Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cleaning Toys Guide: When and How

We tend to underestimate the importance of cleaning toys. 
Bath toys are subject to mold and mildew growth in any crack or crevice. Even though the toy spends time in the soapy water, germs still attack once the toys are removed. Check out some interesting suggestions using vinegar.

Cleaning Baby Toys:
Teethers, plastic and wood toys. Most all "hard" toys fall in this category. When your baby is in the "putting everything in the mouth" stage you'll want to wipe down her toys more often. The recipe is 1 cup of water + 1 cup of distilled white vinegar.
Mix together equal parts distilled white vinegar and water for a cheap toy cleaning solution. Put it in a spray bottle and just spray a little on a cloth and then wipe down the toys. The vinegar smell goes away completely after it dries and it doesn't leave any residue on the toys. 

Cleaning Stuffed Toys:
Stuffed animals, fabric mats and fabric toys. Follow the washing directions on the tag for how to clean baby toys. However, if there are no directions or the tag is long gone there are still some gentle cleaning methods you can try. 
Washing Machine with Vinegar and Baking Soda - Yes, you can throw most fabric toys and stuffed animals into the washing machine and they'll be fine ifthe material and content is cotton or polyester blends. For heavily stained or soiled stuffed animals sprinkle them with baking soda and wash, adding 3 capfuls of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. Most fabric and stuffed toys can also be tumble dried on low.

Cleaning Wool Toys:
If your wool toy is "felted" you can simply wash it in the machine in a pillow case or net bag. If not, you need to take special care when washing. Spot cleaning is ideal, especially for things like Waldorf dolls or knitted wool stuffed animals. To spot clean, use a mild wool soap and a damp wash cloth and let air dry. For very heavily soiled wool toys you can also hand wash using a wool soap and then lay in a sunny window to dry. Do NOT tumble dry wool toys unless they have already been felted.

Cleaning Bath Toys:

Bath toys are subject to mold and mildew growth in any crack or crevice. Even though the toy spends time in the soapy water, germs still attack once the toys are removed. Using vinegar and water to clean the bath toys eliminates the bacteria that causes the mold and mildew to grow. The toys are ready for use by little hands and the spread of germs is decreased. 

  • Remove soap residue from the bath toys by soaking in a mixture of 1 cup distilled white vinegar and 1 gallon of clean water. The alkalies in soaps are broken down and removed by the acid in the vinegar. Rinse the toys completely and place them on a clean surface to air dry. 

    Sources: eHow and howtostuffanimals

  • Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    Jello Cups!

    Check out these edible vegan cups made of agar agar, a seeweed. They can be tossed without guilt when your drink or cocktail is gone. The cups are available in different flavors, such as lemon-basil, ginger-mint, or rosemary-beet, each specifically designed to compliment a corresponding drink. They can be nibbled on while drinking and any leftover remnants can be composted immediately. Great idea! I wonder how easy it might be to make them ourselves with jello....

    By The Way We See The World

    RECALL: More Tylenol

    Johnson & Johnson is recalling one product lot of Tylenol Extra Strength Caplets made in February 2009 and distributed in the U.S. The recall totals 60,912 bottles, each of which has 225 caplets.
    McNeil, a division of Johnson & Johnson, said it has received a small number of reports about the pills' odor, which has been linked in past J&J recalls to the presence of trace amounts of "2,4,6-tribromoanisole",  a byproduct of a chemical preservative sometimes used on shipping pallets.
    Besides causing an unpleasant odor, it has been associated with temporary and non-serious gastrointestinal symptom.

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Granola Clusters or Bars (Oat, Quinoa and Flaxseed)

    My kids love granola bars and clusters. Unfortunately most commercial bars in the market are loaded with sugar and other undesirable ingredients. Check out this great recipe using quinoa flakes, oats and flaxseed. It is loaded with proteins, minerals and vitamins. They taste great, and make a perfect snack or dessert!

