Holiday Party Zero Waste Inspirations

Christmas cookies

 

December is just coming around corner. Are you pondering what to do this holiday season? Are planning to host a holiday party yourself or visiting a friend’s home as a guest? There are many things to think about… As with any gathering, holiday parties are notorious for producing a large amount of plastic waste. Let us begin to think about how we can reduce this amount of waste as much as possible.

Holiday Party Hosting

Cup and plates

As soon as the host decides to invite guests over for a party, most tend to think about what to serve as food and drinks. Then, the shopping list begins to grow.

1. Serving utensils: Instead of running to the dollar shop to pick up those disposable plastic forks, and knifes, bring out your own washable utensils. If you do not own enough glass or stainless plates yourself, you can consider asking your guests to bring their own plate to use. Depending on the event, only purchase compostable paper plates if you really need to pick some disposable ones. Leftovers are common after a party, so have some reusable containers on hand for guests to pack and take home.
2. Decorations Around the House: Looks for décor lights that are rechargeable instead of ones that use batteries or remember to use rechargeable batteries if you must. Also, avoid using the plastic glitter, as you can make your own with a hole puncher on scrap paper wrappings and holiday catalogues. Try to reuse the decorations each year instead putting up disposable ones.

As A Guest

Christmas cookies

Here you are reading about the details in your invite, time to think about some concerns.

1. What: Is there a gift exchange? Look for presents that can be reused often. Furthermore, when you look wrapping the present, look for creative ways to wrap it like using a reusable cotton bag instead of plastic cellophane for baskets.
2. When: December tends to be quite busy on the road. Plan ahead to avoid traffic jams, where cars tend to spew out more exhaust when they are stuck in a jam.
3. Where: Look at the address of the holiday party…. Do you know if anyone of your family or friends that live near you are also invited to the party? Perhaps you can suggest to carpool with them so the guests will have less cars on the road that day.
4. How: As with many dinner parties, leftovers are the norm.You can bring your stainless steel or glass containers like Mason jars for soups.
HOliday party

 

It is important to remember that every little action helps. Remember that we need to be kind and respectful of others and not shame anyone into being zero waste. Instead, you need to use love and kindness to move the world.

Do It Yourself Christmas Decor

Since I was a little girl, I enjoyed making my own Christmas gifts and decorations. At school, the students would be asked to make our own Christmas crafts. Do It Yourself Christmas projects were everywhere.

Do it yourself

One of my most memorable Do It Yourself Christmas décor projects was the year that our family had to move into a small basement, while awaiting to move into our new home. My mother said that we could not put up our huge Christmas tree as there was not enough space. The ceiling of the basement was just not tall enough. I was so disappointed. My mother was a very creative person. She quickly looked around for some green construction paper. Folding and cutting, she made a paper Christmas tree and stuck it to a wall in the living room. Then, I remembered I was cutting up small circles to be the ornaments on our Do It Yourself Christmas Tree. We also cut up a lot of paper snowflakes to decorate the place.

Even as an adult, I enjoyed making my own Christmas decorations. The best part of making these decorations was spending some quality time with the children.

Do It Yourself Christmas Decor Ideas

Here are some ideas to spark your imagination:

1. Toilet Paper Roll Snowmen: You can collect those empty toilet paper rolls and glue cotton balls to cover them up like snow. Then, make some eyes and arms by using old magazines. You can cut out images of hats too!
2. Christmas Card Décor: Start keeping those old Christmas cards from previous years. I especially love the ones with family photos printed on it. You can hang them on your tree as ornaments.
Do it yourself
Can you make out those finger shapes?
3. Waving Hands Christmas Wreaths: Trace the hands of your family members and attach them in a circle, starting from the outer circle and working your way inwards. Then, add some sparkly stickers or cut out some Christmas –themed images to your wreath. You can then reuse a ribbon from a previous gift to end the final touch.
Do IT Yourself
I kept this piece of ribbon to reuse.

Have you made any Christmas décor by hand?

Special Ways to Save Money for Christmas

 

It is too late to feel regretful about not starting to do your Christmas shopping early. What can you do? No need to panic. It is only November, and there is still some time left. There are special ways to deal with this. Besides the lack of time, the other issue is the concern of budget. Depending on how many people you have to purchase this Christmas, this gift-giving often comes with a hefty price tag.

