Friday, December 31, 2010

Catching up

My husband and I have spent the week catching up and "recovering" from months apart. I am so glad he's home. We had a quiet Christmas and plan a quiet New Year - perfect.

I confess, I've also been sleeping a lot. The fatigue I experienced in the first trimester has returned for my ninth month in spades. I haven't slept through the night in months, and now the pee breaks are more frequent, I'm too hot, I'm uncomfortable (I long for the day I can sleep on my back or stomach again), and often insomniac too. Ah, the joys of pregnancy. I wouldn't trade it for anything, though. I've been incredibly lucky this time around, passing the tests and not experiencing a lot of the more unpleasant symptoms that can happen. My worst complaint is the discomfort and back pain.

I can hardly believe that in just a few short weeks we'll be meeting our little girl for real. I've spent all these months loving her and feeling her move and hiccup in there, it seems strange to think I haven't really met her yet. I wonder what she looks like, what sort of baby she'll be. I know I will miss the feeling of her moving, it's such a joy. I expect I'll feel empty inside, in a way.

We're nearly ready for her - the nursery needs a few more things, but nothing major. We picked up a stroller on Boxing Day (the Britax B-Ready) and after a problem with the brake not working on the first one we got, the replacement works fine. I need some practice folding and unfolding, though! We have yet to get the car seat, but all we need to do is pick that up from a friend as we're borrowing one (a non-expired, non-crashed one from a very close friend I trust). I haven't packed our hospital bags, but will get on to that soon. We have our big prenatal crash course next weekend, a hospital tour booked, and a prenatal breastfeeding class as well.

Oh, and we need to figure out what to do with the dog when the big day comes... the plan is to labour at home, mostly, head to the hospital for the birth with the midwife, and then come home 3-4 hours after the birth. That's if all goes well. So hopefully it won't be too long away from home. The hospital's only about 10 minutes from home.

Hmm, written out it seems like there is a lot to do yet!

So, I haven't spent much time online or blogging lately. I will have to post a belly photo - tomorrow I'm 35 weeks (amazing, where did the time go??) and I feel big!

Friday, December 24, 2010

All I want for Christmas is...

my husband home safe and for good.

After a six-month stint of working in Calgary, he flies home for the last time tonight. I get to keep him this time!

And now that I am closing in on the 8-months-pregnant mark, I will be even happier to have him around. I'm starting to worry about the baby coming early - four babies have already arrived in my online February birth club, and one more mama is in hospital trying to slow down her baby's impending early arrival.

I am, and am not ready - the nursery is pretty much ready (though she'll sleep in our room for the first few months), I have only finished three of the eight pregnancy books on my bedside table (I know, I know. But I like to be informed!), I am excited and terrified at the same time! I am confident that we can do this, and do it well - but I worry about how the lack of sleep is going to affect our coping ability in the first few months. The birth, I am not as worried about. I may be crazy, but having read so much and feeling good about going with a midwife whom I trust, has made me a little complacent about it.

Cadbury will also be a happier dog when my husband is home. He's gotten even needier than usual over the last few months (which has been really annoying), and that's got to stop - because we're soon going to have another priority over him. He's very well-behaved, but he can be incredibly demanding at times. So I guess I'm hoping for a more laid-back version of Captain C for Christmas, too.

Wishing you a very happy holiday season, and I hope all your Christmas wishes are granted!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tropical Traditions Coconut Flakes - Review & Giveaway!

***This giveaway is closed.***
Winner: Jennifer

I hope you like coconut! Tropical Traditions was kind enough to send me a GIANT bucket of their Organic Coconut Flakes to try out. I'm talking about 2 lbs of fluffy flaked coconut here!The coconut is dessicated, so 2 lbs is a lot! I can't wait to use it in lots of things from curries to cookies and bars. It comes in a 1 gallon pail that I admit I had a little trouble opening. It has a break-off tab, and you peel off a strip, and then bend back the tabs to open. But the tab that you pull the strip with broke off completely... Thanks to sharp scissors and determination, I did get it open. To close it I had to kneel on it! That tells you just how strong the seal is! I am sure that with more openings and closings it will become easier to do. Sometimes you just have to put your back into baking!

This arrived with perfect timing for that last minute holiday baking. But I've done a lot of that - I decided to make Oatmeal Energy Bars. I got the recipe from my Canadian Living Baking Book(which I recommend - lots of great recipes), but you can also find it here, at the Canadian Living website. (Of course, there are loads of recipes on the Tropical Traditions blog too - just search for "coconut flakes"!) And although I was planning for these to be lunch treats for my husband to take to work, they are so pretty and tasty that they're going in the holiday tins, too, cut small into bite-size pieces.Check out that big bucket of gorgeous coconut! I also used Tropical Traditions Organic Thick Rolled Oats in this recipe (you can read my previous review of those here). The coconut smelled wonderful as soon as I got that lid off. It's crispy and fresh-smelling. I like flakes better than shredded, because to me shredded coconut has a sawdusty texture. I'm weird, I know.I didn't have apricots for the recipe, so I substituted raisins. I would have used dates, only someone (okay, it's my husband) doesn't like them. Bah. And slivered almonds? I only had whole. So I whizzed them in my mini food processor to chop them up. You could really substitute anything for the dried fruits and nuts in this bar. I love dried cranberries, so those go in for sure! But you could go for variety by adding anything from desserty options like chocolate chips and mini marshmallows to pepitas and goji berries.

And here's what you do when the recipe calls for a 9x13" pan, but your 9x13" pan is in the fridge, full of a cashew and eggplant casserole - line a bigger pan with parchment paper, fold up an edge to approximate a 9x13"-ish size, and fill the rest of the pan with your pie weights (we use beans). Looks funny, works great.
Look how they turned out! Yum! If you wanted to get fancy, you could drizzle them with melted white chocolate or that "yogurt" coating stuff (aka partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, whey powder, yogurt powder and sugar... not healthy at all).

Tropical Traditions has generously offered one of my readers the chance to try the Organic Coconut Flakes for free!

The giveaway:
A 2 lb pail of Tropical Traditions Organic Coconut Flakes!

How to enter: Head over to Tropical Traditions and let me know one other thing you'd like to try, OR one thing that you learned there. Make sure I've got a way to contact you if you're the winner!

Extra entries (please leave an extra comment for each):
  • Subscribe via email to the Tropical Traditions newsletter
  • Follow @troptraditions on Twitter (leave your Twitter name!)
  • Follow me on Twitter (leave your Twitter name!)
  • Tweet about this giveaway for ONE entry, this is not a daily! You can use this if you like:
    Win ~Organic Coconut Flakes~ from @TropTraditions at Emily's Latest @emilyisland US/CAN (Ends 1/6)
  • Follow my blog (publicly) – 2 entries, leave 2 comments
  • Add my blog button to your blog– 2 entries, leave 2 comments (please leave a link to your blog)
  • Blog about this giveaway, linking back to this post and to Tropical Traditions – 2 entries, leave 2 comments and please include a link to your post
  • Let me know what you'll be making first with these if you win!
I will be verifying comments so please actually do the things you say you do ☺ If you already do any of these things, it still counts for entries!

Please be sure to include your email address if it’s not public in your blogger profile! Anonymous comments without a way to contact you will be rejected. Canadian or US mailing addresses only, please. Giveaway ends January 6th at 11:59 EST. A winner will be drawn the next day, announced here, in a separate post and emailed!

Prize will be shipped by sponsor. Note for Canadian entrants: Tropical Traditions is not responsible for customs or duties that Canada may charge if you decide to participate in this Tropical Traditions sponsored blog giveaway. (FYI - it's unlikely to have a charge, being well under the $60 that incurs duty charges. There was no extra charge on my shipment, which came to Canada quickly and packaged well.)

I received the product to review, but was not otherwise compensated for this review.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Easiest Fudge Ever, and No-Sew Tutu tips

Want an impressive, crowd-pleasing treat for the holidays in under 10 minutes? This is it... Great for holiday baking tins, after dinner with coffee, to take to or serve at parties, and so many variations!

Super Easy Microwave Fudge
  • 3 cups chocolate chips (any variety - dark or milk chocolate, peanut butter, mint chocolate, white chocolate, go crazy!)
  • 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup of add-ins (mini marshmallows, chopped nuts, candied cherries, dried cranberries, white chocolate chips if using dark or vice versa, crushed candy cane, chopped candy bar, Skor bits, coconut flakes, anything goes!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Combine chips, milk and butter in a microwaveable bowl. Heat 3-5 minutes on 50% power, stirring every minute until chips are melted. Stir in vanilla and add-in ingredient (save some for sprinkling on top if you like!).
Line an 8x8" pan with foil and grease foil (if you forget, don't panic - it's just a little harder to peel off the foil later).
Pour the chocolate mix into the pan and refrigerate until set.
I used chocolate chips and chopped pecans - yum!
Makes 64 1" squares of deliciousness. They look great on a tray with cookies, or in a tin in those little paper candy cups. Some of the options that sound yummy to me:
  • white chocolate macadamia nut
  • white chocolate cranberry
  • milk chocolate Skor
  • milk chocolate with peanuts and raisins
  • dark chocolate cherry
  • peanut butter with white chocolate chips
  • any chocolate with rice krispies
  • mint chocolate chip with marshmallows
  • adding a little cinnamon or even hot pepper flakes would make an interesting change
You can divide it into smaller pans and make different batches, too (half chocolate-nut, half chocolate-cherry). So versatile! I love it.

In other news, I did end up making tutus for my nieces, and bought my tricky-to-buy-for eight year old nephew a children's cook book, which he actually seemed pretty excited about (we had the big family Christmas on the weekend).

Here is one of the no-sew tutus I made, generally following instructions I found online. It took about 6 yards of tulle, cut along the bolt fold and cut into 6" strips, per tutu. I used pink elastic at the waist, about 20" long with an inch overlap, sewn (the girls are 3 and 4 years old), and added a ribbon at the waist as well, so that they can tighten it for now and it still has room to flex later. The trick I discovered for tying the tulle is to lay the closed blades of a pair of scissors along the elastic & ribbon combo and tie the tulle around the whole thing. The blades of the scissors easily slide over to the next spot to tie, and it prevents the knot from being too tight around the elastic (if it's too tight, it won't stretch or will stay stretched out).

I will say that this took a lot longer than I had expected - it was not a quick project. I think it would be faster to make a sewn tutu! A little basting and elastic, voila. I guess I will know for next time, if I ever tackle a tutu again. For now, I am so over tulle!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winners - You! Lingerie

Here come some very lucky winners! The prize is a nursing bra and panty set from the new gorgeous You! Lingerie line. There were 208 eligible entries, and got busy and picked two winners:
and... Congrats, ladies!

For those of you who didn't win this time, don't forget that You! Lingerie is not only comfy and attractive, it's also affordable. I absolutely love my Isis Blue nursing bra, and a bunch of the ladies in my birth club online have already ordered from You! Lingerie and reported back that they also love what they got! If you are considering it, I'd say treat yourself - you won't regret it!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hang in there!

I will pick winners for the You! Lingerie giveaway on Monday! This weekend is the family Christmas with the in-laws, so it's kind of chaotic around here :)

I also have a review and giveaway coming up next week for Tropical Traditions Organic Coconut Flakes (yum!), and that recipe for super easy microwave fudge on the way (seriously, it takes under 10 minutes).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sibu Beauty Coupon Code!

Just in time for your after-Christmas shopping (in case you don't get everything you wanted!), Sibu Beauty is offering a coupon code for 25% off your skin care shopping online between December 26th, 2010 and January 3rd, 2011!

You may recall my review of Sibu Beauty products here.

In case you can't read the fine print, the code is BLOGHAPPY, and it's valid for orders up to $300 and packages are not included.

Have fun shopping!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Heads up - Hi-Tec is coming!

Remember how I posted about the awesome boots I was trying to win on Hi-Tec's Facebook page - and then I actually won (with your help! You guys rock!)?

Those boots came today (how fast!) and they. Are. Amazing. I love them! These are the Snowdonia boots from Hi-Tec...So full of awesomeness. Anyway, the point of this (besides giddy raving about a. winning and b. how much I love them) is that I wanted to let you know that next month I'll be working with Hi-Tec on a review and giveaway! I know you're as excited as I am now!

If you don't know Hi-Tec, they're all about quality outdoor gear from footwear to their new apparel line. I'm crushing on their parkas... More about this stuff later.

Meanwhile, there are still days left of daily giveaways on their Facebook page that you can go enter. And stay tuned for the Hi-Tec goodness that is coming right here :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Night light

We need a little night light - so that nighttime nursing is easier. Baby will be sleeping in a bassinet in our room for the first bit, and I am hoping that the middle of the night feedings won't disturb my husband's sleep too much. I'd also like to be able to see, but not with a bright light that will be more of an awakening than either baby or I need.

Features that I'd like -

- relatively dim
- small, perhaps portable
- something I can easily and quietly turn off and on

I don't want the kind that plugs into the wall and stays on all night - just something small that can sit on my night stand or on the table beside the glider. My bedside table light is quite bright for reading and has a fairly loud, clicky switch on it. We have a Cloud B Twilight Turtle for falling asleep lighting in the nursery, which is very cool but not ideal for this purpose.

I have read that a red light actually doesn't trigger a light response in the brain, so that it's easier to maintain that half-asleep feeling and get back to bed without a full awakening.

I got all excited when I saw this:
Which is kind of perfect, no? Cute, but not branded, not too icky-sweet, and not girly. Fun, bright colours. Fairly small, touch to turn on. The only thing I don't love is that it's battery-operated, but I'm not sure what I would really expect as I do want something portable (a charging base, maybe?). The light is in the white 'stem' of the mushroom, so it's not really red (and hopefully isn't too bright).

I just bid on one on eBay :) Let you know how it goes! Even if it's horrible... well, it's only 1 cent plus $2.62 shipping!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A start on holiday baking

I've started making the treats for my holiday tins -
kind of a lousy photo, sorry!

Chocolate dipped pretzels - two kinds. These are super easy to do, and fun. I think next time I would use pretzel twists, I was thinking rods would be easier (and they probably were) but they are not quite as pretty.

Just melt 1/2 cup of chocolate in the microwave at 50% power for 3-5 minutes, stirring every minute, dip the pretzels, lay on waxed paper, and sprinkle. I used Belgian milk chocolate sprinkled with Skor bits for half, and dark chocolate-mint (mint-flavoured chocolate chips make that super easy) with sprinkles for the other half. If I were really fancy I would have drizzled with white chocolate - but I'm not.

Thumbprint cookies from the Canadian Living Baking book - made with brown sugar instead of white, and rolled in chopped pecans. For the filling, I did half the batch with Crofter's Europe Superfruit (pomegranates and black currants blended with red grapes and morello cherries), which wasn't as pretty as I'd hoped - the filling went really dark after baking, and the jam is so thick that it didn't spread out at all (they do taste great, though!). The ones that you can see in the picture are the other half batch, for which I used homemade strawberry-mango jam, and I think they were more successful. These were a bit of work for only three dozen cookies, but they are so pretty and delicious. You can also top them with chocolate chunks or Hershey's kisses - I was thinking how pretty and festive white chocolate or yogourt with a dried cranberry in the center would be, too. Lots of options!

The cookies go in the freezer for a few days until I am ready to make up the tins, to keep their freshness. The chocolate dipped pretzels can hang out at room temperature (freezing or refrigerating would make the chocolate "bloom").

Still to come - shortbread, ginger cookies, and super easy microwave fudge. I'll share that fudge recipe with you, too - it's so simple with great results.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas and the Gift Dilemma

The thing with Christmas when you're all grown up is that you pretty much have what you need. And generally, you have what you want, too - at least, the people I know are the kind whose reaction to "want" is "go get". I can't seem to convince anyone to stop buying things they want for themselves in October so that they have a decent wish list by December!

Boy, does that make gift giving difficult.

Even the kids in the family are hard to give to. My nieces and nephew have wish lists, and two of the three (8, 5 and 3 years old) are asking for gift cards. Is that awful, or is it just me?

The last thing I want to give any of them is a gift card. Hey, let's teach them to be consumers and that plastic cards are the ticket to getting anything you want for free! Yeah. Great idea. These are the credit junkies of our future.

I was thinking of making the girls tutus (they like to dress up), but I've no idea what to get the 8-year-old boy. All he seems to do is play on one of those handheld video game consoles (for which he has all the accessories he could possibly want).

Hey! If you're a grown-up friend or family member of mine, better stop reading now!
I mean it!

I am giving mostly practical gifts this year. Things that I know people have worn-out versions of that need replacing. Things that will save my loved ones time doing un-fun chores. Sounds boring, I guess. Maybe it won't be the kind of delight that bursts out of the wrapping, but I hope that each time they use the gift they will find it makes their life easier or better in some way.

The other gift I am giving is treats from the kitchen - I really enjoy baking, and I know most people enjoy homemade goodies, but not everyone has the time (or inclination) to make them. So I'm going to whip up some batches and put them in holiday tins. These are such great neighbour gifts, and lovely to bring as hostess gifts. Some years I do preserves (apple cider or wine jelly is super easy to make, and always impressive), but not this year.

And the last thing I am going to say is that going shopping on a Saturday two weeks before Christmas, especially when you're 32 weeks pregnant, is absolute madness. Common sense, right? So where was my common sense this morning?! My feet are killing me and I can now say I have used every public washroom in the mall, as well as one at a grocery store (even though the lock was broken) on the way home. Desperate times...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A little help?

Thank you to those of you who helped me by liking my video! I ended up winning - amazing!

Hi-Tec USA has 8 more days of giveaways on their Facebook page, open to Canada and the US - worth a "like" of their page for sure! They make really nice outdoorsy/sporty hiking boots and outerwear for the whole family.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shady Lady Review

When I was contacted to do a review for Shady Lady (aka, I was thrilled! They have replicas of designer sunglasses for amazingly low prices.

I have bought expensive sunglasses and cheap ones, and quickly discovered that they are equally easy to lose - and just as easy to scratch up if you're clumsy like me. So why spend massive amounts of money when you can get the same look for way less? You can be happily on trend without breaking the bank. I tried out the replica Christian Dior sunglasses (above) which are priced at $14.99 (USD)! My husband's comment was, "They're big!" Captain Obvious is awesome at compliments, no? What do you think? I don't think they're too huge, myself.

Sorry about the mums-at-the-end-of-blooming in the background. They were pretty once!

I like them. They're very comfortable and lightweight, and they do block out a lot of the brightness (especially since the snow has hit Ontario!). No more squinting for me!

They have replicas of many of the big designer brands, like Ed Hardy, Baby Phat, Coach, Gucci, Juicy Couture, Ray Ban and Nike, just to name a few.

I quite like these Ed Hardy replicas with the koi on them (though honestly I don't think I could pull them off). The classic Ray Ban aviator replicas are pretty sweet, too. There's lots of variety!

I also found that the packaging the sunglasses were sent in was great. They came in a strong mailing tube, wrapped in bubble wrap inside - quite safe from crushing or breaking. It would also be easy to wrap for Christmas!

Originally they had planned to offer a giveaway for my readers, but I've been having a lot of trouble getting hold of my contact there to arrange it. I will follow up for a fourth time and see what I can do in that direction.

In the meantime, they did provide a coupon code for you that gives you 25% off their already low prices (so you could score a pair for $11.25!) - um, stocking stuffers, anyone? Just use the code AGXUV8JB at checkout when you order.

Disclosure: provided me with a pair of sunglasses to review, but I was not paid or otherwise compensated for this review.

Winner - Tropical Traditions Organic Oats!

We have a winner for the 5lb bag of Organic Whole Grain Thick Rolled Oats! These will be great for that holiday baking or just for everyday use! Visit Tropical Traditions for these and more great natural products. picked:which is...Congratulations!

In other news, I made these recently for the baby with some scrap fabric, ribbon, and flowers from an old lei that I had hanging around. (I knew it would come in handy for something!) :)Taggy blocks! Super easy (I just made them up)... 6 squares of fabric for each, each block is 1/2" smaller than the last. Bits of ribbon in the seams, flowers sewn on before sewing the squares together, stuffed with polyfil. One thing to watch with ribbon - make sure that tags are wider than long, so little fingers don't get tangled.

Friday, December 3, 2010

You! Lingerie - Review and Giveaway!!!

***This giveaway is closed.***
Winners: Amanda & Luvin My Lil Monkeys!

You! Lingerie is pretty much brand spankin' new on the nursing lingerie scene. They launched their beautiful line just a few weeks ago and are already seeing an amazing response, with retailers lining up to sell and customers lining up to buy!

Here's why - these are quality products at a reasonable price. What's that?! A reasonable price for nursing bras? It's practically unheard of. And they're really nice, too - not your boring beige, black or white, but vivid colours and prints, with lace and bows - not overly frilly, but with some real pizazz. I love seeing products that make being a mama sexy and these definitely fall into that category.

I got to try out the Isis Blue nursing bra. The bra came packaged in an air-filled bag, which protected it from crushing but is still quite minimal packaging. You may recall that I take issue with a lot of maternity & nursing bras. Part of the problem is the sizing, part is the underwires, part is the uglies and part is the insane pricing of nice-looking bras. You! Lingerie addresses all of these issues. Their sizing chart and measuring instructions are quite easy to follow. The bras are supportive, but underwire free - which makes sense, as underwires can lead to clogged milk ducts and infection! They're pretty and affordable.

Not only that, they are functional. The signature hot pink clips (love) are easy to open one-handed. The lightly lined cups provide modesty without bulk. The straps are wide for comfort, and there is a triple hook at the back with four size settings, meaning a comfortable band (no digging in at the sides) and adjustability for fluctuating sizes during pregnancy and nursing. I found mine to be very supportive - now, I'm not super-sized in the boob department, but I am used to wearing underwires and I totally didn't miss the wire at all.

Here's the bra itself - gorgeous colour, love the hot pink lining, clips and bows! I also appreciate that while there is lace on there for style (at the sides it is backed by hot pink, it looks so pretty), it is situated so that it does not create a lumpy profile. The seamless cups are great, too. I really hate that lumpy look that some bras have under a t-shirt! You can see in the picture that the left side is a little crumpled from being packed with one cup inside out (this is fresh out of the bag). Not to worry - the cup reverted to a perfectly smooth shape very quickly!When you see the pretty lingerie models on the website, you might wonder how the bra looks on a real person. I know I always do - they're so perfectly proportioned and I always wonder about Photoshop hiding the flaws of a product. (Skeptical much?!) So here are a couple of photos of the bra in 'action' on a real person. Bear in mind I'm seven months pregnant, and definitely no professional lingerie model! Be easy on me :) I wanted to show the great fit, how supportive the cups are (there's lift going on here!) and how the bra is smooth under a knit top.
Each of the bras has a matching panty as well. There are currently seven designs available, and you can buy them online at You! Lingerie as well as at select retailers. If you are in the market for a new maternity or nursing bra, or if you want to jazz up your lingerie selection, without breaking the bank, I can happily recommend You! Lingerie. You can also pick up a gift certificate on their site if you are looking to impress a mama or mama-to-be for Christmas!

Here's the best part for you:

You! Lingerie has very generously offered TWO of my readers the chance to try a nursing bra and panty set for free! Who's ready to get lucky!?

The giveaway:
Two winners will each receive a You! Lingerie bra and panty set of their choice (subject to availability).

How to enter: This is a two step entry, so make sure you follow the steps to qualify! Put both of these in ONE COMMENT. This is the mandatory entry - do this first to qualify for bonus entries! Head over to You! Lingerie and
(1) select your favourite product (paste the link in your comment) and tell me why you chose it
(2) suggest a new product or fabric that you would love to see added to the You! Lingerie line (examples - new colour/pattern, other types of lingerie).
Make sure I've got a way to contact you if you're the winner!

Bonus entries (please leave an extra comment for each. If you already do any of these things, leave the comment - you do get the entry for it!):
  • Sign up for the You! Lingerie newsletter
  • "Like" the You! Lingerie Facebook page (leave your first name and initial for verification)
  • Make a purchase from the You! Lingerie online shop, and tell me what you bought! (2 entries)
  • Follow @YouLingerie on Twitter (leave your Twitter name!)
  • Follow me on Twitter (leave your Twitter name!)
  • Write a unique tweet about this giveaway for ONE entry, this is not a daily! Include @emilyisland, @YouLingerie and #bfcafe. Leave me the link to your tweet!
  • Follow my blog (publicly) – 2 entries, leave 2 comments
  • Add my blog button to your blog– 2 entries, leave 2 comments (please leave a link to your blog)
I will be verifying comments so please actually do the things you say you do ☺

Please be sure to include your email address if it’s not public in your blogger profile! Anonymous comments without a way to contact you will be rejected. Canadian or US mailing addresses only, please. Giveaway ends December 16th at 11:59 EST. A winner will be drawn the next day, announced here, in a separate post and emailed!

Prize will be shipped by sponsor. Note for Canadian entrants: You! Lingerie is not responsible for customs or duties that Canada may charge if you decide to participate in this You! Lingerie sponsored blog giveaway. (FYI - it's unlikely to have a charge, being under the $60 that incurs duty charges. There was no extra charge on my shipment, which came to Canada quickly and packaged well.)

Disclosure: You! Lingerie provided me with a bra to review, but I was not paid or otherwise compensated for this review.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Promises, promises...

I know, I said the You! Lingerie review and giveaway would start today. It's written and ready to go, I'm just waiting on a link! So stick around, it's coming. I promise.
And, just to tease you a little more: it's REALLY good!

This weekend my best friend is hosting a baby shower for me! Isn't that sweet? I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone - most of whom haven't seen my bump in months (and it is certainly bumpy by now. I'm 31 weeks pregnant and there's no doubt about it). We actually have loads of stuff for the baby already (blame my little giveaway habit), so I'm sure buying a shower gift gave people some trouble. I hope that nobody went overboard - the only thing I really want is to share a celebration of our baby with them!

So I'm baking a lemon loaf (a favourite at our house, my husband will be so disappointed it's not for him), and a batch of Vanilla Chai Cupcakes - I found the recipe for those over at Bakingdom and I can't wait to try it. Lots of yummy goodness!

Other than that, not much is new. I have plans to make a dust ruffle for the crib to (sort of) match the glider. I'd bought one on eBay, and decided it doesn't work for me. So time to whip up one that I'll actually like. "Whip up" as in, it'll probably take me 3 hours. 'Cause I am slow like that and I'm just winging it. Hope it turns out!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

La Senza and Peatoes - online shopping reviews

Just a couple of quick reviews (100% unsponsored. Hey, La Senza and Peatoes, feel free to sponsor retroactively ;) ). If you are thinking of doing some online Christmas shopping, you might want to know how quickly things are shipped.

La Senza (Canadian women will be familiar with this mall lingerie store - it was recently bought out by US-based Victoria's Secret, but it still retains a unique product line and stores) - ordered Monday, November 29th at around noon, arrived via Canada Post expedited on Tuesday, November 30th! I think that is the fastest turnaround ever! They offer free shipping on orders over $89 CDN. Right now they have panties 7 for $25 and PJ sets starting at $19.50. Great for gifts or a little treat for yourself!

I got this PJ set:
Scoop Neck Henley PJ set, on sale now for $19.50. Love, love, love the comfy flannel pants. They have a thread of metallic silver woven in with the plaid, very pretty. The Henley is disappointingly thin, though. I was hoping for a thicker ribbed cotton but it is a super thin (and translucent) cotton. It does have cute ruching on the sleeves but definitely is not good for lounging unless you wear a tank underneath. So if you're ordering a PJ set for yourself or as a gift and want a little modesty, at least go for a darker colour.

I also ordered some of their 5-for-$25 cotton panties, which are the quality I have come to expect from La Senza. Pretty and comfortable. I find their sizes run a little small, so if you're wavering between sizes, go up one.

Peatoes (an organic baby goods store based in Quebec) - ordered Saturday, November 25th, arrived via Purolator Tuesday, November 30th. Again very fast! They are running holiday promotions right now - check each day for the daily deal!

I got the grey one of these:Certified organic Imps and Elfs dress, $45.98 (I had a gift certificate to use!). It's more gorgeous than in the picture - it has cute little ties at the back. Super soft. Love! I also should mention that along with my order, they included a gift certificate of $10 towards my next order. I don't know if that's standard, but it's very nice and definitely good business - it's a decent incentive to shop there some more!

Stay tuned because I have a fabulous review and giveaway coming TOMORROW. You! Won't want to miss it. Yeah, that's a not-so-subtle hint!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Beyond the Rack Another Chance

Here we go again.

You may recall that last January, I'd ordered some lovely Dereon lingerie from Beyond the Rack. Super cute, great deal. I waited and waited for delivery. It didn't come. Finally, I emailed them and was told that they didn't have it in stock, and they ended up crediting my account. Disappointing.

Then in April, I tried again. I ordered some really awesome Doc Martens for my husband. Really. Awesome. Again, a great deal. Docs are super quality - I wore a pair of burgundy eight-holes from 1992-1999, through the Canadian winter even (though they're slippy on ice!) until they finally died. And the shoes did come. But... they were in UK sizing (remember this is a Montreal-based company). I'd even tried to contact them ahead of time to confirm the sizing and got no response. After getting the gorgeous shoes in the wrong size, I emailed about the problem and their customer service rep told me that ALL of the orders were being returned because of sizing issues. Anyway... We returned them and then they didn't have my husband's size, so they refunded the money. Again.

So this is it, BTR. I've just ordered these two sweaters. Again, great deals... if they come, and are sized right. I've got my fingers crossed.

If any of you want to give BTR a shot - I have heard really mixed reviews of it on the forums out there - you can sign up through the button on my right sidebar, or here's your invitation. It is an invitation-only flash sale site.

Joining is free, and you can see all the current and upcoming events. They have stuff like shoes and clothing (men and women), handbags, cosmetics, lingerie, housewares, swimsuits, toys... It's a range from high-end designer stuff (think Prada, Coach etc), to more 'regular' brands (recently they had Melissa & Doug toys, for instance). For me it's fun to visit and see what the deals are because each day there is something new.

Have any of you tried BTR? Have you had success with your orders? I'd love to hear about it.

Update December 20th: Ruh Roh. Here's the email I got today:
Dear Emily,

A few days ago, we let you know that your order no. 420115 had yet to arrive at our Order Processing Center. We’ve been in constant contact with our supplier and have been assured that the merchandise will be sent to us soon.

We’ll make it a priority to pack your order as quickly as possible, and notify you once it’s been shipped.

Warmest Regards,

BTR Customer Support
Update December 23: My items have arrived (I never did get the shipping notification they were talking about above, though...)! Right items, right size. I have a little buyer's remorse over the grey sweater, but still like them both. Of course, the black one doesn't fit over my enormous 34-weeks-pregnant belly, but it will fit someday soon, right? I love that they're part cashmere and part angora; the sweaters are super soft.

So, there's my review: 1/3 orders worked out for me. Given the deals, I am going to say BTR *may* be worthwhile if you are (a) not in a hurry to receive your order, and (b) prepared to be disappointed if your order is wrong or simply never comes.


Today is my father's birthday. He would have been 65. He passed away suddenly in 2001.

I miss him every day. The hardest parts are the big events - good and bad. He didn't live to come to my first wedding. During my divorce, I really could have used his wisdom and support. For my second wedding, I'm sure he would have made the trip to Mexico to be there (my mother and stepfather didn't). When I had two miscarriages, his shoulder would have been perfect to cry on. Now that I am expecting, I miss him all the more - he would have been the best grandfather ever. It breaks my heart that he will never know, never get to hold his granddaughter.

I know loss, in so many ways. Even when you have accepted it, it doesn't stop hurting.

I miss my dad.

Friday, November 26, 2010

20 questions...

I am the featured Canadian blogger today over at Nugglemama's Handful! It's an honour! Head on over if you want to learn a few really random things about yours truly :)


Today is our second wedding anniversary. I'm not much for sentimental stuff - honestly, I'd forgotten about it until my mother in law emailed to wish us a happy anniversary. Then I promptly forgot again... until just now, when this was delivered:from my wonderful, thoughtful husband (who happens to have a great memory). AND it came with a box of chocolates - the man knows the most direct path to my heart.

I'm all full of love!

So to my husband - we've had two years of marriage, plus four years of dating, a whirlwind of travel, a rollercoaster of emotions, a baby on the way and a love that can withstand anything. I look forward to a lifetime with you.Thank you - for all of this - from the bottom of my heart.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

CSN vs ATG - the unbiased, unsponsored review

If you've been entering any blog giveaways lately (or following me on Twitter), you will have heard of both CSN Stores and ATG Stores.

They are both massive online retailers with hundreds of retailers, stocking just about everything you can think of. Both operate websites that make shopping easy, and shipping is free* on certain items, even to Canada. Sounds good, right? *sort of

I've had the chance to try both out, as, luckily for me, I won a gift certificate at each store. (The hard part was figuring out what to buy.) Here is my experience with both for comparison:

CSN Stores

At CSN Stores, I won a $60 gift certificate and ended up purchasing a couple of things for the nursery: a yacht mobile (not a big fan of the plastic, battery-operated crib mobiles, this now hangs over the crib)
and this crib sheet as well:These together added up to $60, so there's the gift certificate spent. I got free shipping on both items, but the "International Fees" added up to an additional $19.44 on these two items. My order was placed in late September, shipped September 27th, and I received it at the beginning of October. That's fairly fast - nothing to complain about (aside from the hefty International Fees, watch out for those!). Both items arrived in perfect condition, even the rather delicate mobile, and I'm very happy with them.

ATG Stores

At ATG Stores, I had a $50 gift certificate to spend. This came at the perfect time as we were looking into canoe covers to protect the canoe we bought this spring over the winter.

(The tiny picture is all I have as the original picture has now been removed from their website)

We found a canoe cover at ATG Stores and put the gift certificate towards that. The cover cost $79, and although it had "free" shipping, there were "Additional Shipping" charges to Canada of $36.16. This seems like a lot, but because of the gift certificate it is still less than the ones we were looking at at other retailers.

Here's how that order has gone:
October 8th: I placed my order. My credit card was charged.
October 11th: I got a message saying that the item I'd ordered was now on back order and that it was expected to ship on November 6th.
November 6th: came and went, and I didn't receive a shipping notification or email.
November 9th: I left a polite message on their "Live Chat" (because there were no customer service reps actually live chatting), asking for an update on my order.
November 11th: I received an email message saying that my order is now expected to ship on December 3rd, and "sorry for any inconveniences".
Update December 1st: I received an email message saying that my order is now expected to ship on December 11th. December 11th! More than two months since my order & payment. NOT COOL!
Update December 7th: I received an email message saying that my order was shipped and delivered to Washington. Um, Washington? I live in Ontario. I jumped on to the Live Chat and actually hooked up with a customer service rep, who told me that the source company doesn't ship to Canada, so they've had it sent to the ATG warehouse and will ship it on from there. Why send me an email saying it was shipped and delivered with a tracking number? Just to freak me out that it went to the wrong place? On the plus side, I did actually get to speak to someone in customer service, he did look into it and let me know what was going on - also at least this is progress. On the negative side, there was no apology for the wait and no goodwill offer. Also - we've now got about 10" of snow... The whole point of ordering a canoe cover in October was that it would be here in time to protect the canoe from the snow!
Update December 9th: "Your package is in the UPS system and has a rescheduled delivery date of 12/16/2010." Right. Because December 11th would be silly - only 10" of snow has fallen. Let's wait another 5 days so we can ensure the canoe is thoroughly buried and encrusted in ice and snow.
Update December 15th: The canoe cover finally arrived. It fits - after my husband spent half an hour chipping a foot of frozen-on snow off the canoe. I'm so. Done. With ATG.

Now, I get that sometimes back orders happen. This might be a weird thing that not too many people order or something - or maybe they had a zillion orders for it as fall approached and didn't stock enough. But as a customer who has already paid for my order, a two month+ wait to receive it seems a little much.

What I really don't appreciate about the experience is that I have had to follow up to find out what's going on, rather than their customer service letting me know when an expected ship date came and went without my order being shipped. I don't like that they advertise "Live Chat" with their customer service reps on the site, yet each time I have gone there is nobody on the other end. Maybe that's my timing, but really... it's not live chat if it's not actually live chat.

Usually when I have had major delays on orders with other companies, or they have problems fulfilling my order, they offer some kind of token as an apology, whether that's a discount off the next order, or a partial refund. I don't mean that I ask for this kind of thing, it just has been the standard in my experience. (Just as a recent example of good customer relations, we were at Extreme Pita on the weekend, they screwed up my husband's order, and in apology gave us two coupons for free sandwiches. Starbucks does the same if they are out of something or mess up your order. I have had non-food companies throw in freebies or discount coupons.). No such offer from ATG has been put forward.

Who knows when I will receive the canoe cover. I sure hope it's soon as we can expect snow any day now and the point was really to have the cover on there before winter hits.


Pros for both: decent prices, easy shopping
Cons for both: Hefty additional shipping fees to Canada

Pros for CSN: fast shipping and well-packed items, lots of selection (200+ retailers)
Cons for CSN: nothing besides the above

Pros for ATG: even more selection (500+ retailers), easy shopping
Cons for ATG: customer service is not as good as one might hope, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w fulfillment (on my order, YMMV)

Just FYI, this is just me sharing my experiences with these two companies. Neither has asked me to do a review or anything. I figure with a lot of us doing online shopping for Christmas, a completely unbiased and unsponsored review might be just the thing if you were considering either of these massive retailers for your shopping. If you've tried either site, and had an experience worth sharing (good or bad), feel free to comment!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Share a Smile with Snack Pack & Donate to Food Banks Canada

What makes you smile? For me, it's many things - little baby kicks and wiggles, my crazy dog doing his 'pillow dance', my husband cracking jokes, thinking about how our life is going to change in the next few months... I love watching my painting students' achievements and their wonder and pride as they create their paintings. I love seeing my friends' children develop new skills (one recently started walking!) and their parents' joy. Christmas shopping always makes me smile (at least, once I've succeeded in actually buying gifts) as does wrapping presents.

I'm sure you have heard of Snack Pack before - if you're a pudding junkie like me and my husband, you will know them well. They also make Juicy Gels (if you are not vegetarian) and low-fat puddings (me, I say if you're going to indulge, go all the way).

As we approach the season of giving, here's a super easy way to give a little to someone in need. The Snack Pack Share a Smile Campaign has a goal of raising $20,000 for Food Banks Canada in time for the holidays, and they've made it SO easy for anyone to help out. All you have to do is share a smile with a friend and every single time you do that, Snack Pack donates a dollar. Not only that, but sharing a smile enters you to win a weekly prize - it's a complete win-win!

Here's how: sign in to your Facebook page, look up Snack Pack Canada, "like" the page and Share a Smile. Snack Pack will donate $1 on your behalf to Food Banks Canada just like that. If you register for the contest, you will also receive a ballot for the weekly prize - and get points towards cute Smile badges. The best part is that you can share a smile and thus donate every single day.

I hope you take the couple minutes to share a smile today. I did!

Disclosure - I am participating in the Snack Pack program by Mom Central on behalf of Conagra Foods Canada. I received a gift card as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weekend deliciousness

This weekend we had a dinner date - the kind where we spend time in the kitchen together, cooking something neither of us has ever made before. My husband chose the recipe:

Schwammerlgulash mit Semmelknoedeln

Yes, it's a mouthful!

When we were out in Kimberley, B.C. in September, we had the pleasure of dining at the Old Bauernhaus Restaurant. This is a traditional Bavarian restaurant in a remarkable setting - a 370 year old building that was transported piece by piece from Bavaria! My husband (the sometimes carnivore) had the schnitzel, and I had the Knödel (bread dumplings) in a wild mushroom sauce. The food was delicious (and, like most German food, SO filling!). So, his inspiration for making this dish was our fabulous meal at the Old Bauernhaus.

The recipe makes 8 dumplings and plenty of mushroom goulash to top them. This is easily enough for four hungry people to eat for dinner (I managed one and a half dumplings before I was full to the brim!). It also came together faster than I'd expected. We used about 500g of mixed mushrooms (the recipe calls for 800g) and that was plenty. I think next time we would use the food processor to chop the mushrooms. We also substituted sherry for the white wine, just because we had it handy. (We also decided we'd stir in a bit of sour cream to the sauce next time, to give it a richer texture and a bit of a bite.) It was so yummy. Definitely recommended for a very rich, filling and impressive meal that isn't too time consuming to make. You could easily prepare the uncooked dumplings ahead of time and refrigerate until you're ready to cook them.

Today was a rainy and house-bound kind of day, and I decided to make Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting. We had some cooked pumpkin in the freezer, perfect to puree and use in these (though of course, you can use canned)!

I found the recipe at Good Life Eats, though I just tried to take another peek at it and the site is down. Hopefully it comes back up soon (and thank goodness I copied down the recipe!). As with most yeast breads, this was a fairly time-consuming recipe - mix, rise, roll, fill and cut, rise, bake... but definitely worth the effort. The pumpkin flavour is subtle, the cream cheese frosting is delicious, and the rolls are moist and soft. You even get to say you're eating your vegetables and healthy whole wheat :) If their site doesn't return and you really want the recipe, leave me a comment and I'll try to post it.

I did find I needed to add more flour than the recipe called for, and I also added about 1/2 cup of walnuts sprinkled over the sugar filling (I mix the butter and sugars for the filling before spreading, too, which I think is easier). And... don't tell my hubby, but I didn't defrost quite enough pumpkin and had to add a little pureed sweet potato (possibly his least favourite vegetable). He didn't notice, phew! So, yes, you can substitute! :)

Okay, honestly, they are not healthy at all... but they sure are delicious.

One more thing... we had initially considered eating the Knödel with a side of meatless "chicken nuggets" - while the flavour would have worked with the mushroomy Knödel, thank goodness we didn't as we were already so stuffed. Anyway, my husband came up with the most hilarious term for chicken nuggets that nearly made me narf my dinner. Seriously, I laughed until I cried. Never mind that the pregnancy hormones make me do that often, this was really funny. Ready for it?


"ghetto schnitzel"


Ha! I was picturing people ordering a 6-pack of ghetto schnitzel at McDonalds.... :D Feel free to use and abuse at will. It would make me very happy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tropical Traditions Organic Oats - Review and Giveaway!

Is anyone else starting to think about holiday baking yet? I am starting to get in the mood for loads of yummy baked goods. I have a great product to review today that will be so perfect for holiday baking - mine and yours!

Tropical Traditions sent me a bag of their Organic Thick Rolled Whole Grain Oats to play with. I'm a big oatmeal fan, so the first thing I did was make oatmeal. I have a fantastic recipe for oatmeal done in the rice cooker (yeah, really!) - it's so creamy and yummy. I made it with dried cranberries, cinnamon and brown sugar... a very comforting and healthy (well, maybe with a little less brown sugar) breakfast! I bet adding a bit of orange zest or a spoonful of orange juice concentrate instead of the brown sugar would be delish, too... hmm! Next time!

This is a BIG bag. You know the 'standard' bags of oats you can buy at the grocery store (the brand starts with a Q, you know what I mean) - those are 1 kg. This bag is 2.27 kg or a whopping 5 lbs! I've already used 4 cups of the oats and there are loads left for more yummy goodness. And these are certified organic AND whole grain - both things I appreciate. Whole grains are good sources of soluble fiber (good for everyone, especially when you're pregnant... I'll say no more...) and contain more nutrients than those that have had the germ and bran removed. Whole grains are also linked with reductions in risk factors for diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and coronary disease. So... it's really a no-brainer to choose whole grains over refined grains.

Besides oatmeal, I've made yummy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies with these oats (which may just override all the healthy goodness of the whole grains, but man, they are good). I used the recipe from Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share, and I will say that I'd add another 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of whole wheat flour next time, as they did tend to spread a little more than I expected. I also only used half the called-for nuts and chocolate chips, and substituted cashews for some of the peanuts. I know, I just can't follow a recipe. I like to make my own way in the kitchen! They are definitely delicious, though!

There are also lots of recipes over here - I'm thinking these Oat Cakes look pretty awesome (and easy!).

I know a giant bag of oats is not only a regular staple in my cupboard, but will definitely come in handy for the upcoming holidays. Breakfast for stay-over guests (think oatmeal, muffins, scones, granola), snacks (granola bars) and desserts (crumbles and cookies! Yum!). And here's the best part:

Tropical Traditions has generously offered one of my readers the chance to try the Organic Thick Rolled Whole Grain Oats for free!

The giveaway:
A 5 lb bag of Tropical Traditions Organic Thick Rolled Whole Grain Oats!

How to enter: Head over to Tropical Traditions and let me know one other thing you'd like to try, OR one thing that you learned there. Make sure I've got a way to contact you if you're the winner!

Extra entries (please leave an extra comment for each. If you already do any of these things, leave the comment - you do get the entry for it!):
  • Subscribe via email to the Tropical Traditions newsletter
  • Follow @troptraditions on Twitter (leave your Twitter name!)
  • Follow me on Twitter (leave your Twitter name!)
  • Tweet about this giveaway for ONE entry, this is not a daily! You can use this if you like:
    Win Organic Whole Grain Oats from @TropTraditions at Emily's Latest @emilyisland US/CAN 12/6 -great 4 holiday baking!
  • Follow my blog (publicly) – 2 entries, leave 2 comments
  • Add my blog button to your blog– 2 entries, leave 2 comments (please leave a link to your blog)
  • Blog about this giveaway, linking back to this post and to Tropical Traditions – 2 entries, leave 2 comments and please include a link to your post
  • Let me know what you'll be making first with these if you win!
I will be verifying comments so please actually do the things you say you do ☺ If you already do any of these things, it still counts for entries!

Please be sure to include your email address if it’s not public in your blogger profile! Anonymous comments without a way to contact you will be rejected. Canadian or US mailing addresses only, please. Giveaway ends December 6th at 11:59 EST. A winner will be drawn the next day, announced here, in a separate post and emailed!

Prize will be shipped by sponsor. Note for Canadian entrants: Tropical Traditions is not responsible for customs or duties that Canada may charge if you decide to participate in this Tropical Traditions sponsored blog giveaway. (FYI - it's unlikely to have a charge, being well under the $60 that incurs duty charges. There was no extra charge on my shipment, which came to Canada quickly and packaged well.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Before and after!

I'm giving myself two gold stars. I've never done a slipcover before, and here I am making beautiful things happen for the nursery glider. Remember I was wondering which fabric to choose? We ended up picking the fourth one and I am thrilled with it.

My mum (an expert sewer and pattern-maker) gave me some great advice: make a cover first out of an old sheet and use that for the pattern. SO helpful. I wasn't worried about screwing up with the rather spendy fabric, and could sew, unstitch, draw with marker on, and re-sew to my heart's content. There were five cushions to recover, so four unique patterns (the arm cushions are, thank goodness, the same). That took a day.

The REAL cover took about 5 hours - that's me taking it slow. It is not perfect (and don't say "Why not?" like my husband did!). I think I did a pretty good job for my first slipcover ever, working with no pattern! I tried to line up the pattern and also make the most of the fabric.

The arm cushions were the hardest part - the top side is gathered to allow for the curve, and the original cushions have snaps that I was trying to make work by creating holes (with facing) on the slipcovers. That's 16 faced holes, lots of tedious sewing. The snaps are super hard to do up to begin with, and once the cover was on, I couldn't get them done up at all. Then I realized that I'd done the post holes a fraction too small, and because there's a bit of extra fabric there, the snaps won't do up. So rather than fight with it any more, I simply stitched ribbons to the original cushions which come out the holes in the slipcover I made and tie together to hold the arm cushions on. Not ideal but hey, it works!

I even have a little fabric left over, perfect for new throw pillows downstairs and a trim for the laundry basket liner in the nursery!

Here it is.... the grand reveal....


Hey, check me out - this was featured over at Pink and Polka Dot!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ellia C. Naturals - Review & Holiday Gift Ideas!

I took advantage of that great BOGO deal I was telling you about a couple of weeks ago and picked up some of Ellia C. Naturals' Autumn Harvest soap, and got the bonus of a bar of Festive soap as well. Both of these are limited edition seasonal soaps, so if you want to try them out, now's the time!

Jen was kind enough to send along with my order a few extras for me to try out and review for you! I am just going to come right out and say I love these products. Everything I have tried from her shop has been really great. I confess that when the box arrived in our mailbox, a tiny hole had been poked in it during shipping (not to worry, everything inside was well protected with bubble wrap and peanuts!) and my husband and I took turns sniffing at the hole on the walk home because it smelled so good. Yes, I'm sure we looked crazy.

I also love that it is indicated right on each product page if it contains ingredients that aren't safe for use during pregnancy. This is thoughtful (and timely, for me) and something that I really haven't seen on other product sites. I'm not talking about chemicals here, because all the ingredients are natural and often organic, but some essential oils are not recommended for use during pregnancy and if the soaps contain them, there's a warning. Love that.

Here are some of the goodies I got to try:

The Autumn Harvest soap. It's so pretty, and perfect for this time of year. A spice-coloured soap bar (generously sized!) with shavings of white soap on top - it looks good enough to eat! I pulled it out of the packaging so you could see how pretty it looks (and I love the simple packaging, wrapped with a ribbon). It is just about the same colour as our countertop in the bathroom so I put it on a towel so you can see it properly. It smells like fall. It's made with freshly ground spices, shea butter, coconut milk and pumpkin... doesn't that sound decadent? I'm busting this one out as soon as I'm finished my current soap... if I can wait that long.

The Festive Soap - again a very pretty double-layer bar with an adorable coordinating ribbon on the paper wrap. What's in it? "Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom pair nicely with sweet orange, tangerine, and lemon... with a splash of cranberry juice" Um, yum. This one I've been sniffing every time I pass anywhere near it. It smells like all the best things about Christmas and the holidays, without being overpowering. It has a very natural, spicy and fresh scent - hard to describe but it's SO good. I'm saving it for December (yes, I coordinate my soap smell with the season)!

This is an adorable soap pop - cute or what? I think this would be a great gift for kids (or the sweet-toothed adult)! This one is a Whipped Pumpkin Soap Pop, again perfect for the season. They also come in Peppermint Stick, Rainbow Splash (citrus) and Sassy Pants (bergamot and grapefruit). Yum. Cutest packaging ever! The Ellia C. Naturals line also has lollipop soaps (Lather Lollies) in the same fragrances, AND coming soon are cupcake soaps! These products are great for littles, because they contain only natural ingredients, get the cleaning job done, and also provide natural moisture for sensitive skin. Stocking stuffers, maybe? (Speaking of, you've also got to check out the Gingerbread Man soaps...)

Now it's clear that these are brand spankin' new products in the photos - so you may wonder, how can I review them if they're not used yet? Well, I have used Ellia C. Naturals soaps in the past (I've had the pleasure of trying many different bars) and have been 100% happy with them. They smell amazing through and through, last a long time (especially with the Natural Pine Soap Deck which I also have), have a lovely texture, and leave my skin feeling soft and lightly moisturized (but never greasy!). My husband even uses them. So I am full out confident that these will be the same quality (and I can definitely vouch for how awesome they smell!).

One product that I am saving for the (eeks!) near future is the Back in the Saddle Postpartum Sitz Tea. This sample is like a giant tea bag of organic, fair trade herbs and botanicals that are soothing to give a new mama a little relief. The full-size product comes loose in a jar with a reuseable muslin bag and holds enough for 4-5 baths. Awesome, thoughtful gift for an expecting mama, folks!

Here's another that would be a great mama gift - the Mama Meringue body whip. It comes in four different varieties (three scents and unscented), and I got to try out the Lemon Lavender version. Again, it smells amazing - fresh, clean and natural, but not chemically or overwhelming. The scent IS strong but it is not the heavy kind of smell that will give you a headache or anything (I've got it on now and I can smell it where I applied it on my arm if I sniff it, but it's not a constant smell surrounding me, if you know what I mean. This can be used as a belly balm (you know I love me some belly balm) or as a general moisturizer. It's a shea butter lotion made from natural oils and contains Vitamin E as well, great for the skin! The consistency is kind of stiff in the jar, but softens up easily with the warmth of your hands to scoop out a little and glides on. Love.

I'm going to put it out there that you should seriously consider these products for holiday gifts for your favourite person. The individual cold processed soaps are really pretty and luxurious for anyone; check out the holiday gift sets as well. If you don't find exactly what you want there, they also do custom gift sets and even party favours.

While you are looking at the Ellia C. Naturals line, you might notice that there's a lot more to the site than just natural bath and body care. Jennifer is the owner and founder of not just Ellia C. Naturals but also the Bullfrogs & Butterflies Boutique, which has loads of beautiful gifts for little ones and mamas, too.

And here's a tip for you: if you sign up for their newsletter, you will find that there is a great big Black Friday deal just for newsletter subscribers about to be announced! You can also like Ellia C. Naturals on Facebook and follow on Twitter for product updates and specials!

A big thank you to Jenn from Ellia C. Naturals for providing me with some of her gorgeous products to try out. I did receive samples for review, but was not paid for this post.