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the greening of a family

Today’s post about Earth Day and raising eco consciousness in our families is from Amy Turn Sharp of Little Alouette – you can visit their lovely shop of heirloom wooden rattles and toys here.

(photo above from Little Alouette)

Earth Day 2010 celebrates the 40th anniversary of a wonderful movement started by Senator Gaylord Nelson. He had a great idea and kept working at spreading the word in a grassroots way, starting with a Scholastic Magazine article that the schools across America read and shared. It seemed that everyone began working together to focus on starting this special day. It started small but has grown into a promise by many of us to protect and nurture Mother Earth.

photo via Flickr

I love the story of the movement being started by the small ones! Yay for wee ones and educators! You can start today to make life a bit greener in your home in simple and affordable ways. The greening of a family can start slowly with simple deliberate actions.

photo via Flickr

Here are some ideas for raising eco consciousness in your family:

• Make your own household items like detergents and cleaners. I made laundry detergent last year and have fallen in love with the economical and greener clean I get from the mix. Check out our blog here to find out how!

• I like to use vinegar for most of my cleaning. You can dilute it and add water and presto you have a perfect cleaner that is very inexpensive. Baking soda is perfect all-purpose scrub and won’t harm little ones. I love using natural products and I find that adding essential oils can give you a fresher scent and mood lift while cleaning.

• If you can give up a paper towel addiction turn to washable cloths and kitchen towels. I love micro fiber cloths!

• Teach your children well! Talk about recycling and head to a local landfill and recycling center for a field trip. Have a simple recycling center in your home and let even the youngest place items in the bins. Label bins with pictures and word and encourage your children to recycle each day. Try out backyard or kitchen composting. For a load of fun and science try vermicomposting! WORMS! (We do it and it is a blast!)

Art for kiddos- talk to kids about thinking first about the supplies we have in the home for art. The recycling bin is a perfect place to check first.

Check out the Crafty Crow for amazing recycled art activities!
I found this amazing Springtime fun on the site this week….

boats from cork!

Save those corks!

Another fun activity for Earth Day and beyond is stamp making in the recycling bin

You can start small and teach your children that tiny steps in the right direction will help us all and truly honor Mother Earth.

Thanks! Amy Turn Sharp of Little Alouette xo

Be sure to check out Little Alouette’s beautiful teething trees, made from Ohio maple wood (and much love), and all the other beautiful handmade pieces in their shop.

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Earth Day how-to :: make an upcycled shipping envelope {and another GIVEAWAY!}

Earth Day is just around the corner, and the NaturalKids team here on Etsy is having a huge (56 shops!) sale and promotion to celebrate. With the Earth as our muse, today’s tutorial is timely and fabulously functional. It’s by Kat from katsinthebelfry, her lovely shop full of gnomes, toys, kits, crowns and more.

Oh, and you can enter another beautiful GIVEAWAY of natural kids toys and more over at the beautiful blog, NaturalSuburbia

(a beautiful playsilk from PolkadotDragon, a felted snail from MuddyFeet and a wooden iron from PrettyDreamer)

Now onto the tutorial….
New (upcycled) shipping envelopes – the tutorial, by Kat

People have been emailing, asking about the envelopes I talked about recently. Since I needed to make a few the other day, I thought I’d photograph the process for you.

*prepare the bag: carefully remove the handles, & toss them into your recycling bin. Next you’ll need to cut the bag open; do this by cutting down one corner seam, then around the base. now your bag should lie flat.

* place your item on the bag, & measure 2 inches around. you can either cut out 2 of of this size, or fold your bag over, then cut once. i did the latter here. definitely fold if your item is bulky.

*with your machine set to zig zag, stitch around three sides. leave a bit of a seam allowance, & don’t forget to back stitch.

*slip your item in. make sure you ease it to the bottom of your envelope, so you don’t accidentally sew through it. for a bit of padding you can first wrap your item in some of the tissue you saved from your birthday prezzies.

*sew the fourth side closed, back stitching once more to avoid ravelling.

*if your bag has a fancy design, as does mine, add a label for the address.

*a reminder to recycle your envelope would be a lovely addition. perhaps i should have gone with a color not in the bag’s design.

*make more! my bag made 1 small, & 1 large envelope.

these are fun to make, & take very little time. happy envelope-making!

Here’s something lovely from Kat’s shop!

Sunee, a Shakespearian wooden doll, clothed in Shakespeare’s writing, and sweet as can be!

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Make your own linen freshener (from your garden)

Today’s all-natural tutorial is by Luisa of DanceInMyGarden, her Etsy shop stocked with beautiful flag buntings, and much more. Gardens in Luisa’s home of Australia are in full bloom, while ours in more northern climates are just getting underway. Now we know what we’ll need to plant this spring to use in our linen fresheners!

How to make your own linen freshener from your garden

You can use this laundry freshener in any room of course,
it has a fresh green herbacous scent, and is fun to make with the kids.
You will need 3 things from your garden, and 2 ingredients from your kitchen pantry.
So here it is…

You will need some lavender

some rosemary

bay leaves

Dry out the leaves and lavender heads, and crush them up in your hands.

Then you need to add some rock salt, and whole black pepper.
You don’t need lots and lots, just a couple of tablespoons of each.
The quantity isn’t important, just wing it.
And buy some cheap rock salt, don’t use your expensive organic salt, like I have done!

Find a nice bowl to put the pot pourri into and voila! You are done.
Now, wasn’t that easy peasy?
If you want you can also add a little orris root powder as a fixative, but I didn’t.

Sweet smelling linen and towels.

Bag up the rest, and save for later, or give-away little bundles wrapped in muslin.

Oh, every now and then, when you go into your laundry cupboard to pick up a fresh item, and you see your little bowl, remember to crush the dried leaves to release their scent.
You could also add some drops of essentials oils of lavender, rosemary, to make it smell a bit stronger, and it will last a lot longer.

What’s in DanceInMyGarden’s handmade shop? Here’s a beautiful bunting, perfect for ushering in spring to our backyards!

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by Jen of SewnNatural

What are the sources of our inspiration? Where do we, as artists, mothers, fathers, teachers, chefs and community members, find fuel to light the sparks of creativity within us?

image above via Flickr

For one NaturalKids member, Farida (you can visit her magical shop, Alkelda, here) stories and storytelling are closely woven into her artistry, and her life. “I create figures for people to use in nature table displays and in storytelling for folk tales, fairy tales, saints’ legends, therapy… wherever the imagination leads.”

We are thrilled to announce that starting very soon, Farida (of Alkelda) will be regularly posting interesting and delightful book suggestions on this blog. Our new blog bookshelf will be a fresh new feature for our minds, hearts, and imaginations.

image via Flickr

This week, Farida curated an Etsy Treasury based on the inspiration she found in a wonderful story called Sand Flat Shadows – you can read it here. Here is the collection of handmade pieces she put together, a collection you can also see here for the next few days:

Here is one of the lovely dolls in Alkelda’s shop, the Blue Blossom princess, ready for gentle play on your nature table or woven into your stories!

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Friday Feature with WoodToyShop

Tell us little about yourself!

I have two daughters ages 9 and 12, who help me a lot in the workshop. It’s great having them around and they give me a lot of great feedback for my toys. I have a BS in Finance and MA in Economics. I have worked in many different fields including finance and as a consultant in economics. I have also worked as a software engineer and a flight instructor. I like making toys the best and have been doing it the longest.

What do you make and how long have you been creating?
I started making wooden toys when my first daughter was two and I made her a locomotive. It was a big project and looked beautiful. It kind of lit a spark for me that eventually became a full time job.

What inspires you?
I like to make toys that do things. My favorites are rubber band powered vehicles and catapults.

What got you started working with wood?
I started out taking a woodworking class while in grad school. I made an end table. After that I built my own house, and built the cabinets for it during the winter before we broke ground.

Tell us more about your “off the grid” work space?
My workspace is the basement of our house. So my commute is down the stairs. We aren’t off grid, but we do have thermal solar panels that makes our hot water and photovoltaic panels that produce about a third of our total electricity consumption.

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?
I have been on Etsy for 1 1/2 years and it’s been great. Orders trickle in during the year and stream in at Christmas. It’s a nice place to get exposure both for retail sales and linking up with wholesale clients.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?
Keep at it, your business will build over time and don’t be afraid of nurturing wholesale accounts.

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?

The natural kids group has been very helpful. The efforts as a team I think have made a big difference for me. Also there is a lot of very good advice that team members provide.

What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?
I’m not sure if I have good thoughts on this subject, however I have seen plenty of eyes twinkle when kids(young and adult) pick up a catapult and imagine the trouble they can get into.

Your items can be found where:

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard