Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bento Giveaway from + Lots of Facebook freebies!

I'm all about free stuff. In this economy, every little bit helps. As much as I would love to get into couponing (though not extreme couponing! I'm not that crazy!), I don't have the time between work, school, and mommyhood. So when I see freebies pop up on my Facebook news feed, I get very excited! Right now, Pantene, Aussie, and Herbal Essences are all giving away coupons for free full-sized products from their respective Facebook pages! Simply "Like" each page and fill out a simple form to request your coupons. It's that easy!

Another way to save a little money and have fun in the process is by entering online giveaways! I've posted several bento-related giveaways here before, and while I've yet to win, I keep hoping that someone I know will benefit from my posts!, a very reasonably-priced bento product website, is hosting a giveaway!
 Simply sign up for a free account and leave a comment on this page to enter. Be sure to include your favorite item that's for sale on the site! Mine is above. (Yes, I know it looks conspicuously like the bento box I already have... but I think she needs a sister!) I'm hoping to start getting back into the swing of bento-ing once Fall semester rolls around. I could use some new gear!

Have fun finding those freebies! You never know where they might turn up!

- Mother Nature Mom

Friday, June 3, 2011

Charlie Banana Cloth Diaper Giveaway!

EcoBabyBuys has partnered up with Charlie Banana to giveaway two sets of super cute cloth diapers! I don't CD (as it's commonly called), mostly because I was completely intimidated by the idea. Wyatt will be out of diapers soon enough, so maybe for baby number two? I love the concept and its positive impact on the earth!

Go here to enter the giveaway. It closes June 8th!

- Mother Nature Mom

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Greentainer USA Giveaway!

It must be the summer of bento giveaways!

Bentobloggy is hosting a great giveaway sponsored by Greentainer USA! Go green this summer with one of their awesome stainless steel products!
- Mother Nature Mom

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Another Bento Giveaway!

We're almost completely settled into our new place... finally! My Maymester class started last week, and it's so much fun! I'm taking Japanese Literature and having a blast learning about various aspects of Japanese culture along the way. The instructor taught at an American high school in Japan in the 1970s and visits the country regularly. And our final? A traditional Japanese dinner. Pretty fantastic!
Speaking of things Japanese, the lovely lady over at Sonoma Bento is having a bento giveaway! She's giving away an awesome starter kit that's perfect for those who want to make bento, but don't know where to start!

- Mother Nature Mom

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Recycle your flip-flops and help build a playground.

Contrary to popular belief, I have not forgotten that I have a blog. =) Life is extremely hectic right now - it's finals time at school AND we're moving this weekend! I'll be around more once summer classes start and my schedule isn't quite so frenzied.

I came across this today and HAD to share it!

Old Navy is asking for people to donate their old flip-flops that they don't wear anymore - so that they can be used to build playgrounds! How amazing is that?! The flip-flops can be any size and any kind, not just Old Navy brand. Donations are taken in store until May 21st. The Facebook event is here - click "I'm Attending" so that you won't forget to donate!

- Mother Nature Mom

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pasta E Fagioli

Wyatt and I spent a good portion of the day at my mom's, where she whipped up this fantastic chili-esque soup off the top of her head. So jealous...

Pasta E Fagioli

1/2 lb ground beef
Small pasta, such as ditalini, orzo, or shells
2 cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, sliced thin
1 small onion, minced
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can white navy beans, drained
1 cup water
2 cups beef broth
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
chili powder, optional

Boil water for pasta. In a large pot, add water and broth. Add celery and carrots and let them cook until soft. While they cook, brown the ground beef and start pasta. Add all other ingredients to large pot and heat thoroughly. Serve over pasta.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Has Sprung!

Wyatt under the crab apple tree


Flowering almond

Tea olive tree. Tiny blossoms, but they smell amazing!

Crab apple branches


Little man in his Radio Flyer

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Big Three: Inaugural Edition

I've noticed lots of other blogs that feature weekly lists: favorite music of the moment, neat DIY projects, cool websites, and the like. (The Saturday Seven over at Positively Splendid and Sweet Green Tangerine's Fill in the Blank Friday posts come to mind.) I thought it would be neat to do something similar, but I don't think I can come up with seven new things every week. Instead, I'm introducing The Big Three! This week I've featuring three awesome purchases I've made in the last couple of weeks. No buyer's remorse here.

#1: Bobble Water Bottles

 The Bobble is probably the coolest water bottle I've ever seen. Of course it has the green thing going for it, but even better... it has a filter! It's like having a portable Brita in your bag at all times! Kenny bought his from Target, and I actually used the deal that I mentioned here to buy mine.
We have the one liter sized Bobbles, but they're also available in the smaller 13 oz and 18.5 oz sizes. Replacement filters are also available.

#2: NUK Active Cups

We've finally found a sippy that Wyatt likes! Honestly, we probably should have started here anyway; we used NUK bottles, so why not NUK sippy cups? But, you live and learn. This is one of the few cups that I've found to be truly "leak proof," it's large enough to hold a good amount of liquid, and the parts are easy to clean. 

NUK has finally come out with replacement spouts for these as well, which means you don't have to buy an all-new cup every time you need a new spout. And, the parts are interchangeable with other NUK products.

Plus it has a pirate, and who doesn't like pirates?

#3: Eric Carle at Kohl's Stores

We're all familiar with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and you probably know lots of other Eric Carle books as well. I grew up reading them, and this book was one of the first that I bought for Wyatt. Right now, Kohl's stores are featuring Eric Carle books and plushes for $5 each as part of their Kohl's Cares program. 100% of net profits from the books and plushes goes to support kids' health and education initiatives around the country.

The books featured are The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Foolish Tortoise, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and The Grouchy Ladybug.

So, there's this week's Big Three! What awesome stuff have you bought this week?

- Mother Nature Mom

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A few deals for your Tuesday!

It feels like it's been a year since I've blogged! Work and school and life in general gets in the way of that sometimes. But, I ran across a couple of good deals today that I thought I'd share:
Another thredUP deal is going on at Eversave, a site that's similar to Groupon. This deal is a one-year PRO membership + a free box of clothes with free shipping for $20. Not as good as the Totsy deal in my opinion, but if you're interested in trying thredUP, this might be a good choice for you.
Gaggle of Chicks, yet another Groupon clone, has $25 of goods for $10 from When you sign up for a new account with Gaggle of Chicks, you automatically get a $10 credit, which would make this deal free! LetsGoGreen has lots of eco-friendly stuff from household cleaners and paper products to water conservation kits, BPA-free bottles, kids' plates and utensils, and (my personal favorite) reusable shopping bags. Shipping is not included with this offer.

Once midterms are over, I should have a little more free time to update around here. It seems like the month of February just flew by!

- Mother Nature Mom

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

thredUP Review

I have a fever... and the only prescription is more thredUP!

I have to say, I've become a little addicted to thredUP. (Don't know what thredUP is? Check out this post. Keep in mind the Totsy deal has ended.) It's a wonderful site with a great concept and a very lively and helpful online community on Facebook.

So far, I've listed two boxes, sold one, and bought two for myself. I've been very, very pleased with the quality - and quantity - of the items I've received.
It didn't take long to figure out that it's very important to "stuff" the boxes. Stuffed boxes sell. Boxes with only a few items do not. Of course, this makes sense. The boxes used through thredUP are all medium flat-rate shipping boxes, so everyone gets the same sized box. Would you want a few pairs of jeans and a couple of shirts? Or six complete outfits, two hats, two pairs of shorts, three pairs of socks, a bib, and ten onesies? (Yes, I packed ALL of that into a box!) Size does factor into this a bit, since bigger sized clothes are, well... bigger. But since everyone pays the same amount for shipping for the same sized box, who wouldn't want the most for their money? A lot of moms are willing to make custom boxes and post pictures of the contents through Facebook as well. (I recommend going through their Facebook page and looking at pictures. That way you'll know EXACTLY what you're getting!)

It's also possible to earn money simply by listing boxes. thredUP has a Low Supply List comprised of sizes that are in low supply on the site. The list fluctuates from day to day, with different sizes earning more money at different times. For instance, I earned a $4 credit toward my account by posting a box of 6/9-month clothing when 9-month clothes were in low supply. (The price has since dropped to $2.) Once the box is picked, the money goes into your account.

In contrast, there seems to be an overflow of newborn and 0/3 month clothes - the sizes babies grow out of the fastest. thredUP is a great way to finish out your layette without spending a fortune.

I think families with multiple babies/kids can really gain from this site: post boxes of your kids' outgrown, gently used clothes, potentially earn money for your boxes, and pick boxes of clothes that your kids can wear now or in the future. For cheap.

The only real downside I've noticed is that the site needs some work. They're new and they're working out the kinks, so the site can lag a bit from time to time. The search function also needs work, which is another reason why I recommend going through their Facebook page. Lots of moms link directly to the box from their picture, saving the hassle of using the sometimes-faulty search engine.

The Bottom Line:
A box costs a total of $15.95 (if you don't have any credits.) That's about what a really cute outfit would cost at any major department store. With thredUP, you'll get LOTS of cute outfits for the same price. Sounds like a winner to me.

 You've got that right.

If you'd like a personal invitation to thredUP from me, send me your e-mail address! You'll earn $5 immediately for signing up through me, and I'll earn $5 when you pick and pay for your first box. It's a win/win! Plus, you'll be able to invite other people to join and earn money through them. Just leave me a comment. (Don't worry, all comments have to be approved before posting, so no one else will see your address.)
- Mother Nature Mom

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Another blogger has been sweet and kind enough to share her Stylish Blogger Award with me!

The lovely lady behind the blog Sweet Green Tangerine received this award and got to share it with 15 other bloggers... and I'm one of them! She also linked to my homemade laundry detergent post not too long ago, which I'm immensely grateful for. It's nice to know my posts are reaching other moms and helping them out!

Check out her blog. It's a mix of mommy/craft/DIY/green all rolled into one! And yes, her blog is seriously stylish.

- Mother Nature Mom

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cool Bento Giveaway!

One of the bento blogs that I follow is hosting a giveaway of cool bento goodies! If you've thought about bento-ing but didn't know how to start, this is a great way to score some free stuff! Head on over to Bentobloggy to enter.

A lot of the bentos featured on this blog are geared towards kids. While Wyatt isn't old enough for bento lunches yet, it's still neat to see what other moms are doing for their kids' lunches!

- Mother Nature Mom

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Year of the Rabbit Bento

Lunch time!

Jumbalaya with Andouille sausage and Cajun-spiced shrimp, mini corn muffin, edamame, broccoli, and corn
Strawberry flowers, grapes, mango, apple bunnies, and dark-chocolate covered cashews

Kenny and I had this jumbalaya the other night. We used a homemade mix that we bought at an arts and crafts fair awhile back, then added the sausage, shrimp, tomatoes, and a few more spices. Andouille is pretty spicy by itself. Paired with the shrimp, this has some serious kick! Pretty great for a rainy day. The corn muffin is from a batch made with good ol' Jiffy mix. Easy peasy.

As for the strawberry flowers... I'm just ready for spring! I'm definitely an autumn person, but spring is always so wonderful after a long, dreary winter. (My birthday doesn't fall on the spring equinox this year, but it often does.) Expect to see lots of flowery details in future bentos, because my package from JList finally came!
Along with these cutters, I also bought a trio of silicone cups (one is housing the cashews), imitation Pocky chopsticks, mini bottles for soy sauce/salad dressing/etc, and my new bunny-themed bento box!

(Ugh, glare.)

I adore this box. I wanted something cutesy, but more functional than my Kokeshi bento. This one came with a matching bag, a pair of chopsticks, and inner dividers to keep food separated. Plus, it has a rabbit! Who doesn't like rabbits?! I also love the sakura (cherry) blossoms, and the space theme that's on the box/bag. In Japan, it is said that a rabbit resides on the moon (similar to the "man in the moon" we have here in the United States). In Sailor Moon, the titular character's name is Usagi Tsukino, or tsuki no usagi - literally "rabbit of the moon". If you've ever watched the TV show or read the manga series, you might have noticed lots of bunny imagery.

Happy Chinese New Year!

- Mother Nature Mom

Monday, January 31, 2011

thredUP Offer from Totsy

Totsy is offering a great deal on Pro Memberships to thredUP: FREE + a $5 credit towards your first purchase! Doesn't get much better than that, right?
What is thredUP? It's a swap site for moms to swap their kids' gently used clothes/toys with other moms! Moms (or dads) put together "boxes" of their items their children can no longer wear and list them on the site. Pick a box you like, pay $5 plus shipping, and have it sent to your house. In return, put together your own box. When it's picked, ship it for no cost to yourself.

I've never personally tried thredUP, but it looks promising! Wyatt grows out of his clothes so fast that it's almost physically painful to pay full price for something that he'll only wear a few times. I definitely plan on trying out thredUP (I've already gotten my deal from Totsy) and I'll post a review here when I've picked a box and received it.

Other great baby/kid-related sites (reposted):

Other invitations to various deal sites (reposted):

- Mother Nature Mom

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

No-Heat-Required Bento

(Sorry for the less than stellar picture. I managed to snap just one before my camera battery died!) 

A bagel with thinly sliced chicken, lettuce, and red pepper hummus. An "apple" made from red sweet pepper, chicken, and sesame seeds for garnish.
More of the hummus on the side with strips of orange and yellow sweet pepper.
Mung bean sprouts sauteed in a little sesame oil, with pepper and sesame salt to taste.
Grapes and a baby gala apple for dessert.
I know, I know. Just the word "mung" is enough to make the sprouts sound completely unappetizing. They're not though, I promise!

This is a great bento to eat a room temperature, which is how bento lunches are traditionally eaten. I have access to a microwave both at work and school, but I think it's easier to plan and prepare a bento knowing you won't have to use one. Of course, if the weather stays rainy for the rest of the week, I may be rethinking that sentiment...
I also hope this bento will keep me going until I get home. The bentos I've been packing as of late have been filling at the time, but I'm starving by the time I get home around 6:00. I may start bringing a snack as well.
Hope everyone enjoyed their lunch as much as I did!

- Mother Nature Mom

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Ponyo, Ponyo little fishie in the sea!" Bento

I think I may have found my favorite place in the world.

Actually, make that two places. Recently, Kenny and I went to The Fresh Market in Macon. It's just up the street from the Starbucks that I used to work at, and I could kick myself for never going in before! I was able to find lots of Japanese cooking ingredients that Kroger doesn't carry, such as ponzu and mirin. (Their Asian section is actually pretty small, but it's packed with lots of neat stuff.) The fresh produce section is quite impressive, as is their bakery and coffee selections. I think The Fresh Market will have to be added to our round of stops the next time we go to Macon!

On Monday, Wyatt and I drove to Warner Robins with my parents to shop at Hobby Lobby, the greatest place on earth. (Seriously, it's in my top three with The Fresh Market and Target.) It truly is a magical place. It's a good thing Monday was a holiday; if I'd been able to put my check in the bank, it would have come right back out. Note to self: do not go to either of these places without the intention of spending some money!

My only purchase from Hobby Lobby was a set of tiny food cutters to use in my bento-making. It was actually very hard to choose just one set as they had lots to pick from. They also had a pretty decent selection of silicon baking cups, which are good for bento as well. If I wasn't waiting for some to come in the mail (ahem, get on it Japan), I would have bought a few. I decided to use my new cutters for today's bento...

It's a Ponyo bento!

Don't know Ponyo? It's a delightful animated movie by Studio Ghibli (of My Neighbor Totoro fame) featuring a little fish who wants to be a human girl. The American title is shortened from the Japanese, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. I've probably watched it at least five times on Netflix. The English dub features the voices of Liam Neeson, Kate Blanchett, Tina Fey, Matt Damon, and Betty White. It's available to watch instantly from Netflix - I highly recommend it!

Anyway, this bento features a mini Ponyo hamburger. (I made her eyes too close together, but I still think it's recognizable as Ponyo.) Her hair and fins are pieces of apple, and her eyes and facial features are pieces of potato. There's also some roasted rosemary potatoes and a ham flower. Why? Because "Ponyo wants ham!" Mango slices are tucked in the corner for dessert.

I might give myself a bento break tomorrow. I'm in the mood for sushi, and there's a great little Japanese restaurant within walking distance of campus. They even sell restaurant-style bento lunches! I might have to snap a picture or two to show you all...

- Mother Nature Mom

Banana Walnut Bread + recipe

3 bananas, mashed
¼ c. melted butter
1 egg, beaten
1 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
½ c. walnuts, chopped (could use pecans instead)

Mash bananas first. It's easier to add the other ingredients this way. Try to use bananas that are overripe with some brown splotches on the peel. Bananas that are green or just ripened will be difficult to mash.

Combine everything in a large bowl and pour into a lightly greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees (325 if you're using a glass pan) for 45 minutes. Insert a toothpick - if it comes away clean, the bread is done. So simple and easy! And so delicious! I recommend it with a big cup of coffee...

- Mother Nature Mom

Thursday, January 13, 2011

First Day of the Semester Bento

Are you glad to be back in school? Yeah, me either...

Leftover Tuscan chicken and whole wheat penne pasta in a lettuce "cup"
Edamame, star fruit, kumquats, and a very sad attempt at an apple bunny

I wound up taking a very quick picture outside (where it is 30 degrees, by the way) because the lights were out in the break room in the Arts & Sciences building. Don't know why...? Oh well. Natural light is better anyway.

I want to do a full-fledged Year of the Rabbit bento when my new bento supplies come in (because, yes, I bought more). The apple bunny was mostly for practice. Looks like I could use a bit more...

It's absolutely freezing outside. No outdoor lunch today, or for awhile. There's still some residual snow/ice on the ground around campus. Milledgeville was hit harder than Dublin in Snurricane 2011. (Snurricane? Snow-cano? Snow-nami? I'll stop.)

Is it Spring yet?

- Mother Nature Mom

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Who would have thought that making homemade laundry detergent would be so easy?

I went the really easy route - I made a powdered detergent instead of a liquid one. Lazy? Maybe. Time saving? You bet!

1 bar soap, such as Ivory, Zote, or Dr. Bronner's
1 1/2 cup borax
1 1/2 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda)

Finely grate the entire soap bar into the container you plan to use for your detergent. Add the borax and washing soda. Mix well. Use 1 Tbsp per load (2 Tbsp if you're washing cloth diapers.)

That's it. Seriously.

I used an empty, cleaned applesauce jar for my detergent. A large, empty yogurt tub would work well, too. The scoop is from a can of formula. It's the perfect size since it measures out to be very close to a tablespoon.

(Pardon the glare.)

I found all of the ingredients at my local Kroger. The borax and washing soda was in the detergent/cleaner aisle, and the Dr. Bronner's soap was in the Natural Goods section. Ivory, Zote, and other similar soaps would be near the borax and washing soda. Dr. Bronner's is an all-natural alternative that I found to be highly recommended on several other blogs while doing research. Plus, it comes in so many different scents! Tea tree oil, peppermint, lavender... the list goes on and on. I bought almond, because I'm a little nutty about almond. (Ok, I'll stop now...)

All in all, I paid about $11-$12 for my ingredients, but I still have plenty of borax and washing soda left over to make at least two more batches of laundry detergent. That price beats the pants off the store-bought stuff any day!

