Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Innobaby Din Din Plate

I bought the Innobaby Din Din plate for my kids earlier this year.  I purchased the plate on Amazon.  At first, I was hesitant because we have several divided stainless steel plates from India that don't cost as much as the Din Din plate, and when I got the plate, I was dismayed when I realized a sandwich wouldn't fit in the compartments.  But the more we have used it, the more it has grown on me.

The Din Din plate with pears, avocados, pomegranate seeds, cheese and soup.
Shaped like a bus with 5 divided compartments, I can see how the plate can make mealtime fun for some kids.  My son generally enjoys his food but on the occasions when he isn't that into a meal, I use this plate and we pretend that the bus can't move until he eats everything out of its compartments.  Although a sandwich, or in our case, half a sandwich, cannot fit in it uncut, the deep wheel compartments come in handy, as you don't need a separate bowl for quinoa, soup, Indian lentils, yogurt, etc.
Bell pepper, salad, peas, quinoa and avocado.

The plate is 7" X 10.5" X 1.5" and you can see more dimensions of the individual compartments using that link.  According to the website, Innobaby recommends handwashing the dish but it is also top-rack dishwasher safe.  It is made in South Korea, of 304 stainless steel, and free of BPA, Phthalates, PVC and lead.  You can watch a video on it here.

Come back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Coming up in the new year, I'll have posts on new do-it-yourself Indian playfood like idli sambar, masala dosa and another kind of samosa, more info on green products and green toys, more DIY toys and crafts.

Happy new year!  
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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Felt Dragon

My son had been asking for me to make him a dragon for a while now so last week I made this:

I started with a drawing, which I cut out of paper to trace on felt.


The green felt was just for the body so I cut the spikes and wings off before tracing and cut some of the belly off because it seemed to be too much for the toy.

I just used a ballpoint pen to trace the outline onto a folded piece of felt so that I would get a pair of dragons to sew together.

I then placed some more felt over the locations of the dragon's legs (in 2 layers so I get a pair of each limb to sew together) and drew some legs that seemed proportionate.



Just by luck, when I cut the last leg out I ended up with a shape that looked like wings so I decided to just use that pair to make the dragon's wings.



I then got a lighter green piece of felt and put it over the dragon to cut out the belly and underside of the neck.




I sewed the wings together and the legs together using a blanket stitch and sewed them to the front side of the dragon.  I then got out some felt scraps to make the fire.

And then I sewed the flame together.

I got out more scraps to make my dragon's spikes.  They were all cut in folded duplicates so that I could sew them together.

 
Next, I sewed two more little scraps of felt to the dragon's horns.

Then I sewed the body of the dragon together with a blanket stitch starting from the bottom of the dragon.

As I worked my way up I put the flame in the dragon's mouth and sewed one end of it between the two layers of the dragon's body.

 I sewed the dragon's head closed and then it was time for the spikes.  I simply put one end of each spike in between two layers of the dragon's neck, back and tail and sewed them in like so:


Before the dragon was totally sewn shut, I stuffed it with some old scraps of cotton, sewed the dragon closed and the toy was done!


Here is "Dragon the dragon" with some PlanToys peg people.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, including more info on green toys and products, DIY toys, (including more Indian playfood like masala dosa, another kind of samosa, and idli sambar), and more chalkboard crafts featuring Lullaby Paints.  

Follow me on Twitter @soups25

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Colorful Felt Trees

A few weeks ago, I posted about making the conical pine trees above.  Now it's time for those colorful trees in the background.  These trees are simple and cheap.  I just gathered pieces of felt in colors that would look nice together and cut out the shape of leaves on a vine.


I then sewed the ends together.  If you don't want to sew, you can just cut out longer vines.



I did this in pink, magenta and purple and yellow, orange and red.


I then got out an old cardboard tube from paper towels, cut it to the sizes I wanted and placed my vines on top.  (If you have gone the no-sew route you can just balance the vines on top).

They can be used as trees, or as bushes if you don't want to use cardboard tubes, or you can place them flat to be trails for toy animals or figures to walk on or paths for toy cars to drive on.





Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, including more info on green toys and products, DIY toys, (including more Indian playfood like masala dosa, another kind of samosa, and idli sambar), and more chalkboard crafts featuring Lullaby Paints.  

Follow me on Twitter @soups25

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Green Toys: Twinzy Toys

Almost 100 years ago, Battle Creek twin sisters Blanche and Bernice Squier bet their father that they could pay for their college education at UC-Berkeley, and thus Twinzy Toys was born.  The sisters hand-stitched the dolls and they became such a success, they ended up returning to Battle Creek to produce Twinzy Toys in their father's factory.  These female entrepreneurs had created a thriving business at a time when women didn't even have the right to vote. The toys were a hit for decades until the sisters' passing.



In the late 1990s, relatives of the twins found an old box with their toy molds and sketches and dropped them off to Heritage Battle Creek, where the toys remained a part of history until recently, when my friend Ken Faris, made a licensing agreement with HBC to produce Twinzy Toys, reviving the original designs but going green for the modern world.

The new Twinzy Toys are made with an organic cotton hemp blend, stuffed with raw, organic cotton and sewn with organic thread by Battle Creek students interested in careers in fashion design.
The dolls are black and white.  You can leave them as they are or you can decorate them and share your or your child's creation at Twinzy Toys' website.

The dolls can be purchased at Twinzy Toys' Etsy site.  The current designs available are Buddy the Elf, pictured here, Hy Jack the Fox Terrier, Miss Mary, Cowboy and Rabbit.
Front view of Buddy the Elf

Back view of Buddy the Elf

Read more about Twinzy Toys and their plans for the future here.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, including more info on green toys and products, DIY toys, (including more Indian playfood like masala dosa, another kind of samosa, and idli sambar), and more chalkboard crafts featuring Lullaby Paints.  

Follow me on Twitter @soups25

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Free Book: Nishi Goes to India


The e-book version of my new book, Nishi Goes to India, is free today through Wednesday, December 17th!  The book is also available in paperback but, unfortunately, I can't give that away for free.  So if you want the free version, be sure to toggle between the Kindle and Paperback buttons to get what you want.

If you don't have a Kindle, you can still read the e-book with the free Kindle app on your tablet, computer or phone.  Click here for more information.

If you like what you read and have a few seconds to spare, I'd really appreciate your reviews on Amazon.  And if you have enjoyed any of my previous books when they were free, like The Booger Fairy, or my 9 Indian language books for kids in Marathi, Hindi and Gujarati, (also available in 3-in-1 combo books for each language), I'd be grateful for reviews for those too!  You can see all my books here on my Amazon Author Page.  Most are available both as e-books and in paperback.
Nishi Goes to India was a fun project to work on.  As a first generation Indian-American child, going to India was always a time of great excitement and nervousness, as I was always self-conscious about speaking Marathi in front of my relatives.  I thought the feelings of being so similar yet so different from your relatives would be even stronger in the children of first generation Indian-Americans, and thus the idea for the book was born.

In Nishi Goes to India, Nishi is thrilled to go to India to meet her grandmother and the rest of her family.  But when she attempts to speak Hindi to her grandma, her cousins laugh at her.  Embarrassed, Nishi decides to only speak in English, even though her grandmother isn't well-versed in it, missing out on an opportunity to get to know her grandma better.  But a kind gesture from Nishi's grandmother changes things, and Nishi and her nani are able to forge a common bond despite the language barrier. 

The illustrations are done in watercolor.  I wanted to make sure to depict various Indian skin tones in the book, since I have found several children's books on India to have some skin-tone bias towards fairer skin types, and shadeism is not something I want my children to ever learn.  And if you have read my blog posts on The Huffington Post, like the one on the Lego Gender Divide or my son wearing pink, you know that I don't like genders to be defined by colors, so I made sure Nishi was never in pink and that her father wore a lot of pink.  There is nothing wrong with girls wearing pink, of course, but I wanted her to not just be in the more traditionally "girly" colors.  Here are some of the illustrations from the book:






Hope you enjoy the book!

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, including more info on green toys and products, DIY toys, (including more Indian playfood like masala dosa, another kind of samosa, and idli sambar), and more chalkboard crafts featuring Lullaby Paints.  
And if you like what you see here, check out my Amazon Author page for my picture books, and my blog posts on The Huffington Post. 
Follow me on Twitter @soups25

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

PVC-Free, Phthalate-Free Fabric Shower Liners


Fabric Shower Liner on the left

A great way to avoid exposing yourself to PVC, a material laden with phthalates, is to get a fabric shower liner.  The problem with PVC shower curtains is that they off-gas for a long time so every time you shower you are smelling the phthalates and absorbing them.  You can find great fabric shower curtains at Target here.  They are also available at stores like Bed Bath and Beyond.

Apartment Therapy has more alternatives to PVC shower liners too.

Here's my earlier post on other ways to decrease your exposure to phthalates.

And check out the links at the bottom of my Toxin Toxout review to find out how to decrease your exposure to PFOAs, PBDEs, Triclosan, BPA, Herbicides, Pesticides, Fungicides and other toxins.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, including more info on green toys and products, DIY toys, and more chalkboard crafts featuring Lullaby Paints.  

Follow me on Twitter @soups25

Sunday, December 7, 2014

DIY Farm Playmat With Storage Pocket

I made a farm playmat out of the other half of the t-shirt I used earlier to make my dinosaur playmat.
PlanToys Farm Animals and an Anamalz Ram and Pig enjoying the farm themed playmat.

It was an easy way to upcycle an old t-shirt that was too damaged to donate.  Here is how you can make one too.

1.) Cut the sleeves off an old t-shirt.

2.) Cut the armpits out of the shirt and cut down the length of the two sides so you have two pieces like this:


(One of these became my dinosaur playmat.  The other became the farm playmat).  
3.) Sew the unfinished edges of the shirt by folding over a tiny bit of the material on each side and then sewing over it.

4.) I made a rooster, hen and chick out of felt.  
Cut out two identical pieces for each of their bodies and sew the pairs together using a blanket stitch or a whip stitch.  Use a fabric marker to draw on eyes.


5.) Sew one sleeve to the back of the playmat.  You just need to sew the sides down.  Unlike the dinosaur playmat, because my rooster, hen and chick were such tiny wool felt animals, I cut a strip off the sleeve and sewed it down just above my pocket, to create a flap so it would be a little harder to lose the animals.

6.) Cut out the shapes for the farm landscape out of felt and sew them down.  I just used a simple running stitch.  My son really enjoys pretend-feeding his toy animals so for my farm mat I focused on food, making an apple tree, orange tree, lemon tree, pumpkin patch, corn, wheat, a pond to drink from, and bushes with grapes, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries.  If you don't want to sew anything and don't have a child who could choke on the small pieces of felt, you could cut out the pieces and just lay them flat on the shirt as well and store everything in a larger pocket on the back.

We have a lot of fun with this playmat and it was a good way to put an old t-shirt to use.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, including more info on green toys and products, DIY toys, and more chalkboard crafts featuring Lullaby Paints.  

Follow me on Twitter @soups25


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Green Toys: Plan Toys Play Kitchen

I have found the best deals on these large scale PlanToys kitchen pieces to be on Zulily.  They come on sale a couple times a year there, so make sure you search for the brand on their site, and click the red heart next to it so the button says "notify me," to get an email the night before the sale.  Sometimes these items can sell out fast on Zulily so when I was initially in the market for a play kitchen I made sure to check it out right when the sale started at 9 a.m. EST.  

Pictured above are the PlanToys dishwasher and their pink stove mentioned in my earlier post on boys wearing pink.  The stove is a lot of fun on its own but I also purchased the PlanToys dishwasher because with a little imagination it can double as an oven too, and I was advised by a friend with older children that a sink and faucet get a lot of use in a play kitchen.  I'm glad we listened to her because my son and his friends really enjoy both pieces in this kitchen.

We adore the food and beverage set, (consisting of ketchup, juice, milk, jam, honey and bottled water, which we pretend is oil instead), but aren't crazy about the tea set.  Both sets were purchased on Amazon but the tea set was a little pricey and several of the pieces, like the sugar cubes, wooden tea bags and stirring spoons are way too tiny for younger children to play with.  The box does say ages 3 and up but if you have a younger sibling in the house, you might want to keep the smaller items boxed up until everyone is old enough to safely play with them.  (I ended up sewing cloth teabags to be used with this set instead, pictured here).

There is a PlanWood alternative to the PlanToys wooden tea set that is cheaper and made of the same yellow and green dyed planwood seen in the dishes below.  It wasn't out when I first bought my children's tea set but I wish I had purchased it instead.

I found the PlanWood tableware to be a good deal as well, when I purchased it last year.  The green and yellow naturally dyed set comes with two bowls, two cups, two plates, two spoons, two knives and two forks.  I purchased the set from yoyo.com during a PlanToys sale.  They generally have a big sale on PlanToys a few times a year, including the weekend of Black Friday.

Our kids spend hours a day being entertained by this play kitchen and its accessories so we are happy with our purchases.
For easy DIY playfood from felt, see my tutorials below:


Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Coming up in the next few weeks: more DIY toys, and info on green toys and green products, including more chalkboard crafts with Lullaby Paints.