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Monday, July 16, 2018

**REVIEW** Birchbox July 2018

This month's box isn't awful, but when I see what other people got, I have to admit to being kind of disgruntled. I have always, always, always wanted to try one of the LaVanilla perfumes - which was in some of the boxes - and yet, none for me. Perfume is one of the things I put on my profile.


Okay, so what did I get? Well, yet another freaking Eyeco product. A brow liner. What is with the eyebrow stuff and Birchbox?

Anyway, I won't actually talk much about each product. I will just do a reveal of my box and end with some comments.

The brown stuff you see in the other pics? It's this. Leaked. EVERYwhere... 

And, like the INXS song, the Vasanti cloths are the one thing. The only thing I was really okay with. And I chose it.


I just hopped over and canceled my Birchbox subscription. I gave them a try and, apparently, either my profile means nothing or - and I have really wondered about this - they give the very best stuff to top "influencers". I don't know. Doesn't matter. This is 10 bucks I can save for groceries or something else.


Saturday, July 14, 2018


**UPDATE is at the bottom of this original posting**

July 16th is the date of the 2018 Prime Day. I'm not too excited because I really can't afford to go shopping crazy. However, I'm happy that I snagged one of the earlier "lightning deals". It was for this Food Sealer from Next Shine and I caught it in the last 3 minutes of the deal.

This is the machine straight out of the box:

And this is what it looks like once it's all plugged in and ready to go:

I feel like I hit a little jackpot. Don't get me wrong; it's not as if I saved a huge amount of money during the deal. Despite the "list price" of $65.00 that was shown, I really only saved about $14 off the usual Amazon posted price of about $37. Still, since I really have been needing (and looking for) a decent food sealer, I think I came out okay.

(Side note: last year I did get a handheld vac sealer from Moyeah. It worked for the short term, but I don't have the hand strength to use it much. Also, it is only for very small jobs.)

One of the reasons I have wanted a sealer is because of my solo lifestyle. Coming out of a big family and being around a lot of people all the time, it's been an adjustment for me to cook for one. It's can also be more costly in some ways. Gone are my days of buying certain things in bulk. Fruit and veggies spoil before I can eat them up. Until I started buying shelf-stable dairy, I threw out more half-containers of milk than I care to think about.

The Next Shine Sealer
in action

Another reason a sealer is so useful for me is that I fast between 18 and (usually) 20 hours a day. Yes, every day. Since on most days I only have a few hours to eat, I like having my meals mostly ready to go. Meaning, I want to be able to heat and eat. Fasting is no longer difficult for me but it's no fun to spend time preparing food that you have to wait so long to eat.

I realized that I will be able to make some complete meals in advance, seal and store them, then take out and heat in boiling water or the microwave. Of course, it all depends on what your heating, but you get the idea. The Healthy Maven has some good meal ideas.

I got started straight away taking care of some groceries.

On IF I can have lots of meats and cheeses. Without bread. 

I've learned to drink my coffee black. Most of the time.

So. Now I can buy larger quantities of food that is healthier for me. I love greens like kale and collards. I also enjoy snacking on grapes and melon and lunch meats. It's so much cheaper and easier to get at least a few bunches of these things in a single shopping trip than to trot back and forth to the stores. And keep in mind, I don't have a vehicle of my own.

Now, let me stop yakking about my life and tell you about this sealer.

PROS of the machine & capabilities:

  • Functions as a vacuum sealer as well as a plain sealer. I can even half-vac some items and stop to seal them without fully compressing the bag.
  • Works quickly and fairly quietly. Is it silent? No. It's not loud enough to be annoying or even for a neighbor to hear from outside the front door (which is very near the kitchen).
  • Has an Accessory function and came with a tube for that. I have ordered a jar sealer pump (about $9) to use this with so that I can seal mason/bell jars. There are YouTub videos that show how this can be done without the jar sealer pumps. I will leave that to you more adventurous types!
  • The size was perfect for storing the machine away on top of the fridge. It will also fit with pans under the cabinet. Some reviewers thought it was too big but I found it lightweight and easy to store.
  • Works to seal more than foods. You can seal phones, cameras, cosmetics, etc for safer travel packing.  I personally will definitely seal any lotions, oils and/or spillable cosmetics the next time I pack. 
  • Using the vac-seal function definitely shrinks things down in size. This is great, depending on the food or item type and can save storage room.
  • Works with just about any type of bag. Once again, there are YouTubers who show how to use even the cheapest "regular" bags with the sealer. By the way, I prefer using the rolls of sealing material over the pre-cut/pre-sized bags.
  • You can re-use bags after cutting them open. It will depend on how much room you leave to seal the lip of the bag. Also, you might have to wash and dry the used bags.
  • This particular model came with 10 (quart size) bags. 
  • The buttons for sealing, vac, etc. are marked black on black. This makes them hard to read, but I'm going to use some white out to re-label them.
  • Prices for sealing bags and accessories vary wildly. You will need to do a lot of comparing to find the best price. I found that Walmart had better prices than most other places. Again, I prefer the rolls over bags.
  • You have to be very careful working with liquids or foods that are very wet. It's suggested that you freeze such items first. YouTubers come to the rescue again and show various methods for vac-sealing liquids/wets without freezing. I think I will stick to jars for liquids or just freeze them first.
So, yeah. There aren't that many negatives to this so far. If this machine lasts me a year, I will have gotten an excellent bargain. I've already saved some return trips to the store. I got my greens, cheeses, and meats in larger quantities.

