A Day in the Life – Instagram Style

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I’m here to warn you…

Starting when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll be participating in the ONE day project on Instagram. Bloggers and social media influencers all over the web will be capturing their entire day in photographs posted to Instagram. It’s a great way to get to know each other and answer the question, “What on earth do you do all day?”

If you want to follow along with me and see what a day in the life of ME is like, my Instagram handle is CarolynRWest. My twitter handle is the same @CarolynRWest and make sure you follow me on Facebook as well.

Want to participate yourself? Leave me a comment and let me know so I can follow you and we can compare our days. Make sure to use the hashtag #OneDayHH. All the details can be found over at Hollywood Housewife.

This could get ugly, or boring, or something really fabulous might happen. I have no idea what my day will be like, other than having a morning school board meeting. Let’s see how much trouble I can get into.


Gaviña – The Family Owned Coffee Roaster Behind that Awesome McDonald’s Coffee

Thank you McDonald’s for arranging this special tour of Gavina.

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I love a good story. Almost as much as I love a good cup of coffee.

Once upon a time there was a man who had a coffee farm in Cuba. He emigrated to the U.S. with his family and settled in Southern California. Luckily, he was able to do what he loved… take his experience and establish a successful coffee roasting business in Los Angeles. From generation to generation, the business remained in the family, growing and prospering and producing such high quality coffee that one day, McDonald’s came knocking.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t a knock on the door, but with a few introductions between business owners, Gaviña Coffee Roasters became one of 4 national suppliers of coffee to McDonalds. All with just a handshake. Because that’s how you do business between honorable people. And wow… have you had a cup of McD’s coffee lately? That’s some good stuff!

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to tour the Gaviña factory. I’ve never been to a coffee roaster before and I certainly had no idea of the intricacies involved in making sure the coffee we drink is the finest it can be. This was a great learning experience for one who drinks coffee every day. It all starts with the tree.

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It takes beans from an entire coffee tree to produce one bag of coffee that you purchase in a store. The beans, similar to wine grapes, have different properties depending on where they are grown. Weather, the soil and other factors all come into play. McDonalds has pretty high standards, and in fact, requires their suppliers to meet the highest level of roasting standards in the business. It starts with the finest Arabica beans that can be sourced.

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All coffee beans are not picked at once. The trees are gone over 2 or 3 times so the coffee growers can make sure each bean is picked at the exact right time. Coffee beans are one of the last crops that is still picked by hand. It is a labor of love for the coffee growers.

Once the beans are picked, they are packed in sacks and exported to countries around the world. There is something pretty cool about seeing a warehouse full of coffee beans.

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Once the coffee arrives here, the real fun begins. A percentage of every single bag of coffee is inspected for defects. Any shipment that isn’t up to standards is discarded. But Gaviña doesn’t waste anything. Beans that aren’t used in their products are earmarked for other purposes. Once the beans are approved, it’s time for the experts to give them a taste test.

Have you heard of cupping? It’s this amazing process where only some of the beans are roasted and then brewed individually by professional coffee tasters. I know… sounds like a job right up my alley. The process of cupping is pretty incredible… and very ritualistic. If you have ever seen a Chinese or Japanese tea ceremony, it’s very similar.

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With a selection of coffee grounds in front of us, boiling water is added and the coffee is mixed with a spoon until a foam forms on top of the cup. That foam is then scooped off carefully and what is underneath is what you will sip. Or slurp. Or do that thing that makes a lot of noise. Yep.. you don’t actually drink when you are cupping. You take your spoon, fill it with coffee… and slurp! Loud! It’s the way that you really get all the flavor to surround your taste buds. But wait… DON’T SWALLOW! Like a fine wine tasting, you actually spit out the coffee. Just let your taste buds savor the flavors. There is a LOT to taste in coffee… most flavors we have no idea about because we tend to add so much sugar and flavored creamer to our cups. An expert knows what to look for. For me… I just enjoyed learning how many different varieties of coffee beans there were. It’s definitely a science.

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The Gaviña tour was an amazing experience… and I have a whole new appreciation for coffee. I want to thank the Gaviña family for their hospitality. It truly is a family business… and one that I’m proud to support.

GOOD NEWS! McDonalds is FINALLY bringing their coffee into our homes. In 2015, in partnership with Kraft Foods, you will be able to brew McDonald’s brand coffee at home!

 

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Joining a Wine Club

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I am anything but a wine snob. I wouldn’t know a good pinot from a cabernet from a merlot. I know chardonay is white wine, right? I’m pretty sure chianti is Italian and I know that champagne comes from France. That’s the extent of my wine knowledge. I do, however, know what I like… and I really like the wines I’ve tried at a small wine tasting shop in Newhall, California. Pulchella Winery is unassuming. If you didn’t know it was there you would walk right by never bothering to give it a thought. Except that you would be missing out on something pretty great.

I first experienced Pulchella a few months ago when one of my book club friends suggested we hold our monthly dinner there. It was fabulous. The tasting room is across the street from one of the best restaurants in town, Newhall Refinery. From Pulchella, you can call over to the Refinery and order up your dinner. They will happily bring it to you (across the street) as well as the bill. You can have a great meal and enjoy a $10 wine flight.

I’ve been there twice now and the second time I decided that it would be fun to join their wine club. Me. Who knows nothing about wine.

It’s one of those things that just sounded really sophisticated: I joined a wine club. The club is free to join, but you have to commit to ordering a batch of wine (6 – 8 bottles with each batch) twice a year. Each order runs about $200… a little pricier than the wines I usually purchase, but then again… I’m usually happy with the cheap stuff at Trader Joe’s. Not the “really” cheap stuff… but the highest I usually go is about $10 – $12 a bottle. Of course, you do get what you pay for and I really did want to start expanding my wine horizons.

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Their “City Slicker” wine was my favorite for the night. I love that they label all their wines with really fun names. The City Slicker is a blend… from 2012 (for those of you who know that year’s matter). It is 63% Golden Cloud Vineyard Zinfandel and 37% Mainini Vineyard Petite Sirah. I just know that it tastes really good. Definitely the kind of wine you want to relax with after an exhausting day with the kids. Not that I would know anything about that.

Some of the other varieties they currently have are the Deadbeat Pinot Noir, the Highs & Lows blend of Syrah and Grenache, Relentless Syrah, and Aftermath Black Muscat. You can get a wine flight that lets you sample all 5 varieties for only $10 at the tasting room. So well worth it!

Since it’s local to Santa Clarita, I am definitely down for popping in any night of the week if you want to go. Remember, I joined the wine club so I get my wine flights for free… as well as any guest I want to bring. Take me up on it.


Pamper Yourself with Madison Reed At Home Hair Color

This post has been sponsored by Madison Reed. All opinions are my own.

 

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I would say I’ve been coloring my hair for something like 15 years. I started using at home hair color because I was too cheap to pay for a professional to do it. Back all those years ago, hair color out of the little boxes you’d get at the pharmacy was pretty awful. It smelled bad and God knows what it was doing to your hair. When I got a little older, I decided to spring for a professional and I never had a problem. My color was awesome… of course, I had gone pro. Over the past year, I ended up back to the at home hair color. These days there is definitely more variety, but it still doesn’t really give you that “I-feel-fabulous-because-I-just-got-my-hair-done” look.

I had never heard of Madison Reed before, but when I was asked to try it I thought this might be something pretty cool. No generic boxes from the store. The online website actually walks you through several steps that helps them customize a hair color just for you. Customize! How awesome is that? There are a series of questions about your type of hair and your current color and if you’re gray, etc. It’s like what the fancy salons do… custom make up your hair color for you.

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So you go online, take the at home hair color survey and then you wait to get your amazing hair color kit in the mail.

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The kit comes complete with everything you need to color your hair at home: gloves, cap, barrier cream, cleansing wipe, shampoo, conditioner, and the special color activator and cream color. It also give you step by step directions on how to color your hair like a pro.

This is true salon results in the comfort of your own home and sure beats those generic boxes of color from the drugstore. Madison Reed has no PPD, no resorcino, no ammonica, and no added parabens. Nothing that is hard to pronounce. Just fabulous sounding ingredients like argan oil, keratin, and ginseng root. My hair feels amazing and I am in LOVE with the color!

I was really excited to try this kit out because it’s been waaaaaay too long since I’ve colored my hair.

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I set out everything I would need and made sure that there weren’t any towels or clothes around that might accidentally get color on them.

MRcollageThe application process is really simple. You combine the activation ingredients and just cover your hair. If you have someone who can help you, all the better… but I was perfectly able to do it myself. Madison Reed even provides shampoo and conditioner for you to use with your color treated hair. I colored, I washed, and then I compared the before and after.

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So what do you think? HUGE difference, isn’t it? My hair had gotten so brassy from the being out in the sun so much and I really wanted to get it back to a rich, darker brown. I am just loving it!

Hair change… CHECK. Now to do a little more pampering to get ready for the rest of the week! Nail time!

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The state of my nails is so sad. I never have time to go get them done professionally either, so I do them myself at home… and I have to say, they just don’t last as long as a salon. I usually go without polish because I’m always afraid that once I do them I’ll have to go wash dishes or something that will mess them up. Since I spent time on my hair, I figured I would spend a little time on my nails.

Lauryn is home this week so we thought we’d do our nails together. I went with the gray… she opted for the pink. Of course.

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So new nails… and new hair! I’m ready to party!

Love my results? You can try out at home hair color with Madison Reed yourself with 50% off your first Color Kit. Your special discount code is: MRPAMPER. Good for new customers only and you can’t combine with any other offers. You know the drill… you only get one Color Kit per offer and this will expire on November 30, 2014 (hey… that’s my anniversary!).

 

 


Get Ready for Halloween with Dasani #SpookySnacks

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.
#SpookySnacks #CollectiveBias

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Let’s hear it for Halloween!!!! It’s October and that means only one thing… time to decorate the house, stock up on candy, and prep those costumes for the kids. It’s also time to start creating those awesome Halloween crafts and recipes. One of the big issues we always face when we go trick-or-treating with the kids is that they always complain that they are thirsty. Please tell me it’s not just my kids who start delving into their candy bags before we even hit the 3rd house? The problem is that we never have water bottles with us for them to drink… they get too heavy to keep in their trick-or-treat bags, and you know that Mom and Dad don’t really want to hold bottles for all the kids. So, I decided that we needed to be proactive and figure out a way that we can bring sone Dasani bottles with us this Halloween without anyone complaining about carrying them. Bingo… let’s craft!

I’m a little behind on Halloween this year so I left the family at home and ventured out to Walmart.

Bam! Walk into the store and you get bombarded with Halloween! Good thing I’m a big Halloween fan.

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The store was packed with people grabbing candy and costumes right and left. Crazy! I was focused on getting the supplies I wanted and getting out of there before I ended up spending my entire paycheck on decorations.

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Apparently I wasn’t the only one stocking up on Dasani. Must be the fact that the bottles are made from plant resin and the awesome shape means they don’t tip over when you stock the fridge. I also headed down the soft drink aisle to grab some Fanta… you know, for those extra spooky Halloween drinks.

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How cute are these mini Fanta cans? Perfect for our pre-Halloween dinner.

Let’s start Project Water Bottle Holder!

The beauty of this is that it is super simple and you don’t even need a sewing machine. As long as you can thread a needle and sew a few hand stitches, you can make this super simple water bottle holder for your kids to take on their trick-or-treating expedition.

I used heavy black felt since I didn’t really want the water bottle holder to stand out too much with the kids’ costumes. You can use any type of fabric, as long as it’s something pretty sturdy. Plan on being Elsa from Frozen… grab some heavy light blue felt. Going as Superman? I’d use red or blue.

Supplies:

1/4 yard Heavy felt fabric (any color)
embroidery thread (matching or complimentary color)
embroidery needle
Dasani water bottle – the 12 oz. size is perfect for little ones.
Chalk
Scissors

Process:

1. Take your Dasani bottle and use it as a tool to measure the amount of fabric you’ll need to surround it. Leave a little extra because you will be sewing the edges together. Stand the bottle up on the fabric and trace the circle with chalk.

2. Cut out TWO circles, leaving room for sewing. I used TWO circles together because I wanted the water bottle to be well supported… and I didn’t want the bottom to get wet from the condensation of a cold bottle.

3. I sewed up the long edge of the part covering the bottle with embroidery thread. You can use any stitch you like because chances are you aren’t going to see it anyway.

4. I use embroidery thread because it’s thick and heavy so it won’t break under the weight of the bottle.

5. Take the two round bottom pieces and sew them onto the round part of the bottle piece of fabric that’s already been sewn.

6. I stitched around the edges for extra strenth.

7. Cut out a long piece of fabric that will become the strap that goes over your shoulder. I measured the length on my daughter since she’ll be the one using this. Cut the “strap” twice as wide so you can fold it over and sew it together. You’ll want that strap to be extra strong as well.

8. With the strap, I used orange thread because I wanted it to have a little extra style. You can use black (or any color that matches your fabric) or go crazy and use something fun and funky.

9. Drop in your water bottle and your little trick-or-treater will be good to go.

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Lauryn was so excited that I made her a water bottle holder. She loves that she’ll be able to keep her water bottle handy.

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We are so decorating this weekend! And I definitely have some surprised in store for my kids come October 31st!

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Remember that Fanta I bought? Wonder what the kids will think of these spooky cocktails.

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