Mommy Review Monday: Dyson v8 Animal Vacuum Stick

This vacuum really sucks!

Ok, ok….I’ll cut out the cheesiness for now.

But really, this vacuum has been worth every penny.  It’s so great we named it:  Mike Dyson.  I know, I know….I said that I’d cut out the cheese.  I couldn’t resist though.

Is there anything sexier than a man doing household chores?!? Ladies, my husband is the best…and not just because he vacuums the floor…although that does help!

Here’s what we both like about it:

  • It’s rechargeable.  It’s got a little bracket that you hang on the wall, clip it in, and it’s charging.
  • It picks up almost everything.  When I say almost anything- stuff smaller than penny size for the most part.
  • The brush bar easily rotates around, making it easy to get under our kitchen cabinets, corners, and around the kitchen table (where we need it most).
  • It’s got a canister vs. a bag and is very easy to dump out with what they call the “hygienic dirt ejector.”
  • The filter is washable.
  • It’s very light, so much so that the kids can easily use it all over the house.  No more excuses.  Actually, it’s one chore that they don’t mind.
  • It cleans both hard floors and vacuums.  Our living room rug is a shag.  Just imagine how much it collects with 4 kids constantly playing on it- not to mention movie nights, eating dinner on it.
  • It’s got multiple configurations- from vacuuming the floor, to the furniture, to hard-to-reach ceiling corners) thanks to the different attachments.
  • It has regular and higher power suction (we only use the max power for the shag rug).  In the max power mode it runs up to 7 minutes but up to 40 minutes in the regular suction mode.  Vacuuming more than 40 minutes honestly sounds horrible to me so it’s not an issue for me.

Here’s Mike in his handy dandy charger. We put him conveniently on the wall in the laundry room, which is right next to the kitchen, where he gets the most use.

Here’s what I think could be improved:

…..

Soooooo, I couldn’t come up with anything so I asked Garen.  He also doesn’t have anything bad to say about it either.

Now that I think about it, it is quite an investment at roughly $400.  We bought ours at Bed, Bath, and Beyond after Christmas and used a 20% off card and a few gift cards so it was actually only about $225 for us after that.  And Mike Dyson been worth every penny for the convenience he provides us.

If you’re looking for a vacuum that is lightweight, convenient to use, and works really well, this is it.  I’ve not used the many other models but I’m sure they’re all pretty good as well.  Here’s the link to Dyson, where they have all of the models of the sticks (they just came out with a v10, which runs up to 60 minutes in case you MUST vacuum an extra 20 minutes).

Happy Mommy Review Monday everyone!

Disclaimer: I didn’t get paid for this and I haven’t had anyone from Dyson asking me to write a glowing review in exchange for a free vacuum but I’d probably be willing to take them up on that offer if their others work as well. Hint, hint, Dyson folks!

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Blueberry Crumble Pie with Shortbread Crust

I love blueberries….any way you fix them.

Growing up, my Grammy made a lot of blueberry muffins, blueberry cobblers, and, occasionally, a blueberry pie. For quite a few summers in a row, one of my Uncle Mo’s good friends provided a steady supply of fresh blueberries.  Grammy always froze them and we had (almost) fresh blueberry baked goods all year round.  I can still easily bring to mind the smell of freshly baked blueberry goodies, no matter how they were baked.

I like to take advantage of getting them fresh, while they’re in season during the summer.  Garen brought home a few boxes of blueberries from our new Kroger (which I’m currently loving) on Friday.  I had initially bought them to make muffins but didn’t get to it Saturday morning so I decided to bake a pie for us instead.

As a side note, I use a lot of frozen blueberries throughout the year for baked goods and they work well too but fresh blueberries are easier than thawing out frozen ones.  I’m letting my lazy-mama features shine brightly, right?!?

This Blueberry Crumble Pie with Shortbread Crust is an modified version of a recipe from Williams-Sonoma and you can find that recipe here.  Below is my adapted version, which includes a fantastic shortbread crust.  I honestly can’t remember exactly where the crust comes from- I think a combination of Pinterest and blog posts, plus a little bit of trial and error.  Wherever it came from, it’s the one I like to use- I’m too much of a perfectionist to even attempt making a regular homemade pie crust since they always turn out looking terrible for me and it drives me bananas! If you don’t like thick crusts, this one is not for you.

This pie crust is perfectly sized for my favorite pie dish. (I’ll have to share the recipe on another post- again, lazy-mom) One of these days I’m going to splurge and get the red pie dish. I started with the white version since I’m such a matchy-matchy person and white is easier to match with other dishes if you’re taking a pie somewhere.  I digress….

Here’s my version of a Blueberry Crumble Pie with Shortbread Crust with a few pictures:

Ingredients

  • Shortbread Crust
  • 1-1/2 C plus 4 Tbsp. All-purpose flour
  • 1 C firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 Cplus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 16 tbsp (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 cups blueberries

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Make the shortbread crust and transfer to a 9-inch or 10-inch deep pie dish. Press into the pan.  If you have another recipe for a pie crust or a store-bought one, you can use it if its big enough as well.
  • In a large bowl, mix the 1-1/2 cup flour, 2/3 cup of the brown sugar, the 2/3 cup granulated sugar, and 2 tsp. of the cinnamon. Put the butter pieces on top and toss with a fork or your fingers to coat with the flour mixture. Using your fingertips (or, if you’re fancy, a pastry blender), work the ingredients together until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of large peas. Set the topping aside.
  • In another large bowl, combine the 5 cups of blueberries, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and 4 Tbsp of the flour. Gently stir to evenly coat the blueberries.
  • Sprinkle 1 tbsp flour and 1 tbsp granulated sugar over the bottom of the shortbread crust. Pour the filling onto the crust, spreading it evenly.
  • Sprinkle the topping evenly over the blueberry filling.  (You may have extra left, depending on whether you use a 9-inch or 10-inch pie dish.  This makes great topping for muffins as well and can be refrigerated for a few days.)
  • Bake the pie until the crust and topping is golden brown and the blueberry filling just begins to bubble, 45 to 55 minutes.
  • Serve at room temperature, warm, or cold. Garen and I both like it cold better.
  • It goes perfectly with ice cream, whipped cream, or cool whip.

Speaking of cool whip…

To add a little more sweetness to our night and go along with the pie theme, we played the Pie Face Showdown. I had forgotten how much fun this is for the kids.

The mess was worth the fun….plus, we did this right before bathtub. Easy as pie! (Pun intended).

I hope everyone’s Saturday (and Sunday) were as sweet as ours!

Disclaimer- I’m not being compensated for any of this content and I’ve not been given these products that I’ve linked too.

Mommy Review Monday: Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack

For the girls’ birthday last year MaMa got the littles backpacks since they’d been trying to steal the bigs’ bags and backpacks for a few months.  After all, what toddler doesn’t like bags???

These Fairfax Pre-K backpacks have been FANTASTIC.  They are the perfect size for the littles and they LOVE to carry them around.  Without further ado, here’s my review (because I know you always want my opinion):

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Front

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack with Names

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Straps and padding

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Padding

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Pockets

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Pockets

What I like about them:

