Wednesday, November 30, 2016

**REVIEW** Qi Receiver and Wireless Charger

Okay, today's post is a dual-product review. I wanted to try a wireless charger but because my phone (a  Samsung Galaxy Note 4) doesn't have built-in capabilities for wireless charging, I had to handle that. So...

This is the Note 4 Qi Receiver Built-in Qi Wireless Charging Receiver by LANIAKEA


That's what it looks like on the product page at Amazon. Here is what it looks like 'in person':



Such a tiny thing to do something that's kind of amazing.

What the receiver does is allow me to charge my phone wirelessly - no plugging anything into the phone itself. 

When I want to charge my phone (which is pretty much all the freaking time), I just sit it down on this RAVPower Qi Wireless Charger Charging Pad. Like so:




That is, theoretically. I will get to that in a moment. In the meantime, this is what the charging pad looks like and comes with as you can see from my actual received product:




Understand the idea is wireless charging - not cordless. There is, of course, a cord to plug the charging pad into. But before I could even deal with the charging pad, I had to prep my phone.

I do love my Note 4 and I really don't ever want another phone. I think of the Note series as a phone for writers. Literally. The stylus with its note-taking, handwriting capabilities is so perfect for someone who hates typing on a tiny keyboard. The downside is, it's one of the few (if not the only) recently produced phones without Qi abilities pre-installed. Which is why I was so glad to find the receiver for not more than a tenner. The price is actually $11.86.

Installing the item is easy. Good thing because the included instructions were printed so small I joked that I'd need Superman vision to read them. I found a YouTube video instead and all is right with the world. This is basically what the deal is: you place the receiver onto your battery, fitting the metal doo-dads of the receiver over the metal doo-dads inside your phone. Like how technical I got there?



Trust me, it was easy. Don't even strain the soul of your eyes trying to read the enclosed instructions...

and that's with the camera magnifying the page 😏

Before I move on, let me point out a couple of positives about the receiver:
  1. The price is very reasonable.
  2. Never bought from the Seller before, but Laniakea was quick with the delivery and the product lives up to the hype so far.
  3. The receiver even worked when I had my mirror back case attached.
There's really not much more the say about the receiver. Once it's inserted, I don't even think about it. 

Once I got the receiver inserted, it was time to try out the charging pad. I was so excited. Just to imagine not having to unplug my phone every time I left my desk to take a break. Oh, the joy. The happiness, The- What the heck? 😨

(BTW, Blogger should never have added symbols. I will be so much more annoying now!😁)

On to the charging pad then.🠊 (See. Annoying.) Anyway...


Remember, how easy this photo made things look? 


Now, remember what I said about theory and all?

I was looking at the picture all wrong. I saw "easy". In practice, well... It's more like this:

                                                Image result for refueling in mid air
πŸ‘ŽBoo. Hiss.


No kidding. If you don't get the phone placed onto the charging pad just so,good luck. 

The good thing is, once I get some practice, it should be easier to just plop the phone onto the charging pad in the correct position. I hope. For now, I can tell when I've got it correctly placed because the pad's indicator light will flash green and red as long as the phone is charging. Also, the phone does make that annoying connection sound that it does just like when plugging into a wired charger.

The rest of the Pros and Con's about the charger? I will start, of course with the negatives:
  • Charging is not as speedy as with an OEM* cable charger.
  • This is not cordless, so... There will be the cord from the pad to the wall to avoid tripping over. (I already tripped over it, yes, I did.)
  • The pad takes up desk space. Not a lot, but enough if your desk is small. It's about the size of a flattened 100's cigarette pack. 
On the Plus side:
  • My phone doesn't get as warm as it can with a cable charger. 
  • Though it charges slower, it will be great for overnight charging.
  • Wireless is great for people like me who always forget and just about yank their whole desk over when trying to walk away with a plugged in phone. True story. At least twice a day. One time I tipped over my whole portable desk.
  • I paid $10 for this one last week. I see the price is up to $15.99 today. Just wait for a sale or check out other sellers. I'd say that, at most, this is worth about $20, but I'd still look for a bargain price.
  • If your household has users of different types of phones, it would be nice to have a couple of these pads around. No more worrying with cable fits which phone.

    Bottom Line:

    If you catch this at the right price (and I waited a few months to do just that), then this would make a great gift for a gadget lover. While not essential, it is a cool idea and it does have benefits.

    Personally, I would not have gotten this if I'd had to pay even 5 bucks more. It's nice but it's a must-have item - especially if you have to get the receiver separately. 

    There are some people for whom a wireless charger is more useful. I think that people with multiple phones (maybe like my nephew who has a work phone and his personal phone) or a busy house might find it useful. Again, not having to worry about finding/sharing cables with everyone is a big benefit.

    There you have it. Hope this review was helpful to some of you.

    Peace
    --Free


    *OEM = Original Equipement Manufacturer

    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    **REVIEW** Samsung Galaxy Note4 Spare Battery Charger

    For anyone who uses a cellphone, I don't think there is such a thing as having too many spare batteries or chargers. Or too many charging cables.

    Recently, I got the chance to grab a spare battery and charger for that battery for a review. I love having a spare battery. Having the included charger was nice but I found a better charger.


    Front of case
    case door closed
    Charging indicator light at very top

    First off, I love the way the charger is made. Inserting a dead battery will trigger a red/orange light; a charged battery triggers a green light. Once I charge up my spare battery, I can just drop the case into my bag and go. The one other charger I have is of an open design. The battery moves around and sometimes will fall out of the charging position and there's absolutely no way to pack it around with a battery inserted.

    This case by Samsung is a nice and neat design. Looks very clean and it's super lightweight. Another benefit it has over my other (open-face) face charger is that there is no hassle in having to line up the charging nodes. All I need to do is drop the battery into the case, shut the door and then plug in a cable and cord:



    Case door open, battery insterted



    The one and only negative to this case is, for the price, I was surprised that there was no cable included. Using the right charging cable makes a HUGE difference.

    The product page for the charger indicates an approximate 2-hour charging time. The first time I used the charger, I attached it to one of the spare universal cords I keep around the house. Bad move. I had the charger plugged in for over four hours and the battery was still not charged. I left it overnight so I'm not sure exactly when it finally charged up the battery to full. That was kind of a test. The next time, I made sure to use my fast-charging Samsung cable. Took about and hour and 15 minutes to charge up a mostly depleted battery.

    Lesson learned: the charging cable makes all the difference!

    The charging case is perfect for someone like me who is always forgetting to check their current battery level. I never realize how low my battery is until I am walking out the door on the way to an appointment or to run errands. My family hates when I leave the house and there is no way to get in touch with me. They worry I will get sick and not have a way to call for help or let them know. Hell, I worry about that, but my memory is bad so... I forget to check my battery.

    This case is just what I needed. Now all I have to do is get a few more rapid charging cables to go with it.


    view of charging port


    Like I said, the design is perfect for a take-along. The case is slim and thin and lightweight. I can slide it into the back pocket of my jeans and forget that it's there. It takes up almost no room in my purse.

    Slim enough for pocket, purse, bag

    For some reason, when I ordered, the case was priced at $15.98. I see that it is now showing a price of $9.99. For the higher price, it should have come with a spare cable...

    Now that I do have a charger I love and that works really well, I am on the lookout for an extra battery, cable, and wall plug. If anyone knows of something good, reasonably priced, and (this is the important part) actually a verified OEM (original equipment manufacturer),please shoot me a message. I am finding a TON of parts that say they are OEM, but customer reviews are outing some fakes and substitutes. Come to think of it, I might need to bypass Amazon and go straight to the Samsung source.

    Peace
    --Free

    Saturday, November 19, 2016

    **REVIEW** Xtra-Funky Shiny Mirror Case (for Galaxy Note4)

    While I love, love, love my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (most of the time) and I do try to keep it safe by using protective cases, I don't usually buy decorative cases. I'm mostly about keeping my phone safe and working. Pretty is not a priority.

    But...

    I saw this case when I was ordering Christmas gifts for DJ. I can't remember how I came across it, but it certainly caught my eye.






















    How could it not?

    That's the photo from the product page for the (get ready for the name) Xtra-Funky Range Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Slim TPU Silicone Shiny Mirror Case with Sparkly Crystal Diamante Rhinestones - Silver

    I will just call it the mirror case. The photos mostly speak for the product, but I will give you my opinion of course.



    Hard to get photos because of the shine. Almost looks like the case is floating, doesn't it?



    I like that the case really is as shiny as it looks on the product page. My own photos don't capture it so well, but it is truly a mirror-like finish. Seriously.

    It's nice to have a mirror attached to something that I always have on hand. I have to admit that when I was in the store today, I was using it to spy on a cute guy that I'd passed in one aisle! Not sure if that's what the intended use is. Since the mirror is my main attraction to this case, I have to mention that it smudges easily. That doesn't take away from the use of the mirror though.

    The one thing I don't like about the case is that the "rhinestones" are so cheap looking when you see them up close. They aren't even actual rhinestoned - just really cheap and cloudy-looking plastic chips in the shape of the stones. I know that rhinestones are cheap imitations anyway, but these are so dulll-looking that I wish I had gotten a case without them added on.

    I want to point out that even though the mirror is really nice, the case itself (inlcuding the mirror part) is not a hard substance. The plastic is a soft, molded unit that bends with very little pressure. I guess that's a good thing since a harder plastic would break. The winter weather here is really cold so I like the more pliable plastic.

    Another thing about the case is that, while it does provide covering (and some cushioning) to the back, it's not something I'd count on offering a lot of protection should I drop the phone.

    Overall, I really do like this a lot. That mirror is something else. I guess the only real negative I can point out (other than those rhinestones) is that I have to press harder on my side buttons to get them to work. For the purpose of the buttons, it would be nice is the case were more rubberized than plastic.

    Though I don't like the cheap look of the rhinestones, they only look bad at a close view. From a distance, the stones really don't take away from the look of the case. And, once again, that mirror makes it worth it.

    Bottom line, the case cost less than 5 bucks. That's a great price and very much worth it.

    I've been over on Amazon looking at the other items in the Xtra-Funky storefront. I see a few things that I like for gift items, including cases and accessories for all kinds of phones. My family is a mix of Android and iPhone users, so...

    I can tell you that I do like the case I got and that the service was great from the Seller. I will be purchasing from them again.

    Peace
    --Free

    Tuesday, November 15, 2016

    **REVIEW** ProWriting Aid

    It's been while since I've reviewed any products of use to writers. This one should make up for that.

    As you might know, I'm working on self-publishing collections of my short stories and essays. The first collection is mostly done, but I needed a few days' quiet time to finish it off. I have a couple of weeks while the fam is on vacation. I forfeited a vacation just to work on the writing. Aren't I crazy?

    Like most writers, I'm overly critical of my own writing and not always objectively so. Or even productively so. In other words, I tend to beat myself up and think that I am the worst writer ever. (If you think this only applies to those of us who aren't yet financially successful with our writing, remember that Stephen King actually threw out the manuscript of "Carrie". Thank goodness his wife had more faith in his talent!)

    I've been using the tools in MS Word for most of my editing, spell-checking, etcetera. Those tools aren't bad, it's just that they are all over the place. Sometimes, I can't even remember where to find one of them. Also, I find the Word tools to be a bit clunky and anti-creative. I finally have found a program that does what I need (as far as cleaning up my work) without hindering my creativity.

    Check out the site here


    The only thing I don't like about ProWriting Aid so far is the name. Otherwise, I am finding it to be really helpful. Let me go over the highlight of the program for those of you who don't want to leave this page:

    First, there are 3 versions to cover all budgets:

    • Free - an online version where you can paste in up to 3000 words, but there is no interactive editing.
    • $40/year Premium version - No word limitations and you can use online, or with MS Word and Google Docs. (This is the version that I have and it's plenty packed as I will show you in a moment.) **I found a code in a forum that allowed me to get this version at half-price. Yay me.
    • $45/year Premium Plus - this version is noted for being suited to academics. It includes up to 50 plagiarism checks per year.  
    I have used the online version off and on for a couple of years and think I might even have blogged something about it. It's not bad for smaller works - or for checking important emails that you plan to send out. I wanted the Premium and was so happy when I got to use a code for the discount. (By the way, this code I used was not in exchange for a review. I found it in a forum that I was in.)

    Let me go over some of the features. I'm still new to the Premium version so forgive me if I have mention something without going into detail. I will try to come back and update this post in the future.

    Let's take a look at the general analysis of a sample. I used the first few paragraphs of this post.

    That's pretty comprehensive, right? That is what the online tool looks like if you have Premium, but the Free version is similar from what I remember.

    Since I do have the Premium, I prefer working from my computer or right from inside Word. There is a desktop version of ProWriting and, of course, there is a Word add-in. I have both. The desktop and add-in are separate downloads, by the way.

    Let's get to what I do like about this:
    • The free version is useful enough on its own, but the Premium is super nice. I have no need forthe Premium Plus. The Premium online tool is easy to navigate and use. The toolbar and overall layout is nicely done. It's nice to be able to link to the different reports over on the sidebar.
    • The desktop version has a beautiful toolbar that is easy to use from the first time.
    • The document interaction available in the Premium version makes editing easy. Words and phrases are either underlined or colorfully highlighted so you can spot the errors or suggestions.
    • The Word add-in version has tips and guidance for each of the reports you might want to run - such as Overused Words, Cliches, etc.
    • If you are checking a large amount of work, you will be prompted/warned about how long the process might take. You can either proceed and take a nice long break away from your desk, or you can back out of the report and select/highlight a lesser amount of data to check. 
    Trust me, this is a really nice writing aid. Like I mentioned, I am still getting used to all that it does, but that's because it does so much. It's like having a personal editor or reader to go throughh your manuscripts. I don't think the learning curve is very steep and I am finding some things that I wish would be changed altogether or at least improved:
    • The online version is slow even for smaller amounts of text.
    • The desktop version has a much nicer toolbar layout than does the Word add-in.
    • The add-in version toolbar is downright ugly. It's basically a box that's cluttered with the options. This might be the fault of Word (or even user error), but I haven't found a way yet to stretch the toolbar. Working on it and will let you know.
    • The desktop version is unattractive upon opening. It's nice once you get into an actual document, but... (I think I am being overly picky and distracted here!)
    • While I like the toolbar for the desktop version, I don't like that there are no user tips available whatsoever. Once I get used to the program, that shouldn't be a problem, but it would be very helpful to have that assistance from the outset.
    I like the positives of this program so much that I can easily overlook the negatives. My biggest annoyance is probably thes compressed and scrunched-up looking toolbar in the add-in for Word. There was no way to fix this from the usual toolbar settings. Ugh.



    That right there is the toolbar shoved over on the left-hand corner of Word. Compare it to the toolbar for the desktop version:



    See? Of course, the nicer toolbar offers no user tips on hover. Maybe ProWriting needs to merge the best of the two bars...

    My very few gripes don't kill my love for ProWriting Aid. I can honestly suggest that other writers give this tool a try. There is a trial version (14-day, I believe) that was listed. I can't find the offer now that I have a Premium account. It's worth it to search for a discount code. 

    Now that I have the tool, I hope I will be able to afford it every year. I really don't want to be without it now. I was so overwhelmed with all this last-minute editing that I needed serious help. This program - flaws and all - is it.

    Peace
    --Free

    Sunday, November 13, 2016

    **REVIEW** Organic Paleo Cultured Brown Butter Ghee

    This post is mainly for anyone eating a Keto or Paleo diet - or anyone that likes organic foods.

    I've talked about using butter and ghee as part of my keto eating regimen. You can read here about some of the brands and types I've previously tried. This is the most recent brand of ghee I am trying and I think it's my favorite so far:

                                               Organic Paleo Cultured Brown Butter Ghee, Grass Fed, Casein and Lactose Free (8 oz)

    It would be my absolute favorite, hands down, except I can't find it anywhere locally. I'm going to have to check and see if my town's health food stores can order some. It's not a Prime product on Amazon and the shipping charge was almost same as for the product. Where I do find it labeled as a Prime item, the price is higher. Go figure....

    Ghee (in general) is an acquired taste, in my opinion. I do think that if more people knew about it, they would prefer using ghee in place of their ordinary butter. Go back and check that previous post to see what I mean. Ghee is about as basic in flavor as any butter. Adding it to foods can alter the texture or amp the flavor, but it's not strong on it's own. When I add it to my coffee, for instance, it adds a creaminess but it doesn't make the coffee taste like butter.

    The reason I like this brown butter ghee is because of the flavor. It's so faint that I almost don't notice it but, once I do, I realize it adds to the richness of my coffee. It's less noticeable on food, though.

    As soon as you open the jar, you can smell a caramel-like fragrance. It's really, really nice. It reminds me exactly of something else I've smelled - a candy or baked good, I'm thinking - but I haven't been able to place which one yet. I even had my niece take a sniff and she knows what I'm talking about but can't think of what it is either.

    As the name reveals, this particular ghee is a much deeper shade than the others I've tried. The color is obtained by a longer cooking process, according to the label.

     I wouldn't say that it's exactly brown though. To me, it looks more like a blend of these two different shades of brown:




    Here is how my phone camera picks it up. It's actually a touch darker in reality.



    Speaking of the label, this one lets you know about the sourcing and batching of the product:



    The label info includes: that this is sourced from grass-fed cows (raised in Northern California); and is made in small batches. Here is the product page I ordered mine from: Organic Paleo Cultured Brown Butter Ghee, Grass Fed, Casein and Lactose Free (8 oz). It is not Prime eligible and costs $8.95+ shipping. I thought the shipping was too high but I got mine using a gift credit I had.

    Anyway, this is not one that I plan to use on the skin (although the nice scent might make it worth it!). If I have one complaint, it's that I didn't get this is a larger jar size. Like I mentioned, I can only order it online but the shipping is too much for me. I'm looking for a comparable product so I'm reading a ton of reviews right now!

    Since I am on the keto diet, I don't eat much bread. I did try this out on a little piece of toast and it was very nice. Not much different from the other clarified butters when using it on the bread. I can tell more of a difference in its richness when I use it in my coffee.

    If anyone has suggestions for a good ghee that they have tried (and that I might be able to find on Amazon),please let me know.

    Peace
    --Free

    Friday, November 11, 2016

    **REVIEW** IQ Shield FitBit Blaze Matte Anti-glare Protector

    When I got my first Fitbit, I had the Flex model that I hated. The device itself was very limited (and expensive). The band was such a cheaply made piece of crap that it made me swear off ALL Fitbits for a couple of years.

    The second Fitbit was a gift and I like the Blaze model so much more than the Flex. The band is still my least favorite part of the item, but it's at least more durable than those awful Flex bands. The other thing about this one is.... the glare of the screen in some lighting situations.

    Even though we are out of our bright sunny days of summer and in the darkness of winter, it doesn't take much sun or the wrong indoor lighting to reflect off the Blaze screen. Even at the gym that I go to (stop laughing! I have gone a few times lately...), the lighting is pretty bright and I have to turn my Blaze certain ways to see the screen well.

    I figured that since I have anti-glare protection for my cell phone, I could find something similar for my Blaze. They are two of the most expensive mobile gadgets I own. Mobile gadgets are the ones I worry about dropping, bumping, or otherwise risking some kind of damage.

    So, I wanted protection (and anti-glare) for my Blaze and I wanted it to be affordable.  Found it:

                                      



    That's the IQ Shield FitBit Blaze Matte Anti-glare Protector I got so I could write a review of my experience.

    At the same time that I got the IQ Shield, I was testing out a protector from a different brand. I recruited my niece - who has the same Fitbit model as mine - so that we could try both and compare. For this review, we are talking about the anti-glare protector that I used on my Blaze.

    I initially expected that the cover would just protect the screen and only cut back some on the glare, and I would have lived with that. What surprised me is just how much the cover cut out the glare.

    On the left, my Blaze with the IQ Shield. On the right, Gabby's Blaze without anti-glare. Big difference, right?



    When I was taking the photo, I realized that some people might attribute such a difference to the way Gabby was holding the devices so I asked her to try holding them straighter. As you can see, the difference is seriously drastic no matter which angle you are viewing from.


    What a nice difference that is. I no longer want to ever be without one of these shields now. (I'm going to get some for my phone next.)

    Other than how well this works, the main reason I like this shield over some others I've tried is because of the nice kit. You don't just get a shield and one of those dust cloths to prep with.



    See what I mean? You get everything you need to prep the screen and apply the cover. It's really easy. My niece said that it was one of the nicest kits she has ever seen. (She used LOTS of gadget accessories like this because she has more gadgets than I do!)





    Made in the US, this kit comes with 6 covers. I won't run out too soon, even though I am sharing them with Gabby. I still have the first one on (since around the 5th of October) and it's still in good shape. I'll try to remember to come back and update on when and why I need to apply a new cover.

    You can find the Blaze kit I used here. I'm checking the brand's entire Amazon storefront for a cover(s) for my phone.

    Peace
    ---Free






    DISCLOSURE: I received one or more of the items reviewed in this post at a discount or no charge . This does not affect the fairness and honesty of my opinion. I write this blog for the readers and share my full experience when I test a product.

    Friday, October 28, 2016

    **Info Probe** Tumeric (for flavor, health & beauty)

    Since I posted about the types and benefits of butter (and ghee), I've been thinking of some of the other easily accessible products that we could all be taking advantage of. I'm thinking mainly of food items that lots of other cultures already make use of - and that we Westerners don't.

    Image result for turmericTurmeric became one of my favorite cooking powders several months back. I started adding it to my coffee and baked foods when I heard that it was supposed to be anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. Due to the aging process (and maybe some of the meds I've been on), I needed the anti-inflammatory properties. What I didn't know about turmeric is how many other healthy benefits it can have.

    Just like when I was posting the information about butter, I want to point out that it pays to look to a variety of cultures for healthy ideas. Turmeric is, I learned, used in Ayurvedic medicine for treating a number of disorders. Of course, I know very little about the religious/spiritual aspects of Ayurvedic medicine, I can appreciate the things that are beneficial to physical health.

    Other than the flavor it adds to food, one of the things I like most about turmeric is the vivid yellow color of the powder. When I bake meats and veggies, I love to add the yellow turmeric with some deep red curry powder.

    The yellow color is not just something to please the eyes. Apparently, the main active ingredient in turmeric is something called curcumin. The amounts of curcumin found in turmeric is small and since it's not easily absorbed by the body, some people prefer to get the curcumin in higher doses via supplements. On the other hand, curcumin is better absorbed when combined with fatty substances or black pepper. I am intrigued by the anti-oxidant (and other healthy) claims of a curcumin extract so I've ordered some. Of course, I will let you all know how that works out.
    Image result
    As far as non-food/uses for turmeric, you've probably already heard about using it as an eyeshadow. I think the first time I heard about that was when everyone was doing beauty hacks using cocoa and sugar and other kitchen staples. I'm careful about what I will use on my face - even natural products. I suggest that anyone planning on experimenting with this will make sure to use a lot of caution. I'm not sure if turmeric can

    Just for kicks, I did a quick search for beauty tips using turmeric and... there are lots. Pinterest is, of course, loaded with various ideas and then there are all the folks selling books and products that include turmeric. As soon as I saw that turmeric can be used for hair removal, I was out. Here's just one link to give you an idea of some beauty uses. Like I said, proceed with caution.

    Because I really like the Wellness Mama site, I wanted to include this link about turmeric. I was paying attention to the cautions as well as to the general info provided.

    Since turmeric is mainly used for food, I am including some links for using it in the kitchen:

    So, there you go. There are lots of reasons to look into using turmeric and lots of ways to do so. If anyone has any tips and/or recipes, don't be shy about sharing.

    Peace
    --Free

    **NOTE - For anyone who, like me, wondered if curcumin was the same as cumin, the answer is no.  Maybe I ought to do my next Probe on cumin!



    No-brainer DISCLAIMER: I assume you all know that I am not a doctor or any other type of medical professional. You should use your common sense and your doctor's advice when it comes to your health.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2016

    **Info Probe** Oh,Ghee, Butter and Grass-fed Things for Food and for.. Hair???

    Ghee, let's talk


    If you have ever tried to clean up your nutritional habits, you've had to start reading food labels more carefully than you might have before.

    Prior to going "Keto", I've never tried very hard to change my eating habits. I did try eating more vegetables (via juicing) and getting more water into my daily diet, and I have done the low-calorie thing. The most involved I've been with food labels is reading the calorie counts. 

    Since I have begun eating "ketogenically", I have become really interested in food labels. Bigger than that, I am interested in the truth  of those labels. The basic idea behind a keto diet is eating low-carb. high-fat, and clean. The low-carb/high-fat part doesn't faze me, but that "clean" part? That's going to be kind of tricky.

    One of the first habits I gained when I started the Keto diet was to drink "Bullet Proof Coffee" (or BPC). My BPC is coffee blended with butter and coconut oil and whole/heavy cream. It has replaced my coffee with flavored creamers. It has replaced sodas and juices. Just about the only thing I drink these days is tea with cream, BPC or Pellegrino sparkling water or flat water. No more Almond Joy Creamer or apple-orange juice blends for me. 

    When I learned about BPC, I was kind of grossed out. I tried it (using sweet cream butter and coconut oil and some half and half) and was really grossed out. I had forgotten to blend the concoction - which makes ALL the difference. Then I learned that I should be using butter from grass-fed cows. I'd never before paid attention to the type of butter I was using, other than whether or not it was salted or unsalted. Who knew?

    Once I got the hang of drinking butter in my coffee (and started seeing results with my weight and energy levels), I started paying more attention to the butter I was using. This is the brand of butter that I started out using in my coffee- and still use for some of my food needs. It's the one that is most readily available at our local stores (including Walmart and Costco):

    I've found one other brand that is labeled as being from grass-fed cows.

    As far as using butter in coffee, I guess I should point out a couple of "Why's":
    • Q - Why use butter at all (in coffee)? A - It's a great substitute for the morning "breaking of the night fast" (breakfast), and it satisfies hunger.
    • Q - Why use grass-fed butter? A - In theory, it's healthier to eat butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows. In theory. I'll be getting to more in that in a moment.
    •  Also, adding butter and coconut oil gives Keto eaters some of their desired daily fat macronutrients.
    In theory, butter from the milk of grass-fed cows is supposed to be higher in antioxidants that are heart healthy. I say "in theory" because this is only true if you are getting actual grass-fed butter. Labeling is a problem with any products here in the U.S. and as a consumer, I'm learning that I have to look at food labels very closely. The information I see may not always be as straightforward as it should be. This is what the term "grass-fed" generally means (according to USDA standards):
    meat obtained from cows that were raised, after weaning, on a diet of grass (and other forage, like clover) situated in pasture and, when fresh grass is unavailable, hay.
    The standards were established in 2007 but wasn't used by all beef producers anyway. In January 2016, the USDA stopped using the definition since they can't do the all the on-site inspections needed to verify the standard is being met. There are other options for how the grass fed standards will be determined. (Believe it or not, I first heard of the whole issue via a Cracked Magazine article. This is why I file Cracked in my "News You Can Use" file...)

    It's not enough that I have to worry about the truth and lies in labeling, but also about whether or not a food is GMO- and pesticide-free, right? The USDA has standards for that also, by the way. It's almost as if we as consumers need to take a crash course in standards and practices of the food industry before we head to the grocery store!

    Now that I am a few months into the ketogenic diet, I am adjusting foods and ingredients to suit my budget and preferences. One major change I've made is to start using ghee instead of my other butter. Purity Farms is the first brand I found locally. (You can see a photo further below.)

    I had multiple reasons for even trying ghee. One was that Kerry Gold has "improved" their butter and the improvements possibly involve changes that I would find unhealthy. I'm still checking that claim out and I have a small reserve of the "old" Kerry Gold butter on hand for now. The other reason I wanted to at least try using ghee was that I'd heard it was a bit denser in certain nutrients. Here's how ghee compares to butter:

    Source: Dr Axe
    I'm looking at the higher nutrient contents in particular. It's a bonus that the smoke point is higher for ghee, which means it's easier to cook with.

    As with any other food product, consumers will want the best quality item. I found a list of things to look for in ghee. I bolded the things that matter most to me personally. The list and notes are from the same source I just linked:


    • Grass Fed (Buying ghee that is made from cows that were fed on grass rather than fed on grain (as most North American dairy producers do) is more in line with how cows in India are raised. The consensus is that cows that are fed grass produce milk that has more flavors and is more nutrient rich than cows that are fed grain. Some ghee producers don’t even don’t collect milk from the cows during the summer months when the grass is dry and isn’t as nutritious for the cows.)
    • Organic (If you are eating ghee for its health benefits it is well worth considering buying organic. Many of the most popular brands are organic.)
    • Cultured Ghee (Regular ghee does not use cultured cream and thus retains some of the casein:  Tin star is cultured and Pure Indian also offers cultured ghee. Cultured ghee has a more buttery taste. Many people prefer the taste and aroma of cultured foods. It is also made in such a way that has absolutely no casein or lactose (lab tested).)
    • Certified Casein- and Lactose-Free (Many ghee products claim to be casein and lactose free, although this does mean that there can still be trace amounts of casein and lactose. If you think that may be problematic to you Pure Indian Food Ghee does do lab tests to ensure that their ghee can be certified free of lactose and casein.)
    • Made in Small Batches (Another big selling point for many of the most popular ghee brands is that they are made in small batches. This helps with quality control, as well as keeping connected to traditional way of making ghee and to the Ayurveda way.)
    • Traditional or Ayurveda techniques being used (Many people believe that in order to make the most healthful and healing ghee, there are many things that need to go into the setting that it is made. It need to be made in a peaceful and positive environment, It is best to make Ghee on the waxing fortnights of the moon as the milk and butter are energized at this time.)
    • Price (If you want ghee that is grass fed and organic, be prepared to pay quite a lot per ounce. Since many of the most popular ghee products aren’t mass produced the cost does end up in the price tag.)
    • Shelf Life (Generally the shelf life of an opened jar is 3 months without refrigeration, and one year in the fridge.)
    • Jar Size (You can buy ghee in a number of different jar sizes. Remember when you are ordering just buy what you will finish in about three months. Ghee can be stored longer, but three months is when it tastes the freshest.)

    Ghee is a traditional item in certain Asian cultures and, as you can see, it ties into the heritage and religions of the peoples. Since I am using the product strictly for health benefits, I am less concerned with some of the above-mentioned aspects. I listed all the things mentioned out of respect for the culture and heritage of the peoples who have given us the product.

    Without ordering online, my access to ghee here in Alaska is pretty limited. I did find two brands to compare. Actually, I found three brands, but the third was out of my price range.

    I will give the Pros and Cons of the two brands I did try.

    First up, is Purity Farms. I found it for $8.09 at a local specialty market.





















    PROs:

    • The label was very informative!
    • Smells great 
    • Has a great flavor right off the spoon and in my coffee
    • It meets a lot of the criteria I listed as preferable
    • The price was affordable for my budget ($8.09 for 7.5oz so apprx $1.08 per ounce)
    CONs:
    • The outer plastic wrapper obscures the product.
    • The product itself is of a hard consistency. Very hard.

    This is the Deep brand










    PROs:
    • The consistency is what I expected & wanted
    • The product was visible around the label
    • The flavor was great in my coffee
    • The price was better than the Purity Farms brand ($9.99 for 16oz bottle or apprx $0.62 per ounce)
    CONs:
    • The label is not informative past basic nutrition info
    • I had to find info online and it was still incomplete
    • Also, not lactose-free...

    The Deep brand is my favorite as far as the texture but, oddly, I like the flavor of the Purity Farms brand best. It's a close call between the two as far as flavor, but I could swear that the P.F. brand is more pronounced and slightly sweeter. I do have another cold, though, so I will hold judgment until I can tell for sure.

    The issue of texture reminds me of my preference in coconut oils where there is a big difference between the refined and unrefined versions - regardless of any brand I've tried. I prefer the unrefined coconut oils because of the texture. It's softer and melts easily with natural body heat. With the ghee, I'm using it (mostly) in hot coffee so that isn't too big of a deal. Just personal whims.
    Lactose-intolerant people would probably feel more comfortable using the Purity Farms ghee.The label is very clear about the exclusion of casein and lactose. The Deep brand's website wasn't much help because it kept rejecting the UPC code for the product. What a pain in the butt that I need to input that code just to get more product info! Lame, lame, lame. So, I emailed the company.

    So, no, the Deep brand wouldn't work well for someone trying to avoid the lactose. The GMO issue is iffy. (I still like it and since it's a brand I can find locally, I will use it until I finish it and order another brand online. Dangit.)

    Neither brand gives enough information on their labels, by the way. I think that, for some people, their choice will come down to flavors and textures.




    Now, let's talk hair...?

    I'm not sure how anyone else might feel about using ghee and/or butter and coconut oil in their cofee. I do know that lots of people use coconut oil for their hair and skin. Guess what? Ghee and butter are used by some people for that same thing.
    Here in my town, ghee is considered "ethnic" and is usually located with the Indian foods in stores. I find it a bit delightful that the Indian and Ethiopian cultures met up to create food and beauty uses for something as common as butter.
    I was actually just searching for information about ghee when I first saw articles talking about how Ethiopians use butter to style and treat their hair. When I looked further into the subject, I learned Niter kibbeh - a seasoned clarified butter that Ethiopians cook with. (You guys know that I will be looking for some of that to use in my cooking!) What I wanted to know about though was using butter for the hair.
    The first piece of info I found was by an Ethiopian hair stylist talking about the Kibeh (or Kibae) treatment for hair. This apparently entails applying an "Ethiopian hair butter cream" whip to the hair then doing a 20-30 steam treatment. 
    Since I really couldn't find any type of "hair butter cream" anywhere else, I'm not sure if all of them are made the same way. Here is a purchasing link for the one just mentioned. (Please note that I am not being compensated in any way for sharing that link. I had not even heard of the salon until writing this post.)  There are recipes all over for making your own homemade ghee and clarifed butter. I'm lazy and will continue buying mine for now! Here is one recipe.
    There are also other ways to use ghee for hair and skin beauty:
    • This article lists several uses & mentions mixtures that can be made by adding milks and other products. (I did try this on my skin. It's does seem richer and more moisturizing than the thinner coconut oil.I used mine after a warm showerd. The smell was stronger and a bit off-putting while I had my torso, neck and face slathered. Instead of rinsing, I used a warm towel dotted with a couple of drops of food grade orange oil to wipe away the excess. Have to say that my skin felt marvelous! The orange oil took away the butter smell.
    • More uses listed here. That ghee can be used for eczema is interesting to me. With my poor immune system, I've been dealing with small patches of eczema on my feet. I'm going to check with my dermatologist about using the ghee & I will let you guys know the results.)
    • One of the most interesting links I found was one discussing using an Ayurvedic remedy called Shata dhauta ghrita used for soothing burns, scars and other bothersome skin irritations. The recipe is simple: ghee and water, but it requires some mixing procedures. (I also noticed that there is a suggestion for a particular brand of ghee.)
    • Since I mentioned using ghee for the hair, I thought it would be nice to see how that worked for others. One blogger likes the results she got. Another user listed the pros and cons of her experience.
    Since I was already using ghee and coconut oil in my coffee, I decided to make things easier for myself. I took an empty jar and mixed some ghee with coconut oil and turmeric powder. You guys might remember my talking a long while back about adding a touch of turmeric to my coffee. It's a habit I have kept up while drinking BPC. Now that I am using the butter on my skin and hair, I will need another empty jar to mix coconut oil and ghee.

    If any of you are using ghee for your skin and hair, please share your recipes.

    Peace
    --Free


    DISCLAIMER: I assume you all know that I am not a doctor or any other type of medical professional. You should use your common sense and your doctor's advice when it comes to your health.

    Sunday, October 23, 2016

    **REVIEW** Mink Lashes

    There is something very sexy about nice lashes. Actually, I think the first thing most people notice about someone's face is their smile and/or their eyes. I recently got to see how adding more lashes can oomph up someone's look. These are the lashes I'm talking about:



    These are lashes from Tricky Hair Extensions. The glam is serious with these because, get this, they are made of 100% mink fur. Yes, mink. I felt sparkly and dressed up just saying that!

    I used my niece Gabrielle as a model for a couple of reasons. One: she is beautiful bare-faced (and I wanted Before photos of her eyes). Two: the girl has beautiful eyes and can really rock some makeup.  (Also, she has that youthful, glow-y skin.)

    Since Gabby had almost no complaints about the lashes - just that she had to work a bit to comb them into her desired shape once they were on - I will just let the photos speak for the product.

    #1 - Gabby's bare lashes. As you can see, I wasn't lying about the pretty shape of my niece's eyes. Where I am a lipstick person, Gabby likes to dress up her eyes and she will match her eyeshadow to whatever outfit she is wearing. This is a big reason that I wanted her as my model!


    #2 - She said that getting them on wasn't difficult. She did have to trim the outer edge to fit her lid length. She said that she had to separate some of the lashes because they tangled a bit. Don't forget, these lashes are really lush and full.



     #3 As you can see,  the chick has some pretty eyes (and eyebrows). She wanted to show a contrast of lash on/lash off...


     #4 - She noted that curling the lashes defined the shape better for her upturned oval eye shape. The lashes are not difficult to work with for anyone who has ever worn other lashes. 



    #5 - The finished look up close. The lashes are very lush!



    #6 - All finished with the rest of her eye makeup. IMO, Gabby's eyes look very defined and great even though she went lighter on her eye makeup.




    #7 - She wanted to show how nice the lashes look in full on sunlight. I think she's working the glam well.


    Notice that these lashes are lush and sexy but not too much for day wear. They give Gabby's eyes a nice bit of pop and she can still look professional at work - and she does have a professional and semi-conservative career.


    Thanks to Gabby for being my model. She likes the lashes a lot and loves the extra dress up for her eyes. Thanks to Tricky Hair for letting us try these lashes. In addition to 3D mink lashes, Tricky Hair sells clip-in hair extensions. Visit their site and take a look around.

    Peace
    --Free






    Disclosure: I received one or more of the products at a discount or no charge in exchange for doing a fair and honest review.

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