simple birthdays.


Just like that, both my kids birthdays came and went in the last 2 weeks.  Now I am the proud mama to 6 and 10 (!!) year olds.  Time truly slips through the fingers like water.  I thought it might be fun to share our birthday rituals here, for we keep things simple yet meaningful and always have a wonderful time together.  Naturally, this creates less waste, too, since we are focused on consuming less, and teaching our kids the satisfaction and joy that can come with simple things done well.  (sidenote: for more gift ideas for kids and adults alike, check my zero waste gift guide, which also gives tips for low waste wrapping techniques)

cakes // I always let the kids decide what kind of cake they would enjoy for their birthday, and then go about finding a vegan and hopefully gluten free version (so that I can enjoy too!). This year Carmela chose lemon cake with cream cheese icing, and Vincent chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream.  The lemon cake didn’t turn out as great as I would have hoped, so I won’t share the link here.  But, the chocolate cake was excellent, and it was THIS one from Minimalist Baker.  We are still using the same old birthday candles from ages ago.  When they run out I’ll probably just make candles from leftover candle wax.  Plastic free/no sprinkle decorations can look so beautiful- lemon slices, roses + other flowers, grated citrus zest looks beautiful on white frosting, chopped nuts or toasted coconut pressed round the edges, or a favorite tiny figurine sitting on top.


gifts // By now, the people in our lives know our lifestyles and are wonderful at co-operating with us not wanting plastic or more toys.  I also try to emphasize something small, because I don’t want my kids to expect to be flooded with tons of gifts.  Not only is it overwhelming for them (and anyone!), but having fewer things sends the message to take care and love what we do have.  This gratitude and appreciation is so important for me to foster in them.  For Carmela, I had been wanting to update her room, as she had very little and I wanted to give her a more cozy space.  So, I got her a little nightstand which doubles as a small bench or stool, a few cozy pillows, and a new colorful cotton rug to go by her bookshelf to make that a more comfortable spot to sit.  She slept in Vincent’s room that night and it was so magical to see her wake up and go into her newly rearranged room.  We also gift the kids an experience- so somewhere they want to go or something they want to see.  This year, Carmela chose the Exploratorium in San Francisco and we made a special day of it.  For Vincent, a special concert (a full orchestra playing Beatles songs, his fave).  Gifts others gave to them included: a states map puzzle, enamel pin of Bill Nye, various books, gift certificate to the local ice cream shop, bath salts and homemade items.  My kids loved them all and they were ecstatic to receive these little treasures.

rituals // by far the most looked-forward-to aspect of birthdays here, the kids love these repeated rituals that seem to delight them and add comfort knowing they can expect the same thing every year.  These things will be different for every family, but I encourage you to find a little rhythm to your years.

-I watercolor them a special card from scratch and Joel and I write a meaningful note inside, also usually I make a little poem for them.  They love to see what the card is like each year.


-The night before I like to read this traditional little verse:  When I have said my evening prayer, and my clothes are folded on the chair, and mother switches out the light, I’ll still be ___ years old tonight.  But from the very break of day, before the children rise and play, before the darkness turns to gold, tomorrow I’ll be ___ years old.  ___ kisses when I wake, ___ candles on my cake.  note: we aren’t traditionally religious, but we still practice giving gratitude at night before bed for the days gifts, a sort of Universe prayer if you will.  The kids just love this being told to them when they’re tucked in bed on their birthday eve.  Such a sweet little ritual.

-The morning of, we all smother the birthday child with the kisses for their respective age, and make quite a big, loud, dramatic deal of it 😉

-Either while we are lighting the candles on the cake, or while we are eating the cake, we tell the birthday child a detail or memory from each year of their life.  Ie, when you were a baby…., when you were one year old…., when you were two years old…etc.  This I think is their favorite of all.  There is something so special to a child hearing memories and stories straight from a loved ones mouth, especially concerning them.  Sometimes they ask to hear the story of their birth, too.

-birthday crown: when Carmela was tiny, I bought a felt birthday crown from Etsy (so easy to make, too) and they love putting it on on the morning of their birthday.  This one is the closest I could find, though ours has a ribbon instead of elastic.

-the morning after, I let them have a slice of birthday cake for breakfast, which is always the most exciting thing for them, to get to “break the rules” one day!


What are your birthday traditions?  I’d love to know!



book club: gentle discipline


I posted yesterday on Instagram that I’m starting a new series on the blog: a book club!  Specifically, a non fiction book club geared towards personal growth.  What I look for in a book is that it is interesting, mind expanding, enables me to step back from my current mindset and consider new information in order to grow into my higher self as a partner, parent, friend, soul.  I do love fiction, too, but these days I just don’t have tons of free time and so I try to fit in books that packaging punch and make my life a little easier and more connected and mindful.  So, I hope that you’ll join in, too, if you find this interesting.

