Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saving Money: Clothing & Toy Swaps

Shopping is fun, isn't it?  Having endless stores full of racks of stuff to choose from, trying on clothes and finding all sorts of things you like...  but then comes the serious business of narrowing down your "yes" pile to a selection that fits in your budget.  And then the paying for it all, all the while a little voice in the back of your head is reminding you of the bag of things you bought last month, which still sits in your closet, its contents unworn and forgotten in the excitement of an afternoon out at the mall (without the kids, if you're really lucky).  Unfortunately, it always comes back to bite you in the behind - first there are the crowded dresser drawers and closet shelves/rods to contend with, then the realization that while your latest find may be lovely, you do already have almost-identical tops in your closet, and last but not least, the larger-than-life Visa bill that always arrives right after you learn that your car needs repair or some other financial slap in the face comes along.

There's a better way, maybe not for all your shopping needs, but certainly to satisfy the urge to have something "new" to wear instead of the same old same old.  Enter the clothing swap.  Having hosted a few of these myself, I thought I'd share some of my ideas and tips to help you perhaps organize or even host your own.  The basic idea is that you and a group of girlfriends go through your respective closets and sort out anything that's currently too big/too small/unloved by you, and put it aside.  Everyone brings their set-aside piles to the swap, and everyone gets to shop from the selection.  At the end of the event, you get rid of some of the closet clutter that was taking up space in your home, and you get to have some nice new-to-you clothes for the budget-friendly price of FREE (or almost free, if you opt for a sale or auction style swap)

Now there are some considerations, and rules you may want to put in place to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.  First of all, think about the size ranges for the guests - you don't want to have a bunch of people who have all recently lost weight and are looking to trade in their size 14s for size 8s (unless you also have a bunch of people that have put on a few pounds and are looking to get rid of their too-small size 8's and upgrade to a more comfortably fitting size 12).

You don't need much in the way of supplies, though it helps to have a couple of full length mirrors, and a room or two with doors that guests can use as a fitting room.  There should be enough space for everyone's clothes to be sorted out by size (large storage bins are helpful for this).  If you are sorting clothes by size, make sure to have signs with the size written on it so that people will know where to put the clothes they bring.

You'll need to decide if you want to donate un-swapped clothes to charity or send them back home with the donors (and be able to identify them in case of the latter).  You can opt to do a free swap, where everyone can take as much as they want (assuming they did contribute something of their own to swap), a yard-sale style swap (with a set cost per item/style to keep it simple, money going to charity or the seller) or you can auction off items (after allowing some time for people to browse & try on items), with the money either being taken by the item owners, split by the guests or given to a charity.  Auction style swaps are especially good when there are popular items wanted by more than one person.

When inviting people, be sure to specify if you want to include/exclude outerwear, footwear, sleepwear, or other categories of clothing from the swap.  A successful swap doesn't have to take very long, with 3-5 people you can be in and out within an hour, and that includes unpacking & packing your clothes!

Now I know I've focused on the logistics of adult clothing swaps, however you can easily adapt these ideas to a baby/kids clothing swap, or even a toy swap (it is a great way to clean out the playroom and get rid of the deadwood taking up space!)

If you've attended or hosted a clothing swap in the past, what did you like about it?  Do you have any other suggestions for organizers to try?  Share your wisdom in the comments below!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Little Lasso

There's a fine line between a baby dropping a toy ("Oops!"), and a baby tossing it on the floor just because it's a fun game for her to throw it and you to pick it up.  Fun for baby, maybe not so much fun for you.  Especially if we're talking about a busy (germy!) restaurant floor... or a sidewalk... or the backseat of your car.  There are many different styles of tethers and toy leashes out there, and I can't speak for all of them, but I can share with you the great features of "the little lasso", a made-in-USA tether that can hold a sippy cup just as well as a tag blanket, and whose website encourages you to "stop playing fetch".  With a "C" shaped plastic oval loop on one end (firmly attached so it can be moved a bit but not removed, at least not by baby) and a "noose" on the other end that adjusts to hold just about anything you want to keep off the floor.  The little lasso has a sturdy elastic encased in a gathered tube of machine washable fabric, and has three large plastic beads threaded on it to allow the size of the tether noose to be adjusted.

An adult can easily insert a toy into the noose and then tighten the bead/elastic of the tether to ensure a good tight fit.  The other end of the tether (the plastic clip end) then can attach to baby's highchair or stroller (or wherever else you need it).  Being about a foot long from clip to toy, it will keep things from hitting the floor when dropped, preventing unnecessary spills and broken items, as well as saving your back (and perhaps also some of your sanity as well).  Simply give the tether a tug to retrieve the dropped item, and you and baby can get on with your day.  Eventually, baby will probably learn how to retrieve the item herself, although it's anyone's guess if (s)he will ever be satisfied without your intervention for each "oops"...

I find the little lasso most helpful at dinnertime, whether at home or away - to keep a few toys attached to baby's high chair while I hustle to get supper on the table (or on special occasions, while I sip wine and look forward to the wait staff bringing my plate from the restaurant kitchen...)  My little one also seems amused with its elastic properties - Daddy holds onto the clip, baby holds onto the toy.  Tug of war ensues...eventually baby lets go of the toy and BOING-G-G-G off it goes - laughs all around.  Plus the toy is still on the tether so no one has to go chase it down.

If you think something like this can help you to save time, energy, and stop the endless cycle of pickup/wipe off/give to baby/drop/pickup, have a look over at, check out all of their lovely designer fabric patterns, and maybe pick up a few for yourself or for the next baby shower you get invited to.  You won't regret it!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pampersack: A Baby Sleeping Bag

It's no secret that moms crave sleep.  Also, chocolate...  but definitely sleep.  Once your baby gets to an age where they are (finally!) sleeping more consistently, and you can count on having to nurse them to sleep but that they are not NEEDING to feed every hour or two thereafter anymore, all of a sudden you get to enjoy your nights again.  Or at least, you get to make it through most mornings without needing a fourth cup of coffee to keep you awake.  But then, as luck would have it, things change again.  Baby is growing too big to be swaddled, or just doesn't like it anymore.  Winter is coming and it's crazy expensive to keep the house warm enough for baby to sleep in a diaper and pajamas and nothing else.  Even those adorable, super-soft thick fleece sleepers can only keep so much warmth in.  Blankets, if you are using them, end up kicked off, rolled to the side, or pulled up over baby's head far too often, meaning baby gets cold, baby cries, and you mamas get to roll out of your bed and stumble to the crib to re-tuck baby when actually you should both be sleeping.

Now imagine if you could just take baby's blanket, fit it around her body just right, and zip/snap/pin it on so that it won't be kicked off or pulled overhead.  That's the idea behind baby sleeping bags.  I have a number of different brands and styles, which I intend to review in good time.  But I have to say, my favourite in terms of price vs function is the Pampersack from  I have two of the Stargaze winter models, which I purchased new for around $35 each when my son was little.  I got the big size, 22 months - 3T, and it has a tremendous feature that makes me able to use them RIGHT NOW as my little girl is just 6 months - armpit snaps.  Yes, the arm holes are generously sized, but they have one set of snaps on each side, so that you can make them smaller (thus pretty much ensuring that they stay right where they should when a younger baby is in the sleeping bag).  The bags zipper just off centre, from top to bottom, and are incredibly roomy on the bottom for babies that like to kick their legs and not feel restricted.  There is also a snap at the top of the zipper to keep the fabric flat and keep the plastic zipper part from rubbing against baby's face (though with the armpit snaps done up, this is unlikely as the zipper beginning is mid-chest, not under baby's chin).  100% cotton on the outside, 100% cotton jersey on the inside, plush filling, and sweet embroidery makes this model adorable AND super comfy.

The winter weight Pampersack is really, really nice and warm.  It's also fairly bulky, not around baby's face & arms, but the bottom half where the legs go - so if you are trying to juggle baby onto a nursing pillow, it does add a bit of bulk on the end.  I think this is totally worth it because the size of the sleeping bag ensures it will fit for a good long time, and also because the warmth factor means I can keep the thermostat at 65 degrees without having to feel like a jerk.

I wouldn't recommend this sleeping bag for the heat of summer, but it does well in Fall, Winter, and Spring, as you can vary what baby wears underneath in terms of long sleeves/short sleeves, and pants vs no pants, to accomodate various temperatures.  It is super affordable compared to other brands that also offer the heavy winter weight sleeping bags, the shipping is very reasonable ($4.95 per order, not per bag), and if you sign up on their email list you will get valuable (worth waiting for!) coupon codes emailed to you periodically.  The company also makes summer weight, minky, organic, and silk sleeping bags, which I'm sure are lovely, but I have not had the opportunity to try them and so I can't comment.

To find out more, or to buy your Pampersack, visit

Monday, October 03, 2011

Mommy Necklaces

Internet!  It's been a while!  Sorry for the delay in recent posts... we've had the back-to-(pre)school sniffles and sickness around here the last few weeks and are finally starting to feel rested and healthy back to the post!

Since I am once again tethered at the breast to a baby (or at least that's what it feels like most days, especially since she (still!) refuses to take a bottle), I spend a fair bit of time nursing.  One of my favorite things is to look down at her while she is eating, and see her reach her hand up towards me, the sparkle in her eye ... and then things take a turn for the worse - she either pulls my hair, or digs her razor sharp fingernails into my chin, or grabs hold of the neckline of whatever shirt I'm wearing and pulls it just as hard as she can (which is remarkably hard, considering she is just a baby!).  If this has happened to you, you know you now have the joy of wearing a shirt that has a neckline all warped and stretched out, so it looks like you pulled a beach ball through the neckline before you got dressed in the morning.

The trick is to give the baby something appropriate to grasp and pull on, such as a Mommy Necklace.  No, I'm not suggesting you let baby make a plaything out of your finest pearls...there is actually jewellery designed exactly for this purpose.  Made of high quality, lab-tested acrylic beads, Mommy Necklaces are not only made to last, but they are really pretty!  I personally have the Aurora Dangling Donut and the 34" "Simply Snazzy" design, both of which I got on Baby Half Off (have I mentioned how much I love that site?). 

The Aurora is my favourite thanks to the jewel tone bead colours, the fun donut feature that baby loves to play with, and the perfect length (for me).  The Simply Snazzy is also really pretty but I find the rings over the beads to be kind of noisy when they move around, plus the 34" length is just a bit much for me, and tends to lay on top of baby's face while she's feeding, which is distracting to her and me.  Both necklaces come with a fantastic break-away closure made of a black rubbery plastic material, the ends snap together and will pull apart if there is too much pressure (ie, baby gives a super hard yank, the necklace will unclasp, instead of digging into your neck).  I have not had baby pull hard enough on it yet to make it come undone, so I don't think you need to worry about having it come undone unintentionally.

The necklaces are attractive and stylish enough to wear with your normal day to day clothes, so you can wear them long after you finish nursing your little one.  They come in so many different styles and colour combinations that there is surely a perfect Mommy Necklace for everyone.   Have a look at to see some of the styles available.