We’ve had a weird couple of weeks here in London. We spent all of last week looking for a new flat and couldn’t find anything that we liked as well as our current place. Then it was Dave’s birthday on Wednesday and we had a trip to Paris planned for the weekend to celebrate. Unfortunately, it was my good luck to get sick mid-week which led to me losing my voice completely by Friday. I’ve never lost my voice before and it was really weird to experience. Luckily, I felt not so sick by the weekend, but just didn’t have a voice at all. So we had a very nice, quiet trip to Paris. And it has been a quiet week around our house too because I still don’ t have my voice back. Crazy…but in a quiet way.
Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Cake Mix – If you’ve tried the Ghirardelli Brownie mix, and liked it, then you should try their cake mix too. If I’m honest, I think they might have stolen my idea of using their brownie mix for cakes. The texture is a little lighter than the brownies but it the cake still has that super chocolaty taste and moistness that you find in their brownies. Plus, you get the little chocolate chunks too. The frosting mix makes a really lovely chocolate buttercream frosting too; fluffy and tasty. In the box at Costco you get two cake mixes and two frosting mixes. The mixes are enough for a two layer 8″ or 9″ round cake. It was Dave’s birthday last week so I used the Ghirardelli mix to make him a cake. It was so delicious! It was certainly better than a cake that I would have bought at any of the local bakeries or supermarkets. It was so moist and almost seemed like a homemade (as in made from scratch) cake, except more chocolaty. When combined with the chocolate frosting it was actually chocolaty enough to please Dave too, which is hard to do. He really loves the Ghirardelli brownies and that is what I usually make him for his birthday, or as a special treat. It was nice to have something else to make and even nicer to have something else covered in chocolate frosting. You can also use the mix for cupcakes and I’m thinking I might try that next time. My cake pans that I have right now are 6″ rounds, so I could definitely use a bit less of the cake mix in them and have a few cupcakes instead. If you’re a couple, I would highly suggest the 6″ round cake pans. They’re the perfect size for a couple and will allow you to have a cute little slice of cake after dinner for a couple of nights. 2 cake & frosting mixes for £6.99 (US: $11.01). Item #: 0121545.
Mariani Original Soft Beef Jerky – Dave and I are both big fans of beef jerky. We always buy it when we’re going on a hiking trip because it is really the perfect snack for that kind of thing. It’s quick to eat and you don’t need anything like utensils or a knife, plus it’s got the protein and salt that you need when you’ve been out hiking for a while. Now, normally the beef jerky you get is pretty tough and can be kind of dry, which isn’t always so great. However, this ‘original soft’ jerky solves those problems. It seems to be thicker slices of beef which are definitely much softer than traditional jerky. The softer texture makes it much easier on your teeth too! The good thing is that you do still get a nice spicy taste with a peppery flavour. Yum! And hey, it’s also really low in fat and provides you with a high level of protein (as you would expect from beef). The jerky is from happy grass fed cows that get to roam around freely. According to the package they use 170 grams of beef to creat 100 grams of jerky. So, I’m wondering if they are able to maintain the softer texture because their jerky isn’t as dried out as other jerky. Or, maybe they cut their pieces thicker so that it still maintains some moisture in the center and that’s how they get the softer texture. I don’t know how they do it but I do really like the results. The one thing I would point out is that if you don’t consume it all after you open it, you need to refrigerate it to maintain its freshness. I do find it a little sad that they need to put the following warning on the package: Do not eat oxygen absorber sachet. How often do people eat those? They don’t really look like they’d be that enticing or even remotely tasty. 255 grams for £4.89 (£6.99 – £2.10 coupon) (US: $7.70). Item #: 0106900.
Hansgrohe Focus e2 Kitchen Tap – We’ve hated our kitchen tap since we moved into our flat. It isn’t that it is horrible to look at or anything, it’s just that the amount of water it puts out is not really adequate for a kitchen tap. So, we saw this nice Hansgrohe tap at Costco and decided that we would try it instead. When we remodeled our bathroom in Austin we had used all Hansgrohe fixtures (that we bought from Costco mostly). They were very easy to install, are engineered quite well, and performed very well. So, it was an easy decision to pick up the Hansgrohe kitchen tap. It has a couple of features that we really liked too. As with all of their faucets and shower heads, I think, this tap has their QuickClean Silicone aerator which allows you to just rub it to clean off nasty limescale deposits so that you can keep the tap running properly without a bunch of fuss. It also has the ComfortZone Swivel feature, which basically allows the faucet part to actually swivel around a full 360 degrees so that you can reach wherever you need. There is also quite a lot of space between the spout and the sink to keep you from bumping into it when you are cleaning bigger things in the sink. You get everything you should need to quickly get your new kitchen tap installed right in the box. Unfortunately, for us, the plumbing in our flat was completely uncooperative. There is this strange small connection from the pipes in our kitchen and would require a converter to install the lovely Hansgrohe tap. We were so sad! I was looking forward to having the new tap with its ease of cleaning and smooth movement. So, we have debated about getting the converter to make it work, or just taking it back and dealing with the tap that came with the flat. But I think we finally decided that we will just take it back to Costco and put up with the low flow tap we have now. However, if you have your own place or the right plumbing to make installing this as easy as it should be, then I would definitely suggest the Hansgrohe taps. We were really impressed with the quality of the Hansgrohe products that we installed in our bathroom in Austin. And I fully plan on installing them in all of our bathrooms and kitchen when we finally move back. £44.99 (US: $70.88). Item #: 0114095.
Canon MX410 Multifunction Printer – When we were visiting my mom in Kansas we were going to try to make it a little easier for her to print by putting her old printer on her wireless network. But it didn’t have built in wifi, so we were going to need a print server and then of course it was just this big hassle and started seeming like it was more of a headache than a help. There was something that Dave needed to set it up that he didn’t have and at that point, it seemed like by the time we got all the stuff needed to get her old printer working on her wireless network, plus new ink cartridges that she needed, it would almost be cheaper to get a new printer. Not to mention it would be easier. Of course, it wasn’t really cheaper to get the new printer, but it was almost as inexpensive when you factor in the cost of new ink cartridges. So, back to Costco we went in search of a nice multi-function printer. The best deal was on this Canon MX410 that does all the function she needs, but it also came with built-in wifi. Also, in the box at Costco you get the required ink cartridges and even some photo paper. The inclusion of the ink cartridges is great because that saves you like $30.00 and also means that you can get your printer set up without needing to buy anything else. Since Dave had already flown to Austin, I was the only tech support person and had to set up the new printer all by myself. To be honest, it was a pretty easy process and worked just like their instruction manual indicated. I think it took like 15 minutes. The hardest thing in the whole process was showing my mom how to work the new scanner. I’ve had great luck with the Canon printers and this one was no different. They have really good print quality and the software makes tasks like scanning quite easy. Having her printer on her wifi network is great for my mom because that means that she can keep her printer in her office area and still print from her laptop when she’s in her kitchen or family room where she is usually using it. It also means that she doesn’t have to worry about moving cables or stuff like that too. I also think that the print quality is better on the Canon than on her old HP, especially when it comes to photos. So, hopefully my mom will find it easier to use her new printer and will even use the scanner more now that it should be simpler as well. $79.99 (UK: £49.50). Item #: 639421.