I have memories of buying a toy for my kids and having it break because of poor quality or discovering that it had small parts and we had a baby brother in the house. Back in “the day” we didn’t think about lead or pthalates in the toys. There are many things to consider when buying toys these days.

ConnPIRG has just released their annual toy safety report, and they’ve launched a new mobile phone website that allows toy shoppers to look up and report dangerous toys as they shop. Check out their new resources, and help make sure kids’ toys are safe this holiday season. Make your list then check it with CT-toy-report-2009.

This document reminds us of all the hazards we might consider including loudness. Almost 15 percent of children ages 6 to 17 show signs of hearing loss. In March 2007, the American Society for Testing and Materials adopted a voluntary acoustics standard for toys, setting the loudness threshold for most toys at 85 decibels but there are still exceedingly louc (and I might add annoying) toys on the toy store shelves.

In addition, think through and avoid toys that have possible choking hazards, while considering age appropriateness, “almost” small parts, balloons, marbles, pthalates and PVC products. What is left for kids to play with? We’ve eliminated dolls (plastic), legos (plastic), toy cars (lead paint). OKAY- wooden blocks it is. Actually one of my kids favorites!



The Guest House by RUMI

November 26, 2009

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

(translation- Coleman Barks)

Yale Clones Singers

November 22, 2009

I had to be satisfied with performing solo or with a group at college. Check out this group consisting of Sam Tsui and 5 Sam Tsui clones doing an awesome Michael Jackson medley, arranged and produced by Kurt Schneider. Both are Yale undergrads.

RAM (radial-axis magnetism) Technology features small magnetic spheres in groups of six. Each magnet is positioned so that its positive-negative axis is rotated 60 degrees relative to its neighbor. Arranged in a circle, these sequentially rotated spheres produce a series of overlapping magnetic fields. This means that the flux energies enclose any object in proximity to them. No matter how any contact is applied, positioned, or shifted, the magnetic cocoon remains constant.

This new RAM technology is only found in the new Nikken Naturest Mattress Topper constructed with natural latex rubber, providing an ideal blend of support and comfort, naturally resistant to microbial growth and dust mites. It retains firmness better than polyurethane foam and wicks away moisture. It is a natural fiber, promotes ventilation, helps regulate temperature and offers natural resistance to flammability without adding the chemicals that some other sleep products require. It is a specially washed and hypoallergenic latex. The surface of specially molded, gradient-density nodules is the final touch- producing a massage effect that helps you sleep soundly and wake refreshed. You can pre- order your topper: www.mynikken.net/joanspear

Lolcats again!

November 20, 2009


This time Fatcat has really done it.

Gluten Free Chocolate Muffins

November 20, 2009

I love this super simple but yummy recipe from Elana’sPantry.com. My only caution is that because these are mostly air and eggs, be careful about opening the oven and checking them too much. 22 minutes is 22 minutes. They will puff up and be gorgeous if you give them a chance. Note the coconut flour it’s new to me and maybe you, too. Bob’s Red Mill makes a good product, easy to find or mail order. Grapeseed oil- use organic, I like the oil from Salut Sante.

¼ cup coconut flour

¼ cup dagoba cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs

¼ cup grapeseed oil

½ cup agave syrup (more or less to taste, this can be too sweet, too)

In a medium bowl, combine coconut flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda

In a large bowl, blend together eggs, oil and agave, whisk this well!

Blend  ingredients

Line a cupcake tin with paper liners and scoop a scant 1/4 cup into each

Bake at 375° for 20-22 minutes DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!  THE MUFFINS WILL FALL

Cool and cover with your favorite frosting or a scoop of coconut milk ice cream

Makes 12 cupcakes


(Happy Birthday to Greta, a wonderful baker!)


I have just seen Food, Inc. It is a stunning look at the industrialization of our food chain. It is at times frightening, disgusting, deeply saddening and yet the slightest bit hopeful. Hats off to Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser, Director and Producer for bring ing this forward in an engaging and sometimes unbearable in-depth look at corporate food culture.

Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and  an award-winning journalist and world-renowned food expert gives a relaxed and informative commentary through the film.

Pollan speaks about the illusion of diversity in our season-less supermarkets. The truth is that there really are only a few companies and only a few products most of which are a clever re-arrangement of corn engineered into foods that basically do not age. Only a few companies control our food system. There is a loss of diversity and now people are used to a conformity and uniformity of food. There is a lot people don’t know about what is in the food they buy. People do have a right to know, a right to food labeling and a right to protest.

There are powerful images of meat “factories’ with enormous assembly lines. Hidden cameras take us into places where we see how the animals are raised. Photos of chickens on conveyor belts, who have never seen sunlight.

Heroic farmers speak out in the film.  A strong-willed mother fights for food safety. Big business creates law suits to financially cripple those who don’t conform. Immigrant workers are pawns. It is something out of a sci-fi movie.

The saddest truth is that many people cannot afford fresh food- it is cheaper to buy soda, a hamburger, than it is to buy a head of broccoli. It’s a very skewed system. Carrots should be a better bargain, don’t you think? The film ends encouraging us to vote on the kind of food we want to eat- 3 times a day. Bruce Springstein sings Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” through the closing credits. It is a strong reminder that we must make choices daily to hold onto our uniqueness and to bring nature back into our lives, homes and diets.




How does Micah find these sites? Cat lovers. In Japan. Gotta see it to believe it.

Bayleaf Studio on Etsy

November 9, 2009


Hand knit hats on to my friend Lili who has launched her Bayleaf Studio’s ETSY site with yummy, cozy and creative accessories and hand made invitations and cards. I will attest to her powerfully creative industry and talent having been the recipient of cards and useful gifts from this prolific knitting, sewing and collaging artist. Lili’s studio is full of baskets of deliciously soft yarns and projects. You can also go to Bayleafstudio.com for more news and info. Hurray!




I recently received an envelope with the US Postal Service logo on the envelope. I didn’t look at it carefully because through the window I saw “Holiday Cards, Gift Seals and Labels” and thought, “Even the Post Office is trying to sell me something.”  Today I was sorting the mail and came across it again. On the back of the envelope was a printed note from the postmaster extending apologies for damaging the enclosed envelope while being handled by the postal service. Interesting and thoughtful. Never got one of these before. It was protecting JUNK MAIL.

The USPS handles over 202 billion pieces of mail each year. That’s alot of letters. AND how much of it is unwanted and unsolicited, paying lower rates for bulk mailing?

It’s the season of catalogs again. Here are a few ways to get off mailing lists.

CatalogChoice.org can help you reduce or opt-out of unwanted catalogs and choose how you wish to hear from brands.

Call the phone number on your catalog and speak to a human being requesting to be removed from the mailing list. Have your catalog handy, or the back page with your address and codes so you can be specific.

Contact the Direct Marketing Association and register for the Mail Preference Service. Your name will be placed in a delete file, and you should notice a decrease in junk mail about three months after you register.

Avoid sending in your warrantee cards. You are still covered. They are simply gathering your info to bombard you with more products.

EHow has extensive posts on how to get off email lists, telemarketing lists, and more.