For a liquid laundry detergent recipe, visit my friend Sarah's blog, NaturalFor.

- Mother Nature Mom

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Freezer Cooking: The Planning Stage + easy Asian marinade recipe

I had every intention of going to the grocery store today, but it didn't happen. It was raining and dreary outside all day long. Plus, I'm still nursing a cold that I seem to have picked up after eating at my parents' house a few days ago. (Thanks, Mom!) So, I took the opportunity to make a list for everything I'll need for my Freezer Cooking Day.

Keep in mind, I plan on doing a very small FCD. Some people cook enough to last their families for an entire month (hence "once-a-month cooking") - and I'm talking breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I'm not that ambitious, and my freezer is not that big. And since this is the first time I'll be attempting a FCD, I'm going to start small.

I reevaluated my "to-make" list after looking in my cabinets and freezer, and based on Kenny's requests. As of right now, I'll be making:

Kenny's Mom's Spaghetti Sauce X2 (at least)
Asian marinated chicken and shrimp (using a marinade recipe found at Life as Mom)
Chicken Casserole X2 (using my friend, Kat's, recipe)
Mini burgers for bentos (using a recipe from the Just Bento cookbook)

MoneySavingMom has great printable worksheets to use for FCD. They make it simple to figure out what's already in your pantry/freezer, brainstorm recipe ideas, and shop for additional ingredients. There's also plenty of room for notes, and an additional page to write out prep work.

Here's what my lists look like. (Can you see my new Just Bento cookbook? And Kenny's Alton Brown cookbook?) There's another printable sheet to write out recipes, but I already have mine printed on index cards.

I gave the Asian marinade a trial run tonight for dinner, just to see if it we'd want it again. It was delicious! I deviated slightly from Life As Mom's recipe, because I didn't have any sesame oil on hand:

7 Tbsp rice vinegar (mine is basil and oregano infused)
3 Tbsp soy sauce (I used lite)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup oil (I used olive oil)

The original calls for a tablespoon of sesame oil, which probably kicks up the Asian-ness a bit. I compensated with an extra tablespoon of the rice vinegar. I marinated three fairly large chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag in the fridge overnight, then cooked them on top of the stove. They stayed very moist and tender. I served them alongside whole wheat penne pasta and corn. Pretty delicious.

I'm planning on grocery shopping tomorrow, weather and illness permitting. It's time to see what this freezer cooking business is all about!

- Mother Nature Mom

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Freezer Cooking: The Introduction

Am I really crazy enough to do this? Guess so.

Freezer cooking, or once-a-month cooking, is when a crazy lady (i.e. me) decides to cook A LOT of food all at once, not eat ANY of it, and then stash it in the freezer to eat at a later date.

Ok, so that's not the entire story. But that's basically what I've gotten myself into.

I've considered doing a freezer cooking day for quite some time. I thought it sounded great last semester when I was up to my ears in papers and books and finals. Of course, that was not the time to attempt to do freezer cooking in any capacity, so I decided to put it off until I had a break from school. Since one of my New Year's resolutions is to be more organized, I thought it would be the perfect time to attempt freezer cooking! The idea is to prepare, at least in part, several meals for future use at the same time. This cuts down on cooking and prep time since you're cooking/preparing multiple meals at once. It also cuts down on the stress of having to prepare dinner, especially if it's on a school day. And, if planned correctly, it can save a ton of money.

Interested yet?

With the help of Money Saving Mom and Life As Mom, two wonderful blogging ladies with lots of freezer cooking days under their belts, I think I might be able to pull this off.

The Food:

Kenny's Mom's Spaghetti Sauce
My Mom's Meatloaf
Lawnmower Taco
Lots of marinated chicken and shrimp

Eventually, I'd like to do cookies and muffins as well, but I think I have enough to deal with for the time being.

So, what are some of your favorite meals? I'm willing to try them out and give them a freezer cooking day seal of approval! Especially if it involves chicken, 'cause I have a lot of chicken...

- Mother Nature Mom