>U Mom Knows Best: September 2020

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Walking Dead Season Finale Giveaway With Buzz Bee Toys

 Celebrate the season finale of The Walking Dead with a giveaway

This page may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases 

 My boys are huge fans of dart blasters and have a huge collection of dart blasters. If the boys had to choose a brand of dart blasters to be their favorite, the ones made from Buzz Bee Toys would win. The dart blasters from Buzz Bee Toys are the unique blasters that provide the ultimate dark play experience for my boys and are the choice of activity when they have friends over to play. My boys have a huge chest filled with dart blasters and foam darts so there is plenty to share. 

Checking out The Walking Dead dart blaster line 

 When the huge package arrived the other day to our house, my boys were excited to open it. They say the best things come in big boxes and this time it was so true. Now, I did not tell my boys that they were selected to review the dart blasters from The Walking Dead as I wanted it to be a surprise. I also did not want to hear my boys ask me "when are the dart blasters coming?" So when my boys saw the orange and red dart blasters, they were so happy!

 My boys have never seen The Walking Dead television show as it is not a show that their dad watches. Yep, dad controls the tv and the boys enjoy watching the shows that he selects. All my boys know about the Walking Dead series is that it is about people shooting zombies. Not seeing the show did not matter when my boys started checking out the dart blasters that were inspired after the Walking Dead, all that mattered was that they had some cool looking blasters that shoot soft foam darts.

Buzz Bee Toys, Inc. provides the ultimate play experience with each toy they make. From dart and water blasters to water toys, flying toys, junior sports, and pogo, they are passionate about their portfolio of brands and are delighted to offer them to people all over the world. Founded in 2002, its mission statement is to develop the best products at the best prices, all with on-time delivery.

The Walking Dead Dwight’s Crossbow

My boys like that the dart blasters from Buzz Bee Toys have unique features and each kind of blaster is different. So my younger son started examining the Walking Dead Dwight’s Crossbow by Buzz Bee Toys. Upon examing the dart blaster box, my younger son was excited that the dart blaster was a crossbow. My boys do not have a crossbow in their chest of dart blasters so this was going to be a whole new experience of dart blaster play. My son also loved that it was a clip-fed dart blaster so he could load all 10 of the long-distance darts at one time.

 Both boys were happy that the Walking Dead Crossbow blaster had a detachable scope so they could better aim at their target. So my son loaded up the dart blaster with the soft darts and pulled the trigger to launch a dart. "Awesome!" was all that I heard as the dart sailed across the room. I like that the darts are soft and don't break things so my boys can play with the blasters in the house. That soft dart from the dart blaster went from the front of the house to the back door of the house. I am not sure of the distance that the dart flew across the house but my boys told me that this amazing blaster could blast up to 100 feet. From my experience with watching my boys play with Buzz Bee Toys blasters if the box says it shoots up to 100 feet, it really does. When my boys reviewed the Agitator from Buzz Bee Toys, they played with it at the park, and those darts went flying across the park.  

 The Walking Dead Andrea’s Rifle

While my younger son was examining the crossbow, my older son was busy checking out the Walking Dead Andrea’s Rifle by Buzz Bee Toys. This rifle is over 2 feet long and my son was glad that the rifle was lightweight. This unique dart blaster also comes with a detachable scope and a dart clip. The clip-fed bolt action dart blaster comes with 8 long distance darts that also have the ability to blast up to 100 feet. 

 My boys had a blast shooting the soft darts across the room at each other. Since the darts are interchangeable, the boys quickly scooped up each other's blaster darts and loaded their clips back up for more blasting action. These dart blasters are recommended for children 6 years of age and older. So even grownups can join in on the fun. While my boys prefer to use the dart blasters inside, this awesome rifle and crossbow are great for outdoor play too. My boys like indoor play better as it is easier to clean up the foam darts. 

Where have you found a foam dart?

 As a mom to four boys who love to play with dart blasters, I am used to finding the foam darts all over the house. I have found the foam darts in my shoes and in the laundry. It also is quite the norm to find the soft darts in the bathroom. The darts that are spewed all over the house don't bother me as the boys are having safe play at home. When the grandbaby comes over to play, my boys then gather up all their foam darts and they are amazed at how many they have collected. Dart blasters are perfect for keeping kids happy and entertained while staying home.

Enter to win The Walking Dead Dart Blasters

Want to win these Walking Dead Dart Blasters? Buzz Bee Toys is sponsoring a giveaway on my website to celebrate the season finale of The Walking Dead and you can have a chance to win these awesome dart blasters. Just enter on the giveaway form below. If you want to buy these awesome Walking Dead Blasters, you can find them in stores like Walmart and you can buy the dart blasters online.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Coffee Delivery Made To Order

If you love Fresh coffee then keep reading!

       I received samples from Coffee Club to facilitate this post.
 If you have been following me for a while, then you know that I love coffee. You also know that I drink coffee for the taste and love experimenting with coffee. Coffee is more than a drink to me and is a daily healthy must for me. Coffee is loaded with healthy antioxidants and I consume it for my health. While most people need coffee to wake up, I don't drink coffee for energy. Most days I don't drink my coffee until 10 in the morning. Coffee is an enjoyable beverage to me as long as it is made from freshly roasted coffee beans. Even the coffee brewing method matters to me and while I have several ways that I make my coffee from espresso to cold brew coffee, I am always checking out new coffee makers that promise the perfect cup of coffee.

So many coffee beans to discover

 The part that I love most about coffee is there are so many blends of coffee and so many different origins of coffee. While I may have my favorite coffee blends like French roast and coffee from Columbia, there are so many coffee beans that I have yet to try. I love trying coffee from around the world. I told my son, who is in the Merchant Marine Academy, that when he goes on his 9-mont, sea tour, that he should buy me a pound of coffee from every port that he stops in. My son loves coffee too so he agreed. Trust me if you want to buy the perfect gift for me, just buy me unique coffee beans. When my son's each went to Hawaii, they brought back coffee and I was so happy.

Coffee your way

 Everyone who likes coffee has a preferred blend of coffee. Coffee is such a unique drink that can be made in so many different ways. I myself switch up my coffee depending on my mood or season. In the summer I like iced coffee and this recipe for iced coffee is the best. Some days I just add plant-based milk and sweetener to my coffee while other days I drink Salted Caramel Cold Brew Coffee Lattes. I also switch between my coffee brewing methods, from my single cup coffee maker to the pour-over coffee method. I even use different coffee beans and at any given time I can have 6-10 varieties of coffee in my pantry. So I am proud to be a coffee snob or coffee connoisseur.

Coffee Club understands those who love coffee. Coffee Club is a coffee subscription company where customers can:

- Choose their favorite coffee
- Choose how much they want
- Choose how often they want to receive it 
- Get their coffee within 48 hours

What's different about Coffee Club? 

 The thing that I like about Coffe Club is it's fresh and curated for each customer. None of their coffee is pre-packaged. They have a wide selection of coffee from around the world and you can even order samples of coffee, so you can find your perfect blend. While Coffee Club offers subscriptions of their fresh roasted specialty coffees, you can also buy the coffee one bag at a time at your pleasing. The coffee subscriptions are perfect for those who don't want to run out of coffee and they even have k-cup coffee subscriptions. Coffee Club even sells coffee cake as we all know that cake and coffee go together. I am more of a cookie person and these Dairy-Free Soft Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies are the perfect fall treat to enjoy with pumpkin spice coffee.

When you want more than coffee

 Now that most people are working from home, the need for at-home coffee has increased. If you don't have time to run to the store or to your favorite coffee place, then you should check out Coffee.org. This online store is the place to shop at for everything that you might need to make a cup of coffee. Coffee.org has everything from coffee beans to coffee makers. They even have sugar, coffee cups, and coffee stirs so you can create the perfect at-home coffee break room. This is the place to stock up on your coffee supplies. I love that they sell things like coffee filters in bulk so I don't have to worry about running out of coffee filters. 

 Coffee.org has all the name brand coffee that you love, gourmet coffee beans, and even coffee subscriptions so you will not be without your daily cup of coffee. I love the coffee of the month club that allows you to try different varieties of coffee. My son loves that he can get k-cups delivered to his school. This coffee place would be a great place for offices and churches to get their coffee supplies as they have portion packs of coffee that make brewing coffee so easy. 

 So whether you are a person who loves experimenting with coffee or you have a favorite brand of ground coffee, Coffee Club and Coffee.org will supply you with coffee so you never have to face the day without coffee.

Looking for more coffee inspiration?

Check out 9 Coffee Lovers Must-Have Products 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! DVD Release

Its raining cats and dogs

 Last week it rained last week and I am glad that I had an umbrella. It usually does not rain a lot here in the desert of New Mexico but this rainstorm also brought unusually cold temperatures so it was a stay inside day for my family. The day before was in the 90's and the rainy day was in the 40's with lots of wind so it felt like 19 degrees. So it was a perfect day for a movie.

Our movie choice was Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite!

 The highly anticipated all-new original movie Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite!, the next feature-length installment of the popular Cats & Dogs franchise from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Available on Digital on September 15 – and on both Blu-ray Combo pack and DVD on October 13.

Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! features an all-star comedy lineup lending their voices to this new generation of four-footed and two-winged friends including Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory) as Gwen the cat, Max Greenfield (The Neighborhood, New Girl) as Roger the dog, and George Lopez as Pablo the Parrot. The film is directed by Sean McNamara (Soul Surfer) and written by Scott Bindley (The Last Summer). Producers are Andrew Lazar (Cats & Dogs, Get Smart) and David Fliegel.

About Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite!

It's been 10 years since the creation of the Great Truce, an elaborate joint-species surveillance system designed and monitored by cats and dogs to keep the peace when conflicts arise. But when a tech-savvy villain hacks into wireless networks to use frequencies only heard by cats and dogs, he manipulates them into conflict, and the worldwide battle between cats and dogs is BACK ON. Now, a team of inexperienced and untested agents will have to use their old-school animal instincts to restore order and peace between cats and dogs everywhere.

Do you have a pet?

 Having a pet can bring so much joy to the owner's life! That unconditional love you feel when you are greeted at the door by them brings the ultimate happiness into your home. While we don't have a pet in our house, my boys love playing with dogs. My boys enjoyed this movie and it was a perfect rainy day activity.

Homemade Prickly Pear Cactus Lemonade

 Prickly pears make the best lemonade

 I recently discovered the joys of harvesting prickly pears and now have several bags in my freezer that are filled with these delicious cactus pears. If you have never tried a prickly pear fruit, you need to as these deep purple fruits or tunas are simply delicious. The pear fruit that comes from a prickly pear cactus is sweet and has a taste similar to watermelon. The texture of the fruit can be compared to a cucumber and the color of the sweet prickly pears is amazing. The deep purple color of the prickly pears gives your recipes a pink to purple color. Learn more about how to harvest prickly pears here.

Amazing recipes

 The prickly pear fruit is tasty by itself and is wonderful in smoothies, you will love drinking purple smoothies. Many people like to harvest the prickly pears to make prickly pear jelly and prickly pear syrup. While many restaurants here in New Mexico like to serve prickly pear ice cream and prickly pear margaritas. My favorite way to use the magenta prickly pear fruit is in a refreshing glass of lemonade which is perfect for a hot summer day after harvesting prickly pears. If you don't live in the desert and want to try prickly pears, you can find them at grocery stores in the produce section.

 I spent last weekend foraging prickly pears and it was quite a process. While the prickly pear cactus are plentiful here in the desert of Albuquerque New Mexico and free for the taking, picking the sweet purple fruits is something that most people would not do as these purple pears grow on a cactus plant that is loaded with spikes and the fruits themselves are covered with tiny spikes that are impossible to remove from your skin.  I have lived in Albuquerque for over 20 years and this was my first year that I decided to get brave and pick the fruits from the prickly pear cactus.

 The cactus plants near my house were bursting with prickly pear fruits and it was my son who encouraged me to pick them. He plucked a pear from a cactus while we were out running and had me taste it (after he peeled the pear.) It was so delicious that I had to go pick more. I did plenty of research online on how to harvest prickly pear fruits from a cactus and then I spent all weekend picking prickly pears. My freezer is filled with bags of purple prickly pears that are ready for my smoothies and glasses of prickly pear lemonade. You can also use the prickly pears to make a delicious Prickly Pear Syrup that is wonderful on ice cream and stirred into drinks.

Sweet and refreshing lemonade

 When you add the juice from a prickly pear to a glass of lemonade it makes a sweet drink that has amazing flavor and color. It is a refreshing drink for a hot summer day. This sweet pink drink is so easy to make. You can add the prickly pear purple juice to homemade lemonade, storebought lemonade, or even a powder lemonade mix. Fresh lemonade from freshly squeezed lemons always tastes the best. Squeezing lemons is not that hard when you have a citrus juicer. If you do not have a juicer, then simply squeeze the lemons by hand over a fine-mesh strainer, that way the seeds don't end up in your lemonade.

Make sure to Pin this recipe on Pinterest for later

Items needed for prickly pear lemonade

+ Fresh lemons
+ Prickly pear fruits
+ Sugar or zero-calorie sweetener 
+ A Pitcher
+ Spoon
+ Citrus juicer or blender

Tip: To check to see if the prickly pear is ripe before peeling, place it in a bowl of water. If it sinks, it is ripe and ready to eat. If the fruit floats, then give in a couple more days to ripe. I like to place my pears on a baking tray on the countertop for a couple days to further ripen.

Prickly Pear Lemonade
Makes 8 glasses

5 prickly pears, peeled
4 lemons, peeled and sliced in half
8 cups of water
3/4 cup sugar

 Place all the ingredients into a blender, don't worry about the seeds from the fruit as we will be removing them later with a fine- mesh strainer. Blend the ingredients on high until smooth. You will hear the noise of the seeds. Then pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the seeds.
If you don't have a fine-mesh strainer, you can remove the seeds from the fruits before you blend them. To remove the seeds from the prickly pears~ cut the fruit in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. To remove the seeds from the lemons, just slice the lemons in quarter pieces and use a knife to remove the seeds. You can also use a citrus juicer to remove the seeds from the fruits.

How To Make Homemade Prickly Pear Syrup

 Prickly pears are colorful and loaded with flavor. The fruit can be used to make a simple syrup that is great in drinks and other recipes.

 This past month, I have been busy picking prickly pears and I have an abundance of the sweet delicious hot pink fruits in my freezer. I am addicted to all things prickly pear right now as I just discovered how easy it is to harvest these purple fruits. I live in the desert of New Mexico and my neighborhood has plenty of prickly pear cactus plants. The cactus this year seems to have more prickly pears than usual and I for the first time decided to pick the purple magenta fruits. It also seems that nobody else is picking the purple pears from the cactus plants so I am on a mission to not let these fruits go to waste. As long as I have freezer space for the prickly pears, I will continue to harvest them. These colorful fruits from the prickly pear plant are delicious in smoothies and many recipes like prickly pear syrup. If you don't live in the desert and want to try prickly pears, you can find them at grocery stores in the produce section.

What is prickly pear fruit?

 Prickly pear is the common name of a cactus that is native to New Mexico and other southwestern states. The edible fruit is a result of the cactus flower. These hot pink fruits have a sweet taste that is similar to watermelon and a texture that is like a kiwi or a cucumber. They are so delicious and I love to eat them fresh and in my morning smoothie.

 If you want to learn about how to harvest the prickly pears from the prickly pear cactus plant then head over here as this article has plenty of good information. This prickly pear harvesting article has everything that you will need to know from picking the fruits to getting them ready to freeze. It even has a unique, painless way to get the tiny spikes called glochids off the prickly pear fruits so you don't end up with them in your fingers. Once you see how easy it is to harvest prickly pear fruits, you too will have an obsession with prickly pears.

Prickly pears are low in calories and a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, calcium, and antioxidant compounds.

Prickly pears are everywhere

 The area from where I am harvesting the prickly pears is a housing development that has only been there for about 4 years so the prickly pear plants that are growing on the main street are only about three years old. So maybe that is why they are now bursting with fruit. I have noticed the purple pears in past years while out running but never thought to pick them until now. The abundance of prickly pear fruits was just begging to be picked.

 Since my freezers are getting full with the magenta fruits, I am glad that I have two deep freezers, I am exploring new recipes to create with the delicious sweet fruits. I made prickly pear lemonade last week and this week I am making prickly pear syrup. Next week, I will be dehydrating the prickly pears to make prickly pear powder. I will have to even make some prickly pear fruit leather. You need to check out my simple recipe for making fruit leather. These fruits are so delicious that I am going to clear a spot in my yard so I can grow my own prickly pear cactus plants.

What is prickly pear syrup?

 Prickly pear syrup is made from the juice from the prickly pears. The process of getting the juice from the ripe prickly pears is quite simple. After you peel the prickly pears, you place the whole fruit into a blender and blend until smooth. Then you pour the fruit mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the seeds and pulp. What you have left is a delicious sweet purple juice that has a nice watermelon flavor and can be used to make my prickly pear syrup.

The prickly pear syrup can be used in many drinks like Prickly Pear Lemonade and margaritas. It can also be used for pancake syrup and drizzled over ice cream. I like to use the prickly pear syrup in my cold brew ice tea for some awesome flavor. This syrup can also be used to add flavor to smoothies and it adds a nice natural pink color to frosting. You are going to love how easy making this prickly pear syrup is.

Preparing the prickly pears

 To prepare the prickly pears for the prickly pear syrup is quite simple. Ripe prickly pears are so easy to peel. I like to soak the pears in a bowl of water for a couple of minutes. To peel the pears, you will need a knife and a cutting board. Take the knife and slice off both ends of the fruit. Then peel off the outer layer of the fruit. There is no need to remove the seeds as you place the whole fruit into your cooking pan. You will later strain the seeds out of the cooked syrup with a fine mesh strainer.

Tip: To check to see if the prickly pear is ripe before peeling, place it in a bowl of water. If it sinks, it is ripe and ready to eat. If the fruit floats, then give in a couple more days to ripe. I like to place my pears on a baking tray on the countertop for a couple days to further ripen.

Homemade Prickly Pear Syrup

8-10 prickly pears, about 1 1/2 - 2 cups peeled fruit
3 cups of water
1/2 cup sugar

Peel the prepared prickly pears and cut them in half. ~ Check out this article on how to prepare the prickly pears

Add the pears to a pot with the water and sugar.
Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to simmer.
Allow the mixture to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. When the mixture thickens, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Pour the cooled fruit mixture into a strainer. (Make sure the strainer is over a bowl.)
Use a spoon to press the prickly pear mixture into the strainer to get all of the liquid out. Do this in steps if the mixture does not fit all at once in the strainer. Empty the strainer of the seeds and thick pulp as you won't need this.
Pour the syrup into a container and chill for one hour. Store the prickly pear syrup in the fridge for up to two weeks.

How to Harvest and Prepare Prickly Pear Fruit

 Prickly pear is the common name of a cactus that is native to New Mexico and other southwestern states. The edible fruit is a result of the cactus flower.

 I have lived in New Mexico for 23 years and have never tasted a prickly pear tuna. I have seen the deep, dark magenta colored fruits so many times when I am out running and have always been in awe of their beauty but it never crossed my mind to pick a prickly pear. Maybe the fact that these delicious purple fruits grow on a cactus that has sharp spines on it has been the reason. I have always wanted to harvest prickly pears but was never brave enough to touch a prickly pear fruit.

Good can come out of a pandemic

 The virus pandemic of 2020 has made me brave in so many ways and I have ventured out of my comfort zone so many times. The fact that I started a garden and grew vegetables still amazes me. I also became serious about making my body stronger and started doing more strength training. My newest thing is foraging for fruit and I have been brave about asking people if I can pick fruit from their trees. I am amazed at how many fruit trees are not being harvested near me. I am glad that I have two deep freezers for all my fruit bounty of plums, peaches, and now prickly pears.

 It was my younger son who got me harvesting prickly pears. While we were out running he grabbed one of the prickly pear fruits off of a cactus and brought it home. He peeled and cut the ruby red pear so I could sample it. It was so sweet and delicious. If you have never tasted a prickly pear, it has a sweet taste similar to watermelon and a texture like a soft cucumber. I was glad that my son picked a cactus pear for me to enjoy.

I have a prickly pear obsession 

 The next day, while I was out, running and gathering some apples for my no-peel apple crisp recipe, I decided to pick a couple more of the tunas from the prickly pear plant. I was glad that I always carry a bag with me on my running belt (never know when I might see a fruit tree while running) so I had something to carry the purple fruits from the prickly pear cactus home. After I peeled those pears and enjoyed them, I knew that I had to harvest more prickly pears. The fruits were calling my name and there was an abundance of them growing a couple blocks from my house on the jogging path. So the next day I decided to forage some prickly pears while I was out picking some peaches for my homemade peach fruit leather.

Free prickly pears for the taking

 I gathered up my fruit picking supplies and hopped on my bicycle. I am glad that I equipped my bike years ago with rear baskets so I could use my bike for running errands. The prickly pear cactus plants were a couple blocks from my home, so biking made sense. I was amazed at how many prickly pear plants I discovered and they all had an abundance of ripe fruit pods on them. It was free fruit for the taking as they were along a public street and not near any houses. I had thought I had entered into a secret world as no one was picking these magenta fruits. Several people who saw me picking the prickly pears, said to me "I am glad someone is putting the prickly pears to good use." Which made me think that in past years, the fruit went to waste. I even had a man ask me if I was making prickly pear jelly. So I was on a mission to pick the prickly pears and fill up my freezers with fruit so would have plenty for the year for my smoothies.

 What is a prickly pear?

Prickly pear is the common name of a cactus that is native to New Mexico. The edible fruit is a result of the cactus flower. These hot pink fruits have a sweet taste that is similar to watermelon and a texture that is like a kiwi or a cucumber. They are so delicious and I love to eat them fresh. Care must be taken when picking the prickly pear because of the plant's sharp spines and small tiny spines called glochids. The tiny irritating spines cover the fruit of the prickly pear and those spines are a pain to get out of your hands. My son failed to tell me about the tiny spines but strong tape helped me remove them from my fingers.

When to pick prickly pear fruit?

 Picking prickly pears is best done in the late summer when the fruit has turned to a deep magenta color and has no green remaining on the fruit. Here in New Mexico, that time is usually the end of August through October. I have learned that there really is no best way to tell if the prickly pear is ripe by looking at it as I picked several that were the right color but were still green on the inside. So pick a few pears from the cactus and peel them before you pick more.

Prickly pears are low in calories and a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, calcium, and antioxidant compounds.

How to pick prickly pears

1. Grab a bucket, a big bowl, a shopping bag, or even a cardboard box ~ I used a reusable shopping bag to gather my prickly pears as it fit in my bike basket. If you choose to use a shopping bag be prepared to throw it away afterward as the tiny spikes will cling to the bag.

2. Use metal tongs to pluck the fruit ~ other people will say wear leather gloves but I do not recommend using the gloves to pick the pear tunas as the tiny spines will poke through the gloves. The first time I picked prickly pear fruit, I used a silicone glove and that got covered in those tiny spines and had to be tossed. So wear garden gloves but use tongs to pluck the fruit off the cactus.

3. Twist and pull ~ As you twist them off the pad, they should pop off immediately and dribble a little bit of purple juice.

5. Don’t pick up fruit off the ground ~ the fruit on the ground may be rotten or have bugs in them.

6. Leave at least one fruit per pad, so the desert critters can get their share and the plant can reproduce ~ I am not sure how the animals enjoy the prickly pears without getting poked but leaving a couple pears on the cactus will help the plant grow more.

How to remove the tiny spines or glochids from your hands

I don't care how careful you are in picking the prickly pears, you will get a couple of the glochids spikes in your hands. I have discovered several ways to remove these painful irritating thorns from your hands.

1. Use a piece of ice ~ just rub an ice cube over the tiny thorn and that will help your skin remove the thorn.

2. Ice water ~ Place your hands in a bowl of ice water for a couple of minutes and that too will help release the thorns.

3. Tape ~ I have found the duct tape or packing tape works to remove the thorns. Just place the tape over your fingers or hands and quickly pull it off.

4. Tweezers ~ If you can see the thorns, then use a pair of tweezers to remove it. Also, you can use the tweezers to scrape the thorn out of your skin.

How to prepare the prickly pears for consuming

1. Place the prickly pears in a bucket of ice water for an hour ~ The best way to get the tiny painful tiny spikes off pears in with ice-cold water. The freezing cold water helps the fruit release the glochids spines from the fruit. I have also found that sticking my hands in a small bowl of ice water helps me remove the glochids from my fingers, just don't stick your hands in the same container that the pears are in.

2. Drain and rinse the prickly pears ~ After the pears have soaked in the ice water for a least an hour, use the metals tongs to place them in a strainer. Then give the pears a good rinse. You might have to do this in batches depending on how many pears you have. After I rinse the fruit, I place them in a bowl. At this stage, the pears should be fine to handle with your hands but a few might still have tiny thorns on them so grab them by the ends.

3. Examine the fruit ~ The prickly pear should be a deep purple color or magenta. If the fruit is green or light pink, it will be bitter so just toss it. Be thankful that you pick the fruit for free and always pick double the amount as not all the fruits may be ripe. My first harvest of prickly pears was all ripe while the second batch from another plant had many unripe fruits.

Tip: To check to see if the prickly pear is ripe before peeling, place it in a bowl of water. If it sinks, it is ripe and ready to eat. If the fruit floats, then give in a couple more days to ripe. I like to place my pears on a baking tray on the countertop for a couple days to further ripen.

4. Slice and peel ~ Place the prickly pears on a cutting board and slice both ends off. Then peel the outer layer of the fruit off. If the pears are ripe, the outer layer should come off easily. The prickly pear fruits will have plenty of edible seeds inside them but there is no need to remove them now. If using the pears in smoothies, you can leave the seeds in the fruit. If you are using the fruit in recipes, then I recommend removing the seeds when you make the recipe.

5. Use in recipes or freeze ~ Decide how you are going to enjoy your prickly pear harvest. Since I was going to use my pears in smoothies and future recipes like prickly pear lemonade, I decided to freeze the majority of my prickly pears. I did place a couple of the fruits in a container in the fridge to use in a couple days.

To eat the seeds or not

The seeds from the prickly pears are edible and will not harm you. The seeds are hard and hard to chew so they are fine when drinking them in a smoothie but I recommend removing the seeds when using them in recipes.

How to freeze prickly pears

Prickly pears can be frozen for a year or longer and are so easy to freeze. Just place the whole prickly pears on a cookie sheet and place it in the freezer. Once the pears are frozen solid, place them into a freezer bag and place them back into the freezer. This makes it easy to grab a few for smoothies or other recipes.

How to use prickly pears in recipes

 To use prickly pears in recipes, there are several ways to do so. Prickly pears can be enjoyed in smoothies and there is no need to remove the seeds. If you choose to use the delicious prickly pears in recipes then here are three methods to choose from:

1. Put them in the blender and blend them whole, if they are frozen let them thaw first. Then strain the pulp and juice through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the seeds.

2. Freeze them whole for a day or so, then let them thaw and mash to release the juice. Strain the pulp through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the seeds.

What to make with prickly pears

The prickly pears are tasty on their own and can be enjoyed in things like smoothies and salads. While doing my research on prickly pear recipes, I discovered that many people use the prickly pear juice to make many prickly pear recipes like:

~ Jam or jelly
Prickly Pear Syrup
~ Pink prickly pear lemonade
~ Margaritas or mimosas
~ Prickly pear peach chutney
~ Prickly pear BBQ sauce
~ Kombucha tea (a type of fermented tea)
~ Prickly pear cheesecake
~ Prickly pear ice cream or sorbet

 I am choosing to use my prickly pears in my morning protein smoothies and in lemonade. The recipes for prickly pear jam and syrup call for way too much sugar. I may make prickly pear sorbet in the future. If you need prickly pear recipes, just do some searching online. Next up is learning to harvest the prickly pear cactus pads. These are more intense to process as they have a ton of long spikes on them and you have to burn them off to pick the cactus pads.

Have you tasted a prickly pear?

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

10 Tips To Help Kids With Online School

Are you frustrated with virtual school? These 10 tips will help.

   I received samples from Fluidstance to facilitate this post.

 The kids are back in school and their classroom is quite different this year. Even the school supply list is different, as who would have thought that we would be buying face masks and an abundance of hand sanitizer. I have been doing this mom thing for 30 years and I have seen the school supply list change over the years with the additions of soap and plastic bags. I used to joke with my husband that soon the teachers would be asking for toilet paper. I never would have guessed that my kids would be wearing a face mask or staying home doing school on a computer.

 Whether your kids will be returning to a physical school, settling in to learn at home, or a combination of both, school will be a challenge this year if not downright stressful for parents. The pandemic has turned out lives upside down and we need to make the best of our situations. We need to also create a healthy environment so our kids can be successful with learning at home. As parents, we want the best for our kids and while I want my kids to head back to their school building, I also want to keep my kids safe. So I have some tips that I have been using with my boys to help them succeed with doing school at home.

1. Eat a healthy breakfast

  A healthy breakfast is always the best thing to help kids do well in school. So have kids start the school day with a breakfast that provides their bodies with nourishing food. A breakfast that includes protein, carbohydrates, and fruit is what I recommend for growing kids. The protein is good for strong muscles and the carbs will give the kids the energy they need to learn while the fruit will boost their immunity. My boys have been making smoothies every morning but other breakfast ideas that they enjoy are peanut butter sandwiches with sliced fruit, oatmeal, homemade breakfast bars, and even leftover pizza. Even chocolate pancakes can be part of a healthy breakfast when they are loaded with protein. Stay clear of food that is high in sugar like sugary cereals, pop tarts, and donuts, unless they are healthier donuts made with zero-calorie sweeteners like Swerve, as sugar gives quick energy that leads to an energy crash that will leave kids falling asleep during their Zoom meeting.

2. Start the day with exercise

 Starting the day with exercise can help teens wake up and help younger kids be able to focus better in online classes. I have found that morning exercise is great for the body and does wonder for my brain and I am more productive when I go running in the morning. While you may not have the time or patience to get your kids out for a morning walk before school, even five minutes of movement will help the kids be ready for online learning. So put on some fast music and have the kids dance for two or more songs. Make sure to join in on the fun as we stay at home moms need exercise too.

3. Create a learning space

 To help kids learn better at home, create a learning space for them. This space does not have to be fancy but it should be a space, like a desk, that they can associate with learning time. I am not telling you to run out and buy your kid a desk but rather provide a space in the house without any distractions and a clutter-free space for their Chromebook and school supplies. So a bedroom or the living room couch is not ideal learning spaces. This is a time to clean off the kitchen table or even use a walk-in closet for a learning space like my friend did. In my house, there are four people working and doing school so I am upstairs in my college kid's bedroom while my husband is in the living room. My older son is at a table in my photo studio and my younger son is working at the dining room table.

4. Provide useful school supplies

  A clean and clutter-free workspace will help kids learn better. Too much clutter will distract the kids and make it hard for them to focus on the online classroom meeting. While kids are doing most of their learning online, having somewhere to take notes is always a good thing. FluidStance's Slope, a personal desktop whiteboard keeps their workspace clutter-free and helps save the environment. This unique whiteboard is also great for doodling.

  I really like that it is raised off the table and on an angle. While the intended purpose of the Slope is designed to fit perfectly in the space between your keyboard and the monitor, which means that you can slide your keyboard under it for storage, freeing up extra space on your desk, it does not work with the school-issued Chromebooks. For older kids, the Slope can be used to the side of their computer for a great place to take notes or make a to-do list. While for younger kids, the Slope can be placed over the keyboard of their computer while they are watching an online classroom Zoom Meet. That way kids can not touch the keyboard and accidentally log out of their Zoom Meeting. The younger kids can keep their hands busy with doodling on the Slope while listening to their teacher.

5. Keep them moving

 Kids have a hard time sitting still for long and having to sit at a computer all day is hard. Even my teen said to me that he is tired of sitting all day. So get the kids off their chairs and let them wiggle on a FluidStance Balance Board. This fun balance board is for kids who need to keep moving when they're doing their homework, gaming, reading, and more. So it is perfect for computer instructional learning as it enables non-distracting motion while also giving kids some healthy exercise. Standing to work is better than sitting.

 Research by The Mayo Clinic showed a 15% increase in heart rate and 19.2% increase in energy expenditure when users were on the Balance boards. The balance board keeps you moving and healthy by combating the negative health issues associated with a sedentary lifestyle, so they are great for adults too. The Balance board is just plain fun to stand on.

 The minute you step on to the Balance Board and start moving, you’ll notice a difference in how you work. Your mind will focus, while your body will respond with natural micro-movements that will soothe stiff joints, burn calories, keep you awake and alert. This unique board will also strengthen and stabilize your body.

6. Provide healthy snacks

 To help kids learn better, kids need snack breaks. So stock up the fridge or pantry with grab and go healthy snacks that kids can grab between classes. I like to make a batch of healthy vegan peanut butter cookies for my boys to snack on as they are loaded with healthy peanut butter. My boys also like snacking on Plant-Based Healthy No Bake Salted Chocolate Brownies. For more healthy snack ideas for kids check out this article on healthy after school snacks. Snacking is good for kids.

7. Keep them hydrated

 Kids need encouragement to drink water throughout the day. I know from experience that I get busy and I don't make time for drinking water. 75% of Americans suffering from chronic dehydration and mistake hunger for thirst. Dehydration can make you feel tired and make it difficult for kids to pay attention to their online classroom.

 So make drinking water easy for kids with a 70 oz Fillup water station. Fillup is your very own Water Tower, that keeps a personal supply of water right at your fingertips. The 70-oz. size holds a full day's supply, and a double-walled tank keeps water cold for 24 hours. So place this unique water station in a place where kids can grab a glass of water quickly. The Fillup will remind kids to quench their thirst throughout the day.

 Fillup can be used anywhere: on your desk—whether at home or in the office, on your bedside table, in your kitchen, on your back patio, and more. Like all of the FluidStance products, Fillup's minimalist design and premium construction use BPA-free, eco-friendly materials. Plus, did you know that by using Fillup, you can save 4 plastic water bottles per day?

8. Provide fun learning materials

When kids are not engaged in online classes, make learning fun with STEM activity kits. At home school and learning do not have have to be like traditional school lessons and I have realized that my kids are still learning even without me having to make lesson plans. I have learned to utilize fun STEM Science Experiment Kits that make learning fun. I have discovered some science kids that engaged my boys in educational fun so the school learning. These STEM kits make learning math and science fun for kids.

9. Non-traditional ways to learn 

 Learning does not always have to take place in a book or online. Think outside the classroom and teach kids math and science with baking. Making a loaf of frog bread teaches kids math through measuring and mixing. Watching yeast turn water into foam is a science lesson too. So kids will love a learning lesson that involves eating.

 You can also teach kids art when you use food ingredients to turn bread dough into a work of art. This Focaccia Bread Flowers recipe is so fun to make. Another way to teach kids through fun is with fun educational learning games that stimulate the brain. Kids will learn how to solve problems and even reading with games that are so much fun.

10. Have patience 

 This online learning thing is new for most everyone. So try not to stress over it. Stress makes the learning environment and home a bad place. Give yourself as a parent some grace and don't try to be the perfect teacher for your kids. Kids need you as a parent more than a teacher. Also, have patience with the teachers and the school system as everyone is learning how to best teach the kids through a virus pandemic. Kids may not have their best learning this year but they will be ok. When things are safe again and kids can go back to school, the kids will catch up on learning. Instead of trying to have the perfect homeschool for your kids, instead, focus on having a healthy loving home for your kids. Even when you think kids are not learning, they really are. This year the learning may not be in a traditional school but it is going to be ok.

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