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While I was visiting Sarah, I mentioned I had been thinking of blogging about my current thoughts on baby/toddler gear, and Sarah said, “yes please. I need you to.” So I am.

I am, on the whole, very pleased with most of our baby stuff. Of course, there are a few things I would do differently if we were having another baby. So, I guess I’ll start with the do-overs.

1. Travel System – I would skip this. I totally loved our baby car seat and I like the stroller too, but it’s just so gosh-darned big. A snap and go stroller would be smaller, lighter and serve the same purpose. Plus, it’s less expensive than a travel system and gives you time to figure out what you really require in a stroller (do you need a big basket, can you live without a baby tray, something that can off-road easily?). You could purchase a snap and go at a consignment sale since the amount of time you’ll be using it is small, but in general, I think buying strollers new is the way to go.

2. Baby Monitor – I totally love our monitor. But at about 9 months, I started to really wish I had a video monitor. That way, I could know if Colton was crying because he didn’t want to nap or because he had pulled up and couldn’t figure out how to get down. I think regular sound-only monitors are great, but if I could do it over again, I think I would go the video route.

3. Bumbo – Everybody seems to have one or want one. Ours didn’t see much use, unless I was babysitting another baby close to Colton’s age. I totally could have done without this, but I can see it being handy if I have a second baby while Colton is still young. This is something I see frequently at consignment sales; since it wears well, easy to wipe = perfect used buy!

4. Diaper Bag – I used the Hop Skip Duo Deluxe for the first four months of Colton’s life. It was a great “new baby” diaper bag, since it had a ton of space. But, it didn’t have a zip closure and despite the fact that there were two pockets on the inside, it was so large it quickly became a black hole. Plus, the shoulder strap was always slipping off, which annoyed me. And, as Colton got older, I realized I didn’t need all that space. At most, I only left him for three hours, and then that was always in a situation where there were plenty of toys, and even extra diapers if needed. So, I switched to the JuJuBe MiniBe and never looked back. I LOVE it. This is a small bag, but easily holds 4 diapers, a hard wipes case, changing pad, change of clothes, bottle or sippy, formula, snacks, a few small toys, hand sanitizer, and my keys. The backpack style is perfect for me, so I can be hands free when I have a lot of things to carry, or have hands free to let Colton walk. Plus, all of JuJuBe’s bags are machine washable, which I am beginning to think is a necessity in a diaper bag (think about it – these things get DIRTY with all the places they go and sit on the ground, being touched by sticky little hands, plus the possibility for bottle and sippy spills). These bags are pricy, but I think they’re worth it; the organization and thought for function put into these bags is just impeccable. I’ve used my bag for about a year now and have no complaints. These also come in more manly, solid colors for husbands!

But what do I love? (Besides my undying love for JuJuBe products?)

1. Miracle Blankets – My love for these know no bounds. I had two for Colton, but I saw one on super clearance at Target recently and snatched it up. No, I am not currently pregnant, but these things are just so fantastically awesome that I needed to buy it. (You can read more about my love for the Miracle Blanket here and here.)

2. The Sleepy Wrap (now known as Boba Wrap) – Some people swear by the Moby Wrap, but I prefer this hands down. With the Moby, you have to tie it leaving room for baby, the Boba Wrap is stretchy, so there’s no guess-work as to how much room you need to leave. Either way, I used my wrap a ton for well over six months – it was perfect for shopping, family walks, and any other light activity.

3. Bright Starts Automatic Bouncer – In my opinion, this is the best baby bouncer, bar none. It’s billed as the the only bouncy seat that bounces, as opposed to vibrates, which is what I loved about it. Rather than buzzing, it mimics the motion of a mom carrying and gently bouncing her baby, which I think makes it more soothing. Bouncers are small, so if you’re only going to get a bouncer or a swing, I recommend this one.

4. Fisher Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat – We’ve used this with Colton since he first started solids and I have no complaints. Since there’s no fabric, its easily wipe-able. The tray is small (but I can still fit small plates on it) so it fits in the dishwasher. I cannot imagine having a larger tray that I couldn’t put in the dishwasher regularly. Sure I wipe down the tray after each meal, but it still gets gunky enough that regular trips in the dishwasher are wonderful things. This seat straps to an existing chair, so it is great for those who have limited space, or just don’t want an expensive, bulky high chair. I love that I can easily take this with us when we travel since it folds into a little square.

So, that’s my take on baby stuff. Stay tuned as I will soon be asking you to help me solve some storage/toy rotation problems I’ve been mulling over.

When I first thought about getting an e-reader, I asked for your opinions. Many of you chimed in and said you used Nooks and loved them. And, after some internet research, I decided that’s what I wanted as well. My mind was made up. That’s what I was getting.

Then I went to Barnes and Noble and used one.

And I knew it wasn’t for me.

One of the things that did turn me off in my shopping experience was the sales associate who first tried to sell me a Nook Color, then when I told her I wanted a dedicated e-reader said, “well, let’s ring you up a Nook then.” I told her I was there to look at them and would not buy that day and would probably buy online; she then ignored me for the rest of my shopping experience. Not something that would have deterred me if the Nook ended up being for me, but it was annoying.

For me, the biggest drawback to the Nook was the navigation. I found the touchscreen annoying, mostly because I kept trying to touch the actual screen rather than the touch part, and slow. I was using a store demo Nook, which I expect to be slower than what I would purchase, but it was painfully slow. I also found two of the features I was really excited about, highlighting passages and the dictionary, difficult and tedious to use. To use either of these features, you have to go to a menu, select which one you want (like dictionary), scroll to the work you want to look up, click, then be taken to another screen to see what the word means. By the time I’ve done that, I could have just gotten a dictionary and looked it up myself, and I thought it would really disrupt, rather than enhance, the reading experience. With the Kindle, I simply scroll the the word I want to look up, and the definition appears on the bottom of my screen. If I want more information, I can click and be taken to a separate page, but I haven’t really found this necessary.

Now, one of the upsides to having a Nook is that you have service available locally at any Barnes and Noble. However, while I was checking out the Nook, two customers came in for help downloading an update for their Nook Color, and the service person said, “well, we’ve never done this before, but we’ll see if we can figure it out.” Again, could have been just the store or the person, but it didn’t exactly inspire confidence in their in-store service.

That said, there are some perks to the Nook that I was still really excited about. You can borrow ebooks from your local library! Except my library doesn’t currently have this capability, and the Kindle will be getting this capability sometime in the fall. Since this is about when my library will be able to lend ebooks, this was pretty much a moot point for me.

Another awesome perk to the Nook is that you can read any ebook, regardless of cost, for free for up to an hour a day in any Barnes and Noble store! This is truly an awesome thing, except for the fact that I have about an hour a month to myself where I could go read in a Barnes and Noble. And, seeing as I like to read one book at a time, I wouldn’t be able to get much reading done. This would be awesome if I had no kids, kids in school, a lunch break, a kid who would be entertained on their own in Barnes and Noble, or kids out of the house. Again, a moot point for me.

Honestly, the kicker really was the navigation. While I think the Nook navigation is good, and would work for some (most?) people, I could tell within ten minutes of using it that it would consistently drive me nuts. And if it drove me nuts, I wasn’t going to use it.

And, while I ultimately chose the Kindle, what I really wanted was a dedicated ereader with a touch screen. One does exist, made by Sony, but it is not easy to upload books to and doesn’t have a large selection of books available in it’s preferred format, so I would need to convert books. While I think I have the tech savvy to do all of that, I wanted something I could turn on, grab books, and read. Not to mention the Sony costs twice what the Kindle does. Interestingly, the Nook saleslady told me I should buy my Nook in store so they could help me register it and get started, because if I ordered one online and couldn’t register it, they couldn’t help me. Frankly, that seems a little ludacris to me and more like a ploy to get me to buy from her, in store, and  I wonder if this is true. My Kindle came pre-registered to my Amazon account and I could download books for it while it was enroute to my house. It seems like if I already had a Barnes and Noble account my Nook would automatically be registered to it – right? This wasn’t a make or break decision for me, so I didn’t bother to look into more, but it seems strange. (I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m bashing the Nook. I really think it’s a great product and I understand why so many people love it. But, for the reasons I listed it wasn’t for me, and I’m hoping that this helps people with similar situations and preferences to mine when they try to decide which ereader is best for them.)

At any rate, the Kindle is now at home with me, and I am loving it! It came partially charged and finished charging in about two hours. It’s been two weeks and I haven’t charged it once. I’ve been getting books via Amazon’s website on my laptop, then turn the Kindle’s wireless on, sync, and bam! books! The whole thing takes less than five minutes, which I love. I can also purchase books directly from my Kindle as long as there’s wireless, but I haven’t done this yet since purchasing online and syncing is so easy. I have, however, used the wireless in Barnes and Noble to see if I book I saw was available on my Kindle and that was super easy.

I’ve also been happy with the selection of free books. Thus far, I’ve only spent 99 cents on a book – everything else I’ve downloaded was free! The battery also seems to have a long life. In two weeks and a book and a half, I’ve only used maybe a quarter of my battery life.

So, to sum up my very long review: the Nook is a great product, but just wasn’t for me. The Sony reader is my dream reader, but not practical for what I was looking for. I’m loving my Kindle!

Many months ago, I wrote about some of my favorite baby products. The babe wasn’t even two months old and honestly, he pretty much slept and ate. Most of the things I loved then were things that helped him sleep. But, now that he can sit up, hold on to things, and actually kind of play, I have a whole new set of things I’m loving. I thought I’d highlight some of them because really? why not?

Colton in his jumper.

1. Graco Bumper Jumper – Yes, you can get a free-standing jumper or exasaucer, but after much deliberation I went with one of the most basic jumpers I can find. We have a smallish house, and I didn’t want something huge taking up half my living room. Now I just have something small taking up most of a doorway, and I can easily move it if needed. This is also easy to pack to take when we visit my grandparents and will be easy to store when Colton outgrows it. Plus, he adores it. Some of his friends aren’t huge jumpers, but my child really is, so I am so glad we have this. It’s how I eat breakfast every morning.

2. Cozy Sun and Bug Cover – This is great to keep bugs off of your baby, but is also fabulous when it’s raining! It provides a light cover that keeps baby dry while you’re out. Generally, I try not to go out if it’s raining, but this folds up small enough to fit in my diaper bag so I always have it on hand in case it starts raining while we’re out.

3. Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat – now that we’ve started “solids,” this gets used every morning. But, I’ve used it since Colton was maybe 3 months old. I’ve put a couple of toys on the tray for him to practice picking up and we’ve used it for coloring as well. This is adjustable to three different heights, folds flat for easy storage and travel, and straps to any chair. Small, portable, uses the chairs I already have? Yes please! The only downside to this is that it’s made of hard plastic, which wasn’t too pleasant for Colton in the beginning. I just used a blanket to make mine more comfortable, but there are similar things that have padding.

4. Bumkins Bib – Since starting solids, this bib has gotten a workout! It’s nice and big, so it does it’s clothes protecting job very well. But the best part? It’s wipeable! That means, I can use it for several feedings, just wiping it off after each use and later tossing it in the wash.

We both love sleeved bibs!

5. Bbib by Oots – This is an organic cotton bib, so it needs to be washed every couple of uses, but it has SLEEVES!! I love this because Colton likes to rub his hand over his face while eating, and this means the food doesn’t get all over his clothes.

Books a great chew toys.

6. Cloth Books – Okay, so I only have one cloth book, but I need more! Colton likes books, but he mostly likes to eat them. These are great, because he can eat them! He spat up into ours this morning, but I can just toss it in the wash – totally fabulous!

7. Cloud B Sleepsack – This was a gift, and I probably wouldn’t spend this much on a sleepsack for myself, but the weight of this is fabulous for winter here. I love the all-around zipper; I think it’s so much nicer and easier to zip than the ones that zip up the middle. I also the love the wider bottom, which I think keeps Colton’s toes warmer and makes rolling over just a tad harder (which is nice since Colton tends to cry when he wakes up on his stomach, not to mention pee out of his diaper).

I have my own phone!

8. Fisher Price Friendly Flip Phone – It didn’t take long for Colton to realize he loved my phone. Every time I pulled it out, he would try to grab it, chew on it, and press the buttons. So I got him his very own phone! As far as I could find, this is the most basic baby flip phone available. It doesn’t light up, but has three different characters it rotates between when you close and open the phone. The buttons beep when you press them, and the large button will play two songs or make a ringtone noise. Colton loves it and it’s not annoying, so it’s a win for both of us!

9. Baby Einstein Press and Play Turtle – We’ve had this since before Colton was born, but he’s just now gotten into it. When you press a hand or foot, a single instrument plays, press his stomach and the whole orchestra plays. He can make all of the instruments play now, and loves the music! The only thing I don’t like is that the violins don’t seem to be in my orchestra. I don’t know if that’s just my Turtle, or something that is common with these. Regardless, Colton likes it, so it’s a win in my book!

10. Bright Starts Peek-A-Zoom – This is one of the coolest pop-up toys I’ve been able to find. The animals each make a noise when they pop up and close, and the airplane makes take-off noises and plays music when you roll it. Colton can occasionally make the toys pop up now, but really enjoys the music and pushing the toys back down. I love that this toy has multiple uses so we can use it for longer a traditional pop up toy.

Colton’s 10 favorite things at the moment. Besides playing with the fringed pillow on my bed. Or receipts. Or junk mail. Or plastic bags. Why do I keep getting this kid toys?

As many of you may remember, one of my favorite baby products is the Miracle Blanket. Just about every time Colton has slept, he’s been wrapped in one of these blankets.

I noticed right away in the hospital that he liked to be swaddled, but he was always breaking his arms out of the swaddle in the traditional blankets. Not so in the Miracle Blanket! His arms were kept secure, and he slept soundly, without waking himself up hitting himself in the face.

My mom bought the first blanket for me, and I later purchased another one day when the first blanket was in the wash and Colton had a complete and utter meltdown. I tried another brand of swaddling blanket, and it did not work. Not only did he not calm down, but I didn’t feel the blanket was a secure or safe as the Miracle Blanket – I was worried it would come loose and get caught around his face, but I’ve never had that worry when using the Miracle Blanket.

Miracle Blanket sent me a pink blanket to give as a baby shower gift, and here’s what my friend had to say about using it with her newborn daughter: “I must say…the Mircale Blanket is FABULOUS, WONDERUFL, GREAT!!!  I LOVE IT!!!!  So here’s the deal…we come home from the hosptial and she’s fine, then she starts screaming…not just crying, but screaming.  So I grab the first swaddle blanket I can find…one that my friend let me borrow.  It worked for maybe 10 minutes and she got her arms out right away.  So I fought it all night long — b/c I wasn’t about to try and go read directions for the fancy one at 3 in the morning 🙂  however, I finally had time this morning to figure it out and she absolutely loves it.  She’s sound asleep right now in the cradle and before we couldn’t put her down for more than a few minutes.” Also, they followed up with me to make sure I received my blanket in a timely manner. I have been very satisfied not only with this product, but with the company and their customer service as well.

I would absolutely recommend that every new mom have a Miracle Blanket on hand; it has been a lifesaver since day one, and I credit it for Colton’s excellent sleeping skills.

So how can you win a Miracle Blanket for yourself?

Here’s what you hafta’ do:

  1. First, like Miracle Blanket on Facebook. If you have Twitter, follow them there too (I am not a tweeter, but you’ll want to check the page out for the next couple of days). Come back here and tell me you did these things, and you’ll receive one entry in the giveaway.
  2. Tell me a sure-fire way to help yourself or you baby sleep for another entry. For example, I always fall asleep when I have a dark room and some white noise. No white noise? No sleep.
  3. You must enter between today (Friday, November 5th) and Monday, November 8th to be eligible to win. I’ll be closing entries at 8 PM on Monday.
  4. Check Miracle Blanket’s Twitter page on Tuesday to see if you won!

A few more details: You don’t have to have a blog to participate in this giveaway! I didn’t receive anything from Miracle Blanket for this post. I purchased both of my Miracle Blankets, and my opinions are based solely on my experiences with the blanket and the company. Sadly (for me), the only person winning anything here is YOU! You will receive your Miracle Blanket directly from the company, which means you get to choose your color! Check them out here.

Questions? E-mail me!

I recently purchased two BPA free water bottles made by Camelbak. I had a $10 off a $25 purchase coupon for Dick’s Sporting Goods, so I was able to get both bottles for the price of about one.

I’ve always drunk a lot of water, but lately I pretty much drink water constantly. I had been using plastic water bottles I refilled or a 32 oz. Nalgene bottle, but wasn’t happy with either. I didn’t like having to buy water bottles, and it was hard to remember how long I had used each bottle for. With my Nalgene, it was too heavy to comfortable fit in my purse, and neither option was convenient for use in the car.

Enter the Better Bottle. At 24 oz, this bottle is the perfect size for carrying in your purse, or can easily carry it with one finger. The top is spill-proof, so you never have to worry about a leak when you carry the bottle in your purse. I also love that the bottle is top-rack dishwasher safe! One of the things that’s taken some getting used to is the bit-top valve. To drink from the bottle, you have to bite down on the soft plastic valve to open it, and the hole for the valve will only open if you bite from the front or the back of the bottle — it won’t open if you bite on the sides. The plastic valve cover also seems like it might be hard to clean, but since you can put it in the dishwasher, I don’t think it will be too much of a problem. Also, because this water bottle uses a straw, there is always a little bit of water left at the bottom of the bottle. Since I tend to fill the bottle right back up, and have only been using it with water, this isn’t really an issue for me though.

I would definitely recommend this water bottle!

9780312427368-lI purchased Laure R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice after reading Heather’s review of this and other books in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. I’ve read all of Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Holmes stories (I think. I didn’t read them in order, and I don’t remember them all, so its hard to be sure), so I felt confident I would enjoy this one as well.

Here’s a little synopsis of the novel I took from Amazon. I removed some events I thought you should read and find out about for yourselves!

Sherlock Holmes takes on a young, female apprentice in this delightful and well-wrought addition to the master detective’s casework. In the early years of WW I, 15-year-old American Mary Russell encounters Holmes, retired in Sussex Downs where Conan Doyle left him raising bees. Mary, an orphan rebelling against her guardian aunt’s strictures, impresses the sleuth with her intelligence and acumen. Holmes initiates her into the mysteries of detection, allowing her to participate in a few cases when she comes home from her studies at Oxford.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

I was immediately taken with this novel. I really enjoyed the female voice, and Mary’s fresh look at Holmes. I think Holmes, and other staple Conan-Doyle characters like Mrs. Hudson and Watson, benifited from the addition of a new narrator. Thanks to seeing them through Mary’s eyes, they seemed more fleshed-out, comples and more three dimentional.

For example, there weren’t too many obvious differences between Conan-Doyle’s Holmes and King’s in terms of his character, and I mean here his moral ideas and behavior. However,  in terms of who he was as a novel character, he seemed, in a sense, more real. Conan-Doyle’s Holmes is larger than life, largely because these stories are narrated by Watson, who never reaches the same intellectual level as Holmes. When the story is narrated by someone of equal or similar intellect to Holmes, we see his actions, but also his motivations and though processes. Also, Mary sees Homes as someone several years younger, and she also has had a drastically different upbrining than Watson. THe differences in their observations and perceptions of Holmes seem normal and natural.

The only thing that struck me as unlike Holmes was when he called Mary “Russ.” Mary and Holmes both refer to one another by their last names, but for some reason, the shortening of her last name seemed very odd to me. Other than that, I have no complaints!

Another thing  I really enjoyed was the novel’s pace. We didn’t jump right into the mystery, nor do we in the next book, A Monsterous Regiment of Women. I really enjoyed learning about Mary’s day-to-day life, what her training was like with Holmes, and I especially enjoyed reading about her college exploits. In mysteries, I find that having a background story before the mystery helps me understand and empathize with the characters more. I found this structure not unlike Conan-Doyle’s, in that he devotes a fair amount of his stories to the interaction of the characters as well. I thought that keeping this similar “feeling” helped me feel like I was reading an old favorite, rather than reading a new novel series, and may help readers ease into a new take on Holmes.

I have lent this book to one person, who loves Conan-Doyle’s Holmes ,who really enjoyed the book, and recommened it to two others. If you like Holmes, mysteries, or historic fiction, I think you would find something to love in this novel!

Just a 20-something girl living on the East Coast, trying to figure out life. I'm a wife and mom to two. I'm trying to rediscover my love for long walks, yoga and pilates. But not hiking. I still don't like hills. I was raised at the beach, but I don't like the beach. I like to look at it, but I don't like to swim in it, I'd prefer a pool, thanks. I'm just trying to become the best person I can be -- the woman God wants me to be. That's easier said than done!

E-mail Me!

Contact me at longbrakeliving@gmail.com - I'd love to hear from you!

Hubby is my all-time favorite guy. A perfect mix of serious, sarcastic, laid-back, handy and nerdy, he is the perfect complement to me. I love his strong work-ethic and the way he always loves and supports me through everything. Some of Hubby's favorite things include: hiking, Virginia Tech football, woodworking, and his family. When I married him in July 2007, I had no idea what an amazing journey we were headed on, and how I could come to love him so much more each day.

Our oldest, Colton, is three years old. He is equal parts sassy and hysterical. He loves all things train, car, bus, truck, and machine related. He has a penchant for made-up words and loves to be the clown of his pre-school class. Our younger son, Nathan, was born this May. He is pure joy and full of smiles! He is such a blessing and a perfect fit for our family.