Sunday, June 29, 2014

DIY Toys: Woodland Village Animals

After completing the Woodland Folk, I made four animals out of eco-fi felt for my Woodland Village: an owl, hedgehog, badger and fox.  I just cut the bodies out of felt in duplicate and sewed the pairs together with a blanket stitch before adding on wings, and other features.  I drew the eyes on with Sharpie Stained Fabric Markers.

Because they're felt they could "adhere" onto the felt houses for some time.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Coming up: How to Help Pollinators, Toxin Toxout, non-toxic toy recommendations and free books!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

DIY Toys: Woodland Folk

Acorn Gnome, Fairy with leaf wings, Mushroom Elf, Elf Baby and another Gnome.
Once my Woodland Village was completed, it was time to populate it with Woodland Folk.

Shapes cut out for the woodland folk.
I cut the following shapes out to make the gnome:
I sewed the pink body together with a blanket stitch, sewed the yellow cap together with a blanket stitch, and then sewed the cap, face and beard to the body. I used a Fabric Marker to draw two dots for eyes.

I cut the following shapes out for the fairy.  I drew veins onto the leaf wings with a green Fabric Marker.
I then sewed the wings together with a blanket stitch, the pink body together with a blanket stitch, and sewed the face to the front of the body and the wings to the back.  I drew two eyes on and the fairy was done.

The finished products
For the Mushroom Elf, I cut the following shapes out:

The yellow body was sewn together with a blanket stitch and then the mushroom dots were sewn onto the maroon cap.  I then sewed the face semi-circle to the yellow body and sewed the mushroom cap to the back of the head.  Finally, I drew two dots on for eyes.

For the Acorn Gnome, I cut out these shapes:
I sewed the pink body together with a blanket stitch and then sewed the face semi-circle onto the pink hood.  I then sewed the white beard onto that and the acorn hat and stem to the top of the head.  I finished it with two drawn-on eyes.

Here is what they look like assembled:

Lastly, I cut the following shapes out for the elf baby.  I sewed the baby's body together with a blanket stitch and then sewed the face to it and added eyes with the Sharpie Fabric Marker.  I then folded the lower left and right edges of the large green leaf towards each other and sewed them closed like a cocoon, sewing the little green leaf on top for an accent.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Coming up: the rest of the Woodland Village animals, How to Help Pollinators, Toxin Toxout, and free books!

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

DIY Toys: Nesting Woodland Village

I made a cheap woodland village for my kids out of Eco-fi felt.

I wanted the toy to store easily and not take up a lot of space so I made the cylindrical houses three different sizes so they would nest inside each other for clean-up.  The white rectangle is just the full piece that is sold at stores like JoAnn Fabrics.  I made the tan one a few inches smaller and the dark brown one about an inch smaller than the tan one.  (Note the cylindrical houses are made of two pieces of felt of the same size so there are identical pairs of rectangles in white, tan and brown).

For the mushroom house, I cut out an oblong red piece of felt for the roof and a matching tan piece to go under the red.

I cut out white shapes for the top of the mushroom.

I then took Sharpie Fabric Markers and drew mushrooms and a window and door on one of the white rectangles.
I used a sewing machine to sew the two white rectangles together.
I then hand sewed the white circles onto the red mushroom roof and drew lines on the tan under-body of the roof to look like the underside of a mushroom cap.  I stuffed the roof with some extra felt scraps and then sewed it closed.
Finally, I hand sewed the two edges of the white rectangle together to make a cylinder and the mushroom house was done!

Using the same basic idea, I sewed the two tan rectangles together along all four sides with a sewing machine.  I then drew on one side with Sharpie Stained markers.
I then cut out a pair of flowers and sewed them together by hand with a blanket-stitch and sewed a yellow circle to the center.
And to finish the house I sewed the two ends together by hand to make a cylinder.

For the tree house, I drew lines on one brown felt rectangle to look like bark.  I then machine sewed the two brown rectangles together alongside their borders.
I then cut out a pair of green leaves, drew veins on one side of them and hand sewed them together with a blanket stitch for the roof.
Finally I hand sewed the edges of the trunk together to make a cylinder and it was done:

Here is a picture of the three houses nesting inside each other.  The woodland people and animals I made for this village (and will blog about this week and next) also fit inside the smallest brown cylinder and then the three roofs just stack on top for easy storage.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Coming up: the rest of the Woodland Village animals and people, How to Help Pollinators, Toxin Toxout, and free books!

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

This Time Let's Really Stop Judging Each Other

To see this piece on the Huffington Post, click here.
It seems like at least once a year a blog article on why parents shouldn't judge each other goes viral. Sleep-deprived parents hastily post it up on their Facebook pages in the few seconds of free time between brokering peace in a divisive sibling toy argument and debating whether it is worth combing the discarded orange seeds from their kids' dinner out of their own hair or whether it is better to just tell everyone it is a new, all natural, leave-in conditioner.
And every now and then, a parent who posted one of those Kumbaya-don't-judge articles will then go on to share blog posts by people boasting about not making Pinterest-inspired, elaborately crafted Bento Box bear-shaped sandwiches with honey sticks like their friends do, while other parents share blog posts about proudly natural, granola families who shun conventional produce and screen time. This would be absolutely fine and dandy if the writers of these articles weren't bitterly putting down the people who parent differently from them.
Yes, the Internet makes it easy for people to revert to their pubescent ways. (Hey, you, the thirty-something woman posting all the selfies to Facebook, I get it. Camera phones weren't around when we were in high school. So you go, girl. Just get it out of your system before you hit 40). And it is so easy to talk smack about someone when they can't see you. But when did parenting become the new high school?
Not since the late nineties have I felt this unsure of myself. Am I doing the wrong thing? Am I making other people feel bad because of what I choose to do? Why are my friends who don't have kids yet making fun of my parenting style behind my back? Why are my friends who do have kids making fun of my parenting style? Am I getting a zit?
And in full disclosure, I, too, have wondered about what other parents are doing with their kids. How can they feed their kids that? Doesn't she know about the toxins in that product she's smearing all over her kid?
It is at times like these that I have to catch myself and remember to reserve my parental judgment for decisions that relate to raising my children, not for assigning worth to other parents.
Every parent is struggling, be it the stay-at-home-dad who stresses himself out to plan a DIY Sweet-6 birthday party for his son, or the working mom who can barely find time to buy some prepackaged food for dinner since she only sees her kids for one hour after work before it is their bedtime. Everyone is struggling and every parent I know unquestionably loves their kids and would do anything within their means for them.
So why does what anyone else chooses to do with his or her kids, as long as no one is getting hurt, anyone else's business? Just because someone chooses to parent one way does not necessarily mean they think the other way is terrible. So why do we get offended if someone else enjoys Pinterest? What difference does it make to us if someone only feeds their kids organic, homemade food or goes out to a restaurant every now and then, or if somebody has a zero screen-time policy or lets their child watch a little television, or if one uses cloth diapers or plastic or practices Elimination Communication? Why are we so insecure again?
We have to stop searching for validation in a blog post. For every blog post I can find telling me I am incredible for raising my kids the way I do, someone can find another talking about how amazing my polar opposite is.
It took me almost all of high school to realize what anyone else said about me didn't matter and to be proud of myself and my accomplishments. I don't want to take years to learn that lesson again, and I certainly don't want my actions to inadvertently teach my children to think they're better than someone else or doubt their self-worth.
So here it is in a nutshell: You're not a better parent than me and I'm not better than you. We all need to remind ourselves of this daily so we can try to keep this petty nonsense out of the next generation. Tape it to your toilet. Write it on your mirror in lipstick if you need to. Hell, get it tattooed on your hand, (although I guarantee another parent will judge you for that). But let's actually remember it, not just post it to Facebook to see how many likes it can get.
Kumbaya. Now excuse me as I go feed my kid some more oranges. These gooey seeds are doing wonders for my split ends.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Review: bring it Bags

bring it Mandala PET bags, Valencia 12 Pack Small Produce Bags, Honeydew Valencia Produce Bag and Cantaloupe Valencia Produce Bag
I had the opportunity to try out several bring it bags recently.
(Note: I received complimentary products for this review but the opinions are mine).

I was already a fan of bring it's designs, having purchased this bring it jute bag from Zulily last year:

You can see more Jute designs here.

bring it Bags are stylish, reusable bags made from recycled and sustainable materials.  They can be used at the grocery store, farmers' market, the beach, work, etc.

bring it selects product materials based on two criteria:
1.) It should be made of post-consumer and/or industrial waste
2.) It should have a low environmental impact

Based on that criteria, bring it uses the following materials:
Jute: a rain-fed vegetable fiber that grows in abundance and needs a minimal amount of pesticide or fertilizer during farming/processing.
PET, made primarily of reclaimed plastic bottles.

And, according to their packaging, bring it donates a portion of every purchase to non-profit organizations.

The PET bag from bring it was really cute and large enough to hold lots of produce.  This is the Mandala Print design.  To see all the designs available in their PET bags, click here.

From L to R: 11 of the 12 bags, a bag closed with the drawstring pulled tight, and the bag the 12 bags were packaged in.
Next I tried out the small Valencia Produce Bags, which come in a 12 pack.  These 8" X 12" bags are made from 60% recycled plastic bottles.  They come packaged in a smaller mesh bag that you can use to carry your produce bags to the market or grocery store, or reuse as a produce bag too, or use it to hold other items.

I've seen some complaints online that they are too stiff but the bags I received were not stiff.  Because of the mesh material though, I'm not sure how many years they will last for but they were strong enough to hold a couple mangoes, several kiwis, and heavier fruits like apples too.  And they come with 12 bags so you can easily take all to the store if you purchase lots of produce, or you can keep some for later to replace any lost or damaged ones in the future, or you can split the pack up among all shoppers in your family.  The bags are even machine washable in case you get some sap or mashed produce stuck in the netting.  While I didn't try machine washing them, I did hand wash them and they held up just fine.

The Valencia line also has two larger mesh bags in a bright orange (Cantaloupe) or vibrant green (Honeydew).  They are machine washable, self drying and 12" X 14."  100% of these reusable bags come from plastic bottles left behind.  These sunny bags have a drawstring loop to close them and can fit quite a lot of produce in them.

I was able to fit all three of the smaller netted produce bags with kiwis, apples and mangoes into the larger Cantaloupe Valencia Produce Bag.

The Cantaloupe and Honeydew Valencia Produce Bags even come packaged with this handy orange door hanger to remind you to take your bags with you.  You can hang it on your front door or door to your garage to remind you to grab your bags before you head out.

Overall these bags were easy to use, easy on the eyes, and very functional.

Where to find Bring It bags:
Amazon, Zulily (click on the heart to be notified of the next time bring it is featured on Zulily), and other online retailers.

Connect with Bring It:
Their Website

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

DIY Toys: Goat

For the last of my stuffed animals made from an old pair of sweatpants that was too old to be donated I made a goat.

I drew the goat with a Sharpie Stained Fabric Marker and then turned it inside out.  I then cut the shape out 1/4th of an inch from the drawing, in duplicate, and sewed all sides but the bottom closed .

I then cut out a heart, teeth, eye, nose, goat and horns from eco-fi felt and sewed them on using a blanket stitch.

And the goat was done!

Previous DIY Stuffed Animals:
Kangaroo and Joey

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

BabyBjorn Gold Smart Potty Giveaway

Exciting news: BabyBjorn is giving away a gold, limited edition Smart Potty not available in stores or for purchase right here!
How cool does this look?

As regular readers of my blog know, we practice EC, or Elimination Communication, with our children.  That is when you use a mammal's natural instinct to not sit in their own waste to take babies to the potty from birth.  It is not a potty training method but rather a way to communicate naturally with your child and meet their needs.  To see my updated post on how I EC'd my oldest, click here.

 We absolutely love the Smart Potty, and own four of them, in addition to two BabyBjorn Potty Chairs.  We keep two Smart Potties in our car to use when we are out at other people's homes, at the zoo, etc.  They have inserts that are easily removed to throw the waste out in the toilet.  In the picture below, I'm EC'ing my oldest when he is 7 weeks old on just the insert.  Check out all the SmartPotty colors here.
The BabyBjorn Smart Potty can be purchased at stores like Target, Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby and online from retailers like and

To enter the giveaway, follow the Rafflecopter Rules below.  No purchase necessary.  This giveaway is open to U.S. Residents only.  The winner's first name and last initial will be announced on this page and he or she will be notified by email.

Note: You log into the Rafflecopter widget below by giving your name and email address.  Then you have to click on the +1 to get your ticket to enter, where it will ask you for your name, mailing address and email address.  If you have just done the first step, you are not entered and need to complete the second step.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Connect With BabyBjorn 
Their Website

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review: Zoku Mini Pops

I recently had the opportunity to try out the Zoku Mini Pops mold.
(Note: I received a complimentary product for review purposes but all opinions are mine).

These mini Popsicle makers are BPA and Phthalate free!
And because the mini pops just pop out of the base, there is no need to run them under hot water.
You can see from the picture below, the far right mold is popped up, having released a Mini Pop.  This also makes it easy to pop an uneaten Mini Pop back in, in case you made a variety of flavors and didn't pick the flavor you were looking for.

Each mold can make 9 Mini Pops.  The Mold is 9.75" X 6.75" X 3".  
I blended pineapple in my Nutribullet and put it in the pop maker.  A couple hours later I had a fresh pineapple Mini Pop:

And while it is a small Popsicle, it was more than enough for me, and it is the perfect size for a child too.

Since my son is teething, we also make "water Popsicles," like the one below:
The Mini Pop Mold lets you make Mini Pops out of fresh, natural ingredients without the added sugar in store-bought Popsicles.  It also can serve as an ice tray if you pour water into the mold and don't use the sticks.  This makes fun, spherical shaped ice cubes (or "ice spheres" to be more accurate).

I just filled the mold with organic berries and water to make these red and blue ice cubes.  They would be great for a 4th of July party and leave your water tasting great too:

I also tried out using the mold to make chocolate covered berries and raisins.
The Zoku Blog has an easy recipe for the Zoku Quick Shell, which calls for chocolate chips and coconut oil to be melted in a double boiler in a 2:1 ratio.

2/3 cup (4 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup (2 ½ oz) refined coconut oil 

I used 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/4 cup organic extra virgin coconut oil.
  (The Zoku blog also has several other recipes to try out too).

Melting the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a double boiler

While waiting for the chocolate shell to cool, I washed the berries I was going to use.

I filled the mold with organic raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries and tried one with raisins.

I then added organic chia seeds.
And then it was time to add the chocolate shell, making sure to not go over the Fill Line.

The chocolate, chia, fruit pops and on the right, blueberries and strawberries in water for flavored ice spheres.

I then added the sticks and put the molds in the freezer.

The Zoku instructions booklet says it will take around 6 hours to freeze.  I checked on mine in five hours and the pops were frozen, but this will vary on the temperature of your freezer.
So I just popped out the Mini Pops like this:

And they were ready to be eaten:

They were delicious and cleanup was fairy easy.  The sticks are tiny so it is a good idea to have a system of where to put the washed sticks when people are done so you don't lose them.  I just keep a glass bowl by the sink to store them in until I put them back in the mold.  The sticks and mold are easy to hand wash.  The only time I had trouble was when some of the chocolate shell got jammed in the little hole in the stick.  I just soaked it and then used a fork to clean the remaining chocolate out.

The Zoku Mini Pops mold is a great, BPA/Phthalate-free way to make controlled portions of chocolate covered fruit, homemade fruit pops, green smoothie pops, ice cubes and much more.  I highly recommend this product.  As you can see from the pictures above, I liked it so much I ended up purchasing more for myself and other family members.

Where to Purchase Zoku Products:
$16.99 at the Zoku Website.
Other online retailers like Amazon (Currently their price is $34 but I purchased it from Amazon for $17.99 so if you want to buy it from Amazon, I'd just keep checking the price over a few weeks to see if it drops back down from $34), Bed Bath and Beyond, Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table

Connect With Zoku:

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