Thursday, December 31, 2009

Idyll Banter

Idyll Banter: Weekly Excursions to a Very Small Town Idyll Banter: Weekly Excursions to a Very Small Town by Chris Bohjalian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had read Bohjalian's Midwives and LOVED it. It was such a thought-provoking novel, and the characters were so amazingly written. I really liked that he told the story from the perspective of the midwife's daughter.

Though I knew he was a New England author, I did not know he had a weekly column. Along the same lines as Dave Berry, his slice of life segments are enough to feel complete on their own, but pieced together tell the tale of life in a small New England town. I may purchase this book to remind me of NE when I'm "home" sick next year.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Evenflo Smart Steps

Lately, I've been questioning what I feed my kids, and how much of it. It seems like a couple times a week I'm baking something with H...cookies, bread, cupcakes; all in the name of math and science education at home, right?

Charlie will put down just as much food as H at times, and I know they go through stages of feast or famine but always wonder if I'm making the best choices, or instilling good eating habits. I've been making H eat a vegetable every night in order to 'earn' dessert. While I know that some disagree with that tactic...I don't really care. That's just how I roll. After a couple nights of struggling to get him to eat four tiny peas (one for each year of his age), he now 'willingly' will eat the small pile I put on his plate without being asked. It's amazing how follow-through and consistency get the job done!

I got an email from MomCentral* about Evenflo's new Smart Steps program, and was able to try a few of the products from the new line. I got a sippy cup that's in an insulated sleeve (machine washable, yay!) and has a soft spout that really doesn't leak. I've tried just about every sippy cup, and they have pretty much all leaked when left on their side after they've been abandoned by one of my children, but this one didn't. Love it!

I also got a set of spoons that are flat and look a little bit like mini-pancake turners, but they're meant to be easier to maneuver for small hands and a set of snack cups whose lids double as suctions to keep them from being flung (as easily) from the table.

Some of the tips they have on their website were mainly reassuring, as they're things that I'm already doing. But if you aren't, you'll be surprised how easy they are to incorporate in your life. Here are a few:
  • Let your kids be "produce pickers" at the store. If they can pick out their own fruits and veggies – they'll be more inclined to eat them
  • Invite your kids to prepare meals with you. All of that mixing, mashing and measuring will make them want to taste what they are prepping.
  • Offer choices. Rather than ask "Do you want broccoli for dinner?" ask "Which would you like for dinner: broccoli or cauliflower?"

Not sure how you're doing? Evenflo has developed a quiz on their website in order for you to determine your Parental Feeding Style and where you fall on the Eating Arc. The site is also full of tips and products to either continue the good things you're doing, or things you can tweak in order to help your child get on the path to having a healthy relationship with food. Be it dealing with a picky eater, ideas for revamping your mealtime repertoire or conversation starters to begin a tradition of eating at the table as a family, Evenflo Smart Steps has got ideas for you!

*I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Evenflo and received a sample to facilitate my candid review. In addition, Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Baby Einstein World Animal Adventure

As I've said before, I didn't discover the bliss that is Baby Einstein until Charlie came along and I had two kids to entertain while I did my daily 'chores', made dinner, occasionally while I sat and knitted (okay, more than occasionally, but who's really counting?)

The bigger collection I amass, the more I'm amazed at how they just don't get old for either kid. The newest release, World Animal Adventure, is a big hit at our house. After we were given a copy of World Music by MomCentral to test, I not only filled out the survey, but personally emailed to see if I could please, please, please get a review copy of the World Animal Adventure because World Music was so fantastic it even captured the attention of the six year old boy I was baby-sitting.

The World Animal Adventure also has a new feature of a second "mode". It's a little more advanced so an older toddler or pre-schooler will get even more out of the video. Silly puppet shows, a great soundtrack and animals seen in their natural habitat create a well-rounded presentation.

I love that the Baby Einstein line is taking their mission of early childhood education to the level of exposing kids to not only new sights, sounds and shapes but then attaching those sights, sounds, costumes, instruments, etc to the region of the world in which they will most likely be found. Most kids won't get to travel to Australia to see Koala Bears or Asia to see a Panda, but exposing them at an early age to what's 'out there' is something I really value.

Charlie, as you can see, is enthralled by the whole DVD series. He can be having the most off of days, but then that big caterpillar rolls across the screen and gives a little wink of encouragement saying "I know big guy, I'll make it alllll riiight" (Okay, that sounds a little pervy, but whatever); He's a goner.

I love having the compromise of allowing myself the freedom to either interact with he and H while they watch one, or to get my own work done while not feeling like I'm abandoning them to electronic media that could warp them.

I remember when I first saw that the Baby Einstein DVD's were marketed to infants from birth forward (depending on subject) I felt a little bit vindicated that it was a product line that definitely targeted the educated crowd, yet was still bucking the system that said "ZERO TV until 2 years of age!"

Like anything in parenting, there is such a broad spectrum of what 'tv time' means. Do you sit your baby in the Bumbo in front of Goodfellas? Hopefully not. But what harm can some Sesame Street or other pre-school/educational TV do so that mama can get dinner on the table?

As I was typing the above two paragraphs, I clicked over to the Baby Einstein link and saw that they've been addressing this very topic. In fact, a Harvard study on the topic of infant television was recently conducted and found, in part, that it's not harmful for infants to view TV but that content does matter.

And because you can't get a post without a little bit of snark...I love that they're not movies, they're 'Electronic Board Books' which, when said with a snotty British accent while telling other parents what my kids 'watch/read' makes me feel really superior...and I like it.

Please note that I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Baby Einstein and received a World Animal Adventure DVD to facilitate my candid review.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Daniel X: Watch the Skies

For those of you who have boys who loved The Dangerous Days of Daniel X, the neXt installment, Daniel X: Watch the Skies, is now available! James Patterson, with Ned Rust, has once again created a story that will be engaging for boys and girls alike. The father of a young boy himself, Patterson, founder of 'ReadKiddoRead' wanted to create a series that would help fill the need for literature that makes reading fun for boys. Mission: Accomplished.

Daniel is an alien hunter whose family was killed, and his parents left behind for him 'The List' of aliens on planet earth that must be eradicated. The books follow his adventures in pursuing them and taking them out, while mixing in everyday boy dilemmas about friends, girls and life in general. Daniel X has powers that allow him to conjure people and things, which helps him defeat the aliens along the way.

As the list gets shorter, the higher-ranked aliens are harder and harder to kill, which means he's at more risk of getting killed himself. The aliens methods are creative, and the character names (the nasty landlord is Mr. Gout) will make the adults that read it have a little giggle.

One thing I like about this series so far is that the chapters are really short, so if a parent wanted to find a chapter book to read to a child that was maybe 10+ years old, they'd be able to read a couple of chapters a night. As with most books you're going to read aloud to your child, I'd recommend reading it first to see if they're up for the gore factor, but overall, it's aimed at this age group so I'd feel comfortable reading it to my kids at that age.

While it's definitely a simplistic adult read, I appreciate that it's not too juvenile in that Patterson still uses words that they'd have to occasionally look up and has some complex sentences so that the kids reading the books would be challenged and also empowered to keep reading higher and higher level books.

"Daniel" also maintains a blog, if your kids just keep wanting more...right now, he's promoting the sci-fi thriller District 9.

I have a 12 year-old nephew who will be getting both Daniel X books, and I'm sure he'll love them; Good Morning America recently rated it America's best book for boys!

*I received a copy of Daniel X: Watch the Skies from Mother-Talk in order that I could review it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Automoblox Minis Design System

Do you have a hard time finding the right toy for everyone when the plethora of holidays, birthday parties and other gift-giving occasions arrive? Sure, there are age guidelines on the box, but they're not always easy to find, and even if a toy is geared for 3+, would a 6 year-old like it? I first heard of ebeanstalk, a website dedicated to selecting good, safe baby toys, when my sister-in-law sent two gifts in a row to H and Charlie from it. The presents were a hit, and also came with a little card explaining what each toy did to aid in development (i.e. sensory stimulation, fine or gross motor development).

I was intrigued when I got the first email from them saying that they need help from moms like me to pick the toys. I already knew that I liked their site content and was excited to be part of their test panel.

The toy they sent is called Automoblox Minis 3-pack (T9, S9 and C9) from Manhattan Toy, who makes great developmental toys. Packaged in a sleek rectangular box, you slide out the inner portion and I found my first positive: no plastic twine encasing every inch of the toy making it a nightmare for parents in the opening process.

The automoblox are wooden cars that are made to be interchangeable, so that three cars can be made into several different ones by simply pulling them apart (they're hooked together by two color coded male/female plugs). For instance, H's set came with a red, green and blue car. Each of them came apart into 2-3 pieces plus the tires and plastic bubble, which looks like the top of a car, are interchangeable and color-coded as well. H is just at the age where color identification is important, and he was able to see the 'right' way to put the cars back together because all the plugs, tops and tires matched. (The set also comes with four black tires)

This toy is marked for 3+, and I felt like it was a really appropriate guideline. The tires come off easily, which is great because it wasn't frustrating for him to pull any of the pieces apart, but they also don't come off so easily that it falls apart as you're rolling it across the carpet. For this reason, though, it's a toy that will be played with out of reach from my 14 month-old. There is a choking hazard warning on the box for small parts.

There were no weird plastic-y smells, and the wooden bodies had some fun details such as drilled out holes where the head and tail-lights will be. The body is made of German beech wood that's triple coated in a non-toxic lacquer so even though your pre-school may be beyond sticking things in their mouths it's just as important that their toys be toxin-free.

The set we were sent can be found for just under $30, and I would absolutely spend the money on it as a gift for Christmas or a birthday. H was occupied for THREE HOURS while Charlie napped...he is a pretty good kid when it comes to entertaining himself, but these three cars kept him busy the whole time! There are also larger toys that come in a single pack. At the very least, we'll be getting the other mini sets (the m9, X9-X and A9-S) so that there are more parts to interchange with.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gather 'Round!

It seems like every time I turn around, I'm getting another email to join a social networking site. So far, I've briefly had, but never used and later cancelled, a mySpace account, am obsessed with maintaining a facebook profile and all the fun that goes with it, and tweet occasionally.

When I got the notice from MomCentral about a new site called, I was wondering what was different about it. I'm not big on have 1,000 different sites to maintain, but I was intrigued by this one.

My main focus in using Facebook has been to reconnect with friends from the past, and keeping up with what they're doing now. But what if you want to start looking for others who share your interests, views, challenges and dilemmas? Sure, there's, but that's all about getting together in person. What if you just want a quick message board, or ways to chat with people all over the country? Trying to go green on a budget and need cleaning solutions? Want a quick recipe, or ways to cope with your crazy toddler while cloth diapering your infant? How about discussing the newest in thriller fiction, or terrace gardening? has created a vibrant and diverse social networking community where you can meet some amazing people who are, you guessed it, gathered together around shared interests and unique passions. Gather hosts thousands upon thousands of groups and conversations on topics ranging from how to cope with your rambunctious toddler to creating a thriving organic garden; from books that you’ll want to stay awake all night reading to the latest pilates moves; and from cooking without recipes to taking the challenge of creating movie reviews in Haiku (tougher than you’d think!).

Does this still sound like it might be something you've already got an account with? Well, here comes the difference...wait for it...

On Gather you earn points for the content you contribute to the site, which can be redeemed for gift cards to stores like Home Depot, Gap, and Target, and even for PayPal cash. In an effort to encourage a free-flow of ideas, the more recipes, tips, stories and advice you share with others in the community, the more points you earn. Now that’s a great incentive!

*I wrote this review while participating in a blog and giveaway campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Gather. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Cross-posted at Sexandtheknitty

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
So far, there are a couple of reasons I really like Smashed. First, she's exactly my age, so when she's talking about things that happend in highschool, etc, it's kind of fun to see the social parallels, but secondly,she's from New England. I'm more than a little obsessed with all things New England since I'm a transplant. (I've watched The Departed and the Dennis Lehane movies more times that I can count). Her bio says she grew up in the 'suburbs of Boston', but when she's talking about a girl who goes to her regional high school andsays "Billie lives in the bordering town of Clinton..." I gasped in excitement, because that's just up the road!

It's a bio that I'm hopingdoesn't turn out to be bogus like that of James Frey.

I wanted to read it before sending it off to my 15 year-old niece as a'cautionary tale' (yep, I'm *that* aunt) and have found that it's really good, frank, and I think that most parents would benefit from reading it even if your kids aren't there yet.

Even though the 'times are different' it hasn't been all THAT long since I was in high school, but I feel like I've forgotten a lot of the nuance. Oh yeah, and I never drank in high school.

The above was written when I was only about a third into the book...I have to say it went downhill from there. She was either grossly exaggerating her drinking in parts, or in fierce denial in others because she'd talk about slugging drink after vodka-filled drink for hours on end on a regular basis, while maintaining a certain level of function; but at others would say things about how 'some' people could tolerate 3 long island iced teas while she was blasted after just two.

I also felt like she never, really, admitted that she had a problem. Saying instead that she didn't have a "genetically based reaction to alcohol that addiction counselors call 'a disease'" or "I drank for the explicit purpose of getting drunk, getting brave, or medicating my moods."

Even though the book is aimed at being a cautionary tale for teen-age alcohol abuse, it's more a cautionary tale for not owning your alcoholism. She was/is an alcoholic. Period. I'm disappointed that she never admitted that. She only says that she stopped drinking because her husband enabled her to feel in a way that she formerly couldn't without's alcoholism.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

There's a Moon in my Room!

After one too many nights of a pre-schooler in my bed, I was desperate to find a reward that would make him stay in the bed in that one room in the house otherwise known as his bedroom. When I was sitting for a friend, her son had this nightlight in his room and I asked him about it. He was very eager to show me all the things it could do by remote control. Yep. This nightlight is the size of an average wall clock and can either be turned on to a full moon, or through each of the phases. I really like it so far, and lo and behold, the child has slept in his own bed for two nights in a row! A great feature is that it turns off automatically after a couple of hours so that batteries will last longer. I just let H keep the remote on his headboard, and he's come to get me once in the night to help him turn it back on, but at least it's not on all night...

