Category Archives: Gear

Sugar substitutes and metabolic syndrome

I’m assuming you guys have seen this article about the study that found that even a can of diet soda a day increases your risk for metabolic syndrome by 34%.

Or this piece on Good Morning America about the article. (You have to sit through an ad first before the story starts.)

I wonder if this is going to make companies stop putting sugar substitutes in otherwise healthy things, like yogurt and food for kids.

I think this also puts the nail in the coffin of soda consumption for many of us. Too dangerous to drink sugar substitutes, and way too dangerous to drink high fructose corn syrup. Plus the caramel color is bad for us, and so is the carbonation.

I guess it’s back to water. (Until Passover, when some of the stores in NYC stock kosher-for-Passover Coke sweetened with regular sugar, which I’ll indulge in.)

I also wonder if this is going to give stevia (a no-calorie sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant) any traction, since it’s just a refined leaf, not a chemically-altered substance.

The Zazzle store I forgot I had

Did any of you guys remember that I’d started a Zazzle store? I’d completely forgotten about it until I got a check for $6.92 on Saturday. Thanks to whoever bought the mug I made. I hope it helps you enjoy your hot beverages of choice.

Since I have the store, should I put more things on it? If so, what sayings should I use? "I’m the perfect parent for my child"?’"What’s wrong with people?"? "Why can’t you just stay asleep?"

Guest post: Archivist on managing your kids’ stuff

Remember the post two weeks ago about organizing kids’ stuff? I got an amazing response from archivist Alison Langmead that I had to share with you. Alison writes:

"First of all, please let me reiterate that I am an archivist and records manager, not a professional organizer or life manager or any such thing. It is my job to help organizations maintain, access and
make use of their stored information for both the short and long terms. That said, more and more information professionals are starting to look in to the serious issue of personal information management as it relates to the information economy and other broader social trends.

I have read through all the comments (pre-January 5th) to the "Help with Organization of Kid Stuff" thread and I have found them fascinating from both a personal and professional point of view. One
general response came to me right away. In my experience, I have found that people have natural tendencies towards keeping their stuff or destroying their stuff. Some people, for example, feel lighter when they clear out an entire closet, while others feel only loss. I call these extreme types "Destroyers" and "Keepers." I think most folks would consider Destroyer a harsh term, but I love it. I’m a natural-born Destroyer. Think Shiva. Perhaps the term "Purger" used so often in this thread is better. On the flipside, "Hoarder" has a major negative connotation for me. So, let’s compromise and call these basic types Keepers and Purgers. Quibbles over taxonomy aside, I have found in both my personal and professional experience that there is a kind of personality continuum between these two ends of the spectrum, but
that innate tendencies do exist. Reading the comments to this thread, it has been very easy to differentiate the Keepers from the Purgers and all the gray areas in between.

All of this explanatory build-up has been to say the following: There is nothing so difficult or so emotionally burdensome in the personal domain as being a Keeper who feels social pressure to purge
excessively or being a Purger who feels social pressure to keep excessively.

Many commenters have noted thoughts such as, "I like to purge. Is this bad?" or "I keep everything due to an inappropriate sense of sentimentality." I am of the firm personal conviction that rebelling
against one’s natural predilictions does not help us as we go through life. If you like to purge, then you need to accept that, and work with it. The reverse also holds. This is not to say that we can always
just keep and purge at will. We are in this world with other people who have other tendencies and needs. In my professional life, I am constantly in the position of reminding people that the process of
information management is a necessary balance between keeping and purging (or, to be terminologically precise, retention and destruction). If we keep absolutely everything, it becomes almost impossible to find any one given thing, which is almost precisely the same state of affairs that we find if we destroy absolutely everything. Finding the balance, then, between appropriate keeping and purging is what we are all looking for in this thread.

But, compounded with this, I believe that there is general social pressure for women, mothers especially, to be super organized. It is as if we are all supposed to be born with the innate ability to keep it all together. Some of us do indeed have this capacity, others do not. But those who are not so inclined often feel that they are somehow inferior to those who can. This is a crying shame. We should feel free to do whatever makes us feel happy and healthy and what facilitates our ability to raise happy and healthy children. This will be different for everyone.

For some of us, however, it is not social pressure that is the problem, rather physical constraints. If you are a born Keeper who lives with a partner and a child in a 450-square-foot apartment, your living conditions will pose extra challenges for you. Some of the really creative storage ideas found in this thread could really help you out. Balance and acceptance will again always be key.

Enough with that diatribe for now. As promised to you Moxie, I have a few general comments that you and my fellow readers might find helpful.

1) There is a difference between the act of reducing your family’s holdings and finding a more compact way to store things. Decide which one of these things you want to do and do it. Do not confuse the two
issues. The first is an act of purging, the second, an act of keeping. They are both good and proper.

2) Scheduling things for purging can be a very good thing ("the one year rule," the toy "death row"…would "toy purgatory" be slightly less morbid? Maybe not.). But as other commenters have already noted, the key to this process is finding the precise right length of time to keep things before you purge them. Otherwise said, the trick to this is not the act of deciding to keep things for a certain period of
time, it’s deciding what that "certain period of time" is and what action you will take at that time. By the way, I am less comfortable with the "everything that fits in this small box" rule. I think it leads to preferential treatment on the basis of size and not meaning. Which leads me to…

3) When trying to decide what to keep and what to purge, the pros are always considering their mandates and their user base. Maybe this would be a good thing to do in the personal domain as well. Ask questions like, "Who am I keeping this for?" And, "What will they be doing with it and for how long?" BE HONEST. If you are keeping your children’s art for your own sake, then do it up right! If you are
keeping it because you want your kids to have it when they have their own kids, then do that up right as well! In addition, I couldn’t agree more with those commenters who suggest that you involve your children
in these decisions when they are capable. Finally, if you are doing it because you are
afraidthatyoumayonedaywishtoseeitagainbutthenagainyoureallyneedthisspace,

then it is my opinion that you should confront that fear and come to some sort of compromise. This might be a moment for the swift one-two of transferring the items to compact storage with a plan to revisit the items later on.

4) Charity is always a good thing.

5) I really do not wish to be a scaremongerer about this, but making digital copies of physical objects is absolutely not a panacea for these issues. I could go on and on about this, and will do so, if requested. Suffice it to say here that, unless you are willing to go to your CD’s every two years or so and make sure that all of the data you put on them is still there—meaning, you will need to open up the files and look at them—you might find that you have lost your records of these objects. All types of digital media are prone to corruption and failure. Hard drives even have an accepted "mean time between failure" figure associated with them. CDs, DVDs, hard drives, tapes…all of these objects _will_ fail. It is just a matter of time. Now, let’s all take a deep breath. We can get around this problem. It simply takes effort. You have to go back from time to time and check in with your stuff. Just make sure it’s still there. Copy it onto new CDs from time to time. By the way, professionally speaking, hard drives are preferred to CDs for longer-term storage, mainly because it’s easier to check in on your stuff with a hard drive. You’ll do it more often because you aren’t sitting there for hours swapping disks in and out. And, one more thing, it is now well-understood in professional circles that, for the long-term, digital objects are *more* expensive to store than physical ones.

I think I’ve been on my soapbox for long enough. Please feel free to ask any and every follow-up question that comes to your mind. I love talking about this stuff.

And, thanks, Moxie for putting yourself out there and maintaining this fabulous resource. I cannot tell you how many times I have read and re-read a posting at 3am reassuring myself that I am not alone with my perceived faults and my very real fears. With all of our similarities and differences, we are all fantastic mothers."

You’re certainly welcome, Alison. Thank you so much for your wonderful post! Questions, anyone?