I thought the little storage guides included in the manual was nice.

For the freezer

For the fridge

Now, I don't know how this particular make of food sealer stacks up against others. I've watched several videos and read a ton of reviews for other ones that cost more. This one makes sense for me because of the price and functions. I don't need anything any heavier duty. In my opinion (and that's all I can give), this is a good buy for a typical household of one or two people. Even if this wipes out on me after four or five months, I'll have gotten my money's worth. That doesn't mean I won't be getting in touch with the seller, but... By the way, this only has 4 reviews as I type this, but they are all 4 and 5 stars. I gave it 5 stars. When I get the jar sealer, I will come back and update this. For now, I will leave you with some links to some info on different ways to put a food sealer to use.


The jar sealers came and I was able to better seal the melon rinds I have pickling. I also am able to store things that I tend to use a lot of on this IF diet: heavy creams, coconut milk, organic sauces and flavorings, and oils that I've been infusing with my fresh herbs. That last one is really nice because, for some reason, my herb plants are wearing out and withering away. I'm so happy that I got to fix some oils with them.

Okay, now here is the thing that you need to know if you do get these jars sealers: not every hose attachment seems to fit this brand of jar sealer. I guess the Food Saver is a very popular brand of sealer, but  The accessory hose tip from the Next  Shine did not fit the Food Saver jar sealers, which meant I couldn't get enough suction. This is where I had to get a little creative.

Remember, I had that little handheld Moyeah sealer? Well, that thing has a suction tip on it. I was able to easily remove the Moyeah suction tip and attach it to the hose from the Next Shine.

By putting the Moyeah suction cup over the holes on the Food Saver jar sealer, I was able to get vac seal my jars.

I would not have known to do that before I watched a video by North Carolina Prepper. Now, I wouldn't attempt to use his method for storing things in plastic bottles, but what he did to the hose at mark 1:13 was genius.

Thanks, dude.

At any rate, that is one thing I didn't expect to have to do and was lucky that I had that old handheld around to steal a part from. I'm going to mention this little detail in my review on Amazon.

As with sealing things in the bag, the jar system is going to be great for me. I have thrown out as lots of half-used sauces - spaghetti, tomato, pizza - and other canned goods.

If you are interested in knowing which items I personally purchased, they are the wide jar sealer (approx $8), regular jar sealer (approx $9), and food vac bags (approx $17 for 2 rolls of 8-inch wide x 50 ft long). The bags from Walmart were more expensive at approx $7 for 1 roll of 11-inch wide x 16 ft long. Also, Walmart online had rolls at the same price but there is a shipping charge unless your cart total is at least $35. I couldn't find the jar sealers at the brick and mortar store in my town.

It sounds as if I spent quite a bit of money to get started with this food storage system, but it not when you consider the amount of food I won't be throwing out. Then there's the cost of gas for repeat trips to the store. Most important of all is my health. I am down 15 pounds since I started the IF diet. That is 15 pounds solid - not the up-and-down weight that I hate. If I count the seesaw weight, I am down 22 pounds. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

**REVIEW** Piping Rock Lotus Flower & Baby Powder Fragrance Oils

The very first fragrance oil I got from Piping Rock was a HUGE disappointment. It took a while before I would even give their fragrance oils another try. And I waited until I found some of the cheaper ones. This time, I went for these

All of them smell wonderful, but the two I have been using the most are the Lotus Flower and Baby Powder oils to scent myself and the apartment. I also got this glass spray bottle.

And, by the way, I just want to comment once again on how carefully P.R. packs items for shipping.

I mixed some of my Vitamin E oil in the glass spray bottle with the Lotus Flower (about 6 drops) and Baby Powder (just over 2 droplets) and have been rubbing it on my neck and arms. For the apartment, I'm using my wonderful Flairosol sprayer (that I was going to do a giveaway for...).

That bottle emits the finest and longest mist of oil and water that it seems made for the job. I mixed into the water several drops of the Lotus and only one of the Baby Powder. What an amazing (and chemical-free) air spray! I can even spray my hair with it before finger-styling. I've gotten compliments from my friends and neighbors who ask what I'm wearing. Piping Rock is going to have to pay me some royalties! Just kidding, but I have told everyone where I got the oils from.

Let me finish by mentioning that I have put some of the Brown Sugar oil in a couple of my hair products. I have two curl creams that are bland smelling.

I can now say that Piping Rock redeemed itself after that debacle with the Tonka Oil. I am still looking for a good source for that. By the way, each of the items was under $2.50 each.


Monday, July 09, 2018

**UPDATE** Intermittent Fasting & Some Apps

I've gotten so used to the IF lifestyle that I hardly think of it anymore. I wanted to post a little update and share some of the tools that have been helpful (and free) in the routine.

The day after my June 30th birthday, I went from doing the 16:8 plan (fasting for 16 hours) to the 20:4 plan. Strangely, I find it easy to fast for 20 hours where I struggled a lot with the 16:8 plan. Go figure.

These are 2 of the apps I use (in addition to occasionally using My Fat Secret):

Time Until 
 The Time Until app (above) is my motivator/reminder once I have set the number of hours I plan to fast. So far, I've stuck to the 20-hour fasting but the next app I'm showing you (below) lets me set a schedule of my choosing.

iFasting app

The above app is called iFasting and it is really, really handy for anyone setting a fasting schedule. I've been using it since I went 20:4 and I only have one complaint and that is that it got a couple of my counts wrong:

Or maybe I messed up keying numbers into the app or because fasting times ran into each other... I don't know ~shrug~. I've used the app so much that I considered upgrading to the Pro version. One big problem with that is the price. The Pro version costs $6. That's steep for an app. Since the descriptions in the Play store don't detail the upgraded features, I have contacted the developer to find that out. It's only fair since I am talking about it here on the blog.

I have been considering trying this other app that no one else has downloaded or reviewed. It's called Faster - The Fasting Tracker. I am hesitant because the only thing listed under Permissions is "Other". I really want to know what the heck that means...

Anyway, I have been progressing well with the fasting. My weight is weirdly staying in the same general area (and, no, I'm not telling what area that is), but my clothes are fitting looser and people have been commenting on the "loss". I'll take it. In addition to that, my legs and feet are a lot less sore and tired.

As far as My Fat Secret goes, I haven't been checking in recently. When I check in every day, I'm too focused on minute goals. Thinking too much about what I'm doing to lose weight is self-defeating for me.

When I first started the 20:4 routine, I was trying to schedule my eating hours as late in the day as possible. I think the first few days, I was eating as late as 8:30 and 9:00 at night. That was great because I get most of my cravings at night. Also, I have finally learned to choke down black, unsweetened coffee. (The trick to that for me, by the way, is to make the brew weaker than I do for creamed/sweetened coffee.) Here's the thing, though I only have 4 hours (6 during my 18-hour fasts) to eat and I don't like having that one meal on my gut when I'm about to go to bed.

After a couple of days, my cravings subsided and I found I was eating less. Since that happened, the best schedule I have come up with is to eat during the hours of 1 to 5 or 2 to 4. That leaves a lot of time to be up and avoiding snacking so I make sure to have fresh coffee ready and some water in the fridge. Coffee seems to work as an appetite suppressant, although I messed up one evening and added turmeric to the black coffee. 1 teaspoon Turmeric = 8 calories. Oops. Speaking of sneaky calories, even fresh mint leaves carry a few. Sheesh! I am down to the plain and filtered tap water and weak black java.

My biggest annoyance is my neighbor offering me cookies, cake and margaritas every other day. I've just started giving her this look every time.

I want to point out that one of the reasons I even first attempted the 20:4 schedule is because I read that the body really starts to benefit from fasting at the 16-hour point.  Information at that link shows a chart and includes the following observation:
"But according to the information above, in terms of insulin level, the fast is only really getting going at 16 hours. Extending it further than this ramps the drop in insulin and the increase in lipolysis."
This made sense to me and I realized that my 16-hour fasts were only touching on my goals. Now I'm going for 4 hours into the "sweet spot" the article speaks of. The reduction in cravings is just another benefit.

I cannot wait to post some photos. I feel that, if I keep this up, by the end of this month, I will have some serious visual evidence of IF working. If I were ten years younger, I would have reached my goal weight within a couple of weeks. Alas, this almost 60-year-old body is a little more stubborn!

For those of you also doing IF, I hope you found something useful in this post.


Friday, June 29, 2018

**REVIEW** Piping Rock (Oils, Herbs & Supplements)

NOTE: I actually wrote this review a while back and it didn't publish for some reason. I have updated it a bit and am sharing it with you all now. My oops.

Piping Rock is a recent discovery for me. I needed a place to get some oils, moisturizing butters, and other hair and skin products at prices more affordable than those offered at my usual shopping sites. The thing is,  I want affordable prices,  not cheap quality. So far, I have been 90% pleased with Piping Rock. I will tell you later about that other 10%. For now, let me tell you about my overall experience with the items I've ordered.

Since I found this site back sometime during the deep of winter, I ordered some of the oils I use to moisturize my skin and hair. Among my most pleasant experience, I've ordered Pumpkin Seed, Watermelon, and Abyssinian oils along with some lip balms. The Iowa winter kicked my butt!!

The packaging was amazing. Everything was sealed and very well-cushioned to prevent any breakage or spillage. The only thing that was a bit frustrating to me was that it seemed to take forever to receive my order. I ordered the items on 4/11 and received them on 4/17. On the other hand, I have to stop being so critical because the shipping costs were very reasonable, and there was that awesome packing job they did. As far as the shipping time, I think it's just that Amazon Prime has me spoiled.

This is the packing material my items were protected by:

Thick cushioning!

Also, let's talk about how much I love the Pumpkin Seed and Abyssinian oils. I have used Pumpkin Seed oil before so I know what to expect from a good quality item. This one was wonderful and came in a larger bottle than I can usually afford when I order elsewhere. The Abyssinian oil is something new in my hair and skin care regime so I had to do a lot of reading up on the benefits before I tried it. After having used this for about 2 months, I can tell you that my skin adores this oil. It's touted to add shine and hydrate the scalp without clogging pores. It lived up to the hype for moisturizing, but I have to say that it did a better job of adding shine once I cut my hair and got rid of all those dead, split ends,

I have told you all more than once I believe Pumpkin Seed oil is like a miracle for dry skin and hair. I love having this larger bottle to refill my dropper bottle from time to time. I go through this oil like crazy. I got a 16-ounce bottle from Piping rock for less than what a 4-ounce bottle of the other brand was costing me.

Piping Rock is always having sales so unless I am totally out of and in dire need of an oil or supplement, I wait for one of the major price drops.

For the most part, P.R. has good products and prices, careful packaging, and reasonable shipping and handling costs. So, you might ask me what's not to love? Well...

The first (and so far, the only) bad experience I've had so far with a product's quality was with a Tonka Bean oil. Tonka Bean oil is best known for a lovely aroma that I describe as "warm and spicy vanilla".  It can put you in the mind of a decadent dessert or a type of perfume. As a matter of fact, Guerlain (which makes my beloved Shalimar) has a fragrance called Tonka Imperiale. Someone in my family needs to gift me some of that in a full-size!

When I ordered a bottle of Tonka Bean oil from Piping Rock, I couldn't wait to try it out as a personal fragrance and to add it to my oil warmer. What a huge disappointment! This oil smelled nothing like Tonka Bean and was actually a bit unpleasant. I wondered if I'd had gotten part of a bad batch. When I complained, Piping Rock responded that they checked and the batch was fine. They did tell me that I could return the bottle (at my own expense). Well, boo-hiss to them.

Where I had started out rating Piping Rock at 5 stars for products and prices, I had to drop them down a half star for the Tonka Bean oil and a half star for the nonchalant customer service. I will still order my usual oils from them, but I won't trust them with the more exotic things. By the way, I am still in search of some reasonably priced Tonka oil. The sellers on Amazon are too expensive or non-Prime.

In summary, if it's standard oils and supplements you want, Piping Rock is worth checking out. For the quirky stuff - like Tonka - maybe look elsewhere.

By the way, for those of you who hunt online for these types of ingredients to use in making your own concoctions (like I do), make sure to also check out MakingCosmetics. I've used them in the past and have reviewed them here before.


**REVIEW** PurSteam Steam Mop Cleaner Steam Cleaning System ThermaPro 10-in-1

Whew! That is a looong name for a product and I even left off part of it. If you look this up on Amazon, the entire name is PurSteam Steam Mop Cleaner Steam Cleaning System ThermaPro 10-in-1 Floor Steam Cleaner, Pocket Mop System with 20FT Cord.

