Archive for the 'reviews' Category


Yarn Shops

I’ve really gotten into knitting lately. One of the consequences is that I am now very snooty when it comes to my yarn. I pretty much ignore anything with “acrylic” on the label, which means that Michael’s and JoAnn’s are pretty much useless as far as yarn goes for me. Acrylic yarns just seem to pill and get nasty feeling so quickly, and if I’m going to spend hours (or months!) on a project, I want it to last forever. Local yarn shops to the rescue!! In November we got a new shop here in Moscow called the Yarn Underground. It’s small, and it’s underground, but it’s a noble attempt for our little town. I want all you locals to know about it so that you will go there and buy things so they can stick around and build up their inventory. I got some great Frog Tree Meriboo in pink and brown and made a fun little striped hat for B to match her new winter coat. Nice to work with and very cozy for a little girl’s hat.

My second resource is A Grand Yarn up in Spokane. It’s a bit of a drive for us locals, but it’s easy to tack it on to a normal Spokane shopping trip (you can just go south on Bernard to Grand, hit the shop, and then continue south to take Hatch road out of Spokane and hit the Starbucks by Albertson’s for your drive-home-caffeine). This shop is a dream. They have a huge selection of so many lovely things that I just kind of walk around in circles drooling. They also have lots of great examples of projects that are very inspiring. My brilliant husband gave me a gift certificate here for Christmas and I’m very excited to make some fun stuff with their yarn. They have all of the Cascade basics, but then they add some great specialty yarns so you will have a hard time deciding what to use for your next project. There’s also a great little spot for the kiddos to play while you shop. I highly recommend it, but don’t go in if you don’t know what you’re planning to make because otherwise you’ll be tempted to walk out with bags and bags of beautifulness because it’s just all so yummy.



I have to plug this dvd set. My four year old loves it, and it seems to be working wonders. She got it for Christmas and now knows her letters along with all their sounds. I’m pretty sure that it’s not groundbreaking for a four year old to know her letters, but I’m pretty pleased with the fact that she learned them just from these DVDs. I’ll be honest and say that I am not patient when it comes to teaching my girls “school-type” stuff. I did not do well as a home-schooled child and I do not do well as a home-schooling mother, so I really appreciate things like this. B can write most of the letters now too, and has even managed to write “MOM” a time or two (Daddy helped with that, though).

The first DVD (Letter Factory) has all the capital letters and their sounds. The second DVD (Talking Words Factory) puts the letters together phonetically to spell and sound out words. The third DVD (Let’s Go To School) teaches about what school will be like and days of the week and seasons, etc. We’ve been very pleased with the results!


the paris brest at madeleine’s

We went to brunch this morning at a wonderful little cafe/patisserie called Madeleine’s here in Spokane. It was absolutely amazing. We started with a chocolate eclair, a pepto-pink macaron de Paris for the 4 year old, a brioche cinnamon roll (amazing in and of itself and voted the best in Spokane), and then the paris brest. It was a choux pastry topped with slivered almonds and filled with some amazing sort of cream. Some recipes simply call for whipped cream but the one we had this morning was more like a cross between whipped cream and ice cream. I suppose you could say that it was similar to a cream puff, but about ten times as big (do a google image search for ‘paris brest’ and you’ll see what I mean). The name comes from the 1200 km bicycle race from Paris to Brest and back to Paris. Apparently the pastry was created in honor of the race and shaped like a bicycle wheel. It became very popular with the athletes for two reasons – its amazing flavor and high caloric content! If you ever see one on the menu, you simply must try it.

And if you are ever in Spokane for breakfast, you simply must go to Madeleine’s. Actually, they serve lunch and dinner as well, so you could go then too. After all of the aforementioned pastries, we also got a corned beef hash with red peppers topped with two over easy eggs. We ordered it all at the same time, but got our pastries first. After we were halfway through our pastries we felt full and weren’t sure we’d be able to eat our corned beef hash, but when it arrived it was so delicious that we both cleaned our plates. The coffee was also quite good – my white chocolate mocha was very tasty and the white chocolate wasn’t all collected at the bottom (a common problem, especially at sbux). Suffice it to say, we will be going back and we would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Spokane!


cream whippers

….are something everyone ought to have. I thought about making a concession to people who may be watching their caloric intake, but I’ve decided not to. Even those people need these, if only for use on their Sunday morning cup of coffee. If you’re going to watch your intake all week, then the day that you can splurge ought to be done in the most enthusiastic way possible. With fresh whipped cream.

Cream whippers are also vital to any kitchen that ever serves children. Need a way to add a bit of pizzazz to pancakes? Fresh whipped cream. Chocolate milk? Fresh whipped cream. Fruit salad? Hot chocolate? Pound cake? You get the idea. And using a cream whipper instead of whipping it up in a kitchen aid or other stand mixer gives you the ability to make fun designs and stuff to make it all the more exciting and special.

And for those of you who are not watching your caloric intake (at least not too closely!) – ah, let me tell you of the joys that a cream whipper can bring. Coffee. Desserts. Waffles. Chai spice rice pudding. The possibilities are endless, and the convenience is unmatched when you have your own cream whipper waiting for you in your fridge, ready to dispense this cloudy creamy goodness.

Why not just buy the cans of whipped cream? Well, first of all, they don’t taste as good. Secondly, you can’t be creative with them. When you mix up your own, you can add anything! Think vanilla syrup, for starters. Then branch out to hazelnut. Now start thinking about things like dark spiced rum when mixing up a batch for your pumpkin pies this fall. You can mix pretty much anything in to give your whipped cream that one of a kind delicious flavor.

Cost. It can be daunting. You could spend anywhere from $30 to $150 on a cream whipper. So maybe you ask for it for Mother’s Day or Christmas. For the cook who has it all, this is a great gift.

What size? I was given this whipper for Christmas. The half pint works well, but the pint sized one would be nice. You use the same sized chargers for the half pint and pint, so with the pint you’re getting a much better value out of each charger. The cream lasts in the whipper for two weeks (or so I’ve heard – mine has always been used up well before the two or even one week mark!), so you don’t have to worry about it spoiling. Also, if you have guests over it would be nice to have the larger size – my half pint barely made enough to garnish 3 cups of coffee and 5 pieces of chocolate torte.

So put it on your wish list or send your husband/kids a link to this post as a not-so-subtle-hint. Then you too can enjoy honey vanilla pound cake like this.


review: Fisher Price Papasan Cradle Swing

This is the Fisher Price Papasan Cradle Swing.

This swing was given to me about 3 1/2 years ago by the wonderful ladies who I worked with at Crossroads Nursery. I hadn’t originally planned on getting a baby swing (all I knew of were those wind up ratchety things that creak and sway in old church nurseries), but I was more than willing to take this one as a gift! My boss said that her niece swore by this thing, so I figured why not give it a try. After all, it looks pretty cool and cozy and I know I sure wouldn’t mind curling up in one if they made it in my size!

The good stuff.
We started using this swing for B the day after we brought her home. She loved the gentle rocking motion, and it really does cradle babies oh-so-cozily. We could swaddle her up and tuck her in between the cushy headrests and not even bother with the buckles (but we would leave it on the lowest setting, just to be safe). So for the first week we kind of thought of it as a fun place to put her. After the first week, when Andrew went back to work, I began to see it as The-Most-Important-Thing-I-Owned. As an infant, B insisted upon behind held all the time, and greatly preferred it if we held her while we were walking around. As you can imagine (and as some of you probably know from experience), this can be a bit problematic especially when one wants to take a shower and is the only adult home. So for those times when I simply had to put her down (usually just for my shower and the putting on of make-up) this swing came to my rescue. She could lie here contented for a good half hour and that was just enough time to get done what I needed to.

The speed settings worked well, although we really just left it on the lowest one for the first few months because she was so light that that would get it going fast enough. As she got bigger we probably bumped it up a notch or two.

The music isn’t bad, but B never really got into it.

