Thursday, November 20, 2014

Uncommon Goods - the future

Don’t you just love packages arriving?! This is Jed opening a box from Uncommon Goods. If you haven’t heard of them, you need to. They are the future of business…ethical, supportive of their staff, eco-minded and with an array of gifts that will astound. 
It’s inspiring just to LOOK through their website. 

How fun is this?! 
Invented by a 12 year old, the wall coaster is a marble run unlike any other. Especially good if you are tired of toy clutter on the floor, this one tacks onto the wall. It comes with various components and their trademark non toxic poster putty that doesn’t damage the walls. You can even use it on windows. 

We got the extreme stunt kit and two add on stunts, the crazy loop and the super stairs. Jed has spent hours with playing with it. Last thing at night he’s downstairs playing with it, making new runs, fine tuning and playing. First thing in the morning…back down there! 

We’ve used it in our homeschooling sessions looking at physics, motion, angles, velocity and speed. We are big fans. The Wall Coaster would be an awesome Christmas present…fun for all the family ALL day! The whole Uncommon Goods store is jam packed with gift ideas. We had great fun going through the kids section together. 
You can have a look HERE.

It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I have done reviews of cool projects, products and businesses I love for years. In no way is an exchange of money affecting my voice or GrowMama’s ethics. Uncommon Goods is a good case in point. These folks feature unique designs and handcrafted gifts created in harmony with the environment and without harm to animals or people. For those of you who love handmade, half of what they sell is handcrafted. There’s a big focus on using upcycled and recycled materials too. 
Big yay to that! 

Their uncommon hearts are in the right place, with $1 from every purchase going to the charity of your choice. Their lowest paid worker starts at 50% above minimum wage. There’s a lot to like about this company. Just wait until you look through their store

Jed was lucky our allotted $65 went to his Wall coaster marble run and Scratch World Map because I was sorely tempted by some of the beautiful jewellery and gifts in Uncommon Goods women’s section the website. Have a look HERE. There was plenty of choice for the Dads in the men’s section HERE which makes it a great place to go to shop for the hard-to-buy-for men in your life. That ought to be a relief for a few of you! 

Another fun acquisition from Uncommon Goods is our World Scratch Map. A handsome looking map, we’ll scratch off each country as we study it. Love it! Both the Wall Coaster marble run and the scratch map are the kind of thing we'll use and remember for years to come. 

Uncommon Goods is proud to be a B Corporation. B Corporation’s  use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. The B seal means that Uncommon Goods meets rigorous standards on a wide range of issues including wage levels, environmental impact, and giving back to our community. We need more of that in the world. 

So... Uncommon Goods. They are good. Very good. In more ways than one. Go see.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

the sewing revival

I have been on a bender. Of the most innocent kind I might add. I have been sewing. I have adopted Angela from Mermaid's Purse's ziploc bag sewing project system and having every thing bagged and ready to go just makes the actual sewing so satisfying and FAST! 

I have a few new shirts in rotation that I'm loving but the best value is sewing Jed some new hoodies. He's grown out of the pixie hood "just a normal one thanks mama" which is the end of an era. The merino fabrics I picked up for a song at the last Fabric-a-Brac market. I whipped out two in our old favourite pattern. It's the Sewing Clothes Kids Love book by Nancy Langdon and Sabine Pollehn. If I had to choose one book to rely on to use for patterns to take a kid all through childhood, this would be it. There's so many for the littlies and not so much for the bigger kids. This one does it all. All genders too. Big yes! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

mountain herbs

Kicking around outside in Queenstown a few weeks ago, I showed the kids how many medicinal plants were around. There was chickweed, yarrow, cleavers, oregano, mugwort, plantain, dandelion, violets...the place was rampant with medicinal herbage. It reminded me of the French Pyrenees, where I used to live, I would come home from walking the dogs with armloads of fragrant plants.

This is chickweed. Stellaria media. She is a great friend. I try and eat greens wild every day. Chickweed is yummy and is packed with minerals and vitality. You can eat it alone, on sandwiches, in salads, or lightly steamed with new potatoes with fresh olive oil and sea salt, like my friends in Croatia taught me. Simple and so good. Such a fine line between medicine and food. Chickweed is also one of the main herbs in the salve I make every year. Here's a post on how to make magic salve.

They even had broom growing in abundance like I used to have up behind my house in France. The kids eyes bugged out when I told them my neighbours still used to lash broom branches to a longer straight stick to make a broom to sweep their floors. I imagine that is where the name 'broom' comes from. Dried, it also makes amazing kindling. Pretty important stuff when the fire is your only source of heat in a country where it snows. 
It was like being around old friends. Now I just need to find a source of elderflowers and berries nearby...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

dolphins and bellbirds

This past week saw us camping in a beautiful national park marine protected area a few hours north of Auckland. It was kind of an end of year homeschooling camp. Jed and I had the idea and threw it open to our homeschooling/natural learning/unschooling crews and well, the rest is history. The campground is run by the regional park and has the sum total of long drop toilets and a tap for drinking water as it's 'amenities'. I like that very much. I have spent big chunks of my life in tents and love going feral. It brings me back to what the important things are in life. This whole park is a peninsula sanctuary, protected by a predator fence, and is teeming with wildlife, especially birds. We had a bellbird as a regular visitor to the harakeke (flax) flowers near our tent. I had never seen one in the wild before. Special times.

There are tales to be told. Of diabolical weather, of large tents flying across the campsite accompanied by a BBQ in high winds in the middle of the night. Tales of children running feral across the hills and down dales. Of kiwi heard at night. Shells collected, nesting seabirds, rock pools to explore, walks taken, much laughter and working around the rain that fell in between the blasts of sun and gusts of wind. The hard core of us lasted a few more days longer but we were still home for the weekend. (Bonus free weekend with nothing planned in it...bliss!)

 On one of our beach forays we found a sand scarab beetle.

Jed got in a few swims. Thank goodness for wetsuits!

And, the most magical of all...we saw a pod of dolphins just off the rocks. The first time we saw them (when I didn't have a camera on me, grrr) they were leaping out of the water. Jed and I went down every evening after that to watch them go down the coast together. We kept saying for days...out of the silence...'I can't believe we saw dolphins!'

Of all the adventures and play and action, when I asked Jed what his highlights of the week were...he replied, 'Dolphins and bellbirds'. They were my highlights too.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Asparagus season

I try and eat locally grown fruit and vegetables that are in season. 'Try' being the key word there. If the source of fresh produce is on the other side of the world, chances are, I will put it back on the shelf. I do treat myself to some tropical fruit from the Pacific Islands though. That's kinda next door. Ahem. The occasional sexy looking mango or pineapple I find irresistible. (Gulp, sorry food miles!)

It's asparagus season here. It's so exciting to have foods that are only available at certain times of the year.I discovered asparagus growing wild in France. People would stop their cars and pick the fresh asparagus spears from the side of the road. My favourite was seeing folks all dressed up with their hands and knees smeared with earth from grubbing around. 

Lightly steamed and drizzled with a good oil and sea salt with an egg on the side is a popular lunch around here. I want to try this asparagus tempura recipe.  It has to be good!