Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A look back at 2013 in pictures.

The pictures in this post are some which I took throughout 2013 but never made it here to a blog post.

In January I made my husband a half cake to celebrate his half birthday. I usually make a decorate cakes for my kids, but because his b-day falls in July I hadn't made him one for the last several years. It was just too hot to bake. Turned out this was the only birthday cake he got in 2013 as we ended up moving for his birthday.

For most of the 2012-2013 academic year my son studied the solar system, planets, etc. He decided he was going to make a poster featuring what he learned about.

Snow people my children made.

From our big March storm. Snow came down at the rate of about an inch an hour. In total we ended up with about 18 inches of snow in this one storm.

After we moved my children were finding words in the packing peanuts as boxes were emptied. It was amazing how many different words they could find. This activity kept them busy for hours.

I also tried my hand at making brownie pops. I don't think they turned out so badly.

Early fall we had the opportunity to see replicas of two of Columbus' ships.

This was at a rest area in Mississippi. The various tiles on the stone name the official things of the state of Mississippi. I took the picture because I thought it was a cute idea.

Early fall we had the opportunity to go to the New Orleans area for a couple days with my husband when he went to an Orientation meeting for work. One evening we went to Bourbon Street and had 'Louisiana' food for supper. These are the crab cakes I enjoyed.

Another field trip we had in the fall was to a cotton gin. The upper picture is of one of the pieces of the gin. The lower picture shows the cotton in various stages in the ginning process. If I remember correctly the first pile is before it goes through the gin, the second is the cotton and the third is the seed.

Another interesting tidbit for 2013- I increased my number of states visited by 4, for a total of 23. I think.

So some photo highlights of 2013.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hello Fresh Meal Delivery Service

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh is a subscription based meal delivery service, sending everything (except basics like salt, pepper and oil) you need for 3 meals right to your door. Perishables are kept cold with large ice packs and heavy insulated packing material inside a cardboard box.

Shipping Box

All the goodness safe and secure

The ingredients for each meal are bagged and labelled individually.  Meat products are vacuum sealed. Each of the produce and dry ingredients are individually bagged and then placed in one large bag per recipe.  Some of these ingredients need to be refrigerated upon receipt. Canned and pantry items are also bagged and labelled according to recipe.

Each meal is featured on its own 5 by 9 recipe card. The front side features a list and pictures of all the ingredients and the back of the card has step by step pictures and directions.

Although it is a subscription service it is easy to customize your selections. The first option is to choose a Classic or Vegetarian box. Then you are able to pick your 3 meals. Each week there are three featured meals and two optional choices. The optional choices can be swapped for one of the featured meals if desired. The third option is number of servings per box. While boxes are shipped each week you have the option to place your account on hold if you will be out of town or just don't want a box a particular week.

Classic box pricing begins at $9.94 per meal including delivery, Vegetarian boxes begin at $8.28 per meal including delivery. Gift Certificates are also available.  See Hello Fresh for complete details.

My Thoughts

I reviewed a Classic box serving 2 people featuring Penne all' Arrabbiata, Yogurt Marinated Shrimp, and Classic Beef Stew.

First off, I have to say thanks to the great people at Hello Fresh for the opportunity to review their exceptional products and service.

I really love the convenience of Hello Fresh. I appreciated not having to figure out what was for dinner and then making sure I had everything I needed. It was great to have everything on hand to make a wonderful meal.

The quality of the meats and produce was excellent as well, which was surprising to me given the season. I am not able to find salad greens and fresh herbs which are of as good a quality in the grocery store right now.

Not only were the food products great, the customer service was excellent as well. After I signed up and before I received my first delivery I received a phone call from a Hello Fresh team member welcoming me and wanting to make sure I knew how all aspects of the program worked.

 Penne all' Arrabbiata ingredients and the finished dish.

 Yogurt Marinated Shrimp ingredients and the finished dish.

 Classic Beef Stew Ingredients and the finished dish.

Even though each of the meals was designed to serve 2 people, they easily served the 4 of us.

We thoroughly enjoyed all three meals. I can't begin to say how good they were. My 9 year old son thinks he is a picky eater, but he enjoyed all of the meals just as much as the rest of us. I would not hesitate to make any of these recipes again.

 My 12 year old daughter is an aspiring foodie, she enjoys new and fancy foods and recipes. So to test out the ease of recipe preparation with Hello Fresh I drafted her to be help with cooking. She was able to complete most of the recipes herself. I stepped in to help when there were several things that needed to be completed at the same time and when the shrimp were cooked in the oven. Thus I can confidently say the Hello Fresh recipes are easy to prepare.

When I first learned about Hello Fresh it seemed to me the cost was kind of high. In order to see how accurate my thinking was I priced the individual ingredients to determine what it would cost me to purchase everything I received. The cost per dish varied, but it would cost between $10 and $15 to make any of them by assembling my own ingredients. This is based on just the amount needed for each recipe. The initial cost of the ingredients would be higher because I would need to buy larger packages than what was included in the Hello Fresh meal box. Also to purchase the pancetta I would have to drive over an hour away.

The biggest downside in cooking any of the three entrees was the Yogurt Marinated Shrimp. I say this for several reasons. Following the recipe directions you simply brush the shrimp with the marinade, instead of immersing the shrimp in the marinade. Then halfway through cooking time you brush more marinade on the shrimp. Thus when the shrimp are cooked they only have marinade on one side and it is a fairly heavy coat as well.

Overall, I was very pleased with my Hello fresh experience. They delivered high quality ingredients and fantastic recipes which provided a highly enjoyable cooking and dining experience.

Hello Fresh meal delivery is only available in some parts of the United States; mainly east of the Mississippi and a few select states adjacent to the River as well. Please look at the map at Hello Fresh to determine if they deliver in your area.

If you would like to try Hello Fresh for yourself you can use this code     57PQC6     to receive $20 off your first box. Simply go to Hello Fresh and follow the simple directions to begin an account.

Other members of the Mosaic Reviews team had the opportunity to review these and other Hello Fresh recipes. Read what they had to say at the Mosaics Review blog.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Udderly Smooth Body Lotion and Creams - A Review

Mosaic Reviews team members recently received a box of pampering products from Udderly Smooth. The products included were body cream, foot cream, and 2 tubes (different sizes) of hand cream and several small packets of body cream.

From the Udderly Smooth website, Udderly Smooth is a deeply moisturizing body cream which is non greasy and soaks into skin quickly. It was originally developed for use on dairy cows, but is now used by people around the world. Udderly Smooth does not contain any milk or bovine ingredients. All of these products are made in the USA. This is a definite plus.

My Thoughts

I am really impressed with all of the Udderly Smooth products I have had the opportunity to try. They really soak into the skin and provide long lasting moisture. I would use the body cream in the morning and by evening my skin was still very smooth and soft. My husband really liked how soft my skin was after using the body cream.

The foot cream is very soothing. I loved the way it soaked in quickly and wasn't greasy or slippery when walking. I was very surprised at how 'thin' the foot cream seemed to be. It is lighter weight than the body cream, but turned out to be very effective. When using the foot cream with a pumice stone I was able to rub off a lot of dry, dead skin. Now if I could get into the habit of remembering to treat my feet to Udderly Smooth every day my callouses would be minimized or gone in no time.

Udderly Smooth hand cream is a treat for my hands. I mainly used it after washing dishes and it made such a difference in the condition of my hands. The redness and irritation of washing dishes disappeared quickly with just a little bit of Udderly Smooth hand cream.

While all 3 of these products do have a scent, it wasn't overly strong or irritating to any of us.

My children also used the Udderly Smooth hand lotion and remarked about how quickly it soaked into their skin and how soft their skin felt after using it. My daughter's hands would get so dry and cracked all winter long from the dry cold weather. From what I have seen of how wonderfully Udderly Smooth works I am sure it would have made a huge difference for her. We recently moved to an area which doesn't get as cold and dry in the winter, so dryness isn't as big an issue for her now.

Udderly Smooth is available at many drugstores and mass merchandisers across the country. The Udderly Smooth website has a complete list of retailers.

 See what other Mosaic Review members had to say at the Mosaic Reviews blog.