Help with organization of kid stuff

Iowa caucus for Americans today. I’m really curious about how things will go. [Confession: I am so not paying attention to anyone but the top three contenders on each side, and confused the candidate Ron Paul with rapper Sean Paul (turn down your speakers if you’re at work). And every time I saw a "Ron Paul for President" sign I thought it was an ad for a new album coming out. I only figured they’re two different people the other day while watching CNN. Duh.]

Can we talk about organization? I am not a great organizer in general, and was barely holding on with the new holiday influx of toys. But yesterday my older son brought home a beautiful little pinch pot from his art class at school. And I realized I was going to have to start really processing 3D art projects and figuring out what to do with them. (I’ve been putting the drawings and paintings into file folders and saving them.)

Gah!

So I guess what I’m looking for is ideas from those of you who are good at this sort of thing. I could use ideas on processing the unbelievable amounts of clothing we end up with, the toys, the art projects, and the seasonal stuff. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like it’s all getting away from her.

I wish I could just shove it all into an attic or a garage, but I don’t have either of those right now. (I’d be willing to bet there are readers who could use tips on organizing basements, attics, and garages, if you’ve got any ideas for that.) And I watched a show about hoarders that scared the living crap out of me, and now I’m actually afraid I’ll get rid of too much stuff in an effort not to end up with stuff that runs my life.

What do you keep and what do you get rid of? How do you manage and store the kid stuff you do want to keep? Will I magically become organized if I buy a labelmaker?

Thank you.

Q&A: crib mattresses

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it!

Speaking of a sleeping baby, Kristen writes:

"What are your thoughts about the flame retardants in crib
mattresses?  Should we be concerned about the chemicals in our mattress
and our baby’s mattress?  I was looking into getting a rubber mattress
but I can’t get any solid non-bias information."

I can’t imagine that those flame retardants can be good for anyone, least of all babies*. If you can afford it, I’d definitely look into an all-natural (rubber or organic cotton) mattress for your child’s bed.

However, the price difference is enormous between a regular mattress and an all-natural one. I’m about to switch my younger son from his crib into a twin-sized bed, and the gap between What I Can Afford For a Mattress and the price of an organic cotton mattress is truly insurmountable. (Unless there’s some organic cotton mattress company who’d like to send me a twin-sized one to review for this site.)

I’m going to try to mitigate some of the effects of the toxic traditional mattress by putting down a wool blanket under the mattress pad (yes, they make wool mattress pads, but those are expensive, and my mother has wool blankets aplenty to give me), which will also provide some waterproofing as we head into nighttime potty training. (Of course this is no help for kids who are allergic to wool.) I’m also going to hope that the pillow acts as a buffer between any fumes and his nose.

Anyone else have anything on crib mattresses?

* Hey, if your baby doesn’t sleep all that well, at least that’s one good thing about it–they’re not breathing in all the crib mattress fumes as much as the better-sleeping babies are. Come on, you knew you could get some snark here on Christmas Day.

School lunch cry for help

Hey, have any of you tried the new Amazon Kindle? They keep sending me emails about it. It’s a wireless device that you can load books onto and read. I have to admit that the idea of eliminating all my stacks and stacks of books (seriously–they’re like wire coathangers in the way they seem to multiply) is tempting. (I wouldn’t get rid of my current library–perish the thought–but would be able to avoid new acquisitions.) The $400 price point seems kind of decent. But then I just can’t imagine how it would be comfortable to read from a screen, any screen. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s tried it. (The Amazon.com review are predictably conflicting: "It will replace the book by next year!" "It’s unconscionable!")

(Also, I don’t know if I’m really supposed to release this little tidbit yet, but Mothertalk.com is going to start a book club soon. Hooray! An online book club, and I don’t have to do any work on it. I’ll post more info when I get it.)

Now, on to the school lunch outcry. From Lisa:

"How about a starting a discussion on school
lunches?

Every mum I know has trouble thinking of healthy
tasty food that doesn’t go off in a hot lunch box, that their kid will actually
eat!  Any change from the humble sandwich would be a treat in my
house!"

I know we’ve talked about it before back at the beginning of the year, but here we are in the thick of things, when school lunches have gotten to be routine. Some kids like that (mine, although he allowed me to add clementines to the mix this morning), while other kids want variety.

I should report in on the results of the Laptop Lunchbox experiment: My older son decided he didn’t want to use his anymore, because it wasn’t a licensed character lunchbox like his best friend S. has. So much for innovation. The kid’s apparently a victim of peer pressure. His little brother loves the Laptop Lunchbox, though, so he’s been using it for snacks.

We’ll see what happens as they get older.

Every day we need a lunch (doesn’t usually get eaten, because they’re too busy running around) and a snack (usually gets eaten completely). So I’m packing a small lunch (today was a half sandwich and a clementine) and a larger snack (cheese, fruit leather, crackers, cucumber).

Here’s a shot of my RL friend Beth’s bento boxes for her kids. Here’s the Vegan Lunchbox site (want vegetables? talk to the vegetarians). More bento boxes for kids’ lunches ("frozen rice"? Interesting…).

Please post your ideas or links. I’m interested to see if we get any kinds of regional foods, or if parents all over the world are packing the same things.

Really important study–we need your help

Hi all. This was supposed to post Monday, so I’m attaching Tuesday’s post to the end of it. Please please read through the first part and pass it on.

Leslie Davis, a researcher at Illinois State University (in the U.S.) is doing a study on pre-natal and post-partum depression, and she’s trying to tease out the differences in mood disorders (depression vs. anxiety, etc.) so that they can work on more effective plans for treatment.

She needs women to fill out their online survey. You are eligible if you are pregnant and 26 weeks along or more, or if you are between 6 week and 6 months post-partum.

Please, please please, if you are in this category or know people who are, fill out the survey. Forward on the URL to everyone in your childbirth ed class, new moms’ group, breastfeeding support group, online support group. Ask the moderator of any online boards you post on if you can post the link there.

The more responses the researcher gets, the better info she’ll have and the better prevention/diagnosis/treatment we’ll be able to offer to pregnant women and new mothers. (The results of the study should be available in the summer of 2008, so I’m going to ask Leslie to update us then on what she found.)

Now, for Tuesday’s post, I’m cleaning up holiday gift requests.

A grandmother is looking for good toy suggestions for 2 1/2 year-old twins (boy/girl, if that affects your response any).

Following up on the post last week about asking friends and relatives for nicer quality toys, Kristen wants to make things as easy as possible for her relatives:

"So I need some help…I have a 6 month old son and I’m trying to buy
him toys that are made in the US or Europe.  Any good websites or
stores that you can suggest?  I’m trying to encourage my family and
friends to buy him the more expensive toys that are of better quality
than the cheap plastic ones and I know that options are important."

Melissa writes:

"My son will be 4 in mid-December.  As one would expect he is full of
questions about the world and everything in it.  We have gone to the
library with some questions and done some research on the internet, but
I thought we might also want to look at having a good children’s
illustrated (we are not quite reading just yet, but trying
hard) dictionary or a set of encyclopedias at home for some old
fashioned look it up exploration.  Do you are your readers have any
recommendations?"

My 5 1/2-year-old is loving the Scholastic Children’s Dictionary I listed over there on the left in the sidebar. I’m not sure about encyclopedias, but I’m sure someone will have suggestions. I just discovered Simple Wikipedia, which is just Wikipedia, but using simple language and without some of the content that makes regular Wikipedia so much fun but also too wild for kids.

Then Liz writes:

"I am looking for a good book that might have some good suggestions for
fun and developmentally-beneficial activities I can do with my 5 month
old.  A kind of "Daring Book for Girls" for babies.  I consider myself
a creative person, but I’m running out of things to do with my baby.
I’m not sure I can play on that playmat and simply pass toys back and
forth with her for too much longer.

