Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green...But It IS Fun!!

Do you remember that line from an old Sesame Street episode? Back then it applied to Kermit the Frog and his struggle to appreciate his "green-ness" since he considers green to be an average, very common color. Nowadays, if you were to speak this phrase during a conversation, many folks would likely assume you were speaking about the challenges of choosing to live a "green," or environmentally conscious, more naturally healthy lifestyle.

Even though many years have passed since the phrase "being green" changed from meaning being a famous green amphibian to being more "natural", it's still not easy being green. Not only are organic and "natural" products still more expensive in the average market, but even with the plethora of information available out there on the Internet or at the local bookstore, it is difficult to figure out where to begin when you are starting out...especially, if you are anything like me and you want to seem to be at least somewhat knowledgeable about a topic before trying to teach it to your kids.

That is where Vintage Remedies comes in. This company, started in 2005 by Jessie Hawkins, a homeschooling mom of four, seeks to teach the average family how to "live green from the inside out." They have various levels of curricula for teaching varying levels of students, from their Vintage Remedies for Kids curriculum aimed at ages 2-6 (and their parents, of course), to their Family Herbalist online course, and their top shelf Clinical Master Herbalist Course (geared towards the individual who wishes to take their natural remedies knowledge to the professional level).

Our family was chosen to receive a copy of Vintage Remedies for Girls, written for girls ages 7-12. This almost 200 page spiral-bound non-consumable book contains all you need for a year's worth of interesting and life-changing lessons about natural living for you and your daughter(s). It is divided into three sections: Nutrition and Culinary Skills, Health and Body, and Natural Living. Within these sections are eighteen chapters, with additional material in three appendices (quizzes, schedules for groups and homeschools, and resources for further learning). The curriculum is designed so that you can do it with your own family at home, but you can also use it in a group situation, though copying is not allowed.

The chapters are written so that your girls can read them independently, though parental involvement (especially for the activities) is encouraged strongly, and honestly, I think the "independent" reading by a 7-10 year old might be a stretch. The text is written in a conversational manner that IS easy to read and understand, but the subject matter works best when discussed, and I personally found the choice of font (it looks like printed handwriting) a bit difficult to read fluidly.

Each chapter has a lengthy informational introduction (2-4 pages average), a featured project, additional fun projects, a parent/leader guide with a supply list for the featured project, and a quiz in appendix one. 

Here are some sample pages from chapters 8 and 10.

There is a wealth of interesting information in this book. To do it justice, you really would need to spend at least six months exploring the various chapters and themes it offers. The things we found most interesting as we perused the activities were: growing a pizza garden, cultivating your own herbs, making your own beauty products such as lip balm, foot oil, & body scrub, making your own cleaning products and soap for washing clothes, natural health items such as herbal cough lozenges and soothing teas, and ways to make your home a more "green" machine such as reusing, recycling, and composting.

However, since we did not have that amount of time available for previewing the book, we picked and chose a few things in our two greatest areas of interest: food and health/beauty items. One of the first things I saw when I looked through the book was that you can make strawberry jam without buying pectin in packets from the store. Awesome! I mean, I figured it must be possible. I doubted that Laura Ingalls Wilder bought pectin in packets at Olsen's store, but it was not a skill/area of knowledge I professed to have.

I did, however, have a bag of wonderful frozen strawberries from when we went to a pick your own place earlier this year, and I ran out of time to process them all into freezer jam. So, I was able to grab a Granny Smith from the store and Ladybug, Firefly, Cowboy, and I gave making some jam a try. It wasn't as easy or as quick as the pectin in a package method, but it it pretty neat knowing that we did it all without anything "fake" or "processed" (though I did not use organic sugar...I am not that "natural" yet). It doesn't look quite as thick as my usual jam, but it was our first try. I am certain it will be gone by the end of the week, thick or not.

Our second three chosen projects required a trip to the local health product store. Unfortunately, our local store did not carry every ingredient we needed to make the lip balm or the foot scrub...AND I can say that what they did have was pretty expensive. That might just be my area, or the fact that it was a specialty store. Perhaps some of the ingredients are available at chain stores, but I have not seen them there before.

I am sure that over time a family could build a supply of good quality natural product ingredients over time from online sources, but to do a project in a pinch, I must admit, our lip balm (even minus the beeswax, so we stored it in square containers instead of tubes) is the most expensive lip balm I've ever bought. We do have plenty of product left to make many more batches, so we can give some out as gifts, since the ingredients are pure and the result was enjoyed and appreciated by myself and both of my girls. The boys took a pass on trying it out.

