Friday, April 26, 2013

Beanitos the Original Bean Chip: Review & Giveaway (Closed)

In recent years, my hubby and I have made great strides learning about nutrition and choosing healthier foods for our family. Nowadays, we regularly read labels and steer clear of products with processed ingredients. Problem is, we're both big time snackers - especially in the evening. Once the kiddos are in bed, we often find ourselves making a beeline for the pantry and rooting around for something to crunch on - an act which can potentially wreak havoc on an otherwise wholesome diet! Thankfully, we've discovered a brand that has set out to achieve the best of both worlds - enable snack junkies to get their fix and (dare I say it) actually be good for you. Enter Beanitos, the Original Bean Chip!

Product Info:

From the creators (Doug & Dave Foreman):

We’re two brothers who love to snack! We think everyone deserves to crunch and dip without compromise—to enjoy a snack that tastes great and is good for you. But we just couldn’t find a snack that fit the bill… so we created Beanitos©.

Beanitos are an honestly delicious snack made from super nutritious beans that have fiber and protein grown right in them. They're real food, full of crunchy flavor, free of preservatives, and made with only natural non-GMO ingredients.

The following comparison chart shows how a single serve portion of Beanitos measures up nutritionally to several competing snack brands. As it can be seen, the fibre and protein content of Beanitos is two to four times higher in each case. Additionally, fat and calories are generally lower and Beanitos is the only low glycemic option of the bunch.

In addition, Beanitos are vegan and certified kosher, and they are free of corn, gluten, cholesterol, trans fat and msg.

Beanitos come in six varieties - Original Black Bean with sea salt, Chipotle Barbeque black bean, Simply Pinto Bean with sea salt, Better Cheddar pinto bean, Restaurant Style white bean with sea salt and Nacho Cheese white bean. Our local Sobeys carries the black and pinto bean varieties so I've tried all these  already (and they're delicious, I must say!) For this review, I got the opportunity to check out both flavours of the new white bean Beanitos. Here are the ingredient listings of each:

Restaurant Style white bean with sea salt: Whole Navy Beans, Whole Grain Rice, Pure Sunflower and/or Safflower Oil, Guar Bean Gum, Sea Salt

Nacho Cheese white bean: Whole Navy Beans, Whole Grain Rice, Pure Sunflower and/or Safflower Oil, Cheddar Cheese Blend [Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Whey, Buttermilk, Annatto], Sea Salt, Tomato Powder, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Spices, Lactic Acid, Paprika, Citric Acid, Guar Bean Gum

View other nutritional information on Beanitos here.

My Review:

I was sent a case (24 1.25 oz single-serve bags) of white bean Beanitos - 12 Restaurant Style (white bean with sea salt) and 12 Nacho Cheese.

The single size portion is just about perfect - enough to curb the snack craving and inject a solid amount of fibre and protein, but not too much to, y'know, throw your digestive system into overdrive. (Admittedly, I was not entirely gas-free the other week after ingesting almost a whole full-sized bag of the pinto bean & flax variant!) That said, I'm not a fan of the extra packaging that goes into single serve snacks in general; I prefer to buy the full size and consider it an opportunity to work on my self control. ;)

Both the restaurant style and nacho cheese flavours are similar in shape and "crunch factor" to a traditional corn chip. Taste-wise, they're lighter - less fatty and salty.

The Restaurant Style have a very subtle salt and bean flavour. I think they're pretty tasty straight up, however my husband prefers kicking them up a notch with a good dip.

They're delish with salsa too - especially a nice 'n' chunky homestyle variant.

The Nacho Cheese Beanitos are super-tasty on their own. There's no skimping on the cheese here, folks.

I could eat these guys every day. Unfortunately I just started a dairy-free regimen in order to investigate a potential sensitivity in our little guy, so I'll need to wait awhile before I can indulge again - booooo!

Overall, Beanitos definitely fulfill the snack craving! My husband and I both feel they're every bit as satisfying as "traditional" chips; Hubs said something to the effect that with other healthier snacks he's tried, he's found himself wishing he was eating chips, but with Beanitos, he just wants to continue eating! Our 2 1/2 year old daughter enjoys them too, as well as all of our parents who've had the chance to sample them. And with six flavours available (possibly more to come?), there's enough variety to avoid "snack boredom". Beanitos will definitely be a regular item on our grocery list moving forward!

Buy It:

Beanitos offers a store locator tool, however my local Sobeys isn't on the list so evidently it's not comprehensive. You can try this out first, but I'd recommend checking your local stores directly to see if any of them carry Beanitos. If you can't find a store in your area, you could always put in a request to see if one would be up for ordering them in!

Win It:

One lucky Manager to Mom reader will win a box (24 bags) of Beanitos white bean chips. 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 Beanitos.  I received no financial compensation for writing my review or offering this giveaway, although I did receive a sample item free of charge.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Ice Storm

The late season ice storm which hit Southern Ontario last week was certainly craptastic for many people (in terms of lengthy outages & whatnot), however we were lucky in our own neck of the woods as our power merely flickered a few times and the freezing rain resulted in some neat-o photo opps.

Were you affected by the ice storm, and if so, to what extent?

CJ at 4 months: The Incredible Shrinking Baby

So, I'd clocked CJ in at 12 lbs on his 3 month birthday. Several days later at the doctor's office (took him in for what appeared to be reflux - mega spitups and general crabbiness) he registered 11 lb 2 oz. What???? Down almost a pound? Sure he'd been yacking but....a pound? :-/ Poor guy ended up on antibiotics as the doctor was almost certain he was battling bacterial sinusitis. (In addition to the spitups, he'd also been congested for well over a week.) Luckily the stuffies cleared up but not the barfies, so now I'm suspecting we may have a food sensitivity issue - something I'll be discussing with my naturopath during our next visit. But in the meantime, despite the health battles, CJ continues to be (more or less) a happy camper, and to do all the neat-o baby stuff he's supposed to be doing at this age. So yay to that!

Official 4 Month Photo:

Looks like he was enjoying a "sleeve snack" just prior to this shot!

(Compare with months 1, 2 and 3.)

Physical Development:  

Weight: 12 lb (5th percentile)
Height: 25 1/2" (about 50th percentile)

So yeah. Zero weight gain between months 3 and 4, but a half inch taller. So he basically just stretched out a bit. :-/ Here's hoping he catches up somewhat during Month 5!

We've witnessed a few full back to front rolls over the last couple weeks, however our attempts to catch one on video have come up short. This is about the closest I got, though as you can see ultimately his right hand, his octopus and cooing up a storm proved more riveting!

On a related note, he's getting a lot better at (and less averse to) tummy time. He'll hang out for a good 7-8 minutes this way before he starts crabbin'.

His continuously improving focus and hand-eye coordination now allow him to manipulate toys such as the Spin & Sing Alphabet Zoo like a pro!

Less awesomely, this has also turned him into quite the hair pulling ninja. And prying open those teeny but determined little iron fists is no trivial task!

And, of course, this month's favourite new discovery: TOES!!!

Cognitive, Social & Emotional Development:

CJ has become CRAZY into books. Whether it's a newborn touch 'n' feel or one of his big sister's Highlights magazines, the little guy gets super-excited and drooly when it's infront of him!

Our two kiddos are quickly becoming BFFs. Gone are the days when S would maliciously beat on her li'l bro - now it's abuse rooted in love. ;) And CJ hearts the crap out of her right back!

Really, he's proving to be a people baby in general. Unless he has a major grump on, he's happy to be with anyone!


(Well, ALMOST anyone. The jury's still out on Grampa D. :P)


In CJ's 3 month post, I mentioned how he was sleeping through the night (yay!) but wasn't going down until 11-12 AM (boo). I was telling this to my one friend and she asked if he got grumpy and sleepy at around 7-8 PM. Yes, yes he did. This is when he'd usually snooze on Daddy for an hour-ish and then be up partying again. Her suggestion - why not just put him to bed then?

A darn good suggestion. Why hadn't we thought of this ourselves?

Tried this the next night, and although it did take 3-4 nurse/put down/cry cycles, he was out cold by 9:00. And thus, an extremely welcome trend began! The earlier bedtime has resulted in a 4 AM (ish) feeding on most nights, but this is totally worth the baby-free time we've reclaimed in the evenings.

Nap-wise, he still doesn't go down readily - let's just say the car's been racking up some additional mileage. Hopefully soon we'll be able to break this habit too! (Got any suggestions??)

What were your children like at 4 months old? What did you find the most rewarding and/or challenging?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Libre Glass'n Poly Original Tea Glass: Review & Giveaway! (Closed)

I'm a hot beverage kind of girl. I love sipping from a steamy mug while relaxing at home (during those precious few free minutes I'm able to grab!) and I often have a warm bevvy with me while out and about, especially during the chillier months. Although I do drink both coffee and tea,  I'm currently on a 100% tea kick since I'm nursing and my little guy has proven to have a sensitive tummy. We keep a variety of loose-leaf tea at home, from rooibos to green to fruit-based blends, but up until now my options for enjoying them on the road were a couple cheap software SWAG travel mugs we had kicking around. (Which we should really pitch. Who knows what's in those things? I kinda cringe every time I pour hot water into one of 'em.) Therefore when I discovered the brand Libre and its line of "glass n poly" tea glasses designed for enjoying loose leaf tea on the go, I knew I had to get in on this goodness!

Product Info (abridged - complete info here): 

Loose leaf 'on the go' - The Libre tea glass is the perfect tea gift for your tea lovin' friends and family - they will appreciate a relaxing tea moment anywhere, anytime.

Beautiful and convenient, the Libre glass 'n poly styles feature -

  • a health conscious glass interior and durable poly exterior  - keeps tea hot and cool to touch
  • a removable stainless-steel filter that keeps tea leaves in the glass, out of your mouth and is removable for easy cleaning
  • on the go ease - see Libre 'how to' video for 2 easy ways to enjoy tea moments 'on the go'.

The glass 'n poly Libre styles are all a BPA-free experience for your tea.

Choose the Libre glass'n poly Original (9 oz),  Large (14 oz)  or  Mug (10 0z). 

My Review:

For review purposes, I received a Libre glass'n poly Original. I chose this size as I'm a sipper and don't drink huge quantities at a time (thus earning the moniker "Half Cup", courtesy of my clever husband), plus I figured a smaller glass would cram better into a purse, diaper bag, etc.


My first thought - how lurvely! Certainly a marked improvement aesthetically over the aforementioned SWAG mugs. I particularly love the ornate designs on the lid. A very nice touch!

The weight of the glass is similar to a "standard" travel mug and the size is perfect for car cupholders.


The glass contains two pieces which attach to the top - the lid and a filter layer. Both of these screw on snugly, resulting in a truly leak-free experience.

The filter "net" holds about 2-3 teaspoons of tea, which is a perfect amount to get a good but not ultra-strong steep (using the limited steeping method - more on this in a bit).

While I wouldn't exactly call it "cool", the glass does remain holdable even when filled with boiling water right from the kettle. (I usually fill mine with my Keurig so the water isn't as hot, but I did the kettle test to confirm that it can, indeed, handle higher temperatures too.) And on a related topic, it holds its heat pretty long - about 30-40 minutes with regular drinking and much longer with the lid left on.

The filter is made of a very fine mesh. Just a tiny amount of tea "bits" manage to sneak through; certainly no more (and probably a little less) than the dome filter I use at home with my regular mugs.
The glass is super-easy to clean, especially using the limited steeping method. I usually just rinse all the parts, though give the whole thing a "proper" cleaning with detergent every few uses.  

Finally, apparently this thing is ultra-robust - though I wasn't about to conduct the following test myself!

In terms of steeping methods, I use the limited approach most often. I find many teas (especially green varieties) are perfect after 4-5 minutes of steeping and then start getting harsh/bitter. Plus, like I mentioned, the glass is easier to clean using this method which is always a plus. Here I've brewed a rooibos chai using the limited steeping method.

I've learned a couple tips for this method. First, it appears helpful to turn the glass right side up and upside down a few times during the steeping period to distribute the brewed tea. Second, after brewing and prior to drinking, I either let the glass sit for a few minutes or carefully unscrew the filter and shake it over the glass opening to drain excess liquid from the leaves. An important step in order to avoid a lap full of tea drippings. 

Here I'm using the full steep method (i.e leaves directly in glass) with some green tea. As you can see, it has gotten pretty dark/strong.

I was initially a bit skeptical about drinking right out of the filter layer using the full method but this works perfectly fine.

Of course, the Libre doesn't *have* to be used with loose-leaf; here I'm using it with bagged tea (using the full steep method, of course).

Really, it could be used to enjoy any hot (or cold!) beverage in style. But, of course, tea is super-healthy and zen-tastic!

Overall, as I'm sure it's evident I LOVE my Libre glass'n poly Original tea glass! It's gorgeous, leak-proof, non-toxic, portable and functions well. As for constructive criticism, the only problem I've experienced is that some condensation has developed inside my lid, on top of the design. However when I mentioned this to my contact at Libre, she told me this isn't supposed to happen and immediately sent out a replacement. So A+ customer service right there. That said, the issue probably could've been avoided (even with a faulty lid) by simply rinsing the lid each time and not submerging in soapy water like I did on a few occasions. Product improvement-wise, it might be nice if there was a spout option for drinking (vs. completely open-faced) as this would keep tea warm longer and probably reduce the likelihood of a spill, however I'm not sure how this would work - perhaps an entirely different lid option? In any case, a potential idea for Libre 2.0!

Buy It:

Visit the Libre retail shop to purchase a glass'n poly tea glass of your own! Save 30% with coupon code GetGrounded4EarthDay (ends April 22, 2013 at Midnight PST).

Win It:

One lucky Manager to Mom reader will win a Libre glass'n poly Original tea glass! 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 Libre Tea.  I received no financial compensation for writing my review or offering this giveaway, although I did receive a sample item free of charge.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Wonderful Walls Gets a Makeover! {$100 Giveaway} (Closed)

My Wonderful Walls is a family-run company based in Tennessee which offers kids room stencils, nursery stencils, stickers and canvas art in a wide variety of themes all designed to turn a room from drab to fab! I had the opportunity to review their Under the Sea sticker kit back in January and was super-impressed by the quality, durability and vividness of the stickers, plus our 26-month-old daughter had a blast helping us put it all together!

I'm happy to be partnering with My Wonderful Walls again now to spread the word on some exciting updates!

First of all, the company has a brand spankin' new website. The revamped logo and overall design is clean & fresh, and the site is straightforward to navigate via multiple drop-down menus and a site search.

The new design is mobile-friendly, allowing easy browsing and ordering from a smart phone or tablet.

The About Us page has also received a charming and whimsical revamp, including tidbits on the company's roots, operation details (such as the fact that all stencils are made locally in Chattanooga, Tennessee) and core team members. I love the way Michael (the founder) describes his original inspiration and how My Wonderful Walls came to life:

"If your kids are like ours, they dream of flying around the stars, hunting for dinosaurs, and sipping tea with princesses. Our kids have imaginations that go to outer space and back down to the deepest depths of the ocean. And listening to the massive tales of what goes on inside their little heads is one of a parent’s greatest joys.

Of course, I am not the only parent who loves when their children dream big. Yet, I have an advantage—I am an artist.  When our kids started dreaming beyond their four walls, I grabbed my paints. After hand-painting a mural in our oldest son’s room, I had a “light bulb” moment. How great would it be to make giant stencil kits that would easily allow all parents to paint their own wall mural?! Well, turns out that the wifey loved the idea too, and the company was born!"

Michael and his wife Stephanie have also started a project called Owl Hill dedicated to teaching art and music for children. This free online resource will include drawing lessons, interviews & performances with musicians, craft projects for little ones and more. I'll definitely be checking back on this!

In addition to the website overhaul, My Wonderful Walls has recently unveiled some gorgeous new products. They've expanded to include more adult-friendly sticker sets such as the classy Serenity Blossom Dahlia and the gorgeously vivid Wild Horse and Wise Owl..

They've also begun offering growth charts within the children's theme sets - for example the Jungle Growth Chart which matches the Jungle Safari Wall Sticker Kit.

Before closing out, I'd like to mention a couple other things that are awesome about My Wonderful Walls.

First, their amazing customer service team. I've found Tara, their "social networking nut" (as described by Michael) to be a sheer pleasure to work with; she's friendly, responsive, detailed and flexible. The founders Michael and Stephanie also clearly make an effort to stay connected; I received a thoughtful, personal note from them upon posting my previous review. It's obvious that the whole team is proud of, and passionate about, their company and products.

Second, the super-generous giveaways they sponsor. In addition to those hosted by 3rd party sites (such as M2M, of course!), My Wonderful Walls hosts their own giveaways every few months with prize packages generally in the $200-$400 range. Their last big event was the Paisley Peace Giveaway which combined a sticker set with 9 handcrafted prizes provided by Etsy artists. How groovy is that? Tara mentioned that the next big giveaway is planned for sometime in May, so make sure to check back on this! All giveaways, as well as feature room makeovers and new product announcements can be found on the company blog.

What can I say? I love this company and their products are wonderful indeed. We can't wait to adorn our youngest's walls with another sweet sticker set (or perhaps we'll go the stencil route this time?) once he's old & opinionated enough to follow in his sister's footsteps and choose his own decor!

Buy It:

All My Wonderful Walls products (stickers, stencils, etc.) can be ordered directly from the company website. Shipping is free on orders over $90 within the continental United States and there are flat fees for international shipping. Use the special discount code FRIENDS15 and receive 15% off your order! (Valid until April 18, 2013.)

Win It:

One lucky Manager to Mom reader will win a $100 gift code to spend at My Wonderful Walls! Open to Canada and the United States.

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 My Wonderful Walls.  I received compensation for writing this post in the form of product.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Top 10 Sensory Activities for Toddlers

I recently took up a challenge with my 26-month-old daughter S to try out a new creative craft or activity every day for 30 days straight. It quickly became clear that S was most engaged by sensory activities; those which encourage free-form, tactile exploration and emphasize process over finished product. Or, in other words, stuff she could really get messy with! Some of these activities held her interest for 30-45+ minutes - win win!

Here are the top 10 sensory activities we tried out during our challenge. I selected and ranked these based on my daughter's enthusiasm, total play time and how well each sparked her imagination. All these ideas came from other sites (via Pinterest), so I've included the corresponding links which you can follow for more details and "recipes" (where applicable).

10: Bath tub water balloons - This was the first time S played with water balloons and she was thrilled! We used small balloons and filled each until it was about the size of a lemon. This allowed her to get a good grip and squish each one without it breaking too readily. We let her play with them in the kitchen and living room until bath time and then she had fun splashing around with them in the tub. One of the balloons got a tiny hole in it and S was super-amused when I repeatedly squirted her with it! Total play time: 10 minutes outside bath and 10 minutes in bath.

9: Rainbow bath ice cubes - Another fun bath activity! S was interested in the initial process of making the cubes (especially learning how the various colours combined) and then enjoyed chasing them around the tub. We played a game where I threw three in and she had to find and put them all in a bucket before they melted. We then repeated it with clear cubes, which gave her even more of a challenge. We made a whole tray of coloured cubes so used half of them during one bath and the other half a few days later. Total play time: 5 minutes making the cubes and 10 minutes per bath.

8: Rainbow salt tray - This activity involves adhering colourful construction paper to the bottom of a tray, pouring a thin layer of salt on top and having the child "paint" the salt in neat patterns to reveal the colours underneath. S wasn't so much into drawing pictures with the paint brush as simply playing with the salt. It really brought out her creativity; she made "pancakes", "eggs" and a bunch of other "food" and shared them with me. And, of course, she enjoyed flinging the salt everywhere. :) Total play time: 20 minutes

7: Cloud dough - Fluffy yet moldable, this is Neat Stuff, and super-easy to make - just 8 parts flour to 1 part oil. (We used vegetable.) Similar to the rainbow salt tray, S made a lot of "food" and loved squishing the various shapes I molded and squeezed into the bowl. Total play time: 20 minutes

6: Shaving cream marbling - Have you ever squirted out a huuuuuge amount of shaving cream for the sole purpose of squishing it through your hands over and over again? If not, you should. And feel free to bring your child along for the ride. ;) Seriously though, this was an awesome sensory experience. The colours were neat, but the tactile sensations were out of this world! S squeezed, patted, swirled and shook the cream for 20-25 minutes until she made the (inevitable) switch to warpainting herself, which was followed closely by bath time. ;)

5: Gloop - This stuff is supposed to be, well, gloopy and sort of string-able. Oddly, ours didn't come out like that. It was just kind of squishy. However we used white corn flour (the only type available at the store) so I'm wondering if you need the yellow variety to achieve the desired effect? In any case, this didn't take away from S' zest for the experience; she glooped around for a good 25+ minutes.

** Update - April 10th ** - Turns out gloop is supposed to be made with corn starch, not corn flour! Well, what we here in North America refer to as corn starch, that is. In the UK apparently they call this corn flour, hence my initial confusion. In any case, we made it with corn starch today and it came out as I'd envisioned. And S, of course, had a ball!

4: Home-made finger painting - I'm cheating a bit to include this activity, as we did it a few days before our challenge officially began. However it's too awesome not to include. Two of S' absolute fave things to do are painting and getting her hands dirty, and finger painting is (of course) the perfect marriage of the two. Plus with this home made recipe, you know exactly what's going in! (And everything's safe and edible, except arguably the food colouring - though you could explore natural colourings using ingredients such as spinach and carrot). We made a few bowls of this stuff in an array of colours, and S painted until it was all either on pieces of paper or somewhere on her body. :) Total play time: 30 minutes

3: Marshmallow sensory play - Did you know that when you toss a bunch of marshmallows in a tub of water there's a cool magnetic effect? The marshmallows form together into chains and other Tetris-esque shapes, but they don't stick together (as I thought they would) so you can shuffle them around and they'll join back together in different configurations. This had me particularly intrigued, however S (as expected) was more enraptured by the feel of the marshmallows in the water, swirling and squishing them with delight. We heated a few up which did make them stick together (of course - I've made my share of rice crispy squares!) and S loved playing with the gloopy 'shmallow clumps too. Total play time: 40 minutes

2: Pasta play dough - This activity is super-awesome for a couple reasons: 1) Highly engaging for the child, honing both creativity and fine motor skills and 2) Dirt easy to prep and clean up - just grab a few tubs of prepared play dough (or make your own, based on one of the jillion recipes out there) and a handful of pasta in different shapes & sizes. We've done this activity 3-4 times now and our materials have included small and large macaroni, long rice noodles and corn.  S loves play dough on its own, but getting to stick stuff into it amps up the fun factor even more! As usual, there's a heavy food theme with her play; she loves to make birthday cakes, cookies, etc. She especially likes sticking in the long rice noodles as the "candles". :) Total play time: 30+ minutes each time.

1: Spaghetti sensory play - This puppy took the cake both in terms of total play time and immersion factor, and as such I had to award it top spot. First of all, I decided to change things up a bit from the original instructions to vary the sensory experience. I divided the cooked spaghatti into two tubs, colouring one red and orange and keeping it warm, and colouring the other blue and green and putting it in the freezer for a few minutes to chill it down. S jubilantly squished, made food, told tales and gave the spaghatti personalities for a solid 45 minutes. About 30 minutes into the play, I gave her a third tub of water which she happily incorporated into the experience. Messy? Boy was it ever. Worth it? 110%!!

What sensory activities have you tried with your own children? Which one(s) do they enjoy the most?