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Family Friendly's

I remember when we first moved to New England and someone was talking about a frenzy...everywhere I went people were talking about a new flavor of frenzy and I didn't get it, so finally I spoke up. Turns out, it was Friend-z which is one of the signature items at the iconic New England chain Friendly's.

For anyone not from here, it's kind of a mix of Red Robin and Dairy Queen; the Friend-z being the same idea as a blizzard. Once I started going, it's become a favorite for my kids. The options for families are pretty extensive, and the kids meals include an ice cream treat at the end, that kids get to pick themselves and they go way beyond the plain hot fudge sundae. When we went last week, H chose the Monster Mash Sundae which is carefully decorated to look like a monster head. In addition to having a lot of choice, the cost is really reasonable. I usually get one meal for both kids to share with an extra side of apple sauce, then I did the 'create your own for 9.99' so we got out spending just over $20 for three people, including tip!

At one point they were featuring "Sprinkle Vision" which were 3.d glasses that the kids could wear to identify codes on the menu and paper place setting that they could then enter at the website when they got home.

On Saturday, June 6th, they're having a free ice cream day so stop in to Friendly's for a fun family day!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Skinny Cow...Moooovelous!

I love ice cream. No, really. I loooooooove ice cream. One year I gave it up for Lent, and I struggled with whether or not Jesus' sacrifice was comparable. (Oooooh, I can hear my Mom's disapproval from over 3,000 miles away!)

Anytime a healthy (read: less unhealthy) ice cream treat comes on the market, I'm all over it; Double-Churned, Slow-Churned, Fro-Yo, I was even subjected to Ice Milk by my parents when I was in high school.

I was offered the chance to taste test Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches by MomCentral, and after some arm-twisting, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Okay, fine, I couldn't sign up fast enough!

I had already tried the chocolate version at a friend's house, so thought I'd get a package of Vanilla and a package of the chocolate-filled at the store. Little did I know there would be so many choices! I settled on a package of mint-filled and a package of chocolate/peanut-butter; both of which had the chocolate cookies outside. I was also tempted by the Cookies and Cream (my true fall-back flavor) and Strawberry Shortcake which have a vanilla cookie and strawberry ice cream...yum!

My family will concur that they were both good, but we all liked the mint better. I don't know that I'd get the peanut butter again, because I've tried the others and liked them more, but if I was offered a pb Skinny Cow, you would certainly not find me turning it down!

I was pleasantly surprised at how filling they were. Ringing in at just 140 calories for most, 150 for some (2 Weight Watchers points; excepting Chocolate Peanut-Butter and Cookies & Cream, which are 3) they are a sensible choice that is also fulfilling flavor-wise. I get discouraged with 'diet' foods that are low-calorie because they're only one bite's worth of doesn't help much when you eat four or five of them! These were definitely satisfying with only one, and I would most likely have felt sick with two.

While they are on the spendy side (mine were about $5.50 at Stop-n-Shop), since you'll be eating an actual serving each time, they're actually cheaper in the long run. Mine have been in the freezer for over a week with all three of us around to eat them. When you can only grab a certain amount instead of scooping to your heart's desire, I'm far more likely to eat what I'm supposed to and be done with it.
I remember last summer when we got the Good Humor variety pack from BJ's and there were several nights that we'd have an ice cream sandwich and a cone, or another treat. I feel like the Skinny Cow treats are just bigger and more filling.

The Mint, Vanilla and Chocolate-Vanilla Combo are all Best Life approved treats.

One thing I don't like is the after-taste of artificial sweetners in my post-dinner (or anytime of day, really) sweet. I love Diet Coke and really don't drink any regular soda, but something about the taste of NutraSweet in ice cream, yogurt or any other food is just not good to me. For those who like the sugar-substitute option, they do offer the Vanilla in a no sugar added version, using Splenda.

The Skinny Cow website has a lot of information, including a bunch of stuff for scrap-bookers. I'm not sure of the connection, but there are scrap-tips and some other fun things.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Salem Falls

Salem Falls Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book. I've read several Jodi Picoult books, and my favorites have been Nineteen Minutes, Salem Falls, Harvesting the Heart and My Sister's Keeper.

I had read Nineteen Minutes as my first intro to Ms. Picoult, so was excited to see the return (or origination of) Jordan McCafferty and Selena.

In this book Jack is a Columbia educated History PhD who was teaching and coaching soccer at an all-girls prep school when he's falsely accused of having a sexual relationship with one of his players after her father finds a diary full of sexually explicit entries featuring Jack, and a package of birth control pills. Excited by the idea that they could be true, she quickly falls into the role of victim, and it's too late to turn back.

The book opens as Jack is released from his eight-month jail sentence and vows to start over again. When he reaches the sleepy town of Salem Falls, things fall into place for him, and he tried to do everything right, including notifying the Detective of his residence in accordance with his obligation to report as a sex offender.

From there, word spreads and a modern-day witch hunt ensues. Throw four teen-aged Wiccan girls, and the half-truths, mis-representations and false accusations build. It was really interesting to me to see how easily a false allegation can get out of control, but I thought she also did a very good job of not minimalizing the trauma or rape, or of making it sound like there were a large percentage of allegations that ended up being false.


There was one relationship dynamic which was really not addressed that I picked up on right away (between Gilly and her father, Pharmaceutical giant Amos Duncan). I don't know if it's because of my former job, or if there was just some really obvious foreshadowing, but I was a little disappointed that the "could be a relative" DNA issue wasn't picked up on by the defense attorney, the DA's office or any of the law enforcement. I know that in that line of work, we're all cynical enough to explore that angle if things don't fit. I don't like including spoilers in my review, but I had to include this because I kept waiting for that to be the answer of the missing DNA link, and it never happened. The "dynamic" (Read: ABUSE) isn't out-right identified until the last line of the book, so all you cheaters who like to read the last page or last chapter first, you'll already know.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Toys for your Tots

If you've ever wandered up and down, up and down, and up and down the toy aisles again at Target or other department stores, you know what I mean when I talk about the agony that is selection. Considering everything from age-approriateness (is 3+ really okay for a 2 year old, or too boring for a 5 year old?) to whether or not it will foster development, it's a jungle out there

There are tons of books and websites out there to help you on your way, but the most foolproof ones I've found are The Baby Gizmo (which I've posted about before) and Ebeanstalk.

Ebeanstalk is dedicated to a baby's development. And we select the best baby toys matched to a baby's development. To see great information on how a baby grows up, check out the info on our baby toys page.

Because I've got a slew of showers, new babies and, of course, C's first birthday, I thought I'd post some pointers found on their site.

