Monday, October 31, 2011

Angel Baby Oil from Earth Mama Angel Baby - #Review and #Giveaway! (Closed)

When I was pregnant with S, I spent a lot of time researching natural, toxin-free baby skin & hair products. One of the brands which continuously came up in my search, earning glowing reviews and top rankings on all-natural product lists, was Earth Mama Angel Baby. This company offers just about every baby health & wellness product imaginable, as well as a slew of amazing pregnancy and postpartum products for mama. From their website:

"Earth Mama Angel Baby's safe, zero toxin, hospital-recommended organic herbal products support mamas and babies through the entire miraculous birth process, from pregnancy through postpartum recovery, breastfeeding, baby care and beyond."

Love!!! :)

Despite how impressed I was reading about this company, I didn't end up experiencing EMAB first hand until S was about 5 months old, as I'd compiled numerous products from other brands via my baby shower, kit samples, discounted purchases, etc. The first EMAB product I tried was their Angel Baby Bottom Balm which I purchased after the ointment sample from my Bummis Diapering Kit ran out. I LOVE this balm! It is cloth diaper safe, has a pleasant aroma, glides on smooth with little mess and is, of course, 100% natural and toxin-free! We use it whenever we see signs of an impending rash, and our daughter's skin looks better within hours. A little goes a long way as well. We've been using the balm for about 6 months now and still have at least half of the container left. I've also been reading that the balm is great for other uses - burns, thrush, eczema, etc. I definitely recommend this product if you're looking for an all-natural, CD-safe diaper or general use ointment.

Given my uber-positive experience with the Angel Baby Bottom Balm, I knew I had to try more EMAB products and I was eager to share my experiences with my wonderful readers as well! So I contacted Earth Mama Angel Baby and was delighted to hear that they wanted to partner on a blog review/giveaway. Thanks "Mama"! :)

I had the opportunity to select from a list of about 25-30 products and ended up choosing the Angel Baby Oil.

I'd dabbled in infant massage when S was a newborn, but stopped when the so-called "natural" baby oil I was using at the time ended up aggravating her sensitive skin. (More in-depth research revealed that this product wasn't actually 100% natural & toxin-free. Unfortunately it seems that the word "natural" gets slapped fairly liberally onto many products, so it's always a good idea to dig a little deeper to find out the actual facts!) I didn't get back into massage with her early on which I regret, as I found it to be a nice bonding experience and S seemed to like it. Now that she's almost 1 year old, common wisdom would suggest she is "too old" for massage, however I decided I was up for the challenge! :) Plus, this would allow me the opportunity to experiment with and discuss techniques for massaging an older baby, which there isn't nearly as much information on.

Here is the product description for Angel Baby Oil:

"What's more calming to a baby than a massage from mama? Make mama's magic touch even softer with natural Angel Baby Oil, a gently absorbable grape seed oil blend that has no nut oils and zero toxins. Hospital recommended Angel Baby Oil is infused with calming organic Chamomile and moisturizing organic Calendula, and has virtually no scent. Perfect for sensitive little noses, ideal for massage or dry skin! No artificial preservatives, dyes or fragrances, just pure natural baby oil for your pure natural baby.

    * No artificial preservatives
    * No artificial fragrances or dyes
    * Cruelty-free
    * Zero Toxin
    * Vegan

So safe, hospitals use it for NICU babies!"

I especially loved reading the article linked above. It describes how Miami Valley Hospital recently chose EMAB products, including Angel Baby Oil, as the first step in their "greening process" following a year of research into environmental toxicants which pose health risks to newborns and mothers. It made me ponder what it may take to set similar changes in motion at our local hospital. Something to think more about!!

Earth Mama Angel Baby also published a couple articles on infant massage just last week. They have shared the numerous benefits of infant massage and some advice to help you get started. Recommended reading if you'd like to get into infant massage yourself and are looking for some pointers!

Alright, let's get to our experiences using the Angel Baby Oil.

I'll start with a few observations about the product itself. First of all, although the bottle is quite small (containing a total of 4 fl. oz), a little of this oil goes a long way! It has a fine, silky texture and glides onto the skin smoothly. Based on my usage so far, I would guess that a single bottle could cover 30-40+ massages. It also warms quickly which is a desirable quality in a massage oil. The scent is, indeed, extremely subtle. I get a slight essence of dough/bread which definitely isn't unpleasant! Finally, the oil appears to absorb into the skin within several minutes, allowing plenty of time to massage a particular area without leaving behind a greasy mess.

As expected, at 11 months S is too squirmy to stay put for a "real" massage. However, I've used it on her after a few of her recent baths (while chasing her around her nursery ;) and it makes her skin feel wonderfully smooth and supple. I've also tried it while nursing her at night to give her a mini-massage on her feet, legs, back and arms. This seems to relax her, which is good when she's still a little worked up. One downside of this approach, however, is that her PJs need to go on afterwards, which isn't ideal if she's super-sleepy after nursing.
I'm happy to report that her skin has had no reaction to the oil whatsover, which is a relief after our early experiences. Not that we expected a reaction from an EMAB product, but still good to confirm!

Finally, she appears to have an inexplicable fixation with the bottle. *nods*

I plan to continue using the oil on S in the evenings, though I'd also like to try it to massage my husband who has sensitive skin as well. If we end up having more children, I plan to start infant massage from the beginning and Angel Baby Oil will definitely be our oil of choice!

Buy It:

You can purchase Angel Baby Oil and other EMAB products directly from the Earth Mama Angel Baby website, or use their Store Finder to locate a retailer near you! Angel Baby Oil retails for $12.95 USD, however it is currently on sale for $11.00 USD, so now's a great time to grab yourself some of this fabulous stuff!

Win It:

Earth Mama Angel Baby has generously offered to give away a 4 fl. oz. bottle of Angel Baby Oil 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!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Time to Feed the Freezer!

During my 3rd trimester, we took the advice of many and stocked our deep freezer with MANY containers of home-made meals: soups, stews, cabbage rolls, casseroles and other goodies. We were so glad we did, as we basically ate out of the freezer for 3-4 weeks straight following S's birth. And ate well! Although we did bust out the occasional conventionally frozen dinner, these were few & far between.

Now that I'll be returning to work in about 3 weeks (insert stereotypical but oh-so-true statement lamenting the surprisingly expeditious passage of time here), we figured it makes sense to feed Mr. Freeze again. With S going to daycare 8 hours per day, M-F, something's telling me we're not going to want to spend the precious few hours we have with her each day slaving over frequent "from scratch" meals in the kitchen.

We've already begun the process. Here's what Mr. F has graciously accepted so far:
  • One small-ish container of turkey noodle soup (1 meal)
  • Two containers of cabbage rolls (8-10 rolls each)
  • Two containers of sausage, bean & potato soup (3-4 meals worth)

In addition to this, we're looking to make large batches of the following to add to the stockpile:
  • Chris' "famous" chili
  • Split pea & ham soup
  • Beef barley soup
  • Jerk chicken & Jamaican "rice and peas"
  • Pav Bhaji

We'd love to hear other ideas as well!

So tell me - what are your favourite dishes to make for the purpose of feeding your freezer?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hulahoop Children's Photography: #Review

"There is nothing so beautiful as to see a picture of your child in an instant of wonder when they didn't even know anyone was looking. It's that moment that I strive to capture [...], ensuring that all of those little moments will never be forgotten." - Nicola

Hulahoop Children's Photography is owned and operated by natural light photographer Nicola Toon, who specializes in newborn, baby and child photography and serves the Region of Waterloo (Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge) and surrounding areas.

I met Nicola this past August at the Momstown KW birthday bash, as Hulahoop was one of the local brands featured at the event. Nicola had a photo booth set up and was snapping whimsical pics of wee ones in attendance, so we offered up our daughter S to take part in the action. Turns out the photobooth pics would be entered in a contest to win a free Christmas mini-session! All entries would be posted on Facebook, and the photo with the most "likes" would win the session.

S downright refused to smile during her li'l shoot. Yet, Nicola was able to work with this and captured another side of her - the soulful dreamer. Bathed in a bright, yet delicate natural light, the resulting photo had an almost ethereal quality to it.

Needless to say, I was impressed! If Nicola was able to produce a work of art like this from a 3-minute shoot and a few quick adjustments, imagine what she could do with a full-length session and more in-depth editing? A browse through her portfolio gave me a pretty good idea:

I was determined to win the mini-session for S, however we came up just short. (First place was unstoppable!) But I wasn't about to give up there, as I had an idea! I was eager to experience more of Nicola's work first hand (with S as her lovely subject), and exposure is always good for a business, so I contacted her to see if she would like to partner on a blog feature. I was delighted to hear that she was game!

From the moment we began to plan our session, Nicola was professional, enthusiastic and helpful. Chris and I were happy to lean on her expertise when it came to choosing time (evening), location (a favourite, light-friendly spot near her house), what to wear (light colours), etc. We set a date for the shoot and were all set to go!

Or so we thought.

A day before the meet-up, S had an "altercation" with a flimsy chair, and the result wasn't pretty.

The next day, our daughter's spirits were in better shape but her bruise wasn't, so I contacted Nicola to see if we should reschedule. She took a look at the battle scar and declared it wouldn't be a problem - removing it would be an easy edit.

So off we drove to Cambridge, shiner and all. The late Summer weather was perfect - warm, sunny and calm. We met Nicola at her house, drove for a few minutes and then enjoyed a lovely, conversation-filled stroll down a woodsy path toward our destination. Along the way, we learned the following facts about our photographer-to-be:
  • She's a go-getter - when she sets her heart and mind to do something, she succeeds! 
  • She has two little boys with a third child on the way (they're hush hush on the gender!)
  • She has a penchant for candid photos which capture those honest, genuine moments. Her home is adorned with these types of centerpieces of her family members.
  • She began dabbling in serious photography out of a desire to effectively capture her children in those tough "movement" shots. She began to learn the fundamentals and hasn't looked back!
  • And finally, guess how long she's been doing this gig for? Give up? Just ONE YEAR. I couldn't believe this given her current level and depth of talent. She has obviously found her natural calling!

Alright, back to the shoot! We emerged into a grassy plain (which I was pretty sure I recognized from some of Nicola's past photos) and got to work setting up the first scene. Chris got some nice photos and video footage of the setup and the first few shots.

Unlike the Momstown event, S was all smiles and chuckles that evening! She especially liked the soft basket prop, running her hands through the fluffy material and making absolutely no attempt to squirm away (which is certainly rare for her!)

Nicola had a number of techniques to command our li'l monkey's attention, from rattles to amusing vocalizations. She also provided guidance on how we could help "coach" S and keep things running smoothly. When one (or both) of us were in the scene as well, she gave us a few suggestions for positions/poses but otherwise encouraged us to do what came naturally in order to encourage those candid moments.

All in all, we tried a dozen or so different setups / backdrops. Most of them took place in the clearing, and a few happened on the woodsy path on our way out. The entire shoot lasted about an hour and a half.

On our way home, Chris and I chatted about the experience. We both agreed that the session had a good balance of structure and spontaneity (as Chris put it, there was "a plan with no plan" :), and we found Nicola to be refreshingly down-to-earth, honest and upfront.

Next step - edits!

Photo editing is a huuuuuge part of the process when it comes to professional photography (versus your run-of-the-mill portrait studio). It takes substantial time, effort and skill. Nicola mentioned that many photographers outsource their editing, but she does it herself out of a desire to retain creative control over the process. In the post processing stage, she does things like warm the colours, brighten skin tones, smooth skin, fix blemishes or bruises, boost colours and contrast and sharpen fine details like eyelashes. These adjustments, while perhaps subtle individually, can really make an image "pop"!

To illustrate, Nicola sent me a "SOOC" (straight out of the camera) image from our session to compare with the edited version. Wow - what a difference! And that ugly ol' bruise we were so concerned with? Gonzo!

Here are a few of our other favourite shots from the session. I was very pleased with the quality of the photos as well as the variety Nicola managed to capture - both in terms of backgrounds/themes and emotion.

I was impressed by the follow-up coverage Nicola provided on our session as well. She posted an edited "teaser" photo on the Hulahoop Children's Photography Facebook page within a few days and then published a lovely blog post including more photos within a week. Finally, our complete online viewing gallery (in the Client Proofing section of her website) was ready within two weeks. I've been following her updates since, and I can vouch for the fact that Nicola provides the same coverage and turnaround times for all clients - even when she's super-busy.

Once our gallery was ready, we had a tough decision on our hands - choose the digital negatives (allowing us to make printouts as we wished), take advantage of Nicola's own printing services (which ensure top quality prints) or a combination of the two? (Nicola offers a "best value" combo package consisting of both digital negatives AND a selection of larger prints.) We ended up opting for the digital negatives as we weren't sure exactly which large prints we wanted at the time, though Nicola ensured me that she keeps all clients photos for at least a year, so we can go back to her at a later date if we decide we want a gallery-wrapped canvas or another type of large print.

In terms of pricing, we found Nicola's rates extremely reasonable, especially considering the dedicated, personalized service she provides. You can view her session fees on her website, and contact her for her latest prices and options for portraiture.

Nicola also offers a referral program for her clients (including personalized business cards!) allowing substantial savings on future sessions and print orders. On this note, if anyone in Waterloo Region would like to take advantage of Hulahoop's services, feel free to give me a nudge! If we do end up having another wee one at some point, I would loooove to take advantage of Nicola's incredible newborn photography skills. Just take a look at this twin shot. Priceless!

All in all, I would highly recommend Hulahoop Children's Photography if you are looking to capture wonderful memories of your children, or other special moments of your life. (She also does maternity, engagement and other themes/events!) Nicola is extremely talented and dedicated - to both her clients and her craft. She regularly attends workshops to hone her skills, continuously seeks out new shooting locations and offers client casting calls to try out new ideas.

To close, I'd love to share one more quote from "the girl behind the lens":

"Hiring a professional photographer is an investment. It's an investment I've made myself in the past, but it's one that I will never regret. As your photographer [...] it's my job to capture those beautiful moments and get them off your computer and onto your wall - where they belong. I do look forward to getting that chance." - Nicola

** Update 13-Nov-2011: View our complete gallery from the photo session here! **

Disclosure:  I received no financial compensation for writing my review, although I did receive a free photo session with Hulahoop Children's Photography.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

8 Factors Which Motivate Me to Blog

I took part in a recent survey conducted by one of the blog PR affiliations I've joined, and one of the questions was (essentially) "Why do you blog?" I'd already touched on this when I wrote my About page this past Spring, but as I sat there considering my answer, a lot more came to mind. Here's a wordier version of what I ended up jotting down: 

  • Blogging helps define my role as a mother - Manager to Mom is, above all else, a mom blog. I write about parenting topics, review baby-centric products and engage in relevant discussions with other moms (and dads too!) All in all, I think mom blogging helps foster my connection to my new identity.

  • (Related to the point above) Blogging enables me to connect with like-minded individuals. Through M2M, I've had the pleasure of discovering many other interesting and informative blogs, engaging in great discussion, sharing helpful tips and getting to know some wonderful and inspiring people on a more personal note. 

  • Blogging is a great way to track and share my daughter's development - I've had a lot of fun writing the monthly development posts for S and it's super to hear from friends and family members that they are enjoying them as well. Going back to review what she was like at a particular point is quite poignant and nostalgic, and I'm glad I decided to preserve the memories this way. 

  • Blogging introduces me to awesome brands and products, via my own reviews/giveaways as well as features going on at other blogs I follow. So many of my current favourite baby gear, household and other items have originated (in some way or another) from my blogging experience, and for the first time ever I feel like I'm *not* going to be running around at the last minute finishing my Christmas shopping as I've already nailed down the majority of what I'll be getting everyone. w00t!

  • Blogging enables me to make a positive impact on people and companies. It always makes my day when a reader comments that they loved a post, when a QOTD topic stirs up some interesting discussion, or when a winner is super-excited about their prize. It truly, truly does. If I'm having a tired, crappy morning and a reader simply says "Great tip! I'm gonna try that!" I'm instantly floating. Similarly, when I've had the chance to review a terrific product or business, I love that I can use my blog as a vehicle to spread the word to others. Hearing back from one of my PR contacts that they have been more than satisfied working with me provides terrific reinforcement as well. 

  • Blogging keeps my working skills (and mind!) sharp - As a PR-friendly blogger, I write, think critically, manage email, engage with clients and endeavour to keep up-to-speed on social media and other web technologies. This is all very relevant to my career (high-tech management and consulting), and also great "food" for my brain! :) 

  • Blogging is a way to "build something bigger" - Within a span of several months, M2M has grown from relative obscurity to a significant player in the mom blogging space, and continues to grow in terms of readership and statistics (web rankings, traffic, etc.) This gives me a feeling of accomplishment, and it's exciting to think how prominent my blog may become in the long run!

  • Blogging is fun! Not even so much writing the articles themselves (this part is the hard work ;) but everything around it - checking out the latest PR opportunities from one of my affiliates, hearing back from a brand I've pitched, reading and responding to blog and FB comments from my readers, checking my blog stats and search hits, reviewing contest entry comments, etc. Kind of addictive, really. ;)

You may have noticed that I didn't list "earning money" as a factor. While things could certainly change in the future, I have no desire to monetize Manager to Mom at this point. Blogging is currently a hobby for me, and I like maintaining a clean, easy-to-navigate, ad-free page (and apparently you appreciate this as well!)

So, a question for all my bloggin' followers out there - what motivates YOU to blog?

....And to my non-bloggin' followers - what motivates you to follow other blogs?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thirsties Duo Diaper: #Review and #Giveaway (Closed)

If you're a cloth diapering mama or papa (or if you've done some research in preparation of becoming one), you've probably heard of Thirsties, as this company has made quite a name for itself in the cloth diapering world! Not only do they offer several options for diapering your baby (with a unique philosophy which I'll get to in a minute) but also various useful accessories from pail liners to cloth wipes to "booty" care. Furthermore, reviews I have read for Thirsties products are almost universally positive, which is very impressive! All Thirsties products are made in the USA, and sourced as locally from the warehouse as possible, while many of the diapers are sewn by stay at home moms close to the warehouse.

Thirsties has a fascinating history and strong set of corporate values which are well documented on their website, so I encourage you to hop over and take a look! Learn more about who they are, what makes them green and the core members of the Thirsties team. I like the last section in particular, as it adds a personable element to the site and makes you appreciate that there are real (and awesome) people running the show here! :) Thirsties also has a blog with some great info and giveaways, so don't forget to check that out as well!

Alright, let's talk diapers!

As I mentioned earlier, Thirsties has a unique perspective when it comes to cloth diapering. Their take is that a one-size diaper doesn't always cut it; although these are advertised as fitting from birth to potty training, in reality most of them only fit well from about 10 to 32 pounds. Therefore, many children end up needing three sizes - newborn, one-size and toddler. As such, Thirsties developed a "Duo" line of products which are designed to fully cover the weight range of all babies using just two sizes:
  • Size 1 fits from 6-18 lbs (0-9 months)
  • Size 2 fits from 18-40 lbs (9-36 months)
Each size mimics a one-size diaper in that the rise is adjustable. So in essence, you can get a full six sizes when using the "Duo" line!

Three diapering products are available within this line: a Duo Wrap, Duo Fab Fitted and Duo Diaper. In addition, Thirsties continues to sell their original diaper cover which comes in four sizes.

It's also important to point out that all Thirsties diapers are free of VOCs, PVC, phthalates and lead as part of their commitment to producing eco-friendly products that are healthy for baby and the environment!

I was lucky enough to win a Duo Wrap via a blog giveaway, and I was super-impressed by the customer service I received. My wrap came with a personalized letter from Jessica (one of their Customer Service team members) congratulating me on the win, and a copy of the 2011 Thirsties catalogue. I emailed Jessica back to thank her and also let her know that I would love the opportunity to work with Thirsties on a future review/giveaway here at Manager to Mom. I was delighted to hear back that Thirsties was game, and that I would have the chance to review their Duo Diaper. Sweet! Although most of our diapering experience so far has been with prefolds and covers, we've been dabbling more in all-in-ones, all-in-twos and pockets recently (especially with S going to day care soon), so I was stoked about this!

The Duo Diaper has the following features and content (taken directly from their website):

  • A two-piece diapering system combining an absorbent insert and waterproof sleeve diaper
  • Seven thirsty absorbent layers
  • Microfleece liner provides wetness protection and stain resistance
  • Grows with your baby so you only need two sizes from birth to potty!
  • Easy stuffing and one-step cleaning
  • Pliable, breathable ultra-comfortable waterproof exterior

  • Outer: 100% polyester with waterproof urethane coating 
  • Inner: 100% polyester microfleece 
  • Insert 1: 55% Hemp, 45% Cotton 
  • Insert 2: 100% polyester–microfiber terry

Sounds pretty go so far, right? :)

Deciding on a size was somewhat of a challenge, as S was between 15 and 16 lbs at the point we began discussing a review/giveaway, so she was at the heavier end of the recommended spectrum for Size 1. Although she'd fit better in the smaller size immediately, she wouldn't get to wear it very long. So we went with Size 2 and agreed to hold off on the review until she had gained a couple pounds. In terms of other customizations, I went with aplix closures and the Blackbird pattern. (This seems to be everyone's favourite. There currently aren't a huge number of patterns available so it would be nice to see more in the future!)

The diaper arrived promptly, complete with another nice note from Jessica and a matching ribbon!

The first thing that struck me about the diaper was how similar in feel and construction it is to the Duo Wrap. This makes sense, as both feature many of the same characteristics including outer shell content, three rise options, stretchy waist elastic and leg gussets. What really surprised me, however, was the lack of bulk. It is definitely one of the lightest pocket diapers I own (minus inserts).

The snap rise allows for three different settings (or sizes 4, 5 and 6 when taken together with the Size 1 settings.)

One of the reasons I selected aplix was for its crossover capabilities; I knew this would allow the coziest fit around the waist which would be important with S at the lowest end of the Size 2 weight range.

Laundry tabs, another aplix standard, are included here as well.

Check out the super-duper leg gusset - doesn't it just scream "pee shield"? This is one of my favourite Thirsties features!

I love that the front of the diaper has a stretchy trim, as I would guess this is comfier for baby (especially after a big meal!) and also allows the fit to be a little more "forgiving", which is great for occasional caretakers and those tough diaper changes when baby just doesn't want to stay put!

One aspect of this diaper that's different from other pockets I own is that there is an opening both at the back and the front. This allows you to stuff from either side and also (according to description) enables the insert(s) to agitate free in the laundry - something I was eager to test!

The Duo Insert combo can be used together for super-absorbency (ideal for night diapering) or individually for a trimmer fit. The inserts snap together, making it easier to stuff them into the diaper pocket together.


Finally, I couldn't get over how ridiculously soft the microfleece inner felt! I'm not sure what exactly goes into the Thirsties formula, but this felt waaay softer than microfleece I've felt in any other diaper. We're talking smoooooth, butt-ery soft. If these diapers came in my size, I'd totally wear them. OK maybe not. :) 

I did find this diaper to be a little harder to stuff than other pockets I've tried. First of all, I'm used to a single opening which allows you to push an insert all the way to the back until you reach the attached end. It was also a bit difficult to get the insert to sit flat, especially in the middle part. This seemed due to the stretchy elastic around the leg holes/gussets. All in all, I had to adjust my technique somewhat, both pushing and pulling at both ends (to contend with the double opening) and smoothing in the middle to get it in the right spot.

Alright let's fast forward two months. Our li'l monkey was still only about 17 lbs at this point (thus a pound shy of the lowest weight recommendation for Size 2) but we'd waited long enough, and I thought it might actually be an effective review scenario to test this "boundary case". After all, in the real world not everyone cloth diapers from the get-go. Those wanting to begin when their babes are 15-16 lbs and considering the Thirsties line may not wish to invest in a full stash of Size 1, so at what weight can Size 2 reasonably be started?

Well, I'm happy to report that our Size 2 Duo Diaper managed to fit pretty well indeed on our 17 lb little gal!

Of course, we had the rise on the lowest setting and took advantage of that cross-over aplix. I'm not sure we would have achieved as effective of a fit with snap closures, though that would need to be tested. The waist elastic helped with the snugness around her middle as well.

I was impressed by how trim the diaper felt on her, especially given it was designed for a bigger baby! This was particularly true when stuffed with the single microfiber insert, but we didn't notice much additional bulk later when we added the second insert.

We made sure to give S some good play time to test how the diaper moved around.

After an hour or so, the diaper did look sort of droopy and she had a definitive "bubble butt", but I fully expected this given we were being ambitious with the size. It actually didn't end up too bad; this is about the worst it got:

Even with the droop-age, I'm happy to report that the stretchy leg gussets remained snug against her thighs!

I also didn't really notice any wing droop, which was a pleasant surprise as well!

So the key question, of course - did it leak? Nope - not at all! Not during the 2-3 times she has worn the diaper so far during the day (with a single insert), nor when she wore it at night with both inserts. And man, those inserts are truly "thirsty"! They both got incredibly heavy with pee and still held everything in. I don't think we had a poop in the diaper yet, but I have no reason to worry that this would be an issue given the snug leg fit and that S's poops are already quite solid. The gussets would provide a great guard against runny EBF poop as well, I am sure!

Another good thing - no noticeable marks left on her legs or waist. This is always a relief to notice when trying out a new diaper, as you never want your little one's sensitive skin to be chafed & uncomfortable!

Finally, a few notes on prepping & care. The diaper and microfiber just need to be washed once and they're ready to go, however the hemp/cotton insert should be washed separately in 3 hot wash / dry cycles prior to use, to release the natural oils. Admittedly, I goofed here myself; I didn't read the laundering instructions clearly enough and ended up washing the diaper and both inserts together with my regular CD laundry once, and then using them right away. The good news? The hemp was already very absorbent and there didn't appear to be any negative effects on the other diapers in my stash. So if you happen to miss this step like I did, it's probably not the end of the world - but I recommend following the proper instructions in an ideal world. ;)

In terms of day-to-day maintenance, I've been following my regular laundry routine. EXCEPT! I'm happy to report that I've been tossing the Duo Diaper in my front load washer with the inserts still stuffed in, and they have indeed been coming out on their own! I washed mine 3 times (once with both inserts and twice with a single one) and the inserts agitated out each time. I'd say that the time saved by not having to un-stuff (not to mention lack of ickyness factor) definitely cancels out the slight stuffing difficulties I mentioned earlier.

All in all, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Thirsties Duo Diaper system. The diapers are high-quality, high-performance and super-snug and comfy on baby. And I definitely think they're on to something with the two sizes; I believe this system would work especially well and be quite cost-effective in the following scenarios:
  • Diapering from the beginning with a small newborn (7 pounds or less) - in this case, only two sizes are needed with Thirsties when three would likely be needed when using a one-size system (newborn, one-size and toddler). 
  • Starting to diaper a baby in the 15-20 pound range - in this case, only one size is needed with Thirsties when two would likely be needed when using a one-size or other system (one-size and toddler)

Here is a summary of pros & cons I found with this system:

+ Only two sizes needed from birth to potty training, and it appears that the recommended weight ranges can be extended a little bit if necessary.
+ Stretchy waist and leg elastics are comfy for baby and "forgiving" (resulting in a snug fit even if the diaper isn't put on perfectly).
+ Super-sized leg gussets provide awesome leak protection around the thighs
+ Microfleece inner is incredibly soft
+ Diaper is light-weight and creates a trim fit - even on the lowest end of the recommended weight range
+ Duo Insert is flexible; it includes two insert types which can be used separately or snapped together for extra absorbency.
+ Two closure options (aplix and snaps) are offered to suit your preferences
+ Inserts truly do agitate out in the laundry, so no need to un-stuff
+ Free of VOCs, PVC, phthalates and lead

- Somewhat limited selection of patterns
- Inserts can be tricky to stuff properly

Update (June, 2012) - After about 9 months of usage, our Thirsties Duo Diaper continues to perform well, and remains in very good condition. The microfleece inner isn't as soft as it used to be, but this appears to be standard with microfleece. The only minor durability issue I've noticed is that the aplix tabs are beginning to curl which makes them slightly prone to chaining. I'm noticing this with many of our aplix closure diapers and covers, however, so I've been more inclined to choose snaps recently. (Thirsties offers this as an option.)

Buy It:

Visit Thirsties' Retailer Locator page to locate an online store, or a retail location in your area. You can also request/download the 2011 Thirsties catalog for a full listing & comprehensive descriptions of all products. Note that the suggested price of the Duo Diaper (including inserts) is $18.50 each for solids and $19.50 for prints, though this may vary slightly depending on retailer.

Win It:

Thirsties has generously offered to give away a Thirsties Duo Diaper (including two inserts) to one lucky Manager to Mom reader! Winner chooses size (1 or 2), closure option (aplix or snaps) and print!

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: Hubby's Request!

Yesterday I ate a whole jar of "store home made" minestrone soup for lunch myself (about 3 bowls worth). It was quite delicious so I mentioned to Chris that we should do homemade minestrone as it's gotta be quite easy to make. His response? Minestrone is boring - it's like the fast food of soups. :) Well then! But his follow-up suggestion was kind of awesome. He said, why don't we do a chicken curry soup? Hello yummy - I'm in!!

I've also been wanting to make a batch of "sarma" (Croatian cabbage rolls) for awhile. Sarma's a whole afternoon affair so I'll need someone to watch li'l daughts during the process. I'm thinking Saturday for this one. And if I'm feeling ambitious, we might get a recipe post out of this one! :)

Back to linking up with orgjunkie this week!

BBQ chicken (from Sobey's)
Caprese salad

Coconut-Curry Chicken Soup (using the broth from the BBQ chicken)

Spinach and Mushroom Pasta Bake

Broiled salmon (need to decide on flavour combo)
Veg (broccoli or asparagus?)
Pasta salad (I'll grab some from Erb's, the discount foot outlet down the road)

Curling - off dinner duty! :)

Sarma - recipe to follow!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Planet Explorers Ebooks: #Review and #Giveaway (Closed)

When I was a child and young teenager, my family did our fair share of vacationing throughout Canada and the United States. We hit up numerous hotspots, with family-friendly beach destinations and coaster-heavy amusement parks tops on the list. I remember getting super-pumped before each trip, pouring over wrinkled pamphlets and AAA tourbooks, and dreaming up potential itineraries in my head. (Yup, even back then I was a little Type A. ;) But there were always some big holes in my planning materials - they only covered the highlights and included a lot of stuff I didn't care so much about as a kid (driving directions, adult-centric attractions, costs, etc.) How awesome would it have been to have entire guidebooks devoted to our vacation destinations, focused on only the cool stuff of interest to people my age?

Well, luckily, kids these days do have such an advantage! Enter Planet Explorers, a new series of ebook travel guides geared toward "tweens", ages 8-12! The series was founded by Laura Schaefer, author of The Teashop Girls and The Secret Ingredient. Here is a blurb from the Planet Explorers website on how Laura was inspired to begin writing these guides and her goals for the series:

"The Planet Explorers adventure began when a library director in Wisconsin told young adult author Laura Schaefer about several requests from parents for kids' travel guides. Laura founded Planet Explorers to fulfill this need and to indulge her own love of travel and of digging up fun facts. Her goal is to make each ebook a rich source of information about its destination. 

Laura wants each book to act as a springboard to further learning about geography, history, and science. To do this, links are provided throughout each guide to give readers more information about everything under the sun."
Laura has written the following six Planet Exporers ebooks so far: Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia and Disney Cruise Line. She also offers a Planet Explorers Disney Mega Guide containing all three Disney books - perfect for the mega Disney fan! The books can all be read on many different devices, from Kindle to iPad to PC.

For review purposes, I selected Planet Explorers Walt Disney World, as this was one of the theme parks I visited as an older child (11 years old if I remember correctly.) I downloaded it in PDF format to read on my laptop. (Admittedly, I'm technologically behind, lacking one of the shiny new devices best suited to this sort of thing!)

The book is 65 pages long, well-illustrated and chock-full of information. It includes an introductory page, a brief history of WDW, chapters on each "sub-park" (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach and Downtown Disney), Disney-isms (terminology kids might hear while at the park), a "Test Your Knowledge" quiz, general information (on hotels, restaurants and entertainment) and other goodies. The sub-park chapters are broken down further into themed areas (for example, Epcot has segments on Future World, Innoventions and World Showcase) and each of these is divided into the following sections:
  • What's cool about it? - Highlights top attractions in the area, including tips (for example, whether or not it's important to grab a "FastPass" for the attraction) and symbols which denote key characteristics of the attraction: S for Scary, D for Dark, T for Thrilling, W for Wet and A for just plain Awesome! :)
  • Fun Facts - Includes neat little tidbits about the area, such as pop culture references, measurements/statistics and historical facts. For example, did you know that the Spaceship Earth structure in Future world has 11,324 triangles on its surface? (I wonder - did Laura count them all while waiting in a particularly long line-up? ;)
  • Food - Ahhh, food. This section lists key eateries in the area, describing the types of grub available and indicating quick-service vs. sit-down for each one.

Each sub-park chapters also includes two great sections to close things off:
  • Characters - A run-down of where (and when) to find all those fun Disney characters within each park
  • Tips - A suggested itinerary for optimizing a day at the park  (i.e., maximizing the number of attractions you're able to visit). This is gold - you definitely won't find this in a run-of-the-mill guidebook!

And if that's not enough, the book also includes DID YOU KNOW? trivia bits scattered throughout. These are basically general "Fun Facts" about Walt Disney World and its main parks as a whole. For example, apparently there are at least 600 "Hidden Mickeys" to find in WDW! That's so cool - I had no idea! I would have had a field day trying to locate all these as a kid. ;)

True to her goal of encouraging further learning, Laura has incorporated dozens of links into the guide. Kids can quickly jump over to read about the real Hollywood Boulevard, Mark Twain (the author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn) the French chateau which inspired Cinderella's Castle, all the flicks featured in the Great Movie Ride and many other people, places and things! Certainly beats staring at the guy in the "I'm in no shape to exercise" tee four rows over. *nods*

All in all, I found Planet Explorers Walt Disney World to be a comprehensive, fun and interesting read, and I can see it being a very helpful guide for kids as well as adults who are planning (or currently enjoying) a WDW vacation. The book certainly triggered some fond memories, though also made me realize just how much the park has expanded & improved in the 20+ years since I've been there (whoa, I just revealed my age, huh? :) I found the language and flow to be pretty much ideal for the target age range, and I also appreciated the genuine enthusiasm and fondness conveyed in the writing. It is quite clear that Laura has a special place in her heart for Walt Disney World and that this guide was truly a labour of love. (Understandable, given her family has been visiting WDW for decades!)

During my read through, I did find a number of potential improvement areas in terms of organization, layout and other (generally superficial) factors. I sent my feedback directly to Laura and she was super appreciative and responsive, eager to implement some of the suggested changes and/or consider them further. She said that one of the best things about being a self published ebook author is that changes can be carried out very quickly. In general, she plans to release new editions of the Planet Explorer books each year, as applicable. This is a series she is passionate about and committed to, and I'm happy that I got the opportunity to check out its leading installment! I will definitely be recommending the series to family and friends with older children.

Buy It:

Planet Explorers ebooks are available for download on Amazon (Kindle / smart phones) and Smashwords (Nook, iPad, Sony Reader and PC). All of the individual books are $2.99 each, and the Disney Mega Guide is $6.99, a savings of $2 vs. purchasing the three books separately.

Win It:

Laura has generously offered to give away a free download of one of her books to two lucky Manager to Mom readers! Winner chooses book (Disney Mega Guide excluded.)

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!

Monday, October 10, 2011

$100 Christmas Cash #Giveaway (Closed)

Aaaaaand here is the 2nd cash giveaway M2M is participating in this month!

This $100 Christmas Cash Giveaway is sponsored by 20 fantastic blogs. One lucky winner will get a head start on their Christmas shopping and have $100 deposited directly into their Paypal account. To enter, simply follow each of us via Google Friend Connect (GFC) using the Rafflecopter form below! Giveaway starts 10/10 at 12:00 am EST and ends 10/23 at 11:59 pm EST. Open to readers worldwide!

Similar to the "Falling for You" cash giveaway, you only need to enter this giveaway on one of our blogs, but you can come back once a day to claim your daily entries too!

Good luck!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Easy Peasy Spinach, Mushroom and Bacon Quiche {Recipe}

In my 1 year "blog-iversary" giveaway, a couple of you mentioned you would like to see more quick & easy recipe posts. I love writing these; just a matter of finding the time among the other blog commitments I have going on (and, of course, that thing called "real life" as well. ;)

Barring an allergy or strong distaste for eggs, quiche is a dish that every home cook should have in their repertoire. Why?
  • It's ridicu-easy and quick to make (and almost impossible to screw up, in my opinion). Especially if you opt for pre-made shells like I do, given my complete lack of appreciable pastry-making skills. Total preparation time? About 15-30 minutes. (15-20 if you're most people and 25-30 if you're me, because I'm inexplicably slow in the kitchen. I'm working on this.) Of course, making your own crust adds to the time as well.
  • It can be reasonably healthy. Good protein from the eggs, and adding in some greens really boosts the nutritional profile. 
  • It's flexible. The base can be readily changed up according to the ingredients you have on hand, what you have a taste for, etc.
  • It's tasty!! (Well, I think most people would agree with this, anyhow.)

So as part of this week's menu plan, yesterday I made a spinach, mushroom and bacon quiche. I was planning to use ham but ended up subbing in the bacon as I ran out of said ham earlier in the week. The result: just as yummy! I referenced a couple recipes but changed things up a bit, so I thought I'd record the actual ingredients & steps I used for future reference.

Like I already mentioned, you can totally change things up in this recipe. For example, you could replace the spinach with finely chopped broccoli, or use different spices (I've seen nutmeg and coriander powder included in other recipes.) You could adjust the proportion of milk to cream, or milk and cream to egg as well. A quiche purist might tsk tsk these suggestions (and of course, they'd undoubtedly make their own crust as well), but I personally think as long as you don't stray too far away from the basics, it all comes out tasty in the end. :)

Easy-Peasy Spinach, Mushroom and Bacon Quiche

  • 2 pre-made pie crusts (285g total)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 5-6 oz of fresh, organic baby spinach
  • 5-6 oz of button or portabella mushrooms, chopped
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese, grated
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup 18% table cream
  • 1/2 cup rice milk (or cow's milk)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 
  • Salt & pepper to taste    


1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2) Cook bacon until it's just starting to crisp. Reserve about 1 tbsp of the bacon grease.

3) Saute onion & mushrooms in the bacon grease until soft.

4) Reduce heat and add spinach. Stir for 1-2 minutes until wilted.

5) Chop bacon into 1/2-1 inch pieces and add back in. Stir for another minute.


6) Spread mixture evenly into two shells. Top with grated cheese.


7) Whip together eggs, cream, milk, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper to make a custard. Pour evenly on top of the base ingredients in each shell.


8) Bake for 40-45 minutes.

9) Let stand for 10-15 minutes, serve and enjoy!

Do you like to make quiche? Do you have any favourite recipes / ingredient combinations you would like to share?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Falling for You: Cash #Giveaway (Closed)

As I announced recently on my Facebook page, Manager to Mom is participating in two great cash giveaways this month! They are both group giveaways (i.e. sponsored by multiple blogs) and the entries will be simple each time. Group giveaways are an awesome way for blogs to offer their readers a chance at bigger prizes, and also to grow their followings quicker leading to more fun reviews/giveaways and increased interaction!

Without further ado, here is the first one!

"Falling for You" is sponsored by 26 blogs, and the prize is a $130 Paypal credit or Amazon code! Nice chunk of change leading into the holiday season, don'tcha think? The event will run from October 7th to 14th.

To enter, simply like each participating blog's Facebook page and you're in! This may seem like a lot of pages, but Rafflecopter makes this a simple process - just two clicks per page! If you're in a hurry, this should take all of about 2-3 minutes. If you have a bit more, however, I encourage you to check out some of the other participating blogs for more great reviews/giveaways, coupons, tips and other family-friendly content!

Good luck!!

Rockin' Green: Your Tips & Ideas!

In my recent Rockin' Green laundry detergent giveaway, I asked you to comment on helpful/interesting ways you have used RnG in the past and/or or how you'd like try using it in the future! You guys shared some great suggestions and ideas, so I thought I would list 'em all here. I'm definitely eager to try a few of these! I actually just rocked a grungy stuffed animal soak myself and it worked like a charm! :)
  • Want to try this on my cloth diapers and hubby's socks!
  • I've soaked our pack'n'play in the tub with Rockin Green... you can check out pics of it on my blog Facebook page, Baby and the Chi's 
  • Love that it takes all the stinkies out and cleans really well. I do the RnG soak overnight about once a week, and it's great!
  • I would love to try this on the bibs of the children I care for
  • I'd like to try cleaning my carpet with it... but def. successfully rocked a few soaks already!
  • read RNG will clean tubberware stains!
  • I wash them once to get out the gross stuff before using any soap and use as little soap as possible
  • I'd love to try cleaning all the stains my daughters get down the fronts of their shirts...they are messy eaters!!  and I end up throwing out a lot of clothes
  • i'd like to try it to wash the floor
  • I have heard that Rockin Green Soap is great for doggie beds...well, this is a bit different but my dog will be giving birth in just one week and I will be using Rockin Green to clean the towels and blankets that get messy during the birth. Really hoping for the best for my blankets! :)
  • I haven't tried it yet but would use it on hard to clean dish clothes
  • I've rocked a soak on my diapers and got them extra clean! We ahve a few pet spots on the carpet we want to try to use it for and would love to try the funk rock to get rid of stinkies on a couple diapers I have.
  • We use rockin' green on our diapers but I would love to see if it got the gunk out of my husbands shirt collars!
  • I use it on my dipes, but I never thought about my kitchen cloths.  I usually bleach to get rid of the mildewy smell, but RnG would be much gentler on the cloths and on the environment.  Thanks!
  • I used it in my dishwasher-it was great!
  • I rocked a soak on my cloth diapers when I first tried Rockin Green - the water was so nasty, and I thought my diapers were clean!
  • Used it to rock a soak on some stinky microfiber inserts. My results were about the same as yours, MUCH better, but still could smell a little something funky....
  • ...would like to try it on some outdoor canvas chair cushions.
  • I would use it on sneakers!
  • I use Rockin' green on our regular diaper laundry, but also on cloth diapers I find at resale shops and garage sales.  It gets them as clean as new!
  • I would like to wash my kids sheets.  After a summer of bare feet I would love them to get really deep cleaned without using bleach.
  • I'd love to clean my dd's floor rugs! The bath mats was a wonderful idea!
  • Rockin Green was the only thing to get rid of the stinkies from the washcloths we use on our toddler after meals!
  • I love RnG and have rocked a tub soak for my cloth diapers- it worked like a charm after trying some detergent that did not work! 
  • I haven't used Rock'n Green yet, but I really want to try rocking a soak of our one size diapers. Especially in Funk Rock!
  • I haven't ever used Rockin' Green but would love to use it on my grungy kitchen cloths!
  • I have never used this product but would love to try it on stains -- especially on sheets and sleepers 
  • I rock a soak once a month letting them sit in the washer over night. It really helps keep them fresh.
  • Carpet Stains! I added a little bit of water to make a paste and scrubbed it right into the carpet. Worked wonders!
  • Haven't used RG yet, but would love to try it in the dishwasher (I'm having some problems right now with cloudiness).
  • I'd love to use it on my old stuffed animals. :)
  • I'd love to try cleaning my musty towels with this!  never tried it before!
  • Have never tried Rockin Green but have heard so much good about it -- would love to try it out on my baby laundry and also bedding!
  • I'd love to try rockin' a soak on my towels...I hear it really works to soften them up!
  • I was so impressed with your bathmat!  That is probably what I would use it for also.
Does anyone have any other tips or ideas to add to the list?

"S" @ 10 months: The Animals Have Something to Say!

Wow - Month 10 was a BLAST! S has been workin' a whole new set of physical and social skills, and she cut her first two teeth early on in the month! You can see the right one poking out a bit in her shiny happy official 10 month pic!

(Take a look at her up-to-date month-to-month album here.)

Growth-wise, she continues to gain weight slowly but surely, clocking in at 16lb 6oz on our digital scale. We didn't get a measurement for height this time around.

Let's take a closer look at some of the awesomeness from Month 10!

First of all. her motor skills and associated problem solving abilities have really been ramping up. A week or two into the month, she was able to work her Bright Starts Drop & Giggle toy like a pro!

She's even beginning to figure out her shape sorter, which is a much loftier challenge! I swear she totally knows how to do it but doesn't want to let on, as I saw her put the cross and triangle in their respective holes back to back, but then when she caught me looking she "regressed" to frenzied shape banging. Hmmmm.... :)

She loves cruising with the Stride to Ride Walker her friend Caleb lent her (until his sister has grown big enough to enjoy it!), and has become quite adept at climbing stairs in both directions. This video highlights her proudly doing all three!

She has also become coordinated (and social!) enough for a rousing game of "pass the ball"! I'm pretty sure she has better aim than I do.

She has become quite nimble and Chris commented that her reflexes are particularly solid; one time she held up her hand to halt a rebounding cupboard door that was about to smack her, and another she dropped a toy out of her mouth but then caught it under her arm. Unfortunately she hasn't been able to avert danger every time, however. Flimsy desk chair + inquisitive pre-toddler + Mommy taking her eye off the situation for a split second = one mean shiner! :-/

In other news, all that work on early baby signs has paid off recently, as she can sign more and flower reliably, and is starting to get the hang of a few others! She has also been impressing us with her recognition of animals and ability to mimic her favourites! For example, dog is "uh uh uh", cat is "ahhhhh" and cow is "oooooooh". Watch as she copies Daddy and then busts out her burgeoning impressions:

As for her first "word", no surprise here: Polynomial.

I kid. It's "Dada", of course; the first word uttered by, oh, 99.763% of babies. In any case, it warms Chris' heart every time she looks at him and says it! Not so much when she proclaims it to her Papa, one of the New York Yankees or our Borat DVD, however. Evidently all men (including those sporting super-scary moustaches) are Dada.

Let's see - what else?

She is turning into an affectionate li'l thang! She now loves to give "kisses" to her stuffed animals, her reflection and of course to Mommy and Daddy (that is, if you consider a toothy, open-mouthed assault on the chin to be a kiss!)

Sleep-wise, I'm happy to report that she has become a dream. I should definitely knock on wood now as I know this could still change at any moment, but as of right now she goes down super-easily both at naptime and at night, and she's currently sleeping for 11-12 hours straight. Sometimes she's right out after nursing, but when she's sleepy yet awake, she is now able to nod off on her own without issue. Sometimes we play a little peek-a-boo and "throw the doggie out of the crib" first, which amuses her greatly. :)

And I'm sure it goes without saying she has continued "cultivating" her mischievous ways. She takes everything out of / off of all surfaces, cupboards and containers in reach, and manages to navigate herself into some interesting places!

Finally, she has been training with Daddy for her G1. I think they'll pass her on cuteness alone!

Well that's a wrap, folks! Good thing too as we're almost halfway to 11 months! I need to start compiling notes for the next post, gah!!