Friday, November 28, 2014

Review: Smart Cup Single Use French Press Coffee Cup

We tend to be beverage snobs in my household. While I’m the resident tea drinker and occasional coffee drinker, my husband loves his French Pressed coffee.

We own 3 different French presses for our varying coffee needs. Two different sizes for home use and a sturdier one for camping or off road coffee drinking. Yes, this is a thing.

The press causes a bit of an issue with us if I want coffee in the morning because I rarely drink more than one cup and if I’m lucky enough to get a cup from my husbands morning pressing, its usually cold and bitter by the time I get to it.

I was intrigued when the opportunity came up for me to review a product called the Smart Cup which is a single serving, French Press for hot beverages. This seemed like a wonderful idea! Now I could have my own pressed coffee, should I so choose and not have to worry about getting cold, bitter leftovers. Smart Cup is also advertised for tea brewing! Even better!!

So, here is what I received: The Café Box retails for $21.99 and contains 24 - 16oz cups, 24 French press lids, 24 press rods and a coffee scoop. The lid is a rather ingenious design that conceals a plastic mesh pressing mechanism that will contain all of your coffee grounds or loose leaf tea at the bottom of the cup after pressing with the supplied rod. The instructions are very clear and the product is easy to use.

Simply take your cup and add a scoop of your favorite coarsely ground coffee or loose leaf tea. Pour hot water over it and set it steep for about 3 minutes (or according to your preference or tea variety). Add your condiments and give it a stir. Place the lid on the cup. Insert the press rod into the hole in the middle of the lid and press firmly down until you hear a click. Easy Peasy.

Form and function are great with this product, but I do have a few issues. First off, I was disappointed that none of the components were “reusable”. There seems to be an awful lot of waste with these cups. Its not just a cup and a lid, you also have the mesh strainer inside and the press rod. Not very “Green”.

The cup is made of paper and is coated on the inside to prevent seepage. I assume that it is recyclable, but getting the mesh strainer out of the cup once you’ve pressed it is difficult. I normally compost our coffee grounds, but I can’t really do that with this item as its not easy to get to the grounds once they've been pressed.

The other issue I had with this product is, HOLY SNAP THAT’S HOT!!! The cup is too hot to hold for a good 5 to 10 minutes. There are no insulated sleeves provided so I had to makeshift my own by placing an extra cup on the outside.

Also, the liquid inside takes forever to become cool enough to drink unless you remove the lid to let it cool. I'm sure this was user error because we always use boiled water to make our coffee in our standard French Press.

They do offer a Compostable Hot Cup as a separate item and that may take care of some of the problems I experienced.

Their company motto is “Single Serve. . . Wherever Life Takes You!” Smart Cups are advertised as being great for the office, dorm room, camping, fishing, tailgating, business travel, gifts or promotions.  I can see this being a great product for use in a office or cafeteria and for occasional use when you are somewhere without access to a coffee pot and don't want to haul a reusable French Press.

For personal home use? To me it seems wasteful as a day to day product, but good in a pinch. If they come out with a reusable, washable, home use cup I would be thrilled!!

To order Smart Cup products you can visit their website, where you can buy a set like the one I tried, the individual parts as separate items, or a kit of 5 cups that include pre-measured coffee.  They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Orange Cranberry Sauce with Celery & Walnuts


Michael and I are having a very low key Thanksgiving this year - my youngest daughter and her fiancee were going to come, but then a combination of scheduling difficulties and bad weather between our home and theirs led to us all agreeing it wasn't the right time for a visit.

Since we'd not yet bought a turkey when plans fell through, we decided to be radical and so on Thanksgiving, we're going out to eat at one of the many DC area restaurants that are having special Thanksgiving Day menus!

The only real downside for us is... no leftovers for sandwiches the next day!  My favorite part of Thanksgiving, if I'm going to be honest, is a nice turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich with some crisp lettuce and a bit of mayo and mustard.  I know, I know - people either like the whole meal between bread including stuffing, or find this whole leftovers sandwich thing to be a big gross mess.

But that's my sandwich and since I rarely eat bread at all, I want it just the way I want it.

So... we bought a couple turkey breasts to cook on Friday for sandwiches along with a nice loaf pumpernickel-rye bread, and I'm making my special cranberry sauce. (The look of relief on Michael's face when I said I'd make some made me feel very good!)

Orange Cranberry Sauce with Celery & Walnuts

1 12-ounce bag cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cup orange juice
1 or 2 stalks celery, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 medium seedless orange, zested and then all peel and pith cut away, fruit diced
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Look through the bag of cranberries, removing any debris or bad berries.  Place into a medium saucepan.

Mince celery stalk and set aside.  Prepare orange by zesting the outside, and then peeling and chopping the fruit inside.  Set the fruit aside, and put the zest into the saucepan, along with cranberries.

