Forget the guar gum: Just pass the real deal Maria’s Style salsa!

Maria's Style Garlic Habanero Vodka Salsa
Maria’s Style Garlic Habanero Vodka Salsa

Ooooh…yum, yum, yum, chips and salsa. Tacos, loaded. Nachos.

Could you please pass some more of that delicious calcium chloride? Uh…er…sodium benzoate? Guar gum! No? Xanthan gum? Ah, I know. Dextrose. Modified food starch. High fructose corn syrup, that should do it! Brown sugar. Citric acid. Yes, that.

Doesn’t grab your attention? How about  mangoes, peaches and tequila? Tomatillos and Serrano peppers? Garlic and vodka? Sound a little better?

If the second list is what you really wanted when you said, “pass the salsa,” then stop right into Green Box Boutique to pick up some of our Maria’s Style products, for yourself to keep in the house or to give as valued gifts.

All the items in the first list are found in ingredients lists on a variety of commercial salsas — and why would you want those things?? You wanted salsa! And the best salsa is made from real foods, without preservatives and additives that do nothing more than put back flavor removed in processing. You want salsa like what Maria’s Style makes.

Maria’s Style started with salsa, but their other products are all made the same way, from real food, without preservatives or other undesirable additives.

Other than a variety of salsas, those products include jams and dessert toppings, soups, pastas, pasta sauces and spreads, and dips. These delicious items are unique flavor combinations from real foods, but chips and salsa, or a some preserves on toast are the smallest part of what you can do! Try some of Maria’s suggestions, or get creative, and use a Maria’s Style product in some way totally your own:

Maria’s Style Raspberry Jalapeno Jam

  • As a Baste
    Spread over chicken breast or game hens and bake 45 minutes at 350° F
    Spoon over beef brisket (5-7 lbs.), cover with foil and bake at 300° F for 4 hours. Then remove foil and baste with sauce juices.
    Bake an additional hour at 350° F then serve
  • As an Hors d’oeuvre
    Spoon over cream cheese and serve with crackers
    Spoon over Brie cheese and bake 15 minutes at 425° F then serve with crackers
    Try also over bagels or waffles
  • As a Dressing/Vinaigrette
    In a bowl combine 1 rounded tbsp. of Maria’s Style Raspberry Jalapeno Jam, 12 tbsp. of oil, 4 tbsp Balsamic vinegar,
    2 tbsp. red wine vinegar, 3 cloves sliced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste mix well and let sit several hours or overnight

And there’s more! Maria’s Style also makes gift packages. All the fixings for soup, including a ceramic bowl. Gift baskets. Jam two-packs with gourmet crackers. A pasta sauce gift box with a gourmet pasta. And lots more combinations, delicious, all-natural, preservative-free, thoughtful gifts for the people in your life whom you love and who love great food.

And if that’s not enough, Maria’s Style products are made right here, in Illinois. A local company serving up delicious food to the people who will most appreciate it — their neighbors.

Adult and Child Therapy Services: A Good Reason to Jump the Season

Adult and Child Therapy Services Holiday Giving Tree
Adult and Child Therapy Services Holiday Giving Tree

If you stop into Green Box Boutique these days, you will see a “Holiday Giving Tree” display from Adult and Child Therapy Services. We are proud to support this McHenry County-centered organization, whose first home was in Woodstock.

The ornaments in the display are all hand-painted by children served by ACTS. Your purchase will beautify your tree or the tree of anyone who receives it as a gift from you. At the same time, the money you spend on your purchase is a donation, in its entirety, to Adult and Child Therapy Services.

We often share information with you about many of our vendors, most of them “social goodness enterprises.” These businesses not only provide beautiful items for you to enjoy or give, but they address some social or environmental issue through their way of doing business.

Adult and Child Therapy Services takes a more traditional route to service. As a not-for-profit, the organization receives most of its support from Program Fees (covered by private and public insurance fees, United Way of McHenry County and Grants. Additional funds come from donations, events and projects like the Holiday Giving Tree.

These funds allow the organization to fulfill its mission, which is “to inspire hope, develop independence and promote well-being in our patients and their families through one-on-one physical, speech and occupational therapy. ACTS Vision is to inspire and develop independence one person, one family at a time.”

With a staff of just 12, the organization relies on volunteer assistance, and they invite you to connect with them. This small staff works out of two locations, one in Woodstock at 708 Washington St. The second location, opened in 2014, is in Huntley at 12189 Regency Parkway.

ACTS began its life in Woodstock in 1949 at the height of the polio epidemic. At that time, it was the McHenry County Chapter of Easter Seals in Woodstock. In 1994, the Board voted not to renew its franchise with Easter Seals, determining they could provide more therapy and nursing care for McHenry County as an independent organization. They became the Child Rehabilitation Center, a name they carried until 2010, when they became ACTS.

Today ACTS is a non-profit out-patient facility offering physical, speech and occupational therapy to men, women and children of all ages and income levels in McHenry County and beyond. These services include free developmental screenings for ages 0-3, and Fall Risk Assessments and Individual Exercise Programs for Seniors. Children in the Early Intervention Program are treated in their own homes.

In 2014, ACTS celebrated its 65th anniversary.  Today, we celebrate ACTS as we sponsor their Holiday Giving Tree.  ACTS says of their Tree, “We know you are planners. And while we don’t want to push Christmas before Thanksgiving, when you need an ornament this year for your tree – check out Green Box Boutique and purchase an ornament from the hands and hearts at Adult & Child.”

Please stop in to visit us in our beautiful new location On the Square, and when you do, be sure to get your beautiful hand-painted ornament. This holiday season, help us support ACTS and the families in McHenry County and beyond who depend on the services they provide.

Synergy: Clothing that feels good, looks good, is good!

Classic styles, simple and simply beautiful, comfortable, breathing good health: Synergy.

Radiate effortless style while treading gently on the Earth.” Imagine yourself in this simple and simply beautiful black dress, a dress that works as well for a night out on the town as an evening at home with friends.

Or how about getting married in the white version, a classically stylish dress so simple that it is perfect for this important occasion or to wear in your backyard for a summer party.

These dresses are just one example of the way we break down artificial barriers in the 21st century. Many of us remember the days when there were clear lines between day clothes and evening clothes, work clothes and active-wear,  what you wore on Sunday and what you wore the rest of the week. If you went to a luncheon and wanted to take a vigorous walk afterward, you had to go home to change first. No longer the case, we want our clothes to feel comfortable in a variety of environments. We want one dress to turn into many, with accessories, jackets, undershirts and more. synergy_moxie_dress

Try your own individual combination with this dress of long-sleeved t-shirts, jackets, belts, leggings and boots while you’re waiting for summer and a chance to wear the dress all by itself.

These versatile, soft, breathable fabrics are perfect for yoga, and Synergy makes many yoga styles in addition to their dresses, skirts, tops and outerwear.

synergy_yoga

Synergy clothes are comfortable in many environments, in any environment. Made of 95% certified organic cotton and 5% Spandex, the garments are body hugging without being tight or stiff but instead beautifully and softly draping in the right places. Garments are dyed with low-impact dyes and made in Nepal. Synergy represents our desire to return to the classic simplicity of real fabrics. The clothing lets you move and will carry you stylishly through the activities of your day and evening.

Like so many of the companies whose products we sell at Green Box Boutique, Synergy also represents the commitment many of us have to the environment and the workers who make our clothing. Their signature organic cotton, sustainably produced, is turned into beautiful garments by Fair Trade workers in Nepal.

Why organic? From Everything Beautiful, a blog that features Synergy clothing as The Only Fabrics You Should Have On Your Body: “As modern society teaches us, technological advances don’t always prove to be beneficial. It wasn’t long ago that only natural fabrics were solely used like hemp, cotton, flax, silk, wool, cashmere, alpaca, and linen. Nowadays, though, our fabrics are chemically treated and processed, causing adverse effects to the wearer. Harmful detergents, petrochemical dyes, formaldehyde (to prevent shrinkage), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dioxin-producing bleach, and chemical fabric softeners are a few of the additives involved chemical processing. These not only release toxins to the body, producing ill health effects and causing irritation (skin reactions are very common in those chemically sensitive), but produce harmful effects to the environment as well. Today’s clothing industry is a seven trillion dollar a year industry that uses an astounding 8,000 synthetic chemicals.”

For more information about why this clothing not only feels good but is good for you, be sure to check out Synergy’s blog. Here’s an excerpt from This Week’s Links: “The True Cost —  This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing? Yes, this should definitely be on your Must Watch List.”

Avatar Imports: “Mandatory Fun” with a Social Mission

From Avatar Imports: "Drew" rocks our Organic Cotton "Schralp Master Dress" in Olive Green... do you know what schralping is? (No fair checking Urban Dictionary!)
From Avatar Imports: “Drew” rocks our Organic Cotton “Schralp Master Dress” in Olive Green… do you know what schralping is? (No fair checking Urban Dictionary!)

In Facebook, Avatar Imports likes to post the music they’re playing in their Santa Cruz location. One day in October 2014, they posted that “Weird Al” Yankovic’s song, “Mandatory Fun” pretty much sums up Avatar’s philosophy.

Sounds like a pretty good self-description with discussions like the following peppering their feed: “Which would do a better job of swimming across a river: a taco or a grilled cheese sandwich? Here at Avatar we’re asking the tough questions.” That sparked some fun answers!

In a somewhat more formal (if we can use that word in this context) way on their website, Avatar describes themselves like this: “Based in Santa Cruz, California, Avatar Imports’ mission is to design and create fun, fashionable, high quality goods in a manner that is socially, environmentally and economically responsible. We are a former member of the Fair Trade Federation, and are a certified green business under Santa Cruz’s Green Business Program. You can find our products at stores throughout the U.S., Canada and online.”

And there, in a couple of sentences, we have a multi-faceted mission. Avatar designs and creates a particular style of clothing while having a great time, both in the shop and while traveling.

Within a year of their 1990 founding, they met Jhaindra Ghimire in Kathmandu, Nepal. Soon they partnered with him as he created a Fair Trade textile factory, all agreeing “it was time to adhere to the principles of fair trade and give our employees an opportunity to rise up out of poverty and enjoy an improved standard of living and quality of life.” They are all committed to giving the impoverished a chance to improve their lifestyle by obtaining steady work in a safe, healthy environment with an above average wage and learning valuable work skills.

In addition to their membership in Fair Trade organizations and their partnership with Jhaindra Ghimire, Avatar Imports actively supported relief efforts after the earthquake in Nepal in 2015, running an Earthquake Relief Sale from May through August.

Avatar Imports describes its clothing as “inexpensive boho dresses, yoga wear, bohemian style clothing and hippie chic.” Another Facebook post shares “Boho — Fashion History and Bohemian Style”.  The article describes Bohemian as a style that for more than 200 years has been “an exotic alternative to the accepted fashions of a given period.” It incorporates ethnic clothing styles and historical costume into individualized, stylishly shabby presentations: “Bohemian style consists of loose, colorful clothing and has been known as boho chic, hippie style, and Aesthetic dress. With their long flowing hair and rich, though threadbare fabrics, bohemians stand out in a crowd representing a colorful counterculture based on creativity, poverty, and an indifference to social structures and traditions.”

Hippie chic and bohemian style clothing is, like Avatar Imports itself, fun, carefree and fashionable while making a social statement and fulfilling a social mission.