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.
February 4th, 2016

Best Ever Protein Mug Cake Recipe

Protein Mug Cake

No matter how much protein I consume at dinner, I always suffer from an insatiable sweet tooth and desperately crave dessert. Chewing gum, brushing teeth, and even nibbling on dark chocolate does not satiate my cravings. I knew I needed to find a solution to keep me from binging on ice cream after full days of eating healthy and working out.

Then I heard about “Protein Mug Cakes,” super low-carb, low-sugar, and high protein desserts that take minutes to make. Intrigued I tried a variety of Pinterest recipes. And they were pretty much inedible.

After experimenting with a variety of ingredients I finally created a palatable recipe. I’m not going to lie to you – if you ordered chocolate cake at a restaurant and this arrived you would probably send it back. This is not your grandmother’s chocolate cake.

But it is filling, relatively tasty, and hosts loads of protein with minimal sugar. And I dare you to find a better tasting recipe than the one I have concocted!

Ingredients:

ingredients

Mix ingredients well in a glass or ceramic mug and heat in the microwave for about two minutes.

For optional “Icing” that adds just a bit more sugar, melt two small pieces of dark chocolate with 1 TB Natural Peanut Butter

cake

You should feel full after eating only half of this thing – it’s pretty dense.

So what do you think? Did you like it? Did you find any tweaks to make it even tastier without adding sugar?

February 2nd, 2016

Get Inspired! The Kids Menu Online Premiere and Philadelphia Screening

Kids menu[1]

How do we get our kids to choose apples over Oreos? Can a school garden change kids’ perspectives on collard greens? Is it possible to win the battle against Tony the Tiger?

Joe Cross and the team that brought you Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead have a new movie – and this time it’s full of inspirational information and the tools to help kids fight obesity and make healthy choices.

The Kids Menu highlights amazing programs in action, inspiring individuals paving the way for change, but most of all, kids, taking the lead in getting healthier options on to their own menu.

Kids face unprecedented challenges these days when it comes to making healthy choices. This solution-­oriented documentary is like a how­-to guide for empowering and inspiring kids to make these healthier choices for themselves!

D​on’t miss the chance to be among the first to see this film which will restore some of your faith in the food movement and introduce you to some pretty terrific kids who are out to change the world!

You can preorder your copy for the Worldwide Digital Premiere on Vimeo Feb 12 -15.  It is definitely something you will want the whole family to watch – my six-year-old was completely enthralled!

Philadelphia area friends: Don’t miss a screening Tuesday, March 22 at the Ritz East, where Joe will host a post-film Q&A!

Get your tickets here and find out more information here! I hope to see you there!

January 22nd, 2016

How To Get New Water Fountains for Your Public School

So how did I get two brand new state-of-the-art water filtration systems installed at my underfunded Philadelphia public school?

Well, the answer is much more simple than you think. And it’s not about “I” – it’s about “We.” I’m no hero and have not done anything particularly groundbreaking. But for those who have asked and would like to enact similar progress at their schools, here’s what we did:

When my son first started kindergarten one of the things I noticed was the antiquated, dilapidated water fountains. Did kids drink from these? Were they even safe? 

old fountain 2 old fountain

I talked to both kindergarteners and older kids and the answer was “nope.” They carried store bought bottles of water, drank chocolate milk (often the only thing offered in the cafeteria), or went thirsty.

This was not something I could let slide.

A recent article in Philadelphia Inquirer linked the rate of childhood kidney stones to poor water access at our pubic schools. One brand new study even proved that when potable water is offered through attractive dispenser, kids actually drop weight!

I brought it up to a few members of my school’s Home and School Association. These parents work tirelessly to raise needed funds to cover everything from playground improvements to an actual librarian salary for the years when it was not covered by the district. And while I admire the work they do and want to contribute in any way I can, I know my time is best spent doing the things where I can be most efficient – advocacy, research, and writing compelling (and often irate) letters.

They mentioned that I was not the first parent to bring up the dearth in potable water sources, nor the possibility of purchasing the type of fancy filtered water stations we’ve seen everywhere from preschools to gyms. I asked if I could present them with some pricing to consider and they said sure.

STEP ONE: What do they cost? 

Knowing that the quality of water coming from pipes in a 110-year-old school, I knew I wanted filtered water stations. I found them online for $954 a piece. So I contacted the company to ask about discounts for public schools and they put me in touch with the right salesperson who lowered the price to $884. I knew that ideally we wanted to purchase two – one for near the lower grade classrooms and one for the gym/cafeteria.

STEP TWO: How do we pay for them?

I knew there were a LOT of options here. I think it would have been relatively simple to have done a fundraiser where we asked each parent to consider the costs of bottled water and contribute $5-$10 toward the cost of the fountains. After all, we have at least 500 families at the school and the fountains would cost less than $1800 total.

But in the end we didn’t need to do any of that.

Our school has a “Green Team” led by a dedicated science teacher who makes use of the dozens of green grants available to schools (among others not on this list include Recycle Bank Green Schools). And he already had some money in his account set aside for a rainy day. So he was happy to “make it rain” for one of the fountains.

The HSA had enough in the bank to cover the cost of the second. They asked for approval from the principal and she said “Sure.”

Done deal.

STEP THREE: Are the pipes even safe?

Hopefully you can skip this one. But since my school is older than time, I wanted to make sure we wouldn’t be installing water fountains with lead pipes, causing more harm than good.

I found an article from 15 years ago stating that in the wake of tests which revealed high lead levels in the drinking water at several city schools, the School District signed an agreement with the Health Department to test all sources of drinking water in city schools and take corrective action wherever dangerous lead levels were found. You might think that would settle it – but I have no level of reasonable trust for these things.

So I sent an email to the district asking for a record of McCall’s water quality. I got my response within 30 days.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 8.02.00 PM

4) STEP 4: Who’s gonna install these things?

This was my biggest concern. It’s easy enough to get the fountains, but who is going to install them? Would there be months of district red tape to get a union-approved plumber? Could the school’s general maintenance team handle it, or would they need special permission?

Turns out that in our case you do need to put in a work order with the school district. Our principal did that the moment the fountains were ordered, and in a show of surprising efficiency, they were installed less than 24 hours after they arrived.

IMG_7079

Will it be this easy with your school? I’m not sure. But I do know that clean, accessible drinking water is something EVERYBODY can agree on.

Have you been able to upgrade the water situation at your school or public space? I’d love to know!

January 19th, 2016

Giveaway: $50 to Spend on the Best of Health + Wellness at LuckyVitamin

giveaway

Sometimes in business I just get lucky. And working with a new client like LuckyVitamin brings me the fortune of sharing something I’m truly passionate about – health and wellness products at bargain prices!

Striving to bring good health to the masses, LuckyVitamin offers everything you need for your health and wellness journey at bargain prices. No membership fees are required to shop the best of health and wellness at a fraction of retail costs.

Celebrating 10 years, LuckyVitamin is a leading online retailer in the health and wellness space, offering more than 35,000 curated products at competitive prices.The shop carefully selects trusted brands and products in the categories of supplements, sports nutrition, personal care, home, beauty, and food; and presents them with a variety of easy-to-navigate search tools with expert customer support. They also offer a private label brand of affordable vitamins and supplements.

In addition to offering one of the broadest online selections of health and wellness products, LuckyVitamin offers expert customer service through informative videos, blog posts, a health library, and an on-staff licensed naturopathic physician.

Whether you’re confused about which fish oil to buy or which anti-aging products will work best for your skin type, Dr. Jeremy Wolf N.D. is available to assist customers with questions or concerns regarding the use of products sold at LuckyVitamin.

A true family business, LuckyVitamin evolved from three generations of family dedicated to helping people lead healthy lives. It started in a pharmacy, transformed into a dynamic health foods store, and then exploded into an online movement.

Meeting_ProductReview
Buyers and in-house health gurus scour the globe for manufacturers and products whose values reflect their high standards and passion for helping customers feel and look their best. They carefully review each product they sell with a thorough new item assessment that includes supporting brands that provide full ingredient transparency and work with third party verified testing groups; follow GMP guidelines; are free from artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats; are free from parabens, fragrance, sulfates and other potentially toxic ingredients; commit to sustainable, recyclable, and environmentally friendly products; and have philanthropic initiatives.

LuckyVitamin features brands that are local or made in the USA, but also believes in fair trade initiatives and helping to develop better trading conditions in developing countries by promoting sustainability. The company supports all types of diet choices, whether vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, raw, kosher, paleo, or still undecided.

What am I stocking up on?

Orgain Chocolate Protein Powder

NOWFoods Branched Chain Amino Acids

LuckyVitamin Private Label Organic Coconut Oil

Chosen Foods Avocado Spray

Acorelle Perfumes

Moom Organic Hair Removal Kit

CleanWell Hand Sanitizer

Acure Brightening Facial Scrub

thinkThin Protein Bars

LuckyVitamin even offers free wellness webinars each month. Recognized brands and industry experts take their time to educate you on current health topics and trends and teach you about how certain products can be beneficial.

