Monday, December 31, 2012

New Beginnings in 2013

In most years past, I make a list of all the ways I want to improve for the upcoming year.  They usually land in my journal, so I can look back on at least a couple years prior and compare.  I'm always shocked to find how similar they are in nature and wonder whether I'll be better this year at keeping to my goals.

In 2012, I did an experiment where I tried to work on one thing I wanted to improve for 21 Days.  You can find it here.  I did find longer last results in attempting to change my unwanted behavior.  This year, however, I am looking at New Year's Resolutions in a new light.  Rather than change, I want to accept my limitations and instead work on being more "present".  Awareness in an active sense and acceptance in hope that I will not put myself in control of all situations.  I think this will bring about more optimism rather than criticism into my life.

When I was preparing for the birth of my son, Tyler, I went through hypno-birthing classes and training.  It was all about trusting in myself and letting go of the control (something that would have been very beneficial for my oldest child's birth!).  When things would get tough, I would work on relaxing my body and being aware that my body was doing what it needed to be doing at that exact moment.

After Tyler was born, that concept was tucked away with my childbirth books. My goal was to feel like I was "making it" rather than "surviving" having 2 kids.  I wanted to have it all together and enjoy this period in our lives.  As a result, I came down hard on myself and my family when we'd sit in the mornings and watch TV.  In the other rooms, piles of laundry and stacks of dishes were waiting to be attended to.  Ugh! I felt like saying that for the first 6 months, as I adjusted and kept telling myself to push through and work harder.

With our upcoming baby due late April, I am embracing the approach of my wise hypnobirthing classes.  I'm fooling myself when I really think I can control everything to make it work.  I have limitations and my high expectations set me up for disappointment.  Not to mention the added pressure it puts on my family!

So, I'm going to work on going with the flow, accepting (not settling or complaining about) what life brings my way, and am going to be fully present.  I guess it's a way of reprioritizing and becoming a bit more wise from past experiences.  The "have to's" will be put on the shelf this year.  I am hopeful that this will bring more joy into our home and definitely more silliness.  It's a new adventure carrying no expectations along with it.  :)

Peace and happy new year,


Jen Starks, Owner 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Simplicity & Brand Names

For the past 10 years, I have been attempting to learn more about companies and their ethical choices.  Prior to that, I simply went to any store and headed to the sale rack.  Some of my favorite brands were Gap, Banana Republic, and JCrew.  I didn't read labels on products either but that is another post.  I've evolved and am continuing to learn how to be a better, more informed consumer.

It all started during the Lent of 2004.  I was doing my year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a year that has tremendously shaped me into who I am today.  Living in community with 5 other people (including my husband whom I had just married 3 weeks before beginning the year commitment), we attended many local events together. During this Lenten season, we attended a weekly event called "Soup and Spirituality" and it was during our discussion on textiles and social justice that my world was rocked.  I had NO clue that corporations were making unethical choices in order to maximize their profits.  They were exploiting their workers and the land.  Discrimination, child labor, extreme pollution, and unsafe working conditions are just a few to name.  If you are ready to find out the truth out there and want to see what the brands you are supporting are doing behind the scenes, you can go to the source I use:

This organization investigates companies beyond the textile industy and includes major corporations all around the world.  It also gives you the opportunity to stand up against these organizations, if you want to do something about the information you learn.

As you might guess, I have switched which brands and stores I support.  In addition to that, I have come to recognize that there are many companies in which I have not learn about.  Because of that, I try to avoid wearing clothes or accessories that have their logo on the outside.  If I'm given some clothes with labels like "Nike" or "Old Navy" on them for the kids, I just pass them along to someone else. I even struggle with characters on it, like ones from Disney.  They are decent clothes but I don't want my kids (nor myself) to be a walking advertisement for them.

Plus, I don't want to get sucked into the social status affiliated with certain brands.  I'm not interested in carrying around a purse that is hundreds or thousands of dollars.  To me, it's a purse for a specific function.  And by promoting their brand, it might make someone else around me feel uncomfortable if they can't afford that purse.  It's just not who I am. My style is a purse from Ten Thousand Villages, a local sewer, or one someone made me as a gift.

All our individual purchases are a vote in support of a company and the choices they make. If we are more conscious of what our purchases are supporting, we can encourage positive change in companies.

If you followed the link above and looked up a particular company, which ones did you look up?  Were you surprised?


Jen Starks, Owner 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Healing From the Inside, Naturally-Part II

Health.  Could you imagine not remembering the last time you were sick or your kiddos were sick?  My chiropractor in Tallahassee told me that he hasn't needed to take a sick day in over 15 years.  He doesn't use antibacterial gel after each patient either (claims he keeps it in his office for his patients "peace of mind"), yet he sees sick clients consistently.  Is he just lucky?  He told me that he used to get sick during "flu seasons" when he didn't take care of his body.  Put simply, he shared that he exercises regularly, eats well, gets enough sleep, keeps his spine aligned, avoids caffeine, and takes a few supplements.  

Seems too simple doesn't it?  But honestly, it isn't really "easy" to take care of yourself in this way without some sacrifice, self-control, and dedication.  As I've shared previously, I get suckered into staying up too late.  Having kids means more sleepless nights. We all can't afford a gym membership or the childcare that goes along with it.  Does eating healthy and organic foods seem like a luxury too?  Well, there are many excuses and fortunately there are ways to afford to be healthy.  It just takes a little thrift and lots of prioritization.   Instead of spending your money at the doctor's office, you'll be saving by investing in your long-term health.

My family doctor in Tallahassee used to have the same formula for me when I'd come in sick or with a sick child: Cut out refined sugars, stick to a Mediterranean diet, try to eat organic fruits and veggies, stay hydrated, spend time outside with mild playing, and then would assure me all would work itself out.  In terms of medicine, he usually recommended supplements and homeopathic remedies:  Probiotics daily, sambucol syrup with elderberry and echinacea, Nature's Way Cold Care syrup, Omega 3, and vitamin D drops. Using a cool-mist humidifier was usually in there too. His final remarks were usually "keep up the good work and come see me if you need to."  I miss that reassurance he always gave me, especially when I was a new mom.  Sigh.

Thanks to Jill Welch, Kitchen Goddess and my local farmer Joe Gady from Farming for Life, I've also learned the amazing benefits of green smoothies, consuming tons of leafy greens, eating more sea vegetables, regularly eating fermented foods, and drinking teas and bone broths.  In other words, I'm receiving a bunch of live probiotics and minerals while balancing out the PH in my body from all the other foods I choose to eat that might not be as beneficial.  Refined grains, sugars, starches, and any processed convenience foods mess up our immune system.  While I would say we are on a healthy track in our house, it is not a flawless victory, especially this past month.

These are specific recommendations from those I have learned from and respect, and help promote overall wellness. I have also learned to rely on other remedies when we are sick: neti pots, green tea with honey, spicy bone broths with garlic, ginger, and cayenne, humidifiers, warm baths, inhaling vapors with eucalyptus oil, colloidal silver, vitamin C drinks, Kumbucha, gentle yoga, and LOTS of water and rest.  

What are you currently battling?  What is helping?

For our good health,

Jen Starks, Owner 

Healing From the Inside, Naturally-Part I

If you live in an area where holistic medical care is available and accessible, please take a moment to realize how fortunate you are to have it.  I moved from Tallahassee, FL (and area I had no idea would be as progressive as it is) to South Bend, IN.  I am so grateful that I was able to learn and grow in Tallahassee with holistically-minded physicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapist, whole foods educators, midwives and more for the 6 years we lived there.  I now have more tools under my belt to use up here.

Before moving, I never understood why most of my family and friends consistently spoke of ear infections, ongoing colds, and rounds & rounds of antibiotics given to their family.  And don't get me started on all the anti-bacterial gel (that's another post!).  In our family, we rarely were sick enough to really need antibiotics.  Recently, I finally went through our medicine cabinet to discard old prescriptions.  I found an antibiotic that was about 2 years old from my son (who's about to turn 3).

This fall & early winter, we have been hit by cold after cold.  It has been very discouraging and honestly, it makes me question whether it is better to be pregnant in the cold vs. warm seasons.  My 2 other pregnancies were mostly summer bound.  I shouldn't be surprised by these colds though.  Our kids have been given such consistent rounds of sugary foods whether it is at my daughter's "snack time" at school", family members, strangers, music teachers, church, or our holiday festivities.  Thanksgiving really kicked it off and now I am realizing the consequences of all this.  I never would have put sugar and compromised immune system together if I always lived in this area.

