Monday, July 28, 2014

The Knocked-Up Fitness Guide to Pregnancy by Erica Ziel

     Okay, let's face it----you may not feel like running a marathon, let alone walking up the street right now, but maintaining a regular exercise routine during your pregnancy can help you to stay on a healthy track.  The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommend at least 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day on most if not all days during the week, unless you have a medical and/or pregnancy complication.  However, according to research published by the March of Dimes, as many as three quarters of women having a healthy pregnancy don't do enough exercise.  The adaption of a daily exercise program, with first consulting with your physician, may even assist with preventing complications such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.  By staying active during your pregnancy through exercise, the March of Dimes also explains that you can reap other numerous health benefits, including:

  1. Backaches, pelvic pain, constipation and fatigue can be reduced.
  2. Maintaining a healthy weight.
  3. Help to reduce or prevent depression and improve your self-esteem.
  4. Prepare your body and mind for the demands of labor and birth.
  5. Assist in getting you back into shape after your baby is born.

 If you maintained a regular exercise routine before getting pregnant, you should be able to continue your normal activities within moderation, of course.  But, avoid attempting to do your exercises on your pre-pregnancy level and instead, do what's most comfortable for you to do, at this new stage.  The exercises and advice found in Erica Ziel's The Knocked-Up Fitness Guide to Pregnancy (2014) are a great first start to your customizing a workout to fit your specific tolerance levels during each trimester.  Ziel, a Master Pilates Instructor, Personal Trainer, and mother to three children, created this step-by-step resource guide of over 130+ full color pages of 50 exercises, so that moms-to-be will be able to, "focus on some key physical elements, a strong deep core, good posture, and a strong back" so they will ultimately be filled with the, "confidence and energy you need to have the best pregnancy possible."
     The Knocked-Up Fitness Guide to Pregnancy is filled with photos, diagrams, "Q & A" sections, and lots of facts and statistics.   All of the exercises found in Ziel's precisely informative guide are designed to not only be gentle on your body and all of the many changes it is going through, but with careful attention being paid to conditioning and strengthening your growing belly, back and pelvis.  I have found that the beauty of all of the exercises found in The Knocked-Up Fitness Guide to Pregnancy are that they are flexible, providing you with the most ways to maximize your workout time, especially if time is restrained.
      For further information about prenatal fitness expert Erica Ziel, please visit her website at: or about The Knocked-Up Fitness Guide to Pregnancy, please visit

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The ABC's of Bouncer Seats

Baby bouncer seats can quite literally be a lifesaver when it comes to calming down a fussy, colicky newborn. Bouncers often provide parents, just as ours did when we brought our baby boy home from the hospital, with a helping hand and a safe, soothing place for baby to keep occupied during those times when you have things to take care of around the house.
But, before and after you decide to purchase either a new or used bouncer seat, there are several things that you should always take into consideration:
  1. Look for a seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) which signifies that the product conforms to independent safety standards.  
  2. If you are looking to purchase a second hand bouncer, please check the Consumer Product Safety Commissions (CPSA) website to see if the particular bouncer that you are interested in has ever been the subject of a recall.
  3. Be sure to always follow the manufacturers recommend weight and age limits.  Many bouncers can be used only until baby weighs 25 pounds (typically around the 6th month of age) and/or can sit up on their own without assistance.
  4. Never place a bouncer seat on either a soft or elevated surface, as your little ones movement could possibly make the bouncer tip.
  5. Always place your newborn the same room that you’re in, and keep a watchful eye out while they’re sitting in their seat.  
  6. Look for bouncer models that contain an AC plug-in adapter, as chances are, you are bound to go through a steady stream of batteries to keep baby moving.
  7. Bouncers must have a three (3) point harness to keep baby safe from possibly falling out of the seat. A five (5) point harness, that contains over-the-shoulder straps, provides an additional means of safety.
  8. Between less is more models to those that are completely tricked out with music, vibrations, sounds and toy bars, you'll have plenty of choices to make. Look for toy bars that are removable and interchangeable, so not only will you be able to keep them clean for baby, you can alternate the types of toys that will keep your little one amused.
  9. Consider the portability of it---- chances are that if your bouncer becomes the only thing that soothes your baby, you'll want to be able to take it on the road when visiting friends and family. Make time to check before purchasing if the bouncer can be easily folded up or dismantled for travel.

According to a report filed in January of 2014 by Consumer Reports, of all the bouncer brands currently on the market, nine have received certification from the JPMA for meeting the required safety standards set by the ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials). Of those nine brands, I've given a spotlight to three bouncers below that will be a handy, extremely helpful accessory to you and your family during those precious early days and weeks of your newborns life.

Summer Infant's Fox and Friends Sweet Comfort Musical Bouncer  
With four (4) comforting melodies to soothe your little one, Summer Infant's Fox and Friends Sweet Comfort Musical Bouncer contains a removable and washable toy bar featuring three plush, adorable woodland critters, including a red fox, chipmunk and hedgehog, that will amuse your little one. The bouncer seat is made out of soft material that will comfortably cradle your baby. The Summer Infant's Fox and Friends Sweet Comfort Musical Bouncer was very easy to assemble, and I appreciated the fact that the simple warm, woodsy brown colors on the seat would conveniently fit in to any nursery decor.  
JPMA certified, the bouncer seat has a three (3) point safety harness with a removable newborn head support. The bouncer seat requires 3 AA batteries (which are not included). For birth up to 25 lbs (pounds). Retailing for $44.99, the Summer Infant's Fox and Friends Sweet Comfort Musical Bouncer can be found in Target, Babies-R-Us and Buy Buy Baby stores nationwide, as well as online. For further information, please visit Summer Infant's website at:

Fisher-Price My Little Snugapuppy Deluxe Bouncer  

Soft, snuggly and oh, it's so comfy! With up to 20 minutes of soothing music as well as nature sounds and vibrations to calm your baby to sweet sleep, the Fisher-Price My Little Snugapuppy Deluxe Bouncer is loaded with sensory and motion features. An overhead mobile containing a tiny plush puppy dog and kitten, which will help to captivate your baby's attention, building and strengthening their vision skills. JPMA certfied, the Fisher-Price My Little Snugapuppy Deluxe Bouncer has a neutral colored, soft-head seat shaped in the form of a floppy eared pup, as the mobile (along with the seat pad and insert) is not only removable, but is machine washable, perfect for all those accidental spit ups and other messes that are soon to become all too familiar in your growing family! 
A safe and secure three (3) point restraint harness as well as volume control rounds out the bouncer, which is appropriate for use from birth up to 25 lbs (pounds).  
Retailing at $60.00, the Fisher-Price My Little Snugapuppy Deluxe Bouncer can be purchased at Toys-R-Us, Babies-R-Us stores nationwide as well as online at Fisher-Price. For further information, please visit Fisher-Price's website at:

TinyLove Gymini Bouncer
If you are on the lookout for a visually stimulating bouncer seat for your newborn, then look now further than TinyLove's Gymini Bouncer. The cushy padded seat is machine washable. The bar arches are adjustable, making it quite simple to position them in multiple ways to place your little one in the seat as well as getting them out. The three hanging toys are designed in bold, bright patterns and colors, which include a smiling crab and starfish that light up and play music, a hippo that rattles, and a leaf teether, perfect for when baby's first teeth start cutting through. I appreciated the fact that the toys that are included with the TinyLove Gymini Bouncer are not only machine washable as well, but they are interchangeable, so you can purchase other kinds of TinyLove bouncer toys to add to the bar.
Calming, rhythmic vibrations, as well as a seat that can be positioned in either a recline or sitting stance, as well as being extremely lightweight to carry around the house, help to make this bouncer an ideal choice as well.
Retailing at $54.99, the TinyLove Gymini Bouncer can be purchased at Toys-R-Us and Wal-Mart stores nationwide, as well as online at TinyLove. For further information, please visit TinyLove's website at:


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Elks & Angels Cuddle Bear

     It's so easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of nursery accessory choices that you will need to make before your baby arrives.  Granted, the major cuteness factor of all things baby makes it extremely tempting for you to want to buy anything that strikes your attention.  And, while you're busy stocking up on all the necessary layette items for baby, take a quick moment to think about your choice of a special stuffed animal to welcome you little one home.  A classic bear, such as the uniquely designed Cuddle Bear from Elks & Angels, may be the perfect friend to greet your baby upon their arrival.

     Cuddles will abound as your little one (and well, let's face it,  you too!) will adore this soft, sweet little bear.  Created from 100% pure Australian Sheepskin (which has long been known as an extremely durable material that is renowned for it's powerful benefits that help calm and nurture babies), the fiber material will help to keep your baby not only warm and dry during the harsh months of winter, but will keep them cool and comfortable in warmer summer months.  The material is surprisingly silky soft (sheepskin contains natural lanolin) and delicate to the touch, as it naturally breathes and contains anti-bacterial, hypoallergenic and flame-retardant properties, making the Elks & Angels Cuddle Bear ideal for babies sensitive skin.
     The Elks & Angels Cuddle Bear, measuring 8" x 6" x 1" flat,  comes in three colors to choose from:  Latte, Buttermilk and Honey.  Families will appreciate the fact that the Cuddle Bear's eyes, nose and velvety ribbon are safely sunken into the bear, securely attached.  The flatness of the design of the Cuddle Bear helps to make it an ideal pillow pal and/or security friend for your baby as well as for your toddler.
      And, when you decide that Cuddle Bear needs to take a bath just like baby, make sure that you hand wash the bear in warm water with wool-approved detergent that contains no enzymes, and lay it flat on a cloth to air dry.
     The Elks & Angels Cuddle Bear, available in three colors, can be purchased directly through their website at: Elks & Angles
      Durable, silky soft and comforting----The Elks & Angels Cuddle Bear is sure to be adored and loved by your little one for years to come!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Language Development Toys for Your Little Ones

     A child’s first three years of life are filled with intensive periods of speech and language growth and development. Early language toys can furnish families with an array of educational opportunities that will help set the stage for their child’s language play in meaningful context.
     “The best toys for development are those that can foster shared attention to an activity with a child and someone else, keeping a child’s interest, as well as allowing for creative interaction in a manner of different ways — toys that inspire children not only to just memorize words, but show them how to use those words in a wide variety of ways,” explains Dr. Christian Nechyba, a pediatrician with Carolina Kids Pediatric Associates in Raleigh.
     Published research reveals that young children who have strong oral language skills go on to develop strong reading and writing skills. The repetition of simple words and short phrases through exploratory play during the first three years of life will not only help them discover that words have meaning, but foster further cognitive development.

How Toys — and Parents — Can Help
     “Although language development can be attributed to both genetic and environmental factors, a language-rich environment is crucial to support strong language development,” says Jennifer Kern, a pediatric speech language pathologist at Duke University Medical Center.
     In addition to providing them with appropriate learning toys, parents can support their children’s language development, Kern says, by talking about what is going on around them, connecting new concepts to things the child already knows and engaging in back-and-forth social conversation.

Toys to Try
     Age-appropriate educational language toys, like the ones listed below, are designed to teach little ones key developmental basics — early letter recognition and speech and reading skills — all while they are having fun!

1.  Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Smart Stages Chair. This smiling chair contains a light-up remote control and flip book conveniently attached to the chair’s arms; a cushion that, when lifted up, teaches your little one all about letters, numbers and shapes; and technology that gives parents the ability to adjust learning levels manually or automatically to match their child’s age and maturity. The chair offers three levels of play with songs, sounds and phrases that promote language and phonemic skills. The seat can also sense when a child sits or stands. Ages 6-36 months. $39.99,

2.  Melissa & Doug Alphabet Sound Puzzle.  This hand-crafted, wooden puzzle is an excellent way for your little ones to learn to become familiar with letters and the sounds that they make. When children place each of the 26 letters in it's correct space on the puzzle, the letter says it's name, as well as the objects that begin with each.  The Melissa & Doug Alphabet Sound Puzzle assists with building phonemic and motor skills development.   Ages 3 +up.  $19.99, Melissa & Doug.

3. Learning Resources ABC & 123 Electronic Flash Card.    This portable, hand-held device, just perfect for your little ones hands, is very easy to use.  The buttons and switch on the electronic flash card let you choose between letters and numbers games .  Each category comes with two different activities, and your children can explore numerous games, including matching upper and lower case letters; filling in the missing letter in a sequence; to math activities that include finding the missing numbers.  An extremely handy feature is a time, and after a minute passes, whatever game your child is working on stops.  Little ones will delight in being able to see their progress, as the ABC & 123 Electronic Flash Card uses sound to let them know if they scored correctly.  Ages 4+. $17.99, Learning Resources

4.  Educational Insights Hot Dots Jr.  Getting Ready for School!  With the help of Ace-The Talking, Teaching Dog pen, your little one will explore 160 self-checking readiness lessons that reinforces letter, number and shape recognition.  With 80 colorfully illustrated, double-sided activity cards (which are self-correcting) that are specifically designed for use with Ace (who makes several sounds when your child answers correctly, as well as sounds when they don't) you will see that your child will begin to strengthen their knowledge of letters, numbers, shapes, & colors in a fun, independent way. Ages 3-6. $39.99.  Educational Insights.

5.  School Zone Little Scholar Learning Adventure--  The School Zone Little Scholar Learning Adventure is an 8" Android tablet designed specifically for children in grades PreK thru 1st, and is entirely focused on developing educational skills.  The tablet comes pre-loaded with over 150+ apps, videos, books and songs.  It also features front and rear-facing cameras that your little one can use to take their own photos and/or to create their own home movies.  Also, with parental assistance, the Little Scholar tablet has the ability to connect to various WiFi points in order to provide internet access (where you can access the Little Scholar app store to download and purchase more apps and games for the tablet).  I appreciated the fact that the tablet also contains a three-leveled series of ebooks; digital editions that include audio voice overs, just perfect for family read alouds, as well as highlighted text as your little one reads along.  Ages 3 to 7. $199.00 School  Zone


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

American Academy of Pediatrics Releases New Guidelines on the Importance of Reading to Babies

I have always been a staunch believer in the importance of reading stories to babies.  When I was pregnant with my son, I read to my growing belly every day, and when he arrived nine months later, my husband and I continued to read to him, as this bonding experience with our little baby meant a great deal to us.  And, even though they may not have the capacity to learn to read during this stage in their life, this early exposure to books during their infancy will not only lead them on the path to developing those all-important early speech, language and phonemic skills, but you are helping to open the doors to furthering their imagination through the wonder that only books can bring.
     Kudos to Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, medical director of the Wisconsin chapter of Reach Out and Read (a nonprofit literacy group that enlists over thousands of pediatricians throughout the United States to distribute books to low-income families), Too Small to Fail (a joint effort from the nonprofit Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation) and Scholastic for working together on furthering this vital cause.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Safety Tips to Protect Your Little Ones

     The hot, lazy days of summer are once again upon us, and it is time to enjoy all those family favorite warm weather activities.  Amidst all of the outdoor fun, be wary of too much exposure and exercise in times of high heat and humidity.  Parents and caregivers everywhere should be on the lookout for signs of potentially serious and even life-threatening heat-related illnesses in their children.   With this in mind, the AAP has recently issued a series of tips to help keep your little ones safe during this season!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Crosse & Blackwell Sauces

     Trying to find sauces that are gluten-free to help with my dietary restrictions, has, needless to say, always been a challenge.  Due to my dietary issues, I have attempted to make homemade sauces, like cocktail sauce, on my own, but I have never quite been able to attain the right balance of sweet and heat.  However, when our family was recently given the opportunity to try out several Crosse & Blackwell products, including their cocktail sauce, I jumped at the chance to try out their brand for our upcoming Christmas Eve dinner and beyond. 
While preparing our seafood dinner this Christmas Eve,  I started to assemble the shrimp cocktail, and when I poured the Crosse & Blackwell Seafood Cocktail Sauce into my individual dishes, I noticed right away that the sauce was medium in texture (not too thick, but yet, not watery) .  When I took a taste before serving, I found that the tomato base was accented well with vinegar, Worcester sauce, and with just a hint of horseradish, which was to my family’s delight, this slightly sweet , tangy tomato sauce perfectly  complemented our freshly cooked shrimp.  With the addition of a squirt of fresh organic lemon juice to my appetizers,  this sauce will definitely be used again for our annual Christmas Eve dinner of seven fishes (I am half Italian, and this is a tradition in our family).

For dinner at our house this evening I served the Crosse & Blackwell Genuine Major Grey’s Chutney alongside homemade chicken patties, and I was at first, wary of serving it, as my picky husband and son don’t like to eat a lot of condiments.  But, I was determined to make them fans, and when my son took a look at the chutney, he decided to give it a try.  With a quick taste, the sound of “Umm, this IS good,” coming from my son’s lips, I was astonished!   Thick, and full of deliciously vibrant mangoes, sweet, plump raisins, with bold accents of lime and tamarind juice, vinegar and subtle sweetness from sugar, the chutney was a delicious counterpart to our meal. 


     Crosse & Blackwell products can be found in Whole Foods Markets, The Fresh Market and Publix stores nationwide and online.  For further information, please visit their website at: