Need an Idea for an Original & Easy Holiday Gift?

I’m trying to have the holiday spirit, despite my constantly growing to-do list. This is, after all, the busiest time of year for many moms (and dads) and everyone else for that matter! From planning fun holiday activities and school vacation fillers, to thinking of appreciation gifts for teachers, the mailman and other people that we want to take an opportunity to thank and recognize. Then of course there’s figuring out the “Santa” gifts, planning the holiday meals, sending holiday cards, putting up a Christmas tree and decorating, fitting in at least one visit to Santa, baking sugar cookies, wrapping (I loathe wrapping), getting the house ready to host my parents,…….oh and did I mention work and all the other typical day-to-day activities that still need to get done? There’s just a lot to do, no matter how you cut it, and it’s really hard not to feel stressed.

For hostess, teacher and other appreciation gifts, I had big plans to make chocolate bark and gift this along with some nice hand lotion or wine. However, as you can probably guess from my first paragraph, this just isn’t going to happen. I always have great ideas and the best of intentions, but I just can’t find a way to get it all done (especially with a smile on my face). So, big kudos to all of you out there that have this in you……you must be far better planners than I can ever dream of being. I’m 43, and finally realize that there are just some things that I can’t change about myself; it’s time to accept my flaws and learn to work with them. Part of this means accepting the fact that I’m not, and never will be, anything close to Martha Stewart. I will never be a super-mom who can pull it all off….sigh. But the creative part of me still feels dissatisfied with  gifting something that feels completely unoriginal – like Starbucks, iTunes, or Amazon gift cards (even though I’m sure these are very well-received and appreciated gifts). Note, this is another part of me that I can’t seem to change – I have a knack for making things way more complicated than they need to be.

Well, now that you know more than you want to about what makes me tick, here’s what I came up with for this year’s teacher, hostess (and even some family) gifts. Obviously I have a personal affiliation with H2wOw, so I understand if you feel this post is biased, but really it’s not…….this is a gift that I would love to give, even if I’d never heard of H2wOw, and it’s also a gift I’d love to receive, truly.

For appreciation or hostess gifts, around $20

I’m giving a 4-pack of H2wOw Water Enhancer Drops. I live in San Francisco and am surrounded by people who like to live a healthy lifestyle. This feels like a perfect gift in the sense that it’s natural and healthy, somewhat obscure (since it’s only sold on Amazon and there’s nothing else like it), and is small and looks cute in a little gift bag. The 4-pack sells for around $21 on Amazon and ships for free if you have Prime.

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For appreciation or hostess gifts (and friends and family), $50 – $60

There are a few dinner parties of good friends that my husband and I will go to this year. I’m usually unorganized and last minute enough that I end up bringing a nice bottle of wine or candle, however this basically feels like the completely unoriginal “hostess gift” version of the gift cards mentioned above. So, this year, I’m bringing a 4-pack of H2wOw along with a really cool water bottle. I love the beautiful, simplistic yet sophisticated design of this Soma glass bottle, and that for every bottle purchased, Soma makes a donation to charity. By the way, one Soma bottle and a 4-pack of H2wOw fit perfectly inside a wine bag. For our special set of really good friends, we’ll gift two Soma bottles, plus the H2wOw 4-pack. If you’ve read some of my other posts, then you know I have a bit of a refillable water bottle obsession! By the way, this also makes for a great Secret Santa or White Elephant gift!

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Another option, in this same price range, is to gift the Soma Sustainable Water Pitcher and Filter with the H2wOw 4-pack. I’m actually gifting this to my father this year because I keep catching him with bottled water and he says it’s because the water at his office tastes horrible. This should be the perfect solution for him and will help the environment too!

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There are lots of ways to get creative with these gifts. Pick your favorite water bottle and “enhance” it with H2wOw. Or pair H2wOw with some other healthy snacks, like a selection of energy bars, roasted almonds and beef jerky. You can always buy a 4-pack and divide it up as well……make four mini gourmet food “survival” kits for teachers with one bottle of H2wOw, a small package of nuts, your favorite energy bar and a piece of dark chocolate (this could be done for $10 or less)! I might do this for some of the teaching assistants and support staff – if I can find the time 🙂

 

For more refillable bottle ideas, see these posts:

There Is More You Can Do to Help America Recycle and I’m a “Personal” Water Bottle Addict – Here Are My 5 Faves

featured post image: Superfactice via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

Keeping My Family’s Reusable Water Bottles Clean and Yucky Free

I’m on a quest to be as eco-friendly as possible and as I discussed last week, keeping my family hydrated is always top of mind. So, it’s a given that refillable water bottles are a part of our everyday lives. However, as awesome as our reusable bottles are, it’s no secret that they’re also a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. As I work hard to keep my family as well nourished as possible, I’ve become aware of not only the healthful foods I’m intintionally giving them but also the unintentional yucky “germs” that sneak in when I take certain shortcuts….like just giving bottles a quick rinse. Thus, part of my routine involves keeping our stash of refillable bottles in spit spot shape. In this week’s blog post I’m sharing a small bit about what causes bacteria and details on my method to prevent it.

First, a quick blurb about what causes bacteria in water bottles.  According to Wikipedia, (http://bit.ly/1oltrGA) reusing bottles could develop bacteria in the bottle between uses. Mouth contact to the bottle openings can easily transfer bacteria to the water content which can subsequently contaminate both bottle and water. Contamination will cause bacterial and fungal growth in the water while kept in storage; if the user cleans the bottle very well before reuse, the risk is much less.

So how can you keep your water bottles clean and free of contamination? Here’s what I do:

1.) I have a designated water-only bottle for each member of my family. Occasionally I offer other beverages to take on-the-go, such as milk, but I always use a different canteen for this (the old water bottles become designated for other beverages). There are mixed thoughts on plastic bottles and leaching so to be on the safe side I always go with stainless steel or glass and prefer ones with a flip-up or pop-up spout rather than a threaded mouthpiece.

2.) I wash each bottle at the end of the day with a bottle brush and warm, soapy water. A bottle brush works wonders at getting out anything that might be “growing” on the sides. If your bottle has a straw, use a straw brush to quickly get inside (especially the portion that touches your mouth). For bottle and straw brushes, you don’t need anything fancy and you should replace them about as often as a sponge so I go for whatever has the best price point (Amazon and Target both have plenty of options). Some people put their bottles in the dishwasher but I prefer the old fashioned way and always hand wash my bottles, I find it preserves any decals that are on the stainless steel bottles and gets the bottles just as clean (especially if very hot water is used). On a separate note, it’s also important to keep the bottle brushes clean and bacteria-free and for this I put the brushes in the dishwasher at least once each week.

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I always start with hot water and dish soap

3.) After washing the bottles, I leave them (and their parts) in a place where they can get plenty of air to dry overnight — don’t ever put the top back on a damp water bottle and put it in the cabinet for future use. This is the ultimate invitation to bacteria! For drying, I use the Boon Grass Countertop Bottle Drying Rack (http://amzn.to/1mzINM8), it keeps bottles raised and sanitary and provides great circulation for faster drying  OXO also makes a great drying rack (http://amzn.to/1vo0zCL)

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I love my Boon Drying Rack for keeping bottles ventilated while drying

4.) Approximately once per week I give the bottles a deeper clean. I put around one tablespoon of baking soda in the bottle, fill it with hot water and cup my hand over the top to give it a quick shake. Meanwhile, I put another few tablespoons in a glass bowl, fill it with hot water and add all the bottle components for their own “bath” (lids, straws etc). After a few hours of soaking time, I rinse the bottles and parts thouroughly, being careful to get rid of any baking soda residue.  White Vinegar also works well for a deeper clean and when I’m mistakingly out of baking soda this is my go to. With vinegar, I add around a 1/4 cup, fill the rest of the way with water and let the bottles stand this way overnight.

5.) And, finally my favorite step! After my bottles are clean and dry, I love to add a few drops of food-grade lemon or orange essential oil to the bottom before filling with water. Essential oils are known for their antibacterial properties and by just adding a few drops of a citrus oil, I get a nice refreshing hint of taste along with some great aromatherapy all day!

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essential oils, my last step to keeping reusable bottles fresh

Please come back and visit next week, I’ll be writing about the water bottle refilling stations that are popping up EVERYWHERE (at least all over San Francisco).