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 SuchaSimpleLife.com 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.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Bright Outdoors Solar Lantern

     We are only a couple of weeks away from hurricane season.  You know… that time of year when you realize that the kids used all of your ‘D’ batteries in the old boombox they found when they were bored during winter break. 

     Before you know it, the internet and local news stations will be bombarding you with hurricane preparedness information.  They will have long lists telling you how much water you should have on hand and reminding you to buy plywood and batteries for the flashlight – before the National Hurricane Center starts issuing warnings for your area. 

     I’ve been preparing for hurricanes since I was tall enough to hold the nails for my grandpa while he was boarding up the house.  I survived Andrew, Charley and Wilma along with countless other storms that didn’t make the history books.  And this year I am doing something different. 

     Forget about the flashlights and candles.  Instead of all that stuff, I decided to test out the bright outdoors solar lantern from www.thebrightoutdoors.com.  I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect because I haven’t had a lot of experience with solar power.  It turns out that this is a brilliant item.  It can be charged during the day by setting it out in the sun.  Then, when evening rolls around, you just open it up and turn it on.  It will provide up to 10 hours of light from a full charge.

     There is a regular light setting and a bright setting, as well as an SOS signal that it will flash.  In a pinch, you can also use it to charge your electronic device.  It’s as bright as any flashlight I have and can be used like a flashlight while it’s flat, or as a lantern when you open it up.  It works sitting on a table, or there is a small handle so you can hang it if you prefer.

     This item would be ideal for camping or any other outdoor activity after sunset.  I’ve used it when I take my dog for his bedtime walk and it’s a great option for that.  The possibilities are unlimited.  Anywhere you need light; this lantern is there.  It’s small enough to keep in a purse or the center console of your vehicle.

     Personally, I intend to purchase two more of them so that each family member has one in the event of a power outage or any other need.   After all, you don’t have to wait for the power to go out.  Who knows why you might like to have a small, portable lantern on hand.  And if it’s a rainy day, feel free to plug it in using a USB cord.  It really is an exceptionally versatile product.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

CookFX Silicone Baking Mats

     One thing that has been important in changing my lifestyle, but I haven’t talked about yet is disposables.  We live in a world where it feels like everything is meant to be disposable anymore.  I find this especially true when it comes to the kitchen.  Paper plates, paper towels, and paper napkins.  Plastic forks, spoons, and knives.  Aluminum foil, wax paper, plastic wrap, and parchment.  All of these things add up to lots of garbage and a really big grocery bill spent continually replacing all of it.

     A hundred years ago people reused everything.  It was unthinkable to just throw dishes, cups, utensils and napkins in the trash can.  Living in an environmentally conscious world (and an extremely budget conscious home) has made me consider my choices with regards to disposable products.

     Recently I was offered the opportunity to review a set of CookFX Silicone Baking Mats.  I was excited to try out the product – and embarrassed to discover how much excess I was able to stop purchasing because of this product.  The first obvious change was that I don’t need to use parchment paper to line baking sheets any longer.  I think that is probably the change that most people anticipate.  Your cookies don’t stick to the baking sheet, so you either don’t have to wash it, or you can stop buying parchment paper that serves the same purpose.  Cookies lift right off the baking mat without the help of a spatula.  After a quick rinse under the faucet and wipe down with a kitchen towel they are ready to be rolled up and returned to the drawer.
     What I didn’t expect was the impact they would have on baking bread.  Usually I liberally dust my baking sheet with cornmeal to prevent sticking.  And I go through lots and lots of cornmeal because I bake all of my family’s bread from scratch.  It adds up.  I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to place my bread dough onto the silicone baking mat and let it rise there.  After baking, the loaf lifts right off the mat and is as lovely as any that I’ve made on a cornmeal covered baking sheet.

     Finally, I want to share the greatest feature of all about owning these baking mats.  If you find yourself in a pinch with no baking sheet available, you can place the silicone baking mat on another surface to use as if it were a baking sheet.  I baked cookies on a mini muffin pan using this method and they turned out beautifully.  No one would ever know that my baking sheets were busy performing other kitchen duties while I baked cookies.

     If you are interested, these CookFX Silicone Baking Mats can be found here.  I promise they will pay for themselves when you skip the purchase of just a few packages of parchment paper.  And you don’t have to add anything extra to the landfill.