You will go wild for Skip Hop’s Alphabet Zoo line, the newest collection to be introduced from this innovative and modern company! This zoo-rific collection includes four boldly-colored, whimsical pieces featuring modern graphics and beautiful colors. The soft baby toys are developmental with a designer twist and allow your little one to play and engage in a myriad of ways.

Mom” adores the super-soft Stack & Stick Animals, which has been safety-tested to meet or exceed ASTM, CPSIA, EN71 and applicable safety standards. 3 lively animals, including a zebra, owl and elephant, attach together with velcro or can be pulled apart for sensory fun! The elephant’s ears crinkle and features a chime inside his plush body, the zebra rattles, and the owl has many different fabrics embroidered on his body for tactile exploration.

In addition to the Stack & Stick Animals, the Alphabet Zoo collection includes:

Alphabet Zoo Activity Gym – The graphic activity mat, which includes a Tummy Time pillow, offers irresistible multi-sensory play for baby at every stage of development and brings new life to ABCs. The Activity Gym features 17 developmental activities for ages 0+ months and up.

Alphabet Zoo Activity Mirror – Baby will have tons of fun learning to recognize himself while playing with a monkey friend that sticks around the mirror. Large and baby-safe, the mirror is surrounded by a soft and friendly elephant.

Alphabet Zoo Unfolding Activity Book – Filled with tactile activities, this book opens up to become a fun-filled play center with five friendly animals all in a row. Packs neatly in a diaper bag, too!

The Alphabet Zoo Toy Collection is available online and at select retailers nationwide. Learn more at SkipHop.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

What Eco-Friendly Wood Should I Use For Home Improvement Projects?

This is the question many are faced with when deciding to make their home décor and home improvement projects more sustainable and planet-friendly. To improve a home’s insulation, thereby making it more energy efficient, the frames of wooden windows should be checked for damages or gaps and can be repaired using wood filler. Wooden shutters are the most suitable window treatment for this style of window, not only because the styles match, but also because shutters can reduce the amount of heat flowing out of your windows due to their material and proximity to the glass. But which wood types are environmentally-friendly wood resources?

Bamboo

Bamboo is a very popular sustainable material, as it has a very high growth rate. On average it grows 24 cm in just 24 hours. Now that’s fast! The growth rate of a plant is relevant as due to this bamboo doesn’t need pesticides to protect it. It’s also very versatile used not only for window treatments and flooring, but also as scaffolding and building material in some parts of the world.

Abaca

Abaca like bamboo has a very high growth rate, but another green point for it is that the entire plant can be used as a resource. It’s a variety of the banana plant, but an inedible variety and most famous in the form of Manila hemp, named after the capital of the Philippines. Rugs, clothes and fans can be made out of Manila, but traditionally paper (i.e. Manila envelopes) were created. Manila canvases are available too, which are ideal for adding eco-friendly wall art to a home design.

Seagrass

Seagrass is great for creating wicker furniture. Anything from a wicker rug to a wicker chair or sofa is not only comfortable but fits in well with a rustic style room. Seagrass is known for its beneficial influence on an ecosystem, often saving or creating a prosperous eco-system, as it stabilises the seabed and protects against coastal erosion. The processing procedure is also extremely eco-friendly as there isn’t much of a process at all, leading to little to no processing waste. After harvest the seagrass is dried and spun ready to be weaved. Its natural impurities are left within the material as they add to the textural feel of the final product.

*Image: anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

These bars are the perfect way to start your day, as they contain proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrates and an abundance of micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Morning Energy Bars (page 35)

Ingredients

2 cups chopped pitted dates
2 tbsp raw cacao powder (see Tips)
3 tbsp raw agave nectar (see Tips)
2 tbsp water
1⁄4 cup raw cashews
1⁄4 cup walnuts
1⁄4 cup raw whole almonds
3 tbsp raw shelled hemp seeds
2 tsp sesame seeds
Pinch fine sea salt

Preparation

1. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process dates, cacao powder, agave nectar and water until smooth. Add cashews, walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds and salt. Process until the ingredients come together to form a sticky mass, stopping the motor once and scraping down the sides of the work bowl.

2. Transfer to a cutting board. Using your hands, press out the mixture until it is 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick and shape into a square about 6 inches (15 cm) long. Cut into 9 bars, each approximately 3 inches (7.5 cm) long and 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. Place on a platter or baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for one hour to set. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 9 bars.

Variations

Various kinds of nuts and seeds can be substituted in the same quantities. For example, you may substitute chia seeds for the sesame seeds. If you have Brazil nuts on hand, try substituting them for the cashews. By experimenting, you may find a combination that suits you to a tee.

Tips

There are numerous varieties of dates, but Medjool are my favorite. Although they are generally more expensive, they are larger, softer and ideal for using in raw food recipes.

Cacao powder is powdered raw chocolate. Is it similar to cocoa powder but tastes even better, with a deeper, richer flavor. Cacao powder is available in well-stocked supermarkets, natural foods stores and online. If you are transitioning to a raw foods diet or can’t find it, substitute an equal quantity of good-quality cocoa powder.

When purchasing agave nectar, be sure to look for products labeled “raw.” Most of the agave nectar on the market has been heated to a high temperature and does not qualify as raw food. If you have concerns, ask your purveyor.

*Excerpted from Eat Raw, Eat Well by Douglas McNish © 2012 Robert Rose Inc. www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.*

Photo credit: Colin Erricson/www.robertrose.ca

Founded in 2010 by Donna Steinmann, Medicine Mama’s Apothecary is a skincare company that harnesses the power of nature in all of their eco-friendly, organic products for the skin and face. This dynamic woman is truly an inspiration, and it was fascinating to learn a little bit more about the woman behind this eco-fabulous line that has “Mom” raving!

An Interview with Donna Steinmann, Founder of Medicine Mama’s Apothecary

Tell us about your eco-inspired company!

As a skin care company, we trust nature’s intelligent design and understand that the less we meddle with it, the better off we are. We source the finest organic, natural and pristine ingredients that we can find because we know that will make us the best Magic.

The honeybee products that we use to make our creams are the most eco-friendly raw materials on Earth since the bees naturally give back to the ecosystem with every plant and nectar they harvest. We are ever mindful to be as sustainable as the bees and our production line is zero-waste with no byproducts.

How do you choose to go green in your own life?

I ride my bicycle to work every day.

Guilty green pleasure?

I love wearing clothes made with organic materials like raw silk, bamboo and organic cotton.

Can you offer any encouraging words for those with a small sustainable business?

If you love what you do, are passionate about it and can’t imagine doing anything else or anything differently, you have already succeeded.

Ever wish you could wave a magic wand that would instantly relieve cracked and chapped lips, help soothe little boo boos and scrapes, nourish and protect the skin on your face during the winter – all at once? Well, now you can, with the Sweet Bee Magic Wand from Medicine Mama’s Apothecary! This organic, all-purpose healing stick is “Mom’s” newest go-to remedy for so many ailments! Made with 4 ingredients, including a propolis & honey blend, protective beeswax, extra virgin avocado oil, and extra virgin olive oil, a little goes a long way when using the healing wand! It is the perfect size to tuck in a pocket, purse or diaper bag for on-the-go, too!

The Sweet Bee Magic Wand can be used to provide relief and soothing care for the following:

Chapped Lips

Shaving Burn

Dry skin on the face

Cold Sores

Cuts, Scrapes & Bites

Sunburn

Rash, Burn & Scar Repair

This is one powerful and practical balm, and “Mom” loves that it works quickly to heal and soothe. After an hour of using it on her daughter’s chapped lips and skin around the mouth, the skin was moisturized and the cracking she was starting to see earlier had vanished. What a little miracle balm!

To learn more about Medicine Mama’s Apothecary, their various products, or to order the Sweet Bee Magic Wand online, please visit MedicineMamasApothecary.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

Great Gift Ideas for Eco-Friendly Couples

There’s no denying that it can be difficult to find gifts for the couple that insists on using only products that are kind to the environment. You can only give them so many sets of bamboo cutlery, recycled-plastic lawn chairs, and refurbished garage-sale photo frames before you start to run out of ideas. So here are a few that will have them jumping for joy and flipping their eco-lids.

