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Summer Fun #2: Prince Edward County

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in dreamchild | 2 comments

Summer Fun #2: Prince Edward County

There’s something special about Prince Edward County.

About 2 1/2 hours east of Toronto, “the County” is a great spot for a quick escape. Take a deep breath, and breathe in fresh air. Exhale, and relax on the beach. Take in breathtaking views of vineyards, Lake Ontario, Bay of Quinte. Explore the shops. Feel the history. Experience farm to table meals. Slow down.

I visit often (my mom lives here) so my kids and I have explored the island inside and out.

Here are some of my favourite kid-friendly spots to visit.

 

1. Drive out to Waupoos – County Cider Company, 5th Town Artisan Cheese

Waupoos is a gorgeous part of the County with spectacular views of Lake Ontario, rows of apple orchards, and a deep sense of history.

A must-do is a stop at the newly expanded County Cider Company.

The County Cider Company is situated atop a hill looking out over vineyards, surrounded by apple orchards on a property established in the 1780s. The stone barn where the tastings and restaurant are housed was built in 1832.

County Cider Company

County Cider Company

It’s a great spot to stop for lunch – the pizzas cooked in the outdoor wood-burning pizza oven are delicious. And the casual outdoor seating area with picnic tables and Muskoka chairs makes it a perfect spot for the kids to wonder about while you enjoy some cold county cider.

County Cider Company

County Cider Company

While out there on the Waupoos peninsula head a bit further afield to check out the Fifth Town Artisan cheese.

Re-opened this year, Fifth Town Cheese is a pretty neat place to visit with its geothermal heating, sustainable practices, and everything you ever wanted to know about cheese. They use local milk and highest quality ingredients to create the cheeses. Call ahead for information on wine and cheese pairings.

As you loop back on the peninsula, pick your own blueberries at the Blueberry Patch.

Not too far around the bend (nothing is really too far away in the county) is the popular Black River Cheese. You can never have too much cheese! They use only 100% pure fluid milk from Prince Edward County dairy farms, and no modified milk ingredients, artificial preservatives or animal rennet. I love the maple cheddar.

Just up on Morrison Point Road is Vicki’s Veggies who is dedicated to local sustainable farming.

This is one of the many fruit/veggie stands you’ll pass in your drive through the County. Keep stopping, they are all slightly different – jams, preserves, pies, you name it.  Local, home-made, fresh.

 

2. Lake on the Mountain

This is a fun spot to stop for views of Lake Ontario on one side and the geographic marvel of the Lake on the Mountain on the other side. Scientists can’t figure out how this lake has a constant flow of clean fresh water with no apparent source. I love a plaque and the ones here are full of stories of volcanoes, meteorites and massive glacial whirlpools.

Mostly it’s a great spot for a picnic (and to nibble on all the fab cheeses, fruits, jams, etc. purchased along the way).

Or, the Lake on the Mountain Inn restaurant looks quite charming (busy too!) and the Miller House bistro across the road has cheese and charcuteries, wine and coffee. With amazing views.

 

3. Bird House City and the Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area

The Birdhouse City is a bit kitschy, but what kid doesn’t love kitsch!? Each birdhouse is a replica of a building in or around Picton. More than anything though Bird House City recognizes the importance of the County for bird watching and as a migrating paths of birds.

After you wonder through the bird houses, head over to the escarpment and take trek up to the top of the Macaulay Mountain (it’s more a big hill than a mountain but perfect to burn off cheese, tire kids out).

The Macaulay Heritage Park is just over at the other side of the conservation area. The museum is situated in a historic church with lots of charming artifacts and local folklore to explore.

Great photo opps on the well-kept grounds outside the museum.

 

4. Bloomfield

If you looked up charming in the dictionary (aka Wikipedia), it would have a picture of Bloomfield.

Charming old houses turned B&Bs. Charming shops. Charming cafes.

With all this charm, where does one start? I recommend stopping along the “main drag” and check out the little shops.

 

Bloomfield, Prince Edward County

Bloomfield, Prince Edward County

My new favourite shop (in its 2nd season) is KOKITO. Fabulous locally made housewares. Canadian-made wool blankets, jewellery, bags, etc. All kinds of cool stuff hand-selected by the discerningly good taste of the friendly owners Shelley and Jenn. This is what you call a well curated shop!

KOKITO, Bloomfield

KOKITO, Bloomfield

Among the fabulous made in Canada items are Dream Child’s organic duvet covers and baby blankets.Yes, Kokito is the exclusive retailer in eastern Ontario for Dream Child!  Our bold and nature-themed prints fit perfectly with rustic meets modern sensibilities of the store.

Once you’re shopped-out, have a home-made ice cream cone from Slickers.

