Summer Savings – Blog Exclusive

Now through the end of August, blog readers save 25% off your entire order from Bambootique, including off shipping! We know the economy is struggling and a little savings is always a great thing, right? We’re making room for fall inventory and this offer applies to all our handcrafted handbags, jewelry, candles, scarves, paper products and skincare! Every product at Bambootique is handmade, fair trade, eco-friendly and each purchase directly benefits the women artisans whose products we bring to market. We’re not offering this special anywhere else and it will be gone when summer ends…

To use your blogreaders’ savings use coupon code SummerBlog at checkout. Offer expires August 31, 2008.

Lawn Be Gone – The Final Chapter

Earlier this summer my husband and I embarked on a risky landscaping move: removing all our front yard grass and replacing it with a naturescape of native flowers, trees and shrubs. This was risky to us on a number of fronts. First, we are amateur landscapers – we know very little and what we know is from trial-and-error. Secondly, we live in the suburbs where having a lawn out front is a given. Thirdly, taking out your grass, especially without using chemicals to kill it, is a LOT of work, as is the process of landscaping and planting once the grass is done. Nevertheless, I’m proud to say we did it!

Yes, the grass is gone and the plants have arrived, at least some of them. Before buying any new plants we first moved around what we had crammed into flower beds as well as bringing a few from the backyard to the front. Then we took some freebies from my parents’ yard. Finally we bought some shrubs and flowers at the local nursery. We’ve already spent over $150 on plants and, as you can see from the photo below, there is still a lot of space to fill in. We’ll be filling it in slowly over the next few years, especially whenever we find perennials on sale or, even better, get freebies from family or friends.

The process of going lawn-free has been a lot of work but, in the long run, it will pay off both in time saved in cutting grass, in our water bill (native plants take less water than grass), and in the beauty we enjoy every time we pull up to our house.

Thinking of going native? Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way:

  • As I posted previously, you can kill your grass without chemicals by using black plastic garbage bags, tarps and a lot of patience. Then either dig out the dead stuff or do what we did – break it up by hand and use it as mulch to feed your new front garden.
  • Use rocks and dead tree stumps to add natural texture and interest, and to fill in space. Hollow tree stumps make a great place to put a pretty flowering plant.
  • A rocky path through the middle is a nice place to walk (see photo, right) and adds interest while breaking up the space.
  • Use native plants or, if non-native, use those that do well in your area and don’t require a lot of water. So far we have planted coreopsis, lavender, geum, miniature roses, lilies, irises, nandina, lupine, native grasses, hydrangea and cosmos.
  • Plant perennials as much as possible. They do cost more up front than annuals but, since they’ll come back year after year, in the long-run you’ll save a lot of money not to mention the time saved not working in the yard. Plant bulbs and seeds whenever you can as they are even cheaper than starts. Most bulbs and some seeds are perennial but read the label to be sure.
  • Plant far apart and fill in during later years. Remember plants do grow, and some of them quite a bit! Although it may look a little bare the first year, there’s nothing worse than an overgrown mess of a yard, which is what you’ll have in a few years if you plant too much too close.
  • Look for plants that will be in bloom or have interesting color during different seasons. You don’t want a yard that blooms profusely in early summer but does nothing else the other 10 months of the year. Leave some space to fill in during the fall/ winter so you can see what looks pretty in the nursery and in other people’s yards during those drabber months.
  • Let your creative side go wild! You don’t have to be a landscaper to have a pretty yard. Like any kind of artwork just have fun with it and try different things. The great thing about gardening is that nothing is permanent, you can always make changes.

To read my previous posts about turning our front lawn into a garden click here and here.

Refer-A-Store Incentives for our Customers

I’m thrilled to announce the recent publication of Bambootique’s 2008-2009 wholesale catalog! This is our first ever paper catalog and is available to retailers interested in carrying our products in their stores.

Lots of shops have been asking for the catalog already but we’d love to hear from more. If you know of a great fair trade, eco-friendly or just a cool boutique or gift shop, refer the store manager to our website, where they can request a copy of our wholesale catalog at no charge. If that shop becomes a customer, YOU get a $50 gift certificate to Bambootique just for the referral! (Just be sure to let us know you made the referral so we can give credit where it’s due!)

Thanks to those of you who have already referred your favorite shop to us! We think our products are pretty great and the more stores we get them into, the more we benefit women artisans.

You’ll find a list of stores already carrying Bambootique’s products here.