The mirror on top for the kiddos to look at was a hit, as were the spinning birds, butterflies, and leaves (we had the Nature’s Touch version). B loved to stare at herself in the mirror as she’d swing side to side…I think we even got some fun videos of that when she was little.

The not-so-good stuff.
I have two complaints with this swing. First, it runs on batteries. It would be so much nicer if one could just plug it into the wall (they may have remedied this in the past 3 years). That said, in the 8 or so months that we used it I think we only replaced the batteries once or twice and as you may have gathered from what I wrote above, we used it a lot. Secondly, the base is a bit large. The legs spread out quite far in order to steady the swing and this makes it a bit difficult to tuck the swing into a corner. So if you live in a smallish apartment (or a house of a smaller scale), be prepared for the swing to make quite a dent in your floor space.

Final thoughts.
For me, the pros waaaayyyy out weigh the cons. I would have this thing sitting in the middle of my kitchen if that was the only way I could fit it into my house, and I would give up my Starbucks for a week (yes! even as a new mother!) to buy the batteries. Fortunately, these are so popular now that they can be fairly easily found on Craigslist or other resale places for about half of what they cost new. But even with a price tag of anywhere from $110 to $280 (depending on which design you get), it’s a fantastic investment in my opinion. I can’t wait to pull ours out in a few weeks and get it all set up for Baby E!


review: IO wrap top

I’ve given up on trying to find non-maternity related things to post about here and I’m just going to start writing about all that is on my mind lately – maternity and babies! The first thing that I’m going to do is start a new category for the ol’ blog, and that is the “review” category. I plan to review things (probably mostly maternity/baby things) in an effort to smarten up all your buying for baby!

This is the Isabella Oliver Wrap Around top.
I first fell in love with these shirts when I was pregnant with B, but I couldn’t afford to splurge on them then. In fact, I still can’t afford to splurge on them, but eBay seems to be bursting with some IO products and I was able to get this shirt in the lovely red color at a nice discount, so it was doable. Nothing like indulging in a pricey but beautiful piece of clothing to make you really excited about that new baby bump!
The shirt is basically a little cropped top with really long ties that you end up wrapping all the way around and down your belly. Once you get the hang of wrapping it, it’s not too hard. The deep V neck necessitates a camisole for most occasions, but having the camisole underneath kind of helps hold the shirt in place so it’s not really a bad thing.

First, the good stuff.
This shirt is absolutely perfect for those first “tween” months when your normal shirts may be a bit small but the maternity shirts (unless you get an XS) look like potato sacks. You actually wrap it around your body to fit snugly and so it does a great job of showing off the beginnings of your baby bump. It’s basically made to fit. They come in beautiful colors that will go with just about anything, and it’s the sort of style that you can dress up with a black pencil skirt and stilettos or dress down with a pair of jeans and boots.

Now, the not good stuff.
For a regular retail price of $125, I expected this shirt to be made of some really fantastic fabric. I was a bit disappointed to see that it was a pretty run of the mill knit, and the stitching around the hems wasn’t very well done (but I did buy this shirt slightly used, so it could be a result of laundering and I’ll try not to hold that against the company).

I’m not a particularly long torso-ed person, but the wrap around ties on this shirt are barely long enough to cover my 4-month belly. The ties need to be at least 2′ longer to fully cover the belly and get any kind of nicely hanging bow at the side.

I’m not a fan of having to constantly ask my husband if “there are any holes”. Since the shirt is just wrapped around, you have to keep an eye out for gaps between the wraps, which can happen fairly easily if you do a lot of bending or turning. Wearing the camisole helps to lessen the gapping, but it’s still a little unnerving.

Final thoughts.
If I’d ordered this from the company, I probably would’ve sent it back because in my opinion it’s just not worth $125. But having gotten it at a decent price, I’m relatively satisfied and wear it maybe once every two weeks, mostly for occasions where I really want to look pregnant. So if you can get it on eBay for a good price (or make your own – wouldn’t be hard at all), I recommend it, but otherwise, use your $125 to buy 5 tops on sale at the Gap.