Archive | October, 2010

Boo! Halloween Activity For Older Crowd

One thing about having children – they really help you ‘up’ your parenting game with their honest critic of the job you’re doing. With only a few days before our annual Halloween party my oldest son asks me if we’re ‘only’ doing the magic potions because, “they are for little kids”. I choked and sputtered on my beverage because his 8 year old buddies have actually asked me “are you doing magic potions again this year?” … with hope in their eyes. But with trying to keep it fresh…I’ve been researching something for the older crowd.

BTW – click on this link to get a description of the magic potions we do every year at the party. Don’t listen to my big boy – kids of ALL ages love them! Halloween Magic Potion Fun

So I remembered seeing pictures of specimen jars last year on various sites and they look perfect for the older crowd. A little gross (perfect for the over 6 year old crowd) but they are inexpensive and you can get very creative. For inspiration, I’ve been following The Craft Junkie and their post on Mad Scientist Specimen Jars have been amazing! My favorites are the skeleton hands, prisoner’s brain (extra love for the Harry Potter reference with labelling the jar from Azkaban), and floating werewolf eye balls. Included in The Craft Junkie blog are the printable labels for specimen jars which will save you time in the creative department. All of their specimen jars are fabulous and great for decorations but to turn this into a craft to keep kids busy for 5 minutes…I’m combining ingredients for mine. The below picture is from The Craft Junkie site – I wish mine looked like this!

Before you start specimen jars you need to think back to your preschool days and ask “will it float?” You don’t want a combination of things that all float – although I do love the werewolf eyeball jar. For our party specimen jars I’m using:

~ Avalon glass milk jars with colored water (green and yellow). Green looks great if items float to the top and yellow for body part jars you want to see through the jar.
~ Canning jars
~ Cauliflower brains
~ Gooey eyeballs
~ Paper clips and celery cut into 1 inch strips
~ Cooked spaghetti

Firstly, my mom had 20 odd mason jars (canning glass jars) not being used that she donated so that was a huge help with getting this craft ‘party ready’. I’m using empty Avalon milk jars for kids to pour the colored liquid because they match the theme perfectly with their shape. They are glass – but hey – I think the kids can handle it. We played with different recipes for an hour today and found the best combo was to get the brain at the bottom of the jar. If you are using a plastic/rubber brain that stores sell – you’ll need to weigh it down so it reaches the bottom of the jar. Hook a paperclip through it and hook the other end of the paper clip through some celery to weigh it down. If you are using cauliflower – these will automatically sink to the bottom of the jar. Next we added an eyeball, then intestines on top (spaghetti). We poured yellow liquid into the jar and it’s complete. Now to print off the label from The Craft Junkie and we’re done!

I did try using a technique of pouring clear shampoo into a jar then adding an old plastic animal toy so it would look suspended but didn’t have any luck at all. I’m really not the crafty type – but I do love to use my imagination with thinking of gross Halloween parts for activities. My twin girls really got into the fun this year too. Will post pictures on the Mommy Footprint fan page of the best looking jars!

Happy Halloween! Enjoy this fun time of year!!

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Bogs Boots: Natural Rubber For All Elements

My first thoughts of getting out my kid’s rain boots is prompted by wonderful Fall activities: pumpkin patches, corn maze, and farm visits. This year my oldest son didn’t have rain or snow boots because of a big growth spurt so thankfully the timing was perfect when I recently heard about Bogs Footwear. Just the thought of going into the rain boot section of a big box store brings on a migraine with the stench of cheap plastic so after checking out the Bogs site and finding out the boot is actually made from natural rubber instead of PVC – I knew we’d be a great match. This isn’t the only eco-feature of these boots. They are made from natural rubber, neoprene, and with superior quality guaranteed to not crack or split like cheaply made boots. They are also heavy duty for winter (thinking ahead with snow action) because they are comfort rated from temperate conditions down to -20 degrees F. Because they are made with breathable materials, rather than PVC, they are comfortable in milder weather too – all the while looking incredibly hip too! The spider style was my favorite model for boys, although I stuck with the classic black for my 8 year old because I’m hoping for a few years of wear from these boots. Bogs footwear has made the kiddie styles so adorable for little girls and very cool for boys.  It’s pretty rare when a boot that could be used for extreme outdoor weather conditions is so stylish.   Kids also love the handles that they grab to easily pull on the boots in these waterproof rubber and neoprene upper. The Bogs Classic High Kids is the style Francesco is wearing and he loves them.

When you’ve been around the block with kid’s products – there are a few items that scream “you get what you paid for!” Footwear is one thing a parent learns to invest and research their time. I recommend purchasing Bogs boots a little big (if your child is a half size…got up to the next size) since they can always wear thick socks until the next year. These boots have some serious non-slip soles and it would take a lot to wear them out. When you add the cost of what two pairs of boots would cost for rain and snow, plus the fact these are made without PVC – the price is great!  I’ve found Bogs online around the $60 mark, which is not a bad price for 2-in-1 boots for Fall and Winter.

And moms…don’t drift over to the Women’s category of the Bogs site unless you’ve got some extra time and a bib to catch the drool. Who knew that outdoor sport boots could be so cute, fashionable, and easy! With a pair of jeans or tights – you’ll be rockin that pumpkin patch or just looking generally ‘cute’ for everyday footwear this Fall and Winter. Footwear doesn’t easily tempt me but I couldn’t resist getting a pair of Bogs for myself. My style of boots is the classic high handles with a fun print on the boot. I love them and can’t wait for the weather to get chilly so I can slip them on more often. Never mind for kids… I love how easy they are to get into . =)

Enjoy the weather change from chilly summer to glorious fall days and soak up all that nature has to offer during the month of October. This mild weather won’t be here for long and the pumpkins and hay rides keep calling our name. Get outside and enjoy.

Follow Bogs Footwear on Twitter @BogsFootwear or Facebook Fan Page by liking here. You can even enter yourself in their ‘Make A Mess’ contest – see their Fanpage for more information.

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PVC Info

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Eco-Cleaning Made Easy

Have you thought about switching over your traditional cleaning products but find it overwhelming thinking about cost and confused by the number of ‘eco cleaning products’ on the market? If you are still using Windex spray and traditional chemical cleaning agents for your bathroom, kitchen, floors, etc., put them away in a big box, high up where little hands can’t reach them and replace with very few products. The total cost can be under $20…in addition to pantry items that help like baking soda, olive oil, and vinegar. You will notice immediate improvements with your health from removing products that off-gas with ‘cleaning’ chemicals and fragrances.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Pure Castile Soap

I can’t say it enough how much I love this brand. They’ve been around forever, USDA certified organic, making fair trade and wonderful organic products for 60 years.  I’ve used their classic liquid soap for a few years now – my favorite is the Peppermint Liquid Soap because the scent is like you’ve cleaned with candy canes. <smile> There are so many uses for Dr. Bronner’s soaps but it’s been a life saver for me with replacing all of my store bought traditional cleaning supplies. I use it in the bathroom, kitchen, floors (even hard wood), and to dust with (diluted in water). The price tag for this product is on the higher end in the greener stores but if you’re eliminating all other products…it’s so worth it.

The combination of ingredients from Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap are organic extra virgin coconut, organic olive, jojoba and hemp oils, with pure essential oils. Doesn’t that sound lovely to inhale and ingest while you’re cleaning rather than toxic fumes? The essential oils added to the liquid soaps are for those that still enjoy scent associated with cleaning – without the headaches that a chemical fragrance will give. You will also notice that their isn’t the action of foaming or bubbles because it doesn’t contain synthetic foaming agents. From an environmental standpoint, Dr. Bronner’s is fantastic because they are completely biodegradable and vegetable-based. So not only will you enjoy better health for your family, but the environment will also be improved from you making this switch.

Microfiber Cloths

Norwex isn’t the only company that sells microfiber cloths, but with the number of Nowex representatives in most communities, it’s easy to find someone selling these products. I was introduced to Norwex over 2 years ago by my friend Michelle and I was the mom at the meeting asking “But HOW does it clean?”  I didn’t get it. The idea that a microfiber cloth + water will clean your house is hard to wrap your mind around at first. But once you try the cloths – there’s not going back. The silver agent in the cloths traps the bacteria and dirt and these cloths will last literally years. I clean my walls, kitchen, bathroom, countertops with a dab of Dr. Bronner’s and my microfiber cloth. For my windows I use water and the microfiber window cloth (Norwex brand too).  I can’t imagine using Windex to clean glass or my windows – the thought literally makes me sick.

Norwex and Nanoparticles

I have written about Norwex products a few times, but recently did some investigation about Norwex and their rumoured link to nanoparticles after being asked by a friend about the products. I always want to write in full disclosure when recommending a company or product. I could not find anything linking Norwex to Nanoparticles. I saw a few articles from respected sites questioning if the two are related because of the antibacterial properties within the cloths. Here is the article from the Treehugger forum and an interview with Adria Vasil author of Ecoholic. Norwex has publicly stated that their products use micro-silver technology rather than nano-silver and that cloths do not leach silver while being used.

I also agree with the mind-set that while the technology is still widely untested (the world of nano-particles and micro) – I appreciate the fact I’ve been using a reusable product that has saved me money and my health with eliminating traditional cleaning products containing chemicals.

Baking Soda

I can’t believe how much baking soda I use on a daily basis. In additional to freshening up my laundry with a sprinkle, I use on tough-to-clean stains, sprinkle on my carpet before vacuuming, make paste to clean my oven, and over the last few month…I’ve been using it to wash my hair. Baking soda is such an effective odor removing product – it’s a great arsenal with household cleaning products.

Vinegar

Vinegar is great for everyday cleaning. Household cleaning recipes that contain vinegar have been around forever and the list of vinegar solutions continues to grow every year. My favorite uses for white vinegar is to kill weeds along my driveway (fill up a spray bottle and let the kids have fun), fixing CDs or DVDs when they’ve started to skip (wet a rag with vinegar and wipe the CD and dry), along with baking soda to unclog drains, and a natural fabric softener.

Olive Oil

The only way to clean stainless steel, pour olive oil on a paper towel or rag and wipe along the grain of your stainless steel appliances. This is the most effective way I’ve found to clean stainless steel. It’s not cheap, since olive oil is rather expensive, but the results are fabulous and you are polishing without chemicals.

Related Articles:

Home Made & Eco Friendly Cleaning Solutions

Self Cleaning Oven – Toxic for Humans or Only Birds?

Home-Made & Natural Home Air Fresheners

No Poo Anyone?

Tips to Improve Carpet Health

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Challenging Your Neighbourhood Grocery Store

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and many parents are busy shopping for tasty dinner ideas. Lucky for me I’m attending, rather than hosting this year but listening to friends talk about shopping and prep work got me thinking about local neighbourhood grocery stores. Most communities are littered with small grocers that serve an invaluable purpose as they offer specialized items and provide high end alternatives, including organic, but these stores could also use some improvements. I’ve often said the change for any retail store will not come the first time you ask for change. It won’t happen the 2nd, or 3rd time either. But imagine a Produce Manage or butcher that receives the same suggestions multiple times per day?  How could it not ignite change?  Here’s a challenge and I’ll be approaching my own local store as well and will publish the results.  What sorts of things can you request that would improve human health and the environment? Read these suggestions:

Sell Re-usable Produce Bags

I think most grocery stores sell cloth shopping bags at check-out in case customers forget to bring our own – but what about produce bags?  I often forget to bring my reusable produce bags shopping because I make unscheduled grocery stops. The solution is a grocer that sells Carebags. I have tested these bags and think they are amazing! The key with producing a great reusable produce bag is they need to be thick enough to protect produce from touching the scale or turnbelt at the store, but thin enough so they don’t add extra weight when you’re checking out your product..so you’re not paying extra for your food. Carebags are affordable, easy to clean, and offer a great size 9″x11″. You can purchase these bags directly at the Carebags site or ask your local grocery store to sell them. Then when you forget your produce bags – you can pick up more bags rather than using cheap, non-recyclable, PVC and phthalate leaching plastic bags. Picture below from the Carebags site:

PVC-free Plastic

While we’re on the topic of PVC-free, the topic of PVC-free plastic wrap would be a great suggestion for your grocer. Small stores are always wrapping cut fruit (1/2 watermelons, packaged corn on the cob, etc.) with cling wrap. Not only produce, but all salmon and meat packed at the in-store butcher is covered in plastic wrap. Like most little ‘extras’ I would bet the plastic wrap is made from the cheapest bulk plastic wrap the store could find because they use large amounts of it. Ask your local produce manager and butcher to start using PVC-free plastic wrap and to replace the styrofoam clam shells that the meat is sold and wrapped on.

Locally Sourced Food

Have you seen the documentary Food Inc.? Watch the trailer and you’ll be hooked. Just hearing a farmer admit “If you can grow a chicken in 49 days, why would you want one you have to grow in 3 months?” It is a must-see documentary, life changing and it will change how you shop for and view your food. A bonus for me personally was it didn’t totally gross me out. I was expecting to see animals being tortured and it wouldn’t take much for me to stop eating meat all together. Well, I highly recommend watching Food Inc. and you will come away feeling empowered to make better choices with your food. The biggest thing I learned was to start sourcing my meat locally. I am trying to purchase chicken and beef at a local farm that meets a healthy criteria for meat production. What does this mean for my local grocer? I’m not buying meat from them. But that point is worth mentioning to them because if I can source my meat through a local distributor – why can’t they?

Produce Stickers

Everyone curses the dreaded little stickers that come on produce. I’ve found up to three stickers on 1 organic apple before..it’s not only annoying, but the glue attaching these stickers is rubbing off on your food. Unless the grocer is making a concentrated effort to purchase labels that are biodegradable – can they not just skip putting these labels directly onto our food? I would think the checkout person knows the difference between the types of produce available. Ask that these stickers not be put directly on our food (touching the skin) to save on ingesting glue. I was researching this topic because I remember reading a blog article about the glue used on these stickers being toxic (can’t find the article to reference this fact) but I came across gardening blogs that talked about the only recognized thing in their composter after everything else dissipated was the stickers from apples. Makes you wonder exactly what they are made from, printed with (ink), and attached with (glue).

