Holy missing in action, this past month has been amazingly cray! Not only did I travel to Boston and Florida, give my second zero waste living presentation and start zero waste tours at my favorite local market but it was also teenie’s birthday last week!!! In lieu of a large party and presents we opted for 5 glorious days in Florida and it was the beeeeest (more on our travels this week).
Of course, we still wanted to celebrate her birthday with the family so it ended up being a two part event. The day before teenie, my mom and I headed over to my Grandmother’s nursing home for a little “birthday party” along with some other family members. If you haven’t already figured this out, I try to minimize the amount of added sugar in both ours and teenie’s life. No one needs it, especially toddlers. I’m not talking about the stuff that occurs naturally in foods – I’m talking about granulated and powdery stuff. Just like anything else, it’s okay to have sweets in moderation, but the way I see it toddlers don’t yet understand that concept so I’d rather hold off on going down that rabbit hole until she is older and hopefully has learned to appreciate food that isn’t jam packed full of sweetness. Unfortunately celebratory events somehow always seem to center around sugary, refined ingredients but there is no reason you can’t have fun without the icing on top, so the last two years we’ve avoided it by making things like muffins with minimal outside sugar added. So I volunteered to make dessert and bring along the reusables to our little picnic party!
For dessert I made my first zucchini and squash bread (& mini muffins) which probably turned out to be my favorite baked good ever, lol. If you’ve never made it before, dooo it. And use this recipe because its awesome, with a few simple tweaks: Instead of all zucchini, I did half zucchini, half squash. I cut the sugar down to a cup because having never made it I didn’t want to end up going too far and then it not be enjoyed by the rest of the party at all. That being said, it still may have been a little more sugar than I would have liked but it didn’t taste overly sweet and everyone enjoyed it so still a win. And instead of three cups of all purpose flour, I used roughly two and half cups of whole wheat flour. This ended up making a loaf and about 8 or so mini muffins. Teenie and I enjoyed these along with plain local yogurt mixed with bulk almond butter, sliced apples and water!
On the evening of her birthday we had the rest of our immediate family over for a little dinner party and play time with the cousins. While I love a good party, my idea of what makes a good time is totally different from others – making me probably the worst host ever. I don’t know if you caught my cookout post where I shared how my husband and I kid around this fact all the time. Not wanting to create a lot of waste, nor aid and abet in the derailment of anyone’s health, I typically end up creating a simple menu thats centered around good-for-you ingredients. Guess thats the downside of being related to a dietitian, lol. 🙂 But really, I do try to strike the balance between healthy and what people will actually eat. I know my dad isn’t going to dive headfirst into a kale salad and that meat products tend to be the preferred centerpiece at most people’s meals. My goal is to not impose anything on other people as much as possible. Since I do eat meat on occasion, I’d rather provide something my guests would enjoy in a sustainable way (and then skimp out on the sugar later, hehe).
Below is the menu we planned out for teenie’s big day – one that would result in minimal garbage and as little stress putting together as possible.
– Cheeseburgers using local grass fed meat, block cheese that we sliced ourselves, and homemade buns! This was my second time making this recipe and I did everything she said to except add honey. Very excited to actually get pictures of them this time around! The recipe made 8 and we were going to have 12 burgers so I pulled out some other buns from the freezer that were leftover from my husband’s birthday celebration to ensure there was enough (which there totally was).
– Fresh toppers included local lettuce and tomato.
– Pasta was bought from the deli counter at a local market using a compostable container that is normally used for the salad bar in place of the plastic ones offered at the deli. This saved me a lot of time and stress since I was already making buns and muffins from scratch and these two things, particularly the buns, are not routine for me yet.
– Pumpkin and Apple Spice Muffins, this time making a few tweaks. Instead of the heartier whole wheat flour, I subbed it for the softer, whole wheat pastry version which was purchased in bulk. Having learned the day before that olive oil works great in baked goods like this, I gave it a whirl (using a half a cup of oil in place of the 1/4 cup of butter) and you totally wouldn’t know its in there taste wise! Both of these I think made the cupcakes a little more soft and smooth. For those who hankered for something sweet I pulled together a glaze using ingredients I had on hand: pureed cooked apple, cinnamon, butter & powdered sugar.
– Wine made locally for my favorite market, because not only was it a celebration for teenie but a part of me was celebrating us having survived two years of parenthood as well. 🥂😉 Recycled upon completion.
– To keep with the tradition of candle blowing I picked up a package last minute. The single candle we used was put back in the bag for another day since it was only burned for less than a minute and I’ll be holding on to this pack of candles to use for the next several years, as long as they stick around.
– Regular plates, silverware, cups and cloth napkins were used for this event! I’ve come to realize when it comes to entertaining that having a good number of cloth napkins is a good thing. While I certainly had enough to entertain this crowd, should we host a larger event in the future having a decent stash of cloth napkins would definitely be beneficial, so I will be keeping my eyes open at thrift stores for a few more.
The result? A yummy meal and a sink full of dishes that took no more than 15-20 minutes to clean up the next morning with a few extra napkins added to the wash, rather than a garbage can full of disposables that will take years to breakdown in a landfill and a trail of waste made to create them. We pretty much timed burgers to be ready soon after the time we expected everyone to be there, leaving little time for hungry tummies to sit idle, but my mother did bring homemade guacamole to share for an appetizer. While this also meant bringing tortillas packaged in a bag, the overall garbage production for this event still was very minimal.
Decor was kept to a bare minimum, using things already on hand. The streamers were used for teenie’s gender announcement which I held on to and I’ve used again at her last two birthdays. The vase of greenery was simply carrot tops in what once was an oil bottle!
My favorite part was how awesome our families were about honoring our request that tangible gifts be used, plastic free, or sustainable in some way (and lawd, please nothing princessy). All clothes were purchased second hand and the little spout on the right will actually help save water and allow teenie to play endlessly with a “running tap” by recycling whats already in the tub during bath time. Yay!!
What a fun day! Truth be told, I always tend to get a little stressed regardless of party size when entertaining because I want to find that sweet spot between minimal waste, everyone being happy and keeping things affordable. With a smaller crowd its much easier to do this. And by keeping things simple there’s more time to relax and enjoy the moment with the ones you love!