The first book we’ll be starting with is a book on positive/gentle parenting called Gentle Discipline by Sarah Ockwell Smith.  I’ve picked it up before but for one reason or another, never finished it.  So, I grabbed a copy from the library and am diving in again.  This one would be great for most people- anyone who is a parent, grandparent, future parent, or who works, lives, or interacts with children, or anyone who’s simply curious about this topic.  What drew me to this book in the first place is that it gives specific examples of situations and areas of conflict you might (will) encounter with kids, and then gives gentle solutions + the logic/psychology behind the behavior.  It’s all well and good to read about the ethos of positivity in parenting, but quite another thing when conflicts ACTUALLY arise, and knowing how to handle them in a gracious manner, in a way that helps both your child and you grow.

A description to give you an idea of whats in the book: “A practical guide that presents an alternative to shouting, shaming, and blaming–to give kids the skills they need to grow and thrive. Topics include:

Setting–and enforcing–boundaries and limits with compassion and respect
Focusing on connection and positivity instead of negative consequences
Working with teachers and other caregivers
Breaking the cycle of shaming and blaming”

I’m excited to dive into this book and implement some of the strategies, plus learn more about the why behind “difficult” behaviors.  If you’d like to join, simply grab a copy of the book (check your local library, thrift store, Thrift Books, or friends collections first please!)  and start reading!  At the end, I’ll pop back on here and recap what I’ve learned and how I’ve been implementing it into my life as a parent.  I hope you’ll join the discussion too so we can all learn from each other.  So happy to have you along ❤


low waste art

painting outside vin kids

painting the scene outdoors

Hello friends!  I received a question about art on my instagram regarding this, “What do you do about art supplies?  I’ve already gotten on board with switching most of our household to lower waste alternatives, but with the kids I just can’t bear to restrict their imagination just to limit waste.  Do you do art?  How do you get around this?”  

First, let me say that I love art and view it as an essential way for kids to make sense of the world.  I think for them, art is a way they can communicate thoughts, learning, patterns and observations before they can put together words, write or read.  I grew up around art (my grandma is a wonderful painter) and I always have enjoyed creating my own and viewing others art.  My approach here is two fold; try to prioritize materials that already come package free, and also to not stress if I truly need something that does come in plastic.  I like what Ariana of Paris To Go said- I’m paraphrasing and butchering here- but essentially, that if you truly need and use something, it’s not going to waste because its important to you, and necessary, and serves a purpose.  I broadly view art supplies like this too.


However, there are some things we just don’t use, because I don’t personally think they’re necessary for kids to make art- like markers, for instance.  I try to weigh the life cycle of the product against the amount of fun, value, or essential quality it has.  For us, markers just don’t cut it.  Their life in this house was never very long- lids always being lost, pens dried out or smashed into frayed dull points.

Instead, we use colored pencils, crayons, pastels, watercolor crayons, watercolor pencils, watercolor trays (we buy refill tins similar to THESE instead of a whole new palette).  Or I buy metal watercolor tubes which generally stretch longer and are sold loose.   Most of these supplies come loose or in a recyclable paper package, and you can compost the shavings/nubs left over.  Leftover over bits of crayons can get melted down into new ones in a silicone mold.  THESE highlighter pencils work great and you don’t have to worry about the caps not being put back on and drying out.


Refillable fountain pens are great alternatives to ballpoint pens- and the ink comes in a glass jar.  You can also use refillable fine tip pens like these. We have lots of brushes from a lifetime of me painting.  Some are plastic.  I let the kids use real brushes because if you’ve ever tried to use “kids” brushes you know how frustrating it is when little hairs come off on your paint!  I trust my kids using real items, and they generally respect the tools more when they are real.  When brushes get very frayed, we use them to paint water on the sidewalk, which is always a fun activity, especially on a hot day- watching how fast it disappears!

I also try to focus on purchasing locally here to reduce impact that way.  If you go to a local art shop, usually they have lots of loose supplies for purchase, like natural rubber erasers, metal sharpeners, pencils, papers, and more.  If you’re local, The Paint Chip in Davis and University Art in Sacramento are both great resources.  I always buy sketchbooks/watercolor paper that are spiral bound with paper covers.  That way, all the parts can get pulled apart and recycled or reused separately.

Some things, like play dough, I make from scratch (recipe HERE).  But other things, like paint and glue, were just too difficult or a pain to make our own versions of.  They simply don’t last long enough to be on hand when inspiration strikes I’ve found.  But there are plenty of resources online to make your own.

play dough

homemade play dough.  I leave it un-colored for more open ended play.

As far as tape and glue, we just use masking tape which is compostable, or brown kraft paper tape- also compostable.  I don’t often have a use for glue BUT being honest here, somehow glue sticks from school and well meaning family often make their way into our home.  I recycle the empties through Terracycle– they also have an art supplies recycling box- it’s not cheap but for me it’s worth it.

We have a bin in the kids playroom/ library room where we store old magazines, boxes, paper used on one side, cardboard tubes, bits and bobs of ribbon, used foil/wire/twist ties, and other clean recyclables or items that might normally be trashed.  The kids then have a resource of things to draw from when they want to create something.  This also encourages more creativity and open play.  We also store such things as interesting shells, leaves, rocks, twigs, dried flowers, pine cones, acorns, really anything they pick up during walks or trips.  Old art projects also get broken down for reuse here.

Also in the line of reuse, I often offer previous days artwork back to them, simply asking “Are you finished with this or still working on it?” and many times they are excited to revisit the piece and add to it- often drawing on more detail, adding paint or other components.  Again, I feel this reinforces a deeper look at the art and more thoughtful exploration versus just paint, new sheet, move on.  Old art can also be cut up for collages or become a background for plays, puppets, or writing.

Kids art zero waste

sketching nature observations at the arboretum

If you’re looking for canvases, you can often find them at thrift stores and simply paint over them to be used again.  You can also buy loose canvas and build the frame for it.  Our local thrift store also has a craft section that delights my kids- with lots of odd supplies and materials.  Often stopping by there can provide what’s needed for a project!

Do you have any tips or tricks for less waste art that I didn’t mention?  Leave them below for me and others to learn from!

what vin eats

Vin vegan kid

Hi friends!  I can’ believe it’s already Wednesday.  This week is flying by!  The weather has been so warm this week and I hope where you are spring has finally sprung.  I’ve been enjoying the sun, swimming, line drying my laundry outside (is there a better smell??) and all the flowers and green everywhere around town.

To follow up on my last post about my philosophy of feeding my kids, this post is a lot of meal ideas for small children (or adults!) I keep trying to get it together and document a full day of eating for Vin or Carmela (see old ones HERE and HERE), but inevitably I forget to photograph pieces of the day, or remember only after they’re almost done with the food.  So I thought I’d put all the photos of what I did remember to document in one big post, as a sort of meal inspiration for plant based meals for kids.

I got a question on Instagram about how I handle eating around other kids or events where there is food we typically don’t eat, like pizza, meat, dairy etc.  I simply bring our own food.  I respectfully talk to the host beforehand and ask what will be served and to confirm it’s ok with them to bring our own version.  Then, I make or buy a similar but healthier option to what will be there.  Of course, if there’s vegan options there I don’t bring our own food.  But this has worked out really well and is pretty unobtrusive.  I always bring enough to share for other curious kids and adults, and because I feel sharing food is an important ritual I don’t want my kids to miss out on.

Anyways, here’s some delicious food:

Kiwi orange

afternoon pool snack: kiwis (skin on!) tangerines and hemp seeds.


burcha with a bit of raspberry jam, this was a to go snack for the park.

polenta Beans

quick dinner: polenta, garlic sage cannelini beans, asparagus, artichokes.

Miso noodle soup

miso noodle soup lunch: Wakame seaweed, black rice noodles. carrots, cilantro, collards, tofu, miso kombu broth.  His favorite- he loves to slurp the noodles haha

Date peanut butter

he came outside and was so proud he made this by himself for a snack: “take a picture mom”.  A date with peanut butter and chocolate chips.  Turmeric stained little hands from helping me make golden milk.

Noodles gluten-free

More noodles lol- do you see a theme?  Anytime I ask him what he wants for lunch, most of the time it’s noodles.  Fine with me, kid.  I then ask him to pick out some veggies from the fridge to go with.  This day he chose broccoli (an all time fave) carrots and tofu.  I sautéed in some sesame oil.  Pumpkin seeds and tamari to finish.

Snacks zero waste

Snacks on the go: dates and PB again, dried persimmon made by a friend, strawbs, tangerine, cucumber, carrots, apple.  Not pictured is a little jar of hummus for the veggies.  I always bring snacks when we go out to avoid the hangries.  Container from Eco Lunch Box (its like 6 years old and going strong!).


Sometimes I let him watch Super Why while I get a quick workout in.  He likes to snack while doing so.  Pistachios and tangerines.

Vegan kids

peanut noodles and a sweet little smile.  What did I say about noodles?!?

Kids vegan food

more miso noodle soup haha.  It’s a lunch tradition.  This time with chickpeas, carrots, spinach, sesame seeds, avocado and black rice noodles.

zero waste kids

more to go snacks: banana sweetened oat cookies (I make a batch and keep in the freezer for lunches/snacks), avocado with black sesame, tangerines and carrots.

Tofu Banh mi

tofu banh mi with pickled radish, avo and cilantro.

rawnola snack

chocolate rawnola balls + tangerines.  Lego guy unintentional but awesome.

smoothie green

afternoon snack of green smoothie with kale, almond butter, mango, ginger, water and some hemp seeds.  I made this for myself and then he wanted one too.

glory bowl vegan

glory bowl dinner with chickpeas and chive flowers.  He had to get mint from the garden for his bowl- his latest obsession is to add it to everything.

fruit bowl

fruit bowl for Carmela after school: mango, kiwi, strawberries

Well, that’s all!  Let me know if you prefer one big post of meals like this one or a more structured post of exactly what he eats in a day like the previous ones.  I hope you’re having a wonderful week!  Lots of love xx