Red Charlotte {review and early giveaway entries}

This is the third sponsor spotlight in my series of reviews of the amazing sponsors for my upcoming A New Decade! giveaway. Check them out to learn about some great companies, and earn extra entries for the giveaway!


Where to even start with our Red Charlotte baby doll carrier?!

Is this picture enough of a review? Because seriously, be still my heart!!

If that's not enough, then how about the fact that Gwen was so upset about 5 seconds after I showed it to her because I didn't have two, one for each of her babies, Lily and Laura!

Problem solved!
I love this baby doll carrier, and if you have a child with a doll, they will probably love it too. Especially if you wear them (they love doing what the adults get to do). It is beautiful and well-made, and the people of Red Charlotte are so easy to work with.

They are simple for kids to put on... just slip their arms in the top straps like a backpack and snap the chest clip, then clip the other straps around the waist. An elastic band on the inside keeps the baby doll or stuffed animal in place, and build in little loops hold the extra strap material when you tighten them.

All of her fabrics are beautiful too, with feminine, masculine, and gender neutral options.

Red Charlotte also offers stuff sacks (storage sacks in small for the doll carriers or big sizes for your Ergo/Beco/Boba), car seat strap covers, and sucking pad (pads to put over your Ergo/Beco/Boba straps if baby likes to chew on them!).

And if you are interest, you can follow along with the very unusual and interesting life of Red Charlotte creator Charlotte (here), as her and her expanding family take to the seas in their boat, to travel around the world!

Connect with Red Charlotte on facebook.

BUY:  You can purchase your own Red Charlotte baby doll carrier, sucking pads, etc! on their etsy page, here.

WIN: Come back August 13th to enter for a chance to win a baby doll carrier of your own. But comment on this post now for extra entries!

Disclaimer: Red Charlotte provided me with a baby doll carrier for review, free of charge, and is providing one to the prize winner in my giveaway event. No other compensation was provided, and all options expressed here are my own. 


end of the rainbow

I love summer storms, and we got a good one on Saturday. We had planned to be out at the time it arrived, but the fates had gotten us out of the house earlier, and thus, back home earlier, and I'm so glad they did. Not only did we get our errands done, but we got to watch a killer storm. It even gave us a rainbow that ended on our neighbors car!

But even better, once it slowed down to not torrential levels, we were able to go out and do some puddle splashing!


We started off in front of our house, but grabbed the dog and headed to the tennis courts across the street. They drains get clogged with leaves, and the puddles get huge there (5 feet across, ankle deep). Gwen loved every second of it... and frankly, so did Trav and I!

Sunday we headed to Delaware to visit with some friends and their 2 year old daughter, and meet their almost 2-month old daughter. Gwen was smitten with the baby.

She kept saying, "Me hold baby Charlotte!" 

So sweet.

Add in two mornings of late sleeping, and this was an A+ kind of weekend!! I'm feeling refreshed and ready to face the week.

How was your weekend?


monster cucumbers and cool soups

So you might have seen me post this picture on facebook last month...

Pretty good progress. Well behold the mighty jungle now!

There are tons of peppers, but the cucumbers... oh, the cucumbers.

Need more for scale then my admittedly small daughter? How about these?

Yeah... I think my garden thrived while we were away!

So what's a girl to do when she has 2 lb cucumbers on her hands? Chilled cucumber dill soup, of course!

What's your favorite recipe with cucumbers?


Wooly Rounds {review and early giveaway entries}

This is the second sponsor spotlight in my series of reviews of the amazing sponsors for my upcoming A New Decade! giveaway. Check them out to learn about some great companies, and earn extra entries for the giveaway!


The day I got them.
I have been using Wooly Rounds for the past 2.5 months. Cyndi was great enough to send me a set of 4 in May to check out. I have been wanting to try her dryer balls for a long time. I'm always trying to use less chemicals, and just use less in general, and so soft clothes with no fabric softener or dryer sheets really appealed to me. Especially since there are certain things I wash that I don't want to use dryer sheets with (like my face towel). Enter Wooly Rounds which soften your clothes by basically beating them into submission in the dryer, while creating air pockets which help shorten drying time, and the wool helps to eliminate static.

Biodegradable shipping envelopes! And a great little cloth bag to store them in.

Now - after 2.5 months of use!
Short version: They are great! I seriously love them. We haven't bought (or used) any dryer sheets since I received these, and we don't plan too.

More specifics: There is a little bit of a difference between using Wooly Rounds and using fabric softener (slightly stiffer, just slightly), but a huge difference between using Wooly Rounds and not using anything! They definitely work perfectly at keeping your clothes from getting stiff. If you are going from dryer sheets, you might notice a small difference at first, but I promise its hardly noticeable, and before long you'll forget about it completely.

