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For the Foodie Mom: Tagine by Le Creuset {Review}

Tajine dinners are one of my finest memories of my trip to France with Edward. We went in the Spring and traveled for almost 4 weeks – first in London visiting friends and then in France. We hopped from city to city but one of our favorites stops was in Grenoble. Our vintage hotel had a balcony with a view of the Alps. We were walking distance from the city market. And the Moroccan food there was absolutely delicious. I had fallen in love with tajines on a previous visit to France, but it was Edward’s first time. That dinner was one of my favorite memories of our trip, combining three loves – my love for France, good food, and my husband.

You can find good Moroccan food almost anywhere in France in my experience and since our trip almost *gasp* two years ago, I have not been able to find a Moroccan place anywhere near Charlottesville that serves tajines. Finally, I decided I would have to buckle down and learn how to make it myself.

What’s a tajine?

Well, I will tell you. It’s a large dish, usually made out of enameled clay or cast iron, with a tent shaped lid. It’s a slow cooker designed for the stove top and keeps food moist and juicy as it cooks.

Kitchen Kapers, sent me one. A gorgeous yellow cast iron tajine made by the exquisite French company Le Creuset. I had read reviews on other cooking websites, but was warned that the clay version needed time to soak and several reviews mentioned that their dishes came damaged or even broken.

Not so with Kitchen Kapers.

It arrived quickly and safely, and as soon as it arrived I started planning my fabulous tajine dinner. I have to say that I was a little nervous about it – would my own cooking live up to all my wonderful memories of dinners in France?

I decided on a savory chicken dish to start out – with lemon and olives cooked in the tajine and then piled over couscous. We had Dr. Dolly and her family over to celebrate the arrival of the tajine in our house. It. was. wonderful!

Chicken cooked perfectly. It pulled apart beautifully. Lemons so tender, you could cut into them like a fork on dense chocolate cake.  The size of the dish was ideal, too – we fed 5 people without a problem, though we did gorge ourselves a little – no leftovers!

Just last week I tried another recipe. This time a sweeter dish with almonds, honey, cinnamon and apricots. WOW! If I had a glass of wine and some music on I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between my French experience and my home one. Edward raved about it from the moment he got home from work and smelled the spices in the air to bedtime as he crawled into bed full and happy. I’ve included the most recent recipe below. Enjoy!

Chicken Tajine with Apricots and Almonds

yield: Makes 4 servings

active time: 30 min

total time: 1 1/2 hr


  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 (3-lb) chicken, cut into 6 pieces, wings and backbone discarded
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup water or broth
  • 2 tablespoons mild honey
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots, separated into halves
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • Special equipment: a 10- to 12-inch tagine or heavy skillet; kitchen string

preparation: Stir together ground cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat well. Heat butter in base of tagine (or in skillet), uncovered, over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then brown half of chicken, skin sides down, turning over once, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Brown remaining chicken in same manner, adding any spice mixture left in bowl. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Return chicken to the tajine to finish cooking.

While chicken cooks, bring honey, water or broth, cinnamon stick, and apricots to a boil in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until apricots are very tender (add more water if necessary). Once apricots are tender, simmer until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 10 to 15 minutes. Place the apricots and glaze as well as the slivered almonds into the tajine with the chicken. Discard cinnamon stick. Finish cooking chicken and apricots together. Serve with couscous.

Note: I used 2 lbs of boneless skinless dark meat, and a package of wings as well. This meant less time spent cutting chicken.

You can find a 2-quart cast iron moroccan tagine by Le Creuset for the special mom in your life (or yourself) from Kitchen Kapers–an online store (with over 7 brick and mortar locations) that inspires homemade fun for $159.99, a $55 savings from retail prices listed on other sites.


From now through the end of May, we’re Celebrating Motherhood.  Join us as we share gift ideas and giveaways for mom.

Cloth Diapers for Toddlers and Bigger Babies

…because nap time and night time are a long time to go without a potty break.

Although my son wore most of his non-fitted cloth diapers for a very long time (4 months to 24 months), his bigger thighs have rendered most of the smaller cloth one size rather unwearable.

You may have already read my extensive review on cloth diapers and tips for how to care for them.

Since I wrote the cloth diaper review in August 2008, more styles and brands have landed on the market. So, it’s time for an addendum particularly targeting bigger babies and toddlers.

Again, a great benefit of cloth is how it makes babies conscientious of their wetness or diaper fullness, thus encouraging elimination communication at an early age.  Even once your child enters the potty training stage and transitions to underwear during the day, there’s the sleep time periods that require something other than underwear.

My son wore disposable training pants…once.  Never again.  He borrowed a pair from his cousin’s stash.  The extra amount of chemicals (polypropylene, polyethylene, polyacrylate) was irritating to his skin and caused an instant diaper rash.  No thanks.  We’ll stick with cloth.


Kushies Ultra Lite

Kushies Ultra Lite, $12.49 – $13.99

  • Effectiveness at night: 4/5
  • Aesthetics: 5/5
  • Lack of bulkiness: 4/5
  • Ease of use: 5/5
  • Maintenance: 5/5
  • Comfort: 5/5
  • Value: 4/5

The  ultra lite is for infants is designed for babies who weigh 10 – 22 pounds, while the toddler-size is for babies who weigh 22 – 45 pounds.

