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Category Archives: Natural Living

Local Toymaker


Challenged to find a toy that is not “made in china?”  Or ridiculously priced?  Or plastic?  Or requiring batteries? 

Want to support a local craftswoman? 

Check out Ashley’s amazing handmade Waldorf toys.   Ashley is trained in Waldorf Early Childhood Education and is a parent educator.  Click here for more info on  Waldorf education .  She makes her beautiful toys in Traveler’s Rest but, of course, can ship anywhere.  

She says:  Inspired by the limitless imaginations of young children, each toy is created with much love and warmth.  Toys are purposely without detailed facial features to promote open-ended play and feed the infinite expressions of the child’s imagination.  The beauty of the craftsmanship and simplicity of each toy beckons to be played with in a myriad of creative environments for years to come.  Appropriate for ages birth through 7 years (and beyond!).  My own children, ages 1 and 2, are my research and development team!  I craft each of these toys from my home.  The all natural materials I use include: hardwoods; wool – roving, batting, felt and yarn; cotton; bamboo; and found materials like acorn caps.  Please allow 1-2 weeks for most custom orders.

I know I’m purchasing several pieces for Norah’s stocking.  Take a look and if you’d like to see pictures of all of Ashley’s work or if you would like to purchase a few, email her at waldorfmama [at] gmail [dot] com.  


 Gnomes – (measuring approximately 4″ tall) in custom tailored outfits; gnomes are warm and wonderful to touch, all outfits are securely attached, and make great imaginative play toys as child grows – $4 each; 3 for $10; 6 for $20 

Flower children and acorn fellows – each meticulously created and inspired by the changing seasons. A wonderful addition to sprout on a nature table and into imaginary play.  Acorn folks are $4 each; a family of 3 – 2 adults and 1 child – for $10. Flower folks $6 each. (not recommended for children who will put them in their mouth) 

Birthday/Dress Up crowns – a delight for the birthday celebration or for dress up; sized for young children to adults with adjustable velcro. – $15 each

Birthday Ring – inspired by rings from Germany, contains 12 hand tailored figures on a beeswax sealed wood base; customarily, child chooses one each year to stand in the center and the spot on the ring is filled with a candle; at 12 years old the ring is fully alight with all figures in the middle.  Not recommended for everyday play. – $85, set includes 12 figures, wood base.

Knot dolls – a lovely first toy for the young child; knots are easily grasped and soothing to gnaw on; made from soft cotton fabric &/or organic bamboo fabric with wool batting in head (choose solid blue or pink) – $10 

Balls of all sorts – felted (both wet and needle felted) wool with custom designs (small 2″ diameter $6, medium 3″ diameter $9, large 4″ diameter $12), embroidered cotton with a small rattle enveloped inside (4″ diameter $7); wool felt patchwork ($10); great for indoor play as first a rattle then an interactive toy

Carved wood animals – each hand carved, sanded smooth and finished with food grade beeswax; lovely as a first toy (safe for teething) then an addition to imaginary play as child grows older – prices start at $7. 

Knitted animals – Soft and soothing to the touch (wool and cotton yarns), they can accompany many lovely tales children never tire of hearing (consider a mama duck and her babies with Jemimah Puddle Duck, bunnies to accompany any of the many fun rabbit tales, or a donkey, cat, dog and rooster set to illustrate the Bremen Town Musicians…) – Mama Duck $10, ducklings $4 each or a set of Mama and 2 babies for $15; rabbit $8; horse/donkey $10; rooster or chicken $4; cat $5; dog $10; elephant $15

Felt animals – pictured are two Scotty dogs; more designs to come in the future – $8 for solid $15 for appliqued

Mobiles – each individually crafted from pecan branches with wool and silk decorations – custom order, sizes and prices vary

Washcloths – knit or crocheted with organic cotton and quite lovely for the entire family – $7

Gift sets – multiple items may be selected to create a fun gift set; great for baby showers and birthdays! – prices vary

Aren’t they gorgeous?

Winter Nature Table

Norah’s winter spread:

Our Nature Table

We have created a nature space on our dining room table.  I wanted to have a stand alone nature table but space is a commodity in our home and the dining room table is the most common spot for our family to gather.  It made sense to combine the two. 

Norah collects bits of nature during the day and when we gather for dinner, Scott joins in to help Norah identify objects she has found and to discuss their place in ecology.  I added a field guide to trees as a “cheat sheet” for us when we get stuck! 

In this picture, she has placed a mushroom, flower, leaf, two nuts, and a snake.  The baby snake was caught in a spider web.  We kept him for identification and then let him go. 


Did you miss it?

Saturday’s Blessways was wonderful!  We had a great turn-out of mamas and papas.  Earth Fare was such a gracious host location so we have booked the community room through June.  Earth Fare donated colorful organic baby socks for each expectant couple and brought in yummy baby products to test.

img_7717Erin did free henna art on all our participants.  She even did some henna on a nursing baby’s bald head!  I wish I’d snapped a picture.  I’ve booked Erin to henna my belly when it gets a bit bigger.  She would be a wonderful addition to a baby shower or mother blessing.  Erin is new to our community and is building her art business–she does murals, face painting, henna, and more.  You can contact her at erinzyart[at]aol[dot]com. 

Dr. Feiste was so entertaining!  He passed around a gomco clamp and talked about the science (or lack thereof) and history of circumcision.  He was a really interesting pediatrician–a great option if you’re in the Clemson, Seneca, Oconee, Anderson area. 

Natalie gave chair massages or (in my case) belly rubs to all the pregnant moms.  Natalie gives great belly rubs!  And Mary shared her two very different homebirth stories.

Don’t miss our next Blessingways!  Always the 4th Saturday of the month from 2pm-4pm.  In April, we’ll hear a positive hospital birth story and our topic will be Breastfeeding.

That Slippery Elm

Slippery elm bark first slipped into my herbal medicine chest when I was trying to remedy Scott’s heartburn.  Since then, I’ve fallen in love with this powder.  Today I tried out a new recipe:  slippery elm lozenges.

Norah has a cough.  An awful middle-of-the-night cough that has gone on.  and on.  and on.  No other symptoms.  Just the cough.  Aside from hanging out in a steamy bathroom at 3am, nothing has helped.  Not the homeopathic cough syrup, not the herbal cough syrup, not honey sticks, and not the over-the-counter foul tasting medicines we tried.  And I don’t think she would take a spoon of rock and rye. 

Abby reminded me of Aviva Jill Romm’s recipe from Naturally Healthy Babies and Children (thanks for my birthday present Mom!). 

Mix slippery elm bark powder with enough honey to make a dough.  Remember not to give babies under a year old honey.  Add lemon juice or peppermint oil to taste.  I used peppermint.  Roll into a snake.  Slice into pea-size segments.  Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 250 for an hour. 

Norah–who is now skeptical of all things medicinal–has been begging for these treats.  Personally, I think they are disgusting.  The flavor is fine but the texture is very bouillon cube.  Doesn’t matter what I think.  Norah loves them. 

If you don’t have time for lozenge-making, you can add slippery elm bark to oatmeal without much notice.  Norah is refusing oatmeal lately.  It is difficult to hide in juice or tea since only 10 grains of powder will turn an ounce of liquid into a thick jelly.

What happens when…

What happens when… 

a doula, a midwife apprentice, and a childbirth educator get together for a playdate? 

Why, something happens to my hair, of course!  Last time, it was significantly chopped.  This time, it was henna’d.  Ooo, I love it! 

I hate maintenance.  I despise getting a hair cut.  I have never colored my hair out of fear of continuing maintenance (ok, there was that one time in college that resulted in a cranberry-streaked disaster).  I don’t own a curling iron, blow dryer, straightener, etc.  My hair routine is wash (no shampoo, of course), scrunch with some lavendar water and gel, and air dry. 

Still, my hair seems a little dull these days.  Henna seemed like a good option to pick up some highlights, cover a few strands that are betraying me, and add some conditioning.  Caryn graciously agreed to do it all for me hold my hand. 

It turned out perfect.  No dramatic change.  I doubt anyone (who doesn’t read my blog, that is) will notice.  And the best part about henna–it simply fades over time…no roots showing through…no maintenance.

The lovely Angela after puddle-jumping

Angela--a professional puddle-jumper

So what is involved?  I bought some henna at Whole Foods.  It was pretty inexpensive–6.99.  We brewed tea to mix with it.  You can use coffee for deeper brown tones.  Added apple cider vinegar and an egg.  Then Caryn painted my hair with a paintbrush until I looked like I had been puddle-jumping at Camp Pinnacle.

And like post-puddle-jumping, I simply rinsed, rinsed, rinsed until most of the grit disappeared down the drain.

And to think, before I became a mom, I imagined playdates as boring, stuffy affairs. 



In a small voice whispering “circumcision”

I’ve been quiet about this topic because parents have such strong feelings on both sides.  My intent in this post is to encourage you to think about the procedure and the statistics worldwide.  Why did this procedure become so routine in the US?    

When I was pregnant, I honestly didn’t think twice about circumcision until my childbirth instructor assigned one couple (Emily and Matt, I think) to research and present on it.  We had only one friend with an intact son but they were granola so we figured it was a hippie thing.  I assumed that if we had a boy, we would circumcise.  Then I learned about the procedure and I was surprised to learn that the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend circumcision.  I widened my view and learned that in other parts of the world, babies are not routinely circumcised for non-religious, medically unnecessary reasons.  In fact, the rates are less than 1% in New Zealand, 2.1% in England, and 9% in Canada.  In non-English speaking countries, the rate for non-religious, medically unnecessary circumcision is close to zero.  Even in the US, it isn’t as common as one might think with roughly half newborn boys being circumcized.  As more insurance companies refuse to cover the procedure (after all, it isn’t medically necessary), the numbers will continue to decline. 

Circumcision does carry risk.  The risks include pain, hemorrhage, infection, surgical mistakes, interference with breastfeeding and sleep, skin tags, scarring, damage to the urethra, and in some cases, death.  Excessive bleeding seems to be the most common complication I have encountered.  There is a new scary risk:  MRSA, an antibiotic resistant staph infection frequently spread in hospitals.  One of my client’s newborn contracted MRSA in his umbilical cord stump.  It was very serious.  Her pediatrician praised her for not circumcising as that would have been an easy opening for further spread of the superbug.

And, of course, for all circumcized infants, there is a guaranteed loss of penile sensitivity.      

Want to learn more?  Check out the studies and information available here and here.  If you would like to see what happens during a circumcision, click on the American Academy of Family Physician site to view drawings (not graphic pictures) of the currently preferred method–the Gomco clamp.  Scroll midway down the page to see the procedure.    

Again, my intent is not to pass judgement.  We are all learning together and I have been on both sides of the fence in this debate.  I do not try to talk my clients and friends out of circumcision.  But for those who have not given the subject much thought, I am providing a starting place to begin considering medical and ethical views beyond the cultural perspectives.

And now a word from our sponsor

Well, not quite–although if any companies out there would like to sponsor a family vaca…  

Really, I wanted to give kudos to our carefully selected chemical-free sunscreen.  I am super impressed by the way it performed on this vacation.  We spent full days on the beach; Norah rolling in the sand and laying in the surf.  We only applied sunscreen once before leaving our room and not an inch of ourskin was sunburned (except the parts we forgot to put sunscreen on–oops.  Don’t worry, mom, Norah was slathered head to toe; I’m talking about her parents).  I researched many sunscreen brands.  I cross-checked EWG’s report and Safe Mama’s cheatsheet.  I narrowed it down to a product I could buy locally.  I had no expectations of it performing this well!  It doesn’t even claim to be water-resistant.  Cue the music. 

Thank you Jason’s Natural for your amazing Sunbrella Mineral Sunscreen which is PABA-free and UVA/UVB-blocking.  A little went a long way.  And my test toddler put it to one heck of a test.  You have won a loyal customer.

Reviving a Forgotten Favorite

Someone recently reminded me about an old trick I used to use.  Add some sugar to the shower routine!  More sugar that is.  Maybe I should just move my spice cabinet to the shower!  I now have apple cider vinegar, baking soda, brown sugar, oregano, and white sugar in the tub.  What next? 

I digress.  It goes like this:  I put the white sugar in an old spice jar that has a sift top.  I pour some Dr. B in my hand (peppermint is my current flavor-of-the-day) and shake on some sugar.  It makes a great exfoliate for my skin.  And unlike salt, which I’ve also tried, it dissolves quickly and doesn’t feel as abrasive.  It is soft enough for my face.  And maybe, just maybe, it will make me sweeter.     

Green our Vaccines

You may have noticed I have never posted on vaccines.  I do have a vaccine page planned but it will not include advice or my two-cents.  The decision to vax, not-vax, selectively vax is a choice each parent must grapple with.  There is plenty of info out there but I won’t tell another parent what to do in the area of vaccines.     

Still, I wanted to share these pics from the recent “Green Our Vaccines” rally hosted by Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey.  Regardless of which study you read on risks, there is no one who will say vaccines are without risk.  These pics show some of that story.