How to Green Your Christmas

Christmas time is probably the worst time of year for sticking to your environmental (and diet, and money) goals. Everywhere you go there are shiny, overly packaged things beckoning you, whispering “you deserve it, but maybe if not for you, than at least for a gift”. Here are some things to keep in mind to lighten the load on the planet this holiday season.

Make some gifts yourself.

Buy used. For this tip it’s important to know your audience. Some people might be insulted with a second hand gift, but many won’t mind, especially if it looks brand new (they might not even know).

Buy locally made goods. If you can’t make it or buy it second hand, try to find things that haven’t traveled the globe to get to you.

Give an experience. This can be anything from a zoo pass, movie tickets, or even dinner out. Extra points for actually doing the thing with the person.

Give consumables. A lot of people already have way too much stuff. Give them a bottle of wine, or some fair trade tea. Or better yet, homemade jam and cookies.

Pass by those cheap, useless ‘stocking stuffer’ items. Especially crappy little toys for kids that will break, get lost, or be forgotten about in a day.

Give to a charity on someone’s behalf. I’m a big fan of Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope. Many of them are matched (or way more than matched) so that even a small donation makes a big difference. People really seem to appreciate this because many people want to give, but don’t have the extra money.

Lastly, (especially for parents) give quality over quantity. You could buy 20 plastic toys that are great prices and fairly disposable, or you can invest in a couple of really well constructed toys made from natural materials that will last long enough to passed down to other children.

Any one have any tips to add?

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Carmelitas

This is a recipe I’ve had sitting on my Pinterest board for a while. As fate would have it we had a bunch of caramels left over from Halloween. It’s actually a super quick and easy recipe to make. I think it took about as much time to unwrap all those darn caramels as it took to do everything else.

The only changes to recipe that I made was to use milk instead of cream. I also added a bit of oat bran to the oatmeal and a splash of vanilla. Next time I would definitely also sprinkle some salt on top of the caramel layer to liven things up a bit. I also recommend using parchment paper if you want them to look nice and if you ever want to use your pan again. Sadly, I did not do this so I have mad scrubbing in my future.

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As for how they turned out, they are good. Nice texture, nice balance of flavours and just enough amount of sweet. I wouldn’t say they are the best squares I’ve ever had, but I think that’s because I’m a chocolate girl through and through, and these aren’t very chocolatey. They are still really great though and I will make them again next time I have caramels lying around.

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Hot Cocoa

This weekend the cold, snowy weather finally hit us. It wasn’t much snow, and it didn’t last, but the cold certainly did and it was enough to get us wanting hot cocoa.

Here’s how we do it:

-put about a cup of milk in a pot on the heat with a handful of chocolate chips and a small splash of vanilla
-stir like crazy until the chocolate melts
-add a couple of tablespoons of cocoa (the amount will depend on how many cups you want to make, and how rich your cocoa is), and about the same amount of sugar
-stir until everything dissolves
-add milk until you have the desired amount of cocoa

Our’s is usually super rich and chocolatey (it’s so dark is actually looks like coffee in the last picture), but you can control this by how much milk you put in!

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Enjoy some with a loved one today, and stay warm and toasty!

Christmas Pinecone Craft

I know it might be a little early still for some of you. Especially you Americans who haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet. Well we had Thanksgiving a long, long time ago, so I’m ready again for the festive spirit.

Here is a cute little craft that would be great to do with kids.

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All I did was gather pine cones (which is half the fun). Make sure you find the fat round ones. Take some craft pompoms (from the dollar store) and glue them onto your pine cone to look like little Christmas trees.

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*Note my elf legs above

After they are dry you can either use them as a centerpiece, attach string and make them into a garland, or hang them from you tree.

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Another idea, which I haven’t done because good pine cones are hard to come by in these parts, but that I remember doing in school is to spray paint your pine cones metallic colours than attach a ribbon to hang them from the tree. You can even spray them with adhesive and then pour glitter on them. I’m planning on doing this as soon as I come across more cones (or think of something else to glitter up).

This is a super quick craft for little kids with little patience, but even if you don’t have kids around, it is fun and cute!

Too Much Tea

Despite our kitchen not being tiny, it’s very poorly designed. We have very little counter space and not enough cabinets. That, however, it only part of the problem. The other part is something I can solve with spending thousands.
We have too much food. Here is one of the main offenders:

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This is the cupboard where we keep spices, sauces, food wrap, pasta, etc. It is also the cupboard where you have to dig for things, and often have several things fall out at you before you find what you’re looking for. It’s not pretty.

My first plan of attack was to go through my tea collection. A few months ago I made a solemn promise not to buy any more tea, but still, here is the situation:

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In my defense, some of it was given to me. Don’t judge.

So, what I did was take everything out, then choose four teas to keep out (a dark tea, a fruity tea, a green tea and a tummy tea). Those went back in, the rest went in a box and were put away until I run out of something.

I now have room for my tea making supplies in the cupboard, so they are not taking up precious counter space anymore.

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It’s definitely an improvement.

Grocery and Goals Update

We did much better for groceries this week. Squash was on sale so we bought a bunch, probably enough to see us through the winter. I also bought a big bag of apples, a few sweet potatoes, spinach, bananas and collard greens. So, we did pretty good for fruits and veggies. I feel like we haven’t been doing very well with actually cooking though. Lately our dinners haven’t been very satisfying. Especially because there haven’t been good leftovers for lunches. I think we need to get back into meal planning. I think because it gets dark so early now that I feel rushed for dinner and we just end up throwing some things together.

Anyways, the total for groceries this week is $44.31. Not too bad.

As for goals, I’m doing pretty well. I’m onto day 19 of my 30 day yoga challenge. I just realized the other day that I can actually touch my toes from standing with straight legs now for the first time since I was probably about 4. The yoga challenge is amazing. I’m definitely doing to continue using the videos after this month.

We also finished painting one room. It’s much brighter than I expected, but it’s what Kurt wanted so I can live with it. Hopefully once we get the furniture back it that will absorb some of the intense glow. We bought the paint for the other room and the hall so we are good to go with that too.

We got the gardens completely prepped for winter. Which I mentioned here. Sadly we had crazy wind storms a few days after I had carefully laid all of those newspaper, so they blew away. Boo. Otherwise though, the gardens are good to go, which is good since we’ve already had some wintery weather.

The last goal was to finish my Christmas shopping. I haven’t quite gotten to this yet, but I am hopeful that I can still get it done!

I hope your Novemebers are going productive and enjoyable!