an {almost} zero-waste birthday party

It's been over a month now since our little guy turned one and since we celebrated that special day with family and friends, but I wanted to take a few minutes to share with you about the little party we threw for him!  

Have you explored the world of first birthday parties on Pinterest???  A few words to describe it would be "adorable," "amazing," "wonderful," "overwhelming," "expensive," "obsessive"....dare I say "scary"???  I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest.  I love it as a place to keep track of links.  You can be so visually organized on Pinterest, which is awesome!  I love it for the plethora of ideas that you can find on there for just about anything and everything.  I hate it as it I think it fuels the issues that we have in this culture for constantly wanting more and being discontent with what we have.  So, as I started planning for this special one-year-old's first birthday party, I had to continually remind myself that he is one and would not remember this party, nor was the party about having perfect decorations or amazingly cute treats.  No, it was about celebrating the birth of our beloved boy with those we love. 

Simplicity became my mantra (I'm sure you're shocked, right?!) and out of that desire for simplicity grew a desire to keep this party as eco-friendly as possible.  Because, parties sure can create a lot of trash!  My goodness!  Between disposable plates, cups, pop/beer cans, utensils, plastic wrap, food waste, wrapping paper, decorations, etc., there is just a lot of trash!  So, I intentionally thought through all that would be coming in and going out and did my best to limit the trash where I could.  Here are some of the ways I was able to host an {almost} zero-waste birthday party.

  • I made a "forever" birthday banner!  I knew I wanted a birthday banner for the party and so I tossed around ideas of making one that said "one," and that could be use for subsequent children turning one...but as the usefulness of that was a bit limited, I decided, "Heck! We need a banner that can be used every year for each birthday!" And the "forever" birthday banner was born out of leftover fabric scraps, most of which hold sentimental memories, like fabric from the crib sheets, Oak's quilts, a dress I made, our wedding decor, handmade gifts for family/friends, etc.
  • I used photos as decor. I've been wanting to print a bunch of pictures and put them into albums and in frames in our stairway, and so I decided to print pictures of Oak from his first year and put them up all around the room we used for the party.  I used garden twine, mini clothes pins, and masking tape to attache them to the walls. The tape was recycled, the twine will be reused, and the mini clothes pins will be saved for other such events/decoration needs. 
  • I used things I already had for decor.  We had some leftover tree trunk slices from my brother's wedding that we used as centerpieces Also, for Oak's Halloween costume last year he was an Oak tree made out of felt leaves pinned to a shirt, so I used the felt leaves on the tables as well. 
  • I printed simple coloring sheets for the tables.  They were then recycled after the party and the crayons we used were from our church's stash, where we held the party.  We were also able to use the church's cloth tablecloths, which was awesome.

 

  • I bought compostable plates, cups, straws, and utensils.  These were a bit more expensive than regular plastic/paper disposables, but it was important to me to compost them rather than throw them away. 
  • I used real dishes where I could.  I brought a basketful of mason jars that we used as glasses and used real dishes for the food I brought.  Where food was concerned, the only trash we created was a bit of plastic wrap and the only recyclables were beer cans and a lemonade jar. 

I do believe that the wrapping paper ended up being thrown away, rather than recycled, as I didn't help with that clean up process, but other than that, all things were composted or recycled and clean up was pretty quick and easy! 

And for those who are wondering...I made this Harvest Cake for Oak's birthday cake.  It's made with carrots, zucchini, and beets and sweetened with mostly maple syrup.  It was probably the most nutritious cake any of us have ever eaten!  And it was very delicious!  I used all cream cheese for the frosting, instead of the goat cheese/cream cheese blend it calls for, simply to keep expenses down, but I'd love to make it again sometime with the goat cheese...because goat cheese...yum.

The party was a success!  It was simple, fun, and we had a wonderful time celebrating our little Oak tree.  He loved being with his family and friends and throughly enjoyed his cake and opening presents.  It was a fun day, indeed! 

simple, intentional giving

Christmas.  It's over and January is in full swing.  It feels great, doesn't it?!?  I love Christmas; it's one of my favorite times of the year, but when January arrives, I'm always so very ready.  I love the quiet, calm of January.  It's a great time to organize, purge, rest, and recoup.  It's a lovely month of solitude and reset, and a fabulous way to start the new year, if you ask me.  

