≡ Menu

You may have noticed that I’ve recently started posting recipes again. Hooray! My year+ absence from recipes wasn’t entirely because of my baby (now toddler!) girl. If you want to read a bit more, please stop by this Instagram post. Longtime readers may remember that my dessert recipes became lower and lower sugar as time passed, so this healthy smash cake recipe with absolutely no added sugars or is such a perfect fit for The Artisan Life! I hope that likeminded moms who don’t want to send their new toddlers into a sugar-fueled frenzy enjoy this healthy smash cake recipe!

toddler approved healthy smash cake recipe

To be honest, I strongly considered not adding anything even vaguely sweet. I always knew I wouldn’t use honey, maple sugar, or any other ‘natural’ sugar. I toyed with the idea of using banana or carrot because I know LG likes both bananas and carrots. I ultimately decided to include some no sugar added applesauce for the liquid component. While browsing literally dozens of “healthy” first birthday cake recipes, I was really struck by how many of them seemed to be trying to cater to adult tastes. Your baby has no idea what cake is “supposed to” be like! Just make yourself and any guests a different treat to enjoy, if you want to. I suggest these healthy(er) vanilla cupcakes that I made for LG’s birthday party!

healthy vanilla cupcakes made with greek yogurt

Why to make a healthy smash cake

I’m sure a few folks are reading this wondering why in the world I didn’t just bake up a ‘normal’ cake, or just use something like maple syrup. The short answer is that I’m passionate about eliminating as many refined and added sugars from foods as possible. “But it’s her first birthday!” I can hear you say. Yes, exactly. The American Heart Association recommends no added sugars or juice before the age of 2. It’s also been shown that early introduction of added sugars influences taste preferences. In other words, introducing sugars early makes children more likely to want sugars. (And less likely to want to eat their veggies!) The evidence is mounting up against the refined sugars that currently find their way into just about every processed food product. If you want to know more about sugar, its detrimental effects, and corn subsidies that encourage the use of HFCS, I encourage you to read or watch The Case Against Sugar, The Omnivores Dilemma, and Fed Up.

If you’re nodding your head and thinking “yep, I’ve read that one!” then this healthy smash cake recipe is for you! As a quick note – this cake is not super fluffy, though it is nice and moist. It’s kind of like a large apple & oatmeal pancake. If your little one loves oatmeal and apples as much as ours does, I’m sure they’ll like it just fine! (I’m not going to lie, I stole the bottom layer off the pictured cake and ate it myself!)

healthy first birthday cake - no added sugar and gluten free!

Ingredients for healthy first birthday cake

I’ve baked this healthy toddler birthday cake several times now. The first time I combined all the ingredients with a stand mixer like you would with a ‘normal’ cake. Then, weirdly enough, my mom’s cats stole the cake, ate some of it, and pulled it across the kitchen. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The next time, I switched things up a bit and made it using our Ninja blender. I liked this version better, so it’s what I’m sharing today! If you don’t have a high-powered blender, just pre-ground oat flour and skip the flaxseed. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, cream the wet ingredients together, then stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. It would have quite as much loft, but it’ll still turn out fine!

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce -or- an apple and an electric pressure cooker
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup water, milk, or your favorite non-dairy milk. I just used water.
  • 2 tablespoons whole flaxseed. I prefer golden flaxseed.
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 1/2″ slices, soft but not totally melted.
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats (or oat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
  • A dash of cinnamon, if your little one likes it.
  • Whole milk, plain Greek yogurt for frosting. Make sure to get a brand without added thickeners or extra sugar. Fage and Cabot are my top picks.

healthy first birthday cake with oatmeal and applesauce

Healthy Smash Cake Recipe

Oat flour absorbs moisture quickly so the mixture become thicker the longer it sits. Try to work as quickly as possible. Have your cake pans prepared before mixing any ingredients!

If you’re making your own pressure cooker applesauce:

  1. Core a medium/large apple or two smaller apples and cut into 1″ chunks.
  2. Place the apple chunks and 1/3 cup of water in your electric pressure cooker. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
  3. Once pressure has released, transfer the cooked apples to a large glass measuring cup. Use an immersion blender to puree the apples, removing any excess skin that doesn’t puree.

