Green Party a Success!

This is a follow up to 5 Ways to Transform Your House Party into a Green Party

To put it short, the party was a blast!

One friend had this to say after reading the original post:

I felt all warm inside reading this.  I just had the chance to AFTER attending this party and can only say that what this woman is talking about it the real.

The party was fantastic.  We were there for 5 HOURS!  Me and my husband -oh yea- and the kids, haha, had a blast.  The food was amazing.  There was a little dance party with dress-up dresses and an audience, there was lot of great conversation and connecting with adults and kiddies. And I am pretty sure Elo had a small amount [of garbage] to throw away.

A party to remember forever and ever,  Amen!

Photo Credit: All photos shot by Rebecca Willett.

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This is what I wrote to our guests afterwards:

Dear loves,

We want to thank you for making [our daughter’s] day so special.  This was her first “real” birthday party and your kindness and generosity made it memorable for our entire family.

We are grateful, first, for you just being there with your smiles and hugs.  The adults were so helpful in keeping the children occupied (and safe). And it warmed my heart to see so many of you engaged in (what looked like) deep conversation! The children got along so nicely and it looked like they had a blast!

We are also grateful for the food you brought to share:  fruit, desserts, birthday cake, bread, salads…  And, although we didn’t expect any gifts, she received some really thoughtful ones: cute clothes, two great books, a pair of sneakers, a pair of earrings, some puppets, a toy.

Last but not least, the party would not have been the same without the princess dress up clothes– they were a hit!

So thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing with us.  It was beautiful to celebrate with you, our loved ones.

Much love,

E

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5 Ways to Transform Your House Party into a Green Party

Birthday Girl
Birthday Girl

It was my daughter’s 3rd birthday last week and we are planning a Green Birthday Party this weekend.

Five Ways to Make Your Party Green(er):

1.  Make PEOPLE the Center of the Celebration. This is the number one rule for good reason.  Bringing this goal into your awareness should make the gathering more enjoyable all the way around.  Plus, it lets you off the hook when you feel the pressure to plan an elaborate theme or go all out for your guests.  It seems like common sense but, for example, we’ve all been to kid’s parties when the adults don’t get to enjoy or interact.  When the guests sit around watching the birthday kid open gift after gift.  Or when the hosts are so frazzled about the theme or activities that you wonder, I thought parties were supposed to be fun!

Although the guest of honor is my three year old, I am considering the adults’ experience as well.  We have a train set, puzzles and other games that the kids can play with and I’m keeping in mind the parents’ enjoyment too!

2.  Consider a Gift-Less Party or Shower. Welcome gently used hand-me-down games, books or clothing.  It’s amazing what great stuff you can find and it is cost-effective too.  Some guests  are really uncomfortable with the idea of attending a party and coming empty handed.  I usually suggest that they bring a dish to share or something my child really needs like a pair of sturdy shoes for school.  For a baby shower you could suggest starting  a fund to help the mom hire a birth or postpartum doula. Or maybe pay towards a housecleaning service for the first months after the baby arrives.

My parents have offered to buy my daughter what she needs for nursery school.  My sister is agreeing to bring a  dish.  My friend is planning to bring some fun fairy dress up clothes for the kids to play with.

3.  Make your party memorable by having yummy homemade food and even better music! These Malcolm in Party Bagtwo party ingredients will take you a loooong way.  If cooking all that food seems daunting then, by all means, make it a potluck!  And when I say potluck I mean just have guests bring a favorite dish without worrying too much about who is bringing what- you’d be surprised how well it turns out!  Having homemade food is healthier and requires less wasteful packaging than buying processed store-bought foods and sweets (think about all those candy wrappers and plastic containers).

I am planning on providing homemade rice and beans, hummus, guacamole, fruit salad and brownies.  Guests can bring a side dish or juice.  My mom is baking the birthday cake!

4.  Use real dishes, silverware and cloth napkins OR buy biodegradable plates, cups and cutlery. Nowadays it is pretty easy to find paper plates and napkins made of 100% post-consumer products.  There are compostable plates and cutlery made out of renewable sources including corn, sugar and bamboo.  Click here for an online search for Biodegradable Disposable Plates.

I plan to have the adults eat from the “real” plates and have the kids eat from the recyclable and biodegradable paper products I buy.  I don’t plan to buy juice boxes either. I’ll offer the kids small cups of juice diluted with water and pray that we don’t have too many spills!