And while January is here and we're actually nearing the end, I wanted to take a moment to share with you a few of my favorite giving moments of the holiday season.  The holidays can be so full of family and generosity, but they can also so easily be consumed by commercialism, consumption, and leave us with a feeling of needing to buy and spend more, more, and more.  As you can probably guess, if you've read even a little of my writing, that side of Christmas is not my cup of tea.  I love giving gifts, but I hate so much of what goes along with that.  Setting foot in a mall with a list in hand is nauseating to me.  I think malls should be reserved for leisurely window shopping with a best friend, coffee in hand, and babies in strollers...not for frantic Christmas shopping and navigating crowds of other desperate and rushed shoppers.  Gross.  

In the past, I've combatted these feelings by shopping online for as many things as I can, which is a great strategy for avoiding malls, but not a great one if you're looking to support your local economy.  So, this year, I tried a few other strategies (some I've done before, and some new to me as well) and I thought I'd share those with you today.  

  1. Shopping locally.  This was a new-to-me strategy.  I often shop at a few of our favorite small, local, independently-owned stores for gifts, but this year I made it my mission to buy as many gifts locally as I could, even if it meant spending a few extra dollars on them.  My reason for this was that if I truly believe that shopping locally can help our local economy and I truly value that (which I do), then buying a book for $21.95 at my local book store, rather than $16.99 on Amazon, should not be an issue.  If I'm looking at the value of my actions in the long run, then shopping locally better aligns with those values, even if it means spending a few more dollars now.  I'll share more on how I balanced that expense below.  However, buying locally also had it's challenges.  I ran into issues with things being out of stock, which meant I ended up buying a few last minute items on Amazon.  I also found that shopping at different stores in different parts of Minneapolis in December with a 10-month old is a pain in the butt.  Keeping winter hats and mittens on a baby, getting in and out of the car seat, pushing a stroller over unshoveled sidewalks, wishing I'd brought the carrier instead of the stroller, squeezing in trips to several stores between nap times and on my days off...it was not easy, but I'm still glad I did it.  Next year, I'll start earlier and plan my errand routes and baby needs to better to improve efficiency.  
  2. Want. Need. Wear. Read. This was by far my favorite new strategy and I will keep using it for years to come!  Upon recommendation from a friend (thanks, Tina!!), we gave Oak four presents this year for Christmas, along with a few small stocking stuffers.  For the four presents, we bought something he wanted (well, what we thought he'd want), something he needed, something he'd wear, and something he'd read.  I loved this idea for a couple of reasons.  One, it made our gift-giving very intentional.  I love intentional giving, but sometimes I lack direction for that intentionality.  This solved that.  Second, it limited what I bought for him.  We buy very little for Oak on a regular basis, but I felt the urge to want to shower him with gifts at Christmas!  I saw so many things that were cute, fun, educational, but this model kept me focused and restrained, which helped me to stay on track with our desire for a simple Christmas and a simple house not full of unnecessary objects.  For his "want" we bought him a wooden pull-behind truck with wooden blocks on it, which we bought from a vender at the MN State Fair.  For his "need" we bought him a ThinkBaby stainless steel sippy cup, which I bought at our food co-op.  We are super happy with it and it was probably his favorite thing he opened, ha.  For his "wear" I knit him a new winter hat, with Malabrigo yarn from our local yarn shop.  And for his "read" we bought him the book Besos, for Baby, which he helped Daddy pick out at the local bookstore.  Four presents was plenty for him and I love the way this model gives us room to grow as he grows.  Bigger ticket items can easily be given for the want, wear, and need, and once he's older he will know what to expect with the number of presents, which will hopefully help guide and limit his Christmas wants...I know, idealistic, but it just may work. ;)
  1. Simplicity.  Buying locally did have some added expense, as I mentioned above, so to combat that, I just bought fewer things! For our sibling gift exchanges, we have spending limits and so instead of buying my brother a card game on Amazon for $14.99 and finding some other little gift for $5.00 to add on, I bought his game at a local game store (Games by James) for $19.99 and just left it at that.  Yes, in the spirit of giving, I could have given him more, but I also know that he values small, local businesses too, and so I trusted that if he knew my reasoning, he'd be completely onboard.  I did the same with our nephews.  I often feel like a good gift needs to include several things.  I'm not sure where this idea comes from, but it's a strong urge I have every time I wrap a gift.  However, for our nephews this year, I bought them each just one book.  The books ranged in price a bit, but I didn't worry about that.  I just carefully selected a book for each of them that I thought they'd like and I left it at that.  Both of these strategies helped to simplify my gift giving, in turn making shopping locally a bit more affordable.  
  2. Handmade.  I always give some handmade gifts at Christmas, and this year was no different.  This year's handmades included a hat for Oak, mittens for Dan, a cowl for my mom, felted wool balls and a felt chicken for Oak's stocking and my best friend's baby boy, and baby doll quilts and pillows for our nieces.  I love the simplicity and intentionality that go along with a handmade gift.  I'm not sure that the recipients always feel these things (especially when they are kids), but I love the love that I feel towards the recipients as I spend my evenings crafting away for them.  It makes giving so much fun.

How about you? Did you find any new ways for making your giving simpler and more intentional this year?

an anniversary, a wedding, and a 7-month old

Life has been steadily moving.  Not too fast where I feel it whizzing by, but definitely not at a leisurely pace either.  It's been moving at the sort of pace where you think you're generally keeping up with everything and finding time to relax a bit and socialize a bit...but at the same time there are still quite a few things that you just never get to day after day.  This blog, my friends, has been one of those things.  So, here's a little update of what's been happening in our world.  

Two weeks ago, Dan and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary at a little cabin out in the woods of Wisconsin.  It was a lovely time--while not quite as romantic and relaxing as in years past due to the baby we brought along, it was still a wonderful time to disconnect with the world and reconnect with one another.  

Then this past weekend, my brother Jake got married up at my dad and stepmom's home (my childhood home).  It was a beautiful wedding--the weather was gorgeous and the meadow and people all cleaned up really nicely.  It was amazing to see the meadow turn into a wedding venue after years of just being a place to store stuff, shoot guns, hunt, and camp!  They did a fantastic job transforming it.  Oakee also got to dress up for the event as one of the ring bearers.  He got quite a few laughs as he laid in wagon, baby Jesus style, and was pulled down the isle by the two other ring bearers.  Overall, it was a wonderful wedding and we are excited to welcome a new Gilbertson into the clan---a new Megan Gilbertson, that is!  (For those who don't know, Megan Gilbertson is my maiden name and it's taken a bit to warm up to the idea of passing the baton on that one!) ;)  I realized that when you, your husband, and baby are all in a wedding, very few pictures get taken! Ha!  So, below are a few shots from the day before the wedding, one of me and two of my aunts, and one of two bridesmaid bouquets that are currently gracing our table at home. 

And then there's this 7-month old baby of ours!  7 months??? Where has the time gone!?!?!  Okay...maybe it is whizzing by and I'm not even realizing it.  This little boy of ours is army crawling all around the house (which is making my lack of clean floors rather evident), he's sitting up all on his own, he thinks the cat and the chickens are the best things ever, and he's starting to do funny things like laugh at funny faces and be silly.  We are rather smitten with him.  

oak alexander

He is here!!!!!! Oak Alexander Rodriguez was born peacefully at home, surrounded by an amazing birth team, one week ago today on Wednesday, February 24th, in the wee hours of the morning. He was 8 lbs, 8 oz, and 22.25" long. He is a happy, healthy boy and we are enjoying him so much!  Today was his "due" date, but we are so thankful that our big boy came a week early!  

I'll write more about his birth and our first experiences together in the coming weeks. For now, though, I'm going to simply keep enjoying my sweet little baby. 

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handmade christmas

The past few weeks have been filled with family celebrations, gift-making, gift-giving, and so much food!  And while this little blog of mine was on my mind off and on throughout the festivities, I decided it was time to take a little break from it and simply be immersed in the all of the wonderful things that were happening around me.  I hope you were able to do the same!  

However, I thought it was about time to get back into the swing of things and share with you a bit of the handmade goodness that was gifted this Christmas.  There was less making this year than there usually is, with a late end to the school semester, choir concerts, and all things baby-related, but I was rather pleased with the few handmade things that did make it under the tree.  

The first of the handmade gifts was for our two 1.5 year old nieces.  For each of them I made a Pointy Kitty (pattern by WeeWonderfuls).  The girls were delighted with their kitties and both proceeded to cuddle and kiss them, and make everyone else do the same.  I do love handmade gifts that get that kind of reception! 

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For our little nephews, I made them each a set of woodland creature finger puppets (an original creation by yours truly).  I love creative play toys!  While they often get quickly tossed aside for flashier, more recognizable toys in the excitement of gift opening, the little ones tend to come back to the creative play toys later in the day and get lost in their own little worlds creating characters, voices, and stories all on their own.  The spontaneous puppet shows that I saw throughout Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were delightful.  

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There were also a few knitted gifts finished moments before gatherings and given before pictures could be taken, but what would Christmas be if it didn't include last minute handknits!?  This year's knits included A Very Gifted Cowl and a pair of socks.  

The last of the handmade gifts included bottles of our favorite coffee liqueur (recipe in Homemade Pantry), also made just days before being gifted.  My family knows me well enough to expect things like coffee liqueur and soap to come with a "best if used after date."  In spite of the recommended waiting period, the coffee liqueur was fought over and won with triumph in our annual dice game.  I'd say it was a hit!  

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How about you??  Did some lovely handmade items make it under your trees this year??  I sure do hope so.  I love how handmade gifts bring more meaning back into what has become such a consumer driven holiday.  There is something so loving and intentional about the making process that reminds me of the importance of giving and showing others how they are worth more than our money, they are worth our time, energy, and creativity as well.  

As we wrap up this year and move into the next, I wish you all a very happy evening of celebrations and a fresh start into the year that awaits us!

pumpkin, pumpkin all week long

I get a little excited about holidays.  I think I owe it partially to my mom who instilled a great love for tradition and celebration in all of us, but I also think its because holidays mean time with family and delicious food and relaxation (at least in theory...I'm realizing that there is less and less relaxation in my adult-woman holiday life...ahem...I'm also not anticipating this getting any better with a little one on the way...).  I also find the winter holidays to be especially magical with the cold weather appearing, the possibility of snow, and candles and lights galore.  Nothing says cozy quite like the holiday season in the upper midwest!  

And so, with the start of this holiday season just days away, I've found myself more than a little a excited.  In spite of a nasty head cold that hit me on Saturday, our house is spotlessly cleaned and the Thanksgiving decorations and preparations are collecting in various areas of the kitchen and dining room.  Candles are burning and filling the house with the smells of the holiday.  And then there are things made from pumpkin.  We can't forget the pumpkin.  

This year I bought two pie pumpkins at our local garden shop.  They've been sitting in the kitchen since before Halloween and every weekend I've had plans to bake them and get them ready to be turned into something heavenly.  This past weekend was it!  And my goodness, did I underestimate the amount of pumpkin puree that those two things would produce!  I ended up with about 8 cups of cooked pumpkin!  So, the week started off with a batch of pumpkin muffins and will continue with two pies for Thanksgiving and hopefully a batch of pumpkin pancakes come Saturday (I'm thinking of giving this recipe a try)!  Hooray for pumpkin!  

How about you??  What are your favorite things to do with pumpkin at this time of year??

workday at the gilbertson ranch

Last year we started a tradition for Father's Day and my dad's birthday of celebrating with an annual workday at the Gilbertson Ranch (a.k.a my dad and stepmom's house, which is not really a ranch at all, rather it's a big house with some land, a river, and a lot of plants...).  In lieu of gifts, we all get together for a day and give my dad something that means much more to him than presents--we give him our hard work (with many snack and beer breaks included) and our time all hanging out together.  It's a ton of fun and since there are so many of us, we get a ton done!  This year was no exception.  While the boys hauled mulch and wood, the girls weeded, pulled moss, and painted.  We then ended the day relaxing on the deck with good food and more time together.  

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I love that we get to celebrate my dad in this way.  He's such an amazing dad.  Throughout my entire life he's been working so hard to provide for us and to make our lives better.  Even now that most of us are out of the house and on our own, he's still working to provide us with a wonderful place to relax and spend time together.  I love my dad.  He's the best.  

roadtrip adventures

This past Thursday afternoon, my Dad, little brother Riley, and I hit the road and headed to College Station, Texas.  As we started the drive, I couldn't help but think we were a little crazy--to and from Texas in 4 days??!?!  Well...we did it and it was quite the whirlwind!  We went down for a family wedding and had a wonderful time seeing so many members of our extended family, which is now spread across most of the middle of the country, including Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, and Arizona.  Getting everyone together is becoming much more difficult than it used to be when we were all kids and living in Minnesota, so when it does work out to see a bunch of the gang (and their growing families) it is so very worth it!  And being the frugal people we are...we drove to the occasion!  Two days of driving down, a day to enjoy everyone, and two days of driving back!  Yikes, does it feel good to be home!  

The wedding was beautiful and so much fun!  And the drive ended up being pretty good as well.  Bringing a bunch of our own food on the road made the drive down so much better.  There's nothing quite as great when driving for 10 hours to be able to make up a plate of homemade goodness...yum!  That along with several knitting projects, books, audiobooks, good tunes, and entertaining conversations made our 16 hour drives quite manageable.  On the way home my brother Tanner and his wife Lindsey caravanned with us and my grandparents joined us in the vehicle as well.  

Overall, it was a great trip and a great way to start the month of May!!

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Happy May to all of you!