Help me determine the future of this blog

It’s been nearly 5 years since I started my blog and while it’s grown a lot in that time over the past year I’ve definitely not been obsessing over tending to my blog as much as I used to. It’s not that I don’t have topics that I want to write about, but that I’ve been focusing more on myself personally lately instead of blogging like a fiend writing as much as I’d like to.

For those of you who’ve been around for a while, those of you who are brand new to my blog or those of you who fall somewhere in between, I’d like to know what would YOU like to see happen with this blog? What types of posts do you enjoy the most – parenting, green living, personal posts about my life, childbirth, mental health, pics of my adorable kids (LOL had to throw that in there), current events, food, gardening, photography (oh yeah, I used to take pictures, didn’t I?), other topics that I haven’t yet addressed on my blog, etc.? What do you enjoy the least (please don’t say pics of my kids)? 😛 What do you like or want to read about on Crunchy Domestic Goddess?

Also, at times I’ve mulled over the idea of taking on a couple other writers for my blog, simply because there’s no way I alone can possibly write about all of the things that are happening in all of these topics. I’ve hesitated to do this because I think I may lose readers or my street cred or something like that. It also may be because I’m a bit of a control freak and that would mean I have to relinquish some of my control. What are your thoughts about having a few other writers than myself for this blog? Would you read their posts? Would you want to be a contributor? Would you think I’m “selling out?” Would you delete me from your feed reader? 😉

Talk to me my amazing, smart, gorgeous, talented readers. Tell me what you’d like to see happen with this blog. I won’t say I’ll leave it all up to you (‘cuz I’m a control freak, remember?), but I’d love to get some feedback and constructive criticism. Thank you! I truly appreciate it. 🙂

I plan to get another post up tomorrow reflecting on the past year and stating some of my goals for 2010, but if I don’t (‘cuz ya just never know), then thank you for sticking with me through the thick and thin and HAPPY, HAPPY NEW YEAR to you! 🙂

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Mint (candy cane) chocolate chip cookies recipe

I hope everyone had a good Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Yule or whatever it is that you celebrate. 🙂 We had a good holiday here in the Crunchy Domestic Goddess house. The kids enjoyed their presents and even playing with the packaging. There’s nothing wrong with upcycling your cardboard. 😉 In addition to the masks, Ava built a cardboard house for Strawberry Shortcake and Lemon Meringue.

I got a new set of stainless steel pots and pans and am happy to finally rid myself of the old Teflon (non-stick) set (that I had no idea was potentially bad for us when I got it many years ago). I also got a beautiful enameled cast iron pot. I could be contentedly busy in the kitchen for hours now and may be on the lookout for some new recipes 🙂

That brings me to the point of this post – a new recipe! If you are like me, you might have some candy canes hanging around (literally) and may be looking for a use for them (other than stuffing them into your mouth). I was inspired to come up with this recipe after Jennifer mentioned she and her daughter had experimented with candy cane cookies.

They are delicious and will be consumed before you know it! You might want to stock up on some candy canes so you can make them at other times of the year too, though I think substituting peppermint candy for the candy canes would work just as well.

Mint (candy cane) chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon mint extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (12-oz. pkg.)
  • 1 cup candy canes ground finely in food processor (about 10-12 candy canes)

Directions

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and mint extracts in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, followed by candy canes. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
Please note: Due to the melting candy canes, these cookies tend to spread a bit. Make sure you leave adequate space surrounding each cookie on the baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Enjoy!

I’d post a picture of the cookies, but we ate them all (and gave some to the kids’ teachers). I may be making another batch soon though and will add a pic if I do. 😉

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Joy Szabo Travels 350 Miles for Vaginal Birth

Joy Szabo recently drew nationwide attention when she refused to have a repeat cesarean section at her local Page, Arizona, hospital. Instead, Joy and her husband Jeff decided that Joy (alone) would move 350 miles from home to Phoenix where they could, according to CNN, get “the birth they wanted” – a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). Many are calling Joy’s vaginal birth a victory, but Jenn at Knitted in the Womb acknowledges that while on one level getting the VBAC is a victory, on a larger scale she wonders was it really a victory?

