Barganic Alert: Holistic Black Friday Through Cyber Monday Deals Continue

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday. I had a great afternoon and evening with family and good friends. It was particularly special to see all of the little friends and cousins running around and playing together. It brings me great joy to start to make happy memories in our new home.

The deluge of Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals is in full force. I will try to post deals that I think are significant and may be of interest for those looking to make healthier and more natural choices this holiday season and into the new year. Please share any deals that you may find in the comments.

Subscription Box Deals:

You all must know by now that I love crunchy-friendly subscription boxes, and I think that they make great gifts or gifts-to-self. The following subscriptions are all featured on my Ultimate Guide to Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes. You can find out more about each one there.

1. Beauty Heroes green beauty subscription is offering 10% off all gift subscriptions with the code CELEBRATE. Deal ends 11/30. See my Beauty Heroes reviews here.

2. La Ritzy vegan green beauty subscription service is offering 40% off your first box for any new subscription using the code BF40 . Deal ends 1/1/2016. I just received my first La Ritzy box this month (review to come) and have been enjoying the mix of skincare and cosmetic items included.

3. Love Goodly green lifestyle subscription box offering 20% off sitewide with code CYBERLOVE.

4. Yogi Surprise yoga lifestyle subscription box offering 25% off regular or jewelry subscriptions with code BLACKFRIDAY today only.

5. Causebox socially conscious lifestyle box offering 10% off subscriptions with code BLACKBOX valid 11/27 only through 11:59pm PST.

6. The Honest Company offering 50% off first subscription bundle with code BUNDLE50

7. Cuisine Cube is offering $10 off your first artisan, vegan, or gluten-free cube with code THANKSCUBE10.

8. Glowing Beets green beauty box is offering 50% off first box to new subscribers with code NEW50 and 30% off all shop purchases of $35+ with code GB30 through 11/30

9. Farm to People offering 20% off sitewide on their small-batch, non-GMO, humanely-raised food products with code blackfriday. Can be used on gift subscriptions (including gifts to self).

10. Healthy Surprise offering 20% off sitewide with code blackfriday25. Includes their gluten-free, GMO-free, and Paleo snack boxes.

Green Beauty:

1. Kahina Giving Beauty offering 20% off entire luxe skincare purchase with code KAHINA20 through 11/30.

2. 100% Pure is offering 40%-65% off on their Black Friday mystery bags. New customers may also qualify for $30 off $60 purchase through link provided. Ends today at 11:59pm PST.

3. W3ll People offering 20% off sitewide and free shipping on their green beauty cosmetic items. Deal runs through 11/30 at 11:59pm PST.

4. S. W. Basics green, natural skincare and body care items are all on sale up to 30% off today only. Use code VIP10 for an additional 10% off your purchase.

5. Birchbox is offering 25% off purchases with code BIGDEAL and 30% off for Aces members with code ACESONLY . Although Birchbox carries conventional beauty brands as well, they have great products from many green beauty brands including One Love Organics, Kahina Giving Beauty, Alima Pure, Inika, 21 Drops, and more.

6. Pharmaca is offering 30% off their health and wellness brands today only with code FRIDAY . Some exclusions apply, but includes great brands like Acure, Eminence Organic, Earth Mama Angel Baby, Motherlove, Pangea Organics, Suki, S. W. Basics, Zhena Gypsy Tea, Plan Toys, and Melissa & Doug.

Toys, Goodies, and Kid Things:

1. Natural Candy Store is offering candy specials on many holiday favorites. Some deals include 15% off gluten free, vegan, organic peppermint bark and 25% off organic English Toffee. As always, all candies are free of food dyes and artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners, and they come highly recommended by the Halloween Fairy.

2. hanna Andersson offering all of their organic cotton longjohns (pajamas) for $20 through cyber weekend (regularly priced at $40-$46). All other items are an additional 15% off online and 25% off in stores.

3. CP Toys is offering 20% off your entire purchase today only with code CPT15TF. Although they carry a range of toys from more natural to more conventional, some of my favorite items include Tree Blocks and child-size tools, perfect for little learning hands to gain skills.

4. Magic Cabin, a popular natural toy resource for Waldorf, Montessori, and open-ended natural toys is offering up to 50% off on a selection of items in their Black Friday collection. Click through the link to see the complete range of items included.

I hope that you find some great deals that allow you to uphold your values without blowing your budget.

**Barganic Alerts are an effort to spread awareness about affordable crunchy goods and services (and here’s why). They are not endorsements. They tend to be time-limited, and often go quickly. To make sure that you are always in the know, subscribe to CrunchyParent.com to receive emails of all Barganic Alerts as soon as they are posted**

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Lemon Compress: Natural Remedy for Chest Congestion, Sore Throat & Cold Symptoms

Photo credit: Vanilla and lace / Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: Vanilla and lace / Foter.com / CC BY

I do not know how the colder weather and darker days are impacting the members of your family, but we here are a seemingly endless chorus of *cough* *cough* and *sniffle.* Once upon a time we did not get sick very often, but with children getting older and branching out into the world more it means increased exposure to germs. With all three of them in school full days for the first time we are also battling increased stress, decreased outdoor and play time, and less sleep. In combination, it is no wonder that we are succumbing to illness more often.

I am always trying to incorporate more ways to bring fresh air, healthy food, and positive wellness practices into our lives. Over the years, I have also tried to gather ideas to address illness and manage symptoms in many ways and representing different schools of thought. This helps me to draw from a great big bag of tricks when a child gets sick.

The idea of a lemon compress to help alleviate sore throat and chest congestion was introduced to me by an anthroposophical doctor who gave a talk at the kids’ Waldorf school over nine years ago. I have used it countless times since, and we have found it to be a gentle and low intervention method that provides symptom relief for the kids. It is also quick and easy to prepare, and one of the many reasons why I always keep fresh lemons in the house.

As a reminder, I am not a medical doctor. I am sharing this information but advise you to consult your own medical practitioner and make your own decision before adopting any new health practice.

For your lemon compress you will need:

a lemon, organic preferred
hot water, approximately 2 cups
bowl or dish with high sides
natural fiber cloth, rag, or wash cloth
wool flannel or felt (I used part of an old felted sweater)
sick child (an adult would work too)

1. Heat your water until just below a simmer. You can do this directly from the sink if your tap can get quite hot. You can use a pot on the stove, an electric tea kettle, etc. Please avoid using a microwave for this step. I used my stove top and heated the water until I just started to see little bubbles at the bottom of the pot, which is technically a saucepan, but I still call it a pot.

making a lemon compress for cough and colds natural remedy

2. Next, you will want to cut your lemon in half width-wise. Take this half and place it cut side up.

Hello little lemon. You smell nice.

Hello little lemon. You smell nice.

Then, taking your knife, cut across the lemon’s face to divide the lemon into eight sections. Try to cut through the lemon flesh and peel, avoiding the divisions between the segments. Extend the cuts about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way down the height of the lemon so that the pieces remain attached. That sounds complicated, right? It’s not. A picture will make this much clearer.

crunchy parent lemon compress tutorial

3. Okay, now that we’ve cleared that up, pour the water into a bowl or better yet a high-sided, shallow dish. Then place the lemon face down in the water and smoosh it down using your hand or the back of a spoon if it is too hot to tolerate doing with your hand. The lemon should splay out like a flower. Really squash it to release the juice and the volatile essential oils from the peel.

lemon compress for natural cough and cold relief

4. Take your natural fiber cloth or rag and soak it in the lemon water.

rag soaking in lemon water for compress

Wring out the cloth until it is no longer dripping wet. Check the temperature of the cloth to make sure that it will not be too hot for your child’s skin. If it is too hot, wave it around gently in the air for a few seconds until it has cooled enough. It will cool pretty quickly.

lemon compress

5. Fold cloth to a manageable size and place it on the child’s chest and throat area, avoiding their nipples. I folded my wash cloth into thirds lengthwise and then folded up the length a bit. I placed this in the center of the chest in between the nipples to avoid irritation. Then, cover the wet cloth with the wool flannel or piece of felted wool. This will contain the moisture and help hold in warmth. Whenever we get holes in a wool sweater, I felt the sweaters and cut lengths to use with compresses.

Placement of lemon compress and wool cover.

Placement of lemon compress and wool cover.

You can then reposition the child’s shirt back over the wool to help hold everything in place. I cover the child with a warm blanket (unless they are feverish and uncomfortably hot) and encourage the child to engage in a restful activity like reading a book. They usually opt to watch TV, which I let them do because they’re sick and crabby.

6. After five minutes, check the cloth. If it has grown cold, apply a new compress (you can reheat the water a bit and wet the same rag again). Continue to check and refresh the compress for a total of approximately fifteen minutes. This process can be repeated several times throughout the day as needed.

When doing the compress, you may find that the skin shows a bit of redness or a slight rash. This is usually not cause for concern, rather it may indicate action beneath the skin, which is good. However if significant irritation, burning, or general discomfort arises, discontinue use and wash the area to remove the acidulated water. Likewise, avoid applying the compress to skin that is cracked, chapped, broken, or otherwise compromised.

For more information about anthroposophy as it relates to health and wellness, the doctor who taught me about this compress recommended the book, Practical Home Care Medicine. I personally am not an anthroposophist nor have not read the book. I cannot comment with respect to the suggestions that it makes. Since the anthroposophic perspective is a relatively esoteric one however, I wanted to provide the resource for those who may be interested in learning more.

What are some of your favorite natural remedies to help support health during the cold and dark months ahead?

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Fiber Art Tutorial: Creating Prefelts & Felt Sheets through Wet Felting

Crunchy Parent fiber art tutorial creating prefelts & felt sheets through wet felting (with video)

There is just something about fall weather and wool for me. The change of the seasons and crispness in the air inspires me to to recreate what I see outdoors in a woolen form.

In this tutorial I take you through the process of creating your own custom sheets of wool felt or wool prefelts to serve as the foundation for many crafting projects. The process of wet felting the wool can be carried all the way through to create firmly felted, sturdy sheets of textile that can be cut, sewn, and used in countless craft projects. Another option is to more loosely felt the sheets into prefelts that grant the flexibility of being embellished in future projects, such as through needle felting, or incorporated into other projects. Your prefelted sheet can serve as the base for a playscape or be felted onto a figure or other piece of felt crafting. For a more in depth look at the difference between prefelts and felt sheets, and suggestions for using prefelts, read this article.

Wool batting & roving waiting to become something pretty.

Wool batting & roving waiting to become something pretty.

To create your felt or prefelt sheet, you will need the basic materials of water, soap, wool batting or roving, and some bubble wrap. In addition, you can use embellishments in your work such as bits of wool or silk yarn, dyed silk scraps, curly wool locks, angelina fibers for sparkle, or bits of prefelts. You can also use tools to expedite or simplify your work process. These include towels, a sushi mat, piece of foam pool noodle or rolling pin, or one of these beautiful “hand washboard” felting tools. Rubber bands or pieces of yarn or scrap fabric to tie your roll together may also come in handy as you work, and you may need some tape to attach multiple pieces of bubble wrap for larger projects, as demonstrated in the video.

Reclaimed wool yarn, sari silk yarn, & curly wool locks add character.

Reclaimed wool yarn, sari silk yarn, & curly wool locks add character.

As I’ve mentioned before, the wool fiber supplies can be gathered from many retail sources online and through craft sites such as Etsy or ebay. You may also be lucky enough to have fiber shops or a Waldorf school local to you who may carry supplies. I purchased some of my colored batting through Peace Fleece. I also love shopping at Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio, which was my local fiber shop prior to our move, and where I stopped in for a visit recently as I said in the video. The studio is run by a lovely crunchy family. For those who are not local to them, they do sell products online and through Etsy as well. I have even noticed that chain-store craft stores like Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric carry a limited selection of needle felting tools, kits, and supplies, wool batting, and roving as well if you wish to go that route.

I am not entirely sure what I will create next with the sheet that I made. It is softly felted enough that I can use it as a prefelt for future crafting, but sturdy enough that I may use it to craft some fall leaves to combine with the wool acorns that I made recently to create a wreath or a garland. Any thoughts?

If you are interested in seeing other crafting tutorials, take a look here. While there, subscribe to the Crunchy Parent YouTube channel for more crafting videos to come.

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The Halloween Fairy Talks: 50+ Ideas for Non-Edible Halloween Treats and Gifts

Photo credit: anathea / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: anathea / Foter / CC BY

As I mentioned earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to secure an exclusive interview with the Halloween Fairy. For those unfamiliar with her, the Halloween Fairy works in cooperation with volunteer children to collect candy on Halloween and deliver it to kids who were unable to participate in Trick or Treating. Volunteer children leave some or all of their candy for the Fairy on Halloween night. In the morning the kids can find what the Halloween Fairy has left them; often a mix of small gifts and different candies, better suited for the volunteer child.

With our combination of food allergies and sensitivities, as well as a penchant for preferring more natural candies than those typically offered on Halloween, our kids are perfect candidates for Halloween Fairy volunteers. We have been exchanging with the Halloween Fairy since Eva was in preschool. Recently, I wrote about some of the Halloween Fairy’s favorite resources for finding natural, GMO-free, food-allergy sensitive, and other “healthier” treats for her Halloween exchanges. I also wanted to take time to share some of the Halloween Fairy’s suggestions for non-edible treats that the she has left for our kids and for other children to discover after Halloween.

There are 50+ suggestions below that are often a good fit for a lot of kids. The Halloween Fairy tends to emphasize items that will help the children transition into fall and winter and to appreciate nature and the changes that they see around them at this time of year. She usually brings each child a few small gifts to enjoy. Some links have been provided as examples. They are not meant to be endorsements, and neither the Halloween Fairy nor I are affiliated with any of the vendors linked. In fact, the Halloween Fairy often crafts items herself when she can.


cheekycrows3 / Foter / CC BY-ND

1. Colored chalk
2. Colored pencils or Halloween-themed pencils
3. Crayons (a few new fall colors, perhaps)
4. Crayon roll or Stand
5. Coloring book
6. “Sticks” of modeling beeswax in fall shades (sometimes Waldorf school stores will sell individual sticks)
7. Watercolor paper and paints
8. Small tubs of natural craft “dough” (can be scented with essential oils if homemade)
9. Journal
10. Small vehicles such as die-cast or wood cars, trucks, or trains
11. Bracelet
12. Necklace
13. Barrettes
14. Playsilk or silk handkerchief in an autumn color
15. Wooden figure such as a squirrel or owl
16. Peg dolls, especially fun in “costumes” or other autumn themes
17. Autumn fairies or gnomes
18. Toy pumpkins: knitted, felted, or wood
19. Felting kit
20. Wool ball with an autumn theme (tutorial)
21. Playfood-knitted and wood examples
22. A little pocket friend (e.g., mouse, dragon baby, mole)
23. Silk streamer
24. Ribbon rings/hand kite
25. Jacob’s ladder
26. Wood brain teaser puzzles
27. Finger puppets
28. Bean bags
29. Kazoo
30. Whistle
31. Yo-yo
32. Wool acorns (tutorial)
33. Natural treasures (acorns, stones, pine cones, sea glass, pods, seeds, etc.)
34. Day pass to a children’s museum, zoo, arboretum, botanic garden, etc.
35. Ticket to a local children’s theater performance
36. Ticket to a movie
37. Age-appropriate book with an autumn or Halloween theme
38. Stickers, maybe Halloween or autumn-themed
39. Fancy bandages
40. Fun or fancy toothbrush
41. Non-toxic nail polish
42. All-natural lip balm
43. Travel size natural hand lotion
44. Travel size natural bath products in yummy fall scent
45. Cute knit wool hat
46. Adorable mittens or these
47. Scarf
48. Suncatcher
49. Dreamcatcher
50. Flower press or leaf press
51. Herbal tea (technically edible, but great for fall and certainly not candy)

The Halloween Fairy and I hope that these ideas will inspire a happier Halloween for your child should he or she choose to partner with the Halloween Fairy this year. Has the Halloween Fairy blessed your child with a special gift or treat that was especially appreciated?

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The Halloween Fairy: Bringing Balance and Food Allergy Safety to Our Holiday

Photo credit: tinyfroglet / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: tinyfroglet / Foter / CC BY

I have very fond memories of Halloween from my childhood. There was just something so exciting about going around the neighborhood dressed up as a magical character of some sort. I loved seeing all of the other costumed children running through the streets, excited to receive delightful treats at every house. I remember my sister’s utter despair one year when she could not come with us because she had chicken pox on Halloween. I carried a sign and collected candy on her behalf so that she would not be left out of all of the fun (and since she had caught the chicken pox from me, it seemed to be the least that I could do).

My siblings and I would end each Halloween night sorting through our bags of goodies and counting up the pennies that we had collected in our UNICEF boxes. After enjoying a few sweet treats, and participating in some intense candy-trade negotiations, our bags of candy were stored on top of the refrigerator where we could not easily reach them. A piece or two of candy would be dispensed to us each day to enjoy, unless of course we pulled a kitchen chair over to the fridge when our parents weren’t looking. Then it was all “Lord of the Flies” as we stuffed candy into our mouths and pockets. Eventually, the favorites from our bags were all gone (mom and dad may have helped, but I have no official confirmation of this). The less desired candies languished at the bottom of the bag, growing stale. Ultimately they were abandoned and thrown in the trash.

The reality is, a lot of the excitement of Halloween for many children is the sheer kid-anarchy of it all; you wear fantasy clothes outside, approach unknown houses, and come away from the night with as much candy as you can carry. It’s madness, I tell you. The feeling of abundance and wildly increased access to candy are often part of the magic of the holiday. In truth, it’s more than children need to make special Halloween memories. Having a large enough haul to be eating candy bars every day for weeks on end seems like an unnecessarily long, sugar-fueled, holiday celebration.

Like many parents, when I had children I looked forward to sharing experiences with them that would create memories like the fond ones from my childhood. When I had my first baby, Halloween took on a refreshed sense of fun. I loved dressing Eva up for her first Halloween, creating a costume from clothes and objects from around the house like we used to do as kids (she was a basketball player). Candy was unnecessary, and I wouldn’t have fed it to her anyway. For her first few Halloweens, candy and going Trick-or-Treating really played little part in the holiday for us; it was about the pumpkin patch, carving Jack-o-Lanterns, roasting pumpkin seeds, and dressing up. Eva also really enjoyed greeting other children who came to the door, and handing out candy to them. It was like an endless play date of generosity.

Somewhere around Eva’s third Halloween, the idea of going Trick-or-Treating with a friend from the Waldorf school was presented and planned. One day in the parent-child class at school, the adults were doing handwork and chatting about autumn festivities while the children played. The teacher overheard our Halloween discussion and asked us if our homes had ever been visited by the Halloween Fairy. This was a new idea to me, so I was all ears. The teacher went on to explain that the Halloween Fairy provides a service for children who have not been able to go Trick-or-Treating for some reason or other, perhaps because their sister gave them a communicable illness. She visits homes on the night of Halloween, gathering candy that has been left for these children by generous Trick-or-Treaters. In exchange for the candy, she leaves a gift or gifts for the children who shared with her.

I thought that this was brilliant! Eva could participate in Trick-or-Treating, but we would not be negotiating candy distribution and consumption all through winter. The practice would also reinforce the idea of “enough” versus excess, quality over quantity; in addition to the concept of sharing good fortune with others. We talked with Eva about the Halloween Fairy, and left the fairy a note to let her know that we were happy to share with her that year.


sdixclifford / Foter / CC BY

That year and every year since, we have had a new ritual for our post Trick-or-Treating rounds. The kids dump, sort, and marvel over their candy stash. They then select 5-10 pieces of candy to keep and enjoy. The rest of the candy we leave out in the children’s collection buckets for the Halloween Fairy. In the morning, the kids are thrilled to find what has been left for them, and the trading and negotiations among siblings commences, just as it did when I was a kid.

Over the years we have been fortunate enough to have been visited by the Halloween Fairy many times. She even followed us to another state when we had an event on Halloween and our kids were the ones who could not go Trick-or-Treating. There was far less protesting and panic when they remembered that the Halloween Fairy wouldn’t leave them out of the holiday. Other children would collect and share on their behalf, just as they had done in past years. Likewise, if Trick-or-Treating is ever cut short by bad weather, scheduling challenges, tired siblings, or whatnot, there is less pressure to make it to a certain number of houses to get “enough” candy. The kids know that whether they collect ten pieces of candy or one hundred, they will have the same amount of candy to enjoy by the next morning.

The Halloween Fairy respects the choices that we make to generally avoid ingredients like artificial flavors and food dyes. She has always left the children with fun, but healthier candies and snacks. When we discovered that the children had various food allergies and sensitivities, the Halloween Fairy adjusted her gifts to include candies that were safe for our kids and all of their dietary needs. They were beyond thrilled to get special treats that they looked forward to every year (I’m talking to you gluten free, vegan, non-GMO Milky Way bar). Long before The Teal Pumpkin Project and Halloween food allergy awareness was “a thing”, it made receiving Trick-or-Treating candy on Halloween that they could not eat less frustrating. They knew that the Halloween Fairy would bring that candy to another child who could eat it, and they would get allergy-safe candies in exchange.

I have been pleased to see that each year the Halloween Fairy has left the children a combination of sweets and candy alternatives such as small gifts. I’m excited that the children get to experience a part of the magical abundance of the holiday. I like to think however that when moderation is the norm, this occasional abundance is more memorable, and doesn’t require an “anything goes” quality to feel really special. They can relate to peers who are telling captivating stories about their Trick-o-Treating spoils and snacking on their booty, but they are not in an endless sugar coma for the month of November, or ingesting foods that make them feel sick. They also have lasting, useful items that help them remember the fun of Halloween and the magic of the Halloween Fairy long after all of the candy wrappers have been thrown away.

I am excited to announce that I was able to secure an exclusive interview with the Halloween Fairy. She shared her secret resources for the best places to find healthier and food allergy-friendly treats and snacks, as well as ideas for non-edible Halloween treats.

I hope that if the Halloween Fairy sounds like a good match for your family, she will find her way to your home this year. How do you balance abundance with healthy moderation in your home for Halloween?

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Felted Wool Acorn Tutorial

Crunchy Parent felted wool acorn tutorial photo and video picture

I love working wool, especially as it moves into the cooler weather. There is just something so magical to me about taking the cottony fluff of wool and transforming it into sculpture or textile with water or a felting needle. The possibilities are literally endless, which may be why I never tire of working with the medium.

Now that I have identified my boxes of wool among the seemingly endless sea of moving boxes, I am set and ready to share some wool crafting with you. This project is a quick and simple one and the results are irresistible. Everyone just seems drawn to collect, handle, and admire the little acorns falling from the sky at this time of year, and this wool acorn project brings the acorns into the home in a new way, allowing them to find their place in play, on nature tables, or in home decor.

I demonstrate this project with either needle felting or wet felting applications, and will even give you a “cheat” that will let you skip the felting process altogether and still result in cute wooly acorns if you prefer. The materials needed for the project are varied depending on which method you choose, and having multiple methods to pick from makes it very easy to adapt this craft to the ages and skill levels of children who you might wish to include in the craft. Regardless of the method selected, you will need wool batting and acorn caps that have been separated from their acorns and thoroughly dried.

Acorn caps gathered from outside and colorful wool roving and batting

Acorn caps gathered from outside and colorful wool roving and batting

If you opt to wet felt your wool acorns you will also need:

hot water
soap (dish soap or liquid castile are easiest to work with)
bowl (optional; a sink works fine too)
towel
craft glue or hot glue and a hot glue gun

Bring on the wet felting!

Bring on the wet felting!

If you prefer to needle felt your wool acorns you will need:

felting needle
felting pad
craft glue or hot glue and a hot glue gun

Felting needles and foam pad

Felting needles and foam pad



If you wish to skip the felting but still make cute wool acorns you will need:

purchased wool balls/beads
craft glue or hot glue and a hot glue gun

The supplies can be gathered from many retail sources online and through craft sites such as Etsy or ebay. You may also be lucky enough to have fiber shops or a Waldorf school local to you who may carry supplies. I purchased my felting needles and some of my colored batting through Peace Fleece. I also love shopping at Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio, which was my local fiber shop prior to our move, and where I stopped in for a visit this past weekend. The studio is run by a lovely crunchy family. For those who are not local to them, they do sell products online and through Etsy as well. I have even noticed that chain-store craft stores like Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric carry a limited selection of needle felting tools, kits, and supplies, wool batting, and roving as well if you wish to go that route. If you would prefer to avoid the felting step and limit your supplies to the third list, you can purchase pre-made wool balls/beads on Amazon or search at sites like Etsy or ebay.

Take a look at the video for the needle felting and wet felting instructions.

For a close up view, you can see the process of rolling up the roving or batting into the small ball here:

Roll and rotate

Roll and rotate

Almost done rolling and ready to needle felt or wet felt the ball.

Almost done rolling and ready to needle felt or wet felt the ball.

In addition, one of the nice aspects of needle felting versus wet felting is the ability to have a bit more control over the process. When I needle felt the acorns I tend to make more varied shapes. Not only do I do round “ball” acorns, but I make more oblong or pointed shapes as well. I tend to draw inspiration from the acorns that I remove from the caps and mirror their shapes in my work.

Needle felted pointed acorn

Needle felted pointed acorn

Although not shown in the video, once you wool balls are ready (and thoroughly dry if you opted for wet felting), mix and match them with your acorn caps. As mentioned in the video, if you have a bumpy or otherwise less attractive spot on your wool ball, try positioning that part within the cap. Once you have found the right acorn-to-cap match and positioning, secure the balls to the caps with a bit of hot glue or with craft glue. If you use craft glue, set them aside to dry as directed on the glue bottle. If you have used hot glue, there is no need to wait.

Felted wool acorns-tutorial

When your acorns are all set, you can use them on a nature table or within a play room. They mix well with fairies, gnomes, and woodland creatures in play, or into a play kitchen as ingredients (no need to overthink, once children see them, their imaginations will know what to do with them). For those whose children appreciate tactile sensory experiences, the warm, soft feeling of the wool contrasted with he hard, textured acorn cap can be engaging. A bowl or bin filled with the acorns could make a wonderful seasonally-themed sensory area for exploration and play.

The acorns can also be used to add some fall beauty to your own home. You can pile them into bowls, clear vases, or other vessels to decorate a table or mantel. They also incorporate beautifully into a fall-themed vignette (which as far as I can tell is a nature table that people don’t want their children to touch). In addition, you can thread fishing wire, embroidery thread, thin ribbons, or other material through the wool body of the acorn and turn them into jewelry, garlands, and more.

This simple craft can be the foundation and inspiration for wonderful fall crafts that bring the beauty of nature into the home in a new way. I hope that you enjoyed the tutorial and look forward to sharing more wool crafting with you. What are some of your favorite autumn crafts? What objects in nature inspire you at this time of year?

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Kombucha 101: Grow your own SCOBY

Crunchy Parent Kombucha 101 Growing your own SCOBY at home from store bought kombucha

I remember the first time that I tasted kombucha, a fermented tea beverage. I was at a trade show for the specialty food industry with my mother and some brand representative thrust little cups of this exotic, fizzy, tea beverage into our hands as we walked down the aisles of vendor booths. We each took a sip, turned to one another with expressions that communicated our displeasure, and deposited our little cups into the next trash receptacle down the aisle. This was about fifteen years ago and I have no recollection what brand we were trying, why we found the taste so unpleasant, or how I came upon kombucha again with a more open mind years later, but it is now one of my very favorite beverages to make and to drink.

For those unfamiliar with kombucha, it is a beverage made by introducing a symbiotic culture of (good) bacteria and (good) yeast (known to its friends as a SCOBY) into a batch of sweetened tea. The SCOBY feeds off of the sugar in the tea and releases carbon dioxide throughout the fermentation process, creating a bubbly brew. The fermenting process allows the yeasts and bacteria to multiply into the tea, yielding a probiotic elixir that can do all of the wonderful things for the gut that we have come to understand and expect from probiotics. (See this article for a bit more about which probiotics have been found across kombucha samples). As we have also been learning more about the important connection between our gut and our overall immune system, kombucha may represent another way to introduce robust probiotic populations into our diet and into our gut, resulting in an overall healthier immune system.

I had become interested in kombucha once again when I began to learn and think more about cultured foods as the kids advanced through their Waldorf school. Part of the parent education piece in preschool included discussions about diet and the gut, and featured a lot of conversations about Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, as well as Weston Price, both of whom emphasized cultured foods and gut health. As I played around at home with sauerkraut and other cultured vegetables, at some point a bottle of kombucha made its way into my cart at the health food store. This was a bit odd for me as I am a water and hot tea drinker by nature. I really do not enjoy any other beverages and am not inclined to experiment with them often. That said, I loved the refreshing bite and bubbles in kombucha, and it quickly became another preferred way to hydrate and refresh.

As any regular kombucha drinker knows, a kombucha habit can become costly to support as bottles can run upwards of $4-$5 each at the store. Moreover, although the selection of available kombucha options is ever-expanding as kombucha’s popularity soars, one is still limited to the flavors available at their local markets. Fortunately kombucha is very inexpensive to make on your own, especially once you get your basic ingredients and set up ready to go (i.e., loose tea, organic sugar, good water, a brewing container, bottles, and of course your SCOBY). I knew how to source out the basic ingredients, but finding a SCOBY can be a challenge. I was lucky because one of the teachers at the school at the time brewed her own kombucha regularly and thus had SCOBYs to share (each batch will yield a new “baby SCOBY” in addition to the reusable “mother SCOBY”). I used the SCOBY that I was gifted and its resulting babies to brew and share for years. Unfortunately, with our move and extended time living in someone else’s home, I could not maintain my brewing or my SCOBYs. As soon as we got into our new house, brewing kombucha was high on my list of things to do right away, but despite asking around I could not get my hands on a new SCOBY. I considered several options (purchase one online, drive a distance to a store that sells them fresh, etc.) but in the end I opted to just grow my own.

There has been a fair amount of debate in kombucha brewing circles for a while about the feasibility of growing a SCOBY from store-bought kombucha. I participate in an active kombucha-brewing discussion group and this topic pops up a lot. Some of you may recall that a number of years ago, Whole Foods sent a panic out to their kombucha-drinking customers when they pulled all of the kombucha off of store shelves for months due to concern that the alcohol content in these beverages may have exceeded the 0.5% threshold that distinguishes “non-alcoholic beverage” from “Mommy can’t drink that in the car on the way to yoga class.” As a result of this debacle, many kombucha manufactures modified their brewing practices. It has been speculated that these changes in the brewing process have somehow altered the viability of the kombucha in such a way that it hinders the growth of a SCOBY. The general consensus is that if one is attempting to use store-bought kombucha to grow a SCOBY, they should look for a bottle that is clearly labeled “raw” and that has no added flavoring agents, like juice. To grow my SCOBY, I purchased a 16 oz. bottle of GT’s Original Organic Raw Kombucha. For good measure, I looked for one that had a lot of “gunk” in the bottom of the bottle (which I think is technically yeast, not gunk, but nevertheless having more seems to jump start the process).

Empty bottle. So excited to get started that I forgot to take a picture first.

Empty bottle. So excited to get started that I forgot to take a picture first.

There is not much that is required to grow a SCOBY, but it is important that you keep everything really clean. Because you are working with a fermentation process, you don’t want to have bad fungi or bacteria hanging out and proliferating along with the good. Accordingly, you want to make sure that you use a sterilized, clear, non-leaded glass vessel to grow your SCOBY or a sterile ceramic fermenting container. DO NOT use a plastic container or any glass with additives such as colors or metals as chemicals will leach into the tea and SCOBY during the fermentation process, which means that you’d be sipping toxins with your tea and we do not want that. I used a quart size glass canning jar that I sterilized in my dishwasher and immediately removed to put to use as my SCOBY incubator. You can also sterilize your glass jar in boiling water, in a low temperature oven, etc. I would recommend using a large-mouthed jar if possible to allow for the best air flow and surface area for SCOBY growth. The SCOBY will grow to the exact circumference of the container and you want a good size SCOBY for future batches. Also, if the top of the container is more narrow, it can be tougher to get your SCOBY out of the jar in one piece when you are ready to make your batch of kombucha.

Once you have your sterile glass jar all clean and dry, just open up your bottle of kombucha and dump it in. It’s that simple. You are going to want to let your kombucha breathe while it works to grow that SCOBY since it needs to keep taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. That said, you don’t want your jar open to all of what is floating or flying around in the air. I generally cover my jar with a scrap of clean muslin or cotton. In a pinch a scrap of an old (clean) cotton shirt will work, or in the case of having just moved into a new house and not knowing where anything is, you can use a piece of a clean paper towel. Secure your cover to the jar with a rubber band, string, or the band of the canning jar lid (without the lid piece). Next you just want to place your SCOBY jar in some out of the way place. Not too cool or too hot, and not in direct sunlight. You also want to be mindful of the need to breathe, so a counter top is good, but a closed cabinet is not. In my experience the kombucha does not like to be jostled about, especially in the early stages when a new SCOBY is growing. If you do it will disturb the SCOBY growth, which happens along the very surface of the tea. This may cause the growing SCOBY to drop down from the surface and a new one will have to start growing all over again (not a critical error, but annoying). So it really is best to find some out of the way counter space for your SCOBYs growth process, which can take from weeks to a month or so.

The following photos show my SCOBY’s progress:

Here she is after about three days. Not a whole lot going on.

Growing SCOBY from store-bought Kombucha. Slow progress on Day 3

Now we’re about a week in. You can see a thin film starting to form on the surface. That is the new SCOBY growing. From the top it looks a bit patchy, which sometimes makes people freak out (they think that it’s getting moldy). If it is fuzzy, blue, green, or black you may have a problem; but slimy, white, brown, or tan are typical SCOBY traits, and those patches will expand and grow together to make the complete SCOBY surface.

Kombucha progress-Day 7 of growing my own SCOBY from storebought GT's

It’s been about 19 days. SCOBY is starting to thicken up. You can see a couple of layers because there were two occasions when I jostled or moved the jar a bit because I was trying to get a better angle for taking pictures for demonstrative purposes to show you what it would look like. I also was worried that there might not be enough sugar in the tea to support healthy growth, so I added about a teaspoon of organic sugar to it and tried to push down the edge of the SCOBY gently with a clean straw to allow the sugar to dissolve into the tea. The new SCOBY just continued to form over the layers and they had not totally separated from the top so no biggie.

Growing my own kombucha SCOBY from storebought booch. Progress on day 19

Day 30 (today)!!! I can’t believe that it’s been a month already. I really should have unpacked more by now, which has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but goodness a month already!?!

Growing my own kombucha SCOBY from scratch. Progress day 30. Success!

The SCOBY is not quite 3/4” thick and is very pretty, if you’re into that sort of thing. You can see some of the CO2 bubbles trapped below the SCOBY and some yeast “gunk” hanging off the bottom of the SCOBY to the right. I will be brewing up my first batch of kombucha with my new SCOBY soon, as well as using the remaining tea in the jar as the starter tea for the batch. It is still a small SCOBY, so I will need to brew a relatively small batch, but it will get the job done.

If you want to join me in kombucha brewing, start growing your SCOBY now and get your hands on some organic sugar and non-flavored, loose leaf, black tea or you can blend black, green, and/or rooibos tea (unflavored is a must though). You’ll also want a larger non-leaded glass container for your larger brew. I use this type of jar without the lid. They are often sold in 1/2 gallon, 1 gallon, or 2 gallon sizes at stores like Target. Hold onto that kombucha bottle as well because it will come in handy when you are bottling your homemade brew. We’ll talk more about the “why”s of all of those specifics next time, but just trust me for now.

Have you ever brewed your own kombucha at home or grown your own SCOBY from scratch? If you have any tips or favorite flavor combinations to share, I’d love to hear them.

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Happy Hedgehog Post Waldorf Subscription Box Unboxing and Review-August 2015

Happy Hedgehog Post is an indie subscription service featuring products for children and families to enhance their home, crafts, and nature tables. With a distinct focus on the handmade, seasonal, and natural, this subscription may be a good option for families who are familiar with, and appreciate a Waldorf schooling and play approach. Each month will include materials and instructions for one or more craft projects, a Zine featuring season-specific stories, recipes, and more, and a special gift often appropriate for play or to beautify a nature table. In addition, each month, HHP donates 10% of the purchase price of every subscription envelope to support a different charity of their choosing. This month, funds went to Foodlink to help fight hunger in America. The August Happy Hedgehog Post envelope is sold out, but the September envelope is still available for purchase.

Envelopes cost $31.00 per month, (shipping included), less with multi-month subscriptions. In addition, if you want to purchase a second envelope for a sibling, a Sibling Envelope can be added to your purchase for $18. Sibling Envelopes include a second dose of all supplies necessary to complete the month’s crafts. They do not include the monthly Zine and bonus gift. I purchased this envelope and I was not compensated in any way for my review. You can check out my other Happy Hedgehog Post reviews here.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

The August envelope had an Michaelmas theme. For those who are unfamiliar with the holiday often celebrated in Waldorf schools, you can learn more about Michaelmas, with some suggestions for versus and activities consistent with Waldorf education and homeschooling here. In brief, Michaelmas tells the story of brave St. George taming a dragon who was terrorizing a town. St. George musters his courage to triumph over the dragon, just as children must summon their inner courage at times of challenge. Likewise, as Michaelmas falls near the autumn equinox, there is often a focus on light and dark; looking inward for light during times of darkness.

*Rainbow playsilk not included

*Rainbow playsilk not included

The box included the Happy Hedgehog Post August Zine which contained a number of seasonal poems and verses, a short story called The Brave Boy, and two recipes; one for an Irish Michaelmas pie filled with seasonal blackberries, and the second for Dragon Bread, a traditional food eaten in celebration of Michaelmas. Waldorf education is aligned with some spiritual beliefs which can be incorporated to a greater or lesser degree into the children’s consciousness depending on the approach of a given program. Some of the poems and verses in this month’s HHP Zine did tend to have a religious and spiritual overtone, so it is worth considering how this might fit with your personal beliefs and with your family.

The box also included a beautiful small nested cave, perfect for hiding small dragon figures or other toys or natural objects. The cave was handmade out of reclaimed barn wood by From Jennifer as a custom item for this month’s HHP box.

*Rainbow playsilk still not included

*Rainbow playsilk still not included

The first craft project included was a wool dragon. This item had been teased before the envelope’s release and I was excited for it, although I think that I was expecting a more traditional, Waldorf-style, three-dimensional dragon. The pattern had more of a cute “stuffie” feel, reinforced by the tropical aqua and mango colors of the wool provided. I think that the kids will still like the dragon, and Asher may be especially enamored with it, but I would say that it is more of a cute dragon than a fierce one that would require courage to tame. HHP included the pattern for the dragon as well as 100% wool felt, wool batting to stuff the dragon, embroidery thread, and a needle. The tutorial was posted as a three part video series of over an hour’s worth of video instruction, and can be seen on the Happy Hedgehog Post YouTube channel.

*Rainbow playsilk from my own collection. Not included. My children would miss it.

*Rainbow playsilk from my own collection. Not included. My children would miss it.

Despite my confusion in the video, HHP did include a second craft; a wool felt treasure pouch. I think that this project is just perfect for autumn. My children (and their mother) have a tendency to collect treasures from nature in all seasons, but fall is an especially tempting time to gather objects that tumble to the ground from the trees. The kids always seem to have pockets filled with goodies that they collect. A treasure pouch would make clear that the items contained were special and not to be forgotten (in some pants pocket that mom might absentmindedly toss in the wash). The 100% wool felt pouch comes together quickly through techniques like the blanket stitch, finger knitting for the strap, and sewing on the lovely wood button. I think that this would be a very nice project for one of the girls to make. Asher is really the perfect age and size for this type of pouch, so I may suggest that one of the girls consider crafting it as a gift to him. HHP included the pre-cut 100% wool felt, wool yarn, wood burned wood button, embroidery thread, and needle for the project. The instructions were available as a fifteen minute video.

*Playsilk not included, but you knew that.

*Playsilk not included, but you knew that.

As I mentioned in my last HHP unboxing and review, I think that Happy Hedgehog Post can be a difficult subscription for assessing value. I believe that the perceived value will vary greatly depending on the priorities and experience of the crafter. Happy Hedgehog Post stays very true to their mission of providing craft projects using natural materials and with a seasonal and Waldorf-based feel, in addition to writings, recipes, and a bonus item in keeping with that same spirit. The craft projects and videos are accessible to the beginning crafter and can be tailored to inspire creative expansion by more experienced crafters who may have their own additional supplies on-hand. For instance I might choose to embroider acorns, leaves, toadstools, root children, or other seasonal images onto the treasure pouch. HHP is a great window into Waldorf education for those less familiar, and a wonderful way to bring handcrafting with natural materials, seasonal appreciation, and familial rituals and rhythms deeper into daily home life. Individuals very familiar with Waldorf or who have themselves gained a great deal of experience with handcrafting may find that they use the themes and projects as a gentle reminder to fold verses, celebrations, and their talents in their own home even more, or as a springboard for more advanced craft projects.

I really appreciate what a unique subscription service Happy Hedgehog Post provides. There are other crafting subscriptions on the market with a “green” theme, but I am not aware of any who can compare to the commitment to natural materials that HHP embodies. I also like the online video tutorials that demonstrate the crafts, and the opportunity to learn basic crafting techniques that can be applied to many projects in the future. Families who appreciate nature and celebrating the seasons will likely enjoy what HHP has to offer and people looking to bring or enhance a Waldorf education experience in their children’s lives will be hard pressed to find anything else like Happy Hedgehog Post’s subscription. The September envelope looks like it will be all about pumpkins, with three pumpkin-themed craft projects included in addition to the Zine and surprise gift. Are you thinking about getting one?

You can find the Happy Hedgehog Post subscription as well as many other subscriptions for home, baby, beauty, lifestyle, food, and more in the revised and expanded Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes. You can also check out the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel for more crunchy subscription box unboxing and reviews, and be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com.

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Barganic Alert: 10 Great Crunchy Giveaways


Newsbie Pix / Foter / CC BY

I can’t seem to wrap by head around all of the great crunchy giveaways that I’m seeing everywhere. If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen me tweet about some of these giveaways, but the Twitter world moves so fast, it can be hard to tweet everything or to catch all of the tweets. I wanted to gather ten of the great crunchy giveaways that I’ve seen recently into one place for ease of entering. Good luck to everyone!

1. A Night For Green Beauty and Goodebox Giveaway: Win all five limited edition Goodboxes featuring skin care, body, and cosmetic items from the amazing ANFGB green beauty brands. Total Value: $1600+ Enter Until: Thursday August 6th

2. Wee Folk Art and A Child’s Dream Giveaway: Win a Wood Doll Making Collection – An exciting assortment of natural supplies for making wood finger puppets, peg dolls and fairies. Included in this giveaway: Holland 100% Wool Felt, DecoArt water-based acrylic paints and paintbrushes, Tacky Glue and plenty of wood doll bases. Total Value: unknown Enter Until: Monday August 3rd, 8am EST.

3. Cottonbabies Giveaway: Win a bumGenius Outing Wetbag and two solid-colored bumGenius cloth diapers of your choice. Total Value: approximately $63 Enter Until: Thursday August 6, midnight EST.

4. Mama Smith’s Fuzzibunz Giveaway: Win a FuzziBunz Sweet Beginnings Cloth Diaper. Winner can select a First Year (6-24lbs) diaper or a One Size Adjustable (10-40lbs). Total Value: approximately $25.00 Enter Until: Tuesday August 11th.

5. Sprinkles on Top and Simba and Mama Giveaway: Win a Simba & Mama Cloth Diaper of your choice. Total Value: $25.00 Enter Until: Tuesday August 11th.

6. Biokleen Prize Package: Win an assortment of Biokleen green cleaning products, gDiaper Sweet Bundle, and one Mama Box from Mama Boxes. (side note, squirting the awesome smelling Biokleen Bac-Out onto the dipes was always one of my favorite parts of washing our cloth diapers). Total Value: unknown Enter Until: August 31, 2015 at 12am EST.

7. My Lucite Dreams and Vickery Giveaway: Win three top-selling products from Vickery’s green beauty brands, Herbivore Botanicals, Lotus Love Beauty, and Farmaesthetics. Total Value: $120 Enter Until: Saturday August 8th

8. TLV Birdie and Graydon Giveaway Win a collection of four Graydon green and beautiful skincare items. Total Value: $120+ Enter Until: Saturday August 8th

9. The Little Foxes and Embody Beauty Giveaway: Win a selection of personally curated green, cruelty-free beauty products from Embody. Total Value: $150+ Enter Until: Wednesday August 5th

10. ConservaMom Tula Baby Carrier Giveaway: Win a Tula Ergonomic Baby Carrier in the Incognito print. Total Value: $149 Enter Until: TODAY Saturday August 1st, 11:59pm EST

**Some of the above may be affiliate links. I’m not really sure, so I’m going with better safe than sorry on this one**

**Barganic Alerts are an effort to spread awareness about affordable crunchy goods and services. They are not endorsements, nor am I compensated in any way. They tend to be time-limited, and often go quickly. To make sure you are always in the know, subscribe to CrunchyParent.com to receive emails of all Barganic Alerts as soon as they are posted**

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Barganic Alert: Green Mountain Organics 25% off woolens through July 31st

Green Mountain Organics

When the children were attending a Waldorf school, outdoor time was a very big part of the curriculum. Over and over we heard repeated, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” The phrase underscored the idea that the school children needed to be well-suited for fun outside regardless of what Mother Nature had thrown their way. It quickly became important for us to source out wool or silk long johns, balaclavas, and other clothing to keep the kids warm throughout the cold Midwest winters. Our children continue to be nature-lovers, and we never want inadequate clothing to prevent them from enjoying time exploring and playing outside in all seasons.

Although cold, snowy days are still (hopefully) months away, sometimes it can really pay to plan ahead. Green Mountain Organics is rewarding their “forward-thinking” customers with a great sale on organic silk and wool underwear, outerwear, and diaper gear. With sizes for babies to adults, Green Mountain Organics is ready to provide that needed extra layer to keep everyone warm indoors or out this winter. Through July 31st they are offering 25% off their organic cotton, wool, silk, and wool and silk blend clothes in baby, child, and adult sizes from brands like Lanacare, Hocosa and Ruskovilla. Discount pricing is already reflected online, and prices will adjust back to full retail on August 1st.

I know that when that first cold snap hits, I always feel better knowing that I have the woolens on hand and ready to go so that we can have fun outside. What are some of your favorite winter activities to do outdoors with your kids?

**Barganic Alerts are an effort to spread awareness about affordable crunchy goods and services. They are not endorsements, nor am I compensated in any way. They tend to be time-limited, and often go quickly. To make sure you are always in the know, subscribe to CrunchyParent.com to receive emails of all Barganic Alerts as soon as they are posted**

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