one year

Saturday was Nicky’s first birthday, and I honestly can’t believe how quickly the time has gone! It seems like the blink of an eye and my tiny little green bean burrito baby is a big boy who loves to eat steak, play with other kids and is thisclose to walking.

To celebrate we had a brunch party with some friends and family who were in town for a wedding. Taylor and I made food for fourteen people- seven adults (including Sym) and seven kids and amazingly enough it was not a disaster? We had fruit salad with strawberries, blueberries and butterscotch melon (SO GOOD), bacon, tater tots, and funfetti pancakes. Taylor and I were actually at the stove making pancakes at the same time; he was making everyone else’s food while I made Nicky’s smash cake: a stack of 12 silver dollar pancakes for his twelve months here. I used a tablespoon to measure out approximately the same amount of batter for each, spread a little cake frosting on top of each and stacked them up. I secured the whole stack with a wooden skewer that I pulled out just before serving to the birthday boy, and it was a hit.

After Gwen, after getting sick, and after Taylor’s and my very responsible decision to not have more kids (even though I REALLY REALLY wanted a baby) I thought I’d never get to experience pregnancy and childbirth again, and even though my third was my most physically uncomfortable pregnancy and the delivery was terrifying, I am so happy to have had Nicky. I’m so grateful and lucky to have three wonderful children who all love each other, and to watch them grow together is my greatest joy in life.

five faves

I basically stopped existing reading this article because it’s SO. REAL.

The perils of HGTV.

Finally a Kickstarter that is relevant to my interests.

I want this, someone in the UK get me this.

I’m a lil apprehensive about Isle of Dogs because well… Wes Anderson often kills dogs in his movies (Buckley!!), and this movie is almost all dogs… idk, y’all. Decide for yourselves.

Skip Hop Tuo Convertible High Chair Review: The Good, the Bad & the Fatally Flawed

This high chair was not provided to me for review purposes; I bought it (on sale) with my hard-earned money so all my opinions are truly and honestly my own.

When Nicky reached high chair age I had fully planned for him to use Gwen’s hand-me-down Ikea Blames high chair. It was secondhand but Gwen had no problems using it, so I didn’t anticipate Nicky would have trouble either. Unfortunately, he HATED the chair. He would throw himself around in it so hard he’d hurt himself and cry too much to even eat, defeating to purpose of putting him in the dang thing in the first place. Even tucking pillows around him didn’t help. I decided he should have his own high chair, something with a higher back, some cushioning and a 5-point harness with shoulder straps to stop him from flailing around quite so much. Something that fit my aesthetic would also be a bonus. In late April I saw that the Skip Hop Tuo Convertible High Chair was on sale at well.ca, and I liked the look of it so I scooped it up.

THE GOOD

Obviously, the best thing about this high chair is the look of it. The beechwood legs, the two-tone grey seat and the modern silhouette are all things to love about this chair. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want the things in your space, even baby gear, possibly especially baby gear, to look good to you. For me, this chair was one of those things.

It’s also easy to keep the chair looking good, because most of the parts: the seat, reversible seat pad, tray and legs, made from hard plastic, vinyl, or wood, all wipe clean very well. I was actually a little worried about the seat pad staining, as one side is white, but so far it hasn’t been a problem at all. The tray, with a removable, dishwasher-safe insert, is easy to attach, adjust and remove using one hand. I do wish the tray was a little larger (it’s too small to accommodate even a mini ezpz placemat/plate) but that’s not a huge problem for me.

The outer shell of the seat is hard plastic that so far has been proven durable and strong. In spite of the plastic shell and wooden legs the chair is very lightweight and easy to move- the handle on the back of the seat is a nice touch that makes it even easier- and even lift if, for example, you need to shake it out over the sink.

I also like the fact that the high chair transforms into a toddler chair, so Nicky will be able to use it for longer than just a couple of years, and with such an attractive look to the seat I’m happy to keep it around as long as I can. This also helps to ameliorate the cost, as this chair was not cheap; regular price is around $200CDN, although as I stated above I did get it on sale.

THE BAD

Now, because of this future toddler chair conversion, there are a few aspects in the design of this chair that are a little… weird. I understand WHY they are the way they are, and they are not necessarily dealbreakers, but I don’t have to like them.

Number one on my list of problems is the layout of the harness. In a regular, non-convertible high chair with shoulder straps, those straps would usually attach near the top of the seat back because they go over the baby’s shoulders. On this seat, the shoulder straps attach at the BOTTOM of the seat back, which means that a) they are a little more prone to tangling, and b) they don’t keep Nicky sitting quite as still as I’d hoped. It’s obvious that Skip Hop made this choice so that once converted from the high chair configuration to the toddler chair there aren’t awkward looking holes high up in the seat back. I get it.

