Monday, October 29, 2012

Duck Dynasty Halloween

(for the record, that's an unloaded BB gun)

We started Halloween early by attending a party this weekend.  We woke up the day of the big event and had no idea what we were going to be this year for Halloween.  Then - ta-dah!  The idea came to us.  We ran to Goodwill and called friends to borrow items.  A few hours later - Hello Duck Dynasty. I think it's impossible to see that much unkempt hair growing out of a person's face and not automatically think, "The Robertsons!" (okay, maybe second place would be, "Apocalypse Survivor!")

While getting ready for the party and gluing hair on my family's faces, there was so much wig hair on the floor in our house, I had to stop and do some Bradley Method breathing a few times just to cope.

Hayden loved his costume.  Loved it.  Ashton was excited until after I finished his hair/beard combo.  Then he was quiet and weird.  Mopey even.  It wasn't until we were in the car on the way to the party that he spilled the beans.  Blinking back tears he said, "I don't like my costume.  How am I going to eat at the party with all this hair on my face."  Poor guy.  We did what any supportive family would do -we all started laughing and making fun of him. If you know Ashton at all you know he has a really special relationship with food - especially the variety of food found at parties.  It's his favorite kind.  He was a wreck thinking he'd be around that many cupcakes and sticky foods and not be able to eat his fair share.  We love that boy.  Anson, who pulled off Uncle Si, wanted to divorce us as usual, but thankfully played along at the party - for about 30 minutes.  

Hudson was an African American redneck.  That's common, right?  A part of me laughed a little seeing him poke fun at a group of people (rednecks) who are oftentimes stereotyped as racist.  Obviously not all rednecks are racist (and I have no reason, at all, to think the Robertson family is). The moral of this story?  It was funny to see Hudson dressed up like a redneck, but it felt a bit weird - and I didn't know what to do with those feelings exactly. I still don't.  Once again, I was surprised that thoughts of race, racism, and stereotypes seem to be an ongoing conversation in my head and pop up in the weirdest, most unexpected moments.  Will I ever know how to be the right amount of sensitive to these very real issues as we love and raise our little boy? Some days it feels doubtful.

We drove up to the party honking. The boys were in the bed of the truck blowing on a duck call and whooping it up.  "Sharp Dressed Man" was blaring on the radio.  We were so redneck, I could not stop laughing.  

If you have never watched Duck Dynasty, here's the story line of this entertaining reality show:  A highly redneck family (the kind that eats frog legs and squirrel brains) runs a multi-million dollar business.  Rich rednecks.  Stop and think about that for a moment.  Let it soak in.  It's terrifying.  We grew up with rednecks, and I swore many times the only thing that kept some of them alive was their lack of funding for their crazy ideas.  This "reality" show is sweet, hilarious, and is a great illustration every week for our boys about the love of family and the importance of subject-verb agreement (thanks, Uncle Si!). 

Does anyone know why the boys call their mom, "Mrs. Kay?"  I'll admit - that part weirds me out more than the squirrel brains.


A reader informed me that Willie and Korie have an adopted son, and their family looks a lot more like ours than I knew.  Isn't that beautiful?  I sure do love when a stereotype is blown right out of the water, don't you?  After reading an interview from Korie, I found some great information about their family.  Not only are these loud and proud rednecks an adoptive, trans-racial family, they also "adopted" a Taiwanese teenager years ago (she's now at LSU).  Go Robertsons!  Way to remind all of us that stereotypes are unfair.   

How about I leave you with some of my favorite Duck Dynasty quotes?

“Parenting is a constant struggle between making your kids' lives better and ruining your own.” – Willie Robertson

"This snowcone is giving me a brain sneeze. It's when your brain needs to sneeze, but it caint cause its a brain, so it just hurts" Si Robertson

"That man has everything, Trucks, Jeeps, Chairs, Pool tables, Mattresses, RV's, Tatader salad, Cold watermelon, He's got everything Jack, .. hey, . sack of oranges.." -- Si Robertson

"You put 5 rednecks on a mower it's gonna be epic." - Willie

"Nothin makes a dad happier than seeing his daughter with a smile on her face and her boyfriend with fear in his eyes." - Willie

"You need to be able to take a leak in your yard without someone saying, 'hey what's he doing'." -Phil

"There are two kinds of people in this world... the educated and the unducated*" - Si Robertson
(*that’s not a type-o)

Hope you have a happy, happy, happy, week of getting Halloween costumes ready for your kids!  