To make a healthy first birthday cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease two 5 or 6 inch cake pans or three 4-inch pans. I’ve made it with both 6″ pans and 4″ pans, and I think the 4″ is definitely the cuter option! Coat lightly with flour, tapping out any excess. I used oat flour. 
  3. Combine the eggs, water, vanilla, and applesauce in your blender pitcher. Blend to combine. This took me about five seconds, tops.
  4. Sprinkle the flaxseeds on top and allow to sit for about five minutes.
  5. Add the butter and blend until it is combined and the flaxseeds are fully ground.
  6. Add the oats and baking powder. Blend until the oats are fully incorporated.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between prepared cake pans. You may need to use a spoon or spatula to encourage the batter to the pan’s edges. Jiggle and tap the pan to level the batter.
  8. Bake until a toothpick (or fork! I just use a fork) inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. My 6″ pans took about 18 minutes to bake the cake. It took about 25 minutes in the 4″ pans because each layer was considerably thicker. Ovens and pans vary, so keep en eye on your cake and pull it when it’s ready, not just because the clock said so.
  9. Allow the cakes to cool for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes to help them come free, then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack.
  10. Once the cake has fully cooled, you can “frost” it with whole milk Greek yogurt or the frosting of your choice. I allowed my Greek yogurt to drain in a colander in the fridge to remove any excess moisture so the cake wouldn’t become soggy. Simply line a colander with cheesecloth or a Viva paper towel and let it sit for a couple hours! If you’re going to frost and serve the cake immediately, you can skip this step. I went for a cute semi-naked appearance, but you do you! 
  11. Serve and watch your little one enjoy!

toddler approved healthy smash cake recipeYou can also print the recipe from this version here:

Healthy Smash Cake Recipe - No Added Sugar Gluten Free First Birthday Cake
Author: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup unsweetened apple sauce -or- an apple and an electric pressure cooker
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup water, milk, or your favorite non-dairy milk
  • 2 tablespoons whole flaxseed
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into ½" slices, soft but not melted
  • 1½ cups old fashioned oats (or oat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
  • A dash of cinnamon, if your little one likes it
  • Whole milk, plain Greek yogurt for frosting
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease two 5 or 6 inch cake pans or three 4-inch pans. Coat lightly with flour, tapping out any excess.
  3. Combine the eggs, water, vanilla, and applesauce in your blender pitcher. Blend to combine.
  4. Sprinkle the flaxseeds on top and allow to sit for about five minutes.
  5. Add the butter and blend until it is combined and the flaxseeds are fully ground.
  6. Add the oats and baking powder. Blend until the oats are fully incorporated.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between prepared cake pans. You may need to use a spoon or spatula to encourage the batter to the pan's edges. Jiggle and tap the pan to level the batter.
  8. Bake until a toothpick (or fork! I just use a fork) inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. My 6" pans took about 18 minutes to bake the cake. It took about 25 minutes in the 4" pans because each layer was considerably thicker. Ovens and pans vary, so keep en eye on your cake and pull it when it's ready, not just because the clock said so.
  9. Allow the cakes to cool for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes to help them come free, then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack.
  10. Once the cake has fully cooled, you can "frost" it with whole milk Greek yogurt or the frosting of your choice. I allowed my Greek yogurt to drain in a colander in the fridge to remove any excess moisture so the cake wouldn't become soggy. Simply line a colander with cheesecloth or a Viva paper towel and let it sit for a an hour or so.
  11. Serve and watch your little one enjoy!

 

I hope that you and your little one enjoy this healthy smash cake as much as we did!

healthy smash cake recipe - gluten free and no added sugars

Who else tries to give their kiddo (or themselves!) as little sugar as possible? I know I can’t be the only one!

watercolor luna moth with crystals and the text "Natasha" of The Artisan Life

{ 0 comments }

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Since I’m back to publishing recipes (hooray!) and Thanksgiving is almost here, it’s the perfect time to celebrate with a roundup of healthy Thanksgiving recipes here on The Artisan Life! This collection of healthy and made-ahead Thanksgiving sides and healthier Thanksgiving dessert recipes will help you feel better about your holiday feast. There are plenty of Paleo Thanksgiving recipes as well as lower sugar, healthier dessert options. I hope you enjoy!

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Healthy Thanksgiving side dish recipes

These mashed Paleo purple sweet potatoes are a fun way to add color to the table! They feature lime and coconut for a fresh flavor combination.

paleo purple sweet potatoes

Paleo Sweet potato apple cranberry casserole with pecans. I couldn’t really decide whether this one should be classified as a side dish or a dessert! I know most people consider it a side dish, so I put it here. It’s so amazing with cranberries that pop in your mouth! I’m probably making it this year for our family Thanksgiving. (Yes, those are sweet potatoes – the white-fleshed kind. I like them way more than the yellow ones!)

Paleo Sweet Potato Casserole

Mostly make-ahead roast potatoes are a great way to simplify your cooking plans! I love using a colorful medley of white, red, and purple potatoes for this delicious dish.

make ahead smashed roasted potatoes

You can also save time and stress with these meal prep oven roasted veggies!

I consider these roasted acorn squash with Paleo sausage stuffing a main dish on other occasions, but they could make a nice side for Thanksgiving. Use your favorite vegetarian sausage or leave it out for a vegetarian-friendly dish, or just make the stuffing without actually stuffing it into a squash for a Paleo-friendly stuffing/dressing option!

