Spit That Out!

The Overly Informed Parent's Guide to Raising Children in the Age of Environmental Guilt by Paige Wolf

Blogging about green guilt, eco-anxiety, and finding practical, reasonable ways to keep our families safe and healthy.
September 30th, 2014

Giveaway: Stur Natural Water Enhancer

Back when I was in the process of writing Spit That Out I was still drinking Crystal Light. Some habits become so ingrained it takes a while to even realize what you are doing! Fortunately I was able to easily make the switch to home-brewed iced tea and cucumber water for times when I wanted something more flavorful than plain water with my meal.

So when I was introduced to STUR at Healthy Brand Showcase I wasn’t immediately sold. STUR is an all-natural liquid water enhancer made from only natural fruit and stevia extracts. Sure, it was a great alternative for folks hooked on artificial drink enhancers or even Kool-Aid or cola, but what was so hard about just drinking water? Then I thought about all the times I have spent the money for $4 iced tea at restaurants which was likely out of a Minute Maid container. I also thought about the painstaking cucumber peeling and chopping every other day.

And then I just tasted the stuff. And it was really, really good. I mean this stuff tasted exactly like coconut water or iced tea – and that’s because it is actually made with those completely natural ingredients.

Stur’s mission is to inspire people to drink more water which is a good motive considering the average American drinks a mere 2.5 glasses of water and otherwise “hydrates” with sugar-sweetened beverages! Stur was made by a husband for his wife, so she could drink more water naturally and stay hydrated while pregnant with twins. Having no interest in consuming all of the artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors on the market, he headed to the kitchen to create a natural water enhancer to add flavor to his wife’s water—and Stur was born.

4Q5A1163

Stur is unique in that the brand uses stevia as a sweetener but they handle it with care. Stevia leaves are steeped in warm water (no chemicals are used in the processes—it may cost more money to do this but it is less processed and the result is no bitter aftertaste) to extract the sweetness.  The natural flavor and color of the products come from non-GMO real fruit and vegetable extracts. The results are zero calorie flavors like Strawberry-Watermelon, Coconut Water (which is made from fresh coconut water), Iced Tea with Lemon (which is made from steeped black tea), Orange Mango and more. Each serving of Stur is also fortified with Vitamin C.

4Q5A1169

Each little bottle of Stur makes 20 8-oz glasses of flavored water — pair that with your reusable water bottle and you are making a healthy and eco-friendly drink choice.

So now I’m hooked. And I’m about to hook one of you lucky readers!

Giveaway: Enter to win three STUR variety bottles:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: I received samples of these products for review. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Delicious Post to MySpace Send Gmail Post to Digg Post to StumbleUpon

September 26th, 2014

Rhythm Babies Music Classes Offer a Different Beat for Philly Families

Whether you live in the city or the ‘burbs, there are plenty of music classes available for children and babies. But there are only so many times you can repeat “If You’re Happy and You Know It” ad nauseum until your brain melts.

Fortunately Rhythm Babies takes a more creative approach to their early childhood music classes at various locations throughout Philadelphia. Each week employs a different theme and you never know if you’ll be listening to international drum beats or singing jazz standards a cappella. Of course, the ribbons, maracas, and sticks imperative to all baby and child music classes are available to keep things interesting – and keep the kids out of your handbag.

BigLatchOn

Rhythm Babies mission is to improve young children’s auditory senses, cognitive and musical skills through singing, rhythm, and creative movement activities. Owner Julie Salvano, was trained through the Kodaly Method, which focuses on learning music through singing, movement, and listening. While enhancing activity in the problem-solving and decision areas of the brain, Rhythm Babies classes focus on a music readiness program. This program hones skills such as rhythm, melody, and beat. Activities and programming follow a curriculum based on singing and rhythm chant; pitch recognition; call and response; performance ability; rhythm realization; and music appreciation. Every week a new musical theme is introduced to the children along with their favorite creative play activities, giving them a positive outlook on learning through music.

Perhaps most importantly, Julie has a beautiful singing voice. And after listening to the off-pitch mommy-and-me class singing on the Babies First Channel (really, couldn’t they find someone who could carry a tune?), it’s a welcome refrain.

