Thursday, August 21, 2014

Adorable Swimming Cake

I saw this adorable swimming cake on Pinterest a few months ago and I just had to pin it for an excuse to make it one day. I don't plan to have a swimming birthday party for my son or anything like that. Besides, he's a Fall baby and swimming is probably one of the last things on people's mind when it's cold out. He does take swimming lessons and when he finally passed a difficult level, that day came for me to make the cake :)

My 5 year old started taking swimming lessons when he turned 5. Compared to a lot of the other kids I know, that is late to be starting swimming lessons! I take full blame for that since there was never a convenient pool in our neighborhood we could walk to. Now, things are different. We live by a pool we can easily drive to in 4 minutes. I take him to swim classes once a week for just 30 minutes. Unfortunately our pool doesn't offer and apparently doesn't believe every day classes are good for the kids. I think having to go to swim classes every day is a bit much for me personally so I'm not complaining :) Especially because my 5 year old is doing so well with just 30 minutes a week. It's a win and win for both of us! He went from Level 1 to Level 4 classes in just 10 months. He is pretty much at the same level now as many of the other kids I hear about who started when they were babies. I'm beyond pleased because I always thought he was behind by a lot.

The Level 3 swimming class was a bit tough for my 5 year old to pass. I think it had to do with his teacher more than anything. She was really tough on the kids. It was only when a substitute teacher wrote down that he should be seriously tested that she ended up passing him the very next class. Because of all this, I decided it was time to make that swimming cake when he passed a couple of weeks ago. The cake wasn't as nice as the original one I saw but I was still happy with how it turned out. These days I haven't been in any mood to bake so it was nice to see that I still could. Lol.

I'm so proud of my boy! For all those parents out there that are worried about getting their babies and kids in the pool as soon as possible, maybe my story can take a little pressure off of you. I felt a bit embarrassed for not starting lessons earlier but I wasn't ever really worried. I knew that my boy loved being in the water and he loved to swim with a lifesaver around him. We brought him to the pool for fun a few times and we played in the ocean in Hawaii a lot every time we visited. The important thing was that he loved being in water and he always had positive experiences when it came to swimming. I think that really helped him.

When he started swim classes, he was always one of the bigger, if not the biggest kid since he was 5 years old. The good thing was that he was old enough to actually listen well and follow instructions. His maturity allowed him to progress quicker than the younger kids. If you don't progress and get better, then what is the point of lessons? We have to pay for them after all. Now with an evening swim time, he is placed alongside bigger school kids, which is terrific for him. I think he will do even better as a result. He only had three classes so far in Level 4 but I can already see a big leap in confidence and improved skills. As a bonus, one of the kids in his class used to go to daycare with him! This whole experience taking him to swim classes has made me want to take lessons for myself. I never took lessons before and although I can swim a bit, I cannot swim very far and I have no technique at all. Haha.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ways to Get Cheaper Coffee for Your Nespresso Machine

Are you getting tired of paying a premium for your Nespresso coffee? It's delicious coffee but if you are a heavy drinker, it can get quite expensive. I was actually pretty surprised when I placed my first order of coffee. The machines themselves are fairly cheap these days. The coffee from Nespresso, is not. That's really where they make their money. It turns out there are ways you can save on coffee for your Nespresso machine.

Other Brands Offer Nespresso Compatible Capsules

Nespresso capsules start at $0.65 a capsule. Alternative brands can be as cheap as $0.40 a capsule. I had no idea there were other options until a few months ago. I started reading articles about other brands trying to get in but I didn't know some of them already existed. I'm surprised it took this long really. Nespresso probably had something to do with that though.

There are probably a handful of other options now but don't expect them to be the same as Nespresso. I'm more concerned about the capsules being compatible with my machine, more than anything else. From what I have read, a lot of the negative reviews from people who have used alternative capsules, seem to complain about the incompatibility of the capsules with their machines. Some capsules have even broken machines! Ouch.

Some of the different brands I have come across in my research include HiLine Coffee, Coffee Capsule Delight, Cafe Vergnano, Bicafe Capsules, and Spresso Luxe. They apparently sell Spresso Luxe at Walmart and Costco and they seem to be the most affordable at $0.40 a capsule. The reviews for Spresso Luxe are not great though. People complained the coffee was weak and they also complained about the material on the capsule and the compatibility with their machines. The most popular alternative brand is probably HiLine Coffee.

Thanks to my Nespresso post about latte art, I was contacted by a HiLine Coffee representative who offered me a few free samples. I checked out their website and I was intrigued. I was definitely interested in trying out some of their coffee. I would have paid for an assorted pack of what they had to offer just to check them out. It was so nice of them to send me a couple of packs :)

HiLine Coffee

Left: Nespresso, Right: HiLine

Left: Nespresso, Right: HiLine

I have been drinking HiLine coffee on and off for awhile now. I some times have Nespresso coffee and some times I have HiLine. My first impression was that it was tasty and very similar to Nespresso coffee! It was a bit harder to fit the capsule in the first few times and I had to apply a bit more pressure to close it but besides that, I would say it's compatible with my Pixie machine. The coffee was strong, just like Nespresso, and it tasted great too.

Side by side, there were obvious design and packaging differences. Nespresso definitely has done a remarkable job with their branding and presentation. I always loved how Nespresso capsules looked. They really are luxurious capsules and and judging by its cover, you would only expect high end coffee inside. The flavor of coffee is labeled on top of each capsule, which I find very useful. In comparison, HiLine Coffee looks rather dull. Every capsule pretty much looks the same and unless you keep the box out all the time, you will not be able to identify the coffee you are drinking. It's much more important for Nespresso to label their individual capsules since they have a gazillion options to choose from. HiLine Coffee only currently have a handful of flavors.

HiLine Coffee starts at $0.45 a capsule, but only one of the varieties cost that much. Most capsules are $0.50 and $0.55. Basically, you save $0.15 every time you drink a HiLine Coffee. If you don't care about the aesthetics of the packaging and labeling, HiLine Coffee is definitely worth trying. Just make sure your machine is compatible with their coffee before you order ;) Also, if you go to their site for the first time using your browser, you could enter your email to join their mailing list and receive 10% off your next order.

Refillable Capsules

Besides buying a different brand of coffee for your Nespresso machine, you could also try out those fill your own capsules they are selling everywhere. There are quite a few on Amazon. Just search for "Nespresso capsules refillable." You buy the empty capsules and you fill it yourself with your favorite espresso grind. I haven't tried this yet but I would be interested in doing so one day. The disposable ones seem to be pretty good but the refillable ones have mixed reviews. I'm waiting for a good refillable option to be available. I can see how creating one of those may be challenging though.

Nespresso Coffee In Europe

Last but not least, you could save on Nespresso capsules by buying them directly in France, when you are there. Or possibly in any Nespresso shop in Europe. We visited a couple of those beautiful Nespresso stores in France and ended up buying some from the shop on the Champs-Élysées. My husband told me I was nuts since it was more stuff to bring back and that they may get damaged on the travel back. I told him that they were like half the price compared to the US! Capsules were 0.35 Euros. And the US and Euro exchange rate was definitely not 50%. Okay, so maybe it was not half price but we did save quite a bit of money :)
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