January 29, 2024

Hand-Knit Friends from BlaBla Kids {plus Discount Code}

As a knitter, I'm gaga over BlaBla Kids and their collection of handmade cotton dolls.  I seriously want one of each!  The designs are so whimsical and the colors are vibrant with lots of kid-appeal.

Hand-knitted by Peruvian artisans and created from natural fibers grown in Peru, BlaBla dolls are not only utterly adorable, but they're great for supporting regional craftspeople.

The designs are the brainchild of Florence Wetterwald, whose variety of BlaBla creations is astounding.  Everything from salty punk rockers
to sweet ballerinas.
We received Basil the Bunny mini, who has quickly made himself at home in our family and amongst the toys. 
Soren's taken to Basil quite well, and insists that Basil is NOT going to become the baby's when he/she arrives in July.   Well, ok then!
I love that Basil would be perfect for girls or boys; his stripes and cheerful colors would suit any young (or old!) child.
Basil is quite squeezable too, and is a perfect sleeping companion.  And eating and drinking and playing companion too.
BlaBla dolls come in giant sizes too, and I fully intend to buy one for the baby when the time comes.  I'd really like to purchase Giselle the Ballerina (seen above) if we have a girl.  The red hair is irresistible, especially since I had bright red hair as a child.  However, Lemonade the Dog is quite cute too, especially for a mom who is smitten with polka dots.
If you're looking for a BlaBla doll or one of their many other items, like their adorable backpacks and mobiles for the wee ones or not-so-wee ones in your life,
BlaBla Kids is offering Katydid and Kid readers a 15% discount with the promo code katydid15.  Offer expires February 20th, 2011.
Disclosure: I received a BlaBla doll for review purposes.

January 26, 2024

Digging Out, Again

There's nothing more exciting than shoveling snow (again!) while 4 months pregnant.  Well, maybe eating the snow and piling it into a Tonka truck.
Truthfully, I actually like shoveling, even when pregnant. It's a great workout, and I do take plenty of breaks.

January 24, 2024

A Post About Art and Your Kids

In case you haven't heard me say it enough (and I apologize if you have), I used to be an art teacher. Which meant many long hours in courses like "Teaching Art and Visual Culture" and "Perspectives in Art Education" (to be honest, I'd be flummoxed in explaining the syllabus to you, now 5+ years later).

Obviously I subscribe to a lot of art blogs, which provide a plethora of fun craft ideas and art experiences that I try to incorporate in the daily doings with my son.
In one recent RSS entry, I found myself getting a bit peeved about a certain topic, something highbrow art ed students used to label "make and take" projects.  Now I know there's a fabulous blog out there with a similar name, and let me be clear that this post has nothing to do with that blog. 
It actually has to do with a post from a blog written by an art teacher, one who is big into "make and take" projects, which are basically cookie-cutter activities that are assembled by kids, factory style.  The kind where all the kids in a class use a certain kind of color with a certain kind of gimmicky technique (like salt on watercolor, etc.), so that all the final pieces of art look nearly identical.

One of my beliefs regarding art and young kids is that they should be mostly left to their own devices, to scribble and dabble and explore materials, not be shown how to make a specific  landscape and then glue a pre-cut tree or animal on top.
Yes, these kinds of art projects makes an impressive display for grown-ups to admire when visiting school hallways, and it probably makes older kids satisfied, knowing that they made a conventionally-pretty piece of art. However, I believe it kills the creative spirit that comes so naturally in children.  I often think of Picasso's famous words, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
So parents, let your kids explore, make a mess (within reason), and most importantly, make mistakes.  Bring out the art materials, and casually lay them out on the table for the kids to experiment with.  If you're feeling brave, you might even just walk away for a bit, and see what happens (other than crayons on the wall, which are easily removed with Goo Gone).
Or better yet, find creative outlets in the mud of your garden or the shaving cream in your bathtub.  Scribbles and blots can be even lovelier than a pre-cut elephant on a beige Savannah.

January 21, 2024

The Beauty of Baking Soda

I'm in love with baking soda.  As someone who tries to live a green lifestyle, baking soda is my product of choice for eco-friendly living, from laundry to cleaning to freshening and of course beauty.
Arm and Hammer baking soda is such a versatile product, and I was eager to try out some of the beauty tips they sent me, along with this gorgeous gift basket filled with spa-like delights and of course Arm and Hammer products.
I've been a faithful user of baking soda scrubs for my face and body, so I was eager to try out some of the other beauty tips, especially that I'm pregnant and I just don't seem to have that "glow" during this pregnancy.  I'm eager for any kind of natural help! 

The basket came with baking soda and 2 great containers for them, which are air-tight and have small holes for sprinkling (I tend to always dump too much from the box).
Also included was a spa washcloth, headband, teas and a mug, a soy candle, nail polish, a manicure set, Lavender essential oil and a booklet of beauty tips.
There is so much you can do with baking soda for personal care, including freshening breath, manicuring your nails, and maintaining healthy skin.
So far, I've indulged in a facial scrub and body exfoliant.  My face felt smooth and free of dead skin, though I did make sure to follow up with a moisturizer, since it is dry skin season and all.  Here's the recipe that I used:

Facial Scrub and Body Exfoliant
For smooth, radiant skin, give yourself a gentle facial and body scrub with ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda. Make a paste of 3 parts ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda to 1 part water.  Rub in a gentle circular motion to exfoliate skin and remove dead skin cells.  Rinse clean.  Gentle enough for daily use!

While in the shower, I also experimented with baking soda on my hair, which worked well in removing shampoo and conditioner build-up.  Another recipe:
Hair Care
Get rid of product buildup by sprinkling a small amount (quarter-size) of ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda into your palm along with your favorite shampoo.  Shampoo as usual and rinse thoroughly.  The ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda helps remove the residue that styling products leave behind so your hair is cleaner and more manageable.

Here are some additional ideas for using baking soda in a beauty regimen:
Soothing Bath Soak
For a relaxing ending to a long day, add 1/2 cup of ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda to your bath to neutralize acids on the skin and help wash away oil and perspiration.  Your skin will feel silky smooth!

Home Pedicure Foot Soak
Start your home pedicure by dissolving 3 tablespoons of ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda in a basin of warm water and soak feet.  Gently scrub with a paste of ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda.  

Pearly Whites
For gleaming smiles, brush teeth with ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda. . Just sprinkle baking soda into your palm, dip a damp toothbrush into it, and brush*. For a refreshing mouthwash, use 1 teaspoon baking soda in ½ glass of water. Swish the solution through your teeth and rinse.
*ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda does not contain the anti-cavity ingredient fluoride. Use it where water is fluorinated or when non-fluoride toothpaste is desired for adult use or as directed by your dentist of physician.

Hand Cleanser
Soften skin with a paste of 3 parts ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda to 1 part water.  Forget the harsh soaps and gently scrub away ground-in dirt and neutralize odors on hands with 3 parts ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda to your liquid hand soap.  Then rinse clean. 

Clean Brushes and Combs
For lustrous hair with more shine, keep brushes and combs clean with ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda.  Remove natural oil build-up and hair product residue by soaking combs and brushes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda in a small basin of warm water.  Rinse and allow to dry.

Natural Deodorant
Dust ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda under arms as needed to feel fresh all day.  The magic of ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda actually absorbs odors instead of just covering them up.  

Be kind to yourself, indulge and enjoy, all for under a buck!
Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Arm & Hammer and received a beauty basket to thank me for taking the time to participate.

January 19, 2024

Tropical Treat: Pineapple Coconut Loaf Cake

When it's freezing outside, we eat a lot of soup and do a lot of dreaming about warm, tropical places.  While organizing my recipe box the other day, I came across this one, from Everyday Food, for Pineapple Coconut Loaf Cake.
It is so scrumptious,moist and buttery (not exactly health food) with the tropical tastes of coconut flakes and pineapple chunks.
It's almost enough to shake the winter blues away.

COCONUT PINEAPPLE LOAF CAKE (adapted from Everyday Food)
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • 1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks in juice, drained well
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour the shredded coconut onto a baking sheet, and toast it for 8-10 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven.

Butter and flour a 9x5" loaf pan.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (minus the coconut) and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar on medium with an electric mixer.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.   On the low setting, alternatively beat in the dry mixture and the sour cream (1/3 flour, 1/2 sour cream, 1/3 flour, 1/2 sour cream, 1/3 flour).  Mix only until combined (overmixing will make a tough cake).

Fold in the drained pineapple and 1 cup of the toasted coconut.  Pour into your floured pan, then top with the remaining coconut.  Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Oh, and about halfway through, it's a good idea to cover the top with a piece of foil, so that the coconut on top doesn't get burnt.  Let the cake cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing. 
It has such a crunchy topping from the coconut, as well as some coconut bits and sweet pineapple chunks spread throughout the cake.  Just be warned that it's hard to just have one piece!

January 17, 2024

Crazy Quilter

The hormones are driving me a bit crazy. I've decided to start a quilt.
Mind you, this is my first "real" quilt. I don't count the one whose top I pieced (a really simple one at that) and never actually quilted together.  Come to think of it, I have no idea where that mess-in-progress went to anyway?  It was made during our pre-homeowner days, so it may have gotten tossed in the move.

I'm confident I can do this, especially with so many great online resources to help me along.  Plus I'm not setting my sights too high, like trying to do a Double Wedding Ring quilt or anything involving much cutting.  I'm thinking of using this pattern.

