Friday, September 17, 2010

Toxins in Toys and Safe Alternatives

Unless you've been living under a rock (or tv-less like me, lol) you've probably heard the growing controversy over the last couple of years over lead, phthalates, BPA, etc. in toys and other products.

It makes me really angry that the government wants to regulate the heck out of thrift stores and second hand children's stores (thereby putting them out of business) over the lead issue, and yet major companies just somehow are accidentally letting lead-filled toys slip into this company.

These money-grubbing, child-endangering bastards need to be taught a lesson...and if the government won't do it, then we need to.  How?  Hit them where it hurts--their wallets!

Stop buying plastic crap for your kids.  (And if you just have to, buy it used.  That's right, used.)  I know, natural toys cost an arm and a leg.  But here's something I'm coming to find out...buying your child one or two expensive but well-made toys is more rewarding than buying her a bunch of plastic junk.  Here's why...

1.  It doesn't break a week later.  I have six children, and they can be hard on toys.  Doll beds and carriages--aren't they made to hold five-year-olds?  No?  My children don't seem to get that.  I've given up buying plastic doll strollers that break.  I'm saving up for a really good one.

2.  Children seem to appreciate the quality.  Really, they do.  I think they can sense when a toy is made well and looks good.  I bought Penelope Peapod dolls, and worried that they'd tear up the basket cradles.  Nope, still going strong.  They're reasonably careful with them, and treat them as they deserve (sort of).  Of course, I also made sure to tell my girls that they are expensive toys, and that they're special and  need to be taken care of if they want more of them. ;-)

3.  With fewer toys, children appreciate them more.  One Christmas we gave our children quite a few toys.  Then relatives gave them more.  It was a present-opening fiasco.  They just wanted to play with one or two items, but we had to make them keep opening, and they just got crankier and crankier from over-stimulation.  Most of the toys were forgotten right away, in favor of the one or two favorites.  What a waste of money.  Fast-forward to another Christmas: one quality toy given to each, plus two toys from relatives, for a total of three toys per child.  Best Christmas ever. Calm, peaceful, and the children loved their toys.

4.  Less worry over toxins.  If you choose your toys carefully, they are safer for your children, and you can feel good about them playing with them.  With the plastic toys we still have, I am forever telling them "get that out of your mouth!"  I need to ditch them.  (By the way, does anyone know if the Schleich animals are safe?)

5.  Less clutter from cheap, broken, unused toys.  We have tons of toys in boxes, half of which are broken, missing pieces, or rarely used. With Christmas and six birthdays every year, it's an exponentially increasing clutterific nightmare!  Now we're paring back, giving only a few, good-quality toys for presents, and slowly crawling out of the clutter.

I hope this gives you some food for thought, as Christmas approaches.  You can avoid the traditional binge of consumerism, while still giving gifts to your family, by choosing fewer, high-quality, natural toys.   

Send a message to greedy conglomerates that we will NOT stand for them poisoning our children to make a fast buck!

"Voting" with our dollars by buying safe toys is the most important way to make sure that in the future, more safe toys are available.

Future posts will tackle toys and toy companies that put your child's safety first. My goal is to post reviews of good, natural toys, but that will have to wait until my budget permits me to buy more toys.  I only have a few good toys so far, and I may be able to review those...if I can find the clothes that have been torn off the dolls.  ;-)

 Below are a few fun toys that are healthy alternatives for your child.  As a former teacher, I can heartily recommend natural wood blocks, but I recommend that you consider getting two or three sets, particularly if you have multiple children.  The more blocks, the higher you can build!  But you can get by with just 100 blocks (and that's a good price for that many.) 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Food Inc. Review

Oh. My. Gosh.

If you haven't seen Food, Inc., you need to buy it, rent it, borrow it, whatever it takes.  I'd heard sooooo many people say how good and how important this documentary is, but I just couldn't justify the $25 to buy it.

I was an idiot.

Seriously, this will change the way you look at food and at your family's health.  I was already into eating healthy.  And I'm pretty well-informed about the food industry.  However, they put it into such a neat little package, that I think it's really easy for anyone to follow and really "get it."

They condensed an amazing amount of information into it, and kept it interesting.  And I have to say that I'm impressed with the quality of the graphics they used, particularly with the opening credits.  It's not a blockbuster or anything, but I felt the quality of it was a step above the typical documentary.

One thing that will really impact you is how our food industry treats animals and the planet.  I do not consider myself an environmentalist or animal activist by any means, but I do believe that God gave us the animals and the planet to sustain us, but with that sustenance comes responsibility.  Plus, to be frank, you just don't poop in your nest.  Meaning that if we want the animals and plants to sustain us, we need to sustain them.

Don't worry, there aren't any overly graphic scenes, a la PETA undercover videos.  The producers did an excellent job of walking the fine line between lifting the veil on the inhumane treatment these animals get, without going to the extremes of grossing people out and making them tune out.  It was just sad, really.  My heart ached for those poor creatures.  And the workers aren't treated much better. 

For me, it was really an eye opener, because I've gotten really lazy with my eating lately. One thing I've learned is that the healthier you eat (at least in my case), the harder you fall "off the wagon".  Then it becomes REALLY hard to get back on.  This movie was just the push I needed, to remind me how bad the SAD (Standard American Diet) way of eating is.  It's not really food, people.  It's chemically processed fake crap that will kill you.

Which explains why I've felt so cruddy lately.  Which I already knew.  But the film really brought it home for me.  I'm spending the next few days coming up with an affordable meal plan.  I am the absolute worst meal planner in the history of mankind.  Which means I spend too much on stuff I want (but don't need) and forget to buy what I do need...leading to waste.  Not to mention the convenience foods I eat when I'm not eating healthy.

So I will be doing a series of posts about eating healthy, what we can do to change the system, frugal recipes and menu plans, as well as addressing common complaints about why we think we "can't" eat healthy.

Please leave a comment with your suggestion of what your own complaints or challenges are to eating organic, local food, and I'll try to address them and/or come up with solutions. I'm also considering doing a one-time linky party for cheap, easy organic recipes.  Let me know if you'd be interested in that.

In the meantime, buy this movie!  Or at least rent it.  I rented it, but it's so important that I feel I really need to buy it now, to be able to watch it on occasion when I need a kick in the pants!

Borders and Barnes and Noble stores usually carry it, and I think Netflix does.  I also believe you can rent it off of iTunes.

Please Note:  One of the links below is a regular DVD, one is a BLU-RAY, and one is the paperback book that followed the movie.  Be sure you're choosing the right one.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Antique Dining Set

Labor Day weekend I scored an entire antique dining set, including table, six chairs, buffet, and sideboard...for only $250!  What's the catch? Wellll...

The table is kinda in pieces.  Oh yeah, and the furniture is all water damaged, with the veneer warped and peeling off.

Still a deal?  You betcha!

The six chairs are very sturdy.  They could use some re-gluing as they are squeaky, but they can hold my weight--which is saying something!  Usually I see chairs like this for $40 a piece and up at yard sales, and they're falling apart.  The guy only wanted $300 for the chairs, and threw the rest in for free.  I talked him down to $250, and he threw in this chair...

and a wooden office chair on wheels (to be featured in an upcoming before/after post) for free.  Cool!

The guy is a furniture refinisher, and showed me how I could fix the veneer and refinish it.  He said he got it from an insurance company.  It had been damaged when the owners were away, and the sprinkler system in the house malfunctioned.  The owners kept the china hutch and the insurance company replaced the rest...and the refinisher bought it from them.  He's had it four years, and hasn't found the time to do it.  He had several projects he was selling.  He said it would be a $3000 set if he re-did it himself.  He and his wife were really nice...they loaded the set up for me (twice, it took two trips) and he gave me his phone number and said to call if I needed any advice.  People are so nice around here.

Now I'm no fool...I don't have his talent and experience.  It would take a lot of work and know-how to make this set really shine again by refinishing it.  But I'm not planning to...I'm going to paint it.  I'm starting with recovering and painting the chairs one by one this week (tutorial coming soon).  I think the pieces look worse than they are--the damage is all to the veneer.  So it's not as bad as it looks. It should be a real learning experience. I'm looking forward to it!

Here's the buffet (the sideboard is hiding  behind it)....

Here is the neato silverware insert for the buffet top drawer...

Be sure to sign up as a follower to receive updates on my crazy dining set experiment!  If I can do this (oh, I hope I can do this) SO CAN YOU!  ;-)


New Posts in the Works

   Fall is here!
Sorry for my blogging absence.  It's been sooo crazy.  We were spending tons of time looking for a new house to rent, packing our gazillions of possessions, and then moving.  We're all moved in, so look for some new posts very soon!

I still have to unpack, but I'm excited, because this house is nicer than most we've lived in.  Others have been bigger, with more potential, but this one already has painted walls (yes, other than "builder white")!  And though, as a renter, I'll be limited to what I can do, I have great plans.

I'll be transforming some old furniture and repurposing things, all on a very tight budget, so look forward to some really neat low-budget re-dos.  I just scored a water-damaged antique dining set for $250, and I plan to post pictures of my progress with it.  If I can find my camera usb cord, I'll post "before" pictures today.

So sign up as a follower to be updated on my latest achievements!