“Call and Response” Movie To Be Released Soon

My pastor informed me yesterday of the soon-to-be-released documentary on the modern global slave trade, Call And Response. The film, due out this fall, is made by Justin Dillon and includes appearances by a whole host of celebrity spokespeople from Ashley Judd to Madeline Albright. It brings light to the horrifying reality that over 27 million are enslaved today, many of them children and many working in the sex industry. There will be a sneak preview of this film this Thursday evening at the Living Room Theater in Portland, although I’m not sure if it’s open to the public or invitation only. I couldn’t find information about the preview online but heard about it from my pastor. It will be released in theaters in the fall. It looks terribly disturbing but the truth sometimes is, and so I will watch it to better understand the terror and suffering faced by so many and what I can do about it.

A Benefit of Blogging – A Freezer Full of Ice Cream!

After last week’s post about ice cream with fair trade ingredients, Marcia Blackwell of Blackwell Organic’s caught wind and asked if I’d like to try some of her company’s treats. Would I ever? A few days later I received a large box containing four pints of gelato and sorbet – chocolate peanut butter gelato, coffee gelato, mango sorbet and strawberry sorbet. Of course I sampled them all right away and I have to say the sorbets are my favorite, especially the strawberry. It’s rich and smooth and tastes like the real fresh strawberries it’s made from. No artificial flavors in sight. I thought I would prefer the gelatos but they are dairy-free (made with soy) and I’m more of a dairy girl. The chocolate peanut-butter was my favorite of the two but the soy makes it a tiny bit grainy which couldn’t compare with the smoothness of the sorbets. And the best thing about this company is they use all organic ingredients as well as many fair trade ingredients (chocolate, cocoa, vanilla, etc.) so they really are progressive in many ways.

Blackwell’s Organics is only sold in stores on the east coast right now, but if you can find it give it a try. For the rest of us they do ship it using dry ice but I have a hard time recommending that method because it’s not exactly light on fossil fuels. To get to the West Coast before melting it had to be shipped by air in a large non-recyclable styrofoam container. As much as I love their product, I think I’ll stick to locally made options using sustainable ingredients until Blackwell’s starts stocking in stores out here. (Marcia did tell me they ship by UPS ground whenever they can, and are looking into more sustainable packaging options, so things may be changing for the better). If you can find it near you though, try it! You’ll love it (especially that strawberry sorbet…)

Speaking of ice cream, Karen Pridogich was the first (and only!) person to email to tell me she found fair trade ice cream in the store. She tried Ben and Jerry’s Fair Trade Vanilla and gives it a thumbs up. For her effort, Karen wins a silk cosmetic bag from Bambootique, handmade by women in Cambodia. Nice job Karen!

Chill Out With Fair Trade Ice Cream

I was thrilled to learn today from Co-op America that fair trade ice cream is now available! No, this is not ice cream imported from developing countries (it would be awfully melty by the time it arrived here!). I’m talking about delicious cold stuff that uses fair trade ingredients like coffee, vanilla and, of course, chocolate! According to Co-op America, brands of fair trade ice cream include certain flavors of Temptation Organics, Blackwell’s Organic, Ben and Jerry’s, and Stonyfield Farms. I love that fair trade ingredients are finding their way into so many good things, so there’s less reason to feel guilty eating it (although I think it’s safe to say the calorie count is no different!). I haven’t seen this good stuff in any stores around me, although I’m going to start looking.

The first person to tell me where they found fair trade ice cream, what flavor and how they liked it gets a special gift from Bambootique.

Great Stories, Great Jewelry Coming From Nepal

I’m often asked about the women who make the products I sell through my online fair trade boutique, Bambootique. Customers like to know more about them, see pictures, and understand how I am sure the products are made under fair trade conditions. I thought highlighting one of my artisan groups would be an insightful way to shed light on the types of organizations my company supports.

One of my favorite fair trade organizations is Guardian Village Handicrafts (GVH). GVH is a non-profit headed by several American ex-pats and based in Kathmandu, Nepal, one of the world’s poorest cities. GVH runs a home for children who have come from abusive situations. Along with the children’s home they run an educational center where 30 or so women at a time, mainly single mothers, receive training on various vocational skills to support themselves and their children.

Ritu is one of the single mothers who has received training from GVH. Ritu’s husband abandoned her and her 1-year old daughter shortly after she was born. Like many uneducated young women, her options for employment seemed limited to begging or prostitution. Once she found GVH though Ritu received training in jewelry making and quickly began to earn enough income to provide for herself and her daughter, who recently turned 2.

Jewelry-making is just one of the vocational skills taught at GVH but it’s the skill where I come in. GVH ships their jewelry to a warehouse in the Midwest staffed by volunteers. I order jewelry from the warehouse and sell it online and at Bambootique events. I pay for the jewelry up front so the women receive payment before I ever sell each piece. In addition to the women earning a livable income from their jewelry making, a portion of the proceeds go back to support the children’s home so every cent of the price I pay goes back to do good.

I love Guardian Village Handicrafts for the stories of the incredibly hard-working women but I also just really love their jewelry! Each time I receive a new shipment it’s like Christmas for me. The women do much of their own designs as well as getting ideas from US fashion magazines, and they really have a good eye. The color combinations are really pretty and the type of beads they use are so interesting, from hand-blown glass to water buffalo bone to light-catching colored glass beads. It’s all so pretty and I haven’t seen a piece yet I didn’t like.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Hand-tied Turquoise Necklace and Earrings

Ritu’s Necklace (Water Buffalo Bone)

Green Sea Beaded Bracelet

Kids Go Global Travel Contest – My Other Blog

In my other life I’m a mom to Grace, 17 months old, and my husband Steve and I have a separate blog, Kids Go Global, where we blog about travel with kids, especially internationally. Today we launched a really cool contest with the grand prize of an Ergo Baby Carrier travel system. If you have kids and have ever traveled with them, this contest is for you!

Why the “law of attraction” doesn’t attract me

Everywhere I go these days there is this buzz around the “law of attraction.” Hardly a day goes by where I don’t hear someone (usually female) talk about “the universe” and what they are giving to it or getting from it. In all the conversations I’ve participated in or eavesdropped on, I haven’t heard anyone say what I’m about to announce: I don’t believe in the “law of attraction.”

I can almost hear the gasps as I type. If the law of attraction does exist despite my unbelief, then I suppose this will come back to bite me, since the basic premise of the law is that what you put out into the universe is what you get in return. I guess we’ll see about that.

The topic is on my mind tonight because I just watched a DVRed episode of Oprah featuring a panel of experts on the “law.” It’s really fascinating stuff. Much of what they say I have found to be true in my own life. Loving myself is important. Having a peaceful soul can be my reality. Having a vision for my future is helpful in achieving my goals and dreams. But I just don’t buy the central idea they hold as gospel, that what I put out into the universe is what I get back.

I think I missed the spiritual shift in our society from believing in God to believing in “The Universe.” I don’t think I even know what “the universe” means but I do know that belief in a faceless, nameless, personality-less cosmos does nothing to bring me any peace or hope. At the risk of sounding preachy, I hold fast to the traditional belief in a loving God whose son Jesus died for me. I love myself because He loves me and no matter what comes into my life, I believe He cares for me so I can trust what He sends my way. Notice the difference here – He sends it my way, I don’t attract it myself.

Ultimately the “law of attraction” is overly simplistic and leaves me with my mouth gaping open at how many important questions its proponents leave unanswered. What about the hundreds of millions of people in the world who go to bed hungry every night. Did they not put out enough “good energy” into the universe to get even their basic needs met? If the “law of attraction” is true, why are children orphaned from HIV? Did they not have a strong enough vision of their parents living? Or the millions of Americans who can’t afford basic healthcare for themselves. If they all could just envision having health insurance would the system immediately shift in their favor? Or maybe it’s a cosmic power struggle between the haves and the haves-nots. The haves are envisioning getting so much stuff for themselves that they are in fact creating the injustice around them.

If the law of attraction is true, it follows that we are each responsible (or to blame) for whatever wonderful or horrific events or things come into our lives. When I look around me and around the world I see far too many humans suffering, often at the hands of other humans, through no fault of their own and I shudder at the suggestion that it is only for lack of “visioning” that the sick are sick, that the poor are poor, and that the oppressed are oppressed.

I feel I’m alone in my disgust at this popular idea. Am I?

Get Your Fair Trade Chocolate Fix From Bambootique

New at Bambootique, you can now order two delicious flavors of Seattle-based Theo Chocolate through our website! Priced at $3.25 each, these bars of organic, fair trade dark chocolate are truly heavenly. Choose from Nib Brittle or Coffee. Yum!

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