Caramel Apple Snickers Salad – HaliPawz

I received a text message from my niece this morning asking me for the recipe for my Caramel Apple Snickers Dessert.   I immediately came to my blog to pull it up and realized I had never typed it up!  I took all of the pictures the last time I made it, but forgot to write the recipe.  I needed to correct this oversight immediately! Now, yes, the title is misleading, it isn’t really a salad, it’s a dessert, but let’s face it, we all feel better calling it a salad.

Dessert, caramel apple
I will admit, I didn’t come up with the recipe, I found it a while ago, back before I was writing a blog, so I didn’t save the information of where I found it or who had authored it.  I have made some changes to it to suit my preferences and wanted to share it with everyone.  Because it is a nice cool dessert, it makes a nice Fourth of July celebration dish but can be enjoyed all year long.

For my dessert, I chose to use Ambrosia Apples.  You can use any type of apple you want, but I chose these because they are a low acid apple, so more people can enjoy them, they tend to be more sweet, than tart, and they blend well with the other ingredients. If you want a tarter apple, Granny Smith apples may be better for you.

As some of you may recall from my pasta salad recipe, I like to use the half size disposable aluminum steam pans.  I usually buy the pans and lids from Sam’s Club and use them throughout the year.  I never have to worry about remembering my pan after a party.  Depending on the size pan you are using, you can adjust the apples and the snickers to match.

Ingredients

6 Ambrosia Apples (Can use any type of apple you choose)

12-15 Fun Size Snickers Bars (I used the fun size because ounce for ounce,

they are cheaper than the full size ones at Wal-Mart and easier to cut up)

1 16oz tub Cool Whip

1/2 cup Milk

1 5oz package Vanilla Instant Pudding (If you want more pudding flavor,

use two small boxes and 3/4 cup Milk)

Caramel Topping

Chocolate Topping

Handful of chopped pecans (optional)

Before I begin to mix everything, I start by cutting up the apples and the Snicker’s bars.  To speed up the apples, I use my Pampered Chef Apple Peeler Corer Slicer.  It works amazingly well, and then I just have to cut them into a little bit smaller pieces.  I take the peeling off because it’s easier for my mom to eat that way, but if you don’t have anyone with those issues, feel free to leave the peelings on.

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Apple being peeled by Pampered Chef Apple Peeler, Corer, Slicer

For the Snickers bars, I found it easiest to flip them over, cut down the middle, then cut along the bar in small, bite size pieces.  It is important to make sure you start with a sharp knife.  I’ve tried it before with a knife I didn’t sharpen, and it was a mess.  When I sharpen the knife right before starting, it cuts through the candy bar very nicely.

Flip Snickers bar over for easier cutting

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Chopped up Snickers Pieces

To start putting it all together, I make a small pattern of the caramel topping and chocolate topping on the bottom of the pan.  I know no one sees it, but I think it helps with the flavors being better mixed.

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In a mixing bowl, combine the milk and the pudding mix.  Slowly blend in the cool whip.  Once you have it at a nice consistency, fold in  the apples and the snickers pieces.

Once they are all mixed well together, spread the mixture out into the pan.  If you’re like me, I try to smooth it all out, so it’s flat and even, but since it’s a “salad” it doesn’t matter how it looks in the pan.  Well yeah, to me, it does!

Drizzle the caramel sauce and the chocolate sauce over the top.  You can sprinkle some pecans on the top if you want as well.  I know I know, with the Snicker’s having peanuts, why would you add pecans….to that I say….why WOULDN’T you add pecans?  Pecans ALWAYS go with chocolate, caramel, and apples!

Caramel Apple Snickers Salad

Chill for at least an hour before serving.  If you’re taking it to a party, you might want to consider taking another empty pan, put ice in the bottom, and let the salad sit on the ice to keep cold until it is served.

Enjoy!

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Happy 80th Birthday Mom – HaliPawz

My mom is turning 80 today.  As a writer, I want to convey all of my thoughts, my emotions, into the perfect masterpiece to share with her today, but I find myself critiquing every word. How do you say Happy Birthday to someone you thank God for everyday, someone you feel blessed to still have; someone you are fiercely protective of, yet want to encourage as much independence as you can? “Happy 80th Birthday Mom” just doesn’t seem enough.  

Happy 80th Birthday Mom. Looking forward to many more adventures!


As my mom enters her octogenarian years, I think back to how our lives, our relationship has changed.  As the youngest of six, I truly feel lucky to have had older parents.  I would find it funny when my friend’s grandparents were the same age as my parents.  I was ok with my mom & dad being older and parents, not best friends.  I think I always felt just a little closer to my dad growing up. I wanted to be with him more.  My mom was a stay at home mom until I went into first grade, then she started working.  Since she would work until 4, my dad would get home earlier so I just alway seemed to be with him when he was home.  My parents were more relaxed with me. They had raised 5 kids already. They were on “autopilot” with me. 
I learned some interesting lessons from my mom, long before I even realized they were lessons.  The older I get, the more I realize how much I am truly BOTH of my parents. I used to think I was so much of my dad’s daughter, but there is more of my mom than I would have ever imagined. 

I learned to be there for others when they needed you.  Growing up, mom would always be the first to volunteer to help someone, to recognize a need in others and help.  I didn’t realize these were lessons when I was younger. I used to think…why are you spending time with them or spending time doing that; instead of with me, or me and my sister(s).  It wasn’t until I was older, I realized she was always there for others, sometimes when no one else was. 

I learned tea is more than tea. True friendships are solid. The world could get along better with tea. My mom’s best friend, Pat, comes over about once a week, and has for as long as I can remember.  My mom would turn the teakettle on and they would proceed to get caught up on family, politics, neighbors. No topic seemed taboo. I never heard them disagree about an opinion.  I never see my mom drink hot tea except when Pat was over.  We grew up going on vacations with the two families. Pat is usually at any major family events when she can be.  They both may be getting older, but tea time still takes place.  They each sit at the exact same spot at the kitchen table they always have, and they still solve the problems of the world, or at least the problems in their worlds, their communities, their families.  

My whimsical, non-sensical, side is all her. From her passion for Hallmark Christmas ornaments, to her cute knick knacks. She has a flair for finding the cute, the different, the unique….and loves it.  I never realized until recently how that transferred over to me. It is this side, combined with my science & math side, that makes me so great in optical, in problem solving in general.  I can look beyond the part that makes “sense” and twist it to make it perfect.  I can see past what is in front of me to picture what is needed. 

Mom with the whimsical statue she liked at Omaha Zoo


On the Train at Omaha Zoo


Mom has a sense of adventure I never saw as a child. She is always willing to go somewhere.  She is always willing to experience something. The past few summers with mom have been the highlight of my summer.  She might not be able to walk very well but get her in her scooter and she is ready to go! She has lasted all day at Disney World, she has gone to the rodeo, she has survived days at the zoo in 95 + degrees. She loves doing things. You can always see a smile on her face when she is out seeing what the world has to offer.  Her willingness to just go, to just do something different is amazing to me.  Might even be why I was willing to go pick my nephew up at 12:30am so he could join me and my niece on our quest to find Pokemon.  

Representing Marysville Michigan in Florida


Her love for family is strong.  Her family, including her extended family, is the most important thing to her.  When asked what she wanted for for 80th birthday, she said, “for all of her kids and grandkids to be with her”. She didn’t want a big party. She just wanted us all together.  So guess what? Every one of my siblings and their kids and grandkids will be together with her celebrating the amazing woman she is.  My mom is such a trusting person. She looks for the good in others and believes in them. I am a cynical person by nature. I question. I dig. It is because of her I’m often willing to forgive. To give a second chance. 

Mom with Birthday Cupcakes after her surgery

Happy Birthday Mom


Mom is always willing to accept those as they are.  I used to say she looked at life through rose colored glasses like it was a bad thing.  Now, as an adult, I realized it is a good thing. It makes you accept life as it is.  It helps you navigate through the tough times.  

My mom is stronger than I could ever imagine. From the pain she endures because of her arthritis to the emotional scars she has from life in general. Losing both of her brothers fairly young, to caring for her husband as Alzheimer’s took his mind before his body. She took those moments. She bore the pain. She came out stronger on the other side.  It is because of her, her strength, I know I can get through anything as well.

Mom and Cayla Omaha Zoo

I am so blessed to have the amazing mother than I have.  I look forward to celebrating her 80th birthday with her and my family today and look forward to many more summer adventures with her and many more birthday celebrations! 


HAPPY 80th BIRTHDAY MOM! 

The Bandits Went Up My Tree – HaliPawz

Last night was a crazy night.  I needed to run an errand that I had been putting off, so at 10:30pm, my niece and I head out of the house to drive across town.  The dogs had been driving us crazy going in and out of the patio door, so I decided to take both of them.  Cayla put the leash on Bella, I put one on Zipper, and we headed out the door.  I saw Bella almost drag Cayla down the porch steps and all of a sudden, Zipper started his high-pitched, excited bark.  I look over and see something scurry up my tree.  I’m used to seeing squirrels going up and down it, but these were bigger, and a lot of them.  I look over again and peeking behind the tree is a raccoon!  I have never seen a raccoon in my yard, let alone a bunch of them. All of them had run up the tree except this one, who kept peeking at me around the tree.  I was trying to get Cayla to come back near me to see him, but Bella was pulling her in a different direction.  I couldn’t help but laugh because the raccoon would peek around, see me looking, then disappear again behind the tree.  We did this game for about 2 minutes.  Cayla was finally able to make it back on the porch to see him while I held the dogs.  She saw the game we were playing and then it ended as he also went up the tree.

Raccoon peeking out from behind a tree

Thank you to  irissansfrontieres for this perfect picture to match my story!

 

We used the flashlight on my phone to try to look up the tree to see all of them, but had no luck.  I needed to get something out of the van, which was parked under this raccoon climbed tree, so I unlock it and cautiously approach.  It’s like I was waiting for a raccoon to swipe my ankle from underneath as I approached the van.  Cayla, laughing at me, had to remind me they were poltergeist raccoons, but for some reason, I was just waiting for them all to start launching themselves at me in an attack as I neared the van!  Luckily I was able to enter and exit without harm, other than my pride as I was being laughed at.

As we were backing out of the driveway, we saw something come down out of the tree.  Assuming it was the raccoon, we looked to see where he headed off to….only to our surprise, it WAS NOT a raccoon, it was something else!  It was long, skinny, and seemed to have a funny walk.  We drove in the direction to see what it was, only to discover it was just a very skinny cat.  Wait…a cat???  What the heck was going on up in my tree?  An animal party?  I have raccoons AND cats up there at the same time!  All we could do was laugh at the situation!

We headed across town, turned down a road leading to our destination, only to see another odd-looking critter go running across the road.  We still have no idea what it was.  We tried to find it, but couldn’t.  While I was stopped for a few minutes, something round hit the top of my truck on the moon-roof and then rolled down the windshield and was gone.  It would not have been a big deal, except for the fact I was nowhere near a tree!  Now things are falling from the sky?!?!  What was going on?

As we pulled out of the driveway to head back home, we see yet another strange critter running across the path in front of us, but this time, we were able to identify the creature.  It was my favorite stinky friend; a skunk.  We waited, wanted to be careful to allow extra time for him to get where he was going before driving past him, especially considering all the craziness happening with the various critters.

As we were going along Gregory in Swope Park, my niece says, “deer”  I look, I don’t see anything, she says it again and I see a doe in front of us, off to the side of the road.  I slow down, giving her time to decide what way she was going to go.  She sees us, and then turns…..but does she run?  Oh of course not, that would be too much like normal and the night was anything BUT normal! This crazy deer turns and walks directly in front of us, down the street, with ATTITUDE!!!  I’m not kidding!  Her tail was SWISHING back and forth…..we both started laughing.  It was too much.  We follow her a short ways and then she runs off to the other side, as if to say, thanks for playing…see you soon!

We arrived home, no sign of our masked bandits in the tree, no sign of any other crazy critters in the yard.  I guess our crazy night of animals gone wild was over.  It was a humorous night for the two of us, the dogs were happy because they got to go for a ride in the truck, and my errand was complete.  All in all, it was a successful, adventurous, humorous trip!

 

If you like this and want to stay up to date with my posts, follow me on Twitter @HaliPawz  or Like me on Facebook.com/HaliPawz 

 

 

 

Hyundai Elantra, my latest Hertz Rental Car – HaliPawz

As my summer with mom draws to a close, it was time for me to head back to Kansas City, Missouri from Port Huron, Michigan. I rented a car from Hertz like I normally do. I wasn’t as happy this time about the rental price, but that is another story. I had picked the group “Toyota Corolla or similar” and ended up with a 2015 Hyundai Elantra.  I have some question about the Elantra and the Corolla being in the same class, but Hertz, like any rental car, is never specific enough to give you an true answer and it wasn’t so far off that I feel like complaining again to them.

Rental Car 2015 Hyundai Elantra

Rental Car 2015 Hyundai Elantra

Let’s talk about this car for a minute. The first thing I want to acknowledge is that it is a nice looking car. I’m really more of an SUV/truck person in general, but I do appreciate a decent looking car at a good value. The car has a nice sleek look to it. When I got in to drive away, I was impressed with the amount of legroom when you put the seat all the way back. I’m 5 foot 10, so plenty of legroom, especially for a long drive, is very important.  I still don’t like how low it is to the ground, like I mentioned in a previous rental review, but again, I’m used to being higher up in my mini suv.

Headed to my moms to pick up my luggage I didn’t have a real chance to check the vehicle out, as it is a straight shot on a normal road. The brakes were crazy intense though! I barely tapped them and the car jolted to a stop!

