Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Barbies have been banned

Week one of Banned Barbies.

Last week I took a large black garbage bag and "cleaned up" the kids room. While they were running up and down the stairs delivering various things to the laundry room and kitchen I was hoarding away the Barbies in the inconspicuous black bag of banned toys.

I have to admit it was liberating tossing those perfect figures (we donated them) into the bag and I did feel a little naughty when the kids would come back up and I'd have to close the bag up quickly so as to not be found out for my crimes. Though in the end the ends justified the means. It's been a full week and neither of my daughters (ages 3 and 5) have noticed their bins lacking.

We are reading a book called "Beyond the Rainbow Bridge" which is chock full of wonderful words of wisdom centered around raising children ages birth to 7 (which we have almost 5 in that age group). In the very first part of the book it says that "What is normal is not always Healthy" or something worded slightly different. It made me realize that just because there is a hot pink aisle in every Target or Walmart and everyone and their cousin has a box full of these toys, doesn't mean that it's right for MY child or MY home. Stepping away from the Main Stream can be difficult and tricky but I think in this case the results are priceless.

They have in fact, started playing with OTHER toys they had abandoned for Barbie play. Which are more innocent than those scantily clad, impossible to replicate in real life, women. Because lets face it, Barbies are notoriously gallivanting around the house NUDE, possibly in panties depending on the mold but otherwise completely bare. As I've found during play dates, Barbies tend to follow a more nudist lifestyle in other homes as well. A fact that just doesn't sit well with me or her daddy.

Here's why. My 5 year old daughter is amazing, she strong, sensitive and beautiful. When she's not paired with a Barbie she has a wonderful self image. But as soon as Barbie and her posse come around she starts saying things about her body and how she wants to look when she grows up i.e. "I want to get big boobies when I grow up". For a 5 year old (and anyone not old enough to buy their own breasts), in our home this is not acceptable.

Why on Earth should a 5 year old girl be worried about her future appearance? Why should anyone pre-pubescent for that matter? It was a problem with an easy solution...Barbie had to go.

Her eviction came with little fan fare, as the kids had NO idea she was on her way out. Now, a week later we've had 2 requests to play Barbie with which the girls were very easily directed to other forms of play or other responsibilities they hadn't completed. Their main play with Barbies was the dynamic of mother and child which has been easily filled with other toys such as, playmobil, Loving Family doll house people and believe it or not, match box cars (the larger Loving Family mini van acted as mother to the much smaller match boxes). The girls are content and haven't even noticed one missing Barbie clan member. I'm feeling mighty grand that we don't have these images of unfulfillable destinies cluttering our wee ones minds. Now comes the hard part, getting the relatives to stop buying them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Test Taster Review - SKOR vs. HEATH

This is the first review of food I've done. I choose SKOR and HEATH because honestly, WHAT is the difference?? They're both chocolate covered toffee, right? WRONG, well, almost.

Here's the story of how I decided to put SKOR and HEATH head to head: I was in the store looking for a great way to reduce my pregnancy cravings for both chocolate and hard toffee. First, I found a yummy looking Heath bar, which I've had many times in the past. Then, I saw a Skor bar and curiosity got the better of me. I started to look at what it was...a yummy chocolate toffee bar. Then I asked myself, "self, what is the difference in these chocolate temptations?" to which I answered myself "I don't know lets eat them and blog about it." And so the birth of this blog posting came about.

Let me note now that both Heath and Skor are made by Hershey's. Not that surprising I know, but the shocker will come at the end of the blog, so please read on.

I'll start with the ever popular HEATH which has been featured in things like Ice Cream and more recently turned into some sort of cookie concoction. Heath is described by Hershey's on the package as a "Milk Chocolate English Toffee Bar". Here's the low down on HEATH from the Hershey's website.

The lesser known Skor bar is given the description of "Delicious Milk Chocolate/Crisp Butter Toffee". Here is Hershey's information on SKOR.

Here are a few points about each bar

- Heath has a long history dating back about 100 years starting with a lovely story about the Heath brothers hand making this yummy confection. Whereas, SKOR was merely introduced in 1983.

-A Skor bar has an entire 10 fewer calories than a Heath bar making it a more healthful choice when you're looking to consume 200 calories in a single sitting.

I started this experiment very innocently. I set myself up in my bed at night (the time I most enjoy eating yummy candies, away from prying little hands) and got out my camera. I opened each package and immediately noticed they look exactly alike.

I then started with a small nibble on each bar noting the flavor and texture. Skor bars have slightly harder toffee to bite into but the quality, texture and flavor of the milk chocolate seems to be consistent between bars.

Second, I noticed the color of the toffee which actually varies significantly between the bars.

The Skor bar is on the top and has a distinctly darker toffee coloring than the Heath, though the Heath has a slightly milder flavor, the Skor definitely sports a bit nuttier and butterier flavor.

I asked my husband to do a blind test for me just randomly feeding me a bit of each without telling me what was what but he had to "check" something on the computer and by the time he came back I had eaten both bars. My taste buds had co-mingled the flavors so completely it was like eating 2 of the same candy bar.

Overall, the experience was gratifying except I'm now addicted to both Heath and Skor bars. The pleasant side is that anywhere that sells candy bars usually has at least one of the brands on hand.

If you're looking for a yummy chocolate covered hard toffee bar, you're probably good to go with either candy bar! While they're marketed differently, (Heath a whole bunch and Skor not at all) it seems that Skor is just a second attempt to sell you the same candy bar in a different package by the same company.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My dehydrating experience

I posted about my new dehydrator and how I was excited to get it going. Well here are the results!

I started out simply finding less than perfect produce in my fridge and cutting it up. I halved grape tomatoes and some larger round ones and sliced regular sized tomatoes. I also halved apricots. The book that came with the dehydrator was less than helpful with the process but it gave me the gist of what I needed to do.

Here is a photo of the freshly cut fruits on the dehydrator.
The dehydrator instructions said the tomatoes would take 1.5-3 days. I started these around dinner time last night and today at 2:30 the smaller tomatoes and most of the larger slices were done. Only some on the second tier were still juicy. Honestly, the grape tomatoes could have been finished this morning (approx 12-18 hrs) since they're slightly crunchy but they're still good, maybe great for a salad. The apricots are still finishing up since those are more juicy and thicker cuts than any of the tomatoes I did.

Here's a photo of the finished tomatoes!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

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Garbage to Sustenance

Ok, so here it goes. I'm picky about my fruits and veggies. If my apples have bruises, my bananas have "sugar spots" or my tomatoes and peppers are a little wrinkly, I just can't eat them. Possibly, this is some strange subconscious rebellion against my mother from when I was little and she made me eat fatty meats and less than perfect produce. But I digress. Fact is, I just can't bring myself to eat them!

Unfortunately, this has resulted in my very bad habit of either pawning it off to some not-so-snobbish member of the family, or just throwing it away. I really feel guilty and horrible about the latter. There are so many kids that don't get fresh produce and so much of Rob's money wasted buying it.

But wait! All is not lost! I found a wonderful way to redeem myself of this horrific crime. I sent Rob on a hunt to buy me a food dehydrator! I really didn't want to spend more than $40 on one and I've never priced one before but I was still concerned that we'd spend a lot of money on it then never use it. Well, I was in luck! On a hardware mission to Harbor Freight Rob found one for $25! It has 5 tiers and spins all by itself so everything gets equal dehydrating attention.

Today was my first day trying it out. It's very easy to use but I have yet to try the results (I'll post about those in a few days when this first batch is done).

I also bought a book at Target all about canning. I'm hoping to plan out our fruit seasons a little better next year since we have some amazing U-pick places here in Florida. The book is called Ball Complete Canning and was only $5.99. A pretty small investment for a huge amount of knowledge. It contains information on how to can EVERYTHING including meats and dehydrated foods! I do still need to purchase some Ball canning jars and a large pot to boil them in but I want to have things lined up before going to the expense.

I'm hoping that next year and into the following after that we will be opening up yummy jars of preserves, butters, purees, pickled and dried fruits and veggies and lots more with much less waste. This also goes with my plan to cut back on unnecessary spending and purchasing. We'll also be supporting local farmers at the U-pick farms. It will be a great opportunity for memory making when my kids can experience picking their own foods, preserving them and enjoying them later on.