Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stitched by Hand (Etsy): #Review & #Giveaway! (Closed)

Holly from A Mommy's Blessings is one amazing gal! Mama to six super-sweet children, she home schools, cooks just about everything from scratch, gardens, practices natural parenting and green/eco-friendly living and manages to keep her home clean & organized amidst the chaos! :) I'm not sure how she finds the time, however she also blogs on pretty much a daily basis, featuring weekly themed posts such as Mommy Mondays and "Blessed to be His" Wednesday, and LOTS of awesome reviews/giveaways! Her writing style is friendly, accessible and engaging as well! Holly is one of my absolute favourite bloggers, so if you're not following her yet yourself, what are you waiting for? :)

If all of the above isn't enough, Holly is also a talented seamstress! She hand crafts many items for her family and regularly sells her goods at a local farmer's market. In the past, she has had some experience selling on Ebay, however she recently decided to continue her online sewing adventure by opening an Etsy shop. Thus, Stitched by Hand was (re)born! 

So what all can you find here? Beautiful patchwork clothing, messenger bags, soft toys, crocheted hats, mama cloth, nursing pads and much, much more! 

You can even find gorgeous glass beaded jewelry made by her 7-year-old daughter! (Creative talent obviously runs in the family!) 

Holly is continously adding new merchandise and hopes to expand her line of products to include hand-made soaps, lotions and lip balms as well. Is there anything this mama can't do? :)

Naturally, I was excited and honoured when Holly contacted me about partnering on a blog review/giveaway for her shop! She was kind enough to send me a super-cute Stripey Giraffe stuffed baby toy/teether for review purposes, and I also purchased a Crocheted Owl Baby/Toddler Beanie Hat. I simply could NOT resist the cute factor! Since this was a custom item, Holly walked me through how to properly measure our daughter's head to ensure she'd get us a good fit. The resulting measurements put S into the 1-3 year size, which means she'll get plenty of wear out of it!

The two items arrived together wrapped very simply in tissue paper with an enclosing bow and small label. I love that Holly uses minimal packaging to reduce waste.

Here's our Stripey Giraffe!


Product description: This soft and squishy giraffe is made of cotton fabric, stuffed with cotton batting, and even has ribbon tags for baby to chew on. Your sweet little one will love snuggling on this adorable stuffed animal!
And our sweet li'l owl (who's had her fair share of caffeine for the day! ;)

Product description: Whoooo loves owls as much as I do? Your little one will be the cutest hoot on the block in this adorable crocheted owl hat made of soft acrylic yarn, trimmed with 100% cotton yarn, and either closed or little button eyes! Ear flaps and braided ties make it even more darling!

Now, I'm no seamstress myself (far from it, as evidenced by the jagged, clumpy stitchwork marking my sad attempts to repair torn seams in our duds), however even I was able to appreciate the quality worksmanship in these items. No flaws, and lovely attention to detail. Holly clearly knows what she's doing and takes her time to get things right!

I also felt just fine giving both of these items to S right away. Since all of Holly's items are hand-made and shipped directly, I wasn't worried about exposing S to nasty factory dust. And, of course, since she is a natural-minded mama who strives to provide a toxin-free life for herself and her family, I know the materials used are safe for my little one in general!

As expected, Starryn's first reaction to Ms. Owl was to rip her off, but she does this with everything put on her head! Once we had her sufficiently distracted making froggy faces, however, she seemed quite happy with the situation.:)

Despite the fact that she's on the low end of the age range, the hat already fits her quite well! It's snug enough that the brim stays up above her eyes now, but there is definitely room for growth.

The soft 'n' thick material and ear flaps ensure that our li'l one's noggin will be fully protected in the chilliest of weather, which is vital up here in the "Great White North"! ;)

Finally, it doesn't hurt that just about everyone who sees her in the hat can't help but comment on the utter adorable-ness. :D

As for Mr. Giraffe, we've discovered a super fun game to play with him at bed time! The space between his legs is perfect for perching him on the edge of her crib, so we put him up there and let her bat him back off, laughing hysterically! Lather, rinse, repeat. (It's amazing what entertains a 1-year-old, huh?) Sometimes we slide him along the edge and let her chase him, which is fun too! The size is just perfect for her little hands.

She hasn't taken to chewing on his ribbon tags, but she appears to be past the "chew on anything" stage herself. I'd imagine that a younger baby (4-8 months-ish) would be all about gumming at those puppies! 

We leave the giraffe in her crib at night. I love that its surface is smooth so it won't trap nearly as much dust as a plush toy would, plus it's machine washable which is another bonus!

All in all, I {{heart}} these two items, and there are so many other things I would love to have from Holly's shop! How about you?

Buy It:

Want a crocheted hat or animal stuffy of your own? Or how about some mama cloth or nursing pads? Or.... the list goes on! Shop to your heart's content for natural, handcrafted goods at Stitched by Hand right here! I think you'll agree that Holly's prices are extremely reasonable, especially considering the quality and attention to detail that goes into each one! (Note: Etsy policies apply to all purchases.)

