Pinterest Play

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

**REVIEW** Cosco 2-Step Steel Folding Step Stool with Resin Steps

A ladder might not seem like a big necessity to a lot of people, but this one has been a lifesaver for me. And I'm a little scared of ladders if they are more than 5 feet high.

My place is very small and so storage is at a premium. We tenants do each have a little cubby in a room off the hallway in which to store some things, but it's a locked door system and best used for things you don't need often. I personally keep spare decorative items and suitcases in mine.

I needed to be able to use all the space in my kitchen, bath, and bedroom. In the kitchen, there is a lot of room overhead the cabinets and fridge. That I can't reach. Same for the bathroom. The bedroom has a wonderful closet with a built-in rack but the top shelf is too high for me to keep anything I might need more than once every blue moon. Until now. Now, I have this cool and cheap (super cheap) little stool and I for a little surprise because of a mishap between Walmart and FedEx. More on that later.

When I first ordered this I was thrilled because of the $18.97 price tag. (I had almost opted for this one. Glad I kept looking because I didn't want to spend that much money.)

I was only a little worried that I would end up sending it back for quality issues because... well, that price. It seemed almost too good to be true. On the other hand, I was having to borrow a neighbor's scary-tall ladder every time I wanted to store something up high. Once, I had a panic attack while I was up on that ladder and was fear-frozen at the top, trying not to cry. It took me about half an hour before I could slowly ease my way back down off that thing. Never again.

I waited a week after I ordered before I started to wonder where the heck the stool was. Walmart is not as fast as Amazon for shipping, but they don't slouch. Usually. Finally, I tracked the item and saw that it was stuck in  Mahtomedi, Minnesota. I never even heard of the place but my stop stool had been sitting there for about 3 days. I googled and found that it was less than 3 hours away. And that's where the stool stayed for another 3 days. I contacted Walmart and FedEx. Walmart said they would send out another step stool asap and FedEx said they would "investigate".

The replacement ladder arrived in around 4 days and I was SO glad to see that is wasn't a bad item (I almost said "crap" item, but with "stool"...).

It's very sturdy and I love how it folds up to almost nothing so I can store it in the closet without taking up a lot of space. Right away, I started putting it to use. Now, all that empty and previously unreachable space in my kitchen is...

All that room overhead!

The very best thing - and I mean this seriously - about the step stool is that it's not so high that I have to worry about falling. Now, I can't use it on certain days when my balance is off, but I can use the heck out of it any other time. I do have to make sure I am close to a wall or appliance so I can hold myself steady, but this thing has made such a difference.

Okay, I have not finished hanging the rest of the drapes yet because I have to wait until my balance evens out, but you see what I mean. (By the way, I got those "drapes" aka loose fabric free from a giveaway table in the common room.)

I feel like I gained another half of kitchen space. I love being able to use that above-fridge space that some giant designed to frustrate average sized people.

Just when I was getting used to having the step stool around, a few days ago, FedEx showed up with... the missing one!

I emailed Walmart to let them know about the second one. Since I haven't heard back yet I suppose I get to keep the twin stool for free. Now I have one stored in the closet up front and the other in the bedroom. Perfect.

By the way, here are a couple more photos showing latch, the height, and front/back.

I''m telling you, for less than 19 bucks, you can't beat this ladder.


P.S.: By the way, the same stool is available via Amazon as a Prime item for the same price.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

**VAPING** Voopoo Caliber Vape Pen

DISCLAIMER: Nicotine is an addictive substance. Using E-cigarettes (vaping) is to be used by adults only. All forms of nicotine use is habit-forming and may be hazardous to one's health. This post is regarding my personal experiences and is not meant to encourage anyone to begin smoking.

It's been 7 hours and 13 days...♫

Actually, it's been 4 months, and 28 days.

August 15, 2018 was my quit smoking date.  That was when I kicked tobacco and started vaping. I won't get into any arguments with people who think vaping is as bad as smoking. I can just tell you that my body knows the difference and my body is feeling better than it did on cigarettes. Now, let's get to this vape pen I love so much.