Manifesto

Check out their amazing story below. And then visit online to fill your cart with the best of health and wellness products for a fraction of what you may be currently paying!

Giveaway! Win a $50 Gift Card to LuckyVitamin.com!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with LuckyVitamin, with whom I have a business relationship. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

January 12th, 2016

Giveaway: Win $100 Shopping Spree with NOW Foods

giveaway

I’m excited to announce my new ambassadorship with NOW Foods, a brand I have been shopping for years as a natural part of my evolving health and fitness routine.

NOW is one of the largest independent producers of natural products in the U.S., offering more than 1,400 high-quality, natural and affordable products, from nutrient-rich foods and supplements to personal care and sports nutrition items. Founded in 1968, NOW remains family-owned and committed to providing value in products and services that empower people to lead healthier lives.

NOW has a strict Non-GMO Assurance Process that includes stringent quality standards, documentation and testing. NOW’s products are created using non-GMO, non-irradiated and organic ingredients whenever possible. The company uses published research to guide product development and conducts more than 16,000 tests on raw materials and finished products each month in NOW’s in-house laboratories to make sure consumers are getting what’s on the label.

nowfoods

Among my favorite products and shopping list staples:

  • Since I discovered the power of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), my athletic performance has improved. BCAAs are three essential amino acids known for maintaining muscle mass and supporting strength and endurance. NOW’s large quantity bottle is the best deal on quality BCAAs I’ve found.
  • My other fitness-focused diet staple is protein powder, as I drink shakes at least once daily (and, OK, sometimes drink them for dessert). I prefer vegetable-based protein shakes – but they must be chocolate-flavored. I’ve been digging the NOW Foods Pea Protein Power
  • I use Hemp Hearts in EVERYTHING – salads, soups, breads, oatmeal – such an easy way to get a boost of protein, fiber, and omegas! 
  • NOW’s BetterStevia is a healthier substitute for artificial sweeteners, without the bitter aftertaste. It’s available in powder, packets, and portable flavored liquids and drink packets.
  • I’m an essential oil girl – but I don’t do the multi-level-marketing ones. Fortunately NOW offers certified organic essential oils at reasonable prices. I have infinite uses for tea tree and peppermint oils!

Want to try these and more for yourself? Enter this GIVEAWAY to win $100 in NOW products of your choice!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with NOWFoods, for whom I am a compensated ambassador. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

January 5th, 2016

Top 10 Reasons I Hated Disney World

disneyhate

NOTE: UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF POST TO CLARIFY THIS MOST CONTROVERSIAL POST

When seeking a vacation, I typically look for some variation of the following things:

  • The opportunity to have at least some time apart from my children
  • The chance to indulge in delicious cuisine, maybe even a few farm-to-table restaurants
  • Some outside-the-box fitness – scenic running or hiking trails, recreational adventure, even a local CrossFit box
  • Local culture, history, and regional quirkiness.

Obviously, I knew a trip to Disney World would offer the precise opposite of all these things.

So, admittedly I was a bit pessimistic about this “vacation.” But after plenty of advice from friends who LOVED Disney, I felt prepared, even a little excited. Maybe it would be “magical”? Maybe my children would love it so much I’d get caught up in the excitement? Maybe it wouldn’t be the seventh level of hell but some mystical ride into childlike bliss?

Nope.

And here are 10 reasons why it sucked:

  1. I ate so much garbage that my body was actually confused. I had a perpetual gnawing fear that eating nothing but empty calories and glorified cafeteria food for four and a half days would put all of our bodies into nutritional shock. And I was right. For $41 per person per day (just two meals), Disney offers a quick service meal plan resplendent in cafeteria-style crap peppered with the exact same bags of petrified produce doled out in my son’s public school lunch room.
    disney fruits

    The bag states they are “food pyramid approved.” Good to know!

    On a steady diet of mouse ear waffles, my 6-year-old was wired beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed. I tried to find healthy options, truly. The oatmeal reminded me of Oliver Twist-style gruel. The eggs were a puddle of mucus. The resort included two of these cafeteria-style “restaurants,” along with an overpriced “fine-dining” menu of only creole/Cajun-style food. Leaving the resort for dinner was impossible because after eight-hour days at the park, the last thing anyone wanted to do was get on another bus. Eventually, I just went balls out, filling up my souvenir mug with Diet Coke and eating enough French fries to deep fry my arteries.