Slickers, Bloomfield

Slickers, Bloomfield

Then head down Mill Street to the Mill Pond playground and let the kids explore.

Maison Depoiver just out of town is a stop for francophiles (like me). Charmant! My girls highly recommend the pink macaroons.

And don’t miss a stop in some of the antique and vintage shops in and around Bloomfield.

Just a bit off the main drag is Dead People’s Stuff. Some really fun antiques and other one of a kind finds, at great prices.

And just down hwy 12 is MacCool’s Re-Use – vintage furniture, antique farm tools, etc.

 

Mac Cools Re-Use

Mac Cool’s Re-Use

5. The Wineries around Wellington / Hillier

While taking kids to wineries may not sound like an ideal way to spend a kid-friendly vacation, I have two things to say to that: I never said we were going to Disney land and kid-friendly doesn’t mean kids rule. Exposing kids to lots of different things builds character.  Oh, and happy mommy, happy kiddies!

Besides, the wineries of the county are pretty casual affairs, mostly located in barns, on wonderful farm land, with lots to see enroute (roll down the windows and MOOOOO). These are not the polished wineries of the Niagara Region. The beauty of the County is that it’s rustic. Kids and rustic are a great pairing.

Here are my top 3 recos:

#1 Karlo Estates 

If there is only one winery you can make it to (which would be truly tragic), Karlo Estates would be the one. The tasting room is in an old barn, where you are welcomed to stay a while to try the full tasting menu.

Karlos Estates Winery

Karlo Estates Winery

Tell your kids this involves chocolate. They may settle down. If not, take them out to the back for a walk to the stone bridge. I heard trolls live under the bridge – see if they can find them! There’s also an oversize chess board out in the grass.  Check mate!

Karlos Estates Winery

Karlo Estates Winery

I highly recommend the rosé, the Fifth Element and the white port (yes, an Ontario port – it’s divine).

 

#2 the Grange of Prince Edward

The location is just so stunning. The loyalist barn is a perfect spot to taste some wines. They are now offering picnics out on the grounds. So pretty.

 

#3 Norman Hardie

Go for the wines, stay for the pizza. The wines are spectacular. The wood fire pizza is a recipe from Pizza Libretto and Terroni’s, arguably two of Toronto’s best pizza spots (no argument here!).

 

#4 By Chadsey’s Cairn

I couldn’t do just the top 3 – I love this spot so much too. It has a special quality to it, situated on an old sheep farm with a stunning view of Lake Ontario. The tasting room is in the charming 1850s apple house. Friendly owners know a lot about growing grapes and the land and are always happy to chat. Walk around the property and chill in the barn.

 

6. Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks is one of the best beaches in Ontario. Ok Grand Bend, Pinery, Wasaga and Sibbald Point – you guys are pretty amazing too. But, well, you just don’t have the County “it” factor. And this white sand and crash surf … could be the tropics right here on Lake Ontario.

Sandbanks Beach

Sandbanks Beach

My tip: forego the “Outlet Beach” part of the beach that is located inside the gates of the Park. This one is super jammed with campers. Instead, go to the more westerly Sandbanks beach that is slightly outside the main part of the park. Don’t go through the main park entrance, which can be lined up on a sunny summer day. Head along County Road 12 towards Dunes Beach and keep going. You can buy the parking permit at a kiosk on the road in.

Sandbanks Beach, Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks Beach, Sandbanks Provincial Park

 

Another way to enjoy this spectacular spot is at Dunes Beach.  The swimming isn’t the best here. But the dunes are so much fun. You can even walk up and over the dunes and keep walking all the way until you reach the Sandbanks beach.  If you do this, you’ll be way down the beach where you’ll practically have the beach to yourself. Don’t do this on a really hot day, it’s a pretty decent trek that is entirely shade-free.  Also, not a trek for little little ones.  Plus, you still need to get back.

Or you.could just hang out in the dunes all day …

Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks Provincial Park

 

7. North Beach

I hate to give up a local secret but just for you loyal readers, I’ll let you in… North Beach.

This is not nearly as busy as Sandbanks. It has white sand, great surf, dunes, shallow swimming area (go to the end and on the other side).

 

8. Mad Dog Gallery

Ok there are LOTS of amazing galleries and artists in Prince Edward County so it’s hard to just talk about one of them.

But as the site of the early inspiration for Dream Child’s Waterlily print, the Mad Dog Gallery gets special mention.

The gallery is in a renovated dairy barn. And the grounds out behind the gallery are so special. The lovely pond with the lotus flowers, dragon flies, lily pads … a masterpiece of nature.

This is a picture from three years ago … with Dream Child just a glimmer in my eye!

 

9. Millennium Trail

The County acquired the Millennium Trail, an abandoned rail line from the Canadian National Railway in 1997 for the purposes of developing a trail system. It is a “linear park” stretching 49 km from start to end. It is mostly pastoral, walking through wetlands and farmer’s fields.

