Thursday, December 25, 2008

My M&M's

Christmas at our house is steeped in tradition. From the annual waffle feed at which the extended family gathers on Christmas Eve, to the stockings filled to the gills with kitch-y fun, we are a people of structure and routine.

For as long as I can remember the girls in by family, Big and Little, have presented my father with very predictable gifts; Large bags of M&M's (one peanut, one regular) and jumbo-sized bottles of Old Spice. One year, we all got together and decided that we would try to think outside the box and give Daddy something unexpected to open on the big day.

Always gracious, he opened his gifts and thanked us all. It wasn't until later that we realized he counted on those gifts for his supply and didn't have anymore Old Spice. Sometimes, it's okay to be predictable.

Mars' M&M's have now given us the option to shake things up a bit on the same old, same can personalize the M&M's that you give! When I got the email from MomCentral about the chance to spread the word about this fun option for the holiday season, I emailed back as soon as it hit my inbox, with a passionate plea about the love my dad has for his favorite chocolate-y treat. I was able to pick my own colors and personalize it with a short message from the grandkids. (You can also put a photo on the M&M's but I wasn't placing the order from my home computer.)

At $14.95 per bag, it's not the cheapest option for a bag 'o' candy for the stocking, but it's a fun treat for the M&M lover who can truly appreciate it. When we receive the candy, I'll post a picture of the enjoyment en masse.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Safeway PowerPump

Growing up in a small town, new construction was always big doin's. When they announced the impending arrival of a new Safeway, it was certainly the talk of the town. While we already had a Safeway at the other end of the main drag, it was older and was slated to be torn down, with the property being sold and a beautiful new library built in it's place. The new one would be larger and have gas pumps and Starbucks! We knew we had arrived when there was a 'bucks looming on our horizon.

Being at the age where cruising (not commuting) was our activity du jour, having sufficient gas was of the utmost concern. Being able to afford it went hand-in-hand. When Safeway's gas came to town, you could get a certain amount off each gallon when you used your Safeway card.

Fast forward to today, when running around checking off your to-do list and scurrying your kids from one activity to the next uses almost as much gas as when you turned up the volume on Best of Bass volume 12 and drove up and down Adams Ave with reckless abandon, and the search for gas discounts is still there.

Safeway is currently running a promotion on their PowerPump rewards through December 25th, so that shoppers can earn double points. For every $100 you spend on gift cards, you earn an additional gift. They have gift cards for stores from Starbucks to Home Depot; sure to fulfill the needs of everyone on your list. While there is a constant debate about the etiquette of giving gift cards, I know that I love receiving them so that I can save for the next big thing. I've found that a great use for them, is if you're making the same gift for several people and just need something to augment them. (i.e. Making a gift for your child's teacher and then adding a $10 Starbucks card.)

While there is not a Safeway near my home in Mass, I'll be home for the holidays and will be sure to stop in and earn free gas for the drive back to P-town when we fly out. Each purchase you make, will help earn more gas discounts when you use your club card so that it can be tracked.

Happy Shopping!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Baby Einstein

When H was about 18 months old, J, H and I were at a food tasting at a friend's house to support another friend's budding catering business. There were several kids there, and the hostess offered to put in a Baby Einstein movie to occupy them so we could visit a little more freely. I realized at that time that I had no idea if that would entertain H because I hadn't had H watch a movie before. Yes, I'd had the TV on in his presence, but we hadn't really sat down to watch something together for him before.

The hostess laughed saying that it was because I was being a good mom by not having my child watch TV yet, and I wish that were the case. The truth is in the go-go-go life of working full-time and socializing on the weekends, I felt like H was sometimes an extension of me, and just did what I was doing. Sure, I went to the pumpkin patch and other places I may not have had I not had a toddler, but I can't say that I felt like I carved out time for he and I to do toddler things. We didn't watch PBS kids in the morning, no Elmo's Potty Time or Letter Factory. No. All those things would start happening when I was home full-time. Alas...

Baby Einstein is celebrating their tenth anniversary. Ten years of creating books, movies and musical CD's, in addition to a lot of interactive toys, that aim to stimulate children in an age-appropriate manner. Ultimately, however, the goal is to create an opportunity for parents to have structured interactions with their babies and toddlers.

When I got the package, H was very excited, asking as I unwrapped the cellophane from the Special Edition Baby Mozart "Is that my surprise?!" Feeling the remembered guilt wash over me from that long ago incident, I realized I may have missed the interest boat with him for this particular DVD. I told him that he was welcome to watch it, and he sat dutifully for about ten minutes before finally asking "Are there going to be any words?" C, on the other hand, was enraptured. The colors and shapes that rolled gently across the screen had him mesmerized.

I know you're supposed to use it as a time to spend just with your baby, but Bless me Father, for I have sinned; I have a way to take a leisurely shower (I always showered daily before, I just get to enjoy it now) sans tears (mine and C's) and I even get to shave my legs everyday! I spend the first five minutes or so of the video talking about the different images on the screen and then I politely excuse myself to engage in my daily ablutions.

The board books, on the other hand, have been great for one-on-one time. Along with Baby Mozart, we were sent Baby Einstein Touch and Feel Farm Animals; more than anything it's nice sometimes to just be given a jumping off point...I have several textures in the book to have C try out, and then I can find other things around the house to mix it up a little bit. We already owned Mirror Me, the book about mimicking different silly faces, and H is still a big fan of it.

Lastly, we got the Lullaby Classics CD. I actually already owned this, and have to admit that I don't love it. I prefer some of the more fluid renditions of the classics but the arrangements have been "tailored for little ears" so I'll just get over myself on this one.

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it's so easy to get swept away in all the parties and obligations. Helping our kids discover the world in which we live may be our greatest responsibility as parents, but it doesn't have to feel like a chore. There are a lot of great resources out there to make our job fun, and Baby Einstein is one of them; I'm pretty sure it's because it was created by a mom!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide

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'Tis better to give than to receive, right? Well, that's all well and good, but it's sometimes and agonizing process to select the perfect gift for everyone on your list! MomCentral has compiled an amazing list of gifts for every category or recipient on your list at a huge range of prices and interests.

MomCentral has special daily giveaways with thousands of dollars worth of products in multiple daily drawings. Each provides the chance to win an entire gift package that includes gifts worth hundreds of dollars - a great way to combat financial stress this holiday season. We invite you and all of your friends and family to take a look at these great gift ideas and enter for a chance to win. Not only have they made the list for you, but they're giving you a chance to win some of the featured products!

To be eligible to win the daily prizes, participants must register at Mom Central, log-in, and leave a comment on the review post. If you want even more chances for some free swag this holiday season, you can 'tweet' (using Twitter) or email your friends about the giveaway. In order to earn the additional entry, simply go back to the Mom Central Review blog and leave a second comment letting us know.

Happy Shopping! (only 15 shopping days left!)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shelter Me

I was offered the chance to review Shelter Me by Juliette Fay through Avon's First Look program. I was immediately drawn into the life of Jane LeMarche, a recently widowed mother of two young children, living in a Massachusetts town very close to my own. It's not often that a novel makes me think so much about my life; I'm usually just reading for pleasure, often with several books in progress at once (My GoodReads "currently reading" list is a little ridiculous). When I reviewed the letter from Harper Collins and realized that the review was due tomorrow (well, today, but this was last night) and I was half-way through, I buckled down and started reading in earnest. I had already become engrossed in the story, so it wasn't difficult. I read into the night, and picked it back up this morning while H ate his cereal, putting it down to 'interact' with my kids for a few hours.

After putting H and C down for their naps, I tucked back into the lives of Janie, Dylan, Carly and all the people that made the first year after the death of Robby maintain some semblance of normalcy. I don't want to put any spoilers in this review, but the basic storyline revolves around Janie who is self-admittedly in a 'shitty' place in her life following the day her husband was killed after being hit by a car while riding his bike without a helmet.

Just months after his death, a contractor, Augustus "Tug" Malinowski, comes to her door with plans for a porch that her husband had designed for their home as a gift to her. Janie decides to go forward with the building of the porch, as it's yet another way she can feel close to her husband.

While she is prickly, and angry and all the things you might expect from someone who's suffered a tragedy of this magnitude, she also reminded me of myself in a lot of ways; brusque and unafraid to speak my mind, but internally sensitive and bull-headed all at once. There were many times throughout the novel that I felt like it was me talking, probably amplified by the fact that my kids are about the same age as hers. There is one instance in which she is describing a 'breakthrough' with her daughter. Following her husband's death, she stopped producing milk and had to bottle-feed her baby. Their intimate breastfeeding routine was interrupted and I'm sure the emotional impact of the situation as a whole contributed to Carly balling up her hands in fists as she ate. The first time Carly again allows Janie to stroke her palm, is one of the gifts or "daily miracles" that Janie recognizes as the signs she needs to look for that life will go on.

She described the palm of her baby, and I just started to cry. Nursing C and H (when he was an infant, not now...blech) is one of my favorite things about baby-hood, and stroking C's palm as I look into his eyes...well, there's just not much that compares.

I could go on and on about the minutiae of my life that this book made me recognize is really special. I have been feeling in such a rut lately, and I know it sounds silly that a work of fiction has bolstered me so much, but I can't really attribute it to anything else.

Janie talks about that feeling of relief that used to wash over her as she realized her husband would be home at any minute to help out with the kids, and how that was one of her many losses. I have to admit that it's the touchstone in my day on the days that J's schedule works out that way. His working hours are crazy, and this month has been particularly hard. This quasi-single parenting is a lonely business, but reading Shelter Me really gave me the gut-check I needed. I'm not a single parent, and each comment I make to that effect is probably a slap in the face to J, who's missing out on all the little milestones that I've been complaining about. But I digress....

The details that Fay brings to life in these characters made me feel like I was reading the diary of a friend. Of course, it helped that I was practically reading about my neighborhood, and I could barely stop myself from googling Janie's town of Pelham, MA to get all the details and feel even closer to the story...okay, fine, I googled it.

The search is over. I have my next book club pick already selected. It will add even more fun that it will be read by a group of Central Massachusetts moms...Ms. any local book club visits? :) Shelter Me is available for purchase on December 30th...less than a month!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Graco Travel Lite Table Chair

When H came of age, eating age that is, we were faced with finding a high chair that would fit in our apartment. We settled on a monstrosity that was put in the corner (I guess we didn't listen to Mr. Swayze's admonition) initially, only to later do the shuffle from the tiny corner to the tiny kitchen at feeding times because apartment designers always think it wise to put carpet in an eating area.

Now that C is reaching the age of solids, I began my quest for the perfect small chair. I didn't want one the strapped onto our chairs, because that takes one out of commission and we only have four. When we have guests over, it's always fun to take H's booster off the chair only to turn red with embarrassment when I realize I needed to have scraped the month's worth of nasty food debris before having company over.

I was at a friend's house and noticed that they had one of the old-school hook-on high chairs at their breakfast bar so that the baby was with the rest of the family for breakfast and lunch, with a traditional high chair in the dining room and the light bulb clicked on.

After searching on, I added the Zooper Hook-on Chair in Margarita to the boys' wish list. It had a cloth cover that could be taken off and thrown in the washing machine and got overall excellent reviews.

After several feedings where I had C in his Exersaucer and he was lunging at the spoon in an artful bob and weave, I realized I should just go back online and order the chair, like, yesterday.

Because I usually make rash purchases, I decided to make one more foray into the world of Internet reviews and found the Graco Travel Lite Table Chair (for $15 less, and it still shipped for free with SuperSaver shipping). Not only did it have a higher back, it also had a tray that snaps on, and is as light as the Zooper for travel use. Since I am not purchasing this as a travel chair but as my full-time chair, I was happy to see reviews with the same sentiment.

Today, I received my chair in the mail, and I let C do his wail of hunger while I quickly installed the chair and prepared his lunch. The Tango in the Tongo pattern's background is a little more green than in the pictures, which I actually like. It feels very sturdy, was extremely easy to install and didn't require any assembly; I just pulled it out of the box and hooked it on the chair.

There is a small gap in the chair, between the seat and the back, allowing for food to be cleaned up easily and it seems comfortable while still being very functional. The only drawback I've found so far is that I feel like I needed to hook it very close to the table since it's C's first real chair, and it's a little tight getting my hands in and out to buckle him in. Also, it is a 'baby' print, so if you're looking for something that says "We have a baby, but we won't tell anyone", this isn't the chair for you...the Zooper or Chicco chairs would be a better pick (although, simply having the chair will give you away).

The travel lite chair hooks easily and securely onto our tiny table, in our tiny dining area, for a tiny price...which gives me big satisfaction.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Knit Two

When I first started working for the State of Oregon, my co-worker and I tried to burn off some nervous energy/stress by learning to do what we called knitting but what others would call making a giant knot of yarn that resembles something a cat may yak up. Being extremely impatient, I moved onto the next task quickly.

Three years later, after having H, Portlandia and I had taken to walking together (one Starbucks further at a time) in my post c-section recovery. One of our talks led to a discussion about knitting, and I learned that she knew how...'would you teach me?!' I practically yelled in my excitement. She gladly, and patiently, taught me to cast-on and away I went on my first scarf...which then sat in a pile until almost a year later...I didn't learn to bind off before returning to work and with the hustle and bustle involved in my job, I didn't take the time.

Then providence intervened and it was off to another mind-numbingly boring training about 'paradigm-shifting' policy changes, which really amounted to more of the same worded differently. I saw another woman knitting patiently and glommed onto her at the next break, asking if she could teach me to bind off. A-Ha! I would have a task for the next days of training...and I haven't stopped since.

That week I picked up a copy of Stitch n' Bitch at Barnes & Noble which was practically my bible for my first 6 months of knitting, and then forayed into the world of knitting circle fiction. I first read Knitting Under the Influence, (because who can pass up a book with a martini glass on the cover using knitting needles and a yarn olive instead of a skewer?) and I was hooked.

When Friday Night Knitting Club first came out, I kept looking at the cover and lusting after the gorgeous skeins of yarn but had been on a huge chick lit run so passed it over in favor of Reading Lolita in Tehran (which I still haven't finished...). My mom came to help out when I had C, and offered to buy it for me also, but I passed it up in favor of the 'behind the scenes' book for the SATC movie.

When I finally read it, I couldn't believe I'd let it go so long. I loved it. They really aren't kidding when they call it the Steel Magnolias of knitting. I finished that book wanting to know more about the characters, and feeling like I'd been left hanging...what happens with Peri and her Pocketbooks? Does Dakota go on to lead a rich life, or is she lost in the shuffle of so many people trying to be a stand in for Georgia? What will come of Walker and Daughter?! So many questions, and no answers!

It wasn't two weeks later that I was sitting at my computer when I received an email from MotherTalk/MomCentral regarding advanced copies of Knit Two being available for review. I think I hit reply before the email had fully loaded. Less than a week later, I tore open the envelope that held Knit Two, and started reading immediately (not exaggerating).

Wow, you've read a long way to get to this! Knit Two did not disappoint. Kate Jacobs again brought KC, Dakota, Darwin, Peri, Lucie, Anita and Catherine to life, five years after Georgia's death. I thought she did a remarkable job of going through the range of emotions and grief stages that would be present in a group who lost someone that meant something different to each of them.

I was really hoping that she wouldn't have James end up in a romantic relationship with any of the girls, because it just would have been too easy, and was very pleased with how she resolved each person's quest to find out what they wanted and how to act on it. This is a quick read in that you become ensconced in the characters' lives so are able to race through it. That said, it has more substance and depth than first glance would grant it.

I was especially happy that she included the pattern for the "Georgia Afghan" and also a recipe for one of Dakota's muffins as they are so central to the story.
My favorite part of the book, just as in the first, is all of the rich and detailed descriptions of the yarn, stitches and various projects that are created throughout. Ms Jacobs knows knitting and it's very exciting and encouraging to see a fiber art that is gaining momentum with my generation being featured in mediums other than crafting magazines. Curl up with your favorite afghan and get ready for another great read.

**As I was looking Knit Two on amazon in order to include a link, I saw that Kate Jacobs has another novel called Comfort Food. What? Since my two favorite things are knitting and eating, I'll be sure to pick that one up next!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


As C is getting close to being too big for the bucket, it's time to transition him into a traditional rear-facing car seat. The seat that H currently uses is for both front and rear facing and had been our 'back-up' seat in J's truck in Oregon, so has only been used as the primary seat for one year. H is getting too tall for it, and very close to the weight limit for the harness, so it was a natural progression to hunt for a new seat for H, while giving his to C. There are still over 3 years left before the 'expiration date' so I knew it was fine to use this as my game plan.

I was fairly nervous about the prospect of H being in a booster with just the seat belt, as he still seems so young to me, but we couldn't afford the Britax, which has a much higher weight limit than our current Graco car seat. Luckily, I was talking about the dilemma with one of my friends and she told me about the Graco 3-in-1 of which she had just purchased two for her girls. The 3-in-1 has a 65 pound weight limit for the 5-point harness, then transitions to a seat-belt booster, and finally to a backless booster for up to 100 pounds.

Had I not found this car seat, however, I would still have felt more confident about having H in a backed booster given the new product I was sent by MomCentral called SeatSnug. SeatSnug is manufactured by Lap Belt Cinch, Inc., and is both ingenious and very easy to use and install. They developed the product as one of the failings of seat belts is that they "represent a compromise of safety and comfort" in that they allow slack to develop in the lap belt portion which is acknowledged by the auto industry as a major contributor to injuries and deaths in car accidents.

Although H won't be using the seat belt in his booster for awhile, I installed it in our car regardless because I occasionally take friends' kids that do, and the seat belt can be used by an adult or older child with SeatSnug still installed by using the on/off switch.

I was impressed that they provided not only clear and concise directions for installations with lots of pictures, but also an online video to make sure that it's used properly. The Safe'n Snug guarantee also allows for, among other return/exchange reasons, a free replacement of the product should it be installed and in use during an accident as, like car seats, they should not be used after involvement in an accident.

SeatSnug is available on for $34.95. Who knew peace of mind could come at such a small price?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Moving so far from family and friends was a very daunting prospect. The furthest I'd ever roamed from my sleepy Northeastern Oregon hometown was the big city about four hours away. This country looks mighty large when you're moving to the opposite coast.

After a few months of living sans family and friends, I realized that it didn't feel quite as lonely as I'd expected. Email and Instant Messaging had made it so that I could virtually talk to my friend just as we had when working across the wall from each other. I didn't miss the way kids were growing up because I got lots of pictures.

Before we moved, my in-laws gave us a web cam so that we could have H call and say hello. I don't know if you've tried to wrangle a toddler in front of a computer before, but it's less than successful.

How fun, then, to have the ability to get them to say a few words in a video email? That's just one of the options available with the program TokBox. The best part? It's free and there's no software to download (or upload, I never quite get those straight.)

Upon starting my account, I was a little dubious, because you have to allow the program to "talk" to your camera and computer. I guess one of the downfalls of having a career where you attend multiple conferences with information about Internet predators is that you can never truly let down your guard (and shouldn't really). Like all camera-based (or chatrooms in general) programs, I would strongly suggest to anyone that they never have the camera in the child's bedroom, and that it be centrally located in the family home (i.e. the living room or kitchen). After performing several functions, however, I realized that each time I attempted to initiate a call or email, I had to physically 'allow' the communication to happen...phew!

Paranoia aside, I immediately mailed a test message to myself and was pretty impressed with the clarity, and 'real time' speed. It didn't clog my inbox either, because it's not a big attachment, it's just a link to the site. I also received an email that the message had been viewed, so you don't have to wonder.

Now for the real test. I sent a message to my parents who love all the opportunities that having a computer gives them, but are fortunate to have a daughter who works for a phone/Internet company that they can call for assistance at any time (thanks, Myrtle!). Easy for Senior Citizens? Check.

My sisters and I have 'sister chat' weekly through messenger, so I was really excited to see that this has a conferencing feature and we can truly chat live. If we keep having all these advancements, living in New England forever may become appealing.

As I was writing the review, I kept noting that something was pinging in the background, and realized that my TokBox screen was still open, and a friend was IM'ing me. I was surprised that she had an account and asked how long she'd had it...turns out, she was IM'ing me from Gmail and because my contacts were imported, she was able to contact me while I was logged into TokBox. What a great feature! You don't have to be logged into different programs to get all the features in one.

The only downside? Wow, I've got some serious jowls that the web cam seems to highlight more than in normal life, and my loft area looks like Hurricane Ike made an appearance. Maybe just talking on the phone isn't so bad after all!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I remember when I had my first 'check-up' when I turned 18, I felt like I'd been brought into the fold. Like menarche, it was one more step toward becoming a full-fledged responsibly procreating (or not) member of society. My mom was firm with my sisters and I about the importance of an annual exam, so it didn't seem like quite the chore to me that it did for others.

I tried to put it in the perspective that I was making the choice between a fifteen minute appointment once a year to stem concerns or cervical cancer that goes undetected for several years? Hmmmmm...such a difficult decision. I'm always a little surprised when someone avoids their exam for several years at a time. I'd talk to other girls my age and their reasoning was "Well, I'm not having sex yet, so I don't need to have someone poking around." It was usually the same people that thought using a tampon would remove their status as a virgin.

As women, it's important that we carefully look at our options when it comes to anything 'down there', which includes seeking both appropriate preventative care and timely treatment of ongoing concerns. All too often, we rely solely on the physician currently treating us to provide us with all of the information used to make our health care decision and/or to create a treatment plan.

A recent study performed by AAGL, which is a not-for-profit organization of physicians 'dedicated to advancing the safest, most efficacious and least invasive diagnostic and therapeutic techniques to treat women's pelvic health disorders' concluded "When half of women suffering from a given condition are unaware that they may be candidates for a minimally invasive procedure that spares them pain, time and disruption of their lives, there is a clear need for stronger efforts in patient education."

While the women surveyed did agree that it was their responsibility to ask providers for alternatives to total abdominal hysterectomies, the vast majority (myself included) trust in their provider to present them with all the options, including those with the shortest recovery and smallest impact on finances and family.

Further the survey concluded that less than 40% of women were aware of the hospital stay, scar and significant recovery period associated with TAH. In contrast to a TAH, a laparoscopic hysterectomy is minimally invasive, can be done on an outpatient basis and enables most women to resume normal activities within a week. Most women didn't know that a laparoscopic hysterectomy was an option.

I feel like I'm a fairly well-informed person when it comes to my health options, simply because my husband is a physician and dialogue about health issues is common in our house, but I am certainly thankful for resources such as AAGL. In the end, my goal would be that my provider and I would be able to work together in order to make the decision that was best for me, considering social and financial aspects of my life as well as the medical. I know that my OB-Gyn would be very open to my coming to an appointment armed with information and specific questions, and I would hope that would be the same for others.

I looked around at the site, and there is a lot of information provided, including a glossary of terms and physician finder. The glossary may be the most helpful because sometimes the medical lingo is the biggest barrier.

You can read the full results of the study in order to get more detailed information. I love that it's called "minimally invasive gynecology" because if it was called non-invasive, you'd know it was coined by a man. All sarcasm aside, I think the important thing is that women be aware of their options, actively use resources to educate yourself in order to be an informed patient and to be generally proactive regarding your own health.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New! Ghirardelli LUXE Bars

Something I can always be passionate about is...well, a second thing I can always be passionate about is chocolate. When I was in high school, my best friend and I went to spend a week with her adult cousin in the 'burbs of San Francisco. Coming from a very small town, it was exhilarating to drive into the city and walk around the wharf, see all the fun shops and visit the North Shore and Chinatown. The summers I spent there were so important to cultivating a taste for more than could be found in my little town, and there are so many times that I look back and realize just how fortunate I was to have been exposed to all that.

I remember going to Ghirardelli square and buying all the different little squares of chocolate and being so excited (okay, and a little smug) that I'd be able to go home and tell everyone that this was the real chocolate experience. A little different than buying Kit Kats at our tiny local grocer.

When MomCentral announced that they were looking for bloggers to try out the new LUXE bars from Ghirardelli, I couldn't sign up fast enough. The five bars arrived in the mail and it was very difficult to eat just one square of each; a serving is four squares at just over 200 calories, but I had five and savored every morsel. What?! I had to try them's part of my job!
The varieties are: Luxe Milk Almond, Luxe Milk Hazelnut, Luxe Milk Milk, Luxe Milk Crisp and Luxe Milk Duet. I was a little surprised when I saw the price printed on the wrapper because they were just over $2 each. I was expecting closer to the $3-4 range because these are generously portioned bars.
I have to say that trying out this chocolate did more than just fill my belly with chocolaty goodness. Just prior to the birth of Charlie and for the months following, I have had what you might call a little bit of a sugar addiction which, a la Tommy Boy, leads to 'a little bit of a weight problem.' I had become so accustomed to having sugary foods every day that I wasn't really enjoying them anymore. I was just eating them because they were there.
The night I received my chocolates J was working an overnight. After I put the kids to bed, I turned on a movie, made a cup of coffee and unwrapped my chocolates one at a time. I have to say it was probably the most satisfying dessert I've had in a long time, due mainly to the fact that I really concentrated on each square, letting it melt in my mouth so that I could get all the flavor, and it served to bring me back to the real idea of dessert. It should be savored, it should be coveted, and it should be a treat instead of an entitlement. Quality ingredients with a great rich flavor, the combination can't be beat.
I can't pick a favorite of the five, but I will say the order in which I ate them that night because it's obviously how they must have appealed to me then. Almond, Duet, Hazelnut, Milk and finally Crisp. But it's kind of like ranking which of your children you like better; it just depends what you're in the mood for that day.
Run, don't walk to get your own at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Borders and Linens-n-Things (although I'm not sure how long as they're going out of business). They will soon be found at Blockbuster Video, Cost Plus and Target.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

30 Days to Natural

From buying more organic produce to trying my hand at cloth diapering, I've slowly been dipping my toes into the waters of going green. Awhile ago, I started writing about the little lifestyle changes I was making after getting nauseated by the fumes of my cleaning products. MomCentral's latest blog tour about the new Clorox website 30 Days to Natural piqued my interest, so I decided to check it out.

You start by 'planting a daisy' and then have the option to have daily 'going green' tips sent by either phone or email. The site also gave a great overview of the new Clorox GreenWorks products including a list of ingredients, their applications and where you can purchase them. I also thought it was impressive that they had partnered with the Sierra Club and Design for the Environment, which I thought gave it all a little more credence.

My first email tip was "Stoke a green fire. Enjoy a cozy fire, but make sure it burns cleanly by using artificial logs made of wood only. Avoid those that contain paraffin, a petroleum-based by-product." I like that they aren't radical tips, but point out all the little things you can do on a daily basis to contribute. I know, for myself at least, that being environmentally friendly has been a much easier prospect when I don't have to take the all or nothing attitude.

When I logged onto the website on my second day, I had the following tip "Freshen up your air freshener. Create your own natural air freshener with water and lavender or lemon." See? Completely do-able.

There's also a one-page kitchen check-list flyer with simple tips like loading the dishwasher after each meal, but not running it until it's full. Easy steps like this make easing into the green world a lot less daunting. I've read some articles or lists of ideas and all I thought at the end was 'That sounds like a lot of work!" When you add the workload to parenting your kids and all that entails, it can be overwhelming and off-putting, albeit worth the effort.

Recently I decided to start using gDiapers, in conjunction with cloth diapers, while still using disposables at night. It will definitely be something to get used to, and I'll track my costs for a couple of months, but I can't see how I could possible spend more than disposable diapers on water and electricity since I have an energy efficient front-loader and All Free and Clear costs about $11 for the mega jug of concentrate at BJ's (I know, the name kills me every time too!).

While 81% of moms surveyed reported that they were 'green', it's important to remember that there are many shades of that color. I think our good friend Kermit didn't have all the facts; being green can be easy!
*The bag pictured can be purchased for $10 ($3.65 of which goes to the Sierra Club).

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wd-40 Spot Shot

When J and I moved out to New England, we made an initial trip to go house-hunting in the hopes that we wouldn't be living in apartment-land forever. One of my primary must-haves was a carpet-less eating area.

I will never understand why they install carpet, cheap carpet at that, in an area that will be designated for eating. Kitchens and bathrooms are two areas that should never have carpet! While the quest for a home was fruitless, we did find a great apartment. But you guessed it, carpet in the dining area.

In the past, it was always almost a blessing to live in an apartment that had been around for a few years because I could exclaim "Can you believe the piggies that lived here? Just look at this carpet!" This time we were the first tenants, so I can only point the finger at my little piggies.

I was more than happy to test out the Wd-40 Spot Shot when I heard about it from Mom Central. I own a carpet shampooer, and use it about once every other month for our living room and main traffic areas, but the stubborn stains at the entrance area to the dining room from the kitchen never seem to say bye-bye, it's more like Au Revoir.

Here are some pictures of chocolate on the sample swatch of carpet that they gave me to try. They also gave a small bottle of ammonia to test the removal of pet smells, which I was loathe to try because, well, who likes the smell of pee? Because I am a bit of a lush and like my red wine, I decided to throw in a test of my own with red wine, plus an old stain on my carpet as they say it even works on old ground in stains.

The kit I was provided with, plus my own contribution of a glass of wine. Okay, I admit that I was not planning to try the wine, but was drinking it anyway and when I went to move it out of the picture's frame I had an a-ha moment.

Ammonia was sprayed in the upper left-hand corner, and the chocolate and red wine are hopefully fairly obvious.

After the first treatment; the carpet is still wet, so it's hard to see, but the chocolate is gone and the red wine needed only one more treatment. I think that the lighting and my camera weren't great for this shot, because the upper-left hand corner where the ammonia was looks stained, although it didn't have anything there in person.

A small stain on my carpet near the kitchen table. I have about 1.5 million of these as the result of having a cute little boy who doesn't always keep his food on his plate. While they fade with regular cleanings, I don't feel like they're ever gone. This really seemed to get it out.

This is after only one spray on the 'stream' setting, and a quick rub with a cloth.

I was really impressed on all accounts. It took only one treatment to completely remove the chocolate, ammonia and 'old' stains and two for the red wine. When I say two treatments, I simply mean two times of spraying 2-3 squirts on the area and blotting within a 5 minute period, it was really easy! I am so excited to have this product as the most important features are that it's certified bio-degradable, non-toxic and safe for children.

After all, the whole point of cleaning my carpet is so that I don't have to worry or have a shiver of revulsion when I lay C down to would be just a touch counter-intuitive to hose the carpet down with toxic liquids and then lay my baby in it.

I'll be using the Spot Shot to pre-treat all the little spots on my carpet the next time I shampoo and I can't wait to see my 'good as new' carpet again!

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Like a lot of people, I have a habit of overextending myself in an effort to be everything to everyone. After having to get the crappy slot at the OB/Gyn for the umpteenth time because I didn't have my schedule on-hand, I requested a Palm Pilot for Mother's Day this year just to start being a little more organized. I got the most basic model, as I wasn't sure how much I'd use it, and found that I use it all of the time!

I participate in a lot of activities, and coordinate a number of events, so am faced with the constant struggle of not only keeping myself straightened out but ensuring that others are right in line with me as well.

Enter Jooners. I was asked to check out the Jooners website by my friend Alex at Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting. I had been talking about how busy my life is, and was excited to hear about something for free that will keep my life in order. That's right, I said free.

One great thing about Jooners is that it's not just another on-line calender. It's got an evite-esque function, organizers for snack duty, carpool, volunteer coordinators, event planners, a place to make lists...and the list goes on and on. Not only can you create all these calenders and planners and lists, but they can be shared with a group (family, sports team, class parents, etc).

I get really tired of being in on the planning stages of something and sifting through email after email, hoping that I have the most current copy so that I know what's happening when. This function would hopefully eliminate that annoyance.

There is really a lot to the site, and I haven't yet been able to explore all that it offers, but I'm excited to incorporate it into my life.

Now the next time someone requests a sit through my baby-sitting co-op, I can jump on those waiting tokens because my schedule and computer will be in the same place! Yes, I know that I can sync my palm to my computer, but I don't really do it that often. I'm not sure yet if there is a way to sync my Palm with the Jooners calendar, but I'm emailing them with that question, so if it's not a feature now, maybe it will be in the future?

I recently became chair of a committee that organizes meals and services for members who need them, and I really hope to find this an invaluable tool. If I set up a meal service and need 6 people to make meals on different nights, they'll just respond by clicking on the link in an email sent to them and signing up for what works. If you open up a free account, you don't even have to do the double work of writing what you signed up for in your own calender because Jooners will automatically add it for you, and then it sends reminders for that specific event in addition to a weekly calendar sent each Sunday for the following Monday through Saturday.

Lastly, there is a resources section so that people can add people, places and services that make life easier, and then people can review those resources. So if you are looking for a caterer in your area, you can search them and read reviews in one spot. Resources cannot be deleted, which can be good and bad, but hopefully there would be enough balanced reviews to make an informed decision.

From what I've done with the program thus far, I've been really pleased. The best part? If you don't like it, you didn't waste hundreds of dollars (or even one) on software that doesn't fit in with your lifestyle. You literally have nothing to lose.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's a Three Ring Circus Around Here!

When I was little, it was a HUGE deal in our town to have the circus come. We'd get to watch the elephants pull the tent posts up, anticipating the time later that night that we'd be able to ride them at intermission.

I remember fantasizing about being in the circus, without the whole travel without your family bit of course, as the women in shiny tights and sequined outfits would stand up on the bare backs of their horses. Even when I read the book Geek Love as an adult, the allure of the circus was there.

While the circuses that came to our little niche of the world were not grand and were generally one ring, they were a circus nonetheless, and we were enthralled.

I have yet to take H and C to a circus, so was really excited when I got the notification from MomCentral that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey would be coming to Boston this year. Not only that, but there is a program for children up to one year of age that allows them a free admission to see their first circus! Ahahahahahnd then, the code MCC gives you a 20% discount off certain ticket prices, making it an affordable event that will create lasting memories.

Although C is not yet old enough to appreciate it (he's free, so I don't care), I can't wait to see the looks of awe on H's face. he is fascinated with animals, and all that they do. He's seen Dumbo about a hundred times and can roar with the best of the tigers!

The code is valid for the circus shows in the following cities:

Indianapolis, IN - Sept. 4-7, 2008
Kansas City, MO - Sept. 10-14, 2008
Grand Rapids, MI - Sept. 18-21, 2008
Denver, CO - Oct. 2-13, 2008
Boston, MA – Oct. 8-13, 2008 (woo hoo!)
Cleveland, OH - Oct. 24 - Nov. 2
Chicago, IL - Nov. 6 - 30, 2008
St. Louis, MO - Nov. 6-9, 2008
Auburn Hills, MI - Nov. 12 - 16, 2008
Highland Heights, KY - Feb 27 - Mar. 1, 2009
Cincinnati, OH - Mar. 4 - 8, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X

Reading has always been a huge part of my, my mother and my sisters' lives. The three of us that keep blogs often send chick lit packages back and forth to share the love, as it were. When someone tells me that they just don't enjoy reading, I just don't' get it. What's not to love about getting swept up in the drama of someone else's life? Whether I'm engrossed in the latest from Jennifer Weiner (or my new favorite Jen Lancaster) or a great piece of non-fiction, reading has always been my favorite way to escape or just help my mind release at the end of the day.

My husband is quite possibly the most voracious reader I know. By his self-report, he always has been. He was that kid who finished all the books on the recommended reading list, and continued to find more on his own. Whether it's J with his nose in the latest medical text or a copy of Tender is the Night, or me reading my latest book club pick or a story to H, our kids will be raised in a house of books (much safer than a house of cards).

Upon hearing from MotherTalk and Mom Central about James Patterson's (in collaboration with Michael Ledwidge) latest release of a new series The Dangerous Days of Daniel X, (to purchase at click here)I was excited to see what was in store. I loved Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, but knew that this one would be different for a pretty big reason; the goal was to excite young readers...the afore-mentioned books would not so much be age-appropriate.

As the father of a ten year old boy himself, Patterson has made it a priority to write books that will engage readers of all ages, putting special emphasis on reaching out to young boys, who have been statistically shown to view reading as 'boring', thus leaving an entire category of the population less apt to read a book and allow the literary world to influence them in their development.

Daniel X is an alien hunting teen-aged boy, who is out to avenge the death of his parents. His power is unlike most super-heroes, as he relies on his imagination to give him the power to 'create'.
When I first read the jacket of the book, and learned that he'd witnessed the 'brutal murder' of his parents at the age of three, my mom-mind immediately thought This is not appropriate for kids!!! But then I took a breath and read on, a little sad that I'd become so conservative where literature is concerned. After completing the book, I can say that there is just enough shock and ewww to keep boys and girls alike interested in this book.

As a disclaimer, I need to admit that I am not a fan of science fiction; it's always been my least favorite genre. That said, Daniel X was actually a really easy read...I guess it would be pretty sad if it weren't easy for me to read, as I am a 29 year-old woman and it's aimed at the 8-13 y.0. reading level.

One of the things that I appreciated most about the book is that Patterson doesn't stoop to using only elementary language just because the book is aimed at a younger crowd. I think that this is a book for which my nephew, and many other young readers, would need to highlight words and look them up as he goes, which only serves to further open the world of language and would encourage him to broaden his reading horizons. I'll be passing this book on to the Brode-man; I'll ask his opinion and re-post when he's done, so that I have the perspective of an actual 10 year-old boy.

I think that most readers would enjoy the book, but have to say that Mr. Patterson makes one fatal error; in one scene an alien uses 'bad' early-80's music to 'torture' Daniel. How anyone can see Air Supply or Journey as anything other than a sure sign that sweet salvation is on the horizon is beyond fact, it's absolutely Foreign(er).

* For more information, see the Wickipedia entry and the publisher's site

Saturday, July 26, 2008

New Classics Challenge

My sister posted about a literary challenge that she found on Lost in a Good Story.

I love to read, am in a book club, but still can't get's great to have a list to build from.
The full list of 'New Classics' is here. Following, in bold, are those I've already read along with the six, in italics, that I've chosen to read and review by January 2009. As I read them, I'll review them and then in January I'll write a post about the one that I liked the most. Lost in a Good Story will mail to a random winner a copy of their favorite book.

I found it really hard to narrow it down to the six I'll review. This is going to be a great challenge! Come join the fun.

3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

This is cross posted at Sex and the Knitty.

If anyone knows how to create a button, Joanna has requested help, so contact her about it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Snacktivate Fun!

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3, 2, 1 Snacktivate!

As I was transferring diaper bags the other day, I pulled out a not-so-fresh bag of raisins from the bottom of one bag, along with about five packets of fruit snacks and a couple of granola bars. I tossed the raisins, but kept the other snacks with me because one thing is certain when you're out and about; H will be hungry.

When we first moved here and H had his first dental exam, they commented on his beautiful teeth and asked if he had fruit snacks, fruit roll-ups or other sugary, sticky snacks. I smugly replied that I, of course, had not allowed my cherub to ingest such things. They encouraged me to continue the denial of dental disasters and said to keep up the good work.

Weeeeell, this was all before I had been an at-home mom for any significant period of time. After attending several play-dates and lunches, it was clear that fruit snacks would be a part of our life, as it was not one of the battles I would be choosing.

Having quick, relatively healthy and convenient snacks has become an essential to our on the go lifestyle, so I was excited when I received an email from MomCentral about Snacktivate, a new snacking initiative from Kellogg. They have teamed up with family life expert Deb Geigis Berry and Registered Dietitian Rachel Brandeis to create a snack time experience that is healthy and fun. The basis of the initiative is that snack time should be taken advantage of as a time to teach your kids a little about being in the kitchen, preparing food, and making healthier decisions, while having a good time and expressing creativity.

I received a package in the mail, containing two full-sized boxes of Frosted Mini Wheats (a cereal that my family buys in bulk at BJ's because it's one of our faves), along with a recipe for a variation of peanut butter cookies using crushed mini wheats along with the dry ingredients and a further variation to make them into a fun craft; Sassy Sun Pops. The goody bag also had a snack cup which has a folding spoon and a bottom portion that you put in the freezer so it will keep your milk cold and you can mix it all together at your destination. This would have been oh-so-useful when I was working and taking my breakfast to work with me. At the time, I usually just ate the mini wheats dry as I sucked down my Starbucks stand-by; a Triple Venti Non-Fat Latte while strapped to the phones and computer. But I digress...

On the website there are twelve recipes, all of which are also fun craft activities to do with your kids. Depending on the age of your child, their level of hands-on involvement will vary. The site also provides a listing of approximate tasks that kids can help with given their age range. For my own little knitty household, a one-butt kitchen and carpet in the eating area narrows how much of the messy stuff H gets to help with, but I let him do as much as possible.

Last night, while H was eating dinner, I mixed up a batch of the Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies. H was ecstatic because he got to use the flat side of the meat tenderizer to crumble the mini-wheats in a quart-sized freezer solution to not having to dirty the blender or food processor. It's amazing what ingenuity comes from laziness, and H got to have fun as well.

While the recipe that I prepared would definitely be considered a treat, it's more healthy than standard chocolate chip cookies, or even the regular peanut butter cookies that wouldn't have the added fiber from the Mini Wheats. I was afraid they were going to end up really dry, from the mini wheats, but they turned out to be really yummy! H and J both gave their seal of approval as well.

I encourage you to take a look at the Snacktivate Recipe site and try a couple of them out. It's obviously going to be heavy on brand-power, as the recipes all use at least one product from the Kellogg's family; they are the company that created the site, after all, but it certainly provides a great jumping-off point to begin a healthy and fun tradition for snack time in your family. Keep in mind that in addition to the create-'em yourself projects, Kellogg has a host of portable snacks.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Lighter Shade of Green

When I was about six months pregnant with C, and was scouring the tub, I realized that I don't love the smell of the bathroom cleaners that I'm using. Or the fact that I feel like I have to leave the vent fan on for several hours after completing the job...or that I felt slightly light-headed, which could have been the pregnancy alone.

I decided that it was time to start investigating more earth (read: small children) friendly cleaning products. After asking the opinion of several of my amigos verdes, I came home from the market with a bagful of replacements. I did not, however, toss my others, I used them first...sorry, it's the new fiscally conservative Sally HP.

I kept asking people if they would work better, since they were generally more expensive, but then just settled with the fact that as long as they worked as well, I'd be happy with it.

I was watching the documentary King Corn the other night, and the cattle rancher being interviewed stated that if people wanted only grass-fed beef, they'd be happy to supply it, but the demand for cheap corn-fed beef is outrageously high.

I started to think about it and (now, I am not a business major, so please feel free to comment if I'm wrong) I realized that if more and more people buy the green products, then it may result in an eventual decrease in price. Obviously this isn't the case for all things, just look at our outrageous fuel costs right now, and demand has certainly not decreased. However, if it's a domestic product (like beef or cleaners) over which we maintain control, my little purchases may someday make a difference in the eventual price.

In this same vein, I was recently offered the chance to try Recycline Preserve toothbrushes, which are made from high quality pre and post-consumer recycled (BPA and pthalate-free) plastics. In addition, to help keep the cycle going, Recycline will provide a postage paid label on their website so you can send the used product to be made into recycled plastic lumber...pretty cool. The good thing is that they really aren't more expensive than normal brushes, coming in at just over $2 at Target.

If you'd like a chance to be the proud owner of your very own Preserve toothbrush, leave a comment for me with something that you do to be a little more 'green'. In order to have a real test for the efficacy, I'll add a $5 Starbucks card (nothin' like tea and coffee stains) to each of the two winners who will be selected on July 25th.

If you don't win, click here and you'll be taken to MomCentral, where you can find the full Recycline information, along with a coupon for $1 off the purchase of two brushes.
This review was cross-posted on my original blog Sex and the Knitty, at which readers commented.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Strawberry Fields...

Having a birthday so close to the Fourth of July has always been fun for me, both because of the fun pool parties, but more because I love summer. Summer food, summer activities, water sports, everything summer. Although, if we're being honest here, because I'm a very sweaty person (and self-conscious about it) it was not until recently that I've learned to just embrace the heat.

I was shopping at the grocery store the other day, looking for a good dessert as I was hosting the board meeting for my mom's group that night. When I first entered the store, the produce section was calling to me with brightly colored sale signs. The first stand I came to had strawberries; buy one get TWO free! Sweet, strawberry shortcake it is!

I had recently received an email about the plentiful harvest that California growers are experiencing this year, so glanced at the package and noted that, sure enough, they were grown in sunny California. I got home and started slicing away, placing the pretty berries in my prized brightly colored nesting bowl from Crate & Barrel. After adding a tiny bit of sugar and stirring them to get a little juice going, I covered the berries and left them on the counter to 'mellow' until the meeting started.

When everyone came, I had a store-bought pound cake arranged in pretty slices on my Fiestaware bread plate, the bowl o' berries and a can of whipped cream. How is it that something so simple tastes so good? I love that summer is all about simplicity, and when you start with something yummy and sweet like a strawberry, you really don't have to add much more.

Never one to forget about the kiddies, the California Strawberry Commission has a section of their site called Strawberryville full of games, facts and fun. The strawberry 'school' has sections designated to kids aged 5-7 and 8-12.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summertiiiiiiiime, and the Livin's Easy...

I was watching The Today Show this morning and they had a segment on summer safety tips, in which they talked about the dangers of digging large sand holes at the beach. It was pretty alarming and while they noted that research shows the incidences of sand hole deaths are pretty rare, they are more prevalent than shark attacks. (We still look for sharks, don't we?) For more information you can click here.

I liked that the segment wasn't alarmist, but was a gentle reminder that we need to keep our eyes on the sand as well as the water when our kids are playing. It was good timing because I know that sometimes I'm content to just let H play while I visit with the other moms and when there are several kids together, digging a hole can quickly lead to digging a large crater.

In that same vein, I was checking out the MommyDocs website, which has a ton of great information, including a featured article sponsored by Clorox; Five Simple Summer Safety Tips. They all were fairly common sense, but I guess that's the point. In an era where common sense isn't so common (a la 3rd degree sun burns when a parent or caregiver neglects to apply sunscreen to a child in the scorching sun) it never hurts to be reminded.

According to MommyDocs, a lot of summer woes can be avoided by following these five tips :

1. Have a Sun Protection Strategy
2. Keep Pests off Your Little One
3. Keep the Pool Cool and Clean (with the added Safety must: Always supervise children regardless of age when they are around any water; whether it's a bucket, a small backyard plastic pool, or the local community pool.)
4. High Heat Means Hydrate
5. Rid Rashes and Relieve Itchies

With just a little bit of preparation, you can have hours of fun in the sun, while at the same time establishing good habits for your kids. The days of slathering yourself in Crisco and laying on tin foil are g-o-n-e gone, and it's important for kids to be in the routine of applying sunscreen before leaving the house and during their activity in the hopes that they won't have to (obsessively, anyway) inspect their bodies in 20 years, looking for moles and other signs of skin cancer.

This blog tour is brought to you by MomCentral

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's the Most WonderFALL Time of the Year

I'm looking outside my window, and I feel a bit like the little kids on The Cat in the Hat. It's been raining all day, sometimes sideways, others straight down, but it all adds up to one thing...a day spent inside.

It was fortuitous that I got an email from Mom Central about Beaches' Resorts WonderFALL celebration. It's often hard to plan one more thing to do in a summer that is jammed with activity. Beaches has thought of everything for you, as they're running a special that will help intice you to travel this Fall. Right now when you stay 5-6 nights (between September 1 and November 4, 2008) in any one of 4 locations, you'll get 1 night free, and if you stay 7 nights, they bump it up to 2 free nights! Next to planning my dream home, I love to plan dream vacations, so I immediately went to the site and started to click away. I have to admit that while I was browsing, my attention was initially focussed on the 'honeymoon' and 'girlfriend getaway' packages and not on those that included taking your children with you.

Last year, J and I went to Maui while Granny and Papa stayed with H at our house, and it was the best vacation I've ever had. While I know that I'll treasure the memories created at future family trips, I've always felt like it was really important to continue placing importance on the relationship that made you a family in the first place.

Those sentiments aside, I rolled over to the "Fall Family Fun" and found that they're doing a whole Elmo/Sesame Street themed getaway for families, as Beaches is a sponsor of the beloved PBS classic. Ever the consumate viewer of PBS kids, this was something I already knew, and have to admit that those commercials are such smart marketing, as I'm sure I'm not the only mom sitting at home bleary-eyed with lack of sleep with her kids from about 5:30am until 9 when we turn off Super Why.

Oh yeah, and the vacation is obviously on a beautiful island resort and is could it get any better than that?!

Perhaps the most family friendly feature was found at the very bottom of the page; an offer for single parents to receive up to $190/night in savings, making it more affordable for them to take that vacation on a single income.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sally HP Reviews!

When my friend Alex told me that the Parent Bloggers Network was looking for people to review Diaper Goop I was, unfortunately, in the throes of recovering from H's first really bad diaper rash. I hope never to have to repeat that experience, so I got more excited than had I accidentally been given a "Gotta Have It" at Cold Stone. I quickly emailed the powers that be, and asked that I be able to try the goop, as it would be my first review for PBN.

While H had his rash, I had tried a number of creams, two of which really work well, but they seemed to rub off and were in his diaper by the next change instead of sticking and creating a barrier.

My doorbell buzzed about a week later, and I excitedly signed for a box which ended up having FOUR tubs of Diaper Goop inside...I thought I'd get a couple little foil packets of the stuff, but these guys don't mess around! Enclosed was a nice letter about the company's beginnings and the fact that they hope to be able to launch in retail stores soon. Diaper Goop was developed by a pharmacist, whose customer had been battling severe diaper rash with her twins. The nice thing about it, is that it wasn't a cream that was conceived with dollar signs in mind. However, because it worked so well, word spread and it was officially coined "diaper goop" in 1990. It has been used by daycare centers and nursing homes alike, treating sensitive skin of all ages.

Fortunately, H's rash had already cleared when the goop arrived, but I noticed he was developing some slight eczema behind his knees. I slathered some on, and was a little put off by the smell, but then read the ingredients and immediately realized why; the primary ingredient in this product is reminded me of the good ole days of FFA (that's Future Farmers of America for you city slickers) when we would watch the sheep getting shorn. I felt good knowing that it was an odd smell due to being a natural ingredient, instead of the forced 'pleasant scent' in some of the new products which are effected by perfumes being added.

When J got home, he was holding H and noted that he "smelled like bag balm." Yeah, you can take the boy off the farm...

Literally, the next morning, the red areas were gone. I was sold on the effectiveness, and have used it on the backs of his knees most nights after his bath, before slipping on his footy pajamas as a preventative measure. Unlike some of the other creams, the goop was still on his skin in the morning, and hadn't rubbed off onto his clothes. I was pleasantly surprised by this as it's a fairly greasy product, or to be exact lanolin-y. Little C will certainly get the goop treatment when he comes along as well.

The true test came when my friend, L, and her 10 month-old, O, arrived after flying cross-country in the dry, forced and re-circulated air of the plane. She soon realized that she'd forgotten O's prescription eczema cream and his cheeks were pink, and getting more red by the second. I was only too excited to show her the diaper goop, and told her she was more than welcome to try it. We pooled our expertise, and decided that it would be fine to use on his face, as it was just lanolin. She used it sparingly at first, just to make sure.

When O woke up the next morning, the redness had completely faded. She continued to use the goop throughout her stay, and took a tub of it home with her, hoping she'd be able to purchase more when that ran out. L is a very smart consumer...she's one of those people who researches things to death and is pretty eco-conscious. For her to take it with her when she left instead of just using it here out of necessity is a pretty big deal.

I'll also be sending a tub of this to my friend J in Alaska who would really like to use cloth diapers on her fair child, but the diaper rash issue has been prohibitive. I'll post again with the results of that, but feel like it's a good alternative for kids with sensitive skin as well.

I would definitely recommend this product to my friends, and will buy it in the stores when it's available. Diaper Goop is currently sold in only four states, but is available without a prescription. The goop folks are working hard to spread the word and mass-market their product because, as their slogan states 'It Really Works!'

The one thing that I would urge people is to just know that it doesn't smell like baby powder. It's not that it's an overwhelming or terrible smell, it's just a departure from the 'fresh'-scented baby products these days.