NCircle Entertainment, Hit Entertainment & Fisher Price – Mike the Knight DVD, Activity Book & Toy Set Review and Giveaway
This has probably one of my kids' favorite reviews to date! NCircle Entertainment and Hit Entertainment are announcing the release the DVD launch of their popular medieval, CG-animated Nick Jr. series, Mike the Knight™. I had never seen Mike the Knight so this was also a treat for this mom. My kiddos have watched the “Mike the Knight: Knight in Training,” DVD at least 5 times within 48 hours of opening it. In addition to this great little DVD, we also received a pretty sweet Mike the Knight activity book, and a Fisher-Price Mike the Knight Sword and Shield. (The shield and sword has elicited several fights between my son and daughter.)
"Featuring five fun-and-learning-filled adventures, "Mike the Knight: Knight in Training" finds Mike on missions to serve and protect the Kingdom of Glendragon. Whether it's locating the perfect birthday surprise for his sister Evie, or helping others find their way back home, every day is an adventure with Mike and his friends! The all-new Glendragon Matching Game, as well as Meet Mike’s Friends! Music Videos and a karaoke version of the theme song are also included. ~ NCircle Entertainment
What I absolutely loved about this little package is that my daughter immediately fell in love with it. Even though I had given the toys to my son, she thought they were the best thing ever. I'm all for gender-neutral toys and shows, and while this I think is slightly geared more toward boys, it didn't phase her in the slightest. She wanted to be a knight, and fight dragons, and live in a castle. I love anything that expands her imagination and introduces her to new concepts of play and pretend. Both of my kids chased after the dog with the sword, and they even played together - one using the shield and one using the sword.
The activity from Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing book has lots of great things to do, include reading along with character introductions, connect the dots, pictures to color, and drawing prompts that encourage your children to use their imagination. The middle even has a poster that the kids can take out (or that the adults can help remove) and hang on their walls. Unfortunately, mine thought this was too good to wait for mommy's help and it ended up in pieces all over the floor. Oops. They're very destructive if you can't tell.
Mike the Knight is a show I would much prefer my children enjoying over various others on TV. I am so glad we were finally introduced to it through this review. I know this will be something my kids will enjoy for several more years, and I think I now have some more Christmas and birthday gift ideas!
One lucky reader will also win their very own Royal Prize Package! Total ARV is approximately $30. ($12.99 DVD, $4.99 Activity Book, $11.99 Sword & Shield). To enter, use the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to legal residents of the USA who are ages 18+. Entrants must complete the mandatory entry in order to be eligible to win.
"INCREDIBLE DRIVING WITH INCREDIBLE FUEL ECONOMY IS NO LONGER A DREAM. IT'S A MAZDA."
One of the many cars I've test driven while searching for new vehicles is the Mazda 3. This was several years ago, however this, much like the Mazda5, was not really one of my favorites and we bypassed purchasing it. It felt cheaply made and when I compared the price of the vehicle to what I perceived as a lack of quality, it just wasn't adding up in my favor. I recently had the chance to review a new 2013 Mazda3 i Grand Touring. Our family didn't have any big trips planned so we wanted to try out a car that would be great for living in the city, putting around for errands, and commuting into work. Our biggest concern when purchasing a vehicle is almost always the interior size of the vehicle. My daughter is still in a booster seat, and my son still rides in a massive car seat. Plus, I have an 11 year old step-daughter who insists on having a lot of room even if we're just going a mile down the road. A smaller more compact vehicle almost NEVER fits us all comfortably. Of course fuel economy, comfort, and most bang for your buck are also all important qualities we look for as well.
"Quick off the line and aggressive in the curves, in the world of compact cars the Mazda3 is the true driver’s bread and butter. And with up to an EPA-estimated 40 MPG Highway,† the driving excitement goes on and on." ~ Mazda
I have to admit that I've never operated a car that had a keyless ignition. It was really quite pathetic trying to figure it out. The car was telling me to "compress break to start". So I did that. And I did that again. It didn't click for awhile that I needed to HOLD the brake down with my foot and push the ignition button simultaneously. Duh. Okay, once I figured that all we were all set to get this review started. The first thing I noticed was that the brakes weren't quite as sensitive as I normally like them to be. I felt that I had to push the brake pedal down about half way before the car would begin to slow down. After getting used to it though, I think it really was just a personal preference of mine and nothing more. By the time I drove it a couple of times I didn't even notice what I hadn't originally like about the brakes.
When my 6' 2" husband gets into a car, the first thing he does is move the driver's seat ALL the way back as far as it can go. When he did that with the 2013 Mazda3 it went back TOO far. That NEVER happens! He was so beyond impressed. "This is the first car that I can't put the seat all the way back in. I can't reach the pedals if I do." Granted this means that if the seat is all the way back there isn't much room for little legs in the back seat. However, this also means that my 6' 10" Uncle could probably comfortably drive this car.
The back seat was spacious enough for very short trips. We went grocery shopping, and to Home Depot, and since these places weren't more than a couple of miles away, no one complained about lack of room in the back seat. The back seat would definitely work well for 3 kids without car seats, and is probably most comfortable for 2 who are in car seats. The one thing that really made up for a smaller back seat was the massive trunk. This car can hold a LOT of stuff in its caboose. My husband picked up several shelving units amongst some other things and brought it all back home in the trunk of the vehicle with space to spare! Definitely a fantastic car for grocery shopping, or even traveling overnight somewhere with luggage for the entire family. I started imagining all of the trays of plants I could bring home for my sad looking flower bed.... Heck, I think it was big enough to sleep in.
It was suggested that we check out the handling of the vehicle. Basically we were given permission to find some corners and see how well this baby could take them on. Once we were in a parking lot, my husband took over. I guess technically we were speeding for a parking lot, but not by much, and he was whipping us around like we were on the Tea Cup ride at Disney World. (Slight exaggeration.) The 2013 Mazda3 handles SUPER well for the speed we had it at. Unfortunately we didn't end up anywhere that we could test it out on corners above 45 MPH. We did notice however that we weren't super fond of the engine. We noticed that when we started the car the engine ran a lot louder than we would have expected for a 4 cylinder engine. (I think it might have been because we left the radio and AC on when we would turn the car off, and maybe with how hot it was the engine was just working on overtime to get everything running.) The other thing we noticed about the engine was that it wasn't as responsive as we'd have liked it to be. There was often a delay between pushing down on the gas pedal and the car's RPM's increasing. It was significant enough to the point where my husband really complained about it and continued to demonstrate that it wasn't just in his head.
Our final test of the Mazda3 was my husband commuting into work. We live a good 10 miles or so outside of Washington DC where my husband works and DC is notorious for terrible traffic. (This is why he either takes the metro or rides his moped into work.) He said he got about 30 MPG which is probably thanks to the Skyactiv technology. He didn't have any issues with blind spots and that the car navigated through the traffic well. He said it was a great little commuter car. He did come home and say that he was glad he didn't rely on the blind-spot monitoring system because it didn't always work. There would be times that he thought the lights should come on to warn him of vehicles next to him, and they didn't, but other times in the same sort of situation they did.
The 2013 Mazda3 boasts many additional features which were all pretty nifty and instead of listening to describe them all you should definitely check out Mazda online. I do want to say that one of my favorites was the moon roof with one-touch open controls and the two 12v power outlets. The heated mirrors and seats are also a great touch if you live in states that stay cold during the winter. The seats were extremely comfortable, and included child safety seat anchors, including three top anchors in the back seat, and a cross-chest seat belt in the middle seat. The government safety rating on the Mazda3 is also pretty good with an overall 4-Star rating and was named top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
We definitely enjoyed driving this little beauty around. She was snazzy, fuel efficient, had tons of space for the type of car it is, and felt that it would make a good option for a future car purchase!
*I was provided a car for a week from STI & Mazda in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
I am VERY picky about potato salad, and my husband is even worse. A couple of summers ago I whipped up this recipe, and much to my surprise (and delight) my husband LOVED it. The only problem with telling you this recipe is that most of it is "to taste". The good thing about this, as long as you have the ingredients you can make it to suit your preferences, which is what cooking is really all about, right? Epicurean was super awesome and sponsored our entire Blogger Recipe Challenge group this month. We each received an 11.5" x 9" non-slip cutting board. This is usually my go-to cutting board when I only have a little prep-work to do, or when I'm getting ready to add some garnish. For my Curried Potato Salad recipe , I used it for the potatoes, eggs, and parsley. Awesome!
Ingredients (Serves 8-12):
- 8 - Medium Russet or Red Potatoes (I prefer red for the softer skins.)
- 6 - Eggs
- 2 TBSP - Dijon Mustard
- 1 TBSP - White Vinegar
- 1 Cup - Mayonnaise
- 4 TBSP - Butter
- Paprika - To Taste
- Black Pepper - To Taste
- Curry - To Taste
- Salt - To Taste
- Garnish of Choice (I used parsley but you could easily use chives or green onion.)
- Largely cube potatoes. I personally prefer to leave the skins on. I like the added flavor and texture, especially if using red potatoes.
- Bring a large pot add water and 2 TBSP of butter (and salt if you wish) to a boil.
- Add potatoes, cover and cook until soft, but not mushy. Approximately 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, mix together mustard, vinegar, mayo, paprika, curry, and black pepper. Taste test as you go! Remember, you can always add more of something, but you can't take it out.
- Drain potatoes, and rinse with cold water. Add back into the pot or a large bowl.
- Combine potatoes with 2 TBSP of butter and mayo mixture. Stir roughly so the potatoes start to break up, but don't become mashed.
- Add more salt, pepper, curry, etc. to taste.
- Chill the potato salad.
- To hard boil eggs, add 6 eggs to a medium saucepan covering the eggs with an inch of cold water.
- Bring eggs and water to a boil.
- Once boiling, remove from heat.
- Reduce heat to low and place pot back onto the burner.
- After a minute, remove from heat and cover. Allow to sit 12-13 minutes.
- Cool by adding cold water to the pot.
- Peel, cut and add to the salad and chill until time to serve.
- Garnish with your choice of greenery and paprika.
"Our signature material is made with multiple layers of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood fibers,compressed with a food-safe resin. We also have introduced a line of Eco Plastic products that utilizes 100% post-consumer recycled milk jugs. All of our products are made in the USA." ~ Epicurean
Now, back to Epicurean and their Non-Slip Cutting board! You can never have too many cutting boards. Well, I'm sure that's not a true statement, but I love having multiples for different things. As previously mentioned, Epicurean sent us all their 11.5" x 9" Non-Slip cutting boards for us to test out. Honestly, this size is a little small for my unskilled cutting abilities, however it really is great to keep right next to the stove, or used for small portions of food. (It's even fine for large chopping tasks as long as you have some place to put the food in as you're going along.) The Epicurean non-slip cutting board is special in the fact that the silicone corners are removable for easy cleaning. To make cleaning even easier, the board is also dishwasher safe! (Not something you can really say about a bamboo board.) This little baby cleans up immaculately even without pre-rinsing before going into the washed, and I noticed I haven't used a single food item on it that has stained it.
One of the things about Epicurean (and this cutting board) is that their products are made from the same materials as skate board ramps. In fact, was founded by custom skate park manufacturer TrueRide® as a way to repurpose excess skating surface material. How cool is that? Add to the fact that all of Epicurean's products are made in the USA and you've got yourself a winning combination in my opinion.
The Epicurean non-slip cutting board is also knife friendly, and is heat resistant up to 350°F - which means cutting hot meat isn't a problem especially for those of you who have little kids you need to cut things up for.
This is definitely a great little product, and honestly I'd like to have one in a larger size too. I love how it stays put on my counter, and how the knife just kind of glides across the top of it, instead of cutting into it. Easy to clean too.... yup, I'm sold!
*I received the above mentioned product free of charge from Epicurean in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
About a year ago I had the opportunity to work with Build-A-Bear Workshop on a review of one of their Farmer's Market animals. My kids just adore their Build-A-Bear Workshop stuffed animals. My daughter sleeps with her brother's monkey every night. When she brings it down stairs in the morning it results in a massive fight. This is usually something along the lines of, "That's MINE!" Then she promptly shoves her younger brother to the floor, and he sits on the opposite end of the couch to regroup before going back in for round 2. *Ding Ding Ding* Let's get ready to rumbleeeeee!
On May 17th, Build-A-Bear Workshop just released two new "animals" to their Beary Limited Edition line. Let's welcome Sponge Bob & Patrick! There is also a 8.5 inch Sandy and a 6" Gary in a smaller pre-stuffed size. Know how I said my kids liked to fight over the monkey they have? Yeah, Patrick has elicited the exact same response. That's a good thing though, right? What brand doesn't want to hear that their toys are so popular they start a personal WWIII in the homes where their products reside.
To be 100% truthful, we're not a huge Sponge Bob family. Mostly because I think my kids are too young to watch it. However, I knew they'd love Patrick even if they weren't 100% sure who he is. They've watched the show a couple of times when there wasn't much else on and I needed mommy break. Plus, who just doesn't love the look of Patrick? He's so cute and funny!
Patrick, as previously mentioned, is an 18" Build-A-Bear that comes in a beautiful coral color. He's also super soft just like most of the other Build-A-Bear Workshop products we own. I think the combination of the bright vibrant colors and the texture of the material he's made out of is what really attracted my kids to him. Although Patrick doesn't fit into most of the Build-A-Bear clothing line, they did create a pirate outfit for him. If you have one of those kids who insists on dressing up their Build-A-Bear's it's nice to know that Patrick wasn't been left out. (Sponge Bob also has a pirate outfit you can purchase for him too.)
It's so hard not to fall in love with this new Beary Limited Edition line of characters! (We've also purchased Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony for my Daughter's Birthday. She is a huge MLP fan.) I'm always searching for a great deal on them, so make sure you check out Build-A-Bear Workshop on Facebook. Every once in awhile they release a great coupon! You can also find Build-A-Bear Workshop on Twitter, and Pinterest. If you have an iPhone you can download the Build-A-Bear Workshop app for FREE and get immediate updates.
Build-A-Bear Workshop is giving one lucky DealPeddler reader a $25 Bear Bucks Gift Card! Giveaway will run for approximately a week and is open to residents who are 18+ of the USA. You'll be able to enter [HERE] when it is live.
*I received the above mentioned product free of charge from Build-A-Bear Workshop in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
So, it happened again. My husband decided it was time for us to go camping. Camping in April? What?! This isn't a thing that normally occurs in Maine and needless to say I was relatively unprepared. We usually borrowed supplies from my mother, but that was just not possible with our relocation to DC. LightSpeed Outdoors had been fantastic last September and let us review their Vermont 4 Pro tent. We loved it so much, that I reached out again to see if they might have another tent on hand they'd like a review on. I mean, that tent had stood up to the weather of whatever hurricane had come through the US coast last September. Rain, wind, it handled it all and we loved how easy it was to set up and take down.
LightSpeed Outdoors offered their Compound 8 tent for this camping trip. Oh my holy goodness was this a monster of a tent. And by that, I mean this tent was HUGE. Hugely awesome that is (and huge in size).
"The Compound 8 offers three rooms divided by zippered walls, making it the most spacious Lightspeed Outdoors® tent yet. The main area sets up with pre-attached poles and the compression hub system. Telescoping poles elevate the main tent upward and lock into place. Additional poles are attached to frame out the remainder of the tent. While this tent is very easy to set up, we recommend trying it at home the first time to become familiar with the setup process. In addition to the sleeping area, a large screened porch can be used to get out of the sun or to help keep bugs at bay." ~ LightSpeed Outdoors
There were so many amazing features about the Compound 8 that I'm not even sure how to begin. Much like the Vermont 4 Pro, the Compound 8 comes in a large duffel bag which makes it really easy to pack away. You know those old school tents that used to have the tiniest bag ever, and you'd have to fold it a very specific way after getting all of the air out with the hope that it might just fit back into the bag the way it was supposed to. (My mother had written instructions packed away with her tent so she could remember how to pack it back into the bag.) Disassembling the tent was as easy as removing the polls, releasing the compression hub, and rolling it up. The tent even comes with extra compression straps so everything stays together and easily packs away.
Setting the tent up was almost as easy as taking it down. I say almost, because there just seemed to be a lot of steps. While it doesn't quite go up the way the Vermont 4 Pro did, it's also very similar. All you need to do is lay out the tent, attach the compression hub, extend out the telescoping poles, thread the poles through the sides, steak it down, set up the porch and you're done.Most of the poles are already attached! The only additional poles are for the outer rooms, and the front porch. The poles are also color coded so it's pretty fool proof. I had watched the "how to" video before taking the tent on our trip and I could easily direct my husband on how to set it up. Hey, I was taking the photos or else I would have set it up. Turns out that he only needed my extra set of hands a couple of times, and in all probability he most likely could have set it up alone if he had really tried. The duffel bag also has the printed instructions sewn into the side of it, so even if you didn't watch the video, the 8-Step directions break it down for you. One of the things I love is that there are very few actual parts. The tent comes with a rain fly, 4 steel poles with grey tape, 2 fiberglass poles with grey tape, 2 steel poles with red tape, 1 fiberglass pole with red tape and 33 stakes. One little feature that I think while not super significant, is still pretty nifty is that the rain fly directly buckles to the tent. It definitely won't be going anywhere in a storm!
Like I said, the tent itself is MASSIVE. My husband and I camped out using the Vermont 4 Pro (still think we should have given that one to the kids), and we stuck our kids in the Compound 8. There was MORE than enough room for all of them, plus our bags we packed, and anything extra we needed to store. My husband and I could have easily fit our queen size air mattress in there along with everything else. Having dividers in the tent is also a plus if you want to sleep in the same tent as your kids, or even other friends. The tallest part of the tent is nearly 7 feet tall, which means both my husband and I could easily stand up straight in it.
The only thing I had a slight issue with, is that I accidentally broke one of the poles. Not one of the telescoping ones that are pre-attached, but one of the smaller steel or fiberglass ones. And it wasn't that I broke it in half and can't fix it, it was just that where it hinges together I kind of unhinged it. Nothing a pair of pliers and some patience can't fix. Or my husband. I think I was a little excited to be heading home and just got carried away trying to take the tent down as fast as possible. Oops. I don't think it was a flaw of the tent, just my poor judgement and user error. We can't wait for our next camping trip this year! LightSpeed Outdoors has become a brand I will immediately recommend if anyone is looking around for a new tent. Both have been fantastic to us, and we absolutely love the products.
The LightSpeed Outdoors Compound 8 retails for $499.99 (shipping included) directly from LightSpeed Outdoors.
You can find LightSpeed Outdoors on Facebook too.
Guess what? LightSpeed is giving DealPeddler readers a chance to win a Compound 8 tent! Once the giveaway is live you'll be able to enter [HERE]. Giveaway is open to legal residents of the USA who are 18+.
* I was given the above mentioned product free of charge from LightSpeed Outdoors in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
May: Meatless Challenge – Baked Ziti with Sharp Cheddar & Baby Bellas + Core Bamboo Large Color Board Product Review
I make a pretty decent baked mac and cheese, but I've been feeling like something is missing. For our Meatless May Blogger Recipe Challenge, I decided to see what I could come up with. Hubs had brought home an extra container of mushrooms despite his mushroom reservations. (Love it when he brings extra food home that I love cooking with.) I had plenty of noodles, and cheese is regularly stocked up in the house. The few things I really needed were dried marjoram (I still really don't know what this is), and a couple of leeks. I have to say, I'm never going back to regular ol' baked mac and cheese again. This recipe was phenominal. Everyone in my house loved it (except my picky eater of a daughter). The best part, is that it's prepared like you would prepare a baked mac dish. Super simple and that's just the way I like it to be!
For this recipe I'm also reviewing a Core Bamboo cutting board. They were SUPER generous and sponsored our entire group this month by sending along their Large Color Board in magenta and a few extra goodies including their matching Madrid Utensil Set, and a matching Easy Grip Rolling Pin.
- 1lb - Ziti
- 8oz - Baby Bella Mushrooms (Chopped)
- 2 - Leeks (White Parts Only. Quartered Lengthwise then Sliced)
- 3 TBSP - Salted Butter
- 1/4 Cup - Flour
- 2 Cups - Sharp Cheddar (Divided into 1.5 and .5 cups)
- 3 Cups - Milk
- 1 TBSP - Dried Marjoram
- 3/4 to 1 TBSP - Dijon Mustard
- 1 Tsp - Salt
- 1/8 Tsp - Nutmeg
- 1 Cup - Regular Panko
- Pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. At the same time bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
- Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add in mushrooms, leeks, and marjoram. Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until mushrooms become soft.
- Add into the mushrooms and leeks the flour and combine.
- Quickly whisk in warmed milk.
- Allow mixture to simmer for 15 minutes while stirring occasionally. Add in salt, pepper, mustard, and nutmeg.
- At the same time the mixture is simmering, cook your ziti according to package instructions. Remove from hot water when noodles are just barely done. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Combine sauce, 1.5 cups sharp cheddar, and noodles. Pour into an 8"x13" baking dish.
- Top with remaining sharp cheddar and panko.
- Bake 30 minutes or until top becomes a golden brown and cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges.
I absolutely love my Large Color Core Bamboo cutting board. I've owned several Core Bamboo boards in the past, and currently have a massive one that I use almost every time that I cook. My husband actually bought several of the large ones for Christmas gifts when they were on sale on some deal site a few months back. However, there's just something about the magenta coloring along the outside of this board, and the unique contoured shape it has that makes this rank up to at least the #2 spot out of all of the cutting boards I have owned and still do own.
"This large bamboo cutting board is ideal for all food prep, presentation and serving. Made of durable, long-lasting renewable bamboo that is harder than most traditional hardwoods, this magenta accented board won't dull knives and are maintenance free. Prepare everything from weekday meals to Thanksgiving dinner with these durable cutting boards or present your newest culinary creation at your table with pride." ~ Core Bamboo
One thing that I love about bamboo boards is the fact that they're less absorbent than wood ones and is a natural anti-microbial, which means less bacteria remains on the board. Personally I wouldn't suggest using this board for cutting meat (but I've definitely done it myself and the description says all food prep is fine). Because bamboo is a grass, bamboo cutting boards are considered more eco-friendly than boards made from other materials. Bamboo grows quickly and regenerates itself as long as the roots remain intact. Bamboo is stronger than maple, extremely lightweight, and best of all it won't dull your knives. Core Bamboo goes a step further and makes all of their products from 100% organically grown bamboo. They make sure their adhesives are food safe and water based, in addition to using top grade oils, and and a lacquer from natural cashew trees. I love that their cco-consciousness doesn't just stop with their products. Whenever possible Core Bamboo also tries to use recycled and eco-friendly packaging materials. Awesome!
Like I said, I love this board. It's the perfect size for large quantities of vegetable cutting, and it fits nicely on my over-crowded counter. It's extremely easy clean and always comes out looking beautiful and like it's brand new. I will be honest and say I've put my into the dishwasher the few nights that I was feeling lazy. This is not recommended (but it's easy to clean by hand). It is recommended that to extend the life of your board that you use a food-safe mineral oil every now and again when your board starts getting that "tired" look. From my experience in the past with bamboo boards this is when it starts to dull a little and there are some knife marks in it.
Make sure you take the time to find Core Bamboo online and browse around. You will LOVE their awesome selection of products, the unique designs, and how beautiful everything is. You can also find Core Bamboo on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Definitely a brand worth checking out. (I could honestly say I'd die happy if my entire kitchen was stocked up with their products.)
*I received the above mentioned products free of charge from Core Bamboo in order to facilitate this recipe and review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
"Designed for Life Unexpected"
Since meeting my husband I feel like I've been through 1,001 vehicles. When we met I had a Hyundai Accent, and he had a Toyota Camry. Then he traded that in for another Toyota truck of some sort, and I got a Jeep Wrangler. After finding out I was expecting my first child the Wrangler went bye-bye and I ended up with a Pontiac Vibe. Then we were gifted an old mini-van and my Vibe went away so we could save some moola. We drove that mommy-van all the way from Maine to DC when we moved, and it decided to erm... pass away, leaving me without a family vehicle. Thankfully we live right near the metro, and have a truck and a moped (my husband decided he wanted a new toy), and we can rent a vehicle every now and again when we all need to get somewhere. We are looking around for a new car, however my family wanted to go camping ASAP since we've had gorgeous weather, and we really didn't want to have to shell out a couple hundred dollars just to get to a campsite.
I was very blessed because an opportunity to test out a car for Mazda came knocking at my door. The only problem, was figuring out which would work best for our family. "Umm... I have three kids, and two with car seats, so if possible could you please let me try a car that will fit everyone?" They came back and said, "How about the 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring? It has third row seating." PERFECT!
I've test driven so many vehicles. (I'm one of those people who even if I think I know I'm not going to purchase the car, still might take it out to see if a test drive might change my mind.) About 4 years ago I test drove a Mazda5. I wasn't impressed. The suspension felt like I was driving a little race car, and the interior and controls just felt cheap. It was kind of like driving a matchbox car. Needless to say, this past experience had me a little worried about not liking the 2013 Mazda5. But, I figured that it has been several years, and car manufacturers are known for improving issues and hopefully not creating new ones. Who knew? Maybe I'd find my next family vehicle.
"With sporty performance, pure athletic style and a roomy interior, the Mazda5 defies category labels while delivering on versatility. The 6-passenger seating is easily accessible by two sliding rear doors, while the 2.5L DOHC engine delivers impressive power without compromising fuel efficiency. Because calling it a minivan doesn't mean it has to drive like one." ~Mazda
When the Mazda5 was dropped off, I was given a quick rundown of all of the features. Have to be honest, it all kind of in went in one ear and out the other because there were SO MANY FEATURES. See all of those buttons and knobs on the console? Yeah, I had this car a week and still didn't need to use them all.
The Mazda5 is Bluetooth and Audio Connectivity capable. Which means you can connect your phone and answer calls or listen to music through the car's 6 speaker audio system while remaining hands free. Just push the button on your steering wheel and you're good to go. I could definitely see my husband using this if we had the car longer. He already connect our house phone to our cell phones. The Mazda5 also has a USB input port so you can easily connect your MP3 player (or charge a cell phone). I can't forget to mention the available Sirius Satellite Radio with 120+ radio stations too. I think my husband picked up on all of the gadgetry faster than I did. I was more concerned about comfort, and safety.
The Mazda5 pretty much has it all when it comes to comfort. Something my husband always looks for is the cruise control feature. The Mazda5 has the controls right on the steering wheel making it super simple to use. MY favorite luxury was the power controlled moon roof. I've always wanted a vehicle with one. Something about cars make me feel a little claustrophobic, but having a little window in the roof definitely improve my personal comfort levels. The seats are cushy and ergonomically correct. Along with the leather trimmed upholstery, the front seats are also heated. Obviously didn't need to use that feature since the week I had it our weather was in the 70's, but it's a nice feature I've never had in any of my other vehicles.
The seats I think were my favorite feature. The middle row seats quickly fold down with just a single pull of a lever, and they also adjust forward and backward too. The third row also has a lot of space due to the fact that it only seats two, but the seats, while separate, also sit flush with each other. Now, that's not to say the second row isn't huge either. My son's car seat is MASSIVE and there was plenty of space for it and room for his feet. Both second and third row seats fold down FLAT. My Vibe did that, and I've always thought it was the best idea ever. Another neat little feature having to do with the seats is that the second row has a little bit of storage space underneath the cushions. The seat on the right side of the vehicle also houses a little try for food and drinks under the cushion.
Now, because I travel around with three kids, safety is definitely important. The Mazda5 has rear back-up sensors which will beep if you're getting too close to something. Not that I've ever backed into anything, but... I've come close a few times and not necessarily realized how close. Halogen headlights come standard, but you can also upgrade to Xenon High-Intensity Discharge headlights. Either way, the road is illuminated at night really well. No problems seeing ahead into the distance, or down the nose of the car. The Mazda5 also boasts 4-wheel disc breaks, Electronic Breakforce Distribution, Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control, tire pressure monitoring system, six standard airbags, and fast inflating air-curtains. Thankfully none of these were needed. But, ya gotta admit it's nice to know they're there!
Earlier I mentioned that the last Mazda5 I drove I really had an issue with the suspension and interior. This car did a complete 180º since the older model. The suspension was SO smooth. My opinion of Mazda's quality definitely improved with the 2013 Mazda5. The interior I felt was much better quality too. It didn't FEEL as plastic and cheap as the one I tried before. In fact, it felt rather luxurious.
There was only ONE thing that I was a little disappointed with. I was really hoping that this car would fit all 5 of us, the dog, and our camping gear, but the trunk space just wasn't large enough. Even with one of the third row seats folded down. It easily fit 3 people and the dog, and probably could have handled 4 people and the dog, but that entire third row needed to be folded down to get everything else in. It's not a big deal if you don't need to carry that much stuff with so many people, but we are a large family and enjoy taking trips together, even if it's just for a weekend of camping. I still absolutely LOVE this car, and would definitely recommend it if you're looking for a mini-van/crossover. It's perfect for a family car, running errands, and even taking long trips in if you don't have tents, sleeping bags, bedding, food, etc. to pack. There was nothing in the 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring that I didn't want, and everything that I could EVER want.
*I was provided a car for a week from STI & Mazda in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
Last Fall I worked with Teton Sports and had the opportunity to review their TETON Sports Celsius XL –18°C/0°F Sleeping Bag. It was a FANTASTIC sleeping bag. It was perfectly huge, soft, warm, and I still can't get over how much I love the storage bags with the compression straps. Well, my husband decided we needed to go on a Spring camping trip this year. The weather had been extremely nice lately, and while it's nice to camp when it's super hot out because of all of the swimming options that tend to be available, camping is a lot of work. And, a lot of work in the sweltering heat just kind of takes away from the fun of being outdoors. Because I loved working with Teton Sports so much last year, I reached out again to see if we could review a new product. We settled on the Fahrenheit Regular 0°F Sleeping Bag. (Unfortunately it didn't arrive in time for THIS particular camping trip, but I can still give it a solid two thumbs up and will definitely be using it in the future.)
"This well-built sleeping bag keeps you warm in all but the most extreme temperatures. Cozy cotton flannel lining feels like luxury bed sheets Zipper and shoulder baffles keep drafts out of the openings Dual layer construction with staggered seams distribute fill evenly to reduce compression and eliminate chilly spots. Mummy style hood snugs around neck with drawstring. No-snag, self-repairing zipper opens top or bottom for adjustable ventilation and connects easily to second bag for shared sleeping space." ~ Teton Sports
There are so many fantastic features about this sleeping bag but I think the most important is that it was constructed for durability and warmth. The flannel liner is 100% brushed cotton making it super soft and breathable. Several of my photos have my daughter in it. She jumped right in and pretended to sleep even without a pillow (which she ALWAYS needs). Yeah, the inside of the sleeping bag is THAT soft. I figured she can play and model the bag for me all she wants, but at the end of the day, I'm staking my claims on it.
The top part of the sleeping bag has a drawstring to turn the head part into a hood so your head and pillow stay off of the ground. Personally, that's what I use an air mattress for, (I'm a slight pansy when it comes to camping.) however I've used other sleeping bags with hoods like this to keep bugs off of my face. Nothing like trying to get a few hours of sleep before everyone is awake at the crack of dawn and having to swat mosquitoes away from your face every 10 minutes.
The shell of the bag is made from taffeta which is lightweight and lends to the warmth and durability of the sleeping bag. Then there are little things about the bag that I also really appreciated. There's a Velcro strap at the top of the bag where the zipper ends so it prevents drafts, and I think it also helps keep the zipper from sliding down on its own while you're sleeping. The zipper is also amazing. It's self-repairing and zips OH SO smoothly. The sleeping bag is also constructed with full length draft tubes which is a huge bonus for me. While camping the other weekend we brought our other Teton bag with us and used it as a blanket. While warm, it wasn't warm enough because of the drafts. I can only imagine how well this one would have performed given the ability to zip it up instead of having to share one big one.
If you're looking to create one HUGE sleeping bag, you can buy left and right zippered bags so you can zip them together. (Isn't one of the fun parts about camping getting to snuggle with your hunny?) Teton Sports also has a limited lifetime warranty on the sleeping bag. Oh, and it's non-allergenic.
Although not super significant, I think my favorite feature is the Oxford Compression Sack that comes with the bag. You don't even need to roll up the sleeping bag before stuffing it in, and the compression straps let you shrink it down even further to conserve space. If you're like our family you have to pack a TON of stuff just for a few nights away and any little extra space counts.
- Dimensions: 80" x 33"
- Temperature Rating: 0°F
- Fill: SuperLoft Elite™ 4–Channel Hollow Fiber
- Shell: Taffeta
- Lining: 100% Cotton Flannel
- Storage: Oxford Compression Sack with Drawstring Closure
- Zipper: Left or Right Hand
- Pack Weight: 5.5 lbs
- Pack Size: 15" x 10" x 10"
- Color: Grey
Teton Sports has also offered to give away a Fahrenheit Regular 0°F Degrees! Once giveaway is live you'll be able to enter [HERE]. Giveaway will run for approximately 1 week. Open to US residents who are 18+.
*I received the above mentioned product free of charge from Teton Sports in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
I don't usually cook breakfast. My husband is a bacon and eggs kind of guy, and I'm just happy that I don't have to worry about cooking yet ANOTHER meal. However, for the meatless challenge this month I really needed some fresh inspiration. I have plans for pastas and a pizza and a lot of delicious savory foods for this month, but I really wanted to do something different. I love looking around my kitchen to see what I already have on hand, is this was definitely one of those times. Bananas - Check. Nuts - Check. Flour - Check. Hmmmm - Buttermilk Pancakes it is! (I've attempted pancakes ONCE in my life, and most likely from the Bisquick box. Needless to say they weren't all that good.)
This recipe... my goodness I don't even know how to begin to explain it. The pancakes are fluffy and the perfect consistency. Between using King Arthur Flour (another one of our amazing Blogger Recipe Challenge sponsors), and sifting the dry ingredients, you can't go wrong. With the banana added into the batter (and used as a garnish), you almost don't even need syrup. Which is awesome because that stuff isn't all that great for you. A little crunch from the added pecans, and yumm. I was smacking my lips for a good 10 minutes after finishing my portion.
Ingredients (Makes Approx. 8 Pancakes):
- 2 - Bananas (1 sliced and quartered for the Batter & 1 sliced for Garnish)
- 1/4 Cup - Coarsely Crushed Pecans (Save some for garnish)
- 3/4 Cup - Milk (I prefer whole)
- 2 TBSP - White Vinegar
- 1 Cup - All Purpose Flour (I used King Arthur)
- 2 TBSP - Sugar
- 1 Tsp - Baking Powder
- 1/2 Tsp - Baking Soda
- 1/2 Tsp - Salt
- 1 - Egg
- 2 TBSP - Melted Butter
* Note: You can also buy actual buttermilk, or separate heavy cream into buttermilk and butter fat.
- Combine milk and vinegar. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow milk to sour. (This is your buttermilk substitute.)
- Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Once milk has soured, mix thoroughly, then combine egg and melted butter. Use a fork or whisk to mix.
- Combine dry ingredients with the buttermilk mixture. Use a fork or whisk to mix until all lumps are gone.
- Quarter and slice banana into pieces. Add to batter.
- Coarsely crush pecans 1/4 cup of pecans leaving some out for garnish. Add to batter.
- Using a non-stick skillet that has been heated on medium (a few drops of water should quickly sizzle and bubble when pan is ready), add your batter 1/4 cup at a time and cook. Watch for bubbles to form on the top, and then flip pancake over to finish cooking. Each side should take 1-2 minutes-ish. You may need to adjust the heat as you go. Too hot and the outside will burn before the inside has cooked.
- Serve immediately. Use additional sliced banana and crushed pecans as garnish. Add butter and syrup to suit your personal tastes.
For our baking challenges King Arthur Flour sent us each a free product coupon so we could grab from the store what we wanted. They offer varieties including the unbleached all purpose flour that I chose, bread flour, whole wheat flour, organic, and even gluten-free. I had heard of King Aurthur Flour but we almost always opted for the store brand just to save a couple of cents. Being a novice baker I never realized how differently a store brand of flour is compared to a name brand such as King Arthur. But it does matter. I've seen such an improvement in the overall consistency and texture of my baked goods.
"Ideal for the full range of your baking repertoire. King Arthur All-Purpose is strong enough to combine with whole grains for higher-rising loaves, and tender enough to make beautiful pie crusts, scones and muffins." ~ King Arthur Flour
I absolutely love cooking/baking with King Arthur Flour. I've been using their Unbleached All-Purpose Flour to make my Naan, roux for my soups, and I have a Red Velvet Cake planned in the next week that I'll also be posting for this challenge. It really does perform beautifully. It rarely clumps, and has a fantastic consistency that creates light, airy doughs and baked goods. I'm sure that sifting the flour helps, but hand down this is the best flour I've used so far, and even if it saves me a few dollars I don't think I'll be going back to the store brand anytime soon.
*I received the above mentioned product free of charge from King Arthur Flour in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
It's a new month which means a new Blogger Recipe Challenge! This month we're going with Meatless May. Yumm. I love vegetarian cooking. Although, I have to admit I still think fish is a meat. But I guess some people don't? Anyway, our little cooking group was sponsored by Starkist for this month's challenge. We're each going to whip up two recipes using Starkist's products. We were all sent 2 packages each of their Herb & Garlic, Hickory Smoked, Sweet & Spicy, and Zesty Lemon Pepper. They're ALL really yummy by-the-way. For my first recipe I decided to use up the two packages of Starkist Hickory Smoked Tuna to make Hickory Smoked Tuna Burgers. The concept is a little odd, but the result is a light, tasty burger.
Ingredients (Makes 2 Burgers):
- 2 - Packages Starkist Hickory Smoked Single Serve
- 2 - Toasted English Muffins
- 1 - Egg
- 1/4 Cup - Bread Crumbs
- 1/2 - Minced Shallot
- 1.5 Tsp - Sour Cream
- 2 Tsp - Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/2 - 1 Tsp - Favorite BBQ Sauce
- 1 Tsp - Lemon Juice
- 1 Tsp - Salt
- 1 Tsp - Garlic Powder
- Pepper to Taste
- Favorite Cheese
- Spinach or Lettuce
- Condiments of Choice (I used mayo, and Dijon mustard.)
*Note: You can adjust just about all of the ingredients to suit your personal tastes.
- Preheat oven to 400F Degrees.
- Lightly grease a cookie/baking sheet.
- Combine all ingredients. Mixture will be a little wet and sticky.
- Form two equal patties.
- Bake for 20 minutes on lightly greased cookie/baking sheet.
- Toast English Muffins to desired crispness.
- Assemble your tuna burgers with favorite toppings and condiments. (I would have put tomato on mine but didn't have any in the house.)
I've always been a fan of Starkist products. I feel as though I'm always getting quality tuna, and my family loves it. The great thing about the flavored individual serving sizes is that while they're great for cooking with, you can easily just bring one with you to work for a snack or a light lunch. The Hickory Smoked Tuna pouches contain only 110 calories for 2.6oz. If I can make a single burger out of a pouch, that's definitely more than enough. (I even cut off the edges of the burger so it'd fit better on the English muffin.)
I have seen some people on Starkist's Facebook page complaining about bones in their tuna. First of all, the package states that there may be bones. Secondly, I've NEVER had a single bone in ANY of the tuna I've purchased, whether canned or single serve.
Since I'm not planning to cook with it, I did want to mention that I LOVED the Herb & Garlic variety. It was absolutely scrumptious and flavored perfectly without any extra water/oil. I'm kind of a minimalist when it comes to preparing fish. Give me a butter sauce and a nice fish filet and I'm set. I had never cooked with tuna before, and only added mayo in order to make a sandwich. Once while I was pregnant I got a wild hair up you-know-where and added some curry powder. (Which was the best thing ever at the time.) However, I was extremely impressed with the flavors of these pouches. Definitely a product I would recommend, and cook with again. Which, lucky for you, will be happening in the near future!
Make sure you keep checking the linky as the month progresses. We've got 10 bloggers creating 10 recipes each! There are sure to be some fantastic goodies popping up.
*I received the above mentioned products free of charge from Starkist in order to facilitate this recipe and review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.