    Granola Clusters or Bars
    Servings: about 50 bars, or a pound of granola cereal or clusters

    • Canola cooking Spray
    • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
    • 1 cup quinoa flakes
    • 1/2 cup flaxseed meal or wheat germ
    • 1/2 cup chopped raw, unsalted walnuts
    • 1/2 cup chopped unsalted almonds
    • 1/2 cup chopped unsalted pecans
    • 1/2 cup organic agave
    • 1/2 cup maple syrup
    • 4 oz (113 grs.) of organic apple sauce
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup raisins
    Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Spray a large baking sheet with canola cooking spray. In a medium bowl combine the all ingredients. Mix really well, using a spoon or your hands. Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet and bake until golden brown. If you want granola, stir it occasionally, about 50 minutes. If you want cluster of bars, do not stir, but keep an eye to avoid burned edges and soft center. Transfer the sheet to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Glass containers: very practical, no harmful chemicals (and so cheap!!)

    Transporting foods for lunches and picnics and storing leftovers for reheating is a lot safer when using glass or stainless steel containers. The benefit of glass is that you can use it in the microwave! Check out this set from Pyrex, including two 2-cup rounds, one 3 1/2-cup rectangular, one 4-cup round, and one 6-cup rectangular storage piece, all glass, with plastic covers. Pyrex glass doesn't warp, stain, or absorb odors, and can be used in the oven, microwave, oven, refrigerator, or freezer. Sold at Amazon for under US$27 (free shipping). What a bargain!

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Mom Fan of the Week: Chrissy Racho

    Meet Chrissy Racho, a knowledgeable mom of two beautiful girls under 3 years of age. Chrissy is also a blogger, professional photographer and a real state marketing consultant (and is training for a half marathon!). Busy mom!! 
    She raises her kids in a gluten-free, vegetarian lifestyle in New England, USA.

    1. Best advice to make your kids eat healthy:
    From the very beginning, we knew we wanted our little girls to have a taste for various and interesting healthy foods. I am incredibly passionate about creating delicious recipes that are healthy and very nutritious. That is one of the reasons I started Sassy Little Cabbages, a lifestyle blog.  We do not eat a lot of "typical" meals based on the average American diet, I am gluten free and we do not eat meat. We focus on a mostly plant based diet, which means we substitute a lot of things like tofu or flax seed for eggs, almond milk for cows milk, etc. We try very hard not to eat any processed foods. Standard snacks for my little ones are fresh fruits and vegetables, hummus, fresh cooked fish, miso soup and so on. Basically, we just do not buy food we do not want them to eat and ask friends and family to stick to our rules. Of course, naughty snacks do sneak in and we do not want to deprive them. I feel that if you start young, they are most likely able to adapt to the food choices you teach them. Frankly, I could talk all day about healthy eating!

    2. Kid Gear you couldn't live without:
    We really love our pack and play. It allows us to get things done while baby is safe and playing with all of her goodies. When our first daughter was born, we bought all of the essential things most parents buy, but we are pretty minimal, so the basics seemed to suit us just fine! 

    3. Mantra to keep calm in chaotic moments:
    There will come a time where they are all grown up and as trying as the chaos is, we will miss it.

    4. Tricks to keep in shape:
    I am committed to working out six days per week and am training for a half marathon and am going to start training for a sprint triathlon. Fitness and overall health are at the top of my priority list and it means really sticking to my goals. My tip to busy moms is set small, realistic goals and even when you are not in the mood to exercise, do it! Once you put on your workout clothes and sneakers and start warming up, you will forget that you didn't want to start in the first place. Also, really be aware of your diet and nutrition. From the way you feel inside to the way you look outside, it all starts with how we nourish our bodies.
    5. Best busy mom beauty trick:
    Always wear blush and mascara. Always. You will feel brighter, happier and prettier no matter what you are doing! And pearl studs...I do not leave the house without them!
    6. One green guilt:
    When running out shopping with two little ones in tow, I know I can be much better about using my reusable grocery bags.
    You can access Chrissy's blog at, and her photography business at

    If you'd like to be featured as a Mom Fan of the Week, please e-mail us at

    Thursday, June 23, 2011


    Tapenade is a top favorite here. It's perfect on a slice of toasted French Baguette, or pita bread. It is also fairly healthy, due to its mediterranean ingredients. If you are unfamiliar to this delicious spread, Tapenade is a Provençal dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil. You can find it as a starter in many Mediterranean restaurants. Enjoy!

    Servings: 1 1/2 cups
    • 1/2 pound pitted mixed olives
    • anchovy fillets, rinsed
    • 1 small clove garlic, minced
    • 2 tablespoons capers
    • 2 to 3 fresh basil leaves
    • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    Thoroughly rinse the olives in cool water. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture becomes a coarse paste, approximately 1 to 2 minutes total. Transfer to a bowl and serve with slices of French Baguette or Sourdough
    Source: food network

    Moldy Foods: When Are They Safe?

    I'm always a bit "iffy" about moldy foods. If you are a cheese lover like me, you've probably faced the same dilemma: when is it safe to eat?
    I found these great tips to distinguish the good from the bad. Check them out! 

    1. Hard salami and dry-cured country hams
    The USDA says: It is normal for these shelf-stable products to have surface mold. Use. Scrub mold off surface.
    2. Hard cheese
    The USDA says:
     Use. Cut off at least 1 inch around and below the mold spot. Mold generally cannot penetrate deep into the product.
    3. Cheese made with mold
    The USDA says:
     Discard soft cheeses such as Brie and Camembert if they contain molds that are not a part of the manufacturing process. Molds that are not a part of the manufacturing process can be dangerous. (Can’t tell? Discard.)
    4. Firm fruits and vegetables
    (such as cabbage, bell peppers, carrots, etc.)
    The USDA says: Use. Cut off at least 1 inch around and below the mold spot. Small mold spots can be cut off FIRM fruits and vegetables with low moisture content. It’s difficult for mold to penetrate dense foods.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Benefits of Xylitol

    Are you familiar with Xylitol? Ir is a great and safe alternative for sugar!
    Xylitol was discovered in the late 19th century, and was first popularized in Europe as a safe sweetener for people with diabetes that would not impact insulin levels. Its dental significance was researched in Finland in the early 1970s, when scientists at Turku University showed it had significant dental benefits. Xylitol is a natural sweetener found in fibers of many vegetables and fruits such as husks from corn, mushrooms, many types of berries, oats, plums, birch, corn, raspberries. It tastes just like sugar, but with 40% less calories!

    Absorbed more slowly than sugar, it does not contribute to high blood sugar levels or the resulting hyperglycemia caused by insufficient insulin response. This characteristic has also proven beneficial for people suffering from metabolic syndrome, a common disorder that includes insulin resistance, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and an increased risk for blood clots.
    What's more, xylitol reduces tooth decay. From the chemical point of view, it has 5 carbon atoms, which means that bacteria and yeast won't be able to process it. 
    Xylitol has no known toxicity in humans. In one study, participants consumed a diet containing a monthly average of 1.5 kg of xylitol with a maximum daily intake of 430 g with no apparent ill effects. Xylitol is known to be safe for pregnant and nursing women.

    Xylitol can be found in special food stores and at

    Sources: Wikipedia, Sideeffectsdb

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Always Chic!

    This eco-friendly poncho is very chic. It doubles-up for nursing as well as for maternity! Made of bamboo yarn, this soft and slinky poncho has a very subtle sheen that is as appropriate for day use as it is for an evening dinner or party.
    And you can use it after you are done with all maternity duties too!

    By Ecoscapes

    Friday, June 17, 2011


    My son brought this beautiful poem from school. So cute and touchy!
    Happy Father's Day!


    "Walk a little slower 
    Daddy", said a child so 
    small. "I'm following in 
    your footsteps and I don't 
    want to fall.

    Sometimes your steps are
    very fast, sometimes 
    they're hard to see; so walk
    a little slower, Daddy,
    for you are leading me.

    Someday when I'm all
    grown up, You're what I
    want to be; then I'll have
    a little child who'll
    want to follow me

    And I want to lead just
    right and know that I
    was true; so walk a 
    little slower, Daddy,
    for I must follow you."

    Fan of the Week: Claudia Kalur

    Meet Claudia Kalur, a bright interior decorator of children's spaces, and founder of A Room for Frances.
    Claudia is also an experienced mom of a 2.5 year old daughter, Margot. She has a lot to share! We are thrilled to feature Claudia as our "Fan of the Week".

    1.Best advice to make your kids eat healthy / What is in their lunchbox?
    Avoid sweets at any cost, but not completely. Margot gets in her lunchbox everyday a Happy Baby Fruit Juice (organic juice filled with vitamins, fiber and Omega-3s); a YoToddler yoghurt (also filled with vitamins and omega-3s); an organic fruity cereal bar, her main meal (I try to always have at least one vegetable in it - she LOVES Dr. Praegger's broccoli and spinach dinosaurs), a piece of organic fruit (bananas or blueberries or strawberries) and a small container with cookies.

    2.Kid gear you couldn't have lived without
    Hmmm, we don't really have or really ever needed "gear". Margot never needed a stroller (or could sit long enough in one). I had a carrier, that I used only a couple of times at home, so that I could do dishes. We had a hiking backpack but used it once and as soon as she started walking, we never used it because she LOVES to walk with us. Ah, we do have a "harness" that we have used a couple of times - we love how safe it keeps her and she doesn't mind at all because she can still run and walk without feeling "tied" to us. We bought it in England where these children harnesses are very normal - it looks like a real harness around the chest (none of the doggie backpack things) and we've heard some weird remarks from people here in the USA but we don't care -- it's about keeping a highly active toddler safe and us having peace of mind!

    3.Mantra to keep calm in chaotic moments: 
    "she's only a toddler, you can't reason with a toddler, she's only a toddler", repeat as needed...

    4.Tricks to keep in shape: 
    Chasing a 2.5 year old...

    5.Best busy mom beauty trick: 
    Put the make up on in the car!

    6.One green guilt: 
    None of my beauty products are "organic". I've tried several brands and I always end up with my usual daily cream and make-up brands... 

    If you'd like to be featured as a "Fan of the Week", please e-mail us at

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Italian Panzanella with Grilled Salmon...Yummm!

    It is grilling time, the options are endless!  Check out this Italian recipe combining Italian salad and grilled salmon. It doesn't take long to make, and the result is a delicious meal loaded with protein, omega-3, selenium  and vitamin C. Enjoy!

    Salmon Panzanella
    Servings: 4 portions

    • 8 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
    • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 thick slices day-old whole-grain bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
    • 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 1 medium cucumber, peeled (if desired), seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
    • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
    • 1 pound center-cut salmon, skinned and cut into 4 portions
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

    Preheat grill to high. Whisk olives, vinegar, capers and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in oil until combined. Add bread, tomatoes, cucumber, onion and basil.
    Oil the grill rack. Season both sides of salmon with salt and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Grill the salmon until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
    Divide the salad among 4 plates and top each with a piece of salmon.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    FDA Announces New Requirements for Over-The-Counter Sunscreen Products

    The FDA announced today new requirements for over-the-counter sunscreen products marketed in the U.S. Prior rules on sunscreens dealt almost exclusively with protection against only ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun, and did not address skin cancer and early skin aging caused by ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. This new designation will give consumers better information on which sunscreen products offer the greatest protection from both UVA and UVB exposure that can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer.

    Sunscreen products that pass the broad spectrum test are allowed to be labeled as "Broad Spectrum." These "Broad Spectrum" sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Broad Spectrum sunscreens with SPF values of 15 or higher help protect against not only sunburn, but also skin cancer and early skin aging when used as directed with other sun protection measures. 

    For sunscreen products labeled with SPF values but not as "Broad Spectrum," the SPF value indicates the amount of protection against sunburn only.

    The Final Rule will take effect by the summer of 2012, but consumers may begin to see changes to sunscreen labels before the effective date. 


    Listeria in Kellogg's Cookie Plant

    The Food and Drug Administration says it found traces of listeria at a Kellogg Co. plant in while inspecting a company cookie plant in Augusta, Ga. earlier this year.
    FDA regulators said "during our inspection we found that you have significant violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations for food manufacturers." The pathogen was found in several spots along the production line that come in direct contact with food.

    Kellogg makes a variety of Keebler and Famous Amos cookies at the factory and says it has "undertaken a number of aggressive actions to address (the FDA's) concerns, including comprehensive cleaning and extensive testing."
    Based on the findings of the inspection, FDA said it had "determined that the foods manufactured at your facility are adulterated ... in that they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health."
    Eating food contaminated with the bacterium listeria monocytogenes can cause a dangerous infection called listeriosis. Symptoms may include diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms, fever, muscle aches, stiff neck, confusion and convulsions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Formaldehyde Added to Governmental List of Carcinogens

    Government scientists listed formaldehyde as a carcinogen, and said it is found in worrisome quantities in plywood, particle board, mortuaries and hair salons. They also said that styrene, which is used in boats, bathtubs and in disposable foam plastic cups and plates, may cause cancer but is generally found in such low levels in consumer products that risks are low.

    Frequent and intense exposures in manufacturing plants are far more worrisome than the intermittent contact that most consumers have, but government scientists said that consumers should still avoid contact with formaldehyde and styrene. Its release was delayed for years because of intense lobbying from the chemical industry, which disputed its findings.
    Source: NYTimes

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Fan of the Week: Bethany Beets

    We really think that our readers have a lot of knowledge to share! We love the new "Fan of the Week" postings because we always learn a bunch about parenting and lifestyle.

    We are very excited to feature Bethany Sheets as our "Fan of the Week", from Massachusetts, USA:

    Bethany's household went from hardly green in the past year to "greener by the minute",  as she said. She also mentioned that although her daughter was on cloth diapers, they practiced Elimination Communication, so at one year, she is out of diapers already! 
    As a smart mommy, she buys her fruits and veggies from local farmers, and is looking forward to growing her own garden next year. 

    Here is more of she has to say about being a green parent:

    Best advice to make your daughter eat healthy during the Summer:
    I'm answering in terms of an easy picnic lunch on the go for this summer!  She also doesn't have any teeth yet, so that makes it a little tricky but not too bad -- Our current favorite is whole wheat pita bread, homemade hummus, and a soft, ripe pear or peach.

    Kid gear you couldn't have lived without:
    We love our ergo carrier.  And my daughter is so happy when I pop her on my back and off we go!  (In the beginning it was a Moby.)

    Mantra to keep calm in chaotic moments:
    "Just get out the door."

    Tricks to keep in shape:
    Walk everywhere with a baby on your back.  And breastfeeding!

    Best busy mom beauty trick:
    I don't think I have one to be honest.  Looking forward to reading others' responses.  I figure everyone is looking at my cute baby instead of me anyway!

    One green guilt:  
    We need to convert our ziploc bags to some cute reusable bags ASAP!  I've seen some adorable ones on etsy!

    If you'd like to be featured as a "Fan of the Week", please e-mail us at

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Reusable Utensil Set At Its Best

    Isn't it the most creative (and fun) reusable utensil set? Perfect for the office and school. Some people are just creative geniuses!

    By Fred and Friends

    Minimizing E. Coli Risks

    E. coli has been in the news forever, coming from all over the world. Although there is no way to be 100% E. coli proof, there are ways to minimize risks:

    1. Wash your hands (and your produce)! Good hand washing is the single most important thing you can do, especially after using the bathroom (or changing diapers); touching animals or spending time in their environments (playing fetch with Fido, for example); and before preparing and eating food. Rinsing produce under running water helps reduce bacteria, too.

    2. Cook meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been tenderized should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (use a thermometer to be sure!). "Heat kills bacteria," says Frechman. "Cooking leafy greens for 15 seconds at 160 degrees will also kill E. coli."

    3. Avoid eating high-risk foods.
     Unpasteurized (raw) milk or cheeses, unpasteurized juices (apple cider is a biggie) and undercooked meat. And steer clear of human and animal feces (easier said than done when you don't know who's preparing your food and what their hand-washing habits are!).

    4. Don't swallow! When you're in swimming pools, rivers, ponds, streams and backyard "kiddie" pools, don't swallow the water! Some kinds of E. coli cause disease by producing something called Shiga toxin. Infections start when you swallow invisible Shiga toxin-producing E. coli -- in other words, when you get tiny amounts of human or animal feces in your mouth (ew!).

    5. Don't cross-contaminate. Clean and sanitize counter tops, cutting boards, utensils, refrigerator shelves and hands after they touch raw meat. Use separate cutting boards for fruits/vegetables and raw proteins, such as chicken, fish or meat.

    Source: Shine