Tag Archives: fair trade

Friday Favourites 37: Advent

Last day of November. Blink and you’ll miss the next month entirely, it can zip by that fast.

Advent has so many great possibilities, but this year, more than ever before, I am embracing the adage: I can’t do everything. Maybe you can. Maybe Martha Stewart can (millions of dollars and a household staff would help). But me, not so much.

We’re not skipping Christmas this year, we’re just, downsizing.


Anyone who believes that men are the equal of women has never seen a man trying to wrap a Christmas present.

~ Unknown (aka Common Sense)

Advent Tradition

It’s that special time of the year. The tradition we hold most dear. That’s right: Daily Chocolate.

BUT, I’ve got a thing about mainstream chocolate (which uses child slave labour to pick cocoa: mmmm… taste the suffering). So I’m not buying the standard ones anymore.

Enter despair and depression. I know you think I’m talking about the kids, but it’s Glen who nearly wept at the thought of doing without. On the other hand, I nearly wept at the prices of the fair trade calendars. So last year (when I was feeling more Griswald than Grinch) I put together our Fair Trade Advent Calender.

Christmas Countdown: Fair Trade Style


Once it’s made, it’s not much work to tweak and reuse each year. This year the kids are helping put it together, including brainstorming simple family activities for each day: things we’re already doing or can do with little to no prep/hassle. I wonder if “Clean your room” counts as festive fun. I know it’d be fun for me.

Christmas Lights

This year we are NOT putting up our Christmas lights. After watching this, we may never again. I mean, how can you follow something like this?

At first I thought this song was saying something about “Gangland Style.” Some kind of hip hop nod to the mean streets. But then they did the dance at the Wiggles concert and it didn’t seem very gangster-ish after all. What language is that? What does it mean? When did I get so old that I am bothered not understanding the lyrics of a song?

Amphibian Video

C watches this and decides that she really MUST have a pet frog for Christmas. I watch and think, “ha ha ha… ew… NO.” Sorry kid.

Meanest. Mom. Ever.

So here’s us, celebrating Advent without a pet frog or Christmas lights or a daily dose of brown wax popped out of an overpackaged “calender”… and all the better for it.

Friday Favourites 33

This week was a bit of a departure for my blog – a little more theology and existential questioning; a little less snot and poopy diapers. To restore balance, today’s post is 80% silly and 20% preachy. You’ll see.

Bank Drama

Preschoolers make the BEST screenwriters! “I’m gonna take ALL them ten dollars!”

Video Apology

An incredibly popular post circulated on Facebook recently: a funny rant from a man about the absurdities of feminine hygiene commercials. Apparently, Richard felt misled and woefully unprepared for reality when he finally snagged himself a girlfriend. He has a point. Nothing says “welcome to PMS” like an ecstatic supermodel in a white dress frolicking in a field of flowers.

The rant was funny, but even better is this hilarious “apology” to poor disillusioned Richard.

Debate Highlights

I am Canadian. But let’s face it, our politics are boring. And what happens in the US affects the rest of us (or at least our television shows). And I have a lot of family that lives there. And twitter has A LOT to say on the subject. So, we try to say informed and felt smugly intellectual watching the town hall debate the other night. Okay, Glen watched and I checked my email, and my wordpress stats, and read through some blogs, and contemplated painting the living room, and finally went to bed (it was LATE).

But I was there, and it was on. And this is pretty much how I remember it.

Lego Reenactment

Congratulations Felix Baumgartner on being immortalized in lego… oh, and that whole supersonic-freefall-from-space thing too. But the lego thing, that’s really cool.

Soap Box

And now for the preach.

I’ve got opinions. I try not to be too obnoxious about it… well, anymore (in my late teens and early twenties, I embraced my inner know-it-all with great enthusiasm).

Last year, around this time I read some articles by Kristen Howard and she ROCKED MY WORLD. After a great deal of research and soul searching (and crying like an angry, sad, chocolate-loving baby), I decided that I could no longer support child slavery by buying chocolate (The Post You DON’T Want To Read).

It’s a real thing, not just crazy overreaction by bleeding heart hippies. Something to keep in mind when you choose what to hand out at the door this Halloween. Stick with a non-chocolate alternative or, even better, use your power as a consumer for good and buy fair trade (chocolate that is NOT made from cocoa beans picked by children who have been bought/kidnapped/forced into labour).

So here’s me, and I am also 80% silly and 20% preachy. Just ask my kids.

Christmas Countdown: Fair Trade Style

We are a family that counts down. We start young with “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re Going To The Moon,” and it never stops. Ask my husband, at any given moment, how many days until a long weekend, our next family holiday or the massage his doting wife promised him, and he can tell you accurately without a moment’s hesitation. One wonders what he might be capable of if so much valuable brain power wasn’t constantly engaged in keeping track of the minutes and hours… but I digress.

So, advent calanders, ya – we’re all over that. We hang a tiny little ornament on the quilted tree Oma made each night. The girls faithfully cross the days off their calanders. And we fight about which daily christmas devotionals we are going to use for the month. Right now it’s a throwdown between the cheesy, but beloved “Adornaments” and “What God Wants for Christmas”.

But the MOST crucial countdown of all is the cheap cardboard chocolate calander we get each year. I’ve been informed by experts in the field (a 9-year-old girl and her Dad) that it is not really Christmas without it.

One of the very first wails of protest when Mom’s fair trade crusade began was about this very important issue.

I was tickled to learn that there are, in fact, fair trade chocolate advent calanders to be had (Divine). Not only that, but these contain ACTUAL chocolate to pop out each day. As opposed to the brown coloured, chocolate scented ear wax we are used to. Not a bad option.

But as committed as I am to my family’s happiness and the end of child slavery, there is another virtue very near and dear to my heart.

I am cheap.

At $8-12 each, these are not unreasonably priced. BUT when each member of the family (including the one with facial hair) must have their own, that’s 8…16…24… way-too-expensive-for-mom-to-swallow Dollars.

This is not a blog where you will learn how to turn a shoebox and 4 pennies into a fully functioning shoe rack. I cannot tell you how to create the perfect turkey dinner for under $10 – I have never even roasted a turkey at all. But this is one crafty/home project that fits my profile: simple, fast and foolproof. So here it goes:

I bought this advent cupboard on impulse (it was on sale and I’m a sucker for deals I don’t really need). But a stack of envelopes would work just as well. There are SO many amazing advent projects that it is overwhelming. I say, keep it simple. Who need another reason to Grinch out this Christmas.

In each “day” I put:

  • a mini muffin cup
  • filled with 5 Cadbury’s FAIR TRADE chocolate buttons (1 per person)
  • an advent verse and/or prayer (free printables)
  • a fun family activity, outing or service project for that day (written on a strip of leftover wrapping paper)
Glen and I had fun brainstorming simple things to do as a family to honour Jesus and teach generosity, without driving us to drink (well, anymore than usual).
  1. Call GiGi (great grandma) and sing her a Christmas song.
  2. Christmas party tonight – have fun!
  3. Decorate the Christmas tree.
  4. Bake Gingerbread Men with Mom.
  5. Collect as much change as you can find around the house to give to the Salvation Army Santa at the store (winner gets hot chocolate to share with everyone).
  6. Drive to Candy Cane Lane to look at the Christmas lights.
  7. Go to the store and buy food for the Food Bank.
  8. There are 12 cherry Candy Canes hidden throughout the house. Ready, set, go!
  9. Draw a picture/write a letter to our sponsored children (World Vision and Compassion).
  10. Create an e-vite and invite friends to our New Year’s Eve party.
  11. Make Christmas crafts with Aunt Judy!
  12. Everyone give a foot rub to someone else tonight.
  13. Christmas Shopping date with Dad.
  14. Paint your own pottery at the ceramics store – make a special gift for someone you don’t normally exchange gifts with.
  15. Celebrate Grinch Night – everyone wear green, eat all green food and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Invite the neighbours to join us!
  16. Pick a project from the World Vision Catalogue to donate your charity money to (our kids save some of their allowance each week to give).
  17. Plan games and food for our New Year’s Eve party.
  18. Create a “Welcome” banner for all the family that are coming to stay with us – especially your brand new cousin.
  19. Pack for our trip – we are driving to the timeshare today. Pick your favourite carol to sing in the car (even Dad will join in) (Dad’s Note: he will??? Doesn’t sound like something he’d do.).
  20. Movie night with the Aunties – wear pajamas, eat cararmel corn and watch Sound of Music.
  21. Choose Christmas e-cards to send to Grandma Lindsay every day until Christmas.
  22. Play Christmas song charades.
  23. Chowder Party at Oma and Opas.
  24. Build a Gingerbread house with Uncle Miguel

Advent Box – $20.00

Muffin Cups – $1.00

Cadbury’s Buttons (2 packages) – $8

This is the part where I should say “Advent family fun….ah…priceless!”

But it was actually $29.00 plus tax, which is a pretty good deal in my book and can be used for years to come.

So here’s me, 18 days until I get to snuggle my brand new nephew for the first time, 32 days until I pack it all back in rubbermaid containers and 366 days until we start it all over again.

For the Cause

In the continuing saga of Christie vs. the Chocolate Corporations (a follow up to my earlier posts here and here about child slavery) I have learned about a new phenomena: reverse trick or treating.

Not only do true believers hand out fair trade chocolates along with the appropriate literature, they have their children give it to neighbors when they receive their own treats. One man sees Halloween as an ideal time to educate undiscerning chocolate consumers. In the face of such conviction, commitment and certainty I can’t help but think… what a douche!

Did Mother Teresa’s family ever say “Good Lord, someone needs to get that girl a hobby”? Was Martin Luther King Jr. a good time at a party? Did kids actually want to sit by Jesus at school… was he a drag or a genuinely likeable guy?

I like to think they were kind and winsome; able to communicate without alienating, because they sincerely cared about others. Even the little things like making sure there is enough wine at a wedding and noticing grubby children while the VIP’s clamored for attention. Perhaps they could tell us how to crusade for a cause WITHOUT being obnoxious, but I’m pretty sure it goes something like this… Do not judge or you too will be judged (Matthew 7:1).

I’m not going to lie, I have been on both the giving and receiving end of this. Most of us have: stay-at-home moms or moms who work full-time; kids in private, public, or home school; those who read Harry Potter before bed or those who demonize it. We are always drawing lines and feel the need to let others know that:

I am/My kids are/My family is/My cat/dog/pet iguana is…


ethical/godly/organic/grammatically correct/educated/potty trained/baby wise…

than you.

So there!

Because the only thing that feels better than being right, is being more right than someone else. Maybe deep down we need to convince others because we need to convince ourselves. But here’s the problem – you are wrong. About something, somewhere along the way you will be wrong. It’s inevitable. If you think you are infallible you are WRONG about that.

So don’t be obnoxious. You can’t afford it; none of us can. Be passionate about the things you belive in, but present your case in a gentle and respectful way. Let people follow their own conscience. That’s in the bible too (1 Corinthians 10:23-33).

So here’s me, trying to keep my soap box socially appropriate.

The BEST news ever!

I am following up yesterday’s post about the problem with chocolate with some awesome, stupendous, brilliant news! If you haven’t read it, this may not make that much sense to you. In a nutshell, our family has decided to boycott buying chocolate bars because they are made through the use of child slavery. I know, crazy right?

Now the good news… Cadbury is now making one of their most popular chocolate bars with Fair Trade cocoa beans.

My kids tell me this picture is "soooo cheesy and embarassing"

This means sustainable farming for the entire community and no child labour. It’s not a perfect system and needs to be constantly monitered to keep the pressure on, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Fair Trade Dairy Milk was launched summer 2010, but only in certain countries such as Britian, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and, wait for it… CANADA!

I’m more than a little bit THRILLED that this is one of my all time favourites bars. I was willing to give up chocolate because it was the right thing to do. Now, I can support positive change by buying MORE chocolate. Life is good.

I considered titling yesterday’s post “Why Capitalism is Evil” but decided against it. While I’m not a communist, I do have a problem with powerful corporations ruling the world. This is for one simple reason: they do not have a soul. They aren’t designed that way. But we do. We, the consumers, hold far more power than we realize.

Why else would Cadbury go to the trouble and extra expense of doing the right thing? If we begin to expect better, to demand it, we can change business as usual. Vote with your wallet and let them know it. We influence corporations best by what we DO buy, rather than what we don’t.

So, Cadbury, I really appreciate what you’ve done for the people of West Africa. I will only be buying Fair Trade chocolate from now on, so be warned – sales of Dairy Milk may soar. Also, could you please, please, please make Fruit & Nut bars fair trade also? Those are really yummy and I’m going to miss them.

As for Hershey’s and Nestle… come on guys, get with the program! Your products are delicious, but I’m going to use my power as a consumer to do good and not evil.

 “This is the kind of WORSHIP I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage.” (Isaiah 58:6-8)

 ~ God

So here’s me, rescuing the oppressed – one chocolate bar at a time.

The post you DON’T want to read

Have you ever wanted to UN-know something? Like when you finally make the connection that your parents have actually had sex, more than once. Or at the end of Return of the Jedi when you realize that Luke Skywalker had been seriously crushing on his own sister… ew!

This week one of my favourite bloggers put me in that horrific position again. I was both amused and self-righteous upon reading her blog about  Cheap Coffee. Since I neither drink it, nor can I even stand the smell, this was a safe and easy topic for me. The follow-up she posted the next day, however, was a shot to the heart.

I had heard hints of it before, but wrote it off as one of those over-reactive issues for people on the fringe: radical students, hippie men with dreadlocks and angry women in sensible shoes. Maybe I didn’t look too closely because I didn’t want to know.

If you prefer not to disturb your comfortable life, stop reading now.

Are you still reading because you are nosy and curious? I’m not kidding, this could change your life. And you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Enough foreplay… now brace yourself. There is a problem with chocolate.

I can overlook the calories (and as you can clearly see, I often do). I can simply choose not to think about the non-organic ingredients. But I cannot be part of child slavery.

That’s right: 60% of the cocoa beans used by the major chocolate companies such as Hersheys, Mars, Nestle and others are from countries that often use child labour in the cocoa fields. More than 100,000 chidlren of the Ivory Coast are driven to it by extreme poverty. Others are stolen from their families and sold into a life of back-breaking labour and dangerous working conditions. All so huge corporations can rake in 80 billion dollars of profit each year and I can enjoy something sweet at the movies.

I have been asking God to show me something I can do, in the middle of my busy life, to make the world better. I did that very day, in fact. I have every advantage – power, wealth, education, free healthcare (go Canada!)… but it is not because I am better, smarter or more deserving. I simply happen to be born in a position of power. I could have been born in West Africa, and then I may have spent my childhood picking the beans instead of eating smarties.

I am a total chocoholic. And not the classy, grown up, thin wafer of dark chocolate after dinner. No siree, I want a big old chocolate bar: aero, oh henry, mars bar, dairy milk… a handful of chocolate chips if all else fails. But I’m also a mom.

How can I enjoy my favourite treat when I know there are children suffering for it? This seems like a crazy and radical stunt to even consider; like foregoing showers to reduce my carbon footprint, wearing clothes made entirely out of hemp, or selling all my possessions and giving the money to the poor.

Giving up chocolate? That doesn’t sound like me at all. But I’m definitely considering it. I’ve started the research and so far this is more than just a trendy hipster concern. If nothing else, the halloween bowl at our house will be filled with non-chocolate treats this year.

We each have to follow our own conscience. Perhaps this isn’t your fight. If you decide to whip out a chocolate bar in my presence, you need feel no guilt. There will be no judgment from me… though I may vault over the table to lick it off your fingers; hopefully this won’t make you too uncomfortable.

So here’s me, stocking up on fair trade chocolate. Read The Best News Ever to hear more about our family’s decision to fight child slavery and still eat delicious chocolate at a reasonable price.

Here it is, the blog that broke my heart: here, let me ruin Halloween for you

and the BBC Documentary that helped…

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