Picking toys for a baby is not as simple as it sounds. Here are some quick baby facts:

  • Toys for a newborn baby: A newborn baby is briefly looking at objects and attempting to imitate facial expressions. They can follow objects with their eyes and usually quiet down, when they are picked up.

  • Toys for a three month old: They will enjoy ‘frolic play', reaching for objects and will repeat enjoyable activities. Believe it or not, they will respond to ‘no' (about half the time) and will start babbling.

  • Toys for a six month old: They'll search for hidden objects (object permanence). They'll reach for themselves in the mirror, play peekaboo, crumple paper, roll from their stomach to their back and even respond to their name.

  • Toys for a nine month old: They are pushing toy cars, playing pat-a-cake and looking for hidden sounds. The baby toys they are playing with are also getting more fun.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Second Helpings

Second Helpings Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Again, Ms Darling delivers witty sarcasm spliced with the naivete of a teen-ager. Her angst-filled journal entries are so fun to read because she's not depressing, just hillarious, self-depricating and not afraid to point out what's wrong with "Skanky and Skankier" and the rest of the gang in the Honors class at Pineville High. I'll be taking a little break to finish Harvesting the Heart, but then it's right on to #3. This time, I made sure I had all of them from the library before starting so I could speed right through. Another one day read.

And Marcus? Again, like Stephanie Meyers' Edward, is it wrong to be in lurve with an 18 year-old? Probably.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Union High, Union High, Alma Mater of Mine

This winter, I participated in the MomCentral blog tour promoting awareness of the Kellogg' Frosted Flakes program Earn Your Stripes, which has a sub-section called Plant a Seed intended to help with field renovations across America. People were asked to submit a field in their community that needed renovation in order that the kids and community members in general could benefit from all that organized sports and fitness in general have to offer.

I was ecstatic when I saw that my High School's field (listed under Union High School-Old Field, Union, OR) had made the final cut and is now a contender for the final 30 that will be renovated! You can vote once a day, every single day until May 31st. Vote, and vote often! If a field in your community has not been selected, I would love for you to put your support toward my hometown.
From Fartleks to Burpies and everything in between, that track and field have helped many a student athlete while away the hours in a positive way. In a community where over 90% of the youth are involved in after-school athletics throughout the course of the year, it's easy to see why a well-maintained field is so important.

The track that you see in the picture is the old cinder track that was our one and only during my heyday at UHS. After I graduated, they wrote grant after grant and worked to have a regulation track (the cinder track is not regulation) and football field built down the road from the school.

The hope is to have the track at the old field removed so that the entire space can be returned to it's previous stat, irrigated and utilized as a large field for Little League and other activities. The town's Little League space is currently at the local Stock Show grounds, which is also used for parking and the annual carnival, so is not ideal.

I have so many great memories of my time at UHS, and would love to see the field get renovated so that the next generations can benefit from a safe place to be active and engaged after-school and during the summer months. Please visit the Frosted Flakes Plant a Seed website and cast your vote every day from now until May 31st!

Friday, May 1, 2009


KaBOOM is an online resource that aims to help locate playspaces in your area. Right now, they're teaming up with MomCentral with the goal of adding 100,000 playspaces in 100 days. I was really pleased when I got the email from MomCentral that they'd teamed up because I remember when I had lived here for about six months, I happened upon the site and found that the listings in my area were pretty limited.

This is just another example of it taking a village...if we all do our part and enter the playspaces we use, other moms and their kids will benefit from our 'expertise' and get outside with their kids as well! After a looooooooooong winter moms and kids are itching to get outdoors and shake their sillies out.

We hope you can help by adding the playspaces you love!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ragu Old World Style's New Flavors!

Yesterday I was at the grocery store and picked up two jars of the new Ragu Old World Style sauces in Sweet Tomato Basil and Margherita courtesy of MomCentral. One of the staples we always have in our house is jarred pasta sauce, along with crushed and diced or stewed tomatoes and garlic. I love to make home-made pizza and have found that the pizza sauces (except one brand that I buy from Roche Bros.) are too rich, so use pasta sauce instead.

I used the Margherita sauce on home-made pizza dough and then covered it in Mozzarella cheese and the added some other veggies to help beef up the nutrition. If you're stuck on what to make, the Ragu site also has recipes for the new sauces, including an upside down deep dish pizza which I was originally going to make but forgot to thaw the ground beef. C'est la vie, right?

The sauce was flavorful, and didn't have that weird aftertaste that some jarred sauces can. The best part is that it's got a full serving of vegetables per half-cup of sauce. Lord knows I'm always looking for ways to make H eat more greens! (or reds in this case).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Evenflo Comfort Select Dual Electric Breast Pump

When I had H, I was working in a very full-time job. I was lucky to be in the position that my husband would have a month off after a couple days of my parents graciously filling the parenting gap so that my first days back to work were not compounded my a baby in daycare.

In addition to my regular work bag, I had slung over my shoulder yet another testament to my new found status of mother; my breast pump. At the time, I was working for the State of Oregon, and they're required to provide a lactation room, and allow for time to pump. But even more important was that I was the last in a string of co-workers (seven of us at once!) to have a baby, so the room was not just a drab little cubie, but an old office that had a rocking chair, magazines, artwork and a mini-fridge with ample space for us to all store our daily goods. (though it wasn't long before I was using the time to return phone calls...

At that time, I had the Medela Pump In Style, which is a really great pump that my insurance paid for. Did you know that most insurance companies will cover the cost of a pump? Something every prospective mom should check into!

I sold that pump before moving East, and with C, I was given the Pump In Style Advanced backpack style pump, and used it when I went to BlogHer Boston in addition to a couple times here and there to build up a little cushion for when I went out (though I'm not at all averse to using formula if it means I get a break, so there wasn't pressure to produce mass quantities). I was staying home this time, and so it's just been all-around a much different breastfeeding experience.

I was given an Evenflo Comfort Select Dual Electric Breast Pump (which retails for $69.99 on Amazon) to test by MomCentral, so I'll be comparing and contrasting it to the Medela, which isn't entirely fair because the Medela is in a price point about $200 higher, but it's the one I have experience with.

I really liked the trim bag that the Evenflo comes in, which really looks like a soft-sided cooler about the size that you'd take a lunch to work in. It has soft bags that you place in the freezer overnight and then take with you to keep you milk chilled all day, which would allow for more milk to be carried than if it were rigid like the Medela. It is over all a much smaller product than Medela, including the fact that the Medela motor and other parts (aside from the cups and tubes themselves) are housed inside the carrying case.

I thought it was nice that the pump comes with nipple adapters for people with smaller breasts, so you don't have to purchase additional equipment if the original cups are too large. The carrying case has a little pouch in the front that holds the user's manual (which I almost didn't see and started to complain to my husband that "If I hadn't already used a pump, I wouldn't know what these parts are...blah, blah, blah..."; yeah, the manual's right there). If I were using this pump full-time, I'd slip a couple of the Medela bags that you can use in the microwave to sanitize the pump parts. I really liked those for an office environment because I didn't have to wait all day to really clean my pump, and that way it was ready for the next use without worry of contamination.

