Heirloom Wooden Toys Giveaway and Review

I love wood toys!  As part of my Plastic-Free February finale, I wanted to feature one of my favorite toy stores:  Heirloom Wooden Toys.  I first found this store several years ago while looking for wooden vehicles for my son.  I've purchased several toys from them over the last few years.  They have an amazing selection of wood toys and great customer service.  In this post, I review three toys by three companies (given to me for free for review) sold by Heirloom Wooden Toys, and offer you the chance to win a wonderful wood toy for your family.

Shape Sorter Wooden Bench by Maple Landmark
Made in US with locally-harvested unfinished maple hardwood, $19.80

Do You Have Wall-to-Wall Carpets?

 Wall-to-wall Carpets:  Cozy Contaminant Collectors

Four years ago we rented a home with hardwood floors by chance.  We lived in that home for the first year of my first baby's life, which was when I started obsessing about toxins and such.  During my research, I came across a lot of unfavorable information about carpet, like this quote from The Green Guide:

Green Cleaning - DIY Cleaning Recipes

One thing I like about this blog is that it sometimes spurs me to make changes sooner than I might have otherwise.  But more often, I am a better compiler than doer.  Such is the case with Do-It-Yourself cleaners.  By far my favorite DIY cleaner has one ingredient: vinegar. But I haven't ventured too far beyond it.  But I am hoping to expand my DIY repertoire soon (especially when my current cleaners run out), and when I do, here are the resources I will turn to:

Homemade 100% Whole Wheat Honey Bread (without a bread machine)

A few months ago, once the weather turned colder, I decided to try making my whole wheat bread with a standing mixer and oven instead of a bread machine.  Now that I had proven to myself that I was actually going to make all of our own bread, I was willing to invest in some equipment.  Making my bread using a mixer and oven has several advantages over making bread in a bread machine: 
  • My bread machine was one of the final holdouts of Teflon in my kitchen, and its nonstick coating was already showing signs of wear.  Now I make plastic-free bread by mixing the dough in a stainless steel bowl and baking the bread in my glass Pyrex loaf pans.*
  • By using a mixer and oven, I have greater flexibility in the cooking process.  For example, if the weather is cold and the bread is rising more slowly, I allow the bread a longer rise.
  •  I can make several loaves of bread at once (and freeze most of the loaves), instead of a loaf of bread every few days.
  • A loaf of bread made in a loaf pan in the oven is just more aesthetically pleasing than the loaves that come out of the bread pan of a bread machine.  And now that I have mastered the mixer/oven method, it will be easy to use the dough for other things, like rolls.

Heirloom Wooden Toys (Plastic-Free Fun)

I love wood toys!  As part of Plastic-Free February, I wanted to feature one of my favorite toy stores:  Heirloom Wooden Toys.  I first found this store several years ago while looking for wooden vehicles for my son.  I've purchased several toys from them over the last few years.  They have an amazing selection of wood toys and great customer service.

Below is a Q & A with Kitty Morse, 
one of the owners of Heirloom Wooden Toys.  

Etsy Reusable Sandwich Bags Giveaway and Review (12 Stores, 6 Winners)

After reading this post, you will never have to buy Ziploc bags again. 

Since I gave up disposable baggies, I have reviewed a few commercially- made reusable food bags and wraps.  But as a devoted Etsy fan, I decided I also should feature some Etsy products.  Go on Etsy’s website and search for sandwich or snack bags and you quickly discover that there are A LOT of Etsy stores selling reusable food bags.   All those sellers, all those materials and fabrics, all those designs and prices – it can be overwhelming! 

Lucky for you, I have spent hours browsing these stores and now present to you some of my favorites.  I have personally tested bags from each of the stores (each store sent me at least one bag free for review).  These stores were selected for their competitive prices, awesome features, and lovely fabrics.  I also deliberately included stores that would demonstrate the variety of designs available.  If you don't have an Etsy account, you might want to make one now, so you can add some or all of the stores below to your "favorites."

Do I Need to Become Vegan to Live Plastic-Free?

As I did my grocery shopping this week, I realized how much plastic packaging is involved in the selling of animal products.  My raw meat comes on a styrofoam tray and shrink-wrapped plastic.  My deli meat comes in a plastic bag.  My yogurt comes in plastic cartons.  My milk comes in plastic jugs.  My blocks of cheese come shrink-wrapped in plastic too.  My buttermilk is in a plastic-lined Tetra-pak container.  At least my butter is plastic-free (I think).  Even if I were vegan, it would be difficult to eat entirely plastic-free, but unless you raise your own livestock, I think it is well nigh unto impossible to live plastic-free while eating meat and cheese.

Goodbye, Teflon. Hello, Le Creuset.

Making pancakes with Le Creuset enameled cast iron skillet (left)
and Lodge Logic preseasoned cast iron griddle (right).

Raise your hand if you own cookware with a Teflon nonstick coating.
You're not alone.  Nonstick cookware accounts for about 60 percent of all cookware sales.

