Cricut Explore Air Review

Cricut Explore Air Review

Last year my daughter, Jenny, told me about this cool machine her crafty friend Paulina was telling her about.  They were talking about the Cricut Explore Air, a personal electronic die cutting machine.  Jenny told me it could cut paper and other materials to use for all kinds of projects.  We thought it was pretty cool and wondered why we’d never heard of it before, and why we didn’t each own one.

Intrigued, I researched it and quickly decided I needed one.  It could help us make decorations for the 1950’s themed birthday party we were throwing for my mother that summer.  I figured I could use it to cut signs, menu cards, and other things we had on our list.  Now I only had to figure out how to buy one.  I live in Hawaii and the local craft store didn’t carry Cricut brand items and our Walmart didn’t stock them.

I mentioned it to my husband and hinted he should buy me one for Mother’s Day.  I told him he had to order it online.  He clearly got the hint and I got the Cricut Explore Air for Mother’s Day that year!

I was thrilled, and so were my daughters and grandkids.  Jaime suggested I make luggage tags for her and her son Jett.  My grandsons Dion and Devon placed their orders for luggage tags as well.

cricut explore airLast year I had no idea what I was doing but after watching lots of video tutorials I got to work.  I made signs, banners, cupcake wrappers, cake picks, and menu cards for my mom’s party, and the requested luggage tags.

I painstakingly designed, cut, and glued everything together.  My projects came out nice, but it wasn’t easy trying to piece together layers of tiny letters and images.

I knew I could print, but I had mistakenly thought that print was the same as “write” so I loaded Cricut pens into the housing and “printed” words on to my projects.  I was pleased with the results, but it wasn’t exactly what I thought.  The “write” command uses markers to write on the card stock, paper, or whatever media you are using, the letters weren’t as crisp as printing them on a printer.  I knew that I was missing something, but I didn’t have the time to figure it out.  But anyway my decor was a hit, it was just tedious to make.

Cricut Explore Air

Unfortunately I didn’t have lots of time to play with my new toy last year and I was getting a bit discouraged with the time it took for my paper crafts.  Still I managed to make birthday decor for my grandson Jett’s Thomas the Train Party which included a Thomas Photo Booth and Props.

Cricut Explore AirI also made lots of party decor for the twin grandkids’ Onederland Party.  That was fun, but lots of cutting and pasting.

I only wish I had known then what I know now!

After last Christmas when my kids gave me all sorts of crafting gear and Cricut accessories I knew I had to make time to figure out that Cricut Explore Air!

I mean I had this pretty cool, but pricey cutting machine and was getting frustrated whenever I used it.  Who really wants to spend hours peeling off paper letters then pasting each letter to card stock?  I knew I wasn’t using the Cricut Explore to its full potential and was ready to relegate it to the back of my closet!

But after reading a few blogs and watching some more how-to videos (things I should have done from the beginning!) I started getting excited again.  The projects folks were making and posting on Pinterest and Instagram were so pretty!  I knew I just had to master this machine and make those cool things too!

So I got my act together and turned one of my spare bedrooms into my craft room, it was so much easier to have the machine and other stuff set up and ready to use.  Last year I kept having to set it up in the family room, this added to my frustration, setting up then putting away every time I had to use it.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Cricut Explore Air

Stenciled Vase

Once I had my crafting space set up I was ready to go!  I don’t claim to be a master crafter just yet, but I’m pretty pleased with myself.

I’ve learned to use the Cricut Explore Air to make stencils which I used for signs, vases, plates, and other items.  I even stenciled a cabinet for my beach themed guest bathroom![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Cricut Explore Air

Appliqued Lady Bug Dress

I’ve cut out fabric appliques and sewed them on t-shirts and dresses for my grandchildren.