The nipple on the two bottles that are included are shaped a lot more like a mother's would be, so it seems more user friendly for the baby. C took it just fine, though at almost 11 months old, I think his mouth is a little big and the nipples are more for smaller babies.

So, now for the drawbacks; this pump is loud. I think that I'd say it is about the same volume as a Kitchen-Aid mixer, but not as loud or grating as a coffee grinder or blender. The soft whoosh-whoosh of the Medela is what I'm used to, so I think the noise was amplified. Had I not had prior experience with a pump, I would most likely just think that's the way it was, but there would be no question to your co-workers when you were and were not pumping. Well, I guess that could be a positive, because if anyone ever walked in on you, you could use genuine indignation because there's no way they'd not have known you were 'busy'.

The only other drawback is that the only adjustment for the pump is the level of suction (low to high) not the frequency of suction. I found with the Medela that after the let-down fast speed, it was much more productive when I turned the speed way down, like to 1, and kept the suction level high; which seemed to closely mimic how my babies nursed.

With only two drawbacks, I'd have to say that overall (especially considering that this retails for well under $100) this is a great little double pump that has the option to be either cord or battery-powered (in your car in the parking garage, perhaps?) that can be used as either a single or double pump.

And now for the exciting news; You can win one yourself! I have an Evenflo Comfort Select Pump to give away to a reader that I will select at random. Please leave a comment stating why you'd love this pump to be yours and I'll enter all the comments into a hat and choose one lucky girl. If you have a funny or embarrassing breast-feeding story, I'll give you an extra entry; because everyone loves sharing personal anecdotes that could be publicly humiliating, right?

I ask that you please, please, please not enter yourself if you plan to get it only to turn around and sell it. I'd like for someone who genuinely needs it to win it. In addition to the pump, I have two 48-count boxes of Comfort Select disposable nursing pads. Depending on the number of entries, I may split them up for three prizes, two or just one grand prize.

If you'd like more information on breast-feeding, including mom-entered tips on breast-feeding and pumping, go to the MomCentral site; by adding a tip of your own you'll be entered for a chance to win one of three Evenflo Comfort Select pumps from MomCentral!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shower of Shame

Today, I busted out the bottle of x-14 that I'd been given to test by MomCentral about a week ago. My shower is in such a state that I am embarassed to post these pictures. My mother will s#&* a brick when she sees the hovel in which I've been cleansing my body.

Just a little background...without my glasses I can see about as well as an octegenarian with cataracts. So, I can shower and pretend that the building mildew isn't really there. Were it someone else's shower that I happened to peek into, I would chastise them in my head, wondering how someone who looks so clean could be getting in that state in a place of such utter filth.

To make matters worse, I have a fiberglass shower that has the pebbly bottom which has obtained tiny scratches from my abrasive cleaner so it's impossible to get all the way clean.

So there I was, standing in sports bra and undies (just like my mother before me) spraying the shower down prior to jumping in and giving it a good scrub. I read the instructions while I was spraying and noticed the phrase "no scrubbing"...okay, right. That's never true. Then I read on to learn that I merely had to spray on and leave until the stain disappeared and then wipe it off.

Sweet. I'm standing here waiting to take my shower, and it'll probably take like 20 minutes to make the amount of filth that I have to 'disappear.' I also noted that it may take heavy mildew stains two cleanings to get it all the way off.

Well, I must not be quite as filthy as I imagined because I turned around and thought my eyes were playing tricks on me...could it seriously be disappearing in less than a minute? Yes. Yes, it can.

While I have to say that the fumes were quite strong, I was willing to suffer damage to my lungs if I had to in order to get that shower clean. I'd tried gels with bleach and other harsh chemicals to no avail, so I was ready and had the vent fan going. Absolutely make sure it's well-ventilated and I'd even open a window to air it out. The fumes are the only drawback of this product.

I got the sponge wet and ran it down the shower walls and then turned on the shower and let it run in the shower getting on all three walls for about 30 seconds before re-wetting the sponge and wiping to make sure the chemicals were off the wall before jumping in for my shower.

You only have so much time before naps and quiet time end, after all.

I honestly cannot believe how quickly and easily it worked, and it lived up to it's claim of no scrubbing required.

Now, for the "Picture's Worth a Thousand Words" moment:

Shameful Before

(with flash)

The absolution of the after...with and without flash

Monday, April 13, 2009

Electrolux Goes Green!

When Kathy Lee announced that she'd be leaving Regis and Kathy Lee the nation mourned...until they started doing the interviews for her replacement. The minute I saw Kelly Ripa come on-screen I was in lurve. And so was my dad...but I digress. From the high-heeled sprint to openly talking about motherhood and it's joys and challenges, she is the icon of this American mother.

Have you seen the fun new commercials with Kelly for Electrolux? With all the diapers and kids' laundry I do, I've added to my dream home journal a front-loading washer and dryer. I have one in my apartment now, and don't know that I could ever go back to the old top-loader.

Now, Electrolux and Kelly have teamed up to introduce an eco-friendly front-load washer and dryer in the fun shade of “Kelly Green.” The new limited edition shade was inspired by the great outdoors Kelly herself, who is a self-proclaimed eco-Mom.

Kelly said “I love green… the color green and the act of living green. What better place to make a simple, every day difference than in the laundry room? Kelly Green is a gorgeous shade, and just by using the new Electrolux high-efficiency washer and dryer you can save energy and use less water. How green is that?”

Just in time for Earth day, Electrolux kicks off its virtual flower garden campaign to drive awareness and raise funds for Global Green USA. Starting today, when you go to the Electrolux site and plant a virtual flower for a friend, Electrolux will donate $1 to Global Green USA to support their healthy green schools initiatives across America. Everyone who logs on to the site and plants a virtual flower will be automatically entered for a chance to win a new eco-friendly Kelly Green front-load washer and dryer!
Additionally, Mom Central will be giving away one eco-friendly “Kelly Green” washer and dryer set to a member of our community! To enter, simply go to MomCenral and (1) tell us which flower you planted on the Electrolux site and (2) share your own “laundry tips” for saving time and energy. Mom Central will pick one lucky winner in a random drawing from all entries received!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Household Guide to Dying:A Novel About Life

I was given an advance copy of The Household Guide to Dying: A Novel About Life by Debra Adelaide in order to participate in the Mother Talk review of it.

When I was reading the first couple of pages I thought "Oh's another Martha Quest!" I only say that because of the chickens scratching in the dirt, and I thought in the beginning that Adelaide was going to be like Lessing, who was so wordy and gave so much detail that the joy of reading that is creating the setting and characters in your mind was squashed.

I quickly realized that I was wrong. Wrong. Wrong. While there are several passages that are a bit cryptic, it's actually in order to make way for a couple of the twists you're not expecting. Adelaide creates the world of Delia, a household advice columnist, whose snarky and sometimes off-topic responses have made her an Australian icon. Basing her world on the work of Mrs. Beeton, an actual English-woman from the 1800's who wrote Mrs. Beeton's Guide to Household Management beginning at the ripe old age of 21, which offered advice on everything from how to deal with servant's pay to caring for a sick child.

Due to the popularity of her column, Delia became famous for her own series of Household Guide books; The Household Guide to Home Maintenance, The Household Guide to the Kitchen, The Household Guide to the Garden and The Household Guide to the Laundry. Pushing the idea the furthest possible, and in order to provide some catharsis for herself upon making the decision to cease unsuccessful chemotherapy treatments, her publisher agreed to The Household Guide to Dying which would provide readers with advice for everything from selecting a coffin (she refused to call it a casket) to making meals ahead to freeze for the family you'd leave behind (if you were a mother as was she).

The sections of the book where she talks about the laundry were so tantalizing that I found myself imagining how I'd have my laundry room in the home that my husband promises me we'll someday own. It was striking to me how the attitude in other countries is so different regarding the laundry. I have a friend from Australia and I know that we're still shocked that she doesn't own a clothes dryer; so I laughed out loud when I read the following passage regarding the code of the clothesline:

And then, in the suburbs, washing left on the line overnight indicated a serious lapse in domestic care. Probably outright immorality: where was that woman? Off in the ladies' lounge having a shandy, no doubt. It was also a clear invitation to thieves and perverts to jump over your fence and steal your lace bras or frilly underpants should you be silly and vain enough to own them.

Finally, you never used dryers. These were for lazy and wasteful people, of those unfortunates who had to live in apartments? In the suburbs, where the sun was generous and a fresh breeze was free, it was a crime not to hang your washing out.

One reviewer called her Household Guide to the Laundry "laundry porn" and I found myself very disappointed that I'd never get to read the full texts of the tomes to which Delia so often referred. It was a little titilating to read about all the mundane tasks of maintaining your home in such a fresh way, and in a silly way, it was just what I needed to read following my three year-old outburst to my husband a few days ago during which I railed about the fact that I didn't get a gold star by my name at the end of the day; I was gifted only with more exhaustion...good times.
The Household Guide is so much more than meets the eye. Taking a journey with Delia through her life as a teen mother who tries to follow the wandering musician of a circus family father of her unborn child to a small town in Northern Australia to her life as a work from home mother of two married to a caring and wonderful landscaper, this book has surprising depth and also a lot of humor.
Another thing that struck me was that as she talked about the way she manages her house, it would take the mention of an iPod or MySpace to remind me that this was a 21st century wife, mother and successful writer, just bringing home that it is quite possible to immerse yourself in the running of your home without having to relegate yourself to historical relic.

When asked how she chose the topic Adelaide replied "Authors will often say the reverse, that the idea or the topic or the entire novel chooses them. In my case, I'm not sure that I did choose to write this novel, but I do remember setting myself a challenge to write about dying in a way that would be original and, in particular, comical. Fiction is – in part, anyway – the place to confront things and explore ideas that in your own life you are too timid to do. Dying tends to confound most of us, frighten us, make us literally lost for words. We have a lot of trouble finding the right things to say and do when we're required to cope with death. In The Household Guide to Dying, I used the character of Delia as a bold and sometimes confronting voice who is trying to make the idea of dying more palatable to those around her, as well as herself struggling to find the right way to express a process that is profound and universal. Her way is via humour, which for her sometimes works, and sometimes not. And sometimes, despite all her efforts, the words literally evade her."

Because I get a little 'connected' with my characters (aka, I have a hard time accepting that SJP is not really Carrie Bradshaw), I googled Mrs. Beeton and was excited to learn that she was real, and so is her Household Guide. I then got even more excited when they made a reference to a "Delia" (Delia Smith) who is an iconic chef in England. She is a modern figure who announced her TV retirement in 2003 and then filmed a 6 part mini-series in 2008, which aired on BBC. "The Delia Effect" is in reference to the fact that she caused such things as a 10% surge in egg sales after her segment on omelettes and several other overnight sell-outs or "a run on previously poor-selling product as a result of a high-profile recommendation." She also wrote a bestseller How To Cheat at Cooking. But alas, it was just a coincidence of the name, as Adelaide reports that no characters were based on true figures.

While the title may seem like a real Debbie Downer, it is ultimately a novel about life; an examination by a wife, mother and woman who is finally able to take the time to tie up her loose ends and think about the mark she'll leave on those she leaves behind.

You will read this book, if for no other reason than to find out what I mean when I say these two words; blood sausage.

Debra Adelaide is the author of two other novels, The Hotel Albatross and Serpent Dust, and the editor of four themed collections of fiction and memoirs, the latest of which is Acts of Dog. She has worked as a researcher, editor and book reviewer, and has a PhD from the University of Sydney. She is now a senior lecturer in creative writing at the University of Technology, Sydney.
*Cross-posted at Sex and the Knitty.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel by Jamie Ford

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet just after finishing The Piano Teacher, both of which were debut novels written about the time period of WWII, but from opposite sides of the Ocean. The storyline of this novel is so compelling and it was just so refreshing to be reminded of the purity and innocence of love; even during a time of such injustice. The characters came to life for me, and the pages practically turned themselves. The speed of the read cannot be mistaken for lack of depth. Overall, a very good book.

View all my reviews.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Piano Teacher

Since re-discovering the library, I can't seem to read enough these days. I've always been a voracious reader, but lately it's even moreso. Flying through the Twilight series, engrossed in the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell about a chief Medical Examiner in Virginia to sate my morbid curiosities (though I question the sanity in doing that, as I often have to put it down and read something else late at night if I've already checked the locks on the windows and doors more than twice, looked in closets and even under my bed....), or more instructional tomes like Knitting Circles Around Socks I've reinforced that books will always be an intrinsic part of my life; continually connecting with characters on paper that you wish you knew in real life.

I had read reviews for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford and The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee in a magazine and put them in my request queue at the library right away. The Piano Teacher came almost immediately and it was amazing! It just came out last month so run, don't walk, to your local library and check out a copy.

Not often does a book leave such a lasting impression. Set in World War II Hong Kong, and then a decade later, the stories of the women who are the lovers of Will Truesdale, a British man in Hong Kong, unfold on the pages with rich language that isn't wordy for wordy's sake and tell of two women whose lives are very different, but have Will as their center.

What struck me the most was that the in the second 'life' he is only a decade older yet the war has so changed him, making him a much older man. Throughout, I just kept thinking about our current situation and how we, as citizens of the US, are often so insulated from the everyday grisly details of war. Yes, we have the news media now but I imagine they still can't do justice to the in-person experience; the sights, smells and tastes of the depictions in the book are so vivid, that it makes you again feel at the least, fortunate, to live where we do if only geographically.

I loved this book, and would read it again if only to see what pieces I may have missed in the rich tapestry that she wove throughout to lead you to the final scenes. I won't include any more details because I wouldn't want to spoil any surprises.

*Cross-posted at Sex and the Knitty

Friday, March 20, 2009

Neo to Go!

