party countdown: 23 days to go!

Feeling so great about the party now. I have my lists all laid out and it’s going to be a real celebration of life, in every sense of the word.

I sent out the SMS invites yesterday. Felt so accomplished I took the rest of the afternoon off and lay in the garden with my boys!

It’s back to work again today so will see if I can manage some more party prep while I’ve got the momentum. Otherwise I know I can accomplish everything on the list in just over three weeks.

Getting the party started

Wow, thanks everyone for the feedback (PS Bloggers – is there a way for readers without their own blogs to leave comments? I’ve been inundated with emails from friends). I’m feeling so much more positive about the whole experience and I’ve been brainstorming the plan below, incorporating some of the wonderful and innovative suggestions you’ve made:

Ways to make an awesome kiddies party that’s also eco-friendly:

¶     SMS invites (to save on paper ones that have to be printed, posted, and then recycled)

¶     Electronic thank you notes (including a photo taken of the person with the birthday boy!)

¶     Outdoor venue to let the kids connect with nature (sign: “Thousand Acre Wood?”).

Tableware

¶     Take our own hard plastic cups, and only use disposables for the few extra if we need.

¶     Finger food to eliminate need for plates entirely – thanks Suzie! (see Menu, below)

¶     I’m going to go with paper napkins as at least they are somewhat degradable, and if I can find Pooh ones they will carry the theme.

Décor

¶     Sarongs we have anyway to sit on and brighten up the place. (Think my mom has some folding tables in the back of her garage too).

¶     Bring Ari’s stuffed toys (including the whole Pooh clan, naturally) to up the fun factor.

¶     I love balloons, but the rubber is terrible for the environment. So I can limit (or even eliminate) the balloons and print my own banner with pics of Pooh and a message (“Happy Birthday Ari”?) which can be saved for next year or recycled.

¶     Pooh Bear cake to carry the theme (Grandma in charge of this one)

¶     Brown paper “goodie bags” with Pooh stickers, filled with dried fruit (healthy but yummy) for the kids, and some bread to feed the ducks at the pond. Also a great way to use up bread that’s gone dry – I’ve already put two hunks past their prime in the freezer for this purpose!

Menu:

¶     Vegetarian, of course – the greenest way to go.

¶     Platters of snacky things (mini wraps, sarmies, veggie-dogs etc) that both adults and kids can enjoy. As I’m a bit pressured at work right now I’ll outsource these to a local catering co. I can even take my own tray to avoid another plastic platter to recycle.

¶     Pooh yoghurt tubs (which we have in the recycling bin already) filled with popcorn.

¶     Fresh finger nibbles to up the health factor: cherry tomatoes, cucumber hearts and carrot stars (cut with small cookie cutters – the off-cuts I can nibble myself or save for soup); strawberries and naartjie wedges (is my kid a freak because he really thinks all these are treats?)

¶    Cookies (if I have time to make them myself, I’d really like to. Maybe I can even find a Pooh cookie-cutter or else the numeral 2. Can also be made the weekend before, or even earlier and frozen. But if I don’t manage I’m sure he won’t mind if I buy some!)

Entertainment:

¶     Loved Durban Diva’s idea of pin-the-tail-on-the-Eeyore, which doubles as décor, but since Ari is just two and his guests mostly younger, I don’t think we need other games.

¶     Feeding the ducks is great fun and lets the kids interact with the animals, hence the stale bread “goodie bags”!

It’s starting to sound like a really fun day, and not too much hassle either if I start working on it slowly from now (e.g. one goal a week – first SMS invites, then banner, then cookies, then goodie bags, etc).

Never the twain shall meat

As I see it, there are two types of vegetarians:

The first type, who shuns animal products for moral reasons alone, has no theoretical problem with the taste or texture and is happy to eat ethically acceptable substitutes such as soya sausages, veggie burgers, etc.

The second, who abhors the very idea of meat, sees no appeal in faux flesh products and prefers to cook traditional dishes with vegetables, grains and pulses alone.

I am a veggie-vore of the former variety. While I choose not to sacrifice something’s life for my supper, I have no quibble with the tasty convenience that is frozen burgers, sausies, schnitzels and mince. It will also allow my boys to enjoy all the traditional kids’ grub without feeling left out of the society of their meat-eating peers.

My husband makes fantastic spaghetti and “cheat-balls”, monkeygland “fakes” (steaks), and his legendary “whaddaya mean it isn’t meat??” Bolognese sauce. Our family also puts on a mean braai – with all the trimmings – and I am proud to confirm that meat-eaters have been known to bring, cook, and forget to eat their meat because they’ve been so busy tucking into everything else in our sumptuous spread.

Of course it’s important to feed our kids a healthy, balanced diet. But this doesn’t necessitate eating meat. Whether you’re a fabulous faker or a plant purist, there are many ways to skin a (metaphorical) cat.

There is also a growing number of omnivores who are choosing to increase their intake of vegetarian food, for a variety of ethical, environmental, economic or health reasons. (Chef Yottam Ottolenghi calls these pragmatic vegetarians, and there’s a fabulous review of his new book at:http://www.fairlady.com/blogs/fairfoodie/the-pragmatic-vegetarian )

MEAT FREE MONDAYS

For those who aren’t ready to give up meat completely, there a global movement that’s now reached South Africa supporting Meat Free Mondays, an easy and attractive way for individuals to reduce carbon emissions, slow down climate change, protect the environment, improve their health and show compassion for animals. Check it out at: http://www.supportmfm.co.za/

Perhaps while you’re contemplating your supper tonight, you can spare a thought and appreciate the generous spoils nature’s garden has to offer.

Bon appetite.

 

lettuce learn together

I think I’m starting to get the hang of this blog thing. You log on every couple of days, jot down some thoughts, and then phone your mother and beg her to read it so you have at least one “hit”.

In my excitement, I’ve been telling everyone I know about my new hobby. The responses have been varied (“That’s nice, dear” – Mother; “What’s a blug?” – Grandma; “Wouldn’t you rather be sleeping while the baby’s quiet?” – Well-meaning Friend).

I seem to have a lot to say about raising eco-aware children. Kids who understand and respect the bio-rhythms of the earth and who appreciate our small place within it. Well, it’s easy to preach the virtues of such things, but I do sometimes wonder how successful I am at putting them into practice.

And finally, today, I received some proof that my efforts are slowly but surely making their way through the little skulls.

I was reading a book with my not-quite-two-year-old (by reading, of course, I mean slapping the pages and going “Aaah!” at the pictures) when we turned to the page about food. “Can you show me the tomato?”

Ari pointed diligently at the tomato.

“And how about the cucumber?”

He gesticulated wildly at the picture: “Ima! Ima!” (this is cucumber until his tongue masters further phonics)

“And where is the lettuce?”

Ari paused. He scoured the page. And suddenly he lifted his arm and pointed out the sliding door into the garden. “Out deh!” he said triumphantly.

Well!

It made one Veggie-tot Mom’s heart very proud.

grape expectations

This afternoon I was in one of Durban’s more up-market food stores when I saw something I haven’t seen for a while: grapes. Immediately my memory was awash with heady summer afternoons, stuffing myself with luscious grapes, the sweet, cool juice dribbling deliciously down my sweaty torso.

Hooray, I thought, the grapes are back! But when I picked up the package to pop it into my basket, I noticed the let-down on the label: “imported”.

I berated myself for (almost) falling into this trap. I should know that September is way too early for grape season. But then it’s so hard to know what’s supposed to be in season when these days, because we can get pretty much everything all year round – at a price.

There are several reasons why buying imported fruit is a no-no for a Veggie-tot Mom:

  1. It’s expensive. Unsurprisingly, it costs a lot to transport imported goods from faraway lands. But at nearly R30 for a tiny plastic box of small green grapes, I feel there have to be better ways to invest the money, whilst supporting our local economy which so desperately needs it.
  2. It’s got a huge carbon footprint. Loads of precious fossil fuels are used to transport the fruit to our country, usually by air. So the cost to our planet is as steep as the cost to our pocket. Do I really want to responsible for the slow strangulation of our planet because I fancy a handful of grapes? Really?
  3. It’s tasteless. Yes, in more ways than one, but here I’m talking purely about the palate. By the time imported produce reaches our South African shelves, it’s usually spent several days in sunless cold storage and has often been treated with life-prolonging chemicals (which do nothing for the taste, or texture, of the fruit).
  4. It’s not special. When something is constantly available, it’s no longer a treat. Nature in her wisdom has kept her infinite variety cycling with the seasons to intrigue our tummies and our taste buds. Why mess with this delicious system?
  5. It’s not the message I want to send to my boys. As their provider of both physical and spiritual nourishment, I see it as my duty to make choices on their behalf. I want them to experience the pleasure of enjoying nature’s choicest blessings when the time is right.

So back went the box onto the shelf, and I reached instead for a punnet of plump strawberries (which I know are in season because they are blooming in my backyard – I just can’t get to them before the monkeys do!).

Most parents agree that it’s our responsibility to teach our kids about manners, road safety, and respect for their elders. But I think that teaching them respect for our planet is equally important, and a global picture of food an excellent tool for this. It teaches them patience, appreciation, and a sense that food is a miraculous gift rather than an entitlement.

So go local. Go seasonal. And go outside and have some fun.

Raw, raw, raw your boat

Today I bundled up my 3-month-old and headed to Earthmother Organic (on Bulwer Road for Durbanite readers). I love the eclectic mix of organic grocery, eco-retailers and kiddie-friendly cafe with the best freshly squeezed fruit and veg juices in town. But today there was an added incentive: they were staging a raw food buffet.

I’ve always liked the idea of raw food. It’s healthy. It’s natural. It’s simple. But even I was pleasantly surprised by just how yummy and filling it was! I started with a “Zinger” (freshly squeezed apple, beetroot, ginger and lime) and my friend had “The Ultimate Booster” (a bit too green for me – I’m still wrapping my head around spinach in a glass). The buffet comprised various scrumptious salads and dressings, as well as a very novel dish of parsnip rice. I’m not sure I’d believe it to be rice but it was delicious all the same. But I’d have to say the star of the show was the chocolate mousse – a dessert fashioned from pure cacao, maple syrup and the finest fresh avocado. Yip, you read right. Avocado chocolate mousse. And boy was it yummy!

Raw foodies have garnered a bit of a reputation for being extreme. To refrain from such an integral part of modern daily life as cooking certainly does set them apart from the rest. Raw-cus, you might say. Or, ironically, some might call them cooked! But I think they’re onto something. Society at large is a few large steps behind, but maybe we can take a leaf out of their book (as it were).

I’m not sure I’m ready to convert to raw-ism, but it’s amazing to eat food still so obviously connected with the earth. It feels so good to fuel my body with such screamingly healthy stuff. It’s living, it’s growing, it’s organic. Kind of like a blog, I guess. So it’s pretty apt for my first real entry.

Maybe this experience will inspire me to include more raw food in my own diet and that of my family. Hope I don’t miss the boat.