Friday, June 26, 2015

How to choose suncare

Today I'd like to welcome my good friend Melody on the blog! She's a mom of three and someone who I can always count on to look at the facts at face value.

A little about Melody..
I became a mother shortly after graduating from college. These last 7 years I have been sharing my time between local sustainability leaders and my three beautiful, nature-loving, crayon-eating children. 

Through all of this, I've come to understand that taking care of our internal environments (bodies) needs to be a priority.  And stress can be just as toxic to our bodies as all the scary synthetic chemicals that we are being exposed to. So, it's all about balance. I'm glad to be able to share some of what I have learned with you. 



The warm weather season brings a whole new list of skin care products for our little ones, but not
all skin care products are created equally, and “natural” means absolutely nothing. The challenge
for us parents its to ignore the hype, and somehow find time to gather the right facts, so that we
can outsmart the ad companies and choose the products that are actually best for our families.

Easier said than done.

The store aisles have too many choices, and maybe none of the right choices. Products have long lists of hard to pronounce ingredients, and lots of confusing or misleading messaging! And who has time to do all that research!?

Well, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) does! Their website is fantastic!

If you get a chance, I highly recommend you spend some time exploring all of their resources. You can search any skin care product and it will give you a report, showing the concerns for each ingredient. Even if they don't have the product already in the database, you can enter the ingredients by hand and it will generate a customized report for you!

I went through my house and grabbed all the kids products I have, and ran reports on them,
including their score on a scale of 0­-10 where 0 means “good, harmless”, and 10 means “really bad, toxic”.

Here's my list with a link to the full report for each. (link)

If you find that many of the products in your home contain harmful chemicals, don't feel guilty. You didn't buy them for their side effects. You made a good decision with the information you had at the time. And don't feel the need to throw them all out at once and buy new. That would be wasteful and expensive (I couldn't afford to do that!). Instead, just be open to learning, and when it  is time to buy new, consider choosing a safer replacement.


To me summer is all about hiking, camping and swimming and sunbathing! 
How can I choose safe products for my family?

Here's some information I have gathered from the EWG on seasonal products.

INSECT REPELLANT:
How do you keep the bugs away without DEETing your babes? My recommendation: non­toxic deet­free sprays, or essential oils! Find out more about what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say about insect repellants.

SUNSCREEN tips from the EWG:
Say no to:
• SPF above 50
• Retinyl palmitate
• Aerosol spray and powder sunscreen
• Oxybenzone
• Added insect repellent

Say yes to:
• Hats and shade in mid­day sun
• Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide as active ingredients, otherwise Avobenzone (at 3%)
• SPF 15 to 50, depending on your own skin coloration, time outside, shade and cloud cover.
• Use a lot and reapply frequently

The EWG has a fairly exhaustive list of products found on the market, but here are a few seasonal products to absolutely avoid because of their rating on the EWG scale:

:( Sunscreens :(
Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Radiant Tinted Moisturizer, Medium Sheer Tint
Banana Boat Protective Tanning Dry Oil Continuous Spray Sunscreen

:( After Sun :(
ULTA Refresh Redness Relief Continuous Spray
CVS Aftersun Redness Relief Continuous Spray
Ocean Potion Suncare Therapeutic Hemp Seed After Sun Lotion

There are lots of good middle ground choices, but if you're for the best of the best, here are some
seasonal products that get a perfect score from the EWG:

:) Sunscreen :)
Pure Daily Essentials Body Glow Sun Bar
Luminance Skincare Sunscreen
Healthy Home Company Sunscreen Broad Spectrum, SPF 32
Belly Buttons & Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
Just Skin Food Natural and Organic Sunscreen, SPF 30
The Honest Company Honest Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30
Nurture My Body Sunscreen Fragrance Free, SPF 32

:) After Sun :)
Aromatica Organic Aloe Vera Gel
Belly Buttons & Babies After Sun Body Lotion
Pure Daily Essentials Body Glow Sun Bar
Vika's Essentials Prodigal Sun Oil Blend
Banana Boat Sooth­A­Caine Aloe Mist Spray

But, what's so bad about “chemicals”?
So glad you asked...