The containers we found for the lip balm were ten for a dollar at the dollar store, so that was a great deal. I already had the essential oils from when an herbal store went out of business earlier this year, so that helped a bit. The coconut oil I bought was fairly solid, so the lip balm worked without the wax. A friend supplied some more liquid coconut oil for the foot massage oil we made. She said she got hers at Walmart cheaply. I must have missed that aisle. The girls like having their own safe "beauty" products in a bin in the bathroom (out of Boo's octopus-armed reach), and it has been fun for me doing the projects with them since I never had girlie-girlfriends when I was young. We are learning to do our hair using You Tube videos, and made some sugar hand scrub to give ourselves manicures, too. Fun!! (and healthy!!)

The folks at Vintage Remedies were kind enough to supply us with a copy of their book, The Herbal Kitchen, as well. I have enjoyed perusing this book since one of my goals for next spring is to have a kitchen herb garden right off our our side deck. For now, I have an old wash tub (with holes in the bottom) that has my oregano, rosemary, and mint in it (the basil I use all summer never lasts, and I have had bad luck with cilantro). 

We move the herbs inside for the winter and they love the sun through the window in the morning. Jessie explains the uses and history behind each of eighteen common kitchen herbs and offers excellent recipes for each of them. Her recipe for Bruschetta (one of our favorite summer treats) looks absolutely divine and we will be trying it out sometime soon.

We went ahead and made some rosemary oil during the time of this project, though it is not specifically mentioned in the book (she does, however, talk about making garlic oil for medicinal purposes). Here's how it turned out. That's an old real maple syrup bottle...recycled!

Speaking of recycling, Jessie encouraged the girls to look around their homes and see what items they might have that could be reduced (like replacing paper towels and napkins with the cloth variety), recyled (composting), and/or repurposed into other useful items (such as making a quilt or doll clothes out of outgrown clothing). We made this nifty bag out of a cute pair of too-small overalls. 

Jessie also talks about "green gifting," or making gifts for other people, as well as making gifts with a "green" focus. She has ideas for a great Princess Spa Basket and a fun Eco Friendly Art Kit that we can't wait to try. One of Ladybug's favorite parts was reading about making your Tea Parties more eco-friendly because she just LOVES anything to do with tea parties. One area I did not get into trying anything for that I intend to address after Christmas, is the area of making my own cleaning items for the house. As the Amigos are getting older (yet I feel they are still so young), and ask to help with the cleaning more (and are more able), I feel as if I need to find gentler, safer products for them to use. There are recipes for an All-Purpose Spray, Minty Window Wash, and Tub and Tile Cleaning Paste in Chapter Fifteen. We already make our own laundry soap, but her recipe is different than mine, so I am going to try it out, too.

All in all, I think that it is definitely worth the investment of $45.00. You will get many lessons for both you and your daughters out of this book. If you do not feel you are already an expert in this area, you will find that this book has just enough information in it to help both you and your daughter's feel proficient in "going green" by the time you are done with the projects. I already feel like I know more than when I started and I am excited to add to that learning in the coming year.

Right now Vintage Remedies has an EXCELLENT deal, especially for those of you with boys in the family, as well as girls. For only $29.95, you can order a copy of Vintage Remedies for Tweens which is actually a compilation of BOTH Vintage Remedies for Girls and Vintage Remedies for Guys. That is BOTH books for less than the price of one. It's hard to beat that kind of a deal, and if you are at all interested in approaching eating, health, or housekeeping naturally, I do believe this is one product that will work for you.

The only caution I have is that the initial investment to obtain the items you will need for many of the things you will make (both recipes for food and non-food items) may limit which things you can try early on. Unless you have unlimited resources, you will need to pick and choose what products will be most useful for the most activities, and do some research to find out where to buy them for the best price. But if you are moving towards natural living anyway, this will not be something that will bother you. I do wish they had a notation in the front of about five items or so that you might not normally have in your kitchen, but will actually allow you to do at least fifty percent of the activities (and list the pages of the activities they work for). It would help us organize better, and maybe be a bit less frustrated by not having everything.

To see what others on the TOS Crew thought about Vintage Remedies (some members reviewed the Kids' curriculum, while others did the girls' or boys'), click HERE.



Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Vintage Remedies for Girls for the purposes of reviewing this product. I was not compelled to give this item a good review. What you are reading here is reflective of our honest thoughts about the product. If you have any questions about this product that I did not answer, please feel free to comment or contact me.

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