  2. My kids lost their shit. The seven days I spent in a rented beach house with my children last summer were the most blissful days of my life. They were more well-behaved than I have ever seen them. We’ve gone through several long, hot days at Sesame Place without a meltdown. I don’t know if it was the sugar, the stimulation, the endless walking, or a combination of all these things. Regardless, they turned into animals.
  3. I got the distinct pleasure of rooming with my children. In reality, most vacations on a normal budget would require bunking up with your kids. But that doesn’t make it suck any less. It’s hard enough to sleep in the same house as these night-wakers, but getting all close and cuddly with grinding teeth, kicking legs, and the warm smell of piss doesn’t make the night hours any more restful.
  4. Despite planning and bringing our own ponchos, we still got caught in the rain at Magic Kingdom. This was no one’s fault but Mother Nature’s (and the guy who told us we don’t need to take the monorail to the character breakfast because it was only a five-minute walk). It was a 20-minute walk that began at the precise moment the skies opened up. You can imagine how that scene went down.
  5. The Mission: Space ride at Epcot almost killed me. This is purely my own fault. As someone who gets carsick in the backseat of a taxi, I was wary of the signs on most of the rides warning riders of potential motion sickness. But they were generally exaggerated. For example, ‘Soarin only went about five feet in the air and was delightful. But Mission: Space had some RED FLAGS I should have listened to. You have the option of ORANGE or the less intense GREEN version. I wanted to be a bad ass and ride the ORANGE with my 6-year-old. Upon entry, you receive a flyer with bold print exclaiming that if you have any doubt at all, GO GREEN. I ignored this. Then, we went into a small room where a video plays with Gary Sinise again advising you to disembark if you think ORANGE might be too much for you. The 8-year-old kid behind me assured me it would be rad. Then, we head into another small room where, again, Gary Sinise tells you this is your last chance. Opt out now or get on board. My son and I were placed along with two strangers side by side in a small, enclosed car complete with actual BARF BAGS. A bar comes down around you, which along with the force of gravity, prevents you from looking to the side. This thing took off with a bolt that left me breathless and then rocked and heaved with the force of God’s wrath. My stomach dropped out of my body and then punched me in the face. Since I couldn’t turn, I had no idea if my son was thrilled or terrified. So, I just held fast to his hand repeating, “Isn’t this awesome?” When I stumbled off the ride, an attendant handed me a cold towel. I then went and lost my lunch in the public bathroom, and I don’t think I’ve been right since. Lesson: Always listen to Gary Sinise.
  6. Epcot World Showcase is depressing. Look, it’s a lovely idea, creating quaint little archetypes of a dozen nations, full of music and miniaturized versions of national landmarks. In reality, it’s a bit sad. Each showcase sets up shops and stands selling knickknacks. Maracas made in China. Miniature Eiffel Towers made in China. Chinese Lanterns made in, well, you get the picture.

    The joy of Epcot

    The joy of Epcot

    In Germany, a line wrapped around the shop that sold nothing but Werther’s Original candies – the same exact ones my mom buys at CVS. The food carts sold sad approximations of cannolis and wiener schnitzel, all disguised as authentic by being hocked by actual nationals–one of whom (jokingly?) told me he was brought in illegally to pedal bratwurst.

  7. It’s an environmentalist’s nightmare. No one can say that Disney doesn’t keep the places clean. Unfortunately, we have some disagreements over the definition of clean. For instance, the assault of ammonia bleach feels more like a punch in the throat than “clean.” Each bathroom smelled like an orgy of Glade air fresheners. The intensity of the fragrance was actually worse than the familiar Philly rec center bathroom smell of old crotch. Also, despite never opening the variety of mouse-eared toiletries, they put new ones in our room daily. They multiplied like, well, mice. Look, I didn’t expect an ecological paradise. I just didn’t think Styrofoam was going to be a thing.
  8. Orlando has no soul. The main artery of International Drive is the home of every chain restaurant you thought had died out years ago. (Sizzler anyone?) And then there is Disney, where the employees of themed resorts dress like they’re part of some kind of polygamous circus cult while slopping up sludge in 100-degree heat. I just think many of these employee uniforms are a special kind of cruelty. Trying to recreate the New Orleans experience through cafeteria-style jambalaya and a manmade river just doesn’t “evoke the Antebellum era” for me.

    I had to spare the real people the indignity of photography but found these sketches online. These are the uniforms, which apparently won awards.

    I had to spare the real people the indignity of photography but found these sketches online. These are the uniforms, which apparently won awards.

    There is no “local culture.” There is “Disney culture,” which thousands of people love. Call me a scrooge, but I just don’t get it. I will belt out “Let It Go” louder than a preschooler and happily take pictures with a guy in a Goofy suit. But coming back to this place year after year? Disney honeymoons? Customized mouse ears? Families in matching custom vacation tees? Not for me.

  9. More bedazzled over-priced mouse crap than you can even imagine. If there is one thing I did right as a parent, it was instilling in my children that I will not be buying them souvenirs, trinkets, or anything that lights up and is sold from a vendor cart. I told them they would each be allowed one purchase: mouse ears. Fortunately, they each chose the basic, old-fashioned variety, which ran me $27 for the pair. Other parents didn’t fare so well. Balloons cost $20. Disney World will mold a turd into mouse ears, roll it in glitter, and sell it for $14.99. Of course, my children acquired complimentary Mardi Gras beads and what I like to call “plastic phthalate fish.” We let these items bunk up with us for five days and then blissfully left them behind.

    My children wore their ears exactly this long

    My children wore their ears exactly this long

  10. I don’t think my kids even liked it that much. I’ve seen my kids have way more fun playing with friends at the local park than sitting bug-eyed and nervous during Pirates of the Caribbean. We all agreed It’s a Small World was creepy and a little bit racist. The Winnie the Pooh ride was like an acid trip. On Magic Kingdom day, we left the hotel at 8:15 a.m. and arrived back at 3 p.m. and had somehow only gone on six rides. My 2-year-old shouts with glee every time she sees Mickey Mouse on a bus sign or TV screen but couldn’t care less when the costumes character came to our breakfast table.

OK, so it wasn’t all bad.

I think in general we did it right. We didn’t underplan or overplan. We followed all the “Mouse Saver” rules and Disney blogger tips. And did you notice that epic crowds and lines didn’t make my list? Getting to the parks early and using our Magic Pass allowed a relatively easy go of it. We only stood in one remarkably long line and made it go by fast by befriending the family behind us.

I thought Spaceship Earth was very cool, if a bit dated, I dug the Buzz Lightyear laser ride, and I liked the Great Hollywood Movie ride as I am a sucker for anything with a montage. The heated resort pool had a cool slide. I loved the frittata at the character breakfast buffet. And during a handful of moments, I saw true glimmers of joy: when the shaving cream “snow” sprinkled down at the Frozen sing-along, when my son gave Donald Duck a hand-drawn portrait complete with our home address, and when we ate ice cream and ice cream and more ice cream.

A happy moment

A happy moment

My kids will forget all the bad parts and place this trip wherever early childhood vacations live in children’s memories. But, most importantly, they never will be able to say we didn’t take them to Disney World.

UPDATE 1/8/16:

Wow. This post has actually pissed off more people than posts I have done about being miserable while pregnant or breastfeeding on medication.

I’ve gotten quite a bit of pushback, particularly on my social media. I’ve been called ill-informed, ignorant, negative, and, worst of all, unwilling to put my children’s desires first (though if you really read this you will see that my children had less fun at Disney than they do in my basement).

I’m told this post is traveling around Disney message boards as a “cautionary tale for the clueless” and Disney travel agents are messaging me enraged.

I am always open to civil discussion and debate, and I am always willing to admit where I may have been wrong and to defend where I believe I have been right. Here is a combination of the two:

Five Points To Clarify This Post:

  1. As I stated in this post, we DID do a TON of research prior to our trip. We booked with a travel agent. We read and bookmarked blog posts and tip sheets. We grilled our friends and family who have been to Disney. We booked our character breakfast and our fast passes months in advance. We did all of the due diligence that makes it feel a bit less like a vacation than like an overly-scheduled business conference.
  1. We chose the quick service dining plan and a mid-range resort because that is what our budget allowed. I suppose if money had been no object, staying at the Grand Floridian and enjoying the fine dining plan would have made for a very different experience. But it is simply not what the average family can afford. That said, Quick Service does not have to mean gross. We have gone on several mid-range cruises and enjoyed all of the buffet-style meals. We don’t expect organic gourmet meals – just fruit that doesn’t come prepackaged in a bag. And, yes, we brought some our own snacks but we still needed to eat meals. We did pay for two sit down meals, which were a small fortune and average quality. We also tried to make reservations for some of the recommended restaurants six months in advance and they were FULLY BOOKED.
  1. When I started this post with the items I typically seek in a vacation, I was stating them with the understanding that this vacation was not about those things and I fully understood that. Sure, if we REALLY wanted to find those things and pay extra for them we probably could. But we didn’t want to pay extra for childcare – we were taking this for what it was, and unfortunately, it was not our cup of tea.
  1. I also know how to admit when I was wrong, and it was unfair for me to categorize the whole of Orlando based on Disney World and International Drive. I would be irritated if someone based all of Philadelphia on the less desirable sections or a bad cheesesteak (which they do). While my husband has visited Orlando about 20 times for work and not seen anything to make him particularly fond of the city, we have not spent significant time exploring its finer points. So if you live in Orlando or are from Orlando, I do apologize. I’m sure there is much more than meets the eye of the casual traveler.
  1. There is a reason this post is called “10 Things I Hated About Disney” and not “10 Things YOU Will Hate About Disney.” Look, I love CrossFit so much it’s practically my religion. But I have read loads of hilarious posts about people who tried it and hated it. Sure, sometimes I will post and say something like, “Sorry this sucked for you – maybe you just didn’t have a very good trainer or the right coaching – but maybe it just wasn’t for you! That’s OK. I’ve tried yoga about 30 times and never liked it. To each their own. Enjoy your fitness journey anyway that makes you happy and healthy!” So if you’d like to point out things I may have missed or share your positive experiences at Disney World, I’m happy to hear them or have you share them with others who may be chatting on my networks.

