Going green is hard. Being green is easy.

Earth Day graphicWhen I first set out to cloth diaper, it was mostly as a means to save money. I wanted to stay home with Hannah, and saving two grand seemed like a great way to manage the financial change of not returning to work. I quickly began to search for more and more ways to save money with reusable products.

There I sat on the interwebs scouring for reusable zip lock baggies, Eco-friendly car seats, and bpa-free storage containers. It took me a long time to realize that green living wasn’t an apples-to-apples transition at all. It’s about evolving to fit the seasons and the surroundings. I had to learn not only to be resourceful, but understand what my actual resources were and how to use them. It wasn’t just about swapping from non-stick cookware to stainless steel. No, I had to learn the secrets of cast iron cooking (which is also non-stick). Just when I thought I was finally catching on, I discovered that the ease of eating raw food is such a simple option that it is often overlooked. Through it all, I’ve realized that I’m done Going Green.

I am at the beginning of a new life of being green and it is a beautiful thing. The problem is, the days that I truly feel green, I’m not very entertaining. We watch grass grow. We listen to the trees. We take half the morning to cook lunch, do the dishes by hand, and then cook dinner after a nap. For me, I’m torn because I desperately want to be the blogger I set out to become. I want to share about great experiences and give handy advice. On the other hand, I want to walk out the door with my family, head to a desert island and never come back. If that does happen, you better believe I won’t stick around to tweet about it! Consider this my pre-written blogging Eulogy. Life is good. I predict it will get even better. There is a lot for me to learn. After all, you’re talking to a girl who, at age 2, replied to the pediatrician’s inquiry about green leafy vegetables that “My Mom never makes me those.” For now, I will be here learning and living. Maybe I will teach some of what I learn, but I need you to know that I am not an expert on green living. I am a Mom on a journey to make a better life for the next generation. If you think I am unique or different or crazy, you may be right! However, there are lots of other green bloggers with terrific information about how to be green. Whatever it is that inspires you to love your surroundings, dive into that. Go ahead and Google “Does Target carry Eco-friendly shampoo” or “Local Organic Dry-cleaning.” Live guilt-free by trying your best. Don’t be surprised if one day, you fall off the wagon into your own green backyard paradise with everything you need. No matter the journey, some day we will all be dirt. I’m just going to get used to that now.

In celebration of Earth Day and life in general, I’m taking a few days off the internet to enjoy everything that I have. You better believe I’ll be kicking off my shoes and walking barefoot through the grass with the girls.


How to Shop at Whole Foods (or any other Organic grocery store) without Breaking The Bank

Making the switch to organic foods doesn’t necessarily double (or triple) a food budget. In some cases, buying the right food at the right time can actually be cheaper. There are many ways to save money at Whole Foods and there are even more ways to save on eating in general when you look at the big food picture. It’s not as easy as comparing apples to apples, but it paves the path to a healthy and happy relationship with food.

whole foods

10 Simple Steps to Save Money on Wholesome Food

1. Drink Water – Right off the bat, swap any sugary beverages for water and you will instantly cut down on your bill. Start with one glass per day for a week, then add another each week after that until you get to 8 full glasses of refreshing water each day. Not only will you feel better, but your wallet and your back will thank you! Plus, you can use the small carts in the store.

2. Dilute your own Juice – Instead of buying children’s juice or juice boxes, dilute it yourself by adding water in a 1:4 or 1:2 ratio depending on the age of the child. Even I like to dilute my juice now that I drink water most of the time.

3. Limit or Skip the Snack Aisles – The best way to save money is to avoid the interior aisles of the store altogether, but I also think that an important part of healthy eating is having an indulgence in moderation. Stock up with these items go on sale.

4. Follow the Stores on Social Media to find out about FLASH Sales – The weekly flash sales feature a product at 1/3 the regular cost, which is huge savings. Stock up and find ways to use every last bite of the feast. Did you see how I used every last mango during Mango Madness?

5. Don’t Throw Anything Away – If the average family throws away 1/2 their food, that’s a ton of money going into the trash. Why not buy only what you will surely eat, learn how to use food efficiently, and make leftovers the best part of the meal to get every dollar’s worth of the money you spend on your food?

6. Grab the Flyer – Online and at the front of the stores, you can find a flyer with money-saving coupons.

7. Listen to the Experts – Money Saving Mom and many other coupon blogs show how to match coupons with store sales for big savings.

8. BYO – Some stores encourage shoppers to bring bags by offering a small discount or prize. Don’t forget to bring a mesh tote for produce and jars for the bulk market, too. If you can weigh your own bulk goodies, put your container on the scale and then hit “TARE” to zero the weight so you don’t pay for anything more than your food. Otherwise, bring an extra so that the clerk can use the empty to determine the weight when you checkout.

9. Shop in Season – This is the tricky part. If you truly want to save money on food, you might have to eat boring food at times. The summer and fall are the best times to go wild with your food choices. Load up and freeze extra portions. Make soups with leftovers or experiment with canning. Learn your seasonal fruits and veggies and eat those at the right times. Chances are, the sales will match up with the seasons. (http://americanfood.about.com/od/resourcesadditionalinfo/a/seasonalprolist.htm)

10. Buy Local Produce – Join a CSA or Shop the Farmer’s Market for Produce. Supporting local farms is worth it in the long term.

If you’re looking to fill your cart with organic versions of everything you normally eat, it will definitely cost a lot more. But, a few healthy diet shifts can lead to an incredible opportunity to get your money’s worth on every bite.

Bonus tip: Grow your own! What better way to save money than to reap what you sow from seeds in your own backyard? You’ll save on transportation costs, packaging, fuel and benefit from a healthy dose of Vitamin D.

If Your Kids Don’t Watch TV, You Are Not Alone

tots without techI made a decision two years ago that I’ve never regretted. No tech for my tots. Because we’re in the minority on this choice, I don’t talk about it very much. The thing is, even without watching shows or playing apps, the girls are still exposed to tech all the time. I’m a blogger for goodness sakes, of course they see my iPhone. I didn’t want to write this post from a position of authority and dictate 10 Reasons Why Children Should Not Watch Television or 8 Apps that Stall the Development of Infants. I just wanted to put it out there, that if you spend a day with children circling your legs and immersed in your to-do list, you’re not the only one.

If the thought of playing with children’s toys and entertaining them all day sincerely terrifies you, I can tell you that I am in the same boat! Hannah feels that way, too. She gives me about 8-24 minutes of solid focus and then takes off on her own. Generally in the morning she and Audrey play independently or together while I get breakfast ready. She pops in just in time to cajole me to put the food on the table and then happily gobbles her meal. After that we clean up the dishes. Some days I do the dishes by hand because it keeps Hannah out of the dishwasher and it takes a little extra time.

We have a helpful morning routine upstairs that stages our day. I open the windows and water the plants in the bedroom. Then we make the bed, brush our teeth and get dressed. Sometimes this happens at 8:15 and sometimes it happens at 11. I try to be flexible and follow Hannah’s lead. A few times a week we run errands or meet up with other Moms, but most days we stay home and hang. The girls are fascinated when I do laundry or vacuum. Truly, any household chore is entertainment for them and that makes it enjoyable for me.

When we play together, I watch, listen, and offer suggestions. She loves to hear stories so I generally read to her while I nurse Audrey. Sometimes I’ll put on my creative hat and reminisce old Blue’s Clues episodes for inspiration on how to play with Hannah. In our world, I am Steve, Elmo, Big Bird, Mr. Rogers, and Miss Piggy. I am awesome. Hannah loves to watch me cook and assist when she can. We took our time and made big pots of soup last winter. I will say that we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Did I mention that I’m also Giada? When Hannah is with her Dad, he fills the time by building and creating in his workshop. This summer he is hitting the backyard hard and creating the ultimate backyard escape. Out there, Hannah, Audrey, and I can watch the Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie.

I do not think that the girls will ever be behind the curve when it comes to technology. Just from observation, Hannah knows how to identify and manipulate technological objects. My Mommy Mantra is based on Montessori ideas, so I’m happy to follow their lead on identifying skills to work out for children instead of learning through tech. Our life is far from boring without TV or Apps during the day. It is full of creations, hobbies, and peace. We walk, think, talk, share, laugh, and learn. I don’t know yet when I will switch on the Tube for the girls. I always enjoyed Disney movies as a kid and I’d like to share those with the girls. Hannah is turning two this summer, but I think I’ll wait for a rainy day. Although, we do like to play in the rain, too…

Sahara Sam’s Indoor Water Park + Babywearing in the Water

We’re heading to Sahara Sam’s next month and I am so excited to hit the water! Sahara Sam’s is an Indoor and Outdoor Water Oasis in West Berlin New Jersey. It boasts slides, surfing, tubes, and an adventure playland. Next month they are adding an entirely new Outdoor Park full of attractions for all ages. Since the park is for all ages, we’re bringing the two girls so that we can all hit the water. They have a great toddler splash zone and I learned some new tips from the Chester County Babywearers group on how to babywear in the water.

sahara sams water oasis

Option 1: DIY Make your own nylon sash and practice a variety of wraps using videos on Youtube. An experienced Mama recommends using two layer carries for this style since the fabric tends to give.

Option 2: Select a nylon carrier like the Boba Air. It is not technically designed for water, but it would dry and wash quickly based on the material contents.

Option 3: Purchase a two-in-one swimsuit with built in baby wrap like the Wrapsody. I don’t know why this suit doesn’t come in a men’s version?

There you have it. Plenty of options to babywear. I’m a fan of using what I already have, so I’ll probably just bring the k’tan to use in the water and the Ergo for anything else. The k’tan is cotton so it will wash easily. Audrey and I may feel a little soggy, but at least we can snuggle all day.

What fun, family destinations are you planning to visit this year?

Motivation, Food, Exercise

At the beginning of 2013, I set a goal to eat great food. With a bed of home-grown greens, a fridge of fresh fruit, and a belly filled with energizing food, I am on the path to becoming a conscientious eater. In the past four months I have disproved several of my pre-conceived notions about healthy eating. I am gaining confidence in my ability to provide for my children through nature. Most importantly, I feel great. My whole family is benefitting from the happy feelings that accompany eating whole foods.

motivation food exercise

It is clear that motivation, food, and exercise are all tied together. As soon as I started focusing on one, the others immediately experienced a positive shift as well. Now I am gaining more and more motivation to keep eating healthful foods in order to exercise and live an energetic life. My motivation to eat healthy food is carrying into motivation to exercise. In turn, that builds a craving for more healthy food and the motivation spills into other aspects of my life. The thing is, ‘healthy’ is a loaded term and it truly is in the eye of the beholder.

To be fair, transitioning to a healthier diet has been both challenging and exciting. On the one hand, I am learning so much about the value of food on my body and for my family. From square one, I have been eager to discover the right combinations of foods that help us live an energetic lifestyle. On the other hand, I’m combatting the demons of cravings from nursing. I am so hungry that I will eat anything. I literally had to throw our food budget out the window. What I finally decided was that I should be focusing on our primary need – food. We could easily cut back on household supply costs and the clothing budget in order to add more flexibility at the market. This allows me to stock up on valuable foods when they become available. Even though I may spend more on apples than the non-organic counterpart, I know to buy them when they are in season so the overall cost is reasonable. I no longer fear the ‘organic’ label because I know what it means. Organic food has value. Since I value my body and want to help it perform, I’m making the effort to select more and more live, organic foods to fill our plates.

I have been kale-ing my husband with my new healthy focus. We are trying to establish a balance between wants and needs when it comes to foods. Obviously, eating can be an enjoyable act and I’m not sure we are ready to cut every single oreo from our diet. However, we can both agree that when we have fulfilling meal, we all benefit from added energy to carry out challenging projects and fun family activities. We’re allowing this transition time to take a while. There are foods in the cabinet that we want to use up and there are family recipes that we may never leave behind. But, the majority of the new food that we buy comes from the produce section or has a friendly organic label. I’m eager to add in more locally produced foods this summer, including the ones we grow in our own yard!

When I had the chance to attend the Philly Farm and Food Fest, courtesy of Rolling Barrel Events, I jumped at the chance to discover local vendors of wholesome farm-fresh foods and goods. It was incredible to be at a large event with so much enthusiasm for natural eating. I could feel the energy buzzing from the crowd because good food gives people energy! The best discovery for me was that West Chester hosts an Artisan Exchange every first and third Saturday to showcase local vendors in my own backyard. I am excited about cheese, chutney, and chocolate kale. I am a changed woman.

This summer, we’re loading our calendar with day trips to farms like Wyebrook Farm, Two Gander Farm, and Backyard Farmers. We’ll shop the farmer’s markets in Downingtown and West Chester and make friends with the local food distributors. We’re going to appreciate the ease of shopping at Whole Foods Markets and Kimberton Whole Foods. Most importantly, we will benefit from the satisfaction that comes from growing our own food.

I have never felt more alive than I do now that I choose to eat live food as much as I can.

I’m linking up with Motivation Monday to spread the word about how Moms find Motivation. Thanks  to our hosts:

Ch ch ch CHANGES

Eco Incognito is moving on up! First of all, I want to thank you for reading this site. What started as a friendly little chronicle of my daily attempts at going green has blossomed into a fresh social media atmosphere. For that reason, I am upgrading the site and completing a little technical mumbo-jumbo in the background to make this site more appealing to sponsors. I’m doing this because I like hosting giveaways for you guys so that you can sample some of the great products I’ve had a chance to test out and to offset the costs of the webspace. That is my full disclosure to you because I appreciate and respect your readership. Without you, this wouldn’t be a blog, it would be a lonely journal.

moving a blog

Here’s what I have planned. First, the blog is getting a facelift. I haven’t designed it yet, so I don’t know how much shapeshifting will take place, but things will look different. If you don’t like it or can’t see it, you can always let me know and I will do my best to respond to the feedback. Send an email to jeannettebezinque@ecoincognito.com anytime. I am also going to update the newsletter/email list.

Sign up for the free newsletter: http://ecoincognito.us6.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=7f2097425861006ddb56b2205&id=f339fd86e7

In preparation for my big move, tell me what you like best (or least) about some of the sites you visit. Links are welcome.

Listen To Your Mother – Lessons of Life and Death

I am humbled. Last night I met the cast of the Listen to Your Mother show of Delaware during our read through. The stories you will hear if you come to the show on Mother’s Day are incredible, raw, and impactful. I’m not sure exactly how my playful tale of breastfeeding found its way into the mix, but I am going to relish every minute I get to spend with these vibrant women.

Never in my life have I heard such an amazing collection of words about Motherhood. Some of the stories are about being a Mother. Some of the stories are about having a Mother. The ones that touched me the most were about Mothers like mine. I did not write about her, but I heard her and relived moments with her through the other stories. I am not alone in this journey and I am not experiencing anything new. It is possible that I learned more about Motherhood in two hours than in the past two years.

Many of the stories are about death. For a very long time, I was afraid to die. The fear paralyzed me because I anticipated death in an unwelcome and untimely fashion. Even though Death has not been a prevalent visitor in my life, it has been impactful. I do not know my maternal Grandmother because she died of cancer when my Mom was nine years old. We didn’t talk about it much and to this day I am hestitant to broach the subject. I have learned that in the absence of knowledge, fear grows.

I feared many things before becoming a Mother. I was afraid of birth, divorce, pain, poverty, loss of income, worms, and the outdoors. The ability to live through a setback or time of uncertainty was a mystery to me. Above all, I was afraid to die and leave behind my sweet daughters. My response to the void of knowledge was to devour books on the subjects. What started as a long, slow quest for understanding has turned into a snowballing transition into a new lifestyle. I realized that all this time, my fear of death was keeping me from living.

Right now, I am fortunate for many things. Most of all, my family. I am not afraid any more because I have an understanding of many things. Most of all, I understand that life is unexpected. The more I learn and understand a great many things, the more I have discovered that I do not need to know everything to have a satisfactory life. I just need to be in the moment. When we satisfy our most basic needs first, everything else is a gift. That is our journey. A simple quest for water, nourishment, and shelter has blossomed into the most beautiful life.