Green Living, Holidays

O (Environmentally Friendly) Christmas Tree

Your Christmas tree is the focal point for making your holiday special. Decorating the tree is a cherished family tradition in many homes, even if the kids do argue over who gets to put the star on top of the tree this year. Unfortunately, it can also be a big part of your Christmas carbon footprint! Here are a few tips for making sure you choose the most environmentally friendly Christmas tree available.

Artificial Christmas trees aren’t the most environmentally friendly Christmas choice, due to the petroleum energy that goes into making them and the plastic materials they use. However, if you choose wisely, an artificial tree can be something you’ll use for years and years to come – reducing the impact it will have.

If you choose to go the artificial route then make sure you buy a quality tree that will last. You’ll also need to have a place to store it in between Christmases. If you really want to reduce the impact your tree has, try finding a second-hand reusable artificial tree for sale. Goodwill, the Salvation Army and many thrift stores might have one this time of year from people who are upgrading.

Cut trees are still a favorite choice for many people. Picking your own tree is always fun and, once you have it at home, it’ll give off a wonderful smell! Not to mention the fact that you can choose the exact kind of tree you want. Norway Spruce is a favorite, but my personal favorite is Balsam. Here in Maine, we have some on our property and I love the smell.

Unfortunately, cut trees aren’t always a great choice for the environment. Cut trees cannot be used year after year, and they will eventually start to die and drop needles no matter how careful you are to keep the water level up in their stand. However, if you buy your live tree from an organic Christmas tree farm, where they replant a tree for every one they cut down, you’re getting the best of both worlds. And if you recycle your tree, it’s even better. Many towns and cities offer this option. We live in a rural area, so our tree becomes part of a brush pile we’ve established for animal and bird shelter. If you still want to buy a cut Christmas tree then you can at least reduce the negative impact it has by recycling it once the holidays are finished. For example, you could use the tree for projects in your home that require wood, or you can turn the tree into mulch using a local Christmas tree recycling service.

A far more environmentally friendly Christmas tree choice would be to choose live trees that can be planted outside once the holidays are over. This is far less wasteful than buying a cut tree, as it keeps on growing even after the holidays. There are some drawbacks, though, such as the fact that you’ll need to hide the roots in a suitable container while you’ve got it inside, and it’ll cost more. You have to live in a climate where you can still plant a tree in December, and you’ll have to be careful that your home isn’t too warm for the tree to live healthily!

Choosing an environmentally friendly Christmas tree really is a big decision, and will take some advanced thought. Weigh up the pros and cons and do the best you can in your situation to help minimize the environmental impact of the tree you choose. Then, relax and enjoy the holiday. What you do the other 364 days of the year to help the environment has a bigger effect on our world than what kind of Christmas tree you choose. Reduce, reuse, recycle and enjoy Christmas and every day of the year.

Author: Brittany Wilson. If you are struggling to find the best Christmas present for your boyfriend’s parents, I am here to help! I am determined to gather the most affordable options for you! You can find the amazing Christmas gifts ideas on the www.whattogetboyfriendsparentsforchristmas.com website! But this is not all. You can find useful tips to integrate your boyfriend in your family as well. We all know relationships are challenging, and in times like Christmas, it should all be about happiness. That is why we will share our best site with you and guide you toward a magical holiday!

Green Living, Holidays

Tis the Season For Giving – Got 15 Minutes?

The holiday season reminds us of how much we have. Even if we don’t live in a mansion or own a Mercedes, most of us are rich in material goods compared to many other people. My elderly house, which looks kind of like a summer camp on steroids because people kept adding on to its three rooms until there were nine, none of them with a square line to its name, isn’t fancy, but it keeps out the weather. It’s warm, in season, has a fridge full of food, hot and cold running water and acres of private land around it, although we share it with hunters, hikers and fisher folk. I know how lucky I am to have a healthy daughter, a son who is launched on his own path but still stays in touch and a husband who has a job and a sense of humor. Maybe that’s why, even though I don’t celebrate a traditional Christmas, I do a lot of the things that people who DO celebrate Christmas do at this time of year.

One of the things I find myself doing more during this season is giving and thinking about giving. It’s easy to forget how many people you can help by just giving away a little bit of time. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our busy lives that we feel as if there’s just not another hour in the day to do something to make a difference in someone else’s life and that’s just not true. What if we all set aside just fifteen minutes a day to do something for someone else? What could we do?