  • They have their names on them (see above).  Some people don’t like to have kids’ names on their backpacks and things for safety reasons and, as much as it may seem like I don’t care about my kids, I’m not worried about this for my toddlers.  They’re not going to go with a stranger just because someone knows their name…. The older kids might, but not toddlers who cower behind us even when we see a family member we’ve not seen in a few weeks.  Plus, we find thta people appreciate their labeled backpacks even more when your littles are twins since, despite ours being opposites in almost every way possible, they still get mixed up.
  • Ours are color coded- Kate is pink and Clara is purple (just like the most of their color coded stuff from our Phibian shoes to stuffed animals and doll clothes).
  • The stripes are nice vs. another pattern because there’s no battle over whether Clara has a unicorn and Kate has a rainbow…or whatever their flavor of the moment is.  Plus, stripes are classic.  I feel like this is a huge benefit over the super-cute but not so classic choices in the Mackenzie lineup, also from Pottery Barn.
  • They’ve held up great- despite being thrown down, stepped on, over-loaded, spilled on, and dragged around quite frequently.  And they still look good- even if they could use a good scrubbing.  Judge me if you like but I’m lucky if my kids are all clean, let alone their backpacks spotless.  The straps are very important because cheaper bags will wear out faster, especially with a lot of wear, on and off, that toddlers will inevitably do.
  • They’re the perfect size for toddlers- our girls just turned two when they got theirs and I’m guessing we won’t need to upgrade for a long time.  Ours are constantly holding a half-pack of wipes, 3-4 pull-ups or diapers, a change of clothes, a toy, a squeezy, and a granola bar with a sippy cup in the side pocket.  These have virtually eliminated the need for us to carry a diaper bag with two times everything.

Fairfax Dimensions

  • They’re water-resistant (and juice and milk).  This is also super-important since spills abound in our household (and in my car).
  • They have adjustable straps, which is great as they grow.
  • They have a front pocket for small things (our girls like to put flash cards, dinos, and/or little ponies in them).  These have a place for crayons, which would require us to keep up with them and you must know that doesn’t happen around here by now.
  • They have well-padded shoulder straps and back padding- cheaper toddler backpacks often skimp on this feature.  See above picture.  This only matters if you plan on your little one carrying these for more than a few minutes.  Ours have carried theirs for up to an hour at a time and I attribute that to them being comfortable.  The more they carry, the less you have to.
  • You can get other items that match- lunchboxes and water bottle for those of you who are matchy-matchy like I tend to be.  Our littles weren’t in need of a lunch box but when we’re ready to move up to the next size, we may get matching lunch-boxes but probably not water bottles since those seem to disappear from their special pockets. I sure don’t want a fancy, personalized water bottle to be left somewhere other than the handy pocket they’re perfectly sized for.
  • They have reflective piping on them.  You can sort of tell from the first photo above.  As a safety-nerd, I love this for those moments when one or two of my munchkins escapes into the dark….not that we ever have to deal with that…..
  • They’re very reasonably priced- especially right now as they gear up for back-to-school.  $19 for the backpack and $9.50 for the personalization.  While that may seem like a lot to some for a toddler’s backpack, consider how much they’ll carry them if you use them instead of a diaper bag like we do with ours.  Unless something changes, we figure they’ll use these until they go to Kindergarten, which is at least another two years.  That comes out to be less than a penny a day….

Fairfax Backpack checkout

What I would improve (but not deal-breakers):

  • They could use a slightly larger side pocket.  It’s rather tight getting a sippy cup in there, mostly in terms of it being “tall enough”.  In other words- it always looks like at any moment the sippy cup or water bottle may squeeze out.  You can see this from the picture above.  (Side note- the Mackenzie version looks like it might be slightly bigger.  If your little one has that version- see below- please comment and share)  In looking at the description, I don’t think the Fairfax is designed to hold a water bottle or sippy cup.  However, it works- just not as well as one would hope.
  • I wish it was machine washable.  I’m willing to guess that it might hold up to the washer but we’ve not parted with ours long enough to try (although you can clearly see they could use it).  If you’ve tried washing yours, please, please share your experience.  Again, this is wishful thinking as most backpacks are probably not going to claim to be washable- although I washed my good ol’ Jansport growing up multiple times before finally getting rid of it.  See my review of the Jansport backpacks, which my bigs will be carrying again this school year and I will soon be throwing in the wash.
  • I wish they’d put exterior connectors/metal loops onto the outside (like the small Fairfax backpacks have) or the actual straps that the Mackenzie version has.  We could use these to potentially on an extra baby doll or maybe a small blanket, although they’re actually designed to connect to their lunch box.  You could also use these with a carabiner to attach to your backpack or luggage fairly easily.

Overall, I just can’t say enough good things about these backpacks.  They really are a perfect gift for a toddler or pre-k student- one they’ll love AND their parents’ will love too since it won’t be another toy that takes up real estate.  So, thanks Mama!

Or if you’re getting ready to send your little one(s) to pre-k or you’re just flat tired of carrying all of their stuff for them, this is a great option, as are all of the Pottery Barn backpacks.  Plus, at the time of this post, they’re all on sale thanks to back-to-school season (even though its still July)…

Happy Mommy Review Monday!

Oh, and FYI- no one paid me or asked me to write this or gave me anything to try… although Pottery Barn, if you’re reading this, I’d be happy to take a few samples for my litter of littles.  Bahaha!

Photo Friday: Independence Day 2018

We celebrated Independence Day this year with a shrimp boil at Aunt Haley’s House with the Graves family, minus Will and Anna, who were at Joe Daddy’s house for the holiday.

Aunt Haley had a sprinkler going, fully loaded bubble guns, and poppers (since we’re in a burn ban, plus two year olds and real fireworks aren’t always the greatest combo).

The girls sported their red, white, and blue outfits. Frugality tip: wait until a few days before the holiday and resale stores usually run great sales. We got these shirts for $1 each. New stores often do the same thing. My friend, Paige, scored adorable ones for $3.99 from either Gymboree or the Children’s Place (I can’t remember). Plus, unlike some of the other holidays, these are easier to wear throughout the year.

I love buying clothes from the resale store. It’s almost always in great shape and it makes me feel very “green.” You know, like I’m saving the world, one preowned outfit at a time?!? The downside to buying clothes at a resale shop is if you want your multiples or even singles to match, it’s not always easy. Every once in a while I’ll find two of something in the right sizes and I snatch them up. Even though I’m a “matchy-matchy mom,” I’m ok with them just coordinating to save a few bucks. Oh, the sacrifices I make to save money…

Or, if you really want to save money, just put your kid in clothes they already have. That works pretty well too and is obviously a lot easier!

Enough of the frugality tips…..

As you’ll see below, we had a fantastic, fun time on the 4th. So fun, in fact, we didn’t even stay awake long enough that evening to see any fireworks. Yet, even without the fireworks, it was still a wonderful day. I hope everyone had a great holiday as well!

Mommy Review Monday: Panera Bread App

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Mommy Review Monday but was spurred into thinking of it today because this app is something I feel I should share. Since I’m on the road this week, I enjoyed a lovely meal from Panera Bread. (Half Turkey BLT and Half Green Goddess Salad). I pulled out my phone and opened my Panera Bread app. I quickly placed my order for rapid pickup and it was ready for me, bagged up and ready to go within minutes. It reminded me that there may be a few of you out there who don’t know about it and how great it is.

Here’s what I like about it:

  • Easy to use app with good layout
  • Choose whether to order for rapid pickup, delivery, or order from your table
  • Rapid pickup allows you to pick it up in a bag, packed and ready to take out
  • The delivery is super convenient
  • The “order from your table” option allows you to go secure a table during busy times and order there rather than waiting in line to order- even though their new kiosks are quite convenient.
  • I can order assorted boxes of bagels with cream cheese options for pickup quickly for an easy breakfast meeting snack/light breakfast.
  • It shows you where the nearest cafes are.
  • It keeps up with your Panera Bread rewards and shows you what you’ve already used and what you have available. I’ve already earned a free drink, free cookie, and a discount.
  • You can look up the menu. The menu shows you the nutritional facts. If you’re tracking your calories or nutrition, this is very helpful.
  • You can easily customize your order to include what you do and don’t want…even things you didn’t know were options.
  • You can save your credit card on there for fast ordering. I think you can use Apple Pay too.
  • You can see some of the screen shots below.

What I would change:

  • I’d love to see the option to order for in-house dining (like rapid delivery but instead of being packaged to leave be ready to eat at your table.) Sometimes I’ll order online for rapid pickup but feel guilty having it in disposable takeout bowls rather than the reusable ones.
  • I’d love to see them add more group meal options for box lunches, drinks, etc. It’s easy enough to just call those in but, in true millennial-style, I’d live to just do it online or on my phone to get a quick confirmation. I agree that this is very much a first world problem.
  • That’s honestly all I can think of right now to be improved.

Like I said before, it’s pretty fantastic. If you eat at Panera Bread on a somewhat regular basis, this app is totally for you. It’s my go-to for when I’m on the road because I can consistently get a good meal, both from a taste and nutritional standpoint. The convenience of it, along with free WiFi available when I need to pull out my laptop for work, makes it an amazing cafe choice, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

If you like this app, you’ll also live the Starbucks app. Check out my post about it as well.

Happy Mommy Review Monday. I hope yours was as awesome as mine!

Mommy Review Monday: Batiste Dry Shampoo, Dark & Deep Brown

It took me a long time to break down and try dry shampoo, mostly because I always assumed it only worked for blondes. As I was getting my hospital bag ready for delivering the twins, one of the things I kept seeing on many new moms lists was dry shampoo. So I figured it was worth checking out. And I found that they make it for us dark haired beauties too. Duh. Of course they do. So, I went to Amazon and read a few hundred reviews before I decided to try out Batiste Dry Shampoo in Dark & Deep Brown.  It actually says Divine Dark on the spray can.

Mommy Review Monday- Batiste Dry ShampooAfter I got used to it, I was hooked. Here’s why I agree that it is divine dark:

  • It freshens my unwashed hair up. Obviously. That’s the whole purpose, right???  Second (or third day) greasy hair, be gone!  Don’t judge me….
  • It’s easy.  I saw online that there are some powders out there that you sprinkle on, which seems like (a) a mess for someone clumsy like me (b) time consuming (c) did I say a mess???
  • It smells good but isn’t too strong.
  • It doesn’t show up once you brush it out.  See comment below.
  • It provides camo for my stray grays that I’ve got peaking through.  I’ve got at least one for each kids growing right now…. plus one for the cat, Garen, the kitchen remodel, the yard sale….need I go on???
  • It’s reasonably priced.  $23.05 for a three-pack.
  • It’s available on Amazon.  Available in 2 days, which is usually plenty fast.
  • It’s not a huge can.  When you travel as much as I do, you consider things like the size of your cosmetics and products.
  • It gives me a bit of extra body.  Disclaimer- some people may not like this because it does make your hair a bit stiffer and full.  I, on the other hand, can use all the help I can get with my super-thin hair.

Here’s what I’d love more:

  • I’d love it more if it didn’t show up at all when you sprayed it on your hair.  Yes, I’m lazy enough to say that I’d rather not to have to brush it out.  However, you do need to brush it or you’ll look like you walked into a cloud of baby powder.  Once you brush it out, it’s as good as new though.  It’s still faster than washing and drying my hair….
  • I wish it was readily available at more stores.  Even though it’s on Amazon, there are times that I get somewhere and I’ve forgotten to pack it.  Dun, dun, dun…. Most stores don’t carry it and I’m just stubborn enough not to try another brand so I just have to wash my hair.  First world problem, right?!?
  • It gets your hands (see photo below) and can get your clothes dirty if you’re not careful.  It will also wash out brown in the shower.  The first time that happened I had forgotten about it and thought to myself, “Man, how did I get that dirty???”  Then I remembered.  Duh….Mommy Review Monday- Batiste Dry Shampoo

There you have it.  Now any of you beautiful dark headed ladies can enjoy dry shampoo too if you haven’t already.  And if any of you have a brand you like more, please let me know!  I’d love to try it out compared to Batiste but I’m hesitant without a recommendation from a fellow dry shampooer….

Happy Mommy Review Monday!

Photo Friday: A girl and her doll

We got Anna her first American Doll for her birthday. She loves it. Garen got this photo of us “doing hair.”

I love it. So real. So special.

Here’s another great one that Garen took.

Happy Photo Friday!