Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Review: Puppy Cake Cake Mix & Ice Cream

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About two and a half years ago, my daughter and I decided we wanted to adopt a dog. My husband was not thrilled about the prospect, but I felt like we needed another little life in the house that didn't need diapers.

We walked into a No-Kill Shelter in Apple Valley, California and immediately fell in love with this scruffy, somewhat pathetic looking pup who just looked like he fit our family. He had been found wandering in the desert and his paws had been burned from the heat. He was desperately in need of a bath, a haircut, a name (Augustus Caesar) and lots of love.

The folks at the shelter estimated his age to be about two years old by the look of his teeth. We didn’t know when his birthday was so we’ve never been able to celebrate it officially. I wanted to change that this year and the good people of Puppy Cake had obliged me by sending a box of Puppy Cake Mix and Ice Cream Mix so I decided to throw Augustus an impromptu birthday shindig.

You may remember back in December that I reviewed Puppy Cake’s Holiday Cookie Mix. Augustus LOVED the cookies! I set the cake and ice cream aside and forgot that I had them until my daughter found them and suggested that now was the time for a puppy treat!

The Ice Cream came in the form of a pint sized container filled with a powdered mix that I added water to, thoroughly mixed and placed in the freezer. As I mixed in the water, a wonderful aroma of fresh peanut butter wafted up from the container. I knew Gus was going to love it!

The cake mix was a wheat free, pumpkin spice mix with all natural, simple ingredients like rice flour, pumpkin and cinnamon. It smelled just like spice cake mix, but not quite as sweet. You add a little water, vegetable oil and one egg. My favorite part about the cake mix was the many options for preparation. You can make them in the oven or microwave, in a cake pan or cupcakes.

I chose to make cupcakes in the microwave in my silicone baking cups. I’ve made the microwave mug cake that you see on Pinterest before and it always turns out a little weird, so I was eager to try these directions and put the product to the test.

I was pleasantly surprised at the texture of these cupcakes. They rose beautifully and had a very tender texture, not gummy or doughy at all! The mix also included a yogurt frosting packet. A powdered yogurt product that you whip up with water. I had to add a little more water than what was recommended to get a spreadable consistency, but I was pleased with the result.

I taste tested everything and the Ice Cream was very good. It was creamy and tasted like peanut butter, but not sweet. The cake was spicy and definitely had a pumpkin tone and was also not sweet. The yogurt icing was not pleasant to me, but Gus loved it (as evidenced by the photos).

We put a small scoop of ice cream and a cupcake on a plate and tried to get a birthday hat on Gus, but he just wanted to eat already! He jumped in and devoured the ice cream first.

If I would have handed him the pint, he would have wolfed it down like he was wearing yoga pants and watching a Sex in the City marathon on Netflix.

He then moved onto the cupcake where he licked the frosting off and then tried to run off with the cupcake like he was in trouble. I managed to get him back for photos and had to help him eat the rest.

To summarize, I would say the Puppy Cake knows their stuff! I will definitely be buying from them in the future.

The Pumpkin Spice Cake Mix retails for $6.99 and the Ice Cream also for $6.99. They offer free shipping on orders over $25!

If you would like to get your hands on any of the wonderful products from Puppy Cake, you can go to their website to place an order. You can also check them out on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review/Giveaway: littleBLAST STEM Activities Kits


When I was in elementary school, my favorite classes were science and math (please refrain from tossing rotten tomatoes at this time). I look at my three and a half year old little boy, and I wonder if he is going to be of a similar mindset. I have thought about it, and have come to the following conclusion: either he will not be science inclined, and as such he could probably use a little assistance in this area, or he will love science class just like Daddy and why aren't we doing a science experiment right now? Thus, either way, it's a good idea to start exposing him to science concepts now.

I have found that littleBLAST is a fun way to help my little one learn.

LittleBLAST is a subscription box service which sends a monthly box of themed science activities  for children aged three to seven.

Unlike some box subscriptions, littleBLAST also lets you order single boxes from past sets. I received the Construction Single BLAST and it turned out to be a delightful way to spend an afternoon with my son.

I don't know how he knew this box was for him, but he did and danced with the box the day it came.

My son's box contained all the materials for four different activities which help develop spatial intelligence, instructions, and a nifty achievement chart to keep track of all the littleBLASTs you've done.

The activities included were; Straws & Connectors (planar and 3-D objects), Blueprint Fun (connecting cubes to match a diagram), How Many Ways (a puzzle about creating new figures using the same number of cubes), and Puzzle Shapes (arranging simple paper shapes to make pictures in a book)  They make sure to include everything that is required for each activity.

I was pleasantly surprised to even find a glue stick that was needed for Puzzle Shapes in the box.  Let me tell you, if we had needed to cut the fun short for a quick trip to the store to get one no amount of juice or snacks could have saved us from the tantrum that would have come.

The instructions include some good discussion points that can help little scientists realize how the lessons they just learned apply to the world around them.

The first activity we did together was called Straws & Connectors, it consisted of straws and connectors (gasp) and picture cards that illustrated the different shapes we made.  Squares and triangles were already cool, but I think it blew his little mind to expand them into three dimensional objects.

Our second activity, Blueprint Fun; called for those interlocking cubes that I remember fondly from elementary school and some blueprints that we supposed to build.  The blueprints started simple and grew more complex, encouraging my little guy to pay attention to detail as the designs went from simple shapes to more irregular features.  They even included some blueprint sheets without a pattern so we could make our own blueprints to build.

The next activity, How Many Ways, called for an encore from our beloved interlocking cubes and some graph paper. The intent was to take five cubes and explore all the different ways they could be reassembled.  However, telling my three year old Mischief that he can only play with five of the cubes instead of all of them ended ...poorly.

Therefore, we quickly transitioned into the last activity, Puzzle Shapes, without delay.  This activity was my favorite because I had to be involved.  Mommy said that I had to use the glue stick on all of his paper shapes as he put them on the project pages.  I don't know why she trusted me with the glue; but I know that my little guy had so much fun building pictures, that he didn't mind daddy being the designated glue-er.

We had one extra shape at the end, so I made him a "good job" medal.
So, the activities- just how fun are they really? Let me put it this way, my three year old son was paying rapt attention to something for over an hour and a half without the use of any electronics, rage inducing songs that never end, or cars.

In fact, he has busted out the box and is playing the activities again right now as I'm typing, so I know we will be able to play and learn with just this BLAST many times to come.

LittleBLAST was started by an engineer and an elementary school teacher who also happened to be the mothers of preschoolers, and wanted quality science and math activities for their little ones.

LittleBLAST offers over a dozen single blasts that you can order as one time events for $24.95, as well as subscriptions in month to month($24.95), three and six month installments($74.85 and $149.70 respectively). They also offer a nifty sibling add on, wherein you can order an extra set or sets of materials with each box($9.95 for the single $19.90 for the double).

Also, at the other end of the spectrum, if you already have plenty of materials for the science experiments, you can order all of the printed material in a digital format and print it at your leisure ($7.95).

So, quite frankly, my son and I enjoyed this enough that he will be getting another littleBLAST in the mail before too long. It comes with everything you need for an afternoon of fun, and I still get a boost to my fatherly pride in knowing that I am helping my son learn.

littleBLAST Website
littleBLAST on Facebook

littleBlast is giving away a Construction Single Blast set (like the one I reviewed) to one of our readers living in the US!

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 4-14-15. 

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, March 30, 2015

Review Recipe & Giveaway: Tonewood Maple


Ever since I was a little girl I have loved maple syrup. Now, I don't mean the “maple syrup” that you find next to the quick mix in an anthropomorphically shaped plastic bottle. I'm talking the liquid gold in the glass bottles on the top shelf.

I think it started on a field trip in grade school, where we went to one of the many nature preserves and watched as someone boiled down some sap and then everyone got a small sample of it that we got to cool in the March snow like they did in Little House in the Big Woods!

Then, when I was older, we moved to a house that had plenty of sugar maples for us to tap and make our very own syrup! Alas, I have since moved from my home in the northwoods, and now am in the desert where sugar maple trees are in short supply and good maple products aren't a commonplace thing.

To my rescue came Tonewood and their premium maple products!

Tonewood offers a variety of pure maple syrup items as well as having an “Adopt a Tree” program where you can choose to sponsor a tree from one of two farms.

Aside from offering syrup in four different grades, Tonewood also sells maple wafers, maple flakes, maple seasoning, maple cream, and maple cubes in two different flavors (Golden Delicate with a light, buttery flavor, and Dark Robust with a bold, maple taste), as well as a cookbook and a cube grater.

If you're looking for a variety of maple goodies as well as a way to help support small maple producers, you should definitely check out the Adopt a Tree program.

The Adopt a Tree program includes three packages that are delivered to you through the year; the first package arrives shortly after you place your order, and includes an adoption certificate and a picture of your tree; the second package arrives in the spring and contains their four grade collection of maple syrup as well as a recipe book to help you explore their culinary possibilities; the third package will come in the fall and delivers their sweet pairing package of a maple cube and eight maple wafers.

 You can choose to adopt from one of two farms in Vermont, and support their efforts for $120 a year.

I was lucky enough to be able to try out their maple cube in Dark Robust (16.99) for this review.

I knew the day my package arrived that something wonderful was in store for me! My mailbox smelled like heaven. Inside the deceptively ordinary cardboard box was a business card, a postcard sized maple grade guide, and the Dark Robust maple cube of goodness!

Upon opening the wrapping, I had the immediate urge to lick it like you would a giant jawbreaker of maple divinity.

 Instead, I quickly dished out some plain vanilla ice cream and used my microplaner to put some of the block of joy on top. I was not disappointed!

The Dark Robust certainly lived up to its name, giving me the intense almost smokey flavor of pure maple deliciousness.

 I have since used it with a variety of foods, such as yogurt, oatmeal, puffy oven pancakes, tea, coffee, and bacon, to name a few. Everyone in my family has enjoyed my maple adventuring, even my sometimes picky Mischief!

I store my maple cube of delight in a zippy bag, though you can purchase cube grater that doubles as a storage container.

Here's one of my favorite ways to use the Tonewood Dark Robust Maple Cube:  Baked Maple Bacon! (I'll pause while you drool)

Baked Maple Bacon

Place a cooling rack over a cookie sheet.
(For easier cleanup, I place aluminum foil on the cookie sheet to catch most of the grease)
Lay bacon on top of the rack
Grate the maple cube over the bacon to your desired level of mapleness.

 I like a strong maple flavor, so I grated a lot of the cube, but if you'd like a subtler flavor, just use less.
Bake at 350 until desired doneness. 10 min for chewier 25 for extra crispy in my oven.
ENJOY and try to not burn yourself! ;-)

I am certainly going to be ordering another cube once mine runs out, as well as trying out a few of their other goodies. My family and my tastebuds would never forgive me for letting us live without it!

Tonewood Maple is letting us host a Giveaway of a Dark Robust Maple Cube ($16.99) of your own!

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 4-13-15. 

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bring on the Bunnies! An Easter Roundup


I've so been enjoying grazing all the Spring and Easter crafting everyone's been doing this month!  I have to admit, I've failed this year at bringing in the spring - in my defense, other than a couple of joyfully warm days, it still feels like winter around here.

Even so, there is still time and while I enjoy eggs and chicks and daffodils as much as the next person, the thing I love best about spring symbols are the BUNNIES.

Rabbits have been associated with fertility since ancient times in many cultures, and the attachment with bunnies to Easter come by way of our Germanic immigrants - rabbits, multiply like, well, rabbits, so it is fitting that they are connected with the return of spring, and by further association, with the themes of rebirth and resurrection.  Any gardener will tell you - as soon as tender greens shoot up in the spring, rabbits will not be far behind!

Easter Bunny - Wikipedia will give a good start to the interested on the origins of the Easter Bunny and why it is such an evocative symbol for Easter for so many.

 But regardless of whether or not you find meaning in the symbolism, and what symbolism you attach to it - bunnies are cute!  Add a bunny to your home decor, and no one will miss the message: You're ready for Spring!

These are just a few of the delightful bunny-motif decoration projects I've come across recently, and I think any of them could be done this week just in time to welcome the long-earred guy with the eggs:

I hope these projects offer you as much inspiration as they have me! That's the thing about bunnies - fertility is a form of creativity, and these wonderful crafters have shown what a little creative inspiration can do!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Review/Giveaway: Are You Kidding? Kid-Designed Kids Socks


Walking through the sock aisle at Target is kind of boring.  Rows and rows of black and white socks is what has always greeted me.  Socks are a big deal in my family.  My older son is very particular about what socks he wears and my middle son has Cerebral Palsy that requires him to wear braces on his feet, which make sock buying and wearing difficult.  Generally when I do find socks that work with his braces they are boring, plain, and just not so much fun.

That isn't the case anymore!  Are You Kidding? is a kid designed company that was started by a creative 6-year old boy who loved socks!  His designs are fun and colorful, which is lacking in most kids' socks you can find in the store.

The socks are sold in sets of 3 pairs and retail for $15 a set. They have themes such as Boy's Comics, Girl's Comics, and Surf and Turf.

As I opened the package the socks came in, I could already tell these were going to be fun.  Wrapped in bright yellow tissue paper and sealed with a sticker logo, the package made my kids really excited to see the socks they would be trying out.

I was sent 2 sets of socks in two different sizes to try.  Boy's Comics in size Large and Boy's Eye See You in Medium.  From the get go I could tell these socks were going to be different, the fun colors and designs aside. The quality is amazing and the small and medium sized socks have a non-slip texture on the bottom to prevent slips for the little kids.

The socks are made from 87% cotton, 8% nylon, and 5% spandex for the perfect amount of stretch, strength, and softness.

After a run through the washer and dryer (I noted no shrinkage) it was time for my boys to try them out.

My older son went for the grey and orange faces pair first.  He said they were comfortable after wearing them all day at school.

This is huge because he is extremely picky about socks.  He doesn't like seams, bunches, or tight bands.

These got a thumbs up!

My middle son's first choice was blue and green lightning bolts in size medium.  The day he wore them was a day we had Physical Therapy so I was wondering how they would work with his SMO and AFO.  I was pleasantly surprised that there was no need for me to size up even with his braces!

The socks come up high enough naturally that they work great and protect his legs from the plastic.

The blend also allows for breathability under his braces as well.  We couldn't have been happier.  It made me really happy to see him so thrilled about wearing these socks with his braces.  Until now he was stuck with plain socks since nothing came high enough to cover his legs without being to big on his foot.  These socks fit perfectly.

As a mom of many boys, durability is a big deal for me.  I swear my family eats socks with all the different pairs we go through with holes and wear and tear.

I wondered how I would be able to speak for the durability of these socks during my review period, but luckily for me my 4 year old got himself into a situation that demonstrated not only how cool looking these socks are, but also how durable they are.

While out playing in the snow with his brother, my son lost his boot in a snow bank and walked home on concrete sidewalks dragging his feet the whole time wearing his rainbow eyes pair of socks.  I figured I would have a bunch of holes in that sock by the time we got home.  Nope, they were fine!  They got the mom thumbs up too.

You can't go wrong with these socks.  They are a combo of colorful creative prints which kids will love and the durability and quality that parents will love too!

Are You Kidding? is generously giving away one pack of 3 pairs of socks of the winners choice to 2 readers, a retail value of $15.00 per pack.  US residents only please.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 4-10-15. 

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway