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I’m always looking for practical ways for my family to reduce waste – especially plastic waste. Looking at the big picture and stepping outside what’s convenient is important when trying to reduce our family’s impact on the environment.

The Girls


“Traveling from land to sea in the wind or through waterways, plastic pollution is causing extensive damage to our marine life and giving life to one of the greatest ecological disasters of our times.”

I send my girls to school each day with a homemade lunch. They have reusable lunch bags and reusable containers in multiple sizes. Now, thanks to the amazing folks at StrawSleeves, we have some new additions to the lunchbox.

 StrawSleeves Multi-utensil Pack

This multi-utensil pack is not just handy for tucking in a lunchbox, it can be popped into your purse or tucked in the car for road trips. Bottom line, it’s a convenient way to carry reusable utensils so you don’t have to accept disposable plastic ones.

Lunchbox essentials

StrawSleeves Straw Sleeve

This handy reusable straw holder is made from reclaimed denim. Pictured below with a bamboo and a reed straw from StrawSleeves.

StrawSleeves with lunchbox

From StrawSleeves:

“Bring your own reusable straw in this Cloth Sleeve made to hold and carry almost any design of reusable straws in 8 to 9 inch length. This light denim straw sleeve is made of reclaimed denim in a cotton blend. The design is self lined and triple stitched to ensure durability and stand up to frequent washings. It is machine washable and can also be hand washed. The invisible ‘inner cuff’ holds the straw securely and requires no fasteners. You can easily access and replace your straw in the pocket with each use allowing you to refuse disposable options when offered a single use plastic straw.”

The StrawSleeves site also carries reusable straws, straw cleaning brushes and stainless steel spoon straws. To find out more and purchase your own StrawSleeves products, visit

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I love making to-do lists. Mostly because if I don’t write it down, it usually doesn’t happen. My sister joked recently that her boys call her notebook her “brain.” Maybe it’s hereditary. And since I relish writing things down, I really enjoy a good list of New Year’s Resolutions.

Here’s one of mine for 2017:

Limit screen time for myself and the girls (for real this time)

I’m constantly trying to figure out ways to limit screen time but it always seems to end up back where we started… waaay too much screen time. And, since it seems like all my oldest daughter’s friends have the latest iPhone and all of them participate on all the social media platforms they possibly can, limiting her screen time has gotten harder and harder. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) estimates that our kids “are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.” Yikes!

There are plenty of studies showing a link between too much screen time or poor quality screen time and:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep schedules and shorter duration of sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Loss of social skills
  • Violence
  • Less time for play

And while researching an article I’m writing for Earth911, I learned a lot of disturbing information about those volatile rechargeable lithium ion batteries that are inside those devices that provide all that screen time…

According to Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, lead author of the “Children and Adolescents and Digital Media Technical Report” and assistant professor at UCLA, an average day includes “school, homework time, at least one hour of physical activity, social contact and sleep — which is anywhere from eight to 12 hours for kids. Whatever’s left over can be screen time.” Source:

Instead of taking away screen time, I’m going to try to make ways to encourage non-screen time activities. For example, instead of interacting with a screen, we are going to find more outside activities to do as a family.

Hiking at Shaver Lake


Make more trips to our local library… we have one so close, we can walk to it which is an added bonus.

Visiting the library with cousins

To find out more about Media and Young Minds, visit You can also make a Family Media Use Plan with this helpful tool at


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It’s been waaay too long since my last post! My life has been turned upside down and I’m still trying to catch my breath.

So here’s a quick update:

Right before Christmas 2014, Christopher (husband of My Green Side) was flown to California for a job interview with a radio station in a market significantly higher than the Fargo radio market. They loved him and, while we were in Wisconsin at my family’s farm for Christmas, the negotiations began.

One of my favorite ornaments. Made by Missy

Christmas 2014

It became very clear, very quickly that the Gabriel Family was going to be making a move. Soon the contract was signed, family and friends were told and arrangements were made. If I missed sending a personal note to anyone, I apologize! In my defense, it was a whirlwind trying to get everything done and moved. I wanted to make sure the girls saw everyone they wanted to see before we left so I am beyond thankful that we were able to spend time with a lot of our extended family during Christmas. And, frankly, I’m still getting used to the idea that we’re actually living in California!

CG studio shot

Christopher’s last day on the air at WDAY AM 970 and the girls last day of school in Fargo was January 9th. We then commenced saying goodbyes to dear friends, neighbors, our favorite babysitter, classmates, teachers, doctors… I have tears in my eyes now as I remember all the people I love and miss in that part of the world.

The Hotel Donaldson, Fargo

The moving truck arrived and, on January 16th, we were on our way from Fargo to Fresno. We drove the 2,000 miles to give the girls a chance to see parts of our beautiful country that they had never seen before. The weather was incredible and our mini-vacation was so much fun. Seeing sights like the Rocky Mountains through their eyes is an experience I will always treasure.

Fargo to Fresno mug

Fargo to Fresno mug in NebraskaA frozen waterfall in the Rocky Mountains




On January 22nd, Christopher was on air for the first broadcast of The Christopher Gabriel Program in Fresno, California. On the following Monday the girls started at their new school. The people at their school are lovely and as an added bonus, we are close enough to walk.

Since we’ve been in California, we’ve made multiple trips to the Sierra Nevada’s and Shaver Lake, Monterey and Carmel, Yosemite, Disneyland and gorgeous areas within our own community. We feel extremely blessed to be here and hope to be a positive addition to this area.


Words can’t express how proud I am of Christopher and how he manages to bring his intelligence, sense of humor and humanity to his program each and every day. I hope that talk radio everywhere looks at his model and learns that anyone can scream and yell but it takes a real professional to let everyone be heard with respect and civility. We will never get anything worthwhile done in our homes, in our school or in our government unless we learn to really listen to each other and be respectful no matter which side of an issue you are on. Didn’t we all learn to treat each other the way we want to be treated?

I continue to write for but will not be on Christopher’s program for a Simple Tips for Green Living segment (at least not until we’re all completely settled into our new normal). I am excited to discover what God has in store for this new chapter in my life.

Our neighbor's palm tree

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it ~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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GREEN TIP: Green this year’s back-to-school shopping by reusing last year’s supplies, buying items that contain recycled materials and packing a waste-free lunch.

According to National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2014 Back-to-School Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5 percent from $634.78 last year. Total spending on back to school will drop slightly to $26.5 billion as the survey found there are slightly fewer students in households this summer.

Combined spending for back to school and college is expected to reach $74.9 billion. To find out more information, check out their infographic on this year’s back to school numbers,

Here are some ways to make your back-to-school shopping a little greener while helping you to be below average when it comes to your spending this year:

Back to school

  • Reuse last year’s supplies. Go through the school supplies you already have at home before you hit the stores. Chances are, there are items that you can reuse. Backpacks, lunch boxes, magnets, locks and so on.
  • And while you’re going through your home stash of supplies, don’t throw away unwanted items, gather up extra pens, pencils, rubber bands, paper clips and the like for donation to a local elementary school or to nonprofit organizations that accept school supplies.
  • If there are supplies you have to buy new, make sure the items is made with recycled materials, including paper, backpacks and pencils, etc. Look for pens and pencils made with sustainably harvested wood or recycled content.
  • Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) plastic school supplies. PVC is unique among plastics because it contains dangerous chemical additives. These harmful chemicals include phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins, which can be toxic to your child’s health. Look for PVC-free lunch boxes, binders, backpacks and other school supplies. Download the Center for Health, Environment & Justice’s (CHEJ) Back-to-School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies.
  • Pack a waste-free lunch. Here are some tips from our friends at Litter Free Lunch:
    • Replace brown paper bags with a reusable lunch box or bag (remember to avoid PVC lunch boxes).
    • Swear off plastic bags and use stainless steel food containers.
    • Switch from disposable paper napkins to reusable cloth napkins.
    • Give up the habit of disposable water bottles and replace it with a reusable stainless steel water bottle. If you buy a plastic reusable bottle, make sure it’s BPA-free. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a hormone-disrupting chemical that can impact health at even very low exposures.
    • Skip disposable plastic cutlery and pack a reusable spoons or forks.
    • Save money by avoiding individually wrapped or packaged items like yogurt, cheese, cookies or crackers. Buy larger sizes and pack portions in reusable containers.
  • Organic apples, oranges, bananas and other fruits are healthy additions to any lunch and they come in their own compostable wrapping.
  • Create a weekly meal plan in advance so you can get everything you need in one trip, this will save time, gas money and reduce your carbon footprint. Also, keep a running list of needed items on the fridge, which will help you stay organized to avoid multiple, last-minute car trips.
  • Explore options to safely bike and walk to school or find a classmate willing to carpool.
  • Check thrift stores for reusable school supplies like binders and backpack and back-to-school clothes, giving good-quality, one-of-a-kind fashions a second life.
My Green Side’s web pick of the week:
The Center for Health, Environment & Justice is an organization that provides assistance to grassroots community groups in the environmental health and justice movement. The Center was founded in 1981 by Lois Gibbs, who helped win the relocation of over 900 families from their neighborhood which was contaminated by chemicals leaking from the Love Canal landfill in Niagara Falls, NY. Through this effort, people began to recognize the link between people’s exposures to dangerous chemicals in their community and serious public health impacts.


Visit their blog for insightful conversations about environmental health and justice at and make sure to download the Center’s Back-to-School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies. They also have a convenient pocket-sized guide you can take with you while you’re shopping.

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Looking good doesn’t have to mean exposing your growing baby to toxic chemicals!
Check out these known dangers found in common personal care products as well as the safer alternatives to try while pregnant. Brought to you by the non-profit organization Healthy Child Healthy World, this infographic is a part of their Safer Pregnancy Resources campaign.

To learn more, read their Easy Steps to Safer Pregnancy e-book here and use this interactive resource to learn how reduce exposure to chemical toxins during pregnancy.

Healthy Child infographic

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GREEN TIP: Cut back on screen time. You’ll be setting a good example for your children and saving energy atFargo Air Show the same time.

Screen time includes more than just TV, it’s also watching DVDs, playing video games, texting on your cell or spending time in front of a computer. Experts say that children should get at least 60 minutes of activity or more every day, so limiting screen time makes way for regular physical activity. All of us need to find the balance between screen time and getting enough physical activity so turn off the screens and expand your family’s energy, recharge their minds and improve their health.

Here are some great tips from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation:

  • Know how much screen time you and your children are getting, and then set limits for the entire family. You’ll be amazed how much extra time you “find” when you turn off the electronic devices.
  • Using screen time to reward or punish a child makes it seem more important than it is. Use praise, encouragement and recognition for physical activity, and make screen time a “non-event” in your home.
  • When watching TV at home, do jumping jacks, push ups or crunches during commercial breaks. Set up a stationary bike in the TV room, and encourage kids to move through their favorite shows.
  • Many kids list watching TV as their No. 1 after-school activity. Sometimes, they just need help coming up with other things to do. Have your kids make a “Top 10 List” of after-school activities. Just a few examples include riding bikes, shooting hoops, walking the dog, folding laundry or even helping with dinner. Post the list on the fridge so your kids can check it when they get home.
  • Turn off the TV during mealtime.
  • Take the TVs and computers out of your kids’ bedrooms. Children who have TVs in their rooms spend almost one and a half hours more each day watching them than their peers. Plus, if your kids are in their rooms watching TV, they’re removed from family time.
  • Use the TV to watch a video— whether it’s dancing, tae kwon do or yoga. Put on your sweatbands and have some family fitness time.

This year participate in Screen-Free Week. It’s an annual event in which parents, children, teachers and others across the country turn off screen media (TV, video games, computers, cell phones, etc.) and celebrate the magic of being unplugged. Instead of relying on screens for entertainment, participants read, daydream, explore, enjoy nature and spend time with family and friends.

Did you know:

  • School-age children spend more time with screen media—television, video games, computers, and hand-held devices—than in any other activity but sleeping.
  • Screen media use is at an all-time high among preschoolers—according to Nielsen, young children spend, on average, more than 32 hours a week watching just television.
  • Screen time is habit forming and linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity, poor sleep habits, and attention problems.
  • 64% of children ages 12 to 24 months watch TV and videos for an average of just over 2 hours a day—even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends discouraging screen time for children under 2.

Source: Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood

SCREEN FREE WEEK: May 5th to May 11th, 2014

For more information, visit

Need some more encouragement? Read 5 Reasons You Should Participate in Screen Free Week at The Body Smart Blog and turn off those screens!

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood‘s (CCFC) mission is to support parents’ efforts to raise healthy families by limiting commercial access to children and ending child-targeted marketing. In working for the rights of children to grow up—and the freedom of parents to raise them—without being undermined by corporate interests, CCFC promotes a more democratic and sustainable world.


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I was beyond thrilled to be asked to write another guest post for Dr. Greene’s amazing website, I’m huge fan of Dr. Greene and all the work he’s done for children and for families.

Dr. Alan Greene is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, an Attending Pediatrician at Packard Children’s Hospital, and a Senior Fellow at the University California San Francisco Center for the Health Professions. He’s also the father of four children so he’s well equipped to give real life answers to real life concerns that all parents deal with at home.

Dr. Greene has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal as well as every major parenting publication. He has appeared on CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America – Health, The Dr. Oz Show, and NBC, CBS, and ABC Evening News.

To read my post, Getting Out in Nature, visit

Getting Out in Nature

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I am thrilled to be a guest poster today at The Body Smart Blog.

Brought to you by the Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play (HSBS) — The Body Smart Blog is the place for people interested in early childhood education and development.

Whether you are a Head Start teacher, a parent of a toddler, or a preschool administrator — you will find useful and interesting articles and ideas there. Calls to actions, interviews, activity ideas, book reviews and more — you never know what fun you’ll find at The Body Smart Blog.

Click over to Family Nutrition: Eating Organic on a Budget and check it out.

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The girls and I had a fun field trip this week to the Plains Art Museum. This was our first time visiting the museum and we were so impressed with the space, the exhibits, Cafe Muse and the many knowledgeable staff members.

Our main reason for the visit was to see The Birdhouse Project. Awesome.

Architects sometimes move outside of designing buildings to design objects that meet other needs. During the display of The Birdhouse Project at the Museum from March 4 through 10, architectural students will showcase the design needs of a completely different flock.

Second-year architecture students at NDSU research and interpret the design theory and methodology of a specific Pritzker award-winning architect. Simultaneously, they research the dwelling requirements of their “client” – a particular bird, owl or bat that dwells in a house and is specific to this region. Students then translate the Pritzker architect’s philosophy into the design and construction of an inhabitable house for their chosen bird.

Competition requirements include the creation of a useable house as well as a graphic component with information on the Pritzker Architect and the specific bird/bat/owl.

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by Wendy Gabriel

Sidewalk chalk is one of my favorite things in the world. The girls and I can make hopscotch games, obstacle courses, butterflies, gardens full of berries and chocolate, oceans full of mermaids and seahorses… the only limit is your imagination.

What we remember from childhood we remember forever – permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen. ~Cynthia Ozick

Some of my favorite photos and photo blogs:
Twilight Earth’s Photo Sunday
Mother Nature Sunday Gallery: Beaming Flowers from Love Earth Always
Photo Terri
True to Words’ Friday Photography
Twin Cities Photo Blog


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