Thursday, July 20, 2017

DIY Frozen Treats

Summer has finally arrived in Ottawa after literally weeks (and weeks!) of rain.  We've restocked our popular stainless steel popsicle molds in both the rocket and paddles styles.  These popsicle molds are durable and easy to clean, and they will last for years -- even their bamboo sticks are reusable (but you will have to train your family not to throw them out). 

DIY popsicles are a great way to give your family healthy frozen treats, and they're so simple to make, your kids can help.  DIY popsicles can be as simple as frozen juice, but once you get hooked on DIY popsicles, it's fun to get creative in the kitchen. 
We've made the following recipes successfully (meaning more than once).  You don't 'need' popsicle molds, you can get by with cups and popsicle sticks, but the portion size and design of our stainless steel molds makes them easy to eat, and their drip catchers help cut down on mess.  I've linked the original recipes in the titles, the recipes below reflect any adjustments we made.

Avocado and Coconut Ice Pops

This recipe is not terribly sweet, so I liked it more than our kids (and to be honest, having popsicle in the freezers that the kids don't like as much as you do is not a terrible thing!).

1 fresh (large) avocado
1 cup coconut milk
2 Tbsp. honey (may substitute with 2 Tbsp. sugar)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  1. Place avocado, coconut milk, honey and lemon into a blender. Blend on high until smooth.  Mix in shredded coconut.
  2. Pour into popsicle molds, insert lidded sticks into the popsicle molds.
  3. Freeze until firm.
  4. Run popsicle molds under warm water for about 15 seconds to loosen the popsicles so they slide out easily.

This recipe is quite sweet, the original recipe calls for up to 1 3/4 cups of sugar -- that's cray cray, 1 cup of sugar is more than enough (and quite frankly you could probably use even less).  Naturally, our kids love this recipe.  I like this recipe enough to make a point to keep two cans of coconut milk in our fridge at all times so I can whip this up whenever we feel like it -- it actually blends up into a nice, soft ice cream right out of the blender if you want instant gratification.
2 (13-oz.) cans of chilled, full fat coconut milk (don't use 'light' or fat-free coconut milk!).
1 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend on high until smooth. 
  2. Pour into popsicle molds, insert lidded sticks into the popsicle molds.
  3. Freeze until firm.
  4. Run popsicle molds under warm water for about 15 seconds to loosen the popsicles so they slide out easily.
Optional: if you have the paddle-style popsicle mold, you can slide an Oreo cookie into the mold -- just slide the stick into the cookie cream before you insert it into the popsicle mold.
This recipe is great because you can use frozen fruit -- using frozen fruit reduces the work involved (who doesn't like easy?).
2 cups fruit (fresh or frozen)
1-2 tablespoons honey
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup water, juice, milk or yogurt (add enough to achieve smoothie-like consistency)
  1. Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend on high until smooth. 
  2. Pour into popsicle molds, insert lidded sticks into the popsicle molds.
  3. Freeze until firm.
  4. Run popsicle molds under warm water for about 15 seconds to loosen the popsicles so they slide out easily.

    Thursday, May 25, 2017

    28 days...

    disclaimer:  Are you a man?  I'm going to talk about my period here.  You have been warned!

    We have sold reusable menstrual products for a number of years now, and when customers come in to consider their options, we often chat about our own experiences using them.  I have dabbled with the Diva Cup, and it wasn't for me, but I'm the exception to the rule, and I really only gave it a 2-hour test drive one time (yes, one time!).  I know that it takes at least a couple of cycles to get used to a menstrual cup, there is a bit of a learning curve in terms of positioning it properly, and if I'm perfectly honest, my Diva Cup went missing basically immediately after that one time I used it, and I'm fairly certain it probably became a Barbie hat.  But that's beside the point. 

    Anyhow, I have been using cloth pads for a long time now -- I've had the same set of pads in rotation for close to eight years.  My initial investment was approximately $60.00; like buying cloth diapers, there can be a little sticker shock when getting set up with reusable menstrual products, but when you consider their longterm use, you can be sure you'll save $$$ in the longrun.  Things cost a little more now, but you could still comfortably get set up with a set of cloth menstrual pads for approximately $75.00.

    How many?
    I have six cloth pads in rotation, which is more than enough for me.  As a family of six, we (read: me) are always doing laundry.  My cycle is approximately five days long, and to go five days without at least a couple loads of laundry would be nothing short of a miracle.  I usually use two-three pads a day -- I can comfortably wear the same pad for 4-6 hours (even on those heavy days at the start of my cycle).  Cloth menstrual pads typically come in light/regular/heavy variations, I only use the 'regular' pads, they are sufficient for my needs.

    Do they work?
    How do the menstrual pads perform in comparison to their single-use counterparts?  Just fine!  I have never leaked through a pad, in fact, I find less 'mess' ends up in the pad by comparison.  Single-use menstrual pads contain super-absorbing polymers (the same chemicals used in disposable diapers) to draw liquid from your body.  Using cloth menstrual pads, I find most of my flow ends up in the toilet. I'm confident in this theory enough that I don't even use a pad at night -- as long as I go to the bathroom immediately when I wake up, I have no issues with leaking (I absolutely detest wearing a pad at night!).

    Öko Creations hemp/cotton menstrual pads
    Are they comfortable?
    In terms of comfort, cloth pads are a little bulkier, but not enough to bother me.  Some customers have switched to using cloth pads because single-use menstrual pads chafe their lady bits (yes, I said lady bits).  Cloth pads stay in place well as long as I'm wearing underwear that fits properly (when I wear underwear that's too loose on me, the pads can move around, which is not ideal, but completely avoidable). 

    Do I have to switch entirely?
    The only time I favor single-use menstrual products is when I play soccer (and not necessarily always, just sometimes), and occasionally when I run (which is rare because I hate running, but I'm only mentioning it so you think I'm actually more active than I really am).  Like cloth diapers, switching to reusable menstrual options doesn't have to be an 'all or nothing' commitment.

    How much work is it?
    Honestly, none.  I know there's lots of information 'out there' about how to 'properly care for' you cloth menstrual pads, but I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  You don't really have to do anything special.  I don't soak mine in a bucket beside the toilet because the idea of doing that makes me what to throw up (for realz). I toss my dirty pad into the laundry hamper (out of care and consideration for my family, I will bury them under other pieces of dirty clothing because I don't want anyone to faint from horror if they are confronted with a reminder that I still have a properly functioning uterus).  In our family we (read me:) wash everything on hot, and dry everything on low heat.  Even though our kids are well out of diapers, I still use CountrySave detergent because it is gentle, but effective at cleaning everything, including my soiled menstrual pads.  When my pads come out of the dryer with all the other laundry, they are thrown into my underwear drawer where they shall remain until I need them again 28 days later.

    So that's it, what do you think?  I hope I've made it sound as easy as it truly is.  Now that I have two teenagers who have periods, I'm reminded of all the waste that single-use menstrual products generate, and how much $$$ they cost (seriously!  They are so expensive!).  My girls know that I use cloth menstrual pads, and I know that they are horrified at the idea right now (and to be honest, at their age, I would have been too), but it's my hope that one day they consider switching to reusables.  I think for a lot of people, it's just getting over the 'ick! factor', once you get going, it's really NBD (no big deal).

    Wednesday, February 1, 2017

    Books, books, books!

    If you've visited our store in the past few months, you may have noticed we've been growing our inventory to include stock aimed at older children, we're not just a 'baby' store anymore.  As part of that effort, we've been growing our selection of books beyond board books and puppet books.  As someone who enjoys a good book more than anything else, I think reading is a valuable pastime for everyone, big and small.  It's a great way to improve your comprehension, vocabulary, and grammar skills, and it's a wonderful escape from real life.  

    As much as I enjoy reading books for my own pleasure, reading to our children when they were younger is something I'll always look back on with fondness.  Reading at bedtime was a great way to wind down at the end of the day, and it was part of our nightly routine.  Aside from providing entertainment, children can benefit from the message some books can offer.  Towards that end, we've stocked three new titles that emphasize gratitude, kindness, and sharing.  Given current world events, I think these messages are especially important right now.

    The Invisible Boy

    Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class.

    When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine.

    This gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish.

    Last Stop on Market Street

    Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.

    Those Shoes

    All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for "want," just "need," when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that are much too small. But sore feet aren’t much fun, and Jeremy soon sees that the things he has — warm boots, a loving grandma, and the chance to help a friend — are worth more than the things he wants. 

    These books are a great way to open the door to conversations about the themes they present.  And those conversations, in turn, can serve as a great reminder that as uncertain as things may feel right now, the vast majority of people are kind and caring, and everything will be alright.