "I Cherish Planet Earth" book and game, as well as the autographed Charlie Hope CD "I'm Me!" is Rachelle from Mommy? I'm hungry!  Girl, you are on a  roll!  Time to go play the lotto!!  Hahaha ;)

Ladies, please check your e-mails, so we can make arrangements to get your prizes out to you and your little ones!

Thanks again to everyone :)

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Product Review and Recipe: Vegan "Queso" Cheeze Sauce made from Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast

I thought I'd never eat nachos and cheese dip again.

A few months ago, I seem to have stumbled upon having an adult on-set allergy to the milk protein casein.  It's apparently very common for adults to suddenly become allergic to this substance.  I'm still waiting for an allergy test to confirm this, but the flaming rash on my hands that lingers for a week, after ingesting any kind of dairy, would seem to indicate that I have a milk allergy.

Oh, it's been a tough transition for this cooking mama, trying to work around recipes calling for things as simple as butter.  I thank wonderful companies like the makers of Earth Balance vegan margarine, Rice Dream rice milk, and of course, my favorite Publix Greenwise soy milk for helping to make this transition easier :)

Just when I thought I'd never again experience the ooey goodness of melted cheese, I started reading about an intriguing ingredient: nutritional yeast.  Also called vegetarian yeast, the one from the famous Bob's Red Mill brand got rave reviews on Amazon.com.  Many were singing the praises of this long-lived, yellowy powdered yeast, that has been around since at least ancient Egyptian times.  Sprinkled on popcorn or hot pasta, or stirred into a sauce, this nutrient-packed yeast adds a surprisingly good nutty and cheesy flavor, all without the dairy! This all-natural substance is packed with B-vitamins, and is also serves as a source of complete protein!

Nutritional yeast keeps very well in the freezer, so I went ahead and ordered a full case.  My shipment of four packages of Bob's Red Mill large-flake variety nutritional food yeast arrived today from Amazon, and I couldn't wait to try it out.  This recipe for Nutritional Yeast Queso Sauce from VegWeb.com looked simple, yet delicious.  I added a few tweaks, as we like our nacho dips a little chunkier, and this is what I came up with:
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 cup water
2 tbsp Earth Balance dairy-free margarine
1 cup fresh salsa
0.5 tsp rice vinegar (optional - for that tangy flavor)
Organic corn tortilla chips for dipping

In a sauce pan, over medium heat, combine the first five ingredients, toasting them for about a minute.  Whisk in one cup of cold water.  Continue to whisk over medium heat, until the sauce thickens and starts to bubble.

Remove the sauce pan from the heat, and whisk in the margarine, followed by the salsa and rice vinegar.

Return the sauce pan to the stove, and continue stirring until heated through.

Serve warm with tortilla chips for dipping.

According to the green organic kids panel (aka my daughter), the verdict is "Yum!" :D  I guess hubby didn't hear me when I said this was made with "fake cheese", and he didn't even notice the difference!  We thoroughly enjoyed this as a dip, with Publix Greenwise organic blue corn tortilla chips.

Now on a side note, please, do not confuse nutritional yeast with any other kind of yeast (dry active yeast for baking, Brewer's yeast, etc). They are NOT the same thing, and will not yield the same results.  Your local health food store or organic grocery store should carry nutritional yeast; either in flake or powder form.  I do plan to make my own yeast powder from these large flakes, by grinding some in my food processor.  Powdered nutritional yeast is supposed to be a great condiment, and we'll be using that in place of Parmesan cheese on our pasta and veggies.  We'll be sure to test out more recipes for things like "cheeze" spread, and we'll be posting our recipes and results.  We love our new dairy-free cheese alternative :D




Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Food Yeast image courtesy of BobsRedMill.com

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Product Review: Crofter's Organic Superfruit Spreads

Well what do you know?  I won a giveaway!!  WOOHOO :)

A big thank you to Gerhard and Gabi Latka, the founders of Crofter's Organic; the largest manufacturer of organic jams in North America! Crofter's specializes in organic fruit spreads, conserves, and jellies, and they've been creating these delicious delights for over 20 years.  I'm also very excited that Crofter's Organic is based in Ontario, Canada, where I was born :) 

Our delicious giveaway prize arrived: four full-size 11-ounce jars of each flavor of their Crofter's Organic Superfruits Spreads!  These aren't called "Superfruits" for nothing!  Ten antioxidant-rich fruits go into the making of this line of spreads.  Each of the four flavors has one of four continent themes: Asia, Europe, South America, and North America.  If you've been looking for an organic spread with less sugar, and more fruity flavor, these spreads will certainly fit the bill.

Each blend starts with a base of morello cherries and red grapes, and then combines more fruits, unique to various regions of the planet.  They're also sweetened with fair-trade sugar, and only just enough, without overpowering the flavors of the fruits.  I really enjoyed each and every one of these organic spreads.  The Asian blend, which is the least sweet of the bunch, brings together the yumberry (also known as Chinese Bayberry) and raspberries. The North American spread is a tasty blend of blueberries and cranberries, creating the firmest of the spreads (very jam-like).  The South American variety blends maqui berry and passionfruit to create the sweetest, and most jelly-like of the four Superfruits spreads.   My favorite blend is the "Europe" jar, in green, shown above.  It combines black currants with pomegranate.  The black currant flavor really stands out!  This spread has a nice firm consistency, and lots of chunks of fruit.  I love that these spreads use organic fruits, and don't contain any additives (no artificial colors, flavors, etc).  Each one is delicious on toasted fresh bakery bread. Mmm... mmm! :)

I'm hoping my grocery store will be able to stock some of the Crofter's Organic jams!  Can't wait to try more!  Hope you will, too :)


Crofter's Organic Superfruits Spreads image courtesy of CrofterOrganic.com.
This is a review of four free jars, won in a free giveaway contest.
No promotional consideration was paid for this post.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dairy-Free Organic Apple and Peach Crisp


I can always count on my dear friend Rachelle for amazingly delicious, yet simple recipes!  It's fall, and our fridge is stocked with two and a half bags of organic apples from our buying club.  Perfect timing, as Rachelle just posted this awesome Apple Crisp recipe! 

Green Organic Girl and I have been fighting colds for the past week, and we finally started feeling a bit better today.  I was eager to get back in the kitchen for some cooking therapy.  I put together an organic version of Rachelle's Apple Crisp, with a few tweaks.  As I seem to have developed a casein allergy, I made ours dairy-free, substituting margarine for butter.  I also added two very ripe organic peaches.  My pantry also has an abundance of pumpkin pie spice that needed to be used up, so that was used in place of cinnamon.  Yum yum!!  It's 80 degrees this October evening in South Florida, but the house smells like autumn has arrived :)  Here is my version of our dairy-free organic apple and peach crisp:
For the base:

8 small organic Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
2 ripe organic peaches, peeled and diced
6 tbsp white granulated sugar
2.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice

For the topping:

1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup organic all-purpose flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup margarine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, prepare the base filling by combining the white sugar and 2.5 tsp of pumpkin pie spice. Toss to coat with the apples and peaches. Grease a shallow baking dish with margarine. Pour in fruit mixture, and distribute evenly. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, combine the light brown sugar, flour, rolled oats, and remaining pumpkin pie spice. Using a fork or pastry cutter, combine with margarine, forming lumpy crumbs. Spread crumb mixture on top of the fruit.

Bake uncovered for about an hour, until the apples are tender, and the syrup is bubbling.

Enjoy :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our Columbus Day Green Giveaway Winners!

Thank you to everyone who entered our two fantastic Columbus Day giveaways!!  The contests have come to a close, and here are the results of our random drawings from Random.org:

The winner of the Nutriganics Organic Skin Care Prize Pack from THE BODY SHOP is:


Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:
72
Timestamp: 2009-10-12 23:07:51 UTC

#72 is Aimee!!  Thank you for all of your daily retweets!! Enjoy this skin care pack!!

The winner of our fantastic customizable Halloween-themed Safety Tats temporary tattoos is:



Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:
2
Timestamp: 2009-10-12 21:45:35 UTC

#2 is Jen from "Moore" Than A Mom!  Jen, your little pumpkins are going to love these :)

Ladies, please check your e-mails, so we can make arrangements to get your prizes out to you!

A HUGE thank you to all of our entrants, THE BODY SHOP, and Safety Tats!  Don't forget that THE BODY SHOP is still running their "2 for 1" skin care sale, and the Nutriganics products are eligible!  And get your orders in at Safety Tat before October 15th, and enjoy 10% off your order of $15 or more!!  Enter "GreenOrganicMama" at the checkout :)

The giveaway fun continues!  We already have another fantastic green giveaway under way. Please check out our review of these awesome eco-friendly kids products from Challenge & Fun, and enter to win one of THREE of these for your own children!
Have a great week, everyone :)

Product Review and Giveaway: Eco-Friendly Toys from Challenge & Fun!

Is it too soon to think about Christmas and holiday gifts?  Maybe not for me ;) This shopaholic mommy is always on the lookout for special gifts for Green Organic Girl.  Here are three fantastic products that we were given a special opportunity to try out, and your chance to enter to win these for your own children to enjoy!

This year, we're very pleased to see more and more green and eco-friendly toy options out there.  The wonderful people at Challenge & Fun have put together an amazing assortment of products -- toys with lasting quality and entertainment value.  This company prides itself on making safe, smart, all-natural toys  and products available  to everyone, all the while supporting their own commitment to the environment.

Challenge & Fun sent us three fabulous products to review, and we were having so much fun, I had to stop just long enough to write this.  LOL!

Labyrinth Balance Board

The first is this amazing, engaging, and "not-as-easy-as-it-looks" Labyrinth Balance Board.  Call it an "unplugged", manual version of the Nintendo Wii Fit ;)  This is one of Challenge & Fun's own line of products, made entirely of wood, and manufactured right here in the USA.  I have to say that I'm truly impressed with the workmanship and quality of this product.  This is a hefty toy, and certainly made to last.  The bottom of the board is fitted with a smooth wooden ball, so no worries about damaging your floors.  Still, just for safety, I didn't want Green Organic Girl potentially wiping out onto our terrazzo floor, so she played with this on a rug.  No assembly required, and very few instructions.  Just take one of the three included wooden marbles (one each of red, blue, and yellow), and place it in the middle of the board.  Stand up on the board, placing your feet on the footprint outlines on the opposite sides of the board.  Then, using your feet only, tilt the board back and forth, maneuvering the marble through the labyrinth, all the way to the little marker on the outside top edge of the board.

This toy is recommended for ages five and up, but four-year-old Green Organic Girl had no problem getting the hang of this!  Mommy had a turn on this too, and wow, is it ever fun!  LOL!  Once you master one marble, add another, and then another.  Then start trying to work the marble(s) from the outside in.  This is a great toy to play by yourself, or challenge your family and friends.  However, I do recommend supervising younger children with this; especially if it's their first time trying it out.  Also, keep the wooden marbles away from the mouths of younger siblings.  Store them some place safe and out of reach, when not in use.  This is truly a wonderful toy, and I know we'll get years of use out of this one, and we'll probably still be able to pass it on to younger relatives so they can enjoy it, too!

WHERE TO BUY:

The Labyrinth Balance Board is available from MuseumTour.com.

I Cherish Planet Earth



The second item in our package is all about teaching our children about caring for our planet Earth. "I Cherish Planet Earth" by FocusBloom, is a combination book and memory matching game that the whole family can enjoy together. The book is full of beautiful illustrations, showing images of nature, animals, and children doing their part each day to help the environment. The book is easy to follow, and the tasks are easy for children and families to do (turn off the water while you brush your teeth, take things out to the recycling box, turn off lights, etc). After reading the book, a memory game is included, with 48 cards featuring the same lovely images from the book, with short descriptions, as reminders of things we can do every day to help the planet. What a great way to reinforce what was just read.

This would make a lovely gift for younger children, serving as a teaching tool, and as an eco-friendly toy. FocusBloom is a member of "1% For the Planet", and the book and cards are all made from 100% recycled paperboard, and printed with vegetable inks. Included is a cloth bag for the cards, and the entire set is made in the USA. I Cherish Planet Earth also recently won the 2009 Dr. Toy "Best Green Product" award. I think it'd be a great addition to the classroom as well. We'll be taking ours to school to share with Green Organic Girl's preschool class.

WHERE TO BUY:

I Cherish Planet Earth is available from My Little Green Room.

"I'm Me!" - A Collection of Songs for Children by Charlie Hope



We love music in this family.  Green Organic Dad is classically trained in brass, he's played bass guitar for several classic rock bands, and he stays very busy as a tropical destination wedding DJ here in the Florida Keys.  Needless to say, we listen to a lot of music ;) 

We are in love with the CD that came in our package.  Charlie Hope is a female singer/songwriter, who also grew up in Toronto, Canada, like me!  This is a wonderful collection of songs -- almost like Raffi (okay, now I'm dating myself... LOL!).  Charlie has a sweet, cheerful, yet soft voice.  Listening to her songs, you can just imagine her strumming on a guitar, surrounded by a circle of children, happily singing along.  The songs are very easy to listen to, and ones that I wouldn't mind listening to over and over again (and you can't say that about most kids music).  Our favorite has to be the Frog Song.  I burst out laughing when I heard it the first time.  It's about frogs, and toast with jam, and Edamame.  What else can I say?  LOL!

The CD has 20 songs, and some of them are familiar favorites, like "Mr. Sun" and "Pop Goes the Weasel".  It also comes in a paperboard case, with a lyrics book that doubles as a coloring book.  They're both printed with vegetable inks, on Certified Green components.  I highly recommend this CD for your kids.  It will put a smile on your face, too :)

Charlie Hope was also recently awarded the 2009 Silver award from Parents' Choice!  Congrats to Charlie!

WHERE TO BUY:

The CD and downloadable MP3s are available from Amazon.com.  Click on the image above to listen to sample tunes :)



ENTER TO WIN:

Thank you to everyone who entered! This giveaway has come to a close. Please click here to see the results of our Random.org drawing and to congratulate our winners!


Now here's your chance to win your very own Labyrinth Balance Board, I Cherish Planet Earth book and game, or an autographed Charlie Hope - 'I'm Me!' CD!  At the end of the giveaway, I'll be picking three numbers from Random.org, and awarding one prize to each corresponding commentator!

Please be sure to read the complete rules:


To enter this contest, first leave a comment, telling us what you and your family do to live greener.  Please be sure to leave your e-mail address, so I may contact you if you're the lucky winner. 


For additional entries, please first leave a comment about what you and your family do to live greener, and then do any of the following, for a maximum of 28 (twenty-eight) total entries in this giveaway contest [please be sure to come back and leave a follow-up comment for each of these completed tasks, in order to be counted as an additional entry]:


  • FOR BONUS ENTRIES: Earn up to one additional BONUS entry each day, between now and 4:59PM EST on Saturday, October 31, 2009, by Retweeting this giveaway daily! Remember to come back and leave a comment and a copy of your new Retweet each day, in order for your daily Retweet to be counted. [Maximum of one bonus Retweet entry each day, for a maximum of 20 for the length of the contest.]
By entering this contest, you have read and understand the rules and fine print of this contest:
  1. Contest ends Saturday, October 31st, 2009 at 5:00PM EST
  2. Contest open to U.S. residents.
  3. There are three (3) giveaway prizes in total, consisting of one (1) each of the following
    • Labyrinth Balance Board
    • I Cherish Planet Earth book and game set
    • Charlie Hope "I'm Me!" autographed CD
  4. Three (3) winning numbers shall be chosen from the pool of valid comment entries, using Random.org, with the possible outcome that one person may be the winner of all three prizes, depending on the actual numbers drawn.
  5. Winner(s) will be contacted via e-mail, and will provide a U.S. mailing address, which will then be provided to the giveaway sponsor, Challenge & Fun, for the purpose of directly mailing one giveaway prize to each corresponding winner.
  6. If a winner does not respond via e-mail within 48 hours of the prize drawing, another winner will be selected via Random.org, and the new winner will be awarded the corresponding prize.
  7. Approximate retail value of the prizes: Labyrinth Balance Board $79.95 USD, I Cherish Planet Earth book and game set $16.95 USD, Charlie Hope "I'm Me!" CD $14.95 USD.
  8. Giveaway sponsor, Challenge & Fun,  reserves the right to modify the prize package offering and quantities.
  9. Winners will be announced here on this blog, and on Twitter, and on FaceBook.
  10. No promotional consideration was paid for this post. One of each product reviewed above was provided for free for review. No monetary compensation was received.
A big thank you to Challenge and Fun for allowing us the opportunity to try out these awesome products!  How often do you find quality toys, that are educational, engaging, good for the environment, and so much fun?

Good luck to everyone!! :)


Click here to be taken to the comments form to place your entry/entries.



Toy images courtesy of ChallengeAndFun.com.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Green Organic Family Visits Walt Disney World - Part 5 - EPCOT

Continued from Part 4 - Disney's Hollywood Studios

We were in for another fun-filled day when we arrived at EPCOT.  Here we were, standing in front of the infamous giant... golf ball?  I don't know.  But it's cool looking!!

EPCOT is another one of those endless, sprawling parks that is impossible to cover in a single day.  Out of the four parks, I would have to say that EPCOT is probably the best choice for a big family.  There are so many attractions that would appeal to everybody from toddlers to grandma and grandpa.

EPCOT is comprised of "Future World", made up of many sit-down, air-conditioned rides and shows, and exhibits, and the "World Showcase", the more famous part, consisting of re-creations of eleven nation, surrounding a huge lagoon.  You can take a rocket to space, and then see a Mayan pyramid, all in the same day. 

We started our day out in Future World.  I can't even begin to describe all there is to do.  We even missed several attractions, as we only had one day at this park, and still wanted to make time for the World Showcase.  One of our favorites early in the day, was "Ellen's Energy Adventure"; a 45-minute show hosted by Ellen Degeneres.  It's a combination ride/show.  A word of warning: children frightened by large animatronic creatures should probably pass on this one.  Green Organic Girl did just fine on this one, and I was pleased that this show was all about conserving energy.  It gets a green, organic thumbs up :)

After watching some family vacation videos posted on YouTube, I was really eager to take the little one over to "The Seas with Nemo and Friends".   This building is packed with exhibits, all sorts of sea life, and two very popular attractions which I was very eager for Green Organic Girl to see.  We enjoyed two turns, seated in a giant clam shell, watching a 10-minute ride version of "Finding Nemo".  Very cute, lots of fun for us parents and the little one, and not scary at all.

The next is an innovative and funny show; probably the most high-tech interactive puppet show out there: Turtle Talk with Crush.  Crush is the hilarious "surfer dude" sea turtle from the Finding Nemo movie.  You and your children enter a "people tank" and sit in front of a giant screen ... err... glass window, looking out on the ocean floor.  The host instructs everyone to call out to Crush, and invite him over to chat.  And that he does!  Almost like watching the movie, an animated Crush swims up to the screen, and greets the group!  The host goes around the room, and lets children (and parents) ask Crush questions.  Then some very high-tech digital puppeteering and a real actor as the voice of Crush, respond in real time!  After seeing some YouTube videos of some of these chat sessions, it appears they are very different each time, with some unexpected antics and possible appearances by other sea creatures during your 10-minute chat.  It's seamless, so realistic (as far as cartoon sea turtles go), and full of laughs.  This is definitely worth taking your children to, and I'm sure you'll get a kick out of it, too!  This was one of our favorite pavillions over all.  Just watch out for sharks.



After visiting Nemo, it was close to the return time for hubby to use his FastPass tickets to get on Mission: Space and Fast Track; two fast-paced rides, a little too intense for the little one.  So, we decided to meet up later at the Electric Umbrella for another burger-and-fries lunch.  Now, had I known beforehand, we would have headed straight over to the cafeteria over at The Land pavillion, for much healthier lunch options.  The Sunshine Seasons cafeteria on the lower level of The Land pavillion is HUGE!  There is plenty of seating, and I saw several tour groups, wearing matching t-shirts, occupying several tables at once.  But there was still plenty of room, and lots of cleaning staff, keeping tables immediately available.  This would be a great spot to stop and eat your own food brought from home, too.  It's wide open, with lots of people-watching opportunity.  The food at Sunshine Seasons is fantastic.  There's just an amazing assortment: fresh homemade soups, salads, stir fries, noodles, sandwiches, bakery items, frozen treats, and the largest selection of drinks (including beer and wine) out of all the parks.  The prices are standard park prices, like $3.99 for the homemade vegetable soup I had for a snack later in the day, which BTW was just perfectly made and hit the spot.  I really do think that this cafeteria would make the perfect organic food venue, tying in with the nature theme of this pavillion.  I hope that's something Disney will consider doing.

Back to our lunch, poor hubby was a little green by the time he met us at the Electric Umbrella, but he did enjoy his two adrenaline-rush rides.  When his stomach settled, he had his burger, and then we were off to The Land pavillion for more shows, and of course, our late afternoon snack.  We headed over to the "Circle of Life"; another sit-down show.  Another green plus for Disney!  The Circle of Life show is a movie, hosted by Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa from The Lion King, as Simba takes his "entrepreneurial" friends on an environmental awareness adventure.  Now, I really enjoyed it, and I'm sure it was a combination of it being just after lunch, and nice and dark and cool, because Green Organic Girl and Green Organic Dad fell asleep.  I don't know how -- it was rather loud!  Oh well. I watched the whole thing and thought it was very well put together.

The next show we headed off to was Soarin'; a hang-glider simulation ride.  It's not scary at all.  It's an exhiliarating adventure, as you sit in a row of special seats, with your feet dangling, and you're carried around and pitched and spun against a giant video screen, to simulate flying.  The three of us really enjoyed it, and had we had extra time, we would have lined up for a second round.


By this time, we figured to head over into the World Showcase, and do some leisurely walking around, before picking a place for dinner.  I guess we took the back door in, and started out in Canada, my home country!  Well, not really.  LOL!  It was a miniature approximation, but not really a true depiction of life in  Canada.  We stopped and enjoyed live music from the band "Off Kilter", as they entertained everybody in their kilts, and continued on to the United Kingdom.



I loved the little shops in the United Kingdom!  The one tea shop even carried Twinnings tea in K-cups!  WOOHOO :)  My parents are from Hong Kong, a former British colony; so growing up, visiting relatives brought a lot of British goodies as gifts.  So I was super excited when I saw that this tea shop also had all sorts of British snacks available! I haven't eaten these in years -- all sorts of biscuits, Curly Wurly, Ripple... mmm!!  Too bad I've developed a milk protein allergy since.  *sigh*  That's okay... not like I need to eat more junk food ;)


Our next stop was France, and Green Organic Girl was in for a special treat.  One of the street vendors was selling custom-designed, hand-painted parasols!  Green Organic Girl has a special place in her heart for anything to do with umbrellas and balloons.  There were sample pictures to choose from, so we selected a mini parasol, which includes her name and flowers hand-painted on the panels.  For $5 extra, additional designs were available -- unicorns, Cinderella's castle, ladybugs, all sorts of things.  As this was Green Organic Girl's special custom souvenir from her very first trip to Disney World, I chose images of the Mickey ears balloons to be painted on two of the parasol's panels.  The finished parasol was ready in an hour, and it was lovely!!  For $21, this adorable personalized souvenir was well worth it. It's a unique way for our little one to remember this vacation :)


We continued walking through Morocco, and then arrived in Japan.  This is where we spent the most amount of time.  We got there just in time, and caught one of the live performances by three drummers.  They had so much energy!!  Highly entertaining show :)  By then, it had started to rain, so we ducked inside the gift shop.  This was no ordinary gift shop.  It was almost like a mini department store, full of all sorts of Japanese knick-knacks.  We're talking Hello Kitty everything, anime shirts, toys, and posters, Japanese swords, and the cutest little wind-up toys, which kept the little one amused while we waited for the rain to stop.  Well, the rain didn't want to let up, so we figured to have some dinner.  We dashed across the way, up the stairs to Yakitori House, for some teriyaki.  Now, I've eaten my fair share of Japanese food; from mall food, to upscale.  Yakitori House is right around "mall food" quality, at Disney prices.  I was a little peeved that the side of veggies were nothing but cheap grocery store frozen vegetable mix.  Peas, corn, carrots, and beans.  Exactly what is Japanese about that?  Some iceberg lettuce with some miso dressing would have been more appropriate.  Oh well.  We hung around Japan a little while longer, waiting out the rain, stopping to buy some Japanese lollipops, which I haven't eaten since I was probably seven years old.  They brought back memories :)


By the time the rain tapered off, it was getting dark, so we continued on our way, in search of a good spot to sit and be ready for the nightly IllumiNations fireworks closing ceremony, that occurs in and above the lagoon.  Our guidebooks said to find a spot early, but they didn't tell us that the better locations are closer to the other side of World Showcase; Mexico and Norway.  It was almost showtime, as pre-recorded announcements started to play, advising guests to find a seat.  Huge gas torches started to light, all around the lagoon.  We did find a decent spot in Germany, but it was near a torch that wasn't lit, and was spilling out natural gas.  People were sitting all around this, breathing in the gas.  Nobody could smell this??  I kept my eyes open for a Cast Member, to advise them of the gas, but at this point in the day, it appeared they were all gone somewhere, getting ready for the park's closing.  So, we decided to sit elsewhere, and headed back over by China.  We found some bench seating, but our line of sight was obscured a little bit by some trees.  No big deal.  It's a BIG show, and it is absolutely phenomenal.  Don't miss this one!!



By the end of it, we were tired, and ready to go back to the hotel.  We followed the crowds toward the main entrance, only to be waved into one of the giant gift shops by store staff.  Okay, I guess the gift shops stay open later than the rest of the park.  That was probably a good idea, as everybody was heading out at this time, and we would have had a long wait for a shuttle.  So, this was when we did our big souvenir run, and took advantage of the 10% off a $50 or more purchase by using our Disney Chase Visa card.

This was our last night at our resort at Old Key West, so we boarded the shuttle, and headed back to rest up.  Tomorrow would be full of packing, and then off to the Animal Kingdom, before heading home.  Did we really have to go home?  Couldn't we just stay a little longer?  We were having so much fun :)

To be continued in Part 6.

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