From all the guidance I've received in Tallahassee, I realize my solutions aren't in seeking out the aisles in Walgreens or our "Wellness Center" Clinic.  These are synthetic solutions that will not improve "wellness" but rather relieve symptoms in the instant fashion we have all become accustomed to in our country.

My friends, the solution is to seek healing through other forms.  If you are already sick, then comfort will take a bit more effort on your part when you come from a holistic angle.  But the comfort you receive will actually heal you and promote future wellness.  Then once you get back on your feet, you can look forward to rarely getting sick while others around you are spending time in their doctors' office and coming out with an antibiotics prescription.

My next post is to share with you the wisdom I have found in finding wellness and great health.  Right now, my poor family is working toward that goal again.  And I'm thankful I feel confident that the rest of this "cold season" won't be something to fear but rather to look forward to. :)

For our health,


Jen Starks, Owner 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Finding Light in Darkness-Memorial

These days, my pregnancy hormones are controlling my mood.  It is quite unpredictable what is going to make me either cry, become offended or angry, or simply beam in delight.  But ever since Friday, I can't stop thinking about what happened at that elementary school in Connecticut.  I'm sure it's been on your mind a lot too.

My oldest daughter is 5 and she is in a pre-k program in an elementary school.  It has been a joy to watch her so excited for school as she runs away from my car with her giant backpack on her back.  But behind that joy has entered a darkness that crept in last Friday.  All this time, I have been trusting that my daughter will be safe from harm.  Pulling away from the school this week has been a challenge.  Without thinking about it too much, I get teared up imagining what it must be like for all those parents of the 6 and 7 year olds.  One of the victim's parents described their daughter to the media and it sounded identical to my daughter.  When they dropped their precious child off at school that morning, they probably did their normal "Have a good day at school, sweetie."  Like me, they might have switched over their kid's cd (Goodbye "Dora's Fiesta"!) to some adult radio and breathed a sigh enjoying the first quiet moments.

My kiddos (and myself too) have been sick since Friday.  Our nights have been filled with coughing and playing musical beds.  I have felt so beaten down.  But this time, I have been sticking around a little longer for snuggles and kisses.  Despite all the tragedy, this event has truly shown how love really does come out in a magnitude force.  Whether we give our own kids a little more love, send out prayers for the families who lost their loved ones, or have actually sent donations or notes directly to those affected, there is love all surrounding the event.  It is my hope that even more positives may come out of this event (i.e. better gun policies, safety laws, etc) and that the families know that the whole world is grieving over this event along with them.

In solidarity,

Jen Starks, Owner

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Deep in Our Deep Freezer!

Nope, that is definitely not a picture of what my deep freezer look like right now.  I'm relatively new to the deep freezer system, and I would certainly say I need to improve on utilizing it more effectively.  Recently, my husband made a comment to me, "Wow, our deep freezer is full.  We could be feasting." (Side Note: That's not really a direct quote but how I remember it.)  What he was saying was actually a nice way to put it.  In fact, I can barely put anything else inside my deep freezer and moving the nicely organized shelves back and forth is impossible.

This is a good problem to have really. Since I have been spending each season preserving my favorite fruits and veggies, my freezer has been storing delicious food waiting to be used in a meal.  I've also occasionally saved some larger meals and stuck them in one of the overflowing racks.  Additionally, I have joined a meat CSA where I receive a random cut of meat for future use.  Those have nonchalantly been tossed in there but not been used.

I'm willing to bet that I could eat for at least 3 weeks solid just from my deep freezer.  Cha-ching goes my brain as I look at my dwindling food budget as we prepare for another holiday feast at my house.  My husband's comment has sprung me into action (rather than put up my defenses!), and I am on a mission to wisely but regularly pull more from my deep freezer-meats, fish, chicken stock, pumpkin puree, green peppers, chopped tomatoes, corn, blueberries, and much more!  Once a week, I want to plan a meal centered around what's in my deep freezer or actually use one of those meals I have been saving for "convenience".  Who needs to order a last minute pizza when I have a delicious and nourishing frozen soup with homemade bread calling my name in that freezer.

What's in your deep freezer and do you have a system of regularly using what's in there?

Ready to feast frugally,

Jen Starks, Owner 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Our Top 10 Holiday Gifts

I don't know about you, but I appreciate any little guidance I can receive, when I am shopping for gifts for loved ones.  Since we have quite a few products on our website, I thought I'd scour through it and extract our top recommended gifts for the holidays.  Although, I must admit that I think all our products would make great gifts, since they are made with fair labor, are high quality, and highly functional.  :)

1. bumGenius Babylegs ($12)

These are great for all those crawlers, as leggings under dresses, for easy night time changing, and fit compactly in your diaper bag for a little added warmth.  I especially like to use these when I'm wearing my baby in a sling and their little legs are poking out. Cute prints in boy and girl options!

2. Carriwell's Maternity Flexi-Belt ($20) 

This belt is a way to save on all those maternity clothes to fit your growing belly.  It comes first with an elastic belt which extends your waistline during your early pregnancy.  Then it includes 3 colors of organic cotton panels to cover any exposed zipper area.  This is especially great for professional mamas who don't want to buy all those expensive maternity business pants!

3. PunkinButt Bubble Bath & Body Wash ($13.50)

A generous size bottle for its quality, this bubble bath uses healthy ingredients and provides lots of relaxation for either baby or mama.  This can also be used as body wash and comes in two wonderful scents.

4. Amber Teething Necklace ($22) 

Not only are amber necklaces (we also carry bracelets!) ridiculously adorable on babies, but they are also very helpful in helping baby feel more comfortable when they are teething.  Baltic amber's resin is absorbed into the skin and lessens sensations of pain related to teething and also growing pains.

The cord is made from silk and each bead is individually tied.  So, if the necklace is tugged enough, it will break free and only one small bead is released (too small to be a hazard).

5. LuSa's Organics "Welcome, Little One Gift Collection" ($35

This gift set has some of my favorite LuSa products in it.  In it, you'll receive Booty Balm, Bath Bath & Massage Oil, Sleeping Potion, a mild bar of soap made from Calendula, and a soft cloth wash cloth made from organic cotton.  The kit also comes in a reusable zipper tote to use over and over again.  This will make baby AND mama happy!

6.  Maya Wrap Slings ($75) 

I would argue that having a good sling is the investment over all baby gear items.  There are many psychological benefits for baby and mama when the baby is being worn (learn more here).  Mama (and Daddy!) are able to carry their baby in a way that will distribute the weight of the baby better, while also being able to free up their hands.  This particular sling is lightly padded, breathable hand-loomed cotton, and has 6+ positions in which you can carry the baby through it's developmental stages.  Purchase it with us and we will provide complimentary tutorials in addition to the instructional DVD included.  It also has a pocket to carry small items!

7. LuSa Organics Skin Care Items

All of our LuSa Organics products are handmade by a family up in Wisconsin.  They choose pure and highest quality ingredients, which in turn makes them very effective products.  For very fair prices, I also love that the products last and last, so I can use them over a long period of time.

If you are interested in learning more about their story and mission, you can check them out here. Oh, and their blog is also sensational and inspiring! :)

8. bumGenius Diaper Sprayer ($60) 

One of the best inventions for cloth diapers (besides Snappi's Fasteners), diaper sprayers are definitely worth having in a cloth diapering home.  These are awesome gifts for family members and friends.  Beyond the use of cleaning up messy diapers, they are great for cleaning out portable potty chairs, cleaning bathtubs, can be used as a bidet, washing pets in the tub, and filling up buckets of clean water. Easy to install, flow is adjustable, and it comes with a 3 year warranty!

9. PlanetWise Wet/Dry Bags ($21)

I wish I had more of these in my home for personal use.  Used for carrying dirty cloth diapers when on the go, they contain Smells and leaks.  Beyond diapers, they are great for swim gear, spit up/wet clothes, potty training, and can be used well beyond potty training for mom as well (gym clothes, shoes, etc).

10. Ecological Babies' Gift Certificates 

Not sure what would be the best gift?  Let them decide on their own!  Gift certificates come in $25, $50, and $100 denominations.  They ship free and we'll send their items to anywhere in the US.

Happy Holidays!  We truly appreciate you choosing to support our business.


Jen Starks, Owner