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Special Morning Celebrations #DeliciousPairings #CBias

We had a lot to celebrate this weekend! My husband is a veteran so we had to celebrate that. And we also celebrated two birthdays – my son who turned 7 today and my daughter who will turn 5 on December 26th. We chose to celebrate the two birthdays together because it’s so hard to fit everything in. Life gets so busy this time of the year. And our almost 5 year old has never had a dedicated family birthday party like the rest of our kids get.

We started the celebrations early with special breakfasts. I needed to find breakfast items for kids and adults so we hit Sam’s Club the other day. My kiddos bug me all the time to buy them bakery items but I usually refuse. I thought letting them actually choose a pre-made baked good would be a great way to celebrate.

Finding one they thought they would like was not hard – a box of Artisan Fresh Mini Cinnamon Rolls was the winner. And that smile warmed my heart. 🙂

The veteran in the family prefers coffee {and so do I}. So we looked for a nice coffee for him. The Starbucks Holiday Blend description appealed to me – “spicy & sweet with hints of comfort & joy.” Who can’t use more comfort and joy in their life? We normally buy whole coffee beans, but I guess it’s hard to get that comfort and joy in just beans…so the ground coffee won and into the cart it went. Since I am a pretty frugal shopper, I almost always buy coffee in bulk. The price really can’t be beat, and I’m not worried about keeping it fresh because we go through it so fast.

Until today I thought it was a good idea to store coffee in the freezer to keep it fresh. However, I just learned the freezer is NOT a good place to store coffee because as a porous item, it can easily absorb any odors that may linger in your freezer. Shrimp coffee, anyone? YUCK!! Instead, just make sure to store any coffee you won’t use in 2 weeks in an airtight container and keep it at room temperature in a cool, dry, dark place.

This weekend, we put all the deliciousness to the test.

First, we heated the cinnamon rolls in the oven. And as I suspected, they were a HUGE hit – a wonderful combination of sticky and sweet. I loved that they were small. Perfect for little hands {as well as smaller portions}.

The weather was so gorgeous this weekend {temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s} that we got to enjoy breakfast outside – UNHEARD of for November in Iowa.

Yummy!! The two year old gobbled the cinnamon rolls up like everyone else.

And the coffee? My husband is huge Starbucks fan. Since we live in the sticks, we don’t have a Starbucks location nearby, but every time we travel to a new big city, he always brings home one of their mugs for his collection and a bag of coffee for me. The mug he has in the below picture is his fav – he got it on a recent trip to the very first Starbucks in Seattle! We don’t always drink Starbucks coffee, but we do always drink our coffee out of their mugs! But I so love the treat of picking up a cup of Starbucks when we are out and about. I’m sooo happy that picking up a bag in bulk is a frugal way to drink more Starbucks.

And the veteran? Well, he thoroughly enjoyed everything, too. It really lived up to be #DeliciousPairings! He thought the coffee had just the right amount of comfort and joy in it – but pairing the coffee with the cinnamon rolls made his morning even more joyous. I normally put half and half in my coffee and I was surprised that eating a super sweet cinnamon roll while drinking the coffee make my coffee seem sweet without any additions. I could taste the pumpkin and cinnamon pairings in the coffee and I was really surprised about that! Everyone was thrilled with my decision to buy pre-made baked goods. {I really do need to master the art of sweet baking}. I can’t wait to try this coffee with a wonderful piece of pumpkin pie, though. I think it will be perfect for that.

My only regret? I should have bought two bags. This coffee isn’t going to last long. It’s just that good.

If you’d like to try this coffee too, Sam’s Club will open at 7am on Black Friday and will greet members with free Starbucks Holiday Blend coffee and Artisan Fresh pastries (while supplies last).

How do you make celebrations special? And did YOU know not to store coffee in the freezer?

Disclosure: 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™. #CBias #SocialFabric. All opinions are my own

Do You Know What’s in YOUR Home Cleaning Products? #HeinzVinegar #CBias

I am a HUGE advocate of using natural, healthy, green cleaning products in my home and I’ve been using them exclusively for last 5 years. Over the years, I’ve put together a great GREEN CLEAN TEAM and have a lot of experience staying away from chemically laden cleaners.

Products in my Green Clean Team:

  • Heinz Cleaning Vinegar – Vinegar is my number one go-to product in my Green Clean Team. I love it because it’s all natural, environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and edible. It’s so VERY, VERY versatile. I can use it to clean produce, clean my coffee pot, deodorize my laundry, my sink, my oven, my windows, mirrors, bath tub, AND COOK WITH IT!! What other product has all of those uses??
  • Lemon Juice I love fresh lemon juice for a nice smell and it adds an extra punch for tough stains.
  • Baking Soda – I love this powder. I use baking soda to make homemade laundry soap, clean my sink, and other hard stains in the shower for instance.
  • Borax – This is another powder I love. While borax is all natural, it’s the only product I use that does include a warning label. Borax should not be ingested!
  • Essential oils like Tea Tree Oil – Essential oils also add another cleaning element.There’s a huge variety of essential oils. Some of them are naturally antibacterial (like Tea Tree oil), some are great for stains, some are great for smell (Lavender and Peppermint, for instance). Their use is very varied. They are also somewhat expensive so I don’t use them that often.

To contrast my Green Clean Team with more “normal” cleaning supplies, check out the warning labels on this popular “traditional” cleaning product!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel comfortable having this in my home. I can’t let my kids use it. I have to lock it up. I don’t want it under my sink leaching toxic fumes into my home and making it stinky and unsafe. Did you know indoor air quality is often worse than outdoor air quality?? Frankly, these labels SCARE me and I need chemical-free cleaning options in my home.

I was recently at Walmart and saw that Heinz has a new vinegar formulated specifically for cleaning.

This vinegar is located in a FOOD aisle… It has no scary warning labels on it.

Look at that! It says right on the container, SAFE FOR COOKING. Can you image eating any other cleaner?? Yeah. Me, neither {other than baking soda and lemons, of course…}.

Well, I’ve been buying vinegar to clean my home for years. I was skeptical of a new formula that says it’s specific for cleaning and  had to try it out to see the difference.

I already had a huge gallon and half container of regular Heinz vinegar under my sink, so I bought a gallon of  Heinz cleaning vinegar to test out. You can see pictures of my shopping trip here at my Google + album.

Here’s my side-by-side comparison of Regular #HeinzVinegar to Heinz Cleaning Vinegar:

Cost ~

Regular Vinegar – $2.82 / gallon

Cleaning Vinegar – $2.89 / gallon

Acidity ~

Regular Vinegar – 5%

Cleaning Vinegar – 6%

Smell ~

Regular Vinegar – strong

Cleaning Vinegar – a bit stronger {I think…}

Taste ~

No noticeable difference

My humble opinion is that the extra acidity seems to make the #Heinz Cleaning Vinegar a bit more effective.

Next I put the Cleaning Vinegar to the test with a few dreaded tasks. I wish I could say that I let my house get this dirty for this blog post…but that might just not be true! Please don’t judge me for what you are about to see… 😉

 

Task #1 ~ Cleaning the top of my nasty stove

Before. Yeah, that’s pretty bad isn’t it? What can I say. I had to pull out all the big guns for this stove: vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. I have an industrial squirt bottle that I fill with half vinegar and half water. When the dirt and grime is particularly nasty, I use undiluted vinegar for full strength cleaning power.

 

After. I didn’t get all the brown stuff around the burners off, but I did get a lot of it. And the really nice thing, it’s covered up! 🙂

Task #2 ~ Cleaning my nasty oven

Before. I used to use the self cleaning feature, but you know what? That takes 4 hours, stinks to high heaven, and makes my smoke detector go off. I decided to see what else I could do without wasting 4 hours of electricity, and it really took me only 10 minutes to achieve the following result:

After. Yes! How awesome is that?! I used cleaning vinegar, baking soda, AND a bit of elbow grease. I’m really thrilled with those results. I will definitely clean my oven like this in the future.

Task #3 ~ Cleaning my nasty shower

Before. This shower has been ignored for a long time and was a huge mess.

After. I am really thrilled with the outcome of the shower. Check that out! The yellow film easily wiped away with a vinegar soaked cloth. The grime took a bit of elbow grease, borax, and vinegar. But it’s gone! This shower looks 150% better than it did.

All in all, I’m a Heinz Cleaning Vinegar convert. I will pay the extra 17 cents a gallon next time I need vinegar and buy the cleaning formula.

What do you use to clean your home? Are you worried about all the warning labels??

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias

Amazing Family Movie Night with The Amazing Spider-Man #SpidermanWMT #CBias

With 3 girls and 1 boy, you can bet a lot of our family movie nights revolve around more traditional “girl” themes. We watch our share of Tinkerbell, princess, and ice-skating movies around here. So Ben was really thrilled earlier this week when our weekly family movie night movie was an early release version of The Amazing Spider-Man. He has an old Spider-Man Halloween costume from several years ago that he still tries to squeeze his body into. It’s quite funny, actually, because it doesn’t fit him at all.

Everyone was excited to celebrate the upcoming release of The Amazing Spider-Man by watching the movie, but no one more so than Ben. He was so thrilled to get to watch the movie before it comes to stores on November 9th. I’m not sure why that was special to him, but it was. And we love the Exclusive Movie Gift Set that came in the mail – it includes a Blu-Ray +DVD +ULTRAVIOLET and a Limited Edition Mask DVD Case & Bonus Disc. Ben hoped the mask was for him to wear, but it really does have an extra disc in it. To make an extra special family night, we went all out. Ben got to pick out pizza at Walmart – the Spider-Man themed pizza boxes were especially captivating.

You can see our pizza and Spider-Man shopping trip here, at my Google + Album.

And we made spider peanut butter cookies for dessert! Aren’t these cute? And yummy, too! {The recipe came with the DVD!}

I have a reputation for being a mean mom. I know, it’s seriously unfounded… 😉 We don’t drink soda and I try to make sure my kids eat balanced meals. We also don’t have video games at our house. And my kids are always bugging me for video games. So they were really excited to see the Augmented Reality App on the movie and pizza boxes.

Since I have an iPhone, I downloaded the Web-Slinger app from iTunes {You can also get it on Google Play for Android} and we had a lot of fun with it. The Web-Slinger app is way to interact with Spider-Man with comics and a game feature. Scanning displays at Walmarts unlocks extra features but my Walmart didn’t have the displays yet, so we’ll be on the lookout for them in the next couple of days. Scanning the Blu-ray and the pizza box next to each other brings Spider-Man and the Lizard to life and it was pretty amazing to watch the two characters fight it out on my iPhone! Technology blows me away!!

Since I have an iPhone, I downloaded the Web-Slinger app from iTunes {You can also get it on Google Play for Android} and we had a lot of fun with it. The Web-Slinger app is way to interact with Spider-Man with comics and a game feature. Scanning displays at Walmarts unlocks extra features but my Walmart didn’t have the displays yet, so we’ll be on the lookout for them in the next couple of days. Scanning the Blu-ray and the pizza box next to each other brings Spider-Man and the Lizard to life and it was pretty amazing to watch the two characters fight it out on my iPhone! Technology blows me away!!

But the most fun we had was becoming Spider-Man to star in our own cartoon! We took pictures with the app, cropped them, and then viola – Ben was the star of his own Spider-Man cartoon. He loved it! And the most fun thing about the cartoon is that you can email it to yourself,  or upload to facebook and twitter to share with friends. And we did all of this before even watching the movie! So the lead up to the movie night was quite fun.

The night of the movie, we baked the pizza, made a salad, and enjoyed a good ole fashioned family movie night. The pizza was a big hit. I normally make our pizza from scratch, but sometimes Take-n-Bake is in order. My husband really liked this pizza better than other take-n-bake we’ve had. He especially liked the crust.

We all enjoyed the movie. I was a little worried that it might be too much for my tender-hearted son, but he liked it a lot. A couple times, we did have to cover a few eyes, but we watched this movie a few days ago, an they’re all still talking about it.

After all the fun we had, there was even more! We checked out exclusive bonus features on Vudu – another first for me. You can even per-purchase the movie, watch it via Vudu, and then Walmart will mail you a copy! I never knew about all of these different ways to watch and interact with movies. This family movie night {and the events leading up to it} rank right up there for one of the most entertaining family movies nights we’ve had! Yay for Spider-Man. While we don’t normally go to all of this effort for a family movie night, it was a fun thing to do this week. And makes me think I should really consider special desserts more often. I don’t do a lot of desserts. I’m a mean, mom, remember? ;-)

If you love Spider-Man, you can connect on Facebook and Twitter.

Do you do family movie nights? How do you make them special?

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 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment #CBias #SocialFabric #SpiderManWMT. All opinions are my own.

A Grain Mill Showdown: Nutrimill vs Wondermill

Do you want a grain mill but aren’t sure which one to buy? This discussion of the Nutrimill vs Wondermill will show you the features and differences of both grain mills to help you make your decision.

Nutrimill vs Wondermill – which one do you prefer?

This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a commission on your purchase.

First up, L’EQUIP Nutrimill Grain Mill

Nutrimill Grainmill

Nutrimill Grainmill

This grain mill has been my workhorse for the last ten years. I’m on my second one, but that has more to do with my first machine flying of my husband’s truck when he wrecked on our move to Iowa in 2006 than shoddy workmanship. It had been mildly broken for about 8 years {still worked ok but I had a hard time controlling grinding texture because the feed had broken off}.  I finally replaced with a new model a couple years ago.

Features of the Nutrimill:

  • 20 cup flour capacity
  • Variable texture control mill for creating fine or coarse flour
  • Grinds non-oily grains with precision grain feed control
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Purports to be the world’s quietest grain mill {but so does the Wondermill…}
  • Costs under $220 on Amazon.

 Next up: the WonderMill Grain Mill:wonder mill grainmill

I got my WonderMill this summer for participating in the Grain Mill Challenge! I was excited to get it because of course I’ve heard about it, but since I didn’t own a WonderMill, I have never been able to compare them.

Features of the WonderMill:

  • 12 cup flour capacity
  • 3 texture controls for creating finer or coarser flour
  • Also grinds only non-oily grains {that means NO flax seeds or nuts}
  • Also has a limited life-time warranty for original owner
  • Purports to be the quietest grain mill in the world {but so does the Nutrimill}
  • Costs just under $200 on Amazon.

So how do Nutrimill and the Wondermill stack up in a side-by-side comparison??

Here are some pictures to show the size and appearance difference.

nutrilmill vs grainmill

nutrilmill vs grainmill

And my honest opinion?

Both are awesome grain mills. I probably prefer my Nutrimill a tad better, though, simply because of the larger flour capacity. I need more than 12 cups of flour when I bake my bread and I’d rather get it all in one fell swoop. However, since I do use a variety of different flours on some of my bread {like my 9 grain bread} , sometimes the capacity doesn’t bother me. In all, both mills are fine. They are both easy to operate – though there is a bit of assembly required with the Wondermill {you have to stick the grey tube from the bread bowl into the grain mill} that’s not necessary with the Nutrimill. I can’t perceive much of a noise level difference, so I’m not sure which one can honestly claim to be the world’s quietest mill. :-) I like the Wondermill because it is smaller but I do have to find a spot for two objects {mill and flour bowl} with the Wondermill and only one spot with the Nutrimill. So if space is an issue at your house, you might want to take note of the sizes and number of objects that you will have to store. The Nutrimill is quite a lot taller, but it can all be stored together. The difference is price is very small and wouldn’t be a factor for me in this decision.

And that’s it! I hope I’ve provided you with enough information to make your own informed decision. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you own a grain mill? Which one? If you’re in the market, which one do you think you’d prefer?

If you liked this post on grain mills, here are some recipe you can make with freshly ground flour:

 Whole Wheat Potato Bread

100% Whole Wheat Every Day Bread

9 Grain Bread