Category Archives: To Market

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Best (and Worst) Candy Heart Sayings of All Time

Iconic, goofy and sometimes romantic candy hearts from Necco are the second best selling Valentine’s Day candy, right behind chocolate. 8 billion little Sweethearts are produced each year. Their bright, chalky colors and pithy and sometimes irreverent candy heart sayings have been entertaining people and helping them declare love for 147 years, ever since the brother of the original Necco creator designed a machine that stamped words directly onto the candies with red vegetable dye. The original candies were large and had various shapes. When the company arrived at the small heart shape in 1902, the sayings got smaller to accommodate it.

Necco wafers themselves have been around 166 years and even accompanied two explorers on their expeditions (Admiral Byrd’s to the South Pole and Donald MacMillan’s to the Arctic) in addition to feeding the WWII troops. Necco’s wafers and sweethearts even survived a move to “healthier” flavors three years ago, which was thankfully scrapped.

 

I’ve watched the sayings get updated over the years, as new ones like FAX ME and  E MAIL ME came and went. New sayings in recent years include TEXT ME and TWEET ME (how long will these last?) as well as MY PET and U R HOT, as an addition to classics like SOUL MATE, SWEET PEA, SAY YES, TRUE LOVE and ALL MINE. Perennial favorites from the early years include BE MINE, BE TRUE, MARRY ME and KISS ME. The company adds about 20 sayings, out of 80, each year, so naturally some older ones are not going to make the new group. New sayings are often themed, like these pet-themed ones from 2007.

Some of my favorite new sayings over the past decade include HEART OF GOLD, MELT MY HEART, CLOUD NINE and HONEY BUN. A few that have bitten the dust, mostly because their lingo became dated, include DIG ME, HEP CAT, HOTCHA, SAUCY BOY and OH YOU KID.

However you express it, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Photos: Necco, The Fun Times Guide

Bonus Trivia Question: What does Necco stand for?

Answer: New England Confectionary Company

 

Read more:

History of Sweetheart Candies, Smithsonian Magazine

10+ Years of Conversation Hearts, Readers Digest

How Do They Get Those Tiny Words on Sweethearts Candies?, Time Magazine

17 Amazing Retired Sweetheart Candy Sayings, The Atlantic

New Sweetheart Candy Sayings by Year, Infoplease

Mixed Reviews for New NECCO Sweetheart Candy Flavors, Slow Family Online


New Bookboard App Helps Inspire a Lifelong Love of Reading

Our whole family adores books. Especially children’s books. And with that comes delightful, but groaning, shelves (and piles and boxes and an attic full) of books.

What if there were a way to cut down on the volume but still enjoy current and classic children’s books that were available as easily as streamed movies, that challenged our children to grow and discover new titles, and that made books as accessible, interactive and fun to use as the latest game app? There is. Bookboard brings you all of the above and more in a well-designed new system that lets kids read books and participate in fun online progress metrics that they unlock through their reading achievements. Book titles are based on personalized suggestions and are immediately available for download, the same way Netflix movies are available for screening.

Parents can also follow their children’s progress and help them find new titles. Bookboard encourages many of the traits that help create lifelong readers, even among those who are reluctant. These include variety and choice of materials, social interaction, and both new and familiar experiences.

On a test-run, we found Bookboard’s books and graphics attractive and its interface appealing and easy to use.

As a book-loving mom in a family of lifelong readers (hence the groaning bookshelves), I’m thrilled that there are new opportunities for new generations to enjoy reading and books in a way that is comfortable, natural and appealing. Neither Michael nor I would give back any of the hours that we spent with Anna, reading her multiple bedtime stories night after night. The time we spent reading together helped create an intense bond that lasts to this day, a bond due both to our physical closeness and to the wonderful books we all discovered together and still talk about.

Bookboard is free for a limited time. A subscription service is planned.

Sign up and read a book from Bookboard between now and February 11, 2013,  and you’ll be entered in a giveaway for an iPad Mini. When you sign up, you’ll have access to Bookboard (and their current slate of titles) free of charge for one month. See Bookboard for rules and details.

This post is sponsored by Bookboard. The opinions expressed are my own.

Images: Paper Tigers, Bookboard

Which Monopoly Token Should Be Replaced?

Which Monopoly token would you replace? That’s the question that Hasbro, maker of the popular 80-year-old game, is putting before its fans, many of whom, while having a favorite, can’t imagine the game without all eight of the current tokens:  race car, top hat, Scottie dog, shoe, wheelbarrow, iron, battleship and thimble. Of those, the wheelbarrow and the Scottie dog are relative newcomers, having joined the game in 1952. The others have been in play since shortly after the game was first marketed (originally using dyed wooden pawn pieces) in 1935.

Some tokens have come and gone over the years. A lantern, purse and rocking horse made it through the early period only to be replaced by the wheelbarrow, Scottie and a bucking bronco. A cannon entered the canon. (Many of us probably remember the cannon and the bronco.) An airplane briefly took flight. A bag of money appeared more recently. More than 20 Monopoly tokens have been made over the years.

Eric Nyman, senior vice president for Hasbro, maker of the board game that is played in 111 countries and has more custom editions than we can count, says that, while he acknowledged that “the tokens are one of the most iconic parts of the Monopoly game and we know that people are emotionally tied to their favorite one,” the new token will be “more representative of today’s Monopoly players.” The new pieces under consideration are a diamond ring, guitar, robot, cat or helicopter.

You can vote for your favorite tokens, new and old, on the Monopoly Facebook page until February 5. The winning token will be produced later this year.

Those who don’t like this change take heart: This 75th anniversary circular Monopoly board, which replaced the game’s traditional paper money with debit cards, didn’t seem to gain any traction.

Early Monopoly History

In my opening paragraph, I wrote that the Monopoly was first marketed in 1935. Its invention, however, goes back to 1904, to The Landlord’s Game, which was invented and patented by Lizzie Magie, as a way to teach economics, taxation and “land grabbing”. The game was played quietly for years, around Pennsylvania in particular. The first person to write up the current Monopoly rules, and give the properties their names based on street names in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was Charles Darrow, who patented his own version of the game and sold it to Parker Brothers. Parker Brothers eventually bought off Lizzie Magie for $500. Read more on two fascinating Landlord’s Game and Monopoly history sites.

Games that Help Kids Learn About Money

Although financial acumen is most likely a bi-product of Monopoly, rather than a goal, there is certainly much kids can learn by playing. Math, counting, reading, planning, budgeting, decision making, and negotiating all come into play, along with a little luck. There can even be an important role-play dimension, if players take the original “landlord” intent of the game seriously.

These are five lessons Monopoly teaches about finance.

Here are more games that help kids learn about money and business. Games and toys that help with role-play, such as toy money, order pads, paper to create menus and signs, cash registers, and sale items (such as art supplies or plastic food) are also terrific, because they help kids learn many interpersonal skills, in addition to financial ones. Many kids gravitate toward playing “store” or “restaurant”.

 What Does Your Monopoly Token Reveal About You?

All this talk of tokens made me wonder if a player’s choice of Monopoly token holds a clue to his or her personality. According to Philip Orbanes, author of the forthcoming book, Monopoly, Money, and You, it does. Find out what your Monopoly token reveals about you.

I must admit, as a (mostly) “hat” player, I was accurately captured.

Photos: Hasbro, UnderConsideration.com (Landlord’s Game)

 

Make This a Slow, Joyful Holiday Season

For many of us, the holidays bring frenzy and stress. Budgets and available time and resources are stretched. We schedule so many activities that we become tired and unable to enjoy all of them. We spend extraordinary amounts of our time in crowded stores, parking lots and post offices. Why? Because we internalize societal messages that tell us we have to give our families a “perfect” holiday, which means taking advantage of every possible option and gift, often at the expense of true family meaning and fun.

How can we take back our holiday seasons?

Set a family intention for the holiday season

Intentions are extremely powerful. It will help you and your family if you determine and express exactly what you do want this holiday season. What is important to the family? Time spent together at home or out at parties? A family vacation? Treasured traditions (and which ones)? A shower of gifts? Discuss your intentions as a family and perhaps arrive at some new ones.

Question or limit consumerism

This act will help many families derail stress. Decide on a gift limit, say one or two per person. Offer to forgo traditional gifting with extended family members or office mates. Instead, try something fun like a “Secret Santa” activity, in which participants choose names from a hat and gift that one person a gift, instead of every person in the group. Other things you can do include supporting local small businesses and artisans, and choosing gifts that will get a great deal of use because they inspire creative play or exploration, or even gifts of time and activities.

