calvin in florsheim kids

My kids have been trying different brands of shoes for the past 6 years.  We’ve tried numerous brands from brand new shoes to slightly used but new-to-us styles from consignment shops.  Sometimes, we’ve forgone shoes after only a few moments of wear due to discomfort or “hot spots.” Some brands just didn’t hold up well with wear either in terms of durability or how well they looked even after one day of wear.

Over the years, we keep going back to the same 3 brands because of their durability, flexibility for small feet, comfort, and styles.  Even though my children’s feet grow fairly fast at times, one of those include Florsheim Kids for boys (I’ll mention the other 2 in subsequent posts).

calvin in florsheim kids

Just in time for Passover & Easter, check out these dandy No String Wing Jr. shoes for boys by Florsheim Kids.  Florsheim has made quality mens shoes for decades, and in the past few years, they developed a stylish and comfortable line for boys.  Genuine leather, smooth leather, or suede uppers with a durable and comfortable fit.  These dapper shoes are surprisingly lightweight and flexible, but they continue to look sharp after lots of use.

My son is modeling his No String Wing Jr. shoes just before his 6th birthday when they were a couple of months worn.  Now that he’s almost 6 1/2 years old, they still look great, fit well, and have made it through more than the weekly use at church, but after church activities on the playground and romps through grassy lawns as well.

no string wing jr by florsheim kids

As a physician who helps patients with gait, posture, and takes fittings for custom orthotics, I have specific features I look for in shoes, especially shoes for children.

What I like about Florsheim Kids’ No String Wing Jrs. is that they are flexible and allow for a complete roll through the foot with gait.  As a mom on a budget, I like that these attractive shoes have serious durability and are constructed with high quality craftsmanship from great natural and synthetic materials.  Specifically, the No String Wing features a genuine suede or crazy horse leather, breathable and moisture-wicking Suedetec lining, a comfortable (non-removable) footbed, and a lightweight, flexible EVA sole.

no string wing jr by florsheim kids

Also, let’s discuss laces.  I have a love/hate relationship with laces.  Very few kids’ shoes today have laces.  Learning to tie shoes was a requirement for graduating kindergarten when I was a kid, and these days, it’s hard to find shoes that help reinforce that useful skill.  So, at least once a week, my son gets assistance or practices tying his laces.

no string wing jr by florsheim kids

My 6 year old loves the style, and he prefers to not take them off once they’re on his feet.  He really enjoys getting dressed up for church, and the shoes complete the look.  He wears them with jeans, khaki’s or chino’s and button down shirts or polo shirts.

The No String Wing Jr. is available in gray, white, brown (shown), mocha, and navy.

Florsheim Kids have several other styles available in classic colors with rad contrasting soles like the Kennett Jr. classic suede saddle shoe with a hint of neon for a modern look.

The No String Wing Jr. retails for $55.  For comfort, style, durability, I can’t find any other high quality boys shoes that compare with that price.  This is my son’s second pair of Florsheim shoes, and I think we’ll keep him in this brand through adulthood. Love them!

NOTE: I received a pair of shoes from Florsheim Kids for the purpose of this review.  I did not receive any compensation for this post.  All views expressed are solely my own, and the pun is totally intended.

Garnecki Family of 4 - Gotcha Day 1.27.13

Anxiously waiting for our daughter’s name to be announced, she appeared with wide and fearful eyes.  Immediately when we reached for her, she cried and wailed and reached out her arms for the woman from the orphanage who carried her in.

Gotcha Day was stressful. A small, practically furniture-free room full of nine families (and extended families) and their crying (sometimes screaming) children.  This entire scene played out for three long hours.

But, she was in our arms.

Small and frightened.

Crying tears that would never cease.

gotcha day 1 coll
This is a real life gotcha day. There’s no fairy tale or Broadway musical union. It’s often traumatizing for the kids to leave the only life they’ve ever known. Bittersweet.

Her loving brother who had prayed for her daily for years, who had yearned for his sister was just smitten with her.  He did his best to try to make her smile with a sweet doll their aunt Vicky had lovingly sewn just for Autumn.

We spoke to her softly in Chinese telling her not to cry, that we loved her, and that we were her mama and baba.

It was a bittersweet day.

Gotcha Day - Garnecki family of 4

Finally calmed when we returned to our quiet hotel room.

All of us were exhausted from travel and the 12 hour time change, yet hungry and thirsty, but too tired to venture out to get food.

I stayed in the room with our TWO children. Two (at last!).  I filled up a bottle with water and slowly spoon fed her the rice meal that she was used to eating.  She relaxed knowing her needs were being met.

Calvin quickly fell asleep from exhaustion, and soon I was asleep with Autumn resting on my chest.  It was quite the same as the way Calvin fell asleep on my chest a few hours after his birth.

Sometime later, I groggily recalled my weary husband triumphantly returning with some hot food for all of us.  But, Calvin was already asleep, and I was too tired to eat.  Sleep was more beguiling than food.

She was with us at last.

We rejoiced in prayer, in words of gratitude, and in a peaceful rest.  Bonding was slowly beginning.  But the love that had spanned continents and years was swelling with joy of being united as a family.

We recall this day with great fondness.

sweet moon baby

This morning, I awoke to find Autumn snuggled up on the couch with her Daddy.  She was talking cheerfully while he was “resting his eyes”.

We presented her with her Gotcha Day anniversary gifts.

“Mommy, thank you much!  I like purse. I like book. I love you, Mommy” was her response.

My heart leapt.

autumn eating nurture me TwB

Sometimes it’s hard to think outside the box for feeding your little one healthy options when you’re on the road.  There’s raisins, and other types of fruit, but then too much fruit is also too much sugar.  If your child tends to do better on a gluten-free diet, then your options are even more limited.

autumn eating nurture me TwB

Moms ask me all the time about gluten-free options for their toddlers and young kids.  Other than healthy nuts and fruit (which don’t work so well for toddlers with few teeth), it’s tough to think of road-friendly snack options that are healthy, simple, and nutritious.  In fact, when we flew overseas to China to pick up our baby girl, we had few options for healthy food since most baby food is already liquid-like and there are pouch size and weight restrictions both domestically and overseas in airports.  An option of a dried food where you just add water is ideal.  Having options other than rice cereal (not so good for baby’s gut and digestion), and a variety of nutrient dense flavors was something lacking in the baby food market for travelers.

Thank goodness there’s a group of moms who’ve put a lot of thought into this very conundrum when they founded NurtureMe.

NM LogoFounded in 2009 by mompreneur Caroline Freedman and her good friend, culinary expert Lauren McCullough, the idea behind NurturMe was born when Caroline had her first child and recognized the need for a more versatile, nutrient-rich and eco-friendly alternative to the traditional baby foods on the market. After spending two years consulting with organic farmers, health and medical experts, scientists, drum-drying experts, and eco-conscious packaging experts, the duo created the first and only certified-organic baby food made from nutrient-rich, quick-dried fruits and vegetables.  

A revolution in feeding little ones, NurturMe is the first and only family of certified-organic, dried fruit and veggie meals and snacks created for children 4 months to 4 years. The first “stage-free” food for little ones, NurturMe’s line of organic dry NurturMeal pouches and Yum-a-Roo’s dried fruit and veggie snacks were designed to meet every yummy need, from infants to toddlers, and everywhere in between. NurturMeals and Yum-a-Roo’s are certified organic, gluten-free*, non-GMO and kosher, with no added preservatives, sugars or salts – only the good stuff. All NurturMe products are made from specially selected super fruits and veggies that are lovingly harvested and quick-dried in order to preserve freshness, flavor and nutrients.

Autumn YumaRoos at airport TwB
My two year-old enjoying Yum-a-Roos at Salt Lake City airport.

Yum-a-Roo’s organic dry toddler snacks are made from bite-sized pieces of fruits and veggies that easily dissolve in the mouth. Tasty and good for little ones ages 1 year and older, Yum-a-Roo’s are extra nutritious since they contain veggies, in addition to fruit, and are dried – a NurturMe process that preserves the nutrients, freshness and flavor. Yum-a-Roo’s come in small, re-sealable pouches that are perfect for lunchboxes, picnics, road trips, playgrounds, and airplanes!

We enjoyed these on our summer travels across the U.S.  Our daughter gobbled them up as an airplane snack.  My husband and I both found them pretty tasty.  They remind me of astronaut ice cream…melting in your mouth with a very pleasant flavor.

Yum-a-Roo’s Organic Dry Fruit & Veggie Snacks

  • Yum-a-Roo’s contain 1.5 servings of fruits AND veggies in every pouch.
  • Yum-a-Roo’s come in small, re-sealable pouches and are currently available in two flavors Tropical Twist (Banana, Mango and Pineapple) and Caribbean Crop (Pea, Banana and Pineapple).
  • Yum-a-Roo’s retail for a suggested price of $2.99 per each .75 oz. pouch.

All NurturMe products are made in the USA from specially selected organic super fruits and veggies that are lovingly harvested and quick-dried in order to preserve freshness, flavor, phytochemicals and other nutrients.

nurtureme varieties

NurturMeals Organic Dry Meal Pouches: Singles & Blends

From dry pouch meals that can be mixed with breast milk for even more nutrients with each feeding, to the first 100% quinoa alternative to rice cereals, to dry toddler snacks that deliver 1.5 servings of fruit AND veggies in each pouch, NurturMe strives to find innovative and sustainable ways to make it easy for busy, modern parents to ensure their little ones are getting the nutrients they need. From the soil to their spoon, each earth-loving, lightweight NurturMe pouch provides added convenience and peace of mind.

When water or coconut milk is added, the blends mix up smoothly like jarred baby food.  The taste is pleasant with most flavors.  When on an airplane or a rest stop (or the playground), water can easily be added to a pouch in a cup or saucer to mix up a meal for baby.  For the record, my daughter wasn’t crazy about the plump peas flavor.

  • NurturMe products are available for purchase nationwide online, as well as in select Whole Foods, Kroger family, Babies R Us and other quality stores across the country.
  • Rich in nutrients and super versatile, simply mix NurturMeals up with breast milk, formula or water to create the desired consistency, or mix them in to toddler favorites like pastas, baked goods or yogurts for a boost in protein and nutrients.
  • NurturMeals Singles come in seven flavors, with each pouch yielding approximately 2.5 oz. of prepared food: Crisp Apples, Crunchy Carrots, Hearty Sweet Potatoes, Plump Peas, Protein-Packed Quinoa, Scrumptious Squash and Sweet Bananas. 
  • The newest addition to the Singles line, Protein-Packed Quinoa is a healthier alternative to rice cereal that is made from 100% pure super grain and supports growth.  
  • NurturMeal Blends come in four flavors, each pouch yielding approximately 4 oz. of prepared food: Squash, Bananas and Green Kale; Sweet Potatoes, Oatmeal and Bananas; Peas, Quinoa and Apples; and Carrots, Raisins and Sweet Potatoes.
  • NurturMeals retail for a suggested price of $1.19 per pouch for Singles and $1.49 per pouch for Blends.

Dr. Dolly’s Thoughts:

My toddler AND my (at the time 5 year-old) enjoyed the Yum-a-Roos.  In fact, the got it as a breakfast for themselves while we were visiting family, and we often had to wait until great grandma awoke and unlocked the doors to her house across the way so we could access the kitchen.  So, the Yum-a-Roos tied the kids’ over.

My two year-old liked all of the NurturMeal blends and most of the singles.  She was not a fan of the NurtureMe plump peas. That’s just not her cup of tea.

I would purchase the Yum-a-Roos for my children as healthy travel snacks again…and for the next time we’re flying across the continent or away from our home kitchen for long periods of time.  I like the organic, non-additive ingredients that don’t add any extras.

NOTE: We received a toddler sample pack of Yum-a-Roos and Nurture Me singles and blends to try sample for the purpose of this review.  No compensation was received for this post, all opinions are my own. 

calvin with laughter

My son has a huge heart for orphans.  His heart aches for children in poverty and without parents.  Not a day has gone by without him asking a question about the other children at the orphanage in China where his sister lived.  He prays for the other children who were adopted in our travel group, because he’s well aware of many of their physical health concerns and needs.  He prays daily for his sister–for her health (physically and spiritually).  He also prays that one day we’re able to adopt two more children from China.

calvin with laughter

God has used this young boy, when he was only three, to wake us up from dreaming about adoption to actually get in gear to turn in an application and begin the long and arduous paperwork process to make growing our family (through adoption) a reality.

We celebrate that Autumn joined our family one year ago, this month.  Adoption day or “Gotcha Day” is January 28th.

I’ve been reviewing photos from Gotcha day.

Autumn had terror-filled eyes when she was placed in my arms.  She was searching for the comfort of her nannies–of the only life she had ever known.  Other families had similar images of their first encounters with their children who faces were tear-streaked.

Yet, only hours later, and for the remaining days of the trip, these contented children were happy to be fed bathed, and doted upon by their new families.

We’re thankful for photographic updates of our friends who adopted in our travel group.  Over the past year, it is simply remarkable to me how much all of those children have grown and thrived in their homes. All, except for one, who did not survive long after her heart surgery.  We continue to pray for her family during this year of mourning.  Meanwhile, I hug my children close, and whisper prayers of gratitude that we spend yet another day together as a family.


Around my son’s sixth birthday in October, he got excited about receiving some birthday cash from grandparents.  We advised him to tithe 10% to God, and with the remaining 90%, he could spend up to half, but he should save the other half for something he really wanted that might take more money over time to achieve.

He spent several days considering his options well.  Calvin had made up his mind, months ago, that he wanted a dragon figurine that he’d seen at a craft store.  So, he and I went and he looked over all the options and prices and picked out the very dragon he wanted.  The metallic-purple-scaled “Midnight Fury” stared back with it’s four red eyes, and silver wings with menacing teeth and claws.  With a fifty-percent off coupon at the store, the dragon rang up for just over $8 with tax.  He also asked to use his birthday money toward a set of three hatchlings, baby dragons emerging from eggs, the exact same color of the Midnight Fury.

Midnight Fury has hardly left his side since he came home with Calvin.  He rides along next to him in the car, helps Calvin “read” books by holding pages down, and he stands in as an artistic model when Calvin is drawing dragons.

After satiating his appetite for purchasing the dragon figurine that he’d dreamed of for so long, his thoughts turned to a specific purpose for his long-term savings.

Calvin asked me, “Mama, what can I save up for with my birthday money?”

I didn’t know if there was a particular toy, arts/crafts item, or local day trip outing that fascinated him, but I suggested those things.

Again, he pondered and considered.

After spending a day in thought, Calvin approached his father that evening and told him very specifically what he wanted to use his savings toward . . . adopting a brother and sister.

His father encouraged him that it was a very good use of his money, but gently reminded him that it would take a very long time to once again save up toward an adoption (or two).

Once again, whenever he finds a coin on the ground, or receives gift money, he wants to apply not just part of it, but ALL of it toward a future adoption.

As a family, we’ve been praying about adoption a boy and girl in the next two to three years–assuming we can save up enough to go a long way toward the adoption(s) by then.


To help our son understand the plight of children in poverty, and to remind him that there is a Hope for them just as there is for us, we’ve been praying for children in orphanages and slums on a daily basis.

Calvin’s father reads selected excerpts from No Longer a Slumdog by K. P. Yohannan several times a week.

no longer a slumdog

As a family, we pray for the child we sponsor through Compassion International, for hope for the children living in the slums and orphanages.

One day, we’d like to serve in an orphanage, as a family–providing health care, reading stories, playing and laughing with these children–we pray that one day we may have an opportunity to do so.


Questions for you:

I’m curious, how do you talk with your children about caring for those living in poverty?  What books or examples have you found effective at pulling their focus to understand the very different lives and hardships others face?

I’d like to add more books and resources to our reading list!

rainbow pencil roll

I’ve sewn so many gifts and projects over the past couple of years, but I haven’t done a very good job keeping track of what I’ve made.  Thus, I’ve forgotten about them–especially the ones we’ve gently packaged up with care and sent to friends or loved ones many miles and oceans away.

Thankfully, I’ve kept a few photographs of my favorite projects.  In the next few posts, I hope to photo/blog capture those projects for my own sake.  Perhaps you’ll find a bit of inspiration, too.


A few years ago, I sewed a reversible play apron for my son’s 3rd birthday (based on this pattern from Sew Liberated).  He still loves it and can still (just barely) fit into it and self apply it with the velcro closure on the waist.  Whenever we make delicious creations in the kitchen, he hurries to put on his apron.  To this day, he’ll proudly tell everyone who admires it that his Mama made it just for him.

handmade reversible apron


In 2012, I felt like making coffee cozies as gifts.  Pun intended. [Ahem . . .] I made several monogrammed coffee cozies as gifts for Calvin’s preschool teachers, my kin who happen to lurve their daily coffee from to-go places.  Then, when we were in the adoption process, I made a few with the outline of China as a thank you to a few sweet souls who went the extra mile to help us with some adoption paperwork hurdles.  Also, a friend was moving away from Virginia, and I whipped one up as a gift to remind her of all who hold her dear from Charlottesville.  These were well-loved gifts, and I think I should start making them again.  The pattern was based on paper cozies found at my favorite local coffee shops.

ppersonalized felt coffee cozies


Personalized tees was on my 2012 project list as well.  Upcycling old tees and knits, I purchased clearance soft tees from Old Navy and personalized them with embroidered confetti (inspired by this post from Dana at Made).  My son can still fit into his tee.  And, his cousins loved theirs which they sported over Thanksgiving 2013.

embroiderd confetti tees


This is hands-down one of my favorite projects that I made in 2012.  It was a wedding gift for a sweet friend.  I personalized everything from the glass etching of her new last name to the hand-stamped pendant that also noted their wedding year.  There was even a coordinating oven mitt tied up with a red bow on a stack of dish towels.  She loves it and still takes it with her to every gathering with her amazing homemade meals like mac n’ cheese.

This insulated carrier was created from tutorials at 2 Little Hooligans and Homemade by Jill. Glass etching was inspired by a tutorial at Make It and Love It.

I loved making this project so much that I created one for myself…one of the very few (I can count on one hand) projects I’ve sewn for myself.  Alas, my lovely insulated carrier was among the belongings in the one kitchen cupboard that got overlooked in our move in August 2013–and, unfortunately, once I discovered the loss less than a week later, my previous apartment complex management revealed that they had found a cupboard full of pyrex bakeware, a sewn casserole cover, and a couple of kitchen gadgets–all of which they had thrown away.  Yes, I still need to make another one for myself, but I don’t quite have the heart to do so. Someday . . .

personalized insulated carrier


I began this rainbow pencil roll in the early fall of 2013 hoping to make it in time for my son’s 5th birthday.  When that timeline was completely unrealistic, I moved my timeline to Christmas and again missed that mark.  So, I pulled it out of my “unfinished projects” bag just before Thanksgiving 2013 to finally finish it off.  I’d studied some tutorials on embroidering letters, and since colored flat elastic was plentiful and inexpensive, I’d found the perfect way to secure the roll and personalize it.

This was not a quick project because of the individual fabric strips that needed to be pressed, sewn, and then quilted.  But, this was one of two first projects where I created my own bias tape for the first time and used it to add a pop of contrasting color to the pocket.  I think this is a perfect gift for an artist, but a simplified version with single fabric for quilted pockets would be a much faster project. For my young artist, it was worth it…and it is a much-cherished gift that he totes in the car or uses at home.

rainbow pencil roll

6. The first digital pattern I ever purchased was the Sunday’s Best Bowtie from CrabApple Atticin 2009.  There are several sizes and easy to follow directions…perfect for a sewing beginner.  Since then, I’ve made bowties for my son in several colors to complement his dress shirts.  He asked to have one in every color of the rainbow.  I wish they all still fit him, but I do have opportunity to create more in larger sizes.  It’s a quick project that can easily be cut from a fat quarter.  A small accessory dresses up a little boy into a darling southern gentleman.  Also, there’s something about a little guy getting dressed up–suddenly, he starts acting just a smidge more well-mannered.

Sunday's Best Bowtie

There you have it…top 6 sewing projects from a beginner to intermediate sewer in my journey of creating handmade items with love.  Which of these 6 is your favorite?  Would you attempt to sew any of them?  If so, which one(s)?