Savvy Nana’s Holiday Gift Guide for Toddlers

Savvy Nana’s Holiday Gift Guide for Toddlers

It’s Cyber Monday!  It’s a great time to snap up some deals and start checking off things from your holiday gift list.  If you’re lucky you might even be able to finish today without ever leaving home!

I know the biggest problem is always what to buy, specially for toddlers.  We’re bombarded with ads touting new and improved talking stuffed animal and cool power wheels. Somehow toy manufacturers have convinced us that our kids must have these things, otherwise we’d be somehow remiss and our kids will be disappointed if they don’t ride down the driveway in a battery powered Hummer on Christmas morning.

Yes, my husband and I are guilty of buying the grandkids ipads and power wheels for Christmas.  But recently I’ve been on a mission to give gifts that inspire their imagination, encourage physical activity, and unleash their creativity.  Not to mention I’m on a personal crusade to limit their video game, tablet, computer, and cell phone usage.  In short I’m determined to provide them with good old fashioned toys.  That means the toys I’m buying this year will not have batteries or chargers.  They will all be kid powered!

You might feel obligated to buy that shiny new ipad or that battery powered jeep or sports car with all the bells and whistles, but you might also want to tuck in a simple baby doll or a kid powered truck.  So here’s my Holiday Gift Guide to help you choose some toys for the toddlers in your life.

(This article has affiliate links)

Holiday gift guideMy all time favorite is a toy kitchen.  I got this Step 2 Kitchen for the twin’s birthday a couple of months ago.  They love it!

Play kitchens come in many different sizes.  They usually come complete with kitchen accessories.

Prices start at about $66.

Find your play kitchen here today! [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Holiday Gift GuideI love all things Melissa & Doug.  The twins enjoy these wooden pots and pan set.  It comes with a checkered oven mitt and a wooden spatula and spoon.  The set’s available from Amazon for $22.77.  You can get free shipping with Amazon Prime too![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

holiday gift guideThese fruit or cookie play sets by Melissa & Doug keep the twins occupied for hours!  It’s great for developing fine motor skills and coordination.

The Slice & Bake Cookie Set is available from Amazon for $15.98.

The Cutting Fruit Set is available from Amazon for $15.26. [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

holiday gift guideAnother great idea are puzzles. Melissa & Doug have a great variety of wooden puzzles starting at $6.24 from Amazon. [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]


holiday gift guideDolls are an absolute must have!  They bring hours of pretend play.  And don’t think dolls are just for girls.  My grandson, Sadi, loves to push the doll around in the stroller and giving the baby her bottle.

This Cabbage Patch Kids Cuddler Play n’ Travel set comes with a doll, infant seat, cradle, stroller, bottle, and pacifier.  You can order it from Amazon for $69.99.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

holiday gift guideBlocks provide hours of building fun.  They really spark your child’s creativity!

Blocks range from the old school wooden ones to these foam peg blocks to Duplo and Lego.  They come in different sizes and sets.  I’m sure you’ll find a type that will suit your child’s age and ability.

I like these large lightweight peg blocks.  The handy zip bag makes storage easy.

You’ll find all kinds of foam blocks on Amazon![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

holiday gift guideKid powered ride on toys are another favorite.  Forget the motorized power wheels, kids love these just fine.

There are plenty to choose from on Amazon.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

holiday gift guideThis Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Happy Giddy Bowling Set provides hours of fun to my twin grandkids.  The love setting up the pins then knocking them down.

The set is available on Amazon for $12.24.  It’s Prime too so it ships for free to Prime members![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]


holiday gift guidePlush Rocking Animals are cute and cuddly.  The twins love riding their elephant and horse. These critters come with sound, the horse whinnies and the elephant plays a tune.  Just press the button inside the ear.

There’s a variety of plush rocking animals on Amazon!  [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

holiday gift guideChannel your child’s inner Mozart with a musical instrument.

All the grandkids love this baby grand piano by Melissa & Doug.  We got one for the twins and another one for my grandson Jett.

Piano comes with a non-tip bench and color coded songbook.

You can order this piano from Amazon for $88.79.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]


holiday gift guideOr you can channel his or her Picasso with an easel, paints, markers, and other media.

There are many types of easels.  I prefer the double sided ones.  One side has a chalk board and the other a magnetic board.  Pick one out from Amazon today![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

holiday gift guideBooks make great stocking stuffers for kids of any age.

There are many children’s books to choose from on Amazon.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]


holiday gift guideNumber one on my gift list is this Melissa & Doug Puppet Theater.   This will definitely spark the kids’ imagination.

Of course a puppet theater isn’t complete without puppets.  There are many types to choose from on Amazon.  My grandson Devon loved his Melissa & Doug Farm Animal Puppets we got him when he was 3! [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

doll houseAnother thing on this year’s list is a doll house.  I just love this Melissa & Doug Victorian Doll House!

Doll houses will provide the kids with hours of role play and unleash their creativity.

This wooden doll house has hand-painted details inside and out.  You can order one from Amazon for $103.99.

Don’t forget the furniture and family that goes in the doll house.  There are many sets to choose from on Amazon![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

638749-red-cape-cottage-house_largeAnd speaking of houses, my daughter Jaime gave me the heads up.  She’s picking up a Little Tikes playhouse for the twins.

Playhouses keep your kids entertained for hours.  Jaime’s son Jett has one in their backyard, he loves it!

You can order this playhouse for $124.33 from Amazon.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]


628566-anchors-away-pirate-ship_largeThis Pirate Ship Water Play Table from Little Tikes is a wonderful sensory activity.

We have one for the twins and one for Jett.  They love splashing around and playing with the accessories included with the table. lists this water table for $59 with free shipping for Prime members.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]


holiday gift guideLast but not least a subscription to Little Passports will give your child months of educational fun.

Kits are available for different ages.  They come with fun activities that teach children about different countries.

There are also science kits that include experiments and activities.

You can choose the length of your subscription. A monthly kit will arrive at your home for hours of learning fun!  Choose your kit and subscribe today!

Sizzix Texture Boutique – Handy Embossing Tool

Sizzix Texture Boutique – Handy Embossing Tool

Sizzix Texture Boutique

This post contains affiliate links

One of my recent craft obsessions is creating greeting cards and party decor.  It started with the Cricut Explore Air my husband gave me last year.  Now I’ve turned a spare room into a craft room and have filled it with various machines and gadgets.  I know I’ve gone craft happy!  One of my new favorite tools is the handy dandy Sizzix Texture Boutique.

Sizzix Texture BoutiqueThe Sizzix Texture Boutique is a great addition crafting tool collection; it embosses paper, cardstock, foil, vellum, and other thin material using embossing folders up to 4 1/2″ wide.  It’s small, lightweight, cute, and best of all very affordable.  [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Sizzix Texture BoutiqueYou can buy the machine for $30, it comes with 2 black plates and a mylar shim.  The plates and shim keep the embossing folder in place during the embossing process.  Embossing folders are purchased separately.  You can use Sizzix brand folders as well as other brands like Darice as long as they aren’t wider than 4 1/2″.  Believe me there are hundreds of folders available!

Sizzix Texture BoutiqueThe machine resembles a purse with a bead handle which you hold while cranking embossing folders thru the opening. It’s very simple to use; just insert material into desired embossing folder, “sandwich” the folder between the plates that are included with the Sizzix Testure Boutique, and crank it thru!  In about a minute you’ve created a beautiful piece you can add to a card or other project.

I almost didn’t buy this machine.  I was leaning more towards the Sizzix Big Kick, a bigger machine that embosses and die cuts.  But with a Micheal’s 30% off coupon the Texture Boutique came down to an irrisistible price.  I just had to have it, and now I’m glad I did!

To be honest I also have a Big Kick, and I love that one too!  But there are times it’s more convenient to use the the Texture Boutique.  There are times in the middle of a project that I feel the need to add a little something, usually an embossed piece it all it takes to make a card extra special and I reach for the little purse!  It surely does the trick!  [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Sizzix Texture BoutiqueYou can experiment with different materials for different effects.  I’ve found that when I use thinner cardstock the paper “cracks” and gives it this old antique finish.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Sizzix Texture BoutiqueEmbossing vellum has a similar effect.  The paper doesn’t crack but the vellum turns white where it is embossed.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Sizzix Texture BoutiqueYou can also enhance your embossed pieces with foil, glitter, and other things.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Sizzix Texture BoutiqueAnd you can paint the embossed piece.  I embossed small sheets of water color paper and painted them with water color paints.

There really are so many things you can do with embossed pieces and so many ways to use them in your projects.  This cute little embossing machine will open up a world of possibilities![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

But I must add that if you’re looking for a machine that embosses and die cuts then the Big Shot would the one for you!

Sizzix Texture Boutique

You Gotta Have a Sizzix Big Kick!

You Gotta Have a Sizzix Big Kick!

My recent paper crafting obsession is reaching new heights!  Last year my husband, after many hints, gave me the Cricut Explore Air for Mother’s Day.  I had no clue what I was doing!  I just needed one!  Well, I finally got around to figuring out all the great things that machine can do  (read my Cricut Explore Air Review and check out my Tips) and quickly decided I needed other machines!

I know you’re thinking I’ve gone mad, and I admit I probably have gone a bit craft happy recently.  You might ask why would I want another die cut machine when the Cricut can do so much?  It’s true the Cricut  will probably meet all your cutting needs, it does after all cut just about anything, but it doesn’t EMBOSS.

After playing around with many projects including greeting cards last Christmas and party supplies for several birthday parties we hosted I felt I was “missing” something.  Yes the Cricut  can cut, write, and print (with your printer) and you can make some awesome things doing just that by adding glitter, gems, ribbons, and bows to your projects.  But I wanted to take my paper crafts to a new level, and for me that meant embossing.

After a bit of research I narrowed it down to 3 choices, the Cricut Cuttlebug, Sizzix Big Kick, and Sizzix Texture Boutique. What are they exactly and how are they different?  First of all they are all hand cranked machines and they all emboss.  But they are not all the same!

(BTW this post contains affiliate links.  The links will help you learn more about the products I talk about and will help you purchase one if you like.  If you do decide to buy the product we earn a small portion of the sale and that helps us keep our site going!)

Sizzix Big Kick!The Cricut Cuttlebug  is a cute little machine that embosses and cuts.  The opening is 5 3/4″ wide and will fit both 4×6 and 5×7 sized embossing folders. You can use any brand of embossing folders, they don’t have to be Cricut brand.

Folders are purchased separately and have many different designs.  This handy machine will also cut using metal or plastic dies which can be purchased separately.  There are many dies available including basic shapes, letters, and themed ones.  You aren’t limited to Cricut dies.  The Cuttle Bug can cut and emboss different materials including paper, cardstock, foil, ribbon, thin metals, acetate sheets, and thin leather.

The machine is pretty light and is  portable, it has suction cups that  mounts to your work table for stability.  It comes with the plates needed to emboss or cut.  The plates hold the folder or die in place so you can run it thru the machine.

This machine costs  $49.99 – 69.00 and at times may be eligible for the coupons from Micheal’s or Hobby Lobby.  (Check the current coupon to see if you can use it on Cricut products, many times they are excluded.  However both craft stores do have sales on Cricut products several times a year.)

Sizzix Big Kick!The Sizzix Texture Boutique is super cute!  It’s shaped like a purse.  The opening is 5″ so will work with both the small (4×6) and medium (5×7) embossing folders.  It does not cut.  At least it’s not supposed to.  I’ve read some online accounts where they say they can cut with this machine using very thin dies.  I tried with a couple of my dies and it would not go thru, it was too thick.  The machine does not have suction cups to stabilize it while using, you have to hold it with one hand and crank with the other.  It comes with 2 embossing pads and a mylar shim.  They are used to hold the folders in place just like the plates on the Cuttle Bug.   This machine is very affordable, it cost just under $30 and is usually eligible for the craft store discounts and coupons.

Sizzix Big Kick!The Sizzix Big Kick  or the Big Shot (they’re the same machine, only difference is the color) is the largest of the 3 machines I considered.  It embosses and cuts.  It takes several sized embossing folders including the large 8 x 10 ones and you can use just about any type of dies and folders on the market.  The machine is heavier than the other two and is quite stable when using.  It comes with 2 standard cutting pads and an extendded multi-surface platform.  It  cuts and embosses many different material including fabric, felt, foil, thin metals, cardstock, and more.  You  need to purchase specific accessories for some materials including dies and pads.  This machine is the most expensive of the 3,  prices start  about $120 depending on the model.  It is however usually eligible for the craft store discounts and coupons.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Sizzix Big Shot[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

So which one did I choose?  Well to be absolutely honest I got both the Sizzix Big Kick and the Texture Boutique. I got the Texture Boutique because it was such a bargain.  With the 30% off Michael’s coupon I paid just over $17!  At that price I just had to have it!  I’m so glad I got it, but that’s for another post.

The Sizzix  Big Kick ended up being a birthday gift from my daughter Jenny.  She waited until I made up my mind then used the Hobby Lobby coupon and got it for under $100.  I’m so glad she did!  I love this machine!

I know, I’m nuts!  Don’t get me wrong I love my Cricut Expolre Air, but sometimes I don’t feel like logging on to Design Space to design a project, I just want to cut/emboss and go.  With the Big Kick I can do that!

Here’s what I love and what I don’t love about my Big Kick!


It embosses!  It takes small, medium, and large folders.

You don’t need to log into an online account to use it.

It uses many kinds of dies.

It can cut a variety of materials.

It’s hand cranked, no need to plug it in.

Don’t Love:

The cost of folders and dies can add up.  Some die sets are pretty pricey.

You’re limited to the dies available on the market.  Unlike the Cricut where you can upload and cut your own designs, you must purchase dies to cut with the Big Kick.

So in my opinion having both the Cricut electronic cutting machine and Sizzix Big Kick gives me more flexibility for my paper crafts.  But if you just want one machine that will cut and emboss and is more budget friendly then the Sizzix Big Kick is the one for you.  It’s much less expensive as far as start up costs, but you do have to buy dies for cutting and that can add up, and of course you’re limited to the dies available on the market.

Here are a few projects I made using the Big Kick:

Sizzix Big Kick!I made this Anniversary card using both my Cricut and Big Kick.  I cut the gold leaf label on the Big Kick using Spellbinders Nestibilities label dies and embossed the white vellum behind the label using a Darice 4.25 x 5.75 Embossing folder [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Sizzix Big Kick!I cut these Liquor Bottle labels for my son-in-law’s birthday party on the Big Kick using the Nestibilities label dies.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]


Sizzix Big Kick!For this Birthday Card I embossed watercolor paper with a Darice folder then painted the background and birds; the cages are leafed with transfer foil.  I cut the tag using the Nestibilities label dies.  [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Sizzix Big Kick!The cloud background on this card was also watercolor paper embossed with a Darice folder and painted.  The airplane was printed and cut on the Cricut.

As you can see the Big Kick opened up a new world of creativity for me.  I love being able to emboss!

To see more of my embossed cards check out my Mother’s Day cards!


Cricut Explore Air Review

Cricut Explore Air Review

Last year my daughter, Jenny, told me about this cool machine her crafty friend Paulina was telling her about.  They were talking about the Cricut Explore Air, a personal electronic die cutting machine.  Jenny told me it could cut paper and other materials to use for all kinds of projects.  We thought it was pretty cool and wondered why we’d never heard of it before, and why we didn’t each own one.

Intrigued, I researched it and quickly decided I needed one.  It could help us make decorations for the 1950’s themed birthday party we were throwing for my mother that summer.  I figured I could use it to cut signs, menu cards, and other things we had on our list.  Now I only had to figure out how to buy one.  I live in Hawaii and the local craft store didn’t carry Cricut brand items and our Walmart didn’t stock them.

I mentioned it to my husband and hinted he should buy me one for Mother’s Day.  I told him he had to order it online.  He clearly got the hint and I got the Cricut Explore Air for Mother’s Day that year!

I was thrilled, and so were my daughters and grandkids.  Jaime suggested I make luggage tags for her and her son Jett.  My grandsons Dion and Devon placed their orders for luggage tags as well.

cricut explore airLast year I had no idea what I was doing but after watching lots of video tutorials I got to work.  I made signs, banners, cupcake wrappers, cake picks, and menu cards for my mom’s party, and the requested luggage tags.

I painstakingly designed, cut, and glued everything together.  My projects came out nice, but it wasn’t easy trying to piece together layers of tiny letters and images.

I knew I could print, but I had mistakenly thought that print was the same as “write” so I loaded Cricut pens into the housing and “printed” words on to my projects.  I was pleased with the results, but it wasn’t exactly what I thought.  The “write” command uses markers to write on the card stock, paper, or whatever media you are using, the letters weren’t as crisp as printing them on a printer.  I knew that I was missing something, but I didn’t have the time to figure it out.  But anyway my decor was a hit, it was just tedious to make.

Cricut Explore Air

Unfortunately I didn’t have lots of time to play with my new toy last year and I was getting a bit discouraged with the time it took for my paper crafts.  Still I managed to make birthday decor for my grandson Jett’s Thomas the Train Party which included a Thomas Photo Booth and Props.

Cricut Explore AirI also made lots of party decor for the twin grandkids’ Onederland Party.  That was fun, but lots of cutting and pasting.

I only wish I had known then what I know now!

After last Christmas when my kids gave me all sorts of crafting gear and Cricut accessories I knew I had to make time to figure out that Cricut Explore Air!

I mean I had this pretty cool, but pricey cutting machine and was getting frustrated whenever I used it.  Who really wants to spend hours peeling off paper letters then pasting each letter to card stock?  I knew I wasn’t using the Cricut Explore to its full potential and was ready to relegate it to the back of my closet!

But after reading a few blogs and watching some more how-to videos (things I should have done from the beginning!) I started getting excited again.  The projects folks were making and posting on Pinterest and Instagram were so pretty!  I knew I just had to master this machine and make those cool things too!

So I got my act together and turned one of my spare bedrooms into my craft room, it was so much easier to have the machine and other stuff set up and ready to use.  Last year I kept having to set it up in the family room, this added to my frustration, setting up then putting away every time I had to use it.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Cricut Explore Air

Stenciled Vase

Once I had my crafting space set up I was ready to go!  I don’t claim to be a master crafter just yet, but I’m pretty pleased with myself.

I’ve learned to use the Cricut Explore Air to make stencils which I used for signs, vases, plates, and other items.  I even stenciled a cabinet for my beach themed guest bathroom![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Cricut Explore Air

Appliqued Lady Bug Dress

I’ve cut out fabric appliques and sewed them on t-shirts and dresses for my grandchildren.

[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Cricut Explore Air

50th. Anniversary Card

I’ve even made some pretty awesome greeting cards.  Like this pretty card I made for my Aunt & Uncle’s 50th. Anniversary![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Cricut Explore AirAnd this cool bowling invitation I made for my grandson Devon’s bowling themed birthday party.  For this card I even calibrated my printer with the Cricut Explore Air so it printed out the words and the Cricut cut out the shapes afterwards!  Yay!  No more pasting tiny letters to card stock!  I won’t lie, this took me half the day to figure out, but now that I know how it’s so easy!

Cricut Explore AirThen I made iron on transfers for that birthday party!

In short I fell in love with my Cricut Explore Air all over again!  It really is a great machine.  You can do so much with it!

Yes you can cut paper and card stock to make cards and and scrapbook frills; but it can do so much more!

This cutting machine can cut all types of materials including fabric (it needs a stabilizer like fusible webbing), craft foam, thin wood, and leather with a deep cut housing and blade that’s available separately.  It cuts thin plastic film, vinyl, and the list goes on!

This machine is great for many of your crafting needs!  But it does have some flaws, nothing insurmountable, but annoying none the less!  So here’s my list of what I love about the Cricut Explore Air and what I don’t like about it!


The Design Space where you can design and create your projects.  The Design Space is a cloud based app that lets you use images and fonts you upload from your computer and Cricut images, fonts, and projects from Cricut.  Some items are free, others are available with a monthly subscription to Cricut Access, and you can use Cricut cartridges you may have (from older Cricut machines) or can purchase from Cricut and other craft stores and online sources.

I love the fact that you can print then cut pretty much with one click!

You can use Design Space to create from your laptop or mobile devices like your iPad or tablet.

The Cricut Explore Air can wirelessly connect to your devices including your computer, tablet, and printer.  This means you can design projects from anywhere, you’re not tied to your home computer or laptop.  All devices must be blue tooth capable.

You can cut so many different types of material so you can use it for any crafting project.  It really unleashes your creativity!


You can’t share your designs made in the Design Space with others.

You can’t save your designs made in the Design Space on to your computer, all designs are saved in your online account.  This means you must be logged on to your online Cricut Design Space account to work on anything, whether designing, printing, or cutting.

You need an internet connection to be able to design, print, or cut anything.  So if you don’t have an internet connection you’re stuck.  You won’t be able to work on your projects that are stored in Design Space.

There have been times when the Design Space app won’t work using Chrome as your browser.  This usually happens after a Chrome update.  When this happens you must use a different browser, so if you don’t have a different browser on your device you must install one such as Firefox or Explorer.

When your internet connection is slow then working in design space is very slow, sometimes not possible because your connection times out.

Buying images, fonts, and projects can get pricey (images start at .99 each), and the cost of cartridges can add up too.  The best way to get around this would be to buy a subscription to Cricut Access for $7.99 a month if you pay for a full year, otherwise it’s $9.99 a month and you can cancel any time.  This gives you access to thousands of images, fonts, and projects.  The least expensive alternative is to upload your own images and fonts.

I love my Cricut Explore Air.  In my opinion my list of loves out weighs my dislikes.  Sure it can be inconvenient and frustrating when your internet connection is down for whatever reason, but I’ve learned to be patient and do something else while I wait for a connection.

Whether you’re a serious crafter or just a casual one you should consider this cutting machine.  Of course once you have one it’s pretty addictive.  You’ll wonder how you could have lived without one before!

* These opinions are my own.  I wasn’t paid or compensated for this post by anyone.

Having said all that here’s a couple of videos to show you how I made a graduation card in the Cricut Design Space and then printed and cut out the pieces on my printer and Cricut!



I’ve also shared some projects I’ve made using my Cricut Explore Air, some even have free template and printables like my Stenciled Glass Vase   and Gilded Photo Hangers.  I hope you’ll check them out and subscribe to my blog to get the latest projects, tips, and more!

Meanwhile happy crafting!


Nespresso Vertuoline Review – The Perfect Cup

Nespresso Vertuoline Review – The Perfect Cup

My first experience with a Nespresso single serve coffee me maker was when we stayed at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Resort & Marina 4 years ago.  Every room was equipped with this handy coffee maker that brewed single cups of regular coffee or espresso.  I loved it!  The machine heated water in about a minute and soon after that you had a fresh cup of delicious coffee.

I was familiar with Nespresso machines, they’re in many of the breakfast rooms of the hotels we stay at when we’re in Italy, they make awesome cappuccinos.   But those were big bulky commercial machines that seemed to be connected to the room’s plumbing and electric.  I had once looked into buying one of those machines, a smaller household version to be exact.  I had found some on the internet but they were very expensive, some even over $1000.

I resigned myself to enjoying the machine only when I traveled.  Last summer we again stayed at the Westin Dubai and I made coffee every chance I got.  Then I noticed there were Nespresso Boutiques in the local malls.  I briefly toyed with the idea of purchasing a machine from one of them, but decided against it due to the different voltage on the machines and the bulky box it came in.  If I was going to buy one I would have to buy it back home to avoid having to adapt it to 110 plugs we have in the US.

Then when we got home we started seeing TV ads featuring George Clooney and Danny DeVito sipping coffee made by a Nespresso.  I vowed to get one soon.   This Christmas provided me with the perfect excuse to finally buy a Nespresso Machine, my Cuisinart Single Serve Brewing System (it uses Keurig K-Cups) went on the blink.  It was a great time for a small appliance to breakdown!  Coffee machines were on sale everywhere!

I noticed that Target had Nespresso Machines, but the sales associates weren’t much help when it came to answering my questions, most importantly where could I get the capsules.  It was odd that they sold the machine and the capsule caddy but didn’t carry the coffee capsules.  I went home to do research.  Here is what I learned!

(this post contains affiliate links)

First of all there are basically 2 lines of Nespresso machines for the home consumer, OriginalLine and VertuoLine; each line has several models at different price points starting at about a $100 for the OriginalLine Inissia.


Nespresso Inissia

The OriginalLine uses pods or capsules to make espresso.  You can not brew a “regular” cup of coffee with this machine.   You can however make a Lungo or Americano using this machine by adding hot water to the brewed espresso, basically a 50-50 mixture.

If your goal is simply to make espressos or cappuccinos then this is a great machine.  I’ve heard many folks rave about the “crema” this machine produces.  Crema is the layer of foam found on the surface of a shot of espresso.  It is formed by the type of bean and pressure used when brewing the espresso.  The OriginalLine has  high pressure and produces excellent crema, it also brews a hotter cup of coffee.  Another plus for this line is that the pods are nicely priced and are available in brands other than Nespresso.  The pods in a variety of flavors sell for $0.80 a piece on the Nespresso website and compatible pods are sold by Bestpresso or Gourmesso on Amazon for almost half the price. Since my husband is an avid regular coffee drinker first thing in the morning this line of machines would not work for us.

Nespresso VertuolineThe VertuoLine was the perfect machine for us!  This line, available only in the US, was introduced  a little over a year ago.  In an effort  to capture it’s share of the US coffee market Nespresso introduced this line to appeal to our preference for “filtered” or “regular” coffee.  The line has several models, the newest is the Evoluo which is available in Gray or Red.

Best of all depending on the pod you insert the machine automatically adjust to the type of coffee you are brewing.  No need to fiddle with buttons to program regular or espresso.  Just load the pod, press the button, and in less than a minute you got coffee!

It is sold in a bundle with the Aeroccino (Milk Frother), and a sample box of pods for  around $260.  Or you can buy them separately, the Evoulo for about $150 and the Aeroccino for about $70.  Pods cost $1.10 each. [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]


Nespresso VertuolineI of course bought the bundle.  My husband may love his regular coffee, but I love my cappuccinos and mochas!

Nespresso Vertuoline




Nespresso VertuolineThe box was huge!  I sometimes feel sorry for the UPS person, specially around the Holidays.  This year he delivered this as well as a bunch of other big heavy boxes to my doorstep.  When I unpacked the box there were three boxes inside; the coffee maker, frother, and coffee samples.[spacer height=”-20px”]


Nespresso Vertuoline

The sample box contains a pod of several different types of coffee.  4 Espresso pods, and 8 regular coffee pods 2 of which are flavored, 1 half caffinated, and 1 decaf.  As you can see the pods are colored to reflect the type of coffee.  The coffees, including the espresso range from mild to intense.  They are made from a mixture of different beans from around the world.[spacer height=”-20px”]

Nespresso Vertuoline

Here’s the difference in the coffee and espresso pods.  The larger capsule is for regular coffee, the smaller one for espresso. [spacer height=”-20px”]

Now here’s what I like and don’t like about my new Nespresso Bundle.


Nespresso Vertuoline

First of all I like the streamlined design as compared to my old Cuisinart.  And I love red!  I know minor stuff, but when you have counters full of small appliance space matters, and if you’re OCD like me and everything must match or coordinate, color counts.

I love that the used pods slip out of the machine each time you open the top.  The pod slips out and falls into the receptacle on the right.  You just pull it out to empty when full.

I love that the water is ready to use within a minute or so of turning on the machine.

I love the fact that I just pop in a pod and the machine automatically knows if I’m brewing regular coffee or espresso.  No need to program anything.  You can however program a larger size of regular coffee, the instructions to do so are in the owner’s manual.

Nespresso VertuolineMy husband loves the different types of coffee available.  He also loves that his morning cup of coffee brings him back to Italy!  Even regular cups of coffee have a top layer of foam![spacer height=”-20px”]


Nespresso Vertuoline

I absolutely love the Aeroccino!  It make wonderful froth in less than a minute.  It comes with 2 attachments, one for hot froth and the other for cold drinks.  You pop in the correct attachment, they’re magnetic, when you want to make a cappuccino or other specialty coffee.  Add whatever type of milk you use….


Nespresso VertuosoPress the button and the milk starts frothing!  When the light goes off your milk is done.







Nespresso VertuolineI like to make my cappuccinos by first frothing the milk, putting it in the cup, then letting the espresso drip directly into the milk.

My all time favorite are Mocha Cappuccinos.

Add 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup to the cup.

Add frothed milk.

Add espresso.

If it’s not sweet enough for you add sugar or sweetener to taste.



Here are the cons – in our case they aren’t such a big deal, but if you’re a true espresso aficionado it will probably be a huge factor for you.

The crema is not as thick as the one made using the OriginalLine.  The pressure is greater on the OriginalLine machines.

Coffee is not very hot.  If you like your coffee scalding this is not the machine for you, it doesn’t heat the water to very high temperatures.  On the other hand you will never burn your mouth with the first sip.

It doesn’t have a clock or a timer.  If you like to program your coffee maker to start heating the water before you wake up this isn’t your machine.  But the water does heat up and the machine ready to brew within a minute of turning it on.  It does however turn off if not used within a few minutes.  I used to program our Cuisinart Coffee Maker to turn on and off, works great until the power blinks off.  Then I have to figure out how to reset the clock.  This turned into more of a chore than the convenience it was supposed to be.

The machine costs a little more than say a Keurig or other coffee makers.  However if you’re a Starbuck’s regular it can save you money in the long term.  After about 50 cappuccinos at $5 a cup the machine and frother should just about pay for itself.

The coffee pods cost more than other pods or capsules.  They cost $1.10 a piece as opposed to $0.85 for the OriginalLine pods, or about $0.70 for Keurig pods.  You can even buy Keurig compatible pods from Sam’s Club or Costco.  At this time Nespresso pods aren’t available at either store.

The Vertuoline machines only use Nespresso capsules.  At this time there are no other companies that make compatible capsules like they do for the OriginalLine.

The pods as far as I can tell are only sold on the Nespresso website, or at a Nespresso Boutique if you happen to have one nearby.  Amazon  does sell them as well, but at this time it was less expensive to buy them directly from Nespresso.  The site offers free shipping on qualifying orders.

I ordered a selection of coffee capsules from the site on a Thursday, I got free standard shipping to Hawaii.  I got my box of coffee pods by Saturday!  Great service.

That’s another thing I love about Nespresso.   When you place your first coffee order you’re automatically a Nespresso Club member.  You receive a free gift with your first order, assuming you meet the minimum quantity.  You’re notified of specials, can order online via a laptop or mobile device, place phone orders, get coffee recipes, machine cleaning and care instructions, and more.

Over all we’re quite pleased with our new Evoulo machine.  I treat myself to a Mocha Cappuccino at least once a day.  A cup costs me less than $2 and I don’t have to stand in line to place my order!

Philips Pasta Maker Review

Philips Pasta Maker Review

I love Pasta!  The only thing I really wanted last Christmas was a Philips Pasta Maker.  I had seen it advertised on a flyer I’d gotten from one of the local stores.  I had never heard of it, but I wanted one!   Thankfully my son and his wife heard my wish.  With all that went on after the holidays it took me a while to unpack it.  I finally got around to opening the large box it came in and promptly fell in love.  Me and the pasta maker were a match made in noodle heaven!

I had been toying with a pasta maker for a while and even went so far as shopping around for one.  The ones I’d seen are the manually cranked makers that you put the dough in, crank the machine, and pasta is extruded sort of like a meat grinder.  To use those makers you still had to make the dough, something I’m not too found of.

The Philip Pasta Maker is an electric machine that kneads the dough and shapes it into pasta. You dump the ingredients in, press a button, and fresh pasta is extruded in 10 – 15 minutes depending on how much pasta you’re making.  The only think it doesn’t do is boil the pasta for you.

I made my first batch of pasta and was amazed at how fast it made fresh pasta.  From start to finish it took less than a half an hour, and that included clean up!  That was faster than running out to the store to buy the refrigerated pasta from the store.  Here’s my machine and a few tips on using it!

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Philips Pasta MakerThis is the machine.  When you remove it from the box it’s fitted with one of the shaping discs.  I took it off when I washed and dried the machine.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]







Philips Pasta MakerIt comes with 4 shaping discs, a cutter/cleaner, and 2 disc specific cleaners. Included discs are for making fettuccini, spaghetti, penne, and lasagne/dumpling. You can use the cutter/cleaner to clean the lasagne and penne discs, but the fettuccini and spaghetti discs each come with their own cleaner.  The disc cleaners are brown clear pieces that have plastic “spikes” on them, they fit over the disc they clean so that they can push out pasta that may have gotten caught in the holes.

It also comes with 2 cups, one for dry ingredients and the other for liquids.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]





Philips Pasta MakerThere’s a drawer located at the bottom of the maker to store the discs and cleaners.  I love the drawer, it keeps the attachments in one place where I can easily find them. [spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]





The maker also comes with a recipe book for making several different types of pasta.  But basically all you need is flour and water.  All the other recipes are different variations.

You can use all purpose flour, but they recommend using a mixture of all purpose flour and semolina. This gives your pasta more substance.  If you don’t have any semolina you can add an egg to the liquid to add substance to your dough.

It’s very important that you use the measuring cup it comes with.  The cups are slightly larger than a regular measuring cup.  If you use your own measuring cup your pasta may not turn out right; you may have too much liquid and not enough dry.  This results in a wet sticky mess, cleaning the machine can be difficult after this mistake.

Don’t think you’re limited to just making spaghetti or other Italian pasta, this machine can make most any kind of noodle including ramen and soba noodle.

You can buy other discs for the machine:  Angel Hair and Pappardelle Pasta Disc Kit and Thick Spaghetti and Tagliatelle Pasta Disc Kit.

You can freeze or dry the pasta you make if you’re not going to use it right away.

If you’re going to freeze the pasta lightly dust it with flour so it doesn’t stick together.

To dry pasta you will need to hang it on a pasta drying rack and following those instructions.

I love my new machine.  It’s so easy to use and you can make all sorts of  pasta and noodles.  But if you think it will save you money, I’m not so sure.  The cost of the machine is about $300.  If you make a ton of pasta then it will be worth it in the long run I guess.  I didn’t want it to save money, I just like fresh pasta!

If you’re looking for a new pasta recipe check out my Steak & Pasta dish that I make using rib eye steaks left over from our Sunday barbecues!

Here’s a short video I made when I made a batch of fettuccini.

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