To find a schedule of classes in your neighborhood, visit www.rhythmbabies.com. You can even buy an eight class punch card for $70 which gives you one class free – no expiration!

email picture

Disclosure: I have a paid relationship with the brand featured in this post. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

 

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Delicious Post to MySpace Send Gmail Post to Digg Post to StumbleUpon

September 23rd, 2014

Don’t Let One Dim Bulb Spoil The Whole Energy-Saving Bunch

It’s such a shame when good green intentions leave consumers frustrated with the results. Have you been hearing from people in your community that energy efficient bulbs may not be all they’re cracked up to be? Some people have said they bought a CFL or LED and it just didn’t perform. It makes them want to shift back to energy-wasting incandescents, just so they can have reliable light. Plus, they end up telling their own communities about their negative experience. One bad egg spoils the whole bunch, except this time, it’s a bad bulb!

Why exactly does this happen? As with all consumer products, the label makes a big difference—bulbs that have earned the EPA ENERGY STAR save significant amounts of energy and money because they are independently certified to save energy, undergoing extensive testing to ensure high quality and the performance you expect. Most people who go shopping for an LED probably look for the words “energy saving,” which any company can slap on any bulb. What they really need to be looking for is the ENERGY STAR label.

LED PKG ENERGY STAR logo

LED bulbs offer one of the most effective and affordable ways we can save energy and money. The best LEDs are those that have been independently certified to meet ENERGY STAR criteria to deliver the high quality and performance consumers want and have a right to expect. The best, most reliable LEDs bear the ENERGY STAR label. Here are specific reasons why it is important to encourage consumers to purchase ENERGY STAR-labeled LEDs.

FIRST, WHY SHIFT TO LEDS?

Making the shift to energy-efficient lighting offers big benefits for people, the planet, and our pocketbooks.

PEOPLE – LEDs help reduce air pollution, making the air healthier to breathe for kids and others who suffer from asthma, heart disease and many respiratory ailments.

  • Reduce air pollution – Most household energy still comes from coal-burning power plants. About 25% of the energy we use at home powers our lighting – from ceiling fixtures and under-counter lights to table and bedside lamps. An LED uses 75% less energy than a standard bulb, limiting the need to burn that much more coal.

PLANET – Speaking of energy, if every household replaced just one light bulb with one that has earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light three million homes for a whole year.

  • Reduce climate change – We would also prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of 800,000 vehicles. LEDs are a terrific solution to climate change.

POCKETBOOK – Any time we save energy, we save money. Though an LED bulb costs a little more up front, it saves a whole lot more during the life of the bulb.

  • Save money – According to ENERGY STAR, a single LED bulb can save $80 in electricity costs over the lifetime of the product.

PLUS – LED technology is so efficient, one bulb can last as long as 20 years or 25,000 hours. That’s particularly convenient for hard-to-reach places like ceilings and outdoor fixtures.

LED bulb

WHY PREFER AN ENERGY STAR LED? BETTER QUALITY, MORE SAVINGS!

Some LEDs claim to save energy but fall far short when it comes to what they actually deliver. ENERGY STAR means high quality and reliable performance, particularly in the following areas:

  • Long Lasting: ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs are put through rigorous long term testing to simulate real life use and carry a minimum 3 year warranty. That’s why one LED bulb can last more than 20 years!
  • Energy Savings: ENERGY STAR certified LEDs use 70-90% less energy than standard bulbs, and last up to 25 times longer.
  • Money Savings: A single LED bulb can save $80 in electricity costs over the lifetime of the product. That means you’ll save $80 on every LED you install.
  • Light Distribution: LED bulbs that have earned the ENERGY STAR will match the light distribution of the incandescent bulbs they advertise they are replacing.
  • Color Quality: 6 different color metrics are used to make sure that consumers get the best color quality from the first day of purchase to after years of use.
  • Dimmability: All ENERGY STAR certified bulbs must indicate on the front of the package whether or not they are dimmable. If they are, a list of compatible dimmers must be provided.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE FOR AN LED TO GET ENERGY STAR CERTIFIED?

  • All ENERGY STAR certified lighting products are subject to thorough testing and review before they can bear the label, including:
    • Verified compliance with more than 20 separate industry standards and procedures
    • Third-party testing of products off the retail shelf
    • Rapid cycling of bulbs thousands of times to find early failures
    • Testing to stress the products in operating environments similar to how you will use the product in your home


With 70% of U.S. light sockets still containing inefficient bulbs, there is huge potential for American consumers to find lighting options that save them energy, money and help protect the environment from climate change. LED bulbs are quickly gaining steam as the most innovative and long lasting alternative to incandescent bulbs.