Millennium Trail

Millennium Trail

We walked from the Wellington on the Lake golf course to Karlos Estate winery (how much do I love walking to an amazing winery!).

Millennium Trail, Prince Edward County

Millennium Trail, Prince Edward County

Another nice place to start is in Hillier, walk up Station Road and get on the trail either going west to Palmer-Burris Road or east to Danforth Rd.

Birds, corn fields, wild flowers. It’s beautiful. And the flat gravel path is perfect for biking with the kids.

See the various routes on this map.

10. Wellington

Wellington is such a cute town with a nice beach and boardwalk along the water. You can walk all along the beach out to the rocky shore.

The playground in the Wellington park is a good spot to stop and let the kids climb and swing.

Some nice restaurants for dining, such as East and Main. Stop for a fair trade organic coffee, homemade sweet and bite made with freshest homegrown ingredients at the funky and kid-friendly Tall Poppy Café.

Tall Poppy Cafe, Wellington

Tall Poppy Cafe, Wellington

And then there’s the spot of the old Devonshire Inn that will one day (soon, let it be soon!) be the new Drake Devonshire Inn.

The location right on the rough and rocky shores of Lake Ontario make this an amazing spot. Word on the street is that it’s opening “late summer”.  There’s a lot of excitement about this new spot, and I’m sure it won’t disappoint!

 

Slow. Green. Fresh.

The thing about the County is that it is this unique mix of history, local foods, traditional farming, artisan everything (from cheese to painting to pottery), antiques, corn and more corn, cows, beaches, gourmet dining, wine, and windy tree-lined country roads.  Savour all that it has to offer.

I have a special connection to Prince Edward County as I’ve been coming since a kid when my family would every year spend a week camping at Sandbanks.  As a parent, I can appreciate how important it is to get city kids out of the city. And out to the farm to see where our food comes from, and to eat it fresh.

You can stop and buy fresh veggies, jams, maple sugar straight from the folks who grow/make them. Often little stands at the side of the road on an honour system where you leave your toonies in a bin and take your loot.

Then around the bend for wine and cheese in a rustic, historic setting. Kids are always welcome. Sandbanks Provincial Park has been drawing families to the waves and white sand for decades.

There’s a pace in the County. Slow. There’s a smell. Green. There’s a taste. Fresh. There’s a wholesomeness of the place. Add wine, some gourmet cheeses, farmland and beach and it just works .. like a charm!

 

What do you love about Prince Edward County? Post your comments below!

 

Blog by Shelley Smith, owner of Dream Child Organics. Dream Child bedding is bold, stylish and fun, made in Canada with organic cotton and toxin-free dyes.  Working with Sistering, a social services agency in Toronto that helps marginalized women earn an income, Dream Child Organics is ethical and green from seed to seam to sleep.
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Summer Fun – Biking The Don Valley Ravine to Evergreen Brickworks

Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in dreamchild | 0 comments

Summer Fun – Biking The Don Valley Ravine to Evergreen Brickworks

It was a bit of an accident “discovering” the bike trail that goes from the Toronto’s Lakeshore up the lower Don Valley to the Brickworks.

What took us so long to get out there on the bike trail!

From Leslieville in Toronto’s east side to the Evergreen Brickworks – one our favourite places in Toronto – is so super close. But we hadn’t ventured the bike trail yet.

So we piled the kids into the bike trailer and set off for the day.

To see where to access the ravine, check out this cool interactive map: Love the Ravines.

 

I have to say, this is one amazing bike trail! Lush green expanses and a paved trail criss-crossing the Don River and winding the ravine right alongside the Don Valley Parkway.

#LovetheRavines

Birds chirping, fields upon fields of wild flowers, dense green trees, butterflies, bikers and walkers. Of course the hum of the DVP is a constant. But so is the feeling of being right in the heart of the city, yet apart from it and surrounded by nature.

Our green space is dwindling and this wild green space needs to be protected. Check out the Love the Ravine on Twitter (#LovetheRavines).

Embedded image permalink

Yup, we are just little specks in all that green!

This is a shot of us on the path going under the Bloor viaduct. So fun being down here and looking up at the subway going over head.

IMG_4278

I love the journey – but also the destination: the Saturday farmers’ market at the Evergreen Brickworks.

farmers market

Much more than a market, there are local wine makers, musical performers, arts/crafts, and food stalls. Fresh fruits, veggies, herbs. Artisan cheeses. Gourmet crackers and dips. And every other yummy thing you can think of.

It’s great for kids to know that our food is coming from farmers. Not from grocery stores.

