Daisy

Toddler Reading As of Late

B and I are both big readers (we have…4 full sized bookshelves plus Gracie’s in our home, and boxes more books in the basement…) and when I was pregnant we hoped our child loved books as much as we do. We read to Gracie from day one (although in the early foggy days, I remember having a panic attack THAT I HADN’T READ TO HER IN A FEW DAYS, TERRIBLE MOM, SHE WON’T DEVELOP PROPERLY….) and now, at 17 months, she loves books something fierce. She can easily entertain herself for up to 20 to 25 minutes “reading” her books. She has a group of select favorites she often brings to us to read outloud (Doggies, Dear Zoo, Baby Beep Beep, Is Your Mama a Llama, Sheep Share) and I’m always working on growing her collection. (Heads up, Amazon links are affiliate)

Right now she has a huge plethora of board books, so I’m trying to buy some longer stories in anticipation of growing into the books a little bit more. Some recent additions:

One by Kathryn Otoshi

One

My friend Meghan recommended this book to me and I love it. The actual storyline is a little over Gracie’s head right now, but she likes colors and numbers so she sits and listens. This book, with colors and numbers as the characters, is about bullying and the power of a group sticking up for someone. I know it sounds deep, but honestly, it is just a great story about feelings and being nice to others, sticking up when you see bad behavior and treating everyone with kindness. It doesn’t hurt that it is really well written. A must for any kid in today’s “modern” word where bullying might be an issue. She has a few more books that I’m ordering soon with equally good messages about acceptance, individuality and being nice.

Flora & the Flamingo by Molly Idle

Flora

This book doesn’t have any words, and although being a more grown up “hardback” it is a lift-the-flap book, so we keep this up high and get it down for parent-Gracie reading time (since it is printed on “regular” paper rather than sturdy board). It is a really neat story of a Flora, wearing a bathing costume and flippers, and the flamingo doing a little ballet. The story is easy enough to follow along – very sweet- and the pictures are gorgeous. Recommend if you have a kiddo that loves pink, ballet, or lift-the-flap books.

Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker

SteamTrain

Confession: we don’t actually own this book. But I keep giving it to people for baby gifts or first birthday presents and I’m baffled as to why I haven’t also bought a copy for us yet. Happening soon! A really neat going to bed book about a train filled with animals (a tiny bit reminiscent of the train in Dumbo without circus cruelty or what not) with fantastic pictures. Gracie is really into animals and animal sounds so I think this would be a hit. I don’t think any parent can have enough books encourgaing wee ones to go to bed either.

In non-Gracie books, last year I bought my superhero obsessed nephew a Superman book aimed at the youngest superhero loving crowd. I’ve been told he wants to read it every night before bed. It gives the basic overview of the origins and story of Superman with really great illustrations. (The author has a few other books about other superheroes too). So if you have a superhero crazy kid who isn’t quite ready for the real-deal, I highly recommend Superman: The Story of the Man of Steel.

Superman

Speaking of books and gifts, growing up my Mom had a basket of Christmas books she pulled out every December. My brother and I loved reading them (Polar Express was the front runner for most years) and I would love to have the same basket for Gracie and our family. That said, if you buy all the books you want for just December in one fell swoop, you are talking about big bucks. I’ve been trying to order a book every month or so, so come December I’ll have a nice little pile to wrap up and make part of our advent calendar. In future years the books will just go in the Christmas book pile (and I don’t have to buy all the books this year) – I’m not crafy enough to re-wrap every year for a Christmas countdown ala Pinterest- but I am happy I’m collecting them for years to come. Last year we grabbed a board book version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and Olivia Helps with Christmas. Last month I ordered The Christmas Wish. The pictures in it are truly gorgeous. I’ve really enjoyed this guide to helping me find some good Christmas stories. Next up I’m ordering Polar Express & Room for a Little One.