Any good ideas?"

I, personally, think you should just do your normal activities with the baby in a sling and narrate what you’re doing and that will help her development more than anything. But that’s also because I’m not a "down on the floor playing kids games" kind of mom. Which may explain why my kids are great at baking and cooking and doing laundry with me, but good at playing Legos with each other and not me. 😉

I know someone out there will have suggestions of books or of activities to do. And toys for the other questioners.

But first please pass on the survey info to any interested parties you know.

Q&A: Is there any way to prevent an influx of gifts you don’t want?

The lovely people at Amazon.com have informed me via email that they are going to be having a huge sale starting this Friday morning at 6 am PST (US West Coast time, 9 am for those of us on the East Coast, 8 am for those of you eating leftover bars that day, and 7 am for those of you in Mountain). If you click through from this link, I’ll get a little tip out on anything you buy, so think of me if you’re going to do any online shopping this Friday I’ll put the link up at the top of Friday’s post, just to help remind you to line my pockets.

And on that note, Kristen writes:

"Can you address how to talk to relatives about not giving your child
crappy, made-in-china, plastic toys?  We don’t want to hurt anyone’s
feelings or seem greedy, but we would much rather receive quality
wooden toys, non-character items, and books.  With the recalls
recently, this has become even more important.  Is there a tactful way
to de-tack relatives?"

At first glance, the obvious answer to this question is, "Yeah, right." But I know that Kristen has a one-year-old, so she’s still in the phase of parenting in which she does have a reasonable amount of control over what her daughter plays with, eats, etc. And my feeling is that all of that stuff gets harder and harder to control as the kids get older, so you might as well do what you can while you can. Two years from now you’ll be buying princess-shaped gummy snacks made out of HFCS, hydrogenated fats, and red dye #5, so this is the year to try to hold back the tide of American consumer culture.

I think the amount of success you’ll have in requesting certain toys depends on the personalities of the gift-givers. My grandmother, for example, was always delighted to receive specific requests for things my kids wanted. If left to her own devices she would have chosen the brightest, biggest, least apartment-friendly toys possible, just because she loves the kids so much. But she was thrilled to know exactly what the kids wanted (one year it was an awesome wooden parking garage that is still standing after years of abuse) and this year her Christmas gift was the adoption fee for the cats. (Oh, the cats–is there another animal species as crazy and hilarious?)

So if you have relatives who like to take requests, you’re in luck, because you can request specific books and toys (like the wooden cutting food set, for instance) and everyone will be happy. But if you have relatives who want to give what they want to give no matter what you’d like, you’re not going to win the battle.

Which means you need to decide how you’re going to react to the gifts you don’t like. Are you going to thank them politely and then donate the toys the next day to the thrift store? Are you going to thank them politely but decline the toys? Are you going to try to educate them about toy safety, recalls, plastics, and the whole ball of wax? Again, it depends on the personality of the giver and your relationship with them. You’ll probably react differently when it’s your 90-year-old great-aunt than you will when it’s your sister.

Has anyone been able to politely stem the influx of toys from relatives without hurting any feelings? Please tell us what you did.

Working with wood for kids (Holiday gifts part 3)

Today’s answer is from a guest expert–my brother, who is a carpenter in a midwestern US city. You’ll see where my "let’s figure it out by talking through it" style must be a family trait.

Wren writes:

"I am very crafty and have all the tools to make my 15 month old a set
of lovely wooden toys, but am a bit wary of which woods to use.  I’d
like them to be a set of stacking blocks that is pretty primitive, with
bark still on parts of the pieces, but don’t know which woods would not
be advisable for a toddler that still likes to put toys in his mouth.
My preference would be to make them from a native (to our area in
Texas) pecan or cedar, as I have much of that lying around waiting for
my projects.  I tried googling, but didn’t get any helpful info. Do you
have any ideas of where to look?  And what kind of oil/finishing
treatment to use if any?"

My brother (should I give him a pseudonym?) answers:

"Wren (and Moxie),

I did not have much luck with internet searches for kid-safe woods either, other than people who were selling wooden toys of mostly unspecified species of woods, so I am going to have to turn to my own experience, anecdotal evidence, and picturing my intended block user.

As to the specific woods the question mentions, I don’t know enough about them to be definite that they are baby safe. The cedar I have worked with here in the Midwest tends to be soft, and splintery, and something in the cedar oils that make it rot- and bug-resistant tends to make the slivers it produces much more irritating (they burn!) than other woods, so I suspect there may be something sort of toxic in cedar. I would be willing to assume the same about redwood and any other naturally insect- and rot-resistant woods. Also, in ALL cases steer clear of pressure treated woods, a la the wood used for decks. This exterior grade construction lumber is regular SPF (lumber industry jargon for an unspecified coniferous softwood that could be either Spruce, Pine, or Fir) that has been treated with chemicals that kill fungus, microorganisms that lead to rot, and insects. But anything that is killing bugs and germs is probably not good for kids, and in fact, up until a few years ago the main treatment was a chemical stew called CCA, chromated copper arsenate, three things your kids should not be touching, gnawing on, or inhaling. The copper gives treated deck wood a greenish tint, so you can fairly easily see it when you run up against it. Also not good for kids are railroad ties, as they have been treated with all sorts of rot-resistant chemicals, like creosote, and while they are all over in landscaping, they are full of nasty things. The sawdust these treated woods produce are a toxin that makes your nasal passages sore and it is nasty stuff.

I have no firsthand experience with pecan, but thinking about it, here are the qualities I would
generally look for in wood for blocks: fine grain, and relatively
unlikely to produce splinters. Mahogany, walnut or oak would be
examples of grainy wood prone to making splinters.  Maple, birch,
cherry (although cherry is somewhat toxic, if I remember correctly from
my campfire cooking days), and even slow-growth pine, fir, and spruce
tend to have finer grains that in my experience are less splintery. If
you do choose to work with woods similar to the first group, make sure
your tools are sharp to minimize chatter, tear-out, and splintering,
and pay special attention to sanding them extremely smooth before
letting your child handle the blocks.

I would think twice about keeping the bark on the blocks, for a couple reasons. First, if your young builder is like I was, eventually there will be tall towers to build, and with the irregularities of shape that the bark would leave, that Empire State Building might come out more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or simply topple over before it was appointed toppling the tower time. But more importantly from a safety standpoint, as wood naturally ages and the moisture levels change, the bark layers tend to separate from the rest of the wood. Knocking blocks around, tumbling down structures, and chewing on edges would tend to accelerate the bark falling off, and would leave small pieces of bark loose to be put in the mouth or nose, or ear, or anywhere else kids stick small objects.

All that said, the blocks I played with and drooled all over for years and years of my childhood were a lovely tight grained pine or fir, and a few maple ones thrown in for good measure. The only finish was hand sanding to a very smooth finish (probably with at least 240 grit sandpaper. FYI, in sandpaper the higher the number, the finer the grit and the smoother the resulting finish, so for kids toys I would sand as high as 320 grit if possible) with the edges relieved, and oils from my fingers and face and whatnot as the only preservative.

