Thursday, August 27, 2015

Smart Is The New Cool

How do you keep two excited little girls in suspense for three days? You label a box Top Secret, take it on vacation with you, and forbid them to ever open it.

I didn't intentionally do that but we were taking our last vacation before school and I thought at some point we might be able to discover what was inside together while away. Things got busy and we never found the time so we ended up taking the box home in the car with us while their little imaginations ran wild trying to guess what was inside. After the six hour drive they forgot all about it and stopped asking.

When we finally got home and started unpacking everything from the car, the Top Secret box appeared again and it sparked their interest. Can we please, please, please open it now? they chimed in unison. When I agreed, they hightailed it inside. When I went inside I felt like I was in my own personal version of the movie Seven . What's in the box? What's in the box!

I wasn't completely cruel as I had set up why they were opening the box prior to vacation. It was all set up by having them watch Project Mc² on Netflix before we left. Project Mc² is a great show on Netflix about four tween girls who secretly work for a secret spy organization called NOV8 (pronounced "innovate") and use their specialized talents to save the world.

You see, I want more for my girls than just dolls and dress up. I want them to know that anything is possible and part of that is teaching them all about S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math).  Kids who learn these skills early in life are taught to be more exploratory and less fearful that their dreams are unreachable because they are women. Each character in the show has a specialized science related ability lead by secret agent McKeyla McAlister played by Mika Abdalla who starts school as the new kid under false pretenses.

She is discovered by Camryn Coyle (Ysa Penarejo) the tech expert, Bryden Bandweth (Genneya Walton) the internet/computer specialist, and Adrienne Atoms (Victoria Vida) the culinary chemist. The four girls combine their strengths and love for all thinks geeky to thwart evil. Lead by The Quail played by Danica McKellar as their boss and coach, the girls discover that things work better when they have faith in each other, their talents, and most of all their friendship.

I bet by now you are still wondering what was actually in the box. Netflix helped my own girls by sending a Top Secret NOV8 Training Challenge to help them complete their training and join ranks with McKeyla, Adrienne, Camryn, and Bryden. Just like the girls in the show, my daughters were excited to show me what they could do.

There are plenty of tween moments in the show but my girls laughed at the awkwardness of that age and laughed where they should have laughed because the show is full of interesting characters and many plot twists and turns.

If you are looking for a show that is uplifting to young girls then Project Mc² on Netflix is the show for you. Project Mc² is like having that A Ha! moment in science class or solving that equation on the smart board in front of the class. A show that uplifts the importance of girls mastering S.T.E.A.M? This show proves that smart is indeed the new cool!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Everything You Need is a Quarter Away

I have a quarter in my hand and it's about to give me access to a place I can get everything I need. No, I didn't type that wrong. I said a quarter.

You probably can't get much with a quarter these days. Even "penny candy" isn't really penny candy and I doubt that the gumball machine your kid has his face pressed up against would even take a quarter anymore. Even if you did use that quarter for a gumball, you know the flavor will only last for a few seconds, that is disappointing. It's called buyer's remorse; that feeling that you didn't get the value for what you paid.

Wouldn't it be nice if after you used the quarter and got what you needed, that the quarter would come right back to you, no questions asked? There is a place that provides that. It's called ALDI.

I've had ALDI in my life before while in college when money was tight and I knew I could count on it to help me out when I needed it most. They have been ahead of the curve for a while though, having patrons reuse bags for years before it was even cool and ensuring the safe return of their carts by using something you probably have in your pocket right now, that quarter.

Though it has been many years later and we've both changed and we have both also improved over time. Now, I have a family of five to feed and not just my college self.  I thought that was hard back then and now I am responsible for all of them? Feeding a family of five can be tough while trying to maintain a budget but some things never change. ALDI has always done that by keeping prices low everyday while providing quality products the whole family will love.  One thing that has always remained constant is ALDI's #1 Truth "When deciding between eating well and saving money, always choose both."

Now that we've hit August, the kids are still trying to hold on to those carefree days away from school and adults are trying to use up their stockpiled vacation days for one last getaway before the office starts pulling them back to reality. The question is, do we let them just roll on by or do we go out with a bang? One easy way to keep the good times rolling is by throwing a backyard barbecue complete with the perfect beer.

But, ALDI doesn't have beer, I have to go to a whole other store to make that happen! Not anymore. ALDI has started carrying thirteen different varieties of specialty beer including three of my favorite summer beers. Click here to check availability at your local store. Available while quantities last. Items may not be available in all stores. Labels may vary by location. Prices may vary due to state and local laws.

I have tried the Monterrey Cerveza, Imperium Lager, and  Shore View Lemon Shandy (seasonally available) from the ALDI collection of specialty beers. Their offerings range from IPAs, Ales, Lagers, Hard Cider, and Light Beers, the same as any grocery store but with one simple difference, ALDI makes delicious cost less. The Shore View Lemon Shandy is the perfect summer beer with natural lemon and a touch of coriander spice and the Imperium Lager is for those days that you want something a little heavier but still crisp with light floral aromas, mild malt and hops character and a refreshing finish.

Whether it is kicking back on your porch and enjoying the starry night with your significant other or getting together with neighbors to compare summer notes, ALDI has everything you need to create the perfect pairings for entertaining and summer foods. When I think summer foods, I instantly think barbecue.

On a recent trip to ALDI I bought 7. 5 pounds of pork spareribs, Chef's Cupboard Au Gratin Potatoes, Burman's Honey BBQ sauce, Stonemill Essentials seasoning, Specially Selected 4 Grain Rice Blend, and some asparagus for a side. I bought all of that to feed a family of five or more for $23.64. Let that sink in what a meal at a restaurant might cost and you quickly see the value of eating well and saving money.

So how does the beer fit in to this recipe? The Monterrey Cerveza is a delicately balanced, full flavored light amber lager that is traditionally brewed using selected European barley malt and aromatic hops. It's crisp and refreshing taste is sweet like honey. For that reason, it's a perfect complement to my Braised Honey BBQ Ribs.

Braised Honey BBQ Pork Spareribs with Roasted Asparagus


1 t. Stonemill Essentials Iodized Salt and
1 t. Stonemill Essentials Ground Black Pepper
1 T. Stonemill Essentials Steak Seasoning
1 (18 oz.) Burman's Honey BBQ Sauce*
½ C Baker’s Corner Brown Sugar
(1) 12 oz Monterrey Cerveza

1 Package (16 oz) Specially Selected 4 Grain Rice Blend
1 bunch of Asparagus
1 box of Chef's Cupboard Au Gratin Potatoes

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours, 10 minutes
Servings: 5-6 people


1. Apply the steak seasoning and add brown sugar to sweeten the rub all over the meat

2. Prep the grill by heating it on high (for gas) or preparing coals for barbecue
3. Prep the oven by heating to 250 degrees
4. Sear both sides of the ribs for 3-4 minutes on both sides over high heat. Remove from grill and place in a braising pan. Depending on the size, you may have to cut the slab in half to fit your pan.

5. Pour the Monterrey Cerveza into a large measuring cup or bowl and mix with 3/4ths of a bottle of Honey BBQ Sauce until blended.

6. Pour the beer and BBQ Sauce mixture over the entire slab in the braising pan

7. Cover tightly with tinfoil and braise for 3 hours in the oven.
8. With 30 minutes left, wash and place asparagus with a tablespoon of olive oil in the oven
9. With 15 minutes left, prepare the rice and the Au Gratin potatoes according to the package.
10. Remove ribs at the end of the time and carefully remove tinfoil. Try cutting into a rib, it should go through easily. Reapply BBQ sauce to the top of the ribs from the bottom of the pan or pour some of the remaining on top.

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*Available while quantities last. All products may not be available in all stores. Prices subject to change.

FTC Disclaimer: I was given samples and compensated by ALDI and its constituents for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.