Brickworks Farmers market

Here’s a mobile art installation to teach children about edible plants. She’s a part of the Eco-Art-Fest @ Todmorden Mills.

Todmorden Mills is right on the Don Valley Trail so a perfect next trip. It’s on until September.

IMG_4314

And then there are the food stalls. Doug McNish the vegan chef has a stall. Along with lots of yummy other stalls, including the homemade crepe guy. My personal favourite is the mushroom, spinach and cheese. Yum.

 

Walking off lunch around the grounds… IMG_4335photo-4

And finding a shady spot by the pond.   We actually spotted a rather large snapping turtle in the pond!

lush pond

 

You know we LOVE waterlilies here at Dream Child Organics….

 

lilies

 

 

A visit to Chimney Court the children’s garden is a must-do for the kiddies. My little one loves the sprinklers!

 

! photo-3 z at bw

The Evergreen Brickworks is truly one of the great treasures in Toronto.

It’s a former brick quarry that produced the red bricks used to build most of Toronto in its early days (including my own redbrick Victorian house). For years it was an industrial waste land.  Now the land is overgrown with wildflowers, naturalized ponds, trails. The former industrial buildings are converted and new ones house environmental and community-building organizations. It’s a really inspiring place.

 

Time to head home and was dreading having to head north on Bayview Avenue to meet back up with the path. Why can’t we just cut across?! (Right, a few train tracks and a river in the way).  But in the end it was just a slight detour and the path was smooth sailing on the lovely Don Valley bike trail all the way home.

This is a must-do for a fun, nature-inspired, kid-friendly, eco-friendly outing this summer.

And if you love all this green space, then check out this campaign, use the hashtag #LoveTheRavines, and sign the petition to let Toronto City Council know that you want our ravines to be added to the protected lands that make up Ontario’s Greenbelt.

 

What do you love to do with your kids in the summer? Post ideas in the comments below!

 

Blog by Shelley Smith, owner of Dream Child organic cotton bedding for kids. Dream Child bedding is bold, stylish and fun, made with organic cotton and toxin-free dyes and providing jobs to marginalized women in Toronto. Dream Child organic bedding is ethical and green from seed to seam to sleep.
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Textile Toxins 101

Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 in dreamchild | 1 comment

Textile Toxins 101

For tips on reducing household toxins and creating healthier and greener lifestyle for your family, check out Green Moms Collective. This website is my go-to for articles from other green moms, experts, advocates, and regular folks trying to make better decisions for their families.

I was happy to be asked to contribute to their series on reducing exposure to textile toxins.  Moms like me who don’t have PhDs in chemistry still want to know about the compounds in our everyday items in our homes.

 

Did you know that everyday textiles like polyester and conventional cotton may have the following toxins woven into the fabric:

 

Formaldehyde (a classified carcinogen) in fabric

Phthalates (endoctrine disruptor) in toys, polyester fabrics

Antimony (carcinogen) in polyester, fabric dyes, and plastics

Cobalt (carcinogen) in fabric dyes, toys, clothing, polyester

 

See the full article about these toxins:

Harmful Textiles: Toxins Woven into Everyday Materials

 

Here are some ways to reduce exposure to textile toxins:

 

1.    No polyester baby/kids’ bedding products

 

Polyester contains antimony that is a known carcinogen.

Antimony trioxide is used in the manufacturing of polyester and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics (the ones used for plastic bottles). It is also used as a “synergist to flame retardants in textiles, plastics, paints, etc.

Read more about antimony.

 

Studies also find phthalates, cobalt and other toxins in polyester fabrics.

 

The first place to eliminate polyester is in baby’s blankets and bedding.  That’s a no-brainer – carcinogenic petroleum phthalate nastiness in our wee baby’s bed? Madness.

Lovely soft natural alternatives are out there.

Exhibit A: Dream Child’s organic sherpa cotton baby blanket

Dream Child’s organic sherpa cotton baby blanket

 

Sherpa cotton provides a great alternative to polyester.

Soft, breathable, natural. Grown in the USA, sewn in Canada. It’s a dream come true!

Organic.  Made from 100% organic cotton and 100% US-grown organic Sherpa cotton.

Toxin-free. No toxic pesticides were used in the production of the cotton. No harmful dyes were used. No GMO seeds. Just sustainable practices that nurture the soil, use less water, and protect livelihoods of local farmers.

Plush. The plush rise of the Sherpa cotton is like the coziest fleecey lining of your favourite sweater.

Sweat-shop free.  Sewn with great care by women in Toronto getting their feet back on the ground through the support of a social services agency called Sistering.

Breathable. Sherpa is a naturally breathable fabric. It doesn’t stick to the skin like synthetic fibres do. It will naturally wick away moisture and regulate baby’s temperature.

Versatile. While designed to fit a crib, this blanket is also perfect for snuggling in the stroller or the car, or as a soft spot for tummy time. Really there’s no limitations for where the snuggling can happen.

 

This is a baby blanket made for snuggling. Mom and dad can rest easy knowing that this snuggle is free from toxins that are found in many polyester baby blankets.

 

2.    Avoid foam mattresses and pillows

 

Foam is made from petroleum and contains many chemical additives including formaldehyde, benzene and other established toxic chemicals.  This is bad nasty off-gassing stuff.

When buying mattresses or pillows, look for organic cotton, wool, or latex (natural rubber).

Cotton and wool won’t burst into flames, are natural, non-toxic and breathable. To avoid off-gassing foam pillows, wool pillows are a good alternative.

 

Exhibit B: Organic wool toddler pillows

Organic Wool Toddler Pillow

 

Wool is effective at absorbing moisture and keeping your little one cooler as they sleep compared to other conventional pillows that don’t breathe as well. Wool is also naturally dustmite resistant.

The wool filling in the Organic Wool Pillow regulates temperature to make sure your little one will never feel too hot.  The carded wool retains its loft better than cotton and provides medium firm support to the head and neck.

 

3.    Don’t buy the “poison plastic” – PVC (vinyl)

 

PVC is made from phthalates that mimic human hormones. The chemicals can be released into the environment because the binds they form with plastics are weak.

 

Do not buy vinyl covered mattresses for babies and kids. There are plenty of better kid’s mattresses to choose. For those of us with hand-me-down mattresses, wrap the mattress in thick organic cotton or wool mattress covers. Also, some products use low density food grade polyethylene for waterproofing mattresses, or mattress covers. These are phthalate free.

 

4.    Beware: Chemicals in Conventional Cotton

 

Conventional cotton is treated with a myriad of chemicals: silicone waxes, petrochemical dyes,  formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, dioxin-producing bleach, chemical fabric softeners and brighteners, flame retardents, and ammonia, to name a few.

 

Phthalates that attack the hormone system are in many pesticides used in production of conventional cotton. Up to 77 million cotton workers a year suffer poisoning from pesticides.

 

Azo dyes in conventional cotton contain a heavy metal that can “migrate” from the fabric, with possible risk of skin penetration. The European Commission’s Health and Consumers Scientific Committee warned that textile goods coloured with azo dyes are linked to cancer causing toxins, and should be a concern for consumers (and not to mention workers).

 

Given that baby and kids’ skin has a natural sensitivity, the health risk of exposure to azo dyes could be high.

 

5.   Organic cotton for baby and kids’ beds

 

Organic cotton is free from all toxic chemicals.

 

Cotton is naturally flame resistant so organic cotton products don’t contain flame retardants. There are no harmful dyes or other additives in organic cotton.

 

Rick Smith, author of Toxin, Toxout stated that if there was one place he would invest in organic products it would be in kids’ beds.

 

We agree! That’s what we’re all about here at Dream Child, providing a safe option for kids. I don’t want toxins in my kids beds and I”m sure you don’t want them for your kids either.

 

Dream Child’s products are made from 100% organic cotton

 

Be sure to read the full series on avoiding harmful toxins on the Green Moms Collective website.

 

 

 

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A Change of Heart on Valentine’s Day

Posted by on Feb 14, 2014 in dreamchild | 0 comments

A Change of Heart on Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! Confession: I used to be a bit cynical about this day.  Wasn’t it just all about big corporations selling more greeting cards and gross plastic heart-shaped trinkets?

However, I’ve had a change of heart. 

I decided to take back the day!  Rather than seeing it as a hyped-up, over-marketed day of pink, I decided to look into the soul of the day and make it about a collective show of love. It doesn’t have to be about buying more greeting cards! It’s about your own expression of love.

So to start a new love for V-Day, and to share this love with my girls, we set out to create a big collective hug and express how grateful we are for all the lovely people in our lives.

Ok, that’s enough of the cheese. Where’s the chocolate? Hold on, it’s coming. Oh yes, it’s coming …

Here are a few ways I did an eco-friendly, personalized, DIY Valentine’s Day. 

Warning: I’m not a crafty person so when I say DIY I mean really low-maintenance DIY. There was not even a visit to a craft store – just using stuff around the house.

 

Home-made cards

 

My older daughter Jade was all over the Do-it-yourself card plan. The kid makes little cards with “I love you” messages on a regular basis. So to do them for her whole class, what joy!

As per my disclaimer above, this was a pretty simple project.  We took some red construction paper. Then some pink construction paper. We cut hearts out of the pink (used a cookie cutter for the stencil). We cut squares out the red. Some glue. Some stickers. Hand-written notes to each of her friends and teachers. Topped off with a Yummy Earth Organic lolly pop taped on the back of each card.