Next up in awkward design choices is the tray. Instead of being part of the seat, the post that goes between the baby’s legs to keep them from slipping forward & out is part of the tray, obviously once again to preserve the look of the seat as a toddler chair. However, this means that when you remove the tray you can’t put it down flat and right side up. You either have to balance it on an angle (and I find it falls over quite often) or put it face-down, which, if the tray is dirty, makes a huge mess. You can of course take out the removable insert which would theoretically have the bulk of the mess on it, but pulling the insert out often causes any food scraps to go flying. Additionally it took Nicky only about five weeks to realize he could pull the insert out himself and send it, and everything on it, onto the floor in one fell swoop.

THE FATAL FLAW

I mentioned up above that most of the parts of this high chair were easy to clean. I say “most” because there is ONE aspect that is a true pain to wash: The straps. You can wipe the nylon webbing of the 5-point harness sort of clean, but to get it TRULY clean, every now and then you’d need to remove the harness from the chair, wash it and put it back in. And here’s the kicker: You can’t. YOU CAN’T.

I feel like there are a few different designs for high chair harnesses to make them removable and re-insertable. With this chair, Skip Hop instead made the mind-bogglingly terrible choice of making the straps very very difficult to remove and, once removed, nearly impossible to put back. And like… this is Baby Gear 101 stuff. Fabric parts that get very dirty should be easy to clean, and if they need to be removed to be cleaned, they should be easy to remove. Anything else is pure amateur hour.

For the first few months that we owned the Tuo this wasn’t a huge issue, and I was able to keep the straps mostly clean, although they did develop a few stains. Then, in late August, one day when Nicky was in his high chair wearing only a diaper (something I think is common for a lot of babies to do, especially messy eaters in the summer months) the unthinkable happened: a blowout. A truly nasty and gnarly, wet and squelchy diaper blowout of horrorshow proportions. Poop. Everywhere. Including all over the hard-to-clean and not-really-removable high chair harness! Like I’m sorry if I’m being a little over the top here but I just feel with fecal matter you want to clean it out of fabric a little more thoroughly than just wiping it off, you know? Maybe it’s just me, but it’s how I feel.

Now, since the straps don’t attach to the top of the seat back they do have a lot of slack throughout most of the length and it is possible to put a bowl of soapy water in the seat and soak most of that length to get stains out. I’ve had some luck with this method, especially during berry season. However, the parts of the straps closest to the points where they pass through the seat aren’t soakable in this manner and those were exactly the parts with the worst poo contamination.

Obviously you have to remove the harness in order to do the toddler chair conversion. It’s just really, really, really difficult to do. It probably took me the better part of an hour to work the three back ends of the straps up through the hard shell and styrofoam core of the seat far enough to be able to pull them through the very tight holes of the seat cover. I definitely considered just cutting them more than once, but I still need to use this chair for my baby! It needs to have straps!

Once I finally had the straps out they were a fast and easy handwash and dried quickly, but this was the only part of the process that was fast, easy OR quick. Because next, I had to reinsert the straps into the seat, which is clearly not something that has been taken into consideration with this design. It took at least twice as much time to reinsert the harness as it did to remove it, it required a lot of experimenting with different tools and wasn’t even possible to do without some damage to the interior of the seat. The biggest problem is the channels through the seat that the strap ends have to pass through are not straight down. They run at an angle, and the openings are quite tight, meaning you can’t just drop the strap through. I had to use a butter knife to shove the harness ends through the channels, which somewhat gouged up the styrofoam inside, as well as dislodged some small round pieces of fabric that were inside the the seat serving some unknown purpose. I don’t know what they were for, but they’re gone now. I then needed to use pliers to pull the ends of the straps through the openings in the bottom of the seat, which damaged the fabric of the harness ends somewhat.

If you are considering removing the harness from your SkipHop Tuo high chair to clean it, please please read what I have to say next: DON’T. Don’t do it unless, like me, you have an overwhelming amount of determination and tenacity about not letting inanimate objects get the best of you, as well as an overabundance of free time. This incident took place on a weekend when Taylor and I were both home, but had it happened during the week when we were working I feel like the Tuo would be in the trasho right now. If you’ve already pulled the straps from your Tuo and are now frantically googling “Tuo high chair straps removed how to put back help disaster,” congratulations on finding my blog! Good luck, and godspeed.

IN CONCLUSION…

In the honeymoon phase of owning this high chair I recommended it to a lot of people, and to any of them who bought this chair or put it on their registries, I would like to apologize. I’m sorry. What happened to us (POOP) was kind of a worst-case scenario but I think there are quite a few different things that could be spilled or mushed or forcefully ejected from a human body onto the high chair that would necessitate a more thorough cleaning of the harness, and I pray this never happens to any of you. Since I was able to get mine back together I am going to continue using this chair but overall I feel I can no longer recommend the Skip Hop Tuo Convertible High Chair unless it goes through a major redesign of the harness straps and the way they attach to the seat.

As one final note, I did try to contact Skip Hop about the problem I was having and I can’t say I was thrilled with their customer service either. Maybe it’s different in the US but in Canada it’s really not great. The contact form on the website has a dropdown menu of subjects you have to choose from and none of them really applied to my situation- there’s no option for “other.” The customer service number on the site is purely for Carters/Osh Kosh B’Gosh and the number I was given for SkipHop (1-877-4-SKIPHOP) was incorrect. When I managed to guess the correct number ((1-877-4-SKIPHO lolol omg), once I navigated the menu system it sent me to voicemail and my call was not returned. I did receive a response to an email sent directly to their customer service email address, but it was a pretty generic “send us a picture of the damaged or defective item” message, and the problem I had wasn’t damage or a defect, it’s an actual flaw in the design of the item. I can’t imagine they’re willing to send me a whole new high chair every time Nicky makes a mess in his so I didn’t bother replying.

The Perils of Scrimping on Butter

One night last week we were stumped on what to give Gwen & Nicky for dinner. On Thursday Sym is at her dad’s and Taylor and I eat later in the evening, so it’s just the two little kids to cook for. We decided on a lazy classic: breakfast for dinner. Just some fried eggs & toast. Easy-peasy.

We’d run out of butter to fry the eggs so after he got home from work Taylor popped back out to the store to pick some up. The grocery store by our house is way too busy at that time of day so I directed him to the drugstore instead. They only had the cheapest cheap no name butter, but butter is butter right? APPARENTLY NOT. Like I’m not some fancy label buying butter connoisseur; I buy store-brand butter for the most part, so I figured this would be fine. And when the house filled up with smoke and the egg whites were overdone while the yolks were barely warm I assumed it was just Taylor messing up somehow (SORRY TAYLOR).

Then on Sunday I wanted pancakes for brunch. We only recently stopped using pancake mix and making them from scratch (we use this recipe, which is pretty much perfect IF you half the amount of salt), but they’ve turned out great each time we’ve made them. So imagine my surprise and consternation when the house filled with smoke AGAIN and the first two pancakes were still raw on the inside when they were BURNT on the outside.

It was at this point when we realized the problem: THE BUTTER. That cheap-ass bargain basement butter with its ludicrously low smoke point was ruining the pancakes like it has almost ruined the eggs! We quickly wiped out the cast irons and tried using vegetable oil instead, which worked a little better (no smoke at least) but it did not impart a nice flavour to the pancakes, and we were still having trouble cooking them through: they were still turning out raw on the inside even when the outside was seriously overcooked. We tried reducing the temperature and flipping them a few more times, but then Taylor had a revelation: there was butter in the batter! Three whole tablespoons of melted trash butter, rendering our pancake batter uncookable and inedible.

In the end we had no choice but to send both the pancakes and the remaining butter to the food waste bin, while we went out for brunch instead (which was a whole other comedy of errors), but in the end we learned a valuable lesson: Don’t. Scrimp. On the butter!

In other news, Taylor and I have found a solution to Gwen’s kindergarten drop-off/pick-up problem. Turns out getting Gwen to and from school with both Nicky & the daycare kids was actually not… physically possible for me to do. So now Taylor drops Gwen off in the morning and I pick her up in the afternoon. I’d hoped to avoid this because I feel like going in to work so late won’t be good for Taylor’s job, but at the end of the day I just cannot do both drop off and pick up. It would be different if we’d gotten a space at the school LITERALLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM OUR APARTMENT, but we didn’t (something I will be forever bitter about) so we’re doing it this way instead.

sick day essentials

Ringing in my favourite season with a gross cold isn’t exactly my ideal situation, but I’ve been making the best of a bad time with some tried-and-true pick-me-ups…

Keep your toes warm with soft, comfy bison down socks.

I don’t have a real fireplace but even a fake one gives the impression of coziness so why not fake it ’til you make it?

Cinnamon + honey, tea + whiskey.

Vegetable soup doesn’t really need a recipe but just in case.

summer’s end

I really need to deadhead these hydrangeas, last year my neighbor took pity on my pregnant self and did it for me but this year I have no excuses.

I know the last day of summer isn’t TECHNICALLY until a little later this week but my gosh, summer just ended HARD this weekend. It’s so cold in the mornings, and at night! I sent Gwen off to school wearing a new-to-her winter coat and I’m REALLY regretting not putting the duvet on the bed last night. My light little summer bedspread just isn’t going to cut it anymore, already. Last week I was perusing the Old Farmer’s Almanac website to try predicting whether I should get Nicky a puffer winter suit and it said this winter will be slightly warmer than normal but after the past couple of days I don’t know if I buy that!

Helping the fall feeling along is the fact that Gwen, Nicky and myself all got colds this weekend. Gwen is the least affected with just a stuffy nose, but Nicky and I feel like crap. On Sunday we took a family trip to Ikea* and fully half the stuff we bought (cheap fleece throw blankets, emergency rain ponchos) were just to help us make the trek back after it started raining. Gwen wasn’t wearing the right shoes for walking in the rain so we crammed her into the stroller and I had Nicky in the Ergo and let me tell you, both of sick and almost fever-y, sneezing & sniffling the whole way home was… not ideal. Once we got back to the house I took up residence on the couch with a mug of cinnamon tea spiked with honey whiskey and stayed there until bed time.

*I wanted to get a few of these little greenhouses to put in my window so I can grow herbs inside this winter but they had sold out! The other, cheaper greenhouse was in stock but it is THREE CENTIMETERS too deep to fit on my windowsill, so frustrating! They are in stock at the other Ikea so maybe I can pick them up there soon.

september days

It’s been chaotic & busy around here lately. Gwen has started kindergarten, I have two new kids starting daycare and I’m still trying to figure out a new schedule for meals, naps, and now drop-offs and pick-ups that works for everyone. This has felt like the longest week of my life, no joke.

I had wanted Gwen to go to the little school across the street, the one that Sym went to, but unfortunately we weren’t able to get a space there so we’re at the main school. It’s only five blocks down the hill, but when you have an 11-month old in an Ergo and two toddlers in a double stroller five blocks might as well be five miles. Combine that with her classroom being up three flights of stairs and… Let’s just say it has been a struggle.

I’m also in a real conundrum with Nicky as the drop off & pick up times line up just perfectly with his regular nap times. Because it takes so long to go to & from the school I have to put him down for his morning nap really late and his afternoon nap really early, and those of you with babies will know that doesn’t really work! He’s too little to drop his morning nap entirely but the past couple days I’ve woken him up after about a half hour of sleep and it seems like it’s going to work. I feel really guilty about it but the alternative- letting him sleep for longer in the morning but then he has such a short afternoon nap or skips it altogether and meltsdown before dinner- is much, much worse.

Right now it’s a very challenging situation for us and I have a lot of unpleasant feelings about a few aspects of it, but I’m hopeful I can get a good routine going soon. Just don’t make me think about what it’ll be like once it starts raining.

eleven

Two days late but OH WELL.

Nicky is now eleven months old, can you believe it’s been almost a year already??? I cannot.

At 11 months old Nicky is into e v e r y t h i n g. He’s pulling himself up into a standing position on everything her can reach, and he’s tall enough that when he does, he can get at things on our desks and the dining room table. We had to move everything off the sideboard in the dining room because he was thisclose to pulling my whole Lego Disney castle (that took forever to build) onto the floor.

He is also walking while assisted, and loves when we clap for him and loves to clap for us. He is finally taking a break from teething THANK GOODNESS. He’s a super eater, enjoys almost every food we give him, but given the option, will always eat meat over anything else. He hates diaper changes and sitting still to get dressed and wants to be on the go all the time. He’s got places to be, I guess.

sun & moon


Being lazy and also very, very forgetful, I totally blanked on the eclipse until about 9:45 this morning, when I glanced outside and was like “… wtf is happening out there?” Gwen was playing int he yard so I went out to make sure she didn’t look at the sun, and we ended up getting to see the eclipse through one neighbour’s pinhole viewer and another’s actual eclipse glasses! It was pretty cool, I’m not sure that Gwen appreciated it and Nicky slept through the whole thing, but I liked it.


Gwen demonstrating proper eclipse viewing if you don’t have glasses.


Sorry to my camera for taking this picture lol.


I think this was my favourite thing, the partially eclipsed sun visible in the shadows of the leaves.