Life with Baby · Parenting · Tried

Review: YMCA Parent/Child Water Discovery class

We were super excited to enroll Lillian in a swim class recently taking place at the David D. Hunting YMCA location in Grand Rapids. At $84 for a seven week class, we knew it was a little pricey, but we thought it would be worth it for Lillian to have some daddy-daughter time doing something she loves: being in the water! I’d like to share about our experience in the class in case you’re looking into doing something similar, just so you can be prepared for what it might be like!
Swimming3Pros: Every week, we got to look forward to Lillian’s special time with daddy in the pool. She was allowed to come early, so she could also free play independently before the class started. The instructor sang some active songs with the children that had fun motions in the water, like “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Ring Around the Rosie” (replacing “ashes, ashes” with “splashes, splashes”). When there was a substitute instructor, she taught parents how to get in and out of the pool safely with their child. The regular instructor also tried to work on getting children used to going under water and swimming on their backs (which Lillian hated, but was still a good experience!). At the end of the class she got a little certificate of completion.
Swimming2Cons: The class was supposed to be thirty minutes, from 6:10-6:40, but ended at least five minutes early every class. When you’re paying $84 for a class, you really want to get your money’s worth and have every minute you’re promised! Also, the instructor (and all of the instructors we saw) was generally very unenthusiastic, often telling the parents what to do and then staring off in the distance while parents and children completed the task. Maybe as a former teacher myself my expectations are too high, but I thought the instructor would interact more with the parents and children while they were doing each activity. I also thought the instructor would at least fake some excitement when teaching the class and when saying hello and goodbye to the parents, but it really just seemed like the instructor was bored and didn’t want to be there.

Additionally, the family restrooms were almost always dirty, so I didn’t feel super comfortable getting Lillian changed in them. Lastly, despite contacting several staff members in advance about having to miss a lesson due to a family trip and asking if we could do a make-up lesson, not a single person returned my phone call or got back to me in any way.

Conclusion: Ultimately, I’m glad we had the experience of doing swim lessons with Lillian, but I’m even more glad that it’s summer and she can now play in a pool at home. Until she’s a little older, we’d like to do swimming with her without a structured class. When we think she’s ready to start learning more skills than we can teach her, we would like to take a trial lesson before joining another class (which our YMCA location does not offer). I think the next class we might try will be a tumbling class, but somewhere else.

I hope this review was helpful to you, and would love to know: Have you ever taken your child to any classes like swimming? What was your experience like? Do you have any recommendations? I’d love to hear from you!

xx Caitlyn

Reviews

Review: Basil seed drink with honey

I recently came across an interesting drink in the supermarket called Basil Seed Drink with honey. There were a few other varieties of the drink aside from the honey-flavored one I chose, but honey seemed most likely to be tasty, so that’s what I went with.IMG_0303This drink actually originated in Thailand, and I have read online that it is available in some stores in the states, too.

IMG_0306The texture of the drink is sort of a thin, syrupy consistency that leaves legs on a glass but still has a light mouth-feel. The flavor reminds me vaguely of lemon iced tea with honey and jojoba. The basil seeds (lending the jojoba feel to the drink) will crunch slightly if you happen to catch them between your teeth, and though the sensation isn’t altogether unpleasant, I’d rather just swallow them. IMG_0307Apparently basil seeds are supposed to be quite healthy for you, and when used in a drink, they even promote weight loss because they expand to make the drink seem more filling. You can even find articles comparing and contrasting them with chia seeds. I totally didn’t buy the drink with any of that business in mind, but the flavor did seem healthy in a way. I think it could be refreshing in the summer time if I’m just a little hungry but not yet ready for a meal.

Have you, or would you, try a Basil Seed drink? There are tons of DIY recipes to make your own!

xxCaitlyn

Reviews · Tried

Flavor Fun: Starbucks Chocolate Orange Mocha

starbucks advert I couldn’t help but try the Chocolate Orange Mocha when I stumbled across it in Japan. As far as I know, this flavor isn’t offered in the states–at the very least not in Michigan, so I decided to share about the beverage here 🙂IMG_1905

I got a tall size of the hot version of the Chocolate Orange Mocha, and it wasn’t too bad. A barista told me that they use mocha, orange syrup, espresso, steamed milk, orange-infused whipped cream, mocha again on top, and orange sprinkles. One of my former coworkers (here’s looking at you, Dona!) would kill me for saying this, but the orange sprinkles SERIOUSLY tasted like Fruity Pebbles cereal. I’ve got Chad to back me up on that. IMG_1907To be honest, the whole Fruity Pebble flavor going on with those sprinkles didn’t really do much for me, though otherwise the beverage tasted like a lightly sweetened hot chocolate with the slightest hint of orange. It almost felt like less pumps of mocha than standard were used, though I never put full pumps in my beverages anyway.

I’d have to say the beverage, for me, was sort of take it or leave it, but I definitely will be visiting the same Starbucks location again. After all, I got to meet a Japanese coffee master there, and the partners were all really friendly.

Have you tried any fun beverages lately?
xx Caitlyn

Reviews · Tried

Review: Cents of Style State Pendant Necklace

Michigan <br> state pendant necklace

Recently I came across the website My Cents of Style, and was excited to see they offer state pendant necklaces. As we get closer to moving back to Japan, little trinkets that remind me of home become that much more special. That being said, I still wasn’t sure I could pay the list price of $24.95 for the Michigan pendant necklace, but then I noticed there was a half-off sale going on the necklaces for a limited time! At about $12, I figured I’d be getting the pretty little necklace at a steal. IMG_1617When my necklace arrived, I was excited to open the cute envelope packaging.IMG_1619The first thing I noticed about the necklace itself was that it wasn’t so little–just the pendant was over an inch (about 3 cm) long. I didn’t really mind the size so much, but what I did mind was that it was brushed silver. Now, to be fair, the website states that the necklaces are brushed silver. However, my lack of jewelry experience and the original price led me to believe the necklace was still silver, but with a brushed appearance. Sadly, I was wrong. I know some people like the faux  brushed silver look, but to me it just looked cheap and fake. It’s a little hard to see what I mean in the picture because of the lighting, so on the bright side I think maybe it would be difficult for anyone looking at a bit of a distance to see what is lacking in overall appearance, too.IMG_1620Despite feeling a little disappointed, I was ready to let go of my expectations, deciding to wear the necklace anyway. I gently pulled open the bottom of the plastic bag in which the necklace was wrapped and–WHAT!? The little brushed “gold” heart fell right off! What a bummer! Of course, I have some jewelry-making supplies I can use to try and reattach the heart, but that will take unpacking some things as well as time that should have been spent showing off my new necklace rather than repairing it.

Overall, I would never pay full price on the website for this necklace. (To be honest, I am quite disappointed even with the discounted price!) Despite any misgivings I have from my experience with the state pendant necklace, my understanding from reading some other reviews online is that other products on My Cents of Style are fabulous, especially for the price. I don’t think I’ll give up on them entirely just yet, though I don’t know that I’ll necessarily be ordering from them again any time soon!

What do you think? Have you ever tried out a bargain deal? How did your experience compare to mine?

xx Caitlyn

Reviews · Tried

Review: Theo Chocolate

Gazing across the bars of chocolate in my local supermarket, I noticed quite a few bars I hadn’t seen before. It was exciting for me to see so much quality chocolate available, and I decided to choose a new kind to try! Although it was tough to decide between several appealing bars, this time I chose Theo Organic Fair Trade Coconut 70% Dark Chocolate. IMG_1435Surprisingly, I hadn’t heard anything about Theo Chocolate before coming across it in the candy aisle. However, I loved the simple packaging, the Fair Trade Label (among others) posted along the bottom, and the thought of coconut playing a role in the chocolate bar. IMG_1436Every time I try chocolate (whether it’s for the first time or what feels like the hundredth), I always begin by smelling it. As you would expect, this bar of chocolate smelled very much like dark cocoa with just a hint of sweetness. I couldn’t taste the coconut when I took a bite, but the coconut definitely contributed to the overall texture of the bar. Unlike bars that have crunchy nuts or soft dried fruit, the coconut in this Theo bar adds a texture in between the range of crunchy and soft. And although the coconut flavor isn’t especially pronounced, it seems to add a bit of toasty sweetness to the bar that breaks up what could otherwise almost be an overwhelming amount of dark chocolate. I would be interested in pairing the chocolate with coconut water to see if the coconut notes would become more perceptible. IMG_1437After trying Theo chocolate, I visited their website and decided I LOVE THEM. Here’s why: Theo Chocolate is passionate about the journey from bean to bar (and you know how passionate I am when it come to coffee and its journey from bean to cup!). On their fact sheet, Theo Chocolate touts that “Theo is founded on the belief that there is a common thread that binds us, from the cocoa farmer to the chocolate lover, and [they’re] devoted to making our world a better place.” YES!

The fact sheet also states that Theo Chocolate is the first and only bean to bar maker of Organic, Fair Trade, Fair for Life and Non-GMO Project verified chocolate in North America. That’s a reason to try Theo Chocolate if there ever was one, if you ask me! I am looking forward to trying out other flavors of Theo Chocolate in the future.

xxCaitlyn

Uncategorized

Around Town: Did’s Deli & Catering

Hi friends! I know it’s been a while, but I’ve been busy crossing things off my summer bucket list, and that (in combination with work and everything else that comes up in life) has left me with little time to post! Hoping to get back into regular posting again now, starting with this entry today on a fabulous little deli in Grand Haven called Did’s Deli & Catering.

IMG_20140807_134507_460Did’s Deli & Catering is located just off US31, though it’s sort of tucked away off of the main part of the cross street (Jackson). The deli has a simple, charming atmosphere, along with a menu filled with sandwiches, salads and soups.IMG_20140807_134517_114Chad tends to get their reuben, which has honestly got to be one of the best reubens I’ve ever had. But despite repeatedly enjoying tastes of the reubens Chad gets, I always get something else: a fantastic sandwich on sour dough heaping with ham, hard salami, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and an Italian sauce. I guess the sandwich isn’t called a Bigga John for nothing.IMG_20140807_134624_961

Most of the sandwiches offered can come in wholes or halves, but the Bigga John can only be ordered as a whole. Since the Bigga John is so big, I tend to eat part for lunch, and save the other half for later. I was super excited to have a Dog n’ Suds with my sandwich when I went the other day. I had been biking around town and the root beer was a perfect beverage for refreshment to go along with my hearty sandwich.

IMG_20140807_134658_321

Did’s Deli also sells loaves of its bread, and I’ve been tempted to indulge in a loaf of that wonderful sour dough bread I always get. *sighs longingly*IMG_20140807_134816_064Did’s Deli has been a family-owned restaurant for over thirty years. If you’re ever in Grand Haven, I definitely recommend stopping by to either eat in or grab a great sandwich for a picnic (or to bring to Odd Side Ales to have with a beer…!).

Take care!

xx Caitlyn

Food & Cooking · Reviews · Tried

Review: Fantastic World Foods Falafel Mix

I was wandering through the aisles in my local supermarket when I came across a falafel mix. Although in the past I always have made falafels from scratch, I was interested in how a pre-made mix might taste. (Sometimes after a long day, making falafels from a kit sounds much better than making them from scratch!)IMG_0697Making the falafels with the Fantastic World Foods Mix is easy enough: all you need is the mix, water, and (in my case) your favorite beer to drink while making it.IMG_0698Just upon opening the bag, a delicious smell of cumin and garlic rose up into my kitchen. I added 1 1/4 cups of water and mixed until moist, and then let the mixture sit for 15 minutes as directed. (During this time you could always drink that delicious beer mentioned earlier and watch some of the World Cup action with your husband, but that’s totally up to you.)

IMG_0699Once 15 minutes have passed, you make little balls out of the dough and press them into discs. I think if you follow the serving suggestion, you’ll end up with about 16 discs, but I made mine a little fatter, apparently. (Make sure you don’t make them too fat, though, or they will be dry!) From this point you can choose whether you want to bake them or deep fry them, and I chose the former over the latter. After brushing olive oil on both sides of each disc, I popped them in the oven for about 2 minutes per side.IMG_0701While I waited for the falafels to get golden brown, I prepared tomatoes, lettuce, pitas and a yogurt sauce I whipped up quickly with dill, garlic, a little lemon juice, salt, pepper and plain yogurt. (There is also a recipe suggestion for yogurt sauce on the box for those of you that prefer to follow an exact recipe, but the yield seemed really high for just a few stuffed pitas.)IMG_0702I had wanted cucumber, but I forgot to pick some up at the store in all of my Falafel mix excitement. Nevertheless, the finished falafel-stuffed pitas were awesome. Totally brought me back to the first time I ever tried one in a little diner in Amsterdam. IMG_0704Overall I would say that Fantastic World Foods Falafel Mix makes an inexpensive, fast, easy and delicious meal. As the website proudly declares: “If you have an appetite for discovery, try Fantastic World FoodsTM Our truly original ethnic and regional cuisines are specially crafted to stimulate all your senses. Native spices, vegetables, rice and grains combined in new blends of tastes, textures, colors and aromas. They’re vibrant! They’re creative! And they’re always all natural and organic.”

I’d like to try some of their other mixes in the future!