Category Archives: Thinking outside the box

Keeping it Green this Holiday Season


While getting caught up in the fun of the holidays, it is very easy to throw your usual rules aside and go all out – hoping to ensure the perfect holiday gathering for your family. We go on endless shopping sprees, the budget is long forgotten and so are some of our better “green” habits – all in the name of holiday cheer. The holidays don’t have a reputation of excess for nothing. However, here are some ways to try and keep your cool and stay green without having to forget the fun of the season too.


Some of us will be buying Christmas trees this year to decorate. If you do decorate a tree, consider buying a potted tree and planting it after the season has passed. If that isn’t possible, be sure to contact your local Waste Management Program to find out how to recycle your Christmas tree. Also check Earth 911 for local Christmas tree recycling options.

When it’s time to string up the lights in my home, my inner Clark Griswold comes shining through. However, this year, if you happen to need new lights anyway, consider buying LED holiday lights to save energy. Or if you don’t have to buy new lights, be sure to keep your current lights on a timer so they are off during the day and when you go to sleep.

If you are looking for new ornaments this year, All Free Crafts suggests making ornaments out of recycled Christmas cards. I love to make salt dough ornaments with my children and those treasures will stay on my tree for years to come. Don’t forget about the extra things around the house that might spruce up your tree too like left over ribbon, restrung beads and buttons and even stringing good old fashioned popcorn garland for your tree.

Holiday Cards

It has never been easier to send e-cards or virtual greetings. I use Hallmark Smilebox to send festive slideshows, greetings and even movie clips. If you still prefer sending mailed cards, consider buying cards made on recycled paper this year. Some options are Cards Direct, Cards for Causes and Green Field Paper.


Part of the holidays always includes cooking traditional meals for friends and relatives. Plan ahead and try to be a green chef this year. For example, try to buy organic foods when possible, think about some vegetarian meals and buy free range poultry and eggs. Another fun tip is to track down a local farm and buy your fruits and vegetables locally – they taste better and are usually more affordable.

Green Gifts

Gift giving is on everyone’s minds right now. Think carefully about what you are giving and why your are giving it. Grabbing as much “stuff” as possible just to wrap and stick under the tree isn’t a smart idea. Rather, buy one or two quality items, than a bunch of less well made, more likely to break items. Also, think about buying things that are personal, make some gifts and put your heart into the giving process. A hand knit scarf is always more valued than another boring tie.

Another inexpensive way to buy green gifts is to hop onto Craig’s list or shop in consignment stores. Recycling and saving a dollar never came so easy.

Finally, here are some links to articles or websites with green gift ideas:,,, and One of my favorites? Consider buying your loved one some poopoopaper. A fun gift and it’s certainly, er, been recycled.

Gift Wrapping

When I was a child, it was inevitable that as we opened our gifts a relative would shout out “I forgot one!” And they would run off and return with a gift wrapped in a towel or pillow case. We used to laugh about it then but now it really isn’t such a bad idea after all! If possible, try to make your own wrapping paper this year by using beautifully decorated paper bags, magazines, old posters, old maps and even the tried and true funny pages. And make my family proud, an old piece of cloth might even look beautiful with the right ribbon and sprucing up.

Another thought? Wrap presents that go together in one package. Also, try to avoid buying gifts that are too large that would take extra wrapping – they probably have too much packaging in them anyway.

If you do need to wrap some gifts in paper, track down some recycled gift wrapping.


I know I still have to get my gift boxes sent off. When you do, try to find old boxes to mail your gifts, be sure to avoid the plastic peanuts and use old newspaper and other pieces from your recycle bin to pack your items. Sometimes I save my sons used ziplock bags and then blow them up for cushion in the boxes.

Finally, you should know that the USPS is actually doing an excellent job of being green about their shipping. They have eco-friendly packaging and even soy based inks and non toxic adhesives. To learn more, go check out their site.

Cross posted at Type A Moms.


Filed under Getting green, Gifts, Holidays, Raising Awareness, Reccomendations, Recycling, Shopping, Thinking outside the box, Traditions, Unnecessary stuff

The Morningside Mom Magical HP Giveaway Contest Has Begun


Hello world! My Magical HP Giveaway contest has officially begun! It will run starting Saturday November 29 and a winner will be chosen on December 5th.

Before leading you to the official rules of the contest, I want to remind my entrants of one important fact. When you give, good will come to you. My regular readers know that I believe in karma and the power that one individual’s decency can have on society as a whole. I hope that entrants have the best intentions and truly expect to affect positive change somewhere in their world with this contest. Gather the magic of this holiday season around you, and let’s do something good.