Little One

I know Christmas planning this far in advance is a little….Type A….but it is nice to have at least something checked off the list come December. Besides, throwing in a book (Christmas or otherwise) with my Amazon orders has a two fold effect: sometimes I see the price of it all together and go “eh, I don’t really need any of this” thus saving me money, and when I do throw it into the package I have a little bit of knowledge delivered to our door. I recently read the terrible statistic that less than half of America’s children under the age of 5 are read to on a daily basis and I’m determined to make sure books are a huge part of our life. No better way to foster creativity and imagination!

 

Right of Way

Yesterday I rolled down my window to yell at a pedestrian who made a rude gesture towards me after I almost hit her while she jaywalked in front of me.* Normally I just get on with myself, but seriously? SERIOUSLY? I was pulling out of a parking garage where you are forced to turn right or left (you can’t go straight) and as I pulled out, turning, she stepped in front me. I swerved, she stepped back up on the curb and rolled her eyes and gestured rudely towards me. As I rolled down the window she yelled “Oh so you are going to yell at me now?”

“THERE IS A CROSSWALK ON THE CORNER FOR A REASON” is pretty much all I managed to get out, along with something about having a right of way.

If a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, even when I havea  green light, I wait. It is the law, and they have the right of way. But I am sick of people just walking into active roadways and expecting cars, sometimes traveling at a high rate of speed ,to just stop. That isn’t how the world works. Go use a crosswalk, I’ll stop for you every time. You know why there isn’t a crosswalk right where that lady decided to cross the street? Because there is A PARKING GARAGE OF EXITING CARS RIGHT THERE.

Oh and bicycles, I always treat you like a car and am respectful of your space and I check my mirrors before exiting so I don’t door you, but how about you live up to your end of the deal and follow the rules of the road? This means stopping at stop signs and red lights. You don’t get to complain about drivers not treating you like a car (which they are obliged to do) if you don’t follow the same principles of stop/go/right of way.

* I do not condone yelling at strangers.

* * *

Gracie loves the car carts at our local grocery store, and since they keep her happy and occupied (wheel spinning, beep-beeping) I oblige. The problem being the car carts are really hard to steer and wider at the base than a typical grocery cart which means I clip a lot of corners. I’m slowly getting better, but damn if I’m not apologizing for half of my trip. The car carts are also quite heavy so stopping when someone exits an aisle and there is a traffic jam isn’t always feasible. But who has the right of way in the grocery store? The people coming out of the aisles, or the people cruising the main, perpindicular thoroughfares? I always wonder. And try to halt as necessary to prevent cart crashing. And a side note: I love when we pass other kids in car carts and the kids do some sort of secrete handshake headnod thing, like “YEAAAHHHH CAR CART RIDING”. Oh to be a kid again.

(I have a really cute photo of Gracie in the car cart, but I can’t seem to locate it. Blog fail.)

Thus concludes my deep thoughts. As you were.

 

Summer of Slaw

I recently declared, that in addition to making lots of salad dressing from scratch (a completely easy task) I’m calling this the Summer of Slaw. Not your typical sad, soggy, mayo-filled slaw in a ramekin served on the side of your meal at a ho-hum establishment, but delicious non-mayo slaw filled with crunchy veggies and tangy flavors. I’ve realized I have lived a long slaw-less life (I don’t care much for mayo when it is served outside of potato/egg/tuna/chicken salad) and I’m out to remedy this situation. Slaw, as it turns out, is delicious.

My first introdction to Good Slaw is what B and I call “Taco Topper”. It started with the awesome cilantro slaw recipe found in Cooking Light’s delicious Ancho Chicken Tacos (h/t/ to Kate for the thumbs up on the recipe) and evolved from there. And by “evolved” I mean I add a lot more cilantro than the recipe calls for along with a generas handful of shredded carrots if I’m feeling sassy. We eat tacos about once a week (chicken, fish, meatless, on flour tortillas, corn tortillas and any other way you can shake up tacos) and Taco Topper is our new-found lettuce replacement. Crunchy! Flavorful! So damn good!

Around the same time (I think?) that I discovered Taco Topper I made a Smitten Kitchen recipe deep from her archives, for what she calls Green Onion Slaw. I’m sad this recipe doesn’t have its very own page on her website and instead shares the glory with Tequila Lime Chicken, which I have never made because the slaw is where it is at. This one is spiicy and we love it, even with its two tablespoons of mayonaaise. I assure you that you will not notice the mayo. You’ll be too busy fanning your mouth and scooping more slaw in. You can blame the heat on the serranos.

Anyway, with two recipes down and a few delicious slaws eaten at various events and restaurants, I’ve realized I really love coleslaw, just not cabbage/mayo/salt/pepper coleslaw. This weekend we are hosting a birthday dinner, so in addition to barbeque ribs and baked beans I’m making cabbage slaw with “tangy mustard seed dressing” and I’m already excited for it. I’m an addict and I can admit it. I have a list of slaw recipes ready to try and the only thing between me and crunchy glory is how long it takes my husband to say “You know I’m not really a fan of coleslaw….” or something similar. (He has used this tactic to crush my plans to regularly eat chicken pot pie, anything with mustard and roasted brussels sprouts…and by regularly I mean at least once a week)

Anyway, uh, if you have any good slaw recipes you know where to send them. Over and out, off to buy cabbage and vinegar.

 

 

 

Soft Structured Buckle Carrier Smackdown {Sponsored Review}

The time has come for me to share the results of the great Soft Structured (Baby) Carrrier Smackdown. In case you don’t remember, for the past few months I’ve been trying out a box full of popular baby carriers, sent to me by Laurel of Carry Me Away, an independent store that specializes in all things baby carrier. She also sells slings if you are in the market! So I’m not redundant I will say that all of these carriers (except the Ergo) come in some really gorgeous fabrics and patterns. The Ergo tends to be a little more basic in its style options. One big lesson? It is nearly impossible to get an action shot highlighting, you, a happy baby and the carrier all at once. With every carrier I was stopped when I was out and about and asked how I liked the carrier, the straps, could I put it on myself, did the baby like it – proof to me that carriers can be overwhelming!

Specifically I was sent the following carriers to give them all a run for their money:

I also ran our Ergo through its paces, although it is something we already owned prior to the review. How did I test them? With each carrier I tried out the different carries (back/front/hip/forward facing when applicable) and tried to use them all for a spin through the grocery store (or something similar) as well as on a commute type trip- taking the El (Chicago’s subway system) or bus with Gracie. B tried them all on as well although he stuck mostly to the comfort of our home (when out and about Gracie typically ends up on his shoulders). So what did I think? Overall they all had something I liked, although I ended up with some favorites.

Here we go….lets get carried away….(sorry I could not resist)….

Beco Gemini

This was the carrier B was most excited about- he loved the idea of a forward facing option, in addition to being able to use it like a “traditional” carrier with the baby facing the wearer, as well as with a back carry. This was the most structured of the carriers- you could not fold this up very small as the main “front” of the carrier is padded and thick. To switch between forward facing/inward facing, you move some snaps around to change the shape of the support panel:

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Ready to front carry-forward face (Beco Gemini)

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Ready to forward carry-inward face (Beco Gemini)

Overall it was a nice design, but I could never get fully comfortable wearing Gracie in it. When Gracie was facing out I really felt “top heavy” and like she was pulling me forward (this probably would not be an issue with an infant). Because of design modifications made to allow for the flip carrying style (forward facing versus inward facing) I never felt like it was perfect for any one thing. That said, if you want forward facing, I’d choose this carrier over a more traditional forward facing carrier any day (Bjorn). I liked how you can use thes straps like a traditional carrier or criss cross them for your comfort. It has no pockets and no sun cover/modesty cover for breastfeeding on the go. It also features a Beco safety feature, buckles that require two hands to open. This seems like a great idea but in reality is a pain to operate when you are solo (although with practice/daily use I’m betting would become no big deal). The waist strap tightens from one side.

  • Carries (4): forward carry facing out, forward carry facing in, back carry, hip carry
  • Infant: no infant insert required!
  • Weight: carries babies from 7 lbs to 35 lbs
  • Fabric: comes in standard canvas/cotton, 1 organic color available
  • Overall take: a very versatile carrier, but the versatility means you give up some comfort. Harder to pack/stow than some carriers.

Pikkolo Carrier

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Pikkolo Carrier (Catbird Baby)

The next carrier on my list was the Pikkolo Carrier. I wasn’t familiar with the company- Catbird Baby- but I’m now a fan.  Neither B nor I realized right away that this carrier also allows for four carry positions, just like the Beco Gemini. Unlike the Gemini, you do not have to move any snaps in order to switch back and forth, you just adjust a waist cinch.

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This was the most minimal of all the carriers- the waist band is really just a nylon strap (like an airline seatbelt), and the main fabric front is thick canvas and no padding. Definitely the easiest carrier to stash and go! It also has a well designed sunshade/modesty shade that truly tucks back into the carrier when you don’t want to use it. It does not have any storage pockets. Because the waist band isn’t substantial, you can purchase a separate support belt- definitely more comfortable when you are carrying a bigger child. Between the Pikkolo and Gemini in the “forward carry facing in AND out” competition, I think I’d select the Pikkolo. It was all around more comfortable for me in both carrying positions. B liked the minimal design.

  • Carries (4): forward carry facing out, forward carry facing in, back carry, hip carry
  • Infant: Can be used from newborn to 40 pounds, and does not require an insert
  • Weight: newborn to 40 pounds
  • Fabric: canvas cotton
  • Overall take: versatile carrier,  with minimal design and comfortable carry. Waist strap might be undesirable for people with back problems/seeking more support, but the additional support belt (sold separately) addresses some of this issue.

Beco Soleil

Beco Soleil

Beco Soleil

Another carrier from Becco, I liked this carrier, and if it was the only one I ever tried or used, I know I’d be happy with it. It has a pocket for storage (keys/phone/etc) in the front of the waistband and the waistband is very structured- a plus for anyone with back concerns. It has a very large sun/modesty shade (for breastfeeding) that snaps into place with numerous snap locations that allow you to get a good fit. B thought the shoulder straps were very comfortable on this carrier. This carrier felt like it was a good size/fit on both B and myself, which is nice considering we’re built differently (like many couples). It has the signature Beco buckle that requires two hands to undo, which is a great safety feature but I found difficult to use when I was by myself. The waist strap tightens from both sides, a feature I liked- I felt like I got a better, faster fit.

  • Carries (3): forward carry facing in, back carry, hip carry
  • Infant: insert needed for infants, sold separately
  • Weight: carries babies from 7-45 pounds (insert required for babies between 7 and 15 lbs)
  • Fabric: canvas cotton
  • Overall take: a solid carrier that would be excellent for a family with multiple adults who are going to baby-wear

 

Tula Baby Carrier

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Tula Baby Carrier

I really, really liked the Tula carrier. It also comes in a toddler size, so if you are considering wearing a larger/heavier child, I would endorse this carrier with two thumbs up. This carrier features a sunshade that hooks instead of snaps, which I found  little easier to use on the go without looking in a mirror, and I felt as though the main fabric panel was a great width for Gracie as she was a little older- it was just supremely comfortable and I could wear her for longer periods of time. B also liked this carrier and found it easy to use. B does not, however, understand the hip carry. So it did not remotely faze him when he found out this carrier does not allow for hip carrying, which might or might not bother you. The extra padding around the leg support area for the baby was a nice touch.

  • Carries (2): front and back carry
  • Infant: insert required, sold separately
  • Weight: carries babies from 8 to 44 pounds (infant insert required for babies 8-15 lbs)
  • Fabric: canvas cotton, hand-sewn
  • Overall take: an easy to use, comfortable carrier that is really nicely made. I would recommend the toddler version for anyone looking to carry an older child. Updated to add: after publishing my review, I realized that my love for the Tula (and the Boba, below) was pretty equal and I think the Tula is better for where we are with a 22 pound child, so I’m keeping the Tula to love for forever and ever.

Ergo Carrier

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Ergo Carrier

 

I owned my Ergo (organic, navy blue), but Carry Me Away carries them and I would not hesitate to buy one from them. They also carry gently used Ergo’s at a discount!  This was the first carrier I ever used and after a few trial runs, it is how I survived maneuvering the airport and its security lines by myself with a 6 week old. It has a large sun/modesty shade (snaps into place) and a storage pocket in the main fabric panel (rather than the waist band, like all the other carriers). The waist band is easy to cinch, and our old nanny (very petite), B and myself were able to easily adjust the straps and get Gracie ready to go in just a few minutes.

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The infant insert is VERY thick and warm- fine for us with a February baby, but I wouldn’t have used it in the summer. The flimsy snap on the insert carrier was pretty worthless- something I hope they reconsider in future models. The waistband is nicely structured- more substantial than the Pikkolo, less than the Beco models.

  • Carries (3): forward carry facing in, back carry, hip carry
  • Infant: insert required, sold separately
  • Weight: carries a baby 8-45 pounds (infant insert required for babies 8-15 pounds)
  • Fabric: comes in an organic cotton model as well as a lightweight mesh “performance” model in addition to the traditional
  • Overall take: a very popular carrier for good reason. I’m glad this is what we started with, especially when Gracie was a tiny infant (it took 6 weeks to get her up to the 8 pound mark to even use the infant insert!)

Boba Carrier 

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Boba Carrier

This carrier and I got together like peas and carrots. I tried the 3G (which is now discontinued and available at a discount from Carry Me Away) and the 4G is now the standard model (which comes with an infant insert). I loved this carrier- so much so that I got behind in my review because I didn’t want to stop using it. Gracie is comfortable in it, it comes with foot straps for older kids and is easy to get adjusted.

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I love that to tighten the waist band you can tug a strap on both sides rather than one side. This carrier is taller in the body than others, and the support is obvious in the comfort level for both the parent and baby. It has a storage pocket in the waist band and the sunshade zips away (unlike the others where it detaches/tucks away) which is genius.

  • Carries (2): forward carry facing in, back carry
  • Infant: insert required, but comes standard with 4G model
  • Weight: 7-25 pounds for front carrying, 25-45 pounds for back carry
  • Fabric: canvas cotton, organic models available
  • Overall: this was my favorite carrier of the bunch. It was just SO comfortable and Gracie was the happiest in it. I think the standard infant insert is smart. It doesn’t allow for hip carrying though, which might be a deterrent for some.

So which carrier should you buy? After factoring in personal preference:

For your first carrier/main carrier? Ergo or Boba. Both are comfortable, easy to use and well designed. The Boba’s foot straps might give you more longevity, but the Ergo also allows for hip carrying. If you are going to use it with an infant, the fact that the Boba now comes with the infant insert standard might tip the scale in its favor. Both have a place in my heart!

For a larger child? The Tula or the Tula toddler.

For front carry forward facing models? The Pikkolo – it was a great all around carrier and so easy to fold up on the go. B strongly endorses the front carry, forward facing option, but only because he saw a photo of a friend sailing on San Francisco Bay with her toddler strapped to her chest and he has had visions of repeating this scene with Gracie. Not necessarily the biggest factor in selecting a model…

Be sure to check out Carry Me Away if you are in the market for a carrier, because in addition to competitive prices and free fast shipping in orders over $50, they will let you return a carrier within 30 days of purcahse if you find that one doesn’t work as well for you as you’d hoped.  With Amazon’s universal baby registry button you can even register for a carrier from Carry Me Away but it will show up on an Amazon baby registry! You can find all their info here:

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I have partnered with Carry Me Away to compare and review baby carriers. I was not compensated for my writing and I will send all but the Tula carrier back (my favorite for where we are now in life!)  at the conclusion of my review. My opinions have been and always will be entirely my own and I am not paid to publish positive comments.

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