Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Uncommon Goods Review and Giveaway: $50 ARV {6.9, US}

Uncommon Goods combines high quality products, creativity, environmental responsibility & sustainability, ethical employment practices, and philanthropy into a unique and affordable online marketplace. I jumped at the chance to offer a $50 Gift Certificate Giveaway and to choose products to review, as I'm always thrilled to work with brands whose values are consistent with my own, especially when those brands offer an impressive selection of handmade, organic, and recycled products!

Uncommon Goods seeks to offer products that do not harm people, animals, or the environment. Their catalogs are printed on either recycled paper, or paper harvested in a sustainable manner from Forest Stewardship Council certified forests. For over 10 years, customers have been able to select from four reputable charities for Uncommon Goods to donate $1 to on their behalf as part of the check out process. A reading of their Mission Statement demonstrates just how uncommonly good they really are! 

The items I selected for review were the Fresh Organic Fruit Basket {ARV $30} and the Peek O Fabric Activity Box {ARV $20}.

The Fresh Organic Fruit Basket, while intended for my 4 month old, has been just as much of a hit with my 3.5 year old. She loves "feeding" him his fruit, and he loves "eating" (aka teething on) it! Since the little watermelon, banana, and bunch of grapes are made of organic cotton and dyed with safe dyes, I don't have to worry about the amount of time they spend in my little one's mouth. That's a relief, since he finds the firm but soft construction very soothing on his sore gums. I appreciate that these are machine washable, with the amount of drool and general baby yuck that get on them! The little fruit basket itself doubles as a purse, doctor bag, and even dog carrier. With my oldest's imagination, the sky is the limit! 

When I pulled out the Peek O Fabric Activity Box, I worried that it might be a little "too old" for the baby,
but "too young" for the pre-schooler. I was wrong on both counts! Canon is able to turn the box over, open several of the flaps, grip the ribbons and teething ring, and even pull Oslo the dog out of his hiding place. He gleefully giggles when he gives the box a toss and watches his big sister fetch it for him, showing him the mirror and making the bird sing! The activity box is not only an interactive toy for the baby, but a great toy for interaction between older and younger siblings. With something new to discover on each surface of the cube, this toy is captivating for a range of ages and developmental stages.

While I chose from a selection of products appropriate for my infant, Uncommon Goods offers much more than baby toys! Shopping categories include everything from office to garden, jewelry to dining, and everything in between! They offer easy one-stop shopping for holidays and special occasions, like these choices for graduates, or this selection of items perfect for Father's Day!

I have fallen in love with this company, and they are offering one lucky reader a $50 gift certificate so that you might fall in love, too! Please use the rafflecopter entry system below to enter to win!

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. Entry open to persons 18 years of age and over, US only. Giveaway ends at 12:00 am on June 9, 2013. Winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries and will have 48 hours to respond to email notification or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is sponsored by Uncommon Goods; Fine and Fair is not responsible for prize fulfillment.

Disclosure: I received the items reviewed in this post free of charge, and have not otherwise been compensated for this review and giveaway post.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wordless Wednesday: Weekend at the Lake House

Last year, my parents purchased a beautiful lake house "up north." We were fortunate to spend a few weekends there last summer, the first being Memorial Day weekend. Last year, when we returned home from Memorial Day Weekend at the lake house, I rushed into the house, peed on a stick, and found out that Canon was on his way. This year, Memorial Day weekend at the lake house was our first trip out of town since his arrival. We had a beautiful, relaxing weekend; here are a few of the moments we captured!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

30 Day Fitness Challenges

Last Wednesday, I did 250 squats.

I don't know about you, but for me? That's kind of a big deal.

When it comes to physical fitness, I have always been, let's say, inconsistent. I'd get into a solid workout routine, keep at it for a few weeks, and then forget that exercise is a thing for months on end. Surprisingly, all of that changed during my pregnancy with Canon. I was determined to remain healthy and strong throughout my pregnancy, committed to doing everything in my power to ensure the best possible outcomes for both of us. For the first time in my life, I was exercising consistently. I was doing yoga, water aerobics, swimming, walking, and even took up Zumba. The day before I went into labor, I was waddling, slowly but surely around the indoor track at the Y, when an older woman smiled at me and called out "Hope your water doesn't break!"

After Canon's birth, I was frustrated with having to recover from surgery before I could start easing back into the consistent physical activity I'd grown accustomed to. I started out slowly with walking, then the Babywearing Workout, then yoga, then Zumba. Consistency was difficult to come by while managing the needs of my 3 year old and my newborn, but I did what I could, when I could, re-building my strength and endurance as I went.

Fast forward to mid-April, when I started to see something about a 30 Day Squat Challenge popping up on my radar. At first, I brushed it off. I've never been successful at completing a fitness challenge. I made it 2 weeks into Couch-to-5K before hurting my knee and giving up. I made it a week into a push-up challenge once before forgetting about it. And despite owning Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred [affiliate link] for 5 years now, I've never done it consistently for more than a couple of weeks, and am "shredded."


I decided to go for it, and I invited friends to join me. We got together in a facebook and encouraged and supported each other. We had a daily reminder of how many squats to do. We had a body-positive space to participate in this challenge together. Not all of us made it until the end, and those who dropped out or modified the challenge to suit their needs were fully supported.

So on the first day, I did 50 squats. And on the 30th day, I did 250 squats.

Next up, I plan to start a 30 day push-up challenge that starts with 5 push-ups and works up to 40, with several rest days thrown in for good measure. After that, the sky's the limit! A leg-lift challenge? Planks? Crunches? All of the above! In due time, of course. Will you join me?

The private Fine and Fair Fitness Challenges group is HERE. Just click "Join Group" in the upper right-hand corner, and you'll be added! Our next challenge will be starting soon, so join now and introduce yourself!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May Simply Living Blog Carnival: Daily Lives

Thank you for joining us for this month’s Simply Living Blog Carnival. Here is the code for tomorrow’s carnival. We will send out an update code later in the day tomorrow. We hope you will join us again next month. Also, we will be adding a linky to our sites so that you can link up all of your other posts pertaining to simple living in your daily lives. I will send out a link to that as soon as it posts this week. Thank you again for joining us. I hope you will join us again next month. Be sure to check out the posts from other participants! Mandy Welcome to the May edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival - Daily Lives cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. This month, we write about what we do to keep the little things from overwhelming us. Please check out the links to posts by our other participants at the end of this post.

I'm looking forward to reading the posts below, in hopes that they will help me simplify my daily life enough that I might be able to participate in next month's carnival in a more meaningful way! With my recent return to work after my maternity leave, it's all I can do to keep the diapers and pump parts clean! ;) Enjoy this collection of posts, and don't forget to keep it simple! :)


  Thank you for visiting the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. Read about how others are incorporating stress relieving actions into their daily day lives. We hope you will join us next month!

  • How I Stay Sane! - ANonyMous @ Radical Ramblings discusses the coping mechanisms she has to stay sane when her life is chaotic and often stressful.

  • Organising - sustainablemum talks about how spending time planning ahead has given her more time for life!

  • Simple Menu Planning for New Moms - No longer a lady of leisure, new mom Mercedes at Project Procrastinot has had to rethink her cooking style in order to maximize her time in the kitchen.

  • Happy Homes/Peaceful Homes - According to Lisa at Squishable Baby, It's the things that bring us closer together as a family - that keep our home Peaceful.

  • Keeping It Simple - At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy focuses on keeping things simple so that she can spend her time enjoying her family.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The End of a Brief, Beautiful Era

Dear Canon,

As I ease into my fourth week back at work, I am grateful for how smooth this transition is going. We have found a sitter who fits our family and values perfectly, and you are thriving in her care three afternoons a week. She and her children love having you and your sister in their home and they take great care of you. Your afternoon spent with Grandma each week brings her joy and keeping up with you and Delilah keeps her on her toes. This being my first full work week, Daddy is looking forward to starting his Friday afternoons, parenting solo.

Photo by Nicole Aarstad
Knowing that you are lovingly cared for while I work has helped tremendously in my own transition back into my working world. The first week (okay, two) was a weepy one. Our babymoon went by way too fast, and in some ways, I felt a bit cheated out of the maternity leave I'd hoped for. Your surgical delivery meant a more precarious recovery period. Learning to juggle your needs with your sister's needs has been challenging for me, and I couldn't help a but experience a case of good old fashioned mom guilt for feeling like I just couldn't do it perfectly right out of the gate. The weather was crappy and the winter lasted forever this year, so I felt very cooped up and a bit stir-crazy, trapped in the house and overwhelmed by venturing out by myself with both of you. (I'm happy to say that I think I've finally hit my stride as a mother of two, just in time to throw working back into the mix!)

Despite those perceived imperfections in our 3 months at home together, the most important aspect couldn't have been more perfect, and that is the bond that has grown between us. Getting to know you over those 12 precious and fleeting weeks was beautiful. I will always treasure the time you spent in my arms, at my breast, and in our bed. I credit breast feeding, co-sleeping, and babywearing with helping to strengthen the foundation of our bond as mother and son, and I credit the continuation of those practices with helping to ease the bittersweet end of our maternity leave.

I delight in your smile each morning when you wake. I delight in your breath (and even your drool!) on my chest when you are wrapped snugly against me. I delight in your sturdy trunk, your chubby cheeks and chunky thighs, all courtesy of my milk. I delight in the even rise and fall of your chest as you sleep soundly, your mother curled around you, your milk readily available, should you wake in hunger.

Photo by Nicole Aarstad
I'm grateful that my current work schedule allows me to find a good balance between work and home. My mornings are spent leisurely with you and your sister, the afternoons find me involved in work that is fulfilling and important to me. The mornings are especially enjoyable now that Spring has shown herself, at last, and my passion for my work is renewed after a refreshing break from it.

You are an absolutely delightful baby, and as babies go, I assume that you are what is typically referred to as an "easy" baby. I assume this means that with you, I will finally grasp the term "terrible twos" and goodness knows what three will bring. In the mean time, I'm focused on enjoying your infancy, and willing you to stay a baby forever. You are the perfect piece to complete the puzzle of our little family. As time goes by, I will forget the parts of my maternity leave that didn't go as smoothly or as perfectly as they could have, but I will never forget the time I spent getting acquainted with my precious baby, my beautiful son.



Thursday, May 9, 2013

Simply Living Blog Carnival: May Call for Submissions

Welcome to the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. We hope that you will join us on the third Tuesday of each month as we share posts about simple living in our lives. Submission deadline will be the second Tuesday of each month.

  Daily Lives Everyday life can be hectic. Talk to us about how you keep everyday things from overwhelming you. Are you an organizer or declutterer? Do you avoid shopping like the plague? Perhaps you treat yourself to picking up dinner for your family sometimes. What in your daily life helps keep things simple?

 To submit an article to the blog carnival, please e-mail your submission to mandy{at}livingpeacefullywithchildren{dot}com and delilahfineandfair{at}gmail{dot}com, and fill out the webform by May 14. Please write a new, unpublished piece for the carnival. We will e-mail you with instructions before the carnival date. We ask that you publish your post on May 21.

We want you to use creativity and to express yourself as you see fit. To that end, you are welcome to post at your discretion with a few guidelines in mind. Please be respectful in your posts. Avoid excessive profanity and poor grammar or spelling. As the co-hosts of the carnival are all advocates of peaceful living and gentle parenting, we ask that you not post about non-gentle practices or violence toward others. While we will not be editing your articles, we do reserve the right to not add your post to the carnival if it is not on topic, is poorly written, or goes against the guidelines which have been set forth.

 Blog carnivals are a great way to generate blog traffic and build a supportive community. Your blog will receive links from many other blogs and you and your readers will have the opportunity to discover other blogs with similar goals in mind. Please join us as we embrace Simply Living through Simple Living! We hope you will consider joining us every month as we discuss ways we simplify our lives.
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