Monday, November 30, 2009

The Holiday Spirit is Here

My mom started a holiday tradition last year of taking my daughters and me to see the local production of The Nutcracker which I used to go see in New York City with my grandparents when I was younger.  This was the first year that both girls came as last year Marisa was a bit too young to sit through the show.  I was amazed at how good they both were and I just smiled through most of the show watching how much they enjoyed the music, the dance and the costume.

Speaking of which, oh wow ... the costumes just blow my mind every time I see The Nutcracker performed.  This show makes me want to sew just so that I could be a part of creating the outfits for The Nutcracker.  Watching the dancers move in the gorgeous dresses and flowing fabrics ... it just reeks of beauty and grace.  The strength of the dancers is astounding and really does feel like you are watching art in action. 

Before seeing the performance last year for the first time as a parent, I had forgotten how many roles kids play in the show and that makes it so much fun for the girls to watch.  So I think there may be some more dance classes in the future for the girls and maybe this time next year I'll be posting pictures of my girls as little reindeer in The Nutcracker!

After the performance, we walked downtown where the girls oohed and aahed over the lights decorating the trees and shops.  The four of us ducked into a local coffee shop and got big mugs full of hot cocoa.  I love this tradition and am so grateful for my mom, her relationship with my daughters and the wonderful memories that they will have forever.  It may have been raining today as we stand on the brink of December but, snow or no snow,  I am now officially in the holiday mood. 

What makes it feel like the holidays are here for you?  Any traditions you have with your kids or from your childhood?  Share, share, help us all bring that much talked about holiday cheer!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pregnant during the holidays!!!

Hello it is time for my Sunday Preggo Post (that is what I am calling it these days).
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!! I had a fabulous time with the Family!!! After Thanksgiving comes Christmas.. I will be 2 weeks away from my due date during Christmas so I am getting everything ready now. I obviously have all of the children in my life covered with Fair Trade gifts from Monkey Beanz. There goes this months check!!!

For the adults in my life I am giving out baskets filled with homemade goodies. I have started to prepare now since I am sure I will not be in the mood in a few weeks. Here is some of the things our baskets will consist of...

1. My special pumpkin bread in a jar dessert (sorry I don't have a picture to share)
    You can use any pumpkin bread recipe you can find. This is my favorite i just add a handfull or 2 of chocolate chips.
The next step is to put about a 1/2 of the mix into a jar, I like to use 12 oz jars. Put them on a cookie sheet and carefully put them in the oven.. (that is 350 degrees) I would love to give you an exact bake time but honestly I usually just throw them in and keep my eye on them, I believe it is around 15 Minutes. When they come out put the lid on and it will seal shut. I am putting this in the basket with these intrustions
" Heat up in microwave for 30 seconds. Put a scoop of Vanilla ice cream in the jar then drizzle with Caramel and sprinkle with pecans.. ENJOY"

2. Another really cool thing we are putting in the basket is hot drink mixes. I found some christmas themed bags to use for this. In the baggie I make up different combos that will make yummy hot drinks. Here is one of my favorites.
Chocolate Mint Coffee Mix
In the bag put 2 T. plus 2 tsp. sugar
2 T. Instant coffee granules
2 T. Powdered coffee creamer
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa
1 peppermint candy, crushed into fine pieces
Then attach a gift tag with these directions:
To make one serving
1 1/2 T of mix
6 oz. boiling water
Whipped cream (optional)
Place the mix in a mug. pour boiling water over the mix until dissolved. Garnish with whipped cream.

Those are just a few things that we are putting in our baskets. It will feel so good to put so much love into each thing we make for our friends and family. Here is to a stress free holiday!!!
Peace love and cookies

Friday, November 27, 2009

Monkey Beanz Black Friday Sale!!!

Yup, everything on the entire website is 20% off - no minimum orders, no tricks, just straight up money in your pocket.  Remember, orders over $100 get FREE SHIPPING. 

Hmmm... Black Friday shopping without getting dressed and leaving the house ... I like it.  Get yourself a plate of leftover turkey and start shopping!

NO COUPONS!!   JUST SHOP MONKEY   VNCB104-2.jpgBEANZ    11/27 - 11/30 


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mamas of worry warts ... a must see for you!

Sure, we parents may moan sometimes that our kid have nothing to complain about ... no bills to worry about, meals to cook, school activities to take care of ... but we also know that being a kid just isn't always all that easy either.  Granted, that fact may only be remembered on really good days but still, the knowledge is in there somewhere!

I am a firm believer that kids are born with their personalities and it is part of our job as parents to encourage the "easier" aspects of their personalities and also to help them learn how to deal with some of the more difficult parts of themselves.  My five year old is a worrier, an anxiety producing machine if you will.  Yes, I will admit, she got it from me but at least I can often understand my anxieties if not actually stop them in their tracks.  We have tried many ways to try to relax and let some of the worries go but bedtime remains a difficult time - just lying there with nothing but her own 5 year old mind running rampant with concerns about life or, say,  dead ducks in the hallway (no idea where it came from but that caused about a week or so of absolute terror for her.

This last month I rediscovered something that I used as a child that had gotten lost in the black holes of my memory.  Worry Dolls!  I loved my worry dolls, the details of the handmade clothes and faces, the way I could tuck them all up in their little pouch at night, the way they made me feel more grown up than just wanting to cradle a stuffed animal.  As a parent, I can now appreciate them even more for their beautiful simplicity and cultural tradition. 

For those of you who are not familiar with the worry doll legend, here is a quick recap:
As the legend of the Highland Indian villages of Guatemala goes: Before going to bed tell one worry to each doll, then place them beneath your pillow. While you are sleeping, the dolls will take your worries away.

My daughter now keeps her pouch of worry dolls by her bed and is often comforted just by knowing her pals are there waiting for her worries. 

Monkey Beanz is now offering a fair trade worry doll gift set that includes a pouch of worry dolls and a hardcover copy of Anthony Browne's Silly Billy, an adorable story that is the perfect introduction to your child's new worry dolls.  You can order this great fair trade gift with or without our durable canvas fair trade shopping bag!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cloth Diapers

SO as always I will start out my post with mentioning that I am now 34 weeks!! 6 Weeks to go. My complaints this week .. Heartburn!!! I never knew heartburn could possibly feel this bad. Otherwise I am pretty happy besides a quick battle with the flu last week.

I have been getting everything ready for when our little cutie arrives. This including our cloth diapers, I am actually really looking forward to this venture. I get a lot of doubt from my friends and family which I find quite odd, I have never been someone who gives up on anything but I will use their doubt as encouragement!! It is important to me because of many reasons.
Here are a few facts that I have found (

1.The US uses apx. 27.4 billion disposable diapers per year.
2.100,000 tons of plastic and 1.3 million tons of
wood pulp, amounting to 250,000 trees, are
wasted in the production of the annual 27.4 billion
disposable diapers.
3. An average baby uses 5,000 diapers before potty training, almost all of which end
up in a landfill making up 3.4 million tons of waste
4. It is estimated to take 250-500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose (GROSS!!)
5.It costs Americans on average $350 million annually to dispose of single-use diapers
in landfills.
6. The average family spends $800 per year on disposable diapers. (This is also a huge reason for my husband and I to use cloth diapers)

So here are some things that I found to make using cloth diapers easier.
Use a 5 gallon bucket with a cover, this way you can keep it contained until it is wash time. I also plan on keeping a little bit soapy water in the bucket, this is something that was personally suggested to me. For number ones you can just throw the wet diaper into the bucket.
For number twos it is suggested that you clean it off as much as possible, this can be done by using the toilet to shake off the as I like to call it doo doo.
When it is time to do a load of laundry you can run them through the wash just like any other piece of clothing. (You may want to use a detergent that is less harsh than what you use on your clothing) You can use a mesh bag as a liner in the bucket which you can just pull out the liner and throw it all together in the washer.
BIG TIP: USE COLD WATER!!! This will prevent stains.

Now really does that seem that hard!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thai Chicken Soup for the Sick Around Town

Thought our 5 year old was over the flu but the fever came back last night so we clocked another day on the couch.  The little one has stayed healthy through it all and I am desperately trying to fight it off myself.

Since I know I'm not alone in the sick family community, I thought I'd share what we make on our house for sick ones big and small.  Ka-tom, or what I like to call the Thai version of a cross between oatmeal and matzo ball chicken soup.  It is so easy to make, has a million variations for all tastes and levels of sick tummies and just feels good inside.  It is pretty much just rice soup - boil a pot of water and add cooked rice (we always have a cooked rice in the rice cooker but that step may add a little planning for some) and simmer it, stirring and adding water as needed until it is the perfect consistency of mush.  It can be plain, or you can add meat, fish, veggies, egg and the savior of all, Thai fish sauce.

 Stir it all up, spoon it into a bowl and let the warm goodness heal your insides.  Enjoy!

Photo note:  this is the traditional Thai way of serving it, the grated fresh ginger is incredible in it though I always have to get my eggs cooked a little more for my taste!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ten Things I Love About My Thai Hubby (and, for you skeptics, no I don’t have any hubbies of other ethnicities!)

1) that he knows lots of little tricks like toothpaste being the perfect way to soothe a burn

2) his kind Buddhist heart  (I know, cliche, but it is true)

3) that he will not stop tickling our daughters until they say, “Stop, Daddy!” in Thai

4) that he is the main chef of the house and cooks us amazing Thai food

5) his superb mango cutting skills (seriously, you’ve never seen a mango cut like this - no mess, no juice ... he makes it look so easy!)

6) that I can go to the local temples in Thailand to offer up thanks without feeling like a western wannabe Buddhist

7) that, within a year of living in the US, he had more friends than I did here even though it is my native language, culture and he had never left Thailand before

8) that he is the perfect go-with-the-flow complement to my oh-my-the-world-is-ending personality and that some of these are actually rubbing off on each other

9) that our daughters are officially part of the BuJew community

10) that he thinks of any meal without rice as not real food and feels like I am doing our kids a disservice when I bust out the mac n cheese and fish sticks on nights he’s not home for dinner (come on, they’re organic!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why don't we want those toys, Mama?

So we are not usually much of a tv family.  The girls get a cartoon as a treat not just because they're bored.  We don't quite land on the fully anti-tv family end of the spectrum but I like to think we do pretty well most of the time balancing out the tv time.  My confidence as a mama soars when I read statistics like these from a recent article in the LA Times stating that preschool kids watch an average of an entire day of television a week!!  I don't think my girls would even be able to sit still for the 3-4 hours a day needed to reach that level.

However, to fully contradict myself, the past two days have witnessed a ridiculous amount of Noggin and Animal Planet that has me grateful that my children would usually prefer to really play, rather than sit in front of a screen.  Unfortunately, my 5 year old has been sick - 102 fever, tummy aching, hacking cough - and stuck at home on the pull out couch (or as we like to call it, The Sick Bed).  And so we are on day 3 (and I think the last since the fever is beginning to creep down) of jammies, tv, books, and sleep.

Throughout these hours, I have discovered yet another reason to be thankful that my kids are not huge tv watchers, especially as we are coming into the holiday season.  The number of commercials right now pushing products for children to demand from their families for the holidays is atrocious.  I realize that we live in a society of consumers and that businesses are struggling and it is, after all, their job to turn a profit.  Hey, I'd like to turn a profit too ... here's my plug for Monkey Beanz fair trade gifts for families!  It would, however, be nice to see a little bit of variety in the onslaught of images and messages that are thrown at our kids.  Perhaps a few commercials for some nice natural toys, some wooden dollhouses, cloth dolls - surely even Toys R Us must carry a few of these products.

So as Sasha and I were watching yet another episode of Charlie and Lola, there was a commercial marathon of big pink plastic dollhouses with dogs and talking dolls.  And out slips from my unedited mouth, "Wow, aren't you glad we don't have any of those in our house?"  And Sasha cocked her fevered little head at me and said, "Why, Mama?"

So then I had to formulate my dislike of certain aspects of the toy world into language for a 5 year old.  In all honestly, this was not that hard.  I was able to use the toys we have here that we enjoy and encourage creative play to contrast with many of the electronic toys (i.e. it is much more fun to create an art project together than to listen to a game tell you what to do by yourself).  Also, because Sasha has been a part of the journey with Monkey Beanz, she has a basic understanding of fair trade and the awareness of where our products come from and who they help. 

It is these conversations as a parent that reinforce for me that kids do actually "get it."  If we give them the knowledge in a way they can understand and relate to, there is so much about the world we live in that they can begin to think and learn about.

Off the soap box now.  I may have to set up a rant of the week day for the Monkey Beanz blog.  I'm open to suggestions!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Luxury for Baby's Feet

I am so excited that these booties have finally arrived! 

These fair trade baby booties are made in Vietnam by a Fair Trade Federation company employing about 45 disadvantaged women in Hanoi.

The booties are two tone silk with traditional Vietnamese design and measure 5" from heel to toe.  They are fully lined with a padded soft corduroy and canvas soles - so comfy you will want them for yourself.  Seriously, I am a cozy footwear fanatic and the thought of these on my feet during the Maine winters is truly delicious.  The only thing slightly better is the image of a chubby little baby cruising around town with the most luxurious footwear around!

Have a baby, know a baby, think you might one day?  Scoop these up ... the babies will thank you!

Monday, November 9, 2009

7 months and Counting

Happy Monday everyone. Can you all belive I am 32 weeks pregnant!! Just 2 more months to go.
This so far has been such a great experience (well most of it). I am so excited about the idea of being a mom. I also know how fantastic of a father my husband Nick is going to be. He already is!!!

So on my mind this past week has been parenting, what morals will we teach Lily or Spencer?  Clearly I am very much a supporter of Fair Trade. It will be important to me for my children to understand that not everyone lives like we do. There is so much poverty and struggle out there, not that we are rich by any means but in comparison to some cultures we absolutly are. This is why Fair Trade IS so important, it is really us doing our part to make sure we are not supporting sweat shops. Obviously it is going to happen without us even being aware of it. I am so excited that I have great toys for my children that I absolutly know are fair trade..well because I work for the company that pays the wages!!!!!
So there is my weekly fair trade rant!!! Help to support fair trade, even if it is just one cup of coffee or preferably an item from us... !!!!
Thank you all for listening.. peace love and fair trade
P.S. The crib sets are coming soon!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What? We should play with our own kids???

I'm sure many of you heard about the controversy over Disney's Baby Einstein series and their claim that the series will make your baby smarter.  Unlike those of you in touch with the outside world, I actually had not heard about it until I listened to the story on NPR's Talk of the Nation last week. 

I was absolutely speechless (well, not exactly but that gets the message across in a much more polite way!) listening to the topic being debated.  I am also quite sure that the talented Neil Conan shared my opinions as host of the show.  Poor man, I felt bad that he was not able to speak to the idiotic claims and parents feeling the need to make their baby smarter in the first place.

Now, I know that tv and video games have taken over for many kids in the US (I'm not that naive) but is there really such a large portion of mainstream American parents that do not realize that plopping your baby/toddler/preschooler/child in front of the tv for these videos is not going to aid in their healthy development as much as actually playing and interacting with your own children?!

I am not anti-tv at all - I've been known to put on some Olivia or Charlie and Lola so I can make dinner or get some e-mails out.  I just find it a bit unnerving that playing with your kids is not commonly recognized, and practiced, as the healthiest way to promote normal development.  And out of curiosity, why is it exactly that we are trying to "make our babies smarter?"  Are we claiming that we were all not particularly smart babies and are trying to make up for our own loss of infant intelligence?  I can double check my facts, but I'm pretty sure babies have been developing just fine around the world for quite a number of years and we have managed to churn out some pretty smart people out there. Enough of my rant ... get off the computer and go play with your kids.  I will if you will.

For some fun ways to play with your kids and encourage some fun in the house, check out the Monkey Beanz fair trade soft drum set and fair trade soft tool set or the always popular fair trade counting book.  No guarantees on IQ boosts but I bet you and your kids will have a good time together and, I'm no expert, but I'd say that is pretty important to raising a smart, healthy family.