Monday, April 26, 2010

Greener Giant?

I love to support other companies that make sustainability a priority. Green Giant is a brand we are all familiar with. I recently learned their initiative to be more eco-friendly for the next 50 years. Read about those efforts here. By making changes to their packaging and a large donation to the Nature Conservancy to encourage greener farming practices, they are setting an example for other corporations. I am not being compensated in any way to mention Green Giant. I'm sure this company doesn't know I exist. But if they ever discover this blog and want to send me some free veggies or coupons, I wouldn't turn it down :-)

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Easy Toddler Snacks & Meals

***REPOST with additional info*** I'm a self-proclaimed "foodie". I like to try new things and switch it up so my taste buds don't get bored. I remembered hating vegetables as a child and grew up on mostly meat and starches. I vowed to introduce my child to a variety of foods when she had a blank palette as a youngster. Pre-packaged toddler meals are high in sodium so I wanted easy, healthy snacks for my daughter that she could practice self-feeding and try new foods.
  • Mini-pizzas: toast an English muffin (cut in half), spread marinara sauce, top with shredded (low-fat) mozzarella and microwave 30 sec or as long as it takes to melt the cheese (its better if you have the time to put in a toaster oven or brown under the broiler but with a hungry toddler the microwave will do). I defrost frozen chopped spinach and sprinkle on before the cheese to sneak in a veggie. 
  • Green peas will keep a toddler busy for a long time! You can microwave a handful of frozen peas with a tablespoon of water for 30sec-1min.
  • Cut a wheat pita in half and put a half slice of cheese in each half. These fit nicely in your toaster and lightly toast to melt the cheese. Let cool of course and then cut into smaller triangles for tiny hands. 
  • mandarin oranges are affordable in a can or jar and don't have the tough skin like navel oranges. They are bite size and a perfect toddler meal. 
  • I also buy the fruit snack cups (in water or light syrup) and rinse the syrup or drain the water. They are nice, small chunks already. I re-use the plastic cups they come in for other snacks and craft projects to hold supplies
  • frozen mini-ravioli or cheese tortellinis are good and only take a few minutes to boil
  • my daughter loves tomatoes so I chop them up small and stir in a little Italian dressing
  • shredded carrots are tender and crunchy, I serve with chicken nuggets as a side item 
  • TIP: buy wheat germ in a jar and stir into yogurt or applesauce. Great source of fiber and doesn't have a taste! 
  • (once you've determined there are no peanut allergies) apple wedges with peanut butter
  • Easy pizza using Naan bread or whole pita as crust. Add marinara, your fave toppings and cheese, bake in the oven at 400 until cheese bubbles
    What's your child's favorite food?

    TerraCycle partners with Target for a Special Promotion

    Special 2 Week Reward Promotion
    Are you part of TerraCycle yet? Why not? It's free and easy to join and you can earn cash for your favorite charity or to support your child's school.  From now until May 8th, for every 5 Target plastic bags you (or anyone who is part of your collection team) send to TerraCycle, you will receive a coupon for $1.00 off any Target reusable bag. For program details, click here(PDF).
    TerraCycle has teamed up with Target to help save our resources and continue TerraCycle's commitment to the environment by converting plastic shopping bags into reusable bags.
    Happy Earth Month!
    TerraCycle Brigades Team

     *Limit one coupon per household. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Customer Support at or call 1.866.967.6776.

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    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Happy Earth Day!

    Earth is our home. We grow our food here. Build dwellings and have families. I thank God for our planet. I was bothered by the amount of waste us earthlings produce. I started GumdropSwap as my contribution to conserving and reusing resources. I saw a need and created a solution. You would be amazed at the amount of children's clothing, shoes, books and "stuff" that ends up in our landfills. Just sitting there wasting when someone could be using it. That broke my heart. It wasn't easy to launch a new business. It's such a new way of living, I find myself explaining it over and over. People just aren't used to something "green" and good for you to save you money too. It sounds to good to be true I guess. But it took me over a year to try to solve the problems I saw with existing consignment/resale options. I approached my business model as a customer. People aren't used to that either. Big business tends to forget about customer satisfaction and focus on the bottom line in their financial report. I urge you to make small changes. Recycling more, reusing  more and encouraging your children to see value in things by using them in a new way (making a change jar or barrette holder out of an empty food container for instance). My boutique in Bridgeport, CT also serves as a collection point for empty CapriSun juice pouches. TerraCycle turns these and other product waste into new items for sale. Visit their site to see if they collect the wrappers or containers for the snacks your children love. They pay $0.02 for every recycled pouch which gets donated to the charity of your choice. I chose an Elementary School in my home state of Georgia.

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    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Wordless Wednesday

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    Monday, April 19, 2010

    My Daughter's New Knit Friends


    I saw an older post on "Operation Sweet Dreams" blog about a giveaway for finger puppets made by Wee Knits. She used a photo of a set of puppets in the likeness of the characters from Nick Jr's "Yo Gabba Gabba". If you don't know anything about this show... it's kind of the modern day "H.R. Pufnstuf". If that reference doesn't help, I'm probably older than you and you need to do some internet research. LOL! I quickly visited Wee Knit's etsy store to order the YGG group because my daughter loves this show. The puppets arrived within a few days and I am so delighted! The attention to detail is amazing. When I see creativity like this it makes me wanna sew again. I was once a crafty chica (pre-motherhood). I used to make handbags, belts, and hair accessories. But alas, the sewing machine was in the basement and I couldn't find time to get down there with a nursing newborn. I just moved my machine to the boutique and I hope once I get all the merchandise tagged I can find time to start creating again. And you can see my butterbean is quite pleased with her new friends. Thank you Wee Knits!

    Sunday, April 18, 2010

    They say the neon lights are bright On Broadway

    Fela Kuti (15 October 1938–2 August 1997), was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, pioneer of afrobeat music, human rights activist, and political maverick. If you've never heard of him or afrobeat music, I urge you to read the Wikipedia entry about him.

    I'm not being compensated in any way to write this review. I just want to share my enthusiam for the arts in general and encourage others to enjoy this Broadway production I had the pleasure of experiencing called FELA! I use the word experience because I did more than watch this production. The lead in the show speaks directly to the  audience members and you feel as if your have time traveled to Fela's last performance at the "Shrine". The music is infectious and dancing is unavoidable. "Fela" even made the audience get out of their seats for some dance lessons in the aisles. The set design permeates the entire Eugene O'Neill Theater. You sit amidst the props and grafitti art covered walls. The show is full of multi-media enhancements and a feast for the senses. I got in trouble for snapping this photo with my phone.

    The cast of this production seems to be in overdrive the whole performance and have amazing stamina. I don't know how they can physically do 2 performances in a day on the weekend. I saw the Sunday matinee. SO if you are in or planning to visit New York by September of this year (production travels to London in the fall) do yourself a favor and see this show! (Some adult subject matter so this is not a "family show")

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    The Evolution of Gumdrop Swap

    It's amazing to me that a year ago, GumdropSwap didn't have a name. It was a crazy idea that came to me in a rare shower. I was a new mom: sleep deprived, emotional, and concerned about my "career" while on maternity leave. I needed a name for my online kids clothing swap club. I had settled on "swap" instead of trade or the like. But any word similar to kid, child, etc associated with swap made it sound like I was trafficking children or trying to copy the tv show Wife Swap. That may make a great reality show. Most parents have thought about trading their kids for ones with better behavior on some days. But I'll let the tv producers have that one. So, I had to find a word that suggested childhood without veering to far in another direction. Candy seemed an obvious choice. I kept thinking of the song "If all of the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops, oh what a rain that would be..." and that's when I decided gumdrop was generic enough candy reference and drop and swap rhymed. Here is a photo of the retail space after we painted and installed the wall hanging system.

    My brother came to visit on his spring break. He is a teacher in Atlanta. My mother's and my birthday are only a few weeks apart so it was a perfect time to visit. He is encouraging with my business and wanted to help while in town so I accelerated the move-in to take advantage of his muscle. My husband and brother moved lots of heavy boxes in 2 storage places to my store in one day.
    I didn't realize I had that much merchandise until it was all in one location! Geez. I had some crazy notion I could slowly move everything on my own in my compact car. That would have taken me months! It was a lot of stuff and I'm so glad that part was over. Then, my brother helped me move some things to the basement and begin unpacking and hanging clothes for 2 days. 4 days later and I'm still hanging and unpacking.

    I am really proud of my spring window display though. I estimate I'm about 70% done hanging what I have. I'm looking for a creative way to display the 1000s of socks I have. Any suggestions?

    If you are thinking of joining the children's clothing swap club (open to all U.S. residents) this month is the end of low introductory membership prices. Only $4.99/month for online members (those who do all swapping via mail and do not come into the bricks-and-mortar boutique in CT. Monthly rate will increase to $8.99 on May 1st, 2010. Confused? Don't be! Feel free to call 800-385-6080 or email gumdropswap(at)gmail(dot)com.

    Think of it like this: For online members, your small membership rate ($5/month) allows you to swap as much as you want. You mail your gently used items to the boutique. I go through your box of unwanted items and credit the account you created at GumdropSwap. You will get an alert letting you know you have credits to shop with (called gumdrops). You use the website to select the clothes your children need now. You can even use your earned gumdrops to pay for your outgoing shipping! I pick your items and pack your box and you will get a box of clean, name brand, new and gently used clothes at your doorstep!

    For locals that swap and shop in our boutique, the process is slightly different. You don't have to be a member to shop, but the savings is significant if you do. If you're from CT you probably haven't done much shopping downtown. You have no idea what you're missing! The Arcade Mall is one of the oldest indoor malls in the nation and a thing of beauty now that it has been restored. The glass atrium ceiling is breathtaking.
    Non-members typically pay between $5-$25 per garment and do not have the privilege of swapping. If you are local to the CT area, the current rate to join is $9.99/mo if you are swapping for one child and an additional $3/month per child for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th child (no additional charge for more than 4 children!) Rates will increase to $14.99/month for 1st child on May 1, 2010. The additional charge for children 2-4 will not increase. Members pay about half the retail prices that non-members pay. And members get to swap their unwanted children's clothing and items into credits that pay for the things they want. This makes it easy to budget for your children's wardrobe. You know they are going to outgrow things. Once you pay the membership fee, those bags of outgrown clothing you are storing in your basement or attic or closet will buy the things your kids need now. A good estimate is a tall kitchen size garbage bag full of clothes usually earns about 200 gumdrop credits. So, if you swapped that much every three months you are paying $15 (online) and $30+ (local) to spend $200 in the store.

    Why the difference? Online members pay for shipping coming and going and don't select the exact garments. Instead, they choose the size, gender and type of garment (i.e. 2T, boys, jeans) and I select the nicest garment that matches that description from the vast merchandise available. I am also guided by the style preferences you specify when you register or when you place your order. If there is anything new with the tags still on, that's what you will receive. Customers describe opening a shipment from GumdropSwap as getting a Christmas gift. I use my years in the art and fashion industry as expertise. Below is a photo of the entrance to the Arcade Mall on Main St. (between Fraiche Burger and McDonalds). Then a view of the corridor you walk through to get to the shops in the mall.

    Local members have the advantage of rifling through our racks of merchandise. I encourage 1st time swappers to stay to see how I rate the quality of clothing and what kind of items go to charity. But you can drop off your swap if you do not have time to stay. I will credit your account to spend at a later date. Just want to get rid of the clothes? Come on by, I'll buy them from you.

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    Review & Giveaway: Sprounce Natural Cleaner Ends 4/30/10

    *** was used to generate the winner and the number given was #10 so is the winner! Congrats! Thanks to all who participated." 

    I am always on the search for natural or "green" products to promote or sell in my kids boutique (Gumdrop Swap). So I read about this all-natural cleaner on another site (forgive me, if I remembered, I would mention it here). Gimme a break people, I do most of my online communication and blogging in the wee morning hours. But I digress, I contacted the makers of Sprounce about being a wholesaler and they were nice enough to send two 4 oz bottles. Zoom. They were in my hands in days. Gotta love enthusiastic small businesses!

    The website is easy to navigate and use. The product comes in a handy, diaper bag friendly size (4 oz) for only $4.99. Is is safe to spray on pacifiers, teething rings, etc. That's exactly why it was developed.  It contains a blend of oils that have been proven to naturally kill germs. Sprounce was developed to have safe contact on skin. It contains Canadian Willowhereb extract, which provides anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties on skin. Another great reason to keep it handy is Sprounce was designed as a “no-rinse” formula. Just towel or air dry. Rinsing with water is not necessary!

    Since my butterbean is 2yo now, we are passed that phase. I wish I had known about this cleaner back then. I cringe to think how I "sanitized" things for my daughter when I was desperate. I plead the 5th amendment for fear of incriminating myself. But thank God she is happy and healthy today! So far I have used this to sanitize her toys that touch the floor or if they get sticky from pbj hands. And I use it to clean off her activity/dining table and chair. NOTE* it is made for non-porous surfaces and not intended for removing stains from clothing or to clean stuffed animals, cloth dolls, etc.

    I cannot describe the scent. My olfactory memory tells me it's something I have smelled before. Kind of eucalyptus like? Then I read the FAQ's on their site and found this "The scent is from a combination of tea tree oil extract and lavender oil extract. " Any way... I know I will get a lot of use at the store sanitizing the surfaces that kids touch and the toys in the play area. But I thought I would share my good fortune by giving away a bottle. This is awesome for a new mom worried about the chemicals in cleaners used for baby items. With Sprounce, you can rest easy knowing you are not harming your child with toxins when you clean off their sippy cup tops and what have you. It's made by parents for parents.

    Okay, here are the rules for the giveaway.

    I will use on April 30, 2010 (*extended from March 31) to find a random winner from the total number of comments. So the more comments (entries you have, the better your chances). C'mon you all know how this works :-)

    • 1 entry for following me on Twitter (specify you Twitter name in your comment) 
    • 1 entry for following Sprounce on Twitter 
    • 1 entry for tweeting about this giveaway with a link to this blog entry (tiny url is
    • 1 entry for becoming a fan of on Facebook
    • 1 entry for becoming a fan of Sprounce on Facebook  
    • 1 entry for mentioning my blog in a blog entry of yours (include link within your comment)
    That's six chances! Good luck everyone!