Roasted Acorn Squash with Paleo Stuffing

This Paleo sausage oven roasted vegetable bake makes up in just one baking sheet. Again, you can swap for vegetarian sausage or leave it out.

One Pan Paleo Sausage and Veggie Bake

This vegetarian pumpkin lentil curry is a great choice if you’re looking for something nontraditional for your Thanksgiving meal.

Have you ever tried pumpkin with pasta? This Greek yogurt pumpkin penne pasta is delicious and creamy! Again, you can leave out the sausage or make a vegetarian-friendly swap.

Pumpkin Sausage Penne Pasta with Greek Yogurt

Healthy Thanksgiving dessert recipes

Healthy Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes

If you’re looking for a unique, Paleo dessert option, these Paleo baked oranges with coconut whipped cream are just the thing for you!

Baked Oranges with Paleo Struesel and Spiced Coconut Whipped Cream

This Greek yogurt pumpkin pie dip is a long time favorite here on The Artisan Life! It’s low sugar and has a hack for making canned pumpkin taste deliciously fresh.

Making your own whipped cream is easy. Homemade whipped cream doesn’t deflate after plating so it’s very make ahead friendly. You can also make it as low sugar as you’d like!

Easy Homemade Whipped Cream (that won't deflate after plating!)

This easy pumpkin pie cake with Greek yogurt is a healthier take on an easy classic. It still uses a cake mix, though, so it isn’t as low sugar as many of the options here.

Pumpkin Pie Cake

For a similar, but healthier, take on pumpkin pie bars, check out this recipe! It doesn’t use a commercial cake mix – you make your own oatmeal topping.

Chocolate chip Greek yogurt sweet potato bread is another delicious, healthier dessert option!

Greek Yogurt Sweet Potato Bread Recipe

If cookies are more your style, take look at these egg-free pumpkin oatmeal cookies! They’re also very easy to make gluten free.

pumpkin oatmeal cookies

Paleo pecan maple meringue “cookies” are a low sugar dessert option that’s very make ahead friendly.

If you’re looking for something a bit more “desserty” for your guests, these chocolate chip pecan cookies are sweeter, but still have less sugar than many American desserts.

There are many more healthy dessert recipes here on The Artisan Life. Just stop by the desserts page from the drop down recipes menu for many more!

Thanksgiving craft ideas

Okay, so I know this is supposed to be a recipe roundup, but I couldn’t help including these adorable pumpkin place card holders! They’re so cute and easy to make:

polymer clay pumpkin photo holders for fall

Upcycled can pumpkins are also a fun Thanksgiving decor option if you’re an eco-friendly, low waste household.

recycled tin can pumpkins

I really hope that you enjoy these healthy Thanksgiving recipes! How do you plan to healthy-up your family’s feast?

watercolor luna moth with crystals and the text "Natasha" of The Artisan Life

{ 4 comments }

Pineapple Clothing Company Review

Today I want to offer my honest Pineapple Clothing Company review because I feel the need to share my experience with the company. I wasn’t able to find many reviews of Pineapple when I was trying to decide whether or not to order from them, so hopefully this post will help someone out.

an honest pineapple clothing company review

I was pretty excited when a representative from Pineapple Clothing reached out to me a few weeks ago and asked if I wanted to be a ‘brand ambassador.’ I wanted a new pair of yoga pants, so receiving a discount code was appealing! After placing my order, I would be able to join their affiliate program and offer a discount code to my readers & followers, which was also nice. I love making free yoga videos on YouTube, but YT advertising doesn’t pay much of anything, so the opportunity for a few affiliate sales sounded great. I also liked that they’re made in the USA. My husband wasn’t so sure about the purchase, but I told him I really didn’t want to just wear the exact same pair of pants in every single video and that just a handful of affiliate sales would recoup the cost of the new pair of pants. Eventually I decided to order both a shirt and a pair of pants.

Based on reviews available on their site and the sizing measurement chart, I decided to go with a size XS for the leggings. Several people commented that they ‘ran large’ and were super stretchy, and I currently sit right on the given upper measurements for the XS. I was worried that a small would be too loose and slip down, a problem that one person reported having with the leggings.

My customer review of Pineapple Clothing Company

When my order arrived,  I really liked the cute pineapple mailer. I used decorative tape and mailers for years with my Etsy shop and I think it’s a nice touch. When I unpacked my order, I was initially very surprised by how synthetic-y the leggings felt. I know that they are a synthetic material, but several people had commented that they were “soft and buttery” so I expected them to feel softer. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by how comfortable they felt on my legs. Things were looking and feeling good!

As I do with any pair of leggings, I stood in front of a mirror, did a few squats, and bent over. Yikes! The black leggings suddenly went very, very see-through. That’s not what I want for a YouTube video! I promptly emailed the company to ask for an exchange authorization number. They wrote back impressively fast, especially considering I emailed them at 8 pm (right after my baby went to sleep). In all, 2.5 hours elapsed between when the mail arrived and when I was able to email the company, which seems pretty good considering my husband was away and I was solo parenting.

yoga leggings from Pineapple Clothing Company

The leggings fit very well in the waist, they just didn’t work well for my muscular hips/thighs. I lift weights and CrossFit regularly, so I’m not as “long and lean” as many yoga teachers. I was a little concerned that a size S might fall down or gap funny at the waist, but I knew that transparent leggings weren’t going to work for me. I carefully packaged the leggings according to direction (even making sure to fold along the still visible fold lines!) and mailed them back the next day.

I did also order a shirt (they have a zillion cute looking shirt options) that I kept. The material is a little thicker than I usually like for shirts, but it’s cute and fit well enough. I do like the feel of the fabric for a synthetic material and it has a nice drape. You can see it in my recent energizing morning flow yoga video:

energizing morning flow yoga class

I was excited when we arrived home from a recent trip (to photograph a friend’s wedding, in case anyone is curious) and found I had a new package from Pineapple Clothing. I tore into it…only to be met by the sight of the mailer I used to make my return shipment. It had been opened, but contained a pair of XS leggings with no explanation. I assumed there must have been a mistake, so I emailed:

letter to pineapple clothing

Again, they wrote back very quickly. 

I wrote back explaining, truthfully and politely, that I had only worn the leggings for about 5 minutes. The squatting and bending over I did in them is exactly what I would have done at a brick and mortar store, plus I’d have walked around to find my husband and show him what the leggings looked like. I also explained why I was disappointed. While my husband is completing his degree and seeking employment, we are essentially living on savings. His income from one weekend a month in the Reserves and what I make online does not cover our monthly expenses. Now I’m stuck with a pair of pants I can’t used and I don’t feel comfortable recommending Pineapple Clothing to my followers or using my affiliate link.

They’ve never written back.

I actually had trouble sleeping that night because I was so upset. I was upset that I’d convinced my husband to let me buy these leggings that I can’t really use. I was upset that the company basically called me a liar. I was upset that they never even wrote back again. My sister is slightly smaller than I am and a runner instead of a lifter, so I guess I’ll see if she wants them.

Based on my experience, I recommend caution if you’re considering ordering from Pineapple Clothing Company.

If everything and gone well and the leggings had worked out for me in their original size, I’d say they’d be worth the discounted price, but probably not the (at time of writing) full retail of $65. I feel the same way about the shirt. It’s cute, but the full retail price is a bit much considering how many fun/cute shirts there are in the world these days. If you can catch a sale, or feel like using someone’s discount code, have a less athletic body type, and don’t need any returns/exchanges, then you might have a decent shopping experience with Pineapple Clothing. I do like that their clothing is made in the USA and I appreciate their prompt communication, when they replied. I just can’t really recommend a company who firmly believes that 5 minutes of trying out an item constitutes “using” it to much for a return. If what I did somehow wore the item out to an un-resell-able point, then they probably wouldn’t hold up to much use.

Yoga leggings to buy instead of Pineapple Clothing

If you’re looking for cute yoga leggings, there are lots of options. Pineapple’s patterns aren’t as good or the material as soft as my absolute favorite yoga leggings from Liquido Active. The designer prints from Liquido cost a little more, but on clearance they can cost less so it evens out. I’ve also been very happy with my LuluLemon leggings over the years. Again, they can cost more at full price, but can be less on clearance. (Plus when they had a see-through yoga pants problem a few years ago, they took the affected pants back, no questions asked.) I’ve never worn a pair of LuLaRoe leggings, but my understanding is that they cost quite a bit less, so they’re an option if any of your friends see them.

I’m wearing Liquido pants and shirt in this image, if you’re curious to see what they look like. You can find me in these leggings in many of my videos, too! The purple shorts in the image above are also Liquido. I’m not an affiliate with them, so I don’t get any benefit from recommending them – they’re just a company/product I really like. If you want to see the yoga strap tutorial, it’s right here.

DIY yoga strap tutorial

If you want to support individual artists, consider shopping leggings on Society6.  You can use this referral link for $10 off your first order so you don’t have to wait for a sale! You can also find leggings on RedBubble. They tend to cost in the ~$40 range. Then, of course, there’s the print on demand classic, Zazzle. In my experience, Zazzle’s quality is a little bit less than Society6, but I haven’t tried leggings from either site. If you have, I would love to know your thoughts!

I truly hope that my Pineapple Clothing Company review helps some people out!

I’m not saying absolutely don’t order from them, but do proceed with caution and consider your purchases final. I know their email says they make exchanges every day, but that wasn’t my personal experience. If you do make a purchase and need an exchange, I sincerely hope you have a better experience than I did!

watercolor luna moth with crystals and the text "Natasha" of The Artisan Life

{ 2 comments }

Grounding Yin Yoga Sequence – Yoga for Vata Dosha

Grounding yin yoga sequence for Vata dosha & fall

The first time I read about the Ayurvedic vata dosha, I was struck by how accurately vata characteristics described me. In balance Vatas tend to be energetic, creative, and enthusiastic. Vatas tend to become cold easily and prefer warm, moist environments. Out of balance, individuals with a dominate Vata dosha are prone to worrying, anxiety, insomnia, and spacey/scattered thoughts. Vatas are particularly susceptible to becoming out of balance during fall and winter because they’re predominantly vata seasons. This grounding yin yoga sequence is perfect for balancing a Vata dosha or for others who want to become more grounded in a Vata-dominate season!

Grounding yoga sequence for fall

Why yin yoga is grounding

Like many of my recent classes, this is a yin yoga sequence. Yin is the perfect way to get grounded and balance Vata energies! Vata is associated with air and ether, which are light and mobile. A fast-paced, “yang” yoga class can exacerbate a Vata imbalance because we’re already moving a mile a minute! Yin takes things more slowly. It’s based on finding stillness and holding poses for time while focusing on the breath. Slowing down and meditating can help calm a Vata’s busy mind! Additionally, most yin poses are seated or supine. These poses are, by nature, grounding. Finding stillness and holding a grounding pose = double dose of grounding!

Props needed for yin yoga

Because poses are held for time, some basic props are popular in yin yoga. In my experience, most people can benefit from a set of yoga blocks while practicing yin. You’ll see me use a block a couple of times in this yin yoga sequence. A towel or blanket could be helpful for this practice, but you can try folding your mat over, instead. You may also want a pillow or bolster. I also recommend dressing warmly for this one!

You can watch this free yoga class in this window, or you can watch this grounding yin yoga sequence on my YouTube channel. If you enjoy, please make sure to stop by my channel home page to join the thousands of folks who already subscribe! Videos are usually several days old before I’m able to post about them here on the blog, so subscribing on YouTube will ensure you don’t have to wait for your next free yin yoga class!

I’ve already had someone on YouTube ask me about yoga practices for the other two doshas, Pitta and Kapha. As a Vata in a Vata season, I don’t intend to create sequences for the other two doshas anytime soon. Depending on how I’m feeling, I may create sequences during the appropriate seasons. In general, Kaphas can benefit from a practice that is airy, warm, and a bit quicker moving. Poses with arms raised, forward folds, back bends, and inversions can all help get a Kapha moving. For a balancing practice, Pittas should avoid practicing in a heated space and focus on compassion, acceptance, and having a bit of fun instead of competing. Standing poses and twists can help release Pitta’s extra heat.

grounding yin yoga sequence for fall

Creating this practice was such a joy and so beneficial for me. I truly hope you enjoy it as much as I did! As always, please let me know what you’d like to see addressed in future yoga classes!

watercolor luna moth with crystals and the text "Natasha" of The Artisan Life

{ 2 comments }

My husband and I have frequently discussed what we want LG’s media exposure to be as she grows. We both agree we want a low-media child, but we also realize that some media exposure is inevitable (even necessary) in today’s high-tech world. I grew up with very strictly rationed TV and console video game time. I could watch one movie on Saturday morning or have an equivalent amount of other screen time. Computer games like Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? were allowed at other times during the week in moderation. My husband grew up in a very high-media household, so he thinks being overly restrictive would backfire. Either way, we agree that LG is still too young for screens. We get to kick that can down the road a bit longer! My husband argues that all video games can be beneficial, in moderation, so today I’m sharing some of the lessons you learn from the video games your child plays.

lessons you learn from the video games your child plays

Lessons you Learn from the Video Games your Child Plays

Have you ever thought about watching your children while they play their video games? There are a huge number of online games available today and you can learn a lot by watching your children play. So, next time you get a little bit of spare time you should take the opportunity to watch your kids play video games. You may find that you can learn something useful about your kids!

Lesson 1: Hard work

Most video games revolve around the concept of ‘levelling up’. This simply means that once your child completes one level they will then move onto a more difficult level. Early levels are easier, but they’ll come to a point where it’s tough and takes longer to level up. (If you’ve ever played an MMO or RPG you know exactly what I’m talking about! Just think about the points required to level up in WoW as the levels get higher.) Your child then has to use determination and hard work in order to succeed and move onto the next level. You see the commitment your child can put in. Perhaps this is something that they could then use in other aspects of their life?

Lesson 2: Who is your child?

You also note the way that they use their mind in order to try different means and methods of defeating the challenges faced in the level. You get to learn about how your child’s brain works and also about how they react to failure too. After all, we all have different approaches to puzzles and problems. The insight into your child’s personality is huge and you can use this in order to form a greater bond too. By simply taking note of the type of games your kid enjoys playing, from Japan anime games to classic cartoon games, you get a glimpse into their character. It is like fitting together all of the pieces of a puzzle.

child playing a video game

Lesson 3: Reading level

You can learn a lot about the level of your child’s reading ability by watching them play online games. You may be shocked to see the amount of reading that is involved in video games. In fact, there are lots of games that contain a build-up story before each level. Furthermore, your child will also need to read in order to figure out the instructions of the game. This means you can rest safe in the knowledge that their reading skills are being enhanced and you can also learn about where they are at present too. You can pick up on other important skills too by observing your child. For example, how are their eye to hand coordination skills? My husband credits Grand Theft Auto with teaching him how to drive…but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. If your child is too young to be truly reading yet, stop by my post on the best chewable books for babies and toddlers to get them headed in the right direction!

Baby chewing on an Indestructibles Book

Lesson 4: Map reading

There are lots of games that require your children to read maps. This is because lots of kids’ games are revolved around adventure. Therefore, you can learn about whether your child is competent in map reading or not. If you are yet to teach them about this then you will also be able to discover how quickly they can pick things up via their own means.

Lesson 5: Emotions

You can learn a lot about how emotional your child is and how they deal with their emotions. You will see the level of jubilation felt when completing a level and alternatively how frustrated they feel when they do not complete a level. This allows you to determine how your child channels their emotions. This is very important for developmental purposes. If your child gets frustrated and angry easily, this is something you can work on with them.

children playing a computer game

Although it’s super tempting to just hand your kid a screen when you have to get something done, try to find the time to watch them play their favorite video games. You will be surprised by how much you can learn about your little one by observing the types of video games they play and their attitude while doing so. Plus, while video games may have a bit of a bad reputation, you may find that they can be beneficial, in moderation. I just don’t know about teaching our baby to drive with GTA like my husband wants. 😉

watercolor luna moth with crystals and the text "Natasha" of The Artisan Life

 

{ 0 comments }

The days when LG used to lie in tummy time, staring at her favorite board book or printable high contrast cards seems so long ago! It’s only been about 6 months, but that’s half her lifetime, so I guess it really has been a long time! A few weeks ago she started vigorously and immediately tearing into her favorite books…with her teeth. Although I believe the mouthing books is part of the sensory experience, I also don’t want her 1) destroying her favorite books or 2) eating that much cardboard. We’ve had to make the switch to chewable baby books for the time being. Although LG still gets to read her board books, as soon as it goes in her mouth we physically redirect her to a chewable book and say something like “you may chew on this book.” Luckily, there are several types of chewable baby books on the market today so you have lots of choices! I hope you enjoy this roundup of the best chewable baby books, plus a bonus tip on how to get Indestructibles looking nice again!

The Best Chewable Baby Books

Types chewable baby books

There are four main types of chewable baby books: hard plastic, vinyl/soft plastic, fabric, and Indestructibles. 

You can also find wood baby books, which can be chewable, but lots of chewing can still damage them, particularly if Baby has teeth! That’s why I’m not including them in this list.

Indestructibles baby books

Indestructibles are super awesome! They’re a specific product line that feels like a thick paper, but it chew proof, tear proof, and waterproof. LG has absolutely loved Indestructibles ever since she first received one at about 10 weeks old. Some of the books have words, others do not. As great as Indestructibles are, they are not wrinkle proof. Luckily, you can iron Indestructibles flat again! …as long as you’re careful.

Pros of Indestructibles:

  • Tear proof
  • Waterproof
  • Chew proof (I’ve watched LG try to tear hers, unsuccessfully, with her teeth)
  • Washable
  • Lightweight and easy for Baby to hold
  • Soft so Baby won’t hurt herself by dropping the book on a toe, playing peek-a-boo a bit too enthusiastically, etc.
  • Come in a variety of illustration styles so you can find one you like.
  • There are fun, redone classics like Old McDonald Had a Farm in Bolivia, Humpty Dumpty on the Great Wall of China, and Hey Diddle Diddle in New Orleans.
  • There’s at least one bilingual Spanish Indestructibles!

Cons of Indestructibles

  • They do wrinkle and curl up to the point where they won’t lay flat any more.
  • Although there are some redone classics (like!), you generally won’t find classic baby stories.
  • Although some books have words, many of them don’t. This is great and allows for open-ended play/discussion, but it can also be a bit mentally taxing when you’re tired! Though, to be fair, many other chewable baby book options also don’t have many words.
  • All Indestructibles are 7″x7″ and made from the same papery material so the physical sensory experience is the same for all the books.
  • They don’t really stand up on their own, especially after a bit of “reading,” so they aren’t always the best option for tummy time or side lying time.

Baby chewing on an Indestructibles Book

How to get Indestructibles to lie flat again

You can iron Indestructibles to make them flat, or almost flat, again! However, you must proceed with caution because direct heat from the iron can melt the pages. In less extreme cases, it can still leave semi-melted, shiny patches on your pages. To iron your Indestructibles:

  • Heat your iron to a hot & steam setting.
  • Place a color fast, natural material, and smooth cloth (so not a terrycloth towel, for example) between your book and iron. You can use a cotton or linen napkin, flour sack towel, or other ironing cloth.
  • Iron the book through the cloth. You can iron the whole book at once or, if it needs more smoothing, iron a page at a time.
  • Move the iron to the other end of the ironing board before removing your cloth to make sure there are no mishaps!

baby playing with an indestructibles book

Soft cloth baby books

Cloth baby books are so classic! They’re available commercially, handmade from places like Etsy, or you can DIY your own cloth baby books.

Pros of cloth baby books

  • They are very popular so there’s a wide variety of materials, sizes, content, etc.
  • There are cloth baby books with crinkle paper, rattles, attached toys, and even ones with stuffed animal tails!
  • There are cloth versions of many classic books like Are you my Mother?, The Cat in the Hat, and Goodnight Moon.
  • There are artisans on marketplaces like Etsy who made customized cloth baby books. I even found a seller, Verdant Violet, who makes cloth books for babies with really specific science themes like electrical engineering and naval engineering!
  • There are a variety of tutorials online that show you how to make your own cloth baby book. A Pinterest search will show lots of ideas and patterns, both paid and free. How to sew a cloth baby book from Sew What, Alicia? is a good place to start for a simple, free tutorial with a few theme options.
  • Many cloth books are washable.

Cons of cloth baby books

  • The book may be too floppy to stand up on their own for play during tummy time or encouraging crawling/rolling.
  • Cloth baby books tend to get grubby more easily than Indestructibles or plastic options, necessitating more frequent washing.
  • Not all cloth books are washable or may not hold up well to repeated washing.
  • Some cloth books take a long time to dry, which can lead to stink/mildew problems.
  • Determined little ones with teeth may still be able to gnaw a hole in the fabric.

baby sitting in a pile of chewable cloth books

Vinyl baby books – “bath books”

Vinyl or soft puffy plastic “bath books” have also been around for quite some time.

Pros of waterproof baby bath books

  • They float and can double as a bath toy.
  • There are also some classics, like The Rainbow Fish, available.
  • Soft and light so they won’t hurt Baby if dropped on toes, etc.
  • They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • There are vinyl bath books that come with rattles, squeakers, tub clings, and even ones with bath crayons.
  • Cons of vinyl baby books
  • Many are very short with only a couple of pages.
  • You have to check to make sure the books are phthalate and BPA free – not all of them are.
  • If used in the bath, you need to make sure to wipe all the pages dry or they can develop mildew.

Hard plastic baby books

I honestly didn’t know about hard plastic baby books until very recently! All of the hard plastic books I’ve seen have batteries and extra tech features (lights, music, etc.). This may be a pro or a con to you – it depends on your perspective!

Pros of hard plastic baby books

  • The pages are very easy for babies to turn, which can help develop fine motor skills.
  • Many of them have a lot of text, which makes them good for story time.
  • Cons of hard plastic baby books
  • There are far fewer books available. VTech and Fisher Price seem to make most of the available options.
  • They tend to cost more than other baby books.
  • Hard plastic books are heavier, which increases the risk of bonks and ouches.

The best Chewable Baby Books

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at four types of chewable baby books and each one’s pros and cons! Each type of chewable baby book provides a different sensory experience that can enrich your little one until she learns to keep those board books out of her mouth!

What’s your favorite type of book for mouthing babies and toddlers? Can you think of a type of chewable baby book I missed?

watercolor luna moth with crystals and the text "Natasha" of The Artisan Life

{ 0 comments }

Healthy Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

Our Little Gnome recently turned 1 – how is it even possible?! I created a healthy first birthday cake just for her and she loved it. Although I liked her “cake,” I didn’t think part guests would appreciate it quite as much, so I made vanilla cupcakes with buttercream icing. Y’all know me, though…I couldn’t help making them a bit healthier! I hope y’all enjoy this healthy vanilla cupcake recipe. Or, okay “healthier.” They’re not health food, but they are substantially lower sugar and healthier for you than traditional cupcakes, which makes them perfect for people like us who don’t eat much dessert!

healthy vanilla cupcakes with greek yogurt recipe

For LG’s party, I tinted the buttercream with purple gel food coloring. Gel is my favorite for icing because it doesn’t change the consistency as much as liquid food color. I also added cute Very Hungry Caterpillar toppers. I was unable to get any photos of LG’s first birthday with my real camera because we accidentally left our cameras at a motel in Virginia! 😱 We discovered this unfortunate fact about an hour before her party. It was such a gut-dropping realization! Amazingly, we called the hotel and they had our camera bags behind the desk! My wonderful husband drove 9 hours round trip to retrieve them the next day. We are so thankful to have our cameras back and will always pick this particular hotel whenever we need to stop on the way to WV as a result.

Lower sugar cupcakes

I was so proud and happy when one of the party guests, who is a pediatrician, complemented the cupcakes for not being too sweet! I think they’re just right – sweet enough that you know they’re a ‘treat’ if you’re normally a low-sugar person, but not too sweet to eat. If you prefer a sweeter cupcake recipe, you may like this recipe for a dozen cupcakes better (though it’s still slightly lower sugar than ‘normal.’)

I think these strawberry shortcake cupcakes are a little sweeter, too. This recipe uses whipped cream instead of icing, so you might prefer it if making buttercream isn’t your thing!

strawberry shortcake cupcakes with whipped cream

Healthy vanilla cupcake recipe

Alright, let’s get to the star of today’s post – the healthy vanilla cupcakes! Although I baked them in paper wrappers, I typically use the silicone baking cups pictured with the other cupcakes linked in this post. I just didn’t feel like dragging them out of storage where they’re currently living (above my mom’s garage!). I know it’s hard, but do let these cupcakes cool before digging in. In my experience, they need a few minutes to cool and settle before they’re quite ready to eat. IF you try one when it’s hot, it may be difficult to remove the wrapper and it won’t taste quite the same. I think they taste their best the day after baking, which is perfect if you’re planning ahead for a party!

Healthy Vanilla Cupcakes Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons milk or non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder (make sure it's fresh!)
  • ¼ cup butter, room temperature and cut into ½" slices
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg white
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF and prepare your muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Combine the milk and lemon juice in a small bowl or glass measuring cup and stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. Whisk or sift the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer on medium using the paddle attachment. Combine until the mixture is fluffy and fully combined.
  5. Add the Greek yogurt, egg, and egg whites. Mix until fully combined.
  6. Add the vanilla extract and milk/lemon juice mixture and mix on low until combined.
  7. Add the flour mixture a spoonful at a time. Mix until just combine, but do not over-mix! Increase speed to medium-low, if necessary.
  8. Pour or spoon the batter into your prepared cupcake liners, filling each cup ½ - ⅔ of the way full.
  9. Bake until the tops of the cupcakes are just turning golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Ovens and pans vary - I've had these cupcakes ready in under 20 minutes, but I've also had them take 25+.
  10. Once they're done, remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow them to cool completely before icing.

 

Lower sugar frosting ideas

While these cupcakes are healthier, I’ve learned not to experiment with too many different things at the same time so I used my favorite buttercream icing recipe. You can find it included with the cupcake recipe in this post.

healthy vanilla cupcakes recipe

Although it’s lighter, and lower sugar, than a basic buttercream, you may want to swap for something more health-conscious. Homemade whipped cream without much sugar, whipped coconut cream, cream cheese frosting, or even strained Greek yogurt can all work as icing! I used strained whole milk Greek yogurt for LG’s birthday cake and it worked wonderfully. I used a cream cheese & Greek yogurt frosting with the small batch chocolate chip cupcakes pictured below.

I really hope you enjoy these healthy vanilla cupcakes with Greek yogurt! They’re such a welcome reprieve from overly sugary desserts. “Normal” American desserts are so overpowering if you focus on eating whole foods like we do.

healthy vanilla cupcakes with Greek yogurt

If you enjoy healthier recipes, especially ones with Greek yogurt, I hope you follow me on Pinterest and check back again soon! 

watercolor luna moth with crystals and the text "Natasha" of The Artisan Life

{ 4 comments }

toddler approved healthy smash cake recipe

Healthy Smash Cake Recipe – No Added Sugar Gluten Free First Birthday Cake

You may have noticed that I’ve recently started posting recipes again. Hooray! My year+ absence from recipes wasn’t entirely because …
Read More
Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes Since I’m back to publishing recipes (hooray!) and Thanksgiving is almost here, it’s the perfect time to …
Read More
an honest pineapple clothing company review

Pineapple Clothing Company Review

Today I want to offer my honest Pineapple Clothing Company review because I feel the need to share my experience …
Read More
Grounding yoga sequence for fall

Grounding Yin Yoga Sequence – Yoga for Vata Dosha

Grounding yin yoga sequence for Vata dosha & fall The first time I read about the Ayurvedic vata dosha, I …
Read More
lessons you learn from the video games your child plays

Lessons you Learn from the Video Games your Child Plays

My husband and I have frequently discussed what we want LG’s media exposure to be as she grows. We both …
Read More
The Best Chewable Baby Books

The Best Chewable Baby Books (Plus a bonus tip on getting Indestructibles flat again!)

The days when LG used to lie in tummy time, staring at her favorite board book or printable high contrast …
Read More

Loading...

%d bloggers like this: