Mother’s Day– What are you doing?04.15.14

We don’t usually do these Hallmarky holidays, but Mother’s Day holds a special place in my heart because I looove being a mama! I wanted to promote, for all the Montreal mom’s who read this blog, a very special offer from my friend Caitlin. She is offering a mini session for Mother’s Day.

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So… that’s what we’re doing for Mother’s Day! Have you booked your mini session?

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Butterfly Garden Giveaway. Beat winter blues with the Butterflies!04.02.14

Butterflies were eating exactly what we had for breakfast!

Butterflies were eating exactly what we had for breakfast!

What a way to beat the winter blues!

Nothing feels springier than being swarmed by a million Blue Morpho butterflies. Yesterday, our yearly visit to Butterflies go Free snapped me out of my wintertime funk. Granted, it was warm and sunny outside– that, coupled with the rainforest-like temperatures inside the greenhouse and the sun beaming through the ceiling and the smell and sight of gorgeous flowers everywhere! Ah! Yes, there’s snow outside in Montreal but it still is spring!

We make it to Montreal’s Space for Life multiple times a year. I love the Great Gardening Weekend and Magic of Lanterns. (coupled with Mosaïcultures – wow!)

Last year’s Monarch theme was phenomenal. I loved the bright orange colour of the monarchs that took over the entire butterfly warehouse. It’s my favourite theme to date. This year’s Butterflies Go Free theme is “Mysterious Chrysalis.” It was less visually impressive (less big, bold images) but still very, very beautiful and incredibly educational. This year, Babe’s at an age (three) where she can understand life cycles. The life of a butterfly can be broken down pretty simply for a preschooler: A caterpillar makes a cocoon, hides out there for a while and emerges a butterfly.

The aquariums at the Insectarium were the perfect height for kids to peer into.

The aquariums at the Insectarium were the perfect height for kids to peer into.

There were a number of big boxes around the butterfly show room where we could see exactly how I all works. Babe got to check the whole thing out start to finish and understood the new butterflies have to dry their wings before using them. We also saw some caterpillars munching on leaves. There were less Monarchs this year and loads of Blue Morphos and delicate white butterflies (I don’t know what they’re called).

We also finally managed to check out the Insectarium and I’m so glad we did. It’s phenomenal. If you like bugs, of course! There aren’t loads of live insects (though a few big, fuzzy tarantulas and some super cool praying mantises.) There is a massive collection of butterflies and all kinds of beetles– the most interesting info for Babe (and me) is knowing which part of the world they come from. Apparently there are lots of beetles in Indonesia and some pretty shiny ones in Australia.

Bug wanted to hang out here to practice walking.

Bug wanted to hang out here to practice walking.

Even though there was a daycare or two visiting the Insectarium when we were there it never felt chaotic. The fastest-paced thing we saw was an amazing exhibit of ants working so hard on their fungus garden. We took a little pause and ate a packed lunch at the tables there before heading back on our metro trek.

Next stop: The amazing Planetarium!

Butterflies Go Free ends and free tickets expire April 27. Enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win tickets for your family. There are 6 tickets up for grabs. Children under 5 are free. Please leave a comment saying how many tickets you need for your family. Hopefully we will have at least three lucky winners!

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Giveaway and Review! Thermometers: Vicks SpeedRead, Behind Ear, AgeSmart and Braun ThermoScan (Part 2 of 2)03.28.14

thermoscanYou know how I take my kids’ temperature? With my lips. A kiss on the forehead is all I need to tell me if they have a fever or not.

Thermometers  have caused a lot of anxiety in this house. Once, when Bug was three months old, the thermometer said Babe had a fever and I had a panic attack. It was a signal that there was something wrong (with me, not her!) I started therapy and her fever went away.

I decided to rely less on thermometers and “treat the child not the fever.” My friend Mama Urbana helped with this.

But sometimes you need a thermometer. Because sometimes fevers are a sign that something is very wrong. (Usually not. But sometimes.) Part of my frustration and anxiety was not trusting the thermometer. We had a few of them, they were always off, inconsistent. One minute she had a fever, then she didn’t!

Thanks to the care pack I recieved from Braun/Vicks, I don’t have to worry about that stuff anymore. (Sounds like a cheesy sales pitch, but it’s 100% true. They hooked me up with four very good, easy to use thermometers. (And they’re going to hook you up too! Read on for contest details.)

Here are my impressions of the four thermometers I now have to use for the times when my lips aren’t sensitive enough.

Though we were all recently sick, we didn’t have fevers but I wanted to test out the thermometers anyway. Babe wouldn’t let me near her ears or her armpit so I didn’t even suggest her bum. I went for the easier, younger target.

I was wearing Bug in a carrier as I tested these out. Then I tested them on myself. He and I had the EXACT same readings as I did even though each thermometer read us slightly differently.

Vicks AgeSmart Family Thermometer The interesting feature on this is (hence the name) that you can choose from three ages/stages. It can take the guess work out of when it’s time to be concerned about your infant’s fever. It also has a colour-coding feature, which isn’t my favourite. The screen displays Green if there’s no fever, Yellow for slightly elevated temperature and Red for a fever. The faster beeping and red flashing light sends me into panic mode, and I don’t really need help getting there in a fever situation, thank you! I totally get, however, why other people like this feature. Green means chill. Red means go. Do something, quick! It can be used orally, rectally or under the arm, can read in C or F, has memory recall and reads in eight seconds.The AgeSmart read Bug and I both at 36.3 under the arm.
(Retail Value $21.99)

Vicks Behind Ear Gentle Touch Thermometer Fast! It takes a second, which is awesome if you have a squirmy kid. Literally a second, whereas the others take about eight (or, have you tried a glass thermometer! What kids sits still for that?). This could be my favourite for that reason alone. This, too, is colour coded. Most thermometers are, I guess. You leasure in the hollow behind the ear, which, the box says, is ideal for accuracy because it’s very close to the carotid artery which brings blood to the brain.
We once had a Life Brand thermometer similar to this, to read from the temple. It was so inaccurate and unreliable that we actually returned it.
The Gentle Touch read us at 36.6 (you can see it’s more accurate than under the arm.)
(Retail Value $69.99)

Braun ThermoScan 5  This is intense! Inside the ear is supposed to be the MOST accurate place to measure (although this has been said about the rectum, too) because it’s so close to the eardrum. The disposable filters make you and your child feel like you’re in the doctor’s office. It also comes with a case–very official looking. The ThermoScan is just as fast the Gentle Touch fast but I find it cumbersome and a little OTT for an at-home gadget. If you always wanted to be a doctor or vet then this is your chance!
It read our temperature as 36.7– the highest of all the readings.
(Retail Value $79.99)

Vicks SpeedRead This is about as basic as it gets, and for that reason, I love it. It reads in 8 seconds (not as awesome as the ThermoScan or GentleTouch). It’s lifetime guarenteed, water resistant and also has the colour coding. I think this thermometer is all any parent really needs. The SpeedRead clocked us as 36.4.(Retail Value $17.99)

If you, too, tend to panic at the first sign of a fever, please read this post from Wellnesss Mama. I read it often :)
Want to win the above products?

We’re giving away two prize packs. (See the reviews for the other products here!) Enter the copter here (please don’t forget to leave a comment saying which package you want!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

// ]]>

Posted in Product Reviewswith 7 Comments →

Giveaway and Review: Vicks Starry Night Humidifier, Hygrometer and Vapourizer (Part 1 of 2)03.28.14

starry nightIt’s been “Spring” here in Montreal for ages. but the ground is still covered in snow, the heat is still on and my entire family is sick!

We stayed super un-sick all winter, but have found ourselves congested, with runny noses and very sore throats.

I waited all winter to take out the care pack that I got from Braun/Vicks and this week I finally had a reason! There were so many items in the care pack that I’m going to do break up this review into two posts. Check out the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post for your chance to win one of two care packs!

Vicks Starry Night Cool Mist Humidifier We’ve been happily using  this humidifier for months. Since Papa and I moved in together we have had a humidifier in our room in the winter but we first started with a hot mist humidifier. It’s what I prefer– a room as warm as a sauna. I like when the condensation drips off the walls and I feel like I’m in the tropics. Hot air humidifiers are awesome because you can put in some eucalyptus essential oil and it’s deliciously diffused throughout the room, clearing up congestion almost instantly. But apparently this kind of heat is a breeding ground for germs so we no longer use a hot humidifier.

I seriously can no longer sleep with a cool mist humidifier one and we bring it with us when we travel. This one is a reasonable size to pack in the car. Babe loves the Vicks Starry Night because there’s a built in projector that shines the moon and stars on the ceiling, acting as a nightlight. I don’t love the projector when I’m trying to sleep. I find it very distracting. We compromise in this family and shut it off once Babe is sleeping. I like that it’s easy to refill and comes with an easily replaceable filter. But I don’t love the way it is stuck together. At the moment it’s very clean but I like to be able to completely disassemble a humidifier. We’ve thrown out two similar humidifiers because I was just too grossed out to use them. When we store this one for the rest of the year I’m going to make sure the inside is completely dry because I want to continue to use it next year. Humidifiers are crucial to ward away illness in the winter. Dry heat is not good for us or our babies!
(Retail value: $59.99)

VicksSoothing Vapours Plug -in waterless vapourizer & nighlight With the cold we have, I decided to up the ante and use the Vicks plug in that came in my pack. It’s a good option for diffusing eucalyptus while we sleep. It’s plugged in about three meters from my bed and I don’t smell anything. But I can’t smell anything with this cold anyway! It comes with five disposable Vicks VapoPads that each last up to eight hours. I’m going to have to give it another go when I can smell again!
(Retail value: $15.99)

Vicks HealthCheck Hygrometer  we have a couple hydrometers in the house. One on top of the piano and the other on top of Papa’s dresser, near the humidifier. I love the this hygrometer because it accurately reads the temperature of the room, and the humidity level and has a handy chart explaining the difference between a room that is too humid, not humid enough and just right (with regards to healthy air in a bedroom).
I decided to play with it tonight and brought it into the bathroom at bathtime. Because I can no longer do my nighttime in the tropics routine I decided to do I in the bathroom. I brought the kids in, plugged the tub and ran the shower as hot as possible. Yes, I am guilty of doing this without plugging the tub. But tonight we filled the tub this way. According to my hygrometer it was 78% humidity in there! The machine’s little chart rates this as “too humid for every day,” but I rate it as “just perfect for right before bed.” I also put baking soda, Epsom salt (for a dose of magnesium) and a few drops each of lavender and eucalyptus essential oils. The kids and I were at the spa!
Bathtime ended when babe started squirting water out of the tub and Bug refused to sit still. But the three of us left that room a lot less congested.
(Retail Value $17.99)

Want to win the above products?

We’re giving away two prize packs. (See the reviews for the other products here!) Enter the copter here (please don’t forget to leave a comment saying which package you want!)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in Product Reviewswith 5 Comments →

5 ways teaching yoga makes me a better mom03.25.14

sickI recently certified as a children’s yoga teacher and am loving everything about it. It has changed my quality of life and made me a better mom. Here’s how:

  1. I get to work three days a week! This really only adds up to about eight hours total, but those eight hours allow me to rejuvenate and come back a better mom. Yes, I’m spending time with other people’s children but they don’t need to be breasted or rocked or held by me. I get smiles and namastes and hugs instead. It’s kinda like being an aunt.
  2. Doing yoga helps us slow down. The whole point of doing yoga is to be in the present moment. Instead of rushing everywhere, we learn to enjoy those walks that take three hours instead of 20 minutes and literally stop and smell the flowers.
  3. “I am a Tank,” has been my personal mantra since I began climbing out of my PPD. What does it mean? I can tandem nurse without flinching, I don’t need eight hours of solid sleep, I can make kale chips while breastfeeding and babywearing. In short– I’m a superhero. Strong like bull. Doing yoga keeps my body strong so it can keep up to the demands of being a mom of two young kids. Yoga also keeps my mind and spirit just as strong.
  4. My kids love yoga, do it often and reap the many rewards. I trained with Radiant Child Yoga which comes with loads of awesome “yoga songs.” With those songs come gestures and actions. Babe knows many of the songs and sings and dances to them often. What does Bug do? His own form of yoga. Crawlers and those learning to walk are great yogis!
  5. I’m not a patient person. I work very very hard to try to be patient. Yoga helps with this. Is patience not one of the most important things a parent needs? In learning to be more patient I can teach my kids to be as well. When Babe loses her patience I ask her to find her patience. It seems to work. But leading by example is always the best way, I’m trying very hard as I go deeper in my personal practice and as I spend more time teaching, I feel I am coming a long way

Posted in Excercise, Parentingwith No Comments →

Essentials Whole Health Program review and GIVEAWAY!03.18.14

These last couple months have been a whirlwind on the food front.  I examined veganism. I flirted with paleo. It was a bit of an existential crisis. My vegan and vegetarian friends were sure I’d gone off the deep end while my Paleo friends were glad I’d finally come to my senses. Where am I now? Pretty much back where  I started. A little older and wiser, however. Megan Pennington’s Essentials Whole Health Program got my head back on straight. (Keep reading for your chance to win the program, valued at $350!)

I’ve subscribed to Montreal nutritionist Megan’s free monthly newsletter for some time now, but to help me sort through some of my nutrition confusion, I went a step further and signed up for her Essentials Whole Health Program.

What is it?

In herbike own words, “It is an online training that provides you with the know-how you need to break free of your anxieties around food, develop a positive relationship with your body, and acquire optimal health and  nutrition for you and your family.”

The program is thorough yet easy to follow, consisting of 36 daily emails with step-by-step lessons and simple assignments. Oh, how I looked forward to receiving my daily emails!

Day one starts the program off on the right foot, by teaching us more about the law of attraction and the placebo effect. A simple exercise teaches us to be grateful every day.

Each daily newsletter is on a different topic of interest to anyone who might want to better their health or just deepen their understanding of nutrition.

As I told Megan, some of her lessons were refreshers for me but others were real eye openers.

A few of my favourite posts were about good fats; legumes; and the benefits of free-range, pastured animal products. There are 33 more posts!

When I first thought about signing up I was a little reluctant because I do not have much time to spare. Meal prep is super important to me. Drastically altering the way my family eats was daunting. Reading long, cumbersome emails everyday didn’t sound like the best use of my time. Thankfully, neither of those things were my reality. Her emails were short and sweet and chock-full of rich information. They took minutes to read and the daily “assignments” really are simple, often asking us to reflect on a certain subject.

The program did a lot to make me feel confident in the food choices I was already making for my family and it inspired me to slowly make a few other small changes. For example, something as simple as soaking grains before cooking them!

Megan was available via email every time I had any questions (the program includes unlimited email support for the duration of the program), which really adds value over and above other books or programs.

Megan is not radical. She doesn’t believe in fad diets. She is a nutritionist who is very easy-going and seems to value things like balance and moderation.

We live in a time when we can find all the info we want with a couple clicks of a mouse. But this registered dietitian has kindly wrapped up all the good info into a sweet little package for us. She’s sorted out fact from fiction and delivers it in a non-pretentious, very helpful way.  I really do recommend Megan’s Essentials Whole Health Program. The best part is, I kept every single email and can and do refer to them often.

Enter the Rafflecopter for your chance to win a subscription to this amazing program!
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Posted in Food, Healthwith 2 Comments →

Being together, breathing together03.03.14

ssYou know a cool thing about cosleeping?

We all breathe together.

I know one of the main pros of bed sharing is that mom and baby synch up their sleep cycles, but it’s super cool to witness it happening with both my kids.

I’m lying here, pinned between them. They’re breathing in synch again. Like they do through the night. They’re holding hands on my belly, each with a head in one of my armpits.

I sleep this way now, nursing whichever of them wakes. Sometimes both. We wake in synch.

I think bunk beds would be cool. But there’s time for that. They’ll share their own room one day.

It took me a long time to make peace with the way things are at our place at night time. I roll from side to side or scoop a kid in my arms to nurse so they don’t wake everyone else up. I never sleep deeply. But it really is finally very peaceful.

The kids used to sleep at 10pm. I was exhausted and out of energy by that time. Recently Babe stopped napping and instead goes to bed at 8:30. Beautiful!

After a very eventful weekend of parties they got to sleep tonight at 7:30. Papa’s at work and I’m alone, listening to the sound if the world’s two most amazing kids breathe in synch. Life’s pretty great.

Posted in Bed Sharing, Co-Sleepingwith No Comments →

Curious Critters Vol 2 Review and Giveaway02.13.14

cover_flipbk_link_cc2Babe fancies herself an Animal Rescuer. She loves Diego and loves animals. When our copy of Curious Critters Volumes Two arrived, I couldn’t wait to show her. As predicted, her eyes lit up as she eagerly turned the pages. So did mine.

I sell kids books! I love my Barefoot Books, but this is something entirely different. The book’s author, David FitzSimmons’ is a professional photographer and this book highlights his talent–gorgeous colour photos of all kinds of common animals—many you might find in tour own neighbourhood. The closeup images are set against a white background and are absolutely stunning.

David has come up with unique personalities for all of his curious critters, and hired voice over actors to make them come to life. You can download the accompanying audio. Here’s a sneak peek.

Curious Critters 2 includes one of my favourites, the airline pilot Monarch butterfly:

“Air traffic control, this is Monarch Flight 1 preparing for takeoff, flying from Milkweed, Minnesota, to Oyamel Fir Forest, Mexico. The estimated flight time for our two-thousand mile journey is just over two months.”

This is not just a story, it’s an educational tool. Babe brought her copy to her Montessori class and the teacher was very excited. Real photos teach children in a much different way than illustrations. “Kids focus on the animals. That’s when the learning begins,” David explains, “They focus on and notice clues about animals’ behaviors, diets, life cycles, and habitats.”

Other characters include the muscle-bound green frog with an East-coast accent, the American Kestrel with his high dive circus act, the sidewinder magician, and the gray squirrel, who grows weary of people thinking that her white colour means she’s an albino. Volume One of “Curious Critters” won five national book awards and the Marine version is on its way.

I’ve got a copy of Curious Critters Volume Two up for grabs! Enter the rafflecopter below!

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Posted in Books, Education, Product Reviewswith 3 Comments →

Baby purees are like fax machines02.06.14

banana final (1)Guest Post by Jessica Coll

I’m a registered dietitian and learned about introducing complementary foods to  babies while I was in school. I was told to start with pureed foods then experiment with chunks as they get older.

After a lot of research and giving birth to my own child, I decided to ditch the purees and start with finger foods right off the bat. It just made sense to offer her the same
foods that we ate. So, the way I actually introduced foods to my daughter is totally different from what I learned in school:

She never had purees

Why? I wanted her to see what real food looked like. Instead of pureed bananas for example, she ate a piece of banana. She enjoyed exploring the different textures, colours and tastes and had so much fun playing with her food.

Her first food was not rice cereal

My daughter’s first food was a flour tortilla. It so happened that she was sitting on my sister’s lap when she reached out and grabbed it. She didn’t really eat any of it but it just made sense to let her experiment with the same foods that we were eating.

She never had boxed baby cereal

Boxed baby cereal is marketed as an appropriate first food because there is a low risk of allergy and it is high in iron. For example, rice cereal is white rice that has been pulverized into a powder with a ton of vitamins and minerals added. Did you ever look at the long list of ingredients on the box of baby cereal? I wanted my daughter to eat real food. Instead of baby cereal, her diet was as varied as ours. She ate real whole grains like brown rice, buckwheat and oats along with whole grain pancakes, muffins and breads. This allowed her to be more autonomous because she handled the food herself.

What’s more, we didn’t have to feed her so it made it much easier. To make sure that she had enough iron, I offered her real iron-rich foods like meats, tofu, eggs and legumes like chick peas and lentils.

The quantities that she ate were not calculated

I remember learning about specific quantities that a baby needs to eat per meal. “1
tablespoon of this, 60 ml of that.” Instead, I let my daughter decide how much she
wants to eat at each meal. Some days she barely eats anything and other days she eats so much that I wonder how it actually fits in her belly. When I think about what
she ate in the past week, it always evens out. This way, the atmosphere is positive
and she seems to eat just enough to satisfy her appetite.

I did not wait until she was one year old to feed her eggs, fish and nuts

At school, I was told to wait until the baby was a year old before introducing those foods because they may cause an allergy. Now, we recommend to not delay the introduction of any specific solid food beyond six months of age because it might even increase the risk of developing an allergy. Eggs, fish and nuts are nutritious foods that are so nutritious so why miss out?

Now you understand why I think baby purees are like fax machines. Why make things so complicated when we can just email?
How did you go about feeding your baby?

Jessica Coll is a registered dietitian and lactation consultant. She hosts the popular “Baby at the Table” workshops all over the island of Montreal where she shares real food samples, pictures and videos. Don’t miss her next one on at Cafe Kali in Verdun on Tuesday February 11 from 10:30-noon (Bilingual). For more information and to register, visit http://www.jessicacoll.com/en/Workshops/styled/index.html

Posted in Baby-Led Weaning, Foodwith No Comments →

Homemade playdough with natural food colouring01.28.14

photo(16)

No yucky fake dyes please!

Playdough! It never gets old. Well it does, and then you need to throw it in the compost and start a fresh batch, but what I mean is Babe never tires of playing with it!

She’s a mixer. We spend so much time deciding what colours to make and they look lovely, and then she smooshes them all together! She’s used to making playdough with regular food colouring. But I surprised her and said we were going to do it the right way. The natural way!

We use this pretty basic recipe which I modified from Rust and Sunshine and used real food to colour the playdough. (It turns out synthetic food colouring is a lot sketchier than I ever imagined.

  • 1 cup WHITE flour (if you only have whole wheat don’t bother, learn from my mistake!)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar (not tartar sauce)
  • 1 tsp oil (coconut is what we had)

Melt coconut oil in a pan over medium. Get your child to mix everything in bowl and add the mixture to the coconut oil and stir with a wooden or metal spoon. It will form a ball and look matte instead of shiney. I’ve never overcooked it, but I have undercooked it and it’s just too sticky if it’s not cooked well enough.

I phoned my friend Cristina of fortheloveofgreens.com for quick advice on using natural food colouring. She suggested juicing greens to make green (but I don’t have a juicer and we didn’t want kale floating around in the playdough!) She also suggested turmeric for yellow (check!) and beets for red (fresh out) but I did have blueberries!

photo(17)

Bug kept busy working on his pincer with the baby blueberries

I boiled down some frozen wild blueberries in a bit of water. I kept adding a bit more water so they didn’t burn and let them simmer until the playdough was cooked and cool enough for Babe to mix.

I separated the dough into three and let her mix turmeric for the yellow, blueberry juice for the pink (added a little at a time otherwise it becomes too sticky) and for the brown, can you guess? Oh yes, coco powder. Smells good enough to eat!

What I got from Cristina is that we can be creative when making our natural food dyes. She used arugula and celery to make green. If anyone knows how on Earth to make blue, please let me know!

Posted in Foodwith No Comments →

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