Kids' Party Favors on Etsy

These are the wands we gave out as party favors.
Sadly, they are no longer available.

Climate Crusader's excellent suggestions for goodie bag alternatives reminded me of an Etsy treasury list I started a couple of years ago when searching for party favors for my children's joint birthday party. First I'll say that I think the whole goodie bag business is completely superfluous, but oh well. I still feel obligated to give out something. But I try hard to only give out something I would want my own children to receive. A couple of years ago that something was a Hot Wheel for the boys and an Etsy flower wand for the girls (no points for gender neutrality).

While spending too much time searching Etsy for affordable kids' party favors, I found many additional possibilities depending on your price range (items below range from about $1 to $5 each). I've also pinned all these on my Kids' Party Favors from Etsy board.

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What have you found on Etsy lately?

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Winter Favorite: Hearty Lentil Soup with Bacon



Lentils are a poor meal planner's best friend. When there's no meat defrosting in the fridge, and no pinto beans or black beans soaking overnight, I turn to lentils. Here is one of my favorite soups to eat in winter (it's based on a recipe I saw on Everyday Food). I make it extra thick so it's almost like a stew but you can make it brothier if you prefer. This less meat-a-tarian or nearly-vegetarian soup can easily be made vegan: simply skip the bacon and parmesan cheese, and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. Although I will say, just a touch of bacon makes it so delicious. This soup showcases one of my favorite ways to use meat: as a flavoring rather than as the star of the meal. I generally freeze my bacon, but it defrosts in just a few minutes submerged in water. Use the rest of the package of bacon for a special weekend breakfast.

I always make a huge batch of this soup. Then we have either leftovers for another dinner and several lunches, or I have enough to take a large container to a new mom or someone else who could use a delicious hot homemade meal. If you want to make a smaller batch, I've included ingredient amounts for that at the end of the post (the first version makes about 50 percent more than the smaller recipe). Homemade white rolls or wheat rolls make a fabulous addition to this tasty, filling, and comforting meal.



Use Bar Soap {Easy Eco-tip Tuesday}



Today's Easy Eco-tip: 

Use bar soap instead of liquid soap.

Give bars a chance.

For several years now, body wash has outstripped bar soap in sales. I think it's safe to say most Americans are using liquid hand soap rather than bar soap as well. But before 1980, liquid soaps were virtually non-existent. One of the things I love about our 1960s bathrooms is that the sinks have little indentations on each side of the faucet for bar soap. Imagine that! Instead of a built in stainless-steel soap dispenser, the latest and greatest in 1960 was a built-in place to store your bar soap. There are many reasons to give good old-fashioned bar soap a second look.

Compared to liquid soaps and body washes, bar soaps:

Treat Your Valentine to Fair Trade Chocolate



This Valentine's Day, why not choose to give your sweet one some fair trade deliciousness? Show some love for humanity while showing love for your loved one by supporting chocolate companies with a conscience.

I was discouraged when I first learned that much of the cocoa used in the chocolate industry is produced through child slave labor along the Ivory Coast in Africa. No more pound-plus Trader Joe's Belgian chocolate for me! The good news is that there are many companies working to source their chocolate responsibly while producing some serious chocolate yumminess. Here are a few brands I've discovered and sampled in the last year.

Theo Chocolate

A Seattle-based company that uses cocoa beans from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Peru. Their chocolate is organic, fair trade, and GMO-free. I love the orange dark chocolate variety.

Vegan Whole Grain Waffle & Pancake Mix



Jeanette's Pumpkin Whole Grain Waffle recipe that I posted last week is actually a modification of Natalie's Vegan Whole Grain Waffle/ Pancake Mix. I've never made this recipe myself (I've been making the pumpkin version since we purchased our Teflon-free waffle maker), but I have eaten these waffles and pancakes dozens of times and I can attest that they are delicious. This recipe is awesome because you can mix up all the dry ingredients in advance and then use a cup (or more) of dry mix plus nothing but water and oil for an easy homemade breakfast anytime. My sister often takes this mix with her when she travels (so she can make her children a vegan breakfast) or even camping. Your own vegan homemade waffle/ pancake mix anywhere anytime.

Natalie's Vegan Waffle & Pancake Mix