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Cricut Explore Air

50th. Anniversary Card

I’ve even made some pretty awesome greeting cards.  Like this pretty card I made for my Aunt & Uncle’s 50th. Anniversary![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Cricut Explore AirAnd this cool bowling invitation I made for my grandson Devon’s bowling themed birthday party.  For this card I even calibrated my printer with the Cricut Explore Air so it printed out the words and the Cricut cut out the shapes afterwards!  Yay!  No more pasting tiny letters to card stock!  I won’t lie, this took me half the day to figure out, but now that I know how it’s so easy!

Cricut Explore AirThen I made iron on transfers for that birthday party!

In short I fell in love with my Cricut Explore Air all over again!  It really is a great machine.  You can do so much with it!

Yes you can cut paper and card stock to make cards and and scrapbook frills; but it can do so much more!

This cutting machine can cut all types of materials including fabric (it needs a stabilizer like fusible webbing), craft foam, thin wood, and leather with a deep cut housing and blade that’s available separately.  It cuts thin plastic film, vinyl, and the list goes on!

This machine is great for many of your crafting needs!  But it does have some flaws, nothing insurmountable, but annoying none the less!  So here’s my list of what I love about the Cricut Explore Air and what I don’t like about it!

Loves:

The Design Space where you can design and create your projects.  The Design Space is a cloud based app that lets you use images and fonts you upload from your computer and Cricut images, fonts, and projects from Cricut.  Some items are free, others are available with a monthly subscription to Cricut Access, and you can use Cricut cartridges you may have (from older Cricut machines) or can purchase from Cricut and other craft stores and online sources.

I love the fact that you can print then cut pretty much with one click!

You can use Design Space to create from your laptop or mobile devices like your iPad or tablet.

The Cricut Explore Air can wirelessly connect to your devices including your computer, tablet, and printer.  This means you can design projects from anywhere, you’re not tied to your home computer or laptop.  All devices must be blue tooth capable.

You can cut so many different types of material so you can use it for any crafting project.  It really unleashes your creativity!


Dislikes:

You can’t share your designs made in the Design Space with others.

You can’t save your designs made in the Design Space on to your computer, all designs are saved in your online account.  This means you must be logged on to your online Cricut Design Space account to work on anything, whether designing, printing, or cutting.

You need an internet connection to be able to design, print, or cut anything.  So if you don’t have an internet connection you’re stuck.  You won’t be able to work on your projects that are stored in Design Space.

There have been times when the Design Space app won’t work using Chrome as your browser.  This usually happens after a Chrome update.  When this happens you must use a different browser, so if you don’t have a different browser on your device you must install one such as Firefox or Explorer.

When your internet connection is slow then working in design space is very slow, sometimes not possible because your connection times out.

Buying images, fonts, and projects can get pricey (images start at .99 each), and the cost of cartridges can add up too.  The best way to get around this would be to buy a subscription to Cricut Access for $7.99 a month if you pay for a full year, otherwise it’s $9.99 a month and you can cancel any time.  This gives you access to thousands of images, fonts, and projects.  The least expensive alternative is to upload your own images and fonts.

I love my Cricut Explore Air.  In my opinion my list of loves out weighs my dislikes.  Sure it can be inconvenient and frustrating when your internet connection is down for whatever reason, but I’ve learned to be patient and do something else while I wait for a connection.

Whether you’re a serious crafter or just a casual one you should consider this cutting machine.  Of course once you have one it’s pretty addictive.  You’ll wonder how you could have lived without one before!

* These opinions are my own.  I wasn’t paid or compensated for this post by anyone.

Having said all that here’s a couple of videos to show you how I made a graduation card in the Cricut Design Space and then printed and cut out the pieces on my printer and Cricut!

 

 

I’ve also shared some projects I’ve made using my Cricut Explore Air, some even have free template and printables like my Stenciled Glass Vase   and Gilded Photo Hangers.  I hope you’ll check them out and subscribe to my blog to get the latest projects, tips, and more!

Meanwhile happy crafting!