This is a fitted diaper with hook and loop closure tabs using 6 layers of absorbent 100% cotton flannel plus an additional attached flannel soaker that can be folded up (boys) or down (girls). The roomy legs of the toddler version allow my son to run, jump, and walk without a discernible bulky cloth diaper waddle (totally cute in babies, but not desirable in walking and running toddlers). Compared to the Classic Kushies Diaper, the Ultra LIte feature two fewer layers of cloth and a lighter waterproof barrier.

My son used the classic Kushies beginning when he was 8 months old.  They were fantastic–and they were hand me downs used by 2 other children (talk about a long diaper life). I love everything Kushies makes regarding cloth diapers–definitely a workhorse that’s light weight and built to last, plus super easy to clean without pulling out stuffed pockets or removing snappies.

The Ultra Lite diaper is available in variety of fun and mod prints suitable for girl (pinks with brown accents), boy (blues with brown accents), and neutral (greens with brown or multi-color as shown above). As a day use diaper, I found it worked well compared to the majority of other cloth diapers that my son can barely fit into.  The slimmer legs are perfect for mobile babies and toddler.  As a sleep time diaper, I needed to use an extra layer of soaker for my son who is a heavy wetter.  There’s room to add soakers as necessary with this diaper.

Easy to clean since they’re washing machine/dryer friendly, comfortable for my son, and delightful to the eye.

Read product details from Kushies. Purchase Kushies Ultra Lite Diapers.


Envibum One-Size with absorbency pad $23.99, Absorbency pads $2.99

  • Effectiveness at night: 5/5
  • Aesthetics: 5/5
  • Lack of bulkiness: 3/5
  • Ease of use: 5/5
  • Maintenance: 4/5
  • Comfort: 5/5
  • Value: 4/5

Envibum’s minkee soft outer features a PUL water barrier lining inside; plus, there’s an unbleached cotton waffle with extra absorbency.  It works like a pocket or with extra flannel soakers on top.  Washer-friendly and line dry to keep this super cute and super soft diaper beautiful for the long haul.  It’s designed to fit the tiniest newborn to a growing toddler for babies weighing 8 to 40 pounds.

The soaker pads are optionally fit with hook and loop closures to keep them in place (no need to deal with stuffing and unstuffing soiled soakers in pockets!)–or you can get them without the hook and loop closure.

Envibum has a high commitment to creating green products that are useful for moms from all walks of life.  This is a very high quality diaper that feels like a super soft stuffed animal.  You’ll want to snuggle your little one in this beautiful diaper.  My son stroked the minkee fabric saying, “So soft!  My diaper!”  It’s definitely his favorite cloth diaper and easily one of mine.

I LOVE that Envibum is owned and operated by a family who gives back $2 toward every all-in-one cloth diaper sale to a non-profit (based on the color of the diaper).  Read more on their giving back page. Available colors include green, pink, red, aqua (each color related to a specific non-profit).


Mom4Mom diaper cover $12.99, t-shaped liner $9.99.

  • Effectiveness at night: 3/5
  • Aesthetics: 4/5
  • Lack of bulkiness: 4/5
  • Ease of use: 3/5
  • Maintenance: 3/5
  • Comfort: 4/5
  • Value: 4/5

This is Envibum’s take on prefolds with a cover.  The t-shaped prefold is made from flannel–it’s much less bulky than a rectangular chinese prefold, yet just as absorbent and durable.

Envibum claims you don’t need to use pins or snappies to keep the front flaps of the prefold in place before applying the waterproof, hook and loop closure diaper cover, but I thought it was very hard to keep the prefold in place while applying the cover (and my son is old enough to hold relatively still for diaper time).  Snaps  or hook and loop closures would help with securing the prefold. 

For every Mom4Mom diaper cover purchased, Envibum gives one to another mom in need.  Reading about how moms in third world countries re-use disposable diapers as diaper covers…for months…made my heart heavy.  Learning about the hope that Envibum provides for these moms (there and here in the US) and why they use brown velcro makes me want to support this company with all future cloth diaper purchases.  Period.Read product details from Envibum and purchase diapers.

Note: I received diapers, soakers, and cover samples for the purpose of this review.

Hug the Earth

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.

Ancient Native American Proverb

My generation and my son’s generation are at a point where we have lost the art of “waste not, want not.”  The skill set of taking and using only what we need, reusing items for practicality, and being intimately aware of our carbon footprint on the earth is something we must learn. . . chances are, these things have never been demonstrated or taught to us beyond tossing a plastic bottle into a recycling bin.

As a parent, I think the greatest impact I can make to help the future of this planet is to make smart choices about green living every day.

My son won’t learn about green living through a television special or even an educational pamphlet, but he’s going to learn about growing and culling food, cooking from scratch, re-using fabric scraps, avoiding items of waste, and other green practices by learning from his mom and dad.


I grew up in the eighties where littering on the side of the road was common practice (until the famous Don’t Mess with Texas anti-litter ad campaign put a grinding halt to that mess).

Recycling wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary until I attended a girls’ leadership, math, and science camp where I turned into an eco-activist overnight (with a letter from the city Mayor to thank 11 year-old me for my fervor and passion).

Years later, I’ve toned down my passion and put it into practice with breastfeeding and cloth diapers.  I’ve picked up a few sewing skills to create loving handmade gifts (instead of buying things with wasteful packaging), and I’ve learned some fun options for food preparation and stretching leftovers to improve my family’s health and to stretch our dollars.

Green living may be the “cool” thing to do these days, but if the trend ever swings the other way, I hope that my son appreciates the practicality of being resourceful and thoughtful of the earth.  May he teach his children to leave this place better than they found it.


National Geographic recently published the Green Guide Families: The Complete Reference for Eco-Friendly Parents by Catherine Zandonella.

Printed on recycled fibers, this 400 page reference book gives eco-friendly and budget-friendly tips for raising baby and minimizing your footprint and toy closet.

Chapter 1 includes tips on creating a safe and eco-friendly home to purchasing and making your own household cleaners, parents are armed with tools to have a toxin-free home.

It’s not a super comprehensive guide to cloth diapers, but there’s a basic intro with extra green tips that will help a new parent get started well in this arena in chapter 6.

I like the ideas for eco-friendly holidays, parties and celebrations in chapter 9.  Those are definitely times where pretty packaging and decor lead to unnecessary waste.

Beyond the home, this guide arms families with ways to introduce recycling and reducing toxins in schools  (chapter 8 ) plus how to take “green” vacations (chapter 10).  To urge the next generation to care about green living, chapter 5 is dedicated to that purpose.

Overall, the book is mostly positive toward breastfeeding, but on page 196, it mentions “toxics in breast milk” discussing various chemicals that mom can absorb through skin, environmental contact, or pharmaceuticals that can be passed along to baby via milk.

I thought it was a little unusual that this section of the book states, breast milk can contain toxic substances that have negative consequences to developing babies, leaving some of us to wonder if breast milk could be harming the cognitive development of babies.  All of the chemicals listed below have been found in breast milk and are known to cause cognitive deficits. . . these contaminants are no reason to choose formula, however.

Unfortunately, the editor failed to mention the studies that indicated breastfed babies tested with higher IQ’s than those who weren’t breastfed.  True, she’s referring to the chemicals and decreased IQ, but she links the chemicals directly to breast milk.  By generalizing the statement, she makes it sound as though all breastfed babies are exposed to those chemicals, when in fact, it’s babies who’s mothers are taking prescription medications, using shampoos with phthalates, and around heavy metals and toxins.  I hope that moms on the fence about breastfeeding won’t read this section of the book and think that perhaps they should use formula instead.

There’s a lot of info that’s touched upon in this book, as a result, it skims the surface of some topics that have more detailed options, discussions, and information.  There are no pictures, drawings, or diagrams in this book.  It is purely a text reference.

I hope the future revised edition includes pictures of the different types of cloth diapers, pictures of examples of green baby toys and party decor, and it changes the misleading negative paragraph on breastfeeding.

Otherwise, I think it’s a fairly comprehensive resource to help new parents embark on the journey of green parenting with a great start.

The Green Families Guide retails for $21.95 from National Geographic, and it’s also available through Amazon.com.

Happy Earth Day!

Your turn: How do you teach your child about green living practices?  What’s the easiest (and most difficult) green practice that you do in your home?

Posh Baby! Oilo Pillow {Review}

 Oilo sent me a beautiful pillow in cobalt with their wheels motif and I’m quite smitten by it. There’s a lovely , modern print on the front in a navy and ivory color scheme.

For those of you who didn’t see post I wrote on Lucien’s nursery, I’ll admit I’ve been on a bit of a redecorating kick lately. I think it’s some post baby leftover nesting instinct mixed with spring cleaning frenxy. This pillow was timely!

The pillow is 13″ x 17″ and made of 100% woven cotton with a dacron fill and a hidden zipper closure. From start to finish it looks like it’s been made with quality in mind.

I’ve included a full size image, because I wanted everyone to be able to see the subtle texture to the fabric, which I love so much. Also, and importantly, it’s maching washable!

I have been pouring over the website and also love their beautiful gliders. They seem like a posh addition to a little nursery don’t they?

Here’s a little history about Oilo: Founded in 2009 by Annalisa Thomas to offer a chic, new solution for fashionable nursery décor.  In her quest to find modern and stylish nursery décor for her first child, Thomas found a void in the marketplace for distinctively styled nursery décor at an affordable price. With a degree in arts and a background in graphic design, she founded Oilo™ to offer the modern mom high quality designer level products that feature clean, simple and sophisticated design.  Oilo’s distinctive collection of bedding, furniture, wall art, rugs and lighting is designed by Thomas in partnership with her mother and company co-founder Dorte Anderson.  Anderson brings to Oilo more than 25 years of interior design experience specializing in custom décor. 

I love mommy owned busnesses. And I love designs that work both for a nursery and a home at large. Appealing, but not too “baby”. They grow so fast. Thank you Oilo!

Exclusive for Traveling with Baby readers: receive 15% off purchases at  Oilo using the following code: “twb2010”

Your Turn: What products do you like most from Oilo’s line? Thinking of adding it to your child’s bedroom, or elsewhere in your house?

Note: One pillow was provided for the purpose of this review. Read the full disclosure policy.

Get Funny…Fast! Interview with Jan McInnis

Comedy is like shaping a successful blog: work hard, act professionally, and be consistent.  Over time, you’ll build up momentum and gain a following.  Of course, writing comedy is like writing a great blog post–it takes practice.