Again, this is just a tale of my personal experience and I make sure to point out the good parts as well. Just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean you won’t. I’m not trying to deter you from going or intervene with Disney’s thriving travel business, nor do I think my little blog is going to make one iota of difference.

So if you want to rock out with your ears out, rock on! But as for us, we have lots of other travel ideas on our bucket list we are anxious to explore  :)

-Paige

December 26th, 2015

2016 Bucket List Update: A Beast, a Bowl, and Bratislava

bucketlist

Last year I made updates to my life “Bucket List,” which had been in progress for about five years. One year later I am thrilled to see the progress I have made, almost miraculously checking off all four of my newest goals and one of my longtime goals:

  • Meet and talk to Margaret Cho UPDATE:√ March 1, 2015

  • Broad Street Run – 10 miles! UPDATE:√ May 3, 2015

  • Spartan Race or similar UPDATE:√ Two Spartan Sprints in 2015

  • Renovate top floor to include bathroom, therefore finally not having to share a bathroom with my children. UPDATE: √ May 2015
  • Publish a revised version of Spit That Out! – with the addendum that I will only do this with proper backing from a publisher OR after waiting another 15 years when everything I have said will be completely obsolete. UPDATE: √ To be published by New Society Press Fall 2016!!

Goals which I still have not met include:

  • Spend at least a two-week stretch of time in London
  • Be in the audience of The Graham Norton Show
  • Perform a really good Karaoke duet, preferably “Candy” by Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson or “Stop Dragging my Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty
  • Visit any major U.S. cities and parts of the country I haven’t seen (SHIFTCON will be in New Orleans in 2016!!)

Instead of traditional “New Year’s Resolutions,” which require specific and immediate change, I prefer the long-lead bucket list – and it is time to add some new ones!

  • Complete a Spartan Super in 2016 – 8+ miles of hell!
  • Complete a Spartan Beast before age 40 – 14+ miles of hell!
  • Do a CrossFit competition where I don’t place last!
  • There is a little town in Slovakia where everyone’s last name is Bederka. They are my husband’s “people” and have sent us correspondence extending an invitation to their kin. It sounds amazing. My son would be like a crowned prince. This is from an actual email my husband received: “Lopašov is a small village, and certainly we’re all family. I invite you to Slovakia. Lopašov is just 170 km away from Vienna. Just when you buy a ticket. You’ll be my guest. Best regards, Bronislava”
  • Take a pottery class. Yes, this is such a silly “old lady” goal. And that’s exactly when it’s going to happen – when I am an old lady. I once took a pottery class in college and loved it. But it’s been almost 20 years and remains way down on my priority list. I’m planning to be like the old lady in the beginning of Titanic, sitting silently with a pottery wheel at the ripe age of 97.

    You gave me hyacinths first a year ago. They called me the hyacinth girl.

    You gave me hyacinths first a year ago. They called me the hyacinth girl.

What’s on your bucket list? Do you plan to cross it off in 2016?

December 7th, 2015

Philadelphia School District Rep says “Hard to Make Direct Connections to Exposed Asbestos and Health Risks”

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 12.53.05 PM

AN EMAIL AND A RESPONSE:
11:36 a.m.

Subject: Philadelphia School District’s Representation on Al Jazeera America

Dear Ms. Floyd,

I had the opportunity to watch your appearance on Al Jazzeera America last week in response to the reports of lead based paint, exposed asbestos, mold, rodents, and myriad other hazardous conditions in our Philadelphia public schools.

You stated, “It’s hard to make direct connections between some of the things that are occurring in our buildings (lead/asbestos/mold) to whether or not there are immediate health risks to students, given that there are other environments they are exposed to outside of the school building”

Ms. Floyd, I realize that you are not a health professional or a scientist. But it is public knowledge that there is not a shed of scientific doubt these things are seriously harmful to all people, with children being the most vulnerable. In addition to the scientific evidence, you may wish to speak to a parent with lead poisoned children, or perhaps the parents of Laporshia Massey, whose fatal asthma attack was most assuredly aggravated by spending more than 30 hours each week in a classroom with “extensive, long-term damage and deterioration from persistent dampness and moisture,” damaged paint that is likely lead-based, and widespread dust and debris.”

While I am sympathetic to the school district’s financial dilemma from the continued underfunding and systematic neglect of our schools by the state, I find your comments to be unacceptable and bordering on unlawful. To refer to these building conditions as anything less than criminally hazardous is unacceptable, and, quite frankly, a horrific embarrassment. You even go one step further to imply that these children’s outside living conditions may be the same or even worse. This is offensive, insulting, and appalling.

I don’t believe there is a citizen in all of Philadelphia who would not like to abolish the School Reform Commission and bring the schools back under city control. But until that day comes, it is the responsibility of the School District to do everything in their albeit limited power to make sure our schools are, at the very least, safe places for our children.

You have publicly and nationally made light of an issue, which is not only immoral and unconscionable, it is illegal – breaking both building codes and the constitutional right for public education in a safe space.

You see, Ms. Floyd, when children like my son are not given full school resources for language, art, music, athletics, or other educational activities, I am fortunate enough to be able to supplement them in my home or with outside sources. When he is offered reheated prison food and chocolate milk on a Styrofoam tray, I am lucky enough to be able to refuse this and send him with his own nutritious lunch. By the grace of God my elementary school is staffed with a full time nurse who has come to the aid of my child’s asthma attacks several times this year.

I am one of the lucky ones.

However, I am entirely powerless to repair mold, asbestos, lead, rodents, and fire hazards. As much as I would like to find a way to protect my children from these deplorable hazards, even all the money in the world would not grant me access past the red tape bureaucracy.

Worse yet, I have absolutely no idea what the specific hazards may be at my son’s school, as McCall Elementary was not one of the schools explored by the city controller’s office. The district has refused to make public the findings of a 2012 study by the PFT Health and Welfare Fund and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and blocked further investigation despite the fact that it would not cost the district a penny. The lack of transparency is appalling and defies a parent’s right to know about the safety of their children’s public schools.

Ms. Floyd, I certainly do not hold you solely responsible for the conditions of Philadelphia Public Schools nor the supposed lack of resources to repair them. You are simply a cog in a terribly antiquated and broken machine that you have no means to fix entirely on your own.

But what you do have, with years of tenure at the Philadelphia School District, is a position of power. And, more importantly, a voice that can speak loud and clear and publicly, demanding more resources and fiercely fighting for our children’s rights to schools that wont make them sick.

But instead, on national public television, you made light of this. You dismissed clear scientific data. You dismissed the fact that almost every child I know carries an inhaler and an epipen. You dismissed my friends’ children who were lead poisoned. You dismissed thousands of people who have died from mesothelioma from asbestos poisoning.

You dismissed my children.

And for that reason I will be sharing this letter with other concerned parents, hoping that the next time a national broadcast comes around – or any opportunity for you to speak – you will use your voice of power to bring mandatory change.

Sincerely,

Paige Wolf

11:43 a.m.

Thank you for your feedback.

Danielle

Office of Capital Programs
School District of Philadelphia

NOTE: I just want to note that while my letter points out the severe problems in the district, our schools do still continue to thrive despite these setbacks. My son is doing amazing in kindergarten with wonderful teachers and parents. But, again, we are lucky to be in a school with so much parental involvement and wonderful teachers to make it amazing. We just have to fight a lot harder….and I have chosen to stay and fight.

December 2nd, 2015

PiperWai: A Love Story

About a year and a half ago I was browsing a local craft market here in Philadelphia and I stopped to check out a table with natural deodorant. With the help of my husband, I had just recently completed a review of half a dozen deodorants. I thought I had pretty much tried them all.

But the scent was so bright and crisp, and I was intrigued by the grey cream texture. I was also impressed that two recent college graduates had such a polished product presentation, complete with glass bottles and a professional logo. Most beauty brands selling at these types of fairs are still sticking printer labels to plastic containers.

After chatting with them for a bit, I took a sample and tried it the next day. I was amazed. This stuff worked well that whole summer day and I felt minty and clean! And using charcoal was so innovative – I simply had to work with them.

I emailed them to rave about their product and tell them how my public relations firm specialized in natural beauty brands. I really wanted them on my roster but they were brand new with a baby budget to match.

A couple months later I convinced them to present at Healthy Brand Showcase, a healthy products media expo in New York I co-produce twice each year. They were immediately on board and in September 2014 they rocked the showcase, scoring placements with YouBeauty, Yahoo Beauty, Organic Spa, and more.

With founders Jess and Sarah at Healthy Brand Showcase 

For the next year we worked together off and on in various time increments as they slowly built the brand. We scored rave reviews from SELF, Refinery29, First for Women, Well and Good, StyleBistro, Bridal Guide, Philadelphia Magazine, and dozens of bloggers, vloggers, and even celebrities!

When it was time for an image revamp, the industrious ladies launched an Indegogo campaign, something I was skeptical about in the age where everyone and everything is crowdfunding. Nonetheless I was pleased to support their efforts with PR and they surpassed their fundraising goal!

Jess and I at the Philadelphia Magazine "Best of Philly" party

Jess and I at the Philadelphia Magazine “Best of Philly” party

With a new logo, new manufacturer, and new Web site launch, we were ready to grow exponentially. Bigger and better retailers were calling. Then it was New Beauty, NBC, Food & Wine, Women’s Running, Into The Gloss — once I got the product under the right arms, hands were raising everywhere.

And then the BIG TIME called: ABC’s “Shark Tank” – one of the highest rated shows on television. It was every brand and publicist’s dream, but something no PR team could make happen on their own. It had to be the right entrepreneurs with the right product at the right time. And their time is now.

PiperWai will pitch the “Shark Tank” investors, Friday, December 11 at 9 p.m. EST. Tune in to see what happens next…

piperwai-jar

November 23rd, 2015

How to Not Spend a Fortune on Children’s Birthday Party Presents

how not to spend a fortune on presents

I have two children – two different ages, two different schools, two different little groups of friends. That equals a LOT of birthday parties. Sometimes two or three in one day.

We are super grateful that our children (and ourselves) are well-liked enough to be included in so many birthday celebrations. And we are thrilled to attend, even if that means two separate trips over the Ben Franklin Bridge to Bounce U in one day.

But with more than 30 parties per year, if I spent the typical $20 per gift plus $5 fancy paper gift bags, I would be out a solid $750. And the broken toys ending up in the landfill would take an immeasurable toll.

Here’s how I do my gifting – thrifty, crafty, and eco-minded – without looking like a total cheapskate:

  1. Regifting. This one is pretty obvious but only doable in select circumstances. When we had a full class party for my son’s 5th birthday, we had more presents than he could even handle. We hid most in the gift closet, distributed select toys on rainy days, and re-wrapped the rest for re-gifting. You just have to be careful not to give the same present back to the gifter. But, honestly, what kid or parent would even notice they had even seen that LEGO set before? This option has not been readily available to us recently, as we didn’t do a big party for either of my children’s last birthdays. So I’ve been working with the following options.
  2. Stock up on Green Toys sales. Made in the USA from recycled milk jugs, this is my go-to brand for supporting a sustainable toy company. I keep on my Zulily alerts for big clearance sales, offering regularly $25-$30 toys for $14.99 and under.
  3. My favorite trick for gifting kids and doing good at the same time, is hitting the little shop on my corner that sells secondhand children’s books. Philly AIDS Thrift at Giovanni’s Room began as the country’s oldest LGBT bookstore, but now offers all sorts of traditional resale items to benefit local organizations involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. They have a wonderful little children’s section with mint condition books. Classics and new books marked $20 or more are discounted to $2.99. We carefully choose a couple of titles with the birthday child in mind to create a present that will make the child and parents happy. Of course, we are careful to peel off the sale stickers, but considering that I am posting this publicly I have no shame about spending left on a thoughtful gift for a three-year-old!
    books
  4. I will never, ever, ever buy gift wrap. Not a ribbon, not a bow, and certainly not a bag. I love VZWraps fabric gift bags – especially when they come back around to me! But when I am out of those, I use the following materials to create crafty little packages:
    • Collected ribbons, bows, and wrapping paper from gifts received. I like to cut the paper gift bags and fold them into gift wrap.
    • The brown paper that comes in every Amazon box
    • My children’s artwork
    • Newspaper and random free calendars with interesting artwork
    • Random things I have laying about in my craft stock like yarn and paper flowers

gifts