Minted.com Art Collection Review

I have a mild obsession with home decor. Not that I actually go through with most of it, but man, I could spend hours pouring over Pottery Barn catalogs, Martha Stuart Living magazines and Pinterest (oh my god the ideas on Pinterest!). Now that we’re done with apartment living and finally in a house of our own, the obsession has grown 100 fold but our light blue master bedroom walls, for example, are still completely bare after almost half a year here. (yikes!)

You might know Minted.com for their beautiful & customizable cards, invitations and birth announcements. But did you know they also sell ornaments, garlands, table runners, day planners, personalizable photo backdrops and tons more? When Minted approached me to review their Art Marketplace, I took it as a sign it’s time to start getting serious about decorating my house.
Minted Collage 1

Some gorgeous artwork available at Minted.com

First, I love how easy it is to navigate the Minted.com site. With their filters, if you’re looking for specific artwork, say a personalizable print for your little boy … no problem. How about limited edition, abstract art in non-traditional colors and a portrait layout? Yep, they’ve got a bunch of those too. It’s really amazing how much variety Minted offers (and how much of it I liked!).

But, I still wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted, so I let my kids go first and hoped for inspiration along the way. The kids previously had an ocean inspired theme to their bedroom, but as my daughter has recently developed an all-consuming obsession with bright orange (luckily we convinced her to go with just one wall instead of the whole room), the marine life doesn’t really fit as well as it once did. We picked an orange color filter (of course) at Minted.com/Art and scrolled through the limited edition prints. My daughter immediately began calling out favorites:
minted orange collageI also love that if you scroll down to the bottom of any page, Minted shows you a person holding the art in every size offered so you can see exactly how big your picture will be when it arrives. And, when you click on a frame, you can see how each picture will look in each specific frame. Some pictures even have a few different customizable color options like the Schooner design below. Although I do know what an 8×10 looks like, I found myself checking to see how the print looked every time – it was comforting and sometimes actually had me going bigger or smaller.
minted Collage 2

 I’m still looking through all the options, but once I make my final decision and place my order, I’ll be sure to share with you what I think about these prints and frames in person. And if you’re looking for a great Christmas gift, there’s still time with 2 day or overnight shipping!

Plus take advantage of these great offers: Enjoy 20% off art & gifts. Code: GIFT20 | Free 2-day shipping on art orders $75+. Code: ARTFS2

This post is sponsored by minted.com. I received a Minted credit in exchange for my time and honest review. My opinions and ridiculously awesome picks are 100% mine.

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Back to School with Starbucks Fall Blend

I’d say we’ve enjoyed some beautiful Fall weather this last week… except that it’s technically still Summer! But I guess that’s what happens when you transplant yourself an extra 300 miles further north. Life has been more than hectic these last few months – from the normal tensions close quarters bring while we stayed with family during our search for a house, to all the craziness and paperwork that goes along with finally (finally!) closing on a place – I’m a little surprised we (and all our stuff) survived. But here we are – a month and a half into our new house, almost unpacked and happy.

However, winter is coming and we have now entered the world of no public transportation. A place where my Grandmother’s old tease that she walked to school in 8 feet of snow, uphill both ways, might be closer to reality. Prior to moving to Northern Vermont, I always had easy access to light rail, subway, commuter train or bus service. Now? I’m a newly re-licensed (but out of practice) driver. So, although my oldest child has reached preschool age and there are many really wonderful preschools within a 20-30 minute radius from our semi-rural home, I’ve decided not to enroll her this year, partially because I haven’t had any practice driving in winter conditions. Home school is probably better than possible death. But, of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t participate in the Back to School spirit!

When I was younger, going back to school always meant shopping (haha, a shopaholic is born) – I loved picking out my new art supplies, folders (Lisa Frank, anyone?), notebooks, a pencil case, a backpack and always a special first day of school outfit. So although we’re overflowing with arts and craft paraphernalia, I made sure to let O pick out a brand new notebook in her favorite color.

But until now I didn’t realize I no longer had a Back-to-School/ beginning of the Fall tradition except a vicarious one. Happily, Starbucks has come to my rescue once again with a limited edition Fall Blend coffee. Wait, a coffee I can only get when the mornings turn crisp and only right before the leaves begin to change color? What a wonderful cue. And unlike the spiced apple ciders and pumpkin lattes I look forward to every year but can only drink sparingly, the medium roast Fall Blend is a cup for every day (until the Holiday and Christmas blends come out, of course ;).

My standard excuse for my coffee habit is that it wakes me up and helps me deal with my little noisemakers who are inevitably bouncing around way earlier than they should be. But these days are not going to be around forever – this blog post made me think about the fact that my little girl is going to be out of the house for half the day almost every day next year when she starts Kindergarten. So even though this may not be a chalkboard sign milestone year, anything that enhances my memory and enjoyment of these precious once-in-a-lifetime moments with my children, even if it’s just a random Tuesday in September, well, that’s excuse enough for me.

STBKS Fall blend

I was lucky enough to be sent product to sample from Starbucks. However, the comments and opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. I was not paid for this blog post.

How Starbucks Spring Blend Saved My Life – Or, Moving 300 Miles Away

spring stbks collage 2

I’ll always remember what we did this Spring because we moved from New Jersey to Vermont… and we only had 11 days to do it. My husband had applied and interviewed at a few different places and we were waiting to see if any of those jobs would pan out. We had already gotten permission to do a 6 month extension on our lease, just in case, but once we got the offer for this job in Vermont, it was now or never. Eleven days is almost 2 weeks – totally do-able, right? I don’t think any of us actually believed we were going to go through with the move though, because we didn’t pack a single box until that day.

Not only did we wait until the last minute, we also have 2 young children who made packing nearly impossible during daylight hours. I don’t know how many boxes were unpacked while I was distracted elsewhere and how many times children had to be evicted from box houses (and other newly empty structures) before I realized it was much more productive to pack after bedtime (which luckily isn’t too late at 7 pm). Even so, the adults were up until midnight or later on most nights.

It’s probably not surprising that this adventure involved A LOT of coffee. With fortuitous timing, to say the least, I received a bag of Starbucks’ 2014 Spring Blend to sample! But, since images of us drinking the coffee would also include bleary eyes, no make-up, messy hair and ragged, not-afraid-to-get-dirty clothes which just shouldn’t be broadcast online for all of eternity, instead I give you…

Oren in bookcase collage 2

Only because I received my coffee sample right before all this chaos started, I can tell you that Starbucks’ 2014 Spring Blend is delicious. (By the end of the move, all I could have said was that it was hot and caffeinated). I’m not sure I tasted the chocolate or sweet orange undertones, but I was surprised that the few sips I savored were light enough for my palate, even with this blend being described as a medium body (I generally favor breakfast and other blonde blends). My husband, who is drawn to dark roasts, also enjoyed it. Of course – the one coffee we can happily share is only available seasonally, haha. Coffee can be stored for a long time in the freezer, right? (– looking it up now.)

The day we loaded up the rental truck, New Jersey decided to punish us for leaving with monsoon rain all day and all night. (Worst move ever!!). But the following morning, like an omen of a happy future, we were greeted with nothing but sunshine. We fueled up with more coffee for the 6 hour road trip and it was blissfully uneventful. I would have loved to pair my drink with buttery shortbread and early harvest berries as Starbucks suggested, but unfortunately, I was at the mercy of the convenience stores’ inventory, and it was more like peanut M&Ms and cheese sticks. Luckily, the taste of the coffee didn’t suffer from the lack of sophistication. :)
vermont blog collage big
And now we’re in Vermont – getting to know the people and the area. Most of the trees were still bare when we arrived, but it only took about a week before birds were singing and flowers were blooming (tons of dandelions). I don’t know if my kids will remember ever living in New Jersey, but I will. This is the Spring that we moved 300 miles away. And maybe every Spring hereafter, when the snow completely melts and there’s no threat of it coming back, I’ll sit on my front porch with a cup of Starbucks Spring Blend coffee and thank god I won’t have to move again for a long, long time.

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Infant Car Seats VS All-in-One Convertible Car Seats

I think most first time parents, or at least all the ones I see waiting in our pediatrician’s office, go for a basic infant car seat like we did. You know the ones I’m talking about; it’s got the handle on the top and the base that stays in the car. We got a Graco SnugRide 32 for our first baby. Well, infant car seats are great for a number of reasons:

Graco Snugride 35

Graco Snugride 35

  1. Portable – If baby is asleep when you park the car, you can pop the whole car seat out to carry baby undisturbed into the house. You can also easily stick most infant car seats on a travel-system stroller without disturbing them if they’re sleeping or just in a good mood (we found that getting in and out of the car seat was generally the most upsetting to our babies).
  2. Fast – It is a lifesaver to be able to adjust baby’s straps and buckle them in nice and cozy before leaving the house (especially if you had a 2 door car in the beginning like we did – what were we thinking?!). Once you get to the car, most infant car seats come with a base that allows you to secure it by setting the car seat on top and aligning it with a click. It takes about 5 seconds and you’re good to go.
  3. Winter Bonus – If you’re trying to avoid dressing your baby in bulky winter wear while strapped into the car seat, there are lots of covers for infant car seats that let you ensure baby’s warmth and optimum safety.

With time and experience, we figured out what worked best for us and what didn’t. Here’s what we did not like about our infant car seat:

  1. Heavy – There are lots of different ergonomic handle designs and arm pads you can attach, but all infant car seats are bulky, heavy, and hard to carry – it’s why they’re so safe. Remember, even the lightest car seat won’t be light once your baby is inside – and babies put on weight so fast! I dreaded carrying it just from our house to the car.
  2. Short Lifespan – Even though our daughter was a tiny thing, she couldn’t use her infant car seat for more than a year (and even if she could have fit, she really began to hate being so reclined – she wanted to see the world, look out the windows, etc.). I have noticed some new infant-style car seats with fancy multi-position bases that allow you to use them rear facing up until age 2 (or the seat’s height and weight limits) like the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 Infant Car Seat. It’s pretty amazing but still requires you to get a new seat after 2 years instead of 1.
  3. Expensive (comparably) – Our Graco Snugride 32 retailed for approximately $150. After one year we had to buy a second toddler car seat which retailed about $300 (we bought it for less on Amazon though). Luckily, our toddler car seat (more about it below) is a convertible seat and can also be used as a booster later (up to 120 lbs), so we won’t have to buy her anything else in this department.
  4. Little Resale Value – Most experts advise against buying used car seats so you may not have many takers if you try to resell (or they’ll want a steep discount… like they’ll give you $20). It is wise advice though because car seats that have been in a car accident may have hidden damage and no longer offer adequate protection. Car seats also have expiration dates because over time the plastic can weaken and safety standards can change. When you’re dealing with something that could mean the difference between life and death for your child, it just isn’t worth it. I recommend taking your infant car seat into a Babies R Us during one of their Great Trade-In Events. From the company’s website: “The Great Trade-in Event places an emphasis on specific baby products, such as cribs and car seats that, due to safety concerns, may not be the best candidates to be handed down or resold.” At least you get 25% off something new that way!
Diono Radian RXT

Diono Radian RXT

So, as you probably guessed, we did not buy an infant car seat for our second baby. We were actually so pleased with O’s toddler car seat, the Diono Radian RXT (formerly Sunshine Kids), that, seeing the acceptable weight range started at 5 pounds, we just started him out in the same model his sister loves. We’re done buying car seats for his whole car-seat-needing life!

To be honest, there have been many times I’ve wished I didn’t have to unstrap Number 2 to take him out of the car, knowing he’d wake up the minute I did. But there’s no guarantee he would have stayed blissfully asleep in his car seat like his sister used to either. So, no regrets. We upgraded to a 4 door family car a while ago (thank god), so buckling baby into his seat no longer involves folding myself into origami (the infant car seat was so annoying to carry, we sometimes left it in the car). And, as with my first, I prefer baby wearing (Baby K’Tan shout-out!) to using a stroller while they’re tiny anyway.

If you do decide to start your newborn in an all-in-one convertible car seat like we did, there are more and more appearing on the market now (like the Graco Smart Seat All-in-One Convertible Car Seat) so you’ll have a lot of choices. But, before you start shopping, I have to mention a few extra things about the Diono Radian RXT car seat that we really loved:

  1. The Diono Radian RXT can be rear-facing up to 45 lbs which makes it the highest rear-facing seat available in the US. That’s nothing to sneeze at. (heh, who says that anymore?) According to this article on CNN from Parenting.com, a study “found that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. Another study found riding rear-facing to be five times safer than forward-facing.” And just so we’re all clear, I hope everyone knows that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that all children be rear-facing until age 2 (or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their car seat). In her Diono, our daughter O was happy rear-facing until almost 3 years old – seriously, leg squish was not a problem.
  2. The Diono Radian RXT has a very slim profile that the brand says allows you to fit 3 across the backseat of most standard size cars. Now, we don’t have 3 kids, so I didn’t think this would be important until we tried putting O’s old Graco Snugride in the back next to her Diono (before our second was born while we were still in research mode). There was NO WAY anyone would have been able to squish into that third seat. We tried every configuration. Amazingly when our second Diono arrived, we put Olyla by the window, Number 2 in the center, and our third seat was usable for an adult.
The backseat of our car

The backseat of our car

If you’ve fallen in love with a particular All-in-One car seat, definitely share the name of it in the comments. As I said above, there are lots more brands creating their own versions since the AAP changed their safety recommendations.

*I was not compensated in any way by Graco or Diono for this review.

Surprise Subscription Boxes for Mommy and Baby

If you haven’t heard about the latest craze (and/or you remember the CD and video of the month clubs of yore), monthly subscription services are back! Online sites are now offering everything from beauty boxes and shoes to gourmet tasting packages and t-shirts– all shipped right to your door every month full of fun surprises. But, of course, it’s the cool mommy and baby stuff we’re interested in for this blog and there are lots of those to choose from in that category too! Here are your options:

Citrus Lane – I believe this was the first monthly box club to launch in the mother/baby category and they’ve grown quickly for good reason. Featuring 1 or 2 full size products per box, sample size products, coupons/gift cards and cute monthly themes like Bed and Bathtime Fun or Fun in the Sun, Citrus Lane is perfect for moms with newborns or children up to 3 years old. In past boxes I received things like: an iPlay Sun Protection Hat (with SPF 50+), an Itzy Ritzy Snack Happened reusable snack bag, Ella’s Kitchen food pouches, Green Sprouts Stacking Duck Set for the bath, a full size Seventh Generation Natural Hand Wash, and a Juice Beauty Antioxidant Serum Deluxe Sample. They also have a special stand alone Pampered Pregnancy box and a Deluxe Baby Shower box which are both perfect to give as gifts. You get one box a month and Citrus Lane offers a few different subscription options:

  • pay as you go – $25/month
  • $75 for 3 month membership
  • $125 for 6 month membership (1 month free!)
  • $250 for 12 month membership (2 months free!)
  • $65 for the Pampered Pregnancy box (one box only)
  • $35 for the Deluxe Shower box (one box only)

Bluum – UPDATE: Bluum has changed their pricing, it is now $24.95/month and features more full size items in larger boxes. They also now have boxes for children up to 36 months. Bluum still focuses on items for both mommy and baby.

This is the least expensive option, so it’s great if you’re feeling unsure about the whole subscription club thing, commitment, money in general, etc. It is also the smallest box, about 6×4 inches, but you’re still getting a lot for your money. Bluum boxes feature tons of sample size products for mommy and babies 0-12 months – and if you try something and love it, it’s easy to find information on purchasing the full size versions. In past boxes I received things like: Adagio Pai Mu Tan Tea, Weleda Almond Soothing Facial Lotion, So Easy Portion Storage Bags and PINXAV Diaper Rash Ointment. Plus Bluum places a high priority on organic and natural products – bonus! You have 3 subscription options with Bluum which are:

  • pay as you go – $11/month
  • $33 for 3 month membership
  • $60 for 6 month membership

PetiteBox – UPDATE: PetiteBox is temporarily suspending subscriptions. Not known when they’ll resume business.

This company just launched, their first boxes went out in June. Unlike the other companies mentioned, PetiteBox will begin catering to you while you’re still pregnant and then, based on your due date, will change over to baby-related products when your little one is born up to 12 months old. The subscription ends automatically at baby’s first birthday. The PetiteBox representative I spoke with at the Big City Moms Baby Shower said that PetiteBox is striving to be a more luxurious, higher end alternative (which is evident just from the gorgeous ribbon trimmed boxes they’ve got – definitely saving those to reuse somehow).

  • pay as you go – $25/month

TeetheMe– UPDATE: TeetheMe stopped service in October 2012.

Similar to Citrus Lane, TeetheMe is for moms with newborns to kids up to 3 years old. However, TeetheMe is also a full-out community too – they want members to write rate and write reviews for the items they received, share pictures and milestones of their little ones, and find a one stop destination for blogs and trends on the site. The Little Teethers Community for Moms just launched with Facebook and Twitter integration and it looks promising. But going back to the boxes, every month TeetheMe sends you 4 to 5 products. In my past box I received: a Green Sprouts Plate Set, Earth Mama Angel Baby Calm & Clean Hand to Toe Wash and Bottom Balm samples, and NurturMe dehydrated baby food pouches. Their subscription options include free boxes for longer commitments:

  • pay as you go – $24/month
  • $72 for 3 month membership
  • $120 for 6 month membership (1 month free!)
  • $240 for 1 year membership (2 months free!)

Stork Stack – Stork Stack sends out 5 products a month customized for you and baby and can start as early as your 3rd Trimester of pregnancy and last up until your child’s 3rd birthday. As with the other companies, they promise mom-tested (and loved) products tailored to you (click here for an example of one of their past boxes/Stacks). They also offer a never changing Shower Stack to use as a baby shower gift – you can also see a picture of that box using the link above. But what makes Stork Stack special is that they give back to philanthropic organizations to “deliver Stacks of love to families in need.” Stock Stack is currently partnering with Operation Showers of Appreciation (baby showers of support for separated military families) and BabyBuggy.org. Just by being a member you’re helping out those in need, but depending on the membership option you choose, you can also give a little more directly too:

  • pay as you go – $28/month
  • $84 for 3 months + one donated to a family in need
  • $168 for 6 months + 2 donated to families in need
  • $336 for annual membership + 3 donated to families in need
  • $40 Shower Stack (one box only)

Honorable mention to these other monthly subscription sites:

  • Spark Box – age appropriate toy rental for ages 0-4
  • Wittlebee – age specific clothing for sizes newborn to 5T
  • Kiwi Crate – crafty boxes for ages 3-7
  • BabbaCo – themed boxes containing projects, activities & books for ages 3-6
  • Little Passports – global exploration kits for ages 5-10
  • Green Kid Crafts – 3 or more planet-friendly crafts monthly for ages 3-8
  • MommeBox – seasonal products & services for moms
  • The Little Book Club – 3 or more age appropriate books monthly for ages 0-6
  • The Happy Trunk – themed crafty boxes in 2 tiers: ages 3-7 and ages 7-11
  • Parents TLC – baby, kiddo, mommy & me and even pet boxes all on one site
  • ZooBean – book subscription boxes
  • M is for Monster – weekly themes with 2 to 3 projects for each theme

And one last thing to add (hint to future entrepreneurs): Where are the Daddy boxes?!!