5.  Rethink or nix the party favors all together! Guests rarely truly appreciate these tokens of appreciation and most folks certainly do not expect anything when they go to a party (except maybe to be fed and have some fun).  A memento can be nice- consider printing a card on recycled paper or a gift like a small bottle of an essential oil or lavender sachet…

I know that those plastic little toys my kids get at parties are lost or broken before we even make it home from a kid’s party.  And it is such a relief to me not to have to worry about buying one-more-thing.

** To make your gathering even more significant and  memorable consider consciously created rituals or a ceremony to mark the milestone you are celebrating.  Bringing your attention back to why you’re celebrating in the first place adds meaning and beauty to the festivities.  I am still high from a attending a Mother Blessing this past weekend– look for a new post on ritual design coming soon!

Beans, Beans, Beans YUM!

pinto beans

Protein, Fiber, Antioxidants, Vitamins, Minerals– What more can you ask for?

Here is a step-by-step recipe that is as easy as pie (but much better for you!)

  • 2 cups dried pinto beans (chick peas and black beans work with this recipe too)
  • 2+ quarts  water
  • 1 small onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 tablespoons sofrito (or add extra onion, garlic and fresh cilantro)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste- to thicken (diced tomato will work too!)
  • salt to taste

1.  Soak 2 cups of dried beans in water overnight (or at least 4 hours)

beans in water to soak

2. Drain beans and add to heavy pot (changing water is supposed to reduce gas)

drain beans

3.  Add about 2 quarts of water to soaked beans and bring to a boil

beans in pot4.  Boil beans until soft (about 1 hour)

boiling pintos5.  Meanwhile, chop onion and crush garlic.

garlic and salt in pilon

6.  Saute with 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

saute garlic and onion7.  Once beans are softened, reduce heat.  Add sauteed onion & garlic and tomato paste.

onion and tomoto added to beans8.  Last but not least, add the sofrito and salt to taste.

adding sofritoAccompany with brown rice or quinoa, add to a quesadilla, serve with chips… Whatever you choose, this is a quick, easy and tasty recipe.

My favorite meal:

favorite meal
Collard greens, brown rice and pinto beans

Bacalaitos

No, I had no business making these on a hot July day.  For some reason I was craving them…  Nothing compares to bacalaitos (cod fish fritters) deep fried and eaten seaside in Puerto Rico.  Alas, I had to give those up when I gave up pork (they are fried in lard, yes, lard).

Unfortunately, the other thing is that I don’t think I’ll be in PR anytime soon.  I remember when I was there with my husband several years ago we searched far and wide (as far and wide as you can go on an island 110 miles long) for bacalaitos fried in oil.  I asked a woman at one of those seaside kiosks and she scoffed at me saying (in Spanish, of course), “Oil? Oil is too greasy!”  Oil, greasier than lard.   Imagine that!

The other thing about my Puerto Rican brethren (besides the annoying use of lard in everything) is the use of Sazon Goya.  When I was younger I was taught this was an essential item in our cuisine.  That is, until I found out that it is basically MSG and food coloring.  Trust me, you can make it just as good (or better) using plain ol’ garlic, onion and salt.  With some adobo and sofrito (made with organic and/or fresh ingredients) you can’t go wrong.  This recipe is really easy and you can adjust it to your liking.

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Puerto Rican adobo seasoning
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups water*
  • 1 teaspoon (or more)  sofrito
  • 1/2 cup (or more) of soaked, shredded and deboned Bacalao (salted Cod Fish)
  • sea salt ( to taste)
  • oil for frying

Soak the salted cod overnight (or at least 5 hours).  Change the water at least twice.  Boil for 10 minutes and drain.  Shred into smaller pieces and remove bones.  Set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients.  Add water and mix well.  Next, add sofrito and fish then stir.  (Check the batter to see if it needs salt and add to your liking).

(Some people refrigerate the batter for an hour before hand. I didn’t and it was fine, just thought I’d share…)

Heat canola oil on high and then reduce the heat to medium once the oil is ready.  (Test the oil by dropping some batter into it to see if it bubbles.)  Spoon the batter into the hot oil and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Turn the fritter over once bubbles start to form on the top (again, like pancakes).  For the best consistency and flavor, let them brown just a bit.

Drain on paper towels and serve hot!  Enjoy!

* Use only 1 cup of water if you want the fritters to be thicker. Some people like using less water and less fish-  reminding me of Jamaican cod fritters.  The way my family makes them is with more water and more fish- like lumpy pancake batter.  I encourage you to experiment with it!

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