Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sibu Beauty: Review

When a representative at Sibu Beauty contacted me regarding a blog partnership a couple months back, I wasn't initially sure if it would be a good fit. Why? Well, I (mistakenly) assumed the product focus was on cosmetics or "traditional" skin care methods. Admittedly, I rarely wear makeup and don't follow a daily skin care routine, so I would hardly be qualified to write a review on such topics! A visit to the company website quickly changed my mind, however, as I learned about what Sibu's really all about from their welcome message:

Introducing Sibu Beauty, premium skin care products made from the Himalayan sea buckthorn berry. Known as the “beauty berry” across Europe and Asia, sea buckthorn contains over 190 bioactive compounds that restore, revitalize, and protect youthful beauty – from the inside-out AND outside-in. These hardy berries help nourish skin, hair, and nails with powerful antioxidants and essential fatty acids, including the rare Omega 7 – a key building block to healthy skin, hair, and nails, and also aids digestion and may help you maintain a healthier weight. Sibu Beauty features luxurious natural skin cleansers, moisturizes, and other topical treatments as well as dietary supplements that beautify and protect from the inside-out.

As a strong believer in holistic approaches to health and wellness and "treating the cause, not the symptoms", I appreciated that Sibu places equal (if not greater) importance on an "inside-out" approach to beauty. I was also intrigued by this mysterious sea buckthorn berry as I had never heard of it before. Its composition and health/beauty potential seemed almost too good to be true, however, so I did some research. Evidently I've been living under a rock as there is all kinds of information out there on this exotic fruit, and everything I came across supported the notion that its nutritional profile is exceptional indeed.

A visit to Sibu's FAQs page really sealed the deal for me. All of the company's products are 100% natural, fair-trade and free of all that "bad stuff": preservatives, parabens, dairy, wheat, gluten, sodium, yeast and cruelty. That's quite the long list! Finally, Sibu Beauty is a Sustainable Green Company, which means that "Every effort has been made to produce the finest nutritional product possible with the least amount of impact on the planet."

I was offered the option to review any of their individual product offerings. This was a tough choice, as a few particular items really caught my eye:
  • Sea Buckthorn "Revitalize & Renew" all-natural liquid dietary supplement - I love that this product aims to improve skin tone and support nail and hair growth. I've historically had issues with back acne and hair which is beginning to thin (and tends also to have prominent shedding cycles). My nails are on the weak side as well. Since I became pregnant, my back acne has improved tremendously but I haven't (yet) seen the same improvements in the other areas.  
  • Sea Buckthorn "Cleanse & Detox" facial soap - I have occasional acne on my face as well, and somewhat large pores. I also have an oily "T-Zone". Existing reviews of this product have generally been glowing which was another reason I wanted to try it. 
  • Sea Buckthorn "Cellular Support" soft gel supplement - This product soothes and repairs linings of uro-genital tracts, which caught my eye as I have a sensitive bladder (and am prone to infections), and I also suffered a fair large tear when I gave birth. A product that could potentially assist with both of these conditions would be wonderful!

I ended up deciding on the "Revitalize & Renew" as I thought this product had the most potential to make some noticeable improvements.

One of my first actions upon receiving the product was to scan the ingredient list. I was happy to see sea buckthorn fruit puree listed as the first ingredient (rather than a "filler" juice like apple or pear) and certified organic evaporated cane juice as the sweetening agent. The entire list is 100% natural, as advertised.

Next step: taste test! I wasn't disappointed here. The blend is, indeed, invigorating, and plays out on the tongue as a lovely balance of tart and sweet.

The directions suggest drinking 1 to 3 fl. oz. per day, so this is what I did during the course of my testing. I had on average 2 fl. oz. per day, and I mixed up the approach. Sometimes I drank it "straight up" and other times (when I felt I could use some extra hydration) I diluted it into a glass of water. I finished the bottle in about two weeks.

So now the big question - any appreciable effects? Well, my nails did feel possibly a tad stronger, but that was about all I noticed. That said, I wasn't about to turn around and label the supplement as ineffective. In hindsight, there are a few challenges inherent in reviewing a product like this. First of all, it may take more than a single "round" to begin seeing improvements; second, there are so many confounding variables which could skew results (for example, our family came down with a cold while I was taking the supplement - not the most ideal time, huh?) and finally, Sibu itself recommends that its products be used together as a system for optimal results. With that in mind, I'm not surprised that results from a single round of a single product were fairly minimal. All in all, I do have respect for Sibu Beauty as a company and feel that their offerings have potential. I'd definitely be interested in experiencing one of the complete packages all together as I feel that this is how the products would truly have the opportunity to shine. 

Buy It:

You can purchase Sibu products and packages directly from the company website, or use their Store Locator to find a retailer online or in your local area.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Giggle Life OS Bamboo Pocket Diaper & Inserts: #Review and #Giveaway (Closed)

I first noticed the brand spankin' new cloth diaper vendor Giggle Life Baby Products early this year on Kijiji, while trawling for deals on new dipes & covers to round out my stash. Although the diapers looked nice and the prices were super-affordable, I wasn't able to find any third-party reviews on the company or products, so I decided to abandon ship at that point.

Thankfully, I came across Giggle Life again several months later via a blog review/giveaway. I entered and was lucky enough to win two of their diapers! Fast forward over 5 months and I can honestly say that these are among the first diapers I reach for in our now large (and continuously growing) stash. I love them, and so does our li'l monkey!

Then I got to thinking - this was my opportunity to "pay it forward" with my own review to help spread the word on these awesome diapers! I contacted the company to see if they would like to team up and sponsor a giveaway as well, and they were game! :D

So first things first - a little background.

Giggle Life was founded in November 2010. The (soon-to-be) founder had numerous family and friends who were having children at the time, some of whom wanted to use cloth diapers (since they are better for the environment and babies' health) but were reluctant because of the initial investment. As such, the founder started up the company out of a desire to provide a high-quality cloth diapering option that is also affordable, thus encouraging more and more families to go this route.

The company is able to offer their diapers at a much lower cost than most of their competitors as they use an online direct selling approach which minimizes overhead.

I asked my Giggle Life contact where the diapers are made, as there is currently no indication of this on their website. He provided the following information:

After doing some research and contacting multiple factories, we selected the highest quality manufacture. The diapers are made in China with care and high quality materials.  The workers have a safe work environment and are paid a fair wage.  We understand there are quality concerns with products from China, which is why we sourced multiple manufactures during our trial phase and committed to the best and a replicable manufacture.  We stand by our products and offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee.  We accept returns of all unused diapers and replace any defective items no questions asked but the offer rarely ever gets taken up as almost all our parents love our diapers for their kids.

I appreciated this thorough response, and it made me feel even more confident that Giggle Life is an reputable, conscientious and ethical brand, which is definitely important to me!

Alright, let's get to the diapers themselves, shall we?

Giggle Life currently offers two types of diapers: ultra soft and bamboo. Both are pocket, one size diapers which fit from 8 to 33 lbs.

The ultra soft is the more "standard" pocket diaper, with a soft & durable TPU-laminated outer and a microfleece inner. It comes with two large microfibre inserts and is available in several solid colours.


This is a great "workhorse" diaper - it is durable, performs well and is the more affordable of the two options. Learn more about the ultra soft diaper here.

The bamboo is their premium diaper, and the one I will be reviewing here in detail. It is priced just slightly higher than the ultra soft, however it is made from more luxurious, high-end materials and has some features which make it an even more attractive diapering option.

As I'm sure you've been able to guess, this diaper is made of....bamboo! (Funny that. :) Well, most of the diaper, anyway. The outer cover is a super-soft "minky" fabric and the inner layer is 100% natural bamboo. Two large bamboo inserts are included as well. Bamboo is a wonderful choice for a diaper as it is both super-absorbent AND breathable, which helps keep baby's bum cool and dry.

The bamboo diaper is available in six solid colours.

Let's take a closer look at the diaper's features. (Side note - you'll notice two different diaper colours in my photos as I ran out of time during one session and had to use the other colour in a subsequent one. So no, I didn't have an accident with beet juice in case you were wondering. :)

First of all, the ridiculously soft minky exterior. Don't you just want to reach out and snuggle into it?? 

The diaper's inner is mainly bamboo, but also includes a strip of smooth fabric over the tummy snaps to prevent them from poking uncomfortably into your baby. The pocket opening is nice and wide, allowing for easy stuffing.

Three snaps are included on each side to promote a snug fit and prevent wing droop.

Three rise settings and multiple tummy snaps are available, allowing for sizing flexibility.

Small setting:

Medium setting:

Large setting:

The bamboo inserts are just slightly shorter than standard microfibre inserts. (Bamboo's on top here.)

They are only about half the thickness, however, which results in a much trimmer diaper with a comparable amount of absorbency!

Our daughter S is almost 13 months old and about 17 1/2 lbs, so she wears the diaper on the medium setting. Here is a "mostly front" view. (She's a squirmy worm so it's pretty much futile trying to get her to lie still on her back!)

Side view - no wing droop!

Back view:

Leg and waist shots - nice and snug!

And finally an "action" shot of our li'l cutie - 'cause I couldn't resist! :)

And now the exciting part (for me anyway, hehe) - assessing the diaper using my new cloth diaper evaluation system! This is the first review in which I'll be trying out the system, so I'd love to hear feedback. Love it? Hate it? Any improvement suggestions? Lay it on me! :)

+ Attractive design; looks good on baby
+ The diaper is quite trim, even with two bamboo inserts
+ No wing droop or sagging (extra hip snap on each side helpful here)
- Limited style availability - just six solid colours and no prints. It would be nice to see some more choices here.
Score: 3.5/5
Update (June 2012) - Giggle Life now offers some ridicu-cute print options as well, in both their Ultra Soft and Bamboo! Sweeeeet!

+ In the 6 months I've been using this diaper, there hasn't been a single leak or accident
+ Bamboo inserts appear to absorb as much (if not more) liquid than the microfibre variety which are much bulkier
+ We've successfully used the diaper (with both inserts) for night diapering
+ Snaps are very tight, which means they won't come apart while the diaper is on
Score: 5/5
(Note: our daughter isn't a heavy night wetter, and we haven't tested this diaper in an EBF poop scenario. That said, the diaper has performed perfectly in all situations we HAVE been able to test, so I had no choice but to assign a top score here!)
Update (June 2012) - Only a single leak so far, and it was our fault - diaper was totally saturated! Otherwise our bamboo diapers continue to perform WONDERFULLY!

Comfort & Health:
+ Minky and bamboo fabrics are super-soft
+ Diaper does not leave any marks on baby's skin
+ Diaper achieves a snug tummy and leg fit without pinching
+ Bamboo materials are breathable, allowing ample air flow to baby's skin
+ Diaper does not appear to cause/exacerbate diaper rash
- Would be nice if the waist material was a little stretchy for ultimate comfort
Score: 4.5/5

Ease of Use:
+ Diaper is quick and easy to stuff via wide opening and even pocket
+ Diaper is easy to launder; no special instructions
+ Pocket diaper = single piece to put on baby
- Although the tightness of the snaps + extra hip snaps ensure things stay snug, getting everything attached in the first place can be challenging with a squirmy baby
- Inserts are not designed to come out in the wash on their own
Score: 4/5 

Quality & Durability:
+ Diaper is made from high-end materials (bamboo and minky)
+ Diaper appears to be very well-made. No loose seams, flawed stitching, etc. are evident.
+ After 6 months of regular use, the diaper and inserts still look and feel almost BRAND NEW. The only change is in the bamboo inner; the material isn't *quite* as soft as it was on day 1. I'm amazed by the condition of the bamboo inserts in particular as they have remained in perfect condition. You definitely couldn't say the same thing about microfibre inserts after 6 months of use!
Score: 5/5 

Update (June 2012) - After a year of usage, our bamboo diaper and inserts are still in wonderful condition!


Total "Diaper Awesomeness" Score: 22/25 (Great diaper. Highly recommended.)
Overall Comments: Best aspects of this diaper are the performance (no leaks / viable for night diapering), quality/durability and comfort. Most notable drawbacks are the limited colour selection and possible difficulty (with a squirmy baby) getting the 6 tight waist snaps secured.

Estimated Stash Cost: $373.99
Calculation details: 24 bamboo diapers (bought in bulk) cost 198.99. Diapers fit from 8-33 lbs so the OS premium is $175.00 for a total estimated "stash cost" of $373.99. I have no reason to believe the diaper will not fit the 8-33 lb range as advertised, so no additional premium added here!
Update (June 2012) - The price has been raised slightly. 24 bamboo diapers (bought in bulk) + 48 inserts now cost $249.99. Still a great deal for such high-quality, well-performing diapers!


Buy It:

Visit Giggle Life Baby Products to purchase your own stash of bamboo diapers! Individual diapers sell for $19.99 CAD, however you save a HUGE amount by ordering in bulk (10, 24 or 38) so this is definitely the way to go if you think these diapers are right for you. If you prefer the ultra soft, you can also buy these individually or in bulk at a large discount. Giggle Life offers various other baby products as well, including footwear, carriers and night lights. Free ground shipping is available to Canada and continental USA via UPS and Canada Post.

Bonus: For every 12 diapers ordered, receive a free pair of our cute newborn socks (valued at $7.99) by entering the promotional code "MTMBL" in to the order comments during the checkout!

Win It:

Giggle Life has generously offered to give away a one size bamboo pocket diaper + two bamboo inserts to one lucky Manager to Mom reader! Winner chooses colour from among available options.

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!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

M2M's New Cloth Diaper Scoring System!

I'm happy to announce that moving forward, I will be incorporating a new "scoring" system for cloth diaper reviews here at Manager to Mom. My main goals with this new system is to make it quicker and easier for my readers to size up key details and strengths/weaknesses of the diaper under review, and to present an overall recommendation for the diaper. I'm also hoping it will improve the general organization and flow of my reviews.

My new scoring system is based on six categories, each of which contributes up to 10 points for a total score out of 60. This determines the extent to which I would recommend the diaper in general, as follows:

55-60 - Pretty much a perfect diaper. Why aren't you out there buying some NOW? :)
50-55 - Exceptional diaper. Highly recommended.
40-50 - Good diaper. Recommended.
30-40 - Decent diaper. Somewhat recommended.
<30 - Not a recommended diaper. (Note - you probably won't see a review with this rating on my blog. In the event that I encounter an unsatisfactory product, I would settle things privately with the sponsor.)

Here are the six categories:

Category 1: Appearance/Style
  • Is the design attractive?
  • Does the diaper look good on baby?
  • Is the diaper trim?
  • How many colour/pattern options are available?

Category 2: Performance
  • How well does the diaper do its job - namely, protect against leaks and contain messes?
  • Is diaper a viable choice for night diapering?

Category 3: Comfort & Fit
  • Does the diaper leave marks on baby's skin?
  • Does the diaper fit snugly without pinching? (Around both the waist and the legs.)
  • Are the surfaces which touch baby's skin soft & pleasant?
  • Is the diaper stretchy or firm/stiff?
  • Does the diaper move well with baby? 
  • Is there any "wing droop"?
  • Does the diaper appear to truly cover the advertised size range?             
Category 4: Ease of Use
  • How easy is the diaper to put on and take off baby?
  • Is there any "assembly" required for diaper? (e.g. liners to snap in, pockets to stuff, etc.) If so, how quick & straightforward is it?
  • How easy is the laundering & care routine?

Category 5: Quality & Durability
  • Is the diaper made from high-quality materials?
  • Does the diaper appear to be well-made? No loose seams, flawed stitching, etc.
  • Is the diaper durable? How well does it hold up over time?

Category 6: Value
  • This category is based on how much a "lifetime stash" costs
  • For comparison purposes, a lifetime stash is considered to be 24 wearable diapers (with any/all liners, inserts, etc.) from birth until potty training
  • For one-size (OS) systems, a premium is added to the lifetime stash cost to account for the fact that, in some cases, these diapers can be too large to fit newborns and/or too small to fit toddlers (in which case additional diapers are needed.) I've tentatively set the premium to +$100 for a 7-35 lb range (or better), and an additional $50 for each lb lost on either side of the range. So, for example, an OS system advertised to fit from 8-32 lbs would have a premium of +$300. 
  • Points in this category are awarded per "lifetime stash" cost as follows:
    • Less than $300: 10 points
    • $300-$400: 9 points
    • $400-500: 8 points
    • $500-600: 7 points
    • $600-700: 6 points
    • $700-800: 5 points
    • $800-$1000: 4 points
    • $1000-$1250: 3 points
    • $1250-$1500: 2 points
    • $1500+: 1 point

Note that if any particular category is not that important to you, it can be taken out of the equation. So say that money isn't an issue - you just want the best diapers out there. Then subtract the Category 6 score from the diaper's total, subtract 10 from each recommendation range at the top and re-compare to see where the diaper fits following the adjustment.

Note that I'll need to make some adjustments to the above system to score individual components of a 2+ part diapering system (e.g. covers, prefolds, inserts, etc.). This'll take a bit more thought.

So whaddya think? Like the system? See any improvements that can be made? Want to see it in action before you comment? (If you're in the latter camp, you're in luck! Next fluff review will be coming out within a day or two. Stay tuned!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

S @ 12 months: A Cake Walk!

Our sweet little baby! You are already a WHOLE YEAR OLD! When I look back, I'm amazed at all the things you have learned and how quickly you have developed over your first year!

Here you are the day you were born. The world was so new and scary!

And look at you now, on your 1st birthday! What a beautiful, assertive, humorous, strong, intelligent and curious little girl you have become!

(Your up-to-date month-to-month album can be found here.)

Alright, so let's take a look back at all that 12th month excitement!

Daddy and Mommy took you on a fun trip to Nigara Falls a couple weeks before your 1st birthday. You weren't overly impressed by the falls themselves, however you were certainly loving all the seagulls! (Or "flying rats", as your Papa used to call them!)

Another highlight of our trip - building your first bear! So many choices...

In the end, "Kitty" was the big winner. KISSES!!

You started going to daycare when Mom went back to work, and you've been having a blast! You've met lots of new friends and enjoyed all kinds of yummy food, dancing and dress-up fun!

Finally, you had a blast at your 1st birthday party! You decided to check off possibly the most highly-revered milestone on this very day! Here you are, showing off in front of all your guests!

You burned off so many calories struttin' your stuff that we had no choice but to reward you with The Biggest 1st Birthday Cake Evah. (Thank you Chrissie - amazing job!)

You also got possibly the last ever snuggle with Balooberry, the fuzzy blue mascot of Hullabaloo Party Planner (which sadly decided to close its doors this month).

Let's see - what else can we report? Well, you didn't cut any new teeth this month but we did start getting you used to the idea of caring for the ones you do have! You prefer to chomp on the bristles at this point, but that'll do for now. :)

As for your vitals, you'd had your parents a little worried about your weight, so we packed you full of protein and iron-rich "goooood foooood" and you ended the year at 17 lb 3 oz and almost 30 inches tall - 12th and 50th percentile, respectively! Atta girl!

Mommy and Daddy love you so much and we are SOO proud of you! Here's to an incredible 1st year and many more discoveries, laughs, tears, squeals, kisses and unforgettable moments as you enter toddlerhood. <3

Friday, December 9, 2011

Eco-Friendly Shower Curtain from Rock Candy Life: #Review and #Giveaway (Closed)

Y'know that pungent, malodorous smell that fills the air when you first open a vinyl shower curtain? That so-called "new curtain" smell? Do you know what it is you are actually breathing in?

I didn't until recently.

Turns out this smell is not just unpleasant, but it's actually toxic. The "culprit" material is polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a polymer which releases a slew of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) linked to adverse health effect such as liver and kidney damage, nervous system depression and cancer. Thanks, but no thanks!! (If you're interested in learning more, you can download the report Volatile Vinyl which summarizes the results of a laboratory study of the toxic chemicals contained in and released from PVC shower curtains.)

Thankfully, we're not forced to choose between inhaling VOCs and drenching our bathroom floors, as more and more safe shower curtain options are becoming widely available in various materials and patterns.

One such option is from Rock Candy Life, a company which proves that high-end design and eco-friendly products can co-exist! From their website: 

Our shower curtains are 100% recyclable, chlorine and PVC-free. They do not emit 'off-gasses' as traditional shower curtains do. By eliminating the need for a liner, you decrease waste as well.

If you share our passion for cool design and care about the environment, you will love our shower curtains. We don't believe 'green' products should be any less attractive, and we don't believe they should be more expensive. All our shower curtains are designed right here in Texas and shipped from our creative shop in North Austin

Sounds pretty good so far, right?

Since the website doesn't list specifically what their curtains are made of, I checked with my contact who confirmed that the material is polyethylene vinyl acetate (PEVA). It sounds just as scary, but in reality it is a much safer alternative to PVC-based curtains as it is free from chlorine, phtalates and other harmful chemicals, and it is also biodegradable.

Here is a quick peek at Rock Candy Life's available products. View a complete photo gallery on their website.

As part of my ongoing quest to "green" our home, I decided to contact the company regarding a possible blog feature, and they were game! For review purposes, they generously sent me both a shower curtain of my choice (I picked Whimsical Birds) and a beautiful set of matching hooks!

I'm happy to report that there was only the teeniest scent when I first opened the curtain; nothing at all like the olfactory assault part and parcel of unveiling a "traditional" curtain.

As for the hooks, we've only ever used the cheap, plastic variety up until now so it's nice to have something a little more decorative! These hooks are lead-free and made from partially recycled aluminum. One particularly cool thing about them is that they coordinate with all of the available Rock Candy Life shower curtain styles.

Alright, time to replace our existing curtain (yes, the nasty PVC variety :-/ ) with our brand spankin' new one!

Normally we like to use a curtain with a liner, however during the exchange I noticed that the liner was getting gross along the bottom so I decided to toss it out. Rock Candy Life curtains are advertised as working without a liner, so I gave this approach a shot. I was pleasantly surprised - it looked great!

I think I even prefer this to the hanging outside look, so we might not bother getting a new liner after all! There's beauty in simplicity. :)

In case you're curious, here is how it looks hanging outside:

Yup, I'd say I definitely prefer the inside look myself! *nods*

As for the quality of the material, it certainly feels less flimsy and more durable than the traditional vinyl curtains we have used in the past.

From what I've read, it's easy-peasy to clean a PEVA curtain - just wipe 'er down periodically. Again, simple = good! :)

Another thing that's great about this curtain is that the holes are reinforced with grommets. There's nothing worse than when a cheap-o curtain starts ripping off its hooks, so I'm glad that Rock Candy Life put some thought into this aspect of the design!

Finally, the whimsical hooks really do add that special touch!

Any downsides to this curtain? I can only think of a couple minor ones. First of all, the material creases fairly easily and second, the hooks can come detached from the bar if you yank the curtain open quickly. So really, as long as you treat 'em with a little TLC, I can see this curtain and its hooks lasting a really long time!

All in all, I heartily recommend Rock Candy Life shower curtains if you are looking for a safe, eco-friendly option which is also affordable and stylish. The decorative hooks are a nice accessory as well if you're looking to kick things up a notch.

Buy It:

You can purchase Rock Candy Life curtains ($24.99 USD) and hooks ($14.99 USD) directly from their website. Shipping is free within the US, $5 to Canada and $10 to international destinations. Products are available from select third party retailers as well.

Win It:

Rock Candy Life has generously offered a Rock Candy Life shower curtain and set of hooks to one lucky Manager to Mom reader! 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!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Life update...

My last 8 posts have all been review/giveaway-related, so I thought it was time to fill everyone in on what we've been up to in the "real world". :)

First of all - work. I've been back for just over three weeks in a new position as a business analyst / product owner. This is quite the change from my prior position as a project manager / team leader, but just as interesting & challenging (in different ways). I'm glad I got the opportunity to mix things up.

My return to work has, of course, introduced many other changes into our lives as well. First huuuuge one? Child care for S. Obviously. This tends to be the change that gets mamas & papas the most anxious, however it ended up being the least of our concerns. Our provider is super-energetic, kind and fun, and S has a BLAST over there! Missing all that additional time with her makes us a bit sad at times, but overall it creates a nice balance for all of us.

Speaking of balance, now that I'm back at work, hubby has really been kicking it up a notch around the house! Tonight, for example, he picked up S from daycare, fed her (copious amounts of cheese), cooked us a delicious dinner, cleaned and folded the diaper laundry. He TOTALLY earned himself a subsequent Skyrim marathon. =D So even though many chores which I'd previously been able to tackle during the day now pile up for the evening, we tag team 'em so I still manage to find some appreciated "me" time later at night.

Free weekends, however, are nearly impossible to come by these days! For the last several weeks, each one has been chock-full of birthday parties, holiday festivities, curling games and family visits (which can no longer happen as readily on weekdays). This should shed light on why vacuuming hasn't been a recent focal point. ;)

Another thing I haven't gotten around to since my return to work is proper menu planning. It's definitely harder now, and popping in a PC 5-cheese frozen lasagna can become quite the seductive option. I'm trying to get back on the horse this week with plans to make three, count'em, THREE meals *almost* from scratch! OK two meals, since Chris made tonight's dinner. :) In any case, homemade goodness will be plentiful this week, dern it! One good practice we've stuck to, however, is ordering our Pfennings organic produce baskets. S eats a LOT of fruit & veggies, and we try to get in there too before she polishes off the whole batch. :)

As for Christmas shopping, for once I'm actually ahead of the game! I have about 80% of our gifts either purchased or, at the very least, decided on. I give huuge creds here to my review/giveaway blogging, contest entering and deal newsletters (Baby Steals, Mother of a Deal, etc.) as I've discovered so many great brands and products this way. No more last-minute rushing around, desperately hoping for some gift-spiration!

One and one more item of note - our single vehicle situation was no longer cutting it so we bought a new car! A 2011 Toyota Corolla SE. Yup, we're a very practical family. :) 

As for bloggy g00dness, I have a few more reviews/giveaways to tackle before the holidays, and I'm going to see about lining up some more starting in the new year when life should slow down a little. (Knock on wood!) S's 1 year update post is coming soon too, and I have lots more ideas percolating for other posts - just a matter of finding the time!

So what have you all been up to recently? Anything new & exciting? Drop a comment and share! :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

#WinnerWonderland Terrific Toddler Fun prize package ($105 value): #Giveaway (Closed)

Welcome to the Winner Wonderland Giveaway Event. This event is hosted by Put A Little Umbrella In Your Drink, Seeds of Life, And The Little Ones Too and Taking Time For Mommy. This event features giveaways with a value of $25 or more at each of the participating blogs! Check out all of the great Winner Wonderland Sponsors being featured in this event! Be sure to visit each blog from the linky below and enter for your chance to win! This event will close on December 4th at 11:59 pm EST.

Here at Manager to Mom, I am giving away a "Terrific Toddler Fun" prize package valued at $105! Five wonderful & generous sponsors have contributed toward this package. You can read more about each one in my event preview post.

Without further ado, here's what's up for grabs:

Elegant Baby Sea Bath Squirties from Baby Bahoonie ($15.00) - Give this wonderful set of bath toys from Elegant Baby and your kids will never want to leave the tub! Composed of eight brightly colored bath squirt toys, this set includes a whale, octopus, turtle, orange crab, dolphin, alligator, clam and a hermit crab. Parents will love that they have nontoxic paint and are phthalate-free. Packaged in a zip bag for neat and easy storage and cleanup, this set makes a fantastic baby shower or birthday gift.

BabyLegs socks (2 pack) from Baby Bahoonie ($10) - Parents & babies love these socks because they stay on & look good.

Winner selects size and style!

Set of 4 Lift & Look books from Softplay ($37.16) - Young readers will love to LEARN using the soft, lift-out pieces that are featured in the Lift And Look books! The shiny, foil-enhanced pictures and fun, interactive approach to learning is sure to delight young children and keep them busy - and learning - for hours! 

Books included in the set are Colors, Baby Animals, Shapes and Numbers. These books are currently available at Sam's Club (US locations) until December 26th. Read my review of three other Lift & Look books here.

Puzzle Wheel from Mudpuppy ($10.00) - Mudpuppy puzzle wheels have extra thick pieces for small hands. Six pieces fit into a central hub puzzle piece to form a circular puzzle 12 inches in diameter.

This is a new offering from Mudpuppy, and it comes in 6 different designs from which the winner can select his/her favourite!

Mitten Clips from Lil Divas Bowtique ($8.00) - This pair of ribbon clips, each measuring around 6.5", ensures that your kittens won't lose their mittens this winter. One end clips to the mitten, the other to their coat, and they're just long enough to make it easy to slip the mittens on and off without having to remove the clips.

Winner chooses from among available designs!

Holly Jolly Gift Pack (Christmas Jewels or Santa's Pick) from Lovable Labels ($24.99) - The Holly Jolly Gift Pack was designed with the essentials in mind. Wrapped in a pretty red foil package, the recipient will receive 15 Multi-Purpose Stickers, 40 Slimline Labels, 12 Shoe Labels, 24 Press N' Stick Clothing DOTS (6 Large, 6 Medium and 12 Small) and 2 Mini-Metal Tags. Everything you need to cover the basics and more!

Winner selects colour scheme (Christmas Jewels or Santa's Pick)! Read my own review of this gift pack here!

Win It:

One lucky Manager to Mom reader will win ALL of this great loot! :D

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!

Lovable Labels "Holly Jolly Gift Pack": #Review

As a participant in the Winner Wonderland giveaway hop, I received the opportunity to partner with Lovable Labels, a Canadian-Based company which creates customizable labels for children's gear and for other purposes too! Lovable Labels was founded in 2003 by Laura Porreca, a mama who recognized a market need for customized labels that were tough, durable and could stand the test of time. Read the full Lovable Labels Story here!

I first discovered Lovable Labels this past Spring back via a blog review/giveaway, and have since seen them featured several more times. Reviews have been glowing and I became totally sold on the value of labelling my daughter's gear; I knew this would be particularly helpful once she started daycare and her clothes, shoes, bottles, etc. would be intermingling with those of a slew of other kiddos. The company offers a huuuge selection of labelling products, from multi-purpose sticker labels to press 'n' stick clothing dots to mini-metal bag tags, and numerous customization options are available.

For a limited time, Lovable Labels is offering four different Holiday Packs, each containing a selection of their most popular labels. As part of Winner Wonderland, I had the opportunity to review their Holly Jolly Gift Pack in the Christmas Jewels theme. This pack contains the following:

The colour scheme is pre-set, however the labels can be personalized with your child's name and one of 45 different icons. I chose a li'l kitty for our daughter's pack. :)

When I first emailed one of the Lovable Labels customer relations representatives regarding the possibility of a review/giveaway, she responded back within less than 24 hours with a confirmation and set of product choices. Once I'd provided my selections, my order was created and shipped via express post, and arrived in my mailbox a mere three days later. What amazing customer service!

I was also impressed that my labels came packaged in a snazzy folder along with a personalized letter, information on the company, giveaway specs and a li'l sheet of "I <3 Blogging" stickers. How utterly Lovable!!! :D

The Holly Jolly Gift Pack contains a separate page per label type, keeping things nice & organized. Here is the sticker label page, with our daughter's name sufficiently obscured (thanks to my mad MS Paint skillz. ;)

Once I had things unwrapped, I got busy! The labels were all super easy to peel off the sheets and adhere to my daughter's items.

I've washed her sippy and bottle several times now (including a couple fairly lengthy soaks), and the labels are certainly holding solid! My initial attempt at using a clothing dot unfortunately didn't work; the dot went AWOL at some point during the first laundry cycle. I emailed my Lovable Labels CRR who responded back (again, very quickly!) with the following helpful suggestions:
  • Ensure that the dot is pressed in firmly and that no bubbles are present
  • Wash new clothes first prior to sticking on the dots
  • Affix dots on flap labels rather than sewn-in patches
The last suggestion appeared to reveal where I went wrong (see photo above). Indeed, when I followed up with a properly-located dot, the label held strong during a full wash & dry cycle.

All in all, I am super impressed by Lovable Labels - both the company and its products. I'm eager to label more of my daughter's gear and feel confident that this will help prevent her from losing things (not to mention reduce headache for our childcare provider!) I'd also love to try some of their other products, including their toy bin and spice it up labels. This could get addictive. ;)

Buy it:

Grab your own Holly Jolly Gift Pack from Lovable Labels here! Hurry - at $24.99, this is quite the steal and available for a limited time only! If you're looking for a different product you can browse their available selection via the user-friendly top menu.

Win It:

Head on over to my Winner Wonderland giveaway post and enter to win a Holly Jolly Gift Pack along with several other great items in my "Terrific Toddler Fun" prize package! Contest ends Dec 4, 2011 at 11:59 PM so get in those last minute entries, stat! Good luck!! :)

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