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Showing posts from May, 2011

Learning from Gardening

You can learn a lot by keeping a garden: persistence, humility, hard work, accomplishment, utter failure, how to manage control and the complete lack of it, and a little about relationships.

Most gardeners form some sort of bond with any long term garden inhabitants. I know I do. So I cringed as my blueberries and raspberries suffered through rebuilding our garden and the shock of being transplanted.

After transplanting, they've all lost a little life. And one of my blueberry plants looks like it's barely holding on. I won't let it make any berries this year (so it can develop it's roots and branches again) but it may take 2 or 3 years to get back to it's former glory.

Which brings me to the lesson about relationships.... When do you say enough is enough? 


For the past few years, my blueberries have been stellar performers. Since they can last 20-50 years, we had planned to keep them forever. But now they're damaged. They aren't giving me what I want. And …

Will we finally compost successfully?

We've been composting in one way or another for about 8 years. And all 8 of those years have been spent learning. Seriously? In 8 years, you couldn't figure it out? Sadly, no.

When I was a kid, we had a 1/2 acre garden and dumped all of our scraps into the far end of the garden. They sat there and rotted until my dad tilled them into the ground in the Spring. Easy enough. It seemed to work. But then again, we were talking about 1/2 acre worth of produce scraps, a tractor, and parents. Things always seem easier when you're a kid and parents are doing the actual work.

Soon after we got married, my sister-in-law sent me a recipe for composting. I build a big square bin out of mesh, filled it with leaves and scraps and waited. It seemed to doing well, until it became full and heavy. The turning part sucked and it became a pit that sat without really breaking down. Actually, it became the local diner for a really disgusting muskrat.

I eventually quit. Then we moved and I renewe…

Be Careful What you Wear!

Oddly enough - my clothes have been a big topic of discussion in my circle of friends. Now, it's not unusual for friends to give opinions but it is odd for friends to be downright....honest.

A friend recently told me that my jeans made me look fat and dumpy. I'd like to tell you that I had a snippy comeback and said something brilliant, but I didn't. I just stared at here while she continued on. It turns out that I am wearing jeans that are just too big for me. And that makes me look fat.

Interesting. Being called fat doesn't bother me. I know it's not true. But anything that ends in -umpy sends up sizzling red flags. Dumpy. Lumpy. Frumpy. Stumpy. Bumpy. Ew


But could she be right? The offending jeans were a size 5, and to be honest they were baggy. But it's tough to find jeans that actually fit my brand of wide hips, little waist, short legs, etc. She suggested I wear skinny jeans. Puh-leaze!


Yes, I do own skinny jeans. Yes, they fit me. But no, I never wear t…

Choosing the Right Summer Camp for your Children

Does scheduling our children's activities really have to be such a stressful event? I can't tell you how stressful it is to hear moms buzzing about all the work they go through to find "the right" summer camps and activities. Yowza!
As it turns out, it doesn't have to be so hard. Not in the selection or the execution. This summer, my daughter will get the chance to attend one of the 12 great KinderCare Summer Camps.  My favorite thing about the KinderCare camps? I was going to say - how easy it is to find a KinderCare center near you! There are three within 10 minutes of my home and I'm sure there are plenty close to you. 
While that is extremely fantastic - logistically speaking; the best part is the camps themselves. There are 12 amazing programs to choose from. Out of the 12, there are 10 that my kids would absolutely love. The 2 that didn't make the cut are sports focused and my kids just aren't that "sporty." 
But they drooled over the…

Backyard Safari Outfitters - Review

It's so boring out here! Those were the horrendous words a little boy kept repeating on a recent play date. We were outside. My kids were having a great time. The moms were talking. The little boy kept complaining.

I guess not everyone has a natural inclination toward the outdoors....or do they? Perhaps they just need the right nudge. The right toys. The right adventure.....


I saw this as the perfect opportunity to try out the new toys from Backyard Safari Outfitters. We brought out the Base Camp ShelterCamouflage, Mega Magnifier, and Expedition Two Hiking Stick. And the fun started right away. 

All of a sudden, they were all explorers. Hunting for treasures. Looking for adventure. Hiding from bears. Not so boring anymore, huh?

To be honest, that kid was a brat and I was amazed that he finally engaged in playing and stopped whining. But after they left, my kids have had a blast with these toys. My kids love the outdoors and have a wild imagination. They have loved hiding out in …

Fruit2day Morning Review

I've seen Fruit2day in stores and on TV, but honestly I wasn't interested. I'm not a juice person and I didn't even bother to look at the ingredients. So when I was offered a chance to review Fruit2day Morning, I really thought it was going to suck.

