The Closest to Homemade Chicken Stock

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I always made baby food for Ella.  She seemed to like soups so off I went buying chicken bones and vegetables to make my own chicken stock.  As many know, this doubles or sometimes triples the amount of time to prepare a dish.  Even with bulk cooking and freezing smaller portions for her to have later, I still found it to be a lot of work.  I decided to look into using premade chicken stock and went to the common brand which I’ve used many times before having Ella – Campbell’s.  I was surprised to see all the ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce or other preservatives contained in Campbell’s Chicken Broth.  I assumed with it being a broth instead of a fully prepared soup that it should be pretty basic and natural – boy was I wrong.  Unfortunately the other alternatives at the grocery store were not much better and yes I read every label in several grocery stores!  So, I continued to make my homemade broth while still hopeful that I’d find a better alternative.

On one of my trips to Costco, I decided to see what they had just in case.  I was ecstatic to find that their very own Kirkland brand of chicken stock was exactly what I was looking for and as simple as you can get for ingredients.  Not that you can buy small quantities at Costco anyways, I stocked up.  I figured with a year’s shelf life, I would have no problem using it up.  Unfortunately after two times purchasing the Kirkland chicken stock, I couldn’t find it anymore at my Costco.  I went to others and no luck either.  A few months later my sister found it again at a Costco in the states and I’m now stocked up again.  Not sure why the Canadian Costcos or at least the ones I’ve been to in the GTA no longer carry it even though it clearly states on the box that it’s a product of Canada.  If anyone out there finds it at a Canadian Costco – please let me know!

So much time saved not having to make stock from scratch!

Kirkland Natural Chicken StockKirkland Natural Chicken stock ingredients

Kirkland Natural Chicken Stock – 5 stars 5 stars

 

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Turn Regular Clothes into SPF30 Protected Clothes for $3

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Sun Guard SPF protectionEveryone knows how soft baby’s skin is and I was determined to keep Ella’s protected as much as possible.  In the last couple of years, I started to see clothing with SPF protection but they were a little pricey, especially considering how fast little ones grow out of their clothes.  I again stumbled upon a product which turns regular clothes that are made from natural material (cotten, linen etc) into SPF protected clothing for $3!  It’s a laundry additive that you put in with a full load into your washing machine and after one treatment,  your clothes increases to a SPF 30 protection level.  Untreated, most items are naturally around a SPF 5 level.  I thought it was too good to be true but it’s recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation so I figured it couldn’t hurt.  Now every summer, I treat Ella’s clothes with Sun Guard and it lasts for 20 washes which is pretty much the entire summer.  I love this stuff and it’s so easy to use.  And when we travel and I know we’re going to do a lot of sight seeing in sunny weather, it’s extra comforting to know she’s extra protected.  Mind you I still lather her in sunscreen from head to toe which I’m sure is overkill.

I would give Sun Guard SPF laundry additive 5 stars 5 stars

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Swim Float for Babies

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I remember having to take swimming lessons when I was younger and being very timid around water.  One of my goals it to ensure right from the start Ella would be as comfortable in water as she was on land.  Luckily we are fortunate to have a pool in our backyard so this made it even easier.  I waited and waited until she was at least 6 months so we could apply sunscreen on her and for the weather to be warm enough to have her out without having to worry she’d get sick.

Although some of the time, we held her and dunked her under the water so she would be used to getting water in her face, I wanted something that she could use to keep afloat.  I looked at life jacket type flotation aids but it seemed strange since it didn’t keep them upright.  Water wings and swim rings were not safe for her at this age so I ruled those out.  I came across a Baby Spring Float by Swimways with a detachable canopy which seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.  It had two tubes that blew up with a mesh centre and mesh insert where they sit in.  It was very sturdy and has never flipped over which was comforting for us.  Although adult supervision is always needed in the water, we felt comfortable with Ella in this and did not have to hold onto the float at all times.  She loved being independent in her float and I appreciated not having to have her hang off me the entire time in the pool.  The recommended age is 9-24 months but we’ve had children who’ve been as old as 6yrs old in it and it’s still in one piece after 3 summers of use now.  In addition if you go to the beach or travel, you can deflate it and it folds up a little smaller and fits into a carry bag which is included.

swimways baby float

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Sugar Free Snacks (Baby and Toddler)

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As soon as we started with solids for Ella, I started to look for snacks that I could pack in her diaper bag and take on the go with me.  My first goal was to find crackers or similar that was soft and more easily chewed or more accurately gummed by Ella especially since she only had a couple of teeth that had come through.  First I was introduced to Baby Mum-Mums by a friend – read the label and sure enough sugar was one of the ingredients.  I then went to buy a box of Cheerios and again there was sugar.  Lastly we were given Arrowroot cookies – again it contained sugar.  Don’t be fooled by the cute baby on the box unless you’re looking at giving your 6 month old sugar.  Who would of thought I would become one of “those moms”?  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t delusional to think I could prevent her from having sugar – I was more trying to wait until she was a little older – at least past her first birthday if at all possible.  She had a lifetime to consume candy, chocolate and all those other goodies that all of us along with every child loves so much.

wheat popsSo off I went up going to several grocery stores, health food stores, drugstores, Costco and any other store out there that would potentially give me an alternative option to sugar.  I stumbled upon these Korean wheat pops (and later found rice pops as well) which are basically kernels of wheat put into a machine with hot air and puffs into a light cracker of sorts with no additives or sugar – just the grain.  I purchased a bag from Longo’s and these became a staple snack – easy to digest , no sugar and they keep for a while without the need for preservatives.  For some reason I thought these would be like the cardboard tasting plain rice cakes but surprisingly these were actually good.  More importantly Ella loved eating them and they were easy to transport so I was sold.

GoGo Squeeze My second goal was to find fruit that again was easy to transport, as mess free as possible and also wasn’t a chocking hazard.  I ended up with two options – GoGo Squeeze which is applesauce in a convenient small squeezable packaging with a small twist off cap the you can either feed with a spoon or if they are older, they can consume straight from the package.  Especially when you are only introducing single foods slowly as they start to consume solids, these were a great option since applesauce was one of the first on my list to introduce.  As you get into mixing foods, there are several other brands out there with the same concept.

Freeze Dried Fruit The second option was freeze dried fruits.  Again, no preservatives – just fruit and completely mess free with a really long shelf life.  Freeze dried means that all the moisture has been taken out of them to the point they are almost crispy to eat.  Even better, they don’t require much chewing at all – they almost start to dissolve as you eat them.  Initially I ordered these on-line but soon found a Kirkland brand at Costco.  What a great way to ensure they get fruit on-the-go and not worry about it browning, getting bruised or going bad if you forget about them!

PC fruit bars Another option I found as she started to develop a sweet tooth are these PC fruit bars.  A great alternative to giving her gummy fruit snacks (even the ones that advertise that they are made with 100% fruit juice have some type of additional sugar added to in them).  Note these are meant for children at least 12 months old.

As she got a little older although I don’t restrict her from having sugar, where there is an alternative with no sugar she definitely gets that instead.

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The 2nd Happiest Place on Earth?

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As with most children out there, Ella started to become obsessed with our furry little red friend Elmo from Sesame Street when she was one.  It was strange as she never watched an episode of Sesame Street or even TV at that point but yet she still loved the character.  My friend’s brother lived in Pennsylvania and told us about an amusement park – Sesame Place that was completely Sesame Street themed, was smaller in size and with rides that were geared towards younger children.  After doing a little research, we discovered that it was located in Langhorne Pennsylvania, 30 minutes from Philadelphia or 90 minutes from New York City.

On our first trip, we decided to fly into Philadelphia, spend a few days downtown to explore the city and catch a Phillies game before renting a car and heading to Sesame Place.  As Langhorne is a pretty small city, the best and closest hotel option was the Sheraton.  Luckily I am an obsessive points collector as well and instead of paying $180 per night for the hotel, it only cost me 7000 SPG points instead!  The Sheraton was a pretty basic one but given that it was so close to the park, I wouldn’t have stayed anywhere else.  In addition they have a frequent shuttle that goes back and forth to the park throughout the day which saves on having to pay for parking.

We chose to go second week of June on a Thursday to avoid the weekend crowds and also before summer break started for the school aged children.  This proved to save us a little on tickets since they offered a one-day spring admission ticket for $43.  You can pay a little more and get a two-day pass which is their standard ticket but for us, with an almost two year old, one day was perfect.  The only issue I had was that everyone required a ticket to enter the park and there was no special pricing – all tickets were the same price.

In addition, there was an option to have lunch with the characters.  If you are interested in doing this – book in advance as the times do fill up.  The food was terrible (buffet style with chicken fingers, pasta, fries, salad) but the experience was completely worth it!  All of the main characters were there – Elmo, Abby, Big Bird, The Count, and Cookie Monster.  You should have seen Ella’s eyes light up when she entered the cafeteria style room – she was ecstatic!  You get a reserved table to have lunch and there is a spot in the corner where you can get your picture taken with Elmo.  You can either pay for their photo or you are welcome to take your own.  In addition, all of the other characters came around to visit the tables – again you are welcome to take pictures.  They end the lunch with a little show and conga line where the little ones can join in – so much fun.  I’m not sure if Ella even ate anything during the lunch as she wanted to be near all of the characters and get hugs whenever possible.  This is one of those parent moments where you sit back and really enjoy – the pure joy on her face was worth every penny.

AbbyElmo

The rest of the park was split into two sections – dry rides and wet rides/pool.  The park overall is pretty small and manageable in one day.  Some of the rides requires children to be at least 38″ so Ella couldn’t go on all of the rides but that was OK as there were so many other options that she could go on.

There are several shows that they put on throughout the day in their theaters which we didn’t get to go to until the second time we visited but we made sure we made it for the parade (be sure to check out parade times and get there early to get a front row spot).  The parade was a blast as well and came a close second to the lunch with the characters.  I think Ella’s hand was probably sore from continually waving at the characters.

A few tips if you decide to go:

  1. Bring a hat and lots of sunscreen as there is almost no shaded area.
  2. Get the wristband that they attach to your credit card so you can pay for food and souvenirs without having to fumble around with  your wallet.
  3. Have them already dressed in a bathing suit underneath before you get there to save the hassle when you’re there.
  4. Stay at the Sheraton on points – great value.
  5. Go early June and pick a day during the week to avoid the crowds.
  6. Spend the money to have lunch with the characters as you won’t likely see all of the characters around in the park or have a chance to get up close for a photo opportunity.
  7. Bring a small blanket (something light so you don’t mind carrying it around) so you can sit on it during the parade.
  8. Bring your own snacks and drinks to carry in a backpack as the food is expensive (but not anymore than any other amusement park).

Feel free to comment below for anyone who has other suggestions, comments or questions!  Share with a friend if you know anyone who has a young child obsessed with Elmo!

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