Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Instant Pot Cowboy Beans and Rice Burritos

Sometimes you just want a burrito!

This Instant Pot recipe makes super fast, inexpensive and easy burrito filling. It is even kid-approved: my six year old ate two, and my four year old had no complaints (a rare dinner!). You will find it easy to make, healthy and nutritious!

My version is vegetarian as I use a veggie "ground round", but you can certainly make it carnivore-friendly by using ground beef, and I've included instructions for that.

This version is also on the mild side. If you want to spice it up, here are some ideas: use chipotle sauce instead of barbeque, add more chili powder (or some cayenne), add a small can of jalapeños, or chopped fresh jalapeños as a topping, or hot salsa.

I used roti instead of tortillas, which added a really nice flavour and I recommend giving them a try for the wraps. I picked them up at Walmart of all places - $2 for a pack of 10 which is about half the price of tortillas where I live!

I've mentioned this before, but I love my Instant Pot. I use it pretty much daily, and it has make cooking fun again! This is an affiliate link for the 6-quart pot, which I have; I find it perfect for our family of 4. Most meals we end up with leftovers, which I freeze for busy days when dinner seems daunting.


Filling Ingredients:

·      ½ onion, diced
·      1 Tbsp oil
·      1 stalk celery, chopped
·      1 c. tomato juice
·      1 c. water
·      1 tsp chili powder
·      ½ tsp salt
·      1 tsp barbeque sauce
·      1 19 oz can beans, drained and rinsed (I used a 6-bean blend; use your favourite or whatever you have handy!)
·      1 c. white rice, rinsed
·      1 lb veggie ground round  (**I use Yves Cuisine veggie ground round, which is pre-cooked. You could use lean ground beef if you prefer.)

To Serve:

·      Grated cheddar
 ·      sour cream
·      Tortillas or roti

1.     Press Sauté button on Instant Pot, wait until it reads Hot, then add oil. Sauté onions until translucent. (** If you are using ground beef, add it with the onions and cook until it is brown and crumbling, then drain any grease off.)
2.     Add remaining ingredients in order. Crumble the ground round onto the top of everything else. Press it lightly so everything is submerged in liquid, but don't stir. Press Rice button and set vent to Sealing.
3.     When finished, allow to naturally release pressure for 10 minutes (that means just leave it alone after it beeps for 10 minutes!). Carefully release the vent to the Venting position, release remaining pressure and open lid. Stir to combine.
4.     Put in tortillas with grated cheese, sour cream and any other desired toppings to serve.

Optional toppings:

 Chopped tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, green onions, cilantro, salsa, whatever you like!

If you try this out, I'd love to hear how it turns out for you! 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Instant Pot Tomato Soup

When I learned about the Instant Pot, I knew I needed one immediately. And since I got it three months ago, I have never regretted the splurge. I love it and use it many times a week. Money well spent!

I have the DUO 60. It makes yogourt (delicious, easy yogourt), cooks rice, meat, soups and stews, steams, and even makes cheesecake! Amazing. Pressure cooking is new to me, and I've been having a lot of fun experimenting with new recipes.

Tonight, the kids wanted tomato soup, and we had no cans in the cupboard. Instant Pot to the rescue! I whipped up a batch of homemade in very little time. So here it is - vegan (leaving off the sour cream and using veggie broth), easy, fast and adaptable, as well as kid-approved (my three and six year olds gave it the thumbs up!)


makes approximately 1 litre

¼ cup cashews
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
½ Tbsp basil 
1 Tbsp olive oil

1 28 oz can no salt diced tomatoes
1 ½ cups boiling water + 1 veggie bouillon cube  (or 1.5 cups veggie/chicken broth)
1 ½ Tbsp oats
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
Press Sauté on the Instant Pot with the liner in. Wait until it says Hot, then add the olive oil, and sauté the first six ingredients until onions are soft and translucent.

Add remaining ingredients. Set your Instant Pot to Manual, turn the dial on the lid to Sealing and adjust time to 5 minutes on high. Do a Natural Pressure Release of 10 minutes (ie, leave the pot alone after it beeps until it reads L00:10, or set a timer) then release the pressure by opening the lid dial to Venting.

Open carefully and use an immersion blender until you have a smooth consistency.


I served with a dollop of sour cream and a dash of freshly ground black pepper. Fresh basil would be a nice addition. Or Parmesan. Or grated cheddar. Or cooked, shredded chicken.

Use the veggies you have. No carrot? No worries. Add chopped red pepper, spinach, kale, zucchini, whatevs! Public Service Announcement: if you hate carrots like I do, don't worry - you can't taste the carrot!

Cashews, nutritional yeast and oats are totally optional! They add depth of flavour, and the oats and cashews add vegan creaminess, but if you are fresh out of cashews, think it's weird to add oats to soup, and don't have nooch in the pantry, that's perfectly okay!

Increase the recipe at will, but remember not to fill the inner pot over 2/3 full for pressure cooking (no matter what the Max line says!). If increasing ingredients, there is no need to increase cook time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tekno Newborn Review!

Looking for a last minute, affordable Christmas gift for a child in your life? I have a great idea for you! 

We had the chance to review a Tekno Newborn Robotic Pet and I'll tell you all about it. These are super cute little robots that come in cat or dog versions, and in different colours. There's even an exclusive black pup available at Toys R Us. You can also pick them up at Walmart, Canadian Tire, London Drugs, and Loblaws, and they retail for about $24.99 (I've even seen them at $20).

We have an almost-six year old girl, and a three and a half year old boy, and we received a pink kitty to review. 

I have to say, it has been a much bigger hit with our daughter. Our son lost interest fairly fast. However, our daughter has been playing with it quite a bit. 

The toy lights up, moves and makes sounds. It is also sensitive to sound, so talking or clapping to it evokes a response, which is pretty cool and interactive.

For movement, it can walk a short way, sit up and beg, and has a special function where if you press a button and then talk to it while holding your hands out, it will actually jump into your hands. Well, it jumps, anyway, and the kids try to catch it! 

Another button switches it to singing mode, and it will sing back to you if you talk or clap to it. It has several different songs that the kids might recognize (all "sung" in meows). 

The box it comes in has a cute cardboard insert that looks like a little room. My kids have pulled out this insert and use it as a home for their kitty. 

Kid pros (provided by my daughter): 
  • she's pink and white
  • she can jump and sing
  • she meows a lot
For the parents:
  • it has an on/off switch - which I like as a parent, because those toys that just randomly start singing when you think they're off creep me out. 
  • the noise of it is not too obnoxious. Many toys have the most irritating sounds; this one is about a medium volume and maybe a 5/10 for annoying, which is not too bad at all for a kids' toy. 
  • it takes two AAA batteries (not included).  
If I have any complaints, it is that within a half an hour of play, one ear had popped off. I'm not sure if that's due to rough play (possible) or an accidental tumble on our hardwood floors. It is easy to pop back on (even my little guy can fix it), but that ear does now have a tendency to fall off, and I can foresee it getting lost. The Krazy Glue may need to come out. For this reason, and of course the attention span factor, I would not recommend it for children under 3 (choking hazard with small pieces). 

I'd say this would be a great gift for the 4-6 year old. Easy to find, a good price, and definitely fun!

Disclosure: I received a product in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own (and my opinionated little girl!).

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Irish Fairy Door Review

I have a almost-six year old now, and she firmly believes in fairies! What a treat for her to review the Irish Fairy Door.

We received a magical little package that included a Fairy Door, a key in a bottle, some tiny stepping stones, a welcome guide/storybook, a little notepad for fairy notes, and a lease agreement between our family and our fairy!

We also got an Fairy Playtime accessory pack, which included a tiny swing, see-saw, bicycle and ladder. There are other accessories available too, for expanding your fairy's world and decorating around the door.

The Fairy Door is about 12cm tall, just right for a little fairy. It has a magical keyhole that works only for the fairy who moves in! We got a pink one, but they come in six different colours so you can select the one perfect for your home!

I decided to install the Fairy Door in secret, to surprise my daughter. I put it in her closet, above the baseboard. The ladder is just the right height for the fairy to reach the door! I used a Command Strip I had on hand to attach it to the wall. So easy.

 Look how cute it all is!!

When she first discovered the door (right after school, while playing in her room - nothing escapes this curious kid), she was SO EXCITED! Right away she began decorating the floor around the door with small shiny things to entice a little fairy to move in.

We did have to talk about how fairies make things work - she tried and tried to get that key to go into the keyhole before the fairy came and took the key. Of course it didn't work, because only magic can make the key work!

Magically overnight, the key has disappeared and now the fairy has made a home in her closet. Miss Fairy leaves little notes and trinkets for my little girl, and she couldn't be more excited to check every day if there is anything new.

You can even register your fairy online for email updates from Fairy Valley and cute activities and missions for your child.

The Irish Fairy Door retails for $24.99 US ($39.99 CDN) and you can buy it right from the Irish Fairy Door Company, or from Amazon! The Playtime Accessory Set is $14.99 US ($15.99 CDN) and is also available at both the Irish Fairy Door Company website and Amazon.

This really was a great addition to my daughter's room. She is absolutely certain that fairies are real, and to have one living in her room has made her so happy. I think this would be a fabulous gift for any believer!

* This post contains affiliate links. If you elect to buy from Amazon, I get a few cents!
** I received products in exchange for an honest review. All images and opinions included are my own. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Morning coffee (it's a MUST!) #CoffeeBuzz Keurig 2.0 K400 review

It's International Coffee Day!!! Let's celebrate :)

With two littles who are keeping me astoundingly busy - and tired - coffee is a MUST. I have always loved coffee, and *before kids* used my espresso machine faithfully. It took a good 5 minutes of coddling to produce my morning joe, but the process was part of the pleasure.

Fast forward to life with kids, and I'm all about convenience in the morning. I'm getting breakfast for myself and the kids, tending to the dog, and trying to stay sane on very, very little sleep. My 15 month old doesn't sleep through the night any more than his sister did at this age - I'm up to about four years now without sleeping through the night once!

So I've become a quick and dirty coffee maker. I've been using *gasp!* instant coffee for a while. It comes pretty close to blasphemy for this aficionado, but I do buy the pricey coffee chain brand and it does the job.

However, given the chance to test out the new Keurig 2.0 K400 coffee maker from Staples.ca, I jumped at it. I had a Keurig machine years ago (check out my review on that one here), and was very curious to see what had improved with the new version.

I love the ease of popping in a K-cup and pressing a button to make one of an overwhelming number of varieties of coffee, tea, and other drinks like hot chocolate or dulce de leche. It is so simple and fast.

Keurig 2.0 K400 colour touch screenThe K400 has some features I love - like the ability to brew a single cup or a carafe! I had been making espressos for dinner guests and my espresso machine is noisy and slow. It takes a good 10-15 minutes to produce three espressos, it needs me to stand there for milk steaming, and it makes so much noise I can't take part in a conversation. Brew a carafe with the touch of a button? Yes!

The colour touch screen is easy to use, and the machine itself, while large (it has a 70oz water reservoir), looks nice and shiny on my counter.

Keurig 2.0 K400

Overall, it's so darn easy that I'm tempted to make coffee all day long. Luckily, there are lots of decaf varieties available as well! And when you register your machine on Keurig's website, you get a great discount on your first purchase of coffee.

My current favourite is the Tully's Italian Roast. Paired with French Vanilla milk, it is amazing. 

There are just a couple things I don't love about the machine. One is, like in my previous review, the waste of the K-cups. I have learned that the cup bit is recyclable - which means I'm spending time each morning peeling off the lid and pulling out the filter and coffee grounds, getting my fingers covered in wet coffee grounds, to recycle the cup. Convenience factor just took a big hit. The other thing I don't love is that it makes a big of a mess. It may just be the shape of our mugs, but I have found that the coffee splatters a bit as it goes into the cup. Not a huge deal, but again, taking some of the convenience away as I'm wiping down the counter and machine after use.

In honour of International Coffee Day (today, yo!) Staples is hosting Pick Me Up Hours where you could WIN! Watch Staples Canada's tweets and the hashtag #CoffeeBuzz for details!!

Disclosure: I received the Keurig 2.0 K400 and coffee products from Staples.ca to review. This is my honest opinion.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Birthday girl

Oh, my, it's been a while. It is amazing how much energy and time two little ones take! My son, now just coming up on 8 months old, has been teething (enough said!). My daughter has just turned three (how did that happen?!). How time flies!

This is just a quick post to share some images from my daughter's birthday. We did a pirate princess party (I had no idea these were so popular, and can thank Pinterest for a lot of the ideas I used at our party!). It was two hours of madness: 14 children and assorted parents. The power went out for 40 minutes in the middle - thank goodness it didn't affect us too much.

I borrowed a giant Wilton cupcake cake pan from a neighbour for her birthday cake. I used the recipes for Dark Chocolate Cake and Raspberry Jam Buttercream from Food.com, and they turned out wonderfully. Unfortunately for ME, every slice of cake and every mini cupcake was gone by the end of the party! On the plus side, I'd made double the batter, thinking I'd need it, and ended up with an extra dozen large cupcakes as well as an 8x8" cake in the freezer. Phew! Personal chocolate crisis averted.

I learned a couple of things about the pan before I baked, and I'm going to pass on these tips for anyone baking a giant cupcake cake with the Wilton two-part pan.  First, turn your oven to 325 degrees rather than 350. Cover the dome side with oiled foil before baking, and remove it after the first half hour. Test after 40 minutes or so, but mine took an hour to cook fully both sides. Apparently you need two cake mix boxes to fill the pan, as the base takes 3 1/2 cups of batter, and the top 2 1/2. But, if you use the truly delicious recipe above, you only need one batch worth (unless you just want loads and loads of cake, which really is okay in my books.

Here's my sweetie before the party:

Love that girl!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A super photo book deal!

I love making photo books for my kids of their adventures  - and they looove looking at books with pictures of themselves! So I was thrilled to find a deal on photo books at Artscow. I'd never heard of this site before, but I just created a book and placed my order and I'm so excited to see the result!

The difference with this site from ones I've used before (I've tried Shutterfly, Kulapix, and WalMart's photo book services) is that it makes it super easy to do a digital scrapbook style book, with loads of free "kits" that have full book layouts as well as all the patterns and embellishments you could desire. It's completely customizable with a drag and drop interface for both the layouts and your photos.

I found there was a bit of a learning curve (and you do need to install Microsoft's Silverlight if you don't already have it - also free, and available right there on the site from the Create page, it prompts you to install it), but overall I enjoyed the process. And you can't beat this deal:

a 99 cent photo book, including shipping!!
Use coupon code Z099BOOKK47EG 

(My order came to $1.07 Canadian) This includes 6x6" and 7x5" photo books. AWESOME. And great Christmas presents!! Go get one!

Expires Dec. 31, 2013 and limited to the first 20,000 orders. One per household.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Our bedtime routine with JOHNSON’S® NATURAL® #JohnsonsNatural

When I just had one child, bedtime was a simple thing. We had our routine of potty, bath, tooth brushing, pyjamas, stories and cuddles down pat.

With two, it gets a little more complicated, especially while Baby D is still so little. He needs to go to sleep around 7:00 pm, while my daughter's bedtime is 8:00. He needs about half an hour of quiet nursing and cuddles to fall asleep - and my daughter has Crazy Time right before bed when she is full of beans and noisy as anything.

On good nights, however, we do manage to coordinate bath time so they can have a bath together (it's usually a two-parent job at our house!). My daughter adores the bath, and my son is starting to really enjoy splashing and relaxing in the water (though coming out of the bath is his cue to WAIL!). Even if my daughter is tired and getting whiny, the promise of a bath is enough to get her to behave and change her attitude. And a cranky baby is always soothed by warm water!

She loves "helping" by pouring water on him, and we're extra careful to explain that splashing is fun, but we don't splash each other in the face! 

Bath time, while they're small, is a time for them to play together and relax after busy days. We are still using JOHNSON’S® NATURAL® baby products at bath time which I feel helps keep things consistent. The familiar smell is a part of the routine, and they associate it with sleepy time. And as an informed and concerned parent, I appreciate that they are paraben-free, dye-free, and phthalate-free.

I think if there's one thing that is a must for bedtime, it is story time. I strongly feel it's important to instill a love of reading in our children. Reading to kids is such a wonderful way to share time with them, explore language, discover new worlds (real and imaginary), and set them up for a lifetime of enjoyment and education through books. The only times our little ones go to bed without a story is if we've been away on a day trip and they've fallen asleep in the car - or if they've lost the privilege of story time by being naughty (my almost-three-year-old is very aware of her behaviour near bedtime so that she doesn't lose story time!).

We always let our daughter choose her two stories, and it's fun to see which ones she chooses to hear us read each night. Sometimes it's a streak of one thing or another (currently, Dr. Seuss is on heavy rotation), but sometimes she surprises me by pulling out an old favourite. It's also fun to watch our son as we read the stories aloud - he looks carefully at all the pictures and is fairly patient (for a four-month-old!) as we read through two books.

After story time, lights go out - we have a star projector for my daughter's room, and a night light for my son. Darkness helps cue the brain to sleep, and we try to keep things pretty dark without a complete blackout. 

With a consistent bedtime routine, soothing all the senses, little ones can drift off to dreamland easily.

Disclosure – I am participating in the JOHNSON’S® NATURAL® Blogger Campaign by Mom Central Canada on behalf of JOHNSON’S® NATURAL®. I receive compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Purex Oxi Laundry Detergent Review (with Giveaway!)

Since my first baby was born, I've been using only unscented laundry products: free and clear detergents, and soap nuts. Our laundry does get pretty clean, but I confess that sometimes stains are not quite as gone as I'd like them to be - and I secretly miss that fresh laundry smell.

I had the opportunity to try out Purex plus Oxi liquid detergent and honestly was a little apprehensive. I'm super sensitive to smells, and I was worried that the scent would be too strong. I also worried about how good it would be at removing stains in our stainiest clothing - baby and toddler clothes. But, I gave it a try.

And was pleasantly surprised!

While the scent is strong in the bottle, laundry comes out smelling lovely - not too strong at all. And, I learned that Purex plus Oxi is hypoallergenic as well - I have no troubles to report with any reactions from my little ones' sensitive skin, and no complaints from the family about our nice-smelling laundry.

The detergent has Oxi in it, which is an enzyme-based stain remover - great for *ahem* organic stains (if you have a baby, you'll know what I mean). It also has Zout stain remover. Together they have managed to get our worst stains out and leave our clothes bright and clean. You can even use it as a pre-treater on really tough stains if you're so inclined (personally, I'm much too lazy - no, BUSY - to pre-treat...).

From apprehensive to converted - now that I've tried it, I wouldn't hesitate to buy this at the store in place of what I have been using.

The lovely folks at Purex plus Oxi have given me some coupons for a FREE bottle to give to my readers! Enter on the Rafflecopter form below (coupons are good in Canada only).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Purex provided me with a sample of Purex plus Oxi detergent in exchange for a product review. However, all the opinions expressed here are my own.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Family Photos and some great promos at Sears #SearsBabysRoom (Giveaway!)

Growing up, my family never had professional portraits taken (other than school photos for me). My mum was the family photographer, and thus was rarely in the pictures. I don't miss having stilted photos with fake backdrops (though those do get funnier as the years go by) - I loved her candid shots of our family. However, I do dearly wish we had a few of us all together.

Fast forward to now, and I am the family photographer, and thus am rarely in the pictures. I think I need to make more of an effort to get other hands on the camera, so that I can be in pictures with the kids (other than selfies!) - and maybe a few studio portraits are in our future.

Sears has an upcoming special in the portrait studio - from October 25th to November 7th, when you spend $50 or more on kids' fashions, you get a FREE photo shoot at Sears Portrait Studio and 10 FREE personalized photo greeting cards! You can book your session any time between October 25th to December 13th to have it done! So, pick out your photo-ready outfits for the kids and get to posing! I love it... I'm thinking family Christmas cards!

Lucky us, Sears is giving one of my readers one of these photo sessions and the greeting cards! Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Then keep reading to find out about KidsBucks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As you may know, Baby Days is also coming up at Sears from October 11-31 - that's 20% off everything baby! And there's a fabulous KidsBucks promotion going on as well. For every $40 you spend on kids' clothing, toys, children's furniture - basically any kids' stuff (except Carters/Osh Kosh, footwear and things with a price ending in .97) - you get $10 in KidsBucks which you can spend between November 1-12. This is good in stores and online, too! Hello, Christmas shopping!

I'm a bigger and bigger fan of Sears the more I learn about it... I always knew about the store, but I am realizing more and more they have great promotions and great brands. It's now one of my go-to stores for sure! I hope you are able to take advantage of some of these offers!

Disclosure: I am part of the SearsThe Baby’s Room Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Yes, I know my baby's crying.

It happens every week. A morning grocery trip turns into a spectacle as my three-month-old son screams. I know you've seen and heard babies crying at the store before. Maybe you're a parent and you've been there. Maybe you're not and you think you have something to offer.

I've had comments of all sorts from people who surely mean well and aren't implying that I don't know why he's crying or what to do about it.

Believe me, I KNOW he's crying. I do.

I've had people offer to unload my groceries onto the conveyor, pack my bags, random offers of help like that.  That's kind - and sometimes I do take people up on it - if it's gotten to the point where he's so upset I need to take him out of his car seat and bounce him to soothe him.Then, I don't have enough arms to get us out of there fast and hold him and unload groceries.

I've had the dirty looks too - like I'm a terrible mother for "letting" him cry and not doing something about it immediately. Or maybe it's for the way he's interrupting their blissful grocery shopping trance.  Or conflicts with their idea of what a mother should be doing.

Here's what I am actually doing:

I'm buying food to feed my family, just like you. I happen to like spending time with my husband on evenings and weekends, so weekdays it is. Afternoons are nap time for my toddler, so I'm there in the morning. I need to get out of the house and see adults - even if the only adult conversation I have all day long is a mundane exchange with the cashier.

You'll see me hastily shoving groceries into my cart as we make our way through the store, trying to get everything on our list while comparing prices and using coupons as I try to also save money for my family. You'll hear me talking to him, trying to reassure him that we're almost finished. You'll hear me asking my toddler to sing to him and make funny sounds to try to flip his mood. And you'll see the stressed-out look on my face as I try to manage a heavy cart, my coupons, my purse, my toddler and this crying baby. 

I'm making silly sounds. I've even nursed while shopping - one arm full of baby, one arm wrangling a big and awkward grocery cart down the aisles. So sorry if I got in your way.

And here's why he's crying:

He's tired. He naps in the morning, and while ideally he would sleep through a grocery trip, the store is so big that it takes me a while to get through it, especially with a toddler who is curious about everything she sees. I've taken the time to talk to her and answer her questions as we shop, showing her interesting vegetables, and discussing where food comes from, and the different kinds of things we eat, and how we try to save money with coupons and sales, and answering a thousand "Why?"s. Perhaps I should do that at home to speed up the trip. But, then how could she touch a dragonfruit, or wrinkle her nose at the spices? How could she see the crabs and lobsters in their tanks? Would we get into a random discussion about coconut jelly? So, I cross my fingers and hope he'll sleep most of the trip, that the motion of the cart will lull him to sleep and nobody drops a can or my little girl doesn't poke him awake.

He's hungry. Although I always nurse him before we leave the house, he's a little guy and he eats often. So I can bust the boob and try to steer the cart (near impossible, tried it, had the awkward convo-while-nursing with the bakery staff); I can steer my full cart back across the giant store to spend twenty  minutes sitting in the pharmacy waiting area and nurse him while attempting to entertain a bored and hungry two-and-a-half-year-old with a pen and a brochure (done it). Or I can rush through the check-out line - inevitably busy - while he cries loudly - and nurse him in the passenger seat in the parking lot, while my daughter reads one of her books in the back (that's what I usually do).

He's hot. Car seats just are hot. My daughter was always sweaty in hers, and he's no different. I can't do anything about that. Carrying him throughout the trip is just not on - he's too heavy, and it's too awkward. He can't sit up on his own yet. So while I can take off his blanket, I can't really solve the problem any other way. He's got to be in there. Yes, I will pull him out and bounce him in the parking lot before buckling him back in and driving away.

He's ill. My healthy looking, chubby and mostly happy little guy has tummy troubles. We've got a specialist, and we're giving him medicine for it. But the medicine doesn't completely solve the problem, and it's at home as it's a big bottle and needs to be measured out. I can't bring it in my purse. So if that's the trouble, he'll just have to wait until we're home. Home is less than 10 minutes from the store. And you can bet if that's what's wrong, I know - I can tell by his cry - and I'll be the one standing in the bathroom in the dark with the fan on, bouncing him and holding him up with his head back, the only combination of things that will eventually calm him down.

So yes, I know he's crying. Yes, I know why. Yes, I know what to do about it. One of the best things I can do is get out of there fast - but I still need to finish the job. Because we need to eat too. So if you don't mind - just be nice, don't say anything and trap me in a polite but unwelcome conversation, smile, and... get out of my way :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Nursing Pad Showdown

Last time I was nursing, I used a combination of disposable Lansinoh pads and washable pads. This time around, I am still using my washable pads at night and disposables again during the day, especially when out and about.

I'm a big milk producer, apparently, so tend to leak a LOT when I let down. Lucky me. I have been in a mall and had milk soak through a washable pad, bra, shirt, sweater, and a jacket... walking around in public with big dark wet spots on your front is neither comfortable nor attractive! So, pads are a must, and washables don't cut it unless I can change them and/or my shirt in a hurry.

Disposables are expensive. I mean, really... they cost so much more than pantiliners and aren't they pretty much the same thing in a different shape? Perhaps it's a demand thing. Anyway, I decided to try out some different kinds as I found that Lansinoh are pretty much at the top of the price scale.

Here's what I've learned so far.

For comparison, I've tried out Medela, Lansinoh and Johnson & Johnson disposable pads so far. Here are the pros and cons of each:

Pros: Come individually packaged, which is great for tossing in your purse. Cheaper than Lansinoh at around $10 a box of 60. Thin, so not as apparent under your shirt.

Cons: Individual packaging means they're more wasteful. I find the packaging difficult to open. There is an "open here" arrow that points to the side of the package, yet they rip most easily down the middle. The wrapper is also staticky, so once you tear it open it sticks to your hands. Weird pleats in the shape mean you get lumpy looking boobs. Just one adhesive strip means they shift around a lot, especially as the bra is up and down all day with nursing - and that means they're not always in the right place, and they get more lumpy as they start to break down. The worst thing about these is that they do not keep moisture away from the nipples. On a hot day if you are sweating or if you are leaking at all you will be able to feel moisture on your breasts under the pads. To me that screams bacteria - and I wonder if it's a coincidence that I got mastitis again with these pads. I will never buy these again.

Pros: Come individually packaged, which is great for tossing in your purse. Very absorbent. Two adhesive strips means they stay in place - all day if necessary. Thin, so not as apparent under your shirt. A quick rub seems to smooth out any folds that show.

Cons: The most expensive at around $12+ for a box of 60. Individual packaging means they're more wasteful. The plastic packages are a little tricky to open (but not as bad as the Medela ones).

Just a note here that Lansinoh pads in Canada and the US are slightly different. The US ones are marginally better - packages are easier to open, and the pads are slightly more shapely. I discovered this after using American Lansinoh pads and then buying them here and being a little disappointed about the quality difference.

Johnson & Johnson
Pros: Very thick and absorbent. A single adhesive strip seems to work with these - because they are much more stiff and hold their shape better than the thinner Medela and Lansinoh. Again around $10 for a box of 60.

Cons: What is up with the "nipple" on these? I think it's bizarre! Completely visible under a bra and shirt, it looks like you have erect nipples (and Google is going to bring some strange visitors now I've said that) all day. Weird. Also, the pads are very thick which means they are also quite visible - they are smaller than the other pads, so you have a thick round circle on the front of your boob with a fake nipple on it. They look strange. And to me, already somewhat body-conscious so soon after baby, that's not good at all. No individual packaging means you can't really stick them in your purse unless you tuck them in a sandwich bag or something... and even if protected by a bag, they will get squashed and lose their shape. Then they'd be even more lumpy.

Overall, in my experience, the Lansinoh pads win, hands down. They may cost 20% more but they are worth it. I'm not sure I'll bother trying more brands unless someone recommends them to me. Do you have a favourite nursing pad? Or, one you don't recommend? I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Newborn Nesting {$800 Nursery Giveaway!} with #SearsBabysRoom

For my daughter, I took 9 months to prepare the perfect nursery. From creating a wire alphabet to slip-covering a glider, I was all DIY awesomeness. Take a photo tour of her nursery here! Seriously, check it out. I am proud of it - I loved everything about it.

Then, we moved. And while the stuff came with us, the light in the nursery is different (Calgary light is so different from Toronto light!), the floor is beige carpet and not warm maple, the walls are painted mud brown (by the previous homeowner). It's just not the same.

Mia's just moved up to her Big Girl Room this past weekend (more on that later!), and now it's my task to make the nursery perfect for our little guy. He's still co-sleeping with me, but soon will need to move into his own room. And, a lot of Mia's stuff of course goes with her to her new room. So I am doing newborn nesting all over again!

Lucky for me, Sears is having a Newborn Nesting event from September 8-16 (isn't that timely!). Last month we had the big kids' sale with the Back to School event, and this month our littlest family members give us a chance to save! Here's the deal: Buy anything baby, from gear to furniture and even baby clothes (not including Carters and Osh Kosh, aw!), and get a cash card as follows:
Spend $200 and get a $25 cash card, $300 for a $50 cash card, and $400 to get $100 cash card! The cash cards are just like gift cards that you can redeem between October 7-31*.
*this offer excludes Vancouver. Vancouver gets a 15% off sale on everything baby instead! 
So for Dexter's nursery, I am thinking the palest blue paint to brighten up the walls, and lots of bright lamps as well as curtains.

I love this wardrobe/dresser too! I wish we had room for it! 

We do have a lot of Mia's baby stuff still - some of the crucial newborn things, like a bath seat, change pad, swaddling wraps, and carriers, we held on to. The one thing I had to buy another of at Sears? A Cloud B Sleep Sheep (read my initial review of the Cloud B Sleep Sheep from over two years ago!). Mia still uses hers nightly, and it's so awesome that I bought another just like it for Dexter.
colours brought in with books, toys, and art. He might just need some new

And now for the wonderful news you've been waiting for: 

Sears is generously giving one reader across the Sears Baby's Room bloggers a complete three piece Stork Craft nursery set valued at $800! It includes a crib, change table and side table/chest for storage. You can enter across any of the participating blogs, but there will be only one winner. This giveaway is for Canadians only (sorry - no Quebec :( )!  Fill out the Rafflecopter form below by September 15th to enter! Good luck!!!

For your comment entry, tell me what one thing you *need* to get for baby, or always recommend to new mums?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I am part of the Sears The Baby’s Room Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Life with two

I haven't been posting that much lately, I know! With a busy - very busy - two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, and with this little guy who just turned two months, I'm not finding much time to myself these days. They decline to sleep at the same times, so I'm awake pretty much always.

Dexter is adorable, and very sweet - when he's not being colicky, which is often. There's a lot of crying. He strongly (and vocally) prefers to be held upright, with his head leaned way back, and bounced, with the bathroom fan on. All at once, and immediately, as soon as it occurs to him that that's not happening at any particular moment. So I spend a lot of time standing, swaying and bouncing in a dark bathroom with the fan on.

My daughter is adjusting fairly well, no real jealousy, but there are a lot more tantrums, and she is usually seeking the attention she used to get, which I just can't give her. I'm always saying, "Not just now, honey, I'm nursing/changing/bouncing/holding Dexter" and I can see the disappointment in her eyes. It is frustrating for both of us. I feel like our connection is not as strong as it once was, and I miss my time with her alone.

Me, I'm holding up - but lack of sleep is definitely making life difficult. I have no energy and find myself irritable and tearful much too often. PPD or just exhaustion? It's hard to tell. Anyway, I'm sure I will get back to more regular posts as things get easier. (They'll get easier, right? RIGHT?!?)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back to School with Sears (giveaway alert!) #SearsBabysRoom

Back to school at Sears
My kids are still too little to experience the joy of going back to school, but I remember it with delight! I always loved the fall and return to school - the excitement of seeing old friends and making new ones, the anticipation of who was going to be in my class, and of course the new clothes and school supplies! Nothing beats a new pencil case full of sharp new pencils and a fresh pink eraser.

I wonder if our kids will know that pleasure, with technology in the schools?

Anyway, that anticipation and excited feeling is so strongly associated with fall for me that I have never gotten over. I looooooove me some back to school fall shopping.

So with the only somewhat fictional excuse of the rapid rate of child growth and the need for new fall clothes, I was happy to do some "back to school" shopping at Sears for the kiddos.

 Our little guy scored a super cute outfit from the Carters section of The Baby's Room at Sears.

This three-piece set came with a sweet stripey onesie in cerulean and white, and the grey hoodie and pants. I adore the little hoodie - it has a turtle on the front, and a plastic zipper with a soft fabric pull (it boggles my mind that some companies put metal zippers on kids' clothes).

It's super soft, and I like the jersey weight for the hoodie - not heavy like a sweater, more like a t-shirt fabric - which I think makes it more versatile. It is perfect for a cool summer morning and for all-day wear in the fall.
Mia chose her own outfit, as usual. (I did manage to talk her out of a purple, orange and pink combination that was painful to look at!). She chose a Nevada long-sleeved shirt and some fabulous sparkly pink Osh Kosh leggings.

The shirt is a size up, so she's wearing it like a dress. I'm sure I'm not the only one who buys clothes one size up - you know they're going to fit for longer, right?! It's super cute, grey with tiny pink zebras (which she insists are horses) and polka dots.  The leggings are also the next size up, so she's got room to grow.

Another awesome thing about shopping at Sears - besides the prices (and price match guarantee), brand names, and the selection - is their Kidvantage Lifetime Wearout Warranty. That means if your kid wears out his or her clothing or shoes before outgrowing it, Sears will replace it (with your original receipt). Cool!

You also NEED to know about the great giveaway Sears has for the season: the "Back We Go" contest on Facebook. With 35 daily $50 Sears gift cards and five weekly draws for $500 in gift cards! What an awesome back to school shopping spree that would be! The contest runs until September 5th.

Disclosure: I am part of the Sears The Baby’s Room Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Staples - office supply bliss!

I am thrilled to be working with Staples Canada! I had the opportunity to visit my local Staples store here in Calgary after doing some virtual shopping online. Between the two I think I have managed to see just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the sheer number and variety of office supplies they offer.

Here are some of the fruits of my shopping excursion:

When you think of Staples you might think of the standard office supplies. Things like printer paper, pens and markers, scissors, tape and mailing labels.

Well, of course they have all that (and more... think of an office supply and you will find it there). I remember working in an office years ago, and being the person who ordered office supplies. Whenever we needed something specific, Staples was the solution to our problem.

As a small business owner myself, I know I can count on Staples to have what I need - if I run down the road 5 minutes to the actual store, or do anytime shopping online. So YES, you will find the office supplies you need at Staples.

But there is a lot more fun stuff in the office supply category as well! Did you know they carry the Martha Stewart line of office organizing tools and supplies? I got these great vertical files from that line to replace my shamefully battered, cheap-looking and falling-apart old ones (see picture).

Yeah. I needed those!

Our office looks a LOT more organized and tidy now that we're not storing the files we need handy in cheapo cardboard vertical files. The Martha Stewart ones have cute little labels and are a pretty faux leather. They're extremely sturdy and I know these will last ages and still look good.

This picture from Staples Canada
I was totally crushing on the Martha Stewart wall organizer - but I wasn't sure it would fit in our yet-to-be-renovated laundry/mud room, where I'd want to put it as a catch-all and reminder station.

It is modular, so you can pick and choose what format and functions you want - white board, chalk board, bulletin board, shelves and containers and so on! Is that not awesome?! Maybe once we get that room finished (sometime soon I hope... having an unfinished laundry room is making me crazy!) I will pick it up!

One of the things that has been on my wish list for AGES - I mean, YEARS - has been a label printer. They have gotten a lot more awesome in the years since I first saw them (remember those old ones that pressed raised letters into a plastic strip?).

I finally got this amazing Brother label printer. LOVE. Okay, it's pink and I have to say the "cutesy" design is not really my style - it's sold as a scrapbook labeller and I'm not a scrapbooker at all (though I do appreciate the acid-free labels). But it is so cool. It's really easy to use and I may just have to label everything, everywhere.

I started with some new durable plastic report covers with lots of pockets that I got to hold the kids' medical info. I'm always hiking it to appointments with them and these will make it easier to store and organize all the paperwork that goes along with that.

Next, I think the linen closet and kitchen need some labels.... hey, it's not just for offices!

The final thing on my list was something to keep my two-year-old occupied while I play with my new labeller. Okay, I admit it: I love shopping for art supplies for her. I love watching her explore and discover her creativity.

Staples has loads of art supplies! I picked up some washable paints, a pad of blank paper and some pipe cleaners for her to play with. Hours of fun!

So that was what was in my basket at Staples. It was so fun and easy to find what I was looking for. I love things to be neat and tidy, so it was also inspiring to see all the different tools to get organized in the office and elsewhere.

One last thing. This week I sold a painting (yay!) and we decided to get a new tablet for me to use. I settled on the Google Nexus 7 2nd generation after some research. And guess who had it in stock - Staples! So I picked one of those up as well. Lucky me! I really like it!

Disclosure: I received products to review from Staples Canada. My opinions are my own and honest, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A safe and happy bath time with JOHNSON’S® NATURAL®

When we first started trying to conceive, years ago, I made a very conscious effort to rid my life of unnecessary chemicals. Products with parabens and phthalates were among the first on my "toss" list as I cleared out my cupboards. (Read more about why this is important for your health, and check out this fantastic - and scary - video as well)

I found that purchasing natural products made me feel better and more informed about what I was using on my body, but it also can be expensive and tricky to track down products that fit the bill.

Since I've had children, my views on ingredients in skin care products hasn't changed one bit - but I am happy to discover that there are some options for our little ones that are widely available, 97-99% natural, and paraben-, dye-, and phthalate-free: JOHNSON’S® NATURAL® Baby line.

We have been testing out these products for a couple weeks and I'm happy to say I like them.

The JOHNSON’S® NATURAL® Baby Shampoo is lightly scented (not that - sorry, but - nasty baby powder smell, either), and foams up quickly and well for good coverage of little heads. I use it on my two-year-old with her mid-back length hair as well as on my one-month-old with his 1cm of fuzz. I find it quite liquid, which makes it easy to spread out in a hurry. I emphasize the time aspect because the baby haaaates bath time for now, and getting his hair washed and clean fast is important!

 The JOHNSON’S® HEAD‐TO‐TOE®   Body Wash is also very lightly scented (the scent on both these products fades fast, I find). I appreciate not being overwhelmed by scent. It is great to use on a baby washcloth, getting nice and bubbly without using a ton of it.

The last product we are trying out is the JOHNSON’S® NATURAL® Baby Lotion. Of all three, this is the one I was least impressed by. The lotion smells lightly, and smooths on easily. It has a nice consistency, not too thick or thin. However, I feel like it goes on well but doesn't seem to absorb or do as good a job moisturizing as I would have hoped. My baby has some dry skin - nothing serious, not eczema or anything like that - but the lotion didn't seem to help that much with it. I do like this lotion for baby massage, though, as it's nice and light and slippery! 

Bath time for my daughter is a pleasure - she loves the water and would happily play in the tub for hours, playing with her water toys if we'd let her! She's not crazy about the practical aspects of it - hair washing, for example - but is thrilled to show off her burgeoning swimming skills by doing back floats and blowing bubbles with her face in the water.

Bath time for my son is a different story. He's still too little to really enjoy it, and mainly we try to minimize his discomfort by getting through it as fast as we can! He sits in his bath seat while we keep pouring warm water over him and get him washed and rinsed quickly. Draping a warm, wet washcloth over his body helps a little. The best part of his bath time is the cosy towel snuggles and his sweet fuzzy head after!
Disclosure: Product provided as promotional consideration to Emily's Latest by Johnson & Johnson Inc.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You look amazing!

There have been a couple instances recently when I've seen someone who just looks awesome. I mean, a stranger, who clearly has her act together. (Me, I'm just working on getting back into my pre-pregnancy clothes.)

Two times in particular I have almost said something but stopped because I thought it might be weird. Wish I had, though - because I know when someone pays me a compliment it really makes my day.

So -
to the girl at Chinook mall whose scarf perfectly matched the brilliant colour in her hair, who reminded me of myself as a teenager -
and to the woman coming out of the C-train Stampede station with her family on Sunday, with long dark hair and an olive jersey maxi dress -
you look amazing! Wish I had the wherewithal to pull myself together the way you did that day.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Get Outdoors (and a discount code!)! #SearsBabysRoom

Finally! Finally! Summer has reached Calgary (along with some wild flooding which this city's still recovering from). While I'm a little house-bound with a cluster-feeding three-week-old (ugh!), my toddler is ready to go!

Luckily the great outdoors is a lovely place to be, especially since we just had the lawn re-graded and sodded, getting rid of some terrible landscaping left over from the previous owners. And as long as we stay in the sunshine (sunscreened up, of course), the plague of mosquitoes mainly keeps away.

Outdoor play means outdoor toys. We love playing with bubbles, picking dandelions, pouring water and a "balance beam" made of a 2x4, but there are a few outdoor toys that I am crushing on on Mia's behalf.

We do have a Plasmart Plasmabike which Mia has been using in the basement all winter. I'm not sure if we will continue to use that as an indoor toy or bring it outdoors. It's so great on the tile floors downstairs, and we don't have a sidewalk in front of our house; just a sloped, bumpy aggregate driveway, so it would be a little tricky to ride out there unless we go on the road. We're on a quiet court, but who wants to take that chance?

Besides that, I would love for her to have the Little Tikes Sandy Lagoon Waterpark. I think she'd get an enormous amount of pleasure out of a sand and water play table, and this looks like a really fun one.

Photo from sears.ca

Can you imagine getting this Little Tykes Rocky Mountain River Race Inflatable Playset for your kids?  It's enormous! I think it would fit in our back yard, but there wouldn't be room for much else! It would definitely be a neighbourhood attraction! I think I would have been in heaven if I'd had that as a kid!
Photo from sears.ca
If you are in the market for some great outdoor toys (or any other toys!), I have an exclusive discount code for you to use at sears.ca! The code is 941612912. The offer is 20% off all regular price toys on Sears.ca, valid from July 12 (tomorrow) until July 18 (next Thursday).

Happy shopping!

 “Disclosure: I am part of the Sears The Baby’s Room Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Meet the new baby, and an interview with Dad #SearsBabysRoom

I'm thrilled to say - our new little baby is here! We are thrilled to welcome Dexter to the family, born Tuesday morning. At just shy of 39 weeks along, he was 8 lbs, 5 oz and 21" - a solid 90th percentile baby. So far, so good! 

Mia's proud to be a big sister, though it is hard on her to have to share our attention. Although we did our best to prepare her, it's got to be a hard concept to grasp for a toddler before a new baby actually comes. I think he's much less fun, and taking up much more Mummy and Daddy time than she expected. 

Here she is holding him for the very first time Tuesday afternoon!
And here's my husband, what a proud Daddy he is! I love this photo - everyone smiling (okay, Dexter was sleeping) and happy. Mia's cuddled up right next to her Dad, and Dad's holding on tight to his newborn son. Cadbury, our 9-year-old chocolate lab, was pretty excited too - he's great with littles though was a little anxious about us being gone overnight! What a great first day for our little guy.

I asked him what his favourite part of being a Dad was, and here's what he had to say: "Watching our kids learn is pretty cool." Definitely! It is amazing to see how they process new experiences.

He also had some tips to pass on. Baby #2 has got to be easier than Baby #1, right? Even though they all come with individual challenges, you kind of know what to expect in general. So here are some Dad tips from Dexter's Daddy:
  • Hold that baby! Babies love to be held and it doesn't always have to be Mum - the heat, heartbeat, movement and cuddles from Dad are great for soothing little one. 
  • You get used to poop. Yeah, you never thought you would - but eventually (and with babies pooping all the time, that 'eventually' comes pretty quick) you have seen so much poop that another one just doesn't faze you. 
  • Let Mum get some rest when you can help out that way. Seriously, happy Mama = happy family - and an exhausted Mum means grumpy Mum, kids who are clamoring for attention and unhappy babies (not to mention a Mum who's too tired is not going to accomplish those tasks that used to be priorities, like cleaning, laundry and cooking!).
I know Father's Day is technically over - but is there really a day as a parent when you're "off"? Not in my mind! So if you're thinking of picking up a little treat for Dad (or, hey, for yourself), check out Sears Days - on now until June 23rd, at Sears Canada locations and online at sears.ca which includes brands in The Baby's Room. Spend $50 between June 21-23 and get $10 in Sears Bucks to spend on your next purchase between June 24-27. Also - free shipping almost anywhere in Canada until the 23rd!! See in store for more details!

Disclosure: I am part of the Sears The Baby’s Room Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.