Be a holiday tourist

Limiting consumerism doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy commercial holiday fun. Lots of towns and cities employ beautiful shop windows and other holiday and light displays. Find one near you and see how much more you and your family enjoy them when you’re not rushing by with a lengthy shopping list.

Visit your favorite holiday traditions, or create new (and inexpensive) ones

Holiday time can be extremely meaningful and memorable. Often, family memories are deepened when they attach to repeated fun rituals. These can include enjoying a holiday play, pageant, ice show or staging of a ballet such as the Nutcracker each year; attending a holiday tea; addressing cards together; making your own gift wrap; decorating your home; putting out cookies for Santa; enjoying holiday movies or books; playing old-fashioned games by firelight; playing in the snow; taking a holiday walk; or one of our frugal favorites, enjoying local holiday light and decoration displays. (These are often published in local papers.)

Gather for crafting and food

Holidays offer plenty of gathering time. Why not gather around fun, homemade activities? Make food together that is unique to the season, such as egg nog, apple butter, latkes or holiday cookies. Host a cookie exchange, to which guests each bring 4 dozen cookies and an empty container. Put all the cookies on a table and have guests walk around the table, taking one of each until the cookies are gone. (Serve guests a hearty or potluck meal before the cookie exchange, if you’d like.) Or make a gingerbread house or simple crafts like doily snowflakes. (Instructions below.)

Get outdoors

Often we get so carried away with some aspects of the holidays that we miss others. Holiday time can be a lovely time to enjoy nature. Often there are less other people on the walking trails and in the parks. Live in a snowy place? Make a Snowman Kit and keep it handy: Collect and store together coal pieces, rocks, or buttons for eyes, and woolens such as a knit cap, scarf, and mittens. Have carrots handy in the fridge. When the snow hits, take your kit outside and create your snowman, adding branches, twigs, evergreen boughs, and other items.

Celebrate the winter solstice

The winter solstice provides a special opportunity to slow down during the hectic holiday season. Take a walk or have a family game night on the year’s longest night. Celebrate the sun’s return by making or eating sun- colored foods, such as oranges and frosted yellow cupcakes. Place gold-covered toys or chocolate
coins in bags and surprise children with them at night or during the morning after the solstice. Take a walk together at sunrise to greet the return of longer days.

Say no to some activities

As you’re saying yes to some of these new, fun activities, you might find yourself needing to say no to others. Do you really have to attend every office, school and neighborhood party or event? Decide which activities truly give you pleasure and try to guiltlessly skip the ones that don’t. The same goes for holiday cooking, decorating and other activities. If something isn’t pleasurable, no matter how much it fits into your idea of a “perfect” holiday, opt to do something you enjoy instead.

Give to someone less fortunate

There are many opportunities to serve and give over the holidays. Help at a local food kitchen, or participate in a toy or book drive. Or consider gifting in a recipient’s name to a worthy non-profit or other organization. These gifts may have much greater meaning than additional trinkets or things for families that have plenty.

 

Paper or Doily Snowflakes
These snowflakes grace our windows each winter.

You’ll need:
• Doilies, or paper in circle or square shapes
• Scissors
• Ribbon, optional

Fold a doily or paper circle in half, then in half again, and then
in half again, resulting in eight wedge- shaped layers, or fold a
square piece of paper in half to form a triangle shape, then in
half again. Then fold both halves of the triangle in toward the
middle, so that there is one pointy top, with the pieces overlapping,
and two pointy ends sticking down. Trim the bottom to
cut the pointy ends off.

Cut out small shapes along the folds or ends, such as triangles,
half circles, or swirling edges.

Unfold the paper and enjoy your snowflake. You may wish to
string many snowflakes together on a piece of ribbon to create
a garland decoration.

Craft adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

 

‘Fed Up with Frenzy’ Blog Tour Coming to a Screen Near You

 

As many of you know, my book, Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, will be out August 1.

I am very eager for you to learn about all the fun ideas and projects I’ve collected to help your family slow down and reconnect. To do that, I’ve assembled an all-star team of bloggers to join the Fed Up with Frenzy Blog Tour to share their thoughts about the book and some of the ideas and projects inside.

 

Here is a partial list of bloggers and dates on the Fed Up with Frenzy Blog Tour. Please visit their sites for reviews, activities, tips and book giveaways! (And also, because they’re all wonderful sites with great information about kids, crafts, gardening, nature, free play, education, slowing down, creativity and family fun!)

