Archive | May, 2011

2011 Organic Sunscreen List From EWG

It’s out!  It’s a list that I look forward to every year – the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group’s) top sunscreen ratings for 2011. To be listed as one of the 128 best beach and sport sunscreens, the product must contain broad spectrum protection against UVA/UVB rays and have fewer hazardous chemicals that can be absorbed into your body via the skin.  Click here to view these top sunscreens.

A frontrunner in organic sunscreen protection for 2011 has emerged this summer and because it’s Canadian manufactured (yes!!) Green Beaver sunscreen is my first feature for sunscreen articles.  This is a company that has listened to parents and is doing organic sunscreen right!  Here is the list of why this sunscreen is your must have for the months ahead:

~ The Green Beaver Company Certified Organic Kids Non-whitening Sunscreen SPF 30 has a rating score of 1 from EWG. This is an excellent score for ingredients and UVA/B protection.

~ Sunscreen manufactured in Canada (I’m mentioning this again because I love this and it’s important). Help support Canadian made personal care products with buying Green Beaver.

~ Listened to parents that find the white coating from most organic sunscreens and have added a non-whitening component to the sunscreen.

~ Green Beaver is chemical free and fragrance-free sunscreen making this an excellent product for children/adults with sensitive skin or eczema.

~ The manufacturing of the sunscreen includes non-nano based technology.

~  Just a cool tip – Green Beaver sunscreens contain Canadian grown anti-oxidant raspberry extract.

I always shop for my sunscreen at Nayla Natural Care each Spring. I think it’s important to give back my consumer dollars to a store that has blazed the way with providing education and safe products for the last few years. Nayla Natural Care has recently been recommended as a place to shop when buying safe products for your family by Author Gillian Deacon of ‘There’s Lead In Your Lipstick’. Store owner Gwen has always worked hard to provide safe and truly non-toxic options, not just following consumer trends.  There is more that goes into sourcing safe personal care products so I like to support companies that research and educate consumers. And by bringing Green Beaver into her store this Spring, Nayla has continued to provide trust based customer service to her customers.

Here is the packaging you’re looking for with Green Beaver and both formulas are the same (adult or child) and we’ve learned that 30+ is the highest SPF factor we need to purchase for safe sunscreen. It is actually being regulated that sunscreens don’t brand their products higher than 30 in coming years…funny enough I’ve seen a toxic sunscreen a few years back marketed to babies and the SPF was 90.  It’s getting easier parents – the work has been done!  Mineral based sunscreens are the safe products for your entire family for sun care this summer. Green Beaver’s only active ingredient is zinc which is great because it blocks UV rays at the skin,  before it penetrates the skin. Looking to stock up on sunscreen?  Reward two Canadian companies for excellence by one-stop shopping for Green Beaver at Nayla Natural Care.  Green Beaver is pending FDA approval in the USA, so only Canadian addresses can order this sunscreen.  So for now, Canadians can be proud with Green Beaver and US residents can remain proud to purchase California Baby (has rated excellent for another year with EWG) which is not available in Canada.  We both have our ‘go to’ products to keep us safe and chemical free this summer. Here’s the packaging your looking for (note: the adult and child formulas are the same so feel free to load up on the kid’s sunscreen and use for yourself too. I never buy separate sunscreens for myself and the kids…we also use the child friendly packaging on the entire family).

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Hosting A Harry Potter Party

We all know I’m a Potterhead correct?  I’m sure people think I’m a little mad being and adult and being so entranced with the Harry Potter series, but it’s a journey I took with both of my sons last summer (reading the novels) and it’s an adventure I will always treasure. It’s also very cool that so many of the Harry Potter story-lines and characters are very relate-able for kids in their everyday lives. So it was really not surprising when my 8 year old son announced he wanted to host a Harry Potter themed party for his 9th birthday party. I was up for the challenge of bringing some wizard magic to this very special celebration and with the Harry Potter movie franchise coming to an end this summer (Deathly Hallows Part 2) in July, I figure I’m not the only parent on the block having a child requesting this theme for a birthday party. I’ve been so excited to write the 2nd part of this article (Part 1: How To Play Muggle Quidditch) because it was the best party we’ve thrown for my oldest son to date and actually very low cost. The best part with hosting a kid’s party like this – my husband and I got to flex our imaginative muscle which is always fun!

We started the party with having the guest’s parents drop-off their children at a local park with a grass field. Here we played Muggle Quidditch (wizard sport similar to football) and I’ve written about setting up the Quidditch game here.

After Quidditch was finished, we started Part 1 & 3 of the Tri-wizard Tournament. This is a magical contest that takes place in the 4th novel “Goblet of Fire” and there are 3 tasks.  The first task of the tournament is for all the ‘champions’ to retrieve a specific golden dragon egg. We included the concept of ‘golden eggs’ into our own tri-wizard task by having a good old-fashioned egg toss. We painted the eggs with gold paint and the boys tossed raw eggs back and forth in the field. It was a fun game, but over pretty quick.

The 2nd task in the tri-wizard tournament is for each of the champions to rescue something valuable that had been taken from them in the Hogwarts lake. Having to breathe underwater for an hour, they rescue people in their life that are very important to them from merpeople. We didn’t incorporate this task into our party, but if you have a pool, pond, or large basin of water, you could get party guests to retrieve items.

The last task (3rd task) of the tri-wizard tournament in Harry Potter is for the champions to navigate through a maze of mystery and danger to find the tri-wizard tournament cup. As luck would have it, next to the field where our party guests played Quidditch, is a creek surrounded by a forest. I took 15 of the wizard looking goblets we’ve used during 7 Halloween parties (for potions) and hid these in the woods.  The goblets actually looked very similar to the one in the movie and the kids had a good time running around the forest looking for cups. Once a child found their own cup, they returned it to the field and started helping another child that hadn’t found a goblet yet.

After the Tri-wizard tournament, the kids walked back to our house and we started the first of two games: Pin The Sock On Dobby and Jelly Bean tasting. I can’t take credit for the Dobby game…my friend Bill on Facebook had just hosted a Harry Potter party and shared this great party idea. My dear friend Patti drew a life size Dobby for us to use as a cut-out – see the below picture and the amazing job she did. If you don’t have a poster or person that can draw, you might want to order a life size stand up Dobby that I found on this site. They also have a life size Snape character…older kids might think it’s funny to ‘pin the shampoo bottle’ on this beloved greasy character. You simply cut out some socks, shampoo bottles, etc. from paper and use tacky tape, grab a blindfold, spin the child around and send them towards the cutout.  Here is the beautiful Dobby that was hand drawn for our party:

The other indoor game planned for the party was a jelly bean testing contest. In the Harry Potter books, there are wizard jelly beans called Bertie Bott’s Flavor Beans and there are flavors such as vomit, rotton egg, earwax, dirt…you get the picture. Trust me, 9 year old boys love this stuff!  We actually found a brand called Bean Boozled and each box contains jelly bean flavors that look alike but taste different from each other. Example is 2 black jelly beans – 1 is skunk spray the other is licorice. You can’t tell which of the flavors you’ve gotten unless you taste them. They are have some of the funny flavors included in the Harry Potter jelly beans so this guessing game went with our theme.

For party decorations I reused Francesco’s cloth name banner that we’ve used every year from Green Planet Parties. The camouflage fabric of his reusable banner fit nicely with the subtle Deathly Hallows theme of the party. I would now like to talk about the loot bags. I’m very proud of myself with these bags and their contents because I actually helped created a bit of magic with my own little hands!! I originally thought the kids would decorate t-shirts at the party with the Deathly Hallows symbol, but after brush stroking this symbol to personalize the cloth goodie bags, I realized this just wasn’t a good idea for energetic 9 year old boys. I’m so happy with this decision. So instead I painted the sign of the Deathly Hallows onto the outside of the goodie bag and included a matching cotton t-shirt inside each bag as the main give-away. I thought they turned out pretty well but I learned it’s harder to paint a triangle onto cotton than I thought:

And what do you say are those AMAZING dark mark’s attached to the rolled up tees in the front of the above photo?  Those would be dark mark tattoos and I could not wait to see the reaction for guests and my sons when they arrived for the party. I included one in each child’s loot bag, but I’m sure kids would have loved to have them applied when they first arrived at the party. When I opened the package that contained these tattoos I was literally screeching with joy.  I immediately put one on myself and each of my boys and loved the result. Here is how it looked on Francesco’s arm.  Even Ronald Weasley would say these are “wicked”! You can purchase these at a shop called Electrik Pink Pirate and the shop owner is awesome to work with!

I also included wooden wizard wands and organic jelly beans in addition to the t-shirts and dark mark tattoos in the goodie bags.  I think any fellow Potterhead would approve! I was completely inspired by this party because it was so much fun to plan and enjoy. I created a new category on the Green Planet Parties site called Wizard Theme Party. I hope it helps to inspire parents with planning a wonderful wizard themed party that has the guests believing that magic and our childhood is always around us.

Related Posts:

How To Play Muggle Quidditch

 

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Finding Food In Glass Jars

I had a great question arrive from Dan who wrote: “I am having a harder and harder time finding foods in glass jars (mayo, vinegar, ketchup, etc.). Can you help with a source?” Thanks for the awesome topic to write about Dan! It instantly reminded me of ‘The Ketchup Riddle’ Rick Smith, co-author of Slow Death By Rubber Duck, writes about. Here is the quote from Slow Death by Rubber Duck that is promoted by a late-night run to the supermarket by Rick:

I stood blinking – staring – at the ketchup selection, honestly perplexed.

~ The organic ketchup came in a plastic bottle.
~ Alymer ketchup, an old Canadian brand made from locally grown tomatoes, also came in plastic.
~ The only option in a glass bottle was the non-organic, non-local Heinz ketchup.

Rick summarized his ketchup paralysis and although I found it entertaining to read, imagine putting this much thought into every product we purchase at the grocery store or mall. It does create a type of paralysis for consumers…even eco-savvy ones. I completely agree with Rick in his summary of this situation that only government action can solve the problem of having to choose between limiting packaging containing plasticizing chemicals or pesticide use, or production of local food. Decisions like this creates huge challenges for consumers that want to make better choices, but run up against all of these questions when purchasing something supposedly easy like ketchup.

Some of you might be wondering why Dan is trying to find food that is packaged in glass. The plastic packaging that surrounds our food can contain plasticizers and other chemicals. Food packaging and chemicals like BPA and Phthalates have been very newsworthy lately. This article isn’t aimed to scare you, but we need to be aware that although chemicals like phthalates are starting to be regulated in toys, there isn’t regulation for food packaging because government and large companies don’t think the trace amounts found in packaging is enough to warrant concern. But savvy green consumers are looking for better options. We know that those squeezable plastic bottles that we purchase our condiments contain plasticizers. We know that you cannot find a tin can in your traditional grocery store that doesn’t contains an epoxy liner – containing BPA – that separates the food or liquid from the aluminum can. Lead in juice boxes, produce and meat counters that place our food on styrofoam and wrap in PVC wrap to ensure ‘freshness’ …the list goes on and on. It seems that plastic is most often the material that touches our food and for numerous reasons regularity discussed at Mommy Footprint, we are trying to avoid this – for human health improvement and for the environment. So after saying all this, the easiest way to avoid food that is packaged in plastic is to avoid heavily packaged foods. Don’t worry, this isn’t my only suggestion for Dan, but when you start shopping with a heightened awareness of packaging, little lightbulbs start going off in your heads and even better if you drop a few hints at your local grocer. They have the power to order our favorite condiments in glass jars – it might be the first time they are asked. Take a closer look at what you purchase. I love the example of cheese strings and yogurt tubes. They are a favorite snack item brought out at preschools and lunches in schools all across America. Cheese strings are sold in completely plasticized packaging…right up against the cheese! Once it’s pulled away, you can tell the outside of the cheese string has been effected…it’s rubbery. You are telling me that packaging hasn’t effected the quality of this product? Another is yogurt tubes that are again packaged in plasticized plastic, but then as a treat, many parents pop them in the freezer to serve the yogurt frozen! So we are taking another product containing plasticizers and then weakening the packaging by placing them in the freezer before given them to children to eat. Gross. And yes, I did used to buy and love the convenience of yogurt tubes, but haven’t purchased them in years because of the issue of packaging. I would hope the power of my consumerism helps to drive change even with a basic item such as yogurt.

On to better choices with food and packaging. It does seem to be hit and miss in large grocers with items like ketchup, mayo, etc. and glass containers. I’ve purchased them before but it’s not a guaranteed offering. Visiting a store like Whole Foods will open up many options to you, but here are two that I’ve found online that offer not only better options with the packaging of products they sell, but improving the quality of the food.

Tropical Traditions
Leading the way with their vast line of coconut oil (my new favorite product) this company has a big commitment to understanding how the products they carry are produced and manufactured. I found many organic vinegars, oils, etc. on this site and many are packaged in glass. I thought the products listed under Organic Food category might be helpful for the everyday consumer. This site’s knowledge of coconut oil benefits is amazing and I recently started following their Fan page on Facebook. Lots of great information there!

Eden Organic
We’ve talked about Eden Organic before, we love their commitment to packaging their beans in tin cans, without using BPA in the can lining. The food, not surprising, is sourced with supporting organic farmers and providing consumers options that are wheat-free, gluten-free, low in sodium, etc. Funny the parallel in healthy food and better packaging options?! Going through the Eden site, I found juices, sauces, butter, oils, vinegars, tomato products that are packaged in amber glass rather than plastic.

We do seem to have options. They are not endless like the contemporary brands found at traditional grocery stores. Voice your concerns regarding packaging and your food. We are continually talking about making better choices with the food we buy: local, organic, GMO-free, etc. Let’s think about how those products are stored and packaged because trace amounts of chemicals leaching into my food is something I’m concerned about. Stop purchasing food that is packaged in soft plastic and cans and tell your grocery manager why you’ve made this decision. You’ve left the decision in their hands where you’ve decided to spend your money – hopefully these decisions will help inspire change.

Related Articles:

A Plastic Rant


PVC Items In Your Everyday Life

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How To Play Muggle Quidditch

I’ve been so excited to write this article since my son’s recent birthday party because we successfully hosted a very fun and low-cost Harry Potter themed birthday party.  And the best part?  We setup a Quidditch match for the party guests and it was amazing!! The game of Quidditch was probably the highlight for everyone that attended the party so I’m writing this article in two parts: How To Play Muggle Quidditch and How To Host A Harry Potter Wizard Party. The sport of Muggle Quidditch is not only reserved for Harry Potter themed birthday parties, I discovered that two Canadian Universities actually have Quidditch teams and have organized it as sport. I contacted the administrator of the UBC Quidditch Team via their Facebook Group and Verena was super helpful with answering questions (thank you Verena!!).  It learned from Verena that improvising is the way to go with a budget and setting up Quidditch at low cost. The UBC team hangs hoops in trees to act as goals and both universities (UBC and McGill) use a person as the golden snitch, rather than a ball. This was the key with our Quidditch success, but let me backup and list the items I needed to purchase and collect to get the party setup.

~ Via Evite to party guests I created two teams and asked kids to wear red shirts or blue shirts to the party (one team was Gryffindor and the other was Ravenclaw).

~ Started off thinking I’d build 6 Quidditch goals that looked like this…

…and I was seriously on my way to building them.  But I’m SO glad my brother-in-law offered his advice saving me a lot of expense and work. He pointed out that the kids will not actually be flying so there wasn’t a point to building the goals like they appear in the Harry Potter movies. I would have hung hula hoops from trees, but the park field I used for the party didn’t have overhanging trees. So I came up with an inexpensive alternative from my local hardware store. I purchased thick metal wires that could bend. I was originally thinking of cutting hula hoops in half and sticking them into the grass, but since you need 6 goals in Quidditch I didn’t see the point in buying plastic,  in order to cut it up. The steel rods worked perfectly and they stuck firmly into the ground (bonus) so I didn’t have to worry about them being knocked over when a rambunctious 9 year old took aim at the goal. The bendable wires looked like this:

You need six of these goals – 3 per side for each ‘Keeper’ to guard. Each steel rod cost approx. $3 each.  I contemplated painting the rods with gold paint so that they were easy to see against the grass on the field, but as you can tell from the picture, the kids didn’t have a problem finding them as targets.

I might as well talk about the Quaffle we used (one of the balls in wizard Quidditch and the only one used in our match of Muggle Quidditch) because you can see the scruffy ball we found in the above picture. You want a ball size that the kids can easily hold in one hand. We also wanted the ball to be soft so that nobody would get hurt – you know how 9 year old boys get.  Unlike wizard Quidditch, we opted to only have 4 different types of players on the field: 1) Keeper – one person per team and it’s their responsibility to guard the 3 goals and attempt to stop the Chasers from scoring. 2) Snitch – this involves only 1 person for both teams 3) Seeker – each team has a seeker. This is the position Harry Potter plays on Gryffindor’s Quidditch team in the Harry Potter books. The job of the seekers is to pay attention to when the Snitch runs onto the field and try to ‘capture’ the snitch. It’s a very exciting position because the game cannot end until the snitch has been captured. Once the snitch is captured, the team receives 150 points, usually ending the game. 4) Chaser – we had more than 3 per side in our Quidditch match, and these players control the Quaffle and try to put it through the hoops.  Each goal from the chasers are 10 points. We didn’t have beaters or bludgers because this would involve hitting balls with bats and that’s not a great idea for high spirited 9 year old boys.

When I first started planning the Quidditch match I assumed I’d be hiding the snitch in the grass for the Seeker to find. (I was going to paint a golf ball with gold paint)….BUT there is a way easier and fun way to incorporate a snitch into Muggle Quidditch. You dress a person in gold clothes and have them intermittently run into the match as the snitch. My niece volunteered to be the snitch during our Quidditch match and she was brilliant. It’s better to have a fast, older child be the snitch because you don’t want the game to end quickly. I went to a thrift store and paid $5 for a bright golden shirt and pair of pants for my niece to wear. Then we hung a long sock out of her pant’s back waistband and put a tennis ball inside the sock. We rotated the Seekers every 10 minutes so that everyone had a turn being a Seeker and every few minutes during the match we would send my niece (the golden snitch) into the match to run around. The child playing the Seeker tried to grab the sock and this was how the snitch would be captured. It was so exciting when we’d yell “snitch in!” and everyone would stop to watch the seekers chase the snitch..just like in the movie. Our snitch was able to run out of bounds to be ‘safe’ and rest up.  My son, the birthday boy was the Seeker that ended the game after an hour by capturing the snitch and I’ll never forget the look of pure joy on his face…it was just awesome!

Another important aspect of our Muggle Quidditch match is we incorporated freeze tag so the boys wouldn’t be tackling each other for the Quaffle (ball). The game got really competitive and having the kids have to freeze and pass the ball as soon as they were tagged was great. I had two adults that refereed the game and that was very helpful too. When a Chaser was tagged holding the Quaffle, they had to freeze, then pass the ball instantly to someone on their team.  This kept the game moving quickly and prevented any of the kids getting hurt. We also decided not to have the children run around with brooms (while we’re on the topic of injuries). You know your audience and I think the brooms would have interfered with the boys running around and would have ended up possibly spearing each other by accident. I’m glad we decided no brooms because it kept the game moving quickly.

As a huge fan of Harry Potter myself, it was complete joy and magic for me to sit and keep score while watching my kids & their guests play Muggle Quidditch. Every time the Quaffle went through a hoop I recorded 10 points for the team. At the end of the game when the snitch was caught, the winning team was awarded 150 points and the match ended. It was by-far the highlight of the Harry Potter party and even children that weren’t familiar with Quidditch, Harry Potter, etc. had fun and didn’t feel left out of the game. That is one of the secrets to hosting a themed party – making the games fun enough that even guests without the knowledge still enjoy themselves.

We had parents drop party guests off at a park with a grass field down the street from our house. This is where the Quidditch match took place and we pretty much used the entire grass field to play. I was meaning to make a goal crease in front of each of the 3 hoops for the Keeper, but didn’t have time.  I would say this step isn’t required. Have party guests wear different colored shirts to the party so it’s clear who is on each team or borrow pinnies for the kids to wear. I also told parents on the Evite to dress the kids in clothes that were weather appropriate. The kids got muddy, but nobody cared when it started to sprinkle with rain – we were having too much fun!

The party fun didn’t end with Muggle Quidditch, but the other party activities will be described in my next article ‘How To Host A Harry Potter Wizard Party’. Ideas for wizard themed loot bags and decorations located below. Also to watch a video of Muggle Quidditch in action, here are some reference links:

Quidditch Soaring On Campus – Members of the McGill Quidditch Team talk about ‘Quidditch fever’ on campus

Green Planet Parties – Wizard Themed Party Supplies

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