The toxic chemicals I worry about, are the ones that often resemble hormones. Hormone-
mimicking, aka endocrine disrupting chemicals can be especially worrisome in babies and young children who are still developing and growing. Research suggests these chemicals may cause:

• Reductions in male fertility and declines in the numbers of males born.
• Abnormalities in male reproductive organs.
• Female reproductive health issues, including fertility problems, early puberty, and early
reproductive senescence.
• Increases in mammary, ovarian, and prostate cancers.
• Increases in immune and autoimmune diseases, and some neurodegenerative diseases.

While there is still a lot we do not know, many of us agree that it is better to be safe, and limit our
exposure to these chemicals. Here is the EWG's Dirty Dozen of Endocrine Disruptors

I'd don't want to expose myself and my family to these nasty chemicals, 
but they seem to be everywhere. Where do I even begin!?

Start small. Small changes add up, and small changes actually last. Here are some guidelines to get started:

  1. Give yourself credit for making one small change that you can stick with, instead of trying to unrealistically tackle the universe in one shopping trip.
  2. Look at labels for the items you use daily, and let yourself relax on the rest.
  3. Look at labels for what you use that you don't wash off (like lotion and hand sanitizer) and cut yourself some slack on the others.
  4. Don't let guilt or flashy ads control you!
  5. When it comes to kids, think “could they eat it?” Because you know, they probably will!
Thanks for reading,
Melody

Disclosure: We are not healthcare providers! 
The information on this post is intended to encourage (and advise) readers to do their own research. 
Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Just Between Friends of Everett/Monroe Summer event is here!


A few weeks ago I introduced Eunice Gong, the owner of Just Between Friends of Everett/Monroe, and tonight I am super excited to share with you what I snagged at her first summer event! Not sure what "Just Between Friends" aka "JBF" is? It's a maternity and children's consignment sale that happens all across North America, and I'm a pretty big fan of it! I've been shopping at Eunice's JBF sale for 3 years and have save literally thousands of dollars on clothing and gear for my kids.

Each time that I shop at a JBF event, I like to share what I snagged because not only am I super proud of the awesome deals I got, but I also want to encourage you to check it out too! So without further adieu....

Let me just lay that out in the open. 15 items, $77.53 total. An average of $4.73 per item! The most expensive item that I bought was a $12 Disney store brand sweat shirt for Penny, and the least expensive was a whopping dollar for a cute Ariel placemat. 


Not a bad haul for the essentials, right?
As I mentioned before, this is the first summer sale that JBF Everett/Monroe has put on, and it's also the first time that they've held it at Everett Community College. Normally it's at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, so I was interested to see how the new venue and location would affect the sale. Many consignors and shoppers are willing to drive a bit to check out each of the several JBF sales in the Seattle area, and this opened up an opportunity for the greater Everett area families to consign and shop as well. 

Both of my kids accompanied me while I shopped and I totally had a laugh at this experience. Penny is now very much at the age where she wants to do what I do and also has a very quickly growing opinion on things. So while I was perusing the racks for Penny's size (and thinking ahead in the next year), I would hold up an item against her to see if the length was about right. She would be very quick to veto or pass on the item based on it's cuteness factor (we are talking about a 3 year old, after all). Some items were the right size but didn't fit her whimsy. She quickly learned this game and started pulling items out of the racks that she thought were nice and would hold them against herself. Regardless of whether they really were going to fit or not, she would say "hmm, yes, I think this will fit after all."
Ruby also quickly learned a new game. It was called "chase after Penny, pull down random items from the racks and shove them into Mama's shopping bag while she wasn't looking."
With that being said, I think that I still made off with a ton of awesome finds!
If you want to see what else you can find at the Just Between Friends of Everett/Monroe, check me out on instagram!


Just Between Friends of Everett/Monroe Summer 2015 consignment sale
Friday June 26
10:00-6:00p Free admission
Saturday June 27
                                                           9:00a-5:00p Free Admission
                                             5:30p-7:00p HALF PRICE EARLY BIRD SHOPPING! 
                                            Items without a star are 50% OFF Purchase Tickets Here
Sunday June 28
8:00a-1:00p Free Admission (no ticket needed)
50% off items without stars
Click to see the full sale schedule 

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Just Between Friends of Everett/Monroe. 
All opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer Cloth Diaper Giveaway - Little Monsters


Welcome to the 4th annual Summer Cloth Diaper Giveaway Hop hosted by Mommy's Favorite Things and Mama's Baby Cupcakes. This hop is focused on items you'd want/need for everything cloth diaper related! After visiting my giveaway, make sure you use the linky below to take a look at the other 20+ blogs and see what they have to offer for you and your little one! Each blog has a minimum prize package of $25 per winner. 

Be sure to enter the Grand Prize as well where one lucky US winner will receive the $152 prize. With great sponsors like Best BottomPlanet WiseButtonsBabyKicksWinning Colors Baby and Little Bear Bums this package offers a little something for everyone or a great package for someone wanting to start cloth. 
_______________


Little Monsters cloth diapers has been on my "must try" list for a long time! I fell in love with their designs when Penny was a brand new babe because they had a print with a giraffe on the bottom. The embroidered bottoms are such a cute touch!

Pocket diapers are the staple of my cloth diaper stash. They are the easiest to put on and you don't have to ever worry about the insert sliding around. They are called "pockets" because you stuff the insert into a pocket in between the outer waterproof PUL material and the soft fleece inner material (that goes against baby's skin). You can stuff pocket diapers with a variety of materials, microfiber inserts being the most common. A microfiber insert is included with Little Monsters diapers.

The bottoms of Little Monsters diapers are very unique - they each feature an embroidered design. I was always curious how the diaper remains leakproof in spite of the embroidering, as that is a concern any time you make a hole in the PUL materia. Little Monsters was one step ahead of me and they've included an additional backing of a second layer of PUL behind the embroidered area so that leaks don't get through the stitching.
 Across the back you'll find the pocket that you stuff the inserts inside. They've added an additional band of elastic to help keep that pocket closed (no worries about inserts wiggling out!) and creates a better fit on baby.
The multiple rise settings allow these diapers to fit most babies from 9 - 35 lbs. These fit perfectly on Ruby, who is 15 months old and 22 lbs. She's got chunky thighs but with the right snap arrangement I don't have to worry about leaks at all!

Want to try one for yourself? These adorable diapers are sure to turn heads this summer!


Disclosure: The Pierogie Mama, Mommy's Favorite Things, Mama's Baby Cupcakes and the Summer Cloth Participating bloggers are not responsible for sponsors who don't provide prizes.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Visiting Great Wolf Lodge (and staying organized with Mabel's Labels)

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Mabel’s Labels
I received a voucher to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item 
to thank me for my participation.


This past weekend we spent 3 days at Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA. It's an indoor water park resort that is truly geared towards fun for all members of the family, at all developmental levels and ages. It was a big gift from Nana to her grandbabies - all 6 of them. We, as their parents, were so lucky to get to tag along! ;) So count this - 6 grand babies (between the ages of 1-12) and 8 adults piled into two suites and we spent 3 days of family fun at the park.  



Words can't describe how wonderful it was to be with so many family members for a few days of fun, relaxation and a break from the hum-drum every day. We made a ton of memories that will last a life time and most importantly spent it with those whom we love. 


A few memories from the trip...
  • Margarita night for the ladies. It was awesome.
  • Nearly falling out of the inner tube while going down The Tornado (!!)
  • Watching Ruby overcome her anxiousness around the water and eventually hear her squeals of excitement while she "swam" through the water like a frog.
  • At every meal, Penny would ask the auntie or uncle closest to her and make sure that they were enjoying their meal and saying "that makes me glad." We've been focusing on empathy lately and it's been paying off!
If you've got a big-group Great Wolf trip planned for the future, here are a few tips of what {I think} we did right:
  • Coordinate meals. We were there for almost three whole days, so between 3 families we split who would be taking care of meals for that day. 
  • Collaborative naps. We came up with a cuddle puddle of toddler aged nap time where they all snuggled in together for a nap on the pull out, while Ruby (the only infant) slept quietly in a separate room. One or two parents stuck around to keep an eye on things (aka also take a nap). The two "Bigs" went on a Magiquest while the rest of the adults got to have some non-kid fun time at the water park! 
  • Collaborative bed-time. Pretty much the same thing happened as it did at nap time, except we let the kids wind down with a movie while the grown ups played games or chatted.
  • Mabel's Labels made it easy to quickly see who's stuff belonged to whom. 

Can you imagine the amount of stuff we had? All of the moms started out with the best of intentions by sectioning off our family's things into our respective areas and kept it nice and tidy. That was the first part of day one. Then the morning's swim session was over and everyone hurriedly stripped off their wet swim suits in preparation for lunch and naps. As you can imagine, there was A LOT of kid stuff floating around between those two suites. Keeping track of all that was a job and a nightmare in itself.

Thankfully a few of the kids' items were accounted for and easily identified thanks to Mabel's Labels. Mabel's Labels are super durable sticker labels that you can use to identify your kids' items, such as shoes, jackets, toys, water bottles, backbacks and more. They are laundry,  dishwasher and microwave-safe! Because of their waterproof quality, I knew they'd be perfect for our trip to Great Wolf!
note: identifying information was omitted by using photo editing. Your order from Mabel's Labels will not have blocked out text like the labels do above.
I've heard about Mabel's Labels for the last few years, I knew that they were popular and had won awards...but now I am totally hooked! The quality of the sticker and printing is awesome and they are really robust. I wasn't worried about the sticker wearing off the bottom of the sandal (we wore them in the water too!) or falling off. 

We tried out the Limited Edition Camp Label Pack - for $39.95 you get a variety of 64 labels that include:
  • 10 Personalized Name Stickers: 70mm x 16mm (2-3/4" x 5/8")
  • 24 Mini Custom Name Stickers: 38mm x 8mm (1-1/2" x 5/16")
  • 8 Custom Shoe Stickers: 33mm (1.3")
  • 50 Tag Mates™ Stick On Clothing Labels: 21mm x 10mm (13/16" x 3/8")
  • 2 Personalized Bag Tags: 57mm x 32mm (2-1/4" x 1-1/4")
What a deal, right? There were so many tags included that we have use for them on items down the road. 


The Limited Edition Camp Label Pack is designed for everything that goes to summer camp to help avoid mix-ups and lost items. They are perfect for clothes, swim gear, backpacks, shoes, toiletries and more! Join the Mabelhood community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Sign up to receive newsletters, a fun and reliable source for all things mom-related!

Until June 22, 2015, Pierogie Mama readers can receive a coupon by completing a few of these easy social media sharing options. You'll find them in the giveaway widget below.

Mabels Labels Camp Combo


Disclosure: By signing up for the Mabel’s LabelsNewsletter and completing one additional social share, you will be given a one-time use coupon code. Go to Mabelslabels.com to find out which discount you got!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Salmon: 2 ways


Unless you are, or are friends with, a fisherman, good salmon is really hard to find. Especially outside of the Pacific Northwest. I count myself as very fortunate as sometimes being the very blessed recipient of a friend's end of the day catch. There are so very few things better in this world than salmon caught that day. But most of us don't ever get that.

In my humble opinion a very close second to fresh caught salmon, and light years beyond what you'll find at the store, is Zaycon Fresh's Wild Sockey Salmon filets. I've ordered 3 cases (25 lbs each) in the last year. This allows me to cook salmon almost weekly and on a budget!

