Archive for December 22, 2012

The rush to wrap

So, Christmas is almost upon us. The excitement in my house is palpable.

While I, too, am getting in the holiday spirit, I am also mindful of the many tasks that lie ahead. Inevitably I will put off wrapping until the last minute; I’ll be up late, late on Christmas eve for sure.

One of my strongest memories of childhood Christmases is of my beloved grandmother rushing around with a basket, collecting and neatly folding wrapping paper for reuse the following year. At the time I viewed this as a bizarre annoyance. Now, of course, I do the same.

Except I can’t collect the paper from my own presents, because I typically don’t use any. I have become a massive fan of fabric wrapping. It’s much quicker (critical at 2am on Christmas morning), less wasteful and the materials can easily be stored year on year.

I use lengths of fabric, old scarves and, to the extent that I have them, proper Japanese furoshiki cloths. There are numerous fancy ways to use cloths for wrapping, but I tend to opt for the basic method of cross-tying the diagonal corners. Not creative, but functional.

I also maintain a stock of fabric bags. My mother in law made a buch of drawstring bags a while back and I have guarded these with my life. I have also added to my stock from the dollar store and elsewhere, though it is hard to find large-size fabric bags at a reasonable price (and I am too lazy to make them myself). If you are prepared to invest a bit here, Etsy has a huge range of options, of course.

If I run out of fabric bits and bags, my next choice is to use old pictures stored up from when my kids were in kindergarten. If you are a parent and your kids were lucky enough to have a teacher who liked paint (and mess) you will almost certainly have brought home stacks and stacks of artwork which you will have had a hard time throwing out. At last a win-win solution: home-made wrapping paper!

There are a number of other great options, including decorated newsprint or brown paper bags. If you are more organised and patient than me, you can make these look really fancy. See this TreeHugger post for some great suggestions (if you can handle the slow scrolling through pages, which I hate, on TreeHugger posts). The point is that you can give attractive looking gifts and still conserve resources (the big factoid from the net is that if every US family wrapped just 3 gifts in recycled materials, we would save the equivalent of 45,000 paper-covered football fields).

My last plea: please don’t use that shiny plastic wrap. It screams out land-fill even as it sucks up needles from your tree with its static field.

Now I have to go and wrap….Merry Christmas!

Giving in on nail polish

I came to nail polish late in my life. I still don’t love it, but it does do my feet a favour in the summer.

I really have to struggle to hold the line on polish with my four girls (actually, only three, one wouldn’t touch the stuff). I am, in this regard, a kill-joy: I just don’t feel that nail polish and young fingers mix. I am also an outlier, it seems, as coloured nails have become the norm on even the tiniest kids.

I am amazed how willing parents are to deal with the mess, the work (which five year old can remove polish on their own?) and, most of all, the slew of toxic chemicals that dwells within both the polish itself and the remover.

I have tried hard to identify a really good adult option for eco nail polish, but have so far failed. Everything I have tried has either been not sticky enough or way too sticky: there are some brands that don’t come off for love or money.

If you have some suggestions for me, I’d love to try them.

[I wanted to add a clarification to my original post here: I am looking for water-based nail polish. There are many good brands - such as Zoya, OPI - that are free of the worst chemicals (3 free) but are still solvent based. A step in the right direction and good enough for my toes, but still not OK for my kids' small fingers].

So, for the kids, I have found two solvent-free options that I can just about tolerate (if I overlook my general aversion to tots-aping-teens). These are the Klutz Nail-art set (a book and 6 water-based colours) and the products made by the US company, Piggy Paint.

These are very different products. The Klutz set (which retails for about $15-$22 in North America or £12 in the UK) is more of an art event than a nail polish. The latex type colours go on nicely and then literally peel off. You might get them to stay for a day, but not much more (which makes me happy).

The accompanying book has some fun design ideas. A word of warning, though, don’t let the bottles spill on your carpet. It takes a good deal of determination to get the ‘polish’ out.

Piggy Paint is like adult nail polish. Indeed adults can and do use it too (the site notes that it is a good option during pregnancy).

It comes in nearly 40 funky colours from bright pinks to green, yellow, silver, black and blue. It costs $8.99/bottle. Ingredients are very benign and although the product itself is not featured on the Skindeep database, no ingredients (except possible tints) score higher than 1 (zero is best). Neem oil is used as a preservative (which makes me happy as I used to have a neem tree in my garden when I lived in Africa).

Piggy remover is acetone free but does contain alcohol. Interestingly, it comes in two formulations, one that meets California air pollution standards and one that, by implication, does not. I can only assume the non-California one is more effective, but my money would be on the less polluting version.

Both sell for $8.99 (for 120ml). Indeed $8.99 is the magic price on the Piggy Paint site. But you can also buy Piggy Paint at a wide range of retailers – mostly kids’ stores – in the US and Canada and a few on-line sites in the UK. All products are US-made so no worries there.

In my experience, Piggy Paint that is applied in a single coat, by children, without the help of a hairdryer (to set the colours) can more or less be peeled off (at least by my determined kids, eager to convince me that, no, they did not put on nail polish).

I can’t vouch for how long it will stay on your fingers if you really want it to last, but this is clearly a ‘green nail polish’ brand that is largely marketed at kids not adults, so my guess is it could be a bit fleeting. Just like me, these days!


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