Friday, December 18, 2009

The good, the bad, and the ugly!

Would you like to know what drives me crazy? Product review blogs. They drive me nuts! Batty! Insane! I have poked around a few, and I have received requests from a few moms who ask me to send them (free) product in exchange for a (positive) review. When I receive these requests, they always end with a "I know I'll love it!". Really? You already know that, eh? So why exactly do you need to review it then?

Often times, blog reviewers will offer goodies to give away, if you follow them on twitter (which I still consider a colossal waste of time, mostly due to the fact I just can't accrue followers, but I digress...), post a comment, or whatever other way they can think of to generate buzz for a product - the manufacturer gets exposure, the blogger gets free stuff, everyone's happy, right!? My problem with this setup is that you very rarely see a negative review, no matter how craptacular a product may be. In October, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established guidelines that will require bloggers to disclose whether or not reviews resulted in compensation (money or freebies). I think this is a step in the right direction in terms of allowing consumers to judge how honest a review is.

Anyhow, what's my point here? I'm a retailer, I blog about the stuff I sell, and I'll admit, I do tend to highlight the positives (and let's face it, I'm awesome, the store's awesome, we do sell a lot of awesome stuff, so what else would you expect?). So here it is. My chance to air out any grievances about the products I sell. I'll give you the good, along with the bad, and especially the ugly!

GroBaby diapers. If you've been following along on Facebook, you know it took a little convincing to get me on board for this particular line of diapers. I'm a hard-core prefold fan. I still can't shake the feeling that GroBaby diapers (or any AI2, for that matter) are just glorified prefolds/covers. I have used the GroBaby diapers with Grace (she was 15 months old when we tried them), and while I had no complaints (the fit was great, it didn't leak), I would still recommend prefolds over the GroBaby system for a newborn. Due to the narrowness of the snap-in soaker, explosive newborn poop will get on the shell, and the mesh lining makes it difficult to spot-clean poop off the shell -- you will have to launder the GroBaby shell more than you would a cover used with a prefold. Once a baby is out of the pooping-every-15-seconds phase, it's a great little diaper.

Booroi covers. OK, for Grace, I really, really like this cover, but keep in mind she's a toddler (she's 18 months old now, can you even believe it?). I think I may have already mentioned that I'm a hard-core prefold fan. At this point, Grace still wears an infant-sized prefold, I fold it in half lengthwise and lie it in a medium Booroi cover. Genius! It's trim, it contains mess well, in fact, come to think of it, whenever Grace wears this cover, rainbows appear and birds sing. But (but!), like I already said, she's a toddler, she doesn't poop so much in diapers anymore (can I get a wut wut for infant pottying?), so that super-awesome gussett that surrounds the entire cover has never been fully introduced to Grace's poop. If she was a newborn, with newborn poop (runny, explosive newborn poop!), that gussett would get soiled, probably with every poop -- like the GroBaby shell, it wouldn't stand a chance! Furthermore, Grace is a girl, so she pees straight down... the overlapping flaps at the front of the Booroi cover can cause leaks for boys, who are built so they pee out front. This issue can be easily solved by pulling the prefold out of the front part of the gussett, ensuring it lies between the baby and the overlapping snaps.

Bravado Original nursing bra. I just don't love this bra. I hate the racer back style, trying to pull it over your head after you've had a shower, when you're still damp, is like a form of Chinese torture. Yes, it's relatively inexpensive, but that's about all it's got going for it. Don't even get me started on the uni-boob caused by the ++ sizes! If you want a nursing bra that accommodates some degree of change in cup size, try on the seamless Body Silk nursing bra, also made by Bravado, but, like, a million times better! It fastens at the back, and it's much more flattering, trust me!

If you've come into the store when I've been working, this is old news to you. I'm very upfront with customers in terms of what I like, and what's worked well for us. Of course, depending on who you talk to, you'll hear different preferences amongst our staff members, but it's always nice to get honest feedback, other people's opinions can be helpful, right? Yes, I still sell the above-mentioned products, after all, when it comes to cloth diapers, it's a matter of 'different strokes for different folks' (and if I really thought something was completely awful, I simply wouldn't sell it)!

