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Giveaway: Sustainable Picnic Gear from Mighty Nest

Picnic gear header

Living in a city without even a scrape of outdoor space to call my own means that I have to be extra intentional about certain things like gardening, repainting furniture, and eating outdoors on beautiful days.

For the moment, my gardening ambitions are paused because trying to maintain a community plot during my busiest season is too much right now. To satisfy my furniture refinishing needs, I occasionally turn my living room into a painting studio (with all the windows open wide). And during the most beautiful days of the year, I pack a picnic and head for one of the many green spaces that dot Philadelphia.

lifefactory containers (1)

I have always loved picnicking. I have many happy memories of meals eaten on beaches, in parks, and at battered tables at highway rest stops. The only problem I see with picnics is that sometimes we trade sustainability for convenience, packing disposables that we use just once before tossing them away.

In honor of Earth Day (April 22), Mighty Nest and I have teamed up to bring you some ideas for packing a more sustainable picnic (and we’re giving away a set of this fabulous gear as well. See the end of the post for more details).

plates cups utensils

The first thing to think about when you’re planning a picnic is, what’s the main event? Is the plan to keep things simple, with just sandwiches and some cut-up fruit? A few of these Bee’s Wrap sandwich wraps and a mason jar work just fine!

I often like to bring a grain salad with me on picnics for variety. These tight-sealing Lifefactory containers are a great option for toting all manner of salads, pickles, and carrot sticks. The silicone sleeves make them easy to handle and offer an added layer of protection from bumps and bangs, as well.

If you’re bring salads, you’ll need plates and forks. These stainless steel plates are indestructible and take up very little space in your picnic basket. On the utensil front, these bamboo RePEaT kits can’t be beat. They come with a fork, spoon, knife, and a pair of chopsticks for good measure. I keep at least one set in the car at all times because you just never know when you’ll want a spoon or fork handy. They also make a kids version that is scaled for small hands and mouths.

drink cooler (1)

Once the meal is settled, the next question is, what we’re going to drink? Is it a hiking adventure where all we’ll want is water? If it’s an outdoor concert picnic, is wine permitted (screw tops are your friend on those nights)? Should we treat ourselves to a jug of homemade lemonade?

I’ll often pack small reusable water bottles for all picnickers, and then fill up the monster, 40 ounce Hydro Flask with some homemade iced green tea to share. Whatever the answer ends up being, having a large, insulated drink container and a few stainless steel cups to bring along is a very good idea.

freezable cooler bag

The last question that arises in sustainable picnicking is how to tote your meal. A standard picnic basket is a good option if your meal is impervious to heat. However, if you want to keep things chilled, something with insulation is is the way to go. A standard cooler works well, but this soft-sided freezable bag is the best thing I’ve seen.

It folds down small so that you can keep it stashed in the freezer until you’re ready to go. Then you just unfold and pack, knowing that your lunch will stay fresh and cool for hours.

One issue that sometimes comes up with picnics that include reusable gear is what to do with the dirty dishes once you’re done eating. I like to bring a few clean dish towels (ones that already have stains are the best). I scrape our dishes off as best I can and then bundle them up in the towels before packing everything back up in our tote. Once I’m home, the dishes go in sink and the towels head for the laundry basket.

To enter the giveaway, use the widget above. You can enter until Monday, May 4. The prize includes the picnic tote, stainless steel plates and cups, the bamboo utensils, the Hydro Flask, and the Lifefactory containers you see pictured at the top of the post (valued at $150). Additionally, Mighty Nest will also donated $100 to a school of the winner’s choosing. The giveaway is open to US residents only and is void where prohibited.

I’m not the only blogger hosting a Mighty Nest Earth Day giveaway. Make sure to visit these other folks for even more chances to win!

Disclosure: Mighty Nest is a Food in Jars sponsor. They provided the gear you see pictured above for photography purposes at no cost to me and they are also providing the entirety of the prize for this giveaway. All opinions expressed here are my own.

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Links: Granola Bars, Roasted Cauliflower Leaves & a Winner

Almond butter toast, tea, a strawberry/banana/spinach smoothie, and a cookbook.

I’m now officially in the phase known as book crunch time. I spent most the weekend writing and plan to spend much of the next two weeks on a short tether, moving from stove to computer and back again. Please send all the creative thoughts you can spare in my general direction! Now, links!

electric canner

The winner of last week’s Ball FreshTECH Electric Water Bath Canner Giveaway is #866/Angie W. I so loved reading all your stories of canning gear and how you process the bounty of the summer!

 

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Giveaway: Ball FreshTECH Electric Water Bath Canner and Multi-Cooker

electric canner

Over the last several years the Ball Canning folks have brought a handful of canning appliances to market. The first was the FreshTECH Jam and Jelly Maker in the summer of 2012. The FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System was the thing during the 2014 canning season. And now, we have the Ball FreshTECH Electric Water Bath Canner and Multi-Cooker.

freshTECH logo

This electric canner is exactly what I know a number of you have been hoping for. It’s a giant pot that has an independent element so that you can move your processing pot off your stove top and over to the counter.

It holds 8 quarts, nine pints, or a dozen regular mouth half pints (that means that if you stack them, you can process 24 quarter pint jars at once). It’s particularly great if your stove is slow to boil water or if you’ve been warned off canning on a glass top cooktop.

heating warning

It has a spout on the left side of the canner, so if your kitchen is arranged in a way where you can set the canner to the right of your stove, you can drain the water directly into the sink. The canner comes with a steaming rack as well as a canning rack, so that you can use it for all your high capacity steaming needs (I could see it being perfect for tamale parties).

It can also be used as a portable cooker, so can work for large amounts of soup, chili, or even something like mulled cider. Nice if you help with community potlucks or church suppers.

spigot

I’ve now run a several batches of jars through the canner and I am happy with it. I don’t think it’s going to become my primary boiling water bath because I make a lot of small batches and it doesn’t make sense to heat up this much water for two or three pints.

However, I can see it becoming invaluable during tomato season and I’m willing to carve out some storage space to keep it handy for those heady summer days.

canner filled with jars

This canner does cost $149.99, which is a pretty penny if you already have a canning set-up you like. If you like the idea of moving your canning pot off your stove top but can’t swing that price point, there is a more affordable way to create something similar.

Get yourself an induction capable stock pot (a classic speckled canner with a flat bottom will work) and the induction burner I have (it’s just $60) and you have a canner you can run anywhere (I highly recommend outdoor canning on really hot days).

Ball logo

Thanks to the kind folks at Ball Canning, I have one of these gleaming FreshTECH Electric Canners to give away. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your canning set-up. Are you using your grandmother’s canning pot? Do you use a stock pot with a silicone trivet? Maybe you’re in the market for a new rig. Inquiring minds want to know!
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, April 18, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, April 19, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: The folks at Ball Canning sent me a FreshTECH Electric Canner for review and photography purposes at no cost to me. They are also providing the giveaway unit. No additional compensation was provided for this post and all opinions expressed are my own. 

The Optimist Cleaning Kit Winners

contents of The Optimist kit

Normally, I couple these winner announcements with a collection of links from around the internet. However, last week was an unusual one for me. Because I spent a large portion of it in a cabin without internet access, I didn’t manage to build up my regular list of links.

I also spent the bulk of Sunday at the Philly Farm and Food Fest, signing books, demoing, and making sure my fellow authors and presenters had all they needed. I was in bed by 8:30 last night, which was a decided departure from my regular night owl ways.

The winners in last week’s The Optimist Make Your Own Cleaning Products Kit giveaway are #179/Gene Black, #394/Anne E, and #431/GC. Big thanks to everyone who took the time to enter! And if you didn’t win but liked the looks of these kits, make sure to visit The Optimist Co.’s website and check out all the ways you can clean your house safely and effectively!

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Giveaway: The Optimist Cleaning Kit

The Optimist kit front

For the last decade, I’ve kept an ugly, industrial-looking spray bottle of diluted white vinegar under my sink. I use it mostly as a simple, non-toxic countertop spray that’s good for quick clean-ups during meal prep. While it’s been effective enough, both the look of the spray bottle and the unadulterated scent of vinegar leave something to be desired.

The Optimist kit back

Enter The Optimist Co. Founded by Devin Donaldson after conventional cleaning products left her with a nasty asthma attack, they focus on simple, effective, non-toxic cleaning products that will help you keep your home spotless without compromising your health or the planet.

contents of The Optimist kit

Devin sent me The Optimist Co.’s Make Your Own Cleaning Products Kit to try out a few weeks back. It comes with two amber-colored spray bottles with the cleaning formulas printed on the labels, a small bottle of castile soap and three small bottles of essential oils to make your custom scents.

Add some white vinegar and flat club soda* from your pantry to the mix and you have everything you need to build both an all-purpose spray (Time to Shine) and a glass and surface cleaner (Bright Side).

Making The Optimist Bright Side cleaner

I made up both bottles the same day that the kit arrived. I followed the suggested recipes almost exactly, making only one change to the Bright Side. It suggests that you use plain white vinegar but instead, I used some of the lemon-infused vinegar I’d made during my Meyer lemon frenzy back in January (that’s what’s in the smaller measuring cup in the picture above). Bolstered with the enclosed lemon essential oil, every spray of that cleanser is a olfactory pleasure.

I’ve been using these sprays exclusively since they arrived and could not be more pleased with their effectiveness. I use them without worry around food, because I know that if a few droplets land on the contents of the fruit basket, no one will be harmed. Plus, they are far prettier than my old bottle of watered down vinegar.

The Optimist Bright Side

I know that lots of you are trying to make your own homes more non-toxic and sustainable and homemade cleaning products are a very good way to start yourself on that path. To that end, Devin is offering up three of her Make Your Own Cleaning Products Kit for this week’s giveaway. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share one thing you’ve done to make your cleaning routine a little more sustainable.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, April 11, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, April 12, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

*When we talked, I asked Devin what the flat club soda added to the mix and she said that it helps the cleaner wipe away streak-free, particularly on stainless steel appliances. So clever!

Disclosure: The Optimist Co. sent me the make your own kit at no cost to me for review and photography purposes. They are also providing the units for this giveaway. No additional payment has been made and all opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

Giveaway: Glass Dharma Straws

glass dharma boxes

I first started building my collection of jars a decade ago. At that point, I wasn’t using them for canning (that was still yet to come). I simply didn’t like storing dry goods, leftovers, and lunches in plastic and found that wide mouth jars were the best and most affordable way to switch to glass. During my time as an office worker, you’d often find me heading to work a daily trio of jars containing coffee, breakfast, and lunch (and padded with a cloth napkin or two).

bent glass dharma straw

I am always looking for ways to consume less and reuse more. I’ve conditioned myself to always carry reusable bags. I’m militant about using travel mugs (or a mason jar fitted with a Cuppow) when out for coffee. I am religious about returning egg cartons to farmers and metal hangers to the laundry that does Scott’s work shirts. And about four years ago, I bought a small stash of glass straws from Glass Dharma to replace the package of plastic Ikea ones that I had been using.

glass dharma end labels

I have loved these straws and they’re still going strong. They are easy to use, simple to clean with a skinny brush and are impossible to break. Awhile back, I dropped one behind the washing machine and when we finally pulled the machine out enough that I could reach back and retrieve it, the straw was in perfect shape, save a coating of dust and laundry lint.

glass dharma straw tip

The best thing about Glass Dharma is that they’re not just trying to sell a product. They see their work as a sustainability mission and to that end, they distribute a ton of free straws each April in honor of Earth Day. They hope that one day, they’ll have provided glass straws to at least 2% of the American public (that works out to about 6 million straws).

What this means is that today, you have two chances to get some free glass straws. First, click here to read more about Glass Dharma’s Earth Day promotion. Then go sign up for their newsletter to get yourself in the loop for said promotion.

Finally, come back here and leave a comment for chance to win one of three $25 gift codes for use on the Glass Dharma website.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me a story about a straw. Do you love them? Are you someone who drinks hot beverages through straws?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, April 4, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, April 5, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Glass Dharma sent me a few straws to add to my collection for photography purposes. They are also providing the three gift codes at no cost to me. They have not paid me for this post beyond those sample straws and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.