I recently read Finding The Funny Fast: How to Create Quick Humor to Connect with Clients, Coworkers and Crowds by comedienne Jan McInnis.

I love how this 126 page read provides numerous techniques and examples for helping anyone who does writing or public speaking find the funny . . . quickly!

I have several health talks this spring for new moms, and I’m excited to use the tools I learned from this book to make my presentations more memorable. After reading this book, I found myself more aware of funny in the everyday. . . and I laugh more often.  Laughter is the best medicine, after all!  Truly, I’ve found more opportunities to make my patients and my audience laugh.


Meet Jan McInnis, a Virginia-native who now resides in California, who turned from a career as a marketing director to become a stand-up comedienne.  Her jokes have been featured on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and she’s opened for Kevin Nealon of Saturday Night Live fame.  Yet, Ms. McInnis built her comedy career in conventions.  I’d like to see her perform a keynote address for a blog conference!

Ms. McInnis wasn’t always considered funny by her peers.  At her high school reunion, most of her former classmates were completely astounded that she became a comedienne.  She followed her heart and worked hard to create a career that she loves.  Truly, I think those components are indeed the secret to success.

Jan McInnis, “The Work Lady” and author of Finding the Funny Fast

When I started out, my marketing materials were better than my act.  Luckily, I worked hard, and my act caught up. But more than that, I had many club owners say how they liked working with me because I was so professional.

TwB: Your book, Finding the Funny Fast contains a ton of tips and suggestions for developing comedic writing and delivery for anyone who wants to prevent an audience from snoring.

Specifically, how can your book help writers and bloggers improve their post content for their readers?

McInnis: I think the idea for most blogs, and many writers, is that they want fresh material, AND they want people to read it and return. My book tells you how to make your speech or written document fresh by including quick, on-the-spot humor. A lot of blog advice says to connect you blog to current events that are happening now, since I’ve written for radio for 10 years, I know how to step you through topical humor. Humor also keeps people engaged in what you have to say, so that they read it and come back.

TwB: I love that on page 10, you diffuse the common reason people provide “for not even trying to spice up their communications with some laughs,” with your personal story about a career switch to comedy after 15 years working as a marketing director. In fact, your book gives a lot of “formulas” for funny.

What response have you received from readers who transformed from “used to not be funny” to now communicating funny after reading your book?

McInnis: I’ve gotten very nice comments from people. . everyone from professional speakers to comics saying that they like that the book is conversational and that I’ve simply and easily explained the steps to writing humor in an understandable way, so they’ve been able to actually use the ideas. One guy said it motivated [himself] to try to add quick humor into his presentations because he realizes just how much he’s been missing over the years by not doing it.

TwB: What event or desire encouraged you to switch careers from marketing to comedy?

McInnis:Well, I always wanted to be a comedian, since I was a kid. But there was no “entertainment” gene in my family (i.e. no one “gave me permission”) which is what I guess I thought was supposed to happen. Someone was supposed to walk up to you and say, go ahead and become a comic. So I didn’t, until I was in my 30’s and realized that I can at least TRY it.

Actually I went on stage once during the 80’s and the comedy boom. I did really well, but was so freaked out by the bright lights and not being able to see that I didn’t try again for 7 or 8 years. I missed the boom, and was in my 30’s before trying it again. But, I finally decided that I should try it one last time. I went onstage at an open mike, did really well.  I was hired to open for Kevin Nealon from Saturday Night Live. I knew then that I was going to do this for life, however I didn’t leave my “day job” for another 2.5 years. When I did leave, it was at a time when I’d finally just had it with my boss and didn’t want to continue with the company.  So, I figured I needed to look for another job in the industry or try comedy full-time. It was a no-brainer. . .I’d been on stage pretty much every weekend and almost every night in those 2.5 years, and had built up a lot of contacts, so I just did it.

TwB: How has your marketing background helped you develop your career as a comedy writer/speaker?

McInnis: When I started out, my marketing materials were better than my act.  Luckily, I worked hard, and my act caught up. But more than that, I had many club owners say how they liked working with me because I was so professional. They have many choices, and I’m sure I wasn’t the funniest, but they knew I’d show up.  They knew I wouldn’t drink up the bar, and that I’d do my time (i.e. not run long and go an extra 20 minutes). That professionalism really helped me out. And I really did have good marketing materials, well written letters and I was polite on the phone.

TwB: You’ve carved out a successful niche for yourself with clean comedy at conventions and seminars. How did you decide to develop a reputation as a “clean” comedienne?

McInnis: Well, I did write clean humor so I could qualify for convention shows, but it also goes back to what I really believe: In my keynotes where I teach people about using humor for business, I always say in the end that you must be true to yourself. You must do the comedy that appeals to you. Of course for business purposes, it HAS to be clean, but if you really, really can’t do clean humor, then don’t do it – find a venue where you can do the your type of humor. There are plenty of well known, successful comedians who have racier material than me.  They are true to themselves and have found their place. I’ve worked with ventriloquists, magicians and even mimes.  Yes, there are people doing all sorts of humor because that’s what resonates with them.

TwB: How did you break into speaking at seminars and conventions?

