This post has been compensated as part of Central Garden and Pet’s, Pennington Smart Feed Blogger Program. A positive review was not required and use and testing of this product were done in my home garden, according to my own criteria and specifications. As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly [...]
This post has been compensated as part of Central Garden and Pet’s, Pennington Smart Feed Blogger Program. A positive review was not required and use and testing of this product were done in my home garden, according to my own criteria and specifications. 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.
Spring is finally glorious, in southeast Nebraska! Really! The sun has replaced the gloomy clouds and the cool, rainy weather has given way to warm, green and wonderful. I am in full-tilt gardening mode, at this moment, and couldn’t be more excited! As you recall, last summer, David took ill and everything was dropped in order to focus on his healthcare. That means the garden I dreamed of building and working, sort of fell by the wayside and though I did harvest several batches of wonderful heirloom tomatoes, nothing else happened and most certainly, nothing else grew. My vision for what the garden COULD BE was definitely much different than what it actually became. So, as I ventured to the backyard, this past weekend, I was met with the remnants of all my good intentions, but poor practice. I’m going to have several posts in the next few days about my garden progress and how it’s shaping up, but today, I HAVE to get my tomato plants in the ground, so I’m focusing on sharing some tomato planting tips with you. Be kind. :) I rarely do videos and I am a gardening-mess in this one, but I think I do share a couple of points that I hope will be useful as you get going with your own garden.
I used Pennington‘s new Smart Feed Sprayer System to water and fertilize my tomatoes, as I worked, today. It was my first time using the product and I really liked how easy it was to use. I attached the sprayer to my garden hose, loaded the 20-20-20 (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) Tomato and Vegetable tablet into the sprayer and fed my gorgeous tomato plants, as I watered them. I purchased my Smart Feed System at our local Walmart, but it can be found in several national retail chains. Pennington, is known for exceptional lawn and garden care products, and I feel like their launch of the Pennington Smart Feed Sprayer System will revolutionize the way home gardeners take care of their gardens, lawn and shrubs. It was so simple, no mixing or measuring and I’m excited to see the strong, healthy results in my plants. Today, I used the Tomato and Vegetable tablets, but Pennington Smart Feed All Purpose tablets and Pennington Smart Feed Flowers and Blooms tablets, specially formulated for their specific tasks, are also available. After my experience, today, I’m sure I’ll be using them all, this summer.
I’ll be back soon with new gardening posts, but in the meantime, remember these important tips for growing tomatoes:
- Start seed early, to get a good start on hearty plants. I used heirloom seeds and started them in the house at the end of January. My plants are enormous, now and already setting on blooms. This is especially cool, because our early spring weather was not conducive to gardening. It was too cold and too wet. Having the plants already started and strong, in the house, means that now that weather is warm, I will have tomatoes on schedule, or maybe even a little early.
- Use heirloom seeds. This prevents delicious varieties of fruits and vegetables from becoming extinct, ensures you know exactly what you’re getting when you harvest fruits and vegetables, and you can save the seeds from your produce, to replant next year, instead of buying more.
- When planting, bury at least 1/4 of the tomato plant’s main stem, under the soil. you’ll need to pinch off those bottom branches, so you have just bear stem. New roots will grow up and down the length of that extra stem length, that is underground. A stronger root system means stronger healthier plants, as they can absorb even more water and nutrients from the soil, as well as provide a more solid foundation that protects them from wind.
- Be sure to pinch off and leaves or branches, at the base of your tomato plant, that touch the ground, once you’ve finished planting. Blights and foliar diseases are more common when those leaves come in contact with the soil.
- For the same reason, water tomatoes at the base of the plant, near the roots, instead of showering the leaves with water.
- Determinate plants will produce tomatoes throughout the entire growing season, however they are not neat, compact little bushes. Typically, indeterminate tomatoes are vines and a trellis or caging system will be necessary for the healthiest plants.
- Use a fertilizer you trust, with a good mix of nutrients for tomatoes. Pennington Smart Feed Tomato and Vegetable tablets were the perfect nutrient for my tomatoes, as I wait for my next batch of compost to be ready to use.
GIVEAWAY: Pennington is generously sponsoring a $50 American Express Gift Card Giveaway to help a Busy-at-Home reader get their own good start on a garden for their family. You must be 18 or older and a resident of the U.S. to enter. Winner will be selected in a random drawing, from all entries submitted. The contest is being administered by Busy-at-Home and prize fulfillment is through a third-party affiliate of Pennington.
Mandatory Entry: Entry is simple! In a comment on this post, share your very best gardening or lawn tip and what you’ll be growing at home, this summer. That’s it! Register your entry on the Rafflecopter form, below and good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I received a Pfister Ashfield 1-Handle, Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet to test it in my own kitchen and collect information 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 [...]
I received a Pfister Ashfield 1-Handle, Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet to test it in my own kitchen and collect information 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.
It’s time. It’s been two years and seven months since we bought this house. At first, I hardly dared allow myself to believe that we would actually get to stay, with all that had transpired in the three years, before. I guarded my heart very carefully, not allowing myself to become attached or settled and really didn’t do much, at all, to make the house “ours”. After the first year, I think it started to hit that this really was going to be our home – we were going to stay – and I began to walk through it with different eyes. The money to make changes wasn’t really there, yet, but the dreaming had started and I began setting aside a little money each month to make some of the homey changes that would make this feel like “our” house. Then the washing machine had this major caniption fit and spewed a tubful of soapy water all over the laundry room. The flooring was fine, but the washing machine was pretty much toast and definitely had to be replaced, so you know where that money went. lol Isn’t that the way? After that, David got sick and was out of work for almost 9 months. My focus shifted to finding out what was wrong with him and then getting him healthy, along with just surviving for that time without our primary income. See? You can live in a house for two years and seven months without making any changes! :) It happens.
Today, David is healthy and working full-time, again. Our kids are still adjusting, but more or less, settling into the public school routine and with me working here at home, my eyes have, once again, started noticing those changes I would like to make, especially in our kitchen. Overall, our kitchen is very solid. The cabinetry is somewhat dated, but it was constructed from actual wood, not fiberboard and veneer. It’s an open concept with the family room, so even though it doesn’t have the space I would dream of, it looks bigger than it is and can be a cozy and comfortable place to work and to visit with family and friends. There is no room for a table, but it does have a nice-sized bar area that has seating for four and the formal dining room is just through the doorway. There is a wonderful window over the kitchen sink, where I can look out on the deck and the backyard, but even with that natural light from the window, the kitchen is still a very dark room. That can be attributed to poor light fixtures and also to the color choices. The cabinets are medium to dark wood and the walls are painted a light brown. The backsplash is also tans, grays and earthy tones. Since the natural light is limited, the color choices make the room seem smaller and darker. I want to lighten that up and make it much more cheery!
Most of the changes I have planned will be simple cosmetic ones, since we can’t really afford to replace appliances, right now. When we have saved enough, though, the dishwasher and the microwave/range hood are at the top of the list. They are beyond just old. I would venture to say you could safely classify them as artifacts of a previous civilization. lol The microwave frequently trips a breaker that shuts down power to the bottom 1/3 of our house. Oy! And the dishwasher has lost tines like a youngster loses teeth, except the tines don’t grow back.
The two big ticket changes I have planned for my summer kitchen makeover will be a change in lighting and new fixtures (kitchen sink and cabinet hardware). I believe with some color and fixture updating, my kitchen can be a welcoming, cheery, more modern space. And I believe it can be done on a reasonable budget, if we are willing to do a lot of the work ourselves. Last week I made that first major change and it is the central inspiration for the rest of my makeover.
When we built a new home several years ago, the faucets I fell in love with for the kitchen, were made by Pfister. Sadly, the contractor we worked with hired a plumber who only worked with one specific brand of kitchen fixtures. I’m happy to report that, with great thanks to Pfister, I was able to add the faucet I love to my kitchen, here. My new Ashfield One-Handle, Pull Down Faucet has a brushed nickel finish and has already started to transform the space into that modern 1940′s look that I’m going for. I’m so excited at what an awesome difference that one change has already made, not just in that corner, but in the overall “feel” of the kitchen!
Installing the faucet was super simple. That’s a HUGE plus, in my book. When I can tackle a project like this with ease, THAT’S saying something! The first thing to do when working on any plumbing project is to be sure you shut off the water. I had a shutoff valve to both the cold and the hot water lines, under my kitchen sink. Once the water was off, I removed the old faucet and soap dispenser and installed the new one. Our sink also has a smaller faucet for our reverse osmosis system. Kitchen faucet kits don’t typically include RO faucets and Pfister doesn’t even make them, at this time. Luckily, I found a beautiful little brushed nickel faucet at Home Depot that is a great match to my Ashfield faucet. You won’t believe how good it looks!
Because my sink is a three-hole setup with the RO faucet on the right, I made a modification to my Ashfield faucet installation. The faucet is designed to have the handle on the right, but that would have put it to close to the reverse osmosis tap and caused some problems. Since we didn’t want to give up the filtered water at the sink, I ordered the Ashfield 2-hole kit and then installed it with the handle on the back of the faucet, instead of on the right. I really like this setup. The adults in the house can reach and operate the faucet with no difficulty, but little hands can’t quite manage turning the water on without help and supervision. That saves on lots of messes! Plus, I just like the way it looks. :)
The Ashfield has a pull-out spray nozzle with adjustable spray, right on the nozzle. I enjoy being able to control the pressure of the spray and conserving water when full-force isn’t necessary. Plus, flipping from full-stream to spray is an easy click of the button. I had the option of installing it with or without a deckplate and so opted to do it without. I think it’s awesome that Pfister provides both options. Another of my favorite features is the gorgeous, high arc design which not only looks fabulous, but it leaves lots of clearance to get my big pots and kettles in underneath the faucet. Plus, the faucet comes with Pfister’s Pforever Warranty, which covers the finish and function FOR LIFE! The soap dispenser that came in my Ashfield kit is beautiful, as well. Pfister thought of everything when designing this set. I don’t have to climb under the sink and unscrew the handsoap bottle to refill it. The Ashfield soap dispenser is easily refilled FROM THE TOP, by lifting out the pump and refilling the reservoir. Have I mentioned that I LOVE this faucet? :) Easy to install, easy to operate, conserves water, LOOKS amazing, beautiful easy-care finish, and a company that’s willing to stand behind their products with a lifetime warranty – it doesn’t get better than that!
I was definitely on the right track, when I picked a Pfister faucet, years ago. I should have fussed at the plumber until he agreed to do the one I liked. I can say with assurance that I’m a Pfister customer for life. I love their commitment to quality, their beautiful variety of designs for both the kitchen and the bath, plus, I feel like the instructions and product were so simple and user-friendly that I was more than capable of doing the installation.
My kitchen is already starting to have that “retro” 1940′s feel, I want. It’s amazing how simply changing the fixtures on the kitchen sink can “dress up” the room. I’m thrilled and excited about the effect. I’m also excited that Pfister is sponsoring a Busy-at-Home reader giveaway. You won’t believe how generous they’ve been! One lucky Busy-at-Home reader will get to select ANY Pfister faucet, for kitchen or bathroom, up to $300 in value! Are YOU getting excited, now? :) I thought so. Here’s all you need to do to enter:
Mandatory Entry - Go to the Pfister website and look through all the beautiful kitchen and bathroom faucets they have to offer and start planning your own dream makeover. Leave a comment on this post telling me which faucet you would choose if you win, along with a link to the page where you saw it. Then register your entry on the Rafflecopter form, below. Good luck and happy makeover dreaming!
How many little ballerinas do you have in your life? :) With four daughters and two granddaughters, it seems like I’ve always had someone in the house who was passionate about being a princess AND becoming a ballerina. At a certain age, each of the girls lived in pink or purple and had to wear [...]
How many little ballerinas do you have in your life? :) With four daughters and two granddaughters, it seems like I’ve always had someone in the house who was passionate about being a princess AND becoming a ballerina. At a certain age, each of the girls lived in pink or purple and had to wear dresses or skirts that would “spin”, so there dance moves would be even more beautiful. I think that’s sort of every little girl’s idea of what dance is, when they are young. I have been treated to hours of grand performances and elaborately choreographed “shows”, over the years, where little girls mimicked dance steps they had seen on television or in plays and imagined themselves as beautiful, and as accomplished, as the dancers they copied.
When our older girls were young, dance lessons were simply not in the budget, but our youngest enjoyed dance for several years, during elementary grades, and our oldest granddaughter is taking dance lessons, now. We also have a five-year-old granddaughter who has the same ballerina aspirations and will be ready for dance class at the beginning of next school year. So you can see, dance is sort of a big deal at our house.
After watching our daughter and granddaughters in dance class and recitals, I am a firm believer in its benefits; including motor skills and balance, exercise and discipline, plus the unadulterated joy they exude when they are doing it. The problem is that when I was growing up, formal dance training was not even on our radar. My deficiency in personal knowledge of the technical aspects of dance (and, possibly, a slight lack of gracefulness – lol) make it difficult for me to be of any help when it comes to practicing and fine-tuning the dance steps the girls are learning. I didn’t understand the terms they used and could not help them to duplicate the steps they had been learning in class.
That’s why I am so excited about Janet Jerger’s, Ballet: Step by Step products! There are three wonderful items in the series: a coloring book, an illustrated children’s book and flashcards. They were the tools that took me from being a dance “dunce” to being able to understand and pronounce the terminology, as well as showing the girls the steps that each word commands. The book moves from beginner positions to center work, arabesques and body facings for advanced dancers. I am finally able to help our “ballerinas” practice, at home, so that they develop greater skill than they would only dancing once or twice a week in class and so they can more easily recall what their dance instructor has taught them. Ballet: Step by Step is the tool that busy moms (and dads) need, in order to give them the confidence to guide and help their kids with ballet.
The illustrated children’s book is as much for mom and dad as it is for the student. It contains Ballet Etiquette, instructions for hand and turnout positions and ballet basics in the first few pages. After that, each page (The book has 59 pages!) is devoted to illustrating and describing a single ballet position or step. The name of the step, as well as a carefully written pronunciation, spans the top of each page. The illustration in the center is of a dancer performing the step and the bottom of the page is a detailed description of how to perform it. It is well-written and easy to understand, even for the layperson. I REALLY appreciated that!
The coloring book is really an extension of the information in Ballet: Step by Step. The black-line illustrations are large and show positions or steps. This will be a great way to reinforce what’s being learned for younger dancers and I could see them becoming “posters” in a dancing “tweens” room. Our granddaughters have loved being able to let their creative imaginations go when coloring and I see them “teaching” each other the steps that they have observed in the process.
I found the flashcards to be particularly helpful. They cover the same foot positions and steps as the book, are beautifully illustrated and have pronunciations and a descriptive reminder of how to coordinate each step or position. The cards are 10.5″ by 3.75″, printed on heavy, laminated cardstock, plus the print is large and easy to read. They will be great for random practice of terms, but I can also see how one or two could be hanging on the fridge each week, as a reminder to mom, dad and dancer to work on those terms and positions. There are 40 flashcards in the set.
Janet’s company website, Dance Teacher Press, offers other dance resources for dance teachers, students and parents, too. There are reproducible coloring sheets for ballet and tap, flashcards for both ballet and tap, plus books and posters, bookmarks, even ballet wallpaper! Are you stuck for a new theme, or dances, for this year’s recital? Dance Teacher Press has fresh, new options for you.
I and my girls are excited to have found these fun, high-quality resources to reinforce the terms and concepts they have been taught in dance class. I know that all of you with children in dance will enjoy them as much as we have. Even more great news? Janet is providing the same set of three ballet items, that I reviewed, for a reader giveaway! One lucky Busy-at-Home reader will win Ballet: Step by Step, a My Ballet Coloring Book, and a set of the Ballet Flash Cards. That’s an over $40 value!
You must be 18 or older, and a resident of the United States, to enter. Winner will be selected by random drawing of all entries recorded through the Rafflecopter app at the bottom of the page. Winner will be notified by email and must respond, by email, within 48 hours, to provide their shipping address for the prize. If 48 hours expires without receiving a reply email, the winner forfeits the prize and a new winner will be selected.
Visit Dance Teacher Press and look at all the products available. In a comment on this post, tell me which one you would like to try first. Register your entry in the Rafflecopter app by clicking DO IT! Then I COMMENTED! That’s it. You’re entered and that entry will unlock several optional entries to increase your odds in the drawing. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I received a three product set of Dance: Step by Step products in order to test them in my own home 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. Busy-at-Home is administering the giveaway and prize fulfillment will be made by Dance Teacher Press.
Back in November, when we talked about the new light bulb legislation, I shared a little bit about our family’s transition away from incandescent bulbs. I created a homeschool Math lesson for our kids to decide if alternatives to incandescent lights made budget-sense, and if so, which ones were right for us. We worked, [...]
Back in November, when we talked about the new light bulb legislation, I shared a little bit about our family’s transition away from incandescent bulbs. I created a homeschool Math lesson for our kids to decide if alternatives to incandescent lights made budget-sense, and if so, which ones were right for us. We worked, together, to discover which bulbs made the most sense for our “personal economy” and still produced functional light. Calculating our current energy costs for lights, we were able to compare it to the energy costs of other types of bulbs that were available, namely the GE Energy Efficient Soft Whites (halogen), GE CFLs (compact flourescent lamps) and LEDs. We, actually, learned how to find the annual energy cost of ANY bulb, (any electric appliance, too), if we knew the number of hours per day it would be used, the wattage and the price being charged per kWh (kilowatt our) by the local utility company. With that information in hand we were able to calculate the impact on our budget that simply switching out our light bulbs could make. While initial cost and energy cost were certainly critical factors, the quality of the light produced was also weighed into our decisions. I really enjoyed doing this project with our kids and I learned as much as they did. And if I’m honest, I have to admit to you, no one was more surprised than me, at what we discovered. I really didn’t believe that light bulbs were the big energy guzzlers in our household; and secretly, I have always thought the big fuss about shutting off the lights when you leave a room was a little theatrical. Now, bring on the drama! :)
The first surprising revelation was the sheer number of light bulbs in our home – 73 incandescent and 6 fluorescent tubes! Oy! The next big shocker was how much of our electricity cost was coming from them. And keep in mind, these figures do not include the cost of our fluorescent tubes, only the incandescent bulbs. I shared an information sheet with you, in my last post, that showed how to calculate energy cost for your own light bulbs. If you missed it, here is the formula.
To get the number of kWh (kilowatt hours) your bulb is using in a day, multiply its wattage times the average number of hours it is “on” in one day and then divide by 1000.
kWh (per day) = watts x hours ÷ 1000
Multiply the kWh you get in that equation, by the cost your utility company charges for a kWh. (The national average is $ .11/kWh.)
Daily energy cost = kWh (per day) x your utility’s charge for 1 kWh
Annual Energy Cost = Daily Energy Cost x 365
With the help of this formula and a calculator, we estimated what we were spending each year to operate all 73 of our light bulbs. We based our calculations on the national average of 3 hours per day. Sadly, I know there are a couple of rooms that exceed that 3 hours, substantially, but that makes these figures even more significant. I wonder if you’ll be as blown away by them as I was. What I’m hoping is it will inspire you to take your own light bulb inventory and calculate what you could be saving on your electricity every year.
When we started this project, I hadn’t even included LEDs in our original spreadsheet. Having checked them out online, I was convinced that the bulbs were not affordable enough to justify the small savings between them and CFLs. After a little further research, I decided to add them into our math lesson. Here’s why. Typically I spend around $2 for a package of 4 incandescent bulbs. (I noticed them on clearance for $1, last night, at our local Walmart.) So, when I saw that LED replacement bulbs for my living room ceiling fan were $47.74 each, and not even available in any stores, locally, you can understand why I crossed them off my list. I was satisfied that the CFLs would provide such a significant savings over what we were currently using. They were only about $4 each and I could grab them right off the shelf when I did our grocery shopping at Walmart. Here’s why I decided to go ahead and consider them – the replacement cost per year for each type of bulb.
The other factors I considered were:
- Did we like the light they produced? – We really didn’t have a problem with any of the bulbs not producing enough light to be comfortable. As a matter of fact, some of the new alternatives did such a good job, we would need to scale back the wattage even further. A good example of this would be over the vanity strip lights with the globe bulbs. We have always used 60W bulbs in those and for makeup plenty of light is a necessity in the bathroom. So, I bought the CFL equivalents of a 60W bulb. It’s almost too bright, so we could probably get by with an even lower wattage when we replace them. None of the bulbs we tested had difficulty adequately lighting the area in which we were using them. So, on that score they all tested equally.
- Disposal – CFLs contain small amounts of mercury and Argon gas to make them operate, which is no big deal, unless you break one, or it’s burned out and you need to throw it away. Unlike incandescent bulbs, you can’t just toss a CFL bulb in your wastebasket. If you break one, you need to follow special instructions for cleaning up the area to avoid risk of exposure to the mercury, especially for children. While the chances of that are slim, it’s still a consideration. I live in a small town, not a city, so it was important to me to know how I would be able to dispose of CFL bulbs. It looks like some larger chain hardware stores offer free disposal services by simply taking any unbroken CFLs to their customer service desk. I checked out a website called Earth 911 and wasn’t able to find anything local for CFL recycling, but did find two places in the city, (about 35 miles to the store that takes them). LEDs don’t contain any heavy metals or gases and can be disposed of just like an incandescent bulb. That is a HUGE factor for our family.
- Instant On – Some CFLs take a little bit to warm up and reach their full light potential. Others are called Instant On and have a halogen tube inside that allows the light to come on instantly and then shuts down once the CFL is warmed up. LEDs are instant on.
- Sound – Though it is slight in most of them, that tell-tale CFL buzz or hum is still evident in quite a few of the CFL bulbs we tested. We didn’t get that with the LEDs we tried.
When we tested out new bulbs for this project, we replaced 18 of our 73 bulbs. Our local Walmart only carried CFLs, in the sizes and styles we needed, so we started with those. I did purchase 4 LED bulbs as 40W replacements for our living room ceiling fan, after a few weeks, switching them for the CFLs we had put in there. I wanted to see for myself how they compared. So, we have 14 CFLs and 4 LEDs. After almost two months using the bulbs, I am completely convinced that light bulbs ARE a significant factor in household energy costs. Even though we only replaced 1/4 of our bulbs, our electric bill has reflected just over $13 savings, each of the last two months. That’s remarkable! I really didn’t expect to see that so soon. Imagine when the other 3/4 are changed out! I’m so motivated to do more, now.
With my husband not being able to work, since July 4 of 2012, this project really got me thinking about new ways to cut our monthly budget – ways that I previously believed were simply static, reduced as low as we could get them. After all, we use electricity every day and we need it. It costs what it costs and there’s not much I can do about it, right? I don’t believe that anymore. Groceries aren’t the only place I can add some savings into our budget, now. Our dishwasher has to be replaced, this week, and now that I understand wattage and kWh, you can bet I will be tracking the energy use of any appliance before making a purchase. And without a doubt, I am going to be setting aside a little money each month to switch out every incandescent bulb in our house. I’m going to spring for the GE Energy Smart LEDs. The long life, easy disposal, less risk around kids if one is broken and the incredible savings in energy make them the best option for our home and for our family’s budget.
To learn more about all three of GE’s light bulb technology types available at Walmart/Sams, find out about the new light bulb legislation, and scope out your own available alternatives and energy savings, try some of these online resources:
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 GE Lighting . 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. #CBias #SocialFabric #GELighting
Are you panicking, yet? Have you started that last mad scramble to finish your shopping and get everyone on your list covered before Christmas? Take a DEEP breath. That’s it. In and out. In and Out. Calm, quiet, peaceful. There you go! Why do we work ourselves into a frenzy and lose sight of [...]
Are you panicking, yet? Have you started that last mad scramble to finish your shopping and get everyone on your list covered before Christmas? Take a DEEP breath. That’s it. In and out. In and Out. Calm, quiet, peaceful. There you go! Why do we work ourselves into a frenzy and lose sight of all that Christmas is about? In our attempts to please everyone, we immobilize ourselves taking on too much, spending too much and procrastinating. Christmas is about giving, but not about who can give the biggest, the best, the most. It’s about giving in a way that says, “I love you. I’m thinking about you. I care.”, even if you’re not close by. I get it. It’s fun to surprise people and make them happy. I love that, too. But, how much fun are you having making that mad dash and just “grabbing something” so you can get it wrapped and under the tree? It sort of sucks all the fun right out of it, ya know?
Hickory Farms has options, even for the people that are hardest to find something for; and every gift box can be shipped with a personal message from you, letting that special someone know you are thinking of them. Hickory Farms can take care of the packaging and the shipping and you can relax and just send your love, plus some really tasty snacks that anybody would be glad to receive. Our family enjoyed the Home for the Holidays Gift Box over the Thanksgiving holiday and I actually sent four gift boxes, myself, this Christmas. It’s so relaxing to sit back and sip a hot chocolate, browse the Hickory Farms website and pick just the right gift box for our friends and family, knowing how well they will be received.
Even better, I discovered this year, Hickory Farms is committed to giving back and has a long history of encouraging consumers to partake in the generosity of sharing during the holidays through its partnership with Share Our Strength®, a leading national not-for-profit organization working to end childhood hunger in North America. When customers purchase a Party Planner gift box, Hickory Farms will contribute $5 to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® Campaign. Customers have the opportunity to include their own donation to the campaign with their purchase at a Hickory Farms store or at hickoryfarms.com. I love this! A gift for someone you love and a gift to really help someone in need. That’s the kind of giving I want to be focused on for Christmas. I’m guessing you do, too. Hickory Farms’ passion for fighting childhood hunger has generated more than $1.8M in contributions to Share Our Strength, since 2008 and the company is looking to raise and/or donate an additional $700,000 this holiday season. You and I can both be part of that!
Whether you think chocolate, fruit or sausage and cheese when you think of Hickory Farms, I know you’re like me and remember it as a household name that meant something special at Christmastime. Fresh, quality food gifts are great any time of the year, and at Christmas, they will add beauty and great taste to all your celebrations! At our house it was a BIG deal to receive a bountiful gift box of snacks and treats from Hickory Farms and a signal that holiday celebrations were truly in full-swing. So, what are you waiting for? Grab that cocoa, put on your comfy pj’s and curl up on the couch with your laptop. Don’t spend another minute stressing. Relax and have fun finding gifts to fit everyone left on your list and at the same time, support a cause that really makes a difference in wiping out childhood hunger.
Compensation and products for review were provided by Hickory Farms via MomTrends. I received a free sample of the product for the purpose of this review and to facilitate a giveaway. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Hickory Farms
If you still need a gift idea for that person on your list who “has everything”, I have an AWESOME present that I guarantee no one else will be getting for them. Besides being a cool, fun, conversation piece, it’s also a functional, high-quality kitchen appliance. A couple weeks ago, I got to custom design [...]
If you still need a gift idea for that person on your list who “has everything”, I have an AWESOME present that I guarantee no one else will be getting for them. Besides being a cool, fun, conversation piece, it’s also a functional, high-quality kitchen appliance. A couple weeks ago, I got to custom design a Crock-Pot for my kitchen. What a blast! There are so many options, that when combined with your personal photographs, create unique, one-of-a-kind appliances that anyone would love to have on their counter.
Ordering was simple, though I DID have several decisions to make. To begin, I visited the Crock-Pot website. The first step was to select the slow cooker that was right for my family. The 6-quart oval with locking lid is perfect for my big crew!
Step 2? Simple. I needed to pick the background design I wanted. Crock-Pot allows you to design a slow cooker with any of the 32 NFL teams as the theme, but I wanted a backdrop I could add personal pictures to.
The third step is where your customization becomes more personal and allows for the creativity that truly makes your appliance one-of-a-kind. This particular design allows for up to 4 photos to be uploaded to use on your Crock-Pot. I uploaded two and simply repeated them on the back. So, no matter which direction I am shooting pictures for a recipe post, my slow cooker promotes the blog. I know, it was almost a little too narcissistic for me, too, but I managed to get over it. The cool thing about this is that it would be such an awesome way to have pictures of grandkids or nieces and nephews front and center in the lives of those who love them or a creative remembrance of an awesome trip. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination and to top it off, it’s also such an incredibly practical item. Win! Win!
This was a fun and simple process and when my custom Crock-Pot arrived, I couldn’t have been more pleased. I love having it out on the counter and having someone notice and say, “Hey! Is that…? Where did you get that?” lol Plus, the recipes I can prepare in it, keep everyone coming back for more. Yes, there’s no doubt about it. A custom Crock-Pot would be an amazing gift!
One of my (and my family’s) favorite slow cooker meals in Roast Beef. It’s perfect for Sunday after church, since all that’s left to do when we arrive home is to make gravy from the delicious beef stock and serve a flavorful roast beef dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy and salad or a vegetable. My favorite mashed potatoes are make-ahead, so they can easily be warming in the oven when we come in the door from church, as well.
There is definitely a “trick” to making delicious roast beef. First of all, if you buy the super-lean, all the fat is trimmed off cuts for roast beef, don’t expect this recipe to turn out the same. The flavor that makes pot roast so wonderful and “like mom used to make” comes from good marbling (fat) streaked through your roast. It will melt away as it cooks and become part of the delicious stock you’ll use for gravy. But, if you’re afraid to allow some fat you will sacrifice flavor, moisture and tenderness. The beauty of that choice is that the cut of roast I am recommending, chuck roast, is so much less expensive than the leaner cuts. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when lean beef is exactly what I want for a particular recipe, but I would likely be allowing it to sit for some time in a marinade to add flavor and help tenderize it. For really amazing roast beef, you want a chuck roast. Just sayin’…
Once you buy the correct cut of meat, the process to make it delicious for your dinner table is extraordinarily simple. It’s perfect for those times when you won’t be home to watch over a meal. All the work is done by your Crock-Pot and whatever your day goes like, you’ll come home to a delicious meal. The day I made this meal, I had a large group over for lunch after church. I used my new custom Crock-Pot and cooked THREE chuck roasts, approximately the size of the one above. The meat turned out heavenly and everyone enjoyed the flavorful, tender main dish.
I’m not even going to code a specific recipe card for this roast. You only need two ingredients and a Crock-Pot to make it and you can increase it easily, according to the number of people you will be feeding. As I mentioned, my new 6 quart slow cooker accommodated 3 large chuck roasts with ease and they cooked to perfection. So, whether you are preparing one, two or three, the recipe is still the same — 1 envelopes dry Onion Soup Mix for each Chuck Roast you make.
Place the roast in the bottom of your slow cooker and pour the dry onion soup mix over the top. Do not add water. (Unless you are adding vegetables. If you want to cook your roast with potatoes and carrots, layer the potato and carrot chunks in the bottom of the crockpot, place the roast on top and then pour 1 cup of water and the onion soup mix over the top.) My family prefers mashed potatoes with a roast, so I usually don’t cook the vegetables in with the roast.
Secure the lid on your slow cooker, turn the crock-pot on low and cook for 8-12 hours, depending on how much meat you have in the slow cooker. For one roast, 8 hours will likely be enough. When I cooked three, they were in nearly 12 hours.
When the roasts are done, remove them from the crock pot and place them on a platter to rest. Cover them with foil and let them sit while you make the gravy. When I make gravy, I put a strainer over the pan I will cook it in and pour the beef broth that formed while the roast was cooking, from the crock-pot, through the strainer, and into the pan. My family likes really smooth gravy, so I strain all the bits away. There is no water in there, just the wonderful flavorful stock that was made roasting the meat. I bring it to a boil and thicken it by mixing a couple Tablespoons of cornstarch with enough cold water to dissolve it. Then I whisk the cornstarch mixture into the boiling broth and stir until the gravy thickens. It is DELISH!
We got in such a hurry to eat our delicious lunch, that I neglected to take any pictures of the roast plated with the mashed potatoes and gravy. I know. It’s a lame excuse, but the only one I have. Sorry! But no worries, you’ll be able to test out this easy recipe for yourself and see how gorgeous it is. Plus, one lucky Busy-at-Home reader will win a custom Crock-Pot of their very own! How sweet is that?!!!
GIVEAWAY: To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this blog post telling me which of these Crock-Pots you would like to customize for your own kitchen. Register your entries on the Rafflecopter form, below. Easy as pot roast! or pie, if you prefer.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I received a custom Crock-Pot to review and test it in my own kitchen and collect data for this post. 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 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.
How many times did your mom tell you, “It’s the thought that counts.” We really don’t fully grasp the truth of that statement in childhood. The smallest gifts and gestures can bring uncalculated happiness. Take for instance, a tiny handmade booklet with a Bible story, carefully made and delivered with love, by our five-year-old granddaughter. [...]
How many times did your mom tell you, “It’s the thought that counts.” We really don’t fully grasp the truth of that statement in childhood. The smallest gifts and gestures can bring uncalculated happiness. Take for instance, a tiny handmade booklet with a Bible story, carefully made and delivered with love, by our five-year-old granddaughter. The joy she expressed in giving was only surpassed by the happiness that welled up in me when she presented it. The gift was not monetarily costly, even the elements to make it would not have seemed to be valuable, and yet, to me this is a great treasure.
At other times, a phone call from someone dear, at just the moment when I need it, shares love, and evidences God’s goodness and provision for what may seem a small need to others, while offering a huge gesture of love and support that means the world to me. We never know the unspoken need or circumstance that the smallest of gestures or gifts, on our part, may be able to solve or satisfy. Teaching our children to be attentive and aware of “the small things” is important and the Christmas season certainly affords ample opportunities to practice loving and serving. Let your kids see firsthand, that the smallest gifts and acts of kindness can let someone know they are thought of, and cared about.
That’s the reason I have so enjoyed this “sharing” campaign from Kleenex. Throughout the course of Kleenex’s Softness Worth Sharing campaign, our family has been able to share several care packs with people we care about. It seems like a small gesture, but you and I both know there are definitely days when going to the mailbox and finding, even something simple, with a message about how we are loved and cared for can brighten the entire day and change our outlook on the world. It feels good to be remembered and I think it’s awesome that Kleenex has provided a cost-free, simple way for us to all reach out and brighten someone’s day.
There’s still time to participate, so you can add a little “merry” to someone’s Christmas mail. Pick up specially-marked Kleenex multi-packs at your favorite store. Use the code attached to ship Kleenex Softness Worth Sharing Care Packs to the people you want to bless with a small gesture of love and caring. You can personalize the message, fill out the shipping address and then let Kleenex do the work to send it off to someone special. I can’t wait to hear who you share some Christmas “smiles” with!
I wrote this review while participating in an ambassador program by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of the Kleenex brand and received product samples and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate. 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.
You may remember that I am part of the Carmex Blog Squad, which means I get to try new products, as they’re released, and share them with you. With cold, winter weather here to stay, it’s perfect timing for Carmex to release their new Everyday Lip Conditioner. I love Carmex products and have them in [...]
You may remember that I am part of the Carmex Blog Squad, which means I get to try new products, as they’re released, and share them with you. With cold, winter weather here to stay, it’s perfect timing for Carmex to release their new Everyday Lip Conditioner. I love Carmex products and have them in the house, year-round, so keep that in mind when I tell you that this is probably my least favorite, of all their products.
Carmex Everyday Lip Conditioner has 13 moisturizing ingredients and is available in original or orange flavors. The tell-tale Carmex “tingle”, from the menthol, is less obvious in this product, though it IS there. I was really excited about the creamy, almost lotion-like texture of the conditioner, because it absorbed into my skin fairly quickly and was very light. However, within a few minutes, there was no evidence that I had used anything on my lips at all. And I don’t mean that I want a thick, waxy “oil slick” left over on my lips, but I DO want the product to have made some discernible difference in the moisture and smoothness of my skin. I don’t feel like there was any difference after about 5 minutes of absorption and I was left feeling like I wanted to apply more.
This is chapped lip and dry skin season and I definitely have my wide array of favorite Carmex products, on hand, ready to keep my lips and skin smooth and healthy. I don’t think that Everyday Lip Conditioner will be a part of that arsenal, however. I wonder if it is more effective for different skin types? If you try it, I’d love to know your thoughts.
I received a tube of Carmex Everyday Lip Conditioner, in order to test it and collect information 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.