Apr 17, 2009

New Blog: Orange Polka Dot

We moved to Barcelona and I started a new blog to chronicle our journey. Enter stage right: Orange Polka Dot. All new posts will now be at www.orangepolkadot.com.

Today you will find my latest Friday Find of two great travel games for children (adults will like the games as well!).

In the next week, I will post a backlog of blogs from the first month of our move while I was developing my new blog site, www.orangepolkadot.com.


Dec 11, 2008

Friday Find: Kids Craft Weekly Christmas Crafts

Winter break is just around the corner and you need some ideas for stopping the kids from saying, “Mom, I’m bored.” Right? Well, I’ve got the answer and it is just five bucks and a download away... Kids Craft Weekly’s Christmas Crafts Mini Book.

You can thank the crafty and clever mom, Amber Carvan, from down under that puts out Kids Craft Weekly every fortnight since 2006. If you haven’t heard of Kids Crafty Weekly, you can subscribe to Amber’s email newsletter organized by theme and filled with fun, educational and affordable crafts to do with your children.

The Kids Craft Weekly’s Christmas Craft Mini Book has 20 pages overflowing with holiday-related activities. Forget buying wrapping paper and gift tags for your holiday presents. Put you kids to work – old art makes great wrapping paper and you’ll find gift tag ideas in the Christmas Craft book. You’ll also find neat ideas for Christmas tree ornaments – not only great for decorating your tree, but also for kids to give as gifts.

So, hurry up, the kids are almost out of school. Download Christmas Crafts, gather your craft supplies and get your little elves crafting!

Don’t forget to let me know about your favorite holiday crafts!

Dec 5, 2008

Friday Find: A Toy Garden

Whether it is birthday presents, stocking stuffers or art supplies, A Toy Garden is the first place I look for that special gift. Store sound familiar? Perhaps you have seen A Toy Garden featured in issues of Mothering.

A Toy Garden has a wide range of toys and art supplies that encourage open-ended, imaginative play. Worried about the safety of the toys under your Christmas tree? The toys are made from natural and eco-friendly materials, with many fair trade and “made in the USA” choices. A Toy Garden’s collection of unique and exclusive products separates them from many other online stores touting natural, Waldorf toys that seem to carry all the same brands. Be prepared to be delighted and inspired by the well-edited selection of toys, books and art supplies that your children will fancy.

Here are some of my favorite items from A Toy Garden.

These two puzzles make a great present for a toddler – intriguing enough to hold their interest, yet simple enough for them to piece the puzzle together.

Do you have a box of broken crayons? Try Stockmar beeswax crayons. A bit more expensive than the average box of crayons, but we have yet to have a broken one.

A Toy Garden has a great book selection with wonderful children’s titles, parenting and art/craft instruction books. If you are looking for books to help you integrate Waldorf practices into your family, you’ll find book to help here. Malena and Lautaro love hearing the adventures of fairy Tiptoes Lightly and her woodland friends.

Do your children want to help you while you sewing or craft? My two love working on their projects with their sewing machine, sewing toys and hand sewing kits.

Have you discovered the endless possibilities of playsilks? Most playsilks from A Toy Garden had dyed by work at home mothers. Their silks are sold at an affordable price compared to other playsilk sellers because they believe that all children should have playsilks. In our home, playsilks are used to build tents with the addition of wood clips, for dress up, scene backdrops for dramatic play, and on and on.

A Toy Garden is run by Sonya Bingaman, a work at home mother and social worker. She places a priority on buying directly from artisans or larger manufacturers with high ethical standards. Her business is based in Fair Oaks, California – fast shipping for all you West Coast readers. Be sure to register for her newsletter to receive store coupons and notices.

Nov 14, 2008

Friday Find: My Book is Now Available! Itsabelly's Guide to Going Green with Baby

Finally! Last week Melissa Moog and I received the first shipment of our new book. It took us a little over a year to pull this together, which is fairly fast in the publishing world. It meant that we spent many nights after the kids were tucked in bed writing and collaborating until 3 AM! We lost track of how many phone meetings were cut short because one of our kids was having a meltdown moment (usually mine). So, if you are curious why I was not consistent with my Friday Finds, here is the reason. You can buy the book directly from our online boutique. With the holidays around the corner, our book makes a great holiday gift for your pregnant sister, daughter, friend or new parent.

Book At-A-Glance:
Itsabelly's Guide to Going Green with Baby is the first book to evaluate eco-friendly baby gear and to educate parents about organic and natural family living. We'll tell you why it is important to go green, how to do it without breaking the bank, and give you a list of mom-approved green products for baby.
  • More than 300 product reviews of eco-friendly baby gear and necessities. We cover it all from slings to strollers, bottles to skin care products, clothes and nursery furniture.
  • Expert opinion and insight on living a more natural life, including articles by Dr. Sears, Earth Mama Angel Baby, Under the Nile, The Soft Landing and Organic Exchange.
  • Simple and practical Eco-Mom Tips from real mothers practicing green living.
  • Discover how to go green on a budget and what products are important to choose natural.
  • Learn about non-toxic feeding products, organic apparel, sustainable wood and natural skin care products.
  • Make shopping for eco-friendly products easier.
  • Decipher product labels with our green dictionary, green label and organic certification chapters.
Advance Praise:
“Here’s an insightful guide by moms for moms (& dads) to help you choose the best green, healthy gear for your new baby. It is full of valuable resources and product recommendations that all parents will be thankful to have!”
“Finally! A guide to help every mom-to-be easily welcome her new baby into a “green” world. I was so lost trying to create a green registry—where to start? Thank goodness for Itsabelly! Melissa and Jennifer made it very easy and their suggestions saved me so much time. This guide is a must-have for every mom-to-be!”
- Leslie Barber, Co-Founder, NutraBella
Itsabelly’s Guide to Going Green for Baby has helped me figure out how to do the natural thing without going crazy. Thanks to all the great product recommendations and tips, I’ve figured out how to go green where it counts, and without going broke!”
- Kira Krieger, Managing Editor, The Bump
More Book Details:
  • More than 30 eco-mom tips.
  • Hundreds of resources in 18 baby categories with web sites listed.
  • 52 product categories with brand suggestions and web sites listed.
  • An acronym cheat sheet and green dictionary to make sense of all-things green.
  • A green registry for easy shopping
The book is also available from online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Oct 24, 2008

Friday Find: Weir Dolls

In the past few months, Malena’s interest in her dolls and playing “mom” has totally spiked. I loved playing with dolls when I was a child. My Friend Jenny and Mandy plus a doll I found in the garbage and I appropriately named her “Garbage” were my favorites. Finally, Malena took a strong interest in her dolls, so I could pretend to be a kid again! Seriously, though, it is such a pleasure to see her taking care of her dolls and being a kind, gentle Mommy (maybe I am doing something right!). 

As many of my readers know, a few years back, I made Malena a Waldorf doll, using a fabulous kit from Weir Dolls. Now that Malena is playing with her doll more, I thought a doll wardrobe expansion was a necessary birthday gift. I wrestled with the option of buying clothes or sewing the clothes myself. Sewing won and of course, with just a week to finish (Why do I always wait until the last minute?). I still have a few pieces to complete, but Malena was thrilled with her new mini wardrobe. 

As I started cutting the fabric, I wondered what I got myself into. I am hardly a seamstress – I only have sewn some simple dresses, smocks and skirts before. Doll patterns with arms, legs and elastic necklines scared me! The Weir Doll Clothing Pattern and Instruction Booklet made sewing teeny tiny clothing fairly simple for a beginner. There were a few parts where I had to spend more time figuring out the instructions. However, I think that is only because I had never sewn pants or shirts before. And even then, I was still able to figure it out and correctly sew it. I made the sweetest little doll lace-trimmed undies, a sundress, a shirt and a long-sleeved dress. The pants and apron are still on the back burner.  

PS – Look forward to more Weir Dolls posts about making Waldorf Dolls. 

Oct 17, 2008

Friday Find: Lauress Pure Mineral Makekup

A couple of years ago, I started converting to natural-based cosmetics. I had a difficult time finding natural alternatives that I liked and fit within my budget. I was also interested in the new mineral makeup but was totally confused by the different brands and ingredients. 

I recently reconnected with my college friend, Lauren Sheahan, and discovered that she created Lauress, a pure mineral makeup line. My problem was solved! Lauren took a lot of time to talk with me about her line’s ingredients, explain the benefits of minerals and how to use mineral makeup. She even made some product recommendations for me based on my skin tone, hair and eye color. 

I was relieved when Lauren assured me that Lauress does not use nano-particles. It was one of my hurdles with mineral makeup. I had read the dangers of nano-particles, which can be found in some mineral makeup (see links at the end of post for more info on nano-particles). Lauren does not use nano-particles because of the lack of long-term studies and concerns about the ability of nano-particles to enter your body. Following Lauress’ commitment to healthy beauty, Lauress does not use Bismuth Oxychloride, also found in many mineral makeup brands. Lauress, a signer the Safe Cosmetics Compact, stays current on the latest developments in the health and beauty industry. 

Yes, I was a bit worried about choosing colors online. Fortunately, Lauren found a solution to that problem – sample sizes! All Lauress products come in samples that are affordably priced, some as low as $1.50. I bought quite a variety of eye color samples and a few face powders. Trying all the different color combinations makes me feel like a little girl playing with mommy’s makeup – only with much better results. And isn’t that what applying makeup should be – fun? I have received lots of compliments while wearing Lauress makeup. Recently, I visited the filming of one of my husband’s commercials. I knew I found a great looking makeup line when the makeup artist always remarked on my great eye makeup!

Here are a few helpful tips from Lauren…

·   If you love shimmer, select Gem Lights eye colors. If you prefer a more matte eye color, go with Star Lights

·   In makeovers, Lauren often starts with a Pearl or Star Light base color and adds a darker Star Light or Gem Light for contouring and a wash of a sheer Gem Light over the entire eye. 

·   Lauress also has specific product application techniques that are useful when using mineral makeup. 

Lauren’s current “go-to” natural look is Cheers Star Light from Lash to Brow, Rendezvous Star Light in the crease and outer corner of the eye, then Graceful Gem Light brushed across the lid and over the Rendezvous, then line with Double Espresso or Chocolate.

Cheers Star LightRendezvous Star LightGraceful Gem LightDouble Espresso Liner

For a bit more drama, she often uses the Simply Sultry combo. 

One Crafty Mama’s favorite combo is Fascination Gem Light all over eyelid, contoured with Murmur Gem Light and lined with Bombshell liner. I also love SoirĂ©e Gem Light, contoured with Heiress Gem Light and lined with Fervor Gem Liner

Murmur Gem Light Bombshell Gem LinerFascination Gem Light

Soiree Gem LightHeiress Gem LightFervor Liner

Don’t forget that you will need some quality brushes to apply mineral makeup. My favorite brush is the flat liner brush – it is a snap to use and gives your liner a more blended appearance. 

For more about mineral makeup, check out this article from the Environmental Working Group. Here is an article from Dr. Andrew Weil speaking about mineral makeup in the Calgary Herald. Enviroblog’s article also discusses nano-particles in mineral makeup. 

Oct 3, 2008

Friday Find: Valon Earth Arts

This summer, my parents went on a road trip from Spokane, Washington to Glacier National Park. One of their favorite stops was Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They were lucky to spend time in this lakeside town during the Farmer’s Market. And I was lucky to receive several gifts purchased from the Farmer’s Market. My mom knows how I much I love finding treasures at local markets and her gifts did not disappoint.

