Friday, September 30, 2011

A Gift to Remember

Organic baby clothes individually wrapped to look like flowers. Gorgeous and so unique! Versions for boys and girls, sizes 3 to 6 months. 

By Nikki Gift Baskets, sold through Amazon

Keeping Babies Away from BPA and Phthalate

BornFree® CoolFlow Pacifier

Some of the major concerns with pacifiers and teethers are BPA and Phthalate chemicals found in plastics, proper teeth and gum development, choking hazards, etc. The NTP (National Toxicology Program) reports that BPA is more likely to leach from worn plastic items like a trusted pacifier.
Check out these suggestions from Dr. Greene to keep your baby safe:
·         Pay special attention to the plastics that go in the mouth, especially those used to store, heat, or serve food and drinks. Chemicals in the plastics can leach out and enter your child. Notice the recycling symbols on the bottoms of many plastics. Opt for symbols 1, 2, 4, or 5. Or choose brands like BornFree, where the entire line of toddler sippy cups, pacifiers, baby bottles and plastic water bottles are free from BPA, phthalates and PVC. Or skip plastic, and go with something like glass or stainless steel.
·         Pacifiers come in different sizes to accommodate babies’ different sizes. Most newborns do best with pacifiers designed for newborns, and preemies with those designed for preemies.
·         Pacifiers come in many shapes and sizes. Orthodontic pacifiers have been scientifically designed to support the shape of babies’ developing palates and jaws. The flattened shape not only simulates the shape of a mother’s nipple when flattened in the mouth, but also encourages the most natural sucking action to help proper oral development.
·         The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry solidly prefers pacifiers to thumbs for meeting children’s sucking needs (because pacifiers are easier for parents to control). I think pacifiers and thumbs are both fine – but bottles should never be used as pacifiers (this can cause terrible tooth decay). Nor should pacifiers be used to say, “quiet down!” without words, or as replacements for noticing babies or their needs.
·         Keep in mind that manufacturers are not required to label their products with materials used or recycling codes. If you find an unmarked product, be sure to contact the manufacturer to confirm.
·         If parents are worried about plastic teething rings, they can fall back on the old standards of letting babies suck on cold, wet cloths or fabric teethers.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Exercise Can Strengthen the Brain

Yet, another huge benefit from exercising! From the NYTimes...
"Like muscles, many parts of the brain get a robust physiological workout during exercise. “The brain has to work hard to keep the muscles moving” and all of the bodily systems in sync, says J. Mark Davis, a professor of exercise science at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina and senior author of the new mouse study, which was published last month in The Journal of Applied Physiology. Scans have shown that metabolic activity in many parts of the brain surges during workouts, but it was unknown whether those active brain cells were actually adapting and changing.
To see, the South Carolina scientists exercised their mice for eight weeks. The sedentary control animals were housed in the same laboratory as the runners to ensure that, except for the treadmill sessions, the two groups shared the same environment and routine.
At the end of the two months, the researchers had both groups complete a run to exhaustion on the treadmill. Not surprisingly, the running mice displayed much greater endurance than the loungers. They lasted on the treadmills for an average of 126 minutes, versus 74 minutes for the unexercised animals.
More interesting, though, was what was happening inside their brain cells. When the scientists examined tissue samples from different portions of the exercised animals’ brains, they found markers of upwelling mitochondrial development in all of the tissues. Some parts of their brains showed more activity than others, but in each of the samples, the brain cells held newborn mitochondria.
There was no comparable activity in brain cells from the sedentary mice."

RECALL ALERT: Select Little Tikes Toys a Chocking Hazard

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced today a voluntary recall of the Little Tikes™ Workshops Sets and Trucks
Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed. The recalled workshop sets and trucks have oversized, plastic toy nails that can pose a choking hazard to young children.

