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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Great Reading

A Generation Suffers


(If the video isn’t playing, here’s the direct link.)

A dear friend of ours is losing her school services due to budget cuts – in very drastic ways. They are even losing their school library.

She’s in sixth grade.

Fight budget cuts – with votes and letters, volunteer hours, and donations.

We have to do something, don’t you think?

Book Giveaway: Ecofrugal Baby

I am going to pause for a bit to let everyone catch up – I know I’ve written a slough of posts lately!  In the meantime, I’d like to post the first of a few giveaways up my sleeve in the coming weeks.

Ecofrugal Baby

Ecofrugal Baby is written by fellow blogger Laura K. Cowan at 29 Diapers. The 174 page book is packed with tips to save money in your baby’s first year without skimping on quality – and without leaving a long-term negative impact on the environment or your baby’s health.

A baby’s first year in the United States costs an average of $10,000.  Laura claims you can save about $7,000 using the tips in this book – and she writes from experience, having done it herself.

The book comes with a Savings Calculator to help guide you to purchase what you need and save where you can. While some of the tips are pretty standard to our community here (Craigslist, Freecycle, garage sales), there are definitely quite a few resources I didn’t know about.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Part I: One-Time Baby Gear Costs

1. Mobility Gear

2. Sleep and Comfort Gear

3. Cleaning and Changing Gear

4. Cloth Diapers

5. Feeding Gear

6. Safety Gear

7. Nursery Furniture and Storage Gear

Part II: Ongoing Baby Care Costs

8. Clothing

9. Food

10. Toiletries

11. Entertainment

Part III: Baby’s First-Year Savings Calculator

Giveaway!!

In the spirit of eco and frugal and the title of the book, I will give an e-copy of the book to 2 (two!) lucky commenters! 

Just leave your name and the little one’s name (or future name, or name you make up) in the comments below. I will pick two names on Sunday afternoon at 3pm PST.

Good luck!  And thanks for reading.

Greetings Everyone - I'm On The Way Back!

Hello, hello, hello!  Thank you ALL for your patience and your good wishes via email, comments, and Facebook while I was gone!

I have an incredible amount of stuff to share with you all – it has been a crazy, jam packed few months – wow.

I am still working through the weekend on a couple of video projects for a client.  It’s a fabulous project that brings local County members together to talk about local community issues in a way that actively affects local decision-making.  Very cool.  However, I am working loooong hours this weekend, so it will be a few more days before I can focus on telling y’all about my adventures!

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a picture of me and my new nephew.  I just got back from visiting my sister and her family in St. Louis.  Here’s Connor and “Auntie M” (as I’ve now been nicknamed!):

Connor & Auntie MConnor & Auntie M

I hope you all are well and enjoying the last few bits of summer (those of us in the Northern Hemisphere).  See you soon!

With Much Love,

Melinda

Kids In The Garden Book: Winner Plus 40% Off Coupon!

Kids in the Garden

Thank you all for your interest in Kids in the Garden. I LOVED all your responses and stories – it was really rewarding to read about you all passing on the enjoyment of gardening!

For those of you who did not win the book, I encourage you to check it out at the library or pick up a copy – I imagine when your children grow older, it will be a lovely hand-me-down.

40% Off Coupon!

Send an email to jess@blackdogonline.com with the subject line “One Green Generation offer”, and Jessica will send you a 40% off coupon!  They are a lovely company – I encourage you to check out all their books.  (Ellis, our black dog, loves the name of the company, too!)

Winner

And the winner is…

Chidren in the Garden winner

Christina!

Christina, please email me with your address, and you’ll soon be the proud owner of Kids in the Garden. (And please note that you have until 28 April at 12pm PST to email me, otherwise I’ll draw a new name.)

Thanks for joining in the fun!

My Favorite Children's Gardening Book: Review and Giveaway!!

Kids in the Garden

I receive a lot of requests to review products, and I’ve seen a lot of children’s books that relate to sustainability, gardening, or other green ideas.  But this one is different.

It’s so good, I wanted to keep it for myself – there are an amazing number of tips and recipes I’ve never read before!

But alas, I have a heart.  So… if you have children or little ones you care for in some way, please let me know if you’re interested in having this truly lovely book in the comments.  Next Wednesday at noon, I will draw a winner who will receive this fabulous book!

Those who don’t win and can’t find it in the library, I have a 40% discount for you – I’ll give you the details on Wednesday.

Kids In The Garden - detail

Review: Kids In The Garden

I read this book from front to back in one sitting and loved it.  No kidding!  I was mesmerized and actually learned a lot myself.  It is full of incredibly easy and useful gardening tips, and it’s even quite useful for small space gardeners.

The pictures and illustrations are lovely and fun, and intermixed with a few terrible veggie puns.  :)  Q: “How do you fix a flat pumpkin?”  A: “With a pumpkin patch.”  Duh!

Kids In The Garden - detail

Within this short 100-page book, there is an amazing amount of information.  I learned how to take cuttings, jump start seed starts with aluminum foil and a cardboard box, and build a worm bin.  Plus the recipes look fabulous and unique.

AND did you know runner beans are the only edible plant that twines counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere?  I will be watching my beans this year!

Beetroot Brownies

by Kids In The Garden

  • 10 oz melted chocolate
  • 10 oz melted butter
  • 10 oz sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 6 oz self-rising flour
  • 8 oz cooked beetroot, peeled and grated
  1. Put the beetroot in a colander to drain.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease an 8×10″ cake tin and line the bottom with baking/parchment paper.
  3. Mix chocolate and butter together.
  4. Cream eggs and sugar together in a bowl until likght and fluffy.  And chocolate mixture and stir until smooth.
  5. Fold in the flour, then beetroot, until just mixed.
  6. Pour mixture into the cake and bake in the oven about 30 minutes, until a knife pushed into the middle comes out clean.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds so interesting, doesn’t it?

Giveaway!

Interested?  Leave your name and a comment below.  I’ll draw a winner on Wednesday 21 April.  Good luck!

My Grandfather's 99th Birthday

The King and Queen of the Party: My Grandfather and Step-Grandmother

Amazing isn’t it?  Both my grandfather and his second wife turned 99 this February.  It is just incredible to think about how much has changed in our world since 1911.  The number of changes he has seen in his lifetime, the fads, the technology, the friendships and the family members!  It puts life in a bit of perspective when you think about it spanning over 99 years.

Whole Family

We had a wonderful feast together, the 30 of us, from four generations.  I just wanted to share a bit of it with you today.  The little tyke in the back, toward the center (just above my grandfather) is my grandfather’s great great grandson.  WOW, right?

You can do a great deal with your life.  Little moments of despair really don’t often matter in the scheme of things.  Life is bigger, longer, and more powerful.  To think of how many people he has affected in big and small ways during his lifetime…it’s incredible.

A Triumphant 99 Years

Live long, be healthy, do what you want to do, and do it well.  Live life to its fullest.

Ten Holiday Traditions That Are Simple, Low-Cost, and Fun

Candle by firemedic58 on Flickr

 

Originally posted in 2008, I thought this would be a good reminder for all of us… please add your wonderful suggestions in the comments!

 

While Redefining The Holidays, I wrote that my family has some traditions that we’ve kept through the years, even as my sister and I have grown and moved across the country in opposite directions.


We eat creamed eggs (and ham for non-vegetarians) on Christmas Eve. Does that sound like a strange meal? It was once a Christmas morning tradition, where we’d have creamed eggs for breakfast after opening presents. But then the extended family changed our gathering from evening to morning, and we didn’t get a chance to have creamed eggs for breakfast. So we moved it to Christmas Eve.


When my sister and I were just entering our teens, we decided we needed a new tradition. Long after Santa was discovered, we made a tradition that after our creamed eggs and ham, we would all sit together in front of the fire and pass around ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, each of us reading one stanza before we pass it to the next person. I remember once my grandmother called long distance while we were just beginning to read, and she joined us, reading stanzas from her copy in New Mexico.


