Wednesday, December 9, 2020

2021 Gift Guide

Best Kitchen Gadget ChopperAlligator Chopper  The key to choppers is how they handle onions.  If you want a crisp clean cut like the one below, the Alligator is the best.  And this brand has a special built-in grid that makes clean-up so much easier than other brands out there.  The Alligator Chopper is my go-to for dicing onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchinis, mushrooms, and even carrots.  You can use the Alligator Chipper for big half-inch pieces like potatoes/apples.  Use the Alligator Mini for finely dicing/mincing hot peppers and garlic.  But if you are choosing just one from their line-up, hands down the best one is the classic Alligator Chopper.  It is sold on Amazon too.

Best Yogurt Maker: If you love yogurt, then you have got to invest in the Probiotic Maker (previously know as the EZ Yogurt Maker).  I have waxed poetic about them many times!  Seriously the easiest and fastest way to make yogurt over and over again with zero prep and zero clean-up.

Best Teenage Gift:  One of the best gifts I ever gave my teenager was a t-shirt bought on Amazon that featured his favorite childhood Pixar movies.  It was about $20 and I was worried he wouldn't like it, but he loved it AND gets compliments from his peers when he wear it. Take the idea and run with it.

Best Gardening Gift:  After having gardened for many years, I think a gift card to Baker Creek's Rare Seed collection or Victory Seeds is a stellar choice.  And for those gardeners who also like to compost, a worm bin like Worm Factory or Worm Cafe is a great baby step into worm composting, which is vital for understanding how soil is rejuvenated.

Best Gift for Bakers:  I love baking and have a few tools that just make baking so much easier.  Like parchment paper with fun designs, good quality bench scraper/dough cutter, and also Vollrath disher scoops!

Best DVD to bring in the New Year: Gotta love the Bachelor Mother with Ginger Rogers and David Niven.

Let's make 2021 great! Have a favorite gift idea?  Comment below! :)

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Best Toys for Group Play according to kids

I've got seven kids between the ages of 2-14 (and one on the way).  I recently had my kiddos (all except our 2-year-old that doesn't talk) take a survey about their most favorite and least favorite group toys.  

I let them each vote for their four most favorite and their four least favorite group toys. Then I had them star their very favorite.  The answers were really eye-opening for me as a mother.

Below are the 10 categories arranged from most favorite to least favorite.
  1. Duplo Legos:  This was EVERYONE'S favorite.  I personally thought that it would tie with magnetic tiles but nope, everyone starred Duplo Legos and magnetic tiles and cars were almost even-steven.  I should note that we do not keep our Duplo Legos in sets.  All sets are mixed together to foster more creative play and also keep arguing down and made clean-up quicker.*
  2. Magnetic Tiles**
  3. Cars
  4. Animals
  5. Marble Run
  6. Lincoln Logs
  7. Trains
  8. Ponies
  9. Barbies
  10. Potato Heads
So if you are thinking of investing in some toy sets that are good for group play and will cover a wide range of ages, I highly recommend you start with Duplo Legos.

*Please note that I am talking about the big Duplo Legos here.  I do NOT like regular Legos.  I also need to stress the importance of NOT keeping any Legos (Duplo or otherwise) in sets AND that all the Legos be placed in one big bin and open for anyone to use.  If I had implemented this rule early on, I would have saved our family a lot of time and arguing.  If you are wondering which ones to buy, I would just get a Duplo World Animals Box or a Duplo Deluxe Brick Box and then supplement with a set that your kiddoes are nuts about (construction, princesses, superheroes, etc.) and then keep your eyes out for random Duplos at thrift stores.  Our best Duplo finds have been at thrift stores over the years.

**I also want to note that while my kids really like Magnetic Tiles (like Magna-Tiles*** or PlayMags), when we were at a friends house, they played with Magformers and actually said that they preferred Magformers over magnetic tiles because the structures were stronger (they could be carried more easily and some of them could even be tossed to each other).  If you are considering buying magnetic tiles, then you might want to read this post I wrote about our favorite brands of magnetic tiles and also this post about why I don't recommend Magna-Tiles brand.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

How to grow Tomatoes as Perennials

This post is for my future reference, but it might interest my readers as well.

Tomatoes are tender perennials.  In a mild enough climate or warm enough greenhouse they can last for about two years.  Some people dig up their tomatoes and bring them in and then out again each year.  Others grow clones of their treasured tomato plants and grow them over the winter then put them out in the Spring for a headstart on the season. Read on for these methods in detail!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Probiotic Maker Review (aka EZ Yogurt Maker): Easiest Yogurt Ever

Do you want to know a method of making yogurt that takes less than a minute of preparation and has zero cleanup?

Let me introduce you to something called Probiotic Maker (formerly EZ Yogurt Maker).  I've been using it for about three years now.  It makes yogurt/kefir with less than one minute prep and has zero cleanup.

Here is what you do:
This is how easy it is the make the easiest yogurt (kefir/probiotic) ever.

  1. Open a new gallon (or half-gallon) of milk (or milk alternative) and pour the yogurt starter into the milk.  Replace cap and shake to distribute the powdered starter.
  2. Slip the maker over the gallon, plug it in, and let it culture for 8-11 hours.
  3. Transfer carefully (without shaking to the fridge) and cool at least 8 hours.  Enjoy!
I know, you are shaking your head right now. No boiling, no thermometer, no pans, no ice, no Instant Pot, no dishes???
I know!  Insanely. Easy. Homemade. Yogurt.

I've been using this over three years now and just love how easy it is and that each starter packet has 11 different strains.  I'll give you the cons first and then we can recap the PROS!  Yea!  Read on for more details!

Wicking Planter Barrel (SIP Planter) and Planned Fertilizers

I converted two of my barrel planters into wicking planters (SIP planters).

Here are more details:

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Instant Pot Ultra vs Power Quick Pot

I own both the Instant Pot Ultra (6 qt) and the Power Quick Pot (8 qt).  I have been using both about a year.

Power Quick Pot is better than Instant Pot Ultra.
Snippets from Instant Pot and Tristar Cares
I prefer the Power Quick Pot for three reasons:

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Norwex vs E-Cloth: Why Premium Microfiber is not your Cleaning Fairy Godmother

I could spend a long time comparing all the cloths that Norwex has to offer with all the cloths that E-Cloth has to offer, but for everyone's reading sanity, let's keep this short and show each brand's two major cleaning cloths.  Both brands produce premium microfiber cloths.  And I love cleaning with them.

E-Cloth draped over Norwex. The window cloths are on top of picture.

Close up two E-Cloth General Purpose Cloths and Norwex Enviro Cloth 
What you need to know about both brands:

Norwex makes high quality microfiber cloths.  So does E-Cloth.
Norwex is rather expensive.  E-Cloth is rather reasonable.
Norwex strands are 1/200th the diameter of human hair.  Same with E-Cloth.
Properly used, Norwex can remove up to 99% of bacteria from a surface.  E-Cloth boasts over 99%.
Norwex has a 2-year microfiber warranty.  E-Cloth has a 3-year microfiber warranty.
Norwex a 60-day satisfaction guarantee.  E-Cloth does too, but there is no stated time-frame.
Norwex has BacLock.  E-Cloth does not.  E-Cloth used to dabble in such a feature with their Professional General Purpose cloth but ultimately decided to nix silver additives.