McInnis: I started out as a marketing person for 15 years in a “regular” day job, and I had hired entertainers for events, so I knew there was a market. Many comics didn’t/don’t even know this exists as an option. So when I went into the comedy clubs, my goal was to build an act that would appeal to this audience. Then it was just making contacts, making contacts, making contacts and also letting people know what you want, along with a little luck. A funny story, I got in partly because I worked with a comic who did me really wrong in a club (long story), and when I ran into him on the road the next month, I gave him a LOT of grief. . . he felt so bad, and he knew that I wanted to get into the convention market, that he hooked me up with his friend who was a comic performing in the convention arena, Frank King. I made the connection with Frank, and through a series of events, Frank ended up helping me out quite a bit to get into this market. I’m still friends with the comic who did me wrong, and we’ve laughed about how his mistake has made me a lot of money.

TwB: You’ve got a “knack” for writing comedy, fast, for any seminar or convention topic, but what in day-to-day life inspires you? What makes YOU laugh?

McInnis: I really laugh at the everyday stuff and the ironies that are all around us. My brother and sisters and I, as well as my friends are sarcastic in a nice way.   We love pointing out funny things and making cracks about the day-to-day stuff that happens that you just can’t make up.

TwB: After reading Finding the Funny Fast, where can readers turn for more information and inspiration on communicating with comedy?

McInnis: Funny you should ask. I’ve started a comedy writing blog, titled appropriately www.ComedyWritingBlog.com where I share tips on writing. That’s a great place to start. But for comedy inspiration, just look around you and start to notice the funny things that are going on.  Soon, you won’t be able to turn the inspiration off!

TwB: What books are on your nightstand, now?

McInnis: I like a lot of, not sure what you’d call it – inspiration books. . . though that doesn’t really sound like the right category to put them in. Think and Grow Rich is great, as well as Key to Yourself. Both written many moons ago, but the principles of the law of attraction are the same. After that first open mike in which the club owner hired me, and I decided in that moment that I was going to do this for my living, then doors just flew open. It really was amazing how fast things fell into place when I was focused and determined. And it still happens today quite frequently. My favorite saying is that things usually work out better than you expected–so far that’s been true. So, I really believe in the law of attraction. Okay, I also like cheesy murder mysteries–fiction and non-fiction. You’ve got to zone out of the real world occasionally.

TwB: I understand you are available as a speaker for seminars and conventions. What type of groups usually appreciate your humor the most, and why?

McInnis:I’ve done a ton of health care groups because it think health care “gets it.” They deal with tough issues day in and day out and they understand that you need to laugh in order to stay sane. I’ve done my keynote Finding the Funny in Change for a lot of them.  It includes my comedy, but it also has some great tips on dealing with change that I learned from leaving my day job and going into comedy. I also do a lot of financial groups and educational groups.  With my keynote Finding the Funny in Communications, I’m able to pass on tips to them on how to inject humor into written and verbal communications so you connect with clients, sell a product, keep people engaged, and be memorable. And of course I’ve done tons of women’s events, even though my act hits well for both men and women.  But, women love to laugh so I love being in front of them! With that said, I’ve done programs for pretty much every group you can imagine: mushroom growers to alfalfa seed growers, Pep Boys, the Federal Reserve, and IT people. You name it, there’s an association for EVERYONE.

TwB: Where can readers find your speaking availability schedule?

McInnis: Generally, you can go to my website www.TheWorkLady.com, and you can always send me an email at Jan@TheWorkLady.com, if you have questions. I do a lot of work humor, so I go by The Work Lady which is why that’s my website.  Plus, no one can spell McInnis, so I had to use something else!

TwB: Where can readers purchase your book, Finding the Funny Fast?

McInnis: On my website www.TheWorkLady.com or through Amazon, although you save a buck or two by going to my website.

Note: I received a copy of Finding the Funny Fast for the purposes of this review and interview.  Read my full disclosure.

Top three considerations when purchasing children’s footwear

Spring is here!  It’s almost Easter, and I’m pretty excited to celebrate Resurrection Day.

Remember when I told you I’m making Calvin a cute bow tie for Easter?  Well, I printed out the pattern and picked out a fabric (it’s just leftovers of fabric I already have, and something I know he likes).  So, that’s as far as I’ve progressed on this project.  My hope is to get it mostly completed on Wednesday when I have time to breathe.  Can’t wait to share photos of the project with you.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided I’m going to dress him up for the special day in a crisp, button-down white shirt and brown corduroys, because they will look great with his fabulous bow tie that celebrates spring.  Oh, and let’s not forget the shoes.  Calvin’s going to wear my favorite children’s shoes by Pediped, the chocolate brown Kyle with the khaki stripe accent plus Pediped organic cotton ribbed trouser socks (so soft!).

After reviewing several styles and brands of toddler shoes, I’ve settled on a checklist of the top three considerations when purchasing shoes for children:

  1. Shoes for babies and toddlers should have a soft and flexible sole that doesn’t restrict the development of a child’s feet.  It’s the next best thing to barefoot–the way feet were meant to walk and develop for form and function.  Pediped’s new Memory Foam Technology that allows the shoe to mold to a child’s foot creating a custom insole that provides the ultimate in comfort.
  2. Functional shoes for kids need not scrimp on style.  Kids (and parents) want fun styles that don’t bear yesterday’s faddish character.  A child’s taste in shoes may be as fickle as his appetite–pick out a style that will  last the long haul–or at least as long as his feet fit them!  For the record, I think Pediped set a benchmark standard for little girls’ shoes with their Couture department.
  3. Durability is essential for children’s footwear.  I love flexible and cute shoes, but if they look like they lost a fight with the garbage disposal after one outing on a gravel driveway, then they’re not very practical for an active toddler. Period. I want a pair of shoes that can handle a mud puddle and a run around the yard and still look fairly sharp.

Durability shouldn’t mean lack of flexibility or style.  I want the whole enchilada, all three wonderful features.  Pediped combines well-constructed flexible design with durability and cute styles for a 1-2-3 winning combination.  By far, I think Pediped shoes are the best kids’ shoe on the market, and well worth the investment.

Pediped styles vary in price from $34 to $52 and sizes range from 0-2 (age 0-3 mos) to 5.5-6 (age 18-24 mos) in the Pediped Originals (for babies, cruisers, and beginning walkers) to sizes 5 (12 – 18 mos) through 12 (age 5) in the Pediped Flex.

YOUR TURN: What features in children’s footwear are most important to you when you’re making a purchase?  How often do you encourage your child(ren) to walk barefoot?

Note: I received a pair of Pediped shoes and organic socks to facilitate this review.

Warnge Juice, Please

Two weeks ago, my son was saying “warnge” juice.  Now, he articulates “orange” juice perfectly.  I did a double take when he asked for it yesterday.

Not only has my almost two-and-a-half-year-old improved his pronunciation of several words, but he’s developed a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.  I kid you not.

For example, tonight’s conversation…

“Calvin, how old are you?”

With a wide grin, “Two!”

“How old is Mommy?”


“What?  Where did you learn that?”

Belly laughs precede “Old! old!”


Okay, back to orange juice…

That’s the only juice we buy.  We don’t like juices that add extra sugar (definitely not something the body needs).  But, I like something other than water to add to smoothies (something I make almost daily for our family).

So…orange juice it is.

Here’s my latest favorite smoothie recipe:

Stress Relief Supreme Smoothie – rich in antioxidants and full of mouth-bursting flavor

Combine ingredients and purée in a high speed blender until smooth. Serve and enjoy your antioxidant refreshment!

Check out Tropicana’s Juicy Rewards where you can gain points from purchasing orange juice, grapefruit juice, and others to use toward fun family events, discounts on purchases, or you can donate your points to work with Cool Earth to save the rain forests.

I just used 9 points to get a 30% off coupon toward a purchase at Coleman’s for a sleeping bag for Calvin for our upcoming spring camping adventures.  Then, I donated 3 more points toward the Rain Forest.

YOUR TURN: How will you use your Tropicana Juicy Rewards points?

Note: I wrote this review while participating in the Tropicana Juicy Insiders Ambassador program by Mom Central on behalf of Tropicana. I received 12 free Juicy Rewards points and a $50 Visa gift card to use in redemption of the points and to facilitate my review.  Read my full disclosure policy.

I’m a Juicy Insider

Fresh squeezed orange juice at the peak of the season in winter is crisp and sweet with slightly tangy undertones.  Have you ever had fresh squeezed orange juice from sugar red navel oranges or honeybells?  It is a delight for the taste buds that every citrus lover must experience at least once.

Some of you may know that I lived in Florida for seven years.  Florida’s farmer’s markets share fresh squeezed orange juice with customers on a weekly basis.  Divine!

Although fresh-squeezed orange juice is harder to find outside of Florida (and California), Tropicana does a pretty good job to bring fresh flavors from the orange groves to the shelves of the local grocers.  It’s one of our household staples for creating rich and fruity smoothies, preventing apple wedges from oxidizing, and marinating chicken.

Besides creating great OJ, Tropicana has an exciting new rewards program–there’s over 20,000 ways to save money on running shoes, golf, massage therapy, and admission to the zoo, and even admission to Charlottesville’s own Ashlawn-Highland.  I’m excited to be a Juicy Insider in this new program!

One carton of Tropicana saves you $15.  Do the math, and three cartons save you $45.  That’s a month’s worth of family activities in savings!

If you’re more eco-savvy than day-trip happy, you can donate your points toward Rainforest Rescue.  For every 3 points you donate, 100 square feet of Rainforest are rescued.

According to the Tropicana Juicy Rewards website, 4,456,566 square feet of rainforest were saved through the Tropicana Juicy Rewards Program (and partnership with Cool Earth) to date.

Join the Juicy Rewards Program and start saving today.  It’s easy and free to sign-up.  Pssst.  Here’s a little secret.  Use the following code immediately after registering to receive 1 free point right from the start!   MOMCE-NTRAL*

This weekend, I’m using 1 point to get two for one admission into the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens with Calvin’s grandparents.  What will you do with your points?

I wrote this review while participating in the Tropicana Juicy Insiders Ambassador program by Mom Central on behalf of Tropicana. I received 12 free Juicy Rewards points and a $50 Visa gift card to use in redemption of the points and to facilitate my review.

American Greetings PhotoWorks {Review}

The tough part about living thousands of miles away from my family is that my son won’t get to know those who are so dear to me.  I may talk to them about the awesome things he does each day (that he wasn’t able to do six months ago), but they aren’t around to see the priceless expressions on his face.

Thank goodness for digital cameras.

It’s so easy to capture the joy and laughter sparkling in my son’s eyes with a quick snap of the lens.  Then, I have to get a little more proactive about it an edit the photo, and print it out, or (even better) publish it in a photo book to share with family.

I’ve done both, but the photo books are always a huge hit.  Want to know what to give grandparents or great grandparents for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or the Holidays?  Photo books of your family or kids are key–they’re priceless for family who don’t live in your same neighborhood.

So, now that you know exactly what you’re going to create for your parents and in-laws, which photo book site do you use? If you google “photo books”, no fewer than 30,700,000 results are available.

In the past two years, I’ve personally purchased photo books from five different companies, and I’ve created photo book projects on using a total of eight.

By far the most user-friendly site, the one that’s easiest to upload photos, and the fastest loading site for project updates is American Greetings PhotoWorks–specifically their new Studio books.

For example, instead of being confined to Javascript to upload photos, or the seemingly slow browser update that’s common to a number of photo book sites, American Greetings PhotoWorks gives you the simple option of drag and drop to select photos.  It’s THAT easy.  You don’t have to wonder if img_9891.jpg  (that you forgot to rename) is the actual image you want to upload, because you can literally see the thumbnail and drop it into the photo bucket. And, you’re done!

I created a Baby-themed studio book (Grayson), and there are three other options (wedding, travel, and everyday).  Each Studio book has the following features:

  • 8.5″ x 11″ hardcover book
  • Printed on archival quality paper
  • Features a stitched binding
  • $39.95 for 20 pages
  • $0.99 for each additional page (80 pages maximum)

The Baby-themed books are available in two options: Grayson (boy) and Madison (girl).  You’re not limited to the traditional baby blue and pastel pink pages, but there are options for you to select backgrounds in various colors that coordinate with the overall book theme.

For example, the Grayson book used turquoise, orange, brown, white, and pastel shades of those same colors throughout the book, plus stars, alphabet letters and numbers.  Since my son is no longer a “baby” {although he’ll always be MY baby}, I avoided the pages with onesies or the words baby.  However, that would have been GREAT for his first year book.  The background menu was easy to find, and simple to use.

Once I uploaded the photos I wanted to use, I just right-clicked and dragged it to where I wanted to place it on the page.  Once a little green “plus” sign popped up, I released the mouse, and the photo was set.

If I didn’t like the background, I changed it with ease.  If I wanted to put 3 photos on a page instead of two, then I could change the layout options with the layout menu.

If I didn’t like the way the PhotoWorks set a photograph by default, it was very easy to resize the photo or shift its positioning within the photo “frame” by simply using the mouse to click on an arrow indicating the direction I wanted to shift the photo, or a sliding scale to re-size a photograph.

Need more in-depth explanation of the menu options and how to work them effectively, then check out the tutorial video on the right sidebar of the Studio books site.  Hand-holding you to completion.  Nice.

Creating the studio book was super easy, and FAST.  Usually, I’ll spend a week creating a photo book on other websites because I’m waiting for the slow photo upload, or I’m fighting with the layout settings that aren’t quite working for my pictures.  I was truly amazed that the American Greetings Studio book creating process took me only one solid hour to build 20 gorgeous pages.

One hour of my time to create a loving gift that will be treasured over and over again for years.  That’s what I call a return on investment!

The completed 20-page book totaled $39.99 plus $8.99 for shipping and handling.  I submitted the completed project after doing a preview, and it was completed and processed less than 12 hours later.  FAST turnaround!

Overall, it was the most satisfying photo book creation process I’ve experienced to date because of the ease of use and the fact that it required so little of my time…plus, it was printed and shipped, STAT.  I will return to American Greetings PhotoWorks again to create studio books of our family travels and grandparent gifts for Christmas.

Note to American Greetings Photoworks: In future upgrades, I’d love to see more theme options.  Please don’t limit baby books to pinks and blues, but give more colors and thematic options.  I’d love to see a huge library of colors and themes for everyone’s taste.  A baby book with toile backgrounds in various colors–precious!  A book for kids with \colorful letters and numbers as backgrounds can help parents create a sign language or vocabulary book to share with their children.

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of American Greetings PhotoWorks and received a free photo book to facilitate my review.  Read my full disclosure policy.

Acquiring a Second Language

This weekend, we’re discussing learning by living.  Previously, we discussed age-appropriate chores and making work fun for small children.  I loved hearing about how you encourage real life learning and fun with your kids.

Along the vein of living and learning, acquiring a foreign language is invaluable.  It offers one the opportunity to think from a different perspective, and to travel unfettered to other countries where the language is spoken.  Is that the type of skill you would love to provide for your child?


I’m half-Chinese…hence my name: Dolly.  It’s easily pronounced in Chinese and English.  The Chinese meaning behind my name is more thoughtful and rich than its English counterpart (“wise jasmine flower”, in case you were wondering).  My parents rarely spoke to us in Chinese when my sister and I were little.  Usually, they only spoke to each other at a very fast cadence.  I do recall a handful of vocabulary words that my mother reiterated with me while I was growing up.

She was intent on improving her English, so she spoke English at home as often as possible.

My sister and I traveled to Taiwan (my mother’s native country) when I was 9 years-old.  In two weeks time, I was very conversant in Mandarin and Taiwanese, but since the languages were often intermixed by my relatives, I didn’t know one language from the other.  But, I understood what they were saying, and I could speak and sing well enough for native speakers to understand me.

Then, we returned home to the U.S.A where Chinese was completely foreign and weird to my small-town Texas classmates.  They laughed at me and called me names, and I dropped my Chinese tongue faster than you can say, “Scrat!”

Peer pressure stinks.

Then, I grew up.

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to take language and culture classes at a university in China.  It was a LOT harder to absorb the language as an adult compared to when I was a child, and I could simply soak it up like a sponge.  Living in foreign student housing with several other Americans meant that I didn’t have as much opportunity to use Chinese compared to English.  All my Chinese friends wanted to practice their English, too.  So, I got a great cultural education, but my Chinese skills didn’t improve as much as I’d hoped.

A few years later, I returned to my mother’s homeland of Taiwan to visit my family.  This time, I could get by in Mandarin, and I could distinguish the difference between the Taiwanese and Mandarin when my mother and aunts would flow in and out of each dialect from minute to minute.

My husband Steve and I at the Great Wall in 2006

A year later, I traveled with my husband and 4 other chiropractic school students plus a spouse to assist at a chiropractic clinic in Sichuan province, China.  My husband and I had to use our very broken and elementary Chinese to safely lead a group of people from one end of the country to another by plane, bus, and taxi.  We never got lost, and we made it to our checkpoints on time.  But, it was hard.  My brain was performing mental gymnastics with translations–my head hurt.


Learning a second language isn’t much different for children than learning the first one.  Pronunciation may still be a little off, but they quickly pick up the names of things and those names and words are reinforced even stronger through memorable songs.

As part of his cultural heritage, and the fact that one-fifth of the world’s population speaks Chinese, we want to encourage our son to begin learning Chinese now.

For Calvin, it’s not exactly rigorous work, learning is fun!  I’ve taught Calvin some of the basic nouns for body parts, favorite foods, and a few verbs for basic greetings and polite phrases.

A great method to teach Chinese to young children is the DVD and flashcard immersion system Baby Learns Chinese–developed by Hong Kong-based mother of two, Yama Chan.

According to Ms. Chan, “I created the program to teach children of native and non-native speakers the language.  Our program has had strong success in Hong Kong, and we are excited to share the learning with parents in the US.”

This creative system to teach Chinese to young children is inspired by Dr. Glenn Doman’s book How to Teach Your Baby to Read.

Baby Learns Chinese is targeted at children ages 0 to 6.  Popular childrens’ tunes are sung with Chinese lyrics and set to colorful animation, photographs of associated objects or actions, and video images of children performing an action in relation to a Chinese phrase such as touch your nose, or touch your knees, etc.

There are over ten products in the system to provide children a basic grasp of the language (and parents can perfect their pronunciation).  The entire system teaches children over 400 words in Mandarin Chinese through six DVDs.  English subtitles are available to assist parents (I keep them in simplified or traditional Chinese).

For older children, ages 4-12, there’s a 2-disc DVD set for kids to learn Chinese pronunciation through an alphabet-based phonetics system called Pinyin.

From my experience of learning Pinyin (based on the pronunciation of the Cyrillic alphabet), it’s much easier to learn the words and tones or sounds by hearing, and not by reading.

Baby Learns Chinese sent us DVD 1 (body, counting, colour & shapes) and DVD 4 (sports) for review.

Each individual DVD has 1 or 3 episodes that run from 15-20 minutes.  The average running time per DVD is 40 minutes.  English subtitles are available, and each DVD allows the option to show characters in traditional or simplified Chinese (the pronunciation is the same for both).

Mom’s Perspective:

My son loves the songs sung by Chinese children, the video footage of children, and the easy-to-understand voice of the adult woman narrating the words.  All the images, words and phrases are reinforced with repetition and multiple images or videos.

My son eagerly asks for his “Chinese show” multiple times a day.  When the DVDs play, he repeats every single word after the narrator first says them.  Most of the time, he sounds just like the narrator, other times, I can tell he’s missing a nuance of pronunciation–but, he’s two years-old…we’re still working on English pronunciation, too!

Even when the Baby Learns Chinese DVDs aren’t playing, at random times throughout the day, he’ll speak in Chinese while pointing to his corresponding body part.  At age two, my son is becoming bilingual in a non-bilingual home.

I’m very pleased with the quality of these DVD’s.  Animation, photography, video, songs, and reinforced vocabulary through repetition is a fantastic method of learning.  We love the Baby Learns Chinese DVDs 1 and 4 so much that we’re going to purchase the others!

Buy it:

The 6 DVDs are available individually, or in two types of boxed sets.  The Blue Boxed Set includes the first 3 DVDs and the blue flash cards with traditional Chinese characters on one side, and simplified characters on the reverse ($68.99).  The Green boxed-set includes DVDs 4-6, plus the green box of flash cards ($68.99). Individual Baby Learns Chinese DVDs retail for $22.89 each.  They’re available directly through the Baby Learns Chinese website or through Amazon.com.

NOTE: I have not reviewed the flash cards with my son.  However, from the website, I can tell that they have either a simplified or traditional character on each side.  The flash cards would be more effective if the characters were combined with photographed images corresponding to the words.  I have seen the picture-word method work first-hand with my son regarding English words and reading.

YOUR TURN: Do you have a bilingual (or multilingual) home?  If not, at what age would you like to encourage your child to learn a second language?  What language teaching methods do you like or would you like to try with your child?