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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Growing Green Families:
An Eco-Friendly Kid’s Birthday Bash

By: Catherine L Pittman ©September 2009


Families in every state are trying to grow “green” families, converting themselves to green living and teaching their children to live green.  So I ask, why not birthday parties too?

To see a safe tomorrow for our children, teaching today’s generation how to conserve the environment has become an important goal of today’s parents.  Throwing an eco-friendly birthday party for your child is another great tool to teach the new generation that going green can be fun.

You can start your green party by providing green invitations.  Instead of sending the usual traditional paper invitation to your child’s special event, save a few trees and send your invites via e-mail.  One great service available online is www.evite.com.  This great website provides plenty of invitation options and themes for your invitation. It is a great way for older children to get creative using the computer.

A party isn’t complete without decorations!  Instead of latex balloons, opt for colorful paper lanterns made from recycled paper to decorate the party area.  You can make your own paper lanterns, making them in themed shapes, such as stars.  Make paper garlands, a piñata, flowers out of muslin or tissue paper, and make your own butterfly or other fun shaped confetti out of biodegradable paper. Make your own party hats, such as a crown for the birthday boy or a princess hat for the birthday girl out of biodegradable or recycled paper. Reuse party streamers by rolling them up from year-to-year. Directions to make your own paper lanterns and other décor ideas can be found on the web at sites, such as www.ehow.com and www.about.com.  You can also find green party supplies at online eco-party supply stores.

If you plan on giving all the kids at the party a gift bag, use cloth or organza gift bags.  Families can reuse the bags for giving gifts at other parties or events, holding small toys in and similar uses.  Places like dollar stores can provide inexpensive things to place in the bags other than candy, such as a small box of crayons. Or make organic trail mix snacks for the bags.

One cannot have a birthday party without cake and ice cream.  Instead of buying your cake and ice cream, make them using organic ingredients to make it earth friendly.  Believe it or not you can make ice cream in a paper sack if you don’t have an ice cream maker---recipe available at: http://crafts.kaboose.com/ice-cream-in-a-bag.html.   If it’s fruit season, make batches of frozen treats with organic raspberries, blueberries or strawberries instead of ice cream.   Serve your birthday treats on real plates or biodegradable and forest friendly tableware.  You can find this type of paperware and decorations at www.greenpartygoods.com.

For younger children, setting up an arts and crafts table for them to create a project and using eco-friendly paints and supplies is a fun activity.  The kids get to take their project home and it’s a party favor too! 

Another way to go green is to remember gifts don’t make the party, the people do! Don’t be afraid to say “no gifts please” on your invitations or request re-gifting.  Re-gifting specifically asks guests to bring a gently used book, children’s movie DVD, game or toy for your child. This is particularly useful for a party for a toddler or preschooler who is more excited at receiving a gift than caring what it really is. It’s a great way to recycle, reuse, reduce and rethink! 

If you do want new toys, then another way to go green is to request eco-friendly toys only, such as soft toys, wood toys or toys made from recycled materials.  If you’re attending a party and want to keep it green, wrap your gift in inexpensive fabric with fabric ribbons, use the comics from the newspaper or make your own wrapping paper from biodegradable paper and paints.


No matter what type of party you are throwing for your child, whether it is a big or small event, make it a green party with green party supplies, eco-friendly toys and presents, eco-friendly goodie bags and décor.  Your party will be a great hit for your friends, family and kids, and you will be teaching your child a valuable lesson that living green can be fun too!

About the Author

Catherine is the owner, songwriter and main vocal artist for Pitter Patter Productions. The company has been producing its brand of original award-winning music for children since 1992, specializing in lullabies for newborns and babies, and music for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners. All of our music is available for download at CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes (under artist Catherine Pittman) and our website.  Catherine also produces The Northwest Happenings Guide, a guide to events and attractions in Oregon and Washington, and available at www.nwhappeningsguide.com as well as Amazon.  The 2015 guides are available in both print and e-book formats.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Creating Beautiful Christmas Traditions that Last a Lifetime


By: Catherine L. Pittman © November 2009


Download Our FREE Holiday Music Sampler Album


Image courtesy of Dreamtime
by Usikova
Christmas is truly a magical and enchanting time of year, where holiday traditions never fade with time.

