{Fair Trade Friday} Apolis Global Citizen

Ok guys, this post is for you! If you haven’t heard of them already (their City Series Market Bags are one of the hottest items on the internet), Apolis is a company based in Los Angeles that is, by their own definition:

“…a socially motivated lifestyle brand that empowers communities worldwide.”

Apolis came to life in 2004 by  brothers Shea and Raan Parton. They had traveled around the world and learned of those who struggle to eek out viable livings in the injustices of the underdeveloped and developing world. Inspired by these stories, they established a business model of connecting good style and economic development. They work both here in the USA and abroad in countries like Uganda, Peru, and Nepal to empower those who created their designs to “determine their own future.” Their clothing is the epitome of classic menswear fashion, with thoughtfully updated silhouettes for today’s style.

Additionally, Apolis is a B-Corp certified company, meaning that they “meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.” Boom.

I became familiar with Apolis several years ago when their City Bags and Market Bags were reaching a fever pitch in the blogosphere. As I have followed them on social media throughout the years, I’m even more in love with them because of their dedication to ethical manufacturing and capacity-building. You’ve got to read Raan and Shea’s journal post about their manufacturers in Bangladesh, who have been creating their Market bags for the last 7 years. Read it here. 

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These beautiful people earn a living wage and work in a safe environment because of Apolis!

Here are a few of my favorite Apolis items!Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 7.22.41 AM.png

This linen blazer is made in Portugal and will never go out of style. Don’t let the price tag scare you–you will wear this till you die.

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This Market Bag has a waterproof lining and vegetable-tanned leather handles; vegetable tanning is a safe, non-toxic alternative way to tan leather–the standard practice is pretty nauseating. Guys and girls alike will be the envy of every farmers market across the country with this little beauty.

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Everyone needs a classic white tee. Say no to the 6-pack you get at the big box stores with questionable manufacturing practices, say yes to this Peruvian-made classic.

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This tie though. Made in California out of Japanese-milled fabric, it’s inspired by WWII military style.

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The last button-down you’ll ever need to buy, this Oxford is actually a bargain at $124. A tailoring co-op in Honduras crafts each and every shirt from a Brazilian-milled traditional Oxford fabric. The textile nerd in me thinks I need to get one of these mens shirts for myself, just so I can look down at my #OOTD knowing what all went into producing it.

This is just a small sampling of the huge product offering Apolis has for men. You can learn even more about their dedication to social development here.

Note: All images ©Apolis. No compensation was provided, nor is this post sponsored in anyway by Apolis, B-Corp, or any affiliate. I’m just a girl on a mission. 

Golden Flake Potato Chip Crust Brownie-Peanut Butter Pie

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It’s National Pie Day, AND it’s National Potato Chip Day. Honestly, people, what a time to be alive in this world. Snack foods and desserts are truly two of my most favorite things, so I was pretty excited when Golden Flake asked me to come up with something that combines my love of both to celebrate this day.

This pie has a layer of brownie and another layer of whipped peanut butter, then topped with rich chocolate ganache and finished with a sprinkling of potato chips. But the real star of the show is the crust, which is made out of classic Golden Flake Thin & Crispy potato chips! If you live in the South, you know these chips are a staple at every picnic, cookout, football game, and family reunion you’ve ever been to. They are perfect on their own, but I hope you enjoy this new spin on an old favorite!

Click here to learn more about this potato chip company that I, along with the entire Southern United States, are fiercely loyal to. Did you know that you can also schedule a tour of their factory? They have them both here in Birmingham and in Ocala, FL!

Ok, let’s celebrate this glorious day:

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Golden Flake Potato Chip Crust Brownie-Peanut Butter Pie

Crust
4-5 oz  Golden Flake Thin & Crispy Potato Chips (note: if you are not using a scale, this is about 8 cups)
¾ cup flour
8 tbs (1 stick) melted unsalted butter

-Place potato chips in food processor and pulse until it’s coarsely crumbled.
-Add flour and butter into food processor and pulse until it comes together. If the consistency is off, simply add more chips if too wet or more butter if too dry.
-Press into the bottom and up the sides of a deep dish pie plate. I even use the bottom of a glass to make sure my pie crusts are properly set! 

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Brownie Filling
2 large eggs
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
¾ cup AP flour
3 tbs cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

-Preheat oven to 350F.
-Beat eggs with an electric mixer, then add oil and sugar, and beat for 7-8 minutes more, until pale yellow in color.
-While the egg mixture is beating, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl, whisking thoroughly to distribute ingredients.
-When the egg mixture is done beating, turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in slowly; do not over-mix!
-Add in vanilla extract.
-Pour batter into the Golden Flake pie crust and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick can be inserted into the middle and come out clean.
-When the pie is done baking, remove from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool completely. 

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Peanut Butter Filling
6 tbs melted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
½ cup heavy cream

-Combine the melted butter, peanut butter, and vanilla in an electric mixer and beat until combined.
-Add in powdered sugar a half cup at a time.
-Slowly add in heavy cream until it has reached a spreadable consistency.
-Spoon the peanut butter over the cooled brownie layer and spread evenly across the pie.

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Chocolate Ganache
5 oz semisweet chocolate chips (note: if you are not using a scale, this is just under 1 cup)
3 tbs heavy whipping cream

-In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine both ingredients.
-Heat for 45 seconds, then stir until smooth.
-If it’s not quite smooth after 45 seconds, heat in 5-10 second intervals, stirring between each, until melted and smooth.
-Let it cool slightly as to not melt the peanut butter, then spread over peanut butter layer.
-Garnish with crushed Golden Flake Thin & Crispy Potato Chips.

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How impressed will your friends be? Happy Pie Day, and Happy Potato Chip Day! Thanks again to my friends at Golden Flake for helping me celebrate! 

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Note: Golden Flake Snack Foods supplied products and compensation for this post, however all thoughts, reviews, and recipes are my own!  

{Fair Trade Friday} Sseko Designs

Here in the South, Spring and sprung, and oh Lord, how I am thankful. Having a stir-crazy 3-year-old who loves riding her pink bicycle makes chilly winter days far less endearing.

When this time of year rolls around, we all trade in our boots for sandals, and you are probably just as guilty as I am about picking up a pair every time you make a Target run.

Part of my personal challenge to myself in building an ethical wardrobe is not only to purchase items I know were made with high standards, but to also MINIMIZE how much I’m actually buying! The reason is three fold.

  1. There are simply better things I can spend my resources on (like, um, funding our adoption).
  2. The more I buy, the more I’m perpetuating the Western world’s mentality of demanding more things, which in turn perpetuates funding the use of slave labor and poor manufacturing practices to meet those demands.
  3. It also creates more things in my home that I have to find a place for. Which really just means I’m creating more clutter for myself.

Here are my crimes over the last couple years…in SANDALS ALONE!

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WHY do I need all of these?! This is crazy!

Employing the KonMari method, I decided which pairs still “spark joy”, and realizing that like, none of them do, I have thrown almost every pair in my yard sale pile. I have invested in one pair. One of just a few pairs that will last me until the boots come back out.

These beauties from Sseko Designs. They were made by a lady named Florence.

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The leather is so soft and beautiful, and the accents on the straps across the toes are interchangeable! At $20 a pop, these tabs might be lasting me a while, but there are SO MANY pretty options to choose from! These sandals also come in a t-strap option, both in caramel and espresso.

Sseko is based in Uganda. There, they employ women, teach them a trade, pay them a living wage, and then when they “graduate”, they head to university. Amazing, right? It’s really easy to have the mentality that giving money will solve poverty and the injustices that stem from it. But in reality, creating meaningful, dignified opportunities and educating those who have never had access to it is the foundation of breaking the cycle of poverty.

For Sseko, this is working. Every woman who has graduated from Sseko is pursuing, or has graduated, from college. Every. Woman.

Additionally, they partner with other artisan groups in Kenya and Ethiopia to produce more gorgeous accessories, creating more sustainable opportunities to grow East African economies.

Exciting stuff right?

So here is my new and improved spring/summer shoe wardrobe. Two pairs of Ssekos (I got a killer deal on the ribbon pair last fall!), my TOMS I’ve had for two years that still look great, and a pair of leather t-straps I had made in Sorrento, Italy several years ago.

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I hope you’ll head over to the Sseko Designs website to pick out an ethically made pair for yourself, and maybe even go so far as to replace the pile of the ones you have already that probably weren’t made ethically. It sounds crazy, but crazy is what will make an impact! To help in picking out your size, know that the sandals do not come in half sizes. I am true 6.5 across every board. My ribbon sandals are size 6, and my new sandals are a 7. I definitely suggest going down in size for the ribbons. A 6 in my new pair would have been ideal, but they are already sold out, and since the ankle straps are adjustable, it’s easy to make them work.

To learn more about creating a world in which all products are ethically made and all people have access to dignified employment, check out Made in a Free World. To learn more about creating justice for all, head over to my favorite nonprofit, the International Justice Mission.

Note: This post in not sponsored nor endorsed by Sseko Designs.

 

 

 

{Fair Trade Friday} Swellas Co.: Outerwear for Good

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In January my best friend Ruth and I had the opportunity to jet off to Iceland for a long weekend. Along with the stunning scenery, waterfalls, hot springs, unpronounceable words, fermented shark, and volcanoes, the weather was cold, the days were short, and the wind was biting!

In preparing for our trip, I found out about Swellas, an outerwear company based in San Francisco. But these aren’t just your average jackets. In the era of more, more, more, faster, faster, faster, Swellas is committed to ethical production, reduced environment impact, fair wages for their employees, AND they are partnered with Operation Warm, which provides brand new winter coats to millions of children living in poverty across the United States.

I think what’s even more amazing is that they keep their price points attainable without sacrificing quality, functionality, and style. The Berryessa Jacket (above) retails for only $95. The Meiss Jacket (below) will keep you warm for $85.

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So how do they do ALL these great things? Glad you asked.

Ann Duskus, founder and designer, works closely with their manufacturer to source surplus materials from the SAME production lines as the jackets you’d buy in department stores for 3x the price. I won’t bore you with the manufacturing technicalities that I had to learn in design school, but this allow Swellas to bypass minimum order requirements, which keeps the price low and minimizes the textile waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.

I really love the plaid detail that’s underneath the collar on the Meiss Jacket. This fun little pop of fabric would have ended up being thrown away, but thanks to Swellas, it found new life keeping me fashionably warm at Gulfoss Waterfall!

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So, there are a couple of natural side effects that occur because of the way they manufacture. First, it allows their products to be limited edition. If you value wearing something that is unique and not mass-produced, then you’re in luck! Second, in having a lower price point without a ridiculous mark-up, these jackets are more accessible, and not only does that keep more customers warm, it also lets them increase the impact in their partnership with Operation Warm.

And let’s talk about technical side of these jackets. The Berryessa Jacket I’m wearing in the pics below, on a rainy day in Vik and after enduring the ridiculously misty shores of Reynisfjara Beach, is fully lined AND has a wind and water resistant outer shell, keeping my sweater perfectly dry. There is also the thoughtful addition of a zip-up placket underneath the buttons of the outer shell to keep you extra dry and toasty.

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It’s been a great privilege to become friends with Ann and be one their first Swellas Ambassadors. We are in a crucial point in history when people either get it or they don’t, or even worse, they ignore it. You can continue to support fast fashion and unethical means of production, where people (real, live human people with souls, families, hopes and dreams) get paid less than $1/day just so you can have a t-shirt for $5, thus perpetuating these injustices, OR you can align yourself with companies who are trying to overhaul the corrupt fashion industry and spend your dollars supporting their efforts.

Me? I’m joyously taking the road of Fashion for Good!

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Thank you Ann and Swellas for keeping me warm and my conscious clear during my weekend in Iceland! Thank you Ruth for snapping these photos and capturing the joy that comes with being in Scandinavia! Thank YOU for joining me on my mission of educating and advocating.

Till next winter…SwellasJackets7.jpg

Sponsorship disclaimer: As a Swellas Ambassador, these jackets were sent to me to try out, but ALL thoughts and reviews of this wonderful products are my own. 

Noonday Collection

NDNoondayI feel very privileged to now partner with Noonday Collection as a way to empower vulnerable communities through the fair trade business model, educate my community on the issues of justice across the world, and fund the adoption of our precious daughter in India. If you follow me on social media or know me in person, I hope it’s pretty obvious that things mean a lot to me!

So what is this? Noonday Collection is a business that uses fashion to create meaningful opportunities around the world. By connecting artisan businesses to this growing marketplace, Noonday empowers them to create dignified jobs in vulnerable communities.

When you shop Noonday Collection, you join our dream of creating a flourishing world where children are cherished, people have jobs, women are empowered and we are connected.

And thank God, this stuff is gorgeous.

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So how you can you shop to benefit both these artisans AND our adoption?

Click here to make your purchase under my name, and 20% of your purchase will go straight into our adoption fund: http://MalindaNichols.noondaycollection.com

You can also work with me to host a trunk show, and while YOU get free and half price items, it gives ME the opportunity to advocate for these artisans and also orphans worldwide. Click here to learn more about that!

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See how this is a win-win-win in every way you slice it?

 

Kid-Friendly Sugar Cookie Recipe + Decorating

Last Halloween, Evie and I had the most fun afternoon making these sugar cookies together. They are so easy, and come together really quickly too (they only take 7 minutes to bake!), making them the perfect parent-kid holiday tradition. We made them again at Christmas, and of course we had to do them again for Evie’s Valentine’s Day party for her little preschool friends.

I love this recipe so much that Evie and I were invited to share our experience at our local Whole Foods here in Birmingham last Christmas. We had the best morning meeting new friends, sipping cocoa, and going crazy with frosting and sprinkles. If you were there that morning, you took home a copy of the recipe, but here it is for those who weren’t there with us!  Thank you Whole Foods Birmingham for providing our ingredients, because we all know that the better the ingredients, the better the cookies will taste!

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Kid-Friendly Sugar Cookies
Yield: About 3-4 dozen, depending on the size of your cookie cutters
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar (I used the 365 Organic cane sugar, which gives it a slightly different texture, but regular white granulated sugar works great!)
2 eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

-Preheat oven to 375. ­
-In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda, whisking to thoroughly combine. ­- -Cream butter and sugar using a stand mixer.
-Add in eggs and vanilla extract, mixing till combined.
-Add sour cream and mix until combined. ­
-Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until it all comes together in a thick dough.
-Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead slightly until all of the crumbly bits are incorporated and the dough is smooth. ­
-Roll dough onto floured surface to about ¼” thick.
-Cut out using floured cookie cutters and transfer to a parchment­-lined baking sheet. ­
-Bake for only 7 minutes for a 3” cookie (more or less depending on size of cookies). If the cookie starts to brown on the edges, then they’ve baked too long!
-Let cool slightly. ­Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Kid-Friendly Participation: Let the kiddo whisk together the dry ingredients, help them roll out the dough, and they love to dip the cutters in a pile of flour and press them into the dough.

Easy Buttercream
1 stick unsalted sweet cream butter
1 pound of confectioner’s sugar
8-­10 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract or ½ pod of scraped vanilla bean ­

-Cream together butter and 1 cup of powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. ­
-Add 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time, alternating with milk, until desired consistency. ­(Add more sugar for a thick buttercream, add more milk for a thinner buttercream.)
-Add vanilla and mix till incorporated.

Kid-Friendly Participation: Measure out the milk for them and let them add it in the mixer, alternating with you adding the sugar. 

Once your cookies are baked and cooled, it’s time to load on the frosting and sprinkles. Since we made these for our friends instead of just our family, I felt like I needed to handle the frosting, because, well, Evie would lick some off the spatula before putting it on the cookies. So I frosted, and she sprinkled. WFcookies4

Look how sweet her sprinkles turned out!

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When Evie decided that she had had enough and was ready to move onto the next thing in her life (she’s a preschooler after all), I decided to make a batch of royal icing and do some cookie decorating myself. This is very cathartic for me personally, and not something I often get the chance to do, so don’t feel like this is something anyone will actually be expecting you to do! Here’s my easy royal icing recipe in case you want to try your hand at it:

Easy Royal Icing
Yield: About 1.5 cups, depending on liquidity of eggs and how thick or thin you make it
1 egg white
1 pound of confectioner’s sugar
Lemon juice

Put the egg white in a large bowl. Add in sugar 1 cup at a time until you reach your desired consistency. You’ll want a somewhat thick consistency for what I did below. If it gets too thick, just add in a tiny amount of lemon juice to thin it back out. Keep experimenting till it’s just right!

Separate equally into 3 bowls, and add food coloring. Fill piping bags fitted with a small round tip. Pipe the outline of the cookie and flood the outline with icing. If you have gaps or if it’s not smooth, use a toothpick to smooth it out. If you want your colors to be separate (like the xox cookie or the arrows), wait until the icing has tried before piping your designs. To make the hearts within the heart below, flood the cookie, then pipe small dots while the icing is still wet. Run a toothpick from top to bottom of the dot and it will make the heart design!WFcookies2WFcookies3

Happy Valentine’s Day! And thanks again Whole Foods for letting Evie and me invade your cafe to share the fun!

{Waffle Wednesday} Valentine’s Day Edition: Buttermilk-Cherry Waffles

This waffle recipe is a twist on classic blueberry waffles, instead using crushed cherries and all of the good juices inside, and topped with sweet fresh whipped cream to balance the sour and the sweet. I used jarred Morello cherries from Trader Joe’s, but you can use whatever variety of cherries you can find, but I would definitely use a dark variety, and frozen is fine too! (But stay away from the bright red Maraschinos, those are more for topping sundaes than for baking!)

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Buttermilk-Cherry Waffles with Fresh Whipped Cream
Yield: 4 large waffles
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or vanilla bean paste (better than extract!)
1 cup jarred Morello cherries
Half pint of heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar (more or less, depending on how sweet you want your whipped cream to be.)
Dark Chocolate (optional)

A note about batter consistency: waffles are really forgiving. If your batter is a little to thick or a little too thin, chances are good it will still turn out just fine. If you ever feel like the consistency really is off though, gradually add in a little more flour if it’s too thin, or a little water or milk to thin it out if too thick. 

-Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and whisk thoroughly to distribute ingredients.
-Add buttermilk and oil to mixture and stir to combine.
-Add eggs one at a time, mixing till incorporated.
-Stir in vanilla extra or paste
-Crush the cherries using the back of a spoon, then add in cherries and the juice. (Note: crushing the cherries to this consistency will let the waffles maintain the flavor, without the overwhelming bite of a whole cherry in your waffle.)
-Pour batter into waffle iron and press till golden brown.
-To make the whipped cream, whip the heavy cream in a mixer using the whisk attachment, slowly adding in the sugar to taste once the cream starts to thicken. For best results, make sure the cream, bowl, and whisk are all chilled.
-Top warm waffles with fresh whipped cream, and grate a little bit of chocolate on top, because it’s Valentine’s Day, and that is just a classy move.

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