My New Years Gift to You: Tip on the Best Value Sparkling Wine

December 31st, 2008

Well, I tried to take a blogging break over the holidays, but I can’t stand looking at that old Christmas gift post, so here I am sneaking in a post mid-afternoon on New Years Eve.

Most of us are looking to live a bit more frugally this year. (Of course, we’ve been sharing frugal and green savings tips on OrganicMania for more than a year now!)

So this year, instead of tipping back the Veuve Cliquot, I’ll be trying Graham Beck Brut, a fantastic bottle of sparking wine you can pick up at Whole Foods for $15, or perhaps find even cheaper at a local market. (Check here). As one expert put it, “It will be very difficult to find a sparkling wine this good at this price.”

All I know is, if you love Veuve, you’ll love this…and it’s a lot easier on the wallet!

Wishing you all the best for a Happy New Year!

Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Still More Shopping To Do? Be Cheap, Be Green!

December 22nd, 2008

There are only two more shopping days till Xmas. If you still have some gifts to buy, stop and take a deep breath. Do you really think you’ll find something meaningful at the last minute?

My DH and I admitted to each other this weekend that we hadn’t yet purchased gifts for each other. We’ve been so busy with the kids, work, and new routines for the holiday season that it took us all of 5 seconds to decide to forgo the gifts, and to funnel the money into a celebration of our tenth anniversary, coming up in January. Will I miss opening a little package on Christmas Eve? I have no idea, but I’ll let you know!

But let’s assume that you feel obligated to give a gift to your close relations or neighbors. Do they have kids? Last year my brother and sister-in-law gave us a night of babysitting. A $100 savings for us, this was a huge hit! The best gift we’ve received in years!

And if there are no kids involved? How about a promise to water the garden, walk the dogs, or otherwise pitch in for a friend or neighbor who may welcome a break. Why not give the gift of your company? How about a hand made certificate promising a lunch or coffee date?

And when all else fails, you can always bake Christmas cookies!

What are your plans for the holidays? Leave a comment and share! I’ll be checking in, but hope to go on a “slow blogging hiatus” over the next little while to enjoy the start of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Happy Holidays!
– Lynn

Organic and Green Savings: In-Store Expired Coupons?

December 21st, 2008

Despite planning purchases ahead of time, you may find yourself, like I did, stuck in a store with a kid begging for a new toy from the “holiday shop.” As you can see from the pic above, Big Boy fell in love with the stuffed penguin at Whole Foods. Normally I would say no and move on, but I acquiesced when he found a coupon for 20% off in the Whole Foods holiday shop and calculated that he had just enough allowance money to cover the purchase.

Imagine my surprise when we hit the register only to hear the check-out clerk tell us that the coupon had expired the day prior. Sure enough, there it was printed clearly enough for all to see—except this harried Mom with two kids in tow.

When I asked him why the coupons were on display in the shop, he apologized but said the coupon would not ring through his register because it was expired. By this point, Big Boy’s smile had disappeared and he was sobbing. A happy occasion was ruined.

Never one to give up, I explained to Big Boy that this was an opportunity to learn about customer service and consumer rights. One of the many reasons I shop at Whole Foods is because their customer service is uniformly excellent. When I explained the situation to the customer service rep, she put the coupon through the register, and gladly offered Big Boy more than $5.00 off the purchase price.

Take our experience to heart, and remember this:
1) If a store is promoting in-store coupons next to a display, they owe you the reduction – even if the expiration date is past. It is their responsibility to end the promotion when it expires.
2) If a clerk cannot resolve your problem, take it to customer service, where the workers are typically more empowered to help frustrated shoppers. Yes, it will take a few minutes of your time, but you’ll be saving money and passing along important lessons in money management to your children.

Happy Shopping!

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Check out the Green Moms Carnival: The Holidays

December 19th, 2008

Be sure to stop by The Smart Mama to read a baker’s dozen worth of wonderful posts about the holidays at the latest edition of the Green Moms Carnival. You’ll get insights on everything from reducing your plastic consumption to celebrating the winter solstice.

Come January, the Green Moms Carnival will tackle global warming. The carnival will be hosted by MC Milker at The Not Quite Crunchy Parent. To submit, just send your post to greenmomscarnival at gmail dot com by Monday, December 29th. Although we call ourselves the “Green Moms,” we welcome participation by anyone who’s a friend of a Green Mom! Read more about the carnival here.