My favorite goodies are a Lemon salve and a Rosemary-Lavender salve from Valon Earth Arts. Valerie, owner of Valon Earth Arts, creates all of her products with inspiration from nature. She also makes Orange Rose and Sage-Mint salves. I love using my salves for soothing dry skin, nails and lips. I even tried putting a light layer on my face before going to bed. I swear my skin looked more refreshed and smooth when I awoke. A great find for a tired mama!

All salves are created during the season when the required organic ingredients are fresh. Valerie uses fresh plants that have medicinal benefits that aid the skin and muscles. The Valon Earth Arts website will soon be revised, so please note that her products now use organic canola oil, not soybean oil.

Now that the leaves are changing color (just barely out here in the California foothills), dry skin weather is fast approaching. Be prepared and pick up a few salves from Valon Earth Arts to soothe and heal your skin. And if you don’t happen to be visiting Coeur d’Alene any time soon, no worries, you can always buy some online.

Aug 29, 2008

Friday Find: Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef

Malena and Lautaro recently attended their friend Gloria’s fourth birthday party. Her birthday bash had a sea creature theme, so what better book to give as a gift than Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef?

Author Marianne Berkes cleverly wrote the book to the tune of the children’s favorite “Over in the Meadow.” Through the catchy song (sheet music is even provided in the back), children are introduced to animal families and counting concepts. Children learn about each sea creature’s traits and habitats. The mama pufferfish encourages her babies to puff and baby octopi squirt at the request of their mother. As you progress through the book, the number of babies increases – reinforcing counting through song and visuals. Your child will be singing the song in no time and demanding, “read it again! Read it again!”

I love using illustrated children’s book as an opportunity to expose your children to different art media and techniques. Artist Jeanette Canyon’s amazing illustrations using polymer clay are so beautiful to look at and really bring the book to life. Your child will be tempted to touch and grab the clownfish and seahorses. Jeanette’s work adds vibrant color and whimsical texture and dimension to Marianne’s wonderful lyrics. Jeanette gives readers an informative description of her work and artistic philosophy in the back of the book. After reading it, parents will reexamine the book and wonder – sliced clay rods? How did she do it??

Jeanette even suggests ways for parents and children to create their own works of art with clay. Here are a few other ways to extend the book through activities with your children. Find another illustrated book of sea creatures (if you don’t have another sea creature book, any will do fine) that uses a different art or media technique, such as pen and ink, watercolor or collage. Compare the books with your children and discuss the differences in technique and how the pictures look different or similar. Remember to keep it age appropriate, however, even the youngest reader can notice differences and describe it. Get out some of you own art supplies (paint, clay, playdough, tissue paper) and make sea creatures together. This story would also make for a wonderful flannel board adaptation. You can cut the sea creatures out of felt and ask your children to help you decorate the sea creatures and use Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef for inspiration. And you will definitely want to read this book before any trips to the aquarium or tidepools.


Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef has won numerous awards, including: Learning Magazine's Teachers' Choice Award in 2006, the National Association for Parenting Publications 2005 Gold Award and the 2005 Publisher's Marketing Association Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Interior Design.

Children ages 2 to 8 will love hearing and reading Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef and parents will enjoy reading it over and over. Publisher Dawn Publications is currently offering 10% off all online orders. The book is also available in board book format for younger readers. You can also find Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef in the One Crafty Mama Recommends Amazon store.

Aug 8, 2008

Friday Find: The EC Store

Well, I think it is official – I no longer have children in diapers! Malena started using the potty consistently at 13 months. Lautaro has taken longer and has been using the potty consistently for the past few months (although he was first introduced to it around his first birthday). So, what a better time for me to tell you about some of the products that helped us get to this important (and happy) moment. As luck would have it, when I decided to write this Friday Find, The EC Store, decided to have a sale to celebrate their re-designed website. The EC Store is my favorite online store to buy all things related to helping your child learn to use the potty.

