TV NEWS MOM

TV NEWS MOM
Christine Park

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Taste Testing Trader Joe's Pumpkin-Flavored Everything

If you're like me, when the fall season comes around, you start craving all things pumpkin and pumpkin-flavored. I think it was even more so this year, because Fresno had an extended summer, and I was desperate to hasten the arrival of the crisp, cooler air, and the beautiful fall foliage. Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte hadn't yet arrived, so the other day, I faked it by making pumpkin bread. It was freaking delish. Moist, with the perfect blend of pumpkiny nutmegy cinnamony flavor.


That's where my neighborhood obsession, Trader Joe's comes in. The aforementioned "freaking delish" bread was made from their Pumpkin Bread Mix. But that's only the beginning. Have you been inside the store lately? It's like Charlie Brown's Great Pumpkin exploded and broke off into little pumpkin-flavored goodies scattered in nearly every aisle. I couldn't resist snapping up a few (quite a few) to taste test. I can't tell you how many items I grabbed, then guiltily put back down, knowing I'd probably be the only one in the family to consume these things. (Hubby does not share my pumpkin addiction). Anyhow, I was super-excited to eat my breakfast this morning:

 
...Only to be disappointed! Let's start with the Pumpkin Waffles. I'd skip these. I'll stick with their amazingly flaky, crispy Belgian waffles instead, because these pumpkin waffles are like the cheap, cardboard-like Ego waffles with hardly any pumpkin flavor. Even slathering these with Cookie Butter couldn't save them.
 
The Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte Mix is all spice, to the point of overpowering. Mixing the powder with water, as the instructions suggest, just doesn't cut it. There's no latte creaminess to it. I will give it another try with milk, and see how that balances out the flavors.
 
Pumpkin Macarons. YES! A delicate, shell, a chewy interior, and a flavorful filling.  The pumpkin flavor is just right... really reminiscent of pumpkin pie. Make sure you defrost them for 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Cheescake. Buy this. If you love cheesecake and pumpkin pie, this is a cross of the best of both worlds. It's got the firmer consistency and tanginess of cheesecake, with the smoothness of pumpkin pie. Sometimes pumpkin pie can be a little too... gelatinous for me, so I actually prefer this.
 

 
 
Pumpkin Butter. Pumpkin pie in a jar. This is a great way to satisfy your pumpkin craving, so you might want to stockpile a few jars of these. They're a little pricey for the size, but it's good on anything from ice cream to toast. The tasting station uses cream cheese to cut down on the sweetness. There are also some great recipes online using this ingredient. 
 
I found this hilarious and helpful "Pumpkintensity" matrix of some of TJ's most popular pumpkin-flavored products. As you can see, some are super high in the spice factor, while others have a much stronger pumpkin flavor. I guess depending on your preferences, you can decide what to try!

 

How do you feed your pumpkin addiction? Let me know about your favorite products!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Just Between Friends Fall Sale

You know how much I love a good bargain. That's why I'm addicted to JBF. I first heard about Just Between Friends Children's Consignment Sale about four years ago, while doing a story on them. I felt like it was made for me! At the time, my house was overflowing with baby gear that I needed to get rid of, but I had spent hundreds of dollars on these things, so I didn't just want to give them away or sell them for pennies at a yard sale. This was the perfect solution. I was able to recoup my costs by consigning everything from my Medela breast pump and my kid's crib mattress, to the exersaucer and rocking chair from their nursery. Here's a link to how consignment works with JBF.

Now that my kids are older, it's more a matter of keeping up with their clothes and shoes, as they grow out of them every year. So I've become an avid shopper at their twice yearly sale. Today is opening day for the Fresno Fall Sale at the Fresno Fairgrounds' Commerce Building. From today through Sunday you can find amazing deals on new and gently used baby, children's, and maternity items in one huge place. Here's my one-minute explainer:



If you're willing to really spend some time looking, you can find some great quality, even brand new stuff, tags still on them. I spent about an hour and half at their pre-sale and ended up with a ginormous shopping bag loaded with stuff.

Here's a breakdown of my JBF haul: Crazy 8 pea coat ($16), Old Navy cream sweater ($4), Baby Gap black sweater ($6), new w/ tags Rock n Roll sweatshirt from Kohl's ($9), Osh Gosh All Star hooded shirt ($5) , plaid and striped Ralph Lauren button up shirts ($10 each).


New with tags Gymboree brown corduroys ($8), black corduroy pants ($4), 2 pairs of Osh Gosh lined athletic pants ($4 each), Old Navy jeans ($4), Carter's boots ($9), and Adidas soccer cleats ($7.50).

An entire winter wardrobe for my 5-year-old son for $100! I also got a Crazy 8 sweater dress for my daughter, two Justice workout shorts for dance and gymnastics, a hot pink Children's Place velour sweatsuit, and two pairs of leggings all for about $45. But my favorite find of the day was a pair of brand new pink and black converse high tops for my daughter for $13 (Retail $32).

 
Are you going to the sale? What amazing finds have you scored? 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

No Kids Allowed

 
Old Fisherman's Grotto is located on Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey



You can't miss it. The bright yellow paint, the black and white striped awning, and the ever-present call of the man hawking clam chowder. On a recent work trip to Monterey, my photographer Richard and I followed our stomachs and our noses to the Old Fisherman's Grotto. Once we arrived, he pointed out this sign, posted just under the menu, and since he knows I'm a mom, asked me if I was offended. I laughed, saying no, even though it seems a bit harsh, I absolutely agreed.

Families are crying foul over this sign, saying they're offended and upset

Easy for me to say, right? I wasn't with my kids. But that's the thing, when I'm not with them, I'd like to enjoy fine dining without having to tend to my kids or try to tune out others' little ones. Tantrums, fighting, food on the floor, if I wanted that, I would have had dinner at home! I figure, patrons shelling out big bucks and restaurant owners catering to those patrons have every right to have a kid-free zone. I remember when my hubby and I, desperate for a nice steak, ventured to Fleming's with our children in tow. My son, who was a toddler at the time, thought it was a fun game to throw his fork on the ground. The gracious staff was quick to pick it up and replace it with a clean one. They even brought out a tasty little plate with finger foods on it to distract him. But after the fifth or so fork on the ground, I was mortified and my hubby had to take him to the restroom for a stern talk and a time out. Never again! We vowed to hold off on fine dining until the kids were a little older and they could learn to behave themselves.

Back at the Old Fisherman's Grotto, Richard and I enjoyed a fantastic meal. The service was attentive and speedy, and the food was VERY good. And even though we didn't say much because we were stuffing our faces, the nice thing was, it was quiet and intimate enough to have a conversation. No crying babies or unruly children in sight. We joked about the sign again on the way out, how it must be working.

Little did we know the local media and some parenting blogs would pick up the story, after some families complained about the sign. Customer Niki Riviere says she was turned away from the restaurant because she couldn't get a high-chair for her 6-month-old child. She told a Salinas TV station: "I'm completely shocked because I never had that happen. Usually they cater, at least have a high chair for the child, but it seemed like they didn't want any child. They said the child can't make any noises so they turned us away." I actually have a problem with the part of Niki's statement where she says, "Usually they cater." It's the same sense of entitlement many of us have developed when we are visiting a business. Obviously customer service is key in making your patrons happy and get them to keep coming back. But guess what? Your needs and desires don't automatically supersede others'. So if the fact that you have little ones means you can't eat at this particular place for a few years, it's being courteous, it's not discrimination. And in the meantime, as your kids get older, make sure to teach them manners, like sitting still, eating with utensils, and using their inside voice, so that when you do take them out, they know how to behave.

Meantime, the owner, Chris Shake has been completely unapologetic, saying if customers don't like the rules, they can go somewhere else for dinner. Obviously Shake doesn't care too much about being polite. Some have suggested it's the sign's tone and wording that is more offensive than the actual adults-only policy. I wonder, if any families that get past the sign, have actually been asked to leave mid-meal because their kids weren't behaving? Shake could probably use a few lessons on how to deal with young families, since they are a huge demographic among the tourists in Monterey. But he says he doesn't need to, because business has been great despite his no kids policy. What do you think?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Pantry Organization via The Dollar Tree

You know your pantry is in bad shape when it makes you ANGRY and IRRITATED every time you set foot in it. And when you shut the door anytime company comes over, because you're embarrassed anyone might see it.

            Behold, the "Before" (don't judge):

Everything was crammed in there. I couldn't stand the chaos.
As my readers know, I've been on an organizing kick, with my closet and my jewelry, and so my pantry was naturally the next project to tackle. Little did I know my good friend and colleague Margot Kim was attempting the same exact thing at her house. But this just goes to show great minds think alike. Today we compared pantry makeovers, like two dorks, oohing and aahing over the end results.

So I wanted to share how I went the Dollar Tree route. Who knew? The Dollar Tree carries these awesome plastic organizing bins, some that stack, some with handles, in all shapes and sizes. I went with red, since my Dollar Tree had the most options in this color, and I wanted everything color coordinated. But I saw blue, green, white/clear, even purple.
I wasn't sure exactly how many containers I would need. So this was my initial haul, about $20 worth. Obviously, when you see my "before" picture above, you can conclude that wasn't enough. So about halfway through my organization attempts, I went back to another Dollar Tree (since I had cleaned out the supply at the first one), and didn't find anything I needed. So 30 minutes later, I found myself at my third Dollar Tree of the day, where I bought another $25-$30 worth of red containers. So for about $50, I was set. Meantime, hubby is inviting me to RELAX on my Saturday and spend some time with the kids in the pool. Anyone knows, a woman in the middle of a project, is a woman on a mission that CANNOT be stopped!

As I sorted through the shelves of food, I couldn't believe the amount of expired goods that were sitting in there, hidden in corners, and under boxes. I found baby formula from 2007 (my kids are 5 and nearly 8 now), shave ice syrup from 2008, a gingerbread man from 2009, and Korean roasted seaweed from 2010. I discovered I had perfectly good barbecue sauce even though I had just bought some, and an entire Costco sized box of trail mix.


I especially love these stackable bins, which are perfect for canned foods and canned sodas.
These baskets have handles, which makes it really easy to access what's inside.
Everything is labeled so the kids can find snacks for themselves too!

The bigger baskets on the bottom hold things like chips and popcorn.
With every item in its proper place, I felt my stress melting away. Organization had become my therapy. The pantry, once the bane of my existence, had been transformed into my zen place. I had some girlfriends over the other day, and one of them literally went inside and shut the door so she could revel in it. She's now inspired to do her own makeover! Another laughed and said she really needs to this because she ended with 6 bottles of ketchup because she had no idea what she already had. Now, when I'm making the grocery list, I know exactly what we do and don't need. I honestly hope this cuts down on our family's food waste.
This morning, I was in a rush to get to my workout and instead of spending precious minutes searching for a power bar, I knew exactly where to go. I actually laughed out loud at the awesomeness of it. I know it sounds like no big deal, and a little OCD, but I think this could be a whole new organized way of life for us! Share your organization stories in the comments below!

 Behold, the "After": 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Starbucks Savings for Hopeless Caffeine Addicts


The other day, one of my colleagues came into work and I almost didn't recognize her without her customary Starbucks cup in her left hand. It made me do a double-take, because something was clearly missing. Maybe she was protesting Starbucks' price hikes this week? LOL The company says the drought in Brazil has severely limited the coffee bean supply and driven up prices, and now they're passing on the price increases to customers. Tall and venti lattes will see price increases of 15 to 20 cents (grande price won't change). After July 21st, bags of their packaged ground coffee will increase over $1 per bag as well.

Now I'm nowhere near my friend's level of addiction, but I do enjoy a tall nonfat chai latte every now and then. It can be an expensive habit that really adds up. The "latte factor," basically the premise that many small purchases add up to a significant expenditure over time, has been well-documented in the media. So what's a bargain hunting consumer reporter to do?

Turns out, there are tons of ways to save at Starbucks. In fact, many of you hardcore insiders might already know about these. Money-saving expert Andrea Woroch recently offered these tips:

1. Enjoy rewards.
The My Starbucks Rewards card provides loyal customers with such, well, perks as free drinks, free food, free refills and more. Cardholders also receive a free beverage of any kind or size on their birthday, as demonstrated by this gentleman who ordered a 60-shot espresso concoction worth $54.75! Stars are earned whenever the Starbucks Card or Starbucks mobile app is used at checkout.

2. Buy discount Starbucks gift cards.
At GiftCardGranny.com, you can buy discount gift cards to Starbucks for as much to 20-percent off. For instance, pick up a $100 Starbucks gift card for just $84.54 and save over $15! In addition to saving on coffee, buying discount Starbucks gift cards is a great way to save on gifts for birthdays, holidays and graduations.

3. Print or redeem coupons.
Even Starbucks issues coupons from time to time. Keep track of these coveted offers by searching sites like CouponSherpa.com, where you can find both printable and online offers for savings. Also, check out Starbucks' website periodically as they advertise special offers like their current "summer surprises" texting campaign.

4. Keep eyes peeled for daily deals.
Ever notice how your Facebook feed explodes when Groupon or LivingSocial issues a daily deal to Starbucks? Once or twice per year, you can score a $10 digital gift card to Starbucks for just $5. You must have an account with daily deal providers to get the deal, but you can personalize your settings to only receive emails weekly. That way, you're not bombarded with daily offers but can be notified about the Starbucks deal.

5. Join the mailing list.
By joining the Starbucks Mailing List, you'll get a coupon for 10-percent off your next order. Plus, you'll find out about special promotions like seasonal offers, member-only benefits and discounts on speciality drinks. You can sign up here, or hold off until you have time to create a separate email account just for promotional offers!

6. Get social.
Follow Starbucks on Facebook or Twitter to get notified when they release special promotions, coupons or daily discounts. Last summer, followers could enjoy the "Starbucks treat receipt" which awarded customers to a $2 grande cold beverage after 2 p.m. simply by showing the morning receipt. Finding out about these saving promos early is easy when you follow the brand on social media.

7. Choose coffee over espresso.
To keep costs down while fulfilling my Starbucks addiction, I sometimes opt for brewed coffee over an espresso beverage to kick start my day. When I'm really in the mood for a latte or Americano, then I satisfy the craving for less by sticking to a tall or grande size over the venti.

8. Look for sale or clearance tags.
When it comes to shopping Starbucks goods, never buy at full price! That cute coffee mug or trendy eco-tumbler will inevitably go on sale, so make a note of what you like and hold off until sale time. Save even more when you buy your clearance good with those discount gift cards I mentioned!

9. Ask for "light" ice.
Iced coffees are just the ticket on warm summer days, but you often end up getting less latte than if you ordered the hot version. That's because ice takes up more than half the cup most of the time. Avoid this issue by requesting "light ice" when you order your chilled beverage.

10. Go halfsies with a friend.
If you and your friend like the same drink, order a venti and ask for an extra cup. Starbucks doesn't charge for the extra cup and you can often save an average of $1.50 by splitting up their biggest size. It's a cheapskate move, but you're probably doing both your systems a solid by not downing a venti of caffeine!

11. Bring your own cup.
As an eco-friendly company, Starbucks is all about promoting sustainable practices and limiting its impact on the environment. As such, it rewards its customers who bring in their own tumblers and cups with a 10-cent discount. Just bringing in your own mug will cancel out the price increase on grande and venti brewed coffee - score!

12. Earn stars with coffee bags.
True coffee aficionados drink the good stuff at home, too, which makes the $1 increase on ground coffee all the more painful. However, you can earn more Stars on your My Starbucks Reward card when you buy specially-marked bags of Starbucks coffee from grocery stores and other retailers. Earning Stars helps you score discounts and freebies!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Jewelry Jumble No More

One of the hazards side effects of being on TV is a sore neck. Let me explain: my viewers only see me from the waist up. So I feel compelled to make my upper half visually interesting. Costume jewelry plays a big part in that. But costume jewelry, especially statement necklaces, are FREAKING HEAVY. So it's literally become a pain in the neck

You know what else is a pain in the neck? How messy and tangled my jewelry collection has become. I got this little jewelry armoire many years ago, when the necklace styles were much... smaller and tamer. In theory, it was a good solution. But my collection has since outgrown it, as you can see from these photos.



Your OCD super-organized spouse can only complain so many times about the pig sty in the corner before it becomes a fight trigger. So for the sake of my marriage, I started researching jewelry organizing solutions. There are plenty of cute DIY options on Pinterest... using everything from cheese graters to paper towel holders.
These are all gorgeous!  But I have hundreds of pieces of jewelry, so none of these crafty solutions would work for me. I then turned to Amazon, the seller of everything under the sun. Surely there would be a nifty doodad that solve my #firstworldproblem.

A lot of them were highly rated, but this $59.99 Longstem Organizer had five stars and looked the most promising, with 38 hooks to hold 300 pieces. It's pricey, and doesn't even qualify for free Prime shipping, but I was desperate. As soon as it arrived in the mail, my husband was so eager to get my bathroom counter de-cluttered, that he busted out the drill to help me mount it on the wall in our closet.
It's quite tall. 29 x 4 x 20 inches  and 7 pounds. We used the included brackets and anchors to mount it on the wall. It also includes over-the-door hangers, but our doors are too tall to use it that way. My only complaint, it covers the light switch.
 The steel frame is very sturdy, and it comes in a bronze coat or white. But the true test: would it hold everything and display it in a pleasing and accessible way?

 Sounds crazy, but it took me hours to sort through and hang, as well as purge unwanted pieces. But in doing so, I discovered:

1. A long-lost diamond earring stud
2.Many necklaces I had forgotten about
3. And that I need more jewelry. Just kidding honey!

But after painstakingly putting everything in its place, I was really happy to see that lo and behold, everything fit. Some of the back hooks aren't as easily accessible, you have to reach
between stuff hanging in the front. Some other cons: if your earrings are post earrings, it's a little tricky putting the backs on from behind. The plastic tray for rings/brooches is a little shallow, so it doesn't hold as much as I'd like.

But overall, I'm thrilled with this organizer. Every morning, I can clearly see my accessorizing options. This makes a big difference when I'm rushing to get out the door, and every minute counts.


Now on to my pantry. Anyone got any good organizing ideas for that space?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Teaching Kids: Money May Not Grow on Trees, but Your Food Does!

I have dusty boogers every time I blow my nose. My kids have scratches on their arms from tree branches. But we aren't complaining. Here's why: 



When Two Sisters U-Pick Apricots offered a tree adoption option this year, I jumped at the chance. Not just for the fun and educational opportunity, but for the bargain. By gathering five other families, we each chipped in only $25 to cover the $150 "adoption" fee. It was fun, but A LOT of work. And that was just one tree. My kids and I have a newfound appreciation for the farmworkers who harvest our food. Each tree yields 200-400 pounds of apricots! Let's just say I now have more apricots than I know what to do with. So naturally I started baking.

 Apricot-blueberry crumble
Apricot-cranberry scones
Next up: apricot jam, and a half dozen other recipes I've been dying to try on my Pinterest board. While helping me in the kitchen tonight, my 7-year-old daughter remarked how "cool" it was that we were literally cooking with something that had been on the tree until we picked it this morning. Light bulb moment inside her little head! She never made that connection before with anything we bought at the store, or even farmer's markets. I think it's important for her to feel connected with and invested in the food she eats. Check out this site for a pick-your-own farm to visit near you! Summer is the best time, with stone fruits and strawberries in season.

My fascination obsession started around mid April. I decided this would be the season to educate my young ones on the concept of farm (or garden) to table. After all, we do live in one of the most amazing and fertile farming regions in the world! I was further inspired by a friend of mine who has an amazing green thumb, and even though mine's brown, I too wanted to give it a try. So I enlisted the kids' help in building a raised garden bed (this kit from Lowe's), filled it with garden soil, and we planted herbs like basil and oregano and thyme, as well as vegetables including zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. To be honest, I did not have high hopes. Ask my husband: my plant survival rate in my yard is about 10%. The other 90% end up in the green waste recycling bin after weeks of neglect. I swore this time would be different!



April 27th, 2014: Here are the "before" and "after" pictures. Well lo and behold, a little bit of TLC and the garden flourished. The kids eagerly helped with the watering over the course of the month. But I don't know who got more of a kick out of watching everything grow, me or them! 
May 31st, 2014: Obviously I planted too much in one box and didn't give the zucchini and cucumber enough spacing, but I'm pretty happy with how my first attempt is turning out!
 
 Harvest Time!
The bell peppers were the first to bear fruit.
The saying "enjoy the fruits of your labor," has never rung truer. We felt a sense of giddiness as we plucked our first bell peppers. Marveled at the baby tomatoes. And I am now literally stalking the other plants, looking for the first signs of fruit. Mint for my mojitos, check! Basil to make pesto, let me just run outside. I can't believe it took me this long to do this! No more paying $$$ for herbs at the grocery store, only to have them wither in my fridge and go bad before I need them again. 

If planting a garden, or making a trip to a farm or orchard isn't a possibility, there are plenty of books that teach kids where their food comes from too. The Cow in Patrick O'Shanahan's Kitchen and Growing Seasons are a couple that are highly recommended.


All you country folk might be laughing at me right now, but for this city girl, I feel like a whole new world has been opened for me and my family!

Homemade pepperoni and veggie pizza, toppings courtesy of my humble little garden box.