Win It:

Holly has generously offered a $10 gift code for one lucky Manager to Mom reader, good toward anything at Stitched by Hand!

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!

Friday, November 25, 2011

#WinnerWonderland giveaway hop: sponsor & prize package preview!!

The #WinnerWonderland giveaway hop will be kicking off in less than two days and I'm super pumped! I have put together a terrific toddler fun package valued at $105, including awesome prizes from the following sponsors:

Baby Bahoonie - If you've been kicking around here for awhile, you should be quite familiar with this hip & eco-friendly online baby boutique as we have partnered together on three reviews/giveaways here at Manager to Mom! (The latest is in progress - learn about and enter to win a LittleStar reversible dress here!)

Softplay - This company creates award-winning soft books and interactive toys for young children, from birth to age 5. Softplay was one of my earliest review/giveaway sponsors; I partnered with them this past Spring to feature the latest offerings in their super-popular "lift and look" book series.

Mudpuppy - You might remember this brand as the sponsor of my Our World Floor Puzzle review/giveaway this past Summer. Mudpuppy offers hundreds of beautifully-designed toys and gifts for children, including educational puzzles games, diaries and more!

Lil Divas Bowtique - This Etsy shop promises to "turn clutter into cute", offering dozens of practical and sweet accessories for your lil princess (or prince - lil men are covered as well!) I was lucky enough to win a Sophie Leash from the bowtique, and wrote a review on it here!

Lovable Labels - "Don't lose it, label it!" is the slogan of this Canadian-based company which creates numerous sizes and styles of customizable labels for your little ones' gear and for other purposes too! In addition to sponsoring a prize in my Winner Wonderland package, Lovable Labels was also generous enough to provide me with a label pack for review purposes, so I'll be posting on this shortly! (My aim is to publish this before the hop begins, but we have a super-busy weekend coming up so it might go live while the event is on.)

Want to know the specific prizes which are available to be won? Well, check back when the event is on (starting this Saturday, November 27th at 12 AM EST) to find out! Are you as excited as I am?? :D

Thursday, November 24, 2011

LittleStar Reversible Dress from Baby Bahoonie: #Review and #Giveaway (Closed)

Baby Bahoonie, the chic and eco-friendly online baby boutique which has already sponsored two reviews/giveaways here at Manager to Mom (check 'em out here and here) has generously provided me with the opportunity to review yet another product they offer - the reversible dress made right here in Canada by LittleStar Boutique!

The concept of this dress is ridiculously cool. Not only can it be turned inside out to create two completely different styles for your baby...

...but when your sweet little princess grows a little older, it becomes a top and can be worn either way for two new looks!

So, all in all, you get four different ways to wear this outfit for the price of one!

A bit more on the reversible dress, from its product description:

This little dress has it all! It comes in several color options, grows with your child and works great in ALL seasons:
  • In warm weather, wear it solo with sandals
  • In cooler weather, a shirt underneath with leggings or tights will complete the look and take you right into the fall
  • As she grows, it can be worn as a top over jeans!
  • 100% cotton designer fabric on one side and solid, super soft 97% cotton/3% lycra for extra durability and comfort on the other
  • Hidden velcro closure in back
  • Available in Medium (6-12 months), and Large (12-18 months). Sizes reflect "dress size" rather than "top size".

For review purposes, I chose the Light Bright pattern for my daughter. She has blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin, so I thought this lighter-coloured pattern would really compliment her features. We also went with the large size as she is almost a year old, to maximize the wear she would get out of it.

Here's a close-up of the dress with the print side out:

And a close-up with the cotton/lycra side out:

The dress comes with a product description booklet and a designer cotton sachet filled with wild-harvested French lavender petals. The sachet smells soooo good! It can be placed in your little one's dresser or anywhere else you'd like to enjoy the soothing and aromatic scent. What a nice touch!

A single velcro tab is included as the closure mechanism. Simple = good when it comes to dressing a squirming baby! *nods*

Overall, the dress definitely has a high-quality, hand-made "feel" to it!

S is on the small side for a 1 year old gal (50-60th percentile height but only about 15th percentile weight) so I was a bit concerned that the dress would be too big for her at this point. I first tried the dress on her alone and it did, indeed, hang off her somewhat awkwardly with big gaps under the arms. But a shirt underneath balanced things out quite nicely!

Since we were just hanging around at home during testing / picture-taking time (and S, naturally, has limited patience for this sort of thing), the looks we tried were pretty casual. But I'm a practical gal myself so I would be inclined to put together a "low frills" style for her when we're out and about anyway. That said, I can totally see the dress jazzed up with hair clips, tights and mary janes for a more "formal" look! :)

S seems pretty pleased with her new dress, don'tcha think?

I love the way the dress falls; the hem length & shape are very flattering.

Of course, I had to test out the dress as a top as well, so I recruited my friend's 3 1/2-year-old daughter L (who has eagerly helped me "product test" in the past) to give it a whirl. Perfect fit!!

Note that since the sizing reflects dress size rather than top size, there are no "official" guidelines for when the dress would work as a top. One can guess, however. Since L is still able to wear the large at 3 1/2, it might fit up to age 4 or so. Though she's also very slender, so a bulkier gal might outgrow it at 2 1/2 or 3. The nice thing is that since most often the outfit would start out on a baby, the child's own growth pattern would determine when she is ready to start wearing it as a top, thus maximizing the wear she gets out of it.

In terms of care/maintenance, the attached product booklet did not address the topic so I contacted Cinnamon at Baby Bahoonie who advised washing on cold/delicate and air drying. I ended up including it in a cold/regular load for logistical reasons and hang drying it on our clothing rack. I had some initial concern that the dress would come out a bit wonky due to the two-sided fabric (as this has happened with some of our two-sided receiving blankets and bibs), so I was relieved when this didn't occur here. What we DID notice is that the material wrinkles very easily (as it can be seen a bit in the pictures above), so you might want to whip out your clothing iron for those special occasions!

Overall, I think the dress is adorable, well-designed, high-quality and would flatter baby girls and toddlers of all different sizes. I'm looking forward to S wearing it on many different occasions! :) It does require a bit more TLC than your average baby clothing item, but this is certainly worth it for an awesome piece which should last your little one through the baby stage and well into toddlerhood!

Buy It:

Head on over to Baby Bahoonie to purchase a LittleStar reversible dress of your own! This would make a wonderful gift for that While you're there, take some time to check out all the other great merchandise that the boutique has to offer! You can shop by category or brand, or do a direct product search.To stay up-to-speed on the latest product discounts, you can sign up for the Baby Bahoonie newsletter!

Shipping is available to Canada and the United States. Different rates apply depending on location and order total.

Win It:

One lucky Manager to Mom reader will receive their own LittleStar reversible dress from Baby Bahoonie! Open to Canada and the United States.

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!

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

Saturday, November 19, 2011

AppleCheeks Envelope Cover from Enfant Style Diapers: #Giveaway (Closed)

Enfant Style Diapers is a baby shop based in Montreal, Quebec which offers a wide selection of brand name cloth diapers and accessories, diaper bags, nursing pads, bibs and other items for Mom & Baby! I discovered this store a few weeks back while browsing the Facebook page of a fellow mama blogger. I was immediately charmed by their logo (c'mon - a baby penguin with a paci? How adorable!) and became increasingly impressed as I browsed their extensive inventory. The discovery was timely, as they were just gearing up for a $500 Christmas and New Year giveaway event to celebrate two years of business! Big Congrats, Enfant Style - and many more years!! :)

The event offers several ways to win, from random Facebook draws to week-long blog giveaways. Take a look at the full list of exciting prizes - all generously sponsored by Enfant Style itself! Note that the company currently restricts its shipping to Canadian addresses, and as such, all of these giveaways are open exclusively to Canadians.

The company offered me the opportunity to host the very first blog giveaway here at Manager to Mom, and it's an awesome fluffy one - a "Proudly Canada Made" AppleCheeks Diaper Envelope Cover!

What is an "envelope cover", you may ask? Well, it is a waterproof outer cover designed to be used with an absorbent insert or to go over a fitted diaper. AppleCheeks offers its own 2-layer and 3-layer bamboo inserts (sold separately) which can be used with the envelope cover to create a complete diaper.

Here are some more features of the AppleCheeks envelope cover:


The cover comes in two sizes: Size 1 fits from 7-20 lbs, and Size 2 fits from 20-40 lbs. (Both weight ranges are approximate.) It also comes in an array of sweet colours with ultra-funky names!

Is anyone else getting hungry?? :D

Win It:

Fellow Canadian followers - how would you like to win an AppleCheeks envelope cover of your own? Well, you'll  get the chance right here!

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tropical Traditions Powdered Dishwasher Detergent: #Review and #Giveaway (Closed)

It's been a couple months since my last Tropical Traditions review/giveaway, so we're definitely overdue for another one! ;)

The first two TT products I reviewed were food-related, so for this next feature I decided to try a product from their Household Traditions line of non-toxic cleaning products. As you've probably noticed from previous M2M blog posts and reviews, my husband and I are working toward running a chemical-free and eco-friendly household - especially important now that we have a little one who eats things off the floor and all that good stuff! As such, I'm continuously on the lookout for products which won't put our family's health in jeopardy, and are kind to our planet to boot!

The product I chose to review was their Powdered Dishwasher Detergent with Enzymes.

I was eager to try this detergent for a few reasons:
  1. It is free of chlorine and phosphates. The former poses numerous health risks and the latter can have harmful effects on water systems, so both are bad news. (I did some online research here and encourage you to do the same if, like me, you're interested in the hows and whys.)
  2. It is a powdered detergent that you measure yourself. We'd previously been using those dishwasher gel packs which are convenient & all, but likely wasteful for those households with "favourable" water conditions that require less detergent. In our case, we have a water softener and have also started using a magnet ball, so we should be able to get away with 1/4 to 1/2 the amount of detergent as recommended on the package. Doing some quick math here - at 1/4 cup per load, we can run the dishwasher 160 times using a single jar of this detergent. That's some serious bang for the buck!
  3. People have had great things to say about this product! I've checked out several blog reviews and other comments, and the general consensus is that it works wonderfully.
So all that is great in theory, but did the product meet our expectations in practice? The answer is a resounding YES! We have now run our dishwasher 5 times using our Household Traditions powdered dish detergent, and our dishes are definitely coming out as clean (if not more so) as they did with the previous product we were using. The first four times we used a full scoop as directed, and the fifth time we used half a scoop (as we were using our magnet ball at that point) and we weren't disappointed any of these times. Next time we will try a quarter scoop and I'm confident things will still be hunky dory; if not, I'll add a li'l footnote to the review in the interest of full disclosure! :)

We did conduct somewhat of a "stress test" by sneaking a few particularly crusty plates into one of the loads. Our detergent did an admirable job here, as there was just a small amount of food residue remaining on one of the plates when the cycle finished. In reality, we always rinse and/or soak the major gunk off everything that goes in our dishwasher, so we should never have to contend with this scenario anyway.

Let's see....what else?

Initially, I was a bit concerned that the detergent might clump, but we haven't noticed this yet - so that's another good thing.

Some reviewers have mentioned the lack of chlorine smell when running the dishwasher with Household Traditions detergent. We always run our dishwasher in the middle of the night (to take advantage of Ontario's new time-of-use pricing model and to minimize disruption) so I can't comment on this myself, however the fact that chlorine-based detergents evidently emit this smell is disconcerting, as this certainly can't be very healthy to breathe in! As such, I'm thankful that our HT detergent doesn't contain this harsh stuff!

Finally, we like that the detergent is contained in a fully-recyclable jar. Always a good thing. *thumbs up*

All in all, we really like our Household Traditions powdered dish detergent so far! We feel good that we're using a safe and eco-friendly product, it's performing very well, we're getting a lot of mileage out this single jar (so it's very cost-effective), and we're quite confident it will continue to work well for us into the future (given the product's incorporation of an enzyme package and hard water treatment additives, its lack of clumping, and our own strides toward promoting "friendly" water conditions). Two thumbs way up!

Buy It:

You can purchase Household Traditions Powdered Dishwasher Detergent (and other great products) directly from the Household Traditions website. They often have terrific promos & discounts going which you can keep track of by signing up for the Tropical Traditions newsletter

Win It:

Tropical Traditions has generously offered to give away a 5 lb jar of Powdered Dish Detergent to one lucky Manager to Mom reader!

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Juppy Baby Walker: #Review and #Giveaway (Closed)

While toting around a growing and increasingly squirmy almost-1-year-old for most of the day, Mama's body takes quite the beating! While (of course) it's a good idea to follow ergonomic wisdom such as lifting from the legs rather than the back and using one's hips to bend over, proper form often goes out the window when you have 4 1/2 minutes to change baby, pack the diaper bag and hit the road!

As such, it's great to see new baby items come out on the market which not only have appreciable utility but also support the health and wellbeing of Mom and other caregivers. The Juppy Baby Walker is one such item, and thanks to the generous PR folks behind this product, I've had the opportunity to review it and share my experiences here at Manager to Mom!

So what exactly is The Juppy and how does it work? Well first of all, it is a baby walker so it's geared toward that 8-12+ month range when baby is beginning to find his/her feet. As walkers go, this one stands out for a few key reasons:
  •  According to the product website, it is "the only baby walker that fits in a purse!" And indeed it does - made of 100% cotton and weighing just 14.1 oz, you can fit this li'l guy just about anywhere.
  • It is adult-assisted which means Mom, Dad or Grandpa has control over the process, keeping baby safe from potential hazards.
  • It is one size fits most! As soon as baby begins to stand up and/or pull along furniture, he/she is ready to try The Juppy! The maximum recommended weight is 30 pounds so it should accommodate the vast majority of babies in the learning-to-walk stage.
  • It is recommended by doctors, and can safely assist medically-fragile children, for example those contending with gross motor delays or recovering from surgery.
  • Finally, it causes no back strain for the assisting adult, as the adjustable straps allow the adult to stand up straight rather than bending over which is inevitably required when assisting baby via the standard "hand holding" method.

Here is the official product video showing The Juppy in action!

You can view user photos and read more specs, FAQs, testimonials and other information about this new baby item on the Juppy's website.

For review purposes, I was sent a Juppy Baby Walker in blue, a drawstring carrying bag, a product information sheet and a list of instructions and warnings. The packaging was minimal, which I appreciated.

Here's a close-up of the Juppy from the front. Notice the adjustable straps which help accommodate each particular pairing of baby and assisting adult.

And a close-up from the back. The zippered closure makes it easy to "slide Juppy on like a pair of pants!"


When we first received our Juppy, our daughter S was 10 1/2 months old and not a fan of assisted walking. She was standing up, cruising around and leaning on just about everything, but when we'd try to get her to walk with us, she'd generally pull the limp spaghetti move and crumple back down to the floor. It was her way or the highway!

Needless to say, we were quite curious how she would react to the Juppy. On the one hand, she would still be receiving assistance, but on the other, she'd have more control over the process.

True to description, the Juppy was easy to slip on and adjust, taking about 30 seconds total. I did have to double check the product sheet to confirm it was on right, as most pants have the zipper in the front (and, in fact, my husband put her in it backwards one night - oops!) The correct direction is, indeed, logo at the front and zipper at the back.

At first, S wasn't quite sure what to do. She continued to go limp a bit, and then straightened and grabbed onto the straps. After several jaunts around the kitchen, though, she appeared to be figuring things out and enjoying herself! In terms of ergonomics, this approach was definitely easier on the back (little to no strain) than leaning over and holding baby's hands. And I think S appreciated the additional freedom allowing her to lead the way, change directions, control speed, etc. She looks pretty pleased, dont'cha think?

A few nights later, Grandma came over to babysit and reported that S kept pointing to the Juppy and wanting to go back in for a few more laps! At the end of it all, Grandma said her back felt just fine.

Although we have used the Juppy regularly around the house, I found it particularly fun & helpful last week when we were on vacation. We stayed at a resort with a long hall separating our room from the restaurant and front desk, so this was perfect for some extended Juppy-ing not to mention a couple thrilling, high-speed Daddy chase scenes! :) For comparison purposes, I tried hand-walking my daughter down the same hall and my back started feeling the strain less than halfway down. I also walked her outside the restaurant where she happily scurried over to some flowers and started touching them. At that moment, I really appreciated the hands-free nature of the Juppy; this, along with the ability to "lead the way" must really instill confidence and a sense of adventure in baby!

Using the Juppy on holidays got a lot of attention from onlookers as well. We received numerous comments about how creative it was, how it looks wonderful for building leg strength, how baby gear has come a long way, etc. Here's a video we took of S enjoying the Juppy at the Hard Rock Cafe! You can hear one such observer's comment near the beginning of the video.

Throughout our testing, I did have some questions about positioning while using the Juppy, so I got in touch with my PR contact who was very helpful. Here are some of the points we went over:
  • Although the product video shows assisting adults walking normally, it is OK to walk with a wider stance (as long as your back is still straight) so that baby "fits" better in the middle. I suspect this approach is the easiest when baby is still unstable, whereas more sure-footed babies would probably tend to zoom out in front creating some space and allowing Mom or Dad to walk regularly again.
  • It is also OK for baby to lean forward in the Juppy, at least early on. My contact mentioned that some babies like to look at the floor as they're learning to walk. However as babies become steadier, they should move about in a more upright position. I was glad to hear this as we were initially trying to "choke up" on the straps to keep our daughter straight up, but turns out this wasn't necessary.
  • The optimal position for the adult's arms is straight down, but some people who have tried the Juppy prefer elbows bent and forearms parallel to the floor. This appears to be a personal preference. 
  • To ensure safety and balance, baby's arms should remain between the side straps and not come out front. S tended to bring her arms out this way at times, but mostly when she was getting squirmy and it was time to do something else anyway.

In terms of constructive feedback, I do have the thoughts below. I shared a few of these with my PR contact who was very appreciative. The staff are obviously passionate about their product and committed to continuous improvement, which is great!
  • The straps have about 3-4 inches of adjustment room, which seems fairly short. I might recommend another inch or two to best accommodate all pairings of baby and assisting adult.
  • The printed material included with the product could use some enhancements. For example, adding visuals to the instructions would remove uncertainty around how to put baby in, proper positioning, etc. Also, adding laundry/care instructions here would be helpful.
  • I personally found the carrying bag (attractive as it is) to be extraneous. I'm very practical and efficiency-motivated, so I am happy to just throw the juppy in my diaper bag or purse directly. As such, I proposed offering the Juppy alone at a slightly reduced price and selling the carrying bag as an add-on for those who do want it.

Another small downside to note is that the Juppy only supports babies up to 30 pounds. This accommodates the vast majority of pre-walkers, but might not be suitable for a small percentage of little ones at the top of the weight curve.

All in all, the Juppy is definitely a helpful baby item at this stage of the game, especially for caregivers with lower back issues and/or babies who are taking awhile to feel confident on their feet. It is inconclusive whether the Juppy actually shortens the time it takes for a baby to walk, but it certainly makes the journey more comfortable and fun!

Buy It:

You can purchase your own Juppy Baby Walker directly from the Juppy website. You can purchase the original model (without lining) in black for $19.95, or a fully-lined model in pink, blue or black for $29.95 USD. You can also personalize the Juppy with your baby's name, if desired, for an additional cost. Note the shipping charges and timeframes on the right side of the page.

Win It:

How would you like to win a Juppy Baby Walker of your own? Well, you have a chance right here at Manager to Mom! The winner will receive a lined Juppy (like I reviewed) in either pink or blue - winner's choice!

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!

Well, all things must come to an end...

...including my maternity leave! When S was born last November, one year seemed like a HUGE amount of time. Now I look back and wonder just where the heck it went!

I'll be returning to work tomorrow at the same company but in a new role as a Business Analyst. I'm feeling mixed emotions, as I'm sure you can imagine. Looking forward to new challenges and a little more structure to my day, but of course I'll miss all the extra time with S I've gotten to enjoy all year.

Since free time will become even harder to find than it is now, I'll have to make some choices and sacrifices. Obviously family comes first and work needs to come second. Additional time and effort will be invested into planning for S' birthday and the upcoming holidays, and we're also working toward finishing our basement.

So what does all this mean for Manager to Mom? Well, in the short term you can look forward to a few more reviews & giveaways I have already committed to for some excellent brands and products. In the longer term, I do hope to keep things going to some extent, but you'll almost certainly see a reduction in number of reviews/giveaways and other posts, FB activity, etc. That is, unless I somehow learn to need only 4-5 hours of sleep. ;)

I love blogging and all of my wonderful followers, but life needs balance. Hope y'all understand and still plan to kick around for those times I do manage to emerge for a breath of air and a post or two! :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"S" @ 11 months: More Cheerios!!

Starting this update, I'm going to break down all the latest milestones and developments for S by category. This'll keep things organized and make it quicker & easier to whip up these posts moving forward! Given I'm returning to work on Monday (!!!!) time will certainly be of the essence!

One of my Mama friends once told me it was soo hard going back to work after mat leave as her daughter became progressively awesome-r the closer she got to her 1st birthday. I totally appreciate this sentiment now, as Month 11 was redonkulously amazing with S! Her social and communication skills really began to blossom, and her learning has just taken off!

"Official" 11 Month Photo:

(Take a look at her up-to-date month-to-month album here.)

Growth / Measurements:

This was our one area of concern this month. When I first weighed her one our own digital scale, she clocked in at 16 lbs which was actually a few ounces less than last month. Hrrrm. :-/ Due to this, we scheduled a quick doctor visit where she weighed in at 16 lbs 7.5oz - slightly heavier than last month. Better, but she's still hovering at (or just under) the 5th percentile so we booked a visit with the pediatrician for next week. She's strong, bright and meeting/exceeding her milestones so we're not super worried, but figure it can't hurt to get things checked out!

Height-wise, she's actually at the 40-50th percentile so she's a beanpole like her mama. :)

Finally, she cut her top two teeth this month! The right one made its arrival first with the left to follow a week or so later. They bled a little as they came through but S is a trooper and wasn't too bothered. Case in point:

Motor Skill Development:

As I alluded to recently, S is getting into EVERYTHING these days. More examples: 

(OK, the last one was actually Daddy having some fun. But I wouldn't put it past her!)

She isn't walking yet, but she can stand for several seconds at a time without support. We've been using her Juppy Baby Walker a lot recently to help her develop strength, coordination and confidence. (On this note, stay tuned for an upcoming review/giveaway! ;) All in all, we don't feel any pressure here; she'll get there when she's ready!

Finally, she just LOVES shaking her groove thang! She's been a li'l boppy for a few months now, but she's really been getting jiggy widdit over the last month or so.

Good times! :)

Cognitive Development: 

This is where things have really begun to take off! A few examples:
  • She has learned the connection between moving the green switch and activating the music/sounds on her LeapFrop Spin and Sing Alphabet Zoo. The switch is a little tricky so it sometimes causes her frustration, but with a little patience she can move it to the different modes herself.
  • One of her latest favourite games to play is hide 'n' seek with her yellow rubber bath duck. I hide it somewhere in her bedroom or ours and she crawls around until she finds it. She rarely gets distracted during her search and often looks in a location where the duck was hidden previously, so she has obviously mastered object permanence and she's getting a good workout in the areas of memory, logical thinking and focus.
  • She is beginning to identify shapes as she will readily point to circles within a scene. Squares, triangles and others appear to be tougher but we're working on those!
  • She recognizes many other new objects as well, and her usage of sounds and signs has increased dramatically. She also makes associations like shoes/feet and hat/head, and she can point to her nose and her toes. Here she shows Mommy what she knows in her 100 First Words board book. (Excuse the dim lighting - it was just before bedtime!)

Social Development:

Many more fascinating changes here!
  • She can now follow commands/requests like "Go get another book!" and she answers questions via signs, getting excited, nodding, shaking her head and pointing. For example, if we ask if she wants more Cheerios, she'll grin happily, clap and point to the pantry.
  • She is beginning to understand "no" (though she doesn't always comply, heh. Infact, she is already testing us by continuing to do something after we tell her no to see if we really mean it!)
  • She has started giving kisses! It's usually very sweet. Sometimes teeth come into the equation we're trying to put the kibosh on that!
  • She loves other children and babies. She's always happy to see her two cousins and the other children at daycare, and she still loves "mirror baby"! I'm not sure whether she realizes it is her just yet. :)

 Just two more weeks and our li'l beauty will be 1 YEAR OLD!!! Say it with me - "Where'd the time go?"

'Til next time...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Organic Cotton Sherpa Cloth Wipes from Baby Bahoonie: #Review and #Giveaway (Closed)

I'm excited to be partnering again with Canadian online boutique Baby Bahoonie, who I originally featured in September along with my review/giveaway for a Sling Sisters snack bag set. If you weren't yet following Manager to Mom at that point or can't remember what Baby Bahoonie is all about, I encourage you to take a look at that post for more about this wonderful baby boutique and the mompreneur behind it, Cinnamon Bhayani! If you like what you see, you can sign up for the Baby Bahoonie newsletter (see bottom left corner of page) and get updates and savings opportunities delivered directly to your inbox!

I'll be introducing you to two more fabulous products offered by Baby Bahoonie - Organic Cotton Sherpa Cloths (also by The Sling Sisters) and the Reversible Dress by LittleStar Boutique. I'll be reviewing the cloths in this post and the reversible dress shortly (stay tuned!)

Alright, so what exactly are "Organic Cotton Sherpa Cloths"? Are they bum wipes? Face cloths? Hand wipes? The answer - all of the above! According to the product description: 

Made of 100% organic cotton sherpa, these cloths are delightfully soft and absorbent.

We've found so many uses for them and always keep a stack in the kitchen to wash those messy faces and hands. They work great as reusable diaper wipes.

We also keep a secret stash for washing our own faces at the end of a long day. 

As a cloth diapering mama, I'm always up for trying new bum wipes so I was particularly keen on testing them for this purpose first, however I was also interested in seeing how they tackled my daughter's mushy food-covered hands and face after a big meal.

Baby Bahoonie sells these cloths in packs of 5, and Cinnamon sent me one such pack to review.

The first thing I noticed about these cloths was that they are, indeed, super-soft. Definitely worthy of gliding across a baby's sensitive skin! :) Each one is double-sided, with a smooth side and a fluffy side.

They're also quite large; about the size of a standard face cloth. This allows you to use one unfolded for wiping / wrapping around larger surfaces (such as a high chair try or baby's hand), or folded up once or twice to get a sturdier wipe.

In terms of thickness, I would say they are thinner than most "dedicated" cloth wipes I have tried but definitely thicker than the cheap-o wash cloths I still have kicking around.

I learned one thing the hard way with these cloths. They need to be prepped properly! I didn't see any warnings on the packaging, so I just threw 'em into a load of cloth diapers. Then when I went to use one during a diaper change, it repelled the solution I squirted onto it. Uh oh! I contacted Cinnamon who confirmed that the cloths contain natural oils (similar to organic cotton prefold diapers) and need to be washed 4-6 times separate from cloth diapers prior to using. Oops! Luckily, it didn't appear that my negligence had any ill effect on my dipes (probably because I only washed 5 of the cloths - a full stash worth might have done some damage!) I ended up tossing them into a pot of boiling water to prep 'em the rest of the way. This is more challenging (but doable) with prefolds because of the bulk, but I found it to be a nice & easy approach with my organic cotton sherpa cloths!

OK, so how did the properly-prepped cloths fare as diaper wipes? Let's look at a few key factors and use an old-school grading system! :)

  • AbsorbencyOnce prepped, these cloths become SUPER thirsty. A+
  • Softness - As I mentioned, the cloths were incredibly soft out of the package, but lost a little of this once prepped and washed a few times. Though still very plush! A-
  • Size/thickness - I found this combo to be pretty close to perfect. Folded twice into a square, I get a nice, sturdy surface that I can often refold (if required) to finish the job. In an ideal world, the cloth would be just a HAIR thicker, I'd say. A
  • Durability - Wipes will go through craploads (pun intended) of changes and laundry cycles, so they need to last! After a few washes, I have noticed that my cloths are getting a bit stretched and losing their perfectly square shape, however I think this naturally happens with 100% cotton. Other than this I think they'll be pretty hardy. B+
  • Wipe-ability - Huh? You might say. Of course a wipe should be wipeable! What I mean here is that the wipe should glide across the surface it is wiping - not bunch up or stick. I find that the smooth side of the sherpa cloth glides better than the fluffy side, so I've been tending to use this side. B

Overall? A for awesome. ;)

I've also tried using the cloths during dinnertime with S. I use them unfolded, and find that they are a good size for cleaning her sticky face and hands. The "wipeable" factor is even better here as I wet the entire cloth first which helps it glide.

All in all, I really like using these cloths both as diaper and face/hand wipes and would definitely recommend them for someone looking to build a stash for either purpose. And at just $7.95 for a pack of 5, they are very affordable to boot!

Buy It:

Head on over to Baby Bahoonie to purchase some Organic Cotton Sherpa Cloths of your own! While you're there, take some time to check out all the other great merchandise that the boutique has to offer! You can shop by category or brand, or do a direct product search.To stay up-to-speed on the latest product discounts, you can sign up for the Baby Bahoonie newsletter!

Shipping is available to Canada and the United States. Different rates apply depending on location and order total.

Win It:

One lucky Manager to Mom reader will receive their own 5-pack of Organic Cotton Sherpa Cloths! Open to Canada and the United States.

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sausage, Bean, Tomato and "Whatever Else You Want" Soup {Recipe}

Alright, this is one of my favourite soups to make these days. It's delicious, flavourful, hearty, at least somewhat nutritious (assuming you pack it full of g00dness like I do) and ridiculously versatile. Then again, I'm of the opinion that most recipes are versatile. Food isn't black & white, y'know? :)

I do have to apologize for the crappy-ish pic above. I neglected to take one as we were enjoying our first meal from the latest batch, so I snapped one later as I was heating up some leftovers. The broth looks a little thinner and greasier here and I forgot the parm on top. But ehh, it'll have to do.

This soup is loosely based on one I found at I believe I made it (mostly) faithfully the first time and then began to adjust things based on personal taste, ingredients I had on hand, etc.

To me, the soup only has a handful of "mandatory" ingredients to get the right flavah. Just pick and choose out of the remaining optional ingredients (or add others as you see fit) and everything should come out hunky dory! Heck, you can even feel free to "live dangerously" and adjust the mandatory ingredients. That's the beauty of soup - it should all come out tasty in the end!

I recommend leaning toward organic and fresh or dried (vs. canned) whenever possible, though admittedly I use canned beans and tomatoes a lot as it's just easier. As canned goods go, Eden Organic is a great choice as all of their cans are BPA-free.

The suggested quantities below will feed at least 6-8 people (or 2-3 people with a truckload left for freezing purposes. :)

"Mandatory" Ingredients:
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • Several cloves of garlic, minced
  • About 6 fresh sausage links, skins removed and cut into small pieces. (I like garlic, spicy and/or paprika myself.)
  • 3-4 cups of tomatoes, diced (fresh or use a 28 fl oz can)
  • 7-8 cups of broth (I do half chicken, half beef)
  • 3-4 cups of white kidney (cannellini) beans and/or romano beans (dried or use two 19 fl oz cans)

Optional Ingredients (I suggest including at least 2-3 of these including a starch and at least one "green" for a rich, hearty soup!)
  • 2 potatoes, chopped into small cubes
  • 8 oz fresh pasta (e.g. tortellini)
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 6-8 carrots, diced 
  • 4-6 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 zucchinis, sliced in half and chopped
  • 6-7 oz of fresh, organic baby spinach
  • 6-7 oz of button mushrooms, chopped

Flavourings (to taste):
  • Fresh, chopped parsley 
  • Dried basil, oregano and/or thyme
  • Salt & pepper
  • Parmesan reggiano cheese, finely grated

Steps (Note - if you're not using a particular ingredient just skip this step):

1) In a large saucepan, saute the sausage on medium high until cooked through. Set aside.
2) Cook quinoa in a separate pot according to package directions. Set aside.
3) Saute the onion in the sausage grease (yum!) for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently
4) Add the garlic and saute for a few more minutes, continuing to stir
5) Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low.
6) Add potatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
7) Add carrots and celery and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
8) Add tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs. You know the drill - simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
9) Add zucchini, pasta, beans and cooked sausage. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
10) Add spinach. Simmer for about a minute, until spinach is wilted
11) Serve with parmesan reggiano, quinoa and salt/pepper to taste!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Go easy on yourself

I'm a perfectionist by nature. I often feel that if I don't do something right, there's no point to doing it at all.

Now that I'm a Mom, this mentality tends to rear its head when it comes to day-to-day tasks - dishes, laundry, sweeping, etc. If I don't keep things up regularly (and efficiently), I often feel that I'm falling behind and things are getting out of control. I watch Hoarders and wonder, what is the tipping point? Many of the so-called hoarders are really just people who have lost the desire and/or ability to keep the house in order.

Efficiency is a big thing for me these days. Doing more in shorter periods of time, doing two things concurrently, etc. I've made improvements in this area which I'm hapy about, but some days I'm slower, more forgetful, sluggish, etc. and then I have the tendency to berate myself for not being on-the-ball.

My Mom often reminds me that I don't have to be a perfect mom - that there's no such thing. But this is something I need to remind *myself* more often!

I woke up this morning with a foggy head and slight headache which progressed to a full-blown migraine by early afternoon. I had a zillion things I wanted to do during S's nap, but instead I actually followed the age-old advice and slept while baby slept. I woke up still feeling somewhat foggy, but significantly better. And then I allowed myself to take it easy the rest of the day. Sure, I still had S to take care of, dinner to make, dishes to do, etc. - but my wonderful and intuitive husband was right there by my side helping out, and I didn't set any stardards for myself in terms of how long each task should take and how many "extra things" I felt I needed to accomplish on top of the regular stuff.

I decided to go easy on myself. I don't do this often, but it feels good when I do. I know I'm not going to turn into a hoarder or lose my motivations overnight. Quite the opposite, in fact; this sort of downtime is important in order to recharge and continue to be better in the long run.

Oh, and I didn't (really) think too much about grammar and flow in this blog post. So if it's choppy or a little incoherent, that's why. And I'm not going to worry about that either. ;)

So what about you? Do you need to remind yourself to go easy as well? Is there any other advice you give yourself from time to time to help you stay balanced?

Wordless Wednesday: RAWRRR!!!!