Thursday, June 9, 2016

Tea For Five

     By now all of my readers know that I am an absolute tea fanatic.  I’ve talked about hot tea, sweet tea, flavored tea, and even made some tea cupcakes.  One thing I’ve never mentioned though is how to boil water for tea.  You might be asking “Does it really matter?” and the answer is yes! 

     Did you know that your tea will taste different depending on whether you use tap water, filtered water, or bottled water?  It will also taste different whether you heat it in a microwave, on the stovetop, in a glass container, or in a metal container.  All of these things actually affect the flavor of your tea.  So, how do you choose?  Well, we each need to make our own decisions based upon our priorities and needs.

     My tea is made from tap water that is heated in a stainless steel tea kettle on the stovetop.  Why?  Because that’s what works for me.  Fortunately, I am happy with my tap water.  The town where I live puts out annual water quality reports and I just received mine last month.  I have friends with private wells who’s water reports aren’t as good as my city water.  I’m blessed that way.  So, you are going to have to choose your water based on your personal research and choices. 

     So, why do I use the stovetop instead of the microwave?  It certainly takes longer.  I think it’s worth it.  The water just tastes better heated on the stove.  If you don’t believe me, try an experiment for yourself.  Heat some water on the stove and heat some water in the microwave and do a side by side taste test.  There really is a difference!

     The real trick is finding just the right tea kettle for you.  I have a glass top stove, and find that copper bottom cookware works extremely well for my stove.  I also prefer the way my tea tastes when the water is boiled in stainless steel.  This isn’t a deal breaker, but if we are making our dream list, why not list everything just the way we want it, right?  And I want a big tea kettle.  I drink lots of tea and my family likes to share it, too, so I want a kettle that holds a lot of water.  And finally, a whistling tea kettle is awesome.  It might sound like a frivolous and “cute” feature, but in reality it’s very practical.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left a pot of water on the stove to boil and then forgotten it until I hear it boiling over.  Sigh.  I hate cleaning up that mess.

     So, where do I find this dream tea kettle?  It turns out that SKIVU sells a whistling tea kettle that is 3.17 Qt.  That’s even big enough for me to boil water for my pitchers of sweet tea!  It’s made of stainless steel, and it has a copper bottom.  Wow.  That’s everything I was looking for.  Plus, it has an ergonomic handle that makes pouring very easy.  I’ve found my tea kettle.  It’s available here: Chef's Secret Tea Kettle.

     I’ve told you before that southern girls take our tea very seriously.  That goes for the kettle, too.  So, tell me… How does your tea pantry look?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bark Outfitters Pet Tent

     Everyone enjoys being outside in the fresh air and sunshine sometimes, right?  That is true for our small pets, too.  But we can’t always keep them safe the way we would like.  It’s great to have a fenced yard, but life doesn’t always work out that way.  Then, there are some pets who love to be outside, but even a fenced yard doesn’t help – like my bearded dragons.

     Bark Outfitters came up with a terrific solution.  How about a pet tent?  I have a terrific tent that is made of mesh that allows plenty of fresh air and sunshine to get in.  It’s almost like a screened in porch for your small pet.  This pop up tent is 83” x 40”.  Not large enough for a rousing game of fetch, but plenty big enough to allow your cat, small dog, or other small pet some quality time outdoors.  You can attach the included sunshade to the top or leave it off to let a pet enjoy the sun more.

     This pet tent was actually designed for cats and small dogs, but I want to bring this to the attention of other small pet owners out there.  We have bearded dragons in my house.  They need special lighting and temperatures maintained in their vivariums in order to keep them healthy.  One of the most important lighting requirements is UV light.  Although we are able to purchase special bulbs to provide for our pet’s needs, the effects of real sunshine are amazing and bearded dragons love to get time in it.  Unfortunately, with predatory birds as well as various insects that they shouldn’t be eating, it can be difficult for some bearded dragon owners to give their scaly friends the outdoor time like they want. 

     City pets and country pets both love time outdoors.  Depending on your situation, this might be just the way to give them what they want.  I know Fluffy is bright and happy now that she’s getting regular sun time again.  Who knows what kind of benefits your pet may enjoy from spending time outside in the fresh air and sunshine.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Coffee, the Easy Way

     Coffee isn’t an especially popular drink in my house.  It’s not that we don’t like it. We simply don’t drink enough of it to make full pots in a traditional coffee maker, nor do we drink enough to justify the expense of a Keurig type machine. 

     Earlier this year when my inexpensive single cup coffee maker broke, I actually intended to not replace it.  Of course my son, who drinks most of the coffee in the house, wasn’t pleased with that decision.  He still wanted to have coffee on those occasional Saturday mornings.  Fortunately, I found a solution that works for everyone in the house.  I got a Java Llama Stainless Steel Pour OverCoffee Maker.  It’s a small, portable setup that is simple to use and simple to store away.

     We add a couple of scoops of coffee to the cone and set the maker on top of the coffee cup.  Pour hot water into the cone and wait for it to drip through and provide a delicious, freshly brewed cup of coffee that tastes as good as any made in a traditional machine.
      My favorite feature is the fact that it doesn’t require any electricity.  (Yes, this has been important to me in everything lately.)  If you have hot water, then you can have fresh, hot coffee.  I plan to take this handy little gadget with me the next time I go camping.

     If you are interested in simplifying your life, then you might want to check out some of the fantastic new products on the market that work off the most basic ideas and still get the job done beautifully.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Love My Dog Leash

     Life with a dog has really changed during the last 20 years.  In the 1990’s I didn’t pick up dog poop from a grassy area, I had never met anyone who fed their dog anything other than kibble from a bag, and everyone I knew would have died laughing to see a dog being pushed around in a stroller or carried in someone’s purse.  Like everything else in the world, pet ownership has evolved – mostly for the better.

     One of my favorite modern accessories to dog ownership is my leash.  Back in the day a leash was basically a rope or flat piece of thick fabric with a hook on one end and a loop on the other.  The length was decided in the pet store when you made your purchase.  Today we have wonderful gadgets that allow us to adjust our dog’s leash as short or long as we like during walks.  What a wonderful advancement in the world of pet supplies.  Retractable leashes are wonderful things to own. 

     But I have something even better than that!  I own a Furbabies Retractable Leash that has a built in poop bag dispenser and LED flashlight.  This thing is the Rolls Royce of dog leashes!  I don’t have to juggle a leash and flashlight at night while I try to make it to the neighborhood poop bag dispenser before my dog does its business.  This leash allows me to maintain a firm grip on the handle, while locking the length of the leash by pressing a button with my thumb.  All the while, there’s a steady flashlight on top and a handy poop bag dispenser on the bottom ready to go when I need it.

     I think my favorite feature might be the fact that the flashlight and bag dispenser are both easily removable.  This way when I’m walking during the daytime I don’t need to have the flashlight with me.  And if I’m going somewhere I won’t be needing bags, I can easily pop that off too.

     Truly, the only negative things that I can say about this leash aren’t negative at all.  The lock button makes a clicking sound when you use it.  Unfortunately, it’s the same sound that you use for clicker training a dog.  Fortunately, my dog isn’t clicker trained, so it’s not an issue for me.  I just wanted to mention it for anyone considering purchasing this leash that may have a clicker trained dog.  The other thing is that this leash is only for dogs less than 50 lbs.  Sorry to all you large dog owners out there.  Just the way it is on this one.

     The company that sells Furbabies  Retractable Leash is amazing.  Eric and his wife make this wonderful product available to all of us pet lovers because they have their own pets that they love, too.  They work very hard to come up with just the right pet items for both them and us.  And, if you visit the product page at Amazon for Furbabies Retractable Leash, then click on the seller “Spiegelson, LLC”, you can send a message to Eric and tell him that you found out about Furbabies Retractable Leash on and he will hook you up with some freebies.  Who doesn’t love that?  And, while he’s at it, I’ll bet Eric will make you smile.  The company has a great philosophy and a terrific sense of humor.  (Make sure you read the tag found inside the product.  No spoilers, but it made me laugh.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Maxam Vegetable Chopper

     Although I’m a huge advocate for scratch cooking and preparing all of your food yourself, even I will admit that the prep work can be daunting.  Preparing fresh foods means lots of chopping, slicing, shredding, and grating.  I think that was probably the biggest shock to me when I decided to stop purchasing pre-packaged foods.  It’s easy to say that we should buy bags of potatoes from the produce section (or, better yet, grow them ourselves), but once you get them home, you have to turn them into French fries, potato chips, hashbrowns, and potato pancakes.  

     I don’t have Food Network level knife skills, so I find the prospect of chopping pounds and pounds of vegetables to be downright frightening.  So, I look for shortcuts.  Hey!  Just because we don’t want to buy things that are pre-cut, pre-processed and pre-packaged doesn’t mean that we can’t look for a way to make our work a little easier, right?

     My newest kitchen appliance is The Maxam Vegetable Chopper – KTVC7.  This handy little piece of equipment can almost entirely replace my electric food processor, while it offers more cutting options and eliminates the need for electricity.  And I haven’t even mentioned the beautiful slices, shreds and French fries that I literally crank out of this machine.

     The assembly is a breeze.  It sits on the counter with three solid suction cup feet that prevent it from moving anywhere.  There are 5 cutting cones included that shred both standard and fine sized shred, plain and waffle slices, as well as French fry cut.  The cones lock in place by simply lining them up with the clutch plate and turning the handle.  When you are ready to change the cutting cone, simply hold it steady while you turn the handle in the opposite direction. 

     Clean up is equally simple.  You don’t want to put anything in the dishwasher, but there’s no reason for it.  Just rinse away the vegetable bits and then either wash with warm, soapy water or give them a brief soak in disinfectant water.  Hand dry and store away in the cabinet.  I wish my food processor was half this easy to clean.  There are too many pieces and parts to fuss over.   I definitely prefer the simplicity of my Maxam Vegetable Chopper.

     I think my favorite feature might be the fact that it doesn’t use electricity.  Since moving to North Carolina I have come to realize that I can be without electricity not only because of summer hurricanes, but also because of winter storms as well.  Let’s face facts.  Not only are there natural threats in the world, but we also must consider the possibility of terrorism.  The truth is that there are countless reasons why we could lose power and it’s smart to be prepared to function without electricity.  This handy little appliance just added one more convenience to my home that I wouldn’t lose in the event of a power outage.