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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

WOW! Women on Writing blog tour of "A Dog Dreams of Paris" by Barbara Barth (review by Carmen J. Otto) and GIVEAWAY

Thank you to WOW! Women on Writing for asking us to participate in this awesome tour!

REVIEW by eight year old Carmen J. Otto

A Dog Dreams of Paris is the diary of a rescue dog named April who became a Diva. April is the main character; she is the dog of author Barbara Barth.

The book is interesting because it is written by a dog and has a lot of French words and places in it. The main idea of the book is to follow April's journey through the sites, sounds, and smells of Paris. A Dog Dreams of Paris takes place in Paris, France during current days. Because it takes place in Paris, reading it helps you learn about Paris and French things.

April the rescue dog was adopted into a family of five dogs. April was shy and didn't play with the other dogs but loved spending time with Barbara (her human). April puts on a fancy hat and becomes a diva dog.

My favorite part of the story is the visit to the bird market, because I didn't know there were markets where you could buy pets. I needed my moms help with the French words, I wish the book had a glossary to help say them right, but I really like the story and pictures.

A Dog Dreams of Paris is entertaining and educational because of all the words I hadn't seen before. I enjoyed the pictures and April's story. I totally think other kids should read this book and I'm giving my copy to my school library so my friends can read it too!

Title: A Dog Dreams of Paris: From Rescue Dog to Diva

Author: Barbara Barth

Genre: Gift Book/Children

Publisher: Gilbert Street Press

Publication Date: May 5, 2015

Paperback: 52 pages (also available as ebook)

Meet April, a rescue dog turned Diva, in this charming picture book for dreamers of all ages. This fantasy dog memoir is April's travel diary on places she would visit in Paris. April was the sixth dog adopted by author Barbara Barth. She had trouble finding her place in the pack and sat quietly watching the other dogs. During a photo shoot for an Easter blog post, a vintage pink hat, complete with a large silk rose, was placed on April's head. She wore the hat with style and transformed from April to Miss April in Paris. For a few months she had a blog of her own, where she dreamed of visiting the city of lights. April has completed her Paris diary and is sharing it with you here.

Just Thought You Should Know: A portion of all book sales will be donated to animal rescue.

About the Author:
Barbara Barth likes a lot of things: turquoise jewelry, surfing the 'net, and margaritas, to name a few. Then there are the dogs. As many as her house can hold! After her husband died she recorded the year that followed in a series of essays that became her memoir The Unfaithful Widow. When she isn't writing you can find her at the local thrift shops or pounding another nail into the wall to hang the paintings she can't resist. She published a romance novel Danger in her Words before one of her dogs, Miss April in Paris, insisted it was HER turn to write a memoir. Miss April in Paris now refers to Barbara as "my secretary".

Author's Websites:

Barbara Barth’s website:

Barbara Barth’s blog:


Twitter: @writerwithdogs

NOW - FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!! (giveaway ends 7/4)
ebook available internationally, print copy US only

Bio for today's reviewer:

Carmen Jeanne Otto just turned eight years old and lives on a dairy farm. She has over 200 animals on her farm. Carmen enjoys playing piano, swimming, baseball, gardening, and baking (as well as of course, reading, writing, and drawing). She has three siblings in her house: Andre (7), Breccan (1), and Delphine (4 months). Her parents are Mark and Crystal Otto. Carmen helps her mom with book and product reviews and you can find her blogging at Bring On Lemons as well as WOW! Women on Writing where her recent feature was a book review for Margo Dill's "Finding My Place".

There are more tour stops yet to come, be sure to check them out:

Tuesday, July 1 @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews

Friday, July 3 @ Deal Sharing Aunt

Monday, July 6 @ Frog on a Blog
guest post

Wednesday, July 8 @ Building Bookshelves

Thursday, July 9 @ Words by Webb

Friday, July 10 @ Oh My Dog!
interview and giveaway

Tuesday, July 14 @ Writer with Dogs
character interview

Wednesday, July 15 @ Hott Books

Thursday, July 16 @ Margo Dill
guest post

Friday, July 17 @ Renee's Pages

Friday, July 24 @ MC Simon Writes

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cloth Diapers - What We Do!

I've met all sorts of people lately and lots of them are asking the same question(s), so I thought I'd get it all out here. Seriously, the woman at the post office even asked me to explain cloth diapering! I'm super excited about all the interest and hope this post is helpful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, or email me directly:

Funny thing about cloth diapers is the perception they're more difficult to use. "Boy Crystal you're taking on a lot with cloth, are you sure you have the time?". Honestly friends, I use cloth because I don't have time. I don't have time to shower, get dressed, pack up 4 children, drive into town, unpack 4 children, push a shopping cart around a store, purchase diapers and wipes, drive home, unpack children and diapers, etc... I USE CLOTH DIAPERS BECAUSE I'M LAZY AND LIKE TO USE MY SPARE TIME NAPPING AND READING! kid you not!!!

Disclaimer: We've tried a lot of different things, and what works with one baby or one family may not work for for what it's worth I'm only going to tell you about what we DO like and are currently using.

From left to right / top to bottom:

1) We love Emotibums fleece pants. Certain pants aren't cut to fit well around a cloth diaper. Emotibums however and not only adorable, but they have extra layers to help with a bulky cloth diaper. They are also water resistant so you can use them with a fitted diaper which doesn't have any waterproof layer. These pants are custom made in different sizes, but they have a cuff that allows them to fit for much longer than the average pant. For example, my son still fits in the same pants he wore as a 6 month old and he will be 2 years in September. His waist hasn't changed, but his length has and his pants accommodate that growth.  Here's a link to the Emotibums Etsy shop:

2) This is an example of a fitted diaper. There are many to chose from and this is just a picture of a cute tractor one we picked up. A favorite brand is GoodMama, but a little explanation about what a fitted is might help. A fitted diaper is many layers of material (it differs by brand of what exactly that material is), but a fitted diaper does not have a water proof layer. You need to use a cover with a fitted. There are rubber covers, wool covers, fleece covers, etc.... Wool is by far my favorite, but they are the most expensive. We have several wool covers in our collection and they come in long pants, short pants, or just a cover that goes over the diaper area. Wool needs to be handled differently and I would refer you to instructions here, if you want more details about caring for your wool: Because of the cost and care of wool, I like to have a few fleece covers on hand. A fitted with a cover is a fabulous solution for over night. Super absorbent yet breathable and no worries about rashes or sore bottoms.

3) Here is an Emotibums fleece cover 

4) Here is the inside of a Happy Flute diaper 

5) This Happy Flute diaper is technically an all in one. For our 4 month old, we use just this adorable hot chocolate design diaper. The built in absorbent layer is just fine for her. With our son, we use this same style diaper but we add a bamboo insert (or a microfiber insert) to help soak up his big boy tinkles. These diapers are what's called "one size" which means they have snaps on the front allowing them to fit an itty bitty squish or a toddler. (this is fabulous when you have two children that are two different sizes, because I just grab 2 diapers when I leave the house and sometimes one child uses both diapers and that's no big deal)

6) outside of the tractor diaper explained in bullet 2

7) we love bamboo inserts, or microfiber...this is all about personal preference. I've heard people swear by one and hate the other. Try a few of each out and decide for yourself!

8) this is how you take pictures when you're holding a squirmy baby 

9) This is the inside of a diaper we bought from Happy Bee Hinds - she has great customer service by the way!!!! This is technically an all in one meaning you wouldn't have to "stuff the diaper" as you can see there are these flaps that fold in and out. These diapers dry quickly and without adding an insert they are fine for our little girl and we just add an insert for our older boy. These are also one size so you can start using them on day one and they'll make it all the way to potty training

10/11) This is another style all in one and it's also one size, The brand on this one is THX and they have some cute patters to chose from. You cannot add anything to help with absorbency and these take a while to dry. They are however very you may find yourself reaching for these when you pack the diaper bag.

12) see bullet 9 for details

13) Bum Genius detergent (we buy from Green Bay Beez in DePere) is the only one we've found that does an awesome job getting your diapers clean with no stinks, stains, etc... I don't have to hang my diapers in the sun to get the stains out, because there simply aren't any. I don't have to "strip" my diapers because they don't stink. These are things I hear other moms chatting about and I am quite pleased it's not a problem at our house - I credit that to Bum Genius!

14) We make our own wipes instead of buying store bought...because I tried using disposables once and ended up washing them. If you're going to be washing diapers anyway, you may as well wash wipes. I use one cloth wipe where I'd usually use 5-6 disposables. They're thicker and I don't have to worry about poop on my fingers! Ours are easy to make, we just use some wipes purchased on Etsy or made by my mother in law and then dilute this LuSa wipe juice with water, soak the wipes til they're damp, then toss them in the wipe warmer or if we are traveling, we put them in a small travel wipe container. This stuff smells AMAZING!!! 

15/16) This is my washer...some people freak out about the washing routine for diapers. Here's what I do:

--There's a bag hanging on the side of the changing table, when you change a diaper, toss the diaper in the bag

--Every 1-2 days it's my turn to wash diapers. I start the washer on a soak cycle with just cold water. I start tossing the diapers in. If there are inserts, I pull them out. If there's baby poop I don't bother doing anything with it since breastmilk poop is completely water soluble, and if there's toddler poop, I dump it off into the toilet and then throw his diapers in too.

--after the soak cycle, I run a prewash on cold with no detergent

--after the prewash cycle, I switch things over to hot and add 2-3 scoops of detergent

--after the regular cycle, I turn back to cold and do an extra rinse

--after the extra rinse I hang the diapers on the line if I'm "feeling it" or I toss them in the dryer

--after they're dry, I organize them and add inserts to what needs inserts, make more wipes, etc...

17) This is our wipe warmer - see 13 for more details

18/19) This is a SunBaby pocket diaper. This diaper needs inserts in order to do anything. We've never had leaks because the legs fit snuggle. These diapers are inexpensive and they have cute patterns. SunBaby is also a one size so you can use them start to finish. 

20) Bum Genius pocket diaper (see 18/19 but they're more expensive and have a different closure, but basically they do the same job with less cute patterns)

21) Emotibums - see bullet 1 for details, but aren't these adorable???

22) Outisde of the Sun Baby (see bullet 20)

23) Sustainablebabyish Longies (best explained in bullet 2 - but this is a diaper cover but can also be worn as pants once child is potty trained)

24) Sustainablebabyish Cover (best explained in bullet 2)

Hope this has been helpful? My advice is not to go out and spend a ton of money until you know what will work. There's not much of a time commitment and as you read, the laundry isn't complicated or time consuming. Every baby and every family is different and you may find having 12-14 SunBaby diapers with microfiber inserts is all you ever need. may like to use one system at night and one system during the day. Find someone who cloth diapers and ask them what works, go to their house and see how they do things, feel the diapers for yourself and try them on your squish. 

Whatever you chose - HAPPY PARENTING!

May you days be filled with lemons, sugar, and plenty of baby giggles to make you smile!


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Otters By Carmen Otto

Picture by Carmen J. Otto

How would it feel like if you could stay under water for 8 or 10 minutes? All Otters grow to be 6 feet tall. Otter’s fur is usually black, brown, or white. Otters can weigh 44-82 pounds.

Otters like to wrestle with other Otters. The Otter is one of the most playful animals on earth. Otters live in North America. Some live in South America, some live in Asia, and some live in Africa. They live in rivers and on the coasts of the Pacific Ocean.

Otters are carnivores. This means they eat meat. Otters always hunt alone. Mostly they catch water animals. Fish are their favorite but they also like crayfish, frogs, and bugs. They like to hunt on land for little mammals like birds.

Did you know Otters were mammals? I know I didn’t know that! The main groups of Otters are river Otters, sea Otters, and giant Otters! There are all kinds of Otters! I learned a lot about Otters. Otters are interesting animals!

Photo Courtesy of Olivia Brey & Oh! Photography
Carmen Jeanne Otto  just turned eight years old and lives on a dairy farm. She has over 200 animals on her farm. Carmen enjoys playing piano, swimming, baseball, gardening, and baking (as well as of course, reading, writing, and drawing). She has three siblings in her house: Andre (7), Breccan (1), and Delphine (4 months). Her parents are Mark and Crystal Otto. Carmen helps her mom with book and product reviews and you can find her blogging at Bring On Lemons as well as WOW! Women on Writing where her recent feature was a book review for Margo Dill's "Finding My Place".

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Product Review - Britax B-Agile Double Stroller

Serious shout out to Britax!!! I've logged 25miles this week on my B Agile double stroller. This isn't a city walk either...its opening and closing the stroller with one hand, getting 2 babies to sleep, jogging on grass, rocky hills, and country roads. Every mile was a joy and it wouldn't have been with any other stroller!!!

I was hesitant when we first decided this would be our stroller. We have several double strollers and I was unhappy with one one thing or another with each one. We needed something lightweight that could easily fit in our vehicle, carry both children comfortably (meaning at the beginning it had to work for 8lbs as well as 32lbs), fit easily in and out of doors at church, grocery store, swimming pool, school, etc...and then there's the terrain issue. We live on 150 acres of grass, gravel, and even mud. I needed something that would really adapt to our lives. The Britax B-Agile met all our criteria but I knew it would be a stretch on our budget. 

This stroller was truly worth every single penny. It is so lightweight I can open and close it with one hand (which I often do because I'm holding our daughter). It goes everywhere - from the swimming pool to the rolling hills of our farm. The children are super comfortable and my daughter enjoys riding in her carseat or in the main part of the stroller - and either way I know she's safe!

***I was not reimbursed for this review, and I paid full price for this product.