Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Starting My Garden with Scott Gro-ables Seed Pods

This post brought to you by Gro-ables.  All opinions are 100% mine.


Gro-ables I am stoked. I was just offered the opportunity to review seed pods by Scott Gro-ables. I had never heard of this product before, and I am intrigued. I'm also what you might call a casual gardener, but I have not had an opportunity to garden in a few years. I've been either traveling or in an apartment where growing was not feasible. 

Now that I'm settled down again, it's in a pretty challenging climate. We chose to settle in a mountain town nearly 9,000 in elevation. So, our growing season will be shorter than it was back in Texas. 

But I am still hopeful. 

In fact, I was thinking about planting seedlings in an old egg carton and starting them that way. Now that I've got this opportunity to grow the Scott Gro-ables, I'll be able to save myself the trouble and expense of doing that. No going to the store 45 minutes away to get the potting soil. 

No worrying about the ground freezing if I plant them too early, since I can start these in a pot on my windowsill and transfer them outside. All I need to do is pop these prepared seed pods in soil and watch them grow. Each pod as soil, seeds, and plant food so there's no guesswork involved. 
In 2012, I had a plot at my local community garden in a city just north of Dallas. I adored my garden and lovingly weeded and tilled the soil to get it ready for my seeds. I grew cilantro, sweet peppers, tomatoes, spinach, corn, and a plethora of other edibles. I felt a sense of triumphant accomplishment when I harvested them just a few short months later.

Since Scott didn't offer corn pods, I chose the pepper and cilantro pods. Being in the American Southwest, you just can't really prepare a decent meal without them, and I am quite partial to them.

One of the first dishes I plan on making with the cilantro and peppers once I harvest them is my famous chicken tortilla soup. And just because I'm such an awesome person, I'm sharing that recipe with you all. My husband has remarked that it's better than restaurant soup, which made me weep with pride. 

Ok, I didn't really cry, but it made me pretty proud to know he'd rather eat what I make than what he can buy at a restaurant. 

Here's a cross-section of what the seed pod looks like, according to the Gro-ables website


So, the seed is nestled in the growing materials, with plant food at the bottom. Muy convenient, isn't it? I can't wait to see how these grow compared to my earlier experience with gardening. 



Another nice feature of these pods is that Gro-ables have a dedicated website and app called Sprout It for gardeners to document their gardens' progress. The app and website allow gardeners to enter the date of planting, the type of edible planted, and how much sun and water it needs. It's a really convenient way to keep track of your garden so you know exactly how your seeds grow in a particular climate or environment. 

And here is the aforementioned recipe I've decided to share because I'm just that generous (humility, what humility?).

Meatless Chicken Tortilla Soup

Directions: 

32 ounces chicken broth, 4 cup
2-4 cups of water
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
29 Ounce can hominy
1/2 cup white rice
1 Medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped
1 Medium sweet red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup chopped yellow onions.
2 1/2 cups fresh diced tomatoes
1/4 cup diced pickled jalapeno peppers
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

    Add a little Grated Monterrey cheese, Mexican table cream and some crumbled tortilla chips (usually found in the bottom of the bag) to your bowl and enjoy!

    And that, my dear readers, is how I plan on using my Scott Gro-ables peppers, cilantro, and tomatoes. 

    You can add chicken to this if you want. When I do, I add about one pound, cook it in the slow cooker, pull it apart, and then add the chicken to the soup later.






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    Saturday, March 22, 2014

    How Old Are Your Spices?

    Last year befoe we moved, I was gifted a box of food. Inside this box were two bottles of spices: a full, but used bottle of cinnamon and a half-used bottle of chili powder. I would have used them both enthusiasticlly, but the problem was, these were relics nearly as old as I was. 

    I love the artwork on the Adams cinnamon bottle
    Check out the old purple price stamp on top ofthe Adams Cinnamon cap. Yup. That reads 79 cents. I'm sure in today's world, that would translate into over $5.00.

    I have no idea how much the Gebhardt Eagle Chili Powder cost, but I'm sure it was right up there. 
    I don't know why these two spices were given to me. My husband begged me to throw them out, but not before I'd taken some pictures of them. 

    My mother, for some reason, has always kept her spices for decades, and I think she just wanted to pass them on to me because she was tired of looking at them. I can't ask her now because we are not on speaking terms, but I'm sure she'd just shake her head and say, "Oh, I don KNOW!" like she always does. 

    Anyway, check out the dates. These were given to me in 2012, making the cinnamon 42 years old, and the chili powder 35 years old. I'm sure they'd still be edible, but pretty tasteless and stale. 


    Click the image to enlarge.

    I really wanted to keep them for posterity's sake, but my husband insisted on throwing them out. He's the anti-packrat, and hates unnecessary clutter, while I am the exact opposite. 

    And so, the old spices were sacrificed in the name of practicality. I am still upset about that. 



    March 2014 Birchbox Review

    I'm in love with this month's Birchbox. It took my box 10 days to arrive after it was initially shipped, so I already knew what I was getting long before it arrived (yes, I'm bad. I peeked). 

    I was excited to discover that I was getting the Beauty Protector detangler and leave-in conditioner. I adore the delicious, musky scent of the shampoo and regular conditioner, and last month I received the hair oil, so I was really, really happy about getting this. 

    I noticed I was also getting a Stila lip glaze and the Air Repair balm. I already like the Stila brand, and I love glosses, so I was happy with that pick, as well. I'd never heard of Air Repair, but the description left me intrigued. 

    My daughter and I have been sick, so I forgot to take a picture of the actual box after I opened it, so you'll have to forgive me for that oversight. 

    The Box

    First the bonus item: Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango. I tried it. I didn't like it. I do not like cherry flavored anything and this was no different. The dark chocolate candy would have been great by itself, though. 

    Dr. Hauschka Regenerating Eye Cream & Regenerating Neck and Décolleté Cream - I didn't like the way these products smelled. It reminded me of burning toffee for some reason. It wasn't an overwhelmingly heavy, but it was just enough to make me crinkle my nose. I guess I'm a bit picky about my products and their scents. 

    The two creams were good, but I could never wear them under my makeup because they're a bit too oily for my skin. I'm 44 years old, but my combination skin makes it difficult for me to find anti-aging products that don't feel like I've just emerged from an oil slick. 

    They are supposed to be worn during the day, but I put them on before I went to bed. I do like the fact that they are organic. Now, if they could just tweek the fragrance and make it less weird. 

    Gena Pedicure Foot Treatment Cream - I haven't had a chance to try this, yet. We went camping for a few months last year and my feet have not been the same since. Dry and cracked on the bottom, the tops, calluses...I need a really good pedicure treatment before I try this lotion so I'm holding off on that. I do like that I got two sample packets that are relatively large: a half ounce each. So, when I am ready to try this, I'll have plenty to test on these ravaged feet. 

    Stila lip glaze - I got a sample card of stila lip colors from Smashbox a month ago and loved their Vivienne color and the hint of mint that made my lips feel slightly plumper. So, I was thrilled to see I was getting a lip glaze in a similar color. I got Sugar Plum, which is a perfect neutral for my skin tone, so it's now my go-to lip gloss when I'm on the go. 

    I also love that the gloss has a brush and not a little sponge thing like so many other mechanical gloss dispensers have. This is defintely a hit with me, and I'll probably be looking for more once this runs out. 

    Air Repair Rescue Balm All-Purpose Skin Salve and Lip Balm - I'm not crazy about the dispenser, but I like the concept of the product. I tried it on my cuticles and my lips and it felt good, and had a nice lemony scent to it. It has one of those little nozzles you have to snip off with scissors in order to use it, which means it won't leak during transport. I think this will be great on my poor, overused fingers and nails, so I'm keeping it at home in my organizer. 

    I've already mentioned how much I love the Beauty Protector line, and the Protect and Detangle product is no different. I washed my hair, towel dried it and then went to spray it on. Oops. The spray pump didn't work, no matter how many times I pumped. No big deal. I unscrewed the cap and put about a dime size dollop of product in my hand and worked it in. Now, if I had paid the $22 for the full size product, I'd be pretty annoyed, but since this is a sample size, I'm not too irritated. 

    Let me just say this. The Protect and Detangle made my hair smell so scrumptious I couldn't stop smelling it. It made my hair easy to comb and easy to style and left a nice sheen. This works perfectly with the hair oil, and I can't recommend both enough. 

    I think a full set of Beauty Protector products is in the cards for my birthday in a few months, from Birchbox, of course. 

    The Verdict

    I really liked the products I got in this month's Birchbox. I liked four out of six items in the box, making it a huge success, especially since I'm so picky. Considering the fact that I got a full-size Stila lip glaze that was worth $8 alone (and the box itself is $10 for everything), I feel like I got a pretty good deal this month. 

    Disclaimer: The blog post above contains referral links. 

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    Review: March 2014 Sample Society Box

    Sample Society's advertisement photo
    This was my first month to try Beauty Bar's Sample Society subscription box. I'd sign up after hearing some pretty good things about it, so I was very hopeful that I'd get some products I just couldn't live without. 

    Sample Society has a partnership with Allure magazine, so you know you're getting the latest trends in beauty products. The problem with this is the experts' opinion and my opinion don't always align. 

    For example, their mini-mag this month gives a list of top five trends for spring. One of those trends is orange lips. Orange. I have to ask, what are these people thinking? This only works if you have a warmer skin tone. Any kind of orange anything makes me look like I should be a fruit. Or a clown.  

    Another trend they're touting is salt spray for that textured, beachy, look. When they say textured, they really mean windblown. 

    This is what everyone envisions when they think about beautiful, windblown beach hair: 




    And, this is the sad, sad reality.


    Not even The Donald can carry off that look. Notice the orangey makeup and fake tan? We'll get to that in a minute. 




    So, yeah. I think I'll pass on the salt spray. 

    Anyway, on Sample Society's intro page it says this: 


    "Sample Society with Allure is the only luxury beauty sample service that delivers the whole package: 
    • 5 deluxe- size samples from prestige and indie brands
    • Curated mix of skin care, hair styling, fragrance, & makeup
    • Allure mini-mag with editors tips and trends
    • $15 monthly Beautybar.com gift card to redeem on a $50 purchase (that includes a product from one of your sampled brands)" 
    So, I shelled out the money and waited. I am guessing that the service costs a little more because Sample Society ships via UPS and not through the post office. 

    The Box


    My March Sample Society box

    My favorite product as the MD Solar Sciences Mineral Tinted Creme in SPF 30. It was a near perfect match for my skin tone, and left a velvety softness on my skin that wasn't greasy at all. I would have traded the .9 ounce Ahava mud mask I received for a bigger sample of the tinted mineral cream I got (.08 ounce). I was sad when it ran out so I checked the Beauty Bar site. A 1.7 ounce tube is $32. For perspective, that full-size tube is just under twice the size of the Ahava mud mask sample that was in my box, so I suppose it makes sense that they don't offer a larger sample. 

    The Solar Sciences tinted moisturizure is $4 less than another favorite of mine: Coola Mineral Sunscreen. At $36, it's the same size as the Solar Science, and it feels the same on my skin. So, the product I received in my box from Sample Society was a better deal. 

    The second product I got was the Ahava Purifying Mud Mask. At .9 ounces, it is a travel size, and retails for $9 on the Beauty Bar site. I'm not really into mud masks. I prefer masks I can peel off. I'm one of those weird people that doesn't like splashing water on my face. The water trickles down my arm and gets into my sleeves, and it just feels icky. Plus, rinsing it off doesn't work, so I have to wipe it off with a washcloth and it is just too messy for me to really get into. So, it's not the product's fault. It's just one of my own quirks. I did try it, though, and it smelled good and dried relatively quickly. 

    I also received the Alterna 10 in 1 Complete Correction Leave-in Conditioner. I'm not a huge fan of leave-in conditioners because my hair is thin and fine, but this was not too heavy and felt more like a styling product than a conditioner. It made a visible difference in my ability to comb my hair after washing it. It has a mild scent, which doesn't overpower whatever other scents you might be wearing, leaving it feeling clean and soft. 

    Alterna claims to help hair ten ways: 

    Moisture, shine, smoothness, softness, anti-breakage, heat protection, light hold, UV protection, manageabilty, and strength. 

    The full-size product is $25 for 2.5 ounces. That's about 10 cents per ounce. At 0.85 ounce, that works out to $8.50 value for the sample. 

    Like everyone else who subscribes, I got a pair of Jane Tran hair clips. Mine were a cheerful bright blue color, which is a great color since I enjoy wearing bright colors. I can use them for myself and also for my daughter. They retail for about $3.50, which is pretty good for a couple of good quality hair accessories. 

    The last item in the box is the one I hated. Jane Iredale Tantasia self-tanning lotion. As a rule, I do not like self-tanning products, so I'm already biased. I just don't understand why every self tanner I've ever seen gives an orange hue on the skin. I opened this product to see what it looked like, and yup. It had a coppery-orange hue to it. 

    If Donald Trump can't even find a decent self-tanner, then I don't hold out much hope for any of them. It does have a glittery sheen and a nice scent, though. 

    Final Verdict 

    Overall, though, I felt the box was good and I got products worth more than what I paid. 

    Friday, March 14, 2014

    Review: March Wantable Makeup Box

    Some of you might know that I've not been kind to Wantable's accessories box. Out of three boxes I was sent, I felt that the quality was severely lacking in two of them. I was ready to call it quits altogether, but their customer service has really pulled through. I wrote about how the company really does care about customer happiness, which was a deciding factor in my deciding to stay. 

    Wantable is one of the few subscription box services that offers three different kind of boxes: Makeup, accessories, and intimates. For each box, you fill out a detailed survery about your style and color preferences and then the company selects between three and four items and sends them to you for $36 per month. 

    I had some issues with the accessories box not being the quality I felt it should be. My last box was actually a March accessories box, which I'd won during a Photo Friday Contest. I was disappointed in the box for a number of reasons, but when I contacted their customer service, Lindsey offered me a choice: to receive another accessories box, or choose another box altogether as a replacement. 

    I chose the makeup box because a girl can never have too many blushes and eye shadows, right? 

    Well, a couple days ago, I received my box. I'd seen Liz Cadman of My Subscription Addiction  review their March makeup box and was hopeful that my box would be that good, too. 

    When I got mine and opened it, I was really pleased with the things I'd gotten. Like Liz, I got the Mistura retractable makeup brush, but everything else was different, mainly because my preferences were different. 



    I got four full-size products along with a sample. The products that I received are: 

    Full Size Products

    • Mistura retractable makeup brush - $18.82
    • Laqa & Co. Fat Lip Pencil in Wolfman - $18
    • Three Custom Color Specialist Wet/Dry eyeshadow in Warm Brown Sugar - $21.50
    • La Bella Donna Compressed Mineral Blush in Dylan - $27


    Sample

    • Sormé Treat & Tint Skin Perfecting BB Cream in Light Honey - $0


    Starting with the Mistura brush, let's just say I'm thrilled with this. The brush is sturdy but pretty, and the bristles feel so soft against my face. I mean, unbelievably soft. I love this thing so much, I foresee a future for it in my handbag. 

    Next up the La Bella Donna compressed mineral blush. The color is not quite as bright as the photo I've shown. It's more earthy, and it's a great color for my skin tone. It has a slight sparkle to it, and gives my face a nice glow without being overbearing. 



    The LAQA & Co. fat lip pencil wasn't my favorite item in the box. It's supposed to be a gloss, but it feels more like a waxy lipstick going on, and has more of a matte finish. I love the color, though. Unlike its namesake, it's a very pretty feminine pink color. I love pink lip color, so I will definitely use this. I can't really wear it alone, but it's perfect to tone down those really bright lip colors and works well under lip gloss. 


    The eye shadow isn't really a color I'd pick for myself, but when I tried it, I actually liked it. The trick is to use it lightly. I used it both wet and dry. I brushed it on my outer lids and then used a wet makeup brush to apply under my eyes. A little of this product goes a long way, and I am sure there will be occasions when I use this. 

    I've been wanting a compact with a mirror for a really long time, so having the eyeshadow come in a neat mirrored compact really pleased me. 

    Last but definitely no least is the Sormé tinted BB cream. The light honey was a perfect match for my skin tone. It has argan oil, among other ingredients, so I knew it was going to be a little heavy for my skin. I was right. I have combination skin, so this made it a little too oily. My glasses kept slipping down my face, even after applying a little face powder. So, even though the cream feels good going on and blends well with my skin tone, I think it's a bit too oily for my complexion. 

    Final Verdict: 

    The Wantable Makeup Box has a total retail value of $85.32. I can use all four of the full-size products I received, so I think paying $36 per month is a pretty darn good deal. 

    In comparison to the accessories box, it is completely different in terms of value, but that could change. Wantable informed me that they are in the process of changing their algorithm for their accessories box, so hopefully their subscribers will start getting things closer to their preferred style. 

    If you prefer getting full-size products in your subscription box, I highly recommend the Wantable Makeup Box

    Disclosure: This post has referral links within the text.