Archive for the 'favorite things' Category

favorite things friday: honey nuts

Have you ever had honey nuts? General Mills got it right when they made honey nut cheerios, because the combination? Is DIVINE.

meadowfoam honey

I got this honey from a local shop in midtown sacramento and it is delicious. Unlike any honey I’ve had before.

You might be wondering, how does one make honey nuts? It’s so mind numbingly simple. Put nuts in a jar, cover with honey (enough to fully submerge the nuts) and let soak for a few days. If you want to speed up the process, do what I did and chop the nuts when you put them in the jar. You can either do this separately, them throw them in, or stab repeatedly with a knife after nuts/honey at in said jar (which is what I did). A butter knife worked great for this. By chopping them, it only took overnight before the nuts began to infuse the honey flavor.

Then spoon it up and enjoy! It’s my new favorite treat.

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favorite things friday: swiffer vacuum

Oh my… how I love my new swiffer vacuum.

My prior swiffer routine was to sweep the floors with my swiffer in one hand, dust vac in the other. I’d scoot the larger pieces of dirt and debris in to a corner, then hit them with the dust vac. The entire process was a bit tedious – chasing bits of dirt around, trying to corral them in to one location before vacuuming them up.

And now? The dust vac piece of that process is built in to my swiffer!! It’s awesome! It’s equipped with a rechargeable battery, so there’s no worrying about switching batteries out. The vacuum lasts about 30 minutes of run time, which is plenty of time to sweep up our house. I do wish the vacuum was a bit higher power, but it gets the job done, so I can’t complain too much.

Here’s one frustration – when I bought the vacuum, I paid full price. I brought it home, took all the packaging apart, and found a $4 off coupon for the swiffer vacuum INSIDE the box. Why torment me like that? I’ve already purchased the darn thing, and NOW you tempt me with a coupon? What am I going to do, run out and buy second one with my new found wealth? Didn’t think so. I was briefly tempted to return and re-buy the vacuum, using the coupon, but it wasn’t worth the gas money. Oh well.

Even with the momentary torment, I’m still in love.

favorite things friday: the magic bullet

Have you met my Magic Bullet yet? Internet… meet the Magic Bullet. Magic Bullet… meet the Internet. There, formal introductions are complete. Now, on to the dirt.

I <3 my Magic Bullet. So much, in fact, that I’m on my third model. The internal base of my first cracked while I was blending (which turns out to be a known problem), but I’d gotten a solid three years of use out of it, so I didn’t complain too much. I went to Costco and picked up Bullet #2. That was two or three years ago.

Bullet #3 was non-essential – a purely indulgent purchase. I’d been using Bullet #2 to make green monster smoothies and capacity was an issue. I couldn’t get a full banana in even the largest container. I like a LARGE green monster in the mornings. Supersized, even. I’d heard rumors of a blender carafe for the bullet. I could buy one on Amazon for around $15 + $5 shipping, or I could go to Costco and spend $50 to buy a whole new set, blender included. Given that Bullet #2 was on its third or fourth year, I assumed that the remaining life is limited and opted for the Costco route. Bullet #3 is now in operation, and Bullet #2 is on reserve in storage for crazy smoothie blending parties to come.

Ok, so why do I love it so much? First of all, I’m aware that it has limitations. It’s not fantastic for everything. For larger jobs, my Cuisinart food processor blows it out of the water – in blending, consistency and capacity. My food processor is pretty awesome… but that’s a different post. Let’s get back to the bullet.

So what’s it great for?

Small jobs, like chopping nuts, making small amounts of fresh whipped cream, blending small batches of pancake batter, making smoothies. The brilliance of it is the fact that it’s small and the blade is attached. The reason this is important is because (just like every other blender I’ve encountered) stuff gets stuck to the sides. I know, a Vitamix would probably blow the bullet away, too, but it darn well should for ten times the cost. And that’s beside the point. With the bullet, when stuff gets stuck, you pick it up and SHAKE it. Bang it on the counter, turn it sideways, turn it upside down, shake vigorously, whatever it takes to get things moving again. Then, when you put it back on the base, you can angle the whole thing to 45 degrees and it blends everything much better. Or, you lock the blender in to the base, pick up the whole thing and shake while it’s blending. Ya can’t do that with no regular blender.

Easy clean up. The Magic Bullet’s original design was such that you drink from the container you blend in, so the only thing to clean is the blade (until you finish your drink, that is. EASY. With the blender carafe, if you transfer in to another container for drinking, you have a bit more cleaning to do. Really, you could just throw a straw in the sucker and drink away. Looks a bit silly, but it works.

yup, i went there.

