Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Healthy Bodies Make Happy Hearts {Guest Post}

By: Kathleen Thomas

With the invention of computers, video games and electronic toys, children have become increasingly less active. Childhood obesity and the need for more physical activity are increasingly critical issues in North America. One way you can encourage your children to become more physically active is by dancing!

The American Heart Association recommends that children ages two and older participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Dance is a simple activity that doesn’t require complicated equipment and can be done just about anywhere. "I recommend dance as a fun physical activity for the whole family because it doesn’t require a lot of time, money or resources," said Dr. Mary Zurn, vice president of education for Primrose Preschools. "Dancing is a creative form of self-expression that helps build self-confidence. Plus, it provides time well spent with your family."

Dr. Zurn and Dr. Steve Sanders, a fitness expert and Director of the School of Physical Education & Exercise Science at the University of South Florida as well as a member of the Primrose Education Advisory Board, recommend these tips to encourage your family to start dancing:

Step 1: Select appropriate music. You aren’t just looking for age-appropriate lyrics. It is also important to find music with an eight-count beat that isn’t too fast or too slow, so children can successfully develop movements in time with the music.

Step 2: Create a dance routine with your child. Together, decide how your dance will begin, what movements will go in the middle and how it will end. Children naturally respond to music with movement, which they can then turn into a dance. They love to pretend and don’t have any difficulty responding if they are asked to "be" the wind moving in the trees or even a dog searching for a place to bury a bone. Their imaginations don’t need much encouragement to get moving.

Step 3: Focus on developing your child's key motor skills. Freestyle dancing is great for getting the heart rate up, but dancing can also be beneficial to your child's motor and coordination development. Dancing will enable them to practice fundamental skills like jumping, landing, leaping, sliding, galloping, moving forward and backwards, and learning how to imitate moves.

Step 4: Check your child's heart rate. Teach your child to connect physical activity with maintaining a healthy heart by measuring his or her heart rate. Show your child how to feel and count his or her heart beats.

For more tips from Dr. Z and a variety of activity suggestions, visit www.DrZandMe.com.

Kathleen is a Communications Coordinators for the Atlanta Day Care facility, a member of the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Schools (located in 16 states throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of preschools delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum.

Coupons.ca Review + $25 Toys "R" Us Giveaway! (Closed)


Alright, this one's for all my Canadian followers who love great deals!

....which means all my Canadian followers - because who doesn't love a great deal, right? ;)

I'd like to introduce you to coupons.ca, a coupon savings website that provides free downloadable and online coupons and coupon codes from top brand names like Dell, Expedia, Toys R Us, Old Navy, The Source and many more. The site was developed by SurfMyAds.com, which specializes in coupon technology.  Coupons.ca launched just a few months ago, but already features thousands of coupons from hundreds of brands across numerous categories, and supports both English and French languages.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Looking for your help! (Just 30 seconds - promise! :)

As you might have seen on my FB page, S is in a photo contest to win a free session with an AMAZING photographer (worth over $200)! She is currently in 2nd place and just needs a few more clutch last minute votes to pull ahead! Contest ends tomorrow (Aug 31) at 7 PM EST.

If you could follow these steps to vote, I would REALLY appreciate it! Just a few clicks needed.

1) "Like" the Hulahoop Childrens Photography page

2) Click the "Like" link on S's photo (#34)

Photographer is in Cambridge so local folks - I really recommend checking out her work!

Thanks so much everyone! :D

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What I've been up to....

Apologies for my lack of updates recently. Lots happening on a personal front, including the following:

  • Daycare search - as some of you know, I will be returning to work sometime this November following a year of maternity leave. Over the last 2-3 weeks, I've spent a lot of time researching home day care options and meeting with potential providers. Thankfully there are many great people in our area who still have openings, however this is such a big choice that we of course want to make sure it feels *really* right! As my friend Jaime put it, no one is you. We have a couple more interviews this week and then we will look to nail this down! Wish us luck!! For those of you who have searched for child care, did you discover any important questions to ask potential caregivers which weren't obvious to ask upfront?

  • Baby's First Camping Trip! - We took S to Wildwood Conservation Area this past weekend. We had fun boating, hiking and relaxing at our site, however we also learned a couple things: 1) Go heavy on the blankets, or you're going to end up with Little One snuggled inside Mommy or Daddy's sleeping bag (which isn't necessarily a bad thing) and 2) Leave the wipe clean only toys at home! Everything's going to get dirty, so it should all be easy to get clean again! Do you have any tips for camping with little ones?



  • Numerous mini-events including a lunch/reunion today with my Mom's side of the family, and an anniversary dinner for her and my stepfather, barbecues and other outdoorsy time with friends and family, etc. That reminds me - I should check on how we're doing with our Intentional Summer Fun List! Pretty well, though a few remaining things to tick off! Let's take a look:
  • Purchase and install above-ground pool in our backyard! DONE!
  • Attend the KW Multicultural Festival in Victoria Park. DONE!
  • Attend the Canada Day events here in New Hamburg this Friday DECIDED TO HAVE A BBQ AT OUR PLACE INSTEAD!
  • Cottage-y goodness - DONE!
  • "Trial camp" with S in our back yard - sometime in August? - DIDN'T BOTHER
  • If all goes well with the trial camp, go camping for realsies later in August or early September! - DONE!
  • More boating/fishing closer to home - DONE! (Though still want to take my Mom out if there's time!)
  • Spend a weekend in Ottawa visiting friends - NOT DONE - September perhaps?
  • Take S to African Lion Safari and/or the Toronto Zoo - NOT DONE, though we have seen lots of animals at Waterloo Park and other places closer to home!
  • Take my best friend M out for a "girl's night" birthday dinner! - DONE!
  • Go on at least a couple dates with Chris! - SORT OF DONE? We've had a couple dates but I'd love a couple more while it's still nice & warm out!
  • Get a family photo shoot done - somewhere outdoors would be wonderful! - NOT DONE - Need to book it this week! 
  • Host and attend a few BBQs with friends and family - DONE! (Though we'd like to host a couple more while it's still BBQ weather!)

      I have a lot of posts planned for this week to catch up, including 2-3+ reviews/giveaways and S's 9 month update. Hopefully a menu plan as well; I've been slacking on this front since we've been out and about more recently. Also hoping to catch up on some blog reading!

      Oh, and I really need a hair cut from my trusty old stylist! All those 80% off Wagjags are nice on the wallet, but they're Russian Roulette on the tresses. And I "got shot" last time. Serves me right for being "unfaithful"!

      Monday, August 22, 2011

      Momstown KW Birthday Bash!


      Momstown.ca is a group for neighborhood moms wanting to connect for support, conversation and just plain fun! It is organized into local chapters across Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, and there is a small membership fee to join which covers the cost of all events and social opportunities.

      Thanks to my sister-in-law Tracey, I found out that Momstown Kitchener-Waterloo (our local chapter) was throwing a birthday bash in Waterloo Park this past Saturday! Although the late morning time conflicted with S's nap, Chris and I decided to meet her down there and check it out.

      What a terrific event! There were all kinds of great activites set up for the kids, interesting product demos and (of course) a whole slew of draw prizes! Many local companies and organizations were showcased, including the following:

      • Norwex consultant Tasha Baldock, who convincingly demonstrated (with raw chicken) how the Norwex Envirocloth can deactivate bacteria and other pathogens. I'd heard of Norwex before, but didn't quite know what the products were all about. But now I have to get my hands on some of these incredible cloths! I can totally see myself using them on EVERYTHING.

      • Hulahoop Childrens Photography, featuring the super-talented Nicola who shoots with natural light and achieves amazing results! Hulahoop is currently hosting a Facebook contest to win a Christmas mini session based on photo booth pics taken at the event. The picture with the most "Likes" wins the shoot. Lots of cuties in the album, huh? Here is S's entry; if you agree with her (non-biased) mother that she's the sweetest of the bunch, I'd love for you to click the pic and "Like" it! (Note - you need to Like Hulahoop's page as well. Take a look at the other beautiful pics on there too while you're at it!)

      I just signed up for a trial membership at Momstown which lasts for two weeks. I plan to check out an event or two and all the member perks and then see about signing up long term! If you're in Alberta, Ontario or Manitoba and haven't heard of this group yourself, I recommend taking a look at momstown.ca to see if there's a local community near you!

      Sunday, August 21, 2011

      Mudpuppy Floor Puzzle - Review & Giveaway! (Closed)


      Galison/Mudpuppy is a company based in Midtown Manhattan offering hundreds of original, beautifully-designed products for children and adults. Galison was founded in in 1979 and sells boxed note cards and stylish stationery for personal correspondence or gifts. Mudpuppy Press launched in 1992 and specializes in children's toys such as puzzles, magnetic figures and educational games.

      The company draws product inspiration from many sources including museum imagery, the work of famous artists, children's literature and world geography. Budding artists can also submit their own, unique artwork to be considered for future projects - how cool is that?

      I was lucky enough to win a Forest Friends Block Puzzle from Mudpuppy via a recent blog giveaway. My prize arrived along with a thoughtful, hand-written note from Shannon, one of the company's customer service representatives, so I decided to email her back with a thank you note and proposal for a product review & giveaway here at Manager to Mom. She not only agreed, but generously allowed me to pick a product from their catalogue that I felt would be a good fit for my readers. Thanks Shannon!

      I had fun browsing through all the great Mudpuppy products and eventually selected one of their floor puzzles to review. Why? Because I love the idea of a huuuuge puzzle that can be put together by li'l kiddos, with pieces that are extremely difficult to lose. ;)

      Here are some specs:
      • Measures 2 x 3 feet (completed)
      • 24 jumbo pieces
      • Sturdy box with a colourful rope handle
      • Printed with non-toxic soy-based inks
      • Puzzle greyboard contains 90% recycled paper; package 70% recycled paper
      • CE and ASTM tested for safety
      • For ages 3+

      The puzzle comes in seven creative & colourful designs.


      I chose the Our World Floor Puzzle as I thought it would provide the perfect blend of fun & learning. Each continent on the map is shaded a different colour and features illustrations of characteristic animals, structures and activities from that part of the world - kangaroos and koalas in Australia, hockey in Canada, etc. It also doesn't hurt that it won the 2005 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Toy Gold Award; quite the honour!

      My puzzle arrived very quickly:

       

      The pieces truly are jumbo! Nice and sturdy too.


      As you can see, the completed puzzle takes up its fair share of space!


      When I made the puzzle at home, my 9-month-old daughter S liked to crawl all over it and swipe at the images...


      ....which was amusing and all, but not quite the intended use of the product! :) As such, I recruited my good friend's 3-year-old daughter Leena to try her hand at it. She initially had fun rummaging through the big pieces, but then started making matches with a little bit of guidance. I did see her match up a beluga whale all by herself - good job, Leena!

      We didn't have much time during my visit, so I left the puzzle with Leena to play with. The next day, my friend sent me the following:

      Leena loves the puzzle...she is getting a little better at it too.  She doesn't understand the yellow border or the different colours of the continents for some reason but she matches pieces up by the animals.  I think it is a perfect game for her age actually, because it is just a little above her skill level.  At this point it is definitely a parent participation activity - which is nice for us.




      She included a footnote: Not appropriate for 8 month olds :) Evidently Leena's little brother Sam wanted to take part in the "testing" too! Thank goodness for that soy-based ink!


      All in all, these puzzles are awesome. Colourful, sturdy, non-toxic and lots of fun! My guess is that they'd hold a child's interest for a few years as well - from age 3 as a parent participation activity, to age 5-6+ as more of a solo task. I also like how the puzzles have different cues to help make matches (such as the border around the outside and the colour-coding of the continents, in the case of the Our World puzzle) which should cater nicely to different learning styles. I really can't think of any improvement suggestions, aside from offering even MORE designs since these puzzles are so great! ;)


      Buy It:

      You can purchase your own floor puzzle directly from the Mudpuppy website! While you're there, take a look at the other items in their catalogue as well! You can shop by theme, theme, collection, age and other methods. Mudpuppy has generously offered my readers 15% off any website order. Simply enter coupon code ZZZ2 at checkout for your discount!

      Note that shipping is available to the United States and Canada (via UPS), and different rates apply depending on location and order total.


      Win It:

      One lucky Manager to Mom reader will receive a Mudpuppy floor puzzle of their own!

      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 Galison/Mudpuppy.  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.

      Wednesday, August 17, 2011

      Zookies Diaper Cover - Review & Giveaway! (Closed)



      As a 2-piece cloth diapering kinda girl, I've had my eye on Zookies for quite awhile! I first discovered this awesome WAHM diaper cover shop several months back the same way I've learned about other great products - via a blog giveaway. My first thought - what a cute & catchy name! :) And upon clicking through to browse the available covers, I fell in love with the huuuge selection of totally adorable prints! Needless to say, I was stoked when Michele, the owner, agreed to sponsor a review/giveaway here at M2M!

      Zookies offers a variety of sizing options (sized or one size) and both snap and aplix closures. For the purpose of the review, we decided on a sized snap closure cover. The challenge we faced, however, was choosing the size! During our early discussion, S was about 14 pounds putting her near the end of the suggested range for small. As such, we decided on a medium (15-30 pounds), figuring she'd grow into it by the time the cover arrived. Problem is, she's a long, skinny baby so even when she reached 15 pounds, the medium cover turned out to be much too roomy. Due to this, Michele generously offered to create and send another cover, close to the medium but sized down a bit mainly in the rise, to fit S a little better. Thanks Michele!!

      Here is it! Check out the elegantly simple packaging. Love it! :)


      Zookies covers contain a waterproof PUL (polyurethane laminate) inner layer, a 100% cotton outer layer and soft fold over elastic trim - both at the back AND front. This results in an exceptionally soft and stretchy cover, which I noticed immediately upon removing the packaging.


      Two rows of snaps are included to help keep things in place. Eight snap columns provide flexible sizing options.


      Note that there are no crossover snaps, so the tightest waist setting you can get is when the snaps are secured next to each other in the middle.


      (Side note - if you have a funny feeling you've seen this "zoology" print here at M2M before, you would be correct. I have a bit of a thing for it!) 

      The fold over elastic appears to be a signature aesthetic feature of these covers, and Michele always matches the colour of the elastic perfectly to the print. As it can be seen, my cover has simple white elastic, however she often uses brown, black and other colours as well. Very pleasing to the eye!

      Oh, and one more design element to point out. There are no leg gussets, however the cover is wider across the bottom than most others I have tried, which likely achieves the same effect of preventing leakage.

      Alright, let's get baby girl in there for some testing!

      We decided to try out our Zookies cover with two types of diapers - a small, trifolded prefold (which we're currently using with our smaller covers) and a fitted (which we use mainly for night diapering).

      The elastic trim made it nice & easy to get the cover on her, which I appreciated as S is really starting to fight me during changes! Since she is on the low end of the recommended weight range for her cover, I used the tightest snap setting which produced a snug fit around the waist and legs. It did leave her with a bit of a billowy butt, but this is unavoidable when babe's just growing into a new size! It reassured me that she'd have plenty of room to grow in this cover.


      S was very active during our testing period, which was perfect as it allowed us to see how the cover handled a lot of exuberant movement (crawling, pulling up on things, etc.)



      A few observations emerged from our testing:

      1) All in all, the cover kept everything in place with no leaks. Thumbs up!

      2) When we removed the cover, there were no significant marks left on her waist or legs, thanks to the soft & stretchy trim.

      3) The cover currently works better with a fitted diaper (or snappi'd prefold, presumably) than a trifolded prefold. The prefold shifted and bunched quite a bit (though still didn't result in a leak). I suspect this is due mainly to her being on the lower end of the weight spectrum and isn't an issue with the cover itself.

      4) We did experience some "wing droop" (i.e., when the front flaps peek down under the back flaps buttoned in place.) I think this may be one downside of the super-soft material in that it is more susceptible to getting worked out of place than stiffer cover material. Also, I'd guess this is most prominent with the snaps on the tightest setting, as there is more "wing" available to droop out. So as S grows bigger, I suspect we won't notice this as much.


      One more thing worth pointing out is that the cover seems vulnerable to pilling. Again, probably an unavoidable downside of having such soft, stretchy trim. I washed my cover twice and hung it to dry each time, and there is already some minor pilling visible.


      I think this happened because the laundry tab aplix is wearing on some of my night dipes. Boo. :( I might start handwashing this cover or washing it separate from the offending aplix to keep it in top shape.

      All in all, this is definitely a nice cover that will make the regular rotation! I plan to use it right now as a night cover over my fitteds, as I looove how the exterior is 100% cotton (and therefore more breathable). When S graduates to her larger prefolds, I'll use it more during the day as well, since I'll be getting back to snappi-ing.

      Here is a summary of the pros & cons, for those of you in a time crunch. :)

      Pros:
      + Great-looking design; many adorable patterns available
      + Various sizing and closure options offered to suit your preferences
      + Super soft and stretchy; comfy for baby and no waist or leg marks
      + Exterior is 100% cotton, so more breathable than PUL-only covers

      Cons:
      - Susceptible to "wing droop", especially when baby is on lower end of recommended weight spectrum
      - Soft trim can pill easily when in contact with rough material such as aplix. May want to handwash or wash separately from such material.


      Buy It:

      Head on over to Zookies Diaper Covers & More and grab yourself some of these sweet covers! Be careful, though - you might end up with way more than you bargained for since there are SOOO many sweet prints! ;) While you're at it, check out her other items; she offers quite a few such as burb cloths, bibs, reusable snack/sandwich bags and more!

      Win It:

      Michele has generously offered to give away a Zookies cover to one lucky Manager to Mom reader! Winner chooses size (or one-size), closure option (snaps or aplix) and print!

      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 Zookies.  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.

      Wordless Wednesday: (Almost) hit by pitch!


      Sunday, August 14, 2011

      Menu Plan Monday: Organic Moroccan Seafood Barbeque

      Haven't done one of these in forever. I've been under the weather, on antibiotics for a UTI (TMI? lots of TLAs!) and we've been out & about a lot in the evenings. Excited to be back in the saddle though with a menu showcasing goods from our garden, this week's organic blender basket from Pfenning's, large & in-charge sea creatures and aromatic spices. Yum!

      As usual, linking up at orgjunkie.com. Check out other MPMs here:


      Monday:
      Pre-made stuffed pasta & sauce. Nice 'n' simple to start off the week.

      Tuesday:
      Greek salad with chopped chicken breast. I'll use green-leaf lettuce from the organic box and cherry tomatoes and cucumber from the garden.

      Wednesday:
      Seafood barbie! Jumbo shrimp & scallops are on deck, and I might also pick up some T&J salmon to cedar plank-ize. :DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD~~~~
      Broccoli and lemon risotto (using organic broccoli from the box!) - thought this would pair well

      Thursday:
      Vegetarian Moroccan Stew. This came up when I googled kale recipes. I love how the non-standard items in the organic box inspire us to try new, tasty-sounding dishes!

      Friday:
      Leftovers (apparently the VM stew is even better the next day) OR treat ourselves and eat out!

      Saturday, August 13, 2011

      You Can Breastfeed Here! (dot com)


      Today we took S to the Rogers Centre for Baby's First Blue Jay Game! We scarfed down some pre-game sausages, took lots of pictures, enjoyed an 11-1 home team victory and didn't have to worry about where we were going to feed and change S thanks to You Can Breastfeed Here, a site dedicated to tracking breastfeeding-friendly locations across the United States and Canada. Its entry on the Rogers Centre told us that "There are nursing rooms/family bathrooms near the first aid area with a toilet, sink, and small couch." And indeed, there were!

      What a great idea for a site! Although it's certainly legal for breastfeeding mothers to nurse their babies in public anywhere in Canada or the US, it is outside the comfort levels of many women to do so, and some places (unfortunately) do not provide the most supportive environments for breastfeeding. The ability to check out a destination ahead of time and locate a discreet and/or friendly & supportive location to nurse one's child is certainly helpful in these cases! I am personally willing to nurse in public if necessary, but definitely prefer somewhere a little more privat where I (and S, in turn) can fully relax and enjoy the experience.

      You Can Breastfeed Here allows you to browse existing locations, submit new locations (including photos) and add comments to existing submissions. It appears that the vast majority of submissions at this point are in the United States, however I'm hoping to see it expand to include more Canadian locations. (I just submitted one myself for Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener, which includes two dedicated nursing areas!)

      The site also includes state-specific breastfeeding laws and links to other resources. All in all, a great site for breastfeeding mothers!

      Friday, August 12, 2011

      Green Bumkin Kitchen Wetbag - Review & Giveaway! (Closed)


      In recent months, I was super-addicted to entering giveaways. Not only was it fun to win some fabulous, free loot but it also introduced me to a bunch of great products, companies and shops! One of the most useful products I discovered during this time was the kitchen wetbag. As a cloth diapering mama, I'd collected my fair share of wetbags for S's diapers, however the idea of a wetbag for the kitchen had never occurred to me up until that point. But it makes so much sense - both in theory and in practice!

      Our daughter is 8 1/2 months old and we're striving to be more eco-friendly, so we accumulate a large number of dirty cloth items in the kitchen - dish rags, dish towels, bibs, face cloths, etc. Prior to owning a kitchen wetbag, these items would inevitably end up either lumped on the kitchen counter/sink, or flung down the basement stairs in the general direction of the laundry area. Not the most elegant storage solution, I'm sure you would agree. (Though do I see a few of you sheepishly nodding your heads out there? ;)

      So needless to say, when I discovered this oh-so-nifty item, I knew I had to have one! Since I wasn't hitting pay dirt on the giveaway scene, I bit the bullet and purchased one. In deciding where to buy from, I browsed through several Etsy shops I'd discovered through giveaways and ended up at Green Bumkin. I loved how their wetbags are entirely customizable with a huge selection of cute patterns available! I was also lured in by the other great items sold at the store, such as reusable snack/sandwich bags and extra small wetbags for wipes. Plus, Green Bumkin's prices are very reasonable, and it is a Canadian shop to boot! (No, not "aboot". But I digress.)

      Check out my bag! I ordered a large one in the "Zoology" print:


      Some features of the large bag:
      • Lined with PUL waterproof fabric and has an outer shell of designer cotton. 
      • Each fabric is sewn separately to avoid wicking.
      • Measures approximately 15" x 18".
      • Closes with a zipper. Has two 9" x 1.5" straps at the top which close with snaps for conveniently hanging on your oven door! 

      I love the last feature in particular. The oven door is definitely an accessible location!


      Here's a close-up of the materials - PUL interior, cotton exterior, snaps and zipper (all customizable!):


      The large bag has a GINORMOUS capacity. After several days of accumulation, it is rarely more than half full.

       

      I also love how the bag adds a splash of colour to our otherwise aesthetically simple kitchen!


      Finally, it's nice and easy to wash as well. On laundry day, just turn the bag inside out and dump it into the washer along with everything in it! I tend to wash this load on medium heat, however I don't see why it wouldn't hold up to high heat if that is your preference.

      All in all, I love my Green Bumkin kitchen wetbag! The only (fairly minor) criticism I can come up with is that the zipper is a bit "stiff". I find that I need both hands to open and close it. It would be nice if it would slide more easily so as not to require that second hand (which is usually filled with dirty cloths!)

      Buy It:

      To purchase a kitchen wetbag for yourself, visit Green Bumkin's Etsy Store and customize to your heart's content!

      Win It:

      Amy, the owner of Green Bumkin, has generously offered to give away a medium kitchen wetbag to one lucky Manager to Mom reader!

      Note: The medium wetbag measures approximately 12" x 15" and has about 50-60% the capacity of the large. Otherwise, it is identical in design to the large. Amy told me that she uses the medium herself and that it holds 4-5 days worth of kitchen laundry.

      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 Green Bumkin.  I received no financial or product compensation myself for writing my review or offering this giveaway.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.

      Thursday, August 11, 2011

      Procrastinating fun

      I just had an interesting thought. I used to be a procrastinator, and I still am. In a sense.

      I've gone from procrastinating all the things I didn't want to do, to procrastinating the things I do want to do. I've become a procrastinator of fun.

      When S goes down for a nap or to bed at night, old me would have gone "Yippeee! Now I can play video games / max out and watch TV / [insert other fun here]." Current me goes "Sweet, now maybe I can get to some blogging or uploading new pics to FB. BUT FIRST - what needs to get done? Dishes, counters, toys away. Good. Oh wait, I should take up those diaper covers that dried today. Oh and there are some leftover chickpeas. Maybe I'll whip up some quick hummus." (etc.)

      I asked Chris if it was a Bad Thing that I've become a fun procrastinator and he said no - something to the effect of it being a lot easier to catch up on fun than on housework. Good point.

      And really, maybe it's not fun procrastination after all. Maybe it's just Growing Up. :)

      Alright, now that I've shared my thought du jour with y'all, it's time to get to some fun. But first, I should really check on S. Oh, and plug in the camera batteries. Hmm, did I renew that library book yet??

      Tuesday, August 9, 2011

      Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil - Review & Giveaway! (Closed)


      I first discovered the company Tropical Traditions a few months back, and subsequently wrote about my conquest, nay, my OBSESSION to win some of their products. Well, guess what - I conquered! And then some! :D Shortly after writing that article, I was the lucky winner of a quart of Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil from the blog One Frugal Lady, which was the product I was most eager to try!


      I've read about many of the emerging benefits of virgin coconut oil, and I was super excited to try out some of the great coconut recipes on the Tropical Traditions website. Then it struck me - why not blog about all this and see if I could offer one of my readers this same great prize in the process? I checked in with the Client Services representative I'd been in contact with at TT, and following a short review period, he confirmed that my blog had been approved for hosting reviews and giveaways, starting with this one. Sweet!

      As I prepared for this review, I did a lot of research on coconut oil. As a quick Google search shows, there is a staggering amount of information out there, some of it seemingly conflicting. As such, I've attempted to sort out the discrepancies and distill everything down below.

      So first things first. What is "virgin" coconut oil? This term is used in the coconut oil industry to refer to a form of processing that is the most natural and least refined. The coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconuts via physical means and is not exposed to high heat or any chemical treatments. Virgin coconut oil tastes and smells like coconut, and is a fine oil which melts and solidifies quickly.


      Contrast this with "RBD" (refined, bleached, deodorized) coconut oil, which is typically made from "copra", the dried meat of the coconut. Heavy processing is required to produce the oil, and the resulting product is thicker and lacks the definitive "coconut-y" smell.


      In the 80s and 90s, coconut oil (along with other so-called "tropical oils" like palm oil) had a bad rap due to its high levels of saturated fat. However, most of the research appears to have been conducted around RBD coconut oil, which contains trans fats. Newer research has emerged suggesting that coconut oil in its virgin form does not pose the same health risks as the highly-refined variant, and may actually have numerous health benefits! Let's look at this a little further.
      • Virgin coconut oil is made up of medium-chain fatty acids, which are easily digested and used by the body. 
      • It is highly resistant to oxidation, even at very high temperatures. This is an extremely important benefit, as oxidization creates free radicals, which cause cellular degeneration in the body. This property also allows virgin coconut oil to have a shelf-life of several years.
      • The most prominent fatty acid found in virgin coconut oil is lauric acid, which is also a component of breast milk. Resesarch suggests that lauric acid can help fight pathogens in the body such as bacteria, yeast, fungi and parasites.
      • There may be other health benefits as well; I encourage you to do some research of your own if you are interested in exploring this further!

      Now that we've looked at virgin coconut oil in general, I'd like to tell you about Tropical Traditions' approach to producing their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil. This oil is made on/near Mt. Banahaw in the Phillipines, where the volcanic soil creates coconuts which are exceptionally nutrient-rich. Coconuts are harvested on small family farms and other rural areas, hand-picked to ensure quality and used fresh (within 24-48 hours). Fresh coconut meat is wet milled and cold-pressed, then within about half a day the oil naturally separates from the water. This traditional method has been used in the Phillipines for hundreds of years, and the coconut trees and family producers creating this product for Tropical Traditions are certified organic according to strict USDA standards.

      There's a neat little story behind how the founders of Tropical Traditions discovered this unique oil. Take a look at the video below, or visit the Tropical Traditions website to learn more!



      Alright, let's get to the fun & delicious part of the review! :)

      When I first cracked my own jar of this wonderful stuff, the aroma was incredible! It was really difficult not to grab a spoon and just start eating it right there. No, seriously.

      It's been pretty hot recently and we've only used our air conditioner sparingly, so our indoor temperature has hovered around 25 degrees C. As such, our oil is somewhere between a solid and liquid state. Notice that the solid sections are white and the liquid sections are clear:


      The first recipe we tried was the World's Best Movie Popcorn. I'm one of those people who ALWAYS has to get popcorn when I go to the movies. I don't care if I've just had a huge dinner. I just have to. :) Strangely, however, I don't make popcorn at home all that often. But that's about to change.

      Although "world's best" labels tend to be thrown around rather frivolously, this recipe could, indeed, be true to its title. While the popcorn did its thing on the stove, my husband proclaimed that it "smelled like Thailand"! Check out the popping action below. (Oh, and don't mind my stepfather shouting at us to "take the lid off!" in the background ;)

      video

      The coconut taste was more subtle than the smell, but was definitely there. My mom said it tasted like "tropical popcorn". I found that the more I ate, the more of a coconut essence I noticed. All in all, it was definitely delicious and addictive!

      Next up, we tried the Spiced Zucchini Bread. We did change up the recipe somewhat; we halved the amounts, replaced the sugar with about 2/3 cup maple syrup, subbed in apple sauce for the water and opted against the nuts and raisins. All in all, the bread came out pretty moist & tasty, but not too sweet. I'm not sure I could taste the coconut oil specifically, but it was good to know this was in there in place of butter or other types of oil.


      Third, we added coconut oil to our morning smoothies. We started with a banana, a frozen fruit mix (containing strawberries, mangos and peaches), yogurt and a little orange juice.


      We blended these up, then followed Tropical Traditions' recommendations for incorporating coconut oil in cold beverages.


      Finally, I commemorated the occasion by enjoying my smoothie in a fancy glass. ;)


      And the taste? OMG - absolutely DIVINE. Not only did it have a wonderfully pungent coconut-y flavour (reminiscent of a pina colada), but it also had a silky smooth texture. It doesn't seem right that something so delicious can also be healthy. Needless to say, coconut oil will be a smoothie staple moving forward!

      The last dish we whipped up was Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps! We substituted bok choi for the green pepper and used red leaf lettuce for the wraps, since we had some of both kicking around. These were tasty! The coconut smell & taste did come through, but it was fairly subtle in this case.



      Oh, I should also mention that I spread coconut oil on my toast this morning in place of my usual peanut butter. Sooo much yummier!!!

      I'm eager to try some of the other great recipes in the Tropical Traditions catalogue, as well as invent some of our own! I'm also interested in checking out other uses for coconut oil, such as deep conditioning the hair and helping to reduce cellulite, however I might purchase some expeller-pressed coconut oil for this as I don't want to "waste" my precious Gold Label virgin oil!! If you're interested in other ways to use coconut oil (80, in fact!), check out this great post from Hybrid Rasta Mama, one of my favourite mama bloggers.

      Buy It:

      If you live in the United States, you can purchase Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil (and other great products) directly from the Tropical Traditions website. They often have terrific promos & discounts going which you can keep track of by signing up for the Tropical Traditions newsletter

      If you live in Canada, you can order from their Canadian distributor and if you live in Europe, you can order from their European distributor.

      Win It:

      Tropical Traditions has generously offered to give away a 32oz. jar of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil 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!





      Disclosure:  Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product. I received no financial compensation for writing my review or offering this giveaway.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.  

      Sunday, August 7, 2011

      Free glasses from ClearlyContacts.ca - the Real Deal!

      I'd been seeing a lot of ads for ClearlyContacts.ca on Facebook and other sites, and I wondered what they were all about but never clicked through to find out more. Then my sister-in-law told me about a promotion they ran during which they gave away 10,000 free pairs of glasses to first-time Canadian customers. All you needed to pay was shipping, which is around $12 anywhere in Canada. She got this pair and loved them! She mentioned that another such promotion was coming up on July 26th. Normally I would have been skeptical, but I'd been given a first-hand account from someone I trusted that this unbelievable deal was the real thing! As such, I moseyed on over on the 26th and grabbed myself this great pair! The glasses promptly arrived 3 days later in a tidy little box, along with two cases (hard and soft) and a cleaning cloth. Upon trying them on, I was thrilled! They're comfy, the alignment is perfect and I love the style. Whaddya think??


      So how would YOU like a free pair of glasses for yourself? Amazingly, ClearlyContacts.ca is having yet another free glasses promotion on August 10th starting at 9 AM EST. If you are Canadian and have not ordered from them before, you are eligible for this deal! The promo code you will need at checkout is FreeGlassesCA8 (you can find this on their Facebook page under FREE GLASSES! on the left menu). Here are some tips from my own experience:
      • Make sure you have your up-to-date prescription handy ahead of time. You may need to visit your optician in person to obtain this. (I did.) The specific values you will need are SPH (Sphere), CYL (Cylinder) and Axis for each eye (OD is right and OS is left). The site also asks you for a PD (pupillary distance) value, which is the distance between the middle of your left and right pupils. If your prescription does not include this, you'll need to measure but it's quite easy!
      • The site includes great features for zeroing in on the perfect frames! You can narrow your search by gender, frame size & shape, material, colour, brand and other characteristics. You can even plug in the dimensions of an existing pair of glasses that you love to view available frames that are the same, or very close, in size and shape! Do this by clicking Find Your Perfect Fit on the left menu. This is how I found my frames. :) (Note - the dimensions of your existing glasses can be found on the inside temple.)  Finally, every pair of frames on the site includes extensive details such as images you can zoom in on and frame sizing measurements.
      • I recommend using Internet Explorer 8+ when ordering. I had issues submitting the prescription form when using Firefox (my regular browser).
      • Only select frames (presumably all the lower-cost ones) are eligible for the free glasses promotion, but this still leaves hundreds, if not thousands, of frames to choose from!
      • If you want truly free frames, ensure that the lens upgrade options are unchecked as you are ordering. I ended up including some of the protective lens coating upgrades myself as S's always grabbing my glasses and I drop'em a lot too. :) (This only brought the grand total, including shipping, up to about $30.)
      • Remember the promo code at checkout - FreeGlassesCA8
      • Finally, although I managed to snag a free pair late in the afternoon, you might want to order yours closer to 9 AM for additional reassurance that you'll be one of the lucky 10,000!
      I think that covers everything! Good luck. :)

      Oh, I should probably mention that I'm in no way being compensated for writing this post by ClearlyContacts.ca or anyone else. This is just such a great deal that I wanted to pass it along and spread the {love} as my sister-in-law did for me. (Thanks AM! :)

      Tuesday, August 2, 2011

      "S" @ 8 months: The "Keys" to Success!

      Wow - month 8 was milestone-central for S! It seemed that every day our little girl was learning a new "trick"! As such, this update will be heavy on the vids, oh yes!

      Due to all the new acrobatics and subsequent calorie burnin', she only gained 0.2 kilograms this month putting her at 7.2 kg, or 15.9 pounds total on our Wii Fit weigh-in. Minus onesie and dipe, probably about 15 pounds overall. She continues to be small but feisty!

      We were at a family barbecue on her 8-month birthday, so we grabbed a few pics of her there. This'll work as her official photo:


      Take a look at her up-to-date month-to-month album here!

      People are really commenting on two things recently about her appearance:
      1. How much she looks like Chris (though this one isn't exactly new) and
      2. How blonde her hair is getting!
      Indeed:


      Alright, so let's get to all those exciting developments!

      First up, crawling. In her last update, I mentioned that she was super close. I wasn't kidding; she figured out how to get that elusive forward movement about 2-3 days into her 8th month! Like many little ones, however, she started with the "army crawl":

      video


       Within a few weeks, this had progressed to a full-on (albeit somewhat shaky) "real" crawl!

      video 

      Her newfound ability to get around has certainly turned her into a little explorer! She loves doorstops, air registers and drawer knobs. Oh, and her favourite new toy? Mommy's keys, of course! In an attempt to procure them near the end of the month, she managed to climb her first stair!

      video

      Some musical interests/talents began to emerge this month as well. Banging two objects together and shaking rattles have become a couple of her favourite activities. And check out the sheer delight upon receiving a big "drum" to bang on!

      video 

      And having just discovered the baby crack that is Barney, she couldn't help but get her dance on!

      video

      About midway through the month she also figured out how to prop herself up from a lying position to a sitting position. This often makes diaper changes even more challenging!

      In terms of fine movements, she's getting close to mastering the pincer grip! She has progressed from using full palms to working with her thumb and first two fingers. She's certainly enjoying the opportunities we give her to feed herself, though her first experience with an ice cube was a bit frustrating for her!

      video

      Socially, her babbling seems to be taking on some meaning. "Mamama" means she wants me and/or food. :) "Dadada" is definitely directly at Chris, and sometimes comes out when she's having fun playing. And "Nanana" is a new one; she does this when she's not very pleased about a situation! She LOVES to wave as well - she'll do this to say bye bye, but also when she just darn well feels like it. :)

      Right on cue, we're starting to see some attitude come out. For example, she gets upset when you take away a toy or restrain her when she wants to be mobile, and we're seeing a hint of stranger anxiety. (She "bottom lipped" recently at a waitress, and it sometimes takes a moment for her to remember that her grandparents are A-OK!)

      Finally, she continues to try and enjoy new foods! This month, her first time menu included plum, squash, small bits of chicken and asparagus (among other things).

      On the home stretch now toward 1 year old and a toddler on our hands. Holy jumpins!!

      Monday, August 1, 2011

      Kammy's Korner Store - Review & Giveaway! (Closed)

      Kammy's Korner Store 

      Are you a lover of all things vivid, whimsical or extravagant? Do you adore shabby chic or marvel at the conversion of old into bold? Would you consider yourself both fanciful and frugal? If you've answered yes to any of the above questions, read on!

      I'd like to introduce you to Kammy Wielenga - owner of the blog Kammy's Korner. In her own words: "I'm a wife, mother of three precious munchkins, and live with paint under my fingernails instead of on top of them." Love it! :) Kammy first contacted me several weeks ago looking for help promoting her new boutique Kammy's Korner Store which specializes in home-made headbands and other hair accessories. Upon looking through her blog and the items in her boutique, I was impressed to say the least. This mama has an amazing array of creative talents!

      I'll get to the hair accessories in a moment as I'll be reviewing these in detail. First, I'd like to quickly highlight some of Kammy's other specialties:

      • Before and after projects. Her blog features a whole slew of these, from furniture pieces to clothing to entire rooms! She also has some of her completed furniture pieces available for purchase. Here is an example of a B&A furniture makeover I particularly like:


      And if all that weren't enough, she features great recipes and Thrifty Thoughts on her blog as well. A mama after my own heart. ;)

      Alright, so let's take a closer look at her boutique, Kammy's Korner Store!

      Kammy has crafted a huge collection of beautiful headbands, bows, clips and hats - all at extremely affordable prices (just $3 to $5 each!) Accents include flowers, feathers, beads and buttons, and you can find almost any colour theme you desire! One of the best things about her "waffle crochet" headbands, in particular, is that they are SUPER soft and stretchy and therefore can fit literally all the way from infant to adult! Kammy mentioned to me that she shares some bands with her own baby girl. :)

      For review purposes, Kammy generously sent me two headbands to try out on S! I selected one of these from her existing stock, and the other she made especially for S based on pictures I sent her. How thoughtful!

      Check 'em out:


      One of the first things I had to test out was the stretchiness. Yup, I can definitely see one of these fitting an adult!


      Alright now the "fun" part - photoshoot time with S!

      Why the quotes, you ask? Well, S generally hates anything on her face or head. Shades? Forget about it. Hat? If it's one of her comfier ones and we use dedicated distraction techniques. ;) So needless to say I was a bit concerned that she wouldn't tolerate the bands. And my fears were initially warranted - her first inclination was indeed to rip 'em off. But! Once each one was on and she was sufficiently engrossed in another activity, she completely forgot about it! This is definitely a testament to the comfort of the waffle crochet material that the bands are made out of!

      Here's S modeling the flower band (which I picked out myself):

       

        

      And here she is sporting the bow & feather band which Kammy customized just for her!




      (As a side note, it was ridicu-hard to narrow down which pictures from the shoot to include here. S would most certainly win Canada's Next Top Baby Model, no? :)

      So how would you like to own some of these great accessories yourself?

      Buy It:

      Head on over to Kammy's Korner Store and shop 'til you drop! Google Checkout makes the whole process simple & secure.

      Win It:
      Kammy has generously offered to give away either two hair accessories (headbands, bows or clips) or one hat of the winner's choice to a 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!





      Disclosure:  The prize is being provided and shipped to the winner by Kammy Wielenga.  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.