I ended up buying a layer cake, specifically the Moda's It's a Hoot pack. (I soooo love Moda's fabrics).
If you're not familiar with a layer cake (and quilters, please forgive me for my pedestrian explanation of it), it's just a set of pre-cut, coordinating line of fabrics sold together.  A layer cake contains 42 10"x10" squares, which will be really easy for me to piece together since it requires minimal cutting on my part.  And I'm not exactly the most accurate cutter, despite having a rotary cutter and mat.  That was one of my problems with my other quilt.
I am in love with the It's a Hoot line.  The owls, birds and polka dots make me happy, and I think the variety of soft and bright colors would be lovely for either a girl or boy, depending on what sex the baby is.
The backing fabric is a grey polka dot one from the It's a Hoot family, and I'm using the one below for the binding.
And if for some reason this is a royal catastrophe, I think I'll be ok.  At least there are lots of cute fabrics to turn into little things like pincushions, and baby blocks.  But I really feel confident about being able to do this, especially since the fabrics are so appealing.  Wish me luck, and look for my progress here on the blog.

January 16, 2024

Easy, Healthy Microwave Popcorn

When pregnant, I try my hardest to eat healthy snacks, and believe me it's hard because I'm a salty snacker. Thankfully I don't buy junk food at the store, but lord help me when I visit my parents' house, since my mom continues to stock the pantry with chips and crackers, my weaknesses. Sigh.

Scrounging around in my own pantry, I remembered how much I love popcorn, and what a pretty healthy treat it is (minus melted butter and such). Did you know you can make it in your microwave, without having to buy microwave popcorn?
It's so simple, plus you don't get all those hydrogenated oils and who-knows-what-else in your popcorn.  All you need are popcorn kernels, a paper lunch bag, a spritz of oil (which is optional) and any toppings you might like, such as salt and pepper, Parmesan cheese, or even chili powder.
I buy multi-colored popcorn at our local bulk-goods store. Not sure if it has any more nutritional value than the yellow, but I just think it's pretty sitting in its glass jar in the pantry.
First, take your paper bag and pour enough popcorn in it to almost cover the bottom of the bag (you'll be making 1-2 servings with this amount).
Next, spritz the popcorn with oil.  I use olive oil, but you can use whatever you want.  And our Misto is the best invention ever.  It holds just pure oil, no preservatives or other stuff like in commercially-sold kitchen sprays.   Really, whatever you put inside it is what comes out.

Then fold your bag closed a few times.  I then tear a little notch in the top, just so it doesn't come unrolled in the microwave.
Yeah, the bag will get a little greasy, but no problem.

Cook the popcorn on high in your microwave for 2 minutes.  I always stand nearby and take the popcorn out immediately when there is more than 2 seconds in between pops.  Perfect popcorn every time.

Sprinkle the hot popcorn with salt and pepper, and a little Parmesan.  There are tons of other great recipes online, and this one for Kettle Corn sounds especially tasty.
Now we just need a good movie to go along with this.  Oh, who am I kidding, I'd eat this for breakfast!

January 12, 2024

Paper Valentine's Day Banner (Tutorial)

While it may not even be my favorite holiday to celebrate (and in fact, we rarely do!), I love to craft for Valentine's Day.  There's not the Christmas pressure to produce everything from gifts to decorations to food, plus the iconography couldn't be any simpler--the heart.
Just try cutting out a Santa Claus from paper and you'll appreciate the simple beauty of the heart even more.  And yep, I still cut them out kindergarten-style, by folding paper in half and cutting a candy cane shape.

I adore banners, and decided to make an easy paper one to hang in the doorway between the kitchen and living room.
You could make this as simple or elaborate as you'd like.  It could be just plain hearts cut from construction paper, or ones that have a bit of ruffly-ruffly, like mine.  Can you guess what that ruffle is?
Hint: it's an an accoutrement of one of my favorite beverages.

So what do you need to make a cute banner?  Some red/pink/orange and/or purple paper.  I love using scrapbook paper scraps
and pages ripped from an old book, in my case an old childhood dictionary--the horror!!).
With those book pages, I did some watercolor doodles as Soren painted and drew along with me.  It actually is possible to craft while kids are busy!
We also used some paper that we had painted in a previous art session.
Other supplies: scissors, a glue stick, clothespins and a ribbon or string and coffee filters! That's the secret ruffly ingredient.
Rather than experiment with sizes, I made a heart template out of card stock, well, actually 3 sizes, small medium and large.  I wanted there to be 3 sizes on the banner.
I traced the templates onto the pretty paper, then cut them out.  I cut slightly larger and smaller hearts out of coordinating paper, then glued them on in layers.  You can see in the finished product below (not sure why I didn't take photos while in process.
I also added the coffee filter ruffle by folding the paper into 4ths
 And adding a scalloped edge.  When it opens up, it looks pretty and frilly, like a simple doily.
Just glue your heart on top.  I also added another heart to the back, since you can see both sides of my banner.
I also added some square panels in between the hearts by cutting the book paper in half, folding it in half, cutting a scalloped edge along the bottom, and then cutting a heart out of the center.
I then just folded it over the string, not even attaching it (though you could with tape or a staple).
Here's a view from the back, which is a little less elaborate.
I'll definitely be reusing this each year. The best part is that all the hearts simply clip off and can be stored in an envelope or folder until next year.
Next up: a Valentine's wreath for my front door--I'm thinking something with felt or yarn.  Let me know if you have any ideas or links to some blogs.
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