Thursday, September 29, 2011

Norwex Fall Cleaning Pack from Tasha Baldock: #Review and #Giveaway! (Closed)

I think I'm obsessed. :)

Yes I know, that's not exactly a news headline as I'm known for a few slightly neurotic obsessions (such as reading and re-reading my blog posts for grammar and flow prior to publishing. ;)

But to be obsessed with cleaning products? Surely I could find something less...mundane with which to preoccupy myself? Or perhaps not! I'll let you decide once I tell you a li'l more about Norwex, one of my latest & greatest brand discoveries!

Rewind a few weeks. If you were following me back then, you may remember a post I wrote about the Momstown KW Birthday Bash. Prior to this event, I'd heard of Norwex offhand but didn't really know what it was all about. Well, that certainly changed thanks to Tasha Baldock - a knowledgeable and enthusiastic Norwex consultant who presented at the bash. She convincingly demonstrated using raw chicken and a protein detection kit that you can clean AND sterilize, well, pretty much everything with a single cloth and a li'l water. That's it. How awesome is that?

So what is this little cloth and how the heck is it able to accomplish such a feat? Well, it's called an Enviro Cloth and it consists of a patented antibacterial microfiber which is 1/100th the size of a strand of human hair and knitted just right so that the cloth can hold up to seven times its weight in matter. In total, there are over 2.9 million meters of fiber in one of these bad boys! The antibacterial property comes from a silver-based agent that is actually embedded within the tiny microfiber. All in all, the cloth is able to pick up 99.9% of germs and bacteria (from washable surfaces) and inactivate them within a 24 hour period. In addition to the multipurpose Enviro Cloth, Norwex has a number of other microfiber products designed for specific purposes (e.g. kitchen cloths, face cloths, floor mops), however at the heart of each of these is the same "antibac" technology which smothers and deactivates germs and bacteria.

As a new mama who strives to run a chemical-free home, save money, simplify, de-clutter and gain efficiencies in my day-to-day tasks, these products appeared to be so up my alley it HURT. :D And the Norwex mission statement ("To improve quality of life by radically reducing the use of chemicals in personal care and cleaning") really resonated with me in the same light. (You can read more about the company's history and values here.) That said, I'm also blessed/cursed (your pick) with a healthy dose of skepticism, so I calmed down and did a li'l research. As I hoped for, every one of the independent reviews I checked out proclaimed that Norwex is, indeed, The Real Deal and their chemical-free cleaning products do work as advertised. Sweet!

At that point, I knew that I not only had to try some of these products for myself, but I also wanted to share my experiences here at Manager to Mom! And since Norwex is a direct selling company (similar to Avon and Thirty-One Gifts, which I featured in a review/giveaway this past Spring), I thought there could be a wonderful opportunity to team up directly with Tasha on a blog review/giveaway feature. I contacted her through her Norwex business page and was super-excited to hear that she was game! She generously offered a "Fall cleaning pack" consisting of the following three "antibac" items for me to review:
1) Enviro Cloth - The "everything" cloth that I raved about above! This cloth can theoretically be used to clean your toilets and then your kitchen shortly thereafter with no cross-contamination, though most people would prefer to have separate cloths for these purposes in practice. :)

2) Polish/Window Cloth - A cloth with a smoother weave that is meant to be used dry (or slightly damp). It is ideal for polishing windows, mirrors and other surfaces to a streak-free shine and is especially effective when used following the Enviro Cloth.  Tasha mentioned that she keeps one in her bathroom to wipe down her mirror after a shower, allowing her to get to her hair & makeup right away!

3) Dusting Mitt - A "wearable" cloth with fibres woven into a higher pile for an increased static charge and greater surface area. This allows it to collect and hold even more dust and water than the Enviro Cloth.  According to Tasha, the dusting mitt is excellent for dusting chandeliers, fans, vents, plants and vehicle dashboards, is great for difficult areas such as blinds and is amazing for washing screens right in their frame!  When using the mitt for dusting you keep it dry, however to wash screens you'd want to wet it first.

I was impressed by the amount of detail and number of personal experience tips that Tasha provided to help me effectively use these products. This further demonstrated her passion and expertise with Norwex, and I felt like I definitely teamed up with the right consultant!

When my products arrived, I had to restrain myself from grabbing the Enviro Cloth and immediately wiping down all my counters. Pics first, I told myself!  So here are all my products, untarnished. :) Dusting mitt (top left), polish cloth (top right) and Enviro Cloth (bottom).

Check out how the fibres compare. Notice that the polish cloth (left) has the finest weave, the Enviro Cloth is thicker and the dusting mitt is super-fluffy!


All three products have an extremely high-quality feel to them as well.

Pics taken, I got to my kitchen wipe-down and was immediately very impressed! My previous routine involved using damp dish cloths and towels for a basic wipe, with the occasional vinegar & paper towel de-streak treatment. I'm happy to report that the Enviro Cloth alone performed much better than all of my previous cleaning tools, and was much quicker to boot! It truly does grab and hold in everything it glides over, from pools of water to crumbs to grease spots. I was able to wipe down my whole kitchen without even rinsing my cloth; it's large enough that I simply refolded to get a clean section when I moved to a new area. And then when I did rinse it out following the wipe-down, the gunk flushed away nicely. AWESOME.

For our glass stove top, I busted out the polish cloth, gave'r a few wipes and indeed - it was left gleaming and perfectly streak-free.

Actual cleaning accomplished, I felt the urge to really put my two cloths to the test. So I conducted my own Norwex "butter demo" on our bathroom mirror. How'd it go? Well, you be the judge!

As for storing the cloths between uses, I started out just wringing them out and keeping them folded on the counter, but this was far from ideal. They took up space and got funky pretty quickly.  I asked Tasha for tips here, and she mentioned that she hangs her cloths by their labels on her kitchen cupboard knobs. Great idea, though our cupboards don't have knob handles so this didn't work for us. Soooo my husband was sweet enough to install a rack above the sink for my Norwex! How awesome and convenient is this?

(Note - the green cloth on the left is my daughter's "gently used" face cloth, renting a li'l space on there as well. ;)

All in all, I love these two cloths. They have managed to meet, if not exceed, my expectations, which were lofty from the start!

Next up - the dusting mitt. I've never used a mitt-shaped duster before but it's a great concept. It allows you to "shape" the duster in order to best fit the surface you are cleaning. For example, you can keep it straight if you are dusting a flat surface like a shelf or blinds, and cup your hand to efficiently dust furniture edges, table legs, knobs, etc.  I did find that the mitt fit my skinny li'l wrist pretty loosely, so I secured it with a hair elastic which worked well.

The first thing I dusted off was my laptop screen. Man, that thing needed a cleaning something fierce. Y'know when the sunlight comes in just so and every little speck of dust on your surfaces becomes visible? Well, get a load of this.

I know - disgusting. I was surprised not to see "CLEAN ME!!!" etched across the surface.

But after a few wipes with the dusting mitt:

Dust gonzo! Just a few remaining sticky bits which required a wet wipe.

Next, I tackled a bunch of areas (door and window edges, blinds, lights and other hiding spots) which hadn't been dusted in, well, I'm embarrassed to say. I'm happy to report that the holding power of the mitt was quite good! I only had to bang it out 2-3 times during the duration of my cleaning, and I dusted for close to an hour. Most of the dust got firmly trapped within the fibers, but after awhile it started to cake on the surface. At this point, it needed to be removed in order for the mitt to continue working effectively. I took this pic just before banging it out; quite a few nasties trapped in there!

I also just noticed that it was the "back" of the mitt I took the picture of! (I'm right handed so I usually wear it the other way, but since both sides are covered in the microfiber I'd flip it around after awhile and use the other side.) The front was probably even crustier, hehe.

All in all, I'm happy to give the dusting mitt two thumbs up as well. Altogether, these three products make up quite the powerful eco-friendly cleaning package!

Finally, a few words about care and maintenance. Slightly soiled cloths can be handwashed in warm water with a little dish or laundry soap and then rinsed well. Similarly, the dusting mitt can be vacuumed between uses. When it's time for a more thorough cleaning, all of these items can be machine washed at any temperature and machine dried at up to 90 degrees with lint-free laundry (or aired out). No fabric softener, bleach or dryer sheets should be use as these can damage the products. I have washed my cloths a few times now and my mitt once, and found it worked well to throw 'em in with my cloth diaper laundry. Zero lint, eco-friendly detergent and an extra rinse cycle to really get 'em clean and residue-free!

So how would you like to "improve your quality of life" and get your hands on some of these wonderful products? :)

Buy It!

You can purchase the Enviro Cloth, polish cloth, dusting mitt and many other great cleaning and personal care products directly from Tasha's Norwex site! Orders can be shipped to anywhere in Canada and the United States for the same flat rate of $4.95. To place an order, you will first need to fill out this quick & easy form to create an account. This also allows you to sign up for Tasha's personalized monthly newsletter which contains the latest Norwex specials and updates.

Feeling super-passionate? :)

Then why not host a party and spread the love! Norwex has a pretty sweet host/hostess reward program. Plus, if you live in the Waterloo, Halton, Peel, York or Durham regions of Ontario, Tasha is happy to travel and present at your party! I just might be hosting one myself over the next couple months; anyone interested in attending? ;) Norwex also offers flexible career opportunities, and Tasha mentioned that she would personally train and provide support for anyone who would like to join her team.

Win It!

One lucky Manager to Mom reader will receive the same "Fall cleaning pack" that I reviewed here - an Enviro Cloth, a polish cloth and a dusting mitt. (Total value: $54!) Open to Canada and the United States.

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered or to share your product feedback with others!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Choosing Home Child Care - Key Considerations

As some of you know, I will be returning to work this November following a year of maternity leave. I haven't nailed down the exact date yet; my EI finishes early in the month, however S's birthday isn't until the 24th as she was close to 2 weeks overdue. I figure I'll strike a balance and go back mid-month.

Thinking about going back is bittersweet. This year has gone SUPER quickly so far, and it's been amazing watching our little one grow and learn. However, I do also love the intellectual challenge and the social element that I get from work. (Oh yeah and there's that other teeny tiny li'l detail. Hmm what was it again? Oh yeah - a paycheque. ;) 

One thing we can now breathe easy on is child care, as we have found a wonderful provider and, in fact, just dropped off signed contracts with her the other day. It was a bit of a journey getting there, however. First of all, there are so many considerations and we wanted to ensure that everything checked out on paper. On top of this, there's that whole intangible vibe thing; we wanted a provider who "felt" right as well!

While I can't help you with the intangibles (other than to ape the traditional wisdom of trusting your gut), I thought I'd share some of our learnings on important considerations.

First of all, here are a few comprehensive checklists we found helpful to start out with.
Home daycare provider interview sheet (from Babycenter)
Licensed Child Care - Visit Checklist  (from the City of Toronto)
Child Care Checklist for Parents (from Iowa State University)

We took the items out of these checklists that we believed were important and added them as columns in a spreadsheet. We then added a row for each provider we contacted.

As we searched, the following additional factors emerged. These weren't on the checklists, but we felt they were just as (if not more) important to us:

  • Does the provider practice cloth diapering & using cloth wipes, or are they willing to learn? As CDing parents, this one was top of mind for us! From our experience, most home child care providers appear to be at least willing to learn, which is wonderful! By contract, it sounds like many (if not most) daycare centers do not permit cloth diapers. This is one of the reasons we knew we'd be looking at home child care from the start.

  • Does the provider strive to reduce (or eliminate) chemicals in the child care environment? This includes offering organic foods, using eco-friendly cleaning methods and products and avoiding pesticides in the outdoor play space.

  • Is the provider adept at multi-tasking / multi-focusing? I'm a narrow & deep thinker/focuser myself, which is one of the reasons I admire childcare providers and mamas with multiple children. I don't think I'd do so well myself with several kids in my care! (We'll see how 2 goes, assuming Chris and I are able to have another child of course. But I digress!) This limitation of my own is probably the reason why I've been careful to observe for this skill in the child care providers we have interviewed, giving preference to those who are fully aware of everything in their environment.

  • Does the provider clearly outline their policies in a contract and collect important information and signatures for each child in their care? We feel that a provider should proactively list their policies with respect to rates, billable time, nutrition, discipline, etc. and also collect information such as emergency contacts, allergies, dietary restrictions/preferences/dislikes and emergency medical treatment signatures. This way, key information is recorded and it also shows us that staying organized is important to the potential provider.

  • Will children be driven to any activities or will they all be local / within walking distance? Our personal preference here is for at least most activities to be local / within driving distance, however we're OK with the occasional special outing. We wouldn't be as comfortable with daily (or very frequent) outings, however.

For those of you who have obtained home child care for your child(ren), which considerations are top of mind for you?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Favourite baby gear roundup: 7-9 months

It's that time again! In this post I'll be listing our picks for top baby items from the 7-9 month age range (inclusive), based on our experiences with S. Yes, I'm aware that this list has 11 items in it. I couldn't decide which one to leave out, and it seemed silly to have a single "honourable mention". So 11 it is! :)

If you're interested, take a look at our 0-3 and 4-6 month roundups as well!


#11 - "Touchy/feely" books, such as That's Not My Puppy by Usborne Children's Books. At this age, babies are getting much more coordinated and S just loooved exploring the textures in these books - soft fur, shiny collars, bumpy frog skin, etc. Between about 8 and 9 months, however, she started getting a little more aggressive & "rippy", preferring to manhandle the entire book rather than simply feel the textures on the pages. ;)

#10 - Fisher Price Rainforest Jumperoo. This item made the #4 spot on our last list. We continued to use it quite a bit during months 7 and 8, and then its allure tapered off pretty sharply for S once she started crawling. In her 9th month, we just used it sporadically when we needed some quick hands-free time, though she'd generally start grumping at us after a few minutes. :)

#9 - Small soft cooler / lunch pack. (Any brand should do!) Once S began to eat solids (at just before 6 months), we discovered just how many additional items we needed to take with us when out & about! Bib, face cloth, spoon, sippy cup, food containers, snacks. I know that many parents like to pack these items in their diaper bags (and many bags are designed well for this), however we find that our bag is usually pretty stuffed mainly due to S's bulky cloth diapers. Plus, when we go out to eat we like to have her food items accessible without necessarily needing to lug her large bag around. So we started using one of the small soft coolers we got (for free) at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival and it is perfect!

#8 - JJ Cole outdoor blanket. First of all, there's definitely some seasonality involved in this pick, as we wouldn't have been able to take advantage of this item during the Winter. That said, we fell in LOVE with our JJ Cole blanket this past Summer as it was so perfect for S to hang out on during all of our outdoor events - cottage, camping, the beach, parks, BBQs and more! And we believe she was the perfect age for it, especially during the first part of Summer when she was sitting, rolling and just starting to "army" crawl. We'd spread a few of her favourite toys on there and she'd be happy as a clam! As she became more adept at proper crawling we did need to grab her and move her back fairly often (as she'd generally want to go pull out and eat grass at the edge of the blanket :) but this was still way more convenient and less messy than simply setting her down in the grass all the time. Why is the blanket so awesome? Well, it's super-durable, has a wipeable surface and folds up nicely when you're done with it! Plus it comes in some really attractive patterns to boot! This blanket probably would have made the 4-6 month roundup as well (instead?) if this age range coincided with the warmer months, as I can definitely see throwing a soft blanket down on top of it and laying a younger baby down. And I totally see continuing to use this moving forward when our child(ren?) are older for picnics, beach trips, fireworks, etc. All in all, a highly recommended item!

#7 - Fisher Price Healthy Care Booster Seat. We bought one of these seats for feeding on the go, and it is terrific! It is durable, safe, lightweight, portable, easy to clean, simple to use, very affordable and grows with baby. Many parents even claim that they use one of these seats in place of an actual high chair for everyday feeding, as a baby can sit safely in it as soon as he/she is ready for solids. Although most restaurants have high chairs, we find that they are generally very roomy and more appropriate for older/bigger babies, so we would take our Fisher Price booster seat with us when we went out to eat during S's first couple months on solids. The seat features extra long, adjustable straps so that it can be easily attached to virtually any size/type of table chair. We also set it on the ground to feed her when we're eating outside (BBQ, picnic, etc.)

#6 - ERGObaby Carrier. This was our #1 pick for the 4-6 month roundup. Although we still love our ERGO, we haven't used it as much recently as S often prefers being more mobile and closer to the action when we're out & about. So we've been opting for her stroller more often. But it's still my carrier of choice and great for shopping trips, walks in more "rugged" territory, etc.

#5 - Playtex "The First Sipster" sippy cup. When I was pregnant, I spent literally hours and hours researching baby gear for my registry. (Ahhh to have that kind of time again! ;) One of the items I spent a lot of time on was sippy cups, as it seemed that so many cups had negative reviews and that leakage was inevitable. But then I came across this cup and the vast majority of reviews were positively glowing! It seemed like this was the only cup that didn't leak, so I added a set of them to my registry. Fast forward almost a year, and I'm happy to report that after 4 months of daily usage, we have, indeed, had ZERO leaks with this cup! It's the perfect size and shape for little hands learning coordination, therefore ideal for the 7-9 month stage. And it's BPA-free, which is important to us as well! Great li'l cups. :)

#4 - Baby leg warmers (e.g. BabyLegs). Words cannot express how much I heart baby leg warmers! They're utterly adorable, come in sooo many cute patterns and add warmth without hassle (as they can be left on during diaper changes). Finally, they help protect baby's knees from chafing during the crawling period, which makes them particularly awesome during the 7-9 month stage! S has about 8 pairs so far and I totally want more. I think I'm addicted. ;)

#3 - Shape sorter and stacking cups (tie!). We have the Fischer Price Baby's First Blocks set and stacking cups by The First Years, though there are many other brands that create these types of toys as well. I decided to pair them together as S was introduced to both during her 7-9 month period and basically played with them in tandem. She started out by grabbing all the objects, mouthing them and bashing them together, then she enjoyed putting them into the shape sorter container and dumping the container. Finally, at around the 8 1/2 month mark, she began to put small cups and shapes into bigger cups, and attempted to put shapes into the correct holes. (Though we don't expect this skill to fully emerge for at least a few more months!) I love how portable and easy to clean these toys are as well! They're the first ones I grabbed this Summer when heading outside at the cottage or off to the park or beach. The one downside of the particular brands we own? It's not clear whether they are BPA-free, which means they likely aren't. :( That said, although she does mouth the pieces she's not actually ingesting any food or liquid out of them so it doesn't concern me as much as it would if her cups or servingware contained BPA.

#2 - Alphabet puzzle mat. We borrowed one of these puppies from Chris' sister (among many, many, many other things - thanks Tracey! ;) I'm not sure what brand it is, but numerous brands appear to create these mats. Which I get, because they're AWESOME. Particularly if you have non-carpeted floor in your baby's play area, like we do. Let me count the awesomeness: 1) Soft on baby's legs and knees, 2) "Grippy" so that baby's feet doesn't slip when pulling up on things, 3) Provides a designated "area" for baby's stuff, 4) Easy to clean and 5) Fun for baby to rip apart! :) I'm sure that in upcoming months there will be a 6) Fun for baby to put back together, but during the 6-9 month range she's pretty much in pure destruction mode. ;)

#1 - Blending device and baby ice cube trays. Now let me start out here by saying that I understand not all parents are into making their own baby food, and that's cool. That said, I knew from the get-go that I wanted to make food for S (for various reasons that belong in a different post), so I needed a good system. I ended up with The Magic Bullet as my blending device and Baby Cubes for storing her food, and the duo has worked WONDERFULLY! We were lucky enough to inherit the bullet from Chris' grandparents who had one that they didn't use. I have to admit I haven't used it for all its intended purposes, but it certainly purees like a dream. Quick and easy to use, and simple to clean. FTW. I looove our Baby Cubes too, as they are certified baby safe (as I mentioned above, this is important to us when it comes to products which touch her food and drink), space conscious (they stack easily), microwave-safe, come in various sizes and can be frozen for as long as 6 months (depending on the puree). All in all, these two items combined earned the honour of #1 baby gear in the 7-9 month range (according to hubby and me!)


Well that's that! Hope you enjoyed our latest roundup!

So how about you? Do you have any 7-9 month "must have" items which didn't make our list?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

#WinnerWonderland Giveaway Hop - Looking for Sponsors!!

I'm happy to announce that Manager to Mom will be participating in the "Winner" Wonderland giveaway hop, hosted by Put A Little Umbrella In Your Drink, And The Little Ones Too, Taking Time for Mommy and Its a Mom’s World. It will run from November 27th until December 4th.

This will be a super fun event! Up to 100 blogs will be participating, each with a prize package valued at $25 or more. What a great way to kick off the holiday season!

I will be putting together a terrific toddler fun package (catered to a boy or girl, 1-2 years old) to give away here at Manager to Mom! I hope to see all my wonderful followers pop by for a chance to win! :)

I am currently looking for sponsors to contribute toward this great prize pack! The bigger the package, the more interest this giveaway will generate and the more exposure for each contributing brand! I'm happy and grateful to accept all prizes that fit the theme of toddler fun. Toys, books, puzzles, games, clothing, music.... and the list goes on! I do ask that sponsors are willing to ship to both Canada and the US as I would like the entire package to be available to both countries. Please contact me to discuss a possible prize contribution.

Looking forward to this exciting event! :D

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tropical Traditions Canadian Raw Honey - Review & Giveaway!

Ladies and gentlemen, you are in for a treat! For my second review/giveaway with Tropical Traditions, I selected their Certified Organic Canadian Raw Honey. Why? Well, we eat a lot of honey in our household. We enjoy it in oatmeal, fruit & yogurt parfaits, stirfry sauces, tea and simply drizzled on some toast. We love the taste and appreciate that it is a healthier alternative to table sugar. (In fact, did you know that it is included in the list of World's Healthiest Foods at Read more here, including nutritional details, possible health benefits, how to select & store, how to enjoy, individual concerns and other information!)

Admittedly, up until this point, we've usually just grabbed the convenient, processed type of honey from our local grocery store which may not offer the full range of nutritional and health benefits. However that's about to change now that our taste buds have savoured the raw, certified organic variant offered by Tropical Traditions!

Tropical Traditions honey is produced right here in Canada, sourced from hives in wild, vegetation-rich areas of the country. In accordance with US and Canadian standards for organic certification, these hives are sufficiently isolated from industrial areas, farmer's fields and landfills (based on a bee's natural flying range), and all aspects of the honey production are taken into account in the certification process. The honey has not been subjected to pasteurization or filtering, which means it retains beneficial nutrients and enzymes as well as a smooth, creamy texture. View more details, as well as customer comments, on the Tropical Traditions website.

As a side note, I do have to say I found it rather amusing and ironic that my Canadian honey sample was shipped back up to me here in Ontario from their warehouse in Nevada, but I digress. ;)

Alright, so let's see (and taste) this honey in action!

Here is a comparison of your standard store-bought honey (left) with Tropical Traditions Canadian Raw Honey (right). Notice that the Tropical Traditions honey is much lighter coloured than the store-bought honey.

Now, take a look at the difference in consistency. The store-bought honey runs right off the toast whereas the Tropical Traditions honey is nice & spreadable!

Admittedly, one minor drawback of this "spreadability" is that the honey doesn't readily drizzle, which you might sometimes want it to do. I did a little research, however, and it appears you can safely soften the honey by heating it at a low temperature on the stove. It is inadvisable to microwave it, however, as this may damage its valuable enzymes.

Now, the big question - how does it taste? Mouth feel-wise, it is decidedly smooth and velvety. Hubby said it's like getting the extra-creamy version of his favourite peanut butter. :) By contract, the store-bought brand feels almost sticky and kind of coats the tongue.

Another big difference is in the flavour. It has an aromatic and subtle floral quality, and is less "sugary" sweet than the store brand.

All in all, this honey definitely invokes a pleasant sensation in the ol' taste buds!

I made myself a parfait consisting of unsweetened yogurt, strawberries, banana and my favourite granola cereal. I added a dollop of Tropical Traditions Canadian Raw Honey and wowee - was it ever amazing! This is going to become a regular breakfast staple, oh yes!!

My favourite way to eat honey is in its natural, uncooked form, however I'm also eager to try out some of the tasty-sounding honey recipes kicking around out there! Tropical Traditions has some on its Coconut Recipes website;  just type "honey" in the search box at the top to filter the list appropriately. A large collection of honey recipes can also be found on the National Honey Board's website.

One final point that's important to mention: raw honey should not be given to infants under 1 year of age. This is due to the risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious disease in which the bacteria Clostridium botulinum grows within the baby's gastrointestinal tract. This bacteria is common in nature and can be found in soil and certain foods like honey. The risk is likely lower in a certified organic brand like Tropical Traditions, however it's still better to be safe than sorry!

All in all, Tropical Traditions Canadian Raw Honey is a wonderful product that I wholeheartedly recommend, whether you'd consider yourself a honey connoisseur or are just looking for a more natural and health-conscious sweetening option.

Buy It:

You can purchase Tropical Traditions Canadian Raw Honey (and other great products) directly from the Tropical Traditions website, so buzz on over and grab some! ;) They often have terrific promos & discounts going which you can keep track of by signing up for the Tropical Traditions newsletter.

Win It:

Tropical Traditions has generously offered to give away a 17.6oz. jar of Canadian Raw Honey to one lucky Manager to Mom reader!

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!

Menu Plan Monday: All Over the Map!

Indeed - this week's menu is somewhat of a cornucopia of different influences and flavours. I'm back to linking up with as well. Check out other MPMs here:

Paneer Matter. Yes, the same dish from Indian Inspiration Week! :) I still have two more blocks of paneer to use up (it was on special two weeks ago) and this is one of Chris' favourite Indian dishes!

Crockpot beef barley soup. We like to add garlic and tomato to this, and I might try bacon and/or white kidney beans as well. The heartier, the better for this one! S and I will be sticking around at home the whole day, so we can enjoy sniffing the yummy beef soup-y flavours filling the air. I heart soup-making days!

Seafood feast! We're thinking cedar plank Pacific salmon and giant shrimp on the barbie, plus broiled scallops and asparagus. The weather's supposed to be beautiful (23 degrees and sunny) so we might be able to enjoy an outdoor meal!

Sweet potato coconut quinoa soup. Just reading this title makes me salivate. How can you go wrong with that list of awesome ingredients??!

Leftovers or eat out. I'm thinking we'll have a bunch of that beef barley soup left to devour, and that stuff is even better after 2-3 days of chillaxin' in the fridge!

So what are you all eating this week?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rockin' Green Laundry Detergent: Review and Giveaway! (Closed)

Rockin' Green Laundry Detergent: It's not just for cloth diapers!!

There. Did that get your attention?

See, here's the thing. If you currently cloth diaper, you've almost certainly at least heard of Rockin' Green. And there's a good chance you've used it or it's even your regular diaper detergent. But if you don't, it's likely you aren't familiar with this rockin' brand, since it is marketed so heavily based on its ability to clean and de-funk little ones' skivvies. So let me share a secret with y'all: not only is RnG a great cloth diaper laundry detergent, but it does a darn good job at other types of cleaning as well! I'm hoping to demonstrate this to you in my review, by sharing my experiences and tips for both cloth diaper laundry and general cleaning.

But first things first - a few key facts about Rockin' Green:
  • The company was founded in 2009 by Kim Webb, an avid cloth diapering "mompreneur"!
  • Their main product line is their laundry detergent, however they also offer dryer balls, diaper sprayers, pail fresheners and "Funk Rock", an ammonia bouncer.
  • Their laundry detergents are made of safe, eco-friendly, phosphate-free ingredients.
  • Detergents come in three formulas depending on water type - Soft Rock, Classic Rock and Hard Rock. RnG has a helpful page on their website dedicated to determining which formula is right for you.
  • Seven unique and tantalizing scents are available. Scents are derived from natural oils and have groovy names such as Smashing Watermelons and Lavender Mint Revival. They also offer a scent-free option called Bare Naked Babies, because babies smell so good on their own, darn it! :) Their list of scent offerings changes periodically.
  • The company offers Rockin' Rewards for buying products on their website. Reward points can be redeemed for detergent and other products.
It is also worth mentioning that Rockin' Green's customer service is top-notch, and that they continuously strive to improve their products. For example, a few months back they announced that they had remixed all of their formulas to have better cleaning power but also be gentler for longevity and safer for sensitive skin.

I have had the opportunity to try a few Rockin' Green eco-friendly cleaning products: their old formula, remixed formula and Funk Rock. I've sampled several scents and I've stuck to Classic Rock as our water is moderately hard. For the purposes of this review, Rockin' Green was kind enough to send me three different samples of their remixed formula, in Rage Against the Raspberry, Earth Wind & Orchids and Lavender Mint Revival.

First of all, let me just say that all of these scents are wonderful! If I had to pick a favourite from these, it would probably be Lavender Mint Revival. It just smells so crisp and fresh!

So here are some ways we've used these products, and our resulting experiences.

Cloth Diapers

We've been using Classic Rock (in the older formula) to wash our cloth diapers for about four months now. We have a front loader and the following washing steps are working quite well for us:
  1. Cold/cold light wash cycle with no detergent
  2. Hot/cold normal cycle (extra rinse turned on) with about 1 tbsp of RnG
  3. Additional warm/cold light wash cycle
Our diapers come out very soft (especially the prefolds) and pretty much neutral-smelling. And S's bum has been (for the most part) rash-free, so we haven't noticed any sensitivity issues. Finally, those natural scents which smell so great in powder form truly do vanish down the drain along with the suds, so there is no concern about fragrances kicking around in her clean diapers.

We do, however, contend with chronic stinky diaper bag issues. S's daytime dipes aren't too bad at all, but her night time dipes often come off smelling ammonia-riffic. And then they all sit together in the diaper bag, creating an increasingly pungent smell over the 3-4 days that transpire until the next laundry cycle. I suspect this may happen because our front loader simply can't do as good of a job as a top loader at getting our dipes completely clean and residue-free, even with that additional rinse cycle.

This is where "Rocking a Soak" becomes helpful! This process (coined by the company) involves soaking diapers in hot water and a generous helping of RnG laundry detergent. The recommendation is 3 tbsp detergent and a 30-60 minute soak, however the amount can be adjusted to accommodate a smaller or larger load, and the time can be lengthened (even as long as overnight) for really stinky dipes. The general rule of thumb, though, is to reserve the really long soaks for synthetic material such as microfiber (which is what tends to get the stinkiest over time!)

From my experience, rocking a soak has resulted in SUPER clean, soft and absolutely neutral-smelling prefolds, however I haven't been able to get my microfiber inserts completely ammonia-free - even after a full night of soaking. Less smelly, to be sure - but not 100% stink-free. I'd find that they smelled neutral when they came out of the laundry so I'd get all hopeful, but then that all too familiar ammonia smell would be back after 11-12 hours of overnight pee-age. I tried Funk Rock as well, and while this did seem to help further, it still didn't completely eliminate the ammonia. I'm not sure why as I've read other reviews raving about how rocking a soak and/or using Funk Rock completely eradicated any ammonia issues. I guess that since so many factors are involved (water type, top vs. front load washer, days between laundry cycles, age and other characteristics of child, etc.) this is just a hard one to pin down.

On a related note, it's a little more complicated and time consuming to rock a soak or perform a Funk Rock treatment using a front loader. With a top loader, you can soak your dipes right in the machine and then simply run your first cycle. With a front loader, diapers need to be soaked separately, rinsed and then moved to the washer at which point you follow your regular wash routine (like the one I outlined above.) Our laundry tub comes in handy for this as it's right beside the wash machine.

Before rocking a soak, I also generally run a cold/cold wash cycle with no detergent on the dipes to remove the surface nasties. This way, you don't end up with a tub full of yellow pee water.

All in all, we're quite happy with Rockin' Green's ability to clean our cloth diapers, using a combination of regular laundering and soak rockin'. It does take some time and dedication to keep the nasties at bay, but such is the nature of the beast; I mean c'mon - you're cleaning cloth that gets peed and pooed on all day. There is no instant, magical solution to this! :) If you're lucky, you may find that Rockin' Green is literally ALL you need to keep your diapers in tip-top form, as many others out there have found. However if you're like me and still wrestle with a bit of pesky ammonia, you may need to look at supplementing with an alternative approach. I think as a next step I'll take a page from Grandma's book and fire those stubborn microfiber inserts into some boiling water and vinegar; let's hope that does the trick!

As for the old formula vs. the remixed formula? Aside from the new scent (Earth, Wind and Orchids) I haven't noticed an immediate difference between the two formulas. That said, S's skin isn't sensitive to the old formula so this wasn't an issue for us anyway, and one of the noted benefits of the new formula (gentler for longevity) can only be appreciated in the long run. Regarding the improved cleaning power - well, I'll have to take the company's word for it that there's a difference here. :) 

General Cleaning

I've been especially pleased by how well Rockin' Green works to clean our regular laundry and other items. I've used RnG to launder all of our clothing a few times now, with both the older formula and the new "remixed" formula. In some cases I machine dried and in others I hung to dry. In all of these cases, our clean & dry clothing was soft and neutral-smelling.

I also conducted two "Rocking a Soak" de-funk experiments. First, I soaked some stanky dish cloths and towels. (As a side note, as much as I heart my kitchen wetbag, I suspect it may promote funk as the wet, dirty cloths sit in there for days at a time. I've started leaving the bag open a tad and ensuring I wring things out really well prior to storage.) The result? Everything came out *almost* neutral smelling! There was just a slight hint of....something still in the funkiest wash cloths. So perhaps I'll soak 'em again before the next laundry cycle. But all in all, I'm impressed!

Second, I soaked our shaggy bath mat. Now, I'll admit something here. I hadn't washed our mat in a looong time. How long, you ask? Well, perhaps this image will give you some idea:

I'm not sure if I was more disgusted or impressed when I discovered this. Especially since it followed an (obviously ineffective) attempt to clean the mat using an eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner and scrub brush earlier the same day. Gross! That said, following a good rinse, the rug smelled pretty good and I actually felt OK about putting it back out once it had finished drying.

Now I'm all eager to soak other things too! The front hallway mat comes to mind (though I'm a bit frightened to envision what'll come out of that!), perhaps S's bucket seat cover and I'm sure I'll think of many more.

Buy It:

So do you want to have fun soaking icky things too? :) Head on over to Rockin' Green and browse their laundry soaps and other great eco-friendly products! You can buy directly from their site or find a retailer online or in your area!

Win It:

One lucky Manager to Mom reader will receive a 45/90 load bag of Rockin' Green (Remix) laundry detergent! Winner chooses formula (Soft Rock, Classic Rock or Hard Rock) and scent. Open to Canada and the United States.

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Bounti-fall Harvest

Picked all this yesterday from our li'l garden. Definitely a late harvest this year!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

One Whole Year! Let's celebrate with a Giveaway! ($25 Amazon) (Closed)

Yes, that's right - Manager to Mom is a year old today!! I started this blog on September 13th, 2010 with a different name ("Bellies to Babies") and a simple purpose - to document our adventures in pregnancy, birth and parenthood. Little did I know it would grow to have 360 amazing followers (almost 1 new person/day!), active Facebook and Twitter profiles and partnerships with some wonderful family and eco-friendly brands.

I absolutely LOOOOVE blogging and I appreciate every one of you who stops by to read my updates and reviews, enter my giveaways and participate in some great discussion! As such, I'd like to give a li'l back in the form of a $25 gift code to or! Winner's choice!

Want in on this action? Easy! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!

Good luck and thanks for following Manager to Mom!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Baby's First Art Project!

Chris and I are always searching for new things to do with S that are interesting and stimulating for her. Recently, I found myself thinking it would be fun to somehow get her involved in creating a piece of art. But how would we do this without ending up with multi-coloured poo ("kid safe" as it may be), not to mention a re-donk-ulously large mess?

Well, I googled around and found a great blog post demonstrating that indeed, Babies CAN do crafts! And babies much younger than S, at that!

The article describes four clean & safe art projects that can be tackled by babies as young as 3 months old (if not younger!) They all look pretty neat, however I decided to try out the first one (Ziploc bag art) as it is SUPER easy to do!

Step 1: Gather materials - paint, paper and bag. (I used 3 colours of Funstuff Tempera paint, a piece of printer paper cut to fit and a medium heavy-duty freezer bag.)

Step 2: Squeeze a dollop of each paint colour onto the paper and carefully slide it into the bag. (I managed to smear the red a little - oops!)

Step 3: Give the "apparatus" to baby and watch what transpires! (The original article suggests talking about the colours, how it feels, etc. I tried this, however S preferred to just lay the smack down, smushing it around in her hands and dragging it across the kitchen floor. :)

Step 4: Marvel at the artistic masterpiece!

Here is S's finished product! She actually "worked" on it for a couple days as it hung around on her playmat, piquing her interest every now and then. Now we just need to find the best way to display it! Any suggestions?

Have you found any other successful methods for introducing art to young babies? I'd love to try out some new projects!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Happy Green Wool Dryer Balls: Review and "Final Chance" Giveaway! (Closed)

When I began my research on cloth diapering, one of the first things I learned was that I'd need to follow a fairly demanding and finicky laundry routine to get the stinkies out, keep my dipes in tip-top shape and ensure that I wasn't introducing harsh chemicals to baby's sensitive li'l bum. One particular thing that would have to change? No more dryer sheets. As it turns out, these bad boys contain compounds that have been linked to cancer and other health issues.

Really? I thought. Yowza. But then how the heck would I keep the static at bay?

A bit more research unveiled the answer - dryer balls! What a cool concept; toss a couple of these puppies into the dryer and voila - bye-bye fabric cling! And better yet, bye-bye chemicals!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: A Taste for Thai!!

Yup I know it's Tuesday. Let's just be OK with that and move on. :)

Chris mentioned to me the other day that it was soooooo awesome-sauce when I made three Indian recipes this past Spring during what I called Indian Inspiration Week.

So, I've decided to do another theme this week and I'm calling it A Taste for Thai! 'cause, y'know, I've got a taste for Thai and all. :)

Ironically, the week actually started with some more Indian. I made Palak Paneer yesterday and will be using the rest of the paneer tonight. So the Thai yumminess begins tomorrow!

Without further ado...

Palak Paneer w/ Toasted Naan

Zucchini Pasta w/ grape tomatoes, basil and paneer. I found this when Googling "What to do with leftover paneer" as last night's recipe only called for half of the package. It's actually perfect as we have a surplus of zucchini, grape tomatoes AND basil from our garden. I've never made zucchini pasta before but sounds super-easy and yummy!

A Taste for Thai Recipe #1: Thai Green Chicken Curry. Lots of beans to harvest from our garden right now, plus we're getting a sample of organic chicken today from Onterra Farms which we can try out as well! (Edit - the chicken sample never ended up arriving (that's another story) so we had vegetarian curry.) Oh, and I'm totally using some of my Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil to pump up the coconut-y flavour even more! This dish is going to rule. :)

A Taste for Thai Recipe #2: Fish Fillets with Chili Lime sauce. This is a recipe from our Thai cookbook. I'm in KW that day so I'll stop in at T&J Seafoods for some really nice, fresh white fish!

Friday: (or the weekend, as Chris and I might go on a date that night!)
A Taste for Thai Recipe #3: Sukothai Phad Thai. I'm going to follow some of the adjustment suggestions in the first review as the person who wrote it appears to know their shtuff about Thai cooking, and I really want to nail down that perfect Phad Thai recipe! Perhaps I'll do a dedicated post on this one if it turns out r0xx0r.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"S" @ 9 months: A Growing Concern :)

 Well it's official. Our sweet li'l baby girl...

...has developed one heck of a mischievous streak! Ladies and gents, meet Little Miss Hyde:


LMH loathes diaper changes, terrorizes spider plants, eats dirt cakes from the front floormat, shreds magazines and unravels all of her Mommy's hard work around the house. Cases in point:

But! We love every minute of it. (Mostly. ;) She may be a little monster, but she's OUR little monster! :D

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get back to basics. We're at 9 months now, folks! Three quarters of the way to a whole year old! *whistles*

Weight: Somewhere between 15lb 10oz and 16lb, depending on whether we're going with her measurement at the doctor's office or at home. Note that we have "upgraded" from Wii Fit to an actual scale (measuring to the ounce), so we can get a li'l more accuracy on the homefront. (Though on the flip side, we risk the dreaded floor pee with this approach. LMH also likes to do this. *nods*)

Height: ?? The nurse had her at 26ish inches, but she was writhing around like a little crazy person so I wouldn't bet the farm on this one. Plus, this would mean she'd only gained half an inch since her 6-month checkup which can't be true. So yeah - let's call it 27.5 and move things along! :)

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

Lots more fun shtuff happened this month. First of all, her crawling has become very steady and confident. And fast! Especially when she's opportunistically heading toward something she shouldn't be (like the top of the stairs when Mommy momentarily forgot to lock the gate), or when we're playing Hide and Seek with her! I love her exuberant hand-slappy "I'm going to find youuuu!" crawl. <3 <3

On a related note, she's doing stairs now, oh yes! In the "easy" direction, that is. She's not quite grasping that it's not a good idea to plunge back down head first. We're working on this. :)

One of her favourite things to do now is to pull up on, well, everything! And then grab whatever is in reach. As such, if you were to take a tour through our house you'd notice several random piles of objects that have been relocated to higher shelves, away from curious little fingers! She's also using her newfound strength to work the oh-so-sad standing-up-in-her-crib-and-crying maneuver when she's not quite ready to settle down for sleepy time!

Lessee - what else?

She's becoming an old pro at feeding herself. We give her li'l pieces of chicken, cheese, veggies, fruit and other tasty morsels. It's nice to be able to feed her more of what we're eating ourselves and not rely so much on purees. On a related note, she's been finding it super-funny to share her food! Check out her amusement as Mommy takes a bite out of her watermelon slice! For everything I said earlier about "LMH", our little girl certainly doesn't lack generosity!

Her zest for musical activities continued to emerge this month! Check out how thrilled she was to play bongos with her cousin Avery!

    Her finer movement coordination also continued to advance. She loves to place objects in and on other objects - for example, small stacking cups into bigger ones (and sometimes vice versa, though that doesn't work as well. ;) She has also started getting the hang of her Bright Starts Drop & Giggle toy!

    Socially, I'm happy to report that the hint of stranger anxiety we noticed last month didn't appear to develop further.  S has been (generally speaking) quite happy and comfortable hangin' around with other folks - even those she doesn't know very well. I'm hoping this bodes well for the beginning of childcare - a topic which merits its own post!

    We didn't really notice an advancement in her vocalizations this month, but I think this was because she's been working so hard on her motor skills! We've just started introducing some baby signs, focusing on those that are food-related since she's such a Ridiculously Good Eater. In this context, we're working on more, all done, food and drink and we've also been trying out flower, dog, up, down and ball.

    Well that pretty much covers all the Month 9 highlights. Just one more pic to cap things off; I like to call this one Jailbreak Attempt FAIL.

    'Nighty night!

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Snack Bag Set from Baby Bahoonie: Review and Giveaway!

    Baby Bahoonie is a online Canadian boutique offering apparel & accessories for hip infants & kids, 0-4 years old. It features over 20+ eco-choice lines of organic cotton, modal & bamboo clothing as well as high-quality toys and accessories such as wet bags, bath squirties (love these!!) and organic teethers.

    The owner of the boutique is Cinnamon Bhayani, a gregarious and passionate mompreneur. Cinnamon first launched Baby Bahoonie a few months back out of a desire to make top-grade baby and toddler products readily available to Canadian families via the convenience of online shopping. She carefully selects each brand and product that she offers to ensure it not only provides maximum functionality but is also fair-trade, respects human rights, leaves a minimal carbon footprint and has an affordable price tag to boot! I must say that she has also designed a terrific website for her boutique! It's super easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. Plus, I'm a sucker for owls. :D