Monday, January 6, 2014

It's time to move on...

You may have noticed it's been quiet here the last couple months. Life's been a bit of a whirlwind (trip to Mexico, back to work, two kiddo birthdays and Christmas), affording very little time for writing.

But more importantly, I've made a decision - it's time for "Manager to Mom" to retire from parenting and review/giveaway blogging.

While this hobby has certainly been enjoyable and fulfilling, it has also entailed a ton of time and effort, which the universe has been telling me recently to claim back and reallocate to family (first and foremost), friends, my day job and other interests and passions I have been discovering.

To all my readers - a heartfelt thank you for coming along on this journey with me. I appreciate all your visits, your contribution to many great discussions and your words of encouragement. And to my sponsors, I am grateful to have had the chance to discover so many wonderful companies and products which are truly improving people's lives and making a positive impact on our planet. 

May you all be happy, be healthy and live with ease.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Baby Gourmet Creative Combo Purées & Mushies: Review & Giveaway! (Closed)

Baby Gourmet is an organic baby food company with Canadian roots offering a wide variety of tasty, nutritious and convenient meals and snacks for little ones. Although we've historically made most of our baby food from scratch, there have been times when we've appreciated having "ready to go" options (e.g., while out and about,travelling, etc.) and, in these cases, Baby Gourmet's been our go-to brand. Our daughter has enjoyed various purées from their Simply Smart and Squoosh lines, and earlier this year when our son CJ was starting solids, I partnered with the company to review their Creamy Brown Rice Cereal.

Today I'll be sharing my thoughts on two other Baby Gourmet products I've most recently had the chance to test out - Creative Combos Purées and Mushies. Both are designed for babies 8+ months old, so the timing was perfect as our little man had just passed this milestone himself when I received my review package.

We got to test two of the five available Creative Combos flavours (Fruity Carrot & Greek Yogurt Smoothie, and Vanilla Banana Berry Risotto) and both flavours of Mushies (Banana Berry Greek Yogurt and Fruity Greens).

Product Info: Creative Combos Purées

At around eight months, your baby is ready for a new taste adventure.  At this age, babies like to feel the difference in textures.  Our Creative Combos deliver enhanced texture in our fruit & veggie recipes.

Fruity Carrot & Greek Yogurt Smoothie

Greek yogurt is perfect for babies because of the creamy texture and most importantly for the protein content. Jen`s kids love smoothies and a scoop of Greek yogurt always makes it way into the blender. Think healthy, natural creamsicle when you eat this one...yum!!!

  • No added sugar or salt
  • No fillers or thickeners
  • BPA-free
  • No gluten
  • Kosher

Complete Recipe List:
  • Organic Mango
  • Organic Banana
  • Organic Apple
  • Organic Greek Yogurt
  • Organic Carrot
  • Organic Orange Juice Concentrate
  • Organic Lemon Juice Concentrate
  • Ascorbic Acid

Vanilla Banana Berry Risotto

Jen makes delicious vanilla bean rice pudding for her family and modifies it for baby by removing dairy and adding bananas and blueberries


  • Organic
  • 65% Daily Value Vitamin C
  • No Added Sugar
  • No Added Salt
  • Nut Free
  • No Fillers
  • Kosher
  • BPA Free Packaging

Complete Recipe List:

  • Organic Banana
  • Organic Apple
  • Organic Brown Rice
  • Water
  • Organic Blueberry
  • Pure Organic Vanilla Extract
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Organic Lemon Juice Concentrate

My Review: Creative Combos Purées

Having tried (and thoroughly enjoyed) many of Baby Gourmet's other purées, we had high expectations for these ones, and they definitely didn't disappoint!

Taste-wise, both are flavourful and delicious. The ingredient combos work well together and the main flavours all come through. The Fruity Carrot & Greek Yogurt Smoothie is sweet and a little tangy, and the Vanilla Berry Banana Risotto is, well, very vanilla berry banana-y. (Shocker, right?) Both taste natural and "real", and neither is cloyingly sweet.

The VBBR is the more "interesting" of the two, texture-wise. The brown rice in it is moderately blended (as though it's been pulsed a couple times through a processor), yielding a chunky consistency that's adventurous but still totally manageable for the toothless folk.


The FCGY is smooth, but thicker and creamier than the 6-7 month purées we've tried.

I like to serve both combos mainly as snacks on the run, but sometimes I'll bust 'em out at home after meals, as a special treat. Both of my kids go a little cuckoo when they see one. CJ gives it the crazy "I want you!" eyes, and S inevitably pleads "Can I have some????" So it works out well - Ceej gets the first half and then S polishes it off, which (mostly) pleases both and helps ensure neither is over-fruit-sugared. (Particularly key for the FCGY, which has 22 grams per pouch.) An open package does last for 24+ hours in the fridge, however, which comes in handy when the little guy and I are snackin' alone.

On the few occasions we've allowed him to gulp down a whole pack in one sitting, it's taken him all of about 42 seconds. That's mommy's little competitive eater!

Overall, Baby Gourmet's definitely whipped up another healthy, tasty winner with their Creative Combos. (Heck, I may or may not have even slurped down a pouch (or two) myself - shhhhh! :)

Product Info: Mushies

For little mouths just discovering new textures and flavors, Mushies are the next step in developing a taste for good food. These freeze-dried packets of healthy bite-sized snacks have no added sugar or anything artificial – just pure, top quality organic ingredients. Perfect for babies and toddlers.

Banana Berry Greek Yogurt

Babies love our Vanilla Banana Berry Risotto, so Jen replaced the rice with protein-packed Greek Yogurt to give a creamy texture. Like all Mushies, Banana Berry Greek Yogurt is freeze dried with nothing artificial and no added sugar, a perfect melt in your mouth snack for self feeding babies.


  • Perfect for little fingers
  • No Added Sugar
  • Nothing Artificial
  • Only the best ingredients
  • BPA Free Packaging
  • Kosher

Complete Recipe List:

  • Cultured Organic Milk
  • Organic Skim Milk
  • Organic Banana
  • Organic Blueberry
  • Organic White Grape Juice Concentrate
  • Organic Whey Protein Concentrate
  • Organic Tapioca Starch
  • Citric Acid
  • Mixed Tocopherols
  • Ascorbic Acid

Fruity Greens

Inspired by the popularity of Juicy Pear & Garden Green baby food, Jen added the goodness of Kale and then freeze dried the new recipe into melt-in your mouth, bite-sized bits of fun that babies love to feed themselves. Another great way to help baby develop a love for green veggies!

  • Perfect for little fingers
  • No Added Sugar
  • Nothing Artificial
  • Only the best ingredients
  • BPA Free Packaging
  • Kosher
  • Organic

Complete Recipe List:
  • Organic Banana
  • Organic Apple
  • Organic Spinach
  • Organic Pregelatinized Tapioca Starch
  • Organic Kale
  • Citric Acid
  • Ascorbic Acid

My Review: Mushies

Mushies is Baby Gourmet's newest product line, launched this past June.When my BG contact first mentioned it to me, for some reason I assumed it would be a chewy snack and thus wondered how it would be safe for a toothless 8-month-old. Well, I assumed wrong. (And, clearly I didn't read the product description ahead of time, or the "freeze dried" bit would've steered me in the right direction!)

In actuality, Mushies are reminiscent of mini meringue cookies. They start out lightweight and solid, and then instantly crumble and melt in your mouth. So definitely no choking hazard here.

Here's a recommended(ish) serving size of Mushies including both flavours. I'm willing to bet you can tell which type is which. :)

Mushies are the perfect size for little fingers, and the dry texture makes them easy to grip.

OK, so that's all good - but how do they taste? Pretty darn good, I have to say! The Banana Berry Greek Yogurt is creamy with a subtle sweetness, and the Fruity Greens remind me of our morning green smoothies. The spinach comes through fairly assertively (which I like!), but it's tempered nicely by the apple and banana for an overall pleasing experience. Both our kids gulp down each flavour like there's no tomorrow!

Another thing I love about this snack is that it's essentially mess-free. You can't say that about too many things that are consumed by almost-one-year-olds!

I also like that each package contains about 3-4 servings. Big enough to share with friends, but small enough for a single child to consume before losing its freshness (i.e. within the recommended 5-7 day window).

The only thing I'm not overly thrilled with is the presence of a few funky ingredients (e.g., mixed tocopherols and pregelatinized tapioca starch) but everything appears to check out OK from a safety standpoint so I can deal. :)

Overall, I've gotta hand it to Baby Gourmet yet again. Mushies are a nutritious, fun, tasty, safe and accessible snack for new self-feeders (and their older siblings, who'll want in on the action too!) Definitely a great option to have kicking around your pantry.

Buy It: 

Visit the store locator to find a store which sells Creative Combos, Mushies and other Baby Gourmet Products near you!

Win It:

Two lucky Manager to Mom readers will each win a 12-pack of Creative Combos and an 8-pack of Mushies! (Note - flavours will be chosen by Baby Gourmet based on availability.) Open to CANADA ONLY.

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Please follow all instructions within each entry option to ensure your entries are valid.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  The prize is being provided and shipped to the winner by Baby Gourmet.  I received no financial compensation for writing my review or offering this giveaway, although I did receive the sample items free of charge.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.

Friday, November 29, 2013

mimiTENS: Children's Mittens That Stay On With No Strings Attached! {Review and Sale Alert!}

Let's face it - there's a LOT of baby and kid gear out there, and it's certainly a challenge to figure out what's actually useful and what just looks good on paper! But every once in awhile, I stumble upon a product that makes so much sense I feel it's my duty to sing its praises at every opportunity.

Enter mimiTENS, a quirkily-named brand of childrens' mittens made right here in Canada. Unlike your all-too-common "traditional" mittens which just cover the hands (and maybe a small part of the wrist), mimiTENS include cuffs which go all the way up to the elbows. This simple design ensures that they stay on and keep wrists warm, two things that traditional mittens fail to do. Like I said before - it Just. Makes. Sense!

There are a few other brands which incorporate a similar concept and I've tried a couple of these. However, I have to say I prefer our mimiTENS hands down (no pun intended) for two reasons. First, the arm fabric of mimiTENS is super stretchy which makes them easy to pull on and able to be layered in different ways - underneath everything, between clothing and outerwear, and on top of outerwear. By contrast, one other brand I've tried has stiff, tight arm fabric making them a pain to pull on, and another can only be worn on top of outerwear. Second, mimiTENS come in the most redonkulously adorable array of colours and styles.

mimiTENS are available in two main styles: SOFT (made with Oeko-Tex certified bamboo/organic cotton fleece, thumbless and designed for babies up to 18 months) and ALL WEATHER (made of water-repellent nylon, Thinsulate insulation and Oeko Tex certified bamboo/organic cotton fleece, and available in sizes ranging from 18 months to 5 years).

For review purposes, mimiTENS owner Anna-Marie Mountfort generously agreed to equip both our children with brand spankin' new all weather mittens from the latest collection.

CJ (almost 1 year) received a pair of Classic Red mimiTENS in the baby size (i.e. no thumbs).

S (almost 3 years) received a pair of Silver Butterfly mimiTENS in the 2-3 year size.

The Silver Butterfly is one of several in the latest collection boasting an extra safety feature - decals made of 3M Scotchlite Reflective to help make kids even more visible!

Both pairs are made with the same super-stretchy cuff material. This should give you an idea of the "stretch factor":

Our children usually wear their mimiTENS in between their clothing and outerwear...

...but as you can see here, the mitts work perfectly well pulled on top of outerwear too - even a super-puffy jacket! This saves us those times when we put a jacket on one of our kids, then realize his/her hands are still bare. No problema!

During our li'l photo shoot, I asked S if her thumbs were in the right spot and she held up both hands proudly to show that they were. Yet another nice thing about mimiTENS - easy access thumb holes!

Mr. CJ has been super-grumpy the last few days (battling both a cold and ear infection, poor guy) so he hasn't been overly eager to show off his own mimiTENS. :( I'll post a picture or two when he's feeling better so you can see the thumbless style in action.

In terms of longevity, I'm happy to report that mimiTENS totally rock! I was lucky enough to discover the brand a couple years back when my daughter was a year old, and I purchased both a soft and an all weather pair at that point. I'm happy to report that after extensive wear and numerous washes, both original pairs have held up extremely well and look almost as good as new!

I can think of only one minor criticism with these mittens; they occasionally "ride down" a bit so that the hand ends up in the cuff area. (This happens more often with CJ, who writhes around a lot more & whatnot.) That said, this is the point where a traditional mitten would fall off, so the mimiTENS are still in much better shape here! :) 

Finally, I want to quote a couple more cool things about mimiTENS as a company:
  • All mimiTENS mittens are produced in Canadian factories known for their excellence in making winter gear. Through our manufacturing partners, we supports safe working environments and provides respectable wages. mimiTENS are proud to create work in Canada. 
  • mimiTENS will happily accept defective merchandise. While we have every confidence in our products, sometimes things go unexpectedly wrong – especially when you are making something a few thousand at a time. If your mittens come apart at the seams or something else lame, please contact us and let us know.

All in all, I can't recommend mimiTENS mittens highly enough. If you have children 5 and under and don't live in a tropical climate, you really have no excuse not to own some yourself!

Buy It:

mimiTENS can be purchased directly from the company website or from numerous online & "brick and mortar" retailers (in Canada, the United States and Worldwide).

** Black Friday Sale Alert!! ** - mimiTENS is currently offering 20% off orders placed on their website from now until end-of-day Monday, December 2nd. Use code blackshopin to receive your discount!

Follow mimiTENS:

Disclosure:  I received no financial compensation for writing my review, although I did receive the sample items free of charge.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Janine's Place - Upcycled Wool and More {Etsy} - Review & Giveaway! (Closed)

A few months back when CJ started outgrowing his small wool diaper covers, I searched for a Canadian cloth diaper retailer specializing in wool so I could begin stocking up on the next size. In doing this, I stumbled upon Janine's Place, an Etsy shop selling wool covers (both soakers and longies), upcycled wool slippers (how cool!), carrier teething pads and other nifty hand-made goodies.

The shop is located very close to me in Woodstock, Ontario and the owner (Janine - you probably could've guessed that, huh? ;) is not only a talented seamstress but also a mama to a beautiful one-year-old daughter and a holistic nutritionist. That's quite the resume! :) Janine was eager to partner up with me on a blog review and giveaway, and provided me with my review package in person at a lovely store called Organic Oasis, which has since become one of my favourite places to shop.

My package consisted of two items, which Janine customized just for us - a pair of 100% upcycled merino wool night time longies (sewn from scratch to fulfill CJ's rise, waist and inseam measurements) and organic bamboo/flannel teething pads designed to coordinate with my Ergobaby carrier. Let's take a look at each one!

Here are the longies. Anyone else compelled to play tic tac toe on 'em? ;)

Merino wool is known for being soft, and these longies are no exception! They definitely feel nice & smooth against the skin. Since we went with night longies, Janine sewed a single layer of fabric on the legs and a double layer in the soaker area for added all-night protection (vs. day longies on which she sews a single layer throughout).

Janine definitely nailed the fit, dont'cha think?

At first I thought they were a tad on the small side, but Janine reassured me that they'd stretch a significant amount and thus give us a long period of wearing time. She was right!

Performance-wise, these guys have been bullet-proof! We generally outfit CJ with a fitted + doubler and the longies on top, and we haven't experienced a single leak in 20+ wearings. The inside does get damp after a full night of wear, but the moisture never makes it to the outside of the wool. When we change him in the morning, we just turn the longies inside out and they're generally dry enough to wear again the next night if we want.

When we received the longies, CJ was workin' the army crawl so he really put the leg material through the wringer for the first month or so. Happily, they held up quite well to all the punishment, ending up with the general integrity intact and just some superficial pilling around the knees.

In terms of maintenance, we've followed standard wool care procedures (lanolize and hand wash) and have had no issues! Note that Janine offers a wool lanolizing service for those who'd rather not deal with this part.

Next up - the teething pads! I hafta say pads are a must when using a soft-structured carrier. If your baby is teething, he/she will inevitably latch onto your carrier straps and could potentially damage them, especially once those chompers start coming through! It's also a heck of a lot quicker and easier to wash a pair of pads than the whole carrier itself.

Janine makes her teething pads with two layers of organic bamboo French terry fabric and one layer of printed flannel. Unlike many/most pads on the market (which have applix closures), she uses resin snaps on hers for a more secure fit and improved longevity.

When I first tried our pads out, CJ immediately began chomping on them so I eagerly snapped this pic.

....and then I realized I had them on inside out! The off-white terry side is supposed to be on the outside as this material feels nicer on baby's gums. Like this!


Either way, the pads fit perfectly (not too loose and not too tight!) and the pattern does, indeed, look nice with the "Sienna Sunset" style of my Ergo.

I've now worn the pads on many occasions, and they've proven themselves quite durable. CJ "uses" them a lot, I've washed them several times and they still look almost brand new.

The one critcism I have is that they tend to ride up so they're above baby's head. This is easy to adjust when front carrying, but a bit tougher when you're sporting baby on your back. That said, my other pair of pads do the same thing so this isn't a specific issue with the pads from Janine's store.

Overall, I'm happy with both items we got to try from Janine's Place. The longies are soft and comfy, fit well, perform great and have held up quite nicely over time, and the teething pads are lovely, durable and obviously enjoyed by our little guy! Now I'm eyeing up those wool slippers as potential stocking stuffers for a few folks on my list! ;)

Buy It

You can purchase Janine's upcycled wool products, teething pads and other goodies from her Etsy store or her Facebook page. She ships to both Canada and the United States.



Win It

One lucky Manager to Mom reader will win a $20 credit to spend at Janine's Place! (Note - shipping is not included.) Open to CAN/US.

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Please follow all instructions within each entry option to ensure your entries are valid

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  The prize is being provided and shipped to the winner by Janine's Place.  I received no financial compensation for writing my review or offering this giveaway, although I did receive the sample items free of charge.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup with Sweet Potato and Coconut {Recipe}

It's that time of year when winter squash is coming out the wazoo, toppling out of large crates at grocery stores and dominating roadside produce stands. This ubiquitous fall veggie is tasty, easy to prepare, super-inexpensive and packed with nutrients such as vitamins A and C, dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. And it's a perfect early food for babies too!

One of our favourite ways to prepare squash is pureeing up a big batch of soup. We've tried numerous variations but always come back to this one which has the perfect (in my opinion!) balance of savoury, sweet and aromatic flavours. We use butternut squash but any (or most) of the other types of winter squash could probably be used instead.

Butternut Squash Soup with Sweet Potato and Coconut

Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Yield: 4 large bowls


  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 3-4 gloves garlic
  • 2.5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

(Note - choose organic ingredients where possible.)


  1. Cook the squash. I like to cut it length-wise and bake it cut side up at 350 degrees on a baking sheet with a little water at the bottom until tender. (60-80 minutes usually does the trick.)

  2. Cook the sweet potato. I cut it into medium-sized chunks, throw 'em in my stove-top steamer, bring to a boil and steam for 8-10 minutes.

  3. Saute onions in coconut oil (medium heat) until translucent - about 6-7 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another 3-4 minutes.

  4. Once the squash, sweet potato and onion/garlic mixture have cooled slightly, use a standard or immersion blender and puree these ingredients together with the chicken stock. If using a standard blender, you'll probably need to puree in batches.

  5. Transfer pureed ingredients into a large pot or dutch oven. Stir in coconut milk and spices, bring to a low boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

  6. Serve with an additional sprinkle of cinnamon and pepper (and/or a dollop of yogurt or extra coconut milk, if desired) and enjoy!

Do you enjoy winter squash? What's your favourite way to prepare it? 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

CJ at 10 Months: Open & Shut

I'm running around like a crazy person these days with almost no time to blog, so month 10 is gonna be a "cheat" update. But that's OK, because the whole month was basically a whole lotta this:

Over half way to 11 months now, so stay tuned for a meatier update soon!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Camp Spooky: Kid-Centric Hallowe'en Fun at Canada's Wonderland! #cwcampspooky

Following our first visit in August, my family got to spend another day at Canada's Wonderland this month to enjoy Camp Spooky, the park's not-quite-so-scary daytime Hallowe'en experience for young children! For the month of October, the fun factor of kids' area Planet Snoopy has been elevated with the addition of a treasure hunt, costume parade, several mazes, a Peanuts-themed Trick-Or-Treat show and many other themed activities. (Note: the true thrills and chills for the 13+ crowd are reserved for the Hallowe'en Haunt, which takes place in the evenings.)

Our almost 3-year-old daughter S is quite the fan of creepy things (especially skeletons, which she calls 'dem bones'), so this experience was right up her alley! Her 7-year-old cousin H (who joined us) got a kick out of the festivities too!

Here are a few highlights:

 S test driving her spider costume!

Touring the "friendly vampire" maze!

 Score! Found treasure spot #3! 

Twisting through the corn maze 

"Who's this funny guy?" 

Of course we got in some non-Hallowe'en fun too!

H hangin' with Snoopy and Sally!

Checking out one of many life-like animatronics at Dinosaurs Alive.

Having a ball on Peanuts 500, one of S' favourite rides, along with fellow blogger Little Miss Kate and her wee man!

Want to get in on this fun with your own family? As of this writing, Canada's Wonderland (and Camp Spooky) is open for one more weekend (Oct 26/27) - so grab your tickets and get down there! :)

Disclosure:  My family received admission to Canada's Wonderland and Dinosaurs Alive at no charge, however I received no financial compensation for this post and was under no obligation to write it. The opinions expressed are my own and may be different from yours.