Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Last Good-Bye Pic Before Bapa and Oma Returned to NH

Last Good-Bye Pic Before Bapa and Oma Returned to NH.  I love it as a gif.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Review of the Ingenuity Washable Playard with Dream Centre

I am excited to be writing a review of the Ingenuity Washable Playard with Dream Centre.  I will start with full disclosure and state that while I received this product from the company for free to review, these statements and this review is 100% honest and unbiased.

This is a unique review for me because instead of trying the product for just a few days, I have been actively using this product in my home for approximately 6 weeks now.  This is not because I have been lazy about writing the review; this is because I don't take a review of this product lightly. Playards are huge and expensive, two things that can be difficult to swallow if you are an urban parent.

The features of this product, as listed by the manufacturer, include:
  • Fabrics easily remove for machine washing
  • Dream Centre features soft fabrics and breathable mesh
  • One Less Step: quickly fold and go without removing bassinet
  • Just Right Height: Elevated changing table easily pivots out of the way
  • Soothing Sounds Station: 5 melodies and 3 nature sounds to comfort baby
I live in beautiful downtown Vancouver, and this means I have an apartment and limited space.  The baby items that come into this apartment have to be carefully selected because even a single square foot of space is precious.  This means that every baby item we own has to be:

- Useful
- Practical
- Necessary

After 6 weeks of using this product, I can honestly say without a doubt that it has become our #1 most useful, practical, and necessary baby item. Below is my 100% completely honest review of this product.

I will start by saying that we do not own a crib of any sort.  There simply isn't the space.  With Aias I side-carred the crib to our bed, but our current master bedroom does not have the space for this so the crib was given away to a friend months before we even conceived Azriel.  The plan was to get a larger bed for ourselves and then co-sleep.  However, having a place for the baby to nap alone safely is also of the utmost importance.

We have a modest sized master bedroom and this is where we chose to place the playard.  As you can see, we put it next to our queen sized bed.  The playard consists of 3 main parts:

- The bassinet
- The change table
- The playard itself

When you take the playard out of the box, it is set for a newborn or a baby that cannot yet pull his or herself up.  You can see from the picture that the floor of the playard is raised.  This is so you can easily access the baby.

Putting the playard together, straight out of the box, took me 13 minutes from start to finish without ever having assembled it before.  This was a major plus to me because I have a 4-year-old child running around and babies only like to be sitting on their own while you complete an activity for a very limited amount of time.

Assembly was very easy.

I was pleased to see that the walls of the playard were made of a totally breathable, see-through mesh.

This means that if my baby is sleeping in the playard, and I am sleeping in my bed, I can actually see through the mesh to check on the baby.  This may seem like an insignificant feature, but in my previous playard this part of the infant setting was not see-through, and I was repeatedly sitting up to check on the baby.  This can get very tedious.

I will talk about the main playard itself, but first I want to talk about the Dream Centre and Change Table features.

The Dream Centre feature is mainly the bassinet.  You can see it is attached to the playard frame and has a hood and some toys that dangle:

The sides of the bassinet have the same breathable mesh. I find that the hood is not particularly useful as it doesn't cover enough of the bassinet to prevent light from getting to the child's eyes, and the baby seems ambivalent about the dangling animals, but the bassinet itself is a life saver.  You can't really tell from this photo, but it actually sits at an angle.  It isn't enough of an angle to compare to a bouncer or anything, but it's a nice alternative to being completely flat.  It's a lovely and safe place to rest the baby when you aren't necessarily putting them to sleep in the main playard.  Although I have to say that we put him in this spot 3-5 times every day, and 50% of the time he falls asleep.  He will also stay asleep!  As I type this, he is asleep in the bassinet!

He's very comfortable in this position (pardon the waving hands!).  In this photo he is 4 months old and weighs approximately 16 lbs, and he is quite tall.  He is still very comfortable in the bassinet.  I received this product when he was over 2 months old and I was a little sad thinking I wouldn't be able to use the bassinet portion but he still seems to be enjoying it and I suspect he will for several more weeks.

This would have been invaluable to have had when he was a newborn!

The next part I want to talk about is the change table.  I could not live without this change table.  We actually own a change table that also doubles as a full-sized dresser that lives in Aias's bedroom, but it is the type that doesn't have high sides so you must always have a hand on the baby at all times and you most certainly cannot walk away.  The change table on the Ingenuity Washable Playard is completely different; it is deep, solid, and you can feel 100% safe walking away to grab something (a diaper, new wipes, bum cream, the phone) while your pre-sitting up baby is laying in it:

Next to the change table itself is my absolute favourite part of this entire set-up, second only to the fact that it is washable:  the caddy!

I am in love with this caddy.  My diapers, my wipes, and my bum cream and hand sanitizer are RIGHT THERE next to the changing table when I need them.  It's incredibly convenient. The pockets are large and deep enough to hold both cloth and disposable diapers, but they aren't too big to be a nuisance.

Now here's another absolute favourite feature of this change table...

See these little clips:

You simply undo two of those clips and baddabing, baddaboom...

The change table slides out of the way entirely!  When you need it again, you just flip it and snap two clips into place and it's ready for use.

This is a huge improvement over my last 2 playards, where you had to unclick the entire change table and place it somewhere in the room if you wanted to access the main playard.

Once you have moved the change table out of the way, the playard looks like this:

Now, even though the bassinet is still there, this is actually plenty of space for a newborn, or an infant that can't yet roll:

Once the baby is too big to fit into that space, you can easily move the bassinet for more room.  Most likely the bassinet would be outgrown at that point anyway, even if you have a larger baby.

The only thing I would change about this, is I would have the bassinet be movable in the same way that the change table is, but as you can see from my set-up, that wouldn't have been particularly useful to me anyway.

So far I have used this playard 100% for sleep and diaper changing purposes and it is really exceeding my expectations.  The beauty of it is that if I needed that space next to my bed for anything, even temporarily, I could just really easily break the whole thing down and put it aside.  You can't generally do that with a crib or change table.

Finally, I want to talk about the most important feature of this playard, the fact that it is washable.

A playard that is washable is a huge deal, because quite frankly, they don't really exist.  I have owned several playards because I have a family child care and some playards are approved as safe sleeping devices in registered family child cares in British Columbia (it will say inside the playard if it is safe for sleeping or not).

Cleaning a playard that is not washable is a hellish process that is anything but convenient or easy.  The main "mattress" of a playard is generally comprised of 4 boards connected with fabric.  In a playard that cannot be washed (most playards), this means that if you have to clean it, you need to take the whole thing out and scrub it. It doesn't bend, so it can't be put through a washer.  It requires you dismantle the entire thing, spray it with vinegar, and leave it outside in the sun to dry for about 48 hours.  I would have to do it on Friday night if I wanted to be able to use it for Monday, and if it rained I was hooped. 

To clean this playard you simply unhook the fabric, and put it in the washer and dryer.

The fabric of the change table also can be washed.

If you decide to save money and cut some corners on a playard that can't easily  be washed, and it turns out that you use the playard often, you will be certain to regret that decision.  Even the cleanest of babies usually puke or have a diaper explosion at least once, and cleaning it off an unwashable play yard is about as fun as cleaning puke off a carseat.  It isn't something you want to mess around with.

I think this is a beautiful playard, but frankly, I would choose this playard over an unwashable playard even if it only came in the most hideous print I have ever seen.  The washable feature is honestly that desirable.  The dream centre and change table are icing on the cake.

I saw this product at Babies R Us at Metrotown and it was retailing for $209.  I am incredibly frugal, and I can say without a doubt that this product is worth every penny of that.

As you can see in the photo above, there is also a music box that sits on the side of the playard.  It plays 5 sounds and makes 3 nature noises as well.  We haven't used that feature at all, but that's just a matter of personal preference.
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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Fun with Food Dye

I typically don't use food colouring in items that we actually consume, but I love the way it looks.

This morning Aias woke up looking for something to do.   The weather wasn't particularly great, and I had a few things to do.  He said he had a dream about mixing colours, so on a whim, I decided to grab the food colouring and show him how you can mix the colours in water.

I don't think most 4.5 year olds could really be trusted with food dye, but Aias is pretty clean in his play ( although I should add that later today he drew all over our leather couch with a marker, so wtf do I know, but he was nice and careful with the food dye thank God).

His gentle squeezing melts my heart. So careful!
He loved mixing them.  Totally validated my purchase of Neon food colouring, which I happen to think is very beautiful, even if not entirely edible.

Some very important stirring.
The early steps to brown....
This one looks like a very unfortunate medical condition

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Family Fun in Seaside, Oregon

On the last night of our Seattle/Portland trip, we decided to try stopping in Cannon, Beach.  It was sort of a last minute decision, so we didn't book anything in advance.  We sort of hoped we would stumble on something decent when we arrived.  Cannon Beach was pretty well booked up, but Seaside wasn't, so off we went.

The hotel we stayed at was not fancy, but it was right on the water.  It's hard to beat an oceanside view. 

The ocean is pretty surreal.  We live near English Bay, which has a beach, but it's really not the sort of beach I'm used to.  I grew up near Hampton Beach, NH... now that's a beach!  This beach was similar. 

The sand was soft and powdery, like the kind you would see in an hourglass.

You couldn't see a thing in the distance. 

The ground was almost alarmingly flat.

I went on my morning run through sand dunes!

Our first afternoon there, the sky was relatively clear.  We could see the ocean from our room, and we could see the other people on the beach.  It was chilly, but we went out anyway, and wrote things in the sand.

The next day it was warmer, but the fog was so thick, you couldn't see the ocean from the beach.  You couldn't see the beach from the ocean.  It was crazy, like you were in limbo or something.  Aias was thrilled, however.  I've never seen him as happy as he was stomping around in the water.

Azi really liked it, too, but he had to enjoy it from the comfort of the Ergo or my lap.

The safety warnings on the the signs were somewhat disturbing, as in the event of an earthquake, apparently the entire town of Seaside would most definitely be wiped out in a Tsunami.

We also met this guy hiding in the sand.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

A Stay at the Kimpton Hotel in Portland

When we travel as a family, our focus is generally on culture, fun and food.  We try to spend as little as we can on accommodations so that more money can be spent on goodies and treats rather than splurging on a fancy place to sleep.

During the last month, we have been doing a lot of travelling with the kids.  We have actually stayed at 8 different hotels during the last 4 weeks!

We waited a long time to go to Portland, so when we finally got there this past weekend we decided we were going to experience it in two different segments:

1.  Downtown Portland
2.  Portlandia Portland (ha!)

This meant staying downtown for two nights, and in a hostel for 2 nights.

We really struggled to choose our accommodations for those first few nights. We wanted something that wouldn't completely break the bank, but would be comfortable, and maybe a teeny bit fancy.  Crappy hotels are ok every once in a while for frequent travelling but every once in a while it's nice to stay somewhere that's awesome.

In our search, we came across the Kimpton Hotel.  Would you believe that I've done quite a bit of traveling in North America, but I had never heard of a Kimpton Hotel before this? I was tempted to stick to something more familiar like the Marriott, but the reviews for the Kimpton Hotel Vintage Plaza were excellent and intriguing so we decided to take a chance on something new.

The staff were really friendly at the front desk when we made our booking, and they even gave Aias a tiny stuffed bird and really delicious chocolate dipped all-butter shortbread cookies to snack on while they made up our room.

Anyhow, the Kimpton Hotel was freaking rad, and here are some pictures to prove it: 

Quite a lovely bathroom.  Stocked with full-sized products.
We had been in the car for many, many hours to get to Portland, and Aias was THRILLED to take off his little boots. 
A nice little desk
This dog was a bit of a dramatic experience, but I'll talk more about that below.
I really liked this mirror.
You can buy these but you can also wear them during your stay for free. 

Check out this amazing view!
Azi liked it, I swear! (see below)
 Probably the most adorable and wonderful part of all was this:

I like to call this picture "Draw me like your French Girls"

The hotel was really family friendly, and luxurious at the same time.  The lobby was beautiful and it had a treasure box where kids could pick up some goodies.  It was perfect because Aias was able to pick out a few small toys.  

While we didn't take advantage of it, there were beautiful bikes you could use for free as well.  Portland is a great city for biking.

What a lobby!
There was also free wine and beer during happy our in the lobby, which we enjoyed with some food truck take-out we brought back to our room:

The beds were very comfortable.  We chose to opt out of room service, and as a "prize" we were given $5 to the cafe downstairs, where I had the best raspberry mocha I've ever had.

The only complaint I would have about the Kimpton hotel which may impact your family, is that there is a pretty extensive {and expensive) mini-bar full of things your kid is going to want:

Those are not bottles of water, my friend!
Luckily I was quick to spot these, and promptly locked the mini-bar fridge (thumbs up that this was possible) and hid the tray of goodies on the top shelf of the closet, out of 4-year-old sight.

Unfortunately, the little stuffed dog you see pictured above caused some sadness.  We saw it on the bed when we got there and assumed it was something they put for the kids as a treat (as we had been given complimentary treats while we waited for our room).  Well, Aias bonded with the dog and then we realized it wasn't free after all, it was actually $35.  I would be hard pressed to spend $35 on a stuffed dog, and thought he would quickly forget about it, so we left it behind to avoid the charge.  He's still sad about leaving it behind.  We were annoyed for a few days thinking it was a pretty dirty trick of them to market that dog to us by leaving it on the bed and our kid seeing it first, but I guess that's just the biz.

I actually told him I would be writing a letter to the dog, to see how he's doing at the hotel.  Poor kid.

We will definitely be returning to the Kimpton Vintage Plaza Hotel and I would definitely favour a Kimpton hotel on future trips over a boring old Marriott.

But next time I think we will make sure we are there for this:

Aias really did not want to leave this place:

And finally, I don't think this post would be complete without this photo:

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