The commercialization of Christmas holidays has been falsely marketed at a time to get your loved ones the special present. From expensive jewellery to super high-tech toys for the children, each year I notice that the advertisements of television and even social media can be a little overwhelming. I am not passing judgement for those who are capable and chose to purchase these extravagant presents. That is their choice.

 

3 Special Ways

1. Pool resources: Let’s say, for example, a university student is in search of a laptop of his education. A few of his closed friends may gather together and split the cost of the laptop.
2. Christmas Markets: I like to visit Christmas Markets to look for unique and inexpensive gifts. Many of the vendors make their own items. Shopping for local small businesses helps our local economy.
3. Use social media: Signing up for the e-newsletters of your favourite online shops and vendors often gives you the newest deals that are only for their subscribers. Be on the lookout for the different advertisements that businesses often start to post in November on their various social media platforms. You can even use your own chat groups to share what sorts of deals with your friends so that they can save some money too!

 

This holiday season, thinking and using special ways to save money can be a challenging, but very rewarding experience. Remember to also share this information with the younger ones too.

10 Easy Ways To Reduce Food Waste

Reduce food waste - 10 easy ways
October 21 to 27 was Waste Reduction Week in Canada. They dedicated a day (Friday, Oct 25th) to Reduce Food Waste. Did you know Canadians throws out 175 Kg of food every year?

Most people talk about the damages of food waste on the environment and the overall economy.
Not that many talks about the effect of food waste on families on their budget and bottom line and in general on the health of their marriage.

We used to throw out a lot of wilted vegetables in our household, which was a huge source of friction in our household. I’m a spontaneous cook, I do a little bit of meal planning but mostly I cook according to my mood. To be able to do that, I always need certain vegetables in the fridge ready to go. Vegetables like mushrooms, celery, a variety of herbs. Of course, I would not cook them all every week and after a week we had a bunch of dried out mushrooms, wilted celery and herbs to throw out. And let’s be honest how much vegetable stock can you make and use every week?

Well, that was about 8 years ago. Then I was determined to remove the source of friction in the house and cook the way I like. I needed a bag that could keep my celery unwilted because I could never use up the celery before it wilted. That’s how we ended up creating Fresh Bags. Since then we have reduced our vegetable waste to 1/8 of what it was.

There are tons of way to reduce food waste, you don’t necessarily need to use our Fresh bags. I just find them effortless and very easy to use.
Reduce food waste using fresh bags

10 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

  1. Meal Plan
  2. Shop with a shopping list
  3. Buy the ugly fruits and vegetable, they are the first to end up in the landfill
  4. Buy less than what you think you need
  5. Don’t shop empty stomach
  6. Learn how to store different vegetables
  7. Get creative with leftovers – leftover meat sauce and mashed potato can be turned into a shepherds pie
  8. Freeze leftover food to use in the future instead of a take out
  9. Use wilted and dried out vegetables in smoothies and stocks
  10. Compost what is not usable
I wish there were places, shelters who would accept home-cooked meals. For safety reason, most shelters and location don’t accept leftover homemade food. I understand that but wouldn’t it be nice if you could feed some stranger who is hungry with the leftover food you made with love? I think the world would be a better place if we could easily share our food with total strangers, without the worry of legality.
If you know of shelters and soup kitchens that accept homemade leftover foods please share in the comments. It’s a good resource to have especially during the holiday season.

Planning For Presents: Post-Halloween Preparations

 

Halloween is over and November is here!! Are you getting ready for the Christmas holiday season? Personally, as a busy working mother of two, I am constantly planning for different gift ideas for the Christmas gift exchanges. One of the life lessons that I convey to the younger generation is that Christmas is a time of giving and not receiving.

Presents Are Important: Reality Versus Ideal

1. Only expensive gifts are the best! Or is it?: As a very young girl, I did not have a lot of allowance to spend on all my friends and family. Every year, I would choose a craft to focus on and make handmade presents for my closest family and friends. For example, one year I received a knitting frame as a present. So, right after Christmas, I began planning to knit little trinkets for the coming year.
2. Built a list as soon as possible: As I got older, I was able to save up some money, but I still couldn’t splurge on presents. I learned to start writing down a list of the people that I wanted to show gratitude to on Christmas. My list grew longer each year, but because I planned my list early in the year, I didn’t need to worry.
3. Have a budget: For most of the people on my list, I would be able to interact with them on a constant basis. Therefore, I would ask them questions or pay attention to what the were looking for or needed to replenish. I would take a mental note. This mental note sometimes turned into a written note, so I could go back to it whenever I was shopping.
4. Be reasonable: Honestly, there’s no way that I could give a gift to everyone in my life, and neither could you! Send a heartfelt email or even write a Christmas card to family and friends is still a lovely gesture.

Now, we still have two more months to go, but don’t worry!! Our upcoming blog posts will give you some ideas to inspire you!

Jack o’ lantern Carving : How to Use the Pumpkin Seeds

As I was picking up the children from school, I noticed that some of the younger ones were carrying around different sizes of pumpkins. The students told me that they had just visited the pumpkin patch that day. What fun!! Did you visit your nearby pumpkin patch yet? For the past few years, my children got to pick out their pumpkins at a local community gathering. The coordinators would decorate the whole paring lot and community garden like a pumpkin patch. Then the children got to choose their pumpkins for their jack o’ lantern designs.

Initially, the children tended to search for the largest or the smallest ones. Then, I would remind them that they might want to think about how they were going to use the pumpkins. If the pumpkin was meant to be just painted on and left intact, then they might want the tiny ones. However, if they wanted to be able to carve a detailed jack o’lantern, then they perhaps needed a much larger one.

The Other Side of Jack o’lantern Carving

Painting a pumpkin with paints would just as fun as carving. However, the children and I enjoyed and looked forward to brainstorming for ideas. Back when they were small, I was the only one doing the carving by myself. The children would try their best to scoop out the strands of slimy pumpkin flesh. Afterwards, they helped me to separate the tiny little seeds into a strainer. It was a great way to practice their fine motor skills there.
Now, what did I do with those pumpkin seeds? I toasted them as a snack!

Here is my recipe:

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • Ingredients
    -Pumpkin seeds of one large pumpkin
    -1 or 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (mine was a Jalapeño flavoured)
    -A sprinkle of herb salt (I used Herbamare) or Himalayan pink salt

Directions
1. Rinse and dry the pumpkin seeds. I spread the seeds out on a cooking sheet, lined with parchment paper to dry overnight.
2. The coconut oil that I used was already liquefied, so melt yours before you drizzle onto the seeds.
3. Toss the seeds around on the cookie sheet while sprinkling the seasoning.
4. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F or 150 degrees C.
5. Once oven is ready, place in the middle rack and bake for around 45 minutes or until the pumpkin seeds begin to change colour. Golden brown is what you are looking for.

 

Enjoy those pumpkin ? seeds !!

Leftovers From Thanksgiving: What To Do

Thanksgiving Day was this past Monday for us up in Canada, and many of had a wonderful feast. Each family celebrated this feast in a different way. Traditionally, there would be a turkey with bread stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables and tons of gravy. Then, dessert would be pumpkin pie. This day would be one very special day. On this day, most of the family members would gather together. The overabundance of food often happened. This would result in an enormous amount of leftovers mounting up in the refrigerator. These leftovers would turn into a lot of food waste if not eaten. What could be done?

Use The Leftovers

In order to reduce the amount of food waste to left over in the host’s home, here are some ideas that you can think about for your next Thanksgiving!

1. BYOB: As the host, you can mention and remind your guests to bring their own box or reusable containers to bring back whatever leftover that they like to eat the next day. Make sure that you have some containers in your kitchen, just in case a guest forgets or run out of containers. Mason jars are a great idea to have in your kitchen because you can use these to fill up with soup without the worry of spillage.

 

2. Make some sandwiches: For the families that make turkey as their main dish, you can remove the leftover meat and make some delicious sandwiches for lunch the next day.

3. Make some broth: If you have a slow cooker at home, you can toss the bones in and add some water and root veggies to make a soup. In our family, we add a cup of rice to make congee (Chinese rice porridge). You can use this broth to make some delicious oatmeal too!

