The irony of being a non-coffee drinker, surrounded by coffee connoisseurs, is never lost on me when I do one of these posts. Fortunately for me, I always manage to review the most awesome kitchen appliances for making coffee, that just happen to also create warm, delicious, non-coffee beverages, as well. Such is the Cafe Latte, by [...]
The irony of being a non-coffee drinker, surrounded by coffee connoisseurs, is never lost on me when I do one of these posts. Fortunately for me, I always manage to review the most awesome kitchen appliances for making coffee, that just happen to also create warm, delicious, non-coffee beverages, as well. Such is the Cafe Latte, by Mr. Coffee. This gorgeous little coffee maker has a small footprint on the counter-top and it will definitely bring out your creative “inner-barista”. You’ll be able to create custom cappuccinos, lattes, coffee, tea and hot chocolate drinks for all your holiday guests, but the long-term appeal will be the options for everyday deliciousness and excellent savings over purchasing the same beverages at your local coffee house.
I’ve seen lots of “cappuccino machines” and “latte machines”, over the last few years, but most required several steps or were overly complicated, not to mention incredibly expensive for the best performers. The Cafe Latte is affordable enough to have in the average home and more than that, it is super simple to operate. I consider it a one-step, push-button wonder. :) Add your chosen ingredients to the pot and coffee maker. Press the ON button and wait for the Cafe Latte to do the work. It will produce hot, flavorful beverages with the fabulous, frothy foam tops you love in just minutes. You can use it to make single or double servings, though depending on the size of cups being used, we have gotten three servings from a double-serving brew session. The flavor combinations are only limited by your imagination and even in my small-town stores, I had no difficulty finding a multitude of tasty flavorings and ingredients to brew into my family’s favorite coffee varieties. And since the basic difference between lattes and cappuccinos is that lattes generally contain much more milk, simply adjusting the milk level can help you create your favorite hot beverages!
Mr. Coffee has a fantastic recipe resource online, to get you started brewing some creative taste sensations, like: Crème Caramel Latte, Sweet Cinnamon Latte, Mexican Hot Chocolate or Chai Tea Latte. Yum!!! As usual, we had to play around with our own concoctions and have had a blast coming up with our own personal favorites. We hardly ever have espresso grounds around our house, but we always have two or three favorite coffees in the freezer. We did most of our experimenting with a mild caramel flavored coffee called Jamaican Me Crazy and my husband AND kids are in love. The beauty of the Cafe Latte is that you can adjust the coffee strength to fit the preferences of each individual. Brewing a typical strength beverage for my husband, a “barely-coffee” strength for our eleven-year-old “I think I am a coffee drinker” daughter and something extra strong for our son-in-law is a simple task, now that Mr. Coffee’s new brew station is sitting on my counter. All of you who love entertaining, will be as excited as I am, at the prospect of offering your guests a drink made to their custom tastes.
It’s Christmastime and Mr. Coffee has a gift for all of you! Every Busy-at-Home reader can SAVE $10 and receive FREE Shipping by entering coupon code MLAT10A when purchasing a Cafe Latte online, at Mr. Coffee. In addition to that great news, I’ve decided to join in the celebration! Because it’s Christmas and I love you all, Busy-at-Home will host a giveaway for one Mr. Coffee Cafe Latte Machine! Be sure to enter, below.
GIVEAWAY Mandatory Entry: Visit the Mr. Coffee website and browse all the different latte recipes. Pick the one you’d want to try first, if you win this awesome appliance; and leave a comment on this post, telling me which one you chose. After you comment, be sure to register your entry, using the Rafflecopter form, below. It’s that simple. You’re entered. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I received a Mr. Coffee Cafe Latte maker in order to test it in my own kitchen and collect data for this review. No monetary compensation was received and a positive review was not required. As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own and based on my personal experience with the product.
The giveaway is being sponsored and administered by Busy-at-Home. Mr. Coffee is in no way affiliated with the giveaway. Busy-at-Home will purchase and ship a Mr. Coffee Cafe Latte maker to the giveaway winner.
When I first won my iPad in an online giveaway, I kept it under lock and key. No one was allowed to use it, except me, on pains of … well … pain. :) I couldn’t imagine turning my teenagers, or even my husband, loose to recklessly download apps willy-nilly and carelessly leave this awesome [...]
When I first won my iPad in an online giveaway, I kept it under lock and key. No one was allowed to use it, except me, on pains of … well … pain. :) I couldn’t imagine turning my teenagers, or even my husband, loose to recklessly download apps willy-nilly and carelessly leave this awesome piece of technology lying around, uncared for. I could never have dreamed that, today, the most common users of this handy device would be my teenagers and preschool- and primary school-age grandchildren! I very rarely get my hands on the iPad, but it gets plenty of use! This phenomenon is not uncommon, in our society, today; and even the youngest members of families are so technologically savvy that companies are beginning to design apps that are age-appropriate for their learning and playing needs. Toy companies are beginning to see this need, as well, and I’m so enthusiastic about the way Pressman Toy has tackled the challenge.
At the BlogHer conference in New York, this summer, I had a chance to play a couple of new games from the Pressman Toy iPieces line and I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to show them to my family. We recently reviewed two of the five available iPieces games, here, at our home; and we have definitely put some miles on them! We tested Air Hockey and The Game of Goose. They’ve both been big hits. Let me explain why. They are perfectly geared to younger children, and yet, easy for Mom and Dad to love, too. How is that possible? Let me show you!