August 1                                      Power of Slow     Review

August 2                                     Grass Stain Guru     Guest post

August 4                                       Exploring Portland’s Natural Areas Review

August 7                                     Red, White & Grew     Guest post

August 9                                     Slow Family Living     Review/Activity

August 15                                     Fun Orange County Parks     Review

August 17                                      Let Children Play     Guest post

August 22                                     Jen Spends     Review

August 24                                     Becentsable     Review

August 27                                     Real Moms Love to Eat     Recipe

August 28                                     A Place Like This     Review

September 5                              Rhythm of the Home     Guest post

September 5                               Mummy’s Product Reviews     Review

September 6                               Jump into a Book     Review

September 6                               Modern Day Moms     Review

September 7                               7 on a Shoestring     Review

September 8                             Dad of Divas     Review

September 10                            Go Explore Nature     Interview

September 12                           Active Kids Club     Podcast!

September 13                            Love, Life, Family and Then Some     Review

September 14                            Go Explore Nature     Activity

September 14                           Adventures of the Alpha Mom     Review

September 15                            What Mama Wants     Review

September 18                            Traveling Mel     Review/Activity

September 19                            Allison Abramson     Review

September 20                           Imagination Soup      Review

September 21                          Chi-Town Cheapskate     Review

September 21                          Frugal Mama     Review

September 24                          Go Gingham     Review

September 24                         Adventures of the Alpha Wife     Review

September 25                          Play Equals Peace     Interview

September 26                          A Little Yumminess     Review/Recipe

September 27                          Bright Copper Kettles     Review/Craft

September 28                          Parent Palace     Review

October 1                                   Noble Mother     Review

October 2                                   Frugal Mama   Guest post

October 3                                   A Little Bite of Life     Review

October 4-18                           The WELL Inkwell     Online Discussion

October 8                                  Love, Live, Grow     Review

October 12                                 Skinny Mom     Review

October 15-24                         Erin Goodman     10-day Family Recharge

October 17                                 Erin Goodman     Review

October 20                               I’m a Teacher, Get me Outside Here   Review

November 14                          Mama Scout     Review

November 15                          Frog Mom Blog     Review and Activity

November 27                          Salt and Nectar     Web chat

December 4                     Bliss Beyond Naptime  Audio, Frenzy-Free Holiday
Plus Video, Simplicity Parenting with Rhythm

December 7                      Polliwog on Safari     Review

January 3                          Non-Toxic Kids     Review

July 27                                Hill Babies     Review

Dates To Be Announced (this site will update):

Life as Mom

Nature Moms

Ask a Nanny

The Movement Academy Project

Connecting Family and Seoul

Would you like to join the blog tour? Please give me a shout. I’d be thrilled to have you join.

Blog tour badge by my talented husband, and the book’s illustrator, Lippy.

Costa Rica “Gift of Happiness”, Part 2: Mi Cafecito Coffee Tour

Read Part 1 of our Gift of Happiness adventure.

We left Costa Rica’s capitol (and largest) city and immediately swung into the charming town of Alajuela, whose pastel-colored farmacias, cafes and small eateries, called sodas, were largely shuttered because it was Sunday. From there, we found ourselves rising through the mountains of Costa Rica, heading north. The landscape was dotted with coffee plantations; squat stucco houses painted pastel pink and bright blue and chartreuse seemingly sunk into the dirt, with small tiled front porches and laundry drying outside on lines; and small pineapple, banana and other farms, or fincas. Carlos explained what each town was known for and what the different fincas were growing. Like many people we would meet in Costa Rica, he also had a great sense of humor and fun.

On the way, we saw a cow (and a man) pulling one of these traditional colorful ox carts. I didn’t get a good picture. Luckily, Red Gage did.

People were selling fruit from stands and in front of homes. We pulled over on a high mountain road to buy some strawberries and Anna apples (yes, they were called that!) Turismo vans, like ours, passed us, threading up into the hills.

We passed one of several stunning waterfalls (I believe this is the La Paz waterfall) and Carlos stopped so I could snap a picture. Families played in the water at its base.

We wound further on mountain roads, surrounded by lush greenery, until we arrived at the Coope Sarapiqui Mi Cafecito coffee plantation.

We quickly met Walter, our extremely knowledgeable and engaging tour guide, who explained that the co-op includes 137 local small coffee growers and that it is committed to organic and fair trade practices and products, which include employing local people — a hallmark of many Costa Rican enterprises that we would come across. Walter is a second-generation co-op member.

We learned how coffee seeds are planted and coffee grown and harvested. This was especially exciting because we had recently taken a tour of the Highwire Coffee roasting plant back home and now we were seeing where similar coffee was grown.

Trees mature in 3-5 years, and coffee fruit is ripe for picking when it turns red. The beans are actually inside this red “coffee cherry” fruit. At busy times of the year, more locals are called in to harvest the seeds.

Each fruit contains 1-3 seeds. Michael, Anna and I each managed to pick a fruit with a different number of seeds. In addition, Anna got a peaberry, which is a single seed, rather than the usual double. (4% of coffee cherries produce peaberries.)

Because the farm is completely organic, pest-control is handled in a low-impact way, by a series of paper cups with alcohol inside, which attracts and then kills beetles and other unwanted creatures.

Walter demonstrated an old hand-cranked machine that shells the fruits and leaves the remaining coffee beans.

This is the newer version:

Coffee beans are then sun-dried, roasted in an oven called an horno, and packed into burlap bags for shipping.

After getting a close-up tour of sustainable coffee making. we trekked through the surrounding forest. It was humid, though not terribly hot, and we were already slapping at new mosquito bites on our apparently delicious North American skin.

The plants and flowers were exotic and beautiful, including the poisonous, hallucinogenic Angel’s Trumpet:

We looked out over the Sarapiqui River and visited the elaborate composting room — not the only one we’d see on our tour of this incredibly eco-conscious country.

Time for lunch and coffee! Lovely meals of house-farmed tilapia, traditional rice and beans, and banana plantains were brought to us. We also enjoyed the dark-roasted full-bodied Mi Cafecito coffee so much that we bought some to bring home.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman, Red Gage, Carlos

Stay tuned for Part 3 of our Gift of Happiness adventure.

 

 

 

 

Tulipmania 2012

Like the 17th-century Dutch who experienced one of the biggest boom-and-bust cycles in history, my family and I find ourselves gripped by Tulipmania each year. We pore over photos of tulips on the Internet and at our local garden center and ultimately choose a few for reasons that vary widely each year — a lovely pale shade here, a bright color there, a curve of shape or a frill of petal.

Whichever types you choose, planting tulips is a terrific family project that brings you a lot of beauty and wonder for relatively little effort. For more information about planting, see Tulips are in the Ground. Here are this year’s tulips:

Salmon Impression

We chose Salmon Impression for its wonderful pastel color, and it didn’t disappoint. This variety yielded beautiful large flowers on strong, tall (20-24″) stems. I especially enjoyed the subtle green coloring on each petal.

Ivory Floradale

Another gorgeous flower (and another Darwin Hybrid type), the Ivory Floradale came in colors ranging from yellow to cream. They also produced a large and interesting flower on a sturdy 20-22″ stem.

DAYDream

A favorite from years past, the Daydream continued to delight again and was a great compliment and accent to the other colors and varieties. Another sturdy flower on a 20-24″ stem, this Darwin Hybrid produced a bright, apricot color and dark centers that were revealed when the petals opened in the sun.

china town

Our last flower, China Town, looked like a lot of fun, with its frilly, multi-colored petals, but, alas, the bulbs went into the ground and failed to grow. Luckily they were in a separate container, so that our bright display bloomed in a happy group.

As always, we treasured our tulips while they were here. Until next year!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

More Tulipmania from Slow Family:

Tulipmania 2010, Part One (Lots of tulip photos)
Tulipmania 2010, Part Two (More tulip photos)
Tulipmania: One Bubble I can Really Get Behind
Tulips are in the Ground

Peter Rabbit Organics and Giveaway

Too bad Peter Rabbit Organics weren’t around when my daughter was little. We would have snatched the pouches up by the dozen. For starters, they’re delicious — extremely flavorful and unusually fresh tasting, not qualities normally associated with purchased baby food. They’re completely organic and contain 100% fruit or veggies — no added sugar, salt or artificial ingredients. The portions are generous – each pouch contains 70-85 calories and plenty of fiber and vitamins. The pouches are easy to use, either with a spoon or to eat directly from. They’re extremely portable and durable and don’t need refrigerating before opening. And, unexpectedly, you can even re-cap each BPA-free pouch and refrigerate to finish later. All good!

Our testers of all ages (kid to adult) enjoyed all 5 sample flavors. “Strawberry Banana” and “Mango, Banana and Orange” were exact blends of those ingredients, resulting in flavors that were very bright and evenly balanced. “Sweet Potato, Corn and Apple” had a deep and distinct sweet potato-and-apple taste, with a subtle hint of corn. Both squash and apple flavors came through nicely in the bolder tasting “Carrot, Squash and Apple” blend, with the carrot being exceedingly subtle. “Pea, Spinach and Apple” offered a nice taste appropriately dominated by fresh pea, with a hint of sweet apple. (We couldn’t taste any spinach, though we’re sure it was there!)

All the flavors we tasted were quite good. You’ll have to try a few to find your little one’s personal preference. (Older testers liked the fruit flavors and thought those would make good on-the-go snacks for sports teams.) Peter Rabbit Organics are available at lots of stores around the U.S. and online. (I also learned that the products are U.S.-made.)

I’m giving away a box with 12 assorted flavors of Peter Rabbit Organics, so that one lucky reader can try them, too! To enter, leave a comment on my blog and let me know what flavor you or your little one is most looking forward to trying. I’ll choose a computer-generated random winner. The giveaway closes Friday, March 9, Midnight, Pacific Time. Good luck!

Please note: Though I am occasionally sent products for review, I am not compensated, and reviews are honest, factual to the best of my knowledge, and my own.

12 Days of Green Holiday Gifts: Green Gift Wrapping

With all this attention to green holiday gifts, it seemed time to address the wrapping.

The practice of wrapping gifts in paper began modestly enough, as people around the world utilized cloth, brown paper, even wallpaper, to disguise their gifts. Hallmark is credited with creating the current gift-wrap industry, which earth911 tells us accounts for as much as half of the 85 million tons of paper products Americans consume every year. Wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about 4 million tons of trash annually in the U.S., and the vast majority of that is generated during the holiday season. In addition, they note that the act of recycling wrapping paper presents more challenges than we might think.

Now, the good news: There are lots of alternative wrapping ideas worth exploring, many of which are as creative and fun (some perhaps more so) than traditional wrapping.

Green Wrapping Ideas

Furoshiki — This long-time Japanese practice of wrapping gifts in cloths. Presents are wrapped in lovely fabrics, ranging from traditional Japanese fabrics and designs to silk, cotton and designs that are modern and retro, all of which can be used over and over. The wrappings and decorations themselves can also be quite elaborate and pretty. This method requires no cutting, only wrapping and knotting, so that it is also practical and sturdy. You may have scrap fabric you can wrap with at home. This Furoshiki site has lots of great fabrics to choose from, in a variety of prices, including fabrics by San Francisco design studio, Chewing the Cud.

This video provides a fantastic Furoshiki tutuorial (thank you to Recycle Now). Once you learn this technique, it’s very easy to do. (Click on “Furoshiki gift wrapping”):

Furoshiki gift wrapping from RecycleNow on Vimeo.

The Fabric Society also offers wonderful inspiration, tips and fabric for wrapping with furoshiki.


Clothing – This is really thinking outside the box — why not wrap a present in a fun recycled shirt?

Recycled Paper Items – Fun wrappings can be made from old paper maps, Sunday comic pages, sheet music or tissue sewing patterns. Feeling especially artistic? Decorate paper bags, or easel or other artist paper that you already have on hand. Color, paint, stamp, sticker, create collages from other papers or magazine pictures, dip old cookie cutters in paint to create a unique stamp, or create a decorative paint roller: Glue yarn or string onto a coffee or other can in striped or zig-zag patterns, let dry, paint the string, and roll the wet-painted can onto the paper.

Reusable Bags – If you don’t want to go the wrapping route, there’s still time in this holiday season to buy (or perhaps even make) reusable bags. These fabric bags from Lucky Crow are super-cute and come in a wide variety of styles and sizes. They really solve the problem of wanting to use recyclable wrapping materials, without going the route of a grocery-supplied bag. They work for party favors, too. The Portland, OR-based company also sells its bags in stores. Check their web site for details.

Just as with the wrapping, there’s no need to buy new gift tags. Make your own by cutting rectangles of construction paper and folding them in half. Decorate with paint, stickers, stamps, drawings, glitter, or other items you have on hand. You can also cut up from recycled holiday cards from years past. Tape to the gift or punch a small hole in one corner and tie on with ribbon.