The names, model numbers and UPC code of the products included in this recall are listed below:

Picture of plastic toy nails

Model #NamePicture
0914/430BElectronic Project Workshop
UPC: 0-50743-00914-3
UPC: 0-57043-52613-8
Picture of Electronic Project Workshop
0920/612237Little HandiWorker Workhorse
UPC 0-50743-10920-1
UPC 0-50743-61223-7
Picture of Little HandiWorker Workhorse
4146Home Improvements 2-Sided Workshop
UPC 0-50743-04146-4
Picture of Home Improvements 2-Sided Workshop
440ZSwirlin' Sawdust Workshop
UPC 0-50743-38540-7
Picture of Swirlin' Sawdust Workshop
4028Black Pickup Truck with Tools
UPC 0-50743-04028-3
Picture of Black Pickup Truck with Tools

Source: CPSC

RECALL ALERT: Tyson Ground Beef

Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. is recalling about 131,300 pounds of ground beef that might be contaminated with E. coli.The products being recalled include Kroger-brand ground beef; Butcher's Brand beef and generic label beef, which were all produced Aug. 23.The Kroger beef was distributed in Tennessee and Indiana; the Butcher's beef in North and South Carolina and the generic beef in Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Understanding Toddlers' Behavior: A Guide

I really like this article from It explains the reasons behind some of the struggles we face when raising toddlers. Very good reading!

"They're Leaders in the Making
Although their strong wills can exhaust Mom and Dad, toddlers are natural leaders when it comes to decision making. They're opinionated, bossy, and know what they want -- even if it's cookies for dinner. Their demanding nature, if channeled appropriately, can help mold them into natural, confident adults whom others look up to. So how do you tame your budding CEO? Heidi Murkoff, who writes the What to Expect series, encourages parents to "provide some choice whenever possible. Being able to make decisions ('Do you want to eat cereal or yogurt this morning?') helps a toddler feel more in control." As we all know, Little Miss Independent is happiest when she can call the shots.

They Think Outside the Sandbox
Putting crayon marks on the wall and dead bugs in mom's underwear drawer may not seem like acts of genius, but 2-year-olds do have their own way of looking at life. They are creatures without inhibitions and with raw creativity, approaching everything they do with fresh eyes and passion. But this artistic flair can lead to outright destruction if not guided correctly. If you provide a "free creativity" space, like a backyard sandbox or a driveway with sidewalk chalk, your young artist can express himself without causing lasting damage. More important, these precious moments of unrestrained play give your mini Van Gogh the self-reliance he desperately desires, building his confidence and making it easier for him to settle down when it's time to be calm.

They Have an Adventurous Spirit
My fearless toddler is a climber. He monkeys his way onto tables and high beds, then launches himself without thought into piles of pillows and blankets. This perilous play frays parents' nerves, but limits and supervision can instill courage. Jana Murphy, author of The Secret Lives of Toddlers, believes this adventurous spirit is actually necessary for self-discovery: "There's a fine line between shielding your toddler from danger and frustration, and smothering him. Unless there's an immediate danger, let your child climb the stairs, pick up the big rock, step in the puddle, and let him try a little longer to put together the puzzle himself. He needs a chance to realize his limitations, his strengths, and his ability to make things happen on his own."

They're Willing Little Helpers
Two-year-olds are notorious for an "I can do it myself!" mentality -- a stubborn attitude that can discourage even the most patient parents. This self-sufficient spirit also makes for great helpers who love to help put away piles of laundry, get diapers for younger siblings, or even feed the dog. One way I curb this ubiquitous power struggle is to find a toddler-size chore that my 2-year-old can help me with. If I'm unloading the dishwasher, he can "organize" the Tupperware cabinet. If I'm folding laundry, he gets a small bundle of clothes to "fold" as well. I've learned that if I give him his own task, he is happily occupied while learning that helping Mommy is fun.

They Live in the Moment
Though their short attention spans can be wearisome, we could all learn a thing or two about being present. Instead of holding grudges or worrying about the past, toddlers focus on what is before them -- often content, amused, and in awe. From eating a cupcake to building with blocks, every second is savored. As for meltdown moments, take comfort in the fact that if we just wait a few minutes, our tumultuous toddlers will soon forget and be over what's ailing them.

