Fabulous Things For Spring

It’s spring and it’s time to welcome the warmer weather and longer days.  The budding flowers offer encouragement that new life after a long, bleak winter is not only a possibility but also a definite reality.  For many the spring, and these changes, mark a time of re-birth.  Emerging from the heavy clothes and mundane routine of winter, spring offers the perfect time to revitalize all aspects of our lives.  Get outside: enjoy the sunshine, reap the health benefits, get fit!  Pack away the winter coats and gear: purge the closets, donate to those in need, assess what it is your wardrobe really needs (if anything!).

Here’s a list of some treasures and troves that may make your spring just a little bit brighter!

For Her

images

Why not update your make-up for spring?  Make Up Forever sent me over their new HD Cream Blush that naturally sculpts and highlights the cheeks.  Easy to apply with just a sweep of a fingertip, this lightweight blush is long lasting and natural looking.  Mae Up Forever has quickly become one of my favourite make up brands.  The colour remains vibrant without fading throughout the day or smudging off. Their new blush is available in 16 shades and is available at Sephora stores across Canada.

lip-balms-you-be-thelma-ill-be-louise

Carol bought me a punchy box of tissues from Ann Taintor but now that the winter has gone by the wayside hopefully so to has my need for tissues but this lip balm would make for a great substitution.  How great is this to gift to your bestie?

imgres-1

With the warmer weather I notice more and more joggers taking to the streets.  4id Powerbudz sent me their ear buds that light up with movement.  If you’re so inclined to wear earbuds while exercising consider 4 id Powerbudz to help make you more noticeable in the early morning light and at under $15.00 they are worth the investment.

I won a contest for two tickets to the spring One of a Kind Show from The Homeslice (a fun and fabulous blog worth visiting) and as always I enjoyed taking in the sights of the show.  I am never less than amazed by the artisans, their talent and commitment, who make the show truly remarkable.  Here’s a round-up of some of my favourites:

images

These gorgeous hand crafted mugs from Mena Dragonfly.

d33fdf272babcc70d332ce990a35dd5c_large

This incredibly whimsical yet sophisticated dress from Aime.

wcage2-150x150

Whiteout Workshop was my favourite artist at the show.  I walked away with this (in a dress!) but could have easily taken the entire lot!

For Them

I always seem to be buying lots of baby shower presents.  I found this via The World According to Jessica Claire (new mom of twins!) and think that I may just buy the large one for myself!  I am sucker for Love You Forever and Carlymegan has made it into a blanket!

love_20forever_20blanket_202_400w

And if you are buying for a new baby don’t forget about the big brother/sister too.  Two of my favourites for spring:

000772142373

Melissa and Doug sticker faces from here and anywhere they sell Melissa and Doug.

imgres

Mealtime set from The Drake General Store.

The Warehouse, The Next Generation

My Dad used to call my mother’s handbag The Warehouse.  I grew up certain that entire episodes of Mission: Impossible and MacGyver could be filmed using the contents of my mother’s purse.

Mine is nowhere near so capacious or fun, but I do have a few tricks in my bag.  Nothing sharp, after forgetting The Rules and having my wonderful Swiss Army knife taken away at the airport.  Sigh.  No bottles with more than 100 ml of liquid, ditto.  Luckily, my favourite hand lotions come in small vessels, and it’s a delicious luxury to have that fragrance on hand.  What mother’s bag is complete without first aid?  I’ve got a complete wee kit.  Hockey arena stubs, naturally.  I have more lip gloss than I can use in a lifetime; three travel with me.  The keys to my Dad’s condo, on a key ring from Egypt, where we lived once upon a time.  A picture of my kids in my wallet, because apparently wallets more often get returned if lost when there’s a picture of kids inside.  Love notes from the kids.  Sticky notes, because you never know when you might have a page-flagging emergency.  A book; always a book.  Today, it’s Cold Comfort Farm, because Samantha Ellis made me want to reread it.  A deck of cards for hurry up and wait rooms.  And, pen addict that I am, I travel with several choices of pens and ink.

photo (7)

OK, I’m totally kidding about the ink wells, ink pot and and quills!  But that pencil case is full of pens.

