Back to School with Starbucks Fall Blend

I’d say we’ve enjoyed some beautiful Fall weather this last week… except that it’s technically still Summer! But I guess that’s what happens when you transplant yourself an extra 300 miles further north. Life has been more than hectic these last few months – from the normal tensions close quarters bring while we stayed with family during our search for a house, to all the craziness and paperwork that goes along with finally (finally!) closing on a place – I’m a little surprised we (and all our stuff) survived. But here we are – a month and a half into our new house, almost unpacked and happy.

However, winter is coming and we have now entered the world of no public transportation. A place where my Grandmother’s old tease that she walked to school in 8 feet of snow, uphill both ways, might be closer to reality. Prior to moving to Northern Vermont, I always had easy access to light rail, subway, commuter train or bus service. Now? I’m a newly re-licensed (but out of practice) driver. So, although my oldest child has reached preschool age and there are many really wonderful preschools within a 20-30 minute radius from our semi-rural home, I’ve decided not to enroll her this year, partially because I haven’t had any practice driving in winter conditions. Home school is probably better than possible death. But, of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t participate in the Back to School spirit!

When I was younger, going back to school always meant shopping (haha, a shopaholic is born) – I loved picking out my new art supplies, folders (Lisa Frank, anyone?), notebooks, a pencil case, a backpack and always a special first day of school outfit. So although we’re overflowing with arts and craft paraphernalia, I made sure to let O pick out a brand new notebook in her favorite color.

But until now I didn’t realize I no longer had a Back-to-School/ beginning of the Fall tradition except a vicarious one. Happily, Starbucks has come to my rescue once again with a limited edition Fall Blend coffee. Wait, a coffee I can only get when the mornings turn crisp and only right before the leaves begin to change color? What a wonderful cue. And unlike the spiced apple ciders and pumpkin lattes I look forward to every year but can only drink sparingly, the medium roast Fall Blend is a cup for every day (until the Holiday and Christmas blends come out, of course ;).

My standard excuse for my coffee habit is that it wakes me up and helps me deal with my little noisemakers who are inevitably bouncing around way earlier than they should be. But these days are not going to be around forever – this blog post made me think about the fact that my little girl is going to be out of the house for half the day almost every day next year when she starts Kindergarten. So even though this may not be a chalkboard sign milestone year, anything that enhances my memory and enjoyment of these precious once-in-a-lifetime moments with my children, even if it’s just a random Tuesday in September, well, that’s excuse enough for me.

STBKS Fall blend

I was lucky enough to be sent product to sample from Starbucks. However, the comments and opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. I was not paid for this blog post.

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How Starbucks Spring Blend Saved My Life – Or, Moving 300 Miles Away

spring stbks collage 2

I’ll always remember what we did this Spring because we moved from New Jersey to Vermont… and we only had 11 days to do it. My husband had applied and interviewed at a few different places and we were waiting to see if any of those jobs would pan out. We had already gotten permission to do a 6 month extension on our lease, just in case, but once we got the offer for this job in Vermont, it was now or never. Eleven days is almost 2 weeks – totally do-able, right? I don’t think any of us actually believed we were going to go through with the move though, because we didn’t pack a single box until that day.

Not only did we wait until the last minute, we also have 2 young children who made packing nearly impossible during daylight hours. I don’t know how many boxes were unpacked while I was distracted elsewhere and how many times children had to be evicted from box houses (and other newly empty structures) before I realized it was much more productive to pack after bedtime (which luckily isn’t too late at 7 pm). Even so, the adults were up until midnight or later on most nights.

It’s probably not surprising that this adventure involved A LOT of coffee. With fortuitous timing, to say the least, I received a bag of Starbucks’ 2014 Spring Blend to sample! But, since images of us drinking the coffee would also include bleary eyes, no make-up, messy hair and ragged, not-afraid-to-get-dirty clothes which just shouldn’t be broadcast online for all of eternity, instead I give you…

Oren in bookcase collage 2

Only because I received my coffee sample right before all this chaos started, I can tell you that Starbucks’ 2014 Spring Blend is delicious. (By the end of the move, all I could have said was that it was hot and caffeinated). I’m not sure I tasted the chocolate or sweet orange undertones, but I was surprised that the few sips I savored were light enough for my palate, even with this blend being described as a medium body (I generally favor breakfast and other blonde blends). My husband, who is drawn to dark roasts, also enjoyed it. Of course – the one coffee we can happily share is only available seasonally, haha. Coffee can be stored for a long time in the freezer, right? (– looking it up now.)

The day we loaded up the rental truck, New Jersey decided to punish us for leaving with monsoon rain all day and all night. (Worst move ever!!). But the following morning, like an omen of a happy future, we were greeted with nothing but sunshine. We fueled up with more coffee for the 6 hour road trip and it was blissfully uneventful. I would have loved to pair my drink with buttery shortbread and early harvest berries as Starbucks suggested, but unfortunately, I was at the mercy of the convenience stores’ inventory, and it was more like peanut M&Ms and cheese sticks. Luckily, the taste of the coffee didn’t suffer from the lack of sophistication. :)
vermont blog collage big
And now we’re in Vermont – getting to know the people and the area. Most of the trees were still bare when we arrived, but it only took about a week before birds were singing and flowers were blooming (tons of dandelions). I don’t know if my kids will remember ever living in New Jersey, but I will. This is the Spring that we moved 300 miles away. And maybe every Spring hereafter, when the snow completely melts and there’s no threat of it coming back, I’ll sit on my front porch with a cup of Starbucks Spring Blend coffee and thank god I won’t have to move again for a long, long time.

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Thinker Contest: Interpret That Masterpiece!!

I’ve been endlessly amused lately by my 3 year old’s long and detailed explanations of her drawings. Her art became an after hours guessing game with Daddy for a while – the ultimate how well do you know your child showdown – but he knows her too well, it was way too easy for him. I was expecting a lot more creativity, a lot more comedy. Then I realized I just needed different players for this game. (Plus I have a wonderful prize from Starbucks that I need a reason to give away!).

O drawing 2

So here’s the rules: 1. Follow me on Twitter @ThinkerMommy, 2. Follow me on Pinterest and 3. Leave a comment below with your best guess at what the drawing above depicts. The person whose comment most closely matches the description my daughter gave for this original piece of art will win. And if this guessing game turns out to be far easier than I expected and more than one person gets it “right,” I will give extra points for creativity (and/or use a random number generator) to select the winner. P.S. #1 and #2 aren’t totally required (like if you don’t have a Twitter account or you don’t use Pinterest, don’t let that stop you from entering) but please follow me on those sites otherwise, I’d really appreciate it!

The winner gets a 10 oz bag of ground Holiday Blend coffee from Starbucks and 2 stacking peppermint-striped Starbucks mugs (12oz).

Note: Only 1 bag of coffee is included in the prize - I had to sample the other one.

Note: Only 1 bag of coffee is included in the prize – I had to sample the other one.

The First Christmas Eve You’ll Remember

xmas countdown frameChristmas Eve, AKA crunch time. Now that one of my babies is old enough to believe in Santa and all other sorts of wonderful magical things, this is our first Christmas where every little detail matters. I do not want a heartbroken child because Mommy forgot to remind her to sprinkle her bag of reindeer food outside (um, Santa sometimes comes back the next night to feed his reindeer….?). And 3 year olds are savvy; I was just asked why the Santa who was waving on the side of the road wasn’t there again the next day (He went back to the North Pole to get ready for Christmas… but sometimes he comes back to the malls for photo opps? Crap.). There are so many questions I’ve never even thought of – I can’t adequately prepare for this!!

Another reason I’m probably so concerned about everything being perfect is that I didn’t celebrate Christmas when I was a child. So besides the fact that I’m reliving my own childhood (I really really really love this holiday), there’s a ton of activities I’ve never EVER done before, even after starting to celebrate myself as an adult: leaving out cookies for Santa, reading a Christmas book the night before, packing our Santa Sack full of old toys for other little girls and boys (Santa takes it as a kind of exchange), scattering reindeer food, making and leaving out a Santa Key since we don’t have a chimney – these are all new to me too. And as if the plate wasn’t already full, we couldn’t forget the Xmas traditions my husband and I have had for years before kids: driving around to see our neighbor’s light displays, leaving cookies for our mail carrier (Mr. Mailman gets a bag decorated with LOTS of stickers this year), and playing my collection of Christmas CDs on repeat. Phew. Fingers crossed I didn’t forget anything.

xmas wrapping 2013

But really, nothing says tradition for me like procrastination. Normally I love watching presents start piling up under the tree as the advent calendar gets emptier. But this year, my youngest is teething and nothing has been safe from his jaws of doom – so we thought it better to leave all the gifts hidden as long as possible. Unfortunately, I learned it’s also pretty easy to wait/forget to wrap gifts when you know Santa is bringing them all on Christmas. Soooo… I have a lot of wrapping to do. Time to pull out the coffee!!

This year I’m going with Starbucks’ Holiday Blend. During our first taste test, my husband said (insert Jersey accent): “It tastes like coffee. It wakes me up. I like it.” Clearly it’s up to me to be more specific. If you’ve never tried the Holiday Blend, it is much more mellow and less spicy than Starbucks’ Christmas blend. The package says “Soft and Layered” and that it’s a medium roast, but to my not-so-refined taste buds, I’d say it’s similar to a breakfast blend. As I got to work, I spiked my Starbucks with hot cocoa and peppermint marshmallows – instant Christmas café au chocolat! Thank you, coffee, for keeping me going until, wow, midnight. Just a few more packages to go, but I had to take a break and write this. Don’t want to risk repetitive action injuries… (I swear this isn’t more procrastination). Now where are Santa’s cookies?

Merry Christmas!

I was lucky enough to be sent product to sample from Starbucks. However, the comments and opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. I was not paid for this blog post.

My Favorite Pregancy Drink

I am a huge Starbucks fan and have been ever since I worked in one on campus during my college years – I love everything from coffee, tea and chai to Frappuchinos and vanilla soy lattes. Pregnancy is, therefore, a bummer.

Lucky for me now prego with #2 that I’ve been on decaf varieties ever since finding out I was expecting my first baby. All the nausea I was already having back then made it hard to tell whether I was feeling crappy from the pregnancy or the caffeine withdrawal – so it worked out. Then, after the birth of my daughter, I pumped for a year (so still no caffeine) and after 2 years I was mostly just used to it. I’d probably run circles around my apartment like a hamster if I had a normal cup of coffee now.

But there are a few things I do miss and one of those is a Chai Tea Latte. Tazo does make decaf chai but Starbucks chains don’t sell it from the bar (and not in most stores either). Plus, they do have a LOT of sugar and empty calories – not the best thing for growing a person inside you (of course, Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk is a totally different story…). So, when looking for herbal teas I noticed that Tazo makes a decaf chai in teabag form (also not usually in Starbucks stores but I found some at Target and online). And now you can make yourself a pretty darn good (and healthier) chai latte just like this:

  1. Steep 1 Tazo decaf chai tea bag in a mug of very hot water about 4 minutes
  2. Add sweetener (I use local honey to fight my seasonal allergies or organic agave nectar)
  3. Add a splash of milk (almond milk or soy milk work equally well)
  4. Your drink is the perfect temperature to enjoy right away and tastes pretty darn close to the real thing!
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