Happy birthday baby boy :)

NaBloPoMo – Day 23

It was at this exact time 2:14 p.m. on Nov. 23, one year ago today that my sweet baby boy Julian was born at home.

I never did post his home birth story on my blog but I have plans to do that in the coming days. His birth was a little bit out of the ordinary so it my hope that by having it “out there” on the ‘net, it might be useful and encouraging to someone else.

I’m in the process of writing Julian a letter recapping his first year that I will keep for him until he is older. I did the same thing on Ava’s first and second birthdays, though I admit I flaked out on her third.

What a difference a year makes!

Julian’s birth - 11/23/06Julian on his 1st birthday - 11/23/07

Happy birthday, Julian! We are so happy and thankful to have you in our lives. May your second year of life be a wonderful as your first. 🙂

As much as I appreciated Rachel‘s suggestion for a birthday cake with breast milk frosting (from her comment on the previous post) LOL, I’ve decided instead to go with a vegan chocolate birthday cake, which I will be making along with big sister Ava’s help. Yum!

One year ago, Thanksgiving Day

NaBloPoMo – Day 22

One year ago on Thanksgiving Day I was not busy cooking a turkey, but I was busy giving birth to my 9 1/2 pound little butterball. 😉 Julian’s 1st birthday is tomorrow on Nov. 23, but Thanksgiving Day each year will always hold a special place in my heart since that is the day he came into the world. 🙂

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.

– W.T. Purkiser

Happy Thanksgiving to all. 🙂

The CDG Holiday Toy Gift Guide

12/13/07 9:14 a.m. Mountain Time: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED TO ENTRIES.
The WINNER (selected by random.org) is #40 Caryn of Bailey Family. Congratulations! 🙂
NaBloPoMo – Day 21

Crunchy Domestic Goddess Holiday Gift GuideIt’s time to get serious about toy shopping, not only because the holidays are just around the corner, but because lately we’ve had recall after recall concerning toys made in China and toy shopping has had to become serious business. Serious business because it’s proving to be more important than ever to do your homework and know that the toys you are purchasing for your children will be safe (i.e. free from lead paint or any other toxic substances). If we can’t count on the government and toy manufacturers to protect our children, then we must step up and be vigilant on their behalf.

Since we are trying to weed out most of our plastic toys in our home and replace them with quality wooden toys, that’s what I’ve been on the lookout for for the past few months. It’s not just because of the toy recalls (though that’s been a definite motivating factor), but also because wooden and organic toys feel so much better, promote imagination (a big part of the Waldorf school of thought), and are generally built to last.

This gift guide is a bit different from traditional gift guides in that it primarily contains information about the places where I’m doing my holiday shopping this year, but I hope you will find it to be helpful as well. 🙂

Where oh where can I find quality toys without breaking the bank?

– When time is no object –

If you have time, some patience and a little bit of luck, you can score some great toys for the kids for little to no money at all, you just have to know where to look.

hobby horse

    1. Freecycle – Freecycle can be a great resource for finding used previously loved toys. The good news is that everything listed on there is free and you are saving the items from otherwise ending up in the trash. The bad news is the fact that you may be “competing” against a lot of people for any one item so you have to pay attention to the listings and be quick to respond, and even then you aren’t guaranteed an item since it’s up to the person giving it away to decide who gets it. But if you have some patience and persevere, you could end up with some good finds. As they say, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” In addition to my recent Christmas tree score, I also got this cute little hobby horse from Freecycle last week. 🙂
    2. Craigslist – Another good resource for previously loved toys. Most of the items on Craigslist do cost money, but the nice thing is that you are recycling and giving the items (toys or anything else) a chance at being loved again (and again, keeping them out of the landfills).
    3. Consignment store, thrift stores and garage sales – You never know what will turn up in consignment and thrift stores so my advice is to visit them often since they are always putting new merchandise up for sale. I recently found a handful of wooden toys at a local children’s consignment shop. You can also score some real treasures from garage sales. Can ya tell I’m a big fan of second-hand toys?

Crunchy tip: One of the many wonderful things about buying quality wooden toys is that they can be passed on from child to child, family to family, even generation to generation and most are built to last for the long haul. 🙂 Plastic toys, on the other hand, tend to wear out or break, and end up in the landfills. 🙁

– When it’s getting to be crunch time –

When it’s getting down to the wire and you are still in need of quality toy gifts, there are still deals to be had if you know where to look.

  1. Closeout stores – Stop in closeout stores like Tuesday Morning and Ross, among others, and you may be pleasantly surprised by some of the quality toys they carry. At the suggestion of a friend, I recently went to Tuesday Morning and found a large selection of German wooden toys (brands like Spielmaus and HEROS) for 50% off the retail price. Germany’s safety standards for toys are among the strictest out there. They also had Melissa and Doug toys, as well as Ryan’s Room toys in stock. Although their inventory can vary greatly from week to week, it is possible to find great toys at closeout stores for a fraction of the retail price. I ended up walking out of there with a wooden ring stacker, a wooden doll house, HEROS wooden blocks, a Spielmaus wooden workbench (that I’m saving until Julian is older), a children’s garden tool set and gardening gloves, two Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles, and a HEROS train set, and then Jody went back later and bought a 131 piece train table – all for 50% off!
  2. Plan Toys dishes

    Plan Toys xylophoneHazelnut Kids – Selling only “Natural, earth-friendly, wooden and organic cotton toys for children and babies” including brands like HABA (made in Germany), Plan Toys (a huge variety of wooden toys made in Thailand), Under the Nile (dolls and more made in Egypt), Elves & Angels (wooden kitchens made in USA), and Kathe Kruse (Waldorf dolls made in Germany), Hazelnut Kids is a new favorite online toy store of mine. I recently had the chance to try out one of their MiYim organic cotton teether rattles, well, Julian tried it out, but mama was very impressed.punch and drop It’s an adorable rattle and very well-made, and I love the fact that it’s organic cotton since it’s going in his mouth. I was so impressed with Hazelnut Kids and the variety of quality toys that they offer (Note: each toy has a yellow box next to it that tells you what country the toy was made in) that I purchased several toys from their online store for upcoming birthday and Christmas presents like a wooden tableware set and modeling beeswax for Ava and a car, xylophone, and a punch and drop for Julian. The toys shipped the SAME DAY that I ordered them and the prices seemed very reasonable to a penny-pincher like me. I also like that for each toy you buy, Hazelnut Kids gives you “Loyalty Reward Points” that allow you to take money off future purchases. Their flat-rate shipping charge is only $5.95 for delivery within the contiguous United States. And if you sign up for their newsletter, you will receive coupons and free entries into drawings. I seriously can’t say enough good things about this company.

More ideas – Go indie!

Rather than support the big name toy stores this season, why not shop the local and independent toy stores in your area? You might pay a little more money, but you are also likely to receive better customer service and better quality toys.

vegetable pitaOogaBoogaOne great place to shop indie online is Etsy – the place to buy “all things homemade.” I like Etsy because you can find a wide range of unique toys and many other items (purses, jewelry, clothing, glass, soap, art, and much more) all in one place. Some of the cute things I’ve seen on Etsy include a Doorway Puppet Theater, OogaBooga capeplush dolls, sock monkeys, Vermont Fairies hand-felted fairy dolls, a felt vegetable pita set, custom
super hero capes
, hardwood puzzles and toys, a Waldorf “Cheery” Rattle, and Au Natural Building Blocks. The list could go on and on because there is no shortage of cute, quality, original and otherwise great toys on Etsy.

Another cool feature about Etsy is that if you’d like to shop for items made by a seller in a particular city or state or country, you can use the Geolocator to enter in that location and it will show all sellers matching that description.

Let’s get creative!

Kitchen in a box

Lastly, if you are feeling the creative juices flowing this holiday season, you can make some pretty awesome toys out of things like cardboard boxes and Fome Cor, including a kitchen in a box (made out of a carboard box!), a portable playhouse and a puppet playhouse. In addition to instructions on making cool toys for your kids, the Family Fun site has tons of craft ideas to do with your kids as well.

Some final thoughts on holiday shopping

Do your research. Buy brand names you know and can trust. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to contact the manufacturer if the store can’t answer your questions. The quality toys are out there. We just may need to look farther than the big box stores to find them. Cheers and happy shopping! 🙂

And now for the giveaway…

Win it!
Hazelnut Kids teether and dollHazelnut Kids has generously donated two great toys – a MiYim organic cotton elephant teether rattle and a Keptin Jr. organic cotton cuddle pants doll – to one lucky Crunchy Domestic Goddess reader. The MiYim elephant has a sweet, sewn-on face and a knitted, 100% organic cotton body. “It’s the perfect size for babies to hold and to teethe on.” The Keptin Jr. cuddle pants 100% organic cotton doll is filled with pure wool. “The simplicity of the design stimulates the child’s creativity, and the high quality of the product guarantees it will last.”

If you’d like a chance to win these great toys, please link to this gift guide either by writing a post about it or by placing the gift guide button from above (with a link back to this guide) on your blog. If you don’t have a blog, please send a link to this post to three of your friends and copy me on the email: amygeekgrl (at) gmail (dot) com. Once you’ve done one of those things, please leave a comment below and you will be entered into the drawing. The winner will be selected using Random.org on Thursday, Dec. 13, and announced that day. Good luck! 🙂

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my mailing list.

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Winners announced and more chances to win!

First of all, I’ve got two winners to announce today.

The winner of Lily’s Garden Herbals All-Purpose Cleaner (thanks to random.org) is #20 – Christine of From Dates to Diapers. Congratulations, Christine!

And the winner of the “I Love You More” book (again, thanks to random.org) is #16 – Brooke (no blog listed). Congratulations!

And now for more giveaway fun…

The holiday gift guide is up over at Mama Speaks. Not only are there a ton of great gift recommendations, there are a ton of great gifts you can win, including an “I make milk. What’s your superpower?” shirt in the And Baby Makes Three section. With six different prize packs to choose from, what will your pleasure be?


Best Shot Monday – 11/19/07

NaBloPoMo – Day 19

There’s nothing like the expected arrival of house guests (my parents will arrive later today) to get my butt in gear with both a) cleaning my house and b) decorating my house. This weekend was a blur of shopping (new rugs and picture frames), printing photos, hanging pictures and cleaning. We’ve lived in this house for 7 years and there were still a number of empty walls (mostly in the basement, where our guest bedroom and bathroom are, but still). Having a passion for photography and having taken more pictures than I can possibly count, I have no excuse for not having some printed, framed and hung, so I did just that. I now have five family pictures hanging in the guest bedroom, some Anne Geddes pictures (that I cut out of a book – got the tip on Oprah no less) hanging in the guest bathroom, pictures hanging in the basementbathroom pictures hallway, nature pictures (that I took) hanging in our main floor bathroom (see pic to the right – btw, my color seems to be totally off, that’s what I get for using auto white balance), a collage of family pictures on our downstairs landing, and soon to be more nature pictures hanging in our upstairs office – including my sunset picture that I finally (2 years later) had printed. I’m quite pleased with all that I accomplished. It certainly was a long time coming.

In addition to all of the picture hanging going on this weekend, I also finally made a recipe for Pumpkin Seed Pesto Ravioli (from The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook). It’s one I’d been wanting to make for a while now. I froze the raviolis to have for dinner this week while my parents are here, but I did take a few (OK, a lot of) tastes of the filling while assembling the raviolis and it was damn tasty. I can’t wait to eat them. 🙂

So here’s my non-standard best shot for the week – the ravioli I slaved away on for the afternoon. (It’s my first time making my own ravioli, so I’m a little proud of them. Can ya tell? 😉 Though I do have to add, thank God for store-bought wonton wrappers. I can’t imagine making all of the dough myself!)

Pumpkin seed pesto ravioli

See more best shots over at Picture This (click the button):
little bsm button

P.S. Happy 35th anniversary to my parents (yesterday)! 🙂

What goes in, must come out

NaBloPoMo – Day 18

My son has been pooping vegetables. Yes, you read that right. Pooping vegetables. I don’t mean bits of vegetables mixed in with his poop. I mean just vegetables and nothing else. I know he doesn’t chew his food all that well, but this single veggie pooping is a bit bizarre.

First yesterday morning he pooped a slice of carrot. No poop, just a carrot. Jody changed that diaper so I took his word for it, but wondered if the carrot had somehow fallen into his diaper. Later in the day, however, I had the chance to see for myself when he pooped a single kernel of corn. Again, no poop, just the corn kernel. Huh?

Wonder if I can somehow get him to poop money. Probably not unless I feed it to him first. And ugh, after having a dog once swallow a wad of 20 dollar bills, I don’t even want to go there.

Somehow I get the distinct feeling he is going to hate me for this post when he’s a bit older.

Green tip of the week #2 – fruit and veggie wash

fruits and vegetablesNaBloPoMo – Day 17

Green tip of the week:

If you can’t afford to buy organic produce, you can still clean up your conventional produce and remove dirt, pesticides, chemicals, and insect residue with your own fruit and veggie wash spray. All you need for this recipe is natural soap, vinegar and water.

Not sure how contaminated your produce is? Check out the dirty dozen list to see which fruits and veggies have the most/least amount of pesticides.

Have any green tips you’ve recently learned? Please email them to me and I may include your tip with a link to your site or blog in a future post. 🙂

The longest week

busy momNaBloPoMo – Day 16

This week was one of the longest weeks ever, primarily because Jody has been out of town the. entire. week. Once again, I have a restored appreciation for all that he does to help out around here and a slight understanding of how challenging it is to be a single parent.

Of course, both of the kids had a cold this week – well, it’s mostly just a cough. A really nasty, barky, lingering cough. Ava has it much worse than Julian and she hasn’t been sleeping very well, which means mommy hasn’t been sleeping very well either. And with all of the teething and new milestone (walking) business, Julian has decided to up the amount of nursing he does at night (which was already a lot), and choose an hour around 4 a.m. last night to just be awake and chatter. Pardon me if I nod off in the middle of this post. I got a caffe mocha from Starbucks yesterday, but am doing today sans caffeine.

Ava only had school yesterday since Thanksgiving vacation began today and I admit I was bummed to miss out on a day of downtime, but c’est la vie. She had a potluck (just for the kids) there yesterday, so the day before she and I made pizzas using a dough recipe from The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook (which I recently dusted off and have been thoroughly enjoying). We made one pizza for dinner that night with kale, spinach, zucchini and corn on it and another cheese pizza for her to take to school the next day. Apparently it was a hit. Ava said, “Everyone said, ‘We want more pizza.'” 🙂

While this week without Jody has honestly not been as bad as it could’ve been (we’re all still alive and relatively happy), I do feel like my patience was worn very thin on more than one occasion. It didn’t help that Ava was/is sick and not feeling up to snuff and that Julian has a tooth breaking through. There were times I really felt like I needed a break and I had to work hard at calming myself down. Hell, there were times I lost my temper and yelled and then had to calm myself back down. It’s hard doing it all alone. Very hard. But I did the best that I could.

The only thing left to say is thank God it’s Friday! Jody gets home late tonight, after the kids will be asleep, but the important part is that he will be here in the morning and I already have plans to secure the bed to myself to catch up on a little shuteye. Wish me luck. Then it’s a weekend full of cleaning in preparation for my parents arriving from MI on Monday to celebrate Thanksgiving, my Dad’s birthday and Julian’s first birthday all next week.

One more note: I’m still working on my version of a holiday gift guide too and there will be more giveaways coming up as well! If you haven’t yet entered my latest giveaways, please check the right sidebar for links. 🙂

Oh me, oh my!

NaBloPoMo – Day 15 (15 days down, 15 days to go!)

There are a lot of reasons why I love that Ava is going to a Waldorf-inspired preschool, but one that jumps out at me lately is how polite she’s been. Don’t get me wrong, she’s always been pretty good with her pleases and thank yous, but now she’s also starting to use the word “may.” “May I have a treat please?” “I may do _____ now.” “You may take a turn.” Etc.

Ava making a “cake” - 10/30/07Another thing she’s been saying that I love is “Oh me, oh my!” 🙂 Since neither Jody nor I use that expression, I had a sneaking suspicion I knew where she picked it up. I asked her if her teacher Miss G says it and she said no, but I knew better. At the Halloween party we attended at school, on a few occasions I heard Miss G utter “Oh me, oh my” or “Oh my, oh me.” 🙂 It’s a lot better than “Oh crap,” so you won’t hear me complaining.

And actually, that reminds me. My sister (Aunt Carrie) was at our house a few days ago and she accidentally let an “Oh crap” out in front of Ava. And Ava replied, “Why did you say ‘oh crud‘?” I wonder if that’s the product of preschool as well, because as much as I hate to admit it, “crap” is one of the words I haven’t been able to stop saying.

Ava with silly hair - 11/6/07In addition to the cute little things that come out of Ava’s mouth, I love that her class is so small (only three other kids) and she has such a great relationship with the other kids as well as her teacher. She often plays “school” at home and pretends to be one of the kids in her class or her teacher or she asks me to be her teacher and Julian is one of the other kids, etc. She has such a wonderful imagination and I love that she’s getting to explore it so fully in Waldorf school. I also love that she is nurtured, respected and loved there. I don’t have to question the care she is receiving.

I’m not sure how far we will continue doing the Waldorf thing. That’s still up in the air, but for now I’m very happy with it and think the money we spend to send her two days a week is well worth it – not only for the experience for her, but for the break for mommy. Let’s face it, as much as I love being a SAHM – oh me, oh my – I need my breaks too. 😉 Balance is a good thing.