Baby showers have become something of a rite of passage. In 2017 alone, the United States welcomed 3,853,472 babies, and many of them were preceded by baby showers. While some people decline to have a baby shower for every one of their upcoming children, most have a baby shower in preparation for their first newborn. And it usually falls to either a family member or best friend to take care of the planning. But they aren’t the only ones who tend to stress out about what to do ahead of the shower. The burden of buying a nice gift falls to all the invitees — and though registries can certainly help you get an idea of what the expectant parents want or need, it can still be a struggle to find the right gift, especially if all the registry ideas have been taken or if you’re looking for something unique.

Of course, it helps if the baby shower in question has something of a theme. Lots of secplanners find it much easier to plan a baby shower if they do so with a theme, which is part of why themed baby showers have become more popular. For that matter, many are now combining this pursuit with the knowledge that we should all be more environmentally conscious. Nobody wants to throw a party that’s only going to contribute to the general waste and pollution issues that we’re dealing with as a society at the moment. Therefore — even if the baby shower you’re attending doesn’t have the theme of “eco-friendliness” you may very well want to buy an environmentally friendly gift. This will be especially true if you’re buying for someone who has an interest in going green, and raising their baby in as sustainable a manner as possible. With that being said, let’s look into some of the most eco friendly baby gifts on the market.

1. Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers used to be the norm. Everyone used them, no matter what their station in life, though of course they ranged in design. Once disposable diapers hit the market, they seemed to be much easier — you don’t have to worry about washing them, and you can easily have them out of sight and out of mind. Nowadays, we know that disposable diapers are negatively affecting the environment, contributing to landfills. For that matter, it’s rather expensive to keep buying disposable diapers over time, especially if you end up having multiple children. Cloth diapers are not only more sustainable and eco-friendly — they also save parents money, even if they’re initially more expensive. There’s sometimes a learning curve to dealing with washable cloth diapers versus disposable diapers, but parents learn to handle them over time. For that matter, they’re often better for babies with sensitive skin. You can easily buy a pack of cloth diapers online; after all, following China’s ecommerce market of $672 billion, the U.S. has the second-largest ecommerce market in the world, coming in at $340 billion. It ensures that you can find almost anything online!

2. Sustainable Baby Brush Sets

While newborns may not seem to need a brush set — with some having no hair at all on their heads upon birth — they’ll need them over time. When a baby’s hair, no matter how fine, is regularly combined and brushed, not only do they avoid tangles and stay clean, they also avoid cradle cap on the scalp. Of course, you would be better off buying a sustainable brush and comb set. Try buying those that are made from beechwood, with pressed-in bristles rather than those that are glued on. You shouldn’t have to look hard for these, as wooden brush sets are much more attractive than plastic sets — and with retail sails in the U.S. hitting $5.7 trillion in 2017, there are plenty of varieties to choose from.

3. Reusable Food Pouches

If you’re buying for a new parent who prioritizes the environment, it’s very likely that they’ll want to try their hand at homemade baby food. One gift idea would, of course, be a recipe book full of homemade baby food recipes. But you’ll also want to consider buying reusable baby food pouches. Not only do these pouches work for premade baby food, cutting down on waste when there are leftovers, but they’re perfect for homemade concoctions. Of course, you’ll want to look for those that are free of BPA, PVC, and lead phthalate. This way, the new parents will be able to conveniently store food without worrying about their baby’s health.

4. Organic Baby Blankets

Every baby needs a blanket — but not all baby blankets were created equally. Some are not as gentle on the skin as others and are made of products that are not sustainable. You should look for organically made baby blankets, ideally made from 100% cotton and otherwise recyclable materials, as well as low-impact dyes and natural silk. Luckily, many such blankets are currently being made — and they’re as attractive as they are safe. When choosing between baby blankets, of course, you’ll want to make sure that the materials the blankets are made of are hypoallergenic as well; keep in mind that any allergies the parents have could potentially be inherited by the baby.

No matter what gifts you buy, try to make sure that you aren’t duplicating anything from other guests. For that matter, while you’re buying eco-friendly, you should also prioritize what the expectant parents want and need, versus what you think you would want. With that in mind, you’re sure to find the right present!