Gift Ideas for Any Dad – Father’s Day 2012

As I get email after email with Father’s Day gift ideas and guides filled with cuff links, leather bag, monogrammed golf balls or other sports related paraphernalia, gear for the grill, watches, beer & alcohol accessories, etc., I’m struck by the fact that most of them would be terrible gifts for my husband (or even for my own father!)

So since I was looking around myself anyway, I thought I’d share my short list of the gifts I bought for the father of my babies this year. Hope they help you too! Remember, your gift doesn’t have to be big or expensive, it just has to be well thought out and from the heart.

1. Bag O’ Books by DaddyScrubs – Never underestimate the power of a good book. After reading Swagger by Lisa Bloom (totally recommended btw!), I appreciate even more how important it is that daddies read to their kids just as much as mommies do, and these dad-themed books are exactly the type of nice push that’ll work wonders for everyone.
2. Father’s Day Coupons by LivingLocurto.com (click the image to buy/print) – I love that the coupons are for things all dads could use like a back rub (20 min limit – haha) or a free chore pass. Plus they’re perfect for last-minute-mommies since you just print, cut, glue the coupon holder together, and you’re done in 5 minutes tops.
3. T-Shirt and Onesie Set on Amazon – You can almost never go wrong with a t-shirt. And this cute duo comes with an outfit for baby too. My favorite shirts are the ones with really nice and just slightly embarrassing messages on them – things he’d never buy for himself but will still actually wear (remember the key to a good gift is that the recipient will use it). For another idea, check out this cute dad t-shirt too.
4. Any DIY Project – Especially if you have older kids, any DIY project they come up with will hold a special place in dad’s heart. My husband painted a version of this handprint collage for me for Mother’s Day so I’m posting this up just because I would have done it if he hadn’t gotten to it first (sneaky guy). Especially if you have young children who aren’t at the glue, scissors and googly eyes age yet, this is a very simple memento to make and very sweet. Just trace, cut, glue, grab a nice frame and you’re done!

Big City Moms’ Biggest Baby Shower – Review and Gift Bag Show & Tell

I attended the 2012 Biggest Baby Shower Ever in New York City hosted by Big City Moms a few days ago and the swag I brought home was unbelievable (see pictures below). In fact, the things I’d picked up just from walking around the vendor booths were already digging into my arms after 2 hours (not the best decision making there but I couldn’t help myself!) so I was feeling pretty nervous as I waited in line to get my official gift bag (not visible from the line). But in a twist of fate, they rolled out a Peg Perego stroller with the gift bag balanced on top of it!!! (which I believe was my shower gift for visiting 40 vendors – they handed out Bingo style cards when you entered – and attending a seminar). And, as you can see this was a literal lifesaver (since I was on my own to get all this stuff home – my personal handbag isn’t even on the stroller in this picture), not to mention AMAZING!

I was a little uncertain about a few things before going to this event:

  1. The ticket price was pretty hefty: $100 for the Super Pass ($125 if bought after 4/1) – was it going to be worth it? As a comparison, the lowest price tickets were $60 for basic entry with no gift bag, which is still substantial.
  2. I had just gone to the MommyBites Summit the previous week. Were all the vendors (and goodies) going to be pretty much the same?

But it turns out I shouldn’t have worried: the ticket price paid for itself instantly since all attendees were given a Mombo Taggies pillow (retail $49.99) and all Super Pass holders were guaranteed a new Britax baby carrier (retail $139.99). Plus the Peg Perego stroller? Um, retail $399.99!!! So yeah, I think I can say, without even opening the gift bags, this event was worth the ticket price.

Second, I visited almost every booth and definitely less than a quarter of the vendors were repeats. Even most of the food vendors were different! And, as you’ll see for yourself below, there surprisingly weren’t even many repeat gifts between the two event’s gift bags (except for Mama Mio Skincare products, which I was totally fine with having more of!!).

So, I have to break this down into the actual event gift bag (which was bigger than a Moses basket for a baby – In fact, if I could find a way to safely convert it into a Moses basket, I almost would) and the gift bag I created just by walking around the event and/or buying products at special Biggest Baby Shower prices. Let’s start with the contents of the official Biggest Baby Shower Ever gift bag pictured below (this was all inside the black tote with pink writing if you’re looking at the picture at the top of this post).

I’m going to try to make this list as organized as possible since it was near impossible to get everything facing forward without blocking the view of something else. Here’s what was inside:

  • The Huge Gifts – Comfort & Harmony Deluxe Mombo nursing pillow & Infant Positioner, Britax organic baby carrier, Peg Perego Pliko Four stroller in denim (I know some other moms got diaper pails instead and maybe there were other shower gifts rotating as well).
  • Bottles – 6 full-size baby bottles from MAM (anti-colic), Evenflo (Bebek), Tommee Tippee, Similac (Simply Smart), Lansinoh (Momma) and a Playtex drop-ins premium gift set. As well as an insulated straw cup from Munchkin ( 12m+) and a Enfamil newborn formula sample set with D-Vi-Sol.
  • Clothing & Accessories -Moby knot hat, Baby K’Tan hat, Gerber bib, 7 A.M. Enfant 0-6m baby booties, Maclaren Travel Kit for baby (lavender scented), Sun Safety Bands courtesy of KSpin Designs, Eco Store Baby Nappy Balm, Boogie Wipes sample.
  • Home & Bath – Safety 1st Essentials Childproofing Kit, Squiggles – A Drawing Book courtesy of J&R jr., Episencial Sweet Dreams bubble bath, Dapple baby bottle and dish liquid, Clean Well antibacterial hand & face wipes, Think King Jumbo Swirly Hook (for strollers), M.A.Z.E cord blood laboratories water bottle, Q-tips (full-size), OXO Tot bottle cleaning kit, Oopsy Daisy playing cards, Little Pim foreign language DVD, Pantone Colors children’s book.
  • Just For Mom – Boob Tube and Tummy Rub samples from Mama Mio Skincare, Simplisse sample pack (nursing pads, nipple cream, breast milk storage bags), Bio-Oil, Palmer’s Tummy Butter, Destination Maternity Edamame Spa coupons, Premama vitamin drink mix sample, Fit Pregnancy magazine.
  • Food – Belvita breakfast bar, Kind Plus bar, Pretzel Crisps, Peeled Snacks, Sensible Portions Apple Straws, Godiva Gems, Little Ducks Organics Tiny Fruit, and baby food pouches from Organic Mash-ups, Ella’s Kitchen and Happy Baby.

And that’s not all, folks! (haha). Here’s the great stuff I was given (pictured above) by just stopping at all the vendors’ booths and entering their their giveaways or joining their mailing lists:

  • Free Samples – pacifier wipes and laundry detergent from Dapple, Eco Store laundry liquid, healing balm and hand soap from The Honest Co., Colief infant drops for colic, Camilia homeopathic teething aid, BabyGanics lip & face balm, Innobaby small baby food storage container, The Bump stroller ID tag (brilliant!), Tommee Tippee spill-proof First Sips Cup (4m+), retractable measuring tapes from both Project Nursery and from Ergo Baby, a baby food pouches from Happy Tot and Plum Organics.
  • Gift Bag from the ToyInfo.org booth featuring: a small parts tester, Crayola My First Washable Markers, Cloud B Mimicking Monkey, Ugly Doll small stuffed toy, BKids Go With Me soft cell phone toy (3m+).
  • Bought at a Discounted Event Price – Lucky Legs from Mama Mio Skincare (they gave me a larger sample of O-Mega Body Buff with purchase), WeanGreen glass baby food containers in green, BuggyLove organic stroller cleaning kit.
  • Plus LOTS of Coupons

There were food vendors sampling juice cocktails, baby burgers, cake pops for your baby shower, frozen yogurt and baby food if you wanted to try some out yourself. There were stroller and diaper pail demos, lots of photography studios, gorgeous sample nursery set-ups and tons of great speakers (Jessica Alba, Tia Mowry, Dr. Bob Sears,  Melissa Joan Hart and many more). Everyone was really excited to be there and the good mood was contagious. I had so much fun and I LOVED all the goodies I got (and I think 99% of them I’ll actually use too!). The Big City Moms Biggest Baby Shower Ever is an absolute must for any brand new or expecting parents.

A Hospital Bag for C-Section Mommies

Well, I just found out I’m going to have to have a repeat c-section for my second baby. My first c-section was planned and we had a great anesthesiologist who insisted on being our personal photographer for the birth, haha. It ended up being a calm, happy experience and I had no issues with pain or healing or anything. So… I feel okay with this. Deep breath.

Now that that worry is out of the way, I have begun (very early, I know) my search for the perfect hospital bag and creating it. I originally thought about taking the easy way out and buying a hospital baby bag that was already made (yes, this is related to my gift bag obsession). But I was really surprised that although the lists are plentiful, it was really hard to find pre-made labor bags for sale (let alone C-section specific bags which don’t necessarily need the essential oils, relaxation CDs, stress balls, etc.).

One standout is the Push Pack from Small Batch Studio (pictured above) which contains items useful for any type of delivery – including a note pad, pen and thank you cards! The company also informed me that a special C-Section pack is in the works for this summer – awesome!

I also found My Pure Delivery Mama Bags (pictured below). The Posh Mama Bag, one of 4 the site offers (pictured below), packs 39 items including Earth Mama Angel Baby products which are free of yucky chemicals like phthalates, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and a breastfeeding-friendly gown from Hot Mama Gowns for your hospital stay and beyond! The back massage tool might be more for laboring mamas, but I’m not one to turn down a back rub any time and I’d gladly stash that away for later.

(Updated) Due Date Bags just launched and although they’re back-ordered until January 2013, their ‘Labor Queen’ Mom Hospital ‘Go’ Bag (pictured below) is a fashionable option for c-section mommies. The set includes a nursing cami, nursing pads, nipple cream, a little outfit for baby & more packaged in your choice of pink or blue trim. The only item geared more towards a natural birth than a c-section are the cute undies that say “Shop Closed for 6 Weeks” – they’d just need to add in the word “approximately” for the c-section-ers, haha.

There’s also another cool company called BFFL Co. who aim to improve the patient experience with all sorts of care bags. One of their newest additions is the Mommy/Delivery BFFLBag and they really thought of everything! (see below). Although they don’t have a separate bag for c-section mommies, all bags include a wound/incision care pack. The tag is on the higher end, but 15% of the net profit from your purchase will be donated to the Harvard School of Public Health Women’s and Health Initiative so you can do some good for others while helping yourself.

BFFLBag

Last, I also found these LaborKits which unfortunately are all sold out right now (but take a look at the contents for more ideas). If you know of any other companies selling hospital bags for new moms, please let me know!!

Things I wish I had brought to the hospital the first time but forgot:

  1. My Kindle – those pain meds did NOT make me sleepy like they do for many people and man, was I bored! I was begging to leave the hospital. A Kindle (or other electronic reader) is a lifesaver when you have the baby taking up one arm as I found out after I got home: one finger (or even one toe – voice of experience there) can turn the page. A regular book has to be held open the whole time and turning pages can be an Olympic feat.
  2. My bath towel – I use huge bath sheets at home so the towel they gave me to use at the hospital felt like the size of a washcloth.
  3. Serious snack food – hospitals feed you on their schedule, not necessarily when you’re hungry. And if your visitors have left and daddy has gone home to take a shower, etc., you might be stuck in your bed not healed enough to walk to the vending machine yourself. I recommend GoPicnic ready-to- eat meals which have served me well so far during this pregnancy to tide me over during my commute home.
  4. A notebook with attached pen – you never know when you’ll need to write something down or be struck by something amazing about your adorable new baby.

Hospital kits for new dads are even more rare. Nikki at Nature’s Heirloom made her own and it was pretty awesome if you want to get some ideas. But I just have one piece of advice for new dads who are accompanying their baby mamas into the operating room – those scrubs you have to wear are see-through!! (My hubby found this out when everyone started commenting on his Spongebob boxers… oh man, it’s still funny). DaddyScrubs (pictured above) has that problem solved at least. As mentioned above too, DueDateBags.com also has a super cute “Labor Coach” kit for the Dad-to-be along with really inspired Hospital ‘Go’ Bags for Big Bro and Big Sis (pictured below). Definitely don’t want to forget about your first-born! And I found one more great list for making your own hospital survival kit for daddy from the blog, Scott and the Tiny Human.

Best wishes for you and your coming bundle!

The MommyBites Summit Review and Gift Bag Tell-All

The Gift Bag (cell phone just for scale)

I had the pleasure of attending the MommyBites Summit, a.k.a. the Ultimate Mom’s Night Out, on Wednesday night which was fantastic (and not just because of the amazing goodie bag, although we’ll get there too).

The night began conveniently after work at 6pm at The New Yorker Hotel (which has a Starbucks right across the street from it! – I got tea) with a very simple sign-in process, raffle tickets and free food!! Attendees were given access to a table full of free samples from PopChips, Pretzel Crisps, Nutri-Grain cereal bars, and even ice cream!

So I sat there, my pregnant belly happy, while listening to an intro describing the newly designed MommyBites website, and then listening to the charming guest speaker Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project (which thankfully was included in our gift bags because after listening to Gretchen speak, I really want to read it!). She spoke about all the ways that people (even super busy moms) can and should try to make themselves happier starting from just making your bed every morning to the more thought provoking – finding a spiritual leader to emulate. And she successfully argued away the thought that it might be selfish to try to seek personal happiness.

I’ll add my wish here for a future event with just speakers (and food and gift bags) because clearly MommyBites knows how to pick interesting topics with knowledgeable, engaging speakers. I’d absolutely attend!

But I am not at all complaining about what happened next. The doors behind us opened to a hall full of vendors selling and describing their services for anything from book filled gift baskets from Baby Book Baskets and innovative magnet closure onesies from Magnificent Baby to kids yoga classes at Lil Yogi’s NYC, and luxurious skincare for mom and mommys-to-be from Mama Mio Skincare. And get this, more food!! There was a buffet table with pasta dishes, servers walking around with plates of hors d’oeuvres, and sample boxes containing 3 mini cupcakes from Baked by Melissa (soooo yummy, btw).

Unfortunately, I didn’t win anything in the raffles :( but I wasn’t sad for long because I was handed an enormous gift bag soon after. There was so much inside I had to divide it up between the large items and the equally-as-cool smaller samples (see below).

Gift Bag Contents – Big Stuff

Gift Bag Contents – Small Stuff

Although I cannot use the Perler Beads Biggie Beads set for 2 more years (it’s for kids ages 4+ – remember the beads you make a design with and then iron to fuse them together?), I was happy on behalf of my fellow attendees that the gift bags included products not just for newborns and pregnant ladies since this was an event for ALL moms. The big stuff also included a pair of organic newborn Babylegs legwarmers, a Britax stroller organizer/ cup holder (included for the first 150 registrants), a full size MAM bottle and 2 pacifiers set, a full Safety 1st baby grooming kit, Giggle’s Guide to Baby Gear, and 4 full books: Brain Rules for Baby, The Happiness Project, ABCs for Expectant Dads (the author, Todd Barrett Lieman, was there to sign it!), and Crave -The Urban Girl’s Manifesto.

The smaller items in the gift bag included more coupons and flyers to mention, a water bottle, 2 kids music CDs, a SquareSpot card (included for the first 150 registrants), grape scented Boogie Wipes, Boob Tube from Mama Mio Skincare, Mabel’s Labels, an issue of New York Family magazine, LemiShine machine cleaner, Dapple toy & surface wipes, NurturMe baby food, C-Spray (vitamin C supplement spray), CleanWell hand sanitizer, VMV Hypoallergenics Mommycoddling All-Over Lotion, and a tiny stuffed toy (with coupon) from Polarn O. Pyret.

Overall an amazing gift bag and amazing event, especially for the $25 admission price. I’m absolutely going next year! And I’m excited to see how the rest of the events this month compare!

The Truth About Strollers – Smart Questions to Think About

Let’s get right down to it. Here are some useful things the sales people probably won’t ask you to think about when you’re looking to buy your first stroller:

  1. Will you be taking the subway/train regularly with your stroller?  If so, look for a stroller with 3 wheels instead of 4 since they’ll be less wide and take up less room. Also look for a stroller that you can easily fold 1 handed and that’s light/compact enough for you to carry with 1 hand – especially if you’re in NYC, there are NO elevators in most subway stops (found that out the hard way). My favorite and the stroller we ended up with? The popular for a very good reason Baby Jogger City Mini (pictured).
  2. Some strollers have flat, bassinet-like infant attachments, like the Bugaboo Cameleon (pictured), or the strollers can be modified to be used with an infant car seat, like most Graco travel systems. But my husband and I preferred to trade off strapping our baby to us in a wrap or carrier, so we never had any use for a cradle-type stroller design. Our daughter was always happy as long as she was snuggled up close and in the action and since she was a small baby, we carried her for at least 6 months, probably more (pregnant brain memory lapse). But depending on the size/weight of your baby and their temperament, any back problems you might have, personal preferences, etc., this might not be the same for you. If you think you want to try wrapping though, see if you can hold off on the stroller at least until baby is old enough to sit up on their own. (BTW – More on wraps & carriers coming soon in a new post!).
  3. Also, before you spend $1000 on an admittedly awesome stroller (like the Stokke Xplory pictured), consider how long you’ll use it compared to the price. For example: my daughter is just about to turn 2 and we’ve used our stroller about 10-20 times at most. We go on walks just about every day and have rigorously practiced hand-holding so ever since she’s learned to use her legs, walking is usually her preferred method of travel. We still bring out the stroller though if we’re going to be in a really crowded area or if we plan on walking around the city all day long – so definitely still useful to have a stroller, but I would have had serious buyers remorse if I’d gotten some of the other models I looked at.
    However, I often see people pushing their 4 year olds around in strollers and although I don’t see that happening for us, we’re not there yet, so who knows!? If that’s the case though, and the weight limit on the stroller is high enough (and the straps adjust in case your child is very short or tall), it can definitely be worth the money (especially if you’re planning on using the stroller for multiple children) – I think it really just depends on the child and the parents. Just something to think about.
  4. I mentioned before that we preferred to wear our daughter with wraps and carriers but the one exception was when it was cold and rainy or snowing. Of course you prefer to not go out in bad weather, but sometimes it’s necessary and baby can’t be home alone so they have to come to. I still haven’t found an acceptable baby ski mask (joke), so although you can bundle baby up pretty well from neck to toes and stick a nice warm hat on, there are days when I’ve have my face wrapped up in a scarf so I certainly wouldn’t want baby’s face exposed either, even for a few minutes. In these cases, a rain cover over the top of your stroller acts nicely as both an umbrella and wind blocker. It’s also a better way to bundle up our little toddler – even though she’d prefer to walk, mommy’d prefer she stay warm. So if you live where there’s snow or a cold wind chill, make sure the stroller you decide to get has a removable rain cover or that generic covers (like the Jolly Jumper Weathershield pictured) will fit your stroller.
  5. Two words: cup holder. Make sure your stroller at least has the option for you to get an attachment later. I found it essential (and if it’s large enough or will adjust to fit baby’s bottle/sippy cup, even better!).

 

Do you have any other slightly uncommon stroller suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

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