Monday, January 21, 2008

Sophie the Giraffe

This time around with a new baby I decided to ditch the junky plastic baby toys I had collected with my other two. All the news headlines about lead in toys made me more aware of what my children were playing with and putting in their mouths. Around this same time I found out about BPA in plastics. These toxins made me want to find more natural toys for my children. I'm becoming more and more of a believer in the phrase "You get what you pay for." It seems to be true about many things, including toys. I like the idea of getting a few high quality toys for my children that will last and also be safe.

I am so excited to announce what I think is the best baby toy I've seen yet:

Sophie the Giraffe, by Vulli

Isn't she darling? I hope my daughter ends up loving her as much as I do. This toy is a dream. Sophie is made of natural rubber and food-based paint. She is imported from France and is apparently very popular there. She is soft and easy for tiny hands to grasp. She has interesting spots and dark black eyes that easily grab a baby's attention. My 7 week old gets a huge smile on her face when I put Sophie in her line of vision. Every review I've read about this toy has been overflowing with praise. People say their babies can't get enough of Sophie. She is an excellent teething toy, with several great places for a baby to suck or chew - the ears, the horns, the snout, and the legs. My daughter isn't quite ready to start grabbing for toys yet, but if we place Sophie in her hand she gets a greedy look in her eye, and with a slight smile she tries to suck on an ear, or whatever part she can find. Sophie also makes a cute squeak when she is squeezed. I envision this toy being a prized possession by my daughter in months to come. I'll be posting an update in a few months to report back.

I initially balked at Sophie's price, and decided to wait on purchasing one. But then last week we were at Disneyland and I saw a Sophie in a woman's diaper bag. I told her I'd read about it on-line, and immediately the woman began raving about it. She said it was the absolute best toy and that her daughter adores it. Their Sophie goes everywhere with them. After hearing that and seeing a Sophie in person, I was sold. The next day I had ordered one from Amazon and two days after that it arrived at our house. My boys were excited about it too, and quite disappointed that it was their sister's toy and not for them.

As far as baby toys go, Sophie is at the top of my list. I am also pleased with Haba toys, so be looking for a post about them soon.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Non-Toxic Sippy Cups

We've been pleased with our Sigg bottles, but because of how expensive they are, I've wanted to have some cheaper cups on hand as well. Before my baby girl was born, I learned about BornFree cups. She was blessed to receive two of these trainer sippy cups from her grandparents for Christmas. I'm looking forward to trying them out. They are BPA-free and non-toxic.

While those are good for babies, I was still hoping to find some sippy cups for older children. Today I came across The Soft Landing, and discovered that most Nuby products are BPA-free! This was good news, since that's what Toosht has been using for his rice milk since he was 1 year old. The Soft Landing lists several other non-toxic sippy cups that I have never heard of before, but they look cool. The site also lists non-toxic bibs and utensils. I'm very excited about this!

If you're interested in winning a free "Safe Sippy" by Kid Basix, check out NatureMoms Blog to enter the drawing!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sand Cups for a Pirate Party

For Toosht's 2nd birthday yesterday, we had a pirate theme and I made Sand Cups for the dessert. I used chocolate pudding for the bottom layer, a homemade version of Cool Whip (my sister's recipe) for the middle layer, and crushed Barbara's Vanilla Snackimals animal cookies for the top "sand" layer. Colorful paper umbrellas were the finishing touch. I thought the Sand Cups were great, but they seemed almost too sweet to me. In the future a variation I may try will be to use plain whipped heavy cream rather than the Cool Whip recipe. It was rich and sweet and maybe didn't need to be so sweet with the already sweet chocolate pudding and crushed animal cookies. My boys and my guests didn't seem to mind the sweetness, however!


2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
4 teaspoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Sift (so as to avoid clumps) the cocoa into a saucepan, then add 1 1/2 cups of the milk and the agave. Bring to a simmer, over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup of the milk, arrowroot powder, salt, egg yolks, and vanilla in a bowl. Gradually whisk the hot mixture into the egg mixture. Return to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat whisking constantly, until the pudding comes to a full boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and continue whisking until thick, about 2 or 3 minutes more.

Pour the pudding into 6 small cups. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or ideally overnight until set.

(Note: I doubled the pudding recipe in order to have enough for everyone at the party.)


1 c. heavy cream, whipped
10-12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. agave nectar

Cream together cream cheese and agave. Add the already whipped heavy cream and mix until combined. Chill until ready to use.

A note about Barbara's Snackimals... the only flavor without cane sugar is the Vanilla flavor.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bug Birthday Party

Toosht's 2nd birthday is coming up this weekend, and I'm remembering the bug-themed party we threw for him last year. DH and I spent a couple of hours the night before the party decorating each bug cupcake uniquely with our naturally colored frosting. We used Panda licorice pieces for the bug heads. The cupcakes themselves were made using Martha Stewart's chocolate cake recipe (plus my modifications). We cut off the tops of the cupcakes, split the tops in half, and then put them back on the cupcake bases to resemble wings. To do the dots and lines with the frosting, we cut off the corners of plastic sandwich bags and squeezed the frosting out through the holes.

We also did a batch of cupcakes that were frosted normally, with white cream cheese frosting, and then we placed pretend frogs and bugs on top of them. I sewed a very simple tablecloth to add to the theme.

There were hors d'oeuvres too. We served ants on a log (celery topped with peanut butter and raisins), caterpillars (jack cheese, grapes, and carrots for the antennae), and lady bugs (dates and cherry tomatoes).

This was such a memorable party (for me, anyway!). It was so much fun preparing all these buggy treats in celebration of my precious little guy's first year of life.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Christmas Morning Cinnamon Rolls

I've tried several cinnamon roll recipes over the past few years, and none of them were as good as I hoped they would be... until last year when I found a recipe on the Food Network. My sister and I have made these rolls more than once now, and while they do take a lot of preparation, they are so amazingly good for special occasions. I'm not sure why this recipe is better than the others I tried. I'm wondering if the trick is with the use of egg yolks.

Here were our cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning '07!

The recipe is here. Below are the modifications I made to the recipe.

For the dough I used:

1/4 c. agave nectar in place of the 1/4 c. sugar in the dough.

6 oz. goat milk + 3/4 Tbsp. white distilled vinegar in place of the buttermilk.

unbleached flour in place of all-purpose flour

sea salt in place of kosher salt

Also, a tip I got from my friend Leah, who is a culinary genius, is to use dental floss to cut the dough (instead of a serrated knife). The floss creates a really clean cut and is much easier than a knife.

For the filling I used:

1/2 c. agave nectar in place of 1 c. brown sugar

For the icing I used:

3 Tbsp. heavy cream (organic/raw cow or goat milk would've been fine here) in place of 3 Tbsp. milk

agave nectar to taste in place of 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar (I used MUCH less than 1 1/2 c. agave here... it doesn't take much agave to make the icing very sweet.)