They're in Touch with Their Emotions
Crying one minute and belly laughing the next, toddlers are the epitome of an emotional roller coaster, but this expressive nature will serve them well as they grow (and learn to control their emotions, of course). Being able to emote is a quality that many adults lack and one that is crucial for sustaining healthy relationships with family and friends. Emotional skills can be learned sooner than we may think. As Tracy Hogg, author ofSecrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers, explains, "Studies have shown that children as young as fourteen months can begin to identify and even anticipate mood (theirs and their caretakers'), feel empathy, and, as soon as they're verbal, talk about feelings as well." Although it may be on a simpler level, you can still have a heart-to-heart with your toddler.

They Make Great Students
From colors to shapes to songs, little ones love to learn new things, dissect toys, and explore various environments. Their inquisitive nature, combined with sponge-like brains, make them storage bins of information. With their language skills rapidly developing, this is a peak time to teach them multiple languages. Best of all, opportunities to learn are everywhere. From a trip to the park to walking the dog, every moment brings new discoveries. By making up songs, creating new games, and involving your toddler in hands-on activities, you can encourage her curiosity for life and its mysteries. After all, parents are their most important teachers.

They See the Best in People
Toddlers have an innately trusting spirit -- they see all new, kind faces as friends. This willingness to play with and smile at anyone they come across is a trait that many grown-ups could benefit from developing. They are quick to laugh, easy to entertain, and at a prime stage to learn about loving relationships, healthy boundaries, and acts of kindness. By embracing their naturally soft-hearted natures, and nurturing them with patience and gentle guidance, we can empower tots to have successful interactions for the rest of their lives.

They Find Joy in the Little Things
My husband and son have a routine: Every night they go outside to look at the moon. They both look forward to it, but my toddler gets especially excited, pointing to the sky and proclaiming proudly, "Moon! Moon!" From rocks to flowers to baby toes, my little man delights in life's smallest pleasures. These moments aren't just for our kids. As Murphy reminds us, "You get two big windows of opportunity in your life to do stuff like build castles, watch Sesame Street, and just plain play: the first when you are a child, the second when you haveone. Don't get too busy or wrapped up in the grown-up stuff to miss it." Whether he's digging in dirt or decorating a homemade card, it's the simple pleasures that give any toddler the most joy.

They Believe Kisses Are Magic
When life's inevitable boo-boos come their way, tots often need nothing more than a kiss from Mom or Dad. This affectionate gesture is a parent's most powerful tool, for what toddlers need most at this tender age is love, direction, and the security of knowing a parent's comforting embrace is always an arm's reach away."

Sources:, Lauren Warner (She blogs at

Stop Nagging Picky Eaters!

Parents who pressure their kids to chow down produce youngsters who are more likely to be picky eaters.
The answers given by 104 mothers of children ages 3 through 6 in the United Kingdom to questions about their kids' behaviors showed that urging them to eat significantly raised the chances the kids would dig in their heels and refuse.
The study, published by My Healthy News Daily, also found that food avoidance was more common in children of certain emotional temperaments, as well as those of parents who use food to shape behavior and don't encourage a varied diet.
"Healthy children are born able to regulate their hunger and fullness," said study author Claire Farrow, a senior psychology lecturer at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England.
"These findings support other research which has shown that if parents or caregivers override their children's signals of hunger and fullness — as in pressuring the child to eat when not hungry — then often children struggle to regulate their appetite appropriately in the future," Farrow told MyHealthNewsDaily.
And for kids who are already fussy eaters, "the use of pressure to eat can exacerbate problems and conflict at mealtimes," she said.
"If the aim is to get the child to eat more food because the parent wants the child to, then this has shown to be counterproductive. Children should be allowed to stop eating when they are full if they are to be able to regulate their appetites appropriately," she said.
Parents should offer a range of nutritious foods at mealtimes and snacks, and then sit back and let their children take the lead, said Dr. Anne Eglash, a clinical professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
"However, if the aim is to get the child to try a new food that they do not want to, then some recent research has shown that gentle encouragement and positive reward for trying new foods can be a successful strategy," Farrow said.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How Stress at Home Affects Kids

Research shows that children picks up on their parents' stress, and it affects them physically and emotionally, more than you could imagine.