We don't cloth diaper, but these are great for those that do. That's actually why Wooly Rounds came to be. From Cyndi's own mouth:

I learned about wool dryer balls in 2009. When we made the decision to cloth diaper our son, I realized that we would have to give up using dryer sheets.  At first I really was sorry to see them go. They eliminated static, and added very fragrant smells to our laundry. But after doing some research, and learning about the harmful chemicals that are in dryer sheets and the negative impact they can have on clothes and on your dryer, I was happy to make a change and consider a more natural, healthy alternative. That’s when I discovered wool dryer balls. I purchased some online, they worked great and I started to see all the benefits that they offered, but the quality was lacking and only lasted a few months before they started to unravel. So, I gave it a shot and tried to make some of my own. I have a creative background and have always loved to make things so it was and is a lot of fun going through the trial and error stage to come up with a solid finished product.  During this time, I had taken New Ventures course through Women Work and Community and have known for awhile that I wanted to start and run my own business. In October 2010, I launched WOOLY ROUNDS. I love that this business is really about providing a sustainable alternative that will help protect your family’s health and that helps to reduce our impact on the environment. 
Cyndi – Creator & Founder

They are a great, durable product, and I highly recommend them.

Connect with Wooly Rounds on facebook

BUY:  You can purchase your own set of Wooly Rounds on the website, here.

WIN: Come back August 13th to enter for a chance to win your own set of 3 Wooly Rounds (random colors). But comment on this post now for extra entries!

Disclaimer: Wooly Rounds provided me with a set of dryer balls for review, free of charge, and are providing a set to the prize winner in my giveaway event. No other compensation was provided, and all options expressed here are my own. 


back! and meditations on "vacation" with a 2-year old.

Back and trying to get caught up. Working my way through all my work emails, while trying to navigate a new computer. They did a great job of transferring over all my bookmarks and shortcuts and a lot of settings... but there is always stuff to arrange and things to find. And oh boy do I just have plenty of work to do.

The trip was great. I love Cape Cod so, and while vacation with a two year old is way different then our vacations there pre-baby, there is just so much to love about it too. It gave me great joy and lots of chuckles watching Gwen and her cousin Wyatt run around like little whirlwinds laughing and hollering. Gwen is a little fish, so we definitely spent even more time in the water then we used to... though we also enjoyed time on the water, as Gwen was enthralled with the kayak. She would sit perfectly still while we paddled, occasionally asking for her own turn... which was rather impressive considering the paddle is twice her size.

There was a lot less reading, though I still got in almost a book's worth between her 2 (or was it 3) naps (total), some post-bedtime reading, and a few times when she was just playing so peacefully on her own. I also had one gorgeous day where everyone else headed to the beach, but I decided to stay back and just chill. Thankfully Travis was just fine with me staying, and the time was so appreciated.

I think that's the biggest difference, before you could be as selfish as you wanted on vacation. We would stay up late catching up with our relatives, sleep in until whenever we wanted, eat when we wanted, and in between read or swim or nap or kayak (etc) to our hearts content. We still stayed up later then we do here at home, and we still did much swimming and some kayaking, but sleeping in happens less frequently, eating had to be more uniform in time now, and quiet times like reading and napping are more at the discretion of the little loud ones then the person hoping to do them.

I still loved the whole time and each year we get to do things with Gwen that 1) we do every year, and its so fun to see how she's grown since the last time, and 2) she is doing for the first time because she's big enough now. Both are great in their own way, and I'm so glad she's going to have this to look forward to every year.

I think the hardest parts this year were two-fold. First, we parent differently then my in-laws did, and Trav's brother's family does. They are wonderful parents, and they get no judgment from me as they do what works for their family; however sometimes I didn't feel that they were giving me the same courtesy. This played in big time with #2, which is that the cousins were on slightly different schedules (so she ended up getting less sleep), and people were a bit free with the sugary stuff. "It's vacation!" was a big refrain, but my baby doesn't get "it's vacation" and that vacation ends and we have to go back to eating healthy and sleeping. Ugh. I did my best to modify, but girl had way way more popsicles, chips, donuts, and other treats then we normally allow. So less sleep and more sugar means a girl who was a bit crazier then normal towards the end of the week. I have the feeling it might be a bit of a rough transition back.

That said, I loved seeing her with her Aunt, Uncle, Great Uncle(s), Pop-Pop, and Nana. We don't get to see any of them enough, so I love how much she loves them. And if that involves a little spoiling, well, I can deal.

Apparently "Daisy cold Mommy."
The drive itself was... well, LONG. We did it differently this year. We'd been leaving after dinner, around her bedtime in hopes that she would sleep much of the way. That avoided some rush hour traffic, but getting there so late was really hard. This time we took half days and left at 1 o'clock, hoping for a brief nap in the car, knowing we'd hit rush hour, but hoping that it would be easier in the long run since we wouldn't be so tired. We ended up hitting traffic everywhere. Horrible traffic in NJ, normal crappy traffic plus a little extra in NY, and exhausting/frustrating rush hour traffic in CT, at which point we just stopped for an hour for lunch to give Gwen time to stretch her legs and blow off some steam. She never did nap, though obviously that made bedtime a little easier, which was good since we didn't get there until 9:30!! We left about 6 hours earlier then normal and only got there about 3 or 4 hours earlier.

The ride home was thankfully much easier with a stop over to see a friend in RI, and just little bit of traffic in NJ.

All-in-all, the week did leave me relaxed and happy. I can't wait for next year.


An Unlikely Babywearer {guest post}

Seeing as I'm away in Cape Cod this week, enjoying a much anticipated vacation with my family, I thought I would make it easier for myself by scheduling a few posts.

Today's post is a guest post from Shai of Vagabond Studios. I'm definitely a fan of her blog, and especially her posts on babywearing. I did a guest post on her blog before, and she was sweet enough to write this one for me! Give it a read, then head over to check out more of her writing. And wish her a happy birthday, since today is her 27th!!


My daughter and I were not, in any way, shape, or form, designed to be a babywearing pair. She was born with Sensory Processing Disorder, and absolutely could not stand to be touched. I could barely even hold her without eliciting cries of discomfort, so snuggling her close to my body in a foreign apparatus just wasn’t something I would even have considered. Six years later, I found myself pregnant with my son and researching cloth diapers. On the cloth diapering boards, I noticed that almost all of the mamas also had ‘Babywearing Mama’ in their signature. I found a babywearing board and thought ‘Oh, there’s just no way. Attached to me? All the time? And he’ll like it?! And I will like it?!’. Obviously, I wasn’t sold. At all. My daughter and I have a very close emotional relationship but, until the last few years, she very much enjoyed and preferred her personal space. While I longed for hugs and snuggles when she was younger, I couldn’t imagine keeping her ‘tied’ to me so often. I needed a little more convincing. So, I researched some more! And, here’s what I discovered:

1. Babies who are worn cry much less. As Dr. Sears words it, ‘Anthropologists who travel throughout the world studying infant-care practices in other cultures agree that infants in babywearing cultures cry much less. In Western culture we measure a baby's crying in hours, but in other cultures, crying is measured in minutes.’ And who doesn’t want a baby who cries for minutes instead of hours?!

2. There are such things as comfortable baby carriers. The type of carrier comfortable to an individual mama completely depends upon preference and personal comfort, but with all of the options available, there’s something that will work great!

3. Not all baby carriers are expensive. You can get a Moby Wrap online or at Target for $30-ish and use it straight through the newborn stage. There are also many boards like Diaperswappers and Babycenter’s Babywearing Swap Board where you can purchase/trade gently used baby carriers of all types for a fraction of the cost. I wound up buying all of my carriers, except my Mei Tei, off of these boards. [Editor's note: I'm a big fan of the site The Babywearer, which also has a for sale or trade board.]

4. Babies who are worn learn more quickly, because they are eye-level with what the wearer is doing. I was skeptical of this repeated claim, until my little Ninja started growing. I see him doing all sorts of things that Artist Child didn’t try until she was much older, and can only attribute it to babywearing. For example, I wear him while I do laundry. A few nights ago a set him on the washing machine while ‘we’ folded laundry on the washing machine. He reached back and started the dryer right up! Obviously, not something he can learn from walking around and being much lower than the appliances.

5. It’s more convenient. I couldn’t understand how, exactly, having a heavy baby on my back and missing the the baskets on strollers would be ‘convenient’, but it is! I’ve learned not to carry as much around as I did before, and Ninja is always within reach. I’d much rather strap him to my back and walk through a festival with him than try to navigate crowds with a cumbersome stroller any day!

6. It’s bonding. Very, very bonding. Now, I may be bias on this one because Artist Child wasn’t even an ounce of a cuddler...but this kid loves to be cuddled. He walks up and hugs me, kisses me, and loves to be touched. He wasn’t always like that - I quit wearing him for about four months and he preferred his independence. I picked up babywearing again, and he’s back to being cuddly. Babywearing also instantly calms him down. He can be in the middle of an awesome toddler sleepy-meltdown and, as soon as I reach for the wrap, it’s like someone hit his off button.

Babywearing can seem daunting, with the many different types of wraps and price ranges from practically free (think sheets and curtains) to several hundred dollars. My advice, as a mama who has officially tried every type of babywearing device available, is to pick what you think you might like, and just go for it. You can always resell it on a swap board later, or trade it for something you like better. If you’re interested in learning more about babywearing or the different types of carriers, check out my Babywearing Basics series!

Shai Smith is a mommy and freelance writer as well as a business owner and lifestyle blogger at The Vagabond Studio. She is dedicated to inspiring entrepreneurs and green-living families to live outside the box, and spends her time chasing around four kiddos, hiking, and painting.