Photo courtesy CNN
Photo courtesy CNN

Here’s a little history. While seven months pregnant with her fourth child, Joy Szabo was told by her local hospital that she would be required to have a repeat cesarean section rather than allow her to have the birth she wanted, a VBAC. It didn’t matter that she had already had one VBAC at this hospital, the policy had changed and VBACs were no longer permitted there.

VBACs carry a less-than-1-percent increased risk of a uterine rupture, which could cause brain damage in the baby or even death, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists.”

According to CNN:

After their discussion with their doctor, the Szabos made an appointment to speak with Page Hospital’s CEO, Sandy Haryasz. When the couple told her about their desire for a vaginal birth, they say Haryasz would not budge, even telling them she would get a court order if necessary to ensure Joy delivered via C-section.

The Szabos thought that seemed extreme and rather than succumb to the hospital’s new policy, a few weeks before her due date Joy moved into a Phoenix apartment 350 miles away from her husband and three children while she waited to go into labor. At the Phoenix hospital Joy gave birth to her fourth son Marcus Anthony in an “uncomplicated vaginal delivery.”

Emily from Laundry and Lullabies said, “Joy, you’re an inspiration. Thank you for standing up for yourself, for bringing attention to the state of maternity care in America, and for making it just a bit easier for other women to follow your example.”

Danielle who blogs at Birth, Babies & Everything In Between believes VBAC is much safer for healthy, low risk women than elective repeat cesareans. She likes to use the example of Michelle Duggar to demonstrate the safety of VBAC. Michelle has had four c-sections and 13 VBACs and recommends the organization International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) for those wishing to gain information about VBAC.

On the Duggar’s website, Michelle describes how things have changed from her first pregnancy to her 18th.

I would say the greatest change that I have seen in the field of obstetrics, and I might add that it is very troubling to me, is the idea that once you’ve had a C-section you must have a C-section for any other pregnancy. It is much healthier for mom and baby to avoid major surgery and all the complications that go along with a C-section if possible. Granted, there are health situations that would warrant such, but for years obstetrics encouraged TOL (Trial Of Labor after previous C-section) with many successful healthy vaginal births. It was quite alarming to be told that I could no longer have a vaginal birth due to hospital or insurance companies regulations. It appears that what is best for the patient is not the priority with this decision. I feel our health care is being jeopardized by this unhealthy approach. Doctors are having to tell their patients that they no longer offer VBAC assistance due to hospital regulations and some might even state to the patient that they are not safe so as to avoid confrontation. Statistics prove much differently. For the many women that find themselves in this situation, ICAN is an organization that is very helpful in gaining more information on this topic.

Jenn at Knitted in the Womb, who I mentioned above and questions the “victory” aspect, says:

I am glad that Joy got a vaginal birth, and on that level the birth was a victory. But on the larger scale level…the extreme hoops she had to go through make it less than that. The “victory” that I see missing is an acknowledgment by the Page Hospital administration that A) VBAC is safe and B) even if they disagree with “A,” they have no right to force a person to have surgery. For a woman who does not have the financial means to do what Joy did – move away from her home for over a month – surgery is still a forced situation.

…this could easily be used by hospital administrators as “precedent.” “You want a VBAC? So sorry, we don’t offer that here. Do what Ms. Szabo did, go move to be near ‘hospital X.’”

I agree with Jenn in that the CNN article headline, “Mom fights, gets the delivery she wants” is misleading. When I first read it, I expected that Joy Szabo had fought the Page hospital and had her VBAC there. I wasn’t expecting that she had to move six hours from her home, leaving her children and husband, to get a VBAC at another hospital.

Yes, the fact that she got a vaginal birth is a victory, but this story also shows that birth advocates still have a lot of work ahead of them. As more hospitals ban VBACs, there will be more and more cases of women who are forced to make difficult choices.

The fact that this situation got the national attention that it did, that CNN covered it and posted “some tips for what to ask your doctor (or midwife) in the delivery room if the suggestion is made that it’s time to give up on a vaginal birth and head to the operating room” is a step in the right direction. It might not be the big victory that many of us are hoping for, but it’s a small victory and that counts too.

Related posts:

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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Dear Target – a thank you letter

It’s no secret that I’ve harped on Target in the past. First there were the epidural maternity shirts, then there was the incident where the police were called on a breastfeeding mother. This weekend, however, Target did something that has me very thankful, and while I already informally expressed my thanks to them on Twitter, I wanted to do so a little more formally here.

It happened on Saturday – the last weekend before Christmas – when Jody and I decided to take the kids to Target so they could each pick out a present to give to the other. I thought it would help them learn the joy of giving, rather than just receiving on Christmas.

Before we went into the store, we emphasized that the store would be very busy with lots of people and the kids were to stay with us at all times. (You can see where this is headed, can’t you?)

Jody and I each took a kid and headed for the toy section as the kids searched for the perfect gift for their sibling (and got distracted with what they wanted for themselves at least 20 times). At one point, I turned a corner and glanced behind me with 3-year-old Julian nowhere to be seen. My heart jumped into my throat as I quickly retraced my steps and found him just around the corner playing with a toy. Whew!

Eventually, the sibling gifts were chosen.

I wanted to buy some art supplies for the kids, so Jody took the kids and planned to let them pick out something for me while I shopped for them.

I found what I wanted and began moseying around the store to find them. That’s when I saw Jody, alone, looking frantic as he dodged in and out of maternity clothes racks.

“Where are the kids??”

Jody told me he couldn’t find Julian and had told Ava to stay in one spot with the cart while he looked for Jules.

My first thought was to go to the guest services desk and let them know Julian was missing. The more people looking for him, especially on such a busy day, the better. Jody, however, apparently had the same thought at the same time and beat me to the desk.

I ditched my cart (and my purse – totally wasn’t thinking) and started looking for Julian myself.

Within seconds, crimson-clad Target employees were combing the aisles in force. Within two minutes, an employee asked me if I was the mom with the lost child (was the crazy “Oh my God, where is my son?” look in my eye that obvious?) and said they had found him and they would bring him to guest services.

Thank. God.

As I quickly walked to find Jody and tell him Julian had been found, I heard another employee say, “Oh! They are chasing after him!” And I could picture Julian screaming and crying and running away from the people who were trying to help him. Poor buddy.

I ran over to where Jody and Ava were already headed and met up with them to find a crying Julian safe in Jody’s arms. I kissed and hugged him and was so relieved to see he was OK. We let him know how scared we were that he was lost and it was obvious how scared he was too. (He had apparently run away from Jody looking for me when he got lost.)

It was about that time that I remembered that I’d ditched my cart with my purse in it. I was relieved to find it was all right where I left it.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am that our story had a happy ending.

Thank you, local Target employees, for springing into action so quickly and helping my husband and me find our son.

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What To Do If Your Child Is Missing:

If your child ever goes missing in a store, notify the front desk or an employee ASAP. Most stores have a “Code Adam” procedure (named after Adam Walsh, the 6-year-old son of John Walsh, who was abducted from a Sears department store in Florida in 1981 and later found murdered) that alerts the employees to look for the missing child. If the child is not located within 10 minutes, the police are called.

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Time magazine advocates “tough love” approach to infant sleep

Time magazine recently published a section called The Year in Health, A to Z in the Dec. 7, 2009 issue. The letter B is for Babies and what Time advised regarding babies, “tough love” and sleep has many people shaking their heads in disagreement.

The article states:

When a baby has repeated problems falling asleep, Mom and Dad may need to show some tough love. Lingering with cranky babies too long or bringing them into the parents’ bedroom can make them likelier to become poor sleepers, according to psychologist Jodi Mindell, who gathered data on nearly 30,000 kids up to 3 years old in 17 countries. “If you’re rocked to sleep at bedtime, you’re going to need that every time you wake up,” she notes. Her advice: have children fall asleep 3 ft. away. “If they’re slightly separated, they sleep much better,” she says.

Parents, pediatricians and proponents of attachment parenting strongly disagree with Time’s advice.

On Attachment Parenting International, Samantha Gray, executive director of Attachment Parenting International, and Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, founders of API, published the letter to the editor they wrote in response. Here is a bit of it:

Contrary to the very unfortunate and detrimental advice on sleep in Time magazine, API’s Principle outlines the need to be responsive to children during the night and not to brush aside their needs as inconsequential to them or to their development in the name of “tough love.” The magazine and this proponents’ advice is framed in such a way to alarm parents into unfounded fears about their children being poor sleepers if they respond in loving ways such as rocking their child, breastfeeding, or lying down with the child. We know, in fact, that these practices are not only healthy for the child, but, for the very short period of a child’s life that needs are met in this way, parent and child benefit.

Science indicates that a comforting nighttime approach helps children achieve healthy sleep habits. Research and the experience of parents throughout the ages have proven that effective nighttime parenting includes prompt, calm response, as well as holding, cuddling and soothing touch.

We pray no one takes to heart this advice you have quite surprisingly chosen to publish, all the more in the midst of the availability of substantial quality parenting information. This advice goes against parents’ good instincts to care for their very young child in the ways their inner knowing tells them to.

We implore Time to urgently correct this harmful information in such a way to command even greater attention than received by the original article. Our children are worth it, and so are their parents.

At the time of this posting, Time had not responded to API nor published any sort of correction.

Pediatrician, father of eight, and author of numerous parenting books Dr. William Sears suggests in his own letter to the editor to Time:

Rather than issuing rules or cautions about being “over attached” concerning nighttime parenting we should be encouraging parents to sleep safely and closely with their babies. In my experience and that of others who have thoroughly researched the issue of co-sleeping, namely Dr. James McKenna, babies who sleep close to their parents sleep physiologically healthier and a mutual trust develops between parents and child.

Remember, we have an epidemic of insomnia in this country necessitating a mushrooming of sleep disorder clinics. When babies start out life with a healthy sleep attitude, that sleep is a pleasant state to enter and a fear-less state to remain in they’re more likely to grow up with a healthy sleep attitude and both children and their parents will sleep better later on.

On his website, Dr. Sears has 8 Infant Sleep Facts Every Parent Should Know including:

  • babies have shorter sleep cycles than adults
  • there are developmental and survival benefits of nightwaking
  • and as babies grow, they achieve “sleep maturity.”

Kayris who blogs at The Great Walls of Baltimore said, “considering the amount of adults who suffer from sleep problems or use sleep aid medications, I’m truly surprised at the amount of people who expect sleep to also be easy for children.”

Micki AKA ADDHousewife is one of those people who has trouble sleeping and said in response to the Time article, “That’s pure crazy. Some kids are just lousy sleepers. Plain and simple. I am still a bad sleeper!”

Hannah Gaiten, owner of Natural Choices, had this response to Time’s article:

That type of position is based on what is perceived to be best for parents, not taking into account what is truly best for the kids, in my opinion. Heaven forbid a child need to nurse to sleep…why is it regarded as such a “problem?” We do it everyday, every time my daughter needs to sleep, she needs to nurse. Sure, it’s not the most convenient at times, but if I were looking for convenience, then perhaps being a parent wasn’t the best road to take.

To make a blanket statement like, “If they’re slightly separated, they sleep much better” is unwise, in my opinion – each child is different and instead of this author telling parents how to parent their child, they should give unbiased information and encourage the parents to do what is best for their family (not just what is in the best interest of the parents).

Susan, who blogs at Two Hands Two Feet agrees, “I hate it when ‘experts’ tell parents what is best for them and their kids. You need to do what is right for your family, not what an expert says. This stuff caused me a lot of grief when my girls were tiny. I read books because I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. But what I really should have done was just gone with my instincts.”

Suzanne at The Joyful Chaos who co-sleeps, but also says she’s “not actually an advocate for co-sleeping,” drives the point home that you have to do what works best for your family in her post The Cosleeping Edition of my Attachment Parenting Freako-ness and sometimes that may very well differ from child to child.

A Mother In Israel Hannah asks in her post Sleep Training at the 92nd St. Y:

Are our babies robots? Or dogs that we need to train? No, they are very small people who can’t understand why everyone ignores them once the sun goes down, even when they cry hard enough to throw up. A baby’s cry is intended to be disturbing. If we train ourselves to ignore it, we lose our instinctive rachmanut (compassion). And a baby whose cries are ignored learns that his feelings don’t count for much. Eventually he will give up and go to sleep, but pay a steep price.

Who are we to say that our need for a solid eight hours (which we usually don’t get anyway for all kinds of trivial reasons) trumps the baby’s needs? Adults can learn to cope with less sleep and babies need concern and sympathy no matter when they are in distress. Trust your baby; she will tell you when s/he is developmentally ready to fall asleep without your help.

As for my opinion, I think it’s very irresponsible for Time to make a blanket statement like that, especially when there is evidence that proves the contrary is true. I do believe it is up to each family to decide what works best for them and their children. While I don’t think it’s for everyone, co-sleeping worked for my family for years. Nowadays my children are still co-sleeping with each other at age 3 and 5 and sleep side by side in a room together. Just as they have different personalities, they are very different sleepers. My daughter has a harder time falling asleep than my son, but both are parented to sleep in a way that works best for them.

There’s nothing that is convenient about being a parent. It is a physically, emotionally and mentally taxing job. Parenting doesn’t end just because the sun sets. It’s a 24/7 365 days of the year job.

Instead of trying to put more distance between parents and their children, I think Time should be encouraging more connections. The time that our children are infants and toddlers is so fleeting in the grand scheme of things, we should be embracing them, not pushing them away.

Jan Hunt, director of The Natural Child, points out, “As the writer John Holt put it so eloquently, having feelings of love and safety in early life, far from ‘spoiling’ a child, is like ‘money in the bank’: a fund of trust, self-esteem and inner security they can draw on throughout life’s challenges.

Children may be small in size, but they are as fully human as we are, and as deserving as we are to be trusted to know what they need, and to have their voices heard.”

There is a wealth of information about infant sleep on Attachment Parenting International’s Baby Sleep Strategies page, including infant sleep safety, co-sleeping, nighttime parenting and more.

Annie at PhD in Parenting also has an informational post Gentle Baby and Toddler Sleep Tips that “provides tips for sleep deprived parents that want their babies to sleep better and… do not want to use the cry it out approach.”

If you’d like to respond to Time about “B” for Babies, please do so online using their letter to the editor web form or snail mail to:
TIME Magazine Letters
Time & Life Building
New York, N.Y. 10020
“Letters should include the writer’s full name, address and home telephone and may be edited for purposes of clarity and space.”

Cross-posted at BlogHer.

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Equal Exchange Fair Trade gift basket review & giveaway

This giveaway has ended. Congratulations to winner Denise!

It’s the holiday season and I want to share a few green products with you here on my blog. And someone will also have the opportunity to try them all out first-hand!

The first product I had the opportunity to sample is a gift basket from Equal Exchange. This Fair Trade Mixer Gift Basket includes a variety of Equal Exchange products (all are organic except for the pecans and all are fairly traded) – three kinds of chocolate bars, coffee, almonds, pecans and hot chocolate mix – in a beautiful fairly traded kaisa grass basket imported by Ten Thousand Villages from Dhaka Handicrafts, a non-profit that works to improve the lives of children and rural families in Bangladesh. It’s a great holiday gift idea – one that truly gives back – and it’s really tasty! I’ve been munching on the chocolate and almonds and drinking the hot chocolate and all have been excellent. I don’t know about you, but when I eat food that is fairly traded, it just seems to taste better and certainly makes me feel better about eating it. 🙂 To learn more about fair trade, visit the Fair Trade FAQ.

This gift basket is on sale through today, Dec. 15.

Equal Exchange has several other fair trade gifts that support small-scale farmers, ranging from $27-$75, including many that are on sale through today (Dec. 15). If you order online, you can get 10% off your order and receive free shipping on orders over $75. Use coupon code: giftme10 during checkout. Coupon expires 12/31/09.

Win It!

One uber lucky Crunchy Domestic Goddess reader is going to win a Fair Trade Mixer Gift Basket of her/his own! You can re-gift it or keep it all for yourself. It’s totally up to you. 🙂

To be eligible to win, you must live in the contingent United States only.

To enter: leave a comment stating one product from Equal Exchange that you would like to try.

  • For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway and leave another comment with the URL of your blog post.
  • For another additional entry, Tweet about this giveaway (and include @crunchygoddess as well as a link to this post in your tweet) and leave another comment here with a link to your tweet.

All Equal Exchange shipments are sent via United Parcel Service (UPS). Orders will be shipped within the contingent United States only. Equal Exchange does not ship to PO/APO/FPO’s, American Samoa, Guam, Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, or Virgin Islands.

The deadline to enter the giveaway is noon (Mountain Time) on Saturday, Dec. 19. The winner will be selected using Random and notified via email, so please be sure you leave a valid email address. Thank you and good luck!

Disclosure: I received the Equal Exchange Fair Trade Mixer gift basket in exchange for posting a review and giveaway on my blog.

A few more green products will be reviewed and given away in the days ahead. 🙂

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Eco-friendly upcycled holiday crafts for kids

Green or eco-friendly crafts for children using recycled or upcycled (repurposing a waste material into a product of higher quality materials) are plentiful this holiday season. In addition to being better for the environment, crafting from items found around the house has the added benefit of being economical.

No Time for Flashcards is one of my favorite blogs for finding activities to do with young children. No all posts are green, but three posts that do fit that category include recycled Christmas tree using paper from an old catalog, A “Bow”tiful Christmas tree made out of a grocery bag and misshapen present bows, and a Bell Christmas ornament made from an Easter egg. All three are great crafts for toddlers and preschoolers. My kids, ages 3 and 5, and I made some of the recycled Christmas trees using magazine pages earlier this week.

Photo credit: No Time for Flashcards

For little ones who like to paint, why not try painting holiday cards or making your own wrapping paper using paints made from berries and beets! The Green Art Project has a tutorial for making your own natural paints using fruits and vegetables you may already have in the house.

Over at This and That, there’s another idea for making your own gift wrap. Money Saving Mom also suggests having the kids help make homemade wrapping paper.

Here’s a beautiful and easy craft from Maya*Made to hang on the tree – a “snow”-covered pinecone ornament.

Photo credit:Maya*Made

There are a lot of fun ornaments that can be made with a burnt-out incandescent light bulb. It’s upcycling at it’s finest! There’s a snowman face ornament, Rudolph the recycled light bulb, the light bulb penguin, and there are some more cute ideas over at Keep’n the SunnySide. You could also keep it simple and let your child paint and glue whatever they want on the light bulb.

Photo credit: Crafts by Amanda

Summer at Wired for Noise suggests embroidering pictures on old pillow cases and had fun teaching her son the handicraft.

Another craft idea that we’ve tried in our house is transforming old, broken crayons into new crayons. The Red, White and Green says you don’t need to spend $30 on a Crayola Crayon Maker (made of nearly four pounds of plastic) to do it either. If you want to make holiday-themed crayons, you just need some holiday candy molds. Zakka Life has a tutorial on how to recycle old crayons into new crayons using candy molds. You can also just use muffin tins for round crayons. Raising Maine also suggests making the recycled crayons into ornaments.

Photo credit: Raising Maine

Older children may enjoy stringing popcorn or cranberries on wire or thread as garland to be hung on the Christmas tree. When the tree is taken down, the edible garland can be strung outside for the birds or put into your compost bin.

Another fun idea for a craft and/or gift for older children from Little Birdie Secrets is felted soap. “You cover a bar of soap with this fabulous wool fiber, then felt it, and you have a soap and washcloth in one!”

Photo credit: Little Birdie Secrets

Celebrate Green Blog recently came across some eco-friendly holiday crafts from Family Fun magazine using upcycled materials, including retro ornaments made from toilet paper rolls, Christmas carolers made from toilet paper rolls, holey socks and old sheet music, and a Flame-free menorah.

Photo credit: Family Fun

Lastly, there are some creative recycled craft ideas over at Monkey See Monkey Do including a milk carton nativity or Christmas village and a mop-head Santa, as well as coat hanger snowmen and reindeer and a trash bag wreath.

Looking for more green craft ideas? Check out Books make great gifts for green crafters over at Crafting a Green World. She suggests Green Crafts for Children: 35 Step-by-Step Projects Using Natural, Recycled, And Found Materials by Emma Hardy especially for green mamas and their green girls.

Have more eco-friendly holiday craft ideas for kids? Please share them in the comments.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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Homemade & eco-friendly Christmas tree trimming

Last year I got all crafty and made all of the decorations for our Christmas tree. The mood didn’t strike me this year (although we still have several of our salt dough ornaments from last year), but in case any of you are inspired to create an eco-friendly homemade Christmas tree, I thought I’d repost the blog I wrote a year ago.

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Our homemade-decorated tree  12/14/08

Originally posted Dec. 15, 2008

After writing my holiday eco-friendly crafts post, I got this insane great idea that it’d be lots of fun to make all of the decorations for our Christmas tree this year.  I was hoping to involve the kids in the crafting, but my first two attempts – with popcorn garland and cranberry garland – were not as successful as I hoped. Turns out that popcorn is fairly hard to put a needle through and I didn’t want to risk Ava poking the heck out of herself, so she and Julian ate popcorn while I threaded it. The cranberries were a little harder than I would’ve liked too so I did those myself while the kids ate them and then spat them out because they are, of course, very tart. 😉

I also made the star on the top of our tree by cutting it out of a pie tin (super sharp edges) and gluing it to a piece of black paper.

Finally this morning, I decided on a project we could work on together (at least Ava and I could and Julian could help out later) – salt dough ornaments!

Here’s the recipe that I used.

Salt Dough Ornaments

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
Optional: 1 tablespoon any type of oil (to make it easier to work with – thanks to Brighid for the tip)

I didn’t have enough sea salt, so I used my kosher salt (after grinding it up in the food processor a bit). It worked just as well. I think table salt is probably what they have in mind for this recipe though.

Mix salt and flour. Add in half the water, then gradually add the remaining water. Knead until the dough is smooth, this can take up to 10 minutes.

I divided up my dough into different segments and used food coloring on some of it.

For flat dough ornaments roll out the dough (to about 1/4 inch thickness) on baking paper, wax paper, or directly on a cookie sheet. Use cookie cutters, cut-out templates, or just use your hands.

Add details to the ornaments with a toothpick and knife.

Don’t forget to use a straw to make a hole so you can hang the ornament. (I forgot to do this on two of mine. Oops!)

Baking: Time varies based on thickness of ornament
Temperature: 325°F.
Time: 20 minutes or until dry – They should be hard to the touch, but not brown.

After they are done baking and cooling, you can paint, add glitter, spray with a clear finish, etc. We chose not to do this and let me tell you why I’m glad we didn’t.
a) because Julian decided to start tasting several of the ornaments
b) because a few, invariably, got dropped or stepped on and broke, but because they don’t have any extra stuff on them, I can just throw them into the composter. (The popcorn and cranberries can go out for the birds when you are done with them or into the compost bin). 🙂

Finally, add ribbon, yard, string, twine, etc. and your ornaments are ready to hang on the tree or give as gifts.

And now, the pictures…

Ava hard at work 12/14/08 Decorating candy cane ornaments 12/14/08 Ornaments ready to go into the oven  12/14/08

Putting yarn in our ornaments  12/14/08 Finished ornaments  12/14/08 Ava showing Julian how to hang ornaments  12/14/08

A tree on a tree  12/14/08 My little candy cane 12/14/08 Julian gets the hang of it fast  12/14/08

Ava’s happy tree 12/14/08 Last-minute rearranging before bed 12/14/08 Our homemade-decorated tree  12/14/08

I don’t know if we’ll stick with just the homemade decorations on the tree – I think we may add a handful of ornaments we’ve collected over the years – but I will say that despite the extra work involved, I really enjoy the organic-feel and personality that our tree has this year. It’s been a lot of fun. 🙂

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Mary Martinez speaks about the Target breastfeeding incident

Earlier this week I wrote about the police being called on a breastfeeding mom in a Michigan Target store. Mary Martinez and her husband Jose were shopping in a Harper Woods, Mich., Target store, where Mary was nursing her 4-week-old baby girl in the electronics section. They were told by a Target security guard that breastfeeding in public is “against the law” and told they had to leave. When they disputed it, the police were called. The couple and baby eventually left, feeling embarrassed.

Mary has since kindly told me a little more of what happened this past Sunday. She addressed the concern that some raised that she was not being “discreet” and gave an update regarding her correspondence with the Target corporate office.

I was very discreet. She’s my 3rd child and I breastfed the other 2 until they were 2, I know how to be discreet. LOL If you can watch the news clip, I was nursing then and I imagine that’s as much skin as I showed in the store…none.

I spoke with [Target] corporate yesterday [Dec. 2]. I received an apology and admission of wrong doing, and that no one complained.  I want an amended press release, removing the part that reads that anything escalated and that they were concerned about the safety of their other customers. …Until then, this story is to be continued.

(You can view the video at Fox 2 News.)

Mary also added that she’d like to tell me more about what happened, but she’s been going through a “rough time” lately and is “really tired right now.” I can only imagine. She’s four weeks postpartum, has two older children and is dealing with all of this Target stuff on top of it.

She said that she hasn’t yet contacted FirstRight (a site where they collect information to determine how best to support a mother who has experienced discrimination due to breastfeeding), but she plans on it.

I sent my own letter to Target, copying and pasting what I had written on my blog as well as adding “I like Target. I want to continue to shop there, but I want to see more support for breastfeeding moms and children and I believe an apology from the company to Mary Martinez for discriminating against her and her child is in order. Please make sure employees are properly trained on the laws regarding breastfeeding. It is not a crime. Thank you for your time.”
I received this form letter response from guest.relations@target.com:

Dear Amy Gates,

Thanks for asking us about breastfeeding in our stores. As a family-oriented retailer, Target has a long-standing practice that supports breastfeeding in our stores.

We want everyone to feel comfortable shopping at Target. Guests who choose to breastfeed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable. Additionally, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms.

We strive to provide a distraction-free environment for all our guests, including nursing moms. We regret the incident in our store and will continue to provide a shopping environment that respects the needs of all guests, including nursing mothers.

At Target, we work hard to provide you with an enjoyable shopping experience. If you ever have concerns during your visit, please visit the Guest Service Desk and ask to speak to the Guest Service Team Leader. They’ll make every attempt to resolve the issue while you’re in the store.

We appreciate the opportunity to share this information with you.

Sincerely,

Matthew
Target Guest Relations
www.target.com
(800) 440-0680

[THREAD ID:1-78AVUL]

It sounds like lip service to me. When I read, “We regret the incident in our store and will continue to provide a shopping environment that respects the needs of all guests, including nursing mothers.” it sounds to me like they are sorry they are getting negative press as a result of the incident, not that they are sorry that an employee discriminated against a shopper and that the police were called. Not that they are sorry for the grief they have caused the Martinez family.

I’m not calling for a boycott of Target. I think that is extreme for this situation. However, I am not sure when I will be shopping there again. I will be watching this case to see how it all pans out. I’d like to see them resolve this well. I think they should have apologized from the get-go and not released the statement about being concerned for the safety of their guests. I’ve never seen a breastfeeding mom and baby pose a safety issue. Most moms simply want to take care of the needs of their baby and go about their business.

I want to address more concerns/issues that were raised in the comments section of my first post, but will save that for another post, another day.

Mary, please know that there are many of us who fully support you. I hope that because of the attention drawn to your situation, it will prevent another mother and child from being discriminated against in the future. As it is House Bill 5515 in Michigan – which would grant to a woman the right to breastfeed in a public place and prohibit practices that would discriminate against the woman because she was breastfeeding a child – passed out of committee on a vote of 11 to 2 after the hearing on Dec. 2. (Thanks to Angela White for this good news update!) As Angela told me, “The committee members did know about the Target incident so while it was terribly unfortunate, the timing just might have helped push forward that important legislation!”

The breastfeeding discrimination might not end overnight, but we are making headway and going in the right direction. 🙂

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