Well, one thing anyone can do is knit for charity. Small woolen socks that a little boy or girl will wear in a cold orphanage where a pair of warm socks might be the only warmth they feel some days. A pretty hat, a shawl for an elder on a reservation or even a very small shroud for the grieving parents of a baby who was lost at birth or very young. Small gestures, but if you think back to times when you were really cold or really sad, I’m sure you’ll remember some little comfort – maybe a hot cup of tea or a blanket tucked in around you – that warmed you and let you know that someone cared.

If you knit or crochet or sew, there are many, organizations that could use your talents. Some of them will even provide the materials and instructions. Some of them are local – maybe a hospital or nursing home or shelter near you. Some of them are international. Here are links to some of them, but you can find more on the Net by searching on “charity” and your hobby of choice – knitting, crochet, sewing, and probably other crafts or hobbies that I haven’t thought of.

If you know of other charity craft organizations, send them along or put them in a comment and I’ll add them to my list of links. And, speaking of things you can do in 15 minutes, I need to go make a loaf of bread and some yogurt for tomorrow. Next time I have an extra fifteen minutes, I’ll post the recipes for how to do that, and you don’t even need a bread-maker or a yogurt maker.

AuthorsJenny Pullen from Articlehack.com

Holidays, Recipes

Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipe and Thanksgiving Thoughts

Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipe and Thanksgiving ThoughtsWhether you’re having Thanksgiving at home or bringing something to share with family and friends, you’re probably wishing that you could find something just a little different – but easy to prepare – for this Thanksgiving. Most of us will have turkey on the menu, stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash, cranberry sauce and pies. Some of us will have that green bean casserole with the crispy onion rings on top. Aunt May might bring her marshmallow/fruit whip. (You can always say you’re just too full to eat another bite.)  A few of us, who have had enough of cooking, moiling and toiling on Thanksgiving, will opt to eat out, although we may wish we had some leftovers later that night when we’re craving a turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwich and a piece of pumpkin pie. Some of us with Native American ancestry may be reflecting on how to renew a meaningful dialogue about our past and look towards a more honest future as Russell M. Peters, from the Wampanoags of Mashpee, Massachusetts says.

Our Thanksgiving is going to be very quiet this year, because Son has moved out and he and his Sweetie will be eating with another branch of relatives. Geekdaddy hates turkey and Daughter and I hate doing dishes, so we may have pizza or just our favorite chicken and sweet potatoes with pie for dessert. Whatever we have, there WILL be cranberry sauce, homemade and really simple and way better than the jellied blob you get in the can. (No BPA either and ours are organic and come from right down the road.)

The recipe is so simple, that you don’t really need a recipe. Just get a 12 oz bag of cranberries. Wash them. Peel, core and chop a medium sized apple. Put a cup of water into a small pan, add a cup and a half of sugar (I like them tart, but you can add sugar later if it’s not sweet enough for you) and bring it to a boil. Carefully add the cranberries and chopped apple and keep boiling until the skins pop. Turn it off for syrupy cranberry sauce, or simmer longer for more “gelled” sauce. Cranberries have pectin, like apples do, so the longer you simmer, the more pectin comes out and the thicker the sauce gets. It will also “set up” more when you refrigerate it. If you like, add a little grated fresh ginger, some raisins or orange peel. I like to vary mine, so I sometimes serve it plain and sometimes serve it fancy.

As far as thoughts for Thanksgiving, this would be a good time to think about the holiday season, which is about to descend on us whether we like it or not. We’re not religious folk and and we’re not rampant consumers, so our family doesn’t celebrate Christmas or participate in Black Friday. We do observe the Solstice and if the weather cooperates will probably have another Solstice bonfire and get-together this year. (Especially if we can get Uncle Bill to bring his special Solstice rum cake.) However, I respect the fact that other families and people have traditions and beliefs that are very important and even sacred to them, so I try not to rain on their parades.

That said, I think with the economy the way it is and the environment in need of help from all of us if it’s going to sustain us through many more celebrations and holidays, it wouldn’t hurt a bit if we all took a long hard look at what’s really important this time of year. What if everyone of us stopped before we bought into (literally) the mindset that we have to spend a lot of money and time and run around the mall like rats in a maze, buying things, just because it’s the holiday season?

What if – maybe while we’re having Thanksgiving dinner with our family and friends – we looked around the table and realized what it really takes to make us happy. Friends, family, a few treats and they don’t have to be expensive or store-bought, a few decorations maybe that the kids make with a little help from us. And how much money, time and effort does it take to create this? Not much. Let’s face it, if you can’t make your family and friends happy without spending big bucks on Black Friday, maybe it’s time to sit down and have a good long conversation with them about their expectations and yours for your relationship.

Holidays, Recipes

Easy and Healthy Banana Cake Recipe from Ray Collins

I love Ray Collin’s “Good Life Letter“. His health information is spot on and he delivers it in a style that always makes me smile as I learn the latest way to live a healthier, happier life. He lives in England with his wife and 3 children and is the author of 3 books which should be on everyone’s bookshelf. His latest, The Spice Healer, is a fount of information that tells you how to add years to your life with simple cooking spices. It includes 30 recipes for everything from tea to pizza too.

I don’t know if this recipe is in The Spice Healer, but I know that it’s tasty and very easy to make. If you like, you can make it as 12 medium sized cupcakes instead, or even a loaf cake. Frost it with cream cheese frosting. Glaze it with a simple vanilla glaze, serve it with yogurt or just eat it by the slice. It’s all good.   In the newsletter with this recipe, he also managed to work in his grandmother’s knickers, marshmallows and a game called fox and hounds, but if you want to read about any of that, you’ll have to go to his site and read the newsletter. Here’s the recipe:

Banana Cake from Ray Collins

(Ray didn’t specify a cooking temperature, but I found that 350 worked just fine.)

Bananas are such a versatile and practical
ingredient, plus they are naturally sweet. Make a
banana cake by mixing 2 mashed bananas, 2
tablespoons of Manuka honey, 2 eggs, a few
chopped nuts (pecan, hazelnut or walnuts) and a
little melted butter. Then add it to 2 cups of flour
and a teaspoon of baking powder and the same of
baking soda. Bake for half an hour in a hot oven
and eat with natural yoghurt.

Green Living, Holidays, Recipes

5 Ways To De-Stress Your Holidays

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, at least here in Maine. Snow is falling on the pines. The chickadees are flocking to the suet and sunflower seeds. Shoppers are mobbing the mall, although I’m not sure where they’re getting the money to shop this year, which leads me to the subject of why this season can be stressful and what you can do about it.

  • First of all, take a few deep breaths and think about what YOU want this time of year to be like. Never mind what your family, your friends, you Facebook friends and your Twitter tweeps think Christmas and the holiday season should be. What do YOU want and expect this season? I think that one of the biggest sources of stress, this time of year, is when our wants and expectations don’t match up with the reality of the season. No matter how old we get, we’re still that three year old who really expects a pony under the tree on Christmas morning. And when we get a sweater instead, we’re seriously disappointed, even if Aunt Joyce DID knit it with her own two loving hands. It’s not a pony and we wanted a pony and not getting what we want just doesn’t cut it at Christmas, does it? And that applies to 3 year olds all the way up to 83 year olds and beyond.

 

  • The second source of stress is that we try to do too much at Christmas. We over-shop, over-bake, over-buy and wear ourselves to a frazzle, until we’re complaining about all we have to do and feeling pressured to do more. Don’t fall into this trap. Keep your holidays as simple as you can and leave plenty of time for unplanned changes, both good and bad. It’s the time of year when people get colds and flu, oftentimes right before a school concert or a family get-together. If you expect this and have an alternate plan for these kind of speed bumps, it will be a lot easier to cope with them, instead of making it up as you go along or taking a sick kid to a social gathering where he – and the people around him – will be uncomfortable every time he coughs. (Natural Care for Colds and Flu – a free guide can help with those nasty bugs too.)

 

  • Enjoy old traditions, but make new ones too. It’s wonderful to have family traditions and the holidays are a time when we unpack the old ornaments, catch up with old friends and bake our old favorite cookies. It helps families bond and it reassures us that – even though it seems as if everything changes – some things stay dependably the same. Just don’t forget to leave yourself open to starting a new tradition, which is how all the old traditions started, after all.

 

  • Make it easy on yourself by letting some things slide. Do you really have to clean your house completely because you’re having company? They’ll be focused on the friends, the food and the Christmas decorations, not the dust bunnies under the beds. Just organize the clutter a little and don’t apologize for disorder, because that just draws attention to it. Tell yourself that you’re just into relaxed housekeeping and leave it at that while you enjoy your guests and your family.

 

  • Balance the extra baking you’ll be doing with easy meals that can make themselves or make-ahead meals that can be frozen for future use. I’ve finally started to organize my recipes on Lill’s List and will be adding to them on a regular basis, so try one out in your crock pot and don’t forget the easy no-bake cookie recipe. The delicious, fruity little round cookies keep for up to two months in the freezer, so you’ll never be caught without goodies for drop-in company.

Most of all, remember to savor the season, slowly and comfortably, at your own pace. Instead of dashing through the snow, 24/7, take some time to sit by the fire and sip a cup of hot chocolate from time to time.