You might also like these Green Holiday Gifts:

Gifts that Help Others
Butterfly Girl Dolls
Homemade Cookies
Root Viewer Garden Kit

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Katorisi, Philip Friedman/Studio D (three photos), Lucky Crow

 

Tulips are in the Ground!

My family and I love tulip-planting time. We have many memories of going out on bright and chilly late November or early December days, digging into the dirt and placing our bulbs into the ground, along with our visions of colorful and elegant tulips coming up in the spring.

The big bulbs (and, of course, the gorgeous flowers) make tulips especially fun and easy for kids to plant and then watch emerge from the ground, sometimes among the first flowers to do so after the winter. Kids usually enjoy learning that the bulbs have most of the nutrients inside to create a flower (but still like a little boost at planting time – we use an organic bulb food.) This makes bulbs a great item to plant in school yards or public spaces because they don’t need a lot of watering or care while they’re growing.

Because we live in Sunset Magazine’s gardening zone 17 (USDA Zone 9), we refrigerate our bulbs for 6 weeks to simulate a Northern winter. And, because we haven’t had much success preserving our tulips from year to year (see the next paragraph for ideas about that), we always have some new tulips to try. Of course that’s a big part of the fun – poring over web sites and practically drooling over the local nursery displays. The chosen bulbs then go into the fridge for their hibernation. And, on an invariably cold, crisp day — in 6″ deep holes (aided by a simple bulb digger) and with a little organic fertilizer (the white stuff you see) — into the ground they go. We used sticks to mark different color bulbs while we were planning our planter boxes.

Because tulip bulbs are generally indicated to bloom early, mid or late spring, you may want to choose bulbs that bloom at about the same time (which we did, because we have a small planting area) or choose bulbs for continuous blooms. Heights are also estimated so that you can plant taller ones in the back of a display.  Tulips tend to look best grouped, rather than in a line.

Want to know more about bulbs and planting? The Blooming Bulb site sells bulbs and offers more detailed tulip planting and storing instructions. The Plant Expert is a fabulous resource about choosing, planting, storing and growing bulbs and all kinds of plants. Another is Doug Green’s Flower Garden Bulbs, which sells bulbs as well. Colorblends (which offers more great planting information), Brent and Becky’s Bulbs and K. VanBourgondien and Sons also sell wonderful selections of bulbs throughout the year by mail order. I also recently found an article about storing bulbs for use the next year, which the writer says is a good idea in any garden where the bulbs will be planted over, not just our warm-winter gardens. I think we will try these new techniques this year!

So, what did we plant?

Come drool with us!

DAYDream

Of our four different tulips, one was brought back from two years ago, the lovely Daydream. A Darwin hybrid, the Daydream is a classically shaped tulips in a soft apricot color, with with a little color variation for interest. The flower height ranges from 20”-24”. I found the stem to be nice and sturdy, and the bulb a pleasing size and perfect color. Some of the flowers tended toward pale yellow tones. Daydreams open in the sun to reveal a black center.

Darwin Hybrids were originally cultivated by crossing single late Darwin and Cottage tulips with early Fosteriana tulips to produce beautiful results.

Salmon Impression

Salmon Impression is another in the sherbet-like color range that I like. A Darwin Hybrid, like the Daydream, we’re told the Salmon Impression is especially sturdy and does well in various climates and conditions, as well as producing large, pretty flowers on strong stems that reach 20-24″.

Ivory Floradale

I think a light or dark accent color is nice among the tulips. This year we went for the light and creamy colored Ivory Floradale. It’s another Darwin Hybrid (I guess we know what we like) and is said to grow to 20-22″ on a strong stem.

china town

We usually try to plant one especially exotic tulip – one with frilly edges, or flames of color shooting through it, or a Viridiflora, a tulip type that offers streaks of stem-like green along its flower. This year’s is the China Town. Writes Bissett Nursery: “Flaring petals of pink, edged in cream streaked with a moss green.  Artistic and unusual in design.  China Town also has especially attractive foliage – dark green leaves with white borders.” This flower is said to grow 14-20″ and is in its own pot in a very visible spot.

Photos: Daydream: Susan Sachs Lipman; Salmon Impression: Botanus; Ivory Floradale: Van Bourgondien Nursery; China Town: Bissett Nursery. All others: S. Lipman

More Tulipmania from Slow Family:

Tulipmania 2010, Part One (Lots of tulip photos)
Tulipmania 2010, Part Two (More tulip photos)
Tulipmania: One Bubble I can Really Get Behind

 

 

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