Flourishing Abode Blog Planner – Review

I am not a very organized person when it comes to paperwork, so when I found out that the first item I would be reviewing as part of the Mosaic Review Team was a blog planner I was a little worried. In the past I haven’t ever really planned to blog about something. After going somewhere or doing something special I would download my camera and see if there was anything worth blogging about. Often I would have a great idea about a blog, but would not get to it for a while. As you can tell from my sporadic posts I often went weeks between blog posts. That has changed.

Now I try to post between two and three times a week. This change has been possible because of the Flourishing Abode Blog Planner. It is a printable planner that looks nice if you print it out in black and white or in color. This blog planner has a lot of great features. One thing that I enjoy is that it is just one page. I like that I can see everything at a quick glance. I often have so much going on in my life that simplicity is best. It also has a place where I can write what I plan to blog about each day. There I jot down what I think I will write about at the beginning of the week. I don’t always follow my original plan and when that is the case, I just move my blog idea to the next week. There is also a section for future post ideas that I found helpful. Prior to using the blog planner I would think of great ideas but wouldn’t have the time to write. Then when I had the time to write I wouldn’t remember my ideas. I try to think of at least two new ideas to put in that section each week. Now when I can’t think of anything to write about I have a list to get me started. My favorite part of the planner would have to be the “Images to Make” section. There have been a lot of times that I wished I would have taken a different picture or times when a picture didn’t turn out the way I had planned. I like having a list of the pictures that I want to include, it also reminds me to take multiple shots of pictures that I think are key to my blog (just in case the first one doesn’t turn out). Since I started using this planner my posts have become less sporadic and my page views have gone up. I think that the person who created this blog planer has put everything I need in one place to help me make my blog the best it can be. It was created by April over at The Flourishing Abode. She is a very talented blogger and is giving this blog planner away for free. You can click here to go to her blog and print off your own blog planner today.

 

The only thing that the blog planner didn’t have that I wished it would have was a small calendar so that I could put in due dates for reviews. To solve that very minor issue I just printed a blank calender on the back of the planner and put important dates on there. I have found that little switch to be very helpful.

If you are looking for an easy way to keep your blog organized, I recommend you give this blog planned a try! I know this is one product that I will keep using.

Product At a Glance

 

What is it?

 
The Flourishing Abode Blog Planner.

 

Who would use it?

 
Anyone who wants an easy way to plan their blog and likes simplicity in planning. It would also be great for someone just starting a blog.

 

Where can you get it?

 
Click Flourishing Abode Blog to be connected to where you can get your own blog planner.

 

How much will it cost?

 
It’s FREE!

 

Why try it?

 
It is a great way to keep all of your blog information in one place. It is a nice way to get your blog organized.

 
 

 

 


Breadmaker

One item that I have a hard time finding without corn (I’m allergic to it) is bread. For Christmas I was given an Oster express two pound bread maker. Not only can it make bread, but it can also knead dough, and bake jam. So far I’ve used the bread maker three times and I’m very satisfied. The first two loaves that I made came out great. They were soft, moist and tasted better than any store bought bread I have had. The last loaf that I made wasn’t as good. I had found a recipe online and the bread didn’t cook evenly. It burnt on the outside but was not done inside. I followed the directions which stated to use the “quick bread” settings and after it cooked I realized that I should have used the sweet bread setting. I felt that the first two loafs were a little too soft to use for sandwiches, but they were great for toast or bread and butter. I can’t wait to try different types of breads and make my own recipes.


It is very easy to use and clean up is simple. To make the bread you just add the wet ingredients, then the dry ingredients, and finally the yeast. After that you select the setting you want and wait for the timer to go off. You can start it right away or set it to start cooking later. It will even keep the bread warm for an hour after it has finished cooking, but I don’t know how anyone could wait that long. It makes the house smell so good! The pan lifts out of the bread maker easily and all three loafs that I made slid right out. It washed up easily and was ready for the next time I wanted to use it. The only problem I have with it is the size. It is quite large and I still haven’t found a place to store it. I guess if I don’t put it away that means it will be readily available when I need it. If you are looking for a nice bread maker this might be the one for you.
Find out more about it at http://www.oster.com/ProductDetails.aspx?pid=2470

Dragon Naturally Speaking

Hi everybody I know I haven’t blogged in a few weeks I’ve been busy with doctors appointments and finishing up the first semester of school. I recently got a new product it is called Dragon Naturally Speaking. In fact I’m typing this blog using it. For those of you that don’t know, Dragon Naturally Speaking is a speech recognition software. You speak into a microphone and the software types what you say. I have to say it does take a little bit to get use to. According to the website the more you use it the easier it becomes. In writing this blog I have had to edit it quite a bit, but I must say it is a lot of fun to use.

I’m going to continue to use the product and work with it to see if it becomes easier. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just talk and not have to type? I hope this product is as good as it sounds.

I hope that everyone had a nice week.

****
An update on Dragon Naturally Speaking– I have completed a few more tutorials and know what to do and how to use it a little better. My little one has even set up a profile on it and has used it a few times. I don’t have to edit what it types nearly as often and it is getting faster at recognizing what I say. I have a cold right now though and today it didn’t recognize anything that I was trying to say. I got frustrated and decided to just type. I hope when my voice is back to normal it will recognize me again, I was getting use to not typing.

Habit Burger Grill

While we were in Aliso Viejo for my little ones gymnastic meet we had lunch at the Habit Burger Grill. The restaurant was extremely clean and the service was fast. The cashier was friendly and very efficient. The atmosphere in the restaurant was nice as well.

I ordered a cheeseburger and a garden salad. The cheeseburger was moist, juicy and cooked just right. I was expecting a small salad but I got one that was big enough to share. The cheeseburger was $3.45 and the salad was $3.95.

 I feel it was well worth the price. My mom ordered the pastrami meal which came with french fries and a medium drink for only $9.50. She couldn’t even finish it because it was so filling. She said it was a very good sandwich.

My little one ordered the grilled cheese meal. Boring, but it is what she likes. It came with fries, a piece of candy and a drink. She chose milk, but after she took a drink we found out it was sour. The switched it for juice instead. Her meal was only $3.95. After we ate we stopped in the restroom. I have to say outside of Disneyland I have NEVER seen a cleaner public restroom. I was very surprised to see that.

We all enjoyed our food and the prices as well. I would say that their cheeseburger would rank amongst an In and Out one and you can’t top that in my opinion! I wish that there was a restaurant closer to us but unfortunately there isn’t.

Weekend Get Away

 
We had a long drive to my little one’s championship meet so we decided to make a weekend out of it. The hotel that was closest to the meet and was giving discounted rated was the Renaissance ClubSport Hotel in Aliso Viejo California. We left Friday afternoon and had an adventure. I had printed directions to the hotel off of mapquest. I use that site a lot and normally it is fine. This time however the directions included toll roads which we had never used before. To top that off we forgot the GPS at home! We didn’t mind paying to use the toll road, but we didn’t know what we were doing or where we needed to be. It was a tad bit stressful but after two toll roads we made it to the hotel.

When we arrived we were greeted by a very nice lady in the lobby. We had a little issue because we don’t have credit cards just a debit card. I guess that they can’t put a hold on the debit card and charge it at the end of the stay like every other hotel we have been to. We got that little situation figured out and then headed to our room.

 
Now to be fair I am a member of the Disney Vacation Club and have not had to pay for a hotel in about five years. We always stay in a Disney hotel so this hotel was a bit different. It would not be our choice of a hotel as it was more of a fitness hotel. Two handicap adults and a child don’t exactly fit in at that type of hotel. That being said we did enjoy our stay.


The room looked very nice when we arrived. We stayed in room 418 it was a handicap accessible room.

 
 It had two full size beds, a desk area with a very comfortable computer chair, and a rolling table. The bathroom was beautiful.

 
 
The only complaint with the bathroom area would be that they didn’t give us enough towels. There were three of us but only two towels. That was an easy fix though. The shower was our favorite part. It had a seat that could fold down or be pushed up out of the way. The water stayed nice and hot and because of the seat I didn’t have to stand on one foot the entire time. (I still have a cast on my leg) There was also a TV, a closet area and a coffee maker. The view, although it was of the parking lot, was rather nice. The main thing missing from the room was a small refrigerator. That was disappointing as we have medication that needs to be kept cold, but the ice chest worked pretty well. Another thing that we were not too happy about was the coasters; they were used already and looked discussing. We threw them away.

 
The first night we didn’t do much. We took a shower, watched some television, ate dinner and relaxed.

 The next morning we slept in and then began our day. We brought along some food with us and ate breakfast in the room.

It was fairly cool that day. We went to find the gym that was hosting the meet, and it was good that we did because we got a little lost on the way. After figuring out where we needed to be the next day we were hungry. Since we didn’t have the GPS and didn’t know the area we didn’t go too far. We found the town center that had everything and looked for a place to eat lunch. We ate at The Habit Burger Grill. I had never been to one before but it was very nice.

Then we stopped at a few stores and decided to head back to the hotel.

 

When we returned to the hotel we were very disappointed at the state of the room.


 Again there were only two towels, the coasters that we had thrown away were back on the counter, the beds looked like they were made by someone who didn’t know what they were doing, and they didn’t leave any ice bags.


We called and got more towels and new bags for the ice bucket and decided to do a little school work.


After a while we headed down stairs to explore the hotel area. We found the gift shop closed it was only 7pm but it was already closed. We explored a little and found a sauna, work out room, and basket ball court. We didn’t use any of them. Then we looked at the restaurant. Unfortunately it was not our type of food. Everything was very high class and had a lot of sauces. With my food allergy I need to know everything that is in the food, so we couldn’t eat there. We went back to our room and ordered pizza from Porky’s Pizza. It was very good.


While we waited on the pizza we worked on some science lessons. She learned about worms, sponges, leaches and other creatures. After a few science lessons we played a few hands of UNO.


She won every hand and had a fun time.


The best part of being at a hotel to her though, is getting ice.


She loves to use the ice machine.


Our pizza arrived, we ate, and then got ready for bed. We packed up our stuff and got a good night sleep.


The next morning we checked out very easily and headed to the gymnastic meet.


Overall I would say the hotel was nice. It didn’t seem to be too kid friendly. House keeping left a lot to be desired but customer service and friendliness was excellent. We enjoyed our stay however it is not likely we would ever return. For those that enjoy working out and who want to spend time getting massages it would be a great fit. I think we will stick to Disney Hotels though.

 

Oak Glen

Living in Southern California gives us a lot of options for day trips. We have numerous theme parks, beaches, mountains and fun places to visit all around us. We decided to take a trip to Oak Glen. Up at Oak Glen there are apple farms, unique shops and restaurants and a lot of fun entertainment. We have been to Oak Glen a lot before so we have our favorite places. The people are always friendly and the atmosphere is great. We went the day before the season started so not everything was open yet. There is a lot more to do but this is how we spent our day.

We started our trip at Snow Line orchards. There we tasted different kinds of homemade apple cider and different types of apples. They had apple cider, raspberry apple cider, and cherry apple cider. We love anything cherry flavor but the whole family agreed that the raspberry flavor was the best. Everyone had a favorite apple and it was neat to see how one fruit could have so many different tastes. They also sell homemade doughnuts and sell a lot of old fashion toys. You also have the chance to pick your own raspberries. When we went we paid $12 and got to fill three baskets full of the raspberries. A kind gentleman took us to the raspberries, showed us how to tell if they were ripe and helped us pick a few. Then we were able to pick as many as we could fit in the baskets.

My little one didn’t enjoy this part too much. There were a few bees around so she didn’t want anything to do with picking the berries. It was a lot of fun though. Good thing she wasn’t born on a farm she would never make it. After we picked the raspberries and bought a gallon of cider we hopped in the car and drove down a little farther to Wildlands conservancy. We didn’t do much here but shop. We found chocolate covered sun flower seeds and nuts.

My little one found a few little trinkets that she liked too. After we shopped we sat in the rocking chairs in front of the store and enjoyed the view. Then it was off to the Oak Tree Village.

The Oak Tree Village was not completely open for the season when we went, but it was still and enjoyable experience. We started with lunch at Apple Annie’s. That day was endless fish and french-fries. I couldn’t eat the fried fish but those that did say is was so good that it melted in your mouth. I can’t drink soda and can only usually order water at restaurants, so it was nice to order some apple cider with my lunch. Lunch tasted great but it was a little on the pricy side.

After lunch we looked in a few of the shops. Then we decided to go in the animal park. It cost $3 a person to go in and look at the animals. We saw a lot of goats, and birds, and pigs. Then there was an area that we were able to go in and pet the animals. We petted goats and a lama.

Let me tell you the lama liked me a lot it ripped a chuck of my hair out and kept biting at my clothes. After we left the petting zoo area we continued down the trail and saw Johnny Apple Seed’s cabin. We saw a big barn and a lake.

 The view was gorgeous and the air was crisp and clean. We felt our three dollars was well worth it. Once the season officially starts, there is also a place to mine for gold and fish. Both of those cost an additional fee but I don’t know about the prices.

It had been a long day so we headed home after stopping at our favorite fruit store, Mom’s Country Orchard. They sell all kinds of jelly, jam, and syrup along with fruit. I love this place because they always let you taste the fruit before you purchase it. Their fruit is so fresh and juicy that even though you pay a little more than you do in a grocery store, it is well worth it. We had a fun day in the good out doors.

Santa Ana Zoo

Last week the gym had summer vacation so we decided to go to the zoo. I had went to the Santa Ana zoo about 2 or 3 years ago with my little on and we had a blast. At that time there were a few areas under construction but we had a good time. We decided to go back this week and were not disappointed. The zoo is small and the hours are short but I think that was perfect for a little day trip. The zoo is open from 10am to 4pm daily. It is very reasonably priced, adults are $10 and kids are $7. We opted to become zoo members. That lets us in o the zoo for free for 12 months and gives us 10% discounts at the gift shop and the cafe. There are different levels available. We opted for the family plus, it is good for three adults and up to 4 kids. After our first trip this year we are looking forward to going back. Parking is free and there seemed to be quite a bit available.

Our first stop at the zoo was Exploration Outpost. In that area there are a few photo opportunities, along with some animals to climb on. There is also a little building with a lot of learning possibilities. There are touch tables with different animal prints, a magnifying glass to look at different types of feathers, poisonous frogs, a dress up area, and more. There was fun for all ages and although the area was a little crowded my little one was able to look at everything she wanted to.

Then we headed to the Colors of the Amazon Aviary. This area was a little on the dull side we did see a few birds but mostly we saw a lot of turtles. I was hoping to see a little more action but it was a hot day, maybe we will have better luck next time. The area was very pretty to look at though.

There was a show going on in the Conversation Education Theater, we missed the first half but the second part was nice. We learned about different feet and how they help animals. At the end of the show my little one was able to pet a rabbit, snake and chicken. She thought the show was fun.
Next we headed to the Bald Eagle and then to Primate Row. There were a lot of different monkeys. Many of them were sleeping but a few were very active. We enjoyed seeing the many different types of monkeys. After spending a while looking at the monkeys we decided to have lunch. We passed by the treetops exhibit and the Jack Lynch Aviary on our way.

I was expecting to over pay for bad food but that was not the case at all. For three adults and a child it was less than $25 that included drinks. My little one got a hot dog kids meal. It included the hot dog, fries or fruit, a cookie and a drink. My mom and best friend both got the cheeseburger and french fries, and I got the chicken sandwich and a salad. The hamburgers were very good and filling and the fries were good as well. The salad was very fresh and so was the chicken sandwich. We all enjoyed our lunch. My little one played on the playground for a few minutes. The thing I liked about this playground was that there were two areas, one for kids 2 to 5 and one for kids 5 to 12. There were slides and monkey bars and everyone seemed to be having fun.

After lunch we headed to the Crean Family Farm. There we fed goats and sheep and saw a few farm animals. I have to say I was disappointed  in the workers knowledge at the farm area. My little one asked how much food the goat ate in a day and was told “too much.” That wasn’t the type of answer she was looking for but life goes on. In the farm area there are two rides. There is a train that takes you around the farm area and lets you see some of the animals up close and a carrousel that has zoo animals on it. My little one rode in a bald eagle nest, it spun around as the carrousel went around. She thought that it was really neat. The rides cost $3 each or you can get two rides for $5. I thought the rides were worth it.

After the farm area we re visited some of the monkeys and saw the giant anteater. That was neat to see. There were two of them and after waiting a few minutes they came right up to the fence. We looked at the grassland exhibit, and saw a few monkeys and birds at the Amazon’s Edge.  It was a hot day so the animals were not as active as we had hoped but we saw the entire zoo and had a good day.

  

Overall the zoo was very nice, there was not too much walking and we were able to see a lot of different animals. We are looking forward to our next trip.

Ruby’s Diner

 

Lunch at Ruby’s Diner was amazing. There were four of us, three adults and one child and we all enjoyed our meal. I ordered the Super Ruby. It was a hamburger with cheese, tomato, avocado and Ruby Sauce (I got it without the sauce). It came on a cheese dusted sour dough bread with endless fries. I can’t have the fries so I was able to substitute for fresh fruit. The hamburger was juicy and melted in my mouth.

 

Other people in the group ordered fried fish or shrimp. They said it was delicious and a perfect match for a day at the beach.  Both came with endless fries and coleslaw. The coleslaw was a bit dry for my taste but other than that the meal was great. The meal was so filling that no one ordered the extra frys and we all left feeling satisfied. The portion sizes were very quite large. My little one is boring and got the macaroni and cheese with grapes, she liked it. There were a lot of different options and we enjoyed our meal. The price was reasonable, it was about $15 each for the adults, and we felt we got our moneys worth.  The downside of the restaurant would have to be the fact that there is no restroom, so if you have to take your child in the middle of eating you have to walk all the way back to the park area at the beginning of the pier. It is a long walk! The inside seating was limited and quite cramped, but that turned out to be a good thing. We ate outside and enjoyed it.  The best part was the view we saw while we ate. It was breathtaking!

Balboa Island

 

We finally went on our first outing of the summer to Balboa Island. It is located in Newport beach and is a nice area to walk around.

Balboa is a wonderful area in New Port Beach CA. There is so much to do and explore.
When we got to Balboa we parked in the parking lot. It is a metered lot that charges $1.50 an hour for parking. We didn’t have to pay though because we have a handicap placard. Then we stopped off at the restroom before starting our day. I have to say that the restrooms were among the cleanest public restrooms that I have ever seen. We went to the fun zone and our first stop was the nautical museum. It has three buildings, two of which are free to look at, the other one costs a small fee. I don’t remember the exact price but four of us got in for less than $20.

 

The two free buildings had a lot of neat boats to look at and were very interesting. We have come a long way in boat making over the years. There were paintings and models to look at as well as a few videos to watch.



There was an area devoted to a resident from Balboa who had competed in the paralimpics in sailing. It was inspirational. There was a sail with all kinds of signatures, and a sign was posted for people to sign the sail and put their dreams. My little one liked that idea and added her dream to the sail.

 
The building that cost to get in had an area that showed how beach music has changed over the years, a replica of the largest fish ever caught, a submarine you could pretend to drive,a touch tank and more. I think my little one learned a lot and had fun. She loved the touch tank and the gentleman working at the museum was talking to her about the different animals in the tank. She asked a lot of questions and then talked about the animals the rest of the day.

After the museum we looked in a few of the shops. My little one got some ice cream and my mom got a chocolate dipped frozen banana, they both said that they were very good. Then we went window shopping.  The shops had a lot of beach themed items but I felt they were a bit over priced. It was fun to look at the different shops and see the different things that could be made out of sea shells. Then we went on the Ferris wheel. The cost was $3 each, which I thought was a little high, but after the ride I think it was worth it. This feriswheel doesn’t just go around once or twice it goes around 25 times. It was a nice long ride and the scenery was beautiful. The seats were a little on the small side but I was able to fit.

After our ride we decided to get some lunch. We took the long walk to the end of the Balboa pier and ate at Ruby’s Diner. I will go into more detail about lunch in another post. Lunch was good. After lunch we continued to look through the shops and then decided to rest while my little one played on the playground. It was a nice area with slides, swings, monkey bars and an awesome jungle gym. My little one loved talking with other kids and playing. She climbed to the top of the jungle gym a few times and overall, she had a blast. 











After the playground it was time for our sunset cruise. The night before our trip I found a deal online that would let us take the 90 minute cruise for only $10 per adult and $6 per child. This cruise was well worth the price. It started at 7pm. It was a little breezy but the weather was still nice.
The views were amazing. We were able to see some sea lions, and beautiful views of the homes around Balboa. The water was a little rough so the ride was fun, I even got splashed a little. The waves were choppy which made the experience even more memorable. I was able to get a few nice pictures.
 
The day at Balboa was a lot of fun. It was not too hot and we were able to take time and explore. I would recommend taking a trip down there if you are able. There is of course the option to swim as well, but my foot problem doesn’t allow me to walk on sand, so I can’t swim as of now.

Ice Cream

 

 

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This ice cream maker has made summer a lot easier!

One of the many foods that usually contains some sort of corn is ice cream. It usually has corn syrup, so I just didn’t eat any. But….. my wonderful friend bought me the Hamilton Beach 1.5 Quart Ice Cream Maker for my birthday. I used it for the first time yesterday and was amazed.

It is very simple to use and works very quickly. The box says it makes ice cream in 25 to 40 minutes. I did feel that this statement was a little misleading. You have to put one part of the ice cream maker in the freezer for 24 hours before use and all of the recipes they provide require you to chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 24 hours before you can make it. However once everything is frozen and chilled I had ice cream in less than 20 minutes. You just pour the mix in, and turn the machine on. It doesn’t need any rock salt or special ingredients. The ice cream had a good flavor, held its’ shape, and tasted far better than any ice cream I have ever bought at a store. It only makes a quart of ice cream, and the ice cream maker needs to be frozen each time it is used, but it is a perfect fit in my opinion. It cleaned up nicely, and I can’t wait to experiment and try new flavors. If you are looking for a simple to use ice cream maker, check this one out!