Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Thanksgiving Meal Ideas

Hosting a big family dinner can be a daunting task, but the pressure is especially high if you’re hosting one of the big meal events of the year. You know what I'm talking about - those multi-course, fancy tablecloth feasts with family member you haven't see in months! Thanksgiving is definitely one of those! Over the next two weeks, I’m going to write a few pieces that will help you tame the battle ahead. I’ve written in the past about the task of organizing your space, so refer to it here if you need a little help hiding the toys. We’re also going to cover decorations, baking, and today – Dinner!

With food allergies, moral reasons, and the fact that most families attend multiple Thanksgiving dinners, I decided to look in to some alternatives to shake up your table. They are all fall themed, and make sense at a Thanksgiving table, while putting a spin on your expectations. These dishes are easily scaled up or down, so if you’re making a quaint dinner for 4 or you have 18 coming, you can interpret these dishes regardless! 


Image borrowed from CountryLiving.com

“Stuffed” Alternatives – Bye Bye Birdie!

Cooking a turkey is mental torture… Do I stuff it? Do I glaze it? Should I roast it? People deep fry it? Should I stuff it? What’s with gizzards? What if it’s dry? What if it’s never done?!?!? So why not avoid the hassle all together? Stay traditional with a ham, or one of these beautiful options:

Mushroom and Herb Stuffed Chicken Breast


Mini Beef Wellingtons

Maple Walnut Crusted Salmon

Pumpkin-Ricotta Stuffed Shells

 



Image borrowed from Foodnetwork.com

Veggie Alternatives – Just say no to green 
bean casserole!

I think that the sides most people serve with Thanksgiving are just there because they always have been. You put a few veggies on your plate so that it doesn’t look like all you want to eat is meat and potatoes covered in gravy. This time of year has some of the most delicious and comforting veggies. My dad is famous for his blend of roasted root vegetables in a rich, mustard-like sauce. Try your own signature blend, or why not try one of these!
 

Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon
 
Stuffed Acorn Squash with Apple, Cranberry, & Sausage

Potato Alternatives – Your spuds just got jealous!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of potatoes in all their forms. Scalloped, bakes, fries, hash browns – it’s hard to go wrong. If you want potatoes on your menu, far be it from me to dissuade you, but let me recommend something a little extra special that might make you think that the humble mash has a little competition.

Apple and Sweet Potato Bake

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

Other than the desire to impress (and eat well yourself, of course), the scariest part about a dinner like this is the sheer scale of the work. If this is your first attempt at a major meal, don’t go it alone. See if you can reign in at least some of the dishes from the friends and family attending. You’ll find they’re more than happy to help! At my age, my parents often offer to cook the bird, which is a huge weight off of my shoulders! If you have the opportunity, take them up on it! If not, delegate things like appetizers, side dishes or desserts so you can focus on the main event. Remember, it’s always the thought that counts. The fact that you tried is what matters.

Monday, 28 September 2015

What and When? - Understanding Shoes



Shoes for kids are really tricky business. When they are super small, they are more than a fashion accessory than anything, and then one day you wake up and boom – they own more than you do! I’m a girl who loves her footwear, and choosing a cute pair that goes with an outfit can sometimes be more fashion than function for adults. Not so with kids! You have to really consider what they will be using those babies for before dishing out the big bucks. Don’t forget, they won’t last long on those growing feet!


Since there’s been a steep learning curve in my own understanding of children’s shoes, I thought I’d put together the information I’ve acquired so far, along with some theories to consider, about age appropriate shoes for your little mover. I've spoken with shoe fitters, pedorthists, and even read a little on anatomy to learn all I could about those all important piggies!


What: Robees, Moccasins, and Slipper-like Shoes


When:  Your baby is not very mobile, or for travel


For babies that are not yet walking, this is the ideal footwear in my opinion. While you mostly won’t need shoes for the most part, they are fashionable, and serve some other purposes; keeping your little one’s feet warm, protection while crawling and playing, comfort for long car or plane rides, or just aiding you in keeping those socks in place! Look for a brand that has some stretch to allow for growth, but nothing so large as to trip them up. These shoes usually come in month ranges to give you a guideline, but they were never accurate for my tall boy. Try them on your baby if you can, or buy big. They will continue to grow!



What: Sneakers and Sandals


When: Your baby is toddling and needs a more sturdy surface


Walkers will need a functional pair of daily shoes (or a couple), just as you would. There are tons of cute bows and action heros to consider now, so the shelves at your local big box store can be a little overwhelming. Shoes mostly come in single digit sizes now, and it's difficult to know what that number represents. Infant sizes are usually 4 and under, while 5-8 are meant for toddlers. Shoes then go 9-13, before going in to adult sizes. 

For these shoes, fit is very important to avoid tripping or hindering their walking development. Ideally, you will want to try these on your child. Make sure they are easy to slip on, with a sturdy closure. This is more for your benefit than theirs, since it’s you that will be taking them on and off. If your little one won’t stand for it, trace their foot on to a piece of paper before you leave, so you at least pick the right size! 

Sandals are great for summer, but not the best for the inexperienced. They should have a strap behind the ankle, as well as over the top of the foot unless your child is a very experienced walker. Even then, flip flops are better for the beach. Be sure to still give your baby lots of barefoot walking time, when possible. It helps them with balance and stability to be more connected to the floor!


What: Rain and Winter Boots


When: Weather requires it (or for super cute photoshoots!)


Despite kids seeming to downright love boots, they impact their natural range of motion when they don’t fit correctly. For younger babies, something with a strap to tighten might help to hold their feet in place, as well as allow for some room for rapid growth spurts! Toddlers need a strong base, and good control. Stay away from products with removable insoles at this stage. School aged children who will be putting on their own boots might benefit from a style that includes a tab or handles like these! Look for ones that dry easily, and have good insulation. The same principles apply to the sizing of things like snowboard/ski boots and ice skates. Support and comfort are important. Make sure little toes don't get crunched up it at the front, but don't leave too much room to grow either. 

If you're still concerned about shoe sizing and how your child walks, a professional sizer at a reputable store can help you pick out something. A foot doctor, such as a podiatrist or a chiropodist, can also help if you're worried about your child's gait, or they are experiencing a lot of pain. Beware of locations looking to sell orthotics and custom insole products: children's feet grow quickly, and their bones don't form fully until they are in their teens. I had two separate location tell me they only sell inserts to people with good insurance. Sounds like a bit of a scam to me...

Don't forget, little feet grow fast, so shoes are almost always outgrown before they're worn out! Second hand stores, mom swaps, and auctions are a great place to score a deal on footwear in perfect condition! Sell the ones your little one has outgrown to offset the cost even more!


Do you find shoe shopping overwhelming? What brands do you like? 
Tell us about it on Facebook!

Friday, 25 September 2015

What to Pack: Going to Daycare



Sending your kids off to daycare is a pretty emotional thing. You feel scared at the thought of someone else watching your child, nervous about how they handle it, and sentimental about how big they are, even though they are still so small. I frankly found the whole thing a little overwhelming. How can you possibly prepare enough stuff to prepare for a full day away from home without knowing what they will be eating, playing with, doing outside… Well, the good news is, you don’t have to. Whether your baby is at a home daycare or a licensed center, there’s a list of “musts” and a list of “please.”

“Musts” include really just the basics that will help care for your child as you would at home. This means things like your preferred brand of diapers and wipes, a change of clothes, and a blanket for nap time. You might have a cubby or a bag you can stock weekly to ensure you’re on top of the inventory. Other things to consider, which may be a must for your care giver or for your own peace of mind, include things like a labeled sippy cup, sunscreen, and additional attire for flexible play. Things like an extra outside layer, a hat, and a change of shoes are a good starting point.

This list is really all you need to do all the things you would do at home. At the daycare there will be toys to play with, meals prepared, and other items like art supplies are provided by your caregiver. 



“Please” items are something a little extra that might apply to you, but not other kids. It’s at the discretion of you caregiver and your best judgment. If your little one attends a special centre, or you have some personal items you feel will make the transition easier, feel free to over-prepare for the first couple of weeks. Here are some examples:


  • If you drop off your child sleeping or very early in the morning, you may want to send them with breakfast. Most sitters would only include lunch and two small snacks.
  • For infants and toddlers, an attachment item may help, especially for sick days and nap time. Things like a pacifier with a strap, or a well identified stuffy. Be prepared for these things to be occasionally be used by other children or to mysteriously go missing. Kids are quick, it happens even with the best scrutiny.
  • Any medication your child needs for daily or emergency use should be sent ahead with clear dosing instructions. Be sure you talk to your caregiver about your expectations for pain/ fever medication, bum cream application, as well as their comfort level with things like Epipens.
A daycare environment doesn’t have to be just like home – it’s not home – but it can and should be a comfortable place for your child to learn and have fun in your absence. It's going to be an adjustment for everyone involved. Consider scheduling a one-month sit down with your care giver to ask how things are going. Look for ways you can all learn from and benefit each other.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Controversy Corner: The Huggies Fibreglass Scandal

Image borrowed from Walmart.ca

In the age of social media, the power of a site like YouTube is undeniable. Some people manage to make their living at crafting, reviewing video games, teaching aerobic routines, and everything in between. Still, videos are also often posted as a flash in the pan – a funny moment or a tearful memory that goes viral. By now, I’m sure you might have seen one of the many videos that started this outcry over Huggies brand wipes in particular.

It's very difficult to trace the origin of the accusation, especially because of the tremendous speed at which the news has traveled. On Aug 22, 2015, Huffington Post Canada reported: 


California-based mother Melissa Estrella examines different types of Huggies-brand wipes, including Huggies Cucumber wipes, which appear to be covered with deposits of tiny, glass-like particles.

"It's kind of hard to see in the angle I'm in," she says, about a minute into the video. "But if you see all that stuff shining, those are all glass shards."
 
 
The dozens of posts that followed have been viewed and shared literally thousands of times, forcing Huggies to address the situation, but not recall. Until recently, the only response Huggies officially made was to deny a recall of the wipes, and a small blurb wayyyyyy down in the FAQ section. I had to skim through the equivalent of many pages of text to find this, somewhat vague and unsatisfactory, remark.

I have noticed crystals and gel in the diapers. What are these materials, and are they harmful? The crystals and gel are super-absorbent materials that offer significant benefits: drawing wetness away from baby's skin, as well as helping to keep baby's skin healthy. In Huggies® diapers, super-absorbent material is mixed with the diaper padding, turning liquid into a gel to help prevent leakage. You may occasionally see small beads of gel on the diaper or on your baby, but the gel is nontoxic and not harmful. The safety of super-absorbent material has been proven in over 450 consumer safety tests studying every which way a person could come in contact with it. 

 
This doesn’t address the wipes specifically, the claims of the moms who brought the supposed glass to the forefront, or what they intend to do about it. By the end of August, speculation and rumor was more than the company could overlook. With video views in the millions, a spokesperson finally added this much longer response to the very top of the FAQ page:

Hello Huggies Parents,


My name is Eleonora and I am responsible for the Huggies Brand. As a mother myself, nothing is a higher priority than the wellbeing of the families who use our products, the safety of our products and the trust of parents who purchase our products.

We at Huggies take this responsibility seriously, and recognizing that there has been a great deal of discussion regarding Huggies wipes, I want to share a few key facts. We have now received the comprehensive analysis completed by the independent testing firm, McCrone Associates Inc., of the wipes that were returned to us.

- We can confirm NO glass or fiberglass was present.
- We found only microfibers used to manufacture our baby wipes.
- A shimmer can be caused by the microfibers reflecting light.

In extremely rare occasions, the manufacturing process can cause tiny particles of microfiber to form on the wipe that can be felt, but do not present a safety risk.

Additional information is provided below on this matter.

Based on the findings of the independent testing, we are confident that our product is safe.

If you have any concerns or questions about our products, I encourage you to contact Huggies Consumer Care at 1-888-485-6839 or http://bit.ly/8ZuAUH. Thank you.


While it’s true that some products, even if they are for sensitive skin, may irritate some children, a mother’s instinct is always to protect her child. I threw out a bottle of baby body wash of which only a small portion had been used when it irritated my son, so I can understand why a parent might develop a dislike, or speak against a product that they consider harmful. Even if this statement is enough to convince you that the products are fine, subconsciously casual buyers might be slightly less likely to purchase their products in the future. If you were/ are a loyal Huggies user, you might also think twice, considering how little Huggies has done to dispel such serious accusations against their company.

What do you think? Has the Huggies brand been tarnished? Have handled this situation properly? Will you buy their products in the future? Join the conversation on Facebook!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Mommy Money Matters: Crunching the Numbers on Formula!

Breastmilk comes in one variety only – yours. If your child and you are successful, there can be an elaborate dance to learn how and when your child best eats, foods that my upset their digestion, and maybe a little self-care in the process. One thing you don’t have to account for is price. Formula is a whole other ball game. Especially with your first, you really only know the variety your hospital or other medical professional recommended. This tells you very little about knowing how often to feed, powder versus liquid, low iron, soy, and all of the other questions you may have! Well, I’m not a nutritionist, or a paediatrician, but I am a mother who values her budget.

I’ve done a little research – and a lot of math – about all of the various formats we find formula on the shelves. From those adorable little nursers that you can feed your newborn, to those cases of concentrate and powder refills, I’ve compared the prices of the top three brands sold at Walmart across the country. These prices reflect the national average well, but might be higher or lower in your area. These also do not reflect any rollback, sale, price matching or coupons that you should be using to improve your cost!

Nursettes/ Nursers

Small and portable, these ready to serve wonders are sold to be paired with nipples that attach directly to the bottle. Enfamil and Similac sell them identically in 59mL servings. As far as I know, Good Start does have the attachable nipple, but their smallest container, 89 mL, is often in glass bottles! Not as practical for your diaper bag. Of course, with this convenience comes a price, and this format is by far the most expensive of the lot. Once partially consumed, or left opened for over an hour, this product needs to be thrown out, so be aware!



Enfamil

Good Start
Similac
Nursettes

6 x 59mL
8 x 89mL
8 x 59mL

Per package
$9.98
$19.97
$11.98

Per mL
$0.0320
$0.0280
$0.0253

Per oz
$0.9463
$0.8280
$0.7482

Ready to Serve

When your child gets a little bigger, multiple nursettes is not very cost effective, but there may still be reasons why you would want the same sort of ease. If you’re camping, travelling on a plane, or just to have some spare at Nana’s house, bottles of prepared formula do come in handy. While not quite as expensive as the nurser, it is definitely more pricey to spare yourself the preparation. This bottle can also be chilled after opening, to extend it’s life if junior doesn’t consume it all at once. Remember to use it within 24 hours though!




Enfamil
Good Start
Similac

Ready to Serve


18 x 337mL
16 x 250mL
1 x 945mL

Per package
$44.93
$48.87
$10.98

Per mL
$.0105
$.0122
$.0116

Per oz
$.3105
$.3608
$.3431

Concentrate

*In this case, per mL and per oz price take into account the addition of water for an accurate comparison.

For daily use, my preference was this method. Cans of concentrate are mixed with equal parts water. The instructions give you the exact method of preparation for optimal results, and after you do it a few times, it becomes second nature. You can prepare a couple cans in a pitcher for easy portioning, and the batch is good for approximately 48 hours. We found it to be the perfect balance of ease and cost effectiveness. The only downside being, this is the only style that requires a little more planning. Prepared bottles need to be chilled when not in use, and finding a heat source is sometimes a pain!



Enfamil
Good Start
Similac

Concentrate*


12 x 385mL
12 x 359mL
12 x 235mL

Per package
$49.98
$48.87
$34.98

Per mL
$.0054
$.0056
$.0062

Per oz
$.1596
$.1656
$.1834

Powder

When looking at weight and cost of formula products, powder wins hands down. The lack of water makes it cheaper to produce and ship, which is a big win to the end user. You can pre-measure bottles, either in the bottle itself, or a handy portioned container, and add water later on without having to worry about chilling. The two main disadvantages this style has have to do with its preparation. It’s very difficult to make ahead, which is a pain if your child is going through a growth spurt and is eating often. It also needs to be mixed very well to avoid clumps, etc. There are special bottles and kits to assist with that, but it detracts from the cost advantage!



Enfamil
Good Start
Similac

Powder


900g
660g
638g

Per package
$25.98
$25.83
$25.38

Per g
$.0288
$.0391
$.0397

Per oz
$.1267
$.1720
$.1747

As you can see, while there is a small difference in price between the top three, the actual style of formula has more impact on the price than the label. A good handle on sales and coupons will also really help, with Enfamil coupons of up to $8, Similac cheques, and Nestle Good Start promotions, your favourite will always be available at an even better price. There are also many more brands of formula on the market to try; organics, store brands, and specialty products with custom ingredients. When buying these products, it is even more important to check the expiration date, as the stock is rotated much less frequently.

How do you save money on formula? Have you tried freezing it in to pops for your teething little one? Tell us about it on Facebook!