Locally Sourced Trinkets

It seems weird to make gift type purchases at a grocery store…but when you’re heading out to a friend’s house and want to grab a quick hostess gift, it would be great for the store to not carry imported crap. A local grocer should support local artisans and locally made cards and gifts. It just feels good to source and purchase locally made gifts.

Ask Parents What They Want

I would think a local, small grocer would sell items that are used daily – stuff families are always running out of. Examples of this? Laundry soap, milk, bread. My husband is constantly getting the phone call on his way home to pickup the same items because we go through so much with our 4 children. A local grocery should be aware of this and stock healthy alternatives in these items. Don’t just carry regular laundry soap or dryer sheets. Why? Because every family I know has someone sensitive to fragrance and the phthalates traditional companies contain. Why not stock soap nuts, wool dryer balls, or more organic solutions that are convenient and eco-friendly. Don’t know what parents want? Ask them! Hold a contest or simply ask people by walking around your store and find out what items a parent would like a healthier alternative. Parents are great for helping source great products because we have become advocates for our children’s wellness.

Helpful Links

For all you readers that participate in social media, here are some related links and companies to follow:

Carebags Twitter ID @Carebags
Carebags Facebook Fan Page

Soapnuts Twitter ID @buysoapnuts

BaaLLS Twitter ID Get BaLLS

Mommy Footprint: PVC Plastic ~ The poison Plastic In Your Home

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Magical Mermaids and The Enchanted Cupboard

In my quest to steer my 4 year old twin daughters away from highly plastic and commercialized products – I aways find my way back to Beccijo.  She is the shop owner and artist behind The Enchanted Cupboard and I’ve been a big fan of her magical wooden hand-painted toys for years. I’ve hosted her beautiful banner linking to her store for a few months, so please be so kind and click on the top of my site and check out this magical world of a truly different way to produce toys.

This post is supposed to be about fairy tale characters and mermaids, but I’m finding myself already sidetracked. Check out this beautiful new listing that makes me ache for Fall to arrive.  It is gorgeous and how I picture Autumn trees:

LOVE it!  And in my imagination – this is what I would find when looking out my front door this time of year in my dream home. And as I write this, I realize that this is the magic of The Enchanted Cupboard. The toys from this shop ignite the imagination…which is what toys are supposed to do. Plus the fact they are safe and sustainable with how they are hand crafted, painted, and loved.

My girls received their mermaid toy set from Beccijo in August, but I’ve held off writing about it hoping to give parents a magical idea for early Christmas shopping this year. There are always a few gifts for our children that take time to coordinate and creating a custom listing with Beccijo would be a wonderful gift for under the tree. I was drawn to the mermaids from The Enchanted Cupboard because not only is it impossible to find a non-commercialized (Barbie or Ariel) toy and all little girls go through the phase of loving and believing in mermaids.  This is the same for fairies which are the one of Beccijo’s specialty items.  Here is a picture of the set Beccijo sent for my girls – including the silk scarf for water and they have spent hours playing with their mermaid dolls and Mama with their beds and sea anemone, setting up the ocean background blocks and ocean wave stacker.

This set of toys also gave me exposure to wooden stackers that I’ve seen quite often online. These puzzle/stacker toys are awesome for free-play, but even my girls at 4 years old have spent hours slotting the pieces together and this Waldorf concept has kept them very happy while setting up their mermaid toys.  I also love the classic storybook inspired collections listed with The Enchanted Cupboard. What child doesn’t love the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Big Bad Wolf and Three Little Pigs? Of course – they all love these stories. If you’re searching for a magical, heirloom gift, look no further than these classics. My 8 year old would still love to play with this Little Red Riding Hood collection (although it might contain some graphic scenes once the Wood Cutter doll arrived!!). The wolf and Grandma doll are double sided, plus the opening door, and little bed with nightstand? Really – it is too adorable!

You’ll be on Bejjico’s site for awhile – behind every category is another magical series. I leave you with this cake topper. If you understand that making investments into quality items to save yourself a lifetime of purchasing new disposable products every year is worth spending more money – these cake toppers are right up your alley. EEEp!  Look at the the wooden cake toppers ~ they come with 10 candle cups and all the wooden goodies to last for many years of party magic. Or you can personalize little people cake toppers for any celebrations or a wedding. The sets are my favorite and just look amazing on top of a cake!

Thank you Beccijo for the hours of magic you’ve brought to myself and my girls. Your store has always been a favorite of mine and I look forward to the magic you continue to produce from an imagination that is very special.

Related Articles:

The Fairy Ring – Etsy Wooden Dolls

Children Learning Through Play


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