Do you watch Duck Dynasty?  If so, who is your favorite character?  Are they called "characters" on a reality show - or just..."humans."  It's hard to tell.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shopping with Purpose::Gnu Creation

There is so much to love about Gnu Creation.  These one of a kind upcycled dresses are made by my friend's sister right here in Texas.  Made out of recycled t-shirts, these little girl dresses are not only earth-friendly, they are adorable.  And the best part?  The woman behind Gnu Creation, Kyle Montalbo, is using the profit she makes from hand-making her products to fund her family's adoption of a 9 year old girl from the Ukraine.  After reading stories like these, does anyone else find themselves looking over at the racks full of factory-made clothing in their favorite stores and thinking, "Meh.  Lame?"  Products with a story make shopping so much more fun and meaningful.


At Gnu Creation find new dresses, hoodies, and twirl skirts made from upcycled tees and polos. All of Gnu Creation's clothing is one of a kind - no one will ever have the same dress as your little girl! 

These dresses will grow with your little one. Wear them as a dress now and a tunic over bike shorts, leggings, or jeans later.

Scroll through the Available Dresses.  So cute, I can barely stand it.

Will you pin some of your favorite products from Gnu Creation on your Pinterest board?  I'd love your help spreading the word for Kyle.  In this way, let's all play a part in bringing this little girl home to her forever family.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Do you ever find yourself reading a really delicious book, heart rooted down in another world, so deep in love with the characters, your soul sinks as you near the last page?  There are times I delay reading the last chapter of a horribly wonderful book.  After blowing through the text, engrossed, neglecting important aspects of my life, completely caught up in the struggle of another, I near the end and need to step away for a few days before taking in the last few pages.  I've read stories about brave men and women who hugged their families long and hard before boarding a boat heading to America.  They sailed away knowing they would never see their loved ones again. Can you imagine?  Even though it's not the same and can't compare at all, reading the last page of a brilliant story reminds me of those brave immigrants who waved farewell and traveled on with nothing but memories in their minds.  Reading the last page of a really great book has never felt right.  It feels final and sad. 

That's not how this feels.

This, my friends, feels like plowing towards the end of the first book of a terrific trilogy.  The story isn't closing.  The author laughs and refuses to wrap up loose ends just because the pages nearing the back cover are thinning.  The ends can stay loose and lovely because the conclusion of the story is a million words away.  Instead, as we race towards the last page we sense a change. The last page of book one is nothing more than a dare to dive into book number two.  The next piece of the story promises to be as beautiful and worth reading as the first.  No good-byes or closed doors - just more hellos and surprises.

I've loved this season of my life - this one filled with growing and raising babies.  Even the parts I swore I hated in the moment, I look back with such fondness I fear my heart may grow too heavy and break from the sheer weight of so many precious memories.

Thirteen years ago, I held my firstborn son in my arms and willingly decided to put my personal dreams on hold.  Besides - I had a new, unexpected dream all of a sudden.  This enormous dream weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces and was wrapped up tight, asleep on my chest.  The decision to be home with my kids for the past 13 years has never felt like a choice or a trade.  It felt like the sweetest privilege.  A gift I feel so eternally grateful for, I can hardly speak of it unless you want to witness a terribly awkward cry.

No matter how much life insists on never staying the same, isn't it funny how surprised we always are when something changes?

After many months of discussing the possibility with each other, with friends, with family, and with our kids - it's official.  I'm going back to school in the spring.  This endeavor will bring big changes for our family in the coming months.  Yet, we're "all in."  All six of us.  We're excited and the cool kind of nervous.  Life will look different.  Very different.  Yet I feel as peaceful and sure about this choice as the one I made 13 years ago holding Anson's tiny body next to mine. 