I was wrong. First of all, they taste great. They contain whey powder (for protein) so I was concerned it would be chalky. It might have been a little at first but then I was distracted by the fruit bits. A nice touch. The bits of fruit prompted me to flip over the bottle and read the ingredients.

Yep, real fruit. Plus fruit puree, whey, and a some fruit juices. If you are a smoothie (or shake) for breakfast kind of gal, you might want to check these out. The protein and fruit bits make it a lot heartier (and slower to drink) than straight juice. The entire bottle had 150 calories. Is that good or bad? I don't know: I hardly ever drink calories.

A few snippy points - The Fruit2day Morning that I tried contained maltode…

$50 AMEX gift card giveaway - to help others

What's the best way to give back to your community? Honestly, the list is endless. But when given the chance, people can come up with some amazing ideas. And Pampers wants to hear what you have to say.
As part of the Little Miracle Mission, pampers is offering one Suburban Jungle reader a $50 American Express Gift Card - to pay it forward in your community.
How did I pay it forward? We were going to help out with our local churches donation garden - helping them to buy seeds and plants. But after the recent tornado hits, we feel a need to help those people whose homes were destroyed.  It seems only right to do both. 

To Enter to win the $50 AMEX gift card: Leave me a comment telling me how you'd use the card to create a Little Miracle in someone else's life.
Extra Entries:Take 3 Extra Entries for every way that you share this giveaway (facebook, Twitter, blogging). Leave 3 additional comments Take 2 Extra Entries for every way that you follow this blog (google friend connect…

Novica $50 Giveaway

Shopping for other people can be extremely difficult. You want to get them something different and meaningful. It's even more challenging if you have to find quality corporate gifts - because your job may be on the line! 


That's what I love about Novica. It's a website full of unique gifts. The kind of gifts you only find if you went on vacation and stumbled across an artisan's shop. While that makes the gift extra special, we can't traipse across the globe searching for the perfect gift. While it's fun - it's not exactly feasible (or very green.)


Check out the gift I found on Novica.com for one of my husband's friends: 


My husband's friend loves photography and he's quite good at it. But what makes this piece special is not just how it relates to his interests, it's handmade from salvaged auto parts: spark plugs, screws, field separators. It's a really cool piece of recycled art. And there's more where that came from! You'll have t…

Kung Fu Panda 2 Prize Pack Giveaway

Kung Fu Panda is back! If you remember the first movie, it was pretty good. I'm excited to watch the second. General Mills is teaming up with Dreamworks to promote Kung Fu Panda 2. You can find Kung Fu Panda 2 spin fighter toys in specially marked boxes of General Mills cereal.


And General Mills would like to share some of that fun with a Suburban Jungle reader. One reader will receive the prize pack shown in the above picture. Included in the prize pack: one original Kung Fu Panda DVD, one specially marked box of Big G cereal, and one spin toy.


To Enter to win: Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite Kung Fu Panda character.


Extra Entries: 2 Extra Entries if you are a follower of this blog on Twitter (@suburbanjung) or Google Friend Connect (2 extra entries for each - so up to 4 extra entries)


**This contest will end on June 3, 2011 at 9:00 PM EST. The contest is open to all US and Canadian residents 18 or older. The winner will be selected by random.org and notified by…

Garden 2011 - Phase 3

The quest for a completed garden is almost finished! All of the four raised beds have been built - not easy on a sloping clay based terrain, let me tell you! 
The fence is up, the soil is ready.....
Now, we just need to remove the last bits of grass, mulch around the beds, cut down the fence posts, and plant the garden! We're looking at a few days without rain coming up, so we should be done soon.

New Running Sandals!

As much as I love cute, flirty sandals; they just don't mesh with my lifestyle. For years, I've worn the same slip on, brown sandals and have hated every minute of it. They fall off. There's no way you can run or climb in them. Blah! They were worthless.

But during that time, I kept looking for good running sandals. What makes a good running sandal? For starters, they need to strap on. They also need to be comfy and allow your feet to lie flat. Oh, and they need to be okay looking and reasonably priced.

It's been the price that's held me back for years. This year, I decided to go for it and I felt like I needed to look at Walmart. Of all places! I never go to Walmart, but I had a feeling the shoes would be there.

And they were! For only $10.88, I finally found my first pair of running sandals. I can't tell you how excited I was! And they have rocked in every way I expected. Now my summer walks and hikes are going to be awesome. And my sandals are going to stay…

Have your Feet ever bled from running?

For a while, I had a consistent running schedule. Then - my neighbor broke my treadmill and I mentally went on strike. The treadmill was repaired but it was never the same. It made noises and it annoyed me that it was ever broken in the first place.

Nobody said this was rational, but this was how it went. So I boycotted the treadmill for about 2 months. But my mud race is coming up and I knew I needed to recondition myself to "go the distance."

So out of the blue, I jumped on the treadmill and went for 3 1/2 miles. No biggie. It was harder than before but my lungs were still up for it. Then I took off my shoes.

The bottom of my socks were really red. The entire bottom of my socks from my toes to right before my heel. My daughter happened to be sitting there and she freaked out. "MOM - YOUR FEET ARE BLEEDING!"

I quickly took of my socks and was shocked at what I saw. No cuts or bruises. Just obvious pores. Red pores. It was almost as though my feet had sweat blood.

Garden 2011 - Phase 2

Progress has been made in the garden! We are now halfway through our renovation. Rain, 30 degree weather, and blustering winds have slowed us down. Did I mention the frozen, impenetrable clay?

Yeah...there's that too. It's been a mental and physical workout, but I hope to report a finished garden soon!


The blueberries and raspberries have been safely transplanted into their permenant homes (left boxes). We probably lost at least a year's worth of growth in the raspberries and a few of the blueberries were set back a year or more, but most of the plants transfered well. And I'm still hoping for a big berry yield. 
To see phase 1 or my 2010 garden - click here.

Tropical Traditions Organic Coconut Cream Concentrate

I've come to really love Coconut Oil and use it in almost everything I bake. But what about Coconut Cream Concentrate?
At first glance, it appears to be the same thing. Solid. White. Coconut smelling. But it's not. Coconut Cream is actually a food, not a cooking oil. This didn't stop me from cooking with it, but I found a surprisingly large number of uses for Coconut Cream and am adding more every day.


If you check out the recipe section at Tropical Traditions, you'll find a bunch of chocolate coconut recipes, bars and cookies, smoothies, and soups.


So far, I've used coconut cream in chocolate almond butter balls, in cream of broccoli soup, in coconut banana bread, to add creaminess to hot cocoa, in tropical smoothies, and to make this awesome (vegan, gluten-free, grain-free, and can-free!) pumpkin pie.
There are so many ways to add this tasty coconut cream to your diet. Want to give it a try? Tropical Traditions has generously offered one Suburban Jungle reader the ch…

Cascade Complete - 24 Hour Challenge and $15 Walmart Gift Card Givewaway

What if someone asked you to leave your stuck-on dishes lying on the counter for 24 hours? No rinsing. No soaking. No scrubbing. And then, after a day for the stains to really stick, you were allowed to finally wash them?

Well, that's what MyBlogSpark asked me to do. The mission: make a blueberry cobbler, let the pan sit for 24 hours, wash in the dishwasher with Cascade Complete.

I willingly took the challenge. They actually had me at blueberries, but I'm predicable that way. Here's my blueberry cobbler (pecan and coconut crusted blueberry/pineapple cobbler - with no added sugar or grains - just in case you were wondering.)


I reluctantly left the pan on the counter for 24 hours (give or take.) Then I loaded up the dishwasher and loaded in a packet of Cascade Complete.

On a side note, I like these little packets. They ensure that my husband and kids can/will participate in washing dishes. A positive that pretty much undoes a lot of the negatives in my opinion.

So.....how d…

SmartLab Toys Snap Fashion Jewelry Studio Giveaway

Kids love hands-on toys. And my little girl loves jewelry. So when we were given the opportunity to review SmartLab Toys Snap Fashion Jewelry Studio, we were pretty excited.


Here's what the company has to say about the Snap Fashion Jewelry Studio:


DIY jewelry in a snap! Kids make interchangeable fabric-covered snaps that mix and match into a closet full of accessories: rings, bracelets, necklaces, belts, ponytail holder, headband, and more. Snap Fashion Jewelry Studio is packed with creatively crafted, fashion-forward ideas on all the ways you can marry up snaps with fabric for one-of-a-kind accessories.  Other skills are learned too as the child embroiders a monogram or uses leaves and flowers to create printed fabric.


My daughter was really excited when we opened the box. The kit comes with everything you need to make quite a few buttons and a really detailed guide showing other crafts you can make.


Then our excitement waned as I stressed over the small parts and grabby hands. Our f…