Mouthful much? But I get why they want the title to be descriptive. This thing does it all. Pictured here is how the PurSteam functions as an upright steam mop:

But for all those other little jobs, you can see the hand-held that detaches from the center of the mop:

That's a neato design

I think that the hand-held is my favorite part of the ThermaPro. Today, I cleaned my windows which were filthy from where I'd been spraying my plants for the past few months. I even steamed my mattress and pillows when I stripped the bed to do laundry. I hear that steaming the pillows beats back germs.

This is my second new appliance. In the past couple of months, I have needed to replace my vacuum (which was a Dirt Devil that I snagged at Dollar General) with an adult one. I reviewed the new vac here. After getting the vac, I really needed a steam mop because my back has been giving me problems and I can no longer properly clean the bathroom and kitchen linoleum.  I didn't think I could love anything more than the vacuum I got, but... Wow.

This is a Before and After of the carpet near the entryway. I vacuumed several times, then spot-cleaned with some spray on (using the steam to scrub it in), and vacuumed again. The carpet looks and smells so much fresher.



a slightly different angle, but you get the idea

There is still some wearing down in the high-traffic spots, but it's a big improvement in the staining.

I LOVE this steamer machine. It does everything but cooks dinner. Not only can I clean the floors really well without having to get down on my knees with a rag to get the stubborn spots, but that detachable unit allows me to get hard-to-reach spots that my regular mop missed. The handheld unit has all these attachments that let take cleaning to the next level. This is what that little snap-off part allows me to clean with hot (and possibly semi-sterilizing) steam:
  • windows and sills
  • mirrors
  • countertops
  • the stove and microwave
  • sinks and showers
  • the toilet seats and backs
  • shower curtain liners
  • faucets
  • mattress 
  • carpets and rugs
  • furniture
  • garments and curtains
It's a pretty amazing machine. However... there are some negatives. Of the Pros and Cons, the latter has more to do with the instruction manual and locating contact information outside of Amazon. Let's just go over the cause of a headache I incurred while trying to assemble and use the machine.

This is what all comes with the machine. Right out of the box, it's not that intimidating because you realize the machine came with a bunch of attachments.

The first thing I always do with a purchase like this is to make sure I have all the pieces I should and that nothing is broken. (I hate tossing out the shipping box only to need it in a couple of days for a return/refund.) I take a look at the manual to check for all the parts that should be included. As I flipped through the first time, I thought I was having a "bad brain" moment.

To start with, the manual I got had some duplicate pages that ran in the order of This is how the pages are ordered: Cover Page, Pages 2, 3, 2, 3, pages 4-11, then 12, 13, 12,13, and the back cover. (Since the manual ends with the Troubleshooting page and Limitation and Exclusions page, I don't suppose anything is missing.)

Next up, the assembly went great until I was ready to use the attachments.

I couldn't find this vital piece called the "attachment adapter". Like I said, I had checked and counted off all the parts listed. That dang adapter was only listed (elsewhere in the manual), but not illustrated. Or rather it was illustrated but was labeled incompletely...

I had to email the company to learn that the "Steamer jet" piece is also the attachment adapter. They said that they were already working to correct the manual.

Thankfully, yes, I had the steamer jet thing so I was in business. The only thing other than that crazy manual that I dislike is that there is no place to store the attachments. I have put mine into a plastic zip baggie to keep in the pantry with other tools and small appliances.

I cannot say enough how much I like the machine, but I'm sure you're getting tired of that. I will do a quick summary of Pros and Cons.


  • The company's support staff responded quickly and courteously to my emails. I contacted them twice and received a reply within hours. Their contact info is in the manual.
  • The water gets really, really hot. I only use the machine when I'm having a very clear-headed day. You could easily scald yourself with the steam so I also wear heavy kitchen gloves as an added safety measure.
  • The machine heats up pretty quickly initially. I can turn the machine off for a couple of minutes to move to a different area and it will reheat almost instantly.
  • The steam is hot enough (again, IMO) to kill surface germs. It makes cleaning grout, scale, and grease easy.
  • The cleaning pads for the mop are easy to attach. Basically, you just fit them onto the bottom of the mophead and they are held on velcro-style. Other mops I've used required you to fit the cloth around the mop head.
  • The mop heads are washable and look sturdy enough to last through several washings, IMO.
  • The mop head swivels enough to clean close to the walls and in the corners.
  • What you miss with the mop, you can reach with one of the attachments.
  • The machine is lightweight and easy to lift and move around,
  • The cord is 20 feet long and I was able to use in my small-ish apartment without having to change to a different outlet.
  • Steam is adjustable so you can use more or less. I used a lot for cleaning the sink and shower and less for cleaning stove burner covers over the sink.
  • Because of the design, storage is easy and doesn't take up much room in a closet/pantry.
  • In my box, there was more than the usual "thank you" from the Seller. There was actually a nice little gift extra - while supplies last.

  • The brand's website is not really a standalone site. For products, everything links to Amazon. The warranty page didn't work for me and I was told that the product's warranty is timed by my Amazon ordering info. That's fine, but I did go ahead and get one of those Square Trade plans. Just in case.
  • Steam does get so hot that people will need to be extra careful, especially when there are small children around. This is seriously not something you want a kid to grab hold of.
  • There is nowhere on the machine to store the assorted attachments. You will need to keep track of them somehow. I suggest a zip-type baggie.
  • I don't yet see where to buy extra cleaning pads for the mop. I plan to contact the company about this.
  • When using the upright mop, Power/steam adjustment knob is down low. You have to bend to reach it.
  • The mop head lifts a little on the pull during the push-pull motion.
  • The mop swivel will get stuck if you swivel it too far right or left. It unsticks easily, but...
  • Those instructions need to be fixed immediately.

The bottom line for me is that the Pros outweigh all the Cons. This is the best design for a machine of this type. I have not just a mop, but also the other attachments for about the same price as most steam mops along. This one cost $59.99 at the time that I made my purchase.


DISCLAIMER: I was not paid or in any way compensated for this review. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

**REVIEW** Bissell Cleanview Bagless Upright Vacuum (Model 95956)

**Before I even start the review, let me do a service to anyone who, like me, might be confused about the model numbers of Bissell's Cleanview 9595 series of vacuums. Apparently, the 95956 (the model I have) and the 9595A are the same in every way except for the colors. My model is in Teal and the other is in Purple. I could not clarify this except to contact Bissell and Amazon. On Amazon (where I made my purchase) the 9595A has 11k+ reviews while the 95956 has only 105 reviews at the time of this post. Out of all the answered questions and reviews (and I dragged through just about every single one of them), I only recall seeing a single comment about the color difference. The reason this was so important to me is that I wanted the vacuum for its "OnePass" feature that Bissell seems so proud of. I could not tell clearly from the product info whether or not the 95956 had the feature. My brain does not retain information long enough to keep track when comparing items. I was afraid I had ordered the wrong one...**

Okay. So with that cleared up, let's take a look at why I wanted this particular vacuum.
  1. The price tag = $79.99 + $5.22 for a protection plan. Perfect for my sad budget. The poor little Dirt Devil that I got at Dollar General (and paid, I think, less than $25 for) when I moved here a year ago has been limping along. It picks up the obvious debris but my carpet is very neglected looking from what the DD leaves behind. I've been saving up for about 3 months for a better vacuum but could only afford something under $100. I watched videos and read hundreds of reviews for at least 10 vacuums (and had to take notes so I wouldn't get confused) before I settled on the Cleanview 9595 model. I wanted to go cheaper but...
  2. The suction power. Reviewers rave about the cleaning power of this model. You should see some of the photos of what people seemed to have sucked out of their carpets. At least 10 people mentioned this model having suction at least almost as good as $200 and $400 machines. That part may be little scam-ish, but the photos don't seem to be lying. Reviews that complained about the loudness of the vacuum still gave a thumbs up for the suction. And I need to really clean out all the residue of the spot cleaners I used all winter.
  3. The lightweight design. Lord knows I can barely work up the energy to vacuum at all so I sure don't want some heavy, clunky machine to drag around even such a small apartment
  4. The added bonuses are the attachments, a decent length cord, and a washable filter. The Dirt Devil has a washable filter and that saves money big time. It's also cool that this has an easy-empty cannister.
Keep in mind that this is why I wanted this machine and was hoping it would live up to the hype. The only thing I was bothered by from the product photos is that the power button is placed so far down on the machine. Why not on the handle? That may seem like a petty thing but I've been having back problems the past couple of months and I try not to bend if I don't have to. But whatever. Everything else about this vacuum sounded like my dream product.

So, let's now see how it all worked out. In addition to what I mentioned above, I would also be looking to see how easy it would be to assemble this machine. This is what it looks like when you remove everything from the box:

Once I stuck on the handle, everything else was easy. I have cognitive issues and it only took me around 22 minutes to have it all done and get to vacuuming. And I really did need to get to vacuuming...

I'm going to show this photo of what my carpet looks like pre-vacuuming. I do vacuum at least a couple of times a week with the Dirt Devil and I ran it over the high traffic area right inside the front door - pictured here - about 3 times just so you could see how awful the dirt and buildup of cleaner is. Pretty nasty, right? (By the way, now that I have a good decent machine, I can scrub with some spot cleaner and re-vacuum to see if it improves. For now, I want to see what this does with no spot cleaner.)

Remember, I went over this carpet more than once with the Dirt Devil for this photo:
BEFORE - lot of silty dirt
 This is what the carpet looks like after having been vacuumed pretty thoroughly with the Bissell:

AFTER still needs spot cleaning but MUCH better

This is what the Bissel cannister looked like after a couple of trips over this small area. UGH!

I feel so ashamed. It's as if I haven't vacuumed but a couple of times a season since I moved in!

So, Pros and Cons:

CON - Using the vacuum would be a lot of fun if it were not for that Power Button being placed so low down on the machine. Thankfully, the vacuum is not super heavy and I didn't get too worn out even after vacuuming and re-vacuuming off and on all day. (I'm determined to un-gross these floors!)

PRO - If I didn't appreciate the suction power while using this machine as an upright, I sure did once I used the attachments. I used the rotating attachment to freshen up the sofa. Man! This thing got all the little tiny particles of crumbs and dirt out the of very crevices of the couch. I could actually feel the suction power as I held the attachment and ran it over the fabric. That's awesome, but I will have to be really careful when trying to clean out window sills and such. I can see this thing snatching a pull cord right out of place.

PRO - The dust canister is SO easy to empty and I don't really have to touch the icky-ness. The canister pops open with the push of a button (so make sure to hold it over the trash can!), and any clumps of dust that gets stuck can be dislodged with a wooden skewer. Or that's what I do.

PRO - While this isn't the quietest machine, for the suction power, it sure isn't much louder than the Dirt Devil.

CON - The hose tends to fall off the holder and dangle. Also, the arrangement of the hose and the power cord is just awkward. This is a very minor issue though.

CON - If using the attachments, you need to use two hands so you can sort of stretch out the hose because the suction keeps contracting it. On the other hand...

PRO - The hose is a decent length - if you can keep it stretched out.

Overall, I am 5-starring this vacuum. It's not outrageously expensive and is doing a great job so far. I have told friends that I'll be more than happy if this lasts a year before I have to use the Protection Plan.


DISCLAIMER: I was not paid or in any way compensated for this review. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

**REVIEW** Qivange Kabuki Makeup Brushes

Most of you guys know that I'm no expert at applying makeup (said the woman who almost put out an eye applying liner!), but I got to try these brushes:

Up until now, this  "oval" was my favorite (and only) kind of makeup brush:

There are things that I really love about the Kabuki style brushes, and there are a couple of things about the oval brushes that I prefer. By the way, there are 10 brushes in the Qivange set. Let's just do a little review.

To start, I will tell you something I recently learned: Kabuki brushes are also referred to as a "mushroom" brushes. And also that,
It is named after the Kabuki Japanese drama theater where actors wear Keshō, a very heavy makeup that emphasizes the nature of their characters. There, the kabuki brush is used to apply the white powder rice uniformly on the entire face. (Wikipedia)
What I like about the Kabuki brushes - or at least this set from Qivange - is how dang soft the bristles are. Normally, when I think of "bristles", I immediately think "itchy". Like most affordable brushes, these are made with synthetic fibers. The handles are wood and aluminum. And this is where these excel over the particular oval brushes that I have. The Kabuki brush is sturdier while applying makeup. I can exert more pressure on these than I can on the handles of the oval brushes. My oval brushes (and I actually have 2 different brands) tend to be flimsier. I have to hold the handles down close to the brush head so that they don't feel as they will snap - and I have had one snap and break completely.

Another thing I appreciate about the set from Qivange is the variety of shapes. In the 10-piece set I got these different brush heads:

  1. Angled
  2. Flat angled
  3. Tapered
  4. Flat (for foundation)
  5. Round (for powder)
  6. Precision round
  7. Small flat
  8. Small angled
  9. Small flat angled
  10. Small tapered

I know that there are ladies who do a lot of layering and contouring (because I often laugh at them) and could use every single one of these brushes every time they applied makeup. For myself, I use the starred ones most - and that's if I am applying what I call "special occasion" makeup aka The Works. On a casual day, I mainly use the Angled brush to apply some light foundation or BB cream.

This is me wearing my daily makeup applied with the Kabuki brush. I used the Angeled Face brush for the all-over foundation, then I did the undereye concealer and highlighter with the Small Tapered brush.

Another huge benefit of the Kabuki brush (over the Oval) is that I didn't have to use as much of my  BB Cream to get very even coverage. I'm almost out of my Black Radiance and it can sometimes be hard to find in my shade...

In case, I have one of my senior "moments" and forget what the heck I am doing or which brush I am using, each of them is nicely labeled on the handle:

Nice, right? Thank you, Qivange!

On the other hand, the oval brushes do have an advantage over some (only some) of the Kabuki brushes when it comes to the firmness of the brush heads. The bristles on the Kabuki brushes for eyes - with the exception of the Small Tapered one - are too soft for my liking. I could not use them for eyeshadows because the looseness of the bristles made it hard to control the application. Or maybe I am using them incorrectly. That's why I love the Small Tapered brush; The tight bunching of the bristles meant I could use it best in the areas around my eyes without puffing powder and shadow everywhere. The oval-style brushes for eyes, even the smallest one offers more even coverage and control, in my opinion.

These Kabuki brushes are a great value as far as I'm concerned. If you have Amazon Prime, you pay a dollar per brush because this entire set was (at the time I got them) ten dollars. That's not bad for the quality of the brushes and those wonderfully labeled handles. I used my favorites for 2 days in a row and, when I cleaned them tonight, they washed out more easily than my oval brushes do. I have one of those ridged brushed cleaners to gently scrub the bristles against. None of the bristles washed out, by the way

So these brushes are pretty neat and, compared to the oval brushes, I think it just depends on your preference. I personally like having both types around. I also use blender sponges and old-fashioned red cosmetic blotting sponges and, sometimes, disposable cotton-head Q-tips. I'm glad I have the Kabuki brushes in the makeup arsenal.

I'll leave with this little summary (because I know I kind of rambled).


  • Strong handles that won't snap
  • Soft bristles that don't irritate my sensitive skin
  • Bristles didn't "shed"
  • Brushes are easy to clean
  • Each brush handle is helpfully labeled
  • Better foundation coverage using less product
  • A great value for 10 brushes
  • A variety of brush heads
  • Some of the brush heads didn't offer a lot of control
Basically, these are 4.5 of 5 stars in my book.


Monday, June 18, 2018

**REVIEW** Sonkir 3-in-1 Soil, Light, PH Tester

For those of you who don't read my Plant It Earth blog, first, shame on you and second, I'm cross-posting this review here and there. (Did that make sense? My brain is acting crazy cakes this morning!)

That is the Sonkir 3-in-1 Soil, Light, PH Tester.  To be honest, I still don't understand plant PH (but my soils are usually packaged as balanced for the particular plants), and I've already got the hang of placing my plants in the right lighting. The water though...  Yeesh. The only plants I have ever killed have died from over- or under-watering.

Of course, I have read plenty of books and articles on providing the right amount of water to my plants, but the thing is trying to judge how moist or dry they are. I tried using a wooden stick (didn't always work) and I tried using my fingers (I'm squeamish about dirt!).

This meter runs about 11 bucks and I think the plants are worth that much.

When I was looking to choose a meter, I was on the hunt for something around this price, but it would have to actually work. I read reviews for a handful that fit my price range and most had too many negative reviews. The one I was hopeful about after reading about just a few reviews, dropped off after I read a few more. One reviewer did an awesome job of testing the meter on a large variety of plants - both freshly watered and dried out - and he noticed that the moisture meter never fluctuated from "dry" reads.

I tested this one the same way - checking plants that I knew were due for a watering and a couple that I watered about 15 minutes before testing. The reads came out pretty accurate for me. At least, I know that it read moister for the wetter plants and dryer for the one I had not watered.
If I use the camera's zoom, I can read the meter!
There is one thing I don't like about the meter. I need to use a magnifying glass or my phone to read the results. The print is tiny on the readout and in the instruction pamphlet. And the instructions include a handy little guide for the water and light needs of some commons houseplants.

The plant that I worry most about is my beautiful Monstera. She is thriving and sprouting new greenery by the minute, but her pot is too deep for me to accurately tell when to add water.

This is the Monstera (I call her "Monster") on about May 1st:

This is her June 5th:

she's sprouting more as I type this 

Wow, right? This plant is pretty effortless. I play violin classical music for her and every day I spray her leaves with filtered water. She is growing so much that I am going to have to anchor her with some sticks or something and learn how to prune her. Just yesterday, my Facebook plants group pals suggested turning her occasionally.

This soil meter is really going to help me keep on track with watering. Plus, if I have to go away for a few days, my neighbor will be able to use it while she plant-sits for me!

By the way, if any of you Being Free readers need some info on plant watering, here are a couple of useful links: Our House Plants has both a watering guide and a really helpful "hub" of plant info.