Being home for the past 13 years has felt like an extravagant gift.  The opportunity to go back to school and study something I'm passionate about?  That feels like an extravagant gift as well.

I'm grateful.  Beware.  I will be backtracking and processing these difficult decisions in writing soon. Real life is overwhelmingly complex.  Fair or not, decision making for wives and mothers is incredibly emotional and weighty.  The road to this place of peace regarding this change has been marked with many sweaty, sleepless, stressed out nights.  This is the life of a woman, no?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Shopping with Purpose::Apparent Project

It's a wonder to watch a cereal box...

become a beautiful piece of art.

What was meant for the trash pile and deemed worthless...

re-purposed and given new life.

It's surprising to hold a necklace in your hand and be profoundly aware that you're holding so much more.

At The Apparent Project cereal boxes are transformed into treasure, and the lives of Haitian families are restored and redeemed.

"The Apparent Project was birthed out of a desire to see impoverished Haitian men and women be able to raise their children with dignity and not have to consider giving their children to orphanages because of poverty.  It can cost as little as $50 a month to keep a family intact. 
-- from Apparent Project

The number of orphans in Haiti has been labeled an "Orphan Crisis."  Oftentimes, mothers do not want to hand over their babies to orphanages.  They make this difficult decision because there simply are no other options.  What these mothers need are jobs, education, encouragement, and skills so that they can provide for their children's basic needs.  Most of Haiti's orphans are poverty orphans.  The Apparent Project is giving families the skills they need to be able to keep their children.

Living back in the United States, I don't think I have ever worn an Apparent Project necklace without someone asking me where I got it.  I think this says a great deal about the work Apparent Project is accomplishing.  Their products are well-made, stylish, and cause strangers to ask me where I bought my necklace.  When I buy jewelry from the artisans at the Apparent Project, I have never made a pity purchase.

Shelley Clay and the Apparent Project Artisans have been featured in Vogue Magazine.  GAP sold a limited edition piece from the Apparent Project, and their work is continually featured by Donna Karen.

We are incredibly proud of the work that Shelley and Corrigan Clay are accomplishing in Haiti.

Eat Cereal.  Change Lives.

Do you ever sit and wonder how you can do something to give actually help make this world a better place...something tangible...something real?

Apparent Project in Haiti is doing that kind of work and has given us a concrete way to be involved in what they are doing to offer hope to families living in poverty.

Although Apparent Project is well on its way to becoming a fully sustainable business in Haiti, they aren't there yet.  

"We are in that limbo between aid and sustainability.  
We are always working towards not needing charity to 
sell our products, but for right now, we need YOU." 
-- Shelley Clay 

One of the ways we can help Apparent Project during this time of "limbo" is to send them cereal boxes.  The artisans use these boxes to make the necklaces that Apparent Project sells.

When I sit and think about our family's cereal boxes being turned into a lovely work of art by a family that's striving to stay together and survive in Haiti, I can't get over how simple and yet how beautiful this is.

Apparent Project needs our cereal boxes.

When we lived in Haiti we allowed people in the US to mail their cereal boxes to our house.  Receiving mail in Haiti is incredibly complicated and expensive.  I'll spare you the details.  Suffice it to say....the way our mail system works here in the US does not translate at all...not in the the way the mail system works in Haiti.  Whenever we'd get a shipment of cereal boxes out of customs for the Apparent Project, Aaron would call the Clays and let them know there was a shipment of boxes at our house.  Each time he'd say something like..."Just wanted you to know the cereal boxes are here.  Feel free to come pick them up at your leisure.  No rush.  Just wanted you to know we have them."  Their response?  "Can we come pick them up right now?"

If you thought saving your cereal boxes and sending them to Apparent Project is not really needed or appreciated...I hope that story will encourage you to start saving those boxes.

This is a real need.  It's a real way to help.  It's something we can get behind.

"Rather than write a check in donation, get your community involved, recycle, and give the much needed materials that our artisans need to continue working."  
--  Shelley Clay

photo credit:  Cami Franklin 

Are you looking for a way to get your family, your friends, organization, church, youth group, mom's group, sports team, co-op, or rotary club involved in giving back in a way that is actually helpful?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Shopping with Purpose::The Batik Boutique

When Ryan and Amy Blair first moved to Malaysia in 2007, they did not imagine that within a few years they would start a successful business that helps people in need in their adopted country.  The story of this enterprise began in 2009 when they met Ana, a single mom struggling to raise her two children.  In learning her story and struggles, Amy learned there are many women in similar situations who need help to provide for their families.

The Batik Boutique aims to make a difference in people’s lives.  They employ single moms as well as others who are struggling to make ends meet.  They give a portion of their proceeds directly to needs in their community.  They are constantly seeking additional ways to contribute to the practical needs of those around them.

We have the great honor of personally knowing Ryan and Amy. A few months ago they were back in America, and I was able to sit with Amy in a coffee shop (until way past our bedtimes!) talking for hours.  Sometimes catching up with someone is not only fun - it's therapeutic.  This couple behind The Batik Boutique is precious and their heart for their artisans is moving and inspiring.  We're so proud of the work they are accomplishing in Malaysia.

Each of their products is not only hand-made, it's hand stamped.  I don't know if it's because it was late that night at the coffee shop with Amy or if it's because I'm dense but it took a few minutes for me to understand what "hand-stamped" actually means.  Hand-made?  Yes.  Check.  I get that.  Hand-stamped?  That term went right over my head until Amy held the bright, beautiful products in her hands and said, "These are hand-stamped.  This fabric started out as a white sheet of material.  Our artisans literally stamp these designs onto the fabric before it's used to make our products."  I held the beautiful fabric in my hands and said something brilliant like, "Shut. Up!  What?"  I seriously could not believe what she was saying.

If you live here locally, get excited.  You can purchase products from The Batik Boutique at the Fair Trade Fair in November.   Here are a few of my favorites.

These key fobs come in several different prints, and in my honest opinion should be found in every female stocking this Christmas.  One should definitely be found in mine.

These crayon rolls make perfect gifts for kids.

I love how these covers are designed - with lots of fabric so you feel completely confident that the parts you want covered while you nurse (hello postpartum muffin top) are hidden!  As a breastfeeding advocate and mother who nursed babies, can I get an "amen" that some nursing covers are too small?  Maybe it was just me, but I needed a lot of room to work, and nursing my kids in public was a really awkward juggling act.  Some days I swore my babies were "under there" doing The Macarena or something.  I think I was far less worried about my "girls" showing while I nursed and more self-conscious about my post-baby belly or back blob being exposed.  When Amy showed me these generous nursing covers I gave them a hearty, "heck-ya."  

Check out all the great products The Batik Boutique has to offer.

And don't forget to pin your favorite products from their website on Pinterest, so you can come back to them when it's time to shop and help spread the word about companies who are empowering women in developing countries!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Shopping with Purpose::Affordable Chocolate Alternative for Halloween

Last week I wrote a post titled, When a Church Halloween Event is Scary::The Truth about Chocolate. While it would be wonderful if we all replaced our chocolate purchases this year with fairly traded varieties, I know doing so is an expensive trade-off.  Personally, I'd love to be able to lay down a fat wad of money to support companies who are making delicious chocolate in a way that honors the people behind their products.  It would make my ever-lovin' day to be able to buy a giant pile of chocolate from companies who have emphatically said, "NO" to forced child labor in their supply chains.  Then reality slaps me in the face and reminds me that I have a bank account - and it looks a little different than the one in my imagination.  Reality.  I hate it.  Our plan this Halloween?  I'll buy some fair trade chocolate.  It's Halloween, by golly.  I plan to eat so much fair trade chocolate I hate myself and let the kids do the same.  When it comes to handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, I can't afford to pass out a neighborhood's worth of fair-trade chocolate.  Womp.  Womp.

The alternative?  Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops.  You can order a giant bag of these delicious suckers from Amazon for $30.  Each 5 pound bag contains about 325 suckers.  This means each lollipop costs around 10 cents each.  This is such a great, affordable alternative to non-fair trade chocolate.  Have I mentioned these suckers are delicious?  We love them.

Not only would these suckers make a great chocolate alternative this Halloween, I wanted to include them in this "31 Days of Shopping with Purpose" series because these candies are handy to have on hand year-round.  They make great treats, and these bad boys will make their way into our kids' stockings this Christmas.  (And into my stocking this Christmas.)

I love this post from Kristen (from last year).  Oh, how I love a smart-mouth.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Shopping with Purpose::Etsy

Etsy is the world’s handmade marketplace.

Our mission is to empower people to change the way the global economy works. We see a world in which very-very small businesses have much-much more sway in shaping the economy, local living economies are thriving everywhere, and people value authorship and provenance as much as price and convenience. We are bringing heart to commerce and making the world more fair, more sustainable, and more fun.

I've always loved Etsy.  It's all things handmade, beautiful, and quirky.  Supporting small businesses and artisans?  I don't know.  It just feels right.  I've spent a great deal of time on Etsy.  I go with good intentions - to find a unique gift - and then am so overwhelmed and inspired, I walk away two hours later drunk on beauty and originality...with no gift.

The other day was a little ridiculous and tops my Etsy binge.  Maybe I've been living in a cave or something but I had no idea Etsy offered the "Gift Ideas" option on their site.

On one hand, this "Gift Ideas" feature is incredibly helpful.  On the other, it's pretty entertaining to see your friends and their interests summed up by Facebook and Etsy.

Here's how it works:  You click on the "Gift Ideas" tab and sign in with Facebook.  Your friends pop up, and Etsy uses their likes, interests, and information from Facebook to offer personalized gift suggestions.

We are living in creepy, creepy times, folks - but it sure does make shopping easier...and entertaining.

This partnership between Etsy and Facebook rendered great gift ideas for friends and family.  It reminded me of my dad's love for Stevie Ray Vaughan and that my brother-in-law digs Ducati motorcycles.

Gift Categories for Aaron:  grooming, Vintage Bill Blass, hats, wallets, journals, jackets, photography, belt buckles, flasks, sweaters, cuff-links, Vintage Eddie Bauer.  This is a man who lives on the edge, no?  Someone around here has to be responsible, rock-solid, and stable.

I've been having an identity crisis lately.  I have one every three years, so it's hardly worthy of talking about online.  Like all sane people do, I signed into Etsy with Aaron's Facebook account to see what gifts Etsy would recommend for me.  I'm pretty sure this is the Etsy version of googling yourself.  I'll admit - it felt a tad bit dirty.  And fascinating.

In retrospect, I'm really glad I Etsyed myself.  I could have spent months doing a lot of soul searching - trying to figure out where to focus my passion - trying to honestly examine who I really am and what really matters to me.

But why do all that work when Facebook and Etsy can do it for me?

According to Etsy and Facebook, I'm a die-hard idealist.  I like Aretha Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa, Will Smith (don't judge) and weird television shows that I probably shouldn't like so much.  I'm into vintage clothing, simple, handmade jewelry, and Jesus.  Etsy literally said, "Heather likes Jesus."  What a relief.  Etsy even knew I'm into coral.

Perfect gift for me?  A vintage, coral, Aretha Franklin t-shirt.

I could have gone to therapy, filled a journal with pages and pages of "Who am I" ramblings (or let's face it - just over-shared right here on the interwebz for all to see.)  Instead, I faced the Facebook/Etsy facts. I noticed a solid theme while Etsying myself. I watch television shows whose lead characters are women who are always funny, adorably dressed, and juggle work and family practically flawlessly.  Thus my constant relationship with an identity crisis?  Facebook and Etsy have no idea how brilliant they are.

I named my new therapist, Fetsy by the way.  She's free and freakishly right on.

In all seriousness (not that my identity crisis and brilliant solution to it wasn't serious) when we buy from Etsy shops we support small businesses.  Oftentimes we're supporting women working hard for their money - many of them stay at home moms - trying to pay for ballet classes and to put braces on their kids' teeth.  There's no middle man.

Have you tried this shopping feature from Etsy?  If so, did you find anything mind-boggling about yourself or your friends and family?  Got any favorite Etsy shops?  Feel free to share them.  Know any Etsy shop owners that give back to social causes or are managing their shops in order to fund an adoption?  Let me know.  I'll feature them in next Friday's link list.