Yes, you read the title correctly. This couple grows custom furniture. The couple, Alice and Gavin Munro, started their farm Full Grown back in 2012 when they became fully dedicated to the business of custom grown furniture. Gavin got started back in 2006 when he first started an attempt to grow a couple of chairs. Now, the company grows chairs, lamps, and tables.

This idea isn’t anything new. Glass mosaics date back to 300 B.C. and, as with numerous forms of art, shaping trees and greenery dates back to ancient times from the Chinese, Japanese, and Romans.

Gavin’s inspiration was two-fold. He was born with a curved spine and, throughout his youth, he spent a significant amount of time wearing a corrective metal brace that was meant to gradually guide his spine into the correct direction. This, combined with seeing a Bonsai tree that resembled a throne sparked his interest in guiding nature into creative shapes.

“Instead of force-growing a tree for 50 years and then cutting it down and making it into smaller and smaller bits, the idea is to grow the tree into the shape that you want directly. It’s a kind of zen 3D printing,” said Gavin.

He also reflected on the care and excellence of the medical staff who helped him at a young age and aims to make Full Grown a place that emulates those behaviors. Of course, guiding nature to grow into particular shapes, namely furniture, is no easy feat. The couple has seen their fair share of disasters, including an initial attempt being stomped by cows and chomped by rabbits.

There’s also the direction of nature to consider. They discovered that forcing a tree in a direction it didn’t want to grow would stunt its growth. Learning this, they discovered the best way to effectively grow things in the right direction was to guide the trees into shapes using their naturally occurring growth patterns/directions.

The main idea of their process of live-sculpting growing trees into furniture is environmental sustainability and one-of-a-kind design. Manufacturers use 30% of the energy in the United States and the furniture industry is a notorious global contributor to logging and deforestation. Lessening environmental impact while providing uniquely beautiful pieces of art that grow naturally is what they’re looking to do.

“You know the damage that we do with forestry. We’re only just starting to really understand that. This is kind of the opposite really, we use ancient techniques that we used in the stone age,” Gavin said.

Still, the furniture growth process is time-consuming, labor-intensive, and more than a little delicate, so the price points are fairly hefty. By 2030, some 20% of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65, but, in a statement about Full Grown back in 2017, author Richard Davies reflected on the words of writer Annie Dillard: How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our time. How we spend our time certainly transcends how much time we spend; something the Munros understand quite well.

The average attention span of online shoppers is eight seconds, but the uniqueness of Full Grown’s products has had no problem grabbing attention across the world from individuals to museums to art and design houses. The pieces to come from the Munros are already commissioned out through 2030, though the first round of ready-to-purchase lamps and chairs will be ready by 2022 or 2023.

After a house and a car, furniture is the third most expensive thing we’ll buy in our lifetimes. This furniture is certainly no exception, but for good reason. They estimate that a grown chair will take between six and nine years to grow, then another year to dry out before being ready to sell. This meticulous of a process has price points to match: lamps range between $1,120 and $2,780, tables between $3,120 and $15,600, and chairs sit just under $12,500.

“Once we can get our Furniture Orchard having regular harvests then we can begin to plan a whole farm and start some larger-scale experiments in production and ecosystem design,” said the Munros.

As nature is ever-moving, so are their plans to bring its beauty to those who would most appreciate it. You can invest in their company and help its future. By purchasing shares, investors will receive payments from the sales of the furniture. They expect that those payments will begin with the first round of furniture that’s ready to sell.

“By buying a share in our chairs, you are investing in 180 increasingly desirable and unique pieces of art and design. At the end of each year when the chairs are harvested and sold, investors will receive payments. We expect payments to begin around 2021-22 and to continue over the following 5-7 years until all the chairs are sold,” said Gavin Munro.

This investment in art, design, sustainability, and an irrefutably unique idea is something that we don’t often see in a lifetime. You can learn more about Full Grown here.

“Nothing’s built to last these days,” says my dad when I explain that I’m on my third vacuum cleaner in five years. Of course, it’s partially my fault for having 20 cats and a bad temper, but I’m not going to tell him that!