"Parental stress can weaken the development of a child's brain or immune system, increasing the risk of allergies, obesity, or mental disorders," says David Code, author of "Kids Pick Up on Everything." Research shows that kids can "catch" their parents' stress, overloading their systems until they act out or exhibit mental and physical illness, he says. "Stress is highly contagious between parent and child, even if the parent is unaware of his or her own anxiety."
Neuroscientists call it attunement, and it may have to do with our ability to feel empathy. "Attunement is basically a fancy word for what we used to call the mother-infant bond, where parent and child are so attuned to each other that the child can pick up on a parent's stress and absorb it almost by osmosis," explains Code, who calls it "the mind-body connection" in his book. "It's not so much what we say or do to our kids. It's more about the 'vibe' we give off in their presence. We simply cannot fake being calm to our kids."
According to Lori Lite of Stress Free Kids, actual relaxation techniques like deep breathing, visualizing, and positive statements can be incorporated throughout your day with very little effort," she suggests. "Explain to your children that you are calming yourself down and remember to use positive statements when you are feeling frustrated. Blowing bubbles is a stress reducer and fun activity enjoyed by all ages. With a little practice, relaxation techniques will become second nature to you and your children."

Sources: Shine, David Code, Lori Lite

Pumpkin Mousse Pie

Seasonal fruits and vegetables are always fresh and healthy. Check out this great recipe using pumpkin as the main ingredient. We love when tradition meets creativity.

Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Pie
Servings: 10 portions

  • 30 small gingersnap cookies, (about 7 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil


  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (you can roast in the oven or use canned pumpkin)
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 pints (4 cups) frozen low-fat vanilla ice cream, softened (you can also yogurt ice cream)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan with cooking spray.
To prepare crust: Combine gingersnaps and raisins in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add oil and pulse until blended. Press evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan.
Bake the crust until set, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare filling: Combine pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix well. Add ice cream and stir until blended. Spoon the mixture into the cooled pie crust. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Let the pie soften slightly in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

Per serving: 230 calories; 5 g fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono); 4 mg cholesterol; 42 g carbohydrates; 4 g protein; 2 g fiber; 179 mg sodium; 165 mg potassium.

Source: Eating Well

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Apple Cranberry Crumble

Gotta love this Fall recipe!!! Apple based, easy to make and delicious!

Apple Cranberry Crumble
Servings: 8 portions

  • 3 pounds apples such as Golden Delicious, Gala, Winesap, or Mutsu, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch chunks

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

  • 1/3 cup cranberries

  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Topping:

  • 11/2 cup unbleached flour
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup natural brown sugar 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
8 tablespoons melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil

Set the oven to 375. In a large bowl, add the apples, maple syrup, cranberries, corn starch, lemon zest, and cinnamon and toss well. Transfer to 1 or 2 pie dishes.
To make the topping: Combine the flour, almonds, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix well with a whisk. Add the butter and toss with your fingertips to form a crumbly topping. Spread over the apples and cover with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes then remove the foil and bake at 350 for another 20-30 minutes until the apples are bubbling and the topping is nicely browned. Remove the crumble from the oven and allow it to cool for 20 minutes before slicing.

10 Things You Can't Wear With Your Children

I read this article from and thought it was very accurate! I could definitely add a few more items to the list!

