A more healthy/green 1st birthday!

We just finished surviving putting together our very first child’s birthday party – Little Sir turned one year old last week!

Lately we have been working very hard to stay within our monthly budget, so I was determined to put together a fun and eco-friendly first birthday party on a budget!

Here are some things I did to save money while being mindful of our health and the environment:

  • Our friends Bret and Rebecca’s daughter Isolé had her first birthday a few weeks earlier and they were kind enough to let us reuse napkins and tablecloths from her party! Also the “1” birthday candle!
  • Plates were from Whole Foods made of recycled paper, and also reused plates from Isolé’s party
  • I bought 10 bottles of bubbles for the kids to play with at Party City for 60 cents apiece 
  • I did forget cups but my parents went and picked up some paper ones at the grocery store – no plastic!
  • Utensils – spoons and forks – also from Whole Foods made of biodegradable corn.
  • Hebrew National hot dogs and buns from Costco – not exactly good for you, but contained no HFCS or PHO’s (trans fats). We also bought a HUGE 5 lb. bag of cheese,  and were able to pass on the extra to one of our friends who attended, for a get-together taking place at their house later this week.
  • I made the cupcakes myself from Kroger-brand cake mix, which has no HFCS or trans fats. The icing I made from scratch out of butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar.

Location: The party was held at a small park near our house, even though it rained periodically – we were under the park pavilion. This is a cost-effective alternative to having it at our house because it provided activities for the kids and it was free! Some parks do charge to reserve a pavilion, but since Richardson is small city and this is one of the smaller parks, there was no fee and no reservation required. The added bonus of an outdoors party is that when the baby smashes the cake, if cake falls to the ground – who cares?!

Happy first birthday, Little Sir!

Cottonwood Art Festival

It’s a been a few years since we have made it to the Cottonwood Art Festival in Richardson, but since we now live only a few blocks away from Cottonwood Park and can walk to the festival, we were excited to attend again this year.

The festival is held outdoors at Cottonwood Park, which is right on the edge of the Dallas/Richardson border (and right next to the courthouse where we were married, but that is another story…). Tons of artists from all over the country attend to exhibit and sell their art. The art includes paintings and sculptures, as well as handmade jewelry, clothing, and music.
Favorite Art
The rows of artist booths are placed on the green grass and have wide passageways that easily accommodate strollers and pedestrians, as well as having regularly placed patio chairs and pavilions for sitting and resting. Here is Little Sir viewing some sculptures and being pushed down and aisle with Daddy:
Asher and the Festival
Art Festival
Of course, the park is big and there are plenty of places to sit down and rest. We spent a while on a grassy hill and then stopped to drink a bottle near the pond with the ducks.
Cottonwood Park pond
As promised and in a nod to the pro-babywearing campaign going on right now, here’s a shot of Christian wearing Little Sir in the Ergo – he gets restless in his stroller and he’s so heavy that the back-carry is the easiest and the most fun for him!
In addition to art, there is plenty of food! I will admit that half the reason I go is for the funnel cake and other fair-like food. Christian enjoys a giant hot dog…
Hot Dog!
If you want to be a little more high-brow about the food you’re eating, there is also a cafe area with outdoor tables next to the live music pavilion.
Festival Cafe
Across the pond from the cafe is the children’s area, ArtStop. Little Sir was too young to participate in the arts and crafts, but there were plenty of blackboards to draw on and interesting shapes to run through for free.
ArtStop for Kids
If you wanted to spend a little money, you could go to one of the arts & craft booths where the kids can build fun crafts like crazy hats.

Overall, we always enjoy the Cottonwood Art Festival. Knowing it will be there twice a year and having the park itself within walking distance is one of the great things about Richardson!

Followup: City of Richardson Recycling

After yesterday’s post about my disappointment with the recycling program here in Richardson, a few friends who also live in Richardson sent me some additional information on the recycling program. It turns out, we CAN recycle paper and cardboard!

Right here on the Richardson web site it says so.

Thing thing that was confusing me was this message printed on all the blue recycling bags we were given:
Richardson recycling bag
In case the picture is not very readable, it says:

Please use this bag for:

  • aluminum cans
  • ferrous metal cans (tin, steel)
  • plastics (#1-5 & 7)
  • glass (clear, brown, green)

In fact, according to the City of Richardson web site they actually accept:

The items below can all be placed in the blue bags:
Plastics #1-5 and #7, Aluminum, Tin, Steel, Empty Aerosol Cans, Newspapers, Mixed Paper, Paper Grocery Bags, Magazines, Catalogs, Corrugated Cardboard, Paperboard/Chipboard, Phone Books, Junk Mail, Glass Containers (All Color Glass)

Do you see how confusing this is?

I can easily go on a tirade about how so many cities spend money on recycling programs and then bemoan the fact that their citizens either don’t take advantage of the services or use them incorrectly. Which is indeed a problem, but is there any question why that might be? Maybe a little correct information would help…

Thanks so much to my friends/readers who helped me out with this!! I am gonna have a big ol’ bag of cardboard and paper this next week for pickup!

Things that are different

We have been living in the ‘burb for about 2 weeks now. There are some things that are nice (we have a bigger yard – or a yard at all, the library and civic center here is very nice, and there are a TON of city swimming pools) but some things that I have trouble getting used to.

One of these things is the recycling program in the city of Richardson.

In Dallas, we had 2 cans in the back of our house – 1 for trash and 1 for recycling. The recycling one was blue, and we just threw all our recyclables in it: paper, cardboard, plastics, metal, and glass. No sorting, just throw it all in. We barely threw away one bag of actual trash/garbage per week. All the rest of the things we used were recyclable.

Here in Richardson, they don’t use trash cans at all, for either trash or recycling. You throw your loose trash bags in the alleyway. They will not pick up any trash that is in trash cans at all, even if you buy your own trash can. I was kind of horrified at this, it looks really tacky. Just throwing what is basically loose trash back there? Ick!

Their recycling is also done in bags – blue bags. You have to purchase (pay for!) a roll of blue bags (which I am pretty sure never biodegrade), and put your recyclables in the blue bag.

However, they only take: some plastics, glass, and aluminum. No paper, no cardboard of any kind. Fortunately, the magnet school down the street has a bin where you can drop off paper only, such as your mail and magazines and newspaper. It’s a nice program because the school gets paid for all the material that is recycled.

What is driving me crazy is the cardboard! I never realized how much cardboard we recycled before. All kinds of food comes in cardboard boxes (crackers, cereal, even seitan has a cardboard outer). There are cardboard inserts in your clothing. Toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls. Not to mention the boxes we have left over from moving that can’t be saved because they’ve survived so many moves they’ve fallen apart. And the empty kitty litter boxes… I could go on and on.

We have gone from generating only one bag of trash/garbage per week to around 4 bags. And I can’t use the earth-friendly kitchen trash bags I was using before because I have to use bags thick enough to withstand being outside in the weather while waiting for the trash pickup.

Not only am I generating more trash, but I am being forced to package it in bags that will pretty much never biodegrade. I am not going to lie to you, this is actually really difficult for me to get used to!