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Natural Kids

Natural Kids: January 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

buttermilk chocolate cake recipe {+ cookbook giveaway!!}

by Jen of SewnNatural

Our new Thursday recipe/tutorial feature is off to a huge start with today's chocolate cake recipe... and cookbook giveaway from Cynthia Lair, author of "Feeding the Whole Family - Recipes for Babies, Young Children and Their Parents."


I found this recipe in a wonderful cookbook I highly recommend. Cynthia Lair's "Feeding the Whole Family - Recipes for Babies, Young Children and Their Parents". As a mom of a toddler, I'm always on the look-out for quick, delicious and nutritious recipes I can whip up to spice up our meal routine.

The cookbook is packed with simple recipes that excite the tastebuds, employ whole, organic foods and can be easily adapted for everyone around the supper table. You need not be a parent of little kids to enjoy this book - it would be a wonderful treat for anyone.

Check out Cynthia's new humorous {+ fabulous} online cooking show CookusInterruptus, about how to cook fresh local whole foods despite life's interruptions. You can also read her "baby food is not rocket science" article here about how it's best to feed babies "family food".

Note: For a dairy free version, substitute 1 cup soy milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice added for the buttermilk and use melted coconut oil in place of buttter.

image by elana's pantry

Prep time: 45 minutes
Makes 2, 8-inch layers

2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup organic cocoa powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup of maple syrup
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly oil two 8-inch cake pans. Mix flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients and stir into flour mixture (do not overstir). Pour batter into cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes or a little less, depending on your oven.

I poured Cynthia Lair's strawberry sauce on for added fruit, presentation and contrast. With strawberries being out of season right now (unless you've stored some away in your freezer from the last harvest), I'd recommend using pears, apples, whatever is freshest & has travelled the least distance to get to your plate.

image by anashruti

Prep time: 10 minutes
Makes 1 cup

1 pint organic strawberries
1 tsp lemon or orange juice
1 tbsp maple syrup, honey or agave nectar

Wash and trim strawberries. Place them, the juice, and sweetener in a blender and blend until smooth. Use at once or refrigerate the rest. Will keep a few days in the fridge.

|"Reprinted with permission from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair".


Cynthia has generously offered one reader a copy of her book!

That's Cynthia 2nd from left!

To enter today's giveaway, simply visit CookusInterruptus and leave a comment about something you enjoyed or learned (one entry per person, please!). This giveaway will end at 9am EST on Sunday, and the winner will be announced soon after.

image by Bruce Tuten


The winner (drawn at random) is... comment #12 Katherine Robb! CONGRATS (now you don't have to go out and buy one!!)

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How to make your own knitting needles by Elemental Handcrafts

How to make Your Own Knitting Needles with Kids

by, Stephanie of Elemental Handcrafts

A wise woman once told me that the best way to teach your child to knit is to start at the beginning; by having your child make his or her own needles. In this tutorial, I will teach you step by step how to make your own wooden knitting needles, with your child. Wood is the best material for a person to knit with as the wood holds the warmth of the hands while you knit. The smell of the beeswax polish acts as natural aromatherapy as the needles click-clack their way through the yarn and into what will hopefully become a lifelong love of knitting.

We'll start at the beginning. The “ingredients” you will need are as follows:

  • one 36” wooden dowel -size and wood type depends on your preference
  • sand paper – coarse, medium and fine
  • beeswax or other natural wax or oil (an almost used up candle or crayon works)
  • a bit of wool roving
  • dish soap
  • warm water
  • a soft cloth
  • glue
  • scissors

Start with your store bought wooden dowel. The easiest to find is likely to be birch wood. You can also special order cherry, walnut, maple or other hard woods if you prefer, but the birch is easy to work with and easy to find. The size to buy depends also, on your preference. Bringing a knitting needle sizer, (found at craft or knitting stores) is a good idea. For a child just learning, large easy to handle needles are best. Choose a dowel that is smooth and straight.

Knitting Needle Sizer

Have an adult carefully cut the dowel down to knitting needle size. Ten inches is a good starting size. The child can now help sand one end of each needle into a point, using the coarse sand paper. It's easiest to lay the paper flat on the ground and rub the needle on the paper, turning it often so the tip stays relatively even. Help her with this and assist so that you don't end up with too sharp a point. The tip should be gradual as it flows into the rest of the needle. Do this for both needles.