Bullet Blender. The blender carafe has lent some of the brilliance of the small, enclosed design over to increased capacity, and it makes things like shaking the entire unit a bit more difficult. However, I’ve done it. I’ve also done the 45 degree tilt while blending. It’s still small enough to manage. The flaw I see with the bullet blender is that when you lock the lid in place, the lid is ready for pouring, which doesn’t work great if you want to shake or tilt the machine. Oh yeah, there’s also a ridiculously low “max” fill line on the blender carafe. About half way up. Pshhaw. That’s for wussies. I just ignore it. Fill it up.

waaaay past the "max" line

It’s small. I love that all of my pieces fit in a small box under the cabinet. I pull out the few items I need, then put the rest away. It takes up minimal counter space while out.

box'o bullet stuff

Larger cups. These new cups are just slightly larger than the “large” old ones, but that little bit helps. It’s the difference between fitting half a banana and a full one.

old cup on the left, new on the right

Flip lids?!? These things are AWESOME! I love that they added these to the new package. Nicely done, Magic Bullet. Nicely done.

no spill flip lid! woohoo!

In summary… the Magic Bullet is pretty darn awesome. I <3 it. It’s definitely in my favorite things list.

remember to remember…

Maintaining focus has not been an easy thing for me lately. Thoughts seem to leave my head as quickly as they enter. If I manage to get them written down, then I have the challenge of remembering that I wrote them down and then remembering where I wrote it. I’ve gone to a spiral notebook for daily lists… shopping, meal planning and the like. Pinterest has been a blessing and a curse for my current state of mind. I love knowing exactly where I’ve “pinned” something, but my lack of focus means when I go back to find something, I often spend far more time browsing than I ever intended.

I have a plastic folder for all my urgent “to do” items. It’s a hard shelled plastic number, about the size of a large, thin book. Things like bills, coupons and urgent paperwork go in this folder, with a college ruled sheet of paper acting as a cover page that I update as I go. It works pretty well. When something arrives that needs to be addressed, I put it in the folder and add a line to my cover page. Where I get in trouble is when I neglect to look at my folder for several weeks, then realize I have bills waiting to be paid inside.

The focus thing makes blogging tough, too. Ideas pass through my head too quickly – when I sit down at the computer to write them out, my mind goes blank… and I suddenly find myself at Facebook or Pinterest. *face palm*

I have a moment to myself this morning. Ben and C are at her class. I’m waiting at a nearby bookstore, enjoying a few minutes of me time. I got a cup of tea and sat down at a table in the adjacent coffee shop, intending to sit, relax and enjoy. Maybe blog a bit, too. The scene and overall energy of the place, however, was not aligned with my plan. A pair at one table seemed distressed about work. I managed to tune them out. Then, the conversation at table across from me permeated the area. Two women spoke angrily about seemingly every subject that came up – ranging from gossiping about what strangers were wearing to commenting on the appropriateness of others’ excess weight (these ladies were not small by any means). For one woman, everything in life was terrible, awful, with no silver lining. Her friends attempted to throw in sympathetic comments here and there, but those were quickly shot down. I tried to tune it out the conversation, to block the negative energy sitting across from me, but my efforts were futile.

I moved outside, found a sunny spot to sit, bundled up my coat, and took in the morning. Except for the occasional passerby, I was alone. Sometimes you need that reprieve from the world. To shut your brain off and just exist. No responsibilities, no split attention, no where to focus, nothing to remember. It’s a nice break.

I find my most serene moments are those where I’ve found escape from civilization – or at least escape from masses of people. My favorite spot in college was the pier at a nearby beach. My roommate would accompany me sometimes, and we’d stand at the end of the pier, absorbing the enormity of the inky black ocean beneath our feet; feeling humbled by the brief glimpse of our own insignificance in the universe.

In high school, my favorite spot was along the Delta, sitting and listening to the water. I never went by myself, my best friend was always with me, which was welcome company. She was someone I could be myself around without fear of judgment. In nice weather, we’d find a boat ramp or pier to inhabit. In rainy weather, we’d lay in the back of my car, with the hatchback lifted open to allow us to enjoy the sounds of nature while staying dry inside. Ahhh, the simple things in life.

Water seems to be a theme in my search for serenity. What about you? How do you find peace in this crazy world?

A special thanks to all my new readers and commenters. It makes me happy to see you here. :)

best idea ever: shoe box clothing

I <3 this idea so much. I first heard of it through some “tips and tricks” clip I watched online. I saw it several months back and the suggestion was really was more related to school aged kids, so I stashed it away at the back of my head as a cool trick I could try some day in the future.

Enter preschool. Enter busy mornings. Enter a mad dash to get C to school on time. I’ve embraced this idea sooner than I thought necessary.

The basic idea is this – create boxes for each day of the week (C’s stuff is small, so I used shoe boxes I found at walmart for $1). Inside, prep the clothes you’ll need for the day. I have pants, a long sleeve shirt, a short sleeve shirt, socks and a sweater in each box. I prep the boxes when I’m putting away C’s laundry, as that makes it really simple to find coordinating outfits. Then, on the morning in question, pull the box, throw on the clothes, and get out the door in record time. It’s fantastic.

I even put together a box for her ballet stuff. Mostly, it’s great to 1) have a place to throw the misc ballet items I come across during the week and 2) know exactly where everything is the morning of ballet practice.

I’m amazed at how much time savings this really equates to. I, like most moms, like to coordinate C’s clothes. Or at least not have them completely clash. Here’s a recount of our usual pre-boxed clothing morning. Find red pants… scour the shirt drawer to find a shirt that’s neutral or has red in it. Avoid pink, blue, purple. Nothing? Ok, new approach. Find a shirt I like, then try to find pants that match. Settle on jeans. Put shirt on, pull jeans on, only to discover they are so incredibly large on C that they fall down when she tries to walk around. Find another pair of pants… realize it clashes with the shirt… seek out another shirt. After about 4 outfit changes, we finally find something suitable and are able to move forward with our day. Find socks. No matching socks? At this point, I just don’t care. We’re both frustrated and ready to let C run around in her diaper.

After starting this process several weeks ago, I didn’t prep the boxes last week, and most mornings went something like that. Chaotic. Frustrating. Lots of wasted time. I’m so in love with this idea.

 

favorite things friday: coconut milk

imageCoconut milk, oh how I adore thee. How did it take me so long to discover you and your deliciousness?

Milk (dairy style, from cows) and I have a love hate relationship. In that, my taste buds love most dairy products, but my body usually objects. It’s an internal conflict. Creme brulee is a great example. It’s delicious and rich and creamy and my tastebuds tell me to eat troughs of it. My tummy, though? It says “nuh uh, stay away from that stuff or I’ll make you sorry.” I’m not sure who wins out more often. Lately, it’s been my tummy. Sometimes it’s my tastebuds. It’s probably a 50/50 shot.

For years, I’ve tried various milk substitutes. Soy milk was always the top contender – a tough battle between Silk and 8th Continent. The great thing about milk products, though, is you can usually train your body to tolerate them better. Over years, I ate more and more dairy. First cheeses, then yogurts, and finally I could drink milk just fine. Very rich desserts were still a different story, but for the most part, dairy didn’t bother me too much.

I’m still tolerating dairy fine right now, but wanted to find a good substitute so our (read: C’s) diet wasn’t so heavily weighed with dairy. After watching those documentaries recently, it just makes me want to use more plant based options when I can. Something that still had the calories, fat and calcium, but was plant based instead. Enter coconut milk. Delicious, wonderful, silky coconut milk. More calcium than milk, fortified with Vitamin D (just like milk), with decent calories and fat content. And it tastes great. It was the perfect solution.

Trader Joe’s has unsweetened and vanilla flavored coconut milk. Silk also makes a vanilla coconut milk. Both brands are excellent. I do like the fact that Trader Joe’s offers an unsweetened variety, as it allows Ben and I to use it for low carb cooking. Plus, the vanilla flavoring might throw off the flavor in some dishes… just sayin’. For a treat, I add some cinnamon and nutmeg to vanilla coconut milk and heat it up. Yummmm. C loves it. For a while, she asked for cow’s milk, but now she’s quite happy with coconut milk.

So here’s my favorite thing recap for this Friday… coconut milk. Yum. Give it a shot, see what you think, then let me know.

It’s not you, it’s me.

Netflix, you’ve been oh so good to me. Sending me movies at lightning speed without me having to lift a finger. You were good to me. The movies almost always worked… and I so enjoyed sharing my life and movie preferences with you.

But I was fickle. I didn’t appreciate your stability and consistency. I let the movies you sent sit unopened for weeks. I didn’t appreciate you, and blamed you for eating up my monthly fee while the same 3 movies sat on my entryway table.

Several years ago, when this all started, I quickly made my way through the list of new releases and movies I’d wanted to see for ages. I even started receiving tv series dvds that I’d wanted to see. You faithfully delivered horror films in time for Halloween, never dissapointing.

But lately our relationship has become full of pressure and expectations – I feel like I’m wasting money by not watching the indie films and cheesy chick flicks you send (even though I picked them out). When I lived by myself, I was more faithful about watching and returning regularly. Now that someone else’s movie tastes are the in the house, it becomes more and more difficult to find the obscure titles we both want to watch.

There’s no use pleading… I’ve found someone else. I’ve moved on. His name? Redbox. He can give me what I need. For $1 a day, I can rent any of the new releases I desire – instantly. He has a location right down the street from me, and I can reserve movies through the online system to ensure the title I want is waiting for me. Given the infrequency of my movie watching these days, the 4-5 times a month that I watch a movie will cost significantly less than my $18/month subscription fee I pay with you now.

You’ve been good to me, but it’s over. It’s over. I’m sorry. Don’t hate me.

Traffic

So this is a topic I’ve thought about at least a dozen times on my daily commute. I’ve noticed, that even though I’m rarely on the same schedule from day to day, I end up sharing the road with the same drivers. Day after day, I’ll notice the “HATE I80” license plate is in front of me again, “Princess” sticker, the car completely missing the front left bumper (leaving exposed windshield fluid lines), or the exact same plumbing company van day after day. It would be one thing if I were leaving the house at the same time each morning; exactly at 7:25am, or exactly at 8:10am, but my schedule varies anywhere between, and somehow my commuting counterparts share the same fate.

Along the same topic, I’ve noticed something about my commute. Once you travel the same routine a few times, you get the tricks down. I know, that when I turn onto Sunrise, the far right lane is the fastest until you cross the bridge at American River. Then, the far left lane is fastest, up until the last minute lane change just before hopping onto Highway 50. Other drivers know this same routine. It’s like you have two classes of drivers out there; actually, make that three. 1) Drivers who’ve done this commute enough to know it blindfolded; 2) First time or infrequent commuters; and 3) People who are just (insert your favorite stereotype here) drivers.

This is where it gets interesting. The on ramp for Highway 50 has a metered light, and 2 lanes for single commutes (carpool peeps get their own speed-a-riffic lane with no waiting). So, turning onto the on ramp, experienced commuters move immediately to the right lane (as in, not the left lane). There are a few advantages to approaching this metering light from the right lane. First off, as previously mentioned, these are all of the “experienced” commuters in this lane, who know what the routine is. They know that the light on the left sometimes ignores the line of cars waiting and skips the next turn (allowing the right lane to go twice in a row), are steadfast about revving up when their light turns green, and, here’s the clencher, ensuring that two cars go through for each light (as the little sign indicates) rather than one.

This is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t understand how these people don’t realize that two cars are allowed to go for each green light. Granted, this was a new concept to me at first, too. But for me it was only AT FIRST. I was a little shocked to see 2 cars going through the green light, and immediately assumed that the 2nd car was just an impatient commuter, in a hurry to get to work. Then, when i saw another set of cars proceed, I started to look around for any indication that this might just be allowed. And, padow! There it was. Just below the metering light, stated clearly, “Two cars for each green light”. That’s TWO cars people, not one. It almost makes me feel justified to make up the difference at my turn, when I see one lowly driver proceed through the green light gate that should have allowed two. Especially when it’s the three of cars ahead of me (just barely putting me out of my turn). It doesn’t seem so wrong to let 3 cars go through on the next turn when only 1 car went through on the last, right? I guess no police officer would agree with me, but, in a fair and justified world, this would be allowed :)

Oh well, I guess I’ve learned enough of the “commuting tricks” to make it an ok drive. Knowing which lanes to be in helps ease the pain of the stop and go traffic. It’s sad when I think about what I’m doing to my poor little car’s engine, brakes & clutch; it spent it’s first few years with only freeway miles, and now it’s being forced to deal with icky Sacramento traffic. I’ve been considering detailing it just to give my car a little pick me up :) In fact, a perfect xmas gift would be a gift certificate to get my car detailed!!

Sidenote, I’m pulling a Dave and writing this blog Wed night with the intention of posting it tomorrow. It’s an awesome idea, and I had to give credit where it’s due.



Mom to "C", wife to Ben. I'm a part-time blogger, cook, organizer, seamstress, house cleaner, taxi, nurse (the mom kind), accountant... I could go on, but really... it's all in the blog. Read away!

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