The tradition continued long after my sister and I left the house for college. When significant others made it home with us, they joined in the tradition. Sometimes one or both of us didn’t make it for Christmas, so we conferenced in via telephone, I in New York or Los Angeles, my sister in St. Louis.


After we read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, we each open one present from beneath the tree. And then we either go off to bed, or – more likely – we spend some time getting our presents together for the next day’s celebration.


They are simple traditions, but there is comfort in tradition, isn’t there? Sure, sometimes we groan about reading ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, but in truth it brings us all together in the present, as it reminds us of good times in the past.


Popcorn and Cranberry Garland by Gare and Kitty on Flickr


Ten Simple, Frugal, and Fun Holiday Traditions


1. Attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service at your church – children love this.  Or light a menorah or kinara each evening.  Or light a peace candle and place it in the window at sundown.  Remember that the ceremony is as important as the candle – make sure to infuse the lighting with meaning and significance.


2. Work on creating your family tree together.  Each year, get together and research another generation of your family tree.  You might create a scrapbook for this purpose.  Add stories and anecdotes if you have them or can find them.  Read favorite past stories to youngsters and new members of the family.


3. Make holiday gifts together:  eg, cookies, fudge, marmalade, jars of spices or seeds, calendars, salts, soap, bubble bath or bath salts, candles, sachets, knitting projects, sewing projects, dried soup mixes, coupons for experiences/services, your family’s traditional homemade foods (eg, frozen tamales, cannolis), and so on.


4. Make holiday decorations together:  trim the boughs with holly and cedar, create bread dough ornaments, string popcorn and raw cranberries, make a wreath from plants in the garden, make pine-scented candles or potpourri vessels, build a homemade gingerbread house.


5. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or food bank. While this is a good tradition to have other times of the year as well, in the Northern Hemisphere the holidays are the coldest time of year – when more homeless people need the warmth and safety of shelter and good meals.  This experience leaves a lasting impression on many children – suddenly meals, shelter, and gifts are not taken so much for granted.


6. Decorate wrapping paper together.  Collect newspapers, magazines, used printer paper, paper bags, and other reusable paper. Then use holiday stamps, crayons, ink, scissors, and whatever else strikes your fancy – to personalize your wrapping paper together.


7. Redistribute the wealth together. If your family can afford to somehow help another family who is less well-off, get together and figure out the best way to help. Could you give the other family much-needed gifts? Invite them over for dinner? Make them some homemade frozen meals they can pop into the oven when they need them? Tutor their children in English? Help set up a scholarship fund for their children to go to school? Help parents get a job, or a better job with a livable wage? Babysit their children so the adults can have a night out together? Send the children of a parent who is serving overseas a care package? Be creative – it doesn’t have to be expensive, and it shouldn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.


Northwest Native Americans have a tradition of potlatch ceremonies, where the more wealthy families throw a big feast and give gifts for those who are less well off.  There is no expectation for the gifts to return – the return is the feeling that you have given what you can to help others.  But even if you don’t feel wealthy right now, remember there is someone else out there who is less well-off than you.  Give what you can – even if it is time and/or experience, it can be very helpful to others more in need.


8. Play games together.  Dig out that old Scrabble board, Boggle, Pictionary, deck of cards, or whatever you have in your basement or closet.  If you don’t have any games, you can usually find them at local thrift stores and garage sales for cheap. Then spend the evening drinking eggnog and playing games!


9. Sit in front of the fire and take turns reading a book together.  It can be ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, like my family (above). It can be a favorite family story, or a new book each year.  And if there are family members who can’t make it home for the holidays, call them on the phone and make them a part of this tradition.


10. Reflect on the past year and make plans for the new year together.  What would you have done differently if you could?  What will you chance about yourself and your work as you move forward into the new year?  What goals did you reach this past year, and what will you strive to reach in the coming year?  How can those around you help you with your new goals, your new journey?  How can you support one another to reach these new goals?


Luminaria 'Estrellas' by jared on Flickr


Please Share Your Own Traditions!


I find it incredibly useful to hear what others are doing to create traditions and consistency throughout the holidays.  So… please add to this list!