Once you are happy with the shapes of your needle tips, use your medium grit sand paper to sand the whole needle, tip to end, and follow this sanding by repeating with the fine sand paper until your needles are as smooth as can be. Then finish the wood with your wax. I like to use a beeswax based polish made for salad bowls. If you'd like a vegan alternative, you can use a crayon or non beeswax candle, or just a simple olive oil. Buff it to a shine with a soft cloth.

Now comes the top. You can use many things for a personalized and colorful knitting needle topper. In the past I've used wooden or glass beads, acorns, slices from a branch, clay sculptures and even small pebbles glued into place with strong glue.

Today we'll make felted wool needle toppers. To do this we will make a wool bead. Take a small piece of carded wool roving.

Roll it into a tight ball and while holding tighlty, dip the ball into very warm soapy water. Roll the wool ball in your palms until it starts to tighten up. It will get softer and mushy feeling before it tightens. You might want to get this started for your child. Once you feel it tighten, keep rolling it and dipping as needed until you have a solid, wool, bead. This should take about two to three minutes. Practice rolling the dry wool and felting it a few times to determine how much wool you need to get the size bead that looks best on your needles. This can take a little practice, but is fun to do.

Once the bead is dry, (a sunny window will speed things up), have an adult use sharp scissors to snip a little sclice in one side of the bead. Try the bead on the flat tip of your needle and once it fits nicely, add a little strong glue and put the bead back on the needle and let dry completely.

You are now ready to knit!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me through my shop:

If you prefer your knitting needles already made, visit my shop in March as I'll br re-stocking my stash of colorful and unique knitting needles! Thanks for reading and have fun!


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Monday, January 25, 2010

Mini Monday - Tweet by Willow Baus

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Meet Willow of Tweet:

I am a mom and designer working from home while I take care of my two little boys. In my past life I designed children's accessories for a large kids clothing company. I love the simple things in life, and am enjoying producing some of the ideas I had long before babies, and am truly grateful for my Etsy customers making it possible for me to stay home with my babies.

article by Pamela of Prettydreamer


Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Feature with Fairiesnest

Tell us little about yourself!
I am a wife, mom of 3 boys, toy maker, believer in fairies, fiber addict, avid gardener, devourer of books, owner of too many pets...or maybe they own me, and doll artist!

What do you make and how long have you been creating?
I have always loved dolls and my sister and I spent much of our childhood making up elaborate stories for our many dolls. I made my first doll when I was 6; it was a simple cookie cutter shape with yarn hair and one button eye. For some reason that’s all the face that doll ever had but we called her “one eye Susie” and played with her all the time! My mother, an excellent seamstress, taught me sewing and knitting, and I had a very “crafty” grandmother who was always trying some new technique and then passing it on to her grandkids. I definitely learned a lot from both of them, and I’m pretty sure I also inherited my mom’s acute fiber addiction in the bargain. I learned costume construction in college where I majored in theater, and it was there I started making cloth masks for mime performances. Being a fiber junkie, I took classes in all sorts of needle arts along the way but curiously none in doll making. I really got into making dolls again when my sons were small, creating a cast of occupants for a castle my husband built. It was so much fun I just had to keep at it. I started out making Waldorf style dolls and my dollhouse dolls developed from this technique. Later, I tried a few patterns by other doll makers, but I couldn’t find a style that fit the dolls I saw in my head. It was after reading Suzanna Oroyan’s wonderful book, Anatomy of a Doll, that I was inspired to develop my own designs. It’s been very much a process of trial and error, but I have learned so much along the way.

What inspires you?
Other artists definitely! Wendy Froud - I love her fairies so much- and I find doll artists like Jane Darin, Akira Blount and Akiko Anzai very inspiring. I also get a lot of inspiration from books, contemporary and traditional fairy tales, and of course Mother Nature. There’s nothing like a hike on a mountain trail to bring out the fairies! I seriously always have several fairies knocking around in my head waiting to get really gets crowded in there!
Of course I love being able to create toys that are natural for kids! There is something so much more magical in a handmade doll or stuffed animal, a perceptible feeling of love in every stitch. And the knowledge that you've made something that is environmentally friendly to boot?! Now that's priceless.

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?
I had to go look and see! I joined February 16 2007, so I'm coming up on my 3 year! It's been one of the best things for me in so many ways. My business has really done well and I've met so many wonderful, encouraging, and inspiring people...many right here on the Natural Kids team.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?

It takes more work then you think to have a successful business on Etsy. You really need to step outside of Etsy to advertise and promote. I know everyone says that, but it's true! Start a blog, find on line groups, hand out cards, and join a team...or several! Some teams are much more successful and active then others so it really is worth the time to try several out...I highly recommend the Natural Kids team of course. :) And be open to change! I find lots of great ideas for improving my shop all the time. Read the forums and the Etsy blog, but also take the time to look at successful shops and see how they are set up, what kind of tags they're using, what their pictures look like. Always be willing to learn.

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?
I've been a member of The Natural Kids team since it's beginning - through all the many changes, holding a variety of positions, and I have always found it to be an amazing group! There is no other team that is so encouraging and caring and it has been wonderful to see the team grow and become so active! I hope to see that growth continue and to help in any way that I can.

What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?

With all the over stimulation that children are exposed to in our modern culture they need the time and the tools to connect with the natural world in a peaceful and harmonious way. This is how we learn to think creatively and critically! Natural toys are a part of this because they allow for open ended play that requires imagination. And just getting kids outside is so important...let them make up their own games, build forts, and find treasures like acorn tea cups and magic stick wands. This is the stuff of magic!

Your items can be found where:
In galleries across the country and my shop
You can also see my online gallery here;

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Mini Monday - Handfull

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Meet Rebecca and Susan of Handfull:

We hand-dye organic cotton/hemp blends in knit, stretch, and fleece to create these fun clothes. If you have not handled this type of fabrics you will be pleasantly surprised of the soft and cozy texture. Our sizes our roomy to grow as your children do and our clothes look great layered.

Rebecca and Susan are long time friends and forever dreaming of what craft to indulge in next. Right now they are dreaming up simple organic knit patterns and colorful designs.

Rebecca is a self-taught seamstress. She started following music shows in high school and immediately was drawn to the crafty crowds in the parking lot selling their way to the next venue. Rebecca is genetically programmed towards fashion and color. She is a true inspirations in all realms of the word CRAFT. She has sold hundreds of her own creations to adults and is now, as she is raising her daughter, focusing on hand full's childrens line.

Susan started sewing at the age of eight. By 18 she was sewing her sisters wedding dress. The dress turned out beautiful; but the experience sent her to do some soul searching in the outdoors. Fifteen years later she gave birth to twin boys and felt it was her motherly duty to begin sewing again. Within months, and yards of fabric, she upgraded her machine and is now stitching and making the patterns you see here at hand full. View her womans eco-wear line at

article by Pamela of Prettydreamer


Sunday, January 10, 2010

And the winner is.....

the random number generator picked #62 - and that is ~!
Here are some of the etsy shops that sell Cloud 9 Fabrics -
Warm wishes,

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Feature with SewnNatural

Tell us little about yourself! 
Hello there. We're Jane & Jen.  We're a mother-daughter team, well, actually we're both mothers now (and that new little person reminds us every day of how important it is to be kind to our planet).  Originally from Montreal. Jen's lived in Ottawa for the last decade or so, in between time away for postgrad in Europe and lots of travel. Jane moved nearby when Jen and her husband started a family. Creating beautiful things at her sewing machine makes Jane very happy, and Etsy makes it possible for her to do what she loves most and earn living income from it. Jen squeezes in time for working with her hands, running the business side of the shop, photography and listings when her daughter is asleep, or in those little snippets of time. Jane's an amazing baker. Jen's almost as good a cook. Jen has no TV. Jane's originally from Minnesota. She has also explored weaving, spinning, knitting and fashion design.

What do you make and how long have you been creating?
We make baby and child gear from scratch, including bedding, sleep bags, toys and apparel, and we also make pieces for a natural home like picnic blankets and balsam fir sachets. Everything is designed and handcrafted with our own 2 and sometimes 4 (collaborative) hands. We use all natural materials - organic and rescued vintage whenever we can.  The average cotton T-shirt is only 73% cotton fiber – the rest is chemicals and resins. Now imagine a big baby blanket!  So using organic and eco friendly is better for the earth, better for kids’ bodies and better for nourishing their imaginations.

{Jane} I think the creative process can often begin very early in life - noticing the beautiful colors, textures and shapes in nature.  A child hugging the rough bark of a big maple tree in autumn with an canopy of crimson heart-shaped leaves above their head ...  Using all the senses and a blossoming imagination in the free flow of creative play leads naturally into the joy of creating useful and beautiful (objects) for our lives.  As a young girl, I was fortunate to have a loving, patient guide along parts of that journey of discovery.  My grandmother sitting next to me at her treddle sewing machine as I created my first patchwork quilt is an important touchstone for me.

