Holiday Gift Registry?

Gift registries are generally associated with weddings and baby showers, but now that the holiday season is gleaming on the not-so-distant horizon, I starting thinking …

How would you feel about revamping the annual wish-list notion by incorporating a registry?

Before you balk, let me introduce you to a brilliant new twist on the traditional registry idea:


Catchy handle aside, SoKind really does get right to the heart of generosity. This online service encourages the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand goods, experiences, volunteer assistance, and other genuinely valuable offerings.

What’s not to love?

Parents, in particular, often search for ways to inspire family and friends to give their kids less stuff.

(You know how all of the plastic toys can pile up!)


Photo by Kannanshanmugam, Shanmugamstudio, Kollam via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes, though, it can be tricky to request specific gifts—especially, ahem, from certain relatives—without seeming picky or ungrateful.

And, let’s face it—it can be stressful for loved ones to try and track down gifts with more meaning.

SoKind offers an eloquent means of requesting gifts and, in turn, expressive alternatives to the ho-hum default (read: gift cards).

“What gifts do you truly want?” asks SoKind. “Music lessons? Homemade dinners? A museum membership? Babysitting help? Donations to your favorite charity? Through SoKind, you can register for gifts of time, experience, and skill, as well as traditional material gifts and secondhand items. The registry is entirely customizable, so the possibilities are endless!”

This novel registry would also be a terrific tool for office celebrations, don’t you think?

Here’s the gist of how SoKind works:

  1. Fuel up on inspiration for gift ideas you and your family might enjoy at SoKind gift ideas and sample registries.
  2. Create your own registry, including as much information as possible for gift buyers. For instance, if you want only locally made products, you can add this to your description.
  3. Share your registry with family and friends by sending personalized announcements. SoKind keeps track of what gifts have been given and who signed up for each (or, you can keep it anonymous if you prefer to be surprised).
  4. When it’s all said and done, you can send thank you e-cards through SoKind, too.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This is a great idea and it opens so many more meaningful possibilities for gift giving at all occasions! I love the organization and how it makes everything simple and straightforward.

  2. Terry Steinmetz says:

    I love this idea!

  3. Kim Platt says:

    I agree! This is wonderful!

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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Little friend to keep the rats away!! We have a big black snake. Now living in our front landscape and sometimes he likes to sun on the front porch steps. I consider him a big friend seeing as we have lots of tree rats in the city in Florida. They are natural to the habitat here but they will get into your bird seed and and sheds if you don’t put up barriers to keep them out. But a nice big hungry black snake is a great natural solution!!

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Zombie Farm Invasion

Hooligan Houlihan got creative beyond her usual crafty self. Possessed!




Saralou_HalloweenHere’s how she did it:

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    The scariest thing about these faces is that as a surgical nurse, I have seen faces like these or worse come to us from the ER as trauma victims for many hours of surgical repair!!!

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Story of STUFF

Six years ago, Annie Leonard released The Story of Stuff, a compelling 20-minute video in which Leonard illustrated the vicious cycle of unbridled consumerism from factory to daily life to landfill.


Photo courtesy of

“We have a problem with Stuff,” Leonard declared. “We use too much, too much of it is toxic, and we don’t share it very well. But that’s not the way things have to be. Together, we can build a society based on better, not more; sharing, not selfishness; community, not division.”


Photo courtesy of


It was a brief animated statement that became a movement (500,000 worldwide members and counting).

Soon, there were more movies—stories of bottled water, cosmetics, electronics, and so on.

While each video addressed ideas for working toward happy endings, Leonard just released a fabulous finale to her “stuff” series that hits the cumulative nail on the head:

The Story of Solutions.

“In what I call the ‘Game of More,’ politicians cheer a steadily growing economy at the same time as our health indicators are worsening, income inequality is growing, and polar icecaps are melting,” writes Annie Leonard in this month’s issue of YES! Magazine. “But what if we changed the point of the game? What if the goal of our economy wasn’t more, but better—better health, better jobs, and a better chance to survive on the planet? Shouldn’t that be what winning means? That’s the question I ask in my new movie.”

Leonard points us to the plastic packaging problem as a case in point.

“Game of More” solutions include initiatives that reward people with gift cards to buy things if they recycle plastic bags and containers. Sounds like a nice idea, but think about it: This strategy really just encourages a “more is better” economy.

Leonard proposes new solutions such as campaigns that are trying to ban plastic packaging. “By volunteering their time, these citizens are declaring that there’s something more important to them than just earning and spending more,” she explains. “To win this campaign, these citizens are going to have to team up with forward-thinking businesses offering alternatives to throwaway plastic packaging.”

Changing the goal of the entire economy—from more to better—is a monumental undertaking. Annie Leonard doesn’t deny it.

“We can’t do it all at once. But I argue that by focusing on game-changing solutions, we can steadily build an economy that values things like safer, healthier, and more fair as much as we currently value faster, cheaper, and newer,” she says.

Take nine minutes to hear more of Leonard’s spot-on logic (seriously spot-on—I love this woman) in the Story of Solutions video, below:


  1. Elizabeth says:

    Although I can’t listen to the video right now (it’s still a bit too early for the rest of the household:-) I wholeheartedly agree with the concept.

    “We use too much, too much of it is toxic…” Yes, I do so agree, case in point. Yesterday I went to the grocery store & bought 2 new (generic store brand) toothbrushes. When I cracked open & peeled back the new plastic toothbrush packaging, out wafted a horrendous odor…I’ll liken this smell to formaldehyde.

    The smell was nauseating & I could hardly imagine using this toxic (so called) oral cleaning device. But I gave it the old college try after I thoroughly washed the TB in hot water with soap & then soaked it in peroxide. It’s still impossible to use these TB’s for anything other than cleaning…?…to be honest, the smell is so horriffic, I can’t even imagine using them for cleaning toilets. Why bother making products that are so dangerous to those who make them (can you imagine what that factory must smell like) & certainly not safe for someone to use orally? It’s such a waste of energy, funds & time as well.

    • Ruth says:

      I’m appalled to find that almost all toothbrushes are from China, and that would explain your experience. I read labels and try to avoid as much as I can that’s been imported from China – who is getting a bad rap here, but I’m sorry, it’s deserved! Read the labels on your toothpaste – last time I could find only one brand and type that was labeled “made in USA.”

      • Jean Sikes says:

        Some one commented on the fact that they could not find toothpaste made in the U.S. My son is a truck driver and was sent to Texas to pick up a load that had come from Mexico. It was a truckload of toothpaste! After that I began looking for a toothpaste that was manufactured in the U. S. I, also, found only one. Read your labels carefully folks. Most everything says “distributed in the U.S.” NOT “made in the U.S.”

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    You cannot argue one point that is pointed out! Here in the US , the cheap availability of food and goods has just fed us into a stuff gluttony of over consumption. People are now hooked on stuff simply because it is so readily available , including easy credit card abuse. Changing this trend will require much insight and work from each one of us.

  3. Wow, brilliant! Everyone in the USA has and buys too much stuff. After having traveled to over 5 continents, I have seen what most people own and have and it’s so little. Yet most of them are happy. And the ones who are in need, we need to provide for. Like safe drinking water, a way to grow their own food and education for their children.
    When I talk to local people about what they do for fun or with their spare time, the answer is almost always : shopping. This is wrong. This is the number one way they are spending time with their kids too. Double wrong.
    It’s time to implement some of the solutions in this great little video. And the big one for me: PRACTICE GRATITUDE for all that you have.

  4. Pingback: Holiday Gift Registry? | Raising Jane Journal

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While we’re on the subject of board games

(if you’re scratching your head, visit my recent Farming Game entry to catch up),

Classic Monopoly fans may—or may not—enjoy this twist on tradition:


Photo courtesy of Big Hope via Co.Exist

That’s right: Commonopoly.

While countless Monopoly spin-offs have flooded the market in recent years, none is quite like this one.

Not only is it basically a DIY game (check out playing instructions on the Big Hope website), but it also scraps the whole notion of monopolization altogether.

But, wasn’t that the point?

Not anymore.

“Commonopoly demands that players brainstorm alternative economic systems through activities placed around the board,” explains Sydney Brownstone of Co.Exist. “The players move counter clockwise, as per the instructions, and subsequent creative acts are to be documented in booklets later distributed to the public. Much of the game focuses on coming up with ideas for public spaces, as well as sharing home remedies for common ailments.”

Bringing social consciousness into a game built on power play?

I’m game!





  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I like this idea! So 21st Century oriented and a great way to get people thinking about today’s issues and challenges. Oh the long hot summer hours in basements where Monopoly reigned as a #1 favorite! I always wanted the little iron! What was your favorite?

  2. The little battleship- Im a Navy brat and although my father was a naval pilot, the little battleship was as close as I could get to him.

    By the way, some friends got a version in Italian with Rome as the city, not Atlantic City. Since I was the only one who knew any latin and some Italian , I got to do the translating. We spent an entire summer learning Italian from that game.

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Stranger than Fiction?

If you enjoyed my post on the Little People Project, you’ll love this.

First, feast your gaze on these gorgeous landscape photos:


Photos courtesy of


Photos courtesy of


Photos courtesy of


Photos courtesy of

Rivers in flood, erupting volcanoes, coral reefs, Northern Lights … the moon??

This photographer must really get around!
Continue reading

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Yep, I was fooled too! Amazing art!

  2. Connie-killarney says:

    All I can say is Wow!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Debbie says:

    Yep, fooled here too.. amazing, truly!

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How fun is this?


Photo courtesy of Back to the Roots ( via Co.Exist (

It’s a fish tank,

it’s a garden,

it’s …


This newfangled countertop-gardening gizmo has the “neat-o” market cornered.


Photo courtesy of Back to the Roots (

In a nutshell, it’s a self-cleaning fish tank that grows food.


None. All you do is feed the fish.


Nope. It’s soil-free (the plants grow in clean pebbles).

Um … smell?

Not a whiff except for the sweet scents of flourishing herbs and greens. (Almost sounds too good to be true.)

So, how does it work?

“This closed-loop eco-system uses the fish waste to naturally fertilize the plants above,” explain Aquafarm’s inventors. “In turn, the plants clean the water for your pet fish.”

The ready-to-grow kit, which is made in California and sells for about $60, includes everything you need to get started, from organic seeds to fish food, and you also get a discount coupon for your first fish from Petco.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?


Photo courtesy of Back to the Roots


Photo courtesy of Back to the Roots

Kids and Christmas!


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Finally, the answer to the office desk top Beta fish tank that never gets cleaned and gets way too disgusting to imagine! Beta fish will now have a perfect environment and those sterile cubbies will get an upgrade with nice green plants. Plus, I bet it will be like a little Zen space to let your eyes wander to when the last phone call was over the top! Perfect for classrooms too! This is a great learning tool and the answer to a pet for apartment dwellers!! I hope lots of kids get one for Christmas!!

  2. Corri Riebow says:

    We have two betas….I think I need a couple of these!!!

  3. Thayes Hower says:

    I think the idea is a really good one, but the price tag!

  4. Karlyne says:

    How about “Gramma and Christmas”? I’d love a couple of these!

  5. Nancy says:

    Have hesitated to get a fish tank, seeing all the work two of my sons have with theirs. What a great idea! I have not had good luck trying to grow herbs in the house and this sure sounds like a “win-win” item. Now where do I find this to order one!

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Fixing Food Waste

Hot on the heels of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s examination of misleading “sell by” dates on food, Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s, announces his plans to open a restaurant that sells expired food.

Before you cringe with thoughts of The Gleaner’s Kitchen, consider Rauch’s reasoning.

(Rest assured, there is no dumpster-diving involved.)

Dubbed “The Daily Table,” his restaurant will serve foods that have passed their “sell by” dates but are still perfectly safe.


Photo by (Clagett Farm CSA Week 10), CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

He told NPR, “It’s the idea about how to bring affordable nutrition to the underserved in our cities. It basically tries to utilize this 40 percent of food that is wasted. This is, to a large degree, either excess, overstocked, wholesome food that’s thrown out by grocers, etc. … at the end of the day because of the sell-by dates. Or [it’s from] growers that have product that’s nutritionally sound, perfectly good, but cosmetically blemished or not quite up for prime time. [So we] bring this food down into a retail environment where it can become affordable nutrition.”

When asked how much of a problem he thinks it will be to sell this idea to the public, Rauch said, “Well, we’ll see, won’t we? I think that the issue here is really how you talk about it and how you educate … Most of what we offer will be fruits and vegetables that have a use-by date on it that’ll be several days out.”

Listen to NPR’s interview with Doug Rausch here, and share your thoughts:



  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I love this! The national obesity awareness from Ms. Obama has shown where inner cites are fresh produce deserts. Poor people don’t even have any access to healthy food choices within their immediate communities so how are they supposed to eat healthier? Mr. Rauch’s project is desperately needed and I hope it is 100% successful and grows exponentially!!

  2. Pingback: Love Letter to Food | Raising Jane Journal

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Shower Ideas

How many dazzling ideas have dawned on you …


Photo by Greg L., CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


in the shower?

I’ve had more than I can count,

and I can almost always count on coming up with something creative any time I step into that

“stream” of consciousness.

But, why?

What is it about a shower that sends us into sudden throes of genius?

Is it the water?

The warmth?

The privacy, perhaps?

Actually, the shower phenomenon has a little to do with all of those things, which collectively culminate in a sweet state of distraction that illuminates thoughts often overshadowed by the daily grind.

“The shower is the perfect place to cook up big ideas,” explains Mental_Floss. “Research shows that we most often hit creative epiphany while doing super monotonous tasks like exercising or showering. Because these sorts of everyday ritual tasks don’t take up much brain space as you’re doing them (unlike working or investing in a good book), your mind is freed up to wander.”

According to Dr. Shelley Carson, author of Your Creative Brain, “Highly creative people share one amazing trait—they’re easily distracted. And that’s the beauty of a warm shower. It distracts you. It makes you defocus. It lets your brain roam. It activates your DMN (default mode network) and encourages wacky ideas to bounce around. So when the lather rinses off, your light bulb switches on.”

I would bet that businesses have been started, books have begun, and great projects have launched in showers around the globe.

Not to mention some super funny songs:

Dare to share your shower epiphanies?

Do tell!


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    i cannot think of any good epiphanies in the shower , but I have had some much needed cries@!

  2. Lisa says:

    The shower is where I do a lot of thinking, problem solving, planning the next day’s tasks, & like Winnie, had a few good cries.

  3. Megan says:

    Me too ladies, me too. 🙂

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