A favorite family breakfast!

I’d like to share a new favorite product in our house: Immaculate Baking Co.

No, this isn’t a “Back to Basics” type of thing, but I started by trying out the cinnamon rolls, like the ones pictured above.  I’ve been trying to migrate my kids away from the super-processed Pillsbury refrigerated dough products, and was just going to try to make cinnamon rolls with my bread machine.  But that still takes a while — I’d make up the dough the night before, assemble the rolls before bedtime and let them rise in the fridge.

But I had two problems with this: (a) I’m so tired at night I rarely do much food prep the night before and (b) such recipes tend to make too many cinnamon rolls.  And if I bake them, they will all be eaten.  We don’t need that.

At my local Wal-mart, I spied these Immaculate Baking cinnamon rolls positioned high above the Pillsbury products that are at eye level.  (Tangent: Check out this blog post about the psychology of product placement in grocery stores, at every store I’ve seen these cinnamon rolls, they’re on the top shelf).

I liked the non-GMO corn products and unprocessed ingredients.  I thought I’ve give them a shot.  The flour is unbleached and unbromated, the salt is sea salt and the baking powder is aluminum-free.

More »

This is what I love cooking...but I shouldn't be cooking this...

I find myself in a little conundrum: I want to bake bake bake.

When I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I wanted to go “back” to the cooking I used to do for the family, much of that involved baking cookies, cakes, cobblers, breads, cornbread, etc. I love baking.

I need to change my mindset.

My adventures with granola and popcorn are a start, but I need to keep moving forward with fun cooking tasks that don’t break the calorie bank and fill my family with empty starchy calories.

In the meantime, I’m really enjoying making a small loaf of whole wheat bread about every 3-4 days for the family. The recipe that came out the winner uses only whole wheat flour with one cup of prepared mashed potatoes. You can throw a medium potato in the microwave, bake it and smash it straight into the bread machine! We enjoy making sandwiches, toast and even just having slices of bread and butter as a side dish with dinner. The kids are asking for plain slices of bread as a snack! I’m not making this up!!!

In the meantime, I’m also trying to clear out some of the less-than-ideal ingredients in my pantry. I feel a little guilty doing this also. I made a key lime pie a couple weeks ago to clear out graham crackers and condensed milk…and I made a chicken noodle casserole that used up some cream of chicken soup and egg noodles.

I’m doing some research on the interwebs myself, but if anyone has ideas of great homemade snacks for the family that I can keep on hand for snacking…leave me a comment!

Many of you know that I have my pet peeve about rental cars. When I reserve a particular size of car, I would really like that size. I’ve been renting vehicles most of the times I travel to Omaha for my AF Reserve duty, and rarely do I receive what I’ve reserved.

Call me cheap, but when I don’t expect to do any more than shuttle myself to/from my job every day, I don’t need more than the smallest, most fuel efficient car available. Some of you may remember my adventure with the Ford Mustang that I rented in late February 2011.

This time around, I was pleasantly surprised when the car rental dealer attendant told me that they had a “subcompact car” waiting for me. That was what I had requested.

A Toyota Yaris. It starts at $14K new. Probably among the least expensive cars on the market.  And that’s what you get. It’s a very very simple, low powered, basic car. Hooray for 30+ mpg and hooray for it being nice and nimble in the tight Offutt AFB parking lots near the building where I work.

But as you can see from the picture above, I couldn’t even fit my single wheeled duffel bag in the back. I wasn’t expecting that. BOO! I was able to toss the bag into the back seat, and I guess I should be thankful that there even was a backseat. It could have been a Smartcar, right?

This car has mostly manual controls (except the power windows and automatic transmission), a very basic stereo (with an MP3 jack, at least), and the dashboard information — such as the speedometer, odometer and engine lights — was in the middle of the car…instead of right behind my steering wheel on the driver’s side. Why is it like that? I’m not sure at all.

From what I read, the 2012 Yaris doesn’t have that centralized dashboard anymore. Phew!

With a 106hp engine, you can imagine the cars trailing behind me when I am trying to climb a hill, say, near I-680 and Dodge St. in Omaha, where you’re climbing up into the elevated express lanes.

Here’s a better view of the car.

It maneuvers quite well. But not very powerful, which is evident on hills.

First of all, an update on my iPhone cracked glass drama. I’m so happy that USAA called me this morning to tell me that my computer/media insurance rider WILL cover the dropped phone, I’m to get an assessment from Apple about whether we can just replace the glass…which they will cover. If Apple says “No, replace the whole phone.” then USAA will cover replacing the whole phone!

WOW! Now, before you all go running to USAA for computer/media riders, the adjuster made it clear that our policy is one of the LAST ONES to be worded such that it covers iPhones and by the end of 2012 ours will flip to exclude smart phones.

The moral of the story? Get the Apple Care or your cell phone provider’s insurance for your phone.

Now…back to the point of this post. Today I went to Walmart to get an Otterbox case for my phone. I wasn’t very happy with the Griffin Survivor iPhone case so I exchanged it. The Otterbox costs more — it’s probably the most expensive case there is. But hey — now I don’t have to pay to fix my phone, right?

My new Otter Box. The "Survivor" case I had before was a very bright pink, this one is more subdued. I like pink...in a subdued way.

I also needed groceries. For the first time in a long time I wasn’t squeezing in a grocery trip among several other daily errands. I could take my time.

As I used to do a lot more often, I began to take note of “new” products out there. And they got me wondering…

I saw a lot of stuff but these two products caught my attention.

First of all, I found this “Whole Grain (Hamburger) Helper.”

"Whole Grain (Hamburger) Helper". Plopped right next to regular Hamburger Helper.

Many of you know about my adventures with Hamburger Helper in 2010. And my adventures with “homemade” Hamburger Helper afterwards. (Maybe it’s time to make the homemade version for the kids again, by the way).

So I did some comparisons. I put Stroganoff-flavored Whole Grain Helper next to the Stroganoff-flavored regular Hamburger Helper to compare ingredients and nutrition facts.

I don’t see a lot of difference…take a look and tell me what you think?

The "Whole Grain" version is on the left, the standard is on the right. There's a little bit of calorie and sodium savings, but not enough for me to stop the presses and start buying it.

Here’s the ingredient list. Again, a few of the more chemical-y ingredients — such as MSG — aren’t in the whole grain version, but I was surprised at how much was still in the whole grain version.

I’d have been happier if they had removed that partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

The other product was with the Capri Sun beverages. I typically get my sons the “Roaring Waters” drinks, which are low-calorie alternatives to Capri Sun. But these Super-V drinks caught my attention:

Cue the John Williams theme! It's SUPER-V! With fiber, to boot!

We buy V-8 Splash sometimes, especially the Light Concord Grape flavor. But I try really hard not to make a habit out of substituting fruit and vegetable juices for the real thing. So I decided to let the boys try these in their lunchboxes. We’ll let you know.

PS: Does your school recycle Capri Sun pouches for Terracycle? Our boys’ schools do and it’s a great program. I’ve been promising myself a Capri Sun bag for a long time…maybe I need to actually do it?

This was the beginning of a pretty bad Saturday...

That’s how long have had my latest iPhone.

I know, I dropped my original phone and had to deal with missing pixels for several months, then I dropped my 2nd iPhone into the toilet…and now this.

On Saturday morning Jacob and I were preparing to run at our local Relay for Life event (which ended up canceled due to poor weather)…I was putting the phone into a velcro sleeve so I could start running. And it fell to the ground. It landed squarely on its back. Hence the dramatic cracking you see here.

The good news is that the phone itself is still working perfectly fine. The phone, the GPS/location services, the camera, the motion sensors, leveling sensors, etc. It’s all good. Yay!

I do NOT have AppleCare. I had assumed the computer and media rider on my property insurance would take care of this, but it probably won’t. While on Saturday I was pretty nervous about having to spend $750 on a new replacement for this phone, it probably won’t be quite that bad.

The continued good news is that I can apparently bring the phone to an Apple Store and one can replace the back glass inexpensively. Anywhere from $29 to $100 based on assorted Apple support forums.

But wait. I don’t live near an Apple Store!  Never fear!  Next month I’ll be in Omaha and I think I’ll take my phone to the store out there and see what they can do.

In the meantime, I got my hands on a pretty substantial case. In part because I’m really paranoid now, but also because I need to protect that cracked back panel — there are slivers of glass that can cut up my fingers, and Dave reminded me that I needed to protect the phone more now from that pervasive Florida moisture!

Just call me “Butterfingers”.  Sigh…

I “won” this Keurig Elite from the HSC Charity Auction last fall.

Like millions of other Americans, we have become Keurig customers.  It’s like a revolution in coffee…Keurigs give you a “perfect” cup of coffee with very little work.  The American dream, right?

We got our first Keurig, a “Mini“, just before we moved from Nebraska to Florida in fall 2010.  After the movers took our regular coffee pot, it was a nice way to keep having our coffee in the morning.  It’s small and we didn’t have to keep coffee grounds on hand, just a box (or two) of K-Cups and some disposable coffee cups. That one ended up in Dave’s office.  We like how it turns itself off after the cup of coffee brews.  We get a bit paranoid about coffee pots being left on.

This past fall we got one for the home.  It’s been great.  When you register your machine with Keurig, you get coupons for free K-Cups.  BOGO for 2 boxes of 48 K-Cups.  This was a great deal after Christmas when the Starbucks K-Cups became available online.

K-Cup-brewed coffee is delicious and perfect every time.  No doubt there.

My conundrum: K-Cups are very wasteful and are expensive.  After all, traditional coffee pots brew through compostable coffee filters and then you can go on to compost the spent coffee grounds. More »

08. March 2012 · Comments Off on Another Shameless Pitch: Secret Clinical Strength Deodorant · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

I can’t believe I’m pitching deodorant!  But I am.

I happened across this product about a month ago at my local Walmart.  It sits high up on the top shelf of the women’s deodorant section.  There’s a nice, neat row of white boxes, all titled “Secret: Clinical Strength“.  Lots of scents, and at least two sizes for each scent.

I decided to choose the “Marathon Fresh” scent.  After all, I was training for a half marathon and it seemed appropriate.  See the running girl on the box?

I was sold!

At more than $7 for a container HALF the size of their standard container of Secret deodorant, I figured this had to be good.

It IS good!  I am one of those types who sweats profusely.  I’ve been hesitant to wear tank tops and sundresses for this reason.

But this product put a stop to it.  Even after my runs in the Florida sunshine, I continued to smell “Marathon Fresh!”


Also, I noticed that a little goes a long way.  With regular deodorant, I have to reapply every 3-4 hours. Seriously, I do.  In the case of the clinical strength, I can apply once and be good to go for 24 hours!  So you could argue that this deodorant may not really cost twice as much, since I only have to apply now 1/3 as often.

This is amazing!!!!

If you also have been recently converted, make sure to save those UPC codes from your boxes, because with every 4 containers, you can send in the UPC codes and get a coupon for a free 1.7 oz. product!  Learn more about the “Clinical Strength Loyalty Program” here.

Okay, done pitching — back to our regularly scheduled programming.

02. January 2012 · Comments Off on Happy New Year! It’s Resolution Time….Again…. · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

Happy New Year everyone!  Our family had a fun weekend celebrating with friends and some folks from Dave’s squadron.  One of his senior NCOs was promoted this week, so he had double reason to celebrate!

As usual, it’s time for everyone to come forward with their resolutions.

“I will eat less and exercise more!”

“I will stop using foul language!”

“I will stop spoiling my children!”

I’ve tried ’em all.  Yet here I am, seemingly no different at the end of the year than I was at the beginning.  One of the very first posts on this particular blog was about the New Year’s resolution.  Why use January 1st as an excuse to institute change?  If you want to change, just start changing, right?

This year, I resolve to better manage my time and stop wasting evenings.  I have started vegging in front of the TV and computer more and more after the kids go to bed, when that ought to be more valuable time to get productive stuff done.

In 2008 I had started knitting and crocheting more after the kids went to bed, and since we moved to Florida I’d been doing less of it — I think the warm weather has something to do with it, but it’s now wintertime and I need to get going again.  It’s so much more productive than just staring at a screen all evening.

Who else made resolutions?

30. November 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Took this picture yesterday at the Commissary.  I’ll let the picture speak for itself.  The subtitle below says “Creamy taste and texture of pumpkin pie flavored with natural cinnamon & ginger”.

I don’t know what to say about this pie-ish product.  Many times you guys have known me to whine about processed foods.  That’s not to say I keep my house free of them.  Depending on how busy our lives are, I’ve been known to stash a tray of frozen chicken enchiladas in the freezer or Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in the pantry.

You’ve also known me to buy some of these crazier foods and do taste tests with my kids comparing it to a homemade version.

But I couldn’t bring myself to buy this.  Heck, I’m even somewhat uncomfortable buying canned pumpkin for pie, although according to the can there’s nothing in the can except pumpkin, right?  Mashed steamed pumpkin makes the pie SO good!

That’s all I have to say ’bout that…

Dave goes back to work tomorrow.  He’s in really good shape to return and is ready to get back to society.  Not 100% pain free, but most of his day he’s pretty comfortable.  He’s tapered off his meds enough that I think he’ll be okay, so long as he takes it easy physically.  I think mentally he’s definitely good to go for returning to work!

And then I can get my house back!  And clean things up some!  It’s been utter chaos…Dave has traditionally helped with SOME of the housework — whether it’s folding laundry or washing dishes a few times per week.  I’ve been able to keep the house clean…i.e., free of dirt, but it’s been cluttery beyond even MY personal standards!

Also, tomorrow’s the last day of NaBloPoMo.  I didn’t succeed in the full challenge, but I am proud for having blogged every day in the month of November so far, except for the 20th.  Where I simply had a brain fart, I guess.

Later this week I’ll be dusting off my holiday cookie posts from years past.  I make a couple of fun, unique cookie recipes, along with the classic sugar cookies and spritz cookies.  I’ll just re-boot the older posts.  I don’t plan to change anything this year, I promise!