It is filled with beautiful sights and sounds: A candle glowing in a frosted window, hanging stockings on a festive mantle with care, hot chocolate, eggnog and hot buttered rums served after an evening of caroling, neighborhoods filled with colorful, twinkling lights.  The warm feeling of joy we feel when giving gifts, snowflakes dancing merrily in the air, romantic sleigh rides and sneaking a kiss beneath the mistletoe. These are just a few of the charming time-honored traditions families have to celebrate Christmas and break away from all the hype of the holiday.

Some of my most precious moments in time from my childhood are my memories of our year end holiday festivities.  We helped our friends celebrate Hanukkah, and they helped us celebrate Christmas.  My parents created our own custom traditions and I cherish the memories of to this day.  Some have been passed down to the next generation, and we have created a few of our own with our children along the way. 

Creating your own special memories will help make your holiday joyful, less stressful, and revive your family's festive spirit, bringing you closer together.  Here are some favorites that with a few tweaks can be adopted by your family to make them all your own.  They are sure to make your Christmas merry and bright, and chase old Scrooge away!

Deck the Halls
Decorating your home for the holidays doesn't need to fill you with the humbugs. Trimming your Christmas tree, mantle and windows can be a fun family tradition. When I was young, my parents gave their three daughters a pair of special ornaments each year, infusing a tradition that kicked off our holiday festivities, and were given to us when we left the nest. I still have many of the ornaments to this day. 

Back then, bazaars and craft shows were not the popular events they are today. You don't have to buy the standard glass globes each year at the local store. Make it a tradition to attend an annual holiday show and purchase unique ornaments, or if you are crafty yourself, have an ornament making party with your children and neighbors. As your children look at the tree from year-to-year, the ornaments of Christmases past will mean more to them and you'll find yourselves sharing stories of each ornament. Look for a holiday event that also supports a local school, charity or holds a food drive.  It will help teach your child the gift of giving to others. Change it up and select a theme for the ornaments.

As you deck your halls, don't forget to involve your children in helping with the windows, exterior lights and mantle.  While the kids can't hang the outdoor lights, they can help you decide on your "theme" and flip the switch when it's time to unveil this year's theme. Decorate your mantle with boughs of holly and your favorite manger scene, caroler characters, holiday village, snowmen, reindeer or other festive décor. My sister's family began collecting a Christmas village for their mantle, adding a new piece each year. I have a friend who collects train cars for his Christmas train set that they place around the base of their tree each year.  They take great pleasure making an annual trek to find unique train cars to add to their collection. My other sister collects nutcrackers that she places throughout her home.

Cookies for Santa & Friends
There's nothing like filling your home with the scent of Christmas cookies and baking.  This is a fun activity to involve your kids in, and makes great gifts for co-workers, neighbors, friends, and, of course, Santa!  Choose new recipes each year, and maybe select one that you traditionally prepare every year.  My mother use to make my dad's favorite icebox cookies every Christmas, as well as her pumpkin bread.

Host a yuletide or caroling party and invite your neighbors and their children. They will enjoy spending time with you and have a cup of eggnog, hot buttered rum or hot chocolate along with your handmade baked goods.  Take homemade cookies and bread to the local homeless shelter or nursing home, so they can share in a holiday treat along with their meal.

Image courtesy of Dreamtime by Anastasia Bobko
Image courtesy of Dreamtime by Anastasia Bobko
Gift Giving
It's important to teach children the great joy one receives when giving gifts, and not just focus on what Santa will bring.  One of the most magical things about Christmas is it is the one time of year mankind tries to put aside their differences and help those less fortunate.  With so many families loosing their home and job right now, it is vital we bring hope and joy to those in need.

One tradition I embarked on when I was a teenager, was participating in the Sub for Santa program.  Today, there are many local stores and charities that offer giving trees or other ways to help bring Christmas to those who have no home, have lost a parent or whose family is suffering from a loss of income.  Take your child shopping specifically for another child, or donate gently used toys, books and clothing that your child no longer uses.  Your little one will find it an uplifting tradition and benefit as much as the child your family will help.

Another tradition our family has done in more recent years:  drawing names for the annual holiday shopping. Some call it "Secret Santa." While we are not as large a family as some, it does make holiday gift giving fun to concentrate on one special family member.  For large families this is particularly beneficial, as it is far easier on the holiday budget to buy a few gifts for just one person than the entire family. It adds a touch of mystery all wrapped up in love, and colorful paper and bows.  You can add a touch of humor too, by creating a theme for one of the gifts that each person must shop for in addition to standard gifts.  One year we held a sock exchange along with our regular gifts, and found ourselves quite amused by the variety of funny, funky socks we found for our gift giving. Another year it was pajamas, which really produced a lot of laughter!

Our family always read a holiday story on Christmas Eve, and our parents had us open one special gift that night.  Typically, it was our holiday pajamas, though not always! I remember a Christmas teddy bear or two, as well as new holiday storybooks. On Christmas morning, each person opened one gift at a time by going around the room, and we each had to guess what was in the brightly wrapped package.  It was always fun to try to guess what the present was before ripping open the paper.

The Sounds of Christmas
Whatever traditions your family decides upon, don't forget the music of the season!  One of the most beautiful things about Christmas is the songs and melodies.

Each year, our family would find and add a new holiday album to our collection of music.  Over the years, we've found some special songs, some funny, some that are so beautiful they bring tears to the eyes. We often create a compilation of our favorite songs and put them on a CD to

play whenever we have guests over during the holiday or give as a gift to friends. These days, you don't necessarily have to buy an entire album to create a great compilation, since you can now download single songs from web sites or full albums.

It seems Scrooge has done away with caroling! These days you don't often see caroling in the neighborhoods, which was one of our favorite holiday traditions. When I was young and involved in Job's Daughters, we often caroled at local nursing homes and hospitals, and in the case of nursing homes, we brought treats. Many folks in nursing homes have no family or their family is far away, and they truly love to have young people around to share the holidays.  Host a caroling party with your neighbors and family.  You'll find it a wonderful tradition! 

As you celebrate the birth of the Son of God this Christmas, add a little spice and magic to your holiday festivities.  Traditions all have to start some place, and there is nothing wrong with adding your own touches to time-honored traditions to bring magic into the holiday and make memories for your children that will last a lifetime.

Wishing you and your family a Christmas blessed with the magic of the season… 
Love, Joy and Peace. Always.

Catherine



About the Author

Catherine is the owner, songwriter and main vocal artist for the family's business, Pitter Patter Productions. The company has been producing its brand of original award-winning music for children since 1992, specializing in lullabies for newborns and babies, and music for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners. All of our music is available for download at CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes (under artist Catherine Pittman) and our website.  Catherine also produces The Northwest Happenings Guide, a guide to events and attractions in Oregon and Washington, and available at www.nwhappeningsguide.com as well as Amazon.  The 2015 guides are available in both print and e-book formats.





Sunday, August 23, 2015

"Appy-bies" - The Best Baby Apps for Sleepless Parents

By:  Catherine Pittman © 2015
Download our FREE album sampler!  www.pitterpatterproductions.com 

There is no greater blessing than the birth of a new baby! Whether you and your spouse have already been blessed with a little one or expecting your first child, today's technology provides that extra helping hand parents need to take care of their little angel.

In the new age of technology, parents purchase products and stream lullabies through the power of their digital devices. Now, even your cell phone or iPad has made being a parent simpler than ever before. Hundreds of apps are available for use while traveling or at home-- all designed to make a parent's life easier! You'll find everything from lullabies to the nearest baby-changing venue for when you are out and about.

This article will focus on apps that deal with everyone’s favorite topic: helping baby sleep! While there isn't an app to help your baby sleep through the night or take routinely, scheduled naps, parents will find these apps help you manage getting your little one to sleep!

Baby Snooze
For newborns, there is nothing more relaxing than the sounds they experienced while still in the womb. This app will help your newborn baby feel right at home by reproducing the calming noise of a mother's steady heartbeat, low-frequency "whooshing" heard only while in their mother's womb. (iPhone)

Best Lullaby Collection Free - Best Lullabies for Kids from Around the World
When your baby can't sleep, there is nothing better than the time-proven tradition of lullabies! The lullabies in this free app will sooth your little angel to sleep. Parents can set the time interval or let it sing until baby falls asleep. 16 soothing lullabies, including, (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)

Lullaby for Babies
Lullabies are an age-old tradition and now it has a new-age twist with the use of apps! This lullaby app offers a pre-set timer, choice of songs that is sure to calm and sooth your little one to sleep. (Android)

Baby Shusher
Every parent has at one time or another, spent hours shushing baby to sleep. If you're one of these parents, then this app is just what the doctor ordered! If your baby’s crying is loud, the “shusher” grows louder, and when baby’s crying grows softer the “shusher” subsides.  It automatically adjusts based on your baby's level of crying, engaging your baby's natural calming reflex. Parents, grandparents and caregivers can even record their own gentle shushing sound! (iPhone, iPad, iPod, Android)

Zodinplex
This company offers a variety of lullabies, music box sounds, and other free relaxing sounds. Some of their baby apps include: Good Night Lullaby for Baby, Baby Sleep Lullaby Music Box, Lullabies Relax & Slumber, Water Sounds & Nature Sounds, and more. (Android)

Sleepy Sounds
This little app has it all: white noise, lullabies, nature sounds, a calming night-light, and you can record your own music and sounds. (iPhone, Android)

Sleep Pillow Baby
Featured on ABC, CBS, and several radio stations, this little collection of sleep sound suites of four categories includes: Lullabies, Melodies, Nature, Human Sounds and more. (iPhone, iPod, iPad)

Baby Sleep Instant
Parents long discovered that low, monotonous sounds, such as a shower, washing machine, ocean sounds, fans and similar sounds are effective for helping babies fall to sleep. This app contains common household sounds, heartbeats, music box sounds, ocean and water sounds and more. Parents can select the sound and set the timer.(Android)

Baby Monitor 3G
While this particular app isn't used to help little ones toddle off to sleep, this app is for use while baby sleeps! While there are several different monitoring apps available, Baby Monitor 3G has unlimited reach, will work on any network, including WIFI, 3G, Edge and CDMA, and works on any IOS device. This App requires two devices: One stationed in your little one's room and the other located with the parent, grandparent, babysitter or nanny. Parents can also talk to their baby from another room by simply pressing a button, snap photos remotely, see live video to check on your little one--parents will hear every noise due to the baby voice booster. Since we all take our phones and typically a laptop or iPad when we travel, it is perfect for visiting family and friends! (iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android)

Whatever app you use to help your little angel find restful sleep, we recommend not placing your device too close to your baby. Our last tip: if using your phone, place it on airplane mode to mute any alerts while the app is in use!



About the Author
Catherine is the owner, songwriter and main vocal artist for the family's business, Pitter Patter Productions. The company has been producing its brand of original award-winning music for children since 1992, specializing in lullabies for newborns and babies, and music for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners. All of our music is available for download at CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes (under artist Catherine Pittman) and our website.  Catherine also produces The Northwest Happenings Guide, a guide to events and attractions in Oregon and Washington, and available at www.nwhappeningsguide.com as well as Amazon.  The 2015 guides are available in both print and e-book formats.