Please click HERE (scroll to the bottom) to find out my rules and expectations.

And good luck to everyone!

***UPDATE: The contest winner will be announced on December 5th. Contest entires must be submitted by email ( no later than 6:00pm today, EST. Those entered after that time will not be considered.***

For more information about the HP products I review, please visit my HP Update page.


Filed under Bloggers, Contests, Gifts, Holidays, HP, Philanthropy, Techie Stuff, Thinking outside the box

What Do I Get My Kids for Christmas?


So, I was standing there in the toy section of Target today, with my two year old tantruming at my feet (same ol’, same ol’), and my Christmas budget numbers swimming in my head… when I hit a wall.

Not a real wall, although, that is certainly possible these days. My tantruming child and bad eyes can keep me from walking in a straight line a LOT of the time. However, the wall I hit was a mental one. I had to stop. The colorful boxes and stacks of hasbro toys piled to the ceiling just seemed to blur together…

What am I going to get my kids for Christmas?

I really have NO idea.

Ok, the BIG gift is taken care of. It’s really a huge splurge for us. But we couldn’t help it. My husband calls it the “Red Ryder bb gun of today’s generation”. What is it? Drumroll… a Wii. Yeah, none of you folks are shocked as your own fingers itch to try your own hidden Wii out too… maybe if I just tested it, maybe if I just sliiiid it out of it’s box ever so carefully… Um. I digress.

So we have the “Red Ryder” gift for the big day. And in some ways, that’s pretty good and everything else should be knick knacks off the dollar store shleves, right? Well, yeah, the two $1.00 Snoopy coloring books I wound up buying at Target (after hitting said wall) certainly count for that. But if I *DID* happen to want to pick up a few more things, and make those carefully earned and budgeted dollar bills really count… what should I get? I am really at a loss this year.

And I have been happy to give out advice about what to give other people’s pre-schoolers but that’s stuff I already know about – or have. But standing there in Target, with beautifully, exciting and fun packaged stuff all around me… well, I didn’t know what to do. What should I get?

By the way – YES – I have asked T. what he wants for Christmas. His response? An etch-a-sketch… and a Wii. Ok, so maybe I should just leave it at that. But, c’mon, a couple more things can’t hurt, right?

Now, I know there are plenty of you out there with a wealth of knowledge about cool toys. So I am asking for your help. Here are my parameters, I have the following:

  • One shy five year old boy who loves Star Wars, techie stuff, board games and most sports.
  • One loud, tantrumy out-going two year old who loves Mickey Mouse, pirates, cars and trucks and things that go.
  • One limited budget, but still – there is money to be spent on a few key items.

And not to sound picky, but if I’m gonna spend our money on Christmas presents for my kids, I want them to be really fun, interesting, and even educational. Not just more brightly colored, plasticky STUFF that will break, get piled in a corner and left. (And then finally heaped into boxes for Salvation Army, you should SEE the pile I’ve got going in my garage right now.)

So, yeah, I’m still stuck.

What ARE those one or two brilliant, “must have” gifts? YOU TELL ME. I welcome all suggestions. Even from toy peddlers or PR people or what have you. Bring it on. Come one, come all. I am open to anything. Post links, assuming they are appropriate, I’ll make sure they won’t get spammed out. I value your opinion and will consider each suggestion.

(And posting your ideas here mean other moms will get ideas too. So please share your wealth of knowledge!)

It’s the holidays – help a mother out!

Thanks folks.


Filed under Boys, Gifts, Holidays, Money, Panicking, Thinking outside the box, Toys, Unnecessary stuff

Meeting a Medium and Giving Grandma a Shout Out.

When you think “vacation”, fun images of beaches, watermelon and relatives usually come to mind. What probably doesn’t come to mind is an hour spent in a dusty third floor office in Western Massachusetts talking to a Medium. Yeah, that’s what I said, a Medium. You know, the John Edwards, Sylvia Brown, “I see dead people” kind of person that I would bet 75% of most folks think are a scam? Yup, I met with one yesterday. Some months ago, my wonderful aunt had a reading with this woman at a gathering with friends. After being fairly amazed by her experience, she signed both of us up for a reading while I was in town. So, my HIGHLY skeptical, grumbling husband (“if you guys leave there with both of your purses, I’ll be amazed…”) dropped me off for a kid -free evening of talking to those on the Other Side. Intrigued? Come on, admit you are. I sure was.

Now before I go on, let me just lay down my own kind of disclaimer of sorts. I am not into the occult or anything remotely evil. I believe in God, goodness, karma and know there is something beyond here more wonderful than anything we know here. And while I am spiritual in nature, I also don’t claim to assume I know diddly-squat about anything in God’s ‘hood. I’ve got no idea about what he’s (um… could be SHE!) is up to or what might happen to us once we are no longer living here. So I am open to anything because I am a humble enough to know that we simple humans can’t know everything, can we? No way. So, if there is a possibility that our loved ones may want to chat with us from the other side, well so be it. Who am I to stop them? Who am I to say it couldn’t happen? So, I was game and ready. A psychic reading? Bring it!

My aunt and I arrived a little early for our reading and sat down in a sparsely decorated waiting room. There were small prints of angels here and there. A water cooler, a plant, a carpeted floor, a window and one bee lazily buzzing about the ceiling. I was nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Maybe at any moment a woman named Zorba with a scarf wrapped around her head, a thick Albanian accent and long decorated nails who would swoop into the room and beckon us forward while whispering mysteriously “zeees way…”. Or maybe we’d be meeting with a “Whoopi Goldberg from Ghost” type of clairvoyant? Could be! Helllooooo Patrick Swayze, come send me a message! Or what if we were about to meet another version of the notorious  Miss Cleo, psychic reader and sham queen of all sham queens? 1-800-I’ll take your money, thank you VERY much. Oy, what were we getting ourselves into? But actually, a very nice welcoming woman came in and introduced herself. She was kind and quiet, possibly even a bit shy. Hardly a Zorba or Whoopi type, she had us follow her into her room which was small but comfortable. We found three chairs, a table stacked with various decks of tarot cards and one lone pink crystal. We sat down. She smiled. I took a deep breath. Ok, let’s do this.

She asked my aunt and I to pick some cards from a deck of our choice and she laid them out. But then, as she was looking over our cards, she almost bashfully claimed that “well, it seems that we will start with our medium reading first.” She then admited that a woman, who had already passed, had been with her on the ride over. She looked up at us and said “you two are related” (it wasn’t a question), and this woman was connected to us both – either as a mother or grandmother figure. And we were off.

Now I could go on about the entire hour’s worth of what was said, but it may not mean much to you since you would not have any reference point about their validity. But I will say that I was surprised by the strange bits of accuracy she laid out before us. My first memory of my grandmother was mentioned – a moment when she gave me a plastic butterfly which only I remember. Odd little, random details, personalities, habits, funny intricacies about people we knew who had passed all came forward. Some things we could not place or find a connection with. Other things dawned on us on the car ride home. And there were even moments that stopped us dead on our tracks. How could she know that? How could anyone?

And during those moments, when it seemed in fact my great uncle or stubborn grandmother was coming through, I felt right at home with it. It never scared me, I never felt overwhelmed by it, in fact I felt quite familiar with the whole scene. Of COURSE one grandmother would be hogging the spotlight more than the other. Of COURSE my great aunt was still gossipy. Of COURSE Uncle Bill didn’t have his pants on. Somethings never change. And I mean NEVER.

So how do I feel walking away from my experience? Do I think it was all a sham, like assuming it could only be card trickery when she popped up the “animal” tarot card right after mentioning my last dog was in the room with us? And do I think the details she gave could have been relatable to ANY family really? Or am I, in fact, sold on the science of clairvoyance and will I refuse to make my next career, financial or parenting move without the advice of my personal psychic?

No on both accounts.

Let’s put it this way, I simply feel more affirmed in my beliefs about life after death. I do think she said some things that certainly made me want to jump up and say to the empty space in front of me “What-up Grandma!” I also think there were times where she rambled on about a topic to give me comfort but wasn’t sure whose advice this was, my Great Aunt Elva’s… or hers.

However, I also think that even if the connections we made were for real (and, seriously, I think they were), I also think there is certainly a human factor influencing the reading. The Medium seemed to put her own bias or interpretation on what she was getting at times. And, of course, so did I. When she said a grandmother was mentioning “The Flintstones” being connected to a male name, the Medium kept thinking Barney or Fred or something to do with stones – and we left confused. We had had no idea what this meant. But later, as I was falling asleep last night, I remembered my father’s nickname growing up had been “Rock”. Have I made a leap here? Or was this the reference my grandmother was trying to make? The Medium interpreted that information one way and I interpreted it another. The human factor is unavoidable. So if you are able to interpret the diffused information correctly and glean its meaning, then a reading like this might work for you. If you are expecting to sit down and get a direct Skype link to your parent on the other side and chat about what you’re making for dinner, then don’t bother. That’s not how it works.

Finally, I will leave you with a few tips that she gave me. Take them for what you will, but I will only ask that you keep an open mind about this world around you. Our limited five senses do a fair job picking up the empirical information we receive. But just as we miss seeing certain levels of light or we miss hearing certain ranges of sound, we should only expect that we may not perceive all the various forms of energy around us everyday.

Tips for reaching out to your own passed on, however still pantsless, Uncle Bill:

  • A person’s spirit still keeps the same personality on the other side that they had here. The louder family members always tend to come through first.
  • If a family member was skeptical of Mediums or psychic readings on this side, they will be on the Other side – so don’t expect them to come through very quickly if at all.
  • If you are open to signs and communication from your loved ones, they will very often work very hard to reach out to you.
  • They often reach us through electricity since they are energy also.
  • If you are open to communicating with the other side, expect to receive messages from loved ones of your skeptical friends.
  • Animals pass on also and visit often.
  • There is no pain, worry, guilt or unhappiness on the other side. Our loved ones are able to resolve their troubles after death.

SO. Yeaaaah. If my more skeptical readers haven’t already groaned and Xed out of my blog never to return, I promise, I will try to get back to more meat-n-potatoes and less hocus pocus in the future, for now. (Hey, at least I DID catch up with some more relatives, however unexpected, this vaca after all.) Thanks for reading and we will now resume our normally scheduled blogging and vacation activities.  I’m off to set up the slip-n-slide.


Filed under Clairvoyance, Deep thoughts, Medium readings, Relatives, Signs, Spirituality, Thinking outside the box

My French Fry Fuel Fix

OK folks, I think I have the answer. I think I can solve all our expensive gas woes. I honestly have NO idea why anyone hasn’t thought of this before. And I should know, being entirely uneducated in car design, or the business of running and fueling one. But hear me out. I am telling you, THIS is the answer we have been looking for.

The first step is a bit tricky. My plan requires that we run our cars on straight vegetable oil. Yeah, I know. Not exactly the quick fix you were hoping for. This step requires that we either buy cars with diesel engines (um, ok, those are super easy to find) and convert them, or buy cars already primed for biodiesel that would run entirely on vegetable oil (again, just as easy to find – but that could change with enough demand).

Now, here’s the step I am most excited about. Where do we get the bio-diesel easily? Obviously this is an infrastructure issue. We have gas stations on every corner. But we don’t have vegetable oil stations on every corner. But you know what we DO have on every corner? McDonalds! They are probably MORE common than gas stations! And can you even IMAGINE the kind of vegetable oil they go through and toss out? All we need to do is get Mickey D’s in on the plan. They just need to work it out with the bio-diesel experts and design some sort of fancy schmancy fuel pump that will process, clean and recycle their oil so that it is ready made for any bio-diesel car that runs on pure vegetable oil coming through the drive through. Do you have the visual yet? “I’ll have a big mac, a small fry and fill ‘er up.” All for $10! Brilliant, no? So, your car will smell like McDonalds. That’s a heck of a lot better than your car smelling like the regular unleaded it does now.

Ok, so I am suuuuure there are a thousand holes that someone can poke in this plan. Plus, there needs to be a huge, guaranteed demand for a new fuel system – as outside the box as this one – to actually succeed. Mega corporations across the board need to work together to make something like this move forward. Consumers need to be mentally ready: they need to trust that this will work, they have to be on board with a massive overhaul, and they need to truly understand that the gas we know and hate right now is NOT the best fuel for our cars.

And it would certainly not surprise me if the oil companies did everything in their power to undermine a massive change such as this one. You and I both know that they sit smugly in their secret lairs, with their Mr. Bigglesworth kitties on their laps, cackling evil cackles and pushing buttons to up the price of gas everywhere. After being so used to running the universe, I am SURE they’d be a bit miffed if they lost business.

But here’s my bottom line really. This idea may be impossible on many levels (I’m not sure which levels but what clue do I have) and I get that. But if we don’t start thinking up crazy ideas like this soon… if we don’t start taking our fuel crisis seriously and stop assuming “oh it will get better, gas will get cheaper, we’ll be fine”… we will never find a dependable, renewable source of energy to run our cars. Folks, being concerned about fossil fuel consumption is not for hippies and earthy crunchy types ANY longer. (Check out today’s article on MSNBC to prove my point.) THINK, people. We need to come up with something – FAST.

Until we get an alternative source of fuel and we can escape the choke hold of our current gas guzzling, money eating, gross emissions spewing, rattletraps we all own and curse, I will fantasize that one day, the car I drive, smells exactly like one ginormous french fry. Please pass the ketchup – let’s go get a clue.


Filed under bio-diesel, Cars, Economy, Gas, Getting green, Renewable energy, Thinking outside the box