This is my Voopoo Caliber.

I first got this in November 2018 when I found the Smok Veneno too large for using anywhere but at home. Don't get me wrong, I do love my Veneno, but it was even bulky for packing into my backpack for a trip to see the fam. But what I loved about it was the cloud output, the battery life and the way the flavor came through from the eliquid. I wanted all that stuff in a smaller, more portable device. Enter the Caliber.

Since this was a pen that I was going to have to buy for myself, I had to consider the pricing. It was $40 when I got around to buying it and I used the money from my "Stop Smoking" jar. That is the jar where I try to put money that I would be spending on tobacco if I still smoked. I try to use it for things like healthy food and other necessities, but I also use it for my vape supplies. Believe me, vaping is way cheaper than smoking. According to the quit smoke tracker I use, at about $5 per pack of cigarettes, I have saved around $750. I have no idea where that windfall is since I had only about $172 in the SS jar...

***By the way, I will soon be doing a post on my personal experience with the cost of vaping vs the cost of smoking***

Anyway, I got the Caliber and some juice called Watermelon Madness that I kind of regret because it's like vaping those jaw-clenching sour candies. I do not regret the Caliber though. I actually use it more than I use the Veneno and only switch over when I have to recharge the battery.

 Here are the ups and downs of the Caliber from my experience.

  • Easy to hold and grip. 
  • It's lightweight enough that I don't feel I'm going to drop it but hefty enough to feel sturdy.
  • Pretty. I got the Rainbow colored one. This is not a big deal since I don't vape around anyone but family. I do want to be courteous.
  • Battery lasts a long time with moderate to heavy use. It will last more than a couple of day with just occasional use (vaping for a few minutes every few hours).
  • Has an airflow adjustment.
  • Came with extra pieces (including a non-bubble glass tube - see below)
  • Flavor of juices comes through nicely.
  • Has not spit or leaked at all.
  • No wattage adjustment (which I never really use, so far, on Veneno)
  • No low-battery warning that I can see. It does have an LED light for on/off indication.
  • I didn't love the bubble tube it came with (see above)

Actually, I don't really hate anything about the Caliber. Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite vape device it, this is at the top. (I used to love the Juul but that thing is just too expensive to use!)

I got the Caliber from the Electric Tobacconist, which is where I go for anything I can't find on VapeWild. Both those places have terrific customer service and fast shipping, but VapeWild is more price-friendly, in my opinion. VapeWild also throws in lots of extras and goodies into each order and they have sampler packs if you're trying to find your flavor groove. Also, I have to mention that if you're looking to buy something, check with VapeWild first because... prices.


NOTE: I don't get reimbursements of any kind - monetary or in product - from any of the companies, items, or websites I featured in this post.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

**REVIEW** 32-oz Pogo Tritan Water Bottle

Finally! Finally, I have found a water bottle that I love. I have been buying certain types of water every now and then just so that I have those bottles to drink out of. That's not good because of the types of plastic they're made of. This is the last bottle I used for about a week:

Not good. Not good at all. I don't even like to water plants out of that bottle.

The thing is, I just like that type of drinking spout. I drink more water when I have that type of spout and I can't tell you why that is. The problem was I could never find a refillable bottle that was a good price and had a good drinking spout. I didn't want to pay more than ten dollars and I didn't want something just because it was a hot or popular brand item. I didn't think I was going to find anything I could afford. Until now. I saw this and knew that this was the one. I mean like Neo-the-one, the one.

That is the Pogo Tritan Water Bottle (with the soft straw spout). I got the Blue and there are 6 other colors.

Man, I LOVE this thing. It was extremely affordable ($8.29) and it has one of those "soft straw" spouts that sip just like the throw-away bottle I was using. As a bonus, it has fill markings along the side. It's perfect. Oh, and it even has this little "carry loop" thing that I didn't think I'd use but actually do.

handy "carry loop"
One thing I had to get used to with this Pogo is that I don't have to tilt it to drink from it. I didn't realize I was doing that until nothing came out when I tilted the half-empty bottle. It was a kind of "oh, snap" moment. (And, yes, I did feel a little stupid at first!)

The Pogo comes in different colors and there is also a choice of the type of drinking spout. I didn't want the "chug" type because I've had that sort before and it doesn't work as well for me.

The one advantage that the chug style has over the soft straw bottle is cleaning. The soft straw has to be taken apart a bit to get it fully cleaned every now and then.

Also, for both styles, the bottles are made for cold, non-carbonated beverages. They are not meant to be microwaved, frozen, or cleaned with abrasives. I can live with that.

Personally - and maybe this is weird - I just can't drink as much water any other way than out of the right container. I almost never meet my daily water goals because of this.

If you are looking for a great water bottle at a really good price, this one might be or you.


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

**REVIEW** Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juice Extractor

With all the talk I did about not falling into the trap of New Year resolutions before I dive into this review, I have to explain that I'm not being a hypocrite. I had been planning on and saving up for this purchase for about 3 months now. By the way, this right here is what I'm talking about:

That's the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juice Extractor (model 67601A). It clocked in at $55 and was just smack dab on budget for me. I started saving back in the middle of September when I realized I was not eating as well as I could be. Also, I was buying my juices from Hyvee at crazy prices. It's not easy to find a good variety of healthy juices around here but it is fairly easy to find fresh fruits and vegetables, even in the dead of winter. Hurray for living in the Food Belt of the country. Anyway, let's talk about this HBBME.

When I started looking for the juicer, I wasn't stuck on getting a juicer. I thought about getting a good blender. I mean, I could see the benefit of doing juices or smoothies. What finally tipped it for getting a juicer is that I can do juices or smoothies with the HBBM. All I need to do is add back some of the pulp or use my stick blender to emulsify some fruit and veggies to add to the juice. (And I have to brag a little about the Ovente blender I got about 5 years ago from Walmart. That thing is a workhorse. I have used it almost every day since I got it and it has never given me trouble.)

Once I decided on a juicer, I had to find one that fit my "wants" and my budget. I wanted something with a decent motor and a large chute. It would be great if it wasn't too loud since I do live in an apartment. My budget meant that I would need to stay under a reasonable dollar amount if I wanted to actually make the purchase sometime in the next 6 months or so.

The HBBM fit all the wants but quite a few reviewers said that it was loud. I kept looking and kept coming back to the HBBM. Finally, I decided to take a chance because it was the only one I could finally afford that wasn't refurbished. I figured that as long as it didn't sound like a small aircraft taking off, I would be okay and just use it before too late in the evening.

So far, I am really happy with the juicer. It is nowhere near as loud as I expected from some of the reviews I read. I learned that if I put a padded placemat underneath while running it, the sound really isn't any louder than a large blender. As for everything else, I am super happy.

I hate raw celery. Easier to drink it than chew it.

I have been juicing celery, carrots, and beets with the HBBM. It works fast and it really juices well. When I empty the pulp after carrots, I notice that it's basically dry as sawdust. The celery pulp was a little wetter and I experimented with running the pulp back through the juicer. I got a little more juice but nothing significant enough to warrant the hassle. The first thing I tested it with was a little orange that was about as old as Methuselah and the HBBM got about a quarter cup of juice out of it. Oranges, however, are not my thing. I can always buy orange juice but beet juice is not something I can find around here so easily. Would the HBBM be able to handle that? The product page indicated that it could but I needed to know for sure.

When I grocery shopped, I only got a couple of stalks of beets. They aren't too expensive but they aren't something I would use outside of juicing. If the HBBM let me down, I didn't want to be stuck with messy, clothes-staining vegetables. Now I wish I had gotten a few more stalks. That juicer didn't even change gears when I threw in pieces of the beet.

Another thing I like about this juicer: it is really easy to clean. Okay, that mesh bowl is a little bit of a pain to clean but it helps that a brush came with the HBBM. I basically just soak that part in warm and soapy water while I'm rinsing the other pieces.

As far a the size of the juicer, it's not tiny but once you detach everything from the base, it's easy enough to store on top of a fridge or in a small-ish pantry. Mine is currently in the dishwasher so here is the diagram from the manual showing how the HBBM breaks down.

I have to say that, so far, I am more than happy with this juicer. It was at the bottom as far as prices for one with an 800-watt motor. I would not have been surprised if it had been a loser. Thank goodness it's not. If this last me more than a year, I will be more than happy.

Right now, I have some fresh celery and carrot juice to blend in with some of the apple juice I made the other day. I can also add in a little coconut milk and monk fruit sweetener if I want.

By the way, I am vac-sealing and freezing juices. I understand that this is the best way to keep them fresh for the longest period of time and I have to buy when things are on sale.


Monday, January 07, 2019

Online Shopping in General, InstaCart Specifically

Last year I did a post about online shopping. I also wrote another post that I thought I had published but... it was still there as a draft post when I was checking just now. Of course, the non-published post is the one that was most important. It was all about the perks and erks of the process. Oh well, I will recap the points I wanted to make in that post, then I will get on to reviewing the InstaCart experience.

*use code* TCONWAY13A115

To recap the post that wasn't, I talked about the pros and cons of online shopping. Here are the highlights (and keep in mind that I am speaking from the viewpoint of someone who no longer drives.)
  • PROS - convenient during inclement weather; for people without transportation; for budgeting (no loitering and impulse shopping); and can be scheduled.
  • CONS - lost shipments are a hassle; broken items have to be returned; product descriptions might be deceptive, and there is a wait for delivery.
Overall, though, I prefer online shopping because it helps keep me on budget and - no car. Even though I have family that will jump through hoops to get me anywhere I might want to go, I hate having them out on winter roads any more than necessary. Keep in mind that I live in a tiny town in Iowa. Two things about that: winter and not a lot of nearby stores. The nearest Walmart is less than 10 miles away but it can be a rough 10 miles, depending on road conditions (and out-of-state idiot drivers using the highway). Also, if I am sick, there is no getting me onto a highway even for a short drive.

*use code* TCONWAY13A115

So, yes, I am grateful for online shopping. For a long time, I was only using Amazon, Walmart, and ever now and again, Target I was even getting my contacts and some clothing via Costco until that membership fee became a problem. Even my prescriptions are delivered. Pretty sweet, right? And for the most part, I was set for most of the goods I needed. The one thing missing was perishables - meats and dairy. Then I discovered that Hyvee - via Aisles Online - delivers for a minimal fee for orders under $100 (and free for $100+ orders). Perfect except Hyvee can be a little pricey at times.

tracking it
Very recently, I noticed that if I used InstaCart I could order from Aldi. This was otherwise not an option because the store is not listed on the Aisles Online list. InstaCart, however, does list Hyvee (and oddly enough, Petco). I decided to give it a try since there were things I needed from both Hyvee and Aldi.

Since I absolutely want to get the best value, I was comparing prices from both Hyvee and Aldi for each item on my list. Aldi is basically cheaper for most things, especially produce. Then I ran into a problem trying to search for an item that I have ordered from Hyvee recently. It wasn't showing up when I searched via InstaCart.

*use code* TCONWAY13A115

Just to make sure that I wasn't having a brain issue, I opened up Aisles Online in another tab and searched the item. It was there, like always. Hmm... I did searches for a couple more random things. Not everything that comes up in the Aisles came up in the Insta.

What I ended up doing was creating 2 carts - one for Hyvee via Aisles online and the other for Aldi in InstaCart. I don't have the time or the energy for frustrating myself.

About Delivery Fees & Other Charges

InstaCart has a cheaper delivery fee ($3.99) than Aisles Online ($4.95).

With InstaCart, customers can sign up for InstaCart Express for $99/yr and get all deliveries free, no matter how large or small the order. There is also a promotion where if you order $35 or more from certain retailers, your delivery could be free. That might be a great deal for me if there were more stores in the network in my zip code. I just don't see the value in the Express service when my choices are Aldi's, Hyvee, and Petco.

*use code* TCONWAY13A115

My InstaCart basically included the following charges:
  • Checkout Bag Tax or Fee $0.42 (but those Aldi bags are awesome)
  • Delivery Fee $3.99
  • Tip $1.00 (you can choose the tip amount)
  • Service $2.75 (I guess this is for the shopper putting the order together)
I can't be mad a that "bag tax". Those Aldi bags are awesome and I will be re-using them for sure.

There were options for the Tip. You could select from set percentages or type in an amount. I felt that with all the other fees, a minimal tip was appropriate. However, because of the quality of service, I will tip more in the future. After all, I didn't have to get out and warm up a car, drive into town, shlep through the aisles, cart up and unload bags... Yeah. God bless that Tammi who did that shopping for me! I think she is covered by the service fee and the tip must be for the driver.

*use code* TCONWAY13A115

Ordering from Hyvee is much more straightforward but kind of set. If you need to make changes to your order once it's been placed, you have to call the store. The fees are also right up front. You order and as soon as you pay, that amount is what is charged to your card. If something is not in stock, your card is refunded quickly. The service is also a bit more local-friendly. By that I mean your shopper sends handwritten cards and information. When I first moved used Hyvee I wanted to take advantage of the store's fuel/club card. My family could use the fuel points and I could use the coupons. Of course, I wasn't able to get to the store to pick up a card and my family was out of town. I simply mentioned this in the comment section of my next order. The shopper sent the fuel card inside a card with a kind note to always let her know if I needed anything else.

If you order $100 or more from Hyvee via Aisles Online, you get free delivery. Again, this would be great if I ever ordered that much. As it is, I don't think the delivery fee is too much. It's a bargain when you consider all the trouble I'd go through getting out in the weather and on the roads. Never mind on the days when I am sick.

*use code* TCONWAY13A115

Now, just because I don't want to leave anything out, but I am really tired today, I am just going to list some little tidbits in no particular order.

  • InstaCart has a sweepstake every month. Entry is by taking a survey that is mailed after your shopping experience. I entered to win the $200 Visa Gift Card for this month. Fingers crossed!
  • InstaCart fine print mentioned that on my $63 purchase, my card would be authorized for $75 for up to 7 business days. However, when I checked, my card was only processed for the amount I spent. 
  • Depending on where you live, you will have more or less choice in stores to shop your InstaCart. I do advise that you double check the available items. Remember, my Aisle Online items that were not available via InstaCart. I didn't see any price differenced though when there were items available in both apps.
  • Don't limit yourself to InstaCart and Aisles Online. Keep in mind your location. I found both my delivery services by Googling for the ones available to my zip code (and I live in a tiny town 2 hours away from a major city). 
That's it and I hope that this helped someone. I personally don't know what I would do without these services.

By the way, I tried to do the "share" thing via social media to win referral money but the InstaCart page just kept glitching on me. If you do decide to use it, consider using the referral codes I'm posting all over this particular post. Please and thank you.


Wednesday, January 02, 2019

A Word in this New Year

I had invitations from at least 3 of my neighbors and (of course) my family to "do" New Year's with them. I turned down all invites to spend time cleaning my place and taking care of some minor writing/reviewing obligations. I'm sure no one "gets" why I ignore these special dates. I will try to explain my reasons.

    My goal for 2016 is to accomplish my goals of 2015...
  1. New Year's, Valentine's, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc - they are all seen as holidays by most social groups. I think they should be special and I think they should be observed. I just don't like how we tend to observe the dates. For some reason, we feel we ought to get together and be noisy and eat lots of food and go into excess in spending and gift-giving. The more emotionally mature and introspective I become, the more I see these dates as opportunities to get still and quiet and meditative.
  2. I don't want some things limited to certain dates or times of the year. I think that we ought to spend more than one day a year focusing on being thankful; giving special attention to our significant others; getting together as friends and families for meals; taking time to send someone a note or card telling them we love them; re-evaluating and re-setting goals and resolutions and other ways we plan to improve our lives; and going to church or wherever it is that we worship.
  3. Instead of buying candy and flowers for our spouses and significant others, maybe we should set some sort of financial goal with them and work together to achieve it. For Christmas, we could focus more on coming together as family and friends to do something for someone - another family or a friend or a stranger in need. I vote to stop buying and giving gifts on a schedule and start being more spontaneous and "real" with our tokens of affection and appreciation. Instead of herding into the grocery stores to make that huge meal a couple times a year, maybe we can buy ourselves some new pots and pans to make meals all year long.
  4. I'm even over birthdays. Why treat someone special on that one day of the year and treat them as mediocre or non-existent the rest of the time? 
  5. I'm afraid that holidays have become about gratifying inward instead of giving outward. When you celebrate these special times, is about how you made yourself feel rather than how much better you made someone else feel?

New Years Resolution FunniesI could go on and on (some of you know I can!), but I think you get it. Let's just stop with all the organized, pre-planned, scheduled, rat-on-a-wheel behavior of doing for the sake of doing. Let's maybe start doing things with a real purpose and giving with real love and affection.

30 NYE Resolutions Everyone Can Try Dont expect any New Years resolutions from me...

If anyone wants to do something for me, I'd love to get a phone call out of the blue or check my mail and find a letter or card. I'd give up every Christmas and birthday gift just to have more genuine, spontaneous love and attention from the people in my life.

Now that I've finished griping outward, I'm going to work on taking my own advice. From here forward, I want to do what the kids like to say and "keep it real".

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

**REVIEW** Lumify Eye (Whitening) Drops

Okay. I just had to come and do a quick post about this stuff here.

I can't remember offhand whether I got my sample of this in the Walmart box or the Target box. I can tell you this though: the sample of Lumify more than paid for the cost of the box. The photo you see above is the sample that came in the box. It's a .08oz (2.5ml) bottle that I'm sure isn't completely full. I expected sample sizes to be small but I remember thinking that this the bottle was a super-mini mini.

Thing is, the stuff works. I mean, it really works. I used to have the brightest, whitest eyes ever. This is back when I also used to be about 25 years old and could see without squinting. Things change, don't they? Now, I wear corrective lenses and still sometimes want to squint but don't because, you know, wrinkles. Also, for some reason, ever since I contracted sarc, I've had to use eyedrops to soothe my dry eyes and to brighten the whites.

At first, I thought this Lumify was going to be another higher priced version of my no-name brand "artificial tears" or Visine. Uh, no, ma'am. This stuff is like Visine on steroids and crack.

About 10 seconds after I applied a drop to each eye and blinked a couple of times, my eyes went from a dingy beige color to clean-snow-white. My brighter eyes took a few years off my face. The difference the Lumify made as almost magical.

Of course, when you find something that works so well, you want to know where you can get more and how much it's going to cost you. Then you want to know why it works so much better than whatever else you've been using. So... let's look at availability and price first.

Where you can get it and for how much:

  • Target                       $11.99
  • Walmart                    $11.97
  • Rite Aid                    $14.99
  • Walgreens                 $14.99
  • Amazon                    $11.97
(those are just from a quick search done for within the last month as of today)

Now, let's just take another look at that bottle:

For what it costs, I'm sure it's also being sold somewhere on the dark web or some other nefarious place.

As for why it works so well, apparently, that has to do with an ingredient called brimonidine. Lumify is the only (or at least first) to use that ingredient for am OTC product.

Lumify works but that price will get in the way of my using it. Also, I need to check with my doctors about the brimonidine in it.


Friday, December 28, 2018

**RECIPE** Hokkaido Milk Bread (updated with photos)

**I thought I should update and add some photos of actual finished product. Since I have not made the bread yet, I am going to post photos of (and links to) those done by other folks. Please see the very bottom of this post for those photos.**

I am determined to make this bread but all the different recipes and instructions I've found so far and mega confusing. I love watching this video ...

...and am grateful for helpful comments with conversions, but... My brain still hurts from trying to sort it all out.

If anyone has a simpler set of instructions for dim-witted me, please let me know!

As someone commented on YouTube, that is some of the sexiest bread ever.

Here are some more pinups of this yumzy looking bread:

Check it out on Bake for Happy Kids

Source Taste of Asian Food (site not secure)

From Yi Reservation (site not secure)


**REVIEW** Denman Brush


I have been hearing about the Denman brushes for years but I never tried using one. Until now.

 That is the Denman 5-Row Classic Pocket Styling Brush.

From what I can tell, most people either love, love, love, these brushes or they hate them. Out of all the reviews and articles I read, only a small percentage of people were neutral. On a scale of 1 to 10 - with 10 being the most positive - I land at 8.5.

When I read Amazon reviews, one of the things I picked up on is that some people wondered if they had gotten a faux Denman. I think I got the real deal.

Another criticism I saw was that this brush was too small, but the description does indicate that it is a "pocket" size. Personally, I like the smaller size because I had more control, especially when doing coils.

So, here goes my review:

I wanted this brush for 2 reasons. First, I wanted to use it to do coils (there are lots of vids and other Instructables for this). Second, I wanted it to better distribute products through my hair. Since I had read from some users that the brush had damaged their hair, I wondered if there was a correct way to use it to avoid damage. There is and it's very simple: your hair has to be wet - very wet - and you must work in small sections. Otherwise, yes, there will be LOTS of ripping and tearing of hair.

Since I wanted to do coils and need product for that, I was able to fill 2 birds. The brush worked amazing for creating coils - or at least it did in spots where my hair was "natural". I have a couple of patches of hair at the front of my head that, for some odd reason, lack any curl or kink. When I put product in those spots, the hair just flattens out into a stringy mess. With the brush, my coils were more even than when done with my fingers.

The best thing was the way this brush smoothed product onto every strand of my hair. Even if I don't coil my hair, the brush totally works my creams and softeners into my hair.

I have not yet figured out how (or why) to take some of the rows out of the brush. For now, I love using it as is.


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

**REVIEW** Flour Sack Towels (for the kitchen)

For anyone who likes to cook or bake, towels are essential. Towels for wiping up, towels for handling dishes, towels for covering foods, towels for - well, you get what I mean.

I have been getting by these past several months with towels from the Dollar General or the discount aisle at Walmart. You can find some decent kitchen towels at both places, but I never did. Also, I didn't want to spend a lot of money.

Since I've been doing so much baking lately, I decided to try out a couple of affordable brands of flour sack towels I've seen on Amazon.

This first set from Bosubari is just under $10 and is made of a fairly thick and durable spun cotton.

The next group is from Utopia Kitchen and came in a 12-pack of ring spun towels for about $16.

At first, I was going to review these towels as to which set was better. After using and laundering both, I can't really put one over the other. They had different qualities that I like. Let's look at the Bosubari set first.

Bosubari Towels Pros & Cons

  • Thick, sturdy and has a little weight
  • Good for covering dough during proofing
  • Can be tucked into the waistband and used for an apron

  • Not as good for cleaning messes & didn't launder as well as the Utopia Kitchen towels
I find that I use these more when I'm baking. Mostly I use them for covering doughs during proofing or for keeping finished bread from drying out. They were too thick for me to use as padding for a lid when steaming some bao buns recently.

Utopia Kitchen Towels Pros & Cons

  • The lighter weight makes them versatile
  • Thin enough for cleaning messes and spills
  • They launder better than the Bosbari towels
  • Some came out of laundry with irregular shaping/didn't square up

Overall Impression of Both Sets

These are the Utopia Kitchen towels, but
the Bosubari also had a cloth tie

I am happy with all the towels. Because of the general quality and usefulness, I would have saved money by buying these in the first place instead of getting all the cheaper towels. They have held up well under washing and using so I expect to have them for a while. 

I think of the Utopia towels as very "every day" and utilitarian. The heavier Bosubari towels are, in my opinion, more "chef-like".
The main test of a product is whether users would purchase again. Would I buy more? Absolutely. I decided a couple of months ago that I will only be giving the most useful things as gifts. These towels are on my list to give to the cooks and bakers in the family.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

**REVIEW** GoWISE USA 5.8-Quarts 8-in-1 Electric Air Fryer XL

While I do love my Instant Pot and am so very glad that I got it, it does not crisp foods. If I want to fry something or put a crust on chicken or fish, I have to move them to the oven. Or just fry them in a skillet. (There is a Saute function that browns some foods, but I have to figure out how much oil I can use...)

Until I figure out how to use the IP for shallow frying some foods, someone suggested using an air fryer for a healthier diet. This is the one I snagged on one of the recent Lightning Deals.

looks like something out of a sci-fi movie

That, my friends, is the GoWISE USA 5.8-quart Air Fryer. I'm not thrilled at the "8-in-1" label they slapped on this thing. The 8 they mention is just for the 8 presets on the control panel. What this could correctly be called is a 4-in-1 because it will fry, bake, grill, and roast. So. Yeah.

Let me just say right off that this thing is a lot bigger and -heavier than I thought it was going to be. A LOT. ** On the other hand, the one thing I liked right off was how attractive the unit is. I didn't appreciate this fully until I turned it on.

It's pretty, but so are most "bimbos"

Okay, so with that out of the way, let me go over the Pros and Cons I see after having used this on 2 items today. I cooked fresh cut potato fries first, then I attempted to crisp a game hen that I had already cooked in the Instant Pot.

  • The basket is rather large and roomy. I was able to fit a whole cornish game hen inside - one a small metal rack - and had room for a second hen if I'd wanted.
  • The unit runs fairly quiet. I was able to hold a phone conversation easily while it was running.
  • It's attractive, especially when powered up. For someone with enough counter space, it looks nice enough to leave out when not in use.
  • Air frying certainly seems safer than pan-frying with oil.
  • If cakes turn out well using the fryer, that will be another Plus.
  • I was not thrilled with the results of my fries when cooked to the suggested time and temp. I will probably adjust to a lesser time to get the crispiness I want without drying out the potatoes.
  • The hen did crisp up but didn't look very appealing. I am hoping that battered chicken with come out better. Again, I think the results might be better with adjusted time and temps.
  • I don't think that the presets are very useful and I will need to come up with my own or look to other users for better ones.
  • The control panel can be a bit confusing, especially as to the ones for setting the cooking time and the alarm time. Some buttons seem, in my opinion, to be completely useless. That could be user idiocy.
  • The unit is large, which is a good thing for those with room for it. Because the air vents need to be kept away from walls and things that melt, that adds to the space needed when running the machine. I had just enough space to safely use it. Storage is also an issue for small-space homes.
  • Getting the basket out took a little bit of hand strength. This could be a good thing because I know now that it won't just pop loose when I am shaking food in it, but it was also a bit annoying.
  • The normal price of the unit is, again in my opinion, a bit high for something of a single-function. An oven can replace the fryer in most instances for those that want healthier options to pan-frying.
  • Clean-up is not fun. I even lined the bottom of the pan with foil (which helped) but still had a time maneuvering the big pan around in sink to clean it.
  • I expected better from the fryer as far as appearance and textures of food. 
I'm not sure why appliances that do basically one thing are so expensive. I snagged this one on a deal, but today the price shown is $79.00. Unless I can do get more day to day use from this, I would not spend that amount for the fryer.

You can see that I found more negative than positive about the fryer. However, I have not fully tested all it's supposed to be able to do. I might have to update this when I've tried cooking more foods in it. If this works well on cakes, that might be a huge positive.

And, if I have to be stuck with it, at least it's a quiet thing...

Again, I don't see a huge advantage of using this over using a stove - other than the fact it might cut back on heat in summer months. Frankly, this is not an appliance I am that excited about. I am considering sending it back but that means forfeiting $15 for a return shipping fee... ~sigh~


P.S.: I fried some chicken cracklins (seasoned skin) and some gizzards. These turned out pretty good so I am a little happier with the product.

** NOTE about the size of the product - this is about the same size as the 8-quart Instant Pot, as you can see. However, it is a great deal heavier to lift and store on top of my fridge.