Friday, April 24, 2015

Review: Second Nature Snacks

1 comment:

When you are on the go a lot like I am, whether it is for business or pleasure, nothing sucks more than being on the road with a big dose of “hangry”.  For those not familiar with foodie terms, hangry is the mood you are in when you are so hungry you get angry, hence “hangry”.

One of my favorite to-go snacks for between meetings or while out camping in the woods, is a good nutty trail-mix.  Unfortunately eating the same trail-mix every day can get boring and some of them are full of trans-fats or sodium, which doesn’t help my blood pressure during business meetings.

When I received my box of Second Nature Snacks, I was pleased to see they have a simple spin on my trail-mix dilemma.  They carry a variety of mixes AND sizes, and their snacks have no trans-fat and very little sodium.  Plus, their wholesome medley had chocolate chunks and cashews, two of my favorite things.

My medleys arrived in a plain brown box rather quickly (within a week), and the two types of medley’s each had their own individual boxes with the individually packaged snack bags inside.  The two medley’s I received were:

  • Wholesome Medley - almonds, cashews, peanuts, cherries, cranberries, and dark chocolate
  • Simplicity Medley - almonds, cranberries, cashews, sunflower kernels, dried blueberries

Second Nature Snacks uses all natural ingredients, and mix their assortment with things that compliment each other well so they don’t need extra sweetness or salt in order to taste good.  Each ingredient looks hand-selected to provide a powerful punch of nutrition while out and about, such as dried blueberries which are rich in Vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, fiber, and antioxidants.  They are gluten-free as well, which is excellent for my paleo-minded friends.

You can purchase in 14oz resealable pouches (great for family camping), or 2.25oz single serves (great for the purse or hiking).  They are easy to tear open, and I prefer the single serve packages because I have no manners and just pour them down my gullet.

My favorite was definitely the wholesome medley, mainly because of the chocolate, but they have several to choose from on their website.  They have a cranberry medley that looks divine with a mix of chocolates and some tart cranberries (I’m a big tart fan).

These will definitely be a requirement for my many camping trips I have planned for this year.  I love the idea of natural and wholesome ingredients in my mixes that will provide me with the nourishment I need and not all the unhealthy stuff from conventional mixes (trans-fat, extra sodium and sugar). 

You can find a store near you to purchase your own flavor package to take on the road or just enjoy in your back yard.  They are also available online from Amazon. Give them a try!

Second Nature Snacks on Facebook

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Awesome Life Friday #16


Welcome to Awesome Life Friday! We can't wait to hear what's made your life awesome this week!  But first, here's a peek at what we've been up to the last few days:

We are so excited by this giveaway!  Button Up a Month, a men's button-up shirt subscription, is offering 3 month subscriptions (of one shirt a month) to FIVE winners! Read Daniel's review, and then enter to win!

Vanessa, one of our newest contributors, spent 100 days living on the road - and she's sharing her tips for how to keep healthy in spite of the challenges that presented.

Another brand new contributor, Adrenne, shows us how she sews these adorable reusable cloth towels just right for tucking into a lunchbox or picnic basket.

Aurora reviews this wonderful artisan chutney company and shares her recipe for Mango Chutney Shrimp Stir-Fry.  To try some yourself, enter the Giveaway - two jars of Mango Chutney and a 'mystery' flavor is up for grabs!

Seeing what you've been up to also makes our week awesome!  Here are a few that really inspired us - if you've been featured, you're welcome to grab a button!

Gluten-Free, Vegetarian and chock full of veggies!

Why yes, yes we do!  And this list of adult coloring books is a great resource.

This homemade spray will give your sustainable laundry regimen some added oomph without resorting to harsh chemicals.

A simple prop that can be decorated throughout the seasons adds a unique and whimsically decorative focal point!

Review/Giveaway: Button Up A Month Subscription


I am admittedly a very relaxed type of guy. My wife would argue that I am bum. My everyday attire when I am not in uniform usually consists of a pair of basketball shorts, a t-shirt, a pair of flip flops, and hoodie on the occasional windy day. On multiple occasions my wife has expressed to me that she wished I would dress better, or that I would at least put a little more thought into it.

When she and I first got together I wore button-ups quite often. I was still very relaxed in my style, but I put a little more effort into it. I have certainly let myself go a little. So, when the opportunity came up to introduce our readers to Button up aMonth, I jumped at it. 

I thought this would be a great way to give a little more of what she was asking for. And I was not at all disappointed.

Button up a Month offers a service similar to that of renting DVDs from Netflix (except you're not renting the shirts, you're buying them). 

When you create your account on their website you go through their inventory and add shirts to your queue. Then they send you one shirt a month. Each month that they send you a shirt, you are billed $16.99 (with free shipping) and they send you the next shirt in your queue.  If there's no shirt in your queue, you're not billed. I thought the idea was genius. It’s a great way to build your wardrobe little by little, and the price is unbeatable.

I have to admit I was a little worried at first. I have always been very picky with my clothing. I have a very specific style and a very specific way I like my clothes to fit (just because I'm a bum doesn't mean I don't have strong preferences!). If it’s not perfect, I won’t spend a dime on it. 

It’s hard enough for me to find clothing that fits me in the store where I can try it on. Now I am expected to just order a shirt and hope it works out? After reading over their FAQ, I was a little more at ease about order clothing online. They allow you to return your shirts within 30 days of the ship date for sizing changes or a full refund. 
I spent hours debating over what shirts to try out. After I narrowed my list down I showed my wife which ones I was interested in and got some input from her. I ended up choosing the JP Pattern and the Radrick. I added the shirts to my que and waited. Within a few days the first shirt had shipped. 

I was quite impressed with both of them and especially liked the JP Pattern. The material is very lightweight and breathable. I even spent an evening drinking with some friends and never once felt like I needed to down grade to just my undershirt because I was too hot. 

I was very pleased with the fit as well. All of their smaller sizes (medium and large) come in an athletic fit meaning they are a semi-slim fitting shirt. Exactly the way I like my clothing to fit. The fabric fits well over my chest and falls nicely off over my stomach. 

Make sure you look over their Size Chart and don't just go by the size letters (Med-Athletic, Lg-Athletic, Lg-Reg, XL-Reg).  At a glance, you might think they can't accomodate larger men, but their XL measures out to what most brands would call XXL.

Button Up A Month is still a fairly new company and hasn't yet established a social media presence to help get the word out - hopefully, that will change, but meanwhile, go check out their website and give them a try - for $16.99 and a 30 day return policy, you really can't go wrong! 

Button Up a Month is letting us host a really generous Giveaway! 5 winners in the US will each receive a 3 month subscription (1 shirt a month for 3 months)!

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 5/7-15. 

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

How to Sew: Picnic Reusable Towels

This is for anyone who wants to make something that not everyone else has in their baskets.

Ever gone to the store and noticed - and wanted! - all the colors of towels that they have to offer? If so let's pop out some colors, and make everyone in your home their own custom towels in their favorite colors!!

The options are endless. For this set of towels I wanted to make some picnic towels that can be reused and in my favorite color!

Decorative Picnic Reusable Towels

Level of sewing: Beginner
Machine used: Brother Serger Lock 1034D
(Can use sewing machine instead if needed)
Time: 10-15 Mins

Items Needed:
1/2 Yard of terry cloth
1/2 Yard of  flannel fabric
Priority mail envelope or paper
Cutter Mat
Paper Scissors
Fabric Scissors
Basting Spray (Can use pins instead)
Washing Machine

First get to one of your local fabric stores or even Walmart. Pick out your color fabric! (I found more variety in color terry cloth at Joann's.)

Cut your fabric into 1/2 yard lengths.  Once you have your 1/2 yard cuts it time to pre-shrink the fabric:

For those people that want to go the extra step to make sure it doesn't unravel the raw edges during the wash, you can serger or zig zag around your flannel fabric.

Wash the items on any setting (I have successfully done them all) but do not mix with other clothes. I normally cold and shortest time setting.

While you wait for your fabric to wash and dry, this would be a great time to gather all material listed above and to decide if you want to add snaps or if you want to use basting spray or pins.

In this example I will not be adding snaps -  instead just a simple fold for the picnic basket.

You also can start preparing your pattern.

For this pattern I am using what I have around the house. The standard priority mail envelope is 12.5 inches by 9.5 inches. I want to cut it to 10 by 9.5.

I also fold down the back to get the standard size.  Using your ruler and marker, mark your measurements then cut out.
Once that is done and your fabric is out of the drier, take your flannel fabric and press it with an iron.....(I know hair pulling madness but it needs to be done for the best cut outs) - no need to do this to your terry cloth as it sure be fine once out the dryer.

Now comes the time to cut all fabric out. To make sure the fabric did not move you can use weights (a soup can, etc) or use basting spray. For faster time I used my rotary cutter rather then using fabric scissors but if you do not have a rotary cutter and mat pin your pattern to your fabric and cut around.

Once this is done to all pieces then match up wrong size of the pattern to each other. When using terry cloth there are two different sides - decide on the one you like.

Spray the basting spray or pin.

At this time if any mistakes were made during cutting you should be able to see them now and cut the excess off.

Serger away!

Whether you are using a serger or sewing machine, make sure they are threading correctly.

For serger use these are my settings:
Yellow: 5
Pink:     5
Green:  5
Blue:    5

Instead of measuring for seam allowance I decided to use the end of my serger table to guide me.

Once one side is finished do not cut excess thread, pull it to the left making sure it's not underneath the fabric and keep going. This is closing your thread at the corners and repeat.

Move excess thread to the left

Once done, cut all four excess thread lines and you're done!!!
I finish by washing and drying to get all basting spray out and fold.

Now you have your very own picnic towel. Repeat until you make as many as needed.

Thanks for reading and there will be more to come. Sew on my friends!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Review/Giveaway: Virginia Chutney Co. (and Recipe)


“Ooooh!! What’s this??”

Steve (my boyfriend) plucks the jar of Virginia Chutney Co.’s ‘Major Grey’s Mango Chutney’ out of my hand and turns it over to read the label. No nonsense—just mangoes, sugar, apple cider vinegar, ginger, salt, raisins, garlic, lime juice, cinnamon.

Steve’s a bit…particular when it comes to food. He’s pretty open-minded regarding flavors or culinary traditions, but label scanning and ingredient analysis is a different story. (e.g., I was recently sent to the grocery store to return a package of ravioli because the label didn’t specifically state where the shrimp in the filling was caught, or whether it was farmed or wild.)

I’m a pretty avid label-reader myself (and abide by the philosophy of “pronounceable is preferable to unpronounceable” and “less is more” regarding the ingredient list), but I can’t really hold a candle to Steve.

So far, so good.

We get two spoons, pop open the jar, and dig in. It is absolutely delicious--fruity, spicy, with a hint of garlic.

It has a nice, substantial, chunky consistency, without any cornstarch or thickening agents.

Some of the dialog exchanged included the words “mouthgasm” and “food-boner”.

We gobbled down half the jar before I remembered that I should probably save some to, you know, try with things. Virginia Chutney Co.’s website suggests serving their chutneys with cheese. Thankfully, they had packed two jars in the box, so we could go full Chutney Smeagol with reckless abandon. (Or, relish. Ha!)

We tried it paired with cheese as suggested, and while tasty, I like it best on pork chops. It also works well with shrimp, and makes a wonderfully simple sauce for stir-fry.

Easy Shrimp and Broccoli Stir-Fry

(1) medium head of broccoli, washed and cut into manageably-sized pieces
(1) 1-lb bag of frozen raw peeled and deveined large (21-25 ct) shrimp, thawed and rinsed
3-4 tbsp of Virginia Chutney Co.’s ‘Major Grey’s Mango Chutney’
fresh chopped cilantro
lime wedges
(1) box of stir-fry rice noodles
oil for frying

1) Prepare rice noodles according to package directions and set aside.

2) Heat oil in a wok or large stir-fry pan.

3) Saute shrimp in oil 1-2 minutes, then add broccoli pieces and continue to stir-fry until shrimp turn pink.

4) Stir in noodles briefly, adding more oil if necessary.

5) Add chutney to taste and stir to heat through and thoroughly coat noodles. Serve with chopped cilantro and lime wedges.

This recipe took all of about 10 minutes to prepare and is a healthier, better-tasting alternative (and more effectively appeals to one’s sense of instant gratification) than ordering pizza, which, after factoring in time spent arguing over which toppings to get, requires roughly the same amount of effort.

It’s also beautifully well within the capabilities of your average 10-year old, so you could consider this a delicious opportunity to introduce the wonders of preparing family meals to your children.

We will definitely be trying Virginia Chutney Co.’s other flavors, such as “Spicy Plum’ and ‘Balsamic Fig’. The ‘Major Grey’s Mango Chutney’ will certainly become a staple in our home.

Virginia Chutney Co. is generously offering a gift box that includes (1) 10 oz. jar and (1) 4.4 oz jar of Major Grey’s Mango Chutney as well as a mystery chutney as a Giveaway for you, Dear Readers.

If you don’t win and/or want MOAR CHUTNEY (and you will), you can purchase it online from their website at Virginia Chutney Co., where they also have recipes, information, and a store locator so you can also get your chutney in person from real humans if you so choose.

You can also call them at (540) 675-1984. (YES, this is a thing. Remember when people did that?) 

Virginia Chutney Co. blog
Virginia Chutney on Facebook
Virginia Chutney on Instagram
Virginia Chutney on Pinterest

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 5-4-15. 

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


Friday, April 17, 2015

How To Travel and Not Gain Weight

Walking is a wonderful way to see the local sights and get in some healthy activity.

Let me begin by telling you I know it is possible because I experienced it myself. I lived in a hotel for over 100 days while traveling from Hawaii, Arizona, Texas, Colorado and landing in California. I moved hotel room to hotel room with a toddler by my side and was working on completing a holistic nutrition program.

3 Tips:
  • Exercise first thing in the morning
  • Search for healthy food and prepare
  • Get out and explore

    Exercise first thing in the morning:
    When you begin your day with exercise you are setting the tone for your day. By starting your day off with one healthy habit you are more likely to continue to make more healthy choices throughout your day. Exercise is also an outlet for releasing stress. Traveling can become a stressful time and we probably already know stress and eating healthy don’t always add up well. Begin your day by letting go of anything that is filling your body with tension, anxiety, or worry.

    Vegetarian sushi that was much more than just an avocado roll.

    Search for healthy food and be prepared:
    This one should be emphasized times three since you eat three meals a day. This is also the toughest area for most. So how do you find a healthy spot to eat? Research! is my go to.  The key words I rotate through the search bar are:

    I found a place that served wellness tonics.
    • Healthy
    • Healthy food
    • Healthy restaurant
    • Organic restaurant
    • Organic grocery store
    • Natural food store
    • Juice bar
    • Vegetarian
    Once your search results come up and you choose one that catches your eye it doesn't stop there. Visit their website, especially their menu.

    Before moving to the middle of the desert (Fort Irwin, CA), I did some research on our food options. When I was searching guess what came up as healthy? Fast food restaurants!

    Healthy and fast food just don’t go together. Some of the results that come up for healthy aren’t really healthy when you go a little further into them. I do enough research on a restaurant that I know exactly what I am going to order when we get there. 

    While living in a hotel for 100 plus days I packed our Blendtec blender in my suit case. We were able to have fresh juice or smoothies every morning from produce I would purchase at Whole Foods, a natural food store or a farmers market.

    When you visit one of these stores to purchase your morning produce you also can stock up on kids snacks if needed and ask other health minded people for their suggestions on where to eat.

    Food can affect your mood and the way your clothes fit, so do your research - it's important.

    Farmers markets are a great opportunity to learn about the local community.

    Get out and explore:

    There’s a lot to see and do when you are in a new place. Get out there! Look for a type of fitness activity you haven't tried before or one you love and do not get to do regularly. Go on walks, hikes, look up the highlights of that area and go see them all. When you get out and explore you are engaging your mind as you experience something new, are keeping active and there’s a good chance you will have some fun which are all great for your health. 

    Hiking may be the perfect way to stay active and get a different view of your surroundings.

    While traveling for this long I was able to maintain my healthy lifestyle and add some new inspiration in from what I found. We continue to travel regularly, just shorter trips now. But I still put these three tips into practice every time. Try it out your next trip and maybe you’ll find something life changing.

    In good health,
    Vanessa Hartmann



    Thursday, April 16, 2015

    Awesome Life Friday #15

    Happy Friday, everyone!  Can you believe we are already half way through April?  Suddenly, the weather is actually springlike!  Here at my home, the daffodils have come and gone, pollen is everywhere and the bees and butterflies are showing up.  And the songbirds and robins are out in droves, gathering nesting material - yay!

    Here's what we've been up to this past week:

    Ashley shares her memories of her grandmother with her children as they enjoy her grandmother's favorite party dish - Pepper Jelly and Cream Cheese.  With Preservation Society, it's easy!  Don't miss the Giveaway - enter to get two jars of your own.

    Another nostalgic recipe - these easy barbecue filled biscuit cups remind Lynda of learning to cook as a child, and make for a fast and simple kid-friendly meal.

    Lauren shows off what she received from Lip Monthly, a lip product subscription box.  Check out the video!

    Finally, Jackie takes us through what it's like to receive one of The Fantasy Box's spicy romantic date night collections.  The theme of this one, seen first on The View, is pampering!

    Here's some of the awesomeness that caught our attention in last week's link up.  Lots of inspiration for spring cleaning, planting, repurposing and eating!

    1. Basket Case (The Ramblings of an Aspiring Small Town Girl)
    Great tutorial and 'show off' of putting together a grouped plant arrangement in a basket.

    Three, count 'em, three fantastic recipes in one - the result is a fresh warm weather meal that will excite your palate.

    Spring is also a great idea to get outdoors and do some repurposing and touch ups - check out these four fun ways to brighten up old items with chalk-clay paint.

    Finally, now is the perfect time to do some spring cleaning - learn about some good cleaning supplies for the bathroom, and clean out those closets and cabinets.

    Thanks so much to each of you , and I hope you'll grab a Featured button!