The Best Gifts for the Holidays

November 30th, 2007

It’s not even December yet, and already my in-box is clogged with solicitations from toy makers, clothing retailers, and seemingly just about everyone selling anything!

This year, more than ever before, parents are concerned about buying safe presents for their children. And increasingly, they’re concerned about the environment too.

This is one reason experiential gifts are a good idea. Experiential gifts are gifts of experiences. They’re not plastic, they’re not lead and they’re not breakable! What they are is memorable.

When I was a young girl, I gave my father a book of coupons I made. I colored each of 10 coupons and bound them into a little pink package. Inside were pages redeemable for a mix of chores and sweet nothings: a hug, a car wash, a home made dinner or cookies, and more. Of course it’s been 30 years or so since I gave my father that book, and I’ve forgotten all that was in it. In fact, I thought he had forgotten it too, because oddly enough, he never redeemed the coupons. Periodically I would ask him about it, and he would just laugh a little and smile, then change the topic. It wasn’t until after he died years later that I found the coupon book. It was carefully wrapped and laid in a file with my name on it, next to childhood drawings and photos.

I still think the coupon book is a great holiday gift idea. Clearly, my father cherished it, even if he never did redeem those coupons! A markedly more upscale version of my coupon book is available through  Excitations, a company focused on “gift experiences.” The Parent Bloggers Network asked me to blog about Excitations, which ironically I was planning to do anyway since they have a store nearby at DC’s Union Station.

Excitations offers a variety of experiences, including “green experiences.” You can do such things as dine at an organic farm restaurant, take a guided bike tour around the city, sail down a river on a schooner, or even learn archery. Check it out!

Copyright Organicmania 2007

The Green Grinch Who Stole Christmas?

November 25th, 2007

The New York Times today writes about environmentalists who are driving their families nutty with boring green gifts. It’s an interesting piece, and reminds me of all the requests I’ve received to write about eco-friendly gifts for the holidays. Hmm…I think there are ways to be green and festive at the same time, don’t you?

How Blogging Changed My Life

November 19th, 2007

It’s now been just over a month since my first post and the launch of OrganicMania. As a mother of two, I’m very concerned about building a healthy environment for my children. OrganicMania was started as a way to share my research and opinions about when it truly makes sense to go organic. But OrganicMania is turning into so much more than that – it’s turning into a community, and it’s become my passion.

Thank you to everyone who supported my fledgling steps – especially the bloggers who’ve offered advice or found my site and left comments. This means the women – WhyMommy of Toddler Planet, Sher of Wrekehavoc, Gift of Green, Rejin from Urban Botany, Beth from Fake Plastic Fish, MC Milker from Not Quite Crunchy Parent, Margaret from Whirlwind, Mama K from Non Toxic Tots and mama k nj, Emily from Wheels on the Bus, and Jessica from Surely You Nest. This also means thanks to my “token males” — Jeff Steele, the father of DC Urban Moms and Dads; the megablogger Geoff Livingston; Nicholas from The Place of Dead Roads and Dean Hua from Sachi Studios, who got my blog up in no time. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to post comments or simply to visit the site. And most of all, thanks to my wonderful DH who encouraged me to start OrganicMania. He’s now calling himself “a blogging widower.”

My life truly has changed since I began blogging. How? Let me count the ways. I have:

1. Realized that organics and green living are more than simply an interest of mine. I want to find a way to make these passions fit into my work life too. This is obviously a huge change, and I’ll be blogging more about this as I explore what new doors may open for me;
2. Met new friends, deepened existing relationships and even talked with some in “real life;”
3. Had more fun writing than I’ve had since my days as a newspaper reporter fresh out of college;
4. Learned a lot about the organics industry and the green movement;
5. Taught myself to do a few technical things on my WordPress blogging platform, boosting my technical self-esteem;
6. Moved from observing the blogosphere for years to feeling a part of it; and I
7. Feel incredibly happy about all of this.

I feel more alive as a blogger. Connected. It’s odd, because here I sit alone at a computer, yet I know I am plugged into a huge community. It also sounds trite, because I have known about this phenomenon for more than a decade. But it’s one thing to know about something as an observer – it’s something totally different to live it.

Perhaps these feelings are hitting me especially hard, because as a Mom, I’m not accustomed to taking much time for myself. All of my friends are asking, “How are you finding time to do all this blogging?” I think the secret is that I’ve just about given up housework! ☺

The Best Store-Bought Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

November 16th, 2007

I’ve found the best store bought chocolate chip cookies ever – Newman’s Own® Organics Espresso Chocolate Chip Champion Chip Cookies. At first I was going to keep quiet about eating chocolate chip cookies because I tell everyone that I’m working really hard on getting the remaining baby weight off. But since I started this blog in part to report on great organic products, I would be remiss in not telling you that these cookies are really, really good. In fact, purely in the name of research, I have been eating my way through a bag I bought for DH just so that I can accurately report on what makes these cookies so delicious. It’s the chocolate chips that are melt-in-your-mouth soft. They’re not hard like they often are in store-bought cookies. The organic chocolate is scrumptious, with just a hint of fine espresso. And they taste fantastic with a good cup of coffee! What’s more, they’re on sale for $2.19 per 10 ounce bag at MOM’s Organic Market. Enjoy!

Humor Me (Not): Top 10 Organic and Eco-Friendly Products Moms Really Need

November 13th, 2007

It seems that every day, there are new organic and eco-friendly products available. Yet still, there are missing items for Moms yearning to switch over to as many eco-friendly, organic products as possible. Perhaps this is because marketers are unaware of what Moms really need. Do they need a list? Here’s a start….

1. Organic Halloween Candy;
2. Organic, Eco-Friendly Toddler Wipes, a la Kandoo;
3. Organic Lice Treatments (ick);
4. Eco-friendly, “cool” lunch boxes for the age 8 and under set;
5. Eco-friendly, recyclable packaging for all organic and eco-friendly items;
6. Fun organic and eco-friendly toys for elementary school age kids;
7. Affordable organic cotton clothing;
8.Affordable, easy-to-use organic or eco-friendly diapering systems;
9.Affordable, truly organic cosmetics that really work;
10. Organic spas and beauty salons that are truly organic and eco-friendly.

What do you need? Please leave a comment and share!

Copyright Organicmania 2007

Quick Interview: Organics vs. Conventional Foods – Mothers & Menus Founder, Author of The Well Rounded Pregnancy Cookbook, Karen Gurwitz

November 9th, 2007

Karen Gurwitz of Mothers & Menus with her children

New and expectant Moms in Manhattan enjoy fresh, organic, home-delivered meals, thanks to Mothers & Menus founder Karen Gurwitz. Fresh from her recent launch of The Well Rounded Pregnancy cookbook, Karen sat down to talk with Organicmania about the organics vs. conventional food debate.

Organicmania: I recall when Mothers & Menus first launched, you positioned your service as a “healthy” meal delivery service. Now some of your promotional materials describe Mothers & Menus as an “organic” meal delivery service. Why did you make the switch to organic?

Karen Gurwitz: Actually, that evolved over time when I was able to find a more complete range of organic products. But to me, the emphasis really should be on “healthy” versus “organics.” Sometimes fresh conventional produce makes more sense than organic food.

Organicmania: So you don’t think mothers should make a point of buying only organic foods?

Karen Gurwitz: You know, it’s not all or nothing. I think mothers, especially new mothers, need to do what works for them. Moms have to do what makes sense for them and for their families. And organics can be expensive. If a Mom can afford organics, great. If not, there are good conventional alternatives available. Eating real, whole foods is what is really important for good health.

Organicmania: What exactly do you mean by “whole foods?”

Karen Gurwitz: Whole foods are foods that are minimally processed and as close to their original form as possible. Whole foods are especially helpful during and right after pregnancy as they contain fiber, water, complex-carbohydrates and minerals. Whole foods are easier to process, alleviating you of the fatigue associated with digestion, and supporting optimum energy and health.

Organicmania: What do you think is the most important aspect of organic food?

Karen Gurwitz: First and foremost, the health benefits. To me, it makes more sense to eat food that hasn’t been tampered with in terms of chemicals and pesticides. I also love the gentle effects of organic farming on the earth. And, in the final taste test, I find that food tastes better with organic ingredients.

Organicmania: Karen, you’re a busy Mom with your own business, three kids, and a new book. How do you do it all?

Karen Gurwitz: I have a wonderful husband who supports me. And sometimes — I don’t do it all! I think that as moms we put too many expectations on ourselves. Some days are more productive than others. But in the end, I love what I do, and I hope to inspire my children, especially my daughters, to be all that they want to be.

Organicmania: What’s next for you, Karen? When can we get Mothers & Menus outside of the Big Apple?

Karen Gurwitz: Stay tuned. Mothers & Menus has already tested in Florida and Boston and gotten great results. It’s critical for me to maintain the food quality and a high level of customer service. I plan to make some announcements about that in the second quarter of 2008 – sign up for my newsletter for more information.

— By Lynn / Copyright Organicmania 2007

Happy Birthday, Baby Boo

November 9th, 2007

Reduce, Reuse, RecycleHow fast a year goes by. Today my little baby boo turns one. Unlike his big brother, who was born five years ago, this little guy has been raised primarily on organic and biodynamic foods.

This morning he showed Mama that in the spirit of “reduce, re-use, recycle,” there’s more than one use for an empty gallon container of organic milk. It makes a great plaything! No need to worry about toy recalls with this approach.

Seriously though, regarding the recalls – The Parent Bloggers Network is leading a great effort with Consumers Union  to raise awareness. Visit Consumers Union  to find out what you can do to protest the situation and hopefully make a difference.

— Lynn

Copyright Organicmania 2007

“Green Halloween”– A Bust in DC

November 2nd, 2007

Now that Halloween is past, we can take a look at the push for green and see if it had any impact. As posted on Halloween eve, organic chocolate’s day has not dawned. But what about the other initiatives? Eco-friendly give-aways, home made costumes, etc?

Sadly, I saw very little of that. In fact, for the first time, my child came home with Cheap Plastic Crap! It’s not enough that CPC comes home from birthday parties and school fairs, but now we need to worry about Halloween as well? Sure enough, deep in the recesses of my kindergartner’s trick-or-treat bag were several non-recyclable plastic gems, including a skeleton, a plastic rope of some kind, a skeleton straw, a snake, a spider, and a few other odds and ends. What’s more, at several parties he was given more CPC! Isn’t candy a big enough treat on Halloween? Why do adults think kids need Cheap Plastic Crap too? This is one trend we should nip in the bud. Think about all of the landfill waste if “trick or treat for plastic” catches on!

What did you see in your neighborhood? Please leave a comment and share.

Some of the Cheap Plastic Crap Given Out on HalloweenHalloween Treats: Cheap Plastic Crap

Copyright 2007, Organicmania