Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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

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

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

Here are a few highlights:

 S test driving her spider costume!

Touring the "friendly vampire" maze!

 Score! Found treasure spot #3! 

Twisting through the corn maze 

"Who's this funny guy?" 

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

H hangin' with Snoopy and Sally!

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

Skip Hop "Grand Central" Diaper Bag from Pinky & Company: Review & Giveaway! (Closed)

As a mom of two kids under 3 (including one in cloth diapers), saying we have to haul around a lot of stuff is the understatement of the year! The modest-sized diaper bag I received for my baby shower got the job done for my daughter, but when our son made his entrance it not longer cut the mustard, size-wise. As such, in a moment of unsound logic I dumped its contents and a bunch of other stuff into this huge, cheap-o, single pocket tote which fit everything but left us completely disorganized! ("Oh, he needs a change? Just give me 17 minutes to locate a clean diaper and a couple wipes," I'd say.) Needless to say, it didn't take long before I was shopping around for a better solution!

Enter Pinky and Company, an online family-owned and operated boutique based in Port Moody, BC, offering brand-name, designer diaper bags and other essentials for mom & baby. I discovered the company following a Google search for Canadian diaper bag retailers, and found myself quickly drooling over all the practical, stylish options for keeping organized. Upon contacting the company, the owner herself responded, taking me up on my review proposal and recommending the Skip Hop Grand Central - a diaper bag touted as being "for the mom who needs it all and takes it all". (Yup, that's me!)

...And that, my friends, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. :D

Product Info


For the mom who needs a little extra space, this is the perfect large-size, yet super-stylish, baby bag.

Skip Hop's Grand Central diaper tote magically combines a compact modern style with an uncanny ability to hold more than you can imagine, tucked away and out of sight. High on style and superb in storage, it holds as much or as little as you want it to; it's the only diaper bag you'll ever need. Take it out for the day or away for the weekend - Grand Central's three innovative sections organize everything you need, without feeling over-stuffed.

Available in Black or Cinnamon - pick the one that's right for you!


  • Baby's Section includes clear, wipe-clean zip pocket and webbing toy fob
  • Mommy's Section includes zip pocket, phone pocket, and fleece-lined sunglasses pocket + 3 large, divided sections
  • 11 pockets include 2 large exterior zip pockets
  • 2 insulated side-pockets fit extra-wide bottles
  • Main section has secure zip-top closure
  • Cushioned changing pad
  • Sturdy, lightweight material; water-resistant lining
  • Cotton tote straps; faux leather trim
  • Hangs neatly on stroller and can be worn over the shoulder
  • BPA-free, Phthalate-free
  • Size (inches): 18w x 13h x 6d

Cost: $108.00

Let's Take a Tour

Pinky and Company sent me a Skip Hop Grand Central diaper bag in Cinnamon. (I decided to "live dangerously" and veer away from my standard black.) 

Here it is in its original glory!

Just look at all those "hungry" pockets, ready to bestow sanity upon my life!

And boom, here it is now stuffed to the gills...

...yet still totally manageable and sweet lookin' over mom's shoulder!

A beautiful thing, ain't it? :)

Here's a video highlighting the bag's features and how I pack it. If you prefer a written & pictorial tour, however, just skip this and read on!

As you can see from the earlier photos, the Grand Central has three main sections. This means one for each member of our family who requires a bunch of stuff - i.e., everyone except Dad! It also has two roomy side pockets.

I obviously assigned myself the "Mommy's Section" (at the front of the bag) and lemme tell ya - I'm workin' it!

First of all, the outer top pocket holds my keys & that's it. A waste of space? Not at all, considering the time and frustration I've saved NOT scrambling around at the last minute for them. They're in the key pocket. Period. Below this is a larger zipped section where I keep my other most frequently-accessed items. Money, cards, chapstick (yes, I'm addicted), pen and a couple other things. Here you can see both uber-important sections in action!

Two other items i'm prone to misplacing (my sunglasses and phone) now have dedicated homes inside the main mommy section. As you can see, I also store larger (and/or needed less frequently) items here such as hand cream & sanitizer, my nursing cover and toys for the kiddos. Opposite from the shades & phone pockets (which you can't quite see here, but trust me - it's there!) is a zipped section in which I store receipts, coupons, invoices and other paper items.

Next up - the biggest of the big sections, located in the middle of the bag and "zippable". This one's for 10-month-old CJ's goodies. Here it's stuffed with about 5 cloth diapers, a wet bag and a change of clothes, and his wipe solution bottle and wipes mini-bag which are nestled happily into their own little open pockets. (No more rooting around for these as the little guy wails in "getting pinned on my back sucks" frustration!)

The third big section is for my daughter's goodies. The main part always has a change of clothes and I'll sometimes throw in a couple books/magazines. At the back is a zipped, clear pocket which is perfect for holding her tiny little hair accessories (clips, elastics, etc.)

This section also includes a toy loop to keep baby's favourite rattle or teether at bay. I haven't used this myself but here you can see it in action.

On to the side pockets. They're both extra-roomy and insulated, so I stuff'em with bottles (obviously) as well as snacks and other items I like to have close at hand. This one's holding my daughter's sippy with almond milk and a pouch snack for my son. (The other one currently has my own water bottle and sunscreen.)

The Grand Central comes with built-in stroller clips. There's one like this on each side of the bag.

The clips are designed to work on most strollers. Here we have the bag attached to our UPPAbaby Vista. (Note - took this pic during a recent trip to Canada's Wonderland where the ability to hang it came in extra-handy, since the basket was filled with all sorts of other stuff - blankets, snacks, souvenirs, etc.! Looks like I got a little lazy here re-packing the bag after one of little man's bum changes. ;)

Finally, the bag includes a change mat. I haven't actually used this as I've replaced it with another one I own that I really like. As you can see, however, it's your standard cushioned, foldable, wipeable variant.



My Review


Loving It

  • Practically stylish - As in, it looks good but Dad doesn't recoil in horror at the idea of sporting it.
  • Fits a boatload of stuff - plenty of room for mom & two kiddos under 3 (including one in cloth diapers; the bag easily fits 5-6 dipes & associated paraphernalia)
  • Extremely well designed (from an organizational standpoint) - I love that there are three main sections, each with their own special sub-sections (e.g. the sunglasses and phone pockets in the mom section). Everything is logical and I don't find anything extraneous.
  • Wipes clean - both the inner and outer are pretty much impervious to nasty kid-originated messes. It all just wipes away.
  • Stays upright - The base is wide, so you can set it on a flat surface without worrying that it's going to topple over!
  • Straps stay put - I can't express how annoying it is when a purse or bag slides off my shoulder, especially when wrestling with a squirmy baby or toddler! Happily this isn't an issue with the Grand Central as the tote-style straps stay in place, regardless of how full or heavy the bag becomes.
  • Includes stroller clips - Great built-in feature. Hanging the bag (vs. carrying or stuffing below) makes its contents more accessible and frees up the stroller basket (and your arm) for other key tasks! This is an item you need to purchase separately for many other bags.
  • Durable - Lemme tell ya, I am putting this bag through the wringer and it's taking all the abuse like a champion. The material around the stroller clips, in particular, takes a lot of strain and it's not showing any signs of wear.

Could Be Better

  • No cooler section - this is included in the similarly-roomy Bento line of Skip Hop bags, and would be a welcome addition to this one (if they could manage to find room for it!), as the one storage-related item we still often need to bring along is a separate soft cooler pack. 
  • Sunglasses pocket is on the narrow side - my own sunglasses fit just fine, but there isn't much additional room so I suspect pairs with large frames might fit very tight or possibly not at all.
  • Stroller clip mechanism could be easier to work. OK I'm getting picky here. But I don't love that you need to press down on the lever (is that the right term?) to both attach and detach them. I feel that the type of clips you find on carseats (i.e. where the two parts snap together) would be more convenient, though, on the downside, this would result in some extra bulk.


 Does It Last?

  • 3 Month Update - The bag continues to be in "like new" condition after 3 months of regular use; no signs of ripping, staining, etc.

*** The Bottom Line ***  The Skip Hop Grand Central is truly One Amazing Diaper Bag, and I'd go so far as to say it may be my absolute favourite baby-related item we own. Seriously. If you're in the market for a stylish, roomy bag with uber-organizational powers, give the Grand Central a serious look.


Buy It

You can purchase your own Skip Hop Grand Central, or another diaper bag of your choice, directly from Pinky & Company. With several designer brands and dozens of styles, you're sure to find your perfect match! Use promo code M2MPINKY and receive 10% off your order! (Good until November 11th.)

Note - at this time, Pinky & Company is shipping exclusively within Canada. Free shipping is offered on orders over $125 (before taxes), otherwise there is a flat-rate fee of $9.99.


Win It

Pinky & Company has generously offered to give away a Skip Hop Diaper Bag (winner's choice of style & colour) to one lucky Manager to Mom reader! Open to CANADA.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  The prize is being provided and shipped to the winner by Pinky & Company.  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, October 16, 2013

Artsy Play Wednesday {10/16} - Top 10 Sensory Activities for Toddlers + Linky

Artsy Play Wednesday, linky

Hosted by: 
 Capri + 3  
Multi-Testing Mommy 
 Shannon’s View From Here  
Baby Giveaways Galore
Welcome to Artsy Play Wednesday! Each week, one of the host blogs (listed above) or a guest shares an arts, crafts or play activity along with an ongoing linky list of reader-submitted ideas which you'll find below. 

Manager to Mom been selected as this week's guest blog with one of my most popular posts from earlier this year: Top 10 Sensory Activities for Toddlers. If you missed it then, be sure to check it out now! These hands-on activities absolutely thrilled my 2-year-old daughter, immersing her in imaginative sensory play for (in some cases) over an hour at a time.

Here is the linky and your chance to join in and share your own children's arts, crafts and play posts. Every week 5 different craft activities from the linky will be pinned to the Artsy Play Wednesday Pinterest Board (with over 1400 followers).

Link up as many kids' crafts as you want, old or new.

PLEASE DO NOT LINK UP RECIPES unless they are made by kids.

By submitting your link and image in this linky, you are giving us permission to use and share your photo (with a link back to your post) in upcoming round-up posts on our blog.

If you are linking up today, please consider copying the following code below onto your linked up post:

If you would like to received email reminders when Artsy Play Wednesday is live each week, you can subscribe here!

Subscribe to Artsy Play Wednesday 
Big thanks to all the APW hosts for this guest host opportunity at M2M!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Stonz Rain Bootz and Linerz: Review & Giveaway! (Closed)

Stonz is a Vancouver-based company which offers a continuously expanding selection of practical, stylish outerwear options for babies and children.

I previously partnered with Stonz to review their Booties and Youth Mittz, and today I'll be telling you all about their Rain Bootz and Rain Boot Linerz, two of their newer products. But first, if you're unfamiliar with the company, I encourage you to visit their website, check out my Booties review (which includes info on the company's roots and values) and/or view the Stonz story via this short video clip:

Product Info - Rain Bootz:

Keep little feet dry this season, with Stonz' brand new range of 100% Natural Rubber Rain Bootz! 

Available in 4 stylish colours, they can be layered up with Stonz' Rain Boot Linerz to keep those toes extra cosy.

  • 100% Natural Rubber
  • Durable and tear resistant, yet flexible and comfortable
  • Quick dry 100% cotton liner
  • PVC-free
  • Phthalate-free
  • Lead-free
  • Formaldehyde-free



Product Info - Rain Bootz Linerz:

These versatile, ivory Rain Boot Linerz will coordinate with any boy or girl rain boots adding a cozy look on those cold, damp days.

  • Made of soft, fine-fibre Velour-fleece – almost silky to the touch! 
  • Adds a layer of warmth and comfort 
  • Fits in almost all tall and short rain boots 
  • Open seams along soles eliminate ridges and maximize comfort

Product Video:

My Review - Rain Bootz and Rain Bootz Linerz:

For review purposes, I received a pair of Grey/Black Rain Bootz and Rain Bootz Linerz, both in size 8, to test on my daughter S (now almost 3 years old).

One of the first things I noticed about the Bootz is how flexible the natural rubber material is. It can easily be twisted and bunched up like this and will bounce right back into shape.

Synthetic rain boots, by contrast, are stiffer and prone to getting misshapen when they are manipulated in this sort of way.

The cotton liner feels pleasantly soft to the touch.

The soles are very grippy - a necessity for little feet splashing around on a wet day!

Finally, the Bootz do have a "rubbery" smell, but it's not offensive. Think Sophie the Giraffe as opposed to off-gassing dollar store shower curtain liner. All in all, it's comforting to know they're free from all those narsty chemical!

The Linerz are soft & snuggly - just like the Booties variant but longer. The outer fleece is smooth and the inner is thick and plush. I tried to get my daughter to try them on as slippers, but surprisingly, she wouldn't oblige!

Happily, the material passes the "pull test" - i.e. nothing comes lose when you pinch a small section and give it a good yank.

Outfitting the Bootz with the Linerz is pretty easy - "wear" each liner like a glove, align it correctly and work it down inside.

The two layers together result in quite the stylish look! The Linerz are longer than the Bootz, so the extra fabric can either be folded down overtop (my personal stylistic preference)....

...or left upright for extra warmth around the legs.

On to the most vital factors - comfort, fit and functionality. But first, a li'l "history lesson". :)

I actually received the Rain Bootz alone this past spring but wasn't able to review them at that point due to a sizing slip-up. My daughter had just come out of size 7 winter boots so I figured 8s would be good here, but they turned out to be huge on her. And indeed, comparing one to her size 7 rain boot, it's substantially larger - much more of a difference than I'd expect to see going up one size.

Now, my contact at Stonz informs me that the Rain Bootz are produced to fit true to size (based on measurements from another company which has produced boots for 25 years), so it could be that the comparison rain boots actually fit small. In any case, since every brand seems to fit a little differently, it's always a good idea to measure a child's feet and compare against a sizing chart to ensure he/she'll be getting the right fit.

Back to our history lesson. Upon realizing S couldn't wear the boots herself this past spring, her petite (almost) 5-year-old cousin A gave 'em a whirl and they fit beautifully, so she borrowed them over the spring and summer. Meanwhile, the Linerz were being revamped, and I received my test pair of the "new and improved" version in September. A then returned the Bootz so we could test the combo together on S, which we were happy to find out was wearable (whereas the Bootz alone were still too roomy). So ultimately our sizing gaff was a Good Thing from a review perpsective, as it led to feedback from two wearers (with and without the Linerz), and gave a glimpse into longevity, which isn't possible with standard reviews.

So let's start with Miss A's experience! From her mama, T:

"[A] wore them a ton...she had 2 pairs but she always choose [the Stonz] which is impressive for a fashionista 5 year old! She wore them likely 20 times! She really liked them, comfy, worked, never leaked. She walked well in them, which is not to be said for all rain boots, some are really clunky and hard for little ones to manoeuver. The Stonz ones were 'soft' enough to get on and off easily for her, but 'hard' enough to stay on and provide a good fit."

Love this shot of her striking a pose in 'em. Fashionista indeed!!

Now onto S. Since our weather's mainly been lovely and warm since we received the Linerz, S has only worn the combo in earnest a few times. From this testing, however, I can report the following:
  • The fit is quite good. Although there's still roominess at her toes, the Linerz help achieve a snug fit (and thus solid support) around her legs.
  • She finds them comfortable to wear, or at least she reports them to be. Like her cousin, she's shown a distinct preference for them over her other rain boots.
  • She moves well in them - jumping, hopping and even running with relative ease. 
  • They certainly look snazzy. Don'tcha think?

  • One issue - since the Linerz aren't actually attached to the Bootz, they can come out of place when putting them on or taking them off. You need to grip the liner and boot together and manoeuver inside with some finesse. As such, my daughter (who's now adept with most shoes and boots) still needs some help with these.

One thing we haven't been able to test yet (due to the aforementioned mild weather we've been having) is the combo's warmth. I asked my contact if they have a temperature rating and he said no, not officially, though he has received anecdotal feedback from customers in colder regions of the country that they seem to keep toes really warm.

Alright, final set of topics - care, maintenance and lifespan.

The Bootz are simple to clean - in most cases, you just need to wipe down the outer and/or sole. We haven't needed to clean the cotton inner on our pair yet so I can't comment on this, however it appears they'd be easy to surface wash, and, if the liner managed to get really dirty, I don't see why you couldn't soak the whole boot with a mild detergent. (Now I want to try this and report back, but my hubby's already chastizing me for taking too long with this review. ;)

As for the Linerz, they launder perfectly on cold wash / low heat dry, so no issues here.

Finally, all signs point to Awesomeness in the longevity department. Following several months of regular use, the Bootz have suffered merely a few superficial scuff marks and some (completely expected) wear on the soles. The seams all remain intact and the overall intergrity of the rubber hasn't been compromised. By contrast, the exterior of my daughter's other rain boots has become wrinkled and scaly looking over a similar number of wearings. Here's a comparison pic to illustrate. (Note that I made sure to capture the most prominently scuffed area on the Stonz.)

Since the Linerz are made of the same material as the Booties variant, I can tell you that they have a solid lifespan too. The only thing I noticed is that they lost a little plushness over time (and after many washings).

As for constructive feedback, if there was a way to attach (perhaps via applix) the Linerz to the Bootz so they stay in place better for kiddos, that would be helpful. Expanding the available colour selection would certainly be appreciated by many folks as well.

Overall, Stonz has hit yet another home run with its Rain Bootz and Linerz combo. Now the big question - which product(s) to try next? :D


THE BOTTOM LINE - Stonz Rain Bootz and Linerz

+ Leak-proof
+ Comfortable to wear 
+ 100% natural rubber / free from dangerous chemicals
+ Easy to clean
+ Grippy soles
+ Durable and long-lasting
+ Linerz are soft and plush
+ Combo (in particular) looks great together!

- Currently only 4 shades available
- Can be challenging to keep Linerz in place - especially for young kids


Buy It:

Rain Bootz and Rain Bootz Linerz can be purchased directly from the Stonz website (shipping is free within Canada and Continental USA on orders over $69.99) and from select retailers.

Win It:

Stonz has offered to give away a $20 store credit to one lucky Manager to Mom reader! Open to CAN/US.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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