Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Book Your Child Can Really Get Into

Have you read the incredible story about a little princess named Princess Cordy who fights off a mummy, a scorpion, and a dragon on her quest to bring color back to her kingdom? Along the way she gets help from Mira, Paul, and Kate, and they all become friends. What? Never heard of Princess Cordy in the Kingdom of Nevernight? Well, it could be because we have the only copy in existence.

We received this book from Printakid, courtesy of Parent Bloggers. Printakid specializes in personalized books for children, with six different stories to choose from. These aren't like those cheesy books you can find at a mall kiosk, where your child's name is plugged into any story, usually in a different font, and the kid in the story may or may not look anything like your child.

The Printakid books are customized for each child. You not only put in your child's name, you also design the character so it looks like your child. Princess Cordy is a tall girl with pale skin, curly blonde hair, and blue eyes. I really liked the level of detail I could customize. They even give the option of glasses if your child wears glasses.

But it doesn't just stop with your child in the story. You can also provide your name, and the names of siblings or friends, and they can be worked into the story. In our story, Princess Cordy is helped along the way by Mira, Paul, and Kate. You don't customize those characters other than name, but for our story they were all wearing elaborate costumes so you couldn't see their faces.

Cordy thinks it's fun that there is a book about a princess who looks like her and has her name. I also like that this isn't a story with a passive princess waiting for her prince to save her - she marches right out to take on any challenge. And while it's a long story for Cordy's age and focus level, she doesn't lose interest when we read it, like she does with so many other books.

The Printakid books would be a great idea for birthday or holiday gifts. They also offer a personalized CD featuring the book on audio, along with other personalized gifts. With such a unique story and a heroine named Princess Cordy, I'm sure our Printakid book will be on our "Most Read" bookshelf for a long time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hip Shoes, and They're Not Pink!

Normally, I hate buying baby shoes. Half of the time I find shoes that are too tight (manufacturers take note: chubby babies have chubby feet by nature).

And if I do find shoes that fit, they're nearly always pink. While girls get the lion's share of clothing choices and, later in life, there are more shoe styles available than the population of Hong Kong, baby girl shoes tend to fall into two categories: pink, and more shades of pink.

I'm not completely against pink. It has its place along all of the other colors in the spectrum. I just want more choices in my daughters' footwear, and I want their shoes to fit well.

So when I was invited by the Parent Bloggers Network to pick out two new pairs of shoes from Vincent shoes, I was excited. Have you seen these shoes? No? Then promise me you'll go check them out after you read this review. Promise? OK, let's continue.

I received two pairs of the Vincent line of pre-walker shoes for Mira: the Mini Bjorn and the Mini Angela, and after trying them out I can say these are some of the best looking shoes out there. I am impressed with the high quality construction. The leather is smooth and comfortable, and the velcro is strong enough that a baby isn't likely to pull it open. The sole is flexible and soft - a must for pre-walkers and early walkers to encourage proper foot development - but it also has some cushioning for protection.

An important factor for me is fit. Both pairs fit Mira's feet without any difficulty. Like her sister, she has chubby feet, and the hard part is always finding shoes that are tall enough in the arch. These fastened without any squeezing of her foot, and there is still some room for growth, too. No matter how much she kicks, she can't get them off, either. I appreciate that, since I hate retracing my steps to find missing shoes.

The online shoe sizer was very easy to use. You can either go by age (less reliable) or print off their size chart and hold your child's foot up to it to measure. I'm glad I used the chart - while Mira may have fit into a size 2 based on her age, the size chart showed that she was better off going with a size 3 to have a little room for growth. The size 3's are great - slightly big, but not so big they fall off her foot.

The two styles I picked are perfect for us. The Mini Angela is a dressier-style shoe, perfect for all of the holiday gatherings coming up. And the Mini Bjorn is cut higher and lined in fake fur - an ideal warm shoe for the colder days ahead. But really, buth styles can be worn with nearly anything. Not only are they practical, but they're stylish, too. In the past two weeks, we've received so many compliments on her shoes.

My only complaint with these shoes is the way they identify the brand. The shoes have "Vincent" written across the bottom of the soles - I didn't think anything of it at first, but you wouldn't believe the number of times people saw that and thought my daughter was a boy named Vincent! It was funny at first, but I did get tired of explaining why her shoes were like that.

Finally, these aren't your standard pink shoes for girls. Sure, pink is available, but Vincent shoes come in a lot of vibrant colors. I specifically chose the red Mini Bjorn shoes because I wanted something that would stand out and get noticed. Red seemed to be a "take notice" color, and I was right. With the hip and unique design of Vincent shoes, these styles are guaranteed to stand out from the crowd of boring slip on elastic moccasin shoes and baby high-tops.

There are even more styles available for your older child, too. I'm seriously eying a pair of Julia boots for Cordy next. If you want shoes that are of solid construction, but also unique and fashionable (and not pink!), give Vincent shoes a try! I plan on buying more - after all, if I'm going to spend the money on well-fitting shoes for my girls, I want them to look good, too. Bye-bye pink high-tops!

What's better than hip shoes? Free hip shoes! Vincent is giving away two $50 gift certificates through Parent Bloggers. To enter, visit Vincent's site, look through the shoes, and leave a comment on the Vincent post at Parent Bloggers telling them what shoe style you like the most and why. Two winners will be chosen at random on November 1.

Can't wait for the contest to end? You can also get 20% off your first order at Vincent by using the coupon code "OCT-20-OFF" through November 11.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Eating Healthy Without Complaints

Cordy loves food. Loves it like it might someday disappear and she doesn't want to pass up that last chance at a taste. She gets that from me - I love food, too. Looking at how much food is consumed in our house each day, you'd think we had a teenage son, not a preschooler and a breastfeeding mama.

But while we're great at eating our breads, dairy and fruits, we're not so good with veggies. I like veggies, but most of the time I'll be the only one eating them, so I don't bother to make them. Aaron will eat veggies, too, but only a few specific varieties, and only if prepared in certain ways. Sadly, Cordy's vegetable intake is embarrassing.

I received a copy of Deceptively Delicious, by Jessica Seinfeld, from the Parent Bloggers Network. When first asked, I said, "Are you serious? I can't cook." Honestly, if it doesn't come from a box, I usually screw it up. Julie reassured me that there were plenty of recipes in this book that I could handle, so I nervously agreed.

Jessica Seinfeld (wife of Jerry Seinfeld, in case you were wondering) put this cookbook together to provide ways to sneak in good nutrition for your family's meals. Most recipes use fruit or vegetable purees to add a healthy boost to old favorites, like mini-pizzas, chicken nuggets, pancakes, muffins, brownies, and even pudding.

Deceptive? Absolutely. But let's face it, many kids don't like fruits or veggies, and if they get the nutrition they need by hiding it in their favorite foods, why not? And if you really feel guilty about it, tell them after they eat it. You won't necessarily be raising a child who will never eat vegetables - I'm proof of that. I wouldn't eat any veggies as a kid, or a teen, and now I love them. Many kids simply don't have the taste for veggies yet, but they can benefit from the fiber, vitamins and minerals found in them.

So back to my lack of cooking skill. The puree part is pretty easy. I have a mini food processor that did the job well, and Jessica walks you through all the steps. But as I browsed the recipes, I wasn't sure which to try. Some looked intimidating to a person who can't cook, but others didn't look bad at all. And there were some baking recipes, too - I'm a much better baker.

I decided to try the grilled cheese recipe - it was only a few ingredients, and Cordy just happened to ask for grilled cheese that day. The recipe uses either sweet potato or butternut squash puree - I used sweet potato for this trial. The sweet potato gave the cheese an even darker yellow-orange color, but Cordy didn't mind. When it was time for the taste test? She ate the whole thing, not once noticing anything different with her sandwich. I tried a bite, and while I could taste something different - just a hint of sweet potato, really - it wasn't a strong difference, and I thought it tasted better than a standard grilled cheese.

I also highly recommend the chocolate pudding recipe - yum! (Although you may like it enough you don't want to share with the kids. That's OK, there's plenty of desserts for them, too.)

While there are several recipes in this book I will probably never attempt, anyone with a hint of cooking ability could manage them without difficulty. And there are plenty for the cooking-impaired, like myself. My next attempt will be the Peanut Butter and Banana Muffins - two of Cordy's favorite foods in a muffin, with cauliflower puree thrown in for an extra boost.

As a side benefit, I now know how to properly puree fruits and veggies. Since Mira has just started solids, I can save money by making my own baby food.

If your kids refuse to eat fruits or vegetables, Deceptively Delicious could be a good addition to your kitchen. (Works on picky spouses, too.) Then you can feel good about pizza for dinner, especially knowing that there is spinach puree hiding out under the sauce.

(PS - Want to try out a few recipes before you buy? Oprah posted a few of them here.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Laundry Miracle

You may remember that I'm domestically challenged. I hate cleaning, I have trouble with laundry stains, and don't even ask me to cook. The laundry is one of my chores, though, which means I'm responsible for trying to keep our clothes stain-free (and make sure they stay the colors they started out).

No easy feat for me, especially when dealing with bright yellow-orange baby poop blowouts. So when Parent Bloggers asked if I would like to try OxiClean, I jumped at the chance, if only for another product to use on some serious stains I was losing the battle against.

I wrote before about a serious baby poop blowout on a onesie I wanted to save to pass down to Cordy if/when she has children. I was a fool and soaked it in hot water, thinking that hot water would help remove the stain. No one ever told me cold water was the key. So I probably set the stain.

There are a thousand products out there for stain removal, and I think I used about half of them, including another "oxy"-type product. While they all lessened the stain's appearance, it was still pretty obvious.

And then a couple of weeks ago, Mira had another blowout diaper, all over the cute outfit seen in this picture:

I liked that outfit, and wanted to save it as best I could. So I filled up the sink with cold water (see? I can be taught by the Internet!) and added a few scoops of the OxiClean powder. The package said I could soak it for several hours, and so I left the mess for an entire afternoon. I was hoping that, at best, it would weaken the stain enough so that it would be hard to see. I didn't expect a miracle.

When I came back at the end of the day, I was prepared to see a lighter stain. I didn't expect to see no stain at all! Seriously, I held that outfit up and looked everywhere for the stain. I brought it into another room to look under different lights. The stain was completely gone, and the colors on the outfit were just as bright as before!

After that clothing resurrection, I grabbed the onesie with the set-in stain and soaked it, too. The results were a huge improvement on the stain - some parts were completely gone, and the last stray spots were a lot lighter. Now I could use a bleach pen on the last stubborn spots and have a like-new onesie. I have no "after" picture, because there's nothing to see. Just imagine the picture above with no yellow on it. Yay!

I was seriously impressed with OxiClean as a pre-wash soak for stains. I also used it in the wash, and while I'm horrible at noticing these things, I think it did help keep the colors brighter versus detergent alone. And it helped with stain removal in the wash, too.

If you have a baby and need good stain removal, I highly recommend OxiClean powder, especially as a soak for newly stained items. Fill the sink with water (cold water), add several scoops, and soak for several hours. We'll soon be starting solids, and I have a feeling this will also come in handy for food stains, too. I'm keeping a bucket of OxiClean on hand from here on out.