If you do want to put a finish on the blocks, linseed oil, which is the original oil base in oil-based paint, is an excellent natural oil for wood. It is simply non-foodgrade flaxseed oil. (linen=flax fibers, lin-seed = flax-seed) In hardware or art supply stores you often find "boiled linseed oil," but as the wikipedia article mentions, if you are not careful in checking the label, you may be getting some metallic and petroleum content in your flaxseed. Plain foodgrade flaxseed oil would probably be very good for treating kids’ blocks. Olive oil is good and safe, but I don’t think it has the longevity of linseed oil so to keep the same sheen you would have more frequent reapplications. (I think there is a chemistry reason having to do with the eventual breakdown of fat molecules in oils, and the tendency of foodgrade oils to eventually become rancid. I looked for some Alton Brown references to oil/fat chemistry, because I remember him doing a good explanation of cooking oils, but I couldn’t find it.) Another foodsafe option is mineral oil (a.k.a. baby oil), which has been used as a preservative on butcher blocks and cutting boards, and as a sealer of stone food surfaces, for generations. Kids playing with blocks would probably give them a natural low luster even when the oil dries out, but reapplying oil as the blocks dry out will keep a low luster finish when no kids are polishing them up with their little hands.

Again thinking back to my trusty childhood blocks, I suspect the set was made from 2x building material cut and sanded by someone into some fantastic, cheap modular blocks. I would still use SPF construction lumber softwoods, but in the intervening 30+ years, construction grade lumber, as in all wood products, has had a marked decline in quality. We have used up all the old growth trees. SPF construction lumber is a farm system now, growing hybrid trees that grow fast with many knots and wide splintery grain. Slow growth makes for tight, stable, generally less splintery grain. Every year it is harder, and consequently more expensive to find good quality wood. Luckily, for blocks we are not talking about large pieces of wood, so we can cut around knots and bad grain. Knots can be aesthetically lovely in wood, but in pine, fir, and spruce they tend to be where the sap and tar accumulate (they are sticky), are harder than the wood around them (that makes sanding them difficult), as the wood ages they change moisture content differently than the wood around them (so would be prone to falling out, and would be hazardous the same way bark could be in a set of blocks) and knots resist any oil treatments for finishing.

So choose your wood carefully, especially if you are buying it at a big box store like Lowe’s or Home Depot, where the price is low because the grade of wood they sell is the bare minimum required for construction. If you are not interested in cutting around imperfections, you might go to your local (I mean local, not part of a large national chain) lumberyard and asking them about obtaining a better grade of softwood, or a decent grade of hardwood (big box stores have very poor hardwoods generally) if you are interested in working with something more elaborate than pine. The price may be higher than a construction grade SPF 2×4 at Lowe’s, but because blocks are small sections of wood, you can probably negotiate for scraps and cutoffs local lumberyards often have left over from large orders others have already paid for. They may even give it away to you if the pieces are small and they want to get it out of their warehouse or yard. Along that line, you might even try local manufacturers who use wood. Where I work right now we use thousands of board-feet of low grade wood every day, and in the milling process we have thousands of board feet of scrap we can’t use in a week. Consequently, we have scavengers who stop in weekly to fill up trucks for local reuse as firewood, my coworkers take home scraps for various projects or bonfires, and the rest is eventually shipped off to be recycled as any number of forest industry products. Because kids’ blocks are small, it would be very easy to find enough usable pieces from the scrap of most wood-using businesses to make a great set of blocks. All you need to do is ask nicely and there is a good chance your material could be free.

I’m not sure if that answered your question adequately, but I hope somewhere in the large quantity of response you find some quality info you can use."

There you have it–more than you thought there was to know about making kids’ toys with wood.

Book review up this evening.

Holiday gifts part 2

Today can we talk about things we can make?

I knit and sew and cook, so the handmade gifts I give are all of the knitted, sewed, or baked variety. I know what I’m going to knit for my friends from college this year (some of whom read this every once in awhile, so I won’t say it here). I’m going to sew a long furry snake (don’t ask) for my younger son.

A really nice gift is teaching someone else how to do something you can do. Not only do you get to show someone how to do something they want to know how to do, but you also get to spend time together during the lessons.

Alice jumped the gun yesterday in her comment about making their Christmas tree each year, but I think that’s an amazing idea. If I wasn’t so addicted to the smell of pine I’d steal it and pretend it was my own idea.

What else are the rest of you going to make?