These are lollies packed with Vitamin C and all natural. And really YUMMY. A win-win.

Voila …

 

These are one-of-a-kind cards that she is so excited to hand out to her teachers and classmates.

 

Extreme Chocolate Goodness

 

Nothing says I love you like chocolate.   And by chocolate I mean the ooey-est, gooey-est chocolate brownie ever.

This is my go-to, fool proof, always a winner, make in less than an hour brownie extraordinaire. I make it with as much organic ingredients as possible. Organic eggs, sugar, and of course, Camino organic fair trade dark chocolate cocoa.

Camino is a Canadian brand of fair trade and organic food products, owned by the Ottawa-based La Siembra Co-operative. La Siembra works directly with 18 producer co-ops, supporting more than 36,000 family farmers in 9 countries.

I found this recipe on Epicurious. It’s called the Best Cocoa Brownies. Yup, and the easiest.  Recipe below. NOTE: Instead of melting the butter the way described below, I just melt the butter in the microwave and add it to the sugar and cocoa mixture. Give it a good stir. Plus I usually bake it for a bit longer than it calls for … usually 30 minutes. I’m telling you, these are SO EASY. And SO DELISH.
 
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. <NOTE, for lazy bakers like me, just melt the butter in the microwave>

Stir in the vanilla . Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. <NOTE: I find it needs to bake longer, more like 30+ mins>

Lift up the ends of the parchment and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Chocolate note: Any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder works well here.

BitterSweet

 

Check it out … how awesome is this …. 

 

To gift or not to gift? 

Really, Valentine’s Day isn’t about the gifts.  But since I needed to get a couple of things for the girls, I saved them up for this day, put them in re-gifted gift bags (from my huge stash) and voila, V-Day surprise. We may be setting a new precedent here. Got to remember to manage expectations for the girls and not make this day about big gifts.

For the hubby, experiential is best.  So I lined up a babysitter for tomorrow night, made reservations at a local restaurant, and then it’s a night of dancing. But shhhh, it’s a surprise.

 

So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day as a day of expressing love and appreciation for loved ones, I’m wishing you and yours a day full of love, fun, and of course, chocolate!

xo Shelley

Owner and Chief Dreamer,

Dream Child Organics

 

 

 

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Take care – your ethics are showing

Posted by on Feb 12, 2014 in dreamchild | 0 comments

Take care – your ethics are showing

Take care — your ethics are showing

Vicky Sanderson: From child labour to kids’ products, social responsibility drives shoppers

 

“The prospect of having a little person sleep 12 hours a day with those products drove my desire to have organic products for kids,” says Dream Child bedding founder Shelley Smith.

By: Homes, Published on Fri Aug 09 2013, Toronto Star
The horrific collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh this past April drew into sharp focus the conditions for workers in the clothing industry.

With a death toll that rose to 1,100, the collapse raised worldwide concerns that the human costs of cheap fashion are too high.

Consumers should be asking the same questions about other types of products, suggests Cheryl Hotchkiss, senior advocacy manager for World Vision Canada, a non-profit global relief, development and advocacy organization.

Hotchkiss says that Canadians are under-informed about child labour, pointing to a recent World Vision Canada poll. On average, Canadians estimated that 12.5 million children are doing hazardous work.

In fact, more than 115 million children are involved in work that’s dangerous, dirty or degrading, according to the International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations that’s called for an end to child labour by 2016.

 

“People realize that what you wear, and what you have in your home, is a reflection of who you are.”

Shelley Smith

Founder of Dream Child organic cotton children’s bedding

 

To raise awareness, World Vision recently launched a campaign called No Child for Sale, which calls for an end to child exploitation.

While consumer focus has largely been on coffee, chocolate and clothing, Hotchkiss says the problem expands into many more consumer channels — including home furnishing.

“Child labour tends to dominate in agriculture and manufacturing. But it’s very likely that it is happening across many industries, which is why we’re asking that Canadian companies supply more information,”

Concerned consumers should be asking, she says, about a company’s code of conduct, whether it’s monitored by a third-party and what the consequences are.

 

Increasingly there are companies that will have the right answers. Take, for example, Ethical Bean. It was started by Lloyd Bernhardt and Kim Schachte both high-flying young professionals — he in software development, she in graphic design.

A trip to Guatemala in 1999 to adopt a child turned their lives in another direction. Enthralled by the Guatemalan culture, they decided to do something to better the lives of workers in the coffee industry.

In 2003, they launched Ethical Bean Coffee. Their coffee is Fairtrade Certified, which means producers are assured a minimum price that is based on the costs of production, rather than a volatile market price.

Coffee cooperatives receive an additional Fairtrade premium for each pound of coffee sold, and the money is invested back into the community. Fairtrade coffee farms follow regulations for operating in an ethical and sustainable manner, with strict labour, environmental, and quality standards. Forced and child labour is prohibited.

