Archive | October, 2009

A New Spin On A Classic Toy – Building Blocks

Tree Branch Blocks:

The creativity of nature is abundant with this next set of blocks. Made from Alder trees, these blocks are kiln dried with a wax finish. I love that Natural Pod has sourced this product local to their home base on Canada’s West Coast ~ Vancouver Island. These blocks are sold in 3 different sets of sizes – with a great scale in price. Tree branch blocks are like functional pieces of art for children.  A magical gift idea for kids of any age.

tree branch blocks

 

A Little World

Here is a little gem that reached through my monitor and just made my heart so happy.  These blocks are truly special and creative, made by an Etsy artist that is simply brilliant with their design concept of little Christmas house blocks made with felt.  Are they not just the cutest?

christmas house blocks

Obviously for the younger crowd, but what a wonderful, heirloom, unique gift these would make for an expectant mom or baby’s first Christmas this year. While you are at A Little World’s Etsy shop – check our the mobiles for babe (the sheep are my favorite). . . simple, modern, and fun designs!

Whether you prefer traditional, nature, or artistically inspired designs, building blocks are a classic, timeless gift for all children. If you are looking for ideas this Christmas – these three featured products are just the ticket. And yes with Halloween only hours away, it’s officially time to start Christmas gift planning for 2009 – Santa has started listening.

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Polyester PJs and Flame Retardants

A debate that has bothered me for years is about to come to an end with this article. I’ve always been turned off by polyester PJs for my kids. It’s something my mom always re-enforced with using cotton at bedtime, but it’s always bothered me and now I know why. It’s not the fact that polyester PJs don’t breath well or provide the same level of softness that cotton or bamboo material does. It’s the fact that polyester sleepwear is infused with ‘natural’ flame retardants – bonded right into the fabric. So a company can state that their sleepwear doesn’t contain flame retardants (they have been banned since the late 70’s because they were found to be so carcinogenic) but since polyester is ‘naturally’ fire resistant, this labeling doesn’t need to be added to the tag.

Confused?  Don’t know anything about flame retardants?  They aren’t something we are not familiar with as parents today, because the year I was born (1973) the US Department of Commerce declared mandatory fire-resistance standards for kid’s sleepwear.  So flame retardants were brushed onto children’s PJs, chemically treating them (without any testing) and were later found to be a mutagen and a carcinogen. How potent was this ‘coating’ of flame retardants?  The National Cancer Institute testing Tris-BP showed that it was one hundred times more powerful than the carcinogens in cigarette smoke. (!!)  Four years later this chemical was banned from children’s products which is pretty quick turn-around time for a ban proving just how dangerous Tris-PB (type of flame retardant) was.  

So after absorbing all this information from the chapter in Slow Death By Rubber Duck I felt quite safe that the problem of the government sticking flame retardants in children’s sleepwear is an issue I don’t have to concern myself with.  Only something Rick mentioned in the chapter has been bugging me for months since I read it ~ the fact that polyester has naturally ‘built in’ flame retardants and because of this is a popular fabric choice for large manufacturers of sleepwear.  I’m in no way suggesting that the flame retardants that are found ‘naturally’ in polyester are as dangerous as the ones that were banned in the 70’s, but the author of Slow Death By Rubber Duck tried to get answers from one of the largest kid’s sleepwear retailers (Carters) asking what type of flame retardants are mixed into the polyester they use and couldn’t get his question answered.  If one of the leading Environmentalists in Canada couldn’t get answers – I won’t even attempt. And rather than frustrate myself with trying to investigate further, I’m opting to remove any sleepwear from my kids PJ drawer that are made from polyester. And this isn’t a slag on Carters – every big name that produces sleepwear for children uses either polyester or cotton.

Your children spend close to 10-12 hours a night sleeping in their PJs – that is the longest stretch of time they spend in clothing throughout the day. I went through my boy’s PJs drawer this weekend and couldn’t believe how many PJs were 100% polyester.  Before you think this doesn’t apply to you…go check. You’ll be surprised at how many soft fabrics are actually polyester – not cotton. I’ve removed the polyester PJs from my sons’ PJ drawer and with Christmas on the near horizon – a new item on everyone’s Santa list will be either 100% cotton or bamboo PJs.  And while we are talking about it – watch for decals, plastic, sparkles, etc. that are decorating your child’s sleepwear….these appliques are made from PVC. This is the ‘poison plastic’ that has no business being near your child while they are sleeping.  I know the Superman and Disney Cars decals are fun on PJs but really, night-time sleepwear is the perfect place to reduce toxic materials.  The sand man is easily impressed and children don’t have any pressure to wear commercialism laced products to bed.

Related Articles:

Little Inkers – Growing PVC & Phthalate Free Kids

Toxic Experiment With Everyday Products ~ Slow Death By Rubber Duck

PVC Items In Your Every-Day Life

PVC Plastic ~ The Poison Plastic In Your Home

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Healthy, Organic and Convenient!

When I think of organic cooking or baking my thoughts drift to a Martha Stuart type that bakes everything from scratch and doesn’t use pre-mixed, convenient products to assist her. Well thanks to SPUD, I’ve been able to tap into the best little helper for breakfast, plus it’s healthy and convenient.  My picky little clan has been using an organic, 7 grain pancake mix for months, and it’s their new favorite.  I love it because I’m not serving up refined, white flour produced pancake mix and my kids didn’t even notice when I made the switch.  The brand is called Anita’s Organic and is local to BC, but accessible for anyone either through SPUD or via the Anita’s Organic site.  More importantly to me, they’ve found a way to produce an organic mix, made with a large mixture of grains, and kept it kid-friendly, and convenient for moms. I make 1 batch and it lasts me two days, making an already rushed morning of trying to feed kids quickly and healthy, a snap!

For those that like to whip up pancakes from scratch (I’m in awe of you), Anita’s has organic flour that can be used to help make your from scratch mixes more healthy.  And hello!! I just noticed in the Anita blog, they’ve cooked up some special mixes just in time for the holidays (additive, preservative, pesticide free) new shortbread and gingerbread mixes! Although the cookie mix wasn’t well received at my house I’ll be trying the gingerbread mix so that we can do some stress-free Christmas baking and gingerbread decorating.

anita pancake

 

Related Articles: SPUD Is Making Organic Sourcing Local, Fun & Easy

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PVC & Christmas Toys

Sometimes I struggle remembering the old days of running through Toys R Us blindly picking out all of the plastic toys that my kids would love (if only for 2 minutes before they broke) that light up, shoot things, and were made with cheap plastic. I remember the kind of ignorance I once had and it was a very peaceful ignorance.  I had no idea what PVC plastic, phthalates, plasticizers were and I wasn’t haunted while shopping for my kids. I used to have the bulk of my Christmas shopping finished in August every year, getting great deals because my shopping list was dictated by sales, rather than any sort of eco conscience.

Well, two years later, things have really changed around here with shopping, planning, and budgeting for Christmas. Rather than rushing out to buy toys when they go on sale, I Google toys first to find out where they are manufactured and what materials they are made from. It actually makes impulse buying impossible. I was very excited to start shopping for my girls this year since they are so creative and imaginative at 3 years old. They also have a deep love for Ariel the mermaid, a Disney character, so having an Ariel doll, Prince Eric doll, and the rest of the characters under the tree for my girls was pretty high on their list. Only deep down I know that all of the ‘Disney Princess’ and ‘ Barbie’ type dolls and their accessories are plastic and made with PVC.  I could totally make an exception if they were just made from plastic and not PVC, but I truly don’t believe Mattel or Disney statements about what they use to make their plastic dolls. I also put this question out to The Safe Mama and The Safe Landing and they confirmed my fears.  So for weeks now I’ve been trying to rationalize my fear of having my daughters cuddle brand new PVC dolls and thinking that Santa is the best thing ever or trying to find a Waldorf type looking doll that is made from cloth and filled with safe stuffing and removing the commercialism from Christmas. It may sound silly, but these types of decisions haunt me. I think all parents just love finding that perfect toy that their children will shriek with pure joy when they unwrap Christmas morning.

I am trying to stick to a big goal this Christmas with plastic toys ~ unless it’s been purchased 2nd hand or from a thrift store, it will not be going under the tree. Wish me luck.  Right now, my frustration with the Barbie/Disney type dolls is not their body shape being distorted, but the material in which the doll is made from is toxic. Frustrating still that the only mermaid toys I could find for tubby time for my girls were Barbie mermaids.  And please know, as I do now, that the bendy tail on her mermaid body is filled with phthalates to get it bendy, and the rest of her is created with PVC plastic – the most inexpensive and toxic plastic that exists. And the fact this toy is meant to go into water (a bathtub) with children and the plastic it’s made from has been called a carcinogen. So why am I struggling with this if I know purchasing these toys might lead to cancer causing materials to surround my children? I wish I could answer that.

Forget the fact that Barbie or the Disney dolls cannot be recycled or ever by properly disposed of.  I wait for the day a huge manufacturer of kids toys (like Mattel) to decide to use their billions of dollars and produce ‘plastic’ toys from the natural rubber tree like Plan Toys or the manufactures of Sophie ~ why can the smaller companies do it and the large ones can’t?  I’m really not big on the idea of boycotts or slamming a company via a blog, but all toy companies need to be held accountable for damage caused to human health and environmental health. Starting my mental check-list of Christmas shopping for my kids should not be this hard or require this much research, but in fact, toy companies cannot be trusted with my children’s health. They have proved one too many times that they don’t care enough.  And apparently with the billions of dollars they make, there are not enough parents asking them to change. I hope they experience huge losses in profit this Christmas and that the greener toys manufacturers and small shops that produce toys by hand are the people that truly profit this year. They are the people that are protecting my children with sourcing different ways to produce toys that don’t adversely affect a child’s health. Blech -shopping used to be so much easier and enjoyable.

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Alternatives To Freezing Food In Plastic

The feedback to the article about Graze Organic ~ a company trying to eliminate our need for plastic baggies ~ really got people commenting. The next question has been ‘how do I eliminate using plastic freezer bags for food storage?’  I’ve touched upon some alternatives in the past, but recently tried using a stainless steel solution from The Tickle Trunk and would love to share.  Here are my recommendations for eliminating freezing with plastic wrap or bags from your food storage.

Stainless Steel:

The Tickle Trunk is now carrying top of the line, stainless steel grade 18/10 food containers that seal air tight because of the awesome design of the silicone lid that latches closed so the food inside is free from air entering the container. The design is great and the quality is wonderful, with a great price-tag for stainless steel.  Look for the containers on The Tickle Trunk site that are made in Korea and are 18/10 steel grade as a new freezing alternative. This will solve the problem of people trying to store frozen food in glass jars in their freezer, because you quickly run into a space problem. These stainless steel containers are stack-able and can be purchased in a full range of sizes ~ small enough to freeze baby food, pesto, etc. to a large enough container for full size lasagna! The body of this container is dishwasher safe, but because of the silicone around the lid, this part should be hand-washed.

    stainless steel food storage containers stacked

Glass:

These products are timeless and still very popular and effective for freezing food – Pyrex, CorningWare, and Anchor Hocking.  All of these glass food storage solutions have stood the test of time and are wonderful for baking, fridge storage, and effective with freezing food or sauce. If you are looking to completely eliminate plastic, it’s tough to find an airtight lid for these products that isn’t plastic. Most come with plastic lids, but rest assured that the plastic is made from food safe #5 plastic, but the exercise here is to eliminate plastic from touching your food while it’s stored in the freezer. If you are concerned about the plastic lid, but like these products, I would say just don’t pack it full enough so that the food is touching the lid. These products always seem to be on sale at Walmart, Target, Save-On-Foods, etc. so you can’t beat their price-point.

pyrex

Other options:

Tin Foil can be used for short term freezing of chicken, etc.  I almost typed parchment paper but then started wondering what that slippery coating on the surface contained. I researched it and the material that makes it such a great help for baking because of the non-stick factor is a plastic coating. I guess I won’t be recommending that one for these purposes!

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