Le Parfum de Thérèse: A Love Story

parfumI am in love with a love story, a message in a bottle that has traveled through time and from one love to millions.

Le Parfum de Thérèse is a Frederic Malle perfume that was launched in 2000, but it was originally created in the 1950s by perfumer Edmond Roudnitska for his wife Thérèse.  It was never commercially produced, and although sample flasks circulated among perfumers, Thérèse was the only person to wear it.  Malle approached Thérèse and her son Michel, both perfumers themselves, to ask permission to launch the late Roudnitska’s private fragrance for his line.  As Michel explains,

The inspiration for what is now known as Le Parfum de Thérèse was the love he had for my mother, his faithful collaborator without whom he could not have carried out any of work….

So much of the appeal of fragrance comes from story for me.  I love a perfume with a great story.  I think that’s why I love Christopher Brosius so much.  Each one of his fragrances has a story.   Greenbriar 1968 is a biography of his grandfather in a bottle:

This scent is a memory of my Grandfather, the sawmill that he owned and the stone house where he lived.

And I swear you can smell that stone house in the perfume.  Just the thought of paying that kind of tribute to a grandfather makes me swoon.  I love the perfume itself, but the story seals the deal.

It’s counter-intuitive, to say the least, for words to influence one’s love of fragrance, but story somehow adds depth to perfume.

Since I first smelled Le Parfum de Thérèse, I have not been able to get it out of my mind.  I have sampled it only twice, and both times I could not stop smelling my wrist.  I have it sprayed on a test strip, too, and I keep going back to the ghost of a scent on this piece of paper.  It’s complex and evolves quite drastically from top note to base note, and while the top notes put me seriously over the moon with delirious joy, the drydown is, given that kind of hyperbole, understandably less dramatic.  So I haven’t made the commitment to buying it.  While I am usually one for instant gratification, I am really enjoying taking my time with this one.  I flirt with it.  I think about it a lot.  It’s only available at one store in Toronto, so I have to think about how long of an interval I have to leave before I can reasonably show up at the counter again to have another whiff.  I have a crush on this perfume, and I am loving the courtship.

 

Guest Post: Christine from Just Bella on Stylish Toy Storage

4Mothers is delighted to welcome Christine from just bella to share her tips on maximizing toy storage, while keeping it stylish. Christine, a soon-to-be mother of two, blogs about all things beautiful and is sure to put her own stylish twist on just about everything. Just check out these gold polka dot walls and you’ll be hooked on just bella too!

~~~~~

I admit it, before kids I was one of those people that said, “I’ll never let toys take over my house”. Ha! I’m surprised that every mom I talked to didn’t laugh directly in my face because, you know what, it happens. The toys slowly creep in and before you know it they are everywhere!

To keep the sanity I do my best to limit the amount we have and to use smart and stylish storage solutions. Just because you have all these bright, shiny, plastic things everywhere doesn’t mean you always have to look at them. You can find adorable and functional bins, baskets and buckets that make cleaning up easy and reduce the visual clutter. Here is a roundup of some stylish toy storage that will blend in with your existing (and grown up) decor, though I can’t promise the kiddos won’t dump them! You’re on your own in that department ;)

just bella pic 1

Click to find: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven.

Christine Shankowsky, just bella

A Perfumed Evening

scentI hosted my neighbourhood book club this month, and my choice was Chandler Burr’s The Perfect Scent.  It’s a wonderful account of his year following a perfumer and a celebrity as they create new fragrances: Claude Ellena, who makes Un Jardin sur le Nil, his first as the in-house perfumer for Hermes, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who embarks on her first fragrance for Coty, Lovely.

We often do food and drink that’s linked to the book in some way, so I got rose Turkish Delight, Chowder’s violet candies, lavender jelly for the cheese board, and I made a cardamom and ginger dressing for the cantaloupe and a rosewater-flavoured yogurt for the strawberries.  Yum!  For drinks, I had spiced rum punch and Elderflower pear cider and Elderflower liqueur.  All highly recommended!

As part of the evening, I got samples of the perfumes Burr discusses in the book, and I asked everyone to bring their favourite perfume: a smell and tell component to the evening.  We had a tour through all the samples, and it was striking how polarized opinion could be on some of the perfumes.  My favourite perfume, Dzing! by l’Artisan Parfumeur, makes me deliriously happy because it smells like hay and animals and, yes, a bit like manure.  Two other women who smelled it smelled, wait for it, electrical fire!!  One of them had had an electrical fire recently and said it smelled exactly like it.  Obviously not a happy connection.  We rounded out the night by discussing the book and told stories about our fragrance memories and about how we came to love our favourites.

imagesUB2XEPSXWe all had our memories of heavy perfumes we left behind with our youth, like Rive Gauche, Poison, Anais Anais, Obsession and Ralph Lauren.  Do you remember those?   We all had memories of women in our lives who are inseparable from their fragrances.  For me, it’s my mother and Youth Dew.  Inseparable.

My fascination with all things perfume truly began about five years ago when I discovered that there exists a perfume called In the Library, made by Christopher Brosius for CB I Hate Perfume.  It turned out that the only woman in Toronto to carry his perfumes was right around the corner.  Sadly, I really did not like the smell of In the Library, but two of the notes in it, Tobacco and Old Leather, were available as individual scents.  I bought them on the spot, and gave them to my husband to wear.  They are simply scrumptious, and it gives me a profound sense of calm and pleasure to smell those scents on him.  I have since bought about six of his perfumes, each with its own wonderful story and unfolding pleasures.

His In the Library started me on a quest to find other perfume that smelled like books.  I’d get very strange looks when I asked about it, but one store owner who really knew his stuff said, “Nothing like books, but what about hay?  Some people think this one smells like paper.”  And he introduced me to my beloved Dzing!  His store has since disappeared, so my favourite scent remains elusive.  All the better to make you yearn, my dear.

What perfumes have you forever left behind?  What are your current favourites?

Socking Stuffers & More: For Her, Him and the Boys

Need some holiday gift-giving inspiration?  Here’s a round-up of some of my favourites.

For Her

images-1

Come to Bed Red nail laquer

images-2

EOS Pomegranate Raspberry Lip Balm

imgres

Compact Mirror from Indigo

images-3

Downton Abbey Series 1-3

imgres

Personalized locket, holds two-three pictures, from Undine

images-2

Gimme Brow by Benefit

imgres-1

Hanky Panky 

imgres-2

Nutella: The 30 Best Recipes

il_570xN.533161750_fua4

Funny Sticky Notes

imgres-4

Adult-size Onesie

handcream

Handcream

For Him

imgres

Where Chef’s Eat

il_570xN.420622667_bu3x

Thumbprint Cufflinks

images

Slang Flashcards

imgres-1

Anything from The Garlic Box

imgres-2

Anything with the Hudson’s Bay stripes

imgres-3

Men’s work week socks

For The Boys

imgres-4Desktop Hockey

imgres-5

The Olympics are coming up!  Paint your own Babushka dolls.

imgres-6Scrabble Magnet Set

imgres-7

Storm Troopers USB 

il_570xN.372442864_q9u9

Crayon Roll

images-1

Support your favourite team with Fan Bands

imgres-9

Make some music and build your own ukulele.

imagesZAS5333U

Dragon Hands Temporary Tattoos

untitled

Lego Erasers

The Wonder of Soap Nuts

185I have a confession:  I get strangely excited about washing my laundry in an environmentally sound way.  I’ve been making my own natural laundry detergent (based on this easy recipe, but I buy soap flakes rather than grating my own soap – much easier and cheaper) for a couple of years and I know I won’t turn back.  The laundry is clean and green and I love it.

But I was also excited when I got some soap nut samples from Eco Nuts to try out.  I’d read all about soap nuts, and was fascinated, but not inspired to change my already satisfying eco-laundry routine.  Unless, of course, they were to fall into my lap, which they did.

What are soap nuts?   For starters, they’re not actually nuts, but the fruit from a tree, and they’re sometimes called soap berries.  They are used for various kinds of personal cleaning because they contain high amounts of saponin, which is a natural surfactant.  As a natural, bio-degradable item, their effects on the environment are benign. They’re quite new to North Americans, but are yesterday’s news in many parts of the world where they’ve been used for millenia.  Grown largely in Nepal and India (there are some efforts to see if they can be grown elsewhere), their importation carries a carbon footprint, but being small and light (the dried berries are about the size of a cherry) this imprint is fairly small.  Also, because they’re so small and the companies that distribute them tend to be eco-conscious, their packaging is minimal.

They’re also a cinch to use.  You just put 4 of 5 of the dried berries into the provided wash bag and throw it in the wash.  The laundry comes out fresh and clean, and it still quite amazes me that the naturally occurring saponin in these soap nuts is doing such a brilliant job on the clothes, including diapers.  You re-use the berries for several washings until they dry out, and then they go in your compost.    The only imperfection I can think of is that the little wash bag  can get hidden among a pile of wet clothes.  But even if you forget to retrieve the bag and it goes through the dryer, the soap nuts can still be used so it doesn’t really matter much.

They’re a wonder, basically.  And it’s not just me who thinks so – my husband loves them too.  He’d never heard of them before and asked, “Can we become a distributor?”  Conversion in a sentence, that’s what that is.

I liked the soap nuts enough to question whether I should switch over from my homemade laundry detergent which, remember, I really love.  To help me decide, I did what I have never done before, which is to do a costs comparison, throwing in a commercial detergent for fun.  The results from my homemade laundry detergent (made with soap flakes, washing soda, baking soda, and borax) may not be entirely accurate but is close enough for me (I measure my loads in cups while the ingredients are sold by weight, and I estimated how much the cups of ingredients weighed based on a conversion measure for flour).  This is what I discovered:

Eco Nuts, $12.99 for 100 loads: 12.8 cents/load

Homemade laundry detergent:  $5.17 for 40 loads (5 cups at 1/8 cup per load):  12.9 cents/load

Tide Ultra Powder Detergent:  $10.99 for 30 loads:  37 cents/load

Who knew, my friends, who knew?  Firstly, I always assumed that my eco-detergent cost more than leading commercial brands.  Wrong!  It costs only about a third as much.

Also, the homemade laundry detergent and the Eco Nuts come out basically neck-and-neck.  Whoa.  I had to steady myself against the table.  Not really, but still it was quite a surprise.  I love my detergent, but if it costs the same and is easier, I might just switch to soap nuts.  Eco Nuts are conveniently available at my local health store but they’re also available online (as are many other distributors of soap nuts, like this this company, which caught my attention for its fair trade and community giving practices).  Plus buying in large quantities (a no-brainer around here with 3 very active boys and 1 very active man in family) would lower the cost per load.

In the end, I can’t really think of many reasons not to switch.  Soap nuts aren’t local, but there is necessarily an environmental impact of my natural laundry powder too, especially because I use borax, which may have some negative impacts on health and the environment (minor compared to commercial cleaners).  I’m not sure how the impacts of the soap nuts weight out against the homemade powder.

I think I might just be reluctant to switch out of… laundry loyalty.  Now there’s something I never thought I’d see myself write or feel.  And so it goes.

5 Things To Look For When Buying A New Car Seat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s hard to believe that 7 years ago I had in my possession a cart seat for my baby that was soon to arrive.  I distinctly remember opening the box and staring at the instructions, completely flummoxed and terrified.

I didn’t know it then, but less than two weeks would pass and my husband would be cautiously driving our SUV through the dense city traffic while I sat in the backseat mesmerized by my infant’s sleeping face.

Labour and delivery may have frightened the bejeezus out of me, but it was nothing compared to the nerve-wracking 20 minute commute from hospital to home.  It was in those minutes, my husband nervously sweating while maintaining a steady, cautious speed of 40 km, that we came to this conclusion: there are a lot of deplorable drivers in Toronto.

Why hadn’t we noticed this before?  All of these maniacs swerving in and out of lanes, stopping short and gunning yellow lights!  We were indignant!  Who gave these people their license?

Forget stressing over epidurals, driving home was far more intense!

Little did I know my relationship with car seats was at its beginning.  To echo Carol’s sentiments when I told her that I was writing this post: “Car seats are like a bad marriage, you have to stick it out to the end.”

And the end at least in Ontario, before your child is permitted to use the seat belt alone (according to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act), is when the child turns 8 years old, or weighs 36 kg or is 145 cm tall or more.

Back when I was looking for car seats the pickings were slim and my criteria was specific:

Safe and slim, with staying power.

A few weeks ago Evenflo, a pioneer of baby gear, hosted an event for bloggers.

A disclaimer: Natalie, Carol and rarely go to events we’re invited to because one, we don’t want this blog to become a platform for flogging products and two, we each have three kids!  We’re busy!

But attend the Evenflo event I did, admittedly because it was around the corner from my house, and I have wanted to try out this fabulous kids’ space – call it third child guilt syndrome – where the event was hosted.

I am so glad that I made the effort.

Evenflo is making its mark in 2014 with its new line that is stylish and functional but above all safe.  Incorporating feedback from mothers, among other things Evenflo has made sleeker seats to accommodate multiple children in car seats in one vehicle because if your van is anything like mine, you’ll get these two words: village bus.

The Maestro Harnessed Booster, is a slim booster with simple adjustability, a removable head pillow and a 5-point harness that is proven to better distribute the force of a crash over a larger surface area.

Evenflo Maestro Harnessed Booster, Loopsy

But my favourite is this seat, the Evenflo Symphony DLX-All-In-One Car Seat, Ocala that goes from 5lbs – 110 lbs!  A unique swivel system allows the installer to change the position of the seat from rear-facing to forward-facing as your child grows and the straps (this is the best part!) use Sure Latch technology so you do not have to thread them through the back of the seat every time your child sprouts a few inches.

Evenflo Symphony DLX-All-In-One Car Seat, Ocala

Looking to buy a new car seat?  Here are 5 things to consider:

  1. The weight, height and age of your child.
  2. Intended use: A travel system versus a traditional seat.
  3. Size of your vehicle.
  4. Knowing your child.
  5. Ease for parents.

I was loath to have to buy three different car seats for three different kids.  It took some research and a polling of Facebook friends but I did find the perfect seats.

Where was the 2014 Evenflo line 7 years ago?

Full disclosure:  Evenflo is going to send me one of their booster seats, but here’s the thing:  I didn’t even know that when I agreed to write this post, I just think that the seats are fab and I wanted to share with 4Mothers readers!  We never write about products that we don’t love – that’s a promise.

Metamorphosis: Guest Post by Christina Markham

photo (6)In early spring of 2012, as my daughter and I were leaving her gymnastics class, we noticed a group of people with phones in hand taking pictures of something fluttering around on a pile of pebbles near a juniper bush.  We decided to take a closer look, not knowing the adventure we were about to embark on.

We found a giant moth, her wing very badly damaged.  We decided to bring her home to show our family this beautiful creature, but also to release her in our garden.  A better demise than a parking lot we thought.

My son, a budding entomologist, was so fascinated with our find he declared that it was “the best day ever!”  We put her into a small container so that we could determine her species and take some pictures before releasing her.  While we did our research, she managed to lay approximately 50 eggs!  We couldn’t believe our luck!  Our research showed us that what we had was a Cercropia Moth – one of the largest species of moths in North America.  We were sad to also read that she would not live to see her eggs hatch; a fact we learned and accepted as part of the Cercropia life cycle.

Over the next couple of months, we followed our eggs as they hatched into caterpillars, changed through their 5 stages (each more beautiful than the last), and formed cocoons of silk.

HERE WE GO!

The first batch of caterpillars.

The first batch of caterpillars.

We were on an adventure, and didn’t even know it yet!  We kept the eggs that the injured moth lay over the winter in our refrigerator (so they felt cold), and waited (painfully) until they turned into beautiful moths in the spring of 2013.  We waited and checked the eggs every single day while we read and learned about these amazing creatures.  I definitely feared we had done something wrong, that the eggs wouldn’t hatch, that I would have to disappoint my children … until one morning, I heard “MOM!!!!!MOM!!!!!  WE HAVE CATERPILLARS!!!”  I couldn’t believe how genuinely happy (and relieved) I was to hear that!

We were all so happy!  My son and daughter went to school the next day to announce the newest members of our family.  We were asked to bring them in and show classmates and teachers alike.  We were learning so much each day as individuals and as a family.  These caterpillars really brought science into our home in a way that no book or TV special ever could.  My children’s attention span, willingness to learn, and pure love for these creatures was amazing.  We even had names for them!

STAGES

We learned that their different stages as caterpillars were called instars.  We learned through amazing images what to look forward to in the development of these pretty uninspiring (first stage) little creatures.  We learned that once they finish their development, they would form cocoons spun from silk.  They would not change into moths until the following year!  We learned that they would have to go through winter in our refrigerator ( a fact that disgusted as many as it wowed), and be brought out in early spring. We really couldn’t believe it.

Of the approximately 50 eggs, 5 caterpillars survived.  They grew through their instars in textbook fashion.  Everywhere we went we would talk about the caterpillars.  Whenever people visited, we quickly took the back burner (with pleasure) to these freaking awesome creatures.

Female moth.

Female moth.

I knew that this whole journey was worth it when I heard my children discussing life cycles and using terms like metamorphosis, and giving mini lectures in normal conversations.  These caterpillars really changed how we look at nature and life cycles.  They became part of our family and they even came to our cottage!  I have had many mixed reactions from my own peers.  Some have asked for some caterpillars for their own children, others wonder how I let such “disgusting” creatures into my home.

COCOONS

catsOur silkworms ate, pooped, and grew.  Then the time came when I heard another cry from my kids “MOM!  WE HAVE A COCOON!!!”.  Wow.  I couldn’t believe it!  We hadn’t killed them or messed them up.  Nature took over.  Slowly, one by one, all five formed their cocoons.  Now what?  We knew they had to experience winter.  We knew we had to put them into our fridge and wait and hope we did the right thing at the right time.

MOTHS

My kids were anxious to take the cocoons out of the fridge this past spring.  Even our youngest (now 3), who was too young to appreciate them as caterpillars, was so into this newest stage and checked each morning for moths!  We decided before they hatched that we would like to try to mate a female if we had one.  Of the five, we had three males and two females.

The first male we released on the first night.

The first male we released on the first night.

Our journey did not end there.  We built a cage good enough for mating (with the help of a wonderful resource), but not with holes large enough for them to escape.  We were successful in our mating and we now have 30 caterpillars.  We released all the moths into the wild so they could lay other eggs, and find other mates.

We were sad to see them go, but excited for the future of these new caterpillars.  We still have our original moth immortalized in my son’s specimen collection.

This journey is still new each day, even though this is our second time around.  We were able to share our caterpillars with other families who would like to show their children the beauty of nature and life cycles first hand.

The female moth as she is being released.

The female moth as she is being released.

My kids learned to care for these creatures.  They changed their leaves, cleaned their poop, named them, drew pictures of them, wrote journals about them!  It is absolutely unbelievable that caterpillars and moths could have this effect on us!

I can’t describe how excited I was about all this.  I amazed myself (building a mating cage for moths – seriously?  I teach gymnastics!) through this whole process and I really felt like a kid again.  This whole thing was so much fun, so educational, and I am so happy that my children and my husband and I were able to experience this.

Next time your child wants to bring nature into your home, see where it takes you!

Christina Markham is a mother of three by day and a gymnastics coach in the evening.  

Red Fish, Blue Fish Creative Cafe

Our summer rambles took us to Red Fish, Blue Fish Creative Café on Harbord Street the other day.  It is a café designed for children with adults in tow.  In that order.  The limited (but delicious!) menu includes toast and jam, though no green 1052187_348238695305049_1519146928_oeggs and ham.  There is a diaper changing station stocked with supplies.  There is a wall of books and board games to borrow.  Best of all, there is an entire corner devoted to making art, stocked with all manner of supplies, including googly eyes, and a resident grown-up will even sit and make art with your kids while you sip lattes.  I will happily be the grown-up in tow to that café again and again.

I overheard one of the staff telling a story about a man in a suit walking in and bumping into a child who was on her way out.  “Are kids allowed in here?!” he asked in an alarmed voice.

“Yes, we encourage people with kids to come in,” she replied.

“Oh, then I don’t think I’ll be able to have my coffee here,” he said, and looked as if he expected her to do something about the presence of children in a café geared for children.

“Be gone, Grinch!” say I.  We will hope that your heart will grow three sizes one day, but in the mean time, I am savouring the anticipation of a return trip to a mommy oasis in the city.