First Stage: We used cloth diapers from birth (but you can start anytime and achieve the same results) and practiced Elimination Communication. I didn’t learn about EC until Malena was one. We started practicing EC methods then, but it wasn’t full time. With Lautaro I started a little bit earlier, but was less consistent and even less full time. I think using cloth gave them a more acute awareness of when they were wet and thus uncomfortable. They quickly made the connection that if they are changed they are comfortable again. I think introducing EC methods showed them there was an elimination method that was not uncomfortable. I bought several Baby Bjorn little potties and placed them around the house. A quick run to a nearby potty reduces accidents. I even keep a potty in the back of my car – definitely a cleaner option than a public bathroom! I love the simplicity of the Baby Bjorn potty – no licensed media characters, no jarring music plays when you child pees into the potty. The design of the potty also seems comfy for children.

Second Stage: Once my children were using the potty more frequently, they used cloth training pants. We bought an assortment of Bright Bots, Gerber Training Pants, SIMPLYCloth, Under The Nile Training Pants and Imse Vimse Organic Training Pants – all from the EC Store. They did not use pull ups (except on rare occasions like a plane trip, long car rides, birthday parties when they used Seventh Generation). I still don’t understand the point of a pull up – aren’t they just like a diaper, unless they let your child know they are wet? Bright Bots are very trim and have an absorbent and waterproof liner – making these training pants our go to training pants for days out of the house. We used Gerber and Under The Nile training pants around the house because I could afford to buy more and they were comfy for my kids. We used the Imse Vimse Organic Training Pants at night – they were a bit bulky for my kids and they are more expensive than other training pants.

Final Stage: We started using panties/undies (or mackies as my children call them – who knows where this came from?) when Malena was fairly confident using the potty. We are still using training pants with Lautaro. Since Malena was wearing panties before she was two and she is super slim, it was difficult to find panties that fit. Fortunately, The EC Store sells a selection of tiny undies. We also introduced Baby Bjorn potty seats that adjust to fit snuggly on your toilet. Once again – no licensed media characters. The seat is contoured and was more comfortable than other potty seats that are flat-shaped. I also liked that the seat is removable, so adults don’t need to fumble with a potty seat when it is their turn to use the potty!

The EC Store Sale: Currently, almost everything in the store is marked down 10%. Use coupon code NEWSITE to get an additional 10% off any order of $50 or more. Check out the clearance section for items 40% off. The EC Store also sells Baby Legs, EC-friendly clothing, Sigg water bottles, baby carriers and nursing bras. One of the best nursing pads I ever used was from The EC Store. I am so glad to see they selling these thin, contoured and absorbent pads again.

For a little extra reading… some interesting facts about diaper and potty training historical usage in the US from Mother Jones and Diaper Jungle.

Aug 1, 2008

Friday Find: Firestorm Drill

So, it isn’t my usual type of Friday Find. But, I just had to tell you about this handy power tool that my Dad gave me for my birthday. It is a Black and Decker Firestorm cordless drill and I love it.

In 30 minutes, I was able to fix all the little projects that I have been nagging Diego to fix. Well, except for one, which involves changing a closet rod that is too cumbersome to hold and drill at the same time. I used my new lightweight power tool to drill holes in several walls to insert wall anchors before screwing hooks into place. Awhile back, in an effort at better organization, I screwed hooks into Malena’s closet to hang her collection of dress-up purses and into bathroom walls for hanging potty seats. I was lazy and didn’t insert wall anchors first because that would involve using Diego’s heavy-duty drill. Of course, a week later all the hooks had fallen out of the walls! Argh… drywall! The Firestorm cordless drill comes with rechargeable batteries. Changing the drill bits is really easy – no special tool needed like other drills!

And if like me, you’ve had a long week, be sure to check out my friend Ilina’s cocktail hour drink recipe at Dirt and Noise’s Friday 5 PM. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t need to be a long week to enjoy one of Ilina’s tasty concoctions. Just don't drink too many of these Mango Lassi's before doing your DIY projects!