Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Blue Diamond Almond Milk

First a little description from the company.
"No one knows almonds as well as Blue Diamond® does and no one knows how to grow them better than the 3,000 California almond growers who make up the Blue Diamond Growers cooperative. They’re The Almond People™, after all, and almonds have been their only business for over 100 years. Many of their growers have been co-op members for generations, so there’s a lot of family pride in each carton of Almond Breeze®.

Just the facts
• Almond Breeze is a nondairy milk alternative that is calciumenriched
and free of dairy, lactose, gluten, and soy. It is a great
alternative for those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies.
• Varieties of Almond Breeze beverages are packaged in shelfstable
Tetra Pak cartons and do not need to be refrigerated until
opened. Shelf stable Almond Breeze is ultra pasteurized (a high
temperature heat treatment) that ensures food is free from
harmful bacteria and packaged in sealed sterile cartons with
special barrier layers that keep out light, moisture and air. This
special packaging protects the product quality and nutrients
while locking in all the goodness of the product (learn more about
Tetra Pak below).
• Almond Breeze is available in Original, Chocolate, and Vanilla
flavors as well as unsweetened varieties

Tetra Pak: Protecting what’s good
Products in Tetra Pak cartons do not need to be refrigerated until ready to be
used. Product quality and nutrients are preserved thanks to ultra pasteurization
(a heat treatment that ensures food is free from harmful bacteria) in combination
with the packaging’s special barrier layers that lock out light, moisture and air and
lock in all the goodness of the product.
Tetra Pak and the environment
• Tetra Pak cartons do more than protect taste and nutritional content. Made
mainly from a renewable resource that is responsibly replenished, they help
preserve Earth’s resources for future generations.
• Lightweight and compact, Tetra Pak cartons have a low carbon footprint because they are energy efficient
through manufacturing, shipping, distribution, use, and end of life.
• On average, 70% of the carton is made of wood fibers from trees that are carefully chosen, selectively
harvested, and responsibly replenished to help create the forest sink, which helps to keep our climate in
balance and to preserve biodiversity.
• You can conveniently recycle Tetra Pak cartons at home. Once recycled, Tetra Pak cartons become things
like tissue products, building materials, railway ties, and even flower pots. For more information on carton
recycling, visit recyclecartons.com"

Now, what I think...
The first flavor I tried was Almond Coconut. I sampled it plain first and I immediately tasted both the almond milk and the coconut milk. I was surprised at how much each flavor stood out, and at the same time thought it tasted pretty good. I then added it to my bran flakes. I loved the flavor kick it added to my bland cereal. I poured a little for my 4 year old and 2 year old. My 2 year old sucked it right down. My 4 year old drank some and thought she liked it, but changed her mind after a couple more drinks. I will have to stick with smoothies and cereals for her until she gets used to the flavor.
Next I sampled the unsweetened vanilla and chocolate. I won't be drinking these plain; however, I made smoothies with them and they were delicious! I also enjoy the unsweetened vanilla on my cereal. I have not tried the chocolate on cereal. I am probably going to stick with smoothies with that one as well. Neither my 2 or 4 year old would drink the chocolate and didn't try the vanilla. I am have a feeling we would all like the sweetened vanilla and chocolate, but I haven't tried them yet.
This week I tried the unsweetened Almond Coconut in my cereal. I think I prefer this one in my cereal because it doesn't add a lot of sweetness to it. That is especially nice if there is any sweetness already in the cereal.
All of the flavors were creamy and smooth.

As for the packaging...
I love the fact that this product is shelf stable, in a recyclable package. I can buy several boxes and keep them in the cabinet until we need them. They do not take up much room in the fridge and get cold quickly. I do not like the lid on the box because this is a product that needs to be shaken well before use and the lid leaks when you are shaking it. I also feel like a toddler with a juice box while trying to pour from a full container. You do not want to squeeze the box, but it is hard not to unless you are using two hands. I would say the pros outweigh the cons.

The price is another iffy factor for me. I know you pay more for quality products, but it costs almost $3 for one 1 quart container. With as much milk as my family drinks, this would get very costly if we tried to switch to it exclusively.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I'm Back! Uh OH!

Ok. I know I have been away for a long time, so here is a rundown of what has been going on since I have been MIA.
In January, my then 19 month old had a tonic clonic (granmal) seizure. It lasted at least 4 minutes. Thankfully, that is not long enough to cause any brain or organ damage. It was horrifying. I am thankful to my background in emergency medicine and special education which helped me to notice the signs of an oncoming seizure. Because of this I was able to keep him from hitting his head as he fell. We couldn't get in for testing for several weeks, so we didn't know until march that there was nothing physical in his brain that could cause seizures like a tumor or anything. He did have a few smaller episodes the week of his MRI, but they only lasted a few seconds at a time. His EEG also came back clean. Since then he has been healthy and had no other seizure activity and may never have another. We continue to keep his emergency medicine on hand and pray daily that we never have to go through that again.
Later in March we found out we were pregnant with baby #3. I have a hard time with pregnancy and was very sick the first trimester. I started feeling better at the beginning of my second trimester (way earlier than with the other 2) and was so excited. Then I began having contractions at 14 1/2 weeks. So now I am on medicine and injections to stop contractions. So far it is working really well, but there are a lot of not so fun side effects to the medications. All worth it for our baby boy who is due in December.
I have been working on several reviews in the meantime, now I just need to get them typed up and posted for you all. Thank you for continuing to be a fan of my blog even when I was away!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011


My husband surprised me with an early Christmas present! I got a Keurig Platnium. I have been using it for a month now and I love it!
I owned a regular coffee pot and single serve coffee pot. I liked the regular coffee pot for company because I could brew a whole pot. It did not work well otherwise. I couldn't ever get a good flavor. My coffee would either be too weak or too strong. The single serve one was awful. You added the amount of water you wanted and it would brew either one or two mugs or a caraffe. There isn't a warmer unit in the bottom, so the caraffe didn't hold heat long. The inside of this pot had a lot of nooks and cranies and it got nasty looking in there. I didn't know how to get them all cleaned out and knew that the water was hitting these spots before entering the cups, so I threw the whole thing out. YUCK!
The beauty of Kcups is that everything is premeasured and the Keurig does the work for you. Plus everyone can just make a cup of the flavor that they want in less than 5 minutes. You can also buy a filter and use any loose coffee or tea you have.
The Keurig Platnium has 5 cups sizes to choose from when brewing. They range from 3.25oz to 13.25oz. I am typically a 13.25ouncer. The first few times I used it I made smaller sizes, but I felt like it was a little wasteful. You can only use each Kcup one time no matter what size cup you choose. Well it's not that you can't, it's that you won't drink the following cup if you do. It ends up very watery. If I am making a cup for more than one person, and they want the same flavor, I will just brew it into a glass measuring cup and then portion it into coffee mugs.
I add creamer to my coffees because I don't like a strong coffee taste. I do prefer to use a stronger brew so the creamer doesn't overwhelm the coffee. I am keeping a log of the ones I like, love, and loathe. So far the only ones I loathe are the Columbian and House Brews I have tried. Even with a Creme Brulee creamer, they were horrible. My favorite flavor (so far) is Gloria Jean's Butter Toffee with Creme Brulee creamer. Tastes like it came from a coffee house. I am drinking a Chai Latte from Cafe Escapes today and it is wonderful without adding anything.
You can even brew teas and hot cocoa in your Keurig. My daughter and I use it to make hot chocolate all the time, but I haven't purchased any hot cocoa Kcups. We just scoop the hot chocolate into the mug and then use it to add the hot water. My daugher loves it! She gets to help and use Mommy's new machine, so it's fun for her. (Just make sure you remember to remove the last Kcup before brewing or there will be coffee in the cocoa.)
If I had to guess, I would say that it has already paid for itself. I am no longer going to the station for a cappucinno on a daily basis. I do occasionally head to Starbucks for a flavor I can't get for my Keurig yet. Starbucks is making Kcups now, but they don't come in the Holiday flavors yet.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cookie Exchange

I am getting ready to attend my first Cookie Exchange, so I want to know what kind of cookies you would take to a cookie exchange. I will post one recipe that I know I will use, but I am looking for another one to take as well. Please add your favorite cookie recipe in the comments and we can have our own online cookie exchange. This will be a great way for all of us to get some new ideas.
You will need to provide your email address to post a comment, but your email will not be posted. The name you enter will.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon When You Take the North "Poll"

Melissa & Doug want you to tell them which of their educational toys you think is the best! Just click on the image below to place your vote in the North "Poll!" You'll Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon** to use at MelissaAndDoug.com just for voting!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rust-Oleum Countertop and Cabinet Transformations

When we bought our 1988 home a few years ago, it was clear that no updating had ever been done on the kitchen. The laminate countertops had pieces missing and the cabinets had very little finish left. The cabinets were light wood and the counter top were a yellow-brown color with mock wood grain. This was a high contrast from the deep red paint on the walls.

We chose the Rust-Oleum products because they claimed a professional looking product for an affordable price. We chose Onyx for the counters and Cabernet for the cabinets. We did the counters first so we wouldn't mess up the finished cabinets. 
First you sand down the counters and wash until no dust is left. Then you paint them , spray with a wetting agent and cover with chips from a chip spreader. After it sets, you sand down the chips to a semi smooth finish, wash until no dust remains and then paint with a clear top coat. 
The kit comes with almost everything you need and wonderful instructions. I am very happy with the results as they are a thousand times better than what we started with. 
There are a few cons. The paint is not as thick as the video demonstration would have you believe and we had some trouble getting it to stick in some places. When we sanded down the chips, you could see counter top in spots where the paint didn't dry right. Some of the places added to the granite look, but I chose to cut other places out and I redid them with better results, however; there are two spots by the sink that look awful! Luckily, one is hidden under the dish drying rack. Another spot dried a little shinier than the rest. No one else seems to notice the spots until I point them out. Also, it was extremely messy and we are still finding the chips in drawers and cabinets. 

The cabinets also turned out great. I love them! The kit and instructions are great and it was easy to complete if you follow the instructions. First you use the inclosed deglosser to basically wash away the top coat. You then rinse the deglosser off and then begin the base coat. The base looks like a cross between a stain and paint. You put on two base coats following the grain of the wood. It is very important that you follow the grain exactly or your brush strokes will show when it dries. Also, make sure you don't stop in mid board and then come back to it or you can see the starting and stopping points. Thankfully, I learned this on the first coat and was able to hide my mistakes. The only part of the instructions I would skip is placing the doors on screws. This pulled the paint off of mine even though they had been dry for a couple days. 
Next you put on the decorative glaze and gently wipe it away. We read a lot of reviews that said "there wasn't enough glaze." I had more than enough. I made sure I didn't try to put it on thick like paint. I just lightly brushed it on and didn't press hard when wiping away. Make sure you pay attention to how you pressed when you got your desired results so you can make sure you do it exactly the same on each door and cabinet.  
After the glaze is dry, you put on a protective top coat. I was expecting this to be like a clear glaze, but it was more like runny glue. And it does run. The same rules apply when it comes to following the grain of the wood, but it's harder to do. The top coat runs and pools in places and you need to smooth them out right away or it won't dry clear. When you coat the doors, be very careful to wipe any drips that work their way around to the other side of the door. Since you have to do the back of the doors first, this will mean the drip will show on the front side of the door. Not good. 
Overall, I love the results. My kitchen looks so much better and everyone notices it right away. This is a great way to get a "new" kitchen without having to replace the actual cabinets or counter tops. Cheaper and less waste. 

On a side note, the painters tape pulled the paint off the wall, so now we have to paint on top of redoing the floors. The floors are so ugly!

Washing Cloth Diapers- All Free and Clear vs. Tide Free and Gentle

I have been using cloth diapers for over a year now. Before beginning, I did a lot of research on the types of detergent you had to use on them. Of course on most blogs and store sites, I saw a lot of info on Charlie's Soap and some other cloth diaper detergents that were costly and had a lot of reports of bad diaper rashes and needs for additional items to soak the diapers in or strip them. It was overwhelming trying to find something that worked and was affordable. I eventually saw a site that had lists of everyday detergent that were safe to use. They didn't say how well they worked, just whether or not it was "ok" to use it.
I found the detergent we currently use on all of our laundry, All Free and Clear, with a check under "yes." I decided to start there. I used it for 7 months with great results. I didn't have any trouble with odor and he didn't get any diaper rashes. I never had to strip the diapers for buildup or sunbleach them.
When Tide came out with a Free and Gentle version I decided to try it. It helped that it was on sale and I had a coupon. I instantly regretted it. The diapers began to stink like ammonia when he would pee and never really felt clean. I switched back to All and it fixed the problem in a couple washes.
I recommend All Free and Clear to everyone who is using, or thinking about using, cloth diapers. I am sure there are other good detergents out there, but this one is priced great and definitely gets the job done. The fact that you can use it on all of your laundry with great results is another huge plus.