Thursday, March 29, 2012

Product Review: Betty Crocker Slow Cooker

Posted by Patricia Anne McGoldrick

Betty Crocker Slow Cooker
Product Name: Betty Crocker 4.0 and 5 .0 Quart Slow Cooker             
Retail Price: May vary by store. (I paid $29 plus tax for the 4 Quart)
Where to Get It: Department stores
Sizes/Specifications: 4 quart, 5 quart
Product Description: Small appliance slow cooker in two sizes.
Recommended? Yes!

Review: March is the month to celebrate Slow Cookers. If you are looking for a small appliance to ease the meal planning portion of your day, pick up one of the Betty Crocker Slow Cookers. With their reasonable cost, I would even recommend buying two sizes to meet the needs of your household.

For smaller amounts, the 4 quart cooker is excellent. This is a perfect size for single chefs and couples, small numbers. For empty nesters, this smaller slow cooker will simplify the down-sizing in portions after children have left. Busy singles will have a meal ready for two or three servings.
The larger 6 quart slow cooker is useful still, to have on hand when you expect a bigger crowd for dinner. Stews and soups of all sorts cook well over the day. You can return from work with the evening meal awaiting!

Slow cookers are user friendly for all appetites and cultures. A Meatless Monday dish with beans and rice is delicious. For non-vegans, stroganoff and taco fillings provide tasty choices. Lasagna, with store-bought or home-made pasta sheets, is adaptable to make in both food preferences.
Desserts, too, are ideal for the slow cooker. Comfort foods such as bread pudding and baked apples are a breeze to fit into a slow cooker with the added bonus of creating a tempting fragrance throughout your home.
Flexible is the word for the slow cooker as it can also be used to make a nutritious breakfast family portion of oatmeal to start your day, as well.

The smaller slow cooker comes with a lid strap and an insulated travel bag for carrying your pot-luck contributions to gatherings of family and friends.

These small appliances are packed in sturdy boxes, accompanied by their glass lids and small recipe books with guidelines for product use and limited warranty. Additional information is available at the Betty Crocker website.

Do I have any slow cooker regrets? Only one—I did not discover it sooner!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Reviewed by Alyssa Ast

Title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Rated: R
Run Time: 152 minutes
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Recommended? Yes


"A journalist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing -- or dead -- for forty years by a young female hacker."

Overall, I liked The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, although it was awfully long. I think there are many moments in the movie that could have been left out. I kind of felt like I was watching two different movies for a while-- one movie the first half, another movie the second half, and at the end it went back to the first movie. It was odd, but overall, I guess it worked out.

For the most part it was a good movie, but I probably wouldn't watch it again anytime soon because it is so long. I would still recommend it because it was a good movie; however, I know it isn't for everyone. I wouldn't say its a great movie, but it's a decent movie. If you have a couple of hours to kill, watch it.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kid's Stuff Review: In Step Safari Double Jogging Stroller in Grey/Green

Safari Swivel-Wheel Jogger (Double, Steel Frame)

By Karen Nelson

Product Name: In Step Safari Double Jogging Stroller in Grey/Green
Suggested Retail:  $189.99
Where To Get ItAmazonTargetBabies R UsToys R UsMeijer, and many other retailers
Recommend? Yes

Last summer, my spouse and I decided to purchase the In Step Safari Double Stroller in grey/green for our second and third child which were 9 months and 2 ½-years at the time. 

This stroller comes in what I would consider neutral colors.   I have a boy and girl that I use the Safari for.  The In Step Safari has a hefty 12 inch wheel in the front that swivels and 16 inch wheels in the back.  The front wheel does have the option to also be locked into place, which is great for jogging. 

Another reason why this stroller is great is due to how it can handle rough terrain.  I have a ¼ mile long gravel driveway and love how it takes on the challenge.  The Safari can also fit through standard size doors.

The In Step Safari also features two cup holders with a rubberized fitting at the top of them for parents and a small storage compartment between the two cup holders.  My husband who is a bit under 6 feet and I at 5’6” can comfortably walk behind the stroller and not have to slouch down when pushing it.

There are a few downfalls to the In Step Safari too.  It was advertised to have a “spacious under the seats storage basket”, but it has a support bar that goes between the basket and back of the seating so you can store a lot, but it is a challenge to get past the support bar and put items actually into the basket.  If the bar was flipped over, it would be closer to the top of the basket and allow easier access.  The In Step Safari does have a cup holder built into the tray for each child, but they are not adjustable and wide bottom sippy cups will not work.  Also, the trays can be a little fussy to lock in place.
Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: Blossoms of the Lower Branches

Reviewed by Alyssa Ast

Title: Blossoms of the Lower Branches
Author: Rebecca Guevara
Publisher: Panoply Publishing
Price: Kindle $5.99
Recommended? Yes


Blossoms of the Lower Branches, A Hero's Journey Through Grief, by Rebecca Guevara is an intimate memoir and how-to that invites anyone who is suffering in traumatic grief after losing a loved one. Recovery is a lonely, painful journey with roots through history from myth, fairy tale, religion, literature and contemporary lives. Trying to settle grief is the original hero’s journey that, only through time, can offer wisdom and strength through tears and sorrow.

“An intimate, metaphor-rich guide for directing grief into a hero’s journey. A balm for those seeking a new way to heal from loss.” Kirkus Indie

A winner in the 52nd Annual Original Writing Competition, 2010, State of Utah Division of Arts and Museums

Blossoms reaches out, encouraging, supporting, comforting, embracing and connecting us to the great power of understanding and wisdom, helping us to emerge triumphant. Helen J., who lost her son

Rebecca is a fellow traveler who made many mistakes as she grieved after her brother’s death. Only after many years did she piece together her story and realize its similarity with the hero’s journey. She tells her story, along with the stories of many other grievers who eventually accept, prepare and make the journey before experiencing a thoughtful return to a renewed life.
Information courtesy of

Typically, I don't read this type of book, which may be one reason I had a difficult time getting into the book. The other reason I had a hard time getting into the book was because I have never had to deal with grief. However, with that being said, even though I don't generally read books like Blossoms of the Lower Branches, I would still recommend it.

Rebecca Guevara wrote this book beautifully. She has an excellent and unique style of writing that can't be ignored. The elegance of the words within the pages are unmatched. Not only does the book provide intimate information, but contains factual and well researched information as well. Simply saying this book is excellently written just wouldn't do the book justice.

Although Blossoms of the Lower Branches isn't my typical cup of tea, and I didn't find this book helpful myself, I know it will benefit others. I do recommend it for anyone who is or has struggled with grief. And, if you enjoy well written books, than it's also the book for you!
Sunday, March 18, 2012

Kid Stuff Review: Knot Genie Detangling Brush

By Karen Nelson
Product Name: Knot Genie
Suggested Retail: $19.99
Knot Genie is available in one size.  Colors available: fairy pink, camo cloud, blue cloud, puff of purple, and tinseltown silver.
Recommend? Yes

I have a three-year-old and five-year-old in my household, both girls.  My oldest daughter has thick hair and the youngest daughter has fine hair.  With both, it had often been a challenge to brush their hair in the morning, especially for my daughter with fine hair.  She often wakes with snarls formed in the back of her head.  Both of my daughters currently have shoulder length hair. 

We usually would tackle it with brush and detangling spray in hand, but I had heard good things about the Knot Genie and wanted to try it out firsthand.  The Knot Genie is to work on all types of hair, curly, wavy, straight, or just a mind of its own.  

The Knot Genie is a plastic bristle brush.  It has two different lengths of bristles (teeth).  This causes the teeth to bend just right in working to gently untangle the hair.  I was surprised at how quickly it removed tangles without the assistance of the de-tangling spray on my daughters.  It does make a sound that makes me worry that I am breaking the hairs when brushing, but I have only found a strand or two left behind between the teeth to clean out and we have been using it for a couple weeks.  Their hair appears healthy.   The Knot Genie does make a wide pass so it takes a little bit of practice to correctly gather a section of hair for a ponytail or clip.

The Knot Genie is to keep the hair’s cuticle intact since there isn’t the pulling and so forth to remove the tangles.  This leads to smooth and shiny hair.  Another plus to this brush is the overall design.  The Knot Genie can easily be used by a child's small hands and is for left-handed or right-handed.  This brush has been a nice confidence booster for my daughters.  They can now try brushing on their own with sometimes a little help from a parent afterward.  

Book Review: Small-Space Container Gardens

Guest Review by Patricia Anne McGoldrick

Title: Small-Space Container Gardens--Transform Your Balcony, Porch, or Patio with Fruits, Flowers, Foliage & Herbs
Author: Fern Richardson
Publisher: Timber Press
Recommended? Yes!

If you have ever dreamed of having a garden but are constrained by price or space, this is the book for you!

Fern Richardson, blogger and master gardener, has compiled a handbook of hints, advice and photos to inspire any wannabe gardener.

In less than 200 pages, the reader is introduced to the concept of container gardens, their delight and challenges.

Richardson’s book is divided into 9 chapters. Each segment is written in user-friendly gardening tone, enabling the reader to learn the fundamentals of working in small spaces, plant choices, pest management and aesthetic approaches to container gardening.

The strengths of the book, for me, were the visual aspects—frequent photos and planning sketches (Those on p.72 & 94 were especially helpful!) with creative, economical suggestions for patios and balconies.

It is a great book for novice gardeners, in general, and for those more experienced gardeners, in particular, who wish to downsize into smaller settings.

Although the Fern Richardson is located in California, she has provided relevant information on temperature zones to assist in plant selections, along with a handy list of further reading references.

The author blogs at and is connected, as well, through social media contacts.

This is a handy book to have on your gardening shelf!
Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kid Stuff Review: My Carry Potty

By Jennifer Tomasino

My Carry Potty

I’ve often wondered “what has been the best parenting product I’ve ever purchased?” What piece of merchandise honestly makes my life with small children that much easier? Is it the baby carrier? The stroller? That overpriced diaper pail?

Today I had an answer. We were traveling down the freeway and the baby was fast asleep, when the toddler started fussing and saying she had to go potty. I asked her if she could wait just a few minutes and was answered with increasingly frantic movements and noises.

So we pulled over right there on the freeway, I opened the potty seat and put it in the passenger side front, then turned around and pulled the squirming child up into the front. We got her situated, she did her business, I closed the potty, we used hand sanitizer, and she got buckled in her chair. Five minutes flat, we never even opened a car door- and the baby slept through it all.

If we hadn’t had this nifty little potty we might have had an accident. The baby definitely would have woken up, and the whole process of finding a bathroom, unloading kids, traipsing into said bathroom, at least ten “no, don’t touch that, it’s dirty” admonishments, and then loading the kids back into the car- it would have taken at least 20 minutes.

We carry our potty with us everywhere. It is mostly leakproof (mostly, as in, I wouldn’t shake it too hard if it’s full…), it fits in my massive diaper bag or the bottom of the stroller, and you just close it up and leave the mess for later. We’ve taken it to the park, on road trips, to the beach, the fair, basically anywhere the toddler goes.

So the way I see it, that thirty bucks, used about 4 times a week; it saves me a whole afternoon a month. Now that’s a product that makes my life easier. :-)

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