Recycling Our Dinner

I’ve been on a new recipe kick lately which has led to some fabulous dinners (like Moroccan-spiced beef with ghk0105moroccanbeefcouscous– see right) as well as some major dinner disasters. A few days ago I spent the better part of an afternoon assembling a Potato, Ham and Spinach gratin from Cooking Light. It sounded so tasty and the picture looked gorgeous, all nicely browned and crisp on top. It. Was. Horrible.  The recipe said to let it bake for a total of an hour and 30 minutes. Well, at that point the potatoes were still starchy, hard and just plain yuck. I let it go for about another 30 minutes and they still weren’t great, but it was after 7 and we were hungry so my husband and I ate. My husband insisted it wasn’t bad but I did notice he doused it with his Don Julio hot sauce. I was so disappointed that I ate a bit and then just filled up on chocolate cake instead (always a good solution to a cooking disaster).

Not wanting to throw out all my hard work, I put the gratin leftovers into the fridge. The next evening there the gratin was, still staring at me. I knew I couldn’t face that casserole for another meal. If it wasn’t good fresh, it would be horrible heated in the microwave. Instead of just tossing it as I was tempted to do, I instead set forth to disassemble the entire thing and see what I could do.

The gratin was made in layers so was fairly easy to take apart. First I heated some olive oil in a large skillet. Then I began to pick the first layer of potatoes off and dropped them in the hot oil. I broke them into smaller pieces with a spatula and let them fry while I got down to the next layer, the spinach (and kale I had added) and ham. These I put into a separate smaller pan over medium heat where I let them just warm up a bit. The recipe had called for a milk and flour mixture to be poured over the casserole before baking, so the greens and ham were nice and creamy. The bottom layer was more potatoes which I added in with the ones already frying, and I let the potatoes sautee for about 20 minutes.

Once the greens and ham were well-heated I poured three lightly beaten eggs over the top and scrambled everything together. I served the final product of sauteed potatoes with rosemary plus greens, ham and eggs along with sides of organic applesauce and glasses of pinot noir wine.  My husband and I both agreed the recycled dinner was a fabulous comfort-food meal. Almost as good as chocolate cake.

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Rainforest Alliance Flowers At Costco

Buying sustainable flowers at an affordable price may be easier than you (or I) think. My brother Caleb gave me a call the other day from his local Costco in Chicago just to let me know he found Rainforest Alliance certified roses there ra_seal2and he thought I’d like to know. I’m a Costco member but not a big shopper there, not on matters of principle but because I get so overwhelmed by the size of the place! If you’re in the market for sustainable flowers, love Costco and don’t want to break the bank, then go for these eco-friendly, people-friendly beauties.

Rainforest Alliance certification ensures the flower farms (usually in South America) protect native forests, waterways and soil and that they provide healthcare, education, fair wages and safe working conditions for workers. The flower industry, especially in South America, has been found repeatedly to exploit workers so this kind of certification is fantastic. So go ahead, indulge in something pretty next time you’re at Costco. You can feel good about it. (And pick some up for me while you’re at it, would ya?)

Pandora.com Is My New Favorite Thing

Do you ever get stuck listening to the same old music but don’t have time to search for hours for new music you like? I do! Until I discovered the free music site pandora.com I relied on my husband to introduce me to new music. Usually I’m a late-adopter when it comes to anything related to technology, but I jumped right in on this one. I’ve discovered all kinds of new music and I can’t stop listening!

Here’s how Pandora works. First you type in an artist you really love. Then the site creates a playlist of other songs and artists with similar characteristics you might like. I haven’t been disappointed yet.eastmountainsouth

The first band I typed in was “eastmountainsouth” and I discovered that I also love Patty Griffin, Matt Nathan, The Fray and every other artist Pandora has recommended for me. Really it’s fantastic.

You can’t download your Pandora playlist but you can listen to it indefinitely from your computer for free. I guess this is eco-friendly music at its best. No CDs or stereos needed, no ipods or anything else for that matter – just your computer and an internet connection. Give it a try and see if you don’t love it as much as I do.

Write A Review, Get A Giftcard. It’s That Easy.

Bambootique has a brand new review feature on the site!  When I shop for just about anything, I like to see what other people have thought of that product. Now Bambootique offers that and I need YOU to help kick things off.

The first 10 past customers to write reviews will receive a $10 Bambootique gift card redeemable online or at the next trunk show. All you do is go to www.shopbambootique.com and find a product you’ve bought before. Click on “Reviews,” log into your account, and write away.  All feedback is welcome and please leave a star rating of the product as well.

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The site doesn’t notify me when a new review is written, so to make sure you get your giftcard email me at beth at shopbambootique dot com once you’ve written the review.

I’m looking forward to the feedback on individual products and I know future customers will appreciate it too.

Gratefully,

Beth

Four Fabulous Online Eco-Boutiques For Moms, Babies And Kids

As a fairly new mom (Grace just turned 2) I’ve found my desire to live in a sustainable way does not usually conincide with the marketing messages and products pumped out by most corporations targeting my demographic. There are some great online alternatives though, and these four I’m going to recommend all happen to be run out of mom’s homes within a 10-mile radius from my home. I’ve bought from some of them, am keeping my eye on others. I can vouch for all their products and customer service though, because I personally know the owner of each and every one. They are all proud mamas working hard to offer healthy alternatives for their own families and others.

Itsabelly Baby Concierge – Melissa Moog recently published the great guide Going Green With Baby. The book is available on her website as well as a nice selection of natural, organic mom and baby-care products. Melissa’s primary focus is on baby-planning, so she can offer an array of services to new or expecting mamas in getting adjusted to life with baby as well.

Punkin Butt – I recently purchased a stack of cotton training pants plus a cute little potty chair for Grace from Punkin Butt. Owner Audrey was so helpful in her recommendations, having just gone through potty-training with her own little girl. Punkin Butt’s specialty is cloth diapering but they also carry a great array of natural baby products as well as having dozens of helping articles on the website.

Little Jumping Beans – This is a really fun site of eco-friendly baby products run by a Tualatin mom, Jheni. The site is super-easy to navigate and there’s even a baby registry. I was amazed to see the array of products Jheni offers, knowing she runs the business from home.

Clementine NW – This site is primarily focused on eco-friendly baby gifts. It’s a great one if you want to pick out a fun gift basket for a new or expecting mom, and want to make sure the products are good for her, baby and the planet. Owner Brenna has put together a wonderful selection of natural toys, organic cotton blankets and bibs, and a great selection of organic, natural skincare products.

Bambootique’s New Look

Bambootique‘s homepage just got a facelift! Now on the home page you’ll be able to see at a glance what newest fair trade products have just arrived, the latest featured artisan, plus easy ways to get all around the website. Take a peek and tell me what you think, either by leaving a comment here or emailing me directly. Enjoy!

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This fabulous update is thanks to the work of Chijo Takeda of Dogpaw Studio.

Hood River Trunk Show This Wednesday

If you are so lucky to live in the lovely town of Hood River, stop by Small Planet Trading (202 Cascade Avenue Suiteglitterbag B) on Wednesday Feb. 18th from 5-8pm. It’s Girl’s Night Out and this fabulous eco-friendly, fair trade shop is hosting a Bambootique trunk show. You’ll find great bags from Afghanistan, Thailand and Cambodia, jewelry from Honduras and Thailand and lots of my other favorites from Bambootique’s line-up that I hand-picked just for their event. There’ll be a great raffle as well as goodies to munch on while you shop.

For all you Portlanders, even if you won’t be in Hood River on Wednesday be sure to stop in Small Planet Trading next time you’re in Hood River. It’s a fabulous place to shop in one of my favorite small towns and they always have great finds!

World Vision Microenterprise Event Next Week

I’m looking forward to attending this World Vision event next Tuesday night in Lake Oswego, put on by Women of Vision. “Equipping the Entrepreneuial Poor” will be held February 17th from 7-9pm at Lake Oswego United Methodist Church (1855 Southshore Boulevard). It’s to be “a lively panel presentation and a discussion on Microenterprise Development” featuring a World Vision staff member and several local bankers involved with World Vision’s microlending program.

Microenterprise, or micro-lending, is at the heart of many of Bambootique’s artisan cooperatives. Millions of people innurlaili1 the developing world make their income from small businesses.  Over the last few decades micro-lending has vastly changed the business landscape for microentrpreneurs by providing them an alternative to loansharks. Sometimes all it takes is a small loan of $20, $100 or $500 to help a small business owner take their business to the next level, boosting their family out of poverty.

Learn more about the successes of microenterprise here.

New Rules Designed To Protect Kids Are Hurting Small Businesses

Have you heard about the new rules put out by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)? In response to the lead-tainted toy recalls in 2007, this legislation to require testing was to go into effect yesterday. Thankfully it did not.

How can I say that, you may ask? I’m a mother of a toddler so obviously I care greatly about the safety of her toys. stuffed_llama_lgandsmThe problem is this legislation went so far it has already caused some small, at-home crafters to shut down and some European toy makers (the kind that make amazing natural wooden and textile toys) to pull out of the US market altogether. The requirements for testing are so stringent that large mega-corporations like Mattel can afford the equipment involved while smaller shops and manufacturers can not.

Enforcement of the legislation has been delayed for a year thanks to the lobbying efforts of many small businesses, including a number here in Oregon.  The rules were simply over the top. They were to require testing on baby products like cloth diapers or all-cloth stuffed animals, like these knitted toys I carry at Bambootique, even though cloth has never been a problem when it comes to lead-poisoning of children. The rules were going to require consignment and second-hand stores to test their products for lead as well, which they would never be able to afford to do. The equipment to test for lead starts at $24,000, according to the Oregonian article on the topic a few days ago. Few and far between are the thrift shops with that kind of money laying around.

As a mother, I do want my daughter’s products to be safe. I also know that as a mother I have to use common sense when shopping for toys. When she was a teething infant of course I bought products that were certified lead-free. Even at two she still puts anything and everything into her mouth as she explores the world of tastes and textures. But I do not expect small toy companies, which I tend to prefer for Grace’s toys, to go to ridiculous lengths to test inputs like cotton or untreated wood that clearly have no or very little risk of lead. On the other hand I do expect the big guys like Mattel or Hasbro to test anything and everything, since it’s failures by companies like theirs that caused all this hub-bub in the first place.

Personally I’m continuing to go out of my way to choose toys for Grace from smaller companies like Plan toys or Melissa and Doug because I want to make sure they’re around for the long-haul. Keeping our kids safe is essential but protecting them to the point of eliminating unique, interesting playthings would be too much of a loss. I’m already afraid that the choices are dwindling.

What do you think? Does this legislation go too far? What do you think needs to be tested and what doesn’t? For more info or to advocate on this issue see National Bankruptcy Day’s website.

At A Loss: Where Can I Buy “Green” Clothes That Don’t Look Like Yoga Pants?

One area of my life that I have mostly failed at going green is my clothes. I like cute clothes that don’t cost a fortune and I don’t have a lot of time to shop. Mostly my clothes come from places like Target, Macy’s, Old Navy, Kohl’s and the Banana Republic or Gap sale racks.  Yes, my clothes come from purveyors of cheap, mass-produced goods.

I’ve tried some of the very cute eco-fashion boutiques here in Portland but the clothes either look like sweats or cost hundreds of dollars or both, not to mention the fact that those types of boutiques are not located conveniently for me here in Tualatin.  I’ve bought a few fair trade clothing items at a great shop in Manzanita (Oregon Coast) called Unfurl, which typically has a great sale table outside, but I only get there twice a year or so. My friend Karen P gets the cutest things at consignment shops but she’s about a size 2. I’m not so lucky and my endeavours to shop consignment stores have been mostly failures.

I’ve made up this list of criteria for clothing shopping. I’d love for my readers to share some wisdom with me on this subject, as there must be a better way.

  1. My preferred area to shop is a 5-10 mile radius of Tualatin (SW Portland and SW suburbs).  Online options are also great but as it is I get overwhelmed trying to buy eco-friendly clothes online.
  2. The clothing must be cute, not dumpy, and come in a range of sizes.
  3. Prices need to be reasonable. What’s reasonable? Let’s say $75 for dress pants, $40 for fun pants, $40 for blouses and $20 for kick-around tops. Currently I generally spend much less than that but for good-quality clothes I love that are also good for people and the planet, I’d stretch.
  4. Must have a good return policy. Half the time when I shop for clothes I have Grace with me so I don’t even bother trying them on until I get home, then return those that don’t fit later.
  5. Must be an OK place to bring a small, mostly well-behaved child.

Your input is appreciated!

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