1. White. Sure, white is the new black this season (or whatever, all my fashion magazines are buried under my stack of parenting magazines) but unless you plan on never letting your kids hug you, pat you, kiss you or wipe their noses on your shoulders then you should do your best to not look like a human Kleenex.

2. Slippers. Kids are slipper addicts and they'll do anything to support their habit, even stealing them off the cold toes of the mother who is cooking them breakfast at 5 a.m. because dawn is too fun to miss when you're new to this world.

3. Sky-high heels. I love wearing heels. But unless you're Victoria Beckham (with her attendant nannies), 6-inch stilettos and babies don't mix. Even if you have the balance down pat, throw a tantruming toddler into your arms and you're one sucker punch away from a twisted ankle. Not to mention you can't sprint after a runaway, they're terrible in sand and wood chips and you run the risk of skewering little fingers that always seem to be hovering around your feet.

4. Belts with metal buckles. Whether you're holding your toddler on your hip or putting down your pre-schooler after a big hug, sharp metal buckles dig in, scratch and pinch when you're least expecting it.

5. Rings with pokey-outie stones. Yes this includes pretty much all wedding rings but the corners of the stones and the prongs end up scratching tender skin, snagging on little clothes and getting poo-encrusted during blowouts. But hey, now's your chance to try out the "16 and Pregnant" look!

6. Earrings. They're two dangly shiny objects right at eye level! And now they're two bloody wounds!

7. Mittens. Just try buckling a little one into a car seat, tying teeny weeny shoe laces or opening a granola bar with mittens on. (Although they are great for impromptu nose wiping!)

8. Maxi dresses. Anything loose or flowy will cause random strangers to ask your baby if he is getting a little brother or sister. It's a risk you run when you have a kid: People automatically assume you're capable of having another at any moment and with no advance warning.

9. Baby carrier t-shirts. You've seen those "funny" tees that look like they have a baby strapped in a carrier on their front. Perhaps you've even worn one in an attempt to look hip or to make a subtle social statement. Wear one once you have an actual baby and people will starting wondering if you're having some kind of break with reality.

10. Tops with "shelf bras." Hahahahahahahhh! Oh, Victoria's Secret, that was a funny one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Homemade Cow Costume: Easy, Cheap and Cute!

I love this cow costume! It is so easy to make, and so affordable...prefect for my little girl!
It starts with a sweatshirt two sizes bigger than your child's size  -- found at a discount store for about $5 apiece. You'll also need a hot-glue gun and scissors.
1. Cut sleeves off white sweatshirt. Turn in-side out and fold in and glue raw edges. Cut out and glue black felt spots on sweatshirt.
2. Cut a small slit in waistband and neckband and use large safety pin to pull 1-yard piece of 1/4-inch elastic through each. Tie ends together (try on child to make sure it's not tight).
3. Hat: Turn one cutoff sleeve inside out; glue one end closed. Turn right side out, place on child's head, and cut to appropriate length, leaving an extra inch. Fold in and glue raw edges.
4. Ears: Cut two large teardrop shapes out of other sleeve. Cut two smaller pink felt teardrops and glue to smooth side of white teardrops.
Pinch round ends and glue to hat, as shown above. Glue Poly-Fil between ears.
5. Add white long-sleeve tee or turtleneck, black gloves, and black leggings or tights.

6 Ways to Add Fruits and Veggies

Here are six easy ways to add more fruits and veggies into your diet, according to Heather Mangieri, a nutrition consultant and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Start early
To get in the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, start eating them early, with your morning meal, Mangieri said. This could mean adding bananas to your cereal, berries to your yogurt or vegetables to your omelet, she said.
Don't hide the fruit
Make fruits and vegetables visible to encourage everyone in your family, including yourself, to eat them, Mangieri said. Set out a fruit bowl in the kitchen or have carrot sticks available for snacking. Take some time to prepare the fruits or vegetables, if needed, so they are ready to eat.
Frozen is good
Frozen vegetables, such as peas and carrots, are a great way to make sure you always have vegetables in the house, Mangieri said. They are easy to prepare and keep for a long time. Mangieri recommended steaming them and adding them to casserole dishes. And frozen vegetables are usually just as nutritious as fresh ones, according to Keri Gans, who is a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
At mealtime, think of the veggies first, not the protein
The new guidelines recommend half of your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables. Try to approach your meals by basing them on what vegetables you'll have, and then think of the grains and protein to go with it, Mangieri said.
You can drink your fruits and veggies, to a point
Look for labels that say "100 percent" fruit or vegetable juice, because those can be a way to get a serving of fruit, according to the USDA. However, you have to be cautious about portion size and make sure you know how much a serving is. You don't want to  end up consuming extra daily calories from juice. In addition, whole fruit also provides fiber, which is part of a healthy diet.
Have fruit with your sweets
"Fruits are nature's natural candy," Mangieri said. She recommended pureeing berries and adding them as a sauce to desserts such as ice cream. While the ice cream is not good for you, a fruit sauce without added sugar is better than something else you might add to your sundae, such as chocolate sauce, she said. Portion control is key with desserts, she said. Desserts are OK now and then if you're meeting your nutritional needs from other foods and exercising to make sure your calories in equal your calories out.
You can also use fruits to make a smoothie. Mangieri recommended using yogurt and no added sugar. "We have this heightened sense of sweetness just from overdoing it on sugars," Mangieri said. We should try to get back to basics and let fruit be sweet enough for our taste buds, she said.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Art in Toys


These toys from Gween are absolutely gorgeous! Created with 3 elements in mind: education, entertainment and eco-friendliness, they help kids develop motor and visual coordination. And they are so incredibly cute! Manufactured with natural pigments, and 100% recyclable package. 

The Gwomies, below, comes with 20 stackable pieces that can result in more than 200 combinations of plants and bushes.


By Gween, and sold at Amazon in the US for $14 and 25, depending on model. Gorgeous, clever and eco-friend!

Household Chores for Kids

Giving children a few very simple household chores, starting as young as at age 2 or 3, is a very enjoyable experience (and a guaranteed fun for parents to watch!) Simple chores will make them feel helpful, and develop their sense of responsibility.
Little things like putting their own things away, sweeping with a little brush, and helping with gardening, cooking and setting the table can be quite fulfilling.
I learned from an early childhood teacher that putting together a general visual calendar to kids with their main daily activities can contribute to their organizational skills. Daily activities such as getting dressed, having meals, going to school, homework, brushing teeth, playtime and "lil'" chores can help them set expectations. Make sure the calendar is fun, with lots of images!

Do you assign chores to your little ones? What chores? Do they enjoy it?

Based on multiple sources, including Shine

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Anti-Oxidants Vanishing from your Pantry

The information below was published by Eating Well. I thought it was quite interesting to know how quickly these package foods can lose anti-oxidant properties:

Orange juice: 1 week
One cup of OJ can offer a full day's dose of vitamin C. But OJ that has been opened loses all antioxidant benefit after just one week. To get the most vitamin C, buy frozen concentrate and drink within a few days. Frozen concentrate is exposed to less light and air.
Green tea: 6 months
A 2009 study in the Journal of Food Science showed that green tea’s catechins (antioxidants linked with a reduced risk of some cancers) decreased markedly over time. After six months, catechin levels were 32 percent lower. Make the most of the antioxidants by storing tea in a sealed container in a dark, cool place.
Olive oil: 6 months
Extra-virgin olive oil contains more than 45 heart-healthy antioxidants, but after six months of storage their potency decreases by about 40 percent, according to researchers at the University of Foggia in Italy. Why? Oxygen bubbles in the bottle destroy the antioxidants.
Honey: 6 months
Researchers at the University of Illinois found the antioxidant power of clover honey and buckwheat honey decreased by 30 to 50 percent after six months. Consider buying buckwheat honey—it generally has more antioxidants to start with
Source: Eating Well Magazine