Add sugar, honey, juice, and spices to the saucepan and stir. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Add celery.

Continue cooking on a medium simmer until cranberries are tender and mixture begins to thicken, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes.

Lower heat to low simmer. Mix in orange pieces and walnuts. Simmer another 5-10 minutes, until liquid is nearly gone and mixture is thickened. Transfer to bowl. Cover and chill until cold, at least 2 hours - better if you can let it set for a day or two.

NOTES:  The form of sweetener can be switched out as desired - I've used brown sugar, turbinado sugar, all honey, maple syrup, etc.  Even a little molasses would add an interesting rich flavor, although I'd use it along with something more mild.  As long as the total amount adds up to 1 cup, it'll be good.

This year, the honey I used was some sage infused honey, because I had it on hand. Yum!

The result was so tasty, it will be hard to let it settle in the refrigerator for a couple days.  I have to confess, I topped a bit of it, still warm, on a little dish of cottage cheese.  It was so good!

I believe I'll be making this more than once over the next month.

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Announcement: List your Holiday Weekend Sales!

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Hey all!  This post is just a quick little announcement - if you've been reading for awhile, you know how much we love to showcase and support small businesses and interesting products.

We've set up a comment thread over on our Facebook wall so that anyone with a business (large or small, product or service, local or online) that is offering any sort of sales or specials the next few days can post and tell us all about them!

So if you've got something for sale - or you're looking for some good bargains, please stop in and read.  You know we'd also love it if you hit that "Like" button while you're there, of course, and please feel free to share with anyone you know that might be interested.  Word of mouth helps everyone out, especially small business people.

Meanwhile, stay tuned - we have SO MANY wonderful reviews and giveaways coming up over the next month!

Happy selling and happy shopping!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Review/Giveaway: True Drool Dog Subscription Box

True Drool is company that was started by dog lovers, for dog lovers. They offer a monthly subscription service in which they put together various dog oriented products for the “over 40 crowd, 40 pounds that is!” 

Anyone who has a larger breed dog will tell you that keeping quality toys and treats around is a must, but, often times takes more time than we have. True Drool cuts out the cost of time by doing the choosing and shopping for you and introduces you to several small companies that may not be available at your local stores!
“We started TRUE DROOL with the simple idea of locating Quality Dog Toys along with the Best Dog Treats, and combining them together in a MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION BOX delivered right to your door.”
So now that you have an idea of what True Drool is, let’s take a look at one of their boxes. They really do pack a lot of stuff in there for for your large dog. It ends up being quite a deal. 

The first thing you will notice on opening the box is a friendly label on the inside of the lid inviting you to do check out the True Drool website for more information on the products inside the box. 

One thing I want to point out because it matters a lot to me - all of the items True Drool offers are made in the U.S.A., which means you not only need not worry about where the ingredients came from and if they're safe, but purchasing True Drool boxes or the items it introduces you to supports American workers.

Now to see what goodies await for our dog, Angel!

One of Angel’s definite favorites was the Hare of the Dog Rabbit Recipe Red Apple & Dandelion Treats. These treats are USA sourced and made, grain-free and uses farmed rabbits as its meat source.

We gave her one and she walked off with it as usual. Within a few seconds she was right back at my side begging for another. Our dog is really picky, too. 

We used to have dog that would eat anything that hit the floor; pickles, a slice of fresh mushroom, name it. Angel, however, wouldn't touch anything. 

With one exception. The one thing she did eat once was an entire pound of organic, grass fed ground beef that was left out on the counter for 5 minutes. I returned to find the butchers paper shredded and her swallowing the last bit of it, licking her chops with no guilt at all.

So, she's a picky dog with high class tastes - and she was absolutely crazy for the treats. 

She enjoyed the Sojos Big Dogs Beef Stew Flavored Treats as well, but not nearly as passionately as the Rabbit Recipe.  Sojos brand treats are made with simple ingredients and no preservatives.  The ingredients are rye flour, oat bran, potato, carrots, celery, beef, parsley, canola oil and eggs, making them a safe and healthy choice for spoiling your dog.

Also, strewn about the box was a nice healthy handful of Snicky Snaks Peanut Butter Cookie TreatsAgain, she really liked these treats but nothing was going to trump the taste of Rabbit, Dandelion, and Red Apple.  Still, Snicky Snaks are 100% organic with no wheat, soy, added sugar or anything you wouldn't be fine eating yourself.  The individual wrapping makes these a nice little tuck-in to take along on a walk or drive.

This googly-eyed, alien, octopus, crab toy seemed to be taunting her at every turn. It's perfectly durable for the havoc that larger dogs often tend to cause when playing with cheaper toys or those made for smaller dogs. It held up great to rambunctious games of Tug-of-War.  I was really impressed with the quality of dog toy included in the True Drool box.

The last thing I would like to look at is the Collapsible KlipScoop. The design of this thing is genius. We have all seen the collapsible bowls and measuring cups, right? This is a collapsible dog food scoop that double as a bag clip.

I thought it was great for the simple fact that it made it much hard for me to misplace the scoop and I always had a clip on hand to keep the bag sealed and fresh.

All in all, the entire box was a great experience. Angel really seemed to enjoy everything they had sent us. 

And there was even something in there for me! The scoop has proven to be quite useful. The team at True Drool really has put a lot of love and effort into assembling these boxes. It really is a tremendous time saver. And fun too!

One last thing I want to mention is that True Drool has dedicated 10% of their profits to rescues and non-profits! Not only is this a fun and time-efficient way to get treats, toys, and tools for your fur-babies, but it’s a great way to give back, too!

You can purchase a monthly subscription to the “Big Dog Box” for $35.95 per month. You can get a 3 month subscription for $92.85, saving you $15, or they offer a one-time gift box for you or a friend for $35.95. Furthermore, you can add a special box to any order for the price of $20 which they then give to a recently rescued dog as a “welcome to your forever home” gift. 

You can get $5 off your first order by using this code, good until January 15th: 

Wouldn't one of these boxes be a great gift under the tree for your favorite dog?

True Drool Website
True Drool on Facebook
True Drool on Twitter
True Drool on Google+
True Drool on Pinterest  

True Drool is giving away a 1 time Gift Box ($35.95) to one of our lucky readers!

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 lets us contact you if you win!)  There is one additional mandatory requirement to complete.  Doing both of these 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 12-8. 

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!

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Review: BuggyBeds

Anybody that knows me can attest to the fact that I do not get along with any breed of bug. It doesn't matter if it’s a tarantula or a ladybug, if it gets too close I’m likely going to cry! One insect in particular that truly gives me the willies is bedbugs! The mere thought of some creepy crawly touching me in my sleep makes me feel entirely violated.

BuggyBeds can help give you some peace of mind! BuggyBeds is a nontoxic, chemical free glue trap that claims to lure and trap bedbugs for early detection. They carry a full line of BuggyBed traps, each one labeled for different use.

There are 5 in all – Home, Child, Dorm, Auto, and Travel. However, they admit that each of these is almost identical, just with different packaging.

The only difference is that the travel version comes with a black carrying pouch and are also made to withstand higher temps, in case you are vacationing somewhere tropical. Additionally the auto comes with a slight vanilla scent. Other than that, I find it fairly gimmicky to market it as if you need a different one for each area.

I was sent one a few boxes of Home, Dorm,  and Travel. Each one states that it can be placed in all the various places as the others.

The first one we used was Travel. With our frequent trips to Santa Monica for my daughter's clubfoot treatments, we were staying at the same Comfort Inn week after week (after week).

I found myself actually very nervous to test it out. What would I do if one showed up? By the time I would see that, I would have already stayed numerous times, as well as the night previous. I do suppose it would tell me to find a new hotel in the future, but that would have been sad as well since we enjoyed our time there.

We slid it under the mattress when we arrived in the evening. The box doesn’t give a minimum timeframe for how long it needs for detecting, so I’m assuming that by morning it would have done its job. Thankfully, come morning, the trap was still entirely empty. Whew!

If I thought I was nervous about potentially finding out the truth about our go-to hotel, it doesn’t hold a candle to my nerves about placing them in my own home. Obviously, the only answer to finding them would be to burn the place down!

But I suppose better safe than sorry! So we laid the traps. We placed one under a cushion of each couch, under our mattress, under my daughter’s bunk-bed mattress, and under the crib mattress.

We placed them near the corners as instructed and checked them once a week.

Again, luckily nothing showed up. While some could argue that this could mean that they don’t work, I’m certainly choosing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it insinuates that my home is bedbug free! I will say that I was given a sigh of relief each time I checked the traps and they were empty.

I wish they company gave a little more insight into how they work. I understand that they are glue traps, so they are sticky inside to trap a bug if one happens to enter.

However, they let it be known that they are pesticide and chemical free, but also claim to lure the bedbugs. I’m interested to know what exactly is luring bugs in to begin with. These are not meant to prevent, or stop an infestation. These are merely windows into your problem. They just alert you by trapping even one, that you have a problem.

One thing I dislike is that they claim they are for early detection. In reality there is no such thing as ‘early detection’ for bedbugs as even just one single bedbug could already mean an infestation.

Prices for the traps seemed to vary. For example a 4 pack of Home traps retails $8.64 on Amazon, but costs $14.99 on BuggyBed's website.

In my opinion, it is worth the price for a bit of assurance and peace of mind, especially if you spend much time in hotels. I don’t think that you need to buy all the different packages of it, however. One will do the trick!

If a bedbug does ever show up in your trap, even one, it is recommended that you call an exterminator (or notify the hotel management) immediately.

Additionally, if you don’t find anything in the traps, but still think you have a bedbug problem, you shouldn't hesitate to call in a professional. These traps are not 100% accurate every time and you should trust your instincts.

BuggyBeds Website
BuggyBeds on Facebook


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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Veggie-Go's

All it took was one year out of the country for Lisa and John McHugh of Veggie-Go's to be grossed out by what we in America refer to as ‘food’. 

Spending time in Italy, Greece, Spain, France and Switzerland, and living off the land opened their eyes and stomachs to a world of healthier options. Realizing how few worthwhile packaged snacks for kids are available in the US, the McHughs were determined to bring something better to the market. Veggie-Go’s accomplishes exactly what they set out to do!

Veggie-Go’s is a line of ultra chewy fruit and vegetable leather. There are currently 5 flavor varieties to choose from, each made with a crazy good combination of ingredients! With ½ a serving of organic wholesome fruits and vegetables each, 15-20 calories each, no added sugar, gluten and vegan free, and delicious to boot, these make a glorious option when it comes to nutritious noshing!

I had originally come across this company while reviewing Healthy Surprise (a healthy snack options subscription box) but was so glad to finally see what more Veggie-Go’s had to offer directly. I had the pleasure of testing out 4 of the 5 options.

The first one I tried was the same one I had tried in the past - Mountain Berry Spinach

In big letters right on the front of the wrapper is says BERRIES, SPINACH, APPLES, SWEET POTATOES, PERIOD. 

Assuming they were just trying to make is sound minimalistic (a typical marketing strategy I've noticed in grocery store items touted as 'healthy'), I promptly turned the package around to the ingredients list:

“Organic Mountain Berry Spinach Puree (organic apples, organic spinach, organic strawberries, organic raspberries, organic blueberries, organic sweet potato”

Well then. I stand corrected. These aren’t too good to be true, after all. This one really tastes the most fruity and my 5 year old daughter is quite keen on the flavor burst of sweetness.

Next up was Cinnamon Spiced Beet! Beets, Apples, Sweet Potato, Flax Seed, Cinnamon (Period). We accidentally dug right into this one without taking a photo of the strip! This one was not my favorite. I’m not a huge fan of beets, and that really stood out as the highlighted flavor componate. What I did love was the unique texture with the seeds! My husband however was most fond of this strip.

The third Veggie-Go we ate was Sweet Potato Pie. We all fell in love with this one. It was very simple, with sweet potatoes and apples being just about all making up this snack, but it truly did taste like a slice of sweet potato pie, dollop of whip cream and all! This one seemed a bit tougher to chew than the first two for some reason.

And lastly, the one I was actually looking forward to the least - Carrot Ginger. I like carrots just fine, but couldn’t imagine them in chewy leather form. Ginger however, I do not care for at all. 

Unfortunately my suspicions were warranted. 

Surprisingly, my husband was in agreement of not liking it. My daughter refused to even try once she heard me say it was spicy (oops!). 

The first thing we noticed was that it was not as sticky as the other leathers. It tore apart with the ease of paper. It was the least like a gummy snack in texture of all of the ones we tried. 

As for taste, it's simple - A little apple and carrot hit your taste buds. After a few second the ginger smacks you! 

Between the two of us, we didn’t even finish the strip.

Although I did not get to try it myself, their fifth strip in the line is Tropikale. The front of the wrapper says Mango & kiwi, Kale, sweet potatoes, apples, and Guava. I think this sounds amazing!

Veggies Go’s are sold in boxes with 20 fruit leather sleeves. You can buy them with 20 of a single flavor, or a variety pack containing 4 of each flavor for $27.79 each. 

What I find really amazing is that aside from the packs of sleeves, they sell what is called “Ends and Bits” of each flavor. It is exactly what it sounds like! What is left after they shape beautifully symmetrical rectangles are the ugly ends and bits. Instead of being wasteful and tossing these pieces, that taste just as good, they throw them in a bag and sell them to you for a fraction of the price! One bag contains 14oz, which is equal to 33 sleeves and costs just $19.99! 

Additionally there is a flat rate of $5.99 shipping for any size order purchaged from their online store.

Aside from a few specialty health conscious stores, such as Whole Foods (and they have a Store Locator to find them in your area), you can find Veggie-Go’s online on their site, as well as via Amazon.

Veggie-Go's Website
Veggie-Go's on Facebook


Veggie-Go's has agreed to give a sampler collection of one package of each of their five varieties to one of our readers!

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 lets us 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 12-4. 

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!

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