Got big weekend plans?  We've got a busy one ahead of us.  There's a really cool festival going on this Saturday, and we are celebrating a birthday boy in our home.  This is my first teenage party.  I'm a little nervous.  How about some weekend links?

This is hilarious.  Ladies, we've come a long way.

This is interesting to think about - does simply getting angry actually "do" anything?

This is crazy.  My, my, my have things changed.

This is exciting and honest.  Gets me all kinds of inspired and passionate about fair trade.

I loved reading this.  Amen and amen.

I love it when these topics hit mainstream news.

We're making these this weekend at the birthday party.

Our kids are so excited about this movie they can barely stand it.

I hope you have a beautiful weekend!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Shopping with Purpose::Krochet Kids

Day 9: Shopping with Purpose

Women in developing worlds spend 80% of their earnings on their family.  When we invest in women we invest in children.  We invest in entire communities.  We invest in sustainable change.

I'm grateful for companies like Krochet Kids who are working in Uganda (and now Peru) to empower women to care for themselves and their families.  Confession:  I spent way too much time this morning on the Krochet Kids website and was overcome with emotion several times.  Maybe it was early and I needed more coffee to think and respond like a logical human being - or maybe these women's stories and their connection to Krochet Kids are extremely moving.

We provide a job so that women can meet the present needs of their families. We educate them so that they develop beyond the need for outside aid. We provide mentorship to help each lady plan a unique and sustainable career path for the future.  -- Krochet Kids

Holy Beanie, Batman.  If you've got a Hipster in your life (or someone who wants to solidify, once and for all, their Hipster status) consider Krochet Kids your one stop shop.  These crocheted beauties would make the perfect gifts for high school and college students as well as for people like me who refuse to admit they are old and are bear hugging their youth, sweaty-style.  Not only are these hats classically stylish, each hat is handmade by a woman in Peru or Uganda.  On the inside of each product you'll find a tag hand-signed by the artisan.  After you purchase a hat, you can go to this site, type in her name, read more about the artisan, and send her a personal note.  Talk about connecting us to the people behind our products!  What joy, right? Who knew shopping could give us each the opportunity to become a part of a real-life story of hope?  
Buy a Hat.  Change a Life.
Pin your favorite products!
Help spread the world about this great company with a great story.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shopping with Purpose::The Somaly Mam Foundation

October 11 is International Day of The Girl.  It's a day to celebrate the work being done on behalf of girls to promote equality and raise awareness about the various injustices young women face around the world.  If you watched the  Half the Sky Documentary, you learned about the work Somaly Mam is accomplishing in Cambodia, rescuing young girls from brothels.

Somaly Mam, once trafficked herself and sold to a brothel, has devoted her life to freeing modern day, female slaves from their abusers.  Not only does she fight for their freedom, she also works to rehabilitate these young girls, educating and caring for them once they are rescued.

From The Somaly Mam Foundation's website:
The Somaly Mam Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to ending modern slavery and empowering its survivors as part of the solution. Human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar industry, is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. With an estimated two million women and children sold into sexual slavery each year, it is a global crisis that must be stopped.
Co-founded by sex slavery survivor Somaly Mam, the Foundation works to eradicate sex slavery, liberate its victims, and empower survivors to create and sustain lives of dignity and as agents of next-generation change. The Foundation supports rescue operations, shelter services, and rehabilitation programs in Southeast Asia, where the trafficking of women and girls, some as young as five, is widespread.
The Somaly Mam Foundation also runs awareness and advocacy campaigns that shed light on the crime of human trafficking, spotlight its brave survivors as living examples of change, and engage the public, business sectors, and governments in the fight to abolish modern slavery.

To continue our "31 Days of Shopping with Purpose" series and celebrate International Day of the Girl, I wanted to point out these lovely necklaces made by the girls Somaly Mam rescues and is working to rehabilitate.  Each necklace is $25 and hand-made by a survivor of human trafficking.  To order your necklace, visit Somaly Mam's website.  What a beautiful way to celebrate the strength of women and young girls and the work bravely being accomplished on their behalf.  How moving to wear one of these hand-made pieces around our necks.  

If you're looking for a sobering, inspiring read, The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam comes highly recommended.  

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Shopping with Purpose::Independence Coffee

A short 35 miles from our front door...

past the snow-like cotton fields...

and the lovely Antique Rose Emporium...

you'll find the headquarters of Independence Coffee tucked away in the quaint little town of Brenham, Texas.

"Hand selected, roasted, blended, and packaged 100% Arabica 'World Coffees and Teas'.  Our roastery is small by most standards, but we think this is a huge plus for us.  It allows us to keep the utmost quality controls in place when it comes to selection, packaging, and freshness."  -- Independence Coffee

Their roastery may be small, but Independence Coffee enjoys an online presence, and you can also find their coffees and teas in many large grocery stores like HEB and Whole Foods.  Their fair trade certified coffee is delicious.  We buy a bag every week from our local grocery store.  It's hard to pick which flavor is our favorite.  Madelyn's Backyard Pecan?  Toasted Coconut?  Pumpkin Spice?  Butter Cream?  Even their simple Breakfast Blend causes me to look forward to mornings.  This says a lot about their coffee.

Not only is Independence Coffee Fair Trade, when we purchase their coffee we receive the added satisfaction of shopping local.  Talk about a win-win.  The only time I've ever felt more organic, sustainable, and earth-friendly was when I bought a pair of used Toms.

When you choose Fair Trade, you are making your daily cup of coffee or tea go the extra mile.  You are voting with your dollars for a more ethical system of trade, one that protects and supports people on all ends of the supply chain - from the small family farmer in Peru or Indonesia or the tea leaf picker in India to the coffee shop owner in your hometown.  -- From Fair Trade USA

Independence coffee or teas would make great gifts or stocking stuffers for a spouse, co-workers, or older children.  If your company gives corporate gifts during Christmas, make your gift count with this delicious coffee! Right now if you buy 5 bags you get a bag free.

To see if there is a store near you that sells Independence Coffee, go HERE. 

Have you ever tried Independence Coffee?  If so, what flavor is your favorite?  Got any other fair trade coffee companies you'd like to brag about during this series on shopping with purpose?

Monday, October 08, 2012

Shopping with Purpose::The Farmers Market

Boiled down and simplified, each time we shop with purpose we are reminded that people matter.  This earth.  It matters.  With each dollar we spend, we're invited to connect with people and remember the art and skill involved in farming and creating.  I don't know about you, but when I walk through a mall or a supermarket, I am tempted to forget about the people behind the products in my hand.  The florescent lighting, the cardboard displays, and the sales gimmicks irritate me and dare I say it - confuse me.  Somehow the calloused hands and creative minds behind the items I'm purchasing are lost.  Forgotten. Perhaps this is why a visit to the grocery store is less of a celebration and more of a joyless inconvenience.

I'm convinced the more we separate from people the more lifeless and uninspired we become.  Shopping with purpose is an invitation to reconnect and reclaim.  It's an opportunity to celebrate life - the process of feeding and fueling our bodies, clothing ourselves, and caring for this earth and one another.

We have a farmers market in our town every Saturday.  When I can, I load up the kids and head out to buy eggs and produce for the week.  There's also a family owned and operated produce stand a few miles from our house.  I still go to the grocery store, but I've tried to make a habit of buying my produce from the farmer's market or locally owned produce stand near our house.  This is where I have to tell my all or nothing personality to shove off.  I can't always go to the farmers market - but I usually can.  When I can't - that's okay.  Any time we choose to support local farmers, we make a difference in the lives of real people.  Here are some things I've noticed as I've tried to reconnect with the people behind our food.

1.  It's not more expensive.  I thought it would be.  I was wrong.  At the same time I was learning to shop at the farmers market and our local produce stand, I also started trying to figure out what it means to eat seasonally.  Seasonal eating is a new world for me.  I guess I had never thought about it really.  I mean, my local supermarket sells all fruits and vegetables all year.  Sure, sometimes the apples are a little mushy or the mangoes are smaller, but I've never stopped by my local grocery store and not been able to buy whatever fruits or vegetables I wanted.  Always being able to buy whatever I wanted sounded great - until we started growing our own garden and I realized how weird it was that the grocery store still had piles of cherry tomatoes in the middle of the winter when our tomatoes were long gone.  When I began reading about seasonal eating I learned an interesting fact.  Depending on where we live, our bodies require different vitamins and minerals at different parts of the year.  Fascinating.  There's a reason only certain vegetables grow in the dead of winter - our bodies need them during the winter.

I don't have this seasonal eating idea mastered, but I'm learning.  If I buy seasonal veggies from the farmers market or our local farm stand, I don't pay any more than I would at the grocery store.  I guess, when I think about how much the grocery store pays to ship non-seasonal foods to the store, it makes sense that locally produced, seasonal produce can definitely compete financially in the marketplace.

Here are some terrific resources for eating seasonally:

A great starter for seasonal recipes.

I love this list of seasonal produce from Whole 9.  (I use the chart and then go to Pinterest and type in "butternut squash recipes."  Wah-lah.  Dinner.

Another great seasonal guide from BBC.

"By shopping at a farmers market, you support local agriculture, which has many benefits. You keep farmers in your community. You keep land from being sprawled with houses and shopping centers. You have the experience of shopping in the farmers market, which is the new public square. You support a lot of values when you shop at the farmers market." -- Michael Pollan

2.  When you begin to shop at Farmers Markets, you get to know the people who grow your food.  This is weird at first, and I didn't really like it.  It's growing on me.  Most days I love the old man at our local farm stand who insists on telling my boys jokes and giving them each a banana.  But some days I'm late and in a hurry, so I wish he'd just shut up and give me my dang bananas.  I kind of hate him on those days.  Sad but true story.

3.  Seasonal produce tastes better.  Well, duh.  I should have seen this coming, but I didn't.  Obviously if it's in season, the flavor is more vibrant.  If you've never eaten butternut squash in October or November, you haven't lived.

"I don’t cringe over a fifty-dollar bag of organic and local groceries because that’s the actual cost of producing food in a healthy world.  That same bag at Safeway is cheap because the costs to the environment – of pesticides, soil erosion, cultural erosion, and genetic modification of life forms – are not included in the price.  Can we look beyond the sticker price to see the true cost of our goods, and our economy?" -- William Powers in 12x12

4.  A visit to the farmers market resets my definition of real food.  Maybe I'm a dummy, but I forget, swimming through aisles of cardboard boxes and fancy packaging that a lot of what sits on the grocery store shelf is not real food.  Making the farmers market a habit keeps me focused and grounded when I'm in the grocery store.  If I am consistently stopping by the farmers market we eat healthier - even if what I brought home didn't come from the farmers market.  This is weird, but true.

5.  My kids are more likely to branch out and try new foods.  They beg me to buy items like basil and eggplant.  I'm always doubtful.  "If I buy this, you're really going to eat it?"  Yep.  In this way the farmers market is magic.

6.  Buying our food directly from families in our area reminds me of a few truths I had plum forgotten.  Farming is an art.  Farmers who care about our earth, their animals, and who take pride in providing food for our country are a dying breed.  I bet very few of us know actual-real-life farmers.  People whose entire livelihoods depend almost entirely on elements outside of their control. I'm convinced very few people know faith like a farmer.  Farmers no longer sit in our churches.  They don't live down the road.  They aren't there to shed meaning on the many, many Bible passages filled with agricultural and farming references.  They aren't there to remind us that growth takes time.  Seasons change. The sun always comes up.  A seed holds a promise.  New life pops up in the darndest of places.  They aren't there to remind us that life ends - and sometimes it ends abruptly.  I believe when we lost the farmer, we lost something rich and immeasurable in our communities.  I don't know about you, but I want to keep the ones we have left.

7.  Going to the Farmers Market makes me happy.  I don't know all the reasons why, but it does - so I go.

Do you have a farmers market in your area?  Do you visit it?  When you do, what are your observations?  Did I miss anything?