Archive for the 'something big' Category

Review: Green Mountain Fair Trade Coffees

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

breakfast time!

You all know I was a HUGE Tassimo fan, right? I loved the Tassimo. I could write sonnets to the Tassimo.  Well guess what?  As of March of this year, Starbucks no longer makes t-discs for the Tassimo.  I hate to admit it but I think those Starbucks t-discs are the real reason I loved the Tassimo so much. Sure, the Tassimo machine had sleek lines and it was small and fit on my counter nicely but without those frothy latte primos it wasn’t that special.  The Gevalia coffee they sent me was awful and sometimes the cream capsules leaked. Not very often but sometimes.  

It’s true, I was beginning to fall out of love with the Tassimo. Sigh.
 
But that’s not the end of the story of course.  
 
There’s a new girl in town who is now married to Starbucks: Keurig.  They don’t have Starbucks K-Cup Portion Packs out yet but I’ve googled it and they are due to come out in the fall of this year.  So you know what I was thinking: Goodbye Tassimo, Hello Keurig!  I’m not that loyal. Except I don’t really have the money to be buying expensive coffee machines.  So I bummed it for a while with my trusty French press and thought about getting a Keurig.

Then I got lucky. Maybe being the self-proclaimed coffee expert had something to do with it but probably not.  
 
Green Mountain Coffee asked me to review their Fair Trade coffees and they offered to send me a free Keurig coffee machine. Score!  Sign me up, I said, knowing next to nothing about Fair Trade coffee.
 
So I did my research.  And I sampled the Fair Trade Green Mountain Coffee.
 
adding cream
 
Lots and lots of sampling. (It’s a dirty job but some-very-caffeinated-body’s gotta do it.)
 
morning brew
 
And you know what?  
 
extra bold
 
I wasn’t all that fond of the lighter blends (I never am. I like my coffee tall, dark and burnt.) but the Sumatran Reserve Extra Bold is pretty good! It doesn’t come with a capsule of frothy milk (and why not?!!) but it is pretty tasty coffee.  Slosh in some cream and sugar and I’m a happily caffeinated girl.  
 
So if you are the type who enjoys using a single-serve coffee machine (Admit it, they are so handy and clean. No more coffee grounds all over!) this is good news!  

Green Mountain Coffee is known for its award-winning coffees, innovative brewing technology and social responsibility. They offer a lot of fancy coffees on their website (and free samples too!) and several of them are Fair Trade Certified™ coffees:
 
Screen shot 2011-08-14 at 10.08.38 PM
 
That basically means that by buying these coffees your dollars are going to growers who meet a stringent set of requirements, including “democratic voting among members, fair labor practices, and the exclusion of using certain chemicals. 

“Growers are guaranteed a minimum price for their coffee. If market prices exceed the minimum, they receive current market prices plus a per pound premium for community development and an additional premium for organic coffee. The co-op members vote to determine how to invest the Fair Trade premiums. They might fund community projects such as schools, health clinics, safe drinking water or new roads.”   

Fair Trade means better quality coffee for you and a better a better quality of life for farmers. Fair trade Coffee is better quality for all.  You can learn more about the details of Green Mountain’s Fair Trade certification on their Facebook page and sign up for some free samples or coupons for your own taste test while you’re at it!
 
good morning Mr. K!
 
But you might need to win a free Keurig coffee machine first, right? Well you can!  Just leave a comment below in my comment box between now and September 24th and one winner will be selected to win a Keurig coffee machine and Green Mountain Coffee K-Cup Portion Packs, provided by BlogHer. Go ahead. Feel lucky. Just tell me what kind of coffee you like. Are you a dark roast like me or do you prefer the lighter blends. Tell me all about it. Coffee snobs want to know.

And if you’re really serious about winning, you might want to check out BlogHer’s round-up page to see what all the other bloggers are saying about this.
 
No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry
methods:

a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment
on this post

c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on
this post

d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about
an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older

Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.

You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be
selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

Brenda and Bug do REI

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Brenda and Bug do REI

I’m a fan of REI but I hadn’t been there since before Bug was born. It’s been that long. I guess when you have kids sometimes outdoor adventures like camping and hiking get put on the back burner. Which is such a shame because who enjoys outdoor adventures the most? Kids!!! So Bug and I decided to take an adventure to REI and check out what they’ve got for kids.

how abou this one?

We tested the tents.

snuggling in the tent

We snuggled with some sleeping bags.

testing out the sleeping bags cozy!

I love it that they let you take the sleeping bags down and try them out. Did you know there are special sleeping bags made just for kids with special cinch ties at the bottom so little bodies don’t have to work so hard to keep warm. How smart is that?

Lego stuff too?! toys!

We also checked out the toys. I had no idea there were so many camping-related toys. It was insane. It was like Toys R Us for the outdoorsy kid. I was impressed. I think when I was little I made do with a stick. Now you can get flashlights in Lego shapes, there are all kinds of bug catchers and magnifying glasses, frisbees in all shapes and sizes…I could go on and on. Our favorite toy was a mini lantern. It was so wee and cute. It would make a sweet night light for beginning campers.

I didn’t photograph it but they also had a huge section just for dogs. I guess that shows you what a newbie dog-owner I am because I had never even thought about taking a dog with me camping. How FUN would that be?!! We could totally take Holly, the dog, camping with us. But then the helpful REI staff member who was helping us (Special shout out to Ryan Bocks who was super nice and helpful) let me know about how dog claws can rip up tents. I had never thought about that before either. Good to know. They had special dog claw tarps to put down and, get this, special hiking boot slipper things for dogs. I’m not even kidding! Because dog feet get tired too. I can only imagine what burning hot trails feel like for them. So consider my mind blown. Dogs – Camping – Gear. Wow.

kid section

Next we moved onto the book section. Like everything else it was impressive. They had a bunch of books for kids at their level of course. Bug sat right down and got comfortable. It was great. There was everything from Curious George Goes Camping to campfire song books and guides for parents taking newborns camping (ie: how to pack babyfood in your backpack). I found the books on Camping in California particularly interesting because I love those things. They’re thick and they are full of hints.

camping books!

this one is cool! cruisin' through the bicycle section

Of course we checked out the bikes too. It wasn’t really part of my whole camping adventure plan but Bug’s at that age where she’ll soon be ready for a two-wheeler so I had to let her ride one around the store. They had a pretty good selection, as you can see. I might have to come back when I’m ready to make that big purchase.

pink puffy!

Did I mention they have clothes? A lot. I love this puffy. It was a bit on the pricey side but soooo cute! I think they had one in my size too. Ryan Bocks said they pretty much had everything in ALL sizes.

miles and miles of flip flops

Flipflops for miles and miles…

back pack inspection blow that whistle!

My favorite thing though was this little backpack. It looks like a normal kid backpack but it’s not. It has a pocket in the back for putting a bladder. Do you know what a bladder is? I didn’t either. Such an awful name for such a cool thing. Basically it’s a pouch of water with a long tube straw that you can drink from when you’re out hiking under the hot sun. I thought that would be cool for Bug who probably normally would not want to carry her own gear. I know the novelty of a straw coming out of her backpack would be just the thing for her. But that wasn’t all.

The buckle doubled as a whistle. Not a quiet one either. You blow on the side and it emits a super high-pitched whistle that could be heard anywhere in the woods.

back pack buckle whistle!

As a paranoid mom worrying about her kid getting carted off by mountain lions or bears, this is pretty cool. I know I probably don’t have to worry about that but I like having a whistle anyway for my peace of mind, not to mention if she were to get lost I could probably track her down by listening for it. I thought it was a pretty nifty idea all around. Way to think REI.

Ryan and Bug

And that concluded our tour. I took a picture of Ryan because he was just so kind and awesome. He really deserves a promotion. The store was pretty busy and he got interrupted often by people looking for odds and ends but he made us feel like our adventure was the most important one without being rude to anyone. Our tour was sponsored and I’m sure he was on his best behavior because it was his job to make sure I write a good post but I got the feeling that I could drop in any day and get treatment like that. Lots of regulars said hi to him and waited for his expert advice. Customer service is rare these days and it really impressed me that REI didn’t skimp on the number of employees in their store. It was hopping busy too. I did get the down low on what time to come when it’s not busy though. Ryan recommended Monday and Tuesday mornings. Good to know!

REI materials

Ryan gave us a lot of good advice. I left with a printed checklist of everything I might need for any camping adventure and a cute Adventure Journal for Bug. It has puzzles and journal writing prompts. It’s pretty cool. He also gave me their monthly newsletter that has a calendar in it with local events. There are all kinds of REI events, anything from kayacking classes to how to pack your backpack classes to volunteer beach clean-up days and photography walking tours. There’s a lot going on. If you are thinking about getting out and about more with your family I would definitely recommend checking them out online and visiting their store. I think so many people just buy their gear at big box stores and don’t realize how much more a store like REI has to offer.

What outdoor activity do you pledge to do with your family this summer and how would a $100 REI gift card help you get there? Take the REI Outdoor Pledge and submit your comment to be entered.

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older and runs from 8/17 – 9/20/11.

Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.

You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here. http://goo.gl/URhD9

Head to the BlogHer round-up page for more chances to win.

Tassimo, Tassimo, Tassimo. How I love thee.

Monday, January 10th, 2011

morning moments

You all know I’m a die-hard coffee drinker, right? I love coffee. I would even be so bold as to say I am a coffee maven. I’ve tasted many many many coffees in my life and I live to tell the tale.

There are many different ways to make coffee. I’ve done drip. I’m over that. Too messy, too slow. I’ve had an espresso machine. It rocked but then broke two years later because we used it too much. I LOVE LOVE LOVE French press coffee and am still a huge fan. But then I met my latest love, The Tassimo T20.

Oh, Tassimo, you’ve made a fool out of me.

I was bound and determined not to fall for Tassimo. I thought any coffee maker that required a factory-made pod was for the birds. I don’t need to be dependent on some big company to help me get coffee, right? How hard is it to make coffee? It’s bad enough I have to spend a fortune on ink cartridges for my printer, I don’t need more packaging in my life!

Then someone offered me a free Tassimo T20 in exchange for a review and I fell for it. I thought it would be a fun machine to break out for parties. I thought I’d use it for a week, give it a fair review and then go back to my zen love for the French Press. Man, am I a loser. I break this thing out three times a day!!! I love the Tassimo!!!

I might need a Tassimo intervention 7 Days, Day 1: I spy Christmas

I fell hard. I didn’t want to, I really didn’t, but here I am a month later stalking all the big-box stores for a deal on those blasted t-discs. They are that good. They must put crack in them! But let me clarify that not all the discs are that good. I don’t really care for the Gevalia discs at all. Starbucks, however has got my tastebuds dialed right in.

all steamed up

Look at those beautiful layers of crema and espresso mixing so deliciously…I had to buy more clear glass cups just so I could appreciate it more. I had some on hand but one broke in the dishwasher and it was a tragedy! Good thing clear glass cups are pretty cheap!

The Cappuccino Primo creamer with Espresso Roast is DELICIOUS!!! I thought maybe it was packed with fat or something that is programming my brain to want more but they’re only 60 calories so really, they’re a better bet than a skinny latte. I don’t even go to Starbucks anymore. I’m sure they thought they pulled a fast one on me making me buy these t-discs all the time but they’ve seriously lost a cafe customer. Cha-ching.

the shizzle

So that’s that. I love this little machine and I have one to give away to you!!! Woo hoo! It’s your lucky day!

morning

I wish I could rig this contest and give it away to a friend or family member but I have to keep it fair. Comment below and I will randomly pick one lucky reader next Monday before midnight to receive their own Tassimo T20. I’m so sorry, Tassimo will only mail within the US though so if you’re from another country I am feeling very very sad for you. One of these days though I’m going to post a contest just for you, I promise!

The rest of you, crazy Americans, have at it! I’m just warning you though, it’s addictive! Be careful what you wish for!

P.S. I received this Tassimo brewer from Tassimo to review at no cost to me and all opinions expressed above are my own!

The Amazing Pop-Tarts Haunted House!

Monday, October 18th, 2010

This is a compensated review by BlogHer and Pop-Tarts.

the Pop-Tart Haunted House

What can you do with two boxes of Limited Edition Choc-o-Lantern Frosted Chocolate Fudge Pop-Tarts besides eat them for 24 days in a row?

Why, build a haunted mansion of course! I don’t know about you but when I was shipped a box full of chocolate Pop-Tarts and given the challenge of coming up with a new recipe, that’s the first thing I thought of. What better way to get in the spirit of Halloween than a haunted mansion? Who says Christmas gets all the fun? Bring on the dripping royal icing and candy corn! It’ll be boo-tastic!

You can do it too. It’s not really all that hard. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that building a mansion out of Pop-Tarts is easier than gingerbread! Move over spice cookie, there’s a new kid in town.

A stack o' Pop-Tarts royal icing ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need if you want to make a mansion like mine:

  • 2 boxes of chocolate Pop-Tarts (roughly 22-24 Pop-Tarts, orange frosted ghosties optional)
  • 1 big batch of royal icing (following the directions on the side of the meringue powder can)
  • A mixer or really strong arms (you’ll be mixing that icing for seven minutes straight)
  • A piping bag (or two if you want to get fancy with different colors)
  • Lots of Halloween-themed candy for decorating (candy corn, gumdrops in spooky colors, mellowcreme pumpkins) and possibly some pretzel sticks for the roof

candy corn

the plan

Next you’ll need a plan. I wanted my mansion to be two-story, but that is not entirely necessary. In order to create this two-story structure, I used two cardboard boxes stacked on top of each other. I cut up some old packing boxes and taped them together so that the bottom box was near the size of one tart wide and three tarts long. The top box was only one tart long and one tart wide. I would recommend doing this because even though royal icing dries rock hard and you might be Fast Freddy with the piping bag, there will be a few moments when you’ll be happy for that extra support. Believe me on this one.

figure1

First I put together the bottom story and then I added the top story as a whole piece. These are all whole tarts, excluding the top gables which are long triangles cut from a whole tart. The roof on the top is also a whole tart because I wanted it to be extra steep and haunted looking. All these are piped together using generous amounts of royal icing. Yes, it’s gloopy. Deal with it.

figure2

After the top story was secure, I added the roof for the bottom level using smaller triangles of Pop-Tarts to support it. The bottom story roofing is made from Pop-Tarts cut in half.

piping IMG_8299

Then it was time to decorate!

Miss Bug in the kitchen with the haunted mansion project

We went with a thatched roof.

thatching thatched pretzle roof

I’m sure you can do a better job. I had lots of “help” as you can see.

adding last touches rooftop decorations

Then we added candy corn and lots of decorative pumpkins.

gumdrops

We sliced some gumdrops for windows.

the gang nom nom nom...

And then we ate it all up! Just kidding.

We posed with it for posterity and then we gave it to a Girl Scout troop around the corner who will use it for their Halloween party later this month. It probably won’t get eaten but feel free to eat yours if you make one!

Speaking of, what would you do with 24 chocolate Pop-Tarts? Would you whip up something tasty or would you have other lofty plans? Leave your answer below and one of you may be lucky enough to win win a $100 Visa gift card from BlogHer. You could buy a lot of Pop-Tarts with that!

Or you may leave a link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. The contest will will end October 31, 2010. Make sure that the e-mail address you leave is correct. Be sure to check out BlogHer.com exclusive offers page for nine chances to win and nine other recipes! There better not be any other Pop-Tarts mansions like mine!

Rules:

  • No duplicate comments.
  • You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.
  • You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.
  • This giveaway is open to US residents, aged 18 and older.
    Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail.
  • You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
    • Please see the official rules here.