Wednesday, November 25, 2015

MommyCon came to Seattle...and I went!

For the last few years my blogging bestie, That Mama Gretchen, and I have been pining away for a conference that we can attend together and to piggyback a mom's night out on. It's not easy, you know, when you've got two mamas who are on alternating years for pregnancies and birthing babies! But the fates aligned; MommyCon was coming to Seattle and even though Gretchen was in the final stages of her pregnancy with Baby #3 and I had not yet taken a night away from Ruby, we did it. We did it!

We split a hotel room at Motif, where the conference was to be held the following morning. After battling Friday evening Seattle traffic we checked and quickly made our way down to Frolick for an evening snack and a drink for me. There's something about a friendship that allows you to pick up and catch up with each other's lives, without missing a beat, even though it's been almost a year since we last saw each other in person. Well, keeping up with each other's blogs and social media kind of helps that.

Neither of us knew what to expect from MommyCon, even though we had heard great reviews. We stayed up late, talking about woven wraps, birth stories (one of our favorite repeat conversations), blogging life and real life. It was well after 1am before I shut my eyes and I couldn't wait for the following morning.

So what can I say about MommyCon? I was completely unprepared for exactly how great of a day that I would have. All of the vendors - spot on. I loved chatting with each business and met some people I had chatted with online and met new favorites. The brands ranged from cloth diapers, breast feeding support, babywearing, mama cloth, natural products for children and mama and so much more.

Between checking out the booths I attended several great talks - Cloth Diapering led by Jennifer Labit (owner of Cotton Babies), Wrapping 101, Co-sleeping and Beyond (so my life right now), Sex After Baby and Boobs and Bottles (both by Jessica Martin-Weber, AKA The Leaky Boob). I was so thankful that they were spaced out throughout the day because if I had to choose between any of those I'm sure my heart would have broken. Each of the vendors were so helpful and not pushy at all, which just makes everything so much better. I also was the lucky winner of a Cassiope Woven wrap that was a MommyCon exclusive - more about that later - but the excitement of their scavenger hunt was a fun addition to the day.

MommyCon is more than just a conference; it was a rejuvenation of what it means to be a mama. There were so many examples of a mother there, whether they breastfeed, bottlefeed, wore their baby in a soft structured carrier, wrapped them methodically, pushed them in a stroller or what was covering their bottom. It didn't matter if she had spikey rainbow hair or wore her business casual suit to attend. We were all there for the same reason - to gain community in this great journey of life and to better ourselves. For the first time in a very long time I was in a room with hundreds of other women and rather than worrying about the Mommy Wars, we all came together as we are.

Stay tuned, because the 2016 MommyCon season starts up soon!

Did you go to any of the MommyCon conferences?
Tell me about your favorite part!
Don't miss That Mama Gretchen's 7 favorite things about MommyCon post too!
Disclosure: I attended MommyCon Seattle 2015 as a media member and received a complimentary ticket. But seriously, I am so glad that I went and I plan on going any other time that this awesome event comes to my local area. And you should too!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Guest Post: The Rise of Handmade and Artisan Goods in Interior Design

The Rise of Handmade and Artisan Goods in Interior Design
 Interior design is fascinating. Our surroundings have a very real emotional impact on us. I continue to be inspired by how a person’s home design and decor can shape the way they feel and, therefore, how they live their life.  The ever-changing world of interior design makes room for new designs and trends every season. One trend that has been on the rise for nearly a decade, and is at an all-time high, is the desire for handmade items.  Rugs, pillows, fabrics, baskets, vases and light fixtures are just a few of the unlimited bounty of handmade products. Many artisans are returning to the handcrafted process that defined design before the industrial revolution. And many interior designers are sourcing those very same artisan goods. Why is this? 

 First, designing with handmade pieces allows a person to express individuality. These products are unique. Who wants shelves full of manufactured knickknacks when you can have an assortment of items that possess originality and authenticity? Handmade items can add to interior design what no other items can-imperfections. I love the juxtaposition of a smooth, manufactured surface with an oddly shaped or textured handmade item gracing the top of it. These organic imperfections add a certain depth to a room’s décor.  

We can also consider that designers and consumers alike appreciate the story behind a piece. How was it made? Where was it made? And who made it? People like to know that they are supporting a particular artist or artisan and are much more dedicated to mindful spending-respecting every dollar they spend as an extension of themselves.
The desire for better quality products has also played a key role in this trend. It is widely believed that many mass-produced items are poorly manufactured and that handmade and artisan sourced goods are of higher quality. Consumers are thinking long-term in their purchases and are aiming for sustainability.
I think it is safe to call this handmade trend a long-lasting movement. With the rise in ecommerce sites like Etsy and Amazon Handmade, sourcing handmade and artisan goods, both globally and locally, is just a click away. This movement isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And I must say, as an artisan myself, I could not be more pleased!
Rebecca resides in Washington where she is a stay at home mom to her two beautiful children. She is thrilled at the continued opportunity to carve out her own future with her handcrafted home décor shop.  
“Trust not what inspires other members of society to choose a career. Trust what inspires you.”

 Shop Rebecca's handmade décor items:
**All new** Amazon Handmade

I am excited to kick off the holiday season with a giveaway from Simply Lyon! Rebecca handcrafts her beautiful woven baskets and is offering a basket to a lucky Pierogie Mama reader. This hand-woven basket will add a cozy and delicate touch to your home. A perfect place to keep towels, blankets and other items organized. Keep in a nursery or child's room to store toys or stuffed animals. Or simply display the basket itself as part of a room's décor. The options are limitless! (Dimensions: Height-8",Width-13.5") The winner will get to choose the color yarn for the handles and/or weaving.

Disclosure: The Pierogie Mama is not responsible for prize fulfillment.
No compensation was provided for this post.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Why cloth pads are the bomb & review of Öko Creations Cloth Pads

I've been a "mama cloth"/ "R.U.M.P.S" / "cloth pad" user for almost two years - and it all started when I dove into this for my postpartum with Ruby. Talk about jumping into the deep end!

Since that time I've had about 9 cycles and I'm so glad that I've made the complete switch to reusable menstrual products. I'm a cloth diapering mom, so it made sense to also make a change for myself. Periods, menstruation or "Aunt Flo" aren't really topics of conversation that we usually have in our culture but let's just unveil that stigma for a second and talk about a few really key points on why cloth pads are the bomb.

1. Your period overall will be better. Many women report that by switching to cloth pads that their cramps aren't as painful and their periods are lighter and shorter. I can personally attest to that! Mine used to last about 9 days prior to switching to cloth and now I average about 5 days. One might call me a conspiracy theorist, but part of me wonders if all those extra chemicals in disposable products affect the menstrual cycle to last longer because that means you need more of their products and they get more money. Even disregarding that, cloth is a beneficial alternative because you are now removing that chemical contact with your body. Montsano stays out of my vagina.

2. Cloth pads are way prettier than disposables!  I actually look forward to my period because I get to look at the pretty patterns. I know that parents get hit with the "fluffy bug" when it comes to prints and cloth diapers...but seriously, I was not prepared for the level of excitement when I saw unicorn print pads. It's a little empowering, isn't it? Instead of the blah pads from the store you get to choose what you like and it kind of represents you. You might quickly find yourself re-evaluating the hum drum boringness of another cycle to thinking about the great social impact it has on you and all of mankind. But I digress, that is a very deep topic for another day!

3. You will save boat loads of money. In this day and age, women menstruate for about 40 years or more. Think about your average cost of disposable products per month. Cloth pads can be an "expensive" start, just like cloth diapers or most other reusable alternatives, but the long term financial benefits outweigh greatly. Take this: you spend $8 on disposables per month, which comes out to $3840 (without any breaks for pregnancy, postpartum, etc) in your fertile lifetime. Instead, you purchase a starter stash of 8 pads (for a conservative 2 day stash) and you have an investment of $80 that will last you many years.

4. You're being earth friendly. Pads, tampons and disposable diapers take 500-800 years to decompose. As mentioned in Reason #3, your stash will easily last you 3-5 years. Meanwhile, you are no longer adding a disposable impact on our Earth. The process of creating disposable products is also very damaging to our environment.

So now that I've gotten you on the cloth pad band wagon, let me introduce these lovelies to you.

 Öko Creations won my heart last fall with the ever adorable snail hat and I was so excited to get to try cloth menstrual pads out. I've become a bit of a pad addict due to my current endeavor and found it serendipitous that my cycle started the day after I prepped these.

Like other Öko Creations products the material and build quality was excellent.  Öko Creations is a family owned and run business with deep roots in eco-ethics in the textiles they choose and actions within their workshop. This is a business who not only cares about my lady-business but the impact of their work too.

The topper and core are an organic cotton and hemp blend, meaning they are extremely dense and absorbent. The feeling of the natural fibers is soft and helps you feel dry. You don't have the issue of 'compression leaking' like you might with other core choices. Like many cloth pads, it includes a hidden waterproof layer to prevent leaking; but it's not PUL like most. In fact, it is the first pad that I am aware of to use a breathable waterproof layer that is best related to Saran-wrap. The result is a very trim pad with high absorption efficiency.  The wings that snap together under your underwear to prevent shifting. Even though they are trim, I have zero problem using them overnight. These have quickly become a favorite!
You can buy them online and follow on facebook instagram pinterest
Disclosure: I received complimentary product in exchange for my honest review.
No other compensation was provided.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mama survival hour with Bumble Bee SuperFresh Ahi Tuna

Traveling spouses. I tell ya, it's rough. On all parties involved.

My husband was traveling for at least 30% of his work up until a couple months ago. Every few weeks he'd be off for a convention or project support meeting. While it was a necessary part of his position, it was one that quickly lost it's allure. Travel for business can be fun, don't get me wrong - the schmoozing, new places and prestige. But as my husband and I quickly realized, it wasn't something for us. Missing my husband and co-parent for a week at a time every month or so wasn't fun. The girls weren't happy to see daddy go either.

Thankfully a couple months ago my husband took a new position where he has to travel much less. This past week he was called away to support a project and we kind of gave that collective groan. But just as he had become a seasoned traveler and was able to quickly pack a bag, I too had learned a few tricks on how to handle his absence.

In addition to how to help the children cope with a traveling parent, I gave myself something to look forward to- mama survival hour. It was an hour that I set aside for myself at the end of the day, no matter what, that I would do something for myself. It varied from a show or movie that I never got to watch because the husband or kids aren't interested, a sewing or craft project to getting ahead on the blogging game. On this particular night I planned a grown up only culinary delight.

Bumble Bee recently rolled out a new line of fancy-schmancy meals (Bumble Bee SuperFresh) that I had been excited to try out but knew I needed to wait for mama survival hour. Bumble Bee SuperFresh® is a complete line of naturally-seasoned, restaurant quality, “fish-forward” prepared seafood solutions for the home. It raises the bar for what seafood lovers can expect from frozen food! I picked out the seared ahi tuna and thawed it in the fridge for 3 hours. Sushi was a favorite evening girls night while I was in college so I anticipated this with much excitement.

Once the kidlets were down for the count (THANK GOODNESS), mama survival hour began. I poured a glass of my favorite Riesling and festively added a couple slices of fresh ginger. A simple dish with soy sauce accompanied the ahi and I quietly sat down, mulled over the fresh fish flavors and sipped my wine. In peace.

You can also enjoy Bumble Bee SuperFresh® Ahi Tuna with a side of soy sauce and wasabi, in a classic Nicoise Salad or served alongside your favorite seafood accompaniments.  Being a seafood lover (we enjoy fish about once a week), I approach frozen fish with trepidation. Have you ever thawed fish in your fridge? The smell! And you never know how the texture is going to be. I was surprised that not only did my fridge not smell like fish but also that the texture of the tuna was maintained. That's because during the preparation process, Bumble Bee freezes the fish during the processing and never fully defrosts the whole piece while the tuna is being seasoned and seared. Pretty much like what you'd find from the professionally trained sushi chef's cutting board. The SuperFresh line uses the term “fish forward” - you'll find that the fish is simple and eloquently seasoned and very easy to see what you are eating (no blankets of breading or sauces!). When browsing the SuperFresh website I was really happy to see their transparency in ingredients and sourcing. You'll find them in the frozen aisle - there's tons of different dishes available from Bumble Bee.

Tell me - do you have a mama survival hour? What do you do?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Pad Project: Update on Operation Christmas Child

A few weeks ago I shared about The Pad Project; a service project that a friend and I dreamed up to sew cloth menstrual pads to send to girls in developing countries.

Our first goal was to send pads over via Operation Christmas Child, a project funded by The Samaritan Purse. My MOPS group has participated in Operation Christmas Child for two years. This year we have 12 tables of about 10 women each and individual tables chose a boy or girl in a certain age group to prepare a box for. The shoe boxes are filled gifts and items for children are sent all around the world. Kelsey and I saw this as a perfect first vehicle in getting our pads over to parts of the world where girls would need them. The Samaritan Purse allows menstrual products for the 10-14 age group for girls so we asked each table to let us know if they are selecting a girl in that age group. We initially anticipated 8 boxes for girls in that age group, so our hope was to give a minimum of 4 pads per box, with the great hope of giving them up to 8.

Through the awesome donations of material, snaps, PUL, time and prayers we had 88 pads, 40 boosters (thinner wingless pads that can be placed on top of the pad for additional absorbancy), a small PUL clutch that holds 3 used pads at a time, a few bars of soap AND 3-4 pairs of underwear per box ready this morning!

Another great surprise and blessing was...8 additional boxes were ready to get more pads! There were enough extra donated items (such as pencils, sewing kits, coloring books, hair brushes) that filled 8 additional boxes for the girls 10-14 age group. So The Pad Project has an additional goal of making 40-50 more pads to fill those new boxes before the shipping deadline on November 16th.


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