Friday, September 14, 2007

Product Review: "Rockstar Princess" from Aunty E

Music has always been very important to me and I am trying to make it important to my children too. On Sundays, I have made a jazz playlist of music to listen to, on Fridays we listen to music that you would hear in coffee shops, and when I am cleaning I have fun & fast paced music on. Wherever we go, I try to always have good music on in our car and we often use the music stations that are available through our satellite television station.

My children also have some musical heroes of their own which include Laurie Berkner, anything from the Disney films, and Raffi. We often listen to the Kid Tunes available through Yahoo Launch (commercial free for folks that use their internet service and with commercials for those who don't).

My children's favorite shows right now are Yo Gabba Gabba (Nick Jr) and Jack's Big Music Show (Noggin Network), two shows that teach children about musics (although they are each very different). These shows focus on all types of musical appreciation and my kids sing right along with the words. It brings me a lot of joy to hear their sweet voices.

We recently were sent a new CD to review entitled, "Rockstar Princess" from a band called Aunty E. This group has earned great notoriety in their native Texas and they are now gaining a fan base in other areas of the country.

If your children love the more recent styles of children's music that have come out, they will really love this disc. The tracks incorporate many different variations of music including pop, soul, country, and blues. The music is targeted to the age group of four through eight, but even my (almost) two year old was dancing right along.

Despite the name containing princess (and the pretty pink cover!) the disc is not mean to aim at just girls, it is meant for all children. Aunty E sings along with Grammy award wining artists like Joe Blondell & Floyd Domino, encouraging children through her lyrical stories.

Her music can be found on Apple iTunes, Napster, MSN Music and more information can be found on their website.

And since everyone loves a freebie, they offer free ringtones for wireless carriers.

What are your children's favorite artists? Any music that you can recommend to us?

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My Vice: Starbucks Iced Peppermint Mochas

Everyone has a vice. My vice happens to be Starbucks Peppermint Mochas. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these and thought that they were a seasonal item since they promote them around Christmas. My brother, a former Starbucks employee, informed me that these are actually available year-round. My vice, which was only a holiday vice, became something I craved throughout the year and I needed to find a way to make this an affordable luxury.

I did an internet search for recipes and pooled a couple of recipes together. Listed under one of the recipes was a tip that you could purchase flavored syrups directly from Starbucks. Who would have knew that? A chat with my brother confirmed those findings and he also shared that you can purchase their chai mix and white mocha mixes as well.

Last weekend I headed over to our Starbucks to find out if I could get some of the peppermint syrup that I love so much. The employee said that he would check in back for me and see if they had enough in stock. Sure enough, they had three bottles and were able to spare one of the bottles for me. Since having them in stock did seem to be a bit of an issue, you might want to call first and see if they can order it or put some aside for you.

The bottle is a one liter bottle and the price tag was only $6.95. After chatting with the employee for a bit, he said that one to two tablespoons (depending on the size of your drink) is enough per coffee. One liter should last me a lifetime so I am planning on splitting the bottle with a friend since it is her favorite too!

I have had my blender humming since I got the bottle and used a tip I found online for making the mochas taste like coffee instead of water. When making your mocha, make a batch of coffee and allow it to cool. Next, pour your coffee into ice cube trays and freeze them. I made half a pot of coffee (six servings) and it yielded enough for two ice cube trays. Freeze the cubes and then when it is time to make your drink, just pop them out and pop them in your blender. You will end up with a great coffee drink without the watery taste, which I seemed to be drinking before.

Here are a couple other cost saving tips:

- Buy cheap coffee when making a mixed drink. Coffee snobs will slight me on this one, but I think when it is mixed in with a variety of ingredients, you don't taste the coffee as much. I just buy the Aldi coffee or the off-brand Folgers from our local Wal-Mart.

- Use prepared powdered milk to make your drinks. Again, you will not taste a difference and this is a great way to keep the cost down on your smoothies and coffee drinks. I keep a pitcher of this in our fridge to cook with and for making all of our icy drinks during the summer. We save a lot of money doing this. Be sure to read this post on powdered milk and how to prepare it.

- Is your vice Orange Julius? Check out my faux Orange Julius recipe! How about a Wendy's Frosty? I think this post on Magic Milkshakes are a great substitution! How abut Pumpkin Spice Lattes? I love the mock-version I came up with and you can enjoy these all year round, rather than seasonally at Starbucks!

- Need a great treat to pair with your mochas? How about some Starbucks Banana Pound Cake? I am sure you have some mashed bananas in your freezer!

Now here is my version of Starbucks Peppermint Mochas. These are prepared like the icy drinks that they offer, versus a coffee on ice. It makes it more of a treat and a great way to cool off in that hot summer sun! I hope you enjoy them and can't wait to get your feedback!

Starbucks Iced Peppermint Mochas

6-7 coffee ice cubes
4 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)

A generous squirt of chocolate syrup (approximately 1/8 cup)

1 tablespoon peppermint syrup

1 cup prepared powdered milk

Place all ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth. This will yield one huge mocha or two smaller mochas.

These are such a great substitution for those expensive drinks and cost pennies versus $3.50 per drink for me. I can freely indulge and feel absolutely no guilt about it!

And because I am a complete dork, I will fully disclose to you that I have a Starbucks mix on our computer that I enjoy playing while drinking my coffee. We have "free" wireless here and I love the music so much at Starbucks that I check out their listing of artists and play those while I sip my cheap drink. If I close my eyes, I feel like I am there and I save on gas and money spent on coffee. Again, I told you I was a dork!

Speaking of music, my brother (a music fanatic as well!) discovered a great album that Starbucks released called Off the Clock. All of the singers are employees of the company and they had a contest to release the best of the best. The music is incredible and definitely worth a listen! It is a great blend of all types of music and a new favorite on my playlist!

Sound Off:
What is your vice? Have you found a way to replicate that experience? Share your recipes if you have them!

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