We Tried Hello Fresh

For the second meal kit service, we tried Hello Fresh. We got three two-serving meals and like when we tried Blue Apron, we made them for lunch so there was plenty for those of us at home during the day.

Pros:
1.) Each meal was packaged in a bag (plus meat separately) making it easy to pull everything out at once for cooking.
2.) The instructions included pictures to make it easy to see what we were doing in that step.
3.) Very convenient.
4.) The taste was good.
5.) Generous portions.
6.) Meals were marked to say whether they were gluten free.

Cons:
1.) The meals are expensive compared to getting the ingredients on your own.
2.) Some of the vegetables were looking kind of sad.
3.) The instructions put too many directions for different parts of the meal in each step.
4.) For several weeks of menus I looked at, only two regular meals were gluten free. The third was always a “premium” meal meaning it costs an extra $10 ($5 per serving) to select that one.

The box showed up at about 11 on the date I had requested. They said it would arrive between 8am and 8pm.
We Tried Hello Fresh

Inside the top of the box was the recipe cards and some advertising flyers. The next layer down was three bags containing the vegetables and other things needed to make each meal. The bottom layer was the meat in vacuum packed packages sandwiched between ice packs.
We Tried Hello Fresh

The meal kits looked pretty cool packaged the way they were.
We Tried Hello Fresh

We made the first meal, butter-basted rib-eye steak with thyme-infused mashed potatoes and asparagus the day it arrived. The asparagus was in perfect condition. The potatoes were a little weird, though, because one was big and the rest were small. In addition to the Yukon gold potatoes and asparagus, they sent thyme, chives, a lemon, milk, garlic herb butter, and rib-eye steak.
We Tried Hello Fresh

Fritz helped me with this meal. We told Alexa to play upbeat music on the Echo and got to work. Fritz spent quite a while pulling a teaspoon of the leaves off the thyme.
We Tried Hello Fresh

After I got the potatoes on to boil, I prepped the vegetables. I cut the woody ends off the asparagus, chopped up the chives, and cut the lemon into wedges. I started the rib-eye cooking in a pan on the stove. I spread the asparagus on a cookie sheet, drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper, and put them in the oven to roast for a few minutes.
We Tried Hello Fresh

The mashed potatoes were amazing. We simmered the leftover sprigs of thyme in milk for several minutes and then added that thyme-infused milk to the potatoes to mash them. The thyme leaves Fritz pulled off were added to the mashed potatoes. That may have been the best part of the meal and we will definitely be making thyme-infused mashed potatoes again.
We Tried Hello Fresh

This meal was delicious. It was a premium meal, though, so we paid an extra $10 for it. I’m not so sure it was quite that delicious.
We Tried Hello Fresh

We made the second meal, Beef Rice Noodle Bowls with carrots, cucumber, and peanut sauce, two days after the box arrived. They sent a Persian cucumber (it was not in the best condition), two peeled cloves of garlic, a lime, shredded carrots, cilantro, green onions, thai seasoning, peanut butter, siracha, white wine vinegar, soy sauce, rice noodles, and stir-fry beef. The soy sauce made me a bit nervous since the meal was labeled gluten free, but most soy sauce is not. We took the risk that their labeling was correct and, thankfully, none of us got sick so it was, in fact, gluten free soy sauce.
We Tried Hello Fresh

Adrian was my helper for this meal. We put songs by Sabrina Carpenter on the Echo and got to work. I prepped the vegetables and meat while he pulled the leaves off the cilantro and did some dancing. I sliced the cucumber and put it in the vinegar with some salt and sugar (the kit did not include the sugar needed to complete the meal). I minced the garlic, chopped the green onions and separated the whites from the greens, and cut up the lime. I added the thai seasoning, some of the garlic, and some sugar to the beef to prep it for cooking.
We Tried Hello Fresh

I boiled the noodles for about 16 minutes (they were different from the ones in the picture and from the directions given on the card – they included a note with how to adjust the instructions) while prepping the vegetables and cooking the meat. Then I made the peanut sauce and saved half and tossed the noodles with the other half. Then the food was all ready to eat.
We Tried Hello Fresh

While the Beef Rice Noodle Bowls were good, they just weren’t that good. The peanut sauce was kind of blah and the thai seasoning on the beef didn’t add much flavor. The carrots were served with it just raw which was odd. We squeezed the lime wedges on them so they weren’t too bad.
We Tried Hello Fresh

We made the third meal, Figgy Balsamic Pork with roasted green beans and rosemary potatoes, on Thursday. The kit included a shallot, Yukon gold potatoes, green beans, chicken stock concentrate, rosemary, pork tenderloin, fig jam, and balsamic vinegar. The green beans were looking kind of iffy by the time we made this meal.
We Tried Hello Fresh

Ani and Adrian did most of the work for this one. Adrian chose to play Sabrina Carpenter’s music on the Echo while they cooked. They finely chopped the rosemary and shallot and cubed the potatoes.
We Tried Hello Fresh

Ani seared the pork tenderloin on the stove before finishing it in the oven along with the green beans and potatoes.
We Tried Hello Fresh

The figgy sauce was surprisingly easy to make and the pork was cooked very nicely. Even though some of the green beans were on the edge of still being good, once they were roasted they were fine for eating.
We Tried Hello Fresh

I’m not a huge fan of pork, but this turned out quite nice. I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of the fig sauce. I’ll likely make the pork and sauce again, but I might use apricot preserves instead of fig next time.
We Tried Hello Fresh

While we enjoyed trying out Hello Fresh, I doubt we would use them again. The main reason is the cost, but also because I preferred Blue Apron. While, Hello Fresh was good, Blue Apron’s instructions, ingredients, and taste were all just better when comparing the two.

Advertisements

Science: Clouds and Precipitation

We spent one week learning about clouds and precipitation using Layers of Learning, year 2 unit 3. It was an extra fun (and a bit chaotic) day of school because Ani joined us for our experiments with the three-year-old she nannies and I was watching another three-year-old for a friend (the little girls got to take cotton ball clouds and coffee filter snowflakes home with them).

We used cotton balls to show how different clouds look and approximately where in the sky they appear.
Science: Clouds and Precipitation

We made a cloud in a bottle. We partially filled a 2-liter bottle with hot water and placed a bowl of ice on top. When the hot water vapor rose to the top, it collided with cold air from the ice creating a cloud.
Science: Clouds and Precipitation

We learned about the water cycle.
Science: Clouds and Precipitation

We made rain. We held a bowl of ice over a pot of boiling water. The steam condensed on the bowl into water which fell back into the pot like rain.
Science: Clouds and Precipitation

We demonstraed Bernoulli’s Principle by blowing on paper.
Science: Clouds and Precipitation

We made snowflakes out of coffee filters.
Science: Clouds and Precipitation

We demonstrated what happens when cold and warm fronts collide. We added a few drops of red food coloring to hot water and dropped in a couple blue-dyed ice cubes. The cold blue water was sucked under the hot red water.
Science: Clouds and Precipitation

 

NOT Back to School Day 2017

Somehow we’ve already reached the end of the summer and it’s time to go back to school. But, as is our tradition, today while kids all around us went to their first day of school, we played.

We started off with crepes, Nutella, and turkey bacon for breakfast.
NOT Back to School Day 2017

The went to Main Event and played some games. Space Invaders has gotten quite the modern update!
NOT Back to School Day 2017

We played some air hockey and skee ball. Those games can be pretty intense in our family.
NOT Back to School Day 2017

Giant Connect 4 turned out to be way more fun than you might think. And also pretty intense.
NOT Back to School Day 2017

Cameron picked up a pool cue and started doing the jahng bong form right in the middle of Main Event. (Note: Cameron hates this picture because his stance is awful because he was just playing around.)
NOT Back to School Day 2017

Fritz and Adrian attempted the gravity ropes. Several months ago, my brother came to visit and we went to Main Event. Adrian tried the gravity ropes, but he got too scared and came back down. This time he was determined to make it across. Fritz got too scared this time, but Adrian made it!
NOT Back to School Day 2017


(Video of Adrian being brave.)

We played a game of laser tag before we picked our prizes and headed out.
NOT Back to School Day 2017

We had pizza at Luciano’s for dinner. They have some of the most amazing pizza and their gluten free crusts are really good.
NOT Back to School Day 2017

We ended the day with shaved ice from Bahama Bucks. Fritz said he must be making a whole lot of dopamine because he was feeling so happy.
NOT Back to School Day 2017


Check out previous years’ Not Back to School Days: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016. (I missed blogging about Not Back to School Day in 2011 and they went to public school in 2013.)

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

I used a paper Bullet Journal, affectionately known as My Brain, for well over a year, but, then, a few months ago, I decided to go digital. I switched to OneNote (which I have on my laptop, phone, and iPad). In addition to everything I had in my paper Bullet Journal, I also use OneNote for school planning (which I’ll explain in part 2).

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

I use it the most to tell me what to do each day. Our planned meals and snacks, schedule, and my to do list are all on one page so I can see what I need to do when. I have the My Brain notebook shared with Jamie so he can see what we are doing and what’s on our schedule and add to it as needed.

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

My to do list is color coded so if I have a few minutes I can just look at the colored section with tasks that are most convenient at that time. Red is in the physical world, blue is on my phone, green is on my computer, iPad, or phone, and purple is on my iPad. If I don’t get something done, I just move it to the next day (like on today’s list, I moved fold clothes and put away clothes from yesterday).

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

I have three notebooks that make up my digital Bullet Journal: My Brain, Recipes, and Journal. In My Brain, the My Day tab has several pages under it. Several of them are my calendar. They allow me to easily add things to my Today and Tomorrow pages. The Every Day, specific day of the week, and First of the Month pages are my to do lists for those days. I just copy and paste to add them to my Tomorrow page (which gets copy and pasted to today each morning). The RS Lesson Schedule page helps me keep track of what to read (in the Gordon B. Hinckley manual and Conference talks) each week to prepare for Relief Society.

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

I keep track of what I’m reading and what I’ve read in my Reading tab. The 2016 Books and 2017 Books pages are just running lists split by month of what books I read on what date and what rating I gave them (out of 5 stars). The Reading Challenges page is where I plan the books I’m reading each month this year to spell out the birthstones, what our book club books are, bedtime stories for the boys, school books, 52 Books Bingo, etc. My favorite page is Sentences That Made Me Laugh. That page has a bunch of quotes from books I’ve read that I found funny.

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

The rest of the tabs in My Brain are Health which has pages for keeping track of Ani’s symptoms, what we are still owed from overpaying for some procedures she’s had, and the kids’ vaccine records. Blog Ideas is just one page of ideas for blog posts. Scouts which has pages for Fritz and Adrian with a list of things they need to complete for rank advancement. Sports has pages for our taekwondo schedule, a record of dates for earning belts and mid-terming, and Fritz’s times at swim meets. Church has pages for planning family home evening, my notes for General Conference (one page per Conference), my Personal Progress answers split by value, and a poem Ani wrote when she was around 12. Finances has pages with spreadsheets for our checking account, the kids’ money, our budget, and a list of 2017 pay days.

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

I really love my Recipes notebook. Most of the time we use it just like a cookbook, reading the recipes off the iPad as we cook. The notebook is extremely useful every Wednesday. That’s the day I make our menus for the week. I go through the sections of recipes and pick the breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners that sound good to me at the time. As I write down what we’ll be eating, I make our grocery list and note how the chicken will need to be cut. The grocery list is the used to order groceries from HEB (which Jamie picks up on his way home from work). I cut chicken once a week, on Wednesday night, so the gross bits can go out in the trash on Thursday morning (living in Texas, we definitely don’t want chicken sitting around very long).

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

My Journal notebook is mostly exactly what it sounds like. I copied my journals from 1999 on and divided them into years. Under the year sections, the journal entries are divided into months. I copy and paste all my Facebook posts including pictures into my journal. The AB Letters tab is where I wrote my letter to my aunt each week (it also gets sent to my mother-in-law). I keep her up to day on what’s going on in our lives. I’ve been keeping those letters since December. The Fun Stuff tab had a page for funny things people in the family have said. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Adrian’s is the longest. I also have Adrian’s birth story, a page of things that happen that I am grateful for, and a page of things that blew my mind (like the fact Queen Victoria had a granddaughter who was still alive when I was born). The Christmas Letters tab has a copy of all of our annual Christmas letters (and one Valentine’s Day letter that year I was super late…) since 2007.

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

So that’s how I use OneNote to be my brain. It totally keeps me organized. In a couple days I’ll post part 2 on how I use OneNote in our homeschool.

Update on Ani’s Health

It’s been almost four months since we started getting diagnoses for Ani. At that point, she was sleeping up to 18 hours a day and worn out all the time. She was so incredibly sick.

What’s wrong with her: Ani has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, POTS, Fibromyalgia, and Celiac Disease.

What we’re doing to treat her: Every day Ani takes a beta blocker to help control the racing heart from the POTS. She did an experiment trying various POTS remedies and found that Nuun electrolyte tablets work best for her. She takes one in the morning and one in the evening now. She takes Lyrica for the Fibro pain. Recently she had to up her dose because the drilling pain that she now knows is from the fibro started up again. Hopefully, we’ll be able to decrease it back down in a couple weeks. She is careful with her range of motion to avoid EDS pain and, of course, she eats no gluten so the Celiac is usually a non-issue. She has been going to physical therapy for her neck (side effect of the EDS) and that pain has decreased a whole lot, enough that she no longer takes Aleve regularly. She is getting better at watching her body temperature (she has trouble regulating her body temperature because of the general dysautonomia that includes the POTS).

So how is she doing?

Amazing.

She’s still so incredibly sick, but when I think of how my daughter was just a few short months ago, the difference is incredible and so encouraging. I’ll be honest. I did not think she would survive. She was getting worse and worse. I thought she was going to die. She thought she was going to die. It was bad.

In March, a friend asked if they could dedicate their monthly fast to Ani’s health. Her whole family fasted for Ani. She encouraged others to do the same. I will always believe that changed everything for my daughter. It was within days that we started getting answers. We found doctors willing to help instead of brushing her off. We got medication, we got a treatment plan to help her, we got diagnoses.

She still has bad days. Some are very, very bad. On the Fourth of July, we had a church picnic. It was hot. We live in Texas, after all. She got overheated. Getting overheated means she got sick. Very sick. She slept most of the afternoon/evening that day. The big difference is, though, that the next morning she got up and was functional. She didn’t need three days to recover. That is a miracle. She still gets exhausted relatively easily, too, and she never feels truly good. But it’s livable.

Over the last week, she spent several days being a substitute nanny for three little girls and still did her normal program directing at taekwondo and also babysat a little girl Friday night. These are things she literally couldn’t have done just a few months ago (though I think she might sleep most of today since she was so exhausted by last night). She’s got plans to go see Spider-Man with one friend and Wonder Woman with some other friends. She’s training at taekwondo and working toward her second degree black belt again. She’s actually being able to be a human. Most importantly, she has hope for a future. A sometimes painful, taking medication for life future, but still a wonderful, full, happy future.

Magical Magic Birthday

Today Fritz turned 11 on the 11th making it his magic birthday. We always try to make the magic birthday extra special for our kids and it looks like we totally succeeded with this one. Fritz said no day can be perfect, but today was almost perfect.

Magical Magic Birthday

The 11th birthday is extra magical because, as JK Rowling taught us, that’s when kids learn they are a witch or wizard. Ever since Fritz read the Harry Potter series, he’s been hoping the magic world is real. For a while, there was an owl hanging around our house and he was pretty sure it was scouting out where we live for his upcoming birthday. Just like we did with Cameron almost 5 years ago, Fritz’s owl and letter were waiting for him when he woke up this morning.

Magical Magic Birthday

He was so excited about his owl and letter. I was a little concerned beforehand that he might think it was real just because he wants magic to exist so badly. I needn’t have worried. He loves his owl. I hope when he’s about to turn 16, he’s still got it in a place of honor in his room just like his big brother and his owl.

Magical Magic Birthday

Fritz got his big present a few weeks ago when he went to Houston for the Markiplier tour. Today we gave him his other present, a Harry Potter Pop Figure. He got a Dobby last year so his collection is growing.

Magical Magic Birthday

We played a bit of Pokemon Go. Jamie, Fritz, and I joined together in a raid battle and all defeated, and then caught, a Muk (none of had one before today). We defeated a gym and hit a bunch of PokeStops, too.

Magical Magic Birthday

We spent the day at The DoSeum. I was a little hesitant to go there, but Ani was bringing the girls she’s been nannying there today and convinced us to join them. I wasn’t sure there would be enough stuff to entertain kids as old as Fritz and Adrian. As it turned out, there was plenty for them to do. We visited every exhibit, but, honestly, we could’ve spent the entire time doing just one or two. The boys loved it and want to go back. In fact, we’re considering an annual pass because they loved it so much.

Magical Magic Birthday

The first thing we did when we walked in was customize some fish using our phones and then added them to the virtual fish tank on the wall. Then we played in the wind tunnel and with some pulleys.

Magical Magic Birthday

We spent a couple hours in the spy room. There were lots of activities to do. The first thing they had to do was complete specific activities in order to get an access code. Once they got the access code, they could make their spy badge and then do more activities in order to become a master spy. One section was set up like a room in a house with clues hidden all over the place. It was a lot like an escape room. Adrian thinks we ought to build a room like that in our house. He spent a really long time working on the clues in there.

Magical Magic Birthday

The other exhibits inside included light, sound, color, and building activities. The kids really enjoyed playing with the green screen. Adrian was wearing a green shirt which made the green screen a little more fun. Fritz played with a green sheet to make himself disappear like he was under an invisibility cloak.

Magical Magic Birthday

We went outside on one side and played in some water activities and climbed on a huge climbing set. It was hot today (in the very high 90s), but the humidity was low (less than 30%) so it wasn’t so bad out, especially in the shade.

Magical Magic Birthday

Outside on the other side, we discovered a bamboo forest, and eco-pond, a treehouse with a fairy village underneath, and a fun little river to play in. The pond had quite a few red eared sliders in it so now we know just how big Ani’s hatchling, Venus, will get when she’s full grown (huge!).

Magical Magic Birthday

After we left The DoSeum, we went to Big’z Burger Joint for dinner. They have some of the best burgers and we can get amazing gluten free buns there. Fritz was pretty much in heaven eating his burger.

Magical Magic Birthday

We went to PetSmart partly because the boys love to watch the fish and partly because we needed to get a basking platform to go in Venus’s tank. We also got some ghost shrimp to help clean the tank/be food for the turtle (we also have minnows in there both to be fun to watch and also to be turtle food).

Magical Magic Birthday

When we got home, we watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I’d been meaning to buy it since it came out on video (we saw it in the movie theater), but hadn’t gotten around to it. My procrastination came in handy because the digital version (we only buy movies/TV shows in digital) was on a great sale today for Prime Day.

Magical Magic Birthday

So that was Fritz’s truly magical magic birthday. Adrian said Fritz’s birthday was way better than his own last month and I told him it’s because this was Fritz’s extra special 11 on the 11th birthday. So now Adrian is expecting a truly epic 19th birthday. Guess we better start planning!

My Kids are Pretty Cool

Ani went to ATA Worlds in Arkansas last weekend. She got to watch our (former) instructor test for his 5th degree black belt and watch some amazing competition. Being there gave her the itch to get back to training.
My Kids are Pretty Cool

Cameron is just plain amazing at taekwondo. Last Saturday there was a Daddy and Me board break class and Cameron did a spin heel speed break on a wooden board.

Fritz just finished his third summer swim season. He is not the fastest swimmer, but he loves being in the pool. This year he shaved over 8 seconds from his freestyle, over 13 seconds from his backstroke, and added breaststroke.
My Kids are Pretty Cool

Adrian is on the slow path to black belt. He moves up a belt color about once a year. After 3 1/2 years of being a low rank, he tested on Monday for his purple belt and will finally join the high rank group. This means he gets to spar and use a weapon in each hand, both things that he’s really excited about.
My Kids are Pretty Cool