Ethical Bean has grown into a 10,000-square foot facility in East Vancouver that employs 24 people. Product is now available in whole bean plus ground coffee in eight varieties. It will be on the shelves at Costco locations across Ontario next month.

 

Fair trade, sustainable farming and ethical practices have been part of the business model product for Chris and Peter Neal, of Neal Brothers Foods. Their company was launched in 1988 in their mother’s kitchen in Aurora, Ont. They now have a lineup of about 50 branded products, and distribute products for about 35 other companies.

On a recent visit to their offices in Vaughan, I sampled several items, including Coconut Chips from a company called Hippie Snacks and which is possibly the best snack food I’ve have ever tasted.

 

Also here in Toronto, another socially conscious company was born when Shelley Smith wanted an organic cotton duvet cover for her daughter Jade, who was graduating to a “big girl” bed.

That led to the creation of Dream Child, which makes organic cotton duvet covers for kids.

“There’s a lot of pesticides used in the production of conventional cotton, and there can be lots of chemicals used in the dying process,” says Smith.

“The prospect of having a little person sleep 12 hours a day with those products drove my desire to have organic products for kids.”

But the organic covers she found on the market were, she says, “boring — and all oatmeal coloured.”

“I had a feeling that I wasn’t the only one out there interested in organic products for growing kids,” she adds.

Smith started small, selling two patterns (by local designer Emily Varty) made from organic cotton grown by family farmers in India, woven in a socially responsible factory and printed using non-toxic dyes.

The bedding is sewn here in Toronto at the Spun Studio, an income-generating employment training program of Sistering, a non profit agency that provides supports to homeless, low-income and marginalized women.

Smith hopes to expand, possibly adding to her line-up a baby blanket made from organic cotton fleece — much healthier, she says, than synthetic fleece, which often contains petroleum products.

While Smith still holds down a full-time job to support her fledgling company, she believes ethical consumption is picking up steam.

“People realize that what you wear, and what you have in your home, is a reflection of who you are,” she says. “So I think they are becoming more aware that those have to be deliberate decisions.”

 

More from Vicky Sanderson at thestar.blogs/com/onthehouse. Also the editor for Reno and Decor magazine, Vicky is on Twitter: @vickysanderson or email vswriter@sympatico.ca .

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Merry (local and green) Christmas!

Posted by on Dec 22, 2013 in dreamchild | 1 comment

Merry (local and green) Christmas!

I stuck to my buy local mission again this year.  It’s stress-free (no mobs), supports small businesses and local jobs, and provides access to unique products that aren’t found in big-box stores. Avoiding the malls alone is reason enough!

I found some wonderful retailers that carefully curate their items with a focus on eco-friendly products. Here are some of my favourite picks.

 

 Ava’s Appletree – Natural Parenting Store

My 5 year old daughter has developed a recent interest in knitting. I thought an easy way to get her started is to get a starter knitting kit since she’s a bit young to really take on full-fledge knitting.  I found a super cute “knitting tower” on Ava’s Appletree site along with some kid’s size needles and some lovely colourful thick wool to get her started.

Love this store.  Such a great selection of all-natural products for babies and kids, including some really hard to find items (e.g., a knitting kit is unlikely a hot item – and if at a place like Toys R Us it would invariably be hot pink plastic). And thanks to the very helpful store owner, my order was processed the next day and at my doorstep two days later. The store-front is located in the Toronto beaches.

 

Simply Green Baby

Simply Green Baby (both online and in Oakville, Ontario) has a great selection of products for baby, kids and parents that are eco-friendly, non-toxic and organic.

I’ve been looking for an eco-friendly backpack for my daughter. She’s outgrown the one she’s had for a few years now, barely being able to fit in her lunch bag and now snow pants/hats/mitts/school folder etc.  Finding a backpack that’s PVC-free was critical and one that would grow with her for a few years so not too little kiddie (i.e., she’s done with the animal-themed packs). Her little sis on the other hand is itching to get the old Skip Hop monkey backpack.

I fell in love with this backpack below from a company called Milk Dot.  Plus I like the story of the company. The owner wanted to combine good design with healthy products for kids.  This is really so much about what Dream Child is about – bringing together good design and eco-friendly production methods to create safe, cool products for kids.

 

For more information about PVC and other toxins in kids’ school supplies, check out the Centre for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) back to school guide. Here’s what they say about PVC:

PVC, also known as vinyl plastic, is the most toxic plastic for children’s health and the environment.  From production to use and disposal, vinyl releases a toxic cocktail of chemicals including dioxins, phthalates, mercury, PCBs, vinyl chloride, chlorine gas and numerous other substances harmful to our health, some of which are building up in our children’s bodies and food supply.  Scientists have found find certain vinyl chemicals linked to asthma, cancer, birth defects, learning and developmental disabilities, obesity, diabetes and other preventable chronic diseases on the rise.

 

Geez, ‘nough said! PVC-free is a MUST.  So is reading the labels – if it doesn’t say PVC-free, it probably isn’t.

 

Simply Green Baby also has a great selection of cute eco-friendly toys that don’t break the bank. Here’s an Innovative Kids cute puzzle I picked up for my 2.5 year old who has recently discovered a love of puzzles.

 

 

 

Grassroots Environmental Store

Grassroots Environmental Store is a one-stop shop (with locations on Toronto’s Danforth, in the Annex, and online) for all things eco-friendly for the home.  For my daughter’s teacher I bought an all-natural beeswax pillar candle as a thank you gift.

 

Green America has good info about all the bad toxins in regular candles like lead in the wicks and petroleum-based aromatherapy paraffin candles that release carcinogens when burned. These beeswax candles on the other hand have organic cotton wicks and smell so good and natural (because THEY ARE!).

Check out this cute board game I found for Jade who loves to garden. How fun it will be to play “in the garden” when it’s icy and cold outside.

Grassroots is my go-to store for unique, eco-friendly ‘thank you’ gifts. So many great candles, cutting boards, cute planter pots, creams, journals, gadgets etc. that say you care not just about them, but about the environment too.

Check out these very cool rechargeable batteries that charge in any USB port – a perfect stocking stuffer.

Loads more ideas are listed in their Green Gift Guide (including on page 9 a feature about Dream Child Organics!).

An organic cotton made in Canada duvet cover set by Dream Child is also a perfect gift for your big kids.

 

 

Dream Child’s organic bedding

Dream Child’s organic duvet cover set

 

Sprout Watches

Jade had just two items on her Santa Claus wish-list: an alarm clock and a watch.

I was super lucky to stumble upon Sprout Watches when participating on a Twitter chat hosted by Green Moms Collective (this chat happens every Monday at 9pm EST – see @GreenMomsCo and #GreenMom to be a part of a community of eco-minded moms and learn more about all things healthy and green for your family).

Lead-free, phthalate-free,  and constructed from sustainable elements such as biodegradable corn resin, bamboo, cork, organic cotton, this watch is just about as perfect as it can get. No plastic, no toxins, and PURPLE. Love.

 

Kid Culture

Located in Toronto’s Junction, Kid Culture is a real treasure for parents looking for unique kids’ products made by local and independent artists and businesses.

 

 

The hand-made super-hero capes by Play Me Mama Crafts are so adorable, and can be customized for your little super-hero

 

Kid Culture is also now carrying Dream Child’s organic cotton duvet covers, so another great reason to stop by the store for a visit. ;-)

 

Freedom Clothing Collective

I recently discovered this amazing store on Toronto’s Bloor St. West strip on my way from a visit to the Spun Studio at Sistering (the community agency producing Dream Child’s organic bedding).

Ah, this store, wow, it’s a dream come true. All local designers. Everything from dresses to bags; jewellery to pillows; hand knit scarfs and hats to unique jackets.  Santa, are you listening?

Well, Mama Claus didn’t want to wait for Santa to indulge in this fabulous dark purple organic cotton dress by Montreal clothing line Atelier B. Oh yes, I have been a very very good girl this year.

 

 

As you may now be able to tell, I’m someone who actually enjoys shopping. Shoot, my dirty secret is out! But by avoiding the big box stores/malls and sticking to local shops I do my part for the local economy while actually enjoying the pursuit of beautiful eco-friendly products.

I look first for made in Canada products. If not made in Canada, then by producers who share my values for ethical production methods.  I look for products that are high quality, that have a lot of heart and that my family will love.  And of course, I read the labels for signs of BPA, PVC, chemical dyes and fragrances, pesticides, polyester, phthalates, etc.

For more about choosing non-toxic toys, check out this blog post from the California-based non-profit Healthy Child Healthy World .

Also, many of these local retailers have great on-line shops which makes life even easier.  This Christmas I took the time to research and pick fun, well-designed, eco-friendly products my family will love. High quality products with a less-is-more approach is my way to a merry Christmas!

 

From my family to yours, here’s wishing you a healthy and merry (PVC-free, BPA-free, lead-free, polyester-free, phthalate-free) Christmas and New Year!

 

 

Blog by Shelley Smith, owner of Dream Child organic cotton bedding for kids. Dream Child bedding is bold, stylish and fun, made with organic cotton and toxin-free dyes and providing jobs to marginalized women in Toronto. Dream Child organic bedding is ethical and green from seed to seam to sleep.
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