I was asked by MomCentral and Neosporin to try out NEOSPORIN® + Pain Relief Ointment, NEOSPORIN® + Pain Relief Cream, and the newly available NEOSPORIN® NEO TO GO!® First Aid Antiseptic/Pain Relieving Spray. I received full-sized testers of all three on the very day that it was warm enough to hit the parks...perfect timing!

I popped the Neo to Go! in my diaper bag, after doing a couple test squirts on my ring finger, which has recently decided to be sensitive to my wedding year itch? It sprays on easily and isn't greasy.

That day, while reaching for the plastic wrap from the cupboard, I sliced my palm on the corner of the serrated cutting edge. Ouch! I remembered that I'd been given samples of the new formulas that contain pain relief, and dabbed on some of the cream formula before putting a band-aid over my tender little paw. It really did help, and I liked that it wasn't greasy. However, keeping a band-aid on your palm is just not meant to happen, so I ended up using the cream formula several times a day for the next couple of days like a lotion and my cut healed really hindsight, I should have taken some pictures.

Later that night (seriously, was the receipt of this gift a portend for danger?) Henry was putting on his monkey back-pack...okay, it's a harness...when he pinched his naked tummy in the plastic clasp. I thought it was just a pinch, but he'd actually torn the skin of his little fish-belly, so I tried out the ointment this time. It may have been psychological, or just the calming effects that are often imbued with a crayon-shaped band-aid, but when I asked him about ten minutes later if it felt better, he had to be reminded what he should be feeling better about.

I used the ointment in conjunction with hydrocortisone for the next couple days on my ring finger and the rash cleared up...until I slipped my ring back on. Hmmm...maybe it's just my body's way of asking for that upgrade.
Because the majority of cuts, scrapes and other child-hood wounds are treated in order to soothe and relieve pain, I'm glad that I'll be armed with the Neo to Go for the playgrounds this summer...I just hope I don't have to use them too often.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Baby Einstein World Music

If you're not familiar with Baby Einstein, it's a company with a huge line of dvd's, cd's, books and other toys that are designed to be engaging for children from the time of their birth forward.

Prior to having Charlie, I'd only seen a Baby Einstein video a couple of times, and I have to admit; I was a little bored, so that was that. Well, of course I was...they are not aimed at entertaining 26 year-old women! Poor Henry. However, when I was offered the anniversary-edition of Baby Mozart by Baby Einstein and Mom Central, I decided it was a good time to try again with an open mind.

As I had mentioned in my review of that DVD, Henry wasn't as excited about it as he would, say, The Incredibles, but I looked over and found Charlie absolutely enthralled. As he was the target audience, I felt like it was a success.

Since receiving Baby Mozart and the Baby Einstein lullaby CD in that blog tour, I've purchased several other DVDs including Baby Beethoven and Baby Wordsworth (featuring Marley Matlin). All Charlie has to see is the opening scene of the caterpillar* bopping across the screen and he's bright-eyed and smiling, no matter how upset he had been before..separation anxiety has made leaving him for the simplest of tasks (rinsing diapers?!) full of tears.

The images are engaging without being overstimulating, and I feel like I can hold him and watch it together, or there are times that I'm able to help Henry with something, or even cook dinner. While I know that the purpose is to facilitate parent-child interaction, the reality is that it's just as invaluable to have something that allows you to complete basic household tasks without a melt-down, while you still feel like you're letting them watch something that's not detrimental.

In fact, rumor has it that the Easter Bunny will be delivering a copy of the Baby's First Signs DVD to Charlie's basket in a couple weeks.

The new World Music DVD arrived in my mailbox at the perfect time. I was just heading up the stairs to make dinner for my family along with my friend and her two boys as her husband was out of town. The four kids range in age from 9 months to 5.5 years and all four of them were absolutely silent. This just does not usually happen; four boys in one room generally leads to a volume level that would rival a battle-zone.

I think that what made this one even better than the others is that it used a lot of live-action images with the music so that you could get glimpses of the culture that went along with the music you're hearing. Music has always been a big part of my life, and I whole-heartedly agree with Susan McClain's (VP and GM of The Baby Einstein Company) statement that "From Africa to Australia, music is a common thread that ties us all together. With this new line, our goal is to begin a lifelong appreciation for the world."

Today, the second part of our gift from Baby Einstein came in the mail; the World Music CD. As I put Charlie in his crib tonight, I replaced his current selection of World Traveler; Hawaiian Breeze with the World Music CD and he started smiling when he heard the opening notes...well, he could have been laughing at my over-animated dancing, but I'm pretty sure he recognized the music as he's seen the DVD a couple times now.

I am really happy with the whole line of Baby Einstein so far and will continue to build our library.
*I was searching YouTube for a clip of the caterpillar and came across a mom who'd made a Baby Einstein caterpillar cake...guess I know what Charlie's first birthday will bring!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Norton Online

While I was working for the State, we had an annual conferece on Child Abuse and one of the most fascinating sessions was on Internet Predators. There are so many tricks that are used that I came away each year with the conviction it's more important than ever to know what your kids are doing.

Norton Online Family has created a new way for parents to easily monitor what each child is doing online. MomCentral has partnered with them to afford us the chance to participate in a free sneak preview of Norton Online Family.

Not only is it user-friendly by having a one-time set-up that you customize with each family member (age, maturity level, etc), but it's simple to modify your chilren's profiles or preferences

It also helps clear up the "I didn't even go there, it just popped up" as the report only shows the sites that your kids intentionally visited, by eliminating things such as ads from websites. If you want to go even further you can select from over 40 topic categories that will be unable to be accessed from your home, monitoring of your kids on facebook and MySpace and a 'curfew' for their time on the computer.

The hard thing about the information age is that it seems like it'll be hard, as a parent, to balance giving your kids a sense of privacy and protecting them. Keeping a diary hidden under your mattress didn't present the same dangers that openly exposing your inner-self on line may. The same way that passing potentially incriminating photos back and forth for a 'party' scrap-book isn't like splashing them across the net for everyone from college recruiters to potential employers to find.

To try this invaluable tool for yourself, simply visit Norton. I hope you enjoy it and find that it makes your kids' ability to live their 'virtual' life something that you can not only endure, but encourage.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

No More Tears...50 Years!

Did you know that Johnson & Johnson has been giving tear-free baths for fifty years now?! From sterile bandages to Baby Powder they've been producing the things that improve our lives since the late 1800's. I was surprised, actually, at some of the brands that I didn't realize were under their umbrella; Neutrogena and Splenda being two of them.
I was excited to sign up when MomCentral offered the chance to try two new bath products from Johnson and Johnson in conjucntion with their celebration of a half-century of the No Tears trademark. JOHNSON'S® HEAD-TO-TOE® Foaming Wash and JOHNSON'S® Baby Bubble Bath & Wash arrived in the mail today, just in time for me to give C his first bubble bath...he loved it! The Foaming Wash is soap-free, dye-free, hypoallergenic and dermatologist tested, and is specially designed for newborns. This is great for the dry, dry, dry winter months! I like having a pump because, especially when they're tiny, I like being able to use only one hand to deal with the soap (by using your palm to pump and curving your fingers over to get the soap) and the other hand can be holding your baby the whole time. Until they can sit up really well, it's nice to be able to have that extra hand free.
H is always up for bubbles, so he didn't need any convincing. After lathering them up and rinsing off, it was time for the real fun.

Thinking about childhood bathtimes, I remember the frosted glass sliders being soaped down at 'the gas station' by my sister and I and crazy hairstyles created with the soapy water that made us look like Snorks. My mom wasn't too impressed with us liberally rubbing soap on the shower doors, but she also didn't make us stop because we were having so much fun. The game-ender was always when my mom's bar of Ivory soap fell in the water making all the suds disappear.
I was a teen-ager when my oldest sister had her first child, and we got to bathe Jess in the bathroom or kitchen sink using that yellow bottle of No Tears wash. As an adult, I bought the Johnson's lavender scented body oil and use it in the dry months on my skin after showering at night, and I currently have a bottle of their Soothing Naturals lotion in my gym bag.
There is a great video library on YouTube at the Johnson Baby Channel with 'expert advice and real-life solutions.' You not only get to watch videos, but you can submit videos of your own to share fun tips you've figured out regarding the 'care and keeping' of your little ones.
For a great product line: Here's to the next 50 years!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Green Works Wipes WORK!

I've been finding that I look more and more forward to the blog tours I do for MomCentral which provide me with 'samples' of something to test. This is for a couple of reasons, one of which is they always provide full size products, so I get to try it, love it, and use it again.
I was recently given a canister of Clorox Green Works wipes. I'd already reviewed some of their other cleaning products, which my own dear daddy went out and bought after seeing my review, and really liked them. In fact, Target recently had a two pack of the glass and surface cleaner on sale for less than $5, so you can bet your sweet bippy I snapped them up!
Since these wipes are advertised to clean multiple surfaces, I decided to put them to the test, using them on two of the most heavily used areas of my home; the stove-top and the outside of the toilet in H's bathroom (remember, he's potty training...)
I used a damp (hand-knit cotton) dishcloth to get the crumbs and chunks off the stove-top, but then use a wipe only (no spray of cleaner) and just two wipes completely cleaned the baked on spills from the stove-top, streaks from the oven door, grime off the handle and the spatters along the panel on the back as well as the microwave front. I was pretty impressed.
Then in the bathroom, I used a wipe in lieu of cleaner and a cloth on the sink and counter (this bathroom gets used for hand washing and H brushing his teeth; my sink on the other hand...yikes!) I used a second wipe to clean around the entire outside of the toilet bowl. job is so glamorous!
I was really pleased with the job that it did on both a black metal cook-top and white porcelain bathroom sink and toilet. The only downside I see is that there are just 30 wipes per container. However, you don't have to use very many to do a pretty decent job, and it's not priced to break the bank. Next, I'll be trying the toilet bowl cleaner!
Aside from the cleaning products, I like that the company putting it's money where it's mouth is, literally, through their "Green Heroes Grant Program." Five grants of $10,000 each will be awarded to eco-friendly community projects across the country.

Between January 15 and February 28, 2009, individuals can nominate eco-friendly community projects for a Green Heroes grant by submitting a photo and short essay about the project for consideration online at Each winner - or "Green Hero" - will receive a $10,000 grant to help their eco-friendly community projects grow and flourish!

Then, beginning on March 16 through April 10, 2009, the public will have the opportunity to vote online for their favorite eco-friendly community project. The final five Green Heroes will be announced on April 22 - just in time for Earth Day.

For more information about the Green Heroes Grant Program, including official contest rules and entry guidelines, log on to

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Plant a Seed and Watch It Grow

I was intrigued when I saw the title in my in-box...Frosted Flakes Plant-a-Seed. At first I thought...another tree-planting initiative...sigh. Not that they aren't extremely important; they're just not ground-breaking. (Okay, Okay, I know that in the most technical sense, they are ground-breaking, but you get my point.)

Then I read further. The Plant-a-Seed program aims to help boost America's children by rebuilding America's playing fields. In times of economic crisis, the first thing to go in education funding dollars always seem to be athletics and the arts which results in the same amount of hardship, if not as immediate, as when funding is cut for social services.

I remember a very passionate school-board meeting when I was in high school that revolved around the cutting of athletics from the budget completely. Where I grew up participation in sports was widespread. We had a four day school-week in part because the athlete to student population ratio was such that, in our small school, game-days resulted in the inability to meet the percentage of students present to 'count' as a school day. Thus, games on Fridays and Saturdays only were the compromise.

We had a scraggly football field surrounded by a pea gravel track that wasn't even regulation size. After I graduated, the football coach and several others organized fundraising of mammoth proportions in order to build a 'real' stadium and track.

One of the sports that I participated in was Cross-Country. If you looked at me then, or now, you would definitely not say "wow, she's a runner!" But that didn't matter. Because of the benefits (both physically, emotionally and socially) that I got from being a member of that team (a state-championship team, no less), I know that I'm a better, stronger person. For that reason, I was really excited about the Girls on the Run program that is a link from the Kellogg's site.

I have always felt that you can't down-play the importance of organized sports in building esteem, communication, and the ability to be a 'team player', something that even law enforcement officials recognize. Here in Worcester, the Police Department's Gang and Vice Unit was nominated for a 2007 Project Safe Neighborhood Award after their boxing program has proven to be successful in engaging at-risk youth.

Encouraging kids to work hard, eat right, believe in themselves and to have at least 60 minutes of active play everyday will help them to 'earn their stripes.' The field renovation initiative will make over approximately 50 fields across the United States to help provide better places for families to stay active. So, if you know of a field you want to nominate that is in need of repair, would like to help support the repair of a field or if you know of someone who has a passion for athletics and might know of one, forward them this link and get those seeds planted!

(Watch for it on the Superbowl!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stop N Shop's Healthy Ideas

From Meatless Mondays (or Soy Sundays, whichever day my meal-planning falls on) to cutting out ground meat, me and mine have been making an effort to get more nutritional value from each meal I make. It has been such a fun endeavor to research, plan and shop for meals that will satisfy the nutritional pyramid, but are also really good. No matter how health conscious I become, if what I'm eating doesn't taste good, I won't be able to continue for any length of time.

The Weight Watchers Pure Comfort cookbook has been a staple in my repertoire, and I was excited to see that Stop n Shop, which is conveniently located about 2 miles from my house, has added an online resource called Healthy Ideas which provides recipe makeovers of all your family's favorites, using the FDA and USDA guidelines. The recipes provided on the website range from "Holiday" to "Vegetarian" and everything in between.

In addition to the database of recipes, there are images of dishes featured that allow you to click on the various icons to see what ingredient they've swapped and what it saves you fat and calorie-wise. For example, making a classic lasagna with extra-lean ground turkey, no salt added tomato sauce and fat-free ricotta cheese is a great and tasty alternative to sausage or beef, full-fat cheese and otherwise sodium packed sauce.

Taking simple steps is what will allow people to 'walk the walk' of healthy living.