Shelf Love: New Products Spotted on Shelves!

Good morning, my friends! After taking several days away from the blog, I am proud to return. Sometimes it’s good to take some time away, regroup and return refreshed and eager to share my thoughts. Today, I decided to keep the post lighthearted and share with you some products I discovered over the weekend! I’m telling you, it is this time of year that happens to be one of my favorites, product-wise. It seems many of the larger companies opt to release their new products around this time, in honor of the return of school, the Fall months, etc. It’s a popular time time for shopping and by the looks of it based on this weekend, an ideal time to reveal new products! Some of my finds were so exciting, I just HAD to share them with you, today! Before we get to that, though, allow me to quickly brief you on this morning’s eats:

Breakfast (Monday, August 19, 2013):

1 container Aldi-brand Pineapple Upside Down Cake Light Yogurt: (Whew, was that a mouthful! This yogurt had a really pleasant flavor, the consistency was a little runny, but easily combined with cereal. I definitely would buy this variety again, plus the price is right – .39! In my opinion, you just cannot beat .39 per yogurt!)

1 cup Dora The Explorer cereal: (Okay, it might sound juvenile, but this cereal is so very tasty! I absolutely love the subtle cinnamon flavor it provides in the same of miniscule stars. It complements whatever else it might happen to be combined with, though it is good to eat on its own, as well. If you haven’t tried it yet, get out there and purchase a box! Plus, if you’re local, with a Shoprite grocery store nearby, this week a very LARGE box just so happens to be on sale for a whopping $1.97! A steal, in my opinion.)

1 cup Barbara’s Bakery Multigrain Puffins: (I know I said I wasn’t a big fan of these since it tastes slight reminiscent now to cardboard, but the crunchiness of it makes it more bearable and not half bad. After giving it another try today, I decided it’s not as bad as I originally stated. I figured it was worth another chance, so I’m glad I gave it another try.)

1 Banana: (Yummy! A super sweet, petite one for this morning; ideal in my opinion.)

Image  Image  Image  Image

NEW PRODUCTS SPOTTED: So before I share with you some of my new finds from over the weekend, I’ll let you know that some of them I spotted in store and others online (McCaffrey’s – a local, family-owned grocery store, Target, Yoplait.com, Shoprite, Produce Store – a local, family-owned one, & BananaRepublic.com.

  • Cotton Candy Grapes: If you haven’t already heard of these uniquely-flavored fresh grapes, you may be thinking, cotton candy, what?! If you’re similar to me, then I must admit, this is exactly what I was thinking. I was skeptical upon hearing about it, yet curious and intrigued at the same time. I wasn’t expecting to spot these in-stores, let alone, a local, family owned grocery store, but spot it, I did! On Saturday, my mom and I ventured into McCaffrey’s a family-owned grocery store to purchase fresh raspberries, as the price was right, especially with a Driscoll’s coupon we came in hand with (FYI – if you haven’t already signed up for Driscolls Berries newsletter via Driscolls.com, please do, they will send you a .50 off ANY fresh berries coupon! Which, if your store doubles, can make for a VERY handsome deal!). Anyhow, as we made our way to the produce section, sitting right next to the berries was a bag of grapes – COTTON CANDY grapes, to be exact! Much to our luck, they were actually sampling them. Curious, my mom and I both tried them, and they were… different. I think I would try them again, as the flavor is so unique, unexpected and unfamiliar. They were definitely sweet and truly did taste reminiscent of cotton candy, only much healthier! If you haven’t already and if they are being sold near you, give them a try!

Image

  • Alpina Greek Yogurt: This weekend was the weekend of Shoprite! My mom and I ended up visiting on both Saturday and Sunday, to make the most of both weeks’ sale (the new sale starts on Sunday!) On Saturday, we made a quick pit stop in the yogurt section of the store, as I wanted to see if any newbies made the shelves. Sure enough, I spotted the brand new Alpina Greek Yogurt! In an attractive container, I noticed the available flavors: Black Cherry, Blueberry, Mango, Strawberry & Vanilla Bean. Though they all sounded pretty decent, I decided to purchase the Strawberry flavor. I’ll be sure to let you know how it is once I try it!

Image

  • Goldfish GRAHAMS French Toast Flavor: Though you might be familiar with Goldfish crackers, you may or may not know that several years ago, they introduced the Grahams variety, which are the small Goldfish shapes we know and love, only in a Grahams variety. They are now available in several flavors, but while at Shoprite, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a brand new flavor – FRENCH TOAST! Seriously, is there anything better?! In my opinion, anything that combines the flavor of maple, is ideal! Let me know if you try them, I’d love to hear your opinion/thoughts!

Image

  • Banana Republic ISSA London Collection Scarf: So, I’ll tell you, I’m big on entering contests/giveaways via Facebook. In fact, I’ve won several in the past, so it’s exciting to enter and see what the end result might be! As a result, lately, I’ve been entering Banana Republic’s Trip to London contest via Facebook, in honor of their new Issa London collection! Intrigued, I decided to check out their website (BananaRepublic.com) to see what this collection was all about and just so happened to spot a beautiful scarf, I absolutely love! Check out the collection and see what you think!

Image

  • Nabisco Gluten-Free Rice Thins Crackers: While perusing Target, these new crackers just so happened to pop out at me! They seem like a great idea and while I haven’t tried them yet, I know there are a lot of people out there who are gluten-free and always on the hunt for new, tasty products, so I figured I’d share this new find with you. They are available in the following flavors: Original, White Cheddar, Sea Salt & Pepper.

Image

  • Simply Balanced Line @ Target: Have you spotted this NEW, healthy, and reasonable light at Target?! I have. From the attractive packaging, right down to the unique and appealing products, this line is sure to do well in my opinion! Plus, check out Target.com/coupons, where you can print out several coupons for this new line. Some of their products include: cereal, granolas, fruit roll-ups, fruit snacks, crackers, chips, flavored waters and juices, etc.

Image

  • Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes: YES! You have that correct! There are in fact chocolate cherry tomatoes out there in the world, available at your purchasing convenience! I just so happened to spot them while shopping at my local produce store, this weekend. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, they are of the Heirloom tomato variety, which if you’re not familiar, is a unique variety of tomatoes, packed with flavor and a unique outward appearance. They can be on the costly side, so if you’re frugal like me, this might be an indulgent purchase!

Image

  • Yoplait Fruitful: Lately, I’ve become a big fan of Yoplait yogurts. From their 100-calorie Greek yogurts, to their light yogurts, they offer an abundance of flavors and textures. Though, I must admit, their new Yoplait Blended Greek yogurt line is not really my favorite, but I still haven’t tried the Pineapple and Vanilla flavors, so it could redeem itself, in the end. Anyhow, while perusing their website last night, I happened to stumble across their new “Fruitful” line. I have yet to see this variety in stores, but it sounds like it could be a good one! According to the packaging I noticed on their website, the container of yogurt is packed with 1/3 cup of REAL fruit! Pretty impressive in my opinion. This variety of yogurt will be available in the following flavors: Mango Pineapple, Strawberry, Blueberry, Cherries & Red Berries, and Peach. Sounds good to me!

Image

  • Dunkin Donuts “Flavored Donuts” Inspired Ground Coffee Line: Though I’m not 100% certain, I’m all but convinced this is a Target exclusive, having only been able to locate it in Target stores. I’m not even able to locate it on the internet! Therefore, the photo I’m presenting to you was captured by none other than my handy, dandy iPhone! The aisle was rather crowded at the time of the photo, so I had to snap it rather quickly and therefore was unable to capture the entire line of flavors: Caramel Coffee Cake, Blueberry Donut, Chocolate Glazed Donut, Original Old Fashioned Donut, and Jelly Donut! They all sound and smell pretty tasty to me! However, as you see in the photo, the cost in my opinion is a little high, but hopefully they’ll go on sale relatively soon!

Image

QUESTION: What new products have you spotted recently? Of those I featured, which would you most like to try? Or, have you tried any of the new products I featured?

Have a pleasant Monday!

1 

 

I Will Remember You: Reflecting on Those Who have Passed

If I can be completely honest with you, I’m not quite sure how to really begin this post. A part of me feels that I could begin it in such a way that is typical of me, featuring a quick check-in, a rundown of my breakfast and then a lighthearted “musing,” so to speak. However, today, I felt this “typical” format was inappropriate, for lack of a better word. I wasn’t even quite sure if I was going to write a post like this today, but the people I’ve been thinking of who I will structure this post around, have not left my mind, so therefore, I only find it fitting that I dedicate today’s post to them.

About two days ago, I started seeing Sean Lowe, one of the former stars of ABC’s reality show, “The Bachelor,” tweet that he was keeping a woman, Gia and her family deep in his thoughts. I wasn’t quite sure who Gia was or what he meant by this, but thought perhaps it was a close friend or family member. Hours later, I started seeing more and more tweets and articles written about Gia, a former “Bachelorette” on a season of “The Bachelor,” and also a contestant on “The Bachelor Pad.” Apparently, she was hospitalized and fighting for her life. Upon hearing this, I assumed perhaps she was ill for awhile, or was suddenly battling an illness. This presumption was not entirely false, however, I later discovered she had passed away yesterday, as a result of suicide.

It wasn’t immediately disclosed how she passed away, though articles started she had died as a result of brain damage and organ failure. My mind immediately flashed to how I believed she carried out her attempt and eventually, was confirmed to be true. Though I didn’t know her or really remember her on the television show, my heart broke not only for her family, but for her. To know someone was in that extent of physical, emotional and mental pain is enough to break me down. The entire day, today, I reflected on her and what she must have been harboring deep within her. I wondered if her family and friends knew the extent of how she was feeling, or if she buried those feelings and thoughts deep within her, until it became too much to bear and ultimately resulted in her tragic passing.

Sometimes acts can be impulsive or they can be premeditated to a T. Upon hearing of Gia’s passing and her attempt, I thought back to my high school years, where numerous of my classmates passed away from suicide. Several of these late classmates were actually in my classes and I had spoken with them on several occasions. Two of the girls in particular were of the type that left the entire community and school in a state of shock. Never did they believe they would have taken themselves in this tragic way. They were not as so many people conceive, as a “typical, depressed teen,” who was outwardly suicidal. So often, people are quick to judge or label someone simply because they may choose to dress in black, or “gothic,” or are moody. Often, those who are suicidal can be silent, they can hide behind a mask, or a facade. They can play on sports teams, have many friend, be labeled as “popular,” dress fashionably and wear a smile, each day. In the case of my two former female classmates, this was the case. My heart broke for them all those years ago, as it does now, when I reflect upon them. Though I didn’t talk much to either of them, both were bubbly and appeared full of life.

A part of me is angry how in society, so many people feel they need to hide or shield their pain. Perhaps they feel they “shouldn’t,” feel this way, or that they may have no reason to feel this way because they are wealthy, employed, popular, etc. What I wish more people knew, is that it is OKAY, to be sad, angry, upset. More importantly, though, I wish people, no matter their age, knew it is OKAY, to ask for help, and to be vulnerable. It is okay, to brave and reach for someone’s hand, no matter how alone one may feel. Sometimes, all it takes is a listening ear, or a hand, to help soothe the hurt that might lurk inside. Or maybe it takes more. All the same, I just wanted to take this moment and now, having a forum as a blog to express it, and say, it is okay to be you. It is okay to answer someone when they ask if you are okay, “No, I’m not.” If you are in pain and are struggling, please step forward and verbalize it, whether it is to someone, your journal, your blog.

While life gives us many things each day to smile about, I personally believe it is more than acceptable to allow oneself to FEEL whatever it is they are feeling at a particular moment and to be okay with it. Just because to others it might look like you “have it all,” it never means it isn’t okay to feel however you feel, or ask for help. Depression and mental illness, in my opinion, has no face and by that, I mean, it doesn’t matter if you are 15, 30, 80, overweight, thin, financially well-off, or not, it can affect anyone, or capture anyone in a storm of emotions, feelings and pain. It’s always okay to admit your feelings.

Lastly, if you’re ever feeling sad, alone, or even happy and simply want someone to share your happiness with, know you can always find a friend, here on my blog or if you e-mail me: Stylinstar53@gmail. It’s never easy to feel lonely and afraid and it can be hard to be proud of who you are, but for what it’s worth, to you, whoever is reading this right now: I’m glad you’re here – keep holding on.

*Take the time today to reach out to someone, maybe that someone is yourself, or maybe it isn’t, but either way, take the time to listen, really listen, and hear what you or others are saying. Know that it is okay, to be you and that you are worth it and deserving of love from others and from yourself.

DUNK your DONUTS: How the world runs on DD!

Good morning, my friends! What a soggy, rain-filled morning, we have here in Pennsylvania! Hopefully the weather is better where you are, today, but unfortunately, here, it is a wet mess, filled with torrential rain, lightening and slight thunder. In fact, over in Delaware, there were threats of tornadoes, a bit earlier! Plus, you know the weather is bad when the local morning news is extended and completely replaces the usual Good Morning America (GMA), which it happened to do, today! So I’m GMA-less this morning, unfortunately. I’m hoping the weather improves later on, but by the looks of it, it doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon, or at least, not prior to the end of the morning hours. On a brighter note, allow me to brief you with my morning nourishment:

Breakfast (Tuesday, August 13, 2013):

1 container Giant-store brand Raspberry Yogurt: (To be honest, I’m not quite sure as to why I keep purchasing raspberry-flavored yogurts. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the biggest raspberry fan, yet they somehow manage to keep finding their way into my cart and refrigerator. I mean, this flavor wasn’t too bad, I’ve definitely had worse, but again, it’s not really my favorite.)

1 cup Barbara’s Bakery Multigrain Puffins: (Having noticed this in the back of my cereal cabinet, I decided today was a good day to finally open the box. Now, anyone who knows me, definitely knows I am a HUGE, dedicated fan of Puffins. I’ve had the Multigrain variety many times before in the past, however, today, it seemed to be rather dry and reminiscent of cardboard! I know, I am absolutely horrified to even say it, because I think the Barbara’s Bakery brand and specifically, Puffins are a wonderful cereal and company, however, the Multigrain flavor must have been reformulated, or perhaps I bought a bad box, but sadly, it just didn’t taste the same, or as I remembered it. I think from now on, I will buy the Original flavor, they are tried and true. On a positive note, they were very crunchy and held up well when mixed with yogurt, so at least that was something to be relieved about.)

1 cup Giant-brand Puffed Rice Cereal: (This was decent today, but the yogurt was so thick that it left much of the Puffed Rice cereal abandoned and I was forced to consume it while dry; eh.)

1 Banana: (As always, very tasty, petite and sweet; an ideal treat!)

Image   Image  Image   Image

If you’re big on social media like me and follow hundreds of companies via Facebook and Twitter, then perhaps you noticed the article Dunkin Donuts tweeted and featured on their Facebook pages, yesterday. It was a Huffington Post article, detailing the various types of donuts from Dunkin Donuts that can be purchased all over the world, in a specific sampling of countries. I absolutely ADORE articles of this nature, as well as TV specials of this nature, which can often be found on Travel Channel, Food Network and Cooking Channel. I was overly enthused when I noticed this particular Dunkin Donuts article yesterday and thought I would share with you, in case you might have missed it:

Here is the actual Huffington Post article –

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/06/dunkin-donuts-world_n_3713935.html#slide=2776294 

Image

Black Choco (Indonesia): This chocolate glazed donut is filled with cream and topped with vanilla icing and a chocolate drizzle

Image

Choco Duo (Lebanon): Chocolate-glazed donut with chocolate filling.

Image

Chocolate and Bavarian (Bulgaria): This donut has two fillings, Bavarian Kreme and Chocolate. It’s also topped with chocolate icing and sprinkled with coconut.

Image

Delirium Donut (Peru): The Delirium Donut is filled with Manjar Blanco, a custard similar to Dulce de Leche, and covered with chocolate icing, pecans and a vanilla icing drizzle.

Image

Copihue (Chile): The Copihue donut is served throughout the month of September to celebrate Chile’s independence from Spain. Filled with Dulce de Leche, the donut is draped in chocolate icing and decorated with the national flower of Chile, the Copihue.

Image

Emerald Custard (Thailand): This soft yeast donut is filled with a custard made with pandan, an herb used in many desserts and drinks.

Image

Olive Chewisty (Korea): This light donut, made with olive oil and tapioca starch, is named for its chewy texture.

Image

Saffron Pistachio Melody (India): This spiced, savory donut is topped with saffron water-infused icing and pistachios.

Image

Triple Chocolate Donut (Colombia): This donut’s name explains it all. The chocolate donut is topped with chocolate icing and milk chocolate chips.

Image

Date Donut (United Arab Emirates): This donut is topped with either white or chocolate icing and date syrup drizzle

Image

Mango Pudding Donut (China): This glazed donut is topped with mango pudding.

Image

So there you have it! What do you think? Do you think any of these look/sound appetizing? If so, which ones? In thinking back on my experiences with Dunkin Donuts, they are quite fond for the most part. Throughout my childhood, I can fondly recall cold Winters, spent enjoying Dunkin Donuts Hot Chocolate as a treat, Dunkin Donuts Munchkins at school for virtually everyone’s birthday or as a holiday party treat, Coffee Rolls enjoyed as a late “breakfast” with my family, and Coffee Coolattas enjoyed during the Summer months, or as a Winter treat. While I’m not the biggest Dunkin fan today, I still can appreciate their nostalgic treats and look forward to their new items, as they can be quite intriguing!

Image ImageImageImage

Black, White and READ all over: What Newspapers mean to me

Good Monday morning, to you! I hope your week is off to a pleasant start, thus far and also that your weekend was one filled with fun and relaxation. The weather held up for the most part, so that is always appreciated, of course. The past two days seemed to pass by rather quickly, but it was good, nonetheless. Let’s do a quick breakfast snapshot, before I indulge you in today’s musing:

Breakfast (August 12, 2013):

1 container Yoplait Light Boston Cream Pie Yogurt: (I’m not sure if I’ve ever had this flavor before, but it was a decent one. I’ve come to really enjoy Yoplait Light yogurts, as an alternative to Greek yogurts. What I truly appreciate about it, is that despite it not being Greek, it still maintains a rather thick consistency with more substance than other traditional yogurts, outside of Greek. Plus, I love that Yoplait Light has so many different, unique flavors.)

1 cup Dora the Explorer Cereal: (Okay, before you laugh, roll your eyes, or maybe, both, this cereal is yummy! I’ve never had it before, but last week a HUGE box (19 servings, total) was on sale for about $1.99, so it was a steal! I’ve really been enjoying it. They are small stars, with flecks of cinnamon and are sweet, but not overly, so.)

1 cup Special K Red Berries: (As always, a tasty favorite! Sadly, I’m approaching the end of the box, but I still have the Special K Multigrain Flakes in the cabinet, so we’re A-OKAY for now!)

1 Banana (Yum! The bananas from Whole Foods, for some reason, are particularly sweet and satisfying… perhaps because they are a mere .49 per lb?! Perhaps, just saying!)

Image     Image   ImageImage

Now onto today’s musing. Each morning, my routine is relatively the same, no matter if it is a weekday or weekend morning. Upon stumbling down the steps, I prepare my breakfast, pour my coffee, turn the news/Good Morning America on, and seat myself at the kitchen table. However, while seated at the table, not only am I eating, and listening/watching the TV, but I am also feverishly reading. Since I’ve been a young child, each morning/day, I read the newspaper – not one, but two. For as long as I can recall, my family has always subscribed to the newspaper – the local county paper, as well as the larger, national city paper. It’s been a staple in my life and in my reading repertoire, consistently since the fourth grade.

Fondly, I can recall the newspaper stacked up, near the sofa, waiting to be read by my dad upon his arrival home from work, as a pharmacist. No matter how late he returned home at night, the newspapers would be read, in one way or another. In some way, the newspaper eventually became a source of conversation for my dad and I, as we often reflected on articles written, topics addressed and what we liked and disliked. My love of the newspaper was cultivated most specifically in the fourth grade, as I mentioned above. In the fourth grade, my teacher at the time, requested each of us to complete a “Current Event.” In other words, we were to scour the newspaper for an article of interest, clip it, and summarize it in paragraph form. However, not only were we required to summarize it in written form, but we were also instructed to present it to the class, in order to confirm our understanding of the article and all it entailed. From then on, reading the newspaper became a ritual, one I looked forward to and relied on.

Image  Image

My love for writing, news, media and the newspaper, in general further expanded as I grew older. In fact, in high school, I applied and was accepted as a “Reality” Teen Panelist, in the Reality Teen section published each Thursday in my local county’s newspaper. Constantly, mind was churning about what topic I would write about next and there was no greater feeling than opening the newspaper on Thursday morning and seeing my byline and article. It was a silent honor and one I very much appreciated. How satisfying it was to know that people were reading my thoughts and words. My love of writing and newspapers spilled over into my local high school, as I became the News Editor, for the school paper. Though I tend to view my writing as more creative than hard news, it was a learning experience, as I learned how to operate Pagemaker, copy-edit, and spend much of my days attempting to ace and practice “AP – Associated Press Style.” Stemming from my days at both the school paper and the county paper, I still cringe when I notice someone utilizing a newspaper as a makeshift “umbrella,” often wondering if they know how much work, dedication and drama goes into producing the paper, each day. It is time well spent in my opinion, but one that often falls to the wayside, especially in today’s day and age, where many people turn to the internet, as opposed to the daily, tangible version of the newspaper. Of course, don’t get me wrong, as I am a media and news fiend – not only do I read the two newspapers each morning, but I also closely follow the news on Twitter, Facebook and the like. I always like to be “linked-in” – no pun, intended!

Image  Image

At this point, you may be wondering as to why I decided to reminisce about my love of newspapers, today, of all days. Well, yesterday, believing both newspapers would be waiting for me, to be read at my disposal, one was noticeably missing. How empty my morning feels, sans a newspaper. In a way, as odd and dramatic as it may sound, newspapers have come to serve as nearly a friendship to me, as I am quite familiar with many of the writers/reporters, the sections of the newspaper (right down to the engagement and wedding announcements). Realizing one of the papers is absent is a palpable vacancy and void. While to others newspapers may nearly be extinct, to me, they are a link to my past, my childhood and truly, where my love of writing, reading, media and journalism was more or less cultivated. It is also an area, which bonds me to my parents, because they took the time to foster the love of reading, in me, providing access on a daily basis not only to newspapers, but to books. For that, I am always thankful. Until they are no longer around (which I truly hope they ALWAYS are), I will forever be a faithful reader of newspapers, available on the internet, or not. There is just something about the tangible feel of that newspaper, the scent of it, and being able to rely on it waiting for me on my front doorstep. Though the times may be changing, with media being readily available with the touch of a fingertip on a computer, phone, etc, there is something beautifully nostalgic and traditional about being able to touch all of the words and stories by hand, whether it is a newspaper or book.

Image

QUESTION: Do you read the newspaper? If so, do you prefer the paper or electronic format?

Classroom Confidential: Childhood School Memories!

Good morning and Happy Friday, to you! I hope the rest of your week was a pleasant one and that you’ll be having a fun/relaxing weekend! I don’t know about you, but lately, when I’ve been walking into stores, in particular Target, Kohl’s, and most recently, Office Max, I’ve been distracted by the “Back to School” signs and sales. No longer though, does my stomach start to ache with fear and worry, in that, school is not in the cards for me (hopefully graduate school someday, but that’s another story). Rather, when I see the back to school signs, now memories and thoughts of the past come flooding back, so I thought to myself, what better than to take a step back and reminisce as a post about things (i.e. foods, books, stores, etc) I associate with school from my past? Perhaps you’ll be able to relate, or if you can’t, maybe it will remind of you of your own experiences! Before we get to that, let’s chat about breakfast this morning:

1 container Yoplait Blended Greek Strawberry Raspberry Yogurt: (This is the newest variety of Yoplait Greek yogurt which just hit shelves about two weeks ago. Oh, goodness, I had such high hopes for this yogurt, right down to the container, which is colorful and eye-catching. However, upon first tasting this particular flavor, which was unique in itself, as it is two flavors not typically found mixed together as a yogurt flavor, I realized it was not going to be one my favorites. Still, I’m glad I tried it, because if not, I would be left wondering and contemplating whether or not it was good. Needless to say, I will not be purchasing it again, as I found it to be oddly sweet, too much of a raspberry flavor, and overall, not at all pleasing to my taste buds. On a positive note, the consistency was decent though and while thick, still easily combined with cereal.)

1 cup Giant-brand Puffed Rice Cereal: (Tasted fine today, but I was a bit annoyed with the yogurt, so I probably would have preferred a more flavorful cereal today.)

1 cup Special K Red Berries Cereal: (A good cereal choice today, with abundant strawberry pieces! They sure were generous in this particular box!)

1 Banana (Yay! This banana was probably the star of the morning, as the flavor was optimal! P.S. Stay tuned for a very exciting and fun post regarding bananas… it might just involve a GIVEAWAY!)

ImageImageImageImage

Now, back to today’s musing! So, as I mentioned above, this time of year has me reflecting back on school experiences, back to school shopping I completed in the past, in addition to specific books and foods I associate with school from childhood and my teenage years. Typically, towards the middle of August, I would create an in-depth list of what needed to purchased, from school supplies, clothing, etc, and then I would create labels which I would type up and tape onto all of my folders, notebooks, binders. Needless to say, I was a bit of a perfectionist when it came to school. It became a tradition for my dad and I to head to either Staples or Office Max, with my list in hand, scurrying around the store, grabbing excessive amounts of pens, mechanical pencils, glue sticks, and anything else that just so happened to catch my eye. A significant amount of money later, we headed home and quickly, I would spread all of my purchases on the kitchen table and sit there for hours, instructing my dad on how he could help the process go by quicker, handing him hole punchers, scissors, and whatever else I thought might be handy. Though at times it could be stressful trying to prepare for the new school year, it gave me a means to bond with my dad and allow myself time to physically and mentally prepare for what the year might bring.

Image    Image

Another favorite aspect of my mine when it came to the back to school season, was back to school CLOTHES/ACCESSORIES shopping! In both my middle and high school years, back to school clothes/accessories shopping became an exciting tradition for my friends and I, as we spent hours scouring the stores and using it as an excuse to wander the mall, gossiping, giggling and enjoying each others’ company, probably more so than actually making any purchases.

Image

Here are some of my favorite childhood school memories I’d like to share with you:

Books:

  • The Arthur Series: Remember him? To me, he was the friendly aardvark I came to be quite fond of, with his sister D.W., and other friends. I remember when I was in elementary school, a teacher once told my class that the author of the Arthur series would always find a way to put his two sons in there. I always found it to be interesting and would look for them in the books. Sure enough, they were always there!

Image

  • The Berenstain Bears: Ahh, what a wonderful series! Fun fact: the authors of this book series are actually from the very same county as me and a town about 25 minutes away! Always a fun book series to read, because there were underlying life lessons in all of them.

Image

  • Little Bear: Some of you might not recall Little Bear, but he is one of my favorites. In later years, they actually had a television series, based directly off of some of the themed books. One of my favorite episodes/books involves, Little Bear, a toad, and “hot applesauce!” Another favorite is Little Bear’s birthday, which teaches a lesson about friendship.

Image

  • Corduroy series: This beloved book series always seemed to be checked out of the library and whenever I would finally get my hands on it, I loved it. Corduroy the bear, always seemed like such a lovable character to me.

Image

Foods:

  • Kid’s Kitchen: Created by the brand Hormel, it was one of my favorite foods to bring for lunch. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it was a small container, which could be heated that way, or taken out and heated in a bowl, etc. My mom would typically place it in a thermos for me to enjoy as lunch. I would look forward to it all morning until the afternoon, when it was finally time to eat! As a child, I was never really a big sandwich eater (with the exception of grilled cheese, of course!)

Image

  • Chef Boyardee Mac ‘ N Cheese: I think I may have enjoyed Chef Boyardee even more so than Kid’s Kitchen, but probably because I had it less often, in that it was typically more expensive than the Kid’s Kitchen counterpart).

Image

  • Cream of Wheat with a Pat of Butter: As a very young child, my mom would always make this for me and serve it with a pat of butter mixed it. It was warm and comforting and the addition of butter enhanced the savory flavor. I know it’s the tagline of Campbell’s Soup that claims of “warming the heart,” but in my opinion, it was Cream of Wheat that warmed mine!

Image

  • Eggo Frozen Waffles topped with butter: Oh goodness, I recall kindergarten through first grade, the only time my sister, Hope and I were in the same school, when we would both eat frozen waffles spread with butter. Thinking about it still churns my stomach – I was never quite fond of the waffles with butter, meal. When eating waffles, pancakes or french toast, syrup is typically what I turn to.

Image

  • Einstein Brothers Bagels & Cream Cheese: Specifically when I was in high school, after spending a long day in classes and at various after school activities, I would arrive home ravenous. My mom always made sure to supply me with my favorite Einstein Bros Bagel, topped with their cream cheese. It became somewhat of a tradition, because other store-brought bagels, such as Thomas’ just wasn’t the same. There’s something about bagels from restaurants which evokes an allure unlike grocery-store bought bagels.

Image

  • Denny’s: Most of my fond memories of Denny’s are tagged to my kindergarten years. I would attend the morning session and on Wednesdays, when my dad was off from work, he would drive me and I’d be desperate for the morning to end, because it meant he, my mom and I would be visiting Denny’s for lunch, as it was the day they served my favorite soup – Cream of Broccoli. Happily, I’d sit there in the booth, slurping my soup, my mouth watering while dreaming of the dessert I would soon share with my dad: cherry cheesecake.

Image    Image   Image

I could probably continue on with all of my memories in relation to school, but for now, I’ll leave you with this brief sampling!

QUESTION: So, tell me, what reminds you of your school years? Did you enjoy back-to-school shopping?

Paid with a Smile: Exploring the World of Volunteerism

Why, hello there, my friends, it’s Wednesday, which means, it’s mid-week and I’m hoping your week thus far, has been a pleasant one! We started off the week, here in Pennsylvania with warm, abundant sunshine, blue skies and low humidity, though things have headed in the opposite direction, with rain, humidity and below-average temperature (as stated by my favorite meteorologist, 6ABC’s Adam Joseph!). I’ve been trying to make the most of the week and still be productive despite the abysmal turn of the weather and have been successful for the most part (partially due to my growing, tasty cereal collection drawing me out of bed in the morning!) Anyhow, a television show I watched Sunday night is the impetus for my post this afternoon. Initially, I wasn’t sure I would post today, but I found my mind wandering back to Sunday evening as I watched that particular ABC television series. More on today’s musing in a moment, though. Allow me to debrief you with my eats this AM:

Breakfast (August 7, 2013):

1 container Fage Fruyo Pineapple Greek Yogurt: (Oh goodness, I never like to bash on a yogurt, but I feel I have a responsibility to be honest on my blog, therefore, I will share with my perspective on this yogurt: I was not at all a fan. It’s strange, because usually I LOVE pineapple yogurt! In my opinion, pineapple is one of the sweetest, most satisfying fruits around, one that is always a treat, especially when it is fresh, ripe and chilled. However, this particular pineapple Greek yogurt tasted very artificial and to be frank.. downright strange. The consistency was thick, as typically expected with Greek yogurts, but thankfully, it easily combined with the cereal, which was probably the only positive aspect about this yogurt. I’m curious though if perhaps other flavors of this yogurt variety might be better. Have any of you had it before?

1 cup Giant-brand Puffed Rice Cereal: (Maybe I’m imagining things, but for some reason, the puffed rice tasted better today for some reason; then again, it could just be me attempting to console myself, with the atrocious yogurt.)

1 cup Special K Multigrain Flakes: (Yay, this cereal has made its return! I know, I know, I have numerous boxes of other cereals, I haven’t really enjoyed yet, but I didn’t want to abandon my Multigrain Flakes! If you haven’t tried it yet, which is a possibility, since it hasn’t been on store shelves all that long, it is ideal in my opinion, with a subtle sweetness, crunchy flakes and tastes well either on its own or with other cereals.)

1 Banana (Still doing well with the bananas, I’m happy to report. Ideally sweet and petite!)

ImageImageImageImage

Now, back to today’s musing. You may be curious as to what television program from Sunday I referred to above and now the time has come that I will share it with you: ABC Network’s Secret Millionaire. If you haven’t seen it before, now is the time to watch. This past Sunday evening was the Summer premiere and while it is late in the Summer season for a premiere, in my opinion it is a decent and imperative show to be watched by individuals and families, in general. In the past, I’ve caught a few episodes of the show, but this past week’s episode really stimulated my mind and had me reflecting on the past and in particular, an activity I used to engage in quite often in my teen’s and earlier 20’s.

Image

Unlike many other high schools through the U.S., my particular high school building housed grades 10-12, with 9th grade still in the middle school building. When I finally entered my sophomore year of high school, I was overwhelmed by the number of clubs and after-school activities to join. However, one in particular caught my eye, but more importantly, my heart. The organization was called: Greater Philadelphia. The premise of Greater Philadelphia was volunteerism, allowing students to engage in opportunities such as: serving at a soup kitchen, helping those with developmental disabilities, tutoring elementary school students, participating in walks (i.e. Diabetes walks, March for Dimes, etc), among countless other activities and activism.

Image            Image

Within a matter of weeks after initially signing up Greater Philadelphia, I was heavily involved, tutoring at a local elementary school, helping out at a local Apple Fest, and also, volunteering on my own at a local American Red Cross Homeless shelter (helping out with child care and serving meals). Soon, it became a tradition for my friend and I to serve Thanksgiving dinner together at a local lodge, an annual event created by a local woman to serve those less fortunate. For the first time in my life, as a volunteer, I felt I had a purpose and was making a contribution. There was nothing better than to see a smile on the elementary school student’s face after they read an entire book to me themselves, or after they managed to solve an intricate math problem.

When I graduated high school and moved onto college, my dedication to volunteerism never faded, as I went on to pursue my own opportunities. Some of my pursuits included: serving as an office assistant and event assistant at Sunshine Foundation, an organization dedicated to granting “dreams” to children who are ill, as well as at a local hospital.

Image    Image

Watching “Secret Millionaire,” the other evening nearly brought me to tears as I recounted all the moments of joy I experienced while volunteering. There is nothing better than looking around and seeing the smiles and impact fellow volunteers are making. As I watched the “secret millionaire” of the episode, a woman, who is the founder of the Auntie Anne’s pretzel franchise, go undercover as a volunteer, my eyes were glued to the screen as I heard the individuals tell their heartbreaking stories of strife and tribulations. There she was, not simply providing them with the funds to make necessary strides and changes, but actually seeing and experiencing firsthand what life might be like for them.

Image

A snapshot from “Secret Millionaire” with Anne Beiler, Auntie Anne’s founder

Being a volunteer taught me quite a bit as a teenager. Prior to volunteering, I would think nothing of begging my parents for a ten-dollar bill to simply buy a pair of earrings at the mall, a pair of earrings which would soon fall to the bottom of my jewelry box, being worn all of once, if at all. After serving Thanksgiving dinner the first time at lodge, my perspective permanently changed. Walking around to each table, serving the traditional Thanksgiving fare, I was abruptly stopped at the table in the direct center of the large meeting room. It was a woman and her children, a family who appeared vaguely familiar to me, yet I couldn’t seem to place them. Soon, my confusion was abated, as she informed me they were former residents at the American Red Cross Homeless Shelter. Almost immediately, my mind flashed back to months prior, as I initially made their acquaintance, spending time playing board games with her children and holding her newborn baby (actually, the very first time I ever held a baby.) How thankful I was, that particular Thanksgiving, for the comradeship I had built, because truly, with volunteering, that is the greatest payment of all.

Image

If you haven’t watched “Secret Millionaire,” I recommend checking it out, at least once. Perhaps you’ll experience a wave of nostalgia like me, or if not, be able to see the lives of individuals be changed for the better, which in my opinion, is always a pleasant sight to see.

QUESTION: Have you ever volunteered? If so, where?

GIVEAWAY WINNERS Revealed: Did YOU win?!

Good morning, friends! It’s Tuesday and I am quite sleepy this morning. I hope your Monday overall, was a pleasant one. Today’s post will be a short and sweet one, with my purpose of revealing the very lucky “ZEVIA GIVEAWAY” winners, plus my brief perspective on the revelations/ending of “The Bachelorette.” Also, on a side note, apparently, unbeknownst to me, today is National Root Beer Float Day! I’m already halfway there, since it just so happens, I already consume Diet Root Beer every day! So if you have the chance to, or you feel inclined, treat yourself to a big Root Beer Float; hey, it’s a holiday! Before we get to those exciting details, let’s chat about breakfast:

Breakfast (Tuesday, August 6, 2013):

1 container Yoplait 100 Greek Peach Yogurt: (As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of peach yogurt in general. It’s funny though, because as a child, I absolutely loved Dannon Fruit on the Bottom yogurt in Peach! Times have certainly changed though, as I often find peach yogurts to be one of the most artificial and “off” tasting of them all. This particular peach flavor was semi-OK, but I wouldn’t purchase it again. My goal was to try this flavor and see what I thought. I figured I might as well give it a chance, because it might surprise me. Although this was not the case, I’m still glad I at least tried it.)

1 cup Barbara’s Bakery Snackimals Cereal in Vanilla Crunch: (YES! Finally, Snackimals cereal has made its way into my kitchen cabinet, but more specifically, my stomach! While shopping at Whole Foods on Saturday, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a SALE on Snackimals cereal. It just so happened that when I put two and two together, I realized I could score an EXCELLENT and frugal deal on not one, but TWO boxes of Snackimals cereal, meaning I could try BOTH flavor – vanilla blast and cinnamon crunch! Sure enough, yesterday I made my way back to Whole Foods, coupons in hand (2 manufacturer’s for $1 off both flavors of cereal found on barbarasbakery.com under promotions, plus a Whole Foods store coupon for a $1.50 off of two boxes, found on wholefoodsmarket.com/coupons, if you are interested! This cereal was oh so tasty! It provided great crunch and fun animal shapes, which, much to my pleasant surprise were a decent size! Great cereal; Barbara’s Bakery NEVER disappoints!)

1 cup Special K Red Berries Cereal (Red Berries are back with a vengeance! I never tire of this cereal and overall, I truly believe Special K is one of the best cereals out there. They provide such variety, flavor and optimal nutrition; an ideal cereal in my book!)

1 Banana (Fun fact about bananas: yesterday, while at Whole Foods I purchased several. Want to know my reasoning why? Their REGULAR PRICE is… .49 per lb! That is practically UNHEARD OF outside of produce markets and sometimes, not even then. In my regular grocery store – i.e. one of them being Giant, the regular price is typically at least .69 per lb. So I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed the price of .49 and at Whole Foods, of all places! Interested in organic bananas? Whole Foods supplies them for .69 per lb. Of course, this could be regional pricing, so be sure to check your local Whole Foods before trekking over there, if it happens to be a significant distance from your home.)

ImageImageImageImage

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for (well, some of you, at least!)…

Image

*ZEVIA GIVEAWAY WINNERS* (Listed below are names and comments of the winners)

  1. MEGAN (“I would love to try grape, love grape soda”; “A cool flavor would be vanilla cola, my favorite flavor.”)
  2. LINDSEY (“I would love to try the grape flavor,”; I think pineapple citrus would be a cool ZEVIA flavor.”)
  3. ALEXANDRA (“I LOVE Zevia! I’ve only tired two flavors so far because that is all my grocer carries, but out of those two, I’d say lemon-lime is my favorite,”; “I think that a raspberry flavor would be really great.”)
  4. MOLLY L. (“Ooh, the ginger root beer sounds delicious,”; “A raspberry flavour might be good.”)
  5. JANE H. (“I love entering contests. I haven’t tried Zevia soda yet, but I would like to give it a try. Usually I drink cola. The flavors I would like to try are cherry cola and cream soda.”)

CONGRATULATIONS to all 5 lucky WINNERS!

Please e-mail me(Stylinstar53@gmail.com) SHIPPING ADDRESS, at your earliest convenience, so Zevia can send you your prize!

My Thoughts on “The Bachelorette” Finale:

Quickly, my thoughts on last night’s epic and highly-controversial finale, are scattered. Yes, I know there are a lot of naysayers and people who might believe Desiree settled for Chris, or made a decision on a whim to simply be “engaged,” or in a relationship. I’m torn between what I truly believe. There is a very large part of me who would like to believe Desiree and Chris’ relationship is truly genuine and heartfelt and overall, actual love, but I honestly am not sure. Only Desiree herself, and Chris know that, for sure. I think part of what Desiree said in her explanation of how she switched from apparently being “in-love” and heartbroken about Brooks, to being engaged to Chris, made sense. She said that she was blinded by what she thought was there with Brooks, or was infatuated by chasing him, because he didn’t show interest quite as easily as guys such as Chris and Drew, the other frontrunners. It kind of fits with that saying, “We always want what we can’t have.” Perhaps she truly believed Brooks was the one she wanted, because she built him into someone she wanted him to be after seeing a couple qualities in him she liked. I hope Desiree is truly in love with Chris as she says she is and I’ll try to hold out faith that she is. I believe in true love, so if she claims she’s in love, then I’ll hope they turn out to be as happy as Trista (the very first Bachelorette) and Ryan (the guy she chose), who have been married for I believe, about 10 years or so.

Image        Image

     Desiree & Chris                           Trista & Ryan

QUESTION: If you watched “The Bachelorette,” what are your thoughts on the ending? Or, if you didn’t watch the show, do you believe the saying, “We want what we can’t have?”