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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

**REVIEW** Vremi Single Cup Coffee Maker (with 14-oz travel mug)

Well, my Keurig is still packed away since it's cheaper to make a car payment than it is to keep myself stocked with pods. I was able to get by with the world's cheapest coffee pot for over a year until recently. It finally started tapdancing on my last good nerve a few weeks ago when the lid wouldn't completely close. Actually, it was a good little pot considering I picked it up for under 10 bucks at Walmart.

When it came time to replace the pot, I considered using the Keurig (which I only put out when I have guests staying for more than a few days) until I priced pods again. There are some cheap ones to be had but, honestly, I've been drinking chicory coffee lately and don't want to give that up.

Both Walmart and Amazon had pots similar to the one that was dying, but then I saw this:


That is the Vremi Single Cup Coffee Maker that comes with a 14-ounce capacity travel mug.

Of course, it didn't arrive like that. It came in a box and that box is freaking cute! Here's a collage of the different things written on it. Also, there is a little bonus inside. It's a nice bonus, too.

#thisboxrocks

People think of me as a rabid coffee drinker because I seem to always have a mug in my hand, but that's not true. I love my java but only ever make about 2 cups of coffee to fill my Kleen Kanteen (thank you again to my darling niece!) once, sometimes twice, a day. The Vremi seemed like a good deal at under $15. And I would have logged out of Amazon spending just that if I hadn't kept looking and saw this:


Keeps the coffee fresh!
cannister goes well with the coffee maker 

That will be in a review later, but let's talk about this coffee maker.

Positives

The main thing that mattered - other than that price - was that the pot not take up a lot of counter space. That was a bonus of my old, dying pot. Thankfully, the Vremi is basically the same size.



It doesn't matter to me that the old pot held more coffee. The Vremi has me covered with that 14-ounce capacity.

Another Pro is that the lid closes easily and completely on the Vremi. The lid is probably the biggest negative to small coffee makers. I'm not a total grouch first thing in the morning, but I don't want to have to wiggle and jiggle a lid closed to make my first cup of the day.

Next best: this thing brews fast! I usually set up my brew before I go to bed. In the morning, I hit the power button before I open the blinds and turn on the plant lights. No more than 2 minutes and my coffee is ready. Perfect.

The Vremi has an auto shut off. That right there is huge for me. The last time I left town to see the family, I had a panic attack right after my plane took off. For over 3 hours, I was twice as miserable as I usually am when flying. I could not remember if I had turned off the coffee pot. There have been times when I have woken out of a dead sleep to run into the kitchen and check that dang pot. I need a Valium right now just for these flashbacks.

So, yeah, the Vremi is pretty awesome but there are a couple of things I'm not thrilled with.

Negatives

First thing: the travel mug doesn't keep my coffee hot for very long - only very warm. This is not a problem for me because I always drink from my Kanteen. Still, some folks are going to think they can use this mug to savor their hot morning coffee for half an hour or so. They will be fine if they don't mind really warm, kind-of-sort-of-hot coffee.

The mug is described as being stainless steel on the product page. In my opinion, that should read as "stainless steel wrapped" because the inside is total plastic. It's so lightweight that it feels like it's made entirely of plastic. I just had to check the weight with my food scale.

may be off by a bit but...

Under 6 ounces. Very lightweight even if my scale is slightly off. Also, the lid does not have a strong seal so...  Like I said, for me, that's a minor complaint since I only use the mug to collect the brewed coffee. My own Kanteen mug won't fit the maker. If you want to know if your mug might fit, the travel mug is just around 5.75 inches tall and 3.5 inches at the base. The maker, from top to base, is stated to be 9.75 inches while the base is 7.125 inches.

The last negative is just plain pesky. It's to do with the permanent (but removable for cleaning) metal mesh filter.



I love and hate those things. They are convenient, of course, but they seem to let a lot of gritty residue seep into the coffee. Since I don't have any teeny-tiny paper filters on hand, I have been cutting out substitutes from the paper filters I have left over.

Overall

I'm really happy with the maker itself. That mug sucks though. Still, I would buy this again and I have already recommended it to one of my neighbors. It only took me the first 3 brews to figure out the best coffee to water ratio to use for the strength I prefer.

The positives are so high with this machine, I can't even really care about the pesky little cons. Also, I'm not kidding when I say that the bonus Vremi included is the best I've gotten with a purchase like this.

Peace
--Free

Saturday, March 16, 2019

**VAPING** ECBlend Flavors

5STOP: this post is ONLY for those of legal age for nicotine use.
See the guide for state-by-state regulations

state-by-state regulations

NOTE: This post is part of my ongoing list of vape shops.


As much as I love the juice I've been getting from VapeWild, I'm glad that I am discovering new sources. ECBlend Flavors (ECB) was suggested to me by someone on Instagram and I was excited to know about a place that provided customizing of flavors. I won't do a long intro; let's just dive into the Pros and Cons before we summarize.

PROS:

1. Being able to customize has to be the top benefit of ECB, but it ties with something else I'll get to in a moment.

ECB's flavor menu is so extensive, my mind was boggled. Where most places give choices of Dessert, Beverage, and Tobaccos, ECB gives that and a whole lot more. My first order included a printed copy of the menu and the flavors took up 15 pages. The photo below is of just 2 pages.



 2. Not only does ECB have a ton of flavors, but they have several "Create your own" options. I created 4 separate liquids and I learned something: I don't like Champagne flavored ejuice! I also learned that it's a lot of fun to be able to put together custom blends.

Not only can you customize liquids but, when you do, ECB goes all the way. When customizing, you get to name your creation and when your order arrives, you don't get a generic-looking bottle of personalized liquid. Nope. This is what my creations look like:



They actually labeled the bottles as I had named my creations! That's a new kind of cool. If I had realized they were going to do this, I might have thought up better names...

By the way, when you customize, you're not just choosing flavors. In addition to the bottle size, of course, and up to 4 flavors, you are in control of:

  • Adding "extra" or "double" flavoring
  • Nicotine strength (0, 3, 6, 12, 18. 24. 36)
  • Base Mix with various PG/VG levels (Max VG; 30/70; 40/60; 50/50; 60/40; 70/30; 80/20; or 100% PG)
  • Option of adding Menthol, Cool Hit, or Extra Menthol
  • Option of adding Sweetener, Enhanced Sweetener, or Double Sweetener
  • Option to make it Sour
  • Naming your creation
3. The prices are amazing. As an example, my 15ml "Honeyrose" creation included the added sweetener and 2 flavors and cost $4.10. It was the most expensive in my order. My other 10ml bottles were $3.10 and 2.95. That's a good price for any nice juice, let alone for ones I customized and added sweeteners and extra flavoring. Basically, the current pricing ranges from $1.99 to $34.95 for bottle sizes from 5ml to 250ml.

4. I thought it was super nice that not only did ECB toss in tp my order a couple of sample 5ml bottles of liquid but they also included one of those rubberized "friend tip" things that will let me safely share my vape with someone else.




CONS:

There are just a few things that could be improved but they are negative enough to take away much from the overall experience I had.

1. Customizing slows up your order. Of course, it does, though, right? I mean, these folks are mixing liquid to your specifications, then they are taking the time to make a freaking personalized label... So, yeah, I'm impatient, but I didn't mind this too much. I placed my order on the 7th of the month, it was shipped on the 12th, and I received it on 14th of the month. Keep in mind when placing orders and understand that ECB does not work weekends or holidays.

2. The site is a little busy and disorganized. I found myself hunting and pecking for information because of the cluttered look of the crowded look of the pages. This is one of the reasons I asked for a printed menu for future reference. In defense of ECB, it looks like the online site came after the several brick and mortar operations they have. At any rate, I don't mind hunting and pecking to find good deals.

3. This is really a negative, but you're not going to find a lot of starter kits and devices and what is there I found to be higher priced than elsewhere. I think this might be because their online shop specializes in juice. However, some of the drip tips, coils, and other random stuff seemed more reasonable - but I'm a novice in that area.



To summarize, I'm super happy with the choices, prices and, so far, service from ECB. I will most definitely be ordering from them again. I was thinking that their customized bottles would make really nice gifts for friends.


Peace
--Free

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

**VAPING** My Ongoing List of Online Vape Stores

STOP: this post is ONLY for those of legal age for nicotine use.
See the guide for state-by-state regulations

state-by-state regulations
UPDATE - Add ECBlend to the list. You can read the full review here.


One of the things I wish had been easier when I started vaping was finding online vendors. I wanted to know about places where customers had good experiences and felt like they were getting quality products. That list exists - all over the freaking internet. I decided to start my own list and you can just take it or leave it.

Obviously, I can't vouch for everyone's joy and satisfaction when dealing with vendors on this list. I can tell you all about my experiences. I will do one of my Pro and Con bullet-ings for each place.

The list is pretty short right now, but just keep checking back as I post updates. Here we go...


Image result for breazy vape
Breazy was one of the first sites I bought a device from. I got the SMOK Venepromno from them. That first time was not a good experience, but I have since ordered my Eleaf Pico Baby from them and was much more impressed.

PROS:
  • Site setup is awesome. It's easy to search for and sort products.
  • There is a set of FAQs and a Support page with Chat, Email, or Phone options.
  • They have a really nice array of hardware, juices, and accessories. I LOVE looking for starter kits there.
  • Prices are not the lowest, but also not the highest
  • Each item has a note of whether it's shipped and sold by Breazy (vs, I suppose, another vendor?)
  • Site was secure and I had no problems sharing payment information
  • The shipping was fast (except for my first ever order) & they offered a Flat Rate USPS option.
  • They offer international shipping except to Turkey, according to the site.
  • You can access details of past orders.
CONS:
  • Service was erratic back in 2018 - as in slow delivery and some communication issues. I found help from the via Reddit instead of on the actual site. Afterward, I had no other problems but read of a couple from other Reddit folk.
  • Not as friendly to newbies as they could be. I had asked if everything was included in a Smok device that I ordered ("as a newbie"). The chat rep assured me that I had everything. I discovered that I didn't have the 18650 batteries. A little bit of a newbie error because this bit of info was listed somewhere on the product page, but the rep could have been more helpful.
BOTTOM LINE:

I will most definitely order from Breazy again if I find something I want at the right price. I recommend that newbies make sure to read everything on the product pages and just keep asking questions before placing your order - but that is true no matter where you shop the first few times. By the way, I did find cheaper batteries on Amazon that day.


Image result for electric tobacconist logoThis was the second place I ever shopped and I think I heard of them on Reddit. I used to order my nic salts from them (the Kwit brand). My Innokin Endura, Voopoo Caliber, and the Infinix came from ET.

PROS:
  • Their shipping is free on orders over $20 and Priority for orders over $80. That's one of the best I've seen anywhere. 
  • The site is user-friendly and so easy to navigate.
  • They give a lot of good and detailed  information on the product pages for each device. That is really helpful for comparison shopping or for newbies.
  • They carry a variety of brands of juices, devices, and accessories.
  • Nic Salt juices are affordable. I particularly liked the Kwit brand when I was using nic salts.
  • As if today, they still carry Juul pods, devices, and accessories.
  • Prices on devices are pretty competitive and ET is one of the first places I check when comparing.
  • You can go back and look at detailed records of your past orders. 
CONS:
    • Regular juice is kind of high, IMO, and deals are okay but there's not a ton of variety. They have a 3-for section of juices - either $13 or $18 - but they are 10ml sizes and I've found better juices in larger quantities at better prices.

    BOTTOM LINE:
    ET is one of my favorite online stores. The only thing I will probably never shop for there anymore is juice. 


    Image result for vapewildYou can almost see how I have progressed as a vapor by following my shopping trail.

    I first heard of Vapewild from a chick on Instagram. We both like discovering new places and we chat all the time about our vape experiences. She made me very happy when she told me about the Welcome Pack of eliquid for $1 instead of $17. That's the first Pro, by the way.

