Thursday, September 26, 2013

SqueeZurts reusable snack tubes

Because of my disappointment with the performance of the Little Green Pouch I started looking out for other ways to serve my daughter yogurt, purees and smoothies on the go. Several parents recommended that I try store bought GoGurt which is a freezable yogurt tube made by Yoplait and it is marketed as being a healthy snack for kids. I posted previous about how I chose to avoid commercially flavored baby yogurt since it's full of way too much sugar. Instead I chose to use plain yogurt sweetened with raw fruit or homemade fruit purees. So I knew I was most likely not going to be happy with the ingredients of GoGurt either but since I heard such good things about it being a yummy, healthy fruity snack, I decided to take a closer look at it in the supermarket. I was appalled.

As you can see from the nutritional label posted above, the three main ingredients in this product are; milk, sugar and modified corn starch. In that order. Then there is less than 2% of other yummy chemicals {insert sarcasm}. I read over the ingredient list a few times and I had one question playing over in my mind  where is the fruit? There is absolutely no fruit in the product! I'm kinda confused why so many parents think this has fruit in it, when it clearly shows in the ingredients that there isn't even a drop of  fruit juice in there. Maybe because the package says "naturally flavored strawberry"?  I also am not quite sure why they add gelatin and carrageenan to thicken the yogurt when plain yogurt is naturally very thick. The only reason they would need to do this is to save money buy putting less yogurt and more thickening agents.Worst of all there is 10 grams of sugar in a 64 gram tube of gogurt, That is nearly the same amount of sugar as half a candy bar. Which means if your child eats two tubes at a time they have basically consumed the same amount of sugar as half a can of coke. Essentially each GoGurt tube is made up of over 15% sugar. Sorry Yoplait I refuse to feed this to my child, heck I refuse to eat it myself.

I was however still envious of the convenience of these yogurt tubes they can be frozen and packed in a lunch bag for kids at school or daycare and it makes it easier for them to feed themselves. So I was happy although slightly confused when I heard about SqueeZurts. They are a reusable tube for homemade smoothes, purees and yogurt mixtures.

The reason I was initially confused was I didn't understand how the tubes could be sealed and reopened repeatedly without having a zipper closure similar to the disappointing zipper on the Little Green Pouch.  According to their website each tube is sold with a twist tie that can be used to seal it, in addition I saw on the So Easy being green blog that it is possible to use clips such as the ones used to keep potato chip packs fresh.  I wasn't a huge fan of this idea at first especially because these tubes basically require me to freeze my yogurt or smoothie rather than just serve it chilled. However the more I thought about it I decided it's worth giving it a try especially since my daughter has now developed an obsession with frozen fruit.

The super starter kit costs $21.00 and includes:
6 SqueeZurt tubes
20 twist ties
2 Li'l hands cold sleeves (to put over the tube to protect little hands from getting too cold)
1 squeeze dispenser bottle
1 wooden drying rack

Even though summer is pretty much over and it's getting cold out, I think my daughter will love these. At least with these snack tubes I won't have to worry about the seal malfunctioning. I can't wait to receive these in the mail and I'm really hoping I like them!

A little disappointed with the Little Green Pouch...

I posted about this reusable food pouch late last year, I was so excited to finally get to make my own homemade pouches for my LO.  Sadly my excitement didn’t last as long as I hoped. The pouches have a defect in the design that causes the zipper closure to separate from the bag, rendering the pouch useless. Their website describes it as a “secure press zipper opening [that] makes filling and closing a cinch”  but in actual fact closing the pouch is not the problem . The real problem is when you try to open it to clean it or refill it, instead of the two sides of the zipper coming apart like a regular Ziploc bag would, one side of the zipper thread rips away from the inner wall of the pouch in such a way that the bag cannot be closed again.

The first time it happened, I blamed myself,  I assumed I opened it too hard, then it happened again and again until the entire 4 pack that I bought ended up in the trash. I was a bit irritated because I hadn’t really gotten much use from it. I looked online and realized that the exact same problem was being reported by many others. I contacted the company and they were awesome. AWESOME.  Seriously they displayed the absolute best customer service I have encountered so far. They expressed genuine concern about the issue, a heartfelt apology and were willing to provide a full refund or free replacement immediately.  I decided to accept the free replacements in the hope that the new pouches would be better. 

 I was hopeful when I received the new pouches they seemed slightly different from the old ones; they were wider and bigger and had a capacity of 7oz unlike the previous set that had 6oz as the max. I made a mental note to open them as gently as possible and even followed the new instructions to blow air through the spout before opening them. I also decided not to put them in the freezer just  in case that was somehow responsible for the problem. Despite all our caution within less than a month the first one was ripped again .  It really baffled me why it would rip so easily,  it’s not as if I use them everyday! I only use them on the weekends usually only  on Saturdays when we have a long day out.  A few weeks later a second pouch ripped, leaving me with only two remaining pouches from a pack of 4 within less than 2 months. So it is obvious these reusable pouches just don’t last long, I’m lucky if I can get to use the same pouch three or four times, which is annoying.  Hence my disappointment in the brand.

Since them I have shopped around for other pouches and discovered there are suddenly many other options other such as EZ Squeezee, Yummi pouch and Gofresh Baby. None of these were available last year when I was looking for reusable pouches, so this gives me hope that a better design is out there somewhere! I haven’t tried these other pouches yet and based on the reviews I'm a little hesitant because  they all seem to have their own flaws.
EZ Squeezees
Yummi Pouch

Go Fresh Baby

Call me crazy but I have decided to stick with the little green pouch for now and by that I mean order another pack and hope for the best, The only reason I’m doing this is because of how nice they were to me and I understand they are a new company starting out. Also because their pouches still have the best reviews compared to the other brands even though the Little Green pouch is slightly more expensive. I really hope they have improved the design and that  my next post about them will be gushing with praise

In the mean time I’ve decided to give Squeezurts yogurt tubes a try too and I will be posting about them soon!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Baby Gear: Safety & baby proofing

When my daughter was a newborn I couldn’t wait for her to be more active and mobile, but once she started rolling and crawling around, life as we knew it was changed forever. Firstly it stunned me how lightning fast she was; she could get from A to B within nanoseconds. I would put her down, look away for a second,  and she would be half way across the room on an adventure of mischief. I knew I had to take some steps to make our home a little safer for her but I didn’t want to overdo it and turn our home into a baby jail.  This is my list of baby proofing gear so far:

Foam tiles
The reason I wanted foam tiles is because in our previous home we had hard wood floors with no carpets or rugs. I didn’t want to put her on the floor in the beginning because the wood floors seemed too hard, cold and slippery for her little hands and feet. Not to mention that the wood surface also seemed to transfer the most dust and dirt to her hands no matter how often I cleaned the floor or the fact that we removed our shoes as soon we got home. I know some parents prefer wood floors over carpet because carpet traps a lot of dust, but I’m the opposite. I prefer carpet because she won't end up with dusty hands just from playing on the carpet. The carpet absorbs the dust until I get a chance to vacuum it up. Maybe I'm crazy? Anyway I decided the foam tiles would be a good way to cover the wood floor and provide a soft, easy-to-clean play area for her.

I  had heard good things about the foam tiles by Soft Tiles but they seemed a bit expensive to me so I held out on buying them. Instead, I started out with the Sassy foam tiles shown below.

 I bought these without doing any research simply because I stumbled upon them in a target store and I thought they looked bright and colorful. I can sum them up in one simple word; useless.
Firstly they aren’t as thick or soft as other brands, and they have shapes cut out of them which is totally impractical.  The cut out shapes prevents the mat from being a smooth walking/crawling surface because the cut outs pop up and can be a trip hazard. These tiles are sold in sets of 6 and since each tile is 16 x 16 inches you would need several sets to cover a large enough play area. I also started paying more attention to the reports that many of these foam tiles contained and emitted dangerous toxic fumes like formamide

I decided to give the Soft Tiles a chance, I liked the fact that they offered a wide range of colors and different sizes of tiles as well as the option to order sloped border tiles to ensure you don’t trip on the edge of the mat. I also fell in love wit the below photo that I saw on their website. Their tiles could look a bit more sophisticated and grown up than the bright colored ones.

I decided to go ahead and order 6 brown tiles and 6 white tiles; so a total of 12 tiles, each tile was 2x2 ft. This covered a total area of 8x6 feet (48 sq ft). I also ordered brown sloping border tiles for the entire mat. When I received it I was really happy with it, it looked a lot better than the brightly colored sassy mat and honestly looked more like a rug than foam tiles. In addition the tiles are much thicker and provide more of a cushion than the Sassy tiles. The photo below shows our brown and white foam tiles when we first assembled it with the sloping borders. The great thing is I can always rearrange the tiles to create a different pattern.

Best of all their website clearly states their tiles are non toxic and do not emit formamide

Play yard
Once we set up the foam tiles, I felt more comfortable putting my daughter on the floor, but she had no desire to stay on the mat and would immediately crawl off the mat and on to the hard wood floor.  Although I’m not a fan of putting her in baby jail, I really had no other choice because I simply couldn’t baby proof everything. I set out in search of a play yard big enough for her and her toys and  I came across the North States Super yard XT play yard.

It comes in two options either a 6 panel yard with optional 2 extra panels or an all-in-one 8 panel yard. The customer photos on amazon show many different set ups of this play yard but the instructions in the manual state you should not put more than 8 panels in one play yard because that affects the strength and stability of the product. The instructions also insist that the play yard should be set up as a hexagon or octagon but never a rectangle or square, again for the same reasons to ensure stability.  This play yard is really easy to set up and has worked great for us.  My daughter hates being in there by herself but I feel good putting her in there for short periods of time because I know she is safe. It is large enough that it fits all her large toys at once, including her exersaucer and there is still space for the both of us to be in there comfortably. This play yard folds up into a compact stack of panels and has a carry strap for ease of transport. As you can see in the photos below we set up the play yard over the foam mat and we tried it both ways, in the octagon shape and also as a square.

Baby Gates
Once we moved into our new place, we knew we needed two baby gates; one for the top of the stairs and one for the kitchen. For the top of the stairs it was really important to get a sturdy gate that we could rely on to keep her safe. I decided I would invest in a good quality steel gate that could handle the responsibility of keeping my toddler safely at the top of the stairs. After doing  lots of research I chose the North States Metal Deluxe Decor gate.

I chose this gate for several reasons:
Key Benefits
·         Adjusts to fit openings 38.3" - 71" (97.3 cm - 180.3 cm) wide, and is 30 (76.2 cm) high.
·         Hardware mounts, even on angled walls.
·         Entire barrier swings open on both sides with child-proof safety latch on both ends.
·         Arched gate is an extra-wide 25.5" (64 cm).
·         Deluxe heavy-duty metal construction.
·         Color: decorative matte bronze.
·         Auto close with stay-open feature.
·         Child-proof latch with easy one-hand operation

These features were all important to me because firstly our stairway is slightly wider than the regular doorway so most of the standard gates were not wide enough. Secondly Many others that were wide enough have a very narrow entrance, for instance I considered getting the metal gate below by Summer Infant. Even though the entire gate is wide enough to fit an opening of up to 48 inches, the part of the gate that actually opens for you to walk through is super narrow. Because our staircase is quite steep I really didn’t want to have to deal with a narrow entry way right at the top of the stairs especially when I have to carry my daughter as well.

Summer Infant extra tall gate with narrow walk through

The North States deluxe gate  also has the added advantage of looking great; the slim streamlined design is much more visually appealing than most of the other bulky plastic gates. The slim design is also great because it means the gate doesn’t protrude into the hallway too much. Best of all the gate opens easily with one hand and swings shut by itself.  We have been using this gate for over 4 months and I love it so far. The only one thing that threw me off was the side panels of the gate or what I like to call the wings. See when I read that it was adjustable from 38.3 inches to 72 inches wide I assumed the side panels were removable. I thought I could add or remove extensions pieces to get the perfect size I wanted. I was wrong. The side wings are not removable what so ever, so to fit a smaller doorway than 72 inches you have to basically fold the side wings into the doorway. The side panels can either lay flat against the inside of the stairway or they can be angled out. As you can see from our photos below we chose to have the side panels lay flat against both sides of the wall inside the stair case. Honestly having the excess panels of the gate tucked into the doorway is not as clean looking as a regular gate that fits the doorway, and having it angled out took up too much space in our hallway. I was a little irritated that this wasn’t better explained on their site but ultimately I still love this gate.  As with other North States products, this gate is made in America.

Our second gate was bought as more of an afterthought. I originally thought I could avoid putting up a gate in the kitchen by baby proofing all the cabinets but my daughter is obsessed with all the appliances in the kitchen specifically the dishwasher and oven.  She figured out how to turn on the dishwasher and would to turn it on every chance she got. Since the oven has similar buttons and dials I knew it was just a matter of time before she figured it out too, so I had to lock her out of the kitchen to prevent that. I decided to get a bit more affordable gate than the steel gate that I chose for the staircase. I bought the Safety 1st Lift, Lock & Swing Gate.

 It is not my favorite gate by any means,  it pretty much has everything I didn't want in a gate; thick bulky plastic, hard to open and close, and often requires two hands to operate it.  However to be fair it does the job of keeping her out of the kitchen and unlike the metal gate, this plastic gate fits within the doorway and doesn’t have any side panels or wings sticking out.  This plastic gate is also very strong and sturdy and has the option to be pressure mounted as well as hardware mounted.

Finally we invested in outlet covers.  We chose the Secure Press Plug Protectors by Safety 1st.

 These feature a pop out tab that makes them easier to remove for the parent but not for the child. Luckily so far she hasn’t expressed much interest in the outlets and is far more interested in trying to break down both gates!