 

Nespresso Vertuoline Review – The Perfect Cup

Nespresso Vertuoline Review – The Perfect Cup

My first experience with a Nespresso single serve coffee me maker was when we stayed at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Resort & Marina 4 years ago.  Every room was equipped with this handy coffee maker that brewed single cups of regular coffee or espresso.  I loved it!  The machine heated water in about a minute and soon after that you had a fresh cup of delicious coffee.

I was familiar with Nespresso machines, they’re in many of the breakfast rooms of the hotels we stay at when we’re in Italy, they make awesome cappuccinos.   But those were big bulky commercial machines that seemed to be connected to the room’s plumbing and electric.  I had once looked into buying one of those machines, a smaller household version to be exact.  I had found some on the internet but they were very expensive, some even over $1000.

I resigned myself to enjoying the machine only when I traveled.  Last summer we again stayed at the Westin Dubai and I made coffee every chance I got.  Then I noticed there were Nespresso Boutiques in the local malls.  I briefly toyed with the idea of purchasing a machine from one of them, but decided against it due to the different voltage on the machines and the bulky box it came in.  If I was going to buy one I would have to buy it back home to avoid having to adapt it to 110 plugs we have in the US.

Then when we got home we started seeing TV ads featuring George Clooney and Danny DeVito sipping coffee made by a Nespresso.  I vowed to get one soon.   This Christmas provided me with the perfect excuse to finally buy a Nespresso Machine, my Cuisinart Single Serve Brewing System (it uses Keurig K-Cups) went on the blink.  It was a great time for a small appliance to breakdown!  Coffee machines were on sale everywhere!

I noticed that Target had Nespresso Machines, but the sales associates weren’t much help when it came to answering my questions, most importantly where could I get the capsules.  It was odd that they sold the machine and the capsule caddy but didn’t carry the coffee capsules.  I went home to do research.  Here is what I learned!

(this post contains affiliate links)

First of all there are basically 2 lines of Nespresso machines for the home consumer, OriginalLine and VertuoLine; each line has several models at different price points starting at about a $100 for the OriginalLine Inissia.

Nespresso

Nespresso Inissia

The OriginalLine uses pods or capsules to make espresso.  You can not brew a “regular” cup of coffee with this machine.   You can however make a Lungo or Americano using this machine by adding hot water to the brewed espresso, basically a 50-50 mixture.

If your goal is simply to make espressos or cappuccinos then this is a great machine.  I’ve heard many folks rave about the “crema” this machine produces.  Crema is the layer of foam found on the surface of a shot of espresso.  It is formed by the type of bean and pressure used when brewing the espresso.  The OriginalLine has  high pressure and produces excellent crema, it also brews a hotter cup of coffee.  Another plus for this line is that the pods are nicely priced and are available in brands other than Nespresso.  The pods in a variety of flavors sell for $0.80 a piece on the Nespresso website and compatible pods are sold by Bestpresso or Gourmesso on Amazon for almost half the price. Since my husband is an avid regular coffee drinker first thing in the morning this line of machines would not work for us.

Nespresso VertuolineThe VertuoLine was the perfect machine for us!  This line, available only in the US, was introduced  a little over a year ago.  In an effort  to capture it’s share of the US coffee market Nespresso introduced this line to appeal to our preference for “filtered” or “regular” coffee.  The line has several models, the newest is the Evoluo which is available in Gray or Red.

Best of all depending on the pod you insert the machine automatically adjust to the type of coffee you are brewing.  No need to fiddle with buttons to program regular or espresso.  Just load the pod, press the button, and in less than a minute you got coffee!

It is sold in a bundle with the Aeroccino (Milk Frother), and a sample box of pods for  around $260.  Or you can buy them separately, the Evoulo for about $150 and the Aeroccino for about $70.  Pods cost $1.10 each. [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

 

Nespresso VertuolineI of course bought the bundle.  My husband may love his regular coffee, but I love my cappuccinos and mochas!

Nespresso Vertuoline

 

 

 

Nespresso VertuolineThe box was huge!  I sometimes feel sorry for the UPS person, specially around the Holidays.  This year he delivered this as well as a bunch of other big heavy boxes to my doorstep.  When I unpacked the box there were three boxes inside; the coffee maker, frother, and coffee samples.[spacer height=”-20px”]

 

Nespresso Vertuoline

The sample box contains a pod of several different types of coffee.  4 Espresso pods, and 8 regular coffee pods 2 of which are flavored, 1 half caffinated, and 1 decaf.  As you can see the pods are colored to reflect the type of coffee.  The coffees, including the espresso range from mild to intense.  They are made from a mixture of different beans from around the world.[spacer height=”-20px”]

Nespresso Vertuoline

Here’s the difference in the coffee and espresso pods.  The larger capsule is for regular coffee, the smaller one for espresso. [spacer height=”-20px”]

Now here’s what I like and don’t like about my new Nespresso Bundle.

 

Nespresso Vertuoline

First of all I like the streamlined design as compared to my old Cuisinart.  And I love red!  I know minor stuff, but when you have counters full of small appliance space matters, and if you’re OCD like me and everything must match or coordinate, color counts.

I love that the used pods slip out of the machine each time you open the top.  The pod slips out and falls into the receptacle on the right.  You just pull it out to empty when full.

I love that the water is ready to use within a minute or so of turning on the machine.

I love the fact that I just pop in a pod and the machine automatically knows if I’m brewing regular coffee or espresso.  No need to program anything.  You can however program a larger size of regular coffee, the instructions to do so are in the owner’s manual.

Nespresso VertuolineMy husband loves the different types of coffee available.  He also loves that his morning cup of coffee brings him back to Italy!  Even regular cups of coffee have a top layer of foam![spacer height=”-20px”]

 

Nespresso Vertuoline

I absolutely love the Aeroccino!  It make wonderful froth in less than a minute.  It comes with 2 attachments, one for hot froth and the other for cold drinks.  You pop in the correct attachment, they’re magnetic, when you want to make a cappuccino or other specialty coffee.  Add whatever type of milk you use….

 

Nespresso VertuosoPress the button and the milk starts frothing!  When the light goes off your milk is done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nespresso VertuolineI like to make my cappuccinos by first frothing the milk, putting it in the cup, then letting the espresso drip directly into the milk.

My all time favorite are Mocha Cappuccinos.

Add 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup to the cup.

Add frothed milk.

Add espresso.

If it’s not sweet enough for you add sugar or sweetener to taste.

 

 

Here are the cons – in our case they aren’t such a big deal, but if you’re a true espresso aficionado it will probably be a huge factor for you.

The crema is not as thick as the one made using the OriginalLine.  The pressure is greater on the OriginalLine machines.

Coffee is not very hot.  If you like your coffee scalding this is not the machine for you, it doesn’t heat the water to very high temperatures.  On the other hand you will never burn your mouth with the first sip.

It doesn’t have a clock or a timer.  If you like to program your coffee maker to start heating the water before you wake up this isn’t your machine.  But the water does heat up and the machine ready to brew within a minute of turning it on.  It does however turn off if not used within a few minutes.  I used to program our Cuisinart Coffee Maker to turn on and off, works great until the power blinks off.  Then I have to figure out how to reset the clock.  This turned into more of a chore than the convenience it was supposed to be.

The machine costs a little more than say a Keurig or other coffee makers.  However if you’re a Starbuck’s regular it can save you money in the long term.  After about 50 cappuccinos at $5 a cup the machine and frother should just about pay for itself.

The coffee pods cost more than other pods or capsules.  They cost $1.10 a piece as opposed to $0.85 for the OriginalLine pods, or about $0.70 for Keurig pods.  You can even buy Keurig compatible pods from Sam’s Club or Costco.  At this time Nespresso pods aren’t available at either store.

The Vertuoline machines only use Nespresso capsules.  At this time there are no other companies that make compatible capsules like they do for the OriginalLine.

The pods as far as I can tell are only sold on the Nespresso website, or at a Nespresso Boutique if you happen to have one nearby.  Amazon  does sell them as well, but at this time it was less expensive to buy them directly from Nespresso.  The site offers free shipping on qualifying orders.

