Wednesday, March 31, 2010

So cool I had to review it ... Namaste Laguna tote

I haven't reviewed anything yet in this quiet little blog, but today a product just screamed, "REVIEW ME!". I took some of pictures of it nestled cozily on my Christmas gift from my kids, a stunning microplush Snuggy. I included pics of it, fully packed, next to an 8.5"x11" pad of paper to provide scale. Because why on earth would I be able to find a ruler?

Quick note: this is a review of the Namaste Laguna, purchased at Butterfly Yarns in Wakefield, MA via preorder.

As the northeast was pummeled by Storm of the Decade #2, I packed up the girls and headed to our favorite indoor play spot, The Klubhouse in Woburn, MA. Since my husband was dropping us off and leaving with the car, I needed to pack enough for the day. I grabbed my "bigger bag" - my Namaste Laguna tote that was already packed with my regular going-out-for-afternoon supplies...

which are:  my knitting, my JuJuBe BeMine wallet, my purple Namaste Mini Cozy (holding scissors, pencil, pen & crochet hook), an energy bar, a hardcover library book, my blackberry, spray hand cleaner, wipes, 2 pullups, a stack of tissues, 2 juice boxes and my knitting patterns.

BUT! My husband was leaving with the car and I was going to be there quite a while ... so I loaded it up some more ...

by adding to the contents I already listed:
my laptop & charger cord, a can of pepsi, a box of raisins, a purple paper hat, a bag of Sour Patch Kids jelly beans (MINE!), a small teddy bear, a bottle of water and a beribboned headband.

Maddie helped me pack :| And now it was reeeeeeally heavy. But IT ALL FIT!

The laptop was about an inch too tall to slide into the laptop comfortably, and about an inch too wide to lay it lengthwise. It was ok for cramming for the day but I wouldn't attempt it on a plane or for similar travel. That said, a smaller laptop like the MacBook Pro would fit in there perfectly.

So here are the down and dirty stats on this bag. Namaste uses animal-friendly faux leather which feels more supple and spendy than most real leather bags. The color in real life is closest to the fourth photo - it's a rich tomato paste red. This bag has nice sturdy handles and a lovely adjustable shoulder strap that clips on with sturdy yet attractive metal clips. On the outside of the bag you'll find two decorative buckles and front and rear exterior pockets. The front pocket has a flap closure with two strong magnet sets. Digressing a minute here...

My very very favorite features of the Namaste bags are their magnet sets. They are strong, large closures, well hidden in the design of the bag. Honestly ... if I could invent the perfect bag closure system of my own personal nirvana, it would be the Namaste magnets. Swoon ... thunk.

And we're back.

Anywho, the rear pocket is small to medium sized (about a hand length deep, and a hand-and-a-half wide) with a zipper closer. The top of the bag is engineered to open as wide as the bag - it's unbelievable. Two strong magnet sets at the top (swoon ... thunk) hold it closed. On the base of the bag, five cute little metal feet keep your bag off the ground.

Inside the bag, zippers are kept to the minimum for the folks who use Namaste bags as knitting totes. The zipper-topped center divider pocket is perfect for small things I don't want falling to the bottom of the bag. This pocket runs about halfway up the bag, which concerned me at first - I had been expecting a full-on divided bag. I've found that the partial divider actually gives me more flexibility as I can pack stuff I want kept separate for quick grabs at the bottom divided sections and then pile more stuff on top. Incredible. The bag also has three more pockets inside. On one side you'll find two side-by-side slide in pockets. One is large enough for a small to medium sized cell phone, the other for a PDA or wallet.  The third pocket is a small to medium sized zipper pocket.

The nice thing about this bag is that if you don't fill it up as full, the top flops right over and the bag looks smaller - which I love.

So that's the scoop on the Namaste Laguna. I also own the Namaste Zuma bag which is fun for when I can pack less :)

Just wanted to add ... I've received no compensation for this review and all the comments/opinions posted here are exclusively my own! Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cheesy Bread Sticks - my way

This recipe is a combination of a few recipes in Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day. It makes more dough than you need for one batch of breadsticks but you can refridgerate it for up to five days. If you are using from fridge, keep an eye out for discoloration (mold growth). Considering how fast this dough goes off, this recipe produces 2lbs of dough rather than the usual 4lbs found in this book.

You'll see substitution suggestions after the recipe for many ingredients.

1 1/2c warm (NOT HOT) water
2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3 1/4c all purpose flour
1/2c shredded cheese + additional cheese for sprinkling
sea or kosher salt for sprinkling
olive oil for brushing

Stir first 4 ingredients together in a 5 qt bowl. Add in flour & cheese (easiest if you blend those two together first). Don't knead, just mix until all flour is mixed in. Your dough should be moist and gloopy ... if its dry, add more fluids in 1/4c amts.

Allow to rest, lightly covered, for 2.5 hrs. Can use after this rest or refridgerate for later use.

Preheat oven to 425F
Sprinkle dough with flour, cut off a chunk around the size of an orange. Gently form in into a smooth ball by pulling the sides underneath (takes under a minute).
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to desired thinness (btwn 1/4 & 1/8th inch is what I did), sprinkling sparingly w/flour as needed to prevent sticking. Brush with oil and sprinkle liberally with cheese and lightly with salt.

Using a pizza cutter, slide into thin strips (again, 1/8th-1/4 of an inch wide).

Line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper. Lay breadsticks out on cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15m until lightly golden brown. After 10m, keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't scorch.

Some substitutions/additions...
For gluten free- use your favorite GF yeast dough recipe or try this one from Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day

Cheese- use ANY kind of medium firmness to hard flavorful cheese -- parmagian, sharp cheddar, swiss, blue all taste great

Seasonings/toppings- consider adding garlic powder, onion powder, parsley based on your cheese choice. Add to dough when adding in flour. Also can sprinkle with sesame seeds or similar.

Flours- feel free to mix in varying types of flour; I like using a few tablespoons of whole wheat flour, wheat germ, flax seed and vital wheat gluten

Fluids- I love adding beer in this recipe, subsitute about half of the water with beer. I find lagers and light beers provide a mellower flavor.

For more texture- twist dough as you put them on the cookie sheet