Posted in Couponing, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Product Review: Circle with Disney

Thanks to McCormick Spice company, I was gifted a $50 Amazon gift card for taking part in their online customer advisory surveys on Christmas morning! Bonus points for the perfect timing but I’m still partial to Epicure at this point.

I went on Amazon.ca after seeing a Facebook advertisement for Circle. I was super surprised at the genius in what it said it could offer: a simple plug-in and go device that can control the internet for every other device in your house.

I don’t think I’m alone in this battle: I am constantly nagging my kids (ages 11 and 14) to get off their electronics. Even though I limit their screen time, it seems like as soon as I allow it there is this turn. It’s like crack for kids. (Disclaimer: Not that I really know what crack is like!) This drug-like system that takes them away from this physical world and transforms them into comatose hybrids that look like my children. They then react quickly when I tell them to remove themselves from their alternate realities (how many tabs and screens can you have open at once – no wonder the internet is dragging!!!) It seems easier to let them have it than fight for their attention to real life (dinner, chores, homework, lessons, appointments etc.). Yet being the good mom that I am, I don’t back down from a challenge most times. I’m here to raise good people on planet Earth – not some Matrix they are not old enough to choose to be in at their every whim!

So being the frugal person who doesn’t drop dollars like it grows on trees (or falls like snow in Canada these days!), I went on to Circle’s website to really discover if I could entrust them with my money, internet and sanity.

Features

I was delighted to discover that not only can I limit the internet for each device, there were SO MANY problems that were solved with this little square box (love the irony of it being called Circle!).

Here’s what I thought were some super cool things Circle can do:

  • Everything is controlled by an app on my cell phone
  • Every device can be assigned to a specific family member or user (kids’ friends beware!)
  • Each user has their own “rules” that you can assign
  • Rules include limiting internet times per day and for bedtimes
  • Certain apps/websites (Facebook, YouTube, Minecraft, Netflix, Instagram, etc.) can have set limits per day – that means no binge watching Vampire Diaries all night kiddos
  • Limits can be different on weekdays and weekends
  • Ultimate pause button exists on the app & for each user – When I call for dinner, I will definitely get a quicker response!
  • Rewards can be granted such as extra time, later bedtimes, etc.
  • Chore apps can be linked to Circle to ensure that beds get made before electronics are allowed (I’m going to enroll in a few of these apps too – what a super great discovery!)

So I figured – what the hay! I have $50 in free “play money” & I have free Amazon Prime 2-day shipping, so for out of pocket $62.99 I was willing to gift myself some possible sanity. (Currently Circle retails for $129.99 Canadian but is on sale for $99.99 on Amazon.ca)
Set Up

It arrived in the guaranteed time and I quickly tore open the package. It was so cute and somehow in a Tiffany blue box. (Good play Disney, good play for those moms you target so well!).

The best thing is that it is literally a plug-and-play device. The installation was so simple and it walks you through everything on the app. It was the easiest thing – exactly what was promised. Within 3 minutes, Circle was working, app was installed and the basic setup had begun.

How many devices do you have in your household? Be a little patient as Circle will recognize them all (Apple or android, it doesn’t matter, plus printers and more I discovered!). The names they come at can be cryptic but that’s not Circle’s fault. I figured out the printer by looking at the manufacturer (Canon). Honestly I really didn’t have to do anything – this little square box had already won my heart for how much work and think-less process / system it has. Thank you on behalf of parents everywhere!

A bonus feature the actual device has is temporary backup power. Not for power outages, silly! If your kids are smart, they might think to pull the power cord in order to deactivate Circle and gain some extra screen time behind your back (oh because your kid is such an angel…..). Don’t tell them, but it sends a message to the app letting you know it happened. Ha ha! Good play Disney, good play! Win for the parents again.

As parents, we can get caught up in the internet too. So we can actually be a user and set limits (“rules”) for ourselves as well. Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram/etc. won’t suck us in for more than ____ hours a day if we set up limits in our user profile.

So as I sit with my morning coffee, I’m waiting for the bustle of my children to start. 8am on weekends is when Circle allows them the internet (they need their sleep!) and I expect my 14 year old won’t venture out of her bed until she hits her limit and gets upset that she doesn’t know how this episode of Riverside ended. Well, it’s her own darn fault… maybe looking at nail polish designs on Pinterest for 10 minutes beforehand wasn’t such a great idea now, was it?

I’m raising good people, and part of that is letting them discover within limits how to make choices for themselves. It’s kind of like teaching them the currency of time: you should budget accordingly so that you don’t end up with a zero bank balance before the end of the day (or pay period /month) wondering where it all got spent.

With Circle, I think my family will have definitely less arguments over screen time plus it will give my mind and voice a much needed nag-break. It’s a great tool to separate the rules, rule maker (um, parent) and the choices and self-control growing kids have themselves. Well done, Circle.

Please Note: No company sponsored this post. The money was spent by me and was an actual personal purchase.

Posted in Farm, Fruits, Healthy, Home Economics, Local, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Product Review: Starfrit Cherry Pitter

Cherries are in full season, but my “season” started months ago.  I undertook a project  with 20 Valley Harvest Farms.  I have been responsible for many things including designing unique recipes that highlight not only cherries, but whole food, local and Canadian ingredients (Professional Home Economists can be a great source for recipe writing!).

So with so many recipes to design, test and re-test I also indirectly tested out several ways to pit cherries for the average consumer.

I first tried home hacks and methods that required only household items.  You can read that post here: Cherry Pitting: Home Hacks on Trial. Even though I am against having too many appliances and gadgets in the kitchen, I went looking for a possible way to get through pitting tons of cherries so I could focus on the recipes (especially when a test completely fails and I need to re-do it fast!).

So I research and find the single, stainless steel cherry pitter.  One was at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $18.99.  I also found the Starfrit Cherry Pitter.  With the option of “6 cherries at once”, I was very interested.  It was plastic so I was a bit hesitant, but with the price tag of $14.99 at my local Canadian Tire, I considered it for 3 weeks.  (Now when you search during the season, a ton more pop up when searching online.)

After buying out of season cherries from Washington (USA), spending tons of money and losing lots of time for the other tasks I needed to complete for 20 Valley Harvest farm promotions, I bit the bullet and pulled out my wallet.

Did you know that the average recipe development cost charged to companies is about $350 PER RECIPE?! It’s not just the time, but the cost of ingredients, appliances and even energy – electricity for stoves, appliances – add to the cost of a recipe to be developed and tested.

Being frugal, I thought I’d attempt the Starfrit one since it was cheaper and the idea of doing 6 cherries at once compared to the traditional, one at a time, made me travel to Canadian Tire.  When I asked, the employee didn’t even know where to find it and she said they must not carry it.  I thanked her and noted her lack of confidence of an obviously, not well requested item.  So I kept searching the aisle for my solution to my “bloody” cherry hell (I mean problem….).  Well, low and behold, after searching inch by inch, there it was… quietly sitting there with no indication of how purposeful it really was.

So home I went, with a lighter wallet and a hope that this weird contraption was going to make my life easier.

So instead of just showing you photos of how it went, I thought I’d use my daughter to film a quick impromptu video of how the Starfrit Cherry Pitter works from beginning to end. ​

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​PHEc Tips to get the most out of this gadget:

  • The fresher the cherries, the more likely the pit will not stay attached to the tiny flap of skin.
  • Not just for pies, it’s a great way to make maraschino cherries for cocktails, garnishes and additions to salads.
  • A great tool if you are also going to dehydrate/dry these into cherraisins (I made up the word and pronounce it “sher-raisins” or “chair-raisins” – which do you prefer?).
  • Store with your canning gear and put away for the season, or with your colander for reminders when washing other fruits, berries and veggies.

Here’s what I think after testing out the Starfrit Cherry Pitter:

Pros

  • Easy to use – It has the same action as a stapler and a child can do it without help.
  • Dishwasher safe – It comes apart to clean all three parts and no handwashing required.
  • Quick – Less work and mess than home hacks, plus this type does 6 cherries at a time!
  • Easier than other pitters – For people that don’t have good hand and finger coordination (Ex: Persons with MS, arthritis, fibromyalgia, advanced or very young ages) – no balancing or strong grip required.
  • Compact – It stores flat with a small locking tab that keeps it flat for storage.
  • Encourages healthy eating – Mr R Ginger ate an entire bowl in 5 minutes when I offered him “some” since they were already pitted.  I’m sure children and everyone in the family will do the same (we never got a chance 😉 ).

Cons

  • Cost is more than home hacks or commercially prepared ones
  • Space – You’ll need to store it somewhere when not in use.

Final Thought:  Yes, I do recommend this item.

IMG_6374If you are picking cherries or making jam or pies, this is a great and healthy alternative to home hacks or commercially prepared with added sugar (10% for those buckets of pitted cherries seasonally available usually).  This became my go to for my recipe testing.  It has held up great under many dishwasher runs, two kids using it and the countless cherries sacrificed for 3 unique recipes designed by Nutrition Bites for 20 Valley Harvest Farms.

I’m not all for new gadgets, or spending money (frugal PHEc here!), but this saved me time and made it easier to enjoy cherries more this season.  I’m happy to have it in my home, and I know next year I will be ready to pull it out.  This cherry pitter is totally worth not looking like a red-handed, mass-murderer during cherry season when you are up for serving delicious pies, tarts, jams, salads and cakes quickly!

 

Note: All opinions are my own.  This was not sponsored by Starfrit and I have not received any compensation or free items to recommend this product.

Posted in Gluten Free, Healthy, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Product Review: Sol Cuisine Sprouted Quinoa Chia Burgers

A quick post after a very hectic personal life was necessary tonight. 

A busy night of kid activities led us trying this product. 

  
My little one has been begging to be in a blog post ever since the older one was featured in one trying NuPasta. 

We had NO burger buns and tried them right out of the microwave. It took over 3 minutes: a bit more than the two minutes on the instructions but I won’t split hairs. 

My little one did manage to quickly split …. 
… the burger and the blog post.  

Don’t you love the IKEA kid plates. She sets the table (chore charts are a parent’s best friend I tell you) so sometimes we dine on plastic. 

The results were unanimous. 

  

We didn’t like them all that much. 

Green plate: I ate mine.

Yellow plates: The little one had one bite and chose carrots, an apple, cheese and whole wheat toast instead. (NOTICE: 3 food groups and everything she can make herself. Mom only makes dinner once and needs to feed herself too!) 

The big one took one bite and opted for oatmeal and fruit juice. (She’s been heavy on the fibre lately so I know she’s getting her veggies and fruits during the rest of the day.)

This product has a very noticeable quinoa crunch with the old fashioned veggie burger taste. 

Microwaving is not optimal as a cooking method. They were kind of soggy in the middle but dry and crispy on the edges. 

Pros:

  • Quick and easy to cook
  • Vegan
  • Gluten free
  • No soy filler
  • Source of fibre
  • Source of iron
  • Made in Canada (but not all are Canadian ingredients)
  • Ingredients (except modified cellulose) are real food ingredients

Cons:

  • Cost – Expensive at over $6 for 4 (71g) patties 
  • Very veggie taste – not a good hamburger alternative/swap
  • Not kid friendly 
  • Texture is crunchy and soggy
  • Nutrition facts table does not give a great display of the healthy fats possibly present
  • Lower in protein than I expected
  • Required to be in the freezer, not the fridge & cooked thoroughly. 

So this is a thumbs down, no thank you, will not buy again product. 

I was highly disappointed in the product but truly bought it myself with the hopes it would shine bright like the package. 

I ate it. It’s not terrible, but being the omnivore that I am, it’s definitely not as delicious as my regular beef, chicken or venison alternatives. It’s definitely not a product you serve at a BBQ thinking “those (traditional) people won’t know the difference”.  

For those of you on certain diets (vegan, gluten free) or allergic to soy, this product is something you might want to try if it goes on sale. Or clearance. 

It’s just not my cup of tea.