September 25, 2014

Jimmy Dean frozen entrees are terrible

With coupons from Jimmy Dean, I bought two Jimmy Dean frozen meals to try, Golden Roasted Turkey and Southwest Style Grilled Chicken, for free. Both had pretty enticing box photos and I know Jimmy Dean is well-known for their meat products, so I figured it had to be at least as palatable as a Stouffer's or Marie Callender's meal.

Reading about a few options on BzzAgent, they actually sounded pretty decent. Imagine a grilled steak bowl with "savory grilled steak, golden potatoes..." or a pulled pork sandwich that's "pulled pork covered in chipotle BBQ sauce on a pretzel bun."

Good marketing, I guess because the reality was so disappointing!

Both meals look pretty lovely on the box, with nice portions of meat and just a touch of sauce for flavor. What's actually in the package is mostly sauce with a little of everything else. With the chicken meal, there was a reasonable amount of meat, but again, so much sauce! I really hate when a frozen meal is just a bowl of sauce. I was hoping for a nice plated meal, not a stew.

the picture on the box and the actual meal look nothing alike
The turkey was gristly, which I'm not sure how is possible. Usually chicken in frozen meals is tough and chewy, but turkey shouldn't be. Both meals were quite salty. I expect frozen meals to have a lot of sodium, but I don't expect to really taste like that.

all sauce, almost no meat
The chicken meal had a small sprinkle of black beans, a lot of rice, a little meat (enough, I suppose), and a bowlful of sauce. The flavor isn't bad, but that isn't enough to make me feel satisfied. I'll give Jimmy Dean credit for convenience. Like many frozen meals, it's easy to microwave and eat from the bowl. But quality? Ehh... and flavor, maybe average. Maybe I'm picky, but this isn't something I enjoyed. I tried two flavors and both were pretty terrible. Unfortunately that means I won't be giving Jimmy Dean frozen meals another chance and honestly, I'm not sure I have much interest in trying other Jimmy Dean products now.

If you're curious to know more, you can visit their Facebook and Twitter pages. I'm just one opinion, so shop around for other reviews, but definitely don't buy these based on the box photography.

September 22, 2014

A review of FURREAL FRIENDS®: Get Up & Go-Go, My Walkin' Pup™

Hasbro sent me the FURREAL FRIENDS®: Get Up & Go-Go, My Walkin' Pup™ to review for free. My daughter is almost 5 and has a neighborhood full of friends her age she plays with outside nearly every day. I expected her to drag the toy out each afternoon and share it with all her friends, walking it around the block, pretending to feed it and telling it to sit and stay.

The first time she played with the dog, she quickly figured out how he works, getting him to walk and sit. After I loaded it onto my phone, she also played quite a bit with the FURREAL FRIENDS iPhone app. One neighborhood kid came by and joined the fun, but they quickly began to argue over the dog and sharing issues, which we've never had with her friends before. For a short time, they worked it out with one walking and the other sticking twigs in the dogs mouth like a bone.

I thought the sharing issues meant my daughter wanted more time with her dog, but after that first day, she really hasn't shown any interest in it or the app. Her friend comes by nearly every day asking to play with it and to borrow my phone, so I gave a coupon to her mom to get it for her birthday. If she doesn't get one, I might pass ours along as a gift since my daughter has no interest in playing with it now. Since my daughter has been in love with her Violet for four years (goes everywhere with us) and a simple stuffed dachshund, I assume each kid has his or her own preferences.

The dog is cute and works well. It's a nice size and not too heavy to pick up. It moves along the sidewalk easily and doesn't scare our real pets. However, there's not much to do with it. It walks, barks and whines a bit, and sits but I can't figure out if there's anything else that makes it more engaging. My daughter would rather play with her regular stuffed dogs than the FURREAL FRIENDS®: Get Up & Go-Go, My Walkin' Pup.

That said, given how our neighbor absolutely loves it, I wonder if it's an age thing, or just that some kids will love it and others just won't. Our daughter happens to have no interest in it.

The dog is cute and works well. It's a nice size and not too heavy to pick up. It moves along the sidewalk easily and doesn't scare our real pets. However, there's not much to do with it. It walks, barks and whines a bit, and sits but I can't figure out if there's anything else that makes it more engaging. My daughter would rather play with her regular stuffed dogs than the FURREAL FRIENDS®: Get Up & Go-Go, My Walkin' Pup.  

That said, given how our neighbor absolutely loves it, I wonder if it's an age thing, or just that some kids will love it and others just won't. Our daughter happens to have no interest in it.

One thing I need to say that absolutely irritates me is the name of this dog. I know it's hard to come up with unique trademarkable product names, but this is way too long, and way too hard to remember. If I want to tell someone about the toy, I'm definitely not going to walk up and say, "Hey have you seen the new "furreal friends get up and go go my walking pup," lol. It's a fluffy toy dog that moves on a fake leash. Companies need to get smarter about product names because sharing online sometimes has its limits too - like wasting all my available characters on a product name if I mention on Twitter. My two cents.

September 15, 2014

Covering an office chair

I have this old office chair I got on sale several years ago. Honestly, I hate how traditional office chairs look and those that are nicer tend to also be much more expensive or simply too big for little me. So I end up with those rolling task chairs that never hold up or are boring gray or black when I yearn for a pop of color.

This was my task chair. My husband took the back off since I don't really use it, but it was still kind of blah.

This was my task chair. My husband took the back off since I don't really use it, but it was still kind of blah. In my stash, I found a yard of striped home decor fabric, which looked to be more than enough to cover the chair seat.

Now, there are plenty of proper ways to cover or reupholster a chair. My way is not the most durable or neatest, but it's quick!

1. Set the chair upside down on the fabric. Since it was a wavy stripe pattern and I knew I wouldn't get a perfect straight across doing this quickly, I set the chair on the bias. That way if the stripes don't go across perfectly, it's not obvious.

2. Pull at the fabric in all directions to make sure there aren't any big wrinkles.

3. Loosely cut the fabric around the chair leaving a lot of excess in case it has to be adjusted.

4. Staple on one side a few times, then staple on the opposite side (keep it taut). I worked around kind of back and forth around the chair to make sure I was pulling evenly on all sides. Around the corners, I folded the fabric like I would for a bed corner and most of those wrinkles are underneath where no one would see.

5. When it's all secure, cut off the remaining excess. I used pinking shears to hopefully keep the fabric from fraying over time. Since it's not getting washed, this is not a huge concern.

6. Flip the chair back over and see if any fabric hangs down where you could see sitting or standing near the chair and trim that back.

That's it! Less than 10 minutes and it's a whole new chair that looks way more awesome in my office.

Now, if you don't often sew and don't have a stash of fabric, you could go to the local big sewing store, but you'll have more selection and greater access to nice home decor fabrics at a low cost by looking online. My favorite site is Fashion Fabrics Club. Shipping isn't cheap but they have really sweet deals on fabrics in their discount section and have a huge variety of home decor and apparel fabrics.

September 6, 2014

Upcoming reviews: Roomba, Jimmy Dean, Furreal Friends, & Paula's Choice

This fall, I have some exciting reviews planned! Here are just a few of the interesting products I'll be trying out in September and October:

iRobot Roomba® 870

We are on our second Roomba and it's about 6 years old so it's not terribly efficient anymore. We've also got a Neato, which works just fine but needs a new battery. I hate how loud it is so I can't wait to try out the new Roomba, which has a unique new brush style that makes it WAY easier to clean the robot and their new battery lasts twice as long. Since our first floor is nearly wide open and almost 1500 sq ft, I want to test if it can handle our space without kinking out. Thanks to iRobot for a substantial discount to buy and review the 870!

Paula's Choice Resist C15 Super Booster
You guys probably know I love Paula's Choice. I trust their reviews and expert advice on other brand products and since I also enjoy reviewing C serums, I definitely can't wait to try this one out. Paula's Choice is providing a free bottle to test.

Furreal Friends®: Get Up & Go-Go, My Walkin' Pup™
I'm really quite done reviewing this but need to come up with a decent post to explain how I feel about it. It's a toy dog for kids with a phone app that offers some additional play features that go along with the real toy. I wasn't impressed but haven't come up with a good way to explain why just yet. Soon though.

Jimmy Dean Lunch & Dinner Entrees
I have some coupons for free Jimmy Dean entrees. It's not my thing but my husband definitely wants to try some. We just can't find these in stores around here, so I'll keep looking and hopefully they'll pop up at Hy-Vee or Walmart soon.

September 3, 2014

Helping butterflies and bringing back the prairie

I live in Minnesota. Those of you who live elsewhere may think of us as cold and snowy, but there's much wonderful green and beautiful parkland to enjoy during the warmer months. Minnesota's prairie is what sold me on moving here, but less than 2% of the native prairie is left! Farming, like in many states, has taken a toll on natural landscapes, as has city expansion and housing developments. In the early 20th century, preserving and restoring the native landscape became a "thing," but it takes far longer to restore than it does to destroy. Farming is necessary and critical to our livelihood, but there are steps that everyone can take to help the environment and keep certain species from becoming extinct.

We have a tiny plot of land that is mostly house with a steep hill and tiny front yard. When we bought the house, there were a few simple plants, but most weren't a good fit for their location and either died off or aren't thriving. We need to do a good deal of landscaping in the next couple of years to prevent erosion of our hill and better handle runoff, but it's expensive. Add to that the cost of plants, even native plants, and we're looking at a very long and slow process.

While we save for the bigger projects, we're taking tiny steps to help butterflies, bumblebees, and to reduce the amount of water we use in our non-edible gardens. Eventually, we're planning to install a raingarden with help from a local grant to reimburse some of the costs, but for now, it's baby steps.

There were two huge prickly bushes along the sidewalk in front of the electrical boxes. They had to go, both for safety and for aesthetic reasons. After we pulled them out, I amended the soil and put in several young native plants.

Since it could be 2-3 years before they're full and lush, I added three gayfeather plants for a pop of color. When they're all grown, it will be pink and purple and a mecca for our bumblebees and butterflies.

The area around our tree is the beginning of a butterfly waystation. We have a basking rock, lots of flowers, shade areas and sunny areas, and places for caterpillars to do their thing. It's still an immature garden, but I expect it will look pretty full by next July. Some of the natives are from just after I bought the house, so nearly two years old and finally getting full. I'll be moving some flowering plants from elsewhere to fill out the area in front of the rock before the cold sets in. The only thing we're not adding is standing water for butterflies to drink. I'll probably spritz the flowers for water beads on hot days instead.

If you want to learn more about creating a butterfly garden, there are great resources through the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Zoo.

Here a few plant types if you'd like to get started:

  • Aster
  • Sunflowers
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Violets
  • Phlox
  • Lavender
  • Milkweed

These offer a nice variety of color and size. Be sure to plant several of each type so the butterflies will notice their preferred plant. Different butterflies each like certain plants more than others, so a nice variety will bring in more species.

September 1, 2014

Best stylist in Southern Minnesota

Ok, so I didn't take a survey to find out who is the best stylist, but I've certainly been to several and with really difficult hair to style, when I find someone awesome, I stay loyal. Since moving to Rochester and finding Kristan I haven't been anywhere else. She always gets my hair smooth and healthy, understands the craziness that is my texture and thickness, and suggests products without being pushy.

A year ago, I started taking Penny to have her hair done by Kristan because it's rather thick for a kid her age and most cuts we would get at the chain salons looked kind of blah or inappropriate for her face shape. Kristan gives Penny the real grownup experience with a kid-like twist (see the cute apron).

 I usually bring a giant sucker or other treat to distract from the less fun stuff like hair washing and sitting still for the cut. We don't have a kid-focused salon in our area, but the big lollipop usually works out well.

Penny's latest appointment was scheduled on the day of her first walk/run event (Mayo Clinic Healthy Human) so I let Penny scour Pinterest for some hair ideas. She picked a cute star braid and asked Kristan if she could come up with something similar. Penny's hair was a lot shorter than the girl in what she picked, but Kristan came up with a nice solution that looked adorable and held up all day. She got a lot of compliments while jogging around downtown Rochester.

If you live in Rochester or the surrounding small towns, definitely check out Kristan at her new salon near the Galaxy movie theater! She treats Penny like a real, grownup customer, which means Penny feels like she has her own stylist, which makes her feel really proud.