Wednesday, July 30, 2014

DIY Play Money: Dollars and Rupees

After purchasing a cash register toy for my son, I was in need of some play money.  So I made some felt rupees and dollars.  Here's how:
PlanToys Cash Register With Some Felt Rupees
1.) Cut out rectangles to form your bills.  
2.) Using a contrasting color, cut out numbers.
3.) Sew around the edges with a blanket stitch to make them look more finished.
4.) Sew the numbers to your bills.  I used a running stitch to do this.

5.) I drew the dollar signs and rupees symbols onto the felt with a ballpoint pen and then just used a double threaded running stitch to go over them.  You could also cut out your currency's symbol out of felt and sew it on as well or draw it on with a fabric marker like Sharpie's Stained markers.

This was a simple toy to make but if sewing isn't your thing, you could just cut rectangles out of felt and draw the denominations on them with a fabric marker.  I just sewed the rectangles together to make the dollars and rupees a little sturdier for playing with.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Green Stacking Toys, Pounding Toys and Shapes

My son had a blast with the PlanToys Punch and Drop when he was younger.  I did have to supervise him because of the mallet and when he got into a throwing phase I had to temporarily hide this toy because the wooden balls are heavy and could cause some damage if they hit a window or a person.

The PlanToys Shape and Sort is a fun little shape sorter that can help your kids learn the three basic shapes it comes with.  When my son was younger his favorite part of the toy was the blue lever that makes the shapes drop down but he eventually began to figure out how to get the shapes to fit into their spots.

PlanToys Cone Sorting is a great toy that can grow with your young child.  When I first gave it to my son I removed several of the inner pieces, (not pictured here, but you can see them in the Amazon link), because they were smaller tubes that he could choke on or get hurt by if he had fallen on them.  I eventually introduced them as he got older and they allowed the toy to be formed into several shapes other than the basic cone.

Look for these toys on Amazon and
Sometimes yoyo has coupon codes for a PlanToys sale and beats Amazon's prices.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Coming up in the next few weeks: more DIY toys, and green products like an alternative for petroleum jelly.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DIY Toys: Faces

ere is an easy toy you can make for your kids.  Sewing is optional.  If you don't want to sew anything, you can just cut the pieces out of felt.

Using felt, a sewing machine, and Sharpie Stained Fabric Markers, I made two faces and several mustaches, lips, eyes, hair pieces, and a crown and sunglasses for my son to make numerous combinations of faces with.

Because each piece is two layers of felt sewn together, I was able to draw different colored eyes on the front and back of the white eyeballs, to allow for more variety.

Here are just some of the faces we were able to make:

This is a simple do-it-yourself toy that can even be made out of construction paper.  It travels easy too, so you can take it to other people's houses or out to restaurants without any hassle.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Upcycle Craft: Chicago Skyline

Here is an upcycle craft that can easily be done with supplies you have in the house: reusing scrap paper and old magazines to make art.
I made this Chicago skyline for my brother-in-law's birthday a couple years ago.  The lake and trees are made out of strips of ads from old Entertainment Weekly magazines.  The buildings are made out of old programs I had from shows in Chicago and menus of his favorite Chicago restaurants printed on scrap paper.

This was a fun way to reuse magazine pages and scrap paper.  You can cut out different shapes and make an abstract piece or give the scraps and some glue to your kids to see what they can create.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Teach Your Child A Little Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati with 9 Free e-Books!

My 9 Indian language e-books for kids are free today through July 20th.  Click here!

For those of you who prefer a hard copy, these 9 books are also now available in paperback too, either as individual titles or as three-books-in-one in:

But unfortunately, those aren't free.
You can see all my titles, including these and more on my Amazon Author Page here.

If you don't have a Kindle, you can download the free Kindle app to read books on your phone, tablet or computer here.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Toxin Toxout Review

I remember exactly where I was four years ago when I heard Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith being interviewed about their groundbreaking book, Slow Death By Rubber Duck, on the Diane Rehm Show.  I was out, walking my dog on the sunny, smoggy L.A. streets and I started to feel sick as I listened to all the toxins I had inadvertently been exposing myself to.

Growing up, I always avoided non-stick cookware, Triclosan and canned food.  My mom had never kept these items in our house, other than a few cans of pop for parties, (which I never knew contained BPA until I read Slow Death By Rubber Duck).  I always made sure the toiletries I used weren't tested on animals.  I thought what I was using was harmless and I thought I was being a conscientious consumer.

But then, in under an hour, thanks to the interview, I learned about BPA, PBDEs, and phthalates, a funny word I wouldn't have been able to pronounce just a week earlier, that I now use so often my phone automatically suggests it when I type the letters "ph."  I also found out more about the dangers of mercury, herbicides, Triclosan, and PFOAs.

Within a few weeks, I researched natural companies and found all natural or "greener" paraben/phthalate/bpa-free replacements for our cleaners, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, shaving foams, toothpastes, etc.  We stopped buying the occasional canned drink and switched to bottles.

I found Slow Death By Rubber Duck to be so important and life-changing, I bought several copies for my family members and friends.  (Needless to say, everyone was irritated with me). I decreased as much of the toxins as I could inside our house, knowing it wasn't possible to always decrease our exposure in the outside world, (Although I do travel with our own hand-soap.  I don't want to expose my kids to unnecessary Triclosan and I don't want to use it either, especially when I'm pregnant or breastfeeding).  This book was my guide.  I referenced it all the time and it inspired me to start this blog, to share my product research.  I had so fully utilized its information that I was confident when I was pregnant that my phthalate, BPA, Triclosan, PFOA, Herbicide and Mercury levels would be pretty low and my PBDE levels would be slightly lower than the average.

So of course, when I heard Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie had written a follow-up, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.  And of course, when my family heard about this follow-up, they groaned.  What more could I subject them to?

(Note: I received a complimentary copy of Toxin Toxout for review purposes.  All opinions are my own).

Like Slow Death By Rubber Duck, Toxin Toxout is written in a casual, and humorous manner.  Smith and Lourie make the scientific aspects of their research and experiments easy to understand, without dumbing it down.  They continue to experiment on themselves, like they did in their earlier book but this time they have simple points to help us decrease the toxins from our bodies and our world.

In addition to covering the seven toxins mentioned in the first book, (anti-bacterial Triclosan, non-stick PFOAs, flame retardants, BPA, mercury, phthalates and herbicides), the book goes into great detail about toxins in our food, (and the benefits of organic food, exposing the flaws in the news story that made waves last year about organics not being healthier), and what to avoid eating.  The authors take us inside the world of green cosmetics and toiletries, reminding us that the exponentially growing green industry has some good guys and not so good guys, since green claims aren't regulated, so we need to do a little research and look for certain certifications to know if what we are using really is as natural or harmless as it claims.  Smith and Lourie explore our body's natural mechanisms for detoxing and encourage us to do it more.  They look into some powerful toxins' associations with the sudden rise in allergies over the past few years and they cover green building products.  The book's penultimate chapter goes into responsible consumerism, taking a look at what happens to the products we throw out.  It is a powerful reminder to be conscious consumers and consider the people and environment being affected by our purchasing and disposing decisions.

Like its predecessor, the book ends with an uplifting chapter, (so you don't have a panic attack while walking your dog), with ten action points that are easy to follow to decrease your exposure in a practical way, knowing you can't always control what goes on outside your environment but you can control what happens in your own home, but it also goes one step further, encouraging readers to vote for politicians who support greener economies.

I firmly believe we can't just consume without knowing what we are doing to our bodies and to others.  This book is a great inspiration to detox your toiletries, (if you haven't already, after reading Lourie and Smith's first book), slightly change your eating and exercise habits, and change the world on a larger scale through your vote, and on a smaller scale, like encouraging your child's schools or daycares to ditch the antibacterial products for regular soap (phthalate free? Even better!) and talking to your parks and recs departments, schools and neighbors about changing outdated notions of "green lawns" to be truly green.

While I don't think another book on toxins will have as much of an impact on my life as Slow Death By Rubber Duck, this is a great follow-up with important information and action points that can actually make a difference on a larger scale if enough people read it and share the information.  So check it out and start making a difference, at home and in your world.

And for those of you wondering, most of my family members are now down with their natural or less-toxic products that have replaced the toxin-filled products of yore.

Toxin Toxout is available for purchase at your local book sellers and Amazon.
You can connect with Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie on Twitter @rjcsmith and @brucelourie

After reading Toxin Toxout, check out my blog links below for tips on how to further decrease your exposure to toxins and handy lists of non-toxic/less-toxic alternative products for cleaning, sleeping, and toiletries.  You can search this blog for non-toxic toys as well from PlanToys and Haba, among other brands.*

Decrease Your Exposure to PFOAs
Decrease Your Exposure to Phthalates
Decrease Your Exposure to PBDEs
Decrease Your Exposure to BPA
Decrease Your Exposure to Herbicides, Pesticides, Insecticides and Fungicides
Decrease Your Exposure to Triclosan
Baby Care
Infant and Child Feeding Supplies
Sunscreen and Insect Repellant
Sleep Supplies
Natural, phthalate-free air fresheners
Alternatives to plastic bottles

*(You can also search the toxins in this blog for more posts about product recommendations like natural wooden toys from Haba and PlanToys, PlanetBox lunchboxes, U Konserve containers and sandwich bags, and Naturepedic's Organic Kapok pillow).

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Green Toys: Pretend Play

These wooden toys are great for pretend play.

The PlanToys Tool Belt set is a wooden tool set that comes with measuring tape, a wrench, screwdriver, hammer and a water measuring tool with a tiny plastic ball in a see-through window that will sit in the center of the window when the tool is level.  If your child puts things around his or her neck you will of course need to be careful with the measuring tape.

The PlanToys Camera is a kaleidoscope that can be turned with the blue wheel in the lens.  Unfortunately when my child dropped the camera, the kaleidoscope popped out of the camera.  I had to glue it back on and it has fallen out a couple more times since then but my son still liked playing with it.  After several such incidents, the kaleidoscope piece is now lost but it is still one of my son's favorite toys, even though the lens now falls out regularly.

Sorry for the short posts this week.  It has been a hectic few days but check back next week for
Toxin Toxout!  New posts every Monday and Thursday.

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

How to Help Pollinators

You can help bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators by not using pesticides and herbicides in your yard and gardens.  These days, with their numbers dwindling, bees need all the help they can get.

For ways to avoid herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and fungicides and more reasons for avoiding them, see my post here.

You can even plant a pollinator garden.  Here are pollinator friendly plants:
Bee Balm
Black Eyed Susan

For more pollinator friendly plants and for plants specific to your region, click here.

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

Follow me on Twitter @soups25

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Child Scares Me

To see this piece on The Huffington Post click here.

My child scares me. I don't mean I'm concerned about him. My child is sweet and funny and entertaining. He's perfect in his own way. Well, as perfect as a 2-year-old can be.
No, my child actually, unintentionally, scares the crap out of me.
I'm a proud wimp. Even before I was pregnant, I knew kids of all ages could be terrifying. From the creepy fetus in Rosemary's Baby, to the kid who uses lipstick to scrawl "redrum" in The Shining, to the tween unnaturally crawling out of a TVin The Ring, children were scary.
For a good chunk of my 20s, my friends and I watched horror movies once a week. And the more films I watched, the more evidence there was that kids could be really frightening. The GrudgeThe Sixth SenseThe Messengers, the list goes on and on; the kids in all these movies were either ghosts or saw ghosts. And although I never really watched a horror movie, but rather saw bits of it while covering my eyes with my hands and peering through the gaps between my fingers, the message was not lost on me.
It wasn't just in movies, either. In real life, I once heard someone tell the creepiest story about how their young daughter regularly saw the ghost of a man with a hat on in their old, thought-to-be-haunted house. Another friend's child repeatedly told her there were people in their fireplace with red eyes.
Not cool.
But after having my son, these scary memories were all but forgotten. We laughed, we played, my son was a blast.
But then he started talking. A lot. And he started telling me things like, "There is a heartbeat knocking at the door."
I'd tell him there isn't.
He'd reply, "Yeah, there is. It's a red heartbeat."
And just like that my heartbeat was knocking at my chest. He was only two. It's not like he had read any Poe. Where was he getting this from?
I didn't know but it was getting worse by the day.
He would run to me, scared, telling me, "Something is saying, 'No, no, no, no, no.'"
Uh, what, what, what, what, what?
And for two weeks he would tell me several times a day: "Kevin is exercising upstairs. Let's go check on him."
I was in no mood to catch a ghost doing Pilates. Or worse, P90X. A strong ghost? No, thank you.
What was next? Was my thermostat going to start diving down before my son told me he sees dead people?
I ain't afraid of no ghosts? I was afraid of all ghosts. Whether they claimed to be friendly like Casper or whether they were health-obsessed, even in the afterlife, like good old, Kevin. But unlike in my 20s, I was the parent now. I had to be brave or at least pretend to be. So I went up the stairs to check on Kevin, shakily calling out his name like Stefon on SNL. "Kevin?" To my relief there was no one exercising in that room, dead or alive.
And that's when I remembered logic.
Kids are like sponges. They absorb things we often overlook. And they're highly imaginative.
I realized that we had a repairman look at something in the room with our dust-covered elliptical days earlier. It turned out his name is Kevin.
And the heartbeat? That came from a sound machine we played for a month at night to help our newborn sleep. The sound machine that we had always set to "heartbeat."
There is a logical reason for everything my son scares me with, be it a guest whose name I have forgotten, a sound effect or a budding imagination. So lesson learned. I need to stop freaking out, put on a brave front and be a grown up. Because unlike the way I watch my horror movies, I can't go through life with my hands over my eyes.
I am still secretly a wimp, though, so I wouldn't mind a little help from my kid. The next time he thinks Kevin is jazzercising in the middle of the night, I'd love it if my son kept that info to himself.

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

Follow me on Twitter @soups25