Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Urthware All Natural Simplicity Series Cutting Boards

I thought I had decreased our toxin exposure as much as possible in the house.  I knew how to diminish our exposure to so many toxins like BPA, Phthalates, PFOAs, PBDEs, Triclosan, Herbicides and Pesticides, but one day, a couple months ago, while cutting up some vegetables on one of our cutting boards, I began to wonder what was in my cutting boards.

I knew there wasn't any Triclosan in them because they weren't plastic and were not anti-microbial, and had always assumed the wooden boards were solid wood.  But it turns out my "wood" boards were not made from solid wood.  They were made from wood fibers and glue.  And although bamboo can be grown without pesticides, my bamboo boards were not all natural either, as they, too, were made with foreign glue that wasn't advertised as being formaldehyde-free.

So all this time I have been chopping up organic fruits and vegetables on our boards, I have been cutting them up on a surface that contains toxins we had always thought we were avoiding at home.  Pretty unappetizing.

I started to look for a more natural option but every bamboo board I found was still held together with some sort of adhesive, and the cutting boards I found that were made out of a solid piece of wood were finished with mineral oil, a petrochemical.  If we didn't put petrochemicals on our bodies in my house, why would we want to eat them?

It was starting to look hopeless until I came across Urthware's website and their All Natural Simplicity Series.

(Note: I received a complimentary product for review purposes.  All opinions are my own).

These gorgeous cutting boards are handmade in Canada using one solid piece of Canadian Hard Maple and no glue!  They contain high grade stainless steel reinforcing rods and screws and are finished with Canadian beeswax and either organic walnut oil or organic coconut oil, not mineral oil.  The boards' feet are made of all natural Gum Tree rubber that the folks at Urthware cut themselves, not the synthetic rubber filled with phthalates.

Natural Gum Tree rubber feet
Urthware was the answer I was looking for in my search for a real wood, non-toxic cutting board.  I was so impressed I ended up purchasing another medium All Natural Simplicity Series Cutting Board and a small one to give to family members.

I received the Medium All Natural Simplicity Series board.  It measures approximately 4 lbs, 9" L X 14" W X 1.25" H, (sizes can vary by 1/4"-3/8" since the boards are custom made from a single piece of wood).  A closed grain hardwood, the Hard Maple is durable and able to withstand heavy kitchen use.

Front and Back Side Views.  You can see the stainless steel support rods on the right.

Top and Bottom Views.

If you don't want organic walnut oil on your board, you can select organic coconut oil instead.  I chose the organic coconut oil/beeswax finish instead of the organic walnut oil/beeswax finish.  But Urthware is NOT a nut-free facility and boards will have had contact with walnut wood and walnut oil, as they make walnut boards as well.

The boards ship with instructions from Urthware on how to clean and care for your cutting boards.  Because the cutting boards are wooden, like any wooden cutting board, they will display some movement from moisture.  You can read up more on that here.  You can see your shipping rate before checking out.  I was able to save on the international shipping by paying to ship 3 boards together.  Urthware is not responsible for any duty or added taxes incurred from your country's Customs Agency.  Click here for more information on Urthware's shipping policy.

After getting my board ready, it was time to put it to its inaugural use, chopping up vegetables to make a spaghetti sauce, pasta dish and salad.

It felt great finally using a glue-free cutting board to chop up my produce.
Tomatoes, carrots, basil and garlic chopped for my sauce.

I do have wimpy wrists from years of typing, and lifting the solid board to slide my veggies off was quite a change from my previous cutting boards that were not made from one piece of wood.  But although the board was heavy, it was nothing that would deter me from lifting it daily.

I was so pleased with my Urthware All Natural Simplicity Series cutting board.  It was great to look at, use, and it made me happy, knowing it was such a green alternative to the boards we had used in the past.

You can see the All Natural Simplicity Series Cutting Boards and all the sizes and styles of Urthware's cutting boards on their website, including live edge serving boards and other boards with handles.  

Urthware also has a Professional Series line of heavy duty, larger boards.  They are made with glue, but as Mike from Urthware says, "Not all glues are created equal. The foreign glues used in most bamboo boards and wooden cutting boards are formaldehyde based. Many glues used in foreign manufactured boards are not necessarily approved for food contact. Some glues however are safer and some manufacturers (like us) use FDA approved glues made on this continent (by trustworthy manufacturers).  Obviously we agree that the ultimate in a natural cutting board is a cutting board with no adhesives at all, just pure wood, but there are sometimes benefits to some of our boards that use glues (depending on what a customers wants and needs are)."  So unlike some foreign glues, the glue used by Urthware in the Professional Series boards is FDA approved, made in America, and formaldehyde and phthalate free.

Where to Buy Urthware Products:
You can purchase cutting and serving boards, and learn more about Urthware by visiting their website and in their FAQs.

Connect with Urthware:

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, including more info on green toys and products and more DIY toys.
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, March 1, 2015

No-Sew Bunting for a Bird Themed Birthday Party

We had a bird-themed 1st birthday party for my son with lots of easy, DIY games and decorations that I will be posting about over the next few weeks. 

This bunting just took a couple minutes to make and the string can be used over and over again since the birds are just clipped on with small clothespins.

I drew the following shape onto the back of a patterned piece of felt:

And cut it out:

These are the small clothespins I got from JoAnn Fabrics.  They come in lots of colors but I thought silver would work well with future buntings.

I cut a piece of yarn and pinched the rectangle in it.  It ended up looking too long though and because of the pattern, I thought the rectangle sticking up was distracting.

So I just folded the rectangle down and clipped it again with the clothespin.

I cut out more birds facing in both directions and then cut out a bright pink heart.

I ended up folding that rectangle down too before putting the clothespin on it.
Then the bunting was ready to go up.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, including more info on green toys and products and more DIY toys.  Coming up, a glue-free wooden cutting board and the rest of the bird-themed birthday party posts.
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, February 25, 2015

Make A Pig Out Of An Old Shirt

Last week I showed you how to make a sew or no-sew version of the 3 Little Pigs' houses.  Today I'll go into how I made the extra pig I needed.

I cut the following shapes out of an old shirt sleeve.  The body is in duplicate.  I just cut along the sleeve (the snout is the cuff) so I didn't have to sew anything on the top of the body since it was along the fold and therefore already connected.

You might remember this pattern, as it was the shirt used in the upcycled octopus I made last year.

I always make sure I am not using stain repellant or wrinkle-free clothing because that means they are coated with PFOAs.

I sewed the body of the pig together using a blanket stitch, stuffing it with scraps of the shirt as I made my way around it.
And then I sewed the ears on by just sewing the rectangular parts of the ears down with a blanket stitch.  This makes the triangular part of the ears flap freely like a real pig's, as seen above.
In the picture below you can see some of the frayed edge of the rectangular parts of the ear as I started to sew them down.

And within a few minutes the pig was done!

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, including more info on green toys and products and more DIY toys.  Coming up, a glue-free wooden cutting board!
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, February 22, 2015

15 Kinds of Nursing Babies

To see this post on the Huffington Post, click here.

I nursed my oldest child until he was 17 months old, stopping when my milk dried up from my second pregnancy. And I am currently nursing my second child, who is 12 months old.
Through the over two years and counting that I have nursed two different babies, there have been many times that my children were like the sweet, sleeping babies in the breastfeeding pamphlets they send you home from the hospital with. But there have also been many occasions when they were not at all like the peaceful babies pictured there. In fact, some of these moments are so absurd, I was not at all prepared for what they would be like, because I had never seen them depicted in a breastfeeding book or brochure. I soon realized there are 15 kinds of nursing babies that aren't so well publicized:
1. The Clown. Don't be fooled by this nursing baby's name. The Clown is not funny. The Clown takes constant breaks from nursing to stretch your nipple with her fingers, like she is stretching out a new balloon before inflating it, pulling it out way farther than you thought was physically possible. The Clown may not be humorous, but she will laugh a lot. Because seeing you squeal in pain is hilarious.
2. The Judge. This nursing baby cannot keep his hands down by his side. Instead, the Judge insists on chopping his hand into your chest, neck, mouth, cheeks, eyes and nose like he is hammering a gavel, dishing out judgments more often than a listener ofSerial.
3. The Dental Hygienist. The Dental Hygienist takes her job seriously, attentively scraping away at your gums and teeth with her tiny but sharp nails, all while nursing, until there is barely any plaque left. Unfortunately for your teeth, there might not be any enamel left either when she's done.
4. The Mountain Goat. Frequently appearing in the middle of the night, or any time you are nursing in a side-lying position, the Mountain Goat is prone to painfully head butting you in the nose or cheekbones so hard and without warning, you're going to be sure something is broken on your end. The Mountain Goat, however, is unaffected, and will continue to head-butt until he finds what he is looking for.
5. The Lost Tourist. This baby can do wonders for your self-esteem. As she tries to find her way without directions, the Lost Tourist often tries to latch onto your belly in her half-asleep state. Because she thinks your belly is as big as your engorged breast. Ten months post-partum.
6. The Serial Nurser. You never know when the Serial Nurser is going to show up, or for how long. He can be a newborn, nursing on and off throughout the day, way more often than the two to three hour intervals people tell you a baby will nurse, or he can be a 15-month-old, nursing every couple minutes through the night as he sleeps, pacifying himself while you dream of icing yourself.
7. The Hawk. This young bird will dig her talons into the chasm of your diastasis recti or take the "handles" part of "love handles" quite literally, as she secures her footing by securing her claws into your sides. While your extra layer(s) of post-partum fat can help cushion the impact, the Hawk doesn't feel satisfied until her prey screeches in pain.
8. The Marathon Runner. This baby will pop off your breast at the most inopportune time, while you are still engorged. He will then proceed to hold your breast, which is now spraying everywhere, splashing his face, and everything in its vicinity, with milk, like an exhausted runner dousing his face with water mid-race. The Marathon Runner seems to be the reason burp cloths were invented.
9. The Yogi. The Yogi is skilled at flexing his body into all sorts of positions, all while latched, yet I have found the Yogi's favorite position to be Downward Dog, as he stands and bends his head down to your lap, all while feeding. Watching the Yogi at work may lead your mind to be more confused than at peace.
10. The Guinness Record Holder. Generally not a firstborn child, the Record Holder seems to be nature's way of knowing moms with more than one child do not always have the luxury of sitting still for longer nursing sessions. This speedy baby gulps milk down in record time, popping off after just a couple minutes, while you are left cleaning up the mess from a breast that is now squirting milk in every direction like a cartoon hose.
11. The Groper. Not one to keep her hands in one place, the Groper will roughly rub your arms and neck, or stick her fingers in your ears, nose, mouth, and try to poke inside your eyes as well. The Groper proves that nobody likes to be groped, even by a baby.
12. The Milestone Hitter. This baby is ready to show off her new milestones. Unfortunately, she is ready to do them while latched. The Milestone Hitter loves to sit up while latched, to stand while latched, to clap while latched, to roll over, while latched. And worst of all, crawl away, while still latched. This nursing child proves it isn't always fun to watch a baby take her first steps.
13. Jaws. The Great White Shark of babies, Jaws is cutting his teeth and finds it very convenient to use what he gets his milk from as a teether. Like a viewer of this baby's namesake film, you will find your heart racing and your palms sweating as you hear the ominous music in your head, signaling the upcoming shark attack. Unlike the film, though, you can't fast forward.
14. Mr. On-Again-Off-Again. This baby gives "on-again-off-again" new meaning as he pops on and off the breast every few seconds or less, distracted by a bird chirping outside, your dog walking by, a toy he remembers is nearby, or for no reason at all. While his breaking of the latch may not be as painful as a break-up, it still doesn't feel fantastic, especially when teeth are involved.
15. The Titty Twister. Enough said.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, including more info on green toys and products and more DIY toys.  
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, February 18, 2015

Three Little Pigs' Houses - Sew or No-Sew Versions

I made quick houses to act out the 3 Little Pigs out of felt and a Sharpie Stained fabric marker.

To make the straw house, I cut a large rectangle out of yellow felt and sewed the two ends together with a blanket stitch.  I also cut the two smaller rectangles out, shaped them into an X, and sewed them together in the center with a couple stitches.

(If you don't want to sew, you could just fold the rectangle into a cylinder and place the roof strips on top of it.  Everything will fall when kids touch it but the house can easily be propped back up). 

I then cut a doorway out of the bottom edge and sewed two scraps together to make a roof.  I finished the house off by drawing some lines on it to resemble a straw house.

To make the stick house, I followed the same steps as above, sewing together a brown rectangle and cutting out a door.  I just used an oddly shaped scrap of brown felt for the roof and drew lines on the house and roof to resemble sticks.

The stick house without sewing

To make the brick house, I cut out four rectangles, (2 pairs of identical rectangles), and sewed the edges together with a blanket stitch.  If you want a no-sew option, just cut a long rectangle out instead and make it a cylindrical shape like the other two houses.  I then cut out a door and drew a brick pattern on and our three houses were set.

The 3 houses sewn together

With the doors cut out

Because we had a PlanToys Arctic Fox to play the part of the big bad wolf and a PlanToys pig and an Anamalz pig, I just had to sew the third pig.

Huffing and puffing and blowing houses down.

This Thursday, I will show you how to make a simple pig out of an old shirt.
This was a simple, quick project that led to lots of fun, as we acted out the 3 Little Pigs.  (The Big Bad Arctic Fox just ran away in our version though without being boiled alive.  Lucky him).

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, including more info on green toys and products and more DIY toys.  
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, February 15, 2015

BiteSizers Mealtime Scissors

 Mixed Pears contacted me with an opportunity to try out their new BiteSizers Mealtime Scissors.  (Note: I received a complimentary pair of BiteSizers Mealtime Scissors.  All opinions are my own).

These food scissors are like handy knives, in scissor form, designed to help introduce younger kids to a wide variety of food by letting adults quickly chop up whatever they are eating into age-appropriate bites for kids.  They can be used horizontally but, according to their website, "truly shine when you hold them vertically and cut with the blades pointed down."  Scroll down on their homepage here to watch a video of the scissors at work, vertically.  You can also search YouTube to see a video of a customer using them.

The BiteSizers Mealtime Scissors are certified by NSF International with their Home Products Certification.  They are free of BPA, lead, formaldehyde and phthalates.  Made in Taiwan of utensil grade 420J2 Japanese stainless steel and ABS plastic, the scissors are available in 3 colors: green, pink and blue.

These scissors are very sharp and are not for children to use.  See below:

They come with a snap-on cap to keep the blades closed when on the go or while being stored.
Back of the BiteSizers packaging

They are intended for food and Mixed Pears does not recommend adults use them to cut paper or other materials if you want to use them on food again.  You can find more information on their care and what you can and cannot use them on here, in their FAQs.

The scissors also come with a built-in sizer guide, the 1/2" circle in the middle of the scissors, so that you can reference it when deciding how big or small to cut the food.

Once I had hand-washed my new pair of BiteSizers Mealtime Scissors, I was ready to give them a try.
It took a few seconds to adjust to cutting up food with scissors instead of a knife.

The scissors are very sharp and sliced through most food easily, once I got the hang of cutting vertically.
The first food I tried cutting: noodles, lentils, mushrooms and a bell pepper slice

Easily and quickly chopped vertically into tiny bites

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  This was the only food I tried cutting  that I felt would have been faster to just use the butter knife I used for the peanut butter to cut up.
Cottage cheese pancakes

Cottage cheese pancakes chopped up.  These were gooey from the melted cheese but they still chopped up quickly

Fattoush sandwich

The only food I had some difficulty with was grape tomatoes, but those are annoying to cut with a knife and fork anyway.  In this case, cutting vertically did not cut all the way through the tomato so I used a fork to finish cutting through.

But for much of what I was cutting, using the BiteSizers Mealtime Scissors was a breeze and they helped me quickly chop up the food to bite-size pieces.  Here they were used on a thick, Detroit-style carry-out pizza and salad:

I can see these coming in handy at restaurants, so toddlers can easily enjoy smaller bites of a variety of foods, exposing them to a range of flavors and textures.

Where to Buy:
BiteSizers can be purchased from their website or on Amazon.

Connect with Mixed Pears:

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts, including more info on green toys and products and more DIY toys.  
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