{Jen} I think I inherited the "must work with my hands" gene from my mother and have been making things for as long as I can remember. I learned to create with my hands from her, though I never took up sewing until recently (guess I thought I had to do my *own* thing).  I spent loads of time in a pottery studio as an 8 and 9 year old, and then again in my twenties. I miss it a lot, but felting, sewing and embroidery makes a lot more sense with my life now.

What inspires you?
{Jane} My sources of inspiration are still pretty much the same as they always were.  Beautiful colors, shapes and textures, especially in nature that touch my heart, and occasionally take my breath away. The joy of something I create adding a little bit of comfort, ease or happiness to their lives. Sometimes, it's just an idea, but responding to how something makes me feel is at the heart of it always.

{Jen} Memories and mementos of all the traveling I did - colors, textures and shapes that I try to use in my work. Mid-century modern design. Taking something that would otherwise be thrown away and making it truly beautiful. The slow food manifesto. Black and white photography. Getting really, really dirty gardening in our new raised urban garden beds, or throwing clay on the wheel (I miss that).

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?

{Jen} Just over a year, and we've met such fantastic people on Etsy who have inspired us, offered us advice, and been really supportive. Thinking of our organic and eco friendly toys, bedding and apparel in childrens' rooms across the world is a very heartwarming thought, and something that keep us going. Those people would not have connected with SewnNatural had it not been through Etsy - so we feel very fortunate to have joined this community.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?
{Jen} 1- continuously try to improve your branding, your photos (because your photos are your items), and making your listings shorter, catchier, more personal, more genuine
2- figure out what works and what doesn't because you don't need - you don't want - everyone in the world to like your work and pieces (you just want your specific small target audience to connect with your work and not just like, but love it enough to bring it home)
3- give genuinely kind, prompt and generous customer service

{Jane} 1 - do what you honestly love, feel passionate about and do it well, trying not to be discouraged by ideas that don't necessarily translate into success
2 - be flexible and being aware of what your buyers are looking for, need and find functional is so important
3 - pay really close attention to emails with questions, comments or ideas in them! 

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?
{Jen} When we joined Natural Kids, we were thrilled to learn that many others on the team share many of our values and priorities (things like natural parenting, eco friendly living, love for nature, vintage-inspired aesthetic), so we have found being part of the group very affirming and supportive. Sometimes it is hard for parents to connect with information on the importance of eco friendly and natural alternatives for their child's play, rest, decor, and clothing. We're excited about working together to help get that message out!

What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?

{Jen} Natural toys, bedding and clothing are great for childrens' health, and great for the earth. They are free of toxic polyester, PVC, plastics and other chemicals that leach onto their skin and into their bodies. When we choose natural products, we also consciously practice responsible buying from companies that are easier on the earth.

Beyond that, kids have a deep need to be connected to living things, and to be in a nurturing environment.
(Think for a moment of your favorite childhood memories. Was it when the power went out for 3 days straight? That week spent camping? BBQs in the backyard? Holiday rituals and delicious meals?) If kids are not that different from seedlings (needing a solid foundation to grow for later transplanting), why not make their home a greenhouse? In addition to the water of love and attention and the soil of family, one of the most important ways we can build them this greenhouse is to give them toys and playthings that will nurture their imaginations and connect them to the nature. Because play is an integral part of how that child - that seedling - will grow.  Mister Rogers said that "play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." That's so true! Kids deserve the best, most nurturing and natural tools for play.

Your items can be found where: & check out our {new} blog at

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Give-Away from Cloud9 Fabrics

The Natural Kids Team is offering a give-away sponsored by Cloud9 Fabrics. The prize will be one fat quarter bundle- comprising of all 8 prints of the My Happy Garden collection - totaling 2 yards of fabric (a $33 value).

Cloud9 Fabrics is of the next generation of fabric companies. Co-owners, Michelle Engel Bencsko and Gina Pantastico, are work-at-home moms who are determined to make a difference. Putting their years of industry experience into practice, they provide certified organic cotton options to the quilt and craft market in fresh, modern prints and colors.

Their first collection, My Happy Garden offers 44"-45", 100% certified organic cotton prints perfect for any baby or toddler project. Their second collection, Beyond the Sea, due out in March 2010 will broaden the appeal with a slightly more mature assortment of beach-inspired prints. They've also added coordinating solids to the mix so there's no end to the sewing possibilities.

To enter leave a comment about what you would create with the bundle of eight prints. To be entered two more times, share about the giveaway at your blog and leave a comment here to let us know about it. Winner will be determined by a random number drawing on Sunday evening, January 10 at 7:00 pm EST.