The great news – ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs are experiencing dramatic changes in price! At some stores you can now buy an ENERGY STAR LED bulb for as low as $5 with in-store rebates. But remember, even if the bulb costs $10, it will save you $80 in reduced electricity costs over its lifetime.

ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that has been helping businesses and individuals save money and protect our air and climate through superior energy efficiency for over 20 years.

To learn more about ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs, visit www.energystar.gov/lighting

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Delicious Post to MySpace Send Gmail Post to Digg Post to StumbleUpon

September 15th, 2014

I Ran the Philly10K – Lived To Tell and Didn’t Smell (A Piperwai Review)

I wanted to write a blog post about my amazing new client Piperwai Natural Deodorant. I also wanted to write a post about my experience with the Philly10K. Then I realized it only made sense to write these two together.

Let’s start with a flashback: Three years ago I posted about my foray into running with great excitement about running for a grand total of three minutes.   After much training, Crossfit, and a pregnancy thrown in, I shocked and astounded myself with the ability to run 6.2 miles.

After completing my first 5K more than two years ago I really had no desire to up the distance. I didn’t love running. I liked obstacle courses, CrossFit competitions, and silly scavenger hunt races. But long distance running was not my cup of tea.

Then my husband heard about the Philly 10K  and e-mailed me, “Paige, if you are ever going to do a 10K, do this one.”

Hmmm. It is right around my neighborhood. I’d have three months to train. Eh, what the hell, let’s sign up!

And training went surprisingly well. I started by just getting myself back up to a 5K and started increasing farther and farther. Discovering the Schuylkill River Trail just over a mile from my house was extremely helpful, allowing me to run by the breezy river, passing hundreds of other people with the same goal.

I managed the 6.2 mile run three times in advance of the race. Each time left me a little tired, but I was able to go about the rest of my day with minimal trouble. I had zero concerns about race day. And then:

85 degrees with 88 percent humidity. And this was not the breezy river loop – this was hot sun beating down on cement. This was the smell of foul garbage roasting on the oven that is Spring Garden street. This was hell. 

And I am used to working out in some gnarly conditions. I go to CrossFit in an un-air-conditioned garage in the midst of heat advisories (and then do a workout called “Heat Advisory” – you can only imagine). I am no stranger to sweat.

The Philly 10K team planned well, but clearly did not expect the need for so much water. In fact, with only two water stops I know I was not the only runner who felt like I was on the verge of a heat stroke. When I felt like I was starting to get chills running past Market Street, I stopped at a newspaper kiosk and begged a stranger to buy me a bottle of water. Then I drank it too fast and got a cramp. By the last quarter mile I was ready to vomit. And when I crossed the finish line, I proceeded to sweat for a solid 30 minutes, just sitting on a bench.

photo

Despite the conditions, I was fairly happy with my time. While my Map My Run app had me running a 9:13 mile and mapped a total of 6.5 miles, in reality I timed 59:33 on the actual chip (9:36 min mile). This placed me right around the top 25% in my division! Hooray!

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 11.10.16 AM

However, this race took a massive toll on me. Four days later I am still sore and reeling from a virus that has me bedridden. I pushed my body too far in treacherous weather conditions. Stupid? Probably. But I have no regrets and plan to sign up for the Broad Street Run in May.

Now, let’s back up to those 30 minutes where I sat and sweated out the entire water content of my body. Immediately after my friend Elana sniffed under her arm and said, “Hey! I used that Piperwai Deodorant you gave me and I don’t smell at all!” I smelled myself, “Wow! Neither do I!”

So that is pretty much all you need to know about Piperwai Natural Deodorant apart from the fact that it is handmade in Philly by two cool young girls who have been best friends since they sold lemonade together in the fourth grade (kinda like me and Elana!) This unisex charcoal creme is so effective, you’ll never want to use anything else on your underarms again – I promise!

4Q5A1129

4Q5A1143

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Delicious Post to MySpace Send Gmail Post to Digg Post to StumbleUpon

September 9th, 2014

Greening a Five Year Old’s Birthday Party on a Budget

Here we go again with the birthday party planning – and FIVE is a big one! My son wants to invite everyone he ever met, load them up with goodies, and have a grand piñata finale. So how do we keep a party for 30+ kids fairly green and under a $500 budget? Fortunately, I have been thinking about this for a while.

September is a great time for an outdoor party and we have plenty of lovely public parks and playgrounds. But I, for one, am not taking a chance on a rainy day. So we found a small local playground with a no-frills recreation center that we can rent for $100. Done.

On to the theme: Our family is not averse to well-timed doses of television or celebrating fictional characters. This year we are going with Special Agent Oso, a Disney Junior program that breaks down everyday tasks into preschooler-sized “missions.” We’re going to take the special agent theme a step further with scavenger hunt missions around the playground and even find a way to green that piñata! Ready for your “three special steps?” Because we actually have like 30…

Scavenger Hunt Treasure

We gathered rocks and random slabs of granite from around the neighborhood, painted them, and doused them in glitter.

Total Cost? $5 for glitter. Total Environmental Cost? Rocks are as green as it gets. Conventional paint and glitter don’t help the planet, but I consider them an acceptable evil when it’s all about upcycling!

IMG_8050

Brilliant!

Tablecloths and Serveware

Paper and plastic tablecloths are a total waste. I was able to find plain white fabric tablecloths for $6 a piece that I will be able to use over again for events! And if you are better with a scissors than I, you can even buy a bolt of tablecloth fabric and cut it down yourself! Four tablecloths = $24 (and will never need to be purchased again). I will tally this total cost as $6 – price per use – as I am sure I will use these at least four more times

Compostable and biodegradable plates, cups, and cutlery are an imperfect science. Chances are they will not be disposed of properly and will not simply dissolve into the earth. BUT, using them avoids petrochemical plastics and uses more eco-friendly resources for manufacturing. We bought this all-inclusive-plate-and-cutlery-set for 50 guests for under $40.

Total Cost? $46 Total Environmental Cost? The amount of time it takes bio-based materials to degrade in Philadelphia landfill conditions + possible methane off-gassing.

Party Favors

I wanted to keep the party favors simple and functional and thought the kids would have a good time using magnifying glasses for the scavenger hunt. I refused to buy any worthless trinkets from Oriental Trading Company and scoured the internet for something affordable and actually useful. These kids magnifying glasses got decent reviews and I was able to buy 30 for a total of $42. I only wish they didn’t come individually wrapped in plastic baggies. Add some stickers and we have unique party gifts for all!

Total Cost? $42 Total Environmental Cost? Lots of plastic. But at least the products are useful and should make it home in one piece.

spyglass

Fine five-year-old handiwork.

Pinata

You can buy a conventional party pinata filled with absolute garbage for about $30. I found a Pinterest tutorial describing how to make your own piñata using a large balloon and paper mache. I bought a pack of three super big and sturdy latex balloons (the two extra are just for at-home fun!) Newspaper and water are free and a few tablespoons of flour costs pretty much nothing.

For the filling – here is where I got to have some fun! I spent a bit of money buying organic gummy treats and lollipops in bulk. But the rest of the stuff I threw into the pinata included things I had around the house like random samples of green baby shampoos and bodywashes and even a few little trinkets like stamps and stickers from previously received goody bags!

candy

There may have been a few gummy vitamins in this picture but they did not make it into the piñata because my husband reminded me that would be highly inappropriate.

And my most brilliant innovation for this thing was sticking a wire hanger through it for hanging! I’ll be honest, I am more proud of this thing than most of my life accomplishments. It’s going to be devastating to see it axed.

pinata

You know you are impressed!

Total Cost? $35 spent mostly on organic candy. Total Environmental Cost? A giant latex balloon is not very sustainable. However, I have recycled a wide variety of items, including the newspaper, and introduced kids and parents to some healthier treats!

Food

Here is where I say screw it and purchase plain ol’ conventional pizza. Seriously there are more than 30 kids showing up at this thing! (13 pies for $140). I make up for the junky pizza with cases of Honest Kids organic fruit drinks (on sale for $10.69 for 32 at Fresh Direct). But to my dismay I am pretty much forced to purchase bottled water as there is no realistic potable source in this rec center ($15 for two cases).

Total Cost? $166. Total Environmental Cost? Pretty high.

Cake

Our friend’s sister is a very talented “hobby baker” and always does a great job with our themed cakes. We don’t put any parameters on her as far as ingredients or even artificial icings – it would have been unreasonable to have asked her to make a Special Agent Oso cake for 60 people out of blueberries and organic buttercream. But we feel like homemade is still better than store bought and she gives us an amazing deal. (She asked for $50, we gave her $75).

The icing may be artificial but the contents are all real. Yum.

The icing may be artificial but the contents are all real. 

Total Cost? $75 Total Environmental Cost? Plus points for homemade, minus points for sugar content.

+ Balloons + Helium Tank

TOTAL: $495

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 9.20.49 AM

These kids LOVED the rocks and spyglasses.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 9.21.07 AM

I will not shed a tear.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 9.27.30 AM

Much chaos and a few tears ensued over the spoils of the piñata – until they realized they were fighting over shampoo.

Overall a success!

Overall a success!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Delicious Post to MySpace Send Gmail Post to Digg Post to StumbleUpon

August 27th, 2014

The Real Dangers of Crossfit: My Dumbest, Silliest Crossfit Injuries

crossfit

There has been an insane amount of media buzz lately about the “dangers of CrossFit.” Everyone and your grandmother is suddenly concerned that you are taking part in this perilous new activity where you will certainly break every bone and get rhabdo.

I am far from a fitness expert but I think have enough personal experience –  CrossFitting for three years including a pregnancy – to have a bit of insight on this issue. CrossFit is dangerous and people do get injured. But debatably less so than skiing, football, driving in rush hour traffic, or being like the 80% of Americans who do not get recommended exercise at all. 

I think all the negative attention CrossFit draws stems from the fact that 1. Exponential growth in gyms and memberships = more potential for lousy trainers and sloppy training. 2. Exponential growth in gyms and memberships = increased physical activity by people of varying athletic abilities = more physical injuries. The same math could be applied to rising numbers of yoga injuries, running injuries, or ankles sprained while country line dancing. But where the intensity goes up the stakes inevitably get higher.

I can only speak for myself and my spouse, whose CrossFit gym experience has led to lowered cholesterol, lowered blood sugar, increased muscle mass, decreased body fat, increased confidence, energy, endurance, flexibility, and capability that applies itself well outside the “box.” There but for the grace of God have I avoided any serious injury despite my own occasional stupidity and failure to follow good form. But I know that all great rewards include some level of risk – and most likely, any serious injury would likely be my own fault.

Have I gotten hurt? Sure. But let’s break down a few of my “Top 9 Crossfit Injuries: Because There Simply Was Not a 10th  – yet”

1. Banging the kettlebell into my chin while being overzealous with a sumo deadlift high pull.

2. Pinching my own stomach fat between the kettlebell and rack upon return.

3. Stepping on a nail on the sidewalk on my way back into the gym after a run.

4. Rope burn on my thighs due to poor dismount and poor attire.

5. Whipping my ankles during double unders (this is a given for anyone on the learning curve).

6. Randomly walking into a rower/box/barbell/human (no real excuse for this one. Also not Crossfit exclusive).

7. Dropping a plate on my ankles trying to disembark from a prison squat.

8. Slightly bruising my wrists performing kellebell cleans.

9. And – the only one worthy of actual physical concern – tweaking my lower back while attempting a one-rep-max deadlift six weeks post-partum. By myself. For no reason. I mean, honestly, I pretty much deserved that one.

Not rhabdo. Just tired. (14.5 for those in the know).

Not rhabdo. Just tired. (14.5 for those in the know).

All of that said, if CrossFit is not your cup of tea, don’t do it. Find whatever motivates you to stay fit – yoga, pilates, biking, Zumba, running with your dog – really, whatever. Just don’t sit on the couch chastising CrossFit. It’s tiring. Not as tiring as actually doing CrossFit, but nonetheless, exhausting.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Delicious Post to MySpace Send Gmail Post to Digg Post to StumbleUpon

August 18th, 2014

How NOT to Hike Glen Onoko Falls

hike

I have a really bad habit of screwing up what are supposed to be great “life adventure experiences.”

I spent Woodstock ’99 in a makeshift medical tent with a condition somewhere between dehydration and hypothermia. I spent a kayaking trip down the Puerto Rican Bio Bay in complete panic mode getting eaten alive by mosquitos in the pitch black darkness. And the last time my husband and I went hiking – 10 years ago at the Kaulalau Trail in Kawaii – we were thoroughly unprepared. Out-of-shape and wearing wet pumas, we only made it about a mile in.

But now that we are in “the best shape of our lives,” we figured hiking would be a breeze. And rather than start with the vast and manageable trails around the corner in Fairmount Park, we thought we’d head to Glen Onoko Falls in Jim Thorpe, Pa., a particularly treacherous trail known for its breathtaking views and high death count.

For a well-traveled tourist destination, there is surprisingly little information on the trail route online, and a complete dearth of signs or explanation of direction around the trails. There is only this:

photo 1

We entered into a wide, mountainous cavern and asked for some direction from experienced hikers who simply pointed up. We saw loads of people literally running down the rocks with children so we figured it couldn’t be as dangerous as we were told. And as we ascended the rocks, assuming we were heading in the direction due to some orange “blazes” spray-painted on the occasional tree, we felt confident and strong.

Thinking I am pretty bad ass

Thinking I am pretty bad ass

It was just like climbing a really, really lot of stairs. We barely had to stop for a sip of water when we came across a lost-looking couple about a mile up the trail.

Since we fancied ourselves professional hikers at this point, we led them up to what we believed would be “the falls,” a breathtaking view with people basking in the waters at the top of this glorious mountain. And the view at the top was lovely – but where were the falls?

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 7.15.54 PM

“What do you mean?” asked our new friends, “There were like 4 huge waterfalls on the way up?”

“Um. We didn’t see anything.”

“Then how did you get up here?”

So, apparently we hiked up the SWITCHBACK, basically a lesser-grade decline trail designed to prevent people from killing themselves on the way down the falls. Lame. And now we were just going to have to hike back down that thing, right?

“Oh no,” said our friends. “We have a map from a guide book that shows this as a 10 mile hike. We need to continue around a massive trail that will lead us back to the bottom.”

I had heard the trail was anywhere from about 2-4 miles round trip. 10 miles was news to me. But no matter – we were FIT! Let’s go. And so we continued to follow this couple into the woods.

A word about this couple and their map: This map was photocopied from what may have been a guide book from 1973. It was really nothing more than a series of dots and lines. This couple also did not own smartphones. They were 25-years-old, newly into hiking, and did not own a GPS device between the two of them.

Of course, I had my phone, and continued to check my GPS and show it to the couple who assured me that we were right on track. This is despite the fact that every now and again we would come across a fork in the road with no discernible explanation on either the map or the trail.

This is a fork in the road. On the tree in the center, there is the letter "T," which is completely meaningless. We chose left.

This is a fork in the road. On the tree in the center, there is the letter “T,” which is completely meaningless. We chose left.

We continued on for a solid hour over every variation of rock trail. Finally I took another look at my GPS and realized we were completely outside the state park area. We were in the middle of nowhere – gamelands, more accurately, where hunters come to shoot deer. It felt like the beginning of every horror movie I have ever seen so I cursed the couple and their “Blair Witch” map and we headed back in the other direction. An hour back in the other direction. Just to get back to the top of the freaking mountain.

By the time we got back down the mountain we had been hiking for five hours. And we still had NOT SEEN A WATERFALL.

Despite our exhaustion we were determined to make the shortest trip possible up the correct route to at least see some semblance of a waterfall. This is where we realized where we made our mistake, completely missing a clear set of stone stairs leading to a trail to the left versus a log laid across the trail to the right. And maybe five minutes up the correct route lays the first – and probably least impressive – of four waterfalls.

waterfall

The least impressive photo of the falls you will ever see.

I’m not going to lie to you – two days later and I am still really pissed. I have to wonder if we are the only people who have ever made this mistake – and I feel confident that we probably are. I spend six months researching every pair of socks I purchase but put absolutely no study into this trail. But, as ever hiker I met – and even the locals – explained, this place is inexplicably devoid of signage or direction. It just may have helped to be aware of the basic fact that we were meant to HIKE UP WATERFALLS.

I can not imagine that we will have the planning, wherewithal, or childcare to visit Glen Onoko Falls again any time soon. I am at least grateful for the exercise, time away with my husband, and the fact that I did not turn cannibal on the misdirected couple.

I wish all future hikers better luck – but I think common sense might be all that is needed. Don’t forget your hiking boots – we wore sneakers.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Delicious Post to MySpace Send Gmail Post to Digg Post to StumbleUpon

August 12th, 2014

Happy Family Brand’s Happiness Happens Campaign

It seems fitting that on my 35th birthday I should write about National Happiness Happens Day – which was actually Friday but is being celebrated all month long.

I’ve learned over the years that true happiness is more than simple contentment and less than unadulterated bliss. It’s not about those moments of euphoric joy but more about being able to find true pleasure in your daily life. This is how I know I am happy.

Like most working parents, my day is broken up into pretty routine chunks. And I think the key to happiness is being able to look forward to each of those portions of time. Of course, there are daily tasks no one really loves, like taking out the garbage or a rush hour commute. But I think the key is finding the joy in each segment of the day.

I generally wake up pretty excited to start the day. I look forward to my first cup of coffee and getting the kids out the door to school so I can hit the gym. And then, crazy as it may sound, I actually enjoy the gym. That’s why it’s so important to find a fitness routine that you actually like.

I also enjoy my work, even though it can be thankless, exhausting, and riddled with insecurity as a sole business owner. I look forward to opening my emails every morning and seeing what lies ahead for the day. And I know how lucky I am to be doing work that I feel passionately about.

And, of course, I look forward to spending time with my children – and equally forward to putting them to bed so I can veg out with an hour of bad television and homemade Vitamix ice cream.

PicCollage1

I try to remember that “comparison is the thief of joy” and not dissect everything that is “wrong” with my house, my body, my family. And that is easier said than done. But what makes me secure in my happiness is knowing that I look forward to each part of every day. And when those days include miserable tasks like taking the kids to the doctor I try to find a way to add a brightside – like ice cream or even a really good iced coffee.

I don’t think any of this is sage advice and I don’t expect to earn any accolades as a “happiness guru.” But this is how I have found overall happiness at 35, complete with bad days and even really bad weeks. I’ve stopped looking for euphoric joy or settling for status quo contentment. Happiness, for me, is about always looking forward to the next thing, even if that means spending more than I should at Starbucks.

You can celebrate #HappinessHappens all month long by following @HappyFamily. It’s sure to make you smile!

LogoLargeHires

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Happy Family Brands

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Delicious Post to MySpace Send Gmail Post to Digg Post to StumbleUpon

July 29th, 2014

Geocaching with Children: Fun Scavenger Hunts for the Whole Family

geocaching

An overgrown kid at heart, I love a good scavenger hunt. It’s why my husband and I like to sign up for local scavenger hunt races and turn watching Jeopardy into a competitive sport.

For most actual children, loving scavenger hunts is as innate as loving artificial frosting – accept this is a love that can be very healthily encouraged!

I had heard about geocaching off an on over the years but didn’t know very much about it. But recently I was browsing an issue of Parents Magazine where it was briefly mentioned as a fun way to spend time with children outdoors. I downloaded the app on my iPhone and was hooked before we even started.

Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices – i.e. smartphones. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. Geocaches can be found all over the world. It is common for geocachers to hide caches in locations that are important to them, reflecting a special interest or skill of the cache owner. They may be at your local park, at the end of a long hike, underwater or on the side of a city street.

There’s so much I love about this activity. First, it gets you outside with your children for an activity that can literally keep you busy for hours. Second, if you are doing the geocaching on foot, it will get you and your family plenty of exercise! Third, it is an amazing way to explore a new city or rediscover your own. Our first geocache was located in a beautiful little garden that we never knew existed even though it was just four blocks from our home!

IMG_8045

Some are in larger containers, but you really do need an eagle eye and a good mind for tricky clues. All the caches contain a scroll where you can sign your name and see the handles of finders from all over the world! If you are lucky you find a cache with “treasure,” mostly stickers, foreign coins, and trinkets which you can exchange for something of “equal or greater value.”

IMG_8014

 

IMG_8041

At one site, Sam and I spent at least 30 minutes searching for the cache with no luck. I won’t lie, it can be frustrating. But after a few you start to adopt the sixth sense that will lead you to your prize. And even if you don’t find the cache every time, you will discover new and interesting places, get a decent workout, and create fun memories with your kids!

IMG_8015

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Delicious Post to MySpace Send Gmail Post to Digg Post to StumbleUpon

July 22nd, 2014

Top Green Beauty Products 2014 Update: My Favorite Natural Beauty Products

greenbeauty

My favorite natural beauty products is becoming an annual round-up, as I find better, cleaner, more amazing favorites!

My original post was in 2011 and was followed up in 2013.

After spending another year trying out some of the best organic luxury beauty products on the market, I have a few new favorites to share and a few that have stood the test of time. Others have been removed from the list because of purity of ingredients, annoying repackaging, or simply finding something that worked better.

 

piperewai

Piperwai Natural Deodorant

I met these two girls at a Philly flea market and couldn’t believe how amazing this natural deodorant is. The scent is totally pleasant, fresh, and unisex, and activated charcoal is the special ingredient to make it last through your toughest summer workouts. I like to credit myself for turning this into a cult fave!

 

Stinky Girl Beauty Company Hair Powder + Dry Shampoo

Also made locally in Philadelphia, this product has made it possible for me to only wash my hair 2-3 times per week while doing CrossFit 4 times per week. And it comes in a salt shaker!

 

Acure Organics Brightening Facial Scrub

I like my facial scrubs gritty, and Acure Organics Argan Stem Cell + Chlorella Growth Factor Brightening Facial Scrub leaves your skin feeling super clean and polished. Organic Sea Kelp, Organic Lemon, and Organic Cocoa Powder gently exfoliate your skin while French Green Clay and removes impurities from your pores.

Vered Organic Botanicals Clarifying Detox Mask

Also gritty and detoxifying. Feels like it is really doing it’s job but won’t leave you red-faced.

Goddess Garden Natural Sunscreen

This is the absolute best natural sunscreen I have found. It comes in an easy to apply spray – but not a traditional aerosol spray. It’s closer to a liquid that goes on sheer unlike most natural sunscreens that leave a thick white film. And it has worked great on my super pale child.

3Girls Holistic Orange Pop Lip Gloss

I helped this brand launch their line of little girls products – but fell in love with the Orange Pop Lip Gloss as my own personal lip balm. It’s super moisturizing, delicious, and organic. And at $3 a tube it’s an absolute steal.

Nourish Organic Body Wash

Knowing it is a product that we use all over our body on a daily basis, I searched high and low for a body wash that got high marks from both EWG and the Think Dirty App. Nourish is one of the few USDA certified organic bodywashes on the market and the price won’t break your budget. Super moisturizing with shea butter and pretty packaging to boot!

 

Tried and True:
These rock star products have remained on my list and have yet to be replaceable.

Vapour Organic Beauty Siren Lipstick in Coquette – Ever since I found this perfect color it is pretty much all I wear. Sometimes I wear it with no other makeup just to wake up my face and I always get compliments. I have also found that it looks amazing on every complexion.

Kure Bazaar Nail Lacquer in Stiletto – I usually only wear polish on my toes but this brand is the best non-toxic polish I’ve ever tried. The unique formula is made from up to 85% of natural origin based on wood pulp, wheat, cotton, potatoes and corn – and still maintains top notch glamour.

This year I made the jump to occasional self-manicures because this polish is long-lasting enough to make it not seem futile. And I was shocked to find that I love the look of grey polish, especially Kure Bazaar Cashmere.

La Bella Figura Decouverte Under Eye Repair Serum – Sleepless nights with two children is no match for this antiwrinkle serum with vital healing botanicals and omega 3 to repair the look of tired eyes, dark circles and smooth facial lines. Découverte is made from pure barbary fig seed oil, which makes this under eye treatment a real rock star of a serum! Derived from the seed of the cactus plant, Barbary fig seed oil is a richer source of vitamin E than our beloved argan oil.

Kajer Weis Mascara – The ingredients in Kjaer Weis Mascara contain nourishing properties, with 99.8% sourced from organic farming. It glides on easily, with a sleek wand that adds the perfect amount of product, delivers great definition, and adds layers to eyelashes.

W3LL PEOPLE Elitist Mineral Shadow – Pure pigments in a beautiful finish. Perfect for easy shading, highlighting, contouring and lining.

Chocolate Sun Sunless Tanning Cream – the answer to streak-free, toxin-free, sun-ray-free beautifully tanned skin! And it smells delicious.

Yarok Shampoo and Conditioner – I have tried it all for my big mess of hair, and this is my favorite.

RMS Beauty Living Luminizer - brings you back when you look like death warmed over.

Vapour Organic Beauty Atmosphere Soft Focus Foundation – so light and luminous – like silk.

 

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Delicious Post to MySpace Send Gmail Post to Digg Post to StumbleUpon