– Lynn

Blended Holiday Parties

December 13th, 2008

Just back from a wonderful Christmas party, still basking in the love and affection of my friends. Sure, the house was gorgeous, the food delicious, the wine flowing…but what was most special was having the luxury of reconnecting with old friends, of spending so many hours lost in conversation that we left at 11 p.m., thinking it was just past 9 p.m.

And what touches me most even now is knowing how much my friend had to overcome to throw this party.

Few of us come from intact homes. Throw in a divorce – whether yours, his, hers, the parents, the in-laws, the sister’s or brother’s – and things can get really complicated. In most families there are broken relationships that can make the holidays hard.

To see my friend there with his ex wife, their four beautiful children, her boyfriend, and his partner – surrounded by the love and affection of friends and family – touched me deeply.

I know my friend traveled a long road to make it to this place, where he could throw open the doors of his new home and welcome all those who would be comfortable enough to walk through.

This holiday season, I hope you find comfort and love from friends and family.

– Lynn

Easy Green Weekend Project: E-Cycling.

December 12th, 2008

If you live in my neck of the woods (Bethesda, Maryland), this weekend’s project is really easy. If you don’t live nearby, maybe you can pick up the phone or email a local government representative to ask when your municipality will be sponsoring an e-cycling day. And check out the list of more than 25 items that can be e-cycled! I had no idea – and I’m someone who’s really “into” recycling! Can you name all 25 e-cyclable items listed below?

On Sunday, bring your old electronics to be e-cycled between 12:00 and 4:00 p.m. at Walt Whitman High School. (There is a limit of 3 TVs per car).

You can win a new Samsung 26” Energy Star TV and everyone will leave with a bottle of Honest Tea!

Here’s the full scoop:

Electronics Recycling Day in the parking lot of Walt Whitman High School. The county will have trucks and staff to remove electronics from residents’ cars as they drive through the parking lot.
Accepted items include:
* small electronic appliances
* calculators
* camcorders
* CDs and floppy disks
* CD players
* cell phones
* computers and computer-related products
* consumer electronics
* copiers
* cords and cables (including chargers)
* digital cameras
* electronic typewriters
* fax machines
* microwave ovens
* personal digital assistant equipment
* printers
* projection equipment
* scanners
* telephones
* small electronic toys
* televisions
* VCRs

All collected items are recycled.

Sorry, we do not accept videotapes in our electronics recycling program.
How many items may I bring?

You may bring up to 3 televisions.

If you have significant quantities of other electronic items, contact the Division of Solid Waste Services online or call them at 240-777-6560 to see whether they can accept your items, or whether they must refer you to a private electronics recycler.

Green Moms Carnival: The Prevention Agenda

December 8th, 2008

The problem with being an activist Green Mom is that we’re Moms.

Seriously. I mean, there’s no busier time in life than those early years when kids just …need…you…all the time…it seems.

Throw in work,  time spent volunteering with schools, church and community organizations, and the desire to build upon a relationship with a husband, friends and extended family… and well, there’s just not much time or energy left over.

Especially not in the fast paced end-of-year whirlwind between Thanksgiving and New Years.

So that’s my excuse for not participating in today’s Green Mom Carnival over at Diane’s Big Green Purse. A weighty topic: Encouraging President-Elect Obama to Adopt a Prevention Agenda.

What’s a Prevention Agenda? It means that instead of playing “catch up” with environmental problems, we got pro-active about them and tried to prevent them in the first place. Head on over and read more here.

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

10 Tips for Avoiding Recalled Toys

December 3rd, 2008

Do you see what’s on that paper lying next to those cute toy trains? A recall notice for those very same trains.

Those My Little Train Toy Classics were so darn cute that I picked one up to admire it. And it was cheap too – less than $2.

But those cheap toys always give me pause. So many of them have been linked to recalls and lead paint. So I decided against purchasing one, even though I’m not prepared to spend loads of money on an all natural, organic alternative.

As I was leaving the store, I noticed a recall notice on the bulletin board near the exit. I picked up the recall notice and ran back to see if these were the same trains. After taking them all down from the display, I brought them over to the customer service desk, showed them the recall notice, and explained that they were selling recalled toys. I expected an apology, or at least an expression of concern from the store personnel…but their response didn’t satisfy me. My immediate reaction was to send out this irate Tweet to my Twitter network.

The next day I called the store manager, and asked him if he was aware of what had happened with the recalled toys the evening prior. He wasn’t. No one had yet bothered to tell him that they had recalled toys on their shelves. He assured me that there was no way I could have purchased a recalled item, because the item would not ring up at the register. He also told me that it was likely that just a lot of the item that was recalled, and that the items on the store shelf were probably fine. Well, no. I checked the Consumer Product Safety Commission website and in fact, all of these toy trains have been recalled due to a choking hazard.

It’s tempting to buy cheap toys – but it’s not worth the risk. They’re often full of toxins (just ask my friend with a toy testing gun, The Smart Mama). And even if they’re safe, they usually don’t last very long before they break.

Few of us can afford to buy all natural, organic toys all the time. So what can you do? Here are ten tips:

1. Before you buy anything, go to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and check the recall list. The notice on the toy trains came out the very day I saw them on the store shelf! (And five more alerts have come out since that one was issued!)

2. Shop consignment stores. You won’t believe the number of high quality wooden toys you can find, some still new and in the original packaging. In the DC area, I like to shop at The Purple Goose and Wiggle Room.

3. Ask your friends for their cast-offs. I have one dear friend in Florida who mails her son’s hand-me-down clothes to us. There’s no reason you can’t get cast-off toys too. (I’d like to get in line for cast-offs from the son of natural toy expert MC Milker of Not Quite Crunchy Parent!)

4. Check yard sales, especially in what my mother used to call “the high rent district.” That’s where you may find gently used, natural and organic toys.

5. Zwaggle is a great source for parents to swap gently used toys.

6. Freecycle is full of environmentally conscious people who love to recycle. These are the same people who are likely to have purchased high quality toys. Post a query requesting your child’s dream toy. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get it for free!

7. Look for discount coupons on line. Simply google the name of the toy and “coupon,” and see what turns up. And here’s an easier way you can save some money on high quality, natural toys. To save 10% off your first order at Natural Pod, just use coupon code GCM08.

But these are only temporary steps. The only way we will keep junk toys out of the store aisles is by exerting pressure on government to strengthen the regulations governing toy safety and inspections. Here’s what you can do:

8. Call or write your Congressional delegation and tell them that you want more resources devoted to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency tasked with ensuring the safety of our children’s toys.

9. Write to your state and local representatives too. States like Washington and Oregon are ahead of federal law it comes to protecting our kids from unsafe toys.

10. Align yourself with organizations that are lobbying the government on behalf of children’s issues. Groups such as Momsrising lobby for passage of laws that help protect kids not only from recalled toys, but from toys containing unsafe levels of chemical toxins.

How are you going to handle toy shopping this holiday season? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Slow Christmas: Fighting Holiday Commercialism

December 2nd, 2008

With the holiday season now in full swing, it seems parents everywhere are asking, “How can I make Christmas more meaningful?”

Taking away the focus on crass materialism has never seemed more important, especially now when so many families are suffering in the economic downturn.

For the next few weeks, in addition to posting periodically about alternative gifts, “green gifts” that help the planet and help green entrepreneurs, and experiential gifts, I’ll also post about rediscovering Christmas traditions that bring meaning back to the holiday season.

Take Advent. Yes, Advent. Did you know we’re in the first week of Advent? Advent is a season of waiting. And in our house, the mantra is not “hurry up, rush, shop,” it’s “Slow down. Be quiet. It’s Advent.”

One of my favorite ways of marking Advent is through an Advent calendar. And yes, although we’re technically in the first week of Advent already, it’s not too late to start observing the season of Advent.

Advent calendars mark each day in December up through Christmas Day. They typically tell the story of the Nativity. Some are “permanent” calendars with little doors through which you can hide chocolates or other treats. Others are boxes with the chocolates already hidden inside.

Last year, we made the mistake of buying just one Advent calendar. This year, there are three – one for each of the boys and one for DH and I to share. And yes – you can still find them. Just last night DH picked up the Advent calendars at Whole Foods. We love the the Divine Chocolate calendar – fair trade chocolate from Ghana. And it seems local too, since their corporate offices are right here in DC.

A few years ago, I established a family tradition of leaving the dinner table to read a Christmas story and then enjoy a piece of Advent chocolate.

And every year, I tell myself that we’ll continue the tradition of reading after dinner. Yet somehow by the time December rolls around, we’ve fallen out of the habit of reading after dinner. But it’s a great habit to pick up again each year. So join me – bring out the Christmas books, enjoy a piece of Advent chocolate (just 20 calories!) and Relax. Slow Down. It’s Advent.

- Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania