Momma Told Me: June 2013

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Breakfast At Home Makes Sense: $25 VISA Giveaway~ 7/13

nutritious breakfast
Momma Told Me: Eat your breakfast!

I don't know about you, but Breakfast is the meal of the day I enjoy preparing most, because it's the simplest. It's hard to mess up on 'breakfast,' and it's the perfect time to play with colorful elements and textures, in a meal that is intended to fuel us throughout the day. I also enjoy serving breakfast to my family, in particular, because I know I am doing something unexpected that will start their day off on a positive note. So how on Earth is it that I, and my family members, eat breakfast about 3/7 days a week, on average? Even more troubling is that which compels us to eat this important meal. I am, by no means a morning person, and the days we eat an 'early meal' (known to some as breakfast), are often spurred by the fact we have plans earlier in the day. During these days we're especially rushed, and anticipating an even longer day ahead, so we often swing through the local drive through, or catch a meal at a diner while heading out of town. Big mistake.
Momma knew the importance of a 'first meal' at home, and made sure she served it every single day. She couldn't control what I ate at school, as much as she liked to think she did, but she knew she could control what went into my mouth while we were together. Even more importantly, she could hear what came out of my mouth best when we were seated at the breakfast nook exchanging hopes and plans for the day ahead. Momma was no short order cook, she was very much your average stay at home mom (okay, Pre-Pinterest Type A average). She'd rather see me eat a bowl of whole grain cereal with a serving of fruit and dairy (milk) than have me stumble out the door only to be distracted by stomach cramps at school a few hours later. And, while there was a donut shop on the corner, directly across from my school, Momma never gave into temptation to take the 'easy way out.' "I can serve you a perfectly nutritious meal, at home, and for less!" she'd reply to my pleas for the freshly baked donut holes wafting down the street.
When you have children, I've been told, you go through a phase of 'nothing's too good for my child.' That is to say that, at least with the first go around, Moms want to do what's best for their children. This is a constant battle between keeping them happy, and keeping them healthy. But mealtime at home every morning doesn't have to break the bank. In fact, General Mills is helping to illustrate this by providing a month of money saving coupons on your favorite GM products through their exclusive Breakfast at Home sub-site. Head on over and print valuable money saving coupons for all of your favorite General Mills cereals, yogurt, meal bars, and more! Even better, through July 15, these savings will stack with already lowered prices in stores nationwide. It's time to stock up on your family's favorites and ensure you're eating a well rounded breakfast all Summer long.
Lucky Charms
Breakfast Makes Cents
When our family tries to fit in one of it's rushed meals on the go we often end up spending over $6 a head on breakfast, not including a tip if we dine in. I created a nutritious, filling, and well rounded breakfast for my family for just $1.56 a serving! It's as easy as filling a bowl with your family's favorite General Mills cereal, low fat milk (or milk substitute), a glass of orange juice, a fresh piece of fruit, a slice of whole grain bread, and an egg. Sometimes, when I'm feeling especially inspired I'll even cut a little heart in the center of the bread slice and cook the egg directly in the center. It's easier to control portions when I'm home, and I know none of the food will go to waste, because I know how much each of us can eat. (I always feel so guilty when we walk out of a diner with 1/3 of our food still on the plate!)
Breakfast Makes Cents
Eating breakfast at home just makes sense; saving money in our budget, and keeping the family connected. Not only do our favorite General Mills cereals give directly back to Sabrina's school through the Box Tops for Education program, but they keep a little bit of childhood wonder (and nostalgia for the adults) on our table every day. I have to admit, I'm a little disgruntled classic cereal box prizes, as my generation knew them, have become extinct, but we still have fun playing with the colorful marshmallows and filling out the interactive games on the box. Besides, so long as there is cereal, I can 'sneak' pretty much any other element in. I compromise with sugar marshmallows, and she eats her fruit, eggs, and toast. Then we can all start our day filling fueled, inside and out.

What Daughter Says: Breakfast at home makes 'cents' when you stop to add up the savings.

One Momma Told Me follower will win a Breakfast Makes Cents prize bundle from My Blog Spark and General Mills, including; 2 Boxes of GM Cereal, Branded Cereal Bowl, Lip Balm, and $25 Visa GC.

Do you #GiveACup about Hot Dog Eating Contests?

***I have been compensated for my time and efforts sharing the Peet's Social Sampling Experiment with you via a promotional gift card.
Check out Peet's Give a Cup social sampling experiment! Each week, you can vote whether you "give a cup" about a new topic.  Your vote helps to determine where Peet's hands out their new Single Cups. So do you #GiveACup? Image and value provided by our partner, Peet's
Momma Told Me: If I want to know, I'll ask.

Recently a national coffee chain invaded my email with the nerve to ask what I 'Give A Cup' about. I was a bit taken aback at such language in my inbox, but the question got me thinking. As it turns out, Peet's Coffee recently released their artisan roasts in Single Cup format, for use with Keurigs in home. Now they're touring the United States making sampling stops and asking consumers what really matters to them. Consumers can log on directly to the #GiveACup social sampling experiment website and track the Peet's bus stops, even weighing in on choices that decide the next stop on the road. How's it work?

It's simple, really. The brand puts out a weekly topic for their Facebook fans to debate. One week it's Zombies, this week it's Hot Dog Eating Contests as they enter New York. Vans vote on whether the topic has relevance to them, and Peet's decides whether to stop at a hot dog stand or move on, etc. It's a great social experiment designed to get people talking about things that generally don't matter, but everyone has an opinion on. Follow their Sip Cup on Twitter to track it's current location, and hunt it down for free samples of the new Single Serve Peet's cup, and a chance at sharing what you #GiveACup about.
So do I #GiveACup about Hot Dog Eating Contests? Well, I kind of do. Okay, I don't follow them regularly, and I've never been to a live hot dog eating contest, but professional eating is something that has always fascinated my father and I. In fact, it may be an odd father/daughter bond, but we hold our own miniature eating contests several times a year. Our favorite past-time is to visit Red Lobster during their Endless Shrimp promotion (most recently 4 times in 2 weeks), to stack shrimp tails in ornate arrangements on appetizer plates. W each have our own preparation strategy, much like professional food eaters, and take pride in who can 'off' the most shrimp in one sitting. An average session can last 2-3 hours, and has some surprising technique. Personally, I drink nothing but water the afternoon of the 'big day', and forgo sides (all but my salad, which helps slow digestion), and head straight for the shrimp.

Here's where I sound like a glutton (but remember, I don't do this for a living, it's a treat a few times a year), but we've finished off over 460 shrimp in one sitting together. We often go into the restaurant joking that our photos are on the wall with our 5ft long receipt stapled next to it as a warning to the servers on duty! It's all in good jest, though- I am, personally, fascinated with the process professional eaters go through to prepare their bodies for such consumption. It certainly is an art!
Blind cat Rescue
So, that's what Peet's wanted to know if I gave a cup about; now for what I really #GiveACup about; animal charity. If I could, I'd have a menagerie. I avoid zoos at all costs because it breaks my heart to see animals confined to such small habitats, and I think every domestic animal, no matter it's circumstance, deserves a safe and loving home. Growing up Momma would often pull in every stray cat off the street, and we'd usually take ti to the vet to discover it was terminally ill from cancer or some sort of feline HIV virus. I've watched my share of kitties pass in my life, but each of them I knew had lived out their final days in love.

More importantly, are the kitties that require extra care, that can live a long and fulfilled life with the proper patience and nurturing. It's rare to see someone adopt a cat that is blind or deaf, knowing this factor. Some pets become blind or deaf after adoption, and are cared for as part of the family, but many pet owners are intimidated by these handicaps and reach for a 'healthy' cat. Now I'm not encouraging we all go out and hunt down blind and deaf animals, but I do champion the work of noble organizations such as the Blind Cat Rescue in North Carolina. This non-profit organization cares for over 100 blind and FEL/FIV cats, and I make an effort to support them in any way possible. Click on over to watch these kitties daily, and even see your personal donations for toys and supplies openned on camera. Let's face it, we could all use a little extra adorable in our lives!

What do you Give a Cup about?

What Daughter Says: I blog because I like sharing what matters to me, whether someone's listening or not.

@Dermagist: Hydrating Spa System Review + Giveaway~ 7/13

*** I received a Hydrating Spa System to help facilitate this post. No further compensation was provided. All images and photos are original content copyrighted to Momma Told Me Blog, 2013.
Hydrating Spa System
Momma Told Me: There is No Fountain of Youth.

We all age. From the moment we take that very first gasp of air, until we punch our clock for the final exit, we are constantly changing. When we are young it is exciting to watch ourselves mature into an individual that is visibly ready for life's milestones; 'kids' can't wait to be 'teens', and 'teens' can't wait to be 'legal adults'. We have no complaints about our ever changing bodies then, it is all exciting; a right of passage. Until, somewhere around 25 for me, it hits us- at some point we will reach the peak of these changes. One day we will wake up and all of society's perceived desirable features will begin to fade. We are taught to fear this type of aging, that with these signs of time and experience, our beauty fades. It is something I wrestle with daily, not overly concerned with aging signs at this point in my life, yet cognitive enough to acknowledge preventative maintenance is key. I am certain I will never look in the mirror and hate the person looking back; there is an extent of physiological changes I can accept as badges of experiences conquered. However, there are some signs I know I have helped to cause, that I would rather erase.
It's hard for me to complain about the climate, living in Southern California. I'm not going to lie, we have it nice. I live about a walk to the beach, and a few hours from desert wind surfing, or mountain snow carving. For the most part, the year-round temperatures are quite desirable. However, just as those that suffer through cold and snowy Winters, us year round sun thieves are met with their own skincare concerns. In my early 20s I would visit the local tanning salon almost daily; today I proudly insist on being the whitest (I call it the fairest, like Snow White, it just sounds better). That is to say, when I am outdoors during the Summer I am often sheltered from the direct sun, and or using strong SPF protection. Believe it or not, dry and hot weather does bring it's own mixture of skin threats, outside of sunburn. One of the largest changes in our skin, we often overlook until it's quite literally staring us in the face, is uneven texture and breakouts due to clogged pores from sweating.
To fight these uncontrollable breakouts, I often try to soothe my skin with a strict skincare regimen, such as Dermagist's Ultimate Clarifying system. The brand relies on the fame of it's formulated Metahylate Complex (which admittedly sounds like something one should not put on their skin). This formulation is actually a compound of many well regarded, industry known, ingredients- a sort of super potion of the stuff that works, if you will. It operates as a dermal filler (anti-aging talk for fine line eraser and skin plumper), by filling in lines and wrinkles while lifting the skin. The skin is then encouraged to regenerate, for new cell growth that results in visual effects long term. It's not a new approach to skincare, but it's a unique formulation that promises dramatic results to multiple causes of aging signs. These and similar principles have helped make Dermagist the frill free, pharmaceutical grade, approach to healthy skin,
A few months back I received the Hydrating Spa System, consisting of Hydropeutic Body Lotion, Hydro-Renewal Hand Cream, and Foot and Heel Revitalizing Cream. Together these three products are a 360 attack on dry, tired, skin prone to wrinkles and age spots. I'll admit, I've never used a complete lotion care routine before; I typically lotion my legs daily, and treat my feet once a week with a home pedicure. My hands are perhaps the most neglected, which is ironic considering how much I use them daily (physically and in photos). I won't lie, I'm a wee bit too young to judge age and sun spot removal, but I was immediately attracted to the thought of using the Hydro-Renewal Hand Cream to smooth some of the fine lines and tough skin around my wrists. After my first use I was hooked. This white, cream based product had a slightly oily sheen that absorbed into the skin like silk, and covered a large area with minimal product. The fragrance was slightly citrus, and at the same time herbal, but very light.
Hydro-Renewal Hand Cream
I used the complete Hydrating Spa System daily for 30 consecutive days. After the first few days I fell into a rhythm of application. I would apply the Hydropeutic Body Lotion all over immediately after drying from my shower. I'd focus especially in rough patches of skin, such as my elbows and heels, and weight loss marks around my thighs and hips. In the afternoon, by the time my hands were beginning to feel 'thirsty' again, I'd treat my hands for a mini spa escape. And, in the evening, just before tucking into bed, I'd reach for the Foot and Heel Revitalizing Cream to treat my feet. (Ladies, if you're real good you can even convince your other half to help you out with this part for a true spa experience!) Each of the three products is similar in texture and scent, though they vary slightly with special key ingredients formulated for each intent and purpose. The Foot and Heel Cream is easily my favorite for the addition of Eucalyptus and Peppermint, which creates a really great relaxing fragrance note in the evening.
Hydropeutic Body Lotion
The Dermagist Hydrating Spa System is really a cohesive collection of products designed to nourish your skin from head to toe. It's great for those who have some unwanted signs of skin aging they'd like to erase, or for those a little younger looking to maintain the health of their skin and prevent unwanted wrinkles and spots. All 3 of the products are highly infused with antioxidants, which tend to immediately 'perk' up skin for a firmer and more natural appearance. I've been quite satisfied with my daily regimen, and am grateful for the new experience. I never thought to treat my skin so thoroughly, but will be carrying on the schedule through the Summer! How do you keep your skin healthy during hot Summer months?

What Daughter Says: Learn about seasonal skincare and protect yourself from the signs of skin aging with powerful cosmeceutical compounds like the Dermagist Hydrating Spa System.

 One Momma Told Me reader will win a Hydrating Spa Skincare system from Dermagist!

Walk, Slither, Fly, and Scare Your Way To #MonstersU Review

***Our family attended a press screening prior to this feature's release. No form of compensation, or review was contingent upon our viewing. All #MonstersU concept art and screenshots are copyright Disney/Pixar 2013.
Monsters University concept art
Momma Told Me: The best family films entertain the family.

My childhood was timed in such a manner that my very first Disney fascination was Aladdin. It had everything a kid could want, for a feature film of it's time, colorful characters brought to life by the charismatic voice of Robin Williams, and the mesmerizing score of Alan Menken and Tim Rice. I was whole heartedly in love with 2D animation, until Pixar appeared on the scene with their introduction of a whole new genre. Toy Story (1995) revolutionized how children of the future would view animated entertainment. Storytellers were no longer limited by the human hand; concepts could be brought to life through digital programming and computer generation. It was a prequal to the video game revolution of my teenage years.

Now, everyone has a favorite Pixar film. Finding Nemo often receives the most shout outs in pop-culture, though I argue WALL-E was a cinematic breakthrough, visually. Secretly, one of the lesser acclaimed movies, Ratatouille, has always been high atop my list. I'll say it now, for all to read; I never paid much obsession to Monsters Inc. By the time it was released in 2001, I was already in high school. As strange as it sounds, I recall looking forward to A Bug's Life much more than I ever raised a brow at Monster's Inc. However, A Bug's Life was intended to be Pixar's crown jewel, and pushed back behind the release of Toy Story, as it's premiere film. I remember seeing a preview for A Bug's Life in 1994, prior to even Toy Story's release, and asking Momma when that 'bug movie' was going to come out every week for years! And today, who clamors to watch A Bug's Life?
But I digress. As most things tend to go, having a child in one's household can really foster a new perspective. I'm not quite sure how far back it was 'leaked' that Pixar had a Monster's Inc prequel in the works, but I feel as though I, myself, have been put through a lifetime of 'When's the new Monster's movie coming out?' So, you'll imagine my relief when the prophetic screening invite wound up in my inbox last month. I could finally check 'that one' off my list, we were headed to see Monster's University! Of course, in preparation, we watched the original film, a relic to modern childhood films, and I began to fall in love with the characters in a way I hadn't ten years earlier. There are so many things one can see in a Pixar film. I'm sure college papers could be written on the style of character design, the score of music, the story building, etc. Watching a Pixar film is a completely different experience each time, and that's why I love Pixar.
Pixar's The Blue Umbrella
I've already shared our journey to see #MonstersU, which involved minor face painting, to resemble Sulley, and the furious clutching of Monsters University dog toys (shown above). I'd picked up some jumbo quarter machine (prize) balls and stuffed them with $.25 candy from the party store, and the three of us arrived over an hour early, bums in seat, clutching Mike or Sulley dog toy. By this point I was pretty excited. I'd kept my media buzz on the film to a minimum, so the film would be as 'fresh' as possible, and boy was it worth it! But first the audience was treated to a classic Pixar short, the acclaimed The Blue Umbrella. This entirely animated masterpiece pushes the limits of computer rendering with rapid movement and vibrant colors against moody shadowing. It is, at it's simplest, a tale of two umbrellas in the big city, but it is ultimately an uplifting bit of commentary on the human, erm Umbrella?, spirit. And, if that didn't get the message across, the point here is to arrive at your seats before the lights go down, so you can catch this Pixar short!
But what about the actual film? It seems almost a mute point to even 'review' the film at this point. Chances are the happy meal hype and constant stream of commercials had your kids drag you over the weekend. For those still undecided, I'm here to offer a rare, and enthusiastic 2 thumbs up. Recall me saying I was never much of a Monster's Inc fan? Well #MonstersU not only stands on it's own as a separate film, but the prequal style makes it exceedingly appropriate to serve as the introduction into the Monsters franchise for younger generations. I do have to say, I was not thrilled to hear we were going into yet another '3D' film- but grumbles aside about grease smeared plastic glasses, Monster's University lacked the classical 'cheap 3D' visual gimmicks. You know, the ones where a hundred arrows are flying at the screen for no other plot reason than to play with visual boundaries? This 3D feature played beautifully to my eyes, and naturally to my perception with beautiful 3D rendering that brought textures to life, not action sequences.
Monsters University screen cap
Monster's University seemed to quadruple the amount of 'monster' in this film. That's great, because young children love to use their imagination to craft these bumps in the night, and Pixar brought nearly every type of monster conceived to life, from scary to Squishy. And there are plenty of new core characters to fall in love with; did I mention Squishy? Perhaps one of the more loveable newer characters Squishy is a multi-eyed, blob like character that happens to have a mother who owns the Oozma Kappa (OK) sorority house our famed heroes, Mike and Sulley, wind up in. Speaking of characters, keep your eyes open for Archie the Scare Pig mascot, shown above, who I am officially petitioning to be made the next Monster's U plush.

So, does the transition from working Monsters to wild and rambunctious college students lose some of the younger crowd in the mix? I was worried some of the 'University' themes might get a little mature for the K-5 group, but I praise Pixar for a classy job well done. Of course, the entire premise is of two Monsters living the 'campus' life, and trying to figure out where they fit in. The majority of the main plot circles around sororities and fraternities; I'd rather not have our 10 year old asking too many questions about their real life counterparts. Thankfully, Pixar kept the shenanigans, and 'events' to a PG, Monsters nature, which was quite classy.
Aside from this film literally tickling my retinas (I could watch this for days and feel giddy from the explosion of colors, patters, and textures), Monster's University is without a doubt a visual triumph, sure to entertain even the staunchest of Pixar skeptics. I loved seeing our beloved heroes from childhood up, and found it interesting how the movie wove around the core message of friendship. Believe it or not, loveable Sulley is really quite the schmuck for the first 70 minutes of the film. Sabrina (10) actually switched from Sulley to Mike plush characters after walking out of the theater. The ugly green, one-eyed, monster that previously had little fan appeal is now a childhood role model (go figure). As put by a 10 year-old, "Sulley might be cuter, and better at scaring, but Mike's a real friend, and you don't find many of those!"

Parents, do expect some thematically intense scenes, particularly with Dean Hardscrabble (possibly the most terrifying representation of a monster in the entire film), and a few moments of breathtaking fear towards the end, as our heroes reach the climax of their journey. Obviously, since this is a prequel, we know everything turns out fine; be sure to remind the little ones of that! Overall, I am certain we will be seeing this on the big screen again, within the next few weeks; and I'd go so far as to say it is one of my favorite films of the year, so far. Not bad for a 'kids film,' right?

What Daughter Says: As if you weren't going to already, get into a theater and see this film!

@NoCleanAquarium Betta Fish Tank Review + Giveaway ~ 7/6

***I was provided a No Clean Self Cleaning Betta Aquarium Tank and IllumaFlex LED  for the purpose of this feature. Regardless, all photos and opinions contained there in are property of Momma Told Me Blog 2013.
**Click to wander on over to our guide for first time Betta owners, and Betta shopping experience, post.
Momma Told Me: No family members that can be flushed!

A few days back I announced that our family had grown by one blue and red Halfmoon Male Betta fish. My love for animals has not lessened much since childhood. Much like Sabrina (10), today, I would always insist on stopping in at every pet store we passed while out running errands. I'd literally drag Momma in, taking my time to pay special attention to each and every species of unique pet. With the exception of birds, I'd make an argument for adoption with each step. Of course the fluffy animals were the biggest temptation, but I didn't discriminate against those with scales either. For years, growing up, I'd longingly stare into the giant wall of tanks at our nearby megolo-pet-store,hands outstretched and little pig nose pressed up against the glass. In and out, my breath would create little clouds of humid fog; back and forth my wide eyes would move with the swimming fish.
Self Cleaning Fish Tank
Year after year I'd watch my friends come home from the county fair with a little round baggie full of water and a colorful Betta fish darting back and forth. I'd go to the neighbor's house and watch the punchy little black Goldies, and to Grandma's where their backyard pool had been converted into a sanctuary for Koi. To me, it seemed fish were the simplest pet to care for; to Momma it was a cleaning and logistics nightmare only overshadowed by the thought of a cage and a rodent. Confident I'd never adequately keep the tank clean, she denied my requests for a Betta throughout my childhood. The result was an adult me, completely terrified of the dubious chores involved with owning a fish. For all like my former self, I am here to tell you we have made the Betta tank plunge and it couldn't be simpler to add and care for a new colorful family member. Considered a one of a kind innovation in it's industry, the Self-Cleaning Betta Aquarium by No Clean Aquariums is revolutionizing childhood first pets. Not only do these nature inspired tanks operate free of electricity or pumps, but their naturally filtering water system encourages less hands on care, which extends the life of your finned friend.
I'll admit, before I knew the Self-Cleaning Betta Tank was, well, self cleaning, I was in love with it's modern skyscraper design and sturdy build. I carried this half gallon tank, empty of course, into our local pet store to pick up our new family member and received plenty of excited inquiries. All of the employees in the aquatic department marveled at the unique Self-Cleaning concept. Then, the following week, when we returned for dog treats, the associate who had previously helped us re-approached us with some excitement, "I was just doing some research about new Betta tanks the other night and I saw your tank! That is so cool how it filters naturally with each water change- I'm going to recommend this to all of my customers!" Currently sold exclusively online, I'm expecting to see this revolutionary tank system sold in major pet chains soon, with all the buzz in our humble town!
The Self-Cleaning Betta Aquarium has thick 3/16" glass walls, and stands at near a foot tall. Basic assembly instructions are provided and starter elements, such as an LED light and NCA approved stones are also offered as add-ons. When you first receive you tank be sure to give ti a good soap free rinse, and prepare your filtered water with approved Betta drops. The water should sit out at room temperate for a few hours before introducing your new fish, so it's important to do this step before beginning to assemble your Self-Cleaning Aquarium. Next, insert the copper spout into the designated rubber O-ring, and clear spout tube into the external end of the Spout. Fold the clear plastic net insert into the tank so it rests atop the already inserted plastic reservoir. There is a small plastic screw that will help align the draining tube, a square cutout in the net-like reservoir to guide it in place. Insert the plastic draining tube into the rubber grommet cavity, leading to the copper spout, and align the bottom of the tube with the central reservoir cavity. Next, you may add the appropriate rocks, decorations, and plants; paying special consideration to create a floor that will allow for microscopic filtration, without providing small spaces for your fish to get stuck.
Our Self-Cleaning Betta Tank included a No Clean patented Illuma-Flex LED light system, in clear. Color changing Illuma-Flex systems are also sold for a nominal additional charge. As Bettas require a natural light cycle, and their tanks should be kept out of direct light to discourage algae growth, an LED light system is prudent for the happiness of your fish. Adding a light source to your tank will also serve to enhance ambiance in your home or office setting. The Illuma-Flex includes two fastening suction cups, to guide the bending coil base along the side of your aquarium, and prop it up fro overhead lighting. At the base of Illuma-Flex is a USB connector that attached to an included extender to plug directly into a USB power source (computer, tablet, etc), or for use with the included optional SC adapter. Because of the bend-ability of the light's base, it is easy to bend the light back for feeding and cleaning, requiring minimal disturbance and handling. The Illuma-Flex is surprisingly bright, and adds wonderful ambiance to our living room, where the self-cleaning tank is currently housed on a central cabinet.
Self Cleaning Betta Tank
So how about that 'No Cleaning'? It is suggested that a half gallon Betta tank have the water changed once a week, or more often depending on visible water clarity and quantity of living plant life. Changing the water in our Self-Cleaning Betta Aquarium is as simple as preparing the replacement water with Betta drops, and to room temperature. Next, I place a standard drinking glass beneath the drain spout, against the tank's side. Slowly I pour the fresh filtered water into the tank, careful not to disturb the plant life with a fast pour, and just the right speed to allow the water on the bottom reservoir to be forced up the drainage tube at a steady speed. Remarkably, all of the waste collected at the bottom, beneath our rock basin is propelled up the tube and out the spout into the glass below. Not only can I see the waste at the bottom of the tank, prior to cleaning, but I can see it in the collecting glass when I am done. Our Betta (named Gary) is only disturbed with the movement of water, and never needs to leave the tank itself. This minimizes my time, and increases his chances of thriving in a healthy environment, without human disturbance. Waste water can also be collected as fertilizer for household plants.
Halfmoon Betta Male
Because it is so simple to refresh your fish's water, it is recommended that the tank can be cleaned as often as once a day. General Betta care dictates a minimum of once a week cleaning, and I have been trying to process filtered water, and a minimum half tank water exchange every 2-3 days. When there is so little to be done for proper tank maintenance, there is no reason not to provide our Betta with the freshest water possible. No Clean Aquariums hope to release other size and models of tanks in the near future, and are actively collecting feedback and suggestions on how to improve the existing Betta half gallon tank model. So far our Self-Cleaning Betta Tank has been adored by family and guests alike. I love that the tall tank design is space saving, and also sturdy against curious feline admirers (and boy does Truffles spend enough hours a day transfixed by our new fish!) The Self-Cleaning Betta tank is so simple pet lovers of any age can maintain a healthy and happy environment for their fish!

What Daughter Says: Don't be afraid of affordable Betta pets. No Clean aquariums take the guesswork out of cleaning and care.

One Momma Told Me reader will win a Self-Cleaning Half Gallon Betta Tank from No Clean Aquariums!

Santa Maria Tri Tip Wraps Recipe w/ Private Selection #Ad

***I am a member of  the BzzAgent Community. I received free product vouchers and/or product discounts to help facilitate this post. No further compensation was provided. All images and photos are original content copyrighted to Momma Told Me Blog, 2013.
Private Selection Artisan Ingredients
Momma Told Me: Great things are worth the extra money.

Those who've read Momma Told Me for a while know I do not discriminate against grocery stores. As a child, Momma would drag me from one chain to the next, usually a minimum of 4 stores on a single Wednesday, where we would meticulously hunt the weekly circulars for coupon match-ups. It might seem a little backwards to spend so much time trouncing around town hunting the best deals, but it was an art Momma had truly mastered. Therefor, I, who operate on a much smaller frugal scale than the famed Momma, have also learned the assets of each of my local chains. It's great to know your way around a weekly ad, but it's even more important to know which chain has the friendliest baker, the freshest artisan bread, or the best cuts of meat. There are some staples you simply can't skimp on, or coupon for free, and when my family's concerned, quality is of the utmost importance.
PrivateSelection Ciabatta Loaf
Most chains have their own in house brands, but not every grocery chain has their own premium, or artisan, brand. These are products produced in house not for the customer's monetary value, but the quality of the ingredients and flavors featured within these labeled products. For years I have seen Private Selection cuts of meat in my local Ralph's meat department. The majority of these cuts are lamb, locally, and I rarely have the budget for a luxurious meal such as that. However, the Private Selection label extends far beyond select cuts of pampered meat, to include everything from artisan breads and maple syrup to premium steak rubs and olive oil. Private Selection is essentially Kroger's way of taking your meal to the next level with a comprehensive collection of products that work cohesively to add extra flavor, and remove time, from your meal planing.
Tri-Tip Rub
cooking tri tip in the oven
I'll admit, I love to grocery shop. If I had my druthers I'd spend hours just roaming the aisles of the local grocer, discovering new flavor combinations and exploring the most recent product launches. Unfortunately, I'm not usually blessed with the time for this luxury. A typical grocery trip involves toting a 20 something male and bored (to 'tears') 10 year old up and down the aisles at a speed rarely street legal, let alone approved for a grocery cart. Yes, I'm guilty of the frantic 'shelf swipe' maneuver, and I've even cut off an old lady in an attempt to circumvent getting stuck being a long transaction. These are not things I'm particularly proud of, but let's face it, as the household's head chef and pantry stockist, I'm not afforded the luxury of much meal planing and ingredient discovery. I usually have to buy what's on the list, in and out, no tie for exploration.

So, when BzzAgent sent a mission my way to discover the range of premium Private Selection branded products, at my local Kroger, I didn't hesitate to accept. Not only was the mission to experience these artisan, gourmet, ingredients, but to explore the Private Selection Great American Summer Recipes as well. When you log onto the Great American Summer sub-site, you'll instantly come face to face with an all-American Cherry Pie. Then you'll be asked to make a choice, upload your own regional recipe, or explore the virtual map for Private Selection infused recipes spanning National flavors. There's even a few surprise coupons and sales to be discovered, so take your time click through the interactive map.
Whole Grain Garlic Mustard
I learned about regional Summer recipes such as the Mississippi Slugburger (a cheese infused all-beef patty), Chicago Italian Beef with Homemade Giardineria, and Boston Creme Pie Cupcakes. I'm not kidding you folks, your entire Summer menu is just waiting to be discovered the the Great American Summer site! Living, and raised, in Southern California, it didn't take long for me to decide which Great American recipe I was going to duplicate with Private Selection ingredients; West Region: Santa Maria Tri Tip Steak. Unfortunately, much to my dismay, my local Ralphs still only carry the Private Selection Lamb, so there was no red meat to be bought on my discovery trip. I had to make a pit stop at the local butcher- but the artisan flavors remained with the addition of Private Selection branded Texas Barbeque Seasoning/Rub, Whole Grain garlic Mustard, and Medium Chipotle Salsa. Ironically, none of the items I received FREE product vouchers for this mission were included in the recipe I had chose, or even stocked locally to me- so I bought these items out of pocket (that's how yummy they looked).
Cooking tri tip in the oven
Chipotle Chili Pepper Salsa
Regular readers also know our household has been sans-grill for about a year, since our last grill bit the big one in our move. No worries, I was determined to make my tri-tip entirely in the house; after all, I'd done it a whopping single time before! I'll include the recipe and instruction at the bottom of the post, but here are some general pointers for cooking a tri-tip inside your home. Most importantly, just like you would on the grill, avoid poking, cutting, or stabbing your meat until you have reached the maximum cook time for a minimum Rare meat. This means keeping that oven closed the first 30 minutes (for a 3lb tri-tip), and using a quick read digital thermometer if you feel compelled to check temperatures. Additionally, you will be cooking a cut of meat that is traditionally mounded in fat on a minimum of one side. Cook the tri-tip fat pad up first, and place the meat on a secondary rack, or upon vegetables to prevent burning. Meat touching the bottom of your roaster will burn when sitting in the fat, so I suggest quartering a fresh onion and using the slices as padding between the pan and meat.
Santa Maria Tri Tip Steak Wraps
I can't begin to explain how flavorful this tri-tip turned out. Because we double seasoned it, with the rub, then by basting with the Garlic Mustard Marinade, the meat developed that classic tri-tip flavor char that is so signature with this cut of meat. I was worried I wouldn't get enough flavor, cooking the meat in the oven, but the onions and the marinade really helped lock in the juices. We could have enjoyed this hunk of premium meat straight off the roast, but we composed a series of wraps, like a dignified family. While my tri-tip was resting, tented, outside the oven for 10-15, I tossed some diced onions, mushrooms, and peppers in the juices from the pan, and with the remaining marinade. I also diced up the onions from beneath the meat, and served those as a side garnish for those that like a little extra crisp and flavor to their onions. Combine the Santa Maria Trip Tip and vegetables in your chosen tortilla, scoop a few generous spoonfuls of Private Selection Medium Chipotle Salsa, and enjoy this flavorful and healthy Great American entree!

Have you ever tried any of the Private Selection products before? Which Great American Recipe looks best to you?

What Daughter Says: Private Selection products helped bring American flavor to my table with minimal effort.