Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter treats: adventures with chow mein birds nests.

My family never made the chow mein noodle birds nests. Sure my friends moms made them all the time for the Easter parties at school, but this never was in my family repertoire. They really aren't hard to make, or expensive, it just takes some forethought.
This Easter, as I was deciding what to take to my parents for Easter lunch, I wanted something special that little man and his cousin would enjoy. Then I remembered the birds nest, and how much they remind me of spring. I vowed that I could learn.
Unfortunately, there are scores of different varieties.... The chow mein noodles are a staple. Some use marshmallow only... Like a rice noodle version of rice crispy treats. Some even use chocolate chips. In short, there are at least a dozen recipes out there, so you can probably find one that works with things already in your pantry. It's also a pretty good project for kids to help with... You could use the microwave instead of the oven for an even safer kid friendly cooking method.

We opted for a butterscotch chip/ peanut butter concoction,
I melted 1 bag butterscotch chips over the stove with 1 cup peanut butter. I am vey protective of my pans, so I coated the pan in about 1/2 tablespoon of butter, melted... This probably wasn't necessary.
Most recipes call for 2-4 cups noodles. I bought a 12 oz bag, which measured out a little more than 4 cups. I slowly added all of this. I couldn't fit all 4 cups at once, so I started to make nests, then added the rest of the uncoated noodles.

To make the nests spoon out 1 scoop. I used a heaping tablespoon, but I think next time, I'd go for smaller nests... Maybe teaspoons. You want to scoop on to a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Once on the paper, try to hollow out a nest depression in the center.... I wasn't too good at this either. I read one tip where they buttered a muffin tin, and scooped into the muffin spaces. While you would have likely got more contained nests, I am pretty sure I would have ended up with more than 12 nests. I ended up with 16 tablespoon nests, that weren't very nest shaped.

You can decorate with eggs of your choice... They help sell the nest feel of the treat, if the shape doesn't. I used what I had, jelly beans, but peanuts and candy coated chocolate candies, especially the egg shaped ones, would work equally well.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Splash N Boots Review and Giveaway

I promise, we did try to keep little man from commercial efforts and to minimize his television exposure.  That said, commercial images and television still managed to find Jack.  I've come to the realization that as noble as my intentions were, I am not going to keep peanut TV free.  In fact, as a working parent, sometimes you need 15 minutes to get the dishes done, 20 minutes to work on dinner etc.  With a super active kid like little man, finding something that will hold his attention ensures that he will be in the same place without injuring himself.  Somehow, finding quality programing helps ease the guilt I often feel in doing this.

For these reasons, I am grateful to have been offered the opportunity to review a recent DVD and CD release from Splash N' Boots.  Ever hear of them?  I hadn't before the review, yet their work is highly acclaimed, awarded and extremely popular in Canada.  Having witnessed their work, I can honestly say I agree with the hype.
Splash N Boots are the infectiously enthusiastic duo of Taes and Nick Adams.  Their music and programing is very imaginative and energetic.  Lyrics are clever and very catchy--be careful, songs will get stuck in your head--while maintaining semblances of educational content that makes the programing mom approved.  I listened to their "Coconuts don't fall far from the tree" album and their "Act 2: A whole lot of Awesome!" DVD.  The DVD can be described as" a mash-up of over 50 minutes of infectious melodies and hilarious music videos with a plethora of skits featuring dedicated Splash'N Boots fans."  While there are a few random for Canadians only references, and the alphabet ends in "zede", these small things do not detract from the overall enjoyment.  In fact, if your children are like my son, they will likely not even notice. They will be too busy spinning, dancing and clapping along.  Splash N Boots really offers entertaining programming your children will love.

Want to know more: Connect with Splash N Boots:
INSTAGRAM: username: splashnboots

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Couldn't Wait to Tell You about #ConsciousBox #Giveaway

As a product reviewer, there is nothing I like more than coming home to a delightful surprise in my mailbox.  Its like a small glimpse of Christmas morning as I'm pulling in the drive at the end of a long day.  Despite this insanely gray winter, surprises in the mail are my little rays of sunshine that lift the soul.

That's probably one of the biggest reasons I am so glad to bring you a review and giveaway from Conscious Box. Conscious Box is a subscription based service that once a month delivers to your door a little ray of sunshine.  Their box made of recycled materials is crammed full of the "purest, most natural products on the planet." 
Get New Eco-Friendly Products Delivered Right to Your Door! You can subscribe for one month, three months (you could win 3 months below!), six months or even a year.  I happened to get a Classic Box, but you can also select a Vegan or Gluten Free box. Each month of your subscription, Conscious Box will deliver new, exciting and earth friendly products to your door step.

I received a free box to try this month.  I could hardly wait for it to arrive!  Inside my box I found 2 Two Degrees quinoa, chia and millet bars which really look scrumptious. I also found a 1 day adult and 1 day kid smarty pants gummy vitamin supplement.  I am excited by the OldeMan Granola that genuinely  looks like granola that I would have made. My husband tried the Zarbee's All natural cough syrup, which seems to be predominately comprised of dark honey. For the tea drinker, there are multiple packets, and Nektar honey crystals--which sounds like a fascinating way to travel with honey. There's also a bottle of wheatgrass boost--which looks a little like 5 hour energy for the green crowd -- I don't think it makes the same 5 hour energy claims. The small tube of Motherlove diaper rash cream looks like it should be cloth diaper okay, so that's always something good to have on hand. 

The last product, I'm really not sure about.... it's a box of disposable iPhone sleeves. It's from a company called chef sleeve, and the idea is you wrap your phone in these protective sleeves while cooking so you can still access the recipe on your phone, without caking it in flour.  I get the concept, and truth be told, if the sent one for iPads, while I might not use it for cooking, I so would use it to guard the screen against Peanut.  Honestly, you have no idea how embarrassing it is to go to work with all of the grime Little Man gets all over the screen--I don't know how he does it.  HOWEVER, I was a little taken aback by this selection... most of the products were organic, eco-packaged.... Even though it's recyclable--it's still a throwaway product.  The packaging doesn't make clear what number plastic it is, so I'm not even sure if my city can recycle this product... Jury is still out on this.  But that's just me, and this was only one month's box.  Next month may have an even bigger and better haul of treasures.

Overall, for someone who doesn't have a Whole Foods in her neighborhood, I feel that the box provides a good way to trial some of the products I browse on the shelf, but might be shy to commit to.  I happen to appreciate that many of the products in the box I received are also made in the US. 

Want to give conscious box a try for your self?  Head over to their website now!  Use promocode: DISCOVERNATURAL and receive 50% off any subscription!  Wouldn't this be a great Earth Day/Mothers Day gift for that hard to buy for someone?

Half off is pretty good, but FREE is definitely better.  Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter for your chance to win a free 3 month conscious box subscription--that's a $59 value!

This was not a paid post. I received the product mentioned above in exchange for my honest opinion. The opinions are solely my own. Thank you to Conscious Box who supplied the product for review and giveaway.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Overdue Book Reviews

Oy! I have been doing a lot of reading lately, even if I haven't managed to post.  I loved my kindle, and now the iPad... both provide me free and instant access to scores of library books.  Even better, I'm now a fan of audiobooks---I listen to them on the iPad in the car or at home while washing the dishes at night... I feel like I can get twice as much done.

So here's a short rundown of a few of my latest reads. 

Moon over Manifest---a book probably better suited for the junior high/tween crowd.  In essence, the main character lives during the Great Depression.  She's sent to live with friends of her father in a small town as he seeks work.  While there, she meets friends, has adventures and attempts to uncover secrets of the town's past. Grade: B
The Night Circus--
Several of my students really loved this one, but for me, it was just alright.  Set near the turn of the century, the reader is invited into the world of an indescribable circus, which acts as the forum for two magical giants each attempting to outdo one another.  However, like the circus, the story reveals itself in slow glimpses, which keep the reader puzzling to understand how it all fits together. And of course, what YA would be complete without an element of romance. While the payoff comes eventually, I really couldn't get behind this one. While otherwise well written, too frequent shifting makes it hard for the reader to connect to the ever changing cast of charecters.  Grade: C+

This one actually is a class read for one of the classes in our school.  That said, I was initially shocked by this selection--probably due to language.  Futuristic dystopian literature in which each brain is wired to receive constant "computer like" feed.  Walk in to a mall, and your mind is flooded with enfticing advertisements customized to your preferences.  No need to converse at the dinner table, you can think and send a text messages.  I can see why the teacher chose it; there are eerie parellels to the direction we as a society are headed; search engines already cater advertisements based on your search history.  That said, I can see why students might struggle with this one. Dialog occurs in the futuristic vernacular of the author's creation; if you can't master the parlance, you really will be lost.
Grade: B+

The Mercy Falls Series
This is the series I listened to as an audiobook.  Well, having read Twilight (I know, I know), I can say, at least it's not Twilight. No sparkling vampires and werewolves;  just werewolves this time.  The teen depiction seems a little more realistic, even if no one seems to go to school, or be missed when not there.  No decernable major typos every few pages--then again, I was listening rather than reading, so poor punctuation could have been a possibility.  The language isn't as forced and doesn't feel like it was written by a high school student attempting to use those "SAT words" to make the teacher give her a good grade.  That said, it is still high school sappy romantic drama depicting the mostly absent parents who just don't understand. 

It's okay--and like I said, at least it's not Twillight. Still, it's hard not to draw parellels.  The male interest also has that oh so dreamy poetic/musical soul, if he lacks "Adonis like features".  The female lead is at least slightly logical and not nearly as flighty as Bella. In short, it was a great story to not have to pay complete attention to in order to follow the  plot.
Grade: C

More to come. StumbleUpon