Google Home Voice Activated Speaker Review

Google Home Voice Activated Speaker Review

The Google Home voice activated device has just become my best friend. I recently had the chance to spend some time with this personal assistant thanks to Verizon Wireless. They loaned this device out to me to test for a few weeks and now it is time to say goodbye and send it back.

It is definitely more sorrowful than sweet as we part as I have gotten quite used to all the amazing things this little gadget can do.

 

Below are a list of some of my favorite features of the Google Home.

The ability to play music mixes. Much like Pandora, you say, Okay Google play music by (insert favorite artist) and Google will play a radio mix of that artist along with similar ones right through the built in speaker without commercials. If the music seems to loud or to soft you can also ask it to increase or decrease the volume and when you are finished listening just tell it to turn the music off.

Built in dictionary. This became my husbands favorite feature as he is a terrible speller. As he is tapping out his emails and came across something he could not spell he would  ask, “Hey Google how do you spell ____________.”

Got a question? Google has the answer. I am currently following a fitness and nutrition program which you can read about here. One of the suggestions on this is to try and drink a gallon of water a day. Since my water bottle is marked in ounces I had to ask, “Hey Google, How many ounces are in a gallon?” Within seconds I get the response that one U.S. gallon equals 128 ounces.

We are fairly new to the city we live in and Google home was able to answer my questions about the closest library branch location, closest pharmacy, grocery store etc…  It will even tell you the hours of business. If you know the address where you are going or even the name of the business and city, it will tell you how long it will take you to get there or how many miles away the location is.

If you are headed out of town, Google can find hotel accommodations located in the area you will be traveling, tell you what the weather will be like and how long it will take to get there.

To keep track of my daily activities, Google can set timers and create shopping lists, If you set up a payment method and delivery address, Google can order items for you and have them shipped right to your door. Just say, Hey Google, order me some paper towels or whatever you may be needing.

The Google Home device is super smart and quite handy to have around. The device is quick to get you the answers you need and would be an amazing partner to have on your Trivial Pursuit team, if anyone even plays that anymore.  Maybe now with Google Home device the game will make a comeback since with the help it can provide people can actually answer those darn questions.

I wish to thank Verizon Wireless for loaning me out the Google Home device, but am disappointed I have to send it back. It will surely be missed.

For more information on the Google Home device visit the Verizon Wireless website.

My TJX Obsession ~ What I Love about TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods

My TJX Obsession ~ What I Love about TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods

If you are familiar with the stores; Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Sierra Trading Post and HomeGoods, then you have great taste! I love shopping at all the TJX Companies stores. I have been inspired to write this post after cleaning out a box of receipts I have been keeping for the past few months in case I needed to return something. After looking at the pile, and not returning much, I have come to the realization that I might have an addiction.

Although, this should probably be an inspirational post in sharing steps on overcoming addictions,  it is really geared more toward feeding the addiction. This is one addiction I am not willing to give up or go to therapy for, unless it is retail therapy!

Our nest is empty and my husband travels a ton for business so it is easy for me to tag along. While he is working during the day, I am off to find the closest TJX stores and will sometime frequent 2 or 3 in one day.

With the travel, comes quite a bit of exposure to swanky shopping districts and areas with high end and luxury brands. Although, I could probably afford to make purchases now and then at one of those stores, I just can’t bring myself to do it because I know there is a good chance I will find it at one of the TJX stores!

Some of my favorite finds have been a Trina Turk swimsuit for only $49.99 that I picked up at TJ Maxx in Washington DC.

Trina Turk 2 piece

Trina Turk Two Piece Swimsuit

My Kate Spade bag I found at TJ Maxx in Chicago for only $149.00.

Kate Spade Purse

My Michael Kors bag I scored at Marshalls in Denver was $199.00.

Michael Kors Bag from Marshalls

Michael Kors Purse

I found a pair of Frye shoes for my hubby at the Marshalls in Houston for $99.00.

Frye Shoes from Marshalls

I got two Le Creuset pieces a few months apart, one large and one small in Wichita. Both were under $200 bucks, One was from TJMaxx and the other was Marshalls, what a steal!

Le Creuset Pots

As you can tell by the pile of receipts that is just the tip of the iceberg of some of my favorites!

Marshalls, TJ Maxxx and HomeGoods receipts

Pretty much every piece of clothing in my closet is from one of their stores. My favorite brands I have found there are Max Studio, Kut From The Kloth, Hudson Jeans, Paige Premium Denim, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Coach, NYJD, Bobeau, Born, Max Studio, La Blanca, Trina Turk, Born, Frye, 7 for all Mankind and more! The active wear selection is out of this world and I get plenty of work out wear with RBX and 90 Degree by Reflex being a favorite brand.

Workout Gear from Marshalls

Sierra Trading Post which is another store under the TJX belt, sells mostly online. They do have a handful of stores in Colorado and Wyoming. It is more outdoor related and carry active wear, hiking gear, climbing gear, sporting goods and an amazing selection footwear. I got the cutest pair of Lane Brand Cowboy boots online a couple months ago.

Lane Cowboy Boots

I’ve also gotten Keen and Chaco brand shoes and have bought plenty of name brand clothing as well such as North Face, Columbia, Lucy and more. Our family is into indoor rock climbing so guess where I purchased our harnesses, shoes and gear needed for that!

My husband knows when he goes to Colorado for work, a visit to the Sierra Trading Post in Fort Collins store is a must! He has also come to the realization that I need the TJX reward credit card as I would be making money with the reward certificates you receive just for using it! Please note that if you are interested in the credit card only apply for it in one of their stores or through the official TJX website as other links to apply are scams!

Most of my home decor is from HomeGoods, Marshalls and TJ Maxx. Between the three of them it is easy to outfit your entire home. They have a great selection of lamps, pillows, bedding, curtains, towels, rugs, furniture, decorating accessories and more!

I am currently looking for a small love seat or chaise lounge to fill this big empty space in our bedroom.

Considering all of the recipes on this blog, it is safe to say I am an avid cook and get plenty of my kitchen gadgets there too!

I have started sharing some of my favorite finds on my Instagram account @sharminmeadows so be sure and follow me there to check out the latest. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

If you have not shopped at any TJX stores, I encourage you to start. I promise you will not be disappointed. If you do shop at the TJX stores, you know where I am coming from! I would for you to leave a comment below on your favorite find, or maybe I should say #fabfound!

Well, I am off to HomeGoods to look for a love seat and apply for my TJX rewards credit card!

Also to be clear I am not paid or endorsed by the TJX Companies to write this either, although I would like to be! I just enjoy using this blog to share the things that I have done a found that make living finer!

Happy Shopping,

Sharm

Create a Cheese Board for all Seasons

Create a Cheese Board for all Seasons

I love creating cheese plates and boards and make them all the time, no matter what the season. I wrote about creating the perfect cheese board here. I sometimes do get in a rut with using the same cheeses with Dubliner and goat cheese being a favorite.

I thrive on entertaining and cheese boards are my go to dish. I was thrilled that folks over at Wayfair sent me a link to a post about creating a cheese board for all seasons. I am pretty good at using whatever fruits may be in season to pair with the cheeses but never really thought about using seasonal cheeses.

Cheese Board

I loved that idea so much as well some ideas on different platters to use, I thought I might share it with you. You can read about their seasonal cheese boards here.

If you have any tips for creating cheese boards or have a favorite cheese you think I would like to try, please feel free to comment below.

 

How to Build the Perfect Cheese Board

How to Build the Perfect Cheese Board

I love a great cheese board or plate and here are my tips for building the perfect one.

First, pick out the tray you would like to use. I prefer white, but any tray or even a wood cutting board will do the trick.

sartori cheeese

Start off with your favorite cheese.  Right now mine are the Sartori line of cheeses.  With flavors like merlot, rosemary, raspberry and balsamic it is hard to beat.  Whole Foods Market carries most of their cheeses and I wish to thank Whole Foods Market for supplying me with a gift card to purchase the ingredients for this dish.

Once you have picked out the cheese it is time to build around it. Just like wine some cheeses pair well with other things but I am not that picky and really like an assortment of choices.

sartori cheeese

Add some fruit.  Grapes are probably the most common but have fun with this and use what is in season. Apples and pears are divine in the fall while berries should be your go to fruit in the summer. Dried fruits work nicely year around. Try dried apricots or cherries.

Next add a little salt.  I love Castelvetrano olives.  They are slightly salty but also very mild and their bright beautiful green color is hard to beat. You could also add a few slices of cured salami or meat of choice.

Your going to want some crunch and that is where the nuts come in.  I really like walnuts but any nut will do. You can also throw in some crackers for added crunch as well.

Lastly is chocolate, dark is best but you can put out whatever kind you like. That is the beauty of putting together your own.

sartori cheeese

Cheeseboards can be terribly romantic, especially this close to valentines day.  Stay in this year and share a bottle of wine over your own cheeseboard creation. And then if you are still hungry, check out my recipe for Rosemary and Garlic Crusted Filet Mignon. With these two dishes up your sleeve, you may want to stay in for date night all the time!

The next time you are in charge of bringing dish to a party or hosting your own, cheese plates and boards could not be any easier, they look elegant and are absolutely delicious.

Below are some tips from Whole Foods Market on pairing the Sartori line of cheeses. Have fun trying different combinations and in no time you will have mastered your own perfect cheese board.

Sartori is a family-owned fourth-generation artisanal cheesemaker from Plymouth, Wisconsin. Each of the varieties below are based off of their BellaVitano Gold, a creamy, nutty, Parmesan-inspired Italian farmstead cheese.

Rum Runner – A Whole Foods Market Exclusive!
Buttery and slightly sweet, soaked in locally made rum.
Pairs with: Dark beers, smoked meats, and red grapes

Merlot BellaVitano
Berry and plum notes!
Pairs with: Crusty bread, dried fruit, and hoppy beer

Raspberry BellaVitano
Bright notes of raspberry combine with hazelnut and brown-butter flavors.
Pairs well with nuts, chocolate, or light Italian red wine

 

 

Top Tech Gadgets for the Avid Traveler

Top Tech Gadgets for the Avid Traveler

I am an avid traveler and Verizon Wireless recently loaned me some tech gadgets to demo a few weeks. All of these items are great. It is now time to return the items and I am reluctantly sending them back as they were way too handy. I especially loved the Bose headphones. Below is some top tech gadgets to make your travels run smoothly.

Smart Phone It is pretty much a given these days that most everyone has a smart phone and is a must for travel. Not only does the phone work with all of these top gadgets, it is necessary to have that form of communication to get information on flights, transportation and keep in touch with those who matter most.

iphone
Milk and Honey Leather Pocket Case This case fits snugly around your iPhone to protect it from the wear and tear from travel. The built in leather pocket makes a great holder for credit cards, id, a few bucks or any other items you may need handy until you reach your final destination.

Milk and Honey Case
Mophie Powerstation XL  With dual USB charge ports this quick charge external battery can juice up multiple devices at once. This powerstation gives 10+ hours to a large tablet, 14+ hours to smaller tablets and 48+ hours to your smartphone. This compact powerstation will make sure you never get stuck with a dead battery again!

Mophie Powerstation
Bose Quite Comfort 35 Headphones These wireless, bluetooth, acoustic noise canceling headphones will make you feel as if you are the only one around. They are adjustable to fit just about one and the deep bass gives you a surround sound experience.

Bose Headphones

Nest Smoke and Carbon Dioxide Alarm – This unit thinks, speaks and alerts your phone if it detects smoke or carbon dioxide. Having the security of this device protecting your home and family while traveling is priceless and the perfect addition to other smart home products and alarm systems you may have paired with your smart phone.

Nest Carbon Dioxide Alarm

All of these Items can be purchased at the Verizon Wireless website and make great gifts this time of year for the avid traveler in your life.

Healthy Apple Tart with Caramel Sauce – Gluten Free

Healthy Apple Tart with Caramel Sauce – Gluten Free

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Not only is this healthy apple tart gluten free, it is also egg and dairy free as well. My daughter was having some health issues last year and a food sensitivity test came back to avoid dairy, eggs and gluten.

These results came in just before the holidays so was I in bind to figure out how to make a gluten, egg and dairy free Thanksgiving. I mastered some killer brussels sprouts with bacon, almonds and cherries and a gluten, egg and dairy free butternut squash and quinoa stuffing  and an amazing herbed butter to season my turkey with. My friend over at Delish Girl made this healthy apple tart for our dessert and was sweet enough to pass along the recipe. I took a stab at making it again for a later holiday gathering and it turned out delicious and is absolutely gorgeous!

The dairy free healthy caramel sauce that gets drizzled on top is also delicious over some dairy free or regular ice cream or use as a dipper for fruit. You can put it your coffee for a healthy home-made caramel macchiato, drizzle over a brownie or anything else you like. You can find the recipe for the healthy caramel sauce here as you will want to make it ahead of time.

This recipe works best in an 8″ or 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom. If you have a larger tart pan, I would double the crust recipe so it can evenly cover the sides and bottom of pan. You want a fairly thick crust so it holds its shape when sides are removed from pan.

I know there are many out there who are on special diets but still want and crave those comforting holiday foods. This healthy apple tart would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving or holiday table and your gluten free guests will love it. Enjoy!

Healthy Apple Tart with Caramel Sauce

1 cup of finely ground almond flour
⅓ cup tapioca flour
2 tablespoons of coconut sugar (or sweetener of choice, such as unrefined cane sugar, organic evaporated cane sugar, maple sugar)
¼ teaspoon unrefined salt
⅓ cup cold butter, or non-hydrogenated palm shortening (for a dairy-free version, use one of the palm shortenings listed above – firm coconut oil could also work, but is a little more finicky)
2 tablespoons cold water
3 large Honeycrisp apples
Juice from half a lemon
¼ cup coconut sugar ((or sweetener of choice, such as unrefined cane sugar, organic evaporated cane sugar, maple sugar)
2 tablespoons tapioca starch/flour, arrowroot flour, or organic cornstarch
2-3 tablespoons of caramel sauce

Directions
Make caramel sauce, and set aside to cool (can make a week ahead, if desired)
In a food processor, combine the almond flour and tapioca flour with the salt and sugar.

Apple Tart - 5 of 19

If using butter, cut into cubes and add, or measure the palm shortening out and place in the food processor.

Apple Tart - 6 of 19

Pulse until the shortening or butter is blended into the flour in small pieces (biggest pieces should be the size of a small pea). Pulse after each addition of tablespoon of cold water. (You want the dough just to be moist enough that it sticks together when you pinch the dough into a small ball. I found that two tablespoons was just enough.

Apple Tart - 7 of 19

Press into the tart pan, making sure that there is a good ¼ inch or so of dough pressed along the side all around the tart pan. This will help make the tart more stable once cooked. Place in fridge. (you can prepare this hours ahead of time, if desired, just cover).
Preheat oven to 375F.

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Peel the apples, core them, and then thinly slice. Toss them in a medium sized bowl with the lemon juice, sugar, and tapioca starch. Take the tart pan out and artfully fan out the apple slices in the pan in a circular pattern (if using a circular pan). You want the apple slices to be angled, but not flat (as you wouldn’t be able to fit many slices in that way).  Leave any remaing juice from apples in bowl. DO NOT pour it over the top as it will make the tart too soggy and will not bake properly.

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Take the previously prepared caramel sauce, and brush on caramel sauce over all of the apples. Set tart pan on cookie sheet and
place in oven. Cook for 40-70 minutes or until the apples are fork tender, and the crust is cooked. I covered with foil at 40 minutes to keep the crust from over browning.

Take out of the oven and cool thoroughly before removing the sides of the tart pan. Slice, and enjoy plain, or with whipped cream or ice cream, served with extra caramel sauce. Enjoy!

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