Book Review & Giveaway: The Must-Have Mom Manual

I don't talk about 'mom' stuff much on this blog - hence the name. But books? Books I can get into. Even parenting books.

I'm sure most of you moms and dads have had them. Those moments when you're on your last nerve, there's a pile of laundry that appears to be multiplying, and for some reason your kids are refusing to eat their chicken nuggets? When you just want to scream, "FOR THE LUVVA ALL THAT IS HOLY, IF ONLY THERE WERE A FREAKIN' MANUAL!"

Well, now there is! Sort of. (They're more like guidelines, really.)

The Must-Have Mom Manual by Sara Ellington and Stephanie Triplett is, well, just that. It covers everything from breast vs. bottle feeding, to teaching your kids good values, to organizing your closets, to what to tell the kids when the family dog dies. It's all presented from both points of view, and the two authors couldn't be more different: one is super organized, the other is messy; one left her career to stay home, the other went back to work; one breast fed her children and the other bottle fed them. And yet they remain great friends, primarily because they believe in the theme of this book: that there are plenty of ways to be a good parent. No one choice is good for all families, and it's about time people started respecting that.

A lot of this book is just good, solid, practical information. Secrets to make your hospital delivery more tolerable, tips for new dads, what to pack in your diaper bag, how to organize your car. And some of it is advice: take time for yourself, don't try to be perfect, keep the home fires burning. It's all delivered with spark and wit, and you get the benefit of at least two different perspectives (Sara: "Key rack! Shoe rack! Purge your clutter! Label it! Color-coded calendars!" Stephanie: "I'm gonna go have a cocktail while you alphabetize your daughter's Barbie collection."). Above all, it's very, very readable. At the end of each chapter is a short list of resources to make it easier for you to find more information.

Sara and Stephanie offer up products they've found work the best, and cut to the meat of all the other popular parenting advice books out there, giving a fast little summary of what the book is advocating, so you can get an idea of whether it's "for you". It makes the overwhelming amount of conflicting information available to parents a little more manageable.

Some of the chapters in this book don't really apply to me at the moment. I don't think my toddler cares where babies come from. And some of them may never apply to me (A whole chapter on going to Disney World? Really?). I was a little disappointed that certain things were never addressed (home births? Co sleeping? Where's the love for us hippie moms?), but generally, there's something for everybody in this book.

Obviously not all of the advice in this book is going to work for you ("Become an Early Riser"? Uh, hell, no). And that's kind of the point. There are lots of ways to be a good parent. There are lots of great suggestions, and if even a few of them are something you hadn't thought of yet, or saves you endless googling, then it's worth it.

So, do you guys think you know it all? Or could you (or someone you know) use this book? I have one to give away. All you have to do is have a look at the book's chapter list and leave a comment telling me which chapter looks the most interesting or useful to you. For an extra entry, tweet about this giveaway. Be sure to leave me a comment with the link to your tweet (or include my twitter handle - @superkeely - in the tweet).

And then, head on over to Nic at My Bottle's Up to read her review and enter her giveaway, too! We're all about the multiple perspectives around here. Uh, and the wine.

(PS - I shouldn't post things when I'm so, um, tired. I totally forgot to tell you to check out the mastermind behind this book review carnival, Heather from Maternal Spark! Also, I'll be picking a winner by random integer on Friday, so git yer entries in before then!)

Happy Canada Day from President's Choice! (Or: Celebrating the birth of our nation with some dead cow. Vegetarians, fair warning)

A while back I posted about an opportunity to stalk some people dressed up as butchers who were handing out coupons for free meat. They didn't do this little piece of performance art in my city, and apparently President's Choice heard me whining felt badly enough about that to send me some of my own. They even threw in the seasoning!

And what better way to sample the offerings than a summer barbecue?

Except, well, it didn't really produce much summer for a while there, and our barbecue hasn't been used in 5 years and I'm not convinced it wouldn't spontaneously combust. So I went to the source of all things grilled - my Dad.

(In other words, we called up my parents and invited ourselves over for dinner. But in our defense, we brought food and booze).

President's Choice has expanded its fresh meat offerings to include the "Tender and Tasty" and "Free From" lines. As far as I can tell, the "Tender and Tasty" line is just, well, meat, although it's GOOD meat - the beef is cut from Canada AAA or USDA Choice grade beef, restaurant quality beef superior to previous Canada AA choices. The "Free From" line is hippy beef, raised without the use of antibiotics or steroids and (I assume) played soothing music and allowed free access to art supplies.

I marinated two of the steaks in PC Steak Marinade and we seasoned two with the PC Sea Salt and Black Peppercorns grinder.

(My Dad: "So this is just...salt and pepper."
Me: "Yeah, I guess."
My Dad: "You know what this would be really good for? Camping. To put in your camping kit."

after Dad has mentioned his camping kit 4 more times: "Dad? Do you want it? To put in your camping kit?"
My Dad, acting surprised: "Well, sure!")

(I felt like I had to bring more to the table than just dead cow, so I also made mojitos. President's Choice has this handy little mojito 'kit' for sale right now so I picked one up. I gave up bartending a while ago but clearly I miss it occasionally. Plus I got to feel all Southern and minty fresh, ya'll.)

Tangents aside, those steaks were gooooood. They were...well, Tender and Tasty. I thought the marinade was fantastic, though Mom pronounced it "too salty" (but you have to consider the source there - Mom thinks salt is the Devil's seasoning. Or she would, if she were religious at all). The Sea Salt and Black Peppercorn was....salt and pepper. We went over this. Dad added his own bbq sauce when he thought I wasn't looking.

I was disappointed by the "Free From" steak, though - it was a little tough compared to the "Tender and Tasties" and not as well marbled. While it's nice to feel that your dinner had a good life prior to it's incarnation on your plate, and it's nice to think that you're not adding a bunch of chemicals and crap to your body when you eat it, I would not normally pay that dearly for the privilege (you are, after all, still cramming red meat into your maw. Not the healthiest of choices in the first place). The "Free From" beef was over $35 a kg, ya'll - like, 8 bucks for a tiny 8oz steak. If I didn't have coupons I would have shit a brick gasped audibly. I admire President's Choice for trying to make organic meat more accessible, and sourcing more of their meat from Canadian producers (the "Free From" line includes chicken and pork as well), but I think if you're that dedicated to making your food free from hormones and antibiotics, you can purchase it from local farmers for much less.

So, verdict? President's Choice Tender & Tasty is just as advertised, their Free From line is pretty good too (though way too expensive for moi), they make some kickass marinades, and my mojitos were AWESOME.

I'm a marketing genius. Seriously, Febreze, call me.

A while back I agreed to review some products for Febreze's new 'Destinations' line. And they sent me, literally, a duffel bag full of Febreze goodies.

I thought, hm. I wonder if they're trying to tell me something.

But the sheer quantity was too much to just be telling me that I stink. Obviously, there was a different message implied. It was almost as if...almost...they wanted someone to take it upon themselves to neutralize odours wherever they are found. Someone to dispense lovely-smelling justice, in all the stinky back alleys and rancid gutters. Someone like...

The Febreze Ninja!

the Febreze Ninja strikes again

The Febreze Ninja is caught on film exiting a bathroom

The Febreze Ninja's known aresenal includes:

- Hawaiian Aloha: kind of heavy floral (hibiscus)
- Brazilian Carnaval: kinda light & fruity
- Moroccan Bazaar: slightly spicy, a whiff of ginger

The Febreze Ninja has recently been assumed to have ninja'd the following locations:

- A local resident's home, after a bout of stomach flu, was cleared out thanks to the Febreze Candle in Brazilian Carnaval.

- The stench of a local employer's washroom (for the male employees) was subdued by the Febreze Air Effects in Moroccan Bazaar.

- The stinkiest diaper pail on the block suddenly found itself next to a Febreze NOTICEables plug-in that was dispensing Hawaiian Aloha. The process of adding or subtracting poopy diapers to said pail is now much more pleasant.

- The Febreze Ninja also launched on offensive on the public washroom at the local park, using Air Effects in both Brazilian Carnaval and Hawaiian Aloha. While the scents work well together, the Ninja admitted defeat, and left an uncharacteristic note stating that if she was expected to take on the smell of corpses and crackhead urine, she was going to need a bigger duffel bag.

Where will the Febreze Ninja strike next? Only time - and smell - will tell!

(In addition to telling you that you stink, Febreze also wants to tell you to go away! Enter the Febreze Staycation to Vacation Sweepstakes!)

Are you Canadian? Do you like meat?

I mean, I'm totally not going to judge you if you're a veg-head, because we're all about tolerance up here in igloo world. But, if you're down with the slabs of cow (or pig or chicken), listen up: On Wednesday the 13th, President's Choice will be promoting their new product lines of meat products by handing out coupons to commuters in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, and Calgary between 4 & 6 pm.

Just look for the people dressed up as butchers (no, not that guy - he's actually auditioning for Sweeney Todd. Over there, the less-bloody looking ones) at transit hubs for your coupon.

But remember, meat is murder.

Tasty, tasty murder.

Brush your teeth and stay in school, kids

Some of you may have noticed that we dismantled the Connoisseur du Jour site. It was just too much for someone who already has 3 blogs, a woman in her first trimester and someone whose gall bladder recently attacked her. A good idea, but bad timing.

While I was posting over there I accepted the "4 Week Crest/Oral-B Challenge" to use Crest and Oral-B products in an attempt to reduce my plaque levels. I posted my final tally about 4 days before CduJ got taken down, so they asked me if I would re-post it over here. And I said of course I would, because I totally don't have a post for tomorrow I'm accommodating like that.

In my initial checkup with the dentist he determined that my overall oral health is good, but that I had moderate plaque on my upper back molars. Also, that I had a fucking CAVITY. OF COURSE.

Here are the two posts detailing my experience with the Crest & Oral-B stuff, and of course the Final Result (dun dun DUN!):

Brusha Brusha Brusha! Crest and Oral-B clean up my potty mouth!

A couple of weeks ago I posted about starting the Crest/Oral-B Challenge. It's only really started now, well, yesterday, when I got my nifty care package dropped at my doorstep.

So - y'know, so far, so good.

My cool little box came with two Crest Pro-Health toothpastes, one for night and one for day, Crest Glide "Deep Clean" floss, and Crest Pro-Health alcohol-free mouthwash.

(Apparently my Oral-B Vitality Precision Clean toothbrush is arriving later, in its own limo. With its own posse of peeps. It's THAT COOL).

So the toothpastes, well, nothing revolutionary there. I mean, it's toothpaste. They do seem a bit gritty. The Pro-Health Night apparently does a better job than regular toothpaste of protecting your mouth at night from decay-causing bacteria. Both toothpastes have whitening benefits, too. Which is good, because apparently all this coffee and red wine I drink is starting to make me look like Snaggletooth.

(I wonder what happens if you mix the two toothpastes together? Do you think it's dangerous? I'm going to try it. Maybe it's like C-4).

The Glide floss is awesome, and I swear by it normally, though I've never used the "Deep Clean" variety. (How much deeper can you get without blood loss?). I still have all my wisdom teeth, which makes for a crowded mouth, but the Glide floss gets in there without shredding or getting stuck.

And, the Crest Pro-Health mouthwash. I am not a mouthwash person. I was pretty glad this stuff was alcohol-free, because the alcohol stuff? EEEEE!! THE BURNING! THE BUUUUURRRNINGG!! And the Pro-Health tastes pretty good - the gentle, sweeter mint of the light blue Trident rather than the holy-crap-smack-you-in-the-face mint of the recent 'extreme gum' trend. My issue with mouthwash normally - AND THIS IS JUST ME - is that about an hour after I use it, it tastes like something died in my mouth. Especially if I go to bed right afterwards. Then it's like something died, but threw up first.

But because I'm a dedicated little reviewer, I made the decision to use the mouthwash. I read the back of the bottle while I was swishing, and oh! hey! You're supposed to rinse with water afterwards. Which actually makes it tolerable. Less like something died in my mouth, and more like something furry just passed out there temporarily. Which is acceptable.

You learn something new every day.

(For more info, visit the Oral-B or Crest Pro-Health websites).

Crest and Oral-B: The Final Tally

If you've been with us for a little while, you know that I accepted a "Crest/Oral-B 4 Week Challenge" to use their products and attempt to improve my overall oral health and reduce my plaque.

This week was my final checkup. It was also my appointment to fix the cavity they found the first time. So I braved the dentist chair for you folks. (My dedication to you is unwavering, I know. You can show your appreciation with PayPal or chocolate).

The dentist's chair has a TV now - they even let you have the remote, albeit wrapped in plastic, but they don't get the Space channel and I don't know what else to watch during the day. I put it on some kind of talk show about a makeover subject who, 5 minutes into the show, needed major dental surgery. NOT HELPING. Switch to Oprah.

Enh...that doesn't help either, unless your goal is MORE pain.

Anyway. I put up with the needles and the stench of burning tooth enamel and the distinctly uncomfortable sensation of being able to bite as hard as you can on your own face and not feel it, because I wanted the verdict. Did Crest and Oral-B help me out?

And the answer is yes. Yes they did.

My oral hygiene was pretty good to start out with, but I had some plaque on my upper molars. And I'm pleased to report that in just 3 short weeks (what? I started late) the Oral B Precision Clean toothbrush and it's Crest compadres reduced that plaque to almost nothing. The brush head on the Oral B is small enough to get back far enough to even clean my wisdoms properly.

I was hoping for a whiter smile, but I do tend to sabotage any effort in that area with the amount of coffee and red wine I drink. And it was only three weeks. But I think Crest made a little difference.

So, what are you waiting for? It's still Oral Health Month for over a week* - get brushing!

*This is a complete and utter lie, but remember I originally posted that a while ago. Anyway, Dental Hygiene Month is OCTOBER in the US and September in the UK. So you have tons of time to think about your chompers.