"Wild" seafood is also somewhat of a hot topic right now. I'm always researching my food to make
sure that I am, at the very least, aware of what is the quality of the food I purchase. The price of Zaycon Fresh's salmon can't be beat, and I was initially a little wary about it. I bought my first case,
fell in love with my first filet and started to do a little bit of digging on it. Was it really what it's advertised to be? I contacted the fishery, using the clearly marked label on my case that I received, and was able to track down where my salmon had been caught and when. Isn't that pretty awesome that in this day and age we can find that information?

What is Zaycon Fresh? It's super easy. You sign up, enter in your zip code and it will populate "events" near you. Each event will bring fresh or frozen meets to an agreed upon place and time. You place your order for what you'd like and then on the day of the event you bring your order slip and they put your case of bulk meats in the trunk of your car for you. You don't even have to get out of the car! Throughout the year they will offer different products; such as delicious bacon, fresh ground beef, fresh chicken breasts, frozen breaded chicken fritters (I like to make this), select steaks, even turkey and ham around the holidays! They are constantly adding more.

When you sign up, they'll send you non-spammy newsletters letting you know what they're adding, great recipe ideas and you can refer friends to get credit for your next purchase. Truly, I haven't bought meat any other way for a long time now.

And now, on to my two favorite ways to prepare salmon these days. YUM! When you thaw a filet, cut it in half and reserve one half for the second recipe below. Now you can have salmon twice in one week!

Honey Lemon Baked Salmon
This is my favorite go-to. It's easy, I have all of the ingredients on hand and it goes with most sides.
  • Half a salmon filet, thawed.
  • 3T cup of honey
  • 1T minced garlic
  • 1T lemon pepper seasoning
  • juice from 1/4 of a fresh lemon
1. Warm the honey briefly in the microwave (about 10 seconds should be enough). Mix in garlic, lemon pepper and lemon juice. 
2. Line a baking dish with tin foil. Place the fish, skin down, in the baking dish. Pour the honey mixture over top. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes, up to 24 hours in the fridge. Prior to baking, spoon the marinate back over top of the salmon again.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Bake the salmon until it flakes easily with a fork, about 8 minutes. Most recommend about 4-6 minutes per 1/2 inch of thickness. 


Thai Inspired Salmon
This recipe is adapted from ifood real. I went out on a limb and thought that spicey salmon might be tasty. We gave it a shot for my birthday dinner and it was a hit. The marinade is great for chicken too!

  • Half a salmon filet, thawed
  • 1/2 cup Thai sauce, recipe below
To prepare Thai sauce:
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (the real kind, if you can get it)
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce (I use Sun Luck brand)
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes 
Mix all of the ingredients until combined. Add to a small saucepan and cook until boiling. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool before pouring onto fresh meat. Refrigerate leftovers.

To prepare the salmon:
1. Pour 1/2 cup of the cooled Thai sauce over the uncooked salmon. Allow to marinate for at least two hours. 
2. Before cooking, coat the meat again with the marinade sauce.

3. Broil or grill until the meat flakes easily with a fork. My favorite is to grill it!

Honorable mention: Cilantro Salmon burgers by Alaska from Scratch. Oh lawd, it's changed my opinion on burgers.

So are you ready to order some salmon?  If you're interested in learning more about how to determine if your salmon is truly wild, sustainably caught and basically not messing around, here are some resources:

  • http://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/groups/salmon?q=salmon&type=sockeye
  • http://www.thehealthyeatingguide.com/farm-raised-salmon-vs-wild-caught-salmon/

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Signing up for a Zaycon Fresh account is free, but you'll be amazed at the quality of all the different kinds of meats and products you can find through them. If you loved this post and want to learn more about Zaycon Fresh - feel free to sign up using my referral code. I'll get a tiny kickback and you'll get a ton of delicious meat to stock your freezer!

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