1. Plants. You may want to skip the cut flowers and opt for a potted plant, but rather than go with the standard fern or fichus, choose something like a Jade plant, which is not only good luck, but also drought-resistant. Of course, you could also give your green friends an organic vegetable or herb plant (who can’t use a few more organic tomatoes or some fresh basil right off the vine? – you could give them everything they need for a great, organic pasta sauce!).

2. Matching bicycles. This is a great green gift that will get your friends from here to there with nary a carbon emission. But you can do even more for the environment by opting for recycled bikes, which is to say those that have been rescued from the trash heap, saved from a fate in the landfill, and refurbished to enjoy a second life. If you’re really lucky, you might even find a sweet seat with a bicycle built for two.

3. Personalized travel coffee mugs. If your friends can’t live without their half-caff organic blend from the local coffee house each morning, give them an eco-friendly way to cart it to work. Skip the plastics and metals and opt instead for patterned porcelain in a pretty print. You may even be able to get them customized with your friends’ married names for a one-of-a-kind green gift (check the selection on Etsy to support independent artists).

4. Renewable energy credits. Your friends may be prone to bemoaning their inability to afford solar panels or other forms of alternative energy. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still support the market for harnessing solar, wind, water, and geothermal energy. By purchasing renewable energy credits (or certificates) from the power company, you are ensuring that sustainable sources of energy continue to be utilized and pushed out to the general public as a replacement for the average power source (fossil fuels, nuclear, etc.). And when you purchase them in the names of your friends, they can feel good about providing others with the green energy that they can’t yet afford in their own home.

5. Eco-tourist retreat. For the couple that has it all you can’t go wrong with an activity gift. And this one will ensure that the only reason they ever need to visit a lawyer (at Morgan Law Firm or some other reputable institution) is to plan their estate far down the road. Sending your Earth-loving friends for an eco-retreat that puts them squarely in a beautiful, natural setting where they can reconnect (free of the guilt that might result from visiting other resorts). And who knows; by shipping them off to the Canadian wilderness, the Australian outback, or the wetlands of Brazil, you could just start an annual tradition that helps your friends stay together forever. Think of it as couple’s therapy for the green set.

Fresh Tomato and Basil Flatbread

Created by Chef Oscar del Rivero, Peacock Garden Cafe

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra to taste
10 to 12 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup goat cheese
1-2 medium tomatoes, depending on preference, sliced
½ a red onion, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Preparation

1. Combine the flour, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt in the bowl of an upright mixer, fitted with a dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed until incorporated, about 2 minutes.

2. With the machine running, slowly add the water until the mixture forms a dough around the hook. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth.

3. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Form into disk shapes and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill.

5. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each piece of dough into an 8 to 10-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick.

6. Brush each circle with extra-virgin olive oil and grill for 4 minutes on each side.

7. Remove the flat bread from the grill to cool slightly. Add the tomato, goat cheese, and red onion and place in a 450-degree oven for 5 minutes until cheese begins to melt.

8. To finish, place chopped basil on top and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and freshly cracked pepper.

Serves 4.

About the Peacock Garden Cafe, Miami FL

As a top South Florida restaurant specializing in garden-inspired cuisine, Peacock Garden Café is located just steps from Biscayne Bay in the charming Coconut Grove neighborhood, Executive Chef Oscar del Rivero is inspired by South Florida’s lush and tropical environment and delivers a menu that’s full of healthy greens and flavorful herbs. The restaurant even features an on-site herb garden, housed in an antique bathtub.

Guests at Peacock Garden Café enjoy the fresh fare in a lush garden accented with historical décor and vintage furnishings that brings the history of Miami’s oldest neighborhood to life.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Chef Oscar del Rivero, Peacock Garden Cafe.*

Get your snack on with Rocky Mountain Popcorn, all-natural, nut-free and gluten-free popcorn that comes in 7 extremely tasty varieties! “Mom” was recently introduced to this delicious brand of whole grain popcorn that comes in convenient-sized bags which are perfect for healthier snacking during the day! Her favorite flavors include Naked, Kettle and White Cheddar – all are simply yummy and it was hard to choose just one as the most delectable variety!

Why choose Rocky Mountain Popcorn?

• All-natural, gluten-and-nut free snack with no corn syrup or hydrogenated oils.
• Rocky Mountain Popcorn also contains roughly 75 percent less fat than potato chips.
• Rocky Mountain Popcorn has 35 to 50 percent less sodium as most potato chips.
• A fiber-packed snack, perfect for people on the go with a busy, healthy lifestyle.

Tuck one of these bags in your desk drawer at work for healthier snacking, or bring some along for a long road trip this summer – with varieties for the entire family, everyone will be happy!

To learn more about the Rocky Mountain Popcorn Company, to locate a store near you, or to order online, visit RMPopcorn.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

Spring Clean Your Health

With Spring in full swing and everyone looking to clear the clutter around the home, why not cleanse the mind and body, as well? Dr. John A. Robinson, author of the brand new book, “The Hormone Zone,” shares his 5 tips on how to spring clean your health!

1. DIET: Eat as close to nature as possible and eat a variety of foods.

“Let thy food be thy medicine!” When foods are less processed and abundant in variety, you will get more valuable nutrients to help prevent disease and live your best life!

2. EXERCISE: Boost metabolism with short durations.

Exercise does not have to be long and boring! Keeping the intensity the sessions short has been shown to be the best way to increase your fat burning hormones leading to a slimmer waist line and a happier you!

3. LIFESTYLE: Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse!

Spring cleaning applies just as much to your body as it does to your house. Gentle cleansing a few times per year helps to increase your energy, mental focus, and keeps your organs happy and healthy!

4. MENTAL HEALTH: Keep the mind sharp!

Research has shown again and again that meditation reduces stress and stress related hormones and improves your mind and your ability to think clearly. Meditation helps you focus your mind to find solutions toy our problems!

5. SPIRITUALITY: Have a purpose driven life!

Studies agree that people who have a sense of spirituality and who have an active spiritual practice, such as a being a member of a religious group or spiritual community, live longer and are healthier. Your spirituality is predicated on your concept of your true purpose in life and how this relates to helping yourself and others.

This vegetarian lasagna requires making a couple of components, but it comes together quickly because those components don’t need to be cooked. Just blend basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor for the pesto. Use the same food processor—you don’t even need to wash it—to make the pea, ricotta, and Parmesan cheese filling, and layer that along with the pesto between no-boil noodles. Top it with mozzarella cheese and bake it for a new twist on vegetarian lasagna that’s as satisfying as a meat-and-tomato-sauce version.

Pesto and Pea Lasagna

Ingredients

For the pesto:
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil

For the pea and cheese filling:
3 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 pound frozen peas, thawed
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1 cup heavy cream

To assemble:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 (8- to 9-ounce) box no-boil lasagna noodles (12 noodles)
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
Olive oil, for coating the foil

Preparation

For the pesto:

Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Combine all of the ingredients except the oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. With the food processor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream until evenly incorporated. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then pulse to finish incorporating all of the ingredients. Transfer the pesto to a small bowl and set aside. Reserve the food processor and blade (no need to wash them).

For the pea and cheese filling:

Place all of the measured ingredients except the cream in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the blade attachment. With the food processor running, add the cream in a slow, steady stream until the mixture is almost smooth but some texture remains, about 45 seconds. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Leave the filling in the food processor.

To assemble:

Pour the cream evenly over the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 4 lasagna noodles, allowing them to overlap slightly. Using a spoon, evenly spread a third of the pea-ricotta filling over the noodles, then evenly spread half of the pesto over the filling. Evenly sprinkle half of the pine nuts over the pesto.

Cover with another layer of 4 noodles. Evenly spread another third of the pea-ricotta filling over the noodles. (Do not cover with pesto.)

Cover with the last 4 noodles. Evenly spread the remaining third of the pea-ricotta filling over the noodles, then evenly spread the remaining half of the pesto over the filling. Evenly sprinkle the remaining half of the pine nuts over the pesto. Evenly arrange the mozzarella slices over the top. Coat 1 side of a large piece of aluminum foil with olive oil and cover the dish tightly with the foil, oil-side down.

Bake until the sauce is starting to bubble around the edges, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top and edges of the lasagna are lightly browned in spots and the filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes more. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

*Recipe and image courtesy of CHOW.com.*