October 23, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
0 comments

Belly Dance Maternity (guest review)

This guest reviewer’s name is Sara; she’s a mom to two beautiful boys and three fur babies. Her eldest just turned three and her youngest is three months old (so she might be a tad busy). They also have two dogs and a cat. (OK, make that really busy.) Aside from being a mom, she wears a few other hats. When she’s not running around doing pick-up and drop-off or taking her youngest to the doctor for weight checks, she’s a wife, business owner (check out Itsy Bitsy Necessities), a baby sign instructor, a blogger and a student. Oh, and when she’s not on maternity leave, she’s also an Educational Assistant.  Yes, busy. Any why? So she can stay home an additional year to be there for when her son transitions to JK, and to just spend some extra quality time with her youngest. Family is important; she lives very close to her parents and grandparents and talks to her mom at least once a day. (Hmmm….sounds familiar…)

Sara received nursing tops from Belly Dance Maternity in exchange for her honest review.

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As you can imagine, having a three year old and a three month old is a tad hectic. On top of the regular day-to-day craziness, my youngest is a little underweight for his age (according to the chart at the doctor), so throwing in extra feedings everyday can make things a little more challenging. It seems like I am a convenience store open 24/7 located near a very busy neighbourhood. As we all know, feeding a baby and staying covered up can sometimes be a challenge. I personally was a little apprehensive of this task because when I was growing up it was a running joke with my family that I was an unintentional flasher.

I may have, on one or more occasions, had a wardrobe malfunction.

For instance, one time we were at the beach and I got changed and thought everything was in the right place but soon had it brought to my attention that I was not quite all tucked in. So, as you can imagine, the idea of breastfeeding has always been a little nerve-wracking because, (a) I don’t want to flash the world; and (b) I was afraid my younger brothers would bring up my childhood mishaps. Nonetheless I was really pleased when Mommy Gearest gave me the opportunity to test out some proper nursing wear. I received a NOM Surplice Tee in navy and a NOM Ruched black-and-white-striped Snap Tank from Belly Dance Maternity, an online retailer that delivers to Canada and the USA.

THE GOOD

The first thing I would like to mention about these shirts and Belly Dance Maternity itself is how friendly and efficient their customer service team was. I first received an email from Mommy Gearest’s contact asking me to go through the site pick out a few items I would like to try. Once I replied with my list, I then received another email from a customer service rep from the Buffalo location asking my size and for my address. Right after I replied, I received another email from someone in shipping who just wanted to send a quick note to let me know my parcel had shipped and then two days later I received it. This really impressed me especially since it was coming from out of country.

Of course, when I picked the parcel up from the post office I ripped it open right away to see what the actual articles looked like in person. I knew I was getting a navy shirt but did not know what colour of tank I would be getting. I was very pleased with the white and black tank I received. I tried my NOM Surplice Tee (long-sleeved) right away and fell in love. It was one of the softest shirts I had worn in a really long time, it provided me with a slimming fit and I really liked the weight of it. I mention the weight because unlike similar products, even though it was long-sleeved, it didn’t feel like it was going to be overly warm, and that is a bonus since no one wants to be hot and sweaty while feeding her baby.

Another feature I like about the shirts is the convenience and protection it provides. With the crossover front panel, I was able to easily access the “goods” for my son without walking down memory lane of flashing the world. Not only does it provide easy access, it provides you with a layer of security that moves out of the way with ease yet keeps you covered pretty much no matter how you are sitting/feeding.

A great feature that both the long-sleeved shirt and tank share is the length. I found both articles a bit longer than most of the tops that I own. This to me is an added bonus as I personally still like to wear my maternity jeans from time to time (because, let’s face it, they are super comfy and probably the nicest jeans I have ever owned). The extra length comes in handy as it hides that stretchy waste band or looks really cute with a pair of leggings (again going for the comfort factor!)

Another great thing about the tops I tried is that they wash nicely. The first time I wore my long sleeve top I spilt some salad dressing on it – I am known to be a little messy when I eat. As usual, I go to take my last bite and spill oily dressing. My first thought was “I ruined the shirt,” but to my surprise the stain came out! Any shirt that’s that easy to clean is a good one in my books.

THE GAFFE

The gaffe. Well, to be honest, I didn’t find too much that I didn’t like about the two Belly Dance Maternity shirts I tested. The one thing that does stand out to me though was the price. The long-sleeved top was US$75 and I don’t know about the rest of you but on my mat leave, a budget a $75 shirt has no place is tough. Even when I am working full time I rarely spend more than $30 to $35 on a shirt. [Editor's note: I frequently purchased nursing wear from BOOB Design, with shirts in the $75 to $150 range, so everyone's budget on mat leave differs wildly.]

Another thing that I think the manufacturer could do is provide instructions as too whether or not the extra material across the chest is to be pushed down for easy nursing, or pulled up. It is not a big deal, but it did take me a few tries until I felt comfortable with it. A little guidance in the beginning would have alleviated some frustration while I was out to dinner and trying to feed what seemed like a starving child. (I personally get a little more flustered when trying to feed and my son is screaming and other guests keep looking over, the last thing I need is to fight with my shirt.)

Oh, and one more suggestion I have for Belly Dance Maternity: make the garments dryer-friendly. It is recommended to hang/lay flat to dry – I don’t usually buy things I can’t throw in the dryer; if I did they would more often than not get thrown in the dryer by mistake as I may start the load and my husband will switch it to the dryer. It is very handy as a new mom to be able to throw a load in the laundry and no have to worry about special instructions.

THE GEARS

4/5

So…where can you get it?

October 16, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
2 Comments

FoodSaver 2-in1 Vacuum Sealing System

Have you ever bought bulk packages of meat or fish, taken them home and tried to divide them up to put some in the fridge and the rest in the freezer?

We used to do it a lot, but stopped when we found that freezer burn wreaked havoc on the food we tried to deep freeze and use months later. It meant that we spent a bit more upfront but we weren’t throwing out hundreds of dollars worth of steak, chicken and salmon in the course of a single year.

Same went for banana bread, which I hate making unless I do it in large batches. But it just never lasted well in our freezer, despite being double-bagged. I would even go so far as to try to suck out all of the excess air from those “locking” bags (I think you know the ones…). Picture that. Just for a moment. A grown woman standing over a plastic bag sucking the life out of one of its corners. I always felt like I was taking my life into my hands when I’d attempt this feat with something like raw chicken, when I’d see out of the corner of my eye some rogue chicken juice creeping up toward my mouth.

This was my first (and still favourite) use of the FoodSaver system. We like to buy meat and fish in bulk and freeze at least half into a couple of different servings.

This was my first (and still favourite) use of the FoodSaver system. We like to buy meat and fish in bulk and freeze at least half into a couple of different servings.

That used to be me, so I was kind of thrilled when a FoodSaver system arrived at my doorstep a couple of months ago.

THE GOOD

FoodSaver is really easy to use. I read the instructions once, and barring some slight confusion about how to insert the extra roll of plastic when you want to make your own size, I didn’t encounter anything that prevented me from sucking out air like a pro.

As I mentioned, we’ve been using this thing for a couple of months; I thought it was important to see what food that had been sealed using the FoodSaver machine would be like if we left it in the freezer as long as we normally would. I’m pleased to report that we didn’t experience any freezer burn on meat or fish, and banana bread thawed like a dream. The banana bread pictured below was sealed at the beginning of August and I thawed and opened it yesterday; it was as fresh and moist as the day I sealed it. So it works. And it works well.

I find vacuum sealing food rather fun. I can’t articulate why, but watching the air get pulled out of the bag is somehow very satisfying.

The FoodSaver 2-in-1 works really well with baked goods, like banana bread and doughnuts, as well as "wet" foods like chill, applesauce or soup.

The FoodSaver 2-in-1 works really well with baked goods, like banana bread and doughnuts, as well as “wet” foods like chilli, applesauce or soup.

I love the option to use and reuse the Ziploc-style baggies thanks to the handheld wand that’s built into the FoodSaver system. This is what gives it that 2-in-1 claim. And we’ve gotten a lot of use out of these bags; plus, it appeals to my desire to be greener whenever possible. And though I recognize that plastic is terrible, unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil when you want to preserve things in the freezer.

At about $230 for the Food Saver 2-in-1 Vacuum Sealing System, I think it’s reasonable value. I easily tossed away $230 worth of meat and fish last year alone. I’m expecting this to fully pay for itself inside of one year. (Of course, you still have to buy replacement bags and rolls…)

I like that the machine gives me the option to select “wet” or “dry” foods; this straightforward instruction means that food like chilli doesn’t get sucked up into the FoodSaver as it’s vacuuming out the air.

It’s a nice-looking enough unit, but…

THE GAFFE

It takes up a lot of real estate on my countertop. People with small or galley kitchens probably won’t like FoodSaver’s footprint (at least the model I have). It’s really a bit bulky to go into a cupboard, so unless you have a walk-in pantry like I do, finding a home for it might be tough.

Refills aren’t cheap. At Canadian Tire, for example, a double-roll refill is $23.99 and a 12-pack of large Ziploc-style reusable bags is $15.99.

You end up using A LOT of plastic because the machine requires a four-inch clearance on either side of the vacuum-sealed “line” to work properly.

The electrical cord is not long enough…an extra foot would be really helpful.

Not all wet foods seem to get fully sucked of air. The chilli up there on the left, for example. That said, I can’t say it’s made a difference in terms of how well it’s kept food in the freezer.

Sometimes, the machine appears to be finishing the job and then just…stalls. I turn it off, and start over again and that seems to do the trick, but it’s weird. And freaky because the noise it emits while it’s stalled isn’t pretty.

THE GEARS

3.5/5 (if refills were less expensive, the overall system would have earned a higher rating)

So…where can you get it?

October 15, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
1 Comment

Wordless Wednesday: Dress Mavens (it ain’t just for the ladies)

Dress Mavens for girls

There’s something about matching outfits with my little girl; I just can’t get enough of it. So when Dress Mavens recently made a dress for me (in red, which I paired with leopard print shoes), I bought a kind-of matching ensemble for Miss Q. The “Maggie” did not disappoint. Aside from the jewelry from Gymboree that Miss Q chose herself, I added a cute little velvet and grosgrain ribbon belt from H&M and polka-dot-patent shoes from PediPed. To give the dress a bit of volume and extra flair (we were going to a wedding after all), I put a Kelly green tutu from Gymbroee underneath. Of course, when she wears this more casually, I doubt we’ll go for the tutu. The girls’ dress sizes at Dress Mavens are generous, so if your daughter takes a size 4-5 at GAP Kids, rest assured that a size 4 will fit beautifully, and probably offer room to grow.

OxiClean 4X Concentrated Extreme Power Crystals

October 12, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
60 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving: enter the clean-up (sponsored post)

I don’t know if every kid who grew up in the ’80s has the same memories of Thanksgiving dinners as I do. But clearer than the turkey is the way our table was always set: first, a waterproof pad (that I swear was later repurposed atop a mattress when my children came for a sleepover) and then one of my mom’s linens or one handed down to her.

The padding left the table a bit squishy and meant that wine glasses sometimes toppled over. And the linen ended up covered in a cornucopia of cranberry sauce and gravy.

I was thankful, year after year, that my mom never asked me to try and get those stains out. She’d spend an unfortunate amount of time hunched over the laundry room sink, with a bar of Sunlight in hand. Scrubbing. I remember a lot of scrubbing.

Fast forward 25 or 30 years, and now that we host our own Thanksgiving dinners, I’ve learned to skip the linens. Sadly, that doesn’t mean I don’t still meet my fair share of stains after a big turkey dinner. Whether it’s on clothes or fabric napkins, those cranberries and that gravy still like to make their mark.

OxiClean

I confess. Sometimes convenience trumps my desire to live a crunchier life. I love how EASY these are.

The difference between then and now, of course, is that I don’t spend too much time in the laundry room. I reach for a spray bottle of pre-mixed OxiClean liquid or use one of the new (and utterly convenient) OxiClean Laundry Detergent Paks. I still favour natural detergents for my everyday laundering, but for tougher stains — and I don’t have to tell you that gravy is tough — I usually go for something stronger.

If only all the washing up following Thanksgiving ended with laundry. Alas, no. The dishes are another story altogether. Another thing I’m thankful for? Our dishwasher. Because, honestly, the last thing I want to do after prepping, cooking, serving and hosting up a storm is dishes by hand. I know some people find doing dishes relaxing, and one woman I recently met tells me she does all her best thinking washing dishes.

Not this girl.

I’d rather tuck into a nice glass of wine listening to the sweet hum of the dishwasher.

So, as we get ready to go into turkey overdrive tomorrow across Canada, lifestyle expert Nicole Sassaman has some great tips so you spend more time entertaining and less time cleaning:

It’s all about survival, people. If you can make it through preparing a bird from scratch, serving everything at (relatively) the same time and manage to carry on conversations with every member of your extended family (yes, all of them), you pretty much deserve a medal.

But since I don’t have a medal, instead, the kind folks at OxiClean would like to give you the chance to win a Thanksgiving Survival Kit, valued at $60. That’s a whole lot of clean, my friends. It includes a bunch of awesome OxiClean products (Laundry Detergent Paks, Liquid Laundry Detergent, White Revive Stain Remover, Dishwashing 2 in 1 Booster, Unit Dose Laundry Detergent and Extreme Power Crystal Dishwasher Detergent).

Enter here.

 

DISCLAIMER: I was compensated for this post, but opinions (and sass!) are always my own.

Barbie and the Secret Door DVD

October 10, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
0 comments

Barbie and the Secret Door DVD

The movie: Barbie The Secret Door

When it was available: September 2014

What it’s about: A mermaid, fairy and princess walk into a bar. No, no…that’s not it. They walk into a magical kingdom, led by shy reading-fanatic Princess Alexa (who sounds suspiciously like all of the other lead Barbie characters). During one of her daily walks, she finds a secret door. Obviously, she opens it or the title of the DVD wouldn’t make much sense now, would it? Turns out that she discovers a world like the one she’s been reading about. But there’s an evil twist, and her name is Malucia. With the help of her mermaid and fairy friends, Alexa finds strength and power within herself and in this brave new world, she can do anything. Even take down the horrid Malucia. Featuring some new Barbie tunes, Alexa sings her way through the magic and comes out the other side of the door a more confident girl who’s empowered to take on the real world.

What Miss Q said: “I really like this movie because Alexa is so pretty and brave, and she fights so good. And I really like her dress and her magic song.”

The verdict? This is one of Miss Q’s favourite Barbie movies, possibly surpassing Barbie & The Pop Star (huge news in this house!). Though that might have something to do with the Barbie and the Secret door dolls and horse that Mattel generously sent along with the DVD. Her favourite Barbie now is the one that sings the “I’ve Got Magic” song from the movie, while her entire torso lights up in time with the music. I love listening to her re-enact parts of the movie when she’s playing independently in her room, even if she does sometimes pit the Barbie friends against one another. We’re working on the friendship message…

But speaking (writing?) of friendship, Miss Q did request that we buy this movie for one of her friends as a birthday gift. Expect movie dates down the road.