I ordered a selection of coffee capsules from the site on a Thursday, I got free standard shipping to Hawaii.  I got my box of coffee pods by Saturday!  Great service.

That’s another thing I love about Nespresso.   When you place your first coffee order you’re automatically a Nespresso Club member.  You receive a free gift with your first order, assuming you meet the minimum quantity.  You’re notified of specials, can order online via a laptop or mobile device, place phone orders, get coffee recipes, machine cleaning and care instructions, and more.

Over all we’re quite pleased with our new Evoulo machine.  I treat myself to a Mocha Cappuccino at least once a day.  A cup costs me less than $2 and I don’t have to stand in line to place my order!


Philips Pasta Maker Review

Philips Pasta Maker Review

I love Pasta!  The only thing I really wanted last Christmas was a Philips Pasta Maker.  I had seen it advertised on a flyer I’d gotten from one of the local stores.  I had never heard of it, but I wanted one!   Thankfully my son and his wife heard my wish.  With all that went on after the holidays it took me a while to unpack it.  I finally got around to opening the large box it came in and promptly fell in love.  Me and the pasta maker were a match made in noodle heaven!

I had been toying with a pasta maker for a while and even went so far as shopping around for one.  The ones I’d seen are the manually cranked makers that you put the dough in, crank the machine, and pasta is extruded sort of like a meat grinder.  To use those makers you still had to make the dough, something I’m not too found of.

The Philip Pasta Maker is an electric machine that kneads the dough and shapes it into pasta. You dump the ingredients in, press a button, and fresh pasta is extruded in 10 – 15 minutes depending on how much pasta you’re making.  The only think it doesn’t do is boil the pasta for you.

I made my first batch of pasta and was amazed at how fast it made fresh pasta.  From start to finish it took less than a half an hour, and that included clean up!  That was faster than running out to the store to buy the refrigerated pasta from the store.  Here’s my machine and a few tips on using it!

(this post has affiliate links)

Philips Pasta MakerThis is the machine.  When you remove it from the box it’s fitted with one of the shaping discs.  I took it off when I washed and dried the machine.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philips Pasta MakerIt comes with 4 shaping discs, a cutter/cleaner, and 2 disc specific cleaners. Included discs are for making fettuccini, spaghetti, penne, and lasagne/dumpling. You can use the cutter/cleaner to clean the lasagne and penne discs, but the fettuccini and spaghetti discs each come with their own cleaner.  The disc cleaners are brown clear pieces that have plastic “spikes” on them, they fit over the disc they clean so that they can push out pasta that may have gotten caught in the holes.

It also comes with 2 cups, one for dry ingredients and the other for liquids.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]

 

 

 

 

Philips Pasta MakerThere’s a drawer located at the bottom of the maker to store the discs and cleaners.  I love the drawer, it keeps the attachments in one place where I can easily find them. [spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]

 

 

 

 

The maker also comes with a recipe book for making several different types of pasta.  But basically all you need is flour and water.  All the other recipes are different variations.

You can use all purpose flour, but they recommend using a mixture of all purpose flour and semolina. This gives your pasta more substance.  If you don’t have any semolina you can add an egg to the liquid to add substance to your dough.

It’s very important that you use the measuring cup it comes with.  The cups are slightly larger than a regular measuring cup.  If you use your own measuring cup your pasta may not turn out right; you may have too much liquid and not enough dry.  This results in a wet sticky mess, cleaning the machine can be difficult after this mistake.

Don’t think you’re limited to just making spaghetti or other Italian pasta, this machine can make most any kind of noodle including ramen and soba noodle.

You can buy other discs for the machine:  Angel Hair and Pappardelle Pasta Disc Kit and Thick Spaghetti and Tagliatelle Pasta Disc Kit.

You can freeze or dry the pasta you make if you’re not going to use it right away.

If you’re going to freeze the pasta lightly dust it with flour so it doesn’t stick together.

To dry pasta you will need to hang it on a pasta drying rack and following those instructions.

I love my new machine.  It’s so easy to use and you can make all sorts of  pasta and noodles.  But if you think it will save you money, I’m not so sure.  The cost of the machine is about $300.  If you make a ton of pasta then it will be worth it in the long run I guess.  I didn’t want it to save money, I just like fresh pasta!

If you’re looking for a new pasta recipe check out my Steak & Pasta dish that I make using rib eye steaks left over from our Sunday barbecues!

Here’s a short video I made when I made a batch of fettuccini.


Sur La Table Healthy Eating_300x250

10 Thanksgiving Books for Kids

10 Thanksgiving Books for Kids

My grandson and I used to attend our library’s story time when he was a toddler.  During holidays they always read books about the holiday and we would borrow similar books to read at bedtime. This bedtime ritual is loved by all of us, even his pre-teen brother joins us.

Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving books.  I’m sure we will be reading them again this year.

*Clicking on a buy now link will take you to an Amazon Affiliate Link.

I Am The Turkey is a hilarious book  I Can Read Book by Michele Sobel Spirn and illustrated by Joy Allen.

Mark is jubilant about playing the turkey at his class’s Thanksgiving Play until his brother tells him what the turkey’s real role was in the first Thanksgiving.  Now he tries to get out of his role before it’s too late!

Buy this book now!

Another I Can Read Book, Silly Tilly’s Thanksgiving Dinner by Lillian Hoban.

Oh no!  Tilly Mole is planning Thanksgiving Dinner for all her friends, but can’t find her recipe cards!  She’d mistakenly sent them out as invitations.  She forgets to cook and falls asleep, but dinner is saved when all her friends arrive each bearing his favorite dish.

Buy this book now!

Whenever Amelia Bedelia is involved things always get crazy.  This fun filled Thanksgiving book by Herman Parish is sure to become a family favorite.

Buy this book now!

My grandson loves this book, Run, Turkey, Run by Diane Mayr.

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and farmer is looking for a plump turkey for dinner.  Can turkey find a hiding place?

Buy this  book now!

The turkeys have all disappeared from Felicia Ferguson’s Farm.  Thelonius Turkey is the only one left!

Read about Thelonius Turkey’s hilarious antics to avoid the chopping block and end up stuffed and roasted on the Thanksgiving table.

Lynn Rowe Reed will surprise everyone with Felicia’s Thanksgiving plans for Thelonius in her fun filled book Thelonius Turkey Lives!

Buy this book now!

The familiar children’s rhyme with a Thanksgiving twist in this book by B.G. Hennessy.

Buy this book now!

The story of the first Thanksgiving told in whimsical verse by Dandi Daley Mackall.

Buy this book now!

Marc Brown’s Arthur Thanksgiving has Arthur in charge of his school’s Thanksgiving Play.  All his friends want to be the star, but no one wants to be the turkey.  What will Arthur do?

Buy this book now!

This award winning book, Balloons Over Broadway, by Melissa Sweet tells the true story of puppeteer Tony Sarg and how he inspired the huge balloons that are now the trade mark of the Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Buy this book now!

Dav Pilkey adapts the Christmas classic poem to tell his Thanksgiving story in ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving.

Buy this book now!

Our European Adventure with The Giant Pod Duo Bike Trailer

Our European Adventure with The Giant Pod Duo Bike Trailer

My daughter decided to buy a bike trailer last spring for 2 reasons, to go jogging and for our upcoming family European vacation.  The bike trailer with a stroller conversion kit is ideal for jogging and the compact size when folded makes it ideal for travel. At least that was the plan.

She researched brands including Burly, Thule Chariot, Instep, Schwinn, and Giant.  She wanted a trailer large enough to fit 2 children, her 6 month old son, and  6 year old nephew.  She needed to have a stroller conversion kit and storage space.  It also needed to fit her budget of $500 or less.

*Clicking on a linked product name/picture will take you to an Amazon Affiliate Link making it easier to purchase that product if you wish.

In the end she settled for  the Giant Pod Duo which was in the intermediate price range.  The Giant Pod duo sits 2 children weighing up to a total of 100 lbs.  It has a five point shoulder harness to keep kids secure, extra support under the seat so kids don’t sink in or sag, and a jogger converter.  Most importantly considering our upcoming vacation it folds easily and has a large storage space.  
She took it out for a run and her baby loved it!  He sat safely secured in his harness, the ride was very smooth even over uneven pavement, no shaking or jostling.  The baby enjoyed the ride so much he promptly fell asleep, a sure sign that it was a comfy ride.  
She thought her Giant Pod Duo would  come in handy when we strolled down the cobblestone streets in Italy.  It would comfortably sit my 2 grandsons with room to spare.  The large storage will fit all the baby gear and even have enough room of our shopping.!  Again that was the plan.
We met at New York’s Newark airport last June for the flight into Rome.  The Pod Duo had been checked it at the airport when she departed from Phoenix, we would find it at the Rome baggage claim.  My daughter told me that the stroller was so wide even while folded that the wheels had to be removed and the agents put it in a huge plastic bag when she checked it in.  She was still optimistic that the original plan would work.
When we claimed our luggage in Rome the Pod Duo was no where in sight.  It wasn’t with all the other strollers that had been checked in.  We finally found it sitting in the over sized bags claim on the other side of baggage claim.  It was still in its plastic bag, no one really knew what to make of this huge bulky item.
 My daughter set it up – it was much more involved than an ordinary stroller.  The wheels had to be secured back on after it was unfolded.  In the end we garnered some amused stares as we wheeled this ungainly stroller thru the baggage claim.  It did however carry all our hand luggage to the awaiting van, no small task as there were 7 of us traveling together.
When we reached our hotel the stroller would not fit in the tiny Roman elevators, my son-in-law had to carry it up the stairs to their room where it stayed until we departed for the train station a couple of days later.  The morning we made our way to the train station for the ride to Venice we loaded the Pod Duo with as much luggage it could hold.  It worked fine on Rome’s cobbled streets on the short walk to Roma Termini.  Again we got a lot of stares as we made our way to the station.

It took up a large section of the train’s luggage compartment, even folded up.  At the Mestre Station it had to be carried up and down the stairs to the exit and necessitated its own taxi to the hotel. Determined to use this stroller my daughter set it up yet again and we walked to the bus stop around the corner from the Novotel Mestre Hotel where we were staying.  On the bus it took up the entire space reserved for handicap and strollers, but we made it to Venice.  We used the Pod Duo as we walked around Venice, it did come in handy when the boys got tired.  It commanded a large space around our table when we sat down for drinks at Quadri’s in Piazza San Marco and lunch at a small trattoria in one of Venice’s tiny streets.  It had to be carried up and down the stairs that led to each of Venice’s many bridges, just imagine lumbering up the Rialto bridge one of the tallest bridges along the Grand Canal!  One thing good tho, we managed to clear a path between the hoards of tourists that were in Venice that day.  My son-in-law and husband definitely got a good workout carrying that stroller throughout Venice.  My husband vowed to buy a smaller stroller the first chance he got.

Pod Duo “parked” by our table at Quadri Cafe
Pod Duo with the boys inside at Piazza San Marco
We boarded a cruise ship in Venice for a 2 week Med cruise, rest assured the Pod Duo stayed folded up and stored away by their cabin attendant.  He did offer to set it up and bring it to us whenever we needed it, but there was no way any of us wanted to deal with it.  We ended up buying an inexpensive stroller in the market in Istanbul, the baby used that for the entire trip.
When she got home my daughter used the Pod Duo both as a stroller and a bike trailer.  It worked out ok but it had a couple of issues.  One it was too big, she no longer needed to sit 2 children in it.  And two the seat doesn’t recline, when the now 1 year old baby fell asleep in it he was uncomfortable.  The top was also too low making it difficult to get him in and out of the seat with a helmet on his head.
Recently she sold the Pod Duo to a mother who could really use it and purchased the bike trailer she really wanted, the Chariot Cougar 1.
So is the Giant Pod Duo really worth it?  Yes if you have 2 kids.  No if you think you’re going to be able to easily travel with it and navigate it thru Europe’s tiny alleys.
For more information on the Giant Pod Duo click here!  


The “It” Baby Teething Toy

The “It” Baby Teething Toy

Imagine my surprise when my youngest daughter informed me she had just purchased a $25 teething toy at Dillard’s. She’d bought a Sophie La Girafe. She raved about it.  She was quick to recommend it to my then pregnant daughter-in-law, who in fact was gifted 2 at her baby shower, one for each of her soon to be born twins.

Back in the day when my first child was teething we went to the  drug store and purchased a teething ring, a hard plastic ring for her to chew on.  By the time my third child was teething 6 years later we went to the same store and purchased a new and improved teething ring, a plastic ring filled with liquid that could be frozen thus soothing irritated gums.  Both types of teething rings cost no more that $3.

Sophie

I was curious about such an expensive teether specially when I noticed that my cousin’s baby had one too.  I decided to find out what was so wonderful about this teether and turned to the web to do some basic research.  I learned that it’s been around as long as I have.  Popular in France for decades it only became popular in this country when celebrity babies started using them.  I found pictures of celebrities including Elton John carrying around their babies holding a Sophie.

So what is this teether and what makes her so great?

Sophie was born near Paris in Asnières-sur-Oise, on St. Sophie’s Day May 25, 1961.  She will be celebrating her 53rd. birthday this year.

Made of “100 percent natural rubber derived from the sap of the Hevea tree” as explained in the pamphlet she arrives with, Sophie is a national icon in France.  2010 sales of 816,000 pieces outnumbered the 796,000 babies born in France that same year.

She has been available in the US for decades and was in the 1987 movie Three Men and a Baby.  But she didn’t become popular until Hollywood babies like Kate Hudson’s son Ryder made chewing on them trendy, they became “status teethers”.   Sophie’s popularity spread by word of mouth and has been one of the bestselling toys at Amazon.com since 2008.

Sophie is kid safe and eco-friendly.  The sap from the Hevea tree is not hazardous, and her paint is made from food paint.
She fits perfectly in babies’  hands and gives them lots of points to chew on.  It stimulates all their senses.
  •      Taste – the natural rubber and food paint makes her safe to chew, her soft texture soothes sore gums.
  •          Sight – The dark and light spots all over Sophie’s body provides visual stimulation
  •          Sound – The squeaky sound Sophie makes when squeezed stimulates hearing and helps baby understand cause and effect.
  •          Touch – The soft feel, like mother’s skin, soothes baby
  •          Smell – The unique scent of the natural rubber she is made of makes Sophie easy to find amid other toys.
 My daughter says, ” I believe she is worth every penny.  My son is teething and gets very irritable, chewing on Sophie calms and quiets him.  Sophie La Girafe is not just a teether, she is also a toy.  She keeps my son occupied for hours, we never leave home without her.”
Sophie’s product line has grown to include other “friends” and toys made of the same material,  baby linens, wooden toys, books and even an iphone/ipad app.  She even has her own fan page https://www.facebook.com/sophiethegiraffe.
 I still think she’s a bit pricey, but my grandson does love it and I’m sure the twins will too.  She’s available online and at many retail stores including Toys R Us and Nordstrom’s.  She does  make a great baby shower gift when you can’t think of anything to gift.
To learn more about Sophie and her friends click here!
Update 3/28/2015

The twins are now teething and like Jett their favorite toy/teether is Sophie!  I saw the other day that Walmart now carries her in their baby department; the gift set which includes the teether and matching stuffed Sophie was priced at $34.  

Sophie the Giraffe

Twins with their Sophies Photo by Savvy Nana