When I start loading the luggage, I was impressed with the amount of trunk space there was. I am not the neatest packer, especially on car road trips. As long as everything can shove in the trunk I am happy! Because of this, I appreciate ample trunk space. I fit my suitcase, a duffle bag, a baby gate (for the dogs), a 30 pound bag of dog food, two tie outs, the dog’s travel bag, my laptop bag, a pair of shoes, some miscellaneous small bags,  and a big Sam’s Club thermal tote with some food in it.

Hertz, Rental, travel

Hyundai Elantra Trunk filled with stuff

Since it’s a rental, I covered all of the seats in sheets and blankets.  Filled the dogs water cooler and put it in the back, on the floor.  Loaded the dogs up and we were on our way.

Bella asleep in the backseat of the Hyundai Elantra Rental Car

Bella asleep in the backseat of the Hyundai Elantra Rental Car

The backseat must not be too bad, because Bella was not as restless as she was on the trip six weeks ago in the rental car. She only wanted her head out the window for about two minutes and then settled in on the seat and fell asleep. Zipper crashed in his normal place on the floor of the backseat.

When I first hit the expressway, I was a little concerned as the car seemed to want to sway back-and-forth quite a bit. There wasn’t a lot of wind, so I wasn’t really sure what caused it. All I knew was it was going to be a long drive if it continued. After a while, I began to think maybe it was me, because it seemed to get better as we drove along. There is an interesting feature I found on the car, you can choose what mode you want to drive it. The options are normal, Sport, and Comfort. I’m not going to lie, I played with it a few different times on the road, and I honestly couldn’t see that much of a difference. The steering wheel might be a little tighter in sport mode but it was very minimal.

I have to drive from Port Huron, Michigan to Kansas City, Missouri pretty down pat. I usually know where I’m going to have to stop, I know when I’m a third of the way, I know when I’m half way, especially when I’m doing the drive overnight. As I was crossing Michigan, I was on the phone and realized that I had already been on the road about four hours and the gas tank was still at half a tank. I couldn’t believe it!  I made it all the way from My mom’s house, to Kanake, Illinois before I had to stop!  It wasn’t because I needed gas, it’s because my bladder gave out before the gas did. It only took 10 gallons to fill it back up and we were back on the road. I noticed I still had 447 miles to go until I reached my home, and the car was saying I had 417 miles to empty. Had I waited another half an hour, I would’ve only needed to fill the vehicle up once for a 12 hour drive! That is pretty impressive. In looking at the gauges I averaged about 36.8 to 38.4 miles per gallon.  Not too bad.

Hertz, rental, travel

Hyundai Elantra Gauge showing 36.8 mpg

Hertz, Rental Car, Travel

Notice the angle of the edges on the driver’s seat of this Hyundai Elantra

As I have mentioned before, I am not a small woman. The seats were not the most comfortable in my opinion. The edges kind of dug into my outer thighs a little bit so I found myself shifting a lot. Perhaps if I had a vehicle with power seats, it might have been a  little better because I could have raised them up a little, but I doubt it. I found myself sliding down in the seat quite often and then having to shift myself back up. It’s just not comfortable when you’re wearing a pair shorts! Another complaint I had which I have often in cars, is the position of the center armrest and the side armrest; there is no comfortable way for me to rest my arm on it while I’m driving. They were both way too low. I found myself bringing my left leg up and resting my arm on it while I kept my hand on the steering wheel.

For some reason I don’t seem to like the cruise control on this vehicle. I can’t explain it, but I feel like I was constantly tapping my break and shutting it off and then driving with my foot on the gas again. I hit a little bit of rain at one point in the drive, and the vehicle handled it pretty well. I had control of the vehicle at all times.

***A little safety tip… Never ever ever use your cruise control when it is sprinkling, raining, snowing, icy, etc.!  It is not safe.***

Okay, back to the review!

The headlights were weird. I know that sounds strange, but I had difficulty figuring out if my lights were on or not!  I drove at least an hour and a half to two hours with just my parking lights on until it got dark enough for me to realize I didn’t have my actual headlights on. What threw me off was it looked like they came on automatically because the dashboard lit up a little differently when I got dusk but it didn’t look like any lights were on the outside so then I flipped the switch and saw a slight change on my dash and what I thought were lights on the car but then, like I said, it was only my parking lights!  Oops! Oh well I eventually figured it out.

The mirrors on the side are very nice, they are a good size, and the driver side has a little mirror insert in the upper left hand corner so you can see the road from two different perspectives.

The gauge lighting is nice, you have a clear indication of your fuel, you can toggle between your trip Miles, your miles per gallon, how many miles to empty, what your average rate of speed is, and how long you have been on this trip. It was easy to reset each one of them when I  started my trip. As I am a huge fan of the color blue, I was happy to see that most of the lights on the dash were a nice navy blue tone. Accented with white or a lighter shade of blue depending on which one you were looking at.

The steering wheel has a nice assortment of gauges on it including your cruise control your emotions to go between the different styles of driving, your trip information and you can quickly reset it from your steering well. I was surprised to not see any radio controls on the steering wheel, not sure if that is an option that can be added on different models or not.  The one thing I found weird though was that the controls were all on one side, so when you’re driving at night, it just didn’t look symmetrical.  If you have a case of OCD, I’m sure it would annoy you a little!

It has a sunglass holder up near the roof along with nice lights that are easily accessible and easy to turn on for the interior, I know they’re easy to turn on because Bella‘s big head turned them on more than once when she decided to walk around a little bit and try to move to the front seat!  I said try, because she wasn’t successful, but she did hit the light!

You have a 12 V plug along with a USB plug and in auxiliary plug all at your fingertips. The USB plug is a very nice touch. There is a small area to the right of the plug to put a few things. I put my Bolle` sunglass case in it though and it pretty much filled up the area, so it isn’t very big. The center armrest also opens up for additional storage, but I don’t like to put things in there for a rental car because I don’t want to forget them.  There is another 12v plug just off to the right so a passenger could also plug something in.  I forgot to look to see if any were in the back seat or not.

Front Area of Hyundai Elantra Rental Car from Hertz

Front Area of Hyundai Elantra Rental Car from Hertz

All in all, even with being uncomfortable seats, for a rental car on a long trip I would definitely choose it again if given the option because I loved the gas mileage and how little I spent on gas for the trip. I just need to either lose weight, or make sure I’m wearing jeans the next time! LOL

Both Zipper and Bella were able to fit their head out of the same window when we were closer to home!

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Bella and Zipper sticking their head out of the rental car Hyundai Elantra

Hertz, Hyundai, Elantra, Travel

Bella and Zipper happy to be home after 15 hours in a car. You can see the water cooler on the floor behind them.

Would I purchase the car?  No, it would be too uncomfortable for me long term, but for one or two people (or skinny people) renting a car, it might be a good choice.

I hope this review helps you! Share your comments and thoughts if you have this car or have driven one?

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Can Glucosamine and Chondroitin help the severly arthritic? – HaliPawz

Sam's Club

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my mom has been down visiting me for a while again this summer.  Being a writer, my schedule is a little more flexible than my siblings and I try to make sure she has a good time while she is down here.  My mom has suffered from arthritis for as long as I can remember.  Of course, as she has aged, it has become worse.  She now walks with the assistance of a walker, a motorized scooter for long distances, and is in pain almost all of the time.  As a daughter, I hate knowing she is in pain.  I am always trying to research ways to improve her life and minimize some of the pain.  At the stage she is in, most things I read says there is nothing to help her other than pain management.  There were some studies that showed medical marijuana might help, but she was not willing to even consider that and I don’t think my siblings were too keen on her trying it, so I kept moving.

Back in 2013, I started working with a new trainer for my horse and Luke would have “clicking” sounds when he worked.  My trainer said I should put him on Glucosamine and Chondroitin and see if it helped.  Within a month, the clicking was gone.  Of course, some say it was because I was working him on a regular basis so he was stronger, minimizing the clicking.  I believe it had something to do with the Glucosamine and Chondroitin.

Because I had hurt my knee when I was younger, I decided to try the supplement for myself after seeing it work with Luke.  I’m not great at taking medication, I often forget, but I did notice my knee didn’t hurt as bad when I remembered to take them.  I purchased them at Sam’s Club because they had an Instant Savings on them and I have the Plus membership, so I saved more money at that time.  I liked their Simply Right brand because it didn’t contain a lot of the fillers, just the glucosomine and chondroitin along with vanilla flavoring to make it easier to swallow.

Sam's Club

Fact Sheet Simply Right Glucosamine Chondroitin

Fast forward to earlier this year, my 4 year old Neapolitan Mastiff, Bella, was stiff every night after a fun afternoon at the dog park.  Don’t let her age fool you, she can run with the 1-3 year old dogs and hold her own.  She loves to play.  I didn’t want to take that away from her but hated to see her in pain at night.  I decided to try some Glucosamine and Chondroitin for her as well.  I ended up changing her food to a dog food with it built right into the food.  For more information on that, feel free to check out an earlier blog.  I also learned turkey neck bones have a lot of natural Glucosamine and Chondroitin in them and are good for dogs to chew on, but because I have another dog at home with food aggression, it was not an option.  I had purchased some dog treats with Glucosamine and Chondroitin built into them and it seemed Bella did even better when she had just a little more in her than what her food provided.  The treats were expensive though, so I hit the internet trying to find out if I could give her pills safe for humans.  It appears that, as long as you don’t use the ones with additional fillers and by products in them, they are safe for dogs.

Week 1 – We are at the first week.  While I told her she had to try it for a full three weeks before we would determine if it is helping her at all or not, I still wanted to see if she had noticed any changes as all.  It has been an extremely rainy time down here.  I think it has rained almost every day.  She said she noticed her hands haven’t been sore or swollen feeling.  This is pretty huge because she has actually talked to her doctor about her hands they would hurt so much the day before it rained.  He prescribed her some ultraced  to help with the pain and she hasn’t had to take one all week.  It’s too soon to tell if it’s due to the Glucosamine and Chondroitin or just due to the fact she is in a different climate and more hydrated than she is at home.  I don’t think she drinks enough water when she’s home alone, I make sure she has something to drink all day.

Week 2 – So, here it is, a full two weeks into my trial period and I ask my mom how she’s feeling.  So far, her hands have only hurt her one night out of the full two weeks and it has rained almost every day here.  I asked her how her shoulders were feeling and she said they don’t hurt, but they don’t normally hurt.  I was surprised by this comment because she is always complaining her shoulders hurt!  She has had surgery in them and has very little ability to reach over her head now.  I noticed she was reaching for a glass in one of my cupboards because I forgot to leave one down in the dish strainer for her.  I asked her if it hurt for her to do that. She paused and checked both shoulders and said no, it didn’t hurt when she reached up!  I thought that was a good sign.

We will finish the full three weeks and get final thoughts.

Week 3 – A full three weeks of the Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Not a lot of difference between week 2 and week 3.  Her biggest surprise is her hands.  She said they just don’t hurt.  I waited a couple weeks before finalizing this to ask her and she has decided to continue taking them.  Her biggest complaint is the size of the pills.  They are pretty big.  Is it a HUGE difference, and miracles happened?  No, but I know her hands have led her to take pain pills before, so if we can eliminate even that pain, to her, it appears to be worth it.

As I said, I know it has helped me personally with my knees when I take it every day.  If I start missing a few days, then it seems like it takes days for it to start working again.

My suggestion is, try it for three to four weeks.  See if you notice anything different.  You’re only out the cost of one bottle, but if they do work, the price is worth it!

Let me know about your experiences with Glucosamine and Chondroitin, I would love to hear other opinions, both good and bad.

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Quality Inn and Suites, Bloomington, IL – HaliPawz

As mom’s summer adventure with me draws to an end, we begin the fun task of getting her back to Michigan.  While it is only a 13 hour drive, I have learned it is better for her to stop half way to rest then it is to try to make it the whole way if we leave later in the day.  She had an appointment at 9:30 am on the day we were heading out, so I knew we would not get out until the late morning / early afternoon.  We ended up staying the night in the Quality Inn & Suites in Bloomington, Illinois.

Bloomington, Illinois is about half way so it is a good place to stop. As I have mentioned before, LaQuinta tends to be my first “GoTo” hotel. The LQ in Bloomington has disappointed me personally once before and then, on the trip down, we were reminded how horrible they are from an ADA (American’s with Disabilities) standpoint if you choose to stay in a non ADA room.  My biggest complaint with most hotel chains is they do not have ADA rooms with two beds. So any parent traveling with a child who may need this have to “throw a cot” in there or, as in my case, two adults traveling together have to pay for two rooms or if we want to save money and share a room, mom doesn’t get the benefits of the ADA facilities.  It’s fine for one night, but if it was more than one, we would probably have to go with a more expensive hotel chain or get two rooms.  I have written LaQuinta about this and was assured they were working to correct it and every location would have at least one ADA room with a roll in shower and two beds by the end of the year (two years ago) so clearly that has not happened.  Back to my dilemma for THIS trip….I needed a dog friendly hotel my mom could use.  The LaQuinta in Bloomington was out because their non-ADA rooms have a weird bathroom layout where the toilet is in a corner.  You can’t get the walker in there and the toilets themselves are extremely low.  She had difficulty getting up and without the walker to help or handles, it is horrible for her! I don’t understand WHY hotels continue to use the low toilets.  If they would just put ADA height toilets in every room, it would be easier.  I went through and switched all of mine to ADA height, even the ones my mom won’t use.  I love them!

But again, back to the review on THIS hotel……We ended up here because they advertised their dog friendly rooms and when I called, they had an ADA room with two queen size beds.  Worked for us.  I broke the review down into sections to make it easier for the ADA traveler, the Pet Traveler, the every day traveler, etc.

Rooms:

Our room was pretty spacious and I don’t think it was just because of the ADA portion. It seems like they would all be similar.  Sometimes in hotels in this price point and older styles, the rooms are a little cramped.  Not the case.  The rooms were clean, well laid out with the two beds, a desk, refrigerator, dresser, and a chair.  While the room was clean, I can’t say they are well maintained everywhere.  The dresser had two broken handles.  It had an older feel to it, except the shower! The shower looked like it had been renovated and were featuring Quality Inn’s “Q Shower” which includes a nicer shower head with multiple spray settings, premium bath amenities, curved shower rod for extra room, and a shower curtain with a sheer window for extra light.  The shower itself had a nice granite look to it.  You could tell it had recently been changed. I will address the ADA standpoints in a separate section towards the bottom of the post.

Q Shower at Quality Inn & Suites Bloomington, Illinois

Q Shower at Quality Inn & Suites Bloomington, Illinois


Q Shower Amenities


Breakfast:

The breakfast was pretty impressive for a hotel in this price point.

Three types of eggs; scrambled, hard boiled, and over easy (round to fit on a biscuit or muffin)

Waffles: Original and Blueberry. I would have preferred the spray to keep them from sticking, but not bad. Syrup was on every table. I appreciate little touches like that.

Biscuits and gravy (my mom, who is somewhat easy to please said they were so/so)

Fresh donuts

Bread, biscuits, bagels, and muffins

3 different types Cereal

Apples

Yogurt

Orange, Apple, and Cranberry Juice

Water

Skim milk & 2% milk

Plenty of peanut butter, cream cheese, jellies, and honey

Fitness Room:

They converted a room into a fitness room.  It has three pieces of equipment. Enough for you to get a decent workout in but nothing extensive. To be fair, I looked at it to comment, but I did not use it.

Swimming Pool:

It is an outdoor pool. I didn’t swim this trip, but saw others swimming. It looked clean, decent size.

A nice touch is it has a chair lift so anyone needing assistance into the pool would be able to utilize it with minimal effort.  Again, a surprise to see for the price point. Good ADA points there!  

Staff

The staff I encountered appeared pleasant, the associate working in the breakfast area was very nice. Asked if we needed anything more than once. A touch you don’t expect, but appreciate.  The night manager, Kevin, was great about helping me get the online rate even though I had to book the ADA room over the phone because the ADA room was not an option on the Choice Hotel app.  When I checked in, he hand crossed out the rate and wrote in the correct rate, the one he agreed to over the phone.  He wasn’t going to give me a copy of it at first but I insisted.  Without it, it would have been my word against his about the rate.  I am glad I did because sure enough, when I went to check out, they had charged me the higher rate!  I brought it to their attention and the two young men working the desk at the checkout had a heck of a time fixing it because they had already checked me out of the hotel.  They were extremely nice and worked diligently to get it fixed without making me feel like I was being a pain.  It was about a $20 difference.  They finally figured out how to get it corrected and were friendly and apologetic throughout the whole ordeal.  I had no problem waiting because their attitudes were GREAT! Even the staff I passed in the halls with the dogs were smiling and friendly.

Pet Friendly


Bella enjoying the comforts of the Quality Inn & Suites

They advertised themselves as being pet friendly.  Referenced their “pet friendly rooms” and they had a sticker on the door telling you to rate them on Bring Fido.  I think this set the bar high for me as to their pet friendly qualities.  As I mentioned, the room was pretty spacious, so it allowed the dogs ample room to play.  I was happy about that.  They needed to release some energy. When I took them out is when I had areas of concern.  The first is, NO TRASH CANS at the doors!  As a responsible pet owner, I pick up my dogs poop.  Everyone should if they travel with their dog(s)!  Other owners don’t want to walk in it.  I walked almost all the way around and saw one trash can at an entrance besides the main entrance.  There really needs to be more.  The next problem is the limited space to actually walk the dog(s).  There is very little grass around the hotel and where it was, it was extremely drenched, tore up with some tire marks, making it muddy.  My dog Zipper will poop or pee anywhere so he went on the rocks around a tree near the entrance by our door, but Bella is a little more selective and has to have just the right spot.  She didn’t even go to the bathroom the morning we were leaving.  She waited until we arrived at a rest stop and then went.  I know they can’t do a lot about the grass because of their layout, but they really need to add more trash cans!

Quality Inn and Suites Bloomington Illinois

Zipper doing the “terrier roll” within minutes of getting into our room

ADA 

This is the ONE area this hotel is severely lacking.  They get the bonus points for having an ADA room with two beds, but that room doesn’t have a roll in shower.  That isn’t my real complaint though.  My complaint is that they slapped some side bars on a low toilet and some handrails and called the room ADA.  The toilet WAS NOT ADA height, so it was still difficult for my mom to get up and down on.  In addition, the bars were just tucked up UNDER the seat, not permanently attached.  My mom was starting to get up and the bar slipped out from the seat and lost support.  She could have gone down and been severely hurt!  They were constantly slipping out.  Another thing is that it narrows the width of the seat.  It didn’t affect my mom, but as I openly admit, I am not a small woman, so I felt like I was being wedged between the bars when I went to use the bathroom.  Another problem is there were NO towel bars or hooks within reach of the shower.  The towels were over the toilet so it was impossible to reach from the shower.  The other hook was on the back of the door, again, impossible to reach from the shower for ANY person. An ADA person would never be able to reach it easily.  I know those with disabilities are used to adapting to make things work, but it was disappointing the lack of attention the hotel gave this room.  They did the bare minimum to call it an ADA room

Quality Inn and Suites Bloomington Illinois

Toilet seat in room with just bars hooked under the toilet seat. You can see the shower chair in the bottom right

Quality Inn and Suites Bloomington Illinois Not ADA

You can see the distance between the shower and the towels with no bars, hooks, etc

The “bar” just slips out very easily. It just tucks up under the seat with nothing holding it there.

As I mentioned with the swimming pool, they do have an ADA chair lift to swim with though. I just wish they would take a look at their rooms and update them just a little more when it comes to being ADA standards.

OVERALL

If you are looking for a reasonably priced room in Bloomington with a great breakfast and a welcoming staff, I would recommend this location.

Traveling with pets?  Again, a nice place to stay, just be prepared to throw your pet’s poop away in your room or take a hike around the hotel!

Need a good ADA room?  I would have to recommend skipping this hotel.  I just don’t think they are where they need to be yet.  Hopefully they will take the steps to improve this over time and if we visit again, I will update this post if they do make changes.  Since we stop near Bloomington whenever I bring mom back and forth between Michigan and Missouri, I am sure I will have another chance at some point.

It might not be the fanciest place to stay in Bloomington, but when you’re saving your pennies and you appreciate the Choice Hotel line, this is one to consider!

Have you stayed here before?  Do you travel with your pets?  Leave your comments below!
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Kraft Seasoned Grated Parmesan Cheese Classic Italian Review – HaliPawz

I recently had an opportunity to select Kraft Seasoned Grated Parmesan Cheese in their Classic Italian flavor as an option with PinchMe.  PinchMe is a site that offers you free samples from time to time.  All they ask from you is for you to supply feedback on the products after you try them.  The only bad thing is you have to be quick or you miss out on things you would really like.

In my most recent box, I received a 3 oz sample of Kraft Seasoned Grated Parmesan Cheese in the Classic Italian flavor.  Growing up, Kraft Parmesan Cheese was our go to Parmesan cheese.  I didn’t even realize, until I was an adult, you could purchase a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it yourself, which is my normal method now.

Kraft Seasoned Grated Parmesan Cheese Classic Italian

Kraft Seasoned Grated Parmesan Cheese Classic Italian Back

I was excited to receive this, as it had additional flavoring to it, so I thought it would have more uses than just sprinkling over a dish.  I never realized just how handy it would be.

My mom and I had gone to a local Italian restaurant I had never been to before.  The restaurant we were originally headed to had a line around the corner waiting to get it, so I decided to check this restaurant out.  Mom and I both like Italian food so I figured it would be a good option.  While the service was good and the soup (mom) and salad (me) was very good, the food itself was severely lacking.  I didn’t mention my thoughts to my mom until after we left.  The portion sizes were large enough for us to have some left over.  My mom felt the same way.  She  felt Alfredo sauce from a jar had more flavor than her meal did.

I didn’t want the food to go to waste, but neither of us was looking forward to eating it again.  I decided to try to doctor it a little.   I took her Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo out of the refrigerator, added a little bit of butter and milk, some oregano, some garlic, and then used the Kraft Seasoned Grated Parmesan Cheese as well.  I figured it was as good of an opportunity to try this as any.  After it was heated up, I sprinkled it with more of the Kraft Cheese.

I was pleasantly surprised by how improved it was!  My mom, who was not looking forward to eating it because she didn’t think I could improve it, actually liked it.  I sprinkled quite a bit of it over my Chicken Parmesan, which also had no flavor in the chicken or the breading.  Because the flavor couldn’t get into the chicken, it improved it slightly, but did more for the Alfredo.

In my opinion, if this product can improve the taste of bland restaurant leftovers, it has my endorsement!  It’s a quick way to season your food before cooking as well as sprinkling over the dish prior to serving it and eating it.

****This review was written for a product I received free, compliments of PinchMe.com****

If you like this and want to stay up to date with my posts, follow me on Twitter @HaliPawz  or Like me on Facebook.com/HaliPawz