Do you tend to have leftovers at your Thanksgiving dinners also? What do you usually do with these leftovers?

Thankful for Thanksgiving

 

Image from https://quotefancy.com/quote/777800/Bren-Brown-We-re-all-so-busy-chasing-the-extraordinary-that-we-forget-to-stop-and-be

 

Happy Thanksgiving to our friends in Canada! In Canada, Thanksgiving Day is coming up this Monday. Throughout the year, many of us run about our busy lives, either working outside the home or inside the house. We are so focused on the daily tasks that we needed to get done that we often forget to be thankful for what we have. Sadly, somehow down the line, being overly busy becomes a good thing.

“We’re all so busy chasing the extraordinary that we forget to stop and be grateful… – Brené Brown”

This Thanksgiving Long Weekend, perhaps it should be a reminder for us to pause and take a breath to ponder on some of the things that we should be thankful for.

I Am Thankful

 

As a busy mom, I, myself, am rushing to get tasks done. Everyday there is always this list of unfinished business that needs my attention. Sometimes, the feeling of being stretched in all directions occurs. Everyone wants you to do something for them. Hence, this mom can get anxious and feel overwhelmed.

Honestly, as we are growing up, the previous generations tell their children that being obedient and to never question authority is the only way. Now, as time goes by, I am slowly learning to unwind this binding. This gives me time to slow down to smell the flowers, so to speak…

1. Health: First of all, focusing on our physical and mental health is very important. Although everyone wants to have perfect health, very few are able to achieve that. Therefore, it is crucial that I work to focus on the positive aspects. This concerns my health and the health of my loved ones. Communicating to others of our limitations is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of courage.

2. Time: Ironically, seemingly having a lack of time can push us forward. To be thankful that this is a sign that something must be done to help ourselves to focus. Many of us are trying to “keep up with the Joneses”.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is an idiom in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one’s neighbor as a benchmark for social class or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority. — Wikipedia

Final Thought

Finally, to have what everyone has or to do what everyone does…is that absolutely necessary? Therefore, be thankful for what we already have and able to do is a blessing.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

5 Things I Learned Participating In The Global Climate Strike

climate strike - action now
Last week like many others in Vancouver, together with my daughter and her friend I walked for the global Climate Action strike. It was empowering and inspiring to see so many students marching the streets of Vancouver chanting while holding their creative signs, believe me, they were creative.
Participating in the strike was very important to me both because it lined up with what I’ve been doing for the past 9 years. AND my daughter and her friend were so pumped and excited about it too. I wanted them to learn the positive way of protesting and standing up for what they believe. But being a business owner I had a few appointments set from months before that I couldn’t move. I had to make a hard decision, and the result was not by any means ideal. It didn’t seem right but the alternative was not to show up which was not an option either. What if everybody else didn’t show up either? So I drove to the climate strike. I gave myself a hard time for it and felt like a fraud the whole time.
For the past two weeks, I thought of this decision and what was the right thing to do or not to do. I asked myself many questions like: Does this decision make me a bad person or a hypocrite? Nulls all my other efforts in the past 10 years to reduce my carbon footprint? Am I a fraud? Finally I came to the answers of No, No and No. Now that I’m writing this I remind myself that when I apologetically confessed to a friend about what I did. She immediately told me that they tried to get the bus but couldn’t find one and ended up getting a cab. And I ended up giving them a ride home, which kind of made me feel less bad.

5 Things I learned from the Climate Strike

Here is my learning from the strike itself, my feeling related to me not being able to take the transit, and my reflection on the whole subject.

  1. You need to show up for what you believe in any way you can
  2. Don’t beat up yourself over things you can’t fix, find another angel that can be more beneficial
  3. There are more people caring about the planet than we think
  4. Doesn’t matter how much you do. Every little bit counts, decide on making a small difference every day
  5. Life can be messy, there is no 100% zero waste option to life, at least not at this time. You need to pick your battles and make this zero waste living work for your life not what others think it should be. (more on this in future blog posts 🙂 )
So there you have it, my confession and a little bit of what I think about this whole zero waste life and all.
What are your thoughts on this? What would you do if you were in my shoes? Would you drive or just not go? Share with us in the comments. We are stronger together.

Autumn Activities For The Families of All Ages

Autumn activities

The autumn season is beautiful time for us in the Northern Hemisphere. Bright shades of red, orange, and yellow fill the autumn sky and on the ground around us. The temperature is beginning to drop, but sometimes the sun is still continuing to come out the play. There is so much to do to celebrate this change of seasons, both inside the home and outside the home.

Autumn Activities

Here are two activities that you can do with the little ones:

Autumn Leaf Hand Print: Pour out platters of red, orange and yellow non-toxic finger paints and have the children and yourself, stamp an open hand print onto some scrap paper. Then, you can wait for them to dry. After the hand prints are dried, you can cut out the “leaves” with the children and begin to decorate the house! For example, you stick the leaves onto the windows for the falling leaves effect. For the more advanced little ones, you can make a wreath out of the “leaves”. Just cut out a circle from stiff cardboard and glue the “leaves” with the fingers facing outwards… The more layers you have, the fuller the wreath is going to be! You can even glue some acorns that you may have found outside as decorations too!
Pumpkin Patches: For a great outdoor activity for both the young and young at heart, you can visit a pumpkin patch. Depending on your family, you can choose a local one that is close to your neighbourhood or do some research for a farm that is out-of-town. Families with younger children may prefer the shorter car rides to and from the pumpkin patch. For the older children, going out further to visit a farm in the country is a learning experience all on its own! They are able to stay awake longer (no need for naps) and can actually have more hands-on activities. Some of these pumpkin patches even have their own corn mazes!

 

The autumn season is not only for the students going back to school, but it is also wonderful time to remember the farms and their dedication to the harvest of fruits and vegetables. What are you planning to do to celebrate this autumn season?

How to De-stress Before Going Back to School

gogoBags-north Vancouver-Canada

Summer holidays is coming to an end! Every parent and child can only think about going back to school. Are you preparing yourself for what’s to come? For most families with children, summer holidays are for relaxing and having fun. Therefore, the mere mention of the idea of going back to school can disrupt this mentality. Suddenly, there is a sense of unseen urgency and panic among many parents and students. Time to de-stress!

 

3 Back to School Tips

No matter which role or where you are going, back to school can cause stress and tension within the families and their members. Here are 3 tips to help to ease the transition:

1. Avoid the shopping rush: Let’s be honest, are the stationary shops and clothing stores closing after the first day of school? No, they are still continuing to do business after that day. You can wait till the rush is over and then, pick up the extra stationary or extra shirts. I notice that sometimes more equipment is recommended after the first day anyway.

2. Talk to your child: It is time to have a chat with your child. Ask your child how are they feeling about going back to school? Happy or sad? Most importantly, the reasons behind why they feeling that way. Writing it down can help to focus on the feelings and emotions. As a parent, validating the child’s concerns is important as part of good communication. Just listen as first, and avoid giving any suggestions or solutions.

 

3. Develop Schedules: With our increasingly technological world, the practice of sharing our appointments on calendars has made communication within the family unit much easier. However, I like the idea of having a big whiteboard, where the whole family can post their schedules on in the kitchen, for example. Whichever way you choose, it is about sharing information about everyone’s activities.

How do you de-stress before going back to school?

School Time: Two Tips for a More Ecofriendly Back to School

Time to do some back to school shopping!! But, isn’t that not a good thing? Spending more money and not very environmentally-friendly? Honestly, looking into the past, as a young student myself, I remember how much I loved to purchase new supplies each year to start school…. It’s a time to have something different from the last school year. As a parent now, I believe that it’s all about balance, to find a happy medium. Therefore, there are ways that you can be frugal and fabulous for the environment.

Two Back to School Ideas

First of all, depending on the individual child and family situation, you are welcome to pick and choose which idea to follow or perhaps leave for next time. Remember that any little action you choose to help protect the Earth, makes a difference, no matter how insignificant it may seem

Here you are:
1) Pens and pencils: As a family, look around the house and collect all the random stationary that are lying around. How many times have you seen a pen or pencil hidden in the corner of the sofa? Time to grab a bucket and collect them like Easter eggs! Once you are finished, sharpen the pencils, and double check if the pens still have ink in them. It’s important to remind the students to replace the caps of highlighters and markers to prevent them from drying up prematurely.

Another great idea is to introduce the use of fountain pensbecause they are refillable. All you needed to buy is the ink!

2) Back to School Outfits: Before you decide to venture to your nearest shopping mall, it’s time to take a good look into your child’s wardrobe. If your child is older, it’s a good idea to ask them to sort out what they no longer wear first. You can take these clothes (and your own pieces too) and have a clothing swap among your friends! Most of the children of my friends are younger, so I just gift them the clothes. I often remind my children to take care of their clothes, so that the clothes will have a longer lifespan.

In conclusion, both of these actions will help save some money and be more conscious about our environment at the same time. To be honest, just focus one step at a time. Be creative and you will discover the joys of being frugal and friendly to our Earth!

Take a good look…

Ten Must-Do Outdoor Activities Before School Starts

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It’s the middle of August already! What happened? Where did the time go? Did you get to do everything you wanted to do with the children? Many young ones were busy with summer school or camps. Therefore, they spent a lot of time huddled indoors working on their indoor activities. Since the weather is still sunny and very peasant in most places, let us think about what else we can do outdoor! Depending on the age of the children, you may pick and choose which one is more suitable for your family.

Ten Must-Do Outdoor Activities Before School Starts

1) Go on a hike: First of all, do some research before you go to make sure that the demands of the trail matches the endurance level of the children and especially, your own.
2) Shop at your local farmer’s market: It is wonderful for the children to learn where their food and produce comes from by talking with the farmers themselves. Also, vendors showcase their homemade jams and delicious goods too. The children can learn that not all food comes from factories.
3) Take the bike out: Most the time the bicycles at our house is hidden away for most of the year. But, since the sun has been shining, the children try to take them out as much as possible.
4) Visit the local library: When was the last time that you visited the library? For most neighbourhood, there should be a library close to home or even a bike ride away.
5) Have a picnic: You can pack up some sandwiches and some reusable water bottles and head to a lovely lawn outside! It can be at the park or just outside your own lawn too.

6) Berry picking: There are many blackberry bushes around the city, so we usually can visit our friends and families and pick some berries anywhere. You can even visit those U-Pick Berry and Cherry Farms and make that a day trip too.
7) Dine at Dusk: The daylight time is getting shorter, but it is still quite bright at dinner time. Why not have an earlier dinner at the beach and watch the sun go down….?

Feeling Creative?

Murals in our city…

8) Art Installations: Summer time is the best time to slow down and search for the different art works that the city has commissioned to be put up. Walk up close and notice how each piece is put together.
9) Admire the Murals: Our city is very fortunate that there are parts of the city that official murals are decorating the walls of warehouses. They are meant to be walked up to and photographed too!

10) Finally, JUST GO OUTDOOR!:
Even if you only stand outside your front door and take a moment to savour the last couple weeks of the summer sun.

First Day of School Photo Precautions

First day of school….As you walk through the shopping centres around the city, one would see the different displays of back to school items. Most parents would be very excited about having their children start school again.

Back to school or first day of school photos were very popular every year. When you turned on your social media platforms during the first week, these first day of school photos filled up the screen. It was a joyous day to celebrate. However, very few parents actually thought about some of the precautions that one needed to take. These precautions focused on the social media account platforms that were public. If your account was private for your close friends only, then you wouldn’t need to worry as much.

First Day of School Photo Precautions

These following precautions were for first day of school. They would also be important for the rest of the school year as I noticed that there were many accounts which focused on the child (child models)and not the parent:
• No Names: I think pseudo-names should be used and name tags should be too.
• No School Name: Covering or blurring the school logo and not mentioning where the child went to school.
• First of the Day Boards: You could still use them. Just don’t put the two above names on it. You could choose to keep those in your private accounts instead.
• Back Photos: For more public accounts, I noticed that some parents would take a cute photo from the back, with their child carrying their backpack on their backs….

As a parent myself, I admit that I loved to share my prides and joy of my children. They also loved it when they contributed to something exciting. However, I preferred to keep them out of the public eye until they are older—-just to be on the safer side….