Love #2: Playing board games with our kids and grandkids allows us to have conversations and really connect, as we enjoy the fun of the game. It’s sometimes difficult, however, to carve out the amount of time necessary to play traditional board games that require hours and hours, or even days, to complete. We either have to leave them set up somewhere in the house, and come back to them, quit before the game is finished, or force ourselves to stick with it for the duration (which reinforces that desire to avoid board games in the future – not a good plan). The beauty of Pressman Toys’ iPieces games is that they are interactive and fun, but required game time is brief. Not only does that fit a small child’s attention span, so they can easily be included, but it makes it so much easier for Mom and Dad to have the time to play a game, or even two or three!
Love #4: iPieces games are inexpensive and there are already five different games available! At Amazon.com the games range in price from $5.98 for Snakes and Ladders, to 12.99 for Pool. There are three others, the Fishing Game, and the two we tested, Air Hockey and the Game of Goose. Love! Love! Love! If you have an iPad in your home, your whole family, right down to the youngest members, will have a blast with any or all of these titles! Once you own the game, download the app for your iPad for free and enjoy some fabulous family fun and laughter.
Love #5: In my opinion, even though the main feature is fun, all these games have some educational value for the littlest ones in your household. I know that the Game of Goose we reviewed certainly did! Our grandkids not only had to practice patience, sharing and waiting for their turn, but they learned to recognize number sets on die, practiced counting as they moved their game pieces along the path and learned what it means to follow instructions. This particular game is also good for fine-tuning small motor skills and eye-hand coordination, as the kids move their game piece around the virtual board.
Be sure to follow Pressman Toys on Facebook and Twitter, so you stay up-to-date on any specials, new products or promotions that might help you whittle down your Christmas list! And definitely be sure to enter this giveaway, to win an iPieces game, of your choice.
One lucky Busy-at-Home reader will win the Pressman Toy iPieces game of their choice, for their family! You can choose any one of the five available. Entering is super simple.
Mandatory Entry: Visit the Pressman Toy website and find another game you think your family would enjoy. In a comment on this post, tell me the name of the game you are interested in and paste the link to it’s page in your comment. Once you’ve left your comment, register your entries using the Rafflecopter form, below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I received the Game of Goose and Air Hockey, in order to test them in my own home and collect information and photos for this review. No monetary compensation was received and a positive review was not required. As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own and based on my personal experience with the product. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
I know I’ve shared some of my favorite Walgreens shopping trip savings with you, in past posts, and have never made a secret about how much I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their Register Rewards program. So, I’m pretty excited to let you know about TWO new Walgreens programs/features that will simplify your shopping and provide even [...]
I know I’ve shared some of my favorite Walgreens shopping trip savings with you, in past posts, and have never made a secret about how much I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their Register Rewards program. So, I’m pretty excited to let you know about TWO new Walgreens programs/features that will simplify your shopping and provide even more great savings. Since saving money out of the budget, to grow your family’s savings is as important to you, as it is to me, I knew you would want to know about both of them. (And just as a reminder, and for a little motivation, since I haven’t mentioned it in awhile; all it takes to save $1000 in a year, is to set aside $19.24 each week. Without even adding income, if you simply trim that $19.24 from your existing budget, you will have $1000 in your savings account in one year’s time.) You can definitely do that! And these exciting new programs from Walgreens, may give you a great place to start, in doing it.
First of all, you need to get signed up for the Walgreens’ Balance Rewards Card. It’s simple to do and once you have it the benefits are great! Whether you’re shopping in the store or online, once you have a Balance Rewards Card, you’ll be earning points and receiving exclusive, member-only pricing on many of the items you already purchase every day. Plus, you’ll be earning loyalty points for the money that you spend. Then those points are redeemable for products, as you shop! Gotta love saving money!
After I secured my Balance Rewards membership, I noticed that Download App button (see picture, above) in the bottom left corner. I was on my way to adding the Walgreens App to my smart phone. It works whether you have an iPhone or an Android. This is probably the coolest shopping app, ever! Coupons EXCLUSIVE for users – you can’t get them anywhere else AND you don’t have to print them. The cashier can just scan them right off your phone! The app allows you to see the entire weekly ad, right on your phone, as well as the in-store savings book, full of coupons. You can also use the app to refill your prescriptions or order photos. You can place an online order and have it shipped to your home. You can find the closest Walgreens or transfer prescriptions. Basically, you can handle many day-to-day activities and errands from your phone – while you’re sitting at the park, waiting at a traffic light, on your lunch break at work — wherever you happen to be with your phone in hand. Convenience AND saving money! I am SO excited about that! Honestly, there isn’t much I’d change about this app, at all. The two things that did stand out were: 1) I wish I could earn and use my Register Rewards and coupons through the app and 2) the Main menu page needs some sort of obvious navigational directions, to let users know that it’s a two page menu. I actually spent a little over an hour trying to figure out how to shop with the app, before discovering there is a second page to the menu and figuring out how to get there. I would have felt pretty silly about it, except that I also contacted their customer service department who told me it wasn’t possible, at first, and then discovered for the first time for themselves, that it was.
Getting the app on my phone was super simple. Once I clicked the icon to download the app, I chose my platform, Android, and was taken to the Google Play store, where they automatically determined that the app was compatible with my phone and provided a button to click, in order to install it.
These two new programs are another example of why I love Walgreens for saving me money and even time! Get a complete picture of my download and shopping experience by visiting my Google+ album. You can also check out more details about both of them on the Walgreens website, and be sure to follow Walgreens on Twitter and Facebook, so you stay up to date about specials, promotions and who wins the ONE MILLION points for pre-registering for the Walgreens Balance Rewards Card. Maybe it will be you!
I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Walgreens #CBias #SocialFabric
Recipes for laundry stain removers are floating all around the Internet and there are quite a few on Pinterest. I have donned my lab goggles and rubber gloves and mixed up several of the formulas promising miraculous results, only to be disappointed by the cost to make them, the lack of results, the bleach spot [...]
Recipes for laundry stain removers are floating all around the Internet and there are quite a few on Pinterest. I have donned my lab goggles and rubber gloves and mixed up several of the formulas promising miraculous results, only to be disappointed by the cost to make them, the lack of results, the bleach spot they left behind or all of the above. That’s why I’m so excited about this recipe. Would I call it miraculous? Probably not. To me miraculous would be not getting the stain in the first place. What I will say is that this is the stain remover I will be using in my laundry room, from this day forward, to have and to clean, ’til death do us part. :)
Why do I like it?
- It works! My arch nemesis when it comes to stains is not grass, chocolate, blood or ground in dirt. Until discovering this stain remover, it was yellow mustard. No matter how quickly I was able to get to the stain, nothing seemed to take it out. The most expensive detergents and stain products, to the very cheapest, have been tried with equally disappointing results. There always remained a yellow shadow to taunt me. Today, I can tell you that I’m no longer afraid of mustard stains. It took sitting overnight, but this homemade stain remover did something nothing I have ever purchased has been able to do. It removed a mustard stain.
- It’s easy to make. There are no toxic fumes and nothing to eat the skin off my fingers. It only has three ingredients, plus water, and they may already be in your house; especially if, like me, you make your own laundry detergent. It took less than five minutes to mix a batch and start using it!
- It’s inexpensive. Name brand stain removers can be upwards of $4 or $5 for a bottle that is less than 1 quart in size, depending on the brand you purchase. Some are even double that depending on where you shop. My homemade stain remover made a one quart batch and it only cost me $0.88! Score!
Most of you know that I recently returned from ten days on a mission trip, in New Orleans. Prior to making that trip, however, I had the most delightful “stay-cation” experience, right here in Nebraska! My family and I had a great weekend and a fabulous stay at the Lincoln, NE Embassy Suites. This wonderful [...]
Most of you know that I recently returned from ten days on a mission trip, in New Orleans. Prior to making that trip, however, I had the most delightful “stay-cation” experience, right here in Nebraska! My family and I had a great weekend and a fabulous stay at the Lincoln, NE Embassy Suites. This wonderful hotel quickly moved to the TOP of our list of favorites and will be the one we think of whenever we are looking for a high-value, affordable family-vacation stay.
(I need to also mention that I was sick with grief that I lost dozens of photos of this trip, when our phone carrier “lost” them in moving them from my phone to our account. Happily, our ten-year-old had her camera along with her, so many shots were recovered from her unique perspective and I’m so grateful to have them.)
There is no doubt that we were expected, and received VIP treatment at the Lincoln Embassy Suites, however; after only a brief time at the hotel, it was also obvious that everyone staying there was given amenities and attention we have not experienced with any other hotel chain. We pulled up to the front of the hotel and were treated to valet parking. We walked through the doors into a modern and beautifully decorated lobby and THEN … we turned to our left, and the entire room opened up into a gorgeous atrium, (nine stories high), filled with trees, plants, streams and waterfalls and sprinkled with dining tables and chairs! In the center of the atrium, we could look straight up to the giant sky-light that flooded the entire area with natural light. The atrium was surrounded, on three sides, by balconies in front of the picture windows of the guest rooms, rising all the way to the top floor. It was really quite beautiful, and yet, we immediately felt welcome and “at-home”. The space was as comfortable and inviting as it was beautiful. Hotel staff remembered, (and called us by), our names, each time we passed; always checking to make sure that we wanted for nothing, throughout our stay.
After we breezed through the simple registration process, at the front desk, we stepped into one of three glass elevators that overlooked the atrium and enjoyed the wonderful view as we were lifted up to the eighth floor and our spacious and comfy two-room suite. The suite had a HUGE bathroom, a bedroom with two full-sized beds, a desk, large closet and flat screen tv. The living area also had a flat screen tv and all the hook-ups to have accommodated our son’s gaming systems, though we didn’t think to bring them. Wi-fi was included with our room, as well, and was the perfect companion to the large dining/table desk area that made it easy to get work done or sit down to enjoy a snack with the kids. The kitchenette area had a sink and ample counter space with a coffee maker, mini-fridge and microwave, plus a safe for any valuables we needed to leave in the room. What a treat to open the fridge and find that it had been stocked for us with milk, chocolate milk and many varieties of soda, as well as a gorgeous tray of snacks that included fresh strawberries and cream cheese dip, apple slices, brownies, cookies and more! There was a note on the counter inviting us to enjoy these complimentary refreshments and my crew didn’t take long accepting that invitation. Delicious!
After getting unpacked and freshening up, my ten-year-old and I decided to walk around and take a little tour, before the family went down for the free Manager’s Reception. And since it was one of her most favorite things, our tour HAD to include another ride in the glass elevators! We noted that there were not only ice and soda machines on each floor, but that using our key card access, we were able to open large, well-kept laundry facilities, as well. We scoped out the location of the pool and hot tub, for later, and discovered a weight and exercise room, plus a nice gift shop. There is even a full restaurant, inside the hotel! We took some extra time to stroll through the atrium, cross the footbridge over the stream and just enjoy the pretty space and the soothing sounds of the water tumbling over rocks in the falls.
At the Manager’s Reception we enjoyed chips and salsa, pretzels and other finger food snacks along with free beverages — sodas, and if wanted, mixed drinks for the adults. The setting for the reception was the atrium we had toured, earlier, and there was ample room for all the guests as it is dotted with dozens of dining tables and chairs, plus conversation areas and other seating. It was a casual and comfortable gathering where guests had the opportunity to relax and visit.
We walked to the Haymarket, a local historic area of the city, full of restaurants, antique shops and art galleries, for dinner. It was great that it is so close to the hotel and we didn’t even have a need for the car. There is actually quite a lot to do in downtown Lincoln, that is within walking distance of Embassy Suites. We could have taken in a movie at the Grand Theatre across the street or checked out the latest concert or play at the Lied Center. And it would be impossible to go hungry with the number of available restaurants, serving everything from smokehouse barbecue, to pizza to Indian cuisine. The possibilities will tantalize your taste buds as you walk the Haymarket and smell all the delicious aromas.
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and were surprised to find we had the gorgeous pool, sauna and spa area all to ourselves. It was such a fun evening and once, again, the staff at the hotel was cordial and attentive, acknowledging us by name and then later on, quickly responding to a request for fresh towels in the pool area. We finished off our fun at the pool and headed back upstairs to our suite, where the kids pulled out the hide-a-bed and curled up to enjoy a movie, while David and I were able to watch a movie of our own, in the other room. Two TV’s turned out to be a great feature!
The next morning, (You know, the point that is usually a mad scramble to choke down a couple granola bars or a tub of yogurt, pack and be out before check-out time.), we were able to wake up, get ready for our day and then head back downstairs to the beautiful atrium at the center of the hotel. Two professional chefs were busy taking personal orders for custom omelets, sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, pancakes and other delicious fare at absolutely NO EXTRA COST — totally FREE — included in the price of the room for our entire family! There was also a generously stocked buffet line with cereals, fruit, donuts, muffins, bagels, scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy and more — also free. We were so shocked and pleased at the wonder of it all, I forgot to take any pictures of the extraordinarily delicious food! I enjoyed a delicious sausage and cheese omelet with green peppers, onions and cheddar cheese. The person behind me in line, ordered an egg white omelet with peppers and cheese. My daughter ordered a ham and cheese omelet with a side of bacon. My husband ordered….well, you get the idea. There must have been eight or ten individual omelet skillets going at all times. We placed our orders for our customized breakfast and watched as the pro chefs prepared each one individually and perfectly! Yum! What an extraordinarily delicious breakfast experience! If we had gone to a restaurant to order this meal, we would easily have spent $50 or more for our family to have food that probably would not have approached the quality we received at Embassy Suites. Can you believe that was all included in the price of our already very reasonably priced suite? Amazing value!
After breakfast, we checked out and the valets brought our van right to the front door, where we loaded up to continue the rest of our brief stay-cation. We live so close to Lincoln and had taken our older daughters to visit some of the great frugal, family fun spots, but our ten-year-old hadn’t experienced several of those, yet. So, we strolled through the Sunken Gardens (completely free), visited the giant sculpture fountain in the zoo park, checked out a few interesting shops at the mall and then took her to tour the State Capitol building. It was a fun, educational and budget-friendly family weekend that created some great memories and we’re so grateful to Embassy Suites for making it special!
I wrote this review while participating in an Ambassador Program by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Embassy Suites Hotels and received a one-night complimentary stay at an Embassy Suites Hotel to facilitate and research this review, and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate. A positive review was not required. As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own and based on my personal experience with the company and products.
UPDATE: It is with great sadness that I can no longer endorse the company producing and marketing the NuWave PIC. I LOVE, seriously LOVE the product, but the manner in which they charge for shipping are, in my opinion, not ethical. The product is worth far more than the $99 being charged for it; and [...]
UPDATE: It is with great sadness that I can no longer endorse the company producing and marketing the NuWave PIC. I LOVE, seriously LOVE the product, but the manner in which they charge for shipping are, in my opinion, not ethical. The product is worth far more than the $99 being charged for it; and it would seem more honest to me to simply charge what the product is actually worth, rather than saying it is only $99 and then charging inflated prices for the shipping and handling. Should those practices ever change, Busy-at-Home would be glad, once again, to endorse not only a great product, but the company who produces it. Thank you for understanding.
It doesn’t get easier than this simple, delicious sidedish! I love spring and summer for all the fresh, whole food options we have at affordable prices. If you have a garden — even better. It will take two to three years for my asparagus bed to be fully established, so in the meantime, I’m enjoying being able to pick asparagus up at the store for it’s “in-season” price.
Believe it or not, as a kid I HATED asparagus. I have only gotten brave enough to try it, again, in the last year or so and have completely fallen in love. As it turns out, my girls aren’t big asparagus eaters, but my son and husband would each polish off an entire plateful on their own. Asparagus is a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron. It’s a phenomenal source of folic acid, glutathione, B-complex Vitamins and so many more minerals and anti-oxidants. It’s a nutrition powerhouse, raw or cooked and a super-food that would be good to incorporate into your diet. It’s usually in season in early spring, so April and May will typically be the times you will find the best prices on asparagus.
You can use asparagus in salads, casseroles, frittatas and many other dishes. We like it raw, too, but typically I will give it a light drizzle of olive oil, a little salt and fresh, ground black pepper and stick it under the broiler until it is bright green and heated through. That usually takes less than 5 minutes, so just keep an eye on it. There’s nothing worse than mushy vegetables. You want it hot, but to still have some *snap* to it, when you take a bite. Yum!
To mix things up, over the weekend, I stuck a grill pan on my beautiful, extra “big-burner”, my Portable Induction Cooktop, and melted about a Tablespoon of butter across the surface. I had the heat turned up to the highest setting, which is SEAR on my burner. The second that the butter was melted and sizzling hot, I tossed on my fresh asparagus and let it cook about 60 seconds. Then I used tongs to begin turning the spears and in about three minutes, the asparagus was completely done. (I haven’t tried it, yet, but I’m guessing asparagus would be amazing cooked on your outdoor grill, too.) A sprinkle of fresh pepper and a little salt and it was spring veggie heaven at our house!
If you’ve never tried asparagus, I hope you’ll test it out and if you love it as much as I do, I’d love to hear your favorite way to eat it or have you share a recipe that makes your asparagus taste buds sing!
Nutrition Fact Sources:
I can’t believe how many times a week I reach for this handy tool and how I managed before I had it. I’m guessing I was a lot more content with uneven slices or just skipping recipes that called for too much slicing. I definitely didn’t make chips of any kind for our family, because [...]
I can’t believe how many times a week I reach for this handy tool and how I managed before I had it. I’m guessing I was a lot more content with uneven slices or just skipping recipes that called for too much slicing. I definitely didn’t make chips of any kind for our family, because the slicing was way too tedious. I don’t have that excuse any longer and my family has enjoyed homemade sweet potato chips (recipe below), zucchini chips, and my Potachos several times. Not to mention, salads just look beautiful and inviting with the perfectly sliced veggies tossed in.
I’m a huge fan of OXO and their products for the kitchen and home. Wait! Don’t say it! I’ve already heard it, before. They’re a little more expensive than other brands and I’m about saving money everywhere I can, so how do I justify the cost? Here’s a frugal mom’s secret that you need to consider. Sometimes, the cheapest isn’t the best value! When my husband works, he needs tools that are durable, long-term. Tools that can do the job efficiently and effectively, every. single. time. without. fail. Tools that won’t need to be replaced multiple times a year. If he spends $60 on a tool that lasts ten years, instead of $19.99 on one that ends up not being able to do the job or breaks and needs replaced multiple times in that same ten year span, the $60 tool was a much better value than the $19.99 one and saved our family time and money, in the long-run.
Cooking and caring for our family and home is what I do. The tools I use need to be of a quality that means they are a long-term good value, help me do my job efficiently and won’t strand me in the middle of preparing a meal with a broken product I need to run out and replace. That’s why I love OXO! The high quality of their products means I get TOP value for every dollar I spend and that’s important to our family’s long-term savings goals. So, given Brand Y and Brand X for noodles or toothbrushes or green beans, you bet — I’ll pick the cheapest one every time, but when it comes to tools, I want the highest quality, best value my dollar can buy, even if it means saving up for a little while. I can count on that kind of value every time with OXO tools. This fantastic, handheld mandoline was no exception! You’re going to LOVE it!
What are some of my favorite features of this handy-dandy kitchen tool?
- My slicing work is finished in a fraction of the time.
- The blade height can be adjusted for slices in 3 thicknesses.
- The mandoline is clear, so I can see through it to my slices, below.
- I can use it to slice over my cutting board or a plate; or I can use the lip at the end to hook it over the edge of a bowl.
- The food holder protects hands, is comfortable to use and is easy to grip. It also serves as a blade cover when the mandoline is stored.
- I can set the blade height to LOCKED 9indicated by a little padlock), meaning it is flush with the surface of the mandoline and much less likely to allow someone to cut themselves while it is not in use. That, coupled with the fact that the food holder also acts as a blade cover, makes it one of the safest mandolines I’ve ever used.
- It’s strong. I have another mandoline, of a different brand, that was MUCH more expensive and the blade heights do not stay in place well, causing a lot of difficulty and wasted time in trying to get things cut. I’m really impressed with how solid this little mandoline is and very excited that the slice thickness I select, is the one that I get, until I move the blade.
- The nice, rubberized non-slip handle, knob and foot make this an easy to grip and comfortable to use tool.
- It’s completely dishwasher safe.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I received an OXO Handheld Mandoline to test in my own kitchen and gather information to write this review. No monetary compensation was received and a positive review was not required. As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own and based on my personal experience with the product.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I kinda, sorta, maybe, a little bit, like Pinterest. lol The premise behind Pinterest is a good one, because you find interesting products, money-saving tips and ideas for your home and family, crafty projects you can do with your kids, make for gifts or use to spruce up your home [...]
In case you hadn’t noticed, I kinda, sorta, maybe, a little bit, like Pinterest. lol The premise behind Pinterest is a good one, because you find interesting products, money-saving tips and ideas for your home and family, crafty projects you can do with your kids, make for gifts or use to spruce up your home and recipes for food you never knew you were dying to try and ALL of them have pictures. It’s marvelous! The idea of pinning all of those things into their own neat little file folders, or boards as they’re called, actually makes me feel very organized and accomplished. (Further evidence that feelings are unreliable. ) I know I’m going to be able to find each pin, again, when I am ready to try the project. The standing joke with all pinning addicts, though, is that most of us just pin and never actually do the cool things we dream about when we pin the ideas.
I have a confession to make. I pin them AND I make them, or at least some of them. Thanks to Pinterest, I now always have a craft/sewing table piled high over in the corner of the parlor. So many projects and so little time! I believe there are Pinterest support groups forming all around the country, so you don’t have to worry. I can probably the help I require, or at the very least, I can start pinning some great ideas for organizing craft and sewing stuff.
Anyway, I recently pinned a blog post on how to make our own paper from junk mail and scrap paper we had around the house. The blog it leads to is Positively Splendid and Amy has lots of great, crafty ideas to share, over there. My mind immediately traveled back a few months to our summer trip to Ohio and the Bob Evans Farm Festival where we had watched a demonstration of the exact same thing. The lady there was selling kits to make your own paper at home. So, I scanned the blog post I had pinned and realized how simple it would be to just gather the supplies at home. A new Pinterest project idea was born!
I love the idea of recycling all the old paper in the house and reusing it for craft projects and cards. It saves money, it reduces waste and it’s actually really fun and easy to do. Since we were making paper to use for Valentines, we gathered scraps of napkins, scrapbook paper, junk mail and magazine pages that had reds, pinks or lavenders and used them in this project. The colors you can make are as plentiful as the scrap paper stash you have on hand!
What you’ll need to make paper:
- a blender
- scrap paper, envelopes, magazine pages, dinner napkins, scrapbook paper, any paper scraps you have on hand
- an old picture frame or embroidery hoops
- window screen scraps big enough to fit your frames
- duct tape
- dishpan large enough for your frame to lie flat in
- square of felt just a little bigger than your frame
- an old bath towel folded over two or three times
- a blow dryer
- (optional) flower seeds – This was such a fun idea we gave it a try, for our project, but you definitely don’t need seeds to make paper.
The picture frame I had in the garage was broken, but since we were going to be taping the whole screened frame together, anyway, it didn’t matter and it was a great way to reuse something I already had. In hindsight, the frame has a ridge along the edges that can trap extra paper pulp, so next time I would choose a frame with flat sides and edges or even use an embroidery hoop which was an idea that came to me after I had already built my frame. They would make round or oval sheets of paper, instead of rectangular, but if you will be cutting out shapes from them, it really doesn’t matter. I know I saw some old hoops at our local thrift store, for a quarter a piece. I think I will definitely go back and pick them up for future paper-making projects.
I cut window screening to fit around my picture frame, leaving about 2 inches of overhang on each side to fold over and tape down on the back of the frame. Size matters, here. Be sure the frame you build will be able to lie flat and be completely submerged into the container (dishpan) you are using for the water.
Using duct tape, I pulled the screen tight across the frame and secured it on the back, going around all four sides.
Now that the screen was complete, I filled my dishpan 1/2 full with water.
Then I tore our scrap paper into small chunks and filled my blender canister about 1/3 to 1/2 full with the pieces.
I added hot water to the blender canister filled with paper, until it reached the point of being about 2/3 full.
Then I used the pulse feature on my blender to chop the scrap paper into tiny pieces. The mixture wasn’t purely liquified. There were still a few detectable bits of paper floating in the pulp. You can decide how large or small you would like those bits to look in your finished paper.
I poured out the blender canister into the dishpan filled with water and then I repeated the process, so that I actually had two canisters worth of paper pulp in my dish pan. I tried to make the paper with just one, but it came out thin and uneven. I personally preferred working with two canisters at a time and got several sheets that way. Use your hand to stir the pulp into the water.
Once you have stirred both canisters of paper pulp into the dishpan of water, you are ready to make paper. Submerge the frame you built, screen-side up, into the dishpan. Try to keep it perfectly flat and level as you lift it back out. There will be a nice thick coating of paper pulp sitting on top of the screen. If you have holes or gaps that didn’t fill in evenly, you can simply submerge the screen again to rinse the pulp off. Give the water a gentle stir with your hand and then submerge your screen again, lifting it out flat.
At this point, the woman who demonstrated in Ohio and the blogger whose post inspired this project, both quickly turned their frames upside down onto a piece of felt and the paper came off the screen onto the felt. Then they set the felt aside to allow the paper to dry, taking up to 24 hours, depending on how quickly the moisture evaporated from the paper.
I’m not sure what I was doing wrong, but no matter how many times I tried, I could never get the paper to come off the screen onto the felt. I’m only guessing but maybe the problem was that I was using craft felt, which is mostly polyester and I should have used wool felt, which would definitely wick away the moisture more quickly. I just don’t know, but I didn’t have access to wool felt, so I had to come up with another method.
(Optional use for flower seeds): At this point the blog I read, suggested sprinkling the wet paper pulp on the screen with flower seeds. What we discovered is that they didn’t stay adhered very well, once the paper was dry. Our solution, we sprinkled the flower seeds into the dishpan of water that we added our blended paper pulp to. That way they became part of the paper, instead of just resting on top of it. The idea is that the paper hearts can be planted in a few inches of soil, watered and eventually sprout a few flowers for the person to whom you give them. Since the paper will breakdown and become compost in your soil, it makes great sense and it’s a fun Valentine gift idea.
Once I lifted the frame from the water, I flipped it over onto the felt which was lying on top of the folded bath towel. Then I blotted out a lot of the excess moisture with a folded wash cloth. A sponge would work well, too. Just blot right through the screen to start pulling the moisture out. I used a blow dryer on the highest setting to dry the paper, right through the screen while it was still lying on top of the felt. I eventually flipped it and made sure the top was dry, too. It was completely dry and ready to use in about 8 or 9 minutes. Which sure beats 24 hours when you have kids who want to use it “right now”! I grabbed one corner and lifted it right off the screen. Some pieces curled a little as I was drying them, but I discovered a couple quick blasts of steam from my steam iron pressed it smooth. Perfect!
I traced hearts of all sizes and combined them with heart shapes I cut with my Cricut. Then I glued them together, with Elmer’s White Glue.
Once the hearts were finished, I attached them to lollipop sticks and added green cut-out leaves. The hearts and leaves attached easily to the lollipop sticks with white glue.
Once everything was dry and set, I poured some glass beads into an old candle jar I had saved when the candle was gone. I arranged the hearts in the jar like a flower bouquet, tied on a bow from a piece of fabric in my scrap basket and added a note I printed from my printer and glued to another lollipop stick. The note says, “Friends are flowers in the garden of life. I’m glad you bloomed in mine. Happy Valentine’s Day!”
This was simple and used items I had around the house. It would be a unique Valentine’s gift for a friend, aunt or even Grandma! Who doesn’t love hearts and flowers?
We’re going to be making even more homemade paper projects and, hopefully, perfecting our technique. If you try it, I would love to hear about your projects or have you share pictures on our Facebook page!
After two and a half months making our own laundry detergent and loving the results, I’m moving full-steam ahead to find frugal substitutes for the other products we use in the laundry room. While I wouldn’t say we spend an exorbitant amount on dryer sheets, if I were to suddenly be left without the need [...]
After two and a half months making our own laundry detergent and loving the results, I’m moving full-steam ahead to find frugal substitutes for the other products we use in the laundry room. While I wouldn’t say we spend an exorbitant amount on dryer sheets, if I were to suddenly be left without the need to have them, I wouldn’t miss finding the used ones lying on the laundry room floor or sticking to the inside of a pant leg or the back of someone’s shirt. I wouldn’t miss having to remind people to toss them in with each load, so we don’t shock and awe the congregation with the amazing static electricity display erupting from our family’s row at church on Sundays. I would definitely get excited about putting the cost of them back into our budget, because even small amounts add up over time. Believe me, I’ve scoured Pinterest and come up with dozens of options for all kinds of homemade cleaners, I intend to try, but nothing that appealed to me as a better option than the dryer sheets I’m currently buying – for performance or cost.
Feeling the need for a little “pick me up” and a break before I plunged back into my research, I grabbed a chocolate peanut butter chip cookie and a Coke (I know. I know. — But, they were delish!) and checked my Facebook feed. I noticed one of my sister’s posts mentioned that she had just entered a giveaway for Dryer Balls. I had never heard of such a thing, but my interest was piqued. I gathered from her short post that they were made from wool, used in the clothes dryer instead of fabric sheets and handmade by someone who was selling them through her own Etsy shop. I found the site and started reading about Maple Hill Farm and Rebecca Rowan. Rebecca’s dad raises sheep and she makes dryer balls from the wool he produces there.
Rebecca’s Wool Dryer Balls are made from 100% wool and are colored naturally, not with dyes. They decrease static cling and soften the clothes in your dryer as they tumble with your laundry, by gentle friction of the felted wool fibers against your clothing fibers. Dryer balls separate the clothes, as they circulate through your dryer, and keep laundry items separated as they tumble around. This increases airflow and allows warm dry air to reach even the clothes at the center of your dryer tub. This drastically cuts the amount of time it takes to dry a load of clothes. I can attest to the truth of that! We have been nursing my poor dryer along for the last several months, while we save to purchase a new one. It takes at least two complete cycles to dry a normal load of laundry, now, as it limps through the end of its life. However, I purchased 4 extra large Wool Dryer Balls which arrived here on January 17. Since that time, we have been able to dry our clothes in a single cycle, again! I am so excited for what that means about the gas and electricity we will save when we actually get a new and properly functioning dryer, again! The dryer balls made a dramatic difference in each load’s drying time and I won’t need to buy dryer sheets, again.
Maple Hill Farms Wool Dryer Balls are completely reusable — no waste, no trash. I just leave them in the dryer as I pull out each load, so they are there and ready for the next cycle. People have apparently used them up to 8 years before they needed replaced! Amazing! They come scented or unscented, whichever you prefer. I elected to have mine scented with lavender essential oils before they were shipped and opening the package when they arrived was like being in the center of a field of lavender. I love it! I’ve used them in every dryer load since they have arrived and the scent is not even hinting at fading, though I understand that it will eventually fade over time and can be reapplied, if desired. Our clothes absorb the fragrance, and hold it, better than any commercial fabric softener or dryer sheet I have ever used. No chemicals, no mess, no repurchasing and my laundry room and clothes smell amazing – I’m a happy camper!
I like that this product is handmade and all natural. I like that it’s a family business and I love that the product is 100% everything that it claims. I intend to continue using them and reap the energy savings, over time, plus eliminate the cost and waste of the dryer sheets that were the norm in my laundry, up to now. Wouldn’t these be a unique and welcome bridal shower gift or a gift for someone who “has everything”? I wholeheartedly recommend them. As a matter of fact, I was so excited about them that I contacted Rebecca, who has agreed to sponsor a giveaway AND a 10% discount for Busy-at-Home readers! Enter Coupon code: Busy2012 in your shopping cart at checkout to receive the discount, when you place an order. I’m so grateful for her generosity and excited for all of you to know about this money-saving and eco-friendly product!
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below, telling me which fragrance (or unscented, if that’s your preference), you want to try. [Click Here to visit the page with a List of Available Fragrances, in a new window.] Once you leave your comment, go to the form below, hit that Do It! button, then Enter! and you’ll unlock several more options for additional entries. It’s super simple and what a great prize for one of you!
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I purchased Maple Hill Farms Wool Dryer balls for my own use and tested them in my own home, in order to write this review. No monetary compensation was received and a positive review was not required. The views and opinions expressed are wholly my own and based on my personal experience with the product.
I have been fortunate to share some really excellent toys with my children and grandchildren, as part of my work as a blogger. I love when those opportunities are from companies I have known and loved since my own childhood. Crayola is an icon in creative and imaginative play. Most impressive is their ability to [...]
I have been fortunate to share some really excellent toys with my children and grandchildren, as part of my work as a blogger. I love when those opportunities are from companies I have known and loved since my own childhood. Crayola is an icon in creative and imaginative play. Most impressive is their ability to adapt and change to the needs and interests of the more and more tech-savvy youth of our culture. In December, our ten-year-old, the grandkids and I had a blast reviewing 4 exceptional products from Crayola that fit that forward-thinking ideal — Color Studio HD for iPad and the iMarker to use with it and three fun Story Studio online coloring book makers — Disney Princess Fairytales, Cars 2 Adventure Maker and the Spiderman Comic Maker.
The first thing that was pulled out of the package was the Story Studio HD with iMarker. Loading the software onto my iPad only took 2 or 3 minutes and then we were up and running. This would be such a fun activity for car trips! The girls really enjoyed the wide variety of choices to “color” and I loved the “coloring” with no mess part. The pictures are ANIMATED! The feature can be turned off and on, but it’s really fun to see a picture that you’ve colored start moving on the screen. It’s also very cool that the pictures can be printed to color offline, if your children choose.
The Crayola ColorStudio HD app and iMarker let kids’ imaginations run wild as they color moving, animated scenes that come alive with music, sound effects and hidden surprises. The app is free on iTunes App Store with the purchase of the iMarker for $29.99 at Toys R Us, Best Buy, the Apple Store and www.griffintechnology.com.
- Kids can select from 64 colors in the digital Crayola 64 Box and then use the iMarker to create the look of Crayola crayons, markers, paints and colored pencils as the stylus interacts with an iPad. The digital coloring pages respond with movement and sound as the pages come alive as kids color.
- Animated images stop moving on the screen so kids can easily color them in without going outside of the lines, so objects look picture perfect when they start moving again. Tidy up your page with an eraser function or an “undo” arrow that removes larger areas of color.
- In addition, kids can save their work in a gallery to be emailed, printed or uploaded to Facebook (mom’s account, and with her permission and help of course!), and also free draw, play interactive games and create their own customized coloring pages they can print and color off-line.
The Crayola Story Studios, that we reviewed, utilize online technology through the computer. When you purchase a Story Studio product, for only $9.99, you really get a great value for the price. The package includes glossy paper, plain paper, colored pencils or markers and glitter pens (depending on which character variety you select), book binding strips and a secret code that you use to register your product at Crayola Story Studios. Once the product is registered, you have unlimited use to create fun coloring books starring the SpiderMan, Cars 2 or Disney Princess Characters from your product AND your child! What kid wouldn’t love to be part of a coloring book story with their favorite movie characters?
Part of the fun is creating your child’s character. You can upload a picture that the program will then use to create your character or you can start from scratch, picking face shape, hair, eyes, nose, ears, mouth, clothing and colors for everything. Do the characters really look like the pictures you upload? in reality? no. In your child’s imagination? absolutely! The kids loved these and didn’t expect or care that their “cartoonized” characters weren’t their actual twins. Once the character was created, it WAS them and they loved being part of the story.
Once your character is created, you can insert them into various pre-programmed coloring book stories, which are familiar scenes from the movies, and then print the coloring books on your home printer. You print the covers in full color on the glossy paper and the coloring pages on the plain paper. Then bind your coloring book with the included binding strips and get ready for hours of enjoyment. It was a simple process and the results were so happily received.
A Busy-at-Home reader is going to win this fun collection of Crayola products for the creative little people in their life! Enter, before midnight, Monday, January 9, using the form below. For the mandatory entry, leave a comment, on this blog post, telling me which characters your imaginative artists will want to try first, if you win- Cars 2, Disney Princesses or SpiderMan or will they be more excited about the iMarker and HD Color Studio for the iPad? That’s it! Once you leave a comment, click the DO IT button,and then ENTER button, in the form below to reveal additional optional entries.
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I received three Crayola Story Studio products and an iMarker, through MyBlogSpark, in order to conduct this review. No monetary compensation was received and a positive review was not required. The views and opinions expressed are wholly my own.