Thankfully, there are many options nowadays for dealing responsibly with our broken householdappliances. Simply throwing away your broken appliances is bad for the environment. But the truth is that broken appliances can be extremely difficult to dispose of in a safe manner. The components of many household appliances can contain hazardous materials or gases, and the many countries have strict guidelines governing their disposal. Improper disposal of household appliances is damaging to the environment and
can carry a hefty fine. So, let’s look at some other ways of responsibly dealing with your ailing appliances.

Repair It

Instead of disposing of your appliance, why not have it repaired by a reputable handyman? Many
problems with appliances are minor and the repairs are relatively inexpensive. Why buy a new appliance if the old one just needs a new wire or a simple repair? A company like Service Force, for instance, has more than 500 approved engineers and can offer free quotes online!

Even better, try not to let it get to the broken stage by having your appliance serviced on a regular basis? This may sound like a bit of a lecture, but regularly servicing and looking after your appliances is the best way to keep them running for years without any major problems. If you put in the effort, you’ll get the extra mileage. It is highly advisable to buy and keep the Highest Rated Power Tool Combo Kits at home as they are extremely handy and as they can even be used often at home for the smallest of repairs. Good bench grinder is a reasonable investment as well.

Recycle It

Many household appliances have some parts that can be recycled. The downside? This involves not just knowing what materials make up the parts, but and having a lot of time on your hands to dismantle the appliance piece by piece. This suggestion won’t be practical for the vast majority of people, but it’s worth mentioning if you’re the type who likes taking things apart.

Return It

Many manufacturers have a system for the return and/or proper disposal of their products. Call the manufacturer of your appliance and find out if they run such a program or if they can recommend a local disposal center. Beware, however, that the cost of returning the item could be very expensive depending on the type and size of appliance. Find out if their return program includes free return shipping or local pickup.

Sell It

We are talking about broken or outdated appliances here, but you might be surprised how many people are interested buying your old junk! Of course, many of people who would be interested in buying it are also people who may know a thing or two about the appliance and may be able to salvage it or some of the parts for repairs. The bottom line: Your junk could be somebody else’s treasure. Post it on Craigslist, the Facebook Marketplace or one of the many apps available for selling local items. You might get lucky.

Donate It

Many organizations repurpose all kinds of old and broken appliances and use them for a good cause. Contact local charities and non-profit organizations to see if they have any use for your broken appliance. Do make sure they understand that the item is not functional and would need to be repaired or used for parts.

So, before you chuck out that broken down microwave or dodgy drier, have a think about the best,
most responsible option before buying new!

I share a lot of photos of my daughter. A lot. And while I do love shooting photos of her because she’s gorgeous, I promise that’s not the only reason I do it. I take hundreds of photos of her every week because she is a brand rep.

If you’re not familiar with the term, a brand rep is a person who represents your brand online by providing high-quality photos wearing or using your products and sharing them with their own followers.

If you are a business owner who is struggling to get high-quality photos of your products, keep reading.

I got Juliza started brand repping about a year ago, and it is very different from the blogging model I was used to. In my previous interactions with brands, unless we had an agreement beforehand or they contracted and paid me, there was never a guarantee that I would post about any products they sent to me. They were taking a chance in hopes that I would, like many brands and businesses do with influencers, or they’d just pay for the privilege if they wanted guaranteed exposure.

Many small businesses can’t afford to send free products to influencers in hopes of getting a social media or blog post in return, or they’re not willing to take that risk. Brand repping removes much of that risk.

How Does Brand Repping Work

Instead of randomly sending product to influencers, brand repping allows brands to form a relationship with a rep, or even a team of reps. And when a rep takes on the responsibility of working with a brand and signs on as an official part of the team, we are promising to uphold our end of the bargain:

Reps get free or steeply discounted products in exchange for high-quality photos of those products in use, and help promoting the brand.

|| PAUSE ||

Before million dollar brands come here thinking that you can get free photos out of folks by employing this model, please understand that the reason this works without a lot of friction is that we are working with small brands. We want to help the small shop community succeed, which is why we are willing to exchange photos for no promise of payment.

