Sunday, September 14, 2014

DIY Felt Board

Last week I made a felt board to use at home.  It was a quick, simple project that costs less than $3.

I started with an old Seventh Generation diaper box, removed the tape, and flattened it like this:


I then took a large piece of felt and wrapped it around the box, so that it overlaps.


I sewed the side over the box.  No one is going to see this side so you don't have to be that careful about your stitches.  (If you don't want to stitch, you can use a hot glue gun to glue the ends of the felt together or your could pin it, but since I have young kids I didn't want to use safety pins in case they opened and the kids got a hold of them).


I then folded the top and bottom of the felt down and sewed them in place.  You can see how crooked I had cut the felt on the bottom edge but like I mentioned earlier, this won't be visible so it doesn't matter.

And just like that the felt board is done and ready to be used!  This is a quick and simple way to make an educational tool that kids can have lots of fun playing with and it is a great way to upcycle old cardboard boxes.


Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Coming up in the next few weeks: More DIY toys, green toy recommendations, and more info on green products.
And if you like what you see here, check out my Amazon Author page for my picture books and YA novel, and my blog posts on The Huffington Post. 
Follow me on Twitter @soups25

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Un-retirement of an Amateur Activist

To see this post on the Huffington Post click here.

I'm a vegetarian. And a lot of vegetarians have called me a "strict vegetarian."

Yeah, I guess I am strict, if not eatinggelatin because it is made of boiled skin and tendons, and not eating cheeses made with animal rennet because it comes from enzymes from the inner lining of a slaughtered calf's stomach is really stringent.

But 11 years ago I became even stricter. I learned a little about the flavor industry and found out that ingredients listed as "flavors" are often considered a product's secret recipe, and thus what's in them doesn't have to be labeled unless the contents are common allergens. To complicate matters further, "artificial flavors" aren't always totally artificial and can have natural components, which can make them non-vegetarian. My world was rocked. Up was down. Left was right. A certain fast food chain's fries, the only thing I ate there, had beef extract in their flavors. I guess I should have known anything was possible if beaver butt juice could make food taste like vanilla.

I started to call companies and the information just got worse for me. A leading soup manufacturer only had two vegetarian soups. Customer service reps from a couple of the biggest processed food manufacturers in the country told me they couldn't even tell me what was in their flavors because the products were reformulated so often.

Not one jar of my go-to spaghetti sauce brand was vegetarian, despite not listing meat in the ingredients. Not a single one of their spaghetti sauces? I considered myself a cook in the early years of the new millennium because I could boil spaghetti and pour a jar of this company's sauce on it. It was what I lived on in college.

This was life-altering news for me at the time and something that affected all sorts of people: those with rarer allergies, vegetarians, vegans, those who give up certain foods for religious holidays and those who couldn't eat certain meats at all due to their religion.

I longed for a labeling system like in India, where a green circle on the package meant it was vegetarian. But then I went to India and saw a shopkeeper putting his own circular green stickers on the very soups and spaghetti sauces he had imported that I knew to be non-vegetarian.

Back home, I was determined to draw attention to the issue and get things to change. I emailed the food companies, journalists, the FDA, senators and representatives. My emails went all the way to the top: Oprah, or at least her production house. I finally thought I was making headway when my alma mater's newspaper made it afront-page story. I was certain things were going to be different, that somehow the information would go viral, (in the days before "viral" could have positive connotations and wasn't just something to avoid at all costs on a college campus). But things didn't change.

So I had to change.

I drastically altered my diet. I stopped eating what little fast food I did eat at the time. I started to cook more than just spaghetti. And soon the only foods I consumed with flavors in their ingredients were ones that were confirmed vegetarian by emails from the companies, themselves, or a vegetarian label on the packaging (I'm, of course, assuming they're labeled by someone with more knowledge of the ingredients than the shopkeeper with the green stickers in India.)

A decade has passed since I last tried in vain to make a difference. I'm now in my 30s. I have two kids and a dog to take care of, worry about and focus on. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest weren't even around when I started working on this issue. I couldn't pose with a selfie and a hand-written sign asking for a million "likes" to get the food industry to change its labeling practice. I probably wouldn't have been able to figure out how to duckface my way into likes-for-change anyway. It took me a week to figure out how to start my blog; I'm practically an Instagrandma in today's tech-savvy world.

Times have changed but unfortunately, labeling practices haven't. But it didn't matter. I had given up. This post, written months ago, was originally titled "The Retirement of an Amateur Activist." I thought I was too exhausted and neurotic, worrying about VOCs and PFOAs and all sorts of other acronyms that meant nothing to me pre-parenthood to be able to handle the stress of another issue. But I was wrong. Just this week, Food Babe took up the cause and someone started a Change.org petition, and it already has over 10,000 signatures.

Obviously, social media makes everything public way faster. So instead of being overwhelmed by it, I need to start using it for more than posting status updates, sending fleeting snaps of my kids crying, and reading Real Housewives' articles. Eleven years later, I can now go back to being an amateur activist while feeding my kids, tweeting in seconds, while running defense so my dog doesn't lick my toddler's plate clean. So it's time to celebrate. It turns out I can have my (natural-and-artificial-flavors-free) cake and eat it too. I just hope my duckface doesn't scare the kids.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Felt Kartikeya

With Ganpati, Parvati and Shiva done, all that's left in this set is Ganesh's brother, Kartikeya.



1.) Cut out the following felt pieces:


Note: the body pieces and pants are all in duplicate.

2.) Using black thread doubled, sew two eyes and a mouth onto the front of the face, and red for the tikka
3) Sew the two duplicate torso pieces together using a blanket or whip stitch.
4.) Sew the feet pieces together with a blanket or whip stitch.
5.) Sew the two pink pants together using a blanket or whip stitch.  You will need to attach the torso at the waist to the pants and attach the feet at the points at the bottom of the pants.
6.) Use a running stitch to attach the hair to the front of the head and you're all done!
Optional: Add a yellow necklace.


And the whole family is complete:
Earlier Indian Felt Character Tutorials:


Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Coming up in the next few weeks: More DIY toys, green toy recommendations, and more info on green products.
And if you like what you see here, check out my Amazon Author page for my picture books and YA novel, and my blog posts on The Huffington Post. 
Follow me on Twitter @soups25

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Felt Parvati

Last week I posted a tutorial on how to make a felt Ganpati, and earlier this week was Shiva.  Now it's time to make Parvati.


1.) Cut out the following felt pieces:

Note: the torso is in duplicate.

2.) Using black thread doubled, sew two eyes and a mouth onto the front of the face, and red for the bindi.
3) Sew the two duplicate torso pieces together using a blanket or whip stitch.
4.) Fold the yellow skirt part of the sari in half, around Parvati's waist.  Sew the three open sides of the skirt closed.
5.) Sew the little green and yellow pieces on the right to the yellow sari pallo (the large sideways L-shape in the right of the picture). 
6.) Sew the green blouse to the front of the torso.
7.) Sew the yellow pallo over the front of Parvati, and drape it over her left shoulder as shown in the very first picture.  Sew the yellow pallo down its length to secure it to the body.  
8.) Sew the black hair pieces to the front of the head.
9.) Sew the yellow crown over the hair.
10.) Sew the gold jewelry on and you're done!


Click here for my previous posts on making Lakshmi and the Ramayan Set out of felt, and be sure to search this blog for "felt" to find all my other felt creations like table forts, a doctor/vet toy kit, play food and much more!
Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Coming up in the next few weeks: Felt Kartikeya, more DIY toys, green toy recommendations, and more info on green products.
And if you like what you see here, check out my Amazon Author page for my picture books and YA novel, and my blog posts on The Huffington Post. 
Follow me on Twitter @soups25

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Felt Shiva


Here is the next felt character in Ganesh's family: Shiva or Shankar.

1.) Cut out the following pieces:

Note: the body is in duplicate.

2.) Using black thread doubled, sew two eyes and a mouth onto the front of the face.  Use the same black thread and some white thread for the tikka
3.) Using the same black double thread, sew two eyes onto Ganga's face.
4) Sew the two duplicate torso pieces together using a blanket or whip stitch.
5.) Sew the yellow outfit over the body.  Then attach the brown spots.
6.) Sew the black hair to the back of the head and the bun to the top of it.
7.) Sew the moon and Ganga's face, hair and the water onto Shiva's hair.
8.) Sew the three brown strips to Shankar's neck and wrists to make his rudraksha beads and you're all set!


Previous Indian Felt Characters:


Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Coming up in the next few weeks: Felt Parvati, Felt Kartikeya, more DIY toys, green toy recommendations, and more info on green products.
And if you like what you see here, check out my Amazon Author page for my picture books and YA novel, and my blog posts on The Huffington Post. 
Follow me on Twitter @soups25

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Felt Ganpati and Mouse


For Ganpati/Ganesh Chaturti this weekend, I made a Ganpati and mouse out of felt for my kids.  Here's how you can make one too.

1.) Cut the following pieces out of felt:


Note: the body parts and pants are in duplicate.

2.) Using black thread doubled, sew two eyes and a mouth onto the front of the face, and red for the tikka
3.) Sew the two duplicate torso pieces together using a blanket or whip stitch.
4.) Sew the two feet pieces together with a blanket or whip stitch.
5.) Sew the two yellow pants together using a blanket or whip stitch.  You will need to attach the torso at the waist to the pants and attach the feet at the points at the bottom of the pants.
6.) Use a running stitch to attach the two parts of the crown to the front of the head, the two gray tusks to the face, and the two peach modaks to the trunk and hand.
7.) Use a running stitch to define the trunk and limbs and you're all done!



 

Check back over the next two weeks for the rest of the family: Parvati, Shankar, and Kartikeya.  And click here for my earlier tutorial on making a Lakshmi out of felt.





Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Coming up in the next few weeks: more DIY toys, green toy recommendations, and more info on green products.
And if you like what you see here, check out my Amazon Author page for my picture books and YA novel, and my blog posts on The Huffington Post. 
Follow me on Twitter @soups25

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Badger Face Oil with Organic Oils


Over the past few weeks, I have been trying out Badger's Damascus Rose Face Oil.  
I know most people aren't thrilled by the thought of putting oil on their faces but I started using organic coconut oil on my face in place of face cream, when I was pregnant with my first kid, because I couldn't find a natural face cream that I liked.  I have really dry skin and I had no issues with the coconut oil.

Badger's Face Oil is lighter than coconut oil.  It's an all natural product made of antioxidant-rich organic jojoba, baobab and pomegranate oils as its base oils, and also contains organic rosehip, calendula, seabuckthorn, rose oil, maillette lavender and Roman chamomile.  

According to the website, the face oil helps in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and is ideal for combination skin, dry skin or mature skin. 

I have been using it at night and one pump is enough for my entire face.  As stated earlier, it is a light oil that feels really soothing and it has a great natural rose scent that isn't overwhelming.  Unlike most facial products on the market, this face oil doesn't have phthalates for its scent, just essential oils.

I bought mine at Vitacost, and purchased several more bottles for family members.  One of my family members wanted something in a thicker base.  He lucked out because Badger also makes a beauty balm, which provides intensive moisture for targeted spots like under the eyes or stretch marks.  I tried this out under my eyes and it is a lot more moisturizing than the oil and would probably be too much for your entire face, depending on your skin type.

Both products have glowing reviews on Vitacost and I plan on continuing to use them both.  I love the Face Oil and am happy using it as a substitute for a face cream.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Coming up in the next few weeks: more DIY toys, green toy recommendations, and more info on green products.

And if you like what you see here, check out my Amazon Author page for my picture books and YA novel, and my blog posts on The Huffington Post. 
Follow me on Twitter @soups25