Tag Archive: Product Thursday


Cooking All Day

Product Thursday

I have been delinquent in sharing items on Product Thursday. Nothing has sparked a compulsion to write glowing commentary or a furious outpouring of disgust.

However, today I am sharing the secret to my cooking success – besides the ability to make stuffed shells that makes my kids want to eat spinach.

That secret is my crockpot. Actually, I have three crockpots in different sizes. And what has become absolutely essential with any crockpot is the removable inner pot. Our middle sized one does not have that option which makes clean-up a real pain. You cannot submerge that crockpot or you will ruin the heating element.

The short of the long is always go for a crockpot that has a removable inner crock bowl.

 When I received the little one, I have to admit I did not think it was going to do much. It looked great for cheese dips but I could not think of anything else to do with it.

Raw pumpkin is cooking down in that picture.

But now it serves as my favorite sloopy joe pot, perfect for about 1 & 1/2 pounds of meat and sauce. Busy days when I have to feed a big group of people are made easier with this little baby.

In the picture, I am cooking down pumpkin I had recently scraped out of carving pumpkins. I later used that cooked pumpkin for pumpkin cake.

For our January gathering, I am thinking about using it for fondue but first I must find a good recipe. I am willing to hear any suggestions.

My other crock pots get used for soups and roast beef. Recently I displayed a picture of my big silver crockpot making Tortilla Soup.

But I also use it for Italian Sausage Soup, Potato Cheese Soup and Pot roast so tender and wonderful that you do not need a knife.

During the heat of the summer, we used it to make pulled pork. That required 12 hours of cooking of the meat alone before the seasoning stage. But the kitchen did not get heated up and we ate like kings on a hot, hot day.

Recently, my neice shared a recipe for carne guisada with me. Slow cooked beef in spices typical from the Hispanic culture. It works well as both taco meat and chilli meat. So, yes, I am making it soon, in the crockpot.

Editor’s Note: I was requested to put up recipes I have used in the crock pot so here are a couple of  links to past postings of my cooking adventures with the crockpot.

Sunday Roast Beef

What to do with those leftover tortillas

Curling Up With a Good Book

Product Thursday

For those of you who have been long time fans of my blog, you know of my love affair with Jane Austen.

I have read her works, even the unfinished novels and her juvenilia. I tried a few of the copycat books but had a hard time getting into those that tried too hard to get her tone.

Picture by Karyn Bowman

The Austen rip-off I find I love more than anything are the ones that take a distant aspect of a book or fandom. I would like to believe I am a fan and not a fanatic although I did buy a tea cup and saucer set last year because it looked like one from the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds version of Persuasion.  

Last year I became enamored with Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford.

What a delicious book.

We find out that Jane Austen is alive (sort of) in upstate New York and running her own bookstore. She has a novel that has been rejected by several publishers and wonders if she had only those six or seven novels (if you include Lady Susan which I do) in her to write.

But then an Austen ripoff artist finds out the truth about the bookshop owner. she doesn’t remember a thing but we do. And so starts our journey with Jane Austen, vampire. It was a jolly good romp and I was eager for the second book.

Image from Barnesandnoble.com

Last week I finally picked up my copy of Jane Goes Batty that I ordered it through a local book store (Paperback Reader in Kankakee). A second book in a series can suffer because it has to live up to the liveliness of the first, the freshness of the new world we are seeing and characters we grow to love.

The problem is becomes how to enlarge the space you have created without breaking consistency. How do you broaden the worldview of the characters without destroying everything your readers loved about the original world.

So I started reading the book and I had the book finished within a day. I loved just about every moment. We learn new things about vampires – new skills and new members. Jane, Brian and Walter remain true to their characters although new details are added to Jane’s history that I am not sure matches what we already know.

And then there is the addition of Walter’s mother, Miriam. She is a Jewish mother who knows when her child is lying just by looking at him. Oh, and Walter forgot to mention to Jane that she is converting. Luckily, she finds an understanding rabbi who tries to help Jane help herself.

If that isn’t enough, they are making a movie out of her bestselling book  in her hometown and a rival writer is working on the screenplay. Then there is the evil new editor trying to get Jane to write a book as great as Valley of the Dolls.

What I love is still there: the sarcasm; the wit; the constant drama. Byron remains a lover of any bit of fun and willingness to hog the spotlight but he also displays how he has managed to stay around so long. Walter is the consummate antique home restorer and good-guy boyfriend.

It makes me hungry for the third book, Jane Vows Vengeance, as we get to know Miriam better. I have a feeling there is a little more to Sherman than meets the eye. And Jane has a lot on her plate as she and Walter finally tie the knot. But I am really curious if she will ever tell Walter the truth.

I will probably read the book at least one more time. I am running the church rummage sale this weekend and I will need something to escape to afterwards.

I am soooo looking forward to it.

Building Scenes

Product Thursday

I blame Lego-My-Photo.

I shared my blogging experience with my kids and said let’s look at this great site with pictures of scenes made with hundreds, thousands of Legos.  We did and my now 7 y.o. became enamored with creating his own scenes with legos. He took what blocks he had and started telling me to take a picture and post it on facebook.

Soon, his brother’s friends brought over their old Lego mini figs and Lego blocks. An alien showed up along with pirates and golden blocks.

His creativity in setting up scenes has been inspiring although it would be nice if he picked up more of the Legos from the floor. I have had too many late nite ouchies after stepping on a block or two.

So it was birthday weekend for the little guy and the parents (me and the husband) knew what we had to do. The siblings focused on Yu-Gi-Oh cards. But we wanted to encourage that creative streak so the mission was simple.  

Get him Legos!

The first package he opened was a basic City set with a few police officers, a few robbers and a dog. It also came with a motorcycle and an ATM.

Playing Cops and Robbers

You think we hit a homerun with that set?

The next present made the boy squeal with excitement.

I thought this would be a good idea because we are presently reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. How can you go wrong with crazy trees, Hagrid and villians with a flat nose?

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Forest Legos set

Yep, it was everything the boy wanted.

A few years back, one of my adult nephews explained to me how Legos was resistent to character sets as they wanted play to be a creative act. But then the company started doing these character based sets because kids mixed and matched, going  beyond where ever the original story line started and ended.

That is why I love Legos. You may have a storyline to start with but that is not where it ends.

"Harry Potter! Prepare to Die!?"

And sometimes Lord Voldemort feels the need to rob an ATM and Harry needs to stop him before Voldy can ruin the American financial system.

Wait, that already happened.

Whatever.

Just go to the online Lego store or find a local lego store and start your own addiction.

Every Thursday, I review a product or service. If you have a product or a suggestion of one I should review, please contact me at bowmankaryn@sbcglobal.net.  

A Gift from the Bride

Product Thursday

Planning weddings can be arduous.

There are so many things to think about from dress colors (and flattering style for every shape of bridesmaids) to the favors to be given to guests.

It used to be match books printed with the couple’s name and wedding date were expected to be there. Everyone smoked – inside – and this was an easy favor. It made a nice keepsake to use with candles and such unless the bride left the box at home – as I did.

In the last few years several of my nieces have gotten married. The last wedding took place this summer. We were not able to go and I am not getting into the details of why.

Suffice it to say that I saw pictures of the bride and she was as beautiful, as glowing as any bride. Happiness beamed from her very being. There might have been a halo around her from the aura of happiness.

About a month ago a package came from my father-in-law, who did attend the wedding. He sent pictures and notes to each of our kids and some seed packets.

SeedPackets2U.com packet for the wedding, picture by Karyn Bowman.

I thought these were meant for my daughter who grew produce as a part of her 4H projects this summer. That is until I saw the flower packet and took a good long look.

This wasn’t an heirloom pack of wildflowers but a favor from the wedding with the couple’s name and date of the wedding.

It was so cute that I had to check out the website of the company Seed Packets 2 U just to see all of the products they make.

If I was getting married now, I am sure I would use these. There were several designs so that if you are more of a clean lines or a black-and-white girl, your seed packet could have that look.

Others looked like heirloom designs and Maxwell Parrish-inspired paintings of women. Recycled paper was another option for the envelope itself.

All I know is that I have the spot picked out for my pack of seeds and I am looking forward to seeing what is in the seed packet next year when I plant it.

What else is being used in these modern days as a wedding favor?

Every Thursday I review a different product or service. If you have a suggestion for a product, please contact me me at bowmankaryn@sbcglobal.net.

Of Tulips and Pansies…

Product Thursday

Remember all of the beautiful tulips from the spring?

The tulips at my house.

 

Yellow tulips against a Sage green house.

They were quite beautiful and always a surprise. I never know what will be coming up in what color clumps because bulbs get moved all of the time. I forget where I have placed them and when I plant other items later in the season, I come across bulbs and realize I have to replant them.

 
I mention all of this because now is the time to plant bulbs, purposefully. It is also time to take those perennials you have and divide them if you so wish.
 
The tools for such a job are simple. Gardening gloves to keep your hands clean, a shovel, a bucket for transport.
 
 
 

Picture by Solrac Gi 2nd

Picture by Taliasin

And don’t forget the bulbs. Tulip bulbs, daffodils, crocus, narcissus, alum and others. You can find them at garden centers, hardware stores, and big box stores.
 

Picture by Borae

I bet if you ask around, neighbors might be willing to share in order to thin out their beds a bit. Look in the classified ads and see if people are selling or giving away if you come and dig.

 
Personally, I am giving away some of my hosta plants and putting in more bulbs in that garden. I am also on the lookout for unusual hosta plants to create a more interesting bed.
 
The other plant I am on the lookout for is pansies. They can handle cold weather and live through the summer if protected well.
 
They add a color lift to beds that have been wilted by summer’s heat and are beginning to get leggy. Oh,  I am not specifying a brand or variety nor do I want to do that here. I want to encourage people to plant flowers and help make the world a little more beautiful.
 
How are you finishing the growing season? 

Just Work It at The Lashline

Product Thursday

When it comes to make-up, I am a “less is more” kind of gal.

Picture by dmscs

I try to use foundation now that my strawberries-and-cream skin has decided to be red most of the year, especially at the nose and cheeks.

The one product I have the most trouble with is eye-liner. I have tried so many, it is not funny. The skinny crayons make me look like a raccoon. Some of the harder pencils don’t bother leaving enough color no matter how many times I go over one spot.

My past favorite eyeliner that did not smudge was a metallic from Wet-n-Wild but it is no longer being made. I can never find it anymore when I go looking.

I finally found a replacement.

Wet-n-Wild Coloricon in Mink Brown.

The first thing that attracted me was the price of $.99. I could have bought several different colors at that price. However, it was all a crap shoot at that point.

Once I took it home and opened the packaging to use it, I was hooked. The pencil was smooth and creamy as I drew it over the eye. I could make a thick line or a thin line, easily.

Another benefit?

The color was there, really there. When I thickened the line at the outside corners, I did not have to practically blind myself to do it.

The color is Mink Brown.

 

So while I get use to the better color and quality of the liner, I will have it for a long time because the pencil is about 9 inches long.

The only con is that there is a bit of a smudge and I have to use cream or lotion to remove it at the end of the day. Cleaning off old make-up should just be my routine and I am sure powder under my eyes would help the smudging be less of an issue.

Let’s just call it for what it is. A win-win situation.

Every Thursday I review a product or service. If you have a suggestion or a product that you would like me to review, please write me at bowmankaryn@sbcglobal.net.

Unopenable

Product Thursday

Today is the tale of a bit a packaging that refuses to open willingly.

The box of crackers.

I hate that there are some food products in plastic bags in their box that refuse to open. These plastic bags are heat-sealed and do not separate – even if you are a strong man – at the seam although they are happy to tear elsewhere, eventually.

I have noticed this problem with cereal boxes. The husband makes the comment that it is worse with store brand packaging.

Really?

I am noticing with the major brands as well. Our dog has happily snarfed up the flying remains of cereal many times.

When my daughter came to me the other day to ask if I could open a package of graham crackers, I knew I had to detail our attempts to open it.

We started with pulling the sides, finding the

No success pulling open.

two sheets and pull in opposite directions. The did not work so I went below the seam and pulled.

No luck.

I pulled on the side seam, went back to the top seam and the packaging would not budge.

I am sure that somewhere is a proud inventor saying “see, now those crackers will stay fresh.”

But they are not. You know why?

Finally Open

I had to resort to scissors, that’s right, scissors to open this stupid bit of packaging. Which means the package does not close up properly.

Which means if I leave this package out on the shelf, it is open to humidity and bugs. Instead of the protection envisioned by the creator, I will have stale and buggy graham crackers.

Yuck!

15 minutes later, we finally get a cracker.

We might love graham  crackers – spread with cream cheese – but we hate the packaging. I would assume there is a better way to package stuff.

The latest plastic material being used is simply bad. It is too tough and almost always requires scissors. When something goes against the ease of consumers, a redo is in order.

What packaging foils you every single time?

The packaging, my enemy

Product Thursday

About a month or so ago, my friend Holly told me about the new flavors of marshmallows over at Wal-Mart.  Flavors such as toasted coconut and caramel swirl. I had to see them, I had to find out. If there was ever any product that needed to be written about on Product Thursday, this seem to be one destined for the honor.

Look at the flavors!

 
I could not believe my eyes. There was German Chocolate and Chocolate Mint. Who could resist Cinnamon or Rich Chocolate? I immediately began to think of what tasty treats and main dishes I could make with these.
 
Sweet Potato Casserole topped with the Taosted Coconut Marshmallows, Chocolate Rice  Crispies combined with the Cinnamon. Hot Chocolate made with chocolate/mint or caramel swirl. S’mores in so many combinations!
 
 

But wait, there's more!

 
The combinations are endless and making my head spin. Or is that the left over motion-sickness from last nigh – a story for another day. Anyway, I made my decision, picked out the Chocolate Mint and grabbed a box of store brand rice crispies.
 
 

The Rice Crispie Treats - Yummy.

Tuesday, my daughter and I found the rice crispies recipe. Of course, we taste tested the marshmallows and found them to be delicious. We combined the marshmallows with butter, melted them in the microwave, mixed with six cups of crispies and patted them into a greased pan.

All I can say is that this pan is empty now. One problem is that the mint flavor did not stay as strong as we would have liked. That problem did not stop us from eating the treats.

What great new product have you discovered lately?

Every Thursday I review a product or service. If you have a suggestion for something to be reviewed or are the inventor of a product, you can reach me at bowmankaryn@sbcglobal.net.

Product Thursday

Can you eat too much fried food?

As an adult the answer has to be yes. Considering this is fair week, the bulk of our suppers have been at fair, which means a lot of fried food. For kids the answer is a reply – “there is such a thing as too much?”

The Magical Elephant Ears and Funnel Cakes Stand.

This week, Product Thursday is doing the sacrifice of eating both a funnel cake and an elephant ear. We want an answer to the question of which is better. Since no one is willing to answer it, I will have to go the distance and make the big sacrifice.

 

In the fryer together

The choices were staggering. Caramel apple, Boston cream, simply chocolate covered or plain ole elephant ears with the cinnamon sugar. It was all a taste sensation.

 

I boldly went up and requested an elephant ear and a funnel cake. The woman in the stand happily took my $10 and wondered (inside her head) what kind of idiot I was. After I took a picture or two, I explained what I was doing, that me and the little taste testers were determining which was better.

Putting on the cinnamon-sugar.

The ladies laughed and said it was  all good. One has cinnamon sugar and the other is covered with powdered sugar.

 
I agreed. Who can not love something that is flour, sugar and hot oil?
 
I ask about the fried oreo on a sign on the outside of the booth and the ladies reply that people report it is like eating a brownie fresh out of the oven. I am going to have to try that tomorrow. Today, my focus is on something else that is also deep fried.
 

Powdered sugar in a wire mesh basket raining on a funnel cake.

Sara is demanding all first bite rights. Maybe she got it, maybe she didn’t. There was a lot of “heys” and “no fairs” and perhaps a sigh or two from the parents. But then we begin eating.

 
Suddenly, I realize that the elephant ear has a bit of a yeasty taste to it. The husband notes it is like eating a donut.
 
The funnel cake has a sweeter and lighter taste. And there is the crunch factor. Funnel cakes manage to be crunchy and soft with each bite.
 

Eating it up.

Now, I ask the hard question. Which is better? Elephant ears are yeasty goodness, funnel cakes are more like pancakes.

 
The table states it is the funnel cake but they like the elephant ear, too.
 
We finish the funnel cake first and yet there is a fight to see who will get the last bite of the elephant ear.

Funnel Cake and Elephant Ear, together for a very short time.

I think we are still divided.

 
Thank goodness this is one question that will not decide the fate of the nation.
 
Do you have a preference?

Losing My Radio Station

Product Thursday

Normally at this spot of the week I am talking about something great that I love and enjoy or that my kids love and enjoy.

But this week I want to talk about a product that had disappeared.

Those of us in the Chicagoland area know Q101. In the 80s and 90s, it was the pop station to listen to with crazy man Robert Murphy at the helm.

Former Q101 morning hosts Sherman and Tingle, image from Illinois Entertainer 08/2008.

In the last few years the station has been Alternative Rock which really appealed to people who like rock with a harder drive to it. My kids played the station all of the time; it was on their alarm clock coming on at 6:45 a.m.

However, the station has been bought by Merlin Media and is making a change to being all news. All of the DJs have been fired and replaced by feel-good names from the past. For now the music is what parents of the former listeners listen to until they can get the news stuff set up.

For me the issue is where can music that Q101 used to play be found on the radio now? There are plenty of stations that play music geared for aging baby boomers in our area. But anything outside of that pop/adult contemporary realm is getting slimmer.

In Chicago we have 1 country station. We have 1 station that plays alternative music of all genres. We have 1 classical station. We have 1 station that plays hiphop or R&B music. And God forbid if any of these stations veer out of their comfort zone.

I could go into “when I was a kid stations played a little of everything.” But I am not sure that was true then. I knew about Aretha and Marving Gaye because they were big enough to crossover. Same for Reba and Alabama.

What I really want to get into is how by not having an alternative station, where will those listeners go to find their music. I know that Q101 is going to a web-based station and I saw on the site that all old DJs are invited to return.

However, this leaves a bunch of fans wondering where to find the music of their choice. Perhaps the listenership means nothing to the new owners who are really working on an axe to grind with a former employer. But these “kids” or young adults or fans of harder driving music were right in that ideal media share of 18 – 54 year old males who like to buy stuff.

Trust me, it worked in my house. Especially when my boys wanted to go to the Jamboree hosted by the station every year in June. We bought them and two friends tickets for the all-day event plus gave money to buy food, drink and souvenirs.

I hope that some station in the area is looking at what they have, not liking it and thinking they can make a change. If you are an easy listening station that is the lowest in the ranks, maybe it is time to make a change. There is a market share without a radio station. Doesn’t someone want to claim them?

While I do not miss the music personally (nothing like getting awaken by the song ‘Nightmare’), I miss it for the boys who really loved it.

Have you ever lost a radio station you really loved?