If you can afford to pay influencers to work with you, you absolutely should reward them for their time and effort.

How to Get Started

Working with brand reps isn’t rocket science, but there is a right way to approach it. The first thing you should do is head over to Instagram. This is where the majority of the brand rep community lives, and it is the best place to find reps to work with your brand, as you can easily see from their feeds whether their photography style fits your needs.

Start by searching hashtags for reps:
#brandrep  |  #brandreppin  |  #brandrepsearch  |  #repsearch

Need a step-by-step guide?

I’ve got you covered. I took the time to write a comprehensive eBook guide for small shops and brands who are looking to work with brand reps to get amazing photos that will help you grow. And it’s a steal compared to the hundreds or even thousands of dollars you’d spend hiring a photographer.

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For just $24.95, you get:

  • A breakdown of all the tiers of brand repping, and why all reps are not made equal
  • A step-by-step guide to hosting a rep search, so reps will come to you
  • Details on several other ways to find reps, if you don’t want to do a search
  • Guidance on picking a team that will help you grow
  • A guide to writing a rep contract, including a sample contract

This is an introductory price that is only available for a limited time! Compare that to $100+ or even $1000+ to hire a photographer.

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Still need convincing?

Take another look at the photos in this blog post. I shot every single one for my daughter’s role as a brand rep. The brands represented get to use these amazing photos on their social media pages and websites to help sell their products. There are tons of other reps out there with similar or better photography skills.

A post shared by Juliza Ann (@julizaann) on

The photo above recently went viral, and as a result, the brand received tons of interest in her clothing and new conversions.

If you are struggling to get sales for your small brand because your photos are less than stellar, building a team of brand reps is a great way to get amazing images for a low cost. What are you waiting for?

Buy the guide for just $24.95 and save hundreds!

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I’m a sucker for good design. What can I say? I love products that are functional, obviously, but if they can also serve up a good dose of form, I’m sold. Many baby products are heavy on function, but leave a lot to be desired in the design department. This is why I love Urbini. We having been using their Omni travel system since Juliza was an infant, and we still use the stroller to corral her on outings that will involve a lot of walking — or a lot of shopping. So when Walmart asked me to review the Urbini Turni travel system, I was excited to give another one of their products a try.


The Turni system includes a Sonti infant car seat with a base, and a full-size stroller. Juliza is too big to sit comfortably in the car seat these days, but she was happy to pretend for the camera.


You can see that her head is right at the top of the car seat because she’s so tall. Anyway, there are some features of the car seat that I really like. First, the base is easy to install with a seat belt or the LATCH belt system. It literally took a minute to get it strapped into our van. Compared to the pulling and tugging I had to do to install Juliza’s current convertible car seat, it was a breeze. And the car seat snaps in easily and slides out with the pull of a handle.

The seat itself is well padded and offers adjustable straps that can move as baby grows. It can accommodate baby up to 35 lbs. While Juliza hasn’t reached the weight limit yet, her height means that she’s definitely more comfortable in a bigger seat.

As such, the stroller is what I was really looking forward to trying. Our previous Omni system had a unique setup. The car seat and stroller seat snap into a free-standing frame separately. The Turni has a more traditional configuration, with the car seat, sans base, designed to sit on top of the stroller.


Speaking of the stroller — I was not anticipating having to put it together. It came out of the box in several pieces, with the wheels and seat bar requiring installation.


For the front wheels, that was really easy. They just snapped into place. The rear wheels were a bigger challenge, though. One wheel came attached to the axle with a place to attach the second. To do that, I had to first remove a washer and “hairpin” in place on the empty end of the axle, slip the wheel on, then replace the washer and hairpin. Removing the hairpin was a challenge, requiring a bit of elbow grease and coordination, but slipping the wheel and washer onto the axle was easy enough. The biggest problem, though, was replacing the hairpin. I fought with it for 15 minutes easy, and it slipped out of my hands a few times and flew across the room. Which meant I had to spend another 10 minutes on my hands and knees on the carpet trying to find it.

Finally, I slipped a flathead screwdriver through the middle to open it a bit before putting it on. That helped just enough to let me slide it into place grudgingly. I almost gave up, and my thumb was sore for a full day afterward from trying to install it. Not fun, and I hope that there’s a way to make this easier in the future. Once it was finally in place though, attaching the rear axle to the stroller was simple.

All of that aside, I really like this stroller. My little one can sit forward- or rear-facing, and making that switch is really easy. I just have to push a button at the top of the seat and slide it into the position I want. I LOVE this feature! No. Really. The reversible shade can work either way, and it is huge with a ton of coverage.


Juliza was only too happy to try the new stroller, but she was a teensy tiny bit (read: very, very) mad that I took her out to try the rear-facing position.


In spite of her unhappiness at being told what to do — because toddler — I really love the ease of switching seat positions and the fact that I can have her facing me in situations when she gets overwhelmed by the environment.

The only feature I really miss from the Omni stroller is the adjustable handle. My husband is quite a bit taller than I am, and my oldest daughter is shorter. We really miss not being to adjust the stroller handle to a more comfortable position for our varying needs.

Juliza found the height perfect, though, since pushing is her favorite way to use a stroller. SMH.


Overall, the stroller is really easy to open and collapse, offers a comfortable and smooth ride, and has a cupholder for Juliza AND for me. That last detail matters. Trust me. The rear-facing seat can also lay all the way back and convert to a bassinet for small babies who are sleeping. The bassinet feature of the Omni system came in really handy for us when Juliza would fall asleep while we were out and about, so I can vouch for the usefulness of this faeture.

At $179, its an affordable travel system that offers great design, functionality and comfort. I’m really loving the Urbini aesthetic.


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When I was pregnant with baby Juliza, there were a few things that I knew I would need, without a doubt, to get us through the first few months relatively unscathed. Thankfully, I come with built-in boobs, and diapers and burp cloths were given by friends and family. But I also knew we’d need blankets and swaddles to keep baby comfortable and secure. I’ve always loved the soft, lightweight feel of muslin blankets, but with tons to buy for a new baby, they were a bit cost-prohibitive.

Now, one of the most popular makers of muslin blankets, crib sheets and swaddles, aden + anais, is offering a new, affordable line at Walmart. I recently got a chance to try out some of the new Ideal Baby products, and I was not disappointed.


At first touch, muslin fabric may feel like it’s too thin to really be effective, and it doesn’t have any stretch. What I’ve found, though, is that it is super soft and comfortable against the skin, and it stays warmer than I expected, even during colder winter nights. Plus, the fabric is really breathable, so it won’t keep baby hot when swaddled.

Juliza is way too big to be swaddled these days, but I did get to try an Ideal Baby crib sheet and hooded towel.


The sheets come in fun patterns, but we chose the Pretty Sweet pattern, featuring hearts and a great pink and turquoise color scheme. Baby Juliza is not a fan of being in her crib, for the most part. But when I put this sheet on her mattress, she spent a few minutes just sitting there rubbing the fabric. Apparently, she thinks it’s really soft.

I was concerned that the thin fabric would be cold when I put her down after nursing her at bedtime. Because of this concern, I usually cover her sheet with a blanket tightly wrapped around and under her mattress, so I never have to put her down on a cold surface. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the muslin wasn’t cold at all.


We also tried a hooded bath towel. I thought she might be too big for it, but it’s the perfect size for bath time — or for playing pretend with a “cape”. It is made of terry cloth with muslin on the hood, and it is soft and supple. Plus, it feels like the type of fabric that will only get softer after a wash. I can’t say for sure that this is the case, but that’s how it feels.


But by far the best part of these high-quality muslin products is the pricing. The sheets are just under $13, the towels are $9.99 apiece, and you can get a 3-pack of swaddles for just $20.

Next time I have to buy a baby gift, these are definitely going to be on my list.

Disclosure: I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Influence Central for Sprint. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.


Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of being a Sprint Ambassador, which means I’ve gotten to test a variety of devices powered by their network. I have been really pleased with the quality of the service, and I never experienced dropped calls or areas where there was no signal. If you’ve been considering a switch, I can honestly say that I’ve been happy with the service.

And now, Sprint is giving you an even bigger reason to switch: To celebrate launch of their new, faster LTE Plus network, Sprint is offering a whopping 50 percent off the price of most Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile rate plans.

That’s right. You’ll pay just half of what you would’ve with other carriers, on a network that promises to be faster than Verizon and AT&T. New customers can get a phone via Sprint Lease, iPhone Forever, installment billing, or they can pay full retail price. The offer is available for new customers who sign up through January 7, 2016, and the 50% off rate will continue until January 2018. Get more information about the offer.

Need another reason to consider Sprint? How about a giveaway?

Win 1 of 2 Sprint Phones!


Sprint has graciously provided me with two devices to give away to my loyal readers. One winner will take home the HTC Desire 626s from Sprint Prepaid, shown above. It has a 5-inch HD touchscreen display, runs Android™ 5.1, Lollipop, and includes an 8-megapixel, rear-facing camera. Sprint Prepaid monthly plans don’t require a contract, and they include unlimited data, talk and text. Mobile Hotspot is included on select devices.


The second winner will take home Sprint’s HTC One A9, shown above. This Google Android phone comes with a fingerprint scanner, which can be combined with Android Pay to make online shopping as easy as one click, along with a 13MP rear camera with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) to reduce shake. It is also one of the few smartphones with an expandable microSD™ memory slot, and it comes with Google’s Now on Tap feature, which allows you to look up more information about whatever is one your screen. For example, you could look up reviews for a movie your best friend texted you about, listen to a song mentioned in a blog post, or book a restaurant reservation from an email.

Want to win? Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below! The entry period closes Jan. 1 at 12:00 a.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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My oldest daughter is a builder. She loves to take things apart and put them back together, or build things with pipe cleaners and tape, including huge elaborate blanket forts with multiple rooms, and doors and windows. I’m not exaggerating.

So when Walmart offered to send me a GoldieBlox play set, I knew she’d be overjoyed to play with a toy designed to encourage the part of her brain that loves to build. Plus, this feminist mama was only too happy to have her play with toys that were invented to empower girls.


She chose the GoldieBlox Girl Inventor Zipline Action Figure, because zipline.

It took Ja’Naya all of 15 minutes to put the zipline carriage together, and another 5 to memorize the process so she could do it again (and again) without the help of the instructions. That can be explained by the fact that it is designed for kids ages 4 and up, so at 10, she was able to grasp it quickly and retain the information.



The best part, of course, was letting the Goldie fly. And a week in, baby Juliza’s new favorite phrase is “Want dolly fly!”



My two girls have been having so much finding different places to anchor the zipline at different levels of slackness and different inclines, and they’ve even tried to make Goldie land in baskets and bags when she reaches the end of the line. The line has suction cups at the ends, and they’ll stick to glass and metal, but it can also be tied off to an anchor point if necessary.

It’s hard to capture a photo of the action, so here’s a very quick video of Goldie doing her thing:

Ja’Naya has grown a little bored with the build process because it is relatively simple, but she has asked for more GoldieBlox toys so she can build her collection of parts, allowing her to use her imagination to create whatever she wants. She tried making other stuff from the parts included in this set, but there aren’t very many, so there wasn’t much she could make.

Thankfully, Walmart does have other GoldieBlox sets, including a Builder’s Survival Kit with a ton of parts that can be mixed and matched. So on Christmas morning, Ja’Naya will find another GoldieBlox set from Santa under the tree, and we’ll add to it throughout the year.

And because I’d be remiss if I didn’t say: The age recommendations on these sets are there for a reason. Many of the parts are really small, and while Juliza didn’t attempt to put any in her mouth, she could’ve easily swallowed some of them if she had tried. She did, however, manage to scatter the parts all over the house, and it took us 30 minutes of hunting to find all the little pieces. The next thing we need to find is a box to contain all the pieces.

But we are now huge fans of GoldieBlox, and any kid who is a maker will love them too.