    PROS:
    • Best customer service EVER.
    • Samples (juice) included in almost every order
    • Shipping is fast and well-priced
    • Online chat available & staff is super helpful - especially to newbies
    • Staff is fun. They put out cute videos and they always personalize the bags they send you
    • Pretty good website - easy to use and has a search function
    • The site includes a lot of info for newbies, including a Beginners Guide for new vapers, vape stats, and a how-to if you want to "steep" your own juice.
    • Great prices on the VapeWild branded juices & the juices are, IMO, really good
    • That Welcome sampler that I mentioned is awesome. It's a total of 120ml 
    • They have a paid membership customers can opt for that will give them perks including free shipping on any order.
    CONS:
    • The non-VapeWild juices are, IMO, kind of pricey.
    • You have to look up what flavors are in the VapeWild brand juices. They have cool names (my favorite named one is Hannibal Nectar) but you often have to pull up the product page to see what flavors are included.
    • The membership fee is, again, IMO, kind of high. It's $50/yr. That could be worth it if VW is the only place you buy from. I still prefer something like Electric Tobacconist's free-over-$20 deal.

    BOTTOM LINE:

    I can't really complain about VW because they are so fun and, for the most part, reasonably priced. The samplers and especially that Welcome bag is a great way for newbies to decide if they prefer their juice with certain flavor profiles - desserts, fruit, breakfast, candy, etc. - of it they just want to stick to tobacco or menthol flavors. When I stopped using primarily nic salts, I discovered that I prefer dessert flavors, but that may change.


    Image result for vanval vaporJust so that you know, I have only just received my first ever order from VV in the past couple of days. I heard about them from someone on Instagram or Reddit.

    PROS:

    • Prices are awesome. I got the Sample Pack of 7 flavors (that I got to choose) in 17.5ml for $22. Bam!
    • They shipped the package 1st class for less than $5.50 and it arrived lickety-split.
    • The juices are fresh and clean tasting.
    • The juices are potent and would be a great choice for the newly smoke-free or folks who like a good nicotine hit.
    • They sell CBD liquid also. And coffee. They sell coffee beans.
    CONS:
    • There's not a whole lot of variety. If you are a person who likes to explore variations and a lot of different blends, you won't have a lot of choices here.
    • The juice seemed potent. I normally vape 0 or 3mgs and have some bottles of 6mg around from when I first quit tobacco. I don't know what possessed me to try 7.5mg this time. This would have been a perfect choice when I first quit and I might not have had to try nic salts. Being over 6 months tobacco free, I got in over my head. Choose your nicotine level wisely with this juice!
    BOTTOM LINE:

    I will most definitely buy from VV again - but I will go low on the nicotine. I like the clean, no-nonsense approach they take to making affordable juice.

    So far, that's it. I am going to be adding EC Blend Flavors to this list really soon. I am just waiting for my first order to arrive.

    Peace
    --Free

    Friday, March 08, 2019

    **VAPING** PockeX Pocket AIO Vape Kit by Aspire

    STOP: this post is ONLY for those of legal age for nicotine use.
    See the guide for state-by-state regulations

    state-by-state regulations



    Remember the other day when I mentioned getting 2 new devices? Well, the Pico Baby is sweet, but I also want to talk about the PockeX by Aspire that I got around the same time.


    I will tell you right up front that the only thing I don't like about this vape pen is the name. You know how I am; I get all creeped out by that large "X" at the end. Why not just the Pockex? Or even the Pockx, if they wanted to be cute?

    Amway.

    The PockeX (yeah, I'm going to do my own thing and just call it the Pocket from now on) arrived within a day of the Pico. I was much more excited about the Pico - because of the shape and style - and was just kind of 'meh' about the Pocket. The one thing I liked about it sight unseen was the rainbow shade. When it arrived the first thing I did was compare its appearance against the Pico.


    Well. Looks are one thing and performance is another, right? The Pocket has a lot going for it and the price is the first thing. It was 20 bucks and came with some nice features.

    ** I have to pause here and do a side note. While writing this post, I just now glanced over at the product page for the Pocket and noticed something for the first time. The device has a "child lock" feature. I don't have kids but how did I miss that? I do a chat with VapeWild to ask about this and... the "child lock" is the same thing most vapes have. You click 5 times to lock and unlock the fire button. So all my devices have this feature. Nothing special to see here. folks.**
    Here is what I like about the Pocket:

    • The top fill is super easy. Because the coil lifts off with the cap, there's no avoiding leakage into the tip.
    • It charges pretty quickly and the charge holds up most of the day with moderate use. I think of moderate as hitting the vape for a few minutes every ever hour or so.
    • The slim build is a bit lighter and easier for smaller hands than the Voopoo Caliber
    • It has one of those narrower drip tips that I love
    • The liquid level is completely visible through the partial glass tank. 
    • The firing (aka child safety lock) button is perfectly placed.
    • The USB port is in a decent place.
    • The device vapes very nicely. 
    By the way, I know that type and quality of juice has a lot to do with the vape experience but, using the same liquids, some of my devices just give off a better taste. My SIL had one device that just made our juice taste too harsh. I hacked and coughed every time I tried to use it. From listening to other vapers, I know this has something to do with coils and wicks. All I know is that, out of the box, certain devices work better for me. This Pocket is one of them.

    Other than the name, there are two other slight annoyances I have with the Pocket. One is that when you remove the top to fill the tank, the coil lifts out with the lid. That's great because, like I said, you're not having to avoid spilling juice into the drip tip. On the other hand, you do have to be careful to let some of the juice run off of the coil before you set the top aside. Juice will sweat down from the coil and onto the table or whatever while you're filling the tank. There is actually one more thing: there's no airflow adjustment. A YouTuber did point out that you can restrict the flow a bit by covering the USB port when inhaling.

    Fill line is at the black arrow



    The only other issue also has to do with the tank. Because you will be fitting the coil back in after filling the tank, you have to be mindful of not overfilling. Thankfully, there is a fill line as a guide but I wonder if that affects the 2ml capacity. 

    The coil lifts out with the top for filling

    When I was telling an acquaintance about the Pocket and the Pico, she mentioned liking both of them over her most expensive device. Although my most expensive vape was a gift and is in the $40-some range and I agree with her assessment. I guess for most of us vaping is a bit of a journey because you start out not knowing much about the different devices. If I could go back, I would have chosen either one of these two pens or the Caliber.

    Bottom line, this is a great device and the price makes it so much sweeter.

    Speaking of sweet, my next review will be on juices. I have 2 orders coming. One is from ECBlend (they let you design your own juice) and the other is from VanVal (they had a sample pack deal) and I'm pretty excited about both. Both places got raves from online acquaintances and the prices were super good.

    Peace
    --Free

    Wednesday, March 06, 2019

    **VAPING** Eleaf Istick Pico Baby 25W Kit

    STOP: this post is ONLY for those of legal age for nicotine use.
    See the guide for state-by-state regulations

    state-by-state regulations
    UPDATE

    Forgot to be specific about how this device vapes. I am using 50/50 and 65/35 juice in it and it vapes wonderfully. Very smooth hits and good flavor.


    I just got 2 new devices, both under $20. This is the Eleag Istick Pico Baby 25W:


    We'll just call it the Pico. And, boy oh boy, is it cute. I had heard about them and my brother has one in silver. I wasn't looking to get one, but I saw that Breazy had it for $14.99 and... well.

    I should probably get devices in different colors, but I usually go for rainbow or red. The Pico came in a nice set of colors and I was tempted by the green and silver. My brother has the silver and, IMO, the red looked more feminine than the green.


    Remember, I said that the price was the big grab for me. When I was checking the Eleaf site for information to share with you, I saw t the price was double at $29.99 for the "regular" colors (down from $46.99). If you want the really cute "dazzling" colors like those below, the price hikes to $32.99. So... dang! These are gorgeous, but so out of my price range:

    Notice that the Eleaf site had my rainbow color...

    These are freaking CUTE tho!

    So, let's get to what I personally like and dislike about the Pico.

    PROS:
    • It's cute and, yes, that's important to me.
    • The shape means it doesn't topple over.
    • The power USB port is in a nice spot (near the bottom of one side).
    • The indicator light shows the condition of the battery after each hit.
    • It's super compact and a great fit for my tiny purse and the pocket in my backpack.
    • Because of the size and shape, it's discreet. I can palm it and vape without being so noticeable.
    • It has a screw-down lock so it won't fire when stashed in a purse or pocket.
    • The tank drops in and is held magnetically and securely. This protects the tank glass.
    • The threading on the tank is really smooth. No struggles there.
    • I love the narrow drip tip.
    The discretion factor is important to me because I personally don't feel like a lady while smoking in public. I feel the same way about vaping. So... I like to vape indoors or if outside, I try to do it on the sneak! Yes, I'm a bit repressed.

    CONS:
    • Though it fits in a purse, backpack or jacket pocket, it's too "bulge-y" for a pant or skirt pocket.
    • It's not a top fill. You have to pull out the tank and unscrew the bottom.
    • It's easy to over-fill.
    • To adjust the airflow, you have to remove the tank to get to it.
    • There is a slot "view" of the tank but I still have to remove it to check the liquid level.
    • The indicator light is oddly placed and I have to turn the device to see it. (This could just be because of my hand dominance or the way I hold the vape to use it.)
    I like the device enough that I can handle the negatives. Here is some photographic detail.






    compared to an 18650 battery


    Opened to fill




























    By the way, now that I'm more than 6 months cigarette-free...



    ...I have to wonder if and when I will give up vaping. Now that I'm off tobacco, I have started using nicotine-free liquid to vape with about half the time. Honestly, I don't see myself totally giving up vaping because I do enjoy it and it's calming. When I smoked, having a cigarette jacked my anxiety up like crazy - even though I smoked more when I was anxious, mad, or depressed. Now, I can vape some nic-free and still satisfy some part of my habit.

    I've saved a ton of money by not buying cigarettes (around $1200 according to the Smoke Free app) but I have spent about $120 on vape devices and juice. But that is over a 6 month period. I've gotten a couple of the devices as gifts and I think 1/4 of my juice collection are samples that get thrown into my orders. The thing is, I can see myself becoming a product junkie if I don't curb myself.

    I actually gave one of my vapes away to a friend who is wanting to quit tobacco. The latest additions to the collection are gifts to myself. I said that for every 50 miles I put in on the exercise bike this winter, I would treat myself to a new (inexpensive) device. Both these were under $20. I don't want to talk about what I was spending on cigarettes, even after I moved out of Alaska where you damn near had to take out a second mortgage to finance a tobacco habit...

    This is the slim designed Aspire PockeX next to the tiny Pico.


    To go even further cutting back on what I could be spending on my vaping, I have learned to steep my own eliquids. I was already buying discount juices (between $3 and $7 per bottle)  from VapeWild, but was once tempted to spend $10 on "steeped" juice. I couldn't bring myself to do that but the website explains how to steep my lower-priced juice and get the same result. So I am prepping my first bottles now. Also, my brother is going to start making juice for us to use so there's that.

    I have to tell you about something that happened when I tried changing the coil in my Voopoo Caliber. What a disaster. The device came with one coil pre-installed and a second coil of a different - whatever it is when coils have different firing ranges or... you know. Yeah, I have zero clues about coils but the thing came with 2 coils and that's all you need to know. So, I wanted to see if there would be a different flavor or experience with that other coil. And I swapped them out. Big mistake. The device would not fire. I was sure I had broken it. I went on a mad dash through YouTube and different forums, trying to figure it out. Finally, there was one video - one - of a guy who had the same non-firing issue with a different device. He had stumbled upon a fix when he was fiddling with the device. He found that twisting and re-twisting the tank worked. It didn't work for me. My brother happened to come over and I asked him to look at it. He did, then he twisted the tank, clicked the firing button and... that worked. 

    You know how you can't decide whether to be pissed off or happy? That was me. My brother fell out laughing at the look on my face. He said that you have to twist (or screw on) the tank just right sometimes. Apparently, I am too stupid to do this so I will be calling him every single time I need to change a coil!

    Anyway, I'm happy that I got both these new devices at such great prices and I'm don't collecting for now. Just waiting on that juice to finishing steeping before I report back.

    Peace
    --Free

    Sunday, March 03, 2019

    Re-watching the Matrix

    To get through the last day of February - the roughest day of the roughest month -I curled up on the couch and watched the entire Matrix trilogy. I've never binged the whole set of movies at one time and, I have to tell you, it kind of messed me up.

    As a Christian, I am interested in how other people might think about life and death and eternity. I have no idea what religious persuasions the makers of the Matrix lean toward but... Wow.

    I'm sure the movie has been analyzed to death by smarter and more articulate people, but I saw all kinds of Judeo-Christian themes mashed up with other philosophies. Obviously, with Neo being "The One" and being in love with "Trinity" ties in with both Christian themes and the heretical ideas of the Lord and Mary Magdelene. That always makes me cringe that people get into that idea. However, I am very fascinated with the idea of pre-existence eternity and post-human eternity and that right there is where this film messes with my head.

    I think that the people behind the making of the Matrix are, like most humans, desperately trying to define God - both the God of the Bible and the generic "higher power" that others speak of. It's very entertaining and makes for extremely interesting thought exercises. But (and this is where I tend to want to get on my high horse and evangelize) humans trying to understand God is like a created masterpiece trying to understand the mind that created it. Because I do know that, as the Psalmist says,  we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

    Of course, I also always feel a little bit like an idiot trying to understand the movie. I really get lost at the very end of the trilogy. I mean, is the message that God recycles creation? Are we not the first, not to be the last of everything that is? That may be what the entire trilogy is about: recycling of life and everything that is; a continual re-birth of all that we humans think of as so unique and amazing.

    No matter how ignorant I may be, I don't believe it matters - that whole recycling theory. To us, the created, living in whatever it is we live in - the mortally-viewed world or the Matrix - it doesn't matter. What matters to me is that I believe in the divine Creator and I believe in my place in the creation.

    Still, that movie messes me up. For a little while, after having watched the entire set, I was kind of paralyzed by all the thoughts zinging around in my head. I literally could not move because I was afraid that, if I did, I would lose track of some of the connections I was trying to make. With grief and loss already topmost in my mind, I felt like I might slip away into hopelessness if I didn't find something to grab hold of.

    What roused me back to my usual (and tenuous hold on) sanity was remembering what 1 Corinthians says about God not being the author of confusion but of peace.

    Any philosophy - no matter what else it teaches - has no use to man, in my opinion, if the end result is no peace and joy. We create for ourselves enough confusion and pain and suffering. What we need in anything higher than ourselves is peace and joy and healing.

    Peace
    --Free






    Wednesday, February 27, 2019

    Blessed, Stressed, a Little Bit Depressed

    February is not my favorite month. For a couple of reasons.

     First, there is Valentine's Day (or "Galentine's" for the defiantly lonely) which I don't hate for itself but for all the whining that comes with it. For a few days, I have to listen to ungrateful lovers (he or she isn't this or that), singles who just don't appreciate enough else about life (I'm taking the day off work so I don't have to see all the flowers and gifts), and the greedy people who use the day to guilt their S/Os into spending money on them. What about spending a little extra time instead of money? What about just being thankful that you woke up knowing that someone loves you more than they love anyone else in the world? I'm simpatico with a comedian who joked that the best thing about Valentine's Day is all the candy that goes on sale right after. Last year, up until November, I still had a stash of those red heart-shaped boxes of Almond Roca from Walmart.

    The real reason I don't like February is that, in 2015, I lost my big sister.

    When you lose your parents, it hurts. When you lose any family member, it hurts. Losing your big sister - your only sister - hurts in ways you can't even explain. My sister was my best friend. She's probably the only one in this world who knew almost everything - good, bad, and embarrassing - about me.

    For over 2 weeks, I sat with my sister, "Mike", in her hospital room, not thinking I was going to lose her. She'd been so sick for so long that hospital stays were normal. We had spent a lot of time she and I, getting to know nurses, doctors, and lab techs. There was one sweet little woman who had worked janitorial duty on two of Mike's hospital stays. She would come by on her break just to chat with us and offer to pray for Mike. Up until that last stay, Mike and I would make a game of trying to guess which staff member was which among a crew: the funniest, crankiest, newest, most outgoing, etcetera. We made up nicknames for the staff. There was one doctor that tended to a patient across the hall from Mike and we called him "Chief". He was young and energetic and had a long ponytail. He was an indigenous Alaskan and he proudly wore a necklace made of leather and ivory. I had a little crush on him so, of course, I always looked the other way if he paid me the slightest attention. Mike thought that was hilarious and threatened to rat me out to the hot doc. Of course, she was having severe problems keeping a clear head so she forgot the threat about 5 minutes after she made it.

    Mike seemed about to get better. She was still not doing well cognitively, but the doctors had figured out why and they were going to fix it. She had to have another couple of procedures - one surgical - and then would be able to go home. I was already planning to treat her to a Starbucks coffee.

    Life is better enjoyed than planned. I'm so glad that Mike and I enjoyed most of those last days. I'm so thankful that she came out of her brain fog every now and then to talk about something good - her kids, our nieces and nephews, and things we were going to do once the weather got better.

    What still amazes me is that I knew but didn't know. That Mike wasn't coming home that time. That she was never going to sit in the passenger seat and critique my nervous driving. That we were never going to buy both wafer Nutter Butters and crunchy Nutter Butters so that we could split and each have some of both kind. That I was never going to call up from the kitchen to say I was making coffee and did she want a cup. That we were never going to trade that secret sister-glance because someone said something weird. That I was never going to be able to call her when I felt like I just needed to hear my sister's voice.

    I knew enough that I didn't leave her except for one night during that last hospital stay. I knew but I didn't know. I knew enough that I prayed every time I got a quiet moment. I knew but I didn't know.

    Mike came out of that last surgery well enough, but something happened during recovery. She never did wake up and after a couple of days in ICU, she died.

    I have this one photo of Mike. It was taken right after we had said a prayer and right before she went into that last surgery. I don't often look at this photo but I keep it for her kids and grandkids.

    She ALWAYS had a smile on her face

    I hate February so much. I don't even like to look at the calendar during the month. I don't have to. My heart knows that I lost my sister on the 28th.  I miss her so much that today I feel like I can't take a deep breath. I am sad and lonely and depressed to the point of curling into a ball on the sofa. I miss my sister,

    Still, I am blessed. I am blessed that I had such a sister. I am so very blessed.

    Peace
    Free

    Tuesday, February 19, 2019

    **REVIEW** Ipsy February Glam Bag

    I had gotten rid of my beauty box subs (except for Walmart and the occasional Target box) but something made me sign back up for Ipsy. I think it was seeing other user's reviews showing that they were getting some good stuff. Before I re-upped, I went in and tweaked my questionnaire.

    The February box did not disappoint.



    Let's take a look at these 5 items, one by one - from least fave to fave fave. This brush was my least fave item because I'm just not into brushes and don't know why most boxes always include one.



    The Hanalei is nice, but unless I apply it very lightly, the shade doesn't really compliment my complexion. Also, the shade is not really a hard color but more of a faint tint. It is something I like putting on at bedtime and just before I apply any of my other lipsticks.



    I've tried a couple of Marc Anthony products - one was a leave-in moisturizer for curly hair and the other was a lotion for either frizz or defining. For the longest time, I thought the Marc Anthony hair guy was the Marc Anthony "come on baby girl" singer. I know I'm not the only one who thought that!

    I haven't done my entire head of hair yet because it's not my hair wash day. What I did do was test this on a hank of hair in the back. It's supposed to "drench" it with moisture. I don't know about that, but there did seem to be a little more elasticity after using the mask. I do prefer leave-in treatments, but I can't wait to try this mask on my whole head - and the single tube looks like it will be enough for that.



    Now we are down to my favorite - which was a surprise to me. I hardly ever like lip colors chosen for beauty boxes. I am dark and I often get colors that are too contrasting, too light, or too chalky. When I saw this in the tube, I thought, Ugh! But as soon as I tried it on, I was kind of in love. It gives my lips a nice, juicy look of plumpness. I have narrow lips and this was a good effect. This is definitely something I would run out right now and buy if I had the money. I don't so... It's on my wishlist.






    So I am pretty pleased with the February Ipsy. One day, I'm going to put the upcoming Glam Bag Plus on my birthday list in case my family wants to gift it to me.

    Peace
    --Free