Kid Craft: Make Your Own Natural Lip Balm

We discovered Pueblo Science during the Ontario Culture Days events in the fall.  They hosted a Painting with Science event, and the kids and I had so much fun making art and learning about the science behind the ways that colours were made and mixed.

Pueblo Science is all about getting kids interested in science through hands-on experimentation, and what could be more hands-on than making your own lip balm from scratch?  The facilitator I met in the fall told me that they had a recipe up on their blog, but I wasn’t able to find it.  Instead, I surfed around and got a sense of what goes into natural lip balms.  Then I started experimenting.

My husband put a lovely pot of pure shea butter from Little House in the City into my stocking for Christmas, and I’ve been wanting to make lip balm for months, and with the deadline for this post AND Valentine’s Day looming, I finally got it together to make some with Youngest last week.  We decided that pots of lip balm would make great Valentine’s Day favours, so that’s our plan for this year for the Grade 1 and Grade 4 classes my sons are in.  Youngest asked if they could be flavoured like Skittles.  (I have not bought the necessaries for that yet, but I’m thinking that essential oil of orange or lemon would work well.  If you have done this, and you have ideas, let me know!)  For three nights, while his brothers were at hockey, we experimented with different recipes to find the perfect consistency and aroma for our product, and I’m now happy with what we’ve got.

Here’s what we did and what we learned:

Our first attempt taught us how to deal with failure gracefully and with no swear words.  We did pretty well on that front, actually, when our double boiler capsized spilling molten wax into the boiling pot of water.  We did not swear even a tiny bit while we cleaned that sh*t up.  Melting waxes and butters is messy.

Our second attempt taught us that there is a good reason for experimenting in small batches before beginning mass production.  Our first batch was too waxy and hard to apply.  It also did not smell and taste all that great–not bad, but not great– making us realize that there’s a good reason for the scents that get added to beauty products.

Three is the magic number, and we got the recipe almost there with our third attempt.  I used too much honey, making the batch a bit too soft, so the recipe below, from our fourth and final batch, has the perfect proportions.  I also used vanilla extract for flavouring the third time.  That’s not the way to go.  Vanilla extract is suspended in alcohol, which is not only drying, it does not incorporate well with the wax and oils.  If you want to scent your balm, I recommend using an oil.  The fourth trial, I used vanilla oil in a jojoba suspension, and our final product is as delicious as it is nourishing.  I wiped up the spills and rubbed it into my hands and cuticles, and it works wonderfully for those applications, too.

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Nathalie’s Lip Balm Recipe

Ingredients (the amounts in parentheses yielded enough to fill six lip balm tubes)

one part grated beeswax (one teaspoon)

one part honey (one teaspoon)

two parts shea butter (two teaspoons)

two parts jojoba oil (two teaspoons)

a few drops of your favourite edible essential oil (two drops per teaspoon of mixture)

a mother’s patience

That is one teaspoon of melted beeswax. Almost invisible, but oh so fragrant. My first double boiler capsized while I was looking for a popsicle stick, so this one is over-sized. That is a long toothpick in Youngest's hand.

That is one teaspoon of melted beeswax. Almost invisible, but oh so fragrant. My first double boiler capsized while I was looking for a popsicle stick, so this one is over-sized. That is a long toothpick in Youngest’s hand.

 

Materials

You will need a double boiler (after my little glass jam jar capsized, I put a big mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water), a popsicle stick for stirring, and pots or tubes for the balm.  I got my tubes at my local health food store for $o.69 each, and glass pots from Little House in the City for $1.30.  I also washed out some small pots I had half-filled with cosmetic samples for my experimental batches.  I just used a steady hand to pour, but you might also want a glass eye-dropper to fill the lip balm tubes.

Method

Melt the grated beeswax in a (very firmly anchored) double boiler.  Turn off the heat, but keep the beeswax in the double boiler to keep everything warm.  Add the shea butter and jojoba oil.  Once those ingredients are melted and well incorporated, mix in the honey.  Mix well.  Add scented oil last if desired.  Pour into lip balm pots or lip balm tubes.   Allow to set, then put on lids and you’re ready to go!

The balm setting in the tubes.

The balm setting in the tubes.

 

Some Science

  • beeswax is a solid at room temperature, but becomes liquid when it is warmed
  • oil and water do not mix
  • wax and water do not mix
  • beeswax is occlusive, it seals in moisture and protects lips from becoming dried out by environmental factors (dry air, cold and wind)
  • honey is a humectant, it helps to retain moisture by attracting and absorbing the moisture in the air, and drawing the water vapor beneath the surface
  • jojoba’s chemical structure is similar to human sebum, the oil our bodies produce to waterproof and lubricate the skin
  • shea butter has been in use for thousands of years as a cosmetic for hair and skin, references date back to Ancient Egypt

 

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Gift Guide for Kids

OK, the kids are all quite good at making their own lists, but just in case, here are some ideas for kids, big and small.

From Nathalie

A friend recently shared her family’s gift-giving tradition with me.  Each child gets an ornament to add to the tree every year, Santa leaves one unwrapped gift for each under the tree, and each of the kids gets four gifts from Mum and Dad: “One to read, one to wear, one to play with and one to share.”  It’s a delightful formula that I will borrow for here.

One to read

Check our lists of favourite reads for the year if you are looking for book ideas.

If you are editing your book shelves in anticipation of adding more, please consider giving your gently used books to The Children’s Book Bank.  Every child who visits the Book Bank goes home with a free book.  It is one of the most magical spaces in the city, and I do so admire their mission to help children build their own libraries.  Take your kids for a visit, drop off your donations and go home with one new-to-you book for your child.

Madeleine hanging out at The Children's Book Bank.

Madeleine hanging out at The Children’s Book Bank.

One to wear

Everyone gets pajamas.  I love everything made by Hatley, a company named for the town in Quebec where the founders lived.  These pajamas have staying power: they will last through several kids and live to be handed down again and again.  Also available at Indigo. ($30)

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I like to get snarky t-shirts for Eldest, who is 13.  He loves them and wears them on heavy rotation all year.  This one is from Café Press.  $31.50

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Eldest has also begun to wear cologne, saints preserve us.  I’ve put something that I actually like the smell of into his stocking: 5 Paddles Brewing Company Beer Soap in Lemongrass made by Aide Bodycare from all natural ingredients.  The beer comes from a brewery in Whitby, where my dad now lives.  That’s the kind of connection I love to find for these little stocking stuffer ideas.

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One to play with

I’m sorry.  Here’s where I get boring.  All the Littles want is Lego.  Lego, Lego, Lego.

One to share

I like the gift of experience as a gift to share.  Carol recently wrote about her night out with her three boys at Ross Petty’s Cinderella, and the three of us are taking our boys to see Potted Potter next week.  Two actors, seven Harry Potter books, and one game of Quidditch in 70 minutes.  So excited!

And for a gift to share at home, board game night is always a hit with the boys.  This one is a favourite with them and me: Cathedral.  Position your buildings to best advantage inside the walled medieval city and prevent your opponent from doing the same.  I love handling the carved wooden buildings; the kids love beating me almost every single time.  (Did I mention I’m not so good at spatial reasoning?)  $30.  Available through National Geographic.

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And if you like your sharing to be sweet, check out the hand-made marshmallows from Wondermade.  $7.95 a box.  Delish!

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From Beth-Anne

Bring the 90s back with flower print dresses and Doc Martens, like these from Mini Mioche for $80.00  one of my favourite local, eco-friendly kids’ stores.  (Available in a variety of colours)

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Toting starts early – and anyone with a toddler can tell you that the hoarding starts at this stage.  Why not keep everything together with this bookhou print messenger bag?  Mini Mioche, $34

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Every Christmas list needs a whimsical splurge item and for me, it’s Alfred the Moose Felt Factory Animal Head.  Really, isn’t it just so cute? Mini Mioche, $100.

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Make that two whimsical splurge items . . . I have no little girls to buy for this year but maybe next year I will purchase this Star Bright Pettidress. Indigo, $35.20.

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Constructing and playing in forts and tents has always been a favourite pastime of my boys.  This Camo Frame indoor tent is ideal for hiding out, reading a book or escaping for some alone time.  Indigo, $65.95.

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Lego is a big hit around here but it’s Roominate that has caught my attention this year.  Roominate is designed by Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen, two engineers with degrees from MIT, Caltech and Stanford on a mission to show kids, particularly young girls, how engineering is both creative and fun! Indigo, $22.95-$54.95.

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When my boys are not busy building forts or Lego, chances are they are outside.   If we end up with as much snow as last year, the Snowball Blaster will get lots of use.  Indigo, $39.95.

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Boardgames are quickly becoming a favourite with my middle son.  He loves strategizing . . . and winning.  Christmas Story Monopoly, Indigo, $44.95.

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I can’t believe how quickly the years are going by and I need to keep up with these hand imprints as long as their hands still fit on these ornaments! Indigo, $11.60.

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Earphones – I don’t know why but we always seem to need these.  Indigo, $35.00.

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From Carol

Most of my friends are finished having babies, but I’m so glad I’ve got a hold out friends who is due in a few months so I have someone to target for these handmade plush organic cotton animals by Fidoodle.  The ring of the rattle inside is soft and sweet, and baby can chew away at this safe toy with abandon.  The moose is my favourite; there’s also a bunny and a bird.  Available online or at Little House in the City.

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Perfect for older children are Bubynoa‘s handmade toys and dolls created from vintage fabrics – double-stitched because they’re made for use and play, although we’ve known some adults who buy them just to admire.  Little House in the City carries a range of her animal toys.
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For a truly special gift, treat your eyes and your little someone to one of Bubynoa‘s exquisite handmade people dolls.  They take days to make with details lovingly attended to.  And bestill my heart, these dolls reflect some of Toronto’s brilliant diversity, and the boys are just as wonderful as the girls.  Available at Bubynoa’s Etsy shop.

Also gorgeous for the littles in our lives are Hey Pomelo‘s handmade organic baby bibs, hooded towels, receiving blankets, quilts and accessories.  Made to last with fabrics that just get softer with washing, these pieces are truly functional beauty.  Available online and at Little House in the City

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Happy merry-making and gift-giving for the little people in your life!  4Mothers hopes the season is wonderful for you and for them.

Gift Guide for Teachers, Coaches, Instructors, Mentors and More!

Need help finding gifts for the adults in your kids’ lives?  Here are some fabulous ideas for your kids’ teachers, coaches and mentors.

From Nathalie:

I love to find the right gift for the right person, and for several years now, I have shopped for my kids’ teachers and coaches on behalf of the class, school or team.  At my kids’ elementary school, a class parent collects money from all of the families for a group gift, and a portion of what they collect gets pooled for gifts for the music, gym, French, and ESL teachers, as well as for the office staff, custodial staff, librarian and principal.  I am the person who shops for all of those gifts, and I look forward to it every year.  When Eldest moved to Middle School with different teachers for each subject, I was first in line to do the shopping for them too.

If you have a large budget to work with, it is often easy to give the gift of an experience.  I have given gift certificates to a teacher’s favourite restaurant, a membership to the zoo or to the Royal Ontario Museum for teachers with young children, and tickets to the aquarium and sports events.  Carol’s recent experience of a class where she learned to make chocolate truffles would be a great gift, or even one of the workshops offered at Carol’s store, Little House in the City!

Even with a modest budget of $20-$30, you can find so many apt and personal gifts.  Surfing fun gift sites is a huge part of the pleasure I take in finding gifts.  My top tip for finding the perfect gift for a teacher, mentor or coach is to go to a site like Etsy, One of a Kind Online, Redbubble, or Café Press and type in a key word for the person’s field of interest or hobby.  The hive mind is so very versatile; ask, and the interwebs will provide.

For the Math Teacher:

A square root t-shirt from Redbubble ($30).  (Check out what happened when I entered “square root” as a search term!  Or math.  So much great stuff!)

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For the French Teacher:

This notebook made from a re-purposed text book ($23), made by Margi Laurin, Maker of Stuff is so perfect. I met Margi at the One of A Kind show, but you can find her online.

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For the Coach:

I saw these amazing kits ($24) at the Etsy Made in Canada event.  They are made by Michelle at Aide Bodycare, and you can buy them on line through Etsy.  I think this is a great idea for any guy in your kid’s life.  It is a bit on the personal side, but sometimes we spend so much time with the coaches that they begin to feel like family!

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For the Hockey Coach:

I can’t tell you how excited I was to find these beauties at the One of a Kind Show: photographic image transfer art by Patrick Lajoie, who works out of Caledon, Ontario.  (You can also find him on Etsy.)  I first saw his work in the summer, when I bought one of his pond hockey photographs.  I have loved living with his art hanging in our home (on the landing outside of the boys’ bedrooms) was thrilled to find more iterations of hockey in the great outdoors.  At only $20 each, these are affordable, beautiful and unique gifts for any hockey lover.

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For any teacher with young kids:

I have bought many of these amazing Story Blocks by Fidoodle, and this year I bought a set for our kids’ gym teacher, who has a young son.  I love how versatile it is: building blocks, scenery for setting the stage for a story, action figures, and characters from both Red Riding Hood and Peter and the Wolf.  In order to create a gift basket with the theme of family reading, I’ve paired it with a book about reading to kids called A Family of Readers by Roger Sutton, about reading to kids from infancy through to the tweens, and with a gift certificate for a book store so that he can choose a book for himself.  I bought the story blocks at Carol’s new store, Little House in the City!

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From Beth-Anne:

For the Art Teacher – The Art Gallery of Ontario is currently exhibiting the works of Alex Colville.  The installation is an amazing collection of his finished works, sketches, interviews, and photos.  Consider giving an experience – a ticket for your teacher to enjoy over the holiday.  Don’t live in Toronto?  No problem, you can shop the AGO and purchase Colville inspired gifts like this binocular necklace.  AGO Colville Necklace $32

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For the Music Teacher – Encourage your teachers to rest-up this holiday with this whimsical pillow from coverLove for $43.00

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For the Math Teacher – Math, science and technology teachers usually have a witty sense of humor.  It’s always fun searching for the perfect kitschy gift that will get a laugh or two.  If jokey gifts aren’t your thing, maybe this geometric doormat is.  Available from the Drake General Store, $38.

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For the Science Teacher –  Janette, whom I met years ago through my moms’ group, is a scientist.  She has that witty sense of humor and enlightens me by posting interesting science-y articles on Facebook.  She gave me some ideas for what the science teacher may like including naming a star after them!  Her other picks: www.thinkgeek.com and http://www.ilovesciencestore.com where this DNA necklace ($29) and Atom keychain ($15) are from.   If Janette’s husband is reading, I have it on good authority that the meteorite necklace would be well received on Christmas morning.  Just sayin’.

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For the Classroom Teacher – The possibilities are really endless but I like these words of wisdom prints from Indigo.  This one says There Is Nothing Like A Dream ($29) and I think that’s pretty fitting for a classroom where dreams are nurtured by great teachers.

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From Carol

For the eco-conscious and slightly practically-minded teacher, Abeego natural food wrap is a great choice.  Handmade in Canada (Victoria, BC), this effective alternative to plastic cling is made from organic cotton and hemp, and covered with a blend of beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin.  Re-usable and durable, it will last over a year with proper care.  Best gift option is the set of 3 wraps (small, medium, large) for $18. Available at Little House in the City.

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Also lovely are the hand-printed, organic cotton tea towels created by Bookhou.  Affordable luxury and functional beauty at $16, and sure to brighten any kitchen.  Available at Little House in the City.

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Gifts that Give Back

This week, we will be posting gift ideas that we have collected over the past few months.  In a month with the theme of minimalism, these posts are decidedly maximalist, but they should help minimize your work as you search for great gift ideas.  Today, it’s gifts that give back.  In the days ahead we will have posts with ideas for gifts for teachers, mentors and coaches, gifts for the kids, gifts for him, and gifts for her.

The three of us celebrate a secular Christmas, but we have picked gifts that should fit into many traditions and gift-giving opportunities.

This month, 4mothers1blog became an Indigo affiliate, so if your shopping list includes gifts from Indigo, please consider getting to their website through ours.  If you navigate to their site from here, we will receive a portion of the value of your purchase.  Just click through from the Indigo logo on the right side of the page.

Our first collection of ideas is gifts that give back: gifts with a charitable side.

From Beth-Anne:

LiveFashionable is one of my favourite on-line retailers.  They are committed to helping African women start their own small business cooperatives and they partner with manufacturers that employ women and practice fair-wage compensation.  My Selam scarf is on high rotation!  (Tizita bracelet, $34 and the ABLEscarf, $48.)

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FEED is an organization dedicated to fighting hunger and eliminating malnutrition throughout the world.  These organic cotton and burlap totes, if filled with food, would feed a school aged child for one year.  (FEED tote, $80)

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Consonant, an award winning all natural skincare company, has developed the Today Body Bar for Causemetics.  $4 from each Today Body Bar is donated to the Canadian Breast Cancer Support Fund that provides financial assistance to breast cancer patients to help ease their financial burden.  At $12 this is the perfect stocking stuffer! (Consonant Today Body Bar, $12)

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Approximately 287,000 women die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth complications each year.  Founded by model, film-maker and activist, Christy Turlington, Every Mother Counts is dedicated to reducing that number through education, and providing transportation and supplies.  Several boutique shops and big-name retailers have partnered with Every Mother Counts and contribute donations based on products sold.  For example, these Citizens of Humanity maternity jeans, A Pea In the Pod collection are on sale for $159.00.  Citizens of Humanity will donate $25 and A Pea In The Pod will donate $15 to Every Mother Counts!  Visit their on-line shop for a complete list of retailers and products.

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Two Penny Blue is the place to buy fashionable accessories and luxury blazers and jackets in a variety of punchy colours or reliable classics.  For every jacket purchased, Two Penny Blue will donate a school uniform to a girl in need in Africa – opening the door to her education.  And we all know the powers of education!  (Blazers range $325-$399)

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Oliberté became the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ footwear manufacturing factory in 2013.  Based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia the company believes in creating fair jobs and workers’ rights.  In addition to building a company based entirely in Africa (from materials to labor),  Oliberté donates 1% of its proceeds to non-profits dedicated to sustainability and the environment.  For a complete list of 1% For The Planet businesses click here.  Shoes from Oliberté range from $50-$160 and gear is priced from $25 -$300.

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From Nathalie:

I met Rafik Riad, the managing director of Salt, at the Distillery District in the summer, and I knew right away that I wanted to spread the word about his company.  Salt sells earth-friendly, hand-crafted and fair-trade gifts at all price points that are made by artisans in impoverished communities.  They work from the ground up, helping to train artisans, and to ensure that they receive a fair payment for their craft.

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I lived in Egypt when I was in high school, and when I saw the Sahara Leather Bag ($150), I was immediately taken back to the homes and the markets I visited there.  The bag is made from fabric quilted in the traditional tent-makers’ style, and you can see this kind of quilting on awnings in markets and on throw pillows and blankets in people’s homes, including my own!  It’s beautiful and bold and makes a great statement.

Far and Wide Collective partners with artisans in post-conflict and emerging economies to bring to an international market unique and high quality gifts.  I love that the website includes information about the artisans and their trade.  This sage green silk scarf ($60), for example, was made in Afghanistan by silk weaver Saleh Mohammad, who learned his trade while living as a refugee in Pakistan during the civil war.  Beginning at $20, there are lots of gifts here for teachers, hostesses and BFFs.

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Indigo is the Canadian merchandiser for Angela & Roi vegan bags.  The bags are not only animal-friendly, they are wallet-friendly and charitable, too.  Priced from $75-$150, each bag is linked to a different charity, and a portion of the sales goes to that cause.

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From Carol

Sayula‘s lovely agave bath mitts, soap pouches, wash cloths, and root brushes make perfect feel-good stocking stuffers.  The Mexican-Canadian company goes the extra miles for environmental and social responsibility, creating bath and kitchen products from regional plants that don’t require much water or any pesticides.  Sayula also works directly with rural communities to provide stable income and fair prices.  Available in Toronto at Little House in the City (Carol’s shop).

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The Fair Trade Jewellery Co. in Toronto is the destination for ethical jewellery, including nickel-free gold, platinum and Canadian (from Ontario’s Victor mine) and Australian diamonds.  FTJC is also known for its custom designs – the perfect place to shine with an easy mind and heart this holiday.

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Toronto’s Only Urban Homesteading Store

Little House In The City truly is a hidden gem in this city – maybe even the entire country!

Located at 555 Parliament St., just around the corner from the ever popular Riverdale Farm, Little House In The City is Toronto’s first urban homesteading and sustainable living store . . .and it’s co-owned by Carol!

What is urban homesteading? It’s really a lifestyle.  It’s about taking a step backwards, living more simply and making a conscious effort to create a more sustainable, low-impact life.

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Take time to sew using these whimsical fabrics.

Take time to sew using these whimsical fabrics.

Buttons galore! Useful for a myriad of craft projects and very pretty to look at.

Buttons galore! Useful for a myriad of craft projects and very pretty to look at.

Little House In The City has a wide variety of supplies to support creative adventures and DIYs in and for your home.  In addition to being ethical and sustainable, these simple activities will encourage a newfound confidence in your homemaking abilities. They also have beautifully crafted ready-made gifts that made with organic or sustainable materials like the stunning cheese boards made of reclaimed wood that Nathalie received for her birthday.

The neutral tones of this pottery would off-set a colourful, summer salad or rich, wintery stew quite nicely.

The neutral tones of this pottery would off-set a colourful, summer salad or rich, wintery stew quite nicely.

Whether it be cheese making, fermenting, soap making or sewing Carol, and her partner Carla, will guide you in selecting the right tools for the job.

Beginners: don’t feel intimidated!  I purchased the sprout growing kit with organic seeds and I followed Carol’s instructions.  Within a few days we were adding alfalfa to our sandwiches and salads – and I can barely keep houseplants alive!

Coming soon, Little House In The City will offer classes for adults and children, hands-on demonstrations and community events to teach and inspire others to live more mindfully.

Here are some of my favourite things!

Follow Little House In The City on Facebook

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