Behind the Scenes at Not Starving Yet with the Anker SoundCore Mini #Sponsored

I think I've mentioned this before, but I do about 75% of my writing away from home. The rest is accomplished at my kitchen table, or it was until I decided that I really needed a more comfortable place to work. The trouble is that our house isn't large by anyone's standards, so carving out even a small space meant I had to really consider what was necessary for me to work efficiently.

I learned a lot during last years downsizing of my mobile office—I don't use half of what I had been carrying with me and the same was true of my home workspace. I really only need a small portion of what I keep on hand, so step one was a massive purge of old props, papers, and other whatnots. That was a painful process, let me tell you, because I hoard bits and bobs like nobody's business. I eventually got through everything, then set about designing my new workspace.

Today's post was sponsored by Anker who has provided me with one of their nifty SoundCore mini for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Today's post was sponsored by Anker who has provided me with one of their nifty SoundCore mini for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

The most difficult part of the whole process was finding furniture that would fit in the small corner I carved out of out guest room. There isn't enough room for a desk, but EKBY Hemnes Shelf from IKEA is just wide enough for my laptop so it makes an excellent makeshift desk, plus it happens to match the bookcases I bought. Coupled with a super comfortable Slipper Chair from Target, it makes a nice little writing nook (I absolutely love these chairs, we have several and they're the perfect size for a vertically challenged person such as myself. Plus they've got some great fabric choices.)

Once I had the basics decided on it was time to find a way to organize everything—I have an obscene amount of props that are stacked in random places throughout our house. A handful of Wire Storage Bins, a dozen or so 10qt and 25qt Sterilite Storage Bins, and some Hanging File Desk Organizers (for keeping my poster tubes full of backdrops in check) helped keep most of my props out of sight and cut down on the clutter in the kitchen. 

Then it was time for the fun stuff; those little touches that give a workspace personality. The first thing to go on the wall was my Alfred Hitchcock poster from Apple's Think Different campaign. It has been in every office I've had since the late 90s because I find the message from the campaign inspirational.

After that I added a few odds and ends to my bookshelf: some Dip Bowls from Target to hold miscellaneous office supplies, a set of A - Z bookends that I found on etsy, some coffee mugs to store my favorite pens. I called it a day with decorating after that. My office will never be minimalist, but I am attempting to keep the random bits and bobs down to the bare necessities.
 

It really doesn't help that I like pretty, shiny things...

Today's post was sponsored by Anker who has provided me with one of their nifty SoundCore mini for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Today's post was sponsored by Anker who has provided me with one of their nifty SoundCore mini for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Last but not least are the electronics: a macbook retina, a Drobo 5C (for photo and document backup), and the latest addition, the Anker SoundCore Mini. My standard workday includes a lot of singing along (very off-key and at the top of my lungs) to whatever music has caught my attention lately. Music is integral to both my writing and my cooking, so I've been looking for a pint-size speaker with good battery life that will act as a replacement for the Harmon Kardon Soundsticks that I've been using since college.

The compact size of the SoundCore Mini makes it perfect for a tiny workspace like mine. It's small enough that I can tuck it away in one of my decorative bowls to keep my desk unclutered or take it from room to room as I need to move throughout the day. I don't even need to track down my phone when I want to switch rooms—it can stay on the charging station in our back bedroom and still stream music in the kitchen without the speaker disconnecting.

The range on this speaker is impressive.

Now, as much as I love this speaker, it does have one huge downside—especially if you're looking to listen to the radio instead of streaming music from your phone. The volume control and FM tuner use the same button, so it's easy to accidentally switch radio stations when what you really meant to do was turn the volume up.

As long as it didn't affect the size of the speaker I'd love to see a separate button for the radio adjustment as well as a digital read-out so it's easier to figure out which station I have the device set to. I'd listen to the local radio stations a lot more if this feature was more intuitive, but considering how rarely I've listened to the radio in the last 10 years neither of these features are high up on my must-have list. If given the choice I'd pick a smaller form factor or longer battery life over more intuitive FM tuner—it just isn't a feature I'd use often at all, even with improvement.

Disclosure


In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that a sample was provided to me free of charge by Anker, for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

Taco Layer Dip

I'm not much of a sports fan, but I am a fan of food, so every time there is a huge game and we have friends over I put out a spread that rivals most major holidays. In addition of our main course of chili, hot wings, or pizza we always have an assortment of dips. My favorite is a simple taco layer dip that's made up of sour cream, taco seasoning, sharp cheddar cheese, green onions, black olives, and tomatoes. It's easy to toss together at the last minute, can be modified to suit a variety of tastes, and can be scaled up (or down) to feed a group of any size. Added bonus: you won't need to spend all day in the kitchen to make it which gives you more time for beer and football (if that's your thing.)

If you want my advice you should make a double batch, this is always a crowd pleaser and it's the first thing to disappear.

Taco Layer Dip | Not Starving Yet

Taco Dip

makes 6 - 8 servings

Ingredients

16 ounces sour cream
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
2 cups lettuce, shredded
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
10 - 12 fresh cherry tomatoes, diced
4 ounces black olives, sliced
2 - 3 green onions stalks

Directions

  • In a large bowl combine the sour cream and taco seasoning. Mix well, then spoon into the bottom of a large glass serving container. Top with shredded lettuce, sharp cheddar cheese, diced cherry tomatoes, black olives, and green onions. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Notes

For this recipe I use a 2-Cup Pyrex Divided Dish (which you see pictured above.) You can also use an 8 inch pie plate or 9 x 9 baking dish. Keep in mind that you may need more toppings than what I've listed in the ingredients if you use a larger dish.

The taco dip can be made a day in advance, but often times there will be some liquid separation from the sour cream. You can drain the excess liquid off, but this dip is best when made the same day you plan on serving it.

 

Top 10 Recipes of 2016

To say 2016 had completely kicked my butt would be putting things mildly. My year ended with the death of two of my family members, the near-death of one of my closest friends, and a persistent cold that wouldn't let go. The past few months have left me completely worn out which is part of the reason why it's been so quiet around here lately (don't worry, I haven't forgotten about you.) On the bright side, I've spent weeks living off of the recipe you've all decided was our number one for 2016—home made chicken soup with stars. It may not cure everything that ails you, but it will definitely leave you with a warm glow in your belly, which in some cases is almost as good. 

Not Starving Yet's Top 10 Favorite Recipes of 2016

Our Thoughts on Hello Fresh #NotSponsored

I've had a lot of people ask me about meal services and my Facebook feed has been inundated with people talking about their experiences, so I decided it was time to try them out—starting with Hello Fresh (since they had an awesome Black Friday deal this year.)  

Though we frequently post sponsored content, today's post has not been sponsored by Hello Fresh (just in case you were wondering)

Though we frequently post sponsored content, today's post has not been sponsored by Hello Fresh (just in case you were wondering)

Ordering
 


The process was straight forward, you have three plans to choose from: Classic, Veggie, or Family. Then you'll need to select how many people you're cooking for (options were 2 or 4), how many meals you'd like delivered, and your delivery date

I opted to go with the veggie plan. My little guy is a self imposed vegetarian, so I knew anything with meat wasn't going to pass muster with him, but I could always add a protein source if anyone else wanted one. I actually opted for that route with one of the meals to stretch the meal a little further so I had lunch for the next day.

Hello Fresh Menu 12/2 - 12/8

What's in the box?

 

Two blocks of ice, a frozen food bubble bag (to help keep things cool), a reusable recipe book, and three meal kits from the veggie plan: Protein-Packed Rice Bowl, Pesto Flatbread (aka Posh Pizza), and Jamie's Easy-peasy Tomato Tagliatelle with Asparagus, Fresh Basil & Parmesan.

Each meal comes in its own separate box so there is no confusion about which ingredients are used in a particular recipe. If you happen to be allergic to (or don't particularly enjoy) one of the ingredients in a recipe it's easy to remove it and substitute something else.

Protein-Packed Rice Bowl
 


Time it took to prepare and cook: 30 minutes (as listed on meal card) 
Quality of ingredients: Excellent
Any trouble with this recipe? Yes. The recipe called for sesame seeds, but they were missing from my box.
Picky kid approved? Yes. He ate my entire serving plus part of the leftovers. 
Would I make this again? No. This is a bland, but serviceable meal. It's real downfall is that it's exactly how I made fried rice when I was in college and couldn't afford to order takeout.

Pesto Flatbread

 

Time it took to prepare: 30 minutes (as listed on meal card)
Quality of ingredients: Excellent
Any trouble with this recipe? No
Picky kid approved? Yes, in fact he ate most of my share too.
Would I make this again? Absolutely, this was my favorite meal in the box.

Tomato Tagliatelle

 

Time it took to prepare: 25 minutes (as listed on meal card)
Quality of ingredients: Good. The basil arrived slightly discolored, which is likely because it was shipped on ice and got too cold (basil is very temperature sensitive.) It didn't affect the final dish at all.
Any trouble with this recipe? No, but I felt like it needed more salt.
Picky kid approved? Mostly. He picked out the larger asparagus pieces and ate the smaller ones. To be fair, that may have been because his two front teeth were loose. 
Would I make this again? Yes, this is a quick and easy meal I can make from items I generally have on hand.

Added bonus

 

I had a little bit of produce leftover from two of the meals (half a zucchini and half a can of corn) which I used as side dishes later in the week.

 

How to Cancel


Hello Fresh makes cancellation easy, although it is a multi-step process with a survey at the end. The nice thing is that you also have the option to have a box delivered bi-weekly, monthly, or even pause your subscription (in case you're heading out on vacation.) Otherwise you click on No Thanks and either cancel right away or schedule one last delivery. 

After I cancelled my subscription I did not receive another delivery, although I do still get emails from Hello Fresh. You'll need to unsubscribe from those separately if you no longer want to hear about the service.

My Thoughts

 

Meal services such as this really have a lot going for them and I see why they appeal to such a large number of people. You really can't beat the convenience of having everything you need delivered to your door, requiring minimal work on your part to ensure you have a tasty and healthy meal on the table in under 45 minutes. 

If you're always pressed for time and struggle to get a healthy meal on the table every night, then a service like this can be a blessing. It's also great if you find yourself stuck in a rut, always fixing the same handful of things. You'll have three new meals to try out and if you like them you still have the recipe cards so you can make them again.

The problem is, you really pay a premium for the convenience. Three meals at full price would have set me back $59 (and considerably more for the other plans.) To put that in perspective, I spend slightly more than that a week to feed our family 3 meals a day plus snacks (my budget for the entire month is around $400.) The price isn't something I could afford on a regular basis, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't use the service again.

There are a number of instances where I could see myself ordering again, not just for myself, but for someone else. This would make a great gift for a recent graduate, young professional, or busy mom (especially one who's recently had a baby.) I'd even consider subscribing again if I went on vacation and had a kitchen to cook in so I wouldn't have to spend part of my vacation obsessing over what to feed everyone.  

Have you tried Hello Fresh or another meal service? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.