So this is your opportunity to comment on anything you've purchased at our store that may not have worked for you. What was it? What didn't you like? How old was your baby, do you have a boy or a girl? Did you prefer something else entirely, or were you able to make it work for you as your baby grew? This is a no-holds-barred opportunity for you to share your experience, of course, if you complain about prefolds, you will be dead to me forever (I kid, I kid). There is no reward for commenting here, just the promise of the cathartic release that comes from complaining in general (you know what I'm talking about!). Have at it!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I'll tell you my laundry routine if you tell me yours!

It took a while (six months!), but I've finally figured out a cloth diaper washing routine that I like. After replacing my beloved large capacity toploader with a handy-dandy new Samsung HE frontloading machine, my diaper washing routine required a little tweaking. Since my last update in July, I have further tweaked things, eliminating the need for a monthly stripping (the diapers, not me!). Drum roll, please!

1) I'm washing every 3-5 days (with the toploader, I would wash every 7 days).

2) I'm more vigilant about removing every speck of poop from Grace's diapers.

3) I've eschewed using a sopping wet towel to weigh down the load in favor of pouring extra water directly onto the diapers after I've loaded them into the machine. The plastic "Simply Orange" juice bottle is well-suited for this purpose, I pour three bottles of water onto the diapers, adding an additional five liters of water to the washing machine.

4) I do a pre-rinse (no detergent).

5) I pour three more bottles (another five liters!) of water onto the diapers.

6) I add detergent (a half scoop of Country Save at this particular point in time), running the machine's 'white' cycle, which is a hot wash, followed by a double rinse (cold water).

The pre-rinse in addition to the extra water has worked wonders, I was stripping Grace's diapers with RLR on a monthly basis (and that does work really well to remove stink), but not stripping diapers at all is nice

So there you have it. The frontloader and I are finally friends, cue applause!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Turn that Venti Latte into university tuition!

It often amazes me when people talk about the 'cost' of cloth diapers. Yes, they have a larger upfront cost, but you simply cannot dispute the fact that cloth diapers will save you money in the longrun. If the upfront cost scares you, a smart way to build your stash would be to buy your diapers piece-by-piece; buying diapers one at a time will lessen the perceived financial blow of investing in cloth diapers.

I am ashamed to admit that I have an affinity for Starbucks coffee, and I know I'm not the only one, based on the fact there seems to be a Starbucks on every corner, in every major city. I used to be happy with my Timmy's, however when I was pregnant with #3, I developed an aversion to Tim Horton's that I've never quite gotten over (believe me, I've tried, I'd much rather pay $1.50 for a cuppa Joe than $5.00 for a fancy-schmancy Starbucks coffee!). I typically spend $12.00 a week on a grande something-or-other latte and a molassess cookie habit that I indulge in twice weekly (maybe I'm not so cheap after all!). I bet you're wondering where I'm going with this... how can you turn your Starbucks habit into tuition for your child's first year of university?

So, you just found out you're pregnant (congratulations!!!). Let's say you also have a $12/week Starbucks addiction habit -- you have 36 weeks to slowly build your diaper stash. For those 36 weeks, rather than blowing $12/week at Starbucks, what if you spent that money on diapers instead? Perhaps you could buy one bumGenius 3.0 one-size pocket diaper every other week, or maybe you'd purchase a half-dozen prefolds here, a cover there, whatever the case may be. If you gave up your Starbucks habit for the duration of your pregnancy, you could sink just over $400 into a decent diaper stash. OK, so we've got that part out of the way.

Eight months later, you have your baby (congratulations, she's beautiful!!!). You built your cloth diaper stash using your Starbucks funds (oh how I admire your self-control, what's your secret?). If you didn't have cloth diapers, you would have to purchase disposable diapers (the horror! the horror!). You could reasonably expect to spend at least $2000+ on junior's disposable diapers. Since you're so smart, you're going to put that $15/week you would otherwise be spending on good-for-nothing disposable diapers (and wipes, and rash cream) into junior's RESP fund -- let's say you do this for the first three year's of junior's life (the length of time she would have been wearing disposable diapers). The balance in junior's RESP account at the end of those three years (including contributions from the CESG, assuming an annual rate of return of 6%) would be $3148.69.

OK, so now you're just going to let that money sit there and accrue interest for the next 15 years, you can resume your Starbucks habit, you've earned it! By the time junior turns 18 and she's ready to spread her wings and fly the coop (sniff, sniff...), assuming an annual interest rate of 6%, that $3148.69 will turn into $7546.02, just enough to cover junior's first year of Architecture studies (congratulations, she's clearly a chip off the old block!).

So there you have it. Do you see how a simple change in your budget can ease the burden of buying cloth diapers? Do you see how the money you would otherwise spend on disposable diapers can be diverted into something more meaningful? And that, my friends, is how you can turn a Venti Latte into university tuition!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

We stock stocking stuffers!

We stock stocking stuffers!
We stock stocking stuffers!
We stock stocking stuffers!

Say that three times fast, eh?

December 1st has come and gone, and if there was doubt before, you know we are full-on in the yuletide season now, knee-deep in garland, up to the eyeballs in wishlists, drowning in decorations! OK, so perhaps a tad dramatic, but you all know that with the warm and fuzzies that come with those first few flakes of snowflakes, there is also a sense of dread at what must be accomplished in the next three weeks. Fortunately, we never took down our Christmas tree last year, so we are actually quite on top of things. January 1st came and went, we kept putting it off, and before we knew it, embarrasingly late turned into perfectly punctual... who knew things would eventually swing in our favor???

One of my favourite Christmas-time traditions is putting together our family stockings, it's always fun to discover goodies that I know the kids will enjoy. I made the mistake last year of giving Grace some treats from the Shoppe, this year, I'll have to be a little more careful, my oldest daughter made the connection immediately! Of course, just because I can't shop at the Shoppe doesn't mean *you* can't shop at the Shoppe!

So, what are our top 10 stocking stuffers? What would I buy as stocking stuffers if I could shop at my own shop?

Jamtown Musical Instruments - made in fair trade, these hand-crafted indigenous instruments are ideal for little hands!

Babies Go CDs ($18.00) - what Dad (or Mom) wouldn't want to rock out to KISS, Depeche Mode, the Rolling Stones, and more with his baby? The Babies Go collection takes the melody of a classic rock song and mellows it out for junior.

Babylegs ($15.00) - what can I say, they're practical and fun, ideal for layering in the winter months.

Montgomery Mites - these little wooden cars are a hit! Made in Vermont, they boast solid construction, and at only $4.25 a pop, you can buy more than one to share the fun!

Snug as a Bug mitt clips ($5.95) - are you tired of losing junior's mitts? Keep them handy where they belong, one clip on the mitt, one clip on junior's coat sleeve...

Padraig wool slippers ($20.00 - $30.00) - pure luxury for your little one's toes, these slippers have been hand-knit in North Vancouver for almost 30 years!

Heimess wooden grasping toys ($14.00 - $20.00) - made in Germany, but reasonably-priced, great for babies aged four months and up.

Teething jewellery ($14.99 - $18.00)- we have a nice selection of both amber and hazelwood necklaces, both of which can make teething a little easier on junior, and they're cute to boot!

Maya wrap doll slings ($11.00) - little ones like to mimic Mommy, a pint-sized ring sling is a great way to tote around a teddy bear.

Gaia Baby Starter Kit - a nice gift for a mom-to-be, introduce her to the goodness of the Gaia skincare line, this kit includes basic items that will nourish, nurture and gently care for your little one's skin.

As tempting as it is, I don't dare bring anything home from work this year, and as the kids get older, they get harder to buy for! Have you started your shopping yet? Found any goodies you'd like to share? Post them here! Have any warnings about gifts bought in the past that turned out to be duds? Post your warnings here! Nothings sucks like the letdown of a gift-gone-bad!