But there are reasons to do without it.  Particularly if you are trying to not eat plastic.  Even the new-fangled "green" pans have their issues.  It took me many years, but I now no longer use any cookware or bakeware with nonstick coatings.  The final step in this long, long journey I took just a few months ago when I said goodbye to my Teflon skillet.  My 10" Cuisinart nonstick skillet, which I used every other day to make scrambled eggs.

Plastic Alternative: Wool

Wool is truly wonderful.  Wool is
  • antibacterial
  • anti-fungal
  • flame retardant
  • cool when it's hot
  • warm when it's cold
  • absorbent
  • warm instead of cold and clammy when wet
  • nearly waterproof

10 Ways to Replace Plastic with Wool:

My Plastic Rules

As part of Plastic-Free February (a.k.a. Plastic Awareness Month), I thought I would share with you the Plastic Rules I use to help guide my plastic purchases and usage.  Just like Rodale's Plastic-Free Rules, I break these rules plenty often.  These rules are based on what I have read about using plastic safely, and especially about limiting my children's exposure to plastics.  

My Plastic-Filled Week

Well, I knew my week wasn't going to be Plastic Free.  That's why I also like my alternate title: Plastic Awareness February.  Makes me feel less bad about myself.  Here is the rundown of my week.

Saturday: Farmer's Market
There are only 2 organic vendors at my Farmer's Market.  One sells several things already bagged in plastic.  I buy the baby lettuce and spinach in the plastic bags, but decide not to get the bagged mushrooms.  He also has unbagged mushrooms, but I don't have enough bags to get the variety I want.  Everything else I buy I put in my own reusable mesh and cotton produce bags.  Next week I will bring even more bags so I can buy 3 different varieties of mushrooms for my farfalle with mushrooms and peas.  I could ask the vendor about bringing some non-plastic greens, but I don't feel like bugging them to do this when I have plenty of other ways to eliminate plastic in my food that don't inconvenience others.

I Am Not the Master of My Backyard, Part 2 (Fertilizer)

OMRI approved Ringer fertilizer

The owners of the home we rent agreed to let us buy our own fertilizer for use on the lawn.  You can read the entire lurid tale HERE.  The gardeners came to fertilize a few weeks ago.  I stayed at home all day to make sure I could supervise their application of the natural fertilizer I bought and nothing more.

Potty Update

I know, I know.  You've all been dying for a potty update for my 18-month old.  So here you go.

Although she probably could be, she is not yet in underwear, because I'm not ready to commit.  We had a lot of backsliding in the #1 department while my in-laws were here and while we traveled over the holidays (mainly because no one was taking her to the potty), but, thankfully, she has had only an occasional poop in her diaper in the last several months.  No poops in the diaper during our holiday travel -- hooray (we took our favorite potty with us)!  However, a poop in the diaper last week resulted in a horrible rash.  She was only in contact with the poop for seconds or a few minutes.  The rash looked like a second-degree burn and turned into near-blisters.  It was absolutely terrible.  These episodes are what continue to motivate me to take her to the potty regularly.

When to Put Your Child on the Potty

I've been putting my second child on the potty since about 9 months.  In her book Diaper-Free Before 3, pediatrician and mother Jill Lekovic argues that 6-9 months is the perfect time to put your baby on the potty, because the baby wants to be with caregivers almost all the time and demands so much attention anyway.  You might as well just spend some of that time on the potty (since you aren't getting much done anyway).  That has definitely been my experience with my babies.  If you want to try early potty training, it's as easy as taking off your child's diaper, and plopping them on the potty every once in a while.  Here are some suggestions for times during the day when you could put your baby on the potty.  I recommend using a little potty, not a potty seat on top of the toilet.

10 Ideas for When to Put Your Baby on the Potty

Plastic-Free February

As soon as I read about Rodale's Plastic-Free February Challenge, I felt guilty and overwhelmed. As a parent of young children, I often feel like my life is saturated with plastic, from the car seat to the potty chair, from the remote control pick up truck to the tube of diaper cream. Here are Rodale's suggested rules for Plastic-Free February:

Mumbai Meatballs with Yogurt-Chutney Dipping Sauce

Mumbai Meatballs with Yogurt-Chutney Sauce and Whole Wheat Naan

Generally, I find cookbooks disappointing.  However, I recently stumbled upon some winners:

The Six O'Clock Scramble: Quick, Healthy, and Delicious Dinner Recipes for Busy FamiliesSOS! The Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Dinners for Busy Families
Below you will find a sample recipe from the Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue.  In the last few months, I have made this recipe for Mumbai Meatballs 5 times.  It is easy and absolutely delicious.  Serve it up with toothpicks during the Super Bowl for a yummy yet somewhat sophisticated finger food.  I use the Costco ground turkey package, which is closer to 1.5 lbs than 1 pound, so I bump up all the other ingredients (especially the spices!) a bit too. Like other Goldfarb recipes, its easy, fast and forgiving.  Don't skip the yogurt-chutney sauce.  It's simple, fast and delectable.  Make your own naan (I'll post about this eventually) or pick up some at Trader Joe's (where you will also find a good mango chutney) and you have one awesome Indian meal.  Try it, you'll love it!


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