December 17, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
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Wordless Wednesday: Sock it to Me

Sock it to Me socks

Do you really need to write much when you see socks with this level of fabulosity? Seriously. We love Sock it to Me socks in this house, and you can see why. Fun colours and patterns; lots of different styles for men, women and kids; and extra stretchy fabric that (a) actually stays knee-high when they’re supposed to and (b) fit around Big B’s gargantuan calves. That man is a beast. Well, done, super socks.

December 7, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
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ergobaby original carrier: now in Dewdrop!

Although I’ve reviewed the first-generation ergobaby soft-structured carrier as well as a more recent third-generation ergobaby carrier (which also includes a dad’s perspective), the new Dewdrop colour was begging to be shown off, and I knew just the mom to give it a whirl. She received a Dewdrop ergobaby SSC in exchange for her honest review.

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Melanie is an east-end Toronto mommy of a soon-to-be six year old (whirling dervish) son and twin baby girls — 6 months old as I write this. I am a full time TV producer, when I’m not on maternity leave. I don’t have much free time on my hands at all right now, but if can I can score a few hours over a nice dinner and a bottle of wine with close friends — or even my dear husband — life is good!  But then, after complaining that I never get time alone or away from the house, when I do….I MISS MY BABIES! (Crazy, right?!)

A bit about me:  After giving birth to our first child, I was thrown for a loop because right away, I realized motherhood wasn’t as easy as my friends made it look…but they didn’t have colicky babies! The day my boy was born, the crying and screaming began.  My son was verrrrrry colicky and this raged on for many, many, MANY months — nine to be exact (but who’s counting?). After battling some health issues of my own, it was time to dust myself off and start trying for a second child. This would prove to be yet another uphill battle. Getting pregnant and staying pregnant this time seemed impossible. I got pregnant the first cycle of trying with my first and now, cycle after cycle, it just wasn’t happening.

I decided to seek the help of a clinic for cycle monitoring; I didn’t want to use any fertility drugs or treatments because I was petrified of having multiples. After having one colicky baby and almost jumping off a bridge, I couldn’t fathom managing two!

Well, guess what?  After more than a year of trying naturally, I finally got pregnant — with TWINS!

After getting over the shock, I started to think about all the extra STUFF we needed!  Two of just about everything.  We had a hand-me-down carrier, but what if both babies needed/wanted to be carried by a parent at the same time? We had heard good things about the ergobaby carriers from friends so, when given the opportunity to review one for Mommy Gearest, we jumped at it.

ergobaby DewdropTHE GOOD

I love the feel of the cotton and I love ergo’s designs — ours is “Dewdrop.”  Grey with a striped hood, so nice and neutral.

I also love that it comes in organic cotton.

What’s also great about the ergobaby carrier is that it’s easy on the baby’s body; there’s no pressure on anything and they can sit in it pretty naturally from what I can tell.

I was worried about what appears to be a lack of lumbar back support because I do have a rotated pelvis and some lower back pain. That said, I can honestly say that so far, I’m very comfortable using the ergo carrier — probably because of the nice padding on the straps and the support around the waist.

I must admit, I’ve only used the ergobaby as a front carrier so far but you can eventually use it to carry your baby on the side (hip) or on your back.  I will be experimenting with this soon. Give me time, people!

The other positive here is that this carrier can be used up until your baby is about 45 pounds!  That’s called getting “bang for your buck.”

THE GAFFE

The ergobaby carrier was tricky for me to use on my own for the first several weeks.  There is a learning curve — especially with the top clip. [Editor's note: It shouldn't take any more than two or three weeks to master the top clip closure; if you're still having trouble, it could be positioned too low. Try moving it up closer to the nape of your neck. If you're still finding it challenging, try to hit a store that specializes in babywearing and they should be able to help you troubleshoot.]

THE GEARS

4.5/5

So…where can you get it?

 

 

December 5, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
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Circulon cookware will find the foodie in you

I always enjoyed baking and cooking as a kid. There are plenty of memories swirling around in my head that involve my froggy-adorned kid-sized apron and helping my mom in the kitchen.

While I didn’t grow up to be a kitchenista of any sort, I still love whipping up new recipes or circling back to old favourites (many of which are written on cue cards in my mother’s handwriting, circa 1980), and having good cookware has been important to me for most of my adult life. I say most because in university, I was happy enough with a $20 Teflon-coated pan in which I cooked just about everything. (Side note: I wonder how much Teflon I’ve consumed?)

When we did our wedding registry, pots and pans were the first thing that went on our list. Unfortunately, we didn’t choose wisely and ended up with Swiss Diamond cookware; this load of baloney came with big promises to match its equally big price tag. But it didn’t deliver, nor did the customer service. I’ve been planning to write a complete review but I still need to calm down to be as objective as possible. To say we felt robbed by Swiss Diamond is an understatement.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of William Ashley, however, we ended up with a great Le Creuset stainless steel set. Yet if you’ve ever gone from non-stick to stainless, you know the transition is a hard one. Everything is much more well-oiled or -buttered now and the cleanup is a bit more labour-intensive.

Circulon cookwareSo while I needed another pan like a hole in the head, when Circulon invited me to review a few pieces from its new cookware line, I thought I could at least provide a really good foundation for those of you thinking about what kind of cookware you want next. We received a covered straining stockpot (a.k.a. pasta pot), 12-inch skillet and the covered jumbo cooker.

THE GOOD

What we love about stainless steel cookware that is historically the issue with non-stick cookware is the ability to use metal utensils when needed. A whisk, for example, isn’t something we have kicking around in silicone. Circulon cookware offers the best of both worlds: a non-stick surface that can handle metal utensils. Just note that using “sharp” metal utensils may void your warranty.

All of the Circulon pieces look great. Very sleek, very contemporary. Now, red happens to be the accent colour in my kitchen but who wouldn’t love the bright greeting of a red skillet cooking up a pound of bacon for Sunday brunch? Tell me, who? No one. That’s who.

These pieces will work on any type of stovetop — electric, gas and even induction.

They can go in the dishwasher. I repeat: THEY CAN GO IN THE DISHWASHER!

And unless you’re cooking on very high temperatures, Circulon cookware can go from stovetop to oven. This is great for keeping things warm or if you need to braise or sear meat but then let it cook internally at lower temperatures.

Everything we’ve cooked has been done evenly and exactly the way we intended.

I love the glass lids; they all fit extremely well and being able to watch a pot is every control freak’s dream. The stockpot gets a special shout-out here because the lid actually locks in place, which means when you need to strain out your excess water, you just tip it over with the lid on and you never have to worry about it falling into the sink, breaking and filling your dinner with shards of glass. I’d call that a good thing. (This lid is truly what makes the pasta pot my favourite piece in the Circulon lineup AND in my entire cookware collection).

All of the Circulon cookware we’ve tested (and we’ve been using them for months now) has remained non-stick, scratch-free and is incredibly easy to clean — use after use.

We’ve also pushed the limits in terms of cooking temps, pan-frying and boiling water on extremely high heats just to see if any flaking would occur. We’ve seen no such flaking but will definitely update this review in a year’s time should any occur. You probably don’t want to cook beyond medium-high since it may impact your warranty, though.

Pricewise, I find Circulon quite reasonable. That said, you’ll get a steal of a deal if you buy a whole set (as I look at the 11-piece hard anodized set online, it’s 70 per cent off and only $199.99*). But if you just need a pot here or a pan there, 12-inch skillets (griddles, pans, whatever you want to call them) are in the $100 range, while the jumbo cooker (which doubles for me as a wok) and pasta pot are about $170 each. This is MUCH less than our old Swiss Diamond cookware and even slightly less than our Le Creuset pieces. The way I see it is this: if the cheaper non-stick pans cost an average of $30, but you have to replace them annually, then even if the Circulon skillet gives you just five years, you’ve saved $50 — not to mention all that time going to and from stores to buy new skillets!

THE GAFFE

The handles on the pasta pot and all of the lids get extremely hot, barring you from picking them up with anything less than very good oven mitts. It would be great if these were silicone-coated so you could use your bare hands. The pan handle isn’t too bad if you’re cooking at low to medium temperatures.

I’m not a huge fan of the clear silicone (glue?) that sits between the rivets and handles. I think there could be a more seamless look here that matches with the otherwise upscale appearance of the Circulon cookware pieces.

THE GEARS

4/5

So…where can you get it?

*Apologies if by the time you read this, the sale is over. However, sales come along all the time, so keep watching!

December 3, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
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Wordless Wednesday: Why Lou Harvey should be on your kid’s wish list

Lou Harvey kids' apron

There’s only one reason this super-adorbz Lou Harvey kids’ apron isn’t in my holiday gift guide: I’ve never shopped online with them before, so I don’t know how fast it is. And with only two noted stockists in Canada, I couldn’t add it to a gift guide devoted to products available primarily in-store across the country or from really well-known online retailers. But I think this little apron is so special that it deserved to be featured. And if you’re looking for something unique for your little chef, this would be perfect under the tree. Coated for easy wipe-offs, Lou Harvey’s designs and patterns are kitschy-cool without going into the edgy abyss. Fabrics are limited edition, which the hipster in you will love. Made in South Africa, Lou herself actually supervises production to ensure it’s ethical. There’s gift giving you can feel good about!

 

 

November 28, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
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How do you spell “gifting”? M-A-T-T-E-L

Mattel Holiday 2014If you were to ask me about my first Christmas present memory, it would be a toss-up between stepping on my brother’s Optimus Prime and breaking it before he even had a chance to play with it and getting my Barbie dollhouse.

It was three stories high and glorious. Although I don’t remember how old I was, we were the same height and it felt like the biggest gift of all time. There was an elevator, but it was devoid of much furniture and instead filled with dolls I’d mostly inherited from my mom and her four sisters. This included a Skipper whose hair had befallen a most unfortunate encounter with scissors, and a Midge who was missing several fingers.

I played with that house for years, and even managed to score a few brand new Barbies along the way.

I love Barbie. Even today, as a modern mom to a daughter. Say what you will about Barbie’s proportions and life of grandeur, but I love the overarching message that girls can do anything. Be anything. Go anywhere. (And, P.S. have you seen ”Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse”? Watch it. Trust me. Some of the funniest stuff on TV.)

If I’d had the chance to test out the new Barbie Glam Camper, it probably would have landed in my holiday gift guide. But, alas, Mattel got in touch a bit late and only shared its own gift guide in early November. (That’s fine for normal folks, of course, but we launch into gift guide prep as early as July here!) I wasn’t surprised in the least to see so many awesome Barbie gifts included, nor do I think Mattel was amiss adding Hot Wheels Track Builder pieces, either. And after seeing Monster High Freaky Fusion, my gal is a certifiable fan and I know she’ll go gaga for a dollhouse designed just for her Monster High friends.

So, while I openly confess that none of the toys pictured here have undergone my rigorous review process, I’m more than a little giddy about putting them under the tree this year. With one exception: Holiday Barbie. She’s going deep into the caverns of my storage room. Because she’s not a toy; she’s a collectable. And ain’t no one taking scissors to that girl’s hair!