Friday, April 20, 2012

Indigo Kids Blog Tour | Review & Giveaway

As long as I can remember, I've loved to read.  My Mom recently told me that when they tested my reading comprehension in grade 4, my abilities were at least a grade 12 level, as my scores surpassed the limits of the testing.  Given that information, its not surprising that I would rather read a book than watch TV.  I love allowing the words on the page to come alive in my mind and I can't help but hope that my boys will find as much delight in books as I have.

I do my best to foster a positive reading environment, we have books in both our playroom and in the boys' rooms and we read books before each and every sleepytime, naps included.  I love taking the boys to the bookstore and I'm super excited to let you know about Indigo Kids an amazing initiative by the folks at Chapters Indigo Books.

Indigo Kids is available at select book stores and with their wide stroller-friendly aisles, adequate space for kids to play and try a variety of toys including plasma cars and train tables; Indigo Kids stores are specifically designed to make shopping with and for your little ones a breeze.  And for those of you who don't have kids, but need to  buy a present for a special little person in your life, Indigo Kids has book and toy recommendations based on the child's age.  Last but not least, free gift wrapping on children's gifts is available at all Chapters and Indigo locations.

When given the opportunity to check out Indigo Kids for myself, I was more than a little excited to shop at my local Indigo Kids location, however given all the sickness in my home, it didn't end up being feasible so instead I did my shopping online.

In truth, I LOVE online shopping.  It's easy, its convenient and at Chapters Indigo its even easy on the wallet.  As a Plum Rewards member I received 5% off the list price of every book I ordered, I received free shipping (as my order was over $25) and when I ordered the Game of Thrones Box Set for myself, it was significantly cheaper than if I had bought it in store.

I shopped Indigo Kids for presents and ended up finding lots of great products.  Although there are tons of toys to choose from, I opted to stick with books and bought my almost one year old niece the Dr. Suess Beginner Book Collection that I hope she will enjoy for years to come, Tails for the boy and Goodnight Gorilla for the baby.  My boys love their new books and 'Goodnight Gorilla' has already become one of the baby's favourite books, just as it was one of his brother's.

Want to do some Indigo Kids shopping?  We're giving one lucky reader a $35 gift certificate to spend at Chapters Indigo Books, enter using the rafflecopter after the jump.

Disclosure – I am participating in the Indigo Kids program by Mom Central Canada. I received compensation for my participation in this campaign. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I have 'Working Momma Guilt' and I haven't even finished maternity leave

I can't believe that a year ago, I was hugely pregnant and awaiting the arrival of my little man.  In exactly one week, he will have his first birthday and with that milestone comes yet another life-altering change.

On April 30th I will once again don my office attire and the hubs and I will scramble around like a chicken with our heads cut-off to get our kiddos dressed, fed and out the door by 7am.  My year long maternity leave will be over, the kids will be starting a new daycare and I will return to my desk and my job as an Environmental Coordinator with the Provincial Government.

I'm already feeling guilty; not because I will be at work while someone else cares for my children the majority of their waking hours, because I'm looking forward to going to work.  I'm excited to wear clothes that aren't covered in food, snot or other bodily fluids.  I'm excited to use my brain, have adult conversations and simply do a job I love and believe in.

I know these are normal feelings, but the truth is a year at home with two kids was much harder than a year at home with one.  In fact over the the past few months, I've caught myself uttering 'in another month, it will be someone else's problem' on more than one occasion.  For that, I feel truly guilty.

The transition back to work was incredibly emotional and difficult the first time around, but this time I know with certainty that my boys will settle into a new routine, they will make new friends and enjoy the stimulation of daycare, so this time, those are the least of my worries.  I also know that a mentally stimulated momma, makes for a happy momma, which is better for the entire family.

I love my boys' so much and I'm saddened by the thought of not being with them all the time, that I might miss the baby's first steps or any other amazing milestone in either of their little lives.  But staying at home permanently isn't an option for us and even if it was, I'm not entirely sure I'd be up to the task.

Truly, I have so much respect for stay at home mom's, you are amazing and I've enjoyed the opportunity to walk in your footsteps, but now its time for me to dive back into my life as a working momma, and the many challenges the lifestyle entails.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spring Cleaning with Clorox Green Works | Blog Tour Review and Giveaway

There are people that get great satisfaction from spring cleaning, a sense of accomplishment and pride at throwing away junk, organizing and cleaning.  I am not one of those people.  I like a clean house, but making it clean, not so much.

I need things to be easy, a quick spray and a wipe is about my speed, but my conscience also requires that said sprays be safe for my family, for my children and for our planet.  Clorox Green Works fits my needs perfectly.
Clorox Green works

The entire Green Works line is 95-99% naturally derived, with the remaining percentage accounting for preservatives, fragrance and dyes.  Each product displays a small 'Designed for the Environment' or DfE logo; a designation given by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which indicates each ingredient has been screened for both health and environmental effects and the product contains only those ingredients that pose the least concern among chemicals in their class.  As if that isn't enough, you can find a list of all Green Works ingredients, with explanations of their uses in everyday English, on the Green Works website.

Once the cleaners are deemed 'safe' in my mind, the real challenge begins.  Can Green Works products effectively clean my home with minimal effort on my behalf?

My answer is a resounding yes.  Armed with Clorox Green Works, I have been successfully challenged myself to undertake one 10 minute tidy at a time.  I started in the powder room, which if I'm being honest, smells a bit like pee.  I have a recently potty trained toddler and if you are the parent of a little boy, you know that their urine has a tendency to hit the toilet seat, if you're lucky enough to dodge the pee bullet yourself.

When my Green Works products arrived, I initially gave the toilet seat a quick wipe with a Green Works Natural Cleaning Wipe, which definitely gave a fresher scent to the bathroom, but didn't quite succeed at banishing the urine smell; a little more effort was warranted on my behalf.  Using Green Works Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Bathroom Cleaner and Glass Cleaner I gave my teeny little bathroom the once over and in less than 10 minutes and much to my amazement I had a sparkly clean, fresh (but not overpowering or chemically) smelling bathroom.

One ten minute tidy complete.  Well done me.

Next up, what can only be described a baby food bomb.  Distracted and being pulled in far too many directions, I dropped a full bowl of sweet potato and chicken baby food on the floor, which of course went everywhere.  We cleaned up most of the mess immediately, but about a week later I realized that we had missed the area under the dishwasher.  That food has been caked on for probably three weeks now and I'd been avoiding cleaning it like the plaque.
Baby Food Bomb Clean-up
I allowed the Green Works All-Purpose Cleaner about 5 minutes to soften the baby food before I dove in with a damp rag and started chipping away at it.  Imagine my surprise when it pulled away from the dishwasher with minimal effort; after only a little bit of scrubbing, the baby food had all but disappeared.  I also gave the dishwasher a few spritzes and wipes with the All-Purpose Cleaner and was impressed to see the streak-free clean that resulted, especially given that stainless steel appliances have a tendency to streak when cleaned.

Another ten minute tidy complete.  I admit I am proud that I have now cleaned two areas of my home instead of starting to read 'Game of Thrones', which is what I really wanted to do.  Perhaps there is some pride to be had at cleaning my home.

Surprisingly, I'm excited about my bounty of Clorox Green Works products; the dishwashing soap not only smells delicious, it makes lots of bubbles (which I know isn't actually necessary, but I like it) and gets the dishes squeaky clean.  The Natural Cleaning Wipes are perfect for sticky spills that I find long after the boys have made them and although washing floors is absolutely not my thing, I'm certain that the hubs will have good things to report about the Green Works Multi-Surface Cleaner, which is safe for use on wood.

One lucky Momma Stuff Blog reader is going to win their own Clorox Green Works Gift Pack, make sure you enter using the Rafflecopter after the jump.

Please note you may enter to win a Green Works Gift Pack on other sites participating in this Blog Tour, however you may only win one prize.

“Disclosure – I am participating in the Green Works program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of The Clorox Company of Canada Ltd.”

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Baking Soothes My Soul: Oat Fudge Bar Recipe | gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free

From the time I was in grade 5 right through my high school years you could almost always find me baking cookies on a Friday afternoon.  I rarely ate them, but I loved making them.  Baking is cathartic for me, I think the creativity clears me both emotionally and physically.  After my last few weeks taking care of a sick family, the urge to bake was strong.

In fact I even made oatmeal raisin cookies using whole wheat flour when I was visiting at my mom's house. Since I couldn't enjoy them, I still felt the need to bake something delicious.  And since I'm so tired, exhausted and craving chocolate, I opted to bake some ooey gooey gluten-free goodness.

These oat fudge bars are an adaptation from one of my favourite cookie and bars cookbooks and are in no way healthy, unless of course you count the fact that they contain oats.  They take a little bit of time to make because you have to make your own dairy-free sweetened condensed milk but its totally worth the effort; if your family tolerates dairy, feel free to substitute a can and speed things up.  This recipe make a huge 9x13 pan and I suspect that you could easily halve the recipe and bake it in an 8x8 pan.  Personally, I've just been eating a bit every time I walk by the pan and they don't seem to be getting stale any faster than I can eat them.

Be forewarned, these bars are delicious, addictive and not-so-good for you.  I hope you like them as much as I do.
Oat Fudge Bars

Oat Fudge Bars
(gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free)
Adapted from 500 best Cookies, Bars & Squares by Esther Brody 

 BASE Ingredients:
  • 3 cups gluten-free oats (quick cooking if you can find them)
  • 2.5 cups gluten-free flour mix*
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp xantham gum
  • 1 cup shortening + 2 tbsp water
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
TOPPING Ingredients:
  • 3 cups rice milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp shortening
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla 
  1. Mix rice milk and sugar in a medium saucepan and boil, stirring frequently until the liquid is reduced by 1/3. (You should have about 2 cups after reduction).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a 9x13 pan.
  3. While the milk is reducing, in a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, gluten-free flour mix, baking soda, salt and xantham gum.  Set aside. 
  4. In a separate bowl beat the shortening, water and brown sugar until smooth and creamy.  
  5. Add eggs, one at a time and beat until well incorporated.  
  6. Stir in the vanilla.
  7. Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.
  8. Press 2/3 of the oat mix into the prepared pan.
  9. Once your milk has reduced (it will be thin), scoop approximately 1/4 cup into a small bowl.  Add the cornstarch, blending well before mixing back into the hot milk. 
  10. Try and allow the mixture to cool slightly before adding the chocolate chips, shortening and salt.  Stir until smooth then mix in the vanilla.  (You can warm the mixture over low heat if your milk isn't already hot.)
  11. Pour chocolate over the prepared base.
  12. Crumble reserved base over the chocolate layer.
  13. Bake 35-45minutes until the edges are golden and the centre appears nearly set.
  14. Cool pan completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars.
  15. Enjoy.  

Gluten-Free Flour Mix
(adapted from Living Without's 'Mary's All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend')

  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 cups white rice flour
  • 1-1/3 cups potato starch
  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 2/3 cup tapioca